Rehmann Recognized Among Construction Executive’s Top 50 Accounting Firms

Rehmann Recognized Among Construction Executive’s Top 50 Accounting Firms

Troy, Mich., December 19, 2019 – Rehmann has been named one of Construction Executive’s (CE) Top 50 accounting firms in the publication’s inaugural rankings.

CE selected its top 50 firms by connecting with hundreds of accounting firms that serve leading construction clients across the U.S. to analyze the size and scope of firm offerings.

“Construction companies stand to benefit enormously from sound financial expertise, especially given the challenges they face—be it labor shortages or tariff wars,” said Bob Nagle, Principal at Rehmann. “With changes in the industry taking place daily, our clients never know what’s around the corner. We are proud to serve as an extension of their teams, offering sound business solutions that have an immediate impact on their bottom lines.”

Companies were evaluated across various categories, including: 2018 revenues from construction practices; number of CPAs serving construction practices; percentage of firms’ total revenue from construction practices; number of construction clients in 2018; number of office locations with a construction accounting practice; number of employees with a CCIFP certification; and year construction practice was established. Rehmann had 378 construction clients, 21 construction-focused CPAs and nine construction-focused partners at the time of the evaluation, with construction making up 12.84% of firm revenue. The firm offers tax, assurance and consulting services to its clients in the industry.

Construction Executive serves as a leading resource for business construction leaders. Reaching more than 55,000 commercial, industrial, and institutional contractors and construction-related business owners every year.

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About Rehmann

Rehmann is a fully integrated financial services and advisory firm that provides accounting and assurance, comprehensive technology, accounting and human resource solutions, specialized consulting and wealth management services. For more than 75 years, Rehmann has provided forward-thinking solutions, making it our duty to anticipate our clients’ daily and future needs. Rehmann has over 900 associates in Michigan, Ohio and Florida. Rehmann is an independent member of Nexia International, offering clients a global approach. Find us online at rehmann.com.

Ford’s Mary Culler to Discuss Michigan Central Station Redevelopment and Build a New Innovation Community in Detroit at 2020 Conference

Ford Motor Company is uniquely positioned to help define Detroit’s next decade as it leads the Michigan Central Station redevelopment and creation of a new innovative ecosystem in Corktown.

Detroit Development Director Mary Culler will discuss these opportunities and Ford’s commitment to Detroit in a keynote address at the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference, January 29 at MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Corktown is currently home to more than 250 employees from Ford’s autonomous vehicle business unit as it works towards its goal to deploy a self-driving car by 2021. This presence will grow to more than 5,000 Ford employees and partners when Detroit’s iconic train station opens to the public again, along with several nearby properties. The area will become a vibrant, innovative community where people come to create, test, and experience new transportation solutions that advance human progress.

There are several new confirmed speakers and groundbreaking sessions at the 2020 Conference. Check out the growing lineup and reserve your spot today at detroitchamber.com/dpc.

Member of the Month December 2019: Wayne State University

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s December Member of the Month is Wayne State University for its innovative approaches to expanding opportunities for postsecondary degree completion in Detroit and across the region, as well as for the exceptional leadership demonstrated by President M. Roy Wilson since beginning his tenure six years ago..

Wayne State partnered with the Chamber, Oakland University, and Henry Ford College to launch a debt forgiveness program with a goal to reach nearly 700,000 adults in the Detroit region who have dropped out before earning a degree or certificate and remove barriers for them to return to school. Wayne State’s Warrior Way Back debt forgiveness program, provides a way for students who left the university without a degree reduce their debt by one-third for every completed semester until their balances reach zero.

Additionally, in October, Wayne State established the Heart of Detroit Pledge, which offers free tuition to all graduates of Detroit high schools starting in 2020 and beyond. Wayne State is helping to grow Detroit’s talent base, and its programs launched thus far notably align with the Chamber’s goal to help the region achieve 60% postsecondary attainment by 2030.

Earlier this month, the Chamber also honored President M. Roy Wilson with “The Daniel Little Award” for his profound commitment to better serving his students. Read more.

