Wednesday, December 31, 2008
One More Time
Poor Tom Lewand, the battered president of that football team that appears at Ford field but has never played there. Lewand, who prefers to work behind the scenes, is back center stage on all the sports pages because his boss, William Clay Ford, decided to keep Lewand rather than boot him out the door. All of this brought back memories, as folks in this political town knew Lewand when he wore glasses, carried around a few extra pounds, and was the major domo for a guy named Jim Blanchard. In a previous life before he got drawn into the world of sports, Lewand was the very first chief of staff for the newly elected governor and his long time pal Jamie Blanchard. Lewand brought a wealth of desire but lacked the experience even though Blanchard initially had confidence in his friend's abilities to make the execu tive office hum with efficiency. Does any of those sound familiar gang? Free Press columnist Drew Sharp writes that Lewand is not the most qualified to "clean up the mess" in the Detroit Lions organization and he is there only because "Ford likes him." Lewand has lasted eight years with the football club which is considerably longer than he endured in the governor's office. The Blanchard transition after former Gov. Bill Milliken was a klutzy and bungled operation and Lewand was smack dab in the middle of that, too. In his defense he knew nothing about the Lansing culture and neither did his boss. Everyone around the new governor was well intentioned, but it became painfully obvious that Lewand had to go and within about a year, he did. Mr. Lewand recovered and went on to become a successful guy except for this Lion's blotch on his resume. So Tom-bo, here ya go again. But this time you're getting a chance to turn this thing around, which is more than you got some twenty years ago.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
What Tax Revolt?
In the tidal wave of ugly news that engulf the state in 2008, one story got washed ashore and went almost unnoticed…until right now. What happened to the tax revolt? It never materialized despite the efforts of Macomb County anti-tax crusader Leon Drolet who huffed and puffed about blowing the House down with recalls but he turned out to be just a bag of hot air. To his credit, the former conservative GOP lawmaker did have everyone's undivided attention as he threatened this lawmaker and that for supporting the income tax increase. His recall hit list of upwards of a dozen lawmakers was well read around these parts in the aftermath of the 2007 tax hike vote and even though he failed miserably on that front, there was still a good deal of tre pidation going into the 2008 election. Maybe the voters would succeed where Drolet and company failed? But alas when they counted the votes, not a single lawmaker who supported the tax hike was ousted from office. And to add insult to injury, house democrats who championed the tax hike actually picked up nine seats. Could it be the voters simply forgot about the tax increase? Nope. Republicans running for the house reminded voters at every turn. Could it be the voters didn't feel the financial pinch from the tax hike? Nope. They felt it, but maybe, ju st maybe, they knew deep down inside that if you wanted to save state services for the needy, for the schools and the cops, you had to pay for it. And even though they didn't like the tax hike, they understood what Mr. Drolet and company refused to admit: Somebody has to pay for this stuff. So much for anti-tax fever. A healthy dose of common sense was a good elixir for that.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Brewer beats reporters
Confession is good for the soul…even for political reporters who never make mistakes. Correspondents in this town made a huge mistake as they missed a monster story even though it was right under everyone's nose. You would think that with 35 hot shot reporters roaming the halls of government that some fool would have discovered the Reform Michigan Government Now movement, but no one did. Score it Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer one and the capitol press corps a fat goose egg. Recall that Brewer and company gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to re-invent state government by basically handing the keys of government over to his party. It was sold to petition signers as an attempt to reduce legislative paychecks which is why everybody and his uncle signed one. What Brewer didn't tell the unsuspecting public that was duped into signing, is that the nine-page document did much more than that. Brewer knew if the media caught on to what was going on his effort would be doomed. The public would have been alerted to the scheme and it would have died on the vine, but since the media never found out until the petitions were about to be turned in, Brewer was successful. Reporters had a chance to uncover this. In fact the person writing to you right now, stood on the front lawn of the capitol and watched a person gathering names. A question was asked and the answer was this is the Reform Michigan Government Now petition drive. The answer was true but misleading. The reporter concluded it was a part time legislature effort which was called Reform Michigan Government…without the Now. Brewer added the "Now", dare we see to deliberately mislead the media. You bet. It was a brilliant political gambit which eventually failed because the darn thing was unconstitutional, but Brewer has the satisfaction of having outsmarted the press corps.
