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mackinac policy conference

This week, legislators, policy makers, and business leaders are gathering for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and this year organizers say they hope the conference will "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market."

John Dingell is a Democrat representing Michigan's 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

He wrote an op-ed about the conference. It appeared in the Detroit News today.

In the op-ed, Dingell wrote about his desire for lawmakers to come together in a more bi-partisan way. He told Michigan Radio's Jenn White that there are a number of barriers to the bi-partisanship.

"Excessive partisanship is something which is both a reality and an end in itself to a lot of people who participate," Dingell said. "It's encouraged by media and 10-15 second soundbite and it is encouraged by the fact that politics has become a blood sport. Cheap shots are the way of the day and that we have somewhat forgotten the original intention of the founding fathers that we are to work together in the broader public interest."

He says the people have to understand that this is "our" country.

Dingell quotes his father who used to to say "we cannot look at the other fellow in the boat and say 'pardon me sir, but you're end of the boat is sinking.' We are all in this thing together."

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today

The annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway today on Mackinac Island. The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has been taking place since 1981. It's a place where policy makers, politicians, and business and thought leaders get together to discuss ideas and policies that could shape Michigan's future.

Conference organizers hope to "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market" at this year's conference.

If you feel compelled to tweet about the event this week, the hashtag for the conference is #mpc12.

Michigan Governor Snyder will deliver welcoming comments today at 3:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta will bring us updates from the conference. You can also watch online coverage of the event sponsored by Detroit Public Television.

Update on wildfires in the Upper Peninsula

The AP reports that the 3,400-acre Pine Creek North wildfire in Schoolcraft County is mostly contained:

Officials say some crews are leaving the area as mop-up operations continue. Firefighters on Tuesday planned to patrol the perimeter of the fire looking for hot spots.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on May 21.

However, the Duck Lake Fire continues to burn. More from CNN wire services:

The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.The state agency estimated Monday the blaze is about 51% contained, thanks to progress made by firefighters in maintaining a firm perimeter.

Moving up income tax cut called a "gimmick"

The Michigan House of Representatives will begin taking up plans today to move a planned income tax cut up by a few months.

The tax rate will drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent next January. The Associated Press reports Michigan House Republicans want to start the tax cut in October 2012.

House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger wants to return $90 million from a budget surplus to taxpayers. The tax rate would drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent.

The Michigan League for Human Services says the move is an election-year gimmick. It says the money would be better spent offering preschool or dental care to low-income children.

Democrats say tax changes passed last year by GOP lawmakers will require that individuals pay $1.4 billion more in taxes next year. They say the $90 million cut is insufficient.

If you were going to stage a revolution and wanted to arrest the entire political and business leadership of our state, you might want to start by seizing Mackinac Island this week.

That’s because the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It will feature speeches by national headliners, such as public intellectuals Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

Chelsea Hagger / MPRN

Texas Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry addressed Michigan Republicans Saturday on Mackinac Island. Perry used the opportunity to try to win over a crowd that has some affection for Michigan native Mitt Romney.

Perry made sure the audience knew right away that he knows his way around Michigan, telling a brief story about his father buying a truck in Fenton. He also told Michigan Republican Party faithful that he is proud of the state’s voters for electing a Republican-led Legislature and a Republican governor.

jpwbee / Flickr

So, what is this Mackinac Policy Conference?

By now, you’ve probably heard about this huge gathering of businesspeople and politicians, reporters and lobbyists.

It happens every year on Mackinac Island at the Grand Hotel. It’s hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber and this year it lasts three days. It’s got all the trappings of any other big conference:  lots of speakers and meetings, lots of hob-nobbing, lots of drinking (in fact, there’s a vodka ice luge this year out on the Grand Hotel's famous porch). 

And, of course, there’s a lot of arm-twisting and deal-making.

But, maybe you’re wondering why?  Why do they need to go up to Mackinac Island to talk about the same stuff they do all the rest of the year in Lansing?

Here’s how the Detroit Regional Chamber describes it on their website, “This year’s Conference is focused on bringing business and government leaders together to create a globally competitive, financially attractive business environment in Michigan.”

Ok, so maybe it’s about fixing Michigan’s economy… trying to get ‘everyone’ on the same page to move the state forward.

However, this year is a little different than past years.  This conference was organized with Governor Rick Snyder in mind.  It’s all about Snyder’s “reinventing, rebuilding, and re-energizing” of Michigan. In fact, Snyder made opening remarks at the conference, he’ll hold several press conferences and is scheduled to be part of a panel discussion with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.

So, that’s what the conference IS. If you want more information about the conference, click here. And, be sure, to click here for Michigan Radio’s coverage of the conference.

But, I think, the bigger question is: why should you care about what happens here?

Well, I could explain about the panels upon panels about ‘reinventing Michigan’ and ‘Michigan’s future’ (Think: Defining the Road to Economic Recovery, or Working Together to Make Michigan Globally Competitive, or Re-bounding and Re-building: A Path to Recovery… get the picture?). Or, I could list the hundreds upon hundreds of attendees (Think: Governor Rick Snyder; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Mark Murray, President of Meijer; Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin; Bob King, President of the United Auto Workers; Roy Roberts, the new Emergency Financial Manger of the Detroit Public Schools; and a whole ton of state and local lawmakers).

But, after speaking with Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network (and, a conference veteran) I figured I’d just quote what he said to me, after I asked him, “Pluta, why should someone actually care about this conference?”

His answer:

"Because once a year – the political center of gravity of Michigan moves to this island [Mackinac] … decisions may or may not be made here… but certainly there is an effort underfoot to make things happen. You have to understand: Mackinac Island has become the state Capitol for the rest of this week.

Do you care about the economy? All the business movers-and-shakers are up here. You care about what happens at the state Capitol? All the political movers-and-shakers are here. And, all of these movers-and-shakers are talking to each other. And, they’ll affect things like job creation, education, taxes… this is everyone’s best chance, all year long to make their best pitch for what they care about. That’s why you have CEO’s, top politicians, university presidents, non-profit organizations… all here trying to make the case for whatever matters to them.”

So, maybe you still don’t quite care about the conference. And, that’s OK: it’s a little hard to grasp. But, at the very least, maybe you understand now why some people do care and why you’ll be hearing a lot about the conference in the days, weeks, and months to come.

- With help from Lester Graham

SteveBurt1947 / Flickr

I’ve just arrived here on Mackinac Island with Tracy Samilton and Lester Graham for the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference. Governor Rick Snyder welcomed guests to the conference earlier this afternoon. Snyder used the address to talk about what he believes is the need to build a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. Last month, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley said the administration will push the legislature to approve a second bridge as soon as this month. Calley said the state needs to create competition with the Ambassador Bridge Company and its monopoly at the crossing.

“The takeaway of Snyder’s speech is that he is going to use the conference to push his goal of getting the legislature to approve the bridge,” Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta says.

Not all Republicans are on-board with the idea of building a second bridge. As Pluta explains, “this isn’t the first intra-party fight that he [Snyder] has had.”

Pluta is referring to the controversial tax on some retiree pensions that was part of Snyder’s budget proposal. Pluta predicts the battle over a second bridge will be bigger than the fight Snyder had over the pension tax.

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