Blogs > Skoop's Blog

In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Got It All Wrong

 Got It All Wrong
      Missed it by a mile.
      Since it is the media's job to correct politicians when they get it wrong, it is only fair to admit a mistake when one is made on the media side.  Such was the case on a recent blog concerning the Mayor of Detroit and his appearance on Mackinac Island at a business conference.
      For those of you who missed it, and shame on your for doing so, it was opined in this space that given Kwame Kilpatrick's legal dilemma and the media's propensity to turn everything into a feeding frenzy, it might be better if the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce found a way to un-invite  the mayor to avoid a spectacle during a leadership conference on the island this past week.  The fears were unfounded.
      It was speculated here that the chamber was quietly working on a way to do it, but that was wrong, too.  The chamber did invite the mayor, he did show up and the "story" of his legal woes did not dominate the four-day event.
      In fact if you talk to Dick Blouse who runs the whole shebang up there, it was not a distraction at all however he did concede that back home it was.
      Ditto from Kenny Cockrel Jr. who runs the Detroit City Council.  "Not that many people have brought it up," he reported. He said it was good that Mr. Kilpatrick was there because it "would have sent the wrong signal" had he been a no show.
      Now this is not to say that there was no buzz among the 1700 who munched on the fudge and soaked in the sunshine and rain at the Grand Hotel. 
      And as for the media, it did its job and interviewed the mayor who seemed pretty laid back and that was that.  He even seemed in good humor.
      "So what's new in your life?" was the salutation from one reporter when he bumped into His Honor for the first time.
       He chuckled and offered, "Nothing."
       He still contends that the controversy is not damaging his ability to do Detroit's business. Suffice to say not everyone in attendance concurred, and on that point, this blog did not get it wrong.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Are The Troops Saying?

     As the string plays out to its ultimate conclusion with Barack Obama getting the Democratic nomination for president, the troops inside the Michigan Democratic ranks are grinding out the pros and cons of that decision and sharing it with super delegates.
     One of those "supers" has agreed to share some of the emails with the understanding that his or her identify would not be revealed and likewise for the email senders.
     A man from Dearborn backing Obama complains about his party breaking the rules to leap frog Iowa and New Hampshire and "put the voices of Michigan voices at risk…I am not happy that I didn't get to vote for the candidate of my choice.  I am not happy with politicians who took this right away from me."
      Actually, it was Obama who removed his name from the Michigan January 15th balloting.
      "Super delegates were not created to follow trends," this e-mailer from Lansing lectures. They must "lead with their conscience" this Clinton supporter goes on.  As for the argument that Obama is "drawing new voters into the fold," this person says Clinton is doing that with Hispanic voters and "Obama does not have a monopoly on hope," this young black man concludes.
       An Ada woman argues, "Obama is smooth and uplifting, his resume hardly qualifies him for the job for which he is applying. The Republicans wlll crush him… Clinton has taken the heat from the Republicans for over 15 years and is still standing…"
      A man from Sanford issues an ultimatum: Vote for Obama or, "I will be voting Republican again."
     A disgruntled man from Ann Arbor lectures this super delegate: "Why are you sitting on your hands while Hillary Clinton tries to destroy Obama's chance in November? It is very disturbing to watch you let her do this, when you have the power to end it."
       But a West Bloomfield writer suggests, "If you are endorsing Obama, there is time to re-think this. He will not be able to do what is necessary. He needs more time. Maybe 2016."
      And finally an impassioned writer from Ann Arbor notes that he is a 54-year-old former McGovern backer and made his first-ever ten-dollar donation to Obama. But did not stop there.
      He made more donations and e-mailed his friends and raised another $800. Then he convinced two brew pub owners, two fiction writers, a poet and three sets of musicians to do a "Yes We Can" gig which netted $1,270 for a grand total of $3,270 this one person raised.
     "In my political life, Barack Obama is the first candidate I've been willing to vote "for" instead of voting "against," he explains.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who's in first

  With the current governor unable to run again, the field is wide open and in this town the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination is Lt. Governor John Cherry. Problem is somebody forgot to tell that to the folks who don't live in this town!
  For the second survey in a row, the front-runner is former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer who racks up 24 percent of the vote with his nearest rival at 20 percent and there aren't many who believe U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow will leave Washington to run for Jennifer Granholm's job.
  That leaves Upper Peninsula Congressman Bart Stupak then in the real second place with 8 percent followed by Cherry at 6 percent, and Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano at 5 percent.
  The real story here is nobody knows whom the lieutenant governor is, which is why Cherry is upping his outstate appearances to build on that weak 6 percent base.
  On the GOP side, no surprise here. Having spent $35 mil of his own money last time out, West Michigan businessperson Dick DeVos continues to lead the pack with 28 percent of the vote followed by Macomb County Congresswoman Candice Miller at 11 percent but party sources say she's out of the hunt. So the real second place goes to a man who is in the hunt, State Attorney General Mike Cox at 10 percent.
  The Denno-Noor survey found 29 percent of the D's and 32 percent of the R's unsure or didn't know whom they favored.
  These numbers will get a pretty good going over as many of the would-be contenders join the smooze-fest on Mackinac Island this week. They'll be rubbing elbows with 1700 captains of Michigan industry hoping to get a leg up on the 2010 race for governor.
  But right now those captains are really in a funk over the state of Michigan politics, so maybe the wanna-bes will end up talking to each other?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To Vote Or Not To Vote

  To Vote Or Not To Vote
       There appear to be some mixed signals out of the senate on what that body would do to a smoking ban that did not include Detroit casinos.  Statements last week from the Majority Leader's office suggested the measure, with that exclusion, would be dead, but now comes Sen. Mike Bishop with a different take.
     "I don't know what we will do," he says based on the premise that the House Speaker Andy Dillon does not favor a ban in the three Detroit casinos.
     "We'll have to talk to my caucus and see what they want to do.  The members of the legislature are the ones who make those decisions.  We'll have to see where we want to go."
       The Oakland County lawmaker continues to oppose the legislation but if there is going to be a bill he does support a total ban on smoking and does not want to create "smoking islands" which he says "would not be fair to all."
       Bishop concedes that he made a "chess move" when he did not grant an exemption to the Detroit casinos when the bill cleared the senate several weeks ago.  He clearly felt the house would not go along with that because it included the exemption in his own version.
       Some feel that "chess move" was designed to scrap the ban altogether but Bishop denies that saying he was not looking for an excuse to kill the bill.
       He says his office has been inundated with phone calls, letters, and emails and he is "amazed at how many hits" he has received on the smoking ban.
      "A growing majority of people favor this. It is about health," he observes even though he is "old school" in opposing the government reaching into the private sector to regulate the use of tobacco in bars, restaurants, casinos, VFW halls and the like.

Monday, May 26, 2008

EMU-1 Gov: Zippo

  EMU-1…Gov. Zippo
    With a little more than two years to go before she heads out to pasture, the governor is working hard on her legacy which at this read is a mixed bag at best.
      The chapter on her ability to toss her political weight around, for example, is looking pretty flimsy. 
      Recently her State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan tried to move up the education ladder and into the $5.2 million president's mansion on the campus of Eastern Michigan University.
      The governor gave it all she had to get Flanagan the promotion but even though she had appointed seven of the eight members on the EMU board, what she gave was woefully inadequate.
      The first rule of tossing your weight around is to never play the game if you might lose.  And a corollary: If you are going to play, do it quietly so that if you lose, only a handful of insiders will know you lost.
      Apparently somebody forgot to tell her that, as she broke both rules and ended up looking weak and ineffective.
      By going public with her endorsement of Flanagan, the governor put the board in a box.  If they voted for him, it would look like the governor had "pressured" the board to make a decision.  
      That may have pleased the governor but might have been wrong for the university.
      The fact is the EMU faculty wanted nothing to do with Flanagan who had neither a PhD nor any higher education experience to speak of.  So from the get go, the governor should have know this was going to be a tough sell.
     She did work behind the scenes, but that didn't work either.  Some complained the governor did not make all the calls herself and let some of her underlings do the heavy lifting. And when they did, one source says it was in a "threatening" tone along the lines of, "We're counting on this to happen."
     This EMU insider reveals, some of the board members were "offended" by the governor's actions.
     In the end Flanagan was the second choice making the governor look like she doesn't know how to play the game.  Not exactly the image you want in your legacy chapter on political influence. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Miller To Stay Put

