May 31, 2010

The only people aginst building the bipartisan DRIC bridge are Republicans in the Michigan Legislature

It’s not often that Republicans and Democrats can agree on something, but one of those things they do agree on is the need for the planned Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit river between Canada and Windsor.

The majority of Democrats in the Michigan Legislature support DRIC, former Governors support it - like Democratic Gov. Jim Blanchard and Republican Gov. John Engler - and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson supports it.

Even our neighbors recognize the importance of building a second span to the Midwest. The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a resolution sponsored by Majority Whip Steve Buehrer, R-Delta, which urges support for the construction of a new Detroit River bridge between the United States and Canada

“Right now our primary focus must be on jobs,“ said Buehrer in a press release. “Improved transportation links with Canada have the potential to create billions of dollars in trade and thousands of jobs for Ohio and the U.S. Likewise, any thing that impedes trade with Canada has the potential to cost jobs and slow the economy.”

Senate Resolution 223 urges the Michigan Legislature to act swiftly to authorize the DRIC and ensure that people and goods can continue to move safely and efficiently across the border. The resolution, which passed the Senate 32-0, states that “a modern border crossing that can support the ever-increasing amount of trade and travel between the United States and Canada is essential to the economies of Ohio and the Midwest.”

It appears the only people aginst building the DRIC bridge are Republicans in the Michigan Legislature and Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun, who owns the 81-year-old Ambassador Bridge and the only private border crossing in the U.S.

On Wednesday the House approved House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier to build the DRIC bridge by a slim vote of 56-51, just one vote above the minimum, and not a single Republican voted with the Democrats to save and create 10,000 Michigan jobs. Passage of the bill is the first step in building the DRIC.

The bill is expected to have a hard time in the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate, thanks to Moroun advocate, Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt.

HB 4961 was not officially referred to the Transportation Committee from the House as of Friday, but the committee posted a meeting for Tuesday with the bills on the agenda pending referral. The Transportation Committee meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday June 1 in Room 110, Farnum Building in Lansing. The committee meetings are open to the public.

Call your State Senator and tell him to vote to create and save 10,000 Michigan jobs.

More fake outrage and lies over President Obama and Memorial Day

Just when you think the ridiculous fake outrage from Republicans over President Obama’s decision to mark Memorial Day at a ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill. Instead of at Arlington National Cemetery can’t get any more bizarre, it does.

Apparently, right-wing loon blogger and Anne Coulter-wannabe Pamela Geller has embellished a story that there was a “skirmish” between the Secret Service, representatives of Louis Farrakhan and the press pool during the Memorial Day weekend. She also claims that the press pool was held hostage by Farrakhan’s “Nation of Islam paramilitary” group until it was ended by a “Rev. Gary Hunter, a Baptist minister in Motown who writes and blogs for the Detroit Times.”

I have no idea who Gary Hunter is, but there has not been anything called “The Detroit Times” for more than 100 years. Geller has made up some truly outrageous and slimily lies about Obama in the past, and she has continually tried to connect Obama and Farrakhan and paint Obama as a Muslim.

This is just one more attempt to push that debunked lie.

We know what a slim ball Geller is, but it’s sad when other people pick up on it, like Michigan’s busiest rightwing blogger - the so-called “Blogprof.” You would think a guy from Michigan would know there is no such thing as the Detroit Times, but he has never let a few facts get in the way of a good smear.

It’s sad that a guy who claims to be a Christian engages in these kinds of false smears, but that is just as outrageous as his claim to be a professor. No one can put out that much copy without it being their full-time job. I know some good, motivated reporters who don’t put out that much copy in a day. Granted, it’s easier to write fiction than actual factual stories, but it still leaves little time for anything else.

He knows he can put out these fairly tales and never be challenged because the first time anyone does, he bans them.

May 28, 2010

Moroun loses again in court

The courts are the great equalizer where all people are equal under the law, and Ambassador Bridge owner and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun found that out today when the Michigan Supreme Court denied his appeal in a case stemming from how Moroun built his portion of the $170 million Gateway Project that addressed long term congestion mitigation issues and provides direct access improvements between the Ambassador Bridge, I-75 and I-96.

Last February Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentice Edwards ordered him to tear down the illegally constructed gas pumps and duty-free store built on property owned by the city of Detroit.

Moroun, a Grosse Pointe billionaire, wants to maintain his monopoly of an international border crossing, and he has begun building a second span right next to the current one. Michigan officials were concerned that the bridge company was dragging their feet on the Gateway Project to endanger the project to kill the planned public-private bridge Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) about a mile from the current Ambassador Bridge. The project will also reconstruct I-96 and I-75, accommodate traffic for a potential future second span of the Ambassador Bridge, and access to the Mexicantown International Welcome Center.

Edwards ruled last spring that the bridge company had to appoint an overseer to proceed with the removal of the structures, which include a duty free shop, refueling stations and toll booths, according to the Detroit News. “Edwards later slapped a show cause hearing against the Bridge Company when it failed to meet his deadline, but the hearing was postponed when the Bridge Company took its appeal to the Supreme Court. “ It appears that the show cause hearing will now go forward.

Ridiculous ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ policy repealed

Another historic event occurred under the Obama Administration on Thursday when the U.S. House and the Senate Armed Services Committee both voted to repel the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military.

The Senate Armed Services Committee – chaired by our own Sen. Carl Levin - voted 16-12 to repeal the law. I was disappointed that Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., voted against the measure; the only Democrat to do so. Sen. Susan Collins, R- Maine, was the only Republican to vote for it. Fifteen votes were needed to include the measure in the 2011 defense authorization bill.

“Today’s action by the Senate Armed Services Committee is an important step to end this discriminatory policy,” Levin told the Hill. “I believe that allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly will open the ranks to more patriotic men and women who wish to serve their country.”

I could not agree more. As I have said in the past, I spent 20 years in the Navy, and for anyone to say there are not gays in the military is stupid or they have their head in the sand. It is working fine in the armed services of some of biggest allies, like Australia, Great Britain and Norway, and it will work fine here.

According to the Hill, “under the provision, the repeal will not be implemented until the Pentagon finishes its review of how it would impact the military. President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen must first certify it can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.” However, all three support repealing the ban.

Later on Thursday, the full House approved a compromise amendment sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” by a vote of 234-194.

The compromise allows the repeal of the policy only after “the Pentagon finishes its review of repeal implementation and the President, Gates and Mullen certify that it can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention,” according to the Hill.

May 27, 2010

Congressional candidate hopes stealth passage of bill silences critics

LANSING -- Election politics is playing a role in Republican efforts to break a new union and circumvent a legal election to form a collective bargaining unit to represent home-based child care workers.

Last year child care workers organized the Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM) union, a joint venture between United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) certified CCPTM as the sole bargaining unit for all home-based child care providers receiving reimbursement payments from the Michigan Child Development and Care Program. Senate Republicans have tried everything possible to kill the union, making the false claim worked were forcibly unionized.

State Sen. Jason Allen, R-Alanson, has been criticized by conservatives for sponsoring Senate Bill 731 that would have created the Michigan Quality Community Care Council. Anti-union groups like the rightwing think tank Mackinac Center falsely claims it will strengthen the union. The council would simply be responsible for working to preserve consumer selection and self-direction of providers.

Allen is running for the U.S. Congressional seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Bartt Stupak, D-Menominee. Allen has a primary opponent, and his opponent, Dan Benishek, has called on Allen to drop his sponsorship of SB 731.

