Friday, March 21, 2008

A recall worthy of ridicule

Want to mangle things even more in Lansing? Then by all means, recall House Speaker Andy Dillon.

The Redford Township Democrat epitomizes everything we need in a legislator - he's brilliant, pensive, ruthlessly pragmatic and honest to a fault (even with the press). He plays well with others, a rarity in the ego-sodden Capitol.

For most of last year, I blasted leaders for their ineptitude and crass politicking in solving a $2 billion budget deficit. No one was without fault (the media included for our sometimes shallow reporting) and I once christened Dillon the Cowardly Lion for his role in negotiations last summer.

But even with only two years of legislative experience under his belt, the speaker appeared to be the only grown-up at the table, constantly trying to lower the temperature of high-octane flare-ups between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

Leaders on both sides of the aisle credit Dillon for the bipartisan deal that avoided a long, painful government shutdown. The price was higher income and business taxes and budget cuts.

"I'd do it again tomorrow," Dillon told me this week.

But the anti-tax fanatics want their pound of flesh.

So they're coming for Andy Dillon, the capitalist turned conservative Democratic rep, whose pro-life, pro-growth views haven't endeared him to many in his own party. He gets even less love from liberal blogs, which haven't exactly leapt to defend him against recall, too busy panting every time Granholm or Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer burp.

Recalls almost always are a rash, partisan-soiled scare tactic. They should be reserved for those who commit gross negligence or criminal acts and refuse to step down. (Yes, Kwame Kilpatrick, that means you).

In reality, recalls are wielded as a billy club to batter lawmakers who make tough decisions. My advice? If you loathe Dillon, forget about a costly August recall. Grow up and vote him out in November.

Last year, elfin ringleader Leon Drolet declared there would be recalls by the dozens. But his right-hand woman, Rose Bogaert, now admits the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance doesn't have the money or manpower. So Dillon is the No. 1 target.

Drolet, a former GOP lawmaker, contends a sitting speaker of the house has never been recalled. "We're ready to make history!" he bloviates.

Shy and retiring, the man who drives around Michigan with a mammoth foam pig named Mr. Perks surely wouldn't be trying to ride this circus to a national job with anti-tax guru Grover Norquist (who's on his board) or a congressional seat.

I asked Drolet if he really believes Dillon spends every waking moment plotting to raise taxes again.

"It doesn't matter if I think he'll rape someone again," he told me breezily. "He has to be held accountable for the rape he did commit."

Now I like Leon, always armed with a comeback and wicked sense of humor. But he didn't back away from his incendiary statement, maintaining Dillon committed "an economic crime."

He also insisted "Dillon's thugs" are harassing his paid signature-gatherers, calling it a "friggin' war zone." When I asked if there were black helicopters hovering, the anti-tax man, for once, didn't laugh.

Perhaps more bizarrely, he told me he'd rather deal with far-out lefties in the Legislature because they'd compromise more, whereas Dillon "has to vote for every piece of the liberal agenda."

Look, Drolet was a professional flame-thrower in the House; his goal was never to govern. That's the real difference between he and Dillon, who as a freshman in the minority got the innovative $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund passed.

That's why GOP former House Speaker Rick Johnson is incensed over Dillon's recall and is defending him. "I voted for tax increases several times," Johnson scoffed. "Where were the zealots then? It was never an issue."

Bishop, a tried and true conservative, has offered to help in any way he can, telling me his relationship with Dillon was "one of the few positive things to come out of last year."

And the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, which spent all of 2007 screaming bloody murder about a tax hike, is fighting Dillon's recall.

It's heartening to see such an outbreak of common sense. But if the recall does go on the ballot - Drolet has until May 1 to collect about 10,000 signatures - Dillon's probably toast, if history's any guide.

The speaker calls the recall a "major irritation" at a time when he's working on alternative energy legislation and fiscal 2009 budgets.

After last year's fiscal fiasco ("All the stupid machinations were an embarrassment," he sighs) Dillon briefly considered calling it quits. The Notre Dame-trained lawyer who's turned around a string of businesses could return to a blockbuster career in the private sector.

But the speaker is determined to stay put for one simple reason: "The state needs help right now."

That's the definition of a leader. Now's not the time to lose one in Lansing.


WCTaxpayers said...

Ms. Demas please take the stars our of your eyes. How much brilliance do you need to raise taxes. He didn't help reduce the budget, he reduced the increase in the budget. We had an 8% increase in the general fund budget.

Bishop defends him because he did compromise. I live in Dillon"s district and voted for him twice. If money was so tight how is it they could afford a 7% increase in the legislative budget?

With the unemployment rate sky high, how did they think raising taxes 22% on business is going to help solve the problem? As I see it they fed us caster oil instead of the antibiotic we needed.

You may call me an anti tax fanatic but your thinking got us into this mess. More of the same, never make the necessary change, throw money at the problem and most of all give money to support those who government chooses to succeed.

You are the one who has been brainwashed. This right is guaranteed in the State Constitution which they swore to uphold and you obviously hold in contempt. Recall is not for legal violations, that is for the courts. Recall is specifically for political redress.

I will work so that Andy Dillon does not "do it again tomorrow".
We do not have the money or resources that Dillon has because his comes from lobbyists, unions, the Democratic part and other special interest. We must rely on private contributions.

The Michigan State Constitution, Art. II. Sec. 8, extends Michigan voters the right to recall “all elective officers except judges of courts of record” and establishes the minimum number of signatures required on a recall petition:
“Laws shall be enacted to provide for the recall of all elective officers except judges of courts of record upon petition of electors equal in number to 25 percent of the number of persons voting in the last preceding election for the office of governor in the electoral district of the officer sought to be recalled. The sufficiency of any statement of reasons or grounds procedurally required shall be a political rather than a judicial question.”

Rose Bogaert, Chair
Wayne County Taxpayers Assn.

Susan J. Demas said...

To clarify:

Liberal blogs are accusing of Leon Drolet of equating raising taxes to rape. I think Leon took a metaphor much too far. It was rhetoric, but I sincerely doubt he believes the two are on par with one another.

I included it in my column after I gave him the chance to disavow the statement and he didn't.

I asked Drolet if he really believes Dillon spends every waking moment plotting to raise taxes again.

His direct response was:

"It doesn't matter if I think he'll rape someone again. He has to be held accountable for the rape he did commit."

When I hear someone use rape to make his point about anything, I'm going to ask why and make sure I heard right.

"Are you really comparing raising taxes to rape?" I asked.

Drolet said he could use any number of crimes to make his point, including vandalism. He didn't back away from his incendiary statement, maintaining Dillon committed "an economic crime."

As I pointed out, I personally like Leon. My advice to anyone would be to lay off rape metaphors to make your point. There are many less unseemly and offensive ways to do so.