It’s true. Michigan’s ballot this year is more crammed than I-75 North at 4:30pm on a weekday. Especially in Detroit were voters will face 18 proposals from the State, the County, the City, the public school district (DPS) and the community college (WCCC).
Voters have a big slab of homework to complete before voting.
As you read this, have you decided on your picks for Michigan Supreme Court justices? Or how you will vote on the Wayne County budget and appropriation ordinance? Luckily there are some pretty good voter guides out there.
Some people, the dream voter, keep an ear to the ground and slowly absorb information to make an educated vote. The rest of us have a date with Google a can of Red Bull on the evening of Monday, Nov. 5.
While I’m doing my best to avoid sucking down caffeine last minute in the name of democracy, no amount of ginseng, taurine or caffeine will be able to help me decide on one of this year’s biggest decisions for Michiganders (besides choosing the next President). That decision is on Proposal 1, more commonly known as the emergency manager (EM) law, or Public Act 4. When it comes to Proposal 1, I am the darling target of political ads: the elusive undecided voter.
The Proposal1, the EM law, would mandate a state-appointed official or advisory board to have full control of the finances and academics of financially failing cities and school districts like Detroit and DPS.
This issue is a repeated stumbling block and no matter how hard I study, discuss, or even mediate (ok, at this point I’ll try anything). The litany of opinion on Proposal 1 is off putting. I’m wary of those who are viciously for it as well as those who are vehemently against it. It’s getting harder to stand on the sliver of middle ground.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the EM legislation: it’s too polarized. Or maybe it’s what needs to happen to drag some sputtering municipalities in to 21st century? Obviously this can get dizzying.
Generally, supporters of the EM proposal tend to be more fiscal conservatives and supporters, more socially liberal. That’s just an observation. Some people describe the EM law like pulling teeth: “It’s not gonna be pleasant but it has to be done.”
Supporters of Proposal 1 say that without State intervention major cities will have no choice but to file for bankruptcy, plunging bond ratings into oblivion and spreading a dismal economic for all of Michigan. They say it’s the only choice for cities to avoid bankruptcy.
Critics of the EM law proposal say cities facing financial crisis should be able to file for bankruptcy if need be as a path out of a fiscal mess and skip the finance czar.
So when GOP presidential candidate (and Michigander) Mitt Romney framed bankruptcy as a chance to rebound during the presidential debate on Tuesday night it was a bit of a surprise. As a businessman, he basically said bankruptcy isn’t all that bad.
"[Obama] said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt," Romney said in the debate, "And that's right. My plan was to have the company [GM] go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy's and Continental Airlines and they come out stronger."
Maybe someone can help me out here: If Romney’s right and bankruptcy can be a launching pad to higher heights, then why do we need the emergency mangers in cash strapped cities? Is it bond ratings that are the issue here?
When Governor Rick Snyder addressed a group of corporate business leaders Monday morning at the Detroit Athletic Club he shared his vision and accomplishments for reinventing Michigan.
One of the reforms Snyder said he plans to push is firmer restriction on ballot petitioners.
“There is a good reform opportunity with respect to paid circulators,” Snyder said at the DHR International corporate leadership breakfast.
Currently, Michigan does not ban pay-per-signature, which allows petition circulators to be paid for every signature collected offering petitioners monetary incentive to get the most signatures. Pay-per-signature something that Snyder said is a concern and suggested said hourly pay for should be mandated.
Between 2008 and 2009, several states—including Colorado, Montana and Nebraska—made it illegal to compensate petition circulators based on how many signatures they are able to collect on petitions.
But in Colorado a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in June 2010 against the new Colorado law (HB 1326) in a lawsuit that says the law's ban on pay-per-signature violates the U.S. Constitution. The case is still in active litigation according to Balletpedia.org, a non-profit effort to inform the public on political issues and laws.
Snyder’s biggest beef with Michigan’s ballot petitioning rules is the fact Michigan does not require paid petition circulators disclose that they are being paid to collect signatures, or who paid them. In other states petitioners have to wear a badge that ways whether they are a volunteer or paid to collect signatures for a ballot measure.
Many deep-pocketed groups can sponsor a ballot measure and pay petition circulators without disclosing if they are doing this out of their passion for the measure or for a paycheck.
“People don’t get the full scoop before they sign,” Snyder said, adding that he only supports one ballot proposal (Proposal 1) of the six that will appear on the ballot in Nov. He said six proposals seem like too many. “We needed more disclosure of where money was coming from for circulators.”
Another law Snyder said he wants to push for is one that mandates where petition circulators can collect signatures for a given measure. Currently, Michigan does not have a distribution requirement. Any amount of the required signatures for a ballot measure may be collected in anywhere in the state and is not forced to pull from different areas.
“We need to look at where people are getting these signatures,” he said noting that they should not all come from one area known to favor a certain sway of the proposed initiative seeking signatures.
The flood of ballot proposals this year has been unprecedented with six statewide ballot proposals set for the Nov. election. And that’s not counting local municipalities’ proposals.
Why so many proposals? Snyder has an idea.
“It’s a reaction to the reinvention of Michigan,” Snyder said. “People don’t like change.”
Be sure to stay informed about Michigan ballot initiatives and more, check out Mlive’s Michigan voter guide to help prepare for the long ballot that awaits voters on Election Day.
Ballot Chameleon: Events Change, Constitutions Don’t
When we go to the polls this fall and we get to the ballot proposal section, we can’t make our decisions solely based on current events.
These constitutional amendments and city charter shifts could hold for decades, through all sorts of conflicts.
In Detroit, there are four ballot proposals for people to decide on in addition to six statewide proposals. These city proposals are mostly clarifications and amendments to the city’s governing document, the charter.
An example of current events affecting city laws came during the charter revision process that started in 2010. People were caught up on the Kilpatrick scandal, they wished, at that time, that the law department had more power over the scandalized mayor.
The decision to give city attorney’s independent power was supposed to provide some sort of insurance to make sure this never happened again.
But that backfired when a new situation arose. The State and the City entered into a consent, or turnaround, agreement and when the city’s top lawyer, using her new found power, tried to stop it, there was nothing the Mayor or the Council could do about it.
Now the question on the ballot is whether the charter says that city lawyers have this power or not. It’s a clarifying question that has been seen through current-event shades.
That goes to show us that the amendments proposed this November can’t be changed on an issue by issue basis. They have to stick through all sorts of police weather and economic shifts. They have to be versatile.
Just because it’s unpopular for a city attorney to have power right now after the Crystal Crittendon consent fiasco, the scene may change next year.
So when we vote on these long-term decisions this on Election Day, we have to keep in mind: things won’t always be like this. These people won’t always be in power. Times change. Are these laws versatile?
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