Jack Lessenberry



Every weekday, Michigan Radio political analyst Jack Lessenberry offers up his perspective on the latest political news in Michigan.


  • Could Mr. Brook go to Washington?

    23/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    Last week, I spoke to a candidate for statewide office who lamented that she hadn’t been able to get out much among the people or keep up on important policy issues because she had to spend all day, every day on the phone, raising money. I also saw a candidate in a hotly contested congressional primary who told me the same thing.

  • The Michigan Civil Rights Commission defends humanity

    22/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    Let’s say there had been a Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 1961, and it announced that it was going to start investigating claims of discrimination against black people. Undoubtedly that would have met considerable opposition, since there was, as yet, no legal basis to try to prevent someone from hiring you, or renting to you, because you were black. I don’t know how successful their efforts would have been. Probably not very, at least at first. They would have risked verbal attacks, or worse. But I know that we would look back on them today as heroes. And their efforts might have gotten us thinking about open housing and employment anti-discrimination acts sooner than we did. Well, something like that happened yesterday. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission voted to start taking claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. We now live in a crazy parallel universe where you can marry someone of the same sex anywhere in Michigan, but you can still be

  • The difference between Republicans and Democrats

    21/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    I’ve been asked to speak to a group in Mount Clemens today about the difference between Republicans and Democrats. That may sound easy to answer, but it’s not. To an extent, however, the difference is easier to define than fifty years ago. Today, the split is largely ideological. Back then, the differences were, to a large extent, hereditary and economic. Voters in blue-collar, working-class areas like Warren or Flint voted overwhelmingly Democratic. White- collar and academic areas like Birmingham and even Ann Arbor, believe it or not, voted overwhelmingly for Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy. My own father, who was one step up from poor, voted Republican partly because he had grown up in the South and hated the then-racist policies of that region’s Democrats. When he became governor, he championed environmental causes, women’s issues, and state aid to Detroit – all things anathema to most Republicans today. Ten years or so ago, I asked him why he just didn’t switch parties. He had

  • The man who saw tomorrow

    18/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    Stan Ovshinsky barely had a high school education, and part of him was always more at home in machine shops like the one where began working when he got out of high school. “For me, manufacturing has always had glamour to it,” he said. Yet he is remembered as a scientist who made breakthroughs that took your breath away: The first workable solar cells, rewritable CDs and DVD’s, the nickel-metal-hydride battery that powers your laptop.

  • Should Michigan legalize sports gambling?

    17/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law giving Nevada a monopoly over legal sports gambling. And there were immediately voices clamoring to legalize it here. They argued that the state would get more tax revenue as a result, and that it would boost tourism. Well, the tourism part sounds dubious to me, but I can easily believe that there is tax revenue in it. But will it be worth what it does to people? Here’s a little story worth considering: They tore down Detroit’s iconic Tiger Stadium at the beginning of this decade, and for a while, all that remained was a vacant lot, tended by a group of boosters who called themselves the Navin Field Ground Crew. But now the Police Athletic League has taken over the site, and built a lovely little mini-field with a building where one can have receptions and watch kids play. And I was there last night to mark the publication of a fascinating book: The Booster , whose subtitle is "How Ed Martin, the Fab Five, and the Ballers from the Hood

  • Campaigns are too expensive. In theory, the FCC could change that.

    16/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    Yesterday I mentioned a candidate for Congress who was frustrated that he had to spend so much time attempting to raise the money needed to run a competitive race. He’s far from alone. Virtually every candidate I know complains about the same thing. These days, running in a competitive congressional race costs millions.

  • The cost of running for Congress

    15/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    Anyone who thinks they know how Michigan’s fall elections will turn out is a fool, but this much seems fairly certain: The race for the 11th Congressional District will likely be the most expensive and the most hotly contested. There’s no incumbent, since mortgage banker Dave Trott decided two terms were enough. The district, which consists of a collection of Wayne and Oakland County suburbs, leans Republican. But it is close enough that the right Democrat could win it in the right year. As a result, each party has half a dozen contenders seeking to win the August 7th nomination. Among the Democrats, the race is mainly a three-way contest between Tim Griemel, a term-limited state representative from Auburn Hills, Suneel Gupta, an entrepreneur who has been raising lots of money for his campaign, and Haley Stevens, who was chief of staff for the Auto Task Force many credit with helping save the industry during the Great Recession. I sat down yesterday with Griemel, who may be a slight

  • Schuette’s land deals

    14/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    Back in the old days, when a politician got caught doing something questionable, we said “this doesn’t look good.” Today, they say “the optics are terrible.” Well, whatever your terms, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette didn’t do his image any favors during a candidates’ forum four days ago. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley , his main rival for the Republican nomination for governor, accused him of personally controlling the sale of millions in property he had inherited in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Calley also circulated documents showing that Schuette, who has said that he had placed all his assets in a blind trust, used members of his official staff to witness and notarize the documents transferring the property, apparently on state time. You might think that’d be enough to raise the eyebrows of your average citizen, for whom how to sell spare resort property is never an issue. What’s worse is that the attorney general seemed to lie about it. When asked about Calley’s charges by

  • Week in Review: GOP candidates hold first debate, and study gives term limits a "thumbs down"

    12/05/2018 Duração: 04min

    The four Republicans running for governor held their first debate this week. It was the first time Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines have appeared together on one stage. There were arguments over the handling of the Flint water crisis and who's the biggest Trump supporter. One thing they all agreed on is that Michigan should not legalize recreational marijuana, but they said they'd respect the wishes of the voters. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about what else stood out in the debate .

