“Those out there who believe that we should simply let people fend for themselves in a tough world and let the chips fall where they may, are wrong. I am not one of them.” — Governor Jennifer Granholm, 2006 State of the State address, January 25, 2006
I always look forward to watching the Governor speak; she is a good speaker, and she was on certainly her game last night. What I really liked about this speech was that the Governor was talking about Shiawassee.
No, we weren’t mentioned by name, but her plan for the new economy is exactly what we need here in Shiawassee. Alternative Energy is the destiny of Shiawassee County. We could be the star of this show.
But Shiawassee needs more than a state-wide economic plan in order to reach its potential. The contrast between the qualities displayed by the Governor in her speech and those displayed by our local leaders couldn’t be more clear.
The greatest problem facing Shiawassee today is our lack of vision. We are afraid to dream. We are suffocating from the limits of our thinking. Each problem has only two solutions, each person a winner or a loser. Look at last year’s SCCMH vote, in which the board cut 87 full time jobs, and cut the wages and benefits of the remaining employees. According to the board, this had to be done to save $1.2 million over three years. While it was not a unanimous vote, the board members all agree that it was a tough decision. But did a single one of those men or women call the Governor to ask for help? Did anyone call our Senators?
Our Governor and Senators have demonstrated a commitment to jobs, and while they couldn’t have bailed us out, they surely would’ve opened doors. We would have had more than two solutions. If only someone had thought of asking for help.
It was refreshing to hear the Governor talk about her vision for Michigan; healthcare for our children, higher standards for public schools, investments in technology and accelerated infrastructure development. What do we hope for in Shiawassee? What is our vision?
I am often told that although you have to stand for what you believe in, you do have to work with the other side. You have to stand your ground without fighting ugly. Politics is the art of negotiation, and one cannot negotiate with bridges burning in the background. I prefer not to think of strength as the willingness to fight, but rather, as resiliency in fighting for what’s right. The Governor has been resilient in her fight for the people. She played the part of a strong leader tonight.
“I’ll keep fighting to protect the jobs we have. I will go anywhere and do anything to bring jobs to this state.”
“In addition to bringing jobs home, I’ll continue my fight to keep the jobs we have right here in Michigan.”
“But we will not concede the automotive industry to any other state or nation.”
“As long as I am your Governor, no state will fight harder to keep our manufacturing jobs.”
“I believe in the promise of public education, and I’ll fight those who would break that promise.”
“Michigan was built on the hard work of everyday people, and I’ll fight to protect the opportunity that hard work has won every day.”
“This plan is about fighting to protect your opportunity for that middle class way of life.”
It is time for the people of Shiawassee to ask our leaders “what are you fighting for?”
It takes guts to stand up and ask for support for stem cell research when there is a ballot petition defining life. It takes guts to stand up and stand between public schools and the DeVos billion$. It takes guts to stand up and assure Michigan that there will be an increase in minimum wage. Even if you don’t believe that she can deliver, you have to be impressed by the Governor’s willingness to stand up.
When was the last time anyone in Shiawassee stood up? When was the last time we’ve been “wowed” by a Shiawassee Commissioner or a member of a council? The people of Michigan have a champion in the Governor. When was the last time we had a local champion?
“I want to talk to those who are fearful, and to those who are hopeful, and to many of you who are both.”
In this one sentence, the governor spoke to nearly everyone in Shiawassee. But no one in Shiawassee government recognizes the feelings of the people. In fact, it’s been a long time since our office holders have acknowledged the people at all.
“It has been a year since I put the new Merit Award Scholarship before this group, and it is even more critical to Michigan’s future today than it was then.
Tonight, Michigan’s citizens, you should ask this Legislature: “Why are you waiting?”
How long has it been since a Shiawassee official called on the public to hold government accountable? How long has it been since a Shiawassee official talked to the public? The newspapers get a few minutes of their time after board and council meetings, but nothing else. No letters to the editors, no columns in our local paper, no blogs, no town hall meetings.
Where is our leadership? And what do they stand for?
A lot to love, just as she is.
“So while I’ve talked a lot about the work before us, let me be clear: there is certainly a lot to love about Michigan just as she is.”
I couldn’t help but think of all of the things we have going for us in Shiawassee. We have good, hardworking people here. You can live anywhere in Shiawassee and you’ll have a good neighbor. We have beautiful communities and good schools. We have an award winning hospital, and we’re within an hour of 4 major universities.
There’s more to Shiawassee than just that. We are in the middle of the mitten, and surrounded by highway and rail and water. We are in the perfect position to be a manufacturing or distribution hub. Our rural nature and natural resources can make us a major player in Michigan’s new bio-economy.
There are so many things to be grateful for in Shiawassee. There is no better place in Michigan.
I am not one of them.
A man I admire very much used to be a Representative in the Michigan House. When he was in office, he was invited by the local country club to take a tour of a nursing home. He was the only Democrat on the bus full of Republicans.
He sat alone at the front of the bus, until one of the other men came up from the back and sat down next to him. “They’re all afraid of you.” He said, “but I’m not.”
“What do you mean?” My friend asked.
“You’re nothing to be afraid of. ” He smiled and lowered his voice. “I know you want to be like us.”
My friend describes himself as a ‘Catholic, ethnic, wild-eyed liberal.’ He grew up in a working family. He had no illusions about his father ever being a member of that country club. He had no illusions of his father being accepted as an equal among the men on the bus.
“You go back to your friends and you tell them to be afraid. I am not one of you.”
There are times when we all must define ourselves by what we are not, like my friend did 20 years ago. Like The Governor did tonight. It is time for the people of Shiawassee to decide what they believe.
There are those who believe that Shiawassee has to be second best to Genessee or Ingham or Saginaw. That a rural community cannot be a modern and prosperous community. That it’s ok to use bake sales and bingo to fund the services our most vulnerable people need to survive. That the people of Shiawassee have to learn to live with less.
I am not one of them.
You can read the 2006 State of the State address at http://michigan.gov/gov/0,1607,7-168–134956–,00.html
$730 — how much you pay per year for the cost of your insurance just to cover people who are uninsured
$4,000 — amount of new Merit Award Scholarship
$25 million — amount set aside for home heating help this year
$600 million — tax-cut package to fight outsourcing
$1.7 billion — German & Japanese investments in Michigan
$2 billion — plan to create new sectors of our economy
$3 billion — Dick DeVos’ net worth