In the following Q & A, key leaders at WSU share insight on the impact of the Warrior Way Back, the transformational results of President M. Roy Wilson’s leadership, and what ultimately led to creation of the Heart of Detroit Pledge.

Q: What are some key driving points that led to the establishment of the Heart of Detroit Pledge? What kind of impact does the university believe the Pledge will have on the city of Detroit, and the region as a whole, in the coming years?

A: We have always been the hometown university for the city of Detroit.  Even with our amazing ACCESS program that funds more than 3,000 students with zero out of pocket costs, we knew that part of what we needed to do was to show students that we cared about them.  We wanted to create a college going mindset where students would know that they could afford college and that we wanted them to come to Wayne State.  Sometimes folks will allow the media’s focus on student loan debt or their own financial circumstances to drive their belief that the aren’t college ready or that they can’t afford to go to college.

Students in our region can’t afford to not attain a postsecondary credential whether that be a four-year degree, a two-year degree, or a certificate.  The jobs market demands education beyond high school.  We wanted every student to know that they if they worked hard and achieved academically, we would be there financially.  Everything we do at Wayne State is about creating opportunity and making sure that students know we walk alongside them on the educational journey.

With the Heart of Detroit pledge, we will see more students exploring college opportunities and looking to schools who support them like Wayne State does.  Getting college ready will benefit them whether or not they choose to come to WSU and that is the point of the pledge.  We want students across the region to know that we are a university that has their back and that we will support the on their educational journey.  We are telling all the students of Detroit that they have a path to a college education, and we’ll support them.

– Dawn Medley, Associate Vice President, Enrollment Management, Wayne State University

Q: What kind of impact has Warrior Way Back had in its first year and why is this so important to the university?

A: Warrior Way Back has had many amazing benefits for the institution and the region.  First, we’ve welcomed over 140 students back to the university.  These students have had their credit scores improved, they’ve reengaged with higher education and they are working toward a degree which will make them more marketable in the job field.

We’ve also become a national model for supporting returning adults in higher education.  We took an idea and made it a movement.  With support from the Lumina Foundation and Kresge, our Talent Hub work with the Detroit Regional Chamber has become a shining example for other regions in the U.S.

We’ve been able to support other local institutions by helping them create their own debt-forgiveness plans.  For the first time in a long time, folks are looking to Detroit and to WSU for the “how” of higher education.  The program has helped us repair our relationships with students, community members and really demonstrate that we are an institution that cares about our students.

We have had 30 graduates in a year and have been able to show a financially sustainable model of higher education where doing right by the student is the right thing for the institution.  Students have been willing to give us another chance and let us show them the new Wayne State focus on student support and success.”

– Dawn Medley, Associate Vice President, Enrollment Management, Wayne State University

Q: What kind of impact has President M. Roy Wilson had on the university thus far? How would you best describe his leadership?

A: If you look at the list of accomplishments since Roy arrived six years ago, it’s clear his leadership has been transformational, and his impact profound. Wayne State’s six-year graduation rate had the fastest improvement in the nation, partly due to innovative programs like Warrior Way Back. We welcomed the two largest freshman classes in history in the last two years and have seen record applications to our medical school. We exceeded our $750 million fundraising goal significantly and ahead of schedule and completed an innovative partnership to expand new housing on campus. Our new STEM Innovation Center is well under way, and soon we will begin construction of a new sports arena, in partnership with the Detroit Pistons.

Results like this come from great leadership. President Wilson’s leadership combines clear vision, uncompromising integrity, high expectations of excellence, resolve to address difficult challenges with speed and courage, and the humility to listen to and draw upon the best people and ideas, no matter what the source. His work ethic is remarkable, and the respect he shows to everyone – no matter who they are or where they come from – earn admiration and respect from all levels of the university. He is a nationally and internationally known and respected surgeon, researcher and leader, but he is also an asset to Wayne State, Detroit, and the State of Michigan.

