Thursday, August 30, 2012

Whose Side Is Livingston County Goverrnment On?

Some Livingston County residents are seeing the power of big oil right in their own backyards.

Residents along a 50-mile stretch of an Enbridge Oil Company pipeline are being intimidated by the company, which has posted armed guards on the easements and in at least one case cut down trees on a resident's property near the pipeline.

But the latest display of power is Enbridge's ability to buy the power of government to intimidate property owners. The Livingston Press and Argus reports that the company has a contract with the sheriff's department to post deputies along the pipeline construction areas allegedly to "keep the peace" between property owners and the pipeline construction crew. But since there have been no actual incidents between property owners and Enbridge, what's the point? Intimidation.

What's especially galling is that the off-duty deputies are wearing uniforms, despite being paid for by Enbridge.

That's what happens when corporations have huge amounts of money to spend. They buy whatever they want, including the services of our taxpayer-supported law enforcement.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All (Bad) Roads Lead to Home

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to get away for 48 hours, driving more than 500 miles to northern Michigan and back along the shore of Lake Michigan. What a great reminder how beautiful Pure Michigan is!

But after eight hours or more in the car, it was when we hit the border of Livingston County that things literally went to pot. The roads in Livingston County were worse than anywhere else that we drove during those two days, and we were on a number of back roads going from one beach town to another.

That's why the Democratic candidates for Livingston County Commission made improving our roads one of their top priorities in the 2012 campaign platform, released Monday. As the coverage in Hartland Patch points out, the plan is a bold one for moving Livingston County forward, rather than standing pat.

Besides calling for improvements to our roads, the platform also calls for protecting our environment in Livingston County by backing a moratorium on deep drilling until reasonable regulations are in place, more services for senior citizens, improvements to public safety, more transparency in county government, and closer oversight of the agreement on economic development with Ann Arbor SPARK.

The Democratic candidates are offering a bold choice -- move foward or stand pat. Voters in August kicked out two of the "stand pat" incumbents. They'll have a chance to do it again in November.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Denby Tongue-Tied Once Again

There it is again.

The sentence that is increasingly being linked with Rep.Cindy Denby's name in the Livingston Press and Argus -- "State Rep. Cindy Denby, R-Handy Township, didn't return a call for this story."

It's not the first time by a long shot. In June, Denby couldn't be bothered to comment on a story about the synethic drugs being sold under the name K-2. And I've noticed numerous other examples.

In the newspaper for Friday (Augst 24, 2012), Denby wasn't available to talk about Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to go ahead with planning a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act after lawmakers failed to act.

Did she avoid it because the topic was uncomfortable to talk about? Republicans claim the Affordable Care Act is a "government take-over of the health care system," but the exchanges are nothing more than a big marketplace where people can go and buy PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE. So Denby would have had to try to explain why it was a bad idea to let people know what private insurance is available in the marketplace in one, easy-to-access portal -- basically a website like Travelocity or Orbitz. Was she unable to do that?

Was she afraid to criticize the governor of her own party for going ahead despite the Legislature's refusal to act?

Did she just not think her constituents needed to know what she thought on this issue? Did she not have the "time" to return one phone call?

It's impossible to know, but any of these possibilities -- lack of knowledge, lack of courage, failure to prioritize the issue -- don't speak well of her as a public servant.

The media exists to hold public officials accountable. Dodging press calls has become a regular habit for Denby. She is increasingly leaving the impression that she doesn't think she is accountable to the media -- even friendly media. And that's never good for a public servant.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Democrats Reaching Out to Business

Do far-right Republicans with their anti-tax, anti-regulation speak for all businesses?

The Michigan Democratic Party doesn't think so, and now the party has started a new organization to work more closely with business people.

The Michigan Democratic Business Council will be chaired by a Hamburg Township Democrat, Michael Magdich.

"I am very excited about the MDBC and its ability to help Michigan businesses move forward. As someone with nearly 20 years’ experience in the automotive and renewable energy industry, I know how important government policy is," Magdich said in a news release earlier this week announcing the formation of the Michigan Democratic Business Council.

Magdich said the top goal of the organization is to "gather information from the business community in Michigan on the issues that are affecting them the most so that we can address them together -- to become the conduit of new ideas... ideas in line with our values as Democrats, that direct new policies and reform outdated ones, for the betterment of the business community here in Michigan."

Magdich said the group also hopes to:

Build strong relationships with the business community
Increase support for Democratic candidates and issues
Share information that will help businesses
Aid in networking and business development
Assist businesses in promoting their service or products
Aid in candidate recruitment and development.

