Dec 30, 2006

House Democrats to bring work ethic and bipartisanship back to the House

Constructive changes are coming to the Michigan House of Representatives as the Democrats get set to take over, and in a real, solid commitment to addressing the structural problems facing our state the House will begin a four day work week when it convenes in January.

New Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford, plans to hold House sessions from Monday to Thursday instead of the normal Tuesday to Thursday. With the looming budget crisis and the need to fix the mess left by the Republicans with the irresponsible early repel of the Singe Business Tax the extra session days will be needed. The Republican majority killed the tax this summer in an election ploy with no replacement in sight, and they refused the governor’s request to address the replacement in the lame duck session.

The Monday start will bring house members to Lansing earlier, and the extra time will allow committees more time to meet. The bulk of the work on complex bills is done in committee, and the replacement of the SBT is just such a complex bill. Citizens will also be happy to see lawmakers earning the almost 40 percent pay raise they gave themselves a few years ago.

The Democrats are also going to truly change the tone in Lansing for the better after the Republican majority completely shut out the other side from the Democratic process. It go so bad that the Republicans and Majority Floor leader Chris Ward refused to even provide the basic courtesy of supplying a daily schedule of bills to be taken up on the floor on session days to the other side.

New Majority Floor Leader Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit, said he will allow actual floor debate, and he is committed to having open debate and a deliberative and democratic process where members are recognized on the House floor and in the committees. More bills coming out of the House will have members of both parties co-sponsoring them, and there will be more bipartisan coalitions formed.

In a show of that bipartisan spirit, the Speaker has given both sides of the aisle the same allotment of money to each member to maintain their offices and provide office staff instead of the past practice of the majority party getting a larger allotment of money to operate their constituent services.

The Republican controlled Senate, that killed many bills passed in the House because it did not take them up, has not said if it plans to follow suit and increase work hours.

Governor signs anti-sunshine bill into law

Discouragingly, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed into law Senate Bill 647 that hinders oversight and accountability of police officers in the state.

It was just one of the many bills she signed Friday, and I, and every news agency, was hoping she would see the harm that would come with signing this foul shield law and veto it. The bill shields police statements made in internal investigations from ever being made public. This law will keep the public from knowing what officers being investigated have said and could possibly be used to cover up police wrongdoing, and it will be just another loophole the government can hide behind to deny the public information.

With the passage of this law, a cashier at Wal-Mart is more accountable than a government agent who has the power to legal kill you and take your freedom away.

The Lansing State Journal said it best when it said “Americans have the constitutional right against self-incrimination. But it doesn't apply to their jobs. If an employer suspects that there is theft in the company, it has the right to summon its workers and investigate. Employees refusing to cooperate can be dismissed. They have no special right to refuse questions about wrongdoing. Why are police officers different?”

Good question. Lets just hope there is never any wrongdoing by any police officer or agency in Michigan, or other government agencies don’t decide they need a similar law to shield them from any possible embarrassing activity from ever reaching the public.

Ward in violation of campaign finance laws

Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, is in violation of campaign finance laws, according to an investigative report by the subscription only Gongwer News Service.

Gongwer reviewed the campaign finance reports for the 148 legislators and found that 17 had not responded to department requests to amend their filings based on incorrect or missing information. Discrepancies were found on Ward’s 2006 pre-general report.

The report found 17 lawmakers in the same boat as Ward, and only seven, including Ward, were Republicans. The Secretary of State’s office is working with more than a dozen campaign committees for incoming lawmakers in order to bring their reporting into full compliance, and the report said several lawmakers are in talks with officials as to what needs to be done to bring their committee into full compliance.

However, based on the recent unprecedented and selective prosecution of former Democratic Representative LaMar Lemmons III by the Republican Secretary of State, Democrats on the list have a lot to worry about.

The Livingston County Republican Party is still in violation of Michigan Campaign Finance Law by failing to turn in its required Pre-General Election Campaign Finance Report before the Oct. 27 deadline. To date, it has not filed the report at all.

Dec 29, 2006

Fluff YIR story continues to push false assumption on dual roundabouts

The dual roundabouts on Lee Road in Livingston County’s Green Oak Township at the new, $100 million Green Oak Village Place mall is the No.2 story of 2006, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. This is the time of year when newspapers recap the past year with year in review stories. Reporters and editors love these because they provide copy when news is slow, sources and reporters take time off for the holidays and they are easy to write.

My problem with this particular story is it again skimmed over the bigger story on how the roundabouts were financed, and the newspaper continues to advance the false assumption that there would have been a better interchange if an amendment to the 1975 Downtown Development Authority act introduced by Chris Ward in the state House had been allowed to stand. It’s simply not true, and it’s disappointing that a talented and professional reporter continues to let that false assumption stand. The fact is if the law passed for just one person had been allowed to stand you and I would have paid for the road improvements instead of the developer who is profiting from the mall. The exact same interchange would be there, and the only difference would have been the taxpayers would have paid for it instead of Quadrants.

Officials from Quadrants had hoped to get approval to use tax money through a downtown development authority to help pay for traffic improvements for the mall.
The issue came up again in 2006 during a campaign for state House, when incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Ward of Brighton Township defended his bill that would have made the DDA easier. The bill was approved and then deleted once it became law by another bill authored by Ward.
Ward's Democratic opponent, Mike McGonegal, tried to use that episode to his advantage. Ward defended the original bill, saying a more complete intersection could have been built with the DDA money.
Regardless of that debate, arguments continue to rage as to whether, in the words of one letter to the editor in the Daily Press & Argus, the roundabouts are "idiotic," "goofy" and a "monstrosity."

Ward defended the bill by basically lying. If he had not been caught trying to sneak an amendment by that that would benefit the very thing the original DDA act was designed to help failing downtowns compete against - huge suburban shopping malls with plenty of free parking and uniform store hours – taxpayers would have been stuck with a huge bill.
Luckily, the Livingston County Board of Commissioners rejected establishing the DDA, and one of the major reasons was because the developer did not and would not have to provide any money toward the $9 million project cost. The county was already struggling to replace $3.6 million in lost state revenue sharing payments. A 20-year bond would have been sold to finance the project and taxpayers would also have had to pay an additional $200,000 a year in interest for the next 20 years. This is confirmed by veteran county Commissioner Jack LaBelle, who has been a commissioner for more than 30 years.

Another respect elected official, former Brighton Mayor and current Councilwoman Kate Lawrence, took the time earlier this month to write the paper to say the legislation “was bad policy” and it “could have caused severe negative consequences for the downtowns of all Michigan cities.”

Despite all those facts by respect elected officials the newspaper refuses to change its position on the financing on the roundabouts.

Dec 28, 2006

Iraq conflict makes all politics local

Army Spc. Wilson Algrim, 21, of Howell became the second Livingston County solider to die in Iraq in the space of just one week when he was killed in action on Dec. 23. The news of Algrim’s death comes just the day before funeral services are to be held for Spc. Andrew P. Daul, 21, of Brighton, who died Dec. 19 after an IED exploded near his tank.
Algrim was one of three Michigan soldiers who were killed when an IED exploded near their vehicle during combat operations in Iraq, according to the DoD.

I normally don’t comment all that much on national events, preferring to focus more on local and state politics where I am personally involved. However, the Iraq fiasco has hit very close to home and continues to do so.

Algrim becomes the ninth combat death in Iraq with Livingston County ties since hostilities began more than three years ago, and he becomes the 122nd death with Michigan ties.

That, obviously, seems like a steep price for this county. In the entire 16 years shots were fired in anger in the Vietnam conflict only seven servicemen with Livingston County ties died in that conflict. Combat casualties began in 1959 when two U.S. military advisors were killed in an ambush and concluded with two servicemen who were killed in 1975 when their helicopter crashed during the evacuation of Saigon.

I have no idea why that number is so high, but if those numbers hold and the conflict goes on as long, we can expect another 39 Livingston County kids to make the ultimate sacrifice. Obviously, the population in Livingston County has increased significantly since 1975, but there has to be more reasons why the numbers are so high.

The Iraq fiasco has touched my life far more than any other American conflict. I talked to the mother of the first Livingston County casualty, Pfc. Jason Meyer, just a day after he was killed in April of 2003. It was a heart-wrenching experience.

It personally touched me again in August of 2005 when I received the news that the son of a Navy buddy was killed in Iraq. This old friend I still keep in touch with was originally from Michigan, but he chose to stay in Jacksonville, Fl. following his retirement from the Navy, so the last time I had seen the son, Tim, he was perhaps 10-yeas-old. I will always remember him from the days we babysat for him and he played with my children.

I was against this war before it started because we did not have all the facts, and now that we do have the facts, I am even against it more. The price is far too high for the benefits, if any.

