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.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Friends of John
Lt. Governor John Cherry has not announced he is running for governor, but just in case he does, he's already staged three meetings with key supporters who would be part of a would-be Cherry for Governor campaign in 2010. The list of attendees reads like a who's who in democratic politics including some current Granholm devotees such as Kelly Keenan, the governor's long time legal advisor, kitchen cabinet and debate advisor Mark Fox a Lansing attorney, and former Chief of Staff Rick Wiener. Also attending the three sessions to date were former House Speaker Curtis Hertel who volunteered his home on Round Lake for the strategy sessions. His son and local Ingham County Commissioner Curtis, Jr. also showed up.
=C 2 Others included Lansing businessman Joel Ferguson, former house democratic floor leader and current Liquor Control Commissioner Pat Gagliardi (sp), current State Senator Gilda Jacobs, former UAW official Pat McCarty, Nat Yonkers of Genesee County, multi-client lobbyist Patrick Lauhglin, long time Cherry aides Linda Rossi and Annette Rogers.
Rounding out the list Ypsilanti County Commissioner Ronny Peterson and Cherry's wife, Pam Faris. What looks like a steering committee is not according to several sources who don't like that term. One of the touchy issues kicked around is the so-called Granholm problem. As the theory goes, if the state economy is still on life support, how does Cherry run on her economic recovery program when it has not born much fruit? The alternative is for the potential candidate to distance himself from the incumbent. Not an easy task. Ask Al Gore.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
You Won't Believe This
You Won't Believe This
Imagine the IRS deciding to stop all income tax audits because it didn't have enough employees. Do you suppose some folks might try to cheat on their taxes? Well as far-fetched as it seems, the state welfare department in 2001 did exactly that. It stopped auditing the millions of dollars it was sending to day care providers under the unbelievable naive notion that this "honor system" would work. Of course it didn't and the state got taken to the cleaners for about $10 million of your tax dollars. None of this occurred on the current director's watch but it was IsmailA 0Admed's thankless task to disclose all this to the capitol press corps this week. Oh sure he tried to razzle-dazzle reporters with all that talk about installing reforms, and being aggressive about finding fraud, but the elephant in the room refused to wander away: Some fool had implemented a policy whereby providers got money from the state and the state looked the other way hoping against hope that nothing bad would happen. This debacle, and that is being charitable, began on the watch of Mr. Welfare Reform himself, Gov. John Engler. He was hell bent on slashing the size of state government, so he offered early retirement to lots of civil servants and surprise, surprise, lots of them left state government just to get away from Engler. As a result in the welfare department 22% of the folks who rode herd on the child care money said adios and Engler's welfare director Doug Howard amazingly signed off on the honor system because he apparently didn't have enough bodies to monitor where the mool a went. "It didn't work," a sheepish director Amand confessed.
While he can't be held accountable, ya gotta wonder what his predecessor, Marianne Udow was doing and where was Gov. Granholm during all this?
Incredibility however the honor system continues today as the department is still under funded and understaffed, but everyone promises they are clamping down on the fraud. Now, don't you feel better?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Reading Her Mind
Reading a politician's mind is a dicey assignment but sometimes, if you read between the lines, you can take a pretty good stab on what that pol was thinking when he or she did this or that. Such is the case with the recent six paragraph letter that came out of nowhere this week as the governor declared in was now in the "public interest to accelerate" her quasi-judicial review of Mayor Kilpatrick's behavior. Prior to the release of this correspondence, it appeared that the governor was moving methodically on the request from the Detroit City Council to remove the Detroit mayor from office. The signals were pretty clear that the governor was not anxious to step into the middle of this unfolding saga which seems to grow worse by the day. And here's where the mind reading comes in. Last week the mayor was involved in that alleged shoving match with two police officers. You could make a case that that was the last straw for Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She has now moved up by one week a schedule for all parties to file motions and briefs with her office by August 22 on the removal question. Then, if she concludes there is enough evidence to hold a hearing, she will do so on September 3rd, right in the middle of the national GOP convention. This does not mean she will decide to bounce the mayor, but if you're in the Kilpatrick camp, the fact that she is moving in the "public interest" to speed up the process, is not exactly what pro-mayor forces want to hear from the state house. Maybe the governor has had it up to here with all this?
