housing, gerrymandering, gun violence, great lakes
Early last fall, I got a call asking if I would be willing to testify for the League on the gerrymandering lawsuit February 5. I said, "Yes, but I will be leaving for Florida in the afternoon on February 7, so if there are delays, etc., it will be a problem.
A few weeks later I got a call from one of the attorneys saying they had decided they did not need my testimony.
Then, sometime in late December or early January, I got another call from one of the attorneys saying they did need my testimony after all. I reminded her of my February 7 afternoon deadline. I received e-mails from one of the attorneys (Jeff) in January saying they definitely wanted my testimony and would go over highlights of info they needed from me. Then another contact from Jeff with the message that maybe the case would settle and they wouldn't need me. Then another contact from Jeff saying the settlement didn't happen and Kevin Toner (another attorney) would be my contact. Kevin and I had a couple of phone calls about questions he would ask me to answer, when we could get together, and when I might be scheduled to testify (first day - Feb. 5 + afternoon or morning; second day + afternoon or morning; or 3rd day morning. Finally, I made arrangements and told Kevin that Larry and I were going to Detroit Monday afternoon (Feb. 4) and would stay there until I testified. We were still leaving for Florida Thursday afternoon, and would leave from Detroit.
In hind sight, with knowledge of the ice storm, it was one of my better decisions to simply be in Detroit for the days in question! -
I did finally testify Wednesday morning, as reported in the Detroit News article that Judy Karandjeff sent me a link for (below).
I know these paragraphs are a huge lead in, but honestly, the story around the hearing is maybe more interesting than the actual testimony.
If you have followed this matter at all, you know at first it was questioned whether the League had standing to file the lawsuit because the League did not "vote" in the Michigan election, so it could not be harmed. However, the argument was made that many League members were registered voters who are being harmed. I was one of those registered voters who (1)was a member of the League; (2) was a registered voter in Michigan; (3) actually voted in the elections after 2011 + when the latest redistricting occurred; and (4) lived in gerrymandered districts + specifically State Senate District 36 where Jim Stamas was elected, and U.S. Congressional District 4 where John Moolenaar was elected. Also, I am a declared Democrat with no chance of electing a candidate of my choice who will truly represent my views either at the state or national level.
Kevin Toner (the attorney) wasn't sure if the opposition would sequester witnesses, so I was not present for the first session Tuesday morning. He sent me a text that the courtroom was open, so I went over Tuesday afternoon. It was fascinating! A young social scientist professor testified all afternoon about charts and graphs that showed how very gerrymandered the state is. In comparison to other states and other redistricting that was done using partisan criteria, Michigan ranks in the 90th percentile, 0 being no evidence at all of partisan redistricting and 100 being redistricted in the most partisan way possible! There were charts and formulas, graphs and dots, X'es and boxes, etc. Once I even heard 99.7% to describe the partisan evidence of a district! It was truly fascinating and really increased my awareness of the effects of partisan gerrymandering.
The professor was unflappable during direct testimony, going over all of the data and what it meant. His "unflappableness" continued through cross exam. The lawyers representing the other side kept stepping into "traps" when they were questioning the professor. Finally, the cross exam lawyer was seen consulting with his team about another question and they told him, "no." They rested, our lawyer did a little redirect, and the judges (3 of them) recessed for the afternoon. Before we left, the main judge said an ice storm was predicted for the morning and lots of things were closing, but the hearing would go on, starting promptly at 9:00 a.m.
Kevin asked me to be there by 8:30 just to review my testimony and Larry and I rode the People Mover back to the hotel.
Tuesday morning was my turn and I think I did a good job. I was clearly a resident in District 36 and 4; I always vote; I was once a Republican, but now I'm a Democrat; I know who Jim Stamas and John Moolenaar are; I have, in fact, interviewed Jim Stamas several times as a League member. I carried petitions to put Prop 2 (Voters not Politicians) on the ballot and knocked on doors to urge people to vote yes on Prop 2. I knew what packing and cracking was. I knew about the process for the League to take a position + study, consensus, then position. I knew no action could be taken until we had a position. (One big issue was that the League waited so long before it brought the lawsuit.) On cross exam the other guys tried to get me to agree to a false description of one chart the professor presented the day before. Since I had been there, I knew what the professor had said, so I did not agree to their false description. Also, as quoted in the Detroit News article linked below, I am concerned about how long we will have to live under this gerrymandering. The newspaper missed a little, because I was asked whether Michigan was actually gerrymandered. My response was that there is no question whether we're gerrymandered, it's how long we have to live under it.
For a general writeup of the case, read the Detroit News article here.
Since 1990 our organization has fought for the sensible use of firearms, and against the increasing use of violent weapons turned against fellow citizens--often children--within our communities.
During the coming weeks you will find many opportunities to take a stand for gun violence prevention in your schools, houses of worship, and town-halls. The League of Women Voters of Michigan encourages you to join that debate. Raise your voice. Advance sensible arguments that protect our schools. Advocate for change.
LWVMI opposes bills that allow those with concealed pistol licenses with additional training to carry in certain gun-free zones, SBs 584, 585 and 585, that are assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. LWVUS continues to support legislation to strengthen reporting to the National Background Check Database.
The League's Position Statement of Position on Gun Control, as Adopted by 1990 Convention and amended by the 1994 and 1998 Conventions:
The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the proliferation of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States is a major health and safety threat to its citizens. The League supports strong federal measures to limit the accessibility and regulate the ownership of these weapons by private citizens. The League supports regulating firearms for consumer safety. The League supports licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background checks, personal identity verification, gun safety education and annual license renewal. The license fee should be adequate to bear the cost of education and verification. The League supports a ban on "Saturday night specials," enforcement of strict penalties for the improper possession of and crimes committed with handguns and assault weapons, and allocation of resources to better regulate and monitor gun dealers.
Democracy trembles without trust. Join fellow Leaguers--back sensible gun reform--to keep Democracy strong.
Judy Karandjeff, LWV Michigan President
The recently finalized Clean Water Rule is expected to provide $339 million and up to $572 million in annual benefits to the public, Suzanne Dixon, Natural Resources Chair for League of Women Voters of Michigan told Midlanders. LWV members have been working since the 1960s on these conservation efforts.
Protections were restored to 551 miles of streams that feed Michigan's drinking water and massive wetlands providing flood protection. Some 79 percent of Americans want to let the EPA implement the rules.
Dixon said Enbridge and the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board are meeting to determine pipeline recommendations. Divers have recently found large gaps in protective coating exposing bare metal underwater pipes. For information on Michigan Water, go to http://www.protectcleanwater.org. Also: http://www.flowforwater.org.