Thursday, July 28, 2005

Profiles Without Courage

I'm in the Amen corner today. The first article on today's Google "school funding michigan" alert was an editorial by Jack Lessenberry from the 7/27 Detroit Metro Times. He says what I've been wanting to say, only better. Here it is:

Profiles Without Courage
Normally, I have absolutely no patience with immature all-or-nothing liberals who, when they aren’t totally pleased with a candidate who has a chance to win, sulk or sabotage the process, causing us to get, well, George W. Bush.

That’s exactly what happened five years ago, as all the world knows. We wouldn’t have this senseless war, the coming economic crisis or the very real threat to our civil liberties had it not been for 97,000 fools in Florida who signed on for Ralph Nader’s ego-trip campaign in 2000.

Having said that, there are exceptions that prove the rule, and we have one now. What our state desperately needs is someone of principle to come forward and give Jennifer Granholm a strong challenge in next year’s Democratic primary — and if that doesn’t work, to run an independent campaign.

Why? Sadly, Granholm is the most weak-kneed governor this state has had in modern times. Michigan is falling apart and losing its ability to compete in the economy of the future. We have only a short time to make the moves that will allow us to stay competitive. And she just doesn’t get it — or more likely, is totally unwilling to make any hard decision that might endanger her re-election.

Those in the know largely agree on what needs to be done to make Michigan competitive again. Most of all, they agree we must pour far more resources into higher education. Granholm herself established a special commission on this problem, led by her lieutenant governor, John Cherry.

The top experts in the state were rounded up, investigations were made, hearings were held, and earlier this year they produced one of the best reports of its kind that I’ve ever read. Michigan is suffering, it concluded, from “an education achievement gap” with nearby competing states.

Too few young people are earning college degrees, or completing any other kind of post-high school training, something that now is the bare minimum for any kind of successful life and career. Without a highly educated workforce, nobody is going to want to locate the Silicon Valleys of the future here.

The Cherry Commission concluded that we need to make higher education universal, double the number of people earning bachelor’s degrees in a decade, and do everything we can to better prepare high school students.

But that would take money. Trouble is, state government doesn’t have any. The outgoing right-wing Republican governor, and a term-limited Legislature that apparently felt no need to behave responsibly, left us an appalling “gift.” They designed the process so that every year, the state will end up with a billion-dollar deficit, meaning that the books have to be balanced at the last minute by a series of budget cuts and other maneuvers. Most of the money the state spends cannot be touched, due to contracts and other legal reasons.

So every year that Granholm has been governor, higher education has taken a hit. Sometimes she’s promised not to cut education further, and then has come back and cut it again.

What’s clear is that more money is needed. And that means raising taxes.

That’s right. Frankly, we’ve all been sold a false bill of goods about taxes. Nobody wants to pay more. Nobody has enough money to suit them. Yet taxes are not evil. They’re the price of admission to a civilized society, one that has roads and clean water and firemen and toilets.

And schools. Even if you don’t have children, you have a strong interest in funding the universities, which will educate the doctors who will hopefully cure you someday when you are hacking up phlegm.

The governor should go on TV and make that case to all the citizens of Michigan. Yet she hasn’t. Her supporters might say that’s because the Legislature is controlled by right-wing Republican ideologues.

For that reason, they say any bill raising more revenue would be dead on arrival. Maybe so. Nevertheless, she owes it to our state and our futures and the people who elected her to stand up for something that is so clearly right.

Sadly, she’s incapable of it. What did she do instead? Last week, she attacked, not the conservatives who have brought us to this pass, but the state’s major universities themselves. Why? After years of enduring her budget cuts, they were forced to announce huge hikes in tuition.

That’s not a good thing. Wayne State University was the highest — tuition will go up nearly 19 percent. That means a college junior will pay $140 more for one four-credit course this fall than last winter. Most state schools had smaller, but significant increases. This will price some of my students out of a future.

Jennifer Granholm, a Canadian by birth who went to Harvard Law School, hypocritically attacked Michigan colleges for erecting “financial barriers” to the poor students.

“We all know the state has cut funding, but the state has cut funding everywhere,” she said, something that is not strictly true. “I would ask that the boards and university regents reconsider how much they are raising tuition on the backs of the students.”

