I remember teaching at Lapeer West High School in the early 1990’s, when some students would go hunting in the morning before class and still have their firearms in their pickup trucks where they remained throughout the school day. This would never be tolerated today.
Firearms and other weapons protected by the Second Amendment have changed in the perception of their usage with the rise of the powerful NRA lobby and other gun rights groups. The use of guns has changed, from being primarily for hunting or target shooting to self-protection in an ever increasingly hostile world. Guns are marketed as macho and sexy. The more lethal, the better. Gun and ammunition manufacturers are part of an industry with $28 billion in revenue in 2018. This figure doesn’t include other aspects of the gun violence industry, which include items ranging from bulletproof backpacks to ALICE training for workplaces.
The shift from hunting to self-defense indicates distrust of the police and other law-enforcement officials. People who carry arms in public spaces do so because they feel that the police will not be there to protect them. This belief invariably undermines the authority of police. We should not allow this false narrative to continue if we want police and other law enforcement agencies to have the public’s full support and trust.
I once worked as an assistant store manager at the RadioShack on Dort Highway in Flint. Some might consider that it was in a “rough” part of town. The local police informed us that we could have a weapon on our premises for protection; however, RadioShack corporate policy strictly forbade it. As far as the corporation was concerned, if someone tried to steal a TV, the use of lethal force would not be an equivalent response. Instead, we should allow the local police to handle the matter.
I taught for seven years at the Genesee County Jail in Flint, and in that facility were a lot of people who might be considered “bad hombres.” When I first started working there, I was surprised to learn that although many of the deputies were military veterans, and even though all of the deputies were regularly trained in their proper use, firearms were always forbidden in areas where inmates were located. It simply wasn’t considered safe to have a weapon around. Instead, a couple of deputies would monitor over 100 inmates armed with only a taser or pepper spray. Despite these circumstances, I felt safer working in the jail than I had at times while teaching at an alternative high school.
Growing up in Detroit, I remember when the owner of the nearby corner store purchased a handgun after becoming fed up with his store being robbed. He was the source of a bit of humor when, at his next encounter with a robber, he accidentally shot off the tip of his index finger. But what struck me most was that he was willing to use lethal force and kill someone by shooting him in the back simply for stealing what was probably a few hundred bucks.
Police officers must react with split second reactions, and sometime inaccurately assume that a person may be carrying a weapon, because of the ubiquitous presence of guns. Despite their training, well-intentioned officers make mistakes. Nevertheless, officers who overstep their bounds should be quickly dismissed. I was acutely aware of this turnover at the jail, as any hint of inappropriate behavior would not be tolerated.
Without adequate education and proper training, people will never find a fulfilling job to take care of themselves and their loved ones. Without jobs and health coverage which provide a sense of dignity and security, people fall into depths of despair and have feelings of hopelessness. Clearly, the problem isn’t that there are people in the world who do bad things. The problem is why people do bad things. Groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety are working to end gun violence and build safer communities. Yet for too long, common-sense steps in gun reform have been thwarted by Washington gun lobbyists and by political leaders who are afraid to take those steps that will save lives.
I once had a dream that I was laid off from my teaching job at the jail, because there weren’t enough inmates and my position was no longer cost effective. I vividly remember looking into the empty jail cells and listening to people talk about what was to be done with the jail, since it was no longer needed for the community. But alas, when I awoke, I realized it was only a dream.
Below is an excerpt from my profile on www.vote411.org. Visit the site to view your own personalized ballot and prepare for the Michigan Primary on August 4, 2020.
EDUCATION: What is your position on the role of public funding of education in Michigan? What measures do you support/propose to improve educational outcomes and accessibility for all Michigan students?
I strongly believe that we need to respect teachers, value students and fully fund our public schools. Public schools are the cornerstone of sound government. Private and for-profit charter schools should seek other sources of revenue.I would explore the possibility of giving students the option of taking the GED test or some other high school equivalency test in the 11th grade. This would provide a safety net for students who drop out before graduating high school. It would also give a wake-up call to those students who couldn’t pass the test to buckle down their senior year.
ECONOMIC SECURITY: What policies do you support to increase jobs and help Michigan residents improve their economic positions, in general and given the pandemic?
It is especially important during this time of pandemic to balance the state’s economic well-being with the public’s health.To reduce the obvious economic hardship and challenges we will face for years to come, we must first see what the federal response will be. We need to strengthen the partnership between our schools and business leaders, so that the students of today will have the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow. Data should be what guides our decisions. In general, my legislative philosophy would mirror the steps I used as a teacher. Namely, we must: Assess, Address, Achieve
ELECTIONS: What state policies do you support regarding Michigan elections, voting and campaign funding? Do you support mailing ballots to all eligible voters?
