Friday, July 29, 2011

Hayes Township Budget Meetings

I’d like to draw the Reader’s attention to the Hayes Township Budget approved on 30 Jun 2011.

There are some things that occurred with regard to the budget of which most good citizens of Hayes Township were/are unaware. Even many who were paying attention missed it, and they were at the meeting when it occurred!

On 9 Jun 2011, there was a notice of a public hearing published in the Clare County Cleaver, set for 21 Jun 2011 at 7 PM. As required by the state law, the following statement was part of the announcement:
The property tax millage rate proposed to be levied to support the proposeed budget will be a subject of this hearing.

The notice also stated that a copy of the budget would be available for viewing in the Clerk’s Office during regular office hours. (It is required by state law that the notice also contain information about where the budget may be viewed by the general public prior to the Public Hearing. A Budget Public Hearing is also required by state law.)

Here is what very few people knew: The budget was, in fact, not available for the public to view in the days leading up to the Public Hearing because the Treasurer had not received all the input required from the Clerk and the Supervisor. The budget was also not available for the public to view on the night of the Public Hearing.

Yet, according to the minutes of the regular meeting of the Hayes Township Board of Trustees, which was also held on 21 Jun 2011, the “Public Hearing” was held anyway. Did you miss it? So did many people who attended the meeting. The Regular Meeting was called to order at 7:04 PM, and after the Pledge of Allegiance and roll call, the Regular Meeting was closed and the “Public Hearing” was opened. There being no questions or comments, the Budget Public Hearing was closed and the Regular Meeting was re-opened at 7:05 PM.

Are you kidding me? A less than one minute “Public Hearing”? Really? How is anyone supposed to have questions or comments when they have not had an opportunity to see the budget because it was not complete before the meeting? Is this transparent government? Because of the way the minutes read, the bases are covered if anyone wants to look into it. The minutes do reflect, after all that there was a public hearing. It’s just that nobody had any questions. They omit the fact that the budget was still, as of that "Public Hearing," not available for the public to review. And most people didn’t realize that a “Public Hearing” was held right under their noses.

No action was taken on the budget, presumably because the budget was not yet ready. Common sense would tell you that there would have to be a follow-up Special Meeting specifically for the purpose of passing the budget.

There is no record in the minutes of when that follow-up meeting was to be held, but it had to be before 30 Jun 2011. The new fiscal year was to begin on 1 July 2011.

The Special Meeting to approve the budget was announced late in the afternoon of 29 Jun 2011 to be held at 10 AM on the 30 Jun 2011. As late as the afternoon of 29 Jun 2011, the budget was still not available for the public to view. People did go in to ask to see it.

Finally, on the day of the vote, there was a single copy of the budget in Supervisor Scherrer’s possession at the meeting. The budget and amendments were passed at that meeting, without the benefit of a true public hearing.

This is more “business as usual” in the running of Hayes Township.

I was able to procure a copy of the budget form Mr. Breese (Township Clerk) the following week.

There are other issues concerning the Hayes Township Regular meeting on 21 Jun 2011 and the minutes of that meeting.

1. The minutes were misdated. According to the minutes, the meeting was on 14 Jun 2011. The meeting actually took place on 21 Jun 2011

2. The bogus “Budget Public Hearing.”

3. The tax millage rate was not a topic of the “Hearing”.

4. When they approved the minutes of the May 2011 Board of Trustees Regular Meeting,

     a. The date was wrong. The minutes list the meeting as having taken place on 15 May 2011 (a Sunday). The meeting actually took place on 17 May 2011.

     b. There was some question as to whether Don Atkinson of the Planning Commission, when proposing a bike park on Hayes Township property, said in his proposal “minimal cost to the Township” or “no charge”. The solution seems to have been to strike the sentence altogether, (“removing the sentence concerning minimal charge.”) This is not what should be done. Removing the sentence also removes any record of what the proposed cost of the bike park will be to Hayes Township residents and taxpayers.

