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March 23, 2010 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-03-23

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4 - Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109




"I know this wasn't an easy vote for a lot of
people, but it was the right vote:'
-.President Barack Obama, commenting on the recent health care bill passed by
the U.S. House of Representatives, as reported yesterday by CNN.
Tax breaks for felons

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Land bank oes bankrupt
County must restart project to revitalize blighted property
T he FDIC won't be involved in the failure of one Washt-
enaw County bank. This bank didn't deal in cash - it dealt
in acres. In July of 2009, facing a wave of foreclosures that
started in 2007, the Washtenaw County commissioners created the
Washtenaw County Land Bank. The county-run land bank could
have helped to eliminate urban blight and put vacant property to
good use for the community. Unfortunately, Washtenaw County
abandoned this promising program before its benefits could be
realized, citing insufficient funding and differences between offi-
cials in charge. But county officials shouldn't have given up so eas-
ily - they should renew their efforts to find funding for the land

Since 2000, Michigan has lost
more jobs than any other state.
Accordingly, residents of the
Great Lakes State should be fairly
skeptical of any
government plans -
for economic
recovery and job
creation. But last
week, the folks"
over at the Michi-
gan Economic
Development Cor- '
poration almost -
set into motionR
the most glaringly ROBERT
stupid job creation SOAVE
plan in history._
The MEDC is
a state agency that heaps tax credits
onto select individuals, businesses
and industries - whomever it thinks
is going to rescue the state econo-
my. According to a Mar. 18 report in
The Detroit Free Press, a supposed
businessman named Richard Short
appeared with Gov. Jennifer Gran-
holm on Mar. 16 to commemorate the
$9.1 million in tax breaks he was set
to receive from the MEDC. Short had
pledged to start a renewable ener-
gy business and hire 765 people in
exchange for the money.
By the next day, authorities had
learned that Short was a convicted
felon who has served six years in
prison for embezzlement and loan
fraud. In fact, he still owes $96,000.
It turns out that this information was
available ina news article that readily
appeared on a simple Google search
of the man's name. This means that
the MEDC doesn't run even the sim-
plest of background checks before it
hands out generous tax credits at the
expense of small businesses. By way
of apology, MEDC President Greg
Main promised that the agency would
definitely do background checks from
now on. Yeah, thanks, groan the tax-
payers who fund Main's salary.
Only a government agency could
be incompetent enough to neglect

bank and restart this valuable prc
The recently-dissolved Washtenaw Coun-
ty Land Bank authority was modeled after
the nationally-lauded land bank in Genesee
County. The Wastenaw County Land Bank
was intended to acquire properties, deter-
mine the best use of each property and then
sell the property to a private owner. The
establishment of the bank occurred just in
time to qualify it for $300,000 in federal
stimulus funds, which were meant to serve
as start-up capital for the project. The land
bank was intended to become self-sustaining.
On Mar. 17, the Washtenaw County Board of
Commissioners voted to dissolve the land
bank. According to a Mar. 18 AnnArbor.com
report, commissioners said that the author-
ity's failure to presenta clear strategy, as well
as a lack of funding, led to their decision.
It's unfortunate that the land bank was
dissolved before it could make any real
progress. The land bank could have given
Washtenaw County the face-lift it needs to
restart the floundering real estate market
here and to increase the prosperity of the
county. Rundown homes decrease the value
of surrounding properties. Sprucing up
deteriorating properties would have helped
increase community property values.
And the foreclosed land available to the
land bank could have been used for a num-
ber of important projects. The properties

background checks. As anyone who
has applied for a real job or intern-
ship knows, most competently run
businesses conduct them. I spent
two summers working for Com-
cast, and I underwent a background
check and drug test both times. As
college students, we expect prospec-
tive employers to be looking for us
on the Internet. That's why underage
students who post pictures of them-
selves drinking on Facebook have
to change their privacy settings. It's
completely unacceptable that the
MEDC wouldn't spend 30 seconds
investigating the potential recipients
of tax breaks.
But there actually may be a surprise
winner in this debacle - the car rental
businesses. As the Short scandal hit,
the state legislature was cooking up
a $13 million tax on car rentals at air-
ports. The tax was intended to fund an
expansionofPure Michigan, an MEDC
money-wasting project that runs
advertisements in other states in hopes
of attracting tourists here. But with
the MEDC's actions under increased
scrutiny, the state legislature will have
more trouble justifying funneling tax
money to it.
While this scandal will hopefully
lead to improvements in the MEDC's
operating procedures, what won't be
on the table - but definitely should be
- is shuttingit down entirely. Agencies
like the MEDC only move money and
jobs around, dooming at least one job or
business for each one they create.
The Pure Michigan ads are a good
example of this. Sure, maybe someone
in the country will see the ads and
decide to vacation in Michigan. That
person will come here and consume,
creating the jobs and businesses nec-
essary to facilitate this increased
consumption. Indeed, if the state had
a magic money box that never ran out
of cash, it could keep pumping money
into the ads and endlessly improve
the economy.
Unfortunately, that magic money
box is funded by Michigan taxpayers

