Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ryne Sandberg at 5th3rd

Ryne Sandberg Signs Autographs

Rhino signs autographs before the game. I met Sandberg when he was here in 2003 for the All-Star Game. Thrill of a lifetime.

The Whitecaps win 7-3!

COMSTOCK PARK – Gorkys Hernandez and James Skelton hit back-to-back home runs as the Whitecaps jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the way to a 7-3 victory over Peoria.

For the second start in a row, Matt O’Brien pitched more than seven innings and earned the victory. He allowed all three Chiefs runs in 7.2 innings of work and earned the win to improve to 5-2.

Hernandez finished 3-for-4 and by the end of the fourth inning had two doubles, the home run and three runs scored.

My main man Gorkys (now that Deik went to Lakeland) before the game. This kid is one to watch.

Gorkys Before the Show

More pics at Flickr tomorrow.

The wrath of Rick Albin

Hey. Lansing. Yeah, you. I know you are reading this. Come a little closer. I want to show you something. This is the kind of press you are getting, and it ain't pretty.

Say hi to Rick Albin of WOOD TV. You guys know Rick, don't you? Sure you do. You've been on his show probably. He's crawling around the Capitol building practically on a daily basis, reporting on your activities, one of the only TV reporters to do so- and he's got a pretty big audience.

And this is what he is telling them. Check the tone in this piece- and then ask yourselves why the people in Michigan despise the state government.

It is almost the first of August and in Lansing there is still no budget for next year. The deadline for getting one is just more than 60 days away.

24 Hour News 8 has talked for months about the inability of Republicans and Democrats, the legislature and the governor, and the House and the Senate to come up with a spending plan for next year.

Not only does Rick call you out, he calls you out three times in that paragraph. "Talked for months" about your inability to do your job.

Uh oh. The rest can't be good.

oh, there's more alright...
You see, Rick is getting frustrated, and that's bad news for you.

If you've been frustrated up to now, the next few weeks aren't going to get any better.

He's setting the stage for what appears to be even more frustration to come. He is probably safe in doing so, given this little fact-

But this month they'll have more time than normal to work in their local communities because the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate are only scheduled to meet five times in the next five weeks -- one day a week through the end of August.

Not only will your legiscritter NOT be in Lansing working on the budget, they will be bothering you in your community, and if you ask them any questions about just what exactly in the hell is goin' on down there, they will start pointing the finger at someone else.

When Huizenga was asked what Michigan taxpayers take away from that, he said "It's a pretty sad situation in Lansing right now.  Bottom line is the people that need to get in the room and negotiate this stuff aren't in the room negotiating."

He's presumably referring to the governor, Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House.

"Not my fault" is always the answer people want to hear, isn't it? Yeah.

Rick goes on to point out what he has heard from the "Big Three" in the past few weeks - and guess what. He boils it down to the "Little Two".

Gov. Granholm urged lawmakers to get it done when she said, "Buck up get some spine. You know what has to be done on both cuts and reforms and revenues. Do it so we can put this behind us."

She can't put up plan after plan after plan and wait for something they might like- it's ridiculous to think so. Rick made that clear. It's up to that tragic comedy team of Bishop and Dillon to get this going... and they are now pointing the finger at each other.

"But there is no agreement with the administration on how to get there. If there were an agreement, we would have resolved it by now," Bishop said.

We have proved that is false and that Bishop is dragging his feet. And as far as Dillon goes, he won't jump until his buddy Mike does.

"I think the votes are there," House Speaker Andy Dillon told 24 Hour News 8, "but what you don't want to do is vote in the House and have it go die in the Senate."

So this is the way it is getting painted out here, people. Rick isn't happy one bit.

And Rick won't be happy when he hears this from Dawson Bell, who also took a cynical look at the prospect of anything being accomplished in the near future.

But while the (Oct. 1st) deadline is real, it is subject to interpretation, intervention from the courts and temporary extension by the Legislature and governor. Although rare, Michigan has before and could again operate on contingency for 30 to 90 days at a time while policymakers work to settle their differences.

Yes, we could actually push this past the first of October. Won't the people be happy with you then.

Better run when you see the WOOD truck coming. I can't imagine your press is going to get any better anytime soon.


It Was a Sunny Day Pt. 2

It Was a Sunny Day Pt. 2

Along Health Hill on Michigan St.

Sorry no new pictures lately; we are in a drought here. Anything that isn't being watered looks crunchy and brown and just plain awful... we desperately need some rain in GR, and there is none in sight...

Here's to better days.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Senate Republican SOD 7/30/2007- Marsden on inertia

We can't work on policy because of the budget. We can't work on the budget because we might scare people. We apparently didn't get anything done during the latest two week "working" vacation over the 4th... and now Gongwer went and added up the number of bills passed between chambers, and it's not very flattering.

Your Senate Republican SOD for 7/30-

Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), said, "The reality is there is a focus on the budget that has put the bill numbers where they are."

The answer to this terrible dilemma? Take August off!

Gongwer compared to 1997 when we had a House/Senate split in party leadership- that year they managed to crank out 93 in the same time period. This year it's 46.

Mr. Marsden was confident that once the budget is dealt with, both chambers will be addressing more policy matters.

Just as soon as they get back from the beach...

Senate Republican SOD - Mike Bishop plays dumb

(this drew a lot of comments at BFM so I thought I would crosspost to hit the Blogwire again- just in case people missed it over the weekend)

Mike Bishop made a surprising statement on July 22nd's To The Point, so I thought I would offer it up for today.

At the time it slipped by me, because, well, you could almost put the whole Granholm-bashing transcript up and call it the "statement of the day". I grew weary of listening to him, and he was only on for 15 minutes.

This was pointed out to me later as odd- and when I listened again, yes, it seemed rather odd that Bishop would say this-

Albin: Have the six months that you've just experienced been what you expected?

Bishop: It's a good question... certainly my wife would give you a different answer...

You know, the budget has become quite a large issue, one that I didn't anticipate, and it's one that will continue to be a large issue... and the answer is no, it's much more budget oriented than it was in the past, but it's our responsibility and we are prepared to do it.

Mike didn't anticipate the budget problem?

Was he just not paying attention when last December the news reports indicated this? (Peter Luke 12/22/2006- now archived)

Most fiscal analysts peg current budget shortfalls this fiscal year between $300 million and $600 million, with about half of that occurring in the K-12 education budget. In fiscal year 2008, the House Fiscal Agency is identifying nearly $700 million in new spending pressures for which there is no new tax revenue.

And Mike didn't know about that when he walked in the door as the new Senate Majority leader last January?

When you couple that with the fact that the SBT still had to be replaced, the budget issue was the issue as they took office.

And as far as it being "much more budget oriented than in the past"- seems to me that the budget has been the main issue that has marked Granholm's time in office.

Here are some interesting tidbits from Peter Luke's year-end roundup from 2003, her first year as governor, and the first year the Republican obstruction tactics started - see if any of this sounds familiar.

Granholm has said after this month's budget reduction moves, there is little left to cut. Republicans like Sen. Shirley Johnson of Royal Oak, say continued reductions in state spending will have Michigan soon looking like Mississippi.

Social service advocates argue Granholm hasn't done enough to convince the public of the need for more revenue, even through means that don't require raising taxes.

The much-discussed six-month freeze in the income tax rate, which will be cut to 3.9 percent on July 1 instead of her original proposal of Jan. 1, 2005, does nothing to address budget problems to come in the next fiscal year.

"The governor is not trying to explain to the public that these deficits require another kind of solution," said Sharon Parks, a tax analyst with the Michigan League for Human Services. "We cannot keep cutting our way out of this."

Granholm aides respond that Republicans had to be dragged into approving even a six-month tax cut delay.

And Granholm did say last week that Michigan's tax structure is out of whack. She wants a rewrite of Michigan's Single Business Tax, which will expire by the end of the decade. And in exchange for lowering the sales tax rate, she wants to explore expanding the things that are taxed to reflect the growth of the service economy. Michigan residents pay 6-percent tax for a pair of barber scissors at the pharmacy, but no tax for a haircut.

That was 2003. Most of it could have been written last week, except now she has explained to the public the need for more revenue, and Republicans don't care if we end up looking like Mississippi.

And look who was calling for a rewrite of the SBT - something else the Republicans dragged their feet on until they blew it up with no replacement in 2006.

