Thursday, September 03, 2009

That's "Seeking Pleasant Peninsulas" to You Pal!

An advertisement produced by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) last year created such an outrage that it resulted in a bill being introduced by State Rep. Michael Lahti (D-Hancock) that was passed recently by a whopping 106-0 margin.

106-0. This is the kind of lopsided tally we might expect to see bureaucrats RSVP for a Capitol lawn kegger, not on legislation.

The outrage driven bill was not drawn to recoup millions of dollars wasted by the MEDC because, let's be honest, that sort of blatant inefficiency is fully expected from state departments and agencies and would never receive such lopsided support in a vote.

It wasn't that the MEDC has been in part funded by a lot of dollars that were originally taken from the tobacco companies for usage to better the health of Michiganders. No, that particular cash cow was always little more than a pickpocket's scam to begin with and everyone knows it.

It wasn't even that the MEDC was already out of this year's allotment of tax breaks which it uses to promote business in Michigan. What department in Michigan, obviously other than Mr. Mulhern's, has not already rifled through this year's allotment of resources? No, none of those slight discomforts would ever rally the troops into such a unanimous single-minded frenzy.

What raised the dander of Bill Lahti and every Michigan state representative so universally was an MEDC advertisement promoting state tourism that lopped off the Upper Peninsula. Whether the mistake was the result of an accident or intentional, the advertisement was later fixed, though too late to apply the brakes to the wheels of legislative good intentions.

Thankfully, due to Mr. Lahti's efforts and House Bill 4995, it is now against the law for a Michigan department or agency to leave off either peninsula in an 'illustration, image, or depiction of the state of Michigan' in 'documents produced by this state for distribution to any member of the public, including, but not limited to, maps, forms, brochures, pamphlets, and commemorative items, and also applies to digital images made available over the internet by any state department or agency.'

One has to wonder at the effectiveness of a bill that is principally designed to help disrupt the inadvertent. A recent study reveals that about half of American school children cannot locate their own belly button on a map of themselves. Should we so disturbed by a person's geographical ignorance as to outlaw it?

Now, don't get me wrong, I think it would either be blockheadedly stupid or simply mean spirited to intentionally try and pass off the state of Michigan as having only half of its peninsulas, particularly in an effort to promote tourism. In fact, I'm so on board with this sentiment that I think we should change the state motto to "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you, but do not forget the other equally pleasant peninsula either just to your north or your south. Or else."

If some bureaucrat intentionally decided that he or she wanted to represent Michigan in a pamphlet as everything below the bridge, I suppose this bill would stop that pencil pusher right in his tracks. Off with his head and all that. If said pencil pusher, however, makes a simple mistake in his design or mistakenly overlooks a printer's oversight, I wonder how much hard time the guy should expect to spend busting rocks to be properly reeducated. I can just hear it now..."Janelle, did you draw this? It's against the law!"

As Yooper Steez observes in his excellent regional blog:

To think that 1/3 of the land is left off of the Michigan map is absurd. Not to mention that the Upper Peninsula has given the State of Michigan two National Parks, access to Lake Superior, Mackinac Island, the amazing Mackinac Bridge, the Soo Locks, and an incredible amount of natural resources with copper, iron ore, and wood products. And this is all left off of official state documents?

It’s kind of embarrassing that a bill has to be passed to represent the entire state of Michigan on state documents.
I agree that it is embarrassing that our state would ever produce a publication so errant. Will this bill correct bureaucratic ignorance or mistakes? If it does it will be the first bill ever passed to be successful at doing so.

Michigan is being led by a Canadian lawyer governor who was raised in California and educated among snooty New Englanders that cannot even pronounce garage correctly let alone 'eh. How shocking should it be that her state would accidentally miss all of Michigan north of Mackinaw City in an advertisement?

What this bill does, in essence, is make it illegal for a state agency to imply that "this is Michigan" while pointing to an incomplete state map. I remember a Channel 11 weatherman who would have had to spend half his life in jail had he been held to such a high standard. (Hint, he wasn't.)

Under this law, a partial map is still fine if it is drawn to intentionally indicate only a part of the state, that is if the 110th district map on Lahti's website is any indication. (Notably absent is everything outside of his district.)

Also acceptable are fancily designed logos where Michigan is reduced to a few squiggly lines such as the current MEDC logo, though I'm not so certain the UP should be thrilled with being illustrated as a lumpy string of green spaghetti.

Acceptable too is no logo at all, you know, just in case the artist is an Ohio public school graduate and only draws Crayola stick figures.

This bill, I'm afraid, is just another well intentioned attempt to legislate performance that will have the same effect as outlawing handwritten number 7s with those irritating little horizontal lines half way up, but at least the time spent on this bill was not wasted on trying to do banal things such as balancing the budget or reducing regulatory red tape on job creating businesses. And, while we are at it, why don't we outlaw the that itching, burning, and scratching of Athlete's Foot?

A few weeks ago I watched a disappointingly bad movie called "The Deadliest Sea." It was based on a true story that helped serve as an inspiration for the creators of "The Deadliest Catch." I like The Deadliest Catch. Sure, the language gets a bit salty at times, but who am I to judge the occasional bleeping of a guy that just got whacked upside the head with a heavy iron hook?

Early in the movie it was revealed that the young hero had cut his seafaring teeth on his father's marina on Mackinac Island in Lake Michigan. Of course, Mackinac was pronounced Mack-in-ack in the movie, and the island is actually located in Lake Huron.

Movie producers and directors, advertising copywriters and graphic artists, school children and the rest of the ignorant among us, are all fully within the law when they either intentionally or accidentally butcher our state's geography.

In Michigan, however, government employees are held to a much higher standard. Our law says so.

Cross posted at Right Michigan

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