Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

A panel that’s drafting a new governing charter for Detroit will hear recommendations from the city’s mayor and city council this weekend. 

The Charter Revision Commission is looking at everything that has to do with how Detroit operates: How many elected officials the city should have, and how much power they should wield. How to remove elected officials from office. How many departments the city should have, and what services should be mandated.

One issue on which the mayor and city council disagree is how big the city council ought to be. 

There is agreement that the city should move away from its current system of electing members at-large, and have most council members represent districts. But Mayor Dave Bing thinks the council ought to remain at nine members, while the city council is pushing to expand it to 11. 

The Charter Revision Commission is expected to have a draft document finished in March. A citywide vote on the charter is expected next November.

The Commission meets Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

Money
Steve Carmody

A new study finds 3 Michigan congressional campaigns were swamped with outside money during the recent election.  And most of that money paid for negative ads.

National political parties, unions and special interest groups spent $19 million on issue ads leading up to the November election.   The money was focused on the 1st, 7th and 9th congressional districts, where Democrats were trying to fend off strong Republican challenges.

By Jack Lessenberry

Jim McTevia never had a credit card growing up. That’s largely because there weren’t any in the small town of Marine City, Michigan where he was born. Today, he thinks that just might have saved him. He's done all right for himself; he became a well-regarded business turnaround expert without a college education.

Helen Thomas with President Gerald Ford
Marion Trikosko / creative commons

Helen Thomas had worked for United Press International for 57 years. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010. She spent much of her career covering the White House.

She was let go earlier this year after she was briefly interviewed by Rabbi David Nesenoff of RabbiLive.com. After asking Thomas whether she had any comments on Israel, Thomas said, "tell them to get the hell out of Palestine."

The Detroit News reports that Helen Thomas, who grew up in Detroit, gave a speech saying:

"I stand by it. I told the truth," the 90-year-old Thomas told reporters shortly before a speech at a diversity conference Thursday. "I paid a price but it's worth it to speak the truth." During a speech that drew quick condemnation from Jews, Thomas took her remarks further. "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists," Thomas said. "No question."

Thomas spoke at the eighth-annual "Images and Perceptions of Arab American" conference in Dearborn.

Today is the last day that stores in Michigan can sell alcoholic energy drinks.  Last month, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission announced it would ban sales of the controversial drinks because of health risks.

The Associated Press reports:

The Food and Drug Administration is requiring major brands of caffeinated alcoholic drinks to be taken off store shelves nationally by mid-December because of similar concerns. The agency says the combination of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks can lead to a "wide-awake drunk" and alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults.

At least four states have banned the drinks. You can find a list of the banned-drinks here.

Photo by Tracy O/Flickr

As we've been reporting, yesterday was the last day for candidates who ran in Michigan’s 2010 election to report how much money they raised during the campaign season.

According to Republican Governor-elect Rick Snyder’s campaign finance reports, he spent almost $11 million during the campaign; $6 million of which was his own.

The Associated Press reports that Snyder’s largest donors were, “Pistons owner Karen Davidson and former Bechtel Group co-owner Stephen Bechtel and his wife, Elizabeth, of San Francisco.”

Snyder’s opponent in the race for governor, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, raised a little under $2 million and qualified for a little more than $1 million in public funds.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Terry Johnson/Flickr

Lawmakers worked throughout Thursday night and into early the early morning hours on Friday to complete their 2009-2010 legislative session.

Lawmakers approved $10 million dollars for the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.  Governor Granholm had wanted $25 million for the campaign. Democratic state Representative Dan Scripps said the deal could have been better:

You know, we’ve put two options on the Senate’s desk, and the governor’s put a third one, and essentially they punted and raided from another pot and I just don’t think that’s the way to go. We can do better than this.

Efforts to enact teacher-tenure reforms that would make it easier to fire teachers failed as did a law that would require insurance companies to cover autism treatments for children.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Update 12/3/2010 6:18 AM

After working into the early morning hours, the state legislature finished their 2009-2010 legislative session this Friday morning.

Lawmakers approved $10 million dollars for the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.  Governor Granholm had wanted $25 million for the campaign. Democratic state Representative Dan Scripps said the deal could have been better:

You know, we’ve put two options on the Senate’s desk, and the governor’s put a third one, and essentially they punted and raided from another pot and I just don’t think that’s the way to go. We can do better than this.

