Voters will remember missed opportunities on Election Day
Web-posted May 26, 2006
When the economy is going great, politicians tend to take credit. When things are bad, politicians tend to blame someone else or factors beyond their control.
Fortunately, voters don't always agree - particularly when the economy hits rock bottom, as it is in Michigan. And in Michigan, political leaders from both parties must take some of the blame for not doing more to fix our state's problems.
When Michigan's economy was ailing like most of the rest of the country, it was somewhat understandable. But in the last year, we have watched our sister states pull out of their economic doldrums. They have been attracting new businesses and new jobs, attracting new residents and building homes and have to deal with budget surpluses rather than defi cits.
In Michigan, the domestic auto industry had the flu and the rest of the state's businesses caught pneumonia. The state continues to lose businesses and jobs and the population declines as skilled workers and recent college graduates leave for better opportunities elsewhere.
That is the economic situation facing Michigan voters as they contemplate their choices in the upcoming August and November elections. That's when we will elect a governor, a U.S. senator, all U.S. representatives, all state house and senate members and county commissioners. In short, just about everybody who could possibly have done something about the mess we are in.
Some people would argue that the forces at work in Michigan are too large and beyond the control of our elected representatives. They say it's something they can't change. But such arguments have never held much water with voters. And this year we think voters would be correct to oust some incumbents because of too little leadership and too little substantive change.
In Washington, our representatives have not corrected the unequal playing field created by China's manipulation of its currency. Neither did we hear much of a protest when the recent federal highway bill finally passed - but Michigan continues to be a donor state when it comes to highway funds. That means we continue to lose money that could have provided more jobs.
In Lansing, our Democratic governor and the Republican Legislature leaders spent more time playing political oneupmanship than they did creating jobattracting changes in the state's business tax and regulatory roadblocks. If you doubt that, consider the recent announcement by Honda that the company would build a major new plant in the Midwest. Ohio and Indiana practically came to blows over the chance to host such a plum. Michigan was not even in the running.
And then there are the continuing missed opportunities to promote tourism. Over the last two years, when Americans began traveling again, Florida was promoting itself. And despite repeated hurricanes, killer alligators and shark attacks, Florida welcomed 6 million more visitors in 2005 than in 2004. That's a 7.6 percent increase. Michigan had about 2 percent growth.
We hope voters weigh every one of our numerous missed opportunities before heading to the polls this year.
THE OAKLAND PRESS
Gas costs could curb travel plans
Drivers consider scrapping trips
BY ALEJANDRO BODIPO-MEMBA
Mamie Mason's annual summer trip to see her brother in Alabama probably won't happen this year. The reason? High gas prices.
"We're sticking close to home this summer, partly because of these high gas prices," Mason, a Detroit native, said as she pumped gas into her 1999 Jeep Cherokee at the BP station on the corner of Warren and I-75 in Detroit. "Normally, we'll take the family to Cedar Point or go visit my brother in Alabama."
With gas prices averaging around $2.80 a gallon in Michigan and $2.86 nationally, Mason said her family could use the money she saves to enjoy summer in the metro area. Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer driving season, is the second-busiest travel time for Michigan residents after the July 4th holiday.
Leading up to the summer, Michigan motorists have seen retail gas prices rise 20% from the beginning of the year when prices were around $2.40 a gallon. Many industry professionals expect prices to start tapering off toward the middle of June.
"I hope they do, so I can take my trip to New Jersey in July," said Tanisha Gardner, a 25-year-old housekeeper from Detroit. "If prices don't go down, it might be cheaper to take the bus."
Officials at AAA Michigan project that fuel prices statewide should average around $2.71 a gallon this summer. Regardless of the price, the search for cheap gas can best be pursued on your computer. Web sites like www.fuelgaugereport.com offer postings of local, regional and national price information.
On Thursday, for example, $2.70 was the lowest posted price for gasoline in metropolitan Detroit heading into the weekend, according to www.automotive.com , www.DetroitGasPrices.com and AAA's Fuel Price Finder at http://aaa.opisnet.com/?.
"It's the most convenient way to find the lowest prices without having to drive around, plus the data is usually pretty fresh," said Nancy Cain, a spokeswoman for AAA Michigan.
But cyber-surfers beware. Prices that appear on some of the self-reporting sites aren't independently verified and sometimes are inaccurate.
Head out on that highway
A nationwide survey released Thursday by the Consumer Federation of America, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, found that there is growing concern among Americans that rising fuel prices and continued reliance on foreign petroleum supplies will further damage the U.S. economy.
Nevertheless, high gas prices won't discourage all Michigan travelers this summer, according to the Michigan State University Tourism Center in East Lansing.
A recent study by the group projects an increase of 1%-2% in the number of travelers on Michigan roads and notes spending should rise as much as 5% compared with a year ago. In fact, fuel for a typical trip within Michigan is expected to cost $20 to $30 more than it did last summer, according to officials at the center.
The real determining factor is whether people have the income and the confidence to spend a little more money for vacations, some experts say.
"Summer looks very good for travel considering the challenges we face in Michigan with respect to the overall weakness of the economy," said Don Holecek, director of the center. "We're guessing that the fuel situation will play out in that prices will peak in late May or early June and then taper off."
Contact ALEJANDRO BODIPO-MEMBA at 313-222-5008 or email@example.com.
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