mackinac policy conference

Politics & Government
8:25 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Commentary: Mackinac and Education

Lessenberry commentary for 5/29/2013

It sometimes seems that education reform has become a lot like the weather.  We talk almost incessantly about it these days, but you have to wonder if anybody really can do much to change things.

The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mackinac Conference begins today, and education is a heavy focus. Michelle Rhee, the controversial founder of StudentsFirst and the former head of Washington D.C. public schools will give a keynote address. There will be a panel on 21st Century jobs and education, and another, moderated by Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White, on early childhood education.

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Politics & Government
11:42 am
Sat February 9, 2013

Jeb Bush to give keynote at Mackinac Conference

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
NPR.org

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference in May.

The Detroit Regional Chamber's annual conference brings together politicians and business leaders on Mackinac Island. The chamber says Bush will talk about education, immigration and economic growth.

Bush is the son of former President George H.W. Bush and brother of ex-President George W. Bush. He was Florida's Republican governor from 1999 through 2007.

Commentary
10:19 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Commentary: Two States of Michigan

I heard some interesting ideas about our economic future on Mackinac Island last week at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual conference of the state's movers and shakers. 

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Commentary
1:52 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Frustration at Mackinac

Two days ago, a beaming Gov. Rick Snyder opened the annual conference of our state?s economic and political elites on an upbeat note. He cited the official themes the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce set for their annual Mackinac Conference. "Innovation, Collaboration and the Twenty-First Century Global Marketplace." Those are things he himself is all about.

Whether you agree with his positions or not, this governor wants what he thinks are rational policies aimed at giving this state a future. But the morning after his triumphant welcome, the governor had to again admit defeat over an issue that shouldn't even be an issue: Road funding. Too many Michigan roads are in poor shape, and a whole lot more are rapidly getting worse. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Transportation estimated ninety per cent of our roads are in good or fair condition, which seemed too high to me.

But the state also calculated that unless we start investing far more heavily in our roads, only 44 percent will be in acceptable shape a mere eight years from now. That would be a disaster.

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News Roundup
8:51 am
Thu May 31, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Hoekstra responds to "birther" questions at Mackinac Policy Conference

Republican Senate hopeful Pete Hoekstra responded to a question from MPRN's Rick Pluta about his publicly stated support for a "3-person" federal office that reviews whether presidential candidates meet minimum requirements to run for office. From the Detroit Free Press:

...host Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio put [Hoekstra] on the defensive over a controversy that arose Wednesday after remarks Hoekstra made about whether Obama was born in the U.S. and qualified to hold the office of president.

Hoekstra responded saying:

...it was "an absolutely ludicrous discussion to be having" after Obama has been president for four years. "They raised the issue; I didn't," he said of the tea party group. "They thought it was important. I don't."

With most state lawmakers gone, business is the focus on Mackinac Island

Lawmakers certainly discuss business as well, but Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta talked about a different vibe on Mackinac Island on their It's Just Politics episode this week.

State lawmakers typically attend the Mackinac Policy Conference, but with budget negotiations going on in Lansing, most are absent.

"State lawmakers are not here, and because state lawmakers are not here, lobbyists are not here," said Pluta. "And if lobbyists are not here that means there's not this cadre of people who are buying drinks and meals...and hosting hospitality suites, so it's a little quieter, it's a little tamer."

Clark points out that some of the people she spoke with don't miss the lawmakers. Pluta says "business people are gettting together and talking business" at this conference.

A new State Fair in Michigan?

There's no state funding involved in this fair, so some are saying it can't really be called a "State Fair." Organizers of the "Great Lakes State Fair" say they're not trying to duplicate the old Michigan State Fair, but they are attempting to bring in similar events. From the Detroit Free Press:

The new event will feature many of the elements found at typical fairs: a midway, carnival rides, livestock and produce exhibits, a beer tent and entertainment.

