The Michigan Democratic Party Needs An Animal Protection Caucus

The MDP has dragged it feet on approving the animal protection caucus. Animal welfare is an important issue that deserves attention.

Paperwork was filed in January 2017 with the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) to start an animal protection caucus to advocate for humane legislation, educate legislators and their staff on the need for sensible animal protection legislation, and improve animal welfare in the state.  The MDP is dragging its feet on approving the caucus that would protect the voiceless in our state.

Animal protection caucuses are popular.  Congress formed the House Congressional Animal Protection Caucus in 2009.  Members of Congress, such as Representative McCollum, are even showcasing animal protection issues on their websites.  California lawmakers also formed an animal caucus in 2010.

There are plenty of issues that we need to get to work on in Michigan.  We need to overturn breed specific legislation (BSL).  BSL bans certain breeds of dogs.  No evidence suggests that BSL works.  It just harms dogs and breaks up Michigan families.

We need to pass HB 4025, which provides penalties for persons engaged in cruel treatment of companion animals in the presence of a child.  HB 4026 is important to protect animals in domestic violence situations.  Each day the MDP drags its feet on approving the caucus, the less likely it is for these bills to pass.  There are many other bills affecting animals pending in the Michigan Legislature, and there will be more to come.  The clock is ticking.  

The need for an animal caucus is clear.  Some committee chairs are stubborn and won’t let a bill out of committee for such vain reasons such as not supporting the animal welfare nonprofit organization that is spearheading the bill.  If there is a caucus within the Democratic Party, we can reach out to these legislators to work out any objections.

A state representative sent a letter of recommendation to the Michigan Democratic Party to approve the caucus.  Now, it’s your turn.  

Please politely contact MDP Chair, Brandon Dillon, in support of the Animal Protection Caucus:

Brandon Dillon, Chair
Michigan Democratic Party
606 Townsend St.
Lansing, MI 48933-2313
(517) 371-5410
bdillon@michigandems.com

Brandon, animals need a voice in the Michigan Democratic Party.  

UPDATE:

Brandon Dillon has rejected the animal caucus.

Brandon Dillon E-mail

The State Harasses Food Assistance Recipient

DHHS makes constituents live up to its rules, but DHHS doesn’t follow them.

Those in Michigan who need food assistance and healthcare are increasingly facing obstacles from the State of Michigan. I am one case in point. Around 2009/2010, I applied for food stamps myself. The Department of Human Services (DHS) kept giving me the runaround requesting paperwork I had already sent them. Only after I had a letter to the editor published in the Lansing State Journal about the issue, did DHS approve my food assistance.

In December 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) asked me to fill out redetermination paperwork and to conduct a phone interview with DHHS in December 2016. The next thing I know, DHHS cut off my food stamps and Medicaid, because they said I didn’t return some paperwork. When I asked what paperwork I didn’t return, my caseworker said he needed my taxes from the previous year, which they had not asked for. I’m not psychic. If they don’t ask for something, I cannot provide it. Once he told me what was needed, I provided it and was quickly approved again for food stamps and Medicaid.

In December, DHHS informed me that starting January 2017, those on food stamps would have to do community service hours to continue to receive them. They said I must attend orientation at Michigan Works — which was not to be held until mid-January — in order to learn about it. Michigan Works stated during the presentation that since orientation was in the middle of the month, DHHS would probably accept doing half the amount of required hours for the month. He did state he didn’t know for sure. It made sense and would be the fair, logical hypothesis. I am required to do 21 hours per month. I did 11 for the second half of January 2017. DHHS did not accept my hours.

In February 2017, I did 34 community service hours, which is well over the required 21 hours. I submitted my hours to Michigan Works as required. DHHS sent me a letter stating I did not do them. When I received the letter, I immediately submitted the hours directly to my DHHS caseworker, Rishard Thomas, via fax. Still, DHHS would not accept or even acknowledge that I did the hours. No explanation was given.

There was absolutely no reason not to accept February’s community service hours.

