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Michigan

Michigan Is Pure Despite The Water

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Michigan Is Pure Despite The Water

As Michiganders we should be proud of who were are, were we come from and where we make our home. It is something to not only celebrate, it is something we should brag about. I am proud to be Michigan born and bred and make Detroit my home.

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Don't blame the messenger!

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Don't blame the messenger!

If we don't trust those whom we elect why should we trust their spokesperson. According to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, in the US, more people place their trust in business before government. To gain the public's trust and avoid difficult situations like those that have emerged in Flint, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland and other cities those that we elect have to start to listen to those they represent and communicate with the people affected directly. 

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Leveraging Michigan's Assets

Now is not the time for the State of Michigan to reinvent the wheel. After all, we already did that, including: The automobile, the assembly line, the elevator, traffic light, football helmet, seeds in a pouch, pharmaceuticals and so much more. However, today, we need to find something in our state to leverage for new job creation. What to leverage is underneath our nose -- our Universities. Michigan's universities can help us turn the business climate around by spinning off new companies and create a ready to work workforce to transition into a new industry. They did it in North Carolina, Boston, San Jose and elsewhere. We need Michigan’s universities and its presidents to step forward to help grow Michigan’s economy. We need the help of our universities to leverage Michigan’s assets.

A private dock on Mackinac Island, Mich.

A private dock on Mackinac Island, Mich.

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Corruption in the Nation's Mitten

Believe it or not, in 2012, Michigan was ranked the seventh-worst state for corruption, earning an "F" in the annual State Integrity Investigation study. The 2012 study, was a collaborative project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.

To come up with its ranking system, the study used 330 indicators of state accountability broken down in 14 categories.

Michigan received "Fs" in 10 of them:

  • executive accountability,
  • judicial accountability,
  • state civil service management,
  • state pension fund management,
  • state insurance commissions,
  • political financing,
  • legislative accountability,
  • lobbying disclosure,
  • ethics enforcement agencies and
  • redistricting.

Since the report was prepared, the Michigan Legislature has worked or is working on a number of these issues, FOIA reform, campaign finance and general oversight.

However, in being critical of the State of Michigan, Chris Andrews, the study's author, said, (in Michigan) "reform efforts are frequently launched, sometimes debated, always shelved. Meanwhile, special interests continue to make greater use of loopholes that allow them to influence the system without leaving fingerprints on the money spent doing it."

Michigan's score of a "58" was identical to what it earned from the same study in 2011, when it again ranked seventh.

New Jersey was the best-ranked state, followed by Connecticut, Washington, California and Nebraska. Georgia was ranked the most corrupt state, followed by South Dakota, Wyoming, Virginia and Maine.  Michigan did receive an "A" in one category, internal auditing. The state also earned "B-'s" in state budget processes and procurement. In public access to information, Michigan scored a "D."

The study acknowledged there are positives. "Michigan's state government is not known for scandal. It gets many things right," Andrews writes. "It is not plagued by pay-to-play allegations in procurement, or by nepotism or cronyism in the civil service system. Its Freedom of Information Act usually, if not always, works to give journalists and others the information they request at a reasonable cost."

However, the study is overwhelmingly critical of Michigan, particularly over Michigan's campaign finance system and our lobbying laws. The legislature still has some time to improve our system and I know the State Bar of Michigan and Secretary of State are also working on some reform, but perhaps there is more work for a new legislature to tackle in 2014.

 

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Sustain a move-ment

As Republicans and Democrats convene their conventions this month to affirm or select new leadership, one thing is certain, both parties need to work harder at building a brand and sustaining a movement. A ‘move-ment’ is a series of organized activities towards a common objective.

How do you create a movement – With just one big idea.

That idea should be simple.  It should be something that you and others can be passionate about.

Now that you the idea, you now need to get people to care about it. And it also will need its own identity to give people something to talk about.

Now its time to “Ignite the Movement,” and provide even more reasons to talk about it.

From a political party perspective, to sustain a movement, everyone should be on the same page. The House and Senate Caucuses should work in sync with the established party so that everyone is working to compliment the other, reinforce the messages, engage the public and build a movement by getting people who are interested engaged.

