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49 posts from January 2006

Pacesetter Mortgage head lends blog for community discussion

Dave Porter has made a real sweet offer to the mid-Michigan area.  He's the president of Pacesetter Mortgage in Okemos, MI who has lent more than a billion bucks over two decades and he want to help our area during a time of dramatic transition.

With a brand new mayor in Lansing, our State Capital city, and with an economy that's trying to adjust to life with a dramatically downsized automobile industry, Porter has volunteered his Pacesetter Mortgage Blog as a virtual townhall for residents to use to share their questions, answers and observations. 

He also sees it as a place for Lansing's new Mayor Virg Bernero and other mid-Michigan leaders to stop and listen and contribute as everybody tries to reach a consensus on how to change, grow and prosper.

Think about it.  This is a real opportunity for this part of the state.  Groups that should respond include teachers of all ages from the Lansing School District, the East Lansing, Dewitt and Okemos School Districts, the Michigan Education Association, the United Auto Workers, the Michigan State University community and everybody else who would describe themselves as a stakeholder.

As the dean of mortgage brokers in the area, he knows how to moderate discussions about tough issues.  And, he knows how to use the new media that lends itself to this kind of discussion.  He knows  how to build communities through the internet.  He is doing it with his business.

What an opportunity.  I used his blog to put in my two-cents worth.  Only positive things can happen with this kind of dialogue.

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My reaction: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero State of City Speech-conclusion

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has a daunting challenge.  Our city is at a crossroads.  All of us, in the mid-Michigan area, have a stake in Lansing's future.  Identifying the challenges, laying out a vision and then pulling people together is a must-do if Michigan's State Capital City will ever thrive as a place to live and work.

But, to succeed, there must be a change in the city's culture of communication.  Mainstream media has long-passed its golden age.  It's no longer an effective way to communicate.  That means going outside the mainstream.  This includes:

  • Mayor Bernero demonstrating that he wants to listen to more than just the business community and others in leadership positions.  He has to demonstrate an uncharacteristic openness and a desire to get feedback.  As Harry Frankfort, the prof from Princeton, says in his book, On Bullshit, people are tired of it.  They turn it off.
  • He needs to recognize that press releases are dead.  Their utility and their effectiveness as a communications channel is less than minimal.  The Michigan Legislature where Virg came from thrived on press releases.  This made the lawmakers feel good, but did nothing to communicate actions and ideas.
  • My suggestion, he himself needs to become involved in the blogosphere.  On a person-to-person level, he can be very engaging.  He needs to reach a wider audience on a wide variety of topics.  If people see his transparency and his genuineness, they will have an easier time pulling together around his leadership.  And, if they dont, it will be business as usual.
When he was still in the Senate and contemplating another run for Mayor, I broached his campaign about advising him on a blog.  The pieces didn't come together.  It's important that it happen now.  I'd do it as a public service and I'm sure other local bloggers would be there to help him too.

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My reaction: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero State of City Speech-part #5

Okay, here's my perception of what Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said in his State of the City address:

  1. From the Lansing State Journal photo of the event:  Virg is pictured on the podium with the top leaders of the city.  There are no regular citizens, residents.  I bet most of these people live outside the city.  Should that encourage me and others?
  2. From the headline: Downtown, technology are future, mayor says; hmm...that says to me that he's concentrating on only one part of the city, the downtown.  So much, for the southside where more than 60 percent of the people live.  What about other parts of the city?
  3. Without details, he proposes wireless internet for downtown and for state government.  What does this mean?  Wireless internet is the future?  Sure, it's important and it's nice to have.  But, what about the people who live here, especially the kids.  Their problems are deeper than wireless internet.
  4. He talks about ending deficit spending and no tax increases in the city.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't state law prohibit cities and other local government from deficit spending.
  5. He emphasizes the importance of developing the riverfront.  Again, I'm quizzical.  This is a small very polluted river.  How does he see this as a magnet for transforming life in our city and how will it affect those of us who live her?
I'm left uninspired by what he said.  Yes, Virg has energy and enthusiasm, but it's going to take more than that.

