In search of competent government

Ideologues of the right are calling loudly for less government. Equally loudly, ideologues of the left want more government.

Both are missing the point.

What citizens want – and are entitled to – is competent government acting effectively to get important things done in a timely fashion in the public interest.

And more often than not, political factors lurk at the heart of episodes of governmental denial, evasion and incompetence.

Two sets of headlines last week provide convincing evidence.

In Flint, where many citizens have been for months in effect accusing the state of poisoning their children by tolerating unhealthy levels of lead in the drinking water, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits finally forced the state to disgorge emails showing that Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) bureaucrats evaded even acknowledging the water supply mess for months.

Now it turns out that Dennis Muchmore, Snyder’s now-departing chief of staff, wrote an email way back on July 22 admitting, “These folks (Flint residents) are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight.)”

Despite that, lower-level officials at the DEQ pooh-poohed for nearly three months the seriousness of dangerous levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water. I don’t know if the governor actually read Muchmore’s July email, but he sure should have.

My sources say it was only last month’s report by a special review appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder that persuaded the governor to finally accept that the Flint crisis was beyond serious and required top-level intervention. In a sharply worded report released last month, the task force found the DEQ’s response to community health complaints “was often one of aggressive dismissal, belittlement and attempts to discredit those efforts and the individuals involved.” That attitude, the panel concluded, was “completely unacceptable.”

I suspect the Flint situation is yet another instance of long-standing bureaucratic habits deeply imbedded in the DEQ.

My direct experience with the department goes back a decade to the days of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, when officials essentially ignored state statutes defining and prohibiting environmental damage from subsurface copper and nickel mines. Those who pointed out state law explicitly forbade the kinds of permitting decisions being made by the DEQ were given the same back of the bureaucratic hand so evident in the Flint water case.

How come? Political imperative always trumps governmental common sense. At the end of a somewhat heated conversation with a DEQ top-sider way back then, I was told, “Don’t think for a moment the political system in Lansing is going to tolerate state government not doing everything it can to increase mining employment in the U.P., regardless of what the environmental risks might be.”

Bureaucracies are routinely organized to protect those in power. So it’s not hard to see how bureaucrats in the DEQ, confronted early on by (maybe) ambiguous scientific evidence about lead levels in Flint water, figured their best strategy was to delay, deny and ignore a “small” matter like dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water in a big minority-majority city like Flint.

In the case of the Detroit Public Schools, now entering a terminal downward spiral into bankruptcy that likely will wind up hitting the state’s taxpayers, there is still not enough concern in Lansing to get lawmakers to take the situation seriously. Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) has said repeatedly that his members are not interested in moving legislation to fix the $500-million-plus financial crisis in DPS’s balance sheet.

On the heels of the famous “grand bargain” that pulled Detroit out of bankruptcy, Gov. Snyder a year ago started his second term by calling for a financial fix for the Detroit schools mess. He tried to get support for his plan, which he estimates would cost $715 million, from a bunch of civic, education and business leaders; nothing doing.

Now it’s a year later, and it’s increasingly evident the legislature wants to duck this until we get to the lame duck session conveniently after the November election.

Now I understand that most outstate lawmakers’ districts do not include many, or any, minority parents in the Detroit school system whose children are getting near criminally low levels of schooling. And I get it that in an election year it won’t be popular for them to consider any fix for Detroit schools that might include give-backs from their school districts.

But it’s hard to figure out how our legislators are willing to tolerate inaction when the price to Michigan taxpayers (and their constituents) of doing nothing might well be hundreds of millions more than if they moved earlier, rather than later.

Both these episodes explain pretty clearly why so many folks are becoming cynical about both the workings and motives of government. The damage to public confidence is likely to far exceed the many millions of taxpayer money needed to undo these messes.

The cost to democracy may be even higher.

