First off...a hat tip to WizardKitten for info and to Eclectablog for some long term and holistic reporting on the Benton Harbor issue. See the bottom of the page for further articles from them on the topic.
...we need to talk about Benton Harbor, Michigan. The city we've heard a lot about lately in terms of Michigan Republican Governor Snyder's new "Financial martial law" because of the latest actions of an Emergency Financial Manager.
Back in May 2010, Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, on the recommendation of a committee,appointed an Emergency Financial Manager for the city of Benton Harbor. His name was Joseph L. Harris.
He's been the Emergency Financial Manager ever since.
He still is today.
As for the now notorious golf course development planned for St. Joseph and Benton Harbor according to Rachel Maddow...that's been an idea on the burner for a very long time. Years before Snyder and the Teahadists were even a twinkle in old man Koch's eye. Which old man Koch? Take your pick.
From an article in 2010 about the Harbor Shores golf resort in Benton Harbor
"What the Harbor Shores development does is help redefine the area in terms of the word 'vacation,' " says Marcus Robinson, president of the Consortium for Community Development. "This is a non-profit effort. The basis for this was to use this economic enabler to drive real change in the neighborhoods and communities. All the net gain from the development effort goes into a community chest that is reinvested into the community."
Benton Harbor hopes to mirror the success of its neighbor. St. Joseph, a city of 9,000, is now a retirement community and a tourist destination with its beachfront property. Property values have increased 28% in the last five years, according to city manager Frank Walsh. Unemployment, he says, has fallen to 3%. A decade ago, the downtown vacancy rate was 22%. Today, it is 0%.
"What Benton Harbor and Harbor Shores have done is only going to enhance both communities," Walsh says. "This can only be beneficial for the entire (Berrien) county and area. This just doesn't happen very often in Small Town, America, but it's happening here."
One may find the grasping onto a private-public partnership and use of prized public land by the lakeshore for much needed city revenue as horribly desperate...possibly even foolhardy.
But one thing it is NOT is a new concoction of the Snyder administration.
I'm behind the recall of Rick Snyder.
But this whole thing from Rachel Maddow about a State takeover of the City of Benton Harbor to procure public lands to make a golf course for the rich...
...it's simply not true.
It's just not.
The sad fact is, Benton Harbor has been in dire straits for over two decades...and because of that, the city itself was party to this golf course thing.
In 2003 the city was literally on FIRE with race riots.
June 20, 2003
BENTON HARBOR, MICH.
It's been called the longest bridge in the world. Not that the St. Joseph River is particularly wide, but the gulf of status, stereotypes, and distrust it represents needs more than steel and cable to cross it.
On one side lies St. Joseph, an Eden-like beach town, brimming with barbered lawns, boutique coffee shops, and summer art festivals. Cross to Benton Harbor, and everything changes. White becomes black, and affluence turns to poverty. Frustrated residents sit on sagging stoops and walk by boarded-up businesses.
When Benton Harbor erupted in violence this week, the trigger was ostensibly a high-speed police chase through a residential neighborhood. It was the second such pursuit in three years, and the second to result in the death of a young black.
Just 7 years later, Governor Granholm would appoint an Emergency Financial Manager for the city.
Benton Harbor is not a convenient story of 2011 Teapublican overreach.
It's an ongoing, long term story of deindustrialization, racism, injustice, desperation, white flight...
It is not a story about how Rick Snyder is handing public land over to some golf course developer.
I wish it were that simple.
But it's not.
Here's a sad fact about the Western Michigan Lakeshore...closer to the Lake it's white and more prosperous, and on the other side of US-31 is African American and significantly less so.
In Muskegon, it's:
Norton Shores near the lake: white people and money.
Muskegon Heights seperated from the lake by a highway: African American people and very little money.
And I can't count on my fingers how many public-private partnerships of questionable nature the cities have taken up to save themselves.
This isn't a easy story...I'm hoping Maddow will do a more intensive investigation about it.
Please refer to two diaries about this issue -->
And"Fear will keep the local systems in line, fear of this battle station", a wise villain once said. And that's is what is happening with the expanded powers behind the EFM law. The locals are stepping up as quick as they can, because they are afraid the Empire will visit them next. Last night, they held a training session...
More than 300 people attended the training on Michigan's tough and controversial new emergency manager law for local governments and school districts. Fewer than one-third of them were looking for jobs as emergency managers or as consultants to oversee consent agreements for less seriously distressed local units. Most were local government and school district officials interested in making sure they never need an emergency manager.
In the meantime, the fear of law will drive your locals to make some horrific cuts to public safety and schools - focus on the outrage of THAT, not on something that you can't prove is happening. Take the very tangible results of these budget cuts - lost jobs, increased classroom size, less police and firefighters on the street, loss of health care services in your community - and carry those into 2012.