This Week's Topics
New Poll Shows Mayor Kilpatrick in Trouble
- New Poll Shows Mayor Kilpatrick in Trouble
- Appeals Court Weighs Same-Sex Benefits
- First Consolidated School Elections Drawing Near
- A Look at 2006 Statewide Races
- Stealth Attack on the Sixth Amendment?
- Mr. Cox Goes to Washington
- Legislature Update
- From Around the State
The latest EPIC/MRA poll has bad news for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. If the primary election were held today, Kilpatrick would get 32 percent and his two main opponents, Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix and City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail would get 29 percent apiece. In the general election, the poll has the mayor losing to Hendrix, 51-38, and in a 43-43 dead heat with McPhail.
The bad poll numbers are the fallout of lawsuits and media reports raising questions about the character, trustworthiness, and motivations of the Kilpatrick administration. As a result, the mayor's approval rating have taken a big hit. Only 36 percent of Detroiters rate his performance "excellent" or "good," compared to 62 percent who consider it "fair" or "poor." Two years ago, 71 percent gave him a positive rating, compared to 26 who game him a negative rating.
Although the mayor has blamed a bad economy and shrinking population for his city's financial woes, today's Detroit Free Press reports that the Kilpatrick administration has added to them with its mismanagement. The city has bought a $27-million radio-communication system, shelled out millions in IRS penalties and interest because of persistently late filings, and lost a $10 million lawsuit over the police and firefighters' pension funds.
Meanwhile, Motown legend Martha Reeves is considering a run for City Council. She decided to do so after getting into a dispute with neighbors and city officials over the condition of a tax-delinquent home she bought. Proving once again that all politics is local.
Appeals Court Weighs Same-Sex Benefits
Opponents of Proposal 2, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, warned that its language was broad enough to outlaw benefits that some school districts and municipalities offer to their employees' same-sex benefits.
That issue is now before the courts. A panel of the Court of Appeals is considering whether Ann Arbor schools may offer benefits to same-sex partners. The case began before Proposal 2 was passed, and the appeals court decided to allow the taxpayers who filed the suit to hear arguments on the impact of the proposal.
Patrick Gillen, an attorney for the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, which helped draft the amendment and filed the suit against the school district, argued that the school district "defined a new relationship and decided to subsidize it."
Seth Lloyd, a lawyer for the school district, argued that the benefits policy is legal because the school district hasn't sought to redefine marriage. He said, "The Ann Arbor Public Schools is marrying no one," he said. "No one is recognizing as marriage same-sex domestic partnerships."
It is unclear whether this case will clear up the meaning of Proposal 2. The appeals court could rule that the taxpayers who brought the suit lack legal standing to sue, making it unnecessary to rule on whether the proposal goes beyond defining marriage.
If you're keeping score at home, the Associated Press offers a timeline of developments in the same-sex benefits dispute.
First Consolidated School Elections Drawing Near
Another Michigan tradition bites the dust: special school elections. School boards used to be able to call them whenever they pleased. They made generous use of that power, putting millage increases and bond issues to a vote at a time when few voters were likely to show up.
Last year, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed legislation that limits school elections to four days out of the year. It also requires municipal governments to pick up most of the tab for these elections.
On May 3, voters in over 90 percent of Michigan's school districts will go to the polls (well, a handful of them will) to elect school board members. But, as Dawson Bell of the Detroit Free Press explained in a column on Monday, May is the most expensive possible time to hold these elections, because no other offices are on the ballot.
Bell takes school officials to task for not holding elections in November when, in odd-numbered years, many municipalities hold their elections, or better still, electing school board members every two years instead of every year. He sarcastically concludes, "What could be more vital to the well being of our schoolchildren than maintaining a tradition of high-cost, low-turnout elections?"
A Look at 2006 Statewide Races
The Ins and Outs of GOP Senate Candidates. Last week, Peter Cummings took himself out of the running for Debbie Stabenow's Senate seat. On Thursday, U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) said no to a senatorial run. He said he'd like to stay in the House and concentrate on intelligence and trade issues.
But a new GOP candidate has joined the field. He's Nasser Beydoun, a construction company executive and former director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce. Interestingly, Beydoun has contributed to several Democrats, including Representatives Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and John Dingell, and none other than Stabenow.
One candidate who is running for certain: Bart Baron, an industrial engineer from Troy.
