Opinion http://michiganradio.org en Journalists work hard to tell you everything you don't want to hear http://michiganradio.org/post/journalists-work-hard-tell-you-everything-you-dont-want-hear <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">To put it mildly, journalists are not the most beloved group in society. They never have been. We show up to tell you all sorts of unpleasant truths about life, society, your leaders and yourselves.</span></p><p>“Good afternoon. The mayor’s a crook, the governor is owned by special interests, your city is broke and your water polluted.”</p><p>“The country is involved in a ridiculous war it isn’t winning, your child is getting a lousy education, your roads will cost billions to fix and your representatives sold out to corporate interests. By the way, your kids are binge drinking and you are too fat. Have a nice day.”&nbsp;</p><p>It’s no wonder people aren’t all that happy when they see us coming. Like any other profession or family, we also have our share of black sheep. Journalists who lie or make things up are very rare, but nobody forgets it when they do.</p><p> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:53:53 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17264 at http://michiganradio.org Journalists work hard to tell you everything you don't want to hear You don’t want to play poker with Kevyn Orr http://michiganradio.org/post/you-don-t-want-play-poker-kevyn-orr <p></p><p>Here’s the one thing certain about Detroit’s bankruptcy: You don’t want to play poker with Kevyn Orr.</p><p>The state-appointed emergency manager had everyone convinced city workers and retirees were facing a steep 26% cut in their pensions – a cut that would jump to 34% if they didn’t quickly approve the smaller amount.</p><p>The city was getting ready to mail them all ballots explaining the cuts and asking for their approval.</p><p>Then,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/voil%C3%A0">voilà</a>&nbsp;– yesterday, everything changed. Suddenly, negotiators came up with a deal whereby most pensions would be cut by less than 5%. Police and fire retirees pensions won’t be cut at all.</p><p>There seems little doubt that the 32,000 employees and retirees will approve this deal. Yet we need to remember two things. First of all, this is not final yet – not by a long shot.</p><p>Something else that’s still very uncertain has to happen first. The Michigan Legislature has to approve contributing $350 million to a fund designed to shore up the pensions and protect any of the work in the city-owned collections in the Detroit Institute of Arts from being possibly sold for the benefit of the creditors. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:29:13 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17250 at http://michiganradio.org You don’t want to play poker with Kevyn Orr This is doing more damage to Detroit than a hundred drug murders could have http://michiganradio.org/post/doing-more-damage-detroit-hundred-drug-murders-could-have <p>By now, millions know the story.</p><p>Thirteen days ago, on the east side of Detroit, a ten-year-old boy darted in front of a truck driven by a middle-aged tree trimmer named Steven Utash. He couldn’t help hitting the child, whose leg was broken.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When </span>Utash<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> got out to check on the boy, a mob beat him so severely he nearly died. He was in a medically-induced coma for days, and may end up with permanent brain damage.</span></p><p>All that is horrifying enough, but there is one additional terrible detail which is the main reason the story has gotten national attention.</p><p>The tree trimmer was white. His assailants were all black. And I can tell you that this is doing more damage to Detroit than a hundred drug murders could have. This may be more devastating to the city than Kwame Kilpatrick ever was. People are used to crooked politicians of all colors, shapes and sizes. Detroit had white mayors who wound up in prison long before Kilpatrick was born. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:29:03 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17230 at http://michiganradio.org This is doing more damage to Detroit than a hundred drug murders could have We pay for bad roads with more repairs, higher fuel costs http://michiganradio.org/post/we-pay-bad-roads-more-repairs-higher-fuel-costs <p>If by any chance you’ve left your house anytime in, oh, say, the last year, you may have noticed that our roads are in terrible shape. Gov. Rick Snyder knows this. Two years ago, he asked the Legislature for $1.2 billion a year for a decade in new money to fix the roads. If you think that’s a lot, you’re right.</p><p>But it is less than studies show our horrible roads are costing us every year in the increased cost of fuel and car repairs, as well as &nbsp;the incalculable cost of businesses that won’t expand in or move to Michigan because our infrastructure is in such lousy shape.</p><p>The governor hasn’t always been a statesman, nor above pandering to the far right. But he is a businessman, and devoted to economic expansion. He knows you need decent roads to attract business, especially the kind that produce high-tech, high-paying jobs. Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:10:19 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17218 at http://michiganradio.org We pay for bad roads with more repairs, higher fuel costs Tiger Stadium: The place where Detroit dies or is reborn http://michiganradio.org/post/tiger-stadium-place-where-detroit-dies-or-reborn <p>Well, the news got even worse for General Motors yesterday. Detroit’s future and the outcome of its bankruptcy remain much in doubt. I’ve talked about all these things before, and I am sure I’ll talk about them again. However, today I want to tell you a heartwarming little story of determination and resilience that you can share in.