Benton Harbor

Education
1:17 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

DPS to get bridge loan; Benton Harbor schools in financial emergency

Credit Sharon Drummond / Flickr

A state loan board will choose between two competing proposals to give a short-term bridge loan to the Detroit Public Schools. One is from the district’s emergency manager. The other is an alternative proposed by the school board.

The district is under the control of an emergency manager while it digs out of a deficit. The district’s teachers are opposing a plan to close 24 schools and cut their pay by 10%. This would be the second round of pay cuts for Detroit teachers.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the district’s troubles require tough choices.

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Economy
11:03 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Lower mortgage interest rates offered in 8 Michigan cities

Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Scott Woosley says most of Michigan's real estate market has bounced back, but some areas are still experiencing significant sales declines.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING – Michigan is helping provide lower interest rates to first-time homebuyers in eight cities.

About 300 individual or families in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, and Jackson can take advantage of a program announced Friday.

First-time homebuyers who meet eligibility requirements can get a 3.125% mortgage interest rate without down payment assistance. If they need help with their down payment, the interest rate is 3.625%.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he wants to increase home sales in five cities hit hard by blight and three other cities needing a boost.

Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Scott Woosley says most of Michigan's real estate market has bounced back, but some areas are still experiencing significant sales declines.

Newsmaker Interview
5:22 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Audio: A conversation with former Benton Harbor emergency manager

Benton Harbor
Wikimedia Commons

The city of Benton Harbor is no longer in a financial emergency. Gov. Snyder today announced the appointment of a Receivership Transition Advisory Board.

Behind the turnaround is Benton Harbor’s former emergency manager, Tony Saunders II. He spoke with the host of All Thing Considered, Jennifer White.

Interview with Tony Saunders II, former Benton Harbor emergency manager.

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Economy
4:52 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Benton Harbor's financial emergency ends

Benton Harbor's financial emergency is over, according to Governor Rick Snyder.
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Gov. Rick Snyder says Benton Harbor's financial emergency is over.

It's been four years since the state appointed an emergency manager to run the city's finances. 

Snyder attributes Benton Harbor's success, in part, to the new emergency manager law he signed after voters repealed a former version. The law gives managers broad powers to fix the finances of the cities and school districts. 

Snyder also gives Benton Harbor's most recent emergency manager credit for building trust in the community.

Listen to the audio above.  

Politics & Government
6:20 am
Wed February 5, 2014

With $2.3 million state loan, Benton Harbor emergency manager prepares an exit

Benton Harbor City Hall pictured in the summer of 2011.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor’s emergency manager is planning his exit. That’s after the state agreed to loan the city more than $2 million.

When Benton Harbor officially began its financial emergency, Jennifer Granholm was the governor. During the last four years, the city has operated under three different versions of Michigan’s emergency manager law. That’s how long it’s been.

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Politics & Government
2:57 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Benton Harbor emergency manager asks state for loan; city commissioners reject the plan

Benton Harbor City Hall pictured in the summer of 2011.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Elected leaders in Benton Harbor are rejecting the emergency manager’s plan to take on debt to pay down the city’s deficit.

Benton Harbor has been under state control for three years. It's cut its deficit by a third; from $3.4 million in 2010 to $1.2 million, according to the latest audit.

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Election 2013
10:04 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Voters in Benton Harbor reject income tax proposal

Bridge between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph in southwest Michigan.
Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor residents rejected the idea of an income tax in their community. The vote was 667 opposed and 543 in favor. The city has long struggled with budget problems and is under a state-appointed emergency manager.

Fox 28 reports on the reaction from Benton Harbor's Mayor:

Mayor James Hightower says he's elated that the tax failed.

Commissioner Trenton Bowens says his camp is not giving up, they'll work to get the proposal back on the ballot in May.

Politics & Government
7:38 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Benton Harbor leaders at odds over proposed income tax; voters decide Tuesday

The City of Benton Harbor has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager since March 2010.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A southwest Michigan city under state control will decide whether to impose a new city income tax in Tuesday's election. An emergency manager has been running Benton Harbor since March 2010.

