Once upon a time I was a Republican. I worked for the party by distributing thousands of Voter Guides to churches all over MI to help Engler get elected. I became a precinct delegate for a brief time. The concept of running government like a business resonated with me. That was then. Now that I see the ultimate results of such an effort, I am saddened that I was in that camp to begin with. It took me several years to reach the conclusion that government CANNOT be run like a business.
Fast forward to Rick Snyder running as someone who will run Michigan like a business. As the owner of a micro-business in Lowell since 2002 this had some appeal. Then I began to question and ask others, "What kind of smart business man would invest 6 million dollars to get a job that pays $159,000?" Yes, I know, he hands back all but $1 of his salary because he does not need the money. So what does he need? Why is he doing it? Does he love Michigan? I have seen no evidence to suggest that since he has been in office.
I know why I love Michigan - one of the top reasons is because I love fresh water. I love to swim in the big lake(s). It has always been almost a spiritual experience for me. I once water skied for a few minutes under the Big Mac Bridge! As the situation on the planet has evolved, water takes on a whole new meaning. Talk to ANYONE with an eye to the future and FRESH WATER is in the picture.
How does Rick feel about the water we have in Michigan? Well, he just appointed a former lobbyist for BP Oil to be in charge of our DEQ. (Cannot believe that even as I type it....) His administration is behind one of the biggest water disasters of the century in Flint.
Does he love the people of Michigan? Not that I can see. How can the guy who is at the top of the "family values" party be so cavalier when it comes to the families in Flint?
In as brief a time a possible I want to tie two water issues in Michigan together to demonstrate that you CANNOT run a state government like a business.
First, business exists to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that - profit feeds my family. However, making a profits is NOT the role of government. Government exists for our "equal benefit" - it is to provide things we cannot do on our own - build roads, fund schools, maintain our bridges, etc.
Nestle is a multi-national Swiss based mega-corporation that measures its profits in BILLIONS. In the process of running Michigan like a business someone made the decision to let this corporation awash in mega-profits come and pump freshwater out of our aquifers for next to NOTHING.
Side note: The spokesperson for Nestle in Michigan is Deb Muchmore. Her husband, Dennis, was Snyder's Chief of Staff until January 2016 when he quit to be a full time lobbyist. What a happy coincidence that the Muchmores have gotten much more than they should have out of Michigan.
Not only does Nestle pay almost nothing for the 212 gallons PER MINUTE they pull out of Michigan, I want you to connect a dot with me. Hang on a sec while we examine Flint.
The State of Michigan, with Snyder at the helm, took over Flint. One of the horrific results there has been the fact that hundreds or thousands of Flint residents have been poisoned by lead. Do you know the long term effects of lead poisoning?
When I first learned of the water crisis in Flint, I was willing to cut Governor Snyder some slack. I know that a Governor cannot be on top of absolutely everything that happens in the state. I did not join in the Condemnation Chorus until the emails pertaining to Flint began to be available. The first problem I had was when it became clear that State workers were telling Flint people the water was fine while at the same time they were having bottled water brought into their offices. The last straw for me was when I read that members of Snyder's staff KNEW that several different schools tested way off the charts for lead and sat on the information for 8 days - do you remember being in school? All we drank as kids was water from the water fountains. This is just criminal.
Did you know that emails were revealed that made it clear that Flint COULD have stayed on the Detroit water system at a reduced rate and all the poison could have been avoided?
The people of Flint have been using MILLIONS of gallons of bottled water for the last two years. What company do you suppose stands to gain the MOST from the sale of millions of bottles of water? They bottle water for a lot of retailers. Here is a list of the ones on their website:
In the interest of fair play: Nestle has donated 190,000 bottles of water. Considering the fact that Michigan forgave 13 million in taxes and that they get the water for next to nothing - my response to that donation is BIG FREAKIN' DEAL.
Flint is just one example of where the policy of running Michigan like a business has gotten us. We have an national, if not global, reputation for poisoning poor people. They continue to suffer after months and years of promises. If that were not enough, Nestle Corporation is making millions more in profit from the horrific situation in Flint.
There is a CREDO petition to Governor Rick Snyder and DEQ Director Heidi Grether:
Running government "like a business" really boils down to the subject and influence of MONEY in politics. That is why I am a Green Party candidate - we do not dance to the tunes money plays. My responsibility will be to the CITIZENS in my District and to those people in Michigan as a whole.
