Aug 30, 2007

Celebrate Labor Day and unions contribution to the country

With the Republican assault on labor unions and the middle class going full bore and Labor Day just around the corner, it’s as good a time as any to look at what Labor Day really means, what it did for the country and how it came about.

I’m sure for anti-worker types like Leon Drolet, Zarko and the rest of the rightwing bloggers, Labor Day is just another day for a cookout, a telethon and a Labor Day sale at Wal-Mart. But there is no disputing that labor unions and trade organizations created the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known. While picnics and cookouts are part of the holiday, it has certainly lost some of its meaning in the 125 previous Labor Days.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. However, there is some dispute over when the first Labor Day actually occurred.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." Others contend the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882. However, it has become accepted that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country. As the years passed local town boards and city councils adopted ordinances making Labor Day as an official holiday, and individual states began to follow suit.

By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Here in Michigan there are many activities and events where you can show your support to the people who raised the standard of living for every American and created the middle class. Here are a few events. If you know of any events that I left out, please feel free to add them:

The Michigan Young Democrats are inviting people to march with them in the 2007 Labor Day Parade in Detroit on Monday. The staging begins at 2741 Trumbull at 8 a.m. It is one of the biggest and oldest Labor Day parades in the nation.

In Hamtramck a highlight of the annual city festival will be the dedication of the Dodge Main state historical marker at 11 a.m. Monday at Veterans Memorial Park on Jos. Campau, south of Holbrook in Hamtramck. Dodge Main was one of the largest factories in the world. The annual Polish Day Parade will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Jos. Campau.

Perhaps Michigan’s signature event, The 50th Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk, begins at 7 a.m.

The Grand Rapids for Edwards Meetup Group will march in the Grand Rapids Labor Day Parade on Monday. will march in the Grand Rapids Labor Day Parade on Monday. People wishing to march should gather between Mt. Vernon and Fulton at 9 a.m. with the parade starting at 10 a.m. Following the parade there will be a party in John Ball Park with food and music. An RSVP is required.

This are just a few events. Please add your event.

Aug 29, 2007

Conservatives open even another front on the war on the middle class

The Republicans war on the middle class and unions with the right to work for less law is opening a new front with an assault on the Prevailing Wage Law.

The GOP is engaged in a race to the bottom, and the loser will be the middle class and the country. According to a story in the Detroit News, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released a study that says Michigan could save $250 million a year by repealing the prevailing wage law that requires union pay for all state-supported projects.

The Michigan Prevailing Wage Law, PA 166 of 1965, provide rates of pay for workers on construction projects for which the state or a school district is the contracting agent and financed or financially supported by the state.

“Paul Kersey, a senior labor policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the current prevailing wage law adds 10 to 15 percent to the cost of every construction job.” He further claims it “effectively boosts construction wages by 40 to 60 percent.”

But like anything else, you get what you pay for. Marty Mulcathy, editor of the Building Tradesman, the official publication of the Michigan Building and Construction Trade Council in Lansing, said that prevailing wages don't provide for any significant increase in the price tag of a construction project.

“When you're paying $8 or $10 or $12 an hour, you don't know what skill level you're getting and frequently (you) are getting illegal immigrants or people of questionable citizenship,” Mulcathy said. "You may be paying the unionized people a little bit more but you're getting a more skilled worker who pays taxes and contributes to the community.”

What do you think is done with that extra wage? It’s pumped right back into the local economy. If we win the race to the bottom the Republicans are engaged in, who are the winners?

The Republicans have bills in both the House and Senate to make Michigan a right to work for less state, and if that fails, and it will, there is a group poised to launch a petition drive to put it on the ballot. Some people from this group are the same people who ran the deceptive petition drive that that put the deceptive titled “Michigan Civil Eights Initiative” on the ballot last November. In fact, just yesterday Gongwer reported the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out appeals against the law, saying, “the plaintiffs have proven that the signature process to get the issue before voters was skewed.”

"By all accounts, Proposal 2 found its way on the ballot though methods that undermine the integrity and fairness our democratic processes," the decision said. "Nevertheless, we must be guided by law, not outrage, and it to the law we now turn."

This is what we can expect if this ballot proposal for right to work for less is launched.

It’s ironic that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy is behind this assault on the Prevailing Wage Law. Another front on the war against the middle class and unions is privatization, and we saw a recent example of the damage it can cause in Howell Public Schools with the firing of its custodial staff. If the Mackinac Center has its way every school and government function would be privatized.

Coulter Quote of the Week: Law and order that only benefits the GOP

This week's Coulter quote of the week can be dedicated to a number of people. We have another rightwing conservative gay basher in the news that rallied against homosexuals and discriminates against them being outed as gay.

The GOP should no longer be called the Grand Old Party. It can be called the Gay Old Perverts. But this week’s quote is dedicated to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He proved that the party of law and order is only the party of law and order if it benefits Republicans and not the country. It also proves the U.S. Constitution is something that can be ignored and abused to get what you want.

Without further ado, we can expect a few of these gems at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series in October. These are examples of raising the political discourse and enriching the community? I don’t think so either.

"If they have the one innocent person who has ever to be put to death this century out of over 7,000, you probably will get a good movie deal out of it."---MSNBC 7/27/97

“The only beef Enron employees have with top management is that management did not inform employees of the collapse in time to allow them to get in on the swindle. If Enron executives had shouted, "Head for the hills!" the employees might have had time to sucker other Americans into buying wildly over-inflated Enron stock. Just because your boss is a criminal doesn't make you a hero.” (January 24, 2002 article, "The New York Times.”)

Aug 28, 2007

Rogers serves as Bush apologist for AG resignation

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton?, has not strayed far from his roots as a Bush apologist, this time defending disgraced U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales following his resignation yesterday.

According to a written statement to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Rogers is blaming Democrats for Gonzales lying to Congress.

“America needs a Justice Department focused on the safety and security of our nation, unfortunately the Democrats have made the focus more on personalities and politics, completely missing the important mission of protecting the people we all serve. I hope this change allows us to refocus on that critical mission and our future.”

This is just wrong on so many levels, and it’s amazing that this kind of crap is coming from the mouth – or pen of his press secretary - of a former FBI agent. Even the written statement gets me. When was the last time anyone has actually seen Rogers? Congress has been out of session for the entire month of August to allow Congress to spend time in their district, but Rogers has been pretty scarce. It seems Press Secretary Sylvia Warner is doing all of Roger talking for him, and I’m sure she wrote that statement. Rogers reminds me of the wizard from the Wizard of Oz, and Warner is the gatekeeper. “No body gets to see the wizard (Rogers) not nobody, not no how.”

The P & A carried a brief for office hours for Rogers. “Staff members from the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, will be available to meet with constituents from 9 a.m. to noon Monday at Brighton City Hall, 200 N. First St.” We know Rogers will not be there because he never is, but I wonder if his staff members will be there on the Labor Day holiday.

It seems ironic to me that Gonzales lied to Congress about his role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys because they did their job and refused to persecute Democrats and stop legitimate criminal probes of Republicans, and Rogers is defending that? The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, said to Gonzales, “Your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable.” When President Clinton was impeached we were told hundreds and hundreds of times by Republicans and Clinton haters that it was not about sex it was about lying. Why is it OK for Gonzales to lie about matters that are truly important to the country and get way with it? Perhaps Rogers can answer that.

It was also Gonzales who explored ways to make it OK for the U.S. to torture people. He also wrote a memo that called the Geneva Convention "quaint.” I’m appalled that a former Army officer like Rogers kept quit about that position. It was also Gonzales that trampled on the Constitution to allow the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens without proper warrants.

There is also controversy swirling around the more than 5 million e-mails that may have been lost or deleted surrounding the U.S. attorney scandal, and many are from another recently resigned Bush crook and crony Karl Rove.

The good news is resignation does not mean they are exempt from subpoena. What’s really amazing to me is that in the most scandal-ridden administration since Watergate Bush has only had one special prosecutor. The only real difference is Ken Starr spent more than four years and $40 million of taxpayer money on a personal witch-hunt against President Clinton, but Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation actually led to a convention in a court of law.

