Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's Time for a Warm-Up

Well, winter has definitely hit and I’m grounded. Guess that’s a good reason to share some thoughts. It seems like the situation in Lansing keeps getting worse and worse. The only thing colder that the weather are the actions of Governor Snyder and the Republican Legislature:

  1. $470 cut per-pupil in education funding
  2. Taxing Seniors to create a big business tax break
  3. Losing $7 million a day in federal funding because Tea Party Conservatives refuse to give Medicaid expansion immediate effect
  4. Passage of the “rape insurance” bill denying women health care
  5. Near elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Lansing Republicans are leaving middle class families in the cold. I’m ready for a warm up. It’s time for a change in Lansing.

Monday, May 27, 2013

More Reasons For Change

Spring has finally sprung and my garden calls. But the bad ideas keep coming from Lansing. Evidently, those in power think that the slow down in Foreclosures is a bad thing. They seem to think we need more so they are working to pass SB 383. I have been asked to pass on the following information. Sent your Representatives the message below.

Please oppose SB 383
Shortening Michigan’s 6 month Redemption from 6 months to 60 days would be a major step backwards for homeowners, neighborhood and communities, all of whom suffer when a foreclosure occurs and/or a family is displaced.

We already have enough people on the street.

Please continue the 6 month redemption program. It will help maintain and raise property values in our communities .

Friday, May 17, 2013

Supporting Medicaid Expansinon

This column in the Grand Rapids Press seems to show more and more people are supporting Medicaid expansion, the Governor, businesses, and providers. What’s wrong with the Legislature?

[The below article was taken from mLive. Read the original here]


Richard C. Breon is president and CEO of Spectrum Health System and Roger Spoelman is president and CEO of Mercy Health, Trinity Health West Michigan.

By Richard C. Breon and Roger Spoelman

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — As the CEOs of two major health systems in Michigan, we support Gov. Snyder’s Healthy Michigan Plan that strives to improve and strengthen our state’s Medicaid program and offer health insurance to low-income working adults.

Failing to accept federal support to provide health insurance to an estimated 450,000 working Michigan adults – including many veterans – will have serious consequences to our local economy.

Michigan will forgo about $2.1 billion in economic activity and an estimated 18,000 new jobs generated by the additional federal dollars coming into the state’s health care system.

Business leaders across Michigan -- including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Association of Michigan and the Detroit Regional Chamber – are quick to point out that Medicaid reform can help slow increasing health insurance premiums paid by Michigan employers by reducing uncompensated care in Michigan hospitals.

According to some estimates, this cost-shift has imposed a hidden tax of about $1,000 per family through higher health insurance premiums.

Some have suggested that the state cannot afford to enhance Medicaid. Yet this argument is not supported by several reports that conclude with matching federal dollars, the curbing of cost-shifting, and the resulting healthier workforce, Michigan actually saves money by strengthening Medicaid. Adopting the Governor’s plan would also address untreated health issues of the currently uninsured, putting patients and their families on a healthier course.

Today’s Medicaid program is not perfect. The historical challenges relative to health care provider reimbursement and primary care access will not evaporate overnight.

However, by embracing the opportunity to enhance Michigan's Medicaid program, we can improve health outcomes and program sustainability while creating efficiencies that will enable us to cover more of our citizens.

Our hospitals and clinical staff have a long history of treating the uninsured and underinsured in West Michigan. While not the easy thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

But we cannot solve the problems of the uninsured and underinsured on our own. Legislators have a unique opportunity to provide additional access to health care services for these vulnerable populations, relieve our businesses of some of the burden of cost-shifting, create new jobs and save our state precious tax dollars.

To those who argue we cannot afford to support Gov. Snyder’s plan, we say: We cannot afford not to support it.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

We Have to Build a Movement — Take Action Now!

I was surprised and gratified by the response to my last blog on the comments I made at the Michigan Rebuilding Communities Conference. One reader asked me to share “what is happening right now as well as your top three courses of action.” Some suggested we needed to prioritize the issues. Still other comments centered on needing to know “where or how can we find the background that we need to best prepare ourselves before we pick up a phone or pen”. 

I am very glad to have all your support and in the upcoming weeks (and months) will try to address these questions. But as with everything political, timing is everything. Today, we need to work on expanding Medicaid. Last Monday, May 6, MLive ran an article on the Michigan state budget process and Medicaid Expansion, and we must act. The Governor has proposed to accept and appropriate federal funds to expand Medicaid. The State House has advanced a budget bill without funds for expansion. The Senate is still considering the question. If the Senate includes funding, there will be debate between the two Chambers in coming weeks. The federal government covers ALL the costs of Medicaid expansion through 2016 before gradually reducing funding to 90% in 2020. Governor Snyder expects general fund savings through 2020 and has proposed an innovative health savings fund to mitigate FEARS over future costs. The expansion will actually save the state $206 million in general fund spending for 3 years. 400,000 hard working, low income adults, children, and people with disabilities will gain access to health care. It is a true win, win situation. 


