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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 30, 2012

Granholm's New Gig

Just like other girls her age, little Jennifer Granholm grew-up
with a love of horses. So much so that she wanted to ride them for a
living. But when she grew too big to be a jockey, she switched to
wanting to be a veterinarian.
Eventually that desire faded and before you knew it she was off
to Hollywood, without her parent's blessing, to pursue a career in the
Looks like she will have to settle for one on the tube, instead.
This week marks a new chapter in that rather meteoric saga of
Jennifer Granholm who never wanted to be in politics but ended up as
governor and who now faces some stiff competition. Can she work her
magic as a cable TV host. who are a dime a dozen.
It will be the perhaps the biggest challenge of her life.
Had she been doing this in the 1950's when there were three
channels on TV, she'd have a real shot at this. But this is now with a
god-zillion channels each with its onwn little niche and most with
their own little audience.
The War Room with Jennifer Granholm starts with an even smaller
niche on a cable channel that most viewers can't view. In fact to see
her, you actually have to spend more money on your already whopping
cable bill to see her strut her stuff. Most folks, will not cough up
the moola to do it. Let's be frank, she was not the most popular
person in the universe when she split for California after a twelve
year run as state attorney general and than governor here.
Former Vice President Al Gore tapped her to anchor a five-day a
week, prime time show because he saw potential in her charisma, her
insider's knowledge of politics and her contacts.
She proved him right by landing a video segment on what it was
like to work in the President Barack Obama war room in Chicago. It's
not what you know but who you know.
The hyper-active, high-achiever, and off the chart competitive
Ms. Granholm has no delusions that she will be an instant hit. And the
chances are she may be a flop, but it will not be for not trying.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Twp Leaders in a Pod

Dd anybody catch the similarities between the president's State of
the Union address and the State of the State message from Gov. Rick
There were a boatload…nine if not more and remember they are not in
the same party.
They are hardly soul-brothers but they are surprisingly on the same
page on many issues.
Starting with the auto industry bounce back, President Obama
joyously announced that "The American auto industry is back and General
Motors is number one."
Not all of the Republicans in the Congress got on their feet but
when GOP Gov. Snyder said basically the same thing two weeks ago, the
whole joint at the capitol, R's and D's, went bonkers.
The president talked about getting rid of lousy teachers. Governor
Snyder? Been there, done that.
The president talked about keeping college tuition costs down.
Governor Snyder's on that, too.
Charter schools? Same page.
The president waxed on about how to spend the federal extra cash,
now that the country is not spending it in the Middle East, and Gov.
Snyder has a surplus question to answer as well.
And on and on it went as the two leaders paralleled each other all
over the place.
Which brings us to the "relationship" they have. Far as we can
tell, the governor has not broken bread with Mr. Obama, but the guys in
the White House have noticed that Mr. Snyder is not a fire-brand, off
the wall, anti-labor governor like the gov's in Ohio and Wisconsin.
In fact this GOP governor has been down right friendly with the
president's transportation director who has funneled some federal
goodies into the state as result.
And when the GOP candidates for president where bashing the
president for helping the auto industry, there was GOP Gov. Snyder on
the side lines refusing to join in. "I will not second guess the
president" was his only comment while the Mitt Romneys of the world
socked it to Mr. O.
Chances are Mr. Snyder will not bash the president. He is not the
bashing type.
As a former GOP president was fond of saying, "Not gonna happen"
much to the chagrin of other state Republicans who would like the
governor to be somebody he is not.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Schuette Shoots for Surplus