On Thursday Allen called an early morning meeting of the Committee on Senior Citizens and Veterans Affairs that he chairs and usually meets on Wednesday. The published agenda just said “any business to come properly before the committee.” What the committee did was vote out a substitute for SB 731. No debate was held.

The substitute bill creates something called the Home Help Advisory Council, but it inserts anti-union language that states a “legislative intent that the proposed Act not be interpreted to allow for the unionization of home help workers.”

“Unfortunately, it has become politicized by the forced unionization of home health care workers,” Allen said.

Not a single House Republican votes for DRIC and 10,000 Michigan jobs

Michigan House Republicans are taking a page out of the federal Republicans in Congress, and not a single Republican voted yes on legislation clearing the way to build the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit river between Canada and Windsor on Wednesday.

After a couple of delays, the House finally took up and approved House Bill 4961 Wednesday that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier to build the DRIC bridge by a slim vote of 56-51, just one vote above the minimum, and not a single Republican voted with the Democrats to save and create 10,000 Michigan jobs. Nine Democrats crossed over to side with Republicans.

The project will have a tougher go in the Republicans-controlled Senate, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, has said he will allow an up or down vote. But the biggest and most ferocious critic of the DRIC project in the Legislature - Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt – controls the Senate floor. Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun spreads his billions wisely, and he spreads it around in a few key places to gum up the works.

It remains to be seen how this will play out because some very influential Republicans are strong backers of the DRIC project, such as Republicans like Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson and former Republican Governor John Engler.

Employees and lobbyists of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) and Moroun have been all over Lansing the last couple of weeks spreading misinformation and lies. One of the biggest and most passionate supporters of the DRIC project - Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit – found all four tires on her vehicle had been slashed last week. Although she has been out front on some contentious issues that ignite passion, like the Arizona illegal alien bill debate, she told subscription only “that she had trouble not seeing the tire slashing in context with her position on the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC).”

It’s a perfect way to get back at her. The bridge company knows she is so passionate that she will blame them for it, and they can act offended that she would accuse them of such a thing. If she keeps silent, they have the knowledge that they intimidated her.

Moroun and the bridge company launched a stealth but failed recall attempt against her last September, but they denied they were behind it. One tactic employees of the bridge company have used in their lobbying effort in the past couple of weeks was to threaten any House member supporting the DRIC that had a primary election that they would finance their opponent.

It remains to be seen when the Senate will take up the bill, but it will most likely go to the Transportation Committee first.

May 26, 2010

Reagan to skip Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery

Reagan to skip Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Actually, I stole that headline from Michigan’s busiest rightwing blogger - “the Blogprof,” and I just substituted Reagan for Obama. Both headlines are accurate.

But the Republican noise machine has picked up on it to try and paint President Obama as anti-military. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

According to the AP, “The White House says Obama and his family will travel to their hometown on Thursday and stay through the weekend. It will be their first trip back home since a visit for Valentine's Day weekend in February 2009.
On Monday, Obama is scheduled to participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill.
In Obama's absence, Vice President Joe Biden will participate in the customary wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.”

Wow. His first time home in 15 months. How many times were Presidents Reagan and Bush II at their ranches clearing brush? I guarantee they never stayed away for 15 months. But, the Republican noise machine ignores that fact to falsely attack the President, just like it ignored the fact that at least two other Republican Presidents had their Vice-President or a proxy lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

In 1983 Deputy Secretary of Defense W. Paul Thayer laid a wreath at Arlington Cemetery during the Memorial Day ceremony, according to a May 31, 1983, Washington Post article. The AP reported that President Reagan attended a "summit meeting in Williamsburg, Va., with leaders of the industrialized democracies.

Vice President Dan Quayle laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, according to a May 26, 1992, Boston Globe article. The Globe reported that President George H.W. Bush attended a wreath-laying ceremony and made brief remarks at an American Legion hall in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he also played a round of golf.

I guarantee this; Soldiers, Sailors and Marines killed in battle are not just buried at Arlington, and their ultimate sacrifice is just as great as those buried at Arlington.

After another delay vote on DRIC bridge and 10,000 Michigan jobs expected today

LANSING -- Well, here we go again.

The Michigan House, again, failed to take up House Bill 4961 on Tuesday that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier to build the much needed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor and create and save thousands of Michigan jobs, but the word is it will be taken up today.

The vote was also supposed to be taken up last Thursday, and again on Tuesday. Employees and lobbyists of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) and Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun have been thick as flies in Lansing, and this morning House Republicans – who are blocking the bridge on behalf of Moroun - are expected to hold a press conference.

Evidence and pressure have been mounting to build the DRIC bridge that will save and create 10,000 Michigan jobs, and the bridge already has all the required permits and approvals.

Even the conservative editorial page of the Detroit News is, reluctantly, supporting building the DRIC bridge with an editorial on Tuesday called “Time to build the Detroit-Canada bridge.”
“Very important to Michigan's awakening economy are the 10,000 construction jobs the project would create during the four years it will take to build the bridge, and the tens of thousands of jobs the international traffic flow will continue to support. These are benefits we should reap now, while trusting there'll be room for an entrepreneur like Moroun to continue to prosper as well.”

Lawmakers gave themselves a self-imposed deadline June 1 to vote DRIC up or down, and that deadline is next week.

Call or email your State Representative and tell him to vote for the bill and 10,000 Michigan jobs.

May 25, 2010

Republicans lies are not sticking to SCOTUS nominee Kagan

Republicans are spinning hard to find something to smear President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, with, but none of the lies are really sticking.

One lie the right is harping on that fulfills their strategy of, “if you tell a lie enough times people begin to believe it,” and that is that the policy on military recruiters made while Kagan was the Dean of Harvard Law School make her "an anti-military zealot." The lie is that she kicked military recruiters off the campus and that Kagan defied the so-called Solomon Amendment -- a statute requiring schools to provide the same access to military recruiters that they provide to other potential employers or lose federal funding.

According to the conservative New York Times, Kagan consistently followed the law, and Harvard students had access to military recruiters during her entire tenure as dean. In fact,throughout Kagan's tenure as dean, Harvard law students had access to military recruiters -- either through Harvard's Office of Career Services or through Veterans Association. The fact is Kagan consistently followed existing law regarding access to military recruiters. She briefly restricted - but did not eliminate - access to recruiters only after the U.S Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that law schools could do so. However, she continued a policy of allowing the military recruiters access to students.

The fact is the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” violated Harvard’s anti-discrimination policy, but as the NYT said, “Her management of the recruiting dispute shows her to have been, above all, a pragmatist, asserting her principles but all the while following the law, so that Harvard never lost its financing.”

My military career taught me two things about this situation. First, there are gay men - women too, although I have never met any - serving honorably and in positions of leadership and responsibility.

Second, military recruiters were never at my high school, at least while I was a student, but I still managed to find the Navy recruiter’s office and enlist. When I found it, I didn’t have a high school education, let alone an Ivy League education. I think a Harvard Law School student would have no trouble finding a military recruiter. Would you?

The only thing that disappoints me about Kagan is that neither of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees are liberals. despite Republican’s crying wolf and saying otherwise. It makes no sense to me that Republicans have no trouble getting right-wing tools on the court, but we can’t get a true liberal on the court.

Morouns tell different tales in different states on new bridge crossings

The Michigan is House is expected to take up House Bill 4961 today that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier to build the much needed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor and create and save thousands of Michigan jobs.

Apparently, there were not enough votes last Thursday after serious lobbying by representatives and employees of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) and Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun, and they used every bit of misinformation and outright lies as they could muster to delay the bill and keep their monopoly.

