Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gearing up for the August 5th Primary

Kent County residents are beginning to get bombarded with campaign literature related to primary elections, millages and ballot proposals as the August 5 date approaches. For some this means nothing more than more flyers to pitch into the recycling, while for others the tension heightens as they speculate about tax revenues, loss of services or employment, or just undesirable political representation.

Locally, it's obvious that some people are shaken or made nervous by what recent polling has revealed. Election yard signs have been destroyed or stolen, and political polling and pamphleting has been ramped up considerably. Several candidates have announced and held town halls to further dialogue with their potential electorate. Some of this outreach has been largely smear tactics as with an apparently Brian Ellis-financed telephone poll that begins with questions that seem objective and then lists a series of statements and accusations about Justin Amash designed to manipulate the polled citizen rather than measure any upcoming vote. Amash is a polarizing candidate, and his beliefs and stances often clash with the interests of many in his congressional district, but questions framed like, "If we told you Amash owns an expensive house in [X], would that make you more likely to change your vote?" "Much more likely?" seem crafted to exploit and arouse negative emotions, not measure political opinions.

In Kent County, but not in the City of Grand Rapids, voters will be asked to decide on whether to vote yes on a millage to continue funding Kent District Library. If this millage does not pass, the library system will not be able to continue operating into 2015. For many people who depend on library services for education, entertainment, or job searching or who work for the KDL system, this is a nailbiter issue.

Proposal 1 will appear on all ballots because it's a state-wide attempt to eliminate the Personal Property Tax, which is an annual tax levied on business equipment and machinery, and replace it with a Local Community Stabilization Share Tax. Many business owners object to paying annual taxes on aging equipment, but some municipalities rely heavily on income from the PPT and would have to significantly limit services if it were simply eliminated. Proposal 1 aims to stem the flow of Michigan owners selling their businesses or moving them to states with lesser tax burdens.

For local citizens unaware of what will be on the ballot August 5 or unsure of what the proposals or millages may mean for them, Mlive just put out a voter guide designed to help. The guide pulls up election choices by address and is a good place to begin assembling information on candidates and issues. The length of the guide varies by location, and it would be a good idea to look at it earlier, rather than later, in order to make more informed voting choices.

See you at the polls on August 5th!