Monday, March 31, 2008

The Case For Smaller High Schools

The Detroit Public Schools announced today that they will be creating smaller high schools that will offer more personalized attention to at-risk students in an attempt to improve graduation and attendance rates and meet the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Three high schools -- Osborn, Henry Ford and Cody (including its freshman academy) -- will each house several independent specialized schools under phase one of the what is being called the Turn Around Schools plan. Vetal Elementary will also be restructured.

"Phase 1 of the Turn Around School initiative is intended to transform the curriculum, classrooms, technology, staff, buildings and grounds in these five schools," Calloway read from a prepared statement. She added that the plan is in the early stages and she hopes at least one of the reconstructed campuses will be open by fall.

The high school restructuring means, for instance, that each building will contain three to four smaller schools that could concentrate on preparing students for specializations such as technology or engineering. Each school within the building will have its own staff, administrators and possibly sports teams. The small school communities will each enroll 450 students, Calloway said.

Battle Creek Central High is in the third year of a federal grant to do the same thing, and is already seeing results.

Battle Creek teachers said failure rates had plummeted among freshmen because of the small learning communities and a program called No Choice But Success, in which students who do not receive a grade of 'C' or better are required to relearn material and try until they pass.

"If you let (students) fail, a lot of them will choose to fail because it's easier," said Meredith Shabani, a freshman social studies teacher. "It's easier than studying for a test or doing a project."

Battle Creek's after-school study sessions, graduation coaches who hound students about their homework and the smaller teams of teachers and students were impressive, Granholm said.

"This model is a great lesson for me and for our team, so we can say 'Look, here is an example of a school that's doing it in Michigan, that has seen the kind of results we want to trumpet,'" she said.

Smaller high schools in the Chicago area have also had success, although test scores still needed improvement.

The report found that the reform works when it comes to keeping students involved in school: 20 percent of the students enrolled in the first cohort of five new small schools dropped out by the end of their junior year, compared with 27 percent of similar students at large high schools. Author Joseph Kahne notes that “graduating from high school makes a huge difference in terms of employment and earnings. If the promising lower dropout rates noted in this study translate into improved graduation rates, this reform will substantively improve the lives of these students.”

Attendance was also better: The students in small schools spent nearly a week longer in classes than those in large schools because their absence rate was lower, 25 days compared with 28 days at larger schools for juniors and 20 days for CHSRI freshmen compared with 26 days for similar students at larger schools.

In order for any school reform to be effective, researchers contend that students need more academic rigor. When compared with students in larger schools, this study found that juniors in the small schools felt more challenged by their teachers than did similar students in other schools. The small schools also had both juniors and freshmen more focused on goals for their lives after high school.

Grand Rapids joins the trend, but the Republicans have something else in mind, of course.

The Grand Rapids Public Schools also have plans to break up two of the four large city schools into specialized learning environments.

City educators plan to merge four comprehensive high schools into two buildings, even if voters reject a $250 million plan to renovate those schools and others, saying the moves are driven by academics, not facilities.

All four of Grand Rapids Public School's main high schools have failed to meet No Child Left Behind testing goals for four years and face state-mandated changes unless they show dramatic improvement -- or the district restructures them first.

They plan to ask the voters for the money.

Figuring out what to do with the small schools within Union and Ottawa Hills also is on the task force's agenda. Union's Arts, Communication and Technology School might get folded into the new Ellington Academy, approved by the school board Tuesday.

Board members said the program changes would help them decide what should be included in the schools should voters approve the tax increase, expected to be on a ballot in 2009.

They would like the state to help out, the governor has suggested this very thing in her 21st Century Schools plan, and at first, Senate Republicans were receptive to the idea after a bipartisan trip to Chicago to see how it works.

Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he thinks the plan will get a positive reception among Senate Republicans, who dominate that chamber.

"The driver in all of this is giving kids a good education," said Kuipers, who was among those who accompanied Granholm to Chicago. "We have to be about creating options for parents and kids to choose from, and from that standpoint this is a good proposal."

Looking good for common sense school reform, right? Well, something happened on the way to sanity, as it usually does when the Senate Republicans are involved.

A quarter of Michigan's high schools have failed to meet goals mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act for at least two years, and Granholm said studies show smaller schools have better results.

State Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman recently traveled to Providence, R.I., where she says she saw how successful a small, state-funded high school can be compared with larger, impersonal schools.

"We've got to offer something different," the Detroit Democrat said. "We cannot continue doing the same thing and getting no progress."

But Senate Republicans have a different opinion on how the state should use the money. They want to give every district another $19 to $20 per student to spend on buildings.

And that is exactly what they did, cut the funding for smaller high schools in the education budget they passed last week. Guess they weren't serious about reform after all.

Republicans rejected Democrats' attempts to set up small high schools in districts with failing students. The GOP instead supported giving every district another $20 per student to spend on buildings.

Detroit and Grand Rapids will go ahead with their plans anyway; not sure how Detroit will pay for it, but Grand Rapids intends to turn to the taxpayer - and once again, Republicans dodge all fiscal responsibility.

Something to keep in mind next time they complain about the public schools.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Play Ball!

Bullpen ShoesTake me out to the ball game, it's been a long cold lonely winter. Weather permitting (and that is a big IF right now), major league baseball returns to Michigan tomorrow as the Detroit Tigers start their 2008 season at 1:05 PM vs. the KC Royals. High of 60 with rain - be sure and dress warm if you are lucky enough to be there in person!

It was said to me this morning that Opening Day should be a national holiday, and I have to say, I concur. The excitement of a brand new year, the promise of summer to come... there is just something about witnessing the start of a season. Everything is fresh, everything is a first... but the feeling "coming home" is the same every year. Nothing like it for a fan.

If you are planning on heading to Detroit tomorrow (sold out, of course) or sometime this year, you probably know a trip to a major league stadium can easily run into the hundreds of dollars. By the time you pay for tickets, parking, food and frosty beverages, and souvenirs for the kiddies - well, I hope you brought the wallet, because there goes that federal stimulus check in one game. Decent tickets for the Tigers - over $20 in the upper decks, and then prices range all the way from the $30s to the $60s as you get closer to the field. That is, if you can get them at all - they are going fast from what I hear.

The Chicago Cubs (for the cadre of fans in West Michigan, and there are a bunch) tickets are just as pricey, and hard to come by. Breaking down their season by "dates" (value days, regular days and prime days), they range from $16 in the way upper deck to a high of $80 for the closest premium day seat. (Bleachers are $36 on "regular" dates - astounding to someone who used to wander in anytime cheap during the 80s) The Cubs start tomorrow at 2:20 EDT vs the Milwaukee Brewers, again, weather permitting as rain is expected.

If you want to plan a day at a major league park this year, do it soon, if it's not too late already. Interest in both of these teams is sky high with grand expectations of the talent they have acquired in the off-season to go with talent already had on the roster. No jinx here, but if all goes as expected, these two are projected to be playing October baseball.

Can't make the trip or pay the price of a major league game? Right around the corner from you is an excellent alternative, and it doesn't carry the hassle of big city parking and prices. Five Michigan cities host professional baseball teams - three in the Class A Midwest League, and two in the independent Frontier League. Quality play with potential future stars, and you can't beat the price...

The Midwest League is for players just starting their climb on the major league ladder, low A ball. Drafted out of high school or college, for most guys it is their first full year of professional baseball. Although the majority will go on to play high level A next year, if you don't perform here, it can be all over. Every year it's a fresh team; you may have one or two hold-overs from the previous year, but for the most part Opening Day is like the first day of school. All new faces to get to know... and a few of those faces will someday be playing in the majors.

Here are your Michigan Midwest League teams-

Great Lakes Loons, Midland, MI - Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Home opener 4/3 vs. Dayton. Ticket prices- $8.50 Reserved, $6 Lawn. $3 parking, or park at local business lots for free, according to the web site. Midland will be hosting the Midwest League All-Star Game 2008 on June 17th.

