Sunday, January 31, 2010
Early Out-Risky Stuff
One of the confounding elements of politics is that often times the practitioners don't learn from the mistakes of the past. And at first blush it looked like the current governor was poised to repeat the grievous blunder of previous Gov. John Engler when he willy-nilly offered seasoned state government workers a chance to leave government early. He dangled a fatter retirement check in front of thousands of state workers and they jumped at it faster than you can see, "Let's move to Florida." It was the typical meat axe approach of Mr. Engler who was more interested in reducing the size of government no matter what. But it did matter and the "what" concerned the safety of little children. What Mr. Engler either did not consider or refused to factor in, was the brain and experience drain the early out program created in an instant. Weary civil servants dashed for the door, leaving less experience folks to mind the shop while even less experienced replacements were filtered into the system. In the Human Service Department alone, seasoned Child Protective Service workers, who investigate child abuse in families and foster homes, were gone leaving the kids at risk and one of them even died as you'll recall he little Ricky Holland tragedy. He was murdered by his foster mom and dad, stuffed in a garbage bag and buried in a shallow grave miles away from his home. Fast forward to Gov. Jennifer Granholm who is eager to coax 7,000 state workers with 30 years of experience or more to leave now, too. "I'm very worried about that," confesses Sen. Gretchen Whitmer who has thousands of civil servants in her East Lansing district. "Some folks may fall through the cracks," she warned. When the governor announced this new retirement incentive program nothing was said about addressing the "Engler" problem noted above. But come to find out, this governor did learn from those mistakes and has safeguards in her program to prevent that from happening again. She exchanges a meat axe for a scalpel. Good thing. The mother of three kids does not want another tragedy on her watch as she leaves office at the end of the year.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Repealing Prop "A" Appealing
The 44 members of the freshman class in the Michigan House finally got an assignment from the Speaker of the House they can get their teeth into and some fear they may be biting off more than they can chew. Speaker Andy Dillon wants a report on how we should fund our schools and one of items on the table, but not endorsed yet, is the total repeal of Proposal A. You remember Prop A that moved school financing from the property to the sales tax. Gov. Jennifer Granholm came into office suggesting the proposal needed some tweaking. She lost her tweakers and never did it. Now the freshmen may pick up where the governor left off. Rep. Lesia Liss (D-Warren) startled everyone in the joint the other night at an education town hall meeting in which 800 parents showed up. "We are looking at repealing Proposal A," she blurted out during the Q and A. And she was uplifted when the audience applauded the suggestion. Let's just say that back home on the ranch in this town, the applause was not so spontaneous. Charlie Owen who works for independent business owners is well aware that his clients may get hit with a new tax to fund the schools if Prop A goes bye-bye. Paint him worried. Rep. Tim Melton (D-Pontiac) says the idea "makes me a little nervous.' He wonders how his constituents will respond to over turning what the voters mandated in 1994 and the cost of same? Paint him reluctant. Liss reports there's a 50-50 chance this idea will move and she is hopeful, if it does, that the R's will join the D's to pass a new sales tax on services to raise the dough for schools. Liss says she is "pretty sure" there will be bi-partisan support. Paint her encouraged. And come to find out, she may be right. Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Brighton) who co-chairs the freshmen caucus with Liss is open to the sales tax if government reforms comes first. Hold onto your hats, this one could be a dandy of a debate as they might attempt undoing what former Gov. John Engler did with Prop A. Nobody has had the guts to do that before. Paint him vexed.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Here We Go Again
The governor, the eternal optimist, believes she sees a "willingness" to have a constructive conversation with the senate GOP leader on the duo-headed monster of government reform and a new revenue producing tax system. And indeed, Sen. Mike Bishop has said if the house democrats send the GOP controlled senate a plan to lower the sales tax rate and extend it to services, "We have an obligation to look at it." "That sounds familiar," reflects House Speaker Andy Dillon whose been down this road with Bishop before. Bishop whispered that in Dillon's ear last year about cutting the budget by $1.2 billion and then having a vote on raising new revenue. Bishop got his cuts, he did allow a vote on an income tax hike, and fulfilled his part of the not so grand bargain with Dillon who got egg on his face for dealing with Bishop. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me, Dillon should be saying. Neither he nor the governor is willing to make a deal with Big Mike unless they get something in writing to prove he will not just "look at" a new tax system but actually agree to fight to put up some votes for it. Let's just say Bishop is not there yet. One "X"factor however is segments of the business community are on board with the governor and Dillon on the sales tax concept if cost savings in government come with it. This is the "Grand Bargain" the governor keeps talking about under which each side gives a little to get a little and everyone shares in the pain. So far the only pain Mr. Bishop wants to inflict is on every public employee at all levels of government. His mandatory and voter imposed 5% pay slice and 20% co-pay is actually something the governor might consider, if she got something in return. At this read, it's a stand-off with no one giving anything yet. But hey boys and girls the year is young and lots can happen between now and then. The trick for the governor, Dillon and business guys is to convince Mr. Bishop that the word "compromise" is not a four letter word.
