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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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dan the Jerk

        Much has been written lately about the new Granholm/Mulhern book on their life in the bubble and part of the focus was on the so-called "love story" between the two.  Well turns out, and this was somehow left out of the book "A Governor's Story", it was the love that almost wasn't.
       "Actually I thought he was a jerk,' former Gov. Jennifer Granholm whispers into the camera.
       "Jerk?" Dan Mulhern goes sitting right next to her.
        Yep. Jerk. She unfolds the story of the first time they met waiting to board a cheap airline from New Jersey back to Harvard where they both attended law school.
        Seems Danny Boy was chatting with a lass in line about how he had been out drinking and dancing the night before.  You know how men are about getting drunk.
         Ms. Granholm is singularly unimpressed but can't help herself when he mentions he is going back to Harvard.
         "You go to Harvard," she intervened in the conversation and that one question launched the romance although it took some time before he actually got a date.
           She kept him at arms length which frustrated the heck out of him but he was as tenatious as she was; the romantic Dan went to work. He placed "pressed flowers" in her mail box and demonstrated there was more to him that drinking and getting blitz.
           They fell in love and here they are today, out on the stump hawking their book and making revelations about their relationship that she preferred to keep secret.  Dan on the other hand pushed her to disclose and she reluctantly did, while refusing to call him a jerk for doing it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Plot to Kill Lawmaker

          If you're in the news biz, late Friday afternoon is rather a sacred time….and every correspondent worth his or her salt does not want a big story to pop minutes before quitting time.  So much for being dedicated journalists.
          Yet here was a reporter on the horn to a source who had called the day before.  It was 4:15.
          "You're not going to believe this," this always reliable contact began in what turned out to be an incredible and bizarre tale to say the least.
          With one eye on the clock, the source began:  There was an inmate in a state prison who wanted to hire a hit man to kill a sitting state lawmaker.
          Hum.  Sounds like a story alright.
          Seems the unnamed inmate asked a buddy who was getting out of the slammer to find the hit man and offer him $500,000 to kidnap, hold hostage and perhaps even murder the lawmaker.
          The second inmate instead of lining up a hit man went to the authorities and the Michigan State Police took it from there.
          They found an undercover officer who poised as the hit man and contacted the crook behind bars.  He allegedly laid out the entire plot including the name of the lawmaker.  The MSP got it all on tape and has charged the guy with conspiracy to commit murder.
          Up shot of all this, two sources confirmed it and by 5 p.m. the story was on TV-2 and WWJ News Radio 950 for all the world to hear. 
         The decision was made not to reveal the lawmaker's name.  It really was irrelevant to the story and could have put that family at risk.
         About four hours later, Rep. Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) issued a statement thanking the police for busting this plot and noted she would say nothing more.  Obviously some other reporter felt it was important to the story and outed her.
          Why her?
          Turns out the inmate seeking the gun for hire was from the Mason area, in her house district, and knew the name of only one lawmaker…her.
          Talk about your lousy luck.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

One-Term Rick

       News flash from Mackinac Island:  Gov. Rick Snyder may not seek a second term.
      Actually this is not news only in the sense that he finally confirmed what many in this town have known since he first took the oath of office.
      Remember.  He was quite clear during the campaign that he was not a career politician and he's proven it as governor by propossing issues that someone interested in re-election would never do.  Think taxing senior citizens.
      So he confirms on the island during a state GOP gab fest that if he ticks off most of the items on his reinvent Michigan agenda, he's out of here to allow "better and smarter" folks to takeover.  He tells the MIRS news hounds that he'd be more than excited to "go fishing, go teach, and do something else."
      Close associates confirm the "teach" thing.  There has got to be a classroom somewhere at his alma mater, what was that school?, where he can share his Relentless Positive Action shtick with the maze and blue faithful.  He'd love to do that.  And in addition to fishing, he left out water skiing which is one of his fav summer things to do, when he can find time to ride the waves.
     This is Snyder being Snyder as he is totally concerned with a long term and positive legacy for the entire state and not about polishing up his resume so he can write a book about it.  "This is not about me," he says for anybody who will listen.
    But by making these pronouncements public, he may be viewed by some as a lame-duck in waiting which may undercut his ability to wheel and deal with lawmakers.
    What can he offer lawmakers, if he is not going to be around for a second term?
     But "as a practical matter," as he likes to say, he is not a wheeler and dealer and so if some view him ill for not running again, so be it.
     All of the previous governors since 1970 had a political prism on their desk.  Every major political move was eventually filtered through it to ascertain if the decision would enhance his or her reelection bid.
     Mr. non-career governor came into office, removed it from his desk and promptly sold it on E-Bay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Off To China We Finally Go

