Benton Harbor

Economy
10:39 am
Mon December 17, 2012

When cities are strapped, police cuts follow

In some places around Michigan, State Police try to fill the void, but their ranks are shrinking too.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The impact of economic problems are often likened to waves. And the waves of Michigan's economic crisis are still rolling up onto the shores in cities around the state.

The Detroit News looked at the numbers of police cuts and how communities react to these cuts.

The data from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards show that since 2003, the state has lost more than 2,000 police positions in total.

Communities react to the cuts by completely disbanding their departments, as Pontiac did, or by trying to raise more revenue.

But as the events in the struggling city of Benton Harbor show, residents are not always willing to tax themselves more to keep their police departments intact.

From the Detroit News:

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Politics & Government
10:35 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

People in Benton Harbor want to save public safety department, but demand more info first

Benton Harbor public safety officers came to the hearing to show their support for the special assessment.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

All the metal folding chairs in the building still weren't enough for the hundreds of residents who showed up at Tuesday night's public hearing.

Benton Harbor’s Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris says officials from the state treasury department will ultimately decide if city residents will pay a special fee to save its police and fire departments. The city lost 20-percent of its income after voters rejected a millage last month.

Benton Harbor Public Safety Captain Dan McGinnis made the case for the fee. He pointed to a major drop in violent crime this year and cost savings from combining the police and fire departments.

“I’ll leave you with this; no one knows Benton Harbor’s streets like we do. Bottom line, no one knows,” McGinnis said.

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Politics & Government
1:29 pm
Sat November 24, 2012

Benton Harbor meetings to focus on public safety assessments

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Emergency financial manager Joe Harris says he plans to hold public hearings in Benton Harbor on whether a special assessment should replace an expired public safety millage.

Harris says the city no longer has the money to operate its own police department and that hearings are expected over the next few weeks to get public input on the issue.

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Politics & Government
5:39 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

Benton Harbor EFM will consider special fee to fund public safety

Benton Harbor EFM Joe Harris at a tightly controlled press conference earlier this week.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris will consider charging property owners a special fee to pay for the city’s police department. The decision comes two weeks after voters rejected a millage renewal worth 20-percent of the city’s income.

At a press conference earlier this week, Harris outlined four rather dismal options; including eliminating the police department or asking the state to just allow Benton Harbor to declare bankruptcy.

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Politics & Government
12:51 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

Benton Harbor emergency financial manager: “Citizens have to pay the piper”

Joe Harris greets reporters during a press conference Monday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Two weeks after voters in Benton Harbor rejected a millage renewal that represents about 20-percent of the city’s revenue, the city’s emergency financial manager is laying out a few grim options.

EFM Joe Harris says one option is eliminating the police force and contracting public safety through the Berrien County Sheriff's Department; similar to what the City of Pontiac did recently.

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Politics & Government
6:59 am
Tue November 20, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Schuette says Blues overhaul not enough to protect seniors

State Attourney General says the overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan needs more safeguards in order to protect seniors. The Detroit news reports,

Under legislation sought by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Blues could dramatically reduce its $200 million annual subsidy of the Medicare supplemental insurance by 2016, when a rate freeze Schuette negotiated expires.

After that, the Blues would contribute as little as $15 million annually to a new state-run nonprofit health care foundation for Medigap coverage made available only to Medicare recipients who prove a financial need, Schuette said.

Blue Cross says 70 percent of the 210,000 seniors receiving Medigap insurance would fail a means test to show a financial need for the subsidy, Michigan Insurance Commissioner Kevin Clinton said.

Benton Harbor considers eliminating police force to cut costs

"Two weeks after voters in Benton Harbor rejected a millage renewal, the city’s emergency financial manager is laying out a few grim options. Joe Harris told reporters Monday afternoon one option is eliminating the police force. The millage would’ve raised a little more than a million dollars this year alone. That represents twenty-percent of Benton Harbor’s yearly revenue," Lindsey Smith reports.

University of Maryland added to "Big Ten"

"The Big Ten athletic conference added the University of Maryland to its roster Monday. Rutgers University is expected to announce its plans to join the conference today. That will bring the total number of schools in the conference to 14, and is likely to mean big increases in revenues for the universities as well as the conference," Chris Zollars reports.

