Michigan still has an image problem.
The Great Lakes State, while showing some fresh green buds on its thawing economy, is still a long way from being out of the dark. The city of Detroit is still flirting with bankruptcy and unemployment is still higher than the national average.
Those are the images people remember from Michigan outside its borders -- stories about high urban murder rates and decaying 20th century auto plants.
That's only half the story, but the other half is not one the national media is likely to glom onto.
Michigan has vibrant and resurgent communities with massive tourism opportunities such as fresh water, skiing, golf and managed forest lands. So, when the Michigan Legislature first opted to create its own promotional campaign back in 2008 amidst the Great Recession, it was a smart move.
The billboards, radio spots and television commercials showed the nation what people in the Mitten already knew -- this is a special place.
Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Snyder's administration recently risked the idea of a "Pure Michigan" last month with a full-page political ad in the Wall Street Journal.
"What happens when Michigan makes history," the ad said, proclaiming Michigan as the newest right-to-work state.
The spread advertises a "new day for business in Michigan" after a gloves-off battle between Michigan Republicans and labor unions about whether to outlaw requiring union membership as a condition of employment in Michigan, often referred to as closed shops.
Right-to-work was a "divisive" issue, the governor said before the House and Senate rushed through the bills and the tough nerd signed it behind closed doors.
The public response was thousands flooding the Capitol lawn to protest the decision.
Tying tourism ad dollars to this issue is a mistake. The governor is right.
Right-to-work divided people politically in Michigan and has the same implications nationally.
So, using taxpayer funds to promote the action is careless. It dilutes the Pure Michigan brand by mixing politics with leisure, something nobody wants.
It couldn't have come at a worse time either.
State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey, recently introduced a bill calling for Pure Michigan to be funded at $50 million annually from taxpayer dollars. The legislation would double the funding for the tourism promotion, which would make Michigan as highly funded in its promotions as much larger states like California and Texas.
For Northern Michigan, those dollars would entice people to come enjoy offseason activities such as winter snowmobiling and fall color tours. It would also help smaller communities like Mackinac Island, Harbor Springs and Charlevoix, which pay into the ad campaign to leverage their funds with state dollars for specific targeted promotions.
But, getting those increased funds is unlikely, if Pure Michigan becomes a political football battled over by Republicans and Democrats.
Keep Pure Michigan pure, and let Michigan use the promotion to remind people what is great about Michigan.