Ken Winter discusses ‘Center for Michigan’ Non-profit aims to engage, empower, educate citizens on public policy

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Beth Gohs

Staff Writer

Ken Winter, former journalist and current adjunct instructor at North Central Michigan College and Michigan State University, spoke at the Boyne Valley Lions Club on Oct. 1, to discuss the non-profit think tank “The Center for Michigan.”

Winter spoke of the organization, created by Phil Power, that was created with the intention of informing the public as well as taking community input.

“What he (Power) did with his own money is he started The Center for Michigan, which is a nonprofit.”

According to Winter, the purpose of the center is to allow the opportunity for citizens to become informed on state and public policy issues, and to be able to discuss the issues with one another.

And through their magazine Bridge, their goal is to promote the knowledge of what is happening in the communities throughout Michigan and allow residents to speak their minds to politicians, instead of letting lobbyists in Lansing speak for them.

The intention of the program is to create a better Michigan—one that the citizens envision for their future. Winter said Bridge Magazine is a free informative source which demonstrates what issues the citizens of Michigan believe are most pertinent.

“The center will serve as an independent non-partisan, citizen led provider of leadership programs for improved public policy, leading to an improved environment for Michigan’s future prosperity,” Winter said.

According to Winter, they plan to accomplish making Michigan a better place through understanding what the citizens are most eager to incorporate in their communities, while giving them a voice.

Winter said the Center held community meetings, one of which sponsored by the Charlevoix County Community Foundation at the Charlevoix Public Library.

“Basically, it’s community conversations,” he said. “We spoke to over 20,000 people and three conversation campaigns collecting data. And, we just had our fourth campaign, which is the one you have right here.”

The Center for Michigan has reformed state business tax, developed the approval of deeper investment in Michigan, tried to stop the erosion of the K-12 school-year, brought attention to the fact that some schools have found ways to avoid following the 100 day calendar, and looked at suggested candidates.

“When I moved here back in 1972 in March, Boyne City was one of the first communities I covered as a reporter,” he said… “And who would have ever guessed some 40 years later, Boyne City would be one of the social, recreational, entertainment hubs in the region.”

Power has donated a million dollars a year for his foundation and has challenged that the rest of the participants to come up with a million-dollar match.

“And the other thing he’s done is he’s put in his will that this will continue on in perpetuity in endowment that the board will continue on and I don’t know too many people that would make that kind of commitment,” Winter said. “So we had 166 conversations, on the average we had 23 people at each one. In addition, this year, we also added 550 participants on the online version that we did on the ground.”

Winter said through interviews he gathered that the most important topics citizens cared about were fixing the roads and bridges and to improve the quality of education.

“Overwhelmingly, people said they would pay more money right now to get it fixed,” said winter about potholes ruining Michigan roads state-wide.

Winter concluded the discussion with touching on poverty.

“We have to decrease poverty, because we are only as strong as the weakest person in our link,” Winter said. “We have to figure out ways, not give handouts, but hands-up to people to raise them to a certain level.”
He added, “I’m not saying just write them a check or give them welfare, I’m talking about how do we get them out of this vicious cycle that maybe their parents were in too. How do we deal with so many single moms and families so they can get educated and get a better wage earning job.”