Rick Snyder

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says massive flooding this week in and around Detroit reinforces the need to boost state spending on roads. Snyder says Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure may have played a role in the floods, although it’s too early to tell for sure.

“I don’t want to be premature, but you would imagine it would have some consequences in terms of magnifying the effect on the freeway flooding,” Snyder told reporters as he surveyed damage at homes and schools in Royal Oak on Friday. “That wouldn’t have affected the homes, but in terms of the freeway challenges.”

 Natural disasters, like the rain and floods that pounded metro Detroit this week, present a unique challenge for chief executives like Governor Rick Snyder. Natural disasters are certainly not like the slow work of trying to mend an economy, for example.

With natural disasters, all of an administration’s emergency planning is stress tested in real-time with real-life consequences. Years ago, Governor John Engler said a big natural disaster is any governor’s worst nightmare.

And, like most things with government, there are political consequences to natural disasters. How, for example, the public measures the way a chief executive handles the situation.

Here in Michigan, with the November election just two and a half months away, this was an important week for Governor Snyder. Which is why, when the magnitude of what was happening in metro Detroit became clear, the governor cut short a trip to the Upper Peninsula - a trip that included a fundraising event in Marquette - and returned downstate to reassure people that he was aware and in charge.

His administration certainly did not want a repeat of last winter, when Snyder was excoriated for not, at first, being visible during a powerful ice storm that knocked out electricity to big swaths of the state. We should note as well, however, that the governor’s Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer, was also not particularly visible during that ice storm.

So, this week, Governor Snyder flew south by helicopter, surveyed the damage and talked to the media. It was this latter part of his trip - speaking on WJR’s The Frank Beckman Show - that the Governor tried for a little empathy. “I’ve been through a lot of things like that… We just recently had holes in our roof from storm damage to our lake house, in terms of, yeah, we have a vacation place, and I had a limb come down from holes in the roof, had water running through the place. Those experiences are not pleasant ones, and we had to take some trees down,” the Governor said, trying to go for the common touch, the ‘I feel your pain’ explanation.

MDOT / via Facebook

Governor Snyder declared parts of southeast Michigan a “disaster area” Wednesday after this week’s widespread flooding.

The Governor issued an official declaration of disaster for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. In a statement accompanying it he called the flood damage in southeast Michigan “a disaster in every sense of the word.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says numerous state agencies are helping Detroit and surrounding communities deal with massive floods.

Snyder flew to Metro Detroit to survey the damage himself.

Snyder flew back from a trip to the Upper Peninsula to see the flood damage firsthand from a Michigan State Police helicopter. Many freeways and major roads were closed in Metro Detroit; some sections of roads were swept away in flood waters.

Snyder there’s only so much public officials can do to prevent that kind of damage.

Several political campaigns during the primaries got very nasty. Things haven’t been quite so nasty in the governor’s race … yet.

Most of the ads we’ve seen about Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger Mark Schauer have not been ads the candidates bought. Outside groups produced them and aired them.

The Democratic Governors Association paid for an ad attacking Republican Gov. Snyder.

 There are some big stakes in the primary elections less than two weeks away, and fierce fights over congressional and legislative nominations are getting a lot of attention.

Not that it’s likely to boost what is usually anemic turnout in the primaries, and that’s despite the reality that most seats are so firmly partisan that the primary is actually the decisive election that really determines who goes to Lansing or Washington.

Like other politicos, we’ve paid a lot of attention to the face-off between the Republican establishment and the GOP’s Tea Party wing. And while that fight is playing out in some state House and Senate races, and some big Congressional races, it’s also playing out locally. Very locally.

We’re talking about the humble precinct delegate.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says foreign investment and immigration will be critical to turning around Michigan’s economy.

The former aide to President George W. Bush spoke before the Detroit Economic Club Monday afternoon with Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Make Michigan attractive for investment, period. OK? Make it attractive,” said Paulson.