  • Whatever happened to citizenship?

    11/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    Two years ago, southeast Michigan voted down what I think may have been the region’s best chance at a sensible and affordable regional transit service. Had the ballot proposal passed, a network of special rapid buses with their own lanes would have been built throughout the four-county area of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw. People without cars would have been able to easily get to and from Detroit Metropolitan Airport. I thought it would pass, even though the campaign to promote it seemed less than inspired. It did pass overwhelmingly in Washtenaw County. Wayne also voted yes, though by a narrower margin than expected. But the proposal failed by a thousand votes in Oakland, and was obliterated in Macomb County. Overall, it lost by barely one percent. The next day, I heard students at Macomb Community College being interviewed about this. One said he’d voted against it because “they would use it to come up here from Detroit and sell meth.” The meth, I could have told him, was far

  • The truth about term limits

    10/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    Twenty-six years ago, Michigan voters faced a ballot proposal to amend the state constitution to impose strict term limits on all federal and state officeholders. That didn’t get a lot of attention then, because the main event that year was the battle between the first President George Bush, his young challenger Bill Clinton, and third party candidate H. Ross Perot. Michigan voters picked Clinton, and also opted by a landslide for term limits. I was around then, and think many chose term limits because they wanted to get rid of longtime federal officeholders like Congressman John Conyers.

  • Michigan voters approve major school bond proposals, recall anti-Muslim village president

    09/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    Voters went to the polls yesterday in several cities across the state, including Jackson, Kalamazoo and Kalkaska. Michigan Radio’s senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry and Morning Edition host Doug Tribou discuss the results.

  • Women who don’t belong in jail

    09/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    You’ve probably never heard of Melissa Chapman, who has spent the majority of her life in Michigan prisons. When she was 18, her violent and abusive boyfriend shot a man and forced her to help hide the body. She was sentenced to life in prison for that. She’s been there thirty years.

  • Help the schools win the lottery: Vote today

    08/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    Mark Krinock, a neurosurgeon from Kalamazoo, asked me something via email yesterday that I’ve heard people asking for many years. “I am curious how the state of education can be in such dire straits when the lottery has contributed over $7 billion over the last ten years to the education system.” Dr. Krinock is a big supporter of public education, and is puzzled by this. Why hasn’t the lottery taken care of education?

  • Lots of people angry over "baby box" commentary

    07/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    There was a hearing in the Michigan House of Representatives last week on a bill that would allow a parent who wished to anonymously give up a child to place it in a box attached to the side of a building like a hospital, or a police station. When the baby goes in, two alarms are supposed to go off and notify both 9-1-1 and people inside the building to rescue the baby. Well, I discussed the concept on Friday, and expressed some polite skepticism, in which I echoed some of the concerns expressed by an official from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services who testified at the hearing. She noted that there were no existing standards to prevent malfunctions, like the alarms failing to go off, and to make sure the boxes are otherwise safe for infants. She also noted that when the babies are turned in anonymously, caregivers may lose the opportunity to gain vital information about details, like the baby’s medical condition. I echoed those concerns, but said I had no position on

  • Week in Review: Study says oil leak would cost state billions and DMC cuts ties with Wayne State

    05/05/2018 Duração: 04min

    A new study says Michigan's economy would take a big hit if there was an oil spill in the Mackinac Straits. A Michigan State University professor estimates a spill could cost the state's economy more than $6 billion. Enbridge Energy says the study is "flawed" and based on "unrealistic estimates." This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss the study's potential impact.

  • The legal fight over animal rights

    03/05/2018 Duração: 03min

    It often seems like we care less about each other than we used to – or at least, we are choosing policies not designed to help society in general or the next generation. Our lawmakers have been happily giving tax cuts to the rich while letting our infrastructure fall apart. It is far more necessary for today’s students to get higher education and far harder for them to afford it. Racism and xenophobia seem to be exploding.

  • The Democratic primary has turned into a game of Whac-A-Mole

    02/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    Abdul El-Sayed and Shri Thanedar are each accomplished men. The 63-year-old Thanedar came over here penniless from India, started companies and made fortunes, even though he also has lost one or two. El-Sayed, who at 33 is barely half Thanedar's age, is one of the smartest and most charismatic people I have ever met.

  • Are farmers' profits more important than our water?

    01/05/2018 Duração: 02min

    Last week, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced that efforts to decrease those potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie aren’t working. When I read that, let’s say I wasn’t exactly surprised. I moderated a large forum on this subject in Tontogany, Ohio last year.

  • The need to trust government

    30/04/2018 Duração: 03min

    We could debate endlessly about what people want and expect from state government, but a few things are clear: First, we want a government we can trust and that will respond to what we want. And it is also very clear people are fed up with our current system of hyperpartisan gerrymandering, in which legislative and congressional districts are always drawn to ensure perpetual Republican control of the Legislature and a majority of seats in Congress.