Proposal 1, a ballot initiative to reinstate Public Act 4, popularly known as the “dictator law,” was defeated in the November 6 elections. The Act had been suspended when the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the legitimacy of the 226,000 petition signatures calling for the repeal of the draconian law.
Public Act 4 was instituted during early 2011 during a state and nationwide right-wing offensive against labor organizations and oppressed communities. The elections of November 2010 had placed a Republican majority in Congress and a narrow-majority Democratic group in the Senate.
Right-wing politicians fueled by the corporate-backed Tea Party movement won seats in state governments as well. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and other states, legislation was rushed through to outlaw collective bargaining and to restrict, if not eliminate, bourgeois democracy in local governments and school districts.
In Michigan, Public Act 4 imposed “emergency managers” on many majority African American cities. In Detroit a so-called “Financial Stability Agreement” (FSA) was enacted by a 5-4 margin on the City Council. This agreement was designed, like PA 4, to guarantee the payment of billions in debt-service the banks.
A grassroots campaign was organized to collect enough signatures that would place a referendum on the ballot. This was done after efforts in the courts by citizens of the state were stalled.
Significance of the Ballot Initiative
The efforts of Gov. Rick Snyder and the right-wing dominated state legislature were supported whole-heartedly by the corporate media. Editorials were run daily in the Detroit News and Free Press praising the purported virtues of emergency management and consent agreements.
With the imposition of the FSA in Detroit 2,500 workers were slated to lose their municipal jobs. Cuts have been imposed which have reduced city services to the bare minimum.
Nonetheless, the people of the state voted down this draconian law. The vote illustrated the declining influence of the corporate media and the failure of the state government to intimate workers and oppressed peoples into complacency.
Even though Public Act 4 has been voted down, the ruling class and its surrogates are continuing in the same fashion as if the elections never took place. The previous emergency financial manager law, Public Act 72, was resurrected after the suspension of Public Act 4 with the validation of the petition drive.
The re-imposition of Public Act 72 is currently being challenged in the courts. However, if any lessons are to be learned from the struggle to overturn Public Act 4, the courts were not the decisive factor.
Workers and oppressed communities in Detroit and Michigan must form broader coalitions to fight the downsizing of city, county and state government as well as the evisceration of public education. The Detroit Public Schools, the largest district in the state, has been decimated by the enormous debt-service payments to the banks which drain 80 percent of state aid.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs is calling for the release of all relevant documents related to the financial instruments and loan agreements signed that have resulted in the economic strangling of the City of Detroit. Moratorium NOW! Coalition is not only demanding the halt of all foreclosures, evictions and utility shut-offs but is stressing the need to freeze debt-service payments to the financial institutions.
The Financial Review Board (FAB) appointed by Gov. Snyder to lay the groundwork for the state takeover in the interest of the banks, reported that Detroit owed in excess of $16 billion in long term debt. Yet the Moratorium NOW! Coalition is saying that the people of Detroit and Michigan owe nothing to the banks, that the banks owe the people.
This coalition is working to further expose the role of the financial institutions in the economic crisis in Detroit and throughout the state. Weekly meetings are held every Monday from 7:00-9:00pm at 5920 Second Ave. in Detroit’s Midtown area. To contact the organization just log on to the following website: http://www.moratorium-mi.org .
By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire