Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gerrymandering - Myths vs Facts

The talking points of the left is that the only reason why Michigan has a Republican majority is due to gerrymandered districts. That's not true. "But 50some odd percent voted for democrats for congress or state rep in 2012!!!" So what. That happens when Detroit votes 97%, Flint 89%, and Ann Arbor/Ypsi around 80 some odd percent.  A major reason why you see that is self-packing and guidelines (in Michigan) against splitting municipalities (less so federally since they have to have equal population total). Another reason is due to federal requirements of Voting Rights Act districts.  Voting Rights Act districts generally require two districts with black voting age majorities. That is why the 14th district is shaped as it is, taking Southfield, Oak Park, Lathrup Village, and Royal Oak Township, and curling up to get Pontiac.

A large number of democrats are in a few select areas. Detroit is 95-98% democrat and has around a 250-300K vote spread. You have two districts based there that have to satisfy the VRA requirements.

MI-01 - There's not a lot that can be done with Benishek's district.

MI-02 - Ottawa County is such a red county that will trump neighboring Muskegon every time. Self packing on the part of both parties. Kentwood and Wyoming added are minor tweaks, but MI-03 leaned R anyway barring a disaster.

MI-03 - Amash's district added Calhoun County. Less safe than it was. Self-packing again. Dems in Grand Rapids proper, Albion, and Battle Creek. R's in suburbs and rural areas there.

MI-04 - Tweaked a little to add Frankenmuth, but mostly reclaimed old territory with Clinton and Shiawassee Counties. 

MI-05 - Kildee's district covers all of Genesee County (self-packing) and isn't cracked there. It goes up to take the Eastern part of Saginaw County. You can argue that part, but now has all of Bay County and a couple of rural counties. Tuscola County was split. If there's a gerrymander part there, it's to put Frankenmuth with Camp's district. Minor tweak at best.

MI-06 - Actually a quite competitive district on paper despite self-packing in Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor.  Van Buren County is competitive as well.

MI-07 - Fairly populist. Walberg lost Calhoun County and picked up Monroe County. Partisanwise, there isn't a lot of difference, although it's a better matchup for Walberg who isn't liked in Calhoun County.

MI-08 - Only competitive because of Lansing area. Livingston and North Oakland are blood red. North Oakland would have flipped the old 9th as well despite Pontiac. Pick your poison.

MI-09 - Levin's district is relatively compact. Southern Macomb and SE Oakland. It moved to the right actually from the old district, but I don't see it flipping barring a major surprise. GOP could have possibly have gotten greedier there, although it would put more districts at risk.

MI-10 - Thumb and North Macomb. The thumb had to go somewhere. North Macomb leans R to begin with. Probably safer than it had to be. The GOP could have been greedier and tried to crack Levin's district.

MI-11 - I'll admit. This district is ugly, and was made for a guy that didn't even get to run thanks to petition fraud by his staffers. Part of its ugliness was due to VRA requirements with the 14th.

MI-12 - Dingell's district dropped Monroe to take almost all of Downriver again,  and kept Eastern Washtenaw. It's more realistic looking than the old district.

MI-13 - Not that bad for a VRA district.

MI-14 - Very ugly due to VRA requirements.

I post this due to Phil Power's talking points rant with little original thought in the Argus.


The practice of gerrymandering — drawing congressional and legislative districts to favor one political party or the other — is at the core of our deeply dysfunctional and hyperpartisan political system that produced the shutdown and nearly resulted in default.
Virtually all the “tea party”-backed, hard-right congressional representatives who provoked the recent crisis are from districts so heavily gerrymandered Republican that they’re in virtually no danger of voter backlash in a general election. If an incumbent’s seat is gerrymandered safe, there’s no political downside to adopting whatever radical ideology is fashionable at the moment.



Phil is assuming (and we all know what three words are in the word ass-u-me) that the problem isn't the spending and that all that opposed it are tea party. That's the narrative he's set for this rant when frankly it's the elitism of Phil's DC's counterparts in the national political class that caused the damn problem in the first place for being out of touch with real people.