Monday, January 25, 2010
There's no way to prove this, but if moderate Republican John Schwarz had run against Democrat Jennifer Graholm in 2002, she might not be finishing two terms in office this year.
The former Battle Creek state senator and ex-Congressman was moderate in his dealings with both political parties, he had experience that was well beyond that of then Attorney General Granholm and if given the chance, the voters might have gotten beyond her charisma to see a guy who had the right resume to be governor with no need for on the job training that she obviously required. But Dick Posthumus got the GOP nomination and now Schwarz is left to flirt once more with running for governor but as an independent candidate. He's been here before, lots of times. "The climate for an independent is about as good as it's ever going to be," he correctly surmises as the voter anger and dissatisfaction with republicans and democrats is off the charts. That's why Schwarz reveals, "I think about it every other day. Persons have asked me to consider it and we talk about it, yes." "Money is the question," he again correctly deduces. Ross Perot had money, ran as an independent for president and got 19% of the vote and helped to elect Bill Clinton president the first time. Former wresller Jessie Ventura got himself elected governor in Minnesota and he was as independent as you can get. In other words, it can happen but Schwarz needs guys like Phil Powers, who talks a good game about changing the culture in Lansing, to open his check book to launch such a bid. Time is running out. Schwarz is not getting any younger but his ideals and approach to government are not out dated and could have appeal to an electorate that wants a government that works for them and not the two political parties. But Schwarz is still a realist and says there's only about a 50-50 chance his flirtation with an indepenent candidacy will turn into something more than just that.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Unless we put all the witnesses under oath on this one, we may never get to the other reasons behind the out-of-nowhere decision by Grethen Whitmer to suddenly drop out of the democratic contest for Attorney General. The East Lansing state senator, with the help of her daddy Dick Whitmer who use to run Michigan Blue Cross, was rollin' along singin' a song on her way to the party nomination this summer. She was making the rounds, had a good resume, was the presumed front runner and then also out-of-nowhere came the announcement that Richard Bernstein, son of Sam, was running too.
Talk about putting a stick in your spokes.
Whitmer was taken back by the declaration but the pundits in town let her keep the front runner status until she herself removed it.
"I'm not running for Attorney General," she quietly told a stunned senate democratic caucus behind closed doors. Then she issued a statement and did a TV interview noting that she had two daughters at home, ages six and seven, who needed her attention more than Whitmer needed to be A.G. There is no question that was the major factor in her wrenching decision, but others are still scratching their heads as to what else might have been in play.
Could you make the case that the trial lawyers and father Sam Bernstein let it be known that Richard was going to be bank rolled for the nomination thus saving the state Democratic Party a bundle of money? And as a corollary, if Richard did not get the nod, father and his trial lawyer buddies might close their checkbooks for other races this year? Since the party is not exactly flush with bucks and has more important races to underwrite, namely governor, supreme court and the Michigan House, why not give the nomination to Mr. Bernstein and company? Mind you, all this is mere conjecture. Whitmer was asked on camera about the Bernstein advantage and she stuck to her story about wanting to be with the kids and minus any evidence or sworn testimony to the contrary, one has to conclude that was the only reason. The only sticking point is, didn't she know she had two kids when she announced her A.G. intentions in the first place?