The budget was short to the tune of $834 million in December of that year, and the fight to fix it was partisan and brutal.

And the budget problems and partisan fights have been ongoing ever since.

Surely Mike must remember that, after all, he was there, obstructing progress every step of the way.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dillon admits there was an agreement for '08

OK. Andy Dillon has admitted on To The Point that there was an agreement on the '08 budget, even if he did it in that backhanded, beat-around-the-bush-so-we-don't-piss off-Mike, Andy way of his.

It's a start.

Albin: Last week Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop was here on the show, and the week before that Governor Granholm, and between the two of them they seem to have a rather large difference on how they view this process. The Governor suggests that there is an agreement, a frame of an agreement, for revenues and reforms. Senator Bishop is less certain there is such an agreement. So, since you are the third of the Big Three, if you will, that have to hammer this out, what's your understanding of where the three of you are in terms of what happens for next year's budget.

Dillon: Yeah, I think that, it's somewhere in the middle of that, I think there was an understanding reached in May when we agreed to how to resolve '07, there was an understanding about how we would tackle the next part for '08, and we were working toward that, and we remain to be working toward that. The little bit of acrimony that hit, part of that understanding was, when would this all come together, and when it didn't come together in the time that one of the sides thought it was to come together, it created some tension. But Mike and I spent three days together last week, we met this morning, I see a path for us to get to the solution, and we will.

Basically Andy is saying, yeah, there was an "understanding", Granholm wanted it done right now, and that was the problem there, but me and Mikey are hangin' out and we will get around to it eventually.

Well, Speaker Dillon, maybe she wanted it done so college tuition wouldn't go through the roof and cities and schools could plan their budgets for the year? Maybe she doesn't want to push this to the possibility of a shutdown and have to operate in "crisis mode" all the time? Might have something to do with it.

So, there's that. But, I come not to bury Speaker Dillon, but to praise him. Yes, you heard me right.

Dillon actually did a pretty good job on the show. Compared to Bishop- he is more thorough in his explanations, you understand his position, and he does make some good points. Go watch the two back to back and you will see who has more credibility on the issues- it's Dillon, hands down. 

Although he complains a bit too much about the workload (hey, you wanted the job), he does point out that the House is moving legislation, he takes on DeRoche, which is always fun, and in regards to taxes - he admits that we cannot get there without more revenue. And he hit it right on the head with the fact that more cuts actually amount to back-door tax increases, such as the tuition jumps as we are seeing now, and the hidden ones such as Medicaid/insurance premiums.

All in all, he does alright. He still is a little too conservative for my taste, a little too "Bishop friendly", but he has to deal with the Petulant Prom King and I don't so… I guess I wish him luck, and I hope he stands strong in the negotiations in the weeks to come.

Democrats need to be proactive and put Bishop on the ropes. If this does go to shutdown, they better make sure the public knows exactly who is being unreasonable and obstructing progress here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Detroit council approves demolition of Tiger Stadium

This breaks my heart, but I understand why they have to do it. Too expensive to maintain, too big for a minor league or college team, land too valuable to let sit empty, and to let it just crumble under the harsh Michigan winters seems disrespectful, somehow.

I wish we could afford to keep it as a historical site. I really do. But it just isn't feasible.

Goodbye old friend.

After months of wrangling, the City Council approved a plan today that can have the seats and other memorabilia inside Tiger Stadium sold, and the ballpark dismantled, by the end of the year.

Plans seem up in the air as Kwame and the City Council wrangle over the future; they signed off on his plan, which I believe might include saving portions of the park, but wouldn't turn over the land to his development coporation.

While the council approved the plan touted by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to demolish the stadium to make way for new stores, homes and a playfield for city youth, it voted against turning over the land to the quasi-government Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

Still approval of the development plan sets up a strict deadline. A demolition contract will be awarded in October with all demolition and site preparation completed by September 2008 and construction to start in April 2009.

And from July 17th-

The Detroit Economic Growth plan also gives the nonprofit Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy until the end of the year to secure financing that would preserve part of the stadium, which would be used for recreational baseball games.

Hope they can come up with the cash and preserve at least parts of it- some day future generations of Tiger fans will thank us for that.

Good luck people.

Wizardkitten on BFM

I can't keep up with the cross-posts.

I don't think that people realize the incredible amount of time I have to put in to do the things I do, and cross-posting is one of those things that is going to have to take a back seat to the reading and research. Something that takes you minutes to read has usually taken me hours to link and reference.

So, since my effort has to be on BFM for the traffic potential, I have decided to just post a roundup of my posts here. Follow the links over there if you are so inclined.

The stuff on the Senate Republicans is pretty damn good, if you ask me. Check it out.

In a fit of insanity I decided to start the "Senate Republican Statement of the Day" or "SOD" for short. They say so many unbelievable things I had to start writing them down. I can't promise there will be an entry every day, but I will do my best.

Here is the roundup of some of the things I've done since the last post here.

Michigan House moves to ban smoking in public places - fine by me.

Michigan dumping CMS? - and editorial from the GR Press tells us that we are shopping around for new delivery of prison health care. No one else in the state has picked up on this.

Senate Republican Statement of the Day July 24, 2007 - The one where Bruce Patterson suggests we take half of Detroit's drivers off the road. This is the statement that kicked off the series- something in me just snapped.

Breaking MI Supreme Court Decisions - Basically a throwaway post on breaking news.

Senate Republican Statement of the Day 7/25/2007- The Big Stall - The one where the Republicans try to justify their inaction on the budget.

Students Protest Mike Bishop's Tuition Hike at Wayne State - The power of YouTube with some interesting Republican responses to the problem of rising tuition.

Who are you, and what have you done with Andy Dillon? - Dillon surprises the hell out of everyone by standing up to the Senate Republicans for a change. A must read, IMO.

Senate Republican SOD 7/26/2007- Cassis targets the poor once again - Watch Nancy Cassis define the term "greedy pig".

And for a great series on the Detroit Riots of '67, just go to the BFM home page and start reading back. Christine has done an excellent job of laying this out on a timeline called "Witness to Riot"- and slowly but surely you start to realize that this was one of the defining moments in Detroit history.

As far as this blog goes- you're probably going to get my baseball and other pictures when I get the time. Ryne Sandberg, one of my all time heroes, is coming to 5th3rd Ballpark and I'm going to do my best to get some pics.

Until then... look for me at BFM for all the latest Michigan news.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Students Protest Mike Bishop's Tuition Hike at Wayne State

The Republican response? Blame the universities. Here's Nancy Cassis-

The universities, in my opinion, are holding the parents and students of this state hostage with these excessive tuition threats and hikes. How and where is the documentation to support these increases?

You've got all the paperwork right there, Nancy, but try this little bit of documentation on for size.

From 2001-06, Michigan reduced higher education spending dollars to universities more than any other state in the country, according to an Illinois State University study. As a result, the tuition cost for Michigan's 15 public universities shot up 37 percent over four years to become the nation's fifth most costly, according to a report released earlier this year by the state auditor general.

Does that explain anything?

Bruce Patterson says "quit!" on the other side...
Patterson talks about "more and more", but as the study above shows, it really has been less and less.

When talking about more and more money, one might ask why they can't make do with the amount of money that they are getting right now. If these boards, regents, and trustees are incapable, then they should all resign.

Yeah, doesn't matter that the state has promised you money only to delay payments. If you can't deal with getting ripped-off, maybe you should just get out of the business.

To close a 2007 budget hole, the state is withholding August payments to universities and permanently reduced their base appropriation. The state budget director told university leaders they'd get the August payment back in October, but colleges are leery since the state has yet to find a solution for 2008 budget that's riddled with more shortfalls.

Mike Bishop has sent his dogs into this fight with their list of blame all prepared.

Surprised they didn't blame the students themselves for taking such expensive classes. Bet that is coming next. 

Who are you, and what have you done with Andy Dillon?

Seems Mike Bishop was a little upset about the budgets that the House has passed. From Gongwer-

Mr. Bishop said that the House was trying to outdo Governor Jennifer Granholm in terms of calling for tax increases and government spending. "The governor's budget proposal for fiscal year 2008 assumed a $1.5 billion tax increase. Not to be outspent, the House has now engaged the governor in a race to grow government by spending at least $100 million beyond the governor's budget proposal, and there are more spending bills to come. When will it end?"

