Michigan people power sends big message

LANSING, Mich. — Like their counterparts elsewhere, people in this battleground state are finding creative ways to defeat Bush. Recently erected on streets near the state capital are three billboards stating, “For All Our Children’s Future, Lansing Area Families for Kerry.”

Local activists who were part of the initiative to place the billboards said Lansing residents were fearful of the additional hardships a second Bush term would bring and were angry that Bush billboards dominated the city. They said they wanted to publicly show that many in the community felt otherwise.

The campaign started with a meeting of 10 or so people. Many were parents or grandparents who previously had never been involved in a presidential campaign but were especially alarmed how George Bush’s policies are negatively affecting children. Their attitude was, “If we can’t do it for our children, who can we do it for?”

They wrote “An open letter to our community” that began: “We are a group of Lansing families profoundly concerned about the upcoming presidential election and convinced that a change in leadership is essential. … Over the last four years, we have become increasingly alarmed by George W. Bush’s policies on issues that affect our lives and the lives of our children.”

Each person was asked to reach out to 20 others and ask them to sign the letter and contribute to the fundraising effort. “A ripple effect” began, and in no time, over 300 people had signed up and made a donation.

The letter focuses on four areas where the Bush agenda has failed: the economy, Iraq, health care and education. It points out that Michigan has lost more than 250,000 jobs, has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country (around 7 percent), and the average Michigan family is earning $4,600 less per year than it did in 2000.

The letter points out there are now more uninsured people, 45 million, than have ever been reported since the Census Bureau first began releasing this data in 1987. Regarding Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” mandate for public schools, it states Bush underfunded the program by over $1 billion in Michigan and cut funds for Head Start, special education and after school programs.

Finally the letter points out that a better future is possible and how the program of Kerry-Edwards offers solutions. It urges everyone to vote for Kerry and to reach out to other families to support him as well. It concludes, “Together, we can safeguard the course of America’s — and our families’ — future.”

The author can be reached at jrummel@cpusa.org.