Town hall shows Michigan residents have 'very low' trust in state government

By Kyle Doyle | 9/28/16 10:24pm

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GVL/Kyle Doyle - Senior editor David Zeman and Bridge magazine contributor Ted Roelofs

by Kyle Doyle / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Since the Flint water crisis and issues with the Detroit emergency manager, Michiganders aren’t feeling much love towards Lansing.

Because of this, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group called the Center for Michigan set up a town hall event Tuesday, Sept. 27 to talk about how to restore the public trust in state government at Grand Valley State University.

The event, held at the DeVos Center on GVSU's Pew Campus, stems from a series of community conversation campaigns put on by a nonprofit, nonpartisan group called the Center for Michigan, created in 2006. The center hosts events like these all over the state, compiling the information into a “citizens' agenda” and sending it to state lawmakers.

“Our mission is really to help bring public voice to Michigan’s public policy,” said Amber DeLind, engagement strategy director for the Center for Michigan. “We help amplify voices to elected leaders, community leaders, and those who help make decisions across the state.

The event focused on asking attendees to vote with remotes and follow along with an issue guide, both of which were received at the door, and to voice their opinion on way the Michigan state government has failed or done things poorly and ways it could be better.

Attendees were asked to rate their trust on a scale from "very high" to "very low," then were presented with a list of solutions on what they think would be the best solution to the issue at hand.

Results were mostly negative for the trust portion.

Of the people in attendance, 88 percent voted they had very low trust in the government's ability to handle educational affairs. Every single attendee said they had low to very low trust in Michigan’s voting laws and 50 percent voted "very low" for their trust in the government's ability to handle public health.

Audience members touched on topics ranging from the Flint water crisis to voter laws, to transparency issues to issues of representatives not having the issues of their constituents at heart.

“I’m very intrigued when you talk about politics or when you really engage individuals in understanding what’s happening in local government," said Terrell Couch, GVSU senior. "But it was very interesting to have that first-hand appeal and actually click in and say 'this is how I feel about a topic' and be able to explain it with people in the room.”

The second half of the event kicked off with a presentation from members of the 'Truth Squad,' a group of fact checkers from the Center for Michigan’s online journal, Bridge.

These two members were senior editor David Zeman and Bridge magazine contributor Ted Roelofs.

The two spoke about the goal of the Truth Squad and the different ways in which politicians go after each other with claims that may not always be true. Zeman said they look into underlying messages, not the ideology.

The conversation gave students and community members an opportunity to voice their opinion and it was an event Couch hopes will happen again.

“I wish we’d do it one more time on Allendale's Campus just to engage people and see how much they do know about what's happening in their politics before they end up going out the ballot box and having to vote,” Couch said.

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