Miller To Stay Put
    For years Macomb County republican Candice Miller has flirted with running for governor.  She almost got in the first time Jennifer Granholm ran.  She considered it the second time Granholm ran and now with Granholm out of the picture in 2010, the betting money in this town had Miler finally taking the plunge.
    And she did little to discourage the speculation as she confirmed she was very interested while others in the party claim Miller actually told them, she would run.
    Not any more.
    If state GOP chair Saul Anuzis is correct, Miller has quietly taken herself out of a potentially crowded GOP primary. He and she discussed her candidacy last Monday night during a Washington D.C. fundraiser.
    "It has moved from very likely to highly unlikely," Anuzis tells the public TV Off the Record panel this week.
     Anuzis who is not much of a reporter, failed to asked her why the change of heart?
     He figures she was more comfortable going back to Washington from a district where she is popular rather than taking a chance at the governor's seat. It would not be a sure bet especially with other party big wigs in the hunt.
     Miller's on again off again flirtation, which is now off again, may cement her reputation as the Carl Marlinga of the state GOP.  Recall that the former Macomb County prosecutor wanted to be Lt. Governor,  a U.S. Senator, state attorney general and maybe even dog catcher but all of it was just talk.
     Miller won't care if she gets that criticism.  If she did, she would have run.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So Much For That

So Much For That
      The total ban on smoking has been un-totaled.
      If House Speaker Andy Dillon has his way, the three Detroit casinos and cigar bars will be exempted from the total smoking ban that cleared the state senate two weeks ago.
      The anti-smoking lobby has seen its dreams of a total ban go up in smoke as Dillon promises to rewrite the bill to include those exemptions.
      "Disappointing," laments Senator Ray Basham who has lobbied for ten years to slap a total ban on anything and everything where smoking is now permitted.
        In blunt legislative parlance, the casinos pressured Dillon and company and won.  The anti-smoking lobby has been taught a thing or two about the legislative process.
        It boasted it would win because it had "people power" while the casinos had "money" power.  Even though 70% of the people favor a total ban, some lawmaker's ears are more finely attuned to the sound of moola.
        The casinos told Dillon that if they had to ban smoking, gamblers would head to Mt. Pleasant or other tribal casinos where the state does not have the authority to impose a ban. Consequently Detroit casinos would lose profits and have to lay off upwards of 20% of their workers.
       Having bought that argument, Dillon, with a straight face, offers this ray of hope to the anti-smokers.  He says if the Indian casinos go smoke free, than Detroit casinos would follow suit.
       And pray tell how in the heck might that happen?
       Dillon suggests the governor could renegotiate the state's agreement with the Indian casinos and insert the smoking ban.
       Right.  That'll happen when you know what freezes over.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Now What?

    Now What?
        The day the governor has dreaded for months, came this week.  She is now officially a part of the Kwame Kilpatrick saga thanks to the Detroit City Council which has unceremoniously dragged her into the fray.
        The council's mild mannered barrister Bill Goodman walked into the governor's office building and filed with her legal advisor documents alleging "official misconduct" which now permits Gov. Jennifer Granholm to launch her own investigation into the so-called text messaging mess.
        Notice the use of the word "permits" which, some contend, permits her another option---to do nothing.
        "I think the governor's going to do the right thing," attorney Goodman advised the capitol press corps and that means, "taking testimony and hearing the evidence."
         The governor's office continued it's terse response to all this by saying nothing about what the governor would do other than to "review" what the city filed. 
         One could, if wanted to, review the thing for years to come, or the governor could act promptly to oust the mayor which is what Goodman wants her to do.
         The governor has argued previously that she favors letting the courts move first and then if the mayor is convicted of something, she could step in.
         Goodman disagrees.  "This is a different, separate, and independent process which can go forward without disrupting the criminal process or undermining the rights" of the mayor.
         The governor has said before that she wants a quick resolution of this controversy.  Goodman has handed over the documents that could lead to that…if the governor decides to go there but that is one gigantic "if."

