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Opinion

A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Last night I drove almost a hundred miles into Ohio to preside over a discussion with huge implications for Michigan. The topic was the future of Lake Erie, the warmest and shallowest of the Great Lakes and a major source of drinking water for 11 million people.

I was ten when John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth fifty-five years ago. We were all mad for science then, and if you’d asked any of the kids I grew up with what we thought life would be like in 2017, we would have been sure we’d have colonies on Mars.

When it comes to ethics and integrity in government, Michigan is a disgrace. That’s not just my opinion. A little over a year ago, the Center for Public Integrity ranked our legislature worst among the fifty states in an analysis of state government transparency and accountability. We have few restraints on legislative behavior.

Michigan voted for Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election. But you would never know that from the budget he sent to Congress. You might think instead that we were a hostile nation at war with the United States, which therefore deserves to have its economy and its environment destroyed.

This is a more anti-Michigan budget than I could have imagined. It would not cut, but instead completely eliminate, funding to clean up and restore the Great Lakes and their environment. It would also slash funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Auchter's Art

Mar 17, 2017
John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

Artist's POV: Have you ever had to endure an interview for a job you knew you were not going to get, or an audition for a part you were certain was going to somebody else? You had absolutely no chance but you were obligated to go through the motions.

Barbara McQuade, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.
Courtesy of the University of Michigan Law School

With considerable fanfare, the Trump administration last week ordered every remaining Obama-appointed federal prosecutor, formally known as U.S. District Attorneys, to resign.

They will now gradually be replaced by new Republican appointees. Michigan has two federal prosecutors. Patrick Miles, who was in charge of the western district, announced his resignation in January and left the same day President Obama did.

But Barbara McQuade, the U.S. District Attorney in Detroit, stayed on the job. And by common consent, she did a superb job during the more than six years she was federal prosecutor.

As you almost certainly know, there’s a Republican-backed bill before Congress that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known to most people as Obamacare.

Republicans control both houses of Congress, and if they stay united on this, the bill should become law, perhaps within weeks.

If that happens, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that within nine years, the number of people without health insurance in this nation would grow by 24 million.

Many years ago, I taught a course in specialty publications at a small university in the Detroit suburbs. One of the students was a woman who was an executive secretary at General Motors.

She was nearing retirement, and she and her husband’s shared passion was a game called tabletop shuffleboard. Their dream was to publish a tabletop shuffleboard magazine.

Many people I know would find it easier to understand someone who is transgender than someone who voted for Donald Trump for president.

That’s just a statement of fact. And emotionally, I have to confess that I feel the same way. I can understand that one might feel trapped in a body and within a gender that feels wrong. I’ve known people in that predicament, and my heart went out to them.

Big Three New World

Mar 11, 2017
user paul (dex) / Flickr

GM is bailing out of Europe. The company is cashing in its Euro-chips and choosing to focus more on other markets. And GM’s not alone in that. While it might look like the Detroit car makers are turning tail and running, Daniel Howes of The Detroit News explains why it could be a good thing for Michigan.

Christoper Sessums / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

For the last couple days, I, together with a million or so of my fellow Michiganders, have been living a sort of 19th century life.

By that I mean that we’ve been living without power, electricity or heat, thanks to the freak windstorms that whipped through much of our state.

Now, we’re not quite in the same boat as Abraham Lincoln. He didn’t have Double-A batteries, nor could he go to a motel with internet access, which is how I am broadcasting today.

John Auchter / auchtoon.com

ARTISTS POV: The one clear positive from President Trump's proposed budget: It's bringing Michiganders closer together. The budget proposal the White House sent to Congress last week suggests cutting the budget of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from $300 million per year to $10 million per year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

I have an idea. This should especially appeal to everyone who either didn’t like President Obama, or thought there were flaws in his signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Let’s get even by taking health care away from 650,000 Michiganders with lower incomes.

Now, granted, this will have repercussions.

For years, David Bonior was one of the biggest figures in Congress. A Democrat from Macomb County, he served for more than a quarter century, managing to win reelection time after time, even in years when the so-called “Reagan Democrats” voted Republican.

Bonior saw his mission as fighting for the downtrodden, regardless of what toes he stepped on. He tangled with presidents of both parties, sparring with Bill Clinton over NAFTA and Ronald Reagan over his wars in Central America. He rose to achieve considerable power.

Courtesy Nan Palmero / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Last Friday, a number of university researchers and state and county public health professionals were supposed to have a meeting – actually, a conference call – with state officials.

The group is called the Flint Area Community Health Environment Partnership, and the subject was their preliminary analysis of the reasons behind a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint. More than 70 people got the disease during 2014 and 2015, when the city had been switched to water from the now-infamous Flint River.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Mike Duggan knows politics.

That’s partly why Detroit’s mayor is alleging that former Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr misled him about the city’s pension exposure. It’s an insurance policy.

