A country that loses its values, its principles, has lost its heart. A country that loses its sensible center, its common ground, has lost its mind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

GOP confab became 'the convention that never was'

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and
Gov. Rick Snyder remain a team
After a surprisingly smooth nominating process – and another defeat for the tea party -- at the state GOP convention over the weekend, it appears that Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is as strong as ever and his closest ally, Congressman Justin Amash, continues his ascendancy.
That’s the view of Dennis Lennox, columnist for our sister paper, The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, who  writes that the tea party challenge to Calley by Wes Nakagiri backfired.

Here’s a portion of his piece:
“In the end, the sensible conservatives (aka real Republicans) were heard loud and clear when they gave 65 percent of the convention's votes to Calley.
“That is impressive considering many were expecting floor fights and the sort of contention seen and heard at the Democratic State Convention in Lansing, where pro-abortion delegates disowned William Murphy, the party nominee for Michigan Supreme Court justice, because he received a pro-life endorsement in a race many years ago.

“Calley's victory was mostly the result of the first statewide precinct delegate — the last ballot line on each party’s primary election ballot — recruitment campaign since 1988, when a GOP civil war between supporters of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, Jack Kemp and Pat Robertson resulted in dueling conventions at the height of the nomination campaign to succeed outgoing President Ronald Reagan.
“Another critical component in his win was the surrogacy of Justin Amash, the unabashed libertarian congressman from Cascade Township in Kent County.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Another Peters' investment in 'dirty energy' raises questions

Senate candidate Gary Peters’ recent purchase of coal company bonds marks the second time in a week that revelations about his personal investments clash with his campaign commitments to champion environmental causes.
According to the Democratic congressman’s financial disclosure statements, Peters purchased thousands of dollars in bonds in Cliff’s Natural Resources, a firm that operates seven coal mining operations in the U.S.
That investment seems to stand in contrast to Peters’ past position that the coal industry must be reined in because of its leading role in affecting climate change. The congressman voted in 2009 for a “cap-and-trade” bill in the House that would have substantially restricted carbon emissions from coal-fired plants.

In a 2013 press release, the lawmaker explained that vote and trumpeted his pro-environment stance:
“In 2009, I proudly voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act to invest in renewable energy sources, reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions and lay the groundwork for a clean-energy economy. By pursuing clean-energy technologies, we'll break our nation's addiction to foreign fossil fuels and create thousands of American jobs. All of us must do our part to fight global climate change and that's why I’ll keep fighting for important legislation like this.”

Peters’ Republican opponent in the Senate race, Terri Lynn Land, pounced on Peters’ investments.
"Congressman Peters … claims he is for the environment but he … personally invested tens of thousands of dollars in coal, oil and petcoke--the very substances he campaigns against in the media.  Congressman Peters needs to come clean about his hypocritical investments and tell the truth about where he really stands on energy and cap-and-trade,” said Heather Swift, a Land campaign spokeswoman.
The Land camp goes so far as to suggest that Peters’ noncommittal answer to questions about cap-and-trade at the May Mackinac Island Policy Conference was reflective of a change of heart by the Senate hopeful after becoming an investor in “dirty energy.”

The Peters campaign responded that Land is misrepresenting the congressman’s investments and twisting his views by trying to portray him as an extremist on environmental issues.
The candidate routinely refers to his preferred energy policy as “all of the above” – one that relies upon domestic production of oil and natural gas, plus green energy such as wind and solar.
“He is pro-business and pro-environment,” Morris said. “As Gary has said many times, they are ‘not mutually exclusive.’”

