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.

=====================

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 January 23, 2015 18:19 GMT

HOME SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans purchased homes in December, yet total sales slipped in 2014 as first-time buyers struggled to find houses.

The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes rose 2.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million. But over the course of the entire year, sales fell 3.1 percent to 4.93 million.

Only 29 percent of sales went to first-time buyers last month, compared to a historic average of 40 percent. Prospective buyers were priced out of the market due to rising home values and relatively stagnant incomes. Still, affordability has improved in recent months as mortgage rates have plunged, leading to the possibility of stronger sales in 2015.

Median home prices increased 6 percent over the past 12 months to $209,500.

LEADING INDICATORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An index designed to predict the future health of the U.S. economy posted a fourth straight solid gain in December.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators increased 0.5 percent in December after a revised gain of 0.4 percent in November. The index also posted solid gains in September and October after a flat reading in August.

The December increase reflected strength in a number of components of the index. Conference Board economists said this suggested the economy was gaining momentum at the end of last year.

ATLANTIC CITY-WALL STREET

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Wall Street is giving a big thumbs-down to New Jersey's effort to tame Atlantic City's finances.

Moody's Investors Service on Friday lowered Atlantic City's bond rating by six steps, from Ba1 to Caa1, which is deep into junk territory.

The move came a day after Gov. Chris Christie appointed corporate turnaround specialist Kevin Lavin as the city's emergency manager and Kevyn Orr, who helped Detroit through its bankruptcy filing, as his assistant.

Christie's executive order appointing the pair indicates a bankruptcy filing is possible to help reduce the city's debt, which Moody's calculated at $397 million.

The agency cited an increased risk of default, and "a rapid, dramatic change" in New Jersey's longstanding policy of preventing a default or bankruptcy of any of its local governments.

EARNS-GENERAL ELECTRIC

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) -- General Electric Co. on Friday reported fourth-quarter net income of $5.15 billion.

The Fairfield, Connecticut-based company said it had profit of 51 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs and to account for discontinued operations, were 56 cents per share.

The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 55 cents per share.

The industrial conglomerate posted revenue of $42 billion in the period, falling short of Street forecasts. Analysts expected $42.4 billion, according to Zacks.

GE shares have fallen nearly 4 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has stayed nearly flat. The stock has decreased almost 7 percent in the last 12 months.

UPS-OUTLOOK

NEW YORK (AP) -- The huge cost of ensuring timely deliveries cost UPS during the holidays and the shipping company is now cutting its outlook for the year.

The Atlanta company hired more workers and boosted capacity at its facilities during the busy holiday season to avoid a repeat of 2013, when shippers struggled with a deluge of orders.

UPS Inc. now expects 2014 earnings of $4.75 per share, down from its previous forecast of between $4.90 and $5 per share. Industry analysts had been looking for earnings of $4.96 per share, according to FactSet. For the fourth quarter, UPS expects earnings of $1.25 per share, well below the $1.47 per share analysts had projected.

FORD-OUTLOOK

DETROIT (AP) -- Ford says it will take an $800 million charge in the fourth quarter because of exchange rate problems between the Venezuelan bolivar and the U.S. dollar.

The company says the charge will cut fourth-quarter net income by $700 million, after deferred tax benefits. But the automaker still expects a full-year pretax profit of $6 billion when it reports 2014 earnings Thursday.

In October, Ford cut its full-year pretax profit forecast to $6 billion. That's down from $8.6 billion in 2013.

Ford says in a regulatory filing that the company can no longer exchange bolivars to dollars due to Venezuelan currency exchange controls. The company says the controls have limited auto parts availability and have cut into normal production. But Ford says it will continue operations there for the foreseeable future.

GOODYEAR-RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Goodyear is recalling about 48,500 SUV tires after finding small cracks in the tread during endurance testing.

The move has forced General Motors Co. to stop selling about 6,300 Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave models until the tires are replaced.

The recall covers 18-inch Fortera HL tires made from Nov. 30 through Jan. 10. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. says the problem hasn't caused any crashes.

About 32,100 of the tires were made for the GM SUVs, which are produced at a factory near Lansing, Michigan. Another 16,400 were sold as replacement tires.

GM says the 18-inch tires are on about 30 percent of vehicles made at the plant, and the problem has not affected production.

Owners can have the tires replaced for free at any Goodyear store or authorized dealer.

DEERE-LAYOFFS

Deere to lay off more than 1,000 workers in Iowa, Illinois

Deere is laying off about 910 workers indefinitely from factories mostly in Iowa and will sideline another 500 employees in Illinois until late summer, as the agricultural equipment maker adjusts to demand for its products.

The Moline, Illinois, company also says it is adding 220 jobs at construction and forestry factories in Iowa. It plans to fill nearly all those positions with workers were laid off at agricultural equipment factories last year.

The latest indefinite layoffs will be at sites that build agricultural equipment.

Employees laid off until summer work at the company's seeding and cylinder factory in Moline. That location is going on an extended inventory adjustment shutdown.

Deere & Co. is the world's biggest farm equipment supplier. It employs about 29,000 in the United States and Canada.

US-UNION MEMBERSHIP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Union membership in the U.S. is down slightly, making up just over 11 percent of the workforce last year.

That's a drop of 0.2 percentage points from the year before.

The Labor Department says public-sector workers have the highest union membership rate at nearly 36 percent. That's more than five times higher than membership of private-sector workers at less than 7 percent.

Workers in education, training and library jobs and in protective service jobs have the highest unionization rate, at 35 percent.

Earnings were higher for union members last year, at $970 a week versus $763 a week for non-union members.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the report suggests that with 58 months of consecutive job growth, "workers made great strides and confronted great challenges."

EXPEDIA-TRAVELOCITY

NEW YORK (AP) -- Expedia has acquired travel booking site Travelocity from the Sabre Corp. for $280 million in cash.

The deal adds to Expedia's growing portfolio of websites. The Bellevue, Washington-company already owns nearly a dozen travel sites including Hotels.com, Hotwire and Egencia, the world's fifth-largest corporate travel management company.

Since 2013, Expedia Inc. has been powering Travelocity's U.S. and Canadian websites and providing Travelocity access to Expedia hotel supply and customer service program. So for users, this acquisition will have little noticeable change.

The move allows Sabre to focus more on its back-end system for selling airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals. Sabre is one of three global distribution system companies -- along with Travelport and Amadeus -- that handle sales for travel agencies and online booking sites like Expedia.

GOPRO-NHL

NEW YORK (AP) -- GoPro has signed a deal with the NHL to bring its wearable cameras closer to the action on the ice and let viewers see games from the perspective of players and referees.

It's the company's first such deal with a major professional sports league. While GoPro would not comment on whether other partnerships are in the works, they would make sense.

As part of the NHL deal, footage from GoPro cameras on players, referees and placed around the rink will be shown as part of the live broadcast of this weekend's All-Star events.

Later, prerecorded footage from the players will be incorporated into TV broadcasts of hockey games.

DAVOS FORUM-CLIMATE-POVERTY

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) -- French President Francois Hollande is calling for investments in green technology as a way to fight both global warming and poverty.

Hollande, who will host the next crucial round of climate talks, called for "huge investment in the green economy" as he and other world leaders kicked off a year of campaigning to clinch twin deals addressing climate change and poverty.

The interconnected themes took center stage Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos with urgent calls for nations to support two long-sought deals.

One, slated for talks in September in New York, would establish sustainable development and poverty-cutting goals through 2030.

The other, to be negotiated in December in Paris, would set a legally binding climate pact whose focus is on more near-term emissions cuts from 2020.

advertisement
Washington Times
advertisement