Indeed, it could be a political plus, if it inoculates an incumbent against a primary challenge from someone even further right. Gerrymandering is an ancient and widespread institution, long used by politicians to protect incumbent politicians of both political parties.
These days, it has been coupled with its enabling cousin, the partisan primary election, to contort our politics into hyperpartisan gridlock. Primaries provide the political leverage in a gerrymandered district so that the only election that counts is the primary.
What's wrong with primaries? The reps jobs is to vote their districts and defend their votes in the primary. One can agree or disagree. That's the voter's decision. Most primary challenges also fail, although some of the arrogant ones get the defeat they deserve. Joe Schwarz got what he deserved due to his arrogance against the little people, and Phil Power, Susan Demas, and the rest of the media elite are still mad about it. Fred Upton's ideology isn't tons different than Schwarz, but he survived, despite very conservative Allegan County. He's not as arrogant as Schwarz who always needed to bash conservatives in the press.











Most experts agree there are very few truly competitive congressional districts in America, perhaps as few as 40 out of a total of 435. According to U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, gerrymandering represents a big part of what happened in Washington over the past few weeks.

I don't put much faith in the so called "political experts" (Esp DC) in either party these days. If it's from the same study I've seen, it's bullshit. I'm not arguing that gerrymander isn't an issue at times, but that was a bullshit study that only considers competitive districts those that actually flip. If someone wins with 50.8% three times but doesn't flip, than that's not considered competitive.


“Some of the Republican members form heavily gerrymandered districts have nothing to fear from voters in a general election; everything is determined by the primary,” Dingell told me.
Richard McLellan, a heavy-duty Republican if ever there was one, agrees. So does Mark Grebner, head of Practical Political Consulting in East Lansing and one of the smartest political thinkers in this state. In Michigan, he counts as gerrymandered Republican at least three congressional districts, four or five state Senate seats and at least 10 state House districts.


Dingell, McLellan, and Grebner I do respect. That quote from Dingell is true, but a large part of that is self-packing (along with the VRA districts).  I'd like to know which districts they consider gerrymandered. I'll concede the 11th for congress, but VRA districts don't count due to federal law. For state senate some of the uglier ones are probably more dem favorable than previous incarnations (arguably the 32nd, 36th). There's an argument for the 14th, but the 32nd is the price for that. The 6th was flat out conceded. The 10th I'll concede. I don't see 4 or 5 with the state senate. State House? What are the 10? The 76th was a bad Hail Mary pass that failed (and the Roy Schmidt party switch process was worse). Several districts were conceded that didn't need to be (17th, 62nd).  I'll give you possibly the 23rd, but that cost us the 17th. The 24th cost us the 18th. I'll concede the 51st. If anything, I think the state house was a little too cautious, although that's also limited by APOL standards (as is the Senate).

The only good thing emerging from the recent mess in Washington is a new realization of and focus on the malign influence of gerrymandering on American politics.
But the more essential and complicated question is what to do about it. Many urge we take the drawing of district lines out of the hands of politicians (usually state legislators) and give the job to independent, nonpartisan folks like retired judges.


This is the system adopted in Iowa, where there is some evidence it has reduced overt partisanship in drawing lines. I still think it’s naive to believe you can ever totally take politics out of redistricting, the most political act of all.
There's nothing independent about commissions. There's nothing nonbiased about commissions. Even Phil Power concedes that. What's worse about commissions is that if they pass a screwjob, there's no recourse whatsoever against the bad guys who push it (Mathismander in Arizona). If the state legislature passes a screwjob, there's at least SOME recourse by tossing the bums out.

Grebner proposes a similar alternative: Pass a redistricting law that prohibits any political considerations in drawing congressional or legislative districts. “Put criminal penalties on violations,” Grebner says, while admitting the idea is pretty radical. And I’m not sure how a jury will decide what constitutes a “political consideration.”




What is defined as as a political consideration? That's the problem.

Another possibility would be to adopt the “open primary” system, in which candidates for office run in primary elections just as they do now, but in which the two top vote-getters — whether a Republican and a Democrat, or both Republicans, or both Democrats — run against each other in the fall general election.
That way, both candidates wanting to maximize total vote would have political reasons to reach beyond their narrow base to members of the other party or independents. This system is under trial in California, where it’s resulted in the defeat of two liberal congressmen who didn’t reach beyond the Democratic base.
This is something I could look at, often called a jungle primary. The Louisiana style is similar back from their one party days. There's various forms of it with runoffs for less than a certain amount.


