Friday, January 21, 2011

The citizens of Pontiac are losing control of their government

The government of any community has many responsibilities. It is up to the citizens of the community, to a point, to define what they expect from their government. Pick up the trash, manager police and fire, maintain parks, keep the streets in good shape, run the local little league may be some of the things city governments manage.

All of these things must be paid for mostly by local taxes. When there isn’t enough funding the list needs to be prioritized. The item with the highest priority is the security of the community. That means that police and fire should be on the top of the list for funding. Once they are paid for, other things can be funded.

The City of Pontiac is going through some tough times right now. With the city legislative branch essentially replaced by the emergency financial manager, Michael Stampfler, the community has little or no direct voice in the management of their city. They are not able to help decide the priorities that must be set because of the falling revenues that have placed the city in a deficient. Stampfler is setting the priorities and making all the decisions. One of his tricks to force changes in the police department was to lay off 23 officers to bring the total on the road to only 51. This has placed the security of the city in a dire situation and is forcing the outsourcing of the department’s services.

The Oakland County board of commissioners was asked and has approved a proposal to replace the Pontiac police and dispatch services with the Sheriff department. There are many agreements that need to be made before the Sherriff officially takes over, but it is likely to happen.

If there is trash collection, parks that are being maintained, road improvements being made or any other nonessential services being funded by the city, they should all be curtailed or eliminated before the police and fire is outsourced. Not only is police and fire the highest priority of any community’s responsibility, it is one of the ways that a government stays in balance and in control by checking the power of the other branches of government. With Stampfler replacing the legislative branch and the police soon to be controlled by an outside authority, the community is losing nearly complete control of its government.

Successful communities are founded and maintained by having the local citizens directly in control of their government. While the city of Pontiac must find a way out of the financial difficulties it is in, it must do so by not losing control of its government.

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