November 29, 2012 Edition

Michigan Politics

Tough Nerd Makes Smart Moves
By George Weeks

He campaigned as One Tough Nerd, and now on many issues functions as One Smart Governor.

Governor Rick Snyder was smart to successfully campaign against the five November 6 ballot proposals that would have locked into the constitution mandates best decided legislatively (although he lost on the non-constitutional Proposal 1 referendum that zapped the Emergency Financial Manager law enacted in 2011 at his urging.)

Snyder was smart to not be as confrontational with labor as were some other Republican governors in the past year or so—and he wisely has kept right-to-work legislation off his agenda as too divisive. He did, however, oppose two of the constitutional proposals touted by labor.

He was smart to continue the active pursuit by other Michigan governors of trade and investment talks with other nations, including a trip this year to China.

Snyder scheduled a trip this week to Canada for sessions in Toronto on trade and regional cooperation on Great Lakes issues; advancing of public-private partnerships; and promotion of a new international crossing over the Detroit River. He earlier cut a good deal with Canada for its financing of a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

It was indeed a good deal, despite well over $30 million spent by owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge on behalf of one of the failed November 6 ballot propositions that would have required a statewide referendum to build the second and other bridges.

Although he has made smart moves on education and other issues, the most recent initiative by Snyder that prompted this column was his announcement of first winners of his “Bureaucracy Busters” program, an innovative social media initiative that calls on state employees to offer innovative ideas for enhancing efficiency, customer service, and the workplace as part of his effort to “reinvent Michigan.”

Employees were invited to post ideas on a “crowdsourcing” Web site, vote on the ideas that they prefer, and provide feedback on others’ ideas. Nearly 8,300 state employees participated, 1,200 ideas were posted, 5,896 comments were offered, and 110,000 votes were cast since the program launched September 5.

Among the winning ideas selected for implementation that struck me was submitted by Tom Barrett, a Department of Treasury analyst, who suggested that Pure Michigan billboards include the names of the scenic locations that are featured in the marketing campaign’s photos. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will incorporate Barrett’s suggestion into its 2013 advertising plan.

The idea should be extended to include identification of the sites pictured in the magnificent scenes shown in the highly effective Pure Michigan TV spots.

Snyder said of the “Bureaucracy Busters” program:

“Some of the best ideas for improving state government come from inside state government. Our state employees see potential ways to improve customer service all around them, and now they have the tools to come forward and do something about it. I’m glad that thousands of state employees answered the call to help make our state work better. Together, we can reinvent Michigan and make sure that state government serves its customers — the people of Michigan — to the best of our ability.”

“Customer service.” Good focus by a businessman-turned-governor.

Ballenger nails political predications

Bill Ballenger, a former state senator and state Racing Commissioner who is editor/publisher of influential Inside Michigan Politics (IMP) newsletter, on occasion has predicted Kentucky Derby winners— three of eight in the 1990s. Not bad considering there are about 20 horses and favorites often lose.

But he says, “my record this century was rotten” on the four-legged competitors. Not bad with the twolegged contestants he covers more closely in the political derby. He predicated Democratic pickups this year in the state House—where they gained six but did not gain control.

What particularly impresses me about IMP is how it covers contests at the local level, including county commissions and judicial races. Its batting average in predicting judicial contests was 99.6% in incumbent races and a slightly lower 97.0% in all court contests.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing Bureau Chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

2012-11-29 / Columns

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