– Michael Wright, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Chief of Staff, Wayne State University

Competitive Advantage: Political Strategy Through A Business Lens

By Rene Wisely  

Business leader Katherine Gehl believes every healthy business thrives on competition, as do consumers. But one industry is floundering under a duopoly: the U.S. political system.  Gehl is so committed to political reform that she sold her $250 million family business to pursue it. 

 She hopes to expand the political marketplace instead of forcing its consumers, the electorate, into its current, and increasingly narrow, two-sizes-fit-all party system: Republican or Democrat.  

Gehl and economist Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor, presented their ideas at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference. They’ve since refined them and are writing a book on these strategies that they first fleshed out in a 2017 academic report, Gehl explains.  

In “The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy,” due out in May 2020, Gehl and Porter suggest these changes:  

  • Open primaries, where voters need not declare a party preference. The top five primary vote-getters would advance in a system Gehl and Porter call the “final five voting “ or “top five.”  
  • Ranked choice voting in general elections, where voters rank candidates in order of choice. This would encourage more candidates, including those usually elbowed aside by party leaders, who fear they will serve as spoilers and help the opposing party.  

Gehl cites Colin Powell as an example. If the former secretary of state decided to run as a Republican candidate against President Donald Trump, the party no longer has the power to keep him out of the race. Powell would come in second in the Republican primary, but might win in a ranked choice general election. 

“Our innovation is not necessarily about changing who gets elected, but about changing what they’re rewarded for doing when they are serving. And that’s what top five primaries and ranked choice voting does,” Gehl adds.  

Michigan’s Vote Counts

Business leader Katherine Gehl presents her ideas on political reform at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Michigan’s voters, particularly its business leaders, are an important part of that change equation. 

“These innovations that we propose will be enacted by individual states,” through legislation and referendums, Gehl says. “The audience for these, for this analysis and this prescription, are people in states across the country, and we have a particular focus on business leaders who resonate so well with this description of the challenge we face because they’re used to this competitive lens.” 

Gehl expects businesses will be on board because many share the view that Washington is broken and the political machine has halted progress.  

“It’s fundamentally what I call free-market politics. And by this, I mean the best of what free markets deliver, which is results, innovation, accountability, healthy competition,” Gehl says.  

Competition Cures All

Putting politics under a business microscope is what drew Porter  – known for his expertise on strategy, competitiveness, and economic development – into this conversation, he said during his talk at the Mackinac Policy Conference.  

“This was the most consequential issue that would really shape the future of our country,” he told the audience.  

Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter supports the proposal with data,

He was aghast to realize that Republicans and Democrats create rules together that protect themselves while discouraging  independents from challenging them fairly, what Porter and Gehl dub “barriers to entry.” One instance is in fundraising, he said. The two major parties may receive 313 times the amount an independent may receive in donations, a rule the parties wrote themselves.  

By restricting competition, Republicans and Democrats create a culture with no incentive to solve problems, no accountability for results, and no checks and balances, Porter said.  

“This is not going to change unless we change it,” he said.  

Michigan is ripe for leading the charge, Gehl points out. The Michigan Constitution grants citizens the right to challenge laws they dislike by calling for a voter referendum. Michigan is one of 26 states with such a law.  

She and Porter are hoping the state is ready to break the partisan gridlock. 

Rene Wisely is a metro Detroit-based freelance writer. 

 

Transforming Elections: Ranked Choice Voting

By Dawson Bell 

There is an election reform that has been quietly making inroads around the country and, in the view of its adherents, may be on the verge of a breakout. It’s called ranked choice (RCV) or instant runoff voting.   

The concept is relatively straightforward. In elections with three or more candidates, voters – instead of choosing just one – rank candidates by order of preference. If no candidate receives a 50% plus one majority, the last-place finisher is eliminated and his or her ballots are recounted using those voters’ second choice. That process is repeated until the top vote-getter reaches a majority.   

The principal virtue of RCV, according to its advocates, is that it provides a path to electoral success for candidates with the broadest appeal to the electorate. In theory, voters can avoid the choice between the “lesser of two evils,” and select their preferred candidate without worrying that their vote will help elect the candidate they most oppose.   

