The good news is that the Michigan House of Representatives passed a package of road funding bills Wednesday night. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news.

The truth about this plan was best stated by Business Leaders for Michigan, whose members are not exactly left-wing socialists.

Someone once said that Americans, including those who live in Michigan, would do anything for Canada except pay attention to it. That was evident again this week.

This nation’s closest ally had a dramatic national election that most “lower Americans” probably didn’t even know was happening – but which may be highly significant for all of us.

Governor Rick Snyder yesterday unveiled his new plan to fix Detroit Public Schools. Actually, it is a variation on one he put forth in April. Like that plan, it seems heavily based on the model General Motors adopted to emerge from bankruptcy.

The schools would be divided into a “new” district and an “old” one.

The “old district” wouldn’t have anything to do with the kids, but would be saddled with paying down the district’s massive debts, now more than half a billion dollars. The “new” district would be run by a Detroit Education Commission and would be in charge of educating the students.

Are the arts a luxury or an economic necessity?

Oct 19, 2015
Melanie Goulish

The Next Idea

Most of us have a sense that the arts contribute to a community’s economic well-being. Measuring that feeling in real economic terms, however, is quite difficult.

We know that arts and culture enhance where we live, but when it comes to determining where to invest money for our state’s future, it’s not clear how the arts really add up.

The Michigan Legislature is currently battling over something called “presumptive parole.”

The state house has passed a bill to make it harder to deny parole to eligible low-risk inmates who have served their minimum sentence.

There’s plenty of data showing this would make a lot of sense and eventually save our cash-strapped state millions of dollars.

The governor is a strong supporter of the bill. But it is in trouble in the state senate. Attorney General Bill Schuette is crusading against it.

Conventional journalism is in trouble these days, for a number of reasons. True, people, especially young people, don’t read newspapers as much as they once did. And that’s a factor.

But the real problem is that the economic base of virtually all newspapers has been severely damaged by the internet. Newspapers always made their money from the revenue they reaped from advertising, particularly local classified advertising.

Flickr/Tri Mode / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Michigan makes things, millions of things. And not only do we manufacture them, we invent and design them. For a century, Michigan has led the form and function of furniture, appliances, medical devices, automobiles, aerospace, and agricultural products.

Most people know there are two ways to cross the Detroit River into or from Canada: The Ambassador Bridge, or for passenger cars only, the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. 

But there's another little-known way only used by vehicles too long or too big to navigate the bridge, or those hauling hazardous materials.

And that's the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry, which is at the end of a little-used road two miles south of the current bridge, close to where the new bridge is to be built.

There is such a thing as public service journalism. They award a Pulitzer Prize for it every year. And so, in the interest of public service, and without the usual niceties, I would like you to permit me to draw your attention to a problem Michigan faces today.

Namely our legislative leaders seem to have lost their minds, any sense of the public good, and it is time to stop treating their raving lunacy as if it deserved respect. 

Earlier this month, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill designed to save the state money and allow some people to salvage their lives by making it easier for prisoners who are no longer a threat to society to get out of prison on parole.

This bill makes a vast amount of sense, and is being supported by responsible and intelligent conservatives like State Representative Kurt Heise of Plymouth Township, its Republican sponsor, and Governor Snyder. 

Michigan is drowning financially in our huge and bloated corrections system.

The other night I was part of an informal dinner group that included a number of Republicans, some of whom have served in elected or appointed positions in Lansing.

I asked them if Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette would be their next candidate for governor. To my surprise, almost none thought so. Their choice was Candice Miller. They saw her as a practical, down-to-earth, no-nonsense conservative who could get the job done.

When I learned the governor had reversed himself and was willing to help reconnect Flint to Detroit water, what first popped into my head was what Gerald Ford said the day Richard Nixon resigned and he became President.

He told us the system worked, and we were “a government of laws, not men.”

Flickr/MichBio / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

For decades men have considered bars, clubs, locker rooms and golf courses open territory in which they can ask for introductions and guidance to advance their businesses and careers.

But something like the Old Boys’ Network has mostly eluded women. Our formal and informal networks are not as robust, perhaps because we are still hampered by the competition that existed when there was only one seat for a woman at any important table.

I’m not in the least surprised that the United Autoworkers Union reached a new agreement with Fiat Chrysler late last night. Nobody, but nobody wanted a strike.

I did think it possible that the union might have workers put down tools and walk off the job for a few hours in an effort to remind the rank-and-file of their heritage.

But if there had been a serious strike, the only winner would have been Toyota.

Just think about this: What if some emergency forced the state to temporarily appoint an emergency manager in a more affluent, mostly white area?

Pretend this happens to Birmingham in Oakland County, say, or Holland.