and small businesses. In this case, the
rental car industry, which essentially
pays for the ads, would take a hit pro-
portional to the amount that the Pure
Michigan ads were helping. The car
rental industry would have to respond
to new taxes by increasing rates, firing
employees, closing locations, etc. The
tourist would return to his state and
tell his friends that, you know, Michi-
gan is nice and everything, but next
time, he's picking a place where the
rental cars are less expensive or more
easily available. So for every dollar that
was spent helping the tourism indus-
try, the industries that paid for the ads
suffered, less consuming occurred,
jobs were lost and businesses shrunk.
Saving small
businesses iskeyto
saving Michigan.
But it gets even worse. Since the
government doesn't have to worry
about running out of money - it could
alwaysgenerate more funding through
taxes - it can't spend as wisely as
private entities. The MEDC is more
likely than the taxpayers toput money
toward frivolous endeavors, waste it,
give it away to convicted felons, etc.
Every dollar that the MEDC spends
would have been put to better use if
left in the hands of the business from
which it was taken.
No state agency can fix Michigan's
economy by handicapping certain
industries in order to help others. The
government should replace selective
tax credits with an across-the-board
tax cut for small businesses, which
would give more power to the people
who actually know what they're doing.
- Robert Soave was the Daily's
editorial page editor in 2009. He can
be reached at rsoave@umich.edu.

would have been sold specifically to benefit
the community as a whole, like low-income
housing, environmentally-friendly offices
and other beneficial projects. Without the
land bank, there is no way to ensure that
developments will benefitthe city as a whole
- if they happen at all.
Admittedly, the authority didn't receive
a $5 million Neighborhood Stabilization
grant from the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development - that's a legiti-
mate stumbling block. But it's upsetting
that county officials simply gave up after
encountering this obstacle. They should
have redoubled their efforts to find alterna-
tive funding for the project.
And it's even more upsetting that county
officials couldn't work together to create
a solid plan for the bank. With an effec-
tive example like the Genesee County Land
Bank to follow, it's unacceptable that county
officials are unable to come to an agreement
about the details of the bank. They dropped
the ball. And now Washtenaw County resi-
dents will pay the price.
The land bank could have been a valu-
able resource for the county, and it shouldn't
have been abandoned so quickly. County
officials should work together to find a mid-
dle ground and the funding needed to resur-
rect the land bank.

Nina Amilineni, Jordan Birnholtz, William Butler, Nicholas Clift,
Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Emily Orley,
Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Robert Soave,
Radhika Upadhyaya, Laura Veith



Your Michigan
You pay $7.19 a semester for University-wide
student government. The Michigan Vision Party
believes that your student government should listen
to your ideas and your vision and deliver for you. MVP
believes that MSA should deliver real, tangible results
rather than lofty, unrealistic rhetoric. That's why
we have worked to make MSA a body where student
visions are realized.
After beingelected into office last year, MVP repre-
sentatives delivered on many of the visions we heard
from you. MVP representatives led Go Blue, Beat
OSU Week, the "Block M" at Michigan Stadium, MSA
Mondays (with free bagels and coffee), this month's
all-campus concert (featuring Wale, Big Sean and the
Clipse) and the Campus Leadership Colloquium for
student organization leaders. We increased student
organization funding by 17 percent, helped to draft
the new all-campus constitution (which will make
student government more effective and efficient),
encouraged professors to post course syllabi early in
registration and reformed MSA meetings to ensure
that only student issues are addressed. We know how
to move MSA forward. We're proud of our record and
the progress we've made in MSA.
While we've made progress, there have been set-
backs. The website fiasco clearly stands out as a major
failure. Though setbacks occur when we try to make
progress, they present new opportunities to improve.
We see this as an opportunity to make MSA more
transparent and accountable through reevaluating
how money is disbursed from the executive board.
But we're not here to dwell on the past. Rather than
looking backwards, we're ready to present a vision to
move MSA forward.
We want MSA to continue to put on events for
the student body. Students have told us that they
want more pep rallies and concerts. Our vision is to
have pep rallies before major football games, before
December's Big Chill at the Big House, and even to
have pep rallies for smaller sports that don't usually
get much attention. Building off what we've learned
in planning this month's MSA and Big Ticket Produc-
tions Concert, we'd like MSA to continue collaborat-
ing with other student organizations to put on big
events. We'd love to try to bring in a big name artist
who appeals to a wide range of the campus commu-
nity. We also want to continue to provide the popular
Airbus airport service, which is currently at risk due
to staffing changes.
We want to increase communication between MSA
and students. Very few people know what MSA does,
and students deserve to know what their government
is doing and where their money is beingspent. By tak-
ing action like installing bulletin boards in residence

