One thing is for sure. If Michigan is going to get out of the hole it is in and lay the foundation for future prosperity, lots of us are going to have to move out of our economic and political comfort zones.
Unions are going to have to realize that employers and governments can’t afford the same kind of health care and defined-benefit pension plans as when we had full employment at high wages and the Big Three dominated the global automotive economy.
Chambers of Commerce are going to have to realize that there is more to attracting new jobs and business than low taxes.
And everybody is going to have to realize that without a modern, well-functioning infrastructure, we haven’t got a chance.
Associated Press reports the senate has cleared the way for a vote on Saturday afternoon on a bill that would overturn the military's ban on openly gay troops. Senators voted 63-33 to advance the legislation. It's already passed the House and now looks likely to reach the president's desk before the new year.
This week’s indictment against Detroit’s former mayor and others is likely to renew interest in changing the way the region’s massive water system is run. The federal government identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were steered to a friend of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
...a veteran of the health insurance industry, most recently working as president of a company called Health Reform Innovations LLC in the Miami area. Dazzo previously worked in Michigan and is a past president of Physicians Health Plan.
“There is an attitude that the only way to lower costs is to reduce the level of care. I reject that premise. Olga understands that the decisions she makes will directly impact the wellbeing of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens, and she will always have an eye toward delivering services more efficiently so those who need treatment are able to get it.”
Dazzo's bio says she received a bachelors degree in accounting and a masters degree in finance from Michigan State University.
Governor-elect Rick Snyder has named Greg Andrews as his representative to northern Michigan. Andrews will help the incoming Republican governor stay connected with that part of the state. Snyder announced the appointment yesterday.
Andrews previously served as Snyder’s northern Michigan field representative during the campaign. In that role, he built relationships with local leaders in 37 counties – relationships Snyder will rely on to stay in touch with the concerns of residents across northern Michigan. “Greg’s number one priority is to end the disconnect between Lansing and northern Michigan,” Snyder said. “He will have a direct line to the governor’s office.”
The U.S. House of Representativesvoted to extend Bush-era tax breaks and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed yesterday. The tax-deal was brokered between President Obama and leaders in the House and Senate. The President is expected to sign the bill soon. As The Associated Press reports:
In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to. The vote was 277-148.
Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan told USA Today:
Congress made the right decision ... to prevent a job-killing tax hike on Americans and small businesses.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office released this statement regarding the RICO indictments of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Victor Mercado, former director of the city Water and Sewerage Department, and 3 others:
We are disappointed by continued revelations of the mistakes of the past. Yet, we will not be deterred from our agenda. We will continue to work hard to restructure city government to a level of accountability, transparency and performance for our citizens. We have the utmost confidence in U.S Attorney Barbara McQuade and her team, and will cooperate and not interfere with their investigation.
While these indictments will make it more difficult as we seek a new director for the water department, and continue to make the tough but necessary decisions throughout the city, we will maintain our commitment to the highest ethical standards and those who uphold them for the benefit of our city and region.
Here's some video of the release of the indictments from the Detroit News:
Update 4:28 p.m.:
Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, had this to say of the new indictment:
“The indictment charges all of them with working together to abuse Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices. Both his position as state representative, as well as his position of mayor of Detroit, to unjustly enrich themselves, through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud.”
Update 4:18 p.m.:
Here's an excerpt of the indictment (info in parens added):
"(Former Detroit Mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick, (Kilpatrick’s long-time friend) Bobby Ferguson, (Kilpatrick’s father) Bernard Kilpatrick, (former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) Victor Mercado and (Chief Administrative Officer then Chief Information Officer to Kilpatrick) Derrick Miller… extorted municipal contractors by coercing them to include Ferguson in public contracts, and/or by rigging the award of contracts to ensure Ferguson got a portion of the revenue from those contracts…. Ferguson got tens of millions of dollars in work and revenues from municipal contractors."
Update 3:39 p.m.:
Federal Prosecutors in Detroit are announcing more corruption charges against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
The indictments also include Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.
Representatives from the FBI, IRS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development are also on hand for the announcement.
The new charges are a sign the years-long investigation into Detroit municipal corruption is approaching an apex.
Peter Henning is a Wayne State University law professor. He says this investigation has been typical of public corruption probes that slowly “work from the outside in.”
“The government’s committed a lot of resources. When that happens then it’s much more likely to see charges brought, simply because the government wants to see some return on its investment.”
Kwame Kilpatrick already faces federal tax evasion and other charges for allegedly using a non-profit civic fund as a personal slush fund.
Ferguson also already faces federal charges in an alleged city bid-rigging scheme.
The other shoe is finally dropping on former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The US Attorney in Detroit is holding a news conference at 4pm to announce indictments against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and others allegedly involved in city hall corruption in Detroit.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is considering prosecuting the mayor under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, among other federal criminal laws, according to a source. The Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section reviews and approves each proposed federal prosecution under the RICO statute.
So far, 14 people have pleaded guilty to felonies and one person has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the Detroit investigation and a spinoff probe in the city of Southfield. Those convicted include former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.