Rogers should be ashamed of himself, but I know better.

Aug 27, 2007

Drolet’s intimidation attempt is bringing the political parties together

State Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, is doing the right thing in the face of rightwing wacko Leon Drolet’s attempt at intimidation of Michigan lawmakers willing to make the hard choice and invest in Michigan.

Drolet is a former Republican state Representative, current Macomb County Commissioner and executive director of something called the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance (MTA). He has been in the news for months trying to intimidate lawmakers from voting to keep the state government going and avoid even spending further cuts with the upcoming budget facing a $1.8 million projected deficit.

According to the AP and others news sources, Drolet began filing paperwork to recall state lawmakers who may vote for tax increases, including Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford; Marc Corriveau, D-Northville; Mary Valentine, D-Muskegon; Gino Polidori, D-Dearborn; Ed Gaffney, R-Grosse Pointe Farms and Richard Ball, R-Laingsburg. The Senate members are Glenn Anderson, D-Westland; Dennis Olshove, D-Warren; Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores and Valde Garcia, R-Howell.

Drolet said anti-tax organizers on Monday filed or intended to file with local clerks nine statements of organization setting up potential recall efforts, with another one against Garcia to come later this week. The moves will take care of paperwork so recall language can be proposed quickly if lawmakers vote to raise taxes, Drolet said.

Garcia, a conservative Republican from my hometown, said he’s researching the legality of how the paperwork for his potential recall was filed. “It’s an attempt to intimidate state legislators into not voting for a tax increase,” he said.

I agree, and I’m also very curious to see how he will try and pull this off. In my 12 years as a reporter I have seen a few attempted recalls of local elected officials, including a successful one – the only one I have ever seen – against the township supervisor in Hartland Township. Most never get past the petition stage if they get their recall language approved by the local election commission. It should be very difficult to launch a recall, and it should only be used if they are abusing their office or have committed a crime, not for a decision you don’t like. But I have never, ever seen a preemptive recall, or a recall for something that has not yet happened.

I’m also in the dark on how this intimidation campaign by Drolet and the MTA is not against Michigan campaign finance law.

The MTA claims it’s ”a true alliance in that its members are dedicated to stopping the state from increasing taxes from any segment of Michigan citizens. The MTA is a federally registered 501(c)4 organization dedicated to taxpayer education and advocacy for reduced state spending and a reduced overall tax burden.”

It seems to me meddling in state elections and overturning the will of the voters goes well beyond the scope of “taxpayer education and advocacy.” They are also taking monetary donations on their web site, and they are not listed as a Political Action Committee (PAC) or a ballot committee, and they are clearly playing both roles. I’m sure one of Drolet's flunkies will set me straight, but it does not pass the smell test. It’s just one more attempt, just like the deceptive named Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, for outsiders to come in and meddle in Michigan politics and elections.

The only good to come out of this is Drolet is truly bringing both sides of the political spectrum together to condemn him for what he really is, a bully and a wacko. I hope he does attempt his recalls. I don’t see eye-to-eye on much with Garcia, but he’s a nice guy. If he does the right thing and votes to invest in Michigan’s future I look forward to helping him fight off this ridiculous recall.

Fellow Republican and Macomb County resident Rep. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, even thinks Drolet is a wacko. But veteran journalist Jack Lessenberry had the best take on both the budget situation and on Drolet.

“Do we want to build a future for Michigan?
If so, we need to support our legislature by raising taxes in the most sane and sensible way possible. There is no other choice.”

I think most sane and reasonable Michigan residents agree with that statement.

“Our lawmakers indirectly taxed poor young people who are trying to improve themselves. That’s partly because they fear a guy named Leon Drolet, who travels around with a pink fiberglass pig and threatens to recall any lawmaker who votes to raise taxes. Drolet, by the way is a taxpayer-funded government employee.”

Very true. In fact, according to undisputed facts provided by the Michigan Democratic Party, “during his six years as a State Representative, Drolet cost Michigan taxpayers $1.1 million, including more than $91,000 for mileage reimbursements and $72,000 for his "expense allowance" – in addition to the $477,900 spent on his salary.
Drolet currently still has his nose in the public trough where he serves on the Macomb County Commission, earning $34,069 a year. He also pays himself $39,000 as executive director of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. He also receives free health care for the rest of his life at Michigan taxpayer expense for his entire six years of service. Ask someone who spent 20 years in the military how much health care they get.

Aug 26, 2007

Join the vigil in front of Rogers office to mark the countdown to Take A Stand

People who truly support the troops by trying to get them out of harm’s way are gathering for a vigil as we speak with sleeping bags, bongo drums, protest signs and plenty of coffee in front of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton?, Lansing office as the “Iraq Summer” concludes Tuesday with “Take A Stand” town meeting at noon on the Capitol steps in downtown Lansing.

Many local people will be making their presence known at Rogers only office outside of Washington, D.C., located at 1327 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing. Since Congress has not been in session for the entire month of August to allow lawmakers to spend time in their district, there is a very slim change Rogers could actually show his face in the three days the vigil will take place. Come and join the following groups in their vigil:

America Votes, Michigan Peace Works, Michigan Peace Team, SEIU, Military Moms for Peace, GLNAWI , Mid-Michigan DFA, UU Church of Greater Lansing and Cristo Rey Parish.

The “Take a Stand Campaign” is a nation-wide organizing drive to demand that members of Congress and the Senate take a stand with the vast majority of Americans who want a safe and responsible redeployment of American Forces from Iraq.

Across America, over 100 “Iraq Summer” organizers are working to involve thousands of ordinary Americans in an effort to pressure targeted members of Congress to vote to bring a safe end to the war. The summer campaign is culminating with “Take A Stand” town meetings to be held on Tuesday, immediately before congress reconvenes. The Iraq Summer Campaign-Michigan, 8th District the Take a Stand town hall will be held at noon on Tuesday on the Capitol lawn in Lansing.

Feel free to join them.

Iraq Summer is a campaign organized by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and the Campaign to Defend America, designed to turn public opinion against the war in Iraq into political pressure on members of Congress who stand in the way of a responsible end to the war in Iraq.

For further information call (202) 425-0263 or email

Guest columnist says Vice-President was correct in calling Iraq a quagmire

The safety and security of our nation is the reason we are still in Iraq,” writes a reader of the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus in a August 5, 2007 Letter-to-the-Editor entitled “We need to pursue national safety”

I have a different take, 1,575 days after " Mission Accomplished.”

The incompetent Bush Administration unilaterally invaded a country with a 40 percent unemployment rate, dismantled an army of 500,000 trained troops, neglected to guard the weapons (can you say insurgents), eradicated the state and civil service (de-Bathification) took out the infrastructure (Shock and Awe) brought in outside contractors to rebuild it (Haliburton) and continues to spend $12 billion per month, heavily borrowed from Red China. They admit, "mistakes were made.” Ya think?

The sad fact is that this administration from the beginning wanted to go to war with Iraq in the worst possible way and apparently did. Using 9/11 as an excuse, the neocons set out to spread Democracy and free markets by force in the Middle East. The President told us our troops would be greeted as liberators. Instead, we are bogged down in a Civil War with no end in sight.

There is currently circulating on the Internet a film clip showing (Vice-President Dick) Cheney in 1994 expounding the reasons the U.S. did not proceed to remove Saddam from power after the first Gulf War. To proceed toward Baghdad, would have got us involved in a “classic quagmire.” The bi-partisan commission on 9/11 found no link whatsoever of Iraq complicity in the attack. Cheney maintains that Iraq was involved, as if he knows something the rest of us don't.

Richard Clark, Bush's former National Security Advisor, said invading Iraq after 9/11 would have been like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor. Sad but true. We are in Iraq not because of our safety and security. We are there because George Bush is to the Federal Government what he was to the Texas Rangers, an inept front man.

