Sunday, February 28, 2010
Another Missing Price Tag
There appears to be an insidious disease that has infiltrated the GOP primary for governor. Now a second candidate has contracted the malady. First there was Ann Arbor business guy who had it and now Mike Cox, the state attorney general does, too. The sickness is the dreaded, I-have-a-plan-but-won't-tell-you-how-I-would-pay-for-it-ittis. The Cox "Putting Michigan Back to Work" document as it relates to education contains some of the vague, time worn generalities that Mr. Snyder had in his Ten Point Plan. Cox boldly announces, "Michigan needs to do a better job to ensure that money gets to our children." Or this one, "We cannot expect to turn our state around or fare well in the future without a strong pubic education system." Now in fairness to both candidates, they do outlines some suggestions for change. Cox embraces merit pay for teachers, more charter schools, adopting national standards for judging how our kids do, revising health care and pension programs for schools. All nice and good, but no where does he talk about the money to do all this. Snyder lamely explained that it was "premature" to cost all this out. And what Cox does not say in the education portion of the blueprint is that he wants to remove $2 billion from the state budget in the form of tax relief. Now maybe attorney Cox was not a math major, but if you remove that much from the budget, the loss will impact education spending since it is one of the biggest items in the budget. Hence how can play for votes with the anti-tax crowd by offering a whooper of a tax cut on one hand and seek to make brownie points with the education crowd on the other without full disclosure of the tax cut's impact on schools? There is a huge disconnect that goes un addressed in his turnaround plan. But then why would a candidate want to admit that. It might cost him votes.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Political Gold Medal
Some time this weekend while the rest of the world waits to watch the USA take Canada for the Gold Medal in hockey, a politician will sit down in his Battle Creek home and decide to do something that is nye on to impossible to do; Run for governor as an independent candidate. For years Joe Schwarz has flirted with the possibility. He's flirting again with his finger on the trigger, but most would be surprised if he squeezed it. Yet the climate is ripe for a non Republican or Democrat to run. Schwarz who has been a state senator, a one term congressman, and a former GOP candidate for governor who lost, could ride a tidal wave of anger aimed at both political parties. "I can't say that I have a home in the GOP" anymore Schwarz confesses. He believes his party has moved too far to the right just as the Democrats have moved too far to the left. He thinks a big chunk of disenchanted voters remain in the middle with him. They may be open to someone with experience but minus the R or D after his or her name. But it takes money. Schwarz figures between four and six million which he does not have on hand. Raising it, however, he optimistically reports is "doable" but by his own admission, "I do not like making phone calls" to raise that money. He also needs 30,000 plus petition signatures to get on the ballot. He says those names can be bought and he has until July 15th to do that and assuming this lousy snow eventually melts, it could be done. But could he win or be the spoiler ala other independent candidate Ross Perot who swiped enough votes from George H. Bush to make William Jefferson Clinton President of the United States? To figure it out, Schwarz called in seven or eight of his closest friends, associates and advisors to kick it around yesterday (Friday.) So while they are dropping pucks in Canada, Schwarz will finally decided whether to pursue the Gold Medal of Michigan politics: Occupancy of the Governor's office.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Do As I Say, Not As I Did
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero tapped into his angry DNA the other day and chided the governor for saying complimentary things about Toyota which Mr. Bernero thought were misplaced comments. He was trying to make some political hay and enhance his populous image by whacking the Japanese car maker for having a faulty accelerator. Hey the Japanese did not come to the defense of GM and Chrysler when they were on the ropes, so what's a little pilling on, the mayor was probably thinking. It didn't take long for the governor to get wind of all this and it took even less time for the media to ask about Mr. Bernero's dig. Without mentioning his name and without raising her voice, she began: "I really resist, and I hope people would be angry (are you listening Mr. Bernero?) about anybody who suggests that the Japanese, that we have recruited to Michigan and who employee our people, should somehow feel not welcomed.' She noted that Toyota, while not making cars here, does have a state of the art research brain trust in Ann Arbor. "We have jobs here," the governor went on while at the same time suggesting that the company must do "everything possible to fix the problem." Yet she made no bones about it; she didn't want anyone, including a guy running from her party for governor, to send the message that the "welcome mat" is not out. She never said it, but you just knew she felt the mayor had done a disservice to the state. Ironically however, when the governor was running for reelection last time, one of her top job creation guys warned her about beating up on the Chinese. He warned the assault could cost Michigan jobs. Recall the Granholm campaign accused GOP opponent Dick DeVos of shipping Michigan jobs to China. The governor did not halt the on slough because it was winning her votes. Now she accuses Bernero of trying the same stunt for the same reason. Or hypocritical at worse?