         There is a delicate little ballet that former governors dance when it comes to commenting on what their successors are doing.  It's an unwritten rule, sort of an honor-among-thieves thing, that you don't blast the guy who took your old job.  And the same thing applies to the new governor and Rick Snyder has steadfastly adhered to the rule refusing to bad mouth anyone who use to have his job.
          But he came darn close to doing it the other day.  As he prepares to head off for his first week-long sojourn to China, capitol correspondents wanted to know what his objectives were.
          Previous Gov. Jennifer Granholm had a hard and fast rule.  She would not set her tootsies on foreign soil unless she could boast about bringing jobs back to Michigan.  Gov. Snyder has no such rule.
        "I don't have high expectations on jobs," he candidly reflected adding, "don't expect too much."
          In reality this governor is pretty much starting from ground zero when it comes to cultivating jobs out of China and that's in part because his predecessor did nothing on that front.  Nada or as they say in Chinese…hum, how do they say that in Chinese?
          At any rate, Gov. Granholm kept her tootsies out of China because she was too busy beating up the country and anyone who sent jobs from Michigan over there all for her own political gain.
          Call former GOP candidate for governor Dick DeVos if you require more details.
          Consequently no ground work was laid there so Gov. Snyder was asked if Michigan was behind the eight-ball because of the previous feck-less eight years?
          Please note he does not use any names but offered this poignant observation, "It doesn't help matters not being there."
          He could have said "thanks to Gov. Granholm," but Rick Snyder being Rick Snyder he did not.
          Others will do it for him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Going After Electric Cars

   Now that the governor has solved the state's obesity problem by lecturing everyone to just lose weight…hardy, har-har-har, he moves to more mountains to climb.  
    And if you own an electric car, you're it.
    Next month the Synder administration will trot out its special message on infrastructure which is just a nerdy way of saying, roads, bridges, and potholes which the governor knows need attention.
    The governor might target the Prius, Leaf, and Volt owners. If you own an electric vehicle you are not paying one dime in the gasoline tax which is great for you, but not so great for state coffers.
    While you are rolling along on the roads, without coughing up some bucks to repair the roads, your cars are adding to the deterioration of the infrastructure.
    Now recall that the governor is all about "shared sacrifice."  The governor confesses he has not heard anything about this but for sure there's been plenty of chatter among the special interest groups that want more money for the roads.
    Sen. Tom Casperson who chairs the senate transportation committee believes this is something that should be done.
    Nobody has leaked how the governor intends to right this "wrong" but at the end of the day, if lawmakers go along, hy-brid and electric car owners will be paying something.
     But you're not being singled out.
     Regular car owners will be asked to kick in, too. A source reveals that a different approach is being considered when you purchase a new license plate.
      The new registration fee might be based on the price of the car divided into groups.  From zero to $5,000 you might pay zippo.  From 5,001 to !0,000 you might get one fee which would increase with the price.
      You can do the math gang.  Got a giant SUV? You'll pay a bundle and if you own one of those fancy Rolls or Bentley?
       Get out your check book, but then if you do own one of those babies, you can probably afford it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Synder No Scott Walker

       The issuance of a lay-off notice is a time-honored tactic used by management to put a little more heat on workers to cough-up wage concessions.
      Well given a chance the other day to engage in the traditional game, the governor declined.  After all he said he would change the culture in this town and by sitting on his lay-off notices to some 48,000 state workers, he did just that.
      According to the state contract, workers deserve a 30 day heads up that the Big Guy might send them home on October first and employees were braced to read that in their Labor Day weekend pay envelope.
      In another example of the gov's now infamous RPA, relentless positive action, the governor sent the signal that he was confident the two sides could come up with $145 million in worker concessions so the notices were stuffed in the drawer…for the time being.
      That collective sigh of relief from the employee ranks was palpable but the gesture does not mean the two sides will resolve their differences which are significant.
      The labor guys  have argued that there are other ways to find those savings.  One way is to reduce the number of non-union supervisors; the unions claims there are too many of those folks.
      The governor's bargainers say they are willing to look at that, but so far they have not signed off and the governor's spokesperson doubts there is not enough time to realize those savings before the contracts expire next month.  And the unions have not budged on giving more concessions noting that over the years they have given more than enough at the office.
      Hence despite the goodwill gesture by the governor, the two sides appear to be going no where fast.  In fact they just filed empasse statements which will open the door to bring other entities into the talks.
      In another overture to the unions, the governor did order a study on supervisor issue.
      All of this adds up to one conclusion, Gov. Rick Snyder is not Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