If the proposal passes, people who live or work in Benton Harbor will pay a small percentage of their income to the city government. More than 20 other Michigan cities have an income tax.

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Politics & Government
8:30 am
Fri October 18, 2013

If Benton Harbor voters approve income tax, manager would pay down pension liabilities

The City of Benton Harbor has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager since March 2010.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Tony Saunders is breaking months of silence on a proposed city income tax. Saunders says he has some concerns about the proposal.

“I want to make sure we have a strong climate for business investment here. Also, you know this is one of the poorest cities in Michigan, so the last thing I want to see is our citizens being taxed once again when they’re already struggling to make ends meet,” Saunders said.

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Politics & Government
11:14 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Benton Harbor leaders have more convincing to do on income tax proposal

It was standing room only at a town hall style meeting about the proposed income tax at Benton Harbor City Hall Monday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Elected leaders in Benton Harbor have a lot more convincing to do if they want to get a city-wide income tax on the November ballot.

Supporters of the income tax proposal aren’t sure exactly what the rate would be or how the money would be spent. They have general ideas, but that ambiguity makes business owners nervous.

“If they really want to do something like this they really have to have the trust of the citizenry and the business community that they will, in fact, spend the dollars that they earn in the way in which they say that they’ll spend them,” said Pat Moody, Executive Director of the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce.  

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Politics & Government
10:35 am
Fri July 5, 2013

After 3 years with an emergency manager, Benton Harbor considers an income tax

The City of Benton Harbor has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager since March 2010.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The city of Benton Harbor has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager for more than three years. Now some elected leaders in the state’s poorest city are proposing a new way to raise revenue.

Benton Harbor has done a lot to try to get out of debt; laid off workers, combined the police and fire departments, restructured its loans. But City Commissioner Trenton Bowens is convinced the city of roughly 10,000 people needs a citywide income tax.

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Politics & Government
7:35 am
Tue May 28, 2013

In this morning's news: Diane Hathaway in court, Benton Harbor on the rebound, Farm Bill rally

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State Supreme Court Justice faces sentencing

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is due in court today to be sentenced for fraud. Hathaway was forced to resign in January when she pleaded guilty to a scheme to cheat the bank by hiding assets.  Hathaway’s attorney is asking that she be allowed to perform community service and pay thousands of dollars in fines; however, federal prosecutors have asked for prison time of 12 to 18 months. Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta has more.

Benton Harbor EM believes deficit will be eliminated in one year

Tony Saunders, the emergency manager of Benton Harbor, says elected leaders are likely to regain control within a year when the city's structural deficit will be eliminated. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports Benton Harbor’s new emergency manager says he’s cut more than a million dollars from the budget in just three months.

Senator Debbie Stabenow's farm bill is headed to the senate

Senator Debbie Stabenow will rally in West Michigan this week. She's trying to get farmers to pressure lawmakers to pass her new farm bill to funds crop insurance programs and research to help fight invasive insects. Last year the Senate passed the farm bill but it died in the House. The Senate is expected to vote on the farm bill early next month.

Politics & Government
9:53 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Benton Harbor emergency manager predicting budget surplus on the horizon

Benton Harbor City Hall
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor’s new emergency manager says the city is on track to eliminate its structural deficit within a year. The city's finances have been under state control for more than three years.

Emergency Manager Tony Saunders started in February after the state ended the previous manager's contract at the city commission’s request.

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Politics & Government
7:39 am
Wed May 8, 2013

In this morning's news: Election results and a state of disaster in Michigan

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Michigan's local election results

  • Dane Slater was re-elected Mayor of Troy. He was appointed after former Mayor Janice Daniels was recalled. Slater defeated primary opponent Marty Knollenberg.
  • Citizens in Benton Harbor voted overwhelmingly to raise property taxes to support city services. The city is running in the red. The millage represents about 20 percent of the city’s income.

State of disaster declared in Michigan

"Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of disaster across much of Michigan due to storm- and flood-related damage last month. The proclamation makes state resources available to help the weather-stricken areas. The disaster proclamation covers the cities of Grand Rapids and Ionia in west Michigan, and 19 counties in the western Upper Peninsula, northern lower Michigan and southwest Michigan," Rick Pluta reports.