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Darn Good Debate
The audience loved it. And rightly so. It had humor, dramatic difference were apparent, both guys demonstrated some passion, and no mud was slung and no hostages taken. In other words it was a darn good debate. Credit Mike Cox and Pete Hoekstra with putting on a good performance in front of a bunch of independent insurance agents over in Grand Rapids the other day. It did not start out to be a mano a mano meeting, but it turned out that way when Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and Ann Arbor Rick "The Nerd" Snyder both bailed out. So for the first time the media got a peak at the two front-runners in the GOP primary. They both would go after state government employees to squeeze them for more concessions starting with a scheduled 3% negotiated pay raise for unionized workers. Kill it, the A.G. Cox and West Michigan Congressman Hoekstra said. Then Hoekstea added, I'll see your three percent cut and raise it by another 5-7% for a grand total of a ten percent cut in the take home pay of state civil servants. Cox says he's already seeking a 5% rollback for those in his office and he would extend that to everyone else if he was elected. But then the sharp contrasts emerged. The federal bail out for the banks. Hoekstra voted yes saying he had no choice because "no one knew what would happen" if we did nothing. "It saved the financial system," argues. Cox who did not have to vote said the bail out was wrong regardless of what the consequences might have been. Race to the Top to help failing school districts. Hoekstra would have vetoed the thing. Cox would have signed it. "Race to the Top. Hell no," Hoekstra delivered the sound bite of the debate bringing instant applause from the audience. He is loathed to let the feds dictate education policy to the state. Cox sees thousands of failing school kids in Detroit and elsewhere and he believes the RTTT is a way to unfail them. Sure he was for local control, but this federal program he likes. The audience actually saw some clear distinctions between the two. That's what good debates do which those gawd awful TV political commercials won't do.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Ditch the Blackberries
Ya gotta wonder how many of the players in this town are rejoicing that this is the last state budget cycle involving the Three Amigos Jennifer Granholm, Andy Dillon and Mike Bishop. Enough already, some folks must be thinking, as the trio has provided tons of drama, rhetorical ruffles and flourishes, but not much cooperation that any of the three could be proud of as they provided "leadership" on deciding how to spend your tax dollars. In fact in 2007 they managed to pull-off something that had not been done in modern history: An abrieviated state government shutdown. And here was part of the problem; much of the chatter between them was not face to face but key-pad to key-pad via their text message machines. During the height of the march toward a government shutdown in 2007, the governor disclosed that she was texting her two "friends" at least six or seven times a day and that number seems low. Yes, texting is expedient. Yes, texting beats smoke signals. But what texting prevents is the ability to read the other guys body language, his or her eye contact, the pitch of their voice, and a host of other non-verbal signals that could enhance the negotiation process. The instant communication between two parties, sometimes means the third party is left out. You probably had the situation where Bishop and Dillon were complaining how difficult it was for them to deal with her, and maybe she confided to Dillon that she and Bishop were not hitting it off. And by the time they sit down in the same room at the same time, all this back channel back biting had probably elevated the rancor between them so that grinding out a compromise was even more contentious and challenging. Years ago, somehow, lawmakers and governors managed to iron out budget difficulties and there were no cell phones and no texting exchanges. They did it the old fashioned way by meeting, talking, and giving and taking. Since the relationship between these key players is not so hot to begin with, maybe they can agree on something up front: Let's chuck these texting crackberries into the Grand River. Since they are addicted to those things, it's unlikely they'll do it but they should.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
O.K. Let's confess: Folks living in this state are, by the very fact that they continue to live here, weird. Given the chance and the money, most would high-tail it to Arizona, Florida or name your warm climate state. Now another weird-ness on the political front. 