Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CATA Millage, Road Commission Issues, Fees, Campaign Update

This week was a shorter County Board meeting. We heard testimony in public comment from Ken Ross, candidate for the open Ingham County Circuit Court seat. He had served as DeWitt City Councilman, Insurance Commissioner, and other distinguished posts and is now running for the court. I have endorsed Ken Ross, and hope to see him elected. We also heard from Catherine Mooney, who is running for the County Commission from the north Lansing area, Groesbeck, and downtown area. As reported last week, we considered placing a millage on the ballot that would allow the voters to decide if they want to fund the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) with an additional .12 mills for special transportation services for the elderly and disabled (spec-tran) and for rural transportation services. We heard some public testimony against it from Mr. John Pollard and another gentleman, who said that the Lansing City Council the night before increased the costs of recycling in Lansing by 30% and said that the residents cannot afford millage increases. He also said that he would recall elected officials who vote for millages. During debate, it was mentioned that this millage would be an additional .12 mills in addition to the existing .48 bringing the total millage to .60. Commissioner Celentino asked about increased fares or other things to raise revenues. Commissioner Grebner responded that there is limited ability to do this, as the maximum amount that can be charged for these services is double the fare. Commissioner DeLeon pointed out that it is only a $12 increase in a year for a homeowner of a $100,000 house. Commissioners Dougan and Schafer said that they could not support this because there are too many other millages and things on the ballot that continually ask for money. I said that I would support this as it is placing the issue on the ballot for the citizens to decide. I said that the citizens will decide if government has asked for too much or not. Commissioner Vickers said that he does not usually like millages, but that the rural area gets a lot out of this millage and the services provided by CATA rural transportation services. The resolution passed and the question was placed on the ballot. We passed it on an 11-4 vote. We then considered a resolution to notify the County Road Commissioners that they are dissolved on June 1, and to release the attorney opinion that we received about the procedures to do this. We were recently told that some road commissioners were saying that they would not be removed until they were notified. While the law seems to be clear that we don't have to notify them and just have to dissolve the Board, we sent this resolution. We also heard before the meeting that the Road Commission, in their regularly scheduled meeting yesterday, reinstated the operations director to his post. As you may recall, much of the employee trouble at the road commission began when the road commission dismissed the operations director over a year ago. He then sued the county. The road commission on May 21st reinstated the operating director and specified that the reinstatement would not affect any legal action being taken. This action, a week before the dissolution of the board, came as a surprise to the County Commissioners. Additionally, there were concerns raised by other commissioners that the road commissioners could take an action to change employee compensation or benefits without consulting county staff, thus creating budget problems for the county commissioners. As such, language was added to the resolution saying that any decisions made by the road commission after the passage of the dissolution resolution on April 24th regarding personnel costs and/or fringe benefits will not be accepted by the County Commission. This resolution passed unanimously. We also passed the annual fees resolution. All fees except for five were passed unanimously. The five fees dealing with point-of-sale were opposed by Commissioners Dougan, Dragonetti, Schafer, and Vickers. No argument was given on the board floor for the objections, but in committee it was stated that these fees were too high. We also passed the resolution calling for the ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, which passed 10-5. On the campaign front, everything goes very well! We have knocked thousands of doors and the response has been excellent. We continue to raise money, and have our next fundraiser scheduled - join me downtown at the Exchange from 5-7 on Thursday, May 30th. Also, there are many opportunities to volunteer. We are knocking on doors every day, are doing calls at our campaign headquarters, and so many other things. Or you can take a yard sign for your yard when we put them up, write letters to the editor, or just cast your vote for me in the August 7th Democratic primary. Thanks for all your support!

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