Nov 26, 2008

Anti-union crusader continues to overstay his 15 minutes of fame

Andy Warhol's famous quote about every person being famous for 15 minutes may have to be extended to 20 minutes for rightwing blogger and anti-union activist Chetly Zarko.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is carrying a story about the Howell Education Association (HEA) - that represents the Howell Public School teachers - decision to appeal a Livingston County Circuit Court decision to allow an estimated 5,500 e-mails written by union leaders on school computers to be released to the public. The case came about in May 2007 after Zarko submitted a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) to get ammunition to smear the teacher's union.

He claimed the union conducted a large amount of union business on public time on computers owned by taxpayers, including trying to retain MEA (Michigan Education Association) affiliated MESSA health-insurance and using parent-teacher conferences to recruit parents to their side of a collective-bargaining debate. He received some emails before the school district realized there may be confidential parent-teacher info in the emails and put a stop to giving him anymore.

The district and the union filed for an injunction to stop release of the emails, and Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille issued an injunction that prevented Howell Public Schools from releasing more e-mails by leaders and members of the teacher’s union until they could be reviewed.

In October 2008 Latreille determined that the e-mails written by union leaders on school computers are public record, but they were not released pending an appeal. That appeal was just filed.

This has been and always will be a fishing expedition by an anti-union crusader to smear a union. With the few emails he managed to get his hands on he made the ridiculous claim that HEA leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time by using public resources for union business, specifically, the email server. But when that attack failed after the district said the union has a “recognized right" to use the server he took another tack and used the emails to cherry-pick a few sentences to claim union leaders were mean to a few members.

All along he claims he has been doing this as a public service, and he has also steadfastly denied any one is paying him for this crusade. But his quote in the article is curious:
"We weren't surprised at all," said researcher Chetly Zarko, who used Michigan's Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to obtain the information.

Perhaps he can explain who "we" are. His claim that he is doing this for the public's right to know is laughable, but his quote that if "we lose this battle, it will be harder for the mainstream press to look into and report on issues" is absolutely ridiculous.

Again, this is simply an attempt to smear the union; nothing more nothing less. As a former reporter, I am a strong supporter of FOIA and sunshine laws, but I'm not sure how a teacher's union equates to the government. None the less, I say give him the emails. This is just keeping the story alive, and if anyone has managed to slog through any of his blogs, they know this ink does nothing but stroke his ample ego.

Zarko has a history with rightwing causes. He was the communications director for the California group headed by Ward Connerly that came to the state to push the racist Michigan Civil Rights Initiative on the November 2006 ballot that did away with affirmative action. His attack on the HEA came after communicating with the anti-gay hate group known as the "LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) and “LOVE” and school board member Wendy Day. In the summer and fall of 2007 he helped push for the so-called "right to work" ballot issue that failed to materialize.

Michigan Senate promulgates 2009 Senate session schedule

The Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader has promulgated the 2009 Senate session through the summer, and it does not look very ambitious.

The Republican-controlled Senate will not meet until Jan. 14. Following that one session day, there is a tentative session set for Jan. 20 that follows the normal routine of meeting Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The first solid session day is not until Jan. 27.

The schedule follows the normal routine until it takes the week of Feb. 24 off, and session continues again until the two-week spring break on April 7. Then it's back to work until the session breaks for the summer on June 25.

The Democratically-controlled House has not yet promulgated its schedule for the next session, but the first order of business will be to swear in the 44 new House members shortly after the New Year. The Senate has traditionally been the place where bills go to die, and that will most likely continue. It remains to be seen if the Senate will practice any bipartisanship this time around with the House Democrats picking up nine additional seats.

Meanwhile, there are only three session days left in the current Lame Duck session that begins next Tuesday, and it appears it will not be enough for the ambitious Lame Duck agenda. Among the things Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and other legislative leaders say they want to address in Lame Duck is the expansion of Cobo Hall in Detroit, getting an agreement for development of a light rail system along the Woodward Corridor in metro Detroit, completing action on promise zone legislation that will help communities allow residents to attend colleges free of tuition costs, addressing the surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax (MBT), foreclosure problems in the state and the workplace smoking ban.

In addition, the fiscal crisis is having a negative effect on the budget, and budget cuts may be addressed in Lame Duck. There are tentative session days set for the week of Dec. 9 and Dec. 16, and indications are they will needed and used. It's unclear if there will be marathon session days like the Legislature experienced last October and November when the budget was approved, but it's possible.

Nov 25, 2008

Griffin set to run for Schauer's Senate seat

Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, officially filed to run for the 19th District Senate seat vacated by Sen. Mark Schauer's, D-Battle Creek, election to the U.S. House.

Griffin was elected to his second term in the House earlier this month representing the 64th District, which includes the city of Jackson, Concord, Hanover, Napoleon, Parma, Pulaski, Sandstone, Spring Arbor and Summit townships. Senate District 19 covers Calhoun and Jackson counties. Griffin won his House seat (Correction) by unseating incumbent Republican Rick Baxter in 2006, and he will need that experience to win the swing 19th District.

Griffin has an impressive resume of government service at all levels. He served as mayor of Jackson from 1995 - 2006. Prior to that, he was a staffer in the Michigan Legislature for 12 years, as well as a staff member for five years with former U.S. Congressman Carl Pursell.

So far, Griffin is running against Rep. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, who is term limited. It's unclear if there will be a primary. Rep. Mike Simpson, D-Liberty Township, has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but he has not formally announced or filed a committee.

It's unclear when the Governor will call a special election, but the already short-handed Senate Democratic caucus will be even smaller after January when Schauer officially resigns to take his new seat.

Ford has the safest cars in the world

It has been tough the last week listening to talk radio in the middle of the Big 3 auto loan talks when callers called in to disparage auto workers, the UAW and the quality of the Big 3 products.

I just have to grit my teeth knowing it’s simply not true. I would place any American car against any foreign made car, so it was good news to hear today that on the list of the safest cars put out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Ford has the most cars on the list.

Ford was represented on the list by the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable passenger cars with optional ESC, and the Ford Edge, Ford Taurus X and Lincoln MKX midsize sport utility vehicles. Seventy-two vehicles earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick award for 2009. This is more than double the number of 2008 recipients and more than three times the number of 2007 winners, according to the press release announcing the winners. The numbers reflect automakers' push to make certain safety equipment more widely available.

Although foreign manufactures were also represented well on the list, so were U.S. automakers. Also on the list were Cadillac CTS, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and the Saturn Outlook.

