Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No county money for the Train to Nowhere

I'm surprised here, and in a good way, considering where some of the pressure for this is coming from. Good for the commissioners.

The Argus has a good piece on this found here.

The county's 2008 budget,
set to be approved in early November, contains no money for the proposed Washtenaw and Livingston Line commuter train.

That's despite being informally asked for a contribution from organizers, including Northfield Township Supervisor Mike Cicchella.

By contrast, Washtenaw County has pledged $300,000 over two years for the project, and the downtown development authorities of Northfield Town-ship and the city of Ann Arbor also will reportedly contribute.
Cicchella wouldn't comment on the Livingston board's refusal to put up any money.

But Bill Rogers, the board chairman, said the county simply needs more information, including more concrete budget and ridership projections, before it can participate.

Even if that data were to come, the county's financial situation is not conducive to any donation, he said.

Rogers cited uncertainty over the 911 dispatch and jail budgets because of potential changes coming from the Legislature in Lansing.

In any case, the information received so far hasn't been enough for the board to jump in.

"Just because we're doing our homework, everybody thinks we're not interested," Rogers said.


I'd be all for this train if it was private funds and paid for itself, but with the subsidies required, route of the train, and overall costs, this will be a pork barrell project.

Recall hearing shenanigans in Warren

While I don't support recalling state reps who are term limited (stick to senators and Granholm), this is shady.

The Macomb County Election Commission in Mount Clemens said the recall language was unclear and voted 2-1 to reject the petition prepared against Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren. Last month, Bieda was among the majority of lawmakers who supported increasing the state income tax from 3.9 to 4.35 percent and expanding the 6-percent sales tax to a number of previously exempt services. Together, the two levies are expected to generate about $1.4 billion annually when fully implemented.

Backers of the recall effort promised a quick appeal, saying the language clearly spelled out that the tax votes were the reason for the recall.

"The state of case law says the standard for clarity petitions is between lenient and very lenient. But sadly, politics trumped the rule of law here," said Greg Schmid, a Saginaw attorney who said he will file an appeal within the allotted 10 days.

"They don't want a recall to be conducted and their clear purpose is to delay. They can run, but they can't hide," he added.


2-1, Democrats vote to block the recall. Wonder why? Partisan politics, especially since a lot of emphasis is given to the clarity language to make sure it is legitimate.

This is going to appeal. We'll see what happens here. The good news no matter what happens is that Bieda is gone after the 08 elections anyway. That's good to see. He's one of the five worst reps in the legislature.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gas tax increase proposal

This here is enough for me to grab a pitchfork and lead a peasant rebellion. Normally I agree with the state Chamber, but not this time at all.

LANSING -- A gas tax is a job creator, while the service tax is a job killer. So say the interest groups out to hike the one and scrap the other. Despite the pressure, lawmakers are tax averse at the moment.

On Wednesday, a coalition of road builders, union leaders, local governments and general business groups renewed their push for a $1 billion annual increase in fuel tax and vehicle registration fees to replenish shrinking road repair budgets.

A bill package quickly shelved after introduction in April would raise the state's 19-cent gas tax to 28 cents per gallon by 2009 and boost vehicle registration fees by 50 percent. The state would get 40 percent of the new money. Counties and cities would share the rest. The proposal has languished because neither Gov. Jennifer Granholm nor lawmakers have made road revenue an element in a year-long struggle to balance the state budget


The talking points from them is that the money for a gas tax would fix the roads. I don't trust government to earmark that money there in the first place, but here's my response. Why the hell are the roads in other states better than ours despite constant construction, many of them have lower gas prices? Weather is used as an excuse, but other states have more extreme weather than we do.

Michigan year in and year out has one of the highest gas prices in the country. Not only that, we pay 6% sales tax on top of the gas taxes we already have, so we are already double taxed.

And one rumor I heard is that one of the grants or possible grants for that Train to Nowhere being pushed here is $500,000 from our highway funds. Now I don't know for a fact if that is true, but if it is, than this money won't be just going for road repairs.

With $3/gallon gas as it is, this turkey needs to be shot down faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

A Conservative Explains His Vote

Normally, I don't print guest columns or press releases emailed to me, but Chris Ward and I go back a long ways.

A Conservative Explains his Vote by Rep. Chris Ward

Many of my friends have been scratching their heads trying understand my vote for the income tax. Let me explain why I consider my actions on the budget consistent with my beliefs and record as a conservative.

First of all let me establish my credentials as a true blue member of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Some of the proudest votes I have taken in the House have actually been to the right of many in my own caucus. I was one of less than a dozen of members to vote against the 21st Century Jobs program that has proven itself to be a major waste of taxpayers’ money and a pork barrel bonanza that helped fund the Governor’s re-election. I was one of three members of the House to vote against the Earned Income Tax Credit which starting in 2009 will be a major welfare program with no strings attached funded by the taxpayers of this state. I have voted to cut budgets and slash spending when others would not. I voted to take on public employee unions when others would not. I supported Proposal 2 when others would not.

To be frank, there are some who feel that casting conservative votes and being vocal about conservative causes is the extent of their job in furthering our beliefs.

While those are indeed important, more important is to use our positions to achieve conservative solutions for our public policy problems. I will put my record up against any of my colleagues on this test.

In my freshman term, I pushed through Michigan’s Election Consolidation Law. This law ended stealth tax elections and increased the number of taxpayers participating in school board elections. For a dozen years this bill never mustered the votes to pass the House. In the end, Governor Granholm signed it into law despite the fact she had promised groups during the election she wouldn’t. The law isn’t perfect, a lot of compromises had to be made, but it has been a major step forward for protecting taxpayers.

In my last term, I doggedly pursued the enactment of Michigan’s Photo I.D. at the polls law. Against a lot of odds, fighting within and outside of our party I stuck to my guns on the issue and found a way to get the Michigan Supreme Court to act on this issue. Despite being ignored for over a decade, photo I.D.is now officially the law of the land in Michigan. Any member of my caucus would attest that this simply wouldn’t have happened without my work.

