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In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Price to Pay

Rep. Tim Melton is the John McCain of Michigan politics. Melton is a
true maverick and is paying the price.
The Pontiac Democrat until recently was the chair of the House
Education Committee. Traditionally the chair was simpatico to the
teacher labor movement and in some cases they were chair because of
The Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Federation of
Teachers are fond of saying, "We take care of our own."
Melton did not fit the mold…not by a long shot and they took care of
him in another manner.
As a close confidant of the former Democratic Speaker Rep. Andy
Dillon, Melton signed up for the Dillon state run health insurance pool
concept that produced a nasty labor vs. Dillon dust up and when the
dust settled labor won, and Dillon did not.
Melton took some hits too and when they counted votes last November,
the GOP took control of the house. Melton survived but he was no
longer chair of education.
In fact, he woke up one morning and discovered he was no longer on
the committee.
Que pasa?
He privately believes the MEA did everything it could to bounce him
from the panel.
"There is a price to pay," he reflects. "I was a reformer (and)
some of the traditional friends of education did not like that."
But he is not giving up. Melton wants to revamp the teacher tenure
law, continue to change the teacher health care system, and is still a
big fan of Race to the Top/Obama driven reforms.
But he's off the committee that deals with that.
Undaunted he pledges to push on. "I'll be front and center" and
this time he may have the new GOP governor in his corner.
Wonder what those "traditional friends of education" think about

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ivory Tower Vs. R's

Well this should be fun to watch.
In this corner all the university presidents.
And in that corner, conservative Republicans who want university
worker bees to kick in more money for their bennies.
Problem is the ivory tower crowd wants no part of this and according
to state law, they can tell the lawmakers to take a hike.
And lawmakers won't.
Sen. Mark Jansen (R-West Michigan) is leading the charge to force a
25% co-pay on university hires for their health care coverage.
He acknowledges the recalcitrance on the other side.
"They don't like to be told what to do," he correctly observes.
Dr. Mike Boulus, who gets paid to lobby for the university leaders,
tells the senator, the schools have already given at the office and in
fact, he contends, those employees are already $3,000 below their
counterparts in the rest of state government.
So lawmakers should keep their hands off?
"I think that would be wise," he asserts.
Hence the stage is set for this issue to go before the voters.
Jansen and company need a constitutional amendment on the ballot for
voters to approve and then lawmakers can lower the boom on the state's
15 universities.
But to do that, Jansen needs a two-thirds vote in the house and
senate and you can take this to the bank, the university presidents
will go to the lawmakers who have a school in their district and apply
the heat.
Instead of playing the lottery, bet on the schools winning this one.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Self-Help For Cities

Depending on who is keeping score, scores of cities could
soon be in deeper financial trouble than they are right now. The main
source of local income for cops, firefighters and other services is
linked to property taxes which is linked to the value of houses and as
that plummets, so do the local dollars.
When the state government was flush…let's see, when was
that? Anyway when the state could afford to fully fund aid to the
cities, the talk of bankruptcies was not on the radar screen.
Now that screen looks like the one in the control tower at
O'Hare Airport. Upwards of 40 cities are on a financial watch which
means the state is watching and preparing for the worse.
Enter stage right, the Michigan Municipal League which
represents all those cities, rich and poor, on the watch list and not.
It has come to the harsh realization that state lawmakers
are in no mood to help because they don't have the moola. The MML has
a silver bullet: Give us the power to impose a regional tax and we'll
stop crawling to the capitol begging for bread. Call it self-help.
The regional concept could mean the collection of a sales
tax, gas tax or any other levies with the money staying where it was
Dan Gilmartin, CEO of the League, is confident local voters
would be amenable to this notion given the approval of most of the
local mileages last August.
The new governor has asked for solutions since he is not,
as he told an audience the other, "an ATM machine."
Hence he is likely to give this idea a top to bottom
review. But even if he signs off, can you imagine how long it would
take for local counties, cities, and township to get their regional act
But then if some of them are headed into the tank, it might
speed up the process.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fly-Boy Pushes PTL

Rep. David Agema is about as conservative as it gets around these
parts. If any issue has even the faint aroma of being to the left,
he's against it. So it comes as no shock that the West Michigan
"fly-boy", as he is known, was out front on efforts to install a
part-time legislature in Lansing.
Just as Spring follows Winter, and we hope it will soon, the PTL
issue always surfaces because it is so darn popular with the voters.
But they have never had a chance to weight in and probably never will.
But Mr. Agema is not tossing in the towel. However here is the
reality check.
He needs two-thirds of his colleagues to say yes which almost never
happens. But let's assume that by some miracle, that happens. The next
step before it becomes law is for the voters to endorse it at the polls.
Repeatedly the statewide surveys have suggested this would pass and
this one might...except for one teeny-tiny twist in this amendment.
Buried in all the stuff about the PTL is an extension of term
Oh. Oh. Houston we got a problem.
You see the ultra-conservative Mr. Agema has concluded, what many
liberals discovered years ago: Spending six years in the house and
eight years in the senate is not enough time to become a competent
Michigan has the most restrictive term limit law in the land and
all of the "players" in town believe it should be changed and to have
Rep. Agema reach the same conclusion is a stunner.
The polls also suggest that the typical citizen is still in love
with kicking folks out of Lansing just when they figure it out. It is
counter-intuitive to dilute experience but don't confuse the electorate
with the facts, their minds are made up.
Inserting this change into the PTL plan is a poison pill that many
lawmakers won't swallow and even if they do, the folks at home won't.
Nice try Mr. Agema. (BTW, the "fly-boy" nickname comes from the
fact that the first commercial airliner to fly after 9-11 was piloted
by Captain Agema. He volunteered for the gig.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Listen To My Words

