Minehaha Forman is a freelance writer living in Detroit. Born on a farm in Belize, Central America, she moved to the U.S. to pursue higher education and a career in writing. Forman’s work has been featured in many metro Detroit publications including Dbusiness magazine, Hour magazine and Corp! magazine. She has provided event coverage for Real Times Media and The Michigan Chronicle for three years, covering the popular Pancakes and Politics speaker series and other events. Prior to working with the Chronicle, Forman was a blogger with The American Independent News Network where she covered Metro Detroit politics and the 2008 presidential election. She will continue to provide commentary and coverage of Detroit politics as a blogger and feature writer for The Michigan Chronicle’s website.
Website URL: http://truthordarestories.blogspot.com/
Remember the Cobo Hall drama? It may seem like a dated political fad now, but three years ago Detroit was abuzz with the threat of losing the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) or, on the other end, the “hijacking” of Cobo Hall from City of Detroit ownership to regional control.
That’s behind us now and construction continues unchallenged at COBO. Now that the riverside conference center is in the hands of a regional authority—and regional funds— the political storm has calmed and it’s a non-issue.
But Detroit has moved on to a new controversial authority, one that would put Detroit’s public lighting department in the hands of a joint authority between City and State appointees.
The legislation, which Mayor Dave Bing announced in August, got tied up in the State Senate a month after the announcement , with a slim chance of passing in the lame duck period after the election. Passage of this legislation would authorize the creation of a City of Detroit Public Lighting Authority and allow the City the bonding capacity to invest an estimated $160 million to modernize the street lighting system, according to Bing.
Opponents of the plan—state legislators representing Detroit—say that the authority is not a good deal for Detroit in the long term, arguing that it represents another loss of a city asset amid financial hardship.
Meanwhile many Detroit Neighborhoods and major thoroughfares remain in the dark, with antiquated lights that are broken and needing modernization.
While the authority seems like it could be a good fix for Detroit there is a misconception that passage of the legislation will get the city glowing like a Christmas tree in a matter of months.
That’s far from the truth. In fact, Bing himself is the first person to put that misconception to rest.
“I don’t want to make our residents think that this legislation is going to get the light in right away,” he told Council members at a meeting last week. “Even if an authority is passed through legislature the lights are not going to come on every day.” This legislation gives us the opportunity to make an investment to fix problems over a 2-5 year span.”
Councilman Ken Cockrel, Jr. called for an interim plan while the authority takes its time. “We need a plan B,” Cockrel said. “Large swaths of the city are in the dark. There has to be a contingency plan.”
There isn’t a contingency plan. Some would argue that there's no money for a contingency plan witout another controversy over state-city power politics.
In the meantime, many Detroiters will keep on living in the dark as they have become accustomed and perhaps the legistlation for the public lighting authority will pass, and, three years from now, we will see some progress little by little, and it will go the way of Cobo Hall--which is not necesarily a bad thing.
Just look at Cobo. Today, three years later, significant improvements have been made to the home of the NAIAS but the biggest improvements and expansions are still in progress. That’s not to say the authority isn’t doing a good job, it’s to say that big improvements like the ones needed at Detroit Public Lighting take years, and patience. They also take collaboration. The longer we wait for the lighting bills to pass state legislature, it just tacks on more time to the already lengthy renewal.
Many streetlights are out in the Detroit neighborhood I live in but I’m fortunate enough to have a car. It really doesn’t bother me any more. I imagine many Detroiters have, over the years, grown accustomed to a city that goes dark at sunset. It’s the norm.That’s part of the problem.
It’s one of the most important decisions on the ballot come Election Day, yet the race for Michigan Supreme Court justices has thus far been mostly ignored.
In Michigan, between the buzz surrounding the six controversial statewide ballot proposals and the presidential race, somewhere lost in the shuffle is the race for a three judicial seats in the State’s highest court.
State Supreme Court justices are powerful elected officials. They decide on the issues that shape the state’s constitution as well as settling major controversies moved up from lower courts.
The Michigan Supreme Court has sweeping managerial power over all state courts in Michigan. Some key political issues Michigan Supreme Court justices have decided in recent years are gay marriage, stem cell research and affirmative action.
This year, the Supreme Court played a major role in the allowance of statewide ballot initiatives. This summer the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that voters should decide whether Public Act 4, the law that enabled the governor to appoint financial managers to replace locally elected officials in cash strapped cities like Detroit, should be struck down or upheld. Due to the Supreme Court’s decision, this issue will appear as Proposal 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Major historic decisions rest in the hands of three people who are up for election to rule on the State’s Supreme Court this year. Two positions are for eight-year terms, and one is a two-year partial term.
Despite the importance of justices seated in the Supreme Court, historically there has been a pattern of people skipping the nonpartisan section of the ballot where the options for Michigan Supreme Court justices (along with local court justices) appear.
“Roughly 28 percent of 3.26 million voters in the 2010 general election skipped the nonpartisan portion of the ballot — which lists Supreme Court justices even though they're nominated by the Republican and Democratic parties — as did about 26 percent of 5.04 million who voted in the 2008 presidential election, according to figures from the Secretary of State's office. Yet millions are being spent to influence voters this year.”
With a flood of radio and TV adds made to persuade voters, most voters still don’t know who the candidates are let alone their political alignment.
Although the Supreme Court candidate’s names appear on the nonpartisan section (the back side of the first page of the ballot), the positions are highly politicized. Political parties nominate candidates who bring liberal or conservative views to the bench. These views are often reflected in crucial decision-making affecting every person living in or visiting Michigan.
As with any race, “nonpartisan” or no, the Michigan Supreme Court seating is a political power play between major political parties.
"The Democrats are pretty much cut out of state government right now, and this would give them a piece of the action," Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics newsletter told the Detroit News.
"If there's litigation on these ballot proposals, Democrats would dearly love to have a democratically controlled Supreme Court," he said.
But don't let the partisan tension distract from the fact that a straight ticket vote IS NOT a vote for Supreme Court Justice. If you vote a straight ticket you still have to flip the first page of the ballot to the nonpartisan section to make your Supreme Court picks.
In terms of diversity, all of the Democratic Party nominees and one Republican pick for Supreme Court are women and only one canddiate for Supreme Court, Shelia Johnson, is a racial minority.
To read up on the candidates for supreme court, click HERE. Or visit SmartVote.org to learn about some of their past decisions. Below is a FULL LIST list of candidates for Michigan Supreme Court linked to their SmartVote.org profiles:
Full term candidates (eight-year term)--You can vote for two of the following people:
Doug Dern (Natural Law Party nominee)
Connie Marie Kelly (Democratic Party nominee)
Stephen Markman (Republican Party nominee)
Bridget Mary McCormack (Democratic Party nominee)
Kerry L. Morgan (Libertarian party nominee)
Colleen O’Brien (Republican party nominee)
Bob Roddis (Libertarian Pary nominee)
Partial Term candidates (two year term)-- You can vote for only one of the following people:
Mindy Berry (U.S. Taxpayer Party nominee)
Shelia Johnson (Democratic Party nominee)
Brian Zahra (Republican Party nominee)
If voters were looking to hear more from presidential candidates last night on U. S. leadership in the world, they were sorely disappointed.
Presidential candidates President Barack Obama and GOP challenger, Governor Mitt Romney, rolled out the same discussion points from the previous two debates with topics often sticking on the domestic economy, taxes, and military spending.
The debate, which was slated to focus on foreign policy issues, offered nothing new to the presidential race in terms of content. Discussion had on affairs abroad stayed wrapped around the turmoil in the Middle East—namely Iran and Syria—and trade with China.
During the 90-minute debate, both Obama and Romney addressed some hot-button issues with Romney agreeing with Obama at many points in the discussion. It was as if the rest of the globe did not exist, or at best was irrelevant.
Nowhere in the debate was any talk of Europe’s economic scare, the Central American drug trade, climate change, a rising India, Sub-Saharan Africa or international economics.
Instead, both candidates took whatever chance they could get to drag the discussion back home to domestic issues while moderator Bob Schieffer sat back watched it happen.
When Scheiffer asked about America’s role in the world Romney skirted the question almost entirely in his two-minute response. With a vague statement that the United States has a responsibility to make peace in the world, he quickly jumped home to safety.
"In order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong -- America must lead," Romney said. "And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home."
Romney then slipped into the same rhetoric from the first two debates, blaming Obama for the sluggish economy and claimed to know what it takes to get the economy booming again.
Obama broke from the topic of foreign affairs in a similar fashion during other parts of the debate. When talking about military spending, he said the focus should be more on spending on education and domestic issues.
“There are some things we have to do here at home as well. It’s very hard to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do [at home],” Obama said, using that as segue to talk about more education and other issues facing the U.S.
Schieffer at one point asked the candidates to stay on the topic saying “"let me get back to foreign policy." Schieffer otherwise let the two spin off however they pleased.
The tone of the debate was one that showed an aggressive Obama, perhaps making up ground lost from the first debate, and Romney trying to stick on his strongest point, the national economy.
Obama served up the toughest jabs and smart talk of the night while Romney’s strategy was what some pundits are calling a “prevent defense” tactic: letting sharp charges from the President slide in order to seem less vulnerable.
One of the most tweetable moments of the debate came when Obama chided Romney for numbers he used to portray shrinking on military spending.
“You mentioned the Navy and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama said, pointing out that times and technology has changed.
During the debate Obama repeatedly aimed to pin Romney as out of touch.
The President said Romney was stuck in the past with outdated foreign and social policy. “The 80’s called, they want their foreign policy back,” he said of Romney’s charge that Russia was one of America’s biggest threats.
Romney took a few swings at Obama during the debate, saying that the United States is loosing its influence abroad under the President and slamming the president for his attempts at diplomacy.
"The president began what I would call an apology tour, going to the Middle East and blaming America," Romney said.
Obama argued U.S. foreign relations have improved under his administration.
When it came to the closing statements, both candidates drove home national issues instead of foreign relations.
Romney in his closing remarks focused on America’s the struggling economy asserting that he has what it takes to build "strong leadership" and rebuild the U.S. economy.
Obama focused on what he has done to clean up after the Bush administration including ending two wars and getting the economy running against after near collapse in 2009 when he entered office. Obama then compared Romney to Bush, saying the GOP candidate would enact similar policy as the former president.
While Obama seemed to be the stronger performer (it seemed hardly fair, a sitting president pitted against a first-term governor), it mattered little. Other than entertainment, the debate provided no new information to the U.S. electorate.
If nothing else, Detroiters got a chuckle out of hearing Romney claim to be "the son of Detroit."
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