Politics & Government
10:31 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

On second take, Benton Harbor voters approve “vital” operating millages

Benton Harbor City Hall
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People in Benton Harbor voted overwhelmingly to raise property taxes to support city services in Tuesday’s election.

That’s after voters rejected a similar set of proposals last November. The city is already running in the red and the millage represents around 20-percent of the city’s income.

“You just can’t see me dancing in the streets on the radio,” Mayor James Hightower said over the phone Tuesday night, “It’s a great day in Benton Harbor.”

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Politics & Government
9:06 am
Wed January 23, 2013

The week in Michigan politics

cncphotos flickr

Week in Michigan politics interview

In this week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the likelihood of Michigan having a part time legislature, what will happen to former Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway and who is likely to replace her. Lessenberry and Shockley also talk about the 26-year-old who will soon be the emergency manager for Benton Harbor.

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Politics & Government
7:05 am
Mon January 21, 2013

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

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Governor Snyder to listen for finance issues in Presidential inauguration

"Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll be listening for plans to fix the nation’s finances in President Obama’s second inaugural address today. He says bickering in Washington about the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling are delaying a more-robust economic recovery," Rick Pluta reports.

Changes in Michigan income taxes

"Michigan income tax returns for 20-12 will look a lot different than last year. That's because a slew of deductions and credits have disappeared. Many retirees will have to pay taxes on their pensions. The state's homestead property tax credit will go away for many people. And there won't be a credit for college and tuition fees anymore," Rina Miller reports.

A 26-year-old to replace Benton Harbor emergency manager

"The incoming emergency financial manager for the City of Benton Harbor doesn’t start until February First, but he’s already working hard to create new relationships and get a complete picture of the city’s finances.  Tony Saunders is 26. But he says people should consider his experience working in Detroit and Highland Park, not his age. Saunders replaces outgoing emergency manager Joe Harris," Lindsey Smith reports.

Politics & Government
7:00 am
Mon January 21, 2013

Benton Harbor’s new emergency manager will work in “dog years” to hand over local control

Benton Harbor’s incoming emergency financial manager says he’ll work quickly on a plan to put the city in the black.

Tony Saunders II says no kid aspires to grow up to be an emergency financial manager, but he’s excited about the opportunity. He’s 26-years old, expecting his first child in April. But he says people should consider his experience working in Detroit and Highland Park, not his age.

“I’m not worried about my age and I don’t think others will once they have a chance to meet me and see the pace that I’m willing to work at,” Saunders said.

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Politics & Government
3:50 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Benton Harbor’s emergency manager calls his departure 'bittersweet'

Harris smiles as he begins his press conference with the Sammy Davis Jr. song, "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" Wednesday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris says he’s proud of his accomplishments in his nearly three years running the city. Harris said it was the most exciting job he’s ever had, describing his departure as “bittersweet."

Benton Harbor is going through a big transition this month. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith has this update.

As he entered his press conference Wednesday afternoon, Harris flashed a big smile at the TV cameras and reporters, some city staff and a few elected leaders. He played “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” a fitting Sammy Davis Jr. version of the tune as he walked into the room.

“Don’t say a mumbling word about me when I’m gone,” Harris sang, tapping his foot along with the beat.

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Politics & Government
12:47 pm
Mon January 14, 2013

State appoints young, fresh face to run Benton Harbor beginning next month

Joe Harris is on his way out of office as Benton Harbor's emergency manager.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

As expected, the state has replaced Benton Harbor’s emergency manager. Joe Harris has served as Benton Harbor’s emergency manager since former Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed him in March 2010. His contract expires January 31st.

Harris made progress in cutting the city’s deficit, but has been blamed for keeping the community in the dark about his decisions recently. Some of the city’s elected officials asked the state to replace Harris last month. Although state officials are not acknowledging that’s the reason, a letter from Deputy Treasurer Roger Fraser explains the state would work to fulfill the request.

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