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Staged Town Hall event with Snyder just a show

September 14, 2011

Last night WOOD TV 8 hosted a one-hour live broadcast with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

There was an invited audience that the TV station said represented a cross section of the viewing audience of the NBC affiliate. WOOD TV described the selection process online, where people were asked to submit questions ahead of time for pre-approval.

These kinds of forums seem to be the rule of the day, where politicians and commercial media outlets don’t want unscripted and uncensored possibilities. The hour-long broadcast is posted online, so you can see for yourself how it looked and the process they followed.

WOOD TV’s political reporter Rick Albin moderated the event and he began by introducing elected officials that were in the audience. Albin then turned over the floor to Snyder to make some opening remarks before people asked questions. Snyder said he was there to listen and figure out ways to best serve the public, which he referred to ask customers. He also said the public “hired” him and that the future is all about us and we.

There were a total of 16 questions asked, 3 by Rick Albin, 3 via some form of social media and the other 10 by people in the TV studio.

The questions followed themes, such as jobs, education, taxes, health care and immigration. The first question was asked by an unemployed worker from Lowell who wanted to know what the Governor was going to do to get laid off and older people back to work. Snyder said that Michigan needed to create more demand to get our economy going, which didn’t really answer the man’s question. He then said that we need to innovative and look at ways to create jobs. He mentioned that there are some hospitals in the Michigan, which outsource their laundry to other states.

The CEO from an Executive search firm in Kalamazoo then asked about how the Governor was going to match talent pool with companies.  Snyder said he was all about talent pools, not workforce development. He wants government to create incentives to match people with jobs based on their talent.

A man from Jackson asked what the Governor thought about Obama’s jobs proposal. Snyder said there were some good elements in the speech, because Michigan is doing some of the things the President mentioned. Snyder then went on to talk about Relentless Positive Action, which he says can make Michigan be a role model for the rest of the nation.

A Hudsonville student and a Northview School District Superintendent asked questions about education funding. Snyder said the problem is we are focusing on adults & money and not on kids. “Changing the tax structure is how we solve the education funding problem,” said Snyder. He also said we need to create best practices and reward incentives for schools. However, it seemed that both of these answers did not address either of the education questions.

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce President told Snyder he was doing a good job. Snyder said thanks and then says the role of the government is not to create jobs, but provide a climate for businesses to create jobs. What about the function of government protecting the rights of citizens, particularly the most vulnerable in society?

There were people who also asked about job cuts, such as a Battle Creek police officer and a UAW member. In response to the police officer Snyder said. “we need to create demand, grow the private sector, which will allow us to get more funds to hire more public safety officers.”

When questioned about the film incentive program, Snyder said that is was a bad investment and was too costly. In contrast, the Governor said that the Pure Michigan campaign generates funds for the state.

Two different people from the studio audience asked about Snyder’s position on Right to Work, but in both cases Snyder said it was too divisive an issue and it was not on his agenda.

Rick Albin asked Snyder to address the issue of immigration, which Albin framed as controversial. Snyder said it is an issue the federal government must solve. Carlos Snachez, with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was concerned about an Arizona-style legislation in Michigan. Snyder said he didn’t support the proposed legislation.

At the very end of the show Rick Albin thanked the audience for their patience and at one point said, “I didn’t know what the questions were going to be.” This seems to contradict their own process, which said that everyone had to submit questions ahead of time fore approval.

Snyder agreed with Albin and said, “too often we get filtered information.” On the contrary, there was a great deal of filtering, but more importantly, the forum did not allow for any serious dialogue or for people to ask follow up questions. In many ways it seemed like nothing more than a show.

Covering the protest

WOOD TV, did come out after the forum to do a short story on those protesting, but only cited one person. WXMI 17 covered the channel 8 event, but did not mention the protest outside the event and the Grand Rapids Press only devoted on sentence to those demonstrating Snyder’s job cut proposal.

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