Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ballot Proposal Mayhem Part I: Emergency (said in the voice of Alan Arkin from "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming)

Please allow me a few posts to wax political.  I don't think I've ever done that on my blog, in fact I don't write as much as I'd like on here in general but as we are nearing the end of this election year (thank goodness!) there are some real issues at hand besides electing officials that could have a great impact on our state that I want you to think about. (My English teachers would cringe at that run-on sentence…sorry!) I want you to know that I have taken time to really think and research what I'm about to write so even if you disagree, and you're welcome to, please do so respectfully! 

Each day for the next 6 days I’m going to discuss one of the state-wide proposals on the ballot.  Initially I was just going to do one blog post but as I got into it I realized that it’s really hard to explain them all in depth in one blog post without causing people’s heads to explode. Obviously I don’t want anyone’s head to explode so we’ll do one at a time. 


And it won’t be that boring. 

I promise(ish)!

You may wonder what qualifies me to talk about and have an opinion on the ballot proposals.  Well, I'm an American citizen and quite frankly that is the only qualification I really need.  It is the duty of all American citizens to vote responsibly.  You should all be out there doing research on the candidates and what the proposals mean because voting is an honor that not everyone has. 

*Steps down from soapbox*

Beyond that basic qualification I'm also very interested in politics in general.  I met my husband Will in 2005 after I had finished my freshman year of college.  At that point in my life I voted (once) but that was about my extent of political involvement.  Will was a Political Science major in college and was very interested in politics and followed elections closely.  After we were married in 2008 he started a job working for a State Representative. Since then we have become very involved in politics and I can say that I truly enjoy it.  I like learning about our government and laws and how people influence government.  Now that I have a son I especially appreciate the ability to participate in politics in an attempt to make my small corner of the world a better place for my child.  This is why my blog about mishaps in the kitchen and day to day life with my little guy has been hijacked.

There are 6 state-wide proposals on the ballot for the state of Michigan.  On the ballot they will be listed as Proposal 12-1, Proposal 12-2, Proposal 12-3, Proposal 12-3, Proposal 12-4, Proposal 12-5, and Proposal 12-6.  In the posts to come I will write the actual title and language of the proposal taken directly from a sample ballot.  After that I'll briefly (hopefully) discuss some pros and cons and my thoughts on it.  My hope is that by reading this you will become a more informed voter regardless of your political stance!

And now to make this post a little more interesting....

Just so you can get a feel for how you should say the word "emergency" when reading this post here's a clip of one of my favorite lines from "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming":

Ok, now that we've gotten that out of the way let's get down to business! And don't forget to say "emergency" in the voice of Alan Arkin every time you see it!

Proposal 12-1 A Referendum On Public Act 4 of 2011 – The Emergency Manager Law:
Public Act 4 of 2011 would:

  • Establish criteria to assess the financial condition of local government units, including school districts.
  •  Authorize Governor to appoint an emergency manager (EM) upon state finding of a financial emergency, and allow the EM to act in place of local government officials.
  •  Require EM to develop financial and operating plans, which may include modification or termination of contracts, reorganization of government, and determination of expenditures, services, and use of assets until the emergency is resolved.
  • Alternatively, authorize state-appointed review team to enter into a local government approved consent decree.  

 Should this law be approved?

This is a tricky one for a couple of different reasons.  First of all Public Act 4 is already a law passed that was passed in March 2011 (Public Act 4 of 2011).  The fact that it is called a Public Act means that it was a bill that has been approved by the House of Representatives, the Senate, and signed into law by the Governor. 

It’s also a little tricky because a yes means no and a no means yes.  Are you confused yet?  So basically if you would like to keep this law, which has already been passed by the Legislative and Executive branches of government, then you should vote YES.  If you would like this law to be repealed then you should vote NO.

Public Act 4 was signed into law by our governor to strengthen the previously existing Emergency Financial Manager law which had the legal teeth of an 85 year old man nearing the need for dentures.  The Governor signed the bill into law because unfortunately so many cities in our great state were struggling financially and doing so at the expense of taxpayers.

Based on the research I’ve done repealing this law (voting NO) would be detrimental to taxpayers upon whose back this state operates.  It would cause us and the state government to potentially be culpable for bad debt that the cities in crisis have taken on.  This law has already been beneficial to several cities and it is especially helpful in that an emergency financial manager can be appointed or requested before city is in crisis mode (think rioting if police and fire services are cut due to lack of finances). 

If you notice that your friend is walking towards the edge of a cliff and is not completely aware of the danger awaiting them you would warn them ahead of time rather than yell, “Stop!” as they plunge over the edge right?  I sure hope so, otherwise I’m going to have to rethink my friendship with you…

The main argument by people who feel that the emergency financial manager law should be repealed is that too much power is given to the emergency financial managers who are not elected by the people.  This is completely understandable and should give most people pause, including myself.  They also argue that the new law allows the emergency financial manager to bypass existing collective bargaining agreements to get the job done.  I understand that collective bargaining is a hot issue, really I do.  However, when elected officials misuse or mismanage finances (many of which are made possible through taxes) to the point where their city is in crisis they have forfeited some of the trust placed in them by those who elected them as well as the trust of higher government officials.  At that point it may be necessary for someone well versed in financial management to take a look at things and help make some positive, money saving changes.  These are basic Dave Ramsey financial principles people!

One last thought: If a city doesn’t get its act together financially they may have to file for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.  If a city files for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy you can be sure that the judge will not be interested in maintaining the status quo as it was the status quo that got the city in trouble in the first place which could mean similar changes to those that would have been made by an emergency financial manager.

All that being said….

My opinion on 12-1: Vote YES

There, that wasn’t too painful was it?  Especially if you did what I asked and pronounced “emergency” like Alan Arkin!  Tune in tomorrow for thoughts on Proposal 12-2: A Proposal To Amend The State Constitution Regarding Collective Bargaining!  And for those of you who powered through to the end I'll reward you with a picture of my adorable little guy:

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