Thursday, January 21, 2010
It's a good thing for Mike Bishop that not many public employees will voting at he GOP state convention as he tries to nail down the party nomination for attorney general. If they did vote, they'd vote him off the island pronto.
You see this week the senate GOP leader and colleagues proposed to slash the salary of every public employee in the state by 5% and all new hires by 10%. On top of that those same workers would be forced to kick in
a 20% co-pay for health care costs.
We're talking everyone from the janitor at the township hall to the governor of the state and everyone inbetween at all levels of government.
Bishop says the $1.8 billion in savings would bring the public sector in line with the give backs the private sector has been coughing up for years.
And so the annual budget battle is engaged with the governor saying she thinks Mr. B is "willing to look at" tax reform, too.
On Wednesday he said, there was no need to look at new revenue. Period.
But the democrats do want to look and they have a hammer. To place those pay cut amendments on the August ballot for you to decide, Bishop needs democrats to join with the GOP to do it.
And democrats are not about to be snookered by Bishop for a second year in a row.
"So before we bite the bullet on a lot of these reforms," we want to know what Bishop is going to give us, contends Sen Mike Prussi the top democrat in the senate.
And when the governor was asked if she was going to repeat what happened last year, with Bishop getting everything he wanted and she got got a goose egg, her answer was precise, direct and not open to any interpretation; "No."
However, after all that, Bishop is now saying he will not close the door to debating what the governor wants, a new sales tax on services with a new and lower 5.5% sales tax rate.
To be sure Bishop has not endorsed that but he says, "If the House Democrats send it over, we have an obligation to look at it." That's not a yes, but it's not a no, either.
And for now the governor will take that in a New York minute.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
He really wanted to run for the democratic nomination to be governor, but being from Genesee County and all, he had a buddy from that same neck of the woods who also wanted the job. Being a good guy and a wise politician, Dan Kildee chucked is bid for governor out of deference to the front runner John Cherry. Kildee proceeded to put his life together by resigning at the end of the year as county treasurer and he took a job of a life time as President of a think tank funded by some prestigious foundations out of D.C. Then Cherry unexpectedly dropped out of the race leaving Kildee with a huge problem: How do you get out of a new job when you really want the job as governor? Kildee is trying to figure that out right now as he goes to his board of directors hoping to find some way to explore a bid for governor while not tossing in the towel on the foundation post. Even he concedes it poses a professional problem which has not yet been ironed out. On the family front, things have gone a little smoother. With one kid in college and one in high school, he does not have toddlers at home to demand more of his time. His wife is more concerned with the impact all this will have on her hubby which is why God gave us loving spouses. And then, of course, the biggest question of all, "Do the stars align to win?" Kildee doesn't know if this will work but he says, "I want to run. I have the fire in the belly to do it. But will I run?" He's next up on the public Tv series, Off the Record at WKAR.org. Tune in to see if he will.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Rethinking Labor's Thinking
Organized labor's track record in contests for governor in this state has been a mixed bag of sorts. Labor wanted Larry Owen for governor; it got Geoffrey Fieger instead and labor ignored Fieger. Labor wanted Howard Wolpe; it got Howard Wolpe who proceeded to run a lousy campaign and handed John Engler another four years without forcing the GOP guy to break a sweat. Fast forward to right now. Large segments of labor really wanted John Cherry to be the next governor. So much for that. Now labor has hurredly scrambled to stage some interviews, better known as cattle calls, asking each of this year's potentials to "come on down" and chat. Congressman Gary Peters showed up. The chat was not long. He ain't running. Dan Kildee, with some labor cachet, appeared, talked, but has not made a final decision. And the list of invitees goes on including Andy Dillon, Bob Bowman, Denise Ilitch, Bart Stupak, Virg Bernero, and Alma Wheeler Smith. The D's would love to lure a guy like Edsel or Bill Ford into the mix, but these guys weren't born yesterday. Why should they talk? Some still hold out hope for DTE Energy guy Tony Early. Not a chance. And here is the most telling tid bid: After all these years of trying to run a "traditional" democrat, see Owen and Wolpe, the blue collar folks are finally coming to the conclusion that maybe that ought to take a peak at someone with business experience.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Years ago when some upstart wanted to run for governor, the first drill was to raise some money, raise your name ID with the voters and start a buzz with the media.