22% of the citizens nationwide are overwhelmingly unimpressed with the performance of President Barack Obama. Apparently his "Change You Can Believe In" has only a handful of believers anymore. Ah, but! Take a gander at the latest FOX2 Rasmussen survey and lo and behold, 53% of the Michigan residents like what they see in the new prez. Sure, 46% disapprove, but over half are out of step with the rest of the country by a whopping 31% margin. So, is it the water? After all we are the only state surrounded by five lakes? Or could it be that nobody in Michigan can view all the right-wing cable talking heads who have trounced Mr. Obama starting right after he said, "I will" and lowered his right hand after the oath of office? Or maybe the rest of the nation is out of step with us? It is strange and almost defies logic because Obama did not even campaign here during the primary season. Remember Michigan was off limits because state Democrats dared to fiddle with the presidential primary date which offended all the other D's across the country. But yet he's in pretty good shape. And that's bad news for state Republicans who were fixin to link Obama at the hip with every democrat who runs for office this year from the governor's race to local dog catcher. They were poised to do to the D's, what the D's did to the R's by linking George W. Bush to every state Republican seeking office two years ago. If this data holds up, Republicans will need a Plan B. Of course they will do everything they can to make sure it does not hold up, but you must concur that the 53% approval rating does make the state a tad weird, for whatever reason.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Blues vs. Browns
It's one of those hush-hush sort of things in the law enforcement community; the less said the better but yet there is no denying the fact that a turf war is always at the ready when it comes to Michigan State Troopers, Michigan Sheriffs and other local police officers. Years ago the Trooper's union published a statewide survey that showed the State Cops were more widely respect than any other agency in the state and the in-your-face stuff was not well received by others who wore a badge. But the story goes beyond that. When it comes to crime fighting the Who-Is-In-Charge and Who-Got-The-Bad-Guy first is a constant internal game between all the cop shops. Now comes one that threatens to strain relations just a tad as the governor has opened up a can of budget worms. She wants to save state trooper jobs by re-allocating a.k.a stealing $2.2 million from secondary road patrols which is money going to local sheriffs and others. The secondary road patrol fund goes back thirty years and was the subject of a ferocious battle as the state police tried to block state dollars from going to sheriff patrols. The troopers lost mostly because the chair of the senate budget committee at the time, Sen. Jerome Hart (D-Saginaw) wanted to help the sheriffs. Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to back her state troopers and if the sheriffs lose out, so be it. Not so fast cries GOP Senator Valde Garcia who chairs the law enforcement budget. He grasps the essence of this debate: "It pits the state police against the sheriffs and local police at a time when they need to be working together.' Garcia wants to avert trooper layoffs as you recall the flap last year when 120 troopers fresh out of trooper school found themselves for awhile fresh out of work. It was not pretty. Problem for Garcia is simple, if not money from the secondary road patrols, where does he go? "I have no alternatives at the moment," he confesses but his search is underway as he hopes to avert another shoot out between the cops in blue and the ones in brown.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Spend It-Don't Save It
What's the old saying, "If you don't want anybody to know about it, don't put it in writing." Apparently someone at the Department of Human Services in Lansing was absent the day that was discussed because he composed the kind of inter-office memo that sends conservatives up the walls. To: County, District, and Child Welfare Directors The subject was spending all the money. The memorandum is a classic and Rep. David Agema (R-Really Conservative-West Michigan) went bonkers when he got his meat hooks on it. There is a time-honored tradition in the state bureaucracy that if you have not spent all your money by the end of the year, you turn it back into the state coffers. They call it lapsing. The memo writer told all his colleagues, "Do not attempt to save funding." And in just in case those colleagues missed that line, he drove home the point saying, "it is intended that DHS local offices expend ALL of your allocations…We must be certain we do not lapse funds for this fiscal year." To be fair, the welfare department has been hit with one budget cut after another to the point that some office workers, who have to deal with out of work, out of luck, and angry at everyone recipients, actually fear for their lives. So to counteract those cuts, the directive to spend every red cent you have, makes some sense, but not to Mr. Agema from Grandville who cuts no slack for the welfare crowd. You can't live on "that" side of the state and be pro-welfare don't ya know. The spend it and don't save it concept merely feeds the popular notion that the welfare folks are wasting your tax dollars instead of skimping to save them. It's not the message you want to send nor put in writing in these tough economic times. Oh btw, the department told Agema the memo was taken out of context and referred to federal money only. Ah, that should make taxpayers feel a lot better.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Generational Gap on Nerds
