Michigan Greens Skeptical of Granholm's
Goals with "State of State"
Press Release from www.gr.org
Published February 9th, 2005
Members of the Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) had decidedly
mixed reactions to yesterday's "State of the State"
speech by Governor Granholm. They recognize that some
small steps promoted and proposed by Granholm are aimed
in the right directions, but they have serious doubts
about her ultimate destination on any of the issues she
mentioned . . . not to mention the issues she left out.
For example, in the speech, Granholm claimed her MiRx
card program had reduced prescription-drug costs for 20,000
families. Shiawassee County's Carolyn Dulai, a member
of the Capital Area Greens, is pleased -- but not satisfied.
"Health care is in the Michigan Constitution as a
government concern. How many people is the state not taking
care of?" she asks.
GPMI clearinghouse coordinator Randym Jones has an answer:
"1/6 of Michigan's residents still have *no health
Last spring, GPMI endorsed a lawsuit filed by Michigan
Legal Services (MLS) calling on Granholm and Department
of Community Health director Janet Olszewski to protect
and promote public health for all -- as required by the
Article 4, Section 51 of the Michigan Constitution declares
"the public health of the people" a matter "
. . . of primary public concern." The section goes
on to require the state Legislature to pass laws for the
protection and promotion of "the public health."
Also cited in the MLS brief is the 1978 "Michigan
Health Planning and Health Policy Development Act"
(MCL 325.2001), which requires the state to develop a
plan to provide ". . . adequate access to health
care for all segments of the state's population."
Fred Vitale of Detroit, one of GPMI's representatives
with the national Green Party of the United States, agrees
with some of Granholm's focus on jobs. "Our job losses
in Michigan are the worst in the country 25% of the jobs
lost under Bush have been lost in Michigan. But we need
a program of public works. We cannot rely completely on
entrepreneurial job creation or the automobile industry."
On the other hand, GPMI treasurer Ted Hentchel of Battle
Creek asks, "If the foundation of life is a good
job, then why did the Democrats and Republicans pass NAFTA
and send hundreds of thousands of jobs across our borders
and overseas . . . where people are paid 1/10 the wages
we once received -- and then spent -- here in the United
The jobs initiatives Granholm touted in her speech will
create a few jobs here in Michigan, he presumes. "But
the large number of manufacturing jobs that at one time
supported an affluent middle class and America's small-business
owners will all go abroad, continuing the drain on our
standard of living. Prices will not go down and the concentration
of wealth in the hands of a few will continue."
And, he adds wryly, "The Democrats and the Republicans
both know that when any project is financed with bonds,
the rich just get richer at the middle class's expense."
Jones agrees with Hentchel that Granholm's "bold
new initiative" to "create jobs" is just
more corporate welfare. "Anytime a governor proposes
using tax dollars to 'create' more jobs by giving money
away to the corporations, we should raise holy hell!"
The same is true for Granholm's talk of investment in
order to improve "curb appeal", he notes; it
even sounds like a purely cosmetic change. And he notes
that the money for Granholm's past job- creation programs
was stolen from the tobacco settlement's funding for anti-smoking
GPMI's position is that there are better places to focus
job-creation efforts. A focus on renewable energy would
save money and create jobs, notes Van Buren County Green
Chuck Jordan. And there is work almost literally piling
up to be done in the environmental clean-up industry:
"If we don't get started on it real
soon, we may not be able to keep up with the mess."
Besides, he argues, it's better than becoming dependent
on environmentally risky jobs in uncontrolled biotechnology,
or the security-industrial complex.
One point in the speech where Granholm tried to link
the issues of health care and jobs was her stated aim
of training more people to go into nursing. Says Harley
Mikkelson of Caro, Green candidate for Congress in the
5th District, "I hope she can find the money to hire
the medical personnel she wants to train to provide basic
medical care for everyone in Michigan."
But Greens also point out that, if Granholm really wants
people to work as nurses, and go on working in the field,
she will need to make sure their working conditions don't
put them out on strike for over two years -- as has happened
to the nurses of Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey.
As treasurer Hentchel puts it, "If the Democrats
are so interested in nurses, why is there no support for
the nurses up north whose union is fighting for its very
existence? Why would anyone want to go into a profession
where they are treated like dirt?"