Perhaps, Mayor Bernero was influenced by Gov. Granholm and her State of the State address from last week.  She painted a picture of Michigan that most would say reflected a reality that they were not familiar with.  She made Detroit sound like Santa Barbara.  It was good cheerleading stuff, but it was like a Promise Keepers event where you're taken to the mountain top and then you have to go home and face the reality of everyday life.

I want to be supportive.  I just hope there's more.  Lansing deserves it.

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My reaction: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero State of City Speech-part #4

As a city of Lansing (MI) resident and somebody who has a vested interest in the city, here's what I would be looking for in Mayor Virg Bernero's State of the City address:

  • How he sees the state or condition of the city at this present time.  This means the whole city, more than the downtown area.  And, it means all the ingredients that go into daily city life.  Yes, that includes jobs, but also schools, housing, police, streets, mass transit, neighborhoods, recreation and health. 
  • Our city has gone through some tough transitions.  Much of this is from the changing nature of the auto industry in this state.  Lansing used to be the world headquarters for Oldsmobile.  The brand is history.  There's hope that GM will pick up the slack with a new plant in the area.  There's huge uncertainty. 
  • One of the big reasons that people are moving out of the city are the schools.  There's the perception that they are sub-standard.  People are leaving and they are not coming back resulting in crowding of suburban school districts.  How does the Mayor see this and what's the solution?  What role can he play to change this?
  • Neighborhoods in Lansing and their health must be addressed.  This is where day-to-day life takes place.  Now the Mayor lives in a pretty tony and exclusive neighborhood.  He needs to share what he understands about the challenges of people who live elsewhere.
  • Law enforcement issues need to be addressed.  Try to call the Lansing Police Department for a non-emergency call and you go through layers of automatic answering devices.
  • Racial issues need to be addressed.  Lansing is a mixed-race city that seems to work.  But, beneath the surface there seems to be a wall dividing the races. 
  • Churches and what role do they play and should they play in dealing with Lansing's needs and challenges.  There are churches, all kinds of them inside the city.  How can they add to the quality of life inside the city?
Now, in my opinion, Mayor Bernero needs to give his assessment of the State of the City on these and other issues and then he needs to provide his vision for the future.  It's a demanding task, but how it's done will determine how residents and non-residents react to his leadership and it will affect their hope for the future.

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My reaction: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero State of City Speech-part #3

I read the Lansing State Journal story about Mayor Virg Bernero's State of the City address last night and my response would have to be in two parts:

  • My expectations for a State of the City address or any state-of something speech by somebody who represents me and others.
  • My reaction to what was presented by the public servant, compared to what I feel citizens should know and have a right to know. 
Now the problem with last night's speech and the way it was presented and covered, you have to go by perceptions, rather than fact.  You go by what was said, as well as what was unsaid.  You look at the visuals that are presented.  That's all you have.  Right?

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My reaction: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero State of City speech-part #2

In my opinion, the big challenge as a responsible resident of the city of Lansing is staying informed about the who, what, when, where, how, why and so what of city government. 

How do you do it?

The local newspaper?  In our case, it's the Lansing State Journal.  During the past year, I've read the State Journal pretty carefully.  I've searched for coverage of Lansing City Council meetings, features about city government, profiles of city leaders and I've been disappointed consistently. 

Now you could mention the local television news.  My impression is that their news departments depend on the State Journal as a tip sheet for what they will cover on any given day.  So, if it's not in the paper, the station won't cover it.

Take Mayor Bernero's State of the City address.  Page one of the State Journal carries a teaser about the speech which leads to an inside section page.  That page carries four paragraphs and then jumps the story to an inside page where there are about a dozen paragraphs.  There are three highlight boxes of one paragraph each.  They don't print a copy of the whole speech.

There reaction, but it's from developers and officials and that's it.  The photo on the section page shows Bernero with city and community leaders.

Next I went to the city's website to look for coverage on the Mayor's speech.  That should be a no-brainer, right?  How about a podcast of the speech?  Another no-brainer, right?  Nothing there.

I went to the Lansing City Council's portion of the website and it didn't work.  At least, it didn't work on my new Apple iBook G4.  Somebody is not paying attention to web standards. 

As a resident, where do I go for a complete look at what our leader sees as the challenges and the solutions for our city?  There's a communications wall there between him and the people he represents and he didn't surmount it, in my opinion.  Too bad.  It's a missed opportunity.