What is a nerd and how do we feel about them? The answers are decidedly different depending on your age. The 9th grader was sitting at the kitchen table the other night working on geography and the question was, during a study break, how are nerds viewed in your school? Without missing a beat, she noted, "They are smart and liked by other kids." Wow. If you are over 40 something that is not the description you would have used. They were socially out of it. Certainly not a member of the in-clique which frowned on glasses held together by duct tape and a slide rule hanging down with countless pens protruding from their shirt pocket. Of course this generational revelation is important in the context of the Nerd ads that Rick Snyder is imposing on every TV viewer in the state…at least he hopes everyone. He is in desperate need to up his name ID, so the Ann Arbor business guy has taken a calculated risk by calling himself a nerd for governor and with the younger set it will probably work. That's because they aspire to be rich like other nerds, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Being rich and being nerdy go hand in glove with the younger set and so the ad works. However, research indicates that young people don't vote. Oh sure, they showed up in astounding numbers for Barack Obama, but then they retreated to their ipods and text messaging thing-a-ma-bobs. In strong contrast the older folks, who don't cotton to nerds, vote in larger numbers and may not want a nerdy governor. It's a roll of the dice with Snyder thinking perhaps he can rekindle the Obama generation and get them to the polls in August when most of them will be on the beach soaking up some rays. Snyder wins with Obama voters…in a GOP primary? Wow, somebody pass the duct tape.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Let's Raise More Money
Are we truly our brothers and sisters keepers? The governor showed up to present her new budget including another $500 million in budget cuts, a doctor's tax, and a sales tax on services. She explained that her budget was revenue neutral which is just another way of saying, there are no general tax increases in there. While that is the politicially proper stance to take during an election year, believe it or not, there were some democrats who did not like the revenue neutral suggestion. "If I had my way, I'd raise $1.2 billion," opined Rep. George Cushingberry from Detroit who chairs the mighty important House Appropriations Committee. Having said that, he confesses he is not going to get his way because legislative Republicans want no part of anything that even smells like a tax hike. You've heard the GOP mantra, "This is not the time to increase taxes on folks who are struggling." Of course for the GOP it is never a good time to raise taxes on anyone but we digress. Well it turns out, there was another Detroit Democrat who wants to tax her very own constituents because it is the right thing to do, so claims Rep. Shanelle Jackson. With the governor thirty feet away and listening intently, Ms. Jackson lectured her governor that the "revenue neutral" idea was a bad idea. In fact she reported that her neighbors are telling her, "We are willing to give a little more if the folks next store can continue to eat, or save their home from foreclossure or get into a better job training program." "I want more revenue," she advised the governor who never responded to the plea. Betya when the governor meets privately with the Legislative Black Caucus, she'll get another earful on this more money demand. At least somebody is talking the talk and walking the walk about taking care of brothers and sisters who are in dire need. What's the old saying, "If not by the grace of God, go I?"
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Us vs. Them
The governor is getting crafty in her old age. Having just turned 51, she pulled a rabbit out of hat the other day when pitching the slightly controversial sales tax on services on everything from a hair cut to a Tiger's game (if you dare go.) She wants to slice the sales tax rate, now at 6%, and bumped it down a notch to 5.5% and then slap it on almost 150 services. In the first year, if lawmakers say yes and that is a huge IF at this read, it would net the state about $554 million. And here's the genius of her strategy: All of that money would go to school kids..every last penny. And just in case lawmakers don't want to feed the K-12 budget, the governor warns, without the tax, each school kid would get hit with a $255 loss in state aid. Hum? Fund the schools or cut the per pupi grant? In this reelection year, that should be a no brainer if you claim to support education. But in this election year it is also a tax increase. Oh my. What is a poor politician to do? To complicate matters even more, the governor wants to use the sales tax to eliminate the 22% business surcharge which every business owner has been belly-aching about since 2007. So there is another reason to support the service tax. Ah, but segments of the business community, while looking a gift-horse in the mouth, are all up in arms because the service tax could cut into the profits of those businesses. So you have business on one side going, let's not do this and the education lobby on the other side saying, let's do this and hence el governator has created a nifty little lobbying battle between the two groups with poor ole lawmakers caught in the crossfire. The early read sees the sales tax in deep do-do, but this is just the first inning and the maturing Ms. Granholm is not about to give up.