(Mike McGonegal is a Green Oak Township resident in Livingston County and a former Democratic candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives for the 66th District)

Rightwing editor continues with false accusations against LIVCO Dems

Rightwing Livingston County Daily Press & Argus editor and columnist Buddy Moorehouse has, not surprisingly, come out in a column agreeing with the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party that the county Democrats appearance in the Melonfest parade last weekend “wasn't appropriate.”

He can’t be serious?

The manufactured controvsary started when Allan Filip, the disgruntled chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, wrote a letter-to-the-editor full of false accusations that Democrats carried handwritten signs with hateful messages in the parade through downtown Howell on Aug. 18. Both I and Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Matt Evans put an end to that myth by actually posting what the signs said.

Thwarted by that truth, Moorehouse had to admit the signs were not hateful, but then he makes the ridiculous statement that it was not an appropriate place for the signs. Perhaps he should tell Filip, who was marching in the parade for always absent U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton?, and state Sen. Valde Garcia, who was also in the parade, that it was inappropriate for them to be in the parade.

The whole issue is ridiculous.

“The Democrats have every right to carry their signs anywhere they want. Nobody's disputing their right to free speech, and nobody's saying they didn't have a right to carry those signs in the parade. They did. They had every right to do so.
I just feel it wasn't appropriate for the occasion.
If you've ever been to the Melon Fest parade, you know that it's a festive, happy, family-friendly affair. Last Saturday, the parade was filled with marching bands and Girl Scouts and gymnasts and tons of kids, and they were all smiling and waving and having fun.
And then you had the Democrats and their signs.
It was a jarring sight, and they seemed totally out of place in the parade.”

If they were not hateful - which they were not - and the Democrats had a right to appear in the parade then why is he complaining and bothering to write this column? Since when is the truth hateful or inappropriate? The first time the Democrats heard that their appearance was considered "hatful, jarring inappropriate” by anyone was with Fillip’s lie-filled letter, despite having a booth at the two-day festival within sight of the Republican’s booth. I did notice Filip was rather lonely when I saw him in the booth on Saturday. Perhaps that’s the real reason for the letter.

Moorehouse does, to his credit, point out that he was “once a Republican candidate for state representative, but I'm trying hard not to let my political leanings get in the way of my opinion on this.”

He failed miserably in that effort, and he left out some of the story. He was a candidate for the open seat in the 47th District in 2002 that was just created by redistricting. The Republican primary, which determines the winner, was flooded with six GOP candidates, some very well known and respected. The goal was to out conservative the opponents, and Moorehouse did a pretty good job of that coming in third in the close race that saddled us with Rep. Joe Hune by just two votes. Moorehouse had to quit his job as an editor at the paper to run, and the Press & Argus management said publicly Moorehouse would never work at the paper again. Apparently they misspoke because they needed these fair and balanced opinions from him.

I didn’t see anything “jarring,” and I saw some friends of mine having fun. I have been to many Melonfest parades over the years, and this is the first time an unfair attack has ever been launched against the Democrats.

You have to ask why do people and companies march in this parade? The answer is the same reason the Press & Argus was in the parade or, radio station WHMI, Art Van Furniture, karate schools, gymnastic schools, churches and all the other participants in the parade who were also passing out coupons and ads along the parade route: to promote their business and cause.

Why was the P & A passing out newspapers during the parade? Why wasn't that considered inappropriate? If he wants to talk about what’s appropriate for a family parade, perhaps he should mention the display by the people promoting the Slaughterhouse and Corn Maze. It scared a few kids, including my granddaughter. That might be the only thing that could possibly be considered “jarring,” but they had every right to be in the parade. It was in good fun, just like the Democrats who were showing the flag in the parade.

“There's a time and a place for protests like that, and I don't think the Melon Fest parade was the time or the place. And I think I'd feel the same way if it had been the Republicans carrying signs blaming Gov. Jennifer Granholm for the state's horrid economy.”

First, It was not a protest, and I have no doubt you would never write a column if the Republicans bashed the Governor in any parade. Second, there was nothing stopping the Republicans from being in the parade, but apparently they could not find enough of them. Perhaps Moorehouse could have helped them out with something other than his writing and marched with them? Third, blaming the governor for the “state's horrid economy” would be a lie.

“If you're the only negative, angry entry in a parade, you might stand out, but it's not necessarily in a good way. I doubt they won many converts last Saturday.”

Sorry to disappoint both Moorehouse and Filip, but we did win converts. That’s why the angry letter and column. The Democrats were neither angry nor negative. In fact, they were the exact opposite. They were full of fun and friendly, and more importantly, truth.

Both Filip and Moorehouse owe the county Democrats an apology for their false accusations.

Aug 24, 2007

LIVCO Democratic Party chair sets the record straight

Livingston County Chair Matt Evans responded to the Livingston GOP chair’s letter-to-the–editor in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that ran Wednesday where he made baseless charges that the Democrats carried signs in the Melonfest parade with hateful messages with a letter of his own that ran in today’s edition. In this, Matt Evans clearly identifies himself as the chair of the party, unlike Filip who tried to portray himself as an innocent observer.

As the Chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party I need to set the record straight as to the letter from the Republican Party Chair that appeared in the Press Argus on August 22nd.

Mr. Filip’s letter stated that our members carried hateful signs in the Howell Melon Fest parade. The following are the slogans that appeared on the signs: “Quit stalling on State budget.”; “We want universal healthcare.”; “No spying on Americans.”; “Mike Rogers voted against children's health.” ; “Support the troops, bring them home.”

“State Senate: Don't balance the budget on our student's backs.”

I fail to see how any of these statements can be honestly categorized as “hateful”, however I can recommend to Mr. Filip that if he is seriously concerned about hate speech he should perhaps turn his attention to the October appearance of Anne Coulter. Of course he has an inside line on free tickets to this event as his wife is one of the organizers.

Mr. Filip also took out of context a quote from the house Whip James Clyburn. If you were to read the entire quote (see the Washington Post website) the problem Mr. Clyburn was referring to was the possibility that some Democratic members may want to “stay the course”. He did not say that we would look at progress as bad news. Of course this wouldn’t be the first time Mr. Filip was loose with the facts. This spring he told the Ann Arbor News that Senator Levin “flip-flopped” on the Iraq War, when in fact he opposed this fiasco from the beginning.

I understand better than most the sacrifices that are necessary to guarantee our safety and security. I lost a brother in Viet Nam and even 39 years after his untimely death, it is as real as if it was yesterday. I know first hand the sacrifice that the families of the fallen have placed on the altar of freedom. This administration and its partners, Mike Rogers and the Republican rubber-stamp Congress, must be held accountable for this mess.

Our message is indeed political, but it is not for our personal gain that we march. I firmly believe that we need to return the government to the people, not the highest bidder. And Mr. Filip, if we have to rain on your parade to make it happen, so be it.

Matt Evans

Chairman, Livingston County Democratic Party

Aug 23, 2007

Break out the champagne Senate Republicans finally pass a budget bill

Break out the champagne, unfurl the banners and toss the confetti; the Republican-controlled Senate finally passed the first budget bills on Wednesday for the budget that starts in just 38 days on Oct. 1.

Never mind that this is the laziest and perhaps the most obstructionists Senate in Michigan history, we should be happy they passed anything. Never mind that by this time in 2006 the Senate had passed 23 budget bills, and at no time in the last 10 years had it passed fewer than 13 budget bills - in 1996 - by the end of July. To quote a famous singer/songwriter -I just can’t remember his name – “Don’t worry, be happy.”

According to subscription only Gongwer, “The Senate passed its first budget of the 2007-08 fiscal year at 5:21 p.m., Wednesday, when it approved the Department of Human Services budget, in SB 232, on a 22-16 vote.” Of course, with Republicans, politics as usual is much more important than doing the right thing, and it is no surprise we see this stuck in where it was hoped no one would notice, “In approving the budget the Senate adopted a controversial proposal privatizing much of the state's foster care and juvenile justice system.”