Magdich says the group is seeking input from the business community and is inviting business owners or business people to complete a survey available here.

The Michigan Democratic Business Council will hold its first meeting during the Michigan Democratic Party State Convention from 10 am. to noon Sept. 8 in Michigan Room II and III of the Radisson Hotel, 111 N. Grand Avenue, Lansing,MI 48933. The agenda will include an introduction about the group, a discussion of its objectives,  a plan for the next steps, as well as an opportunity to get involved.

For more information, contact the Michigan Democratic Business Council, P.O. Box 28, Dexter, MI 48130
or email

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Enderle's First Ad Takes on Rogers' Silence on Oil Spill

Lance Enderle's campaign for the 8th Congressional District seat took a big step forward with the release of the campaign's first internet ad this week.

The ad links Republican incumbent Mike Rogers with Enbridge Pipeline Co., the company responsible for a tar sands oil spill in the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries two years ago, as well as the company's reconstruction of a portion of its pipeline in Livingston County. That reconstruction has riled homeowners who are trying to get fair settlements from the company for additional assessments needed for the reconstruction. Some homeowners have complained that the company cut down trees outside of the existing easement or posted armed guards near the portion of the pipeline on their easements.

The ad takes Rogers to task for remaining silent after the spill and amid the current controversy. Enderle's campaign needs help to get the ad on the air and you can help by visiting his website to make a donation. This ad deserves to be seen widely so share it with your friends now and help Lance get it on the air with a donation!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Democrats Agree -- County Board Needs New Leaders

Talk about an understatement. The headline in Monday's Livingston Press and Argus reads "County Board in Need of Leaders."

The premise of the story is that since long-serving Jack LaBelle as well as incumbent Jim Mantey both lost in the Aug. 7 Republican primary and current board chair Maggie Jones decided not to seek re-election, there may not be anybody among the remaining six commissioners ready to step up and be chair.

That's a little pathetic, isn't it? David Domas has been on the board for 20 years. Dennis Dolan of Hamburg Townnship has been on the board for 10 years, althoughy his presence is hard to detect in terms of anything other than attendance.

The article smacks of a little bit of "measuring the drapes" for the new chair's office since the commissioners are talking about who's going to be chair before the election is even held, even though five of them face serious challenges from Democrats.

Voters gave Maggie Jones a scare in a primary two years ago and they dumped two of the three incumbents who had primaries this year. It seems to me the voters are making the same judgment as the headline. We need new leaders at the county level.

In five districts at least, they'll have a choicein November -- Bruce Schneider of Brighton Township in District 1; Jeanette DiFlorio of Oceola Township in District 2; Dane Morris of Hartland Township in District 3; Jeff Lee of Genoa Township in District 7, and Jim Katakowski of Hamburg Township in District 8.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Emergency Managers Need Not Apply in Livingston County

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican Legislature seem to have two sets of rules for how to react when a Michigan community struggles financially.

If the community is predominantly Democratic and poor, they obviously can't handle their own finances and need to be taken over by the state via an emergency manager who basically shuts down the democratic process and rips up union contracts. Think Benton Harbor.

If the community is predominantly Republican and better off, they deserve to have a special law passed giving them a bailout from the state. Think Handy Township and Howell Township in Livingston County.

That's the upshot of a package of legislation backed by Livingston County's two Republican representatives -- Cindy Denby and Bill Rogers -- to deal with the millions of dollars of water and sewar debt they helped create in Livingston County when they were Handy Township supervisor and Livingston County Commission chair, respectively.

The legislation, designed specifically for Livingston County, makes communities with water and sewar debt that they can't pay back eligible for loans from the state emergency loan fund. Commmunities can't apply until they are on the verge of default on payments to bond-holders -- something that Howell Township faces in August 2013 and Handy Township sometime in the next two years. But the fact that they can apply for these loans makes it far less likely that Snyder will appoint an emergency manager to take over the two townships.

Neither Denby nor Rogers has explained why the emergency manager process wasn't good enough for their home communities when their party sees it as the ideal solution for other places in the state. Why do Howell and Handy townships deserve to be offered low-interest loans from the state, especially since their financial problems are self-inflicted? These communities chose to back bonds for private developers of subdivisions at the peak of the housing boom and then were left holding the bag when the developers walked away. Other counties in the state never got into the business of backing bonds for private developers, but expected private enterprise to cover those costs.