Friday, December 26, 2008
So much for majority rule
Come on. How often have we heard that plea from elected officials from Motown, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties? You could fill a good-sized library with all the well intentioned huffing and puffing. But in the end, that's about all it has been. Now comes a chance to prove they can do it. In the wee small hours of the morning when ordinary folks were sawing logs last week, state lawmakers and local officials spent the night trying to expand Cobo Hall to save the North American Auto Show...assuming there is an auto industry to show off down the road. The sticky wicket was who would run the new authority? The burbs surely didn't want Detroit to have a majority vote and for darn sure Detroit did not want the burbs to have enough votes to trump Detroit's concerns. The novel compromise they banged out means no one won. The deal tossed out the time-honored tradition of majority rule. In its place a rather undemocratic notion that all five members will have to agree or nothing gets done. Talk about a mission impossible. Now if everyone had been working together for decades to solve mutual problems, there might be reason for optimism that this cockamamie idea might work. But let's face it, the last time everyone in the region agreed on something….well there was no last time. So while everyone from the governor on down hails this great break through in the legislature, the odds are not very good that these five folks can unanimously agree on anything…and they have an ugly track record to prove it.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
DPS in denial
It won't take long for the critics of the Detroit School Board to argue if the board used as much energy to reform the district as it is using to fight the state, Detroit school kids would much better off. State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan has decided the local board is not capable of solving it's own financial mess so he'll send in somebody else to do the messy job. Instead of welcoming the financial manager, the board is threatening to haul Flanagan into court to block his move. Last week Flanagan staged a public hearing giving the board a chance to make its case for opposing state intervention but now the board is complaining it only had two days to prepare. The board is also griping that the deficit reduction consent agreement it signed with the state was signed "under duress." Oh the boo-birds will have a field day with that as it appears these trivial objections will merely delay the reform process. One can understand why some in Detroit are nervous about the state usurping local powers. When former Gov. John Engler did it in 1999, he and the GOP legislature abolished the duly elected local board and installed a new one. The experiment was a flop. Now comes Flanagan and the governor stepping in again. They explain this is not another "takeover." The local board will remain intact, they argue, but their opponents counter if you take away control of the purse strings that is a defacto takeover. The board will be left to decide what's on the menu at lunchtime. Flanagan did not want to take this step, but the board gave him no choice he contends. He gave them several chances to get it done, but he had no confidence they could do it. And the manner in which they are now acting out, like a second grader sent to time out, the board seems to be validating Flanagan's opinion.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Giver Her Credit
There's a little game we play in this town. Whenever the governor announces a news conference, two things happen: She huddles with her staff to anticipate every possible question the nosey news hounds might ask and reporters try to out smart them. It happened during the annual year-in-review session staged in her office Monday afternoon. Media secretary Liz Boyd was bubbling because she and her minions anticipated the questions about the high and low moments for her boss during 2008. They don't get high marks for that since that is pretty much standard fare for these exchanges. Boyd concedes however there was one inquiry they did not nail in advance and you could tell, because the governor had to think about her response…in fact she thought quite awhile. Question: What did you personally learn from the Kwame Kilpatrick story? She pauses, looks in the air as if seeking divine guidance and whispers this under her breath, "there are so many." Than she pauses again and finally confesses that there are lessons to be learned for children considering a career in politics. Do what you say and say what you do and "don't deceive the public." Oh, but she left a lot of stuff out. For starters avoid arrogance at all cost, don't ever think you won't get caught or consider yourself above the law; when you mess up, confess it sooner than later and when you finally fess up, do it with a contrite heart and not with more arrogance about making a political comeback. Even though the governor left all that out, clearly her high water mark of the year was when she finally got up enough nerve to take on His Honor by calling for an ouster hearing . She was slow getting to that point, but eventually she did and deserves credit for doing it.
