Monday, February 16, 2015

STREET FIGHT: Paul Mitchell Pulls No Punches Battling Road Tax Package In WMP Interview

By Brandon Hall     
(Email him at

>>>Growing up in the infamous, hard-nosed Southie projects of Boston with six siblings and parents who worked multiple jobs to keep food on the table, Paul Mitchell is no stranger to working hard and getting things done.

Mitchell worked his way to Michigan State University, eventually graduating, working for Chrysler, then becoming a top leader at Ross Education. He would eventually become CEO at Ross.

Most political junkies first heard of Mitchell in fall of 2013 when he launched ads against Gary Peters through his "Pure PAC." Soon after, he announced he was running for Congress when Dave Camp said he was retiring

"Losing kind of sucks," Paul Mitchell tells WMP when asked what he learned because of his heated Congressional race against now Congressman John Moolenaar.

 "I learned how difficult it is to overcome the power of the political establishment. We didn't 'feel their wrath,' but we definitely did not get the support. John Moolenaar isn't a bad guy, though how we approached the office would have been different. The campaign taught me some things about how to communicate issues better."

Mitchell has moved on from that intense battle to become chairman of Michigan's Faith and Freedom Coalition.

"There was a compelling need for someone to lead and Chair after Mike Bishop couldn't continue in that role," Mitchell said. "(Faith and Freedom) matched my philosophy-they support values that express the freedom to raise a family, the freedom to express faith, and the freedom to build businesses and careers."

Mitchell notes that while they are an affiliate of the national Faith and Freedom group, "we determine independently what our priorities are for Michigan."

Mitchell has now stepped up as a key leader for the opposition against Gov. Snyder's road package, forming the group "Say No To Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals."

"I got involved (with the May 5th election) solely because it is so fundamental. This proposal is the intersection of bad politics and bad public policy-it's the poster boy for everything wrong with politics as usual."

Mitchell is now ready to roll up his sleeves and work toward defeating the controversial proposal.

"We'll use a variety of venues-we'll get our message out through a variety of mediums," Mitchell said. "We won't just be using social media, press releases, email blasts, and various talk show appearances, we have many activities planned as we go forward these next 70 days or so."

Mitchell says his group distributed thousands of pieces of lit and almost two dozen County conventions and that delegates were very receptive to the message.

Mitchell pulls no punches when talking about the proposal.

"It's a $700 million ransom," Mitchell said. "It's a holdup. What else would you call it when you have to pay 40% (of the $2 billion to groups unrelated to roads)? You can call it making a deal, and I know sometimes you have to make a deal, but this is extraordinary. Explain that to taxpayers. Don't be disingenuous. Don't put lipstick on a pig"

Mitchell breaks the package down like this:

"It's a $2 billion tax increase, with 40% doing nothing for roads or road quality at all," Mitchell said. "$1.2 billion will eventually go to roads, but they will pay on past debt first, on roads constructed during the Engler administration."

Where does he get his numbers from?

"They (Safe Roads Yes) can say whatever they want-we took our numbers from the House Fiscal Agency and Anderson Economic Group,"Mitchell said. "These aren't my numbers. They're not from anyone opposing it."

Mitchell was shocked that this package is what the Conference committee came up with:

"It is a 58% increase over what they went into Conference on," Mitchell said. "I can't think of a time in my life where something like that happened. This is 10 different bills and a resolution. It will cost Michigan families $800/home. It's a special interest Christmas tree on steroids with nice little trinkets on it."

Actual "Safe Roads Yes" Facebook Cover Pic

Scare tactics from the other side won't work, Mitchell says.

"They've played a number of scare tactics," Mitchell said. "No one is saying, 'Safe Roads NO,' or 'Safe Roads I Don't' Care,'" Mitchell said. "Roads and infrastructure are vital-the issue is how we pay for it and the ransom contained in this is bad policy, bad politics, and bad for Michigan families."