I am grateful that the Michigan electorate had the wisdom and foresight to overwhelmingly pass essential amendments to our state’s constitution in 2018 which will impact our democracy for years to come. Proposal 2 ended political gerrymandering making our state’s legislature more representative of the people. Proposal 3 made voting more accessible, as Michigan finally joined the majority of states who already had “No excuse absentee ballots." I strongly support mailing ballots to all eligible voters. Voting is our duty and responsibility. Its availability to all who are eligible should be unencumbered.
ENVIRONMENT/ENERGY: What actions or policies do you support to protect Michigan’s water, air and land for current and future generations? What is your position on energy efficiency and renewable energy?
We must preserve Michigan’s water, air and land resources. For example, because of the federal government’s slow response, I support PFAS rules which were recently initiated in our state. However, I am also aware that these rules may impact rural areas disproportionately, as they may have to adjust their water systems in order to comply. The impact of environmental issues should always consider the needs and wishes of local communities. Likewise, we should lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, encourage energy efficiency and move to using renewable energy sources wherever possible.
SOCIAL JUSTICE: How would you address the racial, economic, health, education, etc. inequities, including Michigan’s 20% of children and 17% of seniors living in poverty?
Our nation has yet to come to grips with racism. The mistreatment of Blacks, women and others is a sad legacy of our past. The battle for civil rights and social justice needs to continue. The current pandemic exposes the extreme level of inequality which persists today, as the coronavirus impacts African Americans and those living in poverty disproportionately.Government policies since the 1980’s have focused on lessening the role of government and implementing a “trickle down” approach. Yet I believe "a rising tide raises all boats," and that we must focus our attention on addressing those most in need first.
GUNS: Do you believe that Michigan has a gun violence problem? If so, what measures would you support to alleviate this problem?
Having worked at the Genesee County Jail in Flint for nearly seven years, I have seen the effects of gun violence firsthand as it largely decimates urban, poverty-stricken communities. I have lost too many students as the result of gun violence, so I take this matter personally.We must keep guns away from domestic abusers, and educate parents about safe, responsible gun ownership. Yet, the primary victim of gun death is suicide, which especially impacts farmers and our military veterans. This is a testament to the inadequate provision of services to those who suffer from mental illness: This must be addressed.
It is human nature to focus on what is wrong. As an English teacher, not only would I point out your spelling and grammar errors, I would also identify mistakes in logic and congruency, and if your handwriting was unreadable, then I wouldn’t even bother with the assignment at all. That’s why everyone loved his or her English teacher in school. They always emphasized all the “write” things.
Our political discourse is similar. You may support our president, but only because you really hate Democrats and all that they stand for. You might vote for Joe Biden, but your main reason for doing so is because you can’t stand the thought of the current president remaining in office for another four years. I want to change that way of thinking. I don’t want you to vote against my opponent, instead I want you to show your support for me.
There is an inherent tension between the rights of the individual and the interests of the “common good.” It is the purpose of government to find the appropriate balance between these two competing ideals. Philosophically conservative Republicans promote a smaller role for government. However, just as I believe that the role of teachers is to teach, the role of health care professionals is to keep us healthy, and the role of law enforcement is to protect us - the role of government officials is to govern. This is especially true now as we must contain a health and economic crisis. For example, the Midland dam catastrophe needs a government response to lessen the pain and suffering of families who lost everything, and the conservative mindset is frankly ill-prepared to deal with such a crisis. The mantra of lower taxes and smaller government cannot appropriately provide an adequate response. Instead our government leaders need to be guided by compassion, cooperation, creativity and commitment.
Republicans have been in control of a gerrymandered House of Representatives in our state for the past 10 years. The last time a Democratic governor had the opportunity to work with a Democratic-majority legislature was 1983! Especially now, as we face so many challenges, Gov. Whitmer needs a legislature which will work with her, and not focus on petty partisan posturing and frivolous lawsuits. Now is not the time to indulge in politics of anger and discontent. Instead we must be guided by compassion and cooperation to assist those most in need.
And although the state’s largest education association, and one of the most influential unions in Michigan, will not officially support me, I will still support the MEA and its goals. We must respect teachers, value students and fully fund our schools.
The reason for the MEA throwing its support behind Rep. Gary Howell is understandable. Mr. Howell is that rare member of his caucus who is willing to work in a bipartisan manner on educational issues. The union could not endorse a political novice such as myself.