Much weeping and gnashing of teeth there. And watch that new talking point being slipped in these statements- a $2 billion DEFICIT is now becoming a "tax increase".

Mr. Bishop charged the budgets passed by the House were effectively part of a plot to compel a tax increase. "Out-of-control spending in the House is a direct effort to force a significant tax increase that is fast approaching $2 billion," he said.

Don't let him get away with that, people. You know what he's trying to do there.

And then lo and behold, what to my wondering eyes should appear, Andy Dillon actually fights back. Through his spokesman, anyway.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said: "The people of Michigan will know who is to blame if our state government shuts down and our kids, seniors and public safety suffer. It  will be the obstructionist Republican Senate.  Rather than working together, what (Mr.) Bishop is doing is bringing the state closer to economic disaster."

* blink *

Really? He said that? Dillon? Our Andy Dillon?

yes, there's more...
Get out.

"Furthermore, we have a responsibility to pass budgets and have economic crisis breathing down our neck.  The time to act is now.  The Senate has not moved one budget bill, nor any reforms they claim are essential to the future of Michigan.  They have failed to act on over dozen reforms such as cutting legislators pay, or ending lifetime health care for state representatives," said Dan Farough.

All of which is true, of course.

And the reason why?

Senate Republicans have called for action on government reforms, but so far have held off trying to pass most proposed reforms in part because their caucus has been short members during the summer.

Everyone is on vacation.

Bishop went on to blather some more about the "commitment from the government to control its spending and pass real reforms", but that is kind of hard to do when your members don't show up for work.

Nice to see a little something besides "no comment" from Speaker Dillon. Keep it up.


Senate Republican SOD 7/26/2007- Cassis targets the poor once again

I swear there isn't a day goes by that Nancy Cassis isn't trying to figure out some way to stick it to the poor and the working class people in this state.

From introducing "right to work" legislation, to suspending the prevailing wage, to the newest and perhaps most vile move, trying to prevent the Earned Income Tax Credit from going into effect in January 2008, Cassis proves time and time again that she is one of those Republicans that is trying to return us to the Gilded Age.

A little back-story on this story- our previous Republican legislature made some mistakes writing the minimum wage bill last year. In their haste, they ignored a flaw that would give overtime pay to some workers currently not qualified. They knew it was there. "We'll deal with the fallout later", they said.

When business freaked out about that, the Republicans had to come up to the window with something to get the Governor to sign off on a fix. Off we went on months of bargaining as the Republicans scrambled to rectify the error they created with their casual indifference.

August 30th last year they reached an agreement to save their skin with the business community- and it included an earned income tax credit for the working poor. Democrats and Republicans alike praised the move; Bob Emerson proclaiming "this bill is a major step in making our tax structure less regressive", admitting that the tax burden falls disproportionately on the poor here in Michigan.

Everyone is happy, right? Not Cassis.

Nancy tries to take food from the mouths of children over the flip...
Fast forward to today. Cassis is now trying to take away this credit and renege on the deal that fixed that Republican mistake. From MIRS-

The EITC was part of a deal that was struck last year to correct the minimum wage increase. When the increase passed, an exemption for service staff was inadvertently left out of the bill. Democrats agreed to fix this problem in exchange for getting the EITC.

MIRS asked Cassis if her bill reneges on that deal.

"Not really," she said.

Maybe just a little, huh? With this one casual statement, Nancy tells us deals Republicans make mean nothing. They will try to take back any compromise that they have made. Something to keep in mind during the budget talks- it becomes pretty hard to take Republicans at their word with this action, doesn't it?

But that wasn't the statement of the day. Nancy then suggested that the EITC, which isn't even in effect yet, and the minimum wage increase are the reason for our troubles.

Here is your Senate Republican SOD for 7/26-

"We did both and now we're seeing tremendous stress on our budget," she said.

The EITC projected figures are $132 million for the first year.

The budget deficit is $1.8 billion.

You do the math, and think about the words "tremendous stress".

Republican reform in action. Target the poor and the working class first. In Cassis world, any break for them is the very thing breaking the back of the state of Michigan. If we could just take away relief from them, everything would be fine.

This comes on the heels of a report that shows that more Michigan children are living in poverty. Some figures from the LSJ-

  • Michigan's child poverty rate rose three times faster than the national average between 2000 and 2005, or by 36 percent compared with 12 percent across the country.

  • Kids Count reports 19 percent of Michigan kids were in households earning incomes below the poverty line in 2005, the most recent data available, matching the nationwide average.

  • They rely on food stamps, Medicaid and state-funded help with utility bills - Michigan's Department of Human Services now is assisting more people than it has in 27 years with dwindling resources, Deputy Director Jim Nye said.

  • Almost 1 in 5 children living in poverty, and Cassis wants to take away their tax credit.

    Cassis tries to justify her actions by saying this alleviates the need for a tax increase. You have seen the figures; this comes nowhere close.

    Taxes will be raised, or the other services the poor have come to rely on in increasing numbers will be eliminated, probably a bit of both in the end. Nancy wants to make it worse. 

    From Gongwer-

    But Sharon Parks of the League for Human Services called it alarming that the Legislature would consider delaying implementation of the credit.

    Earlier this month, when delaying the credit was first mentioned, the league sent a letter to all legislators saying it would be, "unconscionable that, at a time when Michigan's economy is struggling and it is difficult for many parents to find good-paying employment, we would remove one of the few tools available for lifting the incomes of these families through needed tax relief."

    And Ms. Parks said Thursday the extra income the poor would net through the credit would be needed whether taxes were increased or not.

    Michigan is rated as one of the worst states for the level at which it begins taxing income, with individuals earning below the poverty line being taxed, Ms. Parks said, and the credit gives low income individuals some relief from that.

    Nancy has set a new low for the definition of "compassionate conservatism".

    Watch for these things in the budget talks- Republican "reform" will never include Republican interests. Cassis will be sure to target the people who can least afford it first. 

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Senate Republican Statement of the Day July 24, 2007

    The Senate Journals are a treasure trove of wonder. Many times I have gotten a hearty laugh (or I just shake my head in disbelief) at some of the things uttered on the Senate floor.

    Usually it is Cassis or McManus providing the bewildering statement of the day, Cropsey and Patterson come up with some real doozies, too.

    I'll highlight the absurdity when I can- sometimes they don't speak, most of the time lately they aren't even there. With a whole five- count' em five- session days scheduled in August (crisis? what crisis?), we might not get much material for this series.

    Without further delay, here is your Senate Republican SOD for 7/24/2007-

    find out over the flip...
    Senator Martha Scott has been on a crusade for fair driver insurance rates in the city of Detroit. Nearly every single session she rises to say something about it- I give her high marks for perseverance.

    Yesterday, she had this to say-

    Auto insurance rate increases have outpaced inflation by more than a 2-to-1 ratio in Michigan. In Detroit, insurance rates have outpaced inflation by more than 4-to-1. That's why nearly half the drivers in Detroit are uninsured. Meanwhile, currently more than a quarter of a million Wayne County residents are without medical insurance. Why should these same people have to reduce their auto insurance medical coverage in order to reduce their premiums? A $50,000 limit could be used up in a matter of days. After serious automobile accidents, insufficient medical coverage could result in victims being forced into bankruptcy or onto welfare. So, once again, we are punishing the most vulnerable among us by taking away coverage from those who can least afford it.

    To which Senator Bruce Patterson replied- and check the indignation here-

    I rise in a state of distress. I've listened very carefully to a previous speaker who announced that more than half of the drivers operating motor vehicles in the city of Detroit are operating without auto insurance. I believe that is a violation of the Michigan Vehicle Code.

    My parents, as I've declared before, have lived in Detroit their entire lives--over 80 years. They've been insured for their driving, and they have never had a claim. But if there are drivers operating in the city of Detroit, operating motor vehicles without insurance, they are breaking the law. They are causing the law-abiding citizens to have to pay more.

    I demand that the administration investigate who it is driving without insurance and get them off the road--enforce the laws.

    Now ask yourself, just how many law enforcement officers would it take to "investigate" and get half of Detroit's drivers off the road?

    Did the Senator have a suggestion as to how to pay for his idea? Or even implement it? Should we set up checkpoints all over the city and stop every. single. driver. in Detroit?

