The legislative sponsor of the state’s six-month-old emergency manager law says it has cleared the way for the decisive actions needed to help severely stressed cities.
State Representative Al Psholka’s district includes the city of Benton Harbor.
He says Benton Harbor’s emergency manager did not have the authority he needed to fix the city’s finances before the new law took effect in March.
“We’ve seen some rapid progress in Benton Harbor. There's challenges there, but if you look at the budget, the budget is balanced. There is a projected surplus next year of $400,000. Yes, they had to make some tough choices, but Benton Harbor is in a much better position: a position to go back to local control with a balanced budget," said Psholka.
Psholka was on the Michigan Public TV show “Off the Record.”
Opponents of the law say it robs citizens in takeover communities of their right to choose their local officials.
Organizers of a petition drive say they are close to collecting enough signatures to put a challenge to the emergency manager law the ballot.
A referendum on the law requires opponents to gather more than 161,000 signatures.
Amy Kerr Hardin is with the “Stand Up for Democracy,” the coalition trying to repeal the law. She says the state-appointed emergency managers are given too much power.
"It takes away our elected officials. It’s crazy the stuff an emergency manager can do just by fiat," said Hardin. "They don’t have to ask any public opinion, and they don’t have to tell the public until after the fact – when they’ve done whatever it is they’ve done."
Hardin says the campaign expects to turn in sufficient signatures by the end of October. That would put the question on the February 2012 ballot.
It would also suspend the law until the election.
The cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac and the Detroit school district are being run by emergency managers.