Politics & Government

Politics
1:00 pm
Fri June 3, 2011

Mounting recall efforts for state government

A rally in Lansing on March 16, 2011. Recall efforts are underway for several Republican leaders. The last time the state saw this many recall efforts was in 1983 targeting Democrats.
Michigan Education Association

A wave of recall efforts is rolling through the state Capitol. There are about half a dozen recall campaigns under way, and all of them target Republicans.

Recall campaign organizers have a difficult, but not impossible, task ahead of them to get the recalls on the ballot.

The last time a swath of recall campaigns swept over a political party in control of the House, Senate and executive office was in 1983.

He says the last time a group of recall campaigns swept over a single political party in Michigan was in 1983.

Bill Ballenger is the editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. He says the last time a group of recall campaigns swept over a single political party in Michigan was in 1983.

"There were a whole bunch of recalls mounted that year, upwards of maybe a dozen, against Democratic legislators over the hike in the state income tax in 1983. Of all those recall efforts, two actually made it to the ballot."

Ballenger says talk of tax hikes got people motivated in 1983, but that’s not the case this time around.

“In fact it’s just the opposite,” said Ballenger.

He says most of the complaints levied against lawmakers and Governor Rick Snyder are about cuts to funding and programs, and an expansion of the control of emergency managers.

One of the more publicized recall efforts is against state Representative Al Pscholka, who sponsored the emergency manager legislation.

There are also recall efforts against Governor Snyder and state Senator Mike Nofs, Ballenger says Senator Nofs could face the biggest test among the current recall campaigns because he is in a swing district.

Mackinac 2011
8:21 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Mackinac Conference produces talk of possible 2012 Senate candidates

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island.
Steve Burt 1947 Flickr

Well, it was bound to happen. Mix an election that’s less than 18 months away with politicos, talking heads and hungry reporters (in pretty close quarters) and you’re going to start to hear stories about possible candidates for the 2012 Michigan Senate seat. Two-term Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection in 2012 and only one Republican, former Kent County judge Randy Hekman, has announced a run so far.

The Detroit News reports:

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch said today he is "seriously looking at" a 2012 challenge to… Stabenow and expects to decide within 30 days. McCulloch, 55, told The Detroit News at the Mackinac Policy Conference he is concerned about the way the budget deficit and other federal issues are being handled. Elected to his current post, formerly known as the drain commissioner, in 2000, McCulloch earlier served 10 years as an Oakland County commissioner, including five years as chairman. Born in Royal Oak, he is an attorney and a certified public accountant.

Then, also from the Detroit News, is this:

A hot rumor making the rounds at the Mackinac conference today was that Detroit radio host Frank Beckmann would seek the Republican nomination to challenge Stabenow. "Don't wait for an announcement," Beckmann, host of "The Frank Beckmann Show”… told The Detroit News with a laugh during a break from his radio show. But the conservative talk show host wouldn't rule out entering politics, either.

Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra have both announced that they will not run.

Mackinac 2011
5:20 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Political Roundup: Mackinac Policy Conference (audio)

This week lawmakers and business leaders from around the state are attending the annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It’s touted as a time when political deals are made and politicians have a chance to set agendas.

To give us the lowdown on the conference Michigan Radio's Jenn White talks with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Former Republican state Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema is familiar with what goes on at the conference. Are there really any useful conversations that come out of this event? Sikkema:

I do think useful conversations are conducted up there, but that's a far cry from saying that fundamental solutions get agreed to, or that deals get made.

The Mackinac Policy Conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and is known to be a lavish event. Considering that businesses are paying for the event, is there a conflict of interest at play for lawmakers? Susan Demas doesn't think so. Lawmakers pay their own way. But there are some paid-for events and open bars. Demas:

But in a way it's not all together that different than how business is conducted in Lansing every night. The bars and the restaurants are filled with lobbyists who meet with lawmakers, this is nothing new.  But I certainly don't think anybody is violating any ethics laws that we have on the books here in Michigan.

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Politics
4:27 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Snyder office worker injured by substance while opening mail

An employee in Governor Rick Snyder's office was treated and quarantined after a letter delivered to the office caused a burning sensation in his fingers. The letter had what was described as a "grainy substance" that caused the injury. The governor's office says the governor called the employee to make sure he is O-K. The Michigan State Police are investigating the incident.  