The Livingston County Honor Roll

Pfc. Jason Meyer, 23, 4/17/2003
Staff Sgt. Paul J. Johnson, 29, 10/20/2003
Staff Sgt. Thomas Christensen, 42, 12/25/2003
Lance Cpl. Michael W. Hanks, 22, 11/17/2004
Lance Cpl. Andrew Kilpela, 22, 6/10/2005
Marine Maj. Gerald M. Bloomfield, 38, 11/2/2005.
Staff Sgt. Gregory McCoy, 26, 11/9/2006
Army Spc. Andrew P. Daul, 21, 12/19/2006
Army Spc. Wilson Algrim, 21, 12/23/2006

Pfc. Maurice J. Biehn, 20, 10/9/1967
Army Spc. William F. Diggs, 22, 9/15/1969
Pfc. John M. Donohue, 18, 9/16/1968
Sgt. William M. Light, 24, 4/5/1969
Pfc. James M. Loso, 23, 6/10/1967
Army Spc. Brent B. Nauss, 21, 9/2/1969
Staff Sgt. Robert V. Simons, 32, 8/15/1968

Dec 27, 2006

Help WJR become the Great Voice of the entire Great Lake State again

As I was driving in my car this morning trying to listen to the Stephanie Miller show on 1290 AM out of Ann Arbor, it quickly became obvious it was going to be one of those days when the atmospheric conditions would not allow me to actually understand what was actually being said. That, of course, got going on one of my biggest pet peeves: why is WJR such a rightwing radio station in a sea of blue?

Didn’t they get the results of the last election, or the results of the past four presidential elections? This is a state that's solidly in the Democratic ledger, but the programming is so far to the right its ridiculous.

Just recently they added another conservative talk show host - some guy named Mark Lewis - to go along with their all-conservative line-up of rush windbag, sean hanity, “Dr” laura. matt drudge and frank beckman. Where is the balance? Detroit is one of the most liberal cities in America, yet there is not one non-conservative show, with the exception of Mitch Albom, and that’s primarily a sports and entertainment show. Michigan has chosen the Democratic presidential candidate for the past four elections, yet there is no progressive voice on the most powerful radio station in the state. Why? Liberals and progressives are the majority in this state, especially southeast Michigan, so why are they catering to the minority? There are some excellent liberal and progressive hosts out there, such as Al Franken, Ed Schultz, Thomm Hartmann, Stephanie Miller or anyone from Air America.

I contacted WJR recently about the lack of balance, and I was told Mitch Albom was the balance. Albom is a journalist; first, then he’s primarily a sports journalist. When Sean Hannity interviews the new Lions coach then I will buy into that. If WJR is not interested in making money, then maybe hearing from all of us progressives in southeast Michigan will help change their minds.

I am urging everyone to contact WJR by any means possible and ask them for just a little balance. Ask them to live up to the title of the “Great Voice of the Great Lakes” instead of the conservative voice of the minority.

You can call them at (313) 875-4440 or toll free at (800) 859-0957; email them via their web site at or even snail mail at
News/Talk 760 WJR
3011 West Grand Blvd.
Suite 800
Detroit, MI 48202
General Information: (313) 875-4440

Dec 26, 2006

Intolerance reigns in Livingston County

We have another case of so-called community leaders overreacting and practicing censorship.

For the last two months or so there has been a flap over Howell High School banning – or pulling - a book from its advanced 10th grade English class called “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them" because of the book’s alleged profanity and references to drugs and sex acts. The district’s administration basically left the English teacher using the book out to dry by saying she never had approval to use the book in class.

For those of you who may have been watching TV recently, you may have seen the trailer for a film called “Freedom Writers” starring Hilary Swank that is based on this book. According to the plot line, “A young teacher (Swank) inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school. “ We do not want our young people learning tolerance, especially in conservative Livingston County.

It turns out that the book was used last year in class, and the book was approved by the English Department, according to an excellent article in the Daily Press & Argus by a good friend of mine and a future teacher.

A joint statement, signed by 17 English teachers at Howell High School, said the book was approved as a supplemental part of the curriculum by the Howell High School English department last year.
Ms. Capy is teaching the book because she was assigned to teach both of the two sections of accelerated 10th-grade English this year," the statement said. "It needs to be made clear that she has no responsibility whatsoever in the approval of the book other than being a voting member of the English department. The criticism of her by a few members of the community is completely unjustified."

Some of that unjustified criticism ”by a few members of the community” came in a letter to the editor in the newspaper today by Vicki Fyke, where she says, “It will be interesting to see if our administrators or our school board have the courage to enforce their policies and reprimand this irresponsible teacher for her total neglect in following the proper procedures and for not being the least bit sorry once she was scolded.” Maybe you should check your facts before you throe out unjustified accusations, Ms. Fyke.

The interesting thing about this letter is Ms. Fyke is the advisor for the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans. What a great job for an intolerant person, and she can pass that on to our future leaders. Apparently, she thinks only students with perfect records are worth educating. I suggest you read the book and go see the movie. Oh yea, I forgot, Liberal Hollywood is not going to stop you from being intolerant.

Dec 24, 2006

Newspaper has great things planned for Rogers

To show you the kind of conservative media bias we have to overcome here in Livingston County to unseat Mike Rogers, take a gander at a Sunday opinion column by Buddy Moorehouse, the metro editor of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

Now, Moorehouse has been with the newspaper since the early 1980’s, except for a brief period he left to run for political office in 2002. He is a part-time comedian, magician and apparently a politician. As such, his columns are generally funny and entertaining. This commentary is not a knock at Moorehouse, but it’s simply pointing out a fact.

In 2002 he made a run at the state House for an open seat that was just created because of redistricting. He was one of about six conservative Republicans making a bid for the 47th District seat, and he came in third place for the seat in his first attempt at public office. Surprisingly, Joe Hune won by just two votes to beat some well-known people in the county.

At the time, Moorehouse had to resign as managing editor of the newspaper to make his run, and the management publicly said he would never work there again. Maybe they had their fingers crossed when they said it.

But back to Sunday’s column. The column is called “Sending out wishes of holiday joy,” and in it Moorehouse sends out holiday greetings and good wishes to everyone from his family to our newly elected judges. Nothing wrong with that. However, with the budget crisis facing the governor, it would have been nice for him to send out a greeting and good wishes to her. She could use all the help she can get.

He did have a greeting for his fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers.

“Rep. Mike Rogers, our congressman, who is destined for something much, much bigger. Mark my words.”

To me, U.S. Congress is very, very big. Maybe he can enlighten us on what bigger things the newspaper has planned for Mr. Rogers. This newspaper, with the largest circulation of any newspaper in Livingston County, has had a far too cozy relationship with Rogers since he began his political career. Is it any wonder why Jim Marcinkowski did not get the endorsement of this newspaper?

This is why we have blogs like this.

Short and to the point: Michigan Democratic Chair Mark Brewer slaps down GOP columnist

It was nice to see Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer slap down Detroit News columnist Frank Beckmann after Beckmann attacked Brewer for his trip to China in one of his “unbiased” columns.

It’s just sad that Mark only got five paragraphs to respond, and I hope he will get a larger platform in the form of a column. Clearly, Beckmann is a partisan Republican hack. After all, he is on WJR. Here is Mark’s response to Beckmann,

The true irony found in Frank Beckmann's Dec. 15 column attacking me, "State Dem chairman's China trip is fraught with ironies" is that he still presents himself as a nonpartisan columnist.
The election happened well over a month ago, but apparently he still doesn't understand what the results tell us. It was never about Chinese culture or history. It was about which candidate had the record and the plan to put Michigan first. If Dick DeVos had invested $200 million in England and created jobs there, our ads would have shown a picture of Big Ben.
It is true that I find issue with many of the practices of the Chinese government.
Even people in his own party like Republican Congressman Mike Rogers agree that China's trade practices have severely harmed Michigan's citizens and cost our state jobs. Does Beckmann think China's trade practices and currency manipulation are fair?
Does he think China's persecution of Christianity and many other religions should be ignored?

Mark Brewer
Michigan Democratic Party

I heard L. Brooks Paterson use the same attack on Brewer earlier on one of the local political talk shows, so Beckmann has the same talking points the Michigan Republication Party is putting out.

No one has ever said we should not be able to sell our products to China, but we want a level playing field to do so. They should not be allowed to copy the products we make with cheap imitations that costs pennies to make. I am no economist, but it seems to me the problem with the Amway guy was he was telling us he could fix the problems with Michigan when he’s part of the problem.

Money invested in China and jobs in China is investment and jobs not in Michigan. I hope Amway sells millions of dollars worth of its products there, but they should be made here. DeVos claims in order to sell products in China they must be made in China, and no products made in China are ever sold here. The problem with that is he lied, and products made there are sold in the U.S. Secondly, if it’s true products sold in China must be made there then we should have the same protection. Products sold in the U.S. should be made here. The same stipulation should be made, but instead the U.S. government encourages U.S. companies to offshore and outsource.

Some foreign companies are making the products they sell here in the U.S., most notability the foreign car makers. But the problem I see is that they are just assembling the cars here.

Here in Livingston County, we have no Big 3 plants here at all, but we have many plants that are Tier I, II and III suppliers to the Big 3. Not many months go by here that a new plant is not asking for a tax break from a local municipality to either build new or expand the plant that supply parts to the automakers.

We could use some of those type of jobs from Toyota or Honda.

Dec 22, 2006

Livingston County GOP violates campaign finance law while SOS Land turns a blind eye

The Livingston County Republican Party is in violation of Michigan Campaign Finance Law by failing to turn in its required Pre-General Election Campaign Finance Report before the Oct. 27 deadline. To date, it has not filed the report at all.

