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Opinion

Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

By now you’ve heard about Michigan’s “Comeback.”

You can find it in booming auto sales and fat corporate profits. You can feel it in a 5.1% unemployment rate. That’s roughly a third of its high point in the throes of the Great Recession.

You can see the revival all over downtown Detroit. That’s where billions in fresh capital are remaking an urban core into the kind of hip and happening place that a lot of folks thought they’d never see in the city America gave up for dead.

But that’s only part of the story.

By all appearances, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof likes wielding power. He’s been in the Michigan Legislature for a decade, and he has been a strong, if controversial, leader of the Senate for more than two years now.

But in little more than a year and a half, his political career will be over—probably forever. Term limits mean he won’t be able to run for re-election to the state Senate.

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

ARTIST'S POV: Back in high school, one of my friends had an older sister who spent a summer on Isle Royale doing research. She made the mistake of trying to have a conversation about this with a bunch of 16 year-old boys.

Journalism matters

Apr 20, 2017

Last night I went to the annual Society of Professional Journalists banquet, where every year someone is named journalist of the year. I wasn’t unbiased. I wanted my Michigan Radio colleague Steve Carmody to win for his magnificent reporting on Flint.

https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ernie_Harwell

There’s a belief in some quarters that Detroit does not appreciate its history. The city, which was really a large town before they started making cars a century ago, exploded in size, going from fewer than 300,000 to 1.6 million people in 30 years.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Long ago, way back in, say, the 1980s, there was something quaint about most elections in this country: Candidates did not actually begin running until the year of the election itself. We hold primaries in August and general elections in November, and it was thought that if you declared your candidacy in January, say, that would give you enough time to persuade voters.

I have to admit I was surprised four years ago when Tom Watkins was appointed head of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. When I first knew him, Watkins was state superintendent of schools. That is, until Governor Jennifer Granholm pressed to have him fired for questioning some of her policies.

NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW

These days, Detroit is all about showing it’s new. It’s different. That it’s learned from the past.

Then what happened at the New York Auto Show this week? Markets collided, and the winners are buyers of trucks, SUVs and even muscle cars, not investors hot for all things electric.

Major players transformed the Big Apple into a shameless celebration of size and horsepower. It’s more evidence that the emissions-free future touted by the industry and rewarded by traders is trumped by reality, that is: consumer demand, low interest rates and cheap gas.

Two summers ago, something happened that gave parents nightmares throughout the Detroit area. A 20-year-old camp counselor at a Jewish community center was discovered to have been secretly photographing little boys naked and posting them on a Russian child porn website.

He also had written vivid fantasy descriptions of doing things to them, though a massive investigation turned up no evidence that he had ever touched a child.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

ARTIST'S POV: Legislation was recently introduced in the state House to make Michigan a "constitutional carry" state. House Bills 4416-4419 would relax gun laws to allow many Michiganders to conceal firearms without having to get a concealed pistol license. It's kind of a melding of concealed carry with less restrictive open carry rules.

I’ve never met Chris Campbell, an attorney in Traverse City, but I’ve gotten thoughtful emails from him many times over the years. Mr. Campbell, who grew up in Bay City, loves this state. 

LAW
user southerfried / morguefile

You have to feel bad for Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, a good and decent man who has the thankless task of heading a party so small it is more like a faction.

I once saw former State Representative Todd Courser expound on how the welfare state was bad and people needed to take personal responsibility for their lives. Cindy Gamrat, his fellow representative, political soulmate and secret mistress, was nodding vigorously.

Complaining about mythical welfare queens and other so-called predatory poor people is pretty much standard fare for the right wing, and has been, to a greater or lesser degree, since the New Deal.

Less than two weeks ago, President Donald Trump launched his latest Twitter attack on the nation’s most important newspaper, the New York Times. 

The Tesla Model S, first introduced in June 2012
Tesla Motors

Here’s the latest Detroit indignity: Tiny Tesla, the electric automaker, is felling giants.

The Silicon Valley startup created in 2003 is worth more in market value than the American industrial icon founded exactly 100 years earlier by Henry Ford, the premier innovator of his time.

Tesla’s not far behind General Motors, either. The promise of game-changing innovation, the hope that someone new can crack the emissions-free code is causing tons of smart money to flow into Chairman Elon Musk’s Tesla.

Nearly $49 billion-worth, to be precise.

I was listening to one of the dumber stories of the week Thursday, about a Twitter squabble between two Republicans, a White House staffer and Congressman Justin Amash.

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

We're nearing the end of the season of Lent, and for Catholics (and others who participate in the Lenten practice of "giving up stuff") this is around the time we tend to lose focus and start to obsess about the beer or chocolate or whatever we pledged to eschew for 40 days.

State Representative Tom Cochran, a Democrat from the Lansing suburb of Mason, has introduced a “Death with Dignity” act to allow terminally ill people to ask for medication to end their lives. His bill is well-crafted to safeguard against abuses.

Roads
Wikimedia Commons

For a few years, we were constantly hearing about how terrible Michigan’s roads were–and how the legislature kept ignoring citizens’ pleas to fix them.

Then, a couple of years ago, lawmakers did enact what was billed as a road repair package. It doesn’t start providing any new money until this year, but four years from now, it's supposed to generate something like $1.2 billion a year to fix the roads.

Forty-four years ago, in another early spring, a young lawyer went to the President of the United States and told him, “There's no doubt about the seriousness of the problem we've got. We have a cancer within -- close to the presidency, that's growing. It's growing daily. It's compounding. It grows geometrically now, because it compounds itself.”

User: Nheyob / Wikimedia Commons

State Senator Patrick Colbeck of Canton is sometimes referred to as the “most conservative” or “furthest right” member of the legislature.

Ford Motor Company saw its sales drop by 7% from March of 2016, the most of the Big Three automakers.
Ford Motor Company

Forget the “Lost Decade.”

Profitable automakers racing for the new-new thing of mobility are starting to create the "Next Decade." On one track are the likes of General Motors and Ford Motor, each booking record profits on the strength of trucks and SUVs. On the other track is a whole new world with the power to change the perception – and reality – of Michigan as we know it.

More than twenty years ago, the late Texas Governor Ann Richards addressed the annual Gridron Dinner in Washington, a high-society affair where the nation’s top journalists mingle with politicians and Hollywood celebrities.

The Daily Record / Creative Commons

There’s always a debate as to whether judges should be appointed or elected. The one thing everyone agrees on, at least in theory, is that judges should be nonpartisan.

Michigan has an odd hybrid system that manages to ensure that all these things are both true and false -- especially as far as the State Supreme Court is concerned.

Phil Clark is a hard-working 30-year-old who put himself through Eastern Michigan University, and now manages Ray’s Red Hots, a hot dog restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor that also operates mobile food carts throughout the state.

Half a century ago, when he was still a very young man, Ann Arbor native Phil Power began buying small newspapers. He bought some, started others, and built a thriving enterprise of 64 community newspapers in three states.

Bentley Historical Library / University of Michigan

William G. Milliken, the longest-serving governor in Michigan history, turned 95 yesterday. The weekend before last, a couple other friends and I got together with Milliken and his son for a private little pre-birthday dinner at his home.

The governor – I find it hard to call him anything but that – is recovering from breaking a small bone in his foot, but hasn’t lost his interest in state affairs or his sense of humor.

Rian Saunders / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

As you probably know, the Republican Party is in control of all three branches of Michigan government – executive, legislative and judicial. Republicans also control both houses of Congress and the Presidency.

Democrats are, naturally, not happy about this.

John Auchter / Achtoon.com

ARTIST'S POV: When I was a kid I remember seeing a "man on the street" segment on TV interviewing people about the value of seat belts. 

Jocelyn Benson stood in line for two hours waiting to vote last November, holding her five-month-old son Aiden all the while. “I had to put him down and change his diaper twice,” she told me, smiling. Benson lives and votes in Detroit, where there are often too few voting places and machines for large turnout elections.

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