If you happened to be listening to Stateside last week, you may have heard me talking about a new biography, The People's Lawyer, which I co-wrote with former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley. While the words are mine, the story is his. I wanted to talk about it today not to plug the book — but for a couple reasons. First of all, I think his story shows what a stupid and destructive idea term limits have been. Many people know Frank Kelley was our state's attorney general for 37 years, longer than anyone has held such a job in any state. But what you may not know is that prior to his taking office in 1961, nobody'd been Michigan's attorney general longer than five years. Kelley decided to make a career of it. He completely transformed the office. Earlier attorney generals had been mainly reactive; they'd defend the state against lawsuits, and wait for the governor to make them a judge. Kelley's father idolized Harry Truman, who saw himself as the people's lobbyist. Frank decided he'd be the people's lawyer. Kelley may have been the first state AG to establish entire divisions dedicated to consumer and environmental protection. He was constantly after utilities to roll back rates. Inspired by two men he knew, John and Robert Kennedy, he fought for civil rights and against organized crime. President Clinton praised Kelley for helping win the Tobacco Master Settlement agreement, which has meant billions in revenue for Michigan. A Democrat, Kelley worked with a Republican governor, William Milliken, to get Michigan's landmark Consumer Protection Act passed, something that has been sadly gutted since. None of that would have happened if Kelley had been limited to eight years, as state officials are now. His successors, Republican and Democrat, have spent much of their time running for governor. Except for one early fling running for the Senate, Kelley was content to stay where he was, the eternal general. He finally retired four years before term limits would have forced him out. When he left in 1999, newspapers noted that in all his years, there had never been a hint of scandal. Kelley co-founded a successful legislative and lobbying firm, Kelley Cawthorne, with former Republican House Speaker Dennis Cawthorne. Telling his life story has reenergized Frank. Though he will be ninety-one on New Year's Eve, he has been eager to run around the state, talking about his book. We had dinner Thursday night, after he mesmerized a group of Irish lawyers. He told me he felt extremely lucky, in large part because his wife Nancy, who was in her sixties, took such good care of him. On Saturday morning she got up, walked into the kitchen, and collapsed from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. She died yesterday. Last night he said he wished there was a magic bullet that could make him feel better, but that he knew there wasn't. He also told me that he still wanted to appear in public and talk about his career. "Part of me always wanted to be an entertainment lawyer, and the show must go on," he said. What he really hopes is that his book inspires some youngster to go into public service. I know they mostly read their phones these days. But somehow I feel it will. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
Well, as you may know by now, the United Auto Workers union did an absolutely superb job negotiating a new contact with FCA, Fiat Chrysler. Jack Lessenberry talks about how UAW workers voted the new contract down by more than a two to one margin. Everybody in the industry was impressed by the result, with one exception, the workers themselves, who voted the contract down by more than a two to one margin. What happens next is not clear. Analysts are saying the union could stage a partial or general strike. They could try to go back to the bargaining table with Sergio Marchionne, or they could move on to another automaker, and come back to Chrysler later. Except none of that really matters, unless the union leaders first figure out how to reestablish solidarity with the workers they represent. I am by no means an industry expert. But when I heard the details of this new contract, I instantly thought there might be trouble. Workers expected the elimination of the hated two-tier wage system, or at least the reinstatement of a strict cap on the percentage of lesser-paid new workers. This contract did none of that, though it did provide them with a substantial raise. During the contract talks, both the union and the company behaved as though they had never heard of the concept of public relations. Jeep is Toledo's iconic employer, but a month ago today, word surfaced that Chrysler planned to move production of the popular Cherokee model elsewhere. To the best of my knowledge, the union never said a word. Chrysler production workers in Toledo voted 87 percent against this contract. Automotive News, the industry newspaper of record, reported that Chrysler planned to move production of two key models to Mexico. I didn't hear much of a peep about that either. The media beamed with approval when Marchionne and Dennis Williams, the union president, began the talks with a big bear hug that made them look like two old army buddies at a VFW hall. The rank-and-file weren't impressed. The longtime workers haven't had a raise, even for inflation, in close to a decade, though they have gotten a few bonuses. The second tier workers, who usually don't make enough to buy a house or maybe even a new car, weren't thrilled either. Even more incredibly, the union did little to sell this agreement; the attitude seemed to be here, take this, it's good for you. Kristin Dziczek, the respected labor and industry analyst at the Center for Automotive Research, thought this should have been ratified. But she noted that the summary the UAW gave to its members totally failed to explain how a proposed new health care cooperative is supposed to work. Nor did union leaders take to Facebook or other social media, as they did four years ago, to explain and sell this contract. This stupidity and arrogance are hard to justify, given that this is a union that once had 1.6 million members, and now doesn't have even a fourth of that. Since the last contract was signed, Michigan, the cradle of the auto industry, has become a right-to-work state. The UAW's very future may be in jeopardy. Now, it is up to Dennis Williams and company to somehow fix this, fast. In automotive terms, the whole world really is watching.
