Residents voice concerns on state government services

Photo by Zeinab Najm. Center of Michigan Outreach Coordinator Dwayne Barnes and Dearborn Heights residents discuss the the biggest barriers they face to trust state government during a community conversation at Carline Kennedy Library Dec. 15.

Photo by Zeinab Najm. Center of Michigan Outreach Coordinator Dwayne Barnes and Dearborn Heights residents discuss the the biggest barriers they face to trust state government during a community conversation at Carline Kennedy Library Dec. 15.

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Residents convened to talk about their trust for Michigan’s government during a community conversation Dec. 15 at Caroline Kennedy Library, 24590 George St.

The meeting was put together by Dearborn Heights Lisa Hicks-Clayton in partnership with the Center for Michigan in Ann Arbor. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization hosts community meetings gaining information from residents to share with state leaders.

The discussion touched on the biggest barriers to trusting the government on the state level and what ideas could be suggested to close the gap.

“Dearborn Heights is the final stop on our current campaign,” Center of Michigan Outreach Coordinator Dwayne Barnes said. “We are collecting thoughts on the most pressing issues in the state and how important it is to improve on them.”

A 2015 study by Michigan State University showed a decline in how much Michigan residents trust the state government. From 1995 to 2015 trust dropped 33 percent to 20 percent “nearly all or most of the time.”

A graphic of where Michigan spends its money was presented before the discussion showing 45 percent for health and human services, 30 percent for education, 10 percent on jobs, 7 percent on government services, 6 percent for public safety, 2 percent on environment and 1 percent for reserves.

Topics highlighted at the meeting included K-12 and public higher education, protection of public health, fostering economic growth, protection of the environment and proving services for low-income residents.

After each topic was presented, residents voted their trust level on the topic and then how important it is to improve on the issues at the state level.

For education, over-testing and under-funding were cited as the biggest focus areas by residents, and in the health category the Flint water crisis, infrastructure and local government revenue were named.

“We’re falling behind in education compared to other states and countries,” Councilman Ray Muscat said. “Funding is a huge issue.”

Under the environmental section protecting the Great Lakes, farming and Asian Carp were mentioned. As for low-income residents, meeting attendees said a decrease in allocated funds and aid provided by the state were insufficient.

Finally for economic growth, residents want to see more opportunities, skilled employees in the workforce and business development.

“Meetings like this help us gain insight on what the Michigan residents think about elected officials and the trust level,” Barnes said. “Conversations play a key role in what issues and solutions need focus for legislative change.”

To learn more about community conversations and the Center for Michigan go to thecenterformichigan.net or call 734-926-4285.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)