Could we have a little more attention to detail in the minutes, please? Take the time to get dates and names right. If you don’t know, ask, for crying out loud. More specific details on some of the agenda items mentioned would be nice. To date, the minutes are usually cursory and vague. Not much help to anyone looking up events that may or may not have been mentioned, but definitely occurred. Important information and events that occur at the meetings are often glossed over. We have to keep our own minutes in order to have a complete and accurate account of what took place.

Regarding the Special Meeting convened for the purpose of approving the budget, I understand that according to state law, special meetings may be called with a minimum of 18 hours’ notice. It should not be done often, only when absolutely necessary, but I can cite several meetings, including this one, called on short notice in Hayes Township in the past several years.  When at all possible, business that can wait until the next regular meeting should wait until the next regularly scheduled meeting. Some of those special meetings could have waited the couple of weeks until the next regularly scheduled meeting.  The budget should be ready at least by the time the notice is posted in the newspaper.

Having said that, I realize that because the budget was not ready as advertised, a special meeting had to be convened and it was, at the last possible moment. In doing this and scheduling it for 10 AM, it was pretty much guaranteed to have minimal public participation. Having observed the way Hayes Township does business, there’s a better than fifty percent chance that this was by design. They held a public hearing that wasn’t, and then they passed the budget in a short notice, last minute meeting held when the fewest people were likely to attend. Indeed, I know of people who would have been there, but they could not attend on such short notice due to prior commitments. Two members of the Board were absent, no doubt because of their day jobs. But the budget was passed, along with amendments. Just in the nick of time.

Also recorded in the minutes was an item that should never have been discussed, as it was not on the agenda. Mr. Breese was out of order and should have been told to save his information about his meeting with the Risk Management Advisor for the Township’s insurance for the next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees Meeting, and not this Special Budget Meeting.

Since Mr. Breese was allowed to discuss his meeting and the potential for bike and walking trails at Fir Road, it should also have been mentioned in the minutes that the discussion also turned to Don Atkinson’s (Planning Commission) ongoing conflicts of interest and a lack of confidence on the part of the members of the public who were present in John Scherrer’s leadership as Supervisor.

In case the general public is unaware of it, Mr. Atkinson’s ulterior motive in pushing for and backing the bike trails/park is so Hayes Township can send some business his son’s way. His son Todd owns B Extreme Cycle and he designs bike courses. That is a clear conflict of interest. The Budget Special Meeting was neither the time nor the place for it.

This is yet one more example of what takes place at Hayes Township when the officials think no one is paying attention.

People are paying attention, and we will bring it to everyone’s attention. All we ask is for our elected and appointed officials to conduct their business in a timely, proper and above board manner.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask from our public servants. We don’t work for them. They work for us.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A New Era

I have taken a hiatus form this blog for a time, causing many to believe that I have just “given up” about Michigan Moto Mania. At least in the Hayes Township “system,” that issue is pretty much decided. But time is very much on the side of the neighbors. And we are patient.

This is, after all, the Hayes Township Watchdog Blog, and although so much of the shenanigans pulled by Hayes Township officials has centered around Moto Mania, there is still much going on in Hayes Township on the boards that has absolutely nothing to do with Moto Mania, and is still not quite kosher.

With that in mind, I am shifting my gaze to the other shenanigans going on that my neighbors and I have observed in the last few months and bring them to the attention of the general public, who still do not appear to be paying attention, now that the dust has settled on the Moto Mania issue.

The neighbors are still paying attention to you Hayes Township officials, both elected and appointed, and we are not going away. We live here and we own property here and we are not going to make it easy for you guys to screw over the people whose interests you are supposed to be protecting in the future. You will see at least one or two of our faces at every meeting, holding your feet to the fire. You can count on it.

One positive new thing since I last blogged is the new Zoning Administrator, Rod Williams. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Williams while I was in town in early July. He seems to be a “by the book” kind of guy, and that’s a good thing, inasmuch as the vast majority of Hayes Township officials are only “by the book” when it suits their own purposes. As observed in the last few years, they tend to be “chunk the book” kind of Good Ol’ Boys. Mr. Williams does not appear to be a member of the Hayes Township Good Ol’ Boys Club, unlike Jim VanWormer.

