Kent County Democrats Celebrate February as Black History Month


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Feb 07

Bernie Sanders, the man with a plan



By Brody Cragg

If last week’s Iowa caucus proved anything, it’s that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has a real shot at becoming President of the United States. Bernie is a humble man, a man of bold ideas. He’s been called many things but I think the word we are looking for is “social Democrat.”

If you’ve been listening to him you would know that he’s made many comparisons to Norway’s economic and social programs- and why we should be replicating them.  He’s stood up for civil rights, worker’s rights, women’s rights and isn’t afraid to stand up to his own colleagues. It’s hard not to like the man.


It’s the economy stupid.

It all begins with taxes. Under Bernie’s plan, anyone with income over $250,000 would pay 37% of their income in taxes, up from the current 33%. He’s modeled this off of Norway. It’s widely misconstrued that their taxes are much higher than in America. While this is true for the richest people, the poorest are taxed at a lower rate compared to the rich.  The reverse is true in America. Under our system, income equality continues to grow and we see by the shrinking middle class.

“Very few people think it is acceptable or moral that the top 1/10th of 1% own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%.” –Bernie Sanders

A higher tax rate certainly hasn’t hurt them. With an annual 3% GDP growth rate despite global recessions, Norway has proven time and again that strong social policies and can go hand in hand a strong economy. Their unemployment rate boasts 4.1% compared to ours at 5.5%. And the labor force participation rate there is 65% and growing, compared to America’s shrinking 62.6%.

Because they’re happy.

Norway’s economy is thriving, but they’re also happy. In a study conducted by Forbes Magazine, the happiest people on earth were found to be Norwegians. Touting strong social support system, gender equality, general freedom and low perceptions of corruption, Norway sets the bar high in all of these factors.

“And in those [Scandanavian] countries, college education, graduate school is free. In those countries, retirement benefits, child care are stronger than in the United States of America, and in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people in the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.”  (Bernie Sanders on This Week with George Stephanopolous on ABC.)


These are still not guaranteed for many in America.

Many will say that’s not possible, but Norway is a great example of what we can do more for every day Americans. Their people are happy, workers’ rights are guaranteed and their economy is growing. That could be us.

I am ready to Feel The Bern, are you?

Brody Cragg was an intern with Kent Dems in the Fall of 2015. He is majoring in economics at Grand Valley State University.

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Feb 07

Bills Introduced to Repeal Emergency Manager Law

Democrat State lawmakers believes authority should be given back to local elected officials.

Last week, Representative LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit) introduced House Bill 5260 that would repeal Michigan’s emergency financial manager law, and State Senator David Knezik (D-Dearborn Heights) introduced its counterpart in the Senate. This legislation is especially important because it is widely believed that Flint’s water crisis could have been prevented if Governor Snyder had allowed local government to make legislative decisions.  

“We need to return decision-making in our communities to the elected officials that residents voted into office,” said Garrett. “An emergency financial manager is an unelected official who is not accountable to residents, and that is simply undemocratic.”


Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) echoed this sentiment. “The governor’s emergency managers have clearly failed to put the health and wellbeing of the people of Flint first. It’s the most extreme example — but far from the only example — of the poor priorities of Gov. Snyder and legislative Republicans.”

Garrett condemned Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to reinstate an emergency financial manager in Highland Park, and argues that the city’s financial distress is due to state underfunded revenue sharing and failed economic policies. The city of Highland Park was under the control of an emergency financial manager for nearly a decade and last year, the Michigan Department of Treasury found that the city was still in financial emergency.

“Instead of instating and reinstating emergency managers, the state should do better and adequately fund revenue sharing to municipalities and growing the economy in a way that helps areas like Highland Park,” said Garrett. “The same is true for the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) which is also under an emergency financial manager. The state has had control of DPS for years and yet the district’s debt has grown and the school buildings have deteriorated. I think that clearly shows that this emergency financial manager law is a failure and deserves to be repealed.”

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Jan 05

Democrat Winnie Brinks Standing Up for Women

MI Progressive Women's CaucusWomen are an essential cornerstone of families and community. While many strides for women’s equality continue to be made progress on even the most common-sense issues are often met with Republican opposition. Kent County Democrat and State Representative Winnie Brinks knows the value of standing up for basic women’s rights, and in spite of the odds she does this every day in Lansing.


