Group sounds unity theme

MARQUETTE – A bipartisan spirit of cooperation among Upper Peninsula politicians can lead to positive results for the region, said four legislators who visited Marquette Wednesday.

Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, visited The Mining Journal before holding a town hall meeting at the Marquette Township Hall, one of six such meetings planned in the U.P.

Kivela mentioned the recent propane shortage and their efforts to get Lansing to take action as an example of their cooperation. Snyder eventually combined several state agencies into a collaborative that informed the public about available funding to aid people in buying propane.

“We got these folks to really hear and see what was going on, including a couple of 211 calls that got played, and one was just an impassioned lady, living in the middle of nowhere,” Kivela said. “Never gave her name or number. Hysterical. The house is 36 degrees.”

Kivela said people in Lansing “got it,” and Gov. Rick Snyder got on board to help.

“I would add, I think the bigger issue isn’t the propane issue per se,” Casperson said. “We kind of learned through it what maybe we can accomplish, because we were speaking in one voice, and we did the town halls together.”

That will create a situation in which U.P. legislators will find it easier to get a voice, he said.

“Getting the governor to trust all four of us is a big deal,” McBroom said. “The propane thing is a great example where it wasn’t the governor didn’t necessarily believe us, but he had other people in other parts of the state saying there wasn’t a problem, and that’s what he kept hearing.”

Casperson said the U.P. is looked at differently downstate.

“They do look at the Upper Peninsula – sometimes it’s to our detriment – but there’s also something special about it, and so, we do have that advantage if we’re willing to do it, because they look at us almost like a separate state, and we’re representing that state.”

McBroom said that helps them better serve their constituents because he can help someone living in Dianda’s district, while Dianda can cover a meeting he can’t attend and relay information back to him.

McBroom said voters might ask whether the bipartisan cooperation will continue.

“We’re setting the bar for the people who want to run for office and we’re giving the voters something to say, ‘This is something we expect of the next guy up, the next candidate up, male or female,'” McBroom said.

At the town hall meeting, Dianda said there might be differences in opinion between them, but they try to be proactive and focus on issues together.

“We have to be the loud ones with only four of us on this side of the Mackinac Bridge, and we’re always fighting that,” he said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.