A country that loses its values, its principles, has lost its heart. A country that loses its sensible center, its common ground, has lost its mind.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Snyder aide seems to be living a double life

 On convention-eve, expect Gov. Snyder to face a firestorm of controversy as one of his top advisers is reportedly fumbling around trying to explain why he is leading a double life.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s strongest allies and no stranger to controversy, ran for precinct delegate in the August primary while being registered to vote in two states and while having principal-residence tax exemptions attached to properties in two states.

Democrats are ready to pounce big-time on this story, with a Friday 9:30 a.m. conference call scheduled with Michigan reporters.

According to the MIRS news service, records from the Clinton County Treasurer's Office in Michigan show that Baird, Snyder's “transformation manager,” has had a principal residence property tax exemption attached to his home in Bath since he bought the home in 2011.
At the same time, MIRS reports, his Illinois home has received a homeowner exemption since at least 2009, according to the Cook County Assessor's Office.
The homeowner exemption in Illinois is for properties that have been occupied by the owner as their principal residence.

Here’s more from MIRS:
“In a phone interview today, Baird said his intention was to receive only an exemption on the Illinois home. Later today, a Snyder spokesperson said the exemption on the Michigan property was an ‘inadvertent error’ that he's now trying to clear up with the local assessor.
“Baird said today that there likely was a clerical error at the time of the purchase that kept that exemption on the property.”

Those supposed typos – they can really come back and hammer you later.

Meanwhile, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson said this:
"This information raises serious questions of what could potentially be tax and voter fraud from Rick Snyder's right-hand man," Johnson said. "Time and time again, there's been a pattern and practice of scandals from the Snyder administration.
“From Baird intervening to save, then double, a lucrative state furniture contract (for) Snyder's cousin, to 90 percent pay raises for Wall Street investment executives, to public funds paying for extravagant travel expenses and fancy dinners all over the world (for a Snyder appointee), Rick Snyder's administration has been awash in scandal. It's past time for an independent investigation into corruption and misdealing in Snyder's administration. Rick Snyder owes Michigan families answers."

Sounds like things could be getting interesting on the day before the Republican state convention.


Cops inflict death penalty far more than prisons

This chart, created by Sean McElwee of Demos.org, shows a staggering gap between public executions in U.S. prisons and fatal police shootings in America's streets. 
The folks over at Vox.com point out that, from 2001-11, fatal injuries related to "legal intervention" (arrest, suppressing disturbances, maintaining order) outnumbered criminal executions on the order of four-to-one — and the gap is widening.
McElwee drew data on fatal injuries from the CDC and data on criminal executions from the Death Penalty Information Center.

Millions of gallons of raw sewage dumped in Macomb County


The nearly unprecedented flood waters that caused havoc for thousands of Macomb County homeowners featured an added punch –- at least 321 million gallons of sewage dumped into the streams, rivers and eventually Lake St. Clair during the harrowing 24 hours following the massive rainstorm that hit last week beginning Monday morning.                  
                                                                                                                  Lorraine Drain, located in                                                                                                                 a residential area of Warren by Van                                                                                               Dyke and Chicago Road, was overwhelmed with
                                                                4.2 million gallons of raw sewage during last week's epic rainstorm.      

