Friday, August 28, 2015
Well, guess what? It's that time!
Hillsdale News Now is the new site, and Josh's Uncommon Sense has moved there, starting with this week's introductory post.
I encourage you to not only follow me there, but check out the continuing news coverage, join in the discussion on the forums, and join us as we launch the place for news, information, conversation and more in Hillsdale County.
As always, should you or any of your I-M Force be caught or killed--
*Ahem,* sorry. Wrong script.
As always, thank you for your readership and support.
Friday, August 7, 2015
How did it feel to go to bed Tuesday night with less authority than you woke up with?
That's exactly what happened if you live in the City of Hillsdale. Thanks to an entirely illegal ploy by Lew Loren to unilaterally -- against the directive of the city council -- move the clerk and treasurer ballot issues to August (an election date reserved for primaries, which we by law did not qualify for), those two positions are now appointed by the mayor instead of elected. The voters no longer have any voice in choosing who fills them.
That's not to mention the vague language of those ballot issues that raises many questions, especially when compared to the 2011 clerk issue. Oh, yes, let's compare them! We can do that! (To anyone saying "we are the factory" right now in your head as you're reading this, I'm sorry.)
The 2011 ballot question was as follows:
"Should Sections 3.7, 3.8 and 5.4 of the Hillsdale City Charter be amended so as to change the city clerk from an elective officer to one appointed by the Mayor, subject to the approval of Council, commencing November 8, 2011; to provide that the other terms and conditions of employment applicable to the city clerk shall thereafter be provided by ordinance; and to provide for the filling of a vacancy in the office of city clerk in the same manner provided for making the original appointment?"
And the 2015 ballot questions were thus:
"Should Hillsdale City Charter Sections 3.7, 3.8, 4.9(b), 4.12, and 5.4 be amended to authorize the City to fill the office of city clerk by mayoral appointment, with the approval of Council; establish the city clerk's term of office as an indefinite period to be served at the pleasure of Council; and authorize Council to fix the city clerk's compensation and conditions of employment?"
"Should Hillsdale City Charter Sections 3.7, 3.8, 4.9(b), 4.12, and 5.4 be amended to authorize the City to fill the office of city treasurer by mayoral appointment, with the approval of Council; establish the city treasurer's term of office as an indefinite period to be served at the pleasure of Council; and authorize Council to fix the city treasurer's compensation and conditions of employment?"
Interesting differences to note there between the two years. For starters, in 2011, it was explicitly stated that this charter amendment would change the office from elected to appointed. That language was not present in the 2015 questions, but the charter sections listed in all three questions are those charter sections detailing the methods of acquiring office, terms of office, compensation, and the methods of filling vacancies in those offices. So while there was no explicit mention of changing the offices from elected to appointed in the 2015 issues, the charter sections make it clear that that's the intent.
There's also one little problem with one of the charter sections listed that we'll get to in a moment.
Secondly, you'll notice that the 2015 questions contain no date for these charter amendments to take effect. Now that we've given the city "authorization," is the charter amended immediately? Does that mean that they don't have to amend the charter, they simply have the authorization from us to do so, and they might decide not to? And if they decide not to, does that mean that the election is still on?
Of course, we know that the intent was to amend the charter to make these appointed positions, as shown in the listed charter sections, so such an argument doesn't really stand up to scrutiny, but it certainly goes to show just how carelessly these questions were written.
And thirdly -- and speaking of carelessness -- you'll notice that Section 4.12 of the City Charter is listed in both 2015 questions. Section 4.12 says this:
"The City Treasurer shall receive such annual compensation as shall be fixed by ordinance. The ordinance fixing his salary may not be amended less than ninety days before any regular annual City election. Until the Council shall provide otherwise by ordinance, the salary of the City Treasurer shall be $1,200. per year.
Editor's note— Compensation of the city treasurer is determined by the local officers compensation commission which was created by ordinance in section 12-131 of the Code of Ordinances, pursuant to MCL 117.5."
