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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

'Un-American' newscast in Canada teaches U.S. journalism a few lessons

Kudos to Mark Joyella of mediabistro's TV Newser blog for pointing out CBC News' live coverage of the Ottawa shootings on Wednesday, with the Canadian broadcast relying upon a journalistic approach that was "smart, careful, and absolutely un-American."
Not un-American in a disrespectful way; un-American in that the newscast from Canada avoided all the hyperbole and dramatics that have become standard fare on U.S. cable TV news channels. Led by veteran anchor Peter Mansbridge, CBC sorted through unconfirmed and contradictory information, Joyella wrote, as the Canadian capital buildings remained on lockdown for hours. 
Joyella described the nearly surreal experience he had as a viewer:
"As I watched via the network’s live stream in New York, I never heard a second of dramatic music, never saw a full-screen wipe with a catchy graphic like TERROR ON PARLIAMENT HILL, and never, ever heard Mansbridge or any of the CBC’s reporters dip even a toe into the waters of self-promotion.
"Compared that to the American cable news networks, where we’ve come to expect that every prime time newscast will begin with urgent music and BREAKING NEWS -- complete with multiple on-screen reminders that this is BREAKING NEWS of great importance. CBC’s coverage was, well, very Canadian. And to the nervous system of an American observer of TV news, it was decidedly strange to experience.
"Mansbridge, in sharp contrast to the frenetic, breathless delivery we’ve come to expect from American news anchors in times of breaking news (including stories of far less significance than the attacks in Canada), was thoughtful, took his time, and seemed at times to pause, and to consider his words before speaking. Just. Imagine. That.

"... CBC News was soundly beaten by various journalists on Twitter with word the War Memorial soldier had died, but when time came for Mansbridge to bring this sad fact into his coverage, he warned he had “bad news” to report, and then very carefully explained how CBC came to believe this information was correct. It wasn’t loud and urgent. It was quiet and somber. And as such, it felt very, very important. It felt proper."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Post: Mich. campaign ad is 'most brutal ever'

The Washington Post is calling a new TV ad targeting Republican congressional candidate David Trott of Birmingham the "most brutal ad you'll ever see anywhere."
The 30-second spot launched today on Detroit area TV stations by Democratic contender Bobby McKenzie tells the story of 101-year-old Texana Hollis of Detroit who was evicted from her home in 2011 with the assistance of Trott's law firm. At the height of the housing crisis, Trott & Trott handled 80,000 foreclosure cases for the banks in one year.
The ad depicts Hollis, sitting in a wheelchair, being removed from her home on a rainy night as she cries. Her son had missed payments on the home's mortgage.

"Foreclosure king Dave Trott has made millions foreclosing on Michigan's families. Trott profited from human misery as tens of thousands of Michiganders were evicted from their homes," says the ad narrator.
According to the Post, Trott's firm handled paperwork in the case, which received considerable news coverage in the Detroit media. The Department of Housing and Urban Development evicted Hollis. They later let her move back in after saying they made a mistake. Hollis died late last year.
Responding to a Post request for a response to the ad, Trott spokeswoman Megan Piwowar reportedly said in an e-mail, "No one wants to foreclose. The law firm was following instructions to foreclose and evict issued by the federal government as the mortgagee was Department of Housing and Urban Development and the eviction was executed by other parties, not the law firm. This ad does not tell all the facts."
Trott and McKenzie, a former counterterrorism expert for the State Department, are facing off in the 11th District, which includes most of the tri-county area's west side suburbs. Complicating the race is Republican incumbent Congressman Kerry Bentivolio, who lost badly to Trott in the primary but is now running as a write-in candidate.

Will childish behavior doom Hackel's county exec re-election campaign?

You would think that Mark Hackel had learned to behave himself by now. 
After all, he's running for re-election as Macomb County executive in the third-largest county in Michigan. He's a member of the Big Four regional leadership. He's even mentioned as a possible candidate for governor of Michigan in 2018, for heaven's sake. 
But there he was, acting like a kid on the new playground at Freedom Hill County Park earlier this week.

After a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony marking improvements to the Sterling Heights park, Hackel took a closer look at the playscape and contemplated taking a trip down one of the slides (with the urging of a reporter and photographer).
When Maria Silamianos Sherman, a local business owner and civic leader, stepped up to the top of one slide, Hackel didn't hesitate to join her. Both took the plunge despite puddles of water at the bottom.
The executive then playfully showed off his wet bottom to those on hand and then went on his way. Hopefully he made a quick stop to change his pants. Wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea.


Anyone care to caption the above photo? Place your entry into the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A tale of two cities: Macomb County communities' finances heading in opposite directions

By Chad Selweski
The Macomb Daily

It is a tale of two cities.
One is an aging municipality still dealing with home foreclosures, abandoned businesses and a tax base that has sunk to such depths that its recovery from the 2008-10 Great Recession may take three decades. To avoid more budget cuts, it is seeking a whopping 14-mill property tax hike.
The other is a former farm community, a suburb that has revived the building boom it enjoyed pre-recession, with 15 new subdivisions under construction and tax dollars flowing into its coffers at such a rate that its 2013-14 budget surplus -- on top of a substantial “rainy day” fund from the past -- was $2.9 million. At the same time, taxes remain low and future financial difficulties are unimaginable.

One is the city of Eastpointe in south Macomb County; the other is Macomb (actually a township, not a city) in north Macomb County.
They are separated by just 10 miles. But they might as well be worlds apart.
The divergent paths followed by these two communities are representative of a disturbing pattern across the state, according to a new University of Michigan study.

U-M’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy found that, for the first time in six years, more Michigan localities are more able to meet their financial needs in 2014 than those who are less able to do so.
But the university’s survey of more than 1,300 local officials statewide has found a “tipping point” reached this year, in which many cities and townships are on the road to recovery, and many may be on the road to ruin.
Dramatic declines in property values, cuts in state and federal aid and lingering foreclosures and tax delinquencies have caused havoc for cities like Eastpointe. While revenues fall, expenses for public safety and infrastructure – streets, sewers, water lines – present a daunting task for upcoming years in the urban communities and “inner ring” suburbs.

The U-M study revealed that 35 percent of local officials expect their community to be better off a year from now while 22 percent expect to be even worse off in 2015. Those towns doing best see good times ahead; those still suffering from dark days see a further slide toward the fiscal cliff.
“… This really points to two different groups of local governments that are moving in two different directions,” said Thomas Ivacko, program manager for the Ford School’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy.

Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane said that, while Macomb Township enjoys the construction of 15 subdivisions that will be home to 1,800 expensive, upscale houses, his “built-out” city has no room for even one new subdivision.
“It’s a juxtaposition – a stark contrast,” Duchane said. “It depends on where you are located. ‘Out of the woods’ means a whole different thing in Eastpointe.”
The city, which borders Detroit, endures a cycle of residential and commercial property changes that consist of build-abandon-build. As a result, Michigan land-use and property tax laws work against any plans for recovery.
Officials estimate that, because of the 1994 Proposal A cap on annual property assessment increases – currently a 1.67 percent limit – it will take Eastpointe 22 more years to regain its tax base of 2008 when the housing crisis was in full swing.

While trying to avoid hints of bitterness, Duchane said a community such as Macomb Township effortlessly enjoys a strong flow of revenues from property taxes and fees charged to developers.
“Private industry and growth run those communities. You have no place to go but up,” he said.

Michael Koehs, Macomb Township clerk, sees things differently from his perch.
“If I took a snap shot, that’s what people might see” – a community that’s growing at the expense of other municipalities,” Koehs said. “But it’s really part of a cycle. Eastpointe had its time. The newer neighborhoods are bound to increase in value.”
The 36-square-mile township, once the fastest-growing community in Michigan, remains just two-thirds developed. This is their heyday.
When Eastpointe was growing rapidly in the early 1960s, Macomb Township’s population was about 5,000. Now, the community situated between M-59 on the south and 26 Mile Road to the north is expecting to reach 150,000 residents within a couple of decades.