Monday, December 22, 2008
They call it the revolving door. One day a person leaves as a state lawmaker and the next day they walk through the revolving door and reenter as a lobbyist. Despite occasional claptrap about sticking a stick in the door, this remains a time-honored tradition as legislators with experience inside the house or senate, parlay that into a fancy smancy paycheck outside both bodies. The latest entrant is Rep. Virgil Smith, a democrat from Detroit. He's out of work come December 31, but shed not a tear. He's snuggled up to the Detroit School board and landed a lobbying gig for the next six months at a likely $10 thou a month..about four thousand more than he is making right now. Some might wonder how the district that is $400 million in debt and facing an almost certain financial takeover by the state…how did it come up with the bucks? Now the case could be made that the district has always had a Lansing lobbyist and the DPS is facing some tough issues in the New Year, so it would want a voice at the capitol. At least that's how Mr. Smith going to Lansing sees it. "They need somebody that knows how to operate Lansing…and ultimately get things done," he tells FOX2 in Detroit. But the timing…cheez, doesn't it look bad? "Why would it look bad? They need somebody up here to effectively get things done. That's what I do," he defends the move. "Ludicrous," shouts Senator Irma Clark-Coleman, a democrat from Motown who argues the=2 0district can't afford this. "What makes him think that he knows how to do the game?" she gripes. She wants the incoming financial manager to put a stick in the revolving door.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Ah, Sweet Revenge?
He made them wait…and wait…and wait some more and finally after an agonizing week, the president did something to help Michigan and the Big Three. You gotta wonder, did he let Michigan democrats swing in the wind just to get even? George W. Bush had every political reason to deliver a payback to Jennifer Granholm and her democratic buddies who have made a career out of lambasting Bush for their own political gain. When she ran against republican Dick DeVos, Granholm linked DeVos to Bush's "failed economic policies." When John McCain ran against Barack Obama, Michigan democrats replaced the DeVos mug and inserted McCain. The D's effectively complained if you liked what Mr. Bush did to the state's economy, you could buy four more years with McCain. It's a likely bet that Bush knew he was being used and abused so when it came time for him to release $14 billion to GM and Chrysler, he appeared to be in no hurry to don his Texas cowboy hat an ride his white horse to the rescue. A contrite Gov. Granholm last Monday thanked the president for suggesting he would help out…a first for her. Monday came and went. Tuesday and Wednesday rolled by, too. Late Thursday night Granholm contemplated the unthinkable: Bush might stiff the autos and forced them into a "managed bankruptcy" whatever the heck that is. "Absolutely," Granholm told WWJ NewsRadio 950, she was worried about that adding, "We were on the edge of our seats." As the refrains of Brenda=2 0Lee's rock and roll hit "I'm Sorry" maybe bounced around in the gov's noggin', she was relieved to hear Friday morning that the bridge loan to supposed solvency was approved. For the second time in less than a week, she said thank you again. All along the White House said it was working out the details which is why it was taking so long. Yeah, but if "W" was not slowly extracting a pound of revenge, he must have had a smirk on his face as he saw the D's in Michigan squirm.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Governor Jennifer Granholm privately chuckles she can't sing worth a hoot but nonetheless she has quietly changed her tune regarding a job with the Obama administration. Now, all of a sudden she has became candid with the media announcing, through her surrogate mouthpiece that, glory be, she is not interested in a post with the prez-elect. Well imagine that…she is not interested. What happened to all that malarkey about wanting to serve as governor with a friend in the White House? That's been her song and dance for six weeks. For six weeks she was interested but now when all the cabinet posts are all but spoken for and she is on the outside looking in, she reveals she is not interested. For a governor who likes transparency, you can see through this without your glasses. Here's how the game is played: When someone has been told they won't get an appointment, this is done privately to give the rejectee time to cover his or her tracks by saying her or she didn't want the job in the first place. Then when someone else is selected, the person who lost out can save face. Dollars to donuts this is what happened in this case. Of course, media secretary Liz Boyd, who sang the new song for the governor, (remember she can't sing), left the door open noting that Ms. Granholm was not interested "at this time." Look it. At some point, she will be offered a job she wants and it will be one they want her to have and that will be before the next election in 2010.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Heading For Home
