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Wednesday, October 31,2012

Endorsements and coverage

by City Pulse Staff

Yes on the Ingham Health Plan

The logic is simple: If we in Ingham County can support the zoo, perhaps we can find it within our means to support human beings.

We urge a “yes” vote on a first-time countywide millage, for $52 per $100,000 of property value, to support the Ingham Health Plan. More than 10,000 Ingham County residents — who are ineligible for Medicaid, would not be covered under the Affordable Care Act and make between $17,500 and $28,000 — depend on the plan for basic health care. A yes vote keeps about half of these folks from falling through the health care cracks. The millage has support from major health care providers in the area, such as McLaren Health Care, Sparrow Health System and the Ingham County Health Department. We join them.


Jamo shows judicial qualities

Ingham County has two strong candidates for 30th Circuit Court judge — but one made a serious misstep on the eve of the election that has caused us to change our minds and endorse his opponent, James Jamo. The Ken Ross campaign has launched a last-minute TV ad that uses a sinister-looking photo of Jamo and makes misleading claims that suggest Jamo covered up a $5 million settlement in a Grand Rapids’ area school board case. In fact, Jamo, who represented the schools, said he asked the court to conceal the sex-abuse case settlement at the request of the student plaintiffs, who did not want further publicity. Todd Flood, the plaintiff’s attorney, called us Tuesday to confirm that. And the settlement was for $150,000, not $5 million. Such negative advertising is unseemly in a local judicial race. Moreover, we expect judges above all to be fair — and this was an unfair attack by Ross. Jamo does not have the progressive record that Ross built as a consumer advocate in state government, and he is iffy on social issues (he did not return a questionnaire on gay rights), but he has far more courtroom experience than Ross and a judicial temperament. We hope he will continue the bench’s tradition in Ingham County of enlightened rulings on social issues (before they go on to be overturned by the Appeals and Supreme courts). We support Jamo.


Enthusiastically for Obama

The mark of a true leader is doing the right thing when it isn’t popular or politically expedient.

Barack Obama’s decision to prevent the demise of General Motors was one of those moments. In the process, he saved mid-Michigan’s economy. Had GM been forced into Chapter 7 liquidation, 30,000 to 40,000 jobs would have been lost in the aftermath of closing the Delta and Grand River assembly plants. Instead, both plants are operating at near capacity.

The recovery from the Bush recession has been slow but steady, with 30 straight months of private-sector job growth. We believe the recovery would be more vibrant had it not been for incessant obstruction on the part of congressional Republicans.

Mitt Romney has demonstrated a lack of political integrity rarely seen at the presidential level. On issue after issue he has taken multiple positions, apparently more focused on “making the sale” rather than revealing his real views. We fear he’d be a rerun of George W. Bush.

Romney’s claim of being a proven job-creator flies in the face of Bain Capital’s true record, which focused on building wealth for investors regardless of whether that meant creating jobs, cutting jobs or outsourcing jobs. He is 50 years behind the times on social issues. And his foreign policy is, at best, incoherent and erratic.

Barack Obama clearly is the better choice for president.


Stabenow should stay

Six years ago, in our endorsement of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, we encouraged the incumbent to not be a stranger. She responded. The new chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee has brought her panel to East Lansing on top of her frequent stops to the area to brief residents on goings-on in Washington.

While she is a committed Democrat, we were impressed with her ability to work across the aisle on a new farm bill that realizes the country’s tight fiscal times. She understands cuts need to be made, and she wasn’t afraid to move forward with them in a bipartisan way. 

It’s for these, among many other reasons, we are proud to endorse Stabenow for a third term. However, we would like to take this opportunity to urge the senator to look closer at proposed requirements being considered in California to require any genetically modified food be properly identified. This would seem to be a common sense reform that would assist consumers when making their food purchases.


Neutral in the 8th

The 8th Congressional District (which includes Ingham County) campaign is a bad joke. Mike Rogers is seeking a seventh term in a rematch against 2010 opponent Lance Enderle, a special education teacher from East Lansing.

Rogers talks about bipartisanship but, with rare exception, has toed to the Tea Party anti-Obama line. On major issues he is a “my way or the highway” politician unwilling to seek true bipartisan consensus. A rare break from the right-wing pack was his politically necessary vote in favor of the GM/Chrysler bailout.

Rogers’ seniority gives mid-Michigan some needed political clout. On those rare occasions when he has joined forces with Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, we have benefitted. However, Rogers’ hard-right-wing voting record makes it impossible to endorse him.