Politics & Government
8:34 am
Fri November 9, 2012

Benton Harbor faces consequences after millage rejection

Benton Harbor City Hall
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The City of Benton Harbor could face major staffing cuts after voters rejected a millage renewal this week. The cash-strapped city has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency financial manager for two years.

“When I heard the news my heart just sank. I didn’t believe it,” Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower said, calling the rejection “unreal”. The millage helps pay for basic city operations.

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower believes voters were misled in part by some elected officials who are against the emergency financial manager.

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Environment & Science
7:00 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Radiation gone, but contamination cleanup at Harbor Shores golf course continues

Tonight the Environmental Protection Agency will host a public meeting in Benton Harbor. The federal agency wants to update the community on its efforts to clean up a 17 acre site that’s now part of the Harbor Shores golf course.

Nefertiti DiCosmo is the remedial project manager of the site, known as the former Aircraft Components site, for the EPA. She says they want to get public feedback and provide an update on the EPA’s work.

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Politics & Government
12:03 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Elected officials in Benton Harbor take steps to regain control of their city

Benton Harbor City Hall
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A state appointee has run the cash-strapped city for more than two years. Former Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Joe Harris the city’s emergency financial manager in March 2010.

Now elected leaders have set a goal for him to leave by December 2013. They hope to get a $7 million emergency loan from the state to help get Benton Harbor out of its “financial emergency”.

Mayor James Hightower says the loan would be “a game changer”.

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Seeking Change
10:02 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Spotlighting the good in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Dawn Yarbrough is from Benton Harbor. These days she lives part time in Milan, Italy. But, she has been spending more time in her hometown lately to start a new public television show called Harbor Lights. It will focus on positive things happening in Benton Harbor. Some of the programs  Dawn highlights include the local boys and girls club, a group that teaches teens how to make and allows them to sell their work at an art fair and a school program that brings students from St. Joseph and Benton Harbor together to discuss issues of race.

Law
2:52 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Benton Harbor tickets protestors for being too noisy, ACLU asks judge to dismiss

Sean Crawford was ticketed for violating Benton Harbor's noise ordinance during a protest in May. He pictured here with the sign and bike horn he used during the protest.
ACLU

The ACLU is asking a Berrien County judge to dismiss charges against three protestors who were ticketed for being too noisy during the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor last May.

The three were taking part in a larger protest against the golf championship, the development of a city park, and the city’s emergency manager.

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Business
4:38 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Whirlpool to close Indiana refrigerator center, consolidate in Michigan

Whirlpool Corp. is planning to shut down the last of its operations in a southern Indiana city where it had more than 1,500 workers a few years ago by moving refrigerator development work to Michigan.

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Politics & Government
10:45 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Benton Harbor emergency manager sells parkland he shouldn’t have

A sign on the land reads "City of Benton Harbor open public space”. The emergency manager sold the land and construction of a dialysis center is underway.
Julie Weiss

Updated 12:30p.m. - Scott Geerlings with Zeeland, Michigan based Geerlings Development Company says the company bought the parcel for around $102,000.

Benton Harbor’s emergency manager has sold a piece of land that was supposed to be open for public recreation. lot Now a dialysis center is being built on the undeveloped parkland instead.

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Business
2:47 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Benton Harbor, St. Joseph resort plan secures some funding

The Entrance to the Harbor Shores Clubhouse, part of the $575 million Harbor Shores project planned for Benton Harbor and St. Joseph
Harbor Shores Facebook.com

St. Joseph-based developer Edgewater Resources is reportedly in the process of raising $70 million for a new resort on the city's river.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

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Politics
12:57 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

Benton Township alleges Benton Harbor emergency manager defaulted on debt

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris at a town hall meeting last summer.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris took over the City of Benton Harbor two years ago, the city owed money to a bunch of different agencies; the library, the public schools, and the IRS, for example. Harris has made huge progress in paying off that old debt.

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Economy
1:19 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

Poorest city in Michigan hosts Senior PGA Championship

Protestors gather in front of Benton Harbor city hall before a silent march.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Senior PGA Championship is underway today in Benton Harbor.

The city is home to the Whirlpool Corporation, the largest appliance manufacturer in the world; and it's also the poorest city in Michigan. In 2010 the average household in Benton Harbor earned just $17,000 a year.