In perhaps the most ridiculous and ironic quote in recent memory, we have this whopper from Senate Majority “leader” Mike Bishop.

Despite the lateness in terms of time for the Senate action - approving its first budget bills months later than the chamber typically acts - Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) told reporters, "We are in the first inning of a very long game." But Mr. Bishop also acknowledged that the time was now to make progress on the budget. And he warned that lawmakers "will not allow the governor to shut down this government."

Is he serious? Any shutdown can only be laid at his feet that he has been dragging for months. Is he aware the Senate just yesterday passed the first budget bill? The Senate was done early, finishing at 10:10 p.m., but over in the House the minority Republicans again played politics by trying to score cheap, political points over getting the job done and ensured an acrimonious 17-hour session that just ended a few hours ago around 6 a.m.

For example, according to Gongwer, when the budget for the community colleges came to a vote, the Republicans tried to play politics with it by trying to insert amendments prohibiting schools from giving an in-state tuition rate for illegal immigrants or providing employee benefits to unmarried partners. That threw a monkey wrench into the process and caused a long delay and the bill had to be re-drafted. Obviously, this should have been brought up in committee or any other time, but GOP gottcha politics was more important than getting the job done. And a government shutdown can be laid at whose feet, Mr. Bishop?

As the night and morning wore on, tempers got short and Republicans began to show their true colors, violating the rules, civility and respect of the House.

According to Gongwer,

House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche (R-Novi) stormed to the rostrum and said that if Democrats wanted to fast gavel they should get someone in the chair that could do it. As Republicans continued to shout, Rep. George Cushingberry Jr. (D-Detroit) yelled out "you reap what you sow." When Ms. Jackson ruled Rep. John Pastor (R-Livonia) out of order, several Republicans told her she was out of order. DeRoche told reporters that instead of working on a balanced budget for the past month, Democrats had chosen to spend hours making sure illegal immigrants got in-state tuition and that schools gave their unmarried same-sex employees benefits.

Gee, that’s sure a problem here in Michigan. Despite the short-tempers, even shorter deadline and a 17-hour session DeRoche thought he was being funny, and he introduced another time-wasting amendment to fund the per-pupil grant at $1 trillion. I’m sure after 17 hours on the House the floor and a 22-hr day that was really funny.

With very few mainstream reporters in Lansing anymore because of newsroom constriction and newspaper consolidation there are absolutely no budget stories in the mainstream media yet. Those stories should begin leaking out soon. We haven’t even begun to see what cuts to essential programs Senate Republicans have tried to sneak by without anyone noticing, like the state police budget after screaming about cuts the governor was proposing.

Aug 22, 2007

Its Democrats and Republicans going "bumper-to-bumper" to benefit Community Inclusive Recreation

This Saturday Night at 7:30 p.m. August 25th, The Bob Frahm Community Racing Challenge returns to Springport Motor Speedway, presenting the 2007 Congressional Challenge.

State Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Kalamazoo, Rep. Mike Simpson, D-Jackson, Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and Rep. Mike Noffs, R-Battle Creek, will don the drivers gear and take to the high banks of Springport Motor Speedway in a 10 lap sprint to prove who is the fastest legislator.

Benefiting from this week's event is Community Inclusive Recreation (CIR), based in Battle Creek, serving all of Calhoun, Barry and Jackson counties. The Mission of CIR is to provide and promote inclusive social, recreational, educational and art activities for people of all abilities through programming, leadership and support of community inclusion. CIR is a United Way Program Delivery Partner

"They are a wonderful organization with a vision and commitment to community inclusion,” Schauer said. “The CIR is changing mindsets, attitudes and accessibility barriers, and I am proud to support their efforts."

CIR is fortunate to have a wealth of partnering individuals and agencies throughout Battle Creek, and beyond. As a result of the relationships that have been cultivated throughout the 12 years that CIR has been in the community, participants have had opportunities to experience wonderful activities. And this weekend is no exception, as the world of automobile racing will be opened up to the great folks at Community Inclusive Recreation.

"With my 33 years in law enforcement, serving over 30 years with the Eaton County Sheriff Department; I've chased bad guys from every corner of this county and back: now they'll be chasing me, “ Jones said.

This fun event will be very racy as these four strong-minded and strong-willed drivers jump behind the wheels of Bob Frahm's Community Racing Challenge pure stocks for a 10 lap featured heat. Joining the Lansing lawmakers will be two representatives of CIR, making it a full field of challengers.

The Community Racing Challenge charge is to provide meaningful support to local non-profit organizations in the form of fund raising and team building events which will not only foster new interest in local short track racing, but enhance the relationship between drivers, owners, local businesses and the citizens of the community.

The kick-off for the Community Racing Challenge will take place Thursday, at Brown Stadium in Battle Creek where CIR will be hosting their 13th Annual Celebrity Softball Bash. This event pits the members of the Detroit Red Wings Alumni and Detroit Tigers Alumni in a softball game versus Battle Creek community leaders. Former Detroit Tiger pitcher Dave Rozema and former Detroit Red Wing Shawn Burr are among the many big names taking part in this big event.

The Community Racing Challenge will be on-site, along with one of the Challenge Race Cars handing out free vouchers for the race on Saturday night and giving everyone an opportunity to sit in the racer and try on some race gear. Schauer and representatives Noffs’ office are expected to be on-hand to meet and greet all the dedicated people involved in this popular community event.

For more information on this event, please visit, the online home of the Community Racing Challenge. There you'll find videos and photos of past events, directions to the racetrack, ticket information, event schedule, free on-line vouchers and more. Or contact Patrick McNamara via email at or phone 734.536.0319

Coulter Quote of the Week: dedicated to the LIVCO GOP Chair

This week’s Coulter Quote of the week is dedicated to Allan Filip, chair of the Livingston County Republican Party.

Mr. Filip wrote a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus today that accused the Livingston County Democratic Party of carrying “picket signs with handwritten hateful slogans” in the Howell Jaycees Melonfest Parade on Saturday. These were a few of the “hateful” signs Mr. Filip was referring to:
“No spying on Americans.” “Mike Roger's voted against children's health.” “Support the troops, bring them home.”

If Mr. Filip considers that hate speech, he must be totally outraged at the hateful and racist speech that comes out of the mouth of Ann Coulter every single day, and he must be so outraged by her speech that he will go as far as to lay down in the middle of Grand River Avenue to ensure she does not speak at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series in October for a cool $30,000.

Some how, I don’t see that happening.

In an ironic twist of fate, Mr. Flip is the husband of Janet Filip, the Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Cleary University, the person who actually books the speakers for the Livingston Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series. She had a wide choice of speakers who actually would have fulfilled the stated mission of the Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series of enriching the Livingston County community, but she instead chose a rightwing hatemonger.

This week’s quotes are just routine, Coulter examples of raising the bar for political discourse in the country.

However, just think how outraged and disgusted you would be if these two Coulter gems were handwritten on poster board picket signs and carried in a parade.

“Most important, Democrats resolutely refuse to tell the poor the secret to not being poor: Keep your knees together until marriage.” --- Online column 8/1/07

"We ought to spend that money that we're spending in Iraq on tracking down Bill Clinton and pursuing the death penalty." The Jon Caldara Show 8/2/07

Desperate LIVCO GOP chair launches baseless attack on Democrats

An open letter to Allan Filip, chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, in reply to his letter-to-the-editor full of false accusations in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

The party of FDR and Truman is alive and well, thank you, but I must ask you: where’s
the party of Eisenhower and Ford? The answer is long gone, and it has been hijacked by the likes of Tom Delay, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and George Bush.

I attended the Melon Festival parade in Howell with my family on Saturday, and I failed to see the signs you are complaining about. In fact, I talked to a friend of mine where the signs from the parade are currently stored, and she did not see them either.

“I saw no nasty signs,” said Hamburg Township resident Debby Buckland. “Healthcare for all” “No spying on US Citizens” is nasty and hateful?”

In fact, here are the exact wording of the signs that were carried by members of the Livingston County Democratic Party in the parade:

Quit stalling on State budget.”