All of that misinformation put out by the bridge company has been debunked, but that has not stopped the lobbying effort. In fact, Moroun and company has even debunked and contradicted themselves. Chris Vander Doelen had a story in The Windsor Star last week where Moroun is saying one thing in Michigan and another thing in New York.

The publicized owned and operated the Peace Bridge over the Niagara River - the Ambassador is the only privately owned auto/truck border crossing in the United States - is in bad shape and needs a new crossing. The Moroun family is involved in that debate, too, and Vander Doelen says “The debate is almost identical in the two cities except for this fascinating fact: the Morouns and their companies play opposite roles in the two cities.”

“In Windsor, the Morouns argue we don't need a second bridge because traffic is down sharply. They warn against believing foolish government projections that NAFTA will lead to future traffic growth. It won't ever come back, they claim.

“Down in Fort Erie, they say the opposite. The Peace Bridge carries half the traffic Windsor-Detroit does. But the Morouns claim there is plenty of traffic down there to support another crossing -- even though the region already boasts four international crossings with a total of 14 lanes to Windsor's total of six.”

The DRIC Bridge has all the necessary permits and in ready to go, and it will mean 10,000 Michigan jobs. Call your State Representative and tell him to stop carrying water for the Morouns. But, Vander Doelen said it best with the conclusion of his article:

“Let's hope the Michigan Republicans who continue to block the DRIC bridge know this. They might not be so eager to block our new crossing if they knew the Morouns were telling different tales in different states.”

May 24, 2010

Bad news for Republicans: the economy is improving on both the state and the national levels

LANSING -- Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees appeared angry that economists at the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference on Friday were saying the economy is improving on both the state and the national level.

All the agencies at the conference - the Department of Treasury, the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency and the House Fiscal Agency, as well as the outside economists who testified at the conference - all agreed that the economy had improved and the national economy was slowly coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. But it will be a slow recovery, and Michigan has traditionally felt any recession first and is the last state to recover.

“We are in a self-sustaining recovery,” said Lyle Gramley, an economist of the Potomac Research Group. “ We will see much more handsome job increases, but we will have some assets idle for a while.”

But Michigan will continue to have budget troubles for the next couple of years as the recovery from the Bush recession gets going. The general fund deficit for the current fiscal year is estimated at $340 million.

Treasurer Robert Kleine speaking at his last revenue estimating conference as Treasurer said corporate profits for the top corporations are up 56 percent, according to Standard & Poor's.

“Contrary to what you read in the newspapers, Michigan is participating in the economic recovery,” he said. “The last time we had job growth like this was in 2000.”

Obviously, Michigan is not out of the woods and happy days are not yet here, but this is the first good news at a Revenue Estimating Conference in some time. Kleine said much of the revenue shortfall, and all the economists agreed, that the decreased collections, along with substantially increased refunds from the Michigan Business Tax, were driving down the total of general fund revenues the state could collect for the current year. The state is struggling with a revenue problem, not a spending problem,

“What this means is people are paying less of their income to support state services,” Kleine said. “What that means is we have a revenue problem, not a spending problem.”

George Fulton, Director of the Research Seminar in Quantative Economics at the University of Michigan, said the 286,00 jobs lost in Michigan in 2009 were the most since the 1930s, and one in five auto related jobs were lost.

But he also said the Big 3 is showing the largest increase in sales since 1995, and the job growth the state has seen in the last several months has been quite dramatic. All that good news is bad news for Republicans for the November election, and they did their best to try to cast gloom and doom on the good news.

But all the economists present anticipated that Michigan will finally see job growth in 2011 after a full decade of job losses. In Michigan, after averages of 14.4 percent unemployment in 2009, the unemployment rate should drop to 13.8 percent on average in 2010 and to 12.9 percent in 2011, according to Fulton. The national unemployment rate, which stood at 9.9 percent in April and averaged more than 9 percent in 2009, will stay at roughly that level for 2010 and 2011.

“The economy has stabilized over the last couple of months,” Fulton said. “Where we go from here depends on the strength of the U.S. recovery and the success of the Big 3.

Publicity hounds get more ink with petition fairy tale

Howell Public School Board Member and noted teabagger Wendy Day and anti-union activist and Republican House staffer Chet Zarko are together again; teaming up on something they hold very dear: getting their names in print and attacking Democrats with false information.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus accommodated them, again, with a front page story on Sunday on the old, false story that the Michigan Democratic Party and a signature collecting firm called “Progressive Campaigns Inc. (PCI)” has been hired to collect signatures to give ballot access to a "Tea Party" party that would drain votes away from Republican candidates.” To really scare people, he is claiming GOP boogieman George Soros is funding it.

Day is behind the petition drive to deny health care access to thousands of Michigan residents, and she say claims if she doesn’t know about the effort to make the teabaggers a third political party, it can’t be happening.

This alleged petition drive to make the teabaggers a real political party seems like just one more publicity stunt to give a fringe group even more publicity.

The teabaggers will never be a political party for so many reasons. First, political parties represent a view, but teabaggers simply do not stand for anything. Teabaggers are simply the extreme wing of the Republican Party that has already taken a huge veer to the right.It would be like the GOP starting a third party.

But most importantly, this petition drive will never happen, no matter how much money self-made billionaire George Soros spends.

Like I said earlier this month when Zarko spun this fairy tale, the hurdle for a minor political party, like the Green Party or the Libertarian Party, to get on the ballot here in Michigan is very high. They must first file as a new political party around for many years. The party must collect petition signatures equal to 1 percent of the votes cast for the governor. That comes out to 38,013 signatures. If they are paying $1 per signature, as Zarko claims, that’s a lot of cash to be paying for no effect during the start of the campaign season.

Even if by some strange twist this alleged petition drive actually occurred, where are the candidates? Recruiting good Democratic candidates to run for office here in predominantly Republican Livingston County is tough because the odds are against them. How hard would it be to recruit a teabagger candidate with even higher odds?

Even if that miracle occurred and the petition drive were successful, they will never meet the deadline to get on the November ballot. To get on the ballot, the minor party must have ballot status in Michigan. Then, any candidate must receive nomination to the office they want to run for at the party’s nominating convention that must be held no later than August 3, 2010 to be on the November ballot. Does Zarko and the right-wing think that could really happen?

The hurdles to ballot status by August are huge. The party has to obtain a facility to hold a convention, publish a call to the convention, draw up bylaws, transmit the that Information to the Secretary of State and accomplish the hundreds of details that goes along with a convention.

Do people really think an impostor can accomplish all of these things in less than three months? I’m surprised no one from the conservative mainstream media has pointed that out.

Zarko and Day first teamed up back - although Zarko denies it - in 2007 when Zarko went on a fishing expedition and submitted a Freedom of Information (FOIA) to find dirt to embarrass the Howell teacher’s union with. He falsely accused the HEA of abusing taxpayer-funded resources to promote union causes, but the district said the union had a recognized right to use the computers and email. With the help of deep-pocketed anti-union think tank, Zarko has managed too keep his name in print and he sued to get the emails. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals slapped him down in January.

With the backing of the anti--union forces he has filed an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

May 21, 2010

Schauer launches campaign web site

As the campaign season gets underway, U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, has launched a new campaign web site as he gets set to defend his 7th District seat against the same rightwing extremist he took the seat from in 2008.

You can read the latest news about the campaign, sound off on the issues, make an online contribution, watch videos, find events in your community and learn more about how you can help Schauer fight for Michigan jobs.

“I'm committed to getting our economy back on track, but I can't do it alone,” Schauer said. “While my extreme opponents were busy attacking each other in the local news last week, I was busy introducing a bipartisan bill to stop wasting U.S. tax dollars on goods that create jobs in China.”

Schauer plans to introduce legislation to ban China from doing business with the U.S. government until the Chinese government allows American companies the same opportunity.

Democrats attempting to restore transparency to secret corporate campaign cash

LANSING – The House Ethics and Elections Committee took testimony on a package of bills aimed at restoring accountability to the flood of secret corporate money that will pour into elections following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last January in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.

The Committee took testimony on Wednesday on House Bills 6182-6188 that would bring some accountability and transparency to the process. Among the things the bills would do include required disclosure of what they spent, corporations would have to have approval of investors to spend money on political campaigns and those investors could be liable for fines if there are any campaign finance violations, companies with foreign investors would not be able to make campaign contributions and ads sponsored by a company or union would have to clearly state the source of the ad, including a disclaimer by the chief executive.

“It (the SCOTUS decision) overturned nearly a century of precedence, and it opened the floodgates to corporate money,” said Rep. Daniel Scripps, D-Northport, primary sponsor of the package. “Because this type pf campaign contribution was illegal before the Supreme Court decision, there is no framework to address this.”

The SCOTUS decision lifted the prohibition of all independent expenditures by corporations and unions, and it wiped out all disclosure and transparency. In the past, corporations, unions and special interest groups could form Political Actions Committees (PAC) to solicit money and hand out political contributions, but they were required to file quarterly campaigns finance reports that list who is giving money and there the money is going,. That’s not the case after the decision, but the package of bills will make that happen again.

“There is no Secretary of State web site to check what the corporations are spending and on what,” said Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, the chair of the Elections Committee.

Republicans on the committee questioned why the focus was on corporations and not labor unions. Angerer said the rules apply to unions, too, but she would be open to any clarifications to address any concerns. However, the simple fact is money from labor does not hold a candle to the cash of corporations like insurance companies or oil companies.

Michigan has a history of rich timber and mining barons spending huge sums of money to elect people friendly to them to the Legislature that led to widespread corruption. It was that rampant corruption that led to the laws the Supreme Court struck down in their decision.

“It has been so long ago that it has been forgotten, but the history books are filled with examples of this corruption,” said Mark Brewer, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Rep. Kimberly Meltzer, R-Macomb Twp?, playing to her base for her primary Senate race, said the Democratic Party should be held to the same disclosure requirements for its bingo games, claiming she knows of a bingo hall run by Democrats that funnels money to candidates. However, those facilities are required under federal law to disclose how much they collect from whom and where that money goes.

Brewer said the bingo halls are a model of fundraising; raising small amounts of money from many people as opposed to millions of unregulated dollars being raised by corporations, and he invited Meltzer to visit the bingo hall.

“The voters have spoken on this issue, and there was a referendum in 1996 to allow political parties to raise money with bingo,” Brewer said.

No vote was taken on the package of bills, and Angerer said further hearings will be held on the bills.

May 20, 2010

Killing the Pure Michigan ads kills a great opportunity for Michigan tourism

The explosion on the BP oil rig and the massive oil gusher off the coast of Louisiana is hurting tourism in the area.

According to the New York Times, bookings for tourist excursions of the Gulf Coast of Florida and other Gulf of Mexico states is down because of concerns over the massive oil slick reaching beaches there and fishing areas. This is despite, to date, the beaches are clean and unaffected.

If those tourists are looking to go to clean beaches and great fishing spots that are in no danger at all of a massive oil slick they should consider Michigan. Michigan has more freshwater shoreline than any other state in the Union.

The fact is that, in our current bleak but improving economy, tourism has been one of the bright spots, and that has been borne out by the success of the Pure Michigan ads. In fact, in September the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association released a survey of its members showing 72.9 percent had seen an increase in out-of-state visitors coming to their facilities over the summer compared to the summer of 2008.

Wouldn’t it be great if those great ads featuring Tim Allen and Jeff Daniels ran in other states, so that people can see our beautiful beaches and spend the money there were going to spend in Florida in one of the Great Lakes shoreline towns? There is just one problem with that; Senate Republicans voted to end that successful ad campaign. Not only that, to add insult to injury, they cut 51 percent in the money to maintain the state’s welcome centers.

The governor proposed funding the ads with a $2.50 tax on rental cars near airports, a tax paid mostly by out-of-state travelers. But Senate Republicans refused to take up House Bill 5017 because any taxes are bad.

Another opportunity lost to blind ambition and ideology.

Republicans circumvent legal election to kill union and hurt kids

LANSING – Republicans cannot stop workers from organizing and improving their lot through the legal way with an election, so they went around the election Wednesday with approval of Senate Bill 1158 that provides the budget for the Department of Human Services

The Senate budget calls for de-funding the Home-Based Child Care Council and stop the collection of union dues. You will recall that last year child care workers organized the Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM) union, a joint venture between United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) certified CCPTM as the sole bargaining unit for all home-based child care providers receiving reimbursement payments from the Michigan Child Development and Care Program.

The Michigan Quality Community Care Council is a standalone public body created by inter-local agreement under the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967 charged with the mission of improving professional development opportunities for home based child care providers, but Republicans like the rightwing think tank Mackinac Center falsely claims it will strengthen the union.

Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, offered one of the best defenses of the union on the Senate floor I have heard since this GOP attack began.

“I stand here today to be somewhat of a truth squad because I think it is important that what has been described as questionable and forced unionization of home-based child care workers is not that at all,” she said. “The fact of the matter is that the union was ratified through an election process that was entirely proper and legal. Ninety-eight percent of the workers who voted in the election voted in favor of unionization. At no point was the validity of that election challenged through the normal procedures provided by our labor laws.”

This is just one more GOP attempt to kill unions and make Michigan a so-called “Right to work state” when the fact is anyone can opt out of the union.

“In any event, no one is forcing workers who do not want to be part of the union to join,” Jacobs said. “Both Michigan and federal law prohibit compulsory union membership. Any employee who wishes can refrain from joining the union by paying a small representation fee.”

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, a retired Ford autoworker, also defended unions, saying unions are middle-income people and consumers, and when we lose union members the consumers in this country continue to decline.

“So unions have actually been very, very good for Michigan,” he said. “When we had more union people, we were actually above the national average when it came to income, consumers, and people with a good quality of life. I would take umbrage with the Senator from the 29th District when he starts to bash unions.”

The budget narrowly passed with a 20-18 with some Republicans – who usually vote in lockstep - crossing over to vote with the Democrats. The Governor had recommended 527 new child protective services workers to comply with the children's rights lawsuit settlement and the increased caseload, but the Senate approved just 151 new workers. The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

May 19, 2010

Ambassador Bridge company lobbyists busy spreading lies and misinformation as vote approaches

LANSING - Word in the Capitol is that House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier to build the much needed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge between Detroit and Windsor and create and save thousands of Michigan jobs will be taken up by the House soon, and representatives of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) and Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun have been lobbying hard and spreading misinformation.

One such lie is that the Bridge Company “were only days away from obtaining Canadian approval of the DIBC environmental permits for the second span of the Ambassador Bridge.” In fact, in an April 28 interview with subscription only MIRS News, DIBC President Dan Stamper claimed the Ambassador Bridge company “is close to final Canadian approval of plans to build a second span to replace the now 81-year-old original span. They expect a determination by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in the coming days that the existing plaza will serve the needs of the bridge for the next 25 years and that once that happens, the Canadian government will release its environmental permit.”

Not true.

Canadian Transport Minister John Baird was the guest speaker at a luncheon at the Detroit Economic Club on May 17, and he debunked that claim.

“The Morouns have not submitted any applications to build their bridge,“ Baird said. “They have not begun to meet environmental approvals. The Morouns have not even started to prepare to begin to do anything at all about building their new bridge.

“On a scale of 1 to 100, they are at a zero,” he said. “They have no approvals in place. They were talking about the twin span 20 years ago. It takes years to get all the environmental approvals you need in Canada.”

That’s in sharp contrast to DRIC, which has obtained all permits and approvals on both sides of the border, except the Presidential Permit, which cannot be applied for until the Michigan legislature approves the DRIC.

Smoking ban has increased business in Michigan bars and restaurants

It’s been less than three weeks since the workplace smoking ban that includes Michigan’s bars and restaurants went into effect on May 1, but dire predictions of people staying away and bars and restaurants going out of business are proving to be untrue, as expected.

Lobbyists against the ban, like the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) and the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA), predicted disaster, despite results and studies that showed business was not hurt. It appears that the predictions of a drop in business were not only false, but many bars and restaurants are actually reporting an increase in business.

The Advisor and Source Newspaper serving Macomb County is reporting bars are seeing an increase in business.
Bobby Walker, the night manager at Snooker’s in Utica, said he’s had former smoking customers return to his bar, after disappearing years ago. Often when a smoking customer quits cigarettes, they tend to avoid places of temptation. Since the ban, a few faces have returned.
“It was nice to see,” Walker said. “Our business hasn’t changed and I don’t smoke so it doesn’t affect me. The biggest change is the air doesn’t smell. The smokers, so far, don’t seem to mind much going outside. But it hasn’t been too cold out.”

As predicted, smoke and smoking has kept more people home than the ban has kept smokers home. Since only 22 percent of Michigan residents smoke, they have little effect on the economy. As a former smoker, I can verify Mr. Walker’s statement that when I quit smoking, I stayed away from bars because of the temptation to smoke when I drank, and the amount I drank did not change; my smoking input doubled, at least.

Now you know why the tobacco industry was financing the MRA and the MLBA to carry on the fight against the smoking ban for them.

At Gator Jake’s in Sterling Heights, General Manager Mike Brooks said he noticed an immediate increase in patronage at the restaurant that’s been in business for more than a decade.
“The very next day we had more families coming in,” Brooks said. “When you have kids, you might avoid places if you think it’s going to be smoky. People were making (positive) comments instantly.”

Now that it has been proven, again, that a smoking ban does not hurt business, it’s time to go after the Detroit casinos that have an exception. Watch for that push to begin next month.

May 18, 2010

Kahn claims only half of assault story was correct

State Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, is giving his side of the story where he, again, lost his temper in the early morning hours last Friday in Lansing following the vote on the teacher retirement bill, and he was seen angrily shouting at an aide, shaking him and then destroying a cell phone.

He told both subscription only Gongwer that covers the Capitol and his hometown newspaper the Saginaw News that he did yell at his staffer, but the destruction of the phone was accidental. Kahn told Gongwer "I took the cell phone out of his hand and I dropped it - accidentally dropped it - and leaning over I stepped on it with my shoe.”

Republicans have tried, somehow, to blame Democrats for the incident. First, saying it was their fault for the session going so long on May 13-14, and then making the false claim that because Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, was the main witness, he was just politicizing Kahn’s latest temper tantrum because Anderson is the campaign chair for the Senate Democrats.

It also came out that Kahn had been drinking, and their was ample time for that to occur. The push in the Legislature for the last couple of weeks was Senate Bill 1227, that addresses early retirement for public school teachers. Most of the day was waiting for a compromise from the conference committee.

The Senate normally convenes at 10 a.m., but because of that and a funeral for a former Senator, the Senate did not meet until 2 p.m. It went into recess until 3:18 p.m., but the session only lasted for about 30 minutes before it went into recess. It remained in recess until the conference committee reached an agreement and went back into session 10 minutes after midnight on May 14, and the session lasted until 2 a.m.

Gongwer reported that some Democrats have said that when Kahn addressed the Senate after midnight, he didn't seem coherent. Kahn used the usual argument of “he only had a few.”

"I had dinner with a couple of the other senators," Kahn told Gongwer when asked about the subject of alcohol. "There was a bottle of wine, maybe two, for four people.”

The first victim of the Wrath of Kahn, Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman, D-Detroit, who was verbally assaulted and charged by Kahn in a Capitol elevator last June, said she felt vindicated when she said it would happen again, even though the incident was whitewashed, saying “my spirit told me that if you give a person enough rope, they will eventually hang themselves. And I was absolutely correct."

Clark-Coleman said perhaps because the incident was not against a Democrat this time and it happened to a Republican staffer, perhaps Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop might sanction Kahn this time.

It’s time for a more level-headed person in the 32nd Senate District, such as neurologist Debasish Mridha.

May 17, 2010

GOP sees black helicopters dropping fake petitions

Republicans have seen another black helicopter and discovered a conspiracy theory involving the teabaggers led by anti-union activtist and Republican House staffer Chet Zarko.

He’s making the claim, and most of Michigan’s rightwing blogs have picked up on it, that “Progressive Campaigns Inc. (PCI) has been hired to collect signatures to put on the ballot a "Tea Party" party.” He further claims that this alleged petition drive is funded by the Michigan Democratic Party, and then he lets out the big GOP boogieman, George Soros. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Soros should be a poster boy for what Republicans claim are their ideals; a man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, but that is just another GOP talking point.

How does Mr. Zarko know about this alleged petition drive? Because he checked with his co-conspirator Wendy Day - who Zarko teamed up with to attack Howell’s teachers in May of 2007 - and the Howell school board member and head teabagger claims she knows nothing about the petition. Zarko claims Day “condemned this effort and stated it was an effort to dilute the impact of the current Tea Party - she argued this was evidence that forces opposing reform were taking the Tea Party seriously - so seriously that indeed they are trying to steal its trademark and hijack it.”

It’s trademark? Not only that proof, but Zarko” verified through technical means.”

Even if everything Zarko has written about this latest fairy tale is true, so what?

The hurdle for a minor political party, like the Green Party or the Libertarian Party, to get on the ballot here in Michigan is very high. They must first file as a new political party even if they have been around for many years. The party must collect petition signatures equal to 1 percent of the votes cast for the governor. That comes out to 38,013 signatures. If they are paying $1 per signature, as Zarko claims, that’s a lot of cash to be paying for no effect during the start of the campaign season.

Even if by some strange twist this alleged petition drive actually occurred, where are the candidates? Recruiting good Democratic candidates to run for office here in predominantly Republican Livingston County is tough because the odds are against them. How hard would it be to recruit a teabagger candidate with even higher odds?

To get on the ballot, the minor party must have ballot status in Michigan. Then, any candidate must receive nomination to the office they want to run for at the party’s nominating convention that must be held no later than August 3, 2010 to be on the November ballot. Does Zarko and the rightwing think that could really happen?

The right thing to do would be to form a third party, but the simple fact is that the teabagger "movement" is just the radical wing of the Republican Party that’s all ready so far right it’s almost off the tracks.

Teabaggers will never, ever be a third party no matter who pushes it. Even if Zarko’s fairy tale were true, would it be any worse than Republicans collecting signatures to put Green Party Presidential Ralph Nader on the ballot in 2000 and help George Bush become President?

May 14, 2010

The Wrath of Kahn strikes again

The Wrath of Kahn strikes again.

Subscription only Gongwer is reporting that Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, lost his temper again in the early morning hours on Friday following the vote on the teacher retirement bill, and he was seen “angrily shouting at an aide and then destroying a cell phone.”

Thus is not he first time Kahn has lost his temper, and he has a history of abusive behavior. Last June he verbally assaulted and charged Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman, D-Detroit, in a Capitol elevator following a hearing on the Department of Community Health (DCH) budget. Following a whitewashed investigation, Kahn was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Friday’s incident comes on the same day that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop told reporters negotiating with Senate Democrats on the hotly contest early retirement bill, Senate Bill 1227, was like “negotiating with terrorists.”

According to Gongwer, Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, witnessed Kahn near the Farnum Building about 2:30 a.m. following a marathon Senate session. Anderson, one of his aides and a Senate employee, saw Kahn loudly shouting at his aide and at one point snatched a cell phone from him, throwing it on the ground, smashing it and stomping on it. He said he tried to calm Kahn down, but he was ignored.

Kahn then returned to the Capitol, where he did have a closed door meeting with Bishop that was described as "spirited."

Bishop mouthpiece Matt Marsden tried to downplay the incident, blaming Democrats for Kahn’s anger saying “ anger Mr. Kahn might have demonstrated was partially to be blamed on Senate Democrats who Mr. Marsden said delayed action on the final immediate effect votes on SB 1227.”

Corriveau withdraws from Senate race

With the deadline to withdraw for the Aug. 3 Primary Election just hours away, the biggest name to withdraw so far was that of Rep. Marc Corriveau, D- Northville, in his race for the 7th District Senate seat held by term-limited Sen. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton.

Subscription only Gongwer reported Corriveau dropped from the race. The race in the 7th was one of the top five seats most likely to switch parties. It deals a blow to Senate Democrat’s hopes of taking control of the Senate. Corriveau did not give a reason for dropping from the race, but Gongwer said he is expected to release a statement later.

That leaves former Rep. Kathleen Law, D-Gibraltar, as the Democratic standard-bearer. The good news is there is still a good chance this swing district could land in the D column. There is a weak Republican field, and Law is a good candidate.

Patterson blasts Bishop in press release

LANSING – Sen. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton, blasted his caucus leader, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, with a press release Thursday accusing Bishop of playing “insider political games” that “put Michigan lives at risk.”

A brief meeting of the Senate the Energy Policy and Public Utilities Committee on Thursday, chaired by Patterson, touched off the controversy. The committee was to hold a discussion of a bipartisan package of bills, Senate Bills 1310-1313, addressing stopping utility theft, but Patterson learned the bills had been sent to the Judiciary Committee instead.

Patterson said the bills were carefully designed to address the problem of stealing energy, both electricity and natural gas, and instead of being referred to his committee which had been working on the matter for nearly a year “the petty Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Michael Dean Bishop, sent them to the unrelated and ill – prepared Judiciary Committee.” Patterson said for more than a year, he has worked with Rep. Jeff Mayes, D-Bay City, to craft the bills, and that both he and Mayes have held hearings on the legislation and conducted field investigations.

“Energy theft not only increases rates, it’s an extremely dangerous activity that puts families and our neighborhoods at risk,” Patterson said. “Republicans support this legislation; Democrats support this legislation. The only road block is Senator Bishop. It makes no sense.

Patterson said instead of seeing quick action, the legislation is now languishing in the Judiciary Committee, where members are working to educate themselves on the highly complex, multi-faceted legislation. Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, chair of the Judiciary Committee, is also a member of the Energy Policy Committee, and Patterson said Kuipers confirmed the bills were only referred to the Judiciary Committee “to mess with Patterson for his continued independence and because of the pretext that the bills were about theft as opposed to energy.”

Patterson had been at odds with Bishop in the past for on occasion voting with Democrats, and he even stripped Patterson of a committee assignment two years ago for helping Democrats discharge a bill Patterson wanted action on.

“If Senator Bishop wants to punish me for my independence, fine; we can address that as a separate issue,” Patterson said. “But assigning this legislation to a committee not prepared for it is recklessly putting Michigan citizens in danger.

May 13, 2010

Clarke gets a boost in Congressional race to unseat incumbent

The campaign of State Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, for U.S. Congress in the 13th District is picking up steam, and according to Politico, incumbent Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick is in for a tough race.

In an article in Tuesday’s edition called “Incumbent watch: Who's next to go?” Kilpatrick is among the “list of incumbents who should be looking over their shoulders.”

“If Kilpatrick thought she had seen the end of her political difficulties after narrowly fending off two primary challengers in 2008, she was wrong. Kilpatrick, who has come under sharp criticism for her fierce defense of her embattled son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, waved off concerns about the looming intraparty fight during her campaign kickoff speech Monday, telling reporters, “We’re ready for the challenge.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, was the first incumbent to lose his party’s nomination this year after he lost last Sunday, and the article lists nine other incumbents besides Kilpatrick who could lose in a primary. Those are Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va; Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah; Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.; Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa.; Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.; and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa.

Clarke has picked up some early labor endorsements, and he has steadily been picking up supporters. The negative is that there also four other Democrats in the race besides Clarke, and the Rev. Glenn Plummer is the most notable. Two years ago there were two candidates in the primary race besides Kilpatrick, and they split the vote giving Kilpatrick a narrow victory. In fact, the two Democratic challengers took more than 32,000 votes, and Kilpatrick only received 21,000 votes.

Tomorrow, Friday, is the deadline to withdraw, and in Detroit it’s common for candidates to file for the price of the filing fee just to see who else will file. Most likely some will withdraw by the deadline.

House Committee considering stripping legal ads from newspapers

LANSING -- Weekly and daily newspapers struggling to survive could be dealt a deathblow if they lose legal ads that are a steady source of ad revenue, and that could happen under a package of bills the House Judiciary Committee is considering.

The Committee took testimony on Wednesday on a package of bills that would allow local governments to post the ads on their web sites or on their public access cable TV channels. The law requires the municipality to post notices of meetings and ordinances in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality in order to keep the public informed and for a permanent record. Some new ordinances can be very long, and depending on the newspaper’s ad rate, it can be expensive.

The Judiciary Committee took testimony on two packages so bills, but they did not act on them. Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Chelsea, was the primary sponsor of a three-bill package – House Bills 5845, 4847 and 5847, that would create a definition of a newspaper and only allow a very limited use of alternative publishing for governmental notices where appropriate newspapers were not available.

Rep. Doug Geiss, D-Taylor, is the main sponsor of another package that includes HB 5916-5917 and HB 5848 and 5853. That package gives local clerks more leeway to use the Internet, cable TV and other means for official posting.

“The heart and soul of legal notices is government transparency, and we take that very seriously,” said Rep. Rebekak Warren, D-Ann Arbor. “That’s where the future of communications going and the devil is in the details.”

A long line of local government officials testified in favor of the bills, saying how much it costs them to place the ads. However, a few local newspaper editors and members of the Michigan Press Association (MPA) did testify against the bills. Their position is that newspapers are more independent than a government web site, and publication in newspapers creates a permanent record that can be verified.

Although no vote was taken, the committee seemed to be leaning toward allowing legal notices to be published by the local government, but not everyone was 100 percent convinced.

“I was must be very old fashioned because I don’t have cable, and I consider myself an informed citizen because I read the newspaper,” said Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker, R- Mattawan. “A concern of mine is; when do we stop. Would we allow this for court notices and foreclosure notices?"

