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 July 01, 2015 18:10 GMT

Meanwhile, oil prices are down after a report showed that crude stockpiles rose in the U.S. Benchmark U.S. crude has dropped below $58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Slovakia's finance minister says the eurozone finance ministers have agreed not to have any more talks on aid to Greece before the country holds its referendum on Sunday.

The 19 ministers held a teleconference today. Afterward, Slovakia's Pater Kazimir wrote on his official Twitter account that the group was united in its decision to wait, adding: "Let's not put the cart before the horse."

European stock markets ended sharply higher following the publication of a letter from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (TSEE'-prahs) to the country's creditors indicating that his government was ready to accept a large chunk of their proposals.

The letter sent yesterday says Greece will accept the demands of creditors in a new program, bar a few changes.

Traders thought the letter could form the basis of a new deal, offsetting disappointment at a subsequent televised address from Tsipras where he pressed on with Sunday's referendum on recent creditor proposals and said he was backing a `no' vote.

PUERTO RICO-ECONOMY

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's troubled power company has been forced to sell bonds once again to obtain capital and avoid defaulting on a $415 million debt payment with a worsening economic crisis in the U.S. territory.

The Electric Power Authority says it paid $153 million in cash and the rest from its debt service reserve accounts. Creditors agreed to buy $128 million worth of bonds to provide liquidity. The bonds have to be paid in full by December.

Creditors also agreed to extend a debt payment deadline to Sept. 15.

A bondholders' group said that agreement will automatically end if a restructuring support deal is not reached by Sept. 1. The group said it would take legal action if negotiations derail or if bondholders are treated unfairly.

ADP-EMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A private survey finds U.S. businesses added jobs at a robust pace in June, evidence that rising consumer spending and a healthy housing market are supporting more hiring.

Payroll processor ADP says businesses added 237,000 jobs last month, up from 203,000 in May.

Americans have spent freely in recent months and home sales are running at their best pace in eight years. Construction firms added 19,000 jobs last month, while retail, shipping and utility companies gained 50,000.

On Thursday, the government will issue its official jobs report for June. Economists forecast it will show that employers added 233,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent.

The ADP survey covers only private businesses, however, and frequently diverges from the official figures.

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

US manufacturing growth improves in June; hiring jumps

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Institute for Supply Management says U.S. manufacturing growth improved in June, helped by a jump in employment.

The trade group of purchasing managers says its manufacturing index rose to 53.5 last month from 52.8 in May. Manufacturing activity matched the high in January. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.

A measure of production fell, but it remained above 50. The gauge of new orders rose slightly to 56 from 55.8. But manufacturers are responding to the increased demand by hiring more workers, as the employment measure increased to 55.5 from 51.7.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. construction spending posted a solid gain in May, pushing total activity to the highest point since the fall of 2008, with the strength led by a big jump in non-residential projects.

The Commerce Department says that total construction spending increased 0.8 percent in May following an even bigger 2.1 percent advance in April. The gains pushed totaled activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.04 trillion, the best showing since October 2008.

All major categories showed increases in May, led by a 1.5 percent rise in non-residential building, which reflected increases in spending on hotels, manufacturing facilities and amusement parks. Residential construction was up a more modest 0.3 percent. Spending on government projects rose 0.7 percent.

Construction activity is expected to be a source of strength this year.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT (AP) -- Automakers are reporting June sales figures today, and it's looking like another healthy month for the industry with SUVs of all sizes continued to fly off dealer lots.

Nissan's U.S. sales rose more than 13 percent in June, while Fiat Chrysler posted an 8 percent gain.

Nissan was led by its redesigned Rogue small SUV, which posted a 54 percent increase for a June sales record of more than 23,000.

Fiat Chrysler was led by its Jeep brand, which posted a 25 percent sales increase.

Ford sales rose 2 percent, with strong sales of SUVs being offset by waning demand for cars. Sales of the redesigned Explorer jumped 30 percent.

Toyota and Honda both saw sales rise more than 4 percent.

The major exception to the upward sales trend so far is General Motors. GM says its sales fell 3 percent in June, with a drop in sales to rental companies, depressing overall results. However, GM reported a strong 19 percent gain in sales of its Silverado and Sierra pickups.

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WARREN, N.J. (AP) -- Insurer Ace is buying The Chubb Corp. in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $28.3 billion that will boost its international presence.

Chubb shareholders will receive $62.93 per share in cash and 0.6019 shares of Ace Ltd. stock.

Ace shareholders will own 70 percent of the combined business, with Chubb shareholders owning 30 percent.

The combined company plans to use the Chubb name and will have its main offices in Zurich, Switzerland, where Ace is based. Chubb's Warren, New Jersey, headquarters will contain a substantial portion of the headquarters function for the combined company's North American unit.

Both companies' boards unanimously approved the transaction, which is targeted to close in the first quarter of 2016. The deal still needs approval from Ace and Chubb shareholders.

KRAFT-HEINZ

NORTHFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Kraft shareholders have approved the sale of the company to ketchup maker H.J. Heinz, creating one of the world's largest food companies with annual revenue of about $28 billion.

Heinz' owners, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital engineered the deal, first announced in March, and will control 51 percent of the new Kraft Heinz Co.

Kraft shareholders will receive stock in the combined company and a special cash dividend of approximately $10 billion, or $16.50 per share. Each share of Kraft will be converted into one share of the new The Kraft Heinz Co.

Kraft Foods Group Inc. is based in Northfield, Illinois, and H.J. Heinz Holding Corp. is based in Pittsburgh.

The transaction will close on Thursday.

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