It is too late for the city of Benton Harbor’s beloved Jean Klock Park, but at least the city of Flint, Michigan, has been spared from having its governance done by gubernatorial decree.
Ingrham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemanrie Aquilina gave Flint back to its citizens this week, kicking out the “emergency manager” appointed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder on October 5. One of the nastiest accomplishments of the Republican Class of 2010, State Edition, was the passage in Michigan of a law that allowed the governor to decide if a town was financially in trouble and take over the town by appointing an “emergency manager.” When this was done in Benton Harbor, the allegation was that the town was financial dysfunctional, but the bottom line was the desire of the neighboring town to appropriate part of Jean Klock Park, which had been left in perpetuity to the city, to build part of a very exclusive country club community. The country club won and the center of the park is now three holes of an Arnold Palmer course which costs $150 per round to play on. Residents of Benton Harbor can play for just $40 a round. The average pre-tax yearly income per household in the city is $17,300. Yup, they’ve all got nothing better to do with $40 than play a nice round of golf on what used to be a free public beach on Lake Michigan.
Judge Aquilina restored Flint’s duly and democratically elected mayor and city council and voided all the actions taken by the emergency manager. She also declared that the governor’s designation of Flint as being in a state of “financial emergency” is void.
Naturally, Snyder’s administration plans to appeal the decision.
The emergency manager law virtually made Rick Snyder a dictator in Michigan. He and only he had the power to determine if a city or town was in a “financial emergency.” He and only he had the power to appoint an emergency manager who answered to no one but Snyder. He could, and in the case of Benton Harbor, play politics and pay-offs with whole cities and deny the residents their Constitutional right to elected representation.
Thus, has the wisdom of our founding fathers been proven again. Only through the agency of an independent judiciary, not one tied to the ruling party as it is in England, can a free people seek redress when denied their freedom.
Congratulations, Flint, and thank you, Judge Aquilina.