___

Update 12/2/2010 1:30 PM

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta just let us know that Governor Granholm's office says she is trying to reach a deal to use economic development funds to get the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign back on the air. 

As the Detroit Free Press reports:

The Pure Michigan tourism ad campaign would be saved with a $25 million infusion from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund, based on discussions today between lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The tourism industry has also been pushing hard in the final days of the 2009-2010 legislative session to get state lawmakers to agree to fund the ad campaign.

Former president Georgy W. Bush in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Update 4:23pm

Lindsey Smith just sent in this quote from former president George Bush's talk today in Grand Rapids:

"Like in '44 if somebody in Grand Rapids, Michigan said 'I predict someday America and Japan will stand shoulder to shoulder to enhance mutual security' they would have said 'what a hopeless, idealistic nut-job you are'. But democracy transformed an enemy to an ally. I know it sounds far-fetched for some that people want to be free in the Middle East and that freedom will take hold - I think it will."

Update 3:53 pm

The event with George W. Bush in Grand Rapids just wrapped up and reporter Lindsey Smith called in with some of her highlights from the talk:

  • Bush's opening line - "Most people didn't think I couldn't read a book, much less write one."
  • Bush said after his presidency it was like going from 100 mph to 10 mph and he had to figure out what to do with all his extra time
  • About the firing of Donald Rumsfeld Bush said that his relationship with him had gone from one of "creative tension" to one of "destructive tension."
  • About 9/11 and the decision to go into Iraq Bush said that it was a bold move that had to be made. He was disappointed that no WMDs were found. He also says that 9/11 changed his mind about preemptive strikes. If he hadn't done it, he believes there would have been a dangerous nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq.
  • Bush says he's still in touch with Condoleezza Rice, but doesn't talk much with Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.
  • He said he doesn't judge Barack Obama, and won't be pulled into criticizing or commenting on him and his presidency.

Update 12:42 pm:

Our reporter at the event, Lindsey Smith, says Secret Service told the media that laptops are not allowed. So, it might be that we have to wait for updates until after the former President speaks.

___

6:44 am

Former President George W. Bush will be in Grand Rapids this afternoon.  He'll be promoting his new book "Decision Points" at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

This is the former President's second visit to Grand Rapids this year.  He attended the Economic Club of Grand Rapids in June.

Candidates who ran in Michigan's 2010 election have until today to report just how much money they raised and spent during the 2010 campaign.

The Detroit News reports that as of today:

...only one of the major statewide candidates had filed a post-election report. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican who defeated Democrat Jocelyn Benson, filed her report a day early on Wednesday.

The Detroit News expects reports will be filed today by Governor-elect Rick Snyder.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has chosen Bill McBride to be director of the State of Michigan Washington, D.C. office.  McBride was a deputy chief of staff for former-Governor of Michigan John Engler.  McBride currently is chief of staff to Michigan Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids.

In a statement released yesterday, Snyder said:

Michigan’s Congressional delegation will have significant influence in the upcoming Congress since our U.S. Senators and Representatives will chair key committees. Bill McBride’s experience and impressive working relationships on both sides of the aisle make him an outstanding choice to head up our Washington D.C. office.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is imposing a 20 percent pay cut on union employees.

The move comes after two years of negotiating failed to yield an agreement. Earlier this year, Ficano instituted unpaid furlough days after the union rejected a proposed 10 percent pay cut.

Joyce Ivory represents about a thousand workers with AFSCME Local 165. She says a state labor board ruled against that move, but Ficano pressed forward anyway.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

A bill approved today in the state House would allow the Detroit Institute of Arts to ask taxpayers for more money. The Associated Press reports the bill would:

...allow counties to form authorities that could ask voters for property taxes to fund arts institutes... The property taxes would have to be approved by voters in the region to take effect. Art institute authorities could ask for up to 0.2 mills.

The bill now heads to Governor Granholm for her signature. The state Senate already approved the measure.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/FLICKR

Michigan lawmakers continue their 'lame duck' session in Lansing today and they're still trying to figure out the last pieces of legislation to pass before the 2009-2010 session comes to a close.

The Associated Press reports:

It's a safe bet lawmakers will pass a bill to distribute more than $300 million in federal money to schools. But... bills dealing with teacher tenure, fireworks sales, insurance coverage for autism treatments and dozens of other items could be voted on before the Legislature adjourns at the end of the week.

