Sunday, August 9, 2020

Our values in action

I am a member of the Lenawee County Democratic Party (Facebook Page) and proud to be so. Having joined this group of like minded community members dedicated to helping people and to serving our community has allowed me to take part in many rewarding activities. As an example, beginning in October of 2019 the Lenawee County Democratic Party began providing a monthly meal at the Share the Warmth shelter located in the old Salvation Army building in the City of Adrian. We call them #FirstThurdays. Share the Warmth of Lenawee provides organizations and individuals an opportunity to serve our community. This past week, Thursday, August 6th, marked our 11th time providing dinner to residents.

Three people stand before food on a cart in front of signs for the shelter. One man hold food.
Lenawee County Democrats deliver food

Living our values is a big part of the Lenawee County Democratic Party. Whether it's providing a much needed hot meal to our homeless neighbors, like we did this past Thursday, cleaning up the environment like we do with the Michigan Adopt-a-Highway program, or working and protesting for justice and equality; our members are working hard to make Lenawee County a better place to live for everyone.

I'm asking you to join us. Help us work to serve our community. Fight beside us for expanded representation of core liberal Democratic values in our government. We can  defeat the conservative Republican assault on our Republic's aspirational foundational principles. Join the Michigan Democratic Party, today, and get in the fight!

Winning big this coming November up and down the ticket is going to be a team effort. I need your help in my race for Lenawee County Commissioner. Help send a clear message and bring a much needed progressive perspective to county government. I'm asking for donations for my campaign. Let's take the fight to conservative Republicans and win big this November.

Forward! Together! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Living our values

I'm a proud member of the Lenawee County Democratic Party (Facebook Page). Joining a group of like minded community members dedicated to helping people and to serving our community has really been fun and rewarding. Not too long ago, the Lenawee County Democratic Party petitioned to adopt a section of U.S. 223, south of Onsted between the City of Adrian and Manitou Beach-Devils Lake. 
Map of the Lenawee County Democratic Party's Adopt-a-Highway Section of US-223

Michigan's Adopt-a-Highway program provides organizations an opportunity to serve and beautify their communities while relieving the state budget from providing for those services. I had a great time this Sunday sweating and swearing with my fellow Lenawee County Democratic Party members as we cleaned up plastic bags, exploded foam coolers, bottles, cans, fast food cups, paper bags, cigarette butts, wrappers, parts of steel-belted tires, lug nut covers, a large plastic sign, and, finally, some curious and important looking automotive related parts.
Candidate for County Board of Commissioners Bill Swift squats painfully for photo with Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Senator Gary Peters Buttons. Too many political bumper stickers on display.
This was the most painful squat in my life
Living our values is a big part of the Lenawee County Democratic Party. Whether it's cleaning up the environment, like we did this past Sunday, helping to provide a hot meal to our homeless neighbors, like we do at Share the Warmth the first Thursday of every month, or working and protesting for justice and equality; our members are working hard to make Lenawee County a better place to live for everyone.

We'd like you to think about joining us. We'd like you to join us as we work to serve our community. We'd like you to join us as we work to fight for expanded representation of  progressive values in county, state, and national government. You can make a difference and push back against the conservative Republican assault on our Republic's aspirational foundational principles. Join the Michigan Democratic Party, today, and get in the fight!

Victory in our candidate's electoral efforts, such as my race for County Commissioner, will help bring a much needed progressive perspective to county, state and national government. However, I simply can't do it without your help. I'm asking for donations of time, energy, effort, and/or money. If you are interested in helping me win this November shoot me an email and join the team.

Forward! Together! 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Revolutionary Spirit

We hold that these truths are self-evident: that all are created equal, with equal protection under the law, with equal standing before the law, with an equal chance at happiness. These high ideals shook the world to its very foundations over 240 years ago. Freedom to speak. Freedom to report the truth to the people. Freedom to protest, Freedom to assemble. Freedom to seek redress of grievances. Freedom to demand justice. These ideals of our nation have been continually consecrated by the blood, sweat, and tears offered by the American people from generation to generation.

