Voters hold key to Michigans survival

August 2, 2010
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Against the backdrop of an oil spill of more than one million gallons of crude into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, voters are called to the polls for Michigan’s primary elections Tuesday.

Against the backdrop of federal, state and local leaders responding to what could well be one of Michigan’s worst environmental horrors, voters will select the final two candidates for the U.S. Congress, for governor, for two-thirds of the Michigan Senate, most of the state House of Representatives and for county commission.

Against the backdrop of worry that more than one million gallons of crude would flow to the Great Lakes — to West Michigan’s Big Lake — an ample array of candidates of every stripe are making a final push to win votes.

Against the backdrop of oil-covered muskrats, native birds and fish, the Secretary of State’s office estimated that perhaps 19 percent of Michigan’s 7.2 million voters will bother to stop at a polling location to vote between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Aug. 3. Not even one-quarter of Michigan’s registered voters are expected to select the candidate best representing their views on Tuesday, though a primary election gives the best opportunity of multiple choices.

Such disregard for so simple an act as casting a ballot is more dangerous than the PCBs lingering low in the Kalamazoo River, a disaster almost forgotten a generation later. And, in the form of another stark reminder of widespread ineffectiveness, that environmental cross will be added to by the Asian carp intrusion into many of the same waters if new leadership cannot agree on a way to stem their tide.

Far more than one-quarter of Michigan’s residents have demonstrated their frustration with the paralysis of state politics that leaves this state bereft of leaders and drowning in economic morass. The business community has, as a result, spawned a field of new and knowledgeable candidates and tenaciously provided analysis and plans to pull the state from this deadly quicksand.

Even before the spill seen ’round the world, the issues facing Michigan’s work force and business owners were compelling enough to pull voters to the polls, surely more than 19 percent.

President Phil Power of the nonprofit, non-partisan Center for Michigan noted after two years of town meetings across the state: “The political paralysis in recent years illustrates that it will do little good for us all to point fingers of blame at Lansing and simply hope for a better future. Nor can we expect government to lead. Transformation is most likely to come through the innovation and creativity of Michiganders: the private sector, local community organizations, local educators and clergy, and block club presidents and so many others.”

Surely the simple, but hard-fought right to elect leaders who will preside over Michigan’s urgent matters and sickening environmental disaster is the least any of those groups might hope to do in this year.

If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look to the ballot. Make a decision to vote Tuesday. The disasters of state await.

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