He says Michigan should especially look to China to help boost the state’s economy. He says many Chinese businesses are looking to expand overseas, and Michigan needs to make it clear they are welcome.

Cue the James Bond theme as we take up electoral espionage. We’re talking campaign black ops. Political spying.

We learned this week that Republicans here in Michigan sent two young operatives equipped with a tiny video camera in a pair of glasses to infiltrate a Mark Schauer for Governor campaign event -- looking for whatever they might find. And what did they get? Found out.

Our ace operatives bungled the job. Dropped the disc with the video where it was found by Democrats. Who, then, made it public, including their brief conversation with Dem lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Brown.

Republicans didn’t deny the operatives were theirs.

Democrats and the Schauer campaign cried foul calling it sneaky, dirty tricks. They got some newspaper headlines. Effective messaging helped along by the fact that it fit did neatly into a narrative courtesy of some missteps -- or what seemed to be missteps -- by Governor Rick Snyder’s campaign.

Back in the 1960s, there was a hilarious TV sitcom called Get Smart, which portrayed the adventures of the world’s most inept spy.

Maxwell Smart was a bumbler who talked into his not-so-secret shoe telephone, carried around a device called the cone of silence, and never really had a clue as to what was going on.

Well, the Cold War is long over, but if he were around today, Smart would clearly have a future in politics.

This week, we learned that the Snyder re-election campaign has evidently revived some version of the classic department of dirty tricks, tactics made most famous by another Richard, the late President Nixon.

The Michigan Republican Party now admits it sent two staffers into a Mark Schauer fundraising event wearing high-tech hidden camera glasses.

Democrats later got possession of the disc, apparently because the Republicans clumsily lost it. My understanding is that it shows the two paid staffers chowing down on appetizers and worrying that the people at the event were on to them. They apparently made small talk with Lisa Brown, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, but not Schauer.

You might think Republicans would now be embarrassed.

But you’d be wrong.

Mark Schauer
www.markschauer.com

This morning, Democratic candidate for Michigan Governor Mark Schauer joined us on a statewide call-in show.

Here’s a shot of the team getting ready for the show in the WKAR studio:

Schauer answered questions about his plans for education, the city of Detroit, retiree pensions, road funding and more during the hour-long program.

If you missed it, you can listen to it here:


How accurate are current polls that show Snyder and Schauer neck and neck?
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Tomorr0w morning at 9:00 a.m. on Michigan Radio, it's your chance to ask questions of Mark Schauer, the Democrat who wants to be your next governor.

Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark, co-hosts of Michigan Radio’s It’s Just Politics joined Stateside today to talk about where this race for governor stands right now.

Pluta discussed what issues Mark Schauer and Governor Snyder are focused now.  He said the governor is focusing on the state's economic recovery and the fact that overall trend is improving. Schauer will likely focus on topics such as charter schools, and policies surrounding abortion coverage. 

Clark added that the issue with the Schauer campaign is the lack of excitement to get out the vote among Democrats. Also, Pluta pointed out that Schauer still needed to work on public identification.

Check out our Facebook page for details on the number to call in tomorrow morning.

* Listen to the interview above.

One dollar bills
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

    

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

We’re still about a month out from the primaries and four months out from the general election. Yet, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network this week reports that $18 million have already been spent in the Michigan gubernatorial and senate races. And such of this money is coming from outside groups.

Is it surprising that this much outside money is coming into Michigan so early or is this election politics as usual?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nearly $18 million has been spent so far this year on political TV ads in Michigan’s U. S. Senate and governor’s races. Most of the money has been coming from national Republican, Democratic, conservative and liberal groups.

Rich Robinson is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He analyzed TV ad buys by political groups in a half dozen television markets in Michigan. 

How accurate are current polls that show Snyder and Schauer neck and neck?
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Former Congressman Mark Schauer says he would put tougher regulations on charter schools if he’s elected governor. The Battle Creek Democrat says Gov. Rick Snyder has given bad charter operators a “free pass.”

