Pure Michigan but Polluted Policies

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    As many gather on this island at the annual Mackinac conference, we must remember those who are not here. Much of the discussion and deals that may be cut will have an impact on people not only in this part of the state of Michigan, but lest we forget, in Southeast Michigan also. Michigan touts a Pure Michigan mantra which is supposed to motivate and entice business and community participation throughout our state. Sounds good, but when one looks at Michigan today, the policies coming out of Lansing are polluting the lives of Michiganders.
    You cannot talk about a Pure Michigan when the effect of imposing emergency managers, eliminating collective bargaining, cutting needy families from financial aid without a job or an alternative, and a continuous emphasis on product over people is most impure. Does this really feel like the Michigan that many of us have come to know and love as the place for economic, social and educational mobility?
    I’m reminded of the words of Alexis de Tocqueville: “The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through.” Ain’t that the truth. The stench polluting the air of a non-pure Michigan is causing nausea in the lives of individuals from Detroit to Benton Harbor. It is important that we recognize that people do want partnership. It is important to recognize that financial restructuring and city government realignment must occur. As a matter of fact, in many cases it has.
    Yet as we remember the 50th anniversary of the death of Medgar Evers this week in the state of Mississippi, he did not die for Michigan to become the very thing that he fought against which was the elimination and denying of the right to vote. There are alternatives to denying over 50% of the African American population in the state of Michigan the right to elect their own public officials according to the Constitution and their home charters. Even former Secretary of Labor Dr. Robert Rice agrees with this as he said “self-government does not end when creditors are displeased.”
    We can do better than this. There have been no new ideas, no new recommendations, no new job development, no new job training, no additional revenues for the city of Detroit, no clear vision and no shared sacrifice from those who would dictate what the future of Detroit shall be.
    It must be said that many in the city of Detroit are not opposed to change. Many in the city of Detroit do want improved city services. The people in the city of Detroit also want respect, dignity, and their constitutional rights protected. No, we do not want part of the Constitution, nor do we want part of our rights. We want all of our rights and the full implementation and protections guaranteed by the Constitution.
    This is why we believe that the financial stress test as applied by the State of Michigan to determine who gets an emergency manager based on 0 to 10 points and who does not was not applied equally. Particularly when cities in Oakland County, with majority White populations who are economically stressed possessing a high score similar to Detroit or Pontiac, did not receive an emergency manager. We believe that each voter should be treated equally and his or her voting power weighed with the same dignity. We thought this lesson was learned during the historic decision of Bush vs. Gore in the 2000 general election.
    While it is important that we have relentless positive action, what we do not need is a constant overbearing subtraction of the power of the people to decide their own destiny. Michigan is better than that.

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