Cancel Culture Strikes Howell

(Originally printed in the Fowlerville News and Views on February 6, 2021)


One of the most disturbing issues facing our state and nation today is the notion of "cancel culture" – according to "cancel culture", any person can lose their jobs, prospects and relationships because they hold a view that is different. It's a disturbing phenomenon, particularly for a nation that once valued different ideas and diverse viewpoints.


While cancel culture was once seemingly limited to Wall Street and Hollywood, that is no longer the case. In fact, we now have a tremendously disturbing case of cancel culture right here in mid-Michigan.


Recently, a 20-year member of the Howell City Tax Increment Finance Authority, or TIFA, was told he could no longer be part of this local appointed board. Why? Because he expressed his opinion on a local ballot issue three years ago.


A TIFA is governed by a locally-appointed board that is able to raise taxes without a vote of the people. It is important that its governing members are reasonable, pragmatic individuals who are capable of ensuring local residents aren't buried under the weight of local property assessments.


Howell had one such board member in 2018. He was extremely effective in his work—so much so that he was asked to apply for one of two open positions on the city council back in 2018.


During his appointment interview, sitting council members asked him how he planned to vote on an upcoming Headlee override issue appearing on the local ballot. He sensibly demurred, saying that his personal vote was not germane to the open city council seat.


He did not get that initial appointment but applied for the other opening immediately. The second time he told the council that he would probably be voting no.


Fast forward two years, the Headlee override vote failed by over 55 percent. Now, city council members have chosen not to re-appoint him to the TIFA board because he "exercised his first amendment rights" and expressed publicly his intention to vote no.


It is clear that the Howell City Council is comprised of individuals who only want to appoint people that will do their bidding and raise taxes, even if that decision runs counter to the wishes of city residents.


During any public policy or tax debate, a strong civil discourse is crucial. We must protect the rights of people to speak out and share their opinions, instead of canceling them the moment they veer from the majority.


It is wrong to cast out dissenters. They have a voice, and a right to be heard—particularly when they represent important cross-sections of our population. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, or Ruth Bader Ginsberg had views that were different than the majority.


History shows that Antonin Scalia, former Supreme Court Justice and far more conservative Justice than his colleague Ruther Bader Ginsberg, invited discussion and discourse, as did Justice Ginsberg, and the two were best of friends – perhaps because of, rather than in spite of their different beliefs.


What the Howell City Council did is plain wrong.


We as Americans cannot allow cancel culture to become the acceptable norm. The United States of America was founded on democratic discussion and lively-heated debate. We must do better. Our friends, family, and neighbors deserve to express opinions without the fear of being canceled. It's time to quickly cancel cancel culture here in Livingston County.


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