The city of Dearborn turns the page on one of its racist leaders
When I was young I was proud that I didn't live in Dearborn, whose mayor-for-life, Orville Hubbard, was a bizarre brawling clown who wore outlandish bow ties. Hugely fat, he would do anything for publicity. Pose with a boa constrictor, wear a giant paper bag, or straddle Michigan Avenue looking like a bargain-basement Mussolini, you name it. He raised parakeets in his office and often sat there in his underpants. He humiliated department heads, once making one get down on all fours and bark like a dog. And he was a famously open racist. Everybody knew that his slogan, "Keep Dearborn Clean" meant, "keep it white." Everybody knew that his slogan, "Keep Dearborn Clean" meant, "keep it white." During the civil rights movement, he was happy to tell the New York Times that he favored "complete segregation" to avoid a "mongrel race." If African-Americans were foolish enough to try to move in, he boasted that he had the police hassle them until they left. "I'm not a racist. I just hate the black bastards," he once said. Nevertheless, Dearborn loved him. He was first elected mayor in 1941, and was constantly reelected by huge margins. Despite his appalling tendencies, he ran a city that provided amazing local services, including a summer camp and a retirement community in Florida. Never conventional, he left his wife and lived with Maureen Keane, a young local beauty queen turned mayoral aide, who nursed him through his last term, after he had been incapacitated by a stroke. She then attempted to be elected mayor herself, but failed. Hubbard finally retired in 1978 and died four years later. In 1989, the city erected a statue of him in front of Dearborn's old city hall. Yesterday, they finally took the statue down, and carted it away to the Dearborn Historical Museum. The people running Dearborn today were mostly relieved. Mayor Jack O'Reilly said, "there was a lot of damage done" to his city's reputation during Hubbard's time. Mayor Jack O'Reilly said, "there was a lot of damage done" to his city's reputation during Hubbard's time. Today's Dearborn is at least one-third Arab-American, and Dawud Walid, one of their leaders told the Detroit News that Hubbard's vision "is thankfully not the Dearborn of today." Yet, he was a complex personality. David Good, a former editor at the News, wrote a magnificent biography of Hubbard, Orvie, The Dictator of Dearborn. Last night Good told me, "as appalled as I was by much of what he said and did, I liked Hubbard. I knew what he was, and liked him anyway. He was a fascinating personality, never boring, by far the most interesting person I ever met." David Good thinks sending the statue to the Dearborn Historical Museum makes sense, though his first choice would have been the Henry Ford Museum's civil rights exhibit. Good said something else we should remember: "In a lot of ways, Dearborn wasn't that different from a lot of other lily-white suburbs a half century and more ago – except for Orville Hubbard. Hubbard said stuff out loud that reflected the views not only of a lot of his constituents, but white folks in nearby suburbs as well." There's a lot of truth in that, and there are many people, black and white, who would give anything today for the quality of city services Hubbard's Dearborn provided. That too might be worth thinking about, even if it is good that his statue is gone. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
'Instant runoff voting' would get us the representatives we truly want
When the Michigan House of Representatives finally got rid of its two disgraced members earlier this month, we thought that was that. Nobody imagined there was much of a chance of them reclaiming their jobs. Well, think again. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat almost immediately filed to run for their old seats – as did way too many other people in their districts. There are 11 candidates running in the November primary for Courser's seat, and eight for the Gamrat seat. I would bet that any single candidate would badly beat either of them. There's no sign a majority of the voters want them back. But one thing is clear: Both are far better known than anyone else in their districts. In fields this large, either could win with as little as, say, 15% of the vote. If that happens, I think there's a good chance any Democrat would knock off Courser in his Lapeer-based district, but Allegan County is so Republican it is quite likely whoever wins that primary will win the special general election in March. Believe me, the one thing nobody in either party wants is to face a decision as to whether to seat these two if they actually win. That's mostly not because they had an affair, but because they are not team players, defiantly refused to learn how to do their jobs or even how legislation is passed, and spent all their time posturing and making statements. There's not much we can do about this now, but is something we could and should do to avoid situations like this in the future, and get better representation. Voters would cast votes ranking the candidates as they chose to. We leave it up to IRV. IRV is not a person, but a system. It stands for "instant runoff voting," also sometimes called preferential voting, choice voting, or transferable voting. Here's how it works. Voters would cast votes ranking the candidates as they chose to. If anyone got a majority of the vote in a primary or general election, that would be that. But if nobody had a majority, the second-place votes from the last place candidate would be distributed among the others, and then the next to last, and so on until someone had a majority. For example: Suppose Smith got 40 votes, Jones got 35 votes and Johnson got 25 votes. The counters, or more likely computers, would assign the second place votes of Johnson's supporters. Let's say 20 wanted Jones, and only 5 wanted Smith. Democracy works best when those representing us are truly representative of the feelings of a majority of their constituents. The result would be that Jones would win, 55 to 45, even though Smith had more first-place votes. Smith wouldn't have any right to feel cheated, since everyone would know how the system worked. The main good thing this would tend to do is elect people who were, by and large, more representative of their districts, and lessen the odds of fringe candidates winning. Preferential voting is slowly catching on, though I'm not aware of anyone in Michigan using it. It is widely used in Ireland, Scotland and Australia. They use it now in local elections in Minneapolis and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a few other places. Democracy works best when those representing us are truly representative of the feelings of a majority of their constituents. It would make sense to give this a try. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
Most people in Michigan know Matty Moroun as the famous and highly controversial owner of the Ambassador Bridge. For years, the media has covered his ongoing efforts to stop a second, independently owned bridge, a battle he's apparently lost. But the Moroun family has another virtual monopoly which gives them essentially total control over the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, a situation that has gone on for ten years. Back in 2005, Kwame Kilpatrick's administration gave Moroun a deal that seems too outrageous to believe. In return for an emergency loan of a little over two million dollars, Moroun was given one of the biggest sweetheart deals of all time. They call it a "master concession agreement," and under its terms, as freelance investigative reporter Joel Thurtell told me, it isn't too much of an exaggeration to say that Matty Moroun essentially owns the port authority. Without any doubt, he controls it. Moroun got huge tax exemptions, and control of the operations and revenues of the port authority for at least 25 years, a deal that can be renewed for up to a century. During that time, the port authority itself, meaning the public, gets less than three percent of gross revenues. According to Thurtell, who thoroughly researched the deal in an article he published almost four years ago, the port authority can't even dispose of public property it owns without Moroun's permission. The city also apparently agreed in writing that it would give up any right to sue Moroun for, quote, "any claim for breach of fiduciary duty or other cause of action." If that wasn't more than bad enough, it set terms for repaying the loan Moroun gave to the city that the worst loan shark could only envy. It appears to be structured to ensure that the city can never pay it back. The interest rate fluctuates, but apparently never dips below six percent. Over the last 10 years, poor, cash-strapped, bankrupt Detroit has paid back $1.3 million. But the loan balance has actually grown, to $2.2 million. John Loftus, executive director of the port, told the Detroit Free Press "the way this thing is structured, I don't know that I'll ever be able to pay off this debt." Gregg Ward is highly familiar with port operations; he is vice-president of the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry Company, which ferries vehicles with hazardous materials across the river. He told me, "in the Moroun portfolio of corrupt deals, the port contract is one of the most blatant." These facts have been in the public domain for years, but nobody in the press, except for the persistent Thurtell, has paid much attention. Finally, late last week, the port authority's board finally asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to issue an opinion on the "legality and validity," of the controversial contract the city signed with Moroun a decade ago. But here's something to consider. The Moroun family have been heavy contributors to Schuette's past election campaigns, according to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. They've given him at least $21,000 since he began running for attorney general, and may have given more to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which spent more than a million dollars on Schuette's reelection last year. If that doesn't make you stop and think, it should. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