The most popular parlor game this winter in this town is
simple: Who is the real Rick Snyder?
All of the players from old and new legislators to all the
hired-guns a.k.a. lobbyists, are comparing notes. This persons thinks
he knows this, the other guy knows that and pretty soon, they have an
educated mosaic on who they think he is.
Actually getting a fix on that is rather elementary. Just
listen to his words.
A good example was a couple of weeks ago as he introduced his
new welfare director whose top priority was to clean up the children's
foster care system.
The media never reported that deep behind the scenes, former
Gov. John Engler was leaning on the new governor to change his mind.
Mr. Snyder wanted to appoint a sitting State Supreme Court
justice to the post but Engler made it clear he opposed it. His
judgment was based on the politics of the appointment itself.
If Maura Corrigan left the high court, whomever replaced her
would have to run for the office in two years. Corrigan didn't have to
do that thus saving the seat for the Republicans and saving them a boat
load of money to elect someone else if she stepped down. It was pure
Engler being his political best.
Governor Snyder felt the heat and deflected it and that's where
the revealing statement came into view.
Asked about his decision to stick with Corrigan, he gave a peak
at who he really is: We have selected children over politics.
Need he say anymore?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Snyder-Speak

       Given a chance to wade into the shark-infested waters surrounding control of the Detroit Water Board, Gov. Rick Snyder stayed on the shoreline and looked in-land instead.
       That was not exactly music to the ears of two Detroit City Council guys. They had earlier predicted that the new governor was on their side in the unfolding struggle between the burbs and the city over which will run the water operation.
      The Detroit Council President Pro-Tem, Gary Brown, went so far as to suggest the govenror would veto any legislation that drained the City of Detroit of it's water power.
      Not even close.
      Cornered at the auto show by WWJ NewsRadio 950, the governor was asked for his stance.
      Cue the Snyder-speak.
      "Again, that's where we need to sit down and talk about best long term solutions," he began his evasion of the pointed inquiry, adding "they've had some challenges in the water system and I believe they will work through them in a constructive way.
     That does not do the dispute justice.
     But give this new guv credit, just as he did during the campaign, if he doesn't want to talk about something, he won't.
     The reporter asked if he supported Detroit?
     "Again, we're going to let the region talk through that first.  I'm focused on the state issues and our economy," which was merely his way of saying, There's no way you can drag me into this mess.
     Who says he's not a savvy politician?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

California Here I Come

   It was a curious response.  A reporter had just finished doing the Dan Mulhern radio program and it seemed as good as time as any to inquire:  Are you guys moving out of state?
   Mulhern paused for a moment and obliquetly offered, "I don't know."
   Now we know.
   Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm broke the news on and news it was.  She was fixin to write a book with her hubby, he and she were going to lecture at the University of California at Berkeley, she had inked a deal to be a paid consultant with "Meet the Press" and the dynamic duo had signed on with a reputable booking agency to get her lots of very expensive public speaking gigs.
    Chances are that will up to a tidy pay check that will far surpass the  $159,300 she dragged down as CEO of the Wolverine State.
    Adios Michigan and California Here I Come.
    In an email from the former First Gentleman, he lamented that they would be gone for two years but he and she also needed to be near her parents.  Her dad has some health issues.
    "We feel trepidation and sadness at leaving Michigan for a while," he wrote members of the Granholm constituency, "especially as the state struggles to get its own roots into more nutritious soil."
     And there in lies the rub.
     There will be some who observe, "She put Michigan in the tank and at the first offer, she bailed out."
     In an attempt to take some of the edge off of any push back, Mr. Mulhern reveals the family is on a "serious prowl" to find a lake home in Michigan near an airport.
     The ex-governor is really no different than those who came before her.  Jim Blanchard got a nifty, highly-paid job in D.C. and ditto for John Engler.  They both have abodes back here and she now joins the club.
     Hubby Dan concludes his missive with hopes that "you'll keep us close to the place and people we love so well."
     That'll go over like a lead balloon with the anti-Jen cabol.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Snyder Being Non-Partisan

       One GOP insider reports "a lot of conservative republicans were disappointed" with the governor's State of the State message.  Of course, none of them are willing to go public with that observation as it would ruin the "honeymoon" that Gov. Rick Snyder enjoys.
       This source confides it was very noticeable that the new governor embraced the number one issue for House Democrats, the second span between Detroit and Windsor, but he completely ignored the items on the House GOP docet namely welfare reform and Right to Work.
      The omission, while silent, was deafening to right-wing conservative ears.
      To make matters worse, the state Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer admitted he like 80% of what he heard from the new moderate GOP governor.
     "Maybe Mark Brewer is drinking the Republican Kool-aid?" suggested conservative Oakland County Senator Mike Kowall as he struggled for some rationale to explain the governor's decidedly bi-partisan speech.
     Kowall had to conceded, however, that perhaps the new guy in town was drinking the Democratic kool-aide?  The senator admits the jury is still out.
     Candidate Snyder warned everyone that if he was elected his mission would not be about R's and D's and he proved it the other night as he was all over the lot endorsing this Republican suggestion and that Democratic suggestion.
     And you gotta figure the general public loved it.  It is tired of all the clashing of political agendas and the governor noted, "We will not continue the fighting that resulted in rhetoric and paralysis."  Out of respect to the former governor and former leaders, he did not name names.  He didn't have to.
     If the new governor proved one thing, he will not be partisan just to be partisan.  As one education lobbyist nailed it the other day, "He is driven by data and not ideology."
     That groan you heard was from ultra conservative GOP-types who are not sure what that means for their social agenda which Mr. Snyder ignored during the campaign and wants no part of now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Frank's Flip=Flop