Also a point in Mr. William’s favor – he doesn’t seem to be intimidated by the bullies in the Hayes Township Good Ol’ Boys’ Club. He spends a lot of time taking the initiative to get his job training updated, which could prove to be the Bain of some members of the Good Ol’ Boys Club. So far, I like what I see. Maybe he’ll be a new broom sweeping some old dirt clean around Hayes Township. They sure do need it.

I have a lot more to say, so stay tuned.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Moto Mania Propaganda as Printed in the 7 April 2011 Clare County Cleaver Debunked

According to the latest propaganda piece in the Clare County Cleaver, (aka the Moto Mania PR and Propaganda Rag), by Genine Hopkins, “despite the hopes by some Hayes Township Officials” – (John Scherrer?  Lee Dancer? Lyle Criscuolo?), “that the controversy surrounding Michigan Moto Mania had passed,” the neighbors have exercised their right to appeal the decision made by the Hayes Township Planning Commission to grant Michigan Moto Mania Campground and Resort a Special Use Permit without conditions. 

Really?  Did they really think we wouldn’t?  Once again we have to go through the motions of trying to make the “system” work before we abandon the system altogether and resort to court.  That means, Genine, the appeal has to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals first.  So Michigan Moto Mania must “suffer another appeal.”  (Very dramatic, Genine).  Just like the neighbors had to suffer another SUP application.  But hey, misery loves company.   

Since this Moto Mania business was snuck through in an unadvertised, last minute, hushed up meeting back in October 2009, the legal battle has only been going on for a little over a year.  (The Collins’ lawsuit was filed on 7 April 2010.)  It has not been “ongoing for the past two years” as Genine claims.  (I know.  It just seems longer when an SUP that was never supposed to be granted in the first place keeps raising its ugly head in some new mutation.  Son of Moto Mania.  Moto Mania, the Campground and Resort version.)  If it's overturned on Friday, I wonder how it will be reincarnated next time around?

"This legal battle, which has been ongoing for the past two years, has been a thorn in the side of Hayes Township, ..."

Genine exaggerates the timeframe.  What’s the matter, Genine?  Don’t you trust people to think for themselves?  If all you did was lay out the facts for them, both pro and con, what would happen?  Oh, right.  Nobody knows because you can’t tell it without trying to influence it.

This “ongoing legal battle” may well be a thorn in the side of Hayes Township, but it is a thorn of their own making.  Perhaps they should have thought about it before they bent the rules in the first place.

MMM’s original application, although it could have fallen under resort, was applied for as a park, which has to be publically owned in order to qualify for an SUP under Hayes Township ordinances,” according to Genine Hopkins.  Wrong again, Genine.  That Doug Longenecker applied as a park instead of as a “resort” is an illustration of the fact that he just didn’t do his homework and went into this endeavor half cocked.  A privately owned park run as a business doesn’t get the same consideration as a publically owned not-for-profit park.  He applied as a “park” without realizing that there were any legal implications whatsoever.  And with key personnel in key positions on the boards, why would he have to worry about that?  I’m sure he was guaranteed to be a shoo-in when he looked at the property, hence his initial lawsuit, which he has since dropped.  (Let's see if he files a new one if his SUP is overturned again.)  Because that’s the way we do business here in Hayes Township.  Always have.  Until some neighbors called foul. 

No doubt that along with “taking their time” or appearing to do so by dragging the so-called process out for three weeks in a row, certain members of the Planning Commission probably coached Mr. Longenecker about just how to word things; assisted of course by Mr. Longenecker’s legal counsel and possibly other interested parties.  Genine with her law classes seems intimately familiar with all the details, whys and wherefores of Mr. Longenecker’s latest application.