The flourishing townships of suburban Detroit, Koehs said, also benefit from a new approach toward government services and expenses.
The approximately 84,000 people living in Macomb Township still rely upon a part-time fire department that goes back to the days when farm workers would rush from their fields to the nearest fire station when a blaze broke out and a warning siren blasted.
The township has no police department – they contract with the county Sheriff’s Department for 22 officers of various ranks who all patrol the streets.
That means no desk jobs. No special investigative units. The Sheriff’s Department provides all of that.
And no legacy costs for police and firefighters’ pensions and health care benefits.
“Those things were set in motion many years ago when benefits were initially cheap,” Koehs said. “Some communities can’t grow when they’re spending a lot of money to bail the boat out.”
The savings on legacy costs has left money for other luxuries. Macomb has a state-of-the art township hall and a recreation center that puts most private gyms to shame.

Across Macomb County, the U-M study found that an economic divide has led to the sharp contrast between localities that have put the recession behind them and those that are hoping to fend off the arrival of a state-appointed emergency manager.
The survey revealed that more than one-third of officials anticipate a further decline in property tax revenues over the next 12 months. Still, about half anticipate increased public safety needs and 80 percent foresee greater infrastructure expenses.
More than one-fourth suspect that they will need to take a bigger bite out of their rainy day fund in the following year while a slightly larger proportion of officials foresee a buildup of their fund.

As a result, those responding to the survey mostly predict that the days of layoffs and pay cuts for municipal workers are over. But pushing more expenses onto employees for health care benefits and pensions is very much in play.
Some see cuts in services coming, or privatizing certain departments, or engaging in consolidation agreements with neighboring communities.
Eastpointe’s February ballot proposal is a bit of an odd duck in the public sector movement toward cost savings through shared services. The city has joined with Hazel Park, located several miles to the west in Oakland County, to present voters in both cities with a 14-mill tax proposal to fund police and fire services.

Duchane discovered an old state law allowing for collaborations between cities presents the opportunity to create a bi-community municipal corporation. That obscure provision opens the door to cities so they can levy more than the standard 20-mill limit in overall property taxes.
Duchane, who was once on the other side of the ledger during his 17 years as Sterling Heights city manager when that community was growing rapidly, said the tax proposal is not the product of a loophole in the law. It simply allows communities without hope of new growth to create a more level playing field with the townships.
“This,” he said, “allows voters to keep their city alive.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Republicans who blocked Obama's nominee now blame president for lack of surgeon general

Few Americans realize that Senate confirmation of President Obama's nominee for surgeon general has been blocked for nearly a year by, of all interest groups, the National Rifle Association.
Now that the lack of a surgeon general is a major concern due to the Ebola scare, some Senate Republicans who follow the NRA's dictates are pretending like they had nothing to do with the hold-up.

On Meet the Press Sunday, the inaptly-named Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri went so far as to claim that Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are to blame for the nation not having a surgeon general to coordinate the Ebola precautions. Blunt said Obama and Reid failed to push through the confirmation of Vivek Murthy.
But, as noted by the liberal group Think Progress, the Missouri Republican disingenuously suggested that the NRA played no role in blocking the nominee.
Earlier this year, the NRA launched a public campaign to derail Murthy’s nomination because he supports expanding background checks for gun purchases. When he said that gun violence was a public health concern, the gun lobby shrieked, even though every major medical association — and several former surgeons general under Republican presidents — shared the same view.

The NRA announced they were going to "score" the vote on Murthy's confirmation, meaning any senator who voted for Obama's choice would be on the gun group's sh-- list, and that was all it took for the GOP. Sen. Rand Paul placed a hold on the nomination and the surgeon general subject was put on the shelf.
“The NRA said they were going to score the vote and suddenly everybody froze him (Murthy),” said MTP moderator Chuck Todd. “That seems a little petty in hindsight, does it not?”
Blunt responded that the U.S. needs a surgeon general on the job. But when asked if he would vote for Murthy’s confirmation, the senator again refused to answer the question.
“Until this (Ebola concerns) came up, frankly I’ve heard very little discussion about the surgeon general,” he said.

