This morning, I started work on a column that'll appear in the local paper next week about accident wrecker policy. It's actually more interesting than you might think, because it involves the intersection of the private sector and a public need (at that nexus, you'll always find conflict). I started sending e-mails to every local police agency because last year our dispatch got tired of getting yelled at by various wrecker services and got out of the business of dispatching wreckers from a rotation. Now, it's a matter of the local market. One of our local governments is the village of Shepherd, most famous for its maple syrup festival. I went to the village's website to find out who is the local police chief and found ... nothing. There is no good information on the local police, who runs the joint, or how to contact these people. I went to the village staff directory to find out the name of the village manager so I could contact that person. Again, zilch. So, what's on the website? Mostly just cryptic references to EVIP transparency data.
It's a requirement for what now passes for statutory shared revenue. Local governments have to post budget data to the Internet so citizens can access it and, if so moved, show up to a council meeting and shout at the trustees. I'm all for transparency, but simply posting raw data to the Internet does little except encourage half-informed speculation. Still, it's on there, and posted at EVIP.
If you're going to post budget data to the Internet to encourage transparency, it's probably best not to call it EVIP data, because nobody knows what that means. Someone spent time in the Village of Shepherd posting data required by the state but that's probably not very helpful to the average person and not posting how to contact the police or village staff. This is reflected in a guest column at Bridge by the mayor of Linden.
So I ask this question: Is this what EVIP was intended to do? I think not. If the goal was efficiency and better government, we have lost our way and instead managed to create a new bureaucracy, and add cost and inefficiency. But we should ask ourselves, is the return on our investment such that it negates the new problem we have built? In my view this is not spurring incentivizing vitality, it is applying a one-size-fits-all-approach to the services that matter the most.
The approach to local government, like the approach to public education, has been a trend of awful for the last two decades. The funding model is completely broken, and even counties, villages, cities and townships that are well run are seeing matters spiral beyond their control. The response by the state has been terrible neglect, and an arrogance that local governments have to deal with a problem largely foisted off on them by Lansing. Lansing cuts funds, local governments have to look elsewhere for money, and then explain to citizens why they have to pick between a public safety millage or fewer cops on the beat.
As MiddleGrandGuy mentioned in comments a few days ago, the city of Charlotte is one of these. There's no reason why a city of 10,000 people should be looking at a local income tax. There's no reason why Mount Pleasant, my hometown, should have to look at one. When I wrote last year that this was a decision Lansing was forcing on local governments, I heard the next day from a former mayor of Mount Pleasant, a fiscally conservative Republican, that he agreed with me entirely but couldn't get our local elected representatives to respond. They had it in their heads that things should work one way, even if they worked in a way entirely different.
The Bridge has had some excellent commentary on this, this week. Not just from local officials, but also from Mitch Bean, who used to run the House Fiscal Agency. Basically, what it's boiled down to is that you have on one side people familiar with how local governments work saying that it's all broken (this should sound familiar, since the recent outrage in Buena Vista School District was a sign that something is horribly amiss with how schools are funded), and the policy makers who know in their heart of hearts that it works a different way.
LANSING, MI - A coalition supported by the Humane Society of the United States says it is considering a second petition drive aimed at banning wolf hunting in Michigan.
An initial hunt is already scheduled for this fall in parts of the Upper Peninsula where wolves have killed livestock and pets. Opponents of a wolf hunt say they haven’t given up on blocking that hunt, as well as possible future hunts.
“We continue to explore all options to stop the senseless hunting and trapping of wolves in our state,” Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, said in an email Wednesday.
Beyond the disgraceful way the Legislature circumvented democracy in doing this, it's also something that ironically the Tea Party ought to be out, wearing tri-corner hats, and waving signs filled with misspellings over. Letting the NRC determine what animals constitute game animals implies that the state's wildlife belongs to state government rather than the people. That's not the case. The state's wildlife belongs to the people, and what animals are determined to be hunted as game animals is a decision that ought to be left up to the owners of the wildlife ... the people, either through their elected representatives or by direct vote of them.
I'm told there's video of Right to Life lobbyist Ed Rivet president Barb Listing comparing rape to an auto accident or a house fire, as his group gears up to ignore our democratic principles by devious means.
LANSING — Abortion opponents will embark on a petition drive to ensure that Michigan residents have to buy an optional rider on their health insurance to cover abortions.
And unlike most petition drives, if they get at least 258,088 valid signatures, and the Legislature approves the issue, it will become law without a signature from Gov. Rick Snyder, who has already vetoed the bill last year, or a vote of the people.
The state Board of Canvassers approved the petition form Wednesday and the organizers can begin collecting signatures after getting petitions printed and training circulators, said Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan.
“This is good public policy,” she said. “People do not want to pay for other people’s abortions.”
Actually, it's terrible public policy in that it ignores the entire point of an insurance pool, and that opting out of part of it is like saying that you don't want to be part of an auto insurance pool that includes teen-agers because they're more likely to get into a wreck. It's also terrible policy from the standpoint that it's being done in such a way to purposefully skirt democratic processes and allow a minority of people to impose its will on the majority.
I'm told that Progress Michigan shot video and that Planned Parenthood has audio of Right to Life's Ed Rivet saying the latest stupid Republican thing about rape, comparing it to a house fire or an auto accident. Will post it when I get it.
Update! ... the video:
It's ... vile, comparing an unwanted pregnancy to a natural disaster. That's beyond the comparing rape to a house fire business.
Progress Michigan has a petition you can sign ... here.
BREAKING! MUST CITE MICHIGAN LIBERAL CITING MIRS INSIDER NEWSLETTER!
Former U.S. Rep. Mark SCHAUER has been laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial run for weeks, and now a Democratic insider tells MIRS today that his candidacy is "imminent."
To that end, Schauer looks to be putting the band back together, with word that B.J. NEIDHARDT will be tapped as campaign manager--a position he held in Schauer's 2008 congressional campaign. Neidhardt has served a number of roles for Schauer, including director of external affairs when his boss was in the state Senate and Washington director when Schauer was in Congress.
Ken BROCK, who served as Schauer's chief of staff during his time in the Senate and Congress, likely would be senior adviser. And Zack POHL is expected to leave his job as director of Progress Michigan to head up communications, just as he did when Schauer was a congressman.
"So, you may have a question for me," Whitehouse said. "Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I'll tell you why. We're stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn't just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we're in this together."
All of it empirically true. It also feeds into the "loading of the dice" idea that climate scientists say global warming represents. As a warmed atmosphere changes the climate, it loads the dice when it comes weather events. Rather than rolling traditional dice to see if a weather event will be extreme, you get dice that have the 1 replaced with a second six. It's also true that these extreme weather events are apt to not occur right where someone is loading the atmosphere with additional carbon dioxide, that an especially powerful hurricane that hits Florida drew its additional energy made available by fossil fuel-related activity around the world.
Magic Frank, not one to let an opportunity to remind us that he never took science very seriously, weighs in.
Amazingly, these supposedly smart people are either ignorant of, or refuse to acknowledge, the history of extreme weather events on our planet, in our country, and – where tornadoes are concerned – in the American Southwest.
If you're going to call people ignorant and stupid, you should probably make sure that the one factual claim you make in the same sentence is at least accurate. The American Southwest isn't associated with any history of tornadoes. The Great Plains, Midwest, and South ... yes. The Southwest ... no. Also, Oklahoma? It's a Great Plains state, not a southwestern one. Just look at a map.
I wish I could get people like this senator to just read and consider the information as easily available as reading a Wiki page. Read the “List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks” history here.
This is a novel argument ... climate change doesn't exist because Wikipedia says it doesn't. I, on the other hand, wish I could get people like Magic Frank to just read and consider the information as easily available as reading this Wiki page.
As Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville speaks with his caucus about budget targets, he told members of the media after session today that he does not expect Medicaid expansion will be part of the 2013-14 fiscal year budget – for now.
Mr. Richardville (R-Monroe) said that he expects targets to be signed within the next few hours as he has a meeting with Governor Rick Snyder and House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) at 12:30.
The state Legislature increasingly reminds me of a scene from an old Treehouse of Terror episode on The Simpsons where the people of Springfield say no to everything, including the recharge of their fire extinguishers, a free service from the Fire Department. Everyone thinks this is a good idea, except lawmakers. So, we won't get it.
You might have heard about the state's unexpected increase in revenue last week. I'm kind of surprised that conservatives haven't been out, banging the drum that it is proof positive that cutting taxes leads to more revenue for government. You might also have heard that the federal deficit is being cut, even as we speak, for matters that are entirely unrelated to the sequester cuts.
You'd think this would be good news. Not so, writes Nolan Finley. It's horrible news because there's less pressure during good times to cut government.
Prosperity is the greatest enemy of fiscal discipline. When fortunes begin to reverse, the urgency to cut spending, find savings and use resources more efficiently wanes.
Both Michigan and the federal government are enjoying revenue windfalls thanks to the recovering economy.
If you're a conservative group whose natural tendencies to paranoia about government plots has you convinced that Kenyan Manchurian President Barry Soetero has it in for you personally, Michigan's finest legal mind Bill Schuette wants to hear from you.
LANSING, MI -- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is calling on President Barack Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service and inviting local organizations who feel they were targeted by the agency to contact his office.
A special prosecutor, Schuette said Friday afternoon in a release, would ensure an independent investigation into the IRS, where employees reportedly gave extra scrutiny to conservative groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names while reviewing applications for 501(c)(4) non-profit status during the 2010 election cycle.
Now, keep in mind that there is exactly zero evidence anywhere that conservative ideology had anything to do with this, and even less that the president was somehow involved. What there is lots of evidence for is that the IRS started profiling groups with political-sounding names because those groups shouldn't have any kind of tax exempt status, and wound up doing it in clumsy fashion.
Still, no matter. If it's true that Schuette is a career politician always looking for the next job, it's good grist for a primary mill.
Tom Watkins wrote a piece for The Dome that pretty well sums up what's happening in school districts around the state. It's worth a read, mostly because what happened there didn't just spring out of bare rock, but was a crisis long in the coming. The difference is that what happened there was made worse by some poor decision making.
The local district, with state assistance has patched together an “acceptable” deficit elimination plan that will free up state school aid money to allow Buena Vista to reopen school- as soon as today. This bubble gum patch was needed to get the kids back in school — and for the state to fulfill its constitutional responsibility. It clearly is NOT a long term solution.
To say, as some state officials have, that the Buena Vista financial crisis was unexpected is disingenuous at best. The structural funding problems facing our schools have been brewing and ignored for nearly a decade.
To be clear, the patchwork plan to allow the Buena Vista students to finish out the school year is simply a temporary fix to a state-wide, systemic structural problem in need of addressing by bold leadership.
What we're not getting is bold leadership. We're getting leadership that suggests that an acceptable alternative to education is "skills camp," and that works in the shadows on ways to radically change public education.
Again this is a crisis that has been years and years in the making, and it's not an entirely Republican thing. Back during the Granholm years, when they'd say, "We didn't cut public school spending," what was really happening is that local schools were losing spending power because pension obligations and energy costs continued to go up. If your kids attend a school district that has aggressively pursued energy efficiency and/or green energy, the reason isn't political correctness. It's simple hard-headed fiscal thinking.
The president’s claim that he only learned of the IRS witch hunt when he read it in the papers Friday defies credibility. There was his re-election campaign’s attempt to induce IRS investigations into eight Romney donors during 2012. There’s the full-court Democratic Party press from pols like Sander Levin, Carl Levin, Max Baucus and others to have the IRS harass conservative groups. There was the politicization of every corner of his administration towards the goal of winning re-election, from the NLRB to State Department Benghazi timeline rewrites to the auto bailout. We’re to believe the IRS was not part of that strategy? And there is this:
Also, he conjured up superstorm Sandy so he could look presidential after it laid waste to the northeast. He's not done.
And yet the White House claims that the IRS chef counsel shared none of this with his boss? The president isn’t briefed by his appointees, but only learns things via press reports? Seriously?
Mr. Chiodo’s tea party group was told by tax experts that its IRS application would take a few months. “It’s been years now,” he says since his August, 2011 application.
“In February 2010,” reports USA Today, “the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months. In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.”
Some might call this: "Answering your own insinuation." Others might see, somewhere, reason to suspect that in the middle of a cabinet meeting secret Muslim and Kenyan citizen Barry Sotero stood, shot one finger into the air, and proclaimed, "I'll be cold in the grave before the Ottawa County Patriots receives 503(c)4 status!"
“They can audit me all day long,” says Chiodo. “I have nothing to hide. But how many other organizations were intimidated? How many just gave up because it wasn’t worth it? I want to know if the president knew about this decision to target us.”
Yes, he did.
By the way, Henry Payne isn't the only conservative who has insinuated or simply accused the president of masterminding this. This morning, while getting the link to the Columbia Journalism Review, I found this excellent savaging of a similar Peggy Noonan column. It all applies, because apparently the conservative media refused to learn the most obvious lesson from last year's presidential election ... consider using sources from outside the rightwing echo chamber.
For more, please see Josh Pugh's excellent post at the same Detroit News political blog that published Henry Payne's half-baked raving.
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Emails obtained by The Detroit News through the Freedom of Information Act show at least three top Snyder aides were aware that a Department of Technology, Management and Budget official was forming the work group, just as the Republican governor was eyeing major changes to Michigan's public education system.
People are likely to attribute this stuff to a culture of secrecy based on evil motives on the part of those involved. I think it's a form of arrogance. I think these people tend to think that they are certain they know what's right, and are aware that it's unpopular and feel they have to pursue things about which they are utterly certain in the dark to prevent those who think they're wrong from scuttling things with they feel will be unhinged hysterics.
A little later:
Baird, whose title is Snyder's "transformation manager," wrote the letter under the name of his consulting firm, MI Partners LLC, which works under a $100,000-a-year contract for Snyder's not-for-profit civic group, New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify, or NERD Fund. On Sept. 22, Behen, Baird and the governor's education adviser, Greg Tedder, received copies of McLellan's "skunk works" plan for a value school concept that would give students a voucher-like debit card to pay for public education expenses, according to the emails.
Just parse this a second ... a Snyder adviser has a consulting business that is contracted by a Snyder civic organization to work on shaping public policy as part of a shadowy organization called internally the "skunk works."
The work group's existence was attacked by Democrats and education groups as an underhanded attempt to change state policy. "The name and connotation were certainly dramatic and unfortunately gave the opponents a relatively easy opportunity to attack us for something that got twisted around," Snyder press secretary Sara Wurfel wrote.
Ho, ho, ho. Yes, the public is best served when education policy is shaped out of the public eye.
Last year, I think it is, Progress Michigan obtained and released e-mails between Mackinac Center drone Jack McHugh and I think it was Tom McMillin that appeared to violate IRS rules about non-profits actively lobbying lawmakers over specific legislation. Sandy Levin asked the IRS to investigate. To the Detroit News, it was a form of political intimidation.
The Obama administration is under scrutiny for the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative tea party groups during the 2012 campaign. But politicians using the tax agency to intimidate conservative groups is part of a pattern that extends to Capitol Hill — including two powerful Michiganians.
Smell the victimization! I wonder what hateful form of political intimidation two powerful Michiganians have engaged in.
In letters to then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in 2012, Sen. Carl Levin joined several Democratic colleagues in repeatedly pressing the agency to investigate the tax-exempt status of conservative nonprofits.
Behold ... the letter asking for an inquiry of a federal agency, the most dastardly form of political intimidation known to man. Gotta ask ... did any of them lose their tax exempt status?
And in April of last year, Democratic Congressman Sander Levin sent a letter to the agency asking it to investigate the Mackinac Center for Public Policy at a time when the conservative think tank was pushing for union reforms opposed by Levin's labor allies.
Except, you know, that for a little provision prohibiting non-profits that wish to qualify for this special status from primarily engaging in political activities and active lobbying of elected officials, it's very clear ... Sander Levin was trying to intimidate the Mackinac Center, an overtly political organization actively lobbying lawmakers.
While it is illegal for the IRS to divulge such inquiries, Levin's office then leaked its IRS expedition to the press to publicly intimidate the Mackinac Center. Ironically, both Levins sit on committees in the House and Senate that will be investigating the IRS tea party scandal. They have some explaining to do.