Protesters in Flint, Michigan, took a page out of the playbook of the so-called Tea Party movement to protest what they see as an undemocratic powers given by state law to emergency managers. Michigan’s Public Act 4 allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to name Flint-native Mike Brown as emergency manager of the struggling city where, besides unemployment, high murder rates, and property abandonment, mismanagement and revenue shortfalls have led to a significant deficits. Brown was brought in to clean house, as he did in 2007. At that time Mayor Don Williamson, a local millionaire businessman, oversaw a city government widely criticized for mismanagement. Brown took over temporarily after Williamson's resignation. The current mayor, Dayne Walling, has been shut out of decision-making as manager Brown has submitted a budget to cut costs, including municipal salaries. In public comments, Brown said that under his temporary administration, Flint is “taking the first steps towards financial solvency.”
On April 30, Flint residents spoke at public meeting a Flint’s city hall and expressed opposition to the new city budget put into place by Brown. The struggling Midwestern city is facing a $25 million deficit, which the budget is intended to redress. Residents expressed anger that Brown had asked for public comment only after the budget was adopted. Concerned about rising crime, there is concern that local police and firefighters may be laid off by mid-summer if government funding is not renewed.
Protests in city council chambers commenced chanting during a presentation by Finance Director Gerald Ambrose. Protesters were heard to shout ‘You’re talking to us about a budget you have already adopted!’ Opposition to the budget’s reduction in the police force by 19 officers and the fire department by 31 firefighters was aired.
Retired firefighter and union organizer Raúl García, an Army veteran, was among those opposed to emergency manager Brown’s $170,000 salary. Some believe that his salary could have been instead directed at saving jobs for police and fire protection. Former University of Michigan-Flint professor Ralph Arellano, after the proceedings, said that the imposition of a city manager is undemocratic.
A little more than two dozen protesters stood outside City Hall criticizing a recent 25 percent water and sewer service rate hike, as well as new fees for street lights and refuse collection. Paul Herring, an activist and video producer, said “Taxation without representation truly sucks,” according to the Flint Journal. Other protesters chanted ‘Take your budget and shove it!’ as passing motorists honked their horns. ‘Don’t lay off police; lay off Mike Brown’ some were heard to say.
Flint is often compared to nearby Detroit as a microcosm of the Motor City’s woes. Detroit also has faced out-migration, budget shortfalls, and factory closings. It now faces the prospect of having the state government impose an emergency manager