Monday, July 28, 2008
Political Identify Fraud
It is everywhere in the political game. When Jennifer Granholm ran against Dick DeVos she successfully linked him to President George Bush. In case you missed it, the democrats are feverishly trying to do the same to John McCain. How many times have you seen the picture of Mr. Bush and McCain warmly hugging? If you missed it, hang around, it will be out there again, and again. Ah, but the other side can play the game too. In a case of "turn about is fair play," the state GOP party chair has observed, "If you love what Jennifer Granholm has done to Michigan, you'll love what Barack Obama will do for the country." When all else fails on the campaign trail, both parties are guilty of linking the person they want to beat with someone you can't stand. The strategy has gone so far as to show a picture of the target and then slowly morph that picture into the image of the other person leaving the clear impression that they are one in the same. Of all the candidates out there right now, it appears that John McCain is most vulnerable to the guilt by association gambit. After all he has supported some of the president's ill-fated policies but certainly not all of them, but the democrats don't tell you where Mr. McCain has spilt from the prez. McCain is sure doing that but he has a ways to go. As far as linking the policies of Obama to those of Michigan's governor---let's be charitable here: it's a s-t-r-e-t-c-h and party chair Saul Anuzis knows it, but he'll continue to play the card anyway. He's prevented, however, from doing the morph thing for obvious reasons. He's not a she.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Wisdom According To Sam
Anybody who has followed the rough and tumble world of Detroit politics has heard the name Sam Riddle a noted political consultant who is not bashful. He seems to be everywhere these days with words of wisdom wherever he goes. His latest epistle in the world of wisdom surrounds a news release where he boldly suggests that the "spiraling out of control behavior pattern" of a certain Mayor of Detroit and his mom "could cause Barack Obama to lose the state of Michigan" in the contest for the White House. To be sure it's not an original thought and although no one from the Michigan Obama camp has actually said that, they surely must be thinking it. Riddle in his four paragraph email, also makes note of the comments made by Mom Kilpatrick concerning her opponent's inab ility to carry one of the Congresswoman's personal garment items. (This is a family blog and the word "bra" is verboten.) What Mr. Riddle either forgot or neglected to reveal was that he has a vested interested in fanning the anti-Kilpatrick fires, since he represents one of Mom Kilpatrick's opponents, former state Rep. Mary Waters. Riddle also ventures out on a ledge saying he believes that GOP candidate John McCain is moving up in the polls because of the "unacceptable behavior of the Kilpatrick's." Just out of fairness, he did not sight any polling data to buttress his personal belief. That's probably because none exists. But then in Detroit politics, when did the facts or self-disclosure ever count for anything?