Congressional disclosure forms require members of Congress and congressional candidates to identify the value of their assets in financial categories. Peters reported that his investment in Cliffs Natural Resources was between $1,000 and $15,000.  The company’s mines, located in West Virginia and Alabama, produce up to 9.4 million tons of coal annually.
Last week, it was reported that Peters owns stock in a French oil company, Total S.A. France, the fifth-largest publicly traded international oil and gas company in the world. The company’s American affiliate runs a large refinery in Port Arthur Texas that produces petroleum coke, or “petcoke,” a dusty byproduct of refining tar sands oil.
At the same time, Peters emerged last year as a leading critic of petcoke after mounds of it were piled on the banks of the Detroit River by the Marathon Refinery. An outspoken opponent of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the congressman has said that expanding the flow of Canadian tar sands oil into the U.S. will lead to petcoke problems in many states.

In a May 2013 interview he said, “You’re going to see these piles of petcoke in other cities all across America.”
 The congressman has said he wants to create new regulations that ensure petcoke piles are properly managed and stored. He does not want to ban petcoke.

They also argue that his investments in oil and coal companies represents only a tiny percentage of his stock portfolio and both of those companies engage in a variety of business activities.
Cliffs Natural Resources, formerly known as Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., also runs iron ore mines, including two in the Upper Peninsula. With nearly 1,700 employees, those two mines represent one of the largest employers in the U.P.
Total S.A. France holds interests in 21 refineries around the world, including in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and China. They have 60 facilities throughout the U.S. in addition to manufacturing facilities in 24 states.

"Terri Lynn Land is a hypocrite for attacking Gary for investing in a Michigan business that employs hundreds of folks in the UP when she's being bankrolled by two out-of-state oil billionaires who laid off hundreds of Michiganders and put our Great Lakes at risk,” Morris said. “The oil billionaire Koch Brothers have invested more than $5 million in false attacks to boost Land because she will give them and other oil companies new tax breaks at the expense of Michigan's middle class.




Sunday, August 24, 2014

Left-right alliance on cop abuse destroyed by Ferguson

For many months preceding the police shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., a potential political alliance was brewing among those on the right and the left over the militarization of America’s police departments and the reckless policing that leads to fatal shootings of unarmed civilians.
Since the shooting and subsequent protests in Ferguson, the military equipment that’s used by law enforcement everywhere, including in Macomb County and across Michigan, suddenly emerged as an obsessive topic in the media.
Few were listening when this aggression was criticized for years by conservatives of a libertarian bent, including many tea party types. These critics are strict law-and-order conservatives yet they were extremely uncomfortable with a police force relying upon armored vehicles and military tactics. Some would make snarky references to Barney Fife driving a tank.

On the left, the political crowd that has repeatedly denounced shootings by white cops of black men also became increasingly agitated by police in full riot gear pointing assault weapons at innocent kids on urban streets.
In recent weeks and months, the noise about police militarization seemed to grow louder and it appeared that liberals, especially civil rights activists, may have been gaining sympathy from the right for their outrage over police brutality.
The case of a Staten Island man choked to death on the street by a policeman (the victim’s crime – illegally selling individual cigarettes) presented an opportunity to link the two issues, to convince those on the right that even cops who don’t rely on military weapons can cause unwarranted death to unarmed civilians.

But then Ferguson happened.

Michael Brown’s fatal shooting drew many of the same routine reactions whenever a racially charged event like this occurs. Those on the left immediately called the officer who fired the six shots a murderer. Those on the right quickly tried to demonize the victim.
Undocumented claims, speculation, and conflicting second-hand accounts fanned the flames and widened the right-left divide.
Black activists and liberal political commentators such as Al Sharpton set up their soap boxes in Ferguson.
The right-wing quickly piped up. Brown enjoyed performing gangster rap. He stole a handful of cigars from a party store. He was walking in the middle of a street.
For that he deserved to die? Why the need for the officer’s second shot, or the third or the fourth or the fifth or the sixth? Why the need to shoot at Brown’s head?
Nonetheless, one Facebook post said this: “Of course he was a thug. He got what he deserved.”