Granholm, Jobs, and Re-Election. George Weeks of the Detroit News thinks Governor Granholm's "Jobs Tomorrow" proposal faces a tough sell. It's also crucial to her chances for re-election, given the fact that two polls rank jobs and the economy at the top of Michigan voters' list of concern and the governor's poll numbers have gotten weaker. Meanwhile, the governor is promising extra Medicaid funds to nursing homes that upgrade their facilities. The program, part of her "Jobs Today" initiative, could create up to 5,000 construction jobs over the next three years..
Stealth Attack on the Sixth Amendment?
An editorial in Monday's Detroit News warned that the Michigan Supreme's proposed overhaul of the rules of professional ethics could allow government lawyers to directly contact targets of civil and criminal investigations without getting their lawyer's permission to do so. The News warns that the proposal--which is buried on page 90 of a 129-page Supreme Court document--would give law-enforcement lawyers special treatment, endanger Michiganders' Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, and possibly lead to abusive enforcement. It reminded readers of its investigation a few years ago that resulted in several Michigan men being released from prison because of misconduct by State Police investigators in a murder case.
Mr. Cox Goes to Washington
Yesterday, Attorney General Mike Cox appeared before a federal appeals court in Washington and defended the Environmental Protection Administration's decision not to impose limits on carbon dioxide emissions.
Cox, who's representing Michigan and 10 other states, including Ohio and Texas, argued that carbon dioxide is not considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act of 1990, and that the Congress never gave the EPA authority to regulate the substance. He also contended that the auto industry--and, with it, Michigan's economy--would suffer a serious blow if automakers have to limit carbon dioxide emissions.
The case has become a mini-war between the states. On the other side are a group of states, including California and New York, who has joined environmental groups in challenging the EPA. They argue that the federal government needs to regulate emissions before a patchwork of state rules is enacted.
The legislature is in recess until Tuesday, April 12.
Restrictions on Sales of Cold and Allergy Pills?. Pseudoephedrine, a substance found in some over-the counter cold and allergy medications, is also used to make methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug. To combat "meth labs," Senator Patricia Birkholz (R-Saugatuck) is sponsoring a bill that would require buyers of medications containing pseudoephedrine to show identification. Opponents warn that the law will create a logistical nightmare.
Bills Tackle Special-Ed Status, Minimum Age for Kindergarten. An editorial in Tuesday's Detroit Free Press praises Senator Nancy Cassis (R-Novi) for introducing legislation that would make sure children are not incorrectly labeled special-education students. However, the Free Press is not so enthusiastic about the rest of the same package of bills. It is particularly critical of a bill that would in effect raise the minimum age for entering kindergarten, requiring that a child be five years old by September 1. The current cutoff is December 1. It argues that the bill would unfairly slow some children's development and reduce school funding, which is allocated on a per-pupil basis.
Relieving "Sticker Shock" at the Pump. Representative Robert Gossellin (R-Troy) has introduced a bill that would eliminate the state's sales tax on gas costing more than $2.30 a gallon. Opponents argue that the bill would provide Michigan drivers with little relief, even if the price of gas rises to $3 a gallon and stays there.
"No ID, No Booze" Bill. If Representative Glenn Stahl (R-Arcadia Township) has his way, anyone, regardless of age, must show ID to buy alcohol. Stahl has introduced another bill under which a person convicted of drunk driving would be barred from buying alcohol for a year.
From Around the State
Dave Demsey, environmental adviser to ex-Governor Jim Blanchard, has criticized Governor Granholm for failing to block the town of Evart from selling its spring water to Nestle Corporation. Dempsey fears that the Evart deal could lead to the diversion of water from the Great Lakes....The University of Michigan averted a strike by graduate student instructors. The agreement calls on the university to "vigorously defend" benefits for instructors' same-sex partners....Under "Kevin's Law," dangerous mentally ill people can be forced to undergo treatment, took effect. An editorial in Sunday's Free Press called attention to another provision of that law, which allows a person to name an advocate to make treatment decisions and even list specific medications he prefers or wants to avoid....Tuesday's Free Press criticized the ID requirement in a bill that would authorize limited early voting, arguing that it could disenfranchise the elderly, some of whom no longer have driver's licenses, and the poor, who can't afford to pay $10 for a state identification card....Wednesday's Free Press took County Executive Robert Ficano to task for giving the county's chief financial officer a promotion after auditors blamed her for an accounting blunder that cost the government some $2 million....Attorney General Mike Cox has issued an opinion interpreting Michigan's late-term abortion ban. Cox concluded that the law, which defines "birth" as the moment an portion of a fetus is expelled from the mother's body, only bans the abortion procedure doctors call "intact dilation and extraction. The law was scheduled to take effect last week but has been challenged in federal court.