About The Author

Phil Power

Former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent Phil Power is a longtime observer of Michigan politics and economics. He is also the founder and chairman of the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit, non-partisan centrist think–and–do tank, designed to cure Michigan’s dysfunctional political culture; the Center publishes Bridge Magazine. The opinions expressed here are Power’s own and do not represent the official views of the Center. He welcomes your comments at ppower@hcn.net.

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Comments

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 9:52am
This is a thoughtful essay. I hope there is an awareness of the differential racial impact of the decisions that the state government has or has not made regarding both the Flint water issue and the Detroit Public School crisis.
***
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 6:05pm
Many white people don't like the idea of bailing out Detroit schools, that is a reality that will resonate in the Michigan legislature as politicians pander to the paranoia and racial attitudes of voters. It won't be blatant but thorough the usual code words used when discussing racial issues. Bottom line, I think it will be next to impossible to solve the Detroit Schools financial situation in an election year.
Mark Bertler
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:04am
Thanks Phil, As a former member of the MDEQ Environmental Advisory Council, until leaving the state in 2008, I remember participating in an effort to develop an environmental justice policy during Steve Chester's term as DEQ director. The effort was initiated by DEQ in 2005, and was later supported by an Executive Directive by then Governor Jennifer Granholm in 2007, The draft document can be found at, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/envjustplan_304917_7.pdf. It is sad to see that that effort has not gained any traction and in fact the DEQ seems to have gone in the opposite direction.
Mick
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:12am
Both comments above are very good as is this essay. Simply put, if one doesn't care about governing for the general good of the state then these tragedies are inevitable. If one sees governing as a way to reward one's benefactors and advance their narrow agenda then once in political power we will see these devastating and racist results from them. If one runs for office claiming to be anti-government how can we expect good government once they are in office?
ALE
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:50am
"If one runs for office claiming to be anti-government how can we expect good government once they are in office?" I think you hit the nail on the head right there. Michigan seems to have a ton of people running and getting elected on this very principle...heck, the national government is the same. And look at what has happened since this became a "thing". I read stories from decades past (before my birth in the 80s, for sure) about people reaching across the aisle and making some solid bipartisan decisions that really looked out for people...and then I look at now and wonder what it is going to take to change enough to make it happen again. Good people are running for office, but they so often are not elected in favour of the more hardline candidates.
MighiganMom
Thu, 01/14/2016 - 6:28pm
Most Republicans run on limited government not on the notion that all government is bad. Our political tradition is based on the rights of citizens and wisely places restraints on government regarding those rights. "The government that governs least governs best." I'm new to Michigan so when I look at DPS I see a government entity that was run by people elected in fair elections to do the will of the people. I see a school district that wilfully over spent year after year inorder to please the people. If I'm wrong tell me by answering my honest questions. 1. If the voters continually voted for incompetence why does the burden fall on everyone else to clean up the mess? 2. DPS students are failing in droves. Kids can't read or do basic math and this is not new. How can we be sure we aren't proping up a completely broken government entity (DPS) at the expense of the children who deserve so much more? 3. What guarantee do we have that DPS won't be broke again in 10 or 20 years?
Conan Smith
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 4:00am
MichiganMom, the fiscal crises in the city of Detroit and its school district are likely more driven by larger economic factors than by a lack of competent leadership. At DPS in particular, the state has had a large role in managing the local system for two decades (and for the last seven there has been no elected leadership in charge), so it would be unfair to presume that the locals are exclusively responsible for the situation today. Instead, I'd look to the municipal finance system established in the state Constitution and to the Legislature to understand what's happening. In short, most local governments and school districts are structurally impeded from raising revenue at the rate of inflation and barred from exceeding it (which in some cases is necessary to retire accumulated derby). MSU just launched a new research center dedicated to addressing these problems where you can get excellent information. It's also important to note that Detroit is neither the first nor only Michigan community in this deep of trouble -- the difference is scale ... as our largest city the problems are breathtaking in their size but are similar in proportion to what others are facing. Even this is an extreme oversimplification of what Detroit and other urban areas in the state are grappling with, but the finance system itself is a significant factor in their current situation.
