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

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The Commerce Department says new-home sales edged up 0.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 467,000. The report also revised down the August sales rate to 466,000 from 504,000.

The pace of sales for newly built homes has improved a mere 1.7 percent so far this year compared to 2013. Only the South has experienced gains in buying year-to-date.

Housing has struggled to fully rebound since the recession ended more than five years ago. Many potential buyers lack the savings and strong credit history needed to afford a home, causing them to rent or remain in their existing houses instead of upgrading.

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The company closed its Dearborn truck plant for five weeks during the quarter and cut back on truck sales in order to preserve inventories while it readies the new aluminum-sided truck. That hurt pretax profits in North America, which fell 39 percent to $1.4 billion.

Ford earned 21 cents per share, down from 31 cents in the July-September period a year ago. Without one-time items, including separation costs in Europe, Ford earned 24 cents. That beat Wall Street's expectation of 19 cents, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue fell 2.5 percent to $34.9 billion, better than the forecast of $33.7 billion.

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ATLANTA (AP) -- UPS is expecting an 11 percent jump in December shipments as the holiday shopping season heats up.

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United Parcel Service Inc. also maintained its guidance Friday for 2014 adjusted earnings between $4.90 and $5 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predict $4.95 per share.

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The Procter & Gamble Co., based in Cincinnati, said Friday that it is also considering a spinoff, sale or other options for Duracell.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Chiquita shareholders have rejected plans to merge with Irish fruit importer Fyffes that would have made the world's largest banana supplier.

Chiquita Brands International Inc. said Friday that the shareholders didn't approve a revised transaction agreement between the two companies during a special shareholders meeting.

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The recall affects Embrace 35/9999 models with an AmSafe QT1 buckle. Documents posted by U.S. safety regulators say that if the buckles don't release easily, it may be difficult to get a child out of the seat in an emergency.

The affected seats were made at various times from December 2011 through May of 2013.

Not all Embrace 35 models are covered by the recall. For others, the company will provide replacement buckles if requested by customers.

The recall comes after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Owners with questions can call Evenflo at (800) 490-7591.

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A federal grand jury returned the indictment Thursday against Bill Aossey Jr., who founded the Midamar Corp. in 1974. The Cedar Rapids company grew into the leading U.S. halal brand, selling more than 200 products in the U.S. and abroad.

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Aossey's attorney called the indictment unfair Friday, saying the allegations were "a minor regulatory violation" at most.

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The average amount that class-action members of the suit will receive is $505, although the main plaintiffs will receive more. The number of class members is capped at 8,975.

The interns had been seeking recovery of unpaid wages, attorneys' fees, interest and liquidated damages. The settlement still has to be approved by a judge. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York.

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The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product grew 0.7 percent in the three months through September compared with the previous three months. That is down slightly from a 0.9 percent quarterly rate in the April-June period but remains among the strongest growth rates among developed economies.

Compared with a year earlier, the economy was 3.0 percent larger.

Treasury Chief George Osborne says the figures show Britain "continues to lead the pack in an increasingly uncertain global economy."

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