Michigan Democrats haven’t taken Rogers seriously since he was narrowly elected the first time. Progressive Lance Enderle is an energetic, dedicated candidate who has been abandoned by the state party. Enderle has no money and minimal organizational support. We also are concerned that Enderle’s in-your-face style would do little to end Capitol Hill gridlock.

Until Michigan Democrats take the 8th district race seriously, we cannot and therefore do not endorse either candidate.


Dems for the House

The curse of legislative term limits is the disappointment in seeing good state representatives brushed out every six years. The blessing of term limits is the opportunity of bringing fresh faces and new perspectives into the fold.

Ingham County has been fortunate to have three influential Democrats representing the area in Joan Bauer, Mark Meadows and Barb Byrum. But we’re confident a new Ingham caucus of Andy Schor (68th District), Sam Singh (69th) and Tom Cochran (67th) will be at least equally effective.

Schor and Singh have little to worry about this General Election, both running in predominately Democratic districts. Tom Cochran in the south Lansing/Delhi Township/rural Ingham County-based 67th has a race on his hands.

Cochran’s resume couldn’t be better: Former Lansing fire chief. Longtime firefighter. Mason school board member. Active in several public safety teams and boards. 

We brought up concerns about Cochran’s accessibility in the primary, but we feel he’s picked up the pace on the campaign trail in the General and feel confident he will be more than responsive to constituents once elected.

We would urge Cochran to show independence in his new post and to not fall into the trap of being a perceived shill for one special interest group or another, particularly organized labor.


Abed in rematch

Interestingly, the most competitive local state House race may be over the western border in Eaton County, where Republicans and Democrats are pouring money into their respective candidates.

In a rematch of 2010, we believe pro-choice Theresa Abed is the better choice. A long-time educator and active member of the Grand Ledge/Delta Township community, she has county government experience and offers a more balanced approach to the job.

Rep. Deb Shaughnessy’s decision to get sucked into this pointless abortion restriction package moving through the Legislature is troubling and reflects her decision to blindly walk lockstep with the Republicans’ backward social agenda.


Larkin is our choice

As we said in the primary election, we haven’t always agreed with retiring Judge David Jordon, but he is a good judge of character. He and other retired judges are lining up behind Andrea Larkin. We do, too.

We like Larkin’s staying power for the position. Unlike her opponent, term-limited state Rep. Mark Meadows, she won’t be constitutionally barred from running again after one term due to age. We believe having a woman on the district court bench adds a perspective that has been absent from 54B. This, combined with her experience in civil and criminal matters, makes her a great fit.


Keep Dems in control of county

We enthusiastically support the re-election of Treasurer Eric Schertzing and Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. They exceed the duties of their respective offices by looking out for taxpayers and homeowners — Schertzing with the Ingham County Land Bank and Hertel with his battle against fraudulent mortgage lending.

Stuart Dunnings III deserves a fifth term as Ingham County prosecutor. While he doesn’t believe medical marijuana dispensaries are legal to operate, we appreciate that Dunnings didn’t go on a personal witch-hunt against them as the issue works its way through the state court system. Moreover, we can’t get his opponent to return a phone call.

Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth also deserves another term for being more concerned about real criminals than medical marijuana patients.

As we said in our primary election endorsement, Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann’s use of public resources and awarding of contracts deserves continued monitoring by the media and the public. That being said, the 20-year drain commissioner deserves a sixth term for his progressive policies and deep knowledge of the job. We commend his challenger, Timothy Grant, for distancing himself from his former campaign manager over a reckless attack against Lindemann. That showed class.


County commissioners

With the loss of experienced hands like Andy Schor, Dale Copedge and Mark Grebner, we urge voters to support incumbent Democrats (see page 10) who have experience in managing budgets and will continue taking the board in a progressive direction. 

We also support newcomer Democrats Sarah Anthony, Kara Hope and Kelli Green. While we hoped Democrat Jim Draventatt-Moceri would have been more open to the dissolution of the county Road Commission — which was long overdue — we support him over his Republican opponent, Randy Maiville, who has taken a position against a countywide health care millage.

Republican Randy Schafer also deserves another term on the board. We appreciate Schafer’s reputation of being able to work with Democrats on the board.


Keep Tea Party out of Delhi

Township government should be about practical solutions and building community consensus. In Delhi Township, an historically well-governed township faces a potential takeover by the extreme right-wing Tea Party which focuses on an unbending political ideology.

In the Tea Party world, compromise is the ultimate sin. Rather than working to achieve consensus, the Tea Party demands ideological purity. We are very concerned with the attempt by the Tea Party to establish an electoral beachhead in Delhi Township.

(We find it telling that the Tea Party team denies its affiliation with the Tea Party, despite the well-documented ties demonstrating otherwise.)

Supervisor Stuart Goodrich was the victim of Tea Party disdain for consensus building. The affable, effective Republican was swamped in the primary, vilified for his willingness to work with Democrats on the board to find common ground.

We endorse a bipartisan slate of pragmatic candidates who understand the need to serve all township residents rather than hew to a hyper-partisan ideology: Democrat C.J. Davis for supervisor and incumbent Democrats Evan Hope (clerk) and Roy Sweet (treasurer); for township trustees, incumbents John Hayhoe (R) and DiAnne Warfield (D), along with newcomers Kim Berry-Smoloski (R) and Ken O’Hara (D).


Yes on Red Cedar, fire station and schools; no on library millage

A proposal asking city voters to authorize the sale of up to 48 acres of additional property at the old Red Cedar Golf Course may be the most important economic development project from the Bernero administration. And the city is fortunate to have a locally conscious development team in Chris Jerome and Joel Ferguson. We say: Let’s go for a grander vision than was initially planned.

In East Lansing, voters are being asked to pay more for its library system. The logical choice is to say no and instead insist that East Lansing join its neighbors in the Capital Area District Library system — an example of regionalism that is working. We encourage voters to turn down a 10-year, 1-mill increase and force the issue

We support a .2-mill increase to build a new fire station in Meridian Township. The Central Station is outdated and would cost more to upgrade than replace.

We also support millages for school districts in Williamston, Eaton Rapids and Perry to bring necessary repairs and maintain service levels for students.


Ballot issues: No-Yes-Yes-Yes-No-No

The state Republicans’ audacious attack on collective bargaining rights has resulted in a trio of statewide ballot proposals that, while not perfect, are necessary to correct the over-reaches of the last 22 months of the Snyder administration.

We’re not convinced giving gubernatorial-appointed emergency managers the power to break union contracts is legal to begin with, but we can short-circuit a court decision on this by just voting no on Proposal 1. Instead, let’s focus our efforts next time on a much-needed proposal to break the back of the state’s antiquated township system and save our cities.

Snyder claims “right to work” isn’t “on his agenda,” but neither was signing into law a bill banning universities from offering benefits to same-sex couples  — and he signed that. The governor is on video telling a Tea Party screening committee he would sign “right to work” if it got to his desk, which is reason enough to support the imperfect Proposal 2 to constitutionally guarantee collective bargaining rights for all workers in this state.

Finally, if there is any worker who deserves union representation, it’s Medicaid-paid home care workers. They are paid next to nothing to help our vulnerable elderly and disabled stay home. It’s a shame an oversight body to monitor training for these workers must be put in the Constitution, but since the Republicans have been so paralyzed by Tea Party/Mackinac Center fear to make it impossible to find some common ground here, there’s no other choice than to vote yes on Proposal 4.

Michigan is behind on its renewable portfolio standards compared to other states, and while baking a 25 percent by 2025 standard into the Constitution isn’t ideal, it’s a long shot to believe Consumers Energy or DTE will come to embracing expanded wind and solar energy on their own. We urge a yes vote on Proposal 3.

Proposals 5 and 6 are the spawn of an unholy union between an ultra-right busy body group and Michigan’s most shamelessly self-serving billionaire. Vote no on both.

Prop 5, which would mandate two-thirds legislative support for any tax increase, serves no legitimate public policy objective outside of satisfying an impractical political philosophy that tax rates must be frozen at an arbitrary number regardless of economic conditions, budgetary realties or public necessities. Requiring a super majority for tax increases will, down the road, cripple our abilities to provide decent roads, public health, a prison system, public safety and universities.

We thank Matty Moroun for dumping $10 million into our advertising industry. Unfortunately, people are actually starting to believe his B.S. that the planned second span across the Detroit River would be paid out of the state’s General Fund or will be built with Chinese steel or whatever tale he’s spinning this week. 

Michigan’s leaders never should have allowed a private company to own any bridge, let alone one as important as the Ambassador Bridge. We shouldn’t be voting on whether the public should approve a future international bridge. We should be voting on whether a private company should own a significant piece of public infrastructure.


Heywood and Hidalgo for LCC

Something is wrong with priorities at Lansing Community College when in these tough economic times it can divert funds from education to buy land for a park. Moreover, to make room for this unneeded park, it planned to tear down three old homes — all without consulting the neighborhood about what it thought. It’s not just President Brent Knight who is at fault for this appalling lack of judgment. LCC’s trustees are to blame as well for once again backing an out-of-control administration. LCC was once in disarray because of a dysfunctional board. Now it has swung too far in the other direction and become a rubber stamp for the administration as it terminates programs in favor of frills like this park and an on-campus residence for Knight. Let’s right the ship by electing two candidates who will challenge the administration, not fall in step behind it. They are former trustee Todd Heywood and Lawrence Hidalgo. Heywood, an LCC grad, is an activist and journalist who has matured since he served on the LCC board 10 years ago. Hidalgo is an attorney and training director for the Lansing Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. Both will raise questions and propose solutions that will begin to restore balance to a board that has lost its independence.


Supreme Court

Voters have an opportunity to bust up the Republicans’ control of every facet of state government Nov. 6 by flipping the state Supreme Court. The Democrats nominated three qualified individuals who won’t find ways to appease insurance companies and big business when everyday citizens are forced to court to receive justice.

Not recruited by Democrats to run, Bridget Mary McCormack, the dean for clinical affairs at the University of Michigan, is a first-time candidate who sees an opportunity to balance out a historically partisan court. Her experience working in support of domestic violence victims, sick kids and those wronged by the criminal justice system gives the court a unique and needed perspective. It’s rare the public can get excited to vote for a Supreme Court justice, but McCormack’s infectious enthusiasm, sharp mind and charm make her one of the easiest votes this election cycle.

As a side note, the use of her sister Mary McCormack’s “West Wing” friends to educate voters on the importance nonpartisan races is a fantastic use of connections.

We also support Wayne County Judge Connie Kelley for the second full, eight-year term. The worst the other side can bring up on Kelley is some flimsy connection to troubled Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano. That’s weak. As an attorney, Kelley made a career standing up for people’s rights. A judge since 2008, Kelley is a fair problem-solver who takes seriously her responsibility of solving complex problems.

On the campaign trail, Southfield Judge Shelia Johnson is hammering home how the Supreme Court’s Republican-nominated majority has rolled over for regulated industries, hospitals and business. For her courage, we enthusiastically support her bid to fill the final two years in former Justice Maura Corrigan’s term. Too often, the system plays folks for simply wanting what’s due to them. Instead of finding technicalities for companies whose shabby policies fail to addressing sexual harassment situations or prevent slip-and-fall accidents, Johnson will stand up for the wronged.

The current court’s practice of encouraging aggressive prosecutors to railroad criminal defendants at the expense of their rights must end.

Maybe more important, we need a court that will not rubberstamp the damaging new laws being pumped out by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder. Working men and women are seeing their collective bargaining rights chipped away at a troubling rate.


State Board/University Boards

The Tea Party basically took over the Michigan Republican Party convention again this fall with frightening results, nominating to several state and university board positions hard-right disciples who shouldn’t be elected to Alger County dogcatcher, let alone a statewide post.

With one notable exception, the Republicans running for these posts are hell-bent ideologues running on cooked-up conspiracy theories about the federal government taking over our K-12 system or socialist indoctrination creeping into the minds of our young adults.

We support Republican Michigan State University Trustee Melanie Foster for re-election for her track record of being reasonable in her quest to keep tuition prices down.

Her ability to work with current Michigan State University Chairman Joel Ferguson, whom we enthusiastically support for re-election, gives us some reassurances that this entire lot isn’t trapped into some creepy mind bubble. 

But the nominations of fruit loop Jeff Sawka and what-can-I-run-for-today Rob Steele along with X-Files cast members Jeff Courser (Mulder) and Melanie Kurdys (Scully) is so frightening, we can understand why a voter would give up bothering to pick through this sad lot and go straight Democratic.

The lower ballot races do hold some bright spots for Democrats, however. Most notable is Mark Bernstein, son of (1-800-CALL) Sam Bernstein, whose outstanding service with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission is among the many reasons he should be elected to the University of Michigan Board of Regents.

The Democrats’ other candidate for U-M, Shauna Ryder Diggs, is also well qualified. The Grosse Pointe dermatologist earned all of her high degrees at U-M, spending a combined 11 years of her life there as a student. She knows her way around the campus.

We’re not saying it’s a prerequisite for a university board candidate to have gone to that university, but it shows the candidate has a keen interest in that institution. That’s one of the reasons we like Democrat Kim Trent, who received two degrees from Wayne State University, for the WSU Board. Sandra Hughes O’Brien, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party’s Hispanic-Latino Caucus, is also a solid pick.

The Democrats’ picks for state Board of Education offer different perspectives that will be valuable to the eight-member body.  Michelle Fecteau is the executive director of the WSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors and Lupe Ramos-Montigny is a longtime Grand Rapids area educator with deep ties into Democratic politics. 



“Eyesore of the Week,” our look at some of the seedier properties in Lansing, will return next week. If you have a suggestion, please e-mail eye@lansingcitypulse.com or call Andy Balaskovitz at 999-5064.

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