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Pete Bigelow · Midwest Memo: Upper Peninsula Enjoys Mining Surge, Scott Walker Wastes No Time Plotting Wisconsin Recall Strategy
November 28th, 2011
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Upper Peninsula’s mining boom. The mining industry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is enjoying a renaissance more than a century after its best days passed. New technology demands are creating demand for gold, silver, copper and nickel, the Detroit Free Press reports today. Foreign companies are finding them in abundance in both new and reopened ore mines. Mineral rights on more than 1 million acres have been leased for prospecting. But many of the mines are near rivers and Lake Superior, sparking concern among environmentalists. “I’m not anti-mine. I’m anti-mining pollution,” one advocate tells the newspaper.
2. Busy finale ahead for Illinois legislators. The Illinois state legislature could end its fall session Tuesday with a flurry of activity. Lawmakers are expected to vote on several pieces of legislation that have garnered attention for months, including a bill that would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which extends larger refunds to working families. Our partner station WBEZ reports the legislature could also tackle a package of tax incentives designed to keep CME Group and Sears based in in the state. Both have been wooed in recent months by Indiana and other competitors. A vote on legislation that would expand gambling in the state could also take place.
3. Walker plots recall strategy. A possible recall election may not take place until next summer, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is wasting no time in campaigning to keep his job. Walker is running television ads defending his 11-month record and Republican volunteers are going door to door canvassing likely voters. USA Today reports Walker’s office is trying to learn from the only two successful gubernatorial recalls in U.S. history. They believe California Gov. Gray Davis (2003) and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921 both started campaigning too late to save their jobs. “There’s this momentum that builds, and once it builds it’s very difficult for things to reverse,” David Schecter, a political scientist at Cal State Fresno, tells the newspaper.
November 22nd, 2011
The Great Lakes states (and Ontario) have something significant in common: water. But beyond Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, the states and province seem to go their separate ways.
On Monday, WBEZ’s Front and Center project and Changing Gears took a look at whether the Great Lakes states and province can cooperate politically. Guests included Richard Longworth, of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Indiana Congressman Scott Reske and Carol Coletta, president of ArtsPlace, a cultural group pushing economic transformation through the arts.
Listen to the program, and let us know: how can our states (and province) cooperate?
November 18th, 2011
Detroit’s Plea: As we reported yesterday, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is laying out his plan to keep his struggling city solvent. But a key step — getting a $220 million from the state — is getting a cool reception. While Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder hasn’t rejected it, he’s not embracing it either,
according to our partner Michigan Radio. Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Snyder is “focused on how to best help Detroit move forward in tough economic times.” But Wurfel added Detroit is free to plead its case with the state legislature.
Steelmaker Expands Training: Three years ago, global steel company ArcelorMittal started a training program in Indiana to get young adults prepared for jobs in the industry. And now, the Cleveland plant says it’s partnering with Lakeland Community College to offer the training in Ohio, according to our partners at ideastream in Cleveland. The Steelworker for the Future program is due to start in January, and involves two-and-a-half years of college coursework and a twelve week paid internship. At the program’s end, students walk away with an associates degree in electrical or mechanical technology.
Wisconsin Mining Controversy: Mining is making a comeback in the upper Great Lakes, but not everyone is happy about it. Eleven Indian tribes across the region have come out in opposition to a plan to a new open-air pit, iron ore mine, according to WBEZ’s Front and Center project. Proponents say the mine would create 700 jobs paying $50,000 a year. However, opponents are concerned about the impact on the environment. They met with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week.
November 16th, 2011
Rahm Emanuel has only been in office since May, but today he scored his first major political victory. Chicago’s city council voted 50-0 in favor of a budget plan that calls for fee increases, layoffs and major changes in the way the city does business.
That isn’t to say all the aldermen liked it. During two hours of debate, there were complaints about aspects of the plan that will close libraries and close six mental health clinics.
But there also was praise for Emanuel for working closely with city council members on his proposal to address a $635 million deficit. Ed Burke, considered the city’s most powerful alderman, said the budget process was the most cooperative he had seen in 42 years.
While he was working on the plan, Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, said he was no longer going to “kick the can down the road” on the city’s problems — a veiled reference to his predecessor, and political mentor, Richard M. Daley. (I looked at Emanuel and Daley in this story for Atlantic Cities last month.)
In Wednesday’s debate, Alderman Richard Mell told the mayor, “It’s obvious that when you we’re a kid, you never learned the game of kick the can. Everybody felt the pain. The only way you are going to make the gain is to feel the pain.”
Visitors will be among those feeling the pain. As we reported last month, Emanuel’s proposal includes higher taxes at downtown parking garages and at hotels. People who purchase the city’s car registration stickers also will be paying more.
But Emanuel already has convinced city council to eliminate a head tax on companies with 50 of more employees in the city, a move he says is why Ford is adding more jobs at its Chicago plants.