Flint should be dealt with immediately. The rainy day fund should be raided - the money is somewhere and it should be found and new plumbing should be installed NOW. This is not a debate issue or a partisan issue, the children and adults in Flint should have clean, safe water in their homes, schools, and work places.
NOTE: While I appreciated the opportunity with MOST of the questions to provide detailed answers, there was no allowance for anything but a yes or no on the last three questions, one of which was regarding abortion. I believe part of the problem with politics these days is that we want to address complex issues with yes/no answers and as a result we pigeonhole people quickly and dismiss anything they might have to say beyond the first word. So - I have my "yes" or "no" answers below ALONG WITH the expanded versions I would have liked to include on the MLive Voter Guide. The expanded version is in bold type.
Here is the MLive Guide
Why are you running for office? My run was initiated 3 years ago when I found out about pipeline #5 under the Straits. Water is life for all of us - no matter what political party, if any, we belong to. Water is the future. For us to allow a 63 year old set of pipes to move almost a million gallons of Canadian oil from Canada to Canada and endanger the fresh water supply for millions is a very moronic gamble. In the past I have been frustrated when our legislators voted themselves a huge pay raise when our state economy was #48 of 50. Government in Michigan was instituted for the benefit of the PEOPLE and it needs to be restored. That is the reason I am running as a Green Party candidate - we cannot accept Corporate or PAC donations. I believe governance is a calling to work for the greater good. My campaign slogan: "I will put the interest of the taxpayers of Michigan as a whole, and the 86th District in particular, ahead of my own interests and the interests of companies or corporations." Why do you identify with your political affiliation? Are there any issues on which you differ from your political party? Consider the opening words of the Michigan Constitution: "All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal benefit, security, and protection." Art 1, Sec 1. The legislative body in Michigan is currently the fiefdom of one family that spends millions though direct contributions and indirectly through PACs to control it. This is not what the Constitution intended. Green Candidates cannot accept corporate or PAC money - that is the only way political power will be restored to the people as it was intended. I am in agreement with the 4 Pillars of the Green Party because the embody the words of the Michigan Constitution quoted above: 1. Ecological Wisdom. 2. Social Justice. 3. Grassroots Democracy and 4. Non-violence - while recognizing the right of self-defense. (No one is coming for your guns.) Do you support the state’s current use of emergency managers? Please detail your position. No I do not. In every instance it has shown itself to exacerbate the problem(s). If a City or School District finds itself in financial trouble, the answer is not to bring in EMs that are paid large amounts of money to usurp local authority. Financial trouble should not be an Us versus Them game. We are all Michiganders - when one City or one school district is hurting, it will hurt all of the state. A better way would be for the State to send in advisers who will work with local authorities to find problems and fix them A spirit of co-operation is what is needed when trouble comes. The current method creates animosity that is easy to understand - the will of the voters and tax payers is overlooked or ignored. Do you think there is a legislative solution for skyrocketing college tuition? If so, what? We need to get men and women, working with the students, on the various governing Boards of the colleges and universities who recognize the crippling burden of student debt. The Green Party of Michigan has at least 6 such candidates on the ballot this fall and I am confident they have the best interest of students at heart. I support the National Green platform piece to slash our military spending and use that money to pay off and/or provide college tuition. A high school diploma can be obtained in our country free of charge. That was enough in the last century, now I believe we need to extend that free education to the college and technical/vocational school level. I believe that education, like health care and prisons, should NOT be a For Profit undertaking. Quality education for everyone in Michigan will lift the boat for ALL of us. What is the state’s role in providing funding to address the Flint water crisis and do you believe the state has done enough? If the state had done the right thing in the first place we would not be facing millions, (billions??), in lawsuits now. The state should find the money to replace the pipes in Flint and make it whole again. Anyone who takes the time to read the emails made public can clearly see the obfuscation that was practiced with the lives of children in the balance. This is a terrible reflection of what our government in Michigan has become - chasing the dollar with no respect for the lives of at risk people. What, if anything, should the state be doing to fund underground infrastructure improvements including lead pipe removal? The state should plead with the Federal government for all the help it can get and do what ever it can to re-do the piping. If the proper additives would have