I think I can cross off Sandy Pensler from my list for U.S. Senate from Michigan


I feel really disconnected from the Michigan political loop as we get ready to vote in early August in the primary.  Take the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate where the incumbent Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection.

Two Republican candidates are sending me mail.  Most recent is Sandy Pensler from Grand Rapids.  I believe he's a businessman.  I think I've seen a couple of his television commercials .

What grabbed me was the opening sentence a Pensler fundraising letter.  "Donald Trump is making America great again and Debbie Stabenow can't stand it," he writes.  

Has Pensler been listening to or watching the news the past 18 months.  News commentators are openly questioning whether he's guilty of treason.  He gave the finger to U.S. intelligence agencies and backed the Russian president Putin.  Hmm . . .

Then there's the personal morals side of the equation.  Porn star Stormy Daniels is old news.  Now it's a Playboy model and his affair with her around the time that his youngest son was born.  He and his people are not denying it.

The list could go on and on.  And Pensler describes the president as making America great again.

I might be left with one choice.  I might make my mark for Stabenow.  There's no guessing about what side of the tracks she's on.  She's honest and you don't have to look over your shoulder and keep your hand on your wallet when you talk to her.

Has medical marijuana been a good or bad thing for Michigan's State Capital city, Lansing?

Marijuana billboard
These billboards could be seen throughout Lansing this past year

What about medical marijuana in the city of Lansing?

Marijuana shops dominate the city's landscape, particularly the south side.  After more than a half decade the city passed an ordinance to regulate this growing industry to sell a substance that many say is harmless and has medicinal qualities.  Others say, it's a gateway to addiction.

Depending on who you talk to the city has had between 75 to 100 dope stores where "weed" can be purchased legally with a card from the state of Michigan which has to be endorsed by a physician.  

Attempts by the Lansing City Council to regulate it have been feeble at best.  A new ordinance is being challenged by advocates for the stores.

Where does this all stop?  Will the local political inertia continue in the direction of more and more shops?  Will there ever be a realistic discussion about what this all means for the city and this region of central Michigan?

Because of a lack of leadership on this issue, Lansing is becoming harder and harder to take seriously as a well-governed city.  

The above billboard shows what Lansing has turned into.  It has moved from being the home of Oldsmobile to the marijuana capital.



What about paying a toll to cross the Saginaw River in Bay City?

The Saginaw River cuts through the middle of Bay City, Michigan which has multiple bridges for people to go from the east to west sides.  I grew up there and when I learned how to drive I learned on the Belinda Bridge which was old, rickety and extremely narrow.  Somedays, I'd cross multiple times.  When I was in grade school, I lived on the west side and my school was on the east side of town.

All of the city's multiple bridges are in need of expensive repairs.  The mayor is proposing that a private company be allowed to build a new bridge where a toll would be charged for each time you crossed.  One dollar for city residents and two for those who live elsewhere.


Bay City's Belinda Bridge
I grew up just down the street from this bridge.


 This discussion in northern Michigan is just a small part of the need for infrastructure repairs in this state and country.  The challenge is paying for them.  

Is privatization the answer to making this happen?

What about Bay City?  Are they on to a solution?

What does your common sense tell you about Michigan moving from a full-time to part-time legislature?

Michigan has a full-time legislature where lawmakers have their own staff people and their own offices.  They get a generous salary and with expense money can earn pretty close to six figures.

Does our state need all that just to pass laws?  How much work is actually involved in pressing either a green or red button on your desk?  

This is an issue where voters need to shift into "critical thinking."  It's way too easy to react to this issue with personal prejudice. On the surface, it makes sense to reduce the amount of money we spend on our state's 148 lawmakers.  But, are we ignoring the law of unintended consequences like when you push in one side of the balloon where will it come out the other side?

I've seen the legislature "up close and personal" for most of my adult life.  I've worked in a variety of jobs in and around the State Capitol.  

Two Republican candidates for governor want a part-time legislature.  Soon, you will be asked to sign petitions to put it on the ballot.  This is worth doing some homework about.  I too have my own political prejudices and I've learned that I needed to either discard them or substantially recalibrate my thinking.


Getting my haircut and thinking about the Michigan Legislature.
I'm thinking about the proposal for Michigan to have a part-time legislature.



LINK: Gov. Rick Snyder says his staff lied to him about the Flint water crisis


Keep in mind that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was the top executive of the old Gateway Computer company.  When he first ran, he billed himself as knowing how to run a big organization like the state of Michigan.

Then along came the Flint water crisis where he's accused of killing children and poisoning the city of Flint.

Today, he said his staff lied to him about what was happening in Flint.  In the Detroit Free Press, he talks about how he was misled by his executive staff.  This is worth a read.  Without getting all partisan, what should we learn from this?

LINK: Detroit Free Press story about Snyder saying his staff lied to him about Flint.  


My wife catches me in the act of snow blowing

Today is the day after a big snow storm in Michigan.  We got near a foot of snow here in Michigan's State Capital City.  Very little is moving in our neighborhood.  It was time to pull out my Honda snowblower which had a few challenging moments pushing through the wet stuff.

