Michigan and Grand Traverse-area voters are going to have a lot of homework to do this year before they go to the polls — and that's just to decide the eight ballot issues they'll face Nov. 6.
They'll also be asked to decide who they want for president, a U.S. Senator, their state and U.S. House representatives and a few county officials, including a sheriff or two.
Just wading through the ballots — the most Michigan has had in 30 years — is going to take time and a commitment to know what's what before casting a vote.
Locally, there will be two issues.
- Traverse City Area Public Schools will ask voters to increase its existing 3.1-mill bond levy by up to 0.9 mills to raise $100 million to pay for reconstruction projects at Interlochen, Eastern and Montessori at Glenn Loomis elementary schools, estimated at $10 million each; reconstruction at Central Grade School, projected at $26 million; and a new performing arts center at Central High School estimated at $26.5 million.
- Traverse City residents will be asked to give up a strip of parkland along Division Street between 8th and 14th streets to make room for improvements to Division to make it safer for cars, pedestrians and cyclists. The city decided not to put two other issues on the crowded ballot.
Statewide, there could be as many as seven ballot proposals on everything from a new bridge in Detroit to requiring a supermajority in the Legislature to raise taxes.
Here's a brief rundown on each of the proposed amendments as reported by the Detroit Free Press:
- Citizens for More Michigan Jobs (509,777 signatures) wants voters to authorize new casinos in eight locations around the state: Detroit, Grand Rapids, Romulus, Pontiac, DeWitt Township north of Lansing, Birch Run, Clam Lake Township near Cadillac and Clinton Township near Mt. Clemens.
- Protect Our Jobs (684,286 signatures), the major union-backed proposal, would bar the Legislature and governor from setting regulations that affect collective bargaining agreements between public sector unions and their employers (except to bar strikes by public employees).
- Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs (530,000 signatures) is a proposal backed by environmentalists, several labor organizations and the makers of solar- and wind-energy equipment to require that 25 percent of the state's energy be generated from renewable sources by 2025.
- Michigan Alliance for Prosperity (613,379 signatures) is a proposal backed by national limited government and tea party groups to require two-thirds of the votes in the Legislature or by the people to enact any state tax hike.
- The People Should Decide (609,220 signatures) was organized by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge to block the proposed Detroit-Windsor bridge over the Detroit River. A spokesman for the proposal said Monday it is "unequivocal" that approval by Michigan voters would make it impossible for Snyder and Canadian and U.S. officials to proceed with the plan announced last month. Snyder has said that the effort could not retroactively block the agreement already in place.
- Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care (550,000 signatures) is backed by the Service Employees International Union and disability rights advocates to require Michigan to maintain a registry of home health care workers and preserve the union that represents them.
To complicate things further, the Traverse City issue concerning parkland and Division Street may be short on details. The state won't approve precise plans until it knows how much right of way it will have to work with, but that won't be decided until after voters say yes or no to the parkland proposal.
"It's a real chicken-and-egg problem," City Manager Ben Bifoss said.
Voters owe it to themselves and their kids to take a close look at the school bond issue. While the Central High performing arts center issue has generated the most conversation so far, officials say the elementary school reconstructions and the Central Grade School project are crucial.
You owe it to yourself as a voter and a taxpayer to start studying now, not Nov. 5.