BENTON HARBOR – Tuesday was primary election day for some Michigan cities. But Benton Harbor’s state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager created an outcome in the city’s commissioner at large race that we don’t often see in any election.
Candidates in that race who win November’s general election won’t have power to do anything in the beginning of their term.
Seven people are running for those two at-large seats and the four highest vote getters in the primary election will advance to the November ballot. The state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) who is expected to be in Benton Harbor for at least another 12 to 15 months is already in charge of the city’s finances. City commissioners who are currently in office do not have control of that money or how it’s spent.
“It was very apparent to me that the commission was not going to take it upon itself to police itself and make the proper financial changes it needed to make in order to get the city moving in the right direction,” said Commissioner at large incumbent Bryan Joseph.
He supports Public Act Four – a law allowing the state to appoint emergency financial managers to take over cities' finances.
Most of Joseph’s opponents, including MaryAlice Adams, do not support Public Act Four. Adams said she feels it violates her constitutional rights.
“I have the right to elect an elected official to speak and carry a voice for me to the higher officials,” she told WSBT.
It was a controversial move when the state appointed EFM Joseph Harris in April 2010.
Regardless of how Benton Harbor residents feel about Harris, one thing is clear – most people who showed up to vote in Tuesday’s primary agree the city needs help.
“It’s a very important thing for any American citizen to do, take a part in voting,” said Benton Harbor resident Queen Jenkins before she walked inside a polling place.
“I figured if I stay at home I can't get it done,” added J.C. Scott before casting his ballot. “So I'm out here today.”
Reverand James Atterberry said more residents need to begin showing interest in Benton Harbor, and that interest begins at the polls.
“We need good people in charge so when [Harris] turns it over, he'll turn it over to people who will keep things going in a positive direction,” Atterberry said.
Voter turnout Benton Harbor primaries is traditionally low – in the five to eight percent range. There was no word on turnout at Tuesday's primary.
Polls in Michigan are open until 8 pm Tuesday.