From the Detroit Free Press
By Kathleen Gray
April 30, 2013
LANSING — At the end of May, 1,500 people will descend on Mackinac Island for an annual convergence of business, politics and socializing.
The 33rd annual Mackinac Policy Conference, sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber, will offer plenty of big names and panels on everything from immigration and education reform to manufacturing and how to compete in the global marketplace.
But noticeably absent from the agenda for the three-day conference — May 29-31 — is an abundance of political forums. On May 30, there is to be a panel discussion on urban revitalization that is expected to address the emergency manager situation in Detroit. Washington, D.C., attorney Kevyn Orr was appointed to oversee the financially troubled city. He will not be in attendance, said his spokesman Bill Nowling.
“He is going to remain here and working,” he said. “It seemed like an inefficient use of his time and an added expense that could be put toward more productive things.”
Chamber CEO and President Sandy Baruah said the chamber wanted to focus on policy in this year’s agenda.
“The conference continues to grow in its substantive presentations and as a strong statewide platform for policy ideas,” he said.
Attendees, who have paid $1,700-$2,575 to gain entry into the conference at the historic Grand Hotel on the island, will hear from some big names, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, education-reform advocate Michelle Rhee, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson and “Morning Joe” TV host Joe Scarborough. Panels also are lined up to talk about issues affecting auto suppliers and the state of Michigan’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The Legislature has one session, featuring state Sens. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, and Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and state Reps. Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, and Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills.
Members of Congress also are expected to attend the conference, Baruah said, but there is no panel time set aside for them yet.
There will be a Detroit mayoral candidate debate, but the lineup won’t be final until it becomes clearer who turned in petitions to run for the office.
A meeting of the Big Four — county Executives L. Brooks Patterson of Oakland, Mark Hackel of Macomb and Bob Ficano of Wayne, along with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing — has always had a premier spot at the conference, but is canceled because of Patterson’s car crash injuries, which have left him primarily using a wheelchair to get around.
The remaining three will all attend and have a role in the conference, Baruah said, but what that is hasn’t been clearly defined yet.