Some observers reasonably said police face disrespect with regard to the tough job they do. But respect for law enforcement does not mean we look away when police brutality or questionable shootings occur.
Statistics compiled by researchers paint this amazing picture: Fatal injuries caused by police while making an arrest, suppressing disturbances or maintaining order now number about 500 a year, while the number of criminal executions carried out in our prisons is less than 100 per year.
And let’s be clear, this is an American phenomenon. The latest global stats, for 2010, show 409 deaths at the hands of law enforcement in the U.S., eight in Germany, zero in Japan and zero in Britain.

As for the militarization of our police forces, the federal government played a major role by giving away surplus Army vehicles and equipment to law enforcement. In other cases, federal grants paid most of the cost of buying these weapons of war.
Since the mindless looting and sometimes-violent protests broke out in Ferguson, media reports documented that police departments across southeast Michigan have acquired armored vehicles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, military assault weapons and full body armor.
In Macomb County, the Sheriff’s Department has deployed armored vehicles for more than 20 years. Their first, a vehicle with wheels, not tracks, was purchased to fight the “War on Drugs.” Nationwide, police chiefs claim that their SWAT teams need the most advanced weapons available.

Yet, the libertarian critics have compiled a long list of silly, overly macho deployments of heavily armed SWAT teams that have burst into video poker parlors, unlicensed barber shops, and a frat house where underage drinking was reported.
In Saginaw, the police chief was so embarrassed by a TV comedian who joked last week about the city’s acquisition of an MRAP – a massive armored, mine-resistant vehicle that was standard fare in the Iraq War – that the police department sent it back.

But it’s no joking matter when a video emerges from Ferguson that shows an officer, obviously not properly trained, waving a loaded assault rifle around near a crowd of protesters, yelling a string of expletives.
The pictures coming out of Ferguson demonstrated that anyone could find themselves at the end of the barrel of a powerful gun – or a tank-like vehicle. The images suggested that, in an American city, we were witnessing an “us vs. them” war by the cops against the population.

What will come of all this is uncertain, but it seems quite plausible that if Michael Brown was just an average white kid, the political reaction to his shooting, and the military-style response to the protests, would have been quite different. An unlikely coalition may have formed.
But then that black face kept appearing on our TV screens. And at that point, all hope of a left-right, black-white bond was lost.

Friday, August 22, 2014

GOP convention: power politics, hypocrisy and anti-Semitism

As Republicans head to their state convention this weekend – a potential political bloodbath – a couple of interesting side stories center on the State Board of Education, fraud, hypocrisy, Attorney General Bill Schuette and anti-Semitism.

How’s that?

Well, a convention candidate for GOP nominations on the State Board of Education is Maria Carl of Macomb County. Carl comes from the old-school Religious Right, the Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson crowd, as does her longtime loyal ally, Glenn Clark of Oakland County.
Carl’s controversial past includes an outburst at a prior GOP state convention, in 1992, that garnered her the anti-Semite label. As Andrea Fischer (of the prominent Fischer family) was announced as a candidate for a seat on the Republican National Committee, Carl yelled “She’s a Jew, She’s a Jew” to the Macomb County delegation. She then started loudly encouraging the Macomb delegates to vote for Betsy DeVos because “she isn’t a Jew.”
Twelve years later, Carl's attempts to explain her remarks still didn't pass muster as she lost badly in a Republican primary bid for a state House seat.
A lot has changed in the Republican Party over the past two decades, including a strong affinity for Israel, so I suspect Carl’s hateful remarks will be a factor at Saturday’s convention.

As for Clark, a longtime political operative and a delegate to this weekend’s convention, in 2010 he was a campaign manager in a particularly nasty state Senate race in north Macomb. Campaign literature he wrote for his candidate, Rep. Kim Meltzer, claimed that one opponent in the GOP primary, Leon Drolet, advocated a radical homosexual agenda.
The attack literature said that Drolet co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed sex acts between gays in public places.
Amazingly, Meltzer published a public apology for those claims, tacitly blaming the whole mess on Clark, and Drolet subsequently dropped a defamation suit he had filed against her.

