Jan 5, 2009
2008 Year in Review Part I
What a year. Two thousand eight was a busy year, especially if you love politics like I do. There were a lot of newsworthy things, but by far was the election of Barack Obama as President. But here is a monthly recap of 2008 via the Conservative Media blog.
JanuaryThe month of January was consumed with news of the Michigan Presidential primary that was really a bust. Most of the leading Democrats removed their names from the ballot because Michigan dared to question the absurdity of Iowa and New Hampshire’s primaries going first every four years. The only names on the ballot on the Democratic side were U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, U.S. Chris Dodd and Sen. Mike Gravel.
I was one of the Livingston County residents that got to see one eventual presidential nominee when then candidate John McCain and the “Straight Talk Express” made a stop in Livingston County’s Genoa Township for a town hall meeting.
On the labor front, friends of labor and the middle class geared up for a possible petition drive expected at the Jan. 15 primary polling places to make Michigan a “right to work for less” state, but the petition drive never materialized.
The petition drive by Health Care for Michigan got off the ground at the primary, but it eventually died The drive was put together by a coalition of labor, religious and activist groups that wanted to amend the state constitution to require the Legislature to pass laws to ensure that "every Michigan resident has affordable and comprehensive health care coverage through a fair and cost-effective financing system."
The maneuvering in the ridiculous and unsuccessful recall efforts against state legislators who voted to in October 2007 to increase the state income tax and place a sales tax on some services that helped balance the state budget and erased a $1.8 billon budget deficit began with a couple of court cases.
Recalls were in the air in February, and we saw a mixed bag. In the news in February were recall attempts against Rep. Marie Donigan, D-Royal Oak, Rep. Mike Simpson, D-Liberty Township, Marty Griffin, D-Jackson, Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, and Rep. Robert Dean, D-Grand Rapids. The recall attempts saw lots of smoke, but no fire. They all eventually died, and they were not popular. Even Former Republican Speaker of the House Rick Johnson, R-Leroy, published an editorial denouncing the recall attempt of Simpson. In the end, only the recall of Speaker of the House Andy Dillon made it to the ballot. It violated campaign the law to do so, and was easily defeated.
There were plenty of attempts at ballot issues, but only a few were successful. The Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC) turned in 474,752 signatures -- 304,101 were required -- to put medical marijuana on ballot. The petition drive to implement the Michigan Fair Tax Proposal got underway, but it ultimately failed to get enough signatures. The Fair Tax Proposal would completely eliminate the Michigan Business Tax (MBT), personal property tax, the 6-mill business education tax and the Michigan Income Tax in favor of a 9.75 percent sales tax on goods, food and services purchased in Michigan.
The year also saw the demise of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. In March, he laid out his vision for the City of Detroit in his seventh State of the City Address, but he inexplicitly marred an excellent speech to take shots at his critics, including TV stations, for what he called “a hate-filled, bigoted attack on his family” over the growing text-messaging scandal.
The Iraq war entered its fifth year and the 4,000th American soldier was killed in combat -- 169 of those from Michigan -- this month. Don Bortz of Waterford, who served a year in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, called out the media for its lack of coverage on the war.
The U.S. Congressional race for Michigan’s 9th District between long time incumbent Joe Knollenberg, R- Bloomfield Hill, and Democratic challenger Gary Peters got underway in earnest. Peters went on to unseat Knollenberg in his bid for his 9th term in Congress.
In the first of many recall attempts that will crash and burn, the one against Rep. Robert Dean, D-Grand Rapids, is the first to publicly admit defeat and throw in the towel.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger was the featured speaker at the Livingston Democrats' 25th annual Edwin B. Winans Dinner put on by the Livingston County Democratic Party. Gettelfinger, who negotiated the historic labor contract with the big 3 automakers last year that included the union taking control of retiree health care costs, made national news this year in the fight to save U.S. automakers.
Rightwing wacko and conservative hero Rush Limbaugh continued to flirt with the law by urging his lemmings still voting in primaries to waste their vote by crossing over and voting for Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because the GOP nominee has already been chosen. Limbaugh has labeled his perverting of the democratic process “Operation Chaos.” He took it a step further when he urged his listeners to incite riots at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
The workplace smoking ban was in the news this year. Iowa began the latest state to protect the health of innocent nonsmokers and enact an indoor smoking ban.
