Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Commission talks, forum rocks on Prop 2

GR Mayor George Heartwell is ready to stake his career on doing something he feels right. So refreshing to see someone take a stand- whether this is a wise one or not, I don't know, but good for him.

What disturbs me the most about all of this are the vehement reactions to his idea of a lawsuit- in both the forum here at WOOD and in letters to the editor at the Press, the response of "the voters spoke" seems to be born of the joy of keeping minorities and women down. I can't put it any better than that. They are "tired of diversity", complain that people are "just lazy" and want "special treatment" (man, am I sick of that phrase), and, just as with the 2004 Prop 2, they feel that as long as the majority feels the same way, it's OK to be sexist, racist, homophobic, etc., on and on.

I am probably stating that a little too harshly because it is really subtle, but that is the underlying theme that seems to be apparent when I read these things, and it really scares me. Makes me wonder why I want to stay here. I know that this sentiment probably exists everywhere, and, if the economy continues to slide in this country for the lower and middle class, it is only going to get worse as we all fight over the last scrap of meat.

Good luck George. They are coming after you.

GRAND RAPIDS -- The woodtv.com forum on the lawsuit Mayor George Heartwell wants to bring against Proposal 2 has generated a large and ongoing response.

Some were measured, weighing the merits of majority rule with concerns over racial disparity. Others were more direct: "Who died and made the mayor god?" "It should be King Heartwell." "Recall the mayor."

None of the comments surprise Heartwell.

"I'm being called an emperor, a despot, a dictator, an idiot, a moron and a few things I can't talk about," the Mayor told city commissioners Tuesday as they began to debate the merits of his idea to sue over the constitutionality of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

While city voters turned down the measure in November, it won by a 16-point margin statewide.

"While this democracy of ours does rest on the principle of majority rules, there are built in protections for minority rights. The judicial process is one such protection," said Heartwell.


Heartwell wants to get others involved in the lawsuit, including local state universities and the core urban cities in West Michigan, including Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Lansing.

Both Muskegon and Battle Creek mayors say it's too early to tell if they'll join in a lawsuit.

We also checked with officials at Grand Valley and Western Michigan Universities. Both say they are doing their own in-house reviews of their polices to see what, if any, impact, Proposal 2 will have on them.

More questions remain. Can they afford it? Can they win? And for some, can they stand the political fallout?

Mayor Heartwell said he's made his decision.

"Each of us around this table decides what we're willing to fight for, what we're willing to sacrifice for, what we're willing to lose our political office for. This is it for me."

Takes guts to make a statement like that. I've had my disagreements with Heartwell, but my respect and admiration of this man is very strong. I hope we don't lose him over this, but that is his choice and I back him all the way.