Friday, September 7, 2012


   Benchmark by Guy Mingo

            The track above features the recorded voice of attorney Herb Sanders presenting passionate closing arguments before a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals. Sanders, representing the coalition 'Stand Up for Democracy', was advocating for 226,000 signatures collected during the latter part of 2011 to repeal Public Act 4.
            Sanders' legal defense of the petitions entered the court system in April, when Republican members of the State Board of Canvassers took the side of challengers who claimed that the petitions were invalid based on a technicality-- a newly formed group called the 'Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility' claimed that the heading on the petition was too small.             
            It ended August 3 when the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with Sanders and, in a decision that should be considered historic, ordered the petitions to be certified. As a result Michigan residents will have the chance to debate and vote on PA 4 during the November 6 general election.
           Governor Rick Snyder signed PA 4 into law in March of 2011, allowing his office to assign emergency managers to municipalities and school districts which he, or a financial review board assigned by him, determined to be in financial distress. In Detroit, PA 4 has allowed emergency manager Roy Roberts to continue the destruction of public education unhindered by public oversight or local educators.
            The court decision should be viewed as an historic victory for proponents of democracy--  the elected Detroit Board of Education has been reassigned its duties overseeing the Detroit Public Schools and the dictatorial powers of appointed emergency manager, Roy Roberts, have been marginally reigned in. (The suspension of PA 4 only means that emergency managers across Michigan will operate under Public Act 72, the previous, lighter version of the 'emergency manager' law.)
           The ruling also grants more time to examine a policy that has stripped us of our voting rights and forced a separate and unequal education system for our "lowest performing" schools.
           On the downside, be prepared for the continuation of a public relations campaign by monied interests to distract voters from PA 4's fascist tendencies. A lot is at stake for corporate investors and the banking industry, who would rather see oppressive financial austerity measures be implemented at the local level as opposed to a city going into bankruptcy or negotiating concessions with unions.
            The Free Press and the Detroit News will continue to justify emergency managers deciding the future of education in Detroit by claiming that the failure of public education is the result of internal corruption. They will ignore the overwhelming evidence that the decline of DPS over the last thirteen years was the result of continual encroachments by private interests determined to profit from public education dollars.
            Many Michigan voters reside in communities which are in no danger of falling under the dictatorial control of an EM. They will readily succumb to the corporate media storyline, which depicts poorer, Blacker communities as financially irresponsible and deserving of strict financial control.
            Nowhere will you hear any mention of the role played by banks, or the foreclosure crisis they caused, which decimated the tax base in cities like Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor, Inkster and Highland Park.
            A benchmark has been set by Herb Sanders and 226,000 Michigan residents. They have successfully made their case, before a bench of the state's highest justices, that the battle for democracy should be decided at the polls on November 6.
            The question is, can the activist community seize the opportunity on a battleground-- that is, the corporate media network--  on which the anti-democracy movement already has a monstrous advantage? Or is the fundamental injustice of PA 4 so great that can they make their case in the streets?