Bill Ballenger, the editor and publisher of the "Inside Michigan Politics" newsletter told Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta earlier this week that, "The chances of getting all of it done are slim."

Governor-elect Rick Snyder named John Nixon as his new administration's budget director on Monday.  Nixon currently holds that position in Utah.

In an interview this morning on Michigan Radio, political analyst Jack Lessenberry said he thinks the pick shows that Snyder is willing to look outside of the box. Lessenberry said:

It shows that [Snyder] is certainly willing to... go outside the box and outside the state to find someone with a fresh approach to look at the all-important state budget problem. This is something that people had urged Governor Granholm to do when she first came in and which didn't happen.

Lessenberry went on to say that highly-regarded economist Charles Ballard often references Utah when discussing how Michigan could turn around its budget problems. Now, with the former head of Utah's Office of Planning and Budget becoming Snyder's budget director, Lessenberry said he is curious to see what lessons Michigan can learn. "Utah managed to balance its budget with a higher income tax," said Lessenberry, "It'll be interesting to see if that's part of the mix."

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it will sue the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia. The ACLU is suing on behalf of Linda Lott, a 61 year-old from Birmingham who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

In the ACLU's press release Lott is quoted as saying:

Ken30684/Creative Commons

Today is the day that a bill that allows alcohol sales on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day goes into effect. But, liquor control officials are still working on how to implement the new law. 

The Associated Press reports:

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission said Tuesday the agency will be posting applications for the $160 license needed to sell alcohol on Sunday mornings and notifying local governments about the new law this week. Local governments will have until Dec. 15 to notify state officials if they opt to ban Sunday morning sales.

Lawmakers last month approved the bill  that allows alcohol to go on sale starting at 7am on Sunday mornings and on Christmas Day.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be in Washington D.C. today. He'll meet with some of Michigan's congressional delegation and members of the Republican leadership. 

The Detroit News is also reporting that Snyder will announce Bill McBride as the head of the Michigan office in Washington D.C.  McBride is currently chief of staff to retiring Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder at the Michigan Farm Bureau in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor-elect Rick Snyder spoke to members of Michigan’s Farm Bureau Tuesday evening.

Snyder told the crowd he’s preparing to start Michigan’s era of innovation next month. “You’re on the forefront of that. People don’t understand how innovative you are and all the efforts you do. Whether it’s increasing yields or being more environmentally sound or all the great practices. ”

Eugene G. Wanger and boxes of documents from the Michigan Constitution
State of Michigan

Eugene G. Wanger was a 28 year-old attorney when he became a delegate for Michigan's Constitutional Convention in 1961. The republican was a strong opponent of the death penalty and authored the section in today's state constitution that bans the practice.

Congressman Mike Pence
Photo courtesy of www.mikepence.house.gov

Indiana Congressman and possible 2012 presidential candidate Mike Pence visited the state yesterday. The Republican was in Michigan to deliver a speech at the Detroit Economic Club. The Club is a traditional stop for politicians considering a bid for the presidency. 

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports that Pence used the speech to call for major tax reforms and said Democratic policies to stimulate the economy aren't working.

As The Detroit Free Press reports:

Pence's is one of about a dozen names that have surfaced as possible presidential candidates in 2012. He is the chairman of the Republican Conference Committee, the third ranking position among the GOP in Congress.

Photo courtesy of www.Utah.gov

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is going out of state for his choice of Michigan’s next budget director.

Snyder is naming John Nixon, Utah’s top budget officer, to become his administration’s budget director.

Nixon will take over the job from Robert Emerson.

In a release yesterday, Snyder said:

John is considered one of the best in the business and is widely respected inside and outside of state government. As I traveled the state during the campaign and met with the hardworking men and women of Michigan, I said it was time for the citizens to take back control of Michigan’s broken budget process and to deliver real value for money.  John will work with us to bring fiscal responsibility, stability, transparency and the citizens’ priorities to state government.

Michigan faces a projected $1.7 billion shortfall in the budget that begins next October.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Update - Tues. 11/30/10 8:22 AM:

It's been confirmed that the former President will, indeed, visit Grand Rapids on Thursday.  He'll visit the Gerald R. Ford Museum as part of his nation-wide tour to promote his new book, Decision Points.

