Say no to corporate control of Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor is the first municipality where new dictatorial emergency powers of a Financial Manager were used to strip power from all of its elected officials. Hundreds of Michiganders from across the state came to Benton Harbor to protest the governor’s enactment of this law. Photo/Brett Jelinek

Benton Harbor is the first municipality where new dictatorial emergency powers of a Financial Manager were used to strip power from all of its elected officials. Hundreds of Michiganders from across the state came to Benton Harbor to protest the governor’s enactment of this law.
Photo/Brett Jelinek

BENTON HARBOR, MI — We must say no to the dictator and slave master, Whirlpool. They are destroying the city of Benton Harbor by stealing land and by driving the people completely out of the city to build a Kingdom for the rich.

Many residents feel they have no control over the direction of the city because their vote doesn’t matter. They see the disappearance of a democracy that they thought was embedded inU.S.society.Many feel trapped by a lack of options because of Whirlpool’s control of their city. In addition, our elected officials are bought by corporate contributions and seem incapable of constructive action.

Through the city’s new governor-appointed Emergency Financial Manager, Tony Saunders, Whirlpool has absolute power to do whatever it wants. Saunders represents the Whirlpool Corporation, not the citizens of Benton Harbor. Saunders has now come up with anew scheme to steal still more land from the poor without their knowledge.

To carry out Whirlpool’s program, the Emergency Manager fired six of Benton Harbor’s top employees in the last two months. Saunders said more firings at City Hall are coming. There is nothing the residents can say or do about this.

The termination of Regina Sistruk is an example. Her firing was political. The commissioners approved a motion during a special meeting on May 28 demanding her immediate reinstatement, but she remains fired.

Regina Sistrunk questioned the Emergency Manager, who wanted to use some Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)funds to purchase Benton Harbor land. Regina refused to use the funds because it would have been illegal to do so. The (CDBG) money can only be used for specific purposes such as for subsidized housing, etc. The witchhunt was on.

Regina Sistrunk was replaced by Nicole Rodden Brown, who previously worked for Capital Access,a Philadelphia’s-based Company contracted by Michigan State Housing Development Authority.  Brown was over the $13.8 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 grant money which was divided up between the Land Bank and Cornerstone Alliance (Whirlpool Corporation). Cornerstone received $6.4 million. No resident from Benton Harbor was hired to do the community work that this grant made possible. The three-year contract ended in May.

This process shows that private corporations such as Whirlpool, financial interests and the Governor are all behind the effort to get complete corporate control of Benton Harbor. The Emergency Manager, Tony Saunders is just a flunky for the Whirlpool Corporation. He has betrayed and abandoned our community and our economic and educational needs for corporate money.

The Black Autonomy Network Community Organization protested at City Hall against
the dictatorship of the Emergency Manager. The protest was a major success. The power of the people is more powerful than the people inpower.

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