Did she offer any plan to help the schools? Did she pledge to fight for more money for them if they held the line on tuition? What do you think?

This is a politician who pledged never to allow mourning doves to be hunted — and then signed legislation permitting just that.

Even some Republicans get it. As state Sen. Michael Goschka — who chairs the higher education budget committee — noted, the govenor “cut university funding and now she’s lamenting tuition increases? Part of the reason for the tuition increases is because higher education hasn’t been a priority for her.”

The real problem is that courageously tackling the issues this state faces hasn’t been a priority for her. All that seems to matter is her own re-election. But it’s time for all progressives to ask why that should matter to us.

And the thought that Dick DeVos, Granholm’s apparent Republican opponent next year, might be worse is no longer a sufficient reason.

What’s badly needed now is someone who represents, in words Howard Dean once stole from Paul Wellstone, “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” someone who is willing to take on the special interests and fight for what should be done if this state has any hope of a bright future.

Even if a candidate like that lost the primary, they’d have made a record, and reminded us what leadership is supposed to be about.

Speaking of courage: Jerry Buckley was one Detroiter who had it, big-time. Often referred to as America’s first broadcast investigative reporter, he was Detroit’s biggest radio name in 1930, and used the airwaves to attack corruption.

Vastly ahead of his time, he successfully led an effort to get a newly elected mayor recalled for ties to organized crime. On the night of the recall, three gunmen assassinated the crusader in a downtown hotel lobby. The murderers, believed to be tied to the Licavoli crime family, were never convicted.

Citizen outrage at his death helped clean up the town — for a while. Pat Clawson, a former NBC reporter who now lives in Flint, thinks more of Buckley’s spirit is needed today. So he’s starting the Jerry Buckley Society Inc., to act as an independent, nonpartisan watchdog group to help expose corruption, promote accountability in government and get citizens involved. Interested? E-mail Pat at, and say Jerry sent you.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dogs Blog

A surprising number of animals blog.
Here is Ali, the Greatest Boxer of Them All.

I have successfully steered the discussion on from the naked calendar to school funding. Hopefully I can open some eyes to what's going on.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Folding T-shirts, The Dark Side

We saved the T-shirt folding job for the end of the night because the sideshow began at 10 o'clock when the hookers punched in. They would start walking the street in their high heels and miniskirts, the same women, every night.

Every once in a while there would be a new group of girls show up, from the Mainland. Some of them were quite young and pretty, but after a few months they would have the same hard, hungry look as the rest. This was in 1987, when it was just dawning on the world that AIDS was more than a gay disease. There was one woman on the street who was truly ahead of her time. She was handing out free condoms to the hookers and telling them about disease. She was referred to as "The Rubbermaid". I once saw a rookie cop trying to arrest The Rubbermaid as the actual hookers scattered unnoticed. Our store manager had to go tell him to leave her alone.

I used to have to park a number of blocks away, in the public parking places along the Ala Wai Canal. I would get out of work at 11:30 or midnight and walk back to my car. I had junker cars, with doors that didn't lock, but in Hawaii old cars quickly become infested with large cockroaches. I would pound on the car before I opened it, the cockroaches would scatter, and I would get in and drive home. I never worried about the proverbial bad guy lurking in the back seat because I figured that he would get tired of cockroaches crawling all over him and leave before I punched out.

One night I was walking back to my car on Kuhio St. when I found myself overtaking a couple arguing. The girl, quite young, was wearing high heels and a halter top, but she was slouched over with her arms crossed over her chest, crying. The guy was arguing, pleading, cajoling, threatening, doing whatever he could think of to get her to stand up straight, strut her stuff, and make him some money. I wanted to say something, to do something, to help this girl and tell her she didn't have to become a hooker. Sadly, I couldn't think of what to say, how to protect myself from this guy if he got mad, what to do with this girl if I actually got her to leave him and come with me. Looking back, I seem gutless. But at the time I had a baby at home and must have been pregnant with another, hardly the situation where you can suddenly put yourself at risk for a stranger. In the end, I just passed them by.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Folding T-shirts

Here's a link to a video demonstration on how to fold a t-shirt. The commentary and captions are Japanese. I don't know who posted it on the web, or why, but it's a nifty way to fold.