KG-1
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 3:28pm
Your argument presumes that all government is good. The imminent collapse of DPS, the exponentially increasing cost of the Flint water debacle, Wayne Co knocking on financial death's door (BoC pay, perks & that county jail going nowhere on Gratiot not helping out with that), elected officials jamming through legislation (in Lansing and Washington) without giving anyone time to read through it, much less analyze what it will actually do. I can go on.
Mick
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 9:08pm
To KG-1 I don't presume all government to be good nor all bad. It is a lot like the private sector. I do know that when a candidate for any office campaigns upon an anti-government platform then no one should be surprised by their incompetence once they are in office.
Joe
Fri, 01/15/2016 - 6:25am
Now post your list of mistakes, misjudgements and misbehaviors of for-profit corporations.
MighiganMom
Sat, 01/16/2016 - 12:50am
Corporations make mistakes but they are not beholden to the citizens. They are responsible to the share holders and the customers. When they mess up the lose money or have to close their doors. When government messes up they simply continue to fund the failed program and say, "if we only gave them more money it would have worked." Or one Congressman says to another, "I need this project in my district, I know it's a failure but it gets me votes. You vote for mine and I'll vote for something in your district."
KG-1
Sat, 01/16/2016 - 11:51am
Okay, I'll play here...lemme see: Bear Sterns. JP Morgan Chase Goldman Sachs. No one ever went to jail in any of those examples. And guess who got stuck paying the bill for those "mistakes"?
Hmmm
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 10:20pm
Enron
Shepdawg
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 5:55pm
Very well stated and oh, so true. I do believe our politics have evolved at the state and national level into private interests first and public interests lastly - as long as it doesn't conflict with their special interests.
Scott
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:34am
Blame the bureaucrats? Article seems to unnecessarily deflect blame from the elected officials of the current Republican controlled state government.
JohnChas
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 2:47pm
I agree that your point about current mismanagement of both MDEQ as well as general administration are valid. That being said I think that its important to note that MDEQ as well as other state agencies have been unduly influenced by politics during both Democrat as well as Republican administrations. One of the reasons it's worse now is due to the poor oversight by our tea party controlled house & senate. With the level of ignorance & general indifference to any agenda other that "small government" there is no check's & balance's to administration incompetence.
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:35am
When I sought the nomination for UM Regent in 2012 I quickly learned that the "Party Bosses" do NOT want any level of competence...they want stooges/puppets. I can point to any number of disasters, the current methane leak, the noted Flint poisoning, etc. that are a direct result of government goons with guns. We know who to blame, but what is to be done? If peaceful change is impossible, violent change is inevitable, John F. Kennedy and Martin L. Luther King.
Callie
Thu, 01/14/2016 - 9:35am
Government goons with guns? The Michigan State Police? Or are you being a little melodramatic?
sammelvin
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:38am
Yes .it is a very sorry state ....more dead that living...65 000 from flu shot..600 000 from legal drugs crosstaken... 2-5 young people dyeing every day from heroin made...in every town.city.. and than there is the iusse with the VA and the Vetrans care....etc etc
Michael
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:54am
The debate between "more government" or "less government" is foolish. We need the right amount of government and more importantly competent and efficient government that carries out the duties we need it to achieve.
JohnChas
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 2:56pm
I've found after 32 years in local government that people want more government when it benefits them & less when it doesn't. Also they especially don't want to pay for the level of government they want regardless of size. Rarely have I found people who focused on the idea of effective government (which I firmly support) especially if it impacted them in any way they deemed negative.
Nick Ciaramitaro
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 12:52pm