I e-mailed the governor’s office repeatedly about DHHS not accepting my hours. The governor’s office kept ignoring me until I e-mailed Governor Synder’s chief of staff. At that point, the governor’s office sent me e-mails stating that DHHS had talked to me on the phone about my complaint, which is not true. The governor’s office stated there was nothing more they could do. They didn’t care that I had proof of my hours for February. They didn’t care if DHHS played by the rules or not. Shockingly, the governor’s office said they would not reply to any more of my e-mails.

I used to work for the Michigan House of Representatives. I worked on constituent casework on issues such as food stamps. It’s not that difficult. I can tell you the governor’s office did a very poor, unprofessional, job with my case. The governor’s office could have easily asked DHHS to review the proof of my 34 hours.

Leann Foote, the District Manager for Oakland County DHHS, sent an internal e-mail, which I obtained through a FOIA request, on March 21, 2017 to a co-worker stating, “Mr. McMullin can be a difficult customer to work with…” I’m being a “difficult customer”, because I met DHHS’ requirements, was denied and want to know why I was denied? Foote goes on to say, “Mr. McMullin has not [met] TLFA countable hours for work, community service, or MWA participation requirements.” I did 13 more hours than required, actually, for the month of February.

After I filed complaints with my state representative, state senator, governor’s office, the director of DHHS, and the USDA; DHHS finally indicated on April 6, 2017 that they accepted my community service hours for February. DHHS’ April 6th e-mail to me stated, “The hours you reported for the month of February have been recorded and it shows that you met the requirements for the month.”

It shouldn’t take all of this constant hassle for those in need to receive food assistance.

Maybe the governor’s office or DHHS should hire me. I’ve been applying for jobs with the State since I graduated with my first degree in 2004. I’m educated and a hard worker. It sounds like the State could use a competent worker in the executive branch and DHHS.

It’s time for change at DHHS.

Image of EBT card courtesy of http://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71551_7034—,00.html

The Cannabis Caucus

By: Sarah Galey, Steve Monti, and Nikki Monti

Activists sharing ideas at the first meeting of the MDP’s Cannabis Caucus.

This week members of Michigan’s Cannabis community have scored a huge victory in the fight to end the 60 year prohibition on Cannabis. Cannabis activists have been working with allies in the MDP, including chair Brandon Dillon, to form an official caucus within the MDP. And on May 1 history was made when that charter was granted, making Michigan the first state to formally integrate Cannabis activism with traditional party politics. Evidence strongly indicates the Cannabis community, who have traditionally been disenfranchised from mainstream politics, represent a vast pool of untapped electoral resources. In practical terms, by embracing and supporting the Cannabis community, the MDP will gain a powerful electoral base.

The Cannabis Caucus will represent the interests of Michigan’s Cannabis community. Their target constituencies include local Cannabis workers and patients that occupy Michigan’s rapidly growing industry for medical use, as well as citizens that support ending the prohibition on recreational Cannabis use. In 2008, 63% of Michiganders voted to legalize medical Cannabis, while over 200,000 patients benefit from medical cannabis in Michigan. Meanwhile, polls show upward trends in support for recreational use.

In Michigan, Cannabis is a salient issue for a diverse group of interests for cultural, economic and health-related reasons and will mobilize voters. Cannabis is a young industry and represents one of the few economic opportunities available that provide a living wage. Many young entrepreneurs are flourishing and give their peers hope amidst dismal economic conditions. For others, access to Cannabis means the difference between chronic pain and a life of relative normalcy. A growing body of scientific research has demonstrated the medical benefits of cannabis for a range of diseases, including cancer, opioid addiction, chronic pain, and a variety of autoimmune disorders. And for many more, the criminalization of Cannabis is an issue of morality and justice.