Monday, May 19, 2008

D's Going After the Chief

  Going After the Chief
        Eight years ago the Michigan Democratic Party came up with one of the most unique and entertaining campaign commercials in recent memory as it targeted three members of the State Supreme Court for extinction.
        But the now infamous, "Markman, Taylor and Young, Oh My" commercial backfired.  Instead of sending GOP justice Steve Markman, Cliff Taylor and Robert Young to the showers, the commercial actually increased the trio's name ID with the voters and they waltzed into office.
       State Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer argues this year will be different.
       There is only one republican up for reelection and Brewer has made Chief Justice Taylor a marked man calling him the party's second top priority after winning back the White House.
       If the D's couldn't nail Taylor last time, what's changed?
       "We now have a record," shoots back Brewer and based on a series of high court decisions, Brewer will tell the voters that Taylor has done "untold human damage" with his decisions.
       The TV commercials this time could be rather gruesome, as the party will argue Taylor's decisions have denied justice to a plethora of citizens including a little girl who was killed by a drunk driver because she was walking in the street during a snowstorm. The Taylor court found the City of Lansing was not culpable for not plowing the sidewalks.
       There will be other ads claiming a Flint family was denied justice in a rape case and on and on it will go.
       Brewer seems driven to bounce Taylor.  In fact he is driving Taylor's previously owned state vehicle.  That's not a joke.  When the media reported the state's seven justices had state owned cars and Taylor used his to go shopping, the justices decided to sell the cars and Brewer purchase Taylor's.
       Brewer uses the car to "prove" Taylor has abused his salary and perks.
       The GOP, on behalf of Taylor, dismisses all of the Brewer attacks as baseless.
      Nonetheless, brace yourself for a campaign that could cost both sides $20 million dollars making it the most expensive Supreme Court contest in state history.  The democrats are missing one element in all this however....a candidate to take on the Chiefy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Barack's Kwame Problem

Barack's Kwame Problem
     Take this to the bank.  Here's something you'll never hear or see in the race for president:  Ladies and Gentlemen get your hands together for Barack Obama and Kwame Kilpatrick!
      It's not that the two dislike each other.  It's just that Barack Obama has enough problems getting elected without adding one more to the pile.
      The presumed democratic candidate for president needs a hefty voter bounce out of Detroit to counteract John McCain's likely strong showing in other parts of Michigan.  If Obama doesn't get it, Michigan goes from a blue to red state and with it goes the White House.
      Even though his name was not on the ballot last January, Obama supporters showed up in droves and clobbered Hillary Clinton in Motown by voting uncommitted.  So he will come back to Detroit this fall to make sure that happens again, but when he returns, what to do about Kwame?
      If Obama appears on the same stump with the embattled mayor, he runs the risk of offending most of the white voters in the suburbs and maybe even some of the African American voters in Detroit.
     But how can he come into Detroit and ignore the mayor without offending those in Detroit who firmly believed Kilpatrick is being rail roaded?
     There in lies Obama's political dilemma: He is darned if he does, darned if he doesn't.
     One strategy would be to avoid any appearance in Detroit, but having ignored the city last January, it's risky to do it again.
     Another strategy is to make sure the Mayor is on some junket outside of the state when Obama shows up in Detroit. 
     A third alternative is to take a chance and do a rally with the Mayor for the whole world to see and let the chips fall where they may.
     If state Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer has his way, he'd opt for the last approach.  He does not believe Kilpatrick is a political liability and he does not believe Obama would be damaged if he campaigned with the Mayor.
    When John McCain gets wind of that analysis, he'll be on the horn to Brewer offering to pay all of the expenses associated with the joint appearance.  Take that to the bank as well.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Euphoria Turns To Apprehension

