Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Genesis Project Analysis: It's Time To Work in Michigan by Akindele Akinyemi

Here we go again with the State of the State address brought to you by Governor Jennifer Granholm. I heard it on the radio at work. It sounded like the same old grand scheme.

As usual she is pushing for bi-partisan leadership in Lansing. But I won't beat up on her this time like I normally do because there were some things I can even agree with her this time around.

Did I say I agree with the Governor on something? Are we at the last page of the Book of Revelation in the Bible?

I am a supporter of alternative energy as well as alternative regional transportation. I have never understood the logic in being dependent on foreign oil to fuel our cars and being held hostage to foreign interests when we can generate our own form on energy. While we still talk about ethanol I never hear us talking about fuel cell technology that will lead us to build the Interstate Traveler Hydrogen Super Highway. This is a first of its kind full integration of solar powered hydrogen production and distribution with a high speed magnetic levitation public transit network built along the right of way of the US Interstate Highway Systems, and any other permissible right of way where such a machine would be of benefit.

The governor discussed how we need to invest heavily in alternative energy industries as a way to offset jobs lost in manufacturing. She said solar, wood, wind, water and even waste should be part of the equation. Therefore, she talked about leveraging $6 billion in investments in alternative energy over the next eight years by Consumers Energy and DTE. However, she wants the Legislature to approve an energy package that would limit competition in the electricity market as the giant utilities have sought.

Now I totally disagree with the limitation because I feel that Consumers Energy and DTE should not be the only ones with the contracts. There should many companies to compete to provide wind power, nuclear power, coal power, methane power, energy efficiency plans and more to meet Michigan's future energy needs. Instead of forcing Michigan citizens to hand over their dollars to the utilities, how about encouraging companies to seek investment from around the world to build new plants in our state.

There are several companies in Africa and Europe alone that would like to invest here but if you limit competition they (or we) will never get a chance to compete. What about minority contracts here in Detroit or Benton Harbor? We never discuss rebuilding an economic engine for our inner cities where poverty and the lack of economics hit the hardest.

Unlike what some Republicans are saying that this would be huge gamble I am still hearing from my fellow Republicans and Democrats that we need to bring back manufacturing jobs. These are jobs that are never coming back so we better figure out something new before its too late. Like to Governor pointed out in Sweden they have placed over 400,000 people in jobs on alternative energy.

While the Governor is discussing alternative energy I am still talking about transforming Detroit and other urban areas in Michigan into financial markets like we see overseas in Asia. We have to look beyond what we are accustomed to in this state of we want to build an economic engine again in Michigan.

Gov. Granholm also talked about how she has developed a plan to create up to 100 high schools of 400 or fewer students to enable more personalized instruction. The schools would be funded by a $300-million 21st Century Schools Fund, which would be created by the sale of bonds, paid off with the $32 million a year now used for a special education settlement with local districts.

Sounds good except charter schools have been doing this already. Perhaps the Governor wants to raise the cap off charter schools first before allowing a plan like this to flourish.

She made another call to raise the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18. The governor has sought this change for several years, but legislation has never been passed. She also called for mandatory kindergarten and asked school districts to offer it as a full day of classes. Again, charters are ahead of the game. These types of calls that the Governor are asking for but charter schools are already doing this. So when I heard this I can tell she was catering to the Detroit Public School System and other failing urban school districts. I never heard or seen a Governor that is anti-charter like Granholm.

Raise the cap off charters Gov. Granholm. When she ever learn that educational markets can only lead to quality educational opportunities when there is both choice and competition. In order for there to be choice, parents must have quality alternatives available. For competition to be legitimate, excessive barriers to entry into the market cannot interfere with supply.

Gov. Granholm wants to boost college enrollment by allowing communities to take some of the revenue generated through property taxes to match private donations for a free college tuition plan, similar to the one available to students in Kalamazoo. The problem with this that I can see is not about getting those students to college but helping them understand the academic process in college. We have dumb down the process so much to the extent of where we are catering to remedial students and not focusing on competing with the rest of the world academically. Gov. Granholm would have caught my attention if she would have suggested that the universities should be charging the school district or even that high school back pay for NOT teaching the students before they enter the halls of the universities.

Again, we need to discuss quality education not perks for students who do not deserve a scholarship on our backs.

But there were some things that were left out of the State of the State address.

Michigan’s rank among the 50 states in per capita state Gross Domestic Product has tumbled from a high of 16th in 1999 to 39th in 2006. While the rest of the country were enjoying economic growth we were enjoying a recession.

Michigan’s per capita personal income is 7.8 percent below the national average, a rate worse than during the Great Depression. If present trends continue, the people of Alabama will on average have higher incomes than the people of Michigan in just three years.

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate of any state in the nation at 7.6 percent.

We should remind our lawmakers that economics, not politics, is the key out of poverty. Perhaps if we craft legislation with less government and more creativity we would be able to move our state forward.

The whole coming together mess was just window dressing. If she is serious about bi-partisanship then please stop raising our taxes, think out the box and let's get to work.

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