       Why all the fuss about item pricing?
        The new governor has reopened a can of worms that has been on the shelf, if you'll pardon the pun, since 1970.  The grocery folks never liked it it in the first place when then Attorney General Frank Kelley pushed the law.  It forced them to put a price on each and every item in the store.
        Labor unions were overjoyed because somebody had to do the work.
        And just as winter turns to spring, the A.G. would show up each year with the results of his market basket survey where he told the media that so and so stores were cheating consumers because they refused to follow the law.
       Ole Frank loved it.  Let's just say the local supermarket folks did not when they were caught red handed.
       So for years, the Chamber of Commerce and friends tried to undo what Mr. Kelley had done to no avail.
       Until now.
        Gov. Rick Snyder tossed some red meat to his friends in the business company when he pledged to repeal the item pricing law at a savings, he claims, of some $2 billion.
         One local newspaper reported the story and got thousands of hits on the Internet in opposition to the move.
         David Holtz, whose Progress Michigan liberal leaning group is fighting Mr. Snyder, points to a Consumer's Report suggesting 6% of all sales are rung up with the incorrect price.  In other words, consumers who are scrapping to put bread on the table may have to shell out extra bread to get it.
        But this battle is all but lost.  With 63 GOP votes in the House and 26 in the senate, if the governor can't push this through, he should pack it up and head back to Ann Arbor permanently.
        Holtz concedes, "the math is definitely in favor of passage."
        And to add insult to injury, even Mr. Kelley, turned lobbyist, has flip-flopped and Mr. Consumer advocate is now with his former enemies. He argues technology protects the buyers from mistakes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bring Me Your Huddled Masses

      There must have been some ultra-conservative Republicans wondering the other night, why in the heck is my governor talking about immigration?
     Rep. Dave Agema from West Michigan was one of them.
      But there was Rick Snyder telling the whole state that we need to "encourage immigrants with advanced college degrees to come to Michigan to work and live."
      Note that he was not embracing immigrants who are here illegally or working at Michigan firms because they want to save some money, but it was still the immigration issue that must have made some R's a bit uncomfortable.
       This was Gov. Snyder being the wise business guy and not necessarily the smart politician.  A crafty career politician would have left the issue alone for fear that somebody  might not understand what he was talking about.  Just ask former President Gerorge Bush about the immigration issue and the kind of hot water he got into with his own party when he tried to resolve it.
       Mr. Snyder should not have the same problems because he has laid out a rationale that he says makes sense.
       First, inviting college educated "foreign nationals" is not exactly like opening the border to illegal's to work in our farm fields.  He notes that in the Silicon Valley about "one-half of all the startups" there began with U.S. transplant citizens.
       And he can do the math:  Bring in smart folks who create jobs and the state ends up making more money and the economy comes back which is why he urged all lawmakers, of all political stripes, to "openly encourage innovators and entrepreneurs to come to our state…even if they weren't born here.
       Rep. Agema perked up when his governor first raised the issue but then relaxed when he got the explanation.  But how many ultra right wingers in TV land did not listen and incorrectly concluded their guy was for illegal's?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Together Again

     Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder are not exactly drinking buddies.
      But it's not far-fetched to envision these two, sharing the podium to promote an issue that is near and dear to both of them:  Regional cooperation.
     Oh yeah.  Here will go again with another so-called push to force cities, townships and counties to give up some of their turf all in the name of saying your tax dollars.
     Let's see.  How many previous governors have tried this and pretty much failed?
     Well here comes the new gov which an old idea.  Gov. Snyder figures if you promise more state aid for local governments in return for consolidation, everything will be peachy.
      Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm tired that.  She even hired a former mayor who had legislative experience, plopped him in the state treasury department to facilitate the changes and?  She left office with the locals making some progress but apparently not enough.
      Bernero's got it right when he says, "There's a lot of fiefdoms and a lot of parochialism" which is government speak for local governments will give up their authority when you know what freezes over.
      "We need a carrot and a stick," the defeated Democrat for governor advises the guy who beat him.  "I'm hopeful his administration will find a way" to get this done, he hopes.
       Bernero knows that entrenched bureaucracies are loathed to give any ground because "There's a political price to pay for merger."
      The trick for the new governor and his new "friend" Mr. Bernero is to make the locals an offer they can't refuse.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Schizophrenic SOS