Dow Diamond is believed to be the only Minor League stadium using solar power. Thanks to Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductor, the Dow Diamond scoreboard is powered by the solar panels located beyond the right field concourse. Capacity is only 5,500, which seems on the small side compared to Lansing and West Michigan, but I hear the park is really nice and I hope to get up there this year.

Mattingly at 2nd After several incarnations and team affiliations in Battle Creek (Michigan Battle Cats, Battle Creek Yankees, Southwest Michigan Devil Rays) the team moved to Midland in 2007. The team's history in Battle Creek really shows the transitory nature of minor league ball; parent clubs change, attendance can lag, teams move all the time. There were a few Battle Creek fans that used to make the trip up to GR to watch their team, changing hats and shirts as the club seemingly switched names every year, I often wonder what happened to them now that their team is gone. So far, the Loons have been successful in Midland, so perhaps the team will stick around there for awhile.

Team history and more info can be found on the Loon's Wiki page.

Lansing Lugnuts, Lansing, MI - Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Home opener 4/7 vs. South Bend. Ticket prices - $9 Box, $8 Reserve, $7 for Lawn. Parking available on the streets around the stadium. Seats "over 11,000".

The Lugnuts opened in 1996 as an affiliate of the KC Royals, and then became part of the Cubs farm system from 1999-2004, much to my delight. The Cubs moved back to Peoria in 2005, and the Blue Jays took over. Former Lugnuts are all over the Cubs system and in the majors; last year I saw Ryan Theriot, Jake Fox and Michael Wuertz play at Wrigley Field.

Mark Prior Pitches For Lugnuts Club history, including a list of former players now in the majors, can be found on the Lugnuts Wiki page. One of the convenient aspects of being located near the parent club is the chance to see major leaguers on the mend. My one and only trip to Oldsmobile Park was to see Mark Prior pitch on rehab assignment in 2004. (Ryan Dempster also pitched in that game, but it was cold and rainy, so we left early). The park was built with an old-fashioned feel and style, definitely a great place to see a game.

West Michigan Whitecaps, Comstock Park, MI (outside of Grand Rapids) - Class A affiliate if the Detroit Tigers. Home opener 4/7 vs. Great Lakes. Ticket prices - $10 Box, $8.50 Reserved, $5.00 Lawn. Parking $4.00.

The Whitecaps came to town in 1994, an affiliate of the Oakland A's, and won their first Midwest League Championship in 1996. In 1997, they became an affiliate of the Tigers, and since then have demonstrated the talent, commitment, and fine coaching Detroit has put into their farm system, winning MWL titles in 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Gorkys Safe at 2ndThe Tigers have parlayed that talent into acquiring major stars: Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez for Edgar Renteria, back up catcher Mike Rabelo, pitchers Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern, top prospect Camron Maybin, all traded for Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Although it's sad to lose your favorites out of the system, some will get a better shot at starting on another team - Rabelo at catcher for the Marlins this year is a good example - and the stars picked up in return might put the Tigs over the top. Although there are whispers about a depleted farm system, the Tigers are still loaded with talent top to bottom, and we look forward to what this year will bring.

The Whitecaps Wiki page has a list of the players who made the bigs, and more history on the team.

Frontier League play starts the end of May. Independent of Major League Baseball, it consists of guys that were once prospects and for whatever reason didn't catch on with a major league team, or former major league players trying to extend their careers. Michigan has two teams-

Traverse City Beach Bums. Home opener 5/21. Tickets are $10 for seats, $6 for lawn, higher on fireworks nights.

Kalamazoo Kings. Home opener 5/24. Tickets are $8 for box, $5 for general admission.

Next year, two more teams from Michigan will join the league. Holland is slated to open their new stadium the spring of 2009, and the Oakland County Cruisers will make their debut at their new stadium in Waterford Township next year as well.

Get out this year and support your local teams - it's affordable, it's relaxing, it gets you outside of the house on those warm summer nights that are so fleeting. You'll be glad you did.

Play ball!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Not for sale or anything...

Uh-huh. (h/t to Kos)

The study found that the presidential candidate who gave more money to the superdelegates received their endorsements 82 percent of the time. That's based on a review of elected officials who are serving as superdelegates and who'd endorsed a candidate as of Feb. 25.

In cases where superdelegates received money from Obama's Hope Fund but none from Clinton's PAC, Obama got the superdelegates' support 85 percent of the time. And in cases where superdelegates received money from Clinton's Hillpac but none from Obama's PAC, 75 percent backed Clinton.

Makes you wonder why Spitzer is in trouble.

Earth Hour - Tonight at 8PM

Notice the Google homepage? It's a reminder to turn out the lights tonight from 8 - 9 PM.

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund.

Earth Hour was created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships–Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

We invite everyone throughout North America and around the world to turn off the lights for an hour starting at 8 p.m. (your own local time)–whether at home or at work, with friends and family or solo, in a big city or a small town.

New Zealand, Fiji and Australia have already started the event this year, with the hopes of spreading this across the globe.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, more than 100 businesses and thousands of homes were plunged into darkness, computers and televisions were switched off and dinners delayed for the hour from 8 to 9 p.m. Suva, Fiji, in the same time zone, also turned off its lights.

Auckland's Langham Hotel switched from electric lights to candles as it joined the effort to reduce the use of electricity, which when generated creates greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Australians had their own unique ways to mark the blackout as the clock struck 8 across the nation; one bar was offering free beers to customers who arrived with a black balloon to signify their carbon footprint; staff at beach bar donned solar-powered caps; a bed and breakfast offered candlelight cooking lessons; a children's hospital hosted a pajama party for its patients.

Following Australia, lights will go out in major Asian cities including Manila and Bangkok before moving to Europe and North America as the clock ticks on. One of the last major cities to participate will be San Francisco — home to the soon-to-be dimmed Golden Gate Bridge.

Tonight at 8. Don't forget.

Former Whitecap Clete Thomas makes the Tigers

Clete Thomas Whitecaps '05

I don't have many pictures from the 2005 Whitecaps team - call it a lost year. This is the best picture I have of Clete Thomas. As I remember he was what you would call a "gamer"; he came to play. Great bat, lots of hustle.

Congrats Clete-

Manager Jim Leyland told rookie outfielder Clete Thomas’ after Friday night’s game that he’d made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster.

“I heard him say it,” Thomas said. “It finally sank in a few seconds later when he started shaking my hand. It was an awesome feeling.”


Leyland said he told Thomas that being on the big-league team now “will be a wonderful experience.”

“I told him, ‘You’re going to have a big-league career and probably end up playing every day,’ ” Leyland said. “But this will be a little lesson for you for later in your career when you slow down a little bit. You kind of prepare yourself now to make sure you’re ready (as a part-time player then).”

Thomas appears headed for the minors when Granderson returns, which Tigers officials hope will be in a few weeks.

Leyland said he told Thomas, “Enjoy this ride for however long it is.”

Hope he gets a chance for some at-bats during his stay.

Union membership gains in Michigan

The headlines are screaming, "UAW membership at lowest point since WWII" this morning, but tucked away in the story was a figure that created another one of those cognitive dissonance moments, a sentence you had to read twice to make sure you got it.

The UAW lost 73,538 members in 2007. You would think that Michigan's total number of people who belong to a union would drop based on that fact alone. You would be wrong.

The ranks of the UAW fell even as overall union membership in the country climbed slightly last year, with 7.5 percent of private sector workers belonging to a union. In Michigan, 842,000 workers in the public and private sector belonged to a union last year -- 19.6 percent of all workers -- up from 819,000 in 2006. Michigan has the fourth-highest number of union workers in the United States.

Like our slight population growth it probably can be explained away, but the fact that it's there at all is surprising

And even though the UAW has lost members, it hasn't lost its political clout.

Despite the drop in membership, the UAW remains a potent political force -- it represents 500,000 retirees in addition to working members -- and a financial powerhouse.

