Our Most Fundamental Right
Our Most Fundamental Right: The Right to Vote There are many issues that are near and dear to the hearts of Democrats: climate change, health care, reproductive rights, sensible gun laws, affordable housing, economic equality, education, and the list goes on and on. Our ability to make changes related to these or any issue is contingent on one fundamental right, the right to vote. The last decade has ushered in major attacks on voting rights. Efforts to rollback voter rights started gaining momentum in 2011. That year saw a record number of state legislatures passing voting restrictions including photo ID requirements, cuts to early voting, and restrictions to voter registration. On June 25, 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court eradicated Section 5 of the VRA which required federal approval for changes to election laws in jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination. Michigan legislators have been hard at work to bring the will of the people to fruition. Currently, residents in the state are automatically registered to vote when they obtain, update, or renew their driver’s license or state ID. The Michigan Legislature passed a bill in November that expands the automatic voter registration system to include individuals eligible for voter registration who applied for Medicaid coverage, were recently released from incarceration, or are a member of a recognized Indian Tribe. The Institute for Responsive Government estimates that 383,000 more individuals may be eligible to vote as a result of this legislation. Additionally, House Bill 4569 will allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote once they turn 18. After the 2020 Presidential election, election officials in Michigan were intimidated and harassed by those unhappy with the election outcome. House Bill 4129 and Senate Bill 505 protect election workers by increasing criminal penalties for those who intimidate election officials. Michigan Governer Whitmer signed these bills into law on November 30, 2023. Since the birth of our democracy Americans have been fighting for our right to vote. This fight must never stop. All our other rights depend on this most fundamental right.You can continue this fight by: Staying informed : Keep an eye on what is happening in our state and our nation regarding voting rights. You can keep up to date via the Michigan Voting Rights Lab: https://tracker.votingrightslab.org/states/michigan Let your representatives know where you stand: The American Association of University Women (AAUW) have made it easy to urge our elected representatives to support the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act: https://www.aauw.org/act/two-minute-activist/voting-rights/ Get involved : The Mecosta County Democratic Party has identified voter rights as a top priority. You can contact us at email@example.com . Volunteer : Voters Not Politicians needs volunteers and has a number of volunteer positions. The Dial for Democracy program is one of the easiest ways to volunteer. Volunteers receive text alerts to contact legislators regarding decisions affecting Michigan’s democracy. There is no specific time commitment: https://votersnotpoliticians.com/volunteer/ Vote : The reason the right to vote is so crucial is because it is our greatest weapon in the fight for all of our rights. Never take it for granted. On December 1, 2023, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson took an important step for voting rights. With Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II out of state, the Secretary of State signed HB 4570 into law. In 2020, Benson provided a link to the absentee ballot application on the Michigan Secretary of State website. At the time there was neither a law permitting or prohibiting her action. Now there is a law protecting the link’s existence. Transportation and accessibility barriers have long prohibited many people from voting. This new law makes voting accessible for all Michigan voters. Jocelyn Benson is slated to be this year’s keynote speaker at MCDP’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Dinner on May 4, 2024. Sources: https://www.mlive.com/politics/2023/09/early-voting-no-reason-absentee-is-illegal-11-michigan-republican-contend.html https://www.aclu.org/voting-rights-act-major-dates-history https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/7-years-gutting-voting-rights https://campaignlegal.org/press-releases/michigan-voting-rights-act-introduced-latest-wave-state-vras https://www.democracydocket.com/news-alerts/michigan-legislature-passes-bill-expanding-automatic-voter-registration-to-formerly-incarcerated-people/ https://michiganadvance.com/2023/11/14/lawmakers-close-out-year-with-election-reforms-like-16-and-17-year-old-voting-pre-registration/ https://michiganadvance.com/blog/as-acting-governor-benson-signs-bill-codifying-online-absentee-ballot-requests/ https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/news/press-releases/2023/11/30/whitmer-signs-election-bills-to-ensure-every-vote-can-be-cast-and-counted#:~:text=%E2%80%93%20Today%2C%20Governor%20Gretchen%20Whitmer%20signed,access%20to%20the%20ballot%20box .