“We want universal healthcare.”

“No spying on Americans.”

“Mike Roger's voted against children's health.”

“Support the troops, bring them home.”

“State Senate:
Don't balance the budget on our student's backs.”

I see no hate speech there, do you Mr. Filip? I see some hard truths. As for complaining to the Jaycees, go right ahead and make your case. We know the Republicans like to censor political speech, but like one of your “leaders,” Mike Bishop, recently found out; people will not stand for censorship.

I also worked a shift at the Democrats booth on Sunday and I stopped for a while on Saturday, and no one reported anyone complaining about the signs. In fact, the opposite was true. The response was great, and many people stopped by on Saturday to fill out our survey. People were also pleasant and interested on Sunday, but because of the rain they were les of them. But they were with us.

The people you claim complained may have been figments of your imagination, but more likely they were hard-core Republicans like you who do not like hearing the truth.

Actually, I did not see the Republicans in the parade at all. I did see some people marching for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, but again, no Rogers. Perhaps you can remind him where the 8th Congressional District is if you ever see him. He seems unable to find it lately. We, of course, did not see Reps. Chris Ward and Joe Hune, but we didn’t expect to see Ward. He even blew it off last year when it was an election year.

You are calling the majority of Americans Marxists because the majority of Americans who do not support the Iraq civil war/occupation. It was an immoral invasion that did not need to be made that was based on faulty information bent to allow Bush and his cronies a long-held wish to invade Iraq. It did not, and still does not, have anything to do with combating terrorism or protecting the U.S. against terrorists.

The protest sponsored by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq occurred in a bedroom, commuter community at noon on a weekday. It’s a miracle anyone showed up, but you should check out Rogers' Michigan office on Thursdays if you want to see lots of people protesting against the Iraq fiasco.

Like you, I also grew up grew up believing America could accomplish anything with the support of our citizens, and that’s why I am hoping the citizens can get us out of that useless occupation. I also grew up believing that we were the good guys wearing the white hats. We did not invade smaller weaker country for no reason based on made up reasons, excuses and justifications. But far more importantly, we most certainly did not torture and kidnap people. I spent 20 years in the military trying to be a good American the many times I was overseas representing America by being a good ambassador for the U.S. and projecting a positive image, but in a matter of seconds George Bush threw away all of that great good will people had for us.

It makes you wonder what prompted this unprovoked attack, but after seeing how few people visited your booth, I am beginning to see why. Apparently, the Livingston County Democratic Party is a force to be reckoned with based on this attack.

Aug 21, 2007

House Democrats will move budget bills Wednesday

Wednesday will be a busy day in the Michigan House on Wednesday, and the full House will act on some budget bills already passed by the Appropriations Sub-Committee for that part of the budget.

It’s expected the following bills already approved by the sub-committee will be taken up by the full Appropriations Committee beginning at 10 a.m. It’s also expected those bills will be approved by the full House later in the day. Those bills are: House Bill 4346, Department of Education budget, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Gillard, D-Alpena; HB 4350, higher education budget, sponsored by Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Chelsea; HB 4351 higher education budget, Byrnes; HB 4359, school aid, Gillard; and HB 4360, community colleges budget, sponsored by Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids.

This is in sharp contrast to the do-nothing, obstructionist Senate who have done absolutely nothing with any budget bills. As previously noted, this Senate is perhaps the most laziest, do-nothing Senate in Michigan history, or at least in recent memory. This is fewest total roll call votes held so far in a decade.

Speaker of the House Andy Dillon said the House has already sent more than half of the state budget over to the Senate, and the rest will come Wednesday. If the Senate fails to move their budget bill, Dillon said the House will move them the following week. The House is also prepared to send over the revenue bills if an agreement cannot be reached with the Senate. The Senate will own any government shutdown. That will fit right in the Senate’s mode of operation, and it makes you wonder if a shutdown has been their plan all along.

But there is hope it can get done before the Oct. 1 deadline. According to Michigan Radio, Dillon says he thinks he and Senate Majority “leader” will come up with an agreement both of their caucuses can support.

The Senate is where bills go to die for lack of action and attention, and that was even true in the last Legislative session when the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate instead of just the Senate this time around.

The House session is broadcast live, as well as most committee meetings, so tune in for some stimulating action.

Jackson County School Board punks privatization

The School Board for Hanover-Horton School in Jackson County did the hard work and due diligence and was able to keep its hard-working employees and avoid the privatization disease spreading like a plague in Michigan.

Accord to the Jackson Citizen Patriot, the board and the Hanover-Horton Education Support Personnel union spent about two months working to amend the custodians' contract to help cut costs and kill the privatization effort. The board and union agreed to cut the custodial budget by about $160,000, to slightly more than $300,000, and the unions made numerous concessions that included not filling two vacant positions, cuts in pay and higher health insurance co-pays. The 6-1 vote was against hiring a private company and keeping the employees.

Earlier this month the Howell Public School Board of Education took the opposite tack and voted to privatize the custodians, fire 40 employees and break the union. The union representing the custodians was more than willing to make some or all of the same concessions as their union brothers and sisters in Hanover-Horton did, but apparently the board took the easy way out.

It seems ironic that some board members in Howell say it was the hardest decision they ever had to make after the vote, but when you look closer it seems like it was the easy way out, but certainly the most callous, hard and shortsighted decision they ever made.

It seems just as ironic that Howell has some of the highest paid administrators in Livingston County, including four assistant superintendent and 12 supervisors or directors, but not a single one of these people were willing to roll their sleeves up and put in the effort and hard work to reach an agreement that would have kept 40 loyal employees and made the schools a safer and cleaner place. Sad.

The more than 50 people who attended the meeting Monday night broke into applause after the vote, and I would like to add my applause for the school board at Hanover-Horton.

Aug 20, 2007

Asking reservists and guard members called to active duty to resign from the Legislature is anti-military and wrong

I really hadn’t take a position nor intended to on the Senate Resolution introduced by Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, that calls for an amendment to the state Constitution to allow the effected lawmaker to pick their own fill-in if they are called to active duty in the Reserves or National Guard a for more than a year until I saw the editorial in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

“Bad idea. If a lawmaker can no longer perform his or her duties, he or she should resign. There are the provisions for filling the vacancy.”

I’m surprised at this anti-military position by the editorial board. Perhaps they have never heard of the federal law that covers Re-employment Rights of Veterans Returning to Civilian Jobs. Under the law:

"A person who left a civilian job to enter active duty in the armed forces is entitled to return to the job after discharge or release from active duty if they gave advance notice of military service to the employer, did not exceed five years cumulative absence from the civilian job, submitted a timely application for re-employment, and they did not receive a dishonorable or other punitive discharge. The law calls for a returning veteran to be placed in the job as if they had never left.”

Granted, I understand the situation differs for an elected official, but the principal should be the same. I also disagree with Garcia on how the position should be filled, but I agree with him 100 percent that it should be filled. There is no reason to penalize the lawmaker for serving their country, and to ask him or her to make another sacrifice and resign a position they worked so hard to obtain. Nor should the constituents be penalized for electing a patriotic lawmaker.

I think a district should have someone to represent them, and if not the voters are simply being cheated. In November of 2005 when Rep. Herb Kehrl, D-Monroe, passed away while in office, the residents of the 56th District did not have anyone representing them, other than the state Senator. I think they lost out. The position was empty until Rep. Kate Ebli was elected last November. The governor could have held a special election to fill it, but that would have cost a lot of money.

Senate Joint Resolution F, calls for the called-up legislator to recommend a substitute who meets all the requirements for holding the office, and the appointment would be contingent upon approval by the local political party in the district a lawmaker represents.

I think it should be handled the same way vacant state judgeships are handled with some slight variations. The Governor should appoint someone, and the Senate should confirm them. If could also be the house where the person will sit that confirms the nominee, or the political party could nominate someone.

The debate should be about how the position will be filled not that it should not be filled.