Thursday, July 24, 2008
That snickering you hear over at the Michigan John McCain camp is over the family feud unfolding in the Michigan Democratic Party. At a time when the D's should be totally unified, they are not and even the rosy-eyed governor has to concede the point. "Will you concede that some democratic legislators are upset with the party chair?" The usually talkative governor gives a one-word response, "Yes." Those democratic legislators are upset with Mark Brewer because he blindsided them when he promoted a petition drive t hat would slice legislative salaries and bounce some of them out of a job. He did not give them a heads up in advance. Senator Tupac Hunter (D-Detroit) is displeased, and he has notified the national Barack Obama campaign that there is some fussin' and feudin' unfolding in the state party. "I'm very unhappy about that. Absolutely," he tells TV2 in Detroit. "This isn't something we should be dealing with…It appears as if certain members of the Democratic Party have taken their eye off the ball." More snickering at McCain headquarters. Big John is locked in a nose-to-nose battle with Obama and having this distraction right now is a plus for him. "I don't know that it will help John McCain," the governor we ighs in on the political implications of all this. Hunter is more upbeat. He says the spat will not cost Obama the election in Michigan, but already it has had an impact. According to the Detroit News, the Michigan democratic congressional folks were set to host a fundraiser for the party, but scrubbed it because they are upset with Mr. Brewer. "It is important to unify," family feud host Granholm states the obvious.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Gov Meets Kwame
Oh boy. The governor and the Mayor of Detroit met face to face for the first time in a long time, but don't get excited. It's not what you think. They did not talk about the Mayor's legal problems, which the governor by the way is reviewing. They did kick around the expansion of Cobo Hall and the desire to save the North American Auto Show from motoring off to Chic-town or some other locale. "It was a very productive meeting. We're on the right road. We're close," an upbeat mayor told a handful of reporters after the 80-minute confab. 0 He refused to give any details. But here's part of what they discussed. There was a lengthy give and take on the politics of creating a new Cobo Hall Authority Board. Under the pending legislation, Detroit would get three seats, and everyone else, including the guys who run Oakland and Macomb Counties would get only one. Kwame Kilpatrick figures his city deserves broader representation because it will foot the bill for the project's infrastructure, police and fire protection and other related costs. It's anticipated that L. Brooks Patterson and perhaps the folks from Macomb County will not be happy with one lousy seat. That issue remains in play. Another20bullet point was minority contracts. Would the new authority be sensitive to those concerns or would minority contractors find themselves with a fat goose egg when the expansion shovels go into the ground? The mayor says he's encouraged saying "It's the first time I've seen the entire region bring something to the table," and he feels with that "we can move forward." Patterson has said he can work with a scaled down $90 million price tag, but the authority composition and minority contract provisions are apparently a work in progress.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
