Each agenda item is based on proposals which would have an immediate impact within our commumities. Below, is our detailed list of progressive changes we will be working on beginning in January of 2022. We invite and encourage everyone who supports our agenda to get involved in any way they choose. Grassroots Democracy is what we're about. Please revisit us for continued updates!
So much lip service has been given to caring for "essential workers". But when it comes to making good on proposals and promises, those who claim to represent essential workers either lack the resolve, or see said workers as a lower priority. The Muskegon Greens believe the time for action is long overdue. Studies* have shown, that a $19 minimum is needed as a bottom line living wage, but we already know how some folks would feel about that, given pushback against previous lower proposals. So, here is our compromise. We're only asking for $16 as a start. Call it a gesture of, "good faith" with a commitment to reach $20 per hour minimum by 2025. Followed by an automatic adjustment for any increase in the cost of living. We see this as a reasonable proposal to help close the pay and wealth gap affecting so many right here on the lakeshore. It's time to take care of the least of us. Let's start right here in our communities! Are you in? If so, contact us to help make this happen!
*SOURCE: National Low Income Housing Coalition
1. A higher minimum wage would put more spending power into the economy.
Raising the minimum wage accommodates an increase in revenues for each community impacted by the change in legislation. When households spend their money at local businesses, then these dollars have almost double the direct and indirect economic value as they would with money spent at companies operating outside of the area.
That means the people who need the cash get the chance to meet their basic needs more effectively. As the money is spent, more vendors down the chain of purchasing get to experience these benefits as well.
2. Workers get to have a wage that maintains its overall value.
When the federal minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour in 2009, it was the first time it had risen in total value by over 40% within a decade for more than four decades. Even with the hike in the minimum wage, the actual value of wages earned in that first year of the higher amount was 7.8% lower than what the minimum wage in 1967 was near its peak.
In 2011, the minimum wage reflected just 37% of what the average worker earned in the United States. Raising the minimum wage to $16 provides every household with an opportunity to keep their finances rising at the pace of inflation at a minimum, which maintains their overall spending power.
3. Job opportunities improve when the minimum wage goes higher.
Washington State has led the country in the total minimum wage it offers for most of a decade. The trends that occur with unemployment in the state have followed a similar path as the rest of the country. In June 2018, the rate of unemployment was 4.7%, which was 0.5% higher than California and 0.7% higher than Oregon for comparison. Washington, D.C. with its nation-leading minimum wage had an unemployment rate of 5.6% that same month.
The jobless rate for the United States at the same time was 4%. That means it is possible to pay someone a significantly higher wage without it significantly impacting jobs. Residents in the state of Washington earned $4.25 per hour more in 2018 than the federal minimum.
4. Raising the minimum wage can lead to lower employee turnover rates.
As workers increase their experience, employers find that there is a need to compensate them better. If that does not happen, then the experienced employees look for new employment opportunities are possible with a higher wage. That action forces employers into a costly cycle of turnover and training from which they might never escape.
With a higher minimum wage that extends to all worker opportunities, there is a real chance to keep experienced workers happy. This outcome can reduce hiring costs and reduce the adverse effects that high employee turnover rates can cause. There would be less movement between jobs because everyone would be earning at a similar rate.
5. Raising the minimum wage to $16 could improve local tax revenues.
Assuming that someone is working full-time at $7.25 per hour, then they would receive a total annual salary of just over $15,000. That means they would still need to file a tax return (the minimum threshold for a return was $12,000 in 2018), but their responsibility would be minimal at best. Most people who earn at the minimum wage receive a complete refund of their taxes because of their low income.
If you were a head of household earning the minimum wage, then you wouldn’t have needed to file a tax return in 2018. By raising the minimum wage to $16, there would be more money available in the economy. People could contribute more to their basic needs, and it would allow them to contribute more to local tax needs as well.
SECOND PROPOSAL: Support for funding expanded public transportation
Having strong roots in environmental activism since the 1980's, one of the Green Party's Four Pillars is, Ecological Wisdom. Our next plan incorporates a proposed improved economic condition through a living wage, with protecting our local ecology. The Muskegon Greens propose an expansion of local public transportation and bicycle trails. Here's why!