I used to work at the gift shop in the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. We had a huge table of t-shirts at the front of the store, almost on the sidewalk. Every night before closing at 11 pm we would have to fold every t-shirt and sort them by size. Back then (the late '80's) most of our clientele was Japanese and most of the staff was nisei, born in the US of Japanese born parents. My coworkers were convinced that everything done the Japanese way was superior and they spent hours trying to reteach me similar things like how to wrap a gift. Still I don't remember this particular method of folding shirts, even though it is a superior method.

Could there have been, somewhere in the world, a quiet revolution in laundry folding techniques?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

And More Leland Naked Gardener

Mike Hartigan was hoping that the Naked Gardener controversy would just quietly fade away. Instead the story was picked up by the Detroit Free Press and was then picked up across the country.

Almost all of the people looking at my blog yesterday got here from web searches on Leland+naked+gardener. So here is a little background on the story.

First of all, Leland Public School is a great school. My oldest daughter, Shelagh, graduated from Leland this year (read her Valedictorian Speech here). Liz, my second daughter will graduate next year and Anna will start 4th grade. It is a small school, about 450 students total in grades K-12. Shelagh's graduating class was 28 kids. The school staff has very little turnover, in fact Mike Hartigan was the principal when Shelagh started kindergarten, and most of Anna's teachers were also Shelagh and Liz's teachers ten years before.

In a typical high school there are a handful of kids trying to claw their way to the top of the class. At Leland I see the kids at the top of the class constantly reaching down to pull the others up. This goes all the way back to 5th and 6th grade, where the kids are taught about learning styles and study strategies, strategies that were originally developed for the "learning disabled", but that can make studying more efficient for everyone. In middle school there were tons of group projects. These were sometimes much more work that just doing it alone, but the kids learned, eventually, how to work with other people, even the ones you don't really like. Not only does the school produce some stellar scholars, exceptional school-wide scores on standardized tests, but we have had a 0% dropout rate for many years.

But Leland Public School is in Michigan, and Michigan is starving its public schools. In 1992, Michigan voters agreed via Proposal A to move from local property tax based school funding to a system where portions of the state's income tax, property taxes, and a 2% hike in the state sales tax would be earmarked for the state's school aid fund, the source of all public schools' operating budgets. The system worked for a while, but as a tax-cutting fervor overtook the state government in the late 1990s, the underpinnings of the new school funding plan were seriously eroded.

Thanks to our amazing community support, Leland School has been able to largely insulate our student population from the effects of rising costs and inadequate state funding. But insulating the kids also means insulating the parents. I first wrote of this during our regional Odyssey of the Mind competition. As dry as school funding reading is, it is just as important, if not more so, than showing up at every school event to cheer our kids on.

I found our state legislators, the people who are actually responsible for making sure our schools are funded, to be just as oblivious. My first letter to my State Senator Michelle McManus went unacknowledged, as did a phone message that I left on her answering machine. My second letter also went unanswered until I confronted her at the 4th of July parade, where she was scheduled to march directly behind the "Naked Gardener" float. Finally I got a response, but it is a far cry from the commitment to action that I was hoping for.

Meanwhile the Naked Gardener Calendar had been featured on the front page of the Leelanau Enterprise, the first time most of us had heard of it. It turns out that nude calendars are a popular (and lucrative) fundraiser across the US and in England. The controversy around our calendar is centered on Mike Hartigan, our school superintendent, even though a current school board member and two former school board members also posed.

There have been a lot of letters to the editor about the calendar and a heated online discussion. The whole thing has been an eye opener for kids like my Shelagh, who attends church of her own volition and had never understood the reason for the separation of church and state. She had never before seen the ugly side of the vocal minority attempting to impose their narrow view of morality on rest of us.

It was the students who were most fervent in their support of Mr. Hartigan. They respect him as a good and honorable man, and they have a new respect for his humility and sense of humor. As uncomfortable as most teenagers are with their bodies, posing naked is a feat that they are in awe of. Taking the flak without complaint is also awesome. But the teens don't understand a good deal of the ruckus. They say: "It's only pornography if someone likes looking at it."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Still More Naked Gardener

The Naked Gardener Calendar continues to cause a stir. Sunday's
article in the Traverse City Record Eagle was well written and balanced. According to the article, the first printing of the calendar has sold out, 500 copies at 20 dollars each. Not so balanced was the rumor yesterday that the pastor of the Lutheran church was bringing a petition to the school board meeting demanding that Mike Hartigan be punished for appearing in the calendar.