“RCV allows people to express their real opinion,” says Lansing’s Hugh McNichol IV of Rank MI Vote, an election reform organization that promotes ranked choice in municipal elections and is laying the groundwork for a 2022 referendum that could install RCV for state and federal elections in Michigan.   

McNichol says RCV would reduce the insidious influence of polls which shape voters’ perception of which candidates are viable, and which are spoilers that contribute to elections coming down to a binary choice between undesirable outcomes.   

Michigan’s first experiment with contemporary RCV came in November in Eastpointe, where two of five city council members were to be elected using ranked choice, a decision agreed to by the city in response to a federal voting rights complaint that minorities were unfairly shut out by traditional elections. The concept is also under active consideration in both Ann Arbor and Lansing.   

Lisa Disch, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, says RCV is “not particularly complicated; we all know how to rank things.” But it does impose a modest burden on voters to educate themselves about more than two candidates, she says, “and a lot of voters don’t have time for that.”   

An additional obstacle, Disch says, is that ordinary citizens don’t have widespread awareness of the problem RCV is intended to address. Unlike the anti-gerrymandering referendum approved by Michigan voters in 2018, most people haven’t thought very deeply about why they are so often asked to choose between candidates they don’t particularly like, she says.   

RCV also often faces practical objections. In Ferndale municipal elections, for instance, RCV has been technically legal for more than a decade. But it has never been implemented because the voting machine technology was unavailable. Additionally, the process of conducting an “instant” runoff under RCV can be both time-consuming and expensive.    

McNichol says most of the opposition to RCV is partisan and depends on which party perceives a disadvantage in a specific election. McNichol says advocates of RCV don’t care.   

“It’s not partisan. That’s the point.”

Dawson Bell is a veteran Michigan journalist who spent 25 years covering government and politics for the Detroit Free Press. 

Ranked Choice Voting and the Detroit Region

By Greg Tasker and Dawson Bell

The Case for Election Reform in Eastpointe

The November municipal election in Eastpointe, a suburb that shares 8 Mile Road as a border with Detroit, was one for the history books.    

Not only did the working-class Macomb County community elect its first black mayor, Monique Owens, but the city also implemented, for the first time, ranked choice voting.    

Instead of voting for candidates at large, voters ranked the four candidates running for two open city council seats. Voters ranked as many of the candidates as they liked, in order of preference, from one through four. Winners were required to earn slightly more than 33.3% of the votes. Choosing the winner can sometimes go into multiple rounds of tallying.  

Eastpointe, the only Michigan city currently using ranked choice voting, has implemented the practice as a result of a lawsuit settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The lawsuit filed with the City of Eastpointe in 2017 alleged that their method of election at the time allowed black citizens in Eastpointe less opportunity than white citizens to have a voice in the political process, which violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Black residents, who make up 40% of Eastpointe’s population, have been historically underrepresented in city government.  

Owens, a community activist and a deputy with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, was elected without ranked choice voting. The mayor’s race was held with at-large voting since ranked choice voting was not required for the mayoral election under the settlement. Owens was elected as the city’s first black council member two years ago.  

Harvey Curley, a former Eastpointe mayor and city council member, was among the two winners in the most recent election under ranked choice voting. Although elated at regaining office after a 19-year hiatus, Curley concedes the voting procedure was confusing for many in the city of about 34,000 residents.    

Ryan Cotton, the city’s interim manager, says some residents expressed dissatisfaction with the new voting procedure and the government imposing it on the city. Others, he says, found “pride in their community being the first in the state to do this new process.”    

Ranked Choice Voting’s Uphill Battle in Ferndale

Along with voter apprehension, ranked choice voting also faces technical and legal hurdles in another city in Michigan. In Ferndale, voters approved its use for municipal elections in 2004. Yet ranked choice has never been implemented there, initially because voting technology couldn’t properly tabulate ranked choice votes, and more recently because state officials believe the method violates state election law.     

