Thursday, April 26, 2012

Michigan Canvass Board Deadlocks 2-2 on Emergency Manager Law Repeal; Referendum Will Not Appear on Ballot in November

PANW Editor's Note: This development illustrates the extent to which the proponents of austerity for the cities and suburbs in Michigan and the United States as a whole are willing to go to ensure that the banks get paid the billions they say are owed to them by the municipal governments. Also it illustrates the class consciousness of the ruling elites who want to make sure that no matter what, the system is capable of earning profit and maintaining control over the lives of working people and the nationally oppressed.

Now the challenge to the deadlock by the Canvass Board will move into the courts. This is inherently problematic because of the political character of the legal system at this time in Michigan. In specific reference to the appeals and supreme courts in Michigan, we saw clearly their penchant in favor of the ruling class when they upheld the sanctity of the illegal actions of the state review panel and the blatant violation of collective bargaining rights of the municipal unions in Detroit.

Ultimately, these questions will have to be resolved in the court of public opinion, within the political consciousness of the majority of working and oppressed people and their ability to mobilze and organize a sufficient fightback in the streets and in the corridors of state power, commerce and production. These challenges require the broad support and activation of hundreds of thousands in Michigan and millions throughout the U.S.

In fact this is an international struggle against finance capital in all of its manifestations. Directly related to the situations in Detroit and Michigan is the worsening conditions for the urban, suburban and small town areas throughout the country.

Detroit may be the most severely impacted of all, but look at what is going on in Stockton, Providence, Jefferson County, Alabama, Harrisburg, PA and a host of other cities and counties across the country. The crisis in Europe is reflective of the global character of the problem with Britain officially announcing that it is once again in recession.

Then of course there is Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Iceland, The Netherlands and France. All over Africa there is political turmoil and instability. The markets in Asia are nervous over the European sovereign debt problem and the ongoing wars of occupation in Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

A program of action must not be confined to the bourgeois political and legal system, these mechanism of struggle can be utilized but the ultimate direction of the movement must be geared towards the source of the crisis and that is the banks and transnational corporations with their police forces in the Pentagon and NATO. Even the bond rating agencies are expressing doubts about the capacity of the Financial Stability Agreement in Detroit being able to calm the situation so that business can be conducted as usual.

These statements by the bond rating agencies, who are mere agents of the banks, could very well signal that more repression is coming against the workers, oppressed and youth. Bourgeois democratic norms and practices are obviously not adequate for the ruling class to feel comfortable enough that their profit margins will continue.

In the long run all aspects of the existing system will have to be thrown out and a new political dispensation crafted and enacted. In the meantime people must learn the hard lessons of the present in order to move forward confidentially and scientifically into the future.

Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

April 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

EM referendum won't be on November ballot

By Karen Bouffard and Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing— The Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 along party lines Thursday on whether Michiganians will get to vote in November on a repeal of the controversial emergency manager law — sparking angry shouts of "shame" and "fascists" from the audience.

The vote means the question won't appear on the general election ballot unless supporters of the repeal ask a court to intervene.

Democrats Julie Matuzak and James Water voted to approve the petitions while Republicans Jeffrey Timmer and Norman Shinkle voted against it.

More than 140 supporters of repealing Public Act 4 began chanting "Shame, Shame, Shame" and shouting down the board members as "fascists" as they tried to exit the heated meeting.

After the vote Timmer and Shinkle were immediately swarmed by angry opponents. The protesters pointed their fingers inches from the Republicans' faces, and shouted their disapproval.

Ice water on the table at which the board had been sitting was spilled as Timmer and Shinkle tried to calm their critics. Shinkle pried himself out of the throng and quickly left the meeting room. Timmer soon followed, but he then returned to the room. Shinkle didn't.

Republicans cited the wrong font size on the title of the petitions as the reason for not approving the initiative for the ballot.

Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP and pastor of Fellowship Chapel, vowed to continue the fight in the Court of Appeals.

"The constitution was not judged on the basis of font size," he said. "We have to stay on the battlefield. It's going to the public courts. It's not over."

Rashid Baydoun, executive director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, struggled to contain his emotions. "Unbelievable," he said after the vote. "The will of the people was denied. All we ask is for Michigan people to be able to decide."

Asked to comment after the meeting, Timmer said, "I'm not going to stay here in the Lansing Center." He said he had other business to attend.

"Two of us obviously thought the problems were not substantial enough to keep the petition from being approved, and clearly there were enough signatures," said Matuzak, chair of the board.

The hearing began with remarks by state Bureau of Elections Director Chris Thomas, who outlined the board's role in certifying the petitions.

John Pirich, an attorney representing Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, disagreed with Thomas' statement that the board's standard should be whether the petition "substantially complies" with the rules. He noted that the statute says petitions "shall" use specified type sizes and adhere to other technical requirements.

"'Shall,' in legal parlance, is a mandatory term," Pirich said. "It didn't say 'get in the ball park,' it said it 'shall.'