Pete Bigelow · Efforts To Recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Begin Tonight; Both Sides Already Anticipate Fraudulent Activity
November 14th, 2011
At midnight tonight, opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will kick off efforts to recall him from office.
The group United Wisconsin intends to start gathering signatures needed to force a recall election at that time after filing paperwork with the state. A pajama-party rally is planned at the state capitol in Madison. Other groups are planning an anti-Walker rally at his home in Wauwatosa, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Organizers must gather more than 540,000 signatures by Jan. 17 to set a recall in motion. United Wisconsin says it will attempt to gather 600,000 to 700,000 to allow for leeway in case some signatures are not allowed.
To that effect, the state’s Republican Party will be watching. On Monday, GOP leaders announced they’ve started the new Recall Integrity Center, a website devoted to scrutinizing signatures, according to The Capitol Times. Voters are encouraged to submit videos, photos or other reports of signatures or aspects of the signature-gathering process they deem suspect.
Meanwhile, the Journal Sentinel reports Democrats are concerned Republicans will gather recall signatures under false pretenses – and then destroy them.
For what it’s worth, Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the electoral accountability board, notes that “fraudulently defacing or destroying election petitions is a felony.”
November 11th, 2011
Rick Snyder and Mitt Romney may have similar backgrounds – both born and raised in Michigan, both cultivated moderate conservative reputations en route to winning governorships in traditional blue states.
But when it comes to the federal bailout of the auto industry in 2009, the two politicians have starkly different positions.
Romney, as a Democratic political ad reminded viewers this week, would have let Chrysler and General Motors go bankrupt. He elaborated on that position in this week’s Republican candidate debate held in suburban Detroit. “They should have gone through a managed bankruptcy process,” utilizing a private-sector bailout that provided funds and time for restructuring, he said.
“This was about more than these two companies,” he said. Bankruptcies would have had far-reaching consequences. “It would have brought down the whole supply chain and Ford,” Snyder said.
NPR’s Don Gonyea reviewed Romney’s position on the federal auto bailout this morning, and how it went over in Michigan.
Pete Bigelow · Midwest Memo: Google Causes Groupon Angst, Cain Campaigns In Michigan, Tea Party Seeks Ohio Right-To-Work Push
November 11th, 2011
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. More complaints about Groupon. Some merchants have already swore off Groupon after they wound up losing money – or in some cases, their businesses – by running promotions with the Chicago-based company. Now comes another gripe. Merchants tell The Wall Street Journal that Groupon collects money immediately while payments to customers linger for more than 60 days, affecting their cash flow. Rivals of the daily deal site are offering faster payments, which puts a crimp in Groupon’s business model. Meanwhile, our partner station WBEZ reports Google is stepping onto Groupon’s home turf with daily-deal service.
2. Cain campaigns in Michigan. One day after a debate in suburban Detroit, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain made stops across southern Michigan on Thursday. He discussed the state’s 11-percent jobless rate in Calhoun County, a key battleground that has been split in the two most recent presidential elections. “This is one of the greatest tragedies that we face, and that is we have all these people that are unemployed,” Cain told supporters, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer. Michigan voters head to the primary polls on Feb. 28.
3. Could Ohio become right-to-work state? Two days after voters defeated Issue 2 at the polls, a Tea Party group has started a push to turn Ohio into a right-to-work state. Ohioans For Workplace Freedom said Thursday it is seeking 386,000 signatures to put the issue on the Ohio ballot, perhaps as early as next November. Ohio is one of 28 states that require employees to join unions or pay fair-share dues in places where workers are represented by unions. “A lot of people in the patriot movement feel this was a key component of Senate Bill 5 that never came out,” Tom Zawistowski, president of the Portage County Tea Party, tells the Akron Beacon-Journal.
November 10th, 2011
Rick Perry’s stumble in Wednesday night’s Republican presidential candidates debate caught a lot of attention inside the Beltway. But Mitt Romney’s characterization of the auto bailout has also touched nerves — especially because parts of it seem to be wrong.
Romney’s opposition to the bailout is well-known, and in fact, Republican candidates by and large think it was a bad idea.
Asked about the auto bailout during a discussion of the economy last night, Romney said, “Whether it was by President Bush or President Obama, it was the wrong way to go.”
He went on, “We have capital markets. It works in the U.S.”
In reality, banks had refused to provide Chrysler and General Motors with the kind of financing the companies would have needed to restructure. Congress also refused to approve a bailout package. That was why the government stepped in to finance and speed the companies through Chapter 11.
Ford, which did not seek federal assistance, had borrowed billions of dollars from financial institutions before the financial crisis. But it do so by mortgaging virtually the entire company, including its blue oval logo.
Later, in his comments, Romney said of the Obama administration, “They gave General Motors to the UAW, they gave Chrysler to Fiat.”
In reality, the U.S. and Canadian governments wound up as the largest shareholders in G.M,, and have since sold part of their stake, after G.M. went public last year. A health care trust fund for UAW members that is administered by the union gained a 17.5 percent stake in G.M., which has since declined to about 10 percent.