Yep. Our esteemed City Attorney literally copied and pasted the ballot language from one question to the other, changed the job titles, and called it a day.
Can you say "invalid vote," kids?
Sure, it's a small mistake, but it absolutely makes a difference. At the very least, it's grounds for a re-vote on the city clerk question -- the very question Lew wanted a "yes" vote on so that his daughter would get the job permanently.
And please, spare me the argument that Michelle didn't file to run for the position. Are you kidding me with that bullcrap? She didn't file to run because she knew daddy was planning this for her, and it was almost guaranteed to work. Why bother filing to run when you know there isn't going to be an election? I mean, sheesh, who would want to go back to the Recreation Department after having so much authority? Not to mention the differences in pay and the direction of one's career. Are we truly supposed to believe that she's willing to regress?
This could prove quite costly for the Good Ol' Boys. See, if they had wanted that authority, all they had to do was keep up the interference that drove the elected officials out the last few times, because in the case of vacancies, those positions become appointed. Make no mistake about it: people have left these jobs because of the meddling of corrupt forces. Don't doubt that fact for a second.
To quote Captain Kirk in Star Trek IV, "One little mistake..."
If you're still playing nice at this point, it's time to quit that right now. Stop insisting that we have to just accept things and move on. Stop pussyfooting around names and call out the criminals (and I have no qualms about calling them that) who maintain this situation. We have just been robbed by an extremely small minority of voters of our right to elect people we trust.
Get mad. Get angry. Get pissed off. Disappointment is not the correct response. Righteous outrage is.
Tell the city council what I just told you: the vote was invalid, and a re-vote is not merely desired, it is legally necessary.
We can get this authority back.
As I've said before, we're here to play the long game. The corruption in this city's government is so entrenched that these single events are just the small pieces to the giant puzzle. If we look at them individually, we're never going to finish the job. If we look at them as part of the bigger picture, it becomes clear that each and every piece is necessary, and we can't finish the puzzle when some asshole has hidden a few pieces.
But we know where those pieces are now, and we need to put them in their proper place. These questions need to be corrected and put right back on the ballot -- the November ballot, where they were supposed to be this time -- so that we can get a real vote on them, not the intentionally skewed farce we just had this week.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Only 288 voters in the City of Hillsdale -- a city in which there are over 8,000 residents -- turned out Tuesday to voice their decision on two amendments to the city charter, both of which passed by a very slim margin, 52% to 48%.
A mere 11 votes made the difference to change the City Clerk position from elected to appointed; and only 12 votes set the majority apart on the similar City Treasurer question.
The ballot issues, originally slated for November, were voted on this month after City Attorney Lew Loren, unilaterally and against the City Council's orders, moved them to the date set aside by state law for primaries; an election for which Hillsdale did not have the sufficient number of candidates for any office required by the city charter to trigger a primary.
Explaining why the change had only come to the City Council's attention after they had already voted on it, Loren said at the June 1st regular meeting that the state Attorney General's office advised him that the August ballot should be used to avoid having the issues on the same ballot that included elections for those positions. When City Councilperson Adam Stockford pointed out to him that exactly that situation had taken place when the city last voted on the City Clerk matter in 2011, Loren vehemently denied the fact, arguing that the 2011 measure was to make the treasurer position appointed in case of a vacancy.
Stockford later posted a copy of the 2011 ballot on his Facebook page, disproving Loren's argument.
The outcome of Tuesday's vote effectively ends the race for the City Clerk and Treasurer positions; a race in which several write-in candidates were vying for votes on the November ballot.
Addressing the ballot issues at that same meeting, write-in candidate for city clerk Pam Osmun spoke frankly in opposition, saying that "At this point, there are people actually running for this position; the citizens should be able to vote for the best person for those positions, according to the charter."
The city charter will now be amended to reflect the results of the vote, and Mayor Scott Sessions will have the authority to make appointments to the City Clerk and City Treasurer positions with approval of the City Council.
Author's Note: The original version of this article failed to mention that the City Council had voted to approve the August date prior to being informed of the change. The relevant sentence has been corrected.