Newspaper calls for censoring all political blogs

With the Mike Bishop attempt at censoring a legitimate news source simply because they criticized him almost a month old, some in the mainstream and corporate media are just now getting around to putting their two cents in. Some get it, but apparently some do not understand the 1st Amendment.

As you know, back on Aug. 3 Senate Majority ‘leader” Mike Bishop, R- Rochester, blocked access to the liberal blog "Blogging for Michigan" and only BFM from Senate computers. Bishop and his staffers blamed, depending on who asked and the time of day, that BFM was banned for saying mean things about Republicans, or political staffers should not waste government time by reading political content or the assistant communications director for the Senate Democrats Communications was running the blog. It took four days of pressure from other liberal bloggers, one conservative blog and the mainstream media for him to relent.

Some mainstream media outlets, like the Traverse City Record Eagle, got it, and they called Bishop out on his classic example of censorship: the government trying to silence the press for criticizing him. Unfortunately, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus does not get it.

In an editorial today, the conservative and corporate editorial board is parroting the rightwing topic talking point that it was a simply “mistake” by Bishop.

“The mistake made by Bishop, or whoever decided to block the site, was a basic one. Few would challenge an honest attempt to improve productivity at state offices. But this attempt was obviously aimed at blocking access to a particular site.”

Are they for real? A mistake? Then they would have no problem with the Senate blocking access to their web site. Productivity and wasting time has nothing to do with it. Senate staffers answer questions from constituents everyday on issues facing the public and current affairs, and they should have access to every available news source. It seems the only mistake Bishop made was underestimating the reaction and he thought people would not be paying attention. The “Bishop made a mistake” defense popped up on the show “Off the Record” this weekend when one of the righting bloggers on the show used it.

Unfortunately, it gets even worse, and the P & A is arguing for the government to censor all blogs. The only possible explanation I can come up with is they have a lack of respect for blogs, and they don’t consider them legitimate news sources.

“If Bishop wants to make and enforce rules about appropriate workplace behavior, that's fine. But his rules have to be content-neutral. In other words, either ban all political Web sites or none.”

I would like to hear the outcry from them if Bishop banned all newspaper web sites. You would hear from me, and I would go to the defense of the P & A. Any attempt to censor a newspaper is met with immediate response from the newspaper and the Michigan Press Association (MPA). It should be met with outrage.

Some four or five years ago the Howell City Council tried to pass an ordinance that would limit or move newspaper vending boxes from the downtown main four. There was a restaurant there with outdoor seating and numerous paper vending boxes, but most were from the free shopper and real estate publications, as well as all of the state’s major newspapers and the P & A. It was almost impossible for pedestrians to get by the bottleneck.

The newspaper's management immediately contacted Dawn Phillips Hertz, the MPA attorney, and they rightfully quickly put a stop to it because any restriction of getting the news to the public is a violation of the 1st Amendment. The city backed off of that position. Why? Because it made a mistake by demanding they be moved by a law instead of just asking.

That was an honest mistake. What Bishop did was not.

Aug 19, 2007

Join the Livingston County Democrats for some fun fall activities

The Livingston County Democratic Party has a full slate of events set for this fall to help them raise some much needed funds and for people who hold similar views to get together, talk and enjoy each other’s company while having some fun.

“An Evening at the Opera house” is set for 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Howell Opera House. The after-work gathering will feature food and beverages, and a donation will be accepted at the door. It’s worth the price of admission just to see what the Livingston Arts Council has done with the opera house built in 1880 at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Walnut Street. (Update-the date has ben changed to Sept. 12, and the the Tree Town Quintet has been booked to play jazz.)

On Sept. 9 a small handful of the party faithful get together to clean the section of M-59 they have adopted of trash. Everyone is more than welcome, and the motto for all of our volunteer activities is “many hands make light work.” Meet at 8 a.m. at the Ironwood Golf Course, 6900 E. Highland Rd. Howell, located between Howell and Hartland.

On Sept. 22 join the party members for a bus trip to Casino Windsor for some fun and gamming. The trip will cost $20, and it includes $15 in coupons from the casino.

The fun continues the next day from noon to 4 p.m. on Sept. 23 at a fall “Brat-Fest” at the Huron Meadows Metropark in Brighton Township. A $10 donation is suggested for individuals and $25 for a family, and you only need to bring your own beverages, including beer and wine. The 1,540-acre park features a golf course, fishing, boat rentals, trails and other amenities. RSVP is required.

The fall activities conclude with an evening of music, dancing and refreshments at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Whispering Pines Golf Club, 2500 Whispering Pines Dr. in Pinckney. Mark Brewer, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, will be the special guest.

For information on any of these events call the party office at (810) 229-4212 or email at

Livco Democrats make more friends at Melon Festival

The Livingston County Democratic Party made its presence known this weekend at the 48th Annual Howell Jaycees Melon Festival.

The party drew a great response marching in the parade Saturday and enjoyed wonderful weather, and all but a few comments were negative. The positive response seems a little strange when we are constantly told we are the minority party in the county and our presence is marginal at best. The party member carrying the sign that said universal health car for all was greeted with applause all along the parade route down Grand River Avenue.

What was noticeably lacking was the presence of the so-called majority party in the county. The county Republicans had no presence in the parade, other than one elected official. A few people, including the chair of the county GOP, marched for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, but Rogers was no where to be found. The House took the entire month of August off to be spent it in their district, but Rogers has been as scarce in his home county and district as snow in July. He is becoming harder to see than the Wizard in the story of the Wizard of Oz. Perhaps he can play that role in the upcoming presentation of the classic story by the Community Theater of Howell.

The Republicans in Livingston County hold the Congressional seat, the state Senate seat, the two state House seats and all of the nine Board of Commissioner seats, but the only elected official in the parade was state Sen. Valde Garcia, to his credit. Our two state Representatives were absent, but that was really no surprise. Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, even blew off the parade last year during an election year.

On Sunday I did a shift working in the Democratic Party booth, – tent actually - and despite the terrible, rainy weather – which we really needed so it’s OK – we did talk to a few people. Those who worked on Saturday said the response was tremendous. Of the few people I talked to the most depressing was the man who stopped by with his two young daughters to get some stickers for them.

He is set to lose his job and health insurance in less two weeks. For the past seven years he has been a custodian at Howell Public Schools, but the school board voted to fire him and 39 of his co-workers and privatize the service. He said the union was more than willing to make concessions, but the board went for the indefensible position of getting rid of 40 loyal employees.

Aug 18, 2007

Dream of a Livingston County YMCA gets closer to reality

My dream of a YMCA finally coming to Livingston County is getting a little closer to becoming a reality with the hiring of long-time supporter and founder Dawn Palmer-Van Camp as The Livingston County Family YMCA’s first Executive Director.

The quest to bring a YMCA to Livingston County really began almost 30 years ago in 1978, but after some publicity, some initial fundraising and a strong interest, the Citizens for Organizing the Livingston County Family YMCA died a slow death. Fast-forward to the spring of 2000, and Livingston County earned the title of the state’s fastest growing county in Michigan.

As part of that growth the community’s two Hometown weekly newspapers are combined to form the first daily start-up newspaper in Michigan in more than 50 years, and yours truly came back to Livingston County and the newspaper to be part of history after a brief stint at the News Herald in Downriver as the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus rolled off the presses for the first time in September 7, 2000. Shortly after that I wrote an opinion column stating how we really wanted and needed YMCA here, and communities much smaller already have their own YMCA.

Shortly after that column was published I was contacted by a group of five people who were working on a project to conduct a feasibility study to see if a YMCA - the largest not-for-profit service organization in the U.S. - was wanted or possible in the county as part of their required public service project for Leadership Livingston. My part was small, but getting the ball rolling with the publicity I provide towards this project that the entire community will benefit from was one reason why I got into journalism to begin with.

Leadership Livingston was formed as a partnership in 1992 between Cleary University and the chambers of commerce in Brighton and Howell with goals that included identifying existing and emerging leaders and to expand the number of informed, civic-oriented volunteer leaders. Once a week from September through May the group of about 20 diverse people from the community in the program meet to learn about a particular area of the community, such as the local judicial system, state and local government, schools and human service agencies.

