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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/09/how-you-can-help-set-michigans-agenda-for-2014/

The Center for Michigan

How you can help set Michigan’s agenda for 2014

What kind of Michigan do you want in the future?

Now is the time for you to have a voice in shaping a citizens’ agenda for the 2014 statewide elections. This month the Center for Michigan launches its latest statewide public engagement campaign. From now until next April, we will once again travel the state, host more than 100 Community Conversations, and gather diverse citizen input on where Michigan has been, where it is now, and where it should go next.

We are booking Community Conversation locations right now. Email us today at engage@thecenterformichigan.net if your organization is interested in hosting one of our interactive and nonpartisan 90-minute discussions.

“The citizens don’t have a lobbyist,” said Center for Michigan founder and board chairman Phil Power. “Community Conversations are meant to provide convenient and meaningful ways for Michigan residents to have a viable say in the future direction of our state. Don’t wait for politicians on the campaign trail to tell you what they are going to do. Tell them what you want first!”

The campaign kicks off Monday, September 16 with a Community Conversation at the Small Business Association of Michigan.

“The Center for Michigan’s community conversations are a great avenue for our members to weigh in on the state’s priorities,” said Rob Fowler, CEO of SBAM. “We value the Center’s unique brand of engagement, one that allows it to hear thousands of voices offering their perspectives on the future of our state.”

Consider where we are today. Our state economy has emerged from the worst depths of the Great Recession. Michigan’s population inched slightly upward after a long slide. “Pure Michigan” images of vibrant natural resources and cultural attractions have boosted tourism. Yet our largest city, Detroit, is in bankruptcy. Many other communities face deep financial, social, and educational concerns. And, for many state residents, prosperity remains only a distant hope.

In November 2014, Michigan holds its next election for governor, as well as all 38 state senators, and all 110 state representatives. What issues do you want them to address on the campaign trail – and in the state capitol once they are elected? The goal here is not to elect any particular candidate from any particular party. Instead, the goal is to include the public’s priorities in all campaigns and the to-do lists of whoever wins in November.

Free conferences for diverse interest groups

In the past several years, dozens of business, nonprofit and community service groups have used Community Conversations to boost attendance and interactivity at regular meetings, annual conferences and other events. Tell us now at engage@thecenterformichigan.net if you’re interested in including Community Conversations in your organization’s upcoming events schedule.

“The most remarkable thing about hosting a Community Conversation at the Grand Rapids Public Library was being able to bring together a diverse group of people who truly cared about the future of our state,” said Kristen Krueger-Corrado, marketing and communications manager at the Grand Rapids Public Library. “The Center for Michigan facilitated a dynamic session where opposing viewpoints were heard and respected. We look forward to exploring more issues impacting Michigan in future Community Conversations.”

The Center for Michigan has hosted Community Conversations in bars, churches, corporate board rooms, homeless shelters, and many places in between. The goal is to capture the voices of the state’s many diverse regions, communities and demographics.

This is not idle chatter

Since 2007, the Center has served as a bullhorn for Michigan citizens to reach state leaders. More than 20,000 Michigan residents have participated in Community Conversations in four previous rounds of statewide public engagement campaigns. Steadily, this work has shown that the public voice can and does make a difference in the leadership of our state. The findings of Community Conversations were the focus of the only televised debate between the two major candidates in the last race for governor in 2010. And “Citizens’ Agenda” reports from the previous public engagement campaigns provided public momentum that helped spur state leaders to:

  • Approve the nation’s largest expansion of public preschool.
  • Approve deeper state investment in the “Pure Michigan” marketing campaign.
  • Reform state business taxes.
  • Institute reforms to save taxpayers $250 million in state prison costs.
How it works

In this next campaign, participants will weigh in on four big-picture issues: Education; Economy & Prosperity; Quality of Life; and Public Money Priorities.

How can Michigan create a climate for greater economic growth and more and better jobs? How should the education system improve? Do citizens want tax cuts, deeper public investment in public services, or reforms to how public money is spent?

These are the kinds of issues citizens tackle together in Community Conversations in-depth dialogue and live polling. To aid in the discussion, all participants receive a “Michigan Scorecard” of issues and statistics outlining where Michigan stands on some two dozen quality of life indicators. The Center for Michigan reports on the latest scorecard findings elsewhere in today’s edition of Bridge Magazine.

With the assistance of our longtime public engagement partners at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing, the Center for Michigan tallies every vote and every comment in every community conversation. We combine that deep citizen feedback with statistical polling to develop a representative and nonpartisan citizens’ agenda.

We’ll then hit the campaign trail late next spring with the political candidates. Those running for office will all receive the next “Citizen Agenda” report. They will be asked to respond and react to its findings – while running for office and once the winners get to the state capitol.

“Michigan belongs to all of us,” Phil Power said. “Stake your claim and have your say in its future.”

