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A few words on scorecards

by: Eric B.

Sat Jan 11, 2014 at 14:26:10 PM EST


Off to the left and below is a Blog Ad for the Sierra Club's new scorecard for our benevolent overlord Rick Michigan. They rolled it out the other day to great press release ballyhoo. I think I got four or five of them over two days.

I have a confession to make: I deleted them without opening them. Used to be that if I got a scorecard from someone, I'd open it, read it, and post about it. I used to do that with a lot of press release-y stuff I got sent my way. But, then I stopped because I realized that the scorecards served little purpose because they weren't anchored in reality. They were anchored in legislation, which is anchored in the climate of Lansing's insular (incestuous!) political dynamic. It is about as far away as removed from reality as anything you'll find. I realized this after Teh Demas got mad at Progress Michigan for saying unnice things about Patty Birkholz's environmental record because Patty Birkholz was the most environmentally friendly Republican participating at the time in our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger effect.

From the perspective of an insider, she looked eco-friendly, but once you fit her into the context of Lansing as an entity, you realize that what this really means is that these scorecards only really measure which people are the best of the turds. (Birkholz has moved on to work with an environmental group or two in West Michigan, which is great for her, but that doesn't change the fact that when she was in the Legislature, she still was okay with things like privatizing Michigan's water, which is a must bigger deal and far worse in its implications than helping to author legislation creating a groundwater database.) So, when e-mails would show up scoring legislators on the environment, I'd just delete them without looking at them.

Someone at Michigan Radio took a look at this scorecard and found it wanting. I won't try to defend bad work, and I didn't read it, but I think the story here is less about this scorecard and the reality that you knew going in -- despite assurances from the Sierra Club -- that the governor wasn't going to fail.

Of course he was going to fail, and justifiably so. The state's political establishment fails at the environment, every year. This is no longer the Milliken era where people from both parties thought of the environment as a priority. This is 2014, and one party is entirely taken over by people who think the only people concerned about the environment are girlie men who lack sand or communists who want to impose their rule on the globe.

Now, we can give the governor credit for talking about green energy a couple of weeks ago. As is his wont, he was short on specifics and long on vague words. He also didn't once mention climate change. In the past, I've given him a pass on this on the grounds that talking green energy and climate change would immediately cause the sphincters of both of his party's caucuses to tighten up so hard they could break pencils.

This year is different. The state's utilities are moving towards meeting their RPS requirements (requirements that they only got behind after being granted a de facto monopoly in the electricity market, mind you), and say there's money to be made. The governor's continued dodging of the words "climate change" has the same effect on environmental policy that the refusal of the Republican Party to do something about Goat Killer's regular anti-gay tirades have on social policy. It chills the conversation. The governor is no moron. My guess is that he knows full well that climate change is real and that human activities are behind it. His words, around the edges, indicate this. His continued silence allows that space to be occupied by conspiracy mongers and scientific illiterates.

Furthermore, the state's general disinvestment in higher education and local governments harms the ability of our universities to participate in high-quality research projects that produce things that help us address environmental problems. And our cities were all built with a passing way of life -- that predicated on the internal combustion engine -- in mind. Taking resources away from cities in the form of business tax cuts and reduced revenue sharing means fewer resources available to local governments to modernize themselves.

So, he's failing on that.

He's also failing on restoring sanity to food production and distribution. This isn't the governor's fault, really. It's a national disgrace that gives money to wealthy corporations to produce unhealthy food at the expense of our health and environment. The governor's administration has contributed to this, in fact, by cutting back food assistance while saying it wants to make people (especially poor people, who are on government health) healthy. The most expensive food there is, is locally produced food that is laden with nutrients. Done properly (i.e. farms rather than monocrop pork chop factories), it also has a vastly superior environmental footprint. Furthermore, the proliferation of CAFOs puts the rest of us at risk by helping egg on antibiotic resistance in things that infect people.

There is more that can be said on this, and none of it any better.

Finally, as a party and state leader, he's simply failing to address the low-grade idiocy that surrounds every policy conversation this state has. The only time the word science was actually "used" in a policy conversation last year, it was about Tom Casperson's wolf hunt, where science has very little actual role. What animals we decide to legally kill and why is more a statement about our collective character than whether it can be done. As to the rest of it, science took a back seat to even conspiracy mongering. This is a guy who was marketed to us as being driven by numbers. All you really need to know about his leadership as the state's chief executive on the environment is in a link via the Michigan Radio report about how legislation he signed might actually have Michigan businesses at odds with the EPA. Instead, on the environment as with social issues and everything else, he pretty much took a "go along to get along" approach, which means that he yielded the floor to a collection of some of the most poorly educated, most scientifically illterate people serving in any statehouse outside maybe that in Alabama.

The scorecard also raised issues of general transparency. Let's all not laugh at once.

In other words, we don't need a scorecard to tell us that the governor is bad for the environment. State government in general is failing on the environment, and the governor is simply just another cog in that wheel.

Eric B. :: A few words on scorecards
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scorecards (0.00 / 0)
I have helped prepare a number of legislative scorecards in my time, as a member of the Political Committee of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (I'm not involved this year, but I beg you not to throw out our scorecard.  Ours' is better than all the others.)  

Here's the thing: the biggest challenge in preparing scorecards is finding meaningful votes. Sometimes the problem is too few votes.  There are years when the legislature just doesn't move much legislation, let alone environmental legislation.  More often, the problem is identifying truly significant votes.  As we all know, legislators can go to great lengths to conceal what they are really doing to advance or defeat legislation. Votes on final legislation are often not as important as procedural votes, or votes on amendments.  It takes a great deal of digging to ferret this stuff out sometimes.  

If its done right the final product will allow the public to compare and contrast, in a reasonably objective way, the respective environmental records of Republican and Democratic legislators. That is probably the biggest value of scorecards - they permit comparative analysis because everybody is evaluated on the same votes. If you care about protecting the environment, and one of the candidates in your district is an incumbent, you might want to know whether that candidate was better or worse than the rest of the crew when it comes to doing that.    


Scoring based on votes taken is my issue with the entire thing (4.00 / 1)
It's not the votes lawmakers take, it's the shit that's not getting done. Also, as we all know, lawmakers don't always vote their real conscience. Dems in the senate are all free to take pro-progressive votes. What if their seats were more competitive and votes on major pieces of legislation not so frequently along party lines.

I realize it's a bit different with the governor, but my point is that all of Lansing starts with a base failing grade on the environment. People can rise above that or not based on what they do, but the governor deserves a failing grade simply because he's basically governed as the head of a party that is hostile to the environment.

Among the Trees


[ Parent ]
So did... (0.00 / 0)
... you work with Dennis Munchmore then? Does he have the power to sway MLCV results? Voted "most powerful" lobbyist (his firm)  in Lansing for years in a row, seems that would be now sweat getting better than accurate rating for his current boss.

[ Parent ]
PS... (0.00 / 0)
... Purple Patty was REMOVED from Dir Great Lakes to get her notions out of the way.

Great lesson for GOP'ers who think that years of shilling ALEC/Mackinac/McLellan/DeVos/MIChamber legislation will one day pay off. It doesn't ask Kuipers, Hoogendyk speaking of West Michigan.

OK back to lurk.


[ Parent ]
"Munchmore" (0.00 / 0)
No, Dennis was never part of our crowd. Like most enviros we have an up and down relationship with the outdoor sports community.

[ Parent ]
LCV scorecard not better than others (0.00 / 0)
I gave up on LCV scorecard after it dinged Lynn Rivers for not voting on several things in 1 day -- that came up during her father's death and funeral.

Thus, they ended up supporting John Dingell, whose idea of conservation is preserving things he can see through the sights of a gun.


[ Parent ]

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