I have driven nothing but American cars, with the exception of a two-year period when I lived overseas, and the quality and reliability of those has been fantastic a. I have owned my cars for an average of five years, and I put almost 300,000 miles on a Chevrolet Celebrity.

The bottom line is American cars are the best cars made.

Nov 24, 2008

Howell High School We the People team wins again

Howell High School students from teacher Mark Oglesby's senior government class won the "We the People" 8th Congressional District Competition over Mason High School on Friday.

We the People is a nationwide program developed by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center For Civic Education. The group’s s mission is to foster the development of informed, responsible citizen participation in civic life. The actual program is based on materials developed by the center, and the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The competition is fairly simple, but the knowledge the students demonstrate is inspiring. Students are divided into teams of three to six students, and the teams demonstrate their knowledge of various areas of the U.S. Constitution before three judges made up of community leaders from the community and across the state in a format that resembles a Congressional hearing. They are then graded on a variety of areas, such as knowledge, reasoning, presentation and participation.

Oglesby has been the district's coordinator for a number of years, and his teams have been very successful at the annual state competition in Lansing. Over the past three years, Howell has finished third at the state competition. This year's state competition is set for Jan. 9 in Lansing, usually at the Lansing Center. Oglesby has left nothing to chance this year, and he has set up three practice competitions before the state competition using local attorneys, educators, judicial experts and community leaders.

Nov 21, 2008

Proposed auto company loans serve as excuse to bust unions

If you had the opportunity to save 3 million U.S. jobs from being lost, most people would say it’s a no-brainer and you would do it in order to not worsen the U.S. recession, but U.S. lawmakers are balking at giving the Big 3 automakers a loan to save those jobs.

It's ironic that we just threw $700 billon at banks with zero accountability, no strings and no guarantee any of it will be paid back, but we don't want to loan money to save 3 million jobs. I have a sneaky suspicion this is just one more attempt to break the union, a goal of Republicans for years.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) is being blamed for the woes of the U.S. auto industry, despite the fact that the credit crunch is making money for car loans scarce as moderate Republicans and cutting into sales. I saw some bozo on CNN last night from the rightwing Heritage Foundation making the outrageous claim that the average UAW workers make $70 an hour. Nothing could be further from the truth

People quickly forgot the huge concessions the UAW made in the contract that was settled in 2007. The Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) agreement that will be ran by the union that will over approximately 500,000 retired auto workers and took more than 70 billon in obligations off the books for the Big 3.

The two-tier wage system means new workers will make less than foreign car makers at some $14 an hour. That is not much money. To make matters worse, foreign car makers get government help with health care that adds more than $2,000 to the cost of an American car.

We can expect to see a big push to approve so-called "right to work" laws that really means the right to work for less. The UAW almost single-handily created the middle class, and this is just one more assault on the middle class.

Proponents of so-called "Right to Work" claim the law would do away with the requirement that workers must be in a union to be employed at a union shop. However, federal law already protects workers who don't want to join a union to get or keep their jobs, and gives workers the right to opt out of a union. But they must still pay union dues. RTW would give them the option of not paying dues while still enjoying the benefits of being in a union.

Unions in RTW states are required by law to defend non-dues-paying members involved in a dispute or charged with a grievance at work, but even those employees do not have to contribute dues. RTW does not give workers more rights, but instead it weakens unions and their ability to bargain for improved benefits and working conditions, which is the real intent of RTW. The union, by law, must represent all workers equally.

Earlier this year I read " The World Is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. The book makes the case for the benefits of globalization, saying the convergence of technology and events has allowed counties like India, Communist China and other Third World countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing that has raised the standard of living. He claims it is not a race to the bottom for wages when companies send entire factories to Communist China so they can pay rock bottom wages of a $1 an hour because those workers will eventually organize and all workers will see an increase in wages, benefits and the standard of living will improve.

He ignores the desperate union busting in the U.S. We even have foreign companies locating in the southern U.S. where the unions aren't as strong so they can take advantage of workers.

Union organizers in China are being jailed for organizing workers. Workers in China are prevented from forming independent unions and many have been arrested for attempting to exercise that right and for defending other workers’ rights.

Nov 19, 2008

GOP cheers for 9.3 percent unemployment rate

I could hear the cheers from Republicans even in my office early this afternoon when the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth announced Michigan's seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in October rose to 9.3 percent, the highest unemployment rate the state has seen since July 1992.

It didn't take long for the official Republican blog to pick up the cheer. He, of course, is blaming the Governor for the national recession and finical meltdown that has led to the state's biggest employer facing bankruptcy and looking to Washington for a loan to save 3 million jobs. It's sad they are happy the state and country is facing tough times just to seize power.

"The national economic downturn appeared to have a negative impact in October on Michigan’s already weak labor market,” said Rick Waclawek, director of Leg's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives in a press release.

The biggest job loses, obviously, are in manufacturing, and the Big 3 cutting jobs has had a serious ripple effect because people do not have the kind of jobs that pay a living wage that helps fuel the economy.

I have been in that unemployment line in the past, and I can find nothing to cheer about. That was at a time when the unemployment rate was in double digits. The modern high of 16.9 percent unemployment was reached in November 1982. In fact, it stayed in double digits until 1985, and the unemployment rate stayed at least 8 percent until 1988.

Anti-gay hate group does not want gays to be protected from intimidation

The anti-gay hate group the American Family Association (AFA) of Michigan is busy spreading misinformation and insisting gay people not be protected from intimidating and hate crimes.

The AFA, led by homophobe, Gary Glenn, has had their supporters flood Michigan legislative offices with letters written by the AFA railing against House Bills 6340 and 6341 that addresses hate crimes. The bills were approved last week by the House before it broke for its two-week break, and it now goes to the Senate for consideration. The AFA falsely claims it supports censorship, it discriminates against religion and it gives gays special treatment and protection. Although the bill covers hate crimes committed because of ethnicity, race, disability and gender, it’s the protection it offers to gays that sets them off.

It's very similar to the objections raised about Matt's Safe School Law that would require public school districts in Michigan to establish bullying policies. In fact, it mentions those bills, HBs 4162 and 4091, in the letter.

"As with recent "bullying" legislation, HB 6341 segregates victims of certain crimes into special "protected class" categories -- including "sexual orientation" (homosexual behavior) and "gender identity" (cross-dressing) -- and then doles out special enhanced protection based on membership in those categories."

