Thursday, October 2, 2008

Answer this question.

What is good about partisanship, what does it produce as a net positive for society?

Then answer the following.

Why is our system set up to foster and proliferate it at all levels of our society and government?

This is the blog post where you do all the work!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bond issue passes

This week residents across the county not only supported their schools, but cast a ballot indicating that they understand what the future demands.

It's time that we make the value of a high school education greater than it has ever been before by being competitive with international schools, because every single job worth having today is on an internatinal bargaining table right now.

The "classroom of tomorrow" idea is a step in the right direction. Investment in other areas will also be greatly beneficial.

The first districts to raise the bar will be in great demand, thus drawing people to move to communities within the boundaries of quality school districts, and subsequently businesses.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cutting teeth, knocking them out.

You can't help but get swept up in politics in this business.

C-SPAN seems absolutely action packed, after a couple years of covering "local LOCAL" meetings - that parenthetical phrase being something I coined in promoting the kind of community journalism we do, since most people I know consider Detroit or Ann Arbor "local."

Not to say that village meetings, township politics and school board discussions are boring. No, no. This job would be impossible if I didn't enjoy them more than some of the high school football games I've seen (not that THOSE are boring).

Gosh ... this water is hot!

My point is that the 2008 journey for a pair of presidential nominees is my Superbowl.

Which brings me to what I want to talk about - the baseball of this whole process thus far. Setting aside the merits of each candidate or their policies, I think people need to look at and understand what is happening here, and give credit and scorn where it is due.

Hillary Clinton is probably turning me off more than any other actor on the political stage. Perhaps I have a unique, cynical view as a Michigan Democrat, but making a play for our delegates yesterday is just the latest in a slew of sleazy political maneuvering.

What happened to the official line coming out of her campaign weeks ago that her name being on the ballot was just an oversight? Apparently she was just "too busy" to sign the paperwork.

A little revisionist history later, and Hillary Clinton is supposed to be the white knight here to save this state's political legitimacy in the primaries (long, long gone) and re-enfranchise the legions of disenfranchised voting Michiganders.


Shame on Carl Levin and Jennifer Granholm too. Levin supported this whole forced primary, as far back as last October, and now he is supporting this move, even helping to paint it as an altruistic. Granholm is beating the same drum.

To say that Barack Obama and John Edwards can just pick up delegates from the uncommitted votes later, as Levin did, is insultingly disingenuous. What is an election, if not an experiment to gauge the will of a people - y'know ... Democracy?

Is the experiment worthwhile if it is incomplete? Only one of the three major players were on the ballot, even though none of them campaigned. But let's be honest here, the Clinton brand, the connections between Michigan's Democrats and the Clinton machine and her supporters being encouraged by being able to at least cast a ballot for her name are huge advantages, and have rendered our Democratic primary numbers meaningless. This goes far beyond the natural limitations of weak policy, poor debate showings and personality problems that could sink any candidate. It goes beyond one candidate raising more money than another. The Michigan contest is irreparably tainted by party politics.

You can't conduct a survey by asking half of the questions. You can't posit a hypothesis without complete data, unless you're trying to move towards a predetermined outcome.

After all, I often hear Democracy referred to as a "noble experiment." If that is what it truly is, then we owe it to ourselves to discard the results of our Democratic primary, even if it means sacrificing our voice and swallowing our pride, which are no good to our nation if they pollute the overall process with a skewed representation of our state's political will.

I'll probably post something else later after the South Carolina results are in. I could go on about the Clinton campaign, but they're not the only recipient of my ire. Not by a long shot.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The second fall of Rome.

One of my first childhood memories is that of a seven foot tall suit of steel plate armor standing at attention with hands sheathed in lobster gauntlets clasped atop the beard of a large battleaxe. The fact that the weapon's butt was resting on the ground didn't make it any less menacing.

It's not something I'd go looking for in Canton Township, but it's been a fixture at a restaurant called The Roman Forum since the '70s. Sadly, Roman Forum is closing down, which isn't surprising. It is flanked by corporate competition, and there is what I would call a "strip" of various theme restaurants, steak houses and fast food joints that spans for miles on the opposite side of Ford Road.

Between this sad development and some of the stories I've been working on, I've been thinking a lot about small independent businesses, downtowns and growth in general. I like to think that living in the Westland area has given me a unique perspective on how a city should not grow.

I like to think of Westland and parts of Plymouth, Garden City and Canton that adjoin our city's borders as individual pieces of a commercial Mecca that has grown in all of the wrong ways.

Once the proud township of Nankin, in the '60s we were the world's largest township after a population explosion that added 70,000 heads to our yearly census reports. Now, my memory doesn't go back that far, since I wasn't born yet, but I do have memories of things other than a menacing suit of armor in an Italian restaurant.

By the time I was five years old, the City of Westland had existed for almost 20 years, after Nankin Township decided to name itself after its mall, partially to stake their claim on the shopping megaplex, which had been a carrot-on-a-stick for a then annex-happy Livonia.

Westland was a nice, quaint place to live. The air was fresh, neighbors had relationships, children rode bikes in the streets and there were many forest areas for children to explore.

As the years passed old houses on Ford and Newberg Rd. disappeared, entire blocks of forestry were cleared for ugly condos and mindless strip malls that house useless commercial zone filler like tanning salons, cell phone stores and dollar stores. And as time went on people became too busy to talk to their neighbors.

We've become a city of retail, restaurants and convenience. Imagine Dexter Village smack dab in the middle of Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti. Imagine never having to drive more than 5 miles both ways to Best Buy, Walmart, Meijer's, Kroger's, Circuit City, Dick's Sporting Goods, Blockbuster, Target or any of four dozen or so corporate chain restaurants.

