The Michigan Chronicle’s ninth season of its popular Pancakes & Politics Speaker’s Forum with Gov. Rick Snyder had decidedly different flavor at the Detroit Athletic Club, this morning.
Jack and Jill Club members from the University of Liggett, the University of Detroit, Cass Technical High School, Country Day College Preparatory and others attended today’s forum, which PNC bank president Rick Devore called one of the most respected meetings in the city. “With all due respect to Mike Illitch and the Tigers, [Pancakes and Politics] may be the hottest ticket in town,” said Devore to the crowd of ore than 400.
Following a short promotional video from Pure Michigan, P&P moderator Carole introduced Gov. Snyder, who opened the session with a prepared statement.
Snyder, who garnered statewide support and won the gubernatorial election on a platform of reinventing Michigan outlined a four point plan for reinvention in his opening statement.
Snyder, who is no stranger to the series having been a keynote speaker at last year’s opening forum, spoke candidly about a variety of topics impacting the state, but focused his opening remarks on the state’s economic recovery, saying Michigan is on “a path of reinvention.”
“Fixing Michigan was not the solution [in 2009]. Does anybody want to go back to that time? Incremental answers were not going to be good. We had to look at who we were and make change … the challenge is that as you go through the change period you become stronger, and that’s where we are now. We have completed a little more than a quarter of million new jobs created in Michigan. We are number six in high paying jobs nationwide and number six in medium paying jobs. Incomes have come back up, where previously we had dropped about 20 states in ranking. We are number nine in the country for income growth and we are growing the state again in terms of population. But to be blunt we need to do more. As we succeed, the last thing we should do is become content or complacent about anything we have accomplished.”
Snyder went on to outline a for-point plan for the state’s reinvention:
1. Promote quality job opportunities – “We have 70, 000 open jobs in Michigan today, let’s fill those jobs.” Gov. Snyder encouraged Pancakes and Politics participants to sign up for Pure Michigan’s jobs clearinghouse.
2. Improve the eduction system – “We have to come up with effective education [strategy] for all students and it needs to be based on common sense,” said Snyder touting his administration’s investment in preschool programs. “We had a waiting list of 29,000 kids that could not go to preschool because of means. Last year we took care of about half of those and this year I intend to take care of the balance.” The governor also proposed dual enrollmentprograms for students to simultaneously attend high school and college, citing that the arrangement could save students and families as much as 50 percent on a college degree.
3. Good government – “Be financially and structurally sound. In Michigan, for the past three years, the state has had the fastest balanced budget that it has seen in the last 30 years and remains rock solid,” explained Snyder adding that a critical element of his administration’s fiscal responsibility is it to pay down the state’s debt.
4. Close employment skills gap - “The top priority is talent. There is a skills gap in the country [between job skills and employer needs], and Michigan will do better than any other state in the country in terms of closing the skills gap. We’ll connect young people with jobs and emphasize skilled trades.”
Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle asked the governor about Detroit’s bankruptcy disposition and the post- emergency manager plan.”Mike Duggan is fully empowered now as mayor, to [take over] as Kevin Orr exits the stage and execute a post transition agreement.” Snyder cited New York city’s municipal financial board which was established to guard against financial upheaval and fiscal irresponsibility.
Weight Watcher’s Florine Mark also queried the governor about the state’s physical health. “I was really dismayed about what is happening in Michigan. Obesity is contributing to a number of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. We are known as the fattest state in the union and one of the unhealthiest states in the union. What are you going to do to make this one of the healthiest states in the union?” Snyder responded that his Four by Four program emphasizes exercising, eating smarter, getting an annual physical and not smoking, while conceding that other pressing issues had taken up much of the political agenda.
When asked about the condition of Michigan’s roads and the unusually sever pothole season, Gov. Snyder told audience members that road repairs would require more permanent solutions and additional investment of 1.2 million dollars annually. “We were too cheap and we have been to focused on the short term. …What pothole season has done was get the public fired up enough to say they want permanent solutions and that they are willing to pay for it.”
Since its inception, Pancakes & Politics has grown to become the preeminent speakers’ forum where substantive topics are explored in-depth by those who contribute to the region’s business community and those seeking solutions to inspire its growth. The next Pancakes and Politics series continues back at the DAC on May 17 for its third speakers forum.
The remaining P&P events are sold out for 2014. For more information please visit http://www.michronicle.com or call (313) 963-5522.