This clear violation comes to light just days after state Rep. LaMar Lemmons III (D-Detroit) was found guilty of failing to file campaign-finance statements on time by a jury and ordered to pay $1,095 in fines and fees. Another Democrat, Rep. Alexander Lipsey, is facing similar charges. Lemmons was charged with failing to file four required statements, including the very same one the county Republican Party failed to file, the pre-general election statement. Lemmons is the first known lawmaker convicted of not turning in his campaign finance reports into the Secretary of State through a computer program. This only could have happened under Republican Terry Land.

The Republican Secretary of State and Attorney General chose to prosecute the two Detroit Democrats, yet they let the county GOP walk free.

This is a clear case of selective prosecution.

The real interesting thing is if you look at the report they actually got in on time: the post-general election report on Dec. 7. You will recall how the county GOP tried to make a mockery of the nonpartisan judicial races this past election with their disgusting questionnaire to take the unprecedented step of endorsing in those nonpartisan races.

The questionnaire that was circulated and then pulled when the local newspaper blew the whistle about its contents had the candidates list how much money they contributed to Republican candidates. Apparently, there was a method to their sleaziness because every judicial candidate contributed to the Livingston County GOP in an attempt to apparently buy that endorsement.

District Court candidate Jay Drick, a member of the party’s executive committee who lost in a landslide, was the apparent winner by forking over $2,475. It kind of paid off too. The county party only made one contribution during the entire reporting period. Guess to who.

If you guessed the Committee to Elect Jay Drick then you are a winner, but the citizens of Livingston County are the real losers.

Livingston County Democrats slowly and steadily climbing the hill

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus political reporter Dan Meisler wrote an interesting, well thought out recap of how the Democrats did in Livingston County in the last election.

I know Dan to be a fair reporter, and I agree with some of the column and disagree with other parts of it. But the most glaring thing that caught my eye was the ridiculous headline, “Baby steps or sleepwalking?” How many reporters have written great articles or opinion columns only to have editors or copy editors write a headline that has nothing to do with the piece after only reading a few paragraphs. I know headline writing is an art, but come on. I can guarantee you no one was sleepwalking in the Livingston County Democratic Party during the last election.

This is the second time in a week the newspaper has given the Livco Democrats some unsolicited advice; the first coming in an editorial that advised us to begin early to find “creditable candidates” for the next election. My answer to that is still the same: we did, and you need to start treating them as “creditable candidates.”

We know we have an uphill battle to win seats in the county, but we are slowly climbing the hill. We fielded the most quality candidates in recent memory, and some seats were challenged for the first time in years. We know that even if we don’t win a seat our candidates are performing an even bigger public service than the Republicans who are actually elected. We are making them accountable to the voters, many for the first time. There is at least one County Commissioner serving his third term who has never been challenged in the General Election, and he got his seat only after putting his name on the ballot when he found out just before the filing deadline that the incumbent could not run again.

It’s tough to find quality candidates to run with the odds so stacked against them, but they know they are making the elected officials accountable to voters the only time many of then are ever accountable, during elections.

Have you ever counted how many times an incumbent Republican is challenged during the primary in Livingston County? Not often. There is plenty of competition for an open seat, but once the Republican wins it’s hands off until the seat is open again. Now, all you have to do to continue winning is have the R after your name.

I agree with Dan when he writes, This indicates to me that county voters are looking at the individual candidate, and are moving away from blind party loyalty. Apologies to Martha Stewart, but that's a good thing.

That’s what we are banking on.

Dec 21, 2006

Garcia is named one of the most extreme right-wingers in the Michigan Senate

Livingston County’s state Senator is one of the most extreme right-wingers in the Senate, according to the annual survey by the subscription only MIRS and Michigan Votes. Garcia checked in very close to the top at No. 4 with a rating of 88 percent.

Livingston County voters are familiar with three of the top four extrenmists. Heading the list is Nancy Cassus, and residents on the southeastern part of the county are likely familiar with her because part of her district includes neighboring South Lyon and Lyon Township. Cropsey represented Livingston County as a Senator in the 1980s.

We really got a clue how extreme Garcia was when we were introduced to him in 2001 when he ran in trhe special election for the then 26th District Senate seat vacated by Mike Rogers after his election to the U.S. House. He ran in a three-person GOP primary against Judie Scranton and Larry Julian, and the goal of that race was to see who could be the most conservative. Garcia won.

The rankings are based on their votes on 29 bills in the last session that included everything from so-called welfare reform that places a lifetime limit of 48 months of benefits to repealing the state's mandatory helmet law.

Sen. Martha Scott heads the list as the most progressive with a perfect rating.

1. Nancy Cassis (R-Novi) — 93.10 Percent
2. Allan Sanborn (R-Richmond Township)— 92.31
3. Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-Dewitt) — 89.66
4. Sen. Valde Garcia (R-Marion Township) — 88
5. (tie) Sen. Michael Goschka (R-Brant), Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland), Sen. Tony Stamas (R-Midland) — 86.21
6. (tie) Sen. Jason Allen (R-Traverse City), Sen. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), Sen. Michelle McManus (R-Lake Leelanau) — 82.76

1. Sen. Martha G. Scott (D-Highland Park) – 100 percent
2. Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) – 96.43
3. Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman (D-Detroit) — 92.59
4. Sen. Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit) – 89.66
5. Sen. Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit) – 85.19
6. Sen. Gilda Jacobs (D-Huntington Woods) — 82.76
7. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) —75
8. (tie) Sen. Ray Basham (D-Taylor), Sen. Burton Leland (D-Detroit) —70.37
9. Sen. Bob Emerson (D-Flint) — 69.57
10. Sen. Deborah Cherry (D-Burton) —62.07

Dec 20, 2006

The Michigan political scene was a busy one in 2006

As the New Year approaches, this is right about the time we begin to see the Year in Review stories from our local newspapers. I must admit as a former staff reporter for a daily newspaper, often the only thing the year-in-review stores did was allow the newspaper extra copy while reporters and sources took the holidays off.

Back in the days when I was a staff reporter, one newspaper I worked for centered the staff holiday get together around picking the top stories of the current year as we prepared to do the annual year in review stories. We would list them all, and then we would come back and rank them.
I propose to do that here. Since this is a Michigan political and media blog, I would like to see nominations come from there. I have mine, and I would like to see some others. Here are my nominations in no particular order.

1. Governor wins big –Despite predictions of Gov. Granholm losing or this being one of the tightest governor races ever in the state, the governor won easily by 14 percentage points.

2. The Amway gut spends a record amount of money, much of it his own, in a vain and unsuccessful attempt to buy the governorship.

3. In March, the Legislature passes the new Minimum wage after years of Democratic efforts to help workers. The Republicans only got off the dime when they realized a successful petition drive to place the question on the ballot will increase Democratic voter turnout in November.

4. Democrats did what they hadn't been able to do since the 1996 election - reclaim control of the House. When the House convenes for the 94th Legislature, the chamber will sit 58-52 in favor of Democrats who enjoyed a wave of support for the party not only at the top of Michigan's ticket, but nationally as well.

5. The new $100 million Green Oak Village Place opened in November on Lee Road and U.S. 23, but the real news was the developer had to pay for the road improvements himself instead of the taxpayers. Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, drafted an amendment to the law establishing a Downtown Development Authority that would have allowed the township to form a DDA just to benefit the mall to capture county tax revenue for road improvements. Luckily, Ward’s tax giveaway was caught, and the amendment was rescinded.

6. In one of the most cowardly acts of a Legislature that accomplished little in two years, the House voted 64-36 to repel the Single Business Tax early, leaving a $1.9 billon hole in lost revenue. The effects were immediately negative, and Standard & Poor's gave Michigan a negative outlook on its credit rating just hours after the State House and Senate voted to repel the SBT.

7. In August state Democrats gathered in Detroit’s Cobo Hall for a rousing two-day state convention. Those on the floor got the opportunity to witness a floor fight as the nominees for Attorney General and Secretary of State came down to an actual vote. Party insiders said they could not remember the last time that happened.

Dec 18, 2006

Hune named one of the House's most extreme conservatives by Lansing based MIRS

Our own Joe Hune is one of the most extreme conservative Representatives in the Michigan House, according to a ranking by subscription only MIRS and Michigan Votes.

Hune finished in the top 10 most conservative tied for 9th with ranking of 82 percent, but he could not come close - thank God - to Rep. Bob Gosselin’s 100 percent. Our other Livingston County Legislator, Chris Ward, finished in the middle of the GOP pack tied at 22 with a ranting of 78 percent. It seems appropriate that the No. 2 man on that list, Rep. Rick Baxter, was unseated last month.

The ranking is based on votes on 41 bills in the session that ended last week, and the list includes such bills as one that required parents of female sixth graders to sign off for a human papillomavirus vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer and requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests.

On the progressive side, Rep. Abe Vagnozzi was the most liberal with a ranking of 2.4 percent conservative. The good news is the person taking Chris Ward’s job, Majority Floor Leader-elect Steve Tobocman, was a close second. The most conservative Democrat was Rep. Dudley Spade (D-Tipton) – the same place that spawned ultra-conservative Tim Walberg - with a rating of 46 percent, and the most liberal Republican was Rep. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) with a rating of 60 percent.