Educational issues are not the only ones in which there is little separation between Mr. Howell and myself. Mr. Howell has sponsored an amendment to our state’s constitution which effectively ends lame duck legislation, something I whole-heartedly support. Yet while his bill has bipartisan support, it currently languishes in the Republican controlled committee on Government Operations, from where it will never see the light of day. The difference between Gary and me on ending lame duck legislation? He might write the bill, but I will fight for it.
While I agree with the MEA on most legislative matters, there have been times in the past when we have disagreed. One such instance was Proposal One in 2015. This measure to fix Michigan’s roads, while also increasing funding for education, was easily rejected by voters. My opposition to Proposal One was that as a sales-tax increase it was inherently regressive, thereby impacting the poor and those on fixed incomes disproportionately.
Regrettably this is another such instance when I disagree with the MEA. Politics as usual will prove to be ineffectual, particularly in this time of rapid change. I will still seek the support of my union brothers and sisters, for in the end, it is in the interests of the people, and not the machine, which must prevail.
Today’s blog is an excerpt by my wife, Beth, written to one of our daughters, upon her graduation from high school, entitled, “My Wish For You.”
As you embark on this journey I wish you “enough.” I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more. And, lastly, I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
To all the moms who are loved and to those who love them, “Happy Mother’s Day!”
Last Sunday, May 3, marked six months until the November election. With the passage of Proposal 3 in 2018, we now have “no excuse” absentee balloting. All Michigan voters already have the ability to vote safely by mail from the comfort of their home during this pandemic.
Whether you want to vote for me or you support my opponent, it is important that everyone participate in the next election. Vote for someone you are passionate about. Vote against the candidate you hate. Choose the lesser of two evils. But don’t sit on the sidelines.
With “no excuse” absentee voting we can all have our voices heard. Too often people like to argue and complain, but in the end they don’t do anything about it. This is your chance to be part of the democratic system. And just as importantly, it is your duty and responsibility as an American citizen.
The Michigan legislature met last Friday, April 24, 2020, to limit Gov. Whitmer‘s authority in her handling of the current coronavirus pandemic, which is crippling vast segments of our economy.
The GOP’s declaration of bipartisanship rings hollow, as the oversight committee created maintains a 6-4 Republican majority. Democratic amendments to put an equal number of Republicans and Democrats on the board and expand the committee’s scope to include federal handling of the pandemic were not adopted.
This is not the time to be playing politics with the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of our state. We must work together to find ways to balance the need to keep everyone safe, while we instill the confidence to venture out and jump start our economy again.
The impact of the coronavirus on society is undeniable, yet how we react to this crisis today will determine the success or failure of future generations to come.
There are a lot of angry people out there. Their anger is palpable and real. However, as Lincoln so aptly reminded us to defer to the “better angels of our nature,” we must channel our anger into compassion. We must move our focus from those whom we feel must be punished to helping those who are most in need.
One of the problems we have today is that there’s a lot of misinformation out there, a maligning of facts so pervasive, that it makes the process of argument and discussion necessary in a democracy virtually impossible. Oftentimes, the difference hinges on a few qualitative words such as distinguishing between “few” or “many.” Anecdotal references are used to make overreaching blanket assumptions which distort our perception and interpretation of the situation we find ourselves in.
In this hour of need, the ability to openingly and honestly communicate with one another is essential. All our voices need to be heard if we are to weather this storm together. Bombast and vitriol will only inhibit our recovery and healing. The coronavirus pandemic is this generation’s 9/11 moment and will change how we interact with one another forever. There is no undoing the past. The challenge before us is to balance the necessity to address our present needs and concerns, while thoughtfully preparing for the future.
Dear readers, this is what I’m asking you to do. If you disagree with anything I write, please let me know. Your critiques and commentary will be greatly appreciated. Correct my punctuation and grammar if you must, but your feedback is essential if we are to succeed. Our positions on the issues must be tempered to face the challenges of institutional inertia we will combat. And if perchance you agree with my message and find no fault in its presentation, please share it with your friends and colleagues.
The more who know, the more we’ll grow, and we will recover from our troubles together.
Someday, hopefully soon, things will settle down and government officials will focus on issues besides our current pandemic. We need to prepare for that day with foresight and planning. I hope today’s blog entry will give insight as to why I support unions and explain why I believe ending lame duck legislation is an important issue which must be addressed during the next legislative session.
