Community conversation

The Center for Michigan is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization; their objective is to make Michigan a better place by encouraging greater understanding and involvement in policy issues among the state’s citizens and making sure their voices are heard.

With elections coming up in November, Michigan has important choices to make. The Center for Michigan has been all over the state to engage residents in the upcoming campaign. The Center asked Michigan residents, “What issues do you want candidates to address on the campaign trail -and in the state capitol, once elected?”

A report was then created for candidates based on the results from Michigan residents. Candidates are able to view the report online and represent the needs that are listed.

Michigan residents were able to identify some key issues and have provided suggestions to address those problems. More than 5,500 Michigan residents came together in 166 Community Conversations from late September 2013 through early April 2014 to conclude the results of this report.

The Community Conversation began with a conversation starter that asked “how do you feel about Michigan today?” Michigan residents are feeling somewhat optimistic about the state and its future. Sixty percent of both conversation and poll participants say they feel either “good” or “great” about Michigan right now.

Michigan residents also believe that things have gotten a bit better for our state over the past four years. Half of Community Conversation participants say Michigan is at least a slightly better place to live and work than it was four years ago.

The Center for Michigan came to Marquette in March and asked 15 Marquette County residents to participate in a Community Conversation. The goal of the conversation was to receive citizen-driven input on the 2014 Michigan elections. During the conversation the residents talked about four-big picture issues: education, jobs & prosperity, quality of life, and public money priorities.

The first conversation was about economy and prosperity in Michigan. Eighty percent of the Marquette residents agreed that investing in roads, bridges and infrastructure was an urgent priority and top concern for the near future. Thirty eight percent voted that we should not increase the minimum wage in Michigan.

The second conversation included questions about the education in Michigan. Sixty seven percent voted that improving pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade performance was an urgent priority and top concern for the near future.

Improving college affordability was a top concern for 87 percent of the residents as well.

The third conversation brought up quality of life in the state of Michigan. Protecting Michigan’s environment was voted as an urgent priority and top concern by 57 percent of the fifteen participating residents. Sixty seven percent agreed that decreasing poverty was an urgent priority and top concern in Michigan.

The fourth conversation consisted of questions about the use of public money in Michigan. Fifty percent of the residents voted that decreasing business taxes was the most important out of income, property, sales and transportation taxes. Sixty four percent agreed that they were willing to pay more in taxes for roads.

The Community Conversation concluded with a group discussion about any additional issues that residents wanted to talk about and what they would like to say to candidates. The Center for Michigan invites all Michigan residents and political candidates to take time to digest the full report from all of the communities that were visited. The full report can be viewed on The Center for Michigan website, www.thecenterformichigan.net.

Editor’s note: Amy Clickner is CEO?of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Her twice-monthly column will address topics of interest to the local business community.