   Will the real Rick Snyder, please stand up.
    You certainly couldn't figure out who the real governor is based on his first State of the State because he appeared to be a little bit of everything to everybody.  But then, that's who he really is.
    There was the anti-government Rick Snyder bringing Republicans to their feet by saying government needs to get off the backs of business with all its over regulations.
     But there was the pro-government Rick Snyder embracing a public sector bridge between Detroit and Windsor at the expense of a very private sector business rich guy who runs the Ambassador Bridge.
     There was also the Rick Snyder who thought government should not be picking winners and losers in the market place but on the other hand, there he was embracing a re-do of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation which goes about picking winners and losers almost everyday of the week.
     Welcome to the Snyder administration.
      If you were looking for an ideologue conservative GOP governor lashing out at big government, this was not your guy.  At times with his upbeat border line cheer leading rhetoric and a soft whisper to underscore one of his major points, he even sounded a little like the former Democratic governor.  What was her name?
     Like the previous governor Mr. Snyder did not dwell a lot on how bad it really is out there.  He never mentioned the $1.8 billion budget deficit although he did say we have $54 billion in pension liabilities.
     Heck, he didn't even use the line  he used in his Inaugural Address, "We need some short term pain for long term gain."
     Not even a hint of that.
     So what gives?
     Maybe this is the kind of governor he will be as he weights each issue on its own merits and not through a right-wing prism.
     He doesn't like labels and it was impossible to pin just one of  on him in this rather schizo SOS.
     The one description he does answer to is being a practical and pretty sharp business guy which means his decisions will be data driven and not politically based.
     Voters wanted a non-career politician who could run the state like a business and now they have one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gov's First Lose-Lose

             If will soon be put-up or shut-up time for the new governor who will eventually have to weight-in on the water battle brewing between the suburbs and the City of Detroit.
             And two Detroit city council persons have just made the Day of Recogning a little more foreboding.  They have painted the governor into a box.  Governor's generally don't like that.
            But there was council President Pro-tem Garry Brown predicting that the governor would veto any legislation that gave the suburbs control of the Detroit Water Board.
            Council President Charles Pugh did not go quite that far but close enough: "We have full faith in Gov. Snyder that he believes in Detroit and that he is going to support us on this issue." 
             It was noted that the governor has not said that, but Pugh adds, "This is a big test (on whether he backs the city or not) but we think he's going to pass."
             Oh my. That will play well with those suburban legislators who feel agreived by the Detroit Water Board.  Now they will go to the governor and ask him to pick up sides.  Are you with us or against us?
             It's a simple question but filled with all sorts of political landmines for the governor who is not use to those kind of no-win choices.
So here is a governor who is all about working together in a positive way but faces a tough choice that will certainly result in less cooperation with one side or the other.
            Going with Detroit makes him a "trader" with some Republicans.  But siding with the suburbs makes him a "hypocrite" with some Detroit officials.
           Can you say lose-lose?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hello This Message Is Respectfully Yours!

Hello This Message Is Respectfully Yours!

I am writing this mail to you with tears and sorrow from my heart. With due respect , trust and humanity, i appeal to you to exercise a little patient and read through my letter, I wish to contact you personally for a long term business relationship and investment assistance in your Country so i feel quite safe dealing with you in this important business having gone through your remarkable profile, honestly' i got your profile in google data base when i was searching for a reliable person who could stand as my Trustee, i will really like to have a good relationship with you and i have a special reason why i decided to contact you, i decided to contact you due to the urgency of my situation, Makena Kipkalya is my name, a girl of 23yrs of age, single and I held from Kenya in East Africa. My father was the former Kenyan road Minister. He and Assistant Minister of Home Affairs Lorna Laboso had been on board the Cessna 210, which was headed to Kericho and crashed in a remote area called Kajong'a, in western Kenya. The plane crashed on the Tuesday 10th, June,2008.

You can read more about the crash through the below site:

After the burial of my father, my stepmother and uncle conspired and sold my father's property to an Italian Expertrate which the shared the money among themselves and live nothing for me.I am constrained to contact you because of the abuse I am receiving from my wicked stepmother and uncle. they planned to take away all my late father's treasury and properties from me since the unexpected death of my beloved Father. Meanwhile i wanted to escape to the USA but they hides away my international passport and other valuable travelling documents.Luckly hey did not discover where i kept my fathers File which contains important documents. So I decided to run to the refugee camp where i am presently seeking asylum under the United Nations High Commission for the Refugee here in Ouagadougou , Republic of Burkina Faso.

One faithful morning, I opened my father's briefcase and found out the documents which he has deposited huge amount of money in bank in Burkina Faso with my name as the next of kin. I travelled to Burkina Faso to withdraw the money for a better life so that I can take care of myself and start a new life, on my arrival, the Bank Director whom I met in person told me that my father's instruction/will to the bank is that the money would only be release to me when I am married or present a trustee who will help me and invest the money overseas. I am in search of an honest and reliable person who will help me and stand as my trustee so that I will present him to the Bank for transfer of the money to his bank account overseas. I have chosen to contact you after my prayers and I believe that you will not betray my trust. But rather take me as your own sister.

Although, you may wonder why I am so soon revealing myself to you without knowing you, well I will say that my mind convinced me that you may be the true person to help me. Moreso, My father of blessed memory deposited the sum of (US$5.800,000) Dollars in Bank with my name as the next of kin. However, I shall forward you with the necessary documents on confirmation of your acceptance to assist me for the transfer and statement of the fund in your country. As you will help me in an investment, and i will like to complete my studies, as i was in my 1year in the university when my belove father died. It is my intention to compensate you with 30% of the total money for your services and the balance shall be my capital in your establishment. As soon as I receive your positive response showing your interest I will put things into action immediately. In the light of the above.I shall appreciate an urgent message indicating your ability and willingness to handle this transaction sincerely.

