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