The Letter to the Editor

My Letter to the Editor ran today in the Argus Press.  I was hoping for Saturday, but will take what I can get!  Below please find the editorial along “with bonus features” including interactive links to other articles and additional commentary.  Please note that I’m limited to 400 words in a letter to the editor, so this is a great place to further explain things.

Shiawassee County officials continue to hide from the public, holding their meetings during the day, avoiding questions, and refusing to take a position on tough issues.  The people of Shiawassee County deserve better!  Mlive reports that we may just be the only county in the state without road patrol, yet no real efforts are being made to fix the issue.  We have around 8 million dollars in the DTRF yet choose to hoard it instead of putting cops on the road.

About the DTRF: If you’re new the the site the basic idea behind the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund is that the county takes it’s Delinquent property taxes, sells them to a collection company, and gets a portion of that money back.  There are time periods where this account dips down by around 4 million until those funds are collected.  However, as you can see here, the county averages about 765,000/year in profit from this account.  In other words this account has about 4 million dollars more in it than the county will ever need.  Some counties don’t have any money in this account at all-they just take out a loan until the delinquent taxes are collected and make slightly less in profit.

Two weeks ago, I sent a question to our commissioners and told them that their responses would be posted on both the saveourpolice website and our local papers.  This made some commissioners really uncomfortable.  The question was “would you support immediately re-opening the budget to find money to partially fund our road patrol?”  After I few emails and phone calls, I managed to get all of the commissioners to respond.  Here’s what they said:

Schneider-Yes

Horvath-No Comment

This is where you would expect me to rip into Horvath, but I’m going to instead take the high road and hope he will actually work with me next time.

Holzhausen-Yes, but we need to save some contingency money for other things.

I agree with this statement, but would add that we also have a Fund Balance (savings account) that we can use for emergencies.

Plowman-Yes, but we need more revenue (taxes)

When we’re spending 2.6 million dollars more than a similar sized county on public safety and courts, do we really need more taxes?  Not as long as we’re paying for commissioners healthcare and pensions we don’t.

Bartz-No, “There is no support for half a road patrol.”…”There is not enough money to run road patrol safely” (This is myth is busted on the website.)

Here is the full text of what he sent me: “There is no support for half a road patrol. Structurally it wont work. safety was and is top priority for our employees. There is not enough money to run road patrol safely”

I responded with this.

Aue-Yes

Root-Yes

A recent article on saveourpolice.wordpress.com showed that in 2014 our county paid 2.6 million dollars MORE on courts and public safety than a similarly sized county.  That county still has a road patrol, and we don’t.  Why are costs so much higher hereWhy do the taxpayers of Montcalm county get a road patrol and we don’t?

We need to start holding our elected officials accountable.  They work for us, and we deserve to know their opinions.  This applies to all elected officials-not just the commissioners.  We must demand to know what the treasurer, clerk, drain commissioner, judges, and everyone else are willing to give up so that we can get cops on the road.  If they don’t, we will make it our mission to keep them from being re-elected.

Actions speak louder than words!  I ask that the county commission make a motion to immediately re-open the budget to find money to get cops on the road NOW.  If you fail to do this, the public will knowIf you oppose or obstruct this, the public will know.  Please do the right thing and save our public safety!

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My Opinion: Bartz and Plowman are Bullies

NoBully

I keep getting messages that go like this:

At the last meeting, Commissioner <x> verbally attacked <Name of Local Official> or <Name of Concerned Citizen>

So who are these bullies who continue to attack those who try and offer solution and enact positive change?  Two names keep coming up: Commissioner John Plowman, and Commissioner Jeff Bartz.

The most recent event that I’ve heard of:

“At the 2/12 Thursday Board of Commissioners meeting Commissioners Bartz and Plowman got into a verbal altercation with Matthew Shepard, a Perry resident.  The argument escalated to the point where members of the audience felt that the altercation might become physical.”

I’ve personally witnessed the commission ripping on Ben Frederick and another local official (I don’t remember his name) during the budget hearing last year.  The funny part is that neither of those officials even attended that meeting.

I’m going to resist the urge to get all high and mighty and point out that these folks:

Instead I’ll just tell you what I tell my children: “Stop it-that’s not how we act”.

My message to our elected officials is simple:

  • If you bully a member of the public, or some random local official, I’ll be here to report on it-every time.
  • If you obstruct the efforts of those who offer solutions to get cops back on the road, everyone will know.
  • If you try to bury our efforts by over complicating things, confusing the issues, or spreading doubt.  I’ll be here to call you out!
  • Every time you try to avoid taking a stand on a tough issue, just picture me typing away, spreading the word far and wide.
  • If your actions don’t match your words-know that folks will be reading about it.
  • You will either change, or I will make it my life’s goal to keep you from being re-elected.  All I have to do is spread the truth.
  • This is your new reality.  Embrace it, or get out.

