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Speaking truth

My good friend Brit Satchwell, educator and president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, is always on the forefront of fighting for workers and for those in Michigan who are most acutely impacted by the Republicans that currently have control of our state government. Whether it's circulating petitions for the repeal of Public Act 4 -- Michigan's vile Emergency Manager law -- or to recall Governor Rick Snyder or to enshrine collective bargaining rights in our state constitution, Brit is there, defending our democracy.

When the Board of State Canvassers met last week and two Republican men betrayed and silenced the voice of nearly a quarter million Michigan citizens with a vote based on a concocted lie, Brit was there and on his feet shouting "Traitor!" at those men. Detroit News photographer Dale G. Young captured the moment exquisitely (you can see it HERE.)

It's important to note that the mainstream media and others are still misreporting this story. That includes Brian Dickerson in yesterday's Detroit Free Press in a ridiculously titled piece, "Justices poised to decide if size matters". The mainstream media continues to frame the issue as if the petitions were invalid; that Stand Up for Democracy violated the rules.

They did not.

The printer, Bruce Hack of Inland Printing, has submitted a Printers Affidavit swearing that the font is legal and in compliance.  He gave testimony along with screenshots at the hearing proving his point.

The rule that was broken at that meeting was allowing a concocted fabrication -- a LIE -- to be used as a justification for throwing out over 200,000 petition signatures. Whenever you hear someone say, "Well, if they had just followed the rules and gotten their petitions pre-approved, they wouldn't be in this mess," be sure to correct them. The Stand Up for Democracy coalition DID follow the rules. The violation of the rules came when the Norm Shinkle and Jeff Timmer, a man with a proven conflict of interest, ignored the truth and voted "no" on certifying the petitions.

Brit took pen to paper recently and composed a heartfelt and perfectly-worded response to this egregious act which he then sent to the Board. I am republishing it here from the blog of Michigan Forward with permission:

Michigan Board Of State Canvassers,

I reel quite often these days when reading in the press about the gradual yet steady erosion of democratic rights and principles on so many issues.  It is quite another thing to see it in person as I did at your “hearing” last Thursday.  I put “hearing” in quotes because the detailed and compelling expert testimony regarding the PA4 petition’s validity was clearly not heard by Messrs. Timmer and Shinkle.  This is the gentlest face I can put on what I saw and heard quite clearly.  My only other choice is to assume they were not able – either intellectually or ethically – to grasp the testimony that was offered without any rebuttal from those who based their complaint on the size of the font and a few other small scraps of surreal minutiae.

Working for months with other citizens, I collected signatures for this petition under my personal banner of “Let the voters decide”.  My unpaid volunteer efforts were my part, and the part of many others, in the exercise of our rights and the democratic process we have been taught to revere as our birthright.  We played by the rules, and assumed that any even desperate “Hail Mary” after-the fact “interpretation” of the rules would eventually fall in favor of common sense and core democratic principles.  I am not ready to surrender my faith in my fellow citizens or their love of their democratic birthright even as my faith in my government begins to run on empty.

To illustrate this, I want to share that while collecting signatures I encountered many who had sympathy for PA4 and were reluctant to sign.  Once I explained that the petition asked nothing more than that they be allowed to express their personal opinion at the voting booth, that this was their chance to preserve PA4 if they chose to, many signed it.  You see, they got what Messrs. Shinkle and Timmer either missed or chose to ignore: that the public’s right to challenge laws via a petition process that sets a very high bar trumps any one person’s opinion about any law.  The petition is about democracy and the rights of Michigan’s citizens under our state Constitution more than about PA4.  We can disagree on PA4.  Indeed, let’s do so once it has been legally placed on the ballot!  But we cannot discard the process that allows us to disagree as a civilized society if democracy is to survive.

The font size issue was the best, if laughable, red herring that the partners at Sterling Corporation could devise.  That Mr. Timmer refused to recuse himself from the hearing was an offense to any sense of ethical fair play.  I entered the hearing embarrassed on his behalf.  That the testimony challenging the font size was delivered with a straight face now ranks as a performance to challenge Welles in Citizen Kane (or any one of Jerry Lewis’ movies with Dean Martin… I am torn).  The testimony then blew the font herring out of the water and documented appellate rulings regarding substantial compliance.  No defintion of “substantial” could be applied to the disputed microns of font size that were deemed by expert testimony to not even exist.  I left the hearing more than embarrassed for Michigan, the Board of Canvassers, for Messrs. Shinkle and Timmer.  I was, and remain, outraged that such an abrogation of democratic processes could take place in public under the guise of appropriate government process.

My condolences to every citizen in the state regardless of their political stripe and to the American flag lapel pin worn by Mr. Shinkle at the hearing.  Mr. Shinkle, your vote was a public desecration of our flag.  Please either scratch off the 26 star (Michigan) so that the other 49 states can fly it at half mast honestly or have the simple decency to wear a caveat pin underneath it: “MY definition of America, that is.”  Mr. Timmer, this advice goes for you as well if you have the unmitigated temerity to pull an American flag pin out of your drawer at home and wear it with a straight face.  Shame on both of you.  Shame.

With as much respect as I can muster,

Brit Satchwell
Ann Arbor Education Association President

Amen, Brother Satchwell. Amen.

This fight is not over and we have many more that are ongoing. Next Saturday is what I am calling "Democracy Day" in Michigan. From 9:00 a.m. until noon, Democrats across the state will hold their presidential caucuses. I am running the one in Dexter, in fact. Starting at 2:00, there will be a rally on the steps of the Capitol building to kick off the second attempt to recall Governor Rick Snyder, the CEO governor who is at the helm of this misguided ship.

Please plan to attend and lend your voice to the thousands of others calling for new leadership in this state, starting at the top. Details of the rally can be found HERE.

Now is not the time to quit fighting. Never have our efforts been more important.

[Image credits: Chris Savage | Eclectablog]

Cross-posted from Eclectablog.

Originally posted to Eclectablog - eclectic blogging for a better tomorrow on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Michigan, My Michigan and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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