Oddly enough, I was at the 4-H office when I heard about the petition, checking on the progress of Leelanau County 4-H's main fundraiser, a plat book that sells for $28. Our plat book is a series of maps that detail the property lines and who owns what throughout the county. It is used by people interested in real estate, hunters and fishermen, farmers, and the generally curious. It is expensive to produce and has generated some vociferous complaints from people who disagree with how their property lines are portrayed. We started selling our latest printing of 1000 in April and we had sold 538 of them as of yesterday. I will be very happy if we sell out in a year; selling out in a matter of weeks is unthinkable.

I had a 4-H board meeting last night, but Liz went to the school board meeting as our family's representative. She reports that the high school library was filled and that the most of the people there wore yellow nametags that read "I Support Mike", that were made by a member of the class of 2003 and distributed by his mom. When I dropped Liz off I saw all kinds of people walking into school. Most of the faculty was there, many students, parents, and graduates.

Two people spoke against the calendar, but most of the meeting was, in fact, a "kind tribute to our superintendent" as one mom told me later. Mike Hartigan did offer an apology to anyone who was offended by the calendar. The threatened petition never materialized. One of the people who spoke out against the calendar in the first comment session spoke about what a good job Mr. Hartigan was doing in the second comment session.

Liz was confused by that, but I understand perfectly. None of these people are bad people, and almost everyone supports public schools and expects them to be adequately funded. It is totally possible to come out to a school board meeting alarmed about a calendar and come back home even more alarmed to find out that the tax dollars you had thought were paying for your local school are disappearing to who knows where.

People around here are polite. Although they came to speak about the calendar, they stayed to hear about the four new textbooks that our district will purchased this year, about the addition of a JV soccer team, and about how our intermediate school district's fund balance is growing even as the individual school districts are coming up short. It is hard to vilify the school board as you see them in action, trying to use our limited resources make the best choices for our kids. The Naked Gardener produced one of the best attended school board meetings in history, and that may be its crowning achievement.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Letter to the Editor

To be honest, I didn't know what to think about the Naked Gardener Calendar when I first heard about it. I didn't want to think about our school superintendent in the buff any more than my kids did.

After a while I started to think about the big picture. The reckless Republicans would like to convince us that nothing is worse than having to pay taxes. We are engaged in a game of Chicken. First they cut taxes, citing "waste in government" then when the coffers run dry they start to cut funding for services that we love and depend on, trying to see how much they can get away with.

Schools have to be funded somehow. Which is worse, paying taxes or seeing your friends and neighbors posing nude in a calendar?

Anyway, here is my letter to the Leelanau Enterprise, which ran this week:
Michigan’s current school funding crisis mystifies me. After all, didn’t the voters approve Proposal A, agreeing to an increased sales tax and the non-homestead property tax so that Michigan’s public schools would have a secure funding base?

My search for the reasons for this crisis found two opposing theories. One, put forth by the people at, outlines over 70 changes to the tax codes that underlie Proposal A. This puts the responsibility for restoring the School Aid Fund directly on the state legislature, whose actions precipitated the crisis.

The other camp, exemplified by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy president Lawrence W. Reed, claims the problem is school boards and school administrators and their “tired, old ways of business-as-usual.”

Last week’s Enterprise put the second theory to rest. First we have Glen Lake and Suttons Bay exploring the possibility of sharing a superintendent. This is not “business as usual”. Then we have Mike Hartigan willing to give the shirt off his back –heck, the trousers off his legs! —to make sure that his school is able to fund the extra things that make our school outstanding. This is not “business as usual” and Mike does not look “tired”.

Aren’t we “out of the box” yet? It is time for each of us to write our state legislators and tell them to stop making excuses and start working on a plan. Make Proposal A work the way it was envisioned, to adequately fund all of Michigan’s public schools.

(Lawrence W Reed’s quote can be verified at Thank you for considering my letter for publication.)

Susan Och
51 S French Road
Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Some Hope for the School Aid Fund

Anna at our home beach, down the road at Schneider Beach on Lake Leelanau.