WatchingYou

Have you been bullied by the commission?  Let me know:

Email Me Anytime

Email Me Anytime

Paying more than other counties and getting less!!!

burning-money2

Reading Mlive’s article about how we might just be to only county in the state to not have a road patrol got me thinking about how other counties our size miraculously manage to keep cops on the road while we cannot.  So first I had to find a similarly sized county: This document from the state senate made it easy.  In 2013 Shiawassee County had a population of 68,900 people and I decided to select a county within 5,000 people.  As you can see I had a few choices:

  • Ionia County
  • Isabella County
  • Marquette County
  • Van Buren County
  • Montcalm County

For this week, I’ve selected Montcalm County.  I was originally going to select Marquette but thought it might have a disproportionate amount of vacation homes which pay much higher taxes so it wouldn’t be a good comparison.

Here’s a link to Montcalm County’s website.  They appear to be serving their community well, they have a road patrol, and are great at transparency.  Their budget is 324 pages long.  It details their general budgeting polices, detailed spending, employee pay and headcount.  In fact, I was able to find everything that I needed right in this one document.  If only we were so lucky in Shiawassee County.  Instead we got nothing but silence from the previous administration.  Things are getting better, but a few folks from the previous administration remain, and their goal appears to be to do whatever they can to obstruct those who are trying to make a difference.

Let’s compare the two, shall we:

Montcalm

As you can see, Montcalm took in less tax revenue than Shiawassee yet somehow managed to keep cops on the road.  How did they do this?  They spent 1.4 million dollars less on courts, and managed to put cops on the road with 1.2 million dollars less than we did-that’s how!

It’s time to re-open the budget and find money for our cops.  From what I see here, it looks like we have too many chiefs and not enough Indians!!!

Ask the commissioners, why don’t we deserve what Montcalm County has?  We’re certainly paying more for it!!!

Time To Press The Issue

No, Really, we swear that we have a HUGE deficit!

Time to tear down the curtain!

After speaking with a few local officials and other concerned citizens, I’ve determined that it’s time to for me to clearly define who is on board with getting cops back on the road, and who is not.  Those who are not will be identified and forced to justify their position to their constituents.

This evening I sent an email to each commissioner individually.  Here’s an excerpt:

I am reaching out to you today with a question.  That question is “would you support immediately re-opening the budget to find money to partially fund our road patrol?”

 

Please respond to this question on or before Saturday, February 21st.  The responses to this question will be published, either partially or in full on the saveourpolice.wordpress.com website and in both of our local papers.

 

My research, available on the website, indicates that the county is on track to make a $538,000 profit while your citizens go without police protection.  Here’s a quick link to those numbers:

https://saveourpolice.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/are-6-cops-better-than-none/

Any bets who will actually care enough to respond?

Responding Yes will of course force a resolution to re-open the budget to secure partial funding for our public safety.  Not responding at all won’t end well for them: My goal is make sure that any commissioner who isn’t working in our best interest won’t be able to run for Janitor of the Venice Park Landfill.

UPDATE: To prevent this from turning into a 10 post ordeal, I will include further updates below. (Check back daily.)

2/15

Initial Emails Sent Out.

Commissioner Schneider has responded.  Thanks Les!

I decided to drag the Treasurer into this discussion as well.  It’s time for him to put some skin in this game.

2/16

I re-sent the message from my personal (gmail) account to the 6 remaining commissioners and treasurer-just in case they didn’t receive the first one for some reason.  In the email to the treasure I also asked him how he felt about my $538,000 profit numbers.  Phone calls are the next step.

2/17

Received a call back from commissioner Holzhausen.  Thanks Gary!

Called commissioner Horvath – He had No Comment.  LOL!  That’s a first!

Left Voicemail for commissioner Root.

Left a VM for commissioner Bartz.  Received an email back from Bartz.  Thanks Jeff!

Spoke with commissioner Plowman.  He actually had a lot of constructive info to share.  Thanks John!

Spoke with commissioner Aue.  Thanks Hartmann!

2/19-I spoke with commissioner Root.  Thanks Jeremy!

Ladies and Gentleman, a miracle has occurred-I heard back from all the commissioners!  One refused to answer my question (Horvath), but at least I talked to them all!  My next step will be to compile their answers and draft an editorial.  Look for it in papers the weekend of the 28th.

Email Me Anytime

Email Me Anytime

Are We The Only Ones?

ashamed

Mlive media group reports that Shiawassee County may be the only county in the state to eliminate their road patrol.  We should be embarrassed, and our elected officials should be ashamed.  I sure am.

