In his March 18 guest column, former state Sen. Alan Meekhof attempted — and failed — to justify why the Republicans in the lame-duck session awarded over $3 million for the benefit of just a few people. We will get to the important items he forgot to mention in a minute.
It is important to remember what happened in the 13 days in December often referred to as the “lame-duck session.” That is when the Republican Party created more than 300 bills and gave away more than $1.3 billion of your money. The first question you might ask is — why? Why would they do that?
Well, there are at least two reasons: (1) They didn’t think you were paying attention; (2) They wanted to create as big a hole as possible for the new administration to have to overcome.
Think about it. The Republican Party lost all four seats in the new administration. Instead of recognizing the fact that the voters in this state were looking for a new, better direction, it was more important for them to create as many roadblocks to the new administration’s success as they could. It certainly appears that the Republican Party doesn’t care about making the state better. It doesn’t care about public education, infrastructure or the environment. It appears that they only care about taking care of their rich friends.
As a reminder, during Mr. Meekhof’s 12 years in office as a leader in the Republican Party, he led the Republican effort to drive Michigan’s race to the bottom. His “leadership” resulted in: Michigan ranking last in laws on ethics and transparency; last in infrastructure; 36th in education; 34th in land, water and air quality; and overall as the 37th best state to live in. I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a state that was better than this. A state with legislators who actually cared about making Michigan better for all, instead of making it worse for most and better for just a few.
So, back to what Mr. Meekhof forgot to tell you about the $3 million he made available so his rich friend could benefit. He didn’t mention that the whole idea behind dredging the Grand River is simply so Dan Hibma can build a marina. Dan Hibma is the developer behind the Grand Castle in Grandville. He also had to pay the FEC a $66,000 fine for excessive campaign contributions. He is the husband of Republican Party leader Terri Lynn Land — former Kent County clerk, former Michigan Secretary of State, and failed candidate for the U.S. Senate. Let’s just say he is exactly the kind of person Republicans feel are entitled to benefit from your hard-earned tax dollars.
Who besides Mr. Hibma and his wealthy friends benefit? Fishermen? Nope. I’ve never met a fisherman who couldn’t find a quiet place to fish, and do you really think that more luxury boats crowding up the river and pouring their pollution into the river will help the fish? Canoers and kayakers? I doubt it. There are plenty of places for them to access the river, and do you really think that they want the peace and quiet of their paddles interrupted by the multi-million-dollar boats? How about those who enjoy a peaceful hike along the river or those who enjoy living along the river? Do you really think they want the noise, pollution and wakes those big boats will create?
I am having a hard time seeing who benefits besides Meekhof, Hibma and their rich friends.
Those Republicans now representing us (Lilly and Victory) are depending on our apathy and ignorance so they can continue the Republican-led race to the bottom. So, the question for each of us is — Are we going to let them continue to drive Michigan to the bottom? Or is it time to take back this once-great state to its previous status?
To rephrase the initial quote, “Our ignorance on corruption is their power”: Let’s do what we can to educate ourselves and be willing to call out those who are supposed to represent us if they continue to fail to do what is best for our state and its future.
— By Mark Smith, Tribune community columnist