Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: Michigan Year and Decade in Review

What a year. What a decade. Usually I'm not big on these end-of-the-whatever top ten lists, but sometimes, especially after hard times, it is good to take a look back at the history that unfolded before our eyes. Mourn the losses, celebrate the victories, take stock of the lessons learned... and then let it all go as we move into the future. Time tends to blur it all together in the long run anyway.

For example: Most of these year-end stories focus on our economy of course, the Crash of '08 reverberating through the months of '09. It's fresh in our mind at this point because we are still living it. But consider this - from the "Youze Kids Git Off My Lawn" Department comes an interesting statistic of comparison on the Michigan unemployment rate. Do you remember the 80's? I do. It was rough. We hit a high of 16.9 in Nov. of '82, my senior year in high school, and it took until Oct. of '85 to drop back below double digits. If I've plugged the numbers into my Excel chart correctly (and yes, according to the BLS the historical stats have been adjusted for the change in 1994), for the decade of the 80's, we had an average rate of 10.8% unemployment. For the 00's? Even if we jump back up to 15.0 in December, it's 7.3% for the decade. Taken on an average, that's a pretty big difference. So, which decade was worse? Hard to tell, because too many other factors blend into the equation. This is just one area, one set of numbers by which we measure our quality of life. Factor in cost of living changes, for example, and the total picture takes on a different depth of overall hardship.

BLS stats only go back to 1976, which is too bad because I wonder about the stats on the early 70's, which historians will point to as the time when manufacturing, and particularly auto manufacturing (with the oil embargo), started its slide in this country. Looking back at our entire history from that 70's mid-decade point, you can begin to see that the low unemployment rate we had at the end of the 90's was the anomaly, not the rule. And that could very well be why we see this particular point in time as so incredibly hard.

Only with time can you see the patterns that emerge, and it becomes harder to single out a specific year, or even a specific decade, as being "the" point where things started to change. They are simply numbers on the calendar, a rate of measurement, a place to hold the statistics. It's the events that take place that shape our history and change our ultimate destination, and those events tend to take place on a national, and increasingly global, scale. We like to think that we are the masters of our universe here in Michigan, but in reality we are not. We are pulled with the flow of all of humanity.

We are the sum of our parts though. Detroit may drag us along based on the sheer weight of their population, but there is so much more to Michigan than just our biggest city and industry. Lansing legislative drama may command a political junkie's attention, but more and more I find it really helps to look outside of those places to get a view of the mood of the entire state. People have asked me how I do what I do, and it's hard to explain, really, because I don't know. It just happens. It's almost a subconscious thing. It comes from extensive reading of all the news - not just the major players. They may think they are the center of focus in the state, and in many ways they are, but when you have say, Andy Dillon named as Gongwer's "Newsmaker of the Year" for '09 and yet 56% of "active registered voters" still don't recognize his name, it gives you a little perspective on other people's perspective of the whole.

I've started to train myself to look deeper, get outside the bubble that is Lansing (and Detroit), and reflect on the bigger picture. It's very time consuming, but I can't seem to stop, even when I'm trying to take a break. This past week has featured many local perspectives on the past year and the past decade, and it's interesting to see what is important to folks at the ground level where they live. Below, in no particular order and certainly not all-inclusive, is a round-up from the state and local Michigan media of the stories that made 2009 what it was...

Gongwer has been reviewing the decade, the overall economic story appears at Mi-Tech News, keep watching that page for the others. A must read to get a basic understanding of what happened to this state in the past ten years. Key words? "The slaughter of Michigan's once-prized manufacturing sector". From that, came everything else. Take a look.

Gongwer also takes a look at the Top Ten Most Significant Laws" passed in this decade. Some good, some not so good, the jury is still out on others.

Detroit's Top Ten Stories from the Freep.

The Detroit News presents an entire page of the Top Stories of 2009, featuring articles, photos and videos. Special shout-out to their photojournalists, who present 86 poignant pictures of the year.

The Detroit Metro Times shares its Top Ten Most Read stories of the year.

Crain's Detroit Business looks forward at Ten Things to Watch in 2010.

Muskegon's Top Ten by Dave Alexander at the Chronicle.

Battle Creek's Top Ten from the Enquirer.

The Traverse City Record Eagle went ahead and did the entire decade. Nothing of note happened in 2002.

Dearborn's Top Ten - Third Quarter - from the Press & Guide.

The Huron Daily Tribune is also breaking up the year's Top Ten, the series starts here.

Jackson's Top Ten from the Cit-Pat.

The Lansing State Journal's Year in Review gives us more than ten, and they cover a lot of categories.

The Macomb Daily has a list of "the best things said in 2009" by local officials.

The Midland Daily covers... everything that happened this year, apparently. Just start reading.

Holland's Top Ten from the Sentinel.

The Saginaw News broke up the Top Ten into three segments - Pt. 3 contains the links to the first two.

The Royal Oak Daily Tribune was a real bummer, except for that part about Prohibition finally being repealed.

The Kalamazoo Gazette has an "upper down" feature by month on the local economy, and they also have the Top Ten stories for the area.

Mt. Pleasant's Top Ten from the Morning Sun.

The Livingston Daily is doing their Top Ten as a story a day, when I visited they were on No. 4 - the Swine Flu scare. No hyperlinks to the others.

The Grand Rapids Press had an extensive print "Decade in Review", featuring local and national news, but they did not put it online. Troy Reimink does his best to present the feature by taking polls and linking to the .pdfs of the actual printed page(s).

The Ludington Daily News wants you to pick the Top Ten stories for that area. Get to it.

The Tecumseh Herald has an extensive list of local news of the year. Novi did the same. The Alpena News puts a local economic spin on their year in review. Canton opted to take a positive look at events.

The Adrian Daily Telegram has the AP's Top Ten national and international stories, and what's odd about that is no one else seemed to carry it.

That's about it as of the morning of Dec. 31st. More my pop up today in various places, take a look at your hometown news and see what's up.