Feb. 11 2009 12:00 AM

Bernero-led coalition seeks $6.5 billion for auto industry workers, communities.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has been elected to a new office: chairperson of the Mayors and Municipalities Automotive Coalition.

Along with the new post comes a new push to get federal money for the automotive industry and autoworkers. This time it’s $6.5 billion to clean up and redevelop abandoned auto factories and retrain autoworkers.

You may remember Bernero and members of the MMAC were in Washington last fall advocating for a Detroit bailout. The bailout was eventually approved, with money going to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler — Ford abstained from taking federal money.

The $6.5 billion, for which legislation has been introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., would break down like this: $2 billion for grants for municipalities to tear down, clean up and “repurpose” closed plants; $1.5 billion for new job training for “idled autoworkers; and $3 billion to train workers in skills to manufacture things for the “new green economy.”

“The federal bridge loans were just the start of what I hope will become a powerful new strategic alliance between our car companies, our federal government and local communities across the country,” Bernero stated in a press release.

Stabenow’s legislation is a mouthful called the Main Street Manufacturing Communities Reinvestment Act. U.S. Rep. Marcie Kaptur, D-Ohio, has introduced similar legislation in Congress.

If any pushback is given on this $6.5 billion by those nasty, union-hatin’ legislators from the south — or anyone else — perhaps we’ll be treated to another round of Bernero debating with 24-hour TV news pundits. Back when those bridge loans were being chastised and debated by legislators and pundits, Bernero hit the airwaves, radio waves and cable waves as an advocate (see video below).

(Update: At 4 p.m. Friday, Bernero's spokesman, Randy Hannan, sent out a press release stating that the mayor will appear on Feb. 7 at 7 a.m. on the CBS Early Show and on Monday on CNN's American Morning at a time yet to be announced.)

There’s no way to determine how much impact Bernero’s words had on the eventual decision to grant a bailout, but he was lauded at home and across the country for his efforts.

“There are dozens of communities across the nation who have suffered the consequences of major auto plants closing and layoffs involving thousands of workers,” Bernero said in a release. “We are proposing an investment by the federal government that will pay dividends for years to come by putting former auto plant sites back in productive use as quickly as possible.”

The fact monger.

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