Politics
3:55 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Fenton man is a voice for the Libyan rebels

The Kingdom of Libya flag placed in front of a refinery in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2011. The flag has been used as a symbol of resistance against Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi.
BRQ Network

Marisa Schultz has an amazing story in today's Detroit News.

It's about Mustafa Gheriani of Fenton, Michigan.

Gheriani is a U.S. citizen, but was born in Benghazi, Libya.

Last February, Gheriani traveled to Benghazi for a family wedding. The revolution broke out and Gheriani found himself speaking to western reporters on behalf of the Libyan rebels. From the article:

He reported scenes from the front lines, casualties and acknowledged the rag-tag limitations of the rebel army against Gadhafi's iron-fist regime. He worked tirelessly with a cadre of international reporters with one goal: "Libya news stayed on the front page."

Gheriani didn't mince words when talking to the press. Gadhafi's "hands are tainted with blood and we will not talk to him," Gheriani told the Associated Press in March.

Back home in Fenton, when his wife saw those words she thought, "'he's a dead man."

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Politics
3:17 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Schuette: Money from Kwame Kilpatrick's book should first go to taxpayers

From the website kwamekilpatrickbook.com. Kilpatrick says he's ready to "talk about everything." Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he wants to make sure proceeds from the book go to taxpayers first.
kwamekilpatrickbook.com

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will go to court to make sure any book royalties earned by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick go first toward paying his restitution debt to the state.

A Kilpatrick autobiography is expected to be released next month. Kilpatrick is in prison for failing to make restitution payments while enjoying an affluent lifestyle in Texas.

"When someone’s in the slammer, someone’s violated the law, and you owe citizens of the state of Michigan money, restitution, before you rake in royalties on a book deal, we need to make sure you even it up with the taxpayers."

Schuette says he will work with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on a motion to tap any book royalties for restitution. Kilpatrick owes the city of Detroit more than $816,000.

A Kilpatrick spokesman did not return a phone call.

Mackinac 2011
1:37 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Protesters follow Snyder to Mackinac Island

State leaders and legislators have left Lansing for Mackinac Island this week. Some protesters have followed them.
Charles Dawley Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder came to the Mackinac Policy Conference after landing two big fish from the Michigan Legislature:  a new tax overhaul plan which reduces taxes on businesses and a budget that makes big cuts, including cuts to K-12 education spending.

After these victories, he might have thought he was going to leave the protesters behind in Lansing, but they've followed him to Mackinac Island.

Paul Egan of the Detroit News reports a group of teachers and other public sector workers are protesting Snyder's education cuts and tax policies. Egan quoted Jim Martin, a health and physical education teacher from Sault Ste. Marie, speaking about Governor Snyder:

"He says he's not anti-union or anti-teacher, but his actions say otherwise," Martin said at a news conference about a block away from the Grand Hotel where the policy conference organized by the Detroit Regional Chamber is being held.

The news conference was organized by A Better Michigan Future, a coalition of about 50 union and public interest groups...

"It can't be possible that everyone really believes that corporations need the money more than children," said Tammy Hazley, a special education teacher from Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools.

Egan reports the group is calling for a new state income tax, one where higher-income earners would pay more than lower-income earners. The group's director "also called for a reduction in the cost of work contracted out by state government."

Mackinac 2011
12:12 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Highlights of Day 1 at the Mackinac Policy Conference

There are two places you can look for a wrap of the events at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

MPRN's Rick Pluta hosts a wrap up podcast called Porchlight.

And Detroit Public Television and MiVote have this Highlight Show:

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Politics
10:37 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Pontiac emergency manager moves to void police dispatchers contract

Downtown Pontiac. The city has major financial problems. The emergency manager of Pontiac wants to void a contract with the city's police dispatcher's union.
user dt10111 Flickr

Another Michigan emergency manager is seeking to use broad new powers granted to him by the new emergency manager law.

Pontiac emergency manager Michael Stampfler is working to void a contract with the city's police dispatchers union.

The city's police department voted to dissolve itself last March because of the city's budget problems.