9-1-1 Centers on Chopping Block

       If you are a public employee and any lawmaker mentions the word "efficiencies", duck for cover.  That has become code for "We need you to give more at the office."
       But in this next instance, the giving means more than that.  It means losing your job.
       Rep. Richard LeBlanc (D-Westland) is on a mission to put the state's 9-1-1- emergency call network on a starvation diet.  He wants to reduce the current 166 centers to ten.  That's over a 90% cut.
       This is just a guess but that means some of those operators who are now answering the phone won't be any more.
       Rep. LeBlanc says the person calling for a cop or fire fighter via the 9-1-1- system doesn't give a hoot where the person is who answers the call.  All they want is a quick response and he is confident this can be done with fewer call centers.
       In Grand Rapids and Wyoming over on the west side of the state, they not only combined functions, the two cities saved a combined $1.5 million.  "Absolutely this will work," beams G.R. Mayor George Heartwell.
       It took them two years to iron everything out, but it says it was well worth it and Mr. LeBlanc agrees, but he also knows he is picking a fight with the operators who won't take this "efficiency" stuff lying down.
      Heartwell says during the two year process they did not fill vacancies and when it came time to finish the consolidation there weren't a lot of layoffs. 
      That probably will not appease the operators, but LeBlanc has a strategy to win this fight.  He would take the savings from the "efficiencies" to hire more first responders.  From a political standpoint, lawmakers can get more re-election points back home by hiring more cops even if it means laying off 9-1-1 folks.
      Look for all this to come to a head in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Experience Counts or Does It?

  The minions for Clark Durant, one of the Repubs running for the U.S. Senate, have been banging pretty hard on front-runner Pete Hoekstra for having too much experience in Congress.
  The West Michigan candidate has 18 years under his belt in the U.S. House and the Durant crowd argues that disqualifies him from going into the senate.  This is under the heading, no experience is better than any Washington experience.
   Durant crony Saul Anuzis sums it up, Pete "has become a part of Washington.  Washington is part of the problem." Apparently the only time Mr. Durant has been there is to visit the joint, not work there.  And what the Detroit charter school operator Durant brings to the table is his private sector experience his defenders go on.
   Mr. Hoekstra made a lap around the state this week announcing that he for sure was in the race and touting his Washington and private sector business background in the same sound bite.
    "I think having someone in Washington that actually has experience there, along with private sector experience, is a real benefit."
     But here is the revealing twist in this story.  Normally you would assume that Mr. Hoekstra would return the fire aimed at Mr. Clark when given an opening to question HIS lack of experience.
     The question was pointed:  Is a candidate disqualfied if he or she lacks a Washington resume?
     Hoekstra, who has pledged to run a positive campaign and stay out of the mud, did just that.  "I wouldn't say you can't have someone with no experience."  Which is another way of saying, Durant's lack of experience is not a problem.
     Unfortunately for Mr. H, Mr. D. will not return the favor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gov and R's Differ on Speech

  As Artie Johnson often said on TV's Laugh-in with a German accent: Vvv—eee—rrr---yyy interesting.
  President Barack Obama delivered his re-election errr Jobs for America speech the other night and the GOP responses were very interesting to compare and contrast.
  Right out of the shoot came conservative Congressman Mike Rogers flailing away at the Prez:  "Another speech won't change the Washington, D.C.-created burdens that are hampering job creation."  And then the Brighton Republican rattled off the usual GOP boilerplate stuff about excessive regulation, health care and energy costs, etc. etc. etc.
   He was fed up with the "borrow and spend stimulus policies." Put him down as a no vote.
   Congressman Dave Camp (R-Midland) was not nearly as gnarly but was disappointed that Mr. Obama did not discuss comprehensive tax reform but in a conciliatory coda he looked forward to "reviewing the details" of the proposal.  Put him down as a maybe.
   Then came the governor who by-passed the chance to join the chattering class of ultra-conservatives who couldn't wait to dump on the Democratic president.
   "These are changes that will help create an environment where jobs can grow, and they should be considered by Congress" the not so far right wing governor asserted.  He was referring to cutting pay roll taxes and small business tax reform both of which have been accomplished by the Snyder administration.
     Neither he nor the president referred to the Tea Party by name but you could read in between the lines to find it.  President Obama referred to those with "rigid ideas" and you know who you are.
     And the GOP Governor noted we "cannot afford to waste time on unproductive posturing and partisan fighting."  True, both R's and D's have engaged in that, but so have has the T.P. crowd.
     So if you were sitting in the White House, post-speech, you'll take what Mr. Snyder said which puts him at odds with the conservative base of his party once more.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

