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“I like to think of myself as a problem solver,” Macomb County Public Works commissioner Candice Miller told me.

She’s needed to be. The week before she took office came the collapse of the sewer line in Fraser, the now-infamous giant sinkhole, what she calls “probably the biggest infrastructure emergency in the state of Michigan, at least at this time, perhaps ever.”

Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge across the Detroit River, turned 90 earlier this month. I don’t know how he celebrated, but I do know something happened last week that may well have ruined his birthday.

The Ford Focus
Ford Motor Company

In the rhetorical battle between President Donald Trump and Ford Motor’s investors, the president is losing.

The Blue Oval is moving American production of the Focus to China – presumably because shipping it to Mexico from Michigan wasn’t sufficiently controversial.

For the first time, a Detroit automaker will, quote, “globally source” an established model and use Chinese labor to assemble it for sale to American consumers. Let the tweet storm commence – or not, as it turns out.

Years ago, when the baby boomers completely dominated the culture, someone once said that we’d know their influence was finally ending when magazines had cover stories on designer funeral homes. Well, we aren’t there yet.

John Auchter

Ideas for cartoons can come from the oddest places.

This past Sunday, I was working on setting up our hammock in the backyard for the summer season and went down to the basement to collect the pieces. 

Michigan has a reputation abroad, but it's not a good one

Jun 22, 2017

It’s nice to be back. I’ve been gone for the last few weeks on my first real vacation in a few years. Last Sunday, I was doing something I’ve wanted to do all my life – visiting the excavated ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, buried by a volcano in 79 AD.

I was with a group that included many different nationalities when suddenly the guide asked, “Is anyone here from Michigan?”

CREDIT Joe Ravi / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

You may have missed the biggest news of the week – at least here in the Motor City. For the first time ever, Apple’s CEO confirmed the tech giant is hot for self-driving cars.

Buckle up, folks.

CEO Tim Cook says there’s “a major disruption looming” as self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-sharers like Uber and Lyft converge into one big ball of change. He says autonomous systems are a “core technology” for Apple and “the mother” of all artificial intelligence projects.

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

Artist's POV: Last week the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill to allow most gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training. 

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Those involuntary manslaughter charges against state health director Nick Lyon and four others in the Flint water disaster push things right into Governor Snyder's inner circle.

As he spoke to Stateside about the charges, Attorney General Bill Schuette said he wants to continue to hold those responsible for the Flint water crisis accountable.

Schuette is delivering a message that one would expect to hear from a state attorney general, but Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says there's also a healthy dose of politics in the mix.

That's due in large part to the fact that he is widely expected to announce his candidacy for governor soon.

It’s seldom politically correct in this town to say one of our automakers is lagging the competition. But there are exceptions — and right now Ford Motor is one of them.

The Blue Oval shocked the auto world when it replaced CEO Mark Fields a few weeks ago with Jim Hackett, the former Steelcase boss turned University of Michigan athletic director. It pulled another one when it shuffled its global leadership team in a shakeup the Glass House hasn’t seen in a long time.

What’s going on here? Plenty, and it begins with a simple sentence: profit today is not enough for tomorrow.

John Auchter
Auchtoon.com

Artist's POV: The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is an organization that serves as a go-to resource for mental health awareness and education. A special area of focus is teen suicide prevention, which it addresses through an anti-bullying initiative called "be nice."

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Ford could stand to refresh its model lineup, and should invest more in connected vehicles.
Ford Motor Company

The automakers who'll survive and thrive in the 21st Century are the ones making the biggest strides in mobility and connectivity – the keys to the self-driving vehicles of the future.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes believes Ford has a lot of catching up to do, and there's a rough road ahead for new CEO Jim Hackett and his team.

You might say the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy is the one think tank liberals and progressives most like to hate. Indeed, I heard someone say a few years ago that it was home to some of the finest minds of the 14th century. That’s not completely fair.

They produced a useful report this spring detailing how some of our complex and unnecessary state and local licensing laws are hurting the economy.

On June 1st, I talked about Gretchen Whitmer, the former state Senate minority leader and now the leading candidate for next year’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

During an interview during last week’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Whitmer told me that when you look at all the candidates, “I’m the one that looks most like John Engler.”

There’s a legend that Secretary of State Dean Rusk summed up what happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis by saying, “We were eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

Well, things were considerably more complicated than that.

But right now the governor and the legislature are eyeball to eyeball over the future of teacher pensions in this state, and it isn’t clear who’ll be blinking.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The party’s over on Mackinac Island.

If that’s what you insist on calling the Detroit Chamber’s annual policy conference on this island frozen in time — complete with its high-end hotel prices and tony wine bars. The only thing that moves fast here are the cash registers and welling nostalgia.

That’s a problem. Michigan and its largest city do their best work in a crisis. But as 1,700 or so of the state’s business movers and political shakers descended on the Grand Hotel this past week, there is no real crisis to rally the collective mind.