The city and the Oakland County Sheriff's Department are working to draw up a contract to police Pontiac's streets, but a contract with the dispatcher's union is holding up the process, according to the Oakland Press.

From the Oakland Press:

Pontiac Emergency Manager Michael Stampfler has submitted a letter to the Michigan Department of Treasury requesting to end the contract with the police dispatchers’ union.

“I don’t know that anyone has yet to use ... the section of the legislation saying we want to do this,” said Stampfler, adding work is being done to have the transition from the Pontiac police to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office completed by July 1.

The proposed contract for law enforcement and dispatch services hasn’t been signed because of the contract with the dispatchers’ union.

Officials from the Michigan Association of Police, the union representing the dispatchers, were not available for comment.

Some groups are planning to challenge the new emergency manager law in court. Nullifying a union contract could be one place were a challenge to the law begins.

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Mackinac 2011
10:04 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Mackinac Island: Day 2

Mackinac Island: Day 2
Detroit Regional Chamber.

The Mackinac Policy Conference continues up here on Mackinac Island for a second day. On tap for today: lots of panel discussions. Along with Detroit Public Television, we're putting together two panels to take a deeper look at some of the important policy issues facing the state.

The first is an environmental panel, Reinvention vs. Redevelopment. It’ll take a look at the current state of brownfield redevelopment in Michigan. In particular, Michigan's brownfield and historic tax credit programs - have they worked? And, what will happen when the tax credits are eliminated and replaced with a separate fund.

The second panel, Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids, will dig into the current state of education funding in Michigan (K-12 and higher education): What needs to be done to improve it, how do we go about funding it, and what would be the implications of Governor Rick Snyder's reform ideas on school districts, teachers and students in the state, and the workforce of tomorrow.

Panels put together by the Detroit Regional Chamber for today include Improving Michigan’s Path to Recovery: Lessons from Business Leaders with Doug Rothwell, President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and Emerging Leaders with State Senator Dave Hildenbrand and State Reps Frank Foster, Rudy Hobbs and Andrew Kandrevas. U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow will also hold court today and we’ll hear from Mark Reuss, President, North America, General Motors Company.

Mackinac 2011
9:47 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Mackinac Conference a lavish affair

The free bar at the Mackinac Policy Conference.
Dustin Dwyer

Here's a staff favorite and a little of a blast from the past. Former Michigan Radio reporter Dustin Dwyer wonders if the Mackinac Policy Conference matters to the everyday folk of Michigan.

Click here to link to the story.

 

 

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
7:41 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

UAW President Bob King says his union is pro-business now

UAW President Bob King asked business leaders to reexamine their ideas about unions during a speech at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

Acknowledging the conservatives in the crowd, King joked that it might be the closest he'll come to ever appearing at a Republican National Convention.

But his speech quickly turned serious, with an appeal to business leaders and Republicans to work with unions, not against them, for the good of both business and the middle class.

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Politics
5:07 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

In wake of Detroit's population loss, lawmakers work to prevent revenue loss

Lawmakers are working on legislation that will allow Detroit to keep taxing residents at current rates. Under current law, the city would have to lower rates because of a decline in population.
Patricia Drury Flickr

Update 5:07 p.m.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber reports that most Republicans voted against the change, but Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger was not among them.

He voted for the measure, which passed by a narrow margin:

"I think for a healthy Michigan we have to have a healthy Detroit, so House Republicans put up enough votes for passage and we advance this bill forward today," said Bolger. "But at the same time, we are certainly concerned about containing their expenses and not looking for additional revenue."

Weber reported that changes to the population requirement now goes to the State Senate, where Democrats hope to have them approved in the next week.

1:23 p.m.

State law stipulates that a city must have a population of at least 750,000 people in order to tax at certain rates.

In the last census, Detroit's population fell below that threshold and now stands at 713,777 according to official U.S. Census statistics (that number is being challenged).

The city could stand to lose $100 million if it had to lower it's income tax rate.

Losing this much revenue in Detroit would hurt, so lawmakers in Lansing are working to pass legislation that will allow the city to keep taxing at current rates.

The Michigan State House approved a measure today that would allow the city to continue levying taxes on income and utilities by lowering the population threshold to 600,000.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber reported on this last night. Weber spoke with State Senator Bert Johnson (D - Detroit) about the bill. From Weber's report:

He says he thinks that 600,000 is a safe and low-enough number.