been used to begin with, this would not have happened at all or if it had happened, it would have been to a much lesser degree. If we can give a billionaire millions for a stadium or provide billions of gallons of water at a pittance to a multi-billion FOREIGN based corporation, we can sure provide safe drinking water for the people of Flint. There is enough money to do what needs to be done, it just needs to be allocated properly with the best interests of everyone in mind. What issues do you consider a top priority? Almost every priority issue on my list falls under the general heading of removing the influence of money in Lansing and restoring the political power to the people as the Michigan Constitution promises. The items on my agenda include: The failure to deal with pipeline #5, the crisis of school funding, the deplorable condition of our roads, the ridiculous amounts of money we hand out to billionaires and corporations (hockey stadium and Nestle water deal) who do not need the help of our tax dollars, and even the fact that our state is rated at the very bottom when it comes to transparency speak to the problem of the influence of money in Lansing. I have promised that if elected I will introduce a bill to tie legislative pay to the median pay in Michigan. Doing this will send a message to the voters and give ALL legislators the incentive to work together to create better, high paying jobs in Michigan so that EVERYONE benefits. We are all in this together. Do you support legalized abortion? (Yes or no) Yes. Frankly I do not believe an issue of abortion can or should be limited to a one word answer. I would not like a one word answer to the question of Emergency Managers and the issue of abortion is much more complex. Here is what I would have liked to write: Yes, I support the right for a woman to chose an abortion. Guess that earns me the label "Pro-choice". That being said, I am also anti-abortion. By this I mean I would rather that no woman or couple ever made the decision to terminate a pregnancy. There is NO easy answer to an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. I am speaking with some experience as we had a family member who chose to put her baby up for adoption. While this is certainly a happier LIFE decision and a better option in my mind to abortion by a long shot, it is by no means and easy decision for the people involved to make or carry out. Trust me. Just because I would rather no one ever made the decision to abort a baby, I believe to make such a thing a law is a mistake on several levels. Who am I, a 58 year old man, to tell a woman of any age what she can or cannot do with her pregnancy? She is the one with the heavy burden of motherhood staring her in the face. If it were against the law, then we are going to add her and others to the role of "criminals" because there will still be women seeking abortions, law or no. I also think we need to provide free, non-judgmental, open access to birth control - not only the educational piece, but the methods to implement it as well. In a perfect world no couple who did NOT want children would be having sex. However, we do not live in that world. Currently Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which protects people from discrimination in housing or employment, does not cover LGBT individuals. Should the Michigan legislature amend the act to provide LGBT individuals with those protections? (Yes or No) Yes. We should not be able to discriminate against anyone. Would you sign or have you during this campaign signed a pledge to not raise taxes? (Yes or no) No. In my experience, these type of pledges are usually associated with PAC money. As a Green I cannot accept PAC money. Not only that, but this type of pledge hog ties legislators in their ability to address problems as they arise. Notably in Michigan - the condition of our roads. Rather than just make an adjustment to gasoline taxes with the condition that said tax increase ONLY be used for roads, our legislators had to kick it down the road to 2017 when their terms were over. Meanwhile our roads get worse and worse to the point where they damage vehicles and lower gas milage. Totally self defeating behavior in my opinion. Do you believe the state should use public money to reimburse private schools for state-mandated reporting requirements for items like safety drills and immunization statements. (Yes or No) No. The law clearly says, "NO" to this. Governor Snyder did it anyway. It is a thinly veiled move with the long term goal of directing tax money to schools associated with religious teachings which is expressly forbidden by law. The Governor admitted his actions would result in lawsuits - do we not have enough tax dollars being wasted on lawsuits in Michigan?
How should the state assist other municipalities and school districts whose solvency is threatened by its financial obligations to current and future retirees?
The emergency manager plan clearly does not work. I would like to see a more cooperative method put in place. One that would allow the State to have oversight while at the same time respecting and empowering the local officials who were put in office by the people of the particular municipality or school district. By this I do not mean creating the illusion of empowerment, but keeping the power intact with assistance from the State official(s) sent to assist the situation. I believe we need to do away with Us vs Them thinking and work together for solutions for the good of all concerned.
