Blog Posts For The Week Of October 2, 2015 Through October 8, 2015

How’s Come Utah Figured How To Raise Money For Roads?
By John Lindstrom

Posted: October, 8 2015 2:55 PM

Is there any point to reminding people that Michigan roads are bad? No, of course not. What W.C. Fields once said of drunkenness could be said as well of the moonscape of Michigan roads: “It was so common, it was unnoticed.”

Is there any point to reminding people that efforts to reach a decision on how to finance improvements to the roads always seem to fall short of a final, conclusive decision on a finance plan? Probably not. Despite ongoing discussions between Governor Rick Snyder and the legislative leaders, despite indications of improved conversations and hope an agreement could come at any time, there is a cynical sense among legislators, lobbyists and others that if no agreement is reached and enacted by December, there will be no action on roads until possibly the lame-duck session in December 2016.

So what explains Utah? It has a Republican governor, a Republican legislature, and it would be hard to find a more conservative state. Yet earlier this year Utah enacted a very hefty increase in its gas tax, raising the tax by some five cents from its current rate of 24.5 cents, and increasing it in the future with inflation. In addition, voters in 17 of the Beehive State’s 29 counties will vote on a special sales tax increase to pay for more local transportation improvements.

So how did Utah do it? An article published by the Pew Center for the States gives clues, but for Michigan officials trying to get action on roads, the clues must be maddening.

The article speaks of how state leaders worked with local businesses and chambers, fanned out across the state, talked about what the state could do and where federal funds fell short of meeting transportation needs. The article said officials took two years to talk about the plans before there was action.

And that is what must seem maddening. Getting more money for roads has so far been one of Governor Rick Snyder’s biggest policy disappointments. He has been after more transportation funding throughout his five years in office, and that comes after former Governor Jennifer Granholm also called for more funding, and after transportation groups have pushed the issue for well more than a decade.

In pushing for more road funding, business groups have gotten involved, there has been advertising, there have been public information campaigns, Mr. Snyder has hauled around chunks of concrete that have fallen off bridges. And, so far, nothing.

But the Pew article does mention one thing, essentially in passing, that may have helped build support. In the lede of the piece, the article says churches and schools were brought into the coalition. It nowhere says anything more about working with churches and schools, but could that be a factor that might help win the argument here?

For example, there are a number of churches and church groups in the Detroit area that have made improving public transportation a mission. If they are already interested in transportation, could they not play a role in helping build support for more funding since that will also help raise money for transport?

In heavily religious Utah, the role the churches played may have had an effect in winning an increase in funds. Perhaps that would be a role people could debate in Michigan, while they wait for the next lame-duck session.

Joey Gamrat Video: Mom ‘Not Here To Play Games And Attend Cocktail Parties’
By Christopher Klaver
Staff Writer

Posted: October, 7 2015 3:24 PM

In the latest chapter in the scandal that won’t seem to go away, Joey Gamrat posted a video Wednesday to illustrate how the Lansing power structure trampled his mother, and how she is fighting back.

The video, entitled “Comeback” and set to dramatic (and somewhat loud) music, is a montage of television and radio news reports of former Rep. Cindy Gamrat’s expulsion from the House, and then the “surprise announcement” (to quote a news cast) that she would run to fill her own vacated seat.

As young Mr. Gamrat describes his video: “One woman standing up to Lansing, telling them she is not here to play games and attend cocktail parties, but to represent the district that elected her and only the District that elected her. The story of how Lansing tried to hush one of its loudest threats, and how it did not work.”

Following clips of news coverage regarding her expulsion, and shots of Rep. Tom Leonard III (R-DeWitt) ordering sergeants to remove her from the floor, the video cuts to a radio interview of Ms. Gamrat saying the media distorted the proceedings.

“There has been such a tremendous amount of negative media, the negative attention that really distorts, paints a distorted picture of what this last eight months has been about,” Ms. Gamrat said.

What was it about? That we don’t learn from the video.

But she says toward the end of the video that the process made her a better person.

She also credits her son and his two siblings for keeping her in her seat to the bitter end. “They didn’t want me to resign, and I said ‘let’s just take it day by day,’” she said in another interview.

And she urges voters to remember that she did it all for them. “Whether you decide to cast your vote for me on November 3rd or not, it is important to me that you know you were not forgotten,” she is quoted on the final image.

The video was purely Mr. Gamrat’s compilation, not that of Ms. Gamrat’s campaign committee. Only the vote in November will tell if it was enough.

An Off-The-Radar Election Worth Following
By Zachary Gorchow

Posted: October, 6 2015 5:11 PM

Macomb County tends to get all the attention when it comes to vicious campaigns, but an underrated corner of the state when it comes to go-for-the-jugular elections is among northwest Wayne County Republicans.

While most of Wayne County is Democratic turf, the populous, generally well-to-do communities of Livonia, Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Northville and the part of Northville Township in Wayne County still lean Republican. Let’s include Canton Township in the equation too, even though it is more southwest than northwest Wayne County and is trending Democratic, because it still has a strong Republican following. The intraparty brawls among Republicans in primaries in this region are a sight to see.

Ordinarily, a township supervisor primary would not warrant much attention in state political circles.

But the race for the Republican nomination in August 2016 for Plymouth Township supervisor should pique the interest of politicos. In the township, winning the GOP nomination will make the victor the strong favorite to win the general election.

The contest pits the incumbent, Shannon Price, a former Wayne County commissioner and longtime Republican operative appointed to fill a vacancy in the supervisor post, against Rep. Kurt Heise, a three-term Republican member of the House.

There are a few different layers to this race. One, the township board chose Mr. Price for the post over several other candidates, one of which was Mr. Heise. And Mr. Heise was none too pleased. The Plymouth Observer reported that Mr. Heise said the board “put politics ahead of people” and appointed Mr. Price ahead of “other candidates with superior public and private sector backgrounds.”

And when Mr. Heise announced his bid last week, he immediately came out swinging at Mr. Price.

There’s another interesting subtext to this race. Prior to becoming supervisor, Mr. Price had been on the staff of Attorney General Bill Schuette as a constituent relations director.

In the past year, one of the more notable Republican vs. Republican fights at the Capitol has pit Mr. Heise, the chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, against Mr. Schuette on the subject of reforming sentencing. Mr. Heise is a key backer of bills to release prisoners at their first eligible date for release, provided that Department of Corrections staff determines the inmate has a high probability of success once released.

Mr. Schuette is a vehement opponent of those bills, and Mr. Heise fired back recently that Mr. Schuette’s approach may look good on a bumper sticker, but fails to address the issue.

When Mr. Price sought the appointment to the post, he had the help of some heavy-hitters in Republican politics with former Attorney General Mike Cox and Rep. Laura Cox, who live in Livonia, stumping for him. One wonders if the primary will see a repeat.

Then there’s the matter of Mr. Heise’s House seat, the 20th District. Don’t be surprised if that turns into a proxy battle between the Heise and Price forces unless there’s someone out there who can bridge the gap and run above the fray. That House seat, while it leans Republican, was won by a Democrat in 2006 and 2008.

So perhaps the Democrats will be keeping this seat on their board as one of their longshots in the event the Republican internecine battle damages their eventual nominee. Or at the very least, they can pass the popcorn and enjoy the show.

Dantonio’s Forward For Schuette Book Irks Some Democratic Spartans
By Alethia Kasben
Staff Writer

Posted: October, 5 2015 4:11 PM

Michigan State University football fans who are also Democrats were not pleased today when they learned MSU’s head coach, Mark Dantonio, wrote the forward for Attorney General Bill Schuette’s new book, “Big Lessons From a Small Town.”

Mr. Dantonio, who has not contributed toward the campaign of a candidate for state office in at least the 13 years of required electronic reporting, met Mr. Schuette through Peter Secchia, Mr. Schuette told reporters at an event for his new book.

In the forward, Mr. Dantonio writes that Mr. Schuette’s philosophies as he has gone through his career are similar to how the MSU football program operates. We also learn that when writing, Mr. Dantonio likes to throw in capitalized words for emphasis.

“It must involve a sincere COMMITMENT to every individual’s life; the ability to COMMUNICATE and solve their problems both big and small,” Mr. Dantonio wrote about the team’s philosophy. “It must be built on TRUST. Bill Schuette has worked a lifetime in establishing this with his constituency.”

Mr. Dantonio also writes that Mr. Schuette and MSU football have pushed themselves to succeed at high levels.

“He continues to REACH HIGHER as he pushes towards change and development in the state of Michigan and beyond,” Mr. Dantonio wrote of Mr. Schuette, borrowing from the slogan he adopted for MSU’s 2015 season. “His book is an example of the above; a passion for people born from a life filled with both success and adversity; that of a leader.”

The brief forward disappointed those who are Democratic or liberal activists (or both) and MSU football fans, and some went to social media with their frustrations. Mr. Schuette’s conservative record has, to put it mildly, made him unpopular with liberals.

Zack Pohl, spokesperson for the Michigan AFL-CIO, tweeted: “Schuette’s book has a forward by Dantonio? *hangs head*”

To this, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon replied “Go Blue!!”

Those at Progress Michigan also took to Twitter on Mr. Dantonio’s writings. Marissa Luna went straight to the source: “Don’t do this @dantoniomark”

And Sam Inglot was shocked: “WTH: @DantonioMark wrote the foreword for Schuette's new book? I'm going to be sick.”

Amash Gets A Nod From Conservative Publication
By Danielle Emerson
Staff Writer

Posted: October, 2 2015 3:47 PM

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township) is getting a nod to become the next U.S. House speaker in the wake of the resignation of outgoing U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

A columnist with The Week is suggesting that Mr. Amash take the lead in Washington.

He is indeed a new breed of Republican, as the article points out – “he was elected at the height of Tea Party fervor, but he’s better described as a libertarian Republican, more in step with millennials’ concerns about privacy, peace and personal liberty” – and has a passion for the basics of the institution.

Mr. Amash certainly hasn’t declared he’s running (though he did tweet the article) and there doesn’t seem to be any speculation that he would. But it is an interesting point: the future of any party relies on bringing up the next generation, and Mr. Amash is in a unique position in that he’s not too old to not be able to relate to young folks, but he’s not too young to be ignorant.

During the Boehner speakership, Mr. Amash was an outcast, clashing with the speaker, who booted him from key committees.

But depending on the next speaker, Mr. Amash could become more of a key player.

That said, one of the most overlooked things about a leadership position is that sometimes you have to do things you personally do not want to do. Your role is to promote the caucus and its will. You need to get stuff done so that your members can take results back to their constituents – and your national party can say they’re doing something at all – but you can’t do too much, especially with the opposing party in a position like the president, because they’ll want to take credit too.

It would certainly be a new and challenging role for Mr. Amash in the unlikely event he chose to take it on.

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John Lindstrom
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Alethia Kasben
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Christopher Klaver
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