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Local News / Politics

Tuesday, 2 November, 2010 12:30 PM

Running mates for Michigan governor speak at Impact 2010 in Ann Arbor


Brenda Lawrence addresses Impact 2010 on behalf of Virg Bernero.



Brian Calley addresses Impact 2010 on behalf of Rick Snyder.


by Jason Rzucidlo


ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan gubernatorial candidates Rick Snyder (R) and Virg Bernero (D) were invited to speak at the A2YChamber's Impact 2010 conference last Friday. However, none of them showed up. Instead, it was the running mates -- Brian Calley for the Snyder campaign and Brenda Lawrence for the Bernero campaign. Both addressed the crowd separately; they did not hold a debate. It all took place inside the Kensington Court Hotel in Ann Arbor.

Calley is the 33-year-old State Rep. from Michigan's 87th House district. He was elected to a second term in 2008. Calley graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in business administration. He also earned a Master's in business administration from Grand Valley State University. Calley is a former Ionia County commissioner and Board of Public Works member.

"We have a lot of tools in this state that have not been utilized," Calley said at the event. "That's why we need a fresh start. A special effort where people on the other side of the table can find solutions on complicated parts of public policy. We need to remove barriers to their success. I love the tax plan that we've come up with. We should create an environment of customer service within the government. We have to have measurements. That's what we're missing so far. Usher in an era of accountability."

Brenda Lawrence is the 55-year-old mayor of Southfield. She took office after serving in the Southfield City Council from 1997 to 2001. Lawrence graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor's degree in public administration. In 2008, she was invited by the U.S. House Oversight Committee to represent United States mayors in testimony about the mortgage crisis and its affect on American communities. Lawrence was a superdelegate at the 2008 Democractic National Convention and she endorsed Barack Obama for president.

"It is critical to understand that you need that experience, sensitivity from Virg," Lawrence said at Impact 2010. "He understands we need to reform our government. Michigan is a bad economy. We've been redlined. We should start our own state bank and partner with banks and credit unions. I was on Main Street in Battle Creek and almost every storefront is empty. Large companies are shrinking. We have a focus and a plan to support our small businesses. Education is an economic stimulus. We must fund education."

Panelists discuss the Michigan Constitutional Convention ballot proposal

Dianne Byrum is a partner of Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communications. She is also a MSU trustee and a former Michigan House Minority Leader. She spoke in opposition of holding a Michigan Constitutional Convention.

"There's no fatal flaw that needs to be fixed," Byrum explained. "We can amend the constitution. It would cost $145 million plus all related expenses. You will hit the pause button on moving forward. The rest of the nation is moving ahead. The process will take three years. Voters could reject the changes outright. I say no. Michigan can't afford this. It's too costly. Michigan needs to be working together. We can't take that kind of risk."

Tom George, M.D. is a state senator from Michigan's 20th district. He spoke in favor of holding a Michigan Constitutional Convention.

"The benefits outweigh the risk," George responded. "The constitution was handed to us when MIchigan was a rich state. The state government needs to downsize. A constitutional convention is the only way to turn Michigan around. This is an opportunity to make government transparent. Match the technologies of today. Having a constitutional convention is a great opportunity. Every 16 years, we ask voters to review our work."

Robert S. LaBrant is the senior vice president of political affairs and general counsel at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. He also turned down the proposal to hold a Michigan Constitutional Convention.

"On three occasions, voters agreed to a constitutional convention (1866, 1906 and 1961)," LaBrant said. "The constitution is flexible enough. Thirty-one amendments were added, 37 amendments were rejected. Ask ourself: who would serve, who would lead and what issues would dominate? In 2010, there has been no effort to get organized. This is much premature. There's not been adequate preparation. We haven't appropriated money. We live in different age than 1961. We're much more partisan."

John Logie is a legal counsel at Warner Norcross & Judd. He was the mayor of Grand Rapids from 1991 to 2003. Logie also supported the proposal to hold a Michigan Constitutional Convention.

"All pay and benefits for all 150 state employees should lose pay on a per diem basis" for each day the state budget is not completed on time, Logie explained. "For the first year, it would be 10 days late. After that, it will be on time. In Grand Rapids, we had 12 balanced budgets on time."

Panelists also discussed Michigan's Tax Structure

Charles Ballard is a professor of economics at Michigan State University.

"We used to be a high tax state," Ballard said. "We're not anymore. Letting our roads go to gravel is not a good economic strategy. It's hard getting anything done in the legislature these days. I keep throwing pebbles in the pond. Michigan seniors pay nothing in income tax. Their tax rate is of less than zero. That's just wrong. The day after I retire I'm not part of the community anymore. Revenue will continue downward."

Sabrina Keeley is the chief operating officer of Business Leaders for Michigan.

"Everybody should pay their fair share," Keeley explained. "Most states have a corporate sales tax. Thirteen percent tax rate is that fair? Tax depends on who's elected governor. It could go up. We've been exporting jobs, people in this state. We need to decide what are priorities want to be. State employees make 17 percent more than private sector and state employees across the country. We used to be able to afford those things. We're 37th in per capita income."

Sharon Parks is the president and chief executive officer of Michigan League for Human Services.

"The new census numbers are very alarming for Michigan," Parks said. "Sixteen percent of Michiganians are in poverty. One in four under age five are in poverty. That number is growing. Most jobs don't pay enough to lift a family of four out of poverty. The safety net is eroding. We have left a system untouched for two decades. We are not an attractive state unless we invest there. We are making a mistake. People are retiring early."

Doug Pratt is the director of public affairs at the Michigan Education Association.

"We've got to look at the full system and structure," Pratt explained. "If not, we're not going to get out of this over the long haul. School employees have given more than $1 billion in concessions, foregoing raises to keep health benefits. We don't know what's coming. There are serious structural problems. Early childhood education would save two to three times in corrections budget. People are paying about nine percent. Who's going to pay the fair share?"

Richard K. Studley is the president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

"The 42 percent film incentive is a complete waste of money," Studley said. "It should be repealed. When we were a rich state, we could afford to pay more. We're mid range on a lot of taxes. The Michigan Chamber is not anti-tax. We look at need to invest wisely in transportation. We need reform and return on investments. My guess is Rick Snyder will be our next governor. The number one goal is to create more jobs. More taxes equals more revenue."

For more information on the A2YChamber, visit



State Rep. Brian Calley addresses the A2YChamber's Impact 2010 conference.



Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence chats with attendees at the event.



Candidates John Hochstetler and Tim Walberg



Other candidates chat near the chocolate fountain.


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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer and Privacy Policy.