Is the way the state funds our cities adequate to ensure safety and service delivery? If not, what changes would you support to our municipal finance model?
I make no claim at expertise on this subject. The best answer at this time would be to make any and all bills regarding financing limited in their scope to just the issue at hand. The current practice of attachments obfuscates the issue and is done many times to actually impede any progress intended by the drafting of the initial bill.
When cities are struggling, what is the appropriate way for the state to intervene? Should state intervention – through the emergency manager law or some other avenue – come with dollars attached? Why or why not? As I mentioned in the first question, my focus would be on a more cooperative level. Party politics must be put aside because the failure of a municipality or school district has a debilitating effect on the entire State. Like it or not, the failure of a school system on one side of the state does have consequences all over the Mitten. As a Green Candidate who cannot accept PAC or Corporate monies, I am confident that I will be able to keep the greater good of everyone concerned in perspective to help my District and the State move forward.
How would you rate the state’s response to the Flint water crisis?: Poor - this is my answer from these choices.
Explain your answer and what you would do, if anything, to improve the state’s response.
Flint demonstrates my point about the failure of the EM model. At this point I think the State should spare NO expense to address everything than can be addressed including the replacement of all the pipes ruined by the total mishandling of the situation. Lead in water will have terrible long term consequences - children have been poisoned. If it take millions to replace the pipes, then so be it. If we can find millions to give billionaires for stadiums, then we have enough money to address this NOW.
How would you rate the federal government’s response to the Flint water crisis?:
Poor Below average - this is my answer from these choices.
Explain your answer and what you would do, if anything, to improve the federal government’s response.
This is a tough question. When you have a State government that thumbs its collective noses at Federal government UNTIL it needs financial help it creates an adversarial set of conditions. My method to improve on a situation like this would be to foster more of a cooperative method of doing business from the outset. Government was created to provide and insure things we cannot do on our own - water and other infrastructure are prime examples. Safety and health need to be the priority - not cronyism and party politics. By refusing PAC money, Green candidates can look out for the interests of the people, not whom ever wrote a big check.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? If so, explain.
Have you ever filed for personal bankruptcy? If so, explain.
Do you believe Michigan’s tax system is generally fair? If not, what changes do you support?
The biggest change I would like to promote is the recognition from everyone that taxes are not The Great Evil. If we want to have safe drinking water, sturdy bridges, smooth roads, and other infrastructure which benefits everyone, those items need to be paid for. That being said, gasoline taxes should build roads and bridges - by that I mean we need to keep the purpose and use of taxes easily understood and tracked. I do NOT favor tax breaks for billionaires and huge corporations. e.g. Nestle does not need 13 million in savings to come and drain our aquifers for a pittance in order for them to make more millions.
Would you support the establishment of a Detroit Educational Commission that would have authority to site, open and close traditional public and charter schools?
Yes, I believe the local authorities need to be given more power. They have the knowledge of the area far better than a hired gun sent in to oversee from Lansing would.
What changes, if any, would you support in the way Michigan authorizes and regulates charter schools?
As a former Republican the concept of charter schools had initial appeal to me. The luster is long gone. After observing charter schools in our state, I believe it is simply a grab for profit and little else. When you combine the push for standardized testing with the inclusion of teachers with little or no training it becomes clear that the end game is to create schools devoid of the creativity and the potential of reaching the individual student who might learn differently and just create an assembly line to line the pockets of a few. If we truly value our children, then professional, qualified teachers should be celebrated with well paying, secure jobs.
Do you favor amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity?
Yes. The will of the people in Michigan and across the country is clear. We can no longer discriminate against any group of people for any reason.
Do you support state-level laws modeled on the federal Restoration of Religious Freedom Act?
Not when they are used by a particular religion to oppress the rights and freedoms of other people.
Have you signed any public pledge to support or oppose any organization’s public policy objectives, such as outlawing abortion or barring any increase in taxes?
No. This is the beauty of being a Green candidate who cannot and will not accept PAC money from any group. Candidates from both of the big parties constantly point out the "special interests" that fill the coffers of the other side. (Even when many times money is given to both by the really wealthy donors.) The voters in my District can put full faith in my clearly stated position:"I will put the best interests of the tax payers of Michigan as a whole, and the 86th District in particular, ahead of my own interests and ahead of the interests of large corporations and companies."