8 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Dale Westrick Sr

    How the taxpayers money is spent.
    Bankruptcy is certainly a problem but hording tax dollars with no plans for improvement is a problem we have in Watertown township in Clinton County. I had Eastern Michigan collage of business prepare a survey for me on the townships finances.
    To view the survey and other finance information go to my website http://www.wacousta.org
    Some points of interest:
    1. Oct 2008 proposed budget offer of health care to me and my Wife. I declined the coverage.
    2. Nov 2008 proposed motion to provide health care to full board and their families.
    I called a Trustee and informed him I was going to the public about it. His statement to me maybe we shouldn’t do it then. If this motion was passed it could have cost the taxpayers over $100,000.00 year if the board members were married with children.
    3. Trustees and Supervisor can collect up to $4,500 for health benefit reimbursement.I was on the board from 2008-2012 but refused to take any of the reimbursements.
    4. Managers 4 year contract 2010-2014 oked with Treasure and myself voting no.There was an opt-out clause in the contract that if she choose not to be covered under township insurance she would receive a payment of 95% of what it would have cost the township for her insurance. 2011 Payment over $15,000.

    I served on the board for 4 years and realize we could better serve the residents by investing in our community
    D

  2. Dale Westrick Sr

    How the taxpayers money is spent.
    Bankruptcy is certainly a problem but hording tax dollars with no plans for improvement is a problem we have in Watertown township in Clinton County. I had Eastern Michigan collage of business prepare a survey for me on the townships finances.
    To view the survey and other finance information go to my website http://www.wacousta.org
    Some points of interest:
    1. Oct 2008 proposed budget offer of health care to me and my Wife. I declined the coverage.
    2. Nov 2008 proposed motion to provide health care to full board and their families.
    I called a Trustee and informed him I was going to the public about it. His statement to me maybe we shouldn’t do it then. If this motion was passed it could have cost the taxpayers over $100,000.00 year if the board members were married with children.
    3. Trustees and Supervisor can collect up to $4,500 for health benefit reimbursement.I was on the board from 2008-2012 but refused to take any of the reimbursements.
    4. Managers 4 year contract 2010-2014 oked with Treasure and myself voting no.There was an opt-out clause in the contract that if she choose not to be covered under township insurance she would receive a payment of 95% of what it would have cost the township for her insurance. 2011 Payment over $15,000.

    I served on the board for 4 years and realize we could better serve the residents by investing in our community
    Dale Westrick

  3. Gerald Jehle

    Underlying every action taken by our legislators is the question of who they are really representing. When millions of dark money dollars pour into the election of our Supreme Court Justices, the citizens last resort, can we really count on them to be unbiased in their decisions?

    The same is true for our Senators and Representatives. Michigan if not the worst state, nearly the worst state in the union in terms of making it possible for us to know who is doing the bribing and make no mistake it is bribing. Those millions of dollars are not given without expectations of returns far greater than what they cost.

    The first thing they need to address is their credibility as representative of the people.

    Gerald Jehle

  4. Leon L. Hulett, PE

    I prefer to address the influence people and government might have to spend wisely with little or no cost, as opposed to the sums of money it might spend with little wisdom.

    1) Let’s establish a Goal, as people in Michigan. Let’s express this as what we want and what we want to give. We want to increase our productivity 7% each year as represented by the Goods and Services we create as individuals. We want to receive in return a 7% per year increase in what we receive as Goods and Services. Or we could say, we want a 7% increase in GDP. But I wouldn’t because that could be government spending with zero benefit to us.

    Cost: Zero so far. But in terms of influence on the state of mind of Michigan…Priceless!

    2) Let’s encourage Small Businesses to do what they do best. Create new business and new jobs, or in a word ‘Growth’, 7% growth. Government borrowing of about 7 trillion dollars in recent years has created sort of a hole in the credit market that is available to small businesses in the United States, and Michigan. I estimate the size of this hole at about…, you guessed it, $7 trillion. So instead of that money being available for new growth in small businesses, new growth in the economy, it has created ‘jobs’ or government jobs with future obligations on tax payers at a rate of about 1.3X. For each job funded, 1.3 jobs appear in the economy. The normal rate for new businesses is about 5X. So let’s invest some resources in small businesses that can present a Business Plan to increase business or jobs, or shall I say Goods and Services by 10X. For example, someone or the state of Michigan could purchase a ‘Credit Facility’ to provide Credit Lines to small business that do present a Business Plans that show 10X increase and can deposit up to $250,000 each. So let’s now have some banks quote on 100B Facility, providing 10 year, 0% Credit Lines to small businesses. I would be very surprised if many banks would not pay us for such an opportunity.

    Cost: Zero to minimal.

    Well, how about it? Some common sense business solutions instead of ‘politics as usual.’

