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Lessenberry talks auto, land deals, prison food and roads

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Ricardo Giaviti
Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
The U.S. government is no longer invested in Chrysler.

This week in Michigan Politics, political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks about the auto industry, a major land deal for Detroit, prison food service contracts, and the latest in roads.

Contracts for Chrysler 

Contract talks are underway between Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers. Lessenberry says important issues on the table include the lack of raises for workers despite Chrysler’s large profits and, most importantly, the two tier wage system.

Lessenberry says economics will play a big part in the talks, with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne wanting to get rid of the two tier wage system. But Marchionne thinks the lower wage of the two should be the way to go, leaving the auto workers less than pleased.

Bridge controversies

The Detroit City Council has pushed back a vote on a major land deal that would sell land to the Moroun family so they can build a second bridge. The controversial deal would require the Moroun family, who own the Ambassador Bridge, to give three million dollars to the city for Riverside Park. 

Lessenberry says the deal is controversial because some would rather the land be leased to the Morouns than sold and the city council is insisting on city benefits for any new bridge. 

But Lessenberry thinks the naysayers are missing the bigger opportunity. 

“What city council may be missing here is there’s just no guarantee at all that there will ever be a new bridge,” says Lessenberry. "I think city council risks ruining this whole deal, which would be a very good deal for the city, and for the people of Riverside Park."

Food service fiasco

Maggots in food and inappropriate relationships with inmates are just a few of the problems Michigan prisons saw with Aramark food service. The contract to feed inmates has been given to Trinity Services Group, the only company that bid on the contract. Now a Michigan labor union is challenging the bidding process. 

The unions want food services to come from state employees like it used to, and they want the bidding to open back up and include state employees.  Lessenberry thinks the potential costs might be worth it.

"Everybody has to agree that whatever the cost, they did it far better than Aramark," says Lessenberry. 

The long road

Everyone agrees Michigan roads are a problem, but legislators still cannot agree on how to fix them. The latest in the road funding debate includes multiple bills. 

Lessenberry says the bill passed by the House is "mainly  fantasy," and would be bad for the poor and made Governor Rick Snyder mad.  But the Senate plan isn't much better. According to Lessenberry, it would rely on a "mysterious  700 million dollars cut out of the general fund budget without saying where it would come from."

Any plan to fix the roads needs votes from Democrats and Lessenberry says that unless Democrats get some assurances for their constituents, we are still a long way from better roads. 

Michigan Radio Newsroom – Cheyna Roth

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