The Michigan Economic Development Corporation just can't stop bragging about showering the gypsy caravans from Hollywood with taxpayer dollars. For third time in the past couple of weeks, the MEDC have announced another film tax credit boondoggle. This time it's a $2.8 million check from the taxpayers for the production of the movie Freaky Deaky in Motown (you know that corpse of a city that was once was the fifth largest metropolis in the United States and the center of the automaking world).
River City residents have given up on the Grand Rapids Public Schools, if the dismal turnout for the May 2nd school board election is any evidence. With less than 15,000 votes between them, pro-union candidates Monica Randles and Raynard Ross won the two open seats on the Grand Rapids Board of Education. When they join the board in July, board members endorsed by the teachers union will constitute a majority. In addition to Randles and Ross, the pro-union bloc will include current board members Tony Baker, Wendy Falb, Jon O’Connor, and Maureen Quinn Slade.
Mind you, the old crew was hardly anti-union and certainly not pro-taxpayer. At a public meeting last month, the outgoing board reported that they had gotten together with Paul Helder, president of the teachers union, to plot out how to organize a union-cum-social justice coalition and then draft GRPS employees, students, and parents into a campaign to hammer politicians for more tax dollars. More tax dollars for what? To maintain salaries and benefits for Helder’s union members.
As noted below, it is lunacy for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to rain $40 million of taxpayer cash on Walt Disney Studios. This "bargain" is costing the taxpayers over $155K for each job that Disney projects will be created by its production of the film Oz here in Michigan. This doesn't include all of the other tax subsidies, credits, and breaks -- up to $120 million -- showered upon Raleigh Michigan Studios, which is being built in Pontiac for the production of the Disney film.
The government using taxpayer dollars to pick winners and losers instead of the marketplace is a dubious proposition at best. But even an advocate of this sort of policy can see that the Michigan film tax credit is Loony Tunes. The public cost has no bearing whatsoever to the public interest. Compare the largesse Disney and Raleigh are receiving to other tax deals the state his given to companies establishing a permanent facility and jobs in Michigan. This highlights the bureaucratic insanity of welfare for film-makers.
Former Grand Rapids City Commissioner Rick Tormala has a talk show every Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on WPRR, which is broadcast on 1680 AM and 95.3 FM. You can also stream his show live through the internet at www.publicrealityradio.org. Rick's tag line is "Not right, not left----in fact he is no where in between." Check him out.
When the taxpayers are subsidizing Disney to make a movie, you know Michigan film-making tax subsidy is lunacy. From the River City Zek ...
Today the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the people who decide which businesses get your tax dollars, proudly announced that they have forked over to Walt Disney Studios a $40 million tax subsidy to make a movie, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, at a new studio in Pontiac. On top of that the MEDC has given the owner of the studio, an outift doing business as Raleigh Michigan Studios, $20 million in tax incentives and Renaissance Zone tax breaks plus up to $100 million in state business tax credits over the next several years.
On Tuesday the Rapid bus millage passed by a slim margin. Let's give the credit to our esteemed Mayor and City Commissioners for their ardent endorsement of this new tax on property owners for putting it over the top.
As I noted elsewhere, a bus rider picks up about 11 cents out of every dollar of the cost. The taxpayers pick up the rest. Instead of having the rider pay another 6 or 7 cents for additional runs (you know, to meet the overwhelming demand), the Rapid bureaucrats figured the taxpayers should cough up the cash instead. And our City officials gave a thumbs up to that.
(1) When was the last time you rode the Rapid? (Let's be generous, P.R. stunts iucluded.)
(2) How often do you ride the Rapid? (Hmm. Little tougher question.)
(3) Will you use the Rapid to commute to and from City Commission meetings? (After all, we are now paying for all that extra bus service to make it easier, right?)
We'll let you know what, if any, answers we get from these politicians who are so free and easy about spending our money on their pet projects. I suspect the response from them will be, "The bus is not for us." Hit the links on their names, and you can e-mail your questions, too.
It strikes me a bit odd that the Friends of Transit are pushing a new tax for a bus system that doesn't serve the lakeshore communities. So why are they sticking their nose into our business? If they insist on doing so, at least they could be honest about who they are -- namely, non-taxpayers who demand that others get stiffed with a tax hike.
Over the past few days my mailbox has been inundated with flyers in support of the Rapid bus millage. They touted the usual tripe about how the tax hike will boost the economy, bring peace to the community, and fill our skies with unicorms leaping over rainbows. Then there was a nice bit of mendacity about all these wonders costing only $1.50 a month in property taxes -- and if that's too much for you senior citizens, who vote in droves, you won't even have to pay that!
No surprise that the tax-and-spend crowd will peddle a lie whenever an empty promise won't hack it. What was a bit of surprise was the pattern I noticed in the pictures used in the flyers. It appears a middle-aged white man doesn't belong on a Rapid bus unless he is driving it.
The Grand Rapids Board of Education election is next Tuesday, May 3rd. Eight candidates are running for two 4-year-term seats. Your choices run from one incumbent to a semi-polished pair picked by the teachers union to a minister, a disgruntled mother, a working stiff, a kid, and finally a missing-in-action candidate (perhaps due to an alien abduction). In other words, the usual mix offering nothing much than the hackneyed tripe about too little money, too much racism, and, of course, it’s all about the children.
What none of the candidates seem to get is that the Grand Rapids public school system is a corpse.
The League of Conservation Voters is running an ad campaign against Fred Upton. Upton represents southwestern Michigan in the U.S. Congress and is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has raised the hackles of global-warmers because he voted to block funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rules – i.e., regulation of greenhouse gases.
So, the LCV and other environmental special interest groups, like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have the long knives out for Upton. Well, that’s politics. But the out-and-out mendacity of the LCV ad should disgust any clear-minded voter. The LCV simply lies about Upton’s vote.
Who supports the Magic Bus millage? The usual suspects, of course. Endorsements include the local Dem establishment, the River City RINO's, the goo-goo gushers, and the Portlanders. The last of these are those dreary souls who fall to their knees and sing their wearisome hosannas to that urban heaven on Earth -- Portland, Oregon. You know, high-tax, pricey, latte-sipping, boomer-cratic, slacker-infested Portland, Oregon.
My fellow residents of Grand Rapids should also note that each and every one of our city commissioners and the mayor have told us to vote "yes" on May 3rd. Let's name names: Rosalyn Bliss, Walt Gutowski, Ruth Kelly, Elias Lumpkins, Dave Shaffer, Jim White, and George Heartwell. Not one of them has explained why we should shovel more of our tax dollars into a system that can only get its users to pay a dime to cover every dollar of costs. These are also the people we are relying upon to balance the city books during this nationwide sea-change in the public fisc. Knee-jerk support for public spending is bad enough in boom times. It's unacceptable, irresponsible, and idiotic when on the road to ruin.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, the Interurban Transit Partnership – the local bus system – wants to stick its hand deeper into the pockets of Grand Rapids area property owners. It has scheduled a tax election to replace the expiring bus millage with a higher, longer-term one. The ITP wants to jack up the bus tax by a third on property owners and wants to guarantee the payment of that tax for seven instead of five years.
So you have a choice on May 3rd. Vote “yes” and pay the ITP $110.25 in property taxes every year for the next seven years (on a $150K home). Vote “no” and pay the ITP nothing in property taxes.
What do John Sims, Mike Webb, Tom Beckering, and Jonathan Rooks have in common? All have been owners of the old Berkey & Gay furniture factory property during its redevelopment over the past eighteen years as “The Boardwalk”, the commercial-residential complex located on Monroe Avenue north of downtown Grand Rapids. What else?
On December 7, 2010, the Grand Rapids City Commission authorized an expenditure of public funds for a lease over an old railway along the river. It was the City’s contribution to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources purchase of a railroad right-of-way that Central Michigan Railway Co. abandoned here in town. The total price paid to the railroad company was $2,233,500 in federal, state, and local tax dollars. Congratulations, fellow citizens, we are now railroad tycoons!
Yes, Bill and I are still out there, living, working and surviving in Grand Rapids. We have been away for far longer than expected, but life does that you know?
