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Jack Lessenberry





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Summary:

Every weekday, Michigan Radio political analyst Jack Lessenberry offers up his perspective on the latest political news in Michigan.

Feed: http://michiganradio.org/podcasts/term/456/rss.xml
Web: http://michiganradio.org/people/jack-lessenberry

Michigan is aging faster than the national average


Published: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 15:37:40 +0000
Summary: Years ago, when the baby boomers completely dominated the culture, someone once said that we’d know their influence was finally ending when magazines had cover stories on designer funeral homes. Well, we aren’t there yet...


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Michigan has a reputation abroad, but it's not a good one


Published: Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:25:37 +0000
Summary: It’s nice to be back. I’ve been gone for the last few weeks on my first real vacation in a few years. Last Sunday, I was doing something I’ve wanted to do all my life – visiting the excavated ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, buried by a..


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Representatives voting from home districts would fragment us further


Published: Wed, 07 Jun 2017 16:35:16 +0000
Summary: You might say the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy is the one think tank liberals and progressives most like to hate. Indeed, I heard someone say a few years ago that it was home to some of the finest minds of the 14th century. That’s not..


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Lessenberry on MSU football sexual assault, state budget approval, and a unicameral legislature


Published: Wed, 07 Jun 2017 13:19:08 +0000
Summary: Three Michigan State University football players have been charged with sexual assault stemming from an incident in January in which they allegedly sexually assaulted a woman on campus. Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior political analyst Jack Le..


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Do looks matter in politics?


Published: Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:38:15 +0000
Summary: On June 1st, I talked about Gretchen Whitmer, the former state Senate minority leader and now the leading candidate for next year’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination. During an interview during last week’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Whitmer told me..


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Eyeball to eyeball


Published: Tue, 06 Jun 2017 11:44:12 +0000
Summary: There’s a legend that Secretary of State Dean Rusk summed up what happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis by saying, “We were eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.” Well, things were considerably more complicated than that. But..


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The mayor's history lesson


Published: Fri, 02 Jun 2017 15:04:47 +0000
Summary: Earlier this week, I said words to the effect that I didn’t think many of those attending the annual Mackinac Policy Conference were doing much to relate to the average citizen. Largely, I think I was right...


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Could Gretchen Whitmer govern?


Published: Thu, 01 Jun 2017 16:17:39 +0000
Summary: Gretchen Whitmer, currently the leading Democratic candidate for governor, told me something yesterday at the Mackinac Policy Conference that caught me by surprise: “You know, when you look at all of the candidates in the race, I’m the one that looks ..


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Calley's part-time folly


Published: Wed, 31 May 2017 15:46:44 +0000
Summary: H.L. Mencken, the great early 20th century journalist, was a militant atheist, so I don’t suppose there’s any chance his shade is flitting around Mackinac Island this week. But if it was, it would have been laughing at Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley..


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Lessenberry on the state budget, part-time legislatures, and the 2017 Mackinac Policy Conference


Published: Wed, 31 May 2017 12:46:40 +0000
Summary: For the first time since he's been governor, the leaders from the state House and Senate have signed a target budget agreement without Rick Snyder's input. House Speaker Tom Leonard and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof want to close the pension system..


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Mackinac vs. Michigan


Published: Tue, 30 May 2017 13:00:56 +0000
Summary: The Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference begins today; I’ll be there, though so far, it doesn’t look like the most momentous conference they’ve ever had. There will be a few national speakers worth hearing, including histor..


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Memorial Day: Marking JFK's 100th birthday in a changed nation


Published: Fri, 26 May 2017 16:09:47 +0000
Summary: The other night I had dinner with former State Senator John Kelly, who has a law degree and a doctorate and served his country in the JAG, or Judge Advocate General Corps. He told me once about the moment he decided to go into public service. It was the d..


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Drowning in manure


Published: Thu, 25 May 2017 15:21:55 +0000
Summary: I want to warn you that today, I’m going to be talking about poop. Specifically, more than 3.3 billion gallons of it a year, all of it produced in Michigan by what are euphemistically called “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” or CAFOs. Many o..