“We need to write into law the oversight that was left out when Rick Snyder lifted the cap on the number of charter schools,” said Schauer. “It’s the Wild West right now, and these schools see kids with dollar signs on their foreheads.”

gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s for more transparency in school spending, but he’s not ready to apply those standards to private companies that run charter schools.

A Detroit Free Press series on charter schools found, among other things, that private management companies that run charters are not required to explain how they spend state payments. Governor Snyder says he could support stricter disclosure requirements for all schools – not just charters – but not necessarily the private companies that run charter academies.

michigan.gov

Highly skilled immigrants in Michigan now have a new resource to help them find jobs. The national nonprofit organization Upwardly Global opened a new office in Detroit on Monday.

Upwardly Global says immigrants and refugees often have valuable job skills that are in high demand in the United States. But the group says they often still have trouble finding work because of cultural differences.

The new office is meant to help polish immigrants’ job searching skills and connect them with local employers.

Gov. Rick Snyder has cemented a formal relationship between Michigan and Israel to collaborate on industrial research and development.

The governor and Israeli Consul General to the Midwest Roey Gilad signed a memorandum of understanding Monday in Dearborn.  

Snyder says the deal was reached after more than a year of talks with Israeli officials.

“I look forward to seeing this not be the end of something, but merely a stopping point on a journey of strengthened relationships,” said Snyder.

The formal relationship is partly the result of the governor’s trade mission to Israel this time last year. That trip was cut short by negotiations in Lansing over expanding Medicaid.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The number of refugees who have settled in Michigan has grown in recent years – and Governor Rick Snyder says more should be done to help them.

At a town hall meeting at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Snyder called on community leaders to help the state find ways to help refugees.

“It’s important that we find ways to help these people - they’ve gone through terrible circumstances – about making them feel welcome in our country,” Snyder told reporters after the town hall.

“We want to be more proactive. So, that’s where I actually want to work with groups to really make sure we’ve identified the various issues. I think there’s more work that we can do to improve.”

The governor stopped short of offering any specific policy proposals to address the issue.

Immigration groups say the number of refugees in Michigan has been climbing due in part to conflicts in the Middle East.

"Unfortunately, this is an issue that I would admit there are too much politics going on." That was Gov. Rick Snyder last night, after it became clear that a major roads funding package was not going to get passed in the state Senate.

"...If we were sitting at the kitchen table as a big family,” he continued, “and you looked at this issue, we would have solved this problem.”

Sure. Or our big family would fight about who wrecked the roads in the first place and that it was your fault – you and your big truck – which is why we can’t have nice roads and don’t you know I have a primary and, by the way, I haven’t forgotten who wrecked the roads that you won’t fix because you should.

But, we digress.

There were a lot of reasons why this road-funding deal failed to come together, despite some recent instances of actual bipartisanship, like increasing the state’s minimum wage and the Detroit rescue package. But those were exceptions in this era of Republican hegemony in Lansing.

Governor Rick Snyder's statement after a federal court overturns Michigan's ban on same sex marriage in March 2014.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the consequences of turning entire school districts over to for-profit charter school companies deserves more consideration from state lawmakers.

Flanagan told a state panel last week it’s not clear if the Muskegon Heights school district, or the for-profit charter company that ran it the last two years, will face any consequences for running up a deficit big enough to require an emergency loan worth $1.4 million and two cash advances to keep schools open through June. It’s unclear exactly what the deficit is for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Muskegon Heights school district is now looking for a new operator. That’s after the district and its emergency manager agreed to end its contract with Mosaica Education Inc. when the company couldn’t turn a profit.

“Now that (Mosaica) is leaving, they pretty much told us they’re not going to do (the district’s) deficit elimination plan. To follow up on that, we should wait for the new management company and deal with them,” Dan Hanrahan, Michigan Department of Education’s director of state aid and school finance, told the panel.


With money to fix roads hanging in the balance, presidential politics could stand in the way of the new trend of bipartisan action on big, controversial issues.