Monday, February 15, 2010
All in the Family
Bob Bowman's dream of being Michigan governor ran into an obstacle not even the whiz kid could over come. No it was not money, no it was not the carpetbagger charge and no it was not for lack of passion to run for the job. If former Gov. Jim Blanchard is correct, it came down to family. Bowman, who was Blanchard's right hand man for eight years, could not move quickly enough to relocate his wife and two young children back to Michigan to make the run. So Bowman surprised the political know-it-alls in this town by bowing out before he even got in. The Bowman-is-running needle bounced last week when the Connecticut resident filed exploratory papers with the state. But that was more for legal and technical reasons and not an indication that he was poised to run which was the conclusion the same know-it-alls reached last Thursday.
Bowman was spending money to think about running for governor and did not want to break the law, but even as he filed the papers, the reality of running and the impact on his family was taking hold thus trumping his personal desire to run.
Gov. Blanchard reports there was "overwhelming" support for Bowman which overwhelmed the would be candidate. "He was pleasantly surprised," Blanchard recounts, but when Bowman called his former boss over the weekend, Blanchard did not try to change his protégé's decision. "You have to have your family behind you," Blanchard correctly reports "and he had to get back to the state right away" before the Republicans defined him as the Wall Street, carpetbagger, who has not lived here for twenty years. "Getting the family relocated quickly became the big issue," Blanchard reveals. One daughter was still in high school and you know how tough it can be to leave all those friends behind. Relocating everyone is not a "switch you can flip quickly," Blanchard continues to explain while suggesting Bowman could have overcome the GOP broadsides. But in the end instead of jumping on a plane to Michigan, Bowman got on the big bird to Vancouver where he and the family will enjoy the Winter Olympics while Bowman and his pal Blanchard ponder what might have been.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Try A Little Tenderness
There's a long standing tradition in this town. Regardless of who the governor is, the opposition always trashes his or her budget before the ink is even dry on the darn thing. This governor, with fingers crossed and a cross over her heart as she often does, launches into her last budget cycle hoping to find a legislative utopia where both sides compromise. Based on the predictable opening reviews from the Republicans, utopia is but a dream. The Senate GOP leader trashed it. The GOP chair of apprpritions didn't like a veto threat the governor tossed into the mix and, well you get the picture i.e. the R's had nothing nice to say. Wouldn't it have been delightful if instead they would have said, "We congratulate the governor on constructing a difficult budget in these tough economic times and while we do not agree with everything in it, we pledge to work with her to find a common ground for the common good." The earth under the capitol dome would have moved had they uttered that but of course they did not. The governor's detractors tried to make an even bigger deal out of the statements from Granholm's supposed amigo in the Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon. He warned, in what looked like a breech with the governor, that reforms of government need too come before there is any talk of a sales tax on services. Come to find out that is exactly what the governor has said as she works toward her Grand Bargain. The republicans should applaud that strategy because it mirrors exactly what they want, but even if you turn up your hearing aid, you won't hear any clapping either. Grandstanding for political gain once again rules the day and trumps the citizen's desire, no make that, demand for bipartisan cooperation in Lansing. If there is none in this election year, the palpable anger out there were get even worse with the voters taking it out on all the incumbent lawmakers regardless of the letter, R or D, after their names.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Into the Lion's Den
The Michigan Education Association, which promotes itself as a bi-partisan group, is really known in town to have a decidedly democratic tilt. Which is why when two republicans showed up at an MEA event last week, some eyebrows were raised and some cue dos were in order. Remember, even though the MEA calls itself an association, the dirty little secret is it is actually…come closer so it can be whispered, it is really a labor union. Thus into the lion's den marched Paul Scott and Pete Hoekstra, GOP candidates for Secretary of State and governor respectively. Both worked the room of 250 or so teachers and later during a gettng-to-know-you Q and A, the joint got suddenly quiet with Genesee County state Rep. Scott concluded his remarks by adding,"I'm a republican." The surprise revealation sort of laid there for a moment and then everyone laughed. Hoesktra laid out his party affiliation early on but took the edge off it by proudly announcing that as a Republican he had voted against the "No Child Left Behind" law pushed