The class is divided into small groups of four to five people, and they choose a project to benefit the community that no one in the group has a background with. This particular group chose the YMCA as their project. Following their graduation from LL, the group stayed together and continued the grassroots effort of establishing the YMCA, and they earned the nickname the Fab Five. The Fab Five included Palmer-Van Camp – fondly known to the group as Dawn PVC – Jim Greene, Diane Vance, Kathleen Trader and Lillian VanHouten. These people deserve our gratitude.

The Fab Five formed several study committees, formed a board of directors, and in 2003 decided to affiliate with the Metro Detroit YMCA instead of forming an independent YMCA. In January of 2006 the public portion of the Livingston County Family YMCA Founders Fundraising Campaign officially got under way. The silent part of the campaign began with YMCA board members and the steering committee contacting corporations, foundations and local businesses to raise $200,000. The YMCA requires three years of programs before it will allow any fundraising for a building, and programming began in late 2005 with 90 kids participating in youth basketball and kids from Brighton and Howell took part in day camp at Camp Ohiyesa in Holly.

That brings us up to the official appointment of Palmer-Van Camp.

“This is a big step forward for our new YMCA,” said Tom Schumm, Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial in Brighton, who was recently elected as the chair of the 14-member board of directors for the Livingston County Family YMCA. “We know we have the right person to begin implementing our strategic plan to bring YMCA programs and services to Livingston County.”

Palmer-Van Camp has been with the effort to establish a YMCA in the county every step of the way. She was originally a market research analyst at Cleary University, and she was elected as the first-ever chair of the board of directors for the Livingston County Family YMCA in April of 2003. Palmer-Van Camp’s fondness for the YMCA began as a child growing up on a dairy farm in northeast Ohio where she spent lots of time.

The YMCA is offering fall programs beginning September 10. Two of the programs will target toddlers and adults - YMCA Junior Soccer Academy for 3 to 6 year olds to be held Saturday mornings in Howell and the Y-Strides Outdoor Walking Club to meet Monday and Wednesday mornings at area parks. Contact Palmer-Van Camp for more information at (517) 540-2325 or

Online registration for these programs is available at Just click on Registration to search program availability and to register. Livingston County residents may also call for registration materials. The Livingston County Family YMCA operates as a branch of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit that serves Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Livingston counties.

Aug 17, 2007

Sak alleged memogate and troopergate does not pass smell test

The rightwing blogosphere, all three of them, is buzzing - whining would be a better description - about an alleged incident where Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, was drunk at the National Governors Association event in Traverse City and allegedly “demanded” a ride form a Michigan State Trooper who was on duty there.

Minority “leader” Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, has even made the ridiculous request that the Speaker of the House relive Sak from his committee and leadership positions. This entire matter does not smell right, and it reminds me of the “Troopergate” issue of the early ‘90s when Rightwing sugar daddy Richard Mellon Scaife paid Arkansas State troopers to make up juicy and unflattering stories and lies about President Clinton.

This episode came to light from a memo the state trooper wrote and the Grand Rapids Press obtained from a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request. As a former reporter covering cops and courts, I have read many police reports, including reports from the Michigan State Police at the Brighton Post, but I have never seen a memo from the state police. Ask Bill Nowling, the new Communications Director of the Michigan Republican Party, about how many state police memos he has read as the cops and courts reporter for the same newspaper where we worked the same beat.

This raises a few of questions for me. Why did the unnamed trooper even write the memo? How did the GR Press know to make a FOIA request for that particular memo?

The bottom line is Sak did not break any laws, and he had the good sense not to drink and drive. Sak denies he demanded a ride or even asked for a ride, but what if he did? Since when is that a crime to have to much to drink on occasion and have the foresight and maturity to ask for a ride instead of getting behind the wheel of a two-ton deadly weapon?

It’s funny that the right-wingers are crowing about this, but they were silent as church mice when Rep. John Garfield, R- Rochester Hills, was arrested for his second drunk driving charge in March, and they even stayed quiet when the charge was dropped on a technicality. He was clearly driving drunk and endangering lives, but do you think we heard anything from the right? You guessed it, they were silent.

The Democratic Speaker declined to relieve Garfield of his committee assignments when he was arrested. Perhaps he believed that quaint and naïve notion of innocent until proven guilty. So why should he relieve Sak when he was not only not charged with a crime but did not commie a crime to be charged with.

Sak has apologized, but that is not good enough for Republicans. Now that the charges have been dropped against Garfield perhaps he can now issue an apology. Don’t hold your breath.

Aug 15, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: If she’s a Christian then I’m a conservative Republican

I got some new Coulter quotes this week, but you will never guess where I got them: on a Christian radio show. I kid you not.

This proves the queen of hate will go anywhere, appear with anyone to sell her trashy books to make a buck. I got an email prompt that she had appeared on this Christian radio show called “The Way of the Master Radio.” I don’t know much about it, but the guy who played the annoying teen on the 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains” is behind it. Coulter was there pushing the paperback version of her last book, and she claimed she was a Christian. I almost fell out of my chair.

Her behavior is nothing like I remember from the many years I went to Sunday school. From the time I was three-years-old in Mrs. Agnes Massengail’s Sunday School class to the time I left home and joined the Navy I went to Sunday School and church at the Monroe Church of God because my grandmother made sure of that, but I never remember any Bible stories that condoned the crap coming out of Coulter’s mouth.

She not only claimed she was a Christian, but she claimed she was a born-again Christian. The host, who sounded like the classic DJ that I grew up listening to on CKLW that has almost become a parody, asked her when she was born again. She, of course, could not remember when, but she guessed it may have been when the “adulterer and liar was in the White House.” I’m assuming she was referring to President Clinton, based on her pure hatred of one of the best presidents in history. More likely it was when she realized she could make some more bucks by adapting to the audience she was appearing before.

There are only six more quotes of the week left before the queen of hate collects her $30,000 – how many pieces of silver is that? – and speaks for 90 minutes at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series and further tarnishes Livingston County’s reputation and labels us as a community that welcomes racists of all ilks. But here are a few whoppers from the show”

“I’m quite sure I could not do what I do for a living and not be a Christian.” The Way of the Master Radio, 8/6/07.

“They (liberals) really are like some primitive religion. Someday we will look back at this global warning nonsense, and they will think those people were mad.” The Way of the Master Radio, 8/6/07.

If Ann Coulter is a Christian I’m a conservative Republican.

Aug 14, 2007

Privatization kills union and 40 jobs

Howell Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to break the custodians union, fire 40 custodians and privatize custodial services by contracting with a Grand Rapids-based company.

The board said their shortsighted and anti-union move was a hard decision, but it apparently wasn’t that hard. The move was unpopular, and according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “another audience member — Barry Goode, leader of the Brighton Education Association teachers’ union — called the board’s actions “shameful,” saying the district’s highest-paid employees were “advocating cannibalism” of the lowest-paid employees.”

So basically, the company that got the contract, Grand Rapids Building Services Inc., can hire all, some or none of the former dedicated custodians at minimum wage or near minimum wage with no benefits. This is just one more assault on a living wage, unions and the middle class.

Privatization of services and the race to the bottom for wages will soon have a devastating effect on the economy and country. Granted, this case of privatizing is not part of any Republican conspiracy, but overall it fits right into their mission to break unions. Republicans in both the House and Senate have bills pending to make Michigan a right to work for less state, and if that fails, a rightwing extremist who specializes in fraudulent and deceptive petition drives is marshaling money and resources to launch a petition drive to place it on the ballot.

If the decision was so tough why didn’t the board cut from the top instead of the bottom? Howell administrators are some of the highest paid public employees in Livingston County, and the board is also considering giving them a raise. HPS has four assistant superintendent, 12 supervisors or directors and countless principals. Perhaps it would be easier to cut one of those positions or even cut their pay to save jobs.