  Euphoria Turns to Apprehension
      Hackneyed as it is, what a difference a week makes, is true when it comes to the total ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, VFW halls, casinos, and cigar bars.
      Last week the anti smoking lobbying was overjoyed by the out of nowhere senate vote to ban tobacco all over the state.  That was quickly replaced this week with fears that the ban would be nibbled to death by the casinos, the cigar bars, and others who seek exemptions from the total ban.
     "We are upset," laments Katherine Knoll from the American Heart Association.  She tells FOX2 News that the house should not be considering any carve outs for special interests.
       Tell that to the special interests. They won round one in the House where the anti-smokers had their fingers crossed the house will merely rubber stamp what the senate did and send it merrily along to the governor for her signature.
       Instead the vote was scrubbed giving the casinos more time to work their magic on lawmakers to get what they want.
       They have even found a sympathetic ear with one of the major sponsors of the total ban.  Flint democrat Rep. Brenda Clack does not want to ban smoking in cigar bars and while she says she wants a total ban everywhere else, she concedes she may have to compromise and grant even more exemptions.
      Casinos continue to beat the drum that 15-25% of the Detroit casino workers will be out of work if smokers can't puff away thus driving them to Tribal casinos where the ban would not apply.
      The anti smokers contend if those same workers are exposed to second hand smoke, they won't be out of work, they'll be out of life.
      Stay tuned as all this comes to a head next week where a total ban on smoking, celebrated by many one week ago, is now on life support.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tilting At Windmills

  Tilting At Windmills
     Don Quixote meet David Law.  David Law meet Don Quixote.
     Oakland County Rep. David Law is acting like the fictional character who had a penchant for tilting at windmills but never connecting.
     Law continues on his mission to "pressure the governor" to step into the sordid mess called the Kwame Kilpatrick text-messaging saga.  And he believes he got a boost from the Detroit City Council which has asked the governor to get in, too.
     "It adds some traction," the GOP lawmaker opines while at the same time expressing the desire to hook up with all those democrats on the city council to nudge the governor off the sidelines and into the game.
      "She has to take action," Law argues and "not acting may be the easy thing to do, but it's not always the right thing to do."
     Well Don, err Mr. Law, here are the facts of life.  The governor is in no hurry to get her hands soiled in this story.  She will take her sweet ole time once the council forwards all of its "evidence" in the case.
     While Law thinks she has to act, the fact is she does not. Period.
     From day one, the governor has said she wants the legal process to work its way before she considers taking any action if at all.
    Law's not buying that.  "That could take years and quite frankly the city and South East Michigan don't have years to wait."
    He may be right, but that don't make no never mind.  His resolution to "pressure" the governor will languish in the democratically controlled house where it has not even been referred to a committee for review.
    But Mr. Law will continue to tilt away nonetheless.  It might actually help him get elected county prosecutor.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Profits Vs. Life

   Profits Vs. Life
      As crass as it may sound, the vote this week in the Michigan House to ban smoking in saloons and restaurants comes down to a battle of profits vs. life.  There is no other way to frame it.
      Pimping for profits:  The Detroit casinos.  Fighting for lives: The do-gooders in the anti smoking lobby.
      It comes down to this.  When the senate approved the ban last week there were no exemptions.  The feeling was if second hand smoke is bad for your health, it should apply across the board to every bar, eatery, casino, veteran's halls, you name it.
      But when the house adopted the prohibition earlier this year, it wrote an exemption for the casinos and a few others.
      The American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association of Michigan, affectionately known as the "Lungers", are afraid the casinos will toss around their weight and open their check books and force the house to give the casinos a pass.
      The private casino operators know if they are included in the ban, some gamblers may go to Indian owned casinos where state law does not apply.  In other words, Detroit casinos could lose a bundle if they lose customers who want to smoke and gamble away their lives and their riches at the same time.
      If MGM Grand, Greektown, and Motor City get the exemption, the bill has to go back to the senate for ratification and the anti-smokers fear the measure could die.
     Reminded that the casinos have big bucks in this showdown, the head of the cancer society noted, "We have people power."
     We're about to witness which side has more legislative clout.
     Any bets on who wins?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jack Who Takes On Levin