HBs 6340 and 6341 would increase the penalties for crimes committed because of person's bias toward another person or group based on race, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other reason. According to the bill analysis, "A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if he or she maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that individual's race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, caused physical contact with another; damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another; and/or threatens, by word or act, to do one of the fore-mentioned acts."

Also, a person who hung or displayed a noose on property; displayed a burning cross or displayed any symbol that is historically or generally understood as intended to intimidate or threaten would be eligible to be charged. Last year in Michigan, there were 28 convictions for ethnic intimidation under a similar law.

The letter uses a debunk incident as a reason to oppose the bills.
"Such legislation has also proven to be a serious threat to religious freedom in other jurisdictions such as Philadelphia, where a multi-racial group of citizens in 2005 was arrested and prosecuted intimidation" because they read Bible verses out loud on a public street during a "gay pride" festival in the city."

They are actually referring to a 2004 incident where 11 members of the group Repent America, an organization that dedicates a large chunk of their time to protesting pro-gay events. they are not as bad as the Westboro Baptist Church, but they share some characteristics.

The incident continues to be misrepresented, and it has been debunked on Snopes. What happened was that they were using a bullhorn to drown out a stage performance with anti-gay shouts during Philly's annual Outfest, which led several people on-site to confront them. This then led the police to ask them to move in order to prevent any potential violence, but they refused -- which then and only then led to them being arrested for such charges as failure to disperse, possessing an instrument of crime (a bullhorn), obstructing a highway, criminal conspiracy, and disorderly conduct. Under Pennsylvania's hate crimes law they were also later charged with "ethnic intimidation" -- but in order to receive this additional charge, they had to first engage in behavior that the officers found unlawful.

However, when the charges were contested in court, it was ultimately determined that no hate crime law had been violated, and the charges were dismissed.

That has not stopped so-called Christen groups like the AFA from using the incident to further their agenda. This is not the first time conservative religious groups have misrepresented an incident to further their cause, and the most recent example occurred at Mount Hope Church in Delta Township on Nov. 9 where the church's claims did not match the police report.

The assault of so-called Christians on gays is disturbing, like the banning of gay marriage in California financed by the Mormon Church.

Nov 18, 2008

Cox continues to campaign for governor on the tax-payers dime

Michigan Attorney Mike Cox is continuing his gubernatorial campaign on the tax-payers dime with press conference across the state today to voice his opposition for a pair of House Bills aimed at reforming health coverage in the state.

This comes on the heels on news reported by subscription only MIRS and Gongwer that the House has reached a compromise on the legislation dealing with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan and the individual health insurance market. Months of work, compromise and committee hearings have gone into House Bills 5851 and 5853 known collectively as the Individual Market Reform package.

The bills, which are backed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, would change and update the rules for individual health insurance coverage as more and more employers choose to end coverage for employees to cut costs. The individual health care market was once just a very small piece of the health insurance business, but it is growing larger fast as employers eliminate care.

Proponents of the bills say that, if passed, they would prevent insurance carriers from increasing rates for people who get sick during their coverage period, establish uniform criteria for all insurers and create a fair and competitive playing field for all consumers and insurers. Opponents say the bills would eliminate competition, increase costs and reduce access to health care.

Cox, who officially announced he was running for governor on Nov. 6, has been a vocal opponent of the package. Cox has been stealthily used the AG's office to campaign for governor shortly after he was re-elected in 2006, using public service announcements with well known spots figures, holding press conferences across the state like he plans today to address issues he has no business being involved in and doing what ever he can to get his name in front of voters.

The compromise was apparently worked out with just the House Democrats and Republicans, and it has not been run past Senate Republicans, who control that body. The package has a long history in the Legislature.

It was approved early in the House with bipartisan support on Oct. 24, 2007 and sent to the Senate where the Health Policy Committee held numerous hearings and introduced substitutes to the bills. The PR machine on both sides of the issue took off, flooding legislative offices with letters and emails.

Despite all of the committee hearings on the bills in the Senate, the Senate Republicans sprang their substitutes out of committee on the Senate floor without allowing Democrats even time to read the complex substitutes. The bills passed along party lines on May 1, 2008 and were then sent to the House for concurrence. The House, however, overwhelmingly rejected the Senate version by a vote of 79-26. A conference committee was named on Sept. 3 to iron out the differences between the two versions.

The compromise was worked out among the three members of the House part of the conference committee, but the three members from the Senate apparently have not seen the compromise. The House and Senate are on a two week break, and are not set to return until Dec. 6.

Any bills not sent to the governor for signature by the end of the Lame Duck session on Dec. 26 die and must be reintroduced in the new session that begins on Jan. 3.

Nov 17, 2008

Come out and support the ACLU on Saturday before ‘Daylight come and we gotta go home’

He may be known worldwide as "King of Calypso” and for the calypso lyric “Day-O” in his monster hit “The Banana Boat Song,” but Harry Belafonte is also know worldwide for his support of civil rights and humanitarian causes.

Belafonte will be the special guest at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan’s Annual Dinner set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency Hotel. Cocktails and silent auction is set for at 6:00 p.m. with dinner at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $150 for members; $200 for non-members. If you are currently not an ACLU member, you can receive the member price if you become a member when purchasing your ticket. Tickets are available online.

Belafonte is a star of night clubs, recording, films and stage. But he has become just as well known for his support of humanitarian causes. The World War II Navy veteran was an early supporter of civil rights, and he was a confidante of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He often put his career and livelihood at risk to support his beliefs. President John F. Kennedy named Belafonte as cultural advisor to the Peace Corps in 1960.

Belafonte has continued to lead the struggle for human rights as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He has received countless accolades for his work in Africa, and recently convened the groundbreaking "Gathering for Justice" to address the plight of children in the U.S. criminal justice system. Detroit held its first "Gathering" in 2007. Over his life, Belafonte has stood up for what he believed in, no matter how controversial or harmful to his career. Over the years, he has been part of the anti-apartheid movement, he has been a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, opposed the U.S. embargo on Cuba, met with President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez and continues to be a vocal critic of the crimes committed by the Bush Administration.

Come out and support the good work of the ACLU. The mission of the ACLU is to enforce the Bill of Rights and advance its principles. The ACLU not only stands for our basic American freedoms, it actually goes out and fights for them everyday, yet it has been branded unfairly as liberal by rightwing zealots.

They defend anyone who is being discriminated against; no matter what your political affiliation or how unpopular it is. The ACLU has supported rightwing hatemonger Rush Limbaugh in his doctor shopping case by protecting his privacy.

