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Lessenberry talks Wayne County, kids in poverty, roads, and a trip to Japan

Jul 22, 2015

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week in Michigan Politics, political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks about Wayne County’s financial crisis and the plans to fix it, children in poverty, the roads stalemate, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s trip to Japan. 

Money troubles for Wayne County

Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county, is facing a financial crisis.

Like with Detroit, the governor can either assign an emergency manager or enter into a consent agreement with Wayne County that would give Wayne County Executive Warren Evans the power to step in and “get things in shape,” says Lessenberry. Luckily, there is a good amount of confidence that Evens will get the county back on track, he says. 

Executive says no bankruptcy for Wayne County

Speaking of Evans, he says the county can fix its problems without going into bankruptcy or entering emergency management. Lessenberry says that it’s okay to be optimistic on this one.

Unlike Detroit, “Wayne County’s problems are probably more a function of irresponsible politicians making bad decisions,” he says. 

Kids count…so why are so many living in poverty?

A new report shows that almost one in four Michigan kids live in poverty. The authors say the state needs to increase policies and programs that help parents, like paid sick leave, but Lessenberry says Michigan hasn’t been following this advice.   

“The state is doing everything it can to ensure that there’s more poor children,” Lessenberry said. He also says the legislator has dramatically decreased a tax that helps poor people and there are no laws in sight that would make things easier for families.

He says that while other states seem to be getting better, Michigan is worse off than it was during the bottom of the great recession and there is no sign of things improving.

No end in sight for roads       

Legislators went home yesterday without a vote on a plan to fix the roads. They will be on vacation until mid-August. Lessenberry says this continued lack of decision is making the roads worse, which makes it harder for Michigan to attract businesses.

The House and Senate can’t seem to agree on anything, and as a result we are, “back at an impasse,” says Lessenberry, and he sees no sign of the roads being fixed in the near future.

Mayor Duggan goes to Japan

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan leaves for Japan later this week with stops in Toyota City and Tokyo. Duggan’s office sees this as an opportunity to start Japanese investments in Detroit. Lessenberry says the trip is looking at a long-term plan to build a relationship.

The Japanese have helped save the Detroit Institute of Art in the past and have other investments in Detroit and the trip is a good idea, says Lessenberry.

“This is probably a wise and prudent thing to do,” he says. “I don’t see any downside to it.”

Michigan Radio Newsroom – Cheyna Roth