The Speaker of the House-Elect, Rep. Andy Dillon was one of the more conservative Democrats, finishing just a few paces from Spade with a rating of 42 percent. Obviously, no Republican was more liberal than a Democrat and no Democrat was more conservative than a Republican.

1. Bob Gosselin (R-Troy) — 100 percent
2. (tie) Rick BAXTER (R-Hanover) and Rep. Jack HOOGENDYK (R-Kalamazoo) — 92.68 percent
4. (tie) Rep. Leon DROLET (R-Clinton Twp.), Rep. Brian PALMER (R-Romeo) — 92.50
6. Rep. John GARFIELD (R-Rochester) — 92.31
7. Rep. Fulton SHEEN (R-Plainwell) — 89.74
8. Rep. Glenn STEIL Jr. (R-Grand Rapids) — 89.6
9. (tie) Rep. Kevin ELSENHEIMER (R-Bellaire), Rep. Joe HUNE (R-Hamburg), Rep. John MOOLENAAR (R-Midland), Rep. David ROBERTSON (R-Grand Blanc) — 82.93
13. Rep. John STAHL (R-North Branch) — 82.50

1. Rep. Aldo VAGNOZZI (D-Farmington Hills) 2.44 percent
2. Rep. Steve TOBOCMAN (D-Detroit), Rep. Morris HOOD III (D-Detroit) and Rep. Andy MEISNER (D-Ferndale) 4.9
3. Rep. Alma SMITH (D-Salem Twp.) — 5.00
4. Rep. Marsha CHEEKS (D-Detroit) — 5.4
5. Rep. Paul CONDINO (D-Southfield) — 7.32
6. (tie) Rep. Brenda CLACK (D-Flint), Rep. Tupac HUNTER (D-Detroit) — 7.6
7. Rep. Chris KOLB (D-Ann Arbor) — 10
8. (tie) Rep. Barb FARRAH (D-Southgate), Rep. Lee GONZALES (D-Flint), Rep. Hoon-Yung HOPGOOD (D-Taylor) — 12.20
9. Rep. Gabe LELAND (D-Detroit) — 12.50

Markman, Taylor and Young, Oh my

If we needed another example of the Republicans drive to conduct the people’s business in secret behind closed, locked doors we have this example from Free Press Columnist Brian Dickerson. This time it’s the dignified and stogy Michigan Supreme Court. It proves politics is politics even if you wear a black robe. No wonder we were all scared in 2000 with the refrain “Markman, Taylor and Young, Oh my.”

Now a Republican justice's threat to disclose embarrassing internal discussions and correspondence has sparked a crisis, with the other GOP justices threatening disciplinary action if the court's tradition of deliberative confidentiality is violated.
Justice Elizabeth Weaver has been the state Supreme Court's odd woman out since 2001, when all six of her colleagues voted to depose her as chief justice.
Relations between Weaver and the other GOP justices seemed to reach a nadir in August, when Weaver opined that fellow Republicans Clifford Taylor, Maura Corrigan, Robert Young Jr. and Stephen Markman should be disqualified from hearing a disciplinary complaint against Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger.
In a scathingly sarcastic response, Taylor defended the majority's impartiality and suggested that Weaver was simply venting "personal resentment" over her 5-year-old ouster.
But an emergency administrative order issued last week suggests that resentment on both sides is still smoldering.
The order decrees that "effective immediately," all "correspondence, memoranda and discussions regarding cases or controversies" before the court "are confidential," and that "this obligation to honor confidentiality does not expire when a case is decided."

Dec 17, 2006

One party rule in Livingston County hampers progress

I don’t usually like to comment on Letters to the Editor for a number of reasons. But the letter in the Sunday edition of the Daily Press & Argus really caught my attention. It’s hard to believe the letter writer, Bob Murray, was ever an elected official. I have to wonder if the former supervisor of Genoa Township has ever met a Democrat he liked, and as supervisor of one of the most populous townships in the county was he only representing Republicans?

The letter was in response to an editorial the P & A published on Dec. 14 where it urged the Livingston County Democratic Party to being searching for "creditable candidates" for office now. My response was the newspaper should take its own advice and begin treating all candidates fairly.

Mr. Murray blew any creditability he may have had in the first sentence when he called the newspaper the “Democrat Daily Press & Argus.” This is the same newspaper that has on its editorial board an editor that actually ran for the Michigan House as a conservative Republican and another member who is a campaign contributor to Republican candidates. I know these people are journalist who strive to present a fair and balanced view, and for the most part they succeed. However, on the editorial page is where they fail the most.

Mr. Murray says, “The implication seems to be that all you Republican officials are not up to the job and should be replaced by Democrats. Livingston County is one of the best-run and most prosperous counties in Michigan.”

I have to take exception to both of those statements. First, no one is saying the Republicans officials are not up to the job. But, when there are more voices and points of view at the table we all benefit, and a real race makes politicians accountable. In fact, during elections are the only time many politicians are ever accountable to voters. We have seen the consequences when one party controls all branches of government.

As for calling it the best-run county I suggest he get out more. The leadership may be adequate, but calling it the best is a stretch. We are the fastest growing county in the state, but we still do not have the same services for our residents that many smaller counties enjoy. Some smaller counties have their own community colleges, recreation departments and park system and even a health plan for residents. We have none of these things.

Take community colleges as an example. Of the five counties bordering Livingston County only one does not have a CC of its own, Shiawassee County. Just a county away in Monroe, that has fewer residents at 156,000 compared to Livingston’s 187,000 residents, they have had a thriving and growing CC since the 1960’s.

As for Mr. Murray’s last question, is it just a coincidence that it is run by Republicans? The answer is yes.

Dec 16, 2006

New law shields police from accountability

In what can only be described as a collective case of sticking their heads in the sand, the state House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate Bill 647 that shields police statements made in internal investigations from ever being made public. The vote was 106-0 on the last day of the session before all bills die and have to be reintroduced when the new members take office after Jan 1. Just a few more hours and this foul-smelling bill would have died again like it should have this time around.

This bill will keep the public from knowing what officers being investigated have said and could possibly be used to cover up police wrongdoing. Groups like the Michigan Press Association and other watchdog groups dedicated to bringing information to the public were against this bill. It makes you wonder who the legislature is listing to.

Any journalist or citizen who has tried to get less than flattering information from a law enforcement agency and been stonewalled by them knows there are few options for obtaining that information. Now the best, and perhaps the only, avenue available was just shut down.

It’s ironic that the former Detroit Police officer, Larry Nevers, who bashed in the head of Malice Green is in Livingston County today signing his new book. Under SB 647, the chances are pretty good this case may never have made the light of day. It seems the only time we ever hear about cases of police brutality are when they just happen to be caught on videotape. Even when they are captured by chance, police departments almost always say the force was justified. The odds are pretty good a few more incidents occur that are not caught on tape. This law will make sure we will never hear about the ones that are not caught by amateur cameraman or surveillance camera and ran non-stop on the six-o’clock news.

That’s just incidents of violence that are being shielded. What about bribery, corruption or extortion by police officers? This is not really about being anti-police. It’s about openness and transparency in government. I’m sure cases of police misconduct are rare, and 99.9 percent of police officers are honest, hard working and dedicated. But what about that .1 percent who may be dishonest and violent?

Police officers have been entrusted with some of the most powerful tools known to man; the ability to shoot and kill someone and the ability to take away their freedom. But a clerk at the Secretary of State’s office now has more accountability. Americans have the constitutional right against self-incrimination. But it doesn't apply to their jobs. If an employer suspects that there is theft in the company, it has the right to summon its workers and investigate. Employees refusing to cooperate can be dismissed. They have no special right to refuse questions about wrongdoing. Why are police officers different?

Let’s hope the Governor believes in open and transparent government, and she strikes a blow against secret government behind closed doors and vetoes this bill.

Dec 15, 2006

Newspaper Editorial Board needs to practice what it preaches

I find it a little disingenuous to for the Daily Press & Argus to editorialize that the Livingston County Democratic Party should begin early recruiting “creditable candidates” for the next election. The obvious question is will the newspaper’s editorial board treat them like credible candidates?

One way to accomplish that is to start building capable candidates early rather than scrambling for them at the last minute. It's hard to win an election as a Democrat in this county but there are plenty of nonpartisan venues — planning commissions, school boards, city councils — in which individuals can build a record of accomplishment.

During the last election cycle, Green Oak Township Democrat Mike McGonegal ran for the state House for the 66th District. He knocked on doors every evening, went to many events and spent what little money he had on advertising. Sounds like a creditable candidate to me. However, in October the newspaper endorsed the Republican candidate without the benefit of the traditional endorsement interview.

Now, you may say this is nothing but sour grapes on my part because I volunteered for McGonegal, and you would be partially correct; it is sour grapes on my part. But it’s much more than that. Anyone I see treated unfairly it bothers me. Executive Editor Rich Perlberg gave me a lame song and dance about how he knew enough about Mike through the blog I maintained, press releases and the lone debate Mike participate in. He apparently knew enough about our opponent because of his record, but if you truly went by that you would never have endorsed him.