That huge discharge included nearly 6 million gallons of raw sewage, untreated waste that floated through residential neighborhoods in Warren and Clinton Township.
Worse yet, the full picture of how much contamination fouled the flood waters of Aug. 11 is still not known. Ten days after the storm, officials at the George W. Kuhn Drain in south Oakland County, located on Dequindre Road in Madison Heights, have still not reported how much sewage they disbursed into the Red Run Drain in Warren. That pollution flows through the Clinton River to Lake St. Clair.
Past trends suggest the Kuhn sewage retention basin, formerly known as the Twelve Towns Drain, could boost the total wastewater levels dumped into the waterways above one-half billion gallons.
The 321 million gallons of pollution reported so far is approximately equal in volume to 487 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The raw sewage came from the Center Line sewer system and a series of seven sewer relief valves in southern Clinton Township.
Center Line has faced pressure from the state Department of Environmental Quality for more than a decade to improve its sewer system. But the Aug. 11 storms proved too much as a sewage lift station – designed to ensure consistent flow – failed to keep up. The city dumped 4.15 million gallons of untreated sewage into Bear Creek and Lorraine Drain in Warren, near the 13 Mile and Van Dyke area.
The overflow began shortly before 11 a.m. on that fateful Monday and continued for 16 hours.
In Clinton Township, which has also faced years of DEQ mandates to fix their sewers, a combined 1.6 million gallons of raw sewage was dumped into the Clinton River from four pumps in the Gratiot/Little Mack area and three pumps located between Gratiot and Harper, north of 15 Mile.
The township’s director of public services, Mary Bednar, said some of the untreated sewage travels through neighborhood drains on its way to the river and then the lake.
According to Bednar, sewer improvements are underway that will replace the three relief valves between Gratiot and Harper. That project, which was required by the DEQ, will be completed by the end of the year.
Fixes to eliminate the four pumps near Little Mack are in the design phase and must be completed, under a DEQ consent order, by the end of 2016.
Bednar cautioned that those upgrades will not prevent sewage overflows in the future if the township experiences another “Noah’s Ark event.”
Under the probabilities presented by project engineers, she said, “we are required to handle a 25-year, 24-hour storm. This event last week … was beyond that.”
At the area’s large sewage retention basins, wastewater is partially treated before dumping sewage into the lake. Technicians settle it, skim it and treat it with chlorine. Macomb and Oakland county officials maintain that the E.coli bacteria levels in the effluent are minimal and that the sewage is substantially diluted by rainwater.
While the final numbers are not available, Verona of the DEQ said Oakland County’s Kuhn Drain is having a hard time estimating the size of their overflow because the rainwater/sewage levels were “more than they had ever seen before,” rising above the drain’s highest-placed sensors.
The heavy rains of last week delivered a one-two punch as officials normally release sewage into the waterways to avoid basement flooding. In this case, thousands of homes suffered severe damage in their basements – the newest estimate for Macomb County’s total sits at $300 million while hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage was also funneled into the streams, river and lake.
Sewage discharges typically result in the warm weather months when overloaded and aging sewer systems are flooded by heavy storms. Communities are required by law to report overflows to the DEQ within 48 hours, with a more detailed report to follow.
Storm drains and ditches also contribute significantly to the pollution that flows to Lake St. Clair during wet weather.
DEQ officials said that it typically takes a week to compile pollution information after a storm, though that is not standard practice in Macomb County.
The Macomb Daily on Wednesday tracked down several sewage volume levels that were not yet reported by the Macomb County Health Department, which reports the figures on its website.
“If you can be patient, in a couple more days, by the end of the week, we will have all these reports,” said Laura Verona, a DEQ supervisor for the southeast Michigan region.
Health Department Director William Ridella said his agency had not received any reports of sickness due to the contaminated water, though hospitals and doctors are not required to report such matters unless a disease outbreak is suspected.
Those who come in contact with E. coli can suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes and infections.
On the Lake St. Clair shoreline, some homeowners are reporting a buildup of seaweed and sewage residue at the seawalls.
In parts of Macomb County, residents experienced rain levels like those of Aug. 11 – 3 to 4 inches – as recently as May 27-28. But the intensity of the rain during a few hours of the afternoon of Aug. 11 caused the untenable unleashing of water – from the sky and from the underground sewers.
Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, who oversees the county drains and its two largest sewage retention basins, said Macomb cannot afford a sewer system that is ready to withstand that kind of weather.
“That was a lot of rain. When Mother Nature spills her guts, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Marrocco said. “I don’t think people want to pay $3,000 a year more in taxes to expand all these sewers.”
According to state, county and local authorities, here are some of the sewer spills that occurred last week:
The Chapaton retention basin, located on the lake in St. Clair Shores, dumped 81.3 million gallons of sewage over a 15-hour period.
The Milk River pump station, situated at the Macomb-Wayne county border in Grosse Pointe Shores, discharged 137.1 million gallons of polluted water over a 6-hour period on Monday and Tuesday of last week.
The Martin retention basin, also located on the lake in the Shores, experienced an overflow of 12.1 million gallons over 31 hours.
The Warren sewage treatment plant, which lies near 14 Mile and Van Dyke, adjacent to Bear Creek, sent 85.1 million gallons of sewage-tainted water into the Red Run Drain.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Peters' investment in French oil co. raises eyebrows