Making sure that everyone on the lakeshore has at least a basic living wage is only the beginning. We believe mobility has a very important role to play in improving the lives of everyone in our communities as needed. Recent proposals by local governments seem to favor business expansion, condominiums and other developments. While these ideas benefit a smaller portion of the population, we are committed to taking care of residents in the most immediate need. The recently passed Federal infrastructure bill could supply the funds necessary to bring this next phase to fruition. What do you think? Please let us know!
*SOURCES: 8 Benefits of Public Transportation | Remix Blog https://transloc.com/blog/6-health-benefits-of-public-transportation/ Sustainable, Connected and Livable Cities | Smart Cities Dive
1. Economic Benefits to the Community
For every ten million dollars of transit investment made, business sales increase by thirty million dollars.During the 2006 to 2011 period, residential property was an average of 42% more valuable if located near high-frequency transit service, which means cities reap greater tax revenues. Furthermore, transit agencies and organizations employ many people and create many times more private-sector jobs. In the past, cost concerns have slowed support for such a proposal, however we believe, these long-term benefits will curb future budget issues, when considering the money saved by cities and residents by expanding local public transportation and bicycle trails, as fewer cars can save several hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure costs due to building or maintaining roads and bridges and reduce fatigue over time.
2. Health Benefits to the Community
Transit users must walk to and from transit stations, so they walk much more than the average, driving commuter. A study done by the city of Copenhagen linked a healthier lifestyle with a lower mortality rate, a happier disposition, and more productivity at work. Also, bike trails are good exercise, and a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the western Michigan lakeshore and avoid traffic headaches. Several downtown areas in west Michigan are already moving towards expanding social districts designed for optimized pedestrian traffic. Our proposal would be complimentary. Additionally, wider walkways and other considerations can be added for wheelchair accessibility and accommodations for the disabled.
3. Transit Reduces Road Congestion
Currently in America, public transit use results in a reduction of 865,000,000 hours of travel time, a figure which would be many times higher if cities in the U.S.A., had the high quality transit service and lower dependence on cars that many European urban centers have. We already know, as evidenced by the Covid-19 shutdown, fewer cars on the road means cleaner air and more wildlife sightings which are definite positives.
4. Transit Lessens Gas Use and Reduces Pollution
Currently in America, public transit use results in a reduction of 450,000,000 gallons of gas being burned which, as in the case of road congestion in number 3 above, would be substantially higher if European urban planning principles were applied, including a gas tax reflective of the true cost of automobile use to society.
5. Millenials Prefer Transit Lifestyle over Sprawl
Millenials prefer walkable communities over sprawl, seeking to live around robust transit, shops, restaurants, libraries, parks, and a mix of housing styles such as apartments and houses. During the first ten years of the new millennium, transit ridership increased 40% among 16-34 year olds. In the past five years, 77% of transit funding ballot initiatives were approved by voters across the country, demonstrating the public's high level of support for public transportation.
6. Freedom and Mobility Amplified by Public Transit
The availability of public transit opens up personal mobility to everyone, giving each person the freedom to go virtually anywhere. Many people are unable to drive, and a majority of drivers would appreciate the ability to walk, cycle, or take public transit instead, at least sometimes. Having to hop in a car to drive miles to get a coffee and newspaper is only an option if you drive. Millions of non-drivers, such as children, are stuck in automobile dominated suburban locales where they must depend on others for rides.
7. Household Expenses Reduced by Using Public Transit
Each family that gets rid of one car and relies on public transit saves almost $10,000 per year.
8. Social Connections Increase When Driving is Decreased
It has been said by Robert Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone, that for every 10 minutes of additional travel time by car, social connections are reduced by 10%. Often, cars are used to allow people to live in larger houses that are far from their places of work, in areas where high quality public transit is not available.
9. Commuters More Productive on Public Transit than Cars
When driving an automobile, one cannot sleep, read, write, relax, or do anything that transit takers are able to do.
10. Public Transit is a Safe and Equitable Transportation Mode
When robust transit options exist, fewer cars are driven, reducing their harmful effects on society, which include the loss of 30,000 people and the maiming of many more every year in road crashes. Cars degrade our environment and contribute to climate change, and they devour gigantic amounts of land for driving and storing them. They are an enormous burden to the working poor, and have devastated urban centers and caused housing to become unaffordable.