Apparently the rules have changed. Now the first assignment is to get your butt into the White House..even if it is just to visit the janitor. You've seen the headlines recently: Ilitch visits White House followed by Speaker Andy Dillon noting, "I've been to the White House, too." Finishing third is Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero who can only boast that he has "talked" to folks at the White House. (Call the operator there and you can claim the same thing.) Frankly, while all this W.H. stuff sounds wonderful and adds a certain air of legitimacy to a person's candidacy, state Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer admits, it doesn't mean much at all. Nailing down a meeting with some second tier flunky is like cotton candy..tastes good but much substance.. However, give Ilitch credit, she was able to "leak" to the media that President Obama stuck his head in for a moment. Nobody knows if he said, "Hey, anybody in here see our dog Beau?" Ordinary folks are wondering what is the White House doing sticking its nose into the Michigan governor's contest in the first place. Doesn't it have more important fish to fry? It was reported here last October that operatives there are worried about losing the state in this year's race for governor. Well when Mr. President runs again in 2012, he'd like a blue governor in the chair and not some anti-Obama conservative republican who would not lift a finger to help Mr. Obama win. There's also the matter of redistricting. A Democrat governor has a critical role to play in composing the legislative and congressional voting districts. He or she who controls the redistricting process can increase the chances that his or her party will control both bodies. With that it mind, look for other headlines to surface as Dan Kildee, Bob Bowman, Bart Stupak, and Gawd only knows how many others will try to get into a "meeting" in the White House. Maybe they just try crashing a reception…apparently that might be easier to pull off.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Sleepy the Judge
So what did you do over the holidays? Most normal folks would recount the parties, gifts, arguments with family members, etc. etc. Not Mark Brewer. What he did is certainly not normal..not by any means. Read on boys and girls. He watched forty hours, count'em, forty hours of Michigan Government Television coverage of the Michigan Supreme Court. You're think'in Brewer needs to be in a home somewhere quick. Actually it was all part of his "opposition" research he's conducting on one of the guys who sits on the state's high court. GOP Justice Robert Young Jr. is up for reelection and assuming he runs, Brewer wants to take Young down just as he did to his last victim former Chief Justice Cliff Taylor. You might not remember Taylor, but your surely remember the "sleeping Judge" TV commercial that sent Taylor to an early political grave. Well based on the forty hours of light viewing, Brewer has culled out some pictures of Young, on the bench, with his eyes closed. You know where Brewer is going with this, right? On top of the eyes closed video, Brewer has excerpts from Young's comments during oral arguments and he will use them to paint a picture of Young as "someone who treats people badly." Brewer will go for the jugular accusing Young of being "very volatile and very demeaning to the people who appear in front of him." And then he asks rhetorically on statewide Public TV's Off the Record, "Is that the kind of Justice you want on the Michigan Supreme Court?" Young was quick to respond that the eyes closed thing is a stretch as he is one of the most active participants when the court is in session. Brewer was given high marks for pulling off the Taylor upset and he wants to make it two for two by taking out the "Sleepy" Judge Bob Young, as Brewer calls him.
