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E-M:/ Deja vu: Env. bonds for reelection boost

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Proposed Bond: What do you think?

The Detroit News today reports a plan that will be announced in the Gov's
state o' the state (SOS) regarding a $500 million bond for a handful of
environmental programs.  Since the ever stealthy press manipulators in the
Governor's office assured that this announcement would come out over the
weekend to minimize a chance for immediate substantive reactions and public
discussion (give an exclusive story, tell reporters not to ask for comments
until Saturday a.m., etc.), I would like to urge the folks on Enviro-Mich to
offer up their reactions and responses, and open a dialogue on this issue.
Below are some of my initial thoughts:

Clearly the Governor's handlers know that he is vulnerable on the environment
in this upcoming election year, and have sorted through the bag of tricks left
from previous administrations to try to build a false front to last at least
until November.  As details come out it will be easier to judge the
independent merits of this proposal, and it can be expected that there is in
fact some benefit to the environment from this idea.

However, this proposal is more than a dollar short, is many years too late,
and comes on the back of an overall environmental policy structure that has
been eviscerated by the policies of this would-be election year environmental
saviour.  It is important for Michigan citizens to recognize that the seven
years of the Engler Administration to date have witnessed a relentless
and disturbingly effective campaign to reduce the reality of environmental
protection in Michigan, and that the success of this effort has resulted in
collatoral damage to the public's expectations for actually performing that
protective role.  Thus, while it will clearly be the goal of this
administration that we all do so, we cannot consider such a proposal anywhere
near being on par with the Quality of Life Bond Issue in the 1980's.

This proposal, at first glance a warmed over, smaller and weaker version of
what was passed by the voters during the Blanchard administration, is an
astounding back pedalling job in an administration that for several years has
done its best to steal every other funding source it could find to fund the
brownfields clean ups.  In effect, this bond proposal is a long overdue
admission of the Engler Administration's total failure to find a funding
source for brownfields clean up after the Governor fought very hard to take
responsible parties off the hook for the clean up of their own contaminated
sites. The Engler administration gave industry what it wanted by gutting the
Polluter Pay law a few years ago, and now, betting on short term memory loss
of the public, is foisting the price tag onto the unsuspecting taxpayers,
while packaging it as an innovative strategy.

This proposal will beg to be compared positively with the Quality of Life Bond
Issue, but let us not forget how much the landscape has been changed by the
actions of this Governor during the past 10 years.  Substantive public input
is gone from the agency that will handle this fund -- this Governor in fact
went to great lengths to wrench the environmental clean up programs and other
regulatory programs out of an integrated agency and shield them from public
input.  In addition, with public shut out and the Big Brother attitude of the
administration that assures that talented, committed staff cannot speak up
about failures to enforce the law, it is virtually impossible to tell whether
the application of the funds will be done as a result of political whim or
independent, objective assessment of both need and alternate sources of

It is always good to see that environmental issues are so compelling that even
the most anti-environmental Governor in Michigan's history feels it necessary
to throw a bone in this direction. But Governor Engler must be judged on his
record as a whole, and not just whether his polling numbers are of concern,
and the political operatives are in patch up mode.


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