It’s no secret to anyone who reads the Posse that co-blogger K.N. McBride and I both despise former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She proved to be an all-style/no substance leftist whose stewardship kept Michigan in the ditch for nearly a decade.
Gov. Tinkerbelle embarrassed herself with her now infamous "You'll be blown away" boast about how the Michigan economy would benefit from her policies, as well as her prediction that Michigan’s concealed carry law would lead to wild-wild-West style shootouts and vigilanteisim. Her obsequiousness toward unions thwarted K-12 school reform; her environmental fixations led her to pursue the “green jobs” mirage. She squandered money and resources on idiotic pablum like “Cool Cities,” while overseeing poorly run state departments and causing a couple of near budget crises.
So we were overjoyed in November 2010 when current Gov. Rick Snyder was elected, returning the Statehouse to GOP control for the first time in 8 years. But now that Snyder has nearly completed his first term, I am disillusioned big-time.
Let's start with the nerd's approach to righting Michigan's fiscal ship. While it is true that Madame Tinkerbelle left a budget mess, Snyder’s methods for cleaning it up were sometimes unwise. Along with budget cuts and business tax reform, he capped the Homestead Property Tax Credit, effectively taking a sledgehammer to the middle class.
For those who live in cities with high property taxes, such as yours truly, the lower cap means thousands of dollars more in taxes. Instead of breaking even or getting a sizeable state tax refund, I have owed several hundred dollars to the state of Michigan each of the past few years. (Yes, I have adjusted my withholdings.) In this economy, and with the struggles my family has been through, this is a brutal kick in the gut. It is what most angers me about the bland, clueless Snyder and his equally clueless minions.
Snyder’s administration also began taxing seniors’ pensions, which has enraged a huge block of voters. Too many actions are taken devoid of transparency, such as with Skunk Works, a secretive workgroup set up to pay for private school vouchers -- an initiative that if allowed to continue could easily have led to abuses. On several occasions, the Snyder administration has awarded no-bid contracts, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-government agency that receives state funding, awarded a no-bid contract to DBI Business Interiors, a firm owned by Snyder's cousin.
However, an administration transgression of a far more serious nature is spelled A-R-A-M-A-R-K. A year ago, the administration granted a $145 million contract to the Philadelphia-based food service company to provide meals to prison inmates, which displaced 370 state employees.
Since then, Aramark employees have committed numerous egregious violations, including having sex with inmates and smuggling drugs. The company also was accused of serving food in an area contaminated by maggots. There have also been minor violations, such as food shortages that affected how well the company could do its job.
The coup de grace came when an Aramark employee put out a drug-related hit on someone. That’s right: He was offering to pay money for someone to murder another person. Privatization can be a wonderful thing if caution, due diligence and constant monitoring are part of the equation. Otherwise, disaster can result. The Aramark worker was placed on a Corrections Department "stop order" — banning him from prison property — but has not been arrested pending the conclusion of the investigation, according to state officials.
The state fined Aramark $98,000 for food shortages, unauthorized menu substitutions and over-familiarity between kitchen workers and inmates. But, according to the Free Press, the state recently confirmed it quietly waived the March fine soon after it was imposed, and Aramark never paid it. Wonderful.
Snyder has also failed miserably to work out a plan for Michigan to fund badly needed repairs of its horrendous roads. Our state’s gnarly streets, roads and highways make travel unpleasant and take a heavy toll on vehicles. True, it's tough to broker an agreement with so many lawmakers adamantly opposed to any tax increases (even those dedicated toward road repairs), but as the leader of a party that controls both chambers of the Michigan Legislature, Snyder dropped the ball.
Aside from missteps on policy, the governor has appointed and associated with some highly questionable characters, and transparency is often lacking.
Here are just a few of Snyder’s ethically challenged appointees:
- Scott Woolsey, former head of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. He resigned after the public learned that he abused expense accounts by dining on escargot and other exotic fare at fancy restaurants, seeking reimbursements for bar tabs and cruising around in plush stretch limousines. When caught, he went into CYA mode, but Snyder threw him under the bus, what with the election only a couple months away.
- Andy Dillon, who resigned as state treasurer in October 2013 in the midst of a messy divorce, yet for several months continued receiving his $174,000 salary as an advisor to his successor.
- Richard Baird, a "transformation manager" and Snyder sycophant who got caught trying to defraud the state of property tax money. Baird, who for a while was paid by a shadowy Snyder invention called the NERD Fund, maintained two residences, one in Illinois and one in Michigan, and was also eligible to vote in both Illinois and Michigan. He was getting a property tax credit he was not entitled to in Michigan. When caught, he resorted to weasel-like, Clintonesque behavior, claiming that it was a computer glitch by the township government that kept the tax break in place. This from an accountant and former PriceWaterhouseCoopers executive. Mm-hmm..... and the dog ate my homework...
- John Covington, who raked in $325,000 per year to head up the Educational Achievement Authority (EEA), a “reform school district” that proved to be anything but. Under Covington’s stewardship, the EEA’s finances were shaky; test scores were poor; teacher turnover was a problem; and the organization racked up big expenses for travel, a chauffeur-driven vehicle for Covington, and other extravagances. Covington resigned under pressure several months ago.
Such abuses are all too commonplace in government. But the governor of a state that has been through a brutal economic ringer for 15 years, whose residents are hurting badly, ought to be ultra-sensitive to even the appearance of bloated, wasteful spending by self-serving hacks. The corruption and arrogance here is a slap in the face of Obama-like proportions. I despise failed, incompetent and ethically challenged leaders, whether they are Republicans, Democrats or anything else.
While Snyder has done some good things – for example, signing legislation to phase out the notorious “Driver Responsibility Fee,” a flagrant money grab; signing right-to-work legislation; and brokering a framework for Detroit to emerge from bankruptcy – his missteps greatly outweigh his achievements. Moreover, lest I forget, Michigan still has the nation's fifth highest unemployment rate. That's unacceptable.
Snyder will not get my vote in November. However, I will certainly not vote for his leftist opponent, former state lawmaker Mark Schauer, whose ideology and personality I detest. Most likely, I will vote Libertarian or sit this one out. It's too bad when Republicans can only manage to be the lesser of two evils and fail to meet or exceed our expectations. Sadly, it's a frequent reality in 2014.