A Note from MCDP Chairperson, John Scott Gray
My friends, Election Day 2022 has come and gone, and while votes are still being counted across the country, I wanted to offer a brief note of optimism and thanks. Statewide, Democrats held onto many of the important positions we were so concerned about in the weeks leading up to November 8. These victories were headlined by a massive win by Gretchen Whitmer over her opponent, Tudor Dixon. We also saw Proposition 3 pass by a healthy margin, a victory that so many of us worked hard to bring to pass. We should be proud of these accomplishments. On the local level, while many of our Democratic candidates did not get the victory we were hoping for, we applaud their efforts and are proud of their work in reaching and connecting with local Democrats. We still have a great deal of work to do to support candidates like these moving forward. I take solace in the fact that of the four counties in the MI 100th district, Mecosta gave Nate Bailey the highest percentage of the vote. There is something brewing here. Something we can build on moving forward. Thank you so much to all the people who volunteered time, energy, and financial support to the Democratic Party. I also cannot express enough my admiration for those brave souls willing to put their names on ballots to try and stand up for all of us. Take a deep breath. Now, the work toward 2024 begins. Know that we can do this together. Be happy, JSG John Scott Gray Chair, MCDP
Biden Signs Inflation Reduction Act; Senior Michiganders Blast Republicans For Voting Against Bill
Thursday, August 18, 2022 Courtesy of The Michigan Democratic Party LANSING — Today, the Michigan Democratic Party hosted a roundtable with Michigan seniors to celebrate President Biden signing the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 this week.
Constituents of GOP Congressmen John Moolenaar (MI-02), Bill Huizenga (MI-04), and Tim Walberg (MI-05) also called out their representatives for voting against this bill which will help lower health care costs for seniors relying on Medicare. Speakers highlighted how this new law—championed by every Michigan Democrat without the support of any Michigan Republicans—will cap out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year, cap insulin at $35/month, and protect Medicare for future generations. T he online event can be viewed here. “This bill is a great help for people who use Medicare. We need congressmen that will support us, that will do what they can to support health care, not just in Michigan, but across the nation because that lowers costs for everyone,” said Barbara Hammon, a resident of Kalamazoo County and constituent of Rep. Huizenga. “I don’t think Bill Huizenga will be any help to us. Most Republicans like him seem more interested in helping Big Pharma than people like me or my grandchildren, that’s why I’ll be voting for Democrat Joseph Alfonso this November.” “Congress [in place] now, have been able to get things done that are going to benefit people not just today, but well into the future,” said John Helge, a resident of Manistee County and a constituent of Rep. Moolenaar. “I’m very excited about the ability for Medicare to negotiate on drug costs. Capping our drug costs at $2,000 is going to be a huge benefit for those of us who rely on Medicare. Meanwhile, John Moolenaar is doing nothing but voting the party line. Our representative in Washington isn’t listening to the people, doesn’t really connect with us, and is voting against all the best interests of the people in our district.” “I’m so pleased that Democrats, by themselves, managed to pass this bill through both houses of Congress for President Biden to sign it. After paying into Social Security and Medicare my whole life, it’s important to me that we keep these programs solid,” said Bryon Ennis resident of Jackson County and constituent of Rep. Walberg. “My wife and I would have our lives turned upside down if we had to suddenly pay some of the huge hospital bills that have been covered by Medicare. It is because of the votes like radical conservatives like Tim Walberg that the future of our [benefits] are uncertain. I would take great pleasure in seeing him sent into retirement.”