But, really, any notion that there’s a new era of bipartisanship at the state Capitol should be shelved, despite the Democratic and Republican coalitions in the Legislature that pushed through deals on increasing the minimum wage and the Detroit rescue package. And that’s because each was an anomaly that brought Democrats to the bargaining table in Republican-controlled Lansing.

When you break down the Detroit votes, for example, you see two very different pictures in the House and in the Senate. In the House, almost all the Republicans voted for the rescue. A few Democrats were the holdouts. In the Senate, Democrats made up the difference as most Republicans -- 16 out of 26 -- voted “no” on the main bills in the Detroit package.

What this says is the parameters of each deal were different (even when we’re talking about the exact same legislation) depending on whether it’s the House or the Senate.  For example, a larger proportion of the Republicans in the Senate have serious primaries.

gophouse.com

Governor. Rick Snyder is firing back against critics of his so-called “pension tax.”

Snyder gave a special address on aging Monday in Rochester. He used part of the speech to defend his 2011 decision, which ended the practice of exempting pensions from state income tax.

This week at the annual Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference on Mackinac Island, Governor Snyder joined the chorus of people calling for an update to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights act to include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people… sort of.

There is a lot of spoon-feeding to the press here on the Island – a litany of press conferences and media scrums. And, yesterday, one of those press conferences was held by a group of business leaders who want LGBT protections rolled into the civil rights law.

Meanwhile, at almost the exact same time as these business leaders were making their announcement, the Governor was talking to us, telling us he thought the legislature ought to take the issue up.

But, did he actually endorse it? “I’m encouraging them to say there’s been a lot of dialog and discussion on this. It’s been healthy in the public and I think it could be an appropriate topic for the legislators to take up. I would appreciate that,” the Governor said. And, that statement is fairly typical of the multiple exchanges we had with the governor on this topic.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder joined us on Stateside from the Mackinac Policy Conference to talk about minimum wage, the economy, and other issues being covered at the conference.

Then, Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined us.

*Listen to the full interviews above. 

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he’d like the Legislature to amend Michigan’s civil rights law to add protections for gays, lesbians and transgendered people.

“I don’t believe in discrimination and I think it would be great if they, the Legislature, looked at it later in the year,” said Snyder.

The governor says he’d lawmakers to first deal with the Detroit bankruptcy and road funding. But he thinks action on the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act could take place before the end of the year. The governor is attending the Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, where a group of business leaders has endorsed adding LGBT rights to the civil rights law.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are tackling some hefty issues like fuel taxes, Detroit's bankruptcy and the minimum wage in the last weeks before their summer break.

They're also trying to finalize Michigan's next spending plan.

Governor Snyder hopes the State House will make progress toward approving the ‘Grand Bargain’ this week.

Critics complain it’s not fair for the rest of the state to pay for Detroit’s financial missteps. Supporters say restoring Detroit to financial health is important to all of Michigan.Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan RadioEdit | Remove

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder hopes the state House will turn its attention soon to a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage.

The Senate already approved a bill to increase Michigan’s minimum wage, in steps, to $9.20 an hour.

Snyder says it was good to see the bill pass in the Senate with bi-partisan support.

“I hope the House will take it up relatively soon. And make a serious review of it,” says Snyder.

Supporters say Michigan’s minimum wage has needed an increase for a long time.

It was June 2012 when Gov. Rick Snyder and Michael Finney, the CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, attended a ceremony at the Severstal steel plant in Dearborn. 

The two spoke with the CEO of the steel plant, Sergei Kuznetsov. 

A Detroit Free Press investigation raises questions about what happened after that conversation in the summer of 2012. 

The Michigan Economic Development Corp., Gov. Rick Snyder's business-promoting agency, worked for months behind the scenes with one of the state's most flagrantly polluting businesses as the company lobbied the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for permission to release even higher levels of pollutants and avoid current air quality regulations, DEQ e-mails obtained by the Free Press show.

Keith Matheny, a writer for the Detroit Free Press, joined us to talk about the investigation. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

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