Court rules parents responsible for child's Facebook behavior

In a ruling that set legal precedent and could have far-reaching consequences if other courts follow suit, the Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled that parents can be held responsible for their child's misbehavior on Facebook.
According to the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times, a Georgia boy posted a fake account under the name of one of his female classmates in 2011. After the girl’s family contacted the school, the boy was disciplined by administrators and his parents were notified, the Journal reported. For almost a year, however, the account remained active with sexually explicit comments and derogatory pictures.
Facebook ultimately intervened, but the court ruled that the boy’s parents could be held responsible for trauma inflicted upon the girl due to their inaction.
“Given that the false and offensive statements remained on display, and continued to reach readers, for an additional eleven months, we conclude that a jury could find that the [parents’] negligence proximately caused some part of the injury [the girl] sustained from [the boy’s] actions (and inactions),” wrote Judge John J. Ellington in the opinion, which was backed by two other judges, the Journal reported.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Could Obama be Land's final salvation?

Terri Lynn Land enters the final 2 1/2 weeks of her Senate run trying to fend off increasing criticism that her campaign has been a near-disaster. 
But now she is hoping that President Obama might be her salvation.
"Let me tell you how close this race is," the GOP nominee said during a Wednesday campaign appearance in Utica, "President Obama is coming here."

Obama is expected to campaign for seven Democratic gubernatorial candidates as the election approaches, including a campaign stop in Detroit at the end of the month to boost Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer.
But Land's Democratic opponent, Gary Peters, is the only Senate candidate in those seven states to step forward and agree to some campaign help from the unpopular president.
Peters has not exactly embraced Obama, saying he agrees with him on some issues and disagrees on others, but it appears that the Michigan Democratic Party believes that the president can shore up the party's base and generate some mid-term enthusiasm within the black community.

Nonetheless, it is a risky move that could backfire at a time when Peters has held a solid lead in numerous Michigan polls. And that's what has the Republicans hoping.
One longtime GOP activist from Warren received a roar of laughter and approval from the pro-Land crowd in Utica when he told the candidate: "President Obama coming here for Gary Peters -- he might put you over the top."

Meanwhile, eclectablog has a full rundown on all the media reports that are giving Land fits as the mid-terms approach. 
Land's refusal to appear before the Detroit Free Press editorial board until the newspaper apologizes for an Oct. 4 Brian Dickerson column is dissected by eclectablog, with Freep editorial page editor Stephen Henderson exclaiming: "You will never see us acquiesce to this sort of blackmailing ..."
The Dickerson column skewered Land for an incoherent interview she gave on Michigan Radio, and the writer suggested that Land might be best to crawl back into her bunker.
Land said on Wednesday that she was particularly upset with this line in the column: Land "... has been about as accessible up to this point in her campaign as a music video diva recovering from plastic surgery."

That's a pretty funny line.
Dickerson did not in any way claim that Land is ugly or disfigured. But the Land camp tried to squeeze that comment into her last-ditch effort to claim that Peters, the Democrats and certain factions in the media are attacking her based on her gender.
The desperation is fairly obvious if you read the entire column and realize that Dickerson had far more stinging criticism for the GOP nominee that did not fit the narrative that Peters and the Dems are "anti-Mom."
Such as this: "... the Republicans' fateful decision to nominate a woman who loses ground every time she opens her mouth, a candidate so inarticulate that even voters ideologically disposed to support her aren't sure what she's saying."

