Wednesday, May 27, 2009

John Colone Stands Tall for Vets

When a businessman comes out for a tax increase, people should take notice.

John Colone wants Livingston County officials to levy one/20th of a mill to help our county veterans. The day after Memorial Day, when county communities put on six parades to honor our veterans, the Republicans who run the county want to "study" whether we really need to help out our veterans.

Our veterans didn't "study" whether they should respond when the country needed them. But when they need help, the local Republican response is, we'll think about it.

The tax increase Colone is seeking on behalf of the veterans amounts to 2 cents a day on a house with a $150,0000 taxable value. And Colone proposed that some of the $400,000 raised be used to offset other county funds going to veterans, easing the burden on the county budget.

Two cents a day.

We're about to find out if Republicans think our veterans are worth 2 cents a day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Time to Put Our Money Where Out Mouths Are On Veterans

Lots of people will be marching in or watching Memorial Day parades Today (May 25, 2009) honoring our nation's veterans. But we need to do more.

The state budget crunch is cutting in to funds for helping our troops when they return home from their deployments. Now it's up to us at the local level to pick up the slack. So far, the Livingston County Commission has failed to do so.

American Legion Post 141 has sent out an email about the emergency that the Livngston County Veterans Committee has declared regarding emergency relief for veterans.

The post's email states:

"The County Veterans Committee is going to be asking the County Commissioners to approve a 1/20th of a mill Levy, specifically to fund Veterans Relief. The law, Public Act 214 of 1899, provides that a County must levy a millage to fund Veterans Relief--but Livingston County has not been levying the required millage. Surrounding counties- Shiawassee, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Ingham County, all provide County Veterans Relief Services from Public Act 214 of 1899 funds.

"So far the County Commission has refused to take a vote on authorizing a Veterans Relief Fund millage. The Veterans Committee wants to make it clear to the Commission that funding Veterans Relief is not going to wait. We need it now.

"Please turn out Tuesday, May 26th, at 7:00 p.m., to let the Commission know you are serious about funding Veterans Services."

County Veterans Committee Chairman John Colone is asking all veterans to come to the Livingston County Commissioners Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday (May 26) to show support for the millage. The meeting is at the East Annex building- directly EAST of the Old County Courthouse. The meeting room is on the second floor.

The county is required to levy this tiny millage and is refusing to do so. It should have been levying it during the good times, so we would have a cushion during hard times.

Absolutely irresponsible.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Secretary of State Land Lose with Cash

At a time when every dime counts, Michigan taxpayers can't count on Secretary of State Terri Land to keep track of the money branch offices take in.

That's not a partisan claim. It's the conclusion of the Michigan Auditor General.

The auditor general says that Land's procedures in the branch offices are so lax that "unauthorized or improper transactions" could occur. In other words, employees could be stealing money and Land wouldn't know it.

And the auditor general's report says that Land hasn't figured out how to charge Michigan vehicle owners the proper fees, overcharging some and undercharging others.

Land can't figure out how to run one agency of state government, and now she wants to run the whole state.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pure Michigan Ads Purely Wonderful

I started noticing the Pure Michigan ads several weeks ago and I don't know if I've seen every one yet, but so far they are the best state advertising collection I've ever seen.

They convey a real sense of peace so different from most advertising. And the narrator's voice is perfect. He makes me stop what I'm doing and pay attention, and then suddenly I realize it's an ad about Michigan. The scenery is magnificent.

Now we need some great Michigan summer weather to entice people to come and enjoy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

AG Cox: Above the Law?

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox thinks he should enforce the laws on the rest of us, but not follow them himself.

During a hearing on HB4799 before the House Judiciary Committee, Cox testified that money he obtains in lawsuits are not "state funds."

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer isn't standing for that.

"Testifying that settlement proceeds from lawsuits brought by the Attorney General are not state funds shows the arrogance of Mike Cox and proves that he believes he is not accountable to Michigan residents," Brewer said. "The Attorney General is not above the law despite what he may think."

House Bill 4799 would prevent the Attorney General from using lawsuit settlements as a private slush fund to use as he wants without transparency or accountability. Cox’s Chief Deputy testified in opposition to the bill, claiming that the use of settlement money should not be regulated or disclosed because, "these are not state funds."

"There is no better example of why this legislation is needed than Cox’s abuse of settlement funds from the Countrywide Financial lawsuit where Cox consulted with a campaign donor, GOP leader Peter Secchia, about how to use the funds," Brewer told the committee.

"Does Cox have a 'pay to play' scheme in which campaign donors, political allies, and friends benefit from the settlement proceeds?" asked Brewer. "Is he making political kickbacks using this slush fund? The voters and taxpayers have a right to know."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Some Ways to Balance State Budget Don't Add Up

We all know that cutting the state budget is not easy. All the easy fixes already have been done. So it was no surprise that a story in the Lansing State Journal that solicited think tanks and the public for money-saving ideas failed to turn up any easy things.

Although the story said that tax hikes were unpopular with lawmakers and the governor, the list included several proposed tax hikes -- switching to a graduated income tax, raising the tax on beer, taxing soft drinks, and so on. Not quite keeping with the premise of the story, I'd say.

But when it comes to other ideas that just aren't realistic, the right-wing Mackinac Center submitted some of the worst ideas. It suggested saving $333 million by privatizing the University of Michigan. Keep in mind that these money-saving ideas must be enacted by Sept. 30, for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. Exactly how could the university be privatized by then when the university is included in the state constitution? And is there any guarantee the public would approve a constitutional amendment privatizing the university?

The center also suggested privatizing local school district functions to save $50 million. But any savings would actually show up in local districts' budgets, not the state's.

Other ideas in the article -- get rid of all the state legislators and elect new part-time lawmakers. And exactly how is that supposed to get done by Oct. 1?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

He Can't Be Serious

For some reason, this story is getting much less attention than stories about newspapers complaining about internet competition. But it is even more misguided.

The head of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Michael Lynton, recently told a panel that, "I’m a guy who doesn't see anything good having come from the Internet. Period."

He went on to complain about the on-demand nature of the internet, the ability of people to access information any time of the day, as well as the fact that much of the information is free.

Not one good thing from the internet? Not email? Not travel planning? Not political organizing? Not sharing pictures with family miles away?

He probably didn't like the invention of telephones, either

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Around the Michigan Blogosphere

Some interesting thoughts zipping around the Michigan blogosphere:

--Wizard Kitten wonders what's up with Senate Republicans proposing a big new government program.

--Conservative Media reports on progress for anti-smoking legislation, at last.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Livingston Independents Cool to GOP Personal Attacks?

One robin does not a spring make, or something like that. And one letter to the editor does not represent a trend.

Yet it was heartening to read a recent letter to the Livingston Press and Argus sternly criticizing Undersheriff Mike Murphy, chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, for his letter to the editor calling President Obama a traitor for merely stating that the U.S. will follow its own laws and not torture detainees.

The letter, written by someone who is in no way affiliated with the Livingston County Democratic Party, says that "Murphy's comments and opinions regarding President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party warrant his immediate resignation as undersheriff."

It goes on to suggest that Murphy's bias toward the Democratic Party poses a conflict of interest in his job as undersheriff. "Would he protect and serve an outspoken Democrat?" asks the writer, adding that Murphy "should pretend to show a little respect for the president."

I have only met Mike Murphy once and he seemed genial. There may be some projects we can cooperate on down the road. But I thought his letter was over the top and I tried to reply with one based as much as possible on facts.

As to whether he should resign, I'm not suggesting that. His dual role does raise a red flag, but I've seen nothing so far to cause me any concern. I'll be on the look out for anything, of course, and I'm sure he is well aware of that.

The more important message that the writer is sending is his concern about hyper-partisanship in this country that results in the perpetual campaign as practiced by Karl Rove and the Bush White House.

The letter may well be a sign that independents are rejecting negative campaigning and personal attacks on political figures. Or it may be just one person's disgust.

I'm hoping it's a trend.

Anonymous Calls Promoting More Tea Parties

Livingston County residents may be receiving anonymous telephone calls promoting more of the supposedly grassroots tea-parties.

The calls (I received one on Thursday) consist of a male voice saying America should wake up to what is happening to the country and participate in the next tea party. No identification is given as to the voice of the caller or who paid for the call. Neither is there any information on when the tea parties are supposed to be held, although Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindahl has been reported nationally to be organizing these "grass roots" events.

The call is a little late. America did "wake up" to what was happening to the country -- last November, when voters elected President Obama.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Livingston Dems Name Scholarship Winners

Livingston County Democrats will award three scholarships, totaling $1,300, to a trio of high school seniors for their essays on what organized labor has meant to them and their communities.

"These students have seen the benefits to families and communities when working people come together to support each other," said Greg Stoey, chair of the union relations committee of the Livingston County Democrats.

"In good times and in bad, organized labor has been there to help people. They showed their generosity even now by sacrificing to contribute to this scholarship program. We originally thought we would be able to offer two scholarships, totaling $600, but because of working people’s generosity, we are awarding three scholarships totaling $1,300."

First place goes to Vivian Burgett, a senior at Pinckney High School, and carries a $600 scholarship. Second place goes to Tanner Gallant, a senior at Hartland High School, and carries a $400 scholarship. Third place goes to Marie Markell, a senior at Hartland High School, and is worth $300.

The essays were judged by Harold Stack, director of the Center for Labor Studies at Wayne State University.

Contributions to the scholarship came from individuals, the Livingston County Democratic Party, and the following labor organizations: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 252 of Washtenaw County; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 665 of Lansing; Michigan Building and Construction Trades; Washtenaw Skilled Building Trades; Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 190; International Brotherhood and Electrical Workers Local 58 of Detroit; United Auto Workers Local 1284; United Auto Workers Local 598, and United Auto Workers Region 1-C.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Health Care Forum Coming Soon

Democrats in Genesee County are inviting Democrats in neighboring areas to a forum on health care in Fenton on Thursday, May 21.

The event, sponsored by the Southern Genesee County Democratic Club, will feature Olivia Boykins, Congressman John Conyers' Special Assistant, and Dr. James Mitchiner, representing Physicians For A National Healthcare Plan, to lead the conversation, with questions and answers from the audience. Conyers has introduced a bill calling for a single-payer health care system.

The event will begin at 7:00 at the Fenton Community Center at 150 S. Leroy in Fenton.

Christine Jaranowski, chair of the club, said the event is an effort to start the dialogue on health care reform as President Obama begins moving forward on the issue.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

As Mom Used to Say...

When I was 18 and went away to college, Mom gave me lots of advice. You know, always keep a dime in your shoe in case you need to call a cab. Don't take a cigarette from anybody because it might have marijuana in it. You know, real useful stuff.

My college roommate had her share of advice from home, too, and for awhile we thought we should write a book with all the tips we had from our parents but didn't intend to ever follow.

But the older I get, the wiser some of the things my mother has said to me over the years seem.

Once, long after I and my four brothers had all left home and were earning our own way in the world, more or less successfully, she remarked, "You never stop being a parent." I took it to mean that she still worried about all of us, whether we would lose our jobs, save enough for retirement, be happy in our relationships, and so on. It was prophetic, as I learned as my own child grew to adulthood and began earning her way in the world. When she comes home, she's still my baby, just as when I visit my parents, I still must bear some resemblance to the little girl of so long ago. The watchfulness, the worrying never quite goes away.

The other piece of advice my mother gave me was, "It's never too late to try to be happy." I've thought of that often, too. Nobody's life is perfect. Everyone hits a rough patch when it seems like there's no hope of things turning around. But once that's over, Mom seemed to be telling me that it was time to smile and move on, rather than dwell on how tough life is.

Each piece of advice was dispensed casually, with no special context to mark the comments as important. Maybe we were doing dishes or peeling potatoes together. I don't even remember.

I just remember her words and how wise they have turned out to be.

Thanks, Mom, more than I can ever say.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Better Get Their Stories Straight

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler recently came up with the bright idea of using extra space in Michigan prisons to house detainees from Guantanamo who can't be released or relocated.

But that was then.

Now, national Republicans are backing legislation to bar Guantanamo detainees from being housed on the U.S. mainland.

So they were for it before they were against it?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Building a Better Michigan, John Freeman's Way

The era of political campaigns in which politicians talked and voters listened is over, thanks to President Obama and the social networking phenomenon, and John Freeman knows that.

Freeman, who spoke to the Livingston County Democrats' 26th annual Winans Dinner on Sunday (May 3, 2009), says leading Michigan in the future must include engaging the public, as well as having strong leadership. Freeman, whose wife Amy Chapman ran Barack Obama's campaign in Michigan, says Obama demonstrated in that campaign that engaging the public is critical not just to the campaign, but to governing.

A series of health care meetings organized by the Obama team even before he took office was an example of that engagement of the public.

Now director of Health Care for America Now in Michigan, Freeman is a former state lawmaker who expects to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010. He already has a website up, as well as a blog where he has solicited public comments.

Freeman says Michigan should focus on five factors that businesses look for in deciding where to expand: A strong higher education system that remains affordable to citizens; a solid infrastructure that includes broadband Internet as well as roads and sewers; a great natural environment, which means Michigan's proximity to the Great Lakes; health care, including a public plan that will be cheaper than insurance plans offered by for-profit insurance companies, and a sense of community.

Businesses "want to be in a state where people are respected," he said.

Those are Freeman's ideas, but he wants to hear others' ideas, too.

Wouldn't Have Predicted This

Millages for roads,fire and police passed in Unadilla Township, and for schools in Fowlerville and Hartland in elections on Tuesday (May 5, 2009), according to unofficial results at the Livingston County Clerk's office.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Benson Has Makings of Dynamite Candidate

Theoretically, the race for secretary of state is in danger of being overshadowed during the 2010 campaign by all the other important races on the ballot -- the governor, key state Senate races, attorney general, and Supreme Court.

But a woman seeking the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State will have no problem breaking through the clutter and attracting attention to the race. Jocelyn Benson is an energetic candidate who already has deep knowledge of the role of secrtary of state and passionately believes in the right to vote and the state's obligation to proactively protect it and even promote it.

Benson spoke at the Livingston County Democrats' 26th annual Winans Dinner on Sunday (May 3, 2009) at Lakelands Golf and Country Club, south of Brighton. She was a hit. And so were her ideas, including no reason absentee voting and audits of voting machine performance.

Benson is not a politician looking for a promotion, but a law professor with a background of working on voting rights projects.

She already is putting together a strong campaign, including working on getting coordinators in each of Michigan's 83 counties. Jordan Genso has the job in Livingston.

If Benson gets the nomination, she will be hard to beat.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Everybody Needs an Editor

We all make mistakes, bloggers included. To err is human, and all that.

Newspapers have always prided themselves on being superior to bloggers because they have editors. (Actually, plenty of blogs have editors, too.)

But the editors may have been busy elsewhere at the Livingston Press and Argus when its editorial noted in an article for Friday (May 1, 2009), that the Brighton Area School district is running a deficit "despite having the highest per-pupil funding in the state."

The highest? Higher than the Grosse Pointes?