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Sen. Bert Johnson talks alternative to emergency manager law

Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District.
Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats
Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District.

At the beginning of the year Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager, Jack Martin, for Highland Park public schools. Shortly after that Martin was “de-activated” from the position. And now it’s unclear when he might be reinstated.

Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District, which includes Highland Park.

Senator Johnson, in partnership with local and national organizations, has formed the Financial and Academic Reinvestment Commission, or FARC. The commission is studying how to help communities fix their problems without an emergency manager.

Johnson says, “It’s not simple mismanagement, it’s not simple corruption, and it’s not simple ignoring of what’s been happening at the school district government that has got us to this place. It’s really been whole sale disinvestment over a number of decades that led to this down trot financial insolvency issue that we are all facing and that we are living with."

According to Senator Johnson, there has been disinvestment in mostly  impoverished communities, which have seen the decline in manufacturing and other industries. Johnson points to cities like Pontiac, Ecorse, Benton Harbor, Flint, Detroit and Highland Park. 

“You see that it’s not just African American’s living there…but even more importantly it’s because of disinvestment on the part of the industrial business, and it’s also this larger conversation about certain people leaving. For instance in Detroit you’ve heard over the years about white flight and then black flight. Well that’s been a convenient narrative for us all to talk about for decades, but now we really got to talk about the impact of those folks leaving and taking with them those property tax dollars, their tax dollars that now support the school system because of sales tax being the predominated way of supporting schools,” Johnson says.

What can be done to fix some of these problems?

Johnson says, “You do have to have some state level of intervention. The state treasury does need a tool. They do need to be involved in rooted out the problem and stopping the drain on these finances, we’re not arguing about that…that has to happen, but Public Act 4 goes way to far, it over reaches and has not worked in any one location across the state yet.”

Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.
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