All's fair in love and politics

When Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm gives her State of the State address tomorrow, one of her proposals will be to save money by ending funding for the 160-year-old Michigan State Fair, one of the oldest in the country.

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The fair hasn't made money for 20 years and attendance has steadily declined. As a result, the state must provide a subsidy that in some years has been as high as $1.3 million.

The idea of deep-sixing money for the fair caused the usual gnashing of teeth that accompanies any proposal to cut much of anything from a state budget.Agriculture is Michigan's second-largest industry after automobiles. The state leads the nation in producing 20 separate agri-food commodities, ranking second to California.

Nearly every state has a state fair, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, most of them are better attended than Michigan's.

It doesn't surprise me that the Michigan State Fair doesn't do all that well, considering that it's located in a rundown neighborhood in the City of Detroit -- not an agricultural hotspot.

Celebrating Michigan's agricultural industry seems like a good idea, but in these economically troubled times, it also seems like an excellent idea to ask the event to pay for itself.

There have been several proposals over the years to use the fair property for something else, but none of them has made it off the drawing board. In this latest plan, Gov. Granholm wants the property to be associated with job creation and public-private partnerships.

If creating new jobs in Michigan were easy, it would have been done a long time ago, but here's an idea.

Let's build a former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Marriage Counseling Center for Wayward Politicians. It would certainly be busy. After all, Kilpatrick has lots of recent compatriots, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Sen. John Edwards. And who better to run this operation than Kilpatrick himself -- it will give him something to do when he gets out of jail on Tuesday.

In fact, this might solve two economic problems in one fell swoop. Kilpatrick needs work in order to pay the City of Detroit $1 million in restitution, and the fairgrounds needs a purpose other than a state fair that loses money.

It could be a public-private partnership even a straight-laced governor could love.
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