Jack Lessenberry

The good news is that we’ve clearly made progress towards eliminating a lot of stigma in this society. There’s certainly much less against gay people, and we have, after all, a black president. Most people are no longer unnerved by the thought of meeting someone with AIDS, and as far as I can tell, nobody cares if their coworkers happen to be Jewish.

When I was in junior high school my class was taken to Lansing, to see the state capital. I was blown away with awe -- the Capitol Dome, the stately Senate and House chambers, the display of Civil War battle flags.

Whatever your politics, here’s something hard to deny: Detroit Public Schools are a terrible failure, and have been for years.

Four emergency managers have failed to stop a staggering hemorrhage of students, or make the schools any kind of academic success. Nor have they managed to get the district’s ballooning deficit under control. The numbers tell the tale.

The big news today is that Governor Snyder has decided not to run for President, which is only slightly less surprising than that snow isn’t expected in August. I don’t think he was ever really running, and when Proposal One went down, it took his national chances with it.

Something odd happened the night before last, once it became clear that the sales tax amendment to fix the roads was headed for an overwhelming defeat. Everyone not in the Legislature began assuming the legislature would now fix this.

When the magnitude of Proposal One’s defeat became clear, I called Denise Donahue, director of the County Road Association of Michigan.  Her members know better than anyone how bad our state and local roads are.

If you think you’ve heard quite enough about today’s road repair referendum, I can’t blame you. But I want to talk today about some elections you may not have heard about. First, Flint. It sometimes seems that Flint is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of Michigan cities. It doesn’t get enough respect, and it can’t catch a break.

Tomorrow, Michigan voters, some of them at least, will go to the polls and decide whether to raise our sales tax from six to seven percent, mainly to fix the roads. Polls show voters badly want the roads fixed, and know this will cost money. But if the polls are correct, Proposal One will also go down to an overwhelming defeat.

Governor Rick Snyder announced his plan to fix Detroit’s schools yesterday, and to me, the most annoying thing was this: Demonstrators on both sides of the spectrum were rushing to Lansing to protest against his plan before they knew what was in it.

Matty Moroun, the 88-year-old owner of the Ambassador Bridge, has one purpose in life: Keeping his monopoly over trade across the Detroit River.

To that end he has spent tens of millions of dollars. He’s bought off lawmakers with campaign contributions.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court ended school segregation in 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren worked hard on his colleagues to have it be a unanimous decision. He felt that it was important the court speak with one voice on an issue that would have such an impact on society.

Detroit to Nepal

Apr 28, 2015

For years, Dr. Richard Keidan has lived two lives. Professionally, he is an elite cancer surgeon and a professor of surgery from an upscale Detroit suburb, one of the state’s best.

But his heart is in Nepal, where he spends at least three months of every year, climbing mountains, trudging to far-flung local villages, and pouring time and money into public health projects.

People have been looking down on politicians since the beginning of time.

There’s an old vaudeville skit in which an old-style southern senator gives an, emotionally wrought speech and then announces, “well, them’s my views, and if you don’t like’ em … well, I can change ‘em.”

There’s little doubt that State Senator Joe Hune is the health insurance companies’ favorite Michigan legislator. While it wouldn’t be nice to say he’s been bought and paid for, they’ve invested heavily in him over the years; nearly a $100,000 in campaign contributions, according to conservative Detroit News columnist Frank Beckmann.

Over the past week, there’s been a lot of attention paid to the death of Detroit philanthropist Al Taubman, and a lesser amount paid to that of former U.S. Senator and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Griffin.

April always has been a month of hope and renewal, when the last snow disappears, the forsythia blooms, and leaves sprout on the trees. I’ve always been struck by the fact that America’s two worst wars came to an end in spring.

There’s suddenly a new flurry of rumors that Governor Rick Snyder is inching towards making a run for President. There is some evidence that there’s something to this. The governor, or his supporters, are creating a new non-profit fund, “Making Government Accountable” to pay for his jaunts around the country.

Former U.S. Senator Robert Griffin, a conservative Republican from Traverse City, died last week, and if you aren’t at least in your fifties, you may never have heard of him. Carl Levin beat Griffin when he tried to win a third term thirty-seven years ago.

During his first term, Governor Rick Snyder attempted to get the legislature to pass bills that would have severely limited the amount victims of catastrophic auto accidents could collect.

Like most people who grew up in the sixties and seventies, I knew a lot of people who tried a lot of drugs. Marijuana of course, but also LSD, psilocybin, peyote, later cocaine.

History buffs know that Abraham Lincoln died exactly 150 years ago today, his great heart stopping forever at 7:22 in the morning. When I was a child the story of his assassination was as well-known as any story in the Bible.

  

I have decided I owe it to my listeners to announce today that I am not running for President. I am indeed old enough and have no felony convictions, but I have decided not to run, for a number of reasons. One of which is that I don’t have access to the billion dollars anyone nowadays needs.

Remember when people used to make fun of Florida as “God’s waiting room” because of all the elderly who went there to live out the last years of their lives?

Well, here’s something startling: Michigan is rapidly becoming an old people’s state. Instead of arguing about whether maize and blue or green and white should be our state’s official colors, we might be more honest if we made them gray and white.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell came to the University of Michigan yesterday to host an hour-long roundtable discussion on student loan debt.  

She began by saying,

“I think we’re all concerned about the staggering amount of student debt we now see in this country.”

Can you imagine a war in which two hundred thousand young Michigan men were killed? Well, we had one, proportionately as bad, and it was settled exactly 150 years ago today.

I have to say that for once I admire something Republican State Rep. Gary Glenn of Midland has done. Glenn is a freshman in the legislature, but has been a militant Michigan conservative activist on social issues for a long time, especially opposed to same sex-marriage.

We like to say we are against unfair discrimination against anyone, but that isn’t true. There’s one group who we legally and happily treat as less-than-human pariahs: convicted sex offenders who have done their punishment and served their time.

Today is Opening Day of the Major League Baseball Season, a day in which guys making fifty thousand a year take the day off to see men making millions play ball, on a day when it is usually too cold to sit outside for three hours. But they do anyway.

Honoring a hero

Apr 3, 2015

Exactly half a century ago, the nation was waking up to how terrible segregation was in the deep South, thanks in large part to television. In early March, TV brought horrifying images into homes across the country of black people being beaten, tear-gassed and clubbed as they attempted to peacefully march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama.

A number of people have been outraged that I haven’t denounced the Constitutional amendment that would raise the sales tax, largely to fix the roads.

Well, in a less imperfect world, this is indeed not how legislation should be made.

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