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Monday, July 14, 2014

Mary Belden - Candidate for State House 40th District

Corporate, civic, community memberships
President, West Hills Middle School and Andover High School PTOs; President, Andover Instrumental Music Supporters (3 years); Bloomfield Players Community Theatre; North Congregational Church; Founding Donor, Bloomfield Hills Schools Foundation; Save Our Symphony; AAUW; Sierra Club; Clean Water Action; Emily's List
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Why are you running for office?
I am running to be a State Representative because I care about Michigan and its future. I have seen, firsthand, the impact of the past few years of decision-making in Lansing. Schools have been hurt. Women have been hurt. Seniors have been hurt. Middle class families have been hurt. Michigan's workforce has been hurt. We need more legislators willing to look past their own interests to make lasting improvements for Michigan's people. We need more women in our state legislature, where women are fewer than they've been in 20 years. We need more legislators who are thoughtful, fair and collaborative, and not sworn to a particular ideological agenda. In short, we need common values and common sense. I am running to bring those qualities to Lansing.

Why do you identify with your political affiliation? Are there any issues in which you believe differently than your political affiliation’s traditional (or more typical) view?
I am affiliated with the Democratic Party in part because of my (formerly) Republican values. I don't think government should be involved in people's personal decisions about their reproductive lives, whom they love, or what religion they practice. Increasingly, the Republican Party has ushered government into all of these private areas of people's lives. Thirty years ago, I was what was known as a "moderate Republican", who defended people's right to live their private lives as they saw fit. Today, I am a Democrat because of those same values. This race is not about party labels. It's about values and priorities. We must work together to improve the quality of life in Michigan and ensure a successful economic future for our state.

Do you support the state’s current use of emergency managers? Please detail your position.
I do not support the state's current use of emergency managers. While I agree that the state has a role to play in helping and advising communities and other entities in financial distress, it should be doing just that: helping and advising, not removing the authority of elected officials and appointing someone to be in charge in their place. Michigan's emergency manager law is particularly problematic because the same folks who passed it also reduced municipal revenue sharing and school funding drastically, helping to create the financial distress the emergency managers are charged to solve. We are a democracy, and the current use of emergency managers in Michigan does not reflect the ideals of the democratic system of government.

What’s the long-term solution to paying for higher education?
If Michigan currently invested in higher education at the level it did during the Engler administration, we would still have affordable state colleges and universities. As a people, we must recognize that our state's tax-cutting efforts have produced major consequences, many of them damaging to our quality of life. We've allowed the pendulum to swing too far, and now we are finding it difficult to educate our young people, keep our roads in safe condition, and pay for municipal services - all of which we used to take for granted. We need to reinvest in higher education if we expect to enjoy the benefits of a college-educated workforce that stays in Michigan after graduation. I support a plan that would award state high school graduates with demonstrated academic achievement tuition grants on a sliding scale based on household income, with an incentive for them to stay in Michigan after completing school, and would also seek to lower the interest rate on federal student loans.

What, if anything, should the state do to change the current road funding system?
There are several changes that would improve the current situation. We need to bring our truck weight limits and fees into line with our surrounding states. We need to evaluate our construction, repair and maintenance processes to ensure that they produce the best "bang for the buck". We need to create a funding mechanism that is less dependent on the price of a gallon of fuel, so we are not relying on continued usage of fuel at current rates. Lastly, we need to be mindful of those least able to pay more to drive their cars, especially since we do not have affordable and effective mass transportation in most of our state.

Do you support increasing the minimum wage? Please explain.
I support increasing the minimum wage because people working full-time in the wealthiest nation on Earth should be able to support themselves on what they earn. Fiscally, it is better to increase the minimum wage than to continue to provide state and federal assistance to workers making less than they need to live on. Better wages allow more people to participate fully in the economy, buying the goods and services that allow businesses to grow and thrive.

What issues do you consider a top priority?
We have lost sight of the priorities that have made Michigan a great place to live and work. Excellent public education, up-to-date and well-maintained infrastructure, thoughtful protection of our natural environment, and fairness for all our residents, must be returned to the top of our list in order to secure a more prosperous and successful future for our state. We must reinvest in our people, our children, and our communities.

Do you support legalized abortion? (Yes or no)

Do you support legally recognized gay marriage? (Yes or no)

Would you sign or have you during this campaign signed a pledge to not raise taxes? (Yes or no)

Ballot initiative: Do you support the personal property tax measure being put before voters? (Yes or no)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Will Anyone Stop Charter School Corruption?

