Other than trying my best to convince folks to vote for Syed Taj and Barack Obama, and against the likes of “mentally unbalanced” Tea Party-favorite Kerry Bentivolio, the race-baiting Pete Hoekstra, and the climate change denying serial liar Mitt Romney, I haven’t really said much about the upcoming election. To be honest, I didn’t think that I had much to add when it came to ballot initiatives and the like. But, as several of you have written in to ask how I was planning to vote on the various proposals, I thought that, at the very least, I should post something so that people would have a place to discuss the relative merits of each proposal, and ask one another questions. So, with that said, here are my abbreviated thoughts on the proposals which all of us in Michigan will be asked to vote on come Tuesday.
PROPOSAL 12-1: A REFERENDUM ON PUBLIC ACT 4 OF 2011 – THE EMERGENCY MANAGER LAW… “NO”
This proposal, as I understand it, would give our Governor the authority to continue dismissing the democratically elected officials of economically distressed communities under the auspices of Public Act 4 (the Emergency Manager Act), replacing them with political appointees empowered to break contracts, dissolve public employee unions, and sell public assets without consideration as to how doing so might negatively impact the long term viability of a community. While I’ll concede that there are serious issues with a number of Michigan’s aging cities, many of which are terribly mismanaged, I refuse to accept that the solution is to strip citizens of their right to self-governance. As we’ve discussed before, according to a February 2012 report by the House Judiciary Committee, if Detroit and Inkster are subject to Emergency Managers, as they surely will be if this proposal is allowed to pass, “that would mean the percentage of African Americans without representative local government under the EM law will be 50.7% of the African American residents of the state, according to census data.” And, that, it would seem to me, is not only unconscionable, but a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act… Here, with a little more background, is something that I wrote earlier this year about these urban Rust Belt morticians we call Emergency Managers.
…(H)ere, in Michigan, it’s painfully obvious to all but the most delusional among us. As business taxes are being eliminated, and corporate taxes on capital assets are being phased out, the burden of maintaining public services is falling disproportionately on the shoulders of the non-wealthy, and we’re all feeling the increased financial pressure.
In Michigan, income taxes on the poor and middle class are rising, the pensions of our retirees are being taxed, tax credits for the working poor, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), are being slashed, and, with state assistance for higher education drying up, families are going into unprecedented debt in the hopes of securing stable futures for their children. The Republicans may not see all of these as tax increases, but they are. The increased insurance payments that many of us are forced to pay, because our local fire departments are being downsized, is essentially a tax. The same goes for the private school tuition that several of us are paying, rather than suffer through the constrictions of a public school system which is being systematically dismantled. And these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for regular working people in Michigan to merely sustain life. Fortunately for those in power, houses aren’t selling. If they were, I suspect that most of us would be gone.
And, as those of us in Ypsilanti can attest, it’s the folks who are living in Michigan’s aging cities that are feeling the brunt of this radical redistribution of wealth. With state revenue sharing for cities dropping precipitously, one-by-one communities are being asked to make the choice — either institute a personal income tax, and pay for our own city services, or submit to the rule of an unelected Emergency Financial Manager, who will be empowered to sell off our community assets at fire sale prices, dismiss our democratically elected officials, privatize city services, and break contracts with city employee unions, essentially stripping our carcass of what little meat there is left, and sealing our fate. As long as we don’t ask the wealthy in Michigan’s upscale gated communities to contribute toward the greater good, it’s all the same to the folks in Lansing. They’re allowing us to make the choice…
So, I will be voting NO on Tuesday.
If we want to find sustainable, fair solutions to these problems that face us, let’s start by looking at the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A, which restrict property tax increases on existing development, thereby making it impossible for municipalities to recoup the enormous losses in property tax revenues that they’ve experienced in recent years. And, while we’re at it, let’s reconsider other policies that put our aging cities at a competitive disadvantage with our ever-sprawling charter townships. I have no problem with holding ineffective elected officials accountable, but I think that we need to acknowledge the existence of underlying issues which, to a large extent, make their failure inevitable. And, whatever we do going forward, let’s not keep putting unaccountable political appointees in positions where they can, for instance, demand that all public schools be closed in favor of for-profit charter schools (as has happened in Muskegon Heights), or sell valued public land to corporations for pennies on the dollar so that they can build private golf courses (as has happened in Benton Harbor). We need to stop this cancer before it goes any farther, and we need to force our elected officials to find real, sustainable solutions to these problems, which don’t involve destroying unions, privatizing schools, and selling off our public libraries. Contrary to what they’d have us believe, other solutions do exist, and voting against this ballot initiative should bring them to the surface.