Now, some facts about my income tax vote. Let me say at the outset these were tradeoffs for my vote:

1.An agreement to change our school funding formula to provide for greater equity for the lowest funded schools in our state. Why should this be important to conservatives? The funding disparity has caused a major movement repeal of Proposal A. If that movement were to succeed one of the greatest protections for taxpayers in this state would be gone.

2. Major reform of our school pension program. Quite simply, the pension costs for our local schools are strangling their budgets and there is nothing school boards could do about it. Changes to years if service required for benefits and increasing participants co-pays will save taxpayers millions and put these dollars back in the classroom. This proposal fell four votes short last session because several Republicans refused to support it.

3. Breaking the stranglehold of the MEA on teacher health care. The inability for our schools to pool for benefits purchases have the data needed to competitive bid has cost our school districts hundreds of millions of dollars. This proposal passed the Senate last session but we were at least a dozen votes short in our own caucus and it had no chance of passing.

4. I used my bargaining position to keep the tax increase as low as possible, with a built in rollback and to try to defeat the services sales tax. My final decision to vote yes on the income tax was a last minute attempt to the kill the services tax. If the Senate had failed to pass it, Speaker Dillon committed to me that the service tax would be dead in the House. Working with the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Chamber, nobody fought harder to kill the services tax than I did.

It was common knowledge in Lansing that a tax increase was imminent; that experience in other states where government shutdowns have happened has shown higher taxes with no structural reforms; and that the lack of Republicans stepping forward to take a difficult vote meant the likelihood these reforms passing was small. After all why would Democrats vote for and Governor Granholm sign these very anti-MEA bills without some tradeoff?

Serious reforms were left undone because so few Republicans were willing to come to the table. I was particularly disappointed 48-month lifetime welfare benefit cap wasn’t included. Capping the taxpayers’ exposure for the legacy cost of public employee union members was left undone. The taxes ended up higher than they needed to be and we now have a services sales tax that is amongst one of the highest in the country.

Ronald Reagan understood that sometimes feeding the Democrats short term insatiable appetite for taxes meant he could accomplish serious conservative changes. As Governor California he signed numerous tax increases in exchange for support from the Democratic legislature for his policies. As President, Reagan teamed up with Tip O’Neill to raise the social security tax in exchange for raising the eligibility age for retirement. This move gave decades of relief to taxpayers and helped avoid much greater taxes in future years.

I abhor taxes. I only decided to follow this course after I was convinced that the outcome would be much worse than if I didn’t. I will always believe the outcome would have been better if more of my colleagues joined me in these efforts. The reforms signed into law are a major hit to the MEA that has them reeling. These bills are now law, passed by Democratic House and signed by a Democratic Governor-something unimaginable a short time ago.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

2008 President - The big issue - SCOTUS

I've gotten a lot of calls and emails by individuals asking me why I have not endorsed candidate x at this time. Right now my ideological side is battling with my pragmatic side, and both have about 50% influence. I'm still a little ornery from the MSU game as I write this, so heads up in advance.

A little bit of background. In 2000, I was not a Republican. I was an independent with libertarian leanings, and very little pragmatism. I still have a bit of the indy streak in me as I vote the person over the party and never voted for a straight ticket (voted for blank and one libertarian judge since the republican wasn't contesting worth a damn). That said, I have not protest voted for a major office since the 2000 Senate race back when I went libertarian. That was before I was a Republican, and the current incumbent's office made the poor decision to directly lie to me. My bloodlines are Irish and I tend to remember things like that.

Back in 2000, I was planning to vote for Harry Browne, the Libertarian. I was not impressed with some of the positions of then Governor Bush. He was vague in his speeches and was not the best communicator. On policy, he remided me too much of Bill Clinton without the scandals. Sometimes I still get that gut feeling. I don't care for GATT with the WTO managing US trade. I'm not much of a nation builder. I don't like the big spending, and don't think the feds have any business in education policy (that's why we have school boards) or health care (prescription drugs) as they always tend to foul things up.

My decision then rested on two things. Janet Reno and the Supreme Court. I did not want to see Al Gore pick 2 or 3 Supreme Court justices. I did not want to see the butcher of Waco appointed for another term at AG. That flipped my vote from Browne to Bush at the last minute.

2004 was easier for me. Nominating the guy that represents literally every single thing wrong with the democrats - John Kerry - makes it an easy choice. For my gripes I have with Bush on several issues, I still have no regrets. On every issue which I disagreed with Bush, Kerry either agreed with him, or was worse.

And now we have a race between Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Fred Thompson, and Mike Huckabee. I'm real tired of the "I'm conservative too" bullshit soundbytes going on right now, and am looking to see plans, actions, and governmental reforms that are not worse than the problem. Good ole fashion less government. I'm undecided, and will probably stay that way until close to primary day.

But in the end with me, 2008 comes down to one issue over anything else. SCOTUS. "The Supreme Court of the United States." We are maybe one, if not two justices away from a constitutionalist court, getting the 10th amendment back, regaining our 2nd amendment rights (Parker v DC is a big case right now which has been appealed to SCOTUS), and delegating the abortion issue (Overturning the Lochner cases of our time - Doe v Bolton and Roe v Wade) and their successors to the states where it belongs. Unlike what the media portrays, overturning Roe and Doe do not ban abortions, but put the issue where it belongs on 10th amendment grounds - to the states and the people.

The ages of the SCOTUS justices:
Stevens - 87
Ginsburg - 74
Scalia - 71
Kennedy - 71
Breyer - 69
Souter - 68
Thomas - 59
Alito - 57
Roberts (chief) - 52

I know people are living a long time these days, but when half of the justices are in their 70's, that means there could be a lot of retirements. I really do not want to see a bunch of Breyer clones about 50 years old serving for thirty-five years, who do not follow constitution, but either create or ignore rights that should be considered "political questions."