For an excellent example of how to properly erase a budget deficit Howell does not need to look very far, just a few miles down the road to Fowlerville Community Schools.

Back in 2000 the district found itself facing budget a deficit after it opened a new school building, like Howell, coupled with the overestimation of expected new students. They lured popular long-time high school principal Ed Alverson out of retirement to fill the vacant superintendent position to right the ship, and shortly after he signed on it was discovered the district had mistakenly received two payments of $380,000 and $372,000 a few years ago from the state resulting from some tax abatements that it had to pay back.

Faced with a budget shortfall of more than $700,000 Alverson did everything he could to avoid layoffs. In the end, he only had to layoff the assistant superintendent for curriculum and the finance director. With the education and training they had they were unemployed for perhaps a week. Alverson saw them through that crisis even though the cut in central office personnel meant more of that load fell to him and the lone assistant superintendent, but he still managed to keep the ship afloat and eventually restored those positions.

It would also seem that because the district has already had its $67.1 million budget in place since June it would not need to make more cuts, but public schools are in the same boat Michigan’s public colleges and universities are in: they have to pass their budget without knowing how much state aid they will or will not receive. Since the Senate Republicans have not passed one single budget bill and Senate Majority “leader’ Mike Bishop is holding state government hostage until his demands are met, this is what we can expect.

Aug 13, 2007

Garfield ducks second drunk driving conviction

Just 24 hours before jury selection was set to begin, it appears the second drunk driving charge against Rep. John Garfield, R- Rochester Hills, may be dismissed. The moral of the story seems to be with a good lawyer anything is possible, or justice is only for those who can’t afford a good lawyer.

Ingham County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings told subscription only Gongwer that he has submitted a motion to the 54-B District Court Judge to dismiss the second drunk driving charge. Dunnings said the video evidence of Garfield being pulled over by Michigan State University police on March 29 for not wearing his seat belt "doesn't jive with what was being said." I’m not really sure what that means, unless they pulled him over first because they suspected he was driving drunk at that hour of the morning and used his not wearing a seat belt as justification for pulling him over after the fact. However, that is pure speculation on my part.

But there appears to little doubt of Garfield’s guilt. His blood alcohol level was .14, and the legally drunk level is .08. The day after Garfield was arrested his chief-of-staff, Dave Jessup, said, "This is an ongoing battle he is fighting with alcohol,'' he said. ''He is home in the district and is taking steps to deal with this.''

Following his first drunk driving convention in 2005, Garfield used the standard GOP alibi and checked himself into a rehabilitation center, claiming he had a problem that was aggravated by pain medication he has taken for several years. His hometown newspaper, the Oakland Press, called for his immediate resignation following his second arrest, but it appears there will be no consequences for Garfield, either from law enforcement or the Republican “leadership.”

Ironically, in the same issue of Gongwer the Michigan Office of Highway and Safety Planning announced it is running a new advertising campaign aimed at getting people to not drink and drive as a statewide blitz on offending drivers that begins Friday. The TV ads will begin running immediately, and a state police crackdown on drunk drivers will run from Friday until September 3. "Drinking too much and driving is a dangerous combination, and the result isn't pretty," OHSP Director Michael L. Prince said. "The consequences of a drunk driving conviction, such as fines and increased insurance rates, are very serious and are a drain on offenders' wallets for years."

That is unless you have a good attorney.

UPDATE: The Detroit News on Tuesday confirmed the charges have been dropped. No word on why.

Walberg tries to counter against watch blog with his own blog

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg joined the ranks of bloggers with his own official blog. Although it appears to do little but regurgitate press releases written by the GOP House Communications team and his own press secretary, it does allow comments, which is very unusual for so-called Republican leaders such as Saul Anuzis. We know he does not write on it, but hopefully he reads it so we can let him know our positions on the issues.

Cleary, this is in response to the good folks over on Walberg Watch who have done an excellent job in keeping on eye on what Walberg and Michigan's 7th Congressional District, and they are certainly holding his feet to the fire. In the short time it has been up more than 20,000 people have visited the blog to make it the best news source for what’s really going on in the 7th District. Congratulations.

It’s also heartening to see the excellent Democrats lining up to make Walberg a one-term Congressman like our favorite son Dick Chrysler over in the 8th Congressional District.

Aug 12, 2007

Shortsighted privatization is just one more assault on unions and reason

The all-out attack on unions launched by the Republicans with the push for right to work for less laws has a new ally called privatization.

This enemy of decent wages and quality workers allows public schools and government to fire quality workers who earn a living wage in order to hire a private company to hire other workers for minimum wage. Granted, this is not just a push from Republicans, but it stinks no less.

The latest assault has come here in Howell Public Schools where the school board is considering a resolution at its regular board meeting Monday to fire its union custodians in order to hire a private company to supply the services. According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “the union has offered to accept a wage freeze and have members contribute $2,400 yearly to health insurance benefits.” School districts all over the state are struggling to stay afloat with shrinking revenue from the state, but this is a shortsighted move. The board just approved its $67.1 million budget in June with $517,000 from its ending fund balance – money set aside for emergencies - and it expects to save $400,000 or more by privatizing custodial services.

This comes on the heels of news the school board wants to give raises to its top five administrators. Great, let’s give raises to the people who helped get us in this mess, but cut the wages of the people who are making do with less. According to the Press & Argus, those administrators being consider for raises include Superintendent Chuck Breiner, Deputy Superintendent Lynn Parrish, Assistant Superintendents Jeanne Farina and Rick Terres, as well as Paul Pominville, director of technology, and Mike Peterson, director of operations.

Howell is the largest public school in Livingston County, which is also the fastest growing county in the state, and Breiner is the highest paid public school employee in the county, as well as the third highest paid public employee in the county, raking in more than $140,000 a year. He only comes in behind U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers and the county administrator.

Public school administrators are always at the top of the pay scale, and both Terres and Parrish each earn more than $120,000 a year. Howell has the highest paid principal in the county at $111,000. I don’t have a problem with people earning the most money they can, but not on the backs of those below them and if it hurts the quality of the services provided like this will.

Board President Phil Westmoreland is the second board member to make the shortsighted proposal to suggest the swimming pool at the high school be shut down in order to save $100,000. In the interest of full disclosure, one of my part-time jobs is teaching swim lessons to kids at the pool.

But as such, I see the segment of the Howell community it serves, and it provides services from the cradle to the grave, from teaching infants and their parents how to be safe in the water to exercise classes for seniors and those with arthritis. When the millage was passed to add the pool onto the high school in the early ‘90s it was sold to the voters that if they voted to approve it the pool would be a community pool available for use by everyone.

I don’t mind paying school taxes even though I no longer have kids in public school anymore because it’s my patriotic duty to do so, and it’s our responsibility to provide a quality education for all children. However, as such the school and the swimming pool are community assets. It seems the board wants to go back on a promise, and I cannot see the sense of a useful asset like a swimming pool sitting idle when you are asking those who used the pool and don’t have kids in the schools to continue to pay school taxes.

I supported this board and administration when it stood up to anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) that tried to ban books by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors from Howell High School classrooms, but their financial decisions have left something to be desired. The district's second high school is set to open this fall. But after getting voters to pass a $90 million-plus bond issue in 2003 to build the high school it realized it did not have the money to operate two high schools.

Back to the swimming pool issue, Parker has a new, eight-lane, competitive swimming pool that will, and can, only be used by students and swim teams. They ignore the success the newest high school in Livingston County, located just a few miles east down M-59, is enjoying.

Some three years ago when Hartland opened its new high school it built a swimming pool and fitness center that the community can use, and they can buy memberships to, as well as by the day. The swimming pool is the standard 25-yard, six-lane pool that the swim teams and physical education classes use, but right next to it is an indoor water park that is always crowded and draws people from all over mid-and southeast-Michigan. If it does not actually make a profit, it breaks even. Why that was success was not considered when the new pool was built is anyone’s guess.

The school board has to do a better job that it’s doing with the public funds entrusted to it.