By Michele Bourdieu, with additional information from We Are the People*
HOUGHTON -- Union representatives and concerned citizens went door-to-door in Hancock and Houghton on Wednesday, June 15, to tell residents about Rep. Matt Huuki’s (R-Atlantic Mine) votes to cut $500 million from local K-12 schools (about $900 million from the state school aid fund) and raise taxes on seniors’ pensions by over $330 million.
Canvassers in Houghton prepare to take information to local residents about State Rep. Matt Huuki's vote to cut education and tax seniors' pensions. Pictured here on June 15, 2011, are, from left, John Kleiber of Gladstone, business representative for the Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers Local 9 of Michigan; Brian Kerrigan of Marquette, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 1510; Pete Prochnow of Appleton, Wis., representing Iron Workers Local 8 (Marquette); Allan Baker of Houghton, realtor; Gary McDowell of Rudyard, former Democratic First District Congressional candidate and former 107th District state representative; and Nathan Nakkula of Mohawk, marketing representative for Laborers Local 1329. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)
Gary McDowell, former Democratic candidate for the US Congress and former state representative, drove all the way from Sault Ste. Marie to Houghton to help organize a group of canvassers who volunteered to take information about Rep. Huuki's vote to targeted residences (of people identified as union members and Democrats) in Hancock and Houghton.
McDowell distributed a flyer with information about Matt Huuki's recent budget vote that cuts funds from education to give tax breaks to rich corporations.
Canvassers distributed this flyer about State Rep. Matt Huuki's vote to cut education funding in Michigan to residents in Hancock and Houghton today, June 15. Click on image for larger version. (Flyer courtesy We Are the People)
"He (Huuki) said he was not going to cut education," McDowell said. "Then he and (State Senator) Tom Casperson both voted to cut $900 million from the school aid fund to give tax breaks to corporations. Casperson's was the deciding vote!"
McDowell noted the State of Michigan's school aid fund had grown and these cuts actually prevented a potential increase in funding per student.
"Instead of a $250-$300 increase per student, the schools are facing a $300 - $400 decrease per student," he said. "When we're losing programs and teachers, schools are going to be forced to close."
Hancock and Ewen Trout Creek school districts, in fact, are on a critical list of schools that could be taken over by one of Gov. Rick Snyder's Emergency Financial Managers (EFMs).**
The local canvass was part of an action organized by We Are the People, a statewide coalition of teachers, students and seniors fighting to protect middle-class Michigan families, according to Zack Pohl, spokesman for We Are the People.
"Matt Huuki said he’d fight for U.P. jobs, but instead he voted to slash education and raise taxes on seniors to give rich CEOs a $1.8 billion tax break with no guarantee of future job growth," Pohl said. "It’s time for Lansing politicians like Matt Huuki to stop the power struggles and start working together to create jobs for working families."
McDowell said this local canvass was organized by the Carpenters and Operating Engineers trade unions.
Brian Kerrigan of Marquette, representing the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, specifically Local 1510, joined the group of canvassers in Houghton Wednesday. He said the canvass would be an ongoing effort to inform citizens in both residential and business areas.
"We're probably going to canvass each district and then come back again to re-canvass," Kerrigan said. "We're going to send everyone this message eventually."
The canvassers are trying to elicit a reaction from voters by informing them about how their representatives voted and the effects those votes will have on education and on pensions, Kerrigan explained.
"We just want to get the word out. People need to be informed about what's going on," Kerrigan said. "How they want to act on that is up to them."
McDowell added, "We're trying to inform the voters that the votes Mr. Huuki has been taking are detrimental to our children's education -- which every politician, including Mr. Huuki, said was their first priority."
Pohl noted Matt Huuki said he "believes that education is extremely important." Huuki also signed a pledge to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase
"Like a typical politician, it’s clear Matt Huuki isn’t interested in keeping his word or listening to the will of the people in his district who overwhelmingly oppose these education cuts and higher taxes," said Pohl. "If Matt Huuki wants to keep his job next year, he needs to start working to create jobs for working and middle class families."
Over the past month, local workers and residents have gone door-to-door in six state House districts to discuss state politicians’ recent votes to cut education and slash
unemployment benefits, including the districts of: Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc), Pat Somerville (R-Huron Township), Andrea LaFontaine (R-Richmond) and Rick Olson (R-York Township). More community activities are planned in legislators’ districts throughout the summer.
* We Are the People is a diverse coalition of students, seniors, workers, families and organizations fighting to protect Michigan's middle class. Click here to visit their Web site.
** Read about EFMs in our May 12, 2011, article, "EFMs, schools concern residents at April Town Hall with Casperson, Huuki," and our May 15, 2011, article, "Local teachers, union members rally for schools."