______

The Grand Rapids Press is reporting that former President George W. Bush will be at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids on Thursday.

According to Krisin Mooney, a museum public affairs specialist, the former president will be at the museum at 2PM.

Mooney said other information about the former president's visit will be released later this afternoon.

Bush was last in Grand Rapids in June to speak at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra
Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra is condemning the latest Wikileaks disclosure of thousands of classified documents.

Republican Hoekstra, who represents Michigan’s 2nd District, says the leaks undermine U.S. credibility in the world.

The Associated Press reported:

Hoekstra said the disclosure of previously secret diplomatic cables, documents and e-mails secrets puts America's diplomats in "a very awkward position." He said some of the material in the roughly 250,000 released documents is "gossip," but added that there's also material on supersensitive negotiations between the United States and Pakistan on a deal aimed at controlling nuclear proliferation.

Hoekstra, who appeared this morning on CBS's "The Early Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America," is urging the Obama administration to classify Wikileaks as a terrorist organization.

Capitol Building in Lansing
Terry Johnson/Flickr

State lawmakers return to the Capitol in Lansing this week as the 2009-2010 legislative session comes to a close.

Both the state House and Senate are scheduled to be in session.

The Associated Press reports:

Lawmakers might finalize a plan to distribute more than $300 million in federal money to Michigan schools.  It's not clear if lawmakers will agree on a way to raise more money for the state's Pure Michigan tourism advertising program.

Glass floor inside the Michigan Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Censure from Michigan's Supreme Court

This week, for the first time in state history, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly rebuked a former justice for violating court confidentiality. Former Justice Elizabeth Weaver was rebuked by the court for secretly taping deliberations and later making them public. Lessenberry says Weaver had been feuding for years with her fellow justices until she resigned this past summer after making a deal with Governor Granholm.

Tight budgets are forcing local governments across the state to do more with less. That's easier said than done - even in traditionally fiscally conservative areas. Straight ticket republican voters in Ottawa County outnumbered their democratic counterparts 4 to 1 in the last election. Many self-described-fiscal-conservatives spoke out against the plan. They don't think the consolidation will save the county as much money as expected and worry services will suffer.

Senator Debbie Stabenow
Photo courtesy of www.stabenow.senate.gov

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is set to chair the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Stabenow takes over the position from Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.  Lincoln lost her Senate seat to Republican John Boozman on November 2nd.

In a statement released today, Stabenow, a Democrat, says:

I am ready to lead the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 112 th Congress. Agriculture is critical to Michigan’s economy, employing a quarter of our workforce. Not only does agriculture create jobs and feed our families across America, but it is also helping us develop new fuels and energy sources.

Stabenow has served as a Democratic Senator from Michigan since 2000.

As the Detroit News reports:

Stabenow's position will give the Great Lakes State an enormous amount of influence over the next farm bill, which is slated for 2012. The bill is the cornerstone of the federal government's agriculture, food and nutrition policy and states like Michigan with sizable farming sectors have significant interest in its outcome; work on the 2012 bill began in April.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero
Photo courtesy of www.votevirg.com

The Lansing State Journal takes a look today at what Lansing Mayor Virg Bernro has been up to since losing the Michigan gubernational election earlier this month to Republican Rick Snyder.

In an article titled, "After failed bid for governor, it's business as usual for Lansing Mayor Virg Bernro," the LSJ reports:

Bernero wants to turn his attention to economic development... and preparations for 600 new jobs at General Motors Co.'s Lansing Grand River plant.  There's also "a few other things we haven't even yet announced economic-wise," Bernero said.  Lansing's cash-strapped budget also should keep him occupied, he said.  "I am the mayor," Bernero said. "I'm excited about doing the job and I'm excited about where we are...You'll have to stay tuned."

Last year, Bernero won a 2nd four-year term as Lansing mayor.

When asked whether he would run for another political job, Bernero told the LSJ, it was, "hard to say," and that there's, "plenty of time to think about it."

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will attend the National Governor Association's school for new governors this week, according to Crain's Detroit Business.  Crain's also says the governor-elect will attend a meeting of the Republican Governors Association

According to the Republican Governors Association's website, the RGA, "was a key investor in Rick Snyder's victory spending a total of $8 million."

Governor-elect Snyder will take the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

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