Kudos to Brandon Helderop, a New Hudson freelance writer, who has reportedly uncovered a glaring bit of hypocrisy in Senate candidate Gary Peters’ personal finances.
A Republican activist, Helderop wrote on his blog that the Democratic congressman, who paints himself as pro-environment and anti-Keystone pipeline, has a large investment in a French oil company, Total S.A. France. According to the company’s website, they are the fifth largest publicly-traded international oil and gas company in the world.
Helderop’s DetNews blog, offers these details:
“Total S.A. France holds interests in 21 refineries around the world, including the United States, Europe, the French West Indies, Africa, the Middle East, and China. In other words, while Peters claims to be against oil interests here at home in the name of defending the environment, he has no problem investing in big foreign oil companies. What’s more, Peters’ investment is going to jobs being created by a foreign company versus one here in America.
“… (The candidate’s primary concern about Keystone) is that ‘we will be seeing piles of petcoke in a lot of other places in the United States, because it is a main byproduct of refining Canadian oil.’ Peters’ stance against petcoke has become his battle cry in refusing to support the pipeline, to the point of calling for a federal investigation into its ‘health and environmental impacts.’
“However, Peters doesn’t have a problem investing in a foreign oil company that produces thousands of barrels in petcoke per day. Total S.A. France operates in the United States … as Total Holdings USA. According to their website, they have 60 locations throughout the U.S. in addition to manufacturing facilities in 24 states. One of those facilities is the Total Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which turns out 174,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Moreover, one of the products the foreign oil company produces and ships out is none other than Peters’ nemesis: petcoke.”
Hmmm. I wonder what the League of Conservation Voters, which has contributed generously to Peters’ campaign against Republican Terri Lynn Land, thinks about all of this. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Officials present plan for minor league ballpark in Macomb County