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My reaction: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero State of City speech-part #1

Last night, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero gave his first State of the City speech and this morning I was anxious to see the details when I took the paper from my front porch. 

Reason for my interest is simple.  I live here and what happens here is important to me and my family.  Our city, the State Capital of Michigan, faces some pretty dramatic challenges.  Its future is being shaped by decisions being made now by both our city leaders and by its residents. 

Since I moved to Lansing in the early seventies, I have lived in three different parts of town, my first apartment was an efficiency just a few blocks north of the State Capitol, then a house on the near eastside in the inner city and then to where we live now on the city's southwest side.  My wife and I have raised two kids while living here.  So, we have a history here and we have a vested interest in what happens.

I need to add that I have no political axes to grind.  I knew Virg when he and I were both staff members in the Michigan House of Representatives and worked closely with him when he was a member of that body.  And, I voted for him.

His speech last night was important.  It sets the tone for his Administration.  It also lists his priorities during his term and it shows how he regards those he works with and those he serves.

I do have reaction to what was reported.  But I hesitate to share it because I know how defensive politicians can get.  They don't like criticism and they usually shut their ears, their brains and their hearts when they hear it.

I share my thoughts because I want to see Mayor Bernero succeed, but more importantly, I want Lansing to excel as a place to live and work.  For that to happen, there needs to be a community-wide conversation where there's both talking and listening.

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"Merry Christmas" --Did you say it this year?

I've got a question for everybody in Michigan and outside.

Jack Lessenberry in his blog of Essays and Interviews seems puzzled that some people think that Christmas is under attack.  In his podcast, he talks to two differing state senators about whether the season tree in front of the State Capitol Building is a Christmas Tree or a Holiday Tree.

My question: 

  • How many times this past December did you tell somebody, "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays?"
  • Going to one of the many Meijers Stores in Michigan, how many found real Christmas cards versus Holiday Cards?  How many of those mentioned the birth of Jesus as opposed to having a snowman or snow flake or something like that?
Growing up in Bay City, MI and growing up at Immanuel Lutheran in that town, I remember that you couldn't leave church without saying "Merry Christmas" multiple times and people said it back to you.

We could go on down through a checklist of cultural markers and find the same.  Jesus is hard to find in our community celebrations.  Mention it in a public school and a kid would probably be sent to the principal's office.  Too harsh?

Lessenberry is doing us a favor by raising this discussion.  Easter's coming and what are we going to do for that?  How will we greet people?

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Saul's right: U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow needs to fess up about Abrahamoff connections

Saul Anuzis, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, needs to take a bow for his tech prowess.  He's not afraid to use technology to get a message across.

In his new blog, "That's Saul, folks!", he makes a great point about our United States Senator, Debbie Stabenow.  Her growing self-righteousness about President Bush, about Republicans and about Jack Abramoff, has become really irritating and grating.

National Dem chair Howard Dean said that any member of his party in Congress who did Abramhoff's bidding for Indian casinos and received money from them should be disciplined severely.

There's clear evidence that Debbie has done both.  She has been an advocate in Washington for Indian gaming and she has received campaign money for it. 

It's time for the Democrats to clean their own house.  Good place to start is with our own Senator.  She needs to humble herself and confess that she's part of the problem and not the solution.  I'm ready to go door-to-door for Mike Bouchard and I live in Debbie's old neighborhood. 

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Super Bowl snackers: Which snack is most nutritious?

The big game is in Detroit this weekend and there's snacks aplenty.  Which one(s) do you pick?

In my e-newsletter from the Calorie King, I got this question and an astounding answer:

  • It's game time and you're at a friend's place in front of the TV and a pile of snacks.  Which snack choice has the least calories?
  1. 2 cups of buttered popcorn
  2. 3 handfuls of peanuts
  3. 4 handfuls of Frito's corn chips with salsa
  4. 15 baby carrots with Kraft French Onion dip

The answer, believe it or not, is microwaved popcorn (such as Act II); 2 cups contains only 70 calories; 85 for the carrots and dip, 250 for the peanuts and 330 for the corn chips and salsa.  Hmm...

