Saugatuck-Douglas and lack of trust in government

Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Saugatuck-Douglas and lack of trust in government story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - There's a huge ballot item on Tuesday for voters in the West Michigan tourist cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

The question is at once simple and complex: should the two communities consolidate their governments?

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's a question that ought to have an easy answer, but has been made difficult by the very same fears and forces that have polarized our entire country.

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Here's an even bigger question: if these two lakeshore communities, who have different identities, but share so many similarities, can't figure out how to save money and increase efficiency by merging their governments, who can? Anywhere?

Here we are on a dreary Halloween night, and nothing conjured up by even the most diabolical trick-or-treater can hold a candle to the polarization of this country—and along with it the fear and distrust of government.

It's a fear and distrust, by the way, that has been incubated by politicians for a long, long time. And we—all of us—are paying the price.

Not that it has a direct bearing on Saugatuck and Douglas, but take a look at today's national polls.

On the heels of the absolutely disastrous roll-out of his signature healthcare bill, President Obama has a 52 percent disapproval rate.

He's nearly as unpopular as George W. Bush was. He's losing the trust of the people.

The people have long since lost their trust in Congress. That gang that can't think straight. The approval rating for the 535 members of the House and Senate has sunk to an astonishing nine percent.

Michael Vick during his dog fighting trial did better than that.

Seventy-or-so percent of the people polled think its time to give somebody else a chance. Whether that translates to incumbents getting tossed out remains to be seen. But he sentiment is there.

None of this is meant to suggest that Saugatuck and Douglas  haven't had fine elected leaders. It's just that we live in a time of distrust—of fear, of losing control.

How else can you explain what appears to be a down-to-the-wire vote on an issue that at first glance is a no-brainer?

These two cities already share a police department—a department many residents think is too large and too expensive—a fire department, sewer and water systems, a library, a K-through-12 school system, a harbor commission, and a reliance on tourism for their well being.

All of those mergers made things more cost-efficient. All were considered, and still are, to be smart moves.

Up to five independent studies say the two communities would save roughly half-million dollars a year by merging governments, in part, by having one City Manager and one City Clerk instead of two.

So what keeps the cities from writing the signature chapter? Fear that one government will change the distinct personality of the cities? One Internet commenter expressed fear that there would, under one government, soon be chain hotels and restaurants and the taking of property by eminent domain.

The fact is, residents and governments of both cities have long demonstrated a devoted stewardship of the environment, to quality of life,  and a marked resistance to any nationally logoed enterprise.

One former Saugatuck Mayor, a man with whom I often share coffee in the morning, objects because he can't bear the thought of a hyphenated destination called Saugatuck-Douglas.

Not a good reason, Henry.

A former Mayor of Douglas, a restaurant owner, objects because his city isn't broke and doesn't need to be fixed.

He says he's afraid his city will become a spring-break kind of place as he has depicted Saugatuck.

Nice try, Matt, but there's no reason the two cities can't handle that. Larger cities often have "distinctive" neighborhoods.

Yet another former major supports consolidation because it would offer a larger voice to compete more efficiently with other communities. And its hard to argue with that.

On Tuesday, I'll be voting yes. I'll be voting to eliminate duplication of services for a combined population of only 2,300 people.

And I'm going to trust the people we elect to run things to do a good job.

All this polarization has got to stop somewhere. What better place than Saugatuck-Douglas.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on October 22, 2014 07:28 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pace of corporate earnings reports eases today.

Boeing will have its numbers out before the market opens this morning, while AT&T is scheduled to release earnings after the market closes.

This morning, the Labor Department releases its Consumer Price Index for September. There's been little sign of inflation in recent months. Prices actually dropped two-tenths of a percent in August, with gasoline, airline tickets and clothing prices all falling. It was the first decline since a similar drop in April or 2013.

APEC-FINANCE MINISTERS

BEIJING (AP) -- Asia Pacific finance ministers are meeting today in Beijing to consider coordinated responses amid concerns over a slowdown in the regional economy highlighted by lower Chinese growth figures.

Opening the meeting of 21 ministers from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said recovery from the global economic downturn had been tepid.

But he said China was on track to meet its loose goal of 7.5 percent growth for the year, with inflation stable and the economy set to produce more than 10 million new jobs.

Meeting participants, including those from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, will discuss the regional economic outlook and discuss possible coordinated action to respond. An APEC news release said ensuring financing for infrastructure was among the issues to be discussed.

OBIT-NELSON BUNKER HUNT

DALLAS (AP) -- Nelson Bunker Hunt, a Texas oilman who once tried to corner the silver market with one of his brothers only to see the move end in financial disaster, has died. He was 88.

His brother, W. Herbert Hunt, says Nelson died Tuesday at a Dallas assisted-living center after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Hunt was among the world's wealthiest men. His father was legendary Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, who left behind a multibillion-dollar fortune and Placid Oil Co., once one of the biggest independent oil companies.

But a huge, soured bet on the silver market by Hunt and his brother, Herbert, led to legal problems and bankruptcy after the price of silver collapsed.