Awaiting your urgent and positive respond. Please do keep this only to your self for now untill the bank will transfer the fund. I beg you not to disclose it till i come over because I am afraid of my wicked stepmother who has threatened to kill me and have the money alone ,I thank God Today that am out from my country (KENYA) but now In (Burkina Faso) where my father deposited these money with my name as the next of Kin.I have the documents for the claims.

Yours Sincerely
Makena Kipkalya


Details, Details, Details

       Walking out the door, the former GOP senate leader confided that former Gov. Jennifer Granholm never treated the legislature as a co-equal.  Now she would disagree with her "buddy" Mike Bishop but it's an important lesson to learn.
        And if Gov. Rick Snyder has not received the message, he got a dose of it from his own House GOP caucus.
        Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) was very careful to say this was not a disagreement, but it sure had that feel.
        Gov. Snyder has set the clock for 180 days and by July first he wants his co-equals to finish a budget and revamp the state's business tax.
        Mr. Bolger revealed that the business tax stuff may take a might longer; there would be no rush to judgment on this puppy. 
        To make matters more interesting, there is also some grumbling, even though no Republican would dare use that term. They are not ready to move in lock-step on the Governors's must touted 6% flat-tax. He wants that to replace the widely unpopular Michigan Business Tax.
        It's not that R's oppose it; they don't have the details to support it and won't until they do.
        That plays directly into the mounting criticism from Democrats that so far, the new governor has been really long on the rhetoric and painfully short on the specifics.
        "How 'bout some details," observed the House Democratic leader Rick Hammel the other day when asked what he wanted to see from the governor.
         House Republicans were saying the exact same thing.
         "I want to see the details," Rep. Jud Gilbert checks in on the flat rate tax "before I critique it."
         "Six percent on what?" asked small business man and Rep. Bill Rogers of Brighton.
         Even Speaker Bolger tip-toed around it: "We want to vet it" which is code for "We don't have the foggiest notion what's in this thing so don't ask us to embrace it."
         All of them are spot on.
         It is now time to end all the "stop looking in the rear-view mirror" stuff and get on with the details.
         The Snyder administration's lobbyist Dick Posthumus says hold your horses.  The "meat" is coming in the State of the State set for Wednesday.
         Pass the fork.

Monday, January 17, 2011

So Much for Loyalty

   If governors had their way they would mandate that members of their own party do everything the governors want them to do.
   Not around here.
   Loyalty to your governor is one thing, but pushing your own agenda to appeal to the voters back home is quite another and in this case, House Republicans are wandering afar from where Gov. Rick Snyder wants them to go.
   During the campaign, candidate Snyder was asked about flipping Michigan into a Right to Work state which organized labor loathes.
   Die-hard Republicans figure if you can dilute the influence of the labor bosses, more jobs will be created.  Mr. Snyder however refuses to sign up observing that a battle over RTW would divide the state just when he is feverishly working to bring everyone together.
   So what did House Republicans do on the first day in office?
   You guessed it.  They stiffed the governor, introduced a modified form of Right to Work, referred it to a favorable committee, and dollars to donuts, unless the new governor leans on them, it will find its way to the floor for a vote and a contentious debate will follow.
    As if that slap in the face was not bad enough, the very same House R's want to open another can of worms that will send Democrats into an attack mode.  They want some "welfare reform" which the D's argue will hurt families that are already hurting.
    Again candidate Snyder did not run on any social/wedge issues such as abortion, gay rights, or welfare.  He'd rather watch a Jennifer Granholm State of the State than push those to the top of his agenda.
    There again, House Republicans began the new year with a plan to end welfare benefits after four years with no exceptions.  Period.
    They could have waited for the middle of the year to suggest this to preserve what's left of any bi-partisan cooperation, but no, they decided to lead with it and predictably the Democrats are on the defensive.
    And finally, the last thing the new governor wants is a war between the suburban lawmakers and Detroit legislators.  But Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) apparently could care less.  He's got a bill to give the suburbs control of the Detroit Water Board and this will get very ugly.
    So much for loyalty.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pampered Senators

     Where you sit is important.  If the maitre d' plops you next to the kitchen entrance, the waiter gets a lousy tip.
      For years the GOP senators have had seats IN the kitchen when they showed up for Democratic Gov. Jenniefer Granholm's State of the State.
       When Democrats called the shots the senators were relegated to sitting off to the side, almost out of view and to make matters worse their view of the podium was, as they use to say at Tiger Stadium, obstructed.
       It was rough treatment for the pampered senators.
       Well Granholm is out and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder is in and the GOP senators flexed their muscles and have muscled into  new seats in the front of the Michigan House.
       You must be thinking, don't these guys have more important stuff to fret about?
        Come on gang these are politicians; this is Lansing and this is the kind of back room drama they don't want you to know about…for obvious reasons.
       Heretofore there was one row of prime seats very close to the rostrum where the governor delivers his or her message to the assembled lawmakers and statewide Public TV audience. These were reserved for First Family and relatives and that will be the case again this year, but they will have company.
       Because of all the grumbling, a second row has been added behind those seats and that's where the senators will end up…in front of all the house members, in clear view of the TV cameras, and with a clear line of sight to the governor before them.  Pass the popcorn.
       However this poises a serious challenge to the governor who must walk sideways past the two rows to get to the podium.  Good thing he doesn't weight 300 pounds. But what if pulls a Gerry Ford and stumbles or even falls?
       He can blame the egos of the GOP senators who will have a nifty view of the prat fall.  Which also means they'll be back IN the kitchen next year.  (See if that happens on your local public tv station wednesday night at 7 p.m.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Wow Revisited