Unless we cut the cancer of gerrymandering out of the core of our political system, our days as a great nation are numbered, doomed by a dysfunctional, hyperpartisan and crisis-prone politics. We need a serious conversation about reforming this practice, now.

Phil, if we don't stop overregulating and overspending, we're in deep shite. If the "my way or the highway" stuff doesn't end (Obama and Reid are the worst of all there), neither will the dysfunction.

As far as gerrymandering goes, I'm open to a computer style that takes as much human element away as possible. That's as far as I go. No biased and not really independent commissions and nothing that doesn't account for self-packing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

No sale on the Genoa Township Road Millage

There's plenty of coverage on the millage in today's Argus over the Genoa Twp Millage. You can find in depth comments on this at the Protect Genoa Township Neighborhoods blog. Here I'll comment on Mike Archinal's guest column. Needless to say, I disagree with it. On this blog, I'll speak for myself and not the group, so I'll be a little more blunt here.

On Nov. 5, Genoa Township residents will have a choice to make about the condition of roads in their community. They can vote yes on the Genoa Township road proposal to fund a 15-year, 1.5-mill increase to fund projects throughout the township or they can vote no. It’s that simple.
Anyone who drives in Livingston County — or in Michigan, for that matter — knows the condition of our roads is poor. That’s a hard fact to argue. Livingston County residents have been negatively impacted by a system that is tied to lane miles and vehicle-registration fees, making our county roads the lowest-funded in the state on a per-capita basis.
Without additional revenue, much-needed improvements will not occur. We, as Genoa Township residents, can fix our roads. We have control over what happens here.
That is why our Board of Trustees has decided to give residents a chance Nov. 5 to vote on a proposal to improve roads in our township.
The Genoa Township road proposal goes to voters Nov. 5. They will decide the fate of a 15-year, 1.5-mill increase to fund a number of road improvements throughout the township.
If the proposal is approved, a home with a market value of $200,000 and a state-equalized value (SEV) of $100,000 would pay $150 per year. The first bill would appear on the 2013 winter tax.
The proposed road projects affect all areas of the township and would be completed over the next three years beginning in 2014:

It's a $3000 tax for a $200,000 home as this is a 15 year millage. For many homes in the township, it would be closer to $6000 and in some cases like Pine Creek, $10000. Most I know would consider a millage, if it actually fixed the roads. As the PGTN postcard says - "Does not fix Brighton Rd, Grand River, and Chilson." It also doesn't fix other main roads like Hacker, most of Challis (the heavily traveled part), Coon Lake, Dorr, or the paved portion of Bauer.  Those are the main roads people expect to be fixed. If the millage passes, improvements on those roads will not occcur. This is wasting $22 million dollars if I trust the township's numbers regarding costs (I don't). In addition, how much will it cost to maintain these paved roads, as the paved roads right now aren't well maintained to begin with. This created more costs, with limited benefits (and in some cases detriments).

Some board members mention that Brighton Rd among others will receive federal funds for improvements. If so, why have the millage in the first place?

Archinal then describes the projects.

2014

• Crooked Lake Road would be paved from Chilson Road to the end of the pavement near Spring Hill Road. The paved roadway west of Lakewood Shores Drive will be crushed and shaped to provide a uniform, consistent cross-section.
• Latson Road from Aster Boulevard north past Conover Court will have a consistent three-lane cross-section with a center left-turn lane. Acceleration and deceleration lanes will be provided for all of the residential developments within the project limits. This project will also include a traffic signal at the intersection of Latson and Hampton Ridge Boulevard.

 Latson I understand, but widening and paving this? 



2015

• The intersection of Challis and Bauer roads will be improved with the installation of a roundabout. Other road-alignment changes will include the abandonment of Bauer Road between the staggered legs of Challis and the connection to existing Challis to the west. Challis Road will be paved east toward the railroad tracks.
• Beck Road would be paved from Chilson to Nixon Road. (Nixon Road will become Latson Road after the interchange is opened).
• Conrad and Challis roads will be repaved from Dorr Road to Clifford. This project involves significant grade and right-of-way issues.