There must be something in the water they drink in the Attorney
General's office because it turns the occupants into a finely tuned
headline gathering machine.
Current occupant Bill Schuette has picked up right where Attorney
General Jennifer Granholm and Frank Kelley left off.
Whether it's promoting the notion that he alone is standing at the
mouth of Lake Michigan to battle the Asian Carp from invading our
waterways, or battling those medical marijuana shops that popped up all
over the state, Bill Schuette is on duty and this time it was to fight
what else? Crime, of course.
Mr. Crime-fighter wants to swipe $140 million of the state's $500
million surplus to hire 1,000 new cops. And funny thing, the law
enforcement community showed up in force the other day to provide the
human backdrop for his big announcement. Why not? They would share
most of the largess.
Mr. Schuette waxed on, as the phalanx of TV cameras recorded his
every word, suggesting that if Michigan was ever going to enjoy an
economic recovery, it would first need to make the state safe.
Hand it to the Billster it was a great pitch, a great performance
but it did not open to rave reviews across the street where lawmakers
will decide the plan's fate.
"I don't want to give the money to anybody," the crusty and stingy
chair of the House budget committee rebutted the Schuette sound bites.
"I'm willing to talk to him about it," countered the equally
unenthusiastic chair of the Senate budget panel.
Put Rep. Chuck Moss and Sen. Roger Kahn down as "maybes" leaning
toward a no.
Those two guys control the purse strings and they note that Mr.
Schuette is not the only one standing in line for a surplus hit.
"Do we want a thousand teachers? Or a thousand inspectors for
nursing homes?...We can't afford all the good things that everybody
wants," Mr. Moss concluded.
Mr. Kahn would only describe his position as "not a complete
So despite the masterful media manipulation of the issue, Mr.
Schuette got his media fix for the week, but his chances of landing the
Don't count on another glitzy news conference if the answer is a
big fat N-O.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lansing Casino a Big Gamble

If you are a betting persons, don't bet on this.
The angriest Mayor in American is no longer angry. Instead Lansing
Mayor Virg Bernero is geeked about building a new casino right in the
heart of the capitol city.
And after a lengthy, yet constructive, year of chats with the a
Native American tribe from the U.P., his honor is sitting on a whooping
$250 million investment.
And sitting is where he could stay.
Virg Bernero talks in terms of one to two years. Somebody who has
actually negotiated these kinds of compacts says five years is more
likely and most of that time will not be spent on the construction site
but in the courts.
Moments after the mayor boldly declared, "Lansing will have a
casino. It's only a question of where and when," the press releases
from all of the opponents flooded in.
Leading the charge were the owners of the tribal casinos in Gun
Lake and Battle Creek. In fact they had a barrister in the audience to
gain quick access to the media that was there to cover the Virg.
The good folks in Mt. Pleasant who run the Soaring Eagle are not
eager to have competition in Lansing and they vowed to haul Mr. Benero
and company into the courts to duke it out. And the three casinos in
Detroit will join in.
The federal government also has to sign off.
Lawmakers have a voice in all this and none of them bothered to
show up for the big announcement.
And then there is the governor who has said he's not a big fan of
economic expansion that includes more slot machines and roulette
wheels. Besides the state stands to lose $22 million in cold hard cash
if the Lansing casino is actually built.
"There will be some bumps in the road," confided the tribal chair
in what clearly wins the understatement of the year award.
So all you grannies out there ready to drop your hard earned
nickles into a Lansing slot machine, don't hold your breath.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mrs. Tie-Picker

With apologies to those of you who come to this spot looking for
hard-nosed commentary and analysis, we digress to share a delightful
saga of the governor with the green tie.
As you've watched Gov. Rick Snyder you've learned that he is not a
combative soul and tries to reach out to everyone even though many on
the other end refuse to grasp his hand.
So when he returned home from the U of M vs. MSU b-ball game the
other night, where he joyously celebrated a squeaky one point win, he
proceeded up stairs to pick out a tie for his State of the State speech
the next night.
Wanting to extend an "olive branch" to the battered Spartans, "I
picked out one of my favorite green ties." It was Mr. Snyder being Mr.
He laid it on the bed and went down stairs to attend to whatever
governor's do after their alma mater has defeated the Green and White.
Upon his return, the green tie had disappeared.
In its place a red tie.
"A higher authority" had spoken, he went on with his tale. That,
of course, was Mrs. Sue Snyder, also an avid U of M fan.
While many families debate who wears the pants in the family, for
the First Family it is a debate over who picks out the governor's ties
and its clear she does and he falls in line.
Reminded that his wife says she is not one of his advisers, the
governor says that is true when it comes to "policy and state
government." But fashion?
That's a different matter and he concedes, "Sue is very good at
Yet a nagging question. Why pick a red tie which is the color of
another "enemy" of the U of M crowd?
Can hardly wait to ask the First Tie-Picker about that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Missed Opportunity