by former GOP President "W". The crowd went nuts since the MEA is loathed to back anything with a "W" stamped on it. The forum in enemy terrority was perfect for Hoekstra who is pushing his maverick image of breaking with Bush along with his desire to be a bi-partisan governor if he is elected. Frankly his message ressonated. At one point he was blunt. Asked what he would do about changing Proposal A which revamped the way schools are funded, Hoekstra observed: If the MEA comes up with a plan for the ballot, it will fail. If the other side comes up with a plan, it will fail too. What we need to do is bring all sides together to draft a plan that can pass. Scott was also quite moderate in his words invoking his mother as his life long mentor and saying nothing that would leave the impression that he was off center. Hence he left out his stuff about being against trans-gender folks getting any help from the Secretary of State. Maybe he forgot to add that? At any rate, it was a gutsy move by both guys and they deserve a pat o the head for showing up.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Nerd Is The Word
Say what you will about the Rick Michigan campaign, either these guys are pasa-tootly geniuses or absolutely clueless on how to elect this guy governor. For the second time this election season the Snyder crew has broken the mold. It is doing just the opposite of what the political manual suggests. Last June they trotted out the Ann Arbor, tie-less business guy, who had no name recognition, and they introduced him with the sign Rick for Michigan. Only the preposition was so tiny that it looked like Rick Snyder's name was really Rick Michigan. The primer on building name identification with the voters suggests you use THE GUY'S RIGHT NAME. It was such an obvious miscue, as noted in this space, that it defied explanation. But turns out the Snyder crew made no mistake; they did it on purpose. (Maybe he will change his legal name to Rick Michigan later on in the campaign.)
That was last June and now the Snyder boys are at it again as they once more defy political logic, cast caution to the wind and go on the tube with an introductory commercial in which the candidate says, "It's time for a nerd" to be governor and Snyder is just the nerd to do it.
What were these guys smoking? And when challenged that perhaps having a nerdy governor was not high on the want list of Michigan voters, the campaign called it a condescending assertion. This is Michigan; a shot and a beer, sports loving, anti-elitist mass of men and women, very few of which aspire to be a nerd or have one as a friend, let alone governor. Pollster Bernie Porn, who knows a nerd when he sees one, suggests it's the wrong label to use on a guy whom nobody knows and may not want to know since he is, after all, not one of us. The campaign confidently explains this was an attempt at self-deprecation or did they mean self-desecration? But maybe these hot shots know something the rest of Michigan does not know. After all Snyder hails from Ann Arbor. Nuf said. By defying conventional wisdom, the candidate has set into motion one of the most historic campaigns in modern history. If Rick Michigan, the nerd, gets elected governor he can gloriously says, "Told ya so!" If he doesn't, however, he should ask for his money back from his supposed inner circle of politcial wise guys who sold him down the river.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The More the Merrier
The democratic field for goveror has skyrocketed to two. Yes two. Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith is in and now Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is, too. Oh, they're around, just not ready to announce just yet. The former State Treasurer under Gov. Jim Blanchard was in the state last week. Bob Bowman met with Wayne County Executive Bobby Ficano and who knows how many others. House Speaker Andy Dillon told Nolan Finaly that he would announce by the end of the month with a million smackers in his coffers. Then there is Dan Kildee out of Genesee County and Denise Ilitch who still ponder what to do. The good news for Dillon is, the more the merrier and ditto for Ms. Smith. Smith, the veteran legislator and former candidate for both governor and lt. governor, is the only female in the field. If she could, she would recruit about ten more guys to get in. That would increase her chances of using her female base to win the nomination while the men divided up the rest of the vote. Dillon also benefits from a larger field, too, if you buy the popular wisdom that a lot of organized labor will go for someone else. Do the math. If it's a two-person fight, and 50% of labor's vote goes to Dillon's opponent, Dillon loses. But if four or five candidates divide the labor vote, not one of them can get to 50%, and Dillon's 20% or 30% of the vote could result in his victory. On the GOP side where the field has been stable for months, it is West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra who wants everyone to stay put. As long as the two Mikes from southeast Michigan remain in the hunt, Hoekstra has a better stab at winning. But if either Mike Cox or Mike Boucahard somehow take a powder, than the person who remains, will get the bulk of the powerful southeast Michigan vote which makes it tougher for Hoekstra to use his west Michigan base to win. Back on the D side, look for the wanna-bees to fish or cut bait by the end of this month.