Once again FDR's message rings in our ears "... They can do it cheaper; they can do it better; and it won't cost anybody anything!" he mocked the Republican opponents of his New Deal! Private businesses are taking over public services at an astonishing rate.  Vouchers for everything?  401/403K IRA's instead of pensions and Social Security; privately owned charter schools, vouchers for healthcare instead of "Obamacare"; privately owned jails and penitentiaries, private services replacing public services everywhere!  Are they better?  How can they do the tasks cheaper and more efficiently?
Pay less, with fewer benefits while demanding more work with less security.  The public treasuries still pay the bills, but the corporations take their cut and make sure that their lobbyists handle the lawmakers.  Yes, they create jobs but they replace jobs leading to the middle class with low paying jobs with little or no future.  

The Detroit Free Press has courageously opened the public's eye's to what is going on with Michigan's charter schools, but read the article below and you will see that this is a national attack on our school tax dollars!

Al Halper


When politicians and pundits take to the barricades to defend “wonderful charter schools,” is this what they’re thinking of? A recent article in a Minnesota newspaper reported about a change in state law

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mark Schauer: Snyder’s lip service is disservice to seniors, retirees

Governor Rick Snyder recently released a special message on aging to the Legislature. He called for “action to better serve older adults.” As my grandfather used to say, that’s just lip service.
We can credit Michigan’s seniors and retirees with helping to build a state that we can all be proud to call home. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their hard work, determination and sacrifice.
Instead of thanking seniors for their contributions to making Michigan a great state, Snyder has demanded that they sacrifice even more by taxing their pensions and cutting the homestead property tax credit. Additionally, Snyder put retiree pensions on the chopping block during the negotiations over Detroit’s bankruptcy. Public pensions are protected in the Michigan constitution, meaning Snyder not only betrayed retirees, he also violated his oath of office.
Snyder’s tax policies are putting the squeeze on seniors and retirees who are living on fixed incomes, and it’s making it harder for them to maintain their independence. Many are being forced to make the choice between paying for groceries and paying for their medications.
Is that the relentless positive action Snyder loves to tout?
Rather than owning up to the massive tax increase, Snyder continuously uses fuzzy math to cloud the truth. But the truth is plain and simple: Seniors and retirees are paying more in taxes because of Snyder’s tax policies.
An analysis from the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency showed that a retired couple born after 1952 making more than $50,000 a year, including $48,000 in pension benefits, who received the full homestead tax credit, saw their taxes increase by $3,130 under Snyder’s tax changes.
Snyder’s tax policies are putting the squeeze on seniors and retirees who are living on fixed incomes.
There is something relentless about that kind of tax hike, but I think very few people would call it positive. I certainly doubt that retirees who are footing higher tax bills have many positive things to say.
In addition to increasing taxes on seniors, Snyder also cut $1 billion from education. The result is that class sizes are increasing, school quality is hurting, and it’s becoming harder for middle class families to afford college.
After cutting education and raising taxes on seniors, Snyder turned around and doled out a massive $1.8 billion tax cut to businesses – even when they ship Michigan jobs overseas.
This isn’t the right path for Michigan.
As Michigan’s next governor, I will repeal the Snyder Senior Tax. I’ll fight to end tax breaks for companies that leave Michigan workers out in the cold when they ship their jobs overseas. And I’ll make education my top economic priority because I know that good jobs come from a good education.
Protecting the middle class and seniors means something to me. Before running for office, I ran a nonprofit agency that provided critical programs for seniors, such as Meals on Wheels – a program that is now overburdened statewide because of the effects of Snyder’s tax policies. In Congress, I fought against the Paul Ryan budget that would have privatized Social Security and turned Medicare into a voucher program. As governor, I’ll continue that fight to protect retirement security for all Michigan residents.
That’s not just lip service – that’s the kind of action we need to move Michigan forward.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Snyder claims “success,” but for whom?

This afternoon, Governor Rick Snyder gave a keynote address at a policy conference on Mackinac Island.
He used some of his favorite platitudes, buzz words and campaign slogans, like “relentless positive action,” calling Michigan “the Comeback State” and talking about “reinventing Michigan.”
While Republican legislators and wealthy special interests applauded the Governor’s speech and the policies he highlighted, I have to ask you, who were the successes he touted really for?
Snyder said he got our economy back on track, but his policies have only helped those at the top while working families continue to struggle.
He succeeded in cutting business taxes by billions of dollars while drastically raising them on retired seniors and working families.
He claims he has increased money for schools while cutting public education billions of dollars—$470 per pupil—in his first year in office alone. And he and Republican legislators have continued to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the School Aid Fund every budget year he’s been in office.
And Snyder says he wants to move all of Michigan forward while he and Republicans have passed socially conservative policies that unduly hurt women, low-income workers and the LGBT community.
These don’t sound like successes to me, and I’m sure they don’t to you, either. And it’s because Michigan Republicans consider these awful policies “successes” that they need to be defeated this fall.
Please consider making a contribution today to help us unseat these out-of-touch Republicans and start working toward real successes for the people of Michigan. Thanks for all you do,