Now, we have Clark, who allegedly defrauded Macomb County voters, warning senior citizens about fraudulent activities. He has been working for Schuette (who seems willing to hand out jobs to well-connected Republicans) in a consumer protection program that outlines ways that seniors can avoid becoming a fraud victim. In some cases, he gives speeches warningagainst scammers who perpetrate false information.
Beyond Clark’s hypocrisy, why did Schuette hire this guy? Did he do any kind of background check? Has he ever heard of Google?

At Saturday’s convention, the vote on Board of Education seats should be rather routine and it appears that a challenge mounted against Lt. Gov. BrianCalley will fall short. So, the big drama – just because the fractured MIGOP needs something to fight about – will center on a three-man race for two seats on the U-M Board of Regents.
In a blistering editorial today, The Detroit News skillfully pointed out the sheer nonsense that the U-M board race has descended into. In particular, candidate Ron Weiser’s long devotion to U-M has been overlooked by tea party zealots.

The News editorial board wrote:
“Unless a candidate stands in the street and hurls insults at gays or kneels in prayer outside an abortion clinic, he’s not conservative enough for a tea party movement that’s been co-opted by the religious right.
“Dozens of emails have been sent out the past week challenging Weiser’s commitment to traditional marriage, the rights of gun owners and the unborn. They’ve also flailed him as a closet backer of the Common Core curriculum.

“Weiser has been forced to respond with his own email blasts pledging his fealty to the litany of tea party litmus tests.
“What about where the candidates stand on tuition hikes? Or on breaking the influence of labor unions over the current UM board? Or managing the university’s growth? Or preparing UM for a new era of virtual learning?”

I can’t be certain, but I doubt anything substantive will be discussed on Saturday. This is all about raw power politiccs.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

2ND UPDATE: Snyder camp says aide scandal is nonsense

2ND UPDATE: The Snyder administration has responded forcefully to the Rich Baird controversy, saying that Democrats' attempts to make this a scandal fall flat. Baird has now cleared up all matters involving his Michigan/Illinois presence.
Here is the administration's response:
"Rich clearly meets the definition of resident under both Michigan election law and the state’s Constitution since 2011 when he bought his home in Bath.
He spends the vast majority of his time in Michigan and the Bath home – he lives there generally at least five of the seven days of the week. He tries to go to Illinois on the weekends whenever possible to see his wife and family.
It’s a challenging situation for them but one they believe is worth it to help make a difference in Michigan’s comeback and for the state where they are from, met and started their lives.
"He is also very much a legally registered Michigan voter and has been since April 2013 when he got his Michigan’s driver license and registered to vote. He has only voted in Michigan since then. Rich believed that when he surrendered his Illinois driver’s license at the Michigan SOS (Secretary of State) last spring that he was no longer an eligible Illinois voter. To help ensure the state of Illinois' voter files are up-to-date and accurate, Rich is immediately requesting that his voter registration there be rescinded. 
"On the property tax exemption, it was apparently an inadvertent error made in closing documents during the home purchase process. Rich immediately contacted the county/township offices to verify information. And after verifying that info, he immediately paid the Michigan property taxes that were inadvertently exempted."

This was the Democratic Party's message to the media on Friday morning ... 

UPDATE: The Snyder administration and his re-election campaign have not yet responded to this emerging story. But the Democrats are starting to pile on. This morning, they added these additional talking points:

* Rich Baird was claiming this "accidental" double tax break even as he helped Gov. Snyder raise property taxes by forcing through the 2011 elimination of the homestead tax exemption for thousands of Michigan families and seniors. 

* Baird was a longtime executive at the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm, who could be in line to receive a pension from his former employer. Unlike Michigan, the state of Illinois does not tax pension income. 

* According to a 2013 profile in Crain's Detroit Business, Baird was a forceful advocate for Gov. Snyder's retirement tax, which increased taxes on some seniors by thousands of dollars a year.

