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Wednesday, November 17,2010

Some 'real' Dems to pick from

by Kyle Melinn
That groan from the Capitol Loop last week was liberals and conservatives doubling over with collective indigestion from Gov.- Elect Rick Snyder’s pick of Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon as his first treasurer.

In Michigan, we don’t use the acronym "DINO" much. If we did, Dillon, who lost the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to Virg Bernero, would, among progressives, be the poster child for "Democrat In Name Only."


The pro-life Dillon, who opposes stem cell research and supports consolidating public employee benefits under a single plan, was not only Snyder’s first pick for a cabinet level post, he’s been Snyder’s only pick.


Conservatives hate it. To them, it’s proof Snyder is the moderate they feared.


Liberals hate the pick, too. To them, it’s an empty overture. Snyder can claim bipartisanship, but only by tapping the most Republican Democrat in the state of Michigan. This guy could only pass budgets in the state House by teaming up with the entire Republican caucus, for crying out loud!


Understandably, Snyder’s association with Democrats in this town isn’t very extensive. Consultants Chris DeWitt and Sharon Ellis were great campaign picks, but he’s going to need a different skill set to reinvent Michigan within the state bureaucracy.


Up to now, Snyder has rehired the 1994 John Engler All-Star team for his staff. If he’s interested in "real Democrats," I’ve listed my humble recommendations that would endear Snyder to the left. As for the right ... uh ... well, at least half of the problem would be addressed.


Treasurer — Dan Kildee. Snyder would be reneging on his first pick, but it can be easily refined. Put Dillon in charge of all of the emergency financial managers appointed in this state. More school districts and local government will be going belly-up. Dillon’s business experience in helping troubled entities will be needed.


As Genesee County treasurer for 25 years, Kildee pioneered land banks, a creative way to revamp delinquent property. Liberals love the nephew of U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee. Many wish Kildee carried the Democrat Party’s flag in this year’s gubernatorial election.


Budget Director — Alma Wheeler Smith. Few sitting lawmakers have worked on as many state budgets as the termlimited House member and former senator. Smith has a reputation as a bleeding-heart liberal, but so did Bob Emerson before he started whacking the budget for Gov. Jennifer Granholm.


Smith is practical. She’s sharp. She’s tough and she can work with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Maybe more important, she isn’t a kiss-ass and isn’t in the back pocket of any special interest. If she were, she could have raised the money to be the Democrats’ gubernatorial nominee.


Department of Natural Resources and Environment — Joel Sheltrown. He’s an Andy Dillon Democrat, to be sure, but since the state representative lives north of M-10, it’s excusable. Every Democrat is conservative up there. Sheltrown is a hunter. He’s passionate about natural resources. Plus, he gave $3,400 to Snyder’s campaign. Few Republican lawmakers can claim that.


Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth — Andy Levin, the acting director. Granholm kept around a couple of Engler holdovers upon taking office. Snyder can, too. The energetic son of U.S. Rep. Sander Levin is passionate about retraining former manufacturing workers and has vital experience navigating the complex web of federal funding.


Department of Human Services — Sam Singh. We know him as the former East Lansing mayor who checked out for 18 months of his life to travel the world. Lucky bum. The former head of the Michigan Nonprofit Association works on new economy initiatives, giving the upwardly mobile Singh a broad perspective on the human condition.


Department of Technology, Management and Budget — Dianne Byrum. She’s enjoying life in the private sector as partner at her own blue-chip political consulting firm, which falls in line with what Snyder is looking for — someone with both private and public sector experience. If you want a hardworking, no-nonsense administrator who will manage state contracts and squeeze the buffalo off every nickel, I’d want the former House minority leader on my team.


Department of Civil Rights — Chris Kolb. If bringing Michigan together is important to Snyder, who better to lead this department than the first and only openly gay state legislator in Michigan? The exceptionally bright Kolb led pro-LGBT Unity Michigan before going to the Michigan Environmental Council.


Michigan Economic Development Corp. — Dennis Archer. The former Detroit mayor and Supreme Court justice obviously isn’t done with public service if he flirted with a gubernatorial run a couple years ago. A credible advocate for business development with experience on corporate boards, the chair of the Dickinson Wright law firm is the perfect point-person to push for the redevelopment of state’s urban cores, one of Snyder top priorities.


Would any of the aforementioned take the jobs if offered? They run this risk of being called traders by Democrats (maybe that’s why Dillion accepted — he doesn’t care about being libeled a traitor to his party). But if "reinventing Michigan" is important to any of them, why not take a seat at the table if offered?


(Kyle Melinn is news editor of the political newsletter MIRS. melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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