To save money, the emergency manager stops using the longtime clean water source and switches to a local river. When residents complain that the water smells and is discolored, the emergency manager tells them it is just as good as they were getting before.

Back in the early 1950’s, a Chinese-American woman named Grace Lee came to Detroit to publish an obscure newsletter for an even more obscure Marxist group led by a revolutionary from Trinidad. She met a black auto worker named James Boggs.

She had a PhD in philosophy; he had barely a high school education. She invited him to dinner. He showed up an hour late. She made lamb chops; he said he hated them. She put on a Louie Armstrong record, and he told her Satchmo was an Uncle Tom.

But later that evening, he asked her to marry him.

There's a way to help every child in Michigan save for education

Oct 5, 2015
Jennifer Guerra/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Education and wealth are inextricably linked. Not only does educational attainment affect earning potential and capacity to build wealth, but family wealth greatly impacts a student’s likelihood of completing postsecondary education.

Sadly, measures of family wealth and education attainment in the U.S. show a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

If you happened to be listening to Stateside last week, you may have heard me talking about a new biography, The People’s Lawyer, which I co-wrote with former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley.

While the words are mine, the story is his.

I wanted to talk about it today, not to plug the book, but for a couple reasons.

Well, as you may know by now, the United Auto Workers union did an absolutely superb job negotiating a new contact with FCA, Fiat Chrysler.

Everybody in the industry was impressed by the result, with one exception, the workers themselves, who voted the contract down by more than a two to one margin.

When I was young I was proud that I didn’t live in Dearborn, whose mayor-for-life, Orville Hubbard, was a bizarre brawling clown who wore outlandish bow ties.

Hugely fat, he would do anything for publicity. Pose with a boa constrictor, wear a giant paper bag, or straddle Michigan Avenue looking like a bargain-basement Mussolini, you name it.

When the Michigan House of Representatives finally got rid of its two disgraced members earlier this month, we thought that was that.

Nobody imagined there was much of a chance of them reclaiming their jobs.

Well, think again. 

Most people in Michigan know Matty Moroun as the famous and highly controversial owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

For years, the media has covered his ongoing efforts to stop a second, independently owned bridge, a battle he’s apparently lost. 

Yesterday I was thinking that, in a sense, Flint has become Detroit’s Detroit.

In other words, for years, the urban crisis in Detroit was seen as the worst in the state, if not the entire nation.

Last year, a woman studying psychology in Marquette told me, “I feel so sorry for people who live in places like Detroit and Syria.”

João André O. Dias/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

You go to a fancy restaurant and order a bottle of red wine. The tuxedoed waiter calls over the sommelier who takes the order, brings the bottle, opens and pours it.

Then, you notice there’s a lot more fuss being made at a nearby table. With great ceremony, the sommelier is decanting the wine, and pouring the entire bottle into a glass carafe on the side table.

So, you think, what’s the matter with my wine? Chopped liver?

Courtesy of Backyard Brains

The Next Idea

All it takes is one new innovation or successful company to change the economic fortunes of an entire city or region.

More often though, it’s the cumulative effect of many new innovations and successful companies that create lasting economic change.

Regardless if it’s one or 1000, new tech companies have an arduous path to success. Yet because of their potentially huge payoffs, competition to host them and their talented workforce is fierce.

Yesterday, a circuit judge in Washtenaw County struck a blow for common sense and sanity by ruling that Ann Arbor public schools could ban guns in their buildings.

That immediately provoked a furious reaction from those who think guns more important than anything else, including the lives and well-being of children.

The attorney for a group called Michigan Gun Owners fairly sneered, “I think the judge decided to ignore state law.”

He added that they would appeal.

Over the weekend I got a number of emails, all of which went more or less like this:

“Did you know, or is it true, that there is a bill in the Michigan Legislature to make it illegal to practice using a condom on a banana?”

Well, if you’ve been following the news from Lansing, it seems likely that the Legislature will soon vote to eliminate what’s known as "prevailing wage," which is the requirement that the state pay union-scale wages to workers on state construction projects.

Richard Nixon is remembered today largely for all the bad things he did while President. He lied, engaged in a massive cover-up of criminal activities, obstructed justice, bugged even himself – you name it. 

In the end he resigned.

Todd Courser did the same 10 days ago, so that he wouldn’t be thrown out of the Michigan Legislature, as Cindy Gamrat in fact was.

I know a couple who bought two brand-new General Motors cars in the mid-1980s. She bought an Oldsmobile station wagon, and he bought a beautiful sleek Buick.

They carefully maintained them, didn’t abuse them, and the cars fell apart. The Oldsmobile finally died after barely seventy thousand miles. The Buick had massive electrical problems for which the company refused to take any responsibility.