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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Timing Was Off

     Timing is everything in the political game and the first guy to announce his candidacy for governor was the victim of poor timing in the nth degree.
      Quick, raise your hand.  How many heard, read, or saw Pete Hoekstra announce his GOP bid for governor?
      O.K.  We see Mrs. Hoekstra's hand over there and his three kids paid attention but that's about it.
      Suffice it to say the West Michigan congressman did not plan it that way. When he woke up on Monday morning, he hoped to reap a ton of free media exposure. 
      Instead he found himself in competition with the Rick Wagoner story.  It was plastered everywhere:  GM CEO tossed under the Silverado by President Obama.
      That dominated the morning news cycle only to be replaced by the 11 a.m. announcement by the president that he was giving GM and Chrysler one more chance to survive.
      And of course all the talking heads on Michigan media outlets proceeded to take the rest of the day's news cycle to sift the president's announcement.
      As if that wasn't bad enough, MSU's B-ball team making into the Final Four ate up even more media attention
      Hoekstra, who needs to line up support in Southeast Michigan, was hoping for some headlines and a photo. But in the final insult of the day, he got neither as the two major newspapers on that very day, scrapped their home delivery service leaving Hoekstra hoping that somebody would "read all about it" on the Internet.
      His announcement was not completely ignored as the political media covered him, but when they add up the exposure he did receive vs. what he could have received, he can thank Wagoner, Obama, and Izzo for messing with his timing big time.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Izzo And Team Help Out

     Maybe they ought to appoint Tom Izzo  the new CEO of General Motors.  After all, there is an opening and after next weekend, Izzo will have nothing else to do after he delivers the national championship to his beloved Michigan State University.
     Izzo and his team of self-described "blue collar" B-ball players have done something that nobody else in this state has done for sometime i.e. give us something to smile about. Dare we say hope is alive?
     Rick Wagoner never produced hope or smiles . Even though well intentioned, he never got GM back on the road and eventually he fell on the sword after being pushed by President Barack Obama.  The symbolism of Wagoner being a loser was unfair, but who said life was fair.
     Izzo is a winner.  He fought all the odds, without a federal bailout, and now finds himself in the Final Four in Motown next weekend. 
     It is an uplifting saga that appears at just the right time proving that the impossible can be overcome.  Are you listening Michigan's economy.
     The Spartans could never beat the overpowering Louisville squad the sports know-it-alls predicted.  The Cardinals racked up 103 points in their previous game and MSU was lower than an underdog.  But when they cut the strings on the net, there was Izzo, scissors in hand, making the last slice with a big smile on his that the entire state shared.
     Ever since they announced that the Final Four would be in Detroit, Izzo and his team have been on a mission to make it to Motown.   While most of his interviews have centered on the X and O's of each game, every once in awhile you heard Izzo talk about other personal feelings as he came close to tears.
     He's noted that this state has been through a late lately and he and the team wanted to do something about that.  And they have.
     Thanks and Go Green.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Is A Pay Cut, Not A Pay Cut?

       You gotta hand it to State Senator Roger Kahn.  He made a compelling speech on the senate floor the other day about how great he and his colleagues were for sharing in the pain of everyone in Michigan who is battered and bruised by the sick economy.
       "These are tough times," he waxed on about a resolution to slice legislative salaries by 10%.  And in tough times there must be leadership.
        "Leaders do not eat when those they lead do not eat," he lectured his colleagues adding that leaders don't "sleep" or "joke" either when those they lead don't.
         It was all very touching except for one thing.  All of those senators were still eating, sleeping and joking!
         Kahn did concede at the beginning of his speech that the salary cut does not affect the current legislature.  It will impact the next one in 2011.  But he said it only once.  So if you missed that tiny little fact and listened to the rest of his rhetoric, you might have assumed the salary slice was hitting everyone today.
        Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) did make that point after Kahn sat down. "So you still haven't given up a darn thing. There are no profiles in courage here today" she concluded.
        Now Kahn could be back in 2011 but only then would he start sharing the pain of those back home. And 30 of his colleagues who heard his impassioned speech won't suffer at all.  They'll be gone because of term limits.
        Even though current legislators can't be ordered to take a pay cut by law, they could voluntarily pony up to=2 0the bar and give back some of their pay.
        But a survey by the Associated Press shows only two are doing that in the senate, out of 38.
        You don't suppose some lawmakers wanted it both ways?  A pat on the head back home for supposedly taking the cut, but pocketing the seven thousand they never gave back?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rebuking The Governor

    After you read this, you'll know why the governor's shop wanted to sit on this letter.
    The unwritten rule in Lansing is that you don't take on the governor in public and although the rule has been broken, it's a courtesy kind of thing out of respect for the governor.  Plus public spats can sometimes turn ugly which hurts everyone.
     With that in mind 74 members of the Michigan House, recently signed a private letter regarding Gov. Jennifer Granholm's "shift in energy policy."
     While polite, the correspondence was a rare rebuke.
     At issue is the governor's decision to place on hold the construction of new coal-fired plants in this state.  She wants a review to make sure they are environmentally safe. The lawmakers say that's an "ad mirable" goal, but they want the construction jobs now.
     The letter tells the governor in no uncertain terms that by delaying the permitting process, "The state is in a sense reneging on the promise of thousands of new construction jobs…" and for good measure, in case the governor missed the point, "The urgent need to create jobs trumps most all other priorities during this time of economic crisis."
     Pretty strong stuff and to make matters worse for her, 33 of those who signed the letter are from her own party including the House Speaker Andy Dillon who had earlier gone public rejecting her delaying policies.
     The fingerprints of the Michigan Construction and Trades Council are all over this correspondence.  Obviously the union wants these jobs and it's not happy that the environmental lobby somehow got the governor to delay them.
     Nobody around here can remember the last time a sit ting governor got a letter like this from so many disgruntled legislators.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth To Governor

    Give it up governor.  You are on a mission from God, but the unwashed are non-believers.
     The U.S. auto industry has never really recovered from the disastrous appearance last December in the nation's capitol when it showed up hat in hand for federal assistance.
     With their expensive corporate planes cooling their jets at the local airport, the Big Three executives took a beating as Congress turned against them fasting than you can say, "Buy American."
     Gov. Jennifer Granholm witnessed the meltdown along with everyone else and ever since she's been carrying the water for the industry trying, in vain, to turn public opinion around.
     And there she was again this week, hoping on the big bird headed to D.C. to continue her Jenny-one-note performance.
< div class="MsoNormal">     Based on the latest polling data, 96% in this country don't care if the autos go under, so the governor was asked, "Are you ready to concede defeat."
     "Are you kidding?" she fired back in that patented Granholm never-say-die optimism.
      "People are tired of bail outs," she tries to rationalize the engrained hatred of the auto industry and folks don't understand that you "can't let the backbone of manufacturing" go down the drain. 
       Earth to governor. People do understand and they are tired of your cheerleading, and despite all your well intentioned efforts to sell this story on every major TV network and all the talking head cable gab-fests, it is not working.
       Save the plane fare and u se the money to reduce the state deficit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Feeling Down, On The Farm

         It may shock you but Michigan actually has one growth industry.  In fact over the last two years it has mushroomed by 12 percent which compared to the rest of the gawd-awful economy looks down right fantastic.
         Yet Michigan farmers get no respect as they are the Rodney Dangerfields of the state.
          Wayne Wood who runs the Michigan Farm Bureau scratches his head wondering why state lawmakers don't give farmers more love and why the governor wants to cut their budget?
          As with everything else in this town it boils down to crass politics.  Years ago when farmers were 30 percent of the voting public, the industry got lots of attention. If a lawmaker corralled the farm vote, the politician had a good shot at being reelected and after all, that's what being a legislator is all about.
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        Wood now reports farmers make up only two percent of the population which means politicians can pretty much ignore them unless, of course, the lawmaker is a farmer and there they are few and far between nowadays.
        Compounding the farmers woes is term limits.  Years ago, Wood smiles, "We had some real troopers in here for agriculture but now lawmakers are afraid to stand up for us."
         Of course if the farmers went on strike, or stormed the capitol demanding this and that, lawmakers would pay attention, but raising a ruckus is not in their DNA.   Raising cattle, crops, and the like is.
         So while the auto guys, the green energy industry and the hi-techers gobble up all the attention in Lansing, the lonely farmer goes about the business of putting grub on our tables and with a 12 percent growth rate, they should be proud but don't look for any commemorative resolutions out of this bunch up here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Snyder Foisted OnRemember Smietanka Grassroots

      There are rumblings out there that the out-of-nowhere bid for governor launched last week by Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder might be a re-do of the GOP flap over attorney general years ago.
     A source who is familiar with the GOP primary race for governor recalls that when then Gov. John Engler tried to anoint Scott Romney for A.G., the grassroots in the party rose up and rebuffed the governor and picked John Smietanka instead.
     Fast-forward to the 2010 contest for governor and this source says attempts by GOP party chair Ron Weiser to impose Snyder on the party will "backfire.  We are a grassroots party and when leadership tires to pick a candidate, the party rebels," contends his source.
     To be sure, no one has been able to confirm that Weiser is behind the Snyder potential candidacy, but several sources within the party are shopping the notion and are personally convinced he is.
     It's safe to say that the opposition research on Snyder has already begun as others try to frame his image with the public before Snyder has a chance to do it himself.
     Meanwhile Snyder's spokesperson says the would-be candidate will not be doing a lot of media interviews right now as he prefers to "listen" to what the grassroots have to say first.  If the above sources are right, he could get an earful about being foisted on those grassroots.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guilt Bt Association

    Is this logical?  State Democratic Party Chair says whomever the republicans run for governor will have to answer for the failed economic policies of "George Bush, Dick DeVos and those Southern Republicans who wanted to stab the auto industry in the back."
    But then he advises that when the R's try to link Lt. John Cherry to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the voters will see through that.
    "The voters are sophisticated enough that they aren't going to buy that."
     So let's see if we have this straight.  When Brewer tries to play the guilt-by-association card against the republican nominee, voters will buy it. However when the republicans play the same card against Cherry, if he is the nominee, the same voters won't punish Cherry for Granholm's sins?
    If th ere is logic in there somewhere, please point it out.
    Brewer, who appeared on the Off the Record Publc TV broadcast this weekend, conceded that the current governor has had a rough go of it. In 2006, she blamed Bush and her opponent DeVos for the economic downturn and voters did not blame her.
    But this is not 2006. Since then there's been a wholesale meltdown in the domestic auto industry, which brought the Big Three to its knees.  Granholm could not get elected dogcatcher today.  Which is why the Cherry camp is worried.  Why would voters support him when he was a key player in her administration?
    "When we look back years from now, the governor laid the foundation" for an economic recovery and "she did a great job" under awful circumstances, Brewer argues.
     Maybe in the long run, but Cherry is running In the short run20and there won't be a recovery by 2010. That means Granholm's economic policies, which the GOP will say produced the highest jobless rate in twenty five years, will be tattooed all over Cherry in commercial after commercial.
     Then we'll see how "sophisticated" the voters really are.
     See the Brewer performance at WKAR.ORG

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Kid On The Stump

    Rick who for governor?
    For weeks there have been signals in the GOP camp that some "out-of-the-blue" candidate might surface to challenge a host of other republicans for the 2010 nomination for governor.
    And out-of-the-blue comes none other than Rick Snyder.  Ta. Da.
    If he walked through that door over there, you would not know Snyder from Adam…except for the clothes of course.
    Rick who? is really a 51 year-old native of Battle Creek with no practical politics under his belt, yet here he is hoping to parlay his business acumen into a job in the state house as CEO.
    He now runs a technology investment firm and to say the least his formation of an exploratory committee has everyone ta lking.
    There is speculation that the new state GOP chair Ron Weiser may have something to do with the emergence of the new kid on the stump.  That could likely ruffle the feathers of others who are already in the field because supposedly party chairs don't get involved in primary candidate selection…at least that's the theory.
    There are already rumblings that Snyder is really a "liberal" in disguise with a record of supporting liberal causes and candidates in the past.
    If true, the state GOP has not seen the likes of that since Bill Millken, the last of the so-called liberal-moderate republicans.
    So welcome to the game Mr. Snyder, whatever you look like.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gov Plays Monte Hall

   You can always tell when the governor doesn't want to talk in a news conference. The normally verbose governor gives you a one-word answer.
    Do you support linking a graduated income tax to repeal of the surcharge tax on business?
    "Yes" as she fore lonely looks out into the capitol press corps for any question on a different topic.
     Well ya can't fool the scribes In this town. They stay on the subject.
     For forty years, Michigan democrats have lusted for a graduated income tax but at every turn republicans have said forget it.
     Now comes this governor hoping to play Monte Hall and make a deal with the R's.  They have been gr umbling for months about the 22% business surcharge tax. So the gov's offer:  Give me the new income tax and I'll kill the business tax.
     But she's made them an offer they apparently can refuse.
     "It's nuts," suggests Rich Studley, the CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. 
     The senate GOP leader chimes in.
     "It's absurd.  It's ridiculous. It's DOA…dead on arrival," intoned Oakland County's Mike Bishop.
      Oh yeah, he also thinks it would set off class warfare between the rich and poor. You see under a graduated tax system, those who earn more, pay more.  Bishop counters, "That's already the case."
      The governor believes it's a fairer tax based on ability to pay and since most democrats are not wealthy…well you can see why she's on board.
      Anyway the governor has opened up this can of worms and watch the editorial writers have a field day with her.  Give her credit in that she is standing up for what she believes is right…just don't tell that to Bishop and his sidekick Mr. Studley who feel she is dead wrong.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

3500 By Oct. 1

     Chalk up the Michigan Sheriff's Association as a strong "no" vote.  In fact it wants nothing to do with the governor's proposal to dump 3500 inmates back into the streets by October first at a cost savings for taxpayers.
     But MSA director Terry Jungel wonders at what cost to the state's crime rate?
     He's convinced 50-60% of those released will strike again.
     The Granholm administration respectively disagrees.
     In fact the gov's prison director says she would not support the program if she felt the crime rate would skyrocket.
     You know what Jungel thinks about Pat Caruso's observation?
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      "She works for the governor."  End of story.
      The back and forth here concerns the possible release of inmates who have already served their minimum time in the slammer. The gov and company contend if they have done the minimum time why not release them?
       Here's why not according to Jungel.
       "If you behave" and have served the minimum, he has no problem with considering them for a release but "the fact that they are in there past their minimum means they have not behaved.  Why let them out?"
        The administration says it will screen out the bad guys but Junkel says only the bad guys are in there to begin with.  He contends for first time fe lons, the chances of going to the Big House are only one in ten.  So to get there, you need two or three felony convictions, Jungel argues.
        "We should never second guess judges and juries," he warns but the governor is asking an expanded parole board to review all these cases with what goal in mind Mr. Jungel?
        "To get more people out."  Which is exactly what the sheriff's don't want.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Everyone Wants School Revamp

    Pretty soon we will have as many education reform proposals in the legislative hopper as we have lawmakers and there are 148 of them.
    O.K. the opening paragraph is a tad over the top, but it is clear that reforming schools in general and urban schools in particular continues to produce plenty of chatter in these legislative halls.
    The latest entrant is Sen. Hanson Clarke (D-Detroit).  He says it's time to restructure the schools in his district including a longer school day, smaller classes and high schools, no charters and merit pay for teachers which is a non-starter for teacher unions.
    But Clark is late to the party.
    West Michigan Senator Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland) has been on this for almost a year and has aligned himself with key Detroit senators who are eager to do something, but are waiting  to see what new course the state imposed DPS financial czar  charts before the senators jump in.
    Kuipers has no choice but to wait for the Motown D's to take the lead because he knows as a white guy from West Michigan…well you get the point.
    Not to be left out of this entire reform clamor is Rep. Tim Melton (D-Pontiac.)  He's been in the trenches for over a year as well and scored a major coup the other day.  The second-term House member actually got a one on one with the new U.S. Secretary of Education who urged Melton to get serious about reform because Michigan could share  $5 billion in federal money to revamp the schools.
    As is the case with a lot of issues up here, the talk about education reform is abundant, the votes to actually do it, are not.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Not Gonna Happen

    Ladies, ladies, get a grip.
    Rep. Shanelle Jackson and Rep. Rashida Tlaib get an "A" for effort but they just flunked legislature 101.  Go to your room.
    Th dynamic duo, in a flash of spring fever and Pollyanna optimism, have actually introduced a bill to salvage the Cobo Hall expansion project now mired in a nasty court fight between the Mayor of Detroit and that citadel of political wisdom, the Detroit City Council.
    Read everyone's lips up here:  State lawmakers are in no mood to revisit this issue.  Period. Punto. End of story.
    "No way in hell," Oakland County executive Brooks Patterson puts a point on it for the Detroit News.
     Gov. Jennifer Granholm says basically the same thing without the "hell" as does the Democratic Speaker of the Michigan House Andy Dillon. To round out the consensus, Senate GOP Leader Mike Bishop of Oakland County is not on board either.
     Neither the votes, nor the will are there to do it.
     When it comes to the legislature helping Detroit you usually only get one bite of the apple, if you get any bite at all.  The outstate anti-Detroit attitude is palatable which makes it even more amazing the leadership and enough lawmakers did approve a bill to expand Cobo in the first place.
     Now madams Jackson and Rashida are silly enough to think their proposal "can serve as a catalyst to move the discussion forward" if this issue returns to Lansing.
     As the elder President Bush was fond of saying, "Not gonna happen."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Talk To Me First

     As a kid you loved surprises, but the kids in the Michigan legislature don't. That's why the governor is taking some heat for proposing changes without consulting key lawmakers first.
    After seven years in this game, for some reason or other, the Granholm administration continues to worship at the alter of secrecy which is counter to the governor's oft mention mantra of "I want to work with you."
    Two recent examples are on the screen.
    For almost two years lawmakers did their due diligence to craft a new energy package which included a new coal-fired plant in Saginaw.  CMS Energy promised thousands of construction jobs and lawmakers though they had a deal.
    Which is why many of them were "shocked" when the governor, out of nowhere, tossed a monkey wrench into the CMS project during her State of the State message last month.
    In effect she slapped a hold on the plant through an executive order as she asked for a review by her Department of Environmental Quality.
    Some of her critics called it a flip-flop.  Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon refused to pile on pending more chit-chat with the governor.
     Those talks have ended and Dillon concludes, "I'm not in support of the Executive Order" but since she is his governor he quickly adds, "I'm encouraged with the governor's willingness to make it work."
     Asked point blank if the gov should have consulted before she took the unilateral plunge, Dillon diplomatically concludes, "I would have appreciated that."
     The folks who want to save the State Fair20are muttering the same thing.
     Once more, instead of bringing in everyone to problem-solve, the governor used her new budget to announce the proposed shutdown of the 105 year old tradition.
     Former fair manger Steve Jenkins, who resigned in protest, wonders why she didn't ask him for suggestions on how to save the fair rather than just broom it without even a courtesy call?
     The chair of the house budget committee wonders the same thing as Rep. George Cushingberry (D-Detroit) tries to undo the governor's unwanted surprise.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Next?

        You can sell a bunch of papers if you come across a good "man bites dog" story.  Imagine how many you could sell if it was a "man has sex with dog" story?
        Pull up a chair because Rep. Rick Jones has just such a tale to tell.
        For a good two years, the former Eaton County sheriff has been on a mission to expand the reach of the state's sex offender registry to include those who went to prison for molesting an animal.
        Jones says there are several cases of those crooks going to the slammer, doing the time and then heading back home to, perhaps, your neighborhood but you won't find their names on the sex registry because there's no law to require it.
  A 0    At first blush, the GOP lawmaker knows that initially this sounds like a humorous story, but he's dead serious about it as he points to Jeffrey Dalmer and Henry Lee Lucas whom Jones describes as "famed mass murders."
        Both guys apparently started on their killing ways by attacking animals and eventually "moved up to people" as Jones puts it and if it can happen twice, it can happen again.
        "These are such dangerous people and we should know where they live," he goes on while claiming to have support from "some judges and the prosecutor's association."
          Jones confesses that he's the only guy in the legislature willing to take this one and he appear to be correct in that only about four or five of his colleagues have signed on to co-sponsor the "man has sex with dog" proposal.  But the chair of the committee that may get the bill signed on and that means this measure could see the legislative light of day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Any Day Now Brooks

      Here is a political fact of life: If somebody really has the fire in the gut to run for governor, they don't sit on the fence waiting for divine intervention before they get off the fence.
      Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson please take note.
      In early February when Patterson showed up at a Lansing conference of county officials, he advised that within two or three weeks, he would make a decision on whether to reprise his 1982 bid for the state's top elective office.
      It is now five weeks later and fence sitter Patterson is still ensconced in his "I don't know what to do" mode.  And trying to get your arms around his leanings is illusive.
      "My mood is based on the last person I talked to, " he laments ..  Some of his friends say he should run, some of his friends say he should not and the affable Mr. Patterson is agreeing with his friends.
       Patterson, always the team player, does reflect that he needs to wrap this up one way or the other for those who are "in line behind me" as he puts it.
       Whoever those folks are, apparently they are on hold, until Patterson gets off hold.  Those with the burning desire to run must be chomping at the bit as Patterson doodles along.
       An oblique overture was made to move this story down the road.  How about we run a story that says you are not running and you can deny it for the next two or three weeks and then not run?
      Patterson would not play the game because, "It wouldn't be true."
      Don't ya think at some point his you know what would get sore straddling that fence?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Have You Heard The One About...

        Chris Rock she is not, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm, for one night, would like to be, without all the foul mouth antics of the popular stand-up comic of course.
         Michigan's governor, who has set the record for soaking up more national media face time than any other governor in state history, has added one more gig that came out of nowhere.
         Get this.  She's been invited to do a comic routine at the prestigious Gridiron Club dinner sponsored by the Washington White House press corps on March 21 with the president, his spouse and all the big D.C. shooters in the audience.
         While the governor considers it a huge honor, she is shivering in her high heels because she's not least she says so.
          "I'm the most unfunny person in the world," she laments "and to have me speaking at the Gridiron Club…I don't have much good material."
          Which is where you come in.
          "I'm asking everybody to submit stuff," she sends out a comedy SOS.
           She has also ordered her Washington staff to start working the halls of Congress for other material, as she does not want to depend solely on "common citizens" for her jokes.
           Ironically the governor had a stand up comic/state police officer on her security detail who could be helping her right now. However he was quietly reassigned to a desk job.  Word was she was concerned he might say something on stage that might cause her political problems.
            Apparently she is right.   She doesn't have a sense of humor. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wall Street: Two Faces Have I

      Raise your hand if you have had it up to here with all the unwarranted influence Wall Street is exerting on the nation.
      Remember that the folks on the "street" are not driven by some humanitarian motive to improve life in America; rather they are driven to improve their own lives through greed and an unquenchable desire for a fatter bottom line.
      Over the past few years as the auto industry has struggled to avoid the scrap heap, it and the UAW have taken giant strides to cut back costs, but each time such an announcement is made, Wall Street chimes in, "That's not enough" and then the Street proceeds to prove it by trashing the auto stocks so that the brokers can squeeze more of the life out of the Big Three.
      And then you had the much publicized rant on the floor of the stock exchange by a CNBC "reporter " over efforts by the federal government to help the little guy who was about to lose his or her house.
      Rick somebody-or-other turned to his buddies and asked them to show their displeasure with the effort to help those who were in over their heads with mortgages they can't pay.
      This, of course, is the same Wall Street that opened its arms to a massive infusion of federal bail out money to keep certain investment companies afloat.  Where was Ricky-poo to complain about that?
       And while we are at it, a little closer to home, the news media continues the drum beat of bad economic news.  Headlines report a new jobless rate of 11.6%.  Why not a headline that reads:  88% of the folks in Michigan have a job?
       Oh yeah, that would not sell any papers.  Maybe the media and the Wall Street crowd have something in common?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Quack. Quack.

   Talk about wanting it both ways.
   Gov. Jennifer Granholm, in her best imitation yet of Fred Astair (old dancer from the movies), waltzed all around the road revenue issue the other day and it was a sight to behold.
   Taking the leadership role, the governor told scribes in this town that she's ready to scrap the 19-cent a gallon gas tax which for decades has been the major funding source for our decrepit roads.
    The road-building lobby has declared the gas tax a dinosaur because it no longer raises enough bucks.  In its place the road guys want a floating tax that goes up or down with the price of gas.
     The governor boldly endorsed the shift but refused to call it a tax increase per se.
     And h ere's where she wanted it both ways.  When the price of gas goes down, she explains, the motorist would get a tax cut.  She can say "tax cut" because that sounds good, but when the price goes up, the tax will go up and that's where she gets a lump in her throat.
     "On the day that the new tax takes effect, it will not be a tax increase," she lectures the capitol press corps.
       Technically that is true, but on day two, if the price goes up, the state will begin to collect more money.
        Is that a tax hike?
        Downriver democrat Sen. Ray Basham says, "If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is probably a duck."
        Sen. Mick ey Switalksi is from Macomb County where even the hint of a tax hike sends chills down everyone's spine. He argues it is not a tax increase although he concedes "There are always people who will call it that."
       A reporter tried to get the governor to make that confession and she stood her ground.  "I know you want to be able to put words in my mouth, but I won't let you."
       Well that settles that.  When the state collects more money on a tax, that is not an increase.
       Quack. Quack

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Please, No Controversy

           University presidents are an interesting lot.  For one thing they abhor controversy which is why when the Big Three showed up at the state capitol this week, they made very little news and were darn happy they didn't.
         In case you missed it, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State are locked in a little budget battle with a certain governor.
          She wants them and the other 12 citadels of higher education in the state to freeze tuition increases for next year and if they don't, she'd like to whack them with a three percent cut in state assistance.
         Suffice it to say Mary Sue Coleman, Lou Anna Simon and the new guy on the block at WSU, Jay Noren, are not happy campers, but you wouldn't know it by their rhetoric.
          Everything was nicey-nice as they tapped dance around the battle for bucks with Ms. Granholm as reporters tried in vain to get them to say something, anything newsworthy.
          Coleman finally opined that freezing tuition was like "price controls" and she was not a fan of that.
          Simon finally conceded that the proposed three percent cut in state aid was really seven or eight percent when you factor in the rate of inflation.
          Noren, who observed that it "was too early" to comment on anything finally admitted it would be "devastating" if higher ed got cut anymore.  Pretty rough stuff, hey?
          To be fair, there are delicate negotiations going on with her governorship and taking her on i n the media, is probably a bad move, but even so, whatever happened to telling like it is?
          University presidents have none of that in their collective DNA.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Efficiency Panel Is Not

      The so-called Legislative Commission on Government Efficiency has demonstrated that it's as bad as the legislature at meeting deadlines which leads to the conclusion that the efficiency commission is itself inefficient.
       Here's the drill.
       The House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader formed this little group to find ways to save your tax dollars by streamlining government.  Oh goody, goody.
       Originally the deadline for filing this report was June of this year.
       The media got wind of this deadline and suggested if the commission wanted to have any impact, it should accelerate the deadline so that the rec ommendations could be used in the current budget process which is now underway.
       To its credit the commission co-chairs said they would have the report done by the end of January.
       Well you know where this is going.
       At the end of January, one co chair reported they needed four more weeks.  O.K. it was a minor delay so no big deal.
       But now this week, the commission unceremoniously announces it will not be done until…you guessed it, June, 2009.
       Deadlines are made to be broken. At least the efficiency commission was efficient at doing that.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sittin' On The Fence

    The pizza baron and the congresswoman appear in no hurry to jump into the next race for governor.  In fact David Brandon and Candice Miller remain comfortably seated on the political fence
     Even since she left the Secretary of State's office, Ms. Miller's
name has appeared on everyone's list as possible governor material.  She has done little to discourage it.
     In an attempt to smoke her out, a call was made the other day informing the Miller camp that a story was going to be written taking her out of the contest, even though she's not said that.
    "Don't do it," came the quick response from a source who knows what Miller is doing.  "She has not made up her mind," came the explanation.
=0 A
      Miller has a comfy seat in the U.S. Congress and unless she does something really dumb, such as  voting for a tax hike, she can have the Macomb County job for life.
      It's a good guess that Miller is watching the rest of the field take shape and depending on who stays in or gets out, then she can decide. But the longer she waits, the further down on the speculation list her name will go.
       Brandon, late last year, promised he would have a decision by the end of January of this year.  January came and went; so did February and now in early March, Brandon says he still doesn't know what he will do.
       His pizza company is suffering and popular wisdom has him more concerned with that than running for governor. In this corner, it looks like Brandon will do what he has always done i.e. flirt with it and then decide to scrub it.
       Ditto for Ms. Miller.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mr. Biz Vs. Mr. Gov't

       Here we go again with another Mr. Business vs. Mr. Government a.k.a. the Detroit Mayoral contest.
       Dave Bing brings a wealth of biz acumen coupled with his sharp elbows honed after years in the NBA.  Ken Cockrel Jr. grew up in a government home although his daddy was a tad on the anti-government/radical side, but nonetheless, Cockrel's background could not be more different that his opponent's.
       We've been here before.  One need only recall the effort of Dick DeVos, the West Michigan entrepreneur/soap salesman who ran against Ms. Government-Jennifer Granholm. And back even further it was insurance executive Dick Headlee taking on government student Jim Blanchard.  Both Dicks lost.
       Those who support the concept that government should be run like a business make an appealing argument, until you peel it back. 
      The major rub is this:  When you run a company, you have the final word.  Sure you may listen to others, including your workers, but when the rubber hits the road, the CEO calls all the shots.
      It ain't always that way in government.
      Ask Jennifer Granholm. She  has 148 mini-governors to contend with in the legislature and she must please at least 56 of them in the house and 20 in the senate to do anything.  It is not easy.
       On a smaller level, the Detroit Mayor has to contend with a city council and the current one is a horror story in and of itself. There are the unions that represent all the workers and lets not forget the voters who have the ultimate veto power.
       Now you're going to say a CEO has a board of directors to please but as long as that leader is making money, nobody on the board cares how he or she does it.  Think Enron.
      Voters and the media do care and so the government leader has to make a whole lot of people happy compared to his business counterpart who has the option to move unilaterally.
       Mr. Business vs. Mr. Government. Which background counts more?  We'll find out in May.