It was one of the funnier moments during the Snyder transition march.
Gov. Rick Snyder introduced his new Michigan State Police director and
then he had to rescue HER when she declined to answer a pointed
question: What's your position on capitol punishment?
As reported in this space two weeks ago, Col. Kriste Etue was the
proverbial deer in the head lights and she knew it. All she could come
up with was: "Wow." That's when the governor took the microphone and
changed the subject as she faded into the wood work.
Well in this biz, at first you don't succeed, you make another call
and the new MSP director graciously returned the call and had an answer
this time: She is neutral on the death penalty.
To quote her, "Wow!"
This is not exactly a new topic and every cop worth his or her salt
at some time or the other must have thought about this, but that was
her story and she was sticking to it.
"I don't have a personal opinion," she expanded on her first
answer. "This is not on my radar," she goes on.
She does admit however that if lawmakers ever revisit the explosive
issue, she could develop a department position but for now, forget it,
she is not taking a stance.
So why didn't she just say that the first time out?
Well turns out in her pre-news conference skull session, where her
handlers try to anticipate every question under the sun, they missed
that one.
Maybe she would favor life behind bars for them?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


A cub reporter some 40 years ago was covering former Gov. Bill
Milliken. He was famous for giving what sounded like insightful
answers to some tough questions, but when you really sat down and
analyzed what he had said, it was cotton candy: tasted good but there
wasn't much to it.
Enter current Gov. Rick Snyder who, despite his short time in the
game, has a long history of being long on the rhetoric and really short
on specifics.
This was painfully apparent the other day when he made a courtesy
call on the State Board of Education which sometimes suffers from the
same malady.
In the space of about five minutes, the audience heard stuff like
this: "I want to see how we can move forward in a positive and
constructive way."
Nothing new there. He's been moving forward in a positive way since
he got in the contest.
Then a few minutes later while on another subject he offered, "Let's
move forward and start looking toward the future." This was just a
theme and variation on his other goodie, "Let's stop looking in the
rear-view mirrow."
But he was still not done.
"I'm really looking forward to learning from you," he stroked the
board, "and have a constructive dialogue (he really likes that word) on
what we think is the best way to move forward together."
And in case anyone was asleep, he even came up with a new twist on
the same old stuff, we need to be "moving forward in a positive way and
taking action. I call it relentless positive action," which from now
will be known as RPA.
Finally as he left the session a silly reporter wanted to know his
position on raising new revenue for the schools.
"We need to have a good dialogue and have a long term path for our
kids," he danced around the question. Meanwhile the education community
wonders what is the path and what are we dialoguing about other than
wanting to dialogue about it?
Good questions.
Minus any substantive answers one is relegated to just move
forward together and do it in a positive and constructive way,,.call it

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

If You Seek, Etc.

With apologies to the authors of the state motto: If you seek a
bunch of governments, look around you.
As the brand new legislature rolls into town this week, one of the
items on the agenda is the proliferation of governmental units in this
Senate GOP leader Randy Richardville rattled off the list recently
and it included the obvious ones such as state, city and county
governments but goes well beyond that. There are thousands of
townships, villages, over 500 school districts, a bunch of Intermediate
School Districts, county road commissions, and who knows what else.
Which means lawmakers will continue to beat the "consolidation"
drum even though previous legislatures and governors have done that,
with some success but apparently not enough.
"We have 40 police chiefs in Wayne County," Richardville reports
and then appropriately asks, do we need that many?
Well if your local berg has some cops, the last thing you want is
give them up and let the department next store patrol your streets.
Put another way if lawmakers wade deeper into this abundance of
governmental units, there will be local push back not only from
citizens but from the employees who work in those agencies.
Several years ago there was a half-hearted effort to reduce and or
eliminate Michigan townships and the township association went bonkers.
Years ago, then Gov. John Engler tried to slash state aid to the
cities and the Michigan Municipal League brought in the heavy
artillery, staged a massive rally on the capitol steps and the Engler
effort resulted in a rare override of his veto of those funds.
But Richardville opines now we are facing the prospect of forty or
more cities going into the red which should add more fuel to the fires
to downsize governments.
Once that battle is engaged, it will not be pleasant to look
around you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Virg: Was I Ever in It?

