Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Low-Income Tax Preparation Dollars, 211 Tax Foreclosure Funds, Building 21, MPSC

This week the Board of Commissioners was relatively tame.

We once again had several people speak to us about the Road Commission. This followed a small rally that was held in front of the courthouse in Mason before the meeting. Once again, many allegations were made about many people. I won’t repeat them here.

After that, we considered two resolutions that had slightly divided votes. The first resolution was to provide funding for tax preparation for low-income people. This resolution was defeated in County Services committee, so I had to move it as the Finance Committee Chair. My understanding was that in committee, the two Republicans complained that we were giving money to a tri-county effort (Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton) and that Ingham County dollars would be used for residents of other counties. I did some investigating about this and found that the other two counties had, in fact, refused to contribute. As such, when I moved this on the Board floor I also included an amendment that required Ingham County dollars to be used for Ingham County residents only. I am very much in favor of regionalism, but not when others refuse to take part as well. My hope is that all three counties will contribute to this and other efforts and the money can be pooled for the benefit of all, but the other counties don’t seem to see it that way and I refuse to subsidize them with Ingham County taxpayer dollars. The amendment passed unanimously, and was supported by the County Treasurer (who brought the resolution to us in the first place). Unfortunately, those two Republicans (Vickers and Dragonetti) still voted against the resolution without stating any reason. They were both silent in debate. The resolution passed 13-2 (12 Dems and 1 Republican in favor, 2 Republicans opposed). I honestly have no idea why either of those gentleman would vote against dollars for assistance in tax preparation for low-income individuals!

The second semi-controversial resolution we considered was to give funding to the 211 system run by the United Way for tax foreclosure prevention efforts. For background, any citizen in Ingham County (and several other counties) can dial 2-1-1 on their phone and will reach an operator who they can ask about services available. 2-1-1 is the health and human services equivalent to 9-1-1. This is a centralized way to ensure that residents know what services are available to them in the county and region. This is run by the United Way, and Ingham County has supported this for many years as a way to get information to citizens who need help with things like foreclosure, how to get flu shots and how to pay for it, evacuation routines, information for laid off workers, disease epidemic information, crime victims, travelers aid, and many other health and human service options. To pay for this, public funds match local non-profit dollars. The Ingham County Board of Commissioners was asked for $5,000 to assist inm the tax foreclosure prevention efforts. Again, this passed on a 13-2 vote, with the same two Republicans voting against it. In this case, Commissioner Vickers commented that he didn’t know if the regular funding that the county provides is creating the desired results, and did not want to give more funding. While I appreciate that he at least explained his opposition, I disagree with it. The 2-1-1 is very beneficial to residents, and we can provide services to our constituents by simply contributing to a regional fund that coordinates several counties and provides the information. Regionalism and efficiency at its best. As such, I was happy to move the resolution and vote for it.

I don't usually do this, but I wanted to alert everyone to a great project being put in place in the Lansing/Holt area. As everyone remembers, last year three teens died in a very tragic car accident after one of the teens was drinking at a party. The mother of one of the teens that died (but was not driving) is a good friend of mine, and alerted me that several influential people in the community have created a program save young lives by stopping underage drinking . The program is called "Building 21" which is a creative and positive place for teens to go instead of partying. Building 21 is having their open house to the community on Thursday Oct. 20th at 6:30pm. It is located at 2289 Cedar St. in Holt (behind the Rite Aid I believe). I encourage all that can to attend and to get the word out. This is a great resource for the community, and is something positive that has come out of such a tragedy.

Also, as a County Commissioner I was alerted that the Michigan Public Service Commission is holding a Consumer Information and Assistance Forum on October 27th at 6 pm at the Cristo Rey Community Center and will give citizens the opportunity to discuss utility-related questions and concerns with MPSC staff. Attendees will also be able to work with local utility providers as well as assistance organizations to investigate service issues and explore energy assistance programs. You can learn about electric and natural gas rates, and discuss telephone service updates. If you have any questions, contact Joel Roseberry at 517-373-1540.

Next week will be a busy one, so stay tuned!

1 comment:

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