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Great Lakes Article:

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.

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