Ferndale Clerk Marne McGrath says the issue may have lost some urgency because there have been fewer candidates in Ferndale in the years since the referendum, but she believes city voters continue to support the idea.     

“It’s been frustrating,” she says. “I think our voters still want it. I’m hoping maybe we can [for municipal elections] in 2021.”     

An analysis by the state Bureau of Elections Director Sally Williams finds that because Michigan state law was drafted under the assumption of winner-take-all elections, widespread adoption is problematic.  

“Ideally, the Michigan Election Law would be amended to establish detailed procedures for conducting city elections using the ranked choice voting method [before 2021],” Williams writes.  

Greg Tasker is a Michigan-based freelance writer. Dawson Bell is a veteran Michigan journalist who spent 25 years covering government and politics for the Detroit Free Press. 

Freedom of Choice: Nonpartisan Primary Elections

By Tom Walsh 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and University of Kentucky Law Professor and author Joshua
Douglas speak together about voting rights and participation at the University of Michigan.

Rising concern about America’s polarized politics has prompted many U.S. states to make changes in how primary elections are conducted, leading to confusing terminology about the various voting systems.   

Michigan is one of 20 states that use an “open partisan primary” in which any voter can choose to participate in the party primary of his or her choice for congressional and state-level offices.    

Seventeen states use a closed primary system in which only registered party members can participate in the nomination of party candidates.     

Ten states have some form of a hybrid partisan system between open and closed, while California and Washington state have nonpartisan “top-two” primaries where all candidates appear on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters – regardless of party affiliation – advance to the general election. Louisiana has a so-called “jungle primary” on the same day as a general election, followed by a runoff of the top two finishers if no candidate gets 50% or more of the vote.   

In Michigan, people need not select which party’s primary to vote in until election day, but each party’s candidates are in a separate column on the ballot. The Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties all fielded slates in 2018 – and voting in more than one invalidates the ballot.   

Proponents of open primaries say they boost voter participation by not excluding people who don’t want partisan labels, and who are more likely to vote for moderate candidates rather than ideological extremes.   

Opponents, however, say closed primaries provide more incentive to formally join the political process and become more involved in the voting process.    

Joshua Douglas, a University of Kentucky law professor and author of a new book “Vote for the US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future,” favors open over closed primaries.   

“In a system where you have a closed low-turnout primary that decides the nominees, the most polarized people tend to vote in primaries and you have more extreme candidates on either side winning their general elections.,” Douglas says. “They have less ability to compromise.”    

That said, he understands the motivation of closed-primary proponents.   

The major parties, he says, “want to be able to control the process and select who they want. Especially in places where one party has much more control, they’re very resistant to allowing independents or the opposite party to choose who moves on to a general election.”   

That’s what happened in 2012, for example, in a California district when six candidates for U.S. Congress – four Democrats and two Republicans – faced off on an open primary ballot. The two Republicans, in a traditionally Democratic district, advanced to the general election because the Democratic vote was split up among more people.   

Nationwide, a major factor driving efforts to change primary voting rules is the bloc of independent voters, unaffiliated with either of the two major parties.   

“I’ve been an unaffiliated voter my entire career, so I’ve been a staunch advocate for primary reform,” says Amber McReynolds, former elections director in Denver, and now executive director for the National Vote at Home Institute.     

“The traditional way of segmenting voters doesn’t work like it used to. More Americans are identifying as independent,” she adds. “I think the other issue is that all taxpayers, regardless of your political persuasion, pay for these elections. So, if the parties want to exclude people then they should foot the bill for the election. That’s why Washington and California and a lot of western states have opened up their primaries and have not required party registration.”   

That said, McReynolds does see pitfalls to the top-two primary system and is interested in exploring other variations such as a top-three or top-four combined with ranked choice voting – “something other than whoever has the most money and can get on TV the most will be the top two.” 

Tom Walsh is a former Detroit Free Press business editor and columnist. 