As Motown crooner Marvin Gaye use to ask, "What's going on?" The board of directors of the embryonic stem cell research campaign was fixin' to meet on Tuesday to remove campaign chair Larry Owen. The board met all right, but according to Owen his job his safe. "We had a good meeting today. We have a unified board and we're going to move on to a successful campaign." Was there any discussion about your tenure? he was asked. Going into the session a source revealed there were enough votes to remove Owen, but instead of a vote, the board reportedly decided to try to skin the cat another way. Rather than produce counter-productive headlines by voting Owen out, another strategy may be applied to save face and get the job done through another means. Owen who has dismissed all this as mere "rumor" reports he is on the job and trying to piece together a fund raising campaign to sell the controversial embryonic stem cell issue. He concedes that all the chatter about the boar d being unhappy would be a distraction but "we're not having that discussion." But others may be having it behind his back.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Now Who Runs?
Marietta Robinson will not be a candidate for the State Supreme Court. "I'm not running," she confirms. Her decision came after an 11th hour effort by some democrats to convince her otherwise. At one point Robinson concedes she was "very strongly leaning toward running," but then events changed. A key in her decision was that the race was not going to be "mano-a-man" against incumbent Chief Justice Cliff Taylor who defeated Robinson last time out. Last time she ran, Robinson believes a chunk of her would-be support went to a minority party candidate. Therefore she concluded if the Libertarians put up a candidate, and in fact earlier this month they did, Robinson felt that would hurt her chances again. In fact she concluded she would have lost. According to one source, overtures were made to the Libertarian party to stay out of the contest so Robinson could have a clean shot at the incumbent. Obviously that was rebuffed. And another factor was the Reform Michigan Government Now petition drive, which Robinson opposed once she discovered the issue was out there. On one front it put democrat Robinson at odds with her own party chair and segments of organized labor that backed the RMGN effort, and at the same time it put her on the same side as the GOP chair Saul Anuzis and other republicans. Can yo u say awkward? She also concluded the debate over the ballot plan would be "a distraction and that's putting it mildly" that would have taken the focus off the "outrageous decisions" Taylor has made during his tenure on the high court. Robinson felt the legal wrangling over the issue would continue into September thus denying her media attention on why Taylor should be defeated. "It would suck all the oxygen out of the room," she suggested and rather than battle that, she decided to stay out of the contest. Applying the old adage, you can't beat someone without somebody, democrats are hunting for that somebody now that Robinson has bid a fond farewell to the supreme court contest.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Judicial Showdown This Week
Judicial Showdown This Week Pull up a comfy chair. This will be fun to watch. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is fixin to nip in the bud the much-publicized phantom effort by organized labor to "hijack" the state constitution as one chamber honcho puts it. The Chamber will ask the state appellate court this week to kill the so-called Reform Michigan Government Now petition drive even before they count petition signatures that the RMGN filed to put the question on the November ballot. Bob LaBrant claims the attempt to rewrite the constitution is itself unconstitutional. His side will tell the three-judge panel that it is perfectly legal to rec onstruction an amendment to state law, but if you want to rewrite more than one segment, you need a constitutional convention. Clearly this RMGN beast goes beyond one section…way beyond. The case seems opened and closed, cut and dry, and call in the next case airtight. But pause for just a second. Is it conceivable that the backers of this thing sat in a room, drafted a nine page proposal, spent over a million smackers to collect signatures, but yet filed to grasp the obvious that it was illegal? Put another way, it would be like spending $100,000 on your kid's higher education knowing that they only have the intelligence to be a capitol reporter. Why bother? Which is the question we ponder here on the eve of this judicial challenge.