This was originally posted at 10:10 p.m.Thursday ...
On convention-eve, expect Gov. Snyder to face a firestorm of controversy as one of his top advisers is reportedly fumbling around trying to explain why he is leading a double life.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s strongest allies and no stranger to controversy, ran for precinct delegate in the August primary while being registered to vote in two states and while having principal-residence tax exemptions attached to properties in two states.

Democrats are ready to pounce big-time on this story, with a Friday 9:30 a.m. conference call scheduled with Michigan reporters.

According to the MIRS news service, records from the Clinton County Treasurer's Office in Michigan show that Baird, Snyder's “transformation manager,” has had a principal residence property tax exemption attached to his home in Bath since he bought the home in 2011.
At the same time, MIRS reports, his Illinois home has received a homeowner exemption since at least 2009, according to the Cook County Assessor's Office.
The homeowner exemption in Illinois is for properties that have been occupied by the owner as their principal residence.

Here’s more from MIRS:
“In a phone interview today, Baird said his intention was to receive only an exemption on the Illinois home. Later today, a Snyder spokesperson said the exemption on the Michigan property was an ‘inadvertent error’ that he's now trying to clear up with the local assessor.
“Baird said today that there likely was a clerical error at the time of the purchase that kept that exemption on the property.”

Those supposed typos – they can really come back and hammer you later.

Meanwhile, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson said this:
"This information raises serious questions of what could potentially be tax and voter fraud from Rick Snyder's right-hand man," Johnson said. "Time and time again, there's been a pattern and practice of scandals from the Snyder administration.
“From Baird intervening to save, then double, a lucrative state furniture contract (for) Snyder's cousin, to 90 percent pay raises for Wall Street investment executives, to public funds paying for extravagant travel expenses and fancy dinners all over the world (for a Snyder appointee), Rick Snyder's administration has been awash in scandal. It's past time for an independent investigation into corruption and misdealing in Snyder's administration. Rick Snyder owes Michigan families answers."

Sounds like things could be getting interesting on the day before the Republican state convention.

Cops inflict death penalty far more than prisons

This chart, created by Sean McElwee of Demos.org, shows a staggering gap between public executions in U.S. prisons and fatal police shootings in America's streets. 
The folks over at Vox.com point out that, from 2001-11, fatal injuries related to "legal intervention" (arrest, suppressing disturbances, maintaining order) outnumbered criminal executions on the order of four-to-one — and the gap is widening.
McElwee drew data on fatal injuries from the CDC and data on criminal executions from the Death Penalty Information Center.

Millions of gallons of raw sewage dumped in Macomb County


The nearly unprecedented flood waters that caused havoc for thousands of Macomb County homeowners featured an added punch –- at least 321 million gallons of sewage dumped into the streams, rivers and eventually Lake St. Clair during the harrowing 24 hours following the massive rainstorm that hit last week beginning Monday morning.                  
                                                                                                                  Lorraine Drain, located in                                                                                                                 a residential area of Warren by Van                                                                                               Dyke and Chicago Road, was overwhelmed with
                                                                4.2 million gallons of raw sewage during last week's epic rainstorm.      

