Many residents of the beautiful Upper Peninsula are exploring their options when it comes to seeking statehood. The issue has been raised at the Marquette County Board of Commissioners meeting and is starting to catch on in the media up north. Marquette County Commissioner Mike Quayle raised the issue this time, but the idea isn’t new.
Michigan actually won the Upper Peninsula, by losing Toledo in the Toledo War in 1836, and secession has come up several time since then. The most recent serious attempt was in 1970 when the measure only lost by one vote. However, even if the initiative were to make it to a vote and win approval by Michigan’s legislature, they would still have to get Congressional approval to become the 51st state.
The issue stems from the feeling of many in the U.P. that Lansing doesn’t represent their interest and that the rest of the state benefits from the relationship, more than they do. Only 3% of the population in the state reside in the U.P., but they have 30% of the land and a ton of mining and lumber resources that benefit the state as a whole. These resources are key to the resentment – with only 3% of the population they get very little say in state issues, but with all of those resources they feel like they should have more influence.
The most recent issue revolves around a mining tax that Lansing wants to modify in a way that many feel would shift the tax revenue from local governments in the U.P. to Lansing.
“I feel that they’re attempting to use the U.P. as a resource colony,” said Catherine Parker of Marquette, a sentiment echoed by many U.P. residents.
The other issue is that people from the U.P. are culturally different than people from downstate. We think differently, come from different backgrounds, and even root for different sports teams. For instance, once you cross the Mackinac Bridge, most people are Green Bay Packers fans, and they tend to associate themselves more with Wisconsin than Michigan. In the western part of the U.P., the nearest large cities are Green Bay and Milwaukee.
The last time the Upper Peninsula tried to secede from Michigan was in 1970 when the state of Superior was proposed and narrowly missed passing by one vote. Had it been approved then, it would have gone on to Congress where it would have likely failed. But that hasn’t stopped the people in the U.P. from dreaming of a day when they could be free of Lansing control.
Similarities to Detroit
So why are we writing about this in a newspaper focused on the issues of Southeastern Michigan, especially considering the unlikelihood of it happening? Well, the feelings of those in the U.P. are not much different than the feelings of many in Detroit. “Lansing doesn’t represent us, they only want our resources, why can’t they just let us govern ourselves”, etc. – all refrains we’ve been hearing out of Detroit for years.
The biggest difference is that many Detroiters assume it’s a racial issue, whereas the Yoopers (as residents of the U.P. refer to themselves) don’t have that excuse. They see it for what it is – a financial issue. That’s right, like everything else in business and politics, black and white mean a whole lot less than green does. Lansing has a state to run and they have to do what makes the most financial sense for the state as a whole, even if it doesn’t seem fair to the community affected.
So to the great people of the Upper Peninsula, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your feelings about Lansing. But just like the people of Detroit, you’re going to have to get used to it.