Was there a hidden political agenda? Did organized labor have nothing better to do with the million bucks? Or do they honest to goodness believe this wholesale rewrite of state law is legal? Bring some snacks along with the comfy chair; this may take some time to sort out.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Get On The Bus
Former Michigan Governor William Milliken holds the all time record for riding to work in the most unusual vehicle. When the state was blasted with about two feet of snow during the 70's, the only way he could travel was in a National Guard half-track troop carrier. It pulled up to the back steps of the capitol and Milliken emerged all smiles. While she can't top that, the current governor was all smiles this week, as she became the first chief executive to ride the bus to work. "Good morning," she beamed to the driver as she boarded a Capitol Area Transit Authority bus at about 6:55 am as a band of sleepy eyed capitol correspondence chronicled the event. She put five quarters in the box and off she went. The three "regulars" on the bus looked on in wonder as three TV cameras dominated the scene as she moved to her seat right next to the rear exit. The photo op was aimed at promoting mass transit and providing motorists with relief from four dollar a gallon gas… if they would only ditch their cars. But on the issue of mass transit in Southeast Michigan, this governor's record to date is not any better than the three guys who preceded her. Milliken, Jim Blanchard and John Engler huffed and puffed about the need for a Detroit area light rail system..a debate that goes all the way back to Mayor Coleman Young. They delivered nada. As you might have noticed, all Detroit has is its dinky People Mover and some SMART and D-Dot buses. "We're the only region in the country without a=2 0major transit system," Granholm lamented. But she reported help is on the way. A light rail system down Woodward Ave. is reportedly in the works with both public and private contributions. Granholm is upbeat about the two sources of revenue. She hopes it eventually runs into Pontiac, Ann Arbor and Metro Airport. Haven't we heard that tune before?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
It is called the power of the incumbency and even though he is not the top banana in the Granholm administration, Lt. Gov. John Cherry knows how to exploit that power even as the second banana. While the governor was over on Lake Michigan last week taking credit for "saving the Great Lakes", Cherry was in Port Huron doing some water promoting of his own. "This morning, I'm beginning a tour of several communities on the shores of the Great Lakes…" he began an email blast to interested parties. Before he is done he'll hit Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Muskegon and Traverse City and while he's talking about the water as Chair of the Great Lakes Commission, he'll also have time to meet with "local democrats, local leaders, residents and the media." So what's really going on? In case you missed it, Cherry is running for governor and this amounts to his first statewide foray of the 2010 campaign. One of the powers of the incumbency is to use your office to gobble up oodles and oodles of free media. When Cherry hits each of those water towns, rest assured the local media types will be there asking penetrating questions such as, "What do you think of the Great Lakes?" Cherry will hit it out of the park, get his mug on the evening news and hope that somebody remembers him when he formally runs for Granholm's job next year. Last weekend, the governor passed along another perk to her second in command. Since she was out of state, for the second year in a row Cherry got to march in the parade named after him, The T.C. Cherry festival. While most had no idea who he was, he got TV exposure, shook some hands, and got something none of the other contenders could get, exposure to half a million citizens/voters along the parade route. Nothin' like the power of the incumbency.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Jobs Roller Coaster
She was up, down, and all around the jobs issue that Gov. Jennifer Granholm and all in the space of about four hours. First and with a big smile she announced a new world headquarters coming to the I-94 and I-96 corridor near Metro Airport. Dow Chemical is joint venturing with a Kuwait petro firm to create 800 jobs each paying close to 100 thou a year. Michigan was victorious over Louisiana and Texas..a nice feather in the gov's job diversity hat. But at the same event she had to comment on the huge job loses thanks to more "right sizing" at General Motors which took some of the edge off the Dow deal. Right sizi ng is a nice way of saying layoffs. After that she hustled across the street to a meeting of the MEGA board which doles out tax credits to create jobs and again it was back to the smiles. 14 projects creating about 6,900 jobs she boasted...an impressive number. But in the next breath she had to explain why Volkswagen of America had stiffed Michigan and will build a new plant down in Dixie. "We're not surprised," the governor conceded. She says Tennessee had a sight ready to go and Michigan and Alabama did not. Asked about the so-called "union" issue in Michigan and whether that tipped the scales to Chattanooga, the governor did not want to speculate but she did reveal, "They had a lot of questions about that." The always upbeat governor concedes the news cycle will focus on the GM and20VW stories since no headline writer can keep his or her job by putting job creations ahead of jobs losses. But alas she is used to that and the bouncy ride on the jobs roller coaster At least this week she got to the summit twice, if only for a moment before the fall.