Pundit Roundtable: Political Innovations and Michigan

By Melanie Barnett 

Listen to the full recording:

Listen on Spotify:


Political strategists Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter claim that America’s political system is structured to serve the interests of the Democratic and Republican Parties, not the voters. They propose changing the way America elects politicians to eliminate party from the equation.   

Detroiter hosted a roundtable convening four Michigan-based political pundits in Lansing to dissect the possible implications of Gehl and Porter’s proposed changes to elections – ranked choice voting and open, nonpartisan primaries.   

At the table was John Sellek, founder and CEO of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs; Adrian Hemond, partner and CEO of the public affairs firm Grassroots Midwest; and Sarah Hubbard, principal at the government affairs and creative firm Acuitas.   

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber, moderated the hour-long discussion on the political innovation being implemented around the country and the politics of elections. 


BW: First of all, I want to start out by asking you this question. Is our system actually broken? Is our government not working, or is there actually hope that we could work within the system that we have to solve these problems?  

SH: I can see why some people would think it’s broken, but I can’t think of a better way to do it. I do believe that our system is the best and that has resulted in a robust exchange of ideas, freedom of speech, elections that do vary. We elect Republicans and Democrats in our regular back and forth way over the years. Before we had President Trump, we had President Obama. I don’t necessarily buy into the fact that our entire system is broken, but I’m not fundamentally opposed to the idea that there are always opportunities to look at improvements. I’m certainly happy to talk about the premise, but I don’t come at it that a dictatorship, for instance, is better.   

BW: That’s a real hot take, Sarah, not being pro-dictatorship.   

JS: I’ve always seen Sarah as a dictator.   

SH: I’d love to do it if anybody would elect me.  

[Everyone laughs.]  

JS: Things may move slowly and messily, but they keep us all very busy here in Lansing or Washington. And that means that not too many people are sitting around thinking long-term what are some of the changes that can be made. And the changes that these two proposed are pretty intense. They would be a big switch. Now they are starting to happen in certain parts of the country. They are a result of people being frustrated with our institutions of government right now and I think we need to move cautiously. 

AH: I’m going to completely disagree with both of you about this. Our electoral system and the structure under which we’re governed under the U.S. Constitution [were] built for an 18th century agrarian society and a very homogenous one where women and brown people didn’t vote. The electorate was essentially white dudes. And historically, if you look at simple plurality elections, which is what we have virtually everywhere in America, those only really work in exceptionally homogenous societies, and you’re starting to see some of the breakdown in that in other societies, as they become more diverse. As Great Britain continues to get more diverse, you’re starting to see a breakdown in their political system on that basis as well.   

BW: I am so excited that we got into British elections… [Laughs.] I thought we were going to get into the weeds, I didn’t think we’d get in this deep, this quickly. I wonder, though, if we get into an election where there’s not one Republican and one Democrat, are we going to be able to effectively discern who stands for what?  

JS: When you look at the list of places where [ranked choice voting] has been instituted, it’s in urban areas, it’s in cities. For example, in New York City, we’re not really talking about much of a partisan divide. We’re really just ranging from Democrat to communist with socialists and a couple of other things in between. It becomes very difficult to differentiate between all those folks. If we applied this open primary and then ranked choice voting to Michigan’s 2018 governor’s race – money and name ID are going to be the first considerations. We’d probably see more people jumping into the primary. I don’t think that they would have an effect on winning. So you could end up with a general election that is still essentially split by partisanship.  

AH: I want to follow up on something that you said about the potential for confusion at the ballot because… it points to a broader sort of problem that neither ranked choice voting or jungle primaries really solves, which is the utter ignorance of the American electorate. Structural reforms that you make are not going to cure that problem. The American electorate, by and large, does not have a clue [where] most of these people stand on policy, it’s why the partisan heuristic is so important, right? If you know nothing about politics and you feel compelled to vote for some reason, well, the D or the R next to a person’s name gives you a decent idea of, well, this person’s probably closer to me, so I’ll flop for them. There’s certainly an argument that the voters shouldn’t be challenged any further cause they can’t handle what they’ve got. But I’m not too sympathetic to that argument.  