PROPOSAL 12-2: A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION REGARDING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING… “YES”
A “yes” vote on this proposal would grant public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions. I know some folks are reluctant to change the State constitution, but this seems to me like a case where it’s clearly called for. My friend Murph, I think, summed it up pretty well when he said, in a recent email to friends, “This is the best possible example of a constitutional amendment, establishing a fundamental right – collective bargaining – in the relationship between government and people.” Ohio and Wisconsin, under attack by anti-labor crusaders like the Koch brothers, have had their bloody fights, and now it’s apparently our turn to beat back the advancing corporate army. I will be voting YES, and I’d encourage you to do the same… And, in case I wasn’t persuasive enough, here’s something from our friend Chris at Eclectablog.
…The fact is Proposal 2 should not be necessary. It was only when the 2010 Republican tsunami rolled through our state, bringing with it a large number of anti-union extremists hell-bent on crushing our unions, especially public employee unions, that the need for constitutional protections of collective bargaining rights became paramount. From the day they took office, these Republicans have been on a march to make Michigan a so-called “Right to Work” (i.e., “Right to Work for Less”) state that benefits corporate interests at the expense of the middle class. They have passed extreme law after extreme law to slowly but very surely diminish the position of unionized employees with the not-so-subtle side benefit of reducing their support of Democrats in our state.
When you look at the opponents of Prop 2, it becomes very clear who is funding the opposition. The Koch brothers-supported Mackinac Center. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Business Leaders for Michigan. All pro-Big Business, anti-union interests. Today we learn that the anti-teacher group Students First is contributing a half million dollars to defeat Prop 2.
It’s a classic “follow the money” moment in our state.
Governor Rick Snyder is traveling the state, telling anyone who will listen to vote against Prop 2. It’s overreach, he says. It creates division, he says. We don’t need it, he says, while urging Republicans not to push for Right to Work. If Governor Snyder would go on the record saying he would veto Right to Work legislation, we might have something to talk about. But, the fact is, after repeatedly being asked about it, he refuses to say he would veto any such bills that came to his desk. If he were sincere about his desire to avoid this fight, he has had ample opportunity to do so but, so far, has refused.
This is why Proposal 2 is so necessary. Without it, as long as Republicans are in power, they will continue their incessant efforts to crush unions and union support in Michigan. It’s only by protecting collective bargaining in our constitution that we can stop them…
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, the moneyed interests opposing this proposal are suggesting that your “yes” vote will unleash an army of pedophile teachers on our children. If for no other reason than that, I think we need to vote “yes” on this, and demonstrate to these people that the voters of Michigan are smarter than they give them credit for, and find such pathetic and disgusting tactics to be completely unacceptable… Here’s the video.
PROPOSAL 12-3: A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO ESTABLISH A STANDARD FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY… “YES”
This proposal, if passed, would do four things. First, it would require electric utilities to provide at least 25% of their annual retail sales of electricity from renewable energy sources (wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower) by 2025. Second, it would limit rate increases charged by electric utilities to 1%, or less, per year on items tied to the implementation of this legislation. (The cost of energy will surely keep rising, but it won’t, in other words, be because of this legislation.) Third, it would allow annual extensions of the deadline to meet the 25% standard in order to prevent rate increases over the 1% limit. And, fourth, it would require the legislature to enact additional laws to encourage the use of Michigan made equipment and employment of Michigan residents.
The following comes from Susan P. Smith, the President of the Lansing Area League of Women Voters.
…From a study by Michigan State University economists, we estimate that Proposal 3 will create 94,000 Michigan jobs and generate $10.3 billion in new investments.
President Bill Clinton also urges a yes vote and said: “Proposal 3 invests in Michigan’s future so that it won’t get left behind by the 30 other states that are already creating new clean energy jobs and lowering consumers’ electricity costs.” The Illinois Power Agency has reported its 25 by 2025 renewable energy standard reduced electricity prices by $176 million.
Compare that with the status quo in Michigan, where the two largest utilities Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have already increased rates by double digits this year alone. Passing Proposal 3 is the best way to protect ratepayers and businesses from such outrageous price hikes. To protect consumers, Proposal 3 explicitly says utilities can’t raise rates by any more than 1 percent in any given year to implement 25 by 25.
More than 30 other states have measures similar to Proposal 3, including our Midwest neighbors Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, who are creating new energy manufacturing jobs.
These states are leading the way in clean energy. If they can do it, so can Michigan, and unless we pass Proposal 3 on Nov. 6, Michigan will get left behind in the clean energy race.
Burning coal and oil endangers our Great Lakes, rivers and air, and the health of our families. Moving to more clean, renewable energy reduces pollution, that’s why the Michigan Nurses Association has called Proposal 3 “the most important public health initiative in decades”…
Unfortunately, the Michigan Democratic Party didn’t get behind this one, as they’re apparently too beholden to the likes of DTE and Consumers Energy, but this is good legislation that both protects the people of Michigan from price gouging, and points a direction forward that emphasizes clean, renewable energy over fracking and imported coal. And, at the same time, it helps push our state toward energy independence. (Presently we spend over more than $1.7 billion a year importing coal from other states to burn in our power plants.)