    No. He just demands it from the administration. I'm sure they will get right on that to help alleviate the Senator's distress. 

    See what I mean? Republican "demands" are usually a hoot.

    I'll do my best to bring you these gems when I find them.

    Breaking MI Supreme Court Decisions

    A couple of things handed down today- from WOOD-

    By a four-to-three vote, the Michigan Supreme Court today narrowed a landmark environmental protection law that allowed state residents to sue to block development projects they think would harm the environment.

    The court says in its decision that local residents have the right to sue Nestle Waters North America and its bottled water operation over potential damages to the Dead Stream and Thompson Lake in Mecosta County.

    But they don't have the legal standing to sue over a nearby lake and three wetlands because they don't use those areas.


    And from MIRS/Gongwer only at this writing-

    Residents lack standing on domestic partner benefits- Letters that Ann Arbor residents sent to the Ann Arbor Public Schools did constitute demands that the district stop improperly spending funds.  But those residents did not have standing to challenge the spending in court, a partially split Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

    A 6-1 majority of the court said that residents of the school district did not have standing to challenge the district's benefit plan unless they could show some particular harm to themselves from that plan.  But the court split 5-2 on whether they met statutory requirements for demanding that the district stop illegally spending money.

    More later from the MSM, I'm sure.

    Senate Republican Statement of the Day 7/25/2007- The Big Stall

    No Republicans spoke to the Senate journals yesterday- so we have to turn to Gongwer/MIRS for our statement of the day, and for all the latest budget news.

    The MSM has seemingly lost interest in the state budget; things happened, things were said, no one is reporting on the overall movement except for the pay services. The MSM is reporting on the fallout from the lack of action on the budget, though, in the form of the tuition increases- with a big, above the fold headline in the Detroit News today.

    First, here is your Senate Republican SOD for 7/25-

    "Besides, if we put out a realistic budget now it would just scare people." - Ron Jelinek (R- Three Oaks)

    Republicans? Worried about scaring people? That's a new twist.

    Jelinek was explaining the reason for the Big Stall on the part of the Senate Republicans on the budget- find out the latest over the jump...
    The House, to their credit, is finally showing some signs of life. They passed the budget for the DNR and the DEQ, and both reflected spending increases from the state's general fund. (That would be the one that is almost $1.8 billon short at this point, depending on which figures you are looking at.)

    The overall DNR budget would increase by about 10 percent compared to the current fiscal year. That includes an 8.5 percent increase in the state's general fund allocation, raising that total to about $26.4 million.

    And for the DEQ, a drop in budget (thanks, feds!), but they really sock the general fund.

    The overall Department of Environmental Quality budget would drop by about 14.6 percent, including an expected reduction in money for restricted funds and allocations from the federal government. But the DEQ's state general fund allocation would increase by 61 percent, to about $49.6 million, under the House plan.

    They haven't come up with the money to pay for these things- but at least they are doing something.

    Cushingberry wants to move on the budget now.

    Mr. Cushingberry said it was his intention to at least show people what the House has in store for next year's budget.

    He said the Appropriations Committee will move next week on the higher education (HB 4350 and HB 4351), community colleges (HB 4360), School Aid (HB 4359) and Department of Education (HB 4346) budgets.

    And he also said that if the Senate does not send the House any of its budget bills in the next two weeks, then subcommittees in the lower chamber will begin work on those budgets.

    He argued "some senators" believe the Legislature can wait to enact the budgets on September 30, but Mr. Cushingberry said, "I'd like the community to know at least what this house has in mind.  If the Senate wants to stew and determine what they want to do they can do that."

    Yes, that is exactly what the Senate wants to do.

    More mumbled promises of "reforms" and the indication that they just need more time to figure out these things... funny how they demand instant action from the Governor and everyone else, wring their hands and cry to the media over the state of Michigan's economy, but yet when the rubber meets the road and they need to actually address these issues, they put on the Big Stall.

    Again from Jelinek, this time from MIRS. Call this your bonus statement of the day.

    On the Senate side, there is no rush. Senate Appropriations Chair Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks) said he wants to wait a little longer in the hopes of finding out how much money the state can bring in from revenue reforms.

    "I would guess that we're looking at the end of August before we get too much movement here," he said.

    The end of August.

    Wait, what happened to Bishop's list of demands? He had this problem all worked out, remember?

    Turns out it wasn't such a good idea after all. The Governor has asked the Senate to pass the cuts, and they won't do it.

    Jelinek said he does not want to compose a new budget based on service cuts alone. "The cuts are not pretty," he explains. "They're tough. "

    The Governor has urged the Republicans to pass their budget with the cuts, but that most certainly would produce an outcry from the special interest groups being sliced and diced. Apparently, the GOP lawmakers want no part of that.

    I guess you could call children living in poverty a "special interest group" if you're a cold-hearted, cynical reporter, because that is exactly the kind of cuts the Republicans have in mind.

    But something tells me the GOP got slapped pretty hard for their previous stunts and cuts to the '07 budget- we don't see Bishop throwing a fit and running off to pass more insane cuts as he did back in the spring.

    Still, they will push this to the final hour, if they can.

    Meanwhile, you get to pay the price.

    Wayne State is the latest university to announce a tuition hike, and it's a hefty one.

    The cost to attend Wayne State University jumped nearly 18 percent Wednesday, adding the university to a growing list of Michigan public colleges that have hiked tuition in recent weeks and potentially put college out of reach for more students.

    In all, 14 Michigan public universities have raised tuition on average 11.2 percent for this fall. Coupled with room and board increases, a typical undergraduate will pay on average $1,200 more to earn a public education.

    Phil Power tells us today that the Michigan Republicans are still up to their old campaign tricks, using bad pictures and indulging in the deepest hypocrisy.

    On their Web site, the GOP ran a picture of Gov. Jennifer Granholm looking tired and frazzled next to the headline, "Granholm Travels to Germany/Sweden While Michigan Burns."

    In other words, it's OK for the Senate Republicans to drag their feet on the budget, raising tuition at a time when college education is crucial to our recovery, and push Michigan closer to a crisis of shutdown, but it's not OK for the Governor to go and promote investment and job growth in Michigan.


    No wonder they want to stall. They got nothing.

    Weekly World News to close (aliens not blamed!)

    It's the end of an era.

    Publisher American Media Inc. said on Tuesday it will stop printing the Weekly World News, which for 28 years gleefully chronicled the exploits of alien babies, animal-human hybrids and dead celebrities.

    The company said in a brief statement it would end the print version of the tabloid newspaper next month but would maintain the online version.

    What will I do in the check-out line now? The Jennifer Aniston vs. Angelina Jolie cover count contest has been dismal lately.

    The Weekly World News, which boasted it was "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper," reveled in shocking and almost always exclusive reports about extra-terrestrials, ghosts, scoundrels and scientific discoveries, such as the cure for lovesickness found on the walls of an ancient Mexican monument.

    Bat Boy, the half-bat, half-human child found in a cave, was a regular feature. After the September 11 attacks, the tabloid reported he had been enlisted in the hunt for Osama bin Laden because of his special cave-dwelling skills.

    The current online version reports that Mother Nature has endorsed Al Gore for president and other recent headlines include: "Man bothered by alien telemarketers" and "Dentist uses UFO metal in patient's tooth"

    I so wanted to write for these people....

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    Michigan House moves to ban smoking in public places

    As a smoker, I am absolutely fine with this. Anything that gets me one step closer to quitting is a good idea, and things like this help to do that.

    Funny thing is, when it is not allowed, I don't think about doing it. (until about two hours pass and then my brain demands that I go do it, but I have no problem with stepping outside, away from everyone. Heck, sometimes it gives me a great excuse to get away when I find myself hopelessly bored with the conversation.)

    One question though- who is going to pay all those taxes when everyone quits? Hmmm? Didn't think about that, did you? $733.9 million so far this year. That's not something to cough at. Ha ha.

    Legislation to ban smoking in public places -- including restaurants, bars and Detroit casinos -- cleared a key House committee today and was sent to the full House.

    It's the farthest a broad anti-smoking measure has made it in the Michigan Legislature, after a decade of efforts by proponents to pass such legislation. If the bill makes it all the way through the Legislature, and that's uncertain at this point, Michigan would join 32 other states that prohibit smoking in public buildings.