The American Electorate is frustrated with politics as usual, the name-calling and the lack of progress in state capitols and in Congress. Instead of being against what the other party is for, each party should create a platform to engage the other side in a solution-based discussion about where to agree and where to move on.

I recently read that “a credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea gets people to care.’  Given the right agenda, Democrats and Republicans can create the right stories to bring outsiders inside their movement and in the end they will get the right people to act to help us all move forward.

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Reinventing Michigan

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Reinventing Michigan

manhole

This evening, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder delivered Michigan's State of the State Address. An outline of his remarks can be found here. He continued on his them of "Reinventing Michigan," and focused on three core areas:

  • Jobs;
  • People; and,
  • Good Government.

While he talked about his achievements from the past year, tonights address was focused on giving his vision for 2013 and provide a road map for the legislature to help him "Reinvent Michigan," focused in the same three areas I listed above.

JOBS

In 2013, Governor Snyder will focus on bolstering Michigan's infrastructure by fixing our roads and paying for them and building a new border crossing between Michigan and Ontario. This summer, he will work to bring together political leaders from around the Great Lakes Basin to focus on finding ways to preserve our Great Lakes, as a region. And by December, Governor Snyder will address issues related to public land and renewable energy.

Also under JOBS, Snyder will address the issue of education in the state and focus on providing students the choice of shaping their own education while addressing the needs of Michigan's failing schools. He also provided support for creative options to ensure that all children have access to a pre-school education.

He also is giving greater focus to Michigan financial services and insurance industry and earlier today created a new department to focus on that issue alone. He also created a new Veteran's Affairs agency that will focus on caring for Michigan's Veterans and ensuring they have opportunities to find a job upon returning from service or buying or protecting their home.

PEOPLE

Snyder will also look at addressing the issue of mental health and is searching for creative ideas to deal with this issue states are now starting to grapple with. He will work to strengthen neighborhoods and build communities.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

While also finding ways to make our public officials and those doing business with the state and local governments more accountable through ethics reform, campaign finance and changes in how local elections are administered.

TOP KEY WORD FOR THE STATE OF THE STATE

  • If you want the best, buy a Michigan product.
  • A year of summits.
  • Use common sense and get it done.
  • Thus is our opportunity.
  • Success stories.
  • Creative solutions.
  • Work together.
  • No blaming.
  • Look forward.
  • Creating a better path for our kids and their kids.

And of course, doing all this with, "Relentless positive action."  Now, let's get out there and "get the job done."

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RAISING CAIN IN MICHIGAN & THE ART OF POLITICAL BRANDING

Running for office is extremely different than running an office. Yet a campaign is our chance to learn about the candidates seeking the office of President, Congress, Governor, Mayor or other positions. It is also a chance for the candidates to test the waters to see if the public is ready for a person like them to lead. In the United States, unlike other nations, the campaign season gets longer and longer, much like the holiday season starting the day after Halloween.  So candidates have a year or more to sell an idea and try to persuade and influence the voting public, that their ideas make more sense than the other candidates.  Debates like the one held tonight in suburban Detroit is a rare opportunity to corral the (GOP) candidates  and watch how they deal with the difficult task of face their worse critics – Their opponent.

But in the heat of a debate, candidates often are going after each other to stand out from the rest of the pact. In doing so, their message and that of the GOP gets lost. While they all say they can do better than the status quo there is no real message as to what the candidates stand for.

On the other hand, President Barack Obama was successful as a candidate, in part because he created a brand.  He was the only candidate that we can identify a logo with and we knew what he stood for, whether we agreed with him or not.  He had a message and a plan and a way in delivering it to the masses where everyone understood it.

A brand is how or what we identify people or a company with. It is the message that separates the product from the others. In communicating a brand, it is important that you communicate something that others can understand and identify with. For example, people respond to emotional appeal, not issues, but personality and an appealing story. In creating a brand, it is important that you give people a reason to support you.

Over the past few weeks, Herman Cain’s brand has been tarnished and he has been trying, unsuccessfully to minimize the story although as tonight’s debate showed, the audience or public want to focus on what the person believes in or supports, rather what they did, even in the wake of the Penn State allegations.