(See Brewer's performance at WKAR.org.)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Put yourself in his shoes. You have stood by your boss for eight long and hard years; you've been waiting that long and even longer to have your chance at being in charge and then the bottom falls out. How would you feel? You'd'd be in quite a funk. Frankly, it was unclear what mood John Cherry would be in as he granted his first state capitol interview in the wake of last week's monster story that he was not running for governor. Turns out any trepidation was unwarranted. Cherry acted as if nothing had happened. Oh sure he and his wife Pan were disappointed, but sad? Any regrets or second guessing? "The hand writing was on the wall," he suggests so there was no sense in "prolonging" the obvious. With not enough moola to run, why bother. But there were lose strings to tie up. What about the White House shopping the story that you couldn't win? Didn't happen, the former candidate observes. So where did that story come from? Cherry sort of fingers two former opponents namely Speaker Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Benero. Cherry says they tried to sell the story that the White House was worried. (It was true by the way.) So did the duo try to satotogue his campaign with that stuff? "They may have," he retorts "Nobody on my staff did that," Mr. Dillon explains. But what about your supporters who did peddle the story when they could? Dillon profess no knowledge of that and when asked if it was wrong to do that to Cherry, Dillon noted, "everyone is entitled to their opinion." The sanguine Mr. Cherry has turned the page still rejecting the notion that he had to toss Gov. Granholm under the bus in order to win. "I'd have no credibility' if I had done that. "My job was not to diss the governor." Loyal to the bitter and losing end.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Ilitch Checking Off Boxes
Ilitch for governor. She wants to do it; she is not sure she will. That in a nutshell is where Denise Ilitch finds herself as she methodically goes about the business of checking off boxes as she ponders a possible bid to become the second female governor in state history. Democrat Ilitch ran statewide and won a seat on the U of M Board of Regents, but that statewide campaign does not compare to the heavy lifting she would have to do for governor. Does she have the "skills and tools" to actually be governor? How deep is the commitment from those those who have "urged her to run" to help her run with money and elbow grease? Does her family support a bid? Reportedly the family box has been checked off in the affirmative. She has three children but they are all adults. In other words she is not a mom with a two and five year old demanding her attention at home. The other boxes are unchecked and until she figures that out she will continue her self-imposed policy of not talking to the media. The arms length strategy is understandable but boo-hiss anyway. She meets Governor Granholm's criteria of not having any connections to Lansing or the incumbent governor other than the fact that they are both women and democrats. Ilitch could self fund but she has not decided how much of her personal wealth she is willing to bring to the table. She has been successful in the business world helping two companies to turn around and she has a good name ID i.e. who has not heard the Ilitch moniker? Unclear is whether daddy and mom, supposed Republicans, will help her? But more importantly does she really want to do it? That box has been checked off big time. A source familiar with her thinking confides, "She wants to run for governor. She has the fire, red hot lava, in the belly to do it. Whether she runs is another question.' The answer to which will come by the end of March.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Fwd: 16 Years and Counting
Sent: Tue, Jan 12, 2010 7:36 am
Subject: 16 Years and Counting
The scene was an MDOT garage. And in walks then Gov. John Engler who takes his place in front of a giant snow plow to announce his support for a four penny hike in the state gasoline tax.
It was historic on two counts. Engler was loathed to support anything that had a "tax increase" label on it and for the money-thirsty road building industry, it was the last time they got a hike in road revenue.
Fast forward to this new legislative year where hope abounds that lawmakers will end the 16 year drought and cough up some new money.
The Michigan Infrastructure Coalition, which is just a fancy smancy name for the road builders and friends, wanted this last year because this year everybody is running for something. But the hopes of 2009 quickly gave way to the reality that senate Republicans were in no mood to raise any tax on anything.
With about a three month window to get something done this year, it has come down to the a numbers game in the state senate. 20 votes are required and each party has agreed to provide ten votes to do it.
It appears the democrats can deliver but word has it, they are three votes short in the slightly more conservative GOP caucus where the leader Mike Bishop concedes the "shape of the roads is dangerous."
Word is the gas tax or some other mechanism may be rolled into the governor's Grand Bargain package of reforms and other tax goodies.
There is consternation in the pro-gas tax camp. On one hand if you are in a bigger Omnibus bill with lots of controversial unrelated items, the whole thing could blow up in smoke.
On the other, allowing a single vote on just the gas tax puts it out there as a sitting duck for everyone to nibble at resulting in defeat anyway.