Granted, not all of the conservatives or liberals are lockstep with one another. Even Justice Thomas (who I agree with the most on judicial issues) and Scalia sometimes disagee. Chief Justice Roberts has impressed me so far with his decisions/dissents. It is too early to tell with Justice Alito. I just hope the next few justices follow the constitution as it is written and to return the commerce clause to its original meaning and substanstive due process to its pre-Lochner (even though I agree with the Lochner philospohy, it was not the business of the federal government - I am consistent) meaning.

I'd like to see the next Justice of the Supreme Court be Alex Kozinski, or someone on that line. Will that happen? I don't know.

Which presidential candidate will move us towards that direction? It certainly isn't the democrats - even Richardson and Gravel who I don't mind on a personal level, but simply can not vote for due to policy reasons. Will the Republican candidates do so? That's what I still need to figure out, especially in the cases of Giuliani, Huckabee, and Romney. The senators have a record on this issue, good or bad, in their confirmation votes.

This is my 2008 litmus test. A constitutionalist court.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Outside of Tom Coburn, More fiscal irresponsibility in the Peter Principle Senate

One of the few good Senators is Tom Coburn out of Oklahoma. I wish he was running for president, but I don't think he wants the job.

A big deal was made over the veto of SCHIPP, which was a tax increase and major spending increase on health care which is not affordable. It was of course, "for the children," but how many senators really care for the children?

From the Washington Times

On Tuesday, Mr. Coburn offered an amendment that would have stalled funding for pork projects until Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt certified that every child in this country had health insurance. Mr. Coburn's colleagues smacked down his amendment by a 68-26 vote, a tally that included 23 members of his own party defecting from his movement toward fiscal restraint.

After rejecting Mr. Coburn's measure, senators then proceeded to attach $400 million in earmarks, many unrelated, to an appropriations bill funding the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. Such unrelated pork projects and their hefty price tags ranged from $1 million for a celebration at Vermont's Lake Champlain to $500,000 for field trips to the Chesapeake Bay. There was even a curious provision for $500,000 toward a "virtual herbarium" in New York and $50,000 for an ice center in Utah. It is unconscionable that senators were willing to place these projects above health-care reform.

There was one victory was last week, however, when Mr. Coburn was able to nix a $1 million provision that would have gone toward a museum memorializing the 1969 Woodstock music festival. The Senate voted 52-42 to reject the measure and instead fund maternal health care. Why did the Woodstock project got the ax while the other extraneous projects were rubber stamped?


No wonder why Congress has a 17% approval rating. They suck.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

US Senate - The Peter Principle in Action

The Peter Principle is alive and well in Washington DC. Per Capita, I highly doubt there is as a whole a more incompetent group of jokers on the face of the earth than in the United State Senate. That goes for either party. The percentage of complete screw ups there is well over 70%.

While Bush deservingly gets a lot of the blame, particulary with the spending, the senate is even worse. That's not just John Kerry either, his opponent in 04. Bush finally grew a backbone and found his veto pen, but again, the US senate, including republicans there, are FUBAR'ing it all up. This is just in from the Examiner with an aptly titled headline. Oink! Oink! Senate Republicans still slobbering over earmarks. These idiots more than any other are the reason why we lost in 2006.

Charlie Rangel had one pork project in the house for three construction projects for a Harlem college in his district. The projects would be named after Rangel.

But when it came time to vote on this crude effort by Rangel to use tax dollars to promote himself, it was preserved on a 61-34 vote. Two Democrats — Sen. Evan Bayh, Ind., and Sen. Russ Feingold, Wis. — voted for the DeMint amendment, while 16 Republicans voted against it. The 16 were Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kit Bond of Missouri, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Larry Craig of Idaho, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dick Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens of Alaska, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, George Voinovich of Ohio and John Warner of Virginia.


If the Republicans held firm, this would not have passed, but instead of pushing a new line on spending, we get the same ole 2004-2006 version of the GOP from them, not the 1994 version. I'm not surprised at most of these names here. Ted Stevens is the worst of the bunch - he's the Republican's version of Robert Byrd on pork. Larry Craig showed his "Brilliance" when he doesn't even know what pleading guilty means. None of the rest are prizes either.

Lott, Hatch, and Lugar get some credit - at least they voted against Jack Murtha's pork project. That's not saying much, but with the way the senate works, I'm not all that unhappy with them only screwing us with pork 1/2 of the time instead of all the time as it usually is.

A lot of Senators need some primaries in 2008. Time to Clean the house of these 16 jokers. Our party and our country will be better off long-term with the removal of this deadweight. Send the democrats home as well. 49 of them screwed us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No Federal Money for Train to Nowhere

$1 million denied from the feds. From the Argus

A rail line project between Washtenaw and Livingston counties won't receive a $1 million federal grant to help fund the system's infrastructure.
The committee planning the system learned on Monday that the federal grant money — earmarked for other projects — won't be applied to the rail project, which would extend between Howell and Ann Arbor.


No tax money should be used for this. See the post below for why I call this the "Train to Nowhere."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Price of Commuter Rail between Howell and Ann Arbor - $2.3 Million subsidy

At least that's the estimate from the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.

From the Ann Arbor News, they estimate:

884,000 riders a year. (I think that's way high)
Annual Operating Costs - $4.8 million
Annual revenue - $2.5 million

For comparison's sake, they average $27 a day from a car commute from Howell to Ann Arbor. That's about 60 miles a day, round trip. 60 miles is between 1/5 and 1/6 of a tank in my evil assault SUV. I drive a V6 and have about a 20 gallon tank. For me, that's about $7-10 a day if I was still commuting to Howell - about 1/3 of what they mentioned. I haven't figured depreciation costs, but even with that, I'd like to know how they determined $27 unless I'm reading the media report wrong.

