PBS' "By the People" draws hundreds to Lansing

LANSING, MI – Over 300 people from all over Michigan spent the weekend in downtown Lansing in a unique event.

Think about this: for every hour that the state budget is late, all of Michigan's elected officials get their pay docked. That's one of hundreds of opinions heard at this weekend's "By the People" gathering in Lansing. The Public Broadcasting System project is exploring the opinions that form when people take a close look at the state's toughest challenges---unemployment, education and tax policy. Citizens from all walks of life spent the weekend in group discussions.

Kelly Burek came from Westland, near Detroit. She says learning about problems in other communities opened her eyes:

"People who came from Flint for example--just to see the hard time where they can't walk down the street without being shot at," she explained. "It impacted me a lot, just to see people's different backgrounds, seeing their different views."

Dan Werner is the Executive Producer of "By the People." He says the event doesn't aim for a particular result. Instead, it's all about the process:

"Hopefully that will help the political discussion in Michigan," he says. "And people will say 'You know this is a tough choice.' But if we explain it to citizens and citizens are engaged, they may be willing to pay the price for Decision A or decision B."

Many participants said the gathering is motivating them to get more involved in solutions. PBS will air a one hour TV special on the event in January.