By Mary Hall
In lieu of the regular bimonthly gathering, the Dexter Forum welcomed guest speaker Dwayne Barnes, an Engagement Strategy and Urban Outreach Coordinator for Bridge, News and Analysis from The Center for Michigan. They have put together Bridge Magazine, as well as two booklets that were handed out at the meeting; The Facts Just Ahead, 2018 Michigan Fact & issue Guide, and How to Spot Fake News, a 2018 Citizen’s Guide.
The Dexter Forum is an informal gathering on the first and third Saturday of the month that takes place at the Dexter Wellness Center to discuss topics of interest to the Dexter Community. The meetings begin at 8:30am and all are welcome.
What Barnes and his colleagues do is go around to Michigan communities and gather information from citizens on various topics by asking questions using a “clicker” so that respondents can give their answers yet still remain anonymous. For example, one of the questions asked by Barnes was – Do you think the taxes you pay right now are: 1) Too High 2) Too Low 3) Just Right? The people in the group then used their clicker and chose either 1, 2 or 3 and the results showed up in a line graph on a screen behind Barnes. This then became a visual aid for an ensuing discussion. There were several more questions that were more in-depth, but the manner in which they were asked and answered remained the same. Barnes records the answers and the discussions, and his group compiles all of the responses they get from a given area and uses this information to address Michigan legislature to let them know what Michigan residents are actually thinking. Given that this is an election year, this information could be valuable.
Many of the statistics provided by Bridge in The Facts Just Ahead Booklet could be viewed as startling to some, especially the ranking of our state when it comes to education. Results show that Michigan’s white higher-income students ranked 17th in the nation in fourth grade reading. By 2014, they ranked 45th. By 2015, they ranked 50th. Overall, Michigan fourth grade students dropped from 28th in reading in 2003 to 38th in 2013 and 41st in 2015. Similar problems persist in eighth grade math performance. Michigan’s nationwide rank fell from 34th in 2003 to 38th in 2015. Higher income eight graders dropped from 34th in 2003 in math to 41st in 2015”. This is just an example of one of the many areas of information Bridge covers to inform residents. In this way, residents can make informed decisions on how they feel about what is happening in their community, and Bridge can report those decisions back to law makers.
Bridge Magazine is an online Political Magazine which is non-partisan and non-profit. Bridge’s mission is to inform Michigan residents about their state, amplify their views, and explore the challenges of our civic life. For more information, or for a free subscription to Bridge (email) go to bridgemi.com.