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Michigan Republicans are contributing to the state's education crisis


Published: Wed, 24 May 2017 15:40:19 +0000
Summary: We have an education crisis in this state; in case you haven’t noticed, Michigan is having trouble recruiting enough teachers, especially good teachers, especially in our larger cities. That’s not surprising. Teaching elementary and high school studen..


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Lessenberry on proposed cuts to Great Lakes funding, Ford's new CEO, and ballot recount fees


Published: Wed, 24 May 2017 11:36:47 +0000
Summary: The Trump Administration released its proposed federal budget. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would get zero dollars if the plan is approved as is. Over the past seven years, it received $2.2 billion in funding to preserve the Great Lakes. Morning..


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Is unrest smoldering in Detroit?


Published: Tue, 23 May 2017 13:39:15 +0000
Summary: Twenty years ago, when I was covering Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted suicide crusade, I came to know a retired Detroit policeman named Ray Good, whose wife Janet was a Kevorkian ally. Good was present at his own moment in history, when he was the first p..


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Remembering Joyce Braithwaite-Brickley


Published: Mon, 22 May 2017 14:05:39 +0000
Summary: When we talk about our elected leaders, we usually act as if they did it all by themselves. We only tend to notice their assistants if they start slipping, or show signs of clumsiness. Whatever your politics, the fact that Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway..


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How to cut corrections


Published: Fri, 19 May 2017 16:05:38 +0000
Summary: Six years ago, the superintendent of a small and struggling school district in Gratiot County wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to Governor Rick Snyder asking that his school be declared a prison...


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Great candidate, not so great name


Published: Wed, 17 May 2017 15:07:13 +0000
Summary: I spent an hour the other morning with a newcomer on the political scene, one of the most brilliant and charismatic candidates I’ve ever met. Let’s imagine for a moment that his name is Andy Smith. Make Andy the son of completely legal immigrants who ..


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Lessenberry on the prison budget, Detroit housing, and security for Mackinac Bridge Labor Day walk


Published: Wed, 17 May 2017 14:45:32 +0000
Summary: A Senate subcommittee has passed a budget cutting the Department of Corrections' budget by $40 million. The department says that would mean cutting jobs and programs to fight recidivism. Both Republicans and Democrats want to see lower prison populations...


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The pyramid of student loan debt


Published: Tue, 16 May 2017 12:50:58 +0000
Summary: What do you think is the biggest category of consumer debt in this nation, apart from home mortgage loans? Car loans? Medical bills? Not even close. It is student loan debt, now nearly $1.5 trillion dollars, and getting bigger by the day. The average unde..


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Looking out for our animals


Published: Mon, 15 May 2017 15:34:40 +0000
Summary: Tommy Brann, a freshman state representative from Wyoming, a West Michigan town near Grand Rapids, isn’t someone who puts on airs. He’s passionate about public service and proud to be part of the legislature, but still thinks of himself as “Tommy th..


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Not real impressed with that speech


Published: Wed, 18 Jan 2017 16:54:09 +0000
Summary: Governor Rick Snyder gave his annual state of the state speech last night. If you missed it, don’t feel bad. There was virtually nothing to miss. I’ve seen five different governors deliver these annual speeches over the last 40 years. None of them wil..


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Corruption, scandal, leaked tapes: What the heck is going on in Macomb County?


Published: Tue, 17 Jan 2017 21:00:00 +0000
Summary: Metro Detroit's infamous Macomb County might be "the most politically craziest county in Michigan, if not the planet."..


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Citizens can be inspired to do more. But Gov. Snyder won't inspire them tonight.


Published: Tue, 17 Jan 2017 15:40:30 +0000
Summary: Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his seventh State of the State address tonight. My guess is that not many people will watch or listen; with this speech, they hardly ever do. Abraham Lincoln famously said at Gettysburg that “the world will little note ..


