Category: Michigan Politics

ENDORSEMENT: Gretchen Whitmer for Governor of Michigan

I proudly endorse Gretchen Whitmer (campaign Twitter page here) for the Democratic nomination for the office of Governor of Michigan! In fact, I’ve probably never been prouder to endorse a political candidate in my entire lifetime.

As a former member of the Michigan State Senate, Whitmer became an internet sensation among progressives for passionately speaking out against bullying, rape culture, union-busting, and many other right-wing ideas and values. Many YouTube videos of her state senate speeches are, to this day, still online, and I encourage Michiganders who are considering whether or not to support Whitmer to view a few of them.

Whitmer is one tough customer. Although it’s a long time until the Michigan gubernatorial primaries, Whitmer has already proven that she’s not going to be bullied by the Trump/DeVos Republican political machine, and she’s not afraid to call out right-wingers like Rick Snyder, Donald Trump, and Betsy DeVos for the damage that they’re doing to America. Whitmer is to politics what the late, great Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was to the sport of automobile racing. Given that the Democratic Party is mostly full of weak politicians and people who have no clue what they’re doing nowadays, we need our own Intimidator to lead the charge for a progressive future in America.

I encourage Michigan Democrats to vote for Whitmer in the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial Democratic primary. You won’t regret it.

Rick Synder administration provided clean water to state employees long before they did to Flint residents

Michigan state government officials based in state government offices in Flint, Michigan knew about and complained about the lead contamination in the Flint water supply in January 2015, and the state government sent bottled water to the state government offices over a year before Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) activated the Michigan National Guard to provide bottled water to Flint residents:

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget decided to haul water coolers into the Flint state building in January of 2015 out of concern over the city’s water quality, a year before bottled water was being made available to residents, according to documents obtained by Progress Michigan.

…concerns raised over water quality were enough for officials in the state’s capitol of Lansing to decide to give state employees the option to drink bottled water from coolers, rather than from water fountains. Coolers were placed next to the fountains on each occupied floor, according to the documents, and were to be provided “as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements.”

You can view the proof here. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (MI DTMB) issued the notice that water coolers were going to be distributed to the state government building in Flint on January 7, 2015. Synder activated the Michigan National Guard to distribute bottled water to Flint residents on January 13, 2016.

The Flint Water Crisis is something that one would expect in a third-world country, not right here in America. People in Flint are being sickened by contaminated tap water, and that, as well as the months and months of inaction from Rick Synder, is highly unacceptable.

Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R) thinks that public schools fail because black kids attend them

A few days ago, Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) made overtly racist remarks about public education in Michigan. To paraphrase Knollenberg, he basically said that he thinks that public schools are failing in Michigan because black children attend them.

You can view a video of Knollenburg’s actual remarks here:

Marty Knollenberg, by opening his racist mouth, single-handedly exposed the fact that the right-wing movement to gut public education in this country by way of charter schools, school vouchers, and other neoliberal/right-wing education policies is entirely motivated by racism against people of color.

It’s time to abolish charter schools in America

Charter schools are schools that are run with varying levels of autonomy from laws, rules, and regulations that apply to traditional public schools and are granted a charter by either a government entity of some kind (in the U.S., this is either a state-level education authority, a public higher education institution, or a local school district) or a private entity granted charter authorization power by a state or local government entity. In recent decades, charter schools have opened en masse in many U.S. states.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a Wisconsin-based progressive watchdog group, recently conducted research of both a federal program designed to provide funding to charter schools, and they released their report on their findings last month. For supporters of public education and American taxpayers, the findings are not good at all.

At the federal level, there is a little-known federal government program that provides taxpayer-funded grants to charter schools, called the Charter Schools Program State Educational Agencies (CSP SEA). Out of a total of over $3.7 billion in federal funds given out to charter schools since 1995, over $3 billion of that has been given out via the CSP SEA program. Federal charter school grant programs operate with very little accountability or transparency. In fact, the federal government has passed off the primary responsibility of accountability for federal charter school grants to the states, which, in turn, have passed off responsibility for the federal grants to charter school authorizers, some of which are public entities and some of which are private entities. Additionally, there wasn’t anything resembling a public list of charter schools that received CSP SEA funds until CMD repeatedly asked for the federal government to give them a list of such charter schools.

In addition, CMD researched charter school practices in eleven states (California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, New York, Utah, Wisconsin, and Indiana), as well as the District of Columbia. Here’s how federal funding in those jurisdictions was wasted:

