President Barack Obama apparently schooled a freshman Congressman in the ways of Washington in a closed door meeting with fellow Democrats recently. According to Roll Call, Obama jousted with Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan who was introduced to the chief executive as being a neophyte. Obama reportedly said, “Wow, you’re really classing up the place then.”
When Kildee, a veteran politician from one of the areas hardest hit by the recession, asked a question about job creation for the Flint area, Obama responded “I can tell you’re a freshman because you didn’t pay much attention to the State of the Union,” adding. “I talked about that.”
When laughter ensued, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) kindly offered a copy of the great communicator’s State of the Union address.
Kildee, like other Representatives from areas that have been hit hard by de-industrilization, out-migration, and the lingering recession, are interested in proposals by the president to create so-called “innovation centers.” This still ambiguous concept would apparently fund $15 billion to support manufacturing. It was in Flint, Rep. Kildee’s hometown that saw the birth and later decadence of General Motors, along with a comfortable way of life for three generations of working class Americans until the 1980s when plant closings doomed the area to rust and senescence.
Flint, like nearby Detroit, has been plagued by drug violence and murders. The city government is currently being managed by a state-imposed city manager. A fading tax base has meant a drop in government services such as fire and police protection.
Kildee’s uncle, Rep. Dale Kildee (D), represented the area from 1976 until last year and was a notable supporter of the United Auto Workers. It was Dale Kildee, a reliable pro-labor vote, who was in office during the inevitable slide of the Flint area following the massive General Motors layoffs and eventual plant closings. Much of the city of Flint is characterized by abandoned and burned out homes, as well as acres of now vacant land where thousands of plant workers once labored. Last month, another General Motors plant was closed in nearby Grand Blanc, adding to the gloom in the area.
The junior Kildee is well-acquainted with Obama SOTU, having chatted on-line with constituents on Feb. 13 about Obama’s speech. Also, on March 13, Kildee met with White House state about Obama’s innovation centers, and was thus quite familiar with the concept.
Dale Kildee has been involved in politics from an early age, having supported his uncle since childhood. He was elected to the local school board before he was 21 and later became treasurer of the surrounding Genesee County. He has received acclaim for creating a land bank for Genesee County, taking possession of properties in tax foreclosures in the hope of preventing the spread of urban blight. The Genesee Land Bank thus owns hundreds of properties in the downsized county which now do not generate revenue.