"But when I drive to Lansing, I’m overcome by this dread. And the closer I get to Lansing, the worse and worse I feel."
I paused, thinking how to respond.
I remembered the excitement in his voice back when he was elected. How he would end partisan gridlock and government shutdowns and annual consternations about billions of dollars in perennial budget deficits. That he was going to make it work.
But like a 30-something who realizes he or she isn’t going to be a rock ’n’ roll singer, this legislator’s dream of transforming Lansing has been doused in an ice bath.
Unless you live in this world, it’s hard to understand it. How nothing gets done. I mean really gets done, and there’s no promise that anything is going to change. The governor hates the Senate majority leader. The majority leader hates the governor. Republicans think House Speaker Andy Dillon is a Democrat. Democrats think Dillon is a Republican.
Legislative sessions pass without anything of note ever happening. There’s a $1.7 billion budget hole. Again. More crisis. Yawn.
Allegedly, people are working on the budget, but that’s not true. Everybody knows the budget doesn’t get solved until the two legislative leaders and maybe the budget director get into a room and throw something together in September. All other "work" is merely a chance for public schools, the cities, those on public assistance and everyone else whose ox is getting gored to scream at someone.
The House is a month behind schedule on passing a Transportation and Human Services budget. Nobody cares. Seventy-five percent of the Senate is done Jan. 1, anyway. When something does happen, you wouldn’t know it.
The House passed the texting and driving ban last week. Amendments were proposed, but nobody explains what they are. Nobody ever does. Like it matters. There are never any votes on them. They’re gaveled up or down depending on a prearranged agreement. Nobody speaks in support of the bill. Nobody is allowed to speak against. Why bother? If leadership wants this amendment, they’ll find a way to get it.
With legislative leaders choreographing everything that goes on in the Capitol, why should individual lawmakers even bother?
They’re starting not to. Last week, Rep. Andy Coulouris, D-Saginaw, one of the brightest bulbs in the Capitol, resigned to become a Washington lobbyist. This guy still had eight months left in his term and an entire two-year third term he could have run for. He was the committee chairman and campaigning to run for House speaker for 2011-‘12.
In August, Rep. Tim Moore, R-Farwell, will leave his job early, too, to become a principal at a local middle school. A middle school principal job today is better than nothing in eight months, I suppose.
And they may not be alone. Either Rep. Lee Gonzales, D-Flint, or Sen. Deb Cherry, D-Burton, may say "adios" before the first day of spring if either are appointed to the vacant Genesee County treasurer position. Both have applied.
Go ahead, blame term limits Legislators are real people who look after No. 1.
But perhaps if they felt their job actually meant more, that they were actually making a difference, like they thought when they ran for office, maybe they would never entertain the idea of leaving their district residents unrepresented for any period of time.
Instead, the jobs of state legislators has become a throw-away jobs, run by leadership teams who see their jobs as liquidators — who would rather cut off their toes than raise the gas tax a couple pennies so we could qualify for HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars to keep our roads in some semblance of repair.
They’d look to Gov. Jennifer Granholm for leadership, but she’s checked out, too. She throws out proposals (some very good), but she won’t dirty her hands to round up the votes needed to get anything passed by a Legislature in fear of a grouchy electorate. Why should she when CNN wants an interview about her chances for the Supreme Court?
I looked back at this legislator, finally understanding where he was coming from.
"It’s like when you drive into Lansing, the sign greeting you reads, ’Welcome To Lansing: The Land of Hopelessness," I said.
"Exactly," he said.
Four File For Giddings Seat
Four Ingham County attorneys have filed to run for the Circuit Court judgeship being left vacant by James Giddings, who is retiring.
Clinton Canady III of the Canady Law Offices was the first to turn his signatures. Canady, a lifelong Ingham County resident, began his legal career in the firm of Dunnings and Canady. The founder and past president of the Lansing Black Lawyers Association, Canady has served as a commissioner on the Lansing Board of Water and Light, among other local boards.
In 1987, he founded his own practice and the Canady Law Offices. Canady filed more than 1,700 signatures to qualify for the ballot. He only needed to turn in 1,000.
Jim Jamo, 52, of the law firm Grua, Jamo & Young, is a defense attorney who served on the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board Hearing panelist and was a mediator and case evaluator of Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.
Okemos attorney Gregory Crockett, who managed 35 percent of the vote in 2008 in his race against Probate Judge Richard Garcia in 2008, has filed for the 30th.
And Billie Jo O’Berry, a Lansing assistant city attorney, whose ran and lost for the District Court several times, is in the race, too. O’Berry’s best chance to win was when she finished 426 votes behind Judge Tom Boyd in 2006. She managed 42 percent against Boyd in 2008.
Three candidates have filed to run against the recently appointed judge in the 55th District, Donald Allen Jr. They are Paul Joseph of Williamston, Okemos attorney Patrick Crowley and East Lansing attorney Randie Kay Black.
(Kyle Melinn is news editor of MIRS. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)