The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 21, 2000

Primary election is easy to ignore - please don't

By The Building Tradesman

"So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we'll be called a democracy." - Roger Baldwin

Michigan voters will have the opportunity to go to the polls on Tuesday, Aug. 8 to fight for their rights at polling places scattered among the 83 counties of Michigan.
Primary elections always seem to take place at the worst time on the calendar - in August, when people are often on vacation or have their minds on anything but voting.

That's why voter turnout numbers are so lousy for primary elections. In August 1996, the most recent year Michiganians went to the polls to elect a president, only 1.3 million voters voted. But in November of that year, 3.9 million Michiganians went to the polls.

It's still important to go to the polls or send in your absentee ballot for this year's primary election, because in so many communities, the primary election effectively determines the winner of the race.

We urge building trades workers families to exercise their franchise and vote on Aug. 8. On Page 3 of this edition is an endorsement list compiled by the Political Action Committee of The Greater Detroit Building Trades Council.

Four times over the last decade, the school inspection matter has come up for a vote in the state Senate, and each time it was defeated. School districts argued against the cost, and state Republicans have made it a policy not to increase government influence.

Dingell said passage was gained this time in good part because lawmakers had in mind the tragic collapse of a block wall at Flushing High School that killed four building trades workers nearly two years ago. Safety inspectors had not inspected the wall.

Beginning in the 1920s, the task of school inspections fell to the state school superintendent, because lawmakers believed many local building inspectors lacked the expertise to review such major work. Then in 1978, the school superintendent handed off the responsibility to the state fire marshal, whose office still conducts safety inspections.

The problem is, since then, there has been no state-mandated enforcement of other construction codes when it comes to school buildings, and local inspections can be spotty. As a result, rather incredibly, state construction rules have been more stringent for prisons and other state-funded buildings than they have been for schools.

In his first term, Gov. John Engler vetoed a bill that would have required structural inspections of public school construction sites. Two years ago there was some positive movement: Engler's spokesman said the governor was "open to discussing" the bill.