We have seen a number of comments come in and thank you for your continuing thoughts and interest in our website. It’s amazing how many topics we covered over the past seven to eight years that remain timely for everyone checking in at our site here in early 2011.
Upon my website audit today, I noticed many spam comments had posted over the last few weeks and months. I chose to erase a good dozen or more postings because of this. I apologize if I erased anyone’s comments by mistake. I read the feedback and if it didn’t correspond to a heading or sounded like an automated message, I hit the good old delete key. I tried to keep all others that appeared intentional.
Feel free to keep sending your thoughts and ideas and we will attempt to respond soon. We will be working as time permits on future posts here at L.A.W. that will be of local interest. Keep watching, they will arrive soon!
Also, do check out our sister sites that are under construction. These new blog ventures will still tie into local issues - just less diverse - The River City Zek - crony capitalism in GR and Vine & Branch - culture of life.
Bill and I have been away for awhile due to outside business obligations. We continue to research, read, network and monitor local events as always, but you may notice our written articles and comments have slowed in recent months.
We hope to post anew in the coming year as time permits. Check in when you can and we hope to have more to share at a later date.
Cure Michigan is the non-profit organization promoting the November ballot proposal to legalize the embryonic stem cell research. The group has started running television promising to mercilessly reveal the "lies" of those opposed to killing embryonic human beings to harvest their stem cells. Bridget, our editor, thought this would be a good time to remind everyone of the fraudulent origins of Cure Michigan that we had reported in July.
To borrow a phrase from Larry Kudlow, “King Dollar” must be a cornerstone of U.S. economic policy. That said, let’s keep in mind what the government should or should not be doing when it comes to the economy. Its first duty is to do no harm, which means staying out of our business even when it is folly. Failure is an option, as far as the government should be concerned, when it comes to our private dealings. But that does not mean it has no role to play in the economy. That role is fundamental albeit limited.
The government must establish the rule of law that makes the free market possible. That means enforcing contracts and prosecuting fraud. This can also include basic regulations that facilitate market efficiency like standard measures and transparency in financial transactions. There is also a place for public works such as highways and ports, but only if their private construction is impractical and their benefits significantly outweigh their costs. Finally, the government must ensure the integrity of the free market’s primary medium of exchange – i.e., our currency.
A “King Dollar” policy concerns this last role of the government.
Drill for oil and natural gas in ANWR. Drill out on the continental shelves, even off Santa Barbara where the lefty locals would rather have Big Bad Oil carting the stuff off instead of it naturally leaking out through the earthquake-cracked seafloor and stinking up the place. Drill in the Great Lakes. Drill in Nancy Pelosi's front yard. Drill for these fuels wherever it is reasonable to do so and private investors are willing to put up the cash to get it done. In short, end the arbitrary restraints the Beltway crowd has imposed upon the development of domestic sources of oil and natural gas – at least by letting the off-shore drilling moratorium die a long overdue death come October 1st.
The non-profit corporation, Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures, puts itself out as an organization dedicated to the education of Michiganders on the pros and cons of various types of stem cell research. On its website, MCSCRC makes this public statement about itself:
Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures (MCSCRC) was created with the long-term goal of educating citizens about stem cell research. We will present the facts necessary so each individual can form her/his own opinion about stem cell research. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization MCSCRC does not and cannot express support for any piece of legislation or political petition related to stem cell research. [Our emphasis.]
MCSCRC’s status as a 501(c)(3) organization under the tax code is no small thing. That means the donations people make to it are tax deductible. If it becomes involved in political campaigns, it loses that status –- and donors lose their tax deductions. So MCSCRC must keep its nose clean in this regard. Indeed, its corporate by-laws prohibit the organization from engaging in propaganda and political campaigns. Thus, the good folks at MCSCRC present themselves as earnest people sincerely trying to provide all the information Michigan voters need to make decisions on pending legislation and ballot initiatives concerning stem cell research.