Mecosta County residents plan to Rally For Our Rights on July 23, 2022
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Big Rapids Women’s March is planning to show its support for continued access to abortion care in the state of Michigan. From 12 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, 2022, the Rally For Our Rights will take place at Mitchell Creek Park in Big Rapids. Supporters of the movement to protect abortion rights are encouraged to gather at the park to make signs and demonstrate their support at the rally. Musicians and local resource providers also will be on site. With the Supreme Court’s move to give individual states the choice to legislate around abortion care, Michigan voters are already making moves to protect access to this form of reproductive healthcare. On July 13, canvassers submitted more than 750,000 petition signatures to state election officials in hopes of having Michigan residents vote in November 2022 on whether or not to continue to allow abortion in the state of Michigan. Election officials should announce their decision about whether to include this measure on the ballot by the end of August. If approved, Michigan voters will have the opportunity to vote to amend the state constitution; protecting residents’ rights to abortion care. This would avoid “triggering” Michigan’s existing 1931 law that would make all abortions a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Earlier this year, before the Supreme Court’s decision, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Dr. Sarah Wallett filed a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of the 1931 law. In May, the Michigan Court of Claims granted a preliminary injunction in the suit, meaning the 1931 law will not go into effect until there is a decision in the lawsuit. This remains in place now. Additionally, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer already has signed an executive order limiting the extradition of people to or from Michigan if they're facing criminal charges for obtaining, providing, or assisting an abortion. , With the fate of abortion access in Michigan at stake, the Mecosta County Democrats encourage our members and supporters to join the Rally For Our Rights this Saturday at Mitchell Creek Park. For more information, visit the event page here .
TODAY: AG Dana Nessel, Rural Community Members Join “Defend Choice Week of Action” Press Conference
LANSING — TODAY at 3:30 PM EDT, the Michigan Democratic Party will hold a virtual press conference with Attorney General Dana Nessel and rural community members to close out the “Defend Choice” Week of Action. As Republicans push to enforce Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, rural Michiganders could face severe consequences from this outright abortion ban. Speakers will share how an abortion ban would impact remote areas of Michigan, condemn Michigan Republicans up and down the ballot for their attacks on abortion in the past few weeks, and highlight how integral it is that we re-elect Attorney General Dana Nessel and Democrats up and down the ballot to defend against Republicans relentless assault on reproductive rights. WHAT: AG Dana Nessel, rural Michiganders discuss what an abortion ban means for their communities WHEN: Tuesday, July 19th at 3:30 PM EDT WHO: Attorney General Dana Nessel State House Candidate Amanda Siggins (HD-101) Rural community members RSVP: Please RSVP here .
Michigan Lawmakers Outline Stakes for November, Call Out the Extreme GOP For Attacks on Reproductive
Courtesy of the Michigan Democratic Party Monday, June 27, 2022 Rep. Brenda Carter: “It was a well-orchestrated, well-coordinated plan by the Republican Party that got us here.” LANSING — Today, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democratic State Representatives held a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol, blasting extremist Republicans for their dangerous, wildly unpopular anti-choice agenda that seeks to ban abortions without exception. Speakers emphasized that it was the extreme Republican Party who fought for this decision for decades, highlighted the Michigan Democrats up and down the ballot who are our last lines of defense against an outright abortion ban in our state, and outlined the stakes of the November elections in protecting abortion rights.
WATCH THE FULL PRESS CONFERENCE HERE “The five remaining Republican gubernatorial candidates: Ryan Kelley, Garrett Soldano, Kevin Rinke, Tudor Dixon, and Ralph Rebandt have all gleefully embraced the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the potential return of the 1931 ban, and forcing pregnancy on survivors of sexual assault. They don’t care about the health and safety of people who can give birth. They don’t care about reproductive health care access. They only care about their extreme, ultra MAGA agenda,” said Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac). “It was a well-orchestrated, well-coordinated plan by the Republican Party that got us here. This November, we’ll have the option to vote for Governor Whitmer, who sides with the 67 percent of Michiganders who believe Roe v Wade should have remained the law of the land or an extremist Republican who wants to ban abortion with no exceptions.” “I want to be crystal clear about this: We cannot fall for this line that Republicans are being moderate about this while they snatch bodily autonomy away from the people of this state,” said Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia). “Michigan Republicans have turned down every opportunity to prevent people from getting arrested [for receiving abortions]. If they were going to fix this, they would have by now. Instead, they’re intervening in lawsuits so they can protect this 1931 law. I want everyone to understand that Michigan Democrats are doing everything we can in the Capitol with legislation, in the courts with these lawsuits, and in the streets with petitions to save abortion access. But we can’t do it without the help of voters.”