I’ve forwarded the article to our county commission chair, strongly encouraging him to use our $500,000 surplus to get some cops back on the road.

If anyone is still interested in collecting signatures for an EFM, I may re-start the petition drive in March when the weather warms up.  You can sign up to help here.  With enough volunteers we can probably collect all the signatures that we need in a day.

As your read through the MLive Article, notice how hard Commissioner Plowman seems to be working to make this fail.  He points out how it would have failed, and also how much it would cost to put it on the August Ballot.  A few things to remember about commissioner Plowman:

  1. Plowman was the finance chair last year and was in charge of the budget that slashed our road patrol.
  2. Plowman never responded to my correspondence requesting copies of the budget, yet claimed on camera to be willing to share “anything on his desk”.
  3. During the budget hearing, Plowman refused to disclose the amount of our “budget deficit”, despite multiple requests from the attendees.
  4. Plowman was also the man who had the audacity to tell me, on camera, that all that I had to do “was ask” for a copy of the budget knowing that he and the rest of the board had ignored my email requesting the budget.

Why doesn’t commissioner Plowman value the safety of our families?

We will remember next November.  Kiss your pension and benefits goodbye

Breaking News-What were they thinking???

doh

Lord help us all!!

As I posted earlier, the Sheriff requested a meeting to get a new public safety millage on the ballot.  The meeting was scheduled for today, February 10th at 5PM.  I had criticized the county for waiting until the last minute to do this-as today was the deadline for getting this on the ballot.  They could have done this weeks ago instead of waiting until the last possible day…

Here’s what state law (MCL 168.646a) has to say about ballot proposal deadlines:

(2) If a local, school district, or county ballot question is to be voted on at a regular election date or special election, the ballot wording of the ballot question shall be certified to the local or county clerk not later than 4 p.m. on the twelfth Tuesday before the election. If the wording is certified to a clerk other than the county clerk, the clerk shall certify the ballot wording to the county clerk at least 82 days before the election. Petitions to place a county or local ballot question on the ballot at the election shall be filed with the clerk at least 14 days before the date the ballot wording must be certified to the local clerk.

They missed the deadline!  There will be no public safety millage because an entire room full of elected officials didn’t realize that this had to be done by 4PM!  

Again, I make my appeal to every person in this county-Please run for a county position next election!  I don’t care if you have any experience or not: If you are a successful human being with a good job and benefits, you’ll have my vote!!!!

Email Me Anytime

Email Me Anytime

Public Safety Millage 2.0

About this much of a chance...

About this much of a chance…

[2/19-Correction-I received a correction on this article.  The actual amount of the millage was .5 mills.  The article has been updated to reflect this.]

There is a meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday February 10th) at 5PM at the Surbeck building to discuss another public safety millage.  Here’s the good news:

  • This time it is for .5 mills, which is ONE THIRD of the previous amount.  This is still more than they need, but much closer than before.

Now-the bad news:

  • The millage will be on a ballot with a ton of other TAX INCREASES including:
    • A 1% Sales tax and auto-registration Tax Increase!
    • School Millages for multiple districts across the county.
  • The commissioners will continue to leech off the taxpayers of this county by collecting pensions and healthcare for their part time jobs.
  • The state police continue to do a great job patrolling the roads of Shiawassee County.  I called in an accident on my corner a few weeks ago and two police cars were on scene in less than 5 minutes.
  • Tomorrow is the deadline to place things on the May ballot-so our elected officials waited until the very last minute to do this.

Here’s a link to the Argus Press Article that discusses the meeting.

My take on this: By “taking their toys and going home” the county has painted themselves into a corner.  There is NO WAY this millage will pass in May.  Every anti-tax person on earth will be at the polls trying to take down the Sales Tax increase; and the rest will consider whether to spend their hard earned dollars on roads, schools, or public safety.  Our elected officials should be ashamed of themselves for letting this situation go this far.  There were perfectly workable solutions to our budget crisis which they decided to ignore in a attempt to extort more tax dollars from us.  Now, they’ve made their bed and we will be forced to lie in it.  The excellent State Police coverage that we are currently receiving won’t last forever, but until it does end our elected officials will look like fools.  After it ends, the families of this county will suffer.

I can’t make it to the meeting tomorrow because…I work.  If they truly wanted the public there they would schedule their meetings around 7PM, and not at the last minute!

I would urge anyone reading this who can attend the meeting to do so, and express their concerns!  As long as our commissioners continue to feel that their pensions are more important than our safety, or that no cops are better than some, I have no compelling reason to support this ballot proposal.

Here’s what I would ask the commission to do: If you want the support of the community, dig into your budget and get some cops on the Road NOW!  Show the people that this is about more than the money: It’s about the safety our families, and we deserve better!  If you do that, then we will come to the polls and support you…