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Utica Mayor Jackie Noonan came out swinging for the fences on Monday as they announced plans for construction of a 2,500-seat minor league baseball park that will be home to a newly formed local league as early as next year.
The elaborate plan calls for a local three-team league to play at the multi-million dollar stadium, which will be built on the outskirts of downtown Utica, with each team playing 48 games a year. A fourth team will be added in the future.
Noonan called the project a “game-changer” for the tiny, 197-year-old city, with Utica attracting families, shoppers and more tax dollars, while parcels that have remained empty for many years will be put to use.
“In my 27 years as mayor, lots of ideas have crossed my desk regarding this land. But this one is incomparable to anything that has come along.
“We,” she added, “are going to make Utica a destination.”
Rochester-based General Sports & Entertainment hopes to quickly get to work on the stadium and an accompanying 500-space parking deck at an estimated cost of $8 million to $10 million. The company, with some help from tax revenues generated by the business community’s Downtown Development Authority, will pay for all expenses. The Auburn Road land, valued at $600,000 and currently under control of the DDA after a tax foreclosure, will be donated to General Sports.
The company has targeted May 15, 2015, for opening day. In the meantime, a lot of plans need to fall into place.
Zain Masters, director of research and strategy for General Sports, said the teams have not yet been formed. The goal is to attract quality ex-high school and college players – an anticipated average age of 22 to 24 – who fell short of landing a spot on a minor league team affiliated with a Major League Baseball club.
The players will be paid but they will be independent from the MLB farm teams. The mayor was quick to note Detroit Tigers pitching ace Max Scherzer came to the majors from an independent league.
“We feel this is something worth shouting about. We’re excited to bring minor league baseball to Macomb County and the city of Utica,” Masters said at a press conference at the site.
The playing field, consisting of artificial turf, will match the size of a typical major league stadium. The Utica ballpark will offer 2,500 seats, two grassy areas for spectators at the outfield fences, and up to 18 suites. General Sports has not settled on a series of ticket prices.
Hackel, whose county economic development department helped bring the project together, said the ballpark will not attempt to compete with the Tigers and Comerica Park. The intent is to make the Utica ballfield a close-to-home location for a family-oriented, low-cost night out that offers the opportunity to be “up close and personal with the players.”
“This will be a minor league ballpark that provides a major league quality-of-life improvement for kids and families,” the county executive said. “This isn’t just a Utica ballpark, it isn’t just a Macomb County baseball stadium, it’s a major opportunity for southeast Michigan.”
Masters said the season at the park would last from May 15 to Sept. 15 – and he acknowledged an alternative, 2016 start to the opening season may be necessary if any delays are encountered. Other activities at the stadium could include football games, soccer matches, ice skating in the winter and fireworks in the summer.
In Mount Clemens, officials spent several years a decade ago exploring the possibility of establishing a minor league baseball stadium in their downtown area but they eventually abandoned the idea. Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon said over the weekend he tried to lure the General Sports facility to his community but lost out to Utica.
Across the Clinton River from the ballpark, General Sports also plans to develop a mixed-use condominium and retail development within the next three years. A brownstone building partially constructed but never completed on this Phase Two site will be torn down in about two weeks.
All construction on the two contiguous sites will require supervision from the state Department of Environmental Quality as portions of the parcels are brownfields where waste and contaminants exist below the surface.

Will this map affect taxes, welfare?

The Tax Foundation has compiled an interesting map that should have implications for tax rates and social welfare programs in each state.
The foundation researchers took a look at federal data and came up with the true value of $100, based on the cost of living, in all 50 states. Michigan is on the plus side, at about $105, but the valuations vary dramatically across the nation.

The states/territories where $100 is worth the least are the District of Columbia ($84.60), Hawaii ($85.32), New York ($86.66), New Jersey ($87.64), and California ($88.57). That same money goes the furthest in Mississippi ($115.74), Arkansas ($114.16), Missouri ($113.51), Alabama (113.51), and South Dakota ($113.38).

The implications for political decisions and public policy could be enormous. Here’s how the Tax Foundation describes the current situation:

“Furthermore, this (divide in cost of living) affects means-tested federal welfare programs. A poor person in a high-cost area – like Brooklyn or Queens - may be artificially boosted out of the range of income where they are eligible for welfare programs, despite still being very poor. At the same time, many people in low-price states may be eligible for welfare programs despite actually being much richer than they appear. If the same dollar value program is offered in New York City and rural South Dakota, it may be too small to help anyone in New York City, and yet so big it discourages work in South Dakota.”

Fouts' suit over Prop 1 names 11 defendants

Warren Mayor James Fouts has followed through with his planned (and frivolous) lawsuit seeking to wipe out the Aug. 5 statewide election results on Proposal 1, which voters approved by a wide margin.
Fouts insists that the ballot language was confusing and biased in favor of getting a “yes” vote from the electorate. But the mayor is not asking for a re-vote; he just wants the result erased from history.

Of course, that’s an interesting approach for this “mayor of the people,” especially since his own constituents, the Warren electorate, voted for Proposal 1.
The proposal, which phases out and replaces the state’s Personal Property Tax on business machinery and equipment, was endorsed by business, labor, law enforcement, and an all-star lineup of elected Republican and Democratic officials.
Fouts, in his usual, quirky way, embraced his role as the one-man opposition. Of course, Fouts, as mayor of one of the most industrialized cities in Michigan, should have been leading the pro-Prop 1 parade. The mayor completely misunderstood the realpolitik of Lansing, where the Republicans were ready to eliminate the PPT, without providing replacement revenue, if the proposal failed at the ballot box.

