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 31, 2015 18:12 GMT

EMPLOYMENTS COSTS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. wages and benefits grew in the spring at the slowest pace in 33 years, stark evidence that stronger hiring hasn't boosted pay. The slowdown also reflects a sharp drop-off in bonus and incentive pay.

The Labor Department says the employment cost index rose just 0.2 percent in the April-June quarter after a 0.7 increase in the first quarter. The index tracks wages, salaries and benefits. Wages and salaries alone also rose 0.2 percent.

Both measures recorded the smallest quarterly gains since the second quarter of 1982.

Salaries and benefits for private sector workers were unchanged, the weakest showing since the government began tracking the data in 1980.

In some occupations where bonuses are common, compensation fell sharply after spiking in the first quarter, including sales and management.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The University of Michigan says U.S. consumer sentiment slipped this month but remains at high levels.

Michigan's index of consumer sentiment fell to 93.1 in July from 96.1 last month.

Richard Curtin, chief economist for the survey, blamed the drop on the "disappointing pace of economic growth." The government reported Thursday that the economy rose at a steady but unspectacular annual rate of 2.3 percent from April to June.

Curtin said the sentiment index has averaged 94.5 since December, the highest eight-month average since 2004.

The index was at 81.8 a year ago.

TRADE-WTO-CHINA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The World Trade Organization says China broke global trade rules by failing to comply with an earlier WTO ruling and continuing to impose duties on specialty steel imports.

The decision announced Friday was a victory for the United States and steelmakers AK Steel in West Chester, Ohio, and Allegheny Ludlum in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

The case dates back to 2010 when China imposed duties on a high-tech specialty steel used in power plants. Saying the duties violated trade rules, the U.S. took the case to the WTO and won. Despite the ruling, China reintroduced duties on the steel in 2013. The United States went back to the WTO, saying China was not complying with the earlier decision.

The U.S. says the duties cost American steelmakers more than $200 million in annual exports.

FRANCE-GOOGLE

PARIS (AP) -- Google is rejecting an order by the French data privacy agency to remove search results worldwide upon request, saying European law allowing the `right to be forgotten' doesn't apply globally.

In a statement posted late Thursday, Google said bowing to CNIL's request would force it also to agree to similar requests worldwide from any government that doesn't agree with how the company posts content. "The Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place," the company wrote on its Europe policy blog.

Europe's highest court ruled in May 2014 that people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched online. Google said it has received more than a quarter-million requests. In the statement, Google said it had asked CNIL to withdraw the order.

FEDEX-TNT

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union is opening an in-depth probe into whether FedEx's proposed $4.9 billion takeover of Dutch company TNT would strangle competition in the massive market for small package deliveries.

EU Antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said Friday she had to "make sure that FedEx's takeover of TNT would not impede effective competition and would not lead to higher prices for consumers."

The FedEx-TNT deal came two years after UPS dropped its own takeover bid for the Dutch company, citing objections from EU regulators fearing the combined company would become too dominant.

The European Commission said UPS and DHL would be the only two other viable players in the European market.

JAPAN-NUCLEAR-TEPCO

TOKYO (AP) -- A Japanese judicial committee has decided to send three former utility executives to criminal court for their alleged negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A document released Friday showed the committee voted in favor of indicting Tsunehisa Katsumata, who was chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the time of the crisis, along with two other TEPCO executives.

The 11-member committee's second decision supporting the indictment overrides Tokyo prosecutors' two earlier decisions to drop the case, forcing the three men to be charged with professional negligence. It's the first criminal case from the nuclear disaster.

Three reactors had meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, triggering massive radiation leaks that forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.

GULF OIL SPILL-DELETED TEXTS

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Attorneys are eyeing a November retrial date for Kurt Mix, the former BP engineer charged with obstructing a federal investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Court papers filed Thursday show attorneys are working toward a Nov. 16 date but may seek to push the trial back to Nov. 30.

Federal prosecutors say Mix deleted text messages about the amount of oil flowing from BP's well after a 2010 rig explosion. Mix's lawyers say he shared information about the flow rate throughout the government investigation.

Mix was acquitted on one criminal count in 2013 but convicted on an obstruction of justice charge. That conviction was thrown out, however, because the forewoman was found to have improperly told a deadlocked jury about remarks she heard outside of the trial.

EARNS-EXXON MOBIL

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on Friday reported second-quarter profit of $4.19 billion.

On a per-share basis, the Irving, Texas-based company said it had net income of $1.

The results fell short of Wall Street expectations, but Exxon does not adjust its reported results based on one-time events such as asset sales. The average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.11 per share.

The oil and natural gas company posted revenue of $74.11 billion in the period.

EARNS-CHEVRON

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) -- Chevron Corp. (CVX) on Friday reported second-quarter earnings of $571 million.

On a per-share basis, the San Ramon, California-based company said it had net income of 30 cents.

The results missed Wall Street expectations, but Chevron does not adjust its reported results based on one-time events such as asset sales. The average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.13 per share.

The oil company posted revenue of $40.36 billion in the period.

SOCIAL MEDIA-STOCKS DIP

NEW YORK (AP) -- It hasn't been an easy week in social media, despite double-digit revenue growth from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Investors are looking beyond headline numbers and finding reasons to sell.

Not even Facebook, with stronger-than-expected profit and revenue numbers and bulletproof mobile advertising strategy, was spared. Its stock is down 2.6 percent for the week, compared with a roughly 1 percent increase for the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

On Tuesday, Twitter disappointed investors with a report of stalling user growth that executives acknowledged isn't likely to change any time soon. Its stock hit its lowest level in two years and is down 12 percent for the week.

LinkedIn delivered solid results, but said one of its business segments, display advertising, is seeing some softness.

UPS-COYOTE LOGISTICS

ATLANTA (AP) -- UPS is buying Coyote Logistics for $1.8 billion as it maneuvers for a slice of the burgeoning freight brokerage business.

Coyote has helped support UPS in the past during the busy holiday season, the last two of which have caused headaches for the shipping giant.

Coyote booked revenue of $2.1 billion last year.

UPS said Friday that it expects the acquisition adding to its earnings next year. The Atlanta company anticipates the transaction could result in $100 million to $150 million in annual operating savings.

The deal is targeted to close within 30 days.

VILLAGE RANSOM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York auditors say an upstate village made ransom payments of $300 and $500 last year to keep its computers running after two official-looking emails released malware throughout its system.

The mayor says the attack locked up the village's accounting systems.

New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the cyberattacks should be a wake-up call. He says it shows how a lack of information technology safeguards can cost taxpayers money and cripple day-to-day operations.

Other agencies around the country have also paid ransom to get their computers back.

In Maine this year, the Lincoln County sheriff's office paid about $300 to hackers after several unsuccessful attempts to retrieve their records themselves. A suburban Chicago police department paid a $500 ransom in January to restore access to their data.

BREWERY FATAL

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) -- A $1.2 million settlement has been reached in a wrongful death lawsuit over a keg explosion at a New Hampshire brewery.

The Portsmouth Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1IcLXea) 26-year-old worker Benjamin Harris died in April 2012 while pressurizing a plastic beer keg with air at the Redhook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth. The keg exploded, and first responders found Harris suffering from cardiac arrest with chest and head injuries.

He died at a hospital.

The lawsuit was brought against Plastic Kegs, Medway and Satellite Logistics Group, which were involved in the manufacture and distribution of the exploded keg.

The settlement benefits Harris' sister, his son born after his death and the boy's mother. Terms of the settlement were approved July 15.

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