SH: Detroit used to be electing city council all at large, and in the primary, you’d have hundreds of people on the ballot. In the general [election] you would pick the top four, depending on the cycle. There would be candidates who would run campaigns for plunking – “don’t vote for four, just vote for one,” which is not that different from what [Katherine Gehl] is suggesting because if you plunk, that would have a very similar effect to the ranking because, in effect, you’re not voting for those other three. You’re putting all your eggs in one. Is it just that [she] wants to do it on a larger scale rather than [individual] cities? I would think that still happens in a lot of big cities around the country where again, there’s not really any parts in differentiation. So, is there anything new in Hollywood? 

JS: When I was a kid and I made a list of my top 10 Christmas presents, if I ended up with number four, I really wasn’t that happy. The idea that this will make everybody feel whole, who normally felt disenfranchised or frustrated or mad about who they were having to vote for, it’s not the reality. I don’t think we’ll meet the dreamscape that’s being painted on that front. I don’t think they’ll be happy. I think [voters will] be less unhappy. Nobody’s ever happy in politics.  

BW: A few years back, I was at a dinner with Debbie Dingell, Congresswoman from Dearborn, and this topic came up. Her fear was that if we move to a system like this where we have an open [nonpartisan] primary system, it would neuter the ability of political parties to have any sort of influence in the state. Is that a bad thing? If in fact that is true, and I think maybe it is, does the endorsement of the democratic socialists of America all of a sudden become something that is more coveted on the left? On the right, [does] the endorsement of the tea party become more coveted?   

SH: So you want to build a coalition government?  

BW: I guess that’s what I’m asking, right?  

SH: Is that where it takes us? I’d say, does the party matter at that point? Well, I think you’d see a lot of candidates trying to change their middle name to Republican or Democrat so it’s clear to the voters what their party is. I think you’d also see parties still communicate to their voters on who their preferred candidate is. So, parties would continue to matter. I think people are looking for something better by changing how people are elected or [by] changing governance. And I’m a strong believer that a change in governance by itself or a change in process by itself doesn’t change what people fundamentally think.  

AH: When you create unwinnable districts, people just start to check out, right? That’s what you see from partisans in these extremely safe districts in Michigan right now where when you’re electing a single member, you’re electing people based purely on the partisan heuristic and who they are. There are a whole bunch of people that know their vote doesn’t matter and they behave accordingly. The argument that I think these folks are trying to make is that you’re never going to get citizens to engage, to try to see the changes that they want to see in their government if they know that their vote doesn’t matter.  

JS: At least up until the current president, parties performed an important structure of filtering out and easing off on the extreme. Wildcard candidates couldn’t make it through if a well-organized party, whether it was at the county level, the state level, or the national level handled that. That’s why we had presidents like George W. Bush after we had the first George Bush and so on. What this proposal seeks to do is to blame the party structure for progress, quote unquote, being hamstrung.  

BW: I want to transition now to a “what-if” scenario. If we look back just two years ago… we had a primary election. The 13th Congressional District, that is primarily the city of Detroit, but also including some downriver suburbs, currently held by Rashida Tlaib. Is there a possibility that the general election would have been different [with ranked choice]?  

AH: I think it’s virtually impossible that she could have won [with ranked choice]. If you’re a Republican in that district, in the general election, under the current electoral system, your vote does not matter. If you have a choice of Rashida Tlaib, Brenda Jones, and Bill Wild, hey — that’s a choice. I’m a Democrat and I wouldn’t have voted for Rashida in that situation. I don’t know any Republicans that would have – you probably plunked for Bill Wild or Brenda Jones as the least-worst option. And functionally, from the perspective of a conservative, you’re absolutely correct. [Are] either of those people going to be a conservative in Congress? No, but they’re going to be a lot more conservative than Rashida.  

JS: I think [ranked choice] doesn’t anticipate what would happen as you got into agenda –  

SH: How they throw it at each other.   

JS: Right. Could the others get so annoyed with number one that they bind together to cut a deal…? 