Better Access to Birth Control A MustContra equity graph
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health In Michigan, cuts to funding for family planning
over the past decade has been correlated to an increase in unintended pregnancies. “Family planning is a cornerstone of women’s health, which is why it is so critically important that we give women the tools they need to control their fertility,” said Brinks, as chairwoman of the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus in 2014.

“Access to birth control and basic family planning is still a problem for Michigan women and the biggest step toward preventing abortion. Providing adequate reproductive health care protections and resources enables women and men to plan their families which improves the economic stability of our state.”

The Caucus introduced a package of legislation that would provide measures to make it easier for women to access the contraceptives they need, prohibit discrimination against women on the basis of contraceptive use and call on the State to take steps to reduce Michigan’s high rate of teen pregnancies.

Helping Women Beat Breast Cancer
When Attorney Teresa Hendricks-Pitsch was told she had breast cancer, it was the size of a pickle. Just a few months after her last test came back clear, she felt a lump that was thicker and more painful than normal. “I was diligent about getting my mammograms because I thought they could detect cancer, said Teresa. “They gave me a false sense of security.”

dense breast tissueForty percent of all women have dense breast tissue. “Masking” occurs when dense tissue surrounding a tumor obscures cancer growth with regular tissue in test results. Women with extremely dense breast tissue have a 6 times greater risk of developing cancer than women with fatty breasts. Rep. Brinks worked with Teresa on introducing legislation that would prevent what happened to her from happening to other women.

“In response to this need I introduced House Bill 4260 that would require doctors to notify women if their mammograms detected breast dense tissue. Women need complete information to make the best health care decisions possible.” The Republican-controlled legislature wouldn’t allow Winnie’s bill to even get a hearing, however another version of this bill is now law.

Fighting domestic violence

Along with the Progressive Women’s Caucus, Winnie introduced a number of bills offering paid sick leave to victims of domestic, sexual violence and stalking. Another bill would ensure an individual would not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for conduct that was a consequence of domestic violence. Another would prevent landlords and realtors discriminating against individuals on the basis of being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Due to Republican inaction on these bills, in the fall Winnie issued a call to action for the legislature to act on these bills that were introduced back in March. “Domestic violence is a serious problem in Michigan, and people who are trapped in abusive relationships need assistance to restore safety and security to their lives. These proposals we have introduced would make a real difference in the lives of people trying to escape violence and abuse. Surely Democrats and Republicans can set aside partisan differences to do the right thing for these people who need our help.”

What can you do: Give $5 to the Kent Dems, your generous donation goes to support re-electing Democrats like Winnie Brinks to office.

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Jan 05

House Dems Denounce Removal of Straight-Ticket Voting Option

Snyder-LiesOn January 5th, Governor Snyder signed a bill into law that would ban straight ticket voting in Michigan. The House Democratic Caucus vehemently opposed Senate Bill 13, which has been particularly controversial because a version of this bill was twice passed in Michigan, and both times been repealed through voter referendum. In order to prevent the same balance of power from being applicable to this bill, House Republicans attached two appropriations totaling $6 million to the bill, making it referendum-proof.

“They claim that they want a more informed electorate, but by including an appropriation, they show that they don’t want that electorate deciding that this bill is bad policy, as they’ve done twice before. It’s completely disrespectful and hypocritical,” said state Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), a member of the House Elections and Ethics Committee.

The straight-ticket ban would prevent voters from checking the single box at the top of the ballot in order to vote for all Democratic or Republican candidates. Republicans claim the bill aims to “… give people an opportunity to look at and study candidates and issues.” Yet local clerks and township representatives testified that the only measurable impact it would have on voters would be longer wait times and greater confusion.

House Democrats fought back proposing more than twenty amendments to the bill, including one to allow no-reason absentee voting. Unfortunately every single one was defeated in a party-line vote. Two particular amendments, which would allow seniors and those with disabilities to skip the long lines inevitably created by the ban, were deemed “not germane” by committee Chairwoman Rep. Lisa Lyons (R-Alto) and never received a vote.

“The long lines that SB 13 creates will hit voters in dense urban districts the hardest,” said state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit.) “This is a thinly veiled attempt by Lansing Republicans to discourage certain voters from exercising their franchise that will create a mass amount of confusion at the polls. The right to vote is one of the core freedoms in our democracy, and we should never make it harder for people to use that right.”

“We’ve seen no action on legislation to create an independent redistricting commission and other bills that would improve our democracy, but House Republicans are trying to make voting harder, and a bill to allow even more corporate money into campaigns is on the fast track in the Senate,” said state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), also a member of the committee. “Republicans are once again rigging the system in their favor to maintain their stranglehold on state government. The lack of trust in the voters these bills display should be insulting to all voters, regardless of their party.”

