The potential takeover of the city of Detroit by an “emergency manager” under a controversial Michigan law was the topic of the night on MSNBC Thursday, with the Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz shows tackling the topic.
Maddow, who has covered the takeover of the town and school district in Benton Harbor on previous shows, focused on the takeovers of Flint and Pontiac under Michigan’s emergency manager law , which was passed by that state’s Republican-controlled legislature last year and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The law allows the governor to appoint a manager to take control of a city or school district, break any existing union contracts, and even dismiss elected officials or dissolve the local government.
In Pontiac, emergency manager Louis Schimmel responded to a WJR radio host’s question of whether he is a tyrant, by saying “I guess I’m the tyrant in Pontiac, then.”
According to an analysis by Chris Savage, a Democratic activist who runs the blog Ecectablog, when you count the cities and towns that have already been taken over by emergency managers, and cities like Detroit that are under review, 50.7 percent of blacks in Michigan are “on the verge of having no meaningful local democracy,” Maddow said.
Maddow said the story of Michigan’s emergency manager law “could be the most important and most under-covered story of the year,” a belief Maddow said she shares with Schultz.
During his show, Schultz talked to Rev. Alexander Bullock of Rainbow Push Detroit, who called the emergency manager law “the end of democracy.”
Pointing to what he called racial implications of the law, Schultz highlighted one Detroit city council member’s description of the emergency manager as a “master…someone to control the plantation.” And he noted that Michigan congressman John Conyers is calling on the Justice Department to investigate the law, which Conyers said could perpetuate discrimination.
Bullock referred to the emergency managers authorized by the law as “emergency dictators.”
“We thought the end of democracy is in Michigan,” Bullock said. “The end of democracy is in Michigan. Michigan is the new Mississippi.”
Schultz asked whether the law has implications for voter suppression.
“Of course it does,” Bullock said. “When the state takes over a city, the state can also kick the mayor our of his office,and also take over the clerk’s office… so you have a situation where the state can commandeer the clerk’s office and begin to administer local eelctions.”
In Georgia, we’re fighting against a law that prohibits voting, ” Bullock said, referring to voter ID laws that have passed in several states that some voting rights advocates say could disenfranchise black voters. “In Michigan, we’re fighting against alaw that makes voting null and void.”