Nonetheless, the only way to cut through the communication clutter is to create a brand and the top GOP candidates are having a difficult time standing out from each other. Like Obama, they need their own logo, their story that can capture our attention, their message. The message cannot be just “anti-Obama” or “anti-Democrat.” It needs to be more substantive.

Once you have the messages are clear and tested, the candidates can then create a unique story to use throughout the campaign and at the next debate. Throughout the campaign, the “brand” should be monitored and evaluated.  For example,

  • Are people identifying with you brand?
  • Are the messages resonating?
  • Are we consistent on our website, in our social media, at events and in how we communicate to supporters, the public and to the media?
  • What is the online chatter or people saying off-line.

Today campaigning is all about gaining one's trust, building our credibility and generating public awareness as to what a candidate stands for and their agenda for moving a country forward.  I am not sure if that was accomplished tonight. Some candidates however, did stand out over others. They just need to build upon that momentum that Michelle Bachman desperately failed at after Iowa. But for all the GOP candidates, they have time. We still have about 10 months to go before the GOP Convention in Florida in August, 2012.  For the President, it is time that he re-evaluate and re-adjust his plan, and be ready to face the Republicans early next year.

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We Have The Responsibility to Watch Out For Each Other, Don’t we?

By Daniel Cherrin*This article originally appeared in the October 6, 2011 issue of The Detroit Jewish News.  

With the 2012 Presidential campaign well underway, and the field of candidates becoming a bit more clearer in the new Congressional and legislative districts, it is now your opportunity to get to know the candidates. In fact, with new districts, now is the perfect time to reach out and introduce yourself to them.

Just Ask! In campaigns, candidates want to raise money to advertise and get-out-the-vote, as much as they want to meet with voters and establish a connection with them.  Elections are therefore your chance to talk to candidates directly about your concerns and solutions. So engage them in a discussion. In fact, invite them into your home, plant, store or office to see first hand what you do. Our elected officials are approachable and they should take the time to meet with you one-on-one – All you have to do is ask.

How do you vote? With no single issue galvanizing our community, other than Israel, it is difficult to rely on the Jewish Community as a voting block. In fact, our community is getting more and more divided as Democrats and Republicans, which actually strengthens are importance as a voter. Just look at the recent special election in Brooklyn as an example, where a Republican beat a Democrat for the first time in decades, on the issue of Israel alone.

Yet there are still some that know nothing about the candidates on the election ballot, but if there name sounds Jewish or they look presidential, they will vote for them.  In an election as important as the one next year will be, it is important to know the issues that are important to you and what the candidates tell you about this issues. So take the time now to react to what you read in the paper and see if there is something there that will turn you into an advocate for that issue or cause and have something to talk to candidates about.

Reflection and finding the way forward

With the High Holidays now upon us, now, more than ever, is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. In synagogues and temples across this country, we will hear about Tikun Olam (repairing the world), Tzedakah (charity) and Klal yisrael (all of Israel).

As we reflect on the past year, we really need to take a deeper look at our community and its role in serving the larger community, throughout history. Our service to the public is and was not by choice, it is an obligation -- A Jewish obligation rich with tradition.  All Jews are responsible for one another. On Yom Kippur, for example, we do not ask G-D for our forgiveness, we ask G-D to forgive everyone. Whether we know them or not, whether we like them or don’t, agree with them or not, we have an obligation to look out for each other, to support our neighbor and to be involved in our community.

Yet lately, we have become comfortable in our own community and with our lives.  We as a community do not venture far beyond our home. We rarely stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others for the common good anymore and it is rare still that we have an open door to our elected representatives.

Today, it is vital that we keep that tradition of community engagement and political involvement as pillars of our community. Today, it is even more important that we get engaged, become more vocal, become visible and demand accountability for the principles and values we, as a community stand for. It is time that we re-establish relationships with the candidates running for office and those that are elected, to be a trusted resource to them, as should be to us.

Know what you believe in Before you become involved, however, first, you have to know who you are, what you believe in, and where you stand. Do you agree more with the Republicans, Democrats, or Tea Party, or are you truly independent.

Once we know who we are and what we stand for, we as a community and individually need to take the time to meet the candidates and our newly elected officials, invite them into our homes and share with them our suggestions for creating a stronger future, not just for the Jewish community, but the larger community as well.

The Jewish people have an obligation to make this world a better place.  We can start right here in our community and in Southeastern Michigan. Contact the candidates and meet with them, attend their events such as town hall meetings or fundraisers. Share with them your interests, issues, concerns and solutions. Most importantly, take the time to figure out who they are, what they have accomplished and where they want to take us as our representatives. I hope you will stand with me, get to know the candidates and your elected leaders and become a voice for the issues you believe in.

Daniel Cherrin, a father of three students at Hillel Day School, is an attorney, mediator, public relations executive and lobbyist with Fraser Trebilcock in Detroit and Lansing. 

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Total Recall

The Michigan State Constitution, Art. II. Sec. 8, extends Michigan voters the right to recall “all elective officers except judges of courts of record” and establishes the minimum number of signatures required on a recall petition.  In fact, in Michigan, voters can work to recall elected Members of Congress.  The process by which to begin a recall is spelled out in MCL 168.951-976. Before the physical process of collecting signatures begins, the language on the petition must first be approved by the County Election Commission, which can include the County Clerk, County Treasurer and Chief Judge of the Probate Court.  The petitioners submit reasons for the recall which must be based on the elected officials conduct in office. Once approved, signatures by qualified voters can be secured. Once a sufficient amount of signatures are obtained, the petitions can fie filed with either the Governor, Secretary of State or County Clerk, depending on the office the individual holds. Petitions cannot be filed until the person serves in office for 6 months and cannot be filed in the last 6 months of their term.  The signatures are then examined to see if the signor is a registered voter in that community.

If the signature requirement is met, the signatures can be challenged as to their origin. Once the challenged signatures have been resolved ballot language is prepared.

The reason for the recall election must be stated on the ballot in 200 words or less. Once the ballot language is approved, the elected official at the center of the recall may submit a statement, justifying their conduct, which also is limited to 200 words and will also be printed on the ballot.  The Board of State Canvassers or county clerk will then decided when to hold a special election.

In the last ten years, Michiganians have acted upon their (state) constitutional right, to recall elected officials, more and more. In fact, according to the website Ballotpedia, from "2005-early 2010, 700 recall petitions were filed in just three of Michigan's counties: Wayne, Oakland and Macomb. The total of filed petitions rose each year since 2007. In Saginaw County, 141 recall attempts were launched in the 20 years from 1990-2010. Of the 141 announced recall attempts, 27 went to a vote, and 18 elected officials were removed from office."

Sometimes candidates are successfully recalled, but not without tremendous efforts on the part of all the interests involved. In Wisconsin earlier this month, the process worked for some and did not for others. Recall drives indicate a strong partisan divide in governing individual states and communities. On one hand it is great to see democracy work as a dissatisfied electorate uses a process created in the constitution to register their concern and act upon it. On the other, it seems like a distraction and unnecessary expense with some easier way to work out ones differences and find consensus through controversy.

Under a parlimentary system, where the majority party governs a nation or province, it is the Parliament that passes a motion that if passed, the head of state no longer has the confidence of the appointed government. The head of state can then ask someone else to lead and form a government or call a general election to elect a new parliament, generally within a matter of months, as is now the case in Ontario. I am not sure if this is the best process either.

It seems to me that those elected to serve should work together as an elected body and create a framework by which they can operate and work together on a common agenda. They don't have to agree to all the policies past, but they can agree on an overall path, i.e. things that create jobs, ensure financial security of the electorate and set us on path to fiscal stability. Regardless, the process by which candidates can be recalled works if precisely followed. While there is room for improvement, it is what we have to work with. This Tuesday, in Grand Blanc, Mich. we will see if the process works.

