"People first, not potholes" was my first reaction to hearing about Proposal 1, the May 5 ballot proposal to increase funding to fix Michigan’s roads and bridges. As executive director of network180, the behavioral health authority for Kent County (26 agencies providing services to almost 17,000 annually), I am passionate about advocating for funding for mental health services, the disabled and those with special needs. At first glance, fixing potholes didn't rank high on my priority list.
It turns out that my first reaction was wrong. I was reminded by a man using a wheelchair that potholes do affect people and in particular those who have to traverse the roads and intersections around them using wheelchairs, canes and walkers; cyclists and parents pushing strollers and wagons deal with this as well. This man had been in a service van that couldn't swerve around a large pothole and was knocked to the floor. This is just one story of many. Potholes do affect people, particularly those least likely to have a voice in this hotly contested ballot proposal.
Managing daily transit is magnified for those who are not able-bodied when roads and curb cuts are in shambles. Proposal 1 is our best chance to finally get the needed funding that will fix our roads and bridges for the long haul. All of us, whether as individuals or business owners or leaders of treatment agencies such as ours, have to take the long view. This is a solution that Michigan has needed for more than a decade. Our safety – as pedestrians, drivers or passengers – is at risk if we don’t do something.
Proposal 1 also provides guarantees that local governments and schools won’t be cut off at the knees. Our local governments will receive some of the sales tax funding, but it is not "pork" as some claim. Our cities, townships and villages use these revenue sharing dollars to provide us with fire and police protection, amongst other services. I don't know of anyone who thinks these services are "extras" for our communities.
Proposal 1 restores the Earned Income Tax Credit, which will allow many of those whom network180 serves the opportunity to stay in the workforce and get back on their feet. The designated funding to the K-12 schools assures that the money for our children who have special needs within the school system will not get diverted elsewhere.
Overall, Proposal 1 is a solution that Michigan cannot afford to pass up. Network180 strongly supports its passage on May 5.