Benton Harbor Mayor reacts to New Emergency Financial Manager - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Benton Harbor Mayor reacts to New Emergency Financial Manager

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A board within the Michigan Department of Treasury has voted to replace Benton Harbor's current Emergency Financial Manager with a new one.  They said it's time for change.  And Benton Harbor's Mayor, James Hightower agrees the city needs a change.

The relationship between Benton Harbor and they city's Emergency Financial Manager, Joe Harris, hasn't been smooth.  Just over a month ago residents voiced their anger over financial decisions he's made.  "We don't need to just stop here with special assessment, let's start counting our money. Are we making money on a 4 hundred million dollar golf course?" said resident Sam Hudson.

Mayor James Hightower says the relationship hasn't been great between Harris and local government either.  "The council and Mr. Harris really never gelled," said Hightower.

Friday it was announced that Harris will be replaced as Benton Harbor's Emergency Financial Manager.  Tony Saunders II will step into the position in February.  Michigan Deputy Treasurer Roger Fraser said in a press release, "while much has been done in an effort to return fiscal stability to Benton Harbor, the city remains in a financial emergency and this is an appropriate time to transition in a new direction."  Hightower welcomes the change.  "I think this is a positive, we have an opportunity to really make some headway.  Like hitting the reset button and starting fresh."

Hightower said Harris did do a number of good things  But his lack of communication with government and residents was a real issue.  So what do local residents think of the change?
Well we visited several locations around the city Friday asking that question.  Only two men wanted to approach the subject with us.  They said it doesn't matter to them who it is, the city still needs an Emergency Financial Manager.  "Happy to hear that he'll be replaced with another manager.  I think Benton Harbor needs it," said Michael Gardner.  And Brian Ziebart said, "until it can get on it's feet financially they're gonna need somebody from the outside looking in."

We also reached out to Joe Harris Friday.  He did not want to make a statement but did tell us that no one discussed this with him.  He plans to say more at a press conference on Wednesday January 16th.

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