Ultimately, public transit represents an opportunity for America to prosper through the development of attractive, walkable communities around transit stations. Public transportation must be supported by local governments, in order to strengthen the long-term health of the economy, lessen inequality resulting from the burden of car ownership by the working poor, improve the environment, reduce the death and injury count resulting from cars, and many other reasons. To ignore the responsibility to the lakeshore communities, local governments would be missing a golden opportunity to make Michigan cities smarter and better places to live.
THIRD PROPOSAL: Publicly funded Community College
We believe mobility has a very important role to play in improving the lives of everyone in our communities. As we continue to see businesses expand, some of this growth requires specialized labor. An investment in higher education can help. And although investment in higher education should not be limited to this alone, this idea can benefit almost everyone. We think this is an essential step to solving many issues we face, and even though some people have expressed cost concerns, there are many ways to fund this endeavor. What do you think? Scroll down and let us know!
1. Improves Society
When people are more educated, they can solve problems better. This means that society can progress at a faster rate. Additionally, people with education can better understand the history of their society and its current economic conditions. As such, they may be more inclined to participate in politics and improve their country. Also, when more people have access to a college education, the number of employable people for high-skilled jobs increases. This means that more people will join the workforce, which could help lessen the wealth gap between the upper, middle, and lower classes.
2. Widened Workforce
Along with technological progressions comes a shift in the workforce. Most automated jobs are replacing low-skill workers. Automation is spreading quickly across positions that require repetition, like back-office tasks. However, automation is not meant to replace the entire workforce. Instead, the needs of most economies are shifting to require a more skilled workforce, with people who have good analytical skills and creative thinking abilities. These skills are both taught and honed with a college education. If more people could attend college for free, then the workforce will expand.
The workforce will also be more agile. In the case of an economic downturn when one industry falters, another generally rises to replace it. Then, workers need to be retrained and taught skills for the job. If more people could enter school and gear their studies towards booming industries, then the population will be more equipped to cope with economic changes.
3. A Boosted Economy
Most students graduate with a massive amount of debt. For example, in the U.S., the average student debt per person is $31,172. When students graduate with debt, they will likely continue to add to their debt with interest. As such, it can take many years before they manage to dig themselves out of debt that only seems to keep growing. In the meantime, this delays spending on such things as buying a house or a car.
On the other hand, if people were to graduate without debt, that could fast track their ability to earn, save, and spend. This helps to stimulate the economy. With increases in consumer spending, there is more demand. More demand in spending also relates back to higher demand in the workforce or more opportunities for employment. This spurs a positive cycle of economic activity. Furthermore, the fear of being in debt can cause students to avoid school entirely. But, if the debt wasn’t a reality, then the younger generation may feel more motivated to go to school in the first place.
4. Increase Equality
Since affordability is a major issue for so many people when it comes to attending college, the playing field has not always been equal. A lot of the brightest minds in the world stem from low-income households, but that shouldn’t hold them back from continuing their education. If there was an equal opportunity to attend school, then everyone would have the chance to go to school. Affordable education is a major step towards equality.
5. More Focus
When students are not worried about money, they can focus better on their studies. Even when students have loans and financial aid, they may find themselves stuck worrying about how they will have to pay them back in the future. This added stress can negatively impact their focus during the time when they are supposed to be learning.
Countries That Offer Free College
Many countries understand how debt-free education provides positive outcomes. Therefore, they made tuition-free universities a reality. Here’s a look at some countries where education is free for everyone, free for just their residents or highly subsidized by the government for foreign exchange students:
The Advantages of Online University
With technological advances, online universities are proliferating. Online universities require less overhead costs. Therefore, they are almost always cheaper than traditional schools. However, there are even some that are totally tuition-free.
The money for tuition-free or cheaper universities will have to come from somewhere. Arguments against free education include the fact that taxes may increase, either individual or on businesses. Otherwise, the money will have to be allocated from elsewhere, like potentially decreasing military spending.
Despite the political considerations, there are ways to make tuition-free education possible or, at least, more widespread. As illustrated, there are many advantages to offering affordable college education to everyone around the world.