The problem was Mike was the only Legislative candidate not interviewed. That included both candidates for 22nd Senate District and the 47th House District. That’s makes zero sense because the Senate incumbent, Valde Garcia, has been a lawmaker for more than seven years compared to Mike’s opponent who has only been in office for four years. Seven years wasn’t enough that you had to interview Garcia?

The answer is no. You should have interviewed all of the candidates.

It’s hard to recruit quality candidates who know the odds are long they will win, and even when they do put up the good fight and try and make the incumbent accountable to the voters again they get that kind of shabby treatment from the newspaper.

The Press & Argus editorial board simply needs to practice what it preaches. If it wants to be creditable on endorsements it needs to do the homework.

Dec 13, 2006

Livingston County Victoria’s Secret protest is part of a larger misguided protest

You just knew the small, self-appointed censors picketing the Victoria’s Secret store in the new Green Oak Village Place mall and the adult video and novelty store in Brighton could not have come up with that idea on their own, and it turns out they didn’t.

Thanks to a fellow progressive blogger, Media Mouse, it has come to my attention that the Victoria's Secret protest is really the brain child of another, larger group of self-appointed censors called the American Decency Association (ADA), located right here in Michigan on the north west side of the state in Freemont.

According to Media Mouse and ADA’s web site, the group “has launched a campaign targeting Michigan malls--including RiverTown Crossings in Grandville--according to research conducted by Media Mouse. The Fremont, Michigan-based ADA has undertaken a campaign targeting Victoria's Secret for what it terms "indecency at the local mall" arguing that the retail chain's window displays, in-store advertisements, and television advertisements are a "threat" to "public decency."”

Boy, does that ever sound like our intrepid group of protectors of our morals from Green Oak Township's Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church led by church employee Patrick Flynn and Hamburg Township resident Robin Blaszak. What’s really surprising is they had the initiative to actually find the store in Brighton on their own.

But the really sad part is that the Associated Press, TV stations all over the state and even Faux News has picked up on this harebrained Victoria’s Secret protest. With the recent auction of KKK memorabilia last year, this ridiculous protest and the banning of a popular juvenile book last week at Howell High School I wonder what the rest of the civilized and tolerant world thinks of us? What I do know is this group’s 15 minutes of fame is long over.

Dec 12, 2006

Feature story on Dianne Byrum produces flashback to close 2000 Congressional race

Monday’s edition of the Lansing State Journal carried an excellent feature story on state Rep. Dianne Byrum, the leader of the Democrats in the House. Livingston County residents certainly remember her from her spirited run at the 8th U.S. Congressional district seat in 2000 against Mike Rogers. She lost by a mere 111 votes among almost 300,000 votes cast. That’s less than 1 percent. It makes you wonder how much better off we would be now if she had prevailed in the former swing district.

If you wanted to meet Byrum during the campaign it was very easy to do. She was everywhere. The two candidates held something like 10 head-to-head debates all over the 8th District, including one that was televised by a Lansing commercial TV station. It makes you wonder why there were so few opportunities in the last election to hear the two candidates square off. The 8th district produced Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but more importantly it produced some accountability to voters. However, gerrymandering did away with that.

I met Dianne’s mother during the campaign. She was born in Livingston County, but I don’t remember exactly where.

House Minority Leader Dianne Byrum has had plenty of ups and downs in her 16 years as a state lawmaker.
Well, Byrum certainly is leaving on a high note, after leading a remarkable turnaround that puts the Michigan House under Democratic control for the first time since 1998.
And better still for her: She will turn her House seat over to her daughter, Barb, who was elected to the seat in November.
"I always believed we would elect a Democratic speaker. I thought it would take two years longer," Byrum said in an interview last week in her Capitol office. "The goal was always '08, and I set forth to build the caucus brick by brick."
And she etched her place as the savvy and disciplined leader who recruited candidates, raised money and designed the political strategy for House Democrats.

Having gone door-to-door for a successful House candidate in the last election, I can tell you the themes and issues she hammered home in the months leading up to the election really resonated with the voters.

Byrum's political star seemed to be ascending until 2000, when she ran for Congress against fellow state Sen. Mike Rogers, a rising Republican from Brighton.
The Republicans controlled the Senate, and bills sponsored by Rogers sailed through the Legislature while All Things Byrum stopped dead in their tracks.
"They were so nasty to me. I even got oinked at - like a pig - on the floor of the Senate," Byrum said "I felt like I was in a 'Star Wars' movie, and I had these bolts of lightning thrown at me constantly."
When the final votes were counted, and recounted, Byrum lost by 111 votes.

That was the last contested federal race at the time with the recount lasting almost to Christmas, and that was when Bush won the presidency in the U.S. Supreme Court. Targeting someone by refusing to even consider any law, resolution or motion made by the target is still a favorite tactic of Republicans, but thankfully that will go away, at least in the House. They did the same thing to Rep. Kathy Angerer, but voters were smarter than that. Rogers anti-student bill in 1999 that required citizens to vote in the district listed on their drivers' license was the deciding factor in the 2000 race. I’m sure that if Michigan State University students who lived in East Lansing would have been allowed to vote where they lived it would have accounted for well more than 111 votes.

Byrum isn't ready to announce what she'll do when her legislative term expires this month. Besides helping run the hardware stores, she says she expects to work in the private sector while remaining involved in public policy.
"I tell people I'm going to be a community activist and a term-limited legislator acting badly," she said, "because I can say anything I want to and not have to worry about what it's going to look like in print."

I know it’s not the same 8th Congressional District, but I would love to see a Rogers- Byrum rematch in 2008.

Article highlights Rogers’ watchdog blog: GOP rolls out standard attack the messenger defense

Dan Meisler continues to highlight trends and changes in politics that are altering the way campaigns are conducted. His story on the newest political blog, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, is one more excellent effort. He has written on political blogs in the past, and he was quick to pick up on this one.

I’m proud to say I am a contributor to this new blog, and this will be one way to shine a bright light on Mike Rogers’ votes, positions, actions and public statements. There has been a complete lack of accountability in the Bush Administration, and this will return some accountability to the process.

A Web log targeting U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, is the latest site of its kind to focus on the political scene in Livingston County and the 8th Congressional District.
According to its founder, Julielyn Gibbons, who grew up in Green Oak Township and now lives in Lansing, the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood blog will document the congressman's every move in order to keep his constituents up to date.
Gibbons' political leanings are clear — her computer nickname is LiberalLucy and her other blog is called Liberal, Loud and Proud — but she insists her latest effort is not meant to smear or disparage Rogers. In truth, she said, her goal is to be educational.
"Since he is, in fact, working for all of us, the government should have an inherent level of transparency," Gibbons said. "This is just helping to make Mr. Rogers' record more transparent."
"I'm not saying Mike Rogers hasn't done anything good for the district, but there's a lot more good that he could be doing," she continued. "If nothing else, we who helped create the blog hope he understands, by us paying attention to him and publicizing what he does ... we are going to hold him accountable."

I’m really surprised Rogers spokesperson Sylvia Warner declined to comment for this story. She is very good at making up Rogers quotes on the spot.

It didn’t take long for the Republicans to ramp up the standard “attack the messenger” strategy that has led people to buy into the false “liberal media bias” strategy and smear campaign. Allan Filip, who was just chosen as the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party in a closed-door convention where they barred the press less than two weeks ago, wasted no time in rolling out the standard GOP attack the messenger strategy.

After looking at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Livingston County Republican Party Chairman Allan Filip commented that it seemed to be too personal.
"To really play a large role, a lot of these things are going to have to become less venomous," he said.
Generally speaking, Filip said, political blogs play to the extreme fringes of their particular parties.
"I don't think necessarily it's anything that's changing people's hearts and minds," he said.

They love to claim scrutinizing a Republican’s record is a personal attack, and they used that defense when Chris Ward’s ethically challenged record was examined in the last campaign on the Mike McGonegal campaign blog I maintained. I challenged everyone who made that ridiculous claim to point out a personal attack or refute what was written about his record, and no body took up that challenge. I suspect we will see the same thing here.

Dec 10, 2006

Alleged liberal media features front-page story on megabucks $500 county GOP donation

I know about slow news days, but you have to wonder how slow a news day it was for a story that the Livingston County Republican Party gave $500 to Toys for Tots to make the Sunday front page of the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus, complete with two submitted photos.

Granted, I’m happy that the county GOP was able to shake loose $500 to buy the toys after a despicable thief made off with about 100 toys from the Salvation Army HQ in Howell. But just a month ago the Republican candidate for governor broke all existing records for campaign spending when he spent $42.5 million during the campaign to buy the seat that only pays $172,000 annually. We’re getting front-page coverage and photos for $500. Why?

I can guarantee that Democrats donated to Toys for Tots, but we didn’t pose a picture and send it to the newspaper.

The Republicans love to say the Livingston County Democrats can hold their meetings in a phone booth. We know that was never true, but the GOP still has a majority in this county. They hold the Congressional seat, the state Senate seat, the two state House seats, all the nine Board of Commissioner seats and control of all 16 of the township boards in the county. But a $500 donation rates the front page?

