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Opinion

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.

Well, it’s Friday, and I thought I’d mark the end of the week with a particularly absurd joke.

Did you know there is something in Lansing called the School Reform Office which can actually close down failing public schools. Get it?

Well, there is, in fact, something named that. And, for the second year in a row, it indicated it was thinking about closing a group of schools statewide, only to have to beat a hasty retreat and say the equivalent of “Ah, just kidding, we really didn’t mean it.”

John Auchter

After last week's multi-panel, text-filled cartoon, I wanted to do something simple and quick (for your sake and for mine). And while I like it, and I think it makes its point, I will cop to the fact that it is not necessarily 100% accurate.

Mike Ilitch died this past week. He was a Michigan icon, born in Detroit to working-class immigrant parents. He and his wife Marian founded Little Caesars Pizza and grew it into a business empire. He was longtime owner and fierce supporter of our beloved Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. 

Nobody can deny that Governor Rick Snyder is an intelligent and hard-working man. He came from very modest circumstances to earn three degrees, including an MBA and a law degree, from the University of Michigan by the time he was 24.

In Lansing, the Michigan House Tax Policy Committee was to begin discussions today on a proposal that most Republicans are ecstatic about.

That would be a bill to immediately roll back our state income tax from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent, and then keep cutting it by a tenth of a percent every year until it would be gone entirely. Well, completely getting rid of the income tax is a fantasy for four-year-olds.

A Valentine's Day postcard arrived today from a friend of ours - Tamar Charney, who used to be our boss as programming director here at Michigan Radio. Now she's left us to be Managing Editor at NPR One. 

Dear Stateside:

I found a heart on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was a stone that had washed up in a storm on New Year's day. It was lying there in the sand with a bunch of other rocks. But this one stood out because it was shaped like a perfect Valentine's Day heart.

Well, Happy Valentine’s Day.

I hope you've gotten far more important greetings from someone close to you.

Love is important.

But sometimes, you have to learn how and when to let someone, or something go. I’ve finally accepted that Laura Ingalls Wilder is not going to come back from the dead and marry me.

And in the same vein, it's time for those who think the last presidential election was stolen to give it up. That may sound like an odd thing to say at this point.

You have to admire many things about Mike Ilitch. The son of Macedonian immigrants, in the classic American success story, failed to become a major league baseball player, but instead became a true player on a much bigger stage.

He grew up with essentially nothing.

When he died Friday he was worth more than $5 billion, owned a major league hockey and baseball team, a massive national fast food pizza empire, stadiums, theaters, and lots of other stuff.

The incomplete Wayne County jail.
Wayne County

Who would ever think there could be so much riding on a county jail?

Mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert is ready to spend $420 million to build a new criminal justice complex for Wayne County. And he only wants $300 million to do it.

The Michigan Library Association has asked me to talk to their annual convention about “fake news.” I don’t blame them for being especially concerned about it. I’ve always seen librarians as sort of secular high priests of our culture.

They are concerned with assembling and guarding over our storehouses of information. In the pre-internet age, we went to them to find out things and to learn how to find them out ourselves.

John Aucher / AuchterToon.com

All of our money (as in United States of America legal tender) has the motto, "In God We Trust." Our coins also have "E pluribus unum" (out of many, one) and "Liberty." They are there, I believe, as reminders of who we are and would like to be as Americans.

It may get a little crowded (especially on the dime), but I humbly submit that we should add one more:

"We are a country of action; lies do not become us."

Back in a more sincerely religious era, people used to say “Man proposes; God disposes.”

But when it comes to state budgets, it’s more a case of “the governor proposes; the legislature disposes.”

The governor proposed his budget for the next fiscal year yesterday, and as of now, members of his own party in the Legislature don’t seem to like it very much.

Imagine that you got into politics, won a few local elections, and before you knew it were your party’s leader in the Michigan Senate.

That’s how things worked out for State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, a former high school social studies teacher who, at age 39, got that job a little over two years ago.

It isn’t exactly a secret that a lot of people have lost faith in politicians. Polls show approval of and trust in Congress and the state Legislature has fallen to where it is barely ahead of Athlete’s foot. Men like Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Woods, are a good part of the reason why.

Banks has previously been convicted of eight felonies, mostly for things like bad checks and credit card fraud. He has been evicted for nonpayment of rent at least seven times, and has left a long trail of unpaid bills.

There are a lot of things that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof doesn’t like. They include unions, especially teachers’ unions. The state’s rule requiring the payment of decent, prevailing wages to workers on state construction jobs. Meekhof is also very much against anything making it easier for people to vote, including making it easier to get absentee ballots.

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