2003 Fresh Start For All

January 6, 2003
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Not even a week into the New Year, and already the same old dance tune is getting too much airplay.

The political posturing and maneuvering that is an anchor around West Michigan's neck is once again threatening to pull us down into an economic morass.

The problem is, it ranges from the top post in the state all the way down to the local convention and visitors bureaus.

What happened to West Michigan's trademark spirit of cooperation? If business is to pull out of this economic molasses, everyone must pull in the same direction. Case in point: Steelcase's joint venture with Johnson Controls Inc. to explore seating options in the automotive sector.

The move could signal more opportunities for the downtrodden office furniture industry while benefiting the automotive industry as well.

What's troubling, however, is the first few days of Gov. Granholm's political leadership. Not so much for her directives, but for the Republican response to those decisions. The state's economy does not need a political power struggle from Day One.

Granholm's first official actions as governor came Thursday when she signed a pair of executive orders that prevent businesses convicted of breaking a state law from doing work for the state and put a new general ethics code in place for state executives.

"We expect only the highest standard of conduct," he said.

That sounds pretty good.

The Republican response?

"Michigan government already holds itself to the high ethical standards that Gov. Granholm espoused today," read a statement from Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming and senate majority leader. "Perhaps that is why after more than a decade of Republican leadership at the Capitol and in the executive branch, there has not been one scandal. The ethical problems that plague Wayne County are unique in the state of Michigan. It is disappointing that the governor has created a solution in search of a problem that does not exist in 82 of Michigan's 83 counties."

Do the Republicans really believe this?

At least Sen. Sikkema and the Republicans were able to offer a feasible suggestion.

"I think it is important that we hold municipalities to the same ethical standards to which Gov. Granholm wants to hold Michigan businesses. Last year, the Great Lakes Task Force identified raw sewage as one of the most significant sources of pollution of our lakes, rivers and streams. In this case, the polluters were municipalities. I would welcome Gov. Granholm's cooperation in applying a similar standard to these public polluters."

The residents downriver along the Grand, say in Grand Haven, would welcome that spirit of cooperation. Especially when it rains in Grand Rapids.

The politicians in Lansing would be better off stealing a page from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting Granholm as the keynote speaker at its annual meeting in February — despite endorsing Dick Posthumus in the November election.

Working together, whether it's in automotive seating, business ethics or pollution control, is a far better method of operation than bickering and finger-pointing.

It's how things get done in West Michigan.           

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