Category: Prime Politics Written by by Roz Edward
The Michigan Chronicle's Pancakes and Politics, Forum 3 made history Thursday morning at the Birmingham's Townsend Hotel, when it convened one of the most impressive panels of Michigan politicians at such a pivotal moment in Dertroit's history. Political developments in Detroit and Southeast Michigan over the past several days regarding Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficanno have created hot debate and immnse speculation in political and economic circles. Joined by Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Pancakes and Politics patrons had front row seats to a history-making discussion.
Mayor Bing, who announced only days ago that he did not intend to seek reelection, but stated that he would remain in politics and would consider a county position told audience members, "The system is broken, no doubt about it. And what we have done during the course of my administration is make some cuts. But we are at the point where we can't cut anymore. ... We have to figure it out and grow."
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficanno emphasized that Detroit and Wayne County were not the only communities with financial difficulty. "There are 180 distressed communities and school districts across the state; it's not just southeast Michigan. If you go to Grand Rapids they are facing the same types of pressures that we are."
When asked about the primary challenge facing Oakland County, L. Brooks Patterson responded, "We are doing fine. We have paid off all of our debt ... I am not bragging, but I don't have the same pressures as some of the other [executives] do."
Macomb Executive Mark Hackel urged the regions residents to reserve judgment regarding the area's demise. "For the first time ever in Macomb County's history, a sitting mayor, came out to Macomb County and sat in the audience to hear the State of the County address we were excited about that. ... Look at the downtown area of the City of Detroit and look at what's happening there. If you haven't, take a walk downtown ... my hope is that that that type of [revitalization] will spread into the neighborhoods."
The region's political leaders turned their attention to the looming issue regarding Detroit's solvency and the possibility of bankruptcy.
"I am the last person advocating bankruptcy. If Detroit goes bankrupt the whole region loses. ... In fact that's why I was nervous when the governor appointed Kevyn Orr ."
"The reality is Kevyn [Orr] was not hired by the City of Detroit. He was hired by the State of Michigan, so he is getting a lot of direction form the State. But at this point I don't think that Detroit is getting what it needs from the State. We want to be partners." Ficanno added. "We are all concerned about bankruptcy. It will drive investment away from this area. ... I am with the mayor. We need a good partnership. If the state would have just lived up to their commitment for revenue sharing with Wayne County and city of Detroit you wouldn't see an Emergency Manager here now."
Last Updated on Friday, 17 May 2013 11:06
Category: Prime Politics Written by News One
In an interesting twist, President Barack Obama‘s former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, criticized his friend and former boss’ “exceedingly passive” response to the revelation that the IRS placed extra scrutiny on conservative groups:
“The problem is this – the tenor of this briefing would be different if the president had spoken about this on Saturday or Sunday and not on Monday,” Gibbs told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell about an awkward briefing conducted by current press secretary Jay Carney.
“And if the president had spoken on Monday, less about losing patience on this, which is what I do with my 9-year-old, and used far more vivid language.”
Gibbs said that it would have been in the best interest of the White House to immediately propose a bipartisan panel of former IRS commissioners to investigate.
“I think [then] they would have a much better way of talking about this story rather than simply kind of landing on the, ‘well if this happened, then we’ll look at it’,” Gibbs said. “It sounds
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 08:13
Category: Prime Politics Written by by Bankole Thompson
By Bankole Thompson
CHRONICLE SENIOR EDITOR
James Craig, Cincinnati's police chief, is leaving Ohio, heading home to Michigan where he will become chief of the Detroit Police Department.
Officials at city hall have confirmed that Craig has been offered the position and is excitedly looking forward to serving Detroit where he was once a member of the men and women in blue at 1300 Beaubien.
Craig will become the fifth police chief in the last five years in Detroit, heightening expectations from the public as well as stakeholders in terms of what he will do as the new boss of the city's security apparatus.
His record at Cincinnati and Portland as well as other cities where he worked has been praised. But Detroit offers a different scenario, given how many police chiefs the city has had in the last four years.
At Cincinnati, he was the first African- American police chief where he earned a $135,000 salary. It is unclear what his salary in Detroit will be.
Craig will be taking over a department that has gone through unstable leadership changes and is still facing changes, including the U.S. Department of Justice Consent Degree.
He will also be coming in at a time when public safety is the number one issue for most Detroiters as the city goes through a financial recovery with the appointment of an emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr.
Orr brushed off criticism that it is not his place to name a police chief, saying public safety accounts for half of the city's budget.
Orr in a statement thanked current chief Chester Logan for his service as well as welcomed Craig to Detroit.
""Let me first thank and commend Chief Chester Logan for his decades of service to the city. Chief Logan has selflessly returned from his well-deserved retirement to help lead the Detroit Police Department and we should all be grateful for that," Orr said. "Public safety is, of course, a paramount concern. This is why I am very excited that Chief James Craig of Cincinnati has accepted our offer to be the next chief of the Detroit Police Department. Chief Craig understands the needs of a large, urban police force, having coming up through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department and having been the top cop in Portland, Maine and Cincinnati."
Orr said Craig's accomplishments in and accolades for reducing crime and improving community-police relations precede him.
"But just as important is the fact that Chief Craig is a Detroiter. He's a graduate of Cass Technical High School and the Detroit Police Academy and served as a Detroit police officer," Orr said. "Chief Craig brings the experience we need to lead the department and expedite its exit from federal oversight. He will build bridges with the community and brings with him a proven track record of fighting and reducing crime."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 15:17
Category: Prime Politics Written by By Dana Bash, Chelsea J. Carter and Tom Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday to hold accountable those at the Internal Revenue Service involved in the targeting of conservative groups applying for federal tax-exempt status, beginning with the resignation of the agency's acting commissioner.
In a brief statement delivered to reporters at the East Room of the White House, the president announced that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew requested -- and accepted -- the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller.
Watch video with Anderson Cooper:
The president said the "misconduct" detailed in the IRS Inspector General's report released Tuesday over the singling out of conservative groups is "inexcusable."
"Americans have a right to be angry about, and I'm angry about it," Obama said.
The president said new safeguards will be put in place so that "this doesn't happen again."
In an internal message to IRS employees obtained by CNN, Miller said he would be stepping down as commissioner in early June.
"This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days, and there is a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation's tax agency," Miller wrote.
"I believe the Service will benefit from having a new Acting Commissioner in place during this challenging period."
News of the resignation followed revelations that the IRS has identified two "rogue" employees in the agency's Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for the "overly aggressive" handling of requests by conservative groups for tax-exempt status, a congressional source told CNN.
Miller said the staffers have already been disciplined, according to another source familiar with Miller's discussions with congressional investigators. The second source said Miller emphasized that the problem with IRS handling of tax-exempt status for tea party groups was not limited to these two employees.
Miller met with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana on Tuesday to discuss an appearance before Congress.
Asked in a Senate hallway about his meeting with Miller, Baucus told CNN, "I did not learn as much from the meeting as I would have liked."
"I told him that it was in his best interest to be totally cooperative -- that it's often the coverup that causes more problems than the original malfeasance," the senator said. "And just to be totally straight with me and everybody, and he said he would."
Meanwhile, Republican congressional leaders on Wednesday accused Obama's administration of potentially criminal behavior in the handling of requests for tax-exempt status from conservative groups.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell suggested criminal behavior had occurred, saying that the "very serious" allegations involve "an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with in the middle of a heated national election."
"It actually could be, could be criminal and we are determined to get the answers," McConnell said.
House Speaker John Boehner was more definitive, declaring that "my question is, who's going to jail over this scandal?"
He told reporters that "clearly someone violated the law" in what an IRS inspector general's report described as delayed processing of applications by groups associated with the political right wing.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who ordered a criminal investigation into the situation, said Wednesday at a congressional hearing that the investigation will look at conduct of IRS offices nationwide.
"The facts will take us where ever they take us," he said.
While the allegations originated in the Cincinnati office, the Justice Department inquiry is based out of Washington, Holder said.
The comments came as all 45 Senate Republicans sent the White House a letter that called for the administration to "comply with all requests related to congressional inquiries without any delay" involving the controversy.
The letter called the scandal "yet another completely inexcusable attempt to chill the speech of political opponents and those who would question their government, consistent with a broader pattern of intimidation by arms of your administration to silence political dissent."
Meanwhile, GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dakota called Wednesday for the acting commissioner of the IRS to step down.
The clearly coordinated attacks were part of a GOP effort to increase pressure on the Obama administration over the controversy, one of three potential scandals that has the White House on the defensive less than four months into the president's second term.
Read the IRS IG report
According to the report by the agency's inspector general released Tuesday, the IRS developed and followed a faulty policy to determine whether the applicants were engaged in political activities, which would disqualify the groups from receiving tax-exempt status.
The controversial move began in early 2010 and continued for more than 18 months, the report said, declaring that "the IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention."
In a statement released late Tuesday, Obama called the report findings "intolerable and inexcusable."
"The federal government must conduct itself in a way that's worthy of the public's trust, and that's especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test," the president said.
Opinion: The real risk of the IRS scandal
Obama also said he has directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew "to hold those responsible for these failures accountable."
However, law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University said it was unlikely that anyone would end up facing criminal charges.
"It's a violation of federal law, but rarely do people go to jail for it," Turley told CNN on Wednesday.
More often, criminal charges come from federal officials lying to cover up wrongdoing, rather than from following orders, he said.
"The most likely conclusion is no one would be charged, if you look at history," Turley added.
IRS officials, according to the report, did not consult anyone beyond the agency about the development of the additional screening criteria. They believed that the criteria they came up with were a screening shortcut meant to help with the influx of applications, the report said.
Will the scandal affect 2014 elections?
The controversial actions began after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case that greatly expanded the ability of corporations, unions and other organizations to participate in election spending, though not through direct contributions to candidates or parties.
After the ruling, the number of politically oriented groups seeking tax exempt status as social welfare organizations under section 501 (c) (4) of the federal tax code increased greatly at a time when the federal government, including the IRS, was dealing with austerity measures that reduced or stagnated personnel and resources.
The IRS' top watchdog found that the criteria used to flag potential political applications resulted in substantial delays and the request of unnecessary information from the groups.
Among the criteria used by IRS officials to flag applications was a "Be On the Look Out" list, which was discontinued in 2012, according to the report.
The criteria included:
-- Whether "Tea Party," "Patriots" or "9/12 Project" was referenced in the case file.
-- Whether the issues outlined in the application included government spending, government debt or taxes.
-- Whether there was advocating or lobbying to "make America a better place to live."
-- Whether a statement in the case file criticized how the country is being run.
-- Whether it advocated education about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The investigation by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration was initiated after congressional complaints began to surface in the media in 2012 that the IRS was targeting conservative groups and holding up applications.
Obama struggles with rocky start to second term
"Whether the inappropriate criterion was shorthand for all potential political cases or not, developing and using criteria that focuses on organization names and policy positions instead of the activities permitted under the Treasury regulations does not promote public confidence that tax-exempt laws are being adhered to impartially," the report said.
The IRS welcomed the report, saying that it agreed that aspects of its original approach in handling the influx of tax-exempt applications was inappropriate.
"The IRS is required by law to determine if organizations are engaging in a legally permissible level of political activity. Centralizing these cases was necessary to achieve consistent treatment," it said in a statement.
In a written response included in the report, the IRS commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division said there was no criminal behavior behind the actions of the agents, but rather inefficient management.
"We believe the front-line career employees that made the decisions acted out of a desire for efficiency and not out of any political and partisan viewpoint," the commissioner wrote.
The report's findings indicate that of the 298 cases reviewed by the IRS inspector general as potential political cases not eligible for tax exempt status: 72 contained the name "tea party," 11 contained "9/12" and 13 contained the word "patriots," according to the report. There were 202 cases that did not contain any such reference.
Of those applications still open for review, 160 cases were open from 206 days to more than three years -- through two election cycles.
Among the recommendations made by the Treasury inspector general: The IRS must better document reasons why applications are chosen for review, develop a process to track requests for assistance, develop and provide training to employees before each election cycle and immediately resolve outstanding cases.
The report also called on Treasury to develop guidelines to explain social welfare activity -- the primary factor in obtaining tax-exempt status.
The Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS, will hold a hearing on Friday. Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, and the Treasury inspector general investigating the complaints, J. Russell George, are scheduled to testify.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 19:33
Category: Prime Politics Written by byRoz Edwrad
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced today he will not run for reelection for the controversial job in the proverbial hot seat in November of this year. His embroiled term in office culminated in the highly contested appointment of an emergency manager to help avoid municipal bankruptcy due to outstanding debt and financial deficits.
But Bing said he will not be content to stay out of the political arena and will form an exploratory committee to run for Wayne County executive.
“Over the last four years, I’ve made unpopular decisions,” Bing told an audience at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. “My devotion to Detroit and Detroiters is unwavering. ... I love the compassion, the tenacity and the commitment of Detroiters.
“That’s why I stayed," he said.
Bing said his administration has done "a tremendous amount of heavy lifting to prepare the runway" for a transformation, and he’s ready to let someone else pick up where he will leave off.
Bing, 69, a former All-Star player for the Detroit Pistons and a successful businessman, ran for mayor in 2009 in a special election to fill the seat of disgraced former MayorKwame Kilpatrick, who's facing years in prison after being convicted on charges of corruption.
Detroiters held out high hopes for Bing, who was widely viewed as an honest and more than competent for Kwame Kilpatrick, who disgraced the office with bribery and fraud charges which he is currently awaiting sentencing on.
But on Tuesday, Bing questioned the state’s involvement in some city matters. Orr is expected to announce later this week the appointment of a new police chief, a power under city charter that is reserved for the mayor.
“I have to wonder if the state is truly interested in a partnership,” Bing said at the Charles Wright Museum.
Several mayoral candidates have exceeded Bing in poll popularity, specifically Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 13:29
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