That huge discharge included nearly 6 million gallons of raw sewage, untreated waste that floated through residential neighborhoods in Warren and Clinton Township.
Worse yet, the full picture of how much contamination fouled the flood waters of Aug. 11 is still not known. Ten days after the storm, officials at the George W. Kuhn Drain in south Oakland County, located on Dequindre Road in Madison Heights, have still not reported how much sewage they disbursed into the Red Run Drain in Warren. That pollution flows through the Clinton River to Lake St. Clair.
Past trends suggest the Kuhn sewage retention basin, formerly known as the Twelve Towns Drain, could boost the total wastewater levels dumped into the waterways above one-half billion gallons.
The 321 million gallons of pollution reported so far is approximately equal in volume to 487 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The raw sewage came from the Center Line sewer system and a series of seven sewer relief valves in southern Clinton Township.
Center Line has faced pressure from the state Department of Environmental Quality for more than a decade to improve its sewer system. But the Aug. 11 storms proved too much as a sewage lift station – designed to ensure consistent flow – failed to keep up. The city dumped 4.15 million gallons of untreated sewage into Bear Creek and Lorraine Drain in Warren, near the 13 Mile and Van Dyke area.
The overflow began shortly before 11 a.m. on that fateful Monday and continued for 16 hours.
In Clinton Township, which has also faced years of DEQ mandates to fix their sewers, a combined 1.6 million gallons of raw sewage was dumped into the Clinton River from four pumps in the Gratiot/Little Mack area and three pumps located between Gratiot and Harper, north of 15 Mile.
The township’s director of public services, Mary Bednar, said some of the untreated sewage travels through neighborhood drains on its way to the river and then the lake.
According to Bednar, sewer improvements are underway that will replace the three relief valves between Gratiot and Harper. That project, which was required by the DEQ, will be completed by the end of the year.
Fixes to eliminate the four pumps near Little Mack are in the design phase and must be completed, under a DEQ consent order, by the end of 2016.
Bednar cautioned that those upgrades will not prevent sewage overflows in the future if the township experiences another “Noah’s Ark event.”
Under the probabilities presented by project engineers, she said, “we are required to handle a 25-year, 24-hour storm. This event last week … was beyond that.”
At the area’s large sewage retention basins, wastewater is partially treated before dumping sewage into the lake. Technicians settle it, skim it and treat it with chlorine. Macomb and Oakland county officials maintain that the E.coli bacteria levels in the effluent are minimal and that the sewage is substantially diluted by rainwater.
While the final numbers are not available, Verona of the DEQ said Oakland County’s Kuhn Drain is having a hard time estimating the size of their overflow because the rainwater/sewage levels were “more than they had ever seen before,” rising above the drain’s highest-placed sensors.
The heavy rains of last week delivered a one-two punch as officials normally release sewage into the waterways to avoid basement flooding. In this case, thousands of homes suffered severe damage in their basements – the newest estimate for Macomb County’s total sits at $300 million while hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage was also funneled into the streams, river and lake.
Sewage discharges typically result in the warm weather months when overloaded and aging sewer systems are flooded by heavy storms. Communities are required by law to report overflows to the DEQ within 48 hours, with a more detailed report to follow.
Storm drains and ditches also contribute significantly to the pollution that flows to Lake St. Clair during wet weather.
DEQ officials said that it typically takes a week to compile pollution information after a storm, though that is not standard practice in Macomb County.
The Macomb Daily on Wednesday tracked down several sewage volume levels that were not yet reported by the Macomb County Health Department, which reports the figures on its website.
“If you can be patient, in a couple more days, by the end of the week, we will have all these reports,” said Laura Verona, a DEQ supervisor for the southeast Michigan region.
Health Department Director William Ridella said his agency had not received any reports of sickness due to the contaminated water, though hospitals and doctors are not required to report such matters unless a disease outbreak is suspected.
Those who come in contact with E. coli can suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes and infections.
On the Lake St. Clair shoreline, some homeowners are reporting a buildup of seaweed and sewage residue at the seawalls.
In parts of Macomb County, residents experienced rain levels like those of Aug. 11 – 3 to 4 inches – as recently as May 27-28. But the intensity of the rain during a few hours of the afternoon of Aug. 11 caused the untenable unleashing of water – from the sky and from the underground sewers.
Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, who oversees the county drains and its two largest sewage retention basins, said Macomb cannot afford a sewer system that is ready to withstand that kind of weather.
“That was a lot of rain. When Mother Nature spills her guts, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Marrocco said. “I don’t think people want to pay $3,000 a year more in taxes to expand all these sewers.”
According to state, county and local authorities, here are some of the sewer spills that occurred last week:
The Chapaton retention basin, located on the lake in St. Clair Shores, dumped 81.3 million gallons of sewage over a 15-hour period.
The Milk River pump station, situated at the Macomb-Wayne county border in Grosse Pointe Shores, discharged 137.1 million gallons of polluted water over a 6-hour period on Monday and Tuesday of last week.
The Martin retention basin, also located on the lake in the Shores, experienced an overflow of 12.1 million gallons over 31 hours.
The Warren sewage treatment plant, which lies near 14 Mile and Van Dyke, adjacent to Bear Creek, sent 85.1 million gallons of sewage-tainted water into the Red Run Drain.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