Beck Rd. Interestingly, Laurex Real Estate just had a development sale for duplexes off Beck Rd. What's Laurex? It's a company run by two of Genoa Township's board members including the supervisor.  Gary McCririe and Todd Smith.

Why Conrad? Is that so Gary McCririe can have a shortcut to Dorr Rd and not have his car dirty? That's not a repave, but widening and paving. Challis is dirt from Dorr to Conrad. That's not the part of Challis traveled heavily. As far as the roundabout goes, people love them or hate them. I think they are a waste of money.

 

2016

• Herbst Road will be improved along its entire length. On the western end, from Dorr Road to Acre Hill Street, the existing roadway will be crushed, shaped and repaved. On the eastern end, Acre Hill to Grand River Avenue, the gravel portion of the Herbst will be paved.
• Cunningham Lake and Bauer roads will be paved. Cunningham Lake will be improved from Sundance Trail to Bauer Road then north on Bauer Road from Cunningham Lake to the end of the pavement south of River Ridge. The existing paved portion of Bauer, from River Ridge to Brighton Road, will be crushed, shaped and repaved. Finally, the gravel portion of Bauer will be paved to the Township limit.
• Hughes Road will be repaved. The southern section from Grand River to Cherokee Bend will be milled and overlaid. The area north of Cherokee Bend to Golf Club Drive will be crushed shaped and paved.

For reference.




Hughes I support.  Herbst doesn't need to be widened and paved. Cunningham Lake residents made the opinions well known. Bauer doesn't need to be paved to the township line. There's only two homes on the Hamburg side. Do you think Hamburg's going to pave in the Brighton Recreational area along Ore Creek? I doubt it. 

 He closes to say:

If you have questions regarding the road projects, please attend our third Road Information Open House from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday at Township Hall, 2911 Dorr Road, Brighton.
I have given you the facts surrounding the Nov. 5 Genoa Township Road Proposal. It is now up to you — the residents — to decide. If you agree, vote yes. If you do not agree, vote no.
Whatever is decided, we will continue working to make Genoa Township the best place it can be for our residents.

I encourage all residents to attend the meeting. Protect Genoa Township Neighborhoods didn't need to spin anything. If our residents know the facts, the results will be in our favor.  That said, this is an all or nothing proposal. That was made clear by the manager.  I'd support Hughes and Latson (near Grand River), but the other projects make this unworthy of support from a fiscal responsibility standpoint, as well as one from a protecting our rural character standpoint.

That's why we all encourage a no vote, so the township can come back with something reasonable.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

No Free Pass for the Genoa Township so called road millage

When you want to raise property taxes $3000+ for something that doesn't fix the roads(Based on their own master plan) , but widens, paves, and cuts down property owners' trees on rural country roads like these, you ought to expect some big time resistance. 




In 20 days time, a grass roots campaign has sprouted from my old neighborhood to support property rights, rural character, and fiscal responsibility. Protect Genoa Township Neighborhoods. Most of the people involved in the fight are regular people and not very political. They follow issues and vote, but when the election's over that's it until the next one. This one is a different story for several reasons.

  • A $200,000 valued home will pay $3000 in taxes with this 15 year millage.
  • $16 Million of the 22-23 Million goes to widening and paving rural country roads instead of fixing new roads. 
  • Most of the main roads aren't going to be fixed from this millage. Brighton Rd, Grand River, Chilson, Door, most of Challis (outside of roundabout and the dirt area), the main portion of Bauer towards the ski area, Coon Lake. Those roads aren't covered by this millage
People who move to dirt roads do so for a reason. They like rural living. Many of the residents have lived here for 30 years. Now the township board with the exception of Jean Leford and Jim Mortensen want to raise taxes $3000+ to destroy the properties. That's not right.
 
Those who wish to fight this can send donations payable to
Protect Genoa Township Neighborhoods
PO Box 1182
Brighton, MI 48116.

There's been enough money raised to send one mailing already. Some of you may have received it. The group has another one planned if there is enough funding.

Please vote NO on November 5th, 2013.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jocelyn Benson for MI-11? She doesn't live there.

