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Path to Municipal Privatizaton? Emergency Chief Takes Action against Benton Harbor, Michigan

BENTON HARBOR, Michigan — A state-appointed emergency financial manager has suspended the decision-making powers of Benton Harbor officials in a move that's likely the first act of its kind under a new state law.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, left, sits with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing on Feb. 23, 2011, at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor. Actions carried out in Benton Harbor are explicitly allowed under a law signed by Snyder which granted sweeping new powers to emergency financial managers. That legislation had drawn large protests, including attempts by some protesters to take over the state capitol building. The sit-in resulted in numerous arrests. (AP Photo) The Detroit News reports that Friday's order by Joseph Harris means Benton Harbor officials can only call meetings to order, adjourn them and approve minutes of meetings.

Harris’ move drew a strong rebuke from the AFL-CIO, which represents administrative workers, among others. Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney called the move “sad news for democracy in Michigan.”

The action is likely the first since Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law in March a new statute that grants more powers to emergency managers appointed by the Treasury Department to take over distressed schools and communities.

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