I have no doubt that the Planning Commissioners went to Mr. Longenecker’s property. Some of their comings and goings have been noted.  While they may have “extensively interviewed” Mr. Longenecker, their due diligence was lacking in the “extensive interviews” of the neighbors.  None of us remember having any “extensive” conversations with any members of the Planning Commission, unless Mr. Criscuolo soliciting input from Matt Scheffler and Kimberly Kusiak constitutes an “extensive interview” or an attempt “to determine if some kind of compromise was possible.”  In the end, the input provided by those two neighbors was moot since it was never discussed in an open forum.         

“According to Hayes Township’s ordinances, the appeals time is only days, but township attorney David Dreyer adjusted the appeals time to reflect that of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, which provides for a full 30 days for an appeal.” 30 days seems to be a reasonable time to appeal a decision made by the Planning Commission.  Sometimes it takes some time to have a lawyer word the appeal.  If the Hayes Township Zoning Ordinance provided less time than the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, that would have left Hayes Township vulnerable to a lawsuit for not providing enough time for an appeal to be filed.  It was a prudent thing for Mr. Dreyer to do.  But if needs be, the HTZO should be amended to comply with the MZEA.

In all of her biased writings, Genine continues to refer to the neighbors as “the opposition”, reminding us of her personal biases and the biases of the Cleaver in trying to cast the neighbors in a negative light.  In opposing Moto Mania, we are also opposing the misapplication of the Hayes Township Zoning Ordinances to serve an agenda.  We are in opposition to the bending and breaking of the law when it suits the purpose of our local government leaders.  The fact that this kind of thing, even to achieve a desirable end is tolerated, is worrisome for Hayes Township.  It is no wonder with all the scofflaws representing Hayes Township in local government there is so much more crime in Hayes Township than almost all of the other townships in Clare County combined.  Where there is lax enforcement, there is more crime because the criminal element has learned that the odds of getting away with it are greater in Hayes Township.  The people of Hayes Township have poor examples set for them by their elected and appointed leaders.     

“Although the opposition continues, there is a general belief that since no errors were made,  and the plan for MMM now includes a wider array of activities that are more in line with the exemptions, the appeal may lack the legal standing of the first appeal.”  Really Genine?  Where is this “general belief” coming from, except in your own mind, and in the minds of your colleagues at the Moto Mania PR and Propaganda Rag?  Is this “general belief” shared by the several biased members of the elected and appointed Hayes Township boards?  And this “general belief” is based on whose legal expertise among the general population of Hayes Township?  Yours?  This new application with the new pretty words is the exact same SUP as the last one with window dressing added.  Motocross and ORV riding and racing have not been removed from the equation at all.  (Without restrictions, remember?) Other things have been added, but nothing has been removed. 

“In the appeals document, the parties…cite conflict of interest for new Planning Commission member Wesley Kenney, …” Yes, we have pointed out Wesley Kenney’s conflict of interest  - his business was the very first business listed in the support ad published in the Cleaver on 29 Apr 2010.  How is that not bias and a conflict of interest?  Especially if Mr. Longenecker avails himself of Mr. Kenney’s landscaping services in the future?  One can hardly call Mr. Kenney unbiased.

We have also pointed out Don Atkinson’s conflicts of interest. 

Lee Dancer has admitted to hoping to get some wells out of Moto Mania. 

I’d like to know how Genine knows about a cross that was erected and has since “fallen down” (of its own accord, I’m sure) on the Collins’ property.  Has she been trespassing on the Collins’ property to see it for herself?  It is interesting that the cross was discovered as having “fallen down” about a week and a half before the news of it was printed in the Cleaver.  The Collins’ were out of town at the time it was discovered that it had “fallen down” by a caretaker.  By the time the Moto Mania PR and Propaganda Rag went to print, the cross had been erected again.  You got it wrong again, Genine.     

“The majority of local citizens hope MMM can finally open, bringing tourists to the area and creating jobs for the many unemployed in the area.” 

Let’s break that down: 

The majority of local citizens…” – How many of these “local citizens” are paying property tax in Hayes Township?  There are a lot of “local citizens” who neither reside nor pay taxes in Hayes Township.  Why should these people have a voice in what happens in Hayes Township? 