One of the excuses for delaying action on Michigan's School funding is to blame the problem on the state's weak economy. The school aid fund is partially fed by sales tax revenues and when people spend less they contribute less in the way of sales taxes. However, acknowledging that a weak economy has helped get us here is not the same as saying it is the only thing that got us here, or that we need to wait to act until the economy improves.

Education jobs are jobs. People employed in schools in Michigan generally spend their paychecks in Michigan. Our state is more than willing to subsidize manufacturing jobs with tax breaks. If we have to lay teachers off to give those tax breaks, then the economy has not gained an inch but education has suffered. How much better would it be to pump tax money into education, reviving the economy in the short run and creating , in the long term, the sort of highly educated workforce that will attract the high tech industries of the future.

Another aspect of the emerging high tech economy is cause for some hope. Sales tax revenues have been falling in recent years because more business is being done through internet and mail order sales, where sales tax is not collected. Last week Michigan joined 17 other states in establishing a network for collection of sales tax on internet transactions. While there is no Silver Bullet for school aid reform , it is a hopeful step in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Anna Paints a Picture

Anna paints a picture

Anna created this picture using the Paint program. This is a test to see if I can import Paint documents as pictures.

I often make real pizza by using my basic bread recipe but using at least half white flour. The recipe makes about four pizzas with enough dough left over to make a loaf of bread for tomorrow's breakfast. Tomorrow's lunch is always leftover pizza.

I have one of those pizza stones but I never used it much until I bought a pizza paddle from a school fundraiser. I sprinkle corn meal on the paddle, roll out the dough on my table, then put the dough on the cornmeal covered paddle and put the toppings on. The pizza stone is already in the oven while the oven preheats to about 425 degrees. I put the toppings on the dough while it is on the paddle, then slide the whole pizza off onto the hot stone. That part is tricky; you have to give it a little jerk to make it slide.If you've skipped the cormeal you are sunk. You just have to roll it up, bake it at a lower temperature and try to pass it off as a calzone. The pizza won't be perfectly round, but nobody seems to care. I take the pizza out of the oven by sliding a flat cookie sheet under it.

Toppings are whatever we have. With a good crust you can enjoy somewhat sparser toppings. Pesto (frozen from the summer) and provolone cheese were last winter's favorite.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Another weekend, another poker tournament. On Saturday night I didn't get out until 3 am and then my car (the '90 Horizon) wouldn't start. It felt like the work day that wouldn't end.

This is just a quick post since I have dirty dishes and laundry backed up and I'm too tired to think, anyway. I want to reprint something from Patriot Boy that I thought was hilarious:

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Faith-based manufacturing

Neal Wade

Alabama Development Office

Dear Mr. Wade,

Have you read what Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said recently while visiting the French in Ontario? Here it is in case you missed it:

[Watanabe] said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

We have to do something about that. No, I'm not saying that we should raise taxes to fund public schools--I hate communism. Homeschooling and Christian schools are giving our children a fine Christ-based education. We don't need any fancy ciphering or reading knowledge beyond what's required to read the Bible and neither does Toyota. We just need to educate a few CEOs.

Perhaps the Alabama Development Office could pilot a demonstration Intelligent Design automobile manufacturing plant. Just bring in a few raw materials, say a prayer, and wait for God to put it all together.Please consider it. By investing now in faith-based manufacturing, Alabama could become the leader in implementing modern conservative values.

Heterosexually yours,Gen. JC Christian, patriot

I thought it was funny. I was also amused to see that after my last post my sitemeter went crazy and started registering 25 hits per hour. I think it might have been the phrase "wonder of a naked man" in the first few lines. Unfortunatley none of those people hung around long enough to learn about the school funding crisis.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Finally a Follow-up

The online mayhem about the Naked Gardener continues. Liz and I enjoyed joking about the watering can being "the wonder of the nude male body". Everytime the cat tried to drink out of it Liz would shreik "Mom, the cat is discovering the wonder of the male body!" and "Lily, you loose cat!", paraphrasing a line from Honk!

I finally got an answer from Michelle McManus. It is not very edifying. In fact the third paragraph contradicts the fourth paragraph (School funding stayed the same from 1995 to 1999 which is not the same as "a steady yearly increase"). Any way, here it is:
Dear Susan:

Thank you for contacting me recently concerning education funding in Michigan. I appreciated hearing from you again on this important issue.

