Monday, October 29, 2012

Michigan Proposition 6 2012

Proposition 6 requires voters to approve any new bridge from the US to Canada. As far as I can tell, it is a laughable attempt by the owner of the current bridge from Detroit to Canada to maintain his monopoly. Of course, I lean toward NO on Proposition 6.

In a similar vein to my objection to Proposition 5, we elect representatives for a reason. If we want to move away from a representative democracy and try to make some form of direct democracy work, I am all for that! However, I do not think international bridge building has any reason to be the cornerstone on which we create this new form of government. If there were something wrong with the plans to build this new bridge specifically, I would be open to hearing them. But to require *all* future bridge building between Michigan and Canada to be put to popular vote, I'm not sure whether that is "solving" a problem that doesn't exist or actively going out and creating a problem.

So, I recommend NO on Proposition 6.

Michigan Proposition 5 2012

Fortunately, the next two propositions are easy. Proposition 5 requires a 2/3 majority to pass new taxes. Oregon passed a bill that made it hard to raise taxes, and as a result public funding could not react to changes in the economy, causing many problems with education budgets. So I am an adamant NO on Proposition 5!

Unfortunately it is a fact of politics in the United States that, while people want things from their government, ultimately they don't want to pay for those things. As such, measures that make it harder to raise taxes tend to mess up the government's ability to function. I find it a bit disgusting that people think avoiding new taxes is worth this sort of protection when we cannot even ensure civil liberties for same sex couples in Michigan, but that is neither here nor there, just a side bit of commentary.

In short, NO on Proposition 5!

Michigan Proposition 4 2012

I want to get these done tonight, so I can beg, borrow, or steal the time to write a post about the presidential election tomorrow and get it all done a week before voting day. Thus, let us launch in to Proposition 4, allonz-y!

Proposition 4 is probably the measure I have had the most trouble figuring out. I mean this both in terms of figuring out what it does and figuring out where I stand. From what I understand now, it unionizes home health care providers who are paid through Medicare or Medicaid on the premise that they are public employees. Unfortunately most articles about the proposition want to sway the reader to one side or the other, so figuring out exactly what the bill does has been difficult.

Tentatively I support Proposition 4. I do so on the assumption that these home care workers are being paid by the government, not by the people for whom they are caring, which may be erroneous, and on the assumption that only such workers will be required to join the Michigan Quality Health Care Council, which may be erroneous.

However, I am not sure I support establishing a union via legislative fiat. If workers wish to unionize, they should be permitted to do so, hence my support for Proposition 2, but deciding that they need to do so seems a bit of an overreach. To be honest, I don't know which way, if at all, I shall vote on this proposition.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Michigan Proposition 3 2012

On to Proposition 3! In summary, Proposition 3 will require that 25% of Michigan's electricity be generated by renewable sources, that is wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric power. Furthermore, and here's where things get tricky, the proposal limits the increase in utility prices in order to achieve this goal to 1% per year. It also makes some provisions for extending the deadline so as to not exceed aforementioned price increase limit and requires the legislature to support using Michigan products and labor to meet this goal. Although this is all kind of confusing, I am inclined to go with YES on Proposition 3.

I am, in general, in support of renewable energy. Michigan enacted a law in 2008 requiring 10% renewable energy by 2015, while Proposition 3 does more than double the required amount of renewable energy, it also more than doubles the time to achieve the goal. Unfortunately, I could not easily find information as to how well utility companies are progressing toward the current goal, however, DTE Energy reports that they are doing great, and produced 5% of their energy through renewable methods in 2011. After all, who doesn't trust what giant utility companies have to say about themselves?

My biggest problem with Proposition 3 is that it is a constitutional amendment rather than an attempt to write something into law. Apparently if you try to get something put into law through Michigan's initiative process it goes to the Legislature first, then if they fail to act on it it goes on the ballot. Although Constitutional amendments have a higher signature requirement to get on the ballot, they bypass the Legislature entirely and go directly into law. Which is probably why all the propositions on this years ballot, with the sole exception of Proposition 1 to overturn previously enacted legislation, are Constitutional amendments. Although it makes sense why campaigners are doing it this way, I don't think this is something that really belongs in a state's Constitution. Furthermore, it would be nice for this issue to come up when we have a better idea how 10% in 2015 is going.

