Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Benton Harbor's Emergency Manager Charter Amendments Fail

Overlooked but important tidbit to add to yesterday's election results. Emergency Manager Joe Harris' amendments to the city charter all failed, but in the race for mayor, the guy who supported Harris and the amendments won, albeit by only 8 votes. Look for a recount there.

Still, it's interesting that this very divided community would shoot down everything the EM wanted to do.

One of the amendments would’ve reduced the size of the commission from 9 members to 5. Another proposed amendment would’ve reduced commissioners’ term to 2 years from 4. Several other Benton Harbor City Charter proposals would’ve streamlined power under an executive, instead of having separate department heads reports to the elected city commission. Harris says the changes are needed in order for city government to operate properly.

Harris says he knew there would be some backlash against the proposals simply because he put them on the ballot. But he was surprised all of them failed.

“I was optimistic enough to believe that because we had been so successful over the last year and a half that the majority of the people would accept my recommendations for change,” Harris frowned, “Well, it didn’t happen.” Harris worries some of the same problems will remain without structural changes to the city charter.

“People knew that this was something that was shoved down their throat and they didn’t like it,” said City Commissioner Juanita Henry, who wasn’t up for election this year.

Harris is supposed to turn over the keys sometime next year, and once again Benton Harbor will be back on its own. Wish them luck; it's still going to be a tough road to travel.