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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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pontiac's emergency financial manager must communicate better

The Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, gave his state of the state address last night in Lansing, Michigan. As was expected, he touched on most of the broad issues that are important to the citizens of the state and its economy. Snyder promised to develop a system that will more effectively communicate how effective his actions are. He calls it a “dashboard” that will be on the state’s website.

One of the topics was that of emergency financial managers. They are installed in cities that are in financial trouble and have offered no plan to solve the problem. Snyder said that he wants to overhaul that laws that govern the managers. Pontiac is one of the cities in the state that is operating with a emergency financial manager right now.

For many reasons, usually because of a combination of politics and poor management, cities can get into financial trouble and run a deficient. Some cities are able to react to the problem with a tough plan that will bring them back from the brink. Others though, because of politics, are just not able to find a compromise between competing interests that will see them through.

That was the case with Pontiac. The current city manager, Michael Stampfler, has a resume that makes him very qualified to make financial decisions that will help the city get back on the road to recovery. But, he is not a good communicator and appears to not know how to work with political organizations. Just as Snyder has announced that he will develop a dashboard for the state, Stampfler needs to develop one for Pontiac.

There is no doubt that it is perhaps the toughest job on the planet. He has to dig deep into a budget that is out of whack, deal with people that are protecting their jobs and turf, make decisions that will make everyone unhappy and cut services that citizens have come to expect. Add to all of this the fact that he a non-elected boss that is placed there by an outside authority. Not a good mix.

But, Stampfler, is not forth coming with the reasoning for his actions. It is rumored that he shuts people out of meetings, make decisions with little announcements about why and doesn’t report to the people that count the most, the citizens of the City of Pontiac. When an elected official isn’t a good communicator many people complain. But when a non-elected official isn’t a good communicator, the entire community is left outside of the process.

Open government and decision making is an important principal in a republic. People in a community can’t make effective decisions about their representatives in government if they are not communicating with them about what decisions are being made and the reasoning behind the actions. This is even more important when someone from outside the community places someone with the authority of an emergency financial manager to temporarily make all the decisions. Stampfler, and his boss Governor Snyder, must be held accountable for their actions. The only way to do this is for both to communicate better with the citizens of Pontiac.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gun rights should be the same every where

In New Jersey, a man from Utah man, Greg Revell, was traveling through a New Jersey airport on his way to somewhere else. In his baggage he had an unloaded hand gun. He told the airport security where he was coming from about the weapon when he checked his bags. He was allowed to check his bags and was just changing planes in New Jersey. His connecting flight was cancelled, so he retrieved his bags and spent the night at a hotel. The next morning he arrives at the airport and does the honest thing and tells airport police about his gun. He is then arrested and spends ten days in jail.

The Supreme Court will decide on Wednesday to hear his case.

If the Fourteenth amendment did anything, it made this one country. Until the amendment was ratified, each state operated nearly independently of all other states and of the federal government. At the time, 36 states had 36 different sets of laws. Some states went as far to not just violate the rights of individuals, but to take them completely away. The Supreme Court supported the right of states to take such action because the Constitution, according to the court, applied only to the Federal government and not to the states. If it hadn’t been for the Civil War and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, they may never have been given back.

It was the intent of the Fourteenth amendment to ensure that the rights of any person in the country was the same as any other person. That just as the Federal government must respect the rights of people so must each state. This passed all the way to local governments because they were set up by states.

Gun ownership is a right as documented in the Constitution. Reasonable regulations can be adopted to ensure that the ownership and use of a gun doesn’t harm anyone, but it can’t be denied. But, there are fifty three different sets of regulations in the country about gun ownership. That includes all fifty states, D.C and Costa Rica. Perhaps more it you count other protected lands and other jurisdictions.

It sounds like Greg Revell hales from a state that allows him to own and carry a gun. After all, if he was not legal, why would he say anything to airport police. Also, Revell was allowed to check his luggage with the gun in the baggage in Utah. The gun didn’t get him into trouble until he spent the night in New Jersey. Of course, that one night turned into ten and now a gun charge on his record.

It is time we federalize gun laws to protect the rights of people that own guns in every state. We are no longer fifty states (or 36 at the time of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment) that operate independently of each other. The rights of every person in this country should be protect from the patch work of laws that may or may not allow an individual who is legal in one state to be legal in another.

Like immigration and plenty of other issues, gun laws needed to be apply to all in the country and not just each state. It is time to move in that direction so we can all live without fear of our rights.

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