The brothers agreed to lifetime bans from trading in commodities futures and a $10 million penalty.

Nelson Bunker Hunt filed for bankruptcy in 1988, and much of his remaining fortune was liquidated to pay creditors and the IRS.

A funeral is scheduled Friday.

EARNS-YAHOO

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (AP) -- A huge windfall from Alibaba's recent IPO has sent Yahoo's earnings soaring.

The Internet company earned $6.8 billion in the third quarter, or $6.70 per share. That compares with income of $297 million, or 28 cents per share, last year.

While Alibaba accounted for most of the difference, Yahoo's revenue also rose slightly, after posting quarterly declines for most of the past five years.

Yahoo's third-quarter revenue totaled $1.15 billion, up 1 percent increase from last year. The uptick included more than $200 million in revenue from mobile devices. That represented 17 percent of Yahoo's total revenue for the three months that ended in September, an indication that CEO Marissa Mayer's emphasis on designing sleeker applications for smartphones and tablets is starting to pay off.

EARNS-DISCOVER FINANCIAL

RIVERWOODS, Ill. (AP) -- Discover Financial Services says its third-quarter net income increased nearly 9 percent to beat market expectations.

The credit card issuer and lender's gains were made on increased credit card spending and overall lending.

Discover says its net income after preferred dividends rose to $630 million, or $1.37 per share. That compares with $579 million, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier. Revenue net of interest expense rose to $2.19 billion from $2.06 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.34 per share on revenue of $2.2 billion.

Shares of the Riverwoods, Illinois-based company ended regular trading up $1.68 to $64.38 and added 13 cents in extended trading following the report.

INSURER-EBOLA

UNDATED (AP) -- Global property and casualty insurer Ace Ltd. says it may exclude Ebola coverage from some of its general liability policies.

The Swiss company says it's making the decision on a "case by case" basis for new and renewal policies for U.S.-based companies and organizations that travel or have operations outside the U.S.

Ace says it's evaluating the risk for clients that might be present in select African countries with higher exposure to the Ebola virus.

While Ace may be the first to disclose such a move, Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, says it is standard practice for insurers to regularly reevaluate the risk to their policies.

AMGEN-THIRD POINT

UNDATED (AP) -- A hedge fund run by a famed investor says it has taken a large stake in Amgen and now wants the biotech drugmaker to consider splitting up into two.

In a letter to investors, Third Point, a hedge fund run by Daniel Loeb, says it has recently increased its stake by an unspecified amount, making it one of the drugmaker's top shareholders. According to FactSet, Third Point already owned about 450,000 Amgen shares, a stake worth roughly $64.8 million.

In response, Amgen says its board and management are continually assessing the company's business.

JAPAN-TRADE

Japan's exports up in September; deficit persists

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade deficit edged higher in September though exports rose more than expected as the yen weakened to a near six-year low.

Japan's Finance Ministry says exports jumped 6.9 percent from a year earlier in September to 6.38 trillion yen ($59.6 billion) while imports rose 6.2 percent to 7.34 trillion yen ($68.6 billion). That left a deficit of 958.3 billion yen ($8.96 billion), compared to a shortfall of 943.2 billion yen a year earlier.

Japan's currency dropped to nearly 110 yen to the U.S. dollar in September, potentially helping to make Japanese products cheaper abroad. Today, it was trading near 107 yen to the dollar.

Economists expect the U.S. economic recovery to give Japan's exports a long-awaited boost -- despite a weaker yen, demand had remained weak and the trade deficit has remained a drag on growth, thanks partly to imports of oil and gas to compensate for the country's loss of generating capacity after reactors were idled following the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY-SCRAPPED METAL

DETROIT (AP) -- The city of Detroit plans to sell 13 million pounds of copper wire from its public lighting operation.

Financial consultant Gaurav Malhotra testified Tuesday in Detroit's bankruptcy trial that the city is budgeting for $25 million over six years from such a sale, but the scrapped metal could bring in about $40 million.

Detroit is phasing its electricity service over to DTE Energy Co.

Thieves have targeted below-ground and overhead wires, which they sell to scrap metal operations. They also have contributed to widespread blight in Detroit by stealing wire, copper pipes, fixtures, air conditioners and anything else of value from vacant houses.

Federal Judge Steven Rhodes has said he expects to make a ruling in early November on the city's plan to get out of bankruptcy.

SPORTS BETTING

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The four major U.S. pro sports leagues and the NCAA have made another court filing in their efforts to stop New Jersey from allowing legalized sports betting.

The order to show cause was filed Tuesday in federal court in Trenton. The NFL, the NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA want a judge to temporarily prevent New Jersey's casinos and racetracks from taking sports wagers.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Friday signed a law that effectively repeals the state's ban on sports wagering. Monmouth Park racetrack says it plans to accept bets starting Sunday.

A federal judge is expected to rule this week.

The two sides have been fighting in court since 2012, when Christie signed a law authorizing sports betting. Only Nevada offers single-game betting, and three other states are allowed to sell sports parlay pools.

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