Yesterday I was thinking that in a sense, Flint has become Detroit's Detroit. In other words, for years, the urban crisis in Detroit was seen as the worst in the state, if not the entire nation. Last year, a woman studying psychology in Marquette told me, "I feel so sorry for people who live in places like Detroit and Syria." But things are improving in Detroit, even if not as fast as we would like. Detroit is now in vogue, and the bookshelves are crowded with new works by writers who come for a few weeks and feel compelled to explain the city, which they don't really understand. But few realize that sixty miles up I-75, a smaller ruined manufacturing town sits and suffers. Flint gets little respect and less attention, unless native Michael Moore puts it in a movie. Flint was the ultimate company town, and the company was General Motors. The city had close to two hundred thousand people once. But then the bottom fell out of the auto industry. Flint has fewer than a hundred thousand left now, and all the usual problems of decaying infrastructure, not enough jobs, and being in and out of emergency management. But Flint lacks the glamour and cachet of Detroit. Young French artists and intellectuals aren't rushing in for the Flint experience. And right now, Flint has a horrendous problem even Detroit has never experienced. While Detroiters complain about water shutoffs, the situation in Flint is far worse. Residents are paying for some of the most expensive water bills in the nation, and there is increasing evidence their water is making them sick and poisoning their children. Last year, to save money, Flint announced it was no longer going to buy Detroit water, but would instead become a customer of the Karegnondi Water Authority, which would give them water from Lake Huron. But that system won't be ready till next year. So in the meantime, Flint has been pulling water from the Flint River, and that has been a disaster from day one. The water looked bad, tasted bad, smelled bad. And that was the good news. First there were concerns about elevated levels of bacteria. Then, there were signs residents' health was being affected by the amount of disinfectant authorities needed to put in. And now, lead. Yesterday, a new study by physicians at the Hurley Medical Center showed that the tap water residents are drinking now has resulted in significant elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint's children. The water seems to be more corrosive than lake water, and it is causing lead to leach out of the old pipes thousands of homes still have. The city apparently told one doctor that Flint couldn't afford to go back to using Detroit water. But when you think about the effects of lead poisoning, it's clear it can't afford to do anything else. The Flint Journal today said it was Governor Snyder's responsibility, since it was his emergency manager who made the disastrous decision to switch to the river water. Whoever is to blame, Flint needs to fix this, now. As far as I know, residents haven't marched on city hall yet with pitchforks. But if they were to do that, I wouldn't blame them one bit. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
Yesterday, a circuit judge in Washtenaw County struck a blow for common sense and sanity by ruling that Ann Arbor public schools could ban guns in their buildings. That immediately provoked a furious reaction from those who think guns more important than anything else, including the lives and well-being of children. The attorney for a group called Michigan Gun Owners fairly sneered "I think the judge decided to ignore state law." He added that they would appeal. The guns-under-any-circumstances folks expect to win that appeal, and they may, at least in the early stages. Last month, a judge in Genesee County ruled that a father can openly carry his pistol inside his daughter's elementary school. Three years ago, the Michigan Court of Appeals, in a split decision, ruled that libraries cannot ban the open carry of weapons. Morally, these rulings are about as awful, in my view, as the Dred Scott decision, and I expect society will eventually realize that. But even if not, the gun worshipers are missing something, and are making a strategic mistake which may eventually result in a United States Supreme Court decision they won't like. Because schools can, in fact, legally carry ban guns. Communities can also ban dangerous and unusual weapons. Every indication is that if the current U.S. Supreme Court got the Ann Arbor case or the one from Clio in Genesee County, the justices would rule on behalf of the schools, not those who want to bring guns into them. My source for that is the best one possible: Justice Antonin Scalia, the man who wrote the majority opinion inDistrict of Columbia vs. Heller seven years ago, the first time the high court ruled that the Second Amendment does in fact establish an individual citizen's right to bear arms. That was anything but a unanimous decision; the vote was five to four, the same as two years later in a similar case,McDonald v. Chicago. But in the first case, Justice Scalia wrote "Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings." Scalia also wrote "we also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms." That is the right to ban "the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons." Well, you could certainly argue that any weapon is dangerous and unusual in a third-grade classroom. Those on the side of all guns, all the time, do have one argument: Michigan does not expressly ban the open carry of weapons in schools, though it does in day care centers. But you could certainly make the case that a school is very much like a day care center. The gun lobby seems to have lost all perspective, but there are signs that people are getting exasperated with bad behavior and guns. This spring, a suburban Detroit school was repeatedly locked down after a provocateur marched around it and up to the door with a loaded rifle. The Supreme Court has clearly indicated society can do much more to regulate guns than we do now. I have a hunch we may be finally about to start. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
Even in the age of current silliness, I had real doubts this was true. But in fact it is – sort of, at any rate. House Bill 4883 would revise Michigan's school code to, among other things, make it illegal to, quote "allow a pupil to practice with a family planning drug or device in a public school or on public school property." That would, I suppose, cover using a device on a banana. The bill is mainly an anti-abortion, anti-contraception bill, which was introduced by State Representative Thomas Hooker, a former high school wrestling coach from the Western Michigan town of Wyoming. Hooker is in his last term, and will be gone from the House forever in sixteen months. His bill was co-sponsored by ten other representatives, all of whom are social conservatives. The bill calls for the teaching of abstinence, and would forbid teachers to talk about abortion as either a family planning measure or as a "method of reproductive health." That's probably unconstitutional, since abortion is a legal medical procedure which long ago was declared by the United States Supreme Court to be part of a woman's fundamental rights. My guess is that this bill is going nowhere, and those who introduced it did so to make points with their fundamentalist Christian constituents. What's fascinating to me, however, is not the anti-abortion rhetoric, but the implied belief that the best way to prevent teenage sex is to withhold knowledge about contraception. This is how a lot of parents believed half a century ago, when I was beginning high school. There was also, as we came to find out, a term that would apply to many of those kids who indeed remained ignorant of how contraception worked: Teen-age parents. Today, there's a lot of evidence that the best way to increase the number of teen-age abortions is to withhold knowledge from kids. We all have our ideas, but the hormones tend to win, most of the time. Fortunately, I was saved from having my life ruined, not by virtue, but by being shy, non-athletic and socially inept. Regardless of that, I wonder how those behind this bill would feel if left-wing liberals took over the legislature, and introduced a bill making it illegal to talk about guns, say anything good about guns, or teach young people how guns work. That could happen. My guess is that most of the nation feels the high court was either wrong about abortions or guns, but not both. Personally, though I hate guns, I wouldn't want our lawmakers to do that either, or to waste their time condemning violence in the Middle East, iron-poor blood, or other twaddle irrelevant to their jobs. We have a state whose infrastructure is falling apart, whose prisons are overcrowded, and whose schools are going bankrupt. They need to deal with those things and get them fixed, before anything else. If Mr. Hooker can find a way to do that, I'll happily agree to treat bananas any way he wants. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
The fight over prevailing wage isn't a classic 'right vs. left' battle
Well, if you've been following the news from Lansing, it seems likely that the Legislature will soon vote to eliminate what's known as "prevailing wage," which is the requirement that the state pay union-scale wages to workers on state construction projects. This has long been a cause championed by State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, who seems to hate unions. Those supporting this idea say it would save Michigan hundreds of millions of dollars. But those opposed say it would do no such thing, that it will create bottlenecks and delays and risk shoddy and unsafe construction on state buildings. Those supporting this idea say it would save Michigan hundreds of millions of dollars. You might think at first glance this is a classic conservative vs. liberal issue, but it isn't. Governor Rick Snyder is dead set against repealing the prevailing wage requirement, and has indicated that he'll veto any bill that does so, if he gets the chance. Many other Republicans more conservative also support prevailing wage, including Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan, the last Republican vice-presidential nominee. You might think major contractors like Barton Malow would want to get rid of prevailing wage, but you'd be wrong. In May, Mike Stobak, one of their vice-presidents, testified before a State Senate subcommittee. He reminded