Either way the road lobby wants the money but so far it has a goose egg and unless three more GOP senators get on board, the lobby will have to continue to live on the fond memories of 1994 when a governor and legislature actually did what the road guys wanted.
Monday, January 11, 2010
The biggest losers in the current race for governor are the neck tie manufacturers. Increasingly savvy candidates are going with the open neck casual shirt, maybe even with a white undershirt beneath that.
Ask Andy Dillon and Rick Synder, the ying and yang of this new way of shucking the tie to look more like the common man. Don't kid yourself. When it comes to big time politics, the little things such as how you dress means a lot. The research overwhemingly confirms that after a viewer has seen a candidate on TV, they won't remember squat about what was said. They will recall how they looked and the image they projected. In other words form over substance is the game to master. The AndyDillon.com video that launched a possible bid for governor by the Redford democrat is notable for its visual impact and by what was not said. Usually gov candidates boast about their experience. But if you were seeing him for the first time, you would not know Dillon is a democrat and the leader of the Michigan House. Bingo. That's exactly what Team Dillon was after. Dillon conveniently leaves his political resume out of his introductory Web video because it is a lousy year for incumbents of any political persuasion. He delivered a good read of what he had to say, but he did not drive home the point that he is an independent thinker beholden to neither party. There is time to develop that theme, but why not begin on day one? He did score points by saying we need to end partisan bickering in Lansing. But that's hardly an original thought. Heck Bill Milliken ran on that a thousand years ago. The fact is the video verbiage left a ho-hum impression however Dillon's hair looked good, he's got a matinee-type mug, and he seemed concerned about turning the state around. But that distinquishes him from no one else, since everybody and his uncle running for governor is saying exactly the same thing. So the envelope please on the Dillon video. (Drum roll)
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Do You Hear What She Hears?
If you put your ear to the ground, ever so faintly, you can pick up the sound of a possible deal to revamp state government and the state's tax system. "I'm hopeful that January will produce the united will to move forward on a series of reforms," she tells the Lansing press corps. But putting your ear to the ground means you can also get run over by a truck and no one knows if this election year effort will produce more failures on the reform/tax front. For the governor, this is her last bid to polish up her legacy resume which to date is looking mighty skimpy. But the republicans could care less about her lasting image. They want cuts in public employee benefits and wages to bring them more in line with the private sector. The governor may be willing to go there, part of the "you-get-something-and-I-get-something" mentality. What she wants is $2 billion in new revenue to replace the money the state has lost over the last two years. And part of that could include a new sales tax on services with a lower sales tax rate. Other stuff will be tossed into the "Grand Bargain" soup to prove to citizens that Lansing is serious about making some changes. The Business Leaders for Michigan is active beneath the radar trying to get all parties to the table. BLFM is talking a lot about its five point plan to reinvent government, but buried in its nifty little slide presentation is the rather oblique mention about the need for new revenue, too. There are two, count'em, two references to that in the 35 page document. No sense scaring citizens back home. But if there is to be an exchange between the two parties, the revenue piece must be there for the D's to go along with the R's demands. In fact it's the same scenario that unfolded last year when budget cut demands were on the table and the R's got everything they wanted and the D's got a goose egg Democrats are not about to let that happen again. Keep your ears to the ground, but look out for that semi.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Joe D. Take 2
It is such a simple phrase. But in politics "no comment" is not always as simple as it looks. In fact it can get quite complex, as you try to ascertain the true motivation for trotting out that old stand by when somebody wants nothing to do with the media. Case in point is that little Joe Dumars story that surfaced here yesterday. The prospects of a former B-ball player running for the democratic nomination for governor captured the imagination of lots of folks. Recall that feelers have gone out to Joe D. and when the story reached the Piston's president, waiting to see his team lose another one down in Texas, it produced an unexpected response. Frankly the popular wisdom was that once Dumars got wind of all this political stuff he would promptly laugh it off, declare it out of bounds, and end of story. But there was no rebuke, no laughter, no nothin' except that curious, "No comment." While it is risky business to read into anything, wouldn't you agree that if there was nothing to this, he would have said so. The fact that he did not will be interpreted this way: He indeed is thinking about it. Maybe it is the ego stroke that motivates him to think about it, but whatever the rationale, he did not say no, which some will say means he could eventually give a yes. Many believe that Dumars does not have any political passion. Well turns out, when White Supremacist David Duke was making anti-civil rights noises down south years ago, Mr. Dumars went there to protest. To be sure, it is a quantom leap from civil rights demonstrator to Governor of Michigan but in politics anything can happen…just ask John Cherry.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Joe D For Gov?