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Try this on for size: Obama wins the White House with the help of Dennis Archer and his buddy Freeman Hendrix. Then President Obama helps Hendrix get elected Mayor of Detroit and then the two of them help Archer get elected governor. Wow. There's a mouthful, and you're wondering what the heck are you smokin' Skoop? Believe it or not this political "trifecta" as one person put it, is floating around the Freeman Hendrix camp as he quietly and methodically ponders another run for Mayor of Motown. Hendrix is laying low and wants no part of this story, but take this to the bank he is "definitely interested" in reprising his bid for mayor after losing to Kwame Kilpatrick last time out. But times change. The Kilpatrick who leveled Hendrix is not the same Kilpatrick who might run again next year. Maybe you've read about his problems? Hendrix is poised with the lift of a finger to snap his campaign organization back together again which is why he is in no hurry to make any public noises about running. He's made no final decision, but most would be shocked if he did not do it again. The Obama, Archer, Hendrix axis of power is worth contemplating. Archer was out front loudly and early for Obama when it was fashionable for most democrats to hitch their wagon to the "inevitable" democratic nominee..what was her name? Furthermore Archer's former campaign manager, David Axlerod, is now Obama's main guy. And Hendrix was Archer's deputy mayor. Man, you can see all the back scratching that could unfold to the benefit of all three amigos. Could it happen? Same answer.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Bob Who Remains Bob Who
Bob Who To Remain Bob Who When a politician contemplates running for office, they want to control when that announcement is made and they don't cotton to nosey reporters trying to move up the timetable. So when you try to pin down one of those slippery types, they won't give you a straight answer. Years ago before she ran for governor, now U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow said she didn't know if she would run. But then she got nailed with this follow-up, "In your heart, are you running?" You could tell by the look on her face that the answer was "yes" but she wouldn't say it. 0 Now comes Bob Bowman, the former treasurer during the Jim Blanchard administration. His name has been in the mix about a bid for governor in 2010. Appearing on the Off the Record public TV broadcast, Bowman was careful to leave the door open. But then he gave two revealing answers to two revealing questions: You don't have the fire in the gut to run? Answer after a poignant pause, "I think that's a fair statement." The other inquiry revolves around the fact that even though Bowman vacations at his summer home in Harbor Springs, he still resides the rest of the time in Connecticut. But yet he suggested he was still in touch with everything going on in Michigan. He apparently doesn't like the term "carpetbagger." Which led to question number two: If you are in touch than, who is the captain of the Red Wings? Bowman, who runs the IT arm of Major League Baseball, did not know Nick Linstrom. "I'm a baseball guy," he demurred as the egg dribbled down his face. So much for the Bowman boomlet for governor.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
My, my, you anti-government types are going to love this: A ballot plan to slice legislative salaries to $60,000 a year. They now make close to $80,000 not including bennies. My, my, you anti-government types are not, however, going to like part two of the proposal: Total elimination of term limits. Just goes to show ya, there is no such thing as a free pay cut. The mastermind behind this latest wrinkle in the "Let's change the constitution" debate is East Lansing democrat Rep. Mark Meadows. He s totally fed up with the more complex and far-reaching Michigan Government Reform Now proposal that goes well beyond cutting paychecks. Meadows hopes his more simplistic approach will have curbside appeal. "I'm putting it on the ballot because that's what people really want…they don't even care about the rest of Reform Michigan." He may be right on that, but he's dead wrong on common folks wanting to eradicate term limits. And when those folks find out that the Meadow's plan allows the current batch of term limited lawmakers to run again down the road, the affable Mr. Meadows is going to get an earful. "It could be a liability," he concedes but he's hoping the chance to reduce the paychecks for legislators will trump the term limit phobia. Meadows has a long and bumpy road to hoe in getting this modified plan on the November ballot. He needs two-thirds of the house and senate to approve it and even if that happens, voters would have to say yes as well. And selling it would be costly with no guarantee voters will buy it. Undaunted by that harsh reality, Meadows begins his push for Plan B next week when lawmakers return from an extended July 4th holiday.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Bowman For Governor. Who?
Congressman Jim Blanchard walked up the sidewalk to the TV studio on the MSU campus where the Breslin Center now stands and his trusted aide Ron Thayer advised him, "Now when they ask you about running for governor, leave the door open." Blanchard did and well, as they say, the rest is history. Now comes Bob Bowman, former state treasurer in that
Blanchard administration, who will walk into a different studio at a different MSU location on Friday and will face the same question. He'll leave the door open, too.
Bowman will tell the Off the Record panel he indeed is interested in running for governor in 2010. Of course expressing interest is one thing, actually running is quite another. Former EPIC-MRA pollster Ed Sarpolus calls Bowman a "sharp" guy with lots of ideas but he warns, "He doesn't want to become the next Carl Marlinga (who was known for flirting with running for this office and that but never ran.)" Sarpolus argues if Bowman does not "stick with it, his political future in Michigan is dead." Sarpolus calls a potential Bowman candidacy a "long shot. Does he have as much money as Dick DeVos? No. Does he have access to money? Yes." In addition the first major hurdle is "Who in the hell is he?" Sarpolus asks. Voters don't know Bowman from Adam. He does note that Bowman would have a "better ability to go after business folks" than any other democrat who might run, but by the same token he lacks any "traditional democratic group behind him" such as organized labor. Bowman, who now runs the IT arm of Major League Baseball, is in town for a golf tournament and is working on the All Star Game set for next week in New York. But he'll find time in his busy schedule to go where Blanchard went to put his own name into play for the 2010 contest. As to whether he hits a home run ala Blanchard, who knows?
