Michigan Governor Calls Terrorist Attacks 'Watershed Moment'
By Greg McDonald, Senior Writer
The office of governor is powerful. But when they assumed office, none of the 50 men and women who took the job could have anticipated the kinds of problems and challenges they have faced since September 11. From time to time, STATELINE.ORG will publish the reflections of governors on their role in America's War with Terrorism. Michigan Gov. John Engler, a 53-year-old Republican, offers his observations on what life and governing have been like in recent weeks. As Chairman of the National Governors Association, his responsibilities also include serving as the lead contact with the federal government on behalf of the nations governors/
Engler, now late into his third and last term and the longest-serving governor in the country, describes September 11th as "a watershed moment in American history" that fundamentally changed the way all Americans view their security.
"We now have a new perspective on things," he says, noting the "major changes" that Americans have seen in security at airports, government office buildings and even at big corporations and small businesses. "The result will be a more aware populace and a more secure country."
Engler, who last term ends in January 2003, says his new responsibility of dealing with the possibility of more terrorist attackshas been made a lot easier because Michigan has had anti-terrorism task force in place and operating since 1996. "Because of that, we already have a good plan in place to deal with threats of terrorism," he said in an email interview with Stateline.org. "The Michigan legislature has also acted quickly to introduce legislation to toughen Michigan's laws dealing with terrorism. A new law that provides for new sanctions for threats that prove to be hoaxes went into effect last week."
As part of the anti-terrorism effort in Michigan, Engler said he and other public officials from the state police, health department, and National Guard have also been meeting and hold weekly public briefings to keep the citizenry informed. The Michigan government has also turned to the Internet, he said, to help answer thousands of questions about terrorism, anthrax and other frequently raised concerns. The public and get answers at the state website at www.michigan.gov.
"The people of Michigan are, like others in the country, very concerned about terrorism and its affect on our everyday lives," Engler added. "I'd say that people are not seeing themselves as more dependent on government. Rather, they are looking for state government to provide leadership and guidance during this tense time."