Now that the candidate with the most political experience is out of the contest, some forces within the Michigan democratic party are looking for a candidate with none. In effect this faction is looking for its own version of GOP candidate Rick Synder, the non-politician/business guy out of Ann Arbor. The 180 degree flip from tons of experience to zero could produce a want-ad that reads like this: Wanted: Someone with no hands-on experience in Lansing and no visible or invisible ties to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. (Very important.) Resume with successful business accomplishments is essential along with the ability to self-fund or bring your own money to the table to run. Must have good name ID and a positive image that indicates you are a Lansing outsider but yet possessing the intelligence to learn the ropes at the capitol when you are elected. In some respects this is about as shocking as the news this week that Lt. Governor John Cherry, the guy with all the Lansing experience in the world, but not enough moola to win, has tossed in the towel. Potential candidates House Speaker Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Benero could not answer the want ad above for obvious reasons. Even though he has been in the Michigan House only four years, Dillon is an insider and even though Benero is not there anymore, it would not take long for the GOP to tee him up as a product of government with his county, state and now local experience as mayor. Try this on for size: Joe Dumars. Yep, the former NBA basketball sensation and current president of the Detroit Pistons. Stack him up against the want ad and you have a potential blockbuster of a candidate that would not only set this town on its ear, but produce enough buzz to give the D's a better than even chance to hang onto the governor's chair. While some democrats are sad that Cherry has been relegated to the sidelines, pulling a Joe Dumar's type candidate out of the hat could quickly turn those tears into smiles and maybe even enough votes to send Rick Snyder and the rest of the GOP field to the showers.
Feelers are out there to see if Joe D. wants to try his shooting hands in another non-contact sport namely politics.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Incredible, shocking, and unbelievable. Pick your adjective to describe the widespread speculation that the front runner for the democratic nomination for governor is poised to drop out of the contest. No one from the John Cherry campaign was available to confirm the story, but there are strong indications that his decision could be announced as early as Tuesday. The buzz on the streets for weeks has been getting louder that the Lt. Governor was having difficulty raising money and he was battling the naysayers, many of whom reside in his own party, that he can not win in November even if he got the nomination. Those who support House Speaker Andy Dillon for the nomination have been quietly shopping that story line behind the scenes, and Lansing Mayor Virg Benero has gone public with that same statement. The ironic element of this story is that there were many who felt Cherry would have been a good governor with his long legislative history, his ability to work both sides of the aisle and the mutual respect he earned from both R's and D's. But his close linkage to the incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm was a hump he had to get over, but he steadfastly refused to toss his boss under the bus. He was too loyal to do that. So with the frontrunner headed for the sidelines, this town will go nuts over who might come off the sidelines and get into the now wide open contest for the coveted democratic nomination. Incredible, shocking and unbelievable and then some.
Who's Calling the Shots?
Here we go again. The senate GOP leader has problems with the nose of the state GOP chair.