Education: College and K-12
Michigan Greens agree with Granholm's stated goal of sending
everyone to college. It was Green Presidential candidates
Ralph Nader in 2000 and David Cobb in 2004 who campaigned
for investing the money thrown at the rich by the Bush
tax cuts into free college for all students.
But they are less sanguine about the specifics of Granholm's
plan. "Both parties have consistently cut money to
schools," says community-college teacher Jordan.
"Now Granholm has a plan to increase the number of
college graduates in Michigan. But how are they going
to do this when they keep cutting funds for K-12 schools
and class sizes keep rising?"
Vitale seconds that protest, citing the crisis in funding
for the public schools of his hometown, Detroit. Jones
also sees Detroit as a cautionary example of the kind
of assault on local control and democracy embodied in
Granholm's demand for the power to consolidate school
districts that don't follow her prescription for "reform".
Hentchel points out that Granholm's "new" idea
is not new at all. "In the past 30 years, I know
of no parent who has believed a high school diploma was
all that was needed for a real job. It has been just the
opposite; get a college education and improve your life."
Jones focuses on another old idea. "When I went
to college, the concept was that college trained you to
be a perceptive, involved *citizen*, not just a trained
drone. I guess that concept has gone by the wayside. And
it's frustrating that Granholm doesn't see college as
anything more than glorified job training."
For that matter, he notes, "Those who start their
own businesses earn more than someone who merely has a
college degree and works for someone else. Yet you literally
cannot find an entrepreneurship program until you get
to the junior level of a university. Encouraging people
to be workers rather than owners merely fosters their
dependency upon an unhealthy and dysfunctional system."
And there are other ways to get more money into classrooms,
Jones suggests: "How about a law to limit the compensation
of university -- and community college -- presidents?"
As for the MERIT 4000 plan, Hentchel adds, "Every
educated person knows the drop-out rate for first-year
college students hovers around 40%. The solution is to
get them into college and keep them there, not reward
the ones who would make it anyway." The MERIT 4000
plan would "reward the already-educated who know,
and have been programmed by their already-affluent parents,
to get a higher education. Class warfare will only be
And Dulai cautions, "We should not dilute a college
degree for numbers."
Jones describes Granholm's new MERIT plan as "gutting
a useful, dynamic program that made it possible for the
poor to at least attend community college, and replacing
it with yet another giveaway to the middle class. Considering
the high dropout rate of lower-class students who do attend
college, this merely ensures the skewing of the awarding
of state money to upper- and middle-class students."
Mikkelson supports Granholm's efforts to start to "move
the state in the right direction with limited state resources.
Raising the minimum wage and emphasizing meaningful education
are the way to go."
John La Pietra of Marshall, GPMI elections coordinator,
supports the upward direction -- but adds, "A number
is just a number. Isn't the idea to make sure every working
family makes a living? What the people of this state need
in a governor is someone to lead us in a drive for a living
Treasurer Hentchel asks, "When these new 36,000
jobs are created to improve our infrastructure, will they
be real jobs with real wages and benefits? Or just outsourced
to private companies where the workers get paid the bare
minimum and the owners get the wealth? How many of the
93% employed are pushing around goods made outside the
US at a minimum wage with no benefits and no real chance
to advance and raise their standard of living?"
Granholm mentioned the environment briefly at both ends
of her speech. And Greens are pleased that she seems to
recognize protecting the environment is good for Michigan's
economy. But both the protection and the link need to
be much stronger -- especially when the issue is water
One environmental issue Granholm talked about a lot last
year, but did not mention in yesterday's speech, was her
Water Legacy Act. Greens believe the act is too weak,
and needs to be reinforced with a definition of "water
diversion" that would actually protect the Great
Lakes watershed from abuse. The common-law principles
for doing this can be seen in outline in Judge Lawrence
Root's ruling for Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
against Nestlé Waters North America and the corporation's
Perrier/Ice Mountain water-extraction and bottling factory
in Mecosta County.