 Senator Bert Johnson

Monday, May 12, 2014

For 20 years Michigan has cut taxes with little to show for it

Every society functions at least partly on a set of myths. Sometimes these have been highly destructive. For example, believing you are the master race and everyone else deserves to be slaves has potentially destructive consequences.
America has largely operated on good myths, good because most of them had some grain of truth.
For example, the theories that all men are created equal, or that anyone can become rich or succeed at any occupation they choose. Those ideas have, by and large, encouraged hard work and a belief in the future.
However, there’s another myth too many of us have been blindly following for years, and that’s the belief that lower taxes are always a good thing.

In its classic form, it goes like this: The more you cut taxes, the more business and industry will flock to the state. So much money will pour in that government will take in more revenue even at sharply reduced tax rates.
That’s a wonderful theory, but one that unfortunately has little basis in reality.
True, if you set tax rates too high they are certain to drive away business and destroy any incentive to work. But for 20 years Michigan has been vainly cutting taxes with little to show except poorer public services and considerable damage to education.
Those are the findings of a study released yesterday called the Drake report, named for its author, Douglas Drake, a former head of the state treasury department’s office of revenue and tax analysis.
The study was, indeed, funded by people who have an agenda: a coalition of teacher and school administrator groups and unions, but it is not just propaganda. Its methodology looks sound, and its conclusions are clear.
To quote Drake himself:
“We can see from Michigan results since 1994, or from national data doing back to the Great Depression, dramatic cuts in taxes do not increase prosperity as measured by the income of average citizens.”
What such cuts have meant, according to Drake, is that state and local revenues in Michigan have been cut by a total of $51 billion over the last 20 years. Three quarters of that loss was to education.
The Drake report found that Michigan businesses pay a smaller percentage of the overall state and local tax burden than in 48 other states, and we have virtually nothing to show for it.
Michigan is worse off in nearly every way since the tax cutting orgy started.
Granted, the vast downsizing of the automotive industry was a big part of this as well, but there is more than enough evidence here to support Drake’s claim that "the [tax-cutting] experiment has failed, and we should stop repeating it."
There is some sign that people are starting to get it.
Republicans in the state Senate began talking about another tax cut late last winter before they were set upon by furious constituents.
They didn’t want a tax cut, they demanded the roads be fixed.
If Michigan is ever to prosper, we need services, schools, good roads and quality of life - and just like food, clothing and shelter, that costs money.
But trust me: Civilization is worth it.

Jack Lessenberry,  May 8, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014

ALEC vs. American Democracy

From the Thursday, May 08, 2014 issue of The Detroit News:

Organized labor has been under attack for decades, with devastating results for the middle class.

Wages have not kept up with inflation, even though American workers are the world’s most productive.

Worse yet, without a strong labor movement, both union and nonunion workers have no real avenue to compel employers to provide decent wages, affordable health care and retirement

Workers may eventually be left at the mercy of corporations.

And that’s the way the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wants it.

ALEC, a shadowy organization of corporate lobbyists and (overwhelmingly Republican) lawmakers, purports to
exemplify “Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.”   

It stands for unfettered corporate interference in the legislative process. It hosts all expenses-paid conferences with lawmakers — usually at swank resorts where the media and the average Joe and Jane are denied access — and crafts “model” legislation to further the goals of corporate America.

Much of its legislation is pushed by lawmakers in statehouses around the country, usually word-for-word.

Unsurprisingly, some of its largest contributors are the Koch Brothers, oil, pharmaceutical and tobacco giants and many other concerns that run roughshod over our democratic process.

According to ALEC Exposed, a group that monitors ALEC’s outsized influence on our democracy, here is a sample of the types of legislation it pushes:

“Right-to-work” bills that seek to destroy unions’ ability to represent workers by preventing dues collection for services such as grievance handling and collective bargaining.

As unions decline, so does their ability to support working-family friendly candidates.

A bipartisan alliance of Missouri state representatives recently defeated ALEC’s right-to-work legislation, after the
same legislation was passed in Michigan and Indiana.   

