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State of the State

Published: Jan 22, 2014

kurt Melville

Last Thursday, Jan. 16, Gov. Rick Snyder deliv­ered, for the fourth time, the annual State of the State address to law­mak­ers, Michigan Supreme Court jus­tices and other gov­ern­ment functionaries.

The State of the State address was designed as a tool that exec­u­tive offi­cials could use to update cit­i­zens on the cur­rent issues fac­ing the state and the direc­tion they envi­sion the state head­ing over the course of the next year.

Most of the time, how­ever, the State of the State address is used as a polit­i­cal tool, much like the State of the Union the pres­i­dent gives every year. Lawmakers rise and give thun­der­ous par­ti­san applause to cer­tain com­bi­na­tions of words strung together and then repeated often.

The 2014 State of the State address given by Gov. Snyder is no dif­fer­ent. The tagline for the speech was “Michigan is the come­back state,” as Synder tried to build up his achieve­ments over the last four years.

I think the real­ity is Gov. Snyder wants to “come back” to the governor’s office next year.

The gov­er­nor is up for reelec­tion this year and he tried to say all of the right things. His ideas cover small busi­ness, school safety, men­tal health, immi­gra­tion and tax-relief. Somewhere in the back of my mind the pres­i­den­tial alarm bells are going off, but I’ll ignore them for the time being.

But the gov­er­nor for­got to men­tion one very, very impor­tant issue. It’s an issue that affects all 9.9 mil­lion res­i­dents of Michigan in a sys­temic fash­ion. Detroit.

After search­ing the tran­script of the governor’s speech, I found Detroit was only men­tioned eight times. In thank­ing the var­i­ous elected offi­cials from Detroit for show­ing up, Snyder inci­den­tally said “Detroit” five times, lauded a mar­ginal decrease in crime in Detroit and men­tioned the Detroit International Auto Show once.

That leaves just one men­tion of the word “Detroit” to cover the seri­ous issue of how the state-mandated emer­gency man­age­ment of Detroit is pan­ning out. Do you want to know what the Governor said?

“I’m not going to dwell on that here tonight, other than to say let’s get it resolved this year.” Not going to dwell on it?

How is Detroit not the absolute biggest issue of your gov­er­nor­ship? It affects the eco­nomic health of the entire state and con­tin­ues to be the butt of jokes nation­wide. Is it really such a non-issue to your admin­is­tra­tion that you didn’t even include it in the most impor­tant speech you will deliver this year? Isn’t it sad that the health of an American flag­ship city has now been rel­e­gated to “let’s just talk about that later?”

Instead of sup­port­ing Detroit and work­ing as hard as we can to build our state back up, the Republican-led leg­is­la­ture wastes time slap­ping each other on the backs by bust­ing unions, lim­it­ing access to legal abor­tions, attempt­ing to enact voter ID require­ments, and con­tin­ued constitutionally-mandated dis­crim­i­na­tion in the form of mar­riage inequality.

Instead of pur­su­ing the revi­tal­iza­tion of Detroit as a cen­tral tenet of his polit­i­cal story, Gov. Synder is fum­bling what could be an immense legacy. If some­one can bring Detroit out of the shad­ows and reestab­lish it with the foun­da­tions of a great American city, they will be revered as a hero of Detroit and of Michigan, as the future of both enti­ties are inex­tri­ca­bly linked.

For now, though, too many peo­ple are expect­ing the down­fall of Detroit. The gov­er­nor needed to take a stand in his State of the State address to help cat­alyze more pos­i­tiv­ity and encour­age for­ward think­ing in respect to Detroit.

 
 
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