    Unfortunately, I don't think this is going to make it through the full vote to get to the Governor's desk- find out why over the jump...

    But Matt Groen, legislative affairs manager for the Michigan Restaurant Association, said he hopes the Republican-led Senate will quash the bill -- assuming it passes the House. He said 4,300 restaurants already bar smoking but owners should be free to choose.

    "They made the investment . . . it's their right to determine how to run their restaurants," Groen said.

    Ah, yes, the Senate. Once again they will be the place where "legislation goes to die".

    Part of me agrees with the business owners, also. I would like to see a system where establishments could buy a license to allow it, something along the lines of liquor licenses today, but I'm sure they would complain about the cost of that, too.

    It would still be allowed in cigar bars and tobacco shops.

    And one big issue that won't/can't be addressed- tribal casinos.

    The committee didn't resolve an issue raised by Rep. Bill Huizinga, R-Zeeland: the bill, by outlawing smoking in Detroit's casinos, will create a competitive advantage for tribal casinos. The state law wouldn't apply to tribes, which are considered sovereign nations, so they presumably would continue to permit smoking in their casinos.

    Who knows, perhaps there will be enough gamblers that prefer to go to a non-smoking casino, but it's been my experience that drinking, gambling, smoking tends to go hand in hand for us addicts.

    I've never been bitten by the gambling bug, and I'm now over 11 years sober. So, before anyone chastises me for still smoking- give me credit for dumping all my other vices, OK? OK. I'll get around to dumping this one too.

    Just not today.

    Michigan dumping CMS?

    According to an editorial in tonight's GR Press, Michigan will end its contract with Correctional Medical Services next March.

    Michigan plans to change how health care is delivered to its 50,000 prison inmates. It's a reasonable response to horror stories of substandard medical treatment causing unnecessary suffering and deaths in the state's prisons.

    The Corrections Department will switch to regional health maintenance organizations for prison care when the contract with the current private provider -- Correctional Medical Services -- runs out in March. The Missouri-based CMS has provided primary care physicians and other services in Michigan state prisons since 1998. Its dismal record here and in other states is reason enough to try a different approach.

    There are these "horror stories" from across the state and from across the country involving inmates dying under CMS care- and we are talking about basic, humane care, such as giving people water.

    Lawsuits everywhere, including here. Whenever Republicans say "privatize", the case of CMS should be brought up as an example of how it might not be such a good idea. You could make the case that privatization really doesn't save you any money when you are being sued all the time.

    In May, a federal jury awarded the family of Jeffrey Clark $3 million in a lawsuit over the inmate's death in 2002. He died of thirst in the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, where he was serving time for robbery. Another inmate, 41-year-old Lloyd Martell, who died of colon cancer in February, also filed suit. He was granted a medical parole last August to go home and die. His lawsuit claims that his cancer could have been contained but went untreated.

    This certainly sounds like prison reform that is headed in the right direction. Perhaps people will get better treatment, and, according to the Press, this will save money also. 

    Michigan is paying a hefty sum to provide inmate health care -- an estimated $300 million this year. That's about $6,000 per inmate. Reducing those costs should be a priority. The Department of Corrections believes the regional HMO system can deliver better care for less money than the statewide, managed-care system now in place. It's certainly worth a try to find out.

    Dumping CMS is a big story.

    Given the current atmosphere surrounding prison reform in Lansing, how come no one is talking about this?

    Or did I just miss it?

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Mike Cox arrests self at news conference

    Attorney General Mike Cox held a news conference today calling Governor Granholm's program for the reduction of prison sentences "seriously flawed", pointing out that while he has admitted to committing a felony, no one has bothered to arrest him.

    "Hey, I'm still walking the streets", Cox proclaimed to startled reporters, "How can we begin to think about lowering prison time for slug manufacturers when dangerous people such as myself are still roaming free?"

    The proposals include eliminating 25 felonies, including adultery, teaching polygamy, dueling, failure to report treason, manufacturing slugs for vending machines, which never works anyway, and divorced people living together, which never works anyway.

    "I've been in a duel, too", Cox said, against the advice of his lawyer. "And no one stopped me there, either."

    Cox produced a pair of handcuffs and immediately shackled his own wrists, telling the gathered crowd that he would "lead by example". He then walked himself out to a waiting police cruiser.

    At his arraignment, Cox asked for bail to be set high. "I'm an admitted felon, I should be held in jail to await trial", the Attorney General told the judge. The judge released Cox on his own recognizance despite the plea, citing a lack of available jail space.

    Lawyers for Mr. Cox had no comment.

    In a related story, Hell froze over last Wednesday when the Detroit News ran an editorial that agreed with Governor's reduced sentencing plan. Lawyers for Nolan Finley, also, had no comment, but told reporters that he was seeking treatment.

    (So pretty in green...)

    Sunday, July 22, 2007

    Google (heart) Michigan, but for how long?

    (Originally posted at BFM)

    Google chief Eric Schmidt had some great things to say about Google's presence in our state after addressing the governor's conference  Saturday.

    Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said after addressing the nation's governors about economic innovation here Saturday that he's convinced Michigan has the educated work force needed to fill 21st Century jobs, including the jobs at the Google advertising sales office in Ann Arbor.

    Google is currently at 150 employees and is expected to reach up to 1000 more, just as fast as they can train them.

    "There's a physical limit to how fast you can grow," Schmidt said. "You can get the office space but it takes time to train employees."

    Schmidt visited the Ann Arbor operation Friday night and reported "the energy level there is pretty phenomenal." He said Michigan is doing some of the things to entice cutting-edge companies like Google to come to the state, including promoting broadband technology and offering a "very searchable" state government data base.

    This week Google announced they will be partnering with Michigan to expand the search capabilities on the state's database- only the fifth state in the nation to do so. Google has been ready and willing to keep expanding its work force and visibility in Michigan- very important for attracting more hi-tech companies and jobs to locate here.

    So far Google has not had to import any employees, but with the cost of college education going through the roof thanks to our state legislature, can we continue to provide the educated workers that these companies are seeking?

    AT & T chief Randall Stephenson had a word of warning.

    But it was Stephenson, who has held the top job at AT&T for less than two months, who had the toughest words for the more than 30 state chief executives in attendance. He said that an AT&T agreement with its largest union to bring back 4,000 jobs that had been outsourced to India was struggling because of faulty U.S. education standards. "We're struggling to find qualified candidates to fill those 4,000 jobs."

    College education is crucial to Michigan's economic recovery. That much is obvious to everyone, except maybe our state legislators, who intend on dragging their feet as long as they possibly can on any sort of budget agreement.

    Nine Michigan universities have now raised their tuition rates thanks to lack of state aid- the latest being the U of M, coming in at 7.4 percent. Others are threatening even steeper increases if they do not get the payments that were delayed from '07.

    Many of the schools have blamed the relatively high tuition increases on declining state aid and lack of a government budget agreement for the fiscal year that starts in October.


    "These tuition increases are a direct result of the delay," Granholm said. "They hurt people. I think the Legislature understands the importance of getting this behind us and putting our fiscal house in order."

    Do they? Perhaps they do, but it is apparent that politics takes precedence and most intend to delay the inevitable until a crisis occurs. With the House Republicans mumbling about "task forces" and the Senate Republicans insisting on "reforms" that will take years to implement and even deeper budget cuts on top of that, we might actually have to come to a shutdown before they find the courage to do the right thing.

    Granholm said she does not rule out a government shutdown that would temporarily close schools and universities if the Legislature reaches gridlock on budget issues this fall. She chastised the Senate for failing to pass reforms and lacking adoption of a single budget bill as the new fiscal year looms.

    In the midst of the budget crisis, Granholm has repeatedly berated the Legislature for taking a 2-week vacation earlier this month and planning full sessions of the House and Senate only once a week in August.

    When it comes to our lawmakers, recovery can wait, and you can pay the bill in the meantime.

    Maybe we should send Mike Bishop over to Google or AT & T to explain his position on this massive "reform" needs to take place, that for some reason couldn't be done when Republicans had control of the state. They are sure to understand that we need "years" to get our house in order first.

    They'll wait for us, won't they?

    Friday, July 20, 2007

    Cubs 9, Giants 8 - Watching the pursuit of history

    There is a place in this world that is so beautiful my heart aches when I am there. I wish for time to stand still so I would never have to leave.