I wonder how many Michigan snowbirds in Florida really miss the snow, the ice and the power outages.


Getting ready for a big Michigan snowstorm today


Hawk Island on Tuesday morning.
There was no snow yesterday when we walked at Hawk Island. That's changing in the next couple of hours, forecasters say.

 Is today's snow warning here in Lansing, just another weather false alarm?  Forecasters say this is going to bring up to a foot of snow.  We've checked our pantry, our fridge, our car's in the garage, have wood for the fireplace and have a few DVD's picked out.  My snowblower is accessible and I have plenty of gas.  We are ready.


Looking out our kitchen window.
Looking out our kitchen window this morning. No snow yet.


Memories of raising Michigan's speed limit to 70, as legislature gets ready to raise it to 75-80


Bill signing to raise speed limits.
This picture was taken the day Gov. John Engler signed the bill raising Michigan's speed limit to 70. I worked for the bill''s sponsor (right) Sen. Doug Carl of Macomb County. I don't remember the date, but I had hair (left).


The state of Michigan seems to be on the cusp of raising its speed limit from 70 to 75/80.  Did you know that?  And have you thought about what effect this will have on driving our state's freeways?  The number of people killed on our roads far outstrips those killed in any other form of violence.

I remember the last raise of the speed limit vividly because I worked as the legislative director for the bill's sponsor, Sen. Doug Carl of Macomb County.  He became convicted of the need because of his daily drive between Lansing and his home north of Detroit.

The bill went through two committees with hearings, but I never saw the everyday driver share many of their views about driving faster.  With social media and somebody who could facilitate that discussion, I wonder if that would change.  Would there be more reaction?

Is this the time to raise the speed limit even higher?  How many lives will be lost because of the change?  How well is the speed limit being enforced now?

I can't wait for driverless cars.  I think I'd feel safer with one.

On Lansing's southwest side, gas was $1.99 per gallon late yesterday afternoon


Southwest Lansing gas price
This was the gas price yesterday on the southwest side of Lansing, on the day after Christmas



How are low gas prices affecting your travel during the Christmas season?  

Yesterday while riding home from Best Buy, this was the price at the Shell Station on the southwest corner of Waverly and Old Lansing Road.  Most of the pumps seemed to have cars filling up.

When we go to church tomorow near Lowell, we will fill up.  Gas prices there, according to GasBuddy.com are $1.79 per gallon.  Any guesses about how low prices will go?  This is all positive, right?


Gas prices in Lowell, MI win the prize for us.
These are the lowest gas prices I've seen within a 50 miles radius of us.



All in favor of honoring Satan on the front lawn of the State Capitol raise your hand

I'm stunned by the lack of reaction from Lansing-area churches about the real possibility that a statute to Satan will be erected on the front lawn of the State Capitol next week as part of the Christmas celebration.



As reported today in the Lansing State Journal, satanists in Michigan will erect a statute of Satan next week for several days as their way of celebrating Christmas.  There will be no Nativity scene.  This is because, according to the story, no Christian church has stepped forward to put one up and take it down everyday.  Did anybody know about it?

There has to be boundaries to what is allowed for the celebration of one of the most sacred days of the year for Christians.  Honoring the author of sin and all the vileness of this world is not one of them.  We have war, murders, hunger, poverty, racism, domestic violence and all other forms of trouble because of him.

I'm offended that this is even a possibility at the hub for state government in this state.

Churches need to step up.  We can't allow Jesus to be taken out of Christmas, especially in Lansing and in this state.  We place ourselves in the bullseye for more of Satan's handiwork if we don't act.

Just my opinion.  Anybody agree?

Black Friday weekend was a shopping bust around the country; but what about Michigan?

My son and I noticed the difference in the number of shoppers on Black Friday at the Best Buy on the westside of Lansing.  There were some great prices and there were plenty of items left on the shelves and in the aisles.

It was easy to get around the store.  The line at the cash registers was not long.  This is a contrast to past experiences where Black Friday was a cultural experience.  People jammed the store and the line at the checkouts wrapped around the store.


The local Best Buy on Black Friday.
My son Justin looks at a tablet at the local Best Buy.

Apparently, it was the same experience around the country with Black Friday sales being down.  Here's what the New York Times said this morning:

Sales, both in stores and online, from Thanksgiving through the weekend were estimated to have dropped 11 percent, to $50.9 billion, from $57.4 billion last year, according to preliminary survey results released Sunday by the National Retail Federation. Sales fell despite many stores’ opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day.

Has anybody seen results for Michigan?

Here's what it looked like on November 29, 2011 in Lansing, Michigan

Here's a video clip of what it looked like in our front yard exactly three years ago.  It does snow here in mid-Michigan in November and this is proof.  This is for out-of-state family members who have been asking.

Should you let the local tax assessor come in your house?

The tax assessor wanted to examine the inside of homes in Davison Township, near Flint, Michigan.  When homeowners refused, they got their assessments raised.