As you know, the State of Michigan is once again facing a large budget shortfall. We in the Legislature will face many difficult decisions as we seek to balance the State’s budget and ensure we maintain a fiscally responsible state government. We must reach innovative solutions to deal with the situation. As you are aware, a significant portion of education funding comes from sales tax. Therefore, it is essential we improve Michigan's economy so more resources are available for education.

In facing a budget shortfall, there has been much discussion about the funding of Michigan schools. I have even heard it mis-stated that, "Education funding is at an all time low." In fact, education funding is at an all time high in our state. In Fiscal Year 1994-95, following the passage of Proposal A, education funding increased by 102.35%. Since that time we have seen a steady yearly increase in funding to schools in excess of inflation.

Section 20(j) was added to the State School Aid Act in 1999 and provided a supplemental payment to "out of formula" districts, those receiving higher than the base state foundation grant as a result of the provisions of Proposal A. In 1999, the state increased the base grant from $6,300 per student to $6,500 per student. Under the statute prior to the adoption of Section 20(j), those out of formula districts would receive no funding increase, thus 20(j) was introduced to address this situation.

While Proposal A has done much to increase funding for those districts that had the least, there is still much that can be done to reach a higher degree of equity between districts. None the less, I feel that Proposal A has proven itself to be a champion to Michigan Schools, despite any financial challenges we currently face.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to visit for further information on education funding.

Once again, thank you for writing. If I can be of future assistance in any matter involving state government, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Michelle A. McManus
State Senator-35th District

She didn't promise to take a leadership role, or to do anything, for that matter.

I'm starting to see some hopeful signs on the school funding front, and I'll try to write sbout them in the next few days. Today I'm spending my last hour before work at the beach.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fourth of July

George Firestone Grosvenor's descendants honor him with a float in Leland's 4th of July parade.

The fourth fell on a Monday this year, one of my regular days off. We had a poker tournamenton the weekend so I ended up working 12+ hour days on Saturday and Sunday. By Monday I was whipped, but I had a job to do. Every year in Leland's 4th of July parade our State Senator marches down the street accompanied by a truck bearing her campaign logo. Never mind that she's not running for anything. Never mind that she can't run for Senator again due to the very same term limit laws that got her into office. Every year she marches down the street making sure to stop and shake my hand.

If you've been reading my blog a while you've seen me send a couple of letters to my state senator about school funding. You've also heard me mention that she never has responded to my letters, not even a "thank you for your concern" form letter. I have refrained from mentioning the phone message, also unreturned, that I left on her answering machine during business hours. I have also not mentioned going to an open house with our school board president and trying to discuss the school funding crisis with her then. She refused to acknowledge that there was a problem, telling me that our schools were getting plenty of money, the school aid fund was flush, and that Proposal A hadn't been tweaked, etc. She even told me that the federal government was giving our school extra money to cover the cost of complying with No Child Left Behind (we don't). There was more "I'll get back to you" at the end of that encounter, but nothing ever came of it.

So I had a problem. How could I shake this woman's hand during the parade if she wouldn't even acknowledge my letters on any other day? Just refusing to shake her hand would seem petty. Disrupting the 4th of July parade would be satisfying, but probably not productive.

I settled on a plan. I would print out my latest letter and give it to her before the parade. While I was at it I printed out The End of the Rainbow , a New York Times op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman detailing how Ireland sparked an economic recovery by investing in education. One of the excuses to avoid talking about school funding has been that we have to wait for Michigan's economy to improve, as if good times are right around the corner. In reality, Michigan's auto industry will never be what it used to be and simply cutting taxes for the sake of cutting taxes has not attracted new industry to the state. Dell's president, explaining why he was attracted to Ireland said:
"What attracted us? [A] well-educated work force - and good universities close by. [Also,] Ireland has an industrial and tax policy which is consistently very supportive of businesses, independent of which political party is in power. I believe this is because there are enough people who remember the very bad times to de-politicize economic development. [Ireland also has] very good transportation and logistics and a good location - easy to move products to major markets in Europe quickly."

Finally, added Mr. Dell, "they're competitive, want to succeed, hungry and know how to win. ... Our factory is in Limerick, but we also have several thousand sales and technical people outside of Dublin. The talent in Ireland has proven to be a wonderful resource for us. ...
Taxes are a part of the equation, but an educated populace is a much bigger part. How to put the horse back in front of the cart and start talking about education first, i.e. now?