When I was hired 17 years ago by Mount Morris Consolidated Schools to teach at their alternative high school, it was basically serving students who had left the other Flint area school systems. Although I would not be provided with health insurance by the District, it was not a concern for me as it was for some of the other teachers, since I was already covered under my wife’s health policy, who was a Head Start teacher. There were only three hourly pay steps, at which I was already starting at the highest step, because of my previous ten years of teaching experience. However, I remember thinking at the time, “Well, I can change that.”
Following an especially confrontational school board meeting, the District began to meet with our “association,” and we gradually made some progress in our working conditions and benefits. But eventually contract negotiations without union support became increasingly contentious and unproductive. Our small group of alternative education programs totaled only around 15 teachers, and among them were several, staunch, anti-union, conservative instructors who would never want to support a union. But after years of persistence, when the vote for union certification finally occurred, it was nine voting in favor of certification, with no one voting against. I learned that while some Republican conservatives didn’t want to support a union, they certainly couldn’t bring themselves to vote against enjoying union-negotiated protection and benefits.
In December 2012, during a lame duck session, (which is simply the time period between when an election is held and the newly elected officials are sworn in), Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law the frighteningly misnomered “right to work” legislation which allows individuals to opt out of paying union dues.
The District closed the alternative high school and I was transferred to be the GED teacher at the Genesee County Jail in Flint. It took two years to finally negotiate an initial union contract with the district. My bargaining unit had dwindled to only nine members, and at one point we only had three members in good standing. A major concern for everyone in my bargaining unit, including non-dues paying members, was who would negotiate our next contract if the union membership dwindled too low?
Through it all, the Michigan Education Association, our state’s largest teacher union, treated our local with the same dignity, respect and support, as if we were a much larger local with hundreds of members. For that I am forever grateful.
Because of gerrymandering, which Michigan ended recently with the passage of Proposal 2, for the last ten years Republicans have been in charge of our state’s House of Representatives, and they have controlled the Michigan State Senate since the early 1980’s.
During the last lame duck session in 2018, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed 340 bills and vetoed 55 that were approved between the November election and the Christmas holiday. This is an extraordinary amount of legislation for such a brief period of time; a legislative process which some would label as “totally dysfunctional.”
Controversial bills are frequently introduced during a lame duck session, since politicians know that they will not be held accountable. For example, in 2018, some of the lame duck bills were simply aimed at putting handicaps on newly elected Democratic officials or weakening ballot proposals which were approved that November. This disregard for the will of the people must stop now.
I have met with Jason Sheppard, who currently chairs the House Government Operations Committee, which is where Rep. Gary Howell’s amendment to end lame duck legislation continues to languish. Mr. Sheppard asserted that the Republican leadership will never allow lame duck legislation to end for as long as they are in control.
Now is not the time for partisanship to hamper our governor’s efforts to aid our state’s citizens in this hour of need. Gov. Whitmer needs a legislature which will work with her in these perilous times. And when we finally begin the process of recovery from the scourge we are currently enduring, we must be sure that our government officials will always be held accountable for their actions.
We must continue the fight to end lame duck legislation. Can we really afford to have lame duck legislative sessions in our state any longer?
Be healthy, be safe.
Thank you for reading this first installment of my blog. I certainly hope it is “blog worthy” and something you enjoy reading.
I pray that everyone is coping with the shelter-in-place restrictions we must currently abide. I feel guilty about the paradoxical feelings of being with my loved ones, yet knowing I should do everything I can to avoid them. Since my wife, Beth, passed away, the joy I feel when I am with my family, especially my grandchildren, provides a brief moment of comfort and solace from the heartache I have endured these past two years.
Nevertheless, I feel that I must take this opportunity to attempt to explain why I am in this campaign. I realize I am a flawed candidate. And while this may be the case, the goals I am trying to promote are worth fighting for and cannot be ignored any longer, especially in these troubled times we find ourselves in today.
What we need is a government which is not afraid to execute its principle responsibility, which is to govern, represent the will of the people and show leadership in making the tough decisions which best serve the interests, safety and security of all the citizens of our great state.
Over the course of these next few weeks I will try to explain why we need to address the following legislative priorities:
1) Ending “lame duck” legislation
2) Increasing financial transparency for all of our government officials
3) modifying the term limits of our state legislature
4) Ending “right-to-work” which is crippling the ability of unions to
fight for the rights of all workers
I hope to conduct my campaign with humility and respect towards my opponents, and I apologize in advance for any feelings of ill will I may inadvertently cause. Yet in the spirit of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” The rule of the people must prevail, and I believe that it will.
Be healthy, be happy, and stay safe. ❤ 😷 👍
April 5, 2020