The union will become one of the single largest providers of health care in the United States when it takes responsibility for retiree health care from the Big Three starting in 2010. At GM alone, the UAW will take on $46.7 billion in retiree health care costs through a trust that will be largely funded by the automaker.

The union's finances remain relatively stable, according to the annual report. The union earned $75 million in interest on its investments last year, up from $59 million in 2006, and ended the year with $1.25 billion in assets, down slightly from $1.27 billion at the end of 2006.

Join a union today. Not only will you piss off Dick DeVos, but you can help keep the Right to Work (For Less!) forces at bay, and maybe by the time 2010 rolls around, the issue will be moot.

We can hope, anyway.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Legislature drags its feet on the RPS

Bishop - January.

He said the Republicans' priority this year is "jobs, jobs, jobs," but could offer no specifics on how they intend to recruit more businesses to Michigan.

What will bring us jobs? A renewable portfolio standard.

Granholm - February.

"Policy making is such a slog sometimes," said Granholm. "We've got to have people understand that every day we wait, job providers are going somewhere else. We just lost one, as a matter of fact. A turbine company took us off their list because we don't have a renewable portfolio standard."

Senate response?


The Michigan Senate on Thursday voted to make state government use more green energy but didn't ask the same of residents and businesses because of Republicans' worries that renewable power costs too much.

Legislation approved unanimously would require that 10 percent of electricity in state buildings come from wind, solar or other renewable sources by 2010. The standard would rise to 25 percent by 2025, though the government could avoid mandates if it turns out the cost of renewable energy is more than 5 percent higher than traditional power.

Which really amounts to nothing, although it sounds good.

Environmental groups said the Senate vote is primarily symbolic because it affects much less than 1 percent of Michigan's electricity generation.

Take it where you can get it. At least they did something, which is more than we can say for the House at this point.

Granholm had pushed the Legislature to pass bills in March creating a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS. But the Democratic-led House left for spring break last week without acting, favoring more meetings to try to hash out details.

The longer the House waits, the harder it is going to be to get the Senate to go along, and a golden opportunity is going to pass us by. Rumor has it they were close when they left for break - hopefully it can get done as soon as they get back.

Be a shame to let all those jobs go somewhere else, don't you think?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Just an FYI

In light of some things being said tonight... I read this a while back, just thought I'd toss it out there...

Democratic leaders in Michigan have said DNC rules require them to bar those who voted in the Republican primary from casting ballots in a do-over primary. But DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said Thursday that the party would have considered waiving the rule because of Michigan's unique situation if the state requested it.

OK, carry on.

Senate Republicans shoot down cost-saving health care measures

Posted at Blogging For Michigan - no static at all.

Can't turn your back for two seconds on those Senate Republicans or they will get busy hacking and slashing preventative health care measures that were designed to save the taxpayers money. Cancer prevention? Health care for young adults? Dental care for kids? Meals for seniors? How about preventing STDs? And the big one - creating mental health courts that are designed to provide counseling and outpatient treatment to mentally ill offenders instead of housing them in jail to the tune of $30 grand a year?

Nah. Better to send them all to the emergency rooms or the prison system and pay the big bucks after the fact, right? We wouldn't want to spend a little bit now when we can spend a whole lot later! Go, you fiscal conservatives!

Let's kick the kids off Medicaid. You folks with private insurance can pick up the tab when the cost gets passed on to you.

Republicans blocked Democrats' efforts to continue allowing 19- and 20-year-olds to qualify for Medicaid, saving $14.5 million.

Sen. Deb Cherry, a Burton Democrat, said taking away Medicaid coverage for those young adults is foolish. Some are living on their own after leaving foster care, she said, and others would turn to more costly care in the emergency room if they don't have health insurance.

"I don't think we wish to have those young adults without health insurance," Cherry said. "They need it, we should be providing it."

Let's keep the mentally ill in the prison system. They end up there anyway, repeatedly, even though for the most part they had committed nonviolent offenses.

Consider the scope of the problem. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2006 that, nationwide, 64 percent of jail inmates and 56 percent of state prison inmates had mental illness. More than 75 percent of jail inmates with mental illness, and more than 50 percent of state prisoners with mental illness, had committed nonviolent offenses. More than 75 percent of both jail and prison inmates with mental illness had been incarcerated previously.

Ignore that study from RAND shows that mental health courts can lead to substantial savings for taxpayers.

The findings show that entry into the mental health court program led to an increase in the use of mental treatment services in the first year as well as a decrease in jail time. The decrease in jail expenditures mostly offset the cost of the treatment services. When federal cost-sharing under Medicaid is factored in, there was a complete offset of costs for the state and county. An analysis that followed a subsample of participants for a longer period showed a dramatic decrease in jail costs in the second year of participation. The treatment costs returned to pre-mental health court levels in the second year. The drop in jail costs more than offset the treatment costs, suggesting that the program may help decrease total taxpayer costs over time.

You would think that when we spend more of prisons than we do education in this state, lawmakers would look for ways to save money in that area. DOC costs have tripled since 1980, it currently eats more than 20% of the General Fund, and we spend 30% more per inmate than our neighboring states in the Great Lakes.

Nope, can't afford to save money. Keep 'em locked up where they won't receive the proper treatment. They'll be back anyway.

Might as well let those kids keep getting STDs too. One in four teenage girls already has one, that doesn't strain the health care system at all. And surely it's much cheaper to treat cancer at Stage Four than to catch it early, right?

Democrats and Republicans also differed over whether more money should be spent to increase awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, bring meals to seniors, improve access to dental care for underserved children and prevent cancer and other diseases.

To the emergency rooms with you all!

A little credit for the Senate - they did do a few good things in this budget, although you wouldn't want to be around when they try to ban tobacco at the psych facilities. Just trust me on that one.

Besides paying the health costs of Michigan's 1.5 million Medicaid recipients, the Senate-passed bill would increase reimbursements to pharmacists, pay mental health workers more, ban tobacco in psychiatric facilities and add pregnant patients to managed-care plans.

This goes back to the House, hopefully they will look at the savings to be had by creating mental health courts at least. With proper monitoring and outpatient treatment (and RAND found no danger to society) these folks can get out of the expensive prison system and lead productive and healthier lives. If you want to curb the costs of incarceration, you have to treat the illness that put them there in the first place.

Don't the conservatives want to save money?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One more blow

Kwame Kilpatrick

Sometimes blogging about politics and current events in the state of Michigan has all the charm of being repeatedly hit with a baseball bat. You try to get in a groove, accentuate the postitives, and Bam! something comes along that is so big, so tragic, that it steals all the oxygen out of the room, breaks your heart, and leaves you to pick up the pieces in some vain attempt to put your emotional Humpty back together again.

The endless budget battles last year. The ongoing drama with the Democratic primary this year. Setbacks, stumbling blocks, hurdles of such incredible proportions, there is nothing left after using all your energy to rise to the occassion of the latest "challenge". You find yourself drained, gasping for air, and scrambling to your feet so you can be prepared for the next blow, because after all of this, you just know it's coming.

Such is the case with our newest tragedy, Kwame Kilpatrick.

Living in Grand Rapids, it is difficult to feel the full impact of events "over there". It was easy to ignore the city and its problems because I simply am not there, and don't have many occasions where I need to go there anymore. But being a "Michigan blogger", I now realize how important Detroit is to the fortune of the rest of the state. This is the city we show the nation. The Detroit media, along with the AP, set the conversation and tone of Michigan, and they have been consumed with this for months now, and they will be consumed with this for months to come. Yesterday, Both papers put out editorials calling for the mayor to resign as his mug shot was shown all over the country. Not exactly a "Pure Michigan" moment that we can be proud of.

As a result, the fear is that the city will become more toxic than it already is. Conventions? Campaigns? New business moving in? Can you see any of that happening with the cloud over that city? Even when events do happen, and they will because life does have a tendency to go on, there will always be the mention of the "troubles", the footnote at the end of the story, everything will be announced low-key and with little fanfare so it doesn't draw attention to the fact that the mayor is either a) there or b) not there. Instead of a healthy pride in how we are striving to grow and change, we will hide in shame and sorrow, or even worse, display a defiant anger and attitude towards those who might be rightly hesitant to believe in us.

