JIM CREES: Just so you know ...

Just so you know ...

As state politicians from every stripe are begging voters to pass Proposal 1 in order to generate funding to maintain Michigan’s highways and byways, folks at the top in Lansing are looking for the way and means to move into new and more comfortable digs.

Yep. The state is experiencing a budget shortfall. Department heads in every state office have been told to tighten up and make cuts wherever possible. Cuts are being anticipated in social welfare programs and education as well.

Part of the Lansing plan is to ask the voters for one more penny ... and one more ... and one more.

But, at the same time, the Senate is planning to move its office space rather than a) make do, or b) maintain and repair the existing Farnum Building.

Now THAT really demonstrates the “we’re all in this together” so earnestly trumpeted by our leaders in Lansing.

Next year, Senators will move into an almost spanking new building that is much more luxurious than the present digs.

Hmmmmmmm ... one wouldn’t think the same folks so very interested in having all the rest of us tighten our belts and make sacrifices to support Michigan’s economic recovery would be so intent on spending tens (and hundreds) of millions of dollars in making their lives a bit more comfy.

Still, this past week the Michigan Strategic Fund issued some $70 million in tax-exempt bonds to buy and renovate seven of the nine floors of the Capitol View building. On completion of work, the offices will be leased to the State Senate. And, by the way, more than 300 Department of Community Health workers will be effectively evicted to accommodate the Senators’ needs and will move to an as-yet unknown location. They don’t know where the DCH will be housed, but work is moving forward on the new Senate offices.


Let’s review. Despite a projected $454 million budget shortfall, the state is looking to spend some $51 million just to buy the building; has already issued bonds to the tune of $70 million; and when all is said an done could be spending $134 million on the project - including interest payments.

So the deal is certainly an investment of $70 million, and a potential expense of $134 million.

To totally update and renovate the present Senate office building would cost an estimated $11 million ($16 million — tops) according to the state Department of Management, Technology and Budget.

Lots of money, but nothing like $134 million. Interesting.

When the plan was first revealed last year, then Senate leader Randy Richardville told a Detroit area TV station reporter, “You can question motives and you can question everything, but this is a damn good business decision.”

Ummmmmm ... not really!

The folks in Lansing, from both sides of the aisle, are begging the good people of Michigan to pass a new tax to fund basic road repair and maintenance, but they can, at the same time, invest so much to improve their own office spaces???

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I implore you ...

Sure, the Farnum building is old, but it’s not as old as my house!

I take care of my house. It needs to be taken care of daily.

There are plumbing and sewer issues. The electricity is old and needs to be watched. Things are a bit creaky at times, but I work at maintaining my house.

At question here is an office building from the ‘70s.

There certainly may be some maintenance issues. Soooooooooo ... take care of the problems.

Taking care of the problem — whatever that might be — won’t cost the people of the State of Michigan $134 million.

But, so they say, it isn’t only maintenance that’s a problem.

When hearings were held last year to drum up congressional support for making the move to a new Senate office building, the then-secretary to the Senate, one Carol Viventi, complained that with offices in the Farnum Building configured as they are, not every Senator could have a good view of the Capital Building.

“Not all of the offices face the Capitol, is that the crux of the problem?” asked a surprised congressman Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills.)

“Pretty much,” Viventi answered.

Look. I can’t make this stuff up!

There are also supposed security issues at the Farnum Building.

This issue was raised last year by the then-Senate leader.

“The back door can be opened in the Farnum Building,” Richardville said during an interview with Detroit’s ABC station Channel 7.

“Couldn’t you just lock the back door?” asked Channel 7’s Ross Jones.

“No, because it can be unlocked,” Richardville answered in all seriousness.

If security is such an issue, it might also be argued that paying for full-time guards at the front and back door to ANY building would never reach the sum of $134 million.

So there you have it, while the people of Michigan are being asked to kick in just a little bit more for all kinds of reasons, the folks asking for the favor are out spending tax-payer money higgledy-piggledy so they can get a better view of the capital dome.

Now get out and vote.