Congressman Mike Rogers will takeover as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The Associated Press reports:
Incoming House Speaker John Boehner says Michigan Republican Mike Rogers will serve as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the next Congress. Rogers said in a statement Wednesday he's humbled by the appointment and calls it an "incredible responsibility." The 47-year-old Howell resident easily won a sixth term in November to represent Michigan's 8th Congressional District. Rogers is a former Army officer and FBI special agent who investigated organized crime and public corruption in Chicago in the early 1990s.
Leaders in the state legislature have called lawmakers back to the Capitol today for a final meeting of this year's legislative session. The news comes after lawmakers had called it quits earlier this month. As Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network reports, lawmakers have to go back to Lansing to correct a few procedural mistakes from the earlier lame-duck session:
The state Senate has a few bills sent back from the House for final approval, including a measure that would lower the minimum age for blood donation from 17 to 16. The House also needs to meet Wednesday to approve a resolution to adjourn for the year. But it's unclear if enough lawmakers can be wrangled on short notice to return to the state Capitol to vote.
Lawmakers might enroll and send to Gov. Jennifer Granholm legislation allowing sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf site in Flint to a developer who wants to redevelop the property and keep the school open. Bills that would regulate billboards for sexually oriented businesses are among the others that need final approval or procedural votes before they can be sent to Granholm.
Michael Moore has announced that he is contributing $20,000 to help bail out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (that WikiLeaks link is liable to change).
On his blog post, Moore says he's offering Assange more than just money:
I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.
Well, it appears that state lawmakers aren't quite done with this year's lame duck legislative session.
It's been announced that both the Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate will convene at the state Capitol tomorrow. The news comes after lawmakers declared their two-year session was done on December 3rd.
However, the Associated Press reports, that neither chamber is expected to take up any controversial issues:
The House is expected to deal with legislation cracking down on human trafficking and a few other issues. The Senate will deal with bills that can't be sent to GovernorJennifer Granholm because they didn't get an immediate effect vote or because they were changed by the House. Lawmakers aren't expected to take up insurance coverage for autism, teacher tenure rules or other sensitive subjects that were left unaddressed before adjourning earlier this month.
Who are Michigan’s most powerful people in Washington? For decades, the same names have come to mind. First, Dearborn’s John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in history.
For many years, Dingell was either the chair, or ranking Democrat, of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Then come the Levins. Younger brother Carl is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Older brother Sandy this year became the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Then there is John Conyers, who has chaired the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years. These men are icons.
But they are aging icons, and when the Republicans take over the House next month, Conyers, Dingell and Sandy Levin will lose power and status, because they will be in the minority.
But Michigan will have two newly powerful representatives in key positions, men who are far less well known statewide -- but whom we ought to get to know better.
The former NBA great tells the Detroit Free Press... that he "can't fix the problems that the city has in one term." He says progress is being made in improving the city but there is "so much more work to do."
The next mayoral election in the city is 2013. Bing became the Mayor of Detroit in May of 2009 and was re-elected to a full term in November 2009.
Snyder will speak to Detroit college students and business leaders about reinventing Michigan's economy - with an accounting twist. Snyder's talk … is expected to focus on how his accounting skills will be important as he works to improve the state's struggling economy.
Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.
The owner of the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation are back in court over a disputed construction project. One Detroit business owner says that project is forcing him out. Lafayette Bait and Tackle is literally stranded here in the midst of the Gateway Project, as trucks rumble overhead. That project was a $230 million effort to better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways. It’s also the subject of a long-running legal dispute. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the Ambassador Bridge Company violated project plans when it built entrance ramps and a duty-free plaza. The Bridge Company has lost several rounds in court. But the ongoing legal drama has left Lafayette Bait and Tackle cut off from the surrounding neighborhood. Business owner Dean Aytes says his landlord hasn’t paid the taxes on the property. And a lawyer for bridge owner Mattsay Moroun says the landlord has now agreed to sell the property. Aytes says that means the shop will have to close for good. He says “that billionaire, Matty Moroun, put me out of business.”
"Our nation is at a crossroads – facing record debt and an unemployment rate stuck at nearly 10 percent. The decisions we make and the policies we put forward will determine whether or not we get this economy back on track and Americans back to work."
The committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.
Camp will take over the committee from another Michigander, Democrat Sander Levin.
Every Wednesday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Michigan Radio Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get his take on recent political news from across the state. Today, the conversation begins by focusing on Governor Granholm's expression of support for President Obama's recent compromise with Republicans. On Tuesday, Obama agreed to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits.
Unmarried state workers will have to wait to see if incoming governor Rick Snyder's administration will consider extending health care benefits to their live-in partners.
Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta just filed this report:
The state Civil Service Commission has delayed a vote on extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees. The commission was poised to make a decision, but the Granholm administration proposal had too many unanswered questions -- including whether state employees would be able to claim multiple domestic partners on their benefit plans. The delay likely kicks the decision into next year, when Governor Granholm will be gone and Governor-elect Rick Snyder will have the job. Snyder's spokesman says he has not taken a position on partner benefits for state workers.