Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Redistricting in Michigan

Written by Kathy Gapa

Every ten years when the Census is complete, federal law requires that state and local governing bodies begin the process of redistricting if there have been significant shifts in population since the last census due to deaths, births, and migrations. The Census Bureau has an April 1 deadline for sending data to the states and then on to local levels. Once the data is received, each governing body will begin its work of recreating districting plans, which must be complete in time for the next election.

The LWVUS promotes four essential principles to assure representative government:

1. An accurate and complete count in Census 2010, and all future censuses, is an building block for all redistricting effort;

2. The process used for redistricting must be transparent to the public;

3. The redistricting process, at all levels of government, must provide data, tools and opportunities for the public to have direct public input into specific plans under consideration by the redistricting body;

4. In order to achieve representative democracy, redistricting plans must be drawn in a manner that allows elected bodies to reflect the diversity of the populace, especially racial and ethnic diversity.

In Michigan, the state legislature will draw lines for US Congressional Districts and the State Legislature. In Wayne County, an Apportionment Commission will be appointed; they have sixty days to come with a districting plan and to decide how many districts there will be. Once the plan is complete, it must then be presented for public comment. Facts that will influence Michigan’s districts

What are the guidelines for drawing districts? 1. All districts are to be single-member districts and should have as close to equal population as possible. 2. All district lines must be contiguous. 3. All districts must be compact and nearly square in shape as is practical, depending on the geography of the county area involved. 4. No township or part of a township can be combined with any city or part of a city to create a single district, unless necessary to meet the population standard.5. Townships, villages, and cities can be divided only, if necessary to meet the population standard. 6. Precincts can only be divided if necessary to meet the population standard. 7. Residents of state institutions who are ineligible to vote, such as prison inmates, must be excluded from representation. 8. Districts cannot be drawn to result in partisan representation.

One principle of a democratic government is one man, one vote. The Voter’s Rights Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualifications or prerequisites to voting, or standard practice or procedure to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the US to vote on account of race or color. This Act was passed in 1965-it was sent to Congress by President Johnson.

Why does it matter? From a pamphlet written by the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative they state “Today in Michigan, the districts are drawn by elected officials, whose interests are different than the interests of voters as a whole. The districts are often drawn to provide an advantage to the political party in control of the process. This issue isn’t a Republican or Democratic matter-both parties do it equally when they have the opportunity. This means voters’ voices are often limited. After reviewing election results from 2000 to 2010, the Center for Michigan reported that ‘Only about one in seven Michigan residents live in what could be deemed a consistently competitive swing district. In the Michigan House, only 25 of 110 districts changed party control over the past decade; in the Senate only 6 of 38.’ In 2006, only 45 percent of Michigan voters supported Republican candidates for the state Senate. Yet due to skillful map drawing, Republicans won 55 percent of the seats in the Senate, and were able to control the body. Similar actions in Wayne County, for instance, result in Democrats winning 14 of 15 seats-94 percent- despite taking 72 percent of the vote. Many districts are drawn with a goal of helping elect one partisan politician, or at least to benefit one party or the other. The process of redistricting is typically heavily influenced by lobbyists and PACs and other partiese with vested interests. This is not good for democracy, in which voters-not partisan leaders or lobbyists-are supposed to be in charge!”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Privatization - NO FEB 11 Meeting

Everyone is just too busy! Instead of getting together on Saturday morning, Feb 11th, we decided to have our discussion online to prepare for the March Consensus Meeting.

The Questions that we will be discussion on March 15th can be found on this page: http://www.lwv.org/content/leaders-guide-privatization-study-consensus

Join in the conversation here or on our facebook page.

