Feel ignored in Lansing? Let us help you find your voice.

This is a highly important election year.

For the first time in eight years, Michigan is sure to have new faces in all the major state offices ‒ the governorship, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general. In addition, all 148 seats in the state legislature are up for grabs.

Most of the state senators are term-limited. Term limits will also retire nearly a quarter of members of the House, with still more members leaving to run for other jobs.

Related coverage: 

With election day looming this November, the state is starting to fill with the usual noises of politics getting underway: Preening candidates, looking for ways to increase their name ID; party leaders saying nasty things about opponents; fundraising phone calls, many at unwanted and inconvenient times.

Yes, regardless of party or ideology, it's all beginning to sound like the same old thing ... all over again: Vapid political promises, either factually incorrect or borderline libelous.

Top-down interest groups trying to instruct people (who know better) what to think. Fake news, masquerading as fact. Propaganda, passed off as fair-minded discussion.

Rather than elevating our public discourse, in practice our politics and politicians these days seem endlessly occupied with dragging us all down into the gutter of naked self-interest, thinly disguised as ideological purity and partisan advantage.

It was to fight all this steady erosion of our politics and our public policy apparatus that I started the Center for Michigan a dozen years ago. The Center is nonpartisan, nonprofit, data-driven, deeply rooted in this state.

Michigan Truth Squad coverage:

We're not concerned with partisan politics. We don't take sides in elections. Instead, we are doing everything we can to focus attention on real facts and real issues central to a prosperous future for Michigan.

And we're committed to providing credible, trustworthy insight that can help Michigan citizens navigate the state's economy and education system ‒ as well as helping you make intelligent choices at the ballot box.

For more than a decade, we've held community conversations all over Michigan that have now engaged more than 45,000 Michiganders in small, respectful discussion groups. Seems odd to some political theorists that we ought to ask ordinary people what they think, but that's the essence of democracy.

Bridge Magazine, our free online publication, is attracting more than one million readers annually.

Today, the Center for Michigan and Bridge Magazine announce the largest and most comprehensive initiative in our history. Its centerpiece is the 2018 Michigan Truth Tour, an event designed to engage and inform Michigan citizens and amplify facts and substance in this important election year.

Here's what we will be doing throughout this year:

Michigan Truth Squad: Over the years, Bridge Magazine has gained a reputation for accurate, independent and tough-minded fact-checking of candidate records and candidate claims. This year, we’re beefing up our reporting resources to look hard (and more often) at candidate TV and radio commercials, websites, social media feeds, mailers and remarks made in interviews or political events. We kicked off 2018 Truth Squads last week with fact-checks on four leading candidates for governor. Truth Squad will help citizens sort fact from fiction on all sides of state political races, as well as on various ballot proposals.

Michigan Facts & Issues Guide: On Tuesday evening, Gov. Rick Snyder will give his last State of the State speech. But before he speaks, Bridge Magazine will publish our State of the State. The Michigan Facts & Issues Guide will provide comprehensive and authoritative facts, figures and context on the major issues that will define Michigan's future. It will be a quick and easy-to-understand read designed to factually ground candidates of all parties and help voters sort fact from fiction during the campaign season. Bridge and the Center will also print and distribute thousands of copies during the year.

Michigan Solutions Summits: In March, the Center will gather dozens of experts and stakeholders for half-day and day-long gatherings to establish a factual framing for the biggest substantive issues confronting our state: crumbling infrastructure, public education, the health of our cities, economic growth and prosperity. These Solutions Summits will be open to the public and take place in East Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids. You can register for these events by following the instructions in the accompanying story today. LINK to solutions summit posting also running monday.

The Michigan Truth Tour: The Center for Michigan is partnering with leaders from communities across Michigan to hold Truth Tour stops from April through Election Day in November. We'll explore the local context for issues confronting the state, distribute the Michigan Facts & Issues Guide and fact-check campaign events.  And we'll have special showings of our "Michigan Divided" documentary. 

"Michigan Divided" Documentary: Bridge spent the past year chronicling the lives of Michigan voters across the political landscape, whether Republican or Democratic or something else. With segments on families from the U.P., Flint, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Harbor Springs and Jackson, the resulting hour-long "Michigan Divided" documentary will capture our deeply divided political culture. Importantly, however, it will but also explore ways to bring together the diverse core values of Michigan citizens.

The documentary will debut at the Issues Summits in March and will be shown frequently during the Michigan Truth Tour.

Bridge Magazine Expanded Coverage: Bridge readers have told us they want deeper coverage of Great Lakes and natural resources issues and well as expanded watchdog coverage of Lansing policy issues.  We've beefed up our Lansing bureau by hiring an environmental reporter and adding a political watchdog journalist with an eye on Lansing policy issues, the Legislature and the 2018 campaigns.

Taken together, this is the largest and most comprehensive program in our history to give Michiganders the information to help them make our state a better place. We believe the present sad state of our politics and public policy discussions calls for nothing less. And we invite all Michigan citizens who want to make a difference in our state's history to join with us.

Together, there is nothing that can stop us.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

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Dee Dishon
Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:46am

Wow! You folks are great. I’m excited about your plans for this year in the cacophony of misinformation and alternative facts. I’m so glad I donated to Bridge!

Shirley Knott
Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:07am

How are you not a “Top-down interest groups trying to instruct people (...) what to think. “?
This is exemplified, perhaps unwittingly, in “we are doing everything we can to focus attention on real facts and real issues central to a prosperous future for Michigan.”
How do you know what is ‘central to a prosperous future’? Is not disagreement over this the bedrock on which political issues stand?
It is not only possible, it is guaranteed, that there will be a wide range of opinions on what is and what is not ‘desirable’ or ‘central to’ any region’s future?
To assume as a foundation that there is a definitive future for MI, that we can know and evaluate, and influenced or change, with universal agreement as to ‘best’ or ‘worse’ is at least questionable.
The political ‘we’ is vacuous and dishonest. Demonstrably so.
Your organization is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:48pm

Excellent comment, Ms. Knott. Bridge may claim it is non-political, but from what I have seen at one of their town halls, they are just another liberal shill.

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:20pm

Thanks for saying what I was thinking so eloquently, Shirley. I'm interested to see what these publications are like, but it's silly to think that their content would be universally agreeable.

Still, I do think it's an interesting undertaking. Perhaps if they succeed in deeply engaging at least some people, it will lead to a small boost in political interest statewide. That's the best I can hope for from something like this (since I believe the state is inherently flawed).

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 2:26am

Maybe it's just me but the visual of that white van with the blue wave doesn't scream "non-partisan"!