Opinion

On the day the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal everywhere in the nation, I was in the town of Ironwood, which is both in Michigan and in another world.

Ironwood is more than six hundred miles from Detroit. It is so far west that it is one of a handful of Michigan communities on Central, not Eastern Time.

There must be Republican strategists who are secretly relieved and happy that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the subsidies that help millions buy health insurance.

Had they ruled the other way, not only would millions of people have lost coverage, but it would have caused immense problems for a private health insurance market that has changed the way it does business to comply with the Affordable Care Act, usually known as Obamacare. Opponents were hoping the high court would invalidate the subsidies based largely on semantics.

Many years ago, a wicked old police reporter told me that he thought common street prostitutes were morally superior to politicians.

That was because “they admit that those who give them money expect something for it.”

Well, he had a point.

As you probably know, there is now an intense debate over whether to remove Confederate flags and other symbols of the so-called “lost cause” from public places in the South.

My guess is that some will go away, but that most people have short attention spans. The longer their defenders can stall, the better the odds are that most will still be around in a year.

It now looks as though the Gordie Howe International Bridge is certain to become reality. Investors have to be lined up and there is still more work to be done before shovels go into the ground, but all the major political and legal challenges have been overcome.

Screenshot/Chrysler

The Next Idea

In 2009, the headline of a Time magazine cover story read “The Tragedy of Detroit” with a shadowy photo of a blighted factory in the background. The national press was brutal.

Last week I discussed a new bill that would make it easier for citizens to get absentee ballots in Michigan, a bill sponsored by a Republican state representative, Lisa Posthumus Lyons, and enthusiastically supported by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

She’s also a conservative Republican and Michigan’s chief elections official. The bill is scarcely radical; it would merely allow any voter who wants an absentee ballot to get one. Two-thirds of the states already allow what is called “no-excuse” absentee voting.

When I learned about the shootings in South Carolina this week, I thought of a fascinating book I read earlier this spring* about the assassination of President Garfield, in 1881.

His shooting had nothing to do with race. But his death also had nothing to do with his shooting. Garfield was shot in the back by a deranged assassin, but the bullet lodged harmlessly deep within his body. Had he been left alone, he probably would have recovered quickly.

With each new idea, momentum builds in Detroit

Jun 18, 2015
Courtesy of Focus: HOPE

The Next Idea 

Innovation is at the center of Detroit’s inclusive recovery. Yet this word “innovation” is used so often that its meaning tends to get a little obscured.

Rather than the narrow definition of technological advancement, the meaning of innovation we should use in Detroit is about doing things differently, redefining our future, and challenging ourselves to move beyond business as usual. 

For years, Michigan has made it harder to cast a vote than most other states. Most states now have early voting, where you can show up at the polls and cast a vote on certain days before the election.

Most states also allow anyone to request an absentee ballot who wants one, no questions asked. There are only fourteen states that don’t allow either option. And Michigan, along with Mississippi and Alabama, is one.

Thirteen years ago, when Dick Posthumus was running for governor, we talked about higher education. 

We’re almost the same age, didn’t come from rich families, and had gone to the same state school at the same time, in the early 1970s.

Yesterday, Jeb Bush announced he was running for the Republican nomination for president. If you had been under the impression that he’s already been running for what seems like several years, that’s because he has.


People who are elderly, poor, or not white have new ideas too

Jun 15, 2015
Flickr/George A. Spiva Center for the Arts

The Next Idea

“We never know where the next big innovation is going to come from.”

That’s a common phrase we hear over and over, and it is true. 

When I was in elementary school more than half a century ago, there was still widespread ignorance about mental illness.

There were also no home computers, no thought of smart phones, no internet and virtually no seatbelts in cars. Black people were called Negroes, not allowed to vote in many states, and nobody imagined they’d ever see an African-American president.

There’s been a myth for a long time that Governor Rick Snyder is really a moderate on social issues, who sometimes is forced to go along with the right wing of his party in order to try to get votes for the rest of his agenda.

UPDATE:  Since this commentary was published,  the AP reports that Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law letting adoption agencies refuse referrals that violate beliefs.

Well, let’s start out today by getting in the old Time Machine and going back to early May 1954. That was just before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools.

There’s an old joke that some politicians look at a program and say, “Well, I don’t care that it actually works in reality. I need to know if it fits my ideology.”

Nearly two weeks ago, the legislature narrowly passed a bill to allow GEO, a for-profit multinational private company, to bring highly dangerous prisoners from other states to a facility it runs in the northern Lower Peninsula.

Courtesy of One Well Brewing

The Next Idea 

I own a brewery in Michigan. Sometimes I still can’t believe I actually get to say that and have it be true. Thousands of home brewers and craft beer lovers from around the country aspire to do what I do -- and I know, because just eight months ago I was one of them.

Michigan has thousands of old, energy-inefficient factories, apartment complexes and office buildings. Nationally, the U.S. government estimates that the average building wastes a third of the energy it uses. My guess is that figure may be even higher here. How important is that?

To parody Winston Churchill, this year’s Battle of the Budget is Over; the Battle of the Roads is about to begin. The legislature passed the general fund budget this week with rather less fuss than I would have expected, given some of the controversial decisions.

Michigan can't afford to reject rainbow dollars

Jun 4, 2015
flickr/purplesherbet

The Next Idea

As a queer man who grew up in Michigan, I sometimes wonder why I decided to come back home. I fled Detroit for New York City after graduating from the University of Michigan in 2006, and truly thought I’d never look back.

Maybe I returned because New York City was already in good hands.

Maybe I returned because I realized that Michigan still needs more love, and that I still have a lot of love to give.

This is what a $2,000 FOIA request looks like.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In order for parents to make the best decisions for their children, they need to know what’s going on. So do taxpayers and voters.

In my years of writing about school districts all over the state, I’ve learned everyone wants to brag about the successes. No one is in a hurry to admit when things aren’t working for students.

If you’ve been following the news for a long time, sometimes the biggest indicator of how things have changed is not the stories themselves, but how they are treated.

State Representative Jeff Farrington of Utica wants to pass a bill he says would raise $115 million to fix the roads. That would be a mere drop in the bucket towards the at least $1.3 billion a year needed, but hey, every little bit helps, right?

I’ve just come back from a couple of weeks in East-Central Europe, countries that were communist satellites of the old Soviet Union until a quarter of a century ago.

Courtesy of mitalent.org

The Next Idea

When the housing crisis hit in the mid-2000s, millions lost their jobs. Licensed home builder and Saginaw resident Jeff Little was one of them. 

Courtesy of NASA

The Next Idea

You can see Michigan from space. It’s the mitten surrounded by all that blue with the bunny jumping over it.

In fact, almost half of the Great Lakes State is comprised of water. Michigan has more shoreline than any other state in the union, with the exception of Alaska, which is seven times larger.

The nation was transfixed last winter by the story of James Robertson, who walked 21 miles to and from work every day, from his home in Detroit to his factory job in an upscale suburb, where he made only about $22,000 a year.

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, the popular law and order slogans were “get tough on crime,” and “lock ‘em up and throw the key away.”

Well, we tried that.

What it got us was an increase in the state prison population from 18,000 to more than 50,000.

Pages