Do you have to let the assessor inside your house?  And, if you refuse is that automatic grounds for an assessment raise?  

Watch this video from the Mackinac Center in Midland, Michigan about this very real situation.  

Does this happen in your local unit of government?


EASTER WEEK 2014--Memories of Good Friday services at the Empire in Bay City

I think my wife and I are going to go to a Good Friday service this year to recognize the death of Jesus on the cross more than 2,000 years ago.  It's an important occasion and it's one that's too easily left by the side of the calendar.

If my grandkids and I were sitting in the coffeeshop eating scones and drinking espresso and they asked me about how I celebrated Good Friday as a young boy, I'd have to tell them about the services at the Empire Theater in Bay City which were sponsored by local Lutheran Churches.

The services were held around noon time and were at one of the nicest places in our small city on the side of the Saginaw River.  Hundreds would attend.  One of the local pastors would give a sermon where the Good Friday story would be told.  There must have been choir music, but I don't remember it. 

When it was over, I remember walking out of the theater onto Washington Street and everything would be quiet on the busiest street in town.  Stores had shutdown as part of the observance.

Here a picture of the Empire from the Cinema Treasures site.

Empire bay city

Here's how our mid-Michigan neighborhood looks on March 14, 2014

Our winters the past several years have been comparitively tame, compared to the one we've had this year.  It's the middle of March and here in the State Capital city of Michigan, it's brutally cold and there's lots of snow on the ground.  Here's how it looked this morning from our front door.



I'm saving song about the Third Street Bridge in Bay City for my grandkids

I was born and raised in Bay City, Michigan, a small town at the bottom of the Saginaw Bay which leads to Lake Huron.  My memories from there center around the Saginaw River and all the bridges that crossed it.

As a kid I grew up just down the street from the really old two lane Belinda Street Bridge.  It was a place for new drivers to sharpen their precision steering skills, especially during the winter.

The other swinging bridge was the Thrid Street Bridge, a little farther up the river, which fell into the river one day all by itself during a time when no people or cars were on it.

A Facebook friend found and shared this ballad to the Thrid Street Bridge.  The song tells the story.   Anybody who has crossed this bridge, it will bring back meories.  It's a touchpoint to the past.

LANSING ICE STORM: Eight days later traffic light on West Grand River Ave. near I-96 still out

My wife and I took this picture of the traffic light on West Grand River Avenue just outside of Lansing and just off of I-96 when we got done with lunch at Denny's Restaurant.  It's still not functional after the ice storm which hit eight days ago.  

It should be noted that this is a major thoroughfare for semi-truck and for travelers on the interstate.  This is just a FYI for those in charge of repairing storm damage.  It has to be a hazard for the travelling public.  Check the picture which was taken about 2 p.m. this afternoon with my iPhone.

Lights out at the traffic signal.
This is the traffic light right at the intersection of I-96 and West Grand River Avenue.

LANSING ICE STORM: How would you grade Lansing Board of Water and Light transparency?

Do you feel that the Lansing Board of Water & Light has been sufficiently open during its response to the mid-Michigan ice storm which we are recovering from right now?

The perception of many, including myself, is that our local utility suffers from a transparency problem.   Their guarded comments and poor communication has led people to believe that they are getting sub-par treatment in getting their power turned back on.

How do you change  that?  You build real trust by being completely transparent.  That means being open and honest when things are not positive and where expectations have not been met and where mis-judgements have been made.

On my social media blog which I use for testing and for recording what I've learned, I link to a company that practices those values.  They are open about everything.  It's bufferapp.com  Check it out.  Can local units of government be encouraged or strongly nudged to follow similar values?  Is it worth a try?

Click here to learn more about bufferapp.com

Buffer 2

Fill your tank if your in Belding, Michigan today with $2.99 gas

Cheap gas in Belding, Michigan
Check the price for a gallon of gas at this station. That's really cheap for our region.


While super-wife is meeting with a new student teacher at one of the local schools, I'm using the wi-fi at the local McDonalds here in Belding, Michigan about 55 miles northwest of our State Capital city of Lansing.

Gas is getting cheaper in our city, but it hasn't gotten below the $3.00 a gallon mark.  What are other drivers paying in Michigan and around the country.  This is really cheap for our region.

Michigan State University study on hand washing has disturbing results

MSU handwashing study
Do you wash your hands after using the bathroom?
I will think about this MSU study on handwashing as reported in the Wall Street Journal when we have supper tonight at Culvers before we go to church.  The "john" there is small and it's uncomfortable when two or three guys try to use it.

 Keep in mind that researchers were actually in the rest room watching people wash their hands.  And this all happened in East Lansing, a college town.  

What does all this mean?  Does it result in more sicknesses being passed around?  What's the right way to wash your hands.

The story says: 

The results were discouraging: One in 10 didn't wash their hands at all; just two in three used soap; and just one in 20 washed their hands for at least 15 seconds, which is five seconds shy of recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.