Just a quick look at the pre-general election campaign finance reports of the two Livingston County state Representatives shows $2,200 in donations just from individuals I personally know and know to be Livingston County Republicans. That does not include PACs or individuals I do not personally know to be Republicans.

You guys can do better than that. So much for the “liberal media” myth.

Senate strikes a blow for secrecy in government and less accountability with SB 647

Last week the Michigan Senate struck a blow for secrecy, less accountability and keeping information from the public with passage of Senate Bill 647 that shields police statements made in internal investigations from being made public.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 30-7, and it could be voted on by the House in the last three session days this week before the new members are seated next year. Our Senator, Valde Garcia, voted for covering up possible police corruption. This bill is simply bad policy, and it cuts against the trend of openness and transparency in government.

According to a recent editorial in the Lansing State Journal, Americans have the constitutional right against self-incrimination. But it doesn't apply to their jobs. If an employer suspects that there is theft in the company, it has the right to summon its workers and investigate. Employees refusing to cooperate can be dismissed. They have no special right to refuse questions about wrongdoing. Why are police officers different?

They have some very powerful tools ordinary citizens don’t have, such as taking away someone’s freedom and shooting them, but this bill gives them less accountability.

The Michigan Press Association, the LSJ and the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus are just a few of the news organizations that have come out against this assault on sunshine laws and accountability.

Newspapers have editorialized against the bill sponsored by Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond. They say it will keep the public from knowing what officers being investigated have said and could possibly be used to cover up police wrongdoing. They are correct.

Here’s a scenario provided by the MPA, “Here is an analogy about how the bill would effect everyday citizens: Say you are driving along and a police car shoots out of a driveway and clips the back of your car. The officer, who has a history of traffic accidents and fears the consequence of another, gives you a ticket for reckless driving. You're steamed, and file a complaint with the department which conducts an investigation and decides to do nothing. Under current law, you can find out exactly what the officer said. But with the passage of SB 647, you lose this right.
Was the testimony truthful? You'll never know.”

Any journalist who has tried to get information from a police agency knows that if they don’t want you to have information you simply won’t get it, and this gives them another tool to legally do it. We have given police officers a huge public trust, and 99 percent of them are hardworking, honest men and women. But this bill protects the 1 percent minority who may be bad apples from public scrutiny.

This bill needs to die on the House floor next week, and if it makes it to a vote, ask your Representative to cast a vote for transparency, openness in government and accountability and vote no on SB 647.

Dec 9, 2006

Livingston County House contingent try to spin reduced role to voters after Republicans lose control of the House

After reading an article Friday in the Community News, the Ann Arbor News weekly product that covers Livingston County, it makes you wonder if the Livingston County contingent in the state House have no idea what’s really going or that they think the voters are just stupid.

Democrats gained six seats in the state House for a 58-52 majority in the Nov. 7 election, taking power for the first time in eight years.
Although state Reps. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, and Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, won handily, their roles will be changing now that they're part of a minority. Ward was re-elected as floor leader but will be working in the minority for the next two years.
"It's an adjustment process to go in the minority,'' says Ward. "Over the last four years I enjoyed a pretty good relationship with colleagues on the other side of the aisle and hope to still make an impact on issues like equity in school funding, funding for road projects, and turning the economy around.''

As the Majority Floor Leader, Ward controlled what the full House would consider each session day. He changed the tone in Lansing from one of wary bipartisanship to one of complete distrust. He completely shut the other party out of the legislative process, went so far as to even stop the long time courtesy of giving the other side a daily House agenda and he even threatened to throw a priest out of a hearing for daring to try and speak. It went so far that a top Democratic lawmaker said a House sergeant wrongly blocked her from seeing what bills were in a box to be taken up that day by the chamber because Ward refused to provide something as simple as a daily agenda. He calls that “a pretty good relationship with colleagues on the other side of the aisle?” Get real.

Does Joe Hune not really understand how the Legislative process works or did the reporter simply paraphrase incorrectly. After the heavy-handed tactics the Democrats have endured under Republican rule it would be very tempting to do the very sane thing, but I think Democrats will bring every one to the table.

Hune says he doesn't anticipate chairing the House insurance committee but still hopes to be involved with keeping the cost of all insurance down as well as working on health policy.
"I'd also like to continue to be involved with tort reform and agriculture as well as working on local issues like school funding and the expansions of US-23 and M-59,'' says Hune.

Dec 8, 2006

'You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch:’ Join Jobs with Justice to choose Grinch of the Year

Jobs with Justice, a national organization with the vision of lifting up workers’ rights and struggles as part of a larger campaign for economic and social justice, is conducting its 6th Annual online Grinch of the Year election to determine the national figure who does the most harm to working families.

This years nominees are – envelope please - Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Joseph Luter III, the President of Smithfield Packing.

Goodyear earned the dishonor by forcing 15,000 USW members out on strike at 16 plants across North America in October. Despite concessions given by United Steelworkers (USW) members and retirees in 2003 to insure that Goodyear remained in business, Goodyear is now insisting on additional plant closings and even deeper concession in this round of bargaining.

Smithfield operates the largest pork slaughterhouse in the world. In southeastern North Carolina, Smithfield operates a dangerous workplace, forcing its workers who have not been adequately trained to work at exceedingly fast line speeds. Every day, workers are injured, harassed, intimidated, and threatened by Smithfield management.
For more than 10 years workers have fought relentlessly for a voice on the job. In 1994 and 1997, workers tried to hold a union election but were met with the coercive fist of Smithfield. After the vote count at the 1997 election, one union supporter and one union organizer were dragged out of the plant, beaten, insulted with racial epithets, and arrested.
From 2000-2005, Smithfield had its own police force with the state police power to make arrests on Smithfield property. During its brief stint as a police force, the Smithfield Company Police arrested over 90 workers.
Smithfield pays poverty wages to its employees and fails to provide adequate treatment to injured workers, but former CEO and current Chairman of the Board, Joseph Luter III, takes in $83,333.33 each month in a base salary just for consulting Smithfield. Under the terms of Luter’s contract, he is also entitled to use the company jet and receives cash incentive awards. Even in retirement, Luter is afforded a lavish lifestyle.

You can vote by going to
You can also cast a write in vote, and I would love to see some local Michigan nominees.

In addition to the Grinch of the Year, over at the Michigan Caucus they are still taking nominations for Michigan’s Worst 25. There are currently 54 nominees, and the voting starts next week. The winner – actually loser – gets the covered Tin Can Trashcan® award. Make your nominations at

Editorial calls out county Livingston County GOP on closed-door county convention

Apparently, the days of political gamesmanship and plotting behind closed doors in a smoke-filled room are alive and well in the Livingston County Republican Party. Late last month when the county GOP chose a new chair it literally slammed the door in the face of the media there to cover the convention. Maybe they haven’t heard that government is best conducted in the open and in the bright sunshine. Technically, they did not violate the Open Meetings Act, but they certainly violated the spirit of the law. When you consider that the GOP here controls every board and commission in Livingston County from the U.S. Congressional seat down to the township boards it’s even more suspicious and ominous.
I have never, ever heard of a reporter being barred from a party convention, and the Livingston County Daily Press rightly called them out on it in an editorial today.

What kind of political party doesn't allow the media in to cover its convention?
The Livingston County Republican Party did just that, and we feel the decision to bar reporters from its recent convention was a mistake.
The county GOP met on Nov. 30 at the historical Livingston County Courthouse in Howell for its convention, and reporters (including one from this newspaper) were turned away at the door.
No official reason was given for the exclusion, but the word was that officials expected the convention to become heated. They didn't want reporters to see any intra-party squabbling.
Step back for a moment and you'll realize how silly it was that the county GOP barred the media from its convention. Can you imagine reporters being excluded from a national political convention? Or a state political convention? Heck, at those events, the politicians are practically begging for any coverage they might receive.
So why should a county convention be any different? If it's not a problem to cover a state or national Republican convention, why not a county political convention?

Dec 7, 2006

Late Lame Duck session cancels meeting

The House Lame Duck session has caused the cancellation of the blogger get together with Speaker-elect Andy Dillon and Majority Floor Leader Steve Tobocman at the Brighton Democratic Party HQ tonight. As reported by Matt Ferguson over at Michigan Liberal, the House Session that began at 10 a.m. this morning is expected to last late into the night.

This was supposed to be the last day of the current session before the new House members take over in January, but current Majority Floor Leader Chris Ward has scheduled session days next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They were on the schedule as tentative days, but the lame duck session will continue into next week.

The session with Reps. Dillon and Tobocman will be rescheduled at a later date. Thanks to Matt for both scheduling it and for getting the word out quickly about the cancellation.

Speaker and Majority Floor Leader-Elect in Brighton tonight

Don’t forget, newly elected Speaker of the House Rep. Andy Dillon and Majority Floor Leader Rep. Steve Tobocman will be here in Livingston County for a meet and greet with Michigan’s political bloggers at 6:30 p.m. tonight at our party's HQ at 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 in Brighton.

They will be speaking about the Democratic agenda for the coming session, and of course they will be answering questions from the attendees. The event was set up for and by bloggers, but the word is no one is checking your ISP at the door.

According to a press release by the Livingstion Couty Democratic Party, the Speaker-Elect will share his vision to end partisan paralysis and make a positive change to move Michigan's economy forward.