Striking a disinterested posture vis-à-vis any particular proposed law is a good way for MCSCRC to gain the public’s trust as an objective voice on the issues underlying that law. Of course, that trust is abused if, in fact, MCSCRC is not disinterested in the passage of a law –- let's say, the Cure Michigan ballot initiative to end restrictions on harvesting stem cells from embryonic human beings -– and wants to surreptitiously persuade voters to support it. And that, unfortunately, is the case with MCSCRC. Its pose as an honest broker in the embryonic stem cell debate is a fraud.
Cure Michigan, the sponsor of the initiative that will now likely appear on ballot this November, is entirely funded by Stem Cell Research B.Q.C. In turn, Stem Cell Research is a non-profit corporation controlled by MCSCRC. Under Stem Cell Research’s by-laws MCSCRC appoints its board of directors and upon its dissolution (probably after the November election) all of its assets go to MCSCRC. Furthermore, Marcia Baum, the executive director of MCSCRC, is also the spokesman for Stem Cell Research and Cure Michigan. Therefore, the person operating the allegedly disinterested educational group is also actively advocating the passage of a law that the educational group cannot lawfully express support for.
So despite the propaganda to the contrary, Cure Michigan is not a grassroots effort. It is the creature of Stem Cell Research, which in turn is the creature of MCSCRC. So little wonder that MCSCRC’s “education” of voters on stem cell research just happens to support the claims of the Cure Michigan ballot initiative. That is why MCSCRC is a fraud. Its mission to publicly provide disinterested and objective information on stem cell research is anything but that. With this sort of falsity in the very bones of MCSCRC/Stem Cell Research/Cure Michigan, let’s not be shocked if falsehood substitutes for fact in the campaign for the Cure Michigan ballot initiative (or that Big Sister is one of its leaders).
P.S. Nick DeLeeuw reports that Big Sister's proposal has gotten enough petition signatures to put on this November's statewide ballot. Now we'll see in a few months' time whether obfuscations, lies, and utilitarianism hold greater sway with the voters than commonsense, truth, and respect for human dignity.
OK, OK. I'll admit the headline is a little loaded, but it got your attention, right?
Our thanks to Nick DeLeeuw of RightMichigan.com for staying on top of the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures (MCSCRC) ballot initiative that would allow researchers to vivisect, mutilate, and kill embryonic human beings to harvest their stem cells. Nick covers all the solid facts that people have no excuse for not knowing on such a fundamental issue -- excepting, of course, the so-called progressives like MCSCRC who never let a fact get in the way of their plans to run/ruin our lives -- so we invite you to check out his article on the moral, scientific, and policy arguments against the MCSCRC initiative.
Nick's update on this initiative ties in with the story we broke last fall about Big Sister a.k.a. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell stumping for the MCSCRC cause. We took note of Heartwell's speech before the group, because he had made a show during his re-election campaign of staying silent on abortion and the other life issues. He had claimed his silence was a consequence of the irrelevance of these issues to the office of mayor, when in fact it was a crass political calculation to keep his pro-abortion position under wraps to suppress the turn-out for his pro-life challenger in the mayoral primary race. However, once that strategy worked to win the election, Heartwell used the prestige and influence of his "irrelevant" mayoral office to support the MCSCRC initiative.
But then Heartwell is the most advanced sort of progressive. Not only does he not let the facts get in the way of his political agenda, he doesn't let integrity get in the way either.
I know the folks over at Media Mouse, River City's progressive local media critic, are earnest in their endeavors (which is one reason why we provide a link to their website). But the trouble with the leftist take on society is that your Big Idea about how the world is supposed to work trumps the facts instead of letting the facts inform your ideas about what really drives things. If this penchant for rationalism doesn't lead to an out-and-out detachment from reality, it can manifest a certain cluelessness.
Last week, Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama announced that he will not be participating in the public financing system for his campaign. Instead, Obama will be able to raise an unlimited amount of money. However, much of the discussion on his decision has missed larger issues--why does it cost so much money to run for president and why do media corporations profit so much from elections?
The larger issue is the very thing that Obama ditched, the public financing system for presidential campaigns. Why is it that the bedrock freedom of political speech is confounded, constrained, and controlled by campaign financing restrictions that leave many a candidate no choice but to run for office on the public dole under the dictates of federal election commissars? Why is it that the so-called progressives who decry entrenched power and extoll the voice of the people are enamored with the bureaucratic bean-counting of the size and frequency of campaign contributions that favors incumbents and the super-rich at the expense of dark horses and ordinary citizens in political races? That is the fundamental issue.