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What would Martin Luther King Jr. say?


Published: Mon, 16 Jan 2017 15:26:48 +0000
Summary: For many Americans, the life of Martin Luther King Jr. means mostly that they get a day off from work or school, a day in which the banks are closed and the mail doesn’t come. They may also know him as a one-dimensional icon of the civil rights movement..


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This guy is working to save Detroit's music heritage before it's lost


Published: Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:04:46 +0000
Summary: You could argue that the biggest Michigan story of the last decade was Detroit – the fall of its famously corrupt mayor, the city’s descent into bankruptcy, and its reemergence and renaissance. Nobody would have believed 10 years ago that downtown Det..


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Ignorance isn’t strength


Published: Tue, 10 Jan 2017 14:36:08 +0000
Summary: Ten days from now we will have a new President, and in time he will name a new justice to the Supreme Court, and eventually a nominee is likely to be confirmed. I teach college students, mostly seniors and graduates, journalism history and law. And someti..


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Michigan leaders stick it to poor people once again


Published: Mon, 09 Jan 2017 16:03:24 +0000
Summary: One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons showed a judge looking down at a defendant and asking, “So – just how much justice can you afford?” Judges never say things like that, or at least I hope not. But the system sort of does, whether we admit it or..


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Here's why you should care about the Macomb County sinkhole


Published: Fri, 06 Jan 2017 18:21:34 +0000
Summary: By now, millions of people have been horrified by the great Macomb County sinkhole, which has destroyed at least three modern houses in the suburb of Fraser. Imagine waking up on Christmas Eve, as one couple did, to the sounds of the foundations of your h..


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A glimmer of hope for inmates with mental illness


Published: Thu, 05 Jan 2017 18:39:39 +0000
Summary: Milton Mack, who was chief probate judge in Wayne County for many years, is probably the state judiciary’s top expert in the problems of prisons and the mentally ill. Mack, now state court administrator, has long maintained that we could significantly r..


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Starting the Governor's race a little too soon


Published: Wed, 04 Jan 2017 16:57:17 +0000
Summary: When he conceded defeat, full of charm and wit as always, a reporter asked if Stevenson planned to run again in four years. The candidate looked startled, and then broke into a broad grin. “Examine that man’s head!” he said, laughing. Stevenson woul..


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Finding a way to win the war on poverty in America


Published: Tue, 03 Jan 2017 16:18:45 +0000
Summary: Except for a few brief years in the 1960’s, it has never been fashionable to care about the desperately poor in this country. John F. Kennedy did challenge us to do something about poverty in his inaugural address : “If a free society cannot help the ..


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Journalism and Truth


Published: Mon, 02 Jan 2017 14:44:59 +0000
Summary: Happy New Year! Since Michigan Radio graciously allows me to express my opinions, I thought I’d start by asserting the holidays were a very nice break, but that they didn’t last long enough. Well, that may be the least controversial thing I’ve said ..


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A surreal year: Lawmakers continue to show contempt for people's wishes


Published: Fri, 23 Dec 2016 16:06:57 +0000
Summary: It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what voters really want. But that’s clearly not true when it comes to one thing: Hunting wolves. Michigan citizens want that outlawed. Every poll has shown that. Two years ago the people overwhelmingly voted to o..


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Turn off the screens and read a good book over the holidays


Published: Thu, 22 Dec 2016 17:13:11 +0000
Summary: I was recently tempted to bludgeon one of my students into recognizing that interesting things had happened, even before he was born, back in the ancient early 1990s, say. We were discussing the origins of the World Wide Web, the invention that actually m..


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... and when did he know it?


Published: Wed, 21 Dec 2016 17:49:17 +0000
Summary: When I learned yesterday morning that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had charged two Flint former emergency managers in connection with the water crisis, what popped first into my head was an image long ago of a young senator from Tennessee. “W..