It sounds a lot better than it is in practice, because for every convenience you sacrifice something valuable. To me that big suit of armor is valuable. These days the big guy looks more comforting than menacing, after coming into Roman Forum for almost two decades. I remember my dad taking my mother and I there and taking pictures with the suit as if it were Santa Claus.

I was taken aback as the manager threw his hands up in the air and gave me the news a couple of weeks ago. The service had been off when I took someone there for a birthday dinner, and to get myself some breaded zucchini. I was hoping the manager would tell me what was going on. I wasn't expecting to hear that the place was locking up for good in two months.

I felt pretty bad. I wondered what I could have done. Maybe if I had ever found a job worth having in the area, I might have frequented Roman Forum more often on lunch breaks.

Now a business that was once the pillar of Canton Township and a hotspot in its heyday will be gone forever, and that tired steel soldier will be discharged for good.

Hopefully the TGI Friday's across the street can gift him one of the many mass-produced pieces of Americana from its walls.

A picture of Marilyn Monroe or Betty Davis could warm the cockles of any old solider's heart. Or are those the kind of frame fair that Red Robin puts out to homogenize the dining experience at their establishment?

Either I had a better memory when I was five or there just isn't as much worth remembering.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It might be time to pony up some dough

Next Monday's Board of Education meeting is going to be very important for the future of the district.

Trustees are going to formally hear, for the first time, bond committee recommendations that will actually be voted on and approved in the coming months. Which recommendations are voted on favorably will define the shape that the final bond proposal takes, both in terms of a dollar amount and which areas of improvement those dollars will be allocated to.

There have been a number of tours and community forums, but Monday would be where I would recommend starting to follow this issue, if you haven't already. It's not really a question of "yes" or "no" to education when it comes down to this issue. Dexter Community Schools are high quality. When is the last time that something of quality benefited from less support?

If you're reading this and thinking of your tax bill, then please realize that this bond will not raise your taxes, but maintain the current debt service that is already being paid on a previous bond issuance, which will be paid off soon.

The only reason I can think of to vote no is to give yourself a tax discount, which is hardly worth letting such fine schools degrade, which will probably be followed by other things soon after.

I highly recommend being at Creekside media center at 7 p.m. Monday.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Writer's Guild strike presents a unique opportunity.

There are two reasons why I hope Hollywood's pens remain unmanned for as many weeks as possible while writers stand out in the cold with picket signs.

1) This is a great opportunity to fix a broken agreement between a group that deserves just as much compensation from DVD and digital distribution sales as everyone else involved. There's no logical explanation behind the idea that writers only get paid residuals from on-air reruns.

The days of "Dallas" season box sets filling up an entire shelf with VHS tapes are long gone. In fact, much like the newspaper business, television is facing great challenges to delivering content and wind is blowing towards online. Why wouldn't a writer want to be compensated from what will be the primary means of delivering content to end users in the future?

2) Maybe if this situation continues, TV shows will dry up and we'll all be forced to watch reality television enough to cause some sort of an uprising. Let's face it, TV is garbage, unless we're talking about Bill Maher, that new CBS show "Cane," or that one show on TLC where the guy eats tree slugs and various other Temple of Doom tasties.

Thank God Maher does his own writing and the slug eater's show is light on the lines.

I figure that an overdose of crap will wake everybody up and more people will starting reading books and newspapers or spend time online visiting their favorite websites and participating in forums and other online community centers.

A box that flashes pictures is looking more and more like cave drawings to me.

Sorry I don't really have anything Dexter related to discuss. There are some things I could talk about, but you'll just have to read next week's Leader. After Monday we should have a new Village President named. That move has the potential to cause some problems, if it's not a certain someone, but we'll just wait and see.

I will leave with on this note. The more I look at the condition of services in the communities that I cover and the county as a whole, the more I realize that something has to be done. Higher taxes? Probably. Consolidation of services? Oh yeah.

It's amazing how ingrained this idea of a kingdom is in the American psyche and how pervasive it is in so many things, several of which are mentioned above.

Man the battlements!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jeff Daniels, Rock n Roll and a shock.

What a busy couple of weeks it's been.

First, let me just say that I truly wish Jim Seta the best of luck on his future endeavors. There was a lot of debate around our offices and I heard a lot of skepticism over his stated reason for leaving, but I don't think anyone can argue that he wasn't passionate and dedicated.

The big question now is who the council will choose from it's own make-up as his interim replacement. Agree with them or not, the council is fully stocked with intelligent people so I think that situation is a win-win-win-win-win-win (one for each council member).

I got to meet Jeff Daniels a couple of weeks ago for the first time, while I was at the Purple Rose viewing "The Poetry of Pizza." I haven't met many celebrities. I wish I had handled my brief interaction with him. Instead of being goofy and saying, "Why not build a PRTC Dexter?" I would have liked to have said, "I really appreciate your support of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation." I don't think many people know about the MEDC, but they should. I've seen them save a city from future collapse with my own eyes. Maybe he wouldn't have walked away so soon.

My entertainment spree didn't stop at theatre. I had a great time at Deb Marsh's battle of the bands. I was surprised to hear that there was originally opposition to her SPACE program (can't remember the acronym off the top of my head). Essentially, the program allows students who aren't into sports, the marching band or any of those other staid school activities that we typically think of when listing extracurricular to connect with the system. Who wouldn't want to give everybody a chance to find that extra vested interest in the public education system? Apparently some, but that attitude is waning, according to Marsh. I will be keeping on eye on SPACE and reporting whenever I see one of Marsh's efforts quashed.

And now for a random Internet quote that someone said on a forum that made me stop and think.

"The 21st century started with, and I'm going to sound like an idealist here but I don't care, the 21st century started with such promise, much like the 20th century..."