You go Justin Amash - to hell with direct election of Senators!

Justin Amash decided to have fun on his Facebook page on Saturday night. I don't begrudge him that; it's tough being a Congressman, especially one who has to spend time coming up with excuses for not serving the people.

So let's play along with him, shall we?

Just a few of the things that happened in 1913:
  • Woodrow Wilson became President
  • The Department of Commerce and Labor split in two, making the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor
  • The First Balkan War ended
  • The Second Balkan War took place that summer
  • Stainless steel was invented
  • Henry Ford created the first assembly line
  • The zipper was invented
Hmm. I can't see why Amash wouldn't like any of that. Maybe assembly lines are just too damn efficient? Maybe he has an objection to stainless steel? Maybe an intellectual like Woodrow Wilson shouldn't have become President?

Or does he have a - ahem - zipper problem?


Actually, there are a couple of events that took place that year that conservatives rue. In February of that year, the 16th Amendment was ratified (allowing for the collection of income taxes), and in December President Wilson created the Federal Reserve.

But there's something else that happened that year: The 17th Amendment was ratified. That's the amendment that provided that we, the people, would directly elect our US Senators, instead of having our state lawmakers elect our Senators (which is how it was done for this country's first 124 years).

I wouldn't blame him. With a rock-solid Republican legislature, Michigan would have a Republican US Senator for the 2013-2019 term.

Instead, thanks to the 17th Amendment, Debbie Stabenow will probably remain in the Senate for those six years. Terri Lynn Land, Mike Rogers, Pete Hoekstra, and Candice Miller have all said they won't run against her - and now, neither will Thad McCotter.

Darn it, if not for the freedom to choose our own US Senators...

Ah! Now I see why Amash wants to get rid of 1913!

UPDATE: Whoa, look what I found on Twitter!

Wow! A guy with a Republican 'twibbon' praises Justin Amash's status, and includes both the 16th AND the 17th Amendments in a hashtag.

So if Amash himself is fine with the 17th Amendment, at least one of his conservative Republican followers wants to see it go!

So much for that love for freedom and liberty!


High-Speed Rail: Florida's Loss is Michigan's Gain

From the Detroit Free Press:

Michigan will get $200 million to upgrade rail lines and a share of another $336 million for new high-performance trains and other equipment to build a high-speed rail network between Detroit and Chicago, the Obama administration announced today.

The federal government is awarding $2 billion to expand high-speed rail nationwide, money that Florida turned back earlier this year, and Michigan was one of 24 states competing for the funding. The U.S. Department of Transportation said 15 states and Amtrak will receive money for 22 high-speed intercity passenger rail projects that the government said will connect 80% of Americans to high-speed rail in 25 years.

This is part of an important step the Obama Administration is taking to promote environmentally friendly travel - and the latest in a string of victories for Michigan eco-advocates, who last week helped Grand Rapids and other cities expand their public transit systems.

By turning down Florida's share of the money, Gov. Rick Scott did not simply stop this investment from being made. Instead, the money would simply be reassigned to other states. Tiday we learned that Michigan would be one of those states.

How will the funds be used?

The largest share of Michigan’s money, $196.5 million, will go to rehabilitate track and signals on a 235-mile section between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. In addition, Michigan and several other Midwest states including Illinois and Indiana will share $268.2 million to pay for 48 high-performance passenger rail cars and seven quick-acceleration locomotives.

These days, it is important for businesses and people to be able to move from one place to another quickly and with little cost. Since the majority of us Michiganians (NOT Michiganders, if you ask me!) live within 15 miles of an Amtrak station, this investment will be very helpful.

This news comes less than a week after voters in Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, Walker, and Grandville passed a millage increase to expand public transportation in the Grand Rapids metro area. The millage passed by a margin of 17,284-17,148. Other localities in the state passed similar measures last week.


Letter to the Editor: Obama has already accomplished much

It's been a few years since I did one of these. This one appeared in Monday's Grand Rapids Press - the front page of which featured the headline "Bin Laden Dead" in all caps - meaning many people probably got that particular issue.

I am glad President Barack Obama has decided to run for re-election. His character, competence, and courage make him one of the best Presidents in the post-FDR era.

Thanks to him, our economy is recovering from the Bush Recession. America’s auto industry is not just surviving - it's thriving. More people have access to health insurance. Our government is more transparent than it was before. Combat operations in Iraq are over, as Obama promised during the 2008 campaign. Thanks to Nobel laureate Obama, recent polls show that the United States is the most respected country in the world - a remarkable change from the Bush years.

These are all huge achievements - achievements which most Presidents would be unable to do in eight years, much less 27 months. It would be hard to list all of President Obama’s accomplishments thus far, but suffice it to say that he is that rare kind of President who usually only comes around once or twice in a person's lifetime.

