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Great Lakes Article:

Michigan Greens Skeptical of Granholm's Goals with "State of State"
Press Release from www.gr.org
Published February 9th, 2005

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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.

Health Care

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 care*!"

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 state Constitution.

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."

New Jobs

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 States?"

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 programs.

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.

Nurses

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 further propagated."

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."

Minimum Wage

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 wage."

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?"

Environment

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 or air.

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 new ones.

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 Highland Park.

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."

Working Together

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 of Michigan."

Elections

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."

Conclusions

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.

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