Late September, 2021 Newsletter
Redistricting Commission Hits Halfway Mark In Drawing House Districts
Fifty-five of the state’s 110 House districts have been reconfigured by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Track as of Friday, when the group met in Mount Pleasant to draw borders for the Thumb, metro Detroit and some more rural parts of the state.
Meeting population targets while respecting the need to preserve communities of interest was the focus of Friday’s meeting as the group began by picking up where it left off on Thursday. In total, commissioners outlined or altered boundaries for almost 20 districts over the course of their meeting.
The commission met in Mount Pleasant and set immediately to picking apart what was drawn up around Pontiac. Thursday, the meeting had ended with a C-shaped district around the city, drawn to include Waterford, Auburn Hills and Lake Angelus.
That area – dubbed as District 39 – was ultimately smoothed out so that Waterford and Pontiac were kept together with the Lake Angelus area, but Auburn Hills was pulled from the configuration as commissioners felt it fit better with Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills.
Commissioner Anthony Eid argued that Waterford and Pontiac had more in common demographically than Auburn Hills did with either locality, which was why it made sense for the two to be kept in the same district.
As a result, Auburn Hills was thrown into a district that spans from a small portion of the south side of Oxford Township, encapsulates all of Orion township, slithers south to keep the Auburn Hills area and hooks slightly west to grab the Bloomfield area. That region was referred to as District 30.
The remainder of the C-shape District 39 – which touches White Lake Township to the west and the southern part of Orion Township to the north – became District 40.
That district features the entirety of Independence Township, the western portions of Lake Angelus and the rest of Waterford not already taken by the district holding Pontiac. It initially also included all of Springfield Township before being chunked roughly in half so that the population of the district would not drastically exceed commission targets.
Population size was a worry that came up several times during Friday’s meeting. The commission is shooting for each redrawn area to fall within 3 percent of 91,612 residents, in addition considering the racial, faith and voting demographics.
What was left of the western and northeastern parts of Springfield Township was later drawn into the area referred to as District 34, which features the entirety of White Lake, Highland and Milford townships, along with some areas north of Wixom in Commerce Township.
Mapping efforts then moved across the state to the Metro Detroit area, where Sterling Heights was separated into two districts, split along Mound Road. The city’s population is too big to fit into a single district.
To the west, District 41 comprised mostly townships south of Utica and east of the M-53 freeway but also a long slip reaching into Sterling Heights. Its southmost border butted up to 14 Mile Road, with Commissioner Juanita Curry wanting to preserve the Bangladeshi community of interest outlined in the district drawn between Warren and Madison Heights and extending southward.
Toward the east, District 42 was a sort of puzzle piece to its neighbor, District 41. District 42’s southernmost boundary stretched downward into Warren, past 14 Mile Road, with its northernmost boundary stopping at M-59 and the corner tip of that region stopping at Waldenburg.
To respect the request from individuals out of the Shelby and Macomb township areas, a district was also drawn capturing the two municipalities that stretched from Yates Township at its easternmost boundary to Macomb Township at its westernmost. These districts came about mostly to hit population targets, and were picked apart and put back together to come closer to that 91,600 number.
In the Thumb region, much like in Sterling Heights, an area was broken into two pieces to better reflect communities of interest – this time the shoreline community of eastern Michigan and the rural communities just outside of that region. One of these districts spanned from Arcadia Township down to Dryden Township, east to Greenwood Township and then again south to Columbus and Armada townships, creating a box of sorts.
The coastal community it butted up against ran along the St. Clair River and north toward Lake Huron, with Worth Township as its northernmost point and St. Clair Township as its southernmost.
From the northernmost boundaries of both of those districts, another was formed comprising more than 50 townships, which took care of the remainder of mapping in the Thumb. The westernmost part of that district spanned to Marlette Township, with its eastern boarder being Lake Huron. It was explained that this, too, encompassed a community of interest for farmers dealing in cash crops like sugar beets, corn and beans.
A district was also formed in the central Michigan region, containing all of Isabella County and spanning south to also pick up the cities of Alma and Ithaca, stopping at the southern border of Arcadia Township and running to the easternmost parts of Bethany and Emerson townships. Its northern border would be Wise Township in the east and Coldwater Township in the west.
What caused the most fuss, however, was the division of Flint and Lapeer and whether such a district should span the length between the two cities. At first, a district was drawn running from Lapeer into Grand Blanc before commissioners began questioning what possible communities of interest could exist in this jurisdiction.
