Jack Lessenberry

Essay/Analysis: Political Commentator

A Detroit native, Jack recognized that he wanted to become a journalist during his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. (He had previously set out to be a historian.) Now, he boasts thirty years of eclectic journalism experience. Jack has worked as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor of The Detroit News, and he has written for many national and regional publications, including Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Oakland Press.

Currently, he is a professor of journalism at Wayne State University and a contributing editor and columnist for The Metro Times, The Traverse-City Record Eagle, and The Toledo Blade...in addition to his work at Michigan Radio.

Throughout his years of journalism experience, his favorite memories are of interviewing Gerald Ford about Watergate in 1995 and winning a national Emmy for a documentary about Jack Kevorkian in 1994.

On a personal note, Jack stopped watching TV -- except for documentaries -- when Mr. Ed was canceled.

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Politics & Government
8:24 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Commentary: Should we have early voting?

If you are a politician, or promoting one of the ballot proposals and want to influence my vote, don’t waste your time.

I voted a week ago, by absentee ballot, even though I may be home on election day. I can do that because I am 60 years old. Hey, you should be able to get some benefit out of being 60.

But here’s the thing. Unless you are my age or older, you can’t legally get an absentee ballot, except in a very few cases, mostly if you know you are going to be in jail on election day, or out of town.

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Politics & Government
8:00 am
Wed October 24, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

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This week Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry talked about Proposal 6, how a new report indicates that the Michigan Merit Curriculum that was implemented in high schools in 2006 has not shown good results, and how two campaign staffers of former US Representative Thadeus McCotter will stand trial. They're charged with conspiring to get then-Congressman McCotter on the 2012 ballot with bogus petitions.

Politics & Government
6:00 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

The week in review

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Every Saturday Michigan Radio's Rina Miller talks with political analyst Jack Lessenberry about the week's top regional news stories. This week they talked about who Michiganders are likely to vote for in the presidential election, how the Teamsters are backing Proposal 6, and the death of inventor, Stan Ovshinsky.

Politics & Government
8:53 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Commentary: The other debate

You might say there was more than usual going on last night. There was the last game of the National League baseball playoffs, in which San Francisco completed a dramatic comeback to take on the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Meanwhile, on another channel, the Detroit Lions were blowing their Monday night football game.

And Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were locked in the final debate of the closest presidential campaign in years, this time arguing about foreign policy and the state of the world.

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Politics & Government
12:56 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Commentary: Detroit's police force

If I began exhibiting clear signs that I could no longer take care of myself, eventually something would happen.

I might get myself killed or locked up. Thousands of people suffer such fates every year.  But in more fortunate cases, incompetent people have legal guardians appointed for them.

Sometimes, they are declared wards of the state. The idea is to prevent them from doing themselves, or anyone else, any harm.

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Politics & Government
11:37 am
Fri October 19, 2012

Commentary: Farewell to Stan Ovshinsky

Somewhere in most Michigan newspapers today, past the stories about the Tigers winning the pennant and the campaign ads, you may find an obituary for a gentle man who changed the world.

Stan Ovshinsky died at his Bloomfield Hills home Wednesday night, a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. You may never have heard of him, but he almost certainly touched your life.

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Politics & Government
8:31 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Commentary: Campaign for the birds

During the presidential debate the other night I joked that Mitt Romney seems to have a problem with birds. The only memorable moment from the first debate was when he famously brought up Sesame Street’s Big Bird. Legends take on a life of their own, and most people now seem to think the candidate said he was going to “fire” Big Bird. In fact, what Romney really said was that he was, quote “Gonna stop the subsidy to PBS,” something he said he was sorry about because, as he put it, “I like Big Bird.“

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Politics & Government
8:13 am
Thu October 18, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

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This week Morning Edition host Christina Shockley talked with Michigan Radio's political analyst about the legislation to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, results of a poll that looks at where Michiganders stand when it comes to the six ballot proposals voters will see in the next three weeks and the bankruptcy of U.S. operation of electric car battery maker, A123 Systems.

Politics & Government
10:47 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Commentary: Debating Autos

The second presidential debate is over, and I’m pretty sure that if you polled Michigan voters and asked, simply, “who won last night?” there wouldn’t be any doubt of their answer.

It would be Justin Verlander, who last night pitched the Detroit Tigers to within one game of the World Series.

Indeed, I’d bet that more people were following their victory over the hated Yankees than were watching the confrontation in New York between the major presidential candidates.

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Politics & Government
11:35 am
Tue October 16, 2012

Commentary: Is this vote necessary?

Odds are that when you vote three weeks from now, you’ll be voting for some of the people I am about to name:  Michael Busuito, a plastic surgeon from Troy.  Lupe Ramos-Montigny. Todd Courser and Melanie Kurdys. Melanie Foster and Brian Mosallam. Satish Jasti and Shauna Ryder Diggs. She‘s a dermatologist, by the way, from Grosse Pointe.