Who was it that said, "Fasten your safety belts, we're in for a bumpy night?" Whomever it was, they got it right as lawmakers round third headed for home….for the holidays with a possible all nighter in the works for Thursday. But before they pop their chestnuts on an open fire at home, lots of issues are hanging fire with the legislative clock ticking away. Look for them to do something with the expansion of Cobo Hall as there are ever so faint signs that Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson will drop his Scrooge-like opposition which clears the way for the Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to jump on board. Two weeks ago Bishop listed Cobo as a top priority but that was before L. Brookster shouted "no way." There's even some chatter that if Patterson does not sign off, Bishop might go this one alone, which would be something new for him. With the Big Three on the ropes, they need an expansion of Cobo for their auto show. The road building lobby would love to begin the holiday season by filling a billion dollar hole in its stocking. It is pushing hard to change the way the state collects money at the pump and wants to bump the cost of your yearly license plate tabs by about nine bucks. Lobbyist Mike Nystrom says, "The door is still open." But the aforementioned Mr. Bishop has reportedly whispered, "I don't want to put this up for a vote." The governor entered the game at the 11th hour as she finally got off the fence and blessed the new money but all of this may be too little too late. And for the 70% of you non smokers out there who would like to breath a little easier in your favorite public place, last ditch talks are also unfolding on the smoking ban but it's prospects are iffy. But it will be fun to watch…if you have a broad definition of the word "fun."
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Where Are All The Characters?
As this current legislative session grinds to its
conclusion, 46 lawmakers are packing their bags never to
return...unless of course they come back as a lobbyist or land a job
with the Granholm administration.
As each one has delivered a good-bye speech one is struck
that we are losing lawmakers but not losing any true characters.
Characters are those folks in the legislative ranks who stand out
from the rest for a variety of reasons.
One recalls at this time of the year former Rep. Barney
Hasper from the West Side of the state. During one of the late night
sessions after everyone had had a drink or two for din-din, ole
Barney would show up in a Santa Claus outfit complete with white
beard and a host of Ho, Ho, Ho's.
Or there was former St. Clair Rep. John Maynard who made
history one night by standing up...as best he could after his liquid
dinner, and repeatedly asked the question, "Why?" He wanted to know
why lawmakers were doing whatever they were doing and after the 10th
why, it got very comical.
And who can forget Joe Mack roaming the legislative halls.
Joe from the U.P. had a wicked tongue and often lashed the DNR for
invading God's country up there with all their "useless" regulations
to protect the environment. Second on his hit list were bikers.
Mack coined the phrase, "They could up here for the weekend with five
bucks and a pair of underwear and they change neither."
And the list goes on and on including Senator Gil Dinello
who made a career out of beating up on Detroit or Senator Jack Faxon
who imposed his non-smoking passion on everyone even before it was
fashionable and Sen. Jackie Vaungh who fell asleep so many times on
the senate floor, he could have been a supreme court justice.
But those days are long gone because nobody stays around here
long enough to develop a unique persona. Darn those term limits.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Bishop makes right move by staying at work
The Senate Majority leader has dodged the bullet by doing the right thing.
Oakland County GOP Senator Mike Bishop was in the cross hairs as he was making noises about shutting down the lame duck legislature after they put the ribbon on $134 million in budget cuts.
Several weeks ago Bishop called in the capitol press corps and tagged the budget deficit as his top priority, but then he added several other issues including expansion of Cobo Hall, building a public-private light rail transit system down Woodward Avenue and into the suburbs, and helping those facing home foreclosures.
