Detroit— Backers of an effort to repeal Michigan’s tough new emergency manager law are steamrolling toward the 161,000 signatures required to get the measure on the November ballot, but it might not be enough to stop a state takeover of Detroit.
The revised law could be temporarily suspended this spring if backers get enough verified signatures to put the issue before voters, state officials say. If that happens, the state would revert to its previous law, meaning an emergency manager still could be appointed in Detroit if needed — but without the power to sell assets and break union contracts.
Still, repeal organizers are optimistic that voters will ultimately agree the current law — Public Act 4 — strips too much power from local communities.
“If we only dealt with our courts and our Legislature, we’d definitely have a very high road to climb, but the good thing about this campaign is that we’re able to put this on the ballot,” said Brandon Jessup, a 30-year-old self-described “progressive activist.”
Jessup of Detroit is the founder of Michigan Forward, the group behind the petition drive.
The process of getting signatures certified can be challenging.
Detroit unions, religious leaders and civil rights activists are uniting against Public Act 4 as state Treasurer Andy Dillon began a preliminary review this week of the city’s finances that could lead to receivership.
If the signature petitions are certified by the Board of State Canvassers, the emergency manager law will be suspended until the vote takes place. Jessup and others admit it will be a tall order to get enough signatures certified to halt intervention in Detroit.
A rally was held Tuesday evening at Fellowship Chapel Church in Detroit in support of the repeal effort, and many more are planned, organizers said.
John Pirich, an election law attorney based in Lansing who helped former Mayor Dennis Archer successfully fend off a recall challenge, said it’s always better to have professionals with years of experience gathering signatures. Backers should aim for 50 to 75 percent more signatures than they need, he added.
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