</p><p>If you are in the Lansing area tomorrow afternoon and have time, go to the Capital City Film Festival and see Stealing Home. If you are in the Detroit area, they are showing it in Ferndale Sunday afternoon at Renaissance Vineyard Church. More details are on the Stealing Home Facebook page.</p><p>My guess is that this film will blow you away. The French historian and philosopher Jacques Barzun famously said, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:50:18 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17201 at http://michiganradio.org Tiger Stadium: The place where Detroit dies or is reborn Detroit bondholders will be paid 74 cents on the dollar; working women can relate http://michiganradio.org/post/detroit-bondholders-will-be-paid-74-cents-dollar-working-women-can-relate <p></p><p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">If you heard my commentary yesterday on the latest in the Detroit bankruptcy battles, I began with the news that the city had reached a deal with the holders of its general obligation bonds.</span></p><p>All we knew then was that an agreement had been reached, and I said the bondholders were, to quote myself, “evidently going to settle for less than 20 cents on every dollar owed them.”</p><p>Well, I was astonishingly far off.</p><p>In fact, they ended up settling for 74 cents for every dollar. But there is a reason why I was so wrong.</p> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:14:38 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17176 at http://michiganradio.org Detroit bondholders will be paid 74 cents on the dollar; working women can relate If you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again http://michiganradio.org/post/if-you-think-detroit-institute-arts-now-safe-think-again <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">If you aren’t following every twist and turn in the saga of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may think things are well on track.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Today, in fact, came the good news that the city has apparently reached a deal with its unsecured bondholders, who are evidently going to settle for almost 75 cents of every dollar owed them.&nbsp;</span></p><p>But the biggest and toughest challenges are ahead.</p><p>And if you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again.</p><p>Here is how things stand:</p><p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 18:10:51 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17155 at http://michiganradio.org If you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again With Michigan members of Congress hitting the exit, replacements scramble for money http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-members-congress-hitting-exit-replacements-scramble-money <p>Congressmen don’t stay on the job forever, though it sometimes seems like it.</p><p>This year will be the last for Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, first elected in 1978, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, the all-time longevity champ, who has represented a Detroit-area district since 1955.</p><p>Their retirements, while momentous, weren’t very surprising. Indeed, Carl Levin announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election more than a year ago. Far more shocking was the sudden decision by two mid-Michigan Republican Congressmen to bow out.</p><p>Both Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, had safe seats, a fair amount of seniority, and are youngish men by congressional standards. Yet within the last few days, both said they wouldn’t run for re-election.</p><p>That set off something of a mad scramble.</p><p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 14:34:20 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17143 at http://michiganradio.org With Michigan members of Congress hitting the exit, replacements scramble for money A peculiar quota system may weaken the Democratic ticket. http://michiganradio.org/post/peculiar-quota-system-may-weaken-democratic-ticket <p></p><p>Remarkably, we already know virtually everyone who will be nominated by both parties for the major statewide offices this year. Every candidate, that is, except one. I’m not talking about candidates for statewide education boards or high court races.</p><p>I’m talking about the four high-profile elected positions. And though we are almost four months from the statewide primaries and the state party conventions, the lineup is pretty much set.</p><p>Republicans will run all their incumbents – Governor Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette.</p><p>Democrats are set to nominate Mark Schauer, a former congressman from Battle Creek, for governor, and Lisa Brown, the Oakland County clerk, as his running mate. Mark Totten is the only candidate for attorney general. But what about secretary of state? Mon, 07 Apr 2014 18:08:16 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17129 at http://michiganradio.org A peculiar quota system may weaken the Democratic ticket. Cowardly politicians hope you think they are fixing our roads http://michiganradio.org/post/cowardly-politicians-hope-you-think-they-are-fixing-our-roads <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There was a lot of rejoicing yesterday over a new plan to fix Michigan’s roads.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">House Speaker </span>Jase<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> </span>Bolger,<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> R-Marshall, is proposing coming up with $400 million a year in new money.