The event will take place from August 31 through September 3 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

It's Just Politics
8:56 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Mackinac Policy Conference: A political free-for-all

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The Grand hosts the annual Mackinac Policy Conference put on by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.
jpwbee Flickr

Day two of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual Mackinac Policy Conference is winding down but that certainly doesn't mean the politics at the event is slowing. In a special Wednesday edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I take a look at the political gossip floating across the Island.

Commentary
12:10 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

From Mackinac Island: A Culture Change

Almost the first words at this year's Mackinac Policy Conference were about changing Michigan?s culture. Yesterday, during an opening session featuring young entrepreneurs, Rick DeVos, founder of Grand Rapids' now- famous ArtPrize, said that culture change was the key to making this state prosperous again.

Each of the other pioneers on the panel agreed with him. Dave Zilko, who turned a five thousand dollar loan from his girlfriend into a hundred-million-dollar salsa company, said he was seeing a culture change that has to continue and our state's successful future depended on our adopting a new mind-set.

One where our prevailing attitude is that "we can do this."  Moments before their panel, an upbeat Governor Snyder opened the conference. Though he?s still not wearing ties, he has become much more confident and a much better public speaker than he was when he took office, possibly in part because his policies have met with some success. ?We are the comeback state in the United States right now,? he told an enthusiastic crowd. He said we all ought to speak up more about Michigan?s strengths, successes, and resurgence.

The day's main celebrity event was an inspiring speech by the internationally renowned CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria, who assured the audience that the American and world economies are actually in much better shape, especially long-term, than today's headlines indicated. But he too said culture change was necessary.

Especially, that is, in America. We have to be willing to cut spending on entitlement programs, he seemed to be saying, especially for the elderly. But we also need to vastly increase spending on investments in our future.

That means raising taxes to fix our roads and bridges and other parts of our aging and neglected infrastructure. But it also means investing in education. Right now, he said America's priorities seem to be too much about the present and the past.

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Politics
10:55 am
Wed May 30, 2012

This Week in Michigan Politics

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Each Wednesday I check in with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry, for a round up of state politics.

This week Jack is on Mackinac Island (he's promising not to eat any fudge) for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

The 3-day conference is billed as a time for state business and political leaders to talk about and shape the state's future.

Lessenberry said they are talking this year about the comeback Michigan has been on. He says Governor Synder talked about how Michigan has the right to be proud of that fact.

"In some years people at the conference have been almost in the fetal position talking about some of the problems we've had," said Lessenberry. "This is an acknowledgment that people want to be more upbeat about the future."

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Economy
4:57 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Gov. Snyder urges Michigan businesspeople to hire veterans

Gov. Rick Snyder tours the Detroit auto show.
Rick Pluta Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder today asked  businesspeople to make a special effort to hire veterans returning from overseas duty. It’s the topic of one of the sessions this week at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Island conference.  It’s attended by 1,500 of the state’s business and political leaders.

The governor says returning veterans face an unemployment rate of about 30 percent, something he calls “unacceptable.”

“So we need to help these people,” Snyder said. “So I ask you to do everything possible to make the session and to hire ‘em. That would be great. Thank you.”

The governor recently returned from a trip to the Middle East to visit Michigan National Guard units. He’s made job training and connecting veterans to jobs a part of his workforce development initiative.

Newsmaker Interviews
4:18 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Rep. John Dingell: Stronger Michigan means better dialogue, reaching out

John Dingell.

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."

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Politics
10:20 am
Tue May 29, 2012

In this morning's news...

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.

Commentary
10:09 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Commentary: Mackinac Conference

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.

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Politics
4:16 pm
Sat September 24, 2011

Perry woos Michigan GOP at Mackinac Island conference

Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses Michigan Republicans.
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.

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Mackinac 2011
8:17 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Do YOU care about the Mackinac Policy Conference?

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island
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

Mackinac 2011
5:05 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Snyder opens the Mackinac Policy Conference

The 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference is being held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
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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