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority picks up dropped ball on WALLY line

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) is picking up the ball dropped by the short-sighted Livingston County Board of Commissioners, and the authority announced last month it would take control of planned Washtenaw Livingston (WALLY) commuter rail line that will link Howell and Ann Arbor.

Proponents of WALLY that will use existing railroad tracks to link the two counties have been pushing to set up a new taxing authority. The county board decided in September to not only not provide any money to the project, but it will also not be part of the coalition that wants to form a taxing authority.

The resolution approved by the AATA board authorizes it to serve as the designated authority for the WALLY project and it will also allow AATA to complete the necessary environmental assessments to fulfill federal and state regulations.

AATA’s decision to act as the designated authority for the WALLY commuter rail project will allow it to receive promised federal funds. U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, previously told members of the coalition that a designated authority eligible to receive state and federal funding is needed in order to request funds for the project.

The WALLY Coalition, which has been working on the project for more than two years, includes representatives from the cities of Ann Arbor and Howell, Washtenaw and Livingston counties, the University of Michigan, WATS, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Northfield and Hamburg townships, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, Washtenaw Community College, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, local Chambers of Commerce, AATA and other interested groups and individuals from throughout the WALLY proposed service area.

County political conventions on tap this week

With the historic election over, county political parties are holding their conventions this month to pick who will lead the parties.

In Livingston County, the Democratic Party will convene at 10 a.m. Saturday at the party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 in Brighton. The main purpose of the convention is to elect the executive committee which will select the officers for the next two years. I don’t anticipate a change in leadership

Current Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier was just chosen in July to replace Matt Evans after he resigned to concentrate on his run for Green Oak Township Supervisor. Daubenmier has done an excellent job in a short time, bringing in some big speakers, done a great job in fundraising and established an excellent party blog, Living Blue.

The Livingston County Republican Party is holding its convention at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Historic Livingston County Courthouse in downtown Howell, 200 E. Grand River Ave. They will be replacing chair Allan Filip, who took over as the GOP Chair of the 8th Congressional District.

What remains to be seen is if this time the Grand Oil Party will open up their convention to press coverage. When they chose Filip two years ago, they slammed the door in the face of the press and chose him in secret behind closed doors.

Filip’s tenure was marked by lies, misinformation false attacks and power grabs.

Nov 14, 2008

Smoking bans gets more ammo as another study says it will improve health

Although the Michigan House failed to take up the workplace smoking ban during its marathon Lame Duck session Thursday night that lasted until 11:30 p.m., proponents of the ban expect the House to take up House Bill 4163 when it reconvenes on Dec. 2 following its two-week deer-hunting break.

The push to ban smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants, failed to get the required number of votes to pass even though it got a majority of votes in September. The Senate approved a clean version that had no carve outs or exceptions back in May, but the House balked at requiring the ban for Detroit casinos.

However, a new study released on Nov. 11 may give presents even more ammunition in their quest for the ban. Henry Ford Health System’s director of Cardiac Imaging Research released a study that said if smoke free air were implemented in Michigan a 12 percent drop in heart attack admissions would be seen after just the first year.

Researchers examined the average number of heart attack hospital admissions in Michigan from 1999 to 2006 and concluded that smoke free air could lower admissions by up to 3,340 admissions annually. This study joins numerous other studies that demonstrate a smoking ban is directly responsible for a reduction in the number of acute coronary events.

“Clearly lives are at risk and the legislature needs to deal with this issue with a sense of urgency,” said Katherine Knoll, The Campaign for Smokefree Air (CSA) spokesperson. “Workers have dealt with the dangers of secondhand smoke long enough and these studies can no longer be ignored. The legislature needs to get the job done. It’s time to protect all workers whether you work in an office, factory, restaurant or bar.”

You can call or email the Speaker of the House Andy Dillon to urge him to allow a vote on the bill. He can be reached at (888) 737-3455 or If the bill passed in the House is different than the Senate version, contact Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to urge him to allow a concurrence vote. He can be reached at (517) 373-2417 or at Also, don't forget to contact your state Senator and Representative to urge a yes vote.

Freshman Livingston County Rep elected to leadership position in GOP House

Even though he has not yet been sworn in, Bill Rogers was elected to a leadership position Thursday in the Republican House Caucus, tapped as the Assistant Minority Floor Leader.

The position does not carry much responsibility when you are in the minority party, but it's unusual that a freshman is elected to a leadership position. However, in the era of term limits three incoming freshman Representatives were chosen for three of the seven leadership positions for the 43 seat GOP caucus. The Democrats won nine seats in the election to increase their advantage to 67-43. The person Rogers replaced, term-limited Chris Ward, was the Floor Leader when Republicans controlled the House, but he was ousted after he voted for the income tax increase last fall to avoid a government shutdown.

I got to know Rogers when I covered the Livingston County Board of Commissioners, and he is a competent, friendly and respectful man. Prior to being elected to the House to represent Livingston County's 66th District, he was the chair of the Board of Commissioners. However, he was clearly bested in the debates during the election.

The election seems somewhat surprising when you consider how much experience fellow freshman Livingston County colleague, Cindy Denby, has after serving as a legislative aide to Rep. Joe Hune, whom she replaces to represent the 47th House District.

Name to lead the GOP caucus Thursday as the House Republican Leader was Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R- Bellaire. Elected by his colleagues as the House Minority Floor Leader was Rep. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell; chosen as House Minority Assistant Speaker was Rep. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive; chosen as Caucus Chair was incoming freshman Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake; and chosen as Assistant Caucus Chair was incoming freshman Larry DeShazor, R-Kalamazoo.

Despite facing a drunk driving charge and being asked to resign by some Republican colleagues, Rep. Kevin Green, R- Wyoming, was elected as Minority Whip.

Nov 13, 2008

Quote of the Week:OMG you guys are jerks

This week's Quote of the Week sounds like it can from the captain of the high school cheerleading team, but, surprisingly, it came from former Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

She was lashing out at a report from Faux News that she did not know Africa was a continent and what countries were part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The reports from the McCain campaign were just confirming what glimpses we saw from the very few media interviews she did. Palin, of course, used the old GOP standby of blaming the media for her lack of intelligence, or maybe for daring to report it.

The weird thing is that during the campaign the press could not get within 10 feet of her to ask an impromptu question, but after the election I can't turn on the TV and not see her face. Granted, most of her appearances are on Entertainment Tonight and other show biz type shows, but isn't her 15 minutes up? We can only hope.