Vision for MSA
halls and academic buildings, we can bridge the gap
between students and MSA. We'd also like to make
executives and representatives more accessible.
Building off the success of MSA Mondays, we
want to bring better Office Hours to students. We'd
also like to create an MSA Live Online Help Desk, an'
instant messaging/Gchat account managed by execs
and reps to answer questions from students. We have
a large, decentralized campus that presents problems
to students trying to find resources. MSA should be
the medium that connects students with each other
and the resources they need on campus.
We want to continue to assist student organiza-
tions. Student organi-
zations enhance the
student experience
here at Michigan, and
it's important that they
have agovernment that
supports and assists On Wednesd
them. Going along with
our effort to improve students have th(
MSA communication, leadership
we'd like to increase new
communication with face off here
student organizations
by requiring executives
and representatives
to provide updates at
student organization
One of MSA's main functions is to serve as a fund-
ingbody. We plan to cut the waste in MSA's budget to
ensure that there is even more money available to stu-
dent organizations than there is now. We'd also like to
streamline the funding process by creating a common
application that can be used by all University funding
bodies. This will create uniform standards and make
the funding process much easierffor student organiza-
tions.We also want to increase collaboration between
MSA and student organizations. This month's concert
is a great example of MSA and a student organization
coming together to plan a major event. MSA can and
should do more collaborative events to enhance the
Michigan experience.
We didn't just reach into different communities
to get our ideas, we've gone around campus ask-
ing, "What's your vision?" We've shaped our vision
around your vision for MSA. This isn't justour party's
vision, this is the Michigan Vision.
Ian Margolis and Tom Stuckey are the MVP
presidential and vice presidential candidates for
MSA. John Lin is the MVP Message Chairman,

Forwarding MSA advocacy

ay ai
e opp
n M
to ea

Students at the University have come here from
across the country - and the world - to excel in
every realm of study from science and engineering
to athletics and student activism. University stu-
dents choose this school because they know they
will be challenged. They know they will be pushed
to perform their best. Given the atmosphere of
excellence on this campus, students deserve a stu-
dent government that will advocate for them in a
way that lives up to the high standards that the Uni-
versity embodies.
Currently, the Michigan Student Assembly falls
far short of this standard.
We know that MSA
is capable of return-
ing to a point at which
it can advocate on
behalf of students and
effectively push stu-
nid Thursday, dent issues forward.
In fact, MSA has a rich
)ortunity to elect history of advocating
.pfor students and their
SA. Two parties issues. MSA has been
rn your vote. credited with institut-
ing fall break, pushing
academic minors and
establishing an afford-
able system to bus stu-
dents to the airport for
Students on this campus are advocates for a wide
variety of issues and perspectives. They deserve a
student government that serves as an accessible,
engaged resource for them. That is why we are run-
ning for MSA president and vice president: to bring
our student government back to innovative ideas
and active engagement on campus.
We started MForward because we know that
MSA has the potential to fight for students, and
we want you to help us make MSA relevant to the
student body again. We are looking to immediately
address issues like Saturday night dining, gender-
neutral housing, MIP Medical Amnesty and rising
tuition costs. These issues, along with the dozens of
ideas we have collected during our 37 student orga-
nization listening tour stops, drive us to fight for a
better student assembly.
We will work tirelessly to advocate for you in
front of the administration, city council and state
legislature. Concerts and events, while exciting in
the short run, won't lower tuition costs or increase
the diversity of our campus. We are convinced that
students will not see results at the University unless

they finally have student leaders on MSA who are
willing to stand up for their issues and bring their
ideas to the table.
We also understand that MSA can't achieve
these goals without a connected and aware student
body. As a student government, we must encour-
age a stronger sense of community on campus.
MForward's candidates are active members of
diverse student organizations and campus com-
munities. They are passionate about the organiza-
tions they are a part of, and they are committed to
bringing that passion to MSA. The Michigan Stu-
dent Assembly must facilitate communication and
build a strong network of student leaders who will
be able to accomplish goals on behalf of students.
For too long, MSA has been disconnected from the
students who make up this university. MForward is
committed to making MSA a body that is account-
able to the students that it represents, and it has
already begun to do so.
Ideas, action and community: this is what we
have built our campaign on. Over the past three
weeks, the candidates and individuals in MFor-
ward have built relationships with student orga-
nizations and diverse communities across campus.
We have spoken to students in the Diag, in class-
es, in the Union and even on the sidewalk outside
Stockwell Hall to hear the issues that you all want
to see your student government tackle.
We have heard your frustrations with the student
organization funding process, your concerns with ris-
ing tuition costs and your worries about the decline
in minority enrollment. We have heard these issues
and with the vital relationships we are building, we
are ready and excited to take action if elected.
Not only will we continue to talk to students up
to the election date, but we also will ensure that
students are being heard throughout the year.
These relationships are only the beginning and we
look forward to maintaining and building these
bonds in the future.
This week, MForward will continue to be out on
the Diag, in classrooms and residence halls and in
meetings with student organizations. If you haven't
spoken to one of us about what we are hoping to do
for the assembly, don't hesitate to approach anyone
in an MForward T-shirt or check out our website
(mforward.org) to get started. We are here to talk,
we are happy to listen and we're ready to move
MSA forward.
Chris Armstrong and Jason Raymond
are the MForward presidential and vice
presidential candidates for MSA.

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