Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Whatever Happens, It Needs to Happen Now

Along with quite a few others, I'm part of the "Social Media Tag Team" in Muskegon, Michigan. It's a group of active people in the city who organize online to make the city a better place to live, to champion the region, to bring business into the area, and to rally support for important local causes.

One such cause, called for and organized by another member of the Tag Team, is a drive to get pencils, paper, and other school supplies to children in the Muskegon Height's School district.

Pencils. Paper. Note pads. Rulers. Folders.

School supplies.

For a public school. A public school that is millions in the hole.

In order to survive, Muskegon Heights Public Schools has to cut $4.6 million from its budget in the next six months.

[snip]

“This is a fight for survival,” Marios Demetriou, deputy superintendent for the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District told staff who gathered at the high school for an overview of the district's finances.

Donating pencils, by the way, isn't something you do to make the city a better place to live. It's what you do when a public institution is drowning.

Helpful tip: Drowning isn't characterized by kicking and splashing and yelling for help. It's characterized by a head tilted toward the sky silently bobbing just below the surface, arms raised up. When you see that, you have seconds -- SECONDS -- to help.

The Muskegon Heights school board has asked the state to appoint an emergency financial manager.

Eclectablog makes a compelling point, however, that emergency financial managers don't help, long term. And it makes sense.

Many of these communities are places where middle class families are vanishing or gone, where the opportunities for social mobility are vanishing or gone, and where a meaningful tax base is vanishing or gone.

It doesn't matter how much you cut as a financial manager, because there is no money at the local level, and there will not BE any money at the local level.

This is not a problem that can be solved at the local level. It's a problem that needs to be addressed at the State Level.

We can talk forever and rightly so about the need to bring back social mobility, and re-build the middle class. But that's a Long Term Goal. It's not going to help kids and families and low wage communities today.

It's infuriating that Michigan has an entirely Republican government right now, bent on dissolving public institutions. But it's even MORE infuriating to think that the general electorate won't see the crumbling of Michigan cities and schools as an election issue because these low income communities are insulated in their own self contained government entities where people can think the problem is Over There.

I liked the Emergency Financial Manager law because at least it was half the solution: State involvement when the city was unable to fund the most basic of civic needs. And help RIGHT NOW. But you can't do that AND take away state funding. You can't do that AND make poor cities rely more and more on local funds that don't exist as our current State Government is doing. Not to mention the extremely problematic nature of removing power from publicly elected officials.

That said, I don't believe we can abandon Emergency Financial Managers without a replacement solution, and I don't see one on the near horizon. Whatever happens, though, it needs to happen NOW.

1 comment:

Jenny Stephen said...

We are social beings. So we have to take some actions and remedial measures against this. I am a writer in a buy dissertation online service and i am a member of Social Media Tag Team.