Jul 2, 2009
GOP using MSP HQ as a false campaign issue
LANSING - The almost complete Michigan State Police headquarters in downtown Lansing has officially become a campaign issue, at least for one Secretary of State candidate, but it is certainly a dead issue.
Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge and Oakland Sheriff Mike Bouchard - a Republican candidate for governor- have made the most hay with their opposition to the HQ, but Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, and a GOP candidate for Secretary of State, managed to attached an amendment to the state police budget that was approved on June 18 that kills the money for the lease payment. Senate Bill 253 was approved by a vote of 26-9. Brown, of course, ignored the fact it will cost almost as much to maintain the older HQ as it does to lease a brand new, high-tech HQ.
People are upset of the layoff of 100 state troopers last week, and critics like Brown, Jones and Bouchard are making the claim that a building can’t respond to an emergency like 100 Troopers can. However, the bill does not bring the troopers back, and the House will again have to be the responsible one and do the right thing and live up to the contract it approved and pay for the lease. But Brown has a feather in his cap for the campaign trail.
Brown also completely ignores the history of the project. The HQ was first requested by former GOP Gov. John Engler. The original draft of the project, under Engler, drew initial opposition from State Police and Military and Veterans Affairs officials because the proposal attempted to move some of the emergency management operations into downtown Lansing but did not provide room for the vehicle and other storage needed. It was also too large and luxurious.
After changes were made to make the building smaller, it met the approval of State Police Director Peter Munoz, and Governor Jennifer Granholm requested the building.
The project was then approved on a bi-partisan vote by the Joint Capital Outlay Committee in 2007, as are all state building projects that do not require specific legislation. The committee consists of members from both parties from both the House and Senate.
The lease was then approved by the State Administrative Board. Brown spoke against the building then in 2007, but Munoz said he supports project, as does the State Police Troopers Association.
The State Administrative Board consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Director of the Department of Transportation. The State Administrative Board has general supervisory control over the administrative activities of all state departments and agencies, including, but not limited to, the approval of contracts and leases, oversight of the state capitol outlay process and the settlement of claims against the state.
Brown’s grandstand campaign stunt to bar the lease payments came just one day after Republican Attorney General Mike Cox - also a GOP candidate for Governor - said the state could get out of the contract on the building by not appropriating money for the building. That seems kind of funny considering he is a member of the State Administrative Board that intimately approved the lease.
The project brings the State Police into compliance with a constitutional provision requiring that state departments be headquartered in Lansing and with Governor Jennifer Granholm's executive directive (2003-22) that state offices, where possible, be located in central business districts. Michigan State University wants the building back where the majority of the MSP is currently headquartered.
The GOP claims are becoming increasing screechy and false, and they continue to ignore the facts and try to blame a bipartisan decision on the just Democrats. The official unofficial GOP blog, Wrong Michigan, is trying float the lie that Michigan State University Trustee and MSP HQ developer Joel Ferguson is a Democratic sugar daddy and a close friend of Granholm, but the fact is he also contributes to Republicans. They also continue to push the lie that it was a no-bid contract, but the truth is Ferguson’s company was the only company to submit a bid.
Jones has gone off the rails opposing the project. According to Michigan Messenger, Jones is pushing the lie that the state police are in favor of scrapping the project, and alleged that Munoz was pressured politically to testify that he supported the move into the new headquarters or lose his job. That is a complete lie. Munoz’s support for the project has never wavered.
In addition to the construction jobs that will be lost if the project is killed just months before it is supposed to be complete, what kind of message does it send if after approving a contract and going through all of the proper steps, the state reneges on a contract just to look good for voters?
Even rightwing extremist GOP Sen. Alan Cropsey questioned how it would look for the state to refuse to occupy a building two governors asked for and was approved with bipartisan support.
“I just don’t think it is right to have a building built, and then at the end of that time period, tell the contractor saying, ‘We are sorry, but we are not going to use it now,’” he said. “ I just think that that is wrong, and I think the state ought to hold to what every body knows is supposed to be a State Police headquarters.”