"House Democrats have a golden opportunity to make real changes to create jobs, strengthen our economy and end the partisan bickering that has paralyzed our Legislature for too long," Dillon said. "In the next Legislature, House Democrats will work to give businesses and working families all the tools they need to succeed.”

See you there.

Dec 6, 2006

Newest progressive blog will shine the harsh spotlight on Mike Rogers and his voting record

I am proud to say I have enlisted in the blog Army to hold U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers accountable for his actions, votes and lack of representation of the people in the 8th Congressional District. I did so by becoming a contributor to the newest progressive blog, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

This blog is not sinister nor an attack on Mr. Rogers. It is simply shining a spotlight on his voting record and actions, and that will be accomplished by focusing a group of dedicated eyes from all of the municipalities in the 8th District on Mr. Rogers. I am proud my fellow progressive bloggers allowed me to be a part of this.

We have already gained some notice. In the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus a three-paragraph brief appeared today announcing our presence. I also expect to see a story coming soon from the P & A featuring the person who started the blog, Liberal Lucy from “Liberal, Loud and Proud.”

Despite the blog being up only a few days, more than 50 people a day are visiting the blog. The hits are not only from all over the 8th District but from all over the county, such as Washington, D.C, Los Angles and Chicago.

We also look forward to input from readers and our fellow progressive bloggers in the form of comments, and if you see something we may have missed on Mr. Rogers please feel free to bring it to our attention.

Dec 5, 2006

Former Brighton Mayor sets the record straight on slanted and false editorial on DDA Bill

Former Brighton City Council Member Kate Lawrence took the time to write a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Press & Argus Monday on its recent editorial aimed at trying to clean up Chris Ward’s image for a future run for a higher political office. Lawrence was the mayor of Brighton when Ward's scam to help a rich developer was attempted, and Ward's fellow Republican also considered a run at the seat Ward currently holds in the House when it was an open seat in 2002.
The editorial in question falsely claims that the change to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Ward sponsored and was approved to benefit just the developer of the new Green Oak Village Place mall would have significantly improved the U.S. 23 off ramp and did away with the hated roundabouts had he not been caught trying to sneak in an amendment at the last minute and had to rescind. The truth is the road, the roundabouts and the bridge would have looked exactly the same if the con had gone forward. The only difference would be the taxpayers would have paid for the improvements that would have benefited the developer.
Lawrence’s letter does not address that issue, but it does address the absurdity of drafting a bill that would benefit the very thing the original act was designed to help failing downtowns compete against.

As one individual member of the Brighton City Council, I wish to respond to your Nov. 24 editorial ("DDA plan would have widened roadway, not built three traffic circles").
Let's start with a little history for your readers. In 2004, state Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton Township, authored legislation that amended the state Downtown Development Authority financing law that allowed DDA financing to be used for specific large-scale commercial development related infrastructure improvements. As a past president of the Michigan Municipal League, I will tell you the legislation as written was bad policy.
You must remember that what Rep. Ward does in Lansing affects our entire state, and not just our little corner of the world. We did communicate to our state representative and the public that the legislation as written could have caused severe negative consequences for the downtowns of all Michigan cities.
The legislation, as originally adopted, created an uneven playing field between cities like Escanaba all the way to Monroe that have very few tracts of undeveloped property within their boundaries vs. neighboring townships that have large tracts of undeveloped land.
It was that specific section that was bad policy for our state.
Brighton did not act alone in lobbying Rep. Chris Ward to get his 2004 DDA-TIFA financing legislation repealed but, rather, we were part of a broad-based Michigan Municipal League-led effort, along with nearby Howell, which also testified at a committee public hearing.

Dec 4, 2006

Ward’s alleged campaign finance reform bills die predictable death in lame duck session

It just boggles the mind that all Chris Ward has to do to get on the front page of the Daily Press & Argus is to write a letter. If I were at all cynical I would say this is just one more attempt to help clean up his record for his next run at political office. Has anyone from that newspaper ever asked him a tough question, and if they did ask a tough question did he answer it and did the response ever make it by the editors?

A package of bills pushed by Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton Township, was approved by the House but is awaiting action in the Senate, where Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, has been reluctant to schedule it for consideration.
A spokesman for Sikkema repeated the senator's stance Friday that he won't bring the bills up.
But Ward argued that, with the lame-duck session under way, now is the perfect time to move forward.
In a letter to Sikkema and Senate Majority Floor Leader Bev Hammerstrom of Temperance, Ward urged action: "I commend you for your efforts to make this lame-duck session as meaningful as possible. This issue rises to that level of importance in my mind, and there is no better time than now when a significant number of members no longer have a vested interest in retaining the status quo."

This so-called "election campaign finance reform" package of bills that came through the committee Ward chairs does more to benefit his party than anyone else, especially HB 6128. It was the only bill in the five-bill package passed in the House last June that Ward actually sponsored, and it was also the only bill that received any opposition. In fact, it barley passed by five vote because it really benefits his party.

Rich Robinson, Director of the non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said in published reports in June that the bill favors Republicans because they rely on wealthy individuals for contributions. He also said an individual who violates the law faces up to three years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 or both, but if a large corporation or company violates the law all they face is a fine of up to $10,000. Huge corporations like Enron, other energy companies and pharmaceutical companies that funnel huge amounts of cash to Republicans would have no deterrent to continuing that practice.

With just three session days remaining in the Lame Duck session, there is little chance the bills will even get to the Senate floor. Perhaps Ward should have looked at real campaign finance reform instead of putting on a show.

With Ward’s record of junkets, free meals from lobbyists, gifts to rich developers and doing the bidding of rich contributors anyone would have been suspicious when he pushed for alleged campaign finance reform.

Veteran journalist Jack Lessenberry was just one who was suspicious of his alleged campaign finance reform, writing, "Be still, my sloshing heart. Actually, my personal blood pump never even skipped a beat once I noticed that the sponsor of these bills was Chris Ward. That is the moral equivalent of Monica Lewinsky opening a charter school of chastity.”

After January we can expect to see a stab taken at passing some real campaign finance reform that benefits the people and not the Republican Party.

Election of Evans as chair of the Livingston County Democrats ushers in new era

As predicted last week, Green Oak Township attorney Matt Evans, 49, was unanimously elected by the Executive Committee Sunday as the new chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, replacing long-time chair Joe Carney.

Officers were also selected by the Executive Committee at the annul holiday party at the party HQ in Brighton. Donna Anderson was chosen as the Vice-Chair. She has been a tireless volunteer for the party. She ran for state Senate in 22nd District last month, and she earned some great endorsements, including the endorsement of one of the state’s largest newspapers, the Detroit Free Press.

Pam Green was chose as the secretary. Her many volunteer activities with the party include serving as the web master, and she also ran for the Livingston County Board of Commissioners last month.

Brighton resident Nancy Bosak is the treasurer. Bosak is the Voter File Manager for the Michigan Democratic Party, and she is responsible for managing the Voter Activation Network (VAN) including outreach, and training.

The Executive Committee includes all of the candidates for state and county political offices during the last election, as well as party volunteers. I personally know all but a few of the members, and I am excited we have such quality people on the committee. The committee includes Jim Marcinkowski, Mike McGonegal, Mary Anderson, Jan Vogal, Dave Buckland, Joe Carney, Judy Volk, Jim Swonk, Judy Daubenmier, Tom Butts, Paul Perosak, JoAnn Murphy, Dale Smith, Nancy Sauvage, Mike Hatty, John Devon and Debbie Buckland.

One of Evans’s goals is to have a full slate of candidates for every election. He helped the party work towards that goal when he ran for County Commissioner last month, and it was the most Democratic candidates for the county board in many years.

New Livingston County GOP chair rolls out standard lame excuse for Republican loss of state House

Ronald Reagan's Morning in America also marked the awakening of Allan Filip's political consciousness.
Filip, 35, was just a boy growing up in Paw Paw during Reagan's 1980s heyday, but he felt a strong attraction to the president's message of optimism and hope.

So says Mr. Filip in a front-page feature story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus today. It’s a bit of a fluff piece, but that’s what the neighbors features were basically created for. Filip goes on to say, “There was kind of a defeatist attitude" in the country before Reagan came on the scene, Filip recalled. "He made me feel more secure, and he got me thinking more about being an American."

Filip apparently never heard of the Iran-Contra scandal or the 241 Marines who were killed in a terrorist bombing at the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks at the international airport in Beirut. The Marines were not even allowed to carry live ammo, and many Beirut veterans are still bitter because Reagan did not attend any of the memorial services or funeral for those killed in action, as well as the limited rules of engagement the Marines were operating under.

Filip said the reason that Democrats did so well in the November election — with
the exception of Livingston County — was that they were successful in nationalizing the election.
"People are not happy with the way Iraq has gone," he said.

He goes back on the same old excuse Republicans in Michigan have been trotting out since Nov. 7. I hope he honestly believes that, and I hope that’s the principal he operates under. It will ensure Democratic control of the Michigan House for some time. In the meantime, I would like Filip to show me one, just one, Michigan House or Senate candidate who ever mentioned the Iraq war as a campaign issue.