That is not a face we can sell to the country at a time when we really need to be promoting what Detroit and the rest of the state has to offer. Investors, tourists, new business, that "creative class" of youth we need to woo to settle here - how do we do that now? We need to find a way.

This case will certainly take months, if not years. Perhaps we will grow used to it and find ways to overcome in spite of it. As hard as it is for us "outsiders" to see into Detroit, sometimes I wonder if Detroiters and the rest of the country realize there is a lot more to Michigan than the concerns of that city.

It's a really big chunk of land with a lot going on, and all we can do is hope that this is the last blow we have to take for a while. We can't ignore the problems in Detroit, it would be foolish and insulting to do so, but we can try to find the positives going on there and elsewhere in the state. Believe it or not, they are happening. The victories may be small and unheralded, but they are there, and they point to a better future for us all.

From despair can come great hope, if you let it. It just takes some time.

Also available at BFM - my home away from home.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kilpatrick charged with perjury and more...

Kwame Kilpatrick

Mayor Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty have just been charged with 12 felony counts - perjury, obstruction of justice, misconduct in office...

From the Freep-

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former chief of staff Christine Beatty were charged today with multiple counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, misconduct in office and conspiracy because of their conduct in last year’s police whistle-blower trial, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced.

Some of these counts are against Kilpatrick only, now we have a couple against Beatty only.

Watching it "live, on the newspaper" was interesting; both the Freep and the News players kept crashing on me - and now the Freep site itself is having server problems. Check those sites later for more details.

UPDATE: Both Detroit newspapers now have front-page editorials calling on Kilpatrick to resign. Detroit News here. The Freep calls on officials to remove him from office if he doesn't resign.

Michigan gains population since 2000

Posted at Blogging For Michigan, too.

I was surprised to see this figure, given the endless stories about people leaving the state. We actually have had growth - small compared to the Sun Belt states, but it is there.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — A sour economy and chronically high unemployment haven't kept Michigan's population from inching upward.

U.S. Census Bureau estimates show the state had 10.09 million residents as of mid-2006, up 1.3 percent from 9.94 million in 2000.

It dropped slightly from 2006 to 2007, most of the losses coming from the Detroit area...

The Census Department said Michigan's population declined by .3% from 2006 to 2007 - a decline of over 30,000 people. Most of the decline came from Wayne County, home to Detroit and the state's struggling auto industry.

... but there were gains on the west side of the state, which leads me to say, "Youze kids git off my streets!" Place is starting to remind me of Chicago sometimes.

Kent County enjoyed a .6% percent population increase - 3,713 people.

The numbers don't surprise Don Stypula, Executive Director of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, a regional planning agency.

"There are opportunities here that they can take advantage of, and they can have a real good living, right here in Grand Rapids and I think to some extent the census numbers are reflecting that uptick in opportunity over here," Stypula said Friday.

Corrigan Moving Systems is the company that moved the Justices into their Kentwood home. General Manager Gary Steensma says the West Michigan market, while still seeing many people leave, is healthier than other parts of the state, since, he says, it's economy is more diversified.

"Western Michigan is actually doing better than the rest of Michigan or even New York or Ohio," Steensma said Friday.

The BC Enquirer reports that Kalamazoo and Barry have gained population since 2000 as well.

Diversify that area economy is the lesson to be learned here - Grand Rapids is diving deep into the medical field, and we are almost guaranteed to keep growing at this point. Good thing I know my way around town and can avoid the highways. They're nasty at rush hour.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hey House Republicans. It's 2008.

Talk about overkill. Meekhof is a Republican from HD89. He thinks that the domestic partners of state employees shouldn't get benefits.

"Michigan is struggling through tough economic times these days and we can't afford to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary benefits," state Rep. Arlan Meekhof, R, Olive Township, said in a news release.

The release said the budget amendment failed on a "strict party-line" vote Thursday. One problem. State employees do not get domestic partner benefits and never did, said Megan Brown, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Seems Arlan forgot that it's illegal immigrants that automatically get added to every piece of legislation going through the House this year. Doh!

Are we really going to do this?

I thought it was just a blog thing, but the media narrative of a Democratic Civil War out in the real world is growing stronger by the day.

Drama is good for ratings, so I fully expect them to keep exploiting this divide for all its worth, but I just can't fathom the mentality of actually voting for McCain after everything Bush and the Republicans have done to this country.

One-fifth of proclaimed "backers" in Pennsylvania seem to have no problem with it.

According to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll of Pennsylvania voters, only 53 percent of Clinton backers say they'll vote for Obama should he become the nominee. Nineteen percent say they'll vote for McCain and 13 percent say they won't vote, the poll found.

The poll said that 60 percent of Obama backers said they would go for Clinton should she win the nomination, with 20 percent opting for McCain, and 3 percent saying they wouldn't vote at all.

That's what ABC News found in talking to voters on the street.

"I think I'd have to vote for McCain," Laura Courson, New York woman who supports Clinton told ABC News, when asked what she would do if her candidate were not the Democrats' nominee.

"I'd have a hard time voting for Hillary Clinton in this election ... I might go for a third party candidate," said Kevin Mills, a Los Angeles man who supports Obama.

Please tell me this isn't really happening, please tell me these people will come to their senses in time. But increasingly, I'm starting to wonder if they will.

But if Texas and Ohio are any indication, the negativity will take its toll. Exit polls published by CNN showed that barely more than four in 10 Democrats said they would be satisfied no matter which candidate won the nomination.

That kind of malaise is a stark contrast to the kind of universal enthusiasm seen from Democratic voters through early voting in January and much of last month. Even as Clinton got blown out in South Carolina, for example, more than three-quarters of voters said they would be satisfied if she were the nominee.

Here in Michigan, the GR Press is pointing out the how infighting benefits McCain, and now Nolan Finley is pouring acid in the crack to try to widen the divide as well.

McCain is the perfect candidate to exploit the Democratic discontent. Democrats don't hate or fear him enough to mobilize the party's stragglers to turn out and defeat him.

An election that once looked like a sure thing for Democrats may be lost even before the party gets to its Denver convention in August.

Nolan would like that. Let's not give Nolan the satisfaction. That should be reason enough to come together.

ABC points out the chance for healing as well - and this comes from a former Bush employee.

Sara Taylor, a former political director in the Bush White House, says the only way Democrats can win is for Obama and Clinton to show unity at their convention.

"They could go to the convention. They could team up," she said. "It would be the most-watched Democratic convention, the most-watched convention in history because of the excitement of this race, and then head into the last two months of the campaign with the wind at their back."

In the past, political rivals within a party have been able to paper over any hard feelings from the primary campaign. Most recently, John Kerry and John Edwards did so in the 2004 race, when they eventually ran together on the same ticket.

This has gone deeper than Kerry/Edwards, but I still hope the above scenario turns out to be true, in whatever form the concept of "teaming-up" will eventually take. The future of our country depends on it.

This is cross-posted at BFM, but here is a wizardkitten extra: I really don't have a favorite between these two. No one will probably believe that in the blogosphere. I just don't mention it and let people assume what they will. Already I have seen indications that people think I support Hillary based on my support of Granholm (and now the revote), but, they would be wrong. And I can't join Obama based soley on the herd flocking that way. It's just not there for me emotionally either way with these two. I'm one of the rare ones that would be happy with either.

Just as long as it's not McCain. Please people, get a grip.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday On My Mind

Thunderdome At Night

Busy going through old pictures and other assorted clutter on my hard drive today - here's an open thread to keep you entertained. Maybe we should do these more often.

  • Howard Dean! Clean-up on Aisle 5. Howard Dean to Aisle 5, please. The campaigns will not get together on this, mediation will be required.

  • Erik Prince of Blackwater will regale the Grand Rapids Economic Club with his tips on declaring your employees "contractors" so you don't have to pay federal taxes on them.