Three years ago when then state Republican chair Saul Anuzis stuck his big nose in the delicate budget debate that included a hefty tax hike, the GOP leader Mike Bishop complained there was no role for the party chair in this legislative matter. The Oakland County Republican, in effect, lectured Big Saul to stick to politics while Bishop would do the heavy legislative lifting. Fast forward to the New Year with a new state GOP chair with Bishop forced to confront the same old problem all over again. Turns out that that chairman, Ron Weiser, has attached his name to a grandiose scheme, hatched by a new business group, on how to reform state government in five easy steps. Democrats are using that Weiser endorsement to urge Bishop to hop on board but Bishop is not on board, and he's bashful about going to the station to look at the train. Weiser notes that he has not endorsed the whole package put forth by the "Business Leaders for Michigan" which is a morphed reincarnation of the old Detroit Renaissance group. But he says some of the concepts are worth doing. Through his mouth piece, Bishop basically tells Weiser what he told Anuzis: Stay out of my business. Warm letter to follow. All of this is slowly reaching critical mass as the governor has hooked-up with the BLFM folks and is eager to forge a "Grand Bargain" in which everyone gives a little to get a little, as she puts it. Her "little" to get is new revenue which Bishop is loathed to support and the specter of having the GOP chair on Granholm's side, even though Weiser has not embraced new money, is a P.R. problem for Mr. Bishop which forces him to explain why he and Weiser are not on the same page..again.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
The So-Called Leaders
While you were nursing your New Year's eve hangover or embedded in the myriad of football bowl games on the telly, you probably missed the hard-hitting editorial that graced the editorial page of the Freep on Friday last. It was noteworthy for its "take-no-hostage" stance on the three "leaders" in the Michigan legislature, namely Gov. Jennifer Granholm, House Democratic Speaker Andy Dillon and last but not least Oakland County's own Mike Bishop at the helm of the senate GOP caucus. Seems the newspaper could not find one nice thing to say about the trio. Granholm took the biggest hit with this: "Gov. Jennifer Granholm has lived up to precisely none of the promise she exuded when she was elected in 2002." Dillon and Bishop were tagged with being "equally weak figures." The Speaker appears to be all talk and no action regarding his now infamous attempt at revamping the public employee health care system. The paper notes he "hasn't pushed hard for it even in his own wing of the Capitol.' Bishop is described as the "biggest talker about the need for reform" but the paper says it's been just that, all talk. In fairness, the governor had zero control over the auto industry, could do little about the depression like climate in the state as no governor can turn an economy around. Dillon still has time to get some sort of health care reform even though it will not be the one he proposed and it will likely be rolled into an even bigger package of "reforms" soon to surface after the first of the year. As for Bishop, he gave no ground on the governor's demands to raise revenue to mute some of the $1.2 billion in service cuts Bishop demanded. While the red-meat and right-wing of his party will pat him on the head for that, those who follow this stuff from a more moderate vantage point, argue there was a need to compromise but Bishop refused. Points off for that. The relationship between the three has never been worse, but only they can decide to do something about that. For the good of the state, maybe they will. If they don't, the Freep won't be the only news folks on their case.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Three More Whats!
Everybody knows that the good folks who live within the higher education community inhale rarified air which gives them a slight air of arrogance. Not that there is anything wrong with being smart, but sometimes the intelligentsia can lose touch with reality. Exhibit A: The move by three universities to construct more med schools. The state already has four at the U of M, Wayne State and two at MSU. Enter Oakland, Western and Central universities quietly piecing together a package to build three more. That's the question the state's former Community Health Director Jim Haveman is asking as he sits on the outside looking in. Former Gov. John Engler's health guy reasons thusly: Accessibility( to health care) remains a problem but the proposed solution to open three new medical schools is the wrong answer." In other words, put Haveman down as a no vote. He sights national data suggesting that this state already has more doctors per capita than the national average and since the existing four med schools are taking on more students, where is the need to create even more slots on the three other campuses? The dirty little secret about living in an ivory tower is that everyone wants to add more ivory and state taxpayers get clobbered with the cost. University prestige, which is an amorphous thing to begin with, lies within the eyes of the bolder and having a winning football team is one thing, but having a fancy smanchy med school is quite another. After playing second fiddle for too long to the high and the mighthy in A2, Detroit and East Lansing, the "other schools" want some of the glory and the money that inevitably follows when med schools are built. But Haveman calls for a time out and a little logic, which supposedly does exist somewhere on a college campus. The state is losing population and it faces a $1.8 billion deficit this year. Is this the time to pour more money into new med schools? You don't need a PhD to figure out the answer do ya?