The convicted inside trader George Soros pushed the Secretary of State project. Their backed candidate for Secretary of State in 2010 was Jocelyn Benson. Thank God she was defeated by Ruth Johnson and that all those out of state contributors didn't get any return on their investment.

Benson is now considering a congressional run, in the 11th District currently held by Kerry Bentivolio who has a tough primary against David Trott. Whoever wins that primary will be bruised in the battle and will need support. He'd also be 10 times better than Benson, who doesn't even live in the district.

From the Free Press

WASHINGTON — Jocelyn Benson, dean of the law school at Wayne State University and the Democratic Party’s nominee for Michigan Secretary of State in 2010, is eyeing a congressional race in metro Detroit next year.
Benson, 35, is apparently considering a run as a Democrat in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, currently held by U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford, who was elected to his first term last year.
A Democratic source told the Free Press that Benson is looking at entering the race after she met Wednesday with various party bigwigs in Washington, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and addressed a House Democratic caucus meeting.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily’s List — a group that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates — also are believed to be willing to offer support, according to the source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings had not been made widely public.

I checked the campaign finance contributions for Benson. She claims the Detroit Riverfront as her residence. Now while technically you CAN run for federal office outside your district, it still isn't right, especially when your own seat (Peters) is opening up. I live closer to this district than Benson. At least my relatively small township borders the district with Lyon Township. As large as Detroit is, it doesn't touch the 11th. It borders the 9th (Macomb) and 12th (Dearborn) along with the two districts (13th/14th) within the city.It's about 12 miles from Livonia Border to downtown (not quite the riverfront, but relatively close). It's about 12 miles from Birmingham or Clawson to downtown. This isn't just an across the street type of move. It's a two districts away carpetbagging.

I'm sure places like South Lyon, Milford, and Highland would absolutely love a City of Detroit Soros backed professor representing them. Or Livonia and Birmingham for that matter.

She needs to get sent back to Wayne State.

Same as it ever was

All I have to say about today's vote and the so called compromise is this:

The biggest problem in the local and state Republican party are idiots and consultants in DC making our jobs here 100 times harder.

The dems always do what they are told from leadership and vote in lockstep. They are what we thought they were. The Republicans are always undercut by consultants and people like McCain and Graham who always go on TV and run their mouths against other Republicans.

Out here we have nothing to do with those idiots, but shit runs downhill and we get the fallout and get doubleflanked.

It was predictable, bad tactics, worse messaging, gutlessness, worse policy, and bad all around and some fault was on all sides.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Vote NO on Genoa Township Millage Nov 5th

Things like this make me wish I still had my voter registration in Genoa Township instead of Green Oak. I don't like what they plan to do to my old neighborhood.  My parents still live there and I still know most of the people there, many for 30+ years. This cuts across partisan lines here.

If you want to fix the roads with a millage, actually fix the roads. Don't add a bunch of new projects, especially those not wanted by the residents of the street who live there.

Genoa Township has a new projects road millage on the ballot November 5th. It raises taxes 1.5 mills for 15 years. There's some legitimate arguments both ways on a road millage IF (and that's a big if) it fixes existing main roads.You can argue jurisdictional issues, taxes, double taxation if Lansing interests get their gas tax or sales tax through, and cost/benefits there, but roads aren't in good shape. However, don't waste my parent's money and worse - don't wreck their neighborhood.

Information about the project can be found at Genoa Township's website. Proposed Road Master Plan

Not ALL of the projects are bad ideas (Hughes Road repave), but many are. However, this is an all or nothing thing as of now. If you don't want all of these projects or to pay for all of these projects, vote now, and tell them to come back with something reasonable.

I also don't see what's necessarily bad about gravel roads, especially in certain areas. The township manager was complaining about replacing "ball joints". I've done that twice in 19 years of driving on dirt roads, both on older vehicles. Every time I go to my parents house, go hunting, commuted to law school (shortcut),  or go up north, I take dirt roads. You can also get that in potholes too, which happen on paved roads as often as dirt roads, especially if they aren't maintained, and if there's a lot of construction traffic. 


The projects are as follows. Costs are estimated by the township (probably on low side).