    Sweet Home Chicago. And Wrigley Field.

    Yes, my "home" is Michigan. Probably always will be. I love it here.

    But, there is a place where I come alive - every single time I set foot in that city I feel like I have come "home" again, and I silently curse my parents for having moved back to Grand Rapids right before I was born.

    Yesterday was another one of those days, watching my beloved Cubbies hold on to beat Barry Bonds and the hapless San Fransisco Giants, 9-8.

    From Bleed Cubbie Blue-

    With that in mind, I will say that I was glad I was witness to history today -- Barry Bonds' two HR this afternoon, the 752nd and 753rd of his career, set all kinds of marks:

  • It was his 71st multi-HR game; that's one behind Babe Ruth for first all-time.

  • It was his 7th career game with six or more RBI.

  • He has now hit 19 HR this year. That's the most for any player in the year in which he turned 43 -- surpassing Carlton Fisk.

  • Last month, I thought that Bonds would have broken the record before this game. Last week, we realized there was a chance that he would set the record at this game. When he was held out for some games earlier this week - we realized we wouldn't see the record unless he happened to hit five in one game. But history was made anyway, as he smacked two home runs, drove in a total of six runs, 3 hits in 3 AB's.

    Love him, hate him, he is a part of baseball history.

    Flash cameras were strongly in evidence for all of Bonds' at-bats, even shining through the sun that came out late in the day. So Bonds is right when he says, "People say they hate me, but they all go 'Click-click-click' with their cameras."

    Yes, they do. And I was click, click, click myself. Here is the swing that would become home run number 752-

    Bonds Home Run 752

    I have more of Bonds that I will get to later.

    He did all this with a fierce wind blowing in from the north.

    Out of town Cubs fans, heed my warning. If you see a forecast that has the wind coming in from the north, take a sweatshirt. I don't care how warm it is at the car. I don't care how warm it is at the gate. When you get up in that stadium, "The Hawk" is gonna bite you bad.

    You would think I would know these things by now, a veteran of many games, but nooooo...

    Official Cubs site recap of the game here.

    Yahoo boxscore here.

    Another Yahoo story on Bond's drive to the record here.

    And for your Michigan connection- former Lugnuts Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Jake Fox all played. These are guys I had seen right out at 5th3rd Ball Park, and here they were in The Show. That was pretty cool.

    A few more pics from the game, and I will be adding to the collection here when I get a chance, but for now...

    Ramirez Hit

    One of Aramis Ramirez' three hits on the day.

    Floyd Scores

    Cliff Floyd scores on Molina's passed ball.

    Soriano Double

    Soriano doubles in the 1st.

    Cubs Souvenirs

    Lots of stuff to buy. The area around Wrigley is heaven, with a sea of people in Cubbie blue, milling about the beautiful tree-lined streets...


    Cubs win!

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    Boyd busts Bishop for alluding to budget agreements

    Abandon All Hope...

    Hello. I'm Mike Bishop.

    You may remember me from such long-running hit shows as "For the Love of Cassis" and "Father DeVos Knows Best".

    If you recall last month, before I took my latest and greatest most excellent vacation, I claimed that there weren't any agreements reached regarding the '08 budget. That big meanie Governor Granholm sent us a letter asking us to cut short our summer break and get our job done. Can you imagine that? Hey, who cares if schools and cities don't know what their budgets are going to look like next year, right? They can wait. They can wait until Oct. 1st as a matter of fact. But she wanted us to get it done now, so I just called her a liar instead.

    "There's not any truth in the letter," Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop told reporters. "There was no agreement, nothing close to an agreement. For her to suggest otherwise is just an outright mistruth."

    Now, I was talking about a tax increase agreement, but the way I said it made it seem like there was no agreement about anything all!

    This earned me big points with my party, they might even nominate me for governor and everything, because it leaves the impression that the Democrats and the Governor totally rolled over for me on the agreement to solve '07 budget shortfall, and I didn't have to give up anything! I'm calling all the shots! And since my best buddy Andy wouldn't back up the Governor, the Lt. Governor, or that know-it-all Bob Emerson, I've got the green light to continue on making these claims and demanding I get my way! Isn't that cool?

    But sometimes I slip. Like yesterday, that Liz Boyd caught me, and she told MIRS about it.

    You see, I'm trying to break the back of the MEA, right? Because if I get teachers all depressed and mad and stuff they won't get out there next year and cause us problems in the election. So, I'm going after their benefits. If they have to pay more for health care, they can't donate to those Democrats, can they? You betcha. It's all part of the plan.

    First, I make it look like I'm on their side.

    According to Bishop, the MEA has been misleading its members, claiming Republicans are trying to completely strip away its benefits.

    "They're sending out letters to teachers that say the sky is falling and we want to take away all of their benefits," Bishop said. "I want to make it clear that what we want to do would preserve their benefits."

    We loooove the teachers! We're just trying to help them! It's their nasty union causing all the problems!

    I know, they probably won't believe that, but I can say it, because I can say anything since no one will stand up to me. Well, that Schauer guy and the rest of the Senate Democrats might, but since the House Democrats won't, I'm in the clear. Isn't that cool?

    Anyway, back to Liz. I used a word that worked so well for Godfather DeVos last year. I even shook my head and did that scowl that he has down pat. He still walks around looking like that, so I don't do it very often because I don't want my face to freeze up like his.

    Bishop said it was "disappointing" that no Democrats in the Senate would support  SB 0418 and that the lack of Democratic support for public employee health care reform showed a "complete breach" in regard to what Gov. Jennifer Granholm has agreed to in negotiations.

    Oops. I guess I shouldn't have used the words "complete breach". That tells everyone there were agreements made. Uh oh. Left that door wide open for Boyd there.

    Turning the tables on Bishop, Granholm Press Secretary Liz Boyd asked why the GOP-controlled Senate doesn't pass the reforms first. "The Senator says that reforms need to come first," Boyd said. "Why doesn't the Senate pass their reforms? Senator Bishop has 21 Republican votes in the Senate and he only needs 20 for passage."

    Boyd also pointed out that Bishop referred to an agreement, after he denied that there had been an agreement.

    "I think it's reassuring that Senator Mike Bishop made reference to an agreement, after he had failed to acknowledge that there was an agreement up to this time" Boyd said.

    Damn. She busted me. She is always doing that.

    Sure wish she was on our side, but we are stuck with Nancy.

    Oh well, the regular press will never catch on to this, so I don't have to worry too much.

    Just don't tell Dick, OK?

    (Also available in green at BFM)

    Bullpen Shoes

    Bullpen Shoes

    Sometimes the Whitecaps bullpen gets so excited they run out of their shoes...

    Have been lazy about posting baseball pics... check the latest here, if you are so inclined.

    Coming soon... Cubs pictures, provided all goes well.

    DeRoche: Tuition hikes free state from obligation to universities

    (Originally posted at BFM. This is called "hitting the Lefty Blogwire twice for maximum exposure". Or something like that.)

    Craig DeRoche issued a news release Monday (MIRS, sub only) claiming that the state budget deficit isn't really a deficit at all- it's "what we choose to spend", according to his spokesman Matt Resch. DeRoche proceeds to whittle down the $1.8 billion to $567 million in some convoluted attempt to make it seem like they can snap their fingers and make it all go away.

    Yeah, whatever you say, Craig. It just doesn't add up. 

    So far, this hasn't hit the MSM (update- part of it did Tuesday, but not the important part. Where is Kathy Barks Hoffman, anyway?) or the House Repubs site- but this part of "making it go away" ought to bring howls of outrage from the state's universities and those that just got socked with huge tuition increases.

    The Novi Republican then suggested that the proposed double-digit tuition hikes free state government from its obligation to refund universities the delayed payment from the 2007 budget.

    Thanks, universities! Since you did the dirty work for us, we are off the hook!

    Meanwhile, EMU is the latest to announce a hefty increase in tuition.

    The university's governing board approved a combined 8 percent increase in tuition and fees. The tuition itself goes up 9.5 percent, but no mandatory fees were increased.


    Eight Michigan public universities have raised tuition for next year and the other seven are expected to do so soon. In some cases the tuition increases could be adjusted, depending on what happens with state aid.

