Karen Mouradjian is passionate, intense, and has dreamed of becoming a lawyer for years — in large part because she is concerned about animal rights and animal abuse.
She wants to help those who cannot speak. Getting a law degree has been a long process, because she doesn't have much money. But on the Fourth of July, she learned that she evidently doesn't have any right to be free of noise, and there is a risk of her house burning down thanks to out-of-control fireworks.
Six years ago, the State of Michigan passed legislation that basically said when it comes to fireworks, it's a free-for-all — and essentially took the right to regulate fireworks away from local communities. That, by the way, is a perfect illustration of the core GOP philosophy — conservatives are always in favor of local control, except when they aren't.
What likely was really going on was that some businessmen, some of whom might be persuaded to donate to politicians' campaign funds, saw a way of making a quick buck.
Lawmakers claimed that the state, too, would share in the tax revenue, and so they basically said... anything goes.
The result has been hell. WXYZ meteorologist Dave Rexroth blew his left eye out of his head three years ago.
He's not the only one. Kids have lost fingers and been scarred and mutilated, and there's been a rash of fires.
Frantic, terrified dogs have destroyed carpets and suffered through emotional agony, and lots of us have had to clean the remains and ashes out of our yards and off our roofs.
Technically, you aren't supposed to set off any fireworks between midnight and 8 a.m., a provision that may just be Michigan's most poorly enforced law.
Ask law student Mouradjian, who lives in Eastpointe. "I lost the entire night of studying, because I had to sit on my porch babysitting my house," she says. "Dumbasses two doors down were shooting them off and I could hear metal hitting my awning."
When she politely asked her neighbors to stop, they ignored, sneered, or swore at her. "The cops are absolutely worthless," she says. Perhaps, but the problem has become far too big for any suburban police force. Warren Mayor Jim Fouts planned to spend the night patrolling the streets.
"Continually, I have residents say, I feel like I'm in a war zone, and I don't want to be in a war zone," he told The Detroit Free Press. Mouradjian was right to guard her house.
That night, long after midnight, a homeowner's garage and part of their house in Sterling Heights was destroyed by a fireworks-caused fire. Damage was estimated at $150,000.
Plainly, this was a stupid law. Plenty of people, and a growing number of legislators, including some Republicans, have introduced bills that would modify or repeal the anything-goes fireworks laws. But that apparently isn't going to happen.
That's because of one little man. Meet State Rep. Brandt Iden, a 34-year-old Republican from Kalamazoo County, the fireworks merchants' best friend. He's the chair of the House Regulatory Reform Committee, and his philosophy seems to be "no regulation and no reform."
He's not interested in rewriting the fireworks laws, he has said, adding that he hadn't heard any complaints from "down in [his] neck of the woods." That's maybe because he doesn't listen.
I couldn't find evidence that Iden got direct contributions from the fireworks lobby, though I can't say that he didn't. But he is heavily beholden to the Republican Party.
He's won two elections to the state house by close margins — and the House Republican Campaign Committee kicked in $536,929 to get him elected to a job that pays $71,685 a year.
That's according to the non-partisan and reliable Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Lots of other deplorables kicked in to further prop him up.
He got $18,000 from the DeVos family, which wouldn't even be enough to restore one hand destroyed by fireworks.
This is an issue that is having a major and devastating effect on people's lives. If the legislature is too cowardly to avoid taking up the fireworks issue, they could at least put it on the ballot and let the people decide.
They won't do that either, unless they are pressured to. They are hoping and betting people will soon forget about it.
Till the next time they and their terrified pets are kept up all night by fireworks. Karen Mouradjian doesn't intend to let people forget. She's deluging legislators' offices with calls.
She's touting a MoveOn petition called "Repeal the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act of 2011," which so far has more than 38,000 signatures. "Money doesn't come before public safety, and these businesses (that sell fireworks) far exceed being a nuisance and have created a public safety issue that has endangered homeowners and wildlife," she says.
Selfishly, I just hope she sets aside enough time to make sure she passes her final courses and the bar. Then she'll be in a far better position to give the evildoers fits.
Should our tax dollars be used for private schools?
Your legislature thinks so. You'd think they'd be content with severely damaging public education by treating hundreds of essentially unregulated charter schools as public schools.
We've shelled out many millions for charters, some of them owned by for-profit companies, and some which have unexpectedly gone out of business in the middle of the year.
Tough luck, kiddies! Now, the legislature wants to move down the slippery slope of aiding private schools, something that is explicitly prohibited under the state constitution.
Last year, the legislature set aside $2.5 million to help them pay, not for teachers, but for things like fire drills and playground inspections, etc. What could be wrong with that?
Well, everything, as the ACLU has argued in court. Earlier this month, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens rightly slapped a restraining order that prevented the state aid from being distributed to private, including religious, schools.
This country has been founded on the absolute separation of church and state, period. Taxpayers pay for a system of public schools open to everyone.
Forcing taxpayers to pay for a system of schools that they may not be able to get into or that teach doctrines they don't believe in is clearly anti-American.
Not only that, this whole issue was settled by the voters of this state not that long ago. Back in 1970, the legislature, the governor, and the Michigan Supreme Court were all gung ho to supply state money to private schools, as long as it wasn't used for instruction in religious subjects.
The voters, however, thought that was a terrible idea. That fall, they overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution that said "No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized ... directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational, or other private, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school."
I know many lawmakers, like our great President Donald J. Trump, don't like to read much.
But what part of "no" don't they understand? By the way, I wonder what someone who thinks the state should aid his local Catholic school would feel about state aid... to a Madrassa?