"We believe the petition is fatally flawed in that regard."

Herb Sanders, the attorney representing Stand Up For Democracy, a coalition of groups that launched the petition campaign, noted several Court of Appeals petition cases where the court used a standard of "substantial compliance" to determine a petition's validity.

"All doubts as to (the validity of the petitions) are resolved in favor of allowing the people to vote and express their will," Sanders said, eliciting applause and hoots of approval from the crowd. "The statutory language should be liberally construed and all disputes should be resolved in favor of allowing the people to vote.

Sanders testified there are several complicated formulas for determining font size, saying it's impossible to determine if headline type met the 14 point requirement simply by using a ruler.

"If we are wrong, then the scientifically accepted formula for determining font size is wrong, if we are wrong then the Court of Appeals is wrong … if we are wrong than Democracy is wrong," Sanders said.

Printer Bruce Hack of Inland Press said he certified that the type size met legal requirements before printing the petitions.

"There is no way that you can just measure a capital letter and determine what the type size is," Hack said.

Several citizens also gave emotional testimony, asking the board to uphold American democratic principles by certifying the petitions.

"I estimate that I worked 3 to 400 hours in the summer of 2011," said Dave Frederick, a Muskegon County. "Our volunteers worked for months circulating petitions … and now we're being told our petitions may be nullified due to a bogus challenge about the font size.

Before the vote, Shinkle said the whole matter could have been avoided if Stand Up for Democracy had submitted its petitions for board approval like most ballot initiative campaigns do.

Lawrence Roehrig, secretary-treasurer of AFSCME Council 25 and one of the founding members of Stand Up for Democracy, responded afterward by saying: "If you believe that, the Easter Bunny left me a basket at my house. This is politics. It wasn't going to change anything. Not one bit."

Melvin Butch Hollowell, general council for the Detroit Branch NAACP called PA 4 "The Michigan dictator law."

"The NAACP's position is that the board should respect the people's position…let the voters decide."

The board met at the Lansing Center to accommodate the large turnout of activists. Opponents gathered 203,238 signatures, roughly 40,000 more than needed to get a repeal question on the ballot.

The key issue was whether the petitions are in proper form and meet legal requirements. The group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility has challenged the petitions, saying the font type in the headline is too small.

The board was also asked to approve language for petitions to be circulated by supporters of Manuel "Matty" Moroun, the Ambassador Bridge owner who opposes Gov. Rick Snyder's efforts to build a publicly owned Detroit River span. Moroun wants voters to have to approve any plan for another bridge or tunnel to Canada.
(517) 371-3660

From The Detroit News:

State board deadlocks on ballot question to overturn Michigan's emergency manager law

Ballot proposal now goes to state Court of Appeals for ruling

12:07 PM, April 26, 2012
By Dawson Bell and Rochelle Riley
Detroit Free Press staff writers

The Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 along party lines this morning on the question of whether a ballot proposal to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law should go before the voters this fall. The vote will send supporters of the proposal, who collected 203,238 signatures to put in on the ballot, to the state Court of Appeals for a ruling.

The signatures collected by Stand Up for Democracy were more than 40,000 beyond the 161,305 required to get on the ballot. But objections were raised about the size of the type used on the petitions, whether it was big enough. Republican members of the Canvassers said no, voting to keep the proposal off the ballot; the two Democrats voted to put it on.

“I think there is a legitimate question as to size,” said Republican Norm Shinkle, who along with GOP member Jeff Timmer voted against it.

“I believe there was more than substantial compliance, there was total compliance,” said Canvasser James Waters, a Democratic appointee who voted along with chair Mulie Matuzak to put the proposal on the ballot.

The proposal would repeal Public Act 4 of 2011, which gives Gov. Rick Snyder sweeping authority to appoint emergency managers to oversee troubled cities or school districts.

Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, said Wednesday that the state Bureau of Elections had reviewed the petition signatures, verifying a random sample, and concluded enough had been gathered for the proposal to make the fall ballot.

Supporters of the petition drive have said that once their proposal is on the ballot, the 2011 law, which was used to name emergency managers for several cities and school districts that are in financial trouble, must be suspended.

Before the vote, State Treasurer Andy Dillon said that any action to suspend or curtail the law would not affect the consent agreement that Detroit city officials just signed with the state.

Dillon said the Detroit agreement was written based partly on Public Act 7, the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967 "that provides for interlocal public agency agreements."

"There’s some disagreement about what happens with the courts," Dillon said in an exclusive interview Thursday with Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley. “Public Act 72 (the previous emergency management law) would be in effect. And if you look at the consent agreement, it doesn’t rely solely on Public Act 4 (the new law.)

"Treasury has the authority to require deficit elimination plans," he said. "We have an interlocal agreement under Act 7 that provides standing for this. We believe the consent agreement will survive the suspension of Public Act 4.”

No comments: