Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
Absentee ballots available for qualified voters
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson reminds residents that they have until Monday, April 9 to register to vote in the May 8 election.
“This is a terrific time to register if you have not yet done so,” said Johnson, Michigan’s chief election officer. “You will have a chance to make your voice heard at the polls, first by voting on local issues in May. Then later in the year you will be able to cast a ballot in elections with state- and nationwide importance, like November’s presidential election.”
The polls will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
To register, applicants must be at least 18 years old by Election Day and be U.S. citizens. Applicants must also be residents of Michigan and of the city or township in which they wish to register.
Voters may register by mail, at their county, city or township clerk’s office or by visiting any Secretary of State office. The mail-in form is available at www.Michigan.gov/elections. First-time voters who register by mail must vote in person in their first election, unless they hand-deliver the application to their local clerk, are 60 years old or older, are disabled or are eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
To check their registration status, residents may visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at www.Michigan.gov/vote. Residents can also find information there on absentee voting,
Michigan’s voter identification requirement, how to use voting equipment and how to contact their local clerk. In addition, they will find a map to their local polling place.
Voters who qualify may choose to cast an absentee ballot. As a registered voter, you may obtain an absentee ballot if you are:
● age 60 or older.
● physically unable to attend the polls without the assistance of another.
● expecting to be absent from the community in which you are registered for the entire time the polls will be open on Election Day.
● in jail awaiting arraignment or trial.
● unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons.
● appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.
Those who wish to receive their absentee ballot by mail must submit their application by 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5. Absentee ballots can be obtained in person anytime through 4 p.m. on Monday, May 7. Voters who request an absentee ballot in person on Monday, May 7 must fill out the ballot in the clerk’s office. Emergency absentee ballots are available under certain conditions through 4 p.m. on Election Day.
As a reminder, voters will be asked to provide identification when at the polls on Election Day. They will be asked to present valid photo ID, such as a Michigan driver’s license or identification card. Anyone who does not have an acceptable form of photo ID or failed to bring it with them to the polls can still vote. They will be required to sign a brief affidavit stating that they’re not in possession of photo ID. Their ballots will be included with all others and counted on Election Day.
Voters who don’t have a Michigan driver’s license or identification card can show the following forms of photo ID, as long as they are current:
· Driver’s license or personal identification card issued by another state.
· Federal or state government-issued photo identification.
· U.S. passport.
· Military identification card with photo.
· Student identification with photo from a high school or an accredited institution of higher education, such as a college or university.
· Tribal identification card with photo.
Additional election information can be found at www.Michigan.gov/elections.
For more information about voting and the Secretary of State’s Office, visit www.Michigan.gov/SOS. Sign up for the official Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/MichSOS and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/MichiganSOS.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 19:39
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
In financial debate, RACE is an underlying element
Like the fears expressed by some members of the Tea Party Movement saying “we want our country back,” that President Barack Obama is not one of “them,” among other undignified claims to delegitimize the nation’s first Black president, so in Detroit we see another form of a rising minority who strongly believe that the city is been taken away with the current consent agreement.
Their claims that Detroit’s power is being usurped by Lansing is a sentiment deeply buried in the long political struggles that have come to define Detroit’s existence. It is a sentiment that has played out during this city’s encounter with every recent administration in Lansing (including both Democrats and Republicans).
Not everyone shares their belief, but many do understand why there is such a passion as this city battles for its financial survival. That passion is anchored around race and the fact that this city, like Livonia, is one of the most segregated in the nation.
What we have in Detroit is a mass underclass of poor people further disadvantaged by the economy and already paying taxes with their widow’s mite and not receiving virtually anything in return for it. Every day they wake up hoping that the government (mayor and city council) would represent their aspirations as they struggle to find relief for their despair and break the manacles of poverty.
And because they are Black, they believe that the notion of a financial review team or an advisory board is one that is masking as a good doctor, but in actuality they believe is a “Doctor Death” coming at the city.
They have watched some Detroit politicians in the past, like the Biblical Nicodemus, cut deals in the middle of the night on their behalf when the benefits never got to them.
They’ve watched politicians talk from both sides of their mouths and never take the bacon home. They’ve seen how city hall has literally become a casino for the well connected and the powerful, but not a jackpot for hard-pressed taxpayers and struggling senior citizens who have become prisoners in their homes because of crime.
They watched how Detroit Public Schools started with state intervention in 1999 and the arrival of Dr. Kenneth Burnley, the absolute CEO at the time, and the school boards that followed, all fighting for contracts and personal gigs instead of a curriculum for Detroit children.
DPS became a classic example of how things could go wrong when the right mechanisms are not put in place. Today the district is struggling to survive and doing all it can to be a comeback story.
So in their mind, we’ve been here before whether it was with Gov. John Engler or Gov. Jennifer Granholm, two prominent governors whose legacies are bittersweet in the mouths of many Detroiters.
Thus the opposition against an emergency manager in Detroit or a consent agreement is not necessarily an opposition to Gov. Rick Snyder although it looks that way. It is an inherent opposition to a system of “cash and carry” that Detroit politicians have long mastered with their Lansing collaborators and played well to their own personal ends without benefiting their constituents.
That is why any proposal that does not clearly stipulate how city assets or finances of Detroit will be guarded under a new agreement,will continue to face opposition.
This is part of the reason for the groundswell against an emergency manager or a consent agreement.
So let’s not be outrightly dismissive or condescending toward an opposition or any who have witnessed how this city has evolved and changed over time to the detriment of those (residents and businesses) that have remained here.
Just as some of us in the media gave members of the Tea Party Movement the benefit of the doubt, dismissing the suspicions of others that their vicious assault on Obama is racially motivated, let’s think and expand our horizons.
While the Tea Party was positioning itself to become the third rail in American politics, we encouraged them in our columns and called it democracy in action, describing them as angry voters who’ve had enough with all things Obama, despite the fact that they hurled insults at Congressman John Dingell, spat on the face of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis and rudely interrupted town hall meetings beating tables and threatening lawmakers who were determined to pass the land mark healthcare legislation.
Let’s learn from all this because it is truly a historic moment for this city. And race is what some in the negotiating room have on their mind, but cannot say because of fear of losing their position or been viewed as not getting along.
Plain and simple, the average person, Black or White, and businesses in this city want services delivered quickly and consistently. And the city has been deligent . There are people who literary live in fear that in the event there is crime at their home or they need EMS service, they have no option but to get on their knees to pray until whenever that service arrives.
There are areas in Detroit where people live that are barely livable, if that. This abject poverty has much to do with failed leadership that has long ignored those at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale, dismissed because they have no power to influence or change policy. And when the economy is in bad shape, some in the middle class joined the poor and the economically subjugated.
So while part of Detroit is coming back with all the developments downtown and beyond, this city’s leadership must not ignore the neighborhoods because there are portions in this city that are danger zones.
Just as you cannot have a vibrant downtown without a thriving business district, so it is that you can’t have a city that is on the cusp of meaningful community transformation if the majority of our neighborhoods are in a declining or deplorable condition.
Detroit is Michigan’s largest city, and we do not expect the state and its chief executive, Gov. Snyder, to walk away from Detroit at this crucial time. What we expect is an honest deal on the table. Let us not repeat the past.
Because Detroit is so segregated and yet pivotal to the overall success of not only Southeast Michigan, but also the state, it is important that we approach the conversation around financial transformation with a wholistic perspective and strong sense of urgency.
That perspective should take into account this city’s past, present and future.
Race remains and will continue to be a factor in how this city functions, how it connects to everything around the state, and its future.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 19:35
Category: Top News Written by Phil Powers
Most of the sound and fury enveloping Detroit these past few
weeks has all been about the near-bankrupt city’s sheer financial
survival, whether via a consent agreement between the city and the
state or, failing that, an emergency manager.
Nobody doubts that Detroit is in terrible financial shape.
Reported annual operating deficit near $270 million. More than $10
billion in total debt and unfunded liabilities. Sometime this month,
or May at the latest, the city will run completely out of cash.
Naturally, then most of the attention is being paid to how tosalvage
the city’s finances without having to go into bankruptcy.
But suppose the city does manage to barely get through this financial
crisis. Then what? A dead city walking is hardly a recipe for
prosperity. Cities, like people, need to grow – or die.
So the question we should be asking throughout this state is: What’s
a practical strategy for Detroit’s future growth?
Here are three suggestions, designed to get folks thinking. You may
find them radical – but things are clearly radically wrong in
Michigan’s largest city. First aid is no longer enough when the
patient is mortally ill.
· First, attack the enormous amount of vacant land
in Detroit. Most experts say something like 40 square miles of vacant
land lies within the 139 square miles within the city limits. That’s
enough vacant space to contain all of Paris, with a bit left over.
These vast tracts are unproductive, and very little generates any tax
revenue. That’s not surprising. By some estimates, the owners of only
40 percent of real estate parcels in the city are paying real estate
taxes on time.
But what should Detroit do with its vacant land? Lots of smart people
are thinking about that. Some advocate large scale urban farming.
Others ask about the possibility of erecting great fields of solar
American history may offer one guide: Urban homesteading, which could
be a powerful lure indeed.
The original Homestead Act was passed in 1862. Basically, it offered
title to any person who occupied and worked a parcel of land for a
suitable period of time.
Homesteading drove the westward expansion of our country for a long,
long time. While I was sports editor in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1962, a
guy ran into the newsroom waving a piece of paper. It was title to
the 40 acres south of town he worked, and he couldn’t have been more
Right now something like half of the vacant land in Detroit is owned
by the city, county or state through tax foreclosures. Why not offer
up parcels of this land to urban homesteaders, people who could be the
new urban pioneers?
· The city could attract immigrants by offering a route to
citizenship to anybody who comes to America with, say, $500,000 in
liquid assets, moves there, starts a business and employs Detroiters.
That is precisely what worked for Vancouver, British Colombia, after
the People’s Republic of China took control of Hong Kong in 1997,
terrifying much of the local business community. Vancouver offered
them exactly that deal, and the result was a gigantic movement of
capital to Canada – and the foundation for Vancouver’s present day
Now, the changes of Washington adopting a sensible immigration
policy, especially during an election year, may be zero. But it turns
out there is a visa category already on the books, EB-5, which
establishes just such requirements. Though the program will need to
be renewed this fall, there are currently lots of unfilled slots that
could be taken by entrepreneurs heading for Detroit.
· Finally, we should recognize that big core cities are a relic
of history. Most of our big cities – Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint,
Saginaw, Kalamazoo – got started long ago as smaller towns surrounded
by mostly rural farmland organized into townships. As time went on
and these areas grew, the towns pushed against surrounding
communities, resulting in turf wars between central city and suburbs.
We’ve seen this problem time after time here in Michigan --
especially in the Detroit area. Up till now, we’ve never been able to
do anything much about it, in large part because of racial politics.
But the days when we were rigorously separated by race are going fast,
as anybody who drives through Southfield, Dearborn or West Bloomfield
can easily see. Before our eyes, the suburbs have become more and
more diverse, especially as former residents of core cities decide to
move elsewhere to lead a better life.
In the case of at least two Michigan central cities --Detroit and
Grand Rapids -- conditions are deteriorating fast enough to force a
reconsideration of the “metro government” movement that has so
successfully been applied to Indianapolis, Nashville and other places.
There, the central cities have been merged with the surrounding
suburbs, and the results have been outstanding.
In the case of Grand Rapids, such a movement – “One Kent” – was talked
about last year. Sadly, the idea turned out to be politically
premature and was soon pushed to the back burner. But the Motor City
is much further gone. In the case of Detroit, it’s hard to see how the
city – with an excess of vacant land, deteriorating infrastructure and
a history of gigantic out-migration – can ever again manage to mount a
tax base adequate to sustain a proper city.
So why not merge the tax base of Detroit with that of the surrounding
suburbs? Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign may not be going
anywhere, but why not adopt his idea of making Detroit a tax-free
Clearly, none of these ideas guarantee success. But at the very
least, they can all kick-start the very necessary process of beginning
to think how to give Detroit a future that includes growth, rather
than just emergency measures to help the current wretched model
Editor’s Note: Former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan
Regent Phil Power is a longtime observer of Michigan politics and
economics. He is also chairman of The Center for Michigan, a
nonprofit, bipartisan centrist think-and-do tank, designed to cure
Michigan’s dysfunctional political culture. He is also on the board of
the Center’s Business Leaders for Early Education.
The opinions expressed here are Power’s own and do not represent the
official views of The Center. He welcomes your comments at
Last Updated on Monday, 02 April 2012 22:52
Category: Top News Written by Larry Buford
There was a time when the ‘hoodie’ was commonly known as a ‘parka’ – a
garment mostly used by athletes and the military. The slang term
‘hoodie’ came out of the black culture, and over the years has been
widely associated with suspicion and crime. Whenever news reports show
surveillance video footage of a robbery or break-in with the
perpetrators wearing hoodies, chances are viewers reflect on images of
popular black Rappers and Hip/Hop artists who popularized the fad. As
in any generation, the youth – just like 17 year old Trayvon Martin –
want to be in (peer) style. No blame there, but unfortunately
Hollywood and the music industry have seemingly conspired to bombard
society with images of the bad boys in the ‘hood wearing hoodies.
There’s now a national – even international – outcry for justice in
the Trayvon case, but why has there been no such outcry against
foul-mouthed so-called artists and other icons who spew extreme
profanity and contempt? Where’s the outcry against the glamorization
and glorification of illicit sex, drugs and the rampant acts of
violence in the mainstream? Why can’t the organizers of these
nation-wide rallies for Trayvon, rally a product-boycott of the
unfiltered, unsanitized mockeries of ‘freedom of speech?’ Hollywood
and the music industry continue to place profit over decency and
morality, and ignore the consequences of the negative influences they
Some people are comparing the tragic killing of Trayvon to the
historic case of Emmett Till, but I think this may be a teachable
moment for a broader comparison, and I say this without speculation
and with sensitivity to Trayvon’s family as details of the incident
are still unfolding. During the Civil War when President Lincoln
signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the freed slaves (known as
Freedmen) were ill-prepared for what was beyond their familiarity on
the plantation, and there were severe consequences including murder at
the hands of white southerners who could not and would not accept the
edict. Now today, since the historic election of President Obama, the
illusion pervades that America is now post racial – that the election
of a black president is proof that America is not as prejudiced and
bigoted as in its dark past. That’s simply not so. There is still a
lot of anger, hatred, and resentment out there. What has been created
is a sense that black children can reach new heights and come and go
as they please with the perception that it’s now an even playing
field. However, many of them (if not most) are just as ill-prepared as
the post-slavery Freedmen. To say the least, some parents are not even
teaching their children the beatitudes and common courtesies like
‘please,’ ‘thank-you,’ ‘excuse me,’ and other interpersonal skills.
Lack of these attributes coupled with a sense of entitlement is a
formula for disaster. How can they feel entitled to anything? How can
they think they’re entitled to a job when they’re speaking improper
English, their bodies are pierced from head to toe, and their pants
are sagging? Our misguided youth are being shut out and excluded due
to lack of training, discipline, and humility. They may be grown in
size, but not in character, and misconstrued negative behavior could
be responded to as if they were an adult and not a mere child.
The disrespect and presupposition of the black experience is only
fueled and fostered by images of today’s self-proclaimed black ‘role
models’ whose vulgar messages devalue and denigrate women. How can
anyone respect Black America if Black Americans do not demonstrate
respect for themselves and others?
The outcry for Trayvon has reached cross-cultural and ethnic
proportions. A poster at one of the rallies read, “Trayvon today, who
tomorrow?” Speaking to a CNN reporter, one woman who appeared to be
white said, “We need to stop criminalizing black men in America.” So
while we clamor for justice in Trayvon’s case, we should also examine
ourselves to see what we can do individually first, then collectively
to help prevent such tragedies in the future. May God help us that the
outcry will echo beyond Trayvon.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 April 2012 03:15
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
The Detroit Lions recently announced signing Calvin Johnson and linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Both signings were move in the right direction that notes the Lions are getting serious about winning.
Tulloch gambled on himself by signing a one-year deal last summer with the Detroit Lions and it paid off with a five-year contract worth $25.5 million, including $11.25 million guaranteed according to a person familiar with the deal.
“I dreamed about this moment my whole life,” the 27-year-old Tulloch said at a news conference following his signing.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz were pretty fired up about it, too.
“He’s a really important part of what we’re doing,” Mayhew said. “So we’re excited to have Stephen back.”
Detroit has been able to retain all the players, other than cornerback Eric Wright, that it wanted to bring back from the franchise’s first playoff team since the 1999 season.
Tulloch made a team-high 111 tackles with the Lions when he was reunited with Schwartz, his defensive coordinator in Tennessee.
“He’s everything that is right with the NFL and the game of football,” Schwartz said. “I get a little choked up because I’ve known Stephen since he was 20 years old.”
The Lions also resigned Johnson to a new eight-year contract beginning with the 2012 season and extending through the 2019 season. No other contract terms were disclosed.
Through five NFL seasons, Johnson has established himself as one of the elite wide receivers in the NFL. The two-time Pro Bowler and 2011 All-Pro selection joined only five other players (Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Lance Alworth, Marvin Harrison and Larry Fitzgerald) in NFL history to register 45-plus touchdown catches and 5,500-plus receiving yards through their first five seasons.
Since the 2008 season, Johnson ranks first in the NFL with 45 receiving touchdowns, second in receiving yards (5,116) and third (tie) in the NFL with 49 receptions of 25+ yards. Including his 2007 rookie season, Johnson’s 49 touchdowns tie for second in the NFL over that five-year span.
Johnson’s career totals of 366 receptions for 5,872 yards and 49 touchdowns are the most by any Lions receiver through their first five seasons. He reached 5,000 career receiving yards (69 games) and 300 receptions (66 games) faster than any receiver in team history. Prior to Johnson’s arrival, no receiver in team history ever registered 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in more than one season and he accomplished that three times (2008, 2010 and 2011) in his first five seasons.
As he has ascended to the upper echelon of NFL wide receivers, 2011 was his best and the most-prolific in Lions history as he helped lead the Lions back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. He garnered career highs in receptions (96), receiving yards (1,681) and touchdowns (16). He broke the team’s single-season receiving touchdowns record that was held by E Cloyce Box (15, 1952) for the past 59 seasons. Johnson led the NFL with 1,681 receiving yards.
Yes, it appears Detroit is serious about winning, Tullock and Johnson were the key defensive and offensive players the team needed to coral to stay on the national stage as an NFL team to be dealt with.
“My heart was still here in Detroit,” Tulloch said.
Johnson said: “This is where I want to be. Detroit is a great football town and we are trying to bring a consistent winning team to these great fans.
The Lions, unlike past years, wanted to keep their best players instead of trying to upgrade talent by looking elsewhere.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 17:15
Category: Top News Written by Patrick Keating
On March 26, thousands of people gathered at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit for a justice rally for Trayvon Martin. According to Kevin Tolbert, international representative for the International UAW, between 1,500 to 2,000 people attended.
“We filled up the walkway at Hart Plaza from the UAW Ford Building down to the labor legacy monument.”
17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African American, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer named George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, while Trayvon was walking back to his father’s home from a store. He was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
To date, Zimmerman, who claimed in a 911 call to police that Trayvon was a “suspicious character” and who pursued the youth against police advice, has not been arrested, owing to a “stand your ground” law extant in Florida.
The case has sparked national outrage and charges of racial bias.
There were many speakers at the rally.
“The speakers spoke to what we can do to connect the tragedies, from being upset and angry about what happened in Florida to being able to move toward action here in Detroit,” he said. “And action in improving the lives of young people around here, because we lost so many young people here as well.”
Several constituency organizations took part in the rally.
“We brought Detroit 300,” he said. “We asked the Detroit NAACP to be a part. We asked for United Communities of America to be a part. And all have different examples.”
He noted that United Communities of America has a city-wide Day of Peace.
“They’re proposing the 22nd of every month, that we have no crime and no violence,” Tolbert said. “So we’re asking people to volunteer and help be a part of spreading that message: go to schools and be active.”
Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, said other groups in attendance included LA SED, the Arab Civil Rights League, Rainbow PUSH, National Action Network, Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors and Vicinity, and the Detroit Police Department.
During the rally, people were also encouraged to go to the website TakeactionDetroit.com and sign up. Tolbert said people would then be connected to the constituency groups that would be able to work on those projects.
“We also asked them to sign up for Detroit 300,” Tolbert said. “We gave them lots of opportunities and ways we thought they could be active in their community and in the city.”
Asked what all Americans — regardless of race, political leanings, or views on gun ownership — should take away from this tragedy, Tolbert recalled a message from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“You can’t judge somebody simply by what they’re wearing and the color of their skin,” Tolbert said. “You can’t look at somebody, and on face value be able to tell what their intentions are simply because of the color of their skin. No matter what had happened in the past. You just can’t do that. So, you have to remember that lesson as one that we have been taught in this country over and over, but sometimes it tends to escape people.”
Rev. Anthony also quoted Dr. King: “An injustice to anyone anywhere is an injustice to everyone everywhere.”
“Trayvon Martin is a spark that can burn at the very conscience of all of us,” he said. “That’s why White folks, Black folks, Brown folk, Red and Yellow folk came out to support the cry for justice.”
Anthony added that it also suggests we haven’t arrived at a point in our society where we are judging each other by the content of our character as opposed to the color of our skin.
“A child is dead for no other reason than he wore a hoodie and he was an African American youth,” Anthony said. “The issue is not the hoodie; the issue is those who are really no good when it comes to how they interact and engage people who appear to be different. It means that we must work harder and smarter to end gun violence; to think before we act, and to act like we’ve been doing some thinking.”
Tolbert said young people were very moved by this tragedy.
“This is the first significant tragedy that most young people have seen on this level,” he said. “Though lots of people have died in similar circumstances, this is the first that’s gotten this much national attention. So we have to be able to give them outlet. That’s why we held the rally.”
Secondly, he said, they have to take advantage of that activism and energy and put the young people to work on things that will help improve their lives and our city.
“We can’t just watch the tragedies and say ‘oh, that’s horrible’ and not let people have a place to express themselves,” he said. “And then we have to also connect this generation to being out, being active and doing something, instead of just complaining about what’s going on in the world, and staying home and sitting on couches.”
Tolbert added that advocacy groups are meeting later this week to talk about their next steps, which are to take the people who signed up and to continue to push the messages of the three groups.
“We think one person might want to be in Detroit 300, but their cousin or brother, they don’t want to do Detroit 300. Well, maybe we can get them to volunteer with United Communities of America. Or maybe somebody else could volunteer with a register the vote campaign,” he said. “There’s got to be more activities and there’s something for everybody to be involved in. We just have to, as leaders, keep presenting those opportunities to people.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 14:19
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
Coleman Alexander Young wasn’t just another mayor who came to office in 1973 in the long- running history of Detroit’s political and social evolution.
Young was not only a skillful and tough negotiator, he also knew how to interact with men and women in business suits when it came to the financial wellbeing of the city of Detroit.
Indisputably, that is largely because Young was a man who understood the era that birthed him into political power and popularity.
He was the first Black mayor in Detroit’s history, joining the ranks of other notable cities in the 1970s that put Black political leaders in charge, an example being when Gary, Indiana, elected Richard Hatcher mayor.
So as Detroit grapples with a ballooning deficit that is over $300 million with a real possibility of either bankruptcy, a financial manager or a consent agreement, an intriguing question is, what would Mayor Young do if he were in office at this point in time?
Like Detroit 2012, the city has been here before. It was in 1981 when it faced a deficit of $133 million, an amount that today translates into $331 million.
Tim Kiska, WWJ editor and a historian in political journalism, writes, “We forget that the early 1980s were a difficult time in Michigan — even more difficult, on some levels, than what we’ve faced since 2008. Unemployment hit the double-digit mark in February 1980, and stayed there until 1985, peaking at 16.8 percent in Dec., 1982. It hasn’t been that high in the current recession.”
Mayor Young formed a diverse civic leadership committee led by retired Ford Motor Company executive Fred Secrest and brought in Felix Rohatyn, the man credited to have saved New York in the 1970s when it teetered on the brink of financial collapse.
Rohatyn, who would later serve as U.S. ambassador to France under President Bill Clinton and a respected investment banker, was recently appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sit on the board of New York State’s $25 billion infrastructure bank, to help Cuomo get his “New York Works Fund” off the ground.
When Young tapped Rohatyn, the urban financial expert’s initial diagnosis of Detroit’s financial crisis was between extreme pain and agony.
Because the reality was — and is still — that Detroit has more of the really basic, core problems of older cities than any other major city. There is no doubt that we have an ongoing survival crisis caused by the city’s requirement to reduce its services as a result of the general economic decay of its basic industries.
Thus, the Secrest Committee with Rohatyn and his staff leading the effort came up with a three-part proposal to address Detroit’s financial woes at the time. The proposal included employee concessions, the sale of bonds and an income tax increase, raising the tax on residents from 2 percent to 3 percent and on non-residents from .5 percent to 1.5 percent.
However, as has always been the case, any such tax increases require approval by Lansing lawmakers and a vote of the people in Detroit.
Despite Young facing reelection in 1981, he was relentless in battling the financial crisis. So the skillful mayor put together a group of respected civic and corporate leaders to advocate on behalf of the city in Lansing. He picked then General Motors CEO Tom Murphy and UAW President Doug Fraser to head the Lansing delegation and testify on behalf of a tax increase before a rare joint session of the legislature.
Both Murphy and Fraser had distinguished themselves as men who have a mastery of tackling big issues, and their affable and commanding personalities in leading major organizations were an added advantage going before the legislature.
In short they were qualified and respected. The credibility and the personality of individuals who appear before any public body in approving major decisions is key to any negotiations.
But another key ingredient in helping Detroit attack its financial crisis at the time was a special relationship that Mayor Young had with then Republican Gov. William Milliken (Milliken endorsed the current Gov. Rick Snyder who is in negotiations with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing), who has been rated the best Republican governor in the state’s history.
Milliken, who was a moderate and an environmental advocate from the liberal town of Traverse City, stood for Detroit during an era where it was rare to do so because of the racial climate at the time. But Milliken did not walk away from Detroit. His bond with Young was a major factor in guiding and helping the city right the wrongs of its financial issues.
So Detroit under Young, working closely with Milliken, put together a coalition of Democrats from the city and Republicans from the other side of the state to provide the votes needed to get the legislature to approve a tax hike, which succeeded.
Former Michigan Chief Justice Conrad Mallett Jr., chief administrative officer at the Detroit Medical Center who is currently a member of Gov. Snyder’s Detroit Review Team, as a key lieutenant to Mayor Young then led the campaign for the tax increase during a special election. Voters approved the hike by a 68-32 margin.
Detroit was able to get the banks to purchase the bonds and city unions including police and fire took the concessions.
Detroit was saved then.
Former Young spokesman Bob Berg said, “Every situation is different, so it is difficult to speculate on the specific solution that Mayor Young would have fashioned if he were confronted with today’s situation.”
However, he added, “If you look at the crisis he confronted back then, what stands out is the vision, leadership and political courage he showed in developing an overall solution to the problem and then forming a coalition with the community, civic, labor and corporate leadership that made the solution a reality.”
Young was always willing to take risks, Berg noted.
“A lot of his advisors told him it was political suicide for him to propose a tax increase in an election year, but he was determined to come up with a solution and he succeeded,” Berg said. “The fact that the voters approved it by more than two-thirds showed the confidence they had in his leadership.”
At a New Detroit Inc. awards ceremony honoring Milliken a few years ago at the Detroit Opera House, I watched the former governor talk about his special relationship with Young and how they would disagree on a number of issues but in the end arrive at an amicable resolution. The two men understood each other.
There is no doubt that Young had tremendous clout and the political acumen that allowed him to engage in political power play in preserving Detroit’s interest no matter what it was. He was a realist who knew when to demand and raise hell, and when to go into the negotiating room and make things happen.
He understood how to utilize the skills and credibility of others who may not have shared his own background and experience in the Joshua generation of the Civil Rights Movement to his own benefit and that of the city.
So at this point of no return, Detroit needs to show some political muscle, but also skill in negotiating an agreement that averts a financial catastrophe.
We all aspire to do better than those who came before us. Coleman Young set the benchmark and he sure played hardball, which explains the title of his autobiography, “Hard Stuff.”
The challenge is for the current leadership in Detroit to make it work. This is your Coleman Young moment. Show us your mojo.
When asked about what motivates progressive people to push for social change, Young offered his own prescription:
“Nobody does something for nothing. No such thing as a free lunch. People come together in coalition because they think it is to their personal advantage, and to the degree that their personal direction and aspiration merge with that of the others in the coalition, they will move forward.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 03:15
Category: Top News Written by Phil Power
Dear Governor --
You celebrated your 90th birthday Monday. I’m sure you and Helen did
it in your usual low-key manner, enjoying the serene beauty of the Old
Mission Peninsula near Traverse City.
All of your friends know how proud you are of the tradition of public
service that has run through your family for generations. Your father,
James T. Milliken, was mayor of Traverse City and a State Senator from
1941-50. And your grandfather, James W. Milliken, served in the state
senate from 1898-1900.
You were elected to represent the same senate district – the 27th –
in 1960. To the best of my knowledge, that set a Michigan record for
family members holding the same senatorial seat.
You were only in the senate a single term, but made your mark early,
leading a revolt against the Republican “mossbacks” who controlled the
upper house in those days. You led a bunch of “Young Turks,” both
Republican moderates and Democrats, who essentially seized control of
the Senate from a bunch of reactionaries.
Four years later, the Republican Party nominated you to run for
lieutenant governor with George Romney -- the first time our two top
officials were elected as a team. You were reelected two years later,
and when Romney left Michigan to serve in President Nixon’s cabinet,
you became our governor in 1969.
Following that, you were elected to three four-year terms – 1970,
1974 and 1978. Given the eight-year term limits voters enacted later,
your time in office will probably remain a record forever.
Nobody ever wondered about your sincerity. Your political style
meshed perfectly with your personality: civil, decent, modest, yet
stubborn in what you thought right. You enjoyed praise, but were
perfectly willing to withstand criticism for unpopular decisions.
Your constant refrain was, and is, “Good policies make good
politics.” Even a brief look at the politicians who followed you makes
a convincing case that you helped create a sane and moderate Michigan
political culture that has only recently come undone.
You made it clear that Michigan’s future was tied to that of Detroit.
And you made no secret that you respected your old senatorial
colleague, Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young -- and that you believed in
helping his city -- even though that was resented and opposed by made
in your own party.
Your interest in preserving and protecting our unparalleled natural
resources was a hallmark of your Administration, an interest you
followed by helping create in 1982 the Council of Great Lakes
Governors, the first attempt to pull together the states surrounding
the largest body of drinkable fresh water on the earth.
Most long-serving politicians leave office, only to see their
popularity spiral downwards. Did that affect you? A statewide poll
conducted by Market Opinion Research (the best polling firm of its
day) in 1980 after you had served 11 years in office produced these
“favorables”: Republicans: 87%; Democrats: 70%; Union members: 70%;
Blacks: 75%; Catholics: 74%; ticket splitters: 73%.
Politicians these days would drool all over the floor to have such
numbers. Still, like many other moderate Republicans, you have fretted
for decades over the rightward tilt of your party. In 2004 you
declined to support President George W. Bush for President, endorsing
Sen. John Kerry, saying: “The truth is that President George W. Bush
does not speak for me or for many other moderate Republicans on a very
broad cross section of issues.”
Two years ago, you endorsed Republican Rick Snyder for governor, and
some say you may have helped make a difference in that year’s crowded
As you turn 90, two of your former staff members who know you best
sent me their summing up:
Craig Ruff, your special Assistant for Human Services: “Governor
Milliken didn’t just spend the longest time as Michigan’s governor; he
also set the highest standards of conduct and yield of public duties.
