When I was growing up, my father worked for Clark Michigan … an American company that made heavy construction equipment. Their claim to fame is the Bobcat which is still a popular little earth mover (a division that was sold off). Clark Michigan eventually merged with Volvo’s North American operations to form a short lived company called “VME” (the “E” being Euclid, another company famed for their green equipment). Eventually the company just became “Volvo” again.
Clark Michigan was based out of a small western Michigan town called Benton Harbor. I knew of the town, because dad often times had to travel to this place for meetings. So this story caught my eye.
Benton Harbor is about as depressed a town as you can get. An industrial town, the industry is all long gone, and the town is pretty much dead. There is no more money to support any public works. The schools have been closed or taken over by the state.
Now, the governor has imposed a dictator to take control of the town.
He’s not called a dictator, of course. He is called a “Czar”. Not much difference. This appointment was made under a new law that allows the governor to appoint a czar over a local government unit when they cannot meet payroll or bills.
This czar has stripped the power of the town council, and any other elected officials. All of the town’s spending, taxes, hiring, firing, etc are controlled by one unelected individual.
Can’t get worse?
The article describes that the last little gem of treasure Benton Harbor has is a strip of Lake Michigan shore which was left by a former citizen to the “children of the town”. It has been that way since 1917. Whirlpool (the company) wants that land to build an exclusive golf resort and marina.
The Czar of Benton Harbor’s first decree was to take over the authority controlling the land. Of mild interest, the law that allowed the czar to be appointed in the first place was introduced by a member of the Michigan legislature who was a former aide to the heir to the Whirlpool fortune.
Honestly, that may be coincidence …. in the end, we are witnessing a state government stripping citizens of democracy … plain and simple. I wonder how many other towns in Michigan are going to see this?
And then I wonder how long it will be before other states take this action?