Leaders Don’t Act Like This

September 24, 2007
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There is a serious leadership void in Michigan and it will continue to severely crimp chances of a reasoned and successful long-term economic recovery so vital to the future of this state’s residents.

Continued proof of this potentially disastrous situation has been the ill-advised, drawn out “efforts” to resolve a projected state budget crisis. Last week’s tepid movement toward a possible “resolution” aside, it merits repeating that Michigan’s economic future is eroding amidst the catastrophic lack of vision and foresight that is so needed and expected from the public sector.

The posturing and grand-standing has been center stage for months. The blame game has never been very entertaining, and it certainly moved into the mode of disgusting as it became evident cowardly state lawmakers and the wayward governor were willing to let the walls come tumbling down in order to continue to make their cases, however flawed they may be.

For months, the Business Journal has pointed to the morass in state government as one that merited a complete makeover. Following the announcement in March by Comerica Bank that it was moving its corporate operations to Dallas, away from the headaches and obstructions it encountered in Michigan, it was noted on these pages that the mud-slinging tactics, endless “they won’t play fair” press conferences and one-upmanship strategies were a recipe for disaster.

State officials have eschewed sensible recommendations that have come from near and far as logical processes to tame the state funding monster. They included pleas from the private sector for the state to adopt and enact long-term, outcomes-based budgeting techniques. Short-term “fixes” were no longer to be available. But the experienced, largely non-partisan advice provided by such folks as the Center for Michigan have obviously fallen on deaf (and dumb) ears.

The first order of business was to conceive a new state business tax, acted upon this summer with the evident intent of making things more fair and equitable for all involved. The reviews are still out on that still overly perplexing product, but the clouds associated with an economy ripped apart by an evolution in business cycles away from hardcore manufacturing into a need for a knowledge-based commercial foundation have not lifted.

Stephen L. Forrest, University of Michigan vice president for research, has helped found several companies and is a physicist who pioneered the optical technology used in flat screen televisions and other high-tech components.

He recently pointed to Michigan’s potential to continue a tradition of innovation and progress, but he issued one huge caution: This state will not be able to change its ways long-term unless it finds individuals willing to provide imagination, leadership, openness and a willingness to find common ground.

We haven’t found those traits in the current crop in Lansing. It’s time to plant some new seeds.    

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