Almost 50% of the funds would be subsidized. That's not sometime I'm going to support.

Last March, I wrote my reasons and concerns about this becoming our own version of the Detroit People Mover..


.....I'm not completely against this, but I'm not sold on it for several reasons. Pro's and cons, assuming it expands to Howell. (It's worthless if it doesn't)

Pros
1. Less traffic on US 23 South of Whitmore Lake.
2. More environmental friendly than cars.


Cons
1. Costs. How much to build? How much to operate? How much charged to the consumer.
2. This isn't New York, Chicago, or Toronto. It's not even Detroit. Is there enough people in the area to use this? Washtenaw and Livingston Counties combined number under 500,000 people, and the population is spread out.
3. The Detroit People Mover is far from a success.
4. Parking. People would have to drive to the stations. Brighton is left out unless they drive (on US 23) to Whitmore Lake - 8 miles from Ann Arbor. For that much trouble, it's easier to drive. For me, and the stop is about 2 miles away from me, it's easier to drive.
5. Customers - While many, including myself, commute to Ann Arbor from the county, how many commute to Detroit, Oakland County, Flint, and Lansing? Livingston commuters travel in all directions. Secondly, I'm assuming more Ann Arbor commuters live in Pinckney, Hamburg, Brighton, Hartland, and South Lyon than elsewhere in the county. The proposed route covers only Hamburg. Brighton is left out, and that is a likely customer base.
6. US 23 traffic - If the main stop is in Whitmore Lake, the traffic problem from M-36 Northward is not even slowed.
7. Police presence required. Added costs.


Wildcards
1. Parking. Will there be enough?
2. Service - how quickly do the trains run
3. Expansion - Does the rail expand to Brighton? Hartland? Fenton? South Lyon? I can not see this succeeding at all if Brighton is not covered. That gets some people off US 23. Does this go to Oakland County? I've heard of proposals of a Detroit-Lansing link.
4. Private funding. How much?
5. How much public support is there for this?
....


In July, I went further and called it Jurassic Pork based on the numbers given at the time.
.....9 million will cover what? You have salaries, security, normal wear and tear, energy costs, and runs. 2.9 for startup? Between the trains, parking lot construction, training, etc? I'm skeptical. Even using that number, will you get a profit on that. 15,000 people (estimated number of commuters from Livingston to Ann Arbor at $225 a month (rumored price) will get you 3.37 Million a month - that's if EVERY commuter in the county uses it and pays that amount. I'm guessing most of the commuters to Ann Arbor are in Brighton, Hartland, and Hamburg. Hamburg has 20,000 people. I'll guess that 4000 of them commute to Ann Arbor, with 1000 in Howell (city has 10000 people) commuting. That'll give 5000 of the areas covered from the train. 5000 * 225 - 1.125 million a month - if all commute on the train. Anyone familiar with Hamburg knows how spread out it is. Part of it is "Brighton", most of it is "Pinckney", part of it is "Lakeland", and part of it is "Whitmore Lake". I'll be shocked if most of the commuters are going to drive a few miles to wait for the train. This area is spread out. Howell is denser, but has much less population - and it too is spread out a bit in its eastern and northern most areas near 59 - and forget about getting much help from Genoa (even with the Chilson stop - that area is flat out country), Marion, Howell Twp, and Oceola.

In order to cover the estimated operation costs from regular commuters - you need 408,334 a month - 1814 commuters a day (including weekends, so weekend warriors are very important). That leaves 2.9 million in debt from startup costs which can be paid for over a few years with good profit.

Can you get 15-20% of county's Ann Arbor commuters to use the train EVERY DAY - despite cutting out Brighton and Hartland from the route? If you can, then I'll cook up some fried crow.

Unless this pays for itself, I'm considering it the lite version of the Bridge to Nowhere - Jurassic Pork. I'm not against Mass Transit, and if convienent for me I'll consider using it. I am however against reckless spending of government's tax money on longshot proposals....


Right now, I'm about ready to call it the train to nowhere, in dishonor of Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere supported by 83 senators where it was cheaper to buy everyone a plane rather than build a bridge. Like the Alaska bridge, there isn't enough people densely packed in Livingston or Washtenaw Counties to make this profitable and an adequate solution.

Howell Schools fills its board today

The Argus mentions that the Howell School Board will soon be back to full strength with its next appointment. It's last appointment is Michael Yenshaw, a former cop. I do not know him or anything about him. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully the school board will not appoint a yesman, someone fiscally irresponsibile or someone involved with the current pissing contest between the LOVE group and the admin. The financial issues are the most important at this time.

We'll see what happens.

Jennifer "Matt Millen of governors" Granholm endorses Hillary

That's just another reason not to vote for her. The most incompetent governor in my lifetime supports her. Some disagree with my opinion of the Matt Millen of governors being the most incompent giving that honor to Jim "38% Taxman" Blanchard. Blanchard's also endorsing Hillary.

So if Hillary wins, I better hold on to my wallet (not to mention buy lots of ammo).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest - Latest follies from Howell Schools

I got a major league test coming up in a few days, so there will be minimal posting activity here until after this is done.

As the residents here in Livingston County know, Howell's in the news again. This time over the dustup caused by the leaking of an email. I divided theses sections into three areas. Dumb, dumber, and dumbest.

Dumb - Vicki Fyke sent this email to three school board members. Wendy Day, Phil Westmoreland, and Dean Miller (known on the Argus storychat and Wendy's blog as "Puppet Watcher"). It listed some strategies that Vicki wanted considered to drive the super Chuck Breiner to resign so he would not have to be bought out of his contract if the board decides to fire him. I listed this under "dumb" for two reasons. 1. Based on the amount of legal knowledge I have off the top of my head(Disclaimer - I'm not an attorney nor have taken a labor law class), it is probably illegal if the board does this. 2. I do not understand why Vicki would send an extremely controversial email to Dean Miller who flat out despises her. There's nothing secret or confidential about emails. It's one reason I don't send a lot of them.


