What the corporate takeover of a town means for our youth

Benton Harbor youth at a protest in 2013 against Governor Rick Snyder, who put a non-elected Emergency Manager in Benton Harbor to complete the corporate takeover of the town.
PHOTO/BRETT JELINEK, OLAFIMAGES.COM

 

BENTON HARBOR, MI — There has been a lot of strategic planning to dismantle the economy and school system here in the city of Benton Harbor. A lot of individuals have bought in to this, not knowing it was an illusion of inclusion.

Twenty years ago they announced that Benton Harbor would be a world-class city. But without education, how can people succeed? They took the skill and tech centers which taught trades to young men and women. Now there are children in the 4th and 5th grade who don’t know how to read and write. The strategic plan to take over the city of Benton Harbor was to spend $100 million on golf courses and not let the schools get even a million.

Over the last 10 years, we had Emergency Managers (governor appointed officials who serve the corporations) come in and, instead of aiding the city, worked in conjunction with Cornerstone Alliance (Whirlpool) and the Chamber of Commerce to finish the takeover.

They shut down manufacturers that were a viable source of income for individuals in the city. Everything was outsourced—including jobs within the school system, from bus drivers to secretaries.

How is it that the city of St. Joseph across the river functions quite well and this city is neglected for the last 20 years? I’m not in disagreement with change, but they should have educated people 15 years ago when they knew about this change. They refused to allow these children to be educated. Without an education, children don’t know what is going on in politics and government, the source of all that’s being done.

The Emergency Managers have been let go because the takeover is complete. The downtown is revamped, but the buildings are owned by private entities. The people in authority are taking areas of the city and pushing everyone out. The high school is in the process of being relocated 3-4 miles away. How will parents with no vehicles get children to school?

They’re building corporate, world-class communities, but you have to have world-class education to survive. They will allow a few to become economically secure at the expense of the many. It’s not about helping the kids—they miseducate them and allow liquor stores to be on every corner in the city. This is not acceptable in St. Joseph. What do people do? The takeover is a done deal. We have to get the progressive young Americans to demand change. Change comes from the people.

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