Her excuse for the more than $150,000 spent on her for clothes and makeup is laughable. Republican Party lawyers are still trying to determine exactly what clothing was purchased for Palin at such high-end stores as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, what was returned and what has become of the rest.

But here is our Quote of the Week:

"That’s cruel. It’s mean-spirited. It’s immature. It’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks if they came away with it, taking things out of context, and then tried to spread something on national news.”

Nov 12, 2008

See Dick not run, not, not, not

The 2010 Michigan Governor's race will have two new names after Republican loser in 2006 Dick DeVos announced in an email that will not run.

"I have concluded that my ability to impact the future of Michigan will be more significant at this time from outside government, instead of inside." He said in his email.

His billons of inherited dollars ensured the nomination was his if he wanted it. That cleared the way for speculation on who will run from the GOP side. Attorney General Mike Cox is the only one who officially has formed a committee to run. His ties to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Cox's admitted infidelity make him suspect.

Other possible candidates mentioned include U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, and Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, and Sen. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

The biggest drawback to DeVos dropping out is we will not be able to see that cool cartoon called "See Dick Run."

Prusi chosen as the new Senate Minority Leader

LANSING – The Senate Democratic Caucus chose Sen. Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, as the new Senate Minority Leader today to replace Sen. Mark Schauer, who was elected to U.S. Congress from the 7th District on Nov. 4.

The caucus went behind closed doors this morning before session after days of lobbying, and Prusi and Democratic Floor Leader Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, emerged as the leading two candidates. Following session, Schauer announced Prusi was chosen as the new leader and Thomas will keep his position.

"The most pressing item on my agenda is to address what is currently going on in Michigan," Prusi said. "We need to find common ground to address the problems facing Michigan."

Prusi currently serves as the Democratic Vice-Chair for the Senate Finance Committee. He is in his second and final term in the Senate, and he served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate.

"Senator Prusi has been at the forefront of the most pressing issues facing our state, including energy policy and the state budget," Schauer said. "These experiences will serve him well, and I am confident he will excel in his new role as Caucus Leader. We will work closely to ensure a smooth, productive transition."

Only four of the 17 Democratic Senators will be returning in 2010, and some people thought one of the returning Senators would be more motivated to help win a Democratic majority in the Senate in 2010. But apparently experience won out.

Michigan political junkies can see Off the Record live

The long-running weekly PBS show "Off the Record" will tape a segment live on Nov. 21 in East Lansing in front of a live audience, and the show is inviting fellow political junkies to join them for a special on the road show.

The show has been a staple on PBS stations all over Michigan since 1972, covering the governor's office, the state legislature, the political campaign trail and state government with host and longest-running Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick. The on the road show will take a look back at the 2008 election with some of Michigan's top political pundits. The show will begin at 2:30 pm. At Michigan State University's Kellogg Center Auditorium, 55 S. Harrison Road in East Lansing, with a reception following at 5 p.m.

The program is sponsored by MSU's Michigan Political Leadership Program and the Michigan Political History Society. It will feature guests Steve Mitchell of Mitchell Research and Communications, Inc.; Susan Demas, a reporter for the newsletter MIRS that covers the Capitol; Bernie Porn of EPIC-MRA; Nat Ehrlich, of the Institute of Public Policy & Social Research; Bill Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics and Coit Cook Ford III of CCF III Consulting & Associates.

The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required by phone at (517) 353-1357 or by e-mail to

The show airs on weekends on PBS stations beginning Friday evening. Check local TV listings in your area to see when the show airs on your local PBS station.

Nov 11, 2008

Help pick the 2008 Grinch of the Year

It may only be Veteran’s Day, but stores already have Christmas displays, the TV is filled with Christmas commercials and one radio station is already playing Christmas music.

So it’s not too early to make your nomination for “Grinch of the Year,” sponsored every year by Jobs with Justice. The Ninth Annual “Grinch of the Year” contest asks people to nominate the most deserving greedy Grinch in their hometowns who does the most harm to working families. With the financial crisis that has seen CEOs getting million dollar bonuses and golden parachutes and their employees getting the shaft and pink slips, it should be easy to come up with a nominee.

JwJ is asking people from all over the country to submit a nomination for the national 9th Annual Grinch of the Year by Nov. 26 with a few sentences on why you think the nominee is deserving of such an honor. Based on the nominations, JWJ will chose the top two or three and conduct online voting to chose the winner.

Last year’s winner was Smithfield Packing Chairman Joseph Luter III. Past nominees include Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Wal-Mart, President George W. Bush, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Cintas, Comcast, Verizon Wireless, Angelica and Continental General Tire.

Jobs with Justice is a national organization that runs national campaign for workers' rights, with the vision of lifting up workers’ rights and struggles as part of a larger campaign for economic and social justice. Jobs Local Jobs with Justice Coalitions unite labor, community, faith-based, and student organizations to build power for working people.

Nov 10, 2008

Time running short on Michigan Legislative session

Time is running short for the Michigan Legislature to act on a number of bills before they die when the Legislature adjourns for the year on December 27.

All bills not signed into law before December 27 will die, and they must be reintroduced when the new Legislature goes into session on January 6. There are only five scheduled session days in the Lame Duck session before the legislature adjourns, with six tentative session days. This week the Legislature will meet on Wednesday and Thursday before it takes a two-week fall, or deer hunting, break before it comes back on December 2.

Among the Lame Duck priorities are reaching an agreement on expanding Cobo Hall in Detroit, getting an agreement for development of a light rail system along the Woodward Corridor in metro Detroit, completing action on promise zone legislation that will help communities allow residents to attend colleges free of tuition costs, addressing the surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) and the workplace smoking ban.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm also wants action on proposals to try and reduce home foreclosures in the state, such a proposal that would allow for a 90-day freeze on foreclosures. In addition, action on the complex Blue Cross/Blue Shield individual market bills could be in the works.

Hundreds of hours of man-hours have been put into the package that was first passed out of the House way back in October 2007. The Senate approved its own version, and a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two bodies was just appointed in September. If the bills are not approved before the 27th the process begins anew. With 46 new members taking the oath of office in the House in January, there may be some incentive to get the bills done in Lame Duck.

The financial crisis could also have an effect on the situation. BC/BS has warned that it is facing a potential financial disaster if changes are not made to the state's individual coverage market.