Here's a comment from a League leader in CA:


the definition of economic efficiency that i'm most familiar with is: all possible transactions are made until no one can be made better off without making someone else worse off, which is not exactly like the definitions mentioned in a good summary in wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_efficiency

i'm skeptical of framing the input as money. while money looks like you can measure it the same way as mass, length or time, the forces of economics such as subjective judgments of utility do not act on prices the same way that the impersonal forces of newtonian physics act on quantities of mass, length or time. in other words, money is not "cardinal" the way physics phenomena are, but rather "ordinal."

currently, fossil fuel energy is at least 200 times cheaper than human energy, at least in the u.s., so measuring efficiency using costs and prices is liable to be warped. i conclude that great care and attention should thus be given to the goals and methods for achieving them.

so i like to use a definition of efficiency where the output is: clean air and water, healthy food, snug shelter and plenty of sleep, and the input is: energy and resources

submitted by: muriel strand, p.e.
sacramento county CA LWV
privatization study team member

Monday, January 30, 2012

Voting in Michigan’s Primary

Michigan’s Presidential Primary is Tuesday, February 28. What is different this year? First of all, it’s a closed primary and Michigan rarely holds closed primaries. A closed primary means only Democrats can vote for Democrats and only Republicans can vote for Republicans. Voters will get different ballots based on your party affiliation.

An open primary would offer one ballot with both parties choices on it and it’s up to the voter to vote in only one party’s election. Those who attempt to vote in both parties’ elections would not have their ballot count at all.

Secondly, the political party you choose will become a matter of public record. It does not register you as a member of that party, however.

Last year, the Republican-dominated state legislature passed a law to make public the voters’ party affiliations in the Presidential Primary. One can assume this is to deter Democrats from voting in the Republican primary. Democrats will have only one name on their ballot, and a vote on Feb. 28 will be largely symbolic because Michigan’s Democratic Party decided to hold their presidential caucus on May 5. That’s when they will officially select Barack Obama as their candidate.

What’s on the February 28 ballot? For Democrats, only the name of Barack Obama. For Republicans, the names of 11 Republican candidates. The list of Republicans was finalized in December and will not reflect the fact that some candidates may have dropped out of the race. The names in alphabetical order are: Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum.

Voter ID requirements have not changed in the last 2 years. Voters must show picture identification. Preferred are your Michigan driver’s license or personal ID card. If a voter doesn’t have either, a current picture ID from another state, federal or state government-issued photo ID, a U.S. passport, military ID with photo, student ID with photo from a high school or an accredited institution of higher education, or a tribal ID card with photo may substitute.

If a voter does not have picture ID, they may vote after signing an affidavit.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Youth Registration - Fordson

The team working on the youth registration project has visited Fordson and met with the principal, Mr. Yousseff Mosallam. Principal Mosallam offered a warm welcome and support for our project.
While some specifics await the next semester's schedule (begins Jan 31), we expect to hold registration events in mid-February. The school has enrollment of 2,500 students. There are ten sections of government classes so we will have to cover several hours. Student groups will also be encouraged to participate, such as F-COPS: Fordson - Club of Political Science.

If you would like to be involved in this important outreach, please send an email to lwvddh@gmail.com or call our local president, Mary Bugeia, 313-278-6476.

Friday, January 6, 2012

It Happens Here – Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation

Theresa Flores was 15, living in Birmingham, MI when she became trapped in a sex-slave operation for two years. “It happens here,” Flores says, “to white, middle-class teens who live in the suburbs. It’s easy to think that because you live in a nice neighborhood, you’re safe.1

Flores was on the track team, had a nice house and seemed like an ordinary suburban girl, but at night, she was subjected to horrendous abuse. Compelled to keep her secrets to protect her family from a scandal, she snuck out of the house - in compliance but against her will. This started with a crush in high school. Taking advantage of her affection, a 16 year old boy brought her to his house and raped her while others photographed the incident. The photos were used to blackmail her into cooperating, coerced into becoming a sex slave for the benefit of a criminal enterprise. She was finally free when her family moved, still unaware of her trauma.

Theresa Flores’ story is typical of sex-trafficking victims that Nicole McGee, Special Victims Agent, FBI-Michigan deals with daily.

