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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Be Careful What you Ask For...

Difficult times call for difficult decisions, and Troy has made a lot of those.

Some were necessary because of the economy. Some were suggested by the independent consulting firm that analyzed our structure and everyday workings.

And some were seemingly to appease the loud and constant demand for "smaller government" and "lower wages" for the city employees. These demands are expressed over and over by our ardent tax-fighters, Troy Citizens United, and their supporters.

And so...the City Council approved an early retirement solution for specific workers in the Troy workforce. The process identified those eligible MONTHS ago...and some were the employees who were part of the more expensive retirement program that the city had phased out way back in 1997.

Someone who was eligible has known for a long time that it was possible to take part, and some did as soon as it was approved.

Sadly, that means we are losing our Assistant City Manager, John Lamerato...and all his knowledge and expertise.

Sadly, that means we are losing our City Clerk, Toni Bartholomew...and all her knowledge and expertise.

So let's review:
-- City Manager John Szerlag is charged with achieving a 10% reduction in all city departments, and has done much of the work.
-- The police force VOLUNTARILY opened contract talks TWO YEARS EARLY to achieve that reduction in their department.
-- Mr. Szerlag has cut his own wages TWICE voluntarily.
-- Early retirement programs have been offered to costly employees with costly retirement packages, and many will participate in that wage reduction measure.
-- Overall city staff has been reduced by one-third.

What happens when employees see this kind of pattern? Many leave. Many get out while they can with as much benefit to their family's and their financial situation. Who can blame them???
It's what you get when you ask for a bargain city.

Troy Citizen United asked for a bargain city. So you think they'd be HAPPY right now, right?

Think again. In typical fashion of changing their argument to whatever sounds better at the time, now they're upset at losing our experienced workforce.

-- the same workforce they feel is OVERPAID.
-- the same workforce they DEMAND take a pay cut -- some ask for a cut of up to 50% on public record at council meetings.
-- the same workforce they advocate cutting down to PART-TIME hours to run a part-time city hall (Ms. Janice Daniels, Oakland Press op-ed, May 22, 2011).
-- the same workforce they expect to work miracles and provide all our services with decreasing revenues with no increase in operating millage -- and with fewer people to do all that work!

Troy Citizens United is getting exactly what they asked for...and they STILL aren't happy. Makes one wonder if maybe they should STOP ASKING for things they haven't thought out.

Support the August ballot...SAVE TROY.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When First They Practice to Deceive...

One thing I've noticed about manipulative people is that they are the first ones to accuse others of the same.

The latest accusation toward me (and anyone who agrees with me that Troy is in trouble because of declining revenues and is in need of increasing revenues, probably in the form of increased millage dollars...) is that I mislead voters by saying that they've paid less tax for the last 2-3 years.

You see, the MILLAGE RATE hasn't decreased since 2007...and before that, 2006. Yes, we've had TWO MILLAGE DECREASES in the last five years. Granted, it went down only .2mills, but it went DOWN because our council has always been faithful is decreasing the burden when possible.

So that's ONE reason your property tax may have gone down.

The other reason -- the one we ALL KNOW AND RECOGNIZE -- is that our property values have decreased.

I knew that, right? We're in a recession? Michigan hit the skids like...three, four years ago? Your home is worth much less now than it was before?

Right...I'm pretty sure that anyone who owns a home in this city is PAINFULLY aware of how much we've lost in our investment. And while I appreciate that relief in my tax bill, I'm also PAINFULLY aware of what that means to my city in being able to provide for my services.

So yes, we've paid LESS in taxes to the city. We've paid less because the mill rate went down and because our property values decreased.

I have pointed out Troy's millage rate numerous times.
I've shown how you can caluclate your tax burden on that rate many times.
I've shown you the average tax bill for a Troy resident as compared to the average tax bill of neighboring cities on equal taxable values.
I've explained the services we receive for that as compared to the services in neighboring cities.

I'd like to know what part of that is misleading. All I can come up with is that my accusers are simply trying ONCE AGAIN to kick dirt on someone else so as to hide their misdeeds. Keep in mind: these are the same people who INSIST that no one was dumb enough to be confused by their extra ballot measures in November. But're all too dumb to see that one reason you pay less now is because your home is worth less.

Funny how the argument has to keep changing to support whatever the argument of the day is.

Telling the truth is far only have one story to keep straight, one argument to make.

The argument I've made remains the same: Troy is underfunded.