So, who is Fouts suing? Just about anyone and everyone whose fingerprints were on Proposal 1.
According to the MIRS news service, here is the lineup of defendants named in the Court of Claims lawsuit: the senators who were primary sponsors of the bill that created Prop. 1, Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), Mark Jansen (R-Cutlerville), Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), John Moolenaar (R-Midland) and Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Twp.).; the Secretary of State’s office (but not Secretary of State Ruth Johnson); SOS Bureau of Elections Director Chris Thomas; the four members of the Board of State Canvassers who approved the ballot language: Colleen Pero, Jeannette Bradshaw, Norm Shinkle and Julie Matuzak (a longtime Democratic activist from Macomb County); the Truscott Rossman Group, which is the public relations firm that handled the pro-Prop 1 campaign; and Kelly Rossman-McKinney, who handled the account.

Rossman-McKinney and PR partner John Truscott
 get the news that they're part of Fouts' silly suit

A veteran PR pro, Rossman-McKinney told MIRS that Fouts’ decision to sue her and her firm was amazing and amusing.”
The part that I find particularly amusing is the thought of Fouts battling it out, in court and in the political arena, with Brandenburg. Both are outspoken and prone to bombastic quotes. But Brandenburg is an ex-jock who towers over the feeble Fouts.

If it ever comes to a face-to-face confrontation, the mayor better bring his baseball bat.

Monday, August 18, 2014

More missing emails hounding Obama admin.

The latest missing-emails saga in the Obama administration centers on the disastrous Obamacare exchange rollout in October, with Michigan’s Rep. Fred Upton leading the way to sort it all out.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has acknowledged that some emails sought by GOP lawmakers may have been lost or deleted but has said its general policy was to keep emails. It blamed an overwhelming number of emails coming in at the time of Obamacare’s launch for the deletion of any emails, according to The Hill
But the release of an Oct. 5, 2013, email that appears to show CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner instructing subordinates to delete an email could bolster the GOP’s case that the administration was seeking to hide emails created during Obamacare’s launch, the Hill reported.

“Time and again, the self-proclaimed 'most transparent administration' has been anything but," Upton said in a statement. "And now we know that when HealthCare.gov was crashing, those in charge were hitting the delete button behind the scenes. What was the Obama administration trying to hide?” 
House Republicans have previously charged that former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner intentionally wiped her computer hard drive in order to avoid scrutiny over the agency's targeting of conservative groups. 
The IRS says the hard drive crashed on its own, resulting in a loss of the data

Meanwhile, it appears that maybe this email deletion/destruction stuff is all a Democrat thing.
ProPublica reports that New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has installed an odd IT system that deletes any emails more than 90 days old that users hadn't specifically saved — a much more aggressive stance than many other states. The policy shift was first reported by the Albany Times Union.

Here is a portion of ProPublica’s reporting:
“A previously unpublished memo outlining the policy raises new questions about the state's stated rationale for its deletions policy. What's more, the rules on which emails must be retained are bewilderingly complex – they fill 118 pages – leading to further concern that emails may not be saved at all.
“‘If you're aggressively destroying your email, it looks like you're trying to hide something,’ said Benjamin Wright, a Dallas lawyer who has advised companies and government agencies on records retention.

“The state implemented the policy as part of a move to Microsoft's Office 365 email system, which offers 50 gigabytes of space per email user — enough to store hundreds of thousands or even millions of emails for each state worker. The state's version of Office 365 also offers unlimited email archiving.”