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Denise. Where fore arth thou? Anybody seen the front runner in the democratice field for governor? Maybe you have heard of her but geez, nobody has seen Denise Ilitch. For a moment, it looked like Ms. Ilitch was going to come out of hiding and actually show up at a political event where nosey political correspondents would finally get a chance to toss her some questions. The Michigan Education Association staged a cattle call for all the Republican and Democrats to pitch their wares to a room full of very politically active teachers. The MEA announced earlier in the week that Ilitch was on the agenda and one of the local papers even printed same. When word reached this listening post, a quick phone call was made to TV2 in Detroit. "Hey guys we should cover this event in Detroit on Friday night. Denise Ilitch is going to be there." The assistant news director saw the worthiness in that and assigned a crew. Roll back the tape to Friday night last. It got to be 5:30 p.m. and other candidates were there fevorishly working the crowd but no Ilitch. 5:40. Reporter says to camera persons, "Anybody know what she looks like? She has long blond hair, and I've seen her picture, but maybe she slipped by." At this point the MEA guy walks up. "Somebody called this morning and said she was not coming," was the not so welcomed answer. So into the room the crew goes and there is an Ilitch advisor working with another candidate. "Where's Denise?" Jill Alper was asked. Alper explains that Ilitch never agreed to attend in the first place. Oh really. (Well then why did somebody call to cancel?) Alper explains that if and when Mrs. Ilitch becomes a candidate she will show up at gigs such as this. It's not a strange answer but yet it is. If you are exploring a bid for the highest office in the state and you are not sure you will run, wouldn't you want to get out in public and deal with the media just to see how it felt or to see if you could survive? Apparently that's way too logical for the supposed savvy businesswoman Ms. Ilitch who prefers to instead, hide in the weeds. Don't know about you, but if a politician doesn't want to take questions about running for governor, one might conclude, that a certain someone may not be ready for prime time.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Cat and Mouse Politics
There's a silly little game that politicians and political correspondents play from time to time. It's: I-know-something-that-I-know-you-know-but-I'm-still-not-going-to-tell-you-so-there. The latest persona to play is Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. He was was in Detroit Friday night attending a cattle call put on by the Michigan Education Association which invited all the potential candidates for governor to meet at the Marriott Hotel. With his elementary school principal spouse at his side, Bernero waded into the crowd pressing the flesh, smiling for the cameras and doing all the other stuff a candidate for governor would do. But when it came time to appear on camera to talk about his decision, Bernero, like others before him, suddenly lost his ability to tell it like it is. So you are announcing on Monday you are running for governor? "I'll have an announcement on Monday," he began his song and dance. Well if you were not running, why are you be here on a Friday night when you could be home? "I have not been compared to the other candidates and this is a chance to do that. Maybe I will bomb here?" he spoke as his nose began to grow ever so slightly. Your web sight says, "I'm running for governor." "You know how campaigns make mistakes," his nose grows even longer and on and on it went for about two minutes. Finally, he gives a little ground. "That's a fair statement," the Mayor reflects And on Monday you'll be 100% there? "I hope so," he observes. See how stilly this stuff is. It underscores how most politicians want to control their own agenda and understandably so, but come on, all he had to do was look in the camera and say, "Off the record, I'm am running for governor." On the record he will say it in Detroit, Grand Rapids and his home town on Monday.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I Love Ya Babe
This is just a guess, but betya the part most folks will recall about the governors's last State of the State will have very little to do with the policy stuff she laid out. What will stick is her ad lib comments about her family. It's not the first time a governor has gone there. Just before he left office former Gov. John Engler came close to tears as he recounted the challenges his family faced during his twelve year tenure in the chief executive's chair. Gov. Jennifer Granholm topped him as she allowed a rare peak into her inner most feelings about how being governor impacted her loved ones. "Jack, Ce Ce, Kate, Mom and Dad, and Dan's mom and Dan," she began in a deviation from her written script. The assembled house and senate members could relate as many of them face the same familial challenges. The governor did not recount the countless hours that her job took her away from