Who are these patriots who every generation arise to take up the banner of justice and freedom? The labor unionist, the journalists, the civil rights activists. Ordinary everyday citizens. Where is their battlefield? Hear the gunfire in the Colorado mining fields and feel the explosion in Haymarket Square. See the dogs of war unleashed in Birmingham. Feel the tramp of feet as the solemn marchers breach the racist heart of Selma.

Hear these echoes of the revolution. Hear them and remember. Hear them call for justice. Hear them call for equality. Hear them call for freedom.

Feel the spirit of the revolution in the air. Smell the tear gas in Lafayette Park. Hear the sirens and rubber bullets in our cities. See our people joined in a bloody battle in our streets for equality. For justice. For freedom. Pledge to each other your lives, your fortunes, and your sacred honor. Remember the revolution. Rekindle it in your hearts.

Forward. Together.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Quasi what's that, now?

When most of us went to school we learned about the three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. I'm sure most of us have some vague idea still about what each one does. The executive branch administers the law and raises and spends the money, the legislative writes the laws and says how the money is to be raised and allocated, and the judiciary interprets the law and the Constitution.

This is basically the way it works at the Federal level. The Michigan Constitution of 1963 follows a nearly identical model. What makes it a bit different for the State of Michigan is, of course, the existence of counties rather than states. So, what does that mean for us here in Lenawee county? Well, it introduces our blog post title prefix: quasi.

prefix: quasi-

      seemingly; apparently but not really.

Is there any more of an American prefix? Seemingly, but not. Well, anyway, what's this here prefix thing have to do with the discussion at hand, you ask. The answer is rooted in the nature of the Board of Commissioners. Seemingly, legislative, but not really. While the county government does often get to make decisions which seem to be law making, they almost always operate and make these decisions within a narrow and well defined framework outlined by the government of the State of Michigan.

You can think of it kind of like a choose your own adventure book or a predetermined menu of items. The county can make decisions but then those decisions might come with requirements or specific implementation guidelines. You can decide to have the mashed potatoes or not, but if you order them you're getting the gravy, if you get the picture.

Depending on the authorizing legislation, the 1963 Michigan State Constitution, Federal law, and the Constitution of the United States the freedom to choose may not exist at all. Often this makes perfects sense. Why do counties exist if not to implement the laws and administer various programs and provide services as directed by the State of Michigan. However, not everything is micro-managed and often the quasi-legislative nature of the Board of Commissioners comes into play.

What other aspects of the Board of Commissioners is like that of a legislative body as we understand them here in the United States? The most American of all things! Money! Again, here we see the dual nature of the Board. Federal and State grants come with strings attached, obviously, but the Board can act with some freedom with the budget as long as all the relevant state laws and guidelines are met.

Now that we understand the quasi-legislative nature of the Board of Commissioners a bit better, we can move on to the very important issue of money!  However, the Lenawee county budget and the whole funding story of county government is a tale for another time.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Not all Constitutions are created equal

Why do we elect County Commissioners directly rather than using the township supervisor model outlined in the 1963 Michigan Constitution?

Well, first off, what is the township supervisor model outlined in the 1963 Michigan Constitution? Article VII Section 7 states: “A  board  of  supervisors  shall  be  established  in  each  organized  county  consisting  of  one  member from each organized township and such representation from cities as provided by law.” Sounds pretty swell, right? So, if the 1963 Michigan Constitution says that this is the way it should be, then why isn’t it the way that it actually is?