Obama called 'greatest enemy to press freedom in generation'

Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen is calling President Obama the "greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation."
According to Talking Points Memo, Risen's comments were published by the Times in Maureen Dowd's Sunday column, titled "Where's the Justice at Justice?"
"A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin," Risen told Dowd. "They don't want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He's the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation."
The Obama administration has tried to force Risen to testify about leaked information on a botched CIA operation in Iran. Risen reported about the operation in his book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Specifically, the Justice Department wants Risen to testify against ex-CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who the Obama administration thinks leaked the information.
In June the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen to keep him from having to reveal the identity of his source in the leaked CIA case.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ted Cruz, strange bedfellows, and that weird trip to Macomb County

Ted CruzVerified account @tedcruz Aug 11
Uplifting & inspiring meeting w/ Macomb County, MI, grassroots activists rising up to bring back Morning in America!

So, Sen. Ted Cruz whisked in and out of Macomb County on Monday with hardly anyone noticing. The tea party senator spoke to a small gathering at the Hyatt hotel in Utica and then moved on to other stops on a low-key meet-and-greet tour across Michigan.

His trip comes as the county conventions and Republican State Convention approach. He was campaigning largely for Ron Weiser, the former MIGOP chair who is running for a U-M Regent slot, and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. Both hope to be nominated at the state convention later this month.

Here’s the odd part of all this: Weiser’s campaign is run by John Yob, a key MIGOP figure. Yob’s Strategic National campaign consulting group is the key force behind Rand Paul’s presidential campaign-in-waiting. Cruz and Paul have become, in some ways, archrivals within the Senate GOP and could very well face off in the 2016 presidential primaries.

Within the ever-entertaining state Republican Party, it should also be noted that Weiser, a former U.S. ambassador and previously the picture of mainstream Republicanism, has even hob-knobbed with some of the most right-wing tea party types to gain support for his Regent run. He even chose an infamous radio show to announce his candidacy.

I’m told that Weiser is locked in a tough fight with three others: former congressional candidate and 2012 U-M Regent nominee Rob Steele; 2012 nominee and ex-Regent Dan Horning, who seems to be running on a slate with Steele; and longtime party loyalist Carl Meyers, who has served as treasurer of the Michigan Republican Party.

Back at the Cruz event in Utica, as you might notice from the photo he sent out on Twitter (above) he chose to post the Gadsden flag (“Don’t tread on me”) as a backdrop rather than the American flag. And he chose to hold the event at the Hyatt rather than the Macomb GOP headquarters, which is right down the street.


Father of tea party goes down in flames in TV interview

I just came across an interesting CNBC interview with Rick Santelli, the Wall Street guy who got the tea party rolling in early 2009 with a rant, also aired on CNBC. Five years later, the tea party fringies are still out there but Santelli has been totally discredited in the mainstream business community.

You can watch the video here. Make sure not to miss the last two or three minutes.

Here's a bit of what Solomon Kleinsmith of Centrist Review had to say about the clip:

"If you want to see an awesome example of right wingnut behavior, and an utterly incorrect perspective that is ignored because of ideological blindness, watch this segment. It showcases the outlandish antics of the circus side-show that is Rick Santelli – yes, the guy who is credited with sparking the wingnut magnet Tea Party movement -- with comments made on a show similar to this a few years ago. 
"Like so many extremists, he sidesteps his track record of measurable inaccurate predictions and baseless claims and just yells his ideological fairy tales louder and louder, as the seemingly sane people on the panel (of whom I have no clue to their ideological disposition, having not watched the show) watch on with faces ranging from partially hidden disgust, to mocking disbelief.
If you can’t stand watching this train wreck of a human being, fast forward to about 10:55 and see one of those reasonable people absolutely own him, from a substantive perspective anyway, as Santelli continues to yell."


Monday, August 11, 2014

UPDATE: Former candidate denies fake tea party group was his scam

Charles Frontera is adamantly denying that he played any role in the District 22 Patriot Club campaign that urged Republican voter to cross over in last week’s primary election and sink the state House campaign of Roseville Mayor John Chirkun.
The current 22nd District (Roseville and eastern Warren) Rep. Harold Haugh has alleged that Frontera launched the Patriot Club group to destroy Chirkun’s candidacy. But now it appears that Haugh, who is term-limited, might have targeted Frontera to eliminate his future chances of running for office in Roseville.