    Leon L. Hulett, PE

  5. Leon L. Hulett, PE

    Here are some ideas on Education where they seem to be having a little difficulty:

    1) What is a Standard? Once upon a time I was on a Standards Committee with some public school people. They wanted to use the MEAP as their standard, and I said, ‘Why not use some recommended Standards from Industry instead?’ They said, ‘What might such a thing look like?’ So they suggested and I did write up some, the first written standards from Industry to Public Education apparently. Michigan educational standards say a ‘standard’ is ‘a statement about quality.’ I objected, I said how about this as what the word standard means, ‘A definite level of quality suitable for a specific purpose.’ You see with their definition one could have any number of state standards and it would mean nothing because it is only ‘a statement’, NOT a definite level of requirement, A DEFINITE LEVEL OF QUALITY. And to what purpose? Well, at least in Industry we do get that right. In education I don’t think they do and they don’t even know what Industry is talking about when we say STANDARDS. We need to insist that schools use definite quality levels towards specific purposes, instead of ‘statements about quality’ that can be so vague as to give us the quality of education we have in America today, 27th in the world in math? The result definitely makes ‘A Statement about Quality.’ What if our purpose was to be Number 1 in the world? What if our purpose was to have a work force so well educated they could compete in today’s world, or could participate in a great Republic like Thomas Jefferson envisioned. The ‘Purpose of Education’ is his day was known to be to teach kids how to work and be successful at work. A set of vague statements about quality in Michigan Educational Standards just doesn’t cut it. I wrote 10 definite Standards and this definition of what the idea of Standard was one of them. Come on Michigan, lets get this Idea of what a Standard is Right. OK? Now is the time.

    2) Here is a second idea. How about if Grade Levels were part of a system of definite standards. For a person to go into Grade 3, they would have to meet the state standards for ALL of Grade 2. And for Grade 4 they would have to meet all the quality requirements of Grade 3 first. I asked a local school to tell me what academic grade level our students had achieved? They told me about MEAP and their clone of that, but they could NOT tell me what grade level a Fifth Grade student had actually achieved in Reading, Writing, Math and Science. The MEAP is too vague. Their clone is too vague. It all seems just like their idea of a ‘standard.’ It doesn’t have to be DEFINITE. What is taught has no requirement to lead the person into the World of Work, or even the very next academic Grade Level. What purpose do their standards fulfill? Well, that got lost somewhere. We should require of schools that they tell us what Grade Levels our students have honestly achieved. We should insist that teachers have the right to refuse to accept a student in Fourth, that has not successfully completed definite levels of quality in Third. We should insist that schools employ teachers that can successfully teach a Grade Level and produce ‘A DEFINITE LEVEL OF QUALITY’. Don’t we have the right to get students that are well prepared for the World of Work, or for life? Shouldn’t this be a definite part of the contract our schools and teachers unions have with teachers we pay handsomely for? What purpose does a student of History have in mind when they learn History and when their achievement level towards such a purpose is tested? Come on Michigan people, lets get this Academic Grade Level thing right. OK?

    3) Here are two cynical statements to emphasize these points. What if we change our Mandatory Attendance Law to say, ‘A child just needs to make a vague statement about his or her attendance’, such as, ‘I decided to not attend this year’ would be acceptable. Or the tax law, we could just make a vague statement, instead of actually paying the taxes, ‘I think I might just give my 2 cents worth this year.’

  6. Robert F.

    As a senior living in Michigan it is interesting to watch how the money that seniors are now paying in pension taxes etc is being used. The legislature has earmarked $50 million for film incentives in budget year 2014 yet a study that was done by the senate fiscal agency came to the conclusion that under the most optimistic assumptions only 11 cents on the dollar was returned to the Michigan taxpayer.
    The budget for prisons has gone up 30% over the past ten years yet staffing has been reduced. The question becomes where is the money going?
    The Michigan taxpayer is going to give the owner of the Redwings over $400 million dollars in incentives to build a new hockey stadium in Detroit. That same owner made $4 billion dollars in 2010. Do we really think he needs the help of the taxpayer. I know there is an argument that that creates jobs but I would suggest those jobs are short term. It would be better to just give that $400 million dollars to the needy in Detroit and see some significant results.
    The state of Michigan continues to try and be an promoter of jobs by providing incentives to companies but the number of jobs promised versus actual performance continue to lag. Unemployment in Michigan in August is 9%. Where oh where are all those jobs that were are supposed to be created from taxing senor pensions and giving tax breaks to businesses?

  7. John Saari

    Think Community. The larger the government the less efficient it is. We at a local level should work on dissolving governmental boundaries. The Community should have town meetings and democratic control of its own future. We can see our needs and be more honest than the Federal and even the State government.

  8. John Porter

    The Saugatuck and Douglas merger is another of several community efforts to work together. The last major successful merger that I am aware of was Battle Creek and Battle Creek Township in 1982. I have studied this event and filmed some of the actors. The result of that study is posted under the title “Annexation” at: http://www.upnorthmedia.org/upnorthtvprdlist.asp?prod=Porter%2C%20J%24p%24 .

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