They claim "Proposal 1 is our last, best chance to guarantee that every penny we pay in state gas taxes goes to transportation, roads and bridges. If Proposal 1 passes, every penny we pay at the pump in state gas taxes is guaranteed in the constitution to go to transportation. We can put an end to the shell game played by the politicians in Lansing that diverts gas tax revenues to non-transportation purposes. On May 5, Vote YES on Proposal 1"

And "Bridges are deteriorating across the state and temporary fixes won't solve the long-term problem infrastructure in our state is facing. Proposal 1 is our last best chance to ensure funding to fix crumbling bridges like this one...Michigan’s roads and bridges are dangerous. You see and feel their bone-jarring crumbling condition every time you drive...We cannot put off investing in fixing our roads and bridges any longer. Public safety and our economy depend on making this important investment in Michigan’s future now – before our roads crumble even further. On May 5, Vote YES on Proposal 1, our last, best chance to fix Michigan roads. ‪#‎SafeRoadsYES‬"

Yikes. Michigan Horror Story: Road Style, jeez...

>>>Mitchell notes "there wouldn't even be any significant road work until at least next April. Stop saying it's our last opportunity to fix the roads. Stop saying that. A variety of leaders just don't want to deal with solutions to the roads-they simply just want this to go away."

The Michigan Townships Association recently gave the Yes campaign a $100,000 donation. They receive their money from local townships and subsequently, from public tax dollars. Mitchell is troubled by that and believes that should be spotlighted.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the Counties donate, too. The public needs to know that this is going on with their money," Mitchell said. "Money will be coming from a variety of sources, many are ultimately paid for by taxpayers."

Mitchell thinks that the M.E.A.will also come through for the "Yes" campaign.

"The M.E.A. will get money out of the N.E.A.," Mitchell said. "It's important to them to get more money, and to get higher ed funding out of the School Aid Fund."

Mitchell says "this is more serious than the tax on services under Granholm because that could be changed by the legislature. This current package would be written into our Constitution."

What past experience does Mitchell believe help him the most?

"My background in public policy and economics (from Michigan State)," Mitchell said. "And my philosophy is you've got to say what you mean and do what you say."

Buzz is building around the possibility of another Paul Mitchell campaign soon. Tim Skubick even recently implied Mitchell could be interested in running for Governor in 2018.

"It's too bad the assumption is made, that the only reason things are done is to move to the next step," Mitchell said. "I am not doing this because it's some pathway to the Governor's office. Someone has to stand up and say this is really bad policy. Someone has to stand up and say that Michigan families have had enough-we need to solve problems like the road and infrastructure issues but we're not gonna hold families hostage with a 40% ransom to do it."

Mitchell thinks state leaders are ignoring average Michiganders.

"It frustrates people," Mitchell said. "They thought they would get an efficient government (when they voted in November), this is not what they bargained for. The way this package went down is disheartening to a lot of people. They know they won't always get what they want, but they want leadership. Tell us what your priorities are and why you're doing what you're doing-we shouldn't have to pay a $700 million ransom just to get a road package to the ballot. I don't think the people leading our state and our party realize how upset people are. 

Let's get safe roads, yes, absolutely-but let's do it the responsible way. If you went into the store and saw a roast was priced at $10, but when you got to the counter, they said 'oh, wait,you actually need to buy $5 more worth of stuff,' you wouldn't buy that roast. That's basically what this is."

Mitchell has a prescription a lot like Frank Underwood's education plan.

"Lock 'em in a room, get carryout food, and don't come out until you have a real plan that respects Michigan families and taxpayers," Mitchell said. "67% of people in the latest Vanguard poll, when they find out the details, they oppose what they're trying to do. Saying we can't find a dime out of a budget of over $50's just a special interest power play."

Like State Rep. Lee Chatfield and others, Mitchell thinks former Speaker Bolger's plan should come back into the discussion if the road package fails May 5th. If Mitchell has his way, that discussion will indeed take place.

Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics. >>>Email him at 

Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson


  1. I agree with Cathy, good article. But I just want to add that I think a leader who wants to solve a 'dire,' 'critical' emergency with a single plan and no backup plan, no plan B, is irresponsible in the extreme. Michigan does not need this kind of leadership.

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