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Gunnin' To Kill MGRN
Kill it before it multiples seems to be the mission. They rounded up the usual suspects at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Tuesday to map out a strategy for killing the Michigan Government Reform Now (MGRN) movement before it gets to the November statewide ballot. The counterattack centers on two fronts: (1) Trying to keep it off the ballot by proving the backers did not collect the required 380,000 names to put it there. Those backers claim to have gathered 487,000 names that were turned into the state on Monday. Assuming all the petition t's were crossed and all the I's dotted, the second strategy is to block the issue in the courts. Bob LaBrant from the chamber who called the "skull session" says, "I'm confident that we've got a strong constitutional argument to present in court, if we have to get that far…Our constitutional arguments will be recognized by the court and this proposal will not be placed on the 2008 ballot." LaBrant summoned lawyers, senate GOP staffers, public relation experts and others to plot the next move. Meanwhile Gov. Jennifer Granholm says she is waiting to see what the court says about the controversial drive that amends 13% of the state constitution without a constitutional convention. If forced to vote today, the governor says she's not sure how she'd plunk. She likes the government downsizing aspect but frets about the possible violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. "That's a great concern to me," if African Americans lose seats in the house and senate, she says. Supporters of the amendment, which also includes a slice in salaries for top elected state officials, claim voting rights will be preserved. LaBrant sees enough legal fish hooks in this nine-page proposal that he boldly predicts, "We will win." Which is, of course, what the proponents are saying, too.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Flash back to last fall when lawmakers and the governor were trying to wade through a sea of red ink by latching onto a tax increase. Members of the Michigan House had three problems i.e. trying to decide if the tax hike was the right thing to do and if it was, they fretted about being recalled. Long term they also knew they'd be facing the issue again this November if they ran for reelection. Democrats, who voted for the tax hike, dodged the recall bullet. The recalls turned out to be all talk and no action. This November republicans are hell bent on making sure the bullet hits the target this time.
If a democrat voted for the tax hike, rest assured his or her GOP opponent will bring up the issue over and over again.
The framing of the issue will be forthright. Democrats will argue they had no choice. Facing a $1.8 billion hole in the budget, they demonstrated leadership by doing the unpopular thing. Baloney the GOP challengers will holler. With four bucks a gallon gas and voters pinching pennies wherever they go, the GOP will try to exploit a yes vote on taxes into a no vote on those who cast it. You can hear the GOP commercials now: Times are tough in Michigan. You're struggling to put gas in the tank, struggling to hang onto your job and the future is not very bright. In the middle of all that my democrat opponent voted to take even more money out of your paycheck by raising your income tax. That's not leadership. That's just plain wrong. Vote for me. That message appeals to the raw emotions of frustrated voters while the democratic ad will appeal to the voter's intelligence: Hi, I'm democrat so and so. I know times are tough not only for you but for state government as well. Last year, I had the courage to fund your schools, keep your cops on the street, and provide some hope for the future. Leadership is all about making tough decisions. I did that. Vote for me. When it's emotions vs. intelligence…well let's put it this way, the D's have a tougher sell job.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
No Heads Up
In politics no one wants to be blind-sided, so one of the unwritten rules is: Give me a heads up if you are going to whack me or help me. Apparently state Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer forgot to read that rule and consequently he has some unhappy campers in his ranks. Brewer, without confirming it, is being pegged as the "mastermind" behind a massive petition drive that basically turns the current state constitution on its ear. It is far-reaching, controversial, and unfortunately for Brewer very secretive. So secretive that in fact during two 11th hour skull sessions to belatedly bring other democrats up to speed and hopefully on board with the effort, Brewer has run into a buzz saw of questions, criticism and in some cases downright dissatisfaction if not anger. Legislative democrats knew squat about this plan to put all this before the voters in November. And like any good politician, each democrat is weighing the impact the amendment will have on them personally and their constituents. Whenever there is dissention in the ranks, all the players attempt to clamp a lid on media coverage so as not to damage the party's image. But the Detroit News over the weekend reported a conference call involving key players, the governor and supposedly Brewer who got an earful. Two days earlier the MIRS newsletter reported that Brewer invited interested lawmakers to huddle in the basement of party headquarters where he was not exactly patted on the head for this stealth petition drive. In fairness to Brewer his strategy since last December was to conduct this drive in secret so that opponents could not persuade folks not to sign the petitions. But now he is reaping the wrath of some of his own party members who felt left out in the cold. Some will abandon the chairman; others will hold their noses and support him, while others will be gun-ho. But the story line here will be: Democrats upset and not unified on changing the constitution. It's not the story line Mr. Brewer wants to read, but he has himself to blame for that.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Leave My Car Alone
Now don't laugh at this, but state lawmakers are not complete idiots and every time it comes to regulating anything that has to do with your automobile, they prove it. You see even legislators have figured out that most voters have a car and if you try to regulate what goes on inside those cars, you run the risk of losing a vote. Put more bluntly: voters drive and drivers vote. 'Nuf said. Which is why it took years to pass a mandatory seat belt law which, by the way, does save lives. Nervous lawmakers, fearing a voter backlash, at first refused to do anything sitting on the seat belts for years. They finally passed a law but watered it down saying you could only get a seat belt ticket if you broke another traffic law first. Years later when the life saving evidence was overwhelming they dropped that provision. The record is replete with other auto related goodies that have scared the be-jeezus out of lawmakers. Banning cell phones has been around for years…never passed. Regulating the number of passengers teenagers can have in the car…never passed. And now comes a retread, lowering the speed limit. OMG, even though it might save lives and most certainly would save gasoline and money, lawmakers won't touch that with a lead foot. The governor tip toed into the issue the other day noting that lowering the speed limits should be considered but moments later, perhaps sensing a push back, tacked on, "I'm not proposing that." Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi of Farmington Hills is proposing it but, he does it without any fear. He's not running for reelection which is about the only way to avoid the wrath of all those speeding drivers who also vote.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
What Can You Say?
