News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
On a related note, anyone know when the annual Operation Student Fleece begins?
I happen to love the "whooo-ooooh." I find it irresistable. Others, people I won't mention, hate the "whooo-oooh," and make fun of it every time they hear it.
What do you think? I'm completely interested in reader opinion on this one, and also any input someone might have as to when this started, because it's been at least a few years.
Oh yeah, and fire up Chips :)
(Update 10:17 p.m. ... is this the one? Or is it this one? -- E.B.)
This can't be good...
A large statue of Captain Morgan stands outside Rubbles on Michigan. It's a jaunty Captain Morgan, with perhaps a whiff of Frenchness to him, which suggests that perhaps a kind of pirating less related to plundering the Spanish Main and more related to, "Yo, ho, ho"-ing.
For the really curious, here are the top four moments in football history.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Discuss the day's news
Election poll fun
Interestingly enough, the Wall Street Journal's poll had the Stabenow-Bouchard race within the margin of error.
Monday, August 28, 2006
The new Business 127
Building huge stores and parking lots isn't all that's necessary for the giant Union Commons retail development. Without better roads, it will make today's Bluegrass/Mission gridlock seem like child's play.
Michigan Department of Transportation consultants say like the developer's idea to open up an additional access from Business 127.
The most radical idea, at least for mid-Michigan, is the proposal to add a roundabout to Bluegrass and Mission.
Roundabouts work, cutting accidents, injuries and deaths. This also would be the cheapest fix for the Bluegrass/Mission mess. Computer modeling indicates it would work well even with twice today's traffic.
Expect strong local opposition.
(Update, 6:33 p.m., Aug. 31-- Woody Woodruff, the Union Township planning guy, had comments similar to these eaten by Blogger:
Mark's Story on the south end MDOT plans was great, too bad the nice graphics on the Insider didn't make print. I thank Jim C for his support of the roundabout.
There is a cool web cam site for one on VanDyke and 18 mile see http://184.108.40.206/view/index.shtml I have shown that site on our projection set up at meetings so our people could have some experience of them.
Locally, I think it needs to be stressed that these are not anything like the old traffic circle in
. The modern roundabouts have traffic entering the circle on a tangent so they never stop, the midland circle had traffic entering perpendicular to the circle, and stopping- it did not work well. If we are to engender acceptance of the roundabout here, that is the objection to over come. Midland
At the meetings I have attended with MDOT, DLZ consultants were very high on the roundabout, and I am convinced that one at
Bluegrassand would be great. I have used them and don't buy the worst case scenario offered of Grammy and grandpappa caught in one. I commend CMU for the new indirect lefts on Mission , they are working great and bode well for what is planned for Old Mission and Biz 127. The backups on Broomfield West Campus Drivefor north bounders turning West on are gone. Broomfield
The graphics in question, those attached to this post, were difficult for me to read when I placed them on the page, so I opted to do without them.--E.B.)
County commissioners on Monday approved language for the proposal, which will ask voters to approve a five-year, .2169 millage to pay for costs associated with a new circuit court judgeship and for public safety.
If approved, the millage, which would raise about $175,000 the first year it is levied, would cost the owner of an $80,000 home about $8 the first year.
The proposal comes after the failure in the August primary of two millage proposals to support justice, and parks, recreation and farmland preservation.
Discuss the day's news...
Candidate Web sites, take 2
Stop fretting and turn that frown upside down sunshine, 'cause the Web is popping with sites for other races.
Two must visits are for the sitting Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, and her challenger, Republican businessman Dick DeVos. Why are they "must visits?" I don't know, maybe for the same reasons that the U.S. Senate-related sites for Republican challenger Mike Bouchard and Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow are must visits. And, in the same way that between now and the election, you might want to pay a visit to the sites for Republican Congressman Dave Camp, and his Democratic challenger Mike Huckleberry (gratuitous Val Kilmer quote ... here).
Speaking of Mike Huckleberry, did you know that his positions on issues involving seniors are exactly the same positions taken by the American Association of Retired Persons? No kidding, see for yourself. The AARP's voter's guide for the state of Michigan is here. If you read through all the responses, you'll see that Huckleberry's opponent isn't the only one so filled with white-hot contempt for the elderly that he refused to participate*. Members of both parties decided it was keeping in their campaign strategy to simply ignore the survey.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce doesn't have a spiffy little survey -- perhaps they were afraid of getting snubbed -- but they do have a campaign Web site.
There will be more later. Oh, much more.
Disclaimer--The Morning Sun does not endorse candidates for office. The arranging of names and Web site links in this post are purely random. They are not even in alphabetical order, as that would show undue cumulative bias as you navigate backwards through the alphabet.
*--Reference made purely for purposes of cheap humor. Dave Camp does not, as far as I know, loathe the elderly or feel anything for them but the standard issue warm and fuzzies.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
A store security guard alerted police when the man pulled money and a knife from his pocket when asked to show a receipt.
The man ran from the store but was captured moments later.
(This time, as is usual, the immediate information wasn't entirely accurate. Call it the fog of war. -- E.B.)
Sun staff writer Sue Field and Sun photographer Lisa Yanick are currently en route to the scene.
The Day After
I know the retailers love the students, but I could personally do without the trail of empty plastic cups in the yards along a block of Pine Street, or the smashed-up Corona bottle at the mouth of one of the city's downtown parking lots.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Crazily-decorated bikes at the Ithaca Family Fun Fest
See tomorrow's paper for an article about Portland resident Gene David's steam powered pontoon boat.
A little slice of nature: a snake I saw at Blanchard Millpond Park today. It was pretty angry at me for taking its picture. I didn't know reptiles could be camera shy....
Downtown traffic snarl ending
Even knowning the construction was underway, (I wrote the story after all), I still make that right turn onto University and have to turn around in the old Central Office parking lot to find an alternate route around that road work.
There are still bricks to be reinstalled in the sidewalks and other minor maintenance, but this project is just about in the bag. Whoo hooo!
One stop shopping
I wonder, however, if it's as easy as taking your business to Alma. According to this Web site, gas today is a penny cheaper in Mt. Pleasant than it is in Alma and Ithaca. At least, as of the moment I checked it out (if gas explodes through the roof, don't shoot the messenger). I think the volatility of prices is just as pertinent as is picking the place generally with the lower prices.
Downtown Mt. Pleasant Traffic
Well, I happen to be a fan of the four-way stop sign system. It seems to me that traffic does move through town a little easier since the experiment began.
What I don’t understand is why the traffic signal lights are still hanging up and very visibly present over the intersections. That just invites confusion. (It sure caught me one day a few months back. I sat waiting for the light to change for some time before realizing it was a take-your-turn situation.)
I suspect this kind of thing leads to a lot if the criticism about the four-way stops.
Here’s a suggestion for the city powers-that-be: If those signal lights can’t be taken down at least put them under wraps to avoid confusion while the four-way stop system is being tested. That would give it a more reasonable test, too.
You can safely bet that gasoline costs were an issue during our travels.
Highest price we paid for gasoline that met the minimum 87 Octane (“regular” gas) rating required for our vehicle was $3.279 a gallon in Craig, Colorado, on July 10. A couple days later we saw 88 Octane gas at Gillette, Wyoming for $2.799 – a dime cheaper than we’d paid to fill up a bit earlier at Wheatland, Wyoming.
Our least expensive gas of the whole 8,000 miles was purchased at … Ithaca, Michigan on August 16 -- $2.819. Up the road in Shepherd that same day, gas was a least a dime more dear.
As some recent Sound Off callers have suggested, I am beginning to consider doing my “special” shopping in communities like Alma, where gas is almost always significantly cheaper than in Mt. Pleasant. That makes sense for a Shepherd resident like myself, on those occasions when “grocery day” or general merchandise shopping and time for a fillup coincide.
Maybe if the Mt. Pleasant business community began to recognize that business is going elsewhere because of high gasoline prices in town, “market forces” would bring motor fuel costs down a tad.
Discuss the day's news...
Another Gulf hurricane?
How many oil rigs are in the way? How much room is left on the Master Card to buy gas?
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Free Internet for Downtown Mt. Pleasant
While the move is a transparent marketing ploy by both the city and CMSInter.net, which is providing the maintenance, installation and signal gratis, the true benefit will be for the residents of the city and business owners.
In an increasingly high-tech world, where instant messages and texting are replacing cell phone calls and e-mail, offering what few other cities do can only attract business and technologically savvy consumers.
Yes, the city will have to pony up the money for three or four access points (about $1,500 each), but it's a small price compared to the benefit.
CMU construction delays
Central Michigan University is facing all of these things as students return from their summer break. About 1,800 students in the southeast residence complex will be without a residential restaurant until Sept. 15 as construction crews rush to complete a massive overhaul of the dining commons.
Hot, humid weather slowed the curing of concrete while unexpected finds under the restaurant floor forced a more thorough reconstruction of the subfloor than originally planned.
CMU officials have created several options for students to use in the meantime. For a full update on the project, or to find out where students can go to eat, go here.
Klickstein, a surgeon at Central Michigan Community Hospital until his retirement about three years ago, was remembered by colleagues Thursday as a dedicated physician who supported his community.
Klickstein, who was recently inducted into the CMCH Physician's Hall of Fame, was instrumental in the formation of Hospice of Central Michigan.
Funeral services are set for Sunday at Levine Chapels in Brookline, Mass.
See Friday's Morning Sun for a complete story.
Discuss the day's news...
In 1971, Van Morrison sang the line "The girls walk by/Dressed up for each other" in "Wild Night" on his "Tupelo Honey" album, and that's exactly what was up in the main hallway at MPHS. These girls were clearly strutting their stuff, but it wasn't for the boys.