That mapping was then changed to create a district that, rather than spanning east-west, ran north and south of Flint, with its topmost part hitting a portion of Genesee Township just above Burton and its bottommost area being the southern border of Goodrich Township.
As for the city of Lapeer, it was drawn into a district spanning from Metamora and Hadley townships in the south, with an eastern boarder being created by Lapeer, Mayfield and Deerfield townships. A western boarder made up of Elba, Oregon and Marathon was considered, though the district ended up stretching over Flint and stopping at the western border of Clio.
Two additional districts were drawn prior to the end of the meeting: One starting with the intent of also being a shoreline district before morphing into a more Tri-Cities focused district, and another that unintentionally but completely swallowed the city of Saginaw.
An effort to map from Akron Township, around the Saginaw Bay and north into Standish Township saw some on the commission express their hesitancy to draw a lakeshore district that also captured Bay City and left an awkward no-man’s land between it and Midland.
Instead, the district was reconfigured to top out at Pinconning and Mount Forrest townships, while stretching east-west from Midland Township to Hampton Township and still holding Bay City in its midst.
The last district the ICRC attempted to draw Friday – though, as luck would have it, both the commission was dissatisfied with the results and the program would seem to crash, thus erasing work done on only this district – was somewhat of a behemoth that spanned from Wheeler and Lafayette townships in the west to Frankenmuth Township in the east.
This district would capture – in addition to the three aforementioned townships – Jonesfield, Lakefield, Fremont, Richland, Swan Creek, Thomas, James, Spaulding, Tittabawassee, Kochville, Frankenlust, Zilwaukee, Buena Vista, Portsmouth, Merritt and Blumfield townships. When the suggestion was made to add Bridgeport Township too, the commission realized that Saginaw Township, the city of Saginaw and Carrollton Township were effectively surrounded by what would potentially be District 55.
Rather than end up with a doughnut of sorts – with the Saginaw-area making up the “hole” – commissioners decided to call it quits and come back Monday for a fresh start.
A map showing the day’s districts, as well as district configurations drawn in previous sessions, are available to view online and for public comment.
Craig Tries To Exude Strength On Mackinac; Other Candidates Make the Rounds
(MACKINAC ISLAND) — As MIRS reports, Republican James Craig’s gubernatorial campaign pushed an air of inevitability and political strength this weekend as the former Detroit police chief was paraded around the Michigan Republican Party leadership conference.
Media was encouraged to video a couple hundred college Republicans parading to the Grand Hotel to AC/DC’s Back In Black with their navy blue long-sleeved Craig shirts to portray the visual that the entire island was about Craig.
Media wasn’t encouraged to ambush the Chief with scrums. Instead, select outlets were led to private conversations in a more controlled environment.
In general, his message was Gov. Gretchen Whitmer needed to be “evicted” and he was the one to do it. MIRS did catch up with Craig after his appearance at a U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman event aboard the historic “402” boat. He said “leadership” was among the issues folks are bringing up to him.
“They want change. They’re excited about the potential of me running and becoming the next governor of Michigan,” he said.
Outside of that, public safety, education and the current governor’s impact on businesses have been consistent issues, he said.
All the while, at least eight other gubernatorial candidates made varying levels of public appearances throughout the island, opting against the tactic used by Garrett Soldano to hold an alternate event or Kevin Rinke, who did nothing public facing this weekend.
None of the other candidates had an army of t-shirted volunteers running around or taking steps to push favorable results in the straw poll conducted by The Detroit News.
Soldano and Rinke said they felt the Michigan Republican Party (MRP) leadership was in the bag for Craig based on MRP Chair Ron Weiser’s political connection with members of Craig’s campaign team. Weiser greeted young Craig supporters who marched to the Grand Hotel porch wearing Craig T-Shirts and carrying his banner. That may be because several were from U-M, where Weiser is a trustee.
The thinking was if Craig’s folks were flooding the event and presumably stuffing the straw poll ballot box, why bother? Craig did win the straw poll of 740 conference attendees with 58% of the vote.
“There are 1,500 team members here who are going to help the Republican Party win the governor’s race,” said Capt. Mike Brown. “You have to respect that and their commitment to team.”
Ryan Kelley held a reception at Mary’s Bistro and shook hands with whomever he could greet on the Grand Hotel porch Friday night.
“If you’re running for governor, it’s important that you’re able to be around everyone, speak to everyone, connect with everyone,” he said. “Even if you disagree with some of them, you need to be able to show leadership.”
