By no means just another struggling Michigan town.
December 15, 2011 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Benton Harbor... now I'm really thinking we need a FPP about Heathkit.
posted by crapmatic at 3:44 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only thing I know about Benton Harbor is that the Weir's didn't have a vacation house there.
posted by namewithoutwords at 3:52 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wasn't Benton Harbor the secret identity of Chickenman?
posted by stevil at 4:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's an interesting idea:
A few holes later, as Robinson vainly poked a 6-iron around in some tall grass beside the fairway looking for one of his balls, he conjured a vision of Benton Harbor’s future. “This could be a model for African-American towns,” he told me. “I want to see this turned into a great place to live, work and play and have it be predominantly black. A great place to play golf, go to the beach, with great schools, a place that turns out scholars, athletes and artists. A place that’s banging, as they say.”
I certainly hope it works, because as the article notes, this is the kind of future we all may be becoming much more familiar with:
The juxtaposition of Benton Harbor’s impoverished population and its two rising monuments to wealth — all wedged into a little more than four square miles — make it almost a caricature of economic disparity in America. But at the same time, it offers a window into one possible future for towns across the country, places that can no longer support their own economies or take care of their citizens and may ultimately have no choice but to turn their fate over to private industry and nonprofits. The way things are going, more and more states may start to look like Michigan, and more and more towns may start to look like Benton Harbor.
posted by Forktine at 4:32 PM on December 15, 2011

Some background (most of it is in the article):

Benton Harbor is a largely poor and predominately black city in Michigan. It is one of the first targets of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder'sa nd the state’s Republican Legislature's "Public Act 4" which essentially lets them dissolve city governments and take over.

Let me spell that out for you. Rich white Republican governors and congressmen in Michigan can now take over democratically elected cities controlled by minorities.

If successful, this is essentially the beginning of a never-ending Republican and conservative regime in the state.

For an example of the mindset in Michigan's conservative leaders:

To defenders of Michigan’s takeover of Benton Harbor, like the Republican state representative Al Pscholka, Knowles is Exhibit A for the case for intervention. “He got his friends down at the soup kitchen, took them to the polls and told them to vote,” Pscholka, a sponsor of the state’s emergency-manager legislation, told me one morning in Benton Harbor. “It was like play government over there,” he said, referring to the town’s City Hall.

The paragraph in the article right before that was complaining that not enough citizens in Benton Harbor vote.

But when they do organize to vote, it's an invalid "play government."

And now they're building a playground for the rich, Harbor Shores, there.

Welcome to the future.
posted by formless at 4:43 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

From an environmental standpoint, I understand golf courses are pretty much disasters, so it's not as huge an improvement as it might seem.
posted by maxwelton at 7:13 PM on December 15, 2011

Benton Harbor has been a shithole for as long as I can remember. Just sayin'...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:22 AM on December 16, 2011

There is a lot that stinks here. Benton Harbor has struggled for years. But that struggle has a lot to do with lack of employment opportunities. To make things worse Whirlpool has downsized a staggering number of people the last few years which is making it worse. I am not sure golf courses and McMansions are the answer to these problems.
posted by UseyurBrain at 9:03 AM on December 16, 2011

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