Now That the Factories Are Closed, It’s Tee Time in Benton Harbor, Mich., by Jonathan Mahler
... Watching carpenters hammer preweathered wood shingles onto homes that wouldn’t look out of place in East Hampton, Long Island, I felt almost as if I were at a resort in a third-world Caribbean country: beyond the boundaries of Harbor Shores is the poorest city in all of Michigan.
In the state of Michigan's view, Benton Harbor is so failed that democracy must no longer be permitted to exist there -- temporarily, of course. The appointment of an "emergency manager" overrides all election results, and that chortling you're hearing may or may not be Indiana's governor, Mitch Daniels, and his henchmen (see Bennett, Tony).
Benton Harbor: An Addendum by Chris Savage, by Jonathan MahlerStrictly speaking, the parallels between Benton Harbor and New Albany are few in number. The Whirlpool variable alone counsels caution when making comparisons. Still, I agree with Savage: It's a chilling development indeed when nixing democracy is deemed acceptable as the best American alternative to problems with many more sources than just civic corruption. Is robber baron capitalism the solution in Benton Harbor, or was it the problem? Where did the wonderful corporate citizen Whirlpool take all those jobs, anyway?
... I understand that Michigan cities like Benton Harbor are struggling and help is needed. The Snyder administration’s recent cuts in revenue sharing to cities and cuts to our public schools have only made matters much worse. My contention is that we must start from the baseline that democracy, even at the local level, must be preserved. Democracy isn’t always pretty and “the people” sometimes elect unqualified representatives. But that’s not an excuse to disenfranchise our citizens and democracy should be sacrosanct, the baseline from which we evaluate any potential solution. I reject the notion that this is the only answer.
Would this make more sense to me if I played golf with the oligarchs? I certainly hope not.