 

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Stewards of the largest supply of fresh water in the world

Yesterday, US House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman along with Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey, introduced the Drinking Water System Security Act of 2009 with the support of drinking water utilities and environmental and labor groups. This bill would require EPA to establish risk-based performance standards for community water systems serving more than 3,300 people and certain other public water systems with security risks. In 2006, as part of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security to issue chemical facility security regulations that exempted drinking water and wastewater facilities. The Drinking Water System Security Act authorizes EPA to strengthen security at drinking water systems in the United States under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The legislation would:

Require EPA to assign covered water systems to one of four risk-based tiers, ranging from tier 1, the highest-risk systems, to tier 4, the lowest-risk of the covered water systems. Require covered water systems to identify vulnerabilities and develop site security plans to addresses those vulnerabilities and meet risk-based security standards, which vary by tier. Require all covered water systems with dangerous chemicals in amounts higher than federal thresholds to assess whether they can switch to safer chemicals or processes to reduce the consequences of an act of terrorism. Since the states implement the Safe Drinking Water Act everywhere but Wyoming and Washington, D.C., states have authority to require facilities in the two highest-risk tiers to switch to safer chemicals or processes if technologically and economically feasible, and if doing so will not result in unsafe drinking water. Require that covered water systems include employees in the development of security vulnerability assessments and site security plans and that they receive the training necessary to perform their duties under the plans. Require EPA to develop standards to protect security-related information while encouraging the proper sharing of this information among those with an official need to know. The bill would set criminal penalties for purposeful, unlawful disclosure of this protected information. The legislation has key support from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and numerous environmental and labor groups also have endorsed the bill, including Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, The Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, MI, Environment America, Environmental Health Fund, Environmental Health Strategy Center of Maine, Greenpeace, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), New Jersey Work Environment Council, OMB Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, and U.S. PIRG.

Although this bill is not directly related to the Great Lakes, there are opportunities for Michigan based universities and community colleges to monitor this bill as it provides grant opportunities to conduct research, workforce training or technical assistance to "covered water systems." As Michigan continues to identify industries to help diversify our economy, we should look to our role as stewards to the largest fresh water source in the world to potentially benefit from this legislation.

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Michigan...It is time to seize the opportunity

Although it is officially summer, there is a big chill across Michigan. With the auto industry firmly in control by the federal government, Congress continues to focus on the economy, the environment and on everyone’s health. Just before the July 4th recess, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act (HR 2454), a major piece of legislation affecting climate change, energy and the environment. While Detroit and the entire state of Michigan continue to struggle, we must find opportunity amidst crisis and take advantage of every and any opportunity to restore stability to Michigan’s economy. There is no doubt that our struggling automakers and suppliers will receive additional help once ACES passes Congress. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) also will provide much needed assistance for Detroit and for Michigan.

Restoring stability and setting a path to economic diversity requires leadership to make a bad situation good. The climate change legislation contains a number of provisions that can bolster our state’s position, bring our auto industry into the next generation and help diversify our state’s economy so we are no longer a one-industry town. This includes:

Retooling existing and recently abandoned plants to meet new fuel and energy standards.

Retrofit plants to accommodate electronic vehicle production.

Securing funding for Detroit’s efforts to create light rail and mass transit in the region and become a model for other communities by adapting the latest and cleanest transportation technology.

Direct engineers leaving the auto industry to create new companies to support the development and commercialization of clean energy technology.

Lobby the federal government to have Detroit house one of eight regional Clean Energy Innovation Centers.

Celebrate our collaborative efforts to incubate new companies in partnership with our universities through the University Research Corridor and Next Energy and identify federal resources to expand Next Energy and Tech Town.

This bill also contains a number of provisions vital to the growth of green vehicles and a number of opportunities to keep the engineers, designers and line workers recently laid off, from the auto industry, employed in Michigan. By no means is this a perfect piece of legislation, and it does not necessarily favor Detroit over other regions. However, it is a blueprint by which Detroit and this state must change if we are to weather this storm and restore stability to our economy and to our people. We as a state must work together to leverage our assets and seize the opportunities provided to us in this legislation. By taking advantage of the tools given to us, we can take advantage of the incentives and financial opportunities to retool our economy and emerge much stronger than we have ever been.

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