TAKE AWAY: With the recent failure to pass the voting rights bill and aggressive gerrymandering attempts across the country, we need make sure that every vote counts. While RCV is not a complete solution, it is a solid start.
FOURTH PROPOSAL: Sustaining locally-owned small businesses
We’ve all heard the need to support local businesses. Buy local, eat local, go local. We recognize that sometimes buying locally can be difficult because of cost, availability or convenience. Still, we believe that choosing community businesses can be worthwhile and worth promoting. When it comes to supporting local business, you’re not just helping your community, it helps you and your family as well. The Muskegon Greens have joined with the KeepLocalAlive movement in an effort to promote locally-owned small businesses. Feel free to follow and join us! Billion-dollar corporations have taken much more than they have given us. But we all know what the solution is. Check out these reasons why going local helps you out in the long run and see if you agree. We value your feedback so, let us know what you think?
SOURCES: The Benefits of Supporting Local Businesses (minutemanpress.com) The top benefits of supporting other small businesses (nextdoor.com) Think Local! 7 Reasons Why Supporting Local Business is Good for Your Community | Mass.Gov Blog https://keeplocalalive.com
1. Strengthen your local economy.
According to Civic Economics, for every dollar you spend at an independent business, 3 times more money is returned into the local economy, compared to that spent at a larger chain (50 times more compared to an online retailer). This money is going right back into the community you live and work in, helping support valuable programs for yourself and your family. Small businesses often give back to the community in other ways: donating, buying or financially backing other independent groups. When small businesses are strong, the community and local economy are strengthened as well.
2. Create more jobs.
Not only is your local economy strengthened when you shop locally, but you also help create more jobs. These jobs could go to your friends, family or neighbors—people who would probably experience much more competition at a large chain store. Or, these jobs could go to you, just from doing your part to support the community.
3. Reduce environmental impact.
Locally owned businesses often make more local purchases for their products, requiring less transportation and outsourcing. They typically consume less land, locate closer to residents and create less traffic and air pollution. All of this leads to less congestion, less habitat loss and less negative impact on the environment. While this may not impact you immediately, it can definitely impact your children and grandchildren in the future.
4. Lower your taxes.
Everyone loves lower taxes, and supporting your local businesses can help do just that. Small businesses use land efficiently and have central locations which puts less demand on roads, sewers and safety services. Even more, independent businesses often generate more tax revenue per sales dollar. This means a greater percentage of local businesses helps to keep your taxes lower, as compared to mega stores.
5. Improve your family’s health.
When it comes to buying produce and choosing places to eat, local food distributors and restaurants are often the healthier choice for yourself and your family. According to GrubMarket, buying local food has numerous health benefits—opening you up to the world of organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, fresh eggs and dairy provided by grass-fed cows. This means you and your family can enjoy a tasty meal, while supporting the local community and choosing the healthiest option.
When it comes to choosing local businesses, helping the community means helping you, too. Whether it’s aiding the economy now or building a better world for future generations, small businesses are here for you. But first, they need a little support from you.
So the next time you need to run out for some groceries or do a little shopping, seek out a local business and see what they have to offer! You could discover some great products and services while helping to build a strong and successful community around you.
FIFTH PROPOSAL: Move to a Ranked Choice Voting system
As a grassroots organization, we are solid advocates for voter choice. The lack of positive progressive change should be a wake up call to everyone who believes in democracy. More than have of voters have expressed a need for election reform and voter choice. We agree. Take a look at the many benefits of a Ranked Choice Voting system. And if you see us out and about with a petition to advance this proposal, come and say hello and sign it! See you out there!
1. Promotes Representative Outcomes and Majority Rule
Ranked choice voting provides voters with a backup to their vote. It mitigates problems with vote-splitting when more than two candidates run.
In elections with more than two candidates, a candidate can get elected to a top executive office over the strong opposition of most voters. For example, in Maine, nine of the eleven gubernatorial elections between 1994 and 2014 were won with less than 50% of votes, including three with less than 40%. (This was a major factor in Maine voters adopting RCV in 2016 and 2018.)
With ranked choice voting (RCV) for single-winner offices, if no candidate has a majority in first-choices, the candidates in last place will be eliminated one-by-one. If a voter's first choice is eliminated, their vote instantly goes to their second or next backup choice. This avoids vote-splitting and uphold majority rule.