Jack Who Takes On Levin
       During his 30 years in the U.S. Senate one of the annoying inconveniences of life for Carl Levin has been running for reelection.  That's because  the state GOP has been unable to scrounge up a challenger who made Mr. Levin break a sweat.
       Jack Hoogendyk has all the potential to keep the string going because you're going Jack who?  Right?
       The affable and conservative lawmaker from Kalamazoo supposedly filed enough petition signatures to gain the right to take on Levin and become the next sacrificial lamb to try but fail to oust the popular incumbent.
      "I am honored and humbled," that 300 volunteers helped me collect the 30,000 signatures that we are turning in, Hoogy tells reporters in this town.
       That was the easy part.
        Now how does he succeed where legions before him have failed?
      "Levin will have a tough time defending three areas.  (1) He's for higher taxes. (2) He's for big government and (3) he's for spending with no end in sight.  The voters are fed up," the GOP hopeful begins.
       With all due respect, that's pretty much the same boilerplate lingo others have used to no avail, and voters apparently have not had enough of Levin who begins the race with a comfortable 54%-37% margin over the challenger who called it a "pretty good start."
       Here are the facts of life:  Levin will have a war chest as big as Rhode Island.  Hoogendyk won't.  Levin has won with a coalition of died in the wool democrats along with independents and a smattering of republicans.  Hoogendyk will probably hold the far right wing of the GOP and that may be it.  Levin has the mantle of invincibility.  Hoogendyk has a campaign slogan that could cost him votes.
       On all of his campaign literature is the logo "Jack08."
       How long do you think it will take the democrats to start calling Hoogendyk "Jack0?"
      Jacko as in Michael Jackson.
      "That's the first I've heard of that," Hoogendyk laughed when the subject was brought up adding, "Hey what ever gets people's attention you want."
        Yeah, but do you want to be associated with the oft maligned Mr. Jackson.
        Jack08 answers, "No comment."
         Nuf said.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Whole New Buffalo World

  Whole New Buffalo World
     As chatter continues that a casino could be coming to Oakland County, please note what has happened on the other side of the state.
    Tucked down in the southwest corner of the state and pretty much out of the mainstream of media attention, the tiny town of New Buffalo is experiencing a renaissance complete with new construction in the old downtown and new condos popping up along Lake Michigan.  Heads up Pontiac.
     And they can thank the original inhabitants of the area for this rebirth.
     The year old tribal casino is raking in the cash.
     But gambling critics contend when you bring in the slots, you bring in the crime.
     "A lot of people say that, but we haven't seen that," reports county Sheriff Paul Baily who has forged an unusual relationship with his tribal counterparts.
      It's called cross-deputization and it's working.
      The sheriff has sworn in five tribal officers who work the reservation but can also cross over into the township to fight crime there, too.  And in an out of the ordinary agreement, the local sheriff's deputies are allowed on the tribal grounds to return the favor.
       "We even share an office on the reservation and they pay for it," smiles Baily.
        How'd he pull that off when other tribes are dead set against the local cops setting foot on their land?
       "I've lived here all my life.  I know the tribal leaders," he simply explains.
        So together they keep the crime down, the slots keep rollin' while the money keeps rollin' in at a million dollars a day.
        Now you know why they call it New Buffalo, and why the sheriff has that big smile.
        Hence if they can do it over there, maybe it could happen over here but there are a ton of hurdles to overcome first.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Banning Cells and Text Messaging