Great article, Phil. We often forget that "efficient" and "cheap" are too different things. We also forget the difference between short term and long term costs resulting in "penny wise, pound foolish" decisions. Note that less than $100 a day might have prevented a generation of lead poisoning in Flint. We forget that money is meant to serve people - not the other way around. I am concerned that many (not all) who insist that government can not do anything right are, at least unintentionally, doing much to prove their false hypothesis.
KG-1
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 3:30pm
Government does a good job on it own of proving that it cannot do anything right. See my post above for several examples.
Bren
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 1:01pm
I agree with the comments highlighting the incompatibility of electing anti-government reps to run what they cynically do not believe in. I think another factor, at least when it comes to delayed action and denial, are our term-limits on elected officials. Term limits do not incentivise ling-term planning behaviours from our elected officials.
Charlene
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 2:58pm
I absolutely agree about term limits, Bren. In addition to not fostering long-term planning, the implementation of term limits have decapitated the institutional memory that is required for the success of any entity, public or private.
Vivian Fiscus
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 1:21pm
Right on point...both for Michigan and the nation
Barb
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 1:54pm
End term limits to allow a deeper knowledge in government affairs than the rookies we currently elect. Allow more transparency at all levels of the election process and end dark money financing of political campaigns. Give our elected officials access to government staff that is highly experienced and well paid to stop their reliance on lobbyist/ special interest influences when governing. End partisan gerrymandering. And fire the current crop of short term do nothings we have elected. They are horrible.
Ken Kolk
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 2:05pm
The current mess in Lansing clearly shows that the elected leaders of the government of the State of Michigan should be politicians who will have to face the electorate every election cycle. What we have now is a group of amateurs who hold off making earth shaking decisions until the "lame duck" session after an election! At that point 2/3rds of the House of Representatives and Senate will never have to face the electorate again due to term limits and are free to pass any radical laws they please to please their contributors! We get such things as "Right to Work (for Less) laws, 100% increases on taxes on the retired people, and major tax breaks for certain types of businesses (especially Lawyers' Sub Chapter S corporations). We need to do away with term limits, and admit it is a "reform" that is destroying our government, and out law the legislature holding any sessions during the period known as the "lame duck." If a session of the legislature is needed during that seven weeks call the new legislature into session and swear in the new legislators early. Finally end the Governor's legal immunity for decisions made when they clearly violate the "prudent man" rule. This would allow those children from Flint that are maimed for life from the Republican desire to cut costs by putting unsafe water into the Flint water supply to sue the Governor and others in his administration for life long damages.
John Q. Public
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 7:08pm
From my vantage point, you're definitely on the right track, Ken. A major problem we have is that the legislature gets to determine its own rules of operation. I'd propose several changes from the peoples' standpoint. 1. Each legislator gets the power to introduce three bills in the two-year term--one every four months in the first year of a term. He can write his own, or barter one or more to other legislators. For example, he might trade the rights to one to another legislator in return for support for something he thinks is really important. 544 per term bills is plenty. Legislators will have to decide what they think is really worthwhile. If a legislator doesn't introduce or trade his rights to a bill in any four-month period, the ability to introduce a bill is lost. 2. Bills introduced get voted on by the chamber during the voting period. Committee chairs or other "leadership" don't get to bottle things up because they don't like the bill (or worse, the legislator). If it passes the chamber, it goes to the other one for a vote. 3. All bills are introduced during the first year of the term. No new bills may be introduced in even years. 4.Once introduced and through July 3 of even years, education, debate and amendments take place. No bill may be voted on prior to July 4 of an even year. 5. From July 4 through October 31, bills are voted on. No further amendments are allowed during this period. Voting on everything takes place in the four months immediately preceding the election. 32 bills a week for 17 weeks in the order they were introduced. Not only will this place elected officials on record at a time when their votes will be fresh in the minds of the electorate come Election Day, it will also eliminate the time available for incumbents to campaign. Enrolled bills must be signed or vetoed within 48 hours of enrollment. Override votes take place the last day of session. 6. Caucuses get to appoint their own leadership, but any leader (Speaker of the House, Senate majority, etc.) who wants to serve a second term as leader has to be subjected to a statewide vote. Think Jase Bolger could have won that election after the Roy Schmidt affair? Certainly this framework could use some tweaking, but the crux of the philosophy is that the people tell the elected how business will be conducted, not the reverse.