</span></p><p>House Republicans say they can do that without raising taxes. Gov. Snyder, off in Europe on a trade mission, sent word that he thinks this is “a great first step” toward better roads.</p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:41:45 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17103 at http://michiganradio.org Cowardly politicians hope you think they are fixing our roads Here's one reason gay voters, Jewish voters, and pro-choice women won't be voting for Snyder http://michiganradio.org/post/heres-one-reason-gay-voters-jewish-voters-and-pro-choice-women-wont-be-voting-snyder <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This year’s race for governor has been unusual in one way. Four years ago, both parties had intense primary campaigns going on, and we had no idea in April who the nominees would be.</span></p><p>But this time, it has been settled for months.</p><p>Democrats avoided an expensive and divisive fight by uniting early around former legislator and Battle Creek congressman Mark Schauer.</p><p>There was never any possibility of a GOP contest once it was clear Rick Snyder would run for reelection, but the last few months must have been frustrating for Schauer.</p><p>Most polls show the race close, or dead even, but Schauer has failed to attract much attention. In part, that’s because there’s been so much other news, from Detroit’s bankruptcy to retiring congressmen to General Motors’ huge ignition-switch crisis. But it is also due to the fact that Schauer, a likeable and intelligent man, does not “fill up a room,” with charisma and the force of his personality.</p><p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:16:29 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17087 at http://michiganradio.org Here's one reason gay voters, Jewish voters, and pro-choice women won't be voting for Snyder Mary Barra might be the right CEO to steer GM through this crisis http://michiganradio.org/post/mary-barra-might-be-right-ceo-steer-gm-through-crisis <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">General Motors is clearly now in a crisis which could be far worse than bankruptcy was five years ago – one that may threaten the very survival of what once was the world’s biggest corporation.</span></p><p>Gregg Harper, an obscure Republican congressman from Mississippi, spoke for America yesterday, when he and other congressmen were grilling GM’s new CEO.</p><p>“We don’t trust your company right now,” he told Mary Barra, who endured more than two hours of hostile questioning from the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.</p><p>What Harper thinks is what millions of Americans think.</p><p>Many of them stopped buying GM products long ago, tired of inferior quality and of being lied to by sales and service personnel.</p><p>They are like a man I know who bought a top-of-the line Buick in 1986, only to find the car afflicted with electrical problems the company couldn’t or wouldn’t fix. He traded it for a Honda Accord, and says he would never touch a General Motors car again.</p><p>He’s far from alone. Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:27:13 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17072 at http://michiganradio.org Mary Barra might be the right CEO to steer GM through this crisis Michigan will be weaker in Washington than we’ve been in ages http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-will-be-weaker-washington-we-ve-been-ages <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This isn’t an especially good April Fool’s Day, for a reason you might not suspect.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the last few days, we’ve&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">learned that our state is going to be considerably weaker in terms of political clout in Washington than we have been in many years.</span></p><p>Yesterday, Congressman Dave Camp of Midland, R-Michigan, the chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, suddenly announced he wouldn’t run for reelection.</p> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 19:19:16 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17053 at http://michiganradio.org Michigan will be weaker in Washington than we’ve been in ages The Ilitch family seeks a monopoly on the backs of taxpayers http://michiganradio.org/post/ilitch-family-seeks-monopoly-backs-taxpayers <p>I’ve talked before about the sweetheart deal that the city of Detroit gave Mike Ilitch in connection with the new hockey stadium and entertainment complex being built in downtown Detroit.</p><p>The city is giving Ilitch’s Olympia Entertainment all the land they need, absolutely free. The taxpayers are also kicking in most of the cost of the project.</p><p>In return, the city gets nothing – not one dime of the parking or pizza or ticket sales revenue.</p><p> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 14:25:26 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 17038 at http://michiganradio.org The Ilitch family seeks a monopoly on the backs of taxpayers All the cuts to news gathering should scare us http://michiganradio.org/post/all-cuts-news-gathering-should-scare-us <p></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Newspapers, even big-city newspapers, are in a sorry state these days.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Thanks largely to the Internet, their circulation and advertising revenue has been in free fall, with the result that they have far less staff than they once did.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">There are also fewer papers than there used to be.