Frontera could not be reached for comment over the weekend but today he forcefully insisted that he has no connections to the Patriot Club and that he stayed out of Chirkun’s Democratic primary race.

As I reported earlier on this blog, Haugh made allegations that he believes Frontera single-handedly mailed out Patriot Club letters that urged cross-over votes by Republicans for Chirkun’s Democratic primary contender.
Frontera said anyone familiar with his background – a dues-paying Democratic Party member since he was 16 years old – would know that he would never be associated with a group with a tea party-style name.
“For John or Harold to say that I have the time or resources or political pull to do what they claim, it’s ridiculous,” said Frontera, an unsuccessful candidate for Roseville City Council last November and an activist in community groups.

Last year, Frontera objected to the Roseville City Council’s method of putting Haugh’s wife into a vacant council seat, but he said he never made claims that Chirkun or Harold Haugh were part of a “Democratic machine” designed to enhance their cronies.

Macomb GOP chair loses bid for lowly precinct delegate slot

Last week’s primary Election Day was bad news for state House candidate Stan Grot, who is trying to take over the Macomb County Republican Party, but also for Macomb GOP Chairman Rob Montilla, who is trying to hold onto the county party.
Grot, of course, lost his no-holds-barred race for House to Pete Lucido in north Macomb’s 36th District. The margin, about 100 votes, must have been especially bitter for the Shelby Township clerk because he was so confident of victory.

At the same time, Montilla lost his bid for a precinct delegate spot – to his own wife.
In Macomb Township’s Precinct 29, Rob and Hannah Montilla were among seven candidates vying for three GOP precinct delegate slots. Hannah finished No. 1 with 43 votes, Rob come up short, coming in fourth place with just 34 votes, significantly trailing his spouse by 4.2 percentage points.

We will get a good indication as to who has the upper hand – Grot or Montilla, both of whom frantically recruited precinct delegate candidates for months -- on Thursday night when the Macomb GOP delegates gather to choose delegates to the party’s state convention.

Meanwhile, largely overlooked in the election results was that Grot’s sister, Maria, was also a winner, capturing the GOP nomination for county commissioner in Sterling Heights’ District 5. She narrowly edged Casey Petz, a Republican candidate recruited by the Montilla camp.

So, the Montilla name is supposed to be a good name in Macomb GOP politics. And the Grot name is another prominent name in local Republican circles.

What to make of Tuesday’s results?

I guess Girls Rule.
This post was corrected to reflect that Maria Grot is Stan Grot's sister, not his wife, at 6:35 p.m.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Was tea party group involved in House election a scam?

A group known as The District 22 Patriot Club that tried to influence last week’s 22nd District House race (Roseville and eastern Warren) may have been a fraud, a one-man operation bent on revenge.
The outgoing incumbent in the 22nd District, Democratic Rep. Harold Haugh, made those allegations last week, telling me that he believes activist Charles Frontera single-handedly mailed out the Patriot Club letters, urging cross-over votes by Republicans in the Democratic primary.

This District 22 Patriot Club – a name that resembles those of many tea party groups -- never registered as a political group with the county or the state and was it never publicly known until July. Haugh, the former Roseville mayor, explained that Frontera’s past rants at Roseville City Council meetings sounded an awful lot like the commentary in the Patriot Club letters sent to voters.

The club said that Haugh’s endorsed candidate, current Roseville Mayor John Chirkun, was part of a “Democratic Machine” that engaged in dirty politics. The Patriot Club claimed that the plan was for Chirkun to succeed the term-limited Haugh in Lansing, just as he succeeded him as mayor, in order to secretly benefit their “cronies.”
The group’s letter, which was not widely distributed, called on Republicans to smash the plan by crossing over to vote in the primary for Chirkun’s Democratic opponent, Gary McMenamin of Warren.  There is no evidence that McMenamin was involved in this plot.

Frontera could not be reached for comment. But, what’s his story?