At the same time, ABC News ran a story about Land with this headline: "The Republican candidate that even Republicans love to hate."
Bill Ballenger, the dean of Michigan political pundits and a former GOP state senator, said that some aspects of the Land campaign have been "laughable." 
When the Republicans were stuck with a second-tier candidate like Land, Ballenger added, no one in the GOP thought that the former Michigan secretary of state would be "as inept and inarticulate as she’s proven to be.”
ABC also talked with former state party chairman Saul Anuzis, who bemoaned the lack of a GOP first-string player. 
"This is a seat we could have had,” Anuzis said. 
And then we have this from The Atlantic, which also wrote an unflattering piece about Land under the headline: "Did Republicans blow the Michigan Senate race?" The magazine offered a gem of a quote from the curmudgeonly Detroit writer Jack Lessenberry: 
“If you asked these candidates what time it was, Peters would give you a lecture on watchmaking. Land would stare at the wall for a while and then say, ‘Daytime?’”

New website promotes commonsense immigration reforms

The Hoover Institution has compiled a detailed website, Peregrine, that attempts to tackle the immigration issue by separating fact from fiction and by promoting commonsense reforms.
The site has a libertarian bent to it but it relies on a wide array of experts on the subject to discuss policies that are fair, pro-business and good for the U.S. economy.
Here's a small sample:
Expanding and liberalizing America’s lawful immigration system is the easiest way to boost economic growth and is also the key to stopping unlawful immigration.  After a century of reforms that enhanced and centralized bureaucracy, federal immigration policy is a labyrinth of restriction and dysfunction. US immigration laws are now, as Associate Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. wrote, “second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.” 

Demand for all kinds of labor in the United States is strong, and immigrants are willing to supply it; but federal restrictions stand in the way. Almost no green cards (permanent visas) are available for low- and mid-skilled immigrants. Temporary visas are capped, restricted in scope, and regulated with paperwork hurdles. The result is many immigrants who would otherwise come legally to the United States instead work and live here illegally.
America’s economic magnet for foreign labor is strong, as we can see in the huge worker productivity and wage differences across countries.  A marginal Mexican worker with the same skills as an American can earn wages nearly three times higher by relocating to the United States. The marginal wage gain for immigrants from the typical developing nation is a four-fold increase. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'WTF?' Dems outraged by anti-immigration campaign ad aimed at Mexican-American lawmaker Yanez

Democrats are blasting a Michigan Republican Party campaign brochure that singles out a Mexican-American state legislator from Macomb County for criticism on federal immigration issues, claiming that state Rep. Henry Yanez wants to allow more illegal immigrants to cross the U.S.-Mexican border.
The literature mailed by the state GOP to Yanez’s Sterling Heights district claims the Democratic incumbent who is seeking re-election would make the border more vulnerable to illegal crossings and he would make it easier for illegal aliens in the United States to gain citizenship.
Yanez calls the claims a distortion and an attempt to insert a federal issue into a state House campaign. One of his colleagues, Rep.Harvey Santana, a Democrat who represents southwest Detroit, accused the GOP of targeting Yanez for an anti-Hispanic message.
“I am disappointed that the Michigan Republican Party would stoop to an attack piece that carries an undertone of racist scare tactics in order to try to elect one of its candidates,” Santana said. “My Republican colleagues in the Legislature whom I’ve grown to respect would never act in such a fashion, which makes this ‘hit piece’ even more disappointing.”
A GOP spokesman said that the advertisement was fair game because “Henry Yanez has taken a position on this issue.” The fact that Yanez’s heritage is one-half Mexican had “zero influence” on the decision to criticize the Sterling Heights Democrat, according to Darren Littel, state GOP communications director.