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MSU may stink at football, but Spartans excel in knowledge

My ardor as a Spartan, class of 1969 School of Journalism, has been blunted over the past few years.  I've lost some of that school pride, the type where you become an enthusiastic word-of-mouth advertisement. 

I'm embarassed to say that some of that may come from its lackluster football team.  But that changed with a glossy newsletter that I got in the mail called MSU Today, Research and Creative Activities.

It's chock full of digestible stories and pictures about how Michigan State University has become a world-leader in all kinds of research.  The online version of this newsletter is worth checking out.

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Michigan gives high school dropouts a second chance

Think about how our culture has been eliminating second chances for people who screw-up in some way shape or form.  In Michigan, the prisons are just about full and if you drop-out of high school, there's no GED program to get a diploma.

Jeff Gerritt writes in the Detroit Free Press about the Michigan Challenge Academy in Battle Creek where dropouts needing discipline and structure in their lives are given the opportunity of a lifetime.  Sounds like a program that should be affirmed and duplicated. 

Does this really work?  Any thoughts?

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Help me understand senior prescription drug problems

I've read the news stories about seniors having trouble getting hooked up with their prescription drugs through the new Medicare program.  I just read this story in the Indy Star about the problems that seniors are having there getting needed prescriptions.

Now if that was my parents getting turned away because of some bureaucratic mess-up, I'd probably be real steamed. 

My question:  How did these seniors afford drugs before this program.  How did they get them and still pay their rent and other bills?  If they made it work before, why can't they do it now?  Or are these new prescriptions?

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Community college governance might need overhaul

Michigan community colleges need a governance overhaul.  To explain what I mean, I point to Lansing (MI) Community College.

As our state's workers start to walk through the mouth of the unemployment tiger because of major, historical realignments in the auto industry, our community college is wracked with politics.  The Lansing State Journal points to a college board of trustees operating like a high school student council. They are shooting out charges of administrative mismanagement that are incredibly serious.

This comes from a board that has a history of shooting at each other and anybody else in their way and forgetting about the students and the community they serve. 

Is it time for board members to be appointed, rather than be elected? 

What other solutions are there to this kind of behavior in an institution that needs to be a change agent for workers looking for retraining?

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Ford pain hits Wixom and elsewhere

Detroit Free Press details the pain at Ford Motor Company as details come out about black Monday.

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Tom Walsh of Detroit Free Press interviewed about Ford on podcast

What do yesterday's announcements by Ford of a dramatic restructuring mean for the company's future?  Is the Dearborn-based company struggling for its life?

In a podcast, Tom Walsh, Free Press auto columnist, talks about the challenge facing Ford.  He says Ford:

  • Is trying to reinvent itself.
  • Find niches in the auto market.
  • Change the culture at the company.
  • Be more innovative.

Walsh told interviewer Mike Wendland that Ford realizes that there is a sense of urgency and that cutting costs is not enough.  They have to change the way they think.

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MI House candidate Diana Rouse: Is she a real person?

I want to make an informed decision this summer and fall in the primary and general elections to determine who represents my part of Lansing in the Michigan Legislature. 

The challenge is typified by a few paragraphs in yesterday's Lansing State Journal announcing that Diana Rouse, a Lansing teacher, will run for the 68th District House seat.  It was at the bottom of a list of newsbriefs where there were items about local crime. 

Continue reading "MI House candidate Diana Rouse: Is she a real person?" »

Central Michigan University, a bastion for lib professors

This is a little something for all those parents out there who are sending their kids to Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant.  Freshman Art Green writes in his Conservative Eyes about all his professors who have used their academic platforms to put down conservative ideas.  And we pay tax money for this. 

Is this intellectual abuse of our kids?  They don't need to be bombarded with professorial biases, but they need to be made to think.

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Grand Rapids television reporter goes online to get private info

Just when you thought there was some privacy left in this world, there's this post from Michigan Telephone, VoIP and Broadband blog about how a WZZM TV reporter was able to get really private information about individuals over the internet.

For a price, you can get somebody's Social Security number, a list of calls made from a home or business phone, in additon to calls from a cellphone.  And check out all the other information available.

State Rep. Mike Sak is working on legislation to restrict this purveying of private information.

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