Dumber - Dean Miller was the individual who leaked the email to the press. There is no good reason for this email to have been leaked. Dean's reason was because Vicky was applying for the open seat on the board. It's a BS reason. Why? Because the board appoints replacements until the next election. There is no way Vicki would be appointed to the board by the current board. Sharing the emails with the rest of the board is appropiate, but sending this to the story was simply pushing to take a shot at an individual and give Howell some bad press. Sending the email was dumb, leaking it to the press was dumber.

Dumbest - How can anyone in a position of authority not read an employment contract before signing it? As the Detroit News states:

A firing could cost the district nearly $1 million because of a clause in the five-year contract terms that extends it annually unless the board takes action.

Breiner earns a $140,000 base salary with annual annuity and longevity compensation of $13,400, a $500 monthly car allowance, fully paid medical insurance and district-paid retirement contributions.

Another clause calls for a payout at termination that would give the superintendent the difference between his salary and his successor's during the first year.

"I think what that means is, if we hired someone at $170,000 and his salary is $140,000 we'd have to pay him $30,000," said Vice President Jeanine Pratt, the only member of the school board remaining from the 2005 board that approved the contract.

Although Pratt's signature is on the contract as the 2005 board secretary, she did not know about the clauses until two weeks ago, she said. A compensation committee made up of Dymond, Drazic and former board member Ted Parsons, along with legal counsel reviewed the contract and recommended approval, she said.

"I did not look at it and neither did anyone else, apparently. When I realized this two weeks ago, I couldn't believe it. I never had any reason to believe anyone would be dishonest with me."
"Do I feel horrible about it? You bet I do," she added.


Nobody on that entire board read the contract or discussed it? No attorney looked at it? Where's the oversight? There's dumb and dumber, but this is reserved for dumbest. It's not just Ms. Pratt there, but everybody involved with that contract. No wonder why Howell Schools are in so much controversy today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Updates (Primaries, budgets, debates)

I was sick as a dog, so I missed some developments. Here's a brief summary.

First off - the debates. I missed them. I'm not all that sorry I did outside of the fact that it took place in Michigan. I saw two debates already and was up at Mackinac so I already know the basics of the candidates. I'm still undecided and have not made a decision on who I am backing. I'm looking for specifics and am balancing out my ideological side and my pragmatic side. I don't care about the soundbytes, and did not feel like spending 100 minutes listening to politispeak for 20 minutes of meat and potatoes stuff I'm waiting to see.

Secondly - Our senator Valde Garcia had a town hall meeting about his tax votes. I'll give him credit for showing up and explaining himself. It's gutsy decision to do so. I'm sure he thought that tax increase was the right thing to do. I happen to disagree with him on that. One common saying is that "Good policy is good politics." I agree with that, and it's flip side is true as well. "Bad policy is bad politics." Let's not forget why the tax increase is so unpopular. It's bad policy. With businesses closing, lost jobs, high gas prices, and tigher budgets, a tax increase is not what our state needs.

Thirdly - The DNC and democrat candidates for president have all flipped Michigan the bird. "No guts" Barack Obama, John Deadwards, gun grabber Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson all requested to be withdrawn from the January primary ballot. Dennis Kucinich said he wanted to remove his name from the ballot but missed the deadline. Hillary Clinton said she wasn't going to campaign here (woo hoo!) but she's remaining on the ballot. Chris Dodd's also going to be on the ballot, as is Mike Gravel. So what does that mean for this state. If this stays the way it is, here are the winners and losers.

Winners:
Hillary Clinton - Cements her status as a frontrunner in Michigan. Even though she wants it both ways and isn't campaigning here, just not taking her name off the ballot here helped her. It's a win by default
Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel - Lesser knowns are now the "Anti-Hillary" candidates here in Michigan.
Rudy Giuliani - A pro-abortion candidate may siphon off moderate democrats who don't like Hillary and are irked at this move by the democrats.
Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter - Will organized labor members look at those two candidates, particulary Hunter on trade?
Ron Paul - The War in Iraq. He opposed it from the beginning. The Patriot Act. However, he's pro-life and supports the 2nd Amendment, something that many democrats despise.



Losers:
John Edwards - For someone who is trying so hard for union support, this is the worst move possible. What the hell is he thinking? Organized labor was born here.
Barack Obama - The four most democrat counties in the state have two of his main targets - blacks and academia. Wayne County is 42% black and home of Wayne State University. Washtenaw County is the home of U-M and EMU. Genessee County is 20% black. Ingham County is the home of MSU. Michigan itself is 15% black, and that vote swung the last two presidential elections here, as well as the 02 gubenatorial election.
Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. I'm glad Richardson isn't here, since I think he's their strongest candidate in a general election. Biden and Richardson are lesser knowns, and with Edwards and Obama sitting out, this gave them a chance to exploit a chance for momentum.
Democrats in Michigan in general - obvious reasons.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

17 apply for Howell Seat

From the Argus

The 17 candidates seeking the vacant seat on the Howell Public Schools Board of Education are:



Donald Barnowski Jr., technology and management professional


Herbert Bursch, former First National Bank CEO


Matthew Cecora, who was unable to be reached for comment


Lyle Dickson, a Howell attorney


Christopher Drake, a General Motors Corp. engineer


Angela Elizando, a former custodian at Howell Public Schools


Vicki Fyke, the founder of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education and an area businesswoman


William "Bill" Harvey, an engineer who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in May


Kris Kauserud, a consultant helping U.S. companies set up overseas and foreign companies start in the U.S.


Dennis Kennedy, a cost-management specialist at Ogihara America Corp.