the senators that the prevailing wage law was briefly suspended in the 1990s, and that was a disaster. Fewer contractors bid on state projects. Workers often left contractors in the middle of a project, causing concerns about quality. "Please, let's avoid the temptation to take the easy route and return to what we know is a failed approach." - Mike Stobak, Barton Marlow Stobak told the legislators, "Please, let's avoid the temptation to take the easy route and return to what we know is a failed approach." But there are many people who want to pay workers less regardless, including the DeVos family of Grand Rapids. When it was clear the governor wasn't going to support repealing prevailing wage, a group called Protecting Michigan Taxpayers swung into action. According to Bridge Magazine, the group was heavily financed by the Michigan Freedom Fund, which has close ties to the DeVos family, and a Lansing-based trade group that includes mostly non-union contractors. Once bankrolled, Protecting Michigan Taxpayers launched a petition drive to collect enough signatures to get a ballot initiative repealing prevailing wage. They've now turned in those signatures, and early indications are that they have more than enough. Now, in a case like this, an odd quirk in Michigan law allows the Legislature to avoid this getting on the ballot by enacting into law what the initiative calls for within 40 days. And when the Legislature does that with an initiative petition, the governor doesn't get a chance to veto it. If they don't enact the initiative, it then goes on next year's ballot. Which, by the way, is precisely what those behind the petition drive don't want, even though they collected signatures to do just that. Putting this on the ballot could spark a massive turnout of pro-union voters who would try to defeat it, and who would vote mostly for Democrats running for office. The state senate is certain to vote to get rid of prevailing wage, but the initiative's prospects are a little less certain in the House. Democrats have more strength there, and a few Republicans may not want to anger the state's construction workers in an election year. We'll just have to wait and see. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.
Richard Nixon is remembered today largely for all the bad things he did while President. He lied, engaged in a massive cover-up of criminal activities, obstructed justice, bugged even himself – you name it. But occasionally, even Nixon showed signs of caring about something larger than himself. When he lost an extremely close presidential election to John F. Kennedy in 1960, he was urged by many people, including then-President Eisenhower, to seek recounts in two key states, Illinois and Texas, where there were reports of massive voting irregularities. Had Nixon carried those states, he would have been President. But he said the country would have been torn apart by a disputed election, and he declined to challenge the result. Courser and Gamrat have no such qualms. For them, everything is all about themselves. Incredibly, both are now attempting to run in the special election called to replace them in the state house of representatives. There's a real question as to whether Gamrat is even eligible, and it is far from clear that the House would agree to seat either if they were elected. Quite apart from their well-known shenanigans, they have already cost the taxpayers much wasted time and thousands of dollars. They have cost taxpayers even more by having forced two special elections in each district. But beyond that, here's the real damage they've done. Lawmakers have been working diligently and desperately to try and get an agreement to fix the roads. The Courser-Gamrat saga has been a major distraction from that. The news media, probably including me, have also been somewhat to blame. The attention we've paid to the bad behavior and posturing of these two has sucked up all the air in the room, distracting the public from paying attention to anything else. Last week, Off the Record, the only public affairs TV show that focuses on state government, had as its guest once again Todd Courser, who made it clear that he is reveling in all this, like any other emotional four year old would do. One of the very first things he said was "this is my first worldwide sex scandal and cover-up." It wasn't clear if he was trying to be funny. However, this does show that he is guilty of megalomania way beyond the norm. I doubt if anyone in London, Paris or Los Angeles has even heard of the tawdry misbehaviors of a couple obscure Michigan lawmakers, and I'd be astonished if anyone outside this state cares. Almost nobody thinks they are fit for office. Their own voters are very likely to tell them so November 3rd. Until then, I hope this is the last thing I have to write about them, and I hope the media ignores both Courser and Gamrat, insofar as possible. This state has real issues and real problems and some elected representatives who are trying very hard to deal with them, and improve our state. We owe it to ourselves to leave the circus, and write and talk more about things that really matter instead. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.