But then Bishop changed his tune. So much for those priorities as he started muttering about getting out of town for fear the lame duck session might disintegrate into a political free for all.
It is true that after the election when everyone is safely reelected or about to walk out the door for the last time, crazy things can happen, but for Bishop to close up shop and head home for the holidays was a nasty blog just waiting to be written.
The affable leader has apparently come to his senses. He will remain under pressure to do something about Blue Cross and Blue Shield, he will take heat on other issues as well, but standing in there and leading is what being a leader is all about.
Yes it would be more comfy to be home in front of the Yule log, but as long as taxpayers are footing the bill, Mr. Bishop was correct to give them their money's worth by sticking around.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Just Fix The Darn Thing
$134 million sounds like a ton of money, but it was only a down payment. With little fanfare this week the legislature and governor sliced state services by that amount. A state prison will be mothballed and maybe turned into a Wal-Mart in Ionia. Some prison camps will be shuttered and all the crooks will be shuffled off to other prisons were there are plenty of empty beds. It was all neat and tidy but a dirty little secret remains: This is only the beginning of that "Same Old Song" as the Four Tops use to sing. More budget deficits loom and after everybody does their Holiday fling, the harsh reality will stare everyone In the face next month. If there is no federal stimulus package out of the new Obama administration, Mic higan is facing the second billion-dollar deficit in as many years. The last struggle to resolve the last one resulted in a temporary shutdown of state government. One can only guess what the next one will produce? But hope springs eternal especially in the executive suite in the Romney building where Gov. Optimism a.k.a Granholm is counting on her guy in the White House to save the day. Nobody knows how many federal dollars will flow into Michigan, but let's assume her rosy wishes are fulfilled. That influx is only a one-time fix. That stimulus will not come every year thereafter and the state deficit will not be permanently solved with just federal dough. So once again it will boiled down to what she and the legislature will do to fix this budget mess once and for all.
Funny thing, that's the same assignment that John Engler, Jim Blanchard and Bill Milliken faced…and flunked!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Helping the Home Teams
With the Big Three on the bankruptcy ropes you would expect state government to be doing anything and everything it could to help out the home team. Since the car guys need an influx of cash, you might think the state retirees pension fund is bellying up to the bar to toss in a few million here or there. A somewhat sheepish state treasurer Bob Kleine reports the pension fund has invested zero in domestic auto stocks. Zero as in nada, zilch, nothing. Given a choice between earning money and taking a risk, Kleine really has no choice but to pick the latter over the former. 0 "We owe our obligation to the retirees," Kleine explains while quickly adding, "We'll look at it." Sure he will, but the look will be a quick glance at best. It is his responsibility, they call it his fiduciary responsibility, not to be frivolous with the cash and if he was, he could be out of work. So while Congress labors over using your tax dollars to bridge the autos to somewhere, retired school teachers, civil servants, cops and firefighters, your retirement dollars won't get within a hundred yards of GM and Ford stock. As for Kleine the private citizen he could invest his money in the autos. He, for some reason or other, has not. Not exactly a vote of confidence.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Hairdresser Tells All On Gov.
What was the old TV commercial: Only her hairdresser knows for sure?" Turns out the governor's hairdresser knows a lot and she's talking to the Saginaw News and adding more fuel to the "Granholm is going to D.C. fires." Cheryl Hadsall has been cutting the gov's blond locks for years and she did the other day, what reporters in this town have been asking for weeks. "I personally asked her (about her future), and I was curious and everybody's been asking me," Hadsall reports. Turns out she is d oing better than all the smarty pants pundits who've been drilling dry holes for weeks. "As of last Monday (Dec. 1) when I was at her house, she has not been called." That's what Granholm, herself, said last week. But, and here's the juicy stuff, Hadsall adds, "If she was called and offered the right job, she would take it. Something where she could better promote Michigan…." The key words, of course are, "right job" and "she would take it." Granholm has never uttered that to anybody in the real media. Hadsall is close to Granholm and considers the governor a mentor. Hadsall is also the chairwoman of the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners s o she must know a thing or two about politics, don't ya think? But apparently she didn't know enough to keep her mouth closed. So now you have to wonder, is the governor looking for a more discreet hair designer?
