Traverse City Record-Eagle. June 18, 2021.

Editorial: Massive public showing draws the line at the past

Getting yourself to a public meeting is not unlike getting yourself to the Secretary of State’s office. The air is filled with bureaucratic jargon; confusing papers need to be shuffled; many rules need to be followed and there’s usually a fair bit of waiting before your turn.

That’s why people often don’t go to public meetings. They have lives, commitments, better things to do.

But the redistricting listening sessions being convened across the state are drawing healthy crowds and vigorous comment.

It is our first citizen-led effort to draw the lines of congressional districts, and the 13 new members of the Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission have a long state history of gerrymandering to correct.

Southeast Michigan’s 14th Congressional District that runs from Detroit to Grosse Pointe to Pontiac “looks like a deranged lightning bolt,” said Harper Woods resident Cheryl Costantino in a Detroit Free Press story chronicling the listening sessions in Detroit this week, where many residents came to complain about the vote-packing Republican-drawn maps of 2011, and weigh in on the map of the future.

U.S. Census data so far shows Michigan losing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. There’s racial disparity, urban and rural lines, and communities of interest — areas tied together by historical, economic or cultural similarities — to consider.

It is a difficult, messy job. But we expected our state’s citizens to show up, and they have — like they have since the beginning. More than 61 percent of Michigan voters gave a citizen-led process the thumbs up in the 2018 proposal. Our 13 commissioners (four Republican, four Democrats and five unaffiliated) were winnowed from more than 9,000 applications.

The group is about halfway through its live listening sessions and is offering several ways to make public comments, including by dialing 211, where the helpline offers translation services in 200 languages.

People can also make and submit their own maps at https://www.michigan-mapping.org/

The commission will need to submit a map this November, and there is much to be done in the coming months.

But Michigan, with this massive participatory effort, has shown that it’s ready to draw the line at the past, for a more equitable future.

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(Marquette) The Mining Journal. June 14, 2021.

Editorial: Reinstatement of circuit judge here a good move

We understand and usually support state initiatives to trim costs, the general idea being government very often has been guilty of spending too much and getting to little in return.

But a state effort to save money some years back by reducing the number of sitting judges in the state has proven to be a poor decision.

Up until 2017, Marquette County was long the home of two 25th Circuit Court judges. That year, though, a 2011 law finally went into effect and one judgeship was dropped.

According to the remaining circuit court judge, Jennifer Mazzuchi, the number of felony cases in Marquette County in 2011 was 224.

Since then, it has more than doubled.

“We also continue to handle domestic relations and other civil matters filed in the circuit court, and even with the assistance of the other three judges in Marquette County, the caseload is simply too much for one circuit judge,” Mazzuchi said. “This volume of work can impact the public’s ability to have their cases heard promptly.”

In response, state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, introduced House Bill 4656 in Michigan’s House of Representatives on Wednesday to restore a second judgeship to the 25th Circuit Court. The House passed the bill by a vote of 104-5.

State Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, has pledged support.

We applaud both elected officials for being on the right side of this issue. As we said earlier, we understand government’s focus on trimming costs where that is possible.

It just wasn’t possible here.

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Alpena News. June 14, 2021.

Editorial: Government should meet folks where they are

Many lawmakers have repeatedly pressed Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in recent weeks to resume in-person services at her branch offices around Michigan.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Benson closed the Secretary of State branch offices — where Michiganders go to renew their driver’s licenses, IDs, and vehicle registrations, and more — to walk-in services. Instead, she offered more services online and at remote kiosks in places like supermarkets and encouraged residents to use those, and allowed scheduled in-person appointments. The agency’s website says appointments can be scheduled up to six months in advance or in as little as one day’s notice.

Several residents, however, have complained of long wait times to get appointments and no help over the phone. Rural residents, especially, can’t benefit from the kiosks — the closest one to Alpena is in Gaylord.

Lawmakers have demanded Benson open the offices to walk-ins once more now that coronavirus statistics are headed in the right direction.

We’ll say, first, that we appreciate Benson’s efforts to modernize her office and offer more convenient choices for Michiganders, such as the supermarket kiosks. For many Michiganders, that’s allowed them to do their business quickly and efficiently, without giving up whole mornings or afternoons waiting for someone to call their number at a branch office.

However, government must meet its constituents where they are, and shouldn’t require constituents to come to it. Large swaths of Northeast Michigan lack reliable internet connections, and many residents here and elsewhere are uncomfortable using that technology. With no self-service kiosks anywhere near, Northeast Michiganders and the thousands of other Michiganders in similar situations get stuck if the appointment system proves unreliable.

With most coronavirus restrictions already lifted, we join those lawmakers who say Benson should make all options available to Michiganders to do the important business they need to do with her office.

END