SH: Or could number one cut a deal with the others so that they go away? The premise of what [Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter], are saying is the system is broken and this is the solution to fixing it. I don’t know how anybody could agree that that’s true. Their fix makes this more complicated, way less predictable.   

AH: Each voter’s ranking the candidates one through four on their individual ballot. The people who prefer Rashida number one are going to put Rashida down as number one, and the people who don’t are going to put somebody else as number one. Whoever comes in fourth place gets knocked off and all of their second-choice votes get a word in their first. The coordination between campaigns [doesn’t matter] all that much. 

JS: I’m not necessarily advocating for it, but something that would expand voter involvement in the way that we select our officials here…the nominating convention process, at least for the secretary of state and the attorney general, could be put out as primaries. We do it above them, but then all of our state senators and state representatives are all done at primaries and they’re going to have wider audiences. So that would be something more immediate that can be done here, or at least debated.  

AH: I think it’s a capital idea as long as the parties have to pay for them along with all the other ones. I don’t have a problem with partisan primaries under our current electoral system, they make all the sense in the world. I just have a problem with taxpayers being owed for it. 

Melanie Barnett is the editor of Detroiter magazine. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

OCC on Cutting Edge of National Initiative to Ensure Students Receive the Degrees They Earned

Earning a college degree can be one of the greatest achievements of a person’s life. But colleges nationwide are finding that many students who complete the requirements aren’t taking the steps needed to be awarded the official degree. They are among students known as the “some college, no degree” population, and according to a recent publication by the National Student Clearinghouse, there are more than 1 million of these students in Michigan.

Why students are not receiving the degrees they’ve earned is a trend that OCC is a working to remedy. The college is on the forefront of the Degrees When Due initiative being led by the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

OCC Registrar Stephen Linden was recently quoted in a national news article on the higher education website, EdSurge.com, which highlighted the “4 Reasons Why Students Don’t Receive the Degrees They’ve Earned” and looks at this initiative.

Linden says there are a number of reasons why some students “stop-out” (students who stop attending OCC for a variety of reasons and do not transfer to another institution) and don’t receive their degree:

1. The student’s academic focus is on a different program, and they are not aware of degrees they complete along the way;
2. The student never came in for academic advising and they are unaware of the requirements to be awarded the degree;
3. Their focus is on transferring to a four-year institution, not on completing a degree at OCC;
4. They don’t understand the value of receiving the degree until after they are in the work force.

To help bridge this degree-award gap, Linden said the College has recently identified 900 students who, in a six-year window of time, earned a degree but never had it posted to their records. These students have also never earned a degree anywhere else. These stop-out students were sent a certified letter indicating they have met all graduation requirements for one or more degrees, their earned credentials will be posted to their student records and diplomas will be mailed directly – unless they specifically request otherwise.

In addition to this initiative, OCC is also working to improve automated systems to better flag a student record when the student has qualified for a credential in real-time and ensure students reap the benefits of their efforts sooner, Linden said.

“While helping students complete the degree they are pursuing is the ultimate goal of completion efforts, it is very rewarding to let them know they completed a degree they didn’t expect.”

“It’s the Christmas of higher ed,” said Linden. “We’re able to provide a gift they’ve truly earned already but never received.”

Re-engagement efforts with Degrees When Due will continue in 2020. OCC will be contacting hundreds more “some college, no degree” students who are one or two courses away from degree completion with the hope these students will return to OCC to complete those final courses. Students who have left the area can complete OCC online courses, or even take them at another nearby community college or university and transfer these final credits back to the College.

Linden said there are many completion pathways former students can follow, and OCC is committed to empowering students and guide them to exploring the many options available that work best for them.

If you believe you have earned a degree or would like more information on the Degrees When Done project, please contact OCC’s Registrar Stephen Linden at 248.341.2192.

About OCC
With five campuses in Oakland County, OCC is Michigan’s number one transfer institution, offering nearly 100 excellent degrees and certificates. The College empowers academic and developmental experiences, allowing students to reach their full potential and enhance the communities they serve. More than a million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.