Freshman boys: You had to look pretty close to even spot them. A few tried to swagger, as boys will, but they didn't quite have the moves. They will, in a few weeks. Most were trying to hide their wide eyes and skinny shoulders, just wondering where the bathrooms were, and trying hard not to think about those girls.
For all the high tech and MySpace, it's still high school. It will be interesting to watch those guys change, day by day, between now and June 2010. We'll hardly know them.
Move in day
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
A tiny slice of nature
A bee checking out some flowers at Buck's Run today.
(More specifically, according to my Audubon's, the above insect is a wasp, possibly a Sandhills Hornet, which can "sting viciously" if disturbed, according to my Audubon's guide. Not to get picky, of course, since I don't know the difference a cow and a steer, or straw and hay -- E.B.)
Student athletes earning honors
CMU's student athletes have earned the Institutional Academic Achievement Award for the fifth year in a row, beating out all other Mid-American Conference members. CMU students earned the top honor, based on overall grade-point average, for nine of the last ten years. The award was first presented twelve years ago. To view CMU's achievment go here.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Isabella County's state Senate, the not-at-all gerrymandered 33rd district, pits Republican incumbent and DeWitt native Alan Cropsey against Mt. Pleasant's own Nancy White, the Democrat. White's site is here. Cropsey doesn't have a Web site -- at least one that could be found with a quick Google search -- but his state Senate Web site is here.
Republican incumbent and Mt. Pleasant's own Bill Caul hopes to fend off a challenge from Coleman educator Loren Partlo. Caul's Web site is here, although it doesn't look like it's kept very up-to-date (the "latest" news is the Nov. 2 annoucement that he won the seat). Partlo's site is here. Be prepared for a red, white, and blue feast for the eyes. While we're at it, someone might want to pass along to the candidate that it look like the site's message is "Elect Partlo ... NOT."
I shook his hand and introduced myself. I'm pretty sure the only coherent thing I said to him was "It's an honor to meet you," after that my voice kind of trailed off as it dawned on me just WHO exactly I was meeting.
I'm meeting a man who has shaken hands with Saddam Hussein. I'm meeting a man whose wife was a CIA operative. This is the real deal in international intrigue and government cover-up scandals, and here I am trying to... what, say something to impress him? To prove I've been reading the news?
So I couldn't manage to say much to him that was different than what probably 80% of everybody who has met him said, but that's OK. I wanted to buy a copy of his book, "The Politics of Truth," but I was two dollars short, so he gave me two dollars so I could buy a copy of his book and he even signed it for me.
It can be pretty cool, being a newspaper photographer.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Feel free to leave a comment. A word of caution, however. All comments must run past the moderator for approval (the moderator's identity will remain a secret, but here's a hint: Comments that start with, "Eric B. rocks like Sammy Hagar can't drive 55," have a much greater chance of being approved) before they appear.
Isabella County Trial Judge William Ervin on Monday sentenced Seymour to six months in jail and five months' probation but credited the former Chippewa tailback from Miramar, Fla. for time served and suspended the final month with a provision that Seymour must complete his probation satisfactorily.
Ervin later sentenced King to six months in jail but suspended three of those months and gave King credit for eight days served.
King and Seymour pleaded guilty in July to attempted assault with a dangerous weapon during their murder trial.
The two had been charged with second-degree murder, or in the alternative, involuntary manslaughter or assault with intent do do great bodily harm less than murder.
This week, they're on Pine Street. The name and logo on the trucks is Huckins, the same company that redid the water mains on Oak Street last summer.
Potter Park is still accessible by its Pine Street parking lot, but you've got to take Cherry Street to get there.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
When discussing this, let's just cut Sharon Tilmann's name right out of it. The name of the person denied a spot on the ballot is irrelevant, since what's at stake here is the public good.
The overriding question is whether a cut-and-dried interpretation of the rules is more in the public's best interests than is a contested city commission ballot. We now have three candidates for three open seats. I'm not so good at math, but I can't quite work out the formula of how an uncontested ballot translates into a more active, educated public.
A couple of folks argue that the city was bound by the rules, which is true unless you can convince a judge that an exception is/was warranted. At some point in most judicial rulings I've read, the judge gets around to jibing his ruling with how it benefits the interests of the public at large. Heck, when the city violated the city charter and pulled the fluoride question off the ballot a couple of years ago, they argued that bonding questions gave them a reasonable excuse (the judge thought otherwise, and argued that a public vote was in the public's best interests, despite the wording confusion and bonding issues). So, there are election-related rules, and the city has previously decided to violate them when it felt it needed to.
I don't really how to wrap this up with something that I didn't write in Friday's column, other than to point out that there are precedents that suggest that not only could the city have decided otherwise and argued that it was in the best public interest, but could have legally defended their position. But, because they didn't, I get to participate in what is essentially an uncontested race in the November election (barring a write-in candidacy), and I'm pretty sure that's not in the best interests of our more important democratic institutions.
Friday, August 18, 2006
"The right to criticize government is also an obligation to know what you are talking about."
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I had an interesting conversation with a Union Township resident following Wednesday night's township planning commission meeting. I didn't take verbatim notes, but this is close to the way the conversation went:
RESIDENT: Hey, do you go to Road Commission meetings? (Clearly unhappy)
MARK: Well, I cover some of the road commission issues, yes. (Hoo, boy. Another round of ICRC-bashing, coming right up.)
R: I don't know. I live on Pickard Road, and I can't understand why they resurfaced it to Meridian, then quit right there. Our road is a disaster. They claim they don't have any money, but they did a lot of work out in Deerfield.
M: That's because Deerfield Township paid for all of it.
M: Deerfield Township had a pretty serious fund balance. They're pretty tight with a dollar there, and they had plenty of money in the bank. They decided to spend it on the roads. [I looked it up later; Deerfield Township paid 100 percent of the cost of chip-sealing more than 18 miles of road in the township.]
R: It's real nice job.
M: Well, chip-sealing is supposed to extend the life of pavement by seven to 10 years. I think Deerfield paid a little over $12,000 a mile for all that work.
R. You'd think with the taxes I pay to the road commission ...
M: Do you know how the road commission gets its money?
M: What kind?
R: Like county taxes.
M: No. The Isabella County Road Commission gets most of its money from fuel taxes and registrations. There's a flat rate of 19.7 cent a gallon on gas, so if more gas is sold, the road commssion gets more money. The state sends out checks based on an insanely complicated formula. But gas is $3 a gallon. Are we burning more gas? No. We're driving less. Less gas sold, less money for roads.
R: Not property taxes?
M: Some counties have them, and their roads are in better shape. But you get what you pay for, and you don't get what you don't pay for. We're not getting what we're not paying for.
R: What about Baseline Road? Where'd they get the money for that?
M: Ever hear of Jack Abramoff? When he lobbied for the Tribe, he did bring money back. That's mostly federal money through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The townships also put in a lot of money. So did the road commission -- and they got stuck with the cost overrruns. And man, were there overruns! The swamp they ran the road through was a lot deeper than anyone thought it was, and it almost sank the road commission.
R: How about Bluegrass Road?
M: A lot of private money. The developers of Union Commons are paying half the cost, plus all the cost of the drain work. The other propery owners along there were assessed for road improvements, too. The township put in $300,000 to make it happen, along with a little road commission money, but not much.
R: Broadway Road by the casino?
M: The Saginaw Chippewas paid for the whole thing. Write a check to the road commission, and they'll do the work.
R: Think Union Township might pay for Pickard? You said it was, what, $12,000 a mile?
M: That's for chip-sealing, and that's cheap. Pickard between Lincoln and Meridian is in too bad a shape to chip-seal. They'll have to tear the whole thing out and do it over, and that ain't cheap. The township has said for years that they'll pay half, but I wouldn't bet on them paying for the whole thing. And until the road commission comes up with their half, well ...
R: I'm going to have to keep fixing my front end. Hey, I'm glad I talked to you. Thanks for setting me straight. Think I ought to talk to the township supervisor?
M: You live in Union. He's the supervisor. You can ask.
Comments? E-mail them to me so you can become part of the discussion. I'll post most reasonable comments. Just make sure you include your name, address and telephone number, so I can follow up if necessary. I won’t post your personal information, but I want to know who I’m dealing with.
I never realized how gigantic that tree was until I saw how tiny a man in a bucket truck looked cutting it down, piece by piece . Friday's Morning Sun has a different view of the tree removal, too.
The men working said the job would take a little longer than others, because they have to cut smaller chunks, a little at a time, to avoid detroying the Borden Building and the power lines there. Good thinking.
On a more delicious note, while at the Mt. Pleasant farmer's market today I saw red, ripe, locally grown tomatoes for sale. The market continues in Island Park every Thursday through October. Yum. (Photo added! Link added! Fun added! -- Ed.)
And, while going past, I saw a woman in a skirt and pink top playing with a camera. "Who would be insane enough to stand that close to falling tree branches," I thought.
Lisa Yanick, Sun photographer.
On a related note, since we're all talking about road projects and work and stuff...
They've got a big pile of dirt pushed across Oak Street between Locust and Maple, or Maple and Cherry. It looks like some kind of water main project, like the one last summer that broke a pipe and sent water gushing five feet into the air out in front of my apartment.
Crews from the city of Mt. Pleasant are currently taking down trees around the Borden Building, ones that would eventually be in the way of renovation work, Building and Grounds Supervisor Greg Baderschneider said.
That means that the chimney will be the only big tall heavy thing left around the building, and city staff are meeting with the demo contractor on that issue tomorrow.
It also means the pink X's that I noticed spray-painted on the trees were not placed there by vandals or stray aliens.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Wednesday’s anonymous Sound Off item from Coldwater Township complaining about an alleged action by the Isabella County Road Commission obviously was based on a gross misinterpretation of the facts.