“You know, I think Detroit’s days of really hemorrhaging people are probably behind us. We’ll lose a few more along the way, but not in the significant numbers that we’ve seen over the past decade,” Johnson said.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said the city would likely face a financial emergency without changes to the law.

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.

Mackinac 2011
5:01 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Snyder argues for a new bridge at Mackinac Conference

A concept drawing of a new bridge known as the Detroit River International Crossing.
partnershipborderstudy.com

Legislation to create an authority to build a new international bridge in Detroit has been introduced in the state Senate.

Governor Rick Snyder is using a conference on Mackinac Island to sell the idea to lawmakers and business people.

He still has to win over skeptical Republicans in the Legislature who are not convinced there is no risk to taxpayers in the deal.

The bridge fight could pose his biggest intra-party squabble yet. It's a debate that’s expected to last through much if June.

The governor says the bridge is necessary to support Michigan’s growing export trade, saying the entire state benefits from the growth in exports:

"We had a big bounce back from 2009," Snyder said. "The jump this year has been very large and Canada is our biggest trading partner. We did over $44 billion in exports last year…and 49% of that was with Canada."

The governor says that includes agriculture products and manufactured goods from every corner of Michigan. Supporters of the bridge say there will be even more benefits if Canada and Mexico approve a free trade deal.

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit are putting up a fierce fight including a statewide ad campaign to stop the bridge project.

They say there won’t be enough traffic to justify a second bridge.

The governor calls those claims "false."

Politics
3:08 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Walberg describes GOP meeting with Pres. Obama as 'congenial'

Rep. Tim Walberg (R) Michigan's 7th congressional district
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan congressman Tim Walberg describes today’s meeting between Republican lawmakers and President Obama as ‘congenial’.   Walberg was among the GOP members of congress who outlined their concerns about the budget during the 90 minute meeting with the president at the White House. 

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Mackinac 2011
3:00 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

LIVE STREAM: Mackinac Policy Conference 2011

The Mackinac Policy Conference is set to kick-off today at 3 p.m.

You can watch a live stream of the events here on our page (the live stream is provided by Detroit Public Television and MiVote.org).

Here's an agenda for the Conference.

Politics
11:42 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Detroit mayor vetoes council budget

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has vetoed the city council’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Detroit City Council trimmed an additional $50 million from the budget plan submitted by the mayor. Many members said they were not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections would hold.

Mayor Bing says the council’s plan would have resulted in layoffs in public safety, jeopardized Sunday bus service, and forced the city to return millions of dollars to the federal government. He says the council was bent on enacting drastic cuts to send a political message:

"But our fiscal crisis is too important to become just another political battle where no one wins."

The mayor and council members will spend the next few days on Mackinac Island for an annual policy conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The island has been the site of many political deals in the past. But if a compromise is not struck, the city council could vote to override the veto next week.

Mackinac 2011
11:19 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Michigan Radio's coverage of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference

The site of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference
David Ball creative commons

The Mackinac Policy Conference gets started this afternoon and several Michigan Radio reporters will be there to bring you the latest news. The conference will run through Friday.

Michigan Watch's Lester Graham will be keeping an ear to the ground and he'll also moderate two panel discussions for Detroit Public Television and Mi Vote's live coverage of the conference:

  1. Environmental Panel: Reinvention vs. Redevelopment: A panel discussion looking into the current state of brownfield redevelopment in Michigan. In particular, Michigan's brownfield and historic tax credit programs - have they worked? And, what will happen if, as Governor Snyder has proposed, the tax credits are eliminated and replaced with a separate fund.
  2. Education Panel: Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids: A panel discussion looking into the current state of education in Michigan (K-12 and higher education): What needs to be done to improve it, how do we go about funding it, and what would be the implications of Governor Rick Snyder's reform ideas on school districts, teachers and students in the state, and the workforce of tomorrow.

Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's auto reporter, will cover discussions and talks from the conference related to the auto industry including Bill Ford's address.

Michigan Radio producer Zoe Clark will be blogging about the conference for michiganradio.org

And the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta will be reporting on policy from the Island.

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