Monday, December 8, 2008
It was pretty clear from the get go that if Congress was going to do an auto loan with the Big Three, it would extract a pound of flesh as a down payment. Well it appears now it will be a pound and a half and the other half is Ricky Wagoner. Some key folks want his head on a platter as they say. If it was some flunky senator calling for the resignation that would be one thing, but it's the chair of the senate panel which is writing the bridge loan and when Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut speaks, he gets an audience and votes. Actually Dodd is late to the party. Several weeks ago on one of the national Sunday news shows, Michigan's own Senator Carl Levin talked favorably about jettisoning some or all of the current auto management. That was followed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm who noted that "symbolism" was a vital ingredient in this save-the-industry recipe. If some heads had to roll, she signed off while noting that even Wagoner himself said he was willing to be a sacrificial lamb. So even though the GM leader got a pat on the head from his embattled board of directors recently, that carries no weight with the folks in D.C. who are calling all the shots. One voice that has been somewhat muted is that of the president-elect. Asked directly on Meet the Press if the current auto management should stay, Barack Obama weighted in very carefully. He bemoaned the Big Three's "head in the sane" attitude "for decades" but he stopped short of joining the chorus to oust somebody.
"Here's what I'll say. It may not be the same for a ll the companies," he told Tom Brokow. Make of that what you will.
He did say that government should not be running the car companies, but if Congress demands Wagoner's walking papers, isn't it doing just that?
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Where's My O.J.
Glory be. Is there hope for the free world? O.J. Simpson is going to the slammer and the news media did not provide, nor did the reading public demand 24-7 coverage of the less than earth shattering event. In fact on some newspaper web sites you couldn't even find the story. The O.J. story was not covered on Larry King which is the all time exploiter of that story line. A quick review of some newspaper web sites in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Bay City and Ann Arbor revealed O.J. did not even make it to the front page. Closer to home the two Detroit newspapers covered the story but one of them buried it last in the web rundown and the other played it just before its report on GM honcho Rick Wagoner getting a vote of confidence from his board. That reflected the decisions of=2 0the news outlets. As for the reading public, it appeared bored with O.J. If you look at the top five stories for both Detroit papers based on readership interest, sports trumped Simpson. Two of the top stories at the Free Press dealt with Matt Millen of the Lions and the Pistons losing. At the News the top story was about a Buffalo football coach and Sam McGuffie from the U of M football team who didn't attend the football banquet. Sam who? The auto industry bridge loan story made the top five in both papers. America had an off day and for a single moment decided to break its obsession with non-news news. It had to be that because most news consumers conti nue to be more interested in sports, celebs, and disasters. So let's get back to normal. What has Brittany been up to?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
You Heard It Here First
The panel of political pundits was waxing on and on about the 2010 statewide races when a disgruntled old chap in the audience raised his hand. "We just finished one election. Do we have to talk about another one right now?" he bemoaned. The answer is yes, but you don't have to listen or read for that matter. So if you don't want to know who is the first GOP candidate running for Secretary of State, get off this blog right here and now. Bye-bye. If you are sticking around, say hello to Anne Norlander. For the past twenty years she's been Calhoun County Clerk and despite the democratic tsunamis at the polls last month, she was one of only two republicans that was not washed out to sea. In fact she actually beat Barack Obama in the county by 8,000 votes.
