Volume 9

NO.  11/12    

















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Transportation and the poor condition of many Michigan roads is causing some serious consternation for our lawmakers in Lansing as they consider vastly different ways to fund road improvement.


Most of the solutions for the funding issue have to do with raising taxes - not just a little but through a huge new tax on the price per gallon of gasoline. Lower current gas prices does not belie the fact that consumers are paying several times more for gas than 15 years ago. And while gas is now under $2.50 a gallon, rest assured that this is a blip in the price and when some refinery goes down, or demand increases, the price will be back to $3.00 or more a gallon.


A Michigan entrepreneur and businessman came to my "Re:NEW Michigan" radio show with a novel idea that has worked before in other states and worked to help roads being built many years ago in our state.


He is Christopher Bragg and his simple premise - accomplished in Brooklyn, Michigan 88 years ago, is to stop some taxing for roads and use prison convict labor to repair and reconstruct the road system now the topic of so much discussion.


He has contacted a number of state legislators and media but little interest has been shown - probably because people's reaction was like mine: How does something done nearly a century ago apply today?


But on further research, it seems like an idea worth at least some consideration, even if by legislators of this state who may decry the idea at the outset.


Since Michigan is beginning to rightfully proclaim itself as "The Comeback State," what's wrong with at least having the right authorities consider the Bragg concept?


The State Transportation Commission, headed since 2006 by Kirk T. Steudle, is the policy-making body for all state transportation programs. It is comprised of six members appointed by the Governor.


The Commission establishes policy for the Michigan Department of Transportation in relation to transportation programs and facilities and other such works as related to transportation development. Responsibilities of the Commission include the development and implementation of comprehensive transportation plans for the entire state.


And while those who are interested go forward on this, consider also the goods that prisoners of Michigan state prisons have made over the years. I was stunned by the breadth and array of products the system has produced: some residential houses, furniture, farm wagons and tools, twine, bricks, granite, tombstones and building blocks.


I'd bet that, if asked, many prisoners would prefer some form of constructive activity such as this to their 24x7, 168 hours per week rehab programs.


As to Brooklyn, Michigan:


"The Chicago Turnpike" through Brooklyn, Michigan, was the common name of old Route 12.


A proven, 88-year-old, workable idea should not be scoffed at simply because it is old.


The State Legislature's House has already passed a version of a new bill to raise taxes for roads. The Senate does not agree with it and has concocted its own version. So we have Washington-style legislative gridlock in the works on an issue that Governor Rick Snyder has already announced as a top priority for his just-started second term.


Who is leading whom here? There's a problem. No one is to blame. We have inherited the issue. So let's get on it and fix it while perhaps doing something of value for the prisoners.



Larry Eiler




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Phone: 734-761-3399 ·