The larger issue certainly is not: "Why does it cost so much money to run for president?" It doesn't. Americans spend a pittance on the publication of campaign speech compared to the advertising dollars that we pour into pushing mundane products like laundry detergent, fast-food burgers, and the latest amazing gadget for only $19.95 plus shipping and handling. For presidential candidates to spend what amounts to at most only a few bucks per voter every four years to get their messages out to the public is hardly a scandal. Indeed, stack that up to what pornographers spend to ply their putrid wares (which so-called progressives are so quick to defend under the free speech banner), and one wonders about the bad wiring in the heads of those who link arms with the flesh peddlars while sanctimoniously denouncing the few dollars spent on getting political speech on the air, on the internet, and in print.
Nor is the larger issue: "Why do media corporations profit so much from elections?" Is this really a head-scratcher for our progressive friends? The answer is obvious. The [shudder] "media corporations" own soapboxes that candidates want to rent to get their message out to the readers, viewers, and listeners of those companies. Meanwhile, all the other businesses and organizations that still need to advertise in the ordinary course of business don't go away. So demand goes up while the supply of space and minutes available for advertising remains about the same. Hence, the price for advertising laundry detergent and campaign slogans goes up. Nothing sinister. Economics 101.
If the leftists think the solution is to force the evil media corporations to hold their prices, just who do you think is going to get the limited supply of advertising available? Those customers of the media corporations placing ads day in and day out, or the fellow that comes along once every four years to get ink or air for a couple of months ahead of the election? Now if those leftist wheels are really turning, no doubt the solution to this is to force media corporations to ration ads to candidates -- and steamroll over the freedom of the press in the process.
All of which is to demonstrate that if our progressive friends put the facts first rather than their pet ideas, they might not wring their hands over things that are a problem only because they do not fit into the tidy world of their Big Idea.
Yes, I know, we shouldn't expect much in the way of intelligent discourse from grandstanding politicians on Capitol Hill and windbag pundits on cable news. But is it really too much to ask that their bloviations have at least some connection to reality, however tenuous that may be?
What is sticking in my craw is the utter stupidity of blaming speculators for the high price of oil. These blowhards are railing against traders of oil futures because their alleged speculations are bidding up the price of crude. First of all, let's get straight what a future is.
The indefatigable Nick DeLeeuw of RightMichigan.com has done an excellent job on reporting this bit of corruption called Reform Michigan Government Now. Check out his most recent series of articles on this murky group's attempt to dilute the vote and influence of ordinary Michiganders by consolidating the state's political power into the hands of fewer entrenched incumbents:
The Pig in the Python The dirty little secret behind the success and failure of every school reform that the education establishment, the public school bureaucrats, and the teachers unions will never reveal.
The Fool's Gold of a College Education Most kids who get a college degree today have nothing but an expensive credential that lands them a job that any high school graduate could have gotten a generation ago -- WITHOUT the heavy burden of paying back a student loan.
The Fixer A four-part series about the local attorney behind the demise of Autodie, Butterworth Hospital, Amway, and Old Kent. Warning: Strong accusations of corruption, greed, and skullduggery. Not for the feint of heart.
Poison The nasty nature of the 26,000 tons of poison that The Boardwalk's developers dug up and then dumped upon the rest of us.
No Honor Among Thieves: The Demise of Quixtar The re-branding of Amway as Quixtar put lipstick on the pig, but none of the crappy way of doing business changed. Now comes public scrutiny around the world to control its kingpins and clean up the dirty "tools" business.
Lost Cause A story of how River City lost its way to a secure economic future.
Living Wage Kills Jobs City pols support a Marxist policy that, like all Marxist policies, hurt the very people they say it will help.
Defenders Who Do Not Defend Excessive plea-bargaining, lack of preparation, shoddy to non-existent representation, conflicts of interests are rife among lawyers taking public defender cases on the taxpayer dime.