“…hope MMM can finally open…” - They want to play on someone else’s property in someone else’s back yard with their noisy toys.

“…bringing tourists to the area…” – more people, not form around here who want to play on someone else’s property in someone else’s back yard with their noisy toys.

“…and creating jobs for the many unemployed in the area.” -  Do you really believe that the “many unemployed” (all of them) will be put back to work as soon as MMM opens its doors?  I have a bridge I want to sell you.  Just exactly what are these jobs that will be opening up on April 16 if Moto Mania is not overturned by the ZBA?  I’d like to see a list of all of those job descriptions and what the pay and benefits are for all the unemployed people of Harrison (besides potentially Wes Kenney and Lee Dancer, and whatever construction company Mr. Longenecker has building stuff for him - these are people who are not unemployed.  They already have their own work in other places besides MMM.).   Those want ads should be out on the PR and Propaganda Rag in the 21 Apr 2011 edition if the ZBA does not overturn the SUP.  Those job descriptions with pay and benefits scales should be available for the ZBA to look over in time to make their decision. Why doesn’t anyone ask Mr. Longenecker to produce them?  How many of the unemployed are there in Harrison and how many actual jobs are going to materialize? 

“An economic impact study conducted by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, that points to a study of the economic impact of outdoor resorts and activities in the state of Wisconsin, similar to the activities that MMM will be offering.  This study was attached to the application as proof of the economic value of MMM to the area.”  The entire Outdoor Industry Foundation study was not attached to the MMM SUP application.  Just a single page with a couple of sentences underlined from a document by Dick Ramey that is at least 9 pages long.  This document references the study and may or may not be relevant.  This is what was attached to Mr. Longenecker’s SUP.  Wisconsin is not Michigan.  The heavy local support is what has been whipped up by the pro-Moto Mania bully pulpit of the Cleaver and Steve and Peggy Rauch, along with Genine Hopkins.  Michigan Moto Mania has been hyping it up on facebook to people who don’t even live in Harrison. 

Instead of taking a commonsense approach to the growth of business in this area, the preferred method seems to be to foment hysteria about neighbors fighting a noisy business going into an area not zoned for it.  How much more of a win-win could it have been if Hayes Township and Harrison and Clare County combined their efforts to help Mr. Longenecker find the right place, properly zoned rather than force feeding the neighbors this business in their neighborhood and calling it good.  A lot less money would have been spent by everyone.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Civics Lesson for Jason Liptow

The Mostetler Road and Deer Lake neighbors have exercised their right to appeal the Special Use Permit granted to Doug Longenecker to run a “campground and resort.”  This “campground and resort” is really the same Motocross and ORV business that has already been overturned, with camping and resort-like activities thrown in.  Jason Liptow chides the neighbors on the Michigan Moto Mania facebook page:

“Closed-minded selfish people never took a civics class that taught the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. You want peace and quiet and poaching off others property, move to Wyoming where the wolves just might eat you for dinner. So sick of these narrow-minded people who have no understanding of the positive effects such a place will have on this county.”

Mr. Liptow’s friends Cathy Harper-Hayden, Grant Charville, Dan Schoch and Laura Murphy-Taylor agreed with him. 

Where I went to school, I learned that the Founding Fathers espoused the rule of Law and the rights of the individual.  I also learned that my individual rights do not extend beyond the end of my nose, which I hold to be true for all individuals.  No one has the right to do what is wrong.  In my civics class, I learned that the laws are in place to protect the rights of the individual.  Laws are declared unconstitutional when they infringe upon the rights of the individual. 

“The good of the many” is Utilitarianism and harks more toward National Socialism than it does toward a Democratic Republic. 

The phrase “Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz” (The common good before self interest) was popularized in Rudolf Jung’s book Der Nationale Sozialismus (National Socialism)  Since when is Rudolf Jung one of the Founding Fathers? 