The committee haring lasted almost three hours, and there were still people waiting to testify. Committee Chair Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, said more testimony would be taken at the next hearing date next week.

May 12, 2010

Help Michigan with wine tour

In the tight but improving economy, it’s tough to raise money for political campaigns, but the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) has found a unique way to both raise money and benefit one of Michigan’s growing industries.

The MDP is sponsoring its inaugural Wine Tour Excursion on Saturday May 22. You can help raise some much needed cash and highlight and help one of Michigan’s bright and growing industries.

Last September the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association released a survey of its members showing 72.9 percent had seen an increase in out-of-state visitors coming to their facilities over the summer compared to the summer of 2008. Michigan’s wineries are one reason for that up-tick in tourism, along with the Pure Michigan ads.

The MDP Wine Tour Excursion will explore the beauty of spring flowers and fine wine in breathtaking Leelanau Peninsula. The tour begins at Black Star Farms with a private reception. The tour continues with a relaxing and scenic ride through the countryside and a tour of some of the best wineries in Leelanau: Black Star, Ciccone's, Shady Lane and L. Mawby. Each winery is a unique experience brimming with rich history, local treats and special treasures.

Space for this event is extremely limited, so visit the web site for reservations and ticket prices.

May 11, 2010

Near record number of Democratic candidates file to run for Board of Commissioners

BRIGHTON -- Livingston County Democrasts celebrated filing day, the day candidates for the August 3 primary and November 2 General elections must officially file to run for elective office, with pizza and strategy.

The county Democrats have not had a member on the nine-member county Board of Commissioners since 1996, but with seven candidates filing to run, that is the most candidates since at least 1998. In addition to that, Democrats have candidates for all three Livingston County Michigan Legislative positions, as well as for the 8th District seat in the U.S. Congress in Kande Ngalamulume.

“I wouldn’t say it was under the radar,” said Judy Daubenmier, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party.” We have been recruiting candidates and meeting from as far back as February.”

The performance of the county board has been dismal over the last two years. That performance includes a $16 million slush fund from the delinquent tax fund to pay for pet projects while cutting sheriff road patrols, firing employees and refusing to support county veterans.

“There is a clear lack of vision in the county,” Daubenmier said.

One potential problem is the something called “toxic Special Assessment Districts (SAD)“ for water and sewer improvements. During good economic times following the Clinton Administration, the county pledged its full faith and credit to local townships to make utility improvements. New residents moving in would be on the hook for the special assessment and water and sewer taps to pay back the bonds, but that’s not happening. Those payments are now coming do, and the county could be on the hook for millions of dollars.

In fact, according to the county’s budget book, the debt is more than $111millon.

“They brag about keeping taxes down and that we have the second lowest tax rate in the state, but we have this huge debt ready to fall on us like a hammer,” said Donna Anderson, the Vice-Chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party. “I never hear about this debt in the paper.”

In the state Legislature, the candidates are Genoa Township resident James Delcamp for the 66th District, Hamburg Township resident Garry Post is running for the 47 District seat and Green Oak Township resident Chuck Fellows is running for the 22nd District seat in the Senate.

Here is the excellent field of candidates for the Board of Commissioners:
District 1 TBA/Possible write-in
District 2 Thomn Bell
District 3 Dane Morris
District 4 TBA/Possible write-in
District 5 Dave Berry
District 6 Keith Tianen
District 7 Kelly Raskauskas
District 8 Amir Baghdadchi
District 9 Barry McBride

Republicans play politics with Show-me-your-papers law

You just knew some Republican locked in a primary battle was going to jump on the recently passed unconstitutional and racist show-me-your-papers law in Arizona, and the winner is carpetbagger Rep. Kim Meltzer, R-Clinton Twp?.

She is running for the Michigan Senate in the 11th Senate District currently held by term-limited Republican Alan Sanborn, the most conservative member in the Senate, and it is considered a safe Republican district. She is facing off with some well known, actually infamous, opponents in former state Representative Leon Drolet. He has led the “tea parties” and a crooked recall of Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, and it’s a miracle he’s not in jail. Also running is former extremist state Rep. Jack Brandenburg.

Meltzer plans to introduce a bill “that would give local law enforcement the ability to arrest people determined to be illegal immigrants.” Just the press release had it’s desired effect, and I saw her face on every single local news broadcast last night.

According to a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, the proposal will only “allow police to ask about immigration status in the normal course of "lawful contact" with a person, such as a traffic stop or if they have committed a crime.” Once sentence in the attempt to localized the AP report caught my eye: “Arizona's voter-approved immigration law requires police enforcing another law to question a person about his or her immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the United States illegally.

The law was not “voter-approved.”

It’s obvious why Meltzer is introducing the bill, and one reason is because she has to play to the extremists that control the Republican Party to win the primary and the seat. However, what was confusing was the take and support of Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton. This is a perfect example of what happens when a nice guy goes to Lansing.

Rogers said, “he'd like to see Michigan group with other states to create one comprehensive policy, rather than having states individually approving local immigration authority.”

I could not agree more. What a great idea, and I guess that’s why the Founding Fathers thought of it some 230 years ago and formed the United States of America and the present system of federal government.

The show-me-your-papers law is also about voter suppression of minority voters, and Meltzer has been the point person in the House fighting any attempt to increase voter turnout and make it easier to register and to vote.

May 10, 2010

Celebrate Filing Day with the Liv. Co Democrats

For political geeks like me, tomorrow. May 11, is akin to a national holiday. Tuesday is filing day, the day candidate for the August 3 primary and November 2 General election must officially file to run for elective office.

Every single state office is up for election this year, from the Governor on down, including the Secretary of State, Attorney General and the state Senate and House, as well as local offices that are on two years cycles, like the Livingston County Board of Commissioners.To mark that event, the Livingston County Democratic Party is celebrating Filing Day at 6:30 p.m. with pizza. The HQ is located at 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton.

You can come out and meet the full slate of Democratic candidates, as well as hear from former East Lansing Mayor Sam Singh, who is presently running for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, to discuss campaigning and local and state issues.

In predominately Livingston County, the Democratic Party has set some realistic goals,and they have been meeting since March on ways to be successful in areas where Republicans hold a majority.
The plans is to field a candidate in every race, and to focus its resources on one or two races that are winnable on the nine-member Livingston County Board of Commissioners. The board has been all Republican since 1996, but the Democrats have a plan to change that. So far, it has a candidate in all the districts but one; the 4th District that includes the Townships of Handy, Iosco and Unadilla, the Village of Fowlerville and parts of the township of Howell and Marion. That’s a little disturbing because the last Democrat on the board came from Unadilla.

Here is the excellent field of candidates:
District 1 Pam Green
District 2 Thomn Bell
District 3 Dane Morris
District 4 TBA
District 5 Dave Berry
District 6 Keith Tianen
District 7 Kelly Raskauskas
District 8 Amir Baghdadchi
District 9 Barry McBride

In the state Legislature, Hamburg Township resident Garry Post is running for the 47 District seat that includes the townships of Cohoctah, Conway, Deerfield, Hamburg, Handy, Hartland, Howell, Iosco, Putnam, Tyrone, and Unadilla, most of the city of Howell, and that portion of Marion Township included within the city limits of Howell.

Post has actual business experience as the owner and operator of a manufacturing business, as well as managing real estate. Post is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Detroit College of Law and the Duke University Fuqua School of Business’ “mini-MBA” program. Post practiced law in Michigan and co-founded a law firm from 1980-1988 before moving to North Carolina to pursue a career in manufacturing. He rose to become President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Athol Manufacturing Corporation. Athol supplied vinyl coated fabrics for cars, truck and buses including major mid-level automotive companies.

