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M-1 RAIL / Facebook

Sixty one years after General Motors buses replaced Detroit’s streetcars, they’re back.

The QLine fleet started rolling along Woodward yesterday, tracing a 6.6-mile round trip that is the next step forward in the reinvention of Detroit. As signs go, it’s about as positive as you can get for the downtown a lot of Detroiters — in the city and in the suburbs — long ago gave up for dead.

Here’s a little secret about our profession journalists don’t like to admit. To an extent, we are sort of the stenographers of society.

We may not accept everything at face value, but we cluster around established institutions to look for stories. We get a lot of them, but we miss things too.

Auchter's Art: Benefits Race to the Bottom
JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Ugh! This again! So earlier this week the story broke that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Speaker of the House Tom Leonard were making cuts to teacher retirement benefits a top priority in the state budget. Specifically, they want to transfer what is now a state-backed pension into a 401k plan for new hires.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan

If you listen to the rhetoric about Planned Parenthood from Republican congressmen and legislators, you might think it is the world’s biggest abortion mill.

It’s not. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that primarily provides contraception, pregnancy and disease testing, and has long gotten federal and state aid for providing what are essentially public health services.

Library of Congress

Twenty-two years ago, I sat in President Gerald Ford’s home in California for an hour-long interview about his presidency. Twenty-two years before that, he had been nominated, but not yet confirmed as vice president, when the infamous events known as the Saturday Night Massacre took place. That was when Richard Nixon ordered the firing of a special prosecutor assigned to investigate Watergate. The attorney general and his deputy refused, and resigned.

Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint has decided that he will not, after all, run for the Democratic nomination for governor next year. Sources close to the congressman told me last night that he had been wavering until last week, when House Republicans rammed through a health care bill that few understood and which made Democrats extremely mad.

Kildee, who has told me he loves Congress, had an epiphany then that his work was to stay in the House, where he has a safe seat, and fight for what is right for the nation.

Right after New Year’s Day I attempted to argue that it was too early to be asking voters to start thinking about who they wanted to support and vote for in next year’s elections.

After all, we are still recovering from last year’s endless campaign. But it’s clear I was howling into an unstoppable hurricane. Not only do I get daily notifications that this candidate or that is running for the legislature in November, 2018, I already am detecting the first embryonic stirrings among Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren, who are starting to test Presidential waters for 2020.

flickr.com/photos/briansolis/2321406871

You may have heard that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently chose little ol’ Dearborn to lean into the real world. Good choice, even if the mogul’s posts after his visit proved Detroit isn’t the only patch of America living and working in a bubble. Silicon Valley is, too.

Unless you spent yesterday in a salt mine, you know that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill radically altering the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t know exactly what’s in this bill, or how it would affect you, you are not alone. Neither did virtually any of the members of congress, all of them Republicans, who voted for this bill, which they are calling the American Health Care Act.



Audio FileDaniel Howes, April 29, 2017Edit | Remove

  As wake up calls go, think tank reports ain’t much.

Yeah, they marshal the grim statistics. They make harsh comparisons. They tell the people who bother to read them, mostly the already converted, just how Michigan is failing in education and job growth, in per-capita income and in the number of adults who work.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Nothing Donald Trump does should surprise anybody. His behavior is erratic, certainly, but highly predictable. 

He has spent a lifetime demonstrating in a very public way that acting in his own self-interest is his default mode, his plan B, his alternate route, his "upon further consideration," and so on. Look it up — it's right there in his books, his shows, and his copious media coverage.

Half a century ago, we were a nation split more along news anchor lines than party lines. Some of us got our news from Walter Cronkite, some from Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

Viewers made choices, but not really along party lines. The anchors were supposed to be essentially neutral, which is why it was such a big deal when Cronkite told America that in his opinion, the Vietnam War was a failure.

I sat down the other morning with Gary Peters, Michigan’s junior U.S. Senator, to get his take on what’s happening in Washington and how that’s playing out here.

Peters is beginning his third year in the Senate; in 2014, during a historic Republican congressional landslide, he was the only Democrat in the nation to win an open seat, when he was elected to replace Carl Levin. Historically, the first term is crucial for U.S. Senators from Michigan; if they are not defeated when they first run for reelection, they tend to stay for decades.

Zelda Richardson / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Nobody would ever hire me to give motor vehicle advice. The climax of my career as a “car guy” came long ago in then-Communist Romania, where they made a dreadful little automobile called a Dacia. Romania was a hellhole back then, and I can’t imagine that anyone other than a corrupt high Communist official could buy one.

Back when I was in junior high school, one of my classmates announced one April 30th that he had decided to become a Communist. This was not a very popular political choice in the Detroit suburbs in 1964, and our shocked social studies teacher asked why.

Well, little Richard said, we had learned that May Day was an international Communist holiday, and he wanted the day off. The teacher said nice try, but as long as we were operating under our Constitution, even Communists were expected to show up for school.

Three days ago, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission asked the highest court in the land to decide whether our state’s emergency manager law is unconstitutional.

Specifically, the issue is whether the law violates the federal Voting Rights Act by lessening the voting power of minorities. Nearly all the cities and school districts where emergency managers have been appointed had black majority populations.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

ARTIST'S POV: After three years of the Flint water crisis, fatigue has set in — first and foremost, for the citizens of Flint who have had to live with the daily grind and persistent worries. But also for Michiganders living outside and looking in. 

Saving Lake Erie

Apr 27, 2017
A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There’s a little-noticed battle going on across the region to save Lake Erie. Now, I know this story can’t possibly compare in interest or importance to a bunch of football players visiting Rome, or which politician might run for something next year.

Flint water crisis protest
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, my colleagues at Michigan Radio have done an amazing package of stories to mark the third anniversary of the Flint water crisis. If you didn’t have a chance to hear them, I recommend you go read and listen.

Even if you’ve heard them, they are worth hearing again. In journalism, the very first sentence in a story is called the lede. And for sheer eloquence and simplicity, it would be hard to improve on the way Lindsey Smith began her story Tuesday: Three years ago today, Flint switched the source of its drinking water, and triggered a public health crisis.

U.S. Department of Education / Creative Commons

When I was a child, there was this widespread quaint notion that children ought to attend the public schools where they lived. Except for a few kids that went to Catholic schools, and one who won a scholarship to Cranbrook, everybody did.

Well, it’s now all but official: Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is running for governor next year. Running, that is, to try to win the Republican primary in August 2018.

He’s posted a video of a “countdown clock” on his website, and appears to be marching towards a formal announcement of his candidacy on May 30, during the Mackinac Policy Conference when the state’s political, business and media leaders get together.

The Michigan state capitol building
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.

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