Crooked Lake - New Paving. $2.8 Million probable cost. From Chilson Road to Lakewood Shores Dr. This is largely farmland here. Part of this is plans with the new I-96/Latson interchange and likely expectations for big developments.

Latson Rd - $1.85 Million. Widening and repave. Legitimate project. It's also one of the less expensive ones proposed.

Beck Rd - $2.95 Million. New Paving, Chilson to Nixon Rd (South end Latson). This is planning due to the Latson Rd interchange.

Conrad Rd (and far end of Challis) - $1.39 Million. New Paving. Clifford to Dorr Rd This one's a waste of money. This is so Oak Pointe (where the Twp Supervisor lives) can have another shortcut to Challis avoiding dirt roads instead of taking the main roads of Brighton or Chilson Rds. You have about two residents on Conrad which don't want the paving. There's no need to pave, widen, and carve up the farmland for the Supervisor's convenience. There's even less need to raise taxes to do so.

Challis/Bauer Rd Roundabout - $1.8-2.3 Million.  Much more expensive than a traffic light.

Herbst Rd - $3.9 Million. New Paving from Grand River to Sylvan Glen. I'm not that familiar with Herbst Road, but it goes in rural areas. It's paved currently from Dorr to Sylvan Glen. I don't see a reason to pave it from a tax standpoint.


Hughes Road - $2.55 Million - Repave. An actual legitimate project.


Bauer Road South - $1.25 Million - Bascially an extension of Cunningham Lake project. Paved from Cunningham Lake/Pine Creek to Hamburg Twp line. Besides taking away from the rural character - Why? There's two houses. Why pave to Hamburg Twp line? Waste of money.


Cunningham Lake and Bauer (North) - $3.65 Million - That's my old neighborhood. Residents have lived here a long time. I've known some of them my entire life. This is what Cunningham Lake Road looks like - same as it did in the 70's and 80's. That road looks in real bad shape, doesn't it. /sarcasm

Combining Bauer and Cunningham Lake's projects, the township wants almost $5 Million in tax money to pave areas that mostly look like this picture (outside of the wetland/swamp between Walnut Hills and Bauer). They want Bauer paved to the township line and Cunningham Lake Rd paved to Stonegate. Cunningham Lake Rd does not need to be widened and paved. Bauer does not need to be paved further.

 From the Bauer standpoint, Pine Creek already has paved access to two main roads and a side road (Bauer). You have few houses there covered with new paving.


Cunningham Lake is the township line past the one big curve. Stonegate is in Hamburg Township. They don't have to pay one red cent for this project if it passes. Walnut Hills, Mystic Hills, and Prairie View also already have paid access to Brighton Rd.

I measured the width of the road. Including the shoulder, it is about 19 1/2 ft. They are proposing two 11 ft lanes, and as far of a shoulder as their right of way allows (6ft each side for Bauer).  Picture that being widened another 10-15ft. Add a lot of concrete gutters and sewer pipes due to drainage issues (will that be followed by sewers and city water?) They also specifically recommended getting rid of the trees. This area recently lost a lot of trees in a tornado. I'm sure they want even more trees cut off their property for a paving project they don't even support. You don't even have to be a treehugger to have a problem with that.

There's also safety concerns. On this road, you have pedestrians (many from the subdivisions), dog walkers, cranes, deer, and hills. People drive fast enough on the dirt road. Many a time have I heard people slam on the brakes during a day to avoid hitting a crane or a deer. If this is paved, you'll see people doing 65 here on the straightaway and someone's going to get hurt, be it a pedestrian or a driver hitting a deer.

1.5 Mills for 15 years for all of this (About $22 Million in projects), most of which is not needed. About 20-25% of this is the Cunningham Lake and Bauer projects.  The only way this will get revised is for this to fail at the ballot box. These road projects are almost always an all or nothing deal. Take nothing for now, and have them come back later with something reasonable. Take out the new pavings and deal with the main roads that are needed to be fixed. Grand River, Chilson, Door, Brighton Rd, Challis, Coon Lake, Hughes, Latson. Not rural country roads. 

Vote NO on November 5th.


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Updated:

There's some movement growing to the opposition. Official Blog Site