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Commission hopes to offer alternatives to emergency managers

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law say they’re ready to tackle the problems underlying the financial distress of many Michigan communities.

Members of the  Financial and Academic Reinvestment Commission (FARC) met in Highland Park Thursday night.

State Senator Bert Johnson, who helped launch FARC last month, says they have a plan to help communities fix fiscal problems without emergency managers.

Johnson says the point is to draw attention to what he calls the “real, human issues” underlying communities in financial crisis.

“Highland Park and its school district suffer from a huge wholesale disinvestment over the years, that really robbed the school district of property tax dollars, sales tax dollars, and things that would give the city and the school district something to grow on,” Johnson said.

Highland Park has become ground zero in the fight against emergency managers and the state law that empowers them, Public Act 4. The FARC met at the same time the Highland Park school board met and agreed not to fight an emergency manager taking over the district.

The city also rallied the law's opponents at a forum on PA 4's legal and constitutional issues earlier this week.

Johnson says the group has pulled together a report about how to start tackling the problem’s roots. “It is to lay out in plain detail [ways]  that we can get out of this financial emergency without this type of state oversight, intervention, and frankly, interference,” Johnson said.

Johnson and other organizers say this will be the first of many public forums to generate what they call “community-based public policy”—and, they hope, stop state takeovers of local governments.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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