By Jon King /

Livingston County’s voice in Congress was denied an opportunity to come and freely speak to the county’s Board of Commissioners on the issue of broadband internet.

The office of 8th District Democrat Elissa Slotkin reached out to Board Chair Wes Nakagiri to secure a spot on the agenda for the June 28th board meeting, but was refused to be placed on the agenda.

The issue of broadband did come up at this past Monday’s meeting, as several Democrats used their three-minute Call to the Public time to address the commissioners and urge that they use the $37.2 million in American Rescue Plan funding to upgrade the county’s broadband, which has proven to be fairly unreliable in some of the more rural areas of the county, especially during the pandemic, when many residents were working remotely from home, while their children attended school online.

However, Slotkin’s request was to be placed onto the agenda to discuss the issue in-depth, much as Republican State Senator Lana Theis was placed on the agenda for the June 7th meeting to speak on an unrelated issue. When questioned why the Congresswoman was not extended the same courtesy, Nakagiri told WHMI, “All citizens are welcome to speak to the Livingston County Board of Commissioners at our meetings, this includes Congresswoman Slotkin. No one has been, or ever will be denied an opportunity to address the Board. Special accommodations could be made for Congresswoman Slotkin if she is interested in fielding questions regarding her position on issues, including her denial of broadband funding for Livingston County residents.”

When asked if Sen. Theis was required to abide by the same standard of an open-ended debate on any issue, not just the topic in which she wished to address the board, Nakagiri essentially provided the same answer as before.

The statement that Slotkin denied broadband funding was also discussed at Monday’s meeting when Commissioner Mitchell Zajac stated that the county’s proposal was not included among potential earmark requests that Slotkin’s office had solicited for projects in the 8th District. However, as was pointed out, the earmark proposals are for projects that have no other identifiable source of funding, whereas the stimulus funds granted through the American Rescue Plan specifically list broadband infrastructure as an allowable use. The money is already allocated and a simple majority vote of the board of commissioners would allow those funds to be used for that purpose.

Slotkin previously said that with the federal funding, “Livingston County has a once in a generation opportunity to invest in the future, and bring broadband to every corner of our community. I urge county leadership to do so.”