Detroit skyline in 1930.
Courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society

Earlier this week, I said words to the effect that I didn’t think many of those attending the annual Mackinac Policy Conference were doing much to relate to the average citizen.

Largely, I think I was right.

Auchter's Art: Slashing Budgets
JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

My wife and I have a Japanese maple we planted several years ago in our yard. It's been a nice little tree — generally healthy, somewhat sturdy (our cats like to climb to the top and pretend they're vultures), but it's never really grown. 

Patrick Nouhailler / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Michigan spent the 20th century making itself the center of the auto industry.But it's crystal clear Silicon Valley wants that crown for the 21st century.

That warning is being sounded at the Mackinac Policy Conference this week.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says economic and business leaders on Mackinac Island this week realize that competition from Silicon Valley isn't going anywhere, and will force business leaders in Michigan to move quicker when it comes to participating in the evolving mobility industry and innovation.

Gretchen Whitmer, currently the leading Democratic candidate for governor, told me something yesterday at the Mackinac Policy Conference that caught me by surprise: “You know, when you look at all of the candidates in the race, I’m the one that looks most like John Engler.”

H.L. Mencken, the great early 20th century journalist, was a militant atheist, so I don’t suppose there’s any chance his shade is flitting around Mackinac Island this week.

But if it was, it would have been laughing at Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley’s grand announcement yesterday that he would lead a campaign to give us a part-time legislature. That instantly reminded me of Mencken’s famous observation that “for every human problem there is a solution that is neat, plausible - and wrong.”

The Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today.
David Ball / creative commons

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference begins today; I’ll be there, though so far, it doesn’t look like the most momentous conference they’ve ever had.

There will be a few national speakers worth hearing, including historian Michael Beschloss and journalist and author Walter Isaacson.

Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will give keynote addresses, and there will be panels on politics, and on things like “Michigan’s Digital Future.”

Steve Shotwell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Nine years after Ford Motor recruited an outsider to save it from itself, the automaker’s doing it again.

This time, the savior is more familiar. It’s Jim Hackett. He's the guy who wooed Jim Harbaugh back to the Michigan sidelines once prowled by the legendary Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh says Hackett’s all about teamwork, about making the team better, and the football coach says the new Ford CEO is, quote, “tougher than a two-dollar steak.”

John F. Kennedy
By Cecil (Cecil William) Stoughton / US National Archives/Wikimedia Commons

The other night I had dinner with former State Senator John Kelly, who has a law degree and a doctorate and served his country in the JAG, or Judge Advocate General Corps. He told me once about the moment he decided to go into public service.

It was the day before his eleventh birthday at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit on Labor Day in 1960, and he was sitting on his father’s shoulders. He reached out for the hand of the big man with the shock of reddish-brown hair. “My initials are JFK!” he said.

“Well, then, you’ll go into politics too,” John F. Kennedy told him.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Freedom is essential for a happy life and true success. I don't think most would argue with that. But like most good things, freedom can be appropriated for self-serving purposes.

Drowning in manure

May 25, 2017
Free Use Photos / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

I want to warn you that today, I’m going to be talking about poop. Specifically, more than 3.3 billion gallons of it a year, all of it produced in Michigan by what are euphemistically called “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” or CAFOs.

Many of us call them “Factory Farms” instead. They are places where animals are crowded in what are anything but humane conditions to be fattened as quickly as possible for slaughter, or if they are cows, drained of their milk.

But beyond animal cruelty, what I’m concerned about is our drinking water. Three years ago, toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie left the water unsafe to drink for a few days.

We have an education crisis in this state; in case you haven’t noticed, Michigan is having trouble recruiting enough teachers, especially good teachers, especially in our larger cities.

That’s not surprising.

Teaching elementary and high school students is difficult and draining, if done right. You are chained to the academic calendar –no fall vacations or long weekends. Teaching involves a lot of work on nights and weekends.

Twenty years ago, when I was covering Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted suicide crusade, I came to know a retired Detroit policeman named Ray Good, whose wife Janet was a Kevorkian ally.

Good was present at his own moment in history, when he was the first police lieutenant on the scene at 12th Street and Clairmount in the wee hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967.

When we talk about our elected leaders, we usually act as if they did it all by themselves. We only tend to notice their assistants if they start slipping, or show signs of clumsiness.

Whatever your politics, the fact that Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway have been so savaged in the press is a clear indication that they, and their boss, are failing to do their jobs.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Another week in the Motor City and you get buyouts at Ford Motor and news of General Motors bolting yet two more foreign markets. What’s going on here?

Simple: this ain’t your father’s auto industry anymore.

These are pillars of the American industrial economy. They're companies worth rescuing with taxpayer money and the biggest home improvement loan ever. And they're vying for relevance.

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