What I learned while studying Flint’s Municipal Takeover, Pt. 2

This piece was originally published in Flint Neighborhoods United’s Our Community, Our Voice and is reprinted here with permission. Municipal takeover policies, known in Michigan as the “emergency manager laws,” claim to eschew politics. These policies, which rest on the principle that local government is broken, suspend local democracy in an attempt to fix local fiscal problems. Fear of municipal bankruptcy, economic contagion, and credit downgrades are among the most common motivations for intervening in local municipal affairs. For Flint, the city’s budget deficit was the expressed reason for its takeover. States have a fiduciary responsibility to guarantee that municipalities meet their obligation to provide services to the public. When faced with on-going fiscal problems, some proponents argue that strong state interventions are necessary “in the interest of efficiency”. From an economic-stability perspective, municipal takeovers are considered to be the best alternative when compared to municipal bankruptcy or doing nothing. State interventions by emergency managers are designed to be temporary and quick, yet often the typical processes of deliberation (or checks and balances) be damned. In a 2012 op-ed in the MLive, Governor Snyder defended Michigan’s municipal takeover policy. He wrote, “It’s not about takeovers or control. It’s about helping communities and schools get back on solid financial footing and adapt to changing circumstances and fiscal realities.” Addressing the concerns of public workers, the Governor stated, “It’s not about voiding contracts or circumventing collective bargaining, but about ensuring fair contracts and benefits while recognizing that the past status quo simply isn’t sustainable anymore.”  And his answer to citizens deeply worried about the loss of their voting franchise, he offered...

What I learned while studying Flint’s Municipal Takeover, Pt. 1

This piece was originally published in Flint Neighborhoods United’s Our Community, Our Voice and is reprinted here with permission. In the summer of 2015, months before the city of Flint made national, rather international, headlines for the water crisis, I began my fieldwork in Flint. I was there to conduct research on the state’s takeover of Flint, under the now infamous “PA 4”. I wanted to understand the political impact of the takeover.  At the time, I was a PhD candidate at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey studying public policy and administration with a focus on community development and urban politics. During my time in Flint, I met (and interviewed) many Flint residents. I rented rooms and apartments in different Flint neighborhoods. I ate at local restaurants and shopped at the Flint Farmers market. By spending time in the city and attending community events, I began to build connections with members of the Flint community. When my interviews ended and my dissertation was complete, I did not cut ties. Instead, I made a personal and professional commitment to stay involved. I made a commitment to share what I learned with whomever will listen and advocate for policy change wherever I can. This is how I came to writing this article for Our Community, Our Voice. In fact, this is the first in a series of pieces about what I learned. First, why Flint? It is a question that I am asked often. First, let me start off by saying that I am originally from Michigan- Grand Rapids to be exact. I studied at Grand Valley State University (first...

A Day Without a Woman: International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day dedicate to celebrate the successes and achievement of women and gender non-conforming people. It is a day dedicated to action. (It also happens to be a day with a long history, with roots in the 1908 women’s march in NYC and official designation as International Women’s Day by the UN in 1975). Today–March 8, 2017– is also that day that the Women’s March on Washington organizers called for a general strike: “a day without a woman.” Thus, today I am striking. I will not be going into the office, I have arranged to Skype in for an important meeting. I will wear red for the call/ meeting. I will not buy anything today, but I will organize the massive amount of Girl Scout cookies that will be dispersed to my troop tomorrow. I will cook. I will read to my kids at night (maybe from their new book: Rad American Women A-Z) I will use this time to write letters to my elected officials. I finish a paper on feminist activism (ok, this is working…). I will make a donation. I will use my privilege on this day to call attention to the important, yet undervalued, role of women in our economy and in our society through my absence, my spending choices, and my writing. I will use my privilege to challenge systems that perpetuate my privilege. But, as many have noted, striking looks different to different people. Some women–including women business owners–have vowed to work today at their women-owned places of employment open as their own form of protest. Some women work in...