Do you support legislation to minimize or eliminate the influence of political parties on drawing lines for legislative districts?
Yes indeed. The answer lies in total elimination or total cooperation. I do not think cooperation between the big two parties is likely, so elimination is the answer. Gerrymandering is a stain on our system, no matter who puts it in practice. This is more true now than ever because of the technology that allows lines to be drawn down the center of a street if need be. Putting men and women from the Green Party or simply a group of empowered citizens from all parties in charge of this activity would eliminate the problem. The result of tossing out all the partisan blockages could mean Districts with easily understood boundaries which would save a lot of time and money for everyone concerned.
Do you support decriminalization of recreational marijuana?
Yes. I favor it for a number of reasons. Michigan can look to Colorado for the tax revenue benefits.But beyond that it is time to end the travesty we call the War on Drugs. People in Michigan and in America use marijuana at the same rate across racial, social, and income lines - but the ones who end up in prison for the same tend to be the poor and people of color. Marijuana should be treated like alcohol. The will of the people of Michigan was demonstrated in the recent campaign, which was blocked, to get this matter on the ballot this fall.
Do you support and will you appear at campaign events with your party’s presidential nominee?
Certainly. I was pleased to hear Jill Stein and her vice presidential pick Ajamu Baraka speak in Detroit when they visited in September. Their vision for lessening our military budget and their push for creating an economy based on Green energy creation and consumption gave me a renewed sense of purpose. They are not blinded by big money, their hearts are on fire for the regular men and women of this country. They have a sustainable long term vision involving energy, education, and health care that I completely support.
Do you support the renewal and/or expansion of renewable energy mandates for Michigan energy producers?
Without a doubt. What a shame that we argue this in Michigan and America in general when second and third world countries are moving forward in leaps and bounds. (Never mind what Germany and other first world countries are doing.) Bangledesh is providing rooftop solar power to thousands and Chile is producing an immense amount of solar power. Once again, the specter of PAC money comes into the picture - Big Oil has a lock on Lansing as demonstrated by the existence of Pipeline #5 under two of our Great Lakes. The time has come to walk away from the technology of the last century and move forward. The more renewable energy we use and demand, the lower the price for it will be.
Do we incarcerate too many people in Michigan? What would you change in the criminal justice system?
Yes. First and foremost drug offenders need to be returned to freedom - by that I mean those who have done no harm to anyone else. The first step would be to decriminalize marijuana and grant amnesty to those imprisoned for the use of it. Secondly, the model of For Profit Prisons is a massive failure. The Federal government has recognized this. Incarceration should be a last resort reserved only for those who harm or demonstrate a clear intention to harm others. Imprisoning people is EXPENSIVE and self-defeating.
1. First and foremost, I am looking for one hour of your time to help me get elected. But I am only looking for one minute a day for 60 days. Will you commit to directing positive energy toward my campaign for one minute a day? Call it a prayer if you want. Don't believe in that? Then go Flat Out Scientific - everything is made up of energy. So, direct some POSITIVE energy from you to me and my efforts in the 86th District for one minute a day. This is not a joke - I am totally serious with this request. It will take an Unlikely Army for me to be elected - and I need that Army to surround this effort with all the positive energy we can muster.
2. Share, share, and share. For the next 60 days I am going to put up a series of 15 memes - I will rotate through them 4 time each. They will highlight campaign issues and promises. I will be putting them on Facebook, and Twitter - @cliff486threp. I need UA members to share the heck out of them. Like them, comment on them, and share them. That way MORE people will see them and we can grow the Army! Here is an example:
Cliff on Twitter: @cliff486threp
3. I do NOT want to spend any more than $2,000 on this campaign. Money is NOT the answer, it is the PROBLEM in politics. To date I have raised a little over $1,600 and all of my bills are paid. The remaining money I collect will be spent advertising on social media in the last 60 days. If you want to kick in a little to get me to 2k, fantastic. If I should go over that amount, I will donate the overage to FROM's food bank.
If we are going to turn Lansing upside right - then I want to do it in a totally UNlikely manner with an Unlikely Army of people who want to see real change.
So - I need you to send up your best positive energy for a minute every day and to
SHARE THE HECK out of the memes I start putting up on 9/10/16.