Close but no cigar.
No scratch that. Not even close.
Gov. Rick Snyder had a rare opportunity to lower the anxiety level in
the City of Detroit concerning an Emergency Manager and he whiffed.
Everybody knows, including the governor, that in many segments of
that community, the angst is palpable. Residents don't want the state
to send in somebody who will fire their elected officials and run the
city like a dictator. Benevolent or not, many don't want it and they
want the governor to keep his GOP nose out it.
Mr. Snyder, being who is is, is not about to ignore the challenge but
he had this chance, with a statewide TV audience tuned in, to look
directly in the camera and talk to the residents in Detroit.
"I know you are worried about someone coming in to run your city and
I'm worried, too. I don't want to appoint an EM and I fully understand
why you don't want me to do it. And I won't if at all humanly
possible. That's why I urge you to tell your Mayor and City Council
they need to make some tough decisions. They didn't create this mess,
but they have the power, right here and right now, to fix it once and
for all. And I promise you tonight I will do everything I can to help
you save your city and our city, too. There is too much are risk for
all of us if we fail."
He didn't even come close. Sure he talked about supporting the
city, but the support he is offering, many don't want.
So you are left to ponder why he squandered the opportunity.
Wasn't there somebody in the inner circle with enough political
savvy to help this non-career politician get this one right?
Actually, he is smart enough to have figured it out on his own, but
he didn't.
Points off.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Your $10 Mil at Work

Never before has so much ink been used over $10 million and here
comes some more.
Michigan voters will go the polls on Feb 28th to pick a GOP
candidate for president. If the current trend continues, the election
will likely be meaningless in that Mitt Romney will likely have the
nomination wrapped up with a ribbon on it by then.
So your logical self might ask, why don't we save the $10
Tell your logical self to get lost.
The state Republican party is feverishly try to spin the notion
that the election is relevant and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson tried
to make it so the other day by adding the name of Barack Obama to the
Never mind that Michigan Democrats have decided to hold a party
caucus to re-nominate the prez, thus avoiding a statewide vote, and the
party will pay for it, not you.
But under the heading, Misery Loves Company, Republican Johnson
ignored that and by law, she says she had to add the President's name
to the ballot
Well it didn't take long for the state Democratic Party chair
to blow the whistle accusing Ms. Johnson of trying to "drag " the D's
into story.
Brewer correctly notes that once the voters figure out the $10
million is a waste of money and when they have to publicly declare
their party preference before they vote, the you-know-what will hit
the fan. Johnson wants to make sure, he argues, that the splattering
is bi-partisan.
In another more subtle attempt to squeeze an advantage out of
all this, Brewer is maneuvering to allow Democrats to cross-over and
cast a ballot in the GOP primary. Talk about your party mischief.
Without impunity, Democrats could pick a Rick Santorum or
another loser from the GOP field in an attempt to embarrass Mr. Romney
in his previous own back yard.
Now Mr. Brewer has long said he does not encourage attempts
by Democrats to muddy the GOP waters.
But if you look closely, you can see his nose is growing.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hold the Corks and Singing

