Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Granholm considers four-day work weeks

The Detroit News is reporting today that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is considering four-day work weeks to help state workers save money in the era of $4/gallon gasoline. This follows Oakland County's recent approval of county executive Brooks Patterson's plan for county workers.

With all the fuss by governments over their employee's commuting expenses I'm forced to wonder what European workers are thinking of our tantrums. They've been paying the equivalent of $7+/gallon for much longer. Did their employers switch to four-day work weeks? No. Most employees in Europe use public transportation. Many of those that do drive drive more fuel efficient cars.

What will happen to American productivity advantages if more workers switch to four-day weeks? Will more jobs move out of the country? If workers complain too much about the cost of commuting (aggravated by urban sprawl, low-density housing, lack of mass transit, and historically cheap gas) will more of their jobs be outsourced?

Things that make you go, "Hmm."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rights, entitlements and privileges--oh, my!

This past Sunday, Free Press editorial writer, Ron Dzwonkowski, wrote in Health care debate must go on:
"We have not in this country come to grips with the core question of whether health care is a right or a privilege — something to which every American is entitled or something to which your entitlement and the extent of your care depend on whether you are working and where."
Whatever health care may be, it is certainly not a right.

A "right" should be anything I can assert without the existence of a government to protect or provide them. Even without government assistance I will defend my life, my family's, and my property. I have a right to live freely and not as another man's property--not even the government's.

I do not have the right to force another to do something for me. In the case of health care, I do not have the right to force a doctor to treat me, nor force them to accept whatever I offer for payment--whether it be cash or chickens.

Nationalized medicine might force doctors to work for a single employer--the government. That comes treacherously close to being forced to work for another

It's unfortunate that humans are frail. It doesn't seem "fair" that some can afford better health care than others. But some can also afford better diets, better housing, better educations, better athletic equipment and club memberships, leisure time, vacations, swimming pools, air conditioners, humidifiers, purifiers, and live in areas with less pollution and lower crime rates.

As all these things can improve health. Are they rights as well and is the government prepared to provide them equally to all Americans?

Friday, June 13, 2008

An opportunity Ferndale should exploit

In 1986 I was able to quadruple my car's gas mileage. A single low-tech change and a tank of gas suddenly lasted four times longer than before. I moved from Grand Blanc to Troy and cut my daily Bingham Farms commute to 10 miles from 45.

In 1993 I was living in Pontiac and driving 26-miles to downtown Detroit. Sometimes that commute took over an hour. After moving to Ferndale in 1997 the trip was cut to 10 miles and a dependable 16 minutes.

My new office is less than two miles from my Ferndale home. In the winter my car is barely warm when I arrive at work and in the summer I sometimes ride my bike when weather permits.

I write this not to boast, but to demonstrate how great an impact where we live can have, and to introduce an newspaper article I read this morning.

In a June 13, Detroit Free Press article, Steve Duchane wrote:
Popping open the gas cap, swiping the credit card, and watching the numbers roll to previously unimaginable totals, it's hard to believe anything good could come from the gas prices we've seen lately. But in reality, our misery at the pump could be a blessing for many of Michigan's mature communities.

As driving becomes more expensive, Americans are considering not only more fuel-efficient vehicles, but also more fuel-efficient commutes. For many, that means rethinking not only where we work, but also where we live. And suddenly, first-ring suburban cities have new luster. Finally, 60 years after sprawl began driving home buyers farther and farther from population centers, Americans are turning around their SUVs in search of shorter commutes.

The sprawl reversal is already benefiting many smaller cities in Michigan.
It's a great article. It points out how your address, near where you work and play, can be an act of both environmentalism and conservation, makes financial sense, and can improve your quality of life while increasing the quantity of time you can spend with the people or activities you love.

This is an opportunity Ferndale should move swiftly to exploit. Our housing values have been hurt, our foreclosure rates are high, but we have something Clarkston, Oakland Twp., Brighton, and the Grosee Pointes don't have-- our location.

In the summer of 2007 for my mayoral campaign's website I wrote:
The degree to which Ferndale is green is a measure of how green our residents and business are. Rather than indulge symbolism I would prefer a council that promoted “green-ness” by virtue of Ferndale's unique location and proximity to major highways and everything that is metro Detroit. Simply living, working, or visiting Ferndale is an act of environmentalism because living, working, and playing in a city that's nearer than one that is not conserves energy.

