Blog Posts For The Week Of April 12, 2014 Through April 18, 2014

Who Thinks Congress Is Doing An Excellent Job?
By John Lindstrom

Posted: April, 18 2014 3:18 PM

A grand total of six people in Michigan think Congress is doing an excellent job.

Well, okay, that’s not quite true. The latest State of the State Survey from the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University found that of more than 1,000 people surveyed, just six people thought Congress was doing an excellent job.

Clearly more people in the entire state think Congress is doing an excellent job. After all, there are 16 members of the U.S. House and Senate from Michigan, and their spouses, kids, grandkids, siblings, etc.

Well, Congress is obviously not popular in Michigan or nationwide right now, but it was striking that just six people out of the number surveyed said they thought Congress was doing an excellent job.

So reporters asked MSU Economics professor Charles Ballard if there was any distinct comparison between those six people.

Not really, said Mr. Ballard. Four were men, two were women, one was black and five were white, two were from Ingham County, and then one each from Kalamazoo, Kent and Wayne counties.

One person was a Republican, Mr. Ballard said, who said Congress was doing an excellent job, the GOP-controlled House was doing an excellent job but the Democratic-controlled Senate was doing a poor job.

That person, he said, he understood. Otherwise there was no pattern.

“This is sort of like, every now and then something weird shows up in the numbers,” Mr. Ballard said.

What Role Will Detroit Bankruptcy Play In The Election?
By John Lindstrom

Posted: April, 17 2014 4:26 PM

So far the 2014 campaign has played itself against a historic backdrop – an unpleasant backdrop, one that has brought the state a lot of unwanted attention, but historic nonetheless.

The entire election, so far, has been played out against the backdrop of the Detroit bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

If all goes according to plan, the city should emerge from Chapter 9 bankruptcy in October, barely a month before the November election.

So, what role will the bankruptcy play in the election itself? For political-watchers, this is truly unmapped land. As such, the bankruptcy could help or hurt both sides. Much of its overall effect will depend on the final results and how the public reacts. Based on the latest happenings, it could very well prove to be a positive for Governor Rick Snyder.

Early on, when Detroit was put under emergency manger Kevyn Orr now 13 months ago, there were clues as to how voters would react. Mr. Orr was named not quite six months after the voters had rejected the controversial emergency manager law, PA 4 of 2011, only to see the Legislature enact a new emergency manager law, PA 436 of 2012.

A lot of people, Democrats mostly, were furious at this turn of events, a fury which remains unabated. The idea of the state seizing control of a local government continues to grate. It is seen as paternalistic, arrogant, uncaring of local needs and undemocratic by taking away any authority to make needed decisions by local elected officials.

Worse, since virtually every entity under emergency management is populated primarily by African-Americans, the exercise has been denounced by some opponents as de facto if not de jure racist.

However, just as early on, putting the city under emergency management and then into bankruptcy has gotten a lot of support. Some of that support grudging, but the city’s struggles with its finances as a symptom of its larger overall problems has been known for decades. Painful as the action was, Mr. Snyder got a fair amount of support for taking a hard step.

That support always had a contingent sense, however, which relied on what the final outcome of the bankruptcy would be. It especially relied on what might happen to the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. If the collection, or a part of it, were lost, then a lot of voters would be angry at Mr. Snyder.

Right now, however, the actions in the bankruptcy all seem to favor Mr. Snyder.

City pensioners, the city and bondholders have shown remarkable speed in the last several weeks on reaching agreement on different terms (granted, those agreements come after the city filed for bankruptcy nine months ago, after dozens of court hearings and with some critical elements – like an agreement on the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department – still unsettled).

Even with that caveat, it seems highly likely the city will emerge from bankruptcy and begin steps toward restoration. Restoration, though, will also likely take decades and will require a substantial economic redevelopment, improved security and mostly a new attitude toward and about the city from, well, just about everyone.

Mr. Snyder seems confident the resolution of the bankruptcy will go his way. As he filed his petitions for re-election Thursday, he praised the new hope the city has. And if the bankruptcy is completed smoothly – even with the problems of blight, crime and a weak Detroit economy ongoing – it certainly will give him a boost with voters.

But if major problems erupt – if the Legislature does not agree to the state’s $350 million part of the Grand Bargain, if the conclusion of the bankruptcy blows a gasket because no agreement on the water department can be reached, and if a couple of Van Goghs are carried out the DIA’s doors – then the political winds could very well turn and put an unwanted chill on Mr. Snyder.

In Search Of A Rarity – Print Journalist To Legislator
By Zachary Gorchow

Posted: April, 16 2014 11:11 AM

One of the newest candidates filing to run for the Legislature is a name familiar to those of us in the journalism world.

Rich Perlberg, the now retired longtime general manager/executive editor of the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus, is running as a Republican in the 42nd House District, which covers the Brighton area.

Mr. Perlberg joins a crowded GOP field in the solidly Republican district where the successor to Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Brighton), who cannot seek re-election because of term limits, will be effectively determined by the August 5 primary for the Republican nomination.

Of the other four candidates in the field so far, Mr. Perlberg’s major opposition comes from Brighton Township Treasurer Lana Theis, a tea party organizer, and Nick Fiani, the president of the Brighton school board. Ms. Theis has been running for a year, and Mr. Fiani got started in July, so they have a big head start on Mr. Perlberg.

And the history of print journalists running for the Legislature is mixed at best. The one major victory in memory was Gary Woronchak, who had spent 25 years in newspapers and was the managing editor of The Daily Tribune in Royal Oak prior to winning a House seat in Dearborn as a Republican in 1998 (he later won a seat on the Wayne County Commission and became a Democrat).

One of those who lost Mr. Perlberg knows well. Buddy Moorehouse, a former editor and columnist for the Daily Press and Argus, finished a close third in the 2002 Republican primary for the other House seat in Livingston County (memorably won by now-Sen. Joe Hune in a recount).

Former Detroit News reporter/local publisher Hawke Fracassa struggled in his bid for office, losing a 2008 run for the Republican nomination in the 25th House District in Macomb County by a 2-to-1 margin. In 2010, he filed to run for the same seat as a Democrat, but withdrew from the race. Now he is back – as a Republican – and waging a long-shot challenge to Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) in the 9th Senate District.

In 2008, former Detroit News columnist (and Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame inductee) Pete Waldmeir ran as a Republican for the 1st House District that covered the Grosse Pointes and a small part of Detroit. Mr. Waldmeir had won a seat on the Grosse Pointe Woods City Council since leaving the News, but he still lost a bid for the GOP nomination, finishing a relatively distant third among six candidates.

Mr. Perlberg wrote a regular Sunday column for his newspaper for many years, so that gives him some visibility, and he will have some connections in the business community from his executive post at the newspaper.

But the recent history of print journalists running for the Legislature is not good. Mr. Woronchak’s victories in 1998, 2000 and 2002 were no accident, incidentally. Mr. Woronchak is one of the best retail campaigners I’ve seen.

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