Howell and Handy townships didn't have to do what they did. This wasn't a case of communities struggling to provide basic services such as police and fire protection in the face of drastic cuts in state revenue sharing. These townships made bad decisions that they didn't have to make.

And for that, they seem to be getting special treatment.

Friday, August 10, 2012

So Much for Keeping 'Detroit-style' Politics Out of Livingston County

More than once I've heard Livingston County residents smear anyone who moved here from Wayne County by saying that we didn't need Wayne County-style politics in Livingston County. One recent letter-writer (anonymous, of course) said Livingston County didn't need any Democrats "infecting" the county.

And nationally Republicans have accused President Obama of bringing "Chicago-style" politics to the nation.

The implication in both cases is that politics in areas dominated by Democrats are corrupt and that Republican politics are always inherently pure. Of courswe, that's overlooking things like House Speaker Jase Bolger's dirty tricks over in Kent County.

So this week we find out that we don't need to import Wayne County or Chicago style politics to Livingston County. It's already here.

The Thaddeus McCotter fraudulent petition scandal apparently involves a Livingston County woman. Mary Melissa Turnbull, a McCotter staffer, has been charged in the case with a felony and a misdemeanor. The felony could bring up to five years in prison.

It would be interesting to know what Turnbull's involvement in local Livingston County campaigns has been. Wouldn't want any "infection" to spread.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sign of the Times?

Yard signs don't win elections. That was proven again in Tuesday's primary. Based on the number of yard signs littering the county, it would have been easy to predict that Carolyn Henry was going to defeat William Vailliencourt for the Republican nomination for county prosecutor. And even that Kevin Spicer was going to defeat incumbent Gary McCririe for the Republican nomination for Genoa Township Supervisor. Or that Gary Child was going to defeat incumbent Jack LaBelle for the Republican nomination for Livingston County Commissioner in District 9.

Oh, wait. That last one did happen.

And it may have been a case where the yard signs played a role, subliminally.

Childs owns a bike shop. And his yard signs featured the symbol of a cyclist in motion, although it took me a while to figure out what that bunch of scribbles in the corner really was. DId voters see that as a reminder that a more energetic candidate was running against a long-time stalwart? That Childs was about moving Livingston County forward instead of standing pat?

Whether it was the signs or not, voters sent a message that saying you have the lowest tax rate and a high bond rating just isn't enough in Livingston County anymore.

Meanwhile, up in County Commission District 2, voters in the Republican primary helpedWilliam Green delivered the same message to incumbent Jim Mantey. Voters see problems in the county and don't think the Republican incumbents are taking care of them. Democrats, like Jeanette DiFlorio in District 2, are ready with solutions.

And we'll have a lot more to say than we have the lowest tax rate in the state.

Monday, August 6, 2012

No Democratic Trickery in GOP Primary

Livingston County Democrats have done their best to stay out of the Republican primaries in Livingston County, except to wonder from afar why it is just about every incumbent at the county level and above is being challenged this year.

So it was with a great deal of surprise to read in Sunday's Livingston Press and Argus that we were being accused of actually creating one of those primaries by recruiting a stealth candidate to run against Republican Bill Rogers in the 42nd State House seat.

So I want to make one thing perfectly clear: 

The Livingston County Democratic Party has only one candidate in Tuesday's primary for the 42nd House seat and that is Shanda Willis. We did not recruit anyone to run in the Republican primary and as long as I am chair of the party, we never will.

Both the rules of the Michigan Democratic Party and the bylaws of the Livingston County Democratic Party clearly state that party resources may not be used to promote the candidacy of anyone who is not a member of the Democratic Party. I follow that to the letter. We are Democrats. We recruit Democrats. We run as Democrats. We vote for Democrats. Period.

Democrats in the county should not be confused. We are not suggesting that anyone vote in the Republican primary for the "lesser of two evils." Any Republican who goes to Lansing would help the GOP maintain control of the Michigan House and permit it to continue pursuing its extreme, far-right agenda, whether the local representative votes for those bills or not.

Shanda Willis is the only Democrat running in the 42nd House race. Our party supports only Shanda Willis in the 42nd House race. She is the only candidate in either party who will stand up for better schools for our children, tax fairness for seniors and families, the rights of working people, and the rights of women. And in the 47th District, we support Shawn Lowe Desai, and only Shawn Lowe Desai.

Any suggestion otherwise is pure fantasy and has the potential to undermine our candidates in November.