The caller claimed that road workers dumped crude oil on the road, then scraped the road in an effort to clean up what they’d done.
That’s ludicrous, but I can understand how a semi-informed ordinary person, ready to think the worst about a government agency, could come to that conclusion.
Dumping crude oil? Decades ago, road oiling was common practice in some jurisdictions as a means to reduce dust from gravel roads. It hasn’t been legal for many, many years; the oil runs off into groundwater and surface water.
The intentional dumping of crude oil on the ground would be a criminal violation of environmental laws. The road commission might not be real good at communicating, but its management certainly knows enough not to commit this kind of act.
So what was it? Oil field brine, probably a pretty greasy batch.
Mid-Michigan still produces a substantial amount of petroleum. Much of the oil underlying this area is in rock formations that trapped ancient seawater along with the oil. Many wells might bring up five or 10 barrels of salt water for every barrel of oil pumped.
That byproduct of oil production isn’t good for much, but it turns out to be an extremely cost-effective means of dust control. It’s cheap, it works, and for some reason, it has the added benefit of making a gravel road much less likely to melt down in the spring thaw.
The Isabella County Road Commission has a general permit from the Department of Environmental Quality to spread the stuff.
But wait a minute. The caller said the stuff “stunk real bad.” That’s probably right. The chemical that gives crude its distinctive bad smell is sulfur, and trace amounts of sulfur compounds are easily detectable by the human nose. The chemical gets dissolved in the brine, and it doesn’t smell good at all.
Oil field brine also often is dark in color, similar to crude. It’s easy to see how our reader might have been confused.
As far as scraping after the brine treatment, well, grading the road surface before treatment would have raised a lot of dust. Generally, most townships pay for two treatments over the course of a summer.
Maybe the next batch of brine won’t smell so bad. And if it really was crude oil and a criminal act took place, please contact me. Coldwater Township is a big place.
Comments? E-mail them to me so you can become part of the discussion. I'll post most reasonable comments. Just make sure you include your name, address and telephone number, so I can follow up if necessary. I won’t post your personal information, but I want to know who I’m dealing with.
He said the man was from Mt. Pleasant, but after a search of today's news stories, the only thing I could find was this.
According to that report, the man is from Prudenville, up by Houghton Lake. I've asked the guy for more information, and we'll see how it pans out.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Get the specifics here (warning: PDF file).
This is pretty consistent with the last poll ... the Guv a little ahead, but within the margin of error. And Debbie Stabenow well ahead.
Details of the meeting are probably irrelevant. What's important is what apparently is the course that will make the dissidents happy, and unless I missed something very fundamental what they want is a revote on the entire project.
Normally, I have to confess a deep sympathy for a good old-fashioned fight with city hall (who can forget my epic battle with Code Enforcement last year over a parking ticket? -- no one within earshot, I promise you that). That's been strengthened by watching the city's continued botched handling of the fluoride issue, and the nasty treatment of Gladys Mitchell for continuing to raise what really is a very important issue (if we were half as smart as we give ourselves credit for being, what we ingest in the name of public health and the wisdom of compulsory medical treatments in the name of dental health would rate miles above what we do with a small strip of contaminated land along the river).
And, I'll be perfectly honest and say that I voted in favor of the project because I thought it would bring a bookstore downtown (three blocks away).
But, I don't get the impression that the project is at a stage where a revote is practical (let alone possible).
Friends, it is with a troubled heart that I write today. The last days of the Republican primary for the 93rd house district were flooded with mailers and phone calls that included rumor, deception, and lies for the sake of political gain. The reputations of candidates were maligned. Calls from an anonymous source were placed—some repeatedly, to irritate and misinform voters about several of the candidates' character and position on issues.
My congratulations go to Paul Opsommer for his victory in the primary and to those candidates who also ran their campaigns with integrity and honesty. You can stand straight and hold your head high knowing that your conduct and that of your campaigns are representative of the district you sought to serve.
We're not the first district in the state to experience such low political ethics, but hopefully we can be one of the last. Currently before the Michigan State House of Representatives is HB 5172 which would require automated telephone calls that relate to an election, a candidate, or a ballot question to clearly state the identity of the person paying for the communication. This would prevent current practice that make tracing such calls and those who pay for them practically impossible. I will certainly do all I can in my remaining few months to make this bill law in Michigan and protect the people of this district from unethical and in some cases illegal behavior.
The district lost something in the last week of the election and all of us have suffered for it. For that I grieve the most. Please know that as your State Representative I will always value your trust and seek to earn your confidence in all I do.
I hate to douse a good case of outrage, but an even bigger problem are smear campaigns undertaken by the political parties, or other interested folks, that allow one of the candidates to throw up their hands and say, "I'm not responsible ... I have no control over what these people do."
We've seen that over the last few cycles, most famously involving Sue Smith of Mt. Pleasant. Unless a specific campaign is behind a smear -- even suggesting that a Republican candidate in conservative Gratiot County has received the endorsement of a gay and lesbian advocacy group -- caller ID isn't going to do much good.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I'm the last guy who'd criticize someone for taking five while on the clock to rock out. As far as I'm concerned, if Jefferson were alive today, he'd agree that rocking out belongs among life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But, I don't know ... Night Ranger? In a public place?
Have you no sense of decency, sir?
Oops. I just admitted I watch "Off the Record."
The gender-balancing tradition at the top of the ticket goes on.
Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, of course, has a male lieutenant governor. Mr. Devos, who certainly can't be considered a mushy liberal, announces a female nominee.
Republican John Engler had a female No. 2 for two of his three terms. Democrat Jim Blanchard, elected a generation ago, had a female lieutenant governor for both his terms.
The last male Michigan governor to have an all-male cast of lieutenant governors (he had three) was William Milliken.
Is it affirmative action? Or is it simply facing political reality in the heartland?
Here's the unedited press release from the Devos campaign:
DeVos names Ruth Johnson as lieutenant governor nominee
Dick DeVos today announced that Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson would join him on the ticket to bring change to Michigan this November. Johnson is a former state legislator, county commissioner, social worker and public school teacher who has devoted her career to public service.
“Ruth Johnson joins the Team for Change ready to help lead Michigan’s turnaround,” said DeVos. “Her decades of public service at the state level and in Michigan’s second largest county make her qualified to assume the Governorship if necessary. She is a strong leader with a distinguished record of reform and of doing the right thing for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers.”
Johnson is the first woman elected clerk in Oakland County’s 176-year history. She reformed the office, providing many online services to residents and saving Oakland County taxpayers millions of dollars. Her resume includes serving three terms as a state legislator in Lansing where she was Assistant Whip in the House. Johnson’s experience as a county official and state legislator means she understands the unique local and municipal government challenges Michigan residents face and can get the job done in Lansing.
“Standing here today it is impossible to share completely all of the thoughts and feelings that I have,” said Johnson. “‘Honored’ and ‘privileged’ don't even scratch the surface. Next to the day that I married my husband Don and the birth of our daughter Emmy, this is the greatest honor. I’m ready to work with Dick to bring much-needed change to our state. We will bring opportunity back to Michigan.”
Johnson was named as DeVos’ nominee today at a press conference in Lansing.
Thanks, naturally, to Rick for giving a shout-out to this here space in his Sunday column. We've still got a kink or two to work out, no doubt, as is the case with all new technologies.
Lots of papers have gone down the blogging road, but have jumped on what is the most popular bandwagon -- offering expanded commentary from members of the community. I see this as missing the potential of the Web log phenomenon. I also see this as a failure to keep the newsroom as current with new, more fluid technologies and media realities. As it is today, print reporters thumb their noses at bloggers and bloggers thumb their noses at reporters in traditional formats (television, print); but I think future success will be found in a hybrid of the two.
But enough of this "deep-thinky" stuff. This is the Internet. Come back, have fun, and if you've got a news tip or just a question about something you can contact us. E-mail addresses are embedded with the names of the staff members off to the right.
Also, there was a little gift in my Inbox this morning -- an emailed invitation to join Bill Clinton during a campaign stop to benefit Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday in Taylor. Clinton will also be in town to speak at a fundraiser for Debbie Stabenow a couple of hours later at Detroit Metro airport.
The alleged terror plot to damage the Mackinac Bridge is interesting, to say the least, if it's real. The families of the men involved, of course, claim it was all part of a scheme to repackage cell phones. That's interesting, and I certainly hope prosecutors check it out.
But if the plot is true, it would be extraordinarily chilling.
I think back to the Oklahoma City bombing. When that happened, I, like most Americans, originally jumped to the conclusion that it originated in the Middle East, not with terrorists from Michigan's Thumb.
I remember thinking, "Man, they finally get it."
Striking at a major city, like New York or Los Angeles, is one thing. Striking at the heartland is another.
Yet where is the greatest support for the U.S. adventure in the Middle East? The heartland. Where do many of the most committed U.S. military people come from? The heartland, the Midwest and the South.
Imagine, for a moment, the Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge. On a typical year, somewhere around 50,000 people walk across the bridge. It's almost a spiritual experience, to be surrounded by this massive steel structure, high above the Straits, at dawn.
By 8 a.m., the bridge is full of people, thousands of them, men, women, children, active seniors, people in wheelchairs, babies in strollers.
Now, imagine if every 50 feet through the crowd, a suicide bomber were stationed, each with the type of horrible nail bomb or ball-bearing bomb that have ripped through Israeli marketplaces for years, and now rip through Iraqi marketplaces. Imagine they all are tied together with cell-phone connected detonators, so one phone call from St. Ignace -- or a cave in Pakistan -- sets them off all at once.
How would the heartland react to that slaughter of its own? That kind of stuff is happening daily in Iraq, and most Americans are shrugging and turning back to "South Park."
Here's the frightening part: If an old newspaper guy can think of it, chances are good someone else has thought of it first.
We are the enemy. We are being persecuted. We have to face up to it.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Yesterday, deep in the wilds of Denver Township, I picked about a quart and a half. I've got lacerations all over my legs from the thorns to prove it (who'd a thunk that blackberries grew only in thick brambles?). There was plenty of red (and not just from me poor bleeding legs) out there to tell us that we've got some time yet.
According to the Internet (and, why would the Internet lie to us?), it's enough to complete a pie project, and perhaps some left over. We'll see. Looks like the lard from the hog Ian Gray and I split will finally justify the space it's taking up in my freezer.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I don't doubt that they'll find something. The question of whether it replaces enough revenue to prevent deep cuts in programs is the real question. In fact, Granholm presented a plan to legislators earlier this year, but they declined to take it up (no doubt waiting on November to see if they needed to take it seriously). DeVos says he has a plan, but won't release it until after the election ... and he favors replacing a business tax with a business tax (or so he says). The state Chamber has a plan that eliminates sweetheart deals, and closes loopholes (insurance industry).
The question is a matter of how much it replaces and who pays. The Chamber argues that their plan wouldn't force the insurance industry to raise its rates because they've got such a sweetheart deal in this state already, and will want to remain competitive. That's true to a certain extent of all business taxes, which a business of course can spread their tax burden to all of its customers, rather than just Michigan citizens (and take it from a much bigger pot of money).
The repeal represents a clash of ideologies. One side says to tax the people who have money -- the old "I rob banks, because that's where the money is" approach. Business has money.
The flip side is the conservative approach that says that businesses don't pay taxes anyway. A business tax simply forces the business to pass the cost along to consumers in the form of higher prices. It's somewhat dishonest, in this line of thought, because it shifts the blame for the cost of government away from lawmakers. People gripe about the cost of cars, not their taxes.
This is sort of like the so-called "employer's share" of Social Security taxes. Yeah, right -- I work for that money, too.
The other thought is that the SBT won't be gone for another 16 months. Now that there's a deadline, a plan to deal with the lost revenue has to come together. It's similar to the school finance situation of the mid-1990s. When then-state Sen. Stabenow pushed through the repeal of property taxes for school support, there was no plan to replace them.
There was, however, enough time to put together Proposal A, which passed and still is there today. Proposal A isn't perfect, but people forget that it ended up generating much more revenue for schools, partially evening out the massive disparities in per-pupil funding, and providing a steady flow of income to schools that doesn't depend on the vagaries of local politics.
And it was a bipartisan effort.
Success in this case will be a bipartisan Proposal A for business. The question is whether Michigan's bunch of rookie legislators are up to the task.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Standard & Poor's tells us why:
"We believe that the administratioin and Legislature will diligently work toYou can find the entire statement on the S&P Web site, if you're willing to register. They reaffirmed the state's basic credit rating (good spending habits), but gave the municipal bonds guaranteed on the state's good name a negative rating. Why? Well, let's say your wife's brother Earl cuts back on his hours at work by one-fourth, but wants to borrow a little cash to help build a new garage...
solve the gap in a structurally balanced manner and past evidence supports this
belief. However, the magnitude of the deficit, political uncertainty, and
uncertainty regarding the timing, volatility, and initial collection
possibilities associated with any replacement revenues cloud the likelihood of a
true and timely structural solution."
A quick breeze through the usual Web sites failed to turn up how our local representatives -- Caul, Cropsey, Hummel, Goschka, McManus, or Moore -- voted.
1. I' ve heard several people mention they met her while she was out doing door-to-door campaigning. Local politics is still about meeting people and talking to them.
2. She shows up quite often at county commission meetings. That gives her a first-person familiarity with the workings of the county board, which has so often been at odds with the road commission. So maybe she'll be able to help thaw that icy relationship. Plus, her presence normally increases citizen attendance at the meeting by 30-50 percent.
It happened on the east side of Weidman.
The township line between Nottawa and Sherman townships runs right down Woodruff Road through the middle of Weidman. Rather than split the town, the county commissioner districts were drawn so that District 2 includes all of Weidman, including the part in Nottawa Township. The rest of Nottawa is in District 1. But that means the portion of Nottawa in District 2 comprises a little, tiny Nottawa Township precinct, with only 58 registered voters.
Not a single one of them showed up on Tuesday.
Voter turnout: Zero.
In the part of the city of Clare in Isabella County, there are 23 registered voters. A total of two of them showed up.
One of them voted in the Republican primary, voting only for road commission candidate Kathie Elliott. The other voted in the Democratic primary, voting only for 99th District House candidate Loren Partlo, who won, and 33rd Senate District candidate Dennis Stewart, who lost.