  • House Democrats fully fund No Worker Left Behind program. Vote was 59-48. Republicans want proof that the program works. Caraco Pharmaceutical created 600 jobs here because of it. Over 20,000 people have used the service to get training for the vacancies that exist. Heck, even a friend of mine signed up the other day and said they were very, very busy. Why do Republicans hate job training?

  • This is Spring?

  • Demas complains that Andy doesn't get enough love. She must have missed where we posted about him here, and the House Democrats here, here and here. Apparently I'm supposed to hang onto Leon Drolet's every burp, but I don't pant after him like Susan does.

  • Detroit News reports over 3,000 new jobs at 10 companies thanks to MEDC tax breaks, Gongwer reports 6,066 new/retained jobs from 12 companies for the same announcement, MEDC breaks it up into three different releases that don't cover them all, the state never says anything, but the governor mentions 3,000 at the town hall and then 6,066 in her radio address. So, which one do you cite? Welcome to my private hell. Demas is laughing.

  • I thought I had hunted down every cheezy 70's song that I would ever want... and then today, I found this one...

    The quest continues.

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Granholm Town Hall Meeting Video

    We are getting a lot of hits searching for this - so I thought I would post it. It was a good show - questions about Michigan's economy, education, taxes, alternative energy, mass transit - all packed into one hour, which really isn't enough time when you are discussing ideas of this magnitude. One thing about the governor is that she tends to talk about 300 miles an hour trying to get all these ideas in and relate them to an individual's situation - and that can be tough to follow at times, so you have to listen closely.

    I believe that this is the first time they have televised a show like this across the entire state. They did a good job down at WOOD, and I hope to see more in the future.

    And now, a word from Jack

    Been waiting with bemused interest to see what Jack Lessenberry had to say about the impending demise of the idea of a new Michigan Primary. Not that I hang on Jack's every word and take it as gospel, but I like his style of writing and his sense of history on Michigan politics. He's been around. Seems to be a man of integrity. And he can certainly crank out the words in a way that shows he doesn't equivocate his views based on popular opinion or give you the sense that he is in love with his own writing, as some Michigan columnists seem to do.

    First of all, let's paint Jack's frame of mind on the main players. His dislike of Hillary Clinton just leaps off the page at you. When you title a column "Hillary Rodham Nixon", well, you could really stop right there, but Jack takes the knife and seems to relish twisting it as hard as he can.

    One of the best TV reporters in this town, a man with many years experience, told me, "That was truly Nixonian." And that's exactly what it was. Somewhere in the cosmic muck, whatever passed for Richard Nixon's soul had to be quivering in ecstasy. Yes, Tricky Dick — who spent his early career learning and refining the art of character assassination — has a disciple. Someone just as ruthless, unlikable and nasty as he always was.

    Whatever else this campaign has done, it has revealed the real Hillary Clinton. Yes, she is intelligent. But she is also virtually impossible to like, especially if you look at what is really there.

    He is not a fan of Jennifer Granholm. (awww, c'mon Jack - she has good policy) The day he met Obama, he had cynically set himself up for disappointment, based on his experience with the governor.

    That was when Jennifer Granholm was running for governor. I was all excited till I went out to breakfast with her — and found, to my dismay, almost nothing of substance.

    But he loved Barack Obama-

    When the meeting was over, someone called and asked me what I thought. I was mildly surprised by my answer:

    Yes, I said simply. Yes, he just might be all that.

    In person, Barack Obama is even more charismatic than on TV. He is tall, lithe, coordinated. He is thoughtful and funny at the same time. His enormous appeal seems to be built on a combination of intellectual and social intelligence. One of the people present was, I knew, a Hillary Clinton supporter. Obama clearly sensed that, bore in, tried to win her over.

    I asked him a question about the nation's decaying infrastructure; would he, if necessary, support something like a new WPA, the federal program that put the unemployed to work during the Depression? Obama responded with a sophisticated plan for a program that would assist states and communities to do just that, by using a pool of matching fund money.

    His program made sense, but what impressed me more was that he had clearly studied the issue, assimilated the knowledge, and was able to call it forth without seeming like a policy wonk.

    Jack is clearly an Obama supporter. He has no love for the Democratic establishment here in Michigan, and he has no problem saying so. "Corrupt party hacks" is how he put it.

    So your stage is set. Here is what Jack has to say about current events-

    What the Obama forces seem to want is A) either for Michigan not to be seated at all or B) for the delegates to be divided equally without a new vote. Sorry, that would be just plain wrong. As wrong, that is, as Clinton's earlier attempt to suddenly have the meaningless and illegal primary count. I have roundly beaten up on Hillary Clinton and her campaign plenty in this column.

    So now it's time to give the local Obamaites a slap. If they want to win this nomination, and the general election, their candidate needs to be prepared to compete anywhere and everywhere. Barack Obama's candidacy this year has already shattered all the rules and expectations. So now is the time for him to come into Michigan and campaign like a tiger. Senator: Show us why we should vote for you, and for the future. Defy the odds, and get in here. You've been doing what they said you couldn't do since Iowa. Michigan, more than anywhere else in the nation, needs a new vision.

    If you can't take on heavy hitters the likes of Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick and Jennifer Granholm (yes, that's sarcasm) how do you expect to knock off John McCain and the full Darth Vader power of the United Republican Dirty Tricks Machine in the fall?

    Besides the benefit to Obama of introducing himself to Michigan voters now, in the spring (as opposed to playing catchup after the convention), this would benefit the state as well with renewed enthusiasm for the Democrats in general, not to mention jobs (albeit probably temporary), money from advertising and visitors to the state, the national media spotlight in June... we gain much more than we lose.

    All that being said, this isn't going to happen. This is going to be decided by some DNC rules committee, maybe a floor fight at the convention. And for all of those who like to bring up the rules - well, OK, let's play by the rules. As of now, the rules state that we will not be seated unless we hold a new nominating primary or caucus by June 10th. There is no provision for a "50/50" split as it stands. The DNC will probably vote to change those rules to avoid catastrophe - but right now it is an argument that doesn't hold water.

    Denying this vote doesn't punish the party leaders at all. Going to primary Carl Levin? Get Debbie Dingell out of politics somehow? They were the two masterminds originally behind this. Granholm is termed out. Brewer, you get to go through the unions, and good luck with that. If you want to punish Hillary, well, a victory for Obama here would do that quite nicely.

    Your choice, but it looks like the establishment is going to choose for you today.

    So be it.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Granholm Town Hall Meeting on NBC Stations Tonight at 8 PM

    UPDATE: WOOD has a live web stream of the show running now.

    It is my hope that people can look past the primary question and remember that we have other important issues facing us here in Michigan, right here, right now.

    Tonight at 8PM, live from WOOD TV's Grand Rapids studio (and aren't we proud of that!), Governor Granholm will discuss her plans for the economy to an audience that will include a selection of people from across the state, and will be moderated by Devin Scillian from WDIV and Rick Albin from WOOD.

    Titled "Rebuilding Michigan's Motor", my guess is the governor will talk about alternative energy, with a side dish of education. Ask her a question about the primary, she's gonna talk about alternative energy. Compliment her on her shoes, she's gonna talk about alternative energy. And education. We will see how she can segue questions back to the main focus of her agenda - she's pretty good at that.

    These NBC stations will carry the show - WDIV Local 4 in Detroit, WOOD-TV8 in Grand Rapids, WEYI-TV NBC25 in Saginaw, WILX-TV10 in Lansing, WPBN/WTOM TV 7&4 in Traverse City, and WLUC-TV6 in Marquette.

    So, take a break from the brouhaha and think about some other things for a while - I know I'm looking forward to it.

    In the Meantime

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Whitecaps vs. GVSU April 2nd

    Last year was snowed out - hope this year has better luck with the weather.