I‘ll bet you didn‘t know that, but don’t feel bad. Neither did I, until I looked it up this morning. I‘d also bet that you probably haven‘t heard of most or all of those people either, right?

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Politics & Government
1:02 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Commentary: Shame of the UAW

As you probably know, a Titanic battle has been going on for years now over whether to build a new bridge over the Detroit River.

On one side is Governor Rick Snyder, the government of Canada, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, and the chambers of commerce. On the other side, Matty Moroun’s family, the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, who right now have a monopoly on moving billions in heavy automotive components from Detroit to Ontario.

The Moroun family, that is, together with those who support their position because of their money.

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Politics & Government
9:00 am
Sat October 13, 2012

The week in review

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Every Saturday Michigan Radio's Rina Miller talks with political analyst Jack Lessenberry about the week's top regional news stories. This week they talk about Proposal 5 which would require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature in order to raise taxes and the cost of campaigning in the state.

Politics & Government
12:53 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

Commentary: Challenging Brooks; Challenging Oakland

For the last 40 years, two things have been true. Oakland County, home to most of Detroit’s white-collar suburbs, has been Michigan’s richest county. And L. Brooks Patterson has been Oakland’s dominant
personality, first as county prosecutor, then as county executive. When his current term ends in January, he will have held that office for 20 years.


That’s exactly as long as his longtime political enemy, Coleman Young, was Mayor of Detroit. But while Coleman finally retired after 20 years, Brooks is, at age 73, running again.

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Politics & Government
9:56 am
Thu October 11, 2012

Commentary: Time to step up against Proposal 5 and 6?

There’s one thing that the vast majority of mainstream Republicans and Democrats agree on—Governor Rick Snyder, the man he defeated, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, and virtually every other elected official in the state:

Ballot Proposal 5, which would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature or a statewide vote of the people to raise any taxes, would be an absolute disaster for Michigan. It would cripple our ability to change with the times, respond to crises or make infrastructure improvements necessary to attract new business.

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Politics & Government
8:43 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Commentary: Home health care amendment

Michigan voters next month are going to be asked to decide the fate of five proposed amendments to the state constitution, plus whether they want to keep the Emergency Manager law. Some of the amendments have gotten a lot of publicity, like the one that would require a statewide vote before any new bridge could be constructed.

The amendment that would guarantee collective bargaining rights is getting attention, as is the one that would require utilities to get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

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Politics & Government
8:47 am
Tue October 9, 2012

Commentary: How Democrats can fight back after new congressional boundaries

Michigan’s congressional districts have all new boundaries this year, drawn by the Republican majority which controls the legislature. They wanted to maximize their party’s chances, and did so brilliantly.

They drew the new districts in a way designed to produce nine Republican and only five Democratic congressmen. But this year, Democrats have a fighting chance at an upset in two districts.

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Politics & Government
7:25 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Commentary: Citizenship and voting

Three days ago, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman ruled that Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had to stop asking voters to check a box reaffirming they are a U.S. citizen before casting a ballot at their polling place during next month’s election.

His ruling was about as surprising as snow in January, and I have to confess that I have a hard time understanding where the secretary of state is coming from. This was something the governor vetoed and her own legal staff told her to keep off absentee ballots.

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Politics & Government
9:00 am
Sat October 6, 2012

The week in politics

A view of the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Every Saturday Rina Miller talks with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about some of the biggest stories in the week's news. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was ordered to be in federal court this week, even though she asked someone else to speak on her behalf. Also, controversy surrounding Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R) brings up the question of whether Democrats can be competitive for the Speaker of the House’s seat in November. Plus, a Detroit scandal involving Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee creates head ache for Mayor Dave Bing.

Politics & Government
8:29 am
Fri October 5, 2012

Commentary: Proposal 5 and Michigan's taxes

Nobody likes taxes, and for the last 30 years, we’ve been happily brainwashed into thinking that our taxes are too high.

And, as a result, a leading economist told me the other day, “We have some of the worst roads in the country.” But hold on. If a lot of people are fooled into voting yes on Proposal Five, our roads and everything else are certain to get worse. In fact, much worse.

That’s the conclusion of Michigan State University Economics Professor Charles Ballard, perhaps the top expert on our state’s economy. His short, excellent book Michigan’s Economic Future ought to be required reading for anybody who wants to understand how things work.  Believe it or not, there are a few hard facts you need to know about taxes. First of all, we are already paying far less than we once were. Ballard told me, “State and local tax revenues in Michigan are already a much smaller fraction of our economy than they were a few decades ago.”

How much money is that?

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Politics & Government
8:45 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Commentary: The forgotten campaign

Well, by now there have been a zillion analyses of last night’s debate, most of which agree challenger Mitt Romney came on stronger than a curiously laid-back President Obama.

There’s not much I can add to that except perspective. I have seen every presidential debate since they became a permanent part of our political landscape back in 1976.

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