When I asked one famous Michigan native what he thought people might not know about him, he put it this way: “I just do my thing. I go to work and do my job the best I can.“
“I think about how I can help people, and have fun.“ If that sounds like something Jeff Daniels or Bob Seger might have said, guess again. That’s how Governor Rick Snyder described himself to me during a interview this week.
The governor added “It’s all about solving problems. You don’t take credit for anything and you don’t blame anyone.” In fact, he said he had made a point of never directly blaming any of his predecessors for the shape Michigan is in.
The former computer executive and venture capitalist says he is used to criticism. “Throughout my career I’ve been doing things people told me I couldn’t do.”
Today, one of those things is getting a new bridge built across the Detroit River. The governor admitted he had underestimated “ the power of what one special interest with money can do.”
Translated, that means the tremendous financial contributions made by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun to various legislators in an effort to keep his monopoly.
That has made winning approval of a new bridge harder than he anticipated, even though it will cost Michigan nothing.
Nevertheless the governor seemed confident the bridge will be built. While he wouldn’t say more than that he was still working though the legislature -- for now -- people close to him have told me that their approval might not be strictly necessary.
One alternative might be to have the MEDC, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation -- authorize it. Another might be the creation of a special authority, as with for the Mackinac Bridge.
What does bother the governor is that he feels that some of his reforms have been misunderstood, something which he says is partly a communication failure on his part. Chief among these is the new tougher emergency financial manager law. Some people have interpreted that as a naked power grab by the state. The governor, however, said what he was trying to do was first establish an early warning system to try to help communities avoid needing a manager. “I don‘t want to appoint emergency financial managers. I see that as a failure,” he said.
But when one is needed, he felt they needed stronger tools so “they can get their work done and get out of that position and give it back to the community.” Nor, he said, does he want to destroy or weaken traditional public schools, despite his education cuts.
He is a confirmed supply-sider, and really believes lower tax rates will lead to more money coming in over the long run.
We talked about former Governor Milliken’s environmental legacy, and I asked Rick Snyder how he wanted to be remembered years from now. Surprisingly perhaps, he said he didn’t want to be. “I hope that people just will think of this time as the beginning of a great thirty or forty-year run of prosperity in Michigan.”
If that does turn out to be the case, the last thing Rick Snyder will have to worry about is being forgotten.