On Chrysler, Romney is closer to being right. Fiat, the Italian automaker, took management control of Chrysler as a result of the government-sponsored bankruptcy, and got a 20 percent stake without making an investment, once the company emerged from Chapter 11.
Fiat now owns the majority of Chrysler shares, for which it paid $1.8 million, including the government’s 6 percent stake in Chrysler.
Given his way, said Romney, “we would have had a private sector bailout, a private sector restructuring and bankruptcy, as opposed to what we had with government playing its heavy hand.”
Others might have felt the same way, but under the circumstances in 2009, Romney’s plan would not have come about.
Here’s how Romney looked in the debate last night.
VIDEO GOES HERE
November 9th, 2011
A state-by-state roundup of key election news from around the Midwest:
Mixed news in Ohio: Union supporters succeeded in striking down a sweeping collective-bargaining state law, rejecting the Issue 2 referendum by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin. The result has been considered a rebuke of first-year Republican governor John Kasich and springboard for President Obama’s once-sagging numbers in Ohio.
Democrats should be reluctant to read too much optimism in the numbers, cautions The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. While Issue 2 failed, the lesser-known Issue 3 passed by an even wider margin. Issue 3, which proposed to prohibit the government from forcing participation in a health-care plan, won more than 66 percent of the ballots cast. It’s a sting delivered to Obama’s federal health-care law.
Implications of Michigan recall: State representative Paul Scott became the first Michigan office-holder to be recalled since 1983. He lost Tuesday’s recall election by eight-tenths of one percent, as 12,284 cast ballots for the recall and 12,087 against.
Scott had been targeted by the Michigan Education Association, according to our partner station Michigan Radio, because he supported budget cuts for K-12 schools and tenure-law revisions, and the state’s income tax extension to senior pensions. His recall is viewed as a warning sign to first-year Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
Gary, Indiana breaks new ground: Karen Freeman-Wilson has called Gary, Indiana a “blighted steel town on Lake Michigan’s southern shore.” She’s going to get a chance to clean it up. Voters elected Freeman-Wilson as the city’s mayor on Tuesday. In doing so, she becomes the first black female mayor in Indiana state history. She tells the Northwest Indiana Times she’s already working to make Gary a safer, business-friendly city.
Regional outlook: Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard examines the impact of Tuesday’s elections on first-year governors across the Midwest. Will the momentum that swept Republican governors. Rick Snyder, John Kasich and Scott Walker into office now work against them?
She explains that it’s not entirely a partisan issue. But on Tuesday, union supporters that protested collective-bargaining limits won the day. Heading into 2012, they hold the Midwestern momentum.
November 9th, 2011
At a certain point, you can’t tell if you’ve created the momentum, or the momentum has created you — Annie Lennox
There’s no doubt that the Midwest was swept this past year with political momentum. It deposited Republican governors into office in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, and in turn, buoyed successful efforts to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
But with the resounding defeat of Ohio’s Issue 2 on Tuesday night, it appears that momentum has been slowed, if not stopped. And now, like a tide rushing out, governors across the Midwest have to consider whether the momentum that led to swift changes will now work against them.
Those with the most to worry about include Republican governors John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and the situation also could affect other politicians across the region, both Republican and Democrat.
To be sure, there are big differences in Midwest states and cities, and the situations that they face.
In Ohio and Wisconsin, nothing short of a political revolution took place. Those two governors were bold in their attacks on public employee unions, using budget crises as an excuse, pushing measures through their respective legislatures before union members had a chance to figure out what hit them.
Despite high-profile protests in both places, especially Madison, Wis., the governors’ momentum carried the day.
In Michigan and Indiana, Republican governors have been more cautious. Both Snyder and Daniels have said they aren’t in favor of right-to-work efforts, even though Republicans in both states have called for them.
Daniels took action years ago against state employees, well out of a national spotlight. And Snyder has been judicious in dealing with collective bargaining rights. His one test of the vortex has been to give emergency managers the right to abrogate parts of union contracts in the state’s most deeply troubled cities.
One Democrat who has braved union members’ wrath is Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Throughout his campaign and in his early months as mayor, Emanuel made a longer school day his stop priority. He went around the city’s teacher’s union and offered incentives directly to city schools, including raises for teachers if they’d work longer hours.
Thirteen schools took him up on it, but the vast majority of schools steadfastly refused, setting up what promised to be a long and nasty confrontation with the Chicago Teachers Union.
Last week, Emanuel blinked in the face of a legal challenge by the union, and dropped his diversionary measure. The two sides agreed to collaborate on a compromise, rather than butt heads.
Perhaps Emanuel, schooled by Richard Daley and with two stints in the White House under his belt, saw what Kasich in Ohio failed to recognize and what must now concern Wisconsin’s Walker, who faces a recall movement in 2012.
Momentum, after all, is defined as “the impetus gained by a moving object.” And when political momentum goes against you, it could be best to just jump out of the way.