Nov 9, 2008

Newspaper fails to find real cause for failure of bond milage

The local newspaper finally picked up on the fact that the Livingston County Republican Party was trying to influence the Brighton Area Schools bond issue that was defeated on Election Day.

Better late than never, but it certainly let the party chair get off with a lame excuse; letting him claim that the predominate party in the county was not advocating for the election but simply allowing the opponents of the bond issue to store the campaign signs there.

A group calling itself "Parents Union Local No. 1" that is made up of members of the county party’s executive committee advocated for the defeat of the bond issue, and according to the article, Allan Filip, chair of the party, claims the party did not take a position. Right, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

The question the reporter or editor at the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus who wrote the piece should have asked is of the group operated by party officials is registered as a Political Action Committee or a ballot committee. In order to spend money to influence the outcome of an election must, which they admitted they paid for the signs, they must be registered.

The school district was seeking a $15 million bond for buses and technology, and a separate capital projects sinking fund on the Nov. 4 ballot. With the bond funds, the school would have purchased 1,600 new computers and 46 new school buses. While this is not entirely a new millage, it replaces an old one with a slightly higher millage.

The combined building millage and the technology/bus bond would equal about 1 mill, which is slightly higher than the building/sinking fund millage rate that expired in 2007. That millage rate was 0.9 mills, or 90 cents in taxes per each $1,000 of taxable value." It would have cost the owner of a $200,000 house $100 a year or about 28 cents a day.

That still would have left homeowners - in the most affluent area in one of the most affluent counties in the state - with the lowest school millage in Livingston County. Without those needed improvements, it will become more difficult to compete for school-of-choice students, causing the district to lose even more funding.

What is even more stunning is in light of the newspaper’s failure to ask a basic question, is an editorial in the same issue blaming the school board for the ballot failure because of the teacher’s contract they approved in April that gave teacher’s whopping 1.13 percent to 2.26 percent raise over three years, offset by requiring teacher’s to pay for their own health care.

“Tired of the fact that its school board steadfastly spends money it doesn't have, voters in the Brighton Area Schools district resoundingly defeated two requests for new taxes Tuesday,” the editorial begins.

Generally, editorials advocate for something, but I’m not sure what this one is advocating for. Being one of the most affluent communities in the area, it would make sense that in order to live here teachers need to make a decent salary. Many teachers live outside the community, but with zero mass transit opportunities they have to drive in to work. I know the price of gasoline has fallen steadily from its high marl of more than $4 a gallon, but I don’t think that’s going to continue. Teachers in Brighton are not even the highest paid in the county. That honor belongs to teachers in Pinckney Community Schools.

The editorial then goes after board member Joe Carney, who is a friend of mine. It calls him, “veteran board member Joe Carney.” I’m not sure how veteran a first-term board member can really be.

“Did the school board get the message? Not if the response by veteran board member Joe Carney is typical. As the thrashing of the tax issues became apparent election night, Carney deflected any responsibility from the school board. The fault, he said, belonged squarely on the back of recently departed Superintendent Jim Craig.”

The editorial goes on further to quote Carney, "I lay this on the very poorly ran campaign to get this done," Carney told our reporter. "The guy (Craig) that was supposed to be leading the parade, who recommended we do this, his mind was elsewhere."
Amazing. And wrong.”

I disagree. The superintendent is the one who recommended the millage. Plus, before being named superintendent he was the assistant superintendent for finance. His job is to sell the mileage within the constraints of campaign finance law. It seems a little suspect that in the most affluent district in the county he can’t sell a much needed millage that will cost homeowners a mere 28 cents a day. Instead, he was looking for a new job.

Clearly, that’s not the only reason for the defeat. The teacher’s contract, wrongly, contributed to the loss, but when the party that controls every political office in the county from U.S. Congress down to 90 percent of the township positions advocates for the defeat of a common sense proposal, some of the blame should be placed at their feet.

That’s where the newspaper should look, and they failed.

Nov 7, 2008

Republicans incognito try to influence millage election

Something is fishy in Brighton, and if that's the case it's a pretty good bet that the Livingston County Republican Party is behind it.

In Tuesday's General Election, the Brighton Area School district was seeking a $15 million bond for buses and technology, and a separate capital projects sinking fund that was defeated. With the bond funds, the school planned to purchase 1,600 new computers and 46 new school buses. While this is not entirely a new millage, it would have replaced an old one with a slightly higher millage. If approved, it would have cost the owner of a $200,000 house in affluent Brighton $100 a year or about 28 cents a day.

That still would have left homeowners with the lowest school millage in Livingston County. Without those needed improvements, it will become more difficult to compete for school-of-choice students, causing the district to lose even more funding.

While watching a Youtube video of Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis make a stop in Brighton just a few days before the election for his highly successful "Fight to the Finish Tour," I was surprised to notice among the candidate yard signs stacked up was a stack of yard signs urging people to vote no on the millage. I had no idea why a political party would advocate against a local millage issue.

Raising further suspicions was a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus two days after the election on a group calling itself "Parents Union Local No. 1" pushing to reopen the teacher contract that was just approved in April and put their health benefits out to bid. The name is an apparent attack on teacher's unions.

The so-called leader of this group is businessman John Conely, owner of Conely Auto Sales in Genoa Township. But his associates really raised my eyebrows, and their ties to the local Republican Party are strong. The rest of the group consist of Genoa Township attorney Neal Nielsen, county assistant prosecuting attorney Bill McCririe and former Brighton School Board Treasurer Miles Vieau.

Nielsen is a former Republican Regent for the University of Michigan, and an ardent Mike Rogers supporter. You may recall he caused a major controversy when he refused to take down a Rogers for Congress sign on property he donated to Genoa Township for a fire station in violation of campaign law.

McCririe and Vieau are both members of the Livingston County Republican Party Executive Committee. Vieau decided not to run for reelecting to the school board last year. Instead, he began recruiting Republicans to run for the nonpartisan school board seats in an underhanded attempted to do away with the nonpartisan designation.

Republicans are not content to control the majority of partisan seats in the county, and now they are apparently trying to make nonpartisan races a sham.

The Brighton teachers had been working without a contract since August 2007, and after some often bitter negotiations and with the assistance of a state mediator, the school board approved the three-year contract by a vote of 4-2. It included moderate annual raises from 1.13 percent to 2.26 percent and teachers must pay more toward their health care benefits.

According to the P & A, the anti-school group has previously called on school board members Joe Carney, Beth Minert and Joyce Powers to resign from the board. The three all voted for the teachers' contract. You have to wonder if it has anything to do with their ties to the Democratic Party. Carney is the former chair of the county party.