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Washtenaw County, outside of Ann Arbor, is home to a collection of fascinating and picturesque little towns like Manchester, Saline, Dexter, and Chelsea. Each had its own thriving weekly newspaper: T</span><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">he Saline Reporter, Dexter Leader, and Chelsea Standard.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Years ago I did some consulting for the local company that owned those papers and learned that no matter how physically close these places might be, the good people of Chelsea did not want Dexter news in their paper, and vice-versa.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Times are different now.</span></p><p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 14:47:25 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 16996 at http://michiganradio.org All the cuts to news gathering should scare us Americans will have to wait for final decision on gay marriage http://michiganradio.org/post/americans-will-have-wait-final-decision-gay-marriage <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There are a lot of bewildered and dejected people in Michigan today.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Most of all, perhaps, the 300 or so same-sex couples who got married last Saturday, after a federal judge overturned Michigan’s amendment outlawing such marriages. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled, as expected, that our state’s constitutional prohibition of such marriages was wrong.</span></p><p>But unlike federal judges in other states where this happened, he did not put his ruling on hold till the appellate courts could rule, so there was a mad scramble for licenses and ceremonies in those counties where the clerks were sympathetic. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 15:55:06 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 16978 at http://michiganradio.org Americans will have to wait for final decision on gay marriage Michigan lawmakers' latest efforts are a politically motivated attack on the poor http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-lawmakers-latest-efforts-are-politically-motivated-attack-poor <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Well, here’s some news you’ve been waiting for.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Two bills may soon be on the governor’s desk requiring suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients. </span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Michigan Senate has approved both, the House has passed one, and the odds are that they will smooth out any differences and send them on to the governor.</span></p><p>Signing them would be the sort of thing politicians do in an election year.</p><p>Indeed, it would make lots of people happy. Just think of all those lazy welfare chiselers, using our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to get high. Tue, 25 Mar 2014 14:46:57 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 16956 at http://michiganradio.org Michigan lawmakers' latest efforts are a politically motivated attack on the poor The partisan divide over same-sex marriage http://michiganradio.org/post/partisan-divide-over-same-sex-marriage <p>Unless you were trapped underground last weekend, you probably have been following Michigan’s same-sex marriage drama.</p><p>On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Fried<span style="line-height: 1.5;">man issued an opinion striking down Michigan’s state constitutional amendment prohibiting </span><a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/michigans-gay-marriage-ban-struck-down" style="line-height: 1.5;">same-sex marriages</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Less than 24 hours later, a federal appeals court put his ruling on hold.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the meantime, several hundred couples rushed to get licenses and marry. Every legal scholar I know believes the legality of same-sex unions will eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.</span></p><p> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 14:25:01 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 16947 at http://michiganradio.org The partisan divide over same-sex marriage A college student's outlook on the future of print journalism http://michiganradio.org/post/college-students-outlook-future-print-journalism <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When I was eight years old I wanted to be a lot of things: a Broadway actress, a princess, a member of the Spice Girls – and</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, what I thought was the most realistic of my lofty career dreams – a newspaper journalist.</span></p><p>My idea of being a newspaperwoman looked a lot like the best parts of <em>His Girl Friday</em>.</p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 17:01:17 +0000 Michigan Radio Newsroom 16878 at http://michiganradio.org A college student's outlook on the future of print journalism Bill Schuette enforcing popular regulations in an election year http://michiganradio.org/post/bill-schuette-enforcing-popular-regulations-election-year <p>There’s an old joke that says Republicans are the party in favor of local control, except when they aren’t, which is to say when local governments do something Republicans in the Legislature don’t like – for example, providing what they see as excessive health benefits to their employees.</p><p>Now it seems that the GOP is also the party which is aggressively in favor of the free market – except when it isn’t. And it is often convenient to be in favor of regulation in favor of the public interest in an election year.</p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:36:14 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 16911 at http://michiganradio.org Bill Schuette enforcing popular regulations in an election year