After the sale of Athol in early 2000, Post began pursuing a career in real estate and rental property management. In his present position, Post manages rental properties near the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor with a focus on student housing.

In the State Senate, Green Oak Township resident Chuck Fellows is running for the 22nd District seat held by term limited Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Marion Township. Fellows is a member of the Green Oak Township planning commissioner, a teacher and a member of the Michigan Department of Community Health Board.

The deadline to withdraw from the race is 4 p.m Friday, May 14. Other important dates are July 6, the last day to register for the August primary, and the last day to register for the General Election is Oct. 4.

Right is spinning out of control over oil leak

Republicans have been spinning out of control trying to blame the explosion of the giant BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting oil spill on President Obama.

Shortly after the explosion on April 20, Drug addled gas bag Rush Limbaugh said the President was rushing in to play the hero. Shortly after that, he and other conservatives were saying he had not done enough, and it was his Hurricane Katrina.

Limbaugh even said there is no need to do a clean up of some 4 million gallons of oil There is no tragedy that Limbaugh will not use to bash Democrats. But, this is not about the drug addled one.

Discredited Right-wing tools from Sean Hannnity to Karl Rove have been spinning hard to try and sell it as President Obama’s Katrina, despite the fact that the Obama Administration was there from day one. Apparently, this will now be Hanity’s version of “where were the buses.”

I hate to go back to the drug addled gas bag, but he and others are even trying to push the myth that it was the work of environmentalists who sabotaged it to make their point that off-shore drilling is unsafe.

Stay tuned because the spin from the right is far from over.

May 7, 2010

Kande Ngalamulume picks up important endorsements

On the day Kande Ngalamulume, D-East Lansing, officially announced his candidacy for the 8th U.S. Congressional District seat in each of the five counties in the district, he picked up some important endorsements.

The most important endorsement was that of the United Auto Workers (UAW). He not only received the honor of the endorsement of working men and women, UAW members traditionally work hard to get someone who represents their values of hard work and fairness elected.

“This is a very important endorsement to my campaign,” Ngalamulume said. “I am honored to have the endorsement of the UAW and thank them for their signal of support.”

He was also endorsed by the North Oakland Democratic Club. Although, obviously, more partisan than the UAW, the club also brings with it dedicated volunteers.

At his district tour on Thursday, Kande acknowledges he has an uphill battle in unseating the incumbent Mike Rogers, but the fact is the district supported Barack Obama for president in the 2008 election.

At the stop in Livingston County at the historic courthouse in downtown Howell, Kande told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that “Congress needs to continue cracking down on corporate greed and invest more in education. If elected, he said he would work to bring benefits of the recently passed health-care law to the congressional district, and advocate moving up the start of the federal health-care coverage exchange from 2014 to 2012.”

Not surprising the Press & Argus, also known as the Rogers Newsletter for their partisan cheerleading for the Rogers family, choose to give the Rogers camp a platform. Not surprisingly, Rogers was unavailable for comment. He has been as scarce in the district as snow in July, but we did hear from Rogers spokeswoman Sylvia Warner. I understand that’s the job of a press secretary, but we hear far more form her than the Congressman. It seems the only way to hear from Mr. Rogers is to pony up some cash.

May 6, 2010

The right tries to stir up false controversy over a field trip

Rightwing bloggers in Michigan and Republican Senate candidate Leon Drolet are stirring up a false controversy over an elementary school field trip in Ann Arbor.

Apparently, 30 students at Dicken Elementary School that are members of an academic peer-support group called the Lunch Bunch went on a field trip to the University of Michigan to hear from a black rocket scientist in the hope it would inspire the African-American students to consider science and engineering as a career. All the members of the club, currently, are African-American, but it’s open to all students. The purpose of the club is to help students struggling academically.

The club was created to help improve African-American students' MEAP performance, but again, it is open to all students. Drolet is charging discrimination because invitations did not go out to other students. I’m not aware it’s against the law to not invite someone.

District spokesman Liz Margolis told the Detroit Free Press that the trip was not paid for with school funds. The only cost was the bus, which was paid for by a private donation.

Drolet is the former chairman of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which successfully amended the state constitution with Proposal 2, that banned affirmative action; long a target of the right., and he claims the trip "absolutely" violated Proposal 2.

"If it was directed, guided, organized by the school district, they cannot say they are doing a field trip today for blacks only, or for whites only, or for Hispanics only or for Asians only," Drolet told the Free Press.

You will recall, there was widespread voter fraud involved in putting the measure on the ballot and in collecting signatures. Despite those widespread allegations of fraud, no other body or office in the state was allowed to look into the fraud committed, In fact, Republicans went out of his way to take powers away from the state Board of Canvassers because they were concerned with the fraud committed.

Editorial board reluctantly criticizes GOP

It’s rare when the rightwing editorial board of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus comes out with an editorial critical of a Republican, but it’s hard to ignore the blatant partisan, political games played by Senate Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop in unilaterally rejecting appointments Gov. Jennifer Granholm made to six university boards for terms that begin the day she leaves office with no hearings.

Newspapers all over the state have seen through the vindictiveness and pettiness of the action and spoke out, so again, it was hard for the paper to ignore it. Still, the editorial board used it to take shots at the Legislature in general while ignoring the real problem.

You will recall last month that in the middle of budget negotiations, the Senate Republican used two session days to ping the Governor. Granholm made the bipartisan appointments on April 7, and she followed previous precedent set by former Republican Gov. John Engler in making the same type of appointments. But on April 29, the Senate rejected them in mass with no advise and consent hearings along party lines.

Of course, the paper defended the action, at least at first.

“On the very thin veneer of the surface is this issue: Bishop might have a point. He says the governor, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits, is making appointments that go into effect next January when a new governor — quite likely a Republican — will be in office.”

But in the end, they could not ignore the political games of the GOP, but they managed to dam the entire Legislature for the actions of the Republicans.

“But it doesn’t take much digging to uncover a widespread belief that Bishop’s ploy has less to do with good government and more to do with another chance to stick it to the other party. Sometimes it appears as though political gamesmanship is the only skill to be found in Lansing politicians.”

May 5, 2010

Edwin B. Winans Dinner on tap Friday

Lt. Gov. John Cherry and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, will be the featured speaker at the Livingston Democrats' 27th annual Edwin B. Winans Dinner Friday May 7 at the Lakelands Golf and Country Club, 8760 Chilson Road, Hamburg Township, put on by the Livingston County Democratic Party.

The dinner will feature excellent food, conversation, a silent auction, a cash bar and a legal 50-50 raffle. As always, there are always some surprise special guests as election season ramps up.

The dinner is also the opportunity for the party to honor the hard work and dedication of its many hard-working volunteers over the past year with awards like the John D. Donohue Citizenship Award. The award is named after the last Democrat to serve on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners, who passed away while in office in 1996. Other awards that will be handed out include The Herb and Ruth Munzel Distinguished Service Award, the Chairman’s Special Recognition Award and the Unsung Heroes Award.

The fundraising dinner is named after Edwin B. Winans, Governor of Michigan in 1890-1893. He lived in Unadilla and Hamburg Townships and represented Livingston County as a State Representative, probate judge, and Governor. He is buried in the Hamburg Cemetery. Winans Lake is named after him.

Tickets now are $60 per person. Reserve now via Paypal. Or call (810) 229-4212 or email with your name and pay at the door. This is the party’s largest fundraiser, so come out and support the party and get ready for an exciting election season. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.