Whirlpool's plan to turn Benton Harbor into a tourist destination

Recently, a steady stream of tour busses and a fleet of silver Mercedes with the PGA logo cruised through town.

At times you could see people inside the cars point at boarded up buildings as they drove by.

The Harbor Shores golf course sits in sharp contrast to the city’s poverty. But near the golf course there are plans for condos, two luxury hotels (to be completed by 2014), and a marina.

Whirlpool executives came up with this concept in the 1980s. They wanted to turn more than three million square feet of old manufacturing space near the Lake Michigan shore into a destination for golfers.

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Economy
12:57 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Benton Harbor hosts 2012 Senior PGA Championship

Professional golfers practice at Harbor Shores golf course in Benton Harbor.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Senior PGA tournament for professional golfers is in Benton Harbor this week.

Famous golfers began practicing on the course Monday afternoon. Harbor Shore golf course was partially built on city owned land. Elected city leaders agreed to lease the property with the hope of attracting jobs and tourists to the region.

Herb Caldwell is Vice President of the Consortium for Community Development. The non-profit group tries to improve the community’s workforce skills. He says the group has helped more than 260 people get temporary jobs for the tour.

But Caldwell says the tournament is also bringing a sense of excitement and pride to its residents.

“People will walk away from this – not only the people internally who live here – with a different perspective on their community but the people who will visit here will now have a different picture of Benton Harbor,” Caldwell said.

But not everyone is pleased.

Benton Harbor is the poorest city in Michigan with an average household income of $17,000 a year. The city government is under the control of an emergency manager.

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tourism
2:01 pm
Fri April 13, 2012

Job applicants, volunteers, prepare for Senior PGA in Benton Harbor

Harbor Shores is a Jack Nicklaus designed gold course in Benton Harbor.
Chicago Golf Report Creative Commons

More than 300 people turned out to a job fair this week to get a temporary job when the Senior PGA tour comes to Benton Harbor next month.

Herb Caldwell is Vice President of the Consortium for Community Development. It’s a non-profit group focused on solving chronic poverty in northern Berrien County.

“We’re really surprised and really happy with the excitement and the eagerness of the folks in our area who want to get out an support the Senior PGA golf tournament,” Caldwell said. The job fair was Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. 

PGA is a first for Benton Harbor

The Senior PGA tour will be at the new Harbor Shores golf course.

There’s been controversy over the golf course for two reasons; it was partially built on sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and elected city leaders agreed to lease portions of the beachfront park while the city was facing severe financial problems. The course has prompted a number of lawsuits, but most have been settled in favor of the golf course.

Benton Harbor's city government is now run by an emergency manager. The elected, but powerless, city commission voted earlier this month to withdraw its support of the Senior PGA coming to their city. 

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emergency manager
7:21 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

End of Benton Harbor's financial emergency murky at best

City Commissioner Marcus Muhammad outlines his problems with Benton Harbor's emergency manager for a state treasury official Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In December Benton Harbor’s emergency manager said the city’s finances we’re looking good enough that he could probably leave sometime this year. But now, he’s not so sure.

The City of Benton Harbor was, for practical purposes, bankrupt. In 2010 former governor Jennifer Granholm appointed an emergency financial manger to clean up the books and prevent damage to state’s credit.

Thursday night, Michigan Deputy Treasurer Roger Fraser visited the city. State Treasurer Andy Dillion was supposed to be at the town hall meeting. But he’s in Detroit, trying to help the city avoid an emergency manager like Benton Harbor has.

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Benton Harbor
6:35 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Benton Harbor school board approves consolidation

Woodley Wonder Works Flickr

The school board in Benton Harbor has voted to consolidate its schools as part of a five-year plan to eliminate the southwestern Michigan district's deficit.

WSJM-AM and WNDU-TV report the board voted Tuesday night to go forward with the reorganization, which faced opposition from some students and parents. Following the changes, the district will have four K-8 schools, a high school and a Pre-K program. The district's administrative offices also will move.

Superintendent Leonard Seawood says the district plans to complete the changes by 2016. He says the changes will be "historic for our students."

Officials say the consolidation is part of an effort to avoid the possible appointment of a state-appointed emergency financial manager because of the district's financial difficulties.

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