This was the philosophy upon which Adolf Hitler’s economic policy was based.  Personal profit was subordinate to the ends of the state in Hitler’s Germany.   Any business owner who pursued his own self interest found himself in a concentration camp or sentenced to death.  This official decree, “Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz” was stamped into the rim of the Reichsmark coins from 1933 to the end of WWII.

The common good before the private good; or to paraphrase using Mr. Liptow’s words, “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.”

That Mr. Liptow and friends blindly embrace this philosophy I find troubling.

I find it troubling for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Mr. Liptow has run for public office (State Representative, District 97).  During his campaign, Mr. Liptow used the Moto Mania debacle to make political hay while pandering for votes among the Moto Mania supporters.  By latching onto the popular appeal of the misplaced business, Mr. Liptow hoped to propel himself into office.

Equally troubling is the fact that Mr. Liptow used to teach economics at Mid-Michigan Community College before he was fired for cause (unprofessionalism).  I am relieved that Mr. Liptow did not teach history, government or civics.  Given the origin of the philosophy, I find it very unsettling that he taught economics.    

I have heard Moto Mania supporters talk about “Democracy” and “majority rule”.  What happens when the so called majority collectively and repeatedly breaks the law?  Mob rule, anarchy, and a lack of respect for the rule of law.  This kind of thing turns those in charge of governing into dictators and those in charge of law enforcement into thugs.      

Mr. Longenecker’s right to run a business is not in question.  Where he wants to establish his business is.  There is a zoning ordinance for a reason.  It is there to protect the rights of people who own property and pay taxes.  It is there to assure that communities grow in a controlled and intelligent manner, not in a haphazard manner.  Certain types of business do not belong in residential areas, rural or otherwise. 

The damage to the environment, traffic, noise and fumes from Mr. Longenecker’s business infringes upon the rights of nearby property owners.  Our property values are going down while our tax assessments are rising because of the presence of a Motocross/ORV business in the neighborhood.  Our right to hunt and enjoy our property in peace and quiet is disrupted by the presence of a Motocross/ORV business in the neighborhood.

Mr. Liptow and friends consider us “close-minded,” “selfish,” “narrow-minded” and in need of a civics lesson because we are defending our rights. 

The unsubstantiated, unproven and repeated allegations of poaching go to the maxim that if a lie is repeated often enough and loud enough it will be believed by those who do not bother to check the facts for themselves. 

The comment about moving to Wyoming and wolves eating us for dinner, is just plain petty and panders to the pettiness of others.  (Mr. Liptow’s professionalism is showing once again).

We do have an appreciation of the good a business like Moto Mania might do for Clare County.  If Mr. Longenecker had been encouraged by community and business leaders to put it in a better and properly zoned location, the neighbors on Mostetler Road and Deer Lake would be among the cheerleaders for such an endeavor.  Once again, we are not against such a business where it belongs.  We are against it where it does not belong.  As always, this point falls on deaf ears. 

Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Set

There will be a public meeting of the Hayes Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Friday, 15 April 2011 at 7PM.  Appeals have been filed concerning the Hayes Township Planning Commission's recent decision to grant a Special Use Permit without restrictions on the Gamble-Longenecker property on Mostetler Road.  The public meeting will be held at the Hayes Township Civic Center.

Also, a new Zoning Administrator has been appointed in Hayes Township.  Rod Williams, who is also the Zoning Administrator for Surrey Township assumed the job vacated last December by Lisa Stager.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Not Much of a Court Case

Not much really happened in court today.  Only a few people showed up.  Of the lawyers, only Hayes Township's attorney David Dreyer even bothered to show up.  Jaynie Hoerauf has officially resigned as Doug Longenecker's attorney.  Mr. Longenecker has dropped his $1.2 million lawsuit against Hayes Township and Judge Mienk has dismissed Mr. Longenecker's case. 

There is, however, a stay on the Moto Mania property because of an appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Mr. Dreyer assures the neighbors (for what that's worth) that Mr. Longenecker must follow and abide by the law.  (This time.)  Not that it matters much.  Hayes Township has a poor track record when it comes to adhering to and following and enforcing their laws.  I don't expect anything has really changed.  It's just more lip service.