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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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Supreme Problem

The already politically fractured State Supreme Court has become even more so with another 4-3 ruling that will either create a "constitutional crisis" or foster more public confidence in the high court.
    The court has adopted new rules saying, if a justice is accused of an alleged conflict of interest, the justice has a right to decide that, but if a majority of the court disagrees with that conclusion,
 it can  bounce the justice from a case.
    "Those contesting traffic tickets will enjoy greater constitutional protection than justices of this court," bemoaned Justice Corrigan who joined with her pals Justices Young and Markman in berating the majority.
     Clearly madder than a wet hen, Justice Corrigan predicted the ruling more fray the so-called collegiality of the high court…if there was any after the GOP lost control of the court in the last election.
     The sleeping judge commercial that the D's used to unseat former Chief Justice Cliff Taylor started this latest round of bad blood and this conflict of interest ruling pours more salt on that wound.
    That aside, reasonable men and women will conclude that it is a little dicey for a judge to decide his or her own conflict fate.
    If the court wants to instill public confidence in its rulings, it seems logical that a back up system is needed in case a jurist turns out to be myopic to a conflict charge.
    In fact one would think a justice would want a fail safe system just to be sure.  But if you understand the reasoning by the minority, the individual justice should be judge and jury with no review by anyone which is the standard now.
    It is possible that some barrister may try to manipulate this rule to eliminate a justice who is preceived to be unfavorable to a client, but we have to trust that the other members of the court would not fall for that.  Maybe it is a leap of faith?
    After all one could argue that in the legislature there is no peer review of a members potential conflict nor does the governor have someone reading over her shoulder looking for a conflict, either.
    So why discriminate against the high court?
    Because it is the high court. 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys

  Each one of us has a little voice in our heads. Don't know how it got there, but it resides there nonetheless and every once in awhile, he shouts, "Don't do this."
   Despite the shouting being heard right now, here goes a blog on the blond babe who crashed the White House gig the other night.
  (The shouting is getting louder.)
   While the MSM has rightfully focused on the breach of security angle of the story and how this dashing couple managed to break the code for getting in, no one has written about all the guys who had their pictures taken with the aforementioned B.B.
    First there were the three Marine guards who were smiling so much it looked like they just learned they won't be going to Iraq.  And then the "babe" with the president's Svengali , Ron Imanual.  Most folks in D.C. have never seen him smile but how often do you get a chance to cuddle up to…well you get the point.
    And even the President himself got into the smiling act, but of course he had no choice, the babe showed up in the receiving line and presidents are suppose to smile, but you could come up with a nifty caption for that picture anyway:  "Hey Michelle, get a load of this.  Did you put her on the invite list?"
    But the grand daddy of them all was the photo with the babe and the V.P.  For the moment he must have been speechless as she innocently invaded his personal space and plopped her manicured left hand on his chest. (Maybe they went to high school together or knew one another from a previous life?)
    Yet, the pictures are one thing; the really juicy story is what did the wives of all those men have to say when they saw the pics?
     Jill Biden to hubby Joe.  Maybe she sounded like Raymond's wife on the TV show: "Idiot.  Caught in the act of being a guy."
     First Lady to First man:  "She's not coming back here again.  And wipe that smile off your face."
     And the Marines.  None of them must be married because it was painfully clear they were having too much fun and obviously didn't have a spouse implanted "little voice" in their heads telling them to take the smiles down a notch.
     As for the babe and what she was thinking.  Look for that in her first book, "Going Rogue Take 2."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ah, Sweet Vindication

    It was November, 2001 and one year before the democratic primary for governor involving five hopefuls.  In the hunt: A former governor named Blanchard, a former Congressman named Bonior, two lawmakers named Peters and Smith and the state's first female Attorney General named Granholm.
    The quintet had agreed to do their first televised debate on Michigan Public TV and it was not long into the broadcast that the subject of "experience" was raised by the anchor.
    Of the five sitting there, Jennifer Granholm had the least.  It was only four years earlier that she decided to take a shot at elective office for the first time and now here she was trying to become the state's first female governor.
    Nonetheless she felt she had enough experience to be governor, but the woman sitting next to her came to a different conclusion.
    Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith had a ton of legislative experience but when first asked if she felt Ms. Granholm had enough to be governor, Smith demurred.  Unfortunately for Smith, the moderator had quotes from an earlier intervier during which Smith did reject Gramholm's experience as insufficient.
    Reluctantly Smith confirmed that was what she said and, with Granholm looking at her, Smith in effect argued Granholm was not up to the task.
    Suffice it to say, Granholm was not happy with the remark.
    Fast forward to last week.
    Governor Jennifer Granholm during a one on one interview conceded that one of her major "flaws and liabilities" in becoming governor was her lack of legislative experience.
    Color Ms. Smith, now a candidate for governor again, vindicated.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Biting Off A Lot

 Talk about a mouth full.
   For months this lawmaker and that have chatted about revamping the state's tax system.  Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith is tired of all the talking and took matters into her own hands this week.
    She wants a graduated income tax.
    She wants to close $3 billion in tax loopholes.
    She wants a sales tax on services and a new state tax rate of 5.5% instead of 6%.
    And when she has nothing else to do she wants to wipe out the 22% business surcharge tax.
    In other words she wants the moon, the sun and the stars and unfortunately for the democratic candidate for governor she is not likely to get any of it by her self-imposed deadline of January 31.
   But give her credit for trying and having the guts to announce that state government needs more revenue…about $6.5 billion more.
   Her biggest hurdle of course is rounding up the votes from house and senate members to pass all this stuff, not to mention convincing you to support the graduated income tax if it makes it to the November ballot next year.
   Her second biggest hurdle is fighting off the opposition which will be strong, loud, and well financed.
   "This is not going to be an easy sell, but it's a sell that has to happen," Smith argues.
   "It looks like its dead on arrival from my stand point," counter punches Chuck Hadden who runs the Michigan Manufacturers Association which includes the major auto makers.
     Smith's assignment is to "educate" the citizens on why all this money is needed.  She can't do it in a ten second sound bite but the opposition can.  It will say Lansing wants to take $6.5 billion in new money out of your pocketbook.  End of story.
     You can see who has the easier job trying to "educate" the citizenry.
      But Smith is not conceding defeat.  There's plenty of time for that later on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Did She Really Say That?

     There is one common trait among avid hunters.  They are so passionate about the sport that occasionally they lose touch with reality.  Just ask Rebecca Humphries who for the last five years has been the governor's Department of Natural Resources director.
     Nobody knew she had this problem until the news guys at the MIRS newsletter interviewed her the other day.
     Ever since lawmakers decided to take two weeks off for hunting season and Thanksgiving, they've taken some well deserved heat for not showing up in town.  Think school funding crisis, economic mess, and college kids screaming for their $4,000 state scholarship…all of these placed on hold for this two week traditional break.
     The governor has been relatively mild in her public rebuke saying, "Lawmakers should come back" and work on these issues.  Dollars to donuts in private she is seething.
     Sen Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) has been more blunt.  "I am appalled and disgusted" by this time off.
     Enter one Ms. Humphries who proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that she's from another planet.
     Asked in the interview about lawmakers taking time off to hunt, Humphries opined, "It is part of our heritage…I hope we never see a day when the legislature decides deer hunting isn't important enough and so they just stay in Lansing and continue their business."
     Ah.  Hello. Earth to Humphries.
     Deer hunting trumps doing the citizen's business?
     This is not a close call.  Lawmakers who hunt could do it on the weekend.  O.K. maybe let them go on opening day if it falls during the work week, but after that it's back in the saddle.
     The DNR director has on balance done a respectable job.  So maybe she (1) had an off-day; maybe (2) she was misquoted; or perish the thought, maybe (3) she really believes that stuff about hunting being more important than lawmakers working for the people first.
     Let's go with number three.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Leaving Out Some Facts

   Ah, to have the good ole days of the 60's when a protest on a college campus had passion.
    Nowadays, various GOP student groups have been bird dogging the governor as she tries to drum up student support from her Promise Grant on all the college campuses.
   God bless them for getting involved in the process but at Michigan State University there were three, count'em, three Republican students carrying three signs.
   Then the next day, a ray of hope for a bigger counter-demonstration
as the governor took her road show to Central Michigan University. But alas about five GOP demonstrators handed out kool-aid. 
   If you were spinning this, the young republicans could say the CMU demonstration almost doubled the turn out at MSU.  That, of course, would have been just as misleading as some of the "propaganda" the kool-aid crowd was dishing out as students went to hear the governor.
    The group Common Sense in Government suggested in a nifty one page flyer that "If the governor really cared about your scholarships, she wouldn't be spending money" on a new state police headquarters, a Hollywood tax credit to "made mediocre films", (somebody get Clint Eastwood on the horn,) and then the biggest misrepresentation of them all, money she spent money on the Ford Wixom plant.  That lousy governor.
     The anti-tax group admited the plant would be re-opened and "employ 300 people." Close but no cigar.  The number is actually in the thousands; the flyer also neglected to point out that the idled Ford plant has sat there for years and the fact that Michigan netted two hi-tech alternative energy plants was a huge "get" that other states lusted to have on their own.
     But then to include that would have taken the edge off the counter demonstration and ruined the line about "Don't drink the kool-aid, the Governor would rather give money to special interest groups and campaign donors than to you."
     Hey, never let the facts get in the way of a passion-less and disingenuous protest especially on a college campus where the pursuit of the truth is supposedly a noble calling. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Union Is Disrespectful

   Charles Pugh is the real deal.
   Anything would have been an improvement on the embattled and allegedly crime-invested Detroit City Council, so the entrance of the former TV anchor guy as president of the council represents a breath of fresh and honest air.
   Pugh made his first statewide TV appearance on the Off the Record series this week.  Most politicians bring a fog machine to the program, Pugh left his at home as he pretty much answered all the inquiries, did very little shucking and gyving, and left the impression that maybe, just maybe, he and the other four new members of the council, might help to turn the city's image around not to mention getting it out of debt.
    Mayor Dave Bing is taking some hits from organized labor for laying off 460 city worker and counting.
    Pugh says, "That's one of the things we're going to have to do."
    A panelist wanted to know, "What kind of a democrat are you, taking on union workers?"
    Pugh did not flinch.  "I'm a realist.  This is not about protecting any group…it's about the city."
    Well then what about some union folks who want to toss his Honor the Mayor in the clink?
     Pugh did not flinch.  "I think it's in many ways disrespectful" to the mayor.  "He is a hero" in this city.
     Wonder what they think about that over at the AFSCME brain trust?
     And on it went as he urged outstate Michigan folks to "come visit" Detroit to get over their negative attitudes engrained for years.
     Pugh, who has has never run for anything, let alone won any elective office, has a chance to build a record and in four years, who knows, maybe he could trade in the council president name plate for one that says Mayor of Detroit. 
     Don't rule it out.  He hasn't.
    (In the interest of full disclosure, this blogger worked with Mr. Pugh at FOX2 in Detroit.  See the full broadcast at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gov's Biggest Flaw

        Politicians share one common trait regardless of their political predalictions:  Their inability to fess up to flaws.
        Like you need a list to prove it;  Nixon, Clinton, Kilpatrick, etc. etc.
        Breaking the mold is Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who without batting an eyelash the other day conceded that her lack of legislative experience before she became governor was "my biggest flaw.  That's been my biggest liability."
       Those who are not fond of Michigan's first female governor will pounce on this confession and say, "See, we told ya so."  But if are willing to set aside your feelings, she deserves a pat on the head for venturing where others fear to go.
       The truth is, being governor is a tough assignment if you come from the outside.  The learning curve is out of sight.
      Granholm, recall, never wanted to be a politician. She landed the state Attorney General's job on her first bid for office and four years later she was running the whole state and at times her inexperience was painful to watch.
      She reflects that being A.G. had "some aspects that are good" but she quickly adds, "legislative experience is even more important."
      If Granholm is correct than GOP candidates for governor Rick Snyder and Mike Cox, heads up.  They have zippo time in the legislative trenches.  Snyder btw tells voters his lack of political experience is actually a plus coupled with his business acumen.
      Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard has it and State Senator Tom George does and West Michigan hopeful Pete Hoekstra has congressional time in grade.
      Granholm notes that her pal and Lt. Gov.John Cherry has the legislative grounding she lacked which is why she thinks he'd be a good replacement.
      Michigan voters will decide if she is right in less than a year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Farm Turf War

     As long as everybody stays in their own lane, life in this town can be tranquil.  But alas when somebody wanders onto someone else's hallowed ground, you get a turf war.
      And we've got a dandy one unfolding right now.
       In this corner, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and in that one the state's farming community led by the Michigan Farm Bureau.
      Seems she wants the power to pick the director of the state Agriculture department and the other guys want the status quo which allows the Agriculture commission to do that.
      Granholm has at least one supporter, former Gov. Bill Milliken.  Back in the 70's when his administration was up to its eyeballs in the PBB controversy, cattle eating feed laced with that chemcial and then humans eating that meat, Milliken locked horns with B. Dale Ball.
      Ball was annointed by the ag commission.  Milliken wanted to fire him but couldn't.  Milliken lost.
      This governor is not in the middle of any such controversy but she's created another one by encroaching on Farm Bureau turf and the farmers are winning.
      Ms. Granholm figures, as did other governors before her, that it makes sense to give the chief executive the authority over appointments so that the buck stops at the governor's desk.
      One could argue that indirectly she has that power now in that she appoints the commission.  So if she wanted person "X" to run the department, she calls her appointees and tells them what to do.
      But governors tend to favor direct power over indirect but the state senate last week, undid what the governor hopes to do.
      Now the game comes down to democrats in the House.  Will they side with their governor or the farmers?
      Since she may lose this battle, the governor's folks are making noises about finding a compromise to end this little turf scrimmage, and it is simple, she picks the director with the advice and consent of the board.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foot in Mouth

       The angriest mayor in the county, got his foot caught in his mouth the other day.
       Lansing Mayor Virg Benero, just off an impressive reelection effort, made a name for himself during the meltdown of the U.S. auto industry last fall with his fiery appearances, defending the car makers, on the cable talking head channels.
      Famous for sometimes engaging his mouth before his brain, Benero was asked to comment the other day on the governor's efforts to squeeze more job dollars out of the Obama administration.
     Without batting an eyelash, Benero blurted out that the first federal stimulus package had not worked in Michigan.  It was a provocative statement to have a democrat mayor take on the democrat president.
     Here was his first quote, "We haven't seen any stimulus.  So we're still waiting." 
     Does that sound like Benero believes the Obama program has born fruit?  
     So while on camera, the reporter asked if Benero believed the program was indeed a failure as his first answer suggested.
     Well, now that you put it that way, Benero began to back peddle.
     "Well I…like I say it's worked for Wall Street and less-so on Main Street."
     Open mouth, insert foot.
     Just in case the president grants the governor's wish for more employment bucks, Benero does not want to say anything to offend the president which might result in Lansing getting nothing.
     But he just did.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bouchard the Dancer

    Mike Bouchard is no wimp. He proudly packs heat, is not afraid to use his hefty size to his advantage, so you would think he'd be the last guy to be an accomplished dancer.
    Ah, but he is.
    Watch how he dances around a very sticky wicket unfolding in the GOP primary for governor namely what to say about Mike Cox, a fellow candidate for gov.
    Cox is soaking up lots of free media, but not the kind you would necessarily want, over his role in investigating an alleged party at former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's pad.  Cox concluded, "What party?" and tagged it an "urban legend" but apparently not everyone agrees although there is no proof to the contrary.
    So the issue on the campaign trail is the credibility of Mr. Cox.
    Your comments Sheriff Bouchard?
    "I'm just focused on my message," he laces up his dancing shoes.
    "So you are not going there?"
     "I'm not going there," he heads for the dance floor.
     "Why don't you want to go there?"
     "I'm focused on my issues," he taps away.
      He is pressed further and notes that if other candidates or voters want to comment on Mr. Cox, they are free to do so as he stands up for free speech just as long as he doesn't have to participate.
     "I'm not worrying about somebody else.  That isn't where my focus is," he goes on.
      Well  if that is the case, then Mr. Bouchard should be willing to promise that he will resist the temptation to exploit this story for his own benefit.
      He waltzed away from the pledge dredging up a line we never heard before, "I'm focused on exactly where I'm focused," he repeated redundantly.
      Points for staying on message but one final attempt, "Why not make the promise?"
      Here's why not:  "Because I'm bigger than you," he smiles
      Nuf said.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


     A hunting we will go….come hell or high water.
     When it comes to tradition, if lawmakers were smart, they would leave it to the Fiddler on the Roof and not practice it themselves.
      For time in memoriam it's been the tradition in this town to take time off for hunting season and years ago, a hefty number of hearty souls in the house and senate actually went up North to hunt Bambi and her relatives.
      But that was then and now there is a school funding crisis, a stalemate on how to pay for education and a classic battle of government philosophies and last time anyone checked, there was no resolution…yet off to the woods they go.
      Get a load of this schedule, which of course is subject to change if public pressure were to materialize:  The house and senate are off this Monday and Tuesday and set to come back on Wednesday.  But word on the street is, there won't be any bills debated or voted on and so there is no good reason for anybody to show up.
      Then the senate is not due back until December first, second, and third and supposedly the house will be in as well.  And if conflict resolution is going to be "resoluted," it will likely be then because for the two weeks after that, the leaders report session days will be "tentative" which is code for "we don't want to come back, but if we absolutely have to, we will reluctantly hold session."
      What a great gig!
      You'll recall last summer, the full time Michigan legislature held a grand total of three sessions after July 4th.  The pace was down right…lethargic.  And here we go again.
       The lip service lawmakers pay to putting the public first is just that. If they were really serious about this economic and school crisis, they would chuck all the time off, let the dozen or so who want to hunt go and the rest should  stay in town to at least give the appearance they are concerned.
       It surely doesn't look like that is the case right now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Back in the dark ages of political campaigning, the candidates would routinely issue "White Papers" which where in-depth statements on where they stood on a variety of issues from the environment to economics.
    "White Papers" went out when they invented the infamous TV 10-second sound bite.  Who wants in-depth?
     Apparently Rick Snyder does.  He's the non-politician running for governor from A2 and the other day, there it was a full-blown position paper on how to re-do the state budget process.
     His "Value for Money" concept is really a rehash of already tried and failed methodology for brining more order to spending state tax dollars.
     The touchtone of his "concept" is to allow common folk to pick the priorities.  It's the same idea House Republicans had several years ago
when POG or the Price of Government was all the rage.  The R's were going to reinvent the budget wheel and staged closed door focus groups with citizens  and in the end POG was a bomb. 
    Governor Jennifer Granholm also tried her hand at soliciting public input before she put her budget to bed.  It was a flop, too.  She wanted to pump up state support for higher education but at her town hall meetings, the folks wanted no part of that.
     So now comes Synder applying his business acumen and hoping that he can get it right where others got it dreadfully wrong.
     "Don't ignore the citizens," he glows.
     Nothing wrong with that, but let's be honest, what do they know about state services?  Everyone wants cops on the streets, firefighters on the ladders, free school and college for everyone and lots of guards to keep an eye on all the crooks behind bars.
      You don't need a focus group to figure out the obvious.  The problem with budgets is that there are nuances the public (1) doesn't care about and (2) wouldn't know how to nuance if their life depended on it.
      Regardless, high marks to Mr. Snyder for trying to bring a reasoned and in-depth discourse to the campaign.  But it did not exactly make a splash in the media which either ignored it or gave it a minuscule four paragraphs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Detroit Bashing_Still

     It is a time-honored tradition in Michigan campaigns.  That does not mean it's a good one.
     You can set your watch by this:  Whenever an outstate republican is running for the legislature, someway, somehow,  Detroit will be used to win votes.  Pictures of former Mayor Coleman Young would routinely show up in those GOP TV ads and not in a positive light.
     In case you missed it over the years, there is a strong anti-Detroit sentiment everywhere north of 8 mile;  just ask the state's newest state senator Mike Nofs would should have known better.
     He is the latest practitioner to exploit Motown.  The ad he ran against his democratic opponent noted that Rep. Marty Griffin voted to fund Cobo Hall and continue the "corruption in Detroit."
     The ad was at best misleading. Is there corruption in Detroit?  Think Kwame Kilpatrick, however the Cobo deal had nothing to do with corruption and Nof's new boss in the senate told him so.
      Sen. Mike Bishop tells Nofs, "It is not the source of corruption.  It is actually a bright light in Detroit now that we can all rally behind."
       Nofs was unmoved and said, had he been there he would have voted against Bishop's bill noting that the two would not always agree on everything.
       "I would not have voted for it because it took money away from Jackson and Calhoun Counties for the next 15 to 20 years," Nofs explains in his own aw-shucks provincial manner.
        Detroit Senator Tupac Hunter was not amused with the Nof's anti-Detroit commercial.  "It was unnecessary; it was divisive and it was out of the old GOP play book…It is not the way to start" your senate career.
       That may be true, but Nofs won with 61% of the vote and in the end elections are not about doing what is right, but all about winning.  Too bad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The "Cush"

      He is  the only real "character" left in the state legislature.
       He's the chair of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. George Cushingberry (D-Detroit.)
      "Cush" as he is affectionately know 'round these parts, is from the "tell-it-like-it-is school that he learned at the knee of veteran legislators when he first showed up here in the 70's.  Smart enough back then to keep his mouth shut and his ears open, "Cush" is now where they were. 
       As such he often dispenses his "wisdom," free of charge at the beginning of most appropriations meetings.  Most of the time he is quite entertaining as he sounds like the Black version of Garrison Keilor minus the attacks on Lutherans.
      Well the other day on statewide Publc TV's Off the Record, the chair  waxed on about a certain female governor.
      "I love the governor," he began his instant analysis after being asked to comment on some of the verbal back and forth he and she have had over the years.
       Here's her problem as he warmed to the subject.  She professes to be a duck, but "sometimes she is a goose."  Translated:  Sometimes he feels she does not adhere to her democratic roots and wanders off into the GOP la-la land.  Without saying it, he wonders sometimes what she stands for?
       In her defense, she has to play footsie with the republicans because they control one half of the legislature.  But in his defense, she has danced round some issues during her tenure and left more than one democrat scratching his or her head.
       "You can't be a democrat and try to out Republican the Republicans," he reflected on something former Detroit Rep. Matt McNeely taught him.
         At some point you should try to be either a duck or a goose and if you try to be both, you could end up a dead duck or dead goose.
        "Cush" himself is a vanishing bred of true liberal democrats even though when he sided with Democratic Speaker Andy Dillon on cutting state services, some folks at home called him a Republican.  He is a lot of things, but that he is not.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Experience Card

     The four former democratic Speakers of the Michigan House reunited briefly last week to embrace Lt. John Cherry for governor.
     Boiling their comments down, it came down to, "John Cherry has the experience to be governor."
     And if "experience" was the determining factor, Cherry would be your next governor since he has more than anybody else in the field on both sides.  But alas for Mr. Cherry and Speakers Crim, Owen, Dodak and Hertel, experience nowadays don't mean squat and pardon the lousy English.
     If experience counted, John McCain would be your president; Dick Posthumus and not Jennifer Granholm would be finishing his second term in office; and Hillary Clinton would have been the democratic nominee for president.
     To repeat, experience don't mean squat even though it should mean a bunch.
     Somewhere between the 1950's, when experience counted for lots, and today, the tide shifted.
     Citizens began to lose faith in their experienced elected officials and this culminated in 1992 when state voters delivered the ultimate death sentence to experience when term limits were enacted.
     "We don't want professional politicians calling the shots," the majority of voters said to the "experienced" lawmakers.
     So here come the four former speakers foolishly believing they are doing Mr. Cherry a favor by touting his experience in front of an electorate that wants anything but.
     For the moment for most voters, Mr. Cherry is a blank slate much like former Senate Majority Leader John Engler was before he unseated sitting Gov. Jim Blanchard.  Being that blank slate for Cherry is a plus because it gives him a chance to define himself before the republicans do it for him.
     So, if anyone was paying attention the quartet of Speakers, Cherry now has this written on his slate:  He's got lots of experience.
     The majority of voters who support term limits will love that.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fooled Ya!

        Give the Mike Bouchard for Governor team an A+ on trotting out endorsements and the latest one caught everyone's attention.
        You know how you are in the early morning, all the gears are not engaged, so the headline on the Bouchard press release sounded like a huge development.
         It read:  Engler and Abraham Endorse Bouchard.
         Wow.  As that sunk in, it meant that former Gov. John Engler and former U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham were getting off the fence early and this was a mando get for the Oakland County Sheriff.
         Beware of misleading headlines.
         Turns out the Engler is really Michelle and the Abraham is really Jane and of course they are the respective spouses of John and Spence.
        So instead of stopping the presses, one had to stop laughing out loud over how the Bouchard guys faked out the political media in this town.
        As for the merit of the endorsements themselves, with all due respect to the female Engler and Abraham, it was a one day story that for some news outlets turned out to be no story at all.
        Here's  the harsh reality about endorsements:  They don't have the pop they had some forty years ago.  Back then voters who were union members or business persons looked in earnest for some signal from their leaders. An endorsement by a Doug Fraser or a captain of industry carried some weight.
         Now most endorsements have the impact of a left hook with a wet noodle.
         Lee Iacocca endorsed Dick DeVos.
         Barack Obama endorsed New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.
         Bill Ford endorsed Rick (Michigan) Snyder for governor here.
         DeVos lost; so did Corzine and Mr. Snyder remains stuck in the 2% polling mud.
         So A+ to Bouchard for fooling us, but this Engler-Abraham endorsements is about as powerful as a Red Wing's power play.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Apathy Winning So Far

   Will it work?
   The governor continues on her mission to grow the grassroots out there to pressure recalcitrant legislative republicans to raise more buckos to refund college scholarships, aid to firefighters and cops, health care for the needy and funding for K-12 education.
   She and her budget guru Bob Emerson are calculating that local pressure will build over the next two months to the point that those republicans will cry "Uncle."
   To blunt, it's a long shot and there is a long history to prove it.
   This governor likes to say on the stump that she has cut more state services than any other governor dead or alive.  And what has the public said?  Nothing.
    With over $8 billion in reductions to date and now another $1.8 billion on top of that, the governor has sliced every which way to balance the budget.  No one knows how many programs have been reduced or just wiped off the books and there's been no outcry from the unwashed.
    Sure some of the citizens have felt the cuts but they are small in numbers and if they complained, the gripes never made it into the MSM; never raised concerns in the legislature beyond a, "sorry we had to do it' response.
    But now the governor figures, hopes and prays that massive cuts to the K-12 budget will change the story line.  Take $292 away from every school kid and you might have something.  Add to that the veto of $52 million to schools who spend more on students than the rest and you have cuts approaching $600 per pupil.  Plus next year, her story goes, if nothing is done now, the cuts will go beyond that.
     In other words she's warning:  Look up Michigan.  The sky is tumbling and if you allow it to fall, your kids will fail.
     But apathy is alive and well in the hinterland as we moan about the summer that never was and the winter that will surely be.  Can this governor with the above average communicative charm and talent wake the masses to get in the game and demand that lawmakers raise more money for schools?
     Believe it when you see it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

George's Hail Mary

   The wily and dumb like a fox former coach of the MSU football team is at it again.  Since November of 2008, George Perles has been shopping the story that he may run for governor and we'll have an average temperature this winter of 75 degrees, too.
    And then this week, an unsuspecting sports reporter got statewide attention as he wrote that Perles was going to announce his candidacy just after New Year's Day.
    The equally unsuspecting scribes at the Associated Press dutifully picked up the story and Perles got thousands of dollars of free advertising for his impending bid for governor.
    The only thing wrong with the story is that it is not true.  Other than that, it was a fine piece of political journalism.  (Note to sports writers: Stay in your own lane please.)
    Once the new angle hit, Tim Staudt, the sports guy in Lansing, called up the coach on a radio call in show and asked about all this.
    Perles back peddled faster than Lance Armstrong in reverse.
    Seems Perles really said that he would have an announcement on what he would do after the first of the year.  Notice that making a decision one way or the other is not quite the same as saying you are running.  A distinction that makes a huge difference.
    The A.P., when given a heads-up, to its credit, revised the story.
    Meanwhile an entrepreneur on EBAY, the do-it-yourselfer Internet department store, is offering Perles for Governor T-shirts at 15 bucks a pop plus another five smackers to ship it out.
     "Show your Spartan Pride," the sales pitch suggests.
     It even perpetuates the incorrect story line on the impending announcement, but hey, it's the Internet where accuracy tends to get in the way of a good story.
     So get'em while they are hot before the true story gets out that the affable jock isn't running for anything accept maybe his handkerchief to muffle that laughter you here over at the Perle's household.
    Oh btw, the shirts are not returnable.  How fitting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Now What!

  Oh.  Oh.  Now what are they going to do?
  Since the first of the year the freshmen class of 44 republicans and democrats have been itching to change the culture in Lansing and as noted in this space too many times to count, they've not even scratched the surface.
   So the Speaker of the House is giving them a chance to do what they claim they want to do: He has given them the task of fixing the K-12 budget/funding mess.
    What a cruel man that speaker is.
   Those poor innocent  babes in the woods are about to confront the harsh reality of trying to drain the school funding quagmire and build a new pond.
    First a little history.  The Speaker has given them until December 20th to come up with something.  Note:  When Bill Milliken was governor he launched an education reform agenda that began in 1970 and ended two governors later in 1994 with Proposal A.
    If the gang of 44 can pull this off in two months that took others who were wiser and had more experience almost 25 years, each should be given the Nobel Peace prize or something like that.
    But undaunted, they are taking this on.  "How do you turn down the Speaker?" reflected one of the new comer leaders.
    Dillon was not trying to set these guys up for failure.  His motives were pure, but still the task is impossible with a capitol I.
    But let's cheer them on. Let's light a candle.  Let's see what they can do.
    A friendly hint however:  This is going to take more revenue and that may mean a new tax scheme along with reforms to squeeze money out of the bloated education system.
    Well there go the GOP freshman from the bi-partisan fold.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bishop Did Compromise

    With apologies to whomever coined the term, "These are the best of times; these are the worst of times," when it comes to the relationship between a certain governor and a certain senate GOP leader, these are the worst of times.  Period.  There is nothing "best" about them.
     For weeks on end the governor has used her bully pulpit pleading with Sen. Mike Bishop to stop being so rigid and just sit down with her and compromise over raising new dollars to restore $1.8 billion in Bishop endorsed service cuts.
    Come to find out, Bishop has already done it.  He did agree to pump more money into state spending although it has not gotten nearly the media coverage that the governor's rhetoric has garnered.  In other words he got the shaft, as one defender puts it.
    Lost in the cacophony of the back and forth he said-she said harangue, Bishop did agree to spend more money for the Civil Rights Department, Community Health, Corrections, the Education Department, Human Services and the Energy and Labor department.
    The changes amounted to about $125 million of new dollars and Speaker Andy Dillon gives Bishop credit for a grand total of $300 million in new spending.  (There's a dispute over the $100 million Bishop wants to spend on the K-12 budget.)
    The governor has never acknowledged that for obvious reasons:  It would take some of the pop out of her criticism that Bishop is engaged in a "my way or the highway strategy."
    So she will continue her road show trying to drum up grass roots support for more revenue for the schools by asking parents, teachers, educators and the like to bang on Bishop's drum to cough up more dough.
    "We sent them a plan worth $300 million," Bishop continues to shout.  But the shouts of governors tend to out shout those who don't have the same public platform.
     The governor rejects Bishop's Plan A and wants a Plan B for more bucks.  Bishop may be saying he's already given at the office.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

You Gotta Be Kidding

    With all due respect to the good guys over at the Citizen's Research Council, what the heck were you smoking when you came up with this hair-brained idea:  A ten year budget for state government.
    What does that pundit on ABC say, give me a break.
    Let's start with the obvious.  These characters in this town can hardly write a one year budget.  Tack on another nine years to the assignment and you are asking for major problems.  It would not be worth the paper it is written upon, even if they could do it, which they can't.
     This is not to say that a little forward planning would be worthless but ten years!
     The one year budget they write now is obsolete before it gets to the governor's desk and unless the CRC is predicting a decade of economic stability for this tattered and torn state, they need to rethink this recommendation.
     Yes, budget writers tend to look for quick fixes and ignore the long term devastating impact of doing that;  yes they write budgets that help them get re-elected while ignoring good public policy, but let's be honest, there is no will around here to change that.
     You can't pass a constitutional amendment ordering politicians to place themselves second and the citizens first.  Honest, it can't be done.
     So while the ten year, forward-thinking, budget concept looks good on paper for the theorists, in reality it's a non-starter.  Need proof?
     Look at the budget they just finished and all the energy it took to do that, and had they been asked to add another nine years on top of that...well you get the picture.