Virg Bernero is a lot of things: angry, unflappable, but certainly
never at a loss for words.
Until that one question: Were you ever in the race for governor?
Sure it was an off the wall question but grounded in fact
After all the Democratic candidate for governor never closed the gap
between himself and the eventual and almost pre-ordained winner Rick
Bernero started twenty points behind and finished about twenty
points behind.
Were you ever in the race for governor?
He was out spent five to one, didn't have the cash to respond when
those fish bowl ads flooded the airwaves, and he never laid a glove on
his opponent which forced the challenger to shadow box Snyder from the
opening bell.
So, were yuou ever in the race for governor?
"Ah, I don't know that, in the sense that did I really have a
chance when you look at the numbers? I don't know," but then he
finally concludes, "To me I was."
Right. Even when the facts are smacking you right in the mug,
most candidates look around the facts and somehow convince themselves
that they are in the hunt and still have a chance, even though the
candidate may be a minority of one.
In Bernero's case, he was in the minority of four. His wife and
kids were always there.
In fact that's the thing that touched him the most.
"At times when I was exhausted and didn't want to get out of bed,
my wife kicked me out of bed and just stuck with me," he reveals. And
likewise with his two daughters who stood by him to the bitter end.
It was a long haul that started when the four of them put up the
Christmas tree just after Thanksgiving a year ago. Bernero says
everyone had to be in, otherwise it would not work.
Well, it never really worked, but Bernero is still engaged,
hasn't lost his edge and may even take another shot at it to see if he
could be in it next time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Here Comes the Judge

It was a Snyder decision that produced tongue wagging and head
scratching. What the heck was Gov. Rick Snyder doing appointing a
state Supreme Court Justice to run the state welfare department?
On the surface it seems like a mis-fit.
It's actually a good fit.
Soon to be ex-Justice Maura Corrigan has been a long time advocate
for little kids in the foster care system; it's a passion that dates to
her years on the state appellate courts and carried over when she put
on the black robe at the state's highest court.
Her appointment to head the complicated and embattled Human
Services Department was made in part to keep a federal judge from
declaring the state in contempt of court.
A child advocacy group in a law suit convinced that judge that the
welfare department was negligent in its handling of those child welfare
cases. Problem is too many kids and not enough workers bees to protect
them. (Try a caseload of one to several hundred.)
Before he took office Mr. Snyder assured the judge he would take
this by the horns and protect those kids.
Picking Corrigan, the governor believes, will not only keep the
contempt order on hold, but actually do something to improve the child
protective care services.
Corrigan, at her announcement news conference, pledged to make this
job one and she revealed assurances from the governor that he had
authorized the hiring of 500-600 new employees to get the job done.
This is one tough lady and the governor has concluded if anybody
can do this, she can.
She'll get her chance starting January 14th when she trades in her
seat on the bench for one in the bureaucracy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

If you were watching closely the other day, there, three seats
down from the new governor at his swearing-in ceremony was an old
governor. John Engler, sitting quietly in the background.
Mr. Engler quiet?
Mr. Engler in the background?
Wrong on both counts.
Despite his declarations that he is no longer involved in
Michigan politics, the facts betray his fainting of non-interest. Look
this guy loves this stuff; it's in his DNA and his finger prints are
everywhere these days.
Dick Posthumus who was Engler's Lt. Governor shows up out of
nowhere as Gov. Rick Snyder's right hand man to push his agenda through
the legislature.
Doug and Sharon Rothwell, former Chiefs of Staff for Mr. E.
magically get tapped to run the Snyder transition operation putting
their stamp of approval on each and everyone of the new gov's
Tim Ward, former Engler campaign manager, comes within a whisker
of becoming the Chief of Staff for the new governor but at the 11th
hour Mr. Snyder is persuaded to go with someone else.
And when word came down that Gov. Snyder wanted to swipe an
Engler appointee now on the State Supreme Court to be state welfare
director, Engler sent word he opposed the move.
No boys and girls, John Engler is not on the daily news but his
influence is still being felt. There is even a low murmuring about how
the new Snyder administration is beginning to look like an Engler
The criticism is bit of a stretch, but in this town, persons
perked up at even that faintest notion that Engler may still be tossing
his influence around under the heading of "gone but not forgotten."
Adding to the mystic that is John Engler, he bought a house in
Laingsburg a.k.a. the GOP Retirement Villa where he rubs elbows with
his former legal advisor and her hubby the "Sleeping Judge" Cliff
Taylor. And the former head of the Michigan Chamber has a joint there,
So now everyone assumes that Mr. Engler is plotting to run for
the U.S. Senate in 2012. He probably won't but in vintage Engler
fashion he does nothing to kill the chatter…just in case it turns out
to be right.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Virg is Back

He's back, tanned, rested, and not working in the job he wanted.
Virg Bernero has returned to this town after a two week jaunt to
his father's Fatherland of Italy and the man who wanted to be governor
has to settle for watching the guy who is.
Count Democrat Benero on board as long as Gov. Rick Snyder is
making the right moves.
"If he's got a good idea to move this state forward, I'll be the
first one cheering for it," Bernero reveals in his first extended
interview since his not so impressive loss last November.
The mayor knows that the fate of his city and other cities around
the state rests in the hands of the GOP governor and there is some
Bernero recalls that other governors have tried to whack away at
revenue sharing and he figures his former opponent will be just like
all the rest.
But this warning: The Bernero boxing gloves go back on if the new
gov tries to reduce the state deficit by cutting off state aid thus
increasing the deficits of local governments. That brand of trickle
down economics won't make it with the Mayors.
For now, however, Bernero is willing to give the new gov the
"benefit of the doubt" and he thinks others should follow suit.
"If I can work with him and he beat me, other Democrats, Tea Party
folks and Republicans should work with him, too,' Bernero offers some
back-up support for Mr. Snyder.
The one thing Bernero learned was that the voters hunger for
bipartisanship in Lansing and Mr. Snyder does, too.
But talking cooperation during the honeymoon is one thing;
delivering it in the heat of a legislative budget battle will be quite
Bernero knows it and if given a chance to meet with the new
governor he would, "Congratulate him again, give a hug, wish him God's
speed because we need him to succeed."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Any Relation to Dick Nixon?