I would be easy to find my state senator, as the parade staging area is just north of my parents' condo, on a bunch of side streets that have float numbers permanently marked on the asphalt so that every knows where to wait. I found her truck, but she was off wandering so I took some time to talk to Dee Glass on the "Naked Gardener" float directly in front.

"Naked Gardener" is a brand new fundraiser for our school's educational gardens. Our school sits on a small plot of land but we have maximized what we have by planting various prnamental and educational gardens. The is a Michigan Bog garden outside of the science rooms and the lower elementary has been working on their own "Very Hungry Caterpillar" garden. The retaining wall outside of the Performing Arts Center is graced by a traditional perennial garden and the kids are prevented from running out into the street by a bed of roses outside the big double doors of the lower elemntary wing. There is no money in the school budget for this sort of thing; the gardens were planted and are maintained by a force of volunteers headed up by Dee Glass, who Liz characterizes as "Everyone's Grandma". Dee also heads up the fundraising for our school's gardens, holding bulb sales, a smelt dinner, and now producing a calendar.

I had first heard of the calendar in last week's Leelanau Enterprise. The timing was perfect. I had just read an editorial from The Mackinac Center for Public Policy blaming school finance problems not on lack of funding, but on school boards and school administrators.

As Mackinac Center President Lawrence W. Reed noted in his January speech "Michigan at the Crossroads": "In the schools, we don’t have a funding crisis so much as we have a management crisis. And it’s not Proposal A that needs to be tweaked. What needs to be changed are tired, old ways of business-as-usual."

Th front page of last week's Enterprise featured two articles about local school districts. The first one described an attempt by the Glen Lake and Suttons Bay school districts to see if it is feasible to share superintendents. Next to it was a picture of Leland's school superintendent, Mike Hartigan, wearing only a yellow raincoat and holding a strategically placed watering can.

The Naked Gardener Calendar is patterned after a famous British fundraiser where well-aged society women posed nude for a calendar to raise money for a cancer ward. Leland's calendar features area business owners, a winemaker, a charter boat captain, a film producer, the dog catcher, a county commissioner, and of course a landscape architect.

Mr Hartigan posing nude on the front page of the Enterprise! This was not "business as usual", and he didn't look particularly "tired", either. I said as much to Dee Glass as I waited by her float (A farm trailer completely draped with potted petunias and one of those naked cherub statues standing in the middle.) Dee gave me an unexpected hug as she explained that she had been taking a lot of flak about the calendar.

Finally I caught sight of my state senator. I buttonholed her in front of a busload of senior citizens waiting with the windows open and asked her why she didn't acknowledge my mail or return my call. She didn't have much to say, of course. I told her that while she was waiting to get going on this issue other people were putting forth bills that may work for downstate schools but did not suit the needs of her rural constituents. She said not to worry, because nothing will be actually passed before another legislative season goes by. I said, I DO worry, our schools need help now!

So she decided to give me her home phone number and we walked back to her truck, past Dee Glass's "Naked Gardener" float. Michelle sniffed and said "I don't know what to think about that!" I told her that some say the whole problem is school administrators who are afraid to "think out of the box", and that I was glad that MY school superintendent was willing to go beyond "business-as-usual". I also mentioned the efforts to share a superintendent between Suttons Bay and Glen Lake. She claimed to be "working closely" with them on that enterprise.

So I said goodbye and went to watch the parade.

The parade was great. Garrison Keillor said of Lake Wobegon's parade: "It goes around twice, once so you can watch and once so you can be in it. Everyone just trades places." Lelanders can't do that because we only have one bridge over the river so we take turns year by year. Anna couldn't decide whether to wear her OM shirt and sell water of wear her ball uniform an march in the parade. Her friend Will just did both. Two of the water selling kids took off without saying where they were going so I ended up walking the whole seven block parade route to find them. It was kind of my own parade, as I stopped to chat with half the people I know and a few I don't know. The real parade started with the Coast Guard helicopter and featured fire trucks, old cars, a Rosie the Riveter float, a giant fiberglass milk cow, a colonial family with minutemen, horses, a goat that kicked, and a tiny brass band. I finally got back to the condo and set up my lawn chair as the parade ended so I sat and watched everyone walk back home again.