    We have now heard the response to "what happens with state aid". There won't be any if the Republicans have their way. They just pass the bill on to you and call their job done.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    Schauer welcomes back his colleagues

    Are they tanned? Are they rested? Are they ready?

    Are we?

    Watch Senator Mark Schauer deliver the news on tuition hikes to his fellow colleagues on the Senate floor today.

    Or, read the transcript here.

    Thanks to the Senate Dems for providing this service. They are really on top of things.

    Welcome back from vacation, colleagues. I know many of you considered this a "working" two week vacation, but for any of you who missed the news of the day, I'd like to briefly recap with a "While You Were Out" edition of Michigan happenings.

    While you were out, Michigan State University right down the street here, was forced to increase tuition by 9.6% or about $800 a year. Let's call these what they are, folks, tax increases on students and their families.

    Oakland University up by 13.9%, Central Michigan University up 21% over 4 years, Grand Valley State University up 9.9%, Eastern Michigan University up 9.5%, Lake Superior State University up 9.3%.

    These university boards were forced to do this in large part because we had not given them any idea what amount of state resources we would provide. As Michael Boulous, executive director of the President's Council, State Universities of Michigan said, "The State of Michigan is balancing their books on the backs of the students and parents. It's very clear what they've done. Now the question is whether they'll continue to do it in 2008."

    Will we?

    If the Republicans have their way you will.

    Senator Schauer has been one of the few Democrats who has been ready to meet this budget crisis head on all year- he stands up and tells it like it is, calmly, rationally, succinctly. He has no fear.

    And for that, he gets huge rounds of applause.

    Keep up the good work, Senator. I wish they were all like you.

    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    Take it, to the limit, one more time?

    Cherry Ponders a PointJohn Cherry doesn't seem to get a lot of press. When he does, you tend to sit up and take notice. The guy has been around Michigan politics a long, long time, and I tend to believe him when he says something. He doesn't seem like the type that is prone to a lot of hyperbole- he's down to earth, trustworthy. That is the impression I got watching him speak throughout the campaign last year, and from what I have read about him in the meantime.

    This next bit of information didn't make the MSM- but I believe it is an important warning about what may happen with the '08 budget talks. From both MIRS and Gongwer (sub only) we learn that Cherry believes that the lawmakers might try to push this budget agreement into October, creating a crisis as an excuse to explain away their votes.

    "I think there's a school of thought out there that says it's easier to justify a vote on a tax hike if it occurs in the midst of a crisis" and waiting until the end of September would fit that definition as stories of shutting down the government came into play.

    Cherry confessed that no Republican has shared this with him, but he's been around long enough to know that it could happen.

    It's not like the Republicans would jump up to confess to this strategy.

    Two Senate Republicans, Sen. Bill Hardiman (R-Kentwood) and Sen. Tom George (R-Kalamazoo), said there had been no discussion of any sort on delaying the budget.

    And another Senate GOP official said the entire thought presumes that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) would deliberately delay action in order to force a vote on a tax increase.

    No, of course not. Not Mike. Perish the thought.

    Right now the lawmakers are playing the game of "you go first". Bishop is waiting on the House to pass a tax increase. June 15th, MIRS-

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) has been repeatedly reminding anyone and everyone that the Democratic-controlled House hasn't been able to pass a tax hike.

    And Dillon is waiting for the Senate to pass "reforms".

    "He can start to move real structural reform whenever he wants. I just haven't seen it. Where is the beef?" Dillon said. "We in the House have already worked to make it easier for locals to consolidate services, we've called for the elimination of lifetime health care for elected officials, we've called for a 5 percent pay cut for state employees and I am frustrated that the Senate has not acted. The House is doing what it said it would do and now it's up to the Senate."

    Granholm just wants someone to do something. Please. Soon. Gongwer, July 10th-

    Increasing taxes is hard, she said, but if the Legislature is unwilling to pass tax increases then it has to pass budgets to reflect the cuts needed to keep the budget balanced.

    "Nobody wants to do any of these hard things, I understand that," Ms. Granholm said. "But if you're not going to raise the revenue to fund the services we all expect then pass budgets that will reflect the cuts that will be necessary if we don't have the revenue. One way or the other."

    On To the Point this morning, Granholm repeatedly expressed that we need to "put this behind us". In response to a question on recalls, the governor had this to say-

    "We were not sent to Lansing to cast easy votes. We were sent there to fix the problems. So, buck up, get some spine, do what you know has to be done on both cuts, reforms and revenues, do it so we can put this behind us. Give certainty to the state. Allow us to market Michigan all across the country. Wall Street's watching."

    Oddly enough, Dillon said about the same thing awhile ago.

    "What we did to get out of '07 may be dangerous if we don't get '08 done quickly, because Wall Street is not going to look positively at throwing tobacco tax dollars to fix a deficit-spending problem," Dillon said.

    That was June 24th. You know, before they decided to take that two week vacation. The game of "chicken" seems to continue at this point- but maybe their vacation will clear their heads. Doubtful, given their track record.

    It's easy to see how John Cherry would come to the conclusion that the leaves in the UP will be starting to turn before this gets resolved. Even the governor concedes it make take until then.

    "My big fear Rick, is that the strategy now, given how much delay has gone (on), is to wait until October, and to force some sort of government shutdown, like we saw in Pennsylvania, before agreeing to put this behind us. I just think delay... hurts... Michigan. We need to get this done, over with, and beyond us, so that there's certainty in universities and schools, and in the state. I think, you know, it sends a terrible message about Michigan, if we can't reach bipartisan, comprehensive solutions."

    Rick Albin goes on to bring up the point that it's better to do the tough votes now and get it "as far away from an election as you can". True. The longer this goes on... the worse they ALL look in the eyes of the public.

    This coming week might tell the tale of whether this will be done sooner rather than later. Or vice versa. Stay tuned...

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Grand Rapids & the Gray Lady- Welcome to Health Hill

    When you think of Grand Rapids, you usually think of a description like "conservative", "simple", "furniture city", "small Midwestern town", or other various blanket generalities, some of them not too flattering if you're progressive-minded and trying to convince people that its really not like that anymore here, really it isn't, we vote blue now and everything, just come and see.

    Well, you can now add "world class medical research center" to your lexicon. And if you work in the health care/research field, you just might want to move here. I've got a house you can buy not to far from all of this.

    Health Hill Across the RiverA bit of good publicity for our state this week- Grand Rapids was featured in the New York Times, highlighting all the construction on Michigan Street's "Health Hill" and pointing toward the future of growth for this city, and for this state.

    Imagine your city was built straddling a river valley, half of it up on a very high hill. Then they go and decide to build a bunch of really big buildings on that hill. That is what is going on now... and when they get done, not only will it be beautiful, it will be what the city is known for.

    Maybe even the state. Look out, U of M.

    From the summit of the hill, on this city’s north end, and stretching roughly half a mile in both directions along Michigan Street, a stunning array of buildings is under construction, reflecting a commitment of nearly $1 billion by the area’s prominent families and medical institutions.

    There are a new medical school, a children’s hospital, a biomedical research center, a cancer treatment center, and two medical treatment and office buildings Also under construction is a seven-level underground parking garage; it will hold 2,300 cars and cost $30 million.

    Driving is pretty difficult around there right now- best to avoid it unless you are headed to the emergency room at Spectrum- Butterworth Hospital, which, of course, is where they take all the emergency patients nowadays.

    The area is quite vibrant with people walking everywhere; it is starting to remind me of Chicago or Detroit or any other big city.

    All told, construction managers say, the buildings will cover 1.2 million square feet. By 2010, when construction is completed, those buildings, several designed by world-renowned architects, will provide enough space to treat thousands of people a day and employ 5,000 people, 2,500 more jobs than exist now on Health Hill.

    The Hole Where Butterworth Hospital Used to BeButterworth itself holds many memories for me- my Dad's quintuple bypass, my favorite uncle's stay to be treated for Epstein-Barr syndrome, many trips to the emergency room with the ex whenever some catastrophe happened, which was quite frequently. I have reasons why I avoid the health care industry- but I must say that the people who work in it are some of the most giving, caring, kindest people that I have ever met. They helped me through some very difficult times.

    Butterwoth is now half-gone, replaced by a big hole in the ground that will be the new DeVos Children's Hospital.