“A majority of Americans believed Roe should have been upheld before it was struck down last week by a Supreme Court that is veering dangerously toward illegitimacy,” said Rep. Christine Morse (D-Kalamazoo). “We cannot allow a minority of people to restrict our free will! Michigan Democrats are the last line of defense against attacks against our reproductive rights that would take us back to 1931. It is way past time to vote like our lives depend on it, this next vote is for a generation of Michiganders to come.”
Timeline for the 2022 Election
Important Dates and Filing Deadlines These dates are taken from the 2022 Michigan Election Dates document released by the Secretary of State . April 19, 2022 at 4pm EST Nominations By 4:00 p.m., April 19, 2022 Candidates for partisan and nonpartisan offices (other than judicial candidates) file nominating petitions (or fees if applicable) and Affidavit of Identity for the August primary. Withdrawal deadline elapses at 4:00 p.m. on April 22. (168.133 and 163 for federal and state- level offices; assorted other statutes for local offices). May 3, 2022 at 4pm EST County Convention Delegate By 4:00 p.m., May 3, 2022 Candidates for county convention delegate (precinct delegate) file an Affidavit of Identity for the August primary. Filing submitted to the clerk of the county in which candidate resides. Withdrawal deadline elapses at 4:00 p.m. on May 6. (168.624, 624a) July 18, 2022 Primary registration other than in-person July 18, 2022 Last day to register in any manner other than in-person with the local clerk for the August primary. (168.497) July 19, 2022 through August 2, 2022 at 8pm EST Registration July 19 through 8:00 p.m. August 2, 2022 In-person registration with local clerk with proof of residency. (168.497) **By 4:00 p.m., July 26, 2022 Candidates for Local School Board and Community College Trustee file an Affidavit of Identity and a nonpartisan nominating petition. (A $100.00 nonrefundable fee may be filed in lieu of a petition.) Withdrawal deadline elapses at 4:00 p.m. on July 29. (168.303; 389.152) August 2, 2022 STATE PRIMARY ELECTION October 24, 2022 Last day to register in any manner other than in-person with the local clerk for the November general election. (168.497) November 8, 2022 STATE GENERAL ELECTION
Who will represent us in Washington D.C.?
Our New 2nd Congressional District Mecosta County citizens have been represented in the 4th Congressional District by John Moolenar since 2014. Before that, Dave Camp was the Congressman. Every 10 years congressional district lines are redrawn with new information from the Census Bureau. This past year new congressional districts were redrawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission, instead of by our state legislature as a result of the Voters Not Politicians ballot that 62% of Michigan voters said YES to in 2018. Hopefully these new districts are less partisan and “fairer”. Michigan has had 14 districts represented by 9 Republicans and 5 Democratic districts. The new census creates 13 congressional district. They are reported to be 6 Republican, 4 Democratic, and 3 toss-ups. Mecosta county is in a new congressional district that is one of the 6 heavily Republican districts, “ Repub +32” according to fivethirtyeight.com . What does this change mean for Mecosta County? Mecosta County is now in the new 2nd Congressional District. Our new district has changed geographically including more counties than before. Geographically it has dropped south and west taking us to Lake Michigan in the central Michigan area. The New District Maintains: Clare Gladwin Gratiot Isabella Mecosta Montcalm Osceola Wexford (most of it) Counties Gained: Barry Eaton (Northeast corner) Ionia Kent (Northeast corner) Lake Manistee Mason Muskegon (most of it) Newaygo Oceana Counties Lost: Clinton Midland (most of it) Missaukee Ogemaw Oscoda Saginaw Shiawassee Wexford (Northern townships) Actions That You Can Take Attend the upcoming meetings of the Candidate Recruitment Committee (Outreach Committee) of the MCDP. Think about how we can interact with the other counties that make our new 2nd Congressional District. Who could we recruit? Share your ideas of how we can make something happen in our new Congressional District! Please do join us - and check back often to the https://www.mecostadems.org/ Submitted by Karen Turnbull
2022 State Party Campaign Bootcamp