 Banning Cells and Text Messaging
       Lawmakers use to joke that they could safely vote for a cigarette tax increase because 70% of the voters didn't smoke.  But when it comes to banning cell phones and text messaging while driving your car, that's a different story.
       Seems like everybody and his uncle is out there on the ditches with one hand on the wheel and another on the Blackberry, cell phone, or heaven forbid, both.
       Yet a trio of lawmakers are crusading to ban the practice suggesting that lives will be saved. 
        Actually Michigan and the United States are far behind the curve.  46 counties including Great Brittan already do it while only five states have such prohibitions.
       The father of a 12-year-old boy told a house committee this week that he lost his son after a woman, on a cell phone, plowed into the family car after she ran a red light and never hit the brakes.
       Rep. Fred Miller (D) Macomb County was moved by the testimony and changed his no vote to a yes.  However the Michigan State Police, which is in the business of traffic safety, does not support the cell ban while backing the text-messaging proposal.
       MSP lobbyist Matt Bolger tells FOX 2 that it is "not reasonable" to do that because then you'd have to outlaw other driving distractions such as eating, fixing your make-up and what all.
      "That's disappointing," says Rep. Gino Polidori who would love to have the MSP on board. Regardless he is not giving up, but if a lawmaker was looking for a reason to kill this legislation, he or she can hide behind the state police opposition.
        In other words don't look for a ban anytime soon. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

So Much For University Autonomy

  So Much For University Autonomy
       State law is very clear:  Every university in this state has autonomy which in plain English means, the legislature and governor can't order the schools to do anything.  It says so, right there in the Michigan Constitution.  It was inserted to cut down on the political interference of state officials.
       Tell that to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.  She has injected herself smack dab in the middle of the hunt for a new president at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.
       The embattled school's self-concept has long suffered being the weak sister of that "other" school in nearby Ann Arbor.  And then there was the celebrated murder on the campus that the school botched and of course the flap over a multi-million residence for the EMU president who resigned.
       So the eight-member university board is looking for someone to paste stuff back together and State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan believes he's the man for the job and the governor agrees.
       Granholm has reportedly been working the phones and her media secretary claims Flanagan is the kind of leader who can be the "healer" EMU needs.
       Flanagan, despite his lack of hands on higher education experience and lack of a PhD, has a shot at it because the governor appointed seven of the eight members on the board.  This is not to imply that he is not qualified but one higher education source familiar with the process claims the selection process was compromised.
       The board is reportedly "all over the lot" with no clear consensus yet don't under estimate the governor's influence as the board huddles on Saturday to make a decision.
       There's an upside and downside to all this.  If Flanagan gets the post, the governor looks strong and in control.  If he does not, she looks weak with no control.
       But more importantly, how does EMU look if it appears it buckled to outside pressure...which is actually why the framers of the constitution inserted that little autonomy clause in the first place.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Smoking Ban in Play

  Smoking Ban in Play
        The evidence is mounting and the heat is growing so Oakland County Senator Mike Bishop is making noises that he may allow a vote to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
        Behind closed doors this week, the senate Majority Leader did something a bit out of character.  For years the GOP dominated senate has been the burial ground for any attempt to get the smoke out of your favorite eatery or watering hole.
        The Michigan Restaurant Association convinced the senate R's to kill the bill and it did.  But now Bishop is permitting a discussion.
         Senator Tom George, one of two doctors in the GOP caucus, says the evidence is very clear that second hand smoke is very dangerous not only for patrons who are exposed for a couple of hours but for the employees who suck in the smoke for eight hours or more.
         Over at the MRA lobbyist Rob Gifford is sanguine about these closed-door talks.  "It is not overly alarming," he contends.  "The caucus talks about a variety of issues all the time."
        Maybe so but don't kid yourself, Gifford would be more content if there was no talk at all.
        Bishop recently got a nudge from a guy who ran the GOP senate show before.  Former GOP leader Ken Sikkema met privately with Bishop.  Sikkema had just completed a study on the dangers of second hand smoke and he merely urged Bishop to "read the report."
       Bishop, who remains opposed to the ban, may do what he did on the income tax hike last year.  He did not favor that either but he allowed his colleagues to vote on it.
        The anti-smokers would take that in a heartbeat.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tell Us More