    The first chance to see the back-to-back Midwest League Champion West Michigan Whitecaps will be during a seven-inning exhibition game against Grand Valley State University on Wednesday, April 2 at 6:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Ballpark. The game is presented by Belle Tire.

    Fans can get their first look at the 2008 Whitecaps free of charge as they play the Lakers for the first time ever in this one-of-a-kind community event. The free tickets are only available at West Michigan MC Sports locations, including both Grand Rapids locations, Grandville, Wyoming, Holland and Muskegon. Gates will open to the fans at 5:00 p.m., and the Whitecaps team will sign autographs for fans following the game. Fans arriving early will enjoy $1 hot dogs and $1 sodas and domestic drinks from 5-6 p.m.

    Hey, free game. Can't beat that.

    Maybe We Can

    But at this point, it's looking like "politics" will win out. It always does, doesn't it? This was never about you, the voter, this was about "politics", and you are just along for the ride. Always remember that.

    We have a plan for a primary.

    The draft legislation included language that would set up a public fund to collect private donations for the election, ban voters who had voted in the Jan. 15 Republican presidential primary and keep both presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on the ballot.

    If this makes it through the legislature, it will be a miracle. It needs 2/3 in both chambers for immediate effect, and if the Republicans don't throw up the roadblocks...

    State Sen. Cameron Brown, Senate Campaign and Election Oversight Committee vice chairman, said he's against a do-over election, even a privately funded one.

    "A primary funded by special interests, wealthy Democratic donors, or corporations would still require a massive time commitment from our state election officials and county, city and township clerks," the Sturgis Republican said in a release.

    ... the Obama supporters will. Tupac Hunter flat-out admitted it's all about stopping Hillary.

    "Clinton folks will do anything to open Michigan back up," said Hunter, who is co-chairman of the Obama campaign in Michigan.

    "She is in a hunt for delegates. Why this sudden pull out all the stops to give Hillary Clinton every opportunity to try to catch up? Guess what? It's not going to happen. This legislator is not going to facilitate it."

    The national campaign is hedging their bets and playing to keep the lead...

    Late Monday, the Obama camp issued a statement saying: "We received a very complex proposal for a Michigan re-vote legislation today and are reviewing it to make sure that any solution for Michigan is fair and practical. We continue to believe a fair seating of the delegation deserves strong consideration."

    ... and that makes sense to Bill Ballenger, which is a sure sign that this is politics as usual.

    "Obama has everything to lose and nothing to gain," said Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics.

    "He is leading in the delegate vote, the popular vote, the number of states won. She (Hillary) has everything to gain and nothing to lose."

    On the flipside, he could come in here, campaign hard (Rasmussen shows them tied at this point), win this state, and carry that momentum to the convention, which would probably help seal the deal for the nomination. Clinton does have something to lose here - it could be everything.

    It would be nice if the voters get a chance to weigh in on that decision, but all signs this morning are pointing to "politics" emerging victorious once again.

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    War protest marches through downtown Grand Rapids

    Up to 300 antiwar protesters marched their way through downtown Grand Rapids yesterday - chants, signs, banners, props, drums, the works - and managed to hit just about every major street in the downtown area. Activate, the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, organized the march.

    Staring at Heartside Park, they made their way up to Division St. (Business 131 - a very busy artery that runs through town), and found that you cannot shut down a major road without the GRPD getting a little upset.

    GRPD Confronts Marchers

    As the marchers wound through downtown, they spilled onto the roadway along Fulton Street, Division Avenue and Monroe Center NW. With no parade permit, the group could not legally use the roadway.

    The group's biggest run-ins with Grand Rapids police came on Division and on Monroe Center. In both cases, police urged the crowd back onto the sidewalk, arresting two people police say intentionally kept to the street.

    I managed to catch them slapping the cuffs on one kid...

    March Down Division - Heartside

    Two cop cars pulled up and blocked the road, trying to force the march up on the sidewalk. Apparently they weren't moving fast enough, or maybe something was said - but all of a sudden they grabbed this kid and bent him over the car...


    Needless to say, this action prompted people to move a little quicker out of the street, after some booing and shouting back and forth. For the rest of the march, 4-5 cop cars shadowed the procession with various pleas to the crowd to stay out of the road, stopping traffic at various intersections so the massive line could proceed. At one point, someone threw a snowball at a cruiser and drew a warning from a bullhorn-

    "Please, do not throw snowballs at the police cars. That's not nice."

    Mumbles of "sorry" came from the crowd.

    That's Grand Rapids in a nutshell. We are basically a polite bunch.

    Here are some more pictures-

    Peace Side Up

    Peace side up. Taken during the gathering at Heartside Park.

    March Up Cherry

    Coffin marches up Cherry St., this is before the Division confrontation.

    Troops Out Now

    Troops out now. From Division St, the group marched to Fulton, through Veterans Park, past GRCC, and towards Michigan St. Anyone who knows GR knows that this is a nice little hike, especially if you have been sitting in front of a computer all winter. My legs are killing me this morning.

    Veterans Park

    A few counter protesters were in Veterans Park, but they were no match for the size of this crowd. They made a feeble attempt to block the marchers, but quickly gave up.

    Fountain Street Church

    Past Fountain Street Church.

    March Down Michigan - GR Press

    Down Michigan St. That is the GR Press building in the background. Someone hung a banner - "Media Lies = Iraq War" - up on the railing.

    DeVos Place - Where is the Rage?

    DeVos Place - Where is the Rage?


    People in town for the Sport Fishing and RV Show were probably a bit confused.

    Marchers Van Andel

    And finally past Van Andel Arena, on the way back to Heartside.

    More pictures of the march are located here.

    Media notices Senate Republican obstruction

    Last year, the Senate Republican battle cry was, "not a priority" as they dragged their feet to a record number of days in session with the fewest number of bills passed. Yes, they had some big problems to face with budget issues, but so did the House, and they managed to find the time to move on other bills. Why not the Senate?

    The House is starting to speak out, and now we have finally identified the Senate's new excuse as to why they can't walk and chew gum at the same time. Remember this next phrase; you will hear it whenever they are questioned on legislation that the House has passed and they won’t take up-

    "The focus needs to be on the urgent matters. And that's the economy and jobs right now," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

    If that is the case, one wonders why they have passed not one, but two, anti-choice abortion measures. Did that have anything to do with the economy? And then there was the time they wanted to blow up the current budget. They would probably claim the latter was an "urgent matter", but cutting up to $850 million in revenue somehow left the rhelm of realistic "focus" on "jobs". Ahem.

    The AP, thanks to the House Democrats increasing the chatter, finally noticed that the Senate seems to be more than a bit obstinate on issues that matter to Michigan citizens. They won't use the word "obstruction", but if the behavior fits...

    Democrats swept into power in the state House after the 2006 election for the first time in a decade with plans to scale back the importation of Canadian trash, make it easier to sue drug companies and ban workplace smoking.

    But with more than half the 2007-08 legislative session already gone, House Democrats are growing increasing frustrated that many of their major proposals remain stalled in the Republican-led Senate.

    Republican leaders say they won't move the bills because they do nothing to help the state's struggling economy. House Democrats, who along with House Republicans are up for re-election in November, are striking back by ramping up their criticism of the Senate GOP.

    Good job, House Democrats. Time to start showing that you have moved on important issues while the Senate comes up with endless catch-phrase excuses to mouth at the media. House Dems have demanded action on the drug industry immunity which was passed last year, and this week they asked for movement on a bill that puts a moratorium on the "pop up" tax for new home buyers, also passed last year. Here's Andy -

    "This plan will get those people back to work and pump more money into our local economy. My colleagues in the House and I are fighting to create jobs now and change Michigan for the better. By dragging its feet, the Republican-led Senate is dragging down Michigan. The time to act is now before the spring sales season kicks in."

    There are questions about this bill reducing the amount of money to local governments - but since when has that stopped the Republicans from handing out a tax cut? Republicans are dismissing these requests as "pre-election publicity stunts" (but anti-choice bills and big business tax cuts somehow aren't), finding yet another excuse as to why they can't spare the time to do the work.