Because, friends and neighbors, of a foundational Constitutional principle. What? How can that be? The 1963 Michigan Constitution sets out the rules very plainly, so, what gives? As it happens, the United States Constitution is the highest legal authority and any Federal or state law or state constitutional provision may be overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States on that basis, which is exactly what happened in this case. According to the United States Supreme Court decision in Avery v Midland County  “units with general governmental powers over an entire geographic area not be apportioned among single-member districts of substantially unequal population." CONSTITUTIONALITY, PA 1966, NO 261, 380 Mich. 736, 740 (Mich. 1967)

What does that mean exactly? The basic idea is that representation of people in government which is based upon where you live geographically should generally seek to equalize the number of people represented per representative. Super simple example. Let’s say we had a county with 100,000 people and there were 10 townships and zero cities. Under the original 1963 Michigan Constitutional framework and the United State Constitution this would work out great. Ten perfectly equal sized districts with one representative each.

Does that seem a likely scenario, however? Nope, not very likely. Much more likely is 16-20 different townships of varying population density and some number of differently sized cities. Under the originally adopted system one township supervisor might represent a couple thousand people while another might represent tens of thousands of people. This would give the people in sparsely populated townships more power in county government while tending to sap power from those people in more densely populated townships.

The whole question came down to the long standing American tradition of equality before the law and equality in representation in government and basic fairness. Now, in light of that Supreme Court decision, just like with Congressional district apportionment (drawing geographic district lines) and State Senate and State House district apportionment after each census, the same thing happens at the county level for the County Commission. Equal representation is what the goal is and after the new districts are apportioned they stick around until the next census, ten years down the road.

And that, folks, is why we directly elect County Commissioners.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Of Robin Hood and Hobbits

What the heck? I thought this was a political campaign not a book or movie review? Yes, yes. Very fair. The fact of the matter is that Robin Hood and Hobbits share something in common with our quest for answers about the County Board of Commissioners. Shires.

Shires were first created by King Ine of Wessex in the 7th century in order to better manage his kingdom. English common law is the foundational basis for much of our governmental principles and structures and shires came along for the ride. The name got changed over the years and we Americans don’t have a King, but the principle of the shire exists to this day.

The place where Bilbo started his journey shows us the important elements of a Shire. A Shire has regions like Bilbo's Farthings, Marches, and Fields and population centers like Bywater and Hobbiton. Lenawee County here in modern day Michigan has townships like Madison and Raisin as the regions and population centers like cities, such as Tecumseh and Adrian, and villages, such as Clinton and Deerfield.

Lenawee County isn’t ruled by an absent King at war in the holy land while his brother’s Sheriff robs and murders the people in the King’s name nor is it a completely autonomous patchwork of independent self governing entities within a forgotten backwater of the Kingdom of Gondor. Lenawee County, legally, exists as a matter of State power expressed via the Michigan Constitution of 1963. As we have seen, long before 1963 the people of Michigan recognized that exercising direct control from Lansing would be extremely difficult and shifted responsibility for various administration and enforcement duties to local authorities.

Who are those local authorities? The County Sheriff, indeed, the Sheriff of Nottingham from the story of Robin Hood as we know him was actually known as a Reeve. The modern day English word Sheriff comes from combining Shire and Reeve. Then there are the various local courts. And, finally, the County Board of Commissioners. Which is where we started this whole journey in the first place, isn’t it?

Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, we aren’t going to answer very many questions here in this post. In fact, a curious person might argue that the number of questions just increased by a fair bit. Having said that, I do think we can answer the question in a very general sense. The County Board of Commissioners is vested with power by the State of Michigan to oversee and administer various functions as outlined by the Michigan State Constitution of 1963, decades of authorizing language from the Michigan Legislature, and various amendments.

Next time perhaps we can finally answer the question of how the members of this body are elected.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Democrats Challenging!

It has been a busy week for Democrats seeking seats on the Lenawee County Board of Commission.

The Daily Telegram

The Adrian Daily Telegram's coverage of Juanita Kelly's and my own campaigns generated quite a bit of discussion on-line. A very fair write-up by Dmitriy Shapiro.

Juanita Kelley for County Commissioner District 6 and I hope to provide a progressive perspective to the Lenawee County Board. Lifting up the voices of the unheard. Asking the questions not being asked. Restoring honesty, integrity, and justice. Lenawee County deserves better.

