Cambensy meets with residents to discuss issues

State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, speaks to constituents during a “coffee hour” at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette on Saturday. Cambensy addressed questions and concerns during the meeting, which was attended by more than two dozen local residents. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — If you ask state Rep. Sara Cambensy if she feels like she’s in the right place at the right time, her answer is “yes.”

Cambensy, who has spent the first week of the new year traveling the Michigan 109th District and meeting with constituents, sat down for coffee with about 25 people at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette on Saturday.

“I do feel like I am in the right position at the right time, and I am not alone,” she said. “I think that there is a lot of us that are going to be pushing to get back to how do we invest in the people and local municipal government, and give them more control to make the decisions they need to make?”

Attendees expressed concerns on topics ranging from the impact of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ repeal of the Cole Memo — an Obama-era protection for states that have legalized marijuana — to local mental health care, state government term limits and Project Empire, the initiative launched by Gov. Rick Snyder in Aug. 2016 in response to the closure of the Empire Mine.

Cambensy, D-Marquette, said she and state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, had been working together to get state funding for municipalities for the initiative, but had been unsuccessful thus far.

“The reason we were given — on the phone with the governor’s office yesterday, why they don’t want to give us any new money for the Project Empire issues we are facing — is because we are basically facing a $2 billion shortage in our state budget next year,” Cambensy said. “Not million, billion.”

Cambensy said that answer gives support to the stance, held largely by members of the Democratic Party, that corporate tax incentives have consequences.

“What that signals to me is that in the last eight years, we have given a lot of money away,” Cambensy said. “We’ve starved our schools, we’ve starved our local government. That’s where a lot of these brownfields and tax incentives — yes they are good for business, but at the end of the day it is just less money that we have as government officials to provide those services.”

Cambensy said she hopes residents can capitalize on momentum from what she calls “grass roots movements,” that led not only to her election, but successful petition drives to put gerrymandering reform and the legalization of marijuana on the state ballot in 2018.

Cambensy, for her part, said she plans to meet with county governments monthly and quarterly with other municipal governments.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.