 Tell Us More
      Pretty soon the folks who get paid to speculate will be speculating away on whom the candidates for president will select as a running mate.  And this year because of the age of one of the contenders, that choice will take on even more importance.
      But let's go for full disclosure and demand that the two candidates also reveal whom they would pick for Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, U.S. Attorney General, and maybe even the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to keep all the greens out there happy.
      It's not a radical idea but it's never been done.  Voters are forced to trust that the winner will surround him or herself with competent appointees to run the major government agencies.
      It's sort of, "Vote for me and then I'll tell you who will run the government."
      It's like buying a car and then checking to see if it has a motor, radio, and what all.
      This year full disclosure takes on even more importance.
      Barack Obama continues to be a mystery to many voters, so don't they deserve to know who his key advisors will be.  We assume his religious advisor will not be you know who.
       As for Hillary Clinton, voters have a right to know if her cabinet will be a rehash of the one put together by her hubby when he ran the show.
       And democrats tell us John McCain is another George Bush. So does he make a real break with the current administration or does he pluck off Bush-ittes to help operate a McCain administration?
       The only way to know is for the candidates to tell us before November not after.
        It's the right thing to do but it won't be done because it could cost one of them the election.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Blood Suckers and Leeches

  Blood Suckers and Leeches
        Let's be honest.  If you are like most consumers of media news, you don't hold most journalists in high esteem and with good reason.
        But when a group of local government officials were recently asked what they thought about the media, the responses went well beyond the usual clap trap about being liberal, sensationalists and only interested in selling papers.
        Nope. Some of the stuff was down right…down right…well decide for yourself.
        "They are idiots."
         "They are bold and sometimes stupid."
          And those were the tepid responses.
          Given this rare chance to let it all hang out, others chimed in by describing the news media as "parasites; bottom-feeders; they are lower than a snake's belly, and two faced."
         And then there were those who went for the bloody jugular with such terms of endearment as: "Blood sucking magets." (sic) Another official dismissed the media as "leeches looking for the next bloodsucking story to boost ratings."
         And one wrote, "The media is a blood sucking, negative, and generally opinionated form of information source."
         The truly alarming aspect of all this is that the respondents were not the typical anti-government, anti-tax, anti-everything crowd.  For the most part these were college-educated officials in positions of great responsibility at the local government level, yet their anger was palpable and their vocabulary was over the top.
         Look it.  Reporters are a lot of things and some of them are bad, but leeches and bloodsuckers?
         Somebody pass the hemoglobin.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Recall Bluster

  Recall Bluster
     Former State Rep. Leon Drolett hovered over last fall's contentious budget debate like a vulture ready to pounce on anyone who voted for a tax increase.
     At one time he gleefully floated  a list of twelve legislators who were on his recall hit list.  Turns out the list was more bravado than reality for when the recall chips were counted, there was only one to count.
     Drolett is left with trying to bag the first Speaker of the House in state history. He claims to have collected 11,000 valid signatures to put the recall heat on the top banana Speaker Andy Dillon of Redford.
     Filing the names is one thing, but by the time Dillon and his democratic buddies are done, Drolett will have seen the inside of every courthouse between here and Lansing as Dillon fights to avoid a recall election.  Droletts already been in plenty, as one by one, his dozen recall efforts fell by the way side.
     He explains he didn't know state Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer would be so aggressive about beating back the recall movement.
    That may be the case, but the real story here is that the Drolett fanned so-called tax revolt over the income tax hike failed to sprout neither enough grassroots nor enough passion to trump the organized opposition from Brewer
    In fact the polling data suggested the typical voter begrudgingly accepted the bigger bite out of their weekly check.
    Dillon remains confident he won't be recalled but if he is, he predicts a chilling effect on future legislatures that might be forced to revisit the tax increase issue.
    And that chilling effect is exactly what Drolett wants even though he didn't vulturize eleven other lawmakers who said yes to higher taxes.
    In a weird twist, even if Dillon is recalled in August, his name will be on the ballot in November where he could be reelected. Go figure.