I sent the following to the Kalamazoo Gazette as a Letter to the Editor. The Gazette’s automated response told me that publication could take up to 2 months, which would be a month after the primary elections on August 3rd. So I’m posting it here, slightly modified.
To what I say in the letter, I would only add that electing politicians who were involved in passage of House Bill 5207 would be seen as, and would be, a validation of the whole process of breaking the covenant and setting the Colony Farm Orchard up for development.
By “the whole process,” I mean the sneaky introduction of the bill at a time when few students were on campus, most faculty were concentrating on their research in their labs or at off-campus sites, and many townspeople were on vacation. I mean the way the politicians and WMU spokesmen substituted repetition of PowerPoint bullets for a debate on the issues. And I mean the cynical marketing of development of these 53 acres next to Asylum Lake Preserve as Kalamazoo’s job creation solution, while giving a cold shoulder to remediated brownfields, in regional economic terms the logical location for BTR park expansion.
Politicians whose names became notorious through their connection with House Bill 5207 are running again.
HB 5207 stripped from the Colony Farm Orchard the covenant that it be kept as open space for public use. Probably the most anti-conservation, anti-environment, anti-sustainability bill in the legislature last session, it fleeced us of dedicated open land and, if the land is developed, is a threat to Asylum Lake Preserve.
Most of us have a clear recollection of the events of 2009. This recap is for those few who seem to have come down with a case of early-onset political amnesia, as shown by a scattering of recent endorsements.
Robert Jones, let us recall, introduced HB 5207 July 16th, 2009 with no public notice from him or Western Michigan University at whose behest the deed was done. Jones is running again, this time in the Democratic primary for the 20th Senatorial district. Fortunately, he is opposed by an excellent candidate, Mark Totten, untainted by the 5207 shenanigans.
And let us remember Larry DeShazor, who represented the District where the Colony Farm Orchard is located (in Oshtemo township). He is running in Senatorial District 20 in the Republican primary. Neither Jones nor WMU had bothered to tell DeShazor about 5207; nevertheless, he voted for it in Committee and in the full House. His main Republican opponent is Tonya Schuitmaker, who also voted for 5207 in the House.
Tom George voted for 5207 in the Senate Appropriations Committee and in the Senate as whole. Along with a bunch of other politicians, George is now running in the Republican primary for governor. In the Democratic primary is Andy Dillon, who allowed all this to happen while speaker of the House, and a second candidate, Virg Bernero, untainted by 5207 and as far as I can tell sound on other conservation issues.
Remember that the politicians who voted for 5207, local and otherwise, ignored an unprecedented outpouring of grass-roots sentiment against it. But the letters, emails, phone calls, and personal visits were from conservationists, members of neighborhood groups, Environmental Studies students, and ordinary citizens who believe that promises should be kept–not the people these politicians are used to listening to.
And finally, remember that Jones or George and probably DeShazor, could have stopped 5207 dead in its tracks simply by saying to their colleagues, “I have concluded that this bill affecting my district is bad legislation.”
Should we put any of the supporters of 5207 in positions to do further damage?