Also making the rounds at numerous social events was radio commentator Tudor Dixon, viewed as a candidate most likely to emerge on a primary ballot and possibly Craig’s toughest obstacle to the nomination. She hosted a well-attended ice cream social at Sadie Ice Cream parlor, attached to the Grand Hotel.
“We’re in a situation where it’s so important to engage the entire Republican Party and independents, as well. I want to go out there and make sure my message is being heard by all of these folks,” Dixon told MIRS Monday.
“If you think there is a preferred candidate at this conference, why wouldn’t you want to be here to show who you are?”
Pastor Ralph Rebandt held a private event and was making the rounds. Other media outlets spotted Bob Scott, Austin Chenge, Donna Brandenburg and Articia Bomer.
MIRS did not see any evidence Evan Space was on the island, although his odds of making the ballot are extremely long. Dixon took second in the Detroit News straw poll with 19%. Kelley was third at 8.4%. Soldano was fourth at 8.2%. The rest of the field was at 3% or less.
In the short interviews done with the perceived more serious candidates, MIRS asked:
– Craig if he would support Michigan doing a forensic audit of the 2020 election.
“I would welcome an audit. Audits are not something unfamiliar to me. In fact, we were having some issues at one of our precincts about discriminatory behavior. I launched basically a forensic audit and we were able to determine that there were systematic issues in that station that we were able to address.
“So investigative work, audits, inquiries are good, especially when you want to get to the truth of the matter and this is all about getting to the truth.”
– Brown on what he believes people mean when they use the term RINO, “Republican In Name Only?” Is that the new way for activists to label those who are anti-Donald Trump?
“I think there’s four or five issues there . . . you’ve got whether you’re committed to Trump. Election integrity. Some of the lockdown stuff. And then there’s a segment of people who believe that if you haven’t been a Republican for a long time, you’re not in tune with their positions on those issues. I’m not buying it.”
– Kelley on how many people recognize the name “Ryan Kelley” considering he’s been in the race for most of 2021.
“We have put a lot of signs all over the state. I’ve been putting in a lot of work. I’m doing anywhere between six and 10 events all over the state every week, six days a week, so the name is definitely getting out there.
“I’ve done a lot of door knocking, as well, as I’ve travelled around to be able to connect with people. I don’t think many gubernatorial candidates are doing very much door knocking.”
– Dixon on whether she would recommend people get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“For me, it was the right choice. For someone else, I can’t make that recommendation because I don’t know their personal health history . . .
“I think vaccination is a personal choice. I went through the entire medical system on my own and it’s given me a different perspective because, facing cancer, I was able to go from place to place and find out exactly what type of medical treatment I wanted.
“I went to three different hospitals because that decision is so personal to anybody who is facing some sort of disease. Now we’re all facing a disease. That is an individual decision.”
Budget Sent To The Gov; Here’s Top 3 Things Legislative Leaders Like About It
Around $53 billion in Fiscal Year 2022 spending was sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this morning after the House and Senate gave quick approval to the widely praised spending document.
SB 0082 — a $50.7 billion general government omnibus passed the House, 99-6, less than 24 hours after the Senate adopted the same spending document unanimously. Spending for state universities and community colleges passed 97-8 passed shortly before 11 a.m. The Senate put its stamp, 34-2, on the spending document before noon.
Nearly every legislator found a unique reason to support a budget that starts nine days from today. With no shortage of federal or state income tax and sales tax revenue, several of the Governor’s spending priorities and Republicans’ fiscal management goals were met.
While the House and Senate put several restrictions on public health mandates in the budget, the Governor’s office announced this afternoon that its aware of the “likely unenforceable or unconstitutional language.” “The legislature is doing their work this week,” said the Governor on Mackinac Island. “They’re going to send it to us soon. As it comes, we will do our task of going through line by line of the budget to see what is enforceable, what might not be enforceable, and then I will do my action and get it signed and make some changes if necessary.” She emphasized that she “negotiated all of the budget items” with the Legislature and that leaders “agreed on the vast majority of them, some we still don’t see eye-to-eye on, that’s OK.” When asked directly if she felt she had the authority to nix boilerplate, she responded, “You’ve seen me do it, so yes.” That could be the case for threatening the funding for county health agencies that impose mask mandates in schools, but House Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Albert (R-Lowell) said banning the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) from spending money to create a vaccine passport is rock solid.
Ten House members took turns praising different aspects of the budget before it passed with only a spattering of conservative Republicans voting no.
Asked which three things they are most happy with passing in the FY 2022 budget the following leaders said:
1. Prohibiting state government entities from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of accessing any state services or facilities and additional restrictions on the production of a vaccination passport.