Frontera finished a distant fourth in a race for three Roseville City Council seats last November. When an opening on the council quickly materialized, Frontera sought the appointment, insisting that as a council candidate who lost out, he deserved to fill the vacancy.
He was angered when the council members instead chose Haugh’s wife, the retired city treasurer.

In the end, the Patriot Club’s efforts were a waste of time and money. Chirkun won the primary by nearly a 3-1 margin and he is now the heavy favorite to win the general election in the fall.


Land's business sparks a wealth of questions

Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s campaign is working hard to explain Land’s confusing claims that she is a small business owner, not part of the lucrative Land & Co. real estate conglomerate run by her husband.
The Land camp said that she purchased the Southview Apartments complex in 2011 and still owns the four-building complex.

Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for Land, said Grand Rapids city inspectors’ reports indicating that Land & Co. actually owns the property are contradicted by other documents. City tax records, rental certification documents, and utility bills show the candidate’s company has separate ownership.
Land and her son run Green Light Management, which owns the Southview Apartments, two condominiums, a duplex and a house next to Southview.

As Land tries to close out the controversy over $3 million of her own cash poured into her campaign, she has tried to radically alter her newfound image as a wealthy Senate candidate, perhaps the richest 2014 candidate in the country.
Her explanation that she forgot to include on her financial disclosure forms a multi-million dollar joint bank account with her husband didn’t help her cause.
Her insistence in recent weeks that she has never played a role at Land & Co. contrasts with a Detroit News report that found she has been listed on public documents as an “owner,” “special projects manager” or “self-employed” at Land & Co. for about 20 years.

Southview Apartments
And now, her populist narrative that she’s simply a small business owner, running the little 74-unit Southview Apartments, has raised new questions:
* Green Light manages the apartments but they do not handle leases or maintenance or deal with those interested in renting. Those duties are contracted out to Land & Co. Green Light handles the finances, marketing and building improvements.
* The marketing aspect largely consists of a bare-bones website that redirects potential renters to a Land & Co. online site. The site does not offer an elaborate sales pitch because most of the renters are college students who are not interested in amenities, according to John Truscott, a spokesman for Land & Co. Southview typically has a 100 percent occupancy rate.
* Five Grand Rapids city inspectors’ reports from 2011-12 indicate the Southview Apartments complex was in the hands of the “registered owner” -- her husband, Dan Hibma, and Land & Co.
* The Grand Rapids reports show that inspectors were communicating with Land & Co. as they addressed a series of tenant complaints about cockroaches, mice and bed bugs at the apartment complex from September 2011 to July 2012. Land’s campaign team said that the inspectors were accustomed to dealing with Land & Co. on maintenance issues at Southview, so their paperwork wrongly listed Land & Co. as the owners.
* Grand Rapids real estate sales records indicate that Land’s company, Green Light Management, bought the apartments in 2011 from her family for $900,000, though the city assessor’s office evaluated the property at a market value of at least $1.25 million. She completed that sale with an assist from a newly formed corporation known as SVC of GR. SVC of GR, owned by a Land business partner from Redford Township, was later bought out by Green Light.
All of this comes as it’s becoming abundantly clear that Land intends to maintain her bunker mentality to the end, declining to talk to the press or hold any events open to all of the public.

In her neck-and-neck Senate race as the Republican nominee facing off with Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, Land has avoided discussing the issues, particularly her stand on the auto bailout. Peters is not immune to this approach, as Republicans say he’s been murky on his prior positions on immigration reform.
And neither candidate has spoken out in any detail about the foreign policy mess – Iraq, Gaza, Syria, Ukraine, west Africa’s Ebola outbreak -- that is dominating the Washington agenda.

One last item:
Sen. Carl Levin has been in office 36 years, which means that for about the past 30 years various factions within the Republican and Democratic parties became fixated on the day that Levin would step down. Lots of time to plan and strategize. A long wait. Many options, many possible candidates.
It’s disconcerting to see that this is the Senate race we ended up with when the vacancy occurred, after the contest to choose a Levin successor presented so many possibilities.