Former Gov. Bill Milliken was the first to coin the phrase and the current governor has used it often: As Detroit goes, so goes the state. In case you missed it, Detroit is not going very well lately, as it is one shocking headline after another. If it is not the mayor in trouble with the law, it's four members of the city council under the watchful eye of the FBI and as if that is not enough, the Detroit schools are struggling to wade out of a sea of red ink. A grieved Governor Jennifer Granholm has watched all this unfold and she laments, "Obviously it's extremely disconcerting and disappointing." Quizzed at a Wednesday news conference on the meltdown in Motown, you could tell the governor was burdened by the flood of negative stories and agonized to find just the right words to reflect her feelings. She was asked, "What's going on in Detroit?" She paused, shook her head, looked down at the floor and came up with, "I don't know." She later concluded "It is not good for Michigan," which is what she said when the first batch of Kwame Kilpatrick/text messaging stories blanketed the Detroit news media months ago. Trying to put her concerns in context, the governor told reporters everyone had to be careful not to use a "broad brush" to tarnish the entire city. But she concedes the city faces "enormous challenges" on both the ethical front for city government and the financial front for the schools. In a variation on the "As Detroit goes…" theme, the governor says, "The state can't thrive without a thriving city." If this is thriving, you can count her out.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Brooks: Almost There
After months of berating, bad mouthing and blasting every Cobo Hall expansion plan to come down the pipe, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is within a half of sandwich of embracing the latest proposal penned by none other than Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Wonder of wonder and miracle of miracles! Please note that Patterson has not seen the details and is not endorsing anything until he does, but check this out. "We're getting there…the numbers are making more sense," he says for the first time. He wasn't a math major but Patterson figures the mayor's $90 million version is less that the $600 million first floated by his Wayne County counterpart Robert Ficano. "$90 million is a whole lot more palatable that $600 million," he reasons and once you divvy that up among all the shareholders, he thinks Oakland County can afford to get on board. Patterson believes the state, the three counties, the automakers and the three casinos in Detroit will all contribute and that means the "bite size portions" are more easily digested. The key to all this, he contends however is Red Wing owner Mike Ilitch. Patterson says the pizza guy has to unload Cobo Arena as part of the deal and, "I think he will be working the deal where he gets out of the arena, but he gets a sweetheart deal on this hockey arena." Asked if he thought the Cobo expansion and new home for the Wings were linked as suggested in this space sometime ago, Patterson says, "I absolutely believe it." To be sure nobody has told him that but he is "just trying to read the tea-leaves" and he concludes the leaves are pretty clear. "I think so," he continues. If all this finally falls into place, it will not only save the North American Auto Show from moving to another state, Patterson calls it a "win-win-win" for Mr. Ilitch, Detroit, and if it's down to $90 million, "the taxpayers win," too. As long as it stops at that figure, Patterson reveals, "This one I can handle." You may now stand up…if you can.