Political landscape could be changing in Benton Harbor


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - The sign outside Benton Harbor’s City Hall got a fresh coat of paint Tuesday afternoon. At least some in the city are hoping to make other changes inside the building’s walls.



Recall paperwork was submitted for two city commissioners and Emergency Manager Joseph Harris wants to change the entire power structure in the city. The two separate developments both relate to Harris’ eventual departure.  



Commissioner recall


According to Berrien County Clerk Louise Stine, recall petitions were turned in July 27th for Commissioner Dennis Knowles and Commissioner Trenton Bowens. “For failure to work diligently with the State of Michigan to swiftly resolve the financial emergency in Benton Harbor, Michigan,” the petitions read.



The petition sponsors were Corey Bell for Knowles and Jerry Price for Bowens. Price and Bell made it known they are working together on the recall campaign.



In a statement to ABC 57 News Bell said “The recall will strengthen the possibility of a successful transition of power back to the commission (when Harris departs).”



“It was not that we didn’t want to collaborate,” Knowles responded Tuesday. “(Harris) would not listen to those of us that opposed any objection to his so called solutions to the financial crisis.”



Stine said recall petitions were also turned in by Price and Bell for Commissioner Duane Seats and Commissioner Juanita Henry. Stine said both were withdrawn.



Changes to the charter


Harris has made it known he doesn’t intend on staying in Benton Harbor much longer.



In an email to ABC 57 News, Harris said he’s working on a referendum for November’s ballot that would change Benton Harbor’s charter.



Harris said the city clerk, attorney, assessor, and finance director would report to a hired city manager. “As it stands now, the city manager has no authority over those offices, which is, as far as we know, unheard of,” he wrote. Currently, the positions answer directly to the city commission.



A similar proposal failed on Benton Harbor’s ballot failed in November, 2011.



In the works


“Let them bring it on,” said Knowles. Knowles said he is not worried about any changes because ultimately both decisions will be in the hands of the people.



A hearing to approve the language in the recall petitions is scheduled for August 13th.



Stine said Tuesday if enough valid signatures were collected, the election wouldn’t be until February, 2013. 107 signatures from Benton Harbor’s 4th ward would need to be collected to recall Knowles. 64 signatures from Benton Harbor’s 2nd ward would need to be collected to recall Bowens.



Bowens was not immediately available for comment on this story.



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