Editorial: Clean Michigan
Bonding plan is good for environment and jobs
Detroit Free Press
Published March 30th, 2005
Gov. Jennifer Granholm's program to speed up bonding for
environmental projects is especially good for Detroit,
where two of the three cement silos on the riverfront
will come down as a result.
Although the silo demolition has theoretically been in
the works since voters approved the Clean Michigan Initiative
6 1/2 years ago under Gov. John Engler, it never seemed
to get scheduled. In other communities where major projects
also will get under way, Tuesday's announcement of cleanup
priorities must be equally welcome.
The 47 environmental projects are scattered from Gladstone
to Kalamazoo. Many projects cover contaminants that threaten
groundwater or have settled in rivers, and they have the
added value of ultimately protecting the Great Lakes as
well as local public health.
The Clean Michigan grants are just one aspect of Granholm's
program to accelerate state-funded work on roads, clean
up brownfields and abandoned gas stations, and build and
maintain universities. Together, they are designed to
create an $800-million hum of activity that puts people
to work and boosts the economy.
Michigan's unemployment rate, 7.5 percent in February,
keeps it at the bottom of the national heap, and it's
likely the job losses haven't stopped. Granholm's "Jobs
Today" news events unfortunately coincided with furniture
maker Steelcase Inc.'s announcement that it is shedding
600 employees in Grand Rapids over the next two years.
Meanwhile, the auto industry has everyone on edge with
worries over its health.
Granholm's jobs plan takes advantage of Michigan's historically
low borrowing rate, which gives the state room to take
on this debt faster than initially planned. And it's not
as if these are make-work projects. Every corner of the
state suffers from public underinvestment, which shows
up most blatantly on the roads.
But it makes sense to invest in cleaner water and better
access to it, because water attracts people and other
activity. As Detroit's riverfront is reclaimed from industry,
it will have the same allure that people travel miles
to experience elsewhere. Cleanups that restore rivers
can have equally magnetic effects. A buffed-up Michigan
can do a lot to counter its down-and-out aura, especially
with attention to its most sparkling asset: water.