Margaret Lupton, a former Howell school board member and president


Mark Michaels, a self-employed handyman


Douglas Moore, an engineer who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in May


James Pratt, an aviation safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration and hot-air balloonist who unsuccessfully ran for school board twice


Dorothy Selix, a former Howell teacher who now teaches in Hartland Township


Mary Tumbarella, a part-time aide with Howell schools who unsuccessfully sought a board seat in 2004


Michael Yenshaw, a Michigan State Police trooper


The question is this. Will the board pick someone who is part of the old boys club or an independent? I know nobody with ties to the LOVE group or perceived ties to them will be picked.

Another interesting fact to this is that there will be at least three seats up next election in May.

Chris Ward's editorial in the Free Press

From the Free Press

Compromise has become an ugly word in today's political arena.

In this era of the permanent campaign and instant punditry, there is little benefit for politicians to find common ground. Perhaps former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms was right when he said that the middle of the road was the surest place to get run over.

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It took a government shutdown for a bare majority of Michigan legislators to exercise their constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget. A lot has been made on both sides of the debate about courage and backbone on the part of legislators, regardless of how they voted. To me, the remarkable aspect of this debacle is that the state had to be on the brink of a constitutional crisis for us to do the jobs we were elected to do.

I abhor taxes. My voting record in the nearly five years I have served in the Michigan House has been quite clear on that point. For many of my Democratic colleagues to vote against their union friends is equally abhorrent. Yet the people of the state elected both of us to serve them.

As an elected official, the temptation was strong to keep my head low and hope someone else would clean up this mess. The safest thing to do in politics most of the time is to vote no and point at shortcomings of whatever proposal is before you. As a member of the minority party, this would have been an acceptable approach in many people's minds.

The truth is this crisis provided a rare opportunity to fix some of Michigan's long-term problems. The skyrocketing costs of public employee pensions and health care have long been breaking the bank of our public schools. Yet what has been more than clear after years of trying, Republicans alone could not muster the support to make necessary reforms happen.

The resulting compromise fell far short of what I wanted. I remain deeply opposed to the sales tax component of the deal and will do everything in my power to see that portion of it repealed. Frankly, if work had started well before the shutdown was imminent, I believe the result would have been much better. There is plenty of blame to go around. In this era of term limits, Lansing leaders were expected to accomplish the equivalent of getting engaged on their first date.

There is quite a bit of talk about recall against me and some other legislators because of our votes. If that is the price I have to pay for doing what was right in a crisis situation, then so be it. There are a lot more important things in life than being a state representative. I only caution voters to be apprehensive of full-time, paid political operators who care more about their career success than finding solutions for a troubled state.

Dillon's Sales Tax alternative - UNACCEPTABLE

House Speaker Andy Dillon and the democrats have a new CYA attempt out. It's slightly better than the current "government picking winners and losers" services tax, but a choice between one or the other is like the "head or gut" scene from the movie "The Last Boy Scout." Do you want to be punched in the head or the gut?

From the Detroit News

EAST LANSING -- House Speaker Andy Dillon set off a firestorm of reaction Friday when he said he is considering the possibility of asking voters, as early as Jan. 15, to increase the state's 6 percent sales tax to 7 percent -- a $1.4 billion annual tax boost -- in exchange for repealing some of the controversial service sales taxes approved by the Legislature in the middle of the night Monday.

"We're not foreclosed from putting it on the presidential primary (ballot) and going for 7 percent," said the Redford Township Democrat. "It could happen, I think."

Republican legislative leaders, a leading anti-tax citizens group, and some influential business groups said they couldn't support a higher sales tax rate, but agreed this week's legislative action to expand the sales tax on services would amount to a job killer when it takes effect on Dec. 1


If I want something on the ballot regarding the new service taxes, it's for a repeal without a catch. If someone's asking me "head or gut", I'm going to respond with a right hook of my own.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Interesting development in Howell Schools

A very interesting development in going on with Howell Schools. I haven't followed it as closely lately since I moved out of the district and am less active in the Concerned Taxpayers Group.

Mary Jo Dymond resigned from her position, leaving a vacancy. One of the individuals who wants to replace her - Livingston Organization of Values in Education (LOVE-PAC) founder Vicki Fyke.

From the Argus

Vicki Fyke has filed an application to be considered for the seat on the Howell Public Schools Board of Education left vacant by the recent resignation of Mary Jo Dymond.

Fyke is the controversial leader of LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) who has challenged the school district on a number of issues, from a diversity flag to novels read in an advanced-placement English class.

Fyke is among seven hopefuls for the seat who've made their interest known thus far. The deadline for filing is 3 p.m. Friday


Stop at Cleary's for a beer before going to this meeting. The tension will be in the air.

The Fire Granholm movement catching fire?

From the Free Press

LANSING -- The campaign to recall members of the Legislature who supported last weekend's sales and income tax hikes may be expanded to target the one person most closely identified with the effort -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Recall organization leaders said Wednesday that the people contacting them to volunteer in the antitax recall effort are most upset with the governor.

Leon Drolet of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance said that just this week, he has received messages from 1,000 people volunteering to collect signatures to recall Granholm. Drolet, whose group planned to first target up to five lawmakers who voted for the increases, said, "It's amazing how angry people are about the governor."


Some of the political class are saying it can't be done. It couldn't be done in California either against Gray Davis....oh what...it was done.

With some hard work, elbow grease, and top flight organization it can certainly be done. I'm doing some research and planning on this as I type. I know others are doing the same. Plans are in the works. Stay tuned.

One thing to remember, Lt Governor John Cherry has to go as well if Granholm goes. While I personaly like Cherry, he was the tiebreaking vote when the senate deadlocked. They enter as a team, and need to leave as a team.

Lawmaker's Benefits not cut while we pay more

A big Joker Award goes out to Andy Dillon and all the reps for this. From the Argus:

And for the lawmakers of the future?



Their superior benefits remain untouched.


