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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 November 24, 2014 08:29 GMT

GAS PRICES

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) -- A national survey reveals the average price of regular gasoline has plunged another 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, to $2.84.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg says the decline continues a trend that has seen prices in the U.S. fall by 88 cents since May.

Lundberg says lower crude oil prices are continuing to drive prices down, along with an abundant oil supply and the rising value of the U.S. dollar.

The highest priced gas in the Lower 48 states was found in San Francisco at $3.14 a gallon. The lowest was in Albuquerque at $2.47 a gallon.

The average price for midgrade gas in the U.S. is $3.08. For premium it's $3.24.

REGULATING CAR SERVICES

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina has become a prime market for the smartphone-based car services Uber and Lyft -- and is likely to join a push around the country to regulate the fast-growing businesses.

A big draw for the companies is the state's mix of mid-sized cities, which are full of college students but lack extensive mass transit networks to serve their spread-out geography.

The companies' expansion has legislators in North Carolina and elsewhere scrambling to study their business models ahead of sessions in 2015 when they could address insurance, car inspections or criminal background checks.

Transportation analyst Douglas Shinkle of the National Conference of State Legislatures thinks at least 20 legislatures are likely to take up legislation on Uber, Lyft and similar services in 2015 after several passed laws this year.

MERGER SURGE-HEALTH INDUSTRY

Health care M&A leads global deal surge

UNDATED (AP) -- It's been a big year for deal making and the health care industry is especially visible in that arena.

Large drugmakers are buying and selling businesses to control costs and deploy surplus cash. A rising stock market, tax strategies and low interest rates are also fueling the mergers and acquisitions.

It's all combining to make 2014 the most active year for health care deals in at least two decades. Data provider Dealogic says the industry has announced about $438 billion worth of mergers and acquisitions worldwide so far, about 14 percent of the $3.2 trillion total for all industries. Overall, M&A is on track for its best year since 2007, the year before the financial crisis intensified.

One analyst says deals are being driven by "cost pressure on the entire health care system," as insurers and government health plans increasingly hold down or even reduce reimbursements to drug, device and service providers.

Companies also are looking to expand market share, and boost their portfolios in hot areas such as drugs for cancer and hepatitis C.

JACOBS ENGINEERING-CEO RETIREMENT

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- The construction services firm Jacobs Engineering says CEO Craig Martin will retire in late December because of health reasons.

The company announced Sunday that former CEO and current board chairman Noel Watson will serve as executive chairman until a replacement for Martin is found.

The 65-year-old Martin joined Jacobs in 1994 and became CEO in 2006.

The Pasadena, California-based company helps design and build large, complex facilities for oil and gas companies, chemicals companies, governments and a variety of industrial customers.

Martin will step down Dec. 26, the last day of the company's first fiscal quarter.

SHIPPING SEASON

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Icy conditions have forced an early end to shipping on the Upper Mississippi River.

The season officially closed Thursday with the towboat Mary K. Cavarra and its load of four barges heading south through Lock & Dam No. 2 at Hastings, Minnesota.

The Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1yIQ8un ) reports it's the earliest closing in 45 years. The season began last spring with the second-latest opening and came to a 26-day halt in midsummer so crews could clear flood-borne silt from the navigation channel.

Executive director Bob Zelenka of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association says it's been a challenging year. Zelenka says the river is the cheapest way of moving crops. But the river's early closure means finding alternative ways to get those crops to New Orleans and foreign export markets.

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