Perhaps even more important, however, is the symbolic significance of the Cannabis Caucus. Democrats will have now an opportunity to dispel the impression that political leaders are out of touch with contemporary beliefs about Cannabis. Over the past decade, public opinion towards Cannabis use has shifted substantially. Ten years ago only 30% of American voters agreed Cannabis should be legally available for recreation use, while 60% were opposed. Today those numbers are reversed. However, sensible public policy lags behind reasonable attitudes towards Cannabis use. In part, politicians remain hesitant to support an issue that, not long ago, would have meant electoral suicide. But times have changed. The caucus will provide the Cannabis community with institutional legitimacy and a platform to facilitate a much needed conversation with the broader public to rectify longstanding cultural beliefs about Cannabis use.

Something new to the Cannabis Caucus in comparison to its grassroots predecessors is a focus on workers’ rights and protecting local business owners. Michigan’s Cannabis community that provides the product and distribution chains for patients have laid the groundwork for a vibrant local economy for legal Cannabis. The Cannabis industry provides jobs and income for hundreds of Michigan families and has the potential to generate many more. Rulings and laws that regulate Cannabis use impact these groups dramatically, particularly the last two, which rely on properly regulated industry for their health and livelihoods respectively.

The Michigan Democratic Party will be a formidable ally in the epic struggle to end the harmful prohibition of Cannabis and to ensure that the interests of patients, caregivers, Cannabis workers and small business owners are represented in future legislation.

For more information, please contact micannacaucus@gmail.com or visit the Cannabis Caucus Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MICannaCaucus/

Job Postings, 5/8/17

We compile and post progressive, politically-related job opportunities. If you’d like us to add a job opening, contact us at michiganprogressive6@gmail.com.

 

United Way is hiring for the following position:

Summer 2017 Public Policy Fellowship (Paid)

http://www.liveunitedsem.org/careers/entry/public-policy-fellowship-summer-2017

ACCESS is hiring for the following positions:

Community Events Organizer (Arab American National Museum)

Communications Specialist I

Advocacy Specialist

https://www.accesscommunity.org/node/762

BuildOn is hiring for the following positions:

Development Director, Detroit

https://www.buildon.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/External.Development-Director-Detroit.JD_.May-2017.pdf

Service Learning Program Coordinator, Detroit

https://www.buildon.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/SL-Program-Coordinators-March-2017.pdf

The Ruth Ellis Center is hiring for the following positions:

Trans Mental Health Professional

Family Case Manager

Youth Specialist

https://ruthelliscenter.gethired.com/

 

 

We All Know It’s Broken: Let’s Fix the Coordinated Campaign

The Democratic coordinated campaign in Michigan is routinely panned by activists, organizers, and party leaders every two years. For those unfamiliar, the “coordinated” is an opportunity for candidates running at the federal, state, and local level to share resources, create economies of scale, and increase overall democratic turnout. Most of this is led by the “statewide coordinated” program, which hires dozens (sometimes hundreds) of organizers, and the rest by congressional districts and local parties to fill gaps in the statewide effort. It’s a good idea in theory, but has repeatedly come up short in getting Democrats elected.

Perhaps what’s most frustrating about the coordinated campaign is that while most acknowledge it has significant room for improvement, little is done to fix it. After the campaign is over, little systematic analysis is done to determine key problems and what can be improved on. We hear all of the horror stories, about the dysfunction, the lack of coordination, how it’s no wonder we keep losing, and so on. Then we hear who’s to blame, which usually falls on national organizations outside of Michigan that “made all the decisions,” absolving state and local leaders of responsibility for the debacle.

Every two years, the cycle repeats. Here’s a short list of things we have come to expect from the Democratic coordinated campaign in Michigan:

  • A significant percentage (in some years over 50%) of campaign staff will be hired from out-of-state. Many organizers will have no prior campaign experience.
  • The vast majority of staff will be hired in the last two to three months before the election, well past the point when the most experienced organizers are typically hired
  • The vast majority of organizing and field work will occur in the two months prior the election, with little emphasis on long-term organizing to build the party and to develop long-term grassroots leadership.
  • Much of the coordinated staff will work inhumane hours (12 hour days, seven days a week) and will quit before the campaign is over.
  • While some counties and congressional districts run effective programs for candidates to share resources, most barely scratch the surface on the level of coordination that’s possible.
  • Many activists will tell horror stories and pledge to never work with the coordinated campaign again.
  • Little scientific research will be done to identify best practices for turning out voters. Also, little work will be done identifying best practices for organizing locally so we can learn for future campaigns.