the family and how her husband Dan picked up the slack and made it work. Even though she was tenacious about trying to be there for the girl's basketball games and Jack's lacrosse matches, there were times when they went on without her; when the call of duty superceded a mom's natural desire to be there with them. It must of hurt. She reflected about how she brought home each night all the burdens of a state that was in depression-like troubles. It hardly gave rise to the comment, "How did it go at the office today, honey?" Everyone around the dinner table knew. So for just a few moments she shared with the viewers and listeners. It underscores the tremendous personal commitment politicians at this level must make to do the job. The general public rarely dwells on that as it is more likely to asked, "What have you done for me lately?." And it rarely pauses to say, "Thank you." It was a touching moment and as she spoke directly to her husband and First Gentleman Dan, she gave more than a thank you. It was Granholm being Granholm as she ended with, "I love ya, babe." And everyone rose in a thunderous standing O. It was a moment to remember and ponder long after the policy battle is over.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Lions, Tigers,and Bears
Michael Steele celebrated his first anniversary as national Republican Party chair by rattling off his version of a "Lions, Tigers, and Bears" alert to the party faithful. Only his was a "Obama, Pelosi and Reid. Oh My!" warning. And a dandy it was. Apparently Mr. Steele has research suggesting that republicans who read his letters have either short attention spans or a mild case of Alzheimer because in his 35 paragraph missive, he mentions the bad guys, Obama, Pelosi and Reid not once, not twice, not three, but four times. "If you don't like what Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are doing, please help us stop them by completing your Public Policy Survey and returning it to RNC headquaters immediately," he writes in paragraph 22. Give him credit for using the public survey hook a.k.a ruse to stroke the unsuspecting recipient into believing he or she will actually have an impact on GOP strategy. (Please note that democrats have used the same kind of scare tactics. Think Newt Gingrich and social security.) "As one of the indentified opinion leaders in (name of town), your survey has been registered in your name and assigned a number. With our limited resources (thinly disguised plea for money) we could only afford to contact citizens who have demonstrated a high level of political involvement to the Republican Party," he reveals in paragraph 7. The letter is spiced up with lots of anti-Obama buzz worlds to rise the ire of disgruntled republicans. To wit: "left-leaning agenda;" "radical, far-reaching schemes;" "Big Brother agenda;" Radical socialist agenda" and on and on. Once you have weeded through all this boiler plate stuff that you've heard thousands of times from the ultra conservative cable talking heads, Steele finally gets to the real reason for the survey. "We must mail 10 million surveys in the next three months," he breathlessly laments and that is why "I need you to join our fight by returning your answers….with a generous contribution…." One wonders what will happen if those surveys are not sent out? Oh my! Do we dare contemplate that?
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Reforms or Window Dressing
Be careful about first impressions. When the guys at Business Leaders for Michigan (BLFM) first hatched the concept of a two year budget for state government, the first blush response was, what a lame-brained idea in that it looked like a "reform" on paper only. After all, when lawmakers write a one year budget it is obsolete before the ink is even dry on the darn thing. Hence writing one for two years means it would be outdated too and therefore an exercise in stupid government. So it was dismissed as a misleading gimmick masquerading as a reform to appease the citizenry which is fed up with state government to begin with. "Let me try to change your mind," the state government source on the other end of the line requested. "Sure, give it a shot," came the response. By writing a two-year budget, it gives whomever the governor is, an easier shot at balancing the books without the drama of a possible budget stalemate and shutdown each and every year. Shucks. Anything that averts a government closing is good news in that when it was shutdown in 2007, it produced all sorts of negative headlines around the nation providing one more reason for any family or business not to move here. Here's how it works. Lawmakers and the governor pass the budget and if economic conditions change, which they always do, the governor does not go back to the full legislature to make adjustments; she or he goes to the house and senate budget committees instead. It is infinitely easier to pass an executive order which reduces state spending when you need only the votes of two committees and not 56 votes in the house and 20 more in the senate. Ergo, this really is a reform with some substance and it is teed up to be adopted by this legislature soon. One reform down and a ton more to go and so much for first impressions which can be wrong. This one will actually work.