Ferndale citizens have decided it's better to drive fewer miles to work than more. It's better to walk to restaurants and clubs than drive. It's better to live nearer existing infrastructure than accelerate the loss of farmland, forests, fields, and other green spaces.

What Ferndale and other urban communities must do is enable more citizens and businesses to locate to our cities. This is why property taxes and broadening our tax base is important to lower the cost of owning property here. This is how public policy promotes environmentalism. It recognizes it, promotes it, and celebrates it. It doesn't serve it with symbolism...

I won't beat the symbolism point to death here. Suffice it to say that living closer to where you work and walking to your entertainment is an act of conservation. It may get less press than free parking for hybrids, but the former actual does something about the environment every day while the latter only says something about it.

Whether you goal is to save money on gas, lower America's dependence on foreign oil, influence foreign policy, or promote environmentalism and conservation, where you live can have a greater impact than how you live.

Now is a great opportunity for Ferndale, Hazel Park, Oak Park, Royal Oak, Berkley and other inner-ring cities to promote themselves. They're all at the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's easier to change yourself than vote for change

Psychologists tell their patients, and any feel-good daytime talk-show host that will listen, that it's easier to change ourselves than to change others. Relationship problems are more often caused by our trying to change others when it's much easier to change ourselves or our reactions to them.

Candidates often claim to be the agents of change, as Obama does, but the real agents of change are the voters.

There's nothing in either candidate's proposals different from any previous year. In fact, both senators John McCain and Barak Obama offer more of the same. More programs, more spending, more giveaways, more favors from the treasury in exchange for votes. All their proposals for increased services will require more taxes or more borrowing, or both.

Nationalized health care isn't something new, it's more welfare. It's an entitlement program designed to make more Americans dependent on government than the millions already unable or demotivated to kick the habit.

Mortgage bailouts are a lottery for both lenders and borrowers who assumed more debt and risk than they could afford.

Persecution of oil companies provides great theater for the electorate, giving congressman and senators top billing and spot lights for hand wringing and arm waving, but is merely a distraction from our government's unwillingness to exploit our nation's own natural resources.

Do voters really want change or do they merely want credit for the emperor's new priorities? Is increased government spending OK when it's money spent on you or only when spent on others? Are increased taxes OK as long as they aren't yours? Are your votes for locally-elected politicians consistent with a desire for change or are they for more of the same?

Our politicians--both Republican and Democrat--are exactly as we want them to be. Detroit's mayor and city council are exactly as Detroit voters want them to be. In short, our politicians give us exactly what we vote for because it's easier to blame politicians, spouses and relatives than it is to blame ourselves.

No single candidate can bring change. No single party can bring change. Change requires more than one vote every four years. It requires votes for change in the spring for schools, votes for change in the summer primaries, and votes for change every November for national, state, county, and local leadership.

Change what you want from your representatives, change what you vote for, vote that way at every election, and your government will change--eventually. It can't all happen in November, and anyone that tells you otherwise is, well, a candidate-as-usual.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Michigan gets more national attention - for the wrong reason

Michigan is getting more national attention--for the wrong reason.

Most Michigan residents are familiar with the recall petition drive against House Speaker Andy Dillon (D). The more savvy among them may even be familiar with how petition gatherers were harassed by police, township supervisors, and (naturally) Dillon and Democratic supporters.

Despite these obstacles petition gatherers collected 15,000+ signatures and filed them with the state--only to have them rejected by Michigan Secretary of State, Terri Lynn Land (R).

When I said national attention in the title I meant the attention of nationally syndicated columnist and radio host Paul Jacob. His recent article, The Rule of Law v. The Rule of Land, points out again how Michigan is again seems to be coming up on the short-end of the stick.

Having recently participated in gathering signatures for Ferndale's No PSD initiative and seeing first-hand how some parties directly affected by bad legislation aren't able to collect petition signatures against those same laws.

In the case of the PSD, the business owners that had to pay the Principal Shopping District tax (PSD) aren't allowed, by Ms. Land's rules, to collect petition signatures against it. Business owners had to rely on residents to do much of the work for them. Despite business owners' not-insignificant investment in our community they can not collect signatures because many aren't registered Ferndale electors.

That's not right. It's glad to know the Supreme Court agrees with me. It's disappointing to discover our secretary of state either disagrees or is ignorant of the issue. I suspect that after the appeal of her ruling she'll become more familiar with Buckley v ACLF.