John S.
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 2:46pm
The DEQ apparently had a control chart in front of them showing a spike in lead levels. Unfortunately, they also had an off the shelf explanation for the spike (seasonal variability). What didn't happen was giving sufficient weight to the costs of being wrong--people in Flint drinking water contaminated by lead and suffering from its ill effects. If they'd done that, they wouldn't have been so quick to accept the off the shelf explanation. In short, the DEQ ignored the smoke alarm (the control chart) believing it to be a false alarm. Sometimes, however, there really is a fire. Perhaps this is simply a case of bad judgment by people in the DEQ. Was the fear of being the bearer of bad news part of it? If it was, an error of judgment based on such fear reflects gross ethical incompetence.
Judy B
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 4:30pm
Interesting analogy. When I've had my carbon monoxide detector go off - though I thought it may be an instrument failure - I called the fire department. Yes, it was a false alarm, but they were happy to respond. Carbon monoxide is odorless, and deadly. Lead is the same over time. The so-called charts shouldn't be used to dismiss the possibility of lead. It's not a viable excuse, but your example does offer insight into how it may have been justified.
Robert Dwyer
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 3:16pm
Ending term limits and gerrymandering are the two most important things that must be done. Then party discipline and organization must be allowed to function in a responsible way in our partisan system.
Jeff Kessler
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 3:43pm
Over the last 6 weeks of 2015, my wife and I completed a 9K mile roadtrip to visit our kids and grandkids. We visited many states, and it was an opportunity to catch up on some of the government activity going on, and at the same time compare priorities and accomplishments with our home state of Michigan. I honestly felt embarrassed. We didn't find any states that would be confused with utopia, but there are state governments loaded with progressive and compassionate leaders who are accomplishing things, improving lives, building on values, and listening to their constituents. I do not feel that way about our state. In the wake of Flint and education failures, I witness our representatives craft bills that curb freedom of speech and deny voter referendums. This is what has floated to the top of their priorty list?! I ache to be able to point to some progressive, Michigan accomplishment that is envied and desired by other states, where cooperation and a sense of 'people before party' generates state-wide pride and betterment. The state of our state: An ImPure Michigan. I'm not sure what to do. Maybe a start is to eliminate term limits and reverse gerrymandering rules. I know of earnest people in our government who have done good things that are overshadowed. How do we support them? Someone help me learn how to do more to makes things better.
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 4:17pm
Less government? not at all… the call going back to the Barry Goldwater days was NOT for less or smaller government, but rather “less INTRUSIVE government” – the theory that our state legislature, as a body, is mainly or wholly incompetent (not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully) and that what we all want as taxpayers is more competence from our elected-officials presumes their actions to be not unlike common unskilled labor when in fact the actions of the GOP majority to be not only skilled but those who are highly-paid professional politicians with a common mindset and who collectively know precisely what they are doing. Mr. Power can say whatever he likes – he’s entitled to his opinion of what ails our state and he can call it less government or incompetent government or failed or do-nothing government. But I think he sells the GOP majority-led legislature short – they are in fact thoroughly competent – because they know full-well what they are doing. Full. Well.
Troy Zukowski
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 5:32pm
The role of term limits in these messes cannot be overstated. If the goal of voters is the election of inexperienced, poorly informed state government officials, then they have really succeeded. It takes years to understand the complexities of state government. Constructive, trusting relationships among members of the executive and legislative branches, as well as lobbyists and organizations, are crucial to forging competent state government. That cannot be achieved when there is constant turnover. Few business succeed with high turnover rates. Why would we think it works at the state government level?
Clifford Styrk
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 5:35pm
Ending term limits that produce " sheep mentality" with our state elected politicians would be a great step forward. Too much power is made with politicians deciding how to gerrymander political boundaries and that we live with for ten years at a time.
