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Wednesday, December 21,2011

Can Grebner send Lindemann down the drain?

by Kyle Melinn

Job-hopping is not an uncommon practice in politics. But here´s an unusual twist. 

Retiring Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner is considering running for Ingham County Drain commissioner in 2012.

That´s right. If Lindemann runs for a sixth term — Lindemann says he will -— Grebner said he might challenge the former Lansing City Council member in next August´s Democratic primary. 

If Lindemann steps aside, Grebner said, "I definitely don´t plan to run."

A strategy this unconventional only makes sense with someone as quirky as Grebner. What makes the situation a bit odd, though, is the usually chatty Grebner´s reluctance to talk about it.

"Why doesn´t Lindemann deserve another term?" I asked him.

"I intend to reserve my opening statement, as defense attorneys sometimes ask the court," Grebner cryptically answered.

However, sources around town tell me Grebner doesn´t believe Lindemann is operating the Drain Commissioner´s Office as frugally as he could. I couldn´t get anyone to elaborate on what that means. It´s probably because few people on earth understand the hidden corners of the Ingham County´s budget like Grebner.

Handing reams of data to someone as statistically brilliant as Grebner is like throwing Miguel Cabrera a meatball down the middle of the plate. With time, Grebner is bound to blast one out of the park.

Or maybe Grebner, who said he´s not running for another term in 2012 because of the recent commissioner pay cut, is trying to stir something up. 

For his part, Lindemann said he feels like he´s being a good steward of the county´s money. He doesn´t apologize for putting money into keeping up the county´s 1,057 drains — those works of natural and man-made engineering that keep the county from turning back into a pre-development swamp.

Spending a little money on fixing a drain today saves everybody a lot of money tomorrow, he said. The projects his office does take on — like the 12-mile drain in White Oak Township — was completed under budget and ahead of schedule, Lindemann proudly relayed to me.

As far as his office´s operations, the job entails the contracting of lawyers and engineers, he said. That does cost money. Lindemann said he has 40 petitions on his desk for projects. Keeping the clean water away from the foundations of buildings while protecting the county´s natural resources is a tricky balancing act.

Lindemann said he´s heard the rumblings about Grebner’s exploring a drain commissioner run. His response: "Let him try it."

"People have thought I´ve been vulnerable in the past, but I´m not," he said. "I don´t try to second guess the public and if they like what I´ve done they´ll continue to support me. And so far, the support I´ve received from the neighborhood groups and the people I´ve talked to, is overwhelming."

Lindemann said he takes any campaign seriously, whether the competition appears weak or not. How he approaches his re-election won´t change whether Grebner, a 30-year veteran of the Ingham County Commission, takes the plunge.

"If he´s serious, that´s OK. If not, that´s OK, too," Lindemann said.

Lindemann has the experience to back up his confidence. Remember in 2008, Lindemann dispatched wetlands consultant Gary Marx 66 percent to 33 percent in the Democratic primary, despite Marx’s being backrolled by some deep-pocketed developers who threw everything but the kitchen sink against the professed liberal.

If Grebner goes after Lindemann, though, it will be at least the second high-profile countywide primary in Ingham County. State Rep. Barb Byrum has made no secret about her interest in succeeding Ingham County Clerk Mike Bryanton, who has sent signals that he may be retiring. 

If he does, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope would be Bryanton´s preferred heir.


Whitmer Named Democrat of the Year

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing was recognized last week as the "Democratic Legislator of the Year" by the MIRS political newsletter. The inaugural award was given to the Democrat in the state legislature who has been the most effective and impactful while maintaining a certain level of activity.

Whitmer was recognized for her ability to yield national attention to the anti-bullying legislation that the Republican-led legislature passed and Gov. Rick Snyder signed mandating that local school districts develop policies to protect kids from being cruelly picked on.

As one of the voting members of the award, I agreed with my colleagues when I said that Whitmer has done more with her position as Senate minority leader than any of her predecessors despite having fewer caucus members than any prior leader in recent history.

Our full comments are on the weekly MIRS podcast, www.mirsnews.podbean.com.


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