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 02, 2014 08:13 GMT

FINANCIAL MARKETS

UNDATED (AP) -- Financial markets got off to a rough start in October as disappointing economic news and Ebola fears drove stocks lower. Surveys indicated German and U.S. manufacturing had slowed last month.

Asian stocks fell Thursday amid similar anxieties.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 1.7 percent to 15,815.45 points and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.9 percent to 1,973.31. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.7 percent to 5,295.7. Stocks in Southeast Asia also lost ground. Markets in Hong Kong and China were closed for a public holiday.

In New York, investors dumped airline stocks amid concerns that travel will decline because of the Ebola threat, and bought a handful of drug companies working on experimental treatments for the deadly disease.

Nervous investors shifted their money to havens like bonds and gold.

The blue chip Dow index lost 238.19 points, or 1.4 percent, to 16,804.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 26.13 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,946.16 and the Nasdaq composite lost 71.30 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,422.09.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) --The Labor Department will report on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. Economists forecast that weekly applications rose a slight 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000.

Also today, the Commerce Department reports on U.S. factory orders for August. In July, factory orders rose 10.5 percent, the biggest one-month increase on record going back to 1992.

Freddie Mac will report on average U.S. mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan eased to 4.2 percent from 4.23 percent the previous week.

EBOLA-AIRLINES

UNDATED (AP) -- The first reported case of Ebola in the United States has caused concern among airline investors and is raising the prospect that some frightened travelers might stay home.

Details of the man's 28-hour trip from western Africa emerged Wednesday. He flew on two airlines, took three flights, and had lengthy airport layovers before reaching Texas on Sept. 20.

Still, federal officials say other passengers on the flights are at no risk of infection because the man had no symptoms at the time of his trip.

Thomas Eric Duncan left Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 19 aboard a Brussels Airlines jet to the Belgian capital, according to a Belgian official. After layover of nearly seven hours, he boarded United Airlines Flight 951 to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. After another layover of nearly three hours, he then flew Flight 822 from Dulles to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the airline confirmed.

MINIMUM WAGE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department is following through on President Barack Obama's pledge to get the ball rolling on a higher national minimum wage in the absence of any congressional legislation to accomplish this goal.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has finalized a federal rule raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

Wednesday's move puts in force a step that Obama announced last February. The Labor Department said nearly 200,000 American workers will benefit from the new minimum, which takes effect Jan 1.

The minimum federal wage is now $7.25 an hour. Obama has proposed the higher pay level for all workers, but that has drawn resistance from Republicans in Congress. In announcing the new rule, Perez says that by raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts, the administration "is rewarding a hard day's work with fair pay."

STOCKTON BANKRUPTCY TRIAL

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A federal judge dealing with the bankruptcy issue has struck at the sanctity of public pensions in California.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled Wednesday that federal bankruptcy law allows the city of Stockton to treat pension fund obligations like other debts, meaning the city could trim benefits.

The city of Stockton argued that it must make its pension contributions for public employees before its creditors are paid the entire amount they are owned.

The case is being closely watched because it could help clarify who gets paid first by financially strapped cities around the nation -- retirement funds or creditors.

The ruling was prompted by a key creditor's contention that pension obligations should be treated like other debts.

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY

DETROIT (AP) -- Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has testified in bankruptcy court that when he took over Detroit's finances, he found a city with poor services for residents, next to no cash flow and significant neighborhood blight.

Orr, hired by the state in March 2013 to fix Detroit's finances, took the city into the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. He was called to the stand and questioned by a city lawyer in federal court in Detroit.

Judge Steven Rhodes is to decide whether Orr's plan to remove $7 billion in debt is fair to creditors. Orr has said Detroit's unsecured debt is about $12 billion.

Orr said Wednesday that before he filed for bankruptcy, every creditor wanted to be "paid in full."

DAIMLER ALLEGATIONS

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon's labor commissioner has filed a complaint against heavy-duty truck and school bus manufacturer Daimler Trucks North America, alleging five employees at its Portland plant were subjected to racial slurs and threats.

A statement Wednesday from Commissioner Brad Avakian says the accusations will be investigated, and if they bear out, workers could be awarded damages including back pay if they've quit.

Among the allegations, according to the statement, is that a Daimler Trucks employee threatened a black co-worker with a noose, saying he'd drag the African-American behind a car.

A statement from Daimler Trucks said it doesn't tolerate discrimination and trains employees to avoid it. It also said the company is cooperating with the investigation and has hired an outside investigator to look into the allegations.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-RATES-MISSOURI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A consumer group is suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to obtain information used to justify insurance rates in Missouri.

The Consumer Council of Missouri filed the complaint Tuesday in federal court. The agency didn't immediately respond to an email to its press office seeking comment.

The consumer group says the new health insurance law requires the agency to make the rate information public so consumers have the chance to challenge the costs they pay for health insurance. But the suit alleges that HHS has denied its records request.

Missouri is one of several states allowing the federal government to run their health insurance exchange. The suit says Missouri is reliant on HHS for any information regarding health insurance plans to be sold in 2015.

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