Keith Oppenheim

Commentator

Keith Oppenheim is a broadcasting professor at Grand Valley State University.

Ways To Connect

Government dysfunction and the shutdown dominated the headlines this week, but for some Michigan cities, crisis has been the theme for years.

Five cities -  including Detroit - are run by state-appointed emergency managers.

In Benton Harbor, the story is shifting to how to return the government back to local control.

Let me get this out– understanding some of you might start yelling at your radio - or computer screen.

I’ve been a supporter of Michigan’s emergency manager law.

Well – sort of.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Government dysfunction and the shutdown dominated the headlines this week, but for some Michigan cities, crisis has been the theme for years.

Five cities -  including Detroit - are run by state-appointed emergency managers.

In Benton Harbor, the story is shifting to how to return the government back to local control.

Let me get this out– understanding some of you might start yelling at your radio - or computer screen.

I’ve been a supporter of Michigan’s emergency manager law.

Well – sort of.

Keith Oppenheim

Public health should be about facts, but let’s face it -- it’s often also about perception and emotion.

The Palisades plant is located not too far from where I live in West Michigan -– but before I go there, allow me a quick digression.

I recently gave up diet soda.

I’m trying to be healthy and have been convinced by what I’ve read and been told that aspartame, the sweetener in diet pop, is really not a good thing to consume.

Is the evidence conclusive?

I don’t think so, but I certainly feel a whole lot better about myself now that I’ve kicked my addiction.

The emotional factors may not be so different with the Palisades nuclear power plant.

user PabloEvans / Flickr

This week, police in Grand Rapids began a pilot program to treat marijuana possession as a civil infraction. This comes six months after voters approved an amendment to decriminalize pot.

In Michigan, if you've got an aching back or live in Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, there’s less reason to feel like marijuana will get you into trouble.

For better or worse, pot is gaining acceptance. Our state is one of 20 in the U.S. where marijuana is either OK for medical use or decriminalized. In Washington state and Colorado, recreational use is legal. Increasingly, there are American communities like Grand Rapids where voters don’t want to spend time and money prosecuting offenders caught with a bag of weed.

Rick Pluta/MPRN

One thing I know about politically polarizing issues: arguing for middle-of-the-road positions alienates a lot of folks.

But here goes anyway.

I don’t love unions.

And I feel I can say that with some authority, given that as an employee of several media companies, I’ve been a member of three of them.

In every case, I felt unions were so concerned about protecting territory, that they were, at times, anti-progressive, and too often in the business of preserving their power.

I couldn’t touch equipment.

I was prevented from developing technical skills I would have been wise to learn.

Later in my career, when I worked at non-union shops, I was glad that, if I wanted to try something new, I could.

Now, that may seem like a funny way for me to argue that right-to-work laws are a bad idea, but that’s where I’m going with this.

Voting booth
suttonhoo.blogspot.com

The presidential election is still a month away, but in many states, early voting is already underway.

Today, Ohio opened the polls to early voters.

It’s one of 34 states that have some kind of early voting system.

Michigan, however, is not one of those states.

Last week, I went to my local city hall. I was feeling good. It was my daughter’s 18th birthday. I helped her register to vote - civic pride for a dad.

After that, my mood darkened.

Conservative Super-PACS have pulled their campaign ads supporting Mitt Romney in Michigan. That’s fueling speculation the Romney campaign and conservative groups will move their efforts and money elsewhere. 

Commentator Keith Oppenheim has these thoughts.

Back in June, I thought we had a chance.

The polls were getting tight.

The commercials were booming.

YouTube

One thing Americans like about presidential politics is the horse race – the fast-changing, up and down battle.

And on that score, the Republican primary this season has delivered.

The nutshell narrative goes something like this: Romney-the-inevitable has been muted by a series of flavor of the month challengers – Perry, Cain, Gingrich – and now Santorum.

And even if you’re just a mild political junkie, there’s a good chance you’ll turn on the radio or TV or go online next Tuesday - not just to find out whether Romney survived or Santorum surged.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor isn’t very big.  It’s a city of about 11,000 residents in Michigan’s southwest corner.  But it has story lines that drive national media to pay attention.

One is the emergency manager law which has been in effect in Benton Harbor for about 2 years.

It transferred power from elected officials to a state appointee, Joseph Harris.

Rachel Maddow from MSNBC ran two long segments on the issue last summer and blasted the law.

screen grab from Current TV website

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm starts a new job next month.

She’ll be a regular on cable television, hosting a one-hour nightly program on Current TV.

Granholm says the show will focus on election year politics.

I spoke with Granholm about the upcoming show. To hear her take on her future as a political talk show host, click on the audio file above.

The election season is about to bring something that most everyone likes to complain about: political ads on television.

For me, the problem isn’t the barrage of political ads, it’s the lack of them.

Chances are, if you live in Michigan, you’re different from me.

You’re in.

I’m out.

You will get tons of what you might think are thoroughly obnoxious TV ads about Michigan political races.

Ads that say, "Debbie Stabenow is a big spender," or "Pete Hoekstra is an extremist."

Stuff like that.

And I won’t.