 Senate leadership is: 
– Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville: 517- 373-3543 senrichardville@senate.michigan.gov 
– Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Kahn: 517- 373-1760 senrkahn@senate.michigan.gov 
– Senate Appropriations Community Health Subcommittee Chair
John Moolenaar: 517- 373-7946 senjmoolenaar@senate.michigan.gov 

 In Kent County Call: 
– Senators Mark Jansen (866-305-2128) senmjansen@senate.michigan.gov 
– Dave Hildenbrand (866-305-2129) sendhildenbrand@senate.michigan.gov 

Others call your elected Senator. Then call your State Representative and tell them how important expanding Medicaid is. And don’t hesitate to write a letter. Letters are very influential. Time is running short. 

Here are some talking points to make your work easier. More information can be found at http://consumersforhealthcare.org/. You can also contact me at frank@organizegr.com.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Comments at the Michigan Rebuilding Community Conference

One Party Rule 

Thank you. I’d especially want to thank Norm DeLyle and everyone from the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, and Paul Ecklund and the Michigan Disability Housing Work Group. And all my colleagues. Receiving the Corrie Bair Award is a great honor. 

I also want to thank Congressman Barney Frank for his comments yesterday. I think his comments about the Defense Budget and its affect on affordable housing were particularly on target. We certainly need a National Housing Trust Fund and Congressman Frank has been a champion of the Trust Fund for many years. He will be missed. 

I never knew Corrie Bair but I have know many others who have received the award including the late Cheryl Trometter and they have all done amazing work. I am proud to be included in such a great group. 

I’ve been an organizer for 25 years and was trained by Shel Trap from National Training and Information Center who also trained ADAPT, an organization Corrie helped to start in Michigan. Over the years we have had lots of victories including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Community Reinvestment Act. Victories in Washington, Lansing, across the country and in our cities. We seen many of our cities rebuilt and a strong middle class develop. But now that is threatened. Recently we’ve had some big loses. Programs are being cut such as support for housing, education, food and legal assistance. We can’t even expand Medicaid, even though it will cost us nothing. That’s 400,000 children, PWD and low wage workers that won’t get health care coverage. Job training programs and the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps working people have been slashed while millionaires/billionaires are protected. We’ve seen Right to Work pass hurting the working middle class. We’ve also had tax cuts for businesses made that are paid for by tax increases on seniors. Our cities have been taken over by unelected Emergency Managers. Now they even want to change how we elect the President of the United States. This is all just crazy. 

But as Ed Roberts, the Father of Centers for Independent Living and the Disability Movement said, out of threats come opportunities. We have many opportunities, opportunities to organize and take control of our lives. We need to come together!!! Dare I say, we may need to become political! One party rule doesn’t work for North Korea and it doesn’t work for Michigan. If we don’t, there will be no community development, no rebuilding communities. I challenge you to break new ground, to take back what is ours. We can’t go on this way! We can’t continue down this path. It’s time to take action, together. 

So everyone, as Barney Frank said yesterday, get out your cell phones and start calling: 
US Congress (202) 224-3121 
State Senate (517) 373-2400 
State House (517) 373-6339 

And I would like to recommend that everyone get a copy of this pamphlet; the Citizen’s Guide to State Government and use it everyday. 

Let’s get organized! It’s our only chance. Thank you, 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tell Lansing to Stop the Shell Game

We need your help today right away to remind Lansing that we care about our local public schools!

The Legislature is voting today on school funding - for everyone's district. While the final numbers might change a bit, the choices they make now will shape the kind of support our schools get. Unfortunately, it looks as if our Legislature just doesn't think our schools need any support. 

A few key things about the budget proposals now on the table: 
  • They all divert $400 million in funding intended for K-12 schools to colleges and universities (instead of finding an honest way of paying for higher education); 
  • Total dollars available to our K-12 schools will be LESS than this year, no matter which plan they pick; 
  • The plans really only differ in how they shift some money around in a strange kind of shell game;
  • They all sneak in a provision that looks innocent but really opens the door to the "one from column A, one from column B" kind of funding system proposed in the infamous "Oxford report" - which is really a backdoor voucher system. 
Let Lansing know what you think! Contact your lawmakers today by phone or email. 
Key things to tell them: 
  1. We didn't like the Oxford Foundation in December ("unbundling" of school classes so kids take classes from multiple entities and our community schools are destroyed) in December and we don't like it now. While claiming the Oxford Foundation was "dead" and being told by all our legislators that it was "going nowhere," it turns out that is not the case. The "2 online classes" they snuck into the budgets is just a hidden Oxford Foundation plan. Tell you legislators NO to that provision (this does NOT impact the innovative online practices being used currently by your districts). The secret meetings revealed last week via the Detroit News show the master plan: park kids in front of computer screens to further cut education and end community schools. This is real folks—I'm not making this up. 
  2. Fund the pensions fairly. Charter schools do not have to pay into the pension fund and thus should not receive the same allocation per student—the pension fund problem should be fixed in Lansing since they created the problem. It isn't fair to bill districts for the liability AFTER distributing the money (charters then just get to keep that extra money). 
  3. Stop the continued raid of the School Aid Fund. Our schools are devastated and cannot cut anymore without our children's education suffering dearly. Tell legislators, who all say they support schools, to actually do that—support the schools. 
Content Credit: Steve Norton from Michigan Parents for Schools

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Intelligent Thought From Government?


Last week showed the real schizophrenia of the USA. The paradox between the reaction to what happened in Boston and the fact that the Senate couldn’t pass a watered down gun control bill is unbelievable. This article puts it pretty well. When are we ever going to get some intelligent thought from our elected officials in Washington and Lansing? There has to be a change.