Finally, I feel a little awkward about deciding Michigan's fate until 2025, when I am unlikely to remain in the state for that long. However, I think it is a good idea, albeit perhaps a bit before its time, so I feel like supporting it, after all, who knows if it would be re-proposed in 2015 if it fails now. So a tentative yes on Proposition 3.

Michigan Proposition 2 2012

And we're on to Proposition 2! Proposition 2 is a constitutional amendment to grant all employees the right to unionize. Personally, at this point I am inclined toward YES on Proposition 2.

While I do believe that some unions have gained so much power that they are harming both their employees and the services those employees provide, unions being busted by state laws, almost by definition, do not have that kind of clout. Furthermore, I think that, at some level, unions are necessary to even the bargaining table between employers and employees. As workers unionized after the Industrial Revolution their working conditions improved tremendously over time, although there are confounding factors such as laws against egregious types of exploitation, which unions helped support. However, my main reason for supporting this measure is that I don't see any reason that the government should be telling people they cannot band together to assist each other in non-violently improving their lot in life. Heck, in my mind banding together to non-violently improve our lot in life is the primary purpose of government!

As always, and especially with my series on Michigan politics, I welcome and encourage reasoned dissent and respectful discussion, but for now, I'm going to support Proposition 2

Monday, October 8, 2012

Michigan Proposition 1 2012

Leading up to election day on November 6th I thought I would run a series of posts on things that will be on the Michigan ballot. I will give my recommendation and try to explain the issue to the best of my ability. I heartily welcome reasoned dissent and respectful discussion! One of the main reasons I am doing this is so that I have a better idea how I should vote next month, so if you feel I am overlooking something or am ignorant of something, please help me make my decision as enlightened as possible. I may not cover all of the ballot points, but I would like to at least get through the propositions and the presidential election.

Let us start with Proposition 1 shall we. Why? Because 1 is the smallest positive integer, and because it is late and I want something short. Proposition 1 is a referendum on Michigan's Public Act 4. What this means is that voting for the proposition is voting to keep PA 4. So, if you don't like PA 4, do not vote for Proposition 1. Personally, I am inclined to vote NO on Proposition 1.

It is no secret that Michigan's economy has all the vigor of an anemic fruit fly. In light of this, many municipalities (that is a fancy word that, so far as I know, basically means cities) and school districts are having issues with things like bills and debts, specifically, having an overabundance of such things. PA 4 sought to solve this pesky problem by appointing "emergency managers," which is basically a bureaucratic dictator, over these institutions to straighten out their finances by ruling with a topaz fist. By the way, topaz is totally harder than iron, thank you John Green!

So, I remember the furor when PA 4 was being written into law recently, but it turns out that emergency managers have been a thing in Michigan for over a decade! What PA 4 did was expand their power. This turns out to be a needful thing because the city of Flint had it's finances fixed by a financial manager at the start of this century and still it needed another one with these expanded powers to re-fix them. After all, if autocratic fiat fails to solve a problem, more autocratic fiat is certainly the solution!

It is also troubling that PA 4 passed essentially along party lines, with one Republican Representative voting against it and no Democratic legislators voting for it. It has a decided anti-labor view, allowing the emergency  to arbitrarily revoke contracts. However, the details seem unimportant in light of the threat that PA 4 represents to local democracy.

Even if PA 4 instead empowered emergency managers to loot the accounts of wealthy citizens to balance the city's budget I would still oppose it, because at heart it is undemocratic. Something must be done about the financial mess these cities have made of themselves. Apparently they harm Michigan's credit rating (I would have thought damage done there...) so are harming the state at large. Thusly, I would not be opposed to a bill that required that municipalities forced into bankruptcy be forced to dis-incorporate  but solving the problem by appointing an autocrat to manage the city as he (gendered pronoun accurate as far as I know) sees fit is not a good solution. Oh, big surprise but giving someone autocratic powers also leads to corruption in some cases:

Despite their relatively short history, EMs have a record of abusing their powers. This past summer Arthur Blackwell II, Highland Park’s former emergency financial manager, was ordered to repay more than $250,000 he paid himself. In Pontiac EFM Michael Stampfler outsourced the city’s wastewater treatment to United Water just months after the Justice Department announced a twenty-six-count indictment against the company for violating the Clean Water Act. -The Nation
So, for now, I am a solid no on Proposition 1.