The Rapidian

State of the State: Public Act 4 Must Go

Any law that drowns the rights of the individual are not laws but rather the framework of a crime.
2015 Artprize Critical Discourse

2015 Artprize Critical Discourse

I’m parched – but it’s not because I’m living in a place like Flint where I must pay for polluted water while also purchasing clean water for consumption – it’s because I read the Governor’s State of the State address and I find myself thirsty as a result.

Correction. I find myself in the Serengeti searching for a puddle.

Water analogies seem appropriate considering, on the heels of one of the nations most disgusting man-made disasters, we have been left with questions. Questions about the kind of state government we, as residents of this state, have allowed for. For Grand Rapidians, questions about the kind of neighbors we have been in allowing for fellow Michiganders to be pushed into a crisis for which they never had agency in, yet are directly impacted by. Questions about how the hell our state became a breeding ground for passive action and a form of apathy so deep it’s negligent.

I’m left with questions.

Last week I did not hear the words of a Governor that recognizes his role as a leader. I did not hear an apology that acknowledges suffering as a result of gross indifference. I did not hear a plan for action that seeks to create a form of accountability and transparency that will prevent a Flint Water Crisis from ever happening again.

Instead, individuals within his administration were scapegoated. The very policies responsible for the Flint Water Crisis, like Public Act 4, were doubled down in pushes to divide and destroy Detroit Public Schools even further – a district in which the conditions have become so poor under the state’s control that teachers are striking and students continue to suffer in an unsafe learning environment. The message was clear – after poisoning ten’s of thousands of Michigan residents, he learned nothing.

The State of the State can be summarized in two words: poor condition.

It’s crucial to note that the responsibility for functionally dealing with this crisis lies in the hands of the voters. In 2016, Grand Rapidians have got to recognize their agency in allowing poor public policy to destroy the lives of our neighbors. Locally, we have seen organizations like the Workers Center of West Michigan, St. Andrew's Cathedral and Black Lives Matter Grand Rapids collecting water donations to ensure those lacking documentation would have access to clean water during this crisis. We've seen a growing awareness around the poor conditions impacting people in this state. But what we haven't seen solid action on is policy.

In this community we collectively agree on one key element relevant to the ongoing crisis’ in our state: government should never do harm. Flint sounded the alarm – our state government is doing irreparable harm with our tax dollars. And while the scandalous nature of the Flint Water Crisis in particular will shape the ways in which the Snyder Administration is remembered – it is also our test.

Will we allow laws that do harm to remain on our books? Will we continue to support legislation that, very visibly, disenfranchises minority communities in our state? Will we hold those individuals we can accountable for their support of laws that remove the right to self govern from our neighbors?

The question we always ask ourselves is, “well what am I suppose to do?” The answer to this one is simple – pressure your representatives to remove Public Act 4 from our books. Any law that drowns the rights of the individual are not laws but rather the framework of a crime.

This is what we know - we have a Governor that knowingly facilitated the poisoning of a city. Grand Rapidians cannot elect to be passive participants in the continued facilitation of a civil rights violation. And let's be clear - this is a problem that everyone should be held to the fire on. Are Grand Rapidians comforted by the fact that some of their elected representatives turned around and passed a piece of legislation rejected by voters when put on a ballot? A piece of legislation so dangerous that it could cause a tragedy like Flint? 

I've lived in Grand Rapids long enough to know one thing - when you're passionate about a cause you do not back down from a fight. The fight we must participate in, is a fight against oppression. The fight we must elevate, is a fight to make government work for the people. The work we must do, is hold every single elected official accountable for their role in the chaos.

It’s time we rise to the occasion and become more transparent, more accountable and work to indeed do no harm to those we empower our government to protect. So Grand Rapidians are you going to start protecting your neighbor or continue to be dangerously apathetic to justice?

Our mandate is clear – remove Public Act 4 – we won’t call it a comeback, we’ll call it corrective justice.

And maybe it's time we remind our officials we are watching, by greeting them with an email, phone call or office visit. See the contact information below:

State Senators
26th District – Tonya Schuitmaker (517) 373-0793

28th District – Peter MacGregor (517) 373-0797

29th District – Dave Hildenbrand (517) 373-1801

State Representatives
72nd District - Ken Yonker (517) 373-0840
73rd District - Chris Afendoulis (517) 373-0218
74th District - Rob Ver Heulen (517) 373-8900
76th District - Winnie Brinks (517) 373-0822
77th District - Thomas B. Hooker (517) 373-2277
86th District - Lisa Posthumus Lyons (517) 373-0846

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