The Michigan Townships Association (MTA) joined in the growing chorus of people against the recall of primarily Democrats in the state House. The MTA called the attempted recall of Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, recall abuse. In its weekly Legislative Report, the bipartisan MTA headlined the brief that goes to elected officials across the state “recall abuse spreads to state level.” That call was echoed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which never endorses a Democrat, calling it "counterproductive.” Even House Republicans got into the act, introducing House Resolution 358 that would "express the sense of the House that recalls should be based on specific misconduct, criminal activity, or abuse of office and should not be based on a single vote and to denounce the effort to recall Speaker Andy Dillon."
After more than a decade of debate, a smoking ban in Michigan workplaces, including bars and restaurants, was finally approved in the Senate by a vote of 25-12. The Senate approved a substitute to House Bill 4163 that calls for a total ban on indoor smoking in workplaces with no exceptions.
More than 600 people gathered at the Lansing Center for the Second Annual Michigan Policy Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Prospect. The all-day summit to featured breakout sessions, skills workshops and speakers, like author and journalist Amy Goodman and author and humorist Jim Hightower.
After 10 years of the workplace smoking ban not even getting a committee hearing, the House held its second vote on the ban. The Michigan House approved a smoking ban by a vote of 65-39 that put the exceptions for non-Native American casinos, bingo-halls and so-called “cigar bars” back into the bill. The House approved a substitute to House Bill 5074 and sent it to the Senate where it died.
The evidence keeps piling up that a workplace ban, including bars and restaurants, will be a good thing for public health and will help business and not hurt it. Grand Valley State University marketing professors Frederic Kraft and Suzeanne Benet have just concluded a study that shows non-smokers are more likely to go to a place that bans smoking and it’s less likely that a smoker will not go to a place simply because it bans smoking.
Dave Dishaw, chair of the Kent County Republican Party, is claiming a weekend break in at their headquarters is the work of Democrats without an ounce of proof. What is even more predictable than a baseless allegation without proof, is he is using the incident as a fundraiser. Dishaw posted a letter on the web site saying, “We knew the Democrats would do anything to win, but we didn't expect this! For the first time in history, the Kent County Republican Headquarters was broken into, vandalized and burglarized.”
And what will make it all better for Dishaw, “Your contribution of $100, $50 or just $25 will help support our candidates and spread our conservative values across Kent County!”
A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the number and restrictiveness of state laws regulating smoking in private-sector worksites, including, restaurants and bars, increased substantially over the past three years. The analysis found the number of states with strong smoke-free laws tripled between December 31, 2004 and December 31, 2007. The report also says “eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from second hand smoke exposure.” To that end, the CDC’s “A Healthy People 2010 objective” calls for establishing laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that make indoor public places and worksites completely smoke-free.
Another report that says indoor smoking bans are benefiting the health of people was released, this one from Italy. In just one year after Italy enacted a national smoking ban, researchers in Rome found an 11.2 percent reduction of acute coronary events in persons 35 to 64 years and a 7.9 percent reduction in those ages 65 to 74, according to a study in, “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.”
Representatives from the Detroit International Bridge Company, the private company that owns the Ambassador Bridge, played hooky from the House Transportation Subcommittee that was anticipating taking testimony on the DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing) study. The lobbyist for the bridge company, Mickey Blashfield, and company president Dan Stamper were supposed to testify before the panel , but they opted out by sending a letter to Subcommittee Chair Rep. Lee Gonzales, D-Flint, in which he said it was "not possible to adjust pre-existing schedules and prepare further testimony,” according to the subscription only MIRS. But in a mid-day news conference, according to MIRS, Gonzales told reporters that he'd spotted Blashfield in the lobby of the House Office Building shortly after he'd adjourned the hearing.
In further bridge news, the Canadian government announced its decision on where it will locate a new Detroit to Windsor bridge in a press release from Transport Canada.
The Canadian crossing will be the Brighton Beach section in west-end Windsor, and the new crossing would alleviate frequent traffic jams and long delays on the Ambassador Bridge and through the Windsor-Detroit tunnel caused by the 17 traffic lights semi-trucks must go through in downtown Windsor to reach the highway. The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America.
Debates have long been a way for people to hear directly from the candidates, but only the Republicans choose to use it as a fundraiser. The Livingston County Teen Age Republicans (TAR) sponsored a candidate forum for the two open Michigan House seats, but they are charging you 5 bucks to attend the forum and hear from the candidates.