2. The $150 million for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund so employers — who pay 100% into the fund — are not stuck paying for the fraudulent claims that were paid out during the pandemic.
3. The emphasis on supporting crisis pregnancies and maternal health, making sure those moms-to-be are connected with resources.
House DHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp.):
1. “We had 30 recommendations coming out of the adoption and foster care task force and over half of them were able to be put right into this budget . . . from having a way to have funds for caseworkers when the go rescue somebody to getting that child food or some clothes.”
2. An “historical” $9 increase for the private agencies who take care of foster children from $46.20 per diem to $55.20 per diem, plus a 12% increase to independent living. The total spend is $21.3 million
3. Behavioral health, particularly money for early intervention services and expansion of a program that addresses psychological and physical health needs for the state’s most at risk populations.
1. The “huge investment” in Michigan’s families through the $1.5 billion in child care access expenditure, which goes to increase eligibility while raising provider rates.
2. The $135 million in additional funding for job training programs like Going Pro (employer-based training grants), Michigan Reconnect (tuition free community college for those 25 and older) and Futures for Frontliners (free community college for “frontline workers).
3. The 5% increase in higher education. “We haven’t had that since I’ve been here. Instead, we’ve seen 30 years of disinvestment from higher education and I’m very excited that we could get there in a bipartisan way.”
House Appropriations Committee Minority Vice Chair Joe Tate (D-Detroit):
1. “I know we talked a lot about childcare, but that’s such a huge piece. It’s just a big for a lot of households.”
2. “There’s funding for water infrastructure grants and that’s helpful for my district. We’ve had to hold back the Detroit River with sandbags and other temporary dams.”
Budget Director Dave Massaron:
1. The child care package is something the Legislature and the Governor’s office will be proud of and something that he believes is sustainable in the long run.
2. “We had the largest deposit ($500 million) into the Rainy Day Fund in the state’s history.”
3. “Marking smart decisions for the long-term future of the state is something we should all be proud of.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland):
1. “The ability to work with Director Massaron and Rep. Albert. I think that they both brought a professionalism and a spirit for a great discussion that is positive for Michigan families and businesses.”
2. “Both childcare and the School Aid Budget that we passed out earlier. We add individuals to child care, but don’t create a long large clip for them in the future.”
3. “Public safety and funding for our local communities. Also, we were able to help our hospitals with multiple projects.”
On the House floor, 10 members took turns highlighting specific points in the budget.
Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles) highlighted a Department of Education budget and the injection of $1.5 billion in child care funding.
Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Mt. Pleasant), as a former factory worker, highlighted the return-to-work programs.
Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) called passing the budget the “morally right thing to do” due to the money put toward better flood control, erosion mitigation and lead line replacement efforts in Benton Harbor.
Whiteford stressed the funding for the child welfare system, foster care, adoption, independent living options for vulnerable adults, grants to senior centers, human trafficking and the $2.35 an hour increase for direct care workers.
Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) praised the additional funding for bridges in his area, which are in such poor repair truck traffic is running though neighborhoods to prevent the rumble and tumble of the roads.
Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland) stressed $19 million for dam safety grants and $14 million to address PFAS remediation
Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) heralded the improved access to childcare the $1.5 billion in federal money will bring. She said the money will also “dramatically increase the quality of caregivers.”
Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.) brought up the $6.7 million for sickle cell anemia, a condition that disproportionately impacts African Americans, and $31.8 million in initiatives to address health disparities, such as why Black women are more likely to die from pregnancy than a white woman.
Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springfield Twp.) supported the $809,400 for a wellness program steered toward Department of Corrections workers and the $7.3 million that’s going to hire more corrections officers to prevent mandatory overtime.
Those voting no on SB 0082 included: Reps. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), Steve Johnson (R-Wayland Twp.), Matt Maddock (R-Milford) Luke Meerman (R-Polkton Twp.), and John Reilly (R-Oakland).
Asked why he was a no vote, Johnson quipped, “I’m opposed to reckless spending.” The $70 billion budget is, by far, the largest budget, even when adjusted for inflation, in at least the last 25 years. That’s primarily due to the large infusion of federal money.
Those voting against the higher education budget were the aforementioned six conservative House members along with Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming) and Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale),
In the Senate, the HB 4400 passed 34-2 with Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) and Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) voting no.
Berman said he sponsored a bill to implement a per-pupil funding model for universities that was adopted in the House.
“Unfortunately, the final budget passed today moves away from that equitable funding model,” Berman said.
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