Jack Lessenberry

Commentary
10:50 am
Fri April 6, 2012

Commentary: Questions of Race

Throughout Detroit’s financial crisis, the governor has had a consistent message: This is about money and financial mismanagement, not about race. This didn‘t have anything to do with  the bitter racial issues that have plagued Detroit and complicated the city’s relationship with the suburbs, and the state, and itself.

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Commentary
11:04 am
Thu April 5, 2012

Commentary: Today's Detroit compared to 60 years ago

Sixty years ago today, Detroit was the fifth largest city in the  nation, vibrant, rich and powerful. The city wouldn’t begin losing people till the first freeways opened up in the next year.

The population had probably reached two million. The summer before, the President of the United States had come to help the city celebrate its two hundred and fiftieth anniversary.

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Commentary
10:53 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Commentary: More Casinos in Michigan?

Last summer I went to Traverse City to speak to the state association of property law lawyers. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, they will probably little note nor long remember what I said there.

But I’ll never forget something I saw there. The night before my speech, they took us to the Turtle Creek Casino for dinner. The food was excellent. But we walked through the gamblers sitting at the slot machines, and that was haunting. They looked like zombies, most of them, mechanically feeding money into the one-armed bandits. Few of them looked like they could afford to gamble.

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Commentary
11:05 am
Tue April 3, 2012

Commentary: Detroit and the State - Two Worlds

Yesterday, I was driving across Michigan and listening to the coverage of Detroit’s financial crisis, when I realized something.

Detroit must seem like an alien world to many who don‘t live in the city. And the reactions of many Detroiters, including some members of city council, must seem both baffling and irrational.

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Commentary
11:16 am
Mon April 2, 2012

Commentary: Joe Schwarz, former Republican now Democrat?

Back in the 1990s, if you were in the legislature and wanted to know about higher education in Michigan, you went to see State Senator Joe Schwarz, who understood it best of all.

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Commentary
10:45 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Commentary: Michigan helmet law repeal, bad idea?

Like everybody else, I am a great believer in freedom. I want the freedom to read, write, and say whatever I want.

I want to freedom to marry or live with or hang out with whomever I choose, and I want everyone else to have these freedoms too. However, there are some things we shouldn’t be free to do. I don’t have the right to cut down a tree in a state park.

Nor do I have the right to build a factory on my street . Years ago, the famous Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that “the right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.“

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Politics
7:48 am
Wed March 28, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

Ifmuth Flickr

Every Wednesday, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry takes a look at the week in state politics. On tap for this morning: the latest in Detroit's financial situation and what the arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act could mean for Michigan.

Commentary
11:22 am
Tue March 27, 2012

Commentary: Public reaction to Detroit's fiscal crisis

Unless you’ve been at the bottom of a salt mine for the last month or so, you know that Detroit is facing the mother of all financial crises. The city is about to run out of cash and options.

Within nine days, the governor either has to reach something called a consent agreement with the city’s elected leaders, or name an all-powerful emergency manager to run Detroit.

Nobody really understands how the consent agreement model would work, or frankly, even if it would work, but essentially, it would mean an emergency manager by committee.

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Commentary
11:24 am
Mon March 26, 2012

Commentary: Detroit on the Brink

Former Governor Bill Milliken turns ninety today, and just about everyone is publishing some kind of tribute to the longest-serving governor in Michigan history. Milliken himself is not likely to say much today, but that’s not because he isn’t still mentally keen. He called me a couple weeks ago to complain.

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Politics
8:36 am
Thu March 22, 2012

The Week in State Politics

Contemplative Imaging Flickr

There sure was lots of news this week about Michigan's emergency manager law - from legal wrangling over how the Open Meetings Act affects how financial decisions are made to the reappointment of Flint's Mayor. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry took a look this morning at the latest.

History
4:18 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Michigan primaries, fascinating and bizarre

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry describes the history of Michigan’s primary as both fascinating and bizarre.

According to Lessenberry, Michigan held its first presidential primary in the early part of the 20th century. At that time people voted for Henry Ford in two separate primaries. To be exact, those primaries took place in 1916 and then in 1924, according to the Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections.

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Commentary
9:24 am
Fri February 24, 2012

Romney and the Bridge

If you’ve following the Michigan Republican presidential primary race, you probably know that Governor Rick Snyder has endorsed Mitt Romney. If you’ve been following politics in Michigan, you probably know that one of the governor’s top priorities is a new bridge over the Detroit River, the New International Trade Crossing.

Nearly the entire corporate and business community want this bridge. But the governor hasn’t even been able to get a vote on it in the legislature, where many of the members have taken campaign  donations from Matty Moroun, owner of the rival Ambassador Bridge. Moroun doesn’t want any competition, and so far, has managed to frustrate the governor and get his way.