Steven
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 6:01pm
Snyder has signed more Jim Crow laws into effect than George Wallace so why is anyone surprised they failed to act on Flint water? Sndyer is going into history as the most incompetent Michigan governor who adopted the most backward policy in the modern history of the state. Whether shifting taxation to retirees while eliminating business taxes on his own business or making it easy for corrupting influences to secretly spend essentially all the money they want on elections or giving no bid contracts to his relatives and campaign donors or signing a law that will allow police and local government to make money by arresting people (the same kind of law that was part of the issue in Ferguson, Mo), the list of bad policy is endless. \ There is no legislation that is too corrupt, to mean, to anti good government for Gov Sndyer to veto. Sndyer campaigned on transparency yet he has opened the flood gates to Robber Baron or Richard Nixon era campaign finance corruption, while having a secret slush fund in his own office, while signing laws that greatly restrict the ability to FOIA state government with a law that forces FOIA appeals into a new part of the Court of Appeals where the judges are hand selected by the Republican Chief Justice. Sndyer incompetentcy, anti good government, anti democracy administration will damage Michigan for decades to come.
Kevin
Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:28pm
Some of the state's poorest children were poisoned, LARA has no authority to shutter a medical or rehab facility despite repeated violations, charter school authorizers and for profit management companies are getting rich (how rich, we'll never know because it's private!) without producing promised results, and transparency and checks and balances are non existent. Time for an emergency governor if you ask me.
Matt
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 11:54am
Is it term limits or really the ideology of the state senate and house that is at issue with most of the above commenters? Seems that the same complaints (Not doing enough for this that or another issue.) from the same bunch are directed at the US Senate and House (not subject to term limits)? I wonder from what I read they'd be much happier with leftwing governing body with lifetime appointments? Back to the main point of Phil's column, maybe government (with it's unavoidable politics and other issues) is intrinsically a lousy way to govern complex organizations to be avoided by any means necessary? Maybe a reason to privatize as much of the flint Water system (just for starters) as possible?
JohnChas
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 3:13pm
Do a little unbiased research on privatized water systems such as Atlanta, Georgia and you will find a wealth of poor management, profit gouging, deferred repairs and maintenance & the communities that have had to take back public control to rectify them. The idea that private companies delivering public services is somehow better is basically an act of conservative faith unsubstantiated by facts. Both government and private enterprise have strengths & weaknesses that only an educated & involved citizenry can modulate. There are good examples of these all too human institutions working well together but (and it's a big but) oversight and an informed citizen's are crucial.
Jay Johnson
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 12:32pm
The republican legislature bears equal fault. After the referendum that repealed Snyder's first emergency manager, the legislature re-enacted the measure and added an appropriation to assure that the citizens of Michigan could never repeal the law by another referendum. In an Asian culture, the head of an organization that failed so miserably would be expected to resign. Snyder should do likewise. He has done nothing good for the ordinary people of Michigan. He raised our taxes, banned the union shop, cut public education, and deprived several Michigan cities and school districts of basic democracy. He is a kinder thug than John Engler, but he is still a thug.
Paul Beach
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 2:50pm
Without term limits there is as strong possibility that a few Senators and Reps.from very safe districts become oligarcs and dictate the entire legislative agenda for an extended period .
Ray
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 3:31pm
The issue Phil raises is Michigan government responses to data-driven environmental risks: The last three (3) regimes have been "dismissive", from my perspective.
Jim Casha
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 4:55pm
I read an article once that basically said, early in Snyder's administration, that Dennis Muchmore & Richard Baird essentially 'stifled' the Department Heads under threat of termination. Don't know if that's true, but I have had many intelligent first time discussions with 'heads' who, after conferring with someone in the Governor's office ...don't want to talk or have changed their position to a totally illogical one (like using the Flint River as a municipal water source ...instead of a Great Blue Lake). Maybe Muchmore should have been paying more attention to the people ..rather than 'giving away' their property to his friends. I heard the recently departed Chair of the DWSD Board of Water Commissioners, Jim Fausone, complaining about someone from the Governor's office calling him up during a Christmas Eve Party and 'chewing him out'. Obviously the Governor had his hand in what was going on.