No champagne corks were popped. No choruses of "Happy Days Are
Here Again" were sung, yet there was clearly an upbeat mood in the
joint when state bean-counters certified more money in the till.
It's been a long time coming, ten years to be specific, but state
officials have quietly traded the "D" word for the "S" word and moving
from deficits to surpluses means about half-billion dollars is on the
table and everybody and his uncle in on the table trying to grab it.
This, of course, means the governor and legislators have a new
assignment this year. Cutting the budget is so last year and deciding
how to be prudent with the new cash is now job one.
At the head of the line, of course, is the education lobby.
Having taken a huge cut last year, their collective hands are out for a
payback and the chances are very high that will occur.
The polling data is compelling. Parents did not like the cuts and
they blame the Republicans for doing that. And since 2012 is an
election year for House R's, you can bet your bippy, they will find a
way to spend more on education in hopes of erasing that ill-will from
the year before.
Democrats are caught in a conundrum. They want to spend more on
schools but they don't want the other guys to get credit for that which
takes some of the sting out the GOP cuts last year.
At the end of the day, the Democrats will vote to help the schools
and then try to exploit last year's cuts the best they can.
Gov. Rick Snyder holds all the cards right now as he gets to go
first. His second budget is out early next month but after that
lawmakers will get their chance.
But, and there is always a "but" when it comes to Michigan's
economy, external forces could blow all this up. Upwards of 3-8% in
federal budget cuts will reduce dollars here; who knows what will
happen in Europe and if there is a banking collapse there, no one wants
to contemplate the fall out from that.
So maybe it's best the corks stayed in the bottle and the song
went unsung.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Free What?

No. Make that double wow.
Senate Democrats who sort of muddled along with only 12 votes last
year were not players in any real sense of the word.
But what did they drink on New Years eve because here they are in
2012 with a proposal that could be a game changer when it comes to
keeping and attracting young persons in this state.
Try this on for size: Free college tuition for a two or four year
For years it's the Republicans who have owned the "Be Bold" mantra
in this town but suddenly, the senate D's have swiped it.
Of course, this plan may never see the light of day because the
GOP does not want to hand the Dems a major victory, but the Republicans
would be wise not to reject this out of hand.
Senator Gretchen Whitmer, the senate Democratic leader, has
smartly figured out a way to pay for all this which costs a nifty $1.8
billion. She would eliminate some tax loopholes at a savings to the
state; she would tax Internet sales, and she'd shave lucrative state
contracts with private vendors to the tune of 6% per deal and
presto-change-o, she's at $1.8 billion.
Now even though tons of kids have left their parents behind by
shuffling off to other states, and even though many out of state kids
think twice about coming here, free tuition might change the attitudes.
Make that, it WOULD change attitudes which is why Ms. Whitmer and
company are suddenly relevant.
Since the governor found $1.8 billion in tax breaks for his
buddies in the corporate world last year, and since he has talked about
keeping kids here, why not embrace this?
The Democrats would toss at him, the governor's favorite
statement: "It's the right thing to do." Let's see if he does it.
(Thanks to our pals at MIRS for breaking this story.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The phrase is way over used, but there is just no better way to begin
this missive: Be careful what you wish for?
Memo to House Republicans from the House Democratic leader: If you
want a "conversation" (read fight) over Right to Work, let's have it.
Rep. Rick Hammel, with thirty years under his belt as a tried and
true UAW member, will not shy away from the overture from the House GOP
speaker that he wants to chat about RTW in the New Year.
That big grin on Mr. Hammel's mug is there for a reason. He knows a
protracted debate over this perceived anti-union legislation will serve
to gin-up the union vote in this year's election which Mr. Hammel hopes
to ride to victory next November.
In the last election 400,000 Democrats found something else to do on
election day which de facto made the Nerd the new gov. Hammel laments
the fact that his buddies in the union hall defected, but now with the
GOP fixin' to cut deeper into the union ranks with this legislation, he
figures his pals will show up in force next time.
"Fighting Right to Work is the number one priority for labor," he
tells the Off the Record audience. (
"Our base in mobilized," the Genesee County Democratic warms to the
House GOP Speaker Jase Bolger does not appear to be threatened
with this "waking the sleeping Democratic giant" chatter. He is not
shying away from the debate even though Gov. Rick Snyder wishes Mr.
Bolger was more bashful about it.
Thus begins the new round of games at the state capitol with the
GOP Speaker and the GOP Governor signing different tunes, and the House
Democratic leader is enjoying the music.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Let's Have Some Suds