History through fashion - at the 2015 conference of the Historical Society of Michigan.
Historical Society of Michigan / Facebook

People sometimes ask me, “How do you find something different to talk about, every day?” Well, if this were North Dakota Public Radio, it might be hard. But I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll ever run out of topics in Michigan.

We’ve got around 10 million people, more than the entire country had 200 years ago, more geography than some European countries, a diversified economy and a far richer ethnic mix.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Probably the easiest way for editorial cartoonists to get readers on their side is to make a general target of politicians.

You know, not really saying anything, but instead depending on people's recognition of the stereotype to do all the work — kind of like a hack standup comedian:

"And hey, what's up with those politicians? Have you seen these guys? They're killing me with their this and their that. Who's with me?! Am I right?!"

I do my best to avoid that.

The 2008 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings pose for a group photo on the ice of the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
Michael Righi / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the most successful franchises in any sport for a quarter century, by just about any measure: victories, titles, attendance, profits, and even respect – from fans, players, and executives.

Most sports fans are happy just to see their team make the playoffs. But the Red Wings made the playoffs for 25 straight seasons – a league record.

Pontiac, Michigan. The Pontiac Commercial Historic District.
Andrew Jameson / wikimedia/GNU Free Documentation License

It’s no secret that many Michigan cities are in trouble, economically and otherwise. The drama of Detroit has played out on a national stage. The entire nation also knows something about Flint, thanks to the horrendous water tragedy.

Other towns, such as Hamtramck, have their own form of gritty cachet.

But then there is Pontiac, a city that seems to be defined by things that are dying or just not there anymore.

Six years ago, Governor Rick Snyder found a way to conclude a deal with Canada to build a new bridge across the Detroit River, something vitally needed if Michigan’s economy is to prosper in the years ahead.

As of now, we are completely dependent on the almost 90-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which shows clear signs of wearing out, and which wasn’t built for today’s massive tractor-trailers. About $2 billion in trade moves across that bridge every week, mainly heavy industrial components that can’t go through the tunnel.

I took my friend Guy to lunch last week, the same day the President of the United States declared that members of my profession were “enemies of the people.”

Guy is one of the most amazing people I know, and I wanted to know what he was thinking. He told me that after the election turned out badly, his father talked to his family at the dinner table.

Some years ago there was an effort to boost enrollment at Wayne State University, where I teach. One administrator told me that they were admitting "anyone with a Pell Grant and a pulse." Unfortunately, the result wasn’t what everyone was hoping for.

Some of these students weren’t intellectually ready or able for college, and soon dropped out or flunked out. Others weren’t emotionally ready, and had no idea what they wanted to do.

The other night I had dinner with John King, not the one on CNN with the election maps, but Detroit’s own John King, one of the city’s most colorful and eccentric personalities.

John, whose ancestry is mainly Lithuanian, owns the city’s biggest bookstore, John King Used and Rare Books, housed in a huge former glove factory along the Lodge Freeway.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Are you guys exhausted? I know I am.

I don't know that I can continue to maintain this level of political outrage. I mean, I draw editorial cartoons, so political outrage is something of a default mode. But lately — especially this past month — it's been like drinking from a fire hose. There is just so much to be relentlessly outraged about.

I’m not often astonished by the things legislators do, especially since our politics have been afflicted by the disease of term limits, a condition that means virtually none of those in leadership positions have enough experience to properly do their jobs.

While one Democrat from the Upper Peninsula supported it, a dozen Republicans thumbed their noses at the Speaker and voted "no."

When I learned about this, I had to check to make sure the world was still spinning on its axis and I was actually awake.

Well, at first glance it might look like the legislature came to its senses yesterday, at least so far cutting the state income tax is concerned. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

The lawmakers did drop the infantile notion of completely getting rid of the state income tax. They also backed away from cutting it from the current 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent overnight. But they still want to make that cut – just gradually, over the next four years.

So many early campaigns

Feb 21, 2017

I've been a journalist for almost forty years, and while I tend to specialize in politics and government, at one time or another I’ve covered everything from nutmeg cultivation in Grenada to reunions of World War I veterans.

Along the way, I’ve discovered there are three things people often think they can do without any background whatsoever: Start a magazine, open a restaurant, or run for office. Most people who blindly start magazines or restaurants just end up losing their money.

Well, it is still deep winter, even if it doesn’t feel like it. The Super Bowl is over, and the baseball exhibition season hasn’t gotten started.

So naturally, the restless minds of those interested in politics are turning to the next election, or make that, elections. State Senator Coleman Young Jr., who is term-limited and will need a new job, has announced he is running for mayor of Detroit.

Mike Ilitch (center) with Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander (right) and Alex Avila (left) in 2011.
Dave Hogg / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

They don’t make ‘em much like Mike Ilitch anymore.

Here was Detroit distilled, the local guy done good, the former Marine and aspiring shortstop, his Tigers career cut short by a bad knee. The guy who told his teammates he'd open pizza shops across America if his baseball thing didn't work out.

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