He performed in a gentlemanly way. He produced good things likewise.
Mr. Milliken softened the natural gulfs between Democrats and
Republicans; liberals and conservatives; and people living in rural,
suburban and urban areas.”
He typified your style as governing that bridged divisions and
produced the greatest good for all. He led. We followed. Toward no
greater aims has a leader so successfully propelled.”
Bill Rustem, your special Assistant for Natural Resources and
Environment who is today Gov. Snyder’s Chief of Strategy: “The easy
road for any politician is to appeal to people’s hates, their fears,
and their greed; to be an echo chamber for the worst thoughts, deeds
and words of human nature.
“Governor Milliken always rejected that road. Rather, he believes
that public servants had a higher calling – a calling to find the best
in each of us; to challenge convention in order to build a better
tomorrow; and to find the ties that bring people together rather than
wedge them apart.”
So, Bill Milliken, it is an honor and a pleasure, to join so many,
many of your friends and admirers in wishing you the very happiest
returns of the day. Your life’s work has been to make Michigan a far
better place than you found it.
And you did.
Editor’s Note: Former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan
Regent Phil Power is a longtime observer of Michigan politics and
economics. He is also the founder and chairman of The Center for
Michigan, a nonprofit, bipartisan centrist think-and-do tank, designed
to cure Michigan’s dysfunctional political culture. He is also on the
board of the Center’s Business Leaders for Early Education. The
opinions expressed here are Power’s own and do not represent the
official views of The Center. He welcomes your comments at
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 10:59
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the third round at the West Region of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships, the No. 1 seeded Michigan State Spartans outlasted the No. 8 seeded St. Louis Billikens 65-61.
The Spartans’ victory gave them a trip to the Elite 8 and set up a matchup of two future Hall of Fame coaches, MSU’s Tom Izzo and Louisville’s Rick Pitino.Both have won NCAA titles. Izzo has now led his Spartans to their 10th Sweet 16 since 1998.
MSU won an ugly slugfest against St. Louis and as a result many prognosticators proclaimed that the Spartans would not be able to beat Louisville, especially with the loss of 6-foot-5 freshman Branden Dawson, who is sidelined with an ACL injury. His inside presence surely will be missed as the Spartans advance in the tournament, but will that stop MSU’s quest?
With senior Draymond Green putting himself in the exclusive company of being only the third person to produce two triple doubles in NCAA tournament history. The other two were Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. There is no doubting that the Spartans following Green’s lead have the juice to keep their run going.
Give Coach Rick Majerus’ Billikens credit for their game plan and scrappy play. Most rational individuals would respect the fact that St Louis just wouldn’t go away, hitting late 3-pointers to keep the game interesting and using timeouts to extend it. Majerus wasn’t going to fade away, and he did an admirable job managing what little time he had left.
“That was one of the tougher games we’ve played in,” Izzo said. “But you’ve got to give our guys credit, too. We didn’t pretend to be God’s gift to basketball. We know we’re a working man’s group. And we had to work today.”
Credit MSU and former Pershing Detroit Public School League (PSL) hoopster Keith Appling, who answered the bell at crunch time. Appling busted a 3-pointer from the right corner that gave the Spartans their margin of victory. With Michigan State’s season in peril, Green turned to Appling during a timeout and told him to be ready. His moment was near. And when it arrived, Appling delivered.
“I don’t need to be a hero trying to make some scoop layup,” Green said of his decision to pass up a shot. “If I see a guy open, I’m going to hit him. He was wide open in the corner and I knew once he caught the ball, it was going in. I didn’t try to get the rebound. I ran down the court. I already knew it was going in.”
Appling scored a team high 19 points for the Spartans in a game where St. Louis dared him to shoot.
“All night they pretty much had me begging to shoot the ball,” Appling said. “We got in the huddle in one of our timeouts and Draymond told me I was a 41 percent 3-point shooter last year, so shoot the ball. We drew up a play for him, and the defense collapsed and I was wide open. He hit me with a pass that was perfect, right in my shooter’s pocket, and I was able to knock it down. As soon as it came off of my hands, it felt good.”
After Michigan State lost its first two games this season to North Carolina and Duke, there were some who wondered if this squad would recover and live up to the school’s high standards, the ones set by players such as Jason Richardson, Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser, Mo Peterson, Steve Smith, Charlie Bell, Scott Skiles, Jay Vincent, Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager and Mateen Cleaves, just to mention a few.
There’s no deliberation anymore. Michigan State is more than legitimate and the Spartans can win with any style. Make them run and they’ll run. Slow them down and they’ll crawl. Start a fight and they’ll finish it. They know what it takes.
“We all stuck together,” Green said. “That’s how we won.”
And what it will take if they continue to win.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 16:53
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!