The campaign flyer attributes the information to a recent candidate questionnaire but Littel said that was a mistake. It dates back to a 2010 questionnaire when Yanez was the Democratic nominee running for Congress against Republican Rep. Candice Miller.
Littel said none of the other Democratic candidates for the 148-member Legislature had been tagged on the immigration reform issue by the GOP because they had not previously run for congressional office and their views were unknown.
In the yes-no questionnaire of four years ago from a group called Project Vote Smart, Yanez said he was not allowed to elaborate on the issues.
He said as a congressional candidate he favored a “pathway” to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S., not amnesty that leads to automatic citizen status. The incumbent also said he preferred putting more Border Patrol agents in place rather than extending a protective fence for 2,000 miles along the southern edge of several states.
“As a state legislator, I have no stance. I’m focused on what’s happening in Michigan,” he said. “This is shameless on the part of the Republicans.”
Little believes Democrats are trying to rile up ethnic sensitivities rather than sticking to the issues. He said that he had no idea Yanez was of Mexican ancestry.
A retired Sterling Heights firefighter, Yanez countered that in Lansing it’s well known, based on his civic activities, that he is Hispanic.
Rep. Santana was so incensed by the campaign tactic that he used a common abbreviation of crude language to urge Yanez’s Republican foe in the November election, Nick Hawatmeh, who lives in the small Warren section of the 25th District, to denounce the party’s campaign material.
“If I were Mr. Hawatmeh,” Santana said, “I’d be on the phone with (state GOP Chairman) Bobby Shostack asking, ‘WTF?’ Especially considering that Mr. Hawatmeh is of Arab descent.”

Calley defends candidate who's maybe not racist, just ignorant

I have no interest in starting a war of words with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, but I can't ignore a provocative column that appeared on the Petoskey News-Review website today.
Columnist Mark Pontoni wrote about Triston Cole, the northern Michigan right-wing Republican candidate for state House who lost out when Calley cancelled his scheduled appearance at a Cole fundraiser on Monday.
Calley said on Tuesday that his cancellation should not reflect on Cole. The lieutenant governor said it's unfair to criticize Cole due to the support he has from Republican National Committee member Dave Agema. The LG added that it's beyond the pale to suggest that Cole has any type of racist past.
Well, Pontoni presents a viewpoint that suggests Cole is cut right from the cloth of Agema, who is associated with homophobic and racist views.

After viewing an online, hour-long interview by the News-Review with Cole, Pontoni said he was dumfounded by the Mancelona farmer's inability to grasp issues. 
A tea party favorite, Cole said he and his friends had never seen discrimination against gays so who says it exists?
He supports cuts in food stamp payments because he once went into a 7-Eleven and saw people buying beef jerky and energy drinks with a Bridge card.
And he opposes a minimum wage hike because business owners who employ teenagers are already engaged in "babysitting" of their workers.

These are summations, of course, but here is Pontoni's big-picture takeaway from the overall Cole interview:
"Watching this man, who wants to represent a large portion of northern Michigan, stumble and bumble his way through the interview almost made me feel sorry for him. Riding a wave of tea party support, Mr. Cole ...is uniquely unqualified to represent the vast majority of northern Michigan citizens."
Wow. Maybe Pontoni discovered the real reason why Calley stayed away from Monday's fundraiser for Cole.

Doggone it, some candidates have a tailor-made name

When I first came across an online photo of a basic campaign sign for Stacey Dogonski, I thought, hey, why not go with: "Doggone it, vote for Dogonski." - ?
But Dogonski, a Democrat running for state House in Livonia, has come up with her own logo that takes advantage of her unusual name:

The only question I have is, why the menacing look on the dog's face? Does that represent a watchdog, with the candidate suggesting that's the approach she will take if she makes it to Lansing?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lt. Gov. Calley gives Selweski a smack down

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was none too happy when I reported on my blog Sunday that he was scheduled to attend a fundraiser for a candidate who has been called a racist and has backing from the infamous Dave Agema.
Calley contacted me Sunday afternoon and said that he would not be at the Monday event for Triston Cole, a Traverse City area Republican running for the state House. The lieutenant governor's name was then quickly removed from the online invitation to the Cole fundraiser.
But when fresh photos of Calley with Cole showed up online on Monday, I contacted the LG and questioned why he had been adamant that he would not show for Cole's campaign party but he attended a separate event with the candidate.
His terse response asserted that I was unfairly criticizing Cole and inaccurately implying that Calley cancelled his fundraiser appearance due to the issues raised on my blog. The LG said the decision not to attend was made "long before" the blog post and he did not know why Cole's invitation had continued to list Calley as the featured speaker.