    On the south side of Michigan Street, Spectrum Health is spending $250 million to build the 14-story, 440,000-square-foot Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, designed by Jonathan Bailey Associates, which is based in London. It is to be finished by December 2010.

    And so much more is coming...

    Van Andel Institute A block away on Division Street, the Van Andel Institute, an increasingly prominent biomedical research organization, is adding a $178 million, 240,000-square-foot, five-level addition to the imposing $77 million 140,000-square-foot research building it opened in 2000, designed by Rafael Vinoly. The new wing is to open in December 2009.

    On the north side of Michigan Street, the foundation of Michigan State University’s $70 million 125,000-square-foot medical school is taking shape, financed in part with gifts from Spectrum Health and the Van Andel Institute. It will open in August 2010.

    Building the Cancer CenterNext door, Michigan Street Development — a collaboration between the DeVos family and Christman Construction — is building a $78 million 125,000-square-foot medical office building, hotel and research laboratory. It is to open in April 2008. An existing office building will be torn down next summer and replaced with a second 125,000-square-foot office tower.

    And next to that, Michigan Street Development and Spectrum Health are building the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, a $100 million 284,000-square-foot patient treatment center that includes an unusual junglelike atrium. It is to open in June 2008.

    All of this will go nicely with the research and development that is already here.

    GVSU Cook Devos Health CenterEven before the latest burst of construction, Health Hill had been the focus of investment by the city’s families.

    Mr. DeVos and Peter Cook, another important financier, helped Grand Valley State University build a $57 million Center for Health Sciences on Michigan Street in 2003.

    Meijer Heart CenterFred and Lena Meijer helped Spectrum Health build a $137 million nine-story cardiac care center that opened in November 2004.

    So, cheers to Michigan's "Second City", bringing us some good publicity in the eyes of the nation and showing us where our future can take us if we invest in our state. Other Michigan cities can take a tip from this-

    Grand Rapids was one of just two major Michigan cities (Ann Arbor being the other) to gain population in the 1990s. In the last decade, its income tax revenues more than doubled, to $59 million annually.

    “Now we’re claiming our place in the new economy with applied research, medical care, patient treatment,” Mr. DeLong said. “These are new, intellectually driven sectors. Health Hill is a concentration of intellectual capacity, and that is what we need in this era.”


    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Sign of the Times

    Sign of the Times

    Billboard on I-96 right outside of Grand Rapids.

    "Paid for by Mid-Michigan Progressives"

    I'm not sure who these people are, but I sure like their style.

    Capitol 152

    Capitol 152

    What a beautiful day.

    More Lansing pictures here...

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Michigan State raises tuition by 9.6 percent

    I believe they call this a "back door tax increase". Even if they don't, I'm going to.

    As promised, the price of college at MSU is going up, thanks to your state legislature.

    EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Tuition at Michigan State University will rise 9.6 percent next fall, and some of the school's leaders placed the blame squarely on state lawmakers.

    The university's governing board approved the tuition increase proposal Wednesday afternoon. It's one of many tuition and fee increases expected at Michigan's 15 public universities this year.

    But wait! There is still time to rectify this situation-

    But a provision in Wednesday's decision will allow Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon to lower the tuition rate or provide refunds later in the year if the state comes up with more money than expected.

    Or, it could get worse-

    On the flip side, tuition could be adjusted and raised well above 10 percent if the state cuts aid more than anticipated.

    Call your legiscritter today... oh wait, you can't. They aren't there. Nevermind.

    Just pay your bill, and pray that they aren't kidding about the refunds.

    The fallout from "Vacationgate" begins

    Two editorials this morning, both dripping with sarcasm over the decision of the Legislature to stay on vacation.

    Bishop's spokesman Matt Marsden told Gongwer yesterday that Senate members aren't taking any heat for not being in session this week- what Matt doesn't realize is the rest of the state is just now finding out about it.

    So far, it's not looking too good for the lawmakers as far as public opinion goes.

    First up, that Lansing State Journal weighs in-

    Michigan's 2008 budget year begins in 81 days. Today, Michigan State University trustees will vote on tuition increases enlarged by uncertainty in state financing - a story that could get repeated on other campuses this summer.

    And, oh yes, Michigan faces a $1.8 billion deficit for the '08 budget year.

    Clearly, it's time to stay on vacation.

    That's what passes for logic in the Michigan Legislature these days. How much inaction are the people of Michigan to tolerate?

    What choice do we have?

    Make no mistake, this is a bipartisan mess - or rather one of Lansing's corroded political culture. The Democratic House will be at ease as long as the Republican Senate.

    So, who was behind this latest corroded fiasco? Two guesses, and anyone who has been paying attention this year doesn't need to guess. This goes right to the leadership of the Legislature. From MIRS (sub only)-

    Speaking as part of her announcement of the Sweden/Germany trade mission, Granholm declined to weigh in on whether the Legislature "fooled her" by initially canceling the second week of its summer recess only to take it anyway.

    Was this about "fooling" the governor? Just a little prank on the part of two Lansing frat boys? It appears that way, even if that wasn't the intention.

    The Legislature's decision not to meet this week, apparently reached during a conversation with Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R- DeVos) and House Speaker Andy Dillon (D- Michigan for Lieberman) last week, was made public Friday.

    These guys are a walking, talking PR nightmare. They make a show of cancelling a week of vacation, only to change their minds mere days later. Did they think people wouldn't notice that? Or wouldn't care?

    They are wrong.

    Alan Cropsey (R- Crazytown) threw haymakers at the governor in a wild attempt to excuse their behavior. He hit "legislative leaders" at the same time. Oops.

    Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Alan Cropsey said the Senate is keeping its two tentative session days open in case something happens this week with budget negotiations. But until then, it doesn't make sense for the entire Legislature to meet if legislative leaders and the administration haven't struck a final agreement on the FY '08 budget.

    "Does she want us to come back just so we can sit around?" Cropsey asked. "I don't want to slap the Governor, but I don't understand what she's talking about. If they don't have an agreement, why does she want us back?

    Um, to get some work done? Surely there are things you could be doing to help the process along, Alan. Well, maybe not you in particular, but surely we have some responsible, adult members our legislative body.

    Then again, maybe not.

    The Freep also has a few things to say about that.

    Ah, but the world apparently looks different and much more pleasant outside of the Capitol. All that talk of momentum and an early return evaporated in the summer heat. Instead, legislators will go back to work on July 17, as they originally planned.

    What's another week? All the local governments and school districts and universities that depend on money from Lansing have been kept on hold this long; they can wait a while more to see what their budgets ought to be or how much tuition to charge. It's better to have a well-rested Legislature that will make sound decisions when its members are good and ready.

    Maybe Michigan doesn't need a part-time Legislature after all. Maybe it already has one.

    Whew. Two unhappy papers today. Maybe more to follow.

    Speaking of that part-time legislature, the GR Press did a front page story on July 1st titled, "Do lawmakers earn their keep?"

    The response to that story showed that the public already has a bad attitude about our lawmakers. Keep in mind this was before the latest stunt; it's doubtful that the decision to stay on vacation will win them any new fans.

    Perhaps people are tired of trying to get the attention of their representatives. Now they just go straight to the press.

    Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, states "We (legislators) have a hard enough time getting it done full time ("Do lawmakers earn their keep?" Press, July 1)." Whose fault is that? I also wonder if he said that before or after the "lawmakers" took their latest two-week vacation?

    And another-

    My first thought on reading the July 1 Grand Rapids Press front page, was "What?" Is someone trying out for a spot on Comedy Central? "Do lawmakers earn their keep?" Funny enough thought to give me a good chuckle.

    So far, they aren't even earning part-time wages, let alone generous benefits and full-time pay.

    This too-

    Isn't it a shame that we in Michigan pay our lawmakers $80,000 a year for doing so little! They could probably meet one week of the year to do what they have accomplished in a year. It is such a shame that these elected-learned men and women are so willing to practically steal from us.

    There were no letters praising the Legislature, although one did have some concerns that they would become even more corrupt if they were poorly paid part-time employees, and therefore we should keep them full-time for our own self defense.

    Can't wait to see the reaction after this. The lawmakers need a wake-up call, and we shouldn't have to wait until the next election to do it.

    Keep those cards and letters coming, citizens of Michigan. Maybe some day they will listen. But don't hold your breath.