Other opinions

Gerrymander petition a good

example of grassroots democracy

A citizens group made headlines this week when it turned in petitions containing 425,000 signatures in hopes of getting on the ballot a constitutional amendment that will change the way political districts are drawn.

The change they propose is designed to combat gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative districts in a way that favors a particular political party — typically the one in power when redistricting occurs.

And with only 315,654 signatures necessary to meet state requirements, the group feels good about the issue making it onto the November 2018 ballot.

There is a lot to feel good about. Engaged citizens voluntarily coming together to elevate an issue to a statewide debate is a strong example of grassroots democracy.

“The people of Michigan are speaking loudly — they are tired of politicians, from both parties, and wealthy special interests who rig the system behind closed doors to benefit themselves,” said Katie Fahey, president of Voters Not Politicians, the organization behind the petition drive.

Under current law, legislative districts are redrawn following each national census — the most recent of which was in 2010.

Both chambers of the Legislature, which is responsible for redistricting, were Republican-controlled in 2011 when lines were redrawn. Republican Rick Snyder was in his first year as governor.

Under Voters Not Politicians’ proposal, much of the politics would be removed or at the very least limited.

The constitutional amendment would establish a 13-member commission of citizens independent from the Legislature (or any other branch of government) to decide legislative districts. Among the members would be five independent voters along with four who identify as Republicans and four who identify as Democrats.

Elected officials, lobbyists and other political insiders would not be eligible to serve on the commission. In addition, public hearings would be held prior to approving proposed district maps by majority vote, with at least two votes from each of the three groups that make up the commission.

“The people of Michigan have come together to make it clear they want voters to choose their politicians, not the other way around,” Fahey said.

They deserve the opportunity to see if the rest of the state agrees — this proposal should absolutely be on the ballot on Nov. 6.

— Lansing State Journal

After Nassar scandal, MSU must commit to transparency

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has taken the first two important steps in making things right with the scores of young women and girls who were molested by an MSU physician attached to the gymnastics program.

Simon, who has been under fire for her lack of urgency in addressing the university’s possible culpability in the serial sexual assaults by Dr. Larry Nassar, issued a belated apology last week.

“I am truly sorry for the abuse you suffered, the pain it caused and the pain it continues to cause today,” Simon said. “I’m sorry a physician who called himself a Spartan so utterly betrayed your trust and everything this university stands for.”

At least 125 women have made criminal complaints against Nassar, and roughly 150 lawsuits have been filed in federal court that accuse the university and its officials, including Simon, of negligence in protecting the gymnasts from the doctor.

In addition to the apology, Simon announced a $10 million fund to help those who suffered abuse to seek counseling and other assistance.

These are important and necessary actions. The next is transparency.

Simon and MSU have not been forthcoming about whether anyone in the university was told of the molestations and failed to act on behalf of the girls.

The MSU trustees hired an outside investigator, former federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, to explore the question.

He concluded that Nassar “had everyone fooled” and said issuing a written report of his findings was unnecessary.

Frankly, that’s absurd. The avoidance of a written report is clearly intended to avoid having the document subpoenaed when the liability cases go to trial.

And for Fitzgerald to say no one beyond Nassar had knowledge of the complaints against him flies in the face of the known facts. Clearly, Coach Kathie Klages knew of the concerns.

She admonished the girls who raised them that they were overreacting, and discouraged other gymnasts from making similar complaints. She was suspended and then allowed to retire.

Nassar’s boss, Dr. William Strampel, who until last week headed the MSU osteopathic program, apparently knew of the concerns as well. He wrote the doctor a letter advising him to change his tactics.

Strampel went on leave last week, but remains on staff and presumably on the payroll.

Both expressed support for Nassar even after girls began questioning his treatment.

Who else did the victims tell? That’s a key question, but it’s one MSU is showing no urgency to answer. There’s nothing to indicate that Fitzgerald even interviewed the girls who charge that Nassar molested them. So how can he know that no one at the university had knowledge of what was happening?

Simon’s apology is welcome, as is the financial assistance for the victims.

But what the girls want to know is who, if anyone, at MSU failed them. They deserve that answer.

— The Detroit News