Tort “reform,” which makes it harder for citizens to sue large corporations when injured by dangerous products.

Limits on damage awards do little to convince careless corporations to keep consumer safety in mind.

Private prisons, which are one reason for outrageously high incarceration rates in the United States.

Our nation has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but one-quarter of the world’s prisoners, according to the International Center for Prison Studies.

Americans are locked up for crimes that would rarely warrant a prison sentence elsewhere. Empty cots interfere with private prison profits.

Charter schools, destroying the quality of public education everywhere, not just in the inner cities.

ALEC promotes the false narrative that America’s public schools are failing and educators (read union teachers) are to blame.

Much like the effort to starve unions of funding, ALEC and other public school opponents seek to destroy public education by gradually defunding it. Investors in charter schools, rewarded with your tax dollars, are the only winners.

ALEC claims to be a 501(c)(3) exempt nonprofit.
   It maintains it merely reimburses public officials for their work on legislation —at high-end resorts where they are free to bring the family along for a vacation. It claims it isn’t lobbying, that its mission is “educational” in nature.

The same corporate lobbyists are also responsible for millions in campaign donations to these lawmakers. 


Americans are starting to catch on to ALEC.   

Thursday, January 16, 2014


When you look at Obama’s record , you see a politician who is at best a moderate conservative Republican, but more likely one who has continued  the Bush policies and expands them.

Even before he was elected, he voted for the TARP bank bailout and continuation of the FISA court for secret surveillance. The TARP bank bailout (as written in the book “BAILOUT” by the TARP overseer Neil Barofsky) was used by Obama’s treasury to shovel as much money as possible into the banks, while giving lip service to foreclosed homeowners. After he was elected, but before taking office, Obama showed his loyalties by filling the Treasury Dept with Wall Street people like Larry Summers and the same people who deregulated the banks in the Clinton administration.

The NSA has expanded it’s secret surveillance to tap and store phone and internet records of every American. This surveillance is ostensibly to prevent “terrorism”. As the FBI has done for decades, and is the norm in totalitarian states, data is usually collected on citizens to identify dissidents and squelch political protest.

After election, he spoke about reforming NAFTA and closing Guantanamo but neither has occurred. Instead he supports expanding NAFTA with his TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP and another treaty for the Atlantic countries. The inmates of Guantanamo (as well as in other secret prisons) are still subject to torture and “military” justice.

While many states have legalized marijuana and people are waking up to the uselessness of the “War on Drugs”, federal agents have harassed and shut down medical marijuana facilities. While there is talk of finding a way to integrate illegal immigrants into this country, Obama has jailed and deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.

People who leak information on the illegal activities of the government, and journalists who report on them, are harassed and prosecuted. Obama judged Bradley Manning guilty before there was ever a trial. Obama called Edward Snowden a traitor because he exposed the illegal activities of the NSA. Journalists who report on the “dirty” side of this administration are stopped at the border, their computers confiscated, their persons violated.

America is close to becoming a police state. There are Swat teams on the Great Lakes harassing boaters in the name of Border Security. There are checkpoints and road blocks on major roads inside the United States, not only near border areas. They stop motorists and demand “identification”.

Although Obama did remove troops from Iraq, we remain a huge presence in that country supporting our puppet government with weapons and money. Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, ostensibly to combat Al Queda, but more plausibly to support our favorite government there. He has also expanded military (mostly special ops) around the globe as in Yemen and Somalia. With the drone program he boasts that he is “good at killing people”, although many people, including Americans, have been killed by drones without any explanation or justification.

Obama’s stimulus in response to the “Great Recession” was mostly tax cuts. Obama’s budget reflects his priorities, mostly to accommodate the Republicans: high defense spending, entitlement spending, and more tax cuts.

Obama’s “signature” achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was written to accommodate the needs of the Pharmaceutical Companies, Insurance Companies, and Hospital Corporations, not the public. “Single Payer” or “Public Option” was not even considered. It does not cut medical costs, but portends to stem the rise of medical costs.  It is definitely a boon to the above companies, and also probably another expensive entitlement which will be paid by future tax payers.

It is certainly not only Barack Obama alone who is responsible for all of the above. Money is at the center of our political system and those who can raise the most money (primarily from corporations, special interests, and rich benefactors) have a huge advantage. Lobbyists for the large corporations, the Military-Industrial industry, and now the Surveillance Industry, have great power in the political process. If you cannot blame Obama for all of the excesses, you can certainly blame him for doing nothing, if very little, to stop them.

Sheldon Wolberg