The Tecumseh Herald

The coverage of The Tecumseh Herald couldn't have been better. They published my campaign announcement Press Release verbatim. Imagine that? The ability to communicate directly with your constituents without any filter. I must say, I think that Publisher James Lincoln's willingness to do so is just capital. Thank you, sir!

Friday, May 1, 2020

What is the County Board of Commissioners?

I asked that question in my first post. When I first started my journey of citizen re-engagement back in the fall of 2016 I had no real firm idea what it was that the Lenawee County Board of Commissioners did in any real and tangible sense. I had some notion that they were the legislative arm of county government and that they passed some enforceable regulations and had some other related duties. It turns out it is a bit more complicated than that.

Fifty seven odd years ago, in 1963, the State of Michigan rewrote its constitution. The previous constitution had been written in 1908. Who cares? Right? Well, the 1963 Michigan Constitution details how state government shall be organized and structured, enumerates rights and responsibilities of individuals and also for various subunits of government, like counties, cities, and townships, of government, etc. Specifically, for local government we want to look at Article VII.

So, that’s it? Just look over article VII of the 1963 Michigan Constitution and you’re ready to go? Nope. There are a few things which muddy the waters, here. Constitutional Amendments, like 2018’s Proposition #2 - to establish an Independent Redistricting Commission, modify the Constitution. So, we need to know about any of those which passed since 1963 which specifically affect or address local government in order to know what’s what.

So, just the Constitution and the amendments. Got it. Good? Nope. What? More? Authorizing legislation, friends and neighbors. Authorizing legislation and ballot initiatives. See, the Michigan Legislature, the Governor, and even the people of the state can affect changes to the legal mumbo jumbo stew that are the laws, regulations, and the like which impact local government.

Almost done, I promise.

Finally, the Michigan State Supreme Court and the courts superior to it have made rulings regarding the interpretation of the 1963 Michigan Constitution, the various amendments, and authorizing language and ballot initiatives. Wow. That’s a lot. What was the question again?

Oh, right, what is the County Board of Commissioners? Well, the 1963 Michigan Constitution Article VII Section 7 quite clearly states:
§ 7 Boards of supervisors; members. Sec. 7. A board of supervisors shall be established in each organized county consisting of one member from each organized township and such representation from cities as provided by law.
See, easy, one member from each township and somehow we pick some number of members for cities. We’re guessing that “by law” here is something which wouldn’t exist as of the writing of the 1963 Michigan State Constitution, but would come later by act of the legislature. Guess what? That’s not how it works. What? How is that possible?

Footnote to this Article VII Section 7
Section held invalid under federal constitution. Advisory Opinion re Constitutionality of 1966 PA 261, 380 Mich 736; 158 NW2d 497 (1968); In re Apportionment of Ontonagon County Board of Supervisors, 11 Mich App 348; 157 NW2d 698 (1967).
What is the County Board of Commissioners? It doesn't seem like the answer is straight forward, does it? More on that next time.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Who am I and why am I running?

What is the County Board of Commissioners? Who am I and why am I running for County Board of Commissioners? These would be the questions you might be asking yourself. Or, if you’re like me much of these past 40 years, maybe not. This is the heart of the crisis we face: citizen disengagement.

Citizen disengagement is something which we see impacting all levels of government. Citizen disengagement is a significant barrier to a high functioning and competent government. Government is supposed to represent all of us: We The People. How can it do that if we aren’t involved? Knowing the issues, understanding the how of our representative government, being involved and engaged...these are duties which we, myself included, have largely ignored for two generations.

We, as a people, have been told that we shouldn't defend our values and principles. That we shouldn’t make others feel uncomfortable by fighting for what we know to be right. Truth, justice and the American way means being willing to stand up and speak uncomfortable truths and challenging those that would attack those principles. Partisan progressive politics is principled politics.

Democrats are fighting for the everyday working people of this country.

Democrats are defending and protecting the environment.

Democrats are fighting to protect and support American families.

I am a Democrat and I am proud of it.