Detroit News. October 28, 2021.
Editorial: No more closed doors for the redistribution panel
The commission that redrawn Michigan’s political boundaries made a critical error in closing part of a meeting to the public this week. We hope this is the one they won’t repeat.
Transparency is integral to the mission of the Independent Citizen Redistribution Commission, established by a ballot initiative to prevent politics and politicians from setting the maps of legislative and congressional districts for the next decade.
On Wednesday, the panel abruptly ordered the public and media out of their boardrooms so they could have a secret discussion with their lawyers. The doors remained closed for an hour and 40 minutes.
The commissioners explained that they wanted to be able to discuss lawyer-client issues “freely and openly” with their lawyers. The problem was a report by attorneys on the history of the voting rights law and voting inequalities in Michigan.
The invocation of attorney-client privilege could potentially be justified if the conversation centered on a personnel issue or a lawsuit against the panel.
But a discussion of a report prepared for the commission that can take into account how and why they adjust versions of their draft maps is certainly of public interest. Interested parties should have been able to hear the report and comment on its accuracy and impact. The closing of the doors was not justified.
The commissioners argued that the information under discussion was exempt from the freedom of information law. This is probably not true. Just because a memo is from a lawyer doesn’t mean FOIA requests are barred.
The constitutional amendment that created the commission specifically states that it “shall conduct all of its business at public meetings.” This is the only direction that the commissioners should follow.
Having an unelected panel to draw political lines is a new experience for Michigan voters. It is essential that the Commissioners do their utmost to maintain confidence in the process.
Excluding the public from meetings when discussions are taking place on issues critical to final decision-making breeds suspicion.
If voters had wanted behind-the-scenes transactions and secrecy, they could have left redistribution in the hands of politicians.
Traverse City Record-Aigle. October 31, 2021.
Editorial: State Lawmakers Should Stay Out of Short-Term Rental Policy
There is a particular irony at work when a group of lawmakers who have spent the past 18 months screaming about the onerous policies emanating from Lansing start to go a little too far.
We couldn’t help but catch a whiff of hypocrisy last week as the Michigan House of Representatives voted to advance a bill that calls for statewide restrictions on the ability of local governments to regulate short-term rentals. State lawmakers who control the legislature have always called for local control over matters such as matters relating to public schools. This selective trust in local decision-making leads us to ask ourselves why this change of mind?
For the uninitiated, short-term rentals are homes, condos, trailers, rooms and sofas rented by the night through popular platforms like AirBnB and VRBO. In many destination areas like ours, they have also become a source of substantial conflict as local governments attempt to install thoughtful regulations of these commercial rental properties in areas primarily zoned for residential purposes.
If you live near one, especially one run by absent and uninvolved owners, you know exactly what they are. In fact, the mention of short-term rentals in the midst of a group of year-round residents in the Grand Traverse area often sparks looks and war stories on rowdy vacation renters.
Think about it for a second, no one buys a house that they plan to live in full time or even part time expecting to live next to a residential roulette wheel, loaded weekly with fellowship meetings, d bachelorette parties or even family celebrations.
Many landlords are responsible and thoughtful and manage their rental units in a way that avoids disruption. Experience tells us that many others are not so present or considerate.
That’s why the latest legislative effort to handcuff local regulators is such an obvious financial grab by people who are willing to profit from a mass melee in communities like ours. Absent interests cannot rule local regulations by voting in local elections, so they have used considerable lobbying power in Lansing to install general policies.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, the short-term rental gold rush isn’t going to overwhelm the neighborhoods of Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, or Roseville. Stopping local regulation of these commercial uses specifically targets popular vacation communities like ours.
The latest iteration of Lansing’s single proposal would consider nightly rentals of homes as “residential use” under Michigan zoning law. It would also require local governments to allow the use of a minimum of 30% of residential units for overnight rentals.
(We applaud Local State Representatives Jack O’Malley and John Roth for voting against the bill in a series of votes at 2 a.m. where, despite their opposition, the proposal was brought forward to the Senate from Michigan.)
The bill’s sponsors are calling the latest iteration a “compromise,” and perhaps that’s against a previous version that simply banned local regulation of short-term rentals. They also argue that short-term rental is a matter of private property rights.
Supporters of the bill may be right in some ways – we’re just as reluctant to prevent private homeowners from enjoying the freedom to use their homes as they see fit – but even this latest version, propelled by groups of interest, is a disaster in the making. .
Simply turning 30 percent of homes in Traverse City, Suttons Bay, Frankfort, Elk Rapids, Charlevoix, Petoskey or Northport into a speculative commercial rental market would irreparably reshape our communities. Imagine for a second the flood of big-budget speculators, including conglomerate investment groups, rushing into our already overheated local housing market thanks to the resulting melee.
It takes a lot of imagination and a few flashbacks from long-standing zoning bylaws to confuse nightly rental of homes in a neighborhood or subdivision with residential use. It is also ludicrous to claim that local governments should not have substantial freedom to regulate local zoning as they see fit.
It is disappointing to see lawmakers from all corners of the state taking a good-weather stance on deferring to local governance when deep-pocketed interest groups strike.
It is clear that hypocrisy comes at a price, and it will cost us local autonomy.
Le Journal des Mines (Marquette). October 27, 2021.
Editorial: Native American Heritage Month Can Build Understanding
They were there first. So it’s satisfying to see that Northern Michigan University will be celebrating National Native American Heritage Month in November with presentations and other activities on campus.
This year has already been remarkable in this regard.
A new campus land recognition sign was unveiled to the public on October 11, on Indigenous Peoples Day. The theme for the day was “A Day of Healing and Celebration,” which marked the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that Native Americans and Alaska Natives had higher death rates. due to the virus than any other group.
There is also an interpretive trail near the sign, located near Jamrich Hall and a wooded area, which provides information about the Anishinaabe people and their values.
Northern Michigan University is located on the ancestral lands of the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy, so the sign and trail are proper tributes.
To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, the NMU Center for Native American Studies has scheduled faculty presentations at the Peter White Public Library.
Upcoming events include Amber Morseau’s âWorldview Through Artistic Expressionâ on Monday, âClimate and Native American Literatureâ by Amy Hamilton on November 8, âStories of Suppressionâ by Martin Reinhardt on 10 November and “An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, with music by Waa Wi Ye Yaa, on November 15th.
The Beaumier UP Heritage Center in Gries Hall hosts a related exhibition titled âThe 7th Fire: A Decolonizing Experienceâ. A day for ârock your mocsâ will take place on November 15 and the boarding school visibility week begins on November 22.
Other activities planned at the Center for Native American Studies at 112 Whitman Hall include: “4 Cs Coffee Hour: Walking the Path Together” at 10:00 am on November 4, a virtual evening of fun tribal games at t.ly/lo2E from 6 to 8 a.m. on November 4 and a pearl circle from 4 to 6 p.m. on November 11.
While we would expect any of these activities to be rewarding, people can learn more about Native American culture on their own to better understand the issues that affect Native people.
Grace Challier, a professor at the Center for Native American Studies, spoke at the NMU Indigenous Peoples Day ceremony at the new panel.
âAs we heal the wounds of our soul, we demand not only truth and reconciliation, but more importantly, more tribal sovereignty,â Challier said. âBy practicing sovereignty, we are able to shape our own economies and foster healing through cultural revitalization and community building. “
Everyone needs to understand the Native American past to help create an inclusive community that benefits everyone.
November is a good time to start – and we believe that understanding must continue each day.
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