This is not purely a local issue; this is America’s most economically important border crossing. Billions in heavy freight cross the Ambassador Bridge every month. Getting a new bridge is a top economic priority for Canada, our nation’s biggest trading partner.

So, how does Mitt Romney stand on the question of whether we should build a new international bridge? The answer seems to be that he doesn’t. He is apparently refusing to take a position on it.

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Commentary
9:09 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Kids in Poverty

Three hundred and forty-one thousand. That’s the number of children in our state living in what is officially known these days as “areas of concentrated poverty.” Our ancestors would have called where they lived “the worst slums.”

We are talking about homes that sometimes lack heat and light, that are surrounded by crack houses and other houses that have burned down, places where life is too often nasty, brutish and short.

Two-thirds of all children in Detroit live in such neighborhoods, streets like the one where a nine-month-old baby was killed by a bullet from an AK-47 assault rifle Monday.

But most poor children don’t live in Detroit. Some live in rural poverty, in Roscommon or Chippewa Counties up north, where alcoholism is high. Yes, a few of these children will escape, thanks to the efforts of a parent, teacher or mentor.

Somehow they will get a halfway decent education, a job and a better life, though that is becoming increasingly hard to do. But most won’t, just as most kids whose dreams are based on a basketball won’t make it to the NBA. Instead, the numbers of the desperately poor are swelling. According to a new report funded by the Annie E, Casey Foundation, there were a hundred and twenty-five thousand more poor kids in our state in twenty-ten than ten years earlier.

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Commentary
8:30 am
Wed February 22, 2012

A Michigan university grappling with the world

Once upon a time, universities were cloistered places, which deliberately shunned the down-and-dirty worlds of politics and the marketplace in favor of research, contemplation, and teaching.

That's never been totally the case in Michigan, however. What is now Michigan State was established for the explicit purpose of bringing "applied science" to the state's farmers and agricultural industry, back when that was the industry of Michigan.

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Politics
9:56 am
Wed February 15, 2012

The Week in State Politics

The Week in State Politics 2/15/2012
Matthileo Flickr

Every Wednesday we sit down with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to take a look at state politics. On tap for today: Jack and I talk about the influence Michigan's Republican presidential primary will have on the national GOP race, new polling data that shows Rick Santorum ahead of Mitt Romney in the mitten state, and a look at Romney's recent Op-Ed in the Detroit News.

Commentary
11:09 am
Fri February 3, 2012

Saving Michigan's History

I have on my desk a beautiful, red-bound hardcover book published by our state exactly a century ago. It’s the Michigan Manual for nineteen eleven and nineteen twelve, sort of a one-volume encyclopedia of politics, government and life in our state.

This particular one has beautiful, fold-out maps of railroad line and judicial circuits and photos and biographies of all the state officeholders. I can find out exactly how people voted, or how to get  information about vacant swampland from the state land office.

This is a fascinating book, more than nine hundred pages long, and I bought it at a used book store for a dollar. Michigan has been publishing the Manual every two years since statehood, and I own all of them since eighteen sixty nine. Old timers in Lansing just call it “the red book.“ If you want to research our history, they are a  good place to start. Also on my desk is the most recent Michigan Manual,  published two years ago. Frankly, it isn’t nearly as nice as the century-old version, though I had to pay fifty bucks for this one. To save money, they dropped a lot of information.

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Politics
1:54 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

The Week in State Politics

The Week in State Politics, Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Matthileo Flickr

Every Wednesday, we take a look at what's happening in state politics with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry. Today: a look at the political implications of Governor Snyder's decision to appoint an Emergency Manager for the Highland Park School District, what a transportation funding bill could mean for the state's crumbling roads and bridges, and Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Grand Rapids.

Politics
8:31 am
Wed January 25, 2012

The Week in State Politics

Matthileo Flickr

If it's Wednesday, it means it's The Week in State Politics with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's political analyst. Lessenberry discusses last night's State of the Union address and previews President Obama's visit to the state tomorrow and Friday.

Commentary
11:24 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Losing your horse

Back before warfare became mechanized, one of the worst things that could happen, especially in the cavalry, was to have your horse shot out from under you on a battlefield.

This left you naked, vulnerable, and without any way to get back to your lines if the bugle suddenly sounded retreat. The temptation must have been overwhelming to try to get another horse, fast, by any means necessary. I thought about that yesterday, when what had been obvious for days finally became official:

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Weekend News Update
8:00 am
Sat January 14, 2012

The Week in Review

Every Saturday morning, Rina Miller, Michigan Radio's Weekend Edition host, sits down with Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry to take a look at the state's big regional news. For this week: the state legislature is back in session at the state Capitol, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge is sent to jail on contempt of court charges, and new analysis shows Michigan's public universities cost heads and tails above what other Midwestern colleges charge for tuition.

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