If you're in the political biz with the surname "Nixon" you're going
to get asked the question a lot.
John Nixon can confirm that.
The Snyder administration's new budget director, who hails from way
out in You-tah, has an answer.
"No," he is not related to former Prez Dick Nixon but he does
confess there was a Dick Nixon in his family but not THE Dick Nixon.
Too bad. Would have been nice story line to pursue.
Instead, we are left to pursue John Nixon on another story line:
How in the heck will be eradicated almost $2 billion in red ink in this
Answer is at this read he doesn't know but "We're looking at
And then he swipes the answer his boss, the gov. has used for
months,"Absolutely everything is on the table." Or in case you missed
the point, "There's nothing that's not on the table."
Which must scare the bee-cheezus out of the ultra right wing
republicans who would rather here something like, "We are not going to
raise any new revenue. Period."
But alas, no one in the Snyder administration has said that.
Instead you get comments like, "It is our goal" to avoid new
Or as the new governor, first day on the jobs says, "We're clearly
looking at that" referring to balancing the budget with cuts and only
But note that "goal" and "looking at" are not an iron-clad promise
not to do it.
Nixon won't go there either.
"I can't promise anything right now. I've been on the job for two
That will hardly appease the anti-revenue crowd as it waits
patiently to see if Gov. Snyder can work his budget magic without
offending the more conservative wing of his GOP.
BTW, Mr. Nixon has a sense of humor which he will need.
Asked what scared him about this new gig, if anything, he shot
back, "The cold."
And then he advised he would be buying a hat soon.
But can the state afford it?
He'll do it with his own money he reassured every weary taxpayer.
No sense adding to the deficit with a hat purchase, hey!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Snyder's Break She Never Had

Eight years ago on a frigid January first, the state's first female
governor engaged in a rollicking rendition of the oath of office with
her mentor Judge Damon Keith. As their voices rose in anxious
anticipation of those final words,"So help me God,", which came out
like the last verse of a Southern Baptist hymn, there was an air of
Clearly new Governor Jennifer Granholm was no John Engler. Kinder
and gentler do come to mind.
But eight years later she was relegated to a supporting and
non-speaking role as she passed the torch to the new guy…the non career
politician who is on a mission to re-invent Michigan with his business
She must have been wondering, if he could really do it?
And she must have been thinking, how things would be different if
she was starting where Rick Snyder beings with the "wind at his back"
as she has often described it.
Her replacement comes into office with the sense that Michigan's
sluggish economy may be finally coming out of an eight year
hibernation; he comes into office with a unified legislature under the
control of his own party. It may be a curse but still, any governor
would want to start with that. She never did.
He begins work with a new batch of legislative leaders who at this
read show no signs of being reincarnations of Speaker Andy Dillon and
Senate GOP Leader Mike Bishop. She fought them tooth and nail and was
often on the losing end
Even she confides it would have been nice to work with the likes
of Speaker Jase Bolger and Bishop's replacement Sen. Randy Richardville.
But what might have been, never was. So she as sat there for the
last time and listened to a speech that hit the same optimistic chords
that she struck eight years earlier.
Heck, Gov. Snyder even had the weather God's on his side. Three
of her fingers were useless days after her speech because it was so
Gov. Snyder could have hit a golf ball off the front steps of the
capitol in the 40 degree temperatures and blue skies that turned cloudy
as soon as the swearing in was over.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's Now His Show

Predictably, the state Democratic Party Chair fired off a smarmy news
release just after the new governor delivered this Inaugural address on
the steps of the capitol.
In essence Mark Brewer wanted to know, "Where's the beef?"
As he had done for almost a year, Gov. Rick Snyder was long on the
rhetoric but short on specifics, but fact is every governor before him
has done the same thing and Mr. Brewer knows it, but he gets paid to
swipe at the opposition and New Years Day was no exception.
Traditionally the governor's first speech of a new term is not a
chance to lay out specifics. That will come with the State of the
State message the middle of this month and then the real biggie, the
first Snyder budget, comes to town the first part of March.
Hence his first message as governor focused on many of the same
themes were heard during the campaign: "I don't want to talk about the
past", "There are no magic solutions" and "It's time to stop fighting
amongst ourselves" and get on with the job of re-inventing Michigan.
Gov. Snyder has privately confided he is aware that expectations are
off the charts. He's had citizens come up to him and say, "I didn't
vote for you, but I hope you can do this."
He made note of those desires but told the audience in the balmy 40
degree afternoon, "It's time to deliver on those high expectations."
But with what?
It is all well and good to talk about the need for all ten million
of us to do our part, but what is that part?
The new governor warns that some will have to take a "step back in
the short term in order to move forward in the long term." Read:
public employees you're on the hit list to reduce benefits and
salaries. But no sense ruining the day for those folks on the first
day in office. There's plenty of time for that later on.
All in all the new governor hit all the right symbolic buttons by
inviting the Mayor of Detroit to anchor the event and have the Grand
Rapids Mayor offer up the prayers. The governor really does want to
heal the east-west divide.
But in all honesty so has each governor before him in varying
degrees just as each talked in glowing terms about working with the
other party but eventually the harsh reality of partisan paralysis
creeps in.
Maybe this non-career politician will be different?