2. Discourages Overly Negative Campaigning
In non-RCV elections, candidates benefit from mudslinging and attacking their opponent instead of sharing their positive vision with voters. This can lead to increasingly toxic and polarizing campaigns.
With RCV, candidates also compete for second choice votes from their opponents’ supporters which lessens the incentive to run a negative campaign. In RCV contests, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents.
Voters in RCV cities report more positive campaigning and greater satisfaction with their elections. See our Research on RCV page for more on evidence of increased campaign civility and voter engagement.
3. Provides More Choice for Voters
American democracy is strongest when more voices are heard.
Often, to avoid “vote splitting” in which candidates win with very little support, efforts are taken to limit the number of candidates who compete. This can manifest in several ways.
RCV allows more than two candidates to compete without fear of “splitting the vote” among like-minded individuals.
4. Saves Money When Replacing Preliminaries or Runoffs
Many local offices are elected in two rounds of elections. In some cases this is a preliminary election which winnows the field to two followed by a general election. In other cases it is a general election followed by a runoff election if no candidate won a majority.
In either case, the election that takes place on a day other than the general Election Day often suffers from weak and unrepresentative turnout, while raising issues of vote splitting in the first round and the possibility of disenfranchising military and overseas voters.
With RCV, a jurisdiction can enjoy the benefits of two rounds of voting in a single, more representative, higher-turnout election. This is why single-winner RCV is also known as “instant runoff voting.”
In this context, RCV can save the jurisdiction a lot of money - the entire cost of a second election - while helping promote majority rule and civil campaigning. This has been the motivation for the adoption of RCV in places like San Francisco (replacing runoffs) and Minneapolis (replacing primaries).
See our Research on RCV page for more on the benefits of RCV over two-round runoffs.
5. Promotes Reflective Representation
In multi-winner contests, proportional RCV allows diverse groups of voters to elect candidates of choice. This promotes diversity of political viewpoint as well as diversity of candidate background and demographics. Even in single-winner races, RCV can promote the representation of historically under-represented groups.
See our Research on RCV page for more on reflective representation in single-winner contests.
See our proportional RCV section for details on how RCV improves representation in multi-winner contests.
6. Minimizes Strategic Voting
Voters should be able to vote for candidates they support, not just vote against candidates they oppose most. In elections without RCV, voters may feel that they need to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” because their favorite candidate is less likely to win.
With RCV, voters can honestly rank candidates in order of choice. Voters know that if their first choice doesn’t win, their vote automatically counts for their next choice instead. This frees voters from worrying about how others will vote and which candidates are more or less likely to win.
7. Increased Participation from Military and Overseas Voters
Protecting the right to vote for men and women serving overseas in the armed forces or living abroad is of the highest importance. Deployed military and other overseas voters encounter particular challenges during runoff elections and presidential nominating contests, largely because of their timing.
Federal law requires states to provide military and overseas voters with ballots at least 45 days before any federal election, but runoff elections require a new set of ballots. Sending a second set of ballots requires an enormous delay, driving down turnout in the runoff election.
In presidential primaries and caucuses, many candidates withdraw quickly after the first few primaries, before military and overseas ballots can be counted. Subsequent primaries may receive military and overseas ballots cast for candidates no longer in the race because those voters mailed their ballots before learning that their favorite candidate left the race.
With RCV ballots, a military or overseas voter can rank the candidates on a single ballot. If a runoff occurs, or if candidates drop out of a presidential contest, the ranked ballot is counted for whichever candidate in the runoff the overseas voter ranked highest.
Six states use RCV ballots to include overseas and military voters in federal and some state runoff elections: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In addition, Springfield, IL has adopted this reform for local races.
For more information, see FairVote's Policy Guide for RCV ballots for military and overseas voters.
SIXTH PROPOSAL: Restructuring our local public safety system
The Muskegon Green Party is a grassroots organization, and your opinion is essential. We encourage you to let us know what you think. Do you support our agenda? Oppose? Do you think we need to amend some items? Fill out the form below and help us bring a better political option to the lakeshore!
Peter Camejo, Author and former Green Party candidate