Read more about Theresa Flores at her website: http://www.traffickfree.com/

Agent McGee spoke on October 17 for the LWVOA about the worldwide problem of human trafficking, including its prevalence within the United States. She works with human trafficking victims to advise them of their rights and assure that they get the help with short-term and long-term needs-like legal and repatriation services, immigration relief, housing, employment, education, job training, and child care. Human trafficking is about forced labor in general, but sexual exploitation is the most common.

Officer McGee shared some statistics about human trafficking in Michigan and beyond. Human trafficking affects virtually every region of the world, including metro Detroit. Sex trafficking accounts for at least 40% of all forced labor-human trafficking. Some experts estimate that it is more like 80%.2

Women and girls are the most vulnerable; trafficking victims tend to be the poorest and most vulnerable people coming from poor cities and countries.

Ms. McGee told us exploiters and pimps look for girls in malls, cinemas, even at high school events - anywhere teens gather with stragglers on the perimeter.

Kathy Gapa reported on the LWV Oakland Area Event for this article. Sexual exploitation of young girls in our community isn’t going away. Learn to identify and help those trapped in the sex trade with facts and resources from this Fact Sheet for Schools, “Human Trafficking of Children in the United Stateshttp://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osdfs/factsheet.html

[1] Terri Finch Hamilton, “Human Trafficking, exploitation is on the rise in Michigan”. The Grand Rapids Press <http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/09/human_trafficking_exploitation.html>. 10-27-2011

2Sexual Trafficking: the facts trafficking for sexual exploitation have become an epidemic in the past decade”. New Internationalist, <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JQP/is_404/ai_n21026843/> 10-27-2011

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Opinion - Privatization

Opinion by Joe Borrajo – Privatization
The cachet of "privatizing services" is it saves money. Not necessarily true. In the mid 1990s, the City of Dearborn sought to save money by not using city employees to erect Yule-tide decorations on city hall grounds; the city hired a contractor to do the job for $50,000.00. As it turned out, the contractor sent a single worker who supervised the same city employees that weren't suppose to be used for the task of decorating the grounds. The task took a matter of a few days, but $50,000.00 could pay the salary of an employee for a year.

Besides the money proposition, "privatization" also raises the question of the quality of services rendered. The process of out-sourcing responsibilities can lead to the problem of inferior work requiring remedial effort that translates into cost-overruns, left for the taxpayer to cover. Likewise, communities can be expected to accommodate "privatization's" development with a costly infrastructure and upgrading that explicitly serves the recipient of the community's asset with little return to the taxpayer.

Furthermore, the subject of "privatization" rarely broaches the matter of community/taxpayer "assets". Putting valuable assets, a measure of the wealth and value of a community, into the hands of corporation developers and speculators is a forfeiture that weakens the very foundation of a community, leaving it open to having the quality of life negatively impacted. "Privatization" can leave a mark comparable to what the problematic issue of "eminent domain" has done to injure stable residential communities.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

privatization roundtable report

We started our Privatization Study with an overview and discussion with current examples and proposals in the news. You can read the briefing with video links at www.lwvddh.org/privatization.pdf. Some personal experiences were shared along with well-studied ideas and strong opinions. Our president talked about her time as a school board member when the custodial staff counter-offered to keep their jobs instead of losing them to outsourcing. Our treasurer shared her expertise regarding the Social Security program as we considered how it differs from investments.

An important point that came out of our discussion is that the issue to privatize or not seems to get tangled up in corruption issues. While we agreed that corruption in the private and public sectors ought to be addressed directly, sometimes it seems too far gone to do anything but start over.

The need for strong oversight to ensure proper delivery of services or transfer of assets would ease concerns for some. In certain situations, the potential for harm if things went wrong was considered too risky. For example, with the police and military, a closer tie between them and the citizenry would hopefully mean loyalty to the public over their employer.

We will continue the discussion with ideas from many sources, pros and cons. If you find an interesting article, please pass it along.

Here is an article that warns against privatization from one of our roundtable attendees: