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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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Granholm's husband does get his say

Somebody in the Granholm inner circle whispered in the correspondent’s ear, “Please don’t ask Dan about Mike Bishop.”
The call came just before the taping of the final exit interview for Gov. Jennifer Granholm and First Hubby Dan.
Mr. Mulhern has never been bashful about sounding-off when he thought his main squeeze was getting a raw deal from the media and or the public. He did not shy away from taking on the senate GOP leader from Oakland County when he tried to block her programs.
“I’m a citizen and I have a right to my views, and I have very strong views about the way things are going…I’m not going to apologize for that," he asserts on the tube.
And, of course, he should not. He has First Amendment rights, too. It’s just that there are some who wish he will sit on them rather than exercise them all the time. Some fear that creates more problems for his wife than are solved.
TV viewers will get a rare glimpse at this issue personified Wednesday on Detroit Public TV at 8 p.m.
Here’s what you'll see.
Mr. Mulhern is asked about his anger thing visa vie the woman sitting next to him.
He confesses he did get angry, “and you know, I still would.”
And she chimes in, “And he still does.”
He retorts, “I still do” and he acknowledges, “Not everybody loves that…”
Now she gets into the act.
“Babe, Babe,” she blurts out as she playfully moves her arm and hand onto his chest to literally hold him back just as she says, “I have to hold him back." He wonders if she is afraid about what he is going to say.
What a picture.
Nobody has ever seen that before or probably never will again. It is great TV and revealing.
She weights in with the notion that being a guy and all, “His gut instinct, you know as a man, is he’s going to defend her” referring to herself in the third person.
He concedes the point but adds, some think she is speaking through him when he speaks out. He strongly disagrees. He leaves the impression he is speaking for himself.
And that’s exactly what some of the Granholm handlers use to worry about. In a few days, it won’t matter any more, but it sure was a hoot to see them “get real” in front of the cameras.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Term limits target?

You gotta give Phil Power credit. He is dedicated to re-inventing Michigan.
Oops. Sorry. That phrase is taken.
He’s on a mission to reform state government and if he could, he’d revise the term-limit law pronto.
The former newspaper publisher runs a group called the Center for Michigan with the emphasis on the Center as in the middle of the political spectrum.
Suffice it to say, you’d never see Mr. Power at a Tea Party rally unless he was kidnapped.
He’s big time into the politics of moderation and recently concluded a series of town hall meetings.
Oops. Sorry again, Somebody already did that, too.
He recently concluded a series of public forums where 10,000 opinions were reportedly gathered.
And by a significant two-to-one margin, he reports, “Those in the know want to change term limits.”
Read the sentence carefully because “those in the know” does not mean Joe Six Pack. No siree-Joe. Folks that would bother to attend one of those town, err, forums are not typical citizens.
And the sorry fact is there are not enough of those to overcome the humongous number of the others who love term limits.
Which is why Mr. P. only continues to talk about changing them and has no plan, visible to the naked eye, to actually do it. In fact, when the C of M showed up in town the other day with more talk about state government reforms, term limits did not make the list.
No sense tilting at too many wind mills.

New MSP offices still politial headache

Under normal circumstances, it would be the state police director who would have the governor’s back, not the other way around. But on this occasion it was just that.
It was the maiden news conference for the soon to be new commander of the Michigan State Police. She walked in with the Governor-elect and he introduced Lt. Gol. Kriste Etue.
He thanked her for serving.
She thanked him for having confidence in her as the first female director of the MSP and everything was going along just swimmingly until…
“What’s your position on the new state police headquarters in downtown Lansing?”
For years the project has been a lightening rod as some lawmakers have blasted the past two governors for building the thing in the first place.
Ms. Etue started out very nicely by avoiding the question. She suggested it was not the MSP that built the darn thing but the Department of Management and Budget. It was a nifty move, but the reporter would have no part of that.
“Did she think it was a legit project?”
She opined that the department needed a new facility.
“So was it wrong for lawmakers to criticize it?”
Without missing a beat she said she did not say they were wrong, but the department needed the new digs.
So far she is holding her own.
But a little later this one, out of the blue: What’s your position on capitol punishment?
She smiled, then laughed and blurted out, “Wow!” as if to say where the heck did that come from?
It was an obvious question. She’s now the state’s top cop, so does she want to use the death penalty to deter the bad guys?
As she stands there like the proverbial deer in the headlights, here comes the new governor to her rescue.
Rick Snyder takes the podium, as laughter fills the room from all the spectators and he proudly announces, “This is a time of holiday spirit” and he says he is glad Michigan was the first state to abolish the death penalty.
And that was that.
After wards she had a good laugh in private.
Next time, maybe she’ll answer the question.

New governor helps his cause by reaching out to Detroit

Somebody may have to show him where the front steps of the state capitol are, but give the incoming governor credit for asking Dave Bing to anchor the inaugural ceremonies on New Year’s Day. And give the Mayor of Detroit high marks for saying yes.
For a guy who portrays himself as the non-career politician, Gov.-Elect Snyder is using one of the big tools in the politician’s tool box: Symbolism.
Candidate Snyder was not bashful about moving around the state and uttering what no other GOP candidate for governor has uttered in 40 years: We need to be a partner with Detroit.
As you know, anytime you move past Eight Mile Road and say that, you are asking for trouble in out state Michigan where Detroit is a four-letter word.
So here comes the new gov. putting the Mayor of Motown front and center for the whole state to see.
It’s a good move but ya gotta wonder whether all those anti-Detroit and right wing Republicans will cotton to this?
To be sure nobody will say anything negative out loud; some of them may even pay lip-service to the gesture, but what will they mutter under their breath?
“If he thinks I’m going to send tax dollars to Detroit, he’s got another thing coming.”
Or how about, “ the ceremony is one thing, but I don’t care if Detroit falls into bankruptcy.”
Hence, Mr. Snyder is making a risky move, but he is acting on his convictions and he gets style points from some, but in other quarters, some eye brows will likely be raised.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Brooks: Granholm Was Worst

Apparently, somebody forgot to tell one L. Brooks Patterson what
time of the year this is…you know all that stuff about peace and good
My oh my, he was upset with the soon to be ex-governor whom the
Oakland County Executive labeled, "The most incompetent Governor in the
history of this state."
And it gets worse, but first, what's his beef?
Well his former "friend", Gov. Jennifer Granholm had some unkind
things to say about Mr. P. sticking his nose into the battle over water
with the burbs on one side and Motown on the other. She notes Patterson
has a history of doing this.
She basically told him to knock off the rhetoric although she did
not use those exact words but Mr. Patterson got the message.
What is that law of physics and politics: For every action there
is a reaction?
Bam. It didn't take him long.
To her "laundry list of failures," he opines in his personal
blog in the Detroit News, "you can add both cowardice and ignorance."
He says she took the shot when nobody was around to shoot back.
She frets about another war over water than could split the
region at a time when bipartisanship is enjoying a Renaissance of
sorts. The new governor wants that, the old one fears Patterson could
doom that. He counters, "There is no need for me to defend myself for
being a strong advocate for Oakland County."
"She took the shot as she fled the battlefield of politics…." he
rants on as he warms to the subject.
He sights the recent scandal surrounding the Detroit Water Board
and observes "such blatant criminal conduct elevates the cost of doing
business for the suburbs tied into this monopolistic system."
He shouts for fairness.
She tells him, if you got a beef come to the table with "an open
hand rather than a fist."
Looks like the two of them will agree to disagree and as for
sharing any "Glad tidings and Joy?" Fat chance of that.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Knock It Off Brooks

She simply could have told L. Brooks Patterson to knock it off. But
then in her own way, Governor Jennifer Granholm did just that.
You've heard the Oakland County executive renewing his criticism of
the Detroit Water Board which has the suburbs over the barrel, so to
speak, and he doesn't like it one iota.
Well the governor is not fond of his rhetoric either in that it once
more seeks to pit the city vs. the suburbs and vice versa. She is to
the point in her criticism.
"Throughout his career, (he) has fanned this flame a lot and it's
very unfortunate." She concedes he has "zeal" to defend his home turf
but at what cost she asks?
"He has historically pitted county against the City of
Detroit…(but) that kind of mindset is anachronistic and unhelpful when
you want to take a regional approach," she advises him in no uncertain
The governor contends there is a court ordered agreement in place
on how to address water issues and she wants that document to work and
suggests that Mr. Patterson come to the table to discuss that "with an
open hand rather than a fist."
This is heavy-duty stuff for a governor who generally likes to
play nice and still she is not done.
She is worried that as the new governor tries to forge a
bipartisan climate at the capitol, the Patterson remarks could poison
that effort if the city and suburban lawmakers get into a tangle over
"Yes, you're correct" she tells Michigan Public TV during her
final exit interview, "if there is a city-suburb battle, none of that
is good for the State of Michigan. We are one Michigan and we should
not be fanning the flames of division."
Warm letter to follow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One and Counting

It's pretty amazing that this guy is getting any media coverage at
After all, he has no money, no organization, no political
connections and some unkind louts would say he has no brain either.
The other stuff is true but Steve Harry does have some gray matter
and he's on a one-man crusade to put it to good use by abolishing the
Michigan Senate, abolishing term limits, abolishing collective
bargaining for public employees and converting the union-dominated
State of Michigan into a Right to Work state which would gut the union
movement big time.
Harry wants to launch four petition drives and recently appeared
before a state election agency to get approval of his petition forms.
That's the easy part and didn't cost him a dime.
Isn't state government grand?
Now all he needs is about $2-3 million dollars, by his own
estimate. He's probably short about a mil or so, but then who is
"I think by April, we can come up with the money," he
optimistically says while trying to convince the doubters that maybe he
doesn't need a brain transplant.
"I can't do this alone," he confess in the under statement of the
Yep. He will need help and he hopes to drill a successful hole
by asking the Tea Party folks to join in the fun
"I will talk to them," he suggests.
Now all he needs is about 400,000 signatures to put these four
reforms on the state wide ballot.
And if he gets those, he'll need another couple bucks to sell
it to the voters.
Mr. Harry is a former state worker, a self-avoided liberal
democrat and ready to do his part to revamp the government.
Maybe he could get the Nerd to help out. Ya know..hold some
town hall meetings, draft a four-plan and then hope Virg Bernero gets
angry again and comes out against it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From Beehive to Hornet's Nest

The Utah budget director turned in the new state budget there
Now the fun begins: Writing one for Michigan.
John Nixon, sans family for the time being, is saying good-bye to
the Beehive state and transplanting himself smack dab in the middle of
a hornet's nest of a budget mess.
Tapped by the governor-elect to figure out a way to swim out of
$1.6 million of red-ink, Mr. Nixon will find no quick fixes.
Ask Jim Curran.
Mr. Curran recently co-chaired one of those study commissions to
uncover ways to squeeze more savings out of the state government
The group produced a report and Mr. Nixon wants to chat with
Curran about it and when they do, it could go like this:
Curran: "Mr. Nixon. Welcome to Michigan..I think."
"Thanks Mr. Curran. I've been getting a lot of that lately. So
let me begin. I want to impress Gov. Snyder so give me the quick fixes
"I'm not sure I'm prepared to answer that one," he will say as he
used those exact words in an interview the other day.
Undaunted Mr. Nixon may then ask, "Give me the easiest places
to find new dollars."
And again Mr. Curran will say, as he did in the interview, "I'm
sorry, I really can't answer that."
How come?
There ain't (sic) none.
"There are no easy answers," Mr. C. states the obvious. Those
were used up years ago by other budget cutters. He adds, it is like
the dog chasing the car and gets it and then barks, "What do I do now?"
Welcome Mr. Nixon.
What the heck are you going to do now?

Monday, December 20, 2010

This Really Stinks

Somebody grab a clothes pin. This does not pass the small test.
Rep. Terry Brown, a hard-working guy from Pigeon was all set to
return to Lansing for another two years. But he got rolled up in that
GOP snowball that tumbled across the state gobblying up every Democrat
in sight.
But Mr. Brown did better than most. He lost by 30 votes.
It was close enough to warrant a recount which he requested.
When they counted again, he reduced the already razor-thin margin
to 18 and had he been able to count another 10,000 votes, he might have
So you're asking, How come he didn't count them?
You are bright. Good question.
The law said he could not because the local election officials,
somehow, someway, did not secure the ballot boxes. Some were left wide
open. Others were fastened on one side but not the other and state
election law is much clear: You can't count votes unless they were
sealed and protected from any tampering.
Brown laments as he states the obvious, "I think there was some
Ya think?
In all some 19 precincts or one-third of his house district were
not recountable including his home town where there's a darn could
chance he could have picked up enough votes to win.
"There's certainly that belief," he confides to whomever will
Well apparently some local election folks were not listening when
the rules were explained on how to secure ballots and as a result a
reasonable, dedicated lawmaker is history.
Pass another clothes pin please.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Finger Pointing

The dust has settled. The lame ducks are back home for the
holidays where they belong and we are left to ponder why they came back
in the first place.
While the debate rages on regarding the sobriety of lawmakers
returning to work after the election when some of them are not coming
back next year, the senate Republicans blinked and decided to return
after proudly announcing two weeks ago they were done for the year.
Not quite.
When they scadaddled at 4:30 am, the house stayed to work and
when somebody finally figured it out, there were 13 bills that would
normally be on their way to the governor for her signature, but the
senate…well the senate messed up.
The GOP forgot to complete one final step in the process and
without that, those bills would have died on the vine.
"Our caucus decided to come back," Sen. Alan Cropsey explains
rather matter-a-factly.
They were "inept," the new senate Democratic leader Gretchen
Whitmer saw it from a different angle.
She argues the senate made a mistake and came back into town to
do a make good.
"We did not mess up," Senator One-Note Cropsey shot back.
And he then proceeded to blame House Democrats claiming the
lofty senators did not want to "stay around and wait while the House
So they left.
Poor babies. They did not want to stay up so late.
So when the goof was discovered they came back and finished most
of those bill and worked almost half a day to wrap up other stuff….a
full four hours.
A frustrated governor Granholm was given a chance to take a
swipe at these guys for going home when the Congress in Washington was
working day in and day out during its Lame Duck.
"Don't get me started," she backed away from the chance.
What did she mean?
"I'm not going to be critical," she noted in keeping with the
time of the year.
What she should have said was, this is a full time legislature;
they should not have left in the first place and should work til the
end of the year like all the other working folks in this state.
But she didn't, but you knew she was itching to say it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blue vs. Brown

Years ago somebody published an opinion poll that consistently
ranked the Michigan State Police higher than any other police agency,
including the local sheriffs, when it comes to public confidence.
Seems most folks trust the men and women in blue more than the
folks in brown.
So needless to say there's been some off and on legislative battles
between the two law enforcement entities and years ago it turned real
nasty when the sheriffs asked for an got what they call secondary road
patrol funds.
The state cops didn't much like that since the money that could
have gone to them went to the other guys.
Now comes a document that suggests the elimination of all the state
cop road patrols and while the document did not say so, the inference
is, if that is done, the sheriffs could takeover at a lower cost.
And one Granholm administration source suggested the state could
hire three deputies for the cost of one Smokey.
Well when word of that reached the State Troopers Association
(union), the leadership came unglued and fired off a rebuttal.
President Chris Luty rattled-off some numbers that he claims
disproved that notion but his figures did not include retirement costs
and one source says that's where the savings are. To add to his
argument he also suggested his troops were better at solving crimes
than the competition.
Oh, that will create some holiday joy over at the Sheriff"s
Association where the CEO says he does not want the road patrol jobs in
the first place.
"We have a shortage of officers everywhere" and disbanding the
troopers road patrol units is a non-starter for Terry Junkel who wants
to be friends with the troopers.
One assumes the feeling is mutual.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

They're Back: Quack, Quack

Sheepishly, the lame ducks returned to the pond this week.
Wait a second. Didn't state lawmakers tells us last week that they
were done for the year and they were home for the holidays?
By golly they said exactly that.
Well can you say inept?
After they proudly announced they were out of here, someone
discovered that 13 bills that had been passed by both houses were left
dangling in the air because the senate did not attach what they call
"immediate effect" to the bills. Minus that "I.E." the laws would die
on the vine.
So some genius decided, we better call everyone back into town to
do what should have been done before they sashayed out of here.
Lt. Governor John Cherry reflected that this was a little
embarrassing and indicative of what happens when inexperienced hands
are on the wheel.
Of course all of this fits right into the continuing debate about
having a Lame Duck post-election session to begin with.
Senator Mike Bishop (R-Oakland County) was most vocal about
wanting to keep things a brief as possible before all the "shenanigans"
began. He feared that in the last minute with the rush to get out of
Dodge, somebody might offer something that was bad legislation and it
might pass.
Well put.
But this is a full time legislature which is already noted for
taking an enormous amount of time off to supposedly "work back in the
district" as they like to say.
The Congress in Washington is doing its own Lame Duck as the
taxpayers are getting their monies worth out of it but the salons back
here wanted another three weeks off with pay.
Yes L.D. can be dicey but if somebody is paying attention lousy
legislation can be killed before it multiplies..that is if somebody is
paying attention which last week they were not.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Labor Move Over

For years organized labor has been the heart and soul of the
Michigan Democratic Party. Now a prominent player who has benefited
from that power, is suggesting labor needs to move over.
Lt. Gov. John Cherry has surveyed the damage his party suffered on
November 2 and has come to the conclusion that now is the time for the
state party to bring in more professions and to broaden its
geographical appeal.
"For years the party was based in South East, Michigan," he notes
and things have changed and the party needs to change, too.
If labor is forced to give up part of it's power, Cherry argues
that would be "healthy for labor and healthy for the party."
Not sure how the good folks at Solidarity House feel about
relinquishing their hard fought place at the top of the Democratic food
chain. Usually the powerful are not eager to share.
But share it must, if Mr. Cherry is correct.
The Flint Democrat points to the President who reinvented the
national Democratic Party in 2008 by attracting more young voters, more
Hispanics and more independents to go along with the labor base of the
But in 2010, when Barack Obama saw the coalition crumbling before
his very eyes, he could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Mr. Cherry figures if Michigan Democrats also fail, the
Republicans could continue to control everything for a long time to
Some of the current frustration is being taken out on the current
Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer. He was at the helm when the GOP
tide swamped Brewer and friends.
Cherry did not call for a new chair, but he says he wants to see
someone who understands that the party needs to be reconstructed from
the ground up with labor at the table, but not controlling every other
seat at the feast.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sharks After Brewer

Some sharks are out to get Marky.
When your team gets wiped out in the playoffs, you fire the coach.
Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer fits that description based on
what voters did to his party on November 2. So is there a movement
afoot to remove him?
"I'm aware of that," confesses a well known Detroit Democrat who
spoke only on the condition that the name be changed to protect the
innocent, as Joe Friday use to say.
"Ivan" says "twenty years is a long time to stay in one job (and)
maybe Mr. Brewer stayed on the bus a little too long."
A series of e-mails reveals the effort is indeed real as various
factions are chatting about what to do next.
And one recognizable name has already surfaced namely the woman
who ran for Secretary of State and lost by six points. Jocelyn Benson
did better than any other Democrat on the statewide ballot.
She has said nothing about this, but it's known that she does not
want to be party to a "dump Mark" movement, but has concluded if there
is a vacancy, she would be interested.
Put another way, she will not be in on the plot, but if it works,
she will be at the front of the line to benefit from same.
The governor's office is reportedly aware of the grumbling over
Mr. Brewer's performance although nobody really believes he nor anyone
else could have prevented the trouncing the D's took at the polls. They
lost virtually every statewide office to the GOP.
Weeks ago Mr. Brewer, who enjoys the support of the UAW,
poo-pooed any speculation that somebody might come after him.
Perhaps he should take another look.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cherry Bombs

"I'm going to Disney World," is the oft repeated mantra from someone
who has just won a championship.
For John Cherry, who didn't win anything in 2010, "I'm off to
Hawaii" instead.
The chamber of commerce will appreciate the one-liner.
Talk to most folks in this town and they tell you the soon-to-be
ex-lt. governor would have made a fine governor. He had experience, he
knew how to make deal without taking hostages, he was respected by
members of both parties and had a good sense of humor, was
mild-mannered and had that public service gene in his DNA.
What might have been never was.
He had two problems. He had a "D" after his name and he had no
moola in his bank account.
When he shocked the political establishment in this town with his
historic decision to drop out of the race for governor, he says it was
a gradual decision.
There were internal problems with some staffers inside the
fledgling campaign but a massive infusion of money would have solved
that in an instant. Didn't happen.
Mr. Cherry denies the speculation that the UAW stiffed him on the
money front when he needed it most. But others in the movement could
not meet their pledges he now reveals in his final exit interview.
"Couldn't or wouldn't?"
"Couldn't" he tells the Off the Record panel on Public TV.
Mr. Cherry needed a bundle of money to overcome his image problem
visa vie the woman he worked for.
With popularity numbers down there with used car salesperson and
capitol correspondents, Mr. Cherry knew that being associated with Gov.
Jennifer Granholm would not boost his candidacy.
But he never got a chance to see if he could rise above that.
On the way out, he says he's giving the incoming governor a
chance to see if he really can reinvent Michigan.
So did he vote for Rick Snyder?
"No. I'm a Democrat," he asserted as he went looking for those
plane tickets to paradise. (See the exit interview at

Friday, December 10, 2010


Cherry: I'm Out Of Here

No regrets, no desire to be Democratic Party chair and no desire
to run for elective office again. Count Lt. Governor John Cherry as
ready to leave state government and to prove it, he turned in his
trusty Blackberry two weeks ago...thank you very much.
Left with his cell phone and thoughts of what might have been,
Cherry appeared in his final statewide public TV broadcast and tells
the Off the Record panel it is "not in my nature to focus on regrets"
so if he had any as he ends 35 years in this town, they will remain a
A relaxed and jovial Cherry made a strong defense of the
governor's performance in office saying, "The governor didn't go out
and bankrupt General Motors." Asked if the administration was a
failure, he countered that she had balanced the budget eight years in a
row and left the new governor will no deficit.
"I call that a success...she was a victim of bad breaks...she
diversified the economy," he went on.
He did concede the administration did not conquer the structural
deficit challenge but he quickly added that those who citizen her for
that "didn't meet that test when they were in charge." He did not name
Cherry believes it is time for the Michigan Democratic party to
redefine itself to bring in more groups based on geography and "get
more professions into the process." In so doing he concludes that
"some of the influence of labor would be diluted."
He chided House Speaker Andy Dillon for not being a team player
and for not including the governor in the discussion of health care
reform which Cherry says Dillon crafted by himself.
"He was not helpful; he was not part of the administration; he
had his own role" to play Cherry observes while at the same time he
called Dillon a "bright" person who wanted to advance his own agenda.
Cherry also citizend President Barack Obama for "negotiating
with himself" on the package of jobless benefits and tax cuts for the
wealthy. Cherry, unlike the governor, concludes, "You don't surrender
at the beginning" of the process.
As for his own failed bid to become governor, he says the
problem was money. He reports the UAW made financial promises that
were fulfilled, but others who pledged their support did not.
In the future he pledges to return to Flint and work for a
variety of groups to help the city recover from its economic challenges.
View the exit interview at

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Little Voices

It was one of those moments when the little voice in your head goes,
"Did she just say what I think she said?"
"Please direct your questions to Liz Boyd" who is media secretary to
the governor. Dishing out the unsolicited advice was Sharon Bommarito
who is the state employer which is just bureaucratic-eeze for the
governor's chief labor negotiator.
Bommarito's been virtually invisible during her time on the job.
Calls to her office are routinely met with the same stone wall the TV
crew bumped into with the "please direct your questions to liz Boyd"
In fact when she showed up at a Civil Service Commission meeting
this week, that same little voice went, "Oh wow. That's what she looks
Ms. Bommarito was out in public to defend the administration's
notion that the live-in and unwed partners of state government workers
should get health care benefits.
Suffice it to say, not everyone in the room nodded in approval.
"It's a cost we can't afford," huffed Rep. Rick Jones (R-Grand
Ledge) who has been a constant thorn in the governor's you know what.
Problem is the benefit was negotiated fair and square at the
bargaining table and now the commission was being asked by Ms.
Bommarito to cough up the votes. It did not not and tabled it instead.
Reporters encircled the bashful Ms. Bommarito and with TV cameras
rolling she tried another dodge when the "contact Liz' stuff didn't
work. "I'm in a meeting," she went grasping for straws as she stood in
the middle of a public hearing room.
She finally recanted and granted an interview and actually she did
quite well. She took all the pointed questions about fraud possibility
being in the program and the cost being too much and when it was done,
the reporters said thank you.
And her little voice said?
One can only guess.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Teacher Tenure Wars

The Michigan Education Association did the calculus the other day and
this time, the math did add up. This time.
In the 11th hour rush to head home for the holidays, some in the
legislature launched a last minute attack on the Holy Grail of the
teacher profession namely teacher tenure.
For educators any assault on that is reason to go to war and the MEA
did, but it had to think about it first.
One school of thought suggested that the teacher's union should cut
a deal with this current batch of lawmakers. They were a known
quantity as compared to the new batch of "legislators" coming in next
year. Who knows what they might try to do? And with Republicans
controlling everything, it could get dicey.
The theory was, deal with the devil you know and live to talk about
it. But the union decided to forget about any deals and just go all
out to kill the two bills.
"Stop the assault on tenure and teacher evaluation," was the message
an an email that was sent to all MEA retirees urging them to get in the
Union lobbyist David Stafford wrote this was an attempt to
"micro-manage the evaluation process for teachers and administrators."
Hardly, the other side contends.
"The current tenure system protects bad teachers," laments Sen.
Wayne Kuipers, a conservative Republican from Holland. And he had
company in the form of Democratic Rep. Tim Melton from Pontiac who
agreed and was more than willing to take on the MEA one more time.
Supporters of the "reforms" argue, go into any school and ask
around. Everyone knows the good and bad instructors, but just try to
get rid of the later.
But the advocates for the legislation could not line-up enough
lame ducks in a row so they reluctantly handed the MEA a victory.
"We did it," declared another post-debate email to those MEA
This time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paper "Convicts" Justice Weaver

Oh boy. You know you're in deep do-do when your hometown
newspaper comes after you. Ask former Michigan Supreme Court Justice
Betty Weaver who must have been steaming when the Leelanau Enterprise
arrived in her mail box the other day.
For those who don't follow this stuff, Ms. Weaver has been on a
one-woman mission to reform the state's highest court. Her
relationship, if you can call it that, with Republican members of the
court has been ugly, personal and anything but collegial as the court
likes to self-describe.
Now retired from the bench, Ms. Weaver continues and recently
disclosed the transcripts from secretly recorded deliberations behind
close doors. The majority of the court recently censured their former
"friend" for not only recording the private judicial chit chat but for
letting the public in on the conversation to boot.
The newspaper was careful to applaud her efforts at reform but
takes her to the woodshed for playing politics with the transcript.
The paper says she justified the release to reveal the
"dysfunctional" level of the deliberations which included the use of
the "N" word by the lone African American Justice on the court.
The paper concludes, instead, that she did it to hurt the
re-election chances of that very Justice Robert Young, Jr. The
editorial convicts her of trying to cripple his campaign with what the
paper termed her "political shenanigans."
This was some pretty heavy duty stuff which leads to two
questions: Will she cancel her subscription and what will her letter
to the editor say?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rather Do It Myself

In a move that strikes some as bordering on the edge of arrogance,
the incoming Snyder administration has decided to develop its own
review of how to squeeze $3 billion out of state services rather than
use a blue print that is already out there.
Can you say duplication of effort?
You'll recall that the current administration's bean counters
penned a plan to whack at everything under the sun in order to reduce
state services by that whopping $3 bil figure.
The incoming Lt. Governor Brian Calley counters, in effect, we'd
rather do it ourselves.
"We want our set of eyes," to take a look at it.
In this instance, give the new kids on the block the benefit of
the doubt. After all the original document was written by the Granholm
administration and may have been tilted toward laying the ground work
for a revenue increase.
If you are the new GOP governor using a Granholm blueprint is, to
be charitable, Toxic with a capitol T.
So starting from scratch is a reasonable strategy especially with
a new budget director riding into town from Utah where maybe he will
see something the current folks have no seen in the past.
But dollars to donuts when the independent review is completed,
much of what is on the Granholm list will end up on the Snyder list,
but he has to get their on his own before any of this has any his mind.
Either way it will be ugly. It's only a question of which "ugly'
ends being slice and diced.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lame Ducks Limp Out of Town

State lawmakers limped out of their abbreviated Lame Duck session
and into another extended break leaving behind a mixed bag of pluses
and minuses for Michigan citizens to digest.
On the upside, they found $10 million to jump start the highly
successful Pure Michigan advertising campaign just in time for the
winter tourism season. They swiped the money from a jobs fund when
efforts to find another revenue stream dried up.
Wayne County executive Bobby Ficano and his friends in the business
community finally got their so-called Aerotropolis measure to create
enterprise zones around Detroit-Metro Airport. How many jobs will
incubate is anybodies guess.
While the business lobby was celebrating that, it was no so
celebratory over the failure to build a bridge between Detroit and
Windsor. The governor complains that because of massive political
contributions from the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, who were
loathed to have any competition, lawmakers caved to that special
interest and nix the DRIC.
Score it Matty and friends 100 and the gov. zippo.
But the war continues into the new year with a new crop of folks to
tackle the bridge.
The business community was victorious in blocking legislation to
include insurance coverage for autistic children. Lots of lawmakers
expressed their sympathy to the parents of these special needs
children, but in the end when business said it would hike insurance
costs for them, you know the outcome.
Score it business 100 and parents nada.
And efforts to revamp the way we get rid of lousy teachers showed
signs of life for a moment. The senate did pass a teacher tenure redo
but the Michigan Education Association made sure it never saw the light
of day in the Michigan House.
"The tenure system is designed to protect bad teachers," one state
senator lamented. So much for that.
So after taking two weeks off for hunting and Thanksgiving, the
full time legislature departed for the rest of the year off after a
grueling three days of doing the people's business…or not.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Cut State Spending

A document hss been leaked that makes recommendations on how to
slice and dice some $3 billion out of the state budget in order to
balance it. Suffice it to say, it will get plenty of attention.
Thanks to the MIRS newsletter guys for revealing this thing that
was drafted by the current Granholm budget office and the Snyder
transition team wants you to know it did not request it nor is it
endorsing any of the suggestions…at least not yet.
Put your seat belt on cause here are some of the items: Privatize
the University of Michigan, eliminate Michigan State Police road
patrols, eliminate some Medicaid benefits including aid to the mentally
ill, no state aid to libraries, wiping out $400 million in state aid to
the cites and on and on it goes.
Even though the Snyder folks claim they had nothing to do with
this, the document could be a blue print for reinventing government
which was the mantra of the Snyder campaign, but for now he does not
want his finger prints on any of this.
Some of the cutting capers have been out there before and roundly
rejected by the current legislature. The U of M thing brought out the
Maize and Blue in force and it never got anywhere. Years ago a Detroit
Senator proposed taking "Smokey" off the freeways, that died on the
vine as well even though motorists might vote yes.
Having said that, the cuts next year will have to come from
somewhere and this document is a good place to least the
current budget office thinks so.
And if Mr. Snyder wants to meet his objective of balancing the
books without new revenue, he will have to at least take a peak at this
Also note the possible hidden agenda in all this. There may some
pro-government and public interest groups that want this stuff out
there to scare the public.
They may want to rile the citizens up to protest these cuts, but of
course if you don't make the cuts, you have to find the money to wipe
out all the red ink and these groups could be hoping that will lead to
some sort of revenue increase...hence the leak. Just a theory.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Utah Ain't Michigan

So here's the deal. You've got a brand new governor and a brand new
legislature neither of which has ever eradicated a $1.6 billion budget
sea of red ink. And to add to the inexperience, you're calling in a
guy from Utah to help draft the budget with all those cuts.
You read that right..Utah of all places.
When he ran for governor, candidate Rick Snyder said he would bring
in some new faces to help reinvent Michigan and John Nixon certainly is
Up until the announcement this week that he would be the new budget
honcho, nobody knew Nixon from Adam. But turns out his resume is
pretty strong and he's well respected on the national scene among his
peers. But he's not from Michigan.
Those who have met Mr. Nixon, no relation by the way to the "other"
Nixon, report he is low-keyed, with a dry sense of humor which he is
going to need as he steps into this Michigan money mess.
He is eager to get on with it.
One school of thought suggests that this will be the toughest
budget to write in years. All the low hanging fruit to reduce state
spending was plucked years ago and now the new budget director and his
new boss will face decisions such as closing universities, jettisoning
state services that are non-productive and suffice it to say this will
be ugly and painful.
If ever there was a time when you needed a guy who knows where all
the budget bodies are buried it is now, this school of thinking goes
and Nixon does not meet that objective.
Yet it appears that the governor-elect has concluded bringing in a
new set of eyes and ears at this critical juncture may actually be a
plus. Mr. Nixon may see stuff that old-timers have missed. He may
have a new take on how to do this.
One seasoned former lawmaker who has watched this process for
years is willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Nixon,
after all, has worked on budget deficits in his home state.
But as this source adds, "Utah is not Michigan." It's smaller,
does not have a diverse population of special interest groups and it
did not have a whopping $1.6 billion hole in its budget.
Can Mr. Fresh Eyes and Ears get the job done?
Pull up a chair. We're about to find out.