Detroit Urban Debate League News

November 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

High school students take sides on EM law

Renaissance, Loyola debate Prop 1 merits

  • By Shawn D. Lewis

  • The Detroit News

Loyola juniors Jordan Officer, left, and Javon Williams make the case for a yes vote and Renaissance senior Naomi Smith for a no vote Sunday. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

Detroit — Detroit high school students added their voices to the emergency manager law ballot issue during a lively debate Sunday.

Voters will decide Tuesday whether to repeal or keep the controversial emergency manager law, or Public Act 4, which will appear as Proposal 1 on the ballot.

The law has been suspended until after the election, and was replaced by the previous Public Act 72, which grants fewer powers to emergency managers.

The law authorizes the governor to appoint an emergency manager for cities or public schools if the state finds there is a financial emergency, and allows the emergency manager to act in place of local government officials to develop operating plans, including modifying or terminating contracts and reorganizing local governing.

About 50 audience members heard about the merits and drawbacks of the law from debaters at the Piquette Square for Veterans.

Two students represented Detroit Renaissance High School and two were from Loyola High School in the city.

Naomi Smith, a 12th-grader at Renaissance, represented the “vote no” side

“It goes against the Constitution, which says that people have the right to elect others to represent them,” she said. “It should be repealed.”

Smith, 17, who plans to major in journalism and minor in political science in college, said as a Detroit Public Schools student affected by an emergency financial manager, she has firsthand experience that the law is not working.

“There aren’t enough books (or) qualified teachers and (there are) larger classrooms, making it difficult to learn,” she said.

Jordan Officer, representing Loyola and the “vote yes” side, disagreed.

“If there is no emergency manager in place, the only option is bankruptcy, school closures and loss of jobs,” said Officer, who plans to become a lawyer. “Nobody really wants an emergency manager, but this is what will happen if one is not appointed.”

The other debaters were Paris Parnell, 17, a 12th-grader at Renaissance, who plans to enter the medical field, and Javon Williams, 16, an 11th-grader at Loyola. He is interning at a law firm.

The audience applauded the students and praised their involvement and understanding of both sides of the issue.

Linda Campbell, 62, of Detroit, said she helped to put the question on the ballot.

“I’m delighted to see young people who are doing the research, becoming involved and preparing to become the next generation of leaders,” she said.

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