Republicans insisted on school employee health-care reforms as part of a deal that gave Democrats the tax increases they wanted.
Republicans argued that retired school employees' health-care benefits are out of whack with the private sector and out of whack with what taxpayers can afford. But here's the thing.

Retired lawmakers have a much better deal.

"Apparently, it got lost in the shuffle," said Rep. Robert Dean, D-Grand Rapids, who has sponsored legislation to eliminate health-care retirement benefits for future lawmakers. "Leadership didn't push it to the top, and that was from both sides."

(snip)


Lost in the shuffle? Right, and John L Smith was a good coach for the Spartans. Y'all need to slap yourself in the face for that one.

Online Poll Results

Ron Paul 33%
Fred Thompson 15%
Mitt Romney 9%
Rudy Giuliani 8%
Rest - 6% or less
1209 votes

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Big Government picking winners and losers

As the old song goes - "I don't know why, I don't understand, how you sold me down the river...."

Actually I do know how, and why we were sold down the river. Government can, that's why. If you were a damn good lobbyist, you were safe from the sales tax increase. If not, you got sold down the river. From the Detroit News.


Dating services are covered, but a round of golf is not.

Going skiing will be subject to the state's 6 percent sales tax but not going to see the Detroit Lions.

Consultants' services will be taxed, lawyers' won't be.


Lawyers! Imagine that. The good news is that in a couple of years, I won't be taxed. That said, this isn't right. Period. We all know that the Trial Lawyers lobby is Granholm's best funders. I'm far from anti lawyer, and I'm rather pro-defense attorney after seeing the Mike Nifong fiasco, but this is an example of government picking winners and losers. I agree that legal services should not be taxed. Neither should any of the others hit in this bailout attempt of fiscal mismanagement.

Why skiing and not the Lions or Golf? Pure numbers. There are a lot of golfers and Lions' ticket holders.

Businesses subject to the new tax complained Monday it is arbitrary and unfair. The sales tax on services, which takes effect Dec. 1, was part of a package of bills passed by the Legislature early Monday to resolve a budget impasse and end a brief government shutdown.

"Whoever screamed the loudest was overlooked is what it sounds like to me," said Terry Newman, president of commercial landscaper Superior Scape in Shelby Township.

"Any one service that didn't have a strong lobby was going to get hit with the tax," said Paul Alberts, president of the Romulus-based courier service Reliable Delivery.

Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, chairman of the House tax policy committee, acknowledged lobbying was intense over what services would be subject to the sales tax and what services would not. He did not deny that lobbying played a role in keeping entertainment and tickets to sporting events exempt from the tax.

"I think there was a lot of lobbying against those, and to some extent when this came up people were not too eager to go on that," Bieda said.


What a cluster(self-censored).

Why not go to a part time legislature? Or get some paycuts for the reps? Or cut Dan Mulhern's staff? Or cut that new sweetheart building deal with big donor Joel Ferguson? There's a good start. If I had the power, I could balance this budget in a day. It's real simple folks. Balance for this year first with cuts, then enact long term reforms for the future to prevent future costs.

Now I expect to see some mass resignations for poor mismanagement.

The 2nd pronged attack? Ballot initiative!

Crain's Detroit Business mentioned the 2nd way to take out this tax increase.

Business representatives are looking at a potential effort to repeal Michigan’s new 6 percent tax on services.

Meeting a day after lawmakers enacted the tax on 57 categories of services, business groups on Tuesday began exploring a petition drive to repeal the tax, said Charlie Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business-Michigan.

He said details such as how soon the measure could be placed on the ballot have not been determined.

“Step one is, do we want to do this?” Owens said. “It is being talked about.”

He declined to identify other business groups, but said discussions include not only repealing the tax but also enacting a constitutional amendment stating that the sales tax could not be expanded to services without a vote of the people. (snip)


Despite my usual recluctance to amend Michigan's Constitution, I'm in favor of this as well as the recalls. They compliment each other well. While the recalls are needed to punish the tax and spend reps and "Matt Millen of Governors" Granholm who run this state into the ground, the ballot proposal is needed as well to overturn this bad policy.

Onward!!!!!!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Recalls. What does it take?

I've gotten a ton of questions about recalls and what it entails.

The full answer is here at the Michigan Legislature site. Below is the reader's digest version.

Here's the basics. I'm not 100% sure on all of this, but fairly sure based on the people I've asked about it. I'm going to use Granholm as the example target.

First someone needs to pull a petition in the resident county of the person being recalled and get the language correct for a recall. The petition must comply with 544c 1 and 2. The language for the recall must be CLEAR, or it will be tossed out. In Granholm's case, the county is probably Northville in Wayne County, unless there has been a residency change. Then it would be Lansing in Ingham County (home of the governor's mansion). Between 10 and 20 days after the petitions are pulled, the board of county election commissioners will certify the language. There will be a hearing on the clarity for the reasons of recall. Appeals may be taken on either side. If there is sufficient clarity for the reason of recall, then the petitions will be circulated. I am not as familiar on this part of elections, as I am on other parts of election law. That my disclaimer.

Once the recall reasons are valid due to clairty, there is a 180 day window to circulate signatures, and all signatures need to be within a 90 day period. The number of signatures is clear.

The petitions shall be signed by registered and qualified electors equal to not less than 25% of the number of votes cast for candidates for the office of governor at the last preceding general election in the electoral district of the officer sought to be recalled. Upon written demand, the county clerk, within 5 days, shall certify the minimum number of signatures required for the recall of an officer in the governmental unit in which recall is sought.


In Granholm's case, that means we need 950,314 signatures. It's not easy, but it can be done. The Gray Davis recall had over 2 million signatures, in a state much more democrat than this one, and at the low point of Republicans in California.

It can be done, but the organization and timing has to be perfect, and there needs to be enough money for it (paid signatures will be needed to win). I think we can get the numbers with the current "Throw all the bums out mentality". As for the recall election itself - if there are enough signatures, then there is the election. No other names will be on the ballot.

