We do not support highways. Or more accurately, ride on them. It used to be easy – thanks to those nifty little on-ramps where you gradually increase the speed to match that of existing traffic. Who then moved to leave you the same way these polite NASCAR drivers do to people coming out of pit road. There is only one small problem.
Whoever designed the modern ramps must have missed nap time in kindergarten.
They have four or five entry points – each with one or two roundabouts, hairpin bends and a sign that says “Speed limit 10 mph” where the freeway begins. Or they descend 900 feet from an overpass with only 20 feet of roadway at the bottom from which to safely merge.
Because the brains of the Department of Transportation think everyone drives Lamborghinis that go from zero to Mach 10 in a millionth of a second.
Corporate mergers are just as bad. Between the industrial takeovers or corporate acquisitions launched or consumed daily, we have yet to see one that does anyone any good. For every product or service you really love, it’s guaranteed to fade faster than the Detroit Lions’ Super Bowl hopes.
And don’t even get us started on health care consolidation, including the merger this month of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health — two of Michigan’s top five hospital systems. Every time behemoths like this – with 22 hospitals and 305 ambulatory care facilities – combine and corner the market, costs rise and patient experience scores fall, a 2020 Harvard Medical School analysis reveals. on nearly 250 hospital mergers. None of that means much to one of the most powerful members of Michigan’s legislature, which has doubled down to encourage a different kind of merger.
There are too many, says Jim Stamas, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, R-Midland. With declining enrollment and debt preventing needed money from flowing into the classrooms they belong to, he’s thinking of a special pot of money to encourage smaller districts to merge their operations and repay what they must is exactly what the doctor ordered. Not to mention cementing his legislative legacy during his senior year at Lansing.
How quickly things change.
For this is the same guy who 10 years ago – when he was a state representative – voted to end the 150 school cap on public charter schools so parents would have unfettered choice in the education of their children. Ah, but the tyke count is now down sharply, so it’s tach it up, tach it up, mate, that’s gonna stop you. Although he insists that he is not proposing that the state go into closing schools – but only to create a framework in which this could happen “if it makes sense” – he is quite clear what he thinks the outcome should be.
That is why we hope that the proposal will lead nowhere. Because what is voluntary today can easily become mandatory tomorrow. Especially if schools were to respond – if consolidation incentives were to feature in next year’s school aid budget – with a hearty “thank you, but no thank you”. Thin-skinned lawmakers resent having their “helping hand” rejected.
School mergers usually only succeed when the public is strongly engaged, as was the case when Britton-Macon and Deerfield came together 10 years ago. But even the slightest nudge toward an undesirable pairing will surely trigger the same reaction the Oakland Unified School Board in California had this month as it closed or merged 11 buildings over the next two years. Processions of horns. Student-orchestrated walkouts. And the teachers who go on hunger strikes.
Suddenly rush hour freeway merges don’t look so bad after all.
Talk Back with Doug Spade and Mike Clement is heard every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon EST on Buzz 102.5 FM and online at www.dougspade.com and www.lenconnect.com.