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Turning the alleged Fouts tape into a teachable moment


Published: Tue, 20 Dec 2016 15:34:17 +0000
Summary: There is a leaked audio tape that has caused a sensation in political circles in the Detroit area. The language is raw, shocking and horribly vile, and, for once is not about sex. A voice that sounds very much like that of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts complains..


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Electoral college switching votes is just a fantasy


Published: Mon, 19 Dec 2016 15:17:06 +0000
Summary: If you’ve been following politics, you’ve probably heard that the Electoral College is meeting today, and is expected to formally ratify the election of Donald Trump as President. Well, that statement isn’t really true. The Electoral College never ..


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Something good came from Michigan's recount


Published: Thu, 15 Dec 2016 20:19:37 +0000
Summary: Well, regardless of your politics, you can’t say nothing good came out of the aborted Michigan recount. Chris Thomas, the state’s longtime elections director, said last night that Detroit will get new voting machines before the city elections next yea..


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Michigan lawmakers seem hell-bent on "fixing" something that doesn't need fixing


Published: Wed, 14 Dec 2016 17:47:07 +0000
Summary: Mark Twain once said that “no man’s life, liberty and property are safe while the legislature is in session.” He’s been dead for more than a century, but I’m sure he wouldn’t be the least surprised to learn that things haven’t improved in th..


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Lame duck session was kind of lame


Published: Tue, 13 Dec 2016 16:19:18 +0000
Summary: Well, as you may have heard, the final days of the lame duck session are winding down, and not nearly as many bills have been rammed through as I first thought might be the case. Lawmakers,for example, gave up early on plans to slash teacher pensions, and..


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What we learned from the recount in Michigan


Published: Mon, 12 Dec 2016 16:15:01 +0000
Summary: I’ve been wrong about a number of things this year. I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win the presidential election, but then again, almost nobody did. More recently, I didn’t think there would be anything startling if there was a statewide recount of..


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Remembering a true hero with the "right stuff"


Published: Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:06:19 +0000
Summary: I respect most people who go into politics, and have admired some. But with a very few exceptions, I’ve never been in awe of those I’ve met, including Presidents. They were highly accomplished people, occupying an institution I revered, but people sti..


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Republicans are consistent about one thing, their desire to suppress the vote


Published: Thu, 08 Dec 2016 16:50:07 +0000
Summary: Well, the chaotic mess of Michigan’s off-again, on-again recount battle is apparently finally over. The reason I say “apparently” is that absolutely nothing has been certain this year, and it is still possible, though unlikely, that more courts coul..


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The lone elected Democrat in Ottawa County is a public servant worth imitating


Published: Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:59:01 +0000
Summary: Ottawa County is a pretty lovely place on the western shore of Lake Michigan, a little south of Grand Rapids. I know it primarily for two things: the tulip festival in Holland, and for being the most Republican county in Michigan. Ottawa last voted Democr..


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Michigan kids deserve better school discipline policies


Published: Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:36:36 +0000
Summary: One of the most frightening, haunting and horrible stories I heard this year had nothing to do with politics. In September, an eight-year-old autistic child in Lake Orion was supposedly misbehaving in class. So his teacher locked him in a padded room by h..


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Remembering a recount in Michigan that did change the outcome of an election


Published: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:12:07 +0000
Summary: On Election Night it seemed clear the Republican candidate had won an upset narrow victory in Michigan. But some people wouldn’t accept it. They fought to get a recount. The Republicans opposed it. But when a recount was finally ordered, irregularities ..


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The war on teacher pensions


Published: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:54:50 +0000
Summary: Pretty much anyone who ever amounted to anything has been inspired to success at some point by a teacher, usually in elementary or high school. Which makes the Michigan Legislature’s running war on teachers somewhat hard to understand. Yes, I understand..


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If you are not outraged by this bill, you might be a billionaire


Published: Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:49:47 +0000
Summary: Tim Greimel, the outgoing leader of the Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives, put it this way: “I’ve talked to thousands of voters, and never had a single one say we’ve needed more money and less accountability and less transparency in..


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