Shall (Name the person against whom the recall petition is filed) be recalled from the office of (title of the office)? Printed below the question in separate lines in easily legible type shall be the words “Yes[ ]” and “No[ ]”or in a form as may be prescribed by the secretary of state.


Political Action Committees are what support/oppose recall campaigns. Their regulations are covered at the Secretary of State's website under the Campaign and Elections section. However, recalls have no contribution limits by individuals. That means Granholm will have a lot of money from rich leftists and the Jon Stryker nutcases of the world. However, it means they will be wasting money playing defense instead of going on offense. It's not easy to spin a double tax increase. When a middle class family has to cough up $240 extra to the government, as well as another 6% on a bunch of services, it hits home. No amount of Stryker's money can spin the tax increase and the current economy.

If we can get all the Dick DeVos voters to sign this, we have more than enough signatures with plenty of room to spare. All it takes is a lot of hard work, a lot of organization, and the will to win. We have a choice. We can be stuck with the Matt Millen of governors for 3 more years, or we can a send a message to any future official what will happen if they run this state into the ground. If Granholm is recalled, that will be a message no politicians in this state, Democrat OR Republican will ever ever forget.

Let's send her back to Northville.

Granholm got her wish, and Michigan gets screwed

Double tax increases. I expected there was going to be one tax increase. I did not expect two. This economy is in the dumps, and that's the solution? Because government mismanages our money and messed up the state budget, going back from the Rick Johnson and Ken Sikkema led years to today's crew, we get this? Thanks guys. Because you all f'ed things up, we have to pay for it. Bipartisanship isn't always a good thing. Oftentimes it is when both parties get together to screw us over. It's when almost all the democrats are united, and a handful of republicans end up joining them.

While I was sleeping, the senate passed both tax increases, the sales tax increase, as well as the income tax increase. The sales tax increase passed 19-19 with Lt Gov. John Cherry being the tiebreaker. All Democrats supported the tax increase outside of Glenn Anderson who is in a swing district. All Republicans opposed it outside of Ron Jelinek, Valde Garcia, and Wayne Kuipers.

The Income Tax passed the senate. All Democrats voted for that except Anderson and Dennis Olshove. All Republicans voted against except Jelinek, Gerald Van Woerkom, Patricia Birkolz, and Tom George.

The House passed the Income Tax increase. All Democrats voted yes except Martin Griffin, Michael Simpson, and Lisa Wojno. All Republicans voted no except Ed Gaffney and Chris Ward.

The House also passed the sales tax increase. No Republican voted for that, and all democrats supported that except Kate Ebli and Marc Corriveau.

I still don't have the roll call for the MESSA reforms.

As far as Chris Ward and Valde Garcia go. Chris doesn't have a bad history on tax votes. There were two things he wanted. No shutdown, and some reforms. We got MESSA, but that was it. I did not expect a two tax requirement for the deal. To Chris's credit, he voted against the IMO worse of the two taxes (sales), although nether one was acceptable to me. Chris waited to the last minute and the board was closed, so I suspect he got burned, but wanted to keep a promise. At least he wasn't the deciding vote, and no democrats got a free pass (Simpson and Griffin DID vote for the sales tax - and let's not forget that). I haven't talked to Chris today, and I'd like his side of the story when this is said and done. Do I agree with the deal? No I do not. Do I consider him a RINO? No. Valde's a nice guy. I can count on him when it comes to the social matters, but this is one vote too many for me on fiscal issues. On this sales tax, I'm real disapointed. He was the deciding vote.

Overall, I'm flat out disgusted at state government. I'd love to support recalls against all of the state reps like Dillon, but they are gone within a year anyway. Let's be patient and send them home then. Dillon can and should wait until August next year. Simpson and Griffin played games, but they did raise taxes, as did Corriveau and Ebli. Those four can get sent home in November. So can McDowell, Espinoza, Byrum, Kathleen Law, Spade and other democrats in tough swing districts that voted for the double tax increase. All the other democrats should get primaried in August, as well as November opposition. April 15th next year is a great time to announce the opposition campaign kickoffs. Tax day.

Granholm needs to get recalled. She's the biggest problem. We can not afford to wait three years before she drives every single productive worker and industry out of our state. Rumor is that she wants to be a senator or Supreme Court Justice after she's governor. How about Private Citizen away from the government trough for the first time in I don't know how many years. If Gray Davis can get recalled in California of all places, we can recall Granholm.

In the senate, there are some tough districts that should be targets. Mark Schauer voted for both tax increases. He's now running for Congress. If he loses his congressional race he stays in the state senate. He should be the first target in the senate for recall. He can lose two elections. His current job, as well as the other job he wants. Send him back to Battle Creek

Michael Prusi is in a democrat leaning district in the UP, but Bush won it. He voted for both tax increases. He should be targeted.

Jim Barcia is in a swing state senate district. He's be extremely tough to beat, but being part of this mess doesn't help. Same goes for Deb Cherry, John's sister. They're nice people, but they still voted for double tax increases.

However if I had to pick and choose only two targets for recall, I'd focus on Granholm and Mark Schauer. Schauer is bucking for a promotion, and Granholm is the biggest problem of all. We got three years of those two jokers, unless sometime is done fast. Let's get the petitions ready and send them home.

Fire Millen! Fire Schauer! Fire Granholm!

Roll Call votes (so far)

Income Tax increase from 3.9 to 4.35%:

House passed 57-52:
All Democrats voted yes except Martin Griffin, Michael Simpson, and Lisa Wojno.
All Republicans voted no except Ed Gaffney and Chris Ward.

Sales Tax expansion to dozens of services (6%).
All Republicans voted no.
All Democrats voted yes except Marc Corriveau and Kate Ebli

Waiting for latest MESSA bill