Kathie Elliott, the Shepherd Village Council member who won the Republican nomination for an open seat on the Isabella County Road Commission, did a lot of things right.
For one thing, she's a very articulate and hard-working candidate. She knocked on doors, explained her positions well, and generally left a good impression with a lot of people.
The other two candidates, Mark Recker and Tom Courser, also were good candidates. So why did Elliott dominate?
They key is in her campaign signs and logo. In big letters, it said "Kathie," in smaller letters, it said "Elliott." Kathie for road commission. Kathie is a woman's name, so without having to say, "Hey, I'm female," she told voters "Hey, I'm female."
Wouldn't that be a disadvantage in this male-dominated, sexist society? Heck, no. It's an advantage. Here's why: Women also feel as if they are treated as second-class citizens. Members of groups that feel like second-class citizens will vote for other members of their group in solidarity.
That's true of women, blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, born-again Christians, you name it.
And women, in general, are more likely to vote than men are.
Coleman High School Principal Loren Partlo won the Democratic nomination for the 99th District Michigan House seat because of the ongoing controversy over a new Midland County jail.
The fight over the jail has been long and bitter. On Tuesday, voters in Midland County approved a bond issue to pay for a new jail. That bond issue question brought out voters.
Turnout in Midland County was about 24 percent, a remarkable number for an off-year primary election.
Meanwhile, in Isabella County, there were no countywide tax issues. There were no races with bitter, nasty name-calling. You could see actual grass along the roadsides, instead of just campaign signs. And hardly anyone cared; turnout was about 8 percent.
Loren Partlo is from Midland County. His opponent, Eric Welsby, lives in Isabella County. That was the key. Voters went for their home-county candidate, and more Midland people showed up.
Some numbers: In Midland County, it was Partlo 854, Welsby 632. That totals 1,486 votes.
In Isabella County, it was Welsby 689, Partlo 528, totaling 1,217 votes.
A total of 55 percent of the votes came from Midland County. Yet the Midland County part of the 99th District contains only 30.3 percent of the district's population.
Where Welsby campaigned in person, knocking on doors and helping people get to know him, he did well. He carried 20 of Isabella County's 29 precincts.
But he lost places like Denver Township, Coldwater Township, Lincoln Township, Rolland and Vernon townships. And not enough Isabella County Democrats showed up; Welsby lost by 61 votes.
Voters in two rural Isabella County townships easily approved fire-protection millages Tuesday.
In Deerfield Township, a one-mill levy for six years passed 145-96, a 60 percent yes vote.
In Gilmore Township, a one-mill levy, also for six years, passed 81-35, a 70 percent margin of approval.
The Deefield proposal would raise about $95,000 for the Deerfield Township Fire Department the first year. The Gilmore proposal would raise about $40,000 the first year.
Northern Gilmore township's fire protection is provided under contract with the Surrey Township Fire Department. The southern part of the township is protected under contract with the Nottawa-Sherman Townships Fire Department.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
In Clare County, Hovey received 1,681 votes; Mienk took 1,288 and Harrison attorney Austin Roe received 601 votes, according to elections officials.
In Gladwin County, with 16 of 21 precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Mienk led with 1,332 votes to Hovey's 947.
Roe received 308 votes in those Gladwin County precints.
Elections officials in Gladwin County said the results were unofficial because they were hand-tallied.
I still screwed up the application to vote by putting my address on the birth date line.
At Union Township Precinct 2, Jameson Park, things were going very smoothly late this morning.
Poll workers in both places commented that the scanner seemed to be catching numerous cases of trying to vote in both Republican and Democratic primaries. Ya cain't do that! I would have loved to have voted in both the GOP primary for Isabella County Road Commissioner, and the Democratic primaries for Michigan Senate and Michigan House. I couldn't. I had to make a choice.
But I voted, so I still get to whine about all the results.
And thus dies my idea for a bumper sticker, "If it's November in Mt. Pleasant, we're voting on fluoride."
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Does someone have an itchy trigger finger on that air raid horn? or was a real tornado spotted? It's blaring out here in roesbush again...
No, sir, no air raids ... just the all-clear signal.
It's passing by to the north of the Morning Sun building right now. Lots of lightning and thunder. Morning Sun staffers disappearing outside to roll up windows. Rosebush could be in for a hairy 15-20 minutes. The storm, at least during dinner, looked like a nice blotch of red over Lake Michigan on the radar picture.
On a personal note, it looks like evening production should end just as the worst of the storms pass by ... so perhaps no wet bicycle ride home (no windows to roll up, either).
The temperature, according to Mr. Weather Channel Desktop icon, is at 91 degrees. Another fine day, with the air feeling like it's 97 degrees. Nice for the tomatoes, not so much for getting much done around the house. Relief, according to the hourly forecast should come around 5 p.m., when the forecast calls for "Strong Thunderstorms," but so far the radar shows a clear picture over Lake Michigan and the western part of the state.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006