2018-02-10 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

John Engler a Good Choice for MSU Interim President
By George Weeks

It has drawn much flak, but the selection of former Republican Governor John Engler as the interim president of Michigan State University to deal with the Dr. Larry Nassar sexual scandal involving USA gymnastics strikes me as a good choice. Engler is a solid and savvy administrator, well tuned to public issues and needs.

Engler’s selection of former Democratic Governor James Blanchard, a fellow MSU alum, to be part of the MSU team was a wise move. What a team!

Engler, Michigan’s 1991- 2003 governor, said: “We have an extreme organizational challenge that must be addressed. I expect to use not just my experience as governor, but also my political experience over the last decade and a half running two national organizations.”

Snyder’s State of the State

Address

In his recent eighth and final State of the State address, term-limited Governor Rick Snyder justifiably touted a year of accomplishments on jobs and some other issues and now is rolling out a list of goals, including Great Lakes issues and those involving workforce and infrastructure.

No question, in part because of national factors, Michigan is for the most part - the Flint water issue being a glaring exception - in better shape than it was before Snyder took office, and for the most part better than it was in the final years of his most immediate predecessors.

After the SOS, in a recent speech at a Washington auto show event, Snyder said:

“Seventy-six percent of the U.S. auto industry’s research and development happens in the state of Michigan. But that’s not good enough in my view.

“My goal isn’t to make it versus someone else - not versus (Silicon) Valley, not versus some other part of the world. It’s how to be the best partner.

“It’s about doing this smarter, better, and safer.”

I was struck by Snyder’s assertion that Michigan has a PR problem: “We have a problem in Michigan, generally. I’m really proud to say, substantively, we’re by far doing the greatest work in this area, but then we have this Midwestern humility problem, where we decide not to tell anyone else in the world about what we’re doing.

“We need to work on our marketing and be louder and prouder about what we’re doing.”

Having covered many a governor, and worked for one, I don’t see there being a “Midwestern humility problem,” but better marketing is always wise.

Especially applaudable in the SOS was Snyder’s emphasis on infrastructure, notably roads. He vows to increase road funding beyond the level being generated by a gas tax and general fund amount coming from a deal reached in 2015. He said: “We can do even better than we’re already committed. Let’s improve our infrastructure and make an investment, to get rid of those potholes.”

Politics and potholes have long been linked across the land.

Conyers versus Conyers

Before he resigned in December, because of yet another Washington flap over sexually harassed aides, longtime U.S. Representative Michigan Representative John Conyers Jr. (D-Detroit), 88, was the dean of the House, its longest serving member with five terms and the first African-American to be dean.

Now his eldest son, John Conyers III, 27, with dad’s endorsement, has filed to run for the job. Among likely opponents could be his cousin, state Senator Ian Conyers (D-Detroit).

Conyers III said in December: “Let me go on record and say I love my dad, but I’m not him. So if I run, don’t vote for me because of him. Vote because I actually believe and support us truly and I’m speaking up for us.”

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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