Principled, patriotic, and progressive, Obama is what we all should want in a President. I look forward to giving him the support he has earned. God bless our nation and our President!


And it came to pass - by 136 votes!

Interurban Transit Partnership Millage Proposal
YES - 17,284 - 50.2%
NO - 17,148 - 49.8%

Having been involved with the GOTV vote for the Rapid Yes campaign, I can tell you that it was a privilege to play such a pivotal role in this very important initiative. Thank goodness this passed - without it, they would have had to settle for a renewal of the existing 1.12-mill rate next year, passage of which would have been critical for the Rapid to even function thereafter.

Instead, just enough voters ignored the demands of tea party favorite Eric Larson - who led the 'vote no' campaign despite not even living in the Rapid service area. The millage passed by 0.94 votes per precinct. There were 615 undervotes in this race (which is the number of people who voted in the 6-city Rapid service area but didn't vote on the Rapid/ITP question); that is 4 1/2 times the margin by which it passed.

Because the proposal passed, we will move toward having a world-class public transit system here in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Community College Trustee
Bert Bleke - 27,985 - 35%
Richard Stewart - 19.804 - 25%
Fred Sebulske - 18,604 - 23%
Frank Murin - 13,696 - 17%

Bleke and Stewart replace incumbents Janice Maggini and Michael Stearns, who did not run for re-election.

When Bleke filed to run, I figured he'd be a favorite to win based on his name recognition alone (which is critical in an obscure office like GRCC Trustee). Stewart was helped (or possibly hurt) by a robocall made on his behalf by state Rep, Dave Agema. Sebulske was the only person I voted for who did not win - his narrow, 1,200-vote loss puts him in good position for victory in 2013 or 2015, if he runs. Frank Murin - who lost a race for State House last year - mentioned on all his campaign signs that he was a Republican. Evidently, calling yourself a Republican doesn't work as well as it used to around here.

It seemed like a lot of conservatives voted for Murin and Stewart (who were endorsed by Right to Life), while many on the left (including myself) voted for Bleke and Sebulske. I was concerned that Stewart and Murin would win in a landslide, which is why I am pleasantly surprised that Bleke did so well and that the little-known Sebulske came so close.

Considering that 54,207 Kent County voters voted, and that each voter can vote for up to two people, there were 28,325 undervotes in this race.

Kentwood School Board
Mimi Madden* - 2,430 - 39%
Angie Forton - 1,984 - 32%
Kevin Rex Heine - 1,792 - 29%

Madden wins her third term, while Forton replaces the legendary Bill Joseph, who was first elected at the end of my second-grade year.

Heine, a Republican precinct delegate, had no campaign signs, while Madden's and Forton's signs were often paired with each other - one would rarely find a Madden sign without a Forton sign, and vice versa. That Heine nonetheless did so well tells me that he likely ran a word-of-mouth campaign.

There were a number of close elections, including:

Grandville Public School Board
Robert Wondergem* - 2,455 - 33.9%
Christine Buck - 2,399 - 33.2%
Steve Zinger* - 2,378 - 32.9%

Harper Creek Community Schools Operating Millage
YES - 884 - 50.5%
NO - 866 - 49.5%

Montcalm Community College Operating Millage
YES - 3,754 - 49.95%
NO - 3,762 - 50.05%

Orchard View School Board
Robert Larabee - 527 - 40.23%
Chuck White - 392 - 29.92%
Shirley Haase - 391 - 29.85%

Yep. One single vote. On the other hand:

Zeeland Electrical Equipment Sale Proposal
YES - 625
NO - 15

Who are those 15, and why did they vote against it?


Happy Election Day!

Polls are now open across Michigan for school and millage elections.

For most of us, this marks the first chance to go to the polls and make our voice heard since the November 2010 'shellacking' and the Republican attempts to overreach with their newfound power.

Many school districts will have elections for their school boards. With Governor Snyder's attacks on education, it is critical that we have intelligent, levelheaded leaders helping to lead our schools. These elections are also very important because school board members often go on to run for 'bigger and better' things in Lansing and DC. Today will be a good chance to get progressives in local offices while stopping tea partiers from underminimg our kids' education at the local level.

Here in Kent County, we will be electing two new trustees for Grand Rapids Community College. I'm supporting Bert Bleke and Fred Sebulske over their tea party opposition.

There are also plenty of millage proposals on the ballot, from public safety in Flint to public transportation in Greater Grand Rapids. The well-being of our communities depend on passage of many of these millages. In this era of 'emergency financial managers' and 'watch lists,' many of these millage proposals are very important.

So take a vew minutes to VOTE today and remind your friends to vote! Polls are now open, and will close at 8PM.