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The politics of elections, discrimination, and college degrees

Aug 5, 2015

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Michigan Radio’s senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry and Morning Edition host Christina Shockley discuss the first female mayor of Grand Rapids, this week's elections,  accusations of racism against Gov. Snyder and Detroit emergency managers, the number of college degrees among Michigan lawmakers.


Grand Rapids is in on Bliss

Tuesday was the August primary election and Grand Rapids elected the city's first female mayor. Lessenberry says new Mayor Rosalynn Bliss not only has an impressive personal story, she is currently quite popular.  But given the city’s own share of problems, who knows if it will stay that way, he says.

And now, the rest of the race

When it comes to the rest of the election, Lessenberry says most of the renewal millages passed, but those asking for new millage money were not so lucky.

Calling it a “mixed bag,” Lessenberry says people are willing to keep paying the current taxes, but are reluctant to add any new items.

A kitchen sink lawsuit 

Gov. Rick Snyder and emergency managers are being accused of discriminating against black children by members of the Detroit Public School Board. The board says Snyder and the managers have created a separate and unequal education system and they have filed a federal civil rights case.

Lessenberry says the Detroit school board has indeed been disempowered, but the lawsuit isn’t just about discrimination. 

“Part of this is they’re trying to get people to remember they still exist,” says Lessenberry. “They’re trying to get attention.”

Lessenberry says although the board is using the “kitchen sink” method and suing for everything they can think of, some charges are credible. However, Lessenberry says the idea that the state is discriminating by creating an all-black school district is “a bit absurd” because the school district itself is mainly an all-black population.

Where did you go to school?

One out of five Michigan lawmakers do not have a college degree, which isn’t too surprising to Lessenberry. Lessenberry says a minority of adults in Michigan have a college degree; so the real question becomes how much does the piece of paper matter?

Researchers say the paper isn't as important as the experience of going to college, Lessenberry explains.

"So it may be a question of how great your life experience is," he says. "How broad your outlook is, and how many intellectual resources you have rather than paper degrees."

Michigan Radio Newsroom - Cheyna Roth