As Jones sees it, Granholm has stiffed the Green movement
on the Perrier plant. "Meanwhile," he adds,
"the EPA finds Detroit's air even fouler than before,
due to the excessive use of cars." Dulai suggests
focusing on repairing existing roads ahead of building
As for Granholm's energy plan, Jones points out: "The
cost of deriving hydrogen from methane or coal far outweighs
any theoretical savings at the gas pump; in addition,
it is being used as a back door to cause more nuclear
power plants to be built."
JoAnne Bier Beemon, defeated by entrenched land-developer
interests in her bid for re-election as Charlevoix County
Drain Commissioner, continues to work on water-protection
issues. Now serving as the director of the Great Lakes
Center for Public Policy, Bier Beemon is gathering support
across the region for a broad-based Water Bill of Rights.
This includes the joint common rights of the public to
the water of the Great Lakes Basin, which cannot be privately
owned: "Water diversion or sale of water of the Great
Lakes Basin for private profit constitutes a taking or
theft from the people."
Dulai says, "All drains must percolate rainwater
into Michigan aquifers, not let it go out to the Atlantic
like it does now."
Michigan Greens have also joined the Sweetwater Alliance
and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization in opposing
privatization of public water systems like the one in
Greens also support focusing job investment in jobs that
start off by protecting the environment, rather than making
the problems worse. Dulai suggests, "Let's give tax
rebates to businesses that clean up the environment or
sell products to keep it clean."
Greens welcome Granholm's call to work together -- to
"throw off the ease and the habit of partisan division
and have the courage to stand on common ground."
But they point out that most people in Michigan are neither
Democrats nor Republicans . . . even though that independent
majority is often legally excluded from major public bodies.
Just last month, Republicans missed a deadline to nominate
someone for the State Board of Canvassers -- but state
law called for Granholm to pick her own Republican, rather
than seek an independent voice.
"It's not only these appointments -- or only appointments
-- where the emphasis in the word 'bi-partisan' is still
clearly on 'partisan'," La Pietra notes. "Even
when Democrats and Republicans stand close together, close
enough on some issues that you can hardly see the difference
between them, they are standing far apart from the people
Dulai notes the many reports of problems across the state
with November's elections -- not enough voting machines,
and other hassles that make a mockery of the title of
the "Help America Vote Act". She urges, "Let's
make sure Michigan is not another Ohio or Florida when
it comes to voting in four more years."
Elections coordinator La Pietra recalls a report last
month in the Detroit _Free Press_ that State Representative
George Cushingberry Jr. took the oath of office despite
owing $4,000 in fines for not filing required campaign-finance
reports . . . and after he had filed an affidavit claiming
to be up to date on his reporting.
The same "Poli-Bytes" column reported that
four other legislators -- incumbents Bill McConico and
Marsha Cheeks and the newly elected father-son duo, Lamar
Lemmons Jr. and Lamar Lemmons III -- had just settled
similar violations, more than two months after the election.
"I'm not sure which is worse," La Pietra says,
"the arrogance of Cushingberry in flouting our state's
campaign-finance law and regulations, and the delayed
reaction of the other four . . . or the apparent lack
of interest on the part of our Secretary of State in either
enforcing that campaign-finance law or working to get
stronger, more enforceable laws."
The conclusion of Granholm's speech rankles a little
with some Greens. Jones points out that the preparedtext
on the Governor's Web site has a copyright symbol at the
end. "This address is a public document, and cannot
be copyrighted," he says, adding that it is ironic
for a speech in which Granholm calls repeatedly for the
people of Michigan to "stand with me" to end
with such a marked emphasis on property.
La Pietra notes that Granholm has taken a small step
toward sacrificing part of the pay increases state elected
officials have received since the exorbitant raises they
got in 2001 -- and locked in the next year with Proposal
02-1. But until that so-called "reform" of the
State Officers' Compensation Commission is repealed, he
adds, there is no way to take back the double-digit jumps
in elected officials' pay -- given while the people who
do the essential work of state government day to day were
making the sacrifices Granholm extolled in her speech.
And the best way to honor the sacrifices made by Michigan
men and women in the military, he concludes, is to bring
them home . . . to be brave enough to admit our nation's
mistakes and learn from them, so that we never again send
our men and women out to kill and die without a genuine
need to defend our country.