They're Back

     W interupt this lengthy summer recess and return you now to our regularly scheduled program:  the fall session of the Michigan legislature.
     When we last left our band of merry lawmakers, they were ending a six month march and were off to celebrate the 4th of July and bask in the victories racked up by the new governor and the new GOP dominated house and senate.
     Left behind to lick its collective wounds, and there was a lot of licking goin' on, were the Democrats and their labor buddies who got run over by the Snyder juggernaut.
     It started with the repeal of the item-pricing law which will cost some grocery folks their jobs and it ended with passage of the Emergency manager law which critics contend will end democracy as we know it.
     Along the way there were countless capitol steps demonstrations by this anti-Snyder groups and that and while it made for good TV, it had little impact on what was going on inside the building. One "reform" plan after another breezed through the process with little or no Democratic input or votes.
     It was not all peaches and cream, however, as the new governor got a good dose of political reality when he had to confront ultra-conservative members of his own team.  They were anything but team players when it came to the pension tax and they told him so.
     He made a mid-course correction to secure just enough votes to pass the thing and his much bally-hooed re-invention of Michigan was on it's way.
     So now they return to what?
     The Snyder crowd explained it would use the summer recess to nail down the jello-ey "support" for the Synder bridge between Detroit and Windsor.  Despite his enthusiast support for that, let's just say the jello has not solidified despite the two months of "educating" lawmakers on the subject.
     While the bridge will be a top priority for the upcoming session, it's future in the legislature is in doubt, but the governor will have a Plan B and may go around lawmakers if they stiff him and they just might.
     Slapping new rules on the medical marijuana law will also be front and center along with a host of right-wing GOP social issues which the governor is loathed to confront but will one way or the other.
     So back we go for more Rentless Positive Action from the big guy but the outcome this next six months may not be as joyful as the last.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Growth Industry Killed

   So much for that growth industry.  Here was a segment of the business sector that was adding jobs, expanding at a pretty good clip and it was actually growing and there-in was the problem.
   You see these entrepreneurs were growing marijuana, Mary Jane, weed, call it what you will but the state appeals court slammed the door on these dispensaries and the cops have been joyfully shutting them down one by one ever since.  That's because when voters approved the medical marijuana law, apparently pot shops were not part of the plan.
   A three judge panel ruled that sick folks have the right to smoke this stuff; they just can't hobble down the street to the nearest head shop and buy it.
   And that loud applause you heard was from the law enforcement community which didn't much care for this law in the first place.
   One local senator notes 48 such stores in Lansing.  He is a conservative Republican and while Sen. Rick Jones would normally embrace that kind of free-market competition, he is not a believer when it comes to this product. He believes no market is better than too many markets. 
    Of course the big boogeyman man in all this is the underlying fear that these shops foster crime. Many of them were in neighborhoods where kids could see the coming and going and pretty soon they'd be pot least that's how the conservative reasoning goes.
    But not to worry, the appeals court has halted all this and the truly needy will simply have to grow their own at home. But they better keep the plants under lock and key or the cops could raid their homes and arrest them for not doing that, too.
    Guess the governor will have to look elsewhere to help lower the jobless rate around here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Camp To Get T.P. Flak

     Michigan Congressman Dave Camp is a hearty fellow who apparently fears no danger.  He should be worried, however, because he may have a Tea Party target on his back soon. Silly man, he wants to close tax loopholes to help balance the humongous federal deficit of $1.5 trillion.
    Mr. Camp is one of twelve members of the so-called super committee charged with slapping together a plan to rescue America from the red sea of deficit ink.
    He wants to reduce tax rates and broaden the tax base and then, get this, "that means doing away with some of the special provisions, exemptions and loopholes that have grown into the code over the years."
    Hum.  Close tax loopholes.  Wasn't that part of the Grand Bargain that el Presidente Obama and el Speaker where close to doing when the Tea Party crowd cried, Over our soggy tea bags you will!!
    Undaunted, Republican Camp from Midland explains "we really need to simplify the tax code" and that means lots of losers i.e. all those who now enjoy a tax break will have to cough up some moola.
     One such item is the time-honored tax exemption that allows taxpayers to write-off their home loan interest.   Oh my, you can hear the banks, the realtors, not to mention the homeowners, who will scream bloody murder if they lose that.
    Not to worry.
    Mr. Camp offers that is "not a good approach" to take.  After all he does want to get re-elected next year.
    He does not want a general tax increase and it appears he is not alone but closing loopholes is a tax hike on somebody and it will be interesting to see what the Tea Party folks do to Mr. Camp.
    Anybody got a flak-jacket you can loan him?