What the heck happened to the "beer" question in the GOP race for
the White House? The remaining crop of candidates have answered
everything under the sun, but so far nobody has asked the voters, "With
whom would you love to have a beer?"
It most certainly would not be Mitt Romney his critics contend.
Despite his central-casting Presidential good looks and his finely
coiffed head of hair, he hardly seems warm and fuzzy and based on his
most recent flub on the campaign trail, you could not describe him as
"one of us."
During a town hall meeting somebody asked the former Michigan
resident how he would resolve the worries of the middle-class stuck in
the vortex of a lousy economy.
"Yeah," he began his fateful response, "I'm worried about my
investments, too."
His what?
The woman who asked the question retorted she had no "investments"
to fret about.
It was like when former President Herbert Walker Bush was
surprised to find a new-fangled scanning system in a grocery store.
He'd been so out of touch, he didn't know they existed.
This Romney miscue is hardly fatal but it does feed into the story
line that this "rich" guy has not shared in the common man and woman's
challenges to keep bread on the table. And if voters are looking for
somebody in the White House they can relate to, the millionaire Mr.
Romney won't be at the top of the list.
Hence, he'd be the least likely guy to chug a beer with
you...maybe a Manhattan, but certainly not a Strohs. (Yeah, they don't
brew that anymore.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Generation Gap on Tolerance

The generation gap between old folks and young kids has never been
wider. Technology is the culprit, We are increasingly divided along
the lines of who texts and who doesn't.
But another gap has appeared based on philosophy. More specifically
regarding tolerance of those who are "different" than us.
The gay rights issue is exhibit A.
The kids wonder why the older generation spends so much time
worrying about that?
The "worry" has translated into a variety of ballot proposals
seeking to ban "gay marriage" with the accompanying rhetoric that to do
so will destroy traditional marriages.
The kids go, What?
The research here is pretty clear and it has unmistakable
implications for turning our state around.
Everyone from the governor on down admit that young entrepreneurs
are the ones who help turn the state around if we can only lure them
here long enough to do it. As Free Press columnist Ron Dzwonkowski
recently penned, Michigan is getting grayer by the minute and unless
there is an infusion of new, young, and more tolerant blood, we are
pretty much doomed.
Many young persons are actually attracted to communities where
persons of all ways of life are welcome without disdain, without
critical comment and without berating them for being different.
Researcher Lou Glazer has documented these "live and let live"
attitudes yet his data had no impact on Gov. Snyder who recently signed
legislation to ban some live-in partners from collecting health care
benefits from the state.
That's been the cause celebre of some legislative Republicans for
years and the governor sided with them while demonstrating a little
hypocrisy of his own.
He believes universities should provide these benefits but
everyone else in the real world should not have them.
What's the difference the young kid from Ohio who contemplates
moving to Michigan must be thinking?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Stuff the Fire Hose

The Snyder administration has stuffed the fire hose in the back
closet in the governor's office. It will not be used this year after
getting quite a work out in 2011.
You've heard the phrase, "like drinking from a fire hose?" Well
that nails it for the new governor and his minions last year as
lawmakers were fed a gusher-like stream of legislation that did
everything from taxing pensions to balancing the budget three months
before the deadline.
The new year will be different the governor promises as he
indicates he will ask less from his "partners" in the house and senate.
He'll focuses on issues that won't garner many headlines but are still
part and parcel of the Snyder reinvention blueprint.
That will suit House members quite well, thank you very much.
They are up for re-election this new year and that becomes Job One,
even though it should not be thus.
If the governor has anything really controversial to jam through,
his window will be open for about four months or so and after that,
house members won't be voting on anything that could do them harm in
the August primary or the all-important November general election.
"The bridge will be back," intones the Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. You
know the bridge that went nowhere last year?
The gov. and company will also tackle the very unpopular Personal
Property Tax whereby businesses pay a tax to cities every time a new
piece of equipment is purchased from a pencil to a stamping machine.
Local governments are watching this puppy very closely because if
the PPT goes out the door, $800 million in local tax collections goes
with it.
The governor has promised he won't stiff the cities which he did
last year when slicing more state revenue sharing dollars from local
So the next biggie is the second Snyder State of the State set
for Wednesday, January 18 at 7 p.m. on Michigan Public TV.
Bring you garden hose.