Letter: Students must participate in local government


In 1972 in a county-wide election, Dick Cronk ran for Isabella County Sheriff. He ran against victimless crimes marijuana and racism. He was pro-environment and pro-gun control, running on the Human Rights Party ticket.

He didn’t win, but he got 25 percent of the vote, coming in second and beating the Republican candidate. Human Rights Party supported candidate Carol Scherer was elected in the non-partisan City Commission race.

Their campaigns centered on the student vote. And that was all done without the advantage of today’s nearly instantaneous communications.

Of course that was a different time. Cronk got 25 percent in a county-wide election, when CMU had only half the students that it does now.

Union, the township surrounding Mount Pleasant, had even fewer students.

Today with all the apartment complexes up, more than 60 percent of the eligible voters in Union township are students.

With greater numbers, and a much higher percentage of eligible voters, students have a better chance of winning an election, now, than they did in the age of Cronk. It should not be, can a student win an election, but why haven’t they?

Students are a central part of every aspect of this community, except its leadership. They should have a say in the decisions that affect them.

The opportunity to do just that is now. Petitions to appear on next November’s ballot for county and township offices are available and due April 19. City commission petitions are due July 12 and are not yet available. It does not take that much to get on the ballot.

If the idea of going door-to-door and pandering for votes sounds like too big of a challenge, there is an alternate path that completely circumvents any election.

Apply to be on one of the numerous city, county and township committees; Housing, Human Rights, Material Recovery (recycling), Dog Park Commission and many more. Local governments are often desperate to find people to sit on these Boards.

A student could be an asset and would bring in a valuable new perspective. Students use the county’s parks, couldn’t they contribute to the Parks and Recreation commission decisions?

Students could use elected officials who are not prejudiced against them.

City Commissioner Tony Kulick, told a candidate forum when he last ran, that the presence of students in downtown Mount Pleasant, ‘‘hurt business”. He is expected to run for re-election this November. Then, from a Central Michigan Life Editorial Board, “We’ve heard some commissioners make disparaging remarks about students during public meetings. Those comments create a culture of resentment.”

Consider how a tiny change, could have made a difference in who is governing. Since Jimmy Carter was president, I-Ride has offered free rides to the polls.

Current Union Township Supervisor Russ Alwood said in CM Life “I question whether university students should be allowed to vote locally.” His election ended 1,633 to 1,633, a tie, he won when his name was pulled from a hat. One year three County Commissioners were elected by 3, 8 and 11 votes.

There were also times when the strength of the student vote was clearly demonstrated. Just 2 years ago, the largely student initiated Mount Pleasant Marijuana Decriminalization proposition got 62 percent of the vote.

Student concerns can only be addressed if they are part of the decision-making. Students are being given a chance to have their say. Students need to grab the opportunity.

Matt Mertz

Union Township Resident