Jim Kress
Thu, 01/14/2016 - 2:04pm
The "slow response" in Detroit is DETROIT'S PROBLEM, not the rest of the State. Detroit is responsible for the "slow response" because they believe they can escape with their ill gotten gains by stealing more bailout money from the taxpayers outside of Detroit. However, the concept of "responsibility for one's own actions" is alien to Powers (and the rest of the Left) and they will continue to drag this out until they impoverish us (the taxpayers outside Detroit who have no culpability) to make sure their buddies, the criminals and thieves in Detroit, are enriched.
Rich
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 9:36am
Competent government is an oxymoron like military intelligence, ergo less government is better government.
Henry Payne
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 1:14pm
Left-leaning Mr. Power can't help a cheap shot at Republican lawmakers: "Now I understand that most out-state lawmakers’ districts do not include many, or any, minority parents in the Detroit school system whose children are getting near criminally low levels of schooling." In truth Republicans have been at the forefront of giving Detroit's minority children the same education choices available to rich, "out-city" suburbanites like Mr. Power. Thanks to the GOP - and against considerable resistance from Mr. Power's Democratic allies - Detroiters now have a choice of multiple charter schools for their children even as Detroit's union-controlled public schools go bankrupt.
Kevin
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 4:25pm
Before you go touting the "choice" provided to Detroit students by charter schools, I recommend you go back and read the very thoughtful and well researched Detroit Free Press 8-part series on charters schools in Michigan from July of 2014. The results are not there, but the money sure is for like-minded for profit entrepreneurs (and crooks - think Steven Ingersoll) who are happy to make a few million annually at the expense of Michigan's children without the slightest educational background and/or experience to do so.
ArtZ
Sun, 01/17/2016 - 5:10pm
The EPA knew about Flint’s toxic water for months and didn’t tell anyone . http://hotair.com/archives/2016/01/16/the-epa-knew-about-flints-toxic-wa... ........................................................................................................ EPA official Susan Hedman did not publicize the EPA’s concern over Flint’s water quality or the water’s dangerous health concerns. The federal agency instead quietly fought with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for at least six months about what should be done. EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, identified potential contamination problems with Flint’s drinking water last February and confirmed the suspicions in April. He authored an internal memo about the problem in June, according to documents obtained by Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, Hedman became aware of the contamination issue in April. She sought legal advice, but didn’t receive the guidance until November 2014. The American Civil Liberties Union accused Hedman in October of attempting to keep Miguel Del Toral’s memo in-house, downplaying its significance. .................................... posted at 4:01 pm on January 16, 2016 by Jazz Shaw
Duane
Mon, 01/18/2016 - 9:29pm
"What citizens want – and are entitled to – is competent government acting effectively to get important things done in a timely fashion in the public interest." That is such a simple remark to make, and it is so true. The disheartenng thing is that it will end there, we hear what is right but we get no energy in making it happen. We need a conversation about what that would look like, so we would all have a common understanding and something specific to put our energy into. We need a conversation about what are the barriers to making it happen. We need people to be encourage to invest their ideas and energy to develop the means for overcoming those barriers. We need the metrics to verify what we do is helping it to happen and we need the metrics to ensure that it becomes sustainable. The reality is "What citizens want – and are entitled to – is competent government acting effectively to get important things done in a timely fashion in the public interest." can be how Michigan governs, how it serves, how it helps our citizens succeed. My question is how do we make that first step? I believe the Bridge readers could be the ones who start us on the path to achieve what Mr. Power envisioned. I believe that a Bridge article that draws on readers to put substance on the idea could be that first step. A structured conversation focus on describing a competent government would be beneficial to those working to serve Michigan, to those wanting Michigan to flourish, to those who would be paying for it. I wonder who will step forward to help this happen, who will risk opening their ideas up for others to see and to enhance, who is willing to step out of what they have known to try making this happen.

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