Not a cent from the recently rejected millage would have been used for teacher salaries, benefits or even to operate the schools. But the group admitted they bought and paid for the yard signs discovered stacked in the GOP "Victory Center" opposing the recent school bond and sinking fund millage

Now, I seem to recall that any group spending money to influence the outcome of an election must be registered as a Political Action Committee. I checked the Michigan Secretary of State's web site, and I could find no listing for "Parents Union Local No. 1" or anything to do with Brighton Schools.

Nov 6, 2008

House Democrats choose leaders

LANSING - - Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, was chosen as the Majority Floor Leader Thursday for the 2009-10 legislative session that begins in January as current, term-limited and Democratic Representatives-Elect gathered in caucus to choose their leaders.

Angerer will replace term-limited Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit. The Democrats retained House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Twp, as Speaker of the House. Rep. Pam Brynes, D-Chelsea, was chosen as speaker pro tempore. The votes cast for all three positions were unanimous.

Both Angerer and Brynes - in their third and final terms - took the next step up the ladder. Angerer was the Assistant Floor Leader and Byrnes was the associate speaker pro tempore. Byrnes will be in the chair during floor sessions, and Anger will set the agenda from the floor.

Angerer unseated an incumbent Republican when she won her first term in 2004. Republicans, who controlled the House, were so incensed that she wore a target on her back for two years, and Republicans refused to let her even get the simplest of resolutions passed. The same Republican she beat spent the next two years in the district campaigning and raising money.

In the meantime in Lansing, Angerer proved to be a tireless worker, and her constituent operation was the best in Lansing. She earned the respect of colleagues, opponents, staff on both sides of the aisle and House employees down to the janitorial staff. In the 2006 rematch Anger won by an even larger margin than in 2004, and she was named the chair of the important Health Policy Committee when Democrats took control of the House.

With their seats safe this year, Angerer and Byrnes helped other Democratic House candidate’s campaigns and the Democrats picked up nine seats to give them 67 seats.

The caucus did not elect a caucus chair and assistant positions. Republicans also did not choose its leaders, and they are expected to do that next Wednesday when the Lame Duck session resumes.

News of DWI arrest of incumbent Republican House member does not break until after election

Two days after the election, subscription only MIRS is reporting that Rep. Kevin Green, R-Wyoming, was arrested for Driving While Impaired (DWI) in an incident that occurred some two weeks ago in Saginaw Township.

Speculation by the online newspaper is that it would not have had an effect on the election in the predominantly Republican area near Grand Rapids, but that should have been up to voters. He won with 62 percent of the vote, but I wonder why it was not reported in the Grand Rapids Press or the Saginaw News.

Green is the Republican Caucus Whip, and he was mentioned as a candidate to succeed term-limited Craig DeRoche as the House Minority Leader. What this will do to that candidacy is also unknown. In fact, the Republican caucus, as well as the Democratic caucus, is meeting right now to possibly elect new leadership for the upcoming session that begins January 6.

Diversity Council celebrates 20th Anniversary with special event

It seems fitting that the Livingston Diversity Council will hold its annual awards event on its 20th birthday, just days after the first African American President was elected.

The celebration will be held from 7-9 p.m. Friday at the Hartland Music Hall, 3619 Avon Road. It is free and open to the public, and the celebration will feature awards, a video about the group and entertainment by the Men of Grace, a musical ministry of Grace Gospel Fellowship.

The members of the group are currently in or have completed the one-year rehabilitation program at Grace Centers of Hope. The gospel-blues group performs spirituals, hymns, traditional and contemporary styles and personal expression. Grace Centers of Hope is Oakland County's oldest and largest homeless shelter.

The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council is a grass roots organization made up of business people, private citizens, educators, government officials and clergy who live or work in Livingston County with the mission of making the community ever more welcoming, harmonious and prosperous for people of all races, creeds and backgrounds.

The group was formed in 1988 in response to a cross burning in the yard of a black family in the county, and it was initially called Livingston 2001. It was so named because the children in kindergarten when the ugly incident occurred would be graduating from high school in 2001, and hopefully, entering a world where that kind of hate and prejudice was just an ugly footnote in history. A few years ago it changed its name to reflect its mission after 2001, but the mission remains the same.

One way the group meets its mission by bringing diverse people and forms of entertainment to the county. The group and community leader's have worked hard to live down the county's undeserved racist reputation, but when anti-gay hate groups like the so-called "LOVE" group- Livingston Organization for Values in Education- pops up it just reinforces that reputation.

Livingston County Democrats willing to give their obsolete phone booth to state GOP

To quote the late great Jackie Gleason, How sweet it is. Tuesday's Democratic electoral victories were sweet, and our quote of the week really reflects that.

This is a quote we Livingston County Democrats have heard directed at us for many years, and I believe it was first put forth by an editor at the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus who once ran for the state House of Representatives as a Republican. Something to do with local Democrats can hold their meetings in a phone booth. But when you consider more than 42,000 people in the Livingston County voted for President Barack Obama, and Supreme Court Justice Diane Marie Hathaway actually beat incumbent rightwing Republican Cliff Taylor in the county it will have to be a big phone booth.

Perhaps we can lend that phone booth to the Michigan Republican Party since we have not needed it for a few years.

"We Republicans are caucusing in a phone booth."I'm enthused that we will rebuild our party but it's going to take some time." -- Republican Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. Gongwer November 6, 2008.

Nov 5, 2008

Only negatives in historic election are local

I feel like I'm on a roller coaster ride, but it's heading up.

I went to bed just after midnight after Election Day elated that there is a President Obama, the ballot proposals I supported won and we increased our majority in the state House, but I was also disappointed that despite a great showing Democrats in Livingston County who worked so hard still do not have any local seats to show for it and the one candidate I supported by actually going door-to-door for, state Sen. Mark Schauer for the U.S. House, appeared to have lost. I blogged in support of many candidates, but he was the only one I expanded physical energy for.

But low and behold when I looked at Gongwer this morning my spirits soared. Not only did Schauer win, but Gary Peters is now Congressmen-elect Peters. Add to that a historic win by Judge Diane Marie Hathaway over incumbent rightwing activist judge Cliff Taylor. Speaker of the House Andy Dillon won both the recall election and re-electron. Now, maybe Leon Drolet will crawl back under the rock he came from, or better yet, he will be prosecuted for the illegal activity during the recall campaign.

