Men, Prayer, Politics, Horses, Detroit
Author’s note 2/22/16: Afendoulis is floating a second draft of this bill as I write to his fellow legislators, a draft completed after it was apparently determined that two key elements of the initial proposal were in fact probably illegal. This alone should give all of us pause. ANY legislation such as this should NEVER be introduced until extensive research has been completed as to its legality. Secondly, legislation such as this should NEVER be introduced until an adequate study has been conducted to determine the short and long term economic impact it may have on the citizens of Michigan. Please call Committee Chair Lee Chatfield (517-373-2629) and demand this bill be withheld from the agenda, indefinitely, thereby allowing it to ‘die’ in committee. Michigan deserves better than legislation written by a paid lobbyist.
The most current draft (#2) being floated is in PDF format. Send me an email if you wish to review it. Please include the terms ‘HB 5232 draft’ in the subject line or I might miss it. Yikesmt (at) gmail (dot) com
Thank you- N.K.
February 16, 2016
Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman,
I write to you this morning to ask you one simple question: as publicly elected legislators, whom do you serve? If your answer is ‘the citizens of our beautiful state’, I encourage you to continue reading.
I would think that all of you will agree when I say that Michigan currently finds itself in some of its darkest days. The headlines regarding the tragedy that is Flint stretch around the world, bringing a less then positive spotlight onto our state and our citizens, some of whom now face a most uncertain future. Sharing that spotlight are elected members of government such as yourselves. It is of utmost importance that we, as a state, you as the individuals chosen by our citizenry to lead us, show the world our commitment and allegiance to the health and economic prosperity of the citizens of Michigan at this, a most fortuitous moment in our states history.
It has been brought to my attention that HB 5232/SB 720 are the result of the actions and desires of a private entity in our state who has taken it upon themselves to allegedly hire a lobbyist, Jeff McAlvey, who has drafted the essence of this bill we are now discussing. While there is certainly nothing illegal in this scenario, by its very nature, it represents all that we stand against in representative government. When those of economic means work in such ways as to blatantly oppress the economic opportunities of our citizenry, it should give you, our elected representatives GREAT pause.
As an individual born and raised in this beautiful state, I have experienced first hand the power of our shared heritage in creating all that is unique and desirable in this place we call our home. Our shared experiences throughout the generations, both tragic and triumphant, speak to us from the past in the form of our built resources, guiding us as we carve our way into the future.
Across this country over the past 30 years we have seen a phenomena which has caused economic and cultural devastation to the towns, villages and hamlets that visually and economically define our communities. Michigan, sadly has been no exception. Under the guise of promised prosperity, national retail chains have opted to construct their places of business in the outer rings of our cherished and unique communities, often serviced via bypasses constructed to facilitate traffic in and out of these big box establishments. While many of us have enjoyed the convenience of these locations, a quiet death has been occurring as a result of them. An economic death and a cultural death.
Owner operated small businesses, perhaps founded by the relatives of citizens such as yourselves, form the backbone of stable communities.
Grocers and their families, hardware store owners and their families, clothing store owners and their families, specialty service providers and their families and restaurateurs and their families are the life blood of our local economies here in Michigan. With the emergence of big box stores and bypasses, critical consumer dollars have been methodically and tragically drained from our main streets, our historic main streets. This drain has literally destroyed small business in Michigan. Small businesses that fed families, created social networks, funded our tax base and marked the landscape with unique, and beautiful architecture both commercial and residential.
It is through the evolution of the structures within which these businesses grow and prosper over time that identity is created in these communities. Architectural citizens that inform visitors they are in a very special place, a place unlike any other. These resources, unlike the big box stores and bypasses which sadly constitute what we refer to as the ‘geography of nowhere‘, afford Michigan the geography of somewhere. A somewhere that is ours alone, a somewhere that cannot be found in any other state.
It is this geography of somewhere, complimented by our astounding natural beauty, that draws over 3.2 million out of state visitors annually, constituting a $1 billion dollar annual economic impact. These visitors do not travel to Michigan for the joy of walking the aisles and leaving their money at big box stores. They can have that shopping experience anywhere. They travel here to experience our one-of-a-kind cultural attributes such as Mackinaw Island (historic), the now globally recognized architecture of Detroit (historic), the coastal towns dotting our shorelines (all historic), the railroad towns and main streets that witnessed our growth as a state (historic). While big box stores do provide a service, they do NOTHING to sustain those attributes which draw over 3.2 million visitors, and their wallets, to Michigan each year. In fact it has been proven that their very presence works in adverse ways to destroy the economies of our prototypical small towns, our historic small towns, by draining them of critical, life sustaining consumer dollars.
While big box stores work to destroy our local economies, what legal tools do we have in place that effectively work to preserve these economic engines that constitute our shared cultural resources? In 1970, in response to what we clearly saw as a statewide crisis, we asked ourselves as a state just that question: how do we preserve those attributes that contribute culturally and economically to a healthy Michigan? The answer, after much deliberation and tragic loss of some of our finest resources, was embodied in Public Act 169 which gave us the tools we needed to protect the economic future of our precious small towns, and subsequently the structures found in our major urban areas, as we see now with historic buildings being successfully incorporated into development in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Traverse City and beyond. This model legislation, in need of amendment only twice in over 46 years, has never failed to serve the people of Michigan and serve them well, just as you as elected officials are morally mandated to do.
I will not belabor you by addressing each devastating alteration to the near perfect legislative tool that is PA 169 called for in HB 5232/SB 720, others have already done that. What I call on you to do now is simple: your job. At a time when we have our citizens literally dying as a result of poor leadership in our state government, we unequivocally cannot afford to waste anymore of your valuable time as public servants with irrational legislation such as this.
HB 5232 and SB 720 are, at their essence, a selfish slap in the face to generations of Michigan citizens, both past and future, bills that are threatening to deprive each and every one of us of an economically stable future. These bills, unlike PA 169 at it’s birth, emerge in response to no crisis at all, NONE. They do NOT constitute a logical governmental response to a pressing need experienced by the majority of citizens whose interests you are tasked to fairly and without bias, represent. They merely represent the selfish desires and greed of a few and, dare I say hijacking, of you, our legislators, at a time when we desperately need you focused on real life or death issues occurring in our state as I write.
I implore you to stop this nonsense in its tracks right now so that you may all get back to the pressing issues of the day. Kill this bill now, in committee, before it kills our communities.