The Michigan Democratic Party, in collaboration with the DNC’s and ASDC’s Best Practices Institute, is excited to announce the launch of our 2022 State Party Campaign Bootcamp webinar training program! The State Party Campaign Bootcamp Program is a free two-day virtual training program with supplemental small-group coaching sessions to encourage community building and collaborative learning. This program seeks to support campaigns by ensuring that comprehensive training is free and accessible for Democrats working on campaigns across Michigan. Candidates will learn critical aspects of launching and running a successful campaign, hear from special guest speakers, and have the opportunity to hone in on subjects with individualized attention through additional coaching sessions with experts. This training is open to Democratic candidates, potential candidates, and campaign staff. Click Here to Register Saturday, February 26: State Party Campaign Bootcamp–Crafting Your Campaign 12:00 pm ET - 6:00 pm ET Sunday, February 27: State Party Campaign Bootcamp–External Engagement 12:00 pm ET - 6:00 pm ET Tuesday, March 1: Media Coaching Session 1: 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT Session 2: 8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT Session 3: 9:00 pm ET/6:00 pm PT Session 4: 10:00 pm ET/7:00 pm PT Session 5: 11:00 pm ET/8:00 pm PT Thursday, March 3: Call Time Coaching Session 1: 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT Session 2: 8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT Session 3: 9:00 pm ET/6:00 pm PT Session 4: 10:00 pm ET/7:00 pm PT Session 5: 11:00 pm ET/8:00 pm PT CLICK HERE to submit your registration for the 2022 State Party Campaign Bootcamp Program! Registration will close on February 24th.
What can you do about guns?
The tragic shooting at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021, is an example of the impact of gun violence that hits especially close to home. Mass shootings have become so common that they are hardly noticed until it happens in our state. Every year, 38,000 Americans die from gun violence. That’s an average of 100 deaths per day. In Michigan, 1,212 people die from guns each year. The largest number of those are suicides, at 60%, followed by homicides at 38%. The state statistics are consistent with national statistics. The United States accounts for 4% of the global population, but 35% of global firearm suicides. Gun violence is the second leading cause of death of citizens under the age of 18. Americans are also 25% more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than people in other high-income countries. Gun violence disproportionately affects communities of color. Black men make up 52% of all gun homicide victims and less than 7% of the total U.S. population. Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm, making women in the U.S. twice as likely to be killed than women in other high-income countries. These statistics are alarming, but little is being accomplished to address gun violence in Michigan and across the country. The Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence has a partial list of bills that seek to reduce gun violence as well as a list of bills that may increase gun violence. That list can be found here: https://michigancoalitiontopreventgunviolence.org/advocacyaction/legislative-action/ Recent bills addressing magazine capacity include Michigan Senate bills 785 and 786 and Michigan House bills 5627 and 5628. These bills prohibit selling or possessing a magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition with some exceptions. It is a rare case that those who use guns for self-defense, target practice, or hunting would require more than 10 rounds of ammunition. These bills do not challenge the 2nd amendment of the U.S. constitution but are intended to prevent more mass shootings. No law will fully address the hatred that leads to gun violence, but common-sense gun laws will make it harder for people to turn to gun violence as their solution. The Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence has a template letter that you can send to your representatives. https://michigancoalitiontopreventgunviolence.org/advocacyaction/letter-templates/ We do not have to watch in horror as gun violence ruins more lives. The problem seems so unsurmountable but telling our Michigan legislators exactly what we need them to do is within our power. If you want to do more, consider getting involved with MCDP. We are in need of volunteers for all of our action committees. If you are interested, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more. You can make a difference. Sources for Statistics: https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/ https://giffords.org/the-issue/ https://www.gvpedia.org/
Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service 2022