    To their credit, they have managed to move some important legislation.

    Not every issue has led to disagreement. Republicans have been on board with bipartisan economic proposals aimed at boosting the film industry in Michigan and helping homeowners during the ongoing foreclosure crisis. Both parties also worked together to pass legislation that banned illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses while restoring the rights of legal, temporary residents to get behind the wheel.

    They also managed to pass an organ donation bill that should help streamline and remove some of the legal obstacles that have cropped up in that area. So, we have seen some things accomplished.

    And on that end, here is the rest of Marsden's quote-

    "I would argue the cooperation between the House and the Senate this year in moving bills has significantly increased."

    Yes, but that is to be expected, given that we aren't facing the problems that we had last year. House Democrats somehow found the time to do these things during three major crises - the '07 budget shortfall, the replacement of the SBT, and the battle over the '08 budget, which led to shutdown and subsequent clean-up time. Why is Marsden expecting applause because they are actually doing (some of) their job this year?

    Big issues still remain, and the longer we wait on this, the harder it will be to get them done as we move towards the elections.

    Besides the drug immunity and property tax bills, smoking bans, landfill fees and legislation allowing scholarship programs modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise have gotten an enthusiastic reception in the House, only to languish in the Senate.

    Besides these issues, don't forget the most critical of all - the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and the PA 141 revision. If Republicans really are that concerned about jobs and the economy in Michigan, those energy bills need to be addressed soon. Bits and pieces have come out that point to them actually working on getting that done - keep your fingers crossed that they regard it as an "urgent matter".

    If we are lucky, they will get it done after their next two-week vacation.

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Freep : "Legislation to authorize the primary has already been written"

    June 3rd is the target date, and it looks like the future of the do-over primary will rest in the hands of your Michigan Legislature.

    It looks like it will be up to the state Legislature whether it wants to have a do-over primary this year or not.

    Negotiators debating the question settled today on a state-run primary, most likely to be held June 3. It would be paid for with private funds -- and Govs. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Jon Corzine of New Jersey have offered to raise money for it.

    Both are supporters of Hillary Clinton, who is said to be onboard with the idea of the full primary. Less certain, however, is whether the Democatic frontrunner, Barack Obama, will agree to the plan.

    Question now is : Will the Michigan Legislature want to pull their usual partisan bullshit on a national stage? Here is Mike Bishop in yesterday's Gongwer-

    Mr. Bishop also said Republicans may have other considerations to throw into the mix, such as whether to put on the ballot some of the issues leaders had hoped to get on the January ballot like a revision in term limits and legislative ethics proposals regarding ex-legislator becoming lobbyists and docking pay for unexcused absences.

    Uh oh. Won't it be fun to show the whole country how dysfunctional these guys can be? Republicans apparently are going to demand their pound of flesh for their "cooperation".

    Supposedly this needs to be passed by the end of next week. After all, they do have vacation coming up, and we wouldn't want a little thing like democracy to interfere with that.

    Don't blow this people.

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Would Mike Bishop obstruct a primary?

    Our obstructionist Republican Senate would be in the national spotlight if this were to happen.

    Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Democrats have not approached GOP leadership about a redo primary. He said Bishop may not be inclined to go along if such a request is made.

    "This is a democracy. We already had a primary. Some Democrats chose not to take part," Marsden said.

    Now imagine that being said on CNN, the Today Show, 60 Minutes, printed in the New York Times, the Washington Post... on and on. And of course, some backstory would be needed; we could drag out the budget battle from last year, show how this has been a pattern with the Senate Republicans... Mike Bishop could be the national face of Republican obstructionism, and draw the ire of Democrats all over the country, rallying us to come together...

    I don't think the Michigan Legislature wants that kind of attention. Not after last year.

    If the Democrats decide to ask the state to run the primary, it wouldn't be paid for with public funds. The money would come from private Democratic donations, possibly through the state Democratic Party, which then would give the money to the state. But lawmakers would need to appropriate the money.

    Many hurdles remain. The Detroit News is already egging on Republicans to mess with a primary.

    Holding a state-run primary with the $10 million to $12 million cost paid for by private donors is also not as easy as it sounds. There would be no way to stop Republicans who already voted in that party's January primary from making mischief in the Democratic contest. (Well, OK, maybe that appeals to us a little.

    I don't think that would be as big a problem as we think - a small, vocal minority would be out there encouraging it of course, but in reality, most people have busy lives and wouldn't bother unless they are extremely motivated. And who would they throw it to? If they picked Obama, the national momentum continues, and that hurts McCain. If they picked Clinton - and this is delicious when you think about it - they might help her get the nomination. "Michigan Republicans put Hillary Clinton in the White House." Oh, the irony...

    I believe that Democratic voters would overwhelm any attempts at Republican mischief - and they would probably split their votes between the two anyway, so it would be a wash. IMO. I could be wrong.

    Decisions on this might come later today. Stay tuned.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Why Mike Cox is an idiot

    Thought I would expound on this one a little bit since the Grand Rapids Press just threw me an article that explains so well why Mike Cox is an idiot.

    Here's Mike yesterday.

    He also argued that the RPS should not be sold as an economic development tool. Though a number of renewable energy companies have argued to legislative committees that they are looking to invest in states with an RPS, Mr. Cox questioned why the 24 states that have already implemented an RPS have not seen more investment.

    "We're loading it up with Christmas lights to say it's something other than it is," he said. "I hope they come here but we shouldn't tell the public all these companies are going to come here because we do an RPS."

    First of all, let's start with the dude from GE who told our Senate that "more than $9 billion was invested last year in wind-energy facilities in the United States. Of that total, 96% went to states with renewable standards". Maybe that total wasn't big enough for Mike. Maybe Mike just likes to ignore ALL the experts so he can continue on with his extreme right-wing-anything-to-defy-the-governor-and-the-Democrats appearance so the Michigan Republican Party leadership will pat him on the head like the good dog that he is. Who knows. It's really hard to understand how the guy can be so incredibly oblivious to the overwhelming evidence out there.

    Today's paper gave yet another example of industry experts begging and pleading with manufacturers to make this stuff, right now!, because they have so many back orders. First, the need for the RPS...

    From solar film to wind turbines, Michigan-based makers of renewable energy products came to Grand Valley State University's first summit for the budding industry. One clear message was their growing need for suppliers who could turn out a variety of parts similar to things they already make.

    The other call was unanimous, for approval of a statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, now being debated in Lansing. It would set a 2015 deadline for the state to get 10 percent of its power from renewable or alternative sources.

    If Michigan fails to adopt the standard, the alternative energy industry will go to greener states, warned participants of GVSU's Alternative and Renewable Energy Summit, a half-day event on the university's downtown Pew Campus.

    Uncertainty chills the enthusiasm for bringing production to Michigan, Fred Keller, president of Cascade Engineering, told the crowd. Alternative energy production is forecast to grow at 30 percent a year, but if federal tax incentives lapse or a long-range Michigan standard doesn't make it, the rapidly growing sector could go elsewhere.

    Turbines are the big seller right now.

    One big growth area is in utility-strength wind turbines, but there's a problem: demand is outstripping supply.

    "The industry is experiencing a shortfall in production capacity," Croce said. "Windmill manufacturers cannot find parts. Wind turbines are like automobiles, but the scale is a lot bigger."

    NextEnergy connects major manufacturers in the wind, solar and other eco-sectors with potential suppliers.

    "There are 8,000 components that go into a wind turbine," NextEnergy's Dan Radomski said. "As a manufacturer, you think to yourself, 'Where do I start?'"

    We have already shown that we will lose manufacturing jobs to other states if we don't hurry and get this done. That must be OK with Mike. It's not OK with the House Democrats though - they told Mike he is full of it.

    "You could drive a bus through the holes and inaccuracies that are in his press release," said House Energy and Technology Chairman Frank Accavitti Jr., D-Eastpointe, whose committee is working on bipartisan energy legislation. "Mr. Cox just doesn't understand that the cost of doing nothing is far greater."

