Last week, local elections were held in many parts of the state. Among other things, people were asked to support increases in transit funding in five of the elections – and the millage increases passed in every case!
Three of the votes—in Benzie County, Kalkaska County, and the Holland area—won by 3-to-1 margins; the fourth, in Grand Haven Township, won by a 2-to-1 margin. The fifth, in the Grand Rapids area, was very close, winning by a margin of just 126 votes.
The vote in the Grand Rapids area is also interesting. Voters there approved a millage renewal and a 0.35 mil increase, for a total levy of 1.47 mils for transportation. The revenue will fund the first bus rapid transit project in Michigan linking downtown Grand Rapids to Gaines Township. A previous vote had failed.
All of this is happening against the backdrop of state lawmakers considering further cutting already insufficient state funding of public transit. People seem to think transit is important to the point of increasing their own local contribution – at least in these five communities. But, this follows a pattern that we saw in the last general election, when many of the millage increases for both transit and road funding were approved by the voters.
So, are state lawmakers really voting for what their constituents want or are they voting their own personal convictions? I wonder how people will react to the potential situation where they vote to increase spending for transit and the legislature votes to cut spending for public transit? The lack of an increase in funding for needed road and transit projects grows more desperate all the time. Throw in the likely scenario of the federal government also cutting highway and transit funding and it is even worse.
So, what does this mean? Seems like the people in these five communities are more focused on the outcomes – on the need for and the quality of the service than the extra money that would be coming out of their pocket. Isn’t it time we all were?