UPDATE: Peters campaign responds to candidate's investment in French oil company

UPDATE: The Peters campaign has issued a
 response to this blog post: 
"If Terri Lynn Land wants to talk about personal finances, she should start by answering the number of controversies surrounding her campaign from her potentially illegal millions in self-financing to her 2.2 percent tax rate or agree to a debate. Gary's push to take on the Koch Brothers and call for more oversight on handling pet coke actually works against any business interest he could have from energy stocks. The Koch Brothers are bankrolling Terri Lynn Land and she can't even answer a single question about their support, her campaign finance problems, or her agenda that would give herself and the Koch Brothers new tax breaks. Ms. Land should be prepared to answer questions before she continues this series of desperate and false attacks."

In addition, the League of Conservation Voters has launched a new TV ad campaign, at a cost of $400,000, that blasts Terri Lynn Land for her ties to the Koch brothers. You can watch the video here.

Kudos to Brandon Helderop, a New Hudson freelance writer, who has reportedly uncovered a glaring bit of hypocrisy in Senate candidate Gary Peters’ personal finances.
A Republican activist, Helderop wrote on his blog that the Democratic congressman, who paints himself as pro-environment and anti-Keystone pipeline, has a large investment in a French oil company, Total S.A. France. According to the company’s website, they are the fifth largest publicly-traded international oil and gas company in the world.
Helderop’s DetNews blog, offers these details:
“Total S.A. France holds interests in 21 refineries around the world, including the United States, Europe, the French West Indies, Africa, the Middle East, and China. In other words, while Peters claims to be against oil interests here at home in the name of defending the environment, he has no problem investing in big foreign oil companies. What’s more, Peters’ investment is going to jobs being created by a foreign company versus one here in America.
“… (The candidate’s primary concern about Keystone) is that ‘we will be seeing piles of petcoke in a lot of other places in the United States, because it is a main byproduct of refining Canadian oil.’ Peters’ stance against petcoke has become his battle cry in refusing to support the pipeline, to the point of calling for a federal investigation into its ‘health and environmental impacts.’
“However, Peters doesn’t have a problem investing in a foreign oil company that produces thousands of barrels in petcoke per day. Total S.A. France operates in the United States … as Total Holdings USA. According to their website, they have 60 locations throughout the U.S. in addition to manufacturing facilities in 24 states. One of those facilities is the Total Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which turns out 174,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Moreover, one of the products the foreign oil company produces and ships out is none other than Peters’ nemesis: petcoke.”
Hmmm. I wonder what the League of Conservation Voters, which has contributed generously to Peters’ campaign against Republican Terri Lynn Land, thinks about all of this. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Officials present plan for minor league ballpark in Macomb County