  • In California, home to one-fifth of the nation’s charter school students, a total of 13 charter schools closed after receiving a total of over $4.7 million in federal grants.
  • In Indiana, two charter schools that received a total of over $1.4 million in federal grants were closed due to poor student performance, one charter school received a $702,000 federal grant before becoming a private religious school, one charter school that never opened was awarded a $193,000 federal grant, and one charter school that has yet to open was awarded $193,000 federal grant.
  • In Michigan, which provided CMD with the least amount of information regarding charter school funds, nearly $1.75 million in federal grants was paid out to 21 “ghost schools”, or charter schools that never opened.
  • In Ohio, a total of over $4.6 million in federal grants was awarded to a total of 19 charter schools that either closed or never opened.
  • In New York, a nearly $200,000 net discrepancy in 2011-2012 and an over $300,000 net discrepancy in 2012-2013 existed between New York state records on federal charter school grants and federal records on federal charter school grants awarded to New York charter schools.
  • In Texas, a $600,000 federal grant was awarded to a charter school created by the founder of a religious education association.
  • In Utah, the state hasn’t accepted any federal grants for expanding or replicating charter schools, although the state has spent millions in state taxpayer money on charter schools.
  • In Arizona, the federal government has granted roughly $69 million in federal funds for charter schools since 2009, and, from mid-2010 to mid-2014, more than 100 Arizona charter schools closed their doors.
  • In Colorado, the federal government has awarded up to $81 million in federal grants for charter schools. More than a dozen charter schools have closed in Colorado.
  • In Florida, the federal government awarded the state up to $104 million in federal charter school grants to the state in 2011. Since Florida authorized charter schools over a decade ago, more than 120 charter schools have closed down.
  • In Wisconsin, a total of over $2.5 million in federal grants were awarded to a total of 10 charter schools that closed.
  • In the District of Columbia, where charter schools operate a short distance away from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters, the federal district’s charter school authorizer has landed a total of over $37 million in federal charter school grants since 2010, despite the fact that, up until 2013, the federal district saw 30 charter schools close their doors.

That’s just the waste of federal taxpayer dollars on charter schools. There are many more problems with charter schools and agencies responsible for authorizing and regulating them. While problems with charter schools and their regulation vary from state to state, they include the following:

  • lack of government oversight and transparency
  • financial mismanagement
  • charter school supporters getting into positions of government power over charter schools
  • refusing to respond to open records requests in a timely manner
  • poor academic results and learning conditions
  • low enrollment numbers
  • at least in California, unsafe charter school buildings
  • misreporting charter school data, such as enrollment figures, to governmental authorities
  • charter schools violating laws, rules, regulations, and their charters
  • at least in Indiana, racial segregation
  • in Michigan, criminal activity, including felony fraud and tax evasion, by charter school operators
  • religious schools operating as charter schools and receiving taxpayer funding for charter schools
  • for-profit companies running charter schools
  • charter schools that closed or never opened receiving taxpayer funding
  • in Ohio, scrubbing performance data of online charter schools
  • charter school operators having undue political influence over regulators
  • in Colorado, sexual misconduct
  • in Colorado, at least one charter school operator not following multiple federal and state employment laws
  • state legislators and executives advocating for charter schools and implementing pro-charter school legislation
  • lack of efforts by regulators and authorizers to ensure that charter schools are non-religious in nature
  • taxpayer money that should go to traditional public schools going to charter schools instead

While CMD has recommended much stronger accountability measures for charter schools, I think that the problems that are inherent with charter schools are too serious to justify their continuation, and I support completely abolishing charter schools and giving the taxpayer money that would otherwise go to charter schools to traditional public schools instead.

Ending workplace discrimination against LGBT people should be the next fight in the LGBT rights movement

Thanks to a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision issued earlier today, same-sex couples across the entire United States of America can now enjoy the same legal right to marry that heterosexual couples have long enjoyed. To put it mildly, this is a huge victory for love and equality in America.

However, in 32 states, some, if not all, LGBT workers, can legally be fired simply because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity:

  • In 21 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming), all workers can be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • In 3 states (Arizona, Missouri, and Montana), state employees cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation, but state employees can be fired on the basis of gender identity, and private-sector workers can be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • In 5 states (Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio), state employees cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but private-sector workers can be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • In 2 states (New Hampshire and Wisconsin), all workers cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation, but all workers can be fired on the basis of gender identity.
  • In 1 state (New York), state employees cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and private-sector workers cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation, but private-sector workers can be fired on the basis of gender identity.

If the source I linked to above has inaccurate and/or outdated information, please leave a comment on this blog post with accurate information for a particular state.

While it is a huge victory for the LGBT movement to secure marriage equality in all 50 states, the fight for full equality for gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people is far from over. The next big fight in the LGBT rights movement should be to push for laws prohibiting public and private employers from firing people based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Michigan Republican Party sends out mailer asking people to call 91-year-old woman who is in hospice care

The Michigan Republican Party recently sent out a mailer, on behalf of Republican Michigan House candidate Brandt Iden (61st House District), criticizing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a federal law providing millions of previously uninsured Americans with health insurance. The Michigan GOP’s mailer asked people to call a phone number, which they claim is that of John Fisher, the Democratic challenger to Brandt, in order to complain about a law that has helped millions of Americans.

However, the phone number that the Michigan GOP provided is actually that of Fisher’s 91-year-old mother, Isabel Marie Kramb, who is in hospice care due to the fact that she suffers from congestive heart failure. I am not going to publish Kramb’s phone number for privacy reasons.

This is one of the worst examples of gutter politics that I’ve ever seen. I find it disgusting that Michigan Republicans would harass and intimidate an elderly woman, who is in hospice care due to heart problems, by having the far-right extremists who compromise the Michigan GOP’s base of support call her. This proves that Republicans have no respect whatsoever for the elderly and the ill.