Election Day began for me at 6 a.m. at the polls in Howell Precincts 1 where I was working my first General Election as an election official. The turnout was heavy from the moment the polls opened until around noon when it surprisingly fell off. It was a weird feeling being at the polls all day because there was a virtual news blackout at the polling place.

I was tunnel versioned between tearing off the top of the voter's ballot and helping them run it through the tabulator and checking off names in the poll book. Traffic picked up around 2 p.m., and traffic was steady but not overwhelming until the polls closed. I didn't leave the polls until 9:30 p.m. after we had closed everything out.

The good sign was that Obama had won Howell precincts 1 and 2 in predominantly Republican Livingston County.

Locally, the Buckland family was carrying the torch for local Democratic hopes. Dave Duckland had the best chance of putting a fresh voice on the all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners, but he fell just short. Debby Buckland had a great shot at Hamburg Township Clerk in the county's most populous township where she fell just 322 votes short. She was actually leading with about half of the votes counted.

The incumbent clerk, Joanna Hardesty, lost in the GOP primary, but she launched a spirited write-in campaign. She got 2,239 votes, but her less than honest campaign continued to the end. A costumed giant pencil gave away pencils with her name on them outside the polls. That was legal, and it is even legal to take them into the polls. What it is not legal to do is to leave campaign material at the polls, and people were leaving the pencils behind on tables where the ballot application was being filled out and at voting booths. Since Hardesty was running the election, she knows better. Perhaps that's one reason she lost.

A person who is very close to the campaign told me this morning that if Hardesty had not been in the race Buckland would have won because the opponent is so disliked. I find that hard to believe, and I think the opposite is true. My hope was the two Republicans would split the Republican vote allowing Buckland to win, and it almost worked.

While I am still digesting the election news, it's hard to find much negative, and the only negatives are local. I guess we will remain a county with low taxes, but absolutely zero services.

Nov 3, 2008

Come celebrate with the Livingston County Democrats on election night

Livingston County Democrats are conceding nothing, and they have been working hard knocking on doors, making phone calls and stuffing envelopes from soon-to-be President Obama all the way down to Democratic township board candidates since last spring.

There is still a change to volunteer and make a positive difference in your community and the world. Volunteers are still needed to phone bank and go door-to-door in the all-important Get out the Vote activities. We Know Sen. Barack Obama is leading in all the polls, but if we don't get out and vote it's all for naught. Do not be complacent. For somebody who has done a lot of phone banking and knocking on doors, it can be a fun experience. The good news is the weather is perfect, and you will only be dealing with the many Obama supporters in Livingston County to remind them to vote. You will not have to deal with the kind of McCain supporters who would take candy away from children and are rude to dedicated volunteers.

Shifts are available today from Noon to 4 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tomorrow, Election Day, shits are available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Noon to 4 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Post-8 p.m.

After the polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, volunteers in the post-8 p.m. shift will go to the precincts and keep voters in line to vote rather than allowing them to become discouraged and leave. The party also needs people on Election Day to be poll challengers and to give rides to the polls. I was a poll watcher/challenger in 2004 and 2006, and it was such a positive experience and I got along so well with the election inspectors at my polling place, that I took the next step and am now an election inspector.

Once we have done all that we can to get our people elected and get this country headed back in the right direction, join all the volunteers and supporters to watch the results come in. An election return watching party will be held at the joint headquarters of the Livingston County Democratic Party/Barack Osama's Campaign for Change at 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, of the Fonda Place Office Park, in Brighton, just east of U.S. 23.There will be soup, chili, lasagna and soft drinks available. Bring a dish or snack to share. I have been to many of these potlucks, and I can tell you this, Democrats can cook.

For information or to volunteer for a shift, please call the office at (810) 229-4212, email at or stop by the office at 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600.

Extremist group spends $100,000 to prop up sagging extremist Walberg in final weekend before election

In a last-ditch effort to keep their bought and paid for candidate in power, the extreme rightwing group Club for Growth announced Friday that it was pumping an additional $100,000 into the 7th District Congressional district race over the weekend for more false attack ads to prop up extreme Republican Tim Walberg, according to subscription only Gongwer.

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, continues to lead the race over the incumbent, and Club for Growth is spending furiously to protect their investment in the final weekend before the election. Schauer, meanwhile, continues to pick up support in the far-flung 7th District that covers more land area than any of Michigan's 15 Congressional districts.

On Sunday the daily Jackson Citizen Patriot endorsed Schauer, saying, "Schauer is nothing if not effective, however. He has shown throughout his political career — as a Battle Creek city councilman and spending six years in the state House and six years in the Senate — that he cares about improving people's lives in a personal, tangible way."

Remember to vote for Mark Schauer for Congress tomorrow.

Nov 2, 2008

Clerk write in candidate puts out false flyer less than a week before election

If you want an example of a politician that will say and do anything to get elected and keep their job, you just need to look at Joanna Hardesty and the race for Hamburg Township clerk.

Hardesty lost the Republican primary, and she is running as a write in candidate. She is holding fundraisers, spending money, buying advertising going door to door in the quest to keep her job. Basically, she’s doing the things she should have done before the primary instead of trying to coast on her incumbency.

Just five days before the election, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is reporting Hardesty put out a false flier falsely claiming that Democratic opponent, Debby Buckland, has been unemployed since 2006. The fact is that since Buckland left real estate in 2006, she has been a political campaign field director for several candidates, including the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in two states, including all important Iowa.

Buckland says Hardesty knew the accusation was not true, and the facts bear that out. Buckland put that information out at the forums and debates held, her activities were even published in the local newspaper and it was even on her campaign web site. That makes Hardesty a liar or not capable of doing the most basic of fact checking.

Infighting on the all-Republican board has been a staple of the township recently, and it may have contributed to all but one of the seven incumbents losing in the primary, as well as the trustee who won the supervisor primary.

Many have put the blame on ousted supervisor Cindy Pine, but I find that very hard to believe. I dealt with Pine when I was a reporter and she was the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, as well as the time I spent covering the township. I know her to be an intelligent reasoned person. She was far more truthful and civil than the current chair, and just as successful by treating people with respect and not wasting money on ridiculous billboard and commercials.

The good news is a write in candidate rarely, if ever wins, and Hardesty and the Republican challenger will split the GOP vote, and the township voters may have a different voice that is a team player, an experienced administrator, has a positive outlook and can work with a diverse group of people on the board in Buckland.