This is an abbreviated list. A comprehensive survey of statewide activists would provide a lot more insight. It shows, though, that there are basic problems the party could address to win more elections. Yes, the party has a messaging problem, but it also has an organizing problem. This could be addressed in a significant way if leadership decided it was important enough.

At this point, many usually say, “Yes, we know it’s dysfunctional, but all the major decisions are made by national funders and large stakeholders, so we’re powerless to do anything.” This is a typical excuse and a flawed way of thinking, for a number of reasons. First, it fails to recognize that the coordinated campaign ultimately relies on us–activists, volunteers, and party officials in Michigan–to power it. Without us, there is no campaign, and we should leverage that. Second, it reflects an extreme deference to those with money and power. Publicly, the party opposes the idea that money and power should control who makes key decisions, yet when it comes to the operations within the party, we let “funders” call the shots. Third, it fails to recognize that the next coordinated campaign might be interested in learning from some of the mistakes of the last one. Many of these people who work on the coordinated campaign are talented organizers, but without post-election data and analysis to work with, many of the same mistakes are repeated. Fourth, a lot of campaign work occurs at the local and district level independent of the statewide effort, which presents an enormous opportunity for improved coordination. An effort to assist district and local parties in their coordinated efforts could go a long way. Finally, let’s not forget that we have already lost nearly everything to the Republicans in Michigan. What we have been doing over the last several years hasn’t worked, so what do we have to lose by trying something different?

So here are some basic, common sense things that could be done to begin improving the coordinated campaign in Michigan:

  • Develop an organizer pipeline to recruit and retain some of the best organizing talent in the state for the coordinated campaign. This needs to happen anyway, and would help support campaigns across the state.
  • Develop best practices for organizer training and management in partnership with organizations that have significant organizing experience
  • Hire organizing staff early. The coordinated campaign should start at least one year in advance and integrate with the grassroots organizing team the Michigan Democratic Party is developing. It should work to engage progressive grassroots organizations from across the State to identify activists early. It should develop a strong precinct delegate program, and begin the work of connecting with low-propensity Democratic voters as soon as possible.The Democratic base consists of more sporadic voters, and so we don’t have the luxury to start organizing three months out from the election
  • Develop a practical model for counties, congressional districts, and down-ballot campaigns to share resources and partner with races at the top of the ticket. This should include hiring shared staff and focusing on turnout, which benefits all Democratic races. Most campaigns and local parties are obsessed with persuasion, when the fact is that dedicating just a fraction of their resources to joint-turnout programs would be extremely cost effective. Higher democratic voter turnout benefits all down-ballot democrats, and there should be a statewide strategy for turning people out
  • Develop a culture of scientific testing using control group research to determine which tactics were cost effective. Work to disseminate findings and train organizers in best practices and how to design effective campaign experiments to build the knowledge base, similar to the work of the Analyst Institute
  • Conduct a comprehensive autopsy of the coordinated campaign from 2016 and 2014. Gather data and collect feedback about what can be improved from activists, county parties, clubs, congressional districts, clubs, previous coordinated campaign staff, previous coordinated campaign volunteers, and progressive organizations. Engage in a meaningful dialogue with those doing the work at the local level and develop a comprehensive report with recommendations for the next coordinated campaign.

No one person has all the answers on how we fix the Democratic coordinated campaign. I certainly don’t. Neither does the party leadership, or even those who have worked on the coordinated campaign and seen most of its problems first-hand. A statewide committee should conduct a comprehensive review of the previous coordinated campaigns and write-up a report. That means reaching out to everyone that was involved in prior coordinated campaigns for feedback. Through this outreach, the committee would discover issues that people had forgotten about, never thought of, or that are particular to a certain region of the state. But it needs to start soon. Otherwise, it’s just the same mistakes on repeat, and we cannot afford another decade of Republican control.