Here's a portion of Calley's email message to me, in which he explains how he and candidate Cole appeared in photos together:  

There were several legislators and I that were invited to a meeting (on Monday) with deer farmers from all across the state.Good folks that wanted to share about their industry.

Furthermore, I do not have any policy of disassociating with people on the basis that someone else supported them. I've really never heard of that kind of criteria.  Am I to go through and identify everyone that Dave Agema has supported and create a black list? 

I also reject your premise that Triston Cole is "racist". Are you really willing to go that far in attacking a person based on the claims you cited? I might have a weakness in seeing the best in people -- I have even defended you on a few occasions -- but I'm pretty surprised at your aggressiveness in publishing such a claim. Have you ever met him? What are you basing such a definitive and personal conclusion on? I hope it's more than what you cited in your blog.

Just for the record, the reference to Cole making allegedly racist remarks was based on a Petoskey News story which reported in July that the 2010 comments had resurfaced as an issue in the 105th House District GOP primary.

Women, girls key to Michigan comeback, Snyder says

Espy Thomas, center, co-owner of Sweet Potato Sensations, and
 student Kelsey Erne listen as Gov. Snyder addresses the crowd.
Photo for The Macomb Daily by Dave Dalton

By Chad Selweski
The Macomb Daily

Michigan’s economic comeback must include female entrepreneurs, college women in high-tech fields, and high school girls who crack gender barriers by engaging in programs such as competitive robotics, Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday.
Speaking to an energetic, overflow crowd of about 80 people – mostly women – in Clinton Township, Snyder launched the first of four “Women Strengthening Michigan” forums by pledging that in a second term of office his administration would focus on putting females into position to become employers or well-paid employees.
“It’s important to recognize the role that women play in this great state. We all know this, but we need to highlight it. We … want our kids to be better than we are,” said the governor.

The event, held at the Omega Talent agency, featured a panel of four women who emphasized that internships, mentors and role models are key to success, but a helping hand from government is also important.
Espy Thomas, co-owner of the highly successful Sweet Potato Sensations in Detroit, said many women work out of their homes in a variety of fields but don’t know how to take the next step.
“They have business savvy but they need to learn techniques, they need access to programs (for start-up businesses) so they can take their business outside of their home to a brick-and-mortar location,” said Thomas, a second-generation business owner.
The self-proclaimed “one tough nerd,” Snyder said he hopes to increase the number of co-eds who major in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – or seek a career-tech path in skilled trades or advanced manufacturing.

Kelsey Erne, 21, of Warren told the crowd she is enrolled in a new state program called Michigan Advanced Technical Training, or MAT2, that involves eight weeks in the classroom at Oakland Community College and eight weeks of on-the job training at a high-tech manufacturing plant. Ernie’s MAT2 work at the auto supplier Brose is modeled after apprenticeship programs in Germany.
“I am one of four women enrolled among the 32 people in the program,” she said.
Gail Alpert, president of FIRST Robotics, said participants in middle school and high school competitive robotics acquire technical skills and an appreciation for teamwork by “learning from the pros,” through partnerships with businesses and universities. The effort could pave the way for more girls pursuing STEM careers, Alpert said.
With teams now in place from the Detroit suburbs to the Upper Peninsula, last year Michigan added 80 additional teams, more than the increase in the other 49 states combined.

District Judge Linda Davis, who oversees cases from Clinton Township, Mount Clemens and Harrison Township, recalled that a high school counselor once told her that she should get married and have children rather than pursue a career. Beyond her lengthy legal career, Davis launched a nonprofit group, Families Against Narcotics, which focuses in particular on the disturbing rise in heroin use by teens.
What started as a “mom and pop” operation in Macomb County, Davis said, will have nearly 20 chapters across Michigan by the end of the year
“It’s all about passion, taking that passion and finding a way to make it work,” Davis told the women and girls in the audience.

One of the men in the audience was state Rep. Anthony Forlini, a Harrison Township Republican.
“What an articulate panel of women,” Forlini said at the conclusion. “They exude so much confidence. I’m just so impressed.”