While many people have the day off work, choosing to spend some of your time volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is a thoughtful way to build your local community while honoring the legacy of Dr. King who called us to take action. This day marks our opportunity to recommit as citizens by volunteering in service to others and of social justice and equity. Through those efforts, we can strengthen ties to our communities and one other while we address critical issues that divide us. Here are some ideas of how you can serve your community in 2022: Support a local nonprofit organization with a mission you care about. Want to help people struggling with food insecurity? Donate time, money, or non-perishable food items to Manna Pantry or Project Starburst . Concerned about people experiencing homelessness? Donate your time, money, or items in need to Our Brother’s Keeper , a homeless shelter in Big Rapids. Care about dogs and cats without a family? Donate your time, money, or items in need to the Animal Rescue Committee of Mecosta County . Become more civically involved this year. Ensure that you are registered to vote and know when and where you’ll vote in elections in 2022. Visit the Michigan Voter Information Center to learn more. Call one of your elected state or federal representatives to encourage them to take action on a cause you care about, from climate change to expanding voting rights to funding education. Talk to your local government office about how to volunteer on a board or committee, such as the Library Board, Parks and Recreation Board, and more. Consider running for office. Many local positions will be elected this year, including township trustees, school board members, and more. Donate to causes continuing the work of Martin Luther King Jr. The Equal Justice Initiative works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality by providing legal representation and research for criminal justice reform. The National Urban League has been working towards civil rights and economic empowerment for African Americans for over 100 years by providing education, job training, and community development. The NAACP works toward their vision of a society in which all individuals have equal rights and there is no racial hatred or racial discrimination through grassroots activism for civil rights and social justice. — Note: https://thesocialpresskit.com/daysofservice Social Media posts to share from Americorps Words Matter, Actions Matter I will serve.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Will Revitalize Black Michigan Communities
LANSING — The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is a BFD for Black Michiganders. This once-in-a-generation investment in good paying jobs, infrastructure, and broadband internet access will support folks from Houghton to Detroit. Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes released the following statement celebrating the impacts it will make on Black communities across the state: “In 2020, Black voters in Wayne County, Oakland County, and every corner of the state delivered a historic win for President Biden with the hopes that he would make good on his promise to address critical problems like replacing lead pipes, rebuilding roads and bridges, and updating infrastructure to protect Michiganders from extreme weather events. “Less than a year later, President Biden is delivering for Black Michiganders with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Thanks to the leadership of the Biden-Harris administration, Gov. Whitmer, and Democrats in Congress, neighborhoods across Michigan will be safer, healthier, and more connected, and Black Michiganders will experience an enhanced quality of life for generations to come.” Here’s how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will deliver for Black Michiganders: Ensuring every Michigan household has access to reliable high-speed internet, helping lower costs and improving internet access for Black Americans who are 9% less likely than their white peers to have high-speed internet . Eliminating lead pipes and providing the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history. Lower-income families of color in Michigan are at the highest risk for lead exposure at home and in schools. Investing in public transit, reducing commute times, and addressing the backlog of repairs. In Detroit, 92% of transit riders identify as Black. Additional funds for public transportation will expand the amount of accessible jobs by up to 50,000. Reconnecting communities divided by inequitable transportation infrastructure. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will create the first-ever program aimed at reconnecting communities divided by transportation infrastructure that was built through Black neighborhoods, destroying homes, schools, churches and parks. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest roughly $65 billion — the single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history — to upgrade our power infrastructure and reduce pollution. Black people are almost 5 times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than our white counterparts. Remediating brownfields and Superfund sites. 26% of Black Americans live within 3 miles of Superfund sites that can lead to elevated lead levels in our children’s blood. By providing $21 billion to cleanup efforts, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help protect our children while providing good-paying union jobs to our communities.