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Dec 03

Democrats from Kent and Ionia testify before House Elections committee

A very special THANK-YOU to Kent and Ionia Dems for mobilizing with very little advance notice to drive to fight against SB-13, a bill designed to eliminate straight-party ticket voting in Michigan.  Nine people from Kent County and three from Ionia county came to Lansing early Thursday morning to testify, most were able to address the committee before it was it was tabled.

In 2001, the Republican-led legislature eliminated straight-party ticket voting from our ballots.  Then in 2002, Michigan voters placed a referendum on the ballot and returned the option to voters. This Republican power-grab is nothing more than another partisan trick designed to weaken Democratic turnout in elections.

Unlike smaller municipalities like Alto (where Elections committee chair Lisa Postumus Lyons lives), many places with higher voter density see long lines with every Presidential election and Gubernatorial election. In both 2008 and 2012, the City of Grand Rapids had six precincts that experienced wait times of over an hour at  times throughout the day. The sole purpose of this bill is to decrease Democratic turn-out by inconveniencing voters with longer wait times at many polling places- particularly in areas located in higher population, predominantly lower income neighborhoods.

To make matters worse, Republicans are purposefully seeking circumvent the will of voters by including a $1 million appropriation in the bill. Because of the way the law is written, attaching tax dollars will effectively make the bill “referendum-proof” once signed into law. Why else would lawmakers attach funds to this bill other than to ensure that the people can not over-turn it again like they did in 2002? This is yet another example of Lansing politicians protecting their partisan ideology at the expense of representing THE PEOPLE.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to fight these draconian Republic voter suppression tactics.


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Nov 27

Rep. Brinks Calls for Creation of Much Needed Ombudsman for Veteran’s Homes


In honor of Veterans Day, on November 11th Grand Rapids State Representative Winnie Brinks introduced a bill that would create the office of Michigan Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman. The Ombudsman would be a position tasked with investigating and resolving problems encountered by the residents, family and friends of Michigan’s two veterans homes in Grand Rapids and Marquette, both of which have been the center of several complaints in the past few years.

“It’s important that we do more to observe Veterans’ Day than simply pass a resolution and thank our veterans for their service,” Rep. Brinks said. “True gratitude means we must follow through on our promise to care for our veterans when they age or encounter disabilities. Our veterans deserve the best care we can give them, but too often, they’ve settled for less. It’s time we changed that.”

Earlier this year, it was discovered that the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans lacked a food safety license it needed in order to serve meals to residents’ families and friends, as well as the home’s own staff and volunteers. Winnie Brinks has led the effort to get the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to address the issue, and administrators eventually applied for and received the missing license.

“Many people travel for several hours from in or out of state in order to spend time with loved ones who live in the home. Leaving the home to get a meal was a hardship and prevented families from dining together,” said Representative Brinks.

More Concerns

PetersSmThe Grand Rapids home also came under sharp criticism after complaints about poor quality of care surfaced after the home laid off state workers and replaced them with contract employees. Complaints continue to surface about the quality of care given by the company contracted to provide direct care to residents. The House Military and Veterans Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony last month on the persistent understaffing of certified nursing assistants at the facility. Some residents reported they were left in their own waste, while others repeatedly pressed their call buttons for help to no avail.

“The residents of our veterans’ homes and their families deserve an efficient and understanding process to address concerns they have about the quality of care in the homes,” Brinks said. “Establishing an office that exists to listen to complaints, investigate claims and find resolutions will improve the care of our veterans and restore their dignity. I urge all of my colleagues who care for the health and wellbeing of our veterans to support this bill.”

Please consider donating to the Grand Rapids Home for Veteran’s this season. Click here to find out more about how you can help.

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Nov 05

Michigan’s Third Best Of The West Happy Hour


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Oct 20

Michigan Democratic Party’s Best of the West Fundraiser

best of the west

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Aug 23

Annual Dog ‘N’ Suds Fundraiser

dog n suds image
Join us for our annual Dog ‘N’ Suds fundraising event featuring hot dogs and beer (and other delicious food), door prizes, special drinks for the kids and good company! The cost is just $10 and goes to support the Kent County Democratic Party. The Dog ‘N’ Suds will be held Saturday, October 10th from 4pm-7pm, located at the Fire Fighter’s Hall at 1930 Fuller Ave NE in Grand Rapids, 49505.

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