For more information on this proposal, and how it will help jumpstart a vital, new energy industry in Michigan, click here.
And, lastly, here’s an ad that you might find of persuasive (even though it doesn’t suggest that pedophiles will attack our children if we don’t vote to support the proposal).
PROPOSAL 12-4: A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO ESTABLISH THE MICHIGAN QUALITY HOME CARE COUNCIL AND PROVIDE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR IN-HOME CARE WORKERS… “YES”
This is one of those proposals that I feel as though I should delve into more deeply. On the surface, when I first looked into it, I thought that it was merely a narrower version of Proposal 2, which would guarantee collective bargaining rights for employees in one specific sector of our economy. That appears, however, not to be the full story. The following background comes by way of the Detroit Free Press.
…(Among other things, this legislation would) codify in the state constitution workers’ right to retain their status (since 2006) as public employee members of SEIU Healthcare Michigan.
That last arrangement, though only a small portion of the amendment’s language and entirely unmentioned in the pro-Proposal 4 ad campaign, accounts for 100% of the controversy surrounding it.
In fact, Proposal 4 could best be described as a final showdown in a battle that has raged at the state Capitol over the home care union issue for nearly a decade. It began in 2004, when the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm authorized the creation of a quality home care council at the SEIU’s urging. The SEIU was making the same push with Democratic governors in several other states, as well.
The Michigan home care council designated home health care workers caring for patients receiving Medicare or Medicaid as public employees and recognized SEIU as their bargaining unit.
SEIU, after an election in which fewer than 1 in 5 home care workers participated, was certified as the bargaining agent for all of about 43,000 workers, many of whom are caring for family members.
SEIU and the quality care council signed a contract in 2006, and the state began to deduct 2.75% in union dues from aid payments.
Opponents — led by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank — have argued from the beginning that the whole thing is a scam. Home health care workers aren’t public employees, they said; they work for their patients…
I imagine there are some exceptions, but, for the most part, I find that when the Mackinac Center for Public Policy is on one side of a debate, everyone I respect is lined up on the opposite side. I suspect this is one of those cases, and I’ll be voting accordingly.
PROPOSAL 12-5: A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO LIMIT THE ENACTMENT OF NEW TAXES BY STATE GOVERNMENT… “NO”
This proposal, if approved, would require a 2/3 majority vote of the State House and the State Senate, or a statewide vote by the citizens of Michigan at a November election, in order for the State of Michigan to impose new or additional taxes on taxpayers or expand the base of taxation or increasing the rate of taxation. According to my friend Murph, even the anti-tax Republicans in the state legislature are against this one, so that should tell you something. “Setting a standard of 2/3 vote in each house to change state tax rates while our roads, city services, and schools are falling apart is a state-crippling idea,” says Murph. And, from what I’ve found online, I agree. This, it appears to me, is just one more example of Republican anti-tax extremists trying to impose legislative roadblocks which would make it more difficult for municipalities to conduct their business.
PROPOSAL 12-6: A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION REGARDING CONSTRUCTION OF INTERNATIONAL BRIDGES AND TUNNELS… “NO”
This is an easy one for me, as I intensely dislike the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, and its evil, Mr. Potter-like owner, the billionaire slumlord Matty Moroun. Call me a Socialist, but I never understood how the main artery through which people and goods travel between Detroit and Canada, could be in private hands. That seems, to me, to be extremely problematic. And, given that, I was happy to hear that Governor Snyder had made the decision to go up against Moroun, and fight for the construction of a new, publicly-owned bridge connecting our two countries. Moroun, as one would expect, has been fighting tooth and nail to end this project, and keep his cash cow alive. According to estimates that I’ve read, he’s invested approximated $30 million of his own money in the campaign, which he’s tried to position as a widespread grassroots movement against government waste. Ignoring the fact that the construction of the bridge is to be funded in full by the Canadian government, Moroun has inundated the Michigan airwaves with ads suggesting not only that the bridge will cost Michigan taxpayers a fortune, but that the money we’re spending on it could otherwise be used to put additional teachers in our classrooms and cops on our streets, making Detroit safer. As much as I like the idea that the Canadians would, if not for this bridge project, be funding American police forces, I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that this is a lie, and that this whole ballot initiative is nothing more than a disingenuous back door attempt to delay the construction of a bridge that would threaten Moroun’s present monopoly. The fact that he’s willing to do irreparable harm to our State’s constitution in order to extend his monopoly, I think, speaks volumes as to the man’s character, and I look forward to showing him how much I detest him with my vote.
[note: If you're looking for additional information on any of these, I'd suggest either the Citizens Research Council of Michigan or the League of Women Voters. Both have done an admirable job of outlining the issues.]