Saturday, April 23, 2011

GOP Shenanigans in Michigan

The Rev. Dr. Robert Dahl, a good friend since 1967, and a fine writer, offers the following observations on the GOP in Michigan, where Bob resides and ministers, and the state wherein I have spent the majority of my years. What's going on there is tragic, but I'll let my friend's words say it better than I can:

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The Governor of Michigan and the Michigan Legislature through legislation granting new powers to "emergency managers" have nullified the democratic process and therefore the United States Constitution and have invoked absolute powers in two Michigan cities -- Detroit and Benton Harbor.

Granted the Detroit school system needs emergency surgery if it is to survive and Benton Harbor politics is allegedly as corrupt as it gets (I worked there eighteen months), but the solution is not to strip duly elected officials of their power and declare complete power in the office of the governor executed through non-elected emergency managers appointed by the State Treasurer's office.

Police in Detroit handcuffed and hauled off pregnant teens recently who had gathered at their alternative school in Detroit to write protest posters about the possible elimination of the school. Did you get that? Police handcuffed pregnant teens and hauled them off to jail.

I saw it on TV and thought I was watching a scene from a film version of a dystopian novel such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Animal Farm or pessimistic existential works like The Trial and The Stranger.

I can only assume the powers that be justified the arrests on the grounds the young ladies were on school property on a day when school was not in session thereby constituting trespassing. That school has a 90% graduation rate and promises to get all of its graduates into college. The school is on the budget chopping block and, if I understand correctly, the duly elected school board has no power to stop any such action.

The democratically elected mayor and council members have been stripped of their executive and legislative power in Benton Harbor.

One member of my church, normally a pretty progressive fellow with credible credentials in the business world, told me during the campaign when it looked like the Democratic candidate would lose that Rick Snyder would be just fine because he was a social progressive and fiscal conservative.

The action coming from the governor's office since the election belies the campaign rhetoric. Budget proposals by the governor would negatively affected working people, public employees, the middle class and the poor. Only the rich and corporations would benefit. This doesn't sound like social progressivism or fiscally sound action. Tax breaks for the rich and corporations don't create jobs; they just enlarge the divide between the rich and the poor and the only thing that trickles down is the middle class.

And the actions by the emergency managers is aimed at predominately poor and minority populations. Action certainly is needed, and the governor may think this is the way to do it, but it is heavy handed, autocratic, undemocratic and smacks of bias and prejudice.

First Congregational Church, Benton Harbor where I served as a specialized interim minister turned over all buildings and its trust fund in 2007 to Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago to take over and begin a new ministry in the community.

I hope and pray the congregation, the Southwest Association of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ of which the congregation is a member, the Detroit Metropolitan Association of the Michigan Conference and the Michigan Conference itself stand up to Governor Snyder and the Legislature and oppose this unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal action.

I hope the Mayor of Detroit and the City Council stand up to the state government regarding the emergency manager's actions related to the Detroit school system.

Also, I hope the Department of Justice steps in to stop the unconstitutional legislative activity in my home state.

Robert E. Dahl,
Specialized Interim Minister
United Church of Christ, Retired
Holland, MI

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