Norlander has flirted with running for the SOS job for years, but now the flirtation stops because the incumbent Terri Lynn Land can't run again. Norlander is a bit of an anomaly in the state GOP in that she operates mostly out of the middle of the political spectrum while most others reside to the right of that. She won't call herself a moderate per se but admits to having appeal to republicans, democrats and independents which, of course, is what moderate candidates do. "I'm not big labeler," she confesses but adds, "I appreciate all points of view." Very diplomatic and designed not to offend anyone in her party. So she becomes the first of many SOS contenders and you're the first to find out..unless you bailed out earlier.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Read Between the Lines
In her most extensive comments to date about going to Washington as part of the new Obama administration, some have concluded that Jernnifer Granholm is not going. But don't be fooled by what she said.
"I've not been asked to join the Obama team," she told capitol correspondents during a phone news conference. She was telling the truth, but that does not mean she won't be asked down the road.
She was then asked if she had been contacted about supplying personal data as part of the vetting process. Her answer seemed to rule that out.
"I'm not aware that I'm being vetted in anyway."
That is true too because the normal procedure for selecting high-ranking cabinet members is not to contact them at the beginning of the vetting process. That only comes at the conclusion when there is a possibility she might be offered something. This is the way it is done according to a former member of the Clinton administration who went through the vetting procedure.
So based on her remarks, some have hedged their bets that she will leave. But the smart betting money in this town concludes her statements are misleading at best and being misconstrued at worse.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Smoking Ban Vote, Maybe?
By all rights, this should have been a no brainer and should have been done six month ago, yet the Michigan legislature, in its own infinite wisdom has still not imposed a smoking ban in pubic places. But it could happen this week…underscore the word "could." With 70% of the non-smokers favoring a total ban, this should be an easy vote, but Detroit casinos, cigar bars and some restaurants have turned it into a tough vote as they battle for an exemption from the total ban. The anti-smoking gang is willing to let them have it in order to get some ban on the books. "I'd hate to throw a good chunk of it out, because we felt we needed to go the extra mile," concedes the Ingham County Health Director. What Dr. Dean Sienko is really saying is, half a ban is better than no ban at all. But even with the anti-tobacco folks talking compromise, the restaurants could gum up the works with a provision that would allow eateries to pay a state fee to avoid the total ban. Some say that is analogous to making it illegal to run a red light but if you pay a fee, the cops would look the other way.
All this appears to be coming to a head as the Michigan House could vote this week on the legislation but even if it passes there, a huge question mark remains in the Michigan Senate where GOP leader Mike Bishop favors a total ban and most of his colleague supported that earlier this year. The Oakland County lawmaker says if there is a compromise during this lame duck session, the senate could vote again, but if it does not, the whole thing…and you knew this was coming…will go up in smoke.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Contract Reopened; Unheard Of
Forty years ago this was unthinkable and treason-ness. In fact Jimmy Hoffa, Leonard Woodcock, and a host of other former labor leaders are collectively rolling over in their graves. Without much fanfare the guy who runs the UAW says he's willing to reopen the newly enacted contract with the Big Three. Reopen a contract? Unbelievable but Ron Gettlefinger is no dummy. He knows that's the price the UAW must pay to convince a recalcitrant Congress to do for the autos what it has done for Wall Street…i.e. write a check. Actually Hoffa, Woodcock et.al. should be downright proud of brother Gettlefigner who gets it. It's either reopen the contract and lose some benefits and jobs, or lose the whole industry. It may be unprecedented, but it's really the only ch oice organized labor has. Mark Gaffney who runs the statewide AFL-CIO calls this a historic week for the Congress where he says, "This is a chance for Congress to say, manufacturing matters." But there are segments of that august body that apparently don't give a hoot about manufacturing, but Gaffney, Gettlefinger and their labor brothers and sisters are trying to change some minds as the financial clock winds down for GM, Chrysler and to a lesser degree Ford. "Those who don't understand the need for an industrial policy, probably shouldn't be in Congress," Gaffney wistfully observes. But they are there and so far they are winning as the auto executives and UAW come crawling back to D.C. with a plan in one hand and desperately reaching out for a lifeline with the other.