Often what’s left out in an article is what’s most telling. This is all the article says about Filip’s apparent brief stay in Washtenaw County.
While in Alabama — and later, when he moved to Washtenaw County — Filip lived in heavily Democratic areas. That, of course, ended when he came to Hartland Township in 2003. He served as vice chairman of the party for two years before taking over the top spot.

It never mentioned he ran for the Board of Commissioners in 2002 where he got walloped with just 29 percent of the vote. A year later he moved to heavily Republican Livingston County. I will stop short of calling him a carpetbagger who moved to Livingston County to run for political office because many people move to Livingston County for the open land and good schools, but Sterling Heights where he works for Vericorr may be a little closer to Ypsilanti where he moved from than Hartland.

Filip sounded like a practiced politician when asked about the possibility of running for office himself. He said he wouldn't rule anything out, although he has "no plans to do that now, with my family being young and bills to pay."

Dec 1, 2006

Local GOP convention chooses leaders in secret smoke-filled back room behind barred doors

According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “Allan Filip was chosen as the new leader of the Livingston County Republican Party Thursday at its convention at the historic Livingston County Courthouse in Howell.”

The real telling important and telling detail was this from the article, “The news media were not allowed into the meeting.” Have you ever heard of any party convention where the local newspapers were barred from a convention, be it county or state convention? Me either. So much for openness and transparency for the local Republican Party. I wonder what they have to hide?

I really don’t know much about Allan Filip. The only thing I could find, if its the same Allan Filip, is he ran for Washtenaw County Commissioner from Ypsilanti in 2002, but he got only 29 percent of the vote.

The other officers elected were Russell Spencer as recording secretary; Allan Herdman as treasurer; Rick Pine, husband of Cindy Pine, as database secretary; and Jay Drick as treasurer of the Lincoln Club, which puts on the party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
Other members of the executive committee — which also includes 18 county- and state-level Republican elected officials — elected Thursday were Vicki Fyke, Bruce Hundley, Anne Belser, Debi Drick, Cindy Pine, Bill McCririe, Miles Vieau, Bill Vailliencourt, Teri Olsen, Sue Dolato, Cindy Denby and Lana Theis.

For the most part, these are quality people that I know, but there are a few I’m not so sure about. The sad part is blogger and wing nut Dan Wholihan AKA “republican michigander, is no longer on the executive committee. We could use more people with his mindset on the committee.

It’s funny, back when the local GOP put out the disgusting judicial questionnaire last summer when it took the unusual step of endorsing in a nonpartisan race, Filip and former chair Cindy Pine told candidates not to answer the biased questionnaire, but Wholihan took the opposite position, saying they choose to not answer it “at their own peril.”

Now he apparently supports him; saying, “He's not an extremist, nor a liberal (how can a republican ever hope to be a liberal?). He's a mainstream conservative and oftentimes filled the role being a consensus builder while he was vice-chair. That's what we need in a chair.” The Democrats will miss people of his ilk.

Nov 29, 2006

Sources say Green Oak Township attorney to be named head of Livingston County Democrats

Inside information says Green Oak Township resident Matthew Evans will be elected the new chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party on Sunday, according to an unnamed source.
Evans, 49, is an attorney who ran for the Livingston County Board of Commissioners last month. He ran a great race, and he came very close to unseating an entrenched and popular incumbent who has held office for 38 years. He lost by a mere 965 votes with 43 percent of the vote.
I don’t know Mr. Evans as well as some of the other people I mentioned earlier who could be candidates, but from what I have seen and heard we will not skip a beat with our march forward.

Nov 28, 2006

Michigan’s newly elected House leadership is coming to Livingston County for Meet-and-Greet

Thanks to Matt Ferguson- the editor and creator of the premier political blog in the state, Michigan Liberal – newly elected Speaker of the House Rep. Andy Dillon and Majority Floor Leader Rep. Steve Tobocman will be here in Livingston County for a meet and greet with Michigan’s political bloggers.

The event will be held from 6:30 –7:30 p.m. Thursday Dec. 7 at our party's HQ at 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 in Brighton.

They will be speaking about the Democratic agenda for the coming session, and of course they will be answering questions from the attendees. The event was set up for and by bloggers, but the word is no one is checking your ISP at the door.

I’m happy that Matt chose Livingston County for this special event, and not only because I don’t have to drive so far. Many people will remember Matt fondly from his run for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional Seat in the U.S. House, and he still has friends here.

The organizers are not requiring an RSVP, but to help them get an idea how many people plan to attend they are asking you e-mail Matt at if you plan to attend.

I look forward to seeing you there and showing off our digs. The longstanding and unfunny joke in Livingston County has been the Democrats can hold their meetings in a phone booth, but we have a pretty spacious and attractive phone booth.

Leadership of political parties in Livingston County will change with resignations

I was surprised and disappointed to find out Joe Carney will be stepping down as chair of the Livingston County Democrat Party. I have known Joe since I moved back to Livingston County for good in 2000, and I consider him a friend.
He has served the party well for 13 years, and anyone can see how the party has grown under his leadership. We have our own HQ and the number of volunteers is growing and continues to grow. I, and, the party, will miss Joe, and I hope he stays around to help us out. I know Kathy will still be around as the chair of the 8th Congressional District.
Even though there are big shoes to fill, finding a quality replacement should not be that difficult because there are so many qualified people out there. Just to throw out a few names I know personally who will do a great job include Irene Cahill, Donna Anderson, Bob Alexander, Mary Andersson, Debby Buckland, Anne King-Hudson, one of the McGivney brothers, Jim Swonk or Jan Vogel. Those are just names off the top of my head.
A new chair will be chosen at the party’s annual holiday party Sunday at the party HQ.

On the Republican side, party chair Cindy Pine also stepped down after four years. I personally know Cindy, and I have a lot of respect for her. The names of the possible replacements the Daily Press & Argus is throwing around is rather scary. The extremist wing of the party that was responsible for the shameful judiciary questionnaire put out last summer could seize control of the party. Bill Rogers, the chair of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners, hit the nail on the head when he said the episode may have been a case of extremists taking over the party's agenda. "Extremism doesn't do you any good," he said.
I know Bill personally and respect him, and he’s a class guy. He would be an excellent chair if the county and the party's charters allow it. His leadership would benefit the entire county. But an endorsement by a Democrat will do him no good. From a political standpoint I would prefer to see some of the other candidates mentioned get the job.
Wendy Day, a member of the Howell School Board and a member of the so-called LOVE hate group, was one person mentioned.
For a good laugh check out this paragraph from the article by Dan Meisler: “When asked about the direction of the party, Day said it should keep sight of the "family values" that define Republicans, as well as the limited government and low taxes championed by President Ronald Reagan.” Family values? Is she for real?
Also mentioned was Jay Drick, a member of the GOP exertive committee and a candidate for Livingston County District Judge earlier this month. It was Drick who helped create the much talked about split in the party when the party took the unusual step of endorsing in a nonpartisan race. His campaign lit also put out some false charges about his opponent, Judge Theresa Brennan.
A new chair will most likely be chosen at the party’s convention on Thursday.

Nov 27, 2006

Veteran journalist hits the nail on the head on harmful effects of Gerrymandering and Republican spin

Veteran journalist Jack Lessenberry has a unique way of cutting right through the BS and getting straight to the point. For a good example, last summer he called out Chris Ward on his so-called election reform bill, saying it was “the moral equivalent of Monica Lewinsky opening a charter school of chastity. If Chris were in another occupation, he might have a mattress strapped to his back.”
Lessenberry has worked as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor of The Detroit News, reporting from more than 40 countries. His writing has appeared in such national publications as Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe. He is also a professor of journalism at Wayne State University, and his freelance columns appear in The Metro Times, The Traverse-City Record Eagle and The Toledo (Ohio) Blade.
He hit another one out of the park today on his blog and radio show on NPR when he addressed gerrymandering and redistricting.

Here’s what the Republican spin on this is. They are saying that this was really a national election. They claim the vote in Michigan was really a vote against the way the war has been going, and also a reaction to corruption in the Republican Congress.
So were the Democratic victories in Michigan an accident?
Not at all. Instead, the media has been hornswoggled into believing Republican propaganda. This was in fact a moderate to liberal landslide. The truth is that the only reason Republicans control anything at all is due to the “accident” of outrageous gerrymandering.
Let’s look at the record. Democrats got a huge majority -- 54.4 percent -- of all the votes cast for state senate. But Republicans won 21 seats; Democrats only 17. How could this happen?
Simple. Five years ago, a Republican legislature and governor approved a plan to crowd all the Democrats into as few districts as possible, and stretch Republicans over as many as possible. This was subject to approval by a GOP-dominated Supreme Court.
They did the same thing in Congressional districts. Democratic congressional candidates got 300,000 more votes than Republican ones. But that translated into nine Republican winners, and only six Democrats. All the Democrats won by more than two to one.

For a local example, just take a look at Livingston County’s two state House districts. Instead of dividing them into a more logical east and west or even north and south configuration it resembles some sort of a big C. The 66th district takes in Milford where nobody there identifies at all with Livingston County, instead of South Lyon, for instance, where some residents are in the Brighton school district and where some Livingston County residents are in the South Lyon school district.