    Accavitti and others cited a 2007 report from then-Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman J. Peter Lark saying a comprehensive energy plan — with renewable requirements, energy-saving measures and changes to the 2000 law that restructured the electricity market — would save customers $4 billion over 20 years. Michigan's manufacturers are positioned to create jobs by building wind turbine components and transporting them to in-state wind farms, they said.

    Cox was complaining about the supposed huge price increases this might bring. Studies don't support that assertion, but even if they did, House Democrats are already working on a cap. This is where an Andy Dillon comes in handy - he is good with this sort of stuff.

    The House is considering capping residents' extra costs for green power at no more than $3 a month over 20 years. Cox said that's 4.6 percent of residents' average bill, while a majority of states with RPS cost caps limit rate increases to less than that.

    $3 bucks a month for thousands of jobs and millions in investment. Sounds good to me. And according to the AP's "PA 141 For Dummies" guide - the price is going to go up no matter what we do. Might as well go with the high-growth industry that has a chance of eventually lowering our energy costs, rather than rely on out-of-state power suppliers and their volatile fossil fuel prices.

    Or, we can actually become a fossil like Mike, keeping our heads in the sand while the rest of the world passes us by.

    Obama and Clinton - both wrong

    Boooooo on both of you.

    Obama's campaign (or at least his Michigan surrogates) doesn't want to have a mail-in vote, but they will take half the delegates, thankyouverymuch. Was that part of the DNC "rules"?

    State Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, said a mail-in caucus "is clearly the wrong path.

    "We don't like it one bit," Hunter said. "It disenfranchises people who need to participate and there are many questions with regard to security."

    Hunter said the Obama campaign will accept nothing but a 50-50 split of Michigan delegates between Clinton and Obama, who removed his name from the January ballot here in protest of the early date.

    So, we will just disenfranchise everybody instead. Sounds like a plan. Funny thing is, they might even win the state and pick up more than the 50% they think is "fair".

    And turning to Hillary, who has flipped on this issue-

    "If you are a voter from Florida or Michigan, you know that we should count your vote. The nearly two and a half million Americans in those two states who participated in the primary elections are in danger of being excluded from our democratic process and I think that’s wrong. The results of those primaries were fair and they should be honored. Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about what we should do to ensure that the voters in Florida and Michigan are counted.

    "In my view there are two options: Honor the results or hold new primary elections".

    The results might have been "fair" as far as counting goes, but there were too many people who didn't bother to vote because they were told their vote wouldn't count. My Mom was one of those people. There were also people that decided to vote in the Republican primary because they didn't want to vote "uncommitted". I have another friend who did that. All anecdotal evidence, of course, but just an example of how the first time around wasn't what you would call a true test of the Michigan electorate. There is also the stat that points to a depressed Democratic turnout in both Michigan and Florida, as compared to the rest of the country.

    I guess we get ready for a convention fight, eh? If the Obama campaign won't go for a mail-in (would they go for a firehouse?), and Clinton won't go for a split - this is what happens-

    If all parties can't agree on the mail-in option, then Levin says the issue will go to the credentials committee and, if still not settled, to the Democratic convention floor in August.

    So it's official, you all suck.

    That being said, I still hope that something can be worked out so Michigan's voice can be heard.

    Porcello assigned to Single-A Lakeland

    Bummer. But I had a feeling...

    LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers decided today that Rick Porcello will begin his minor league career at Single-A Lakeland.

    Porcello, the 19-year-old right-hander who is a consensus pick as the Tigers' No. 1 prospect, was optioned to his minor league assignment along with several other players.

    McCay McBride, a left-hander, will report to Triple-A Toledo along with right-hand reliever Armando Galarraga.

    Ex-Michigan State right-hander Jeff Gerbe will report to Double-A Erie. Also assigned to Erie are catchers Joe Bowen and Dusty Ryan.

    Assigned to minor league camp (they will await formal assignment) are catcher James Skelton; outfielders Matt Joyce, Clete Thomas and Wilkin Ramirez; and infielder Danny Worth.

    Meanwhile, the Whitecaps received their 2007 championship rings yesterday. Back to back to back? It's a nice thought...

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Ford is Saved!

    Go buy stock. Right now. Sales are bound to shoot through the roof now that the American Family Association has dropped their boycott of Ford.

    The conservative American Family Association said Tuesday it's ending a two-year boycott of Ford Motor Co., saying the company has met most of its demands, which included ending donations to groups that support same-sex marriage.

    Well, turns out that the AFA's "demands" really didn't have anything to do with it - Ford just can't afford to spend money like it used to.

    Ford said in a statement that its principles haven't changed, but that it has reduced overall advertising and charitable spending in recent years because of losses in North America. Ford lost $2.7 billion in 2007.

    And it sounds like Ford didn't meet any of their "demands" at all. They still are targeting those gay folk with advertising for their product and letting them drive those Fords in the parades. They even treat their gay employees with dignity and respect, something that I'm sure the AFA would disapprove of.

    The AFA wanted Ford to stop making corporate donations to gay organizations and stop donating cash and vehicles to gay pride parades. It also wanted Ford to cease all advertising on gay Web sites and in gay-themed magazines and television shows, with the exception of $100,000 to be used by its Volvo brand.

    Ford hasn't met all those demands. The automaker was among the sponsors of a gay pride parade in Cleveland last year, and a sales executive for The Advocate and Out, two gay magazines, said Volvo was their heaviest automotive advertiser in 2007. Scion, Jeep, Volkswagen, Saab, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Subaru also advertise in the magazines.

    Volvo also is a corporate sponsor of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, according to the HRC's Web site. The HRC said Ford got its highest rating for gay-friendly policies in 2008, along with Chrysler LLC, General Motors Corp. and the U.S. divisions of Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG.

    Someone needs to check and see if Don Wildmon has a shiny new Ford Escape sitting in his driveway.

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Green Stuff For Your Green Car

    If you buy one of those nifty alternative fuel cars, well, you want to keep supporting the effort with "green" car products, right? Of course you do, you tree-hugging liberal you.

    Here is an example of the spin-off jobs that come with the "green" craze that is sweeping the nation - and the best news is, they chose to open shop in Detroit. From Crain's-

    Green Earth Technologies, a Stamford, Conn.-based maker of consumer products safe for the environment, has opened a manufacturing plant in Detroit to bottle and package automotive appearance and performance products in the emerging $20 billion "green" auto supply market.

    The products — based on patent pending nanotechnology that allows manufacturers to reduce the size of materials so they are more easily biodegradable — include nontoxic car wash and smokeless motor oils, said Jeff Marshall, president and CEO of Green Earth.

    They opened the packaging plant at Kwik Paint Products and formed GET Manufacturing, naming Kwik's president, Ron Lipson, the president of GET as well. And they are hiring.

    "We are hiring 50 for GET, and by the end of the year we will have about 100 employees," Lipson said. The plant will use an automated bottling and packaging line with a capacity of 240 units per minute. This could amount to $1 million in sales per day, Green Earth said.

    While the company has other competitors in the biodegradable "appearance" products such as car washes and tire cleaners, so far they are the only ones who will manufacture, package and sell "green" oil products.

    Earlier this month, Green Earth signed manufacturing contracts with Inventek Colloidal Cleaners in Philadelphia and Bio-Tec Fuel and Chemical L.L.C. in Guymon, Okla.

    Inventek, which uses Green Earth's nanotechnology along with its proprietary colloidal chemistry process, will manufacture the active ingredients in the automotive appearance products.

    Bio-Tec Fuel, which uses recycled beef tallow and Green Earth's nanotechnology process, will manufacture the automotive oil products.

    Both companies will ship those materials to Detroit for bottling and packaging. GET then will package the products where they will be shipped by truck to contracted distributors.

    So, maybe we will see the day when car exhaust smells like french fries. Something to look forward to. For now, we will take the jobs that this field can and will create.