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Utica Mayor Jackie Noonan came out swinging for the fences on Monday as they announced plans for construction of a 2,500-seat minor league baseball park that will be home to a newly formed local league as early as next year.
The elaborate plan calls for a local three-team league to play at the multi-million dollar stadium, which will be built on the outskirts of downtown Utica, with each team playing 48 games a year. A fourth team will be added in the future.
Noonan called the project a “game-changer” for the tiny, 197-year-old city, with Utica attracting families, shoppers and more tax dollars, while parcels that have remained empty for many years will be put to use.
“In my 27 years as mayor, lots of ideas have crossed my desk regarding this land. But this one is incomparable to anything that has come along.
“We,” she added, “are going to make Utica a destination.”
Rochester-based General Sports & Entertainment hopes to quickly get to work on the stadium and an accompanying 500-space parking deck at an estimated cost of $8 million to $10 million. The company, with some help from tax revenues generated by the business community’s Downtown Development Authority, will pay for all expenses. The Auburn Road land, valued at $600,000 and currently under control of the DDA after a tax foreclosure, will be donated to General Sports.
The company has targeted May 15, 2015, for opening day. In the meantime, a lot of plans need to fall into place.
Zain Masters, director of research and strategy for General Sports, said the teams have not yet been formed. The goal is to attract quality ex-high school and college players – an anticipated average age of 22 to 24 – who fell short of landing a spot on a minor league team affiliated with a Major League Baseball club.
The players will be paid but they will be independent from the MLB farm teams. The mayor was quick to note Detroit Tigers pitching ace Max Scherzer came to the majors from an independent league.
“We feel this is something worth shouting about. We’re excited to bring minor league baseball to Macomb County and the city of Utica,” Masters said at a press conference at the site.
The playing field, consisting of artificial turf, will match the size of a typical major league stadium. The Utica ballpark will offer 2,500 seats, two grassy areas for spectators at the outfield fences, and up to 18 suites. General Sports has not settled on a series of ticket prices.
Hackel, whose county economic development department helped bring the project together, said the ballpark will not attempt to compete with the Tigers and Comerica Park. The intent is to make the Utica ballfield a close-to-home location for a family-oriented, low-cost night out that offers the opportunity to be “up close and personal with the players.”
“This will be a minor league ballpark that provides a major league quality-of-life improvement for kids and families,” the county executive said. “This isn’t just a Utica ballpark, it isn’t just a Macomb County baseball stadium, it’s a major opportunity for southeast Michigan.”
Masters said the season at the park would last from May 15 to Sept. 15 – and he acknowledged an alternative, 2016 start to the opening season may be necessary if any delays are encountered. Other activities at the stadium could include football games, soccer matches, ice skating in the winter and fireworks in the summer.
In Mount Clemens, officials spent several years a decade ago exploring the possibility of establishing a minor league baseball stadium in their downtown area but they eventually abandoned the idea. Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon said over the weekend he tried to lure the General Sports facility to his community but lost out to Utica.
Across the Clinton River from the ballpark, General Sports also plans to develop a mixed-use condominium and retail development within the next three years. A brownstone building partially constructed but never completed on this Phase Two site will be torn down in about two weeks.
All construction on the two contiguous sites will require supervision from the state Department of Environmental Quality as portions of the parcels are brownfields where waste and contaminants exist below the surface.

Will this map affect taxes, welfare?

The Tax Foundation has compiled an interesting map that should have implications for tax rates and social welfare programs in each state.
The foundation researchers took a look at federal data and came up with the true value of $100, based on the cost of living, in all 50 states. Michigan is on the plus side, at about $105, but the valuations vary dramatically across the nation.

The states/territories where $100 is worth the least are the District of Columbia ($84.60), Hawaii ($85.32), New York ($86.66), New Jersey ($87.64), and California ($88.57). That same money goes the furthest in Mississippi ($115.74), Arkansas ($114.16), Missouri ($113.51), Alabama (113.51), and South Dakota ($113.38).

The implications for political decisions and public policy could be enormous. Here’s how the Tax Foundation describes the current situation:

“Furthermore, this (divide in cost of living) affects means-tested federal welfare programs. A poor person in a high-cost area – like Brooklyn or Queens - may be artificially boosted out of the range of income where they are eligible for welfare programs, despite still being very poor. At the same time, many people in low-price states may be eligible for welfare programs despite actually being much richer than they appear. If the same dollar value program is offered in New York City and rural South Dakota, it may be too small to help anyone in New York City, and yet so big it discourages work in South Dakota.”