Support the ballot measure in August...SAVE TROY.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And God bless Cathy Russ!!!

How could I have forgotten Cathy Russ? She has stood by the library through thick and thin and is still with us in Troy through all of this madness, offering uncomplaining professionalism and as many options and ideas that are asked of her.
If anyone deserves our heartfelt thanks, no matter what side you are on, it is Cathy Russ, our library director.
Thank her here!

Thank yous

People who want to save the library did not do much celebrating after Troy City Council approved placing a Library Millage on the ballot this coming August.
That's because we know there is a huge fight to come against uncivil and unethical opponents.
But right now I would like to thank some people who made this happen.
Thanks to John Szerlag for surprising us all in February by raising the Library Law issue in a memo to council and bringing the idea back to the surface.
Thanks to Martin Howrylak for surprising us all in April by raising the very idea that there were still ways to save the library.
Thanks to Robin Beltramini for bringing a resolution to the table in April to force discussion and movement on the issue.
Thanks to all of the city council members who participated in engagement sessions, especially Dane Slater and Maureen McGinnis who went the extra mile and hosted additional sessions.
Thanks to Wade Fleming for sitting at my table the only engagement session I attended and having the courage to disagree with everything the TCU representative at our table said, even though he knew I would write about it here and that I am a political adversary. He respects the truth enough to be honest.
Thanks to Louise Schilling for putting the initial millage wording on the city council agenda. 
Thanks to Mary Kerwin for trying to put the roads on the ballot as well.
Thanks to the 5 council members who tried to compromise with the two members who would not compromise. 
Thanks to the 5 council members who voted yes to put the issue on the ballot.  
It's going to be a tough fight, but we certainly appreciate the people who value libraries over a few bucks and value community over politics.
Thank you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Let's Put a Price Tag on This...

From the Oakland Press, Sunday, May 22, 2011
Opinion Pages
Author: Janice Daniels, TCU and Troy Tea Party

The city management should cut all city departments back to their true core necessary functions and reduce the hours of operations for all city departments. We do not need a full service, 40 hours a week city hall when our economy is so fragile. However...the Troy City Council has an agenda to raise our taxes so that they do not have to do the really hard work of cutting department heads and cutting into the $27 million police budget. We love our local police and we want them to stay local but we don’t want to pay three times the amount of money to run an effective police department as we need to. The city has its agenda. Council members come up with their assumptions, they draw their conclusions, they create their budget, but they want our money.”

TCU has an agenda, and Ms. Daniels is spelling it out for you right here in her piece.

1 -- kill the city government.

2 -- dismantle the city structure.

3 -- contract out police services of the safest city in the state to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department (Apparently we can afford to be less safe and protected once they close the government. After all, if there’s NO CITY, what is there to protect?)

Make no mistake: nothing else Ms. Daniels says...nothing else TCU more important than what she just told you.

The ONLY thing TCU and Ms. Daniels want is to dismantle the city government, structure and police force. The only way they can continue to do that is to continue to deny the city government the revenue it so desperately needs.

It's worth it to them to suggest that we lay-off 2/3 of our police force...virtually close down City Hall and lay-off or demote all those employees...make you wait longer for any city service you might need...indeed, deny us proper city services.

What does this agenda of TCU cost them?

It would cost them $5.83/month on a taxable property of $100,000.

It's costing ALL OF US thousands of dollars in lost property value to have this city destroyed by zealots like Ms. Daniels.

I know which bill I'd rather pay. How about you?

Support the August ballot measure...SAVE TROY.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Janice, you just don't get it

Hey Sue, I'm going to step in here too! 
Can't resist!
So, in Janice Daniels' latest kooky guest opinion piece in the Oakland Press she writes,
The city management should cut all city departments back to their true core necessary functions and reduce the hours of operations for all city departments. We do not need a full service, 40 hours a week city hall when our economy is so fragile. However, we should not reduce the hours of operation for the library because the library is shown to be the glue that holds this community together.
Our departments are cut so close to the skin we are bleeding, but she wants more. Unbelievable. 
People of Troy must understand that this woman cares about one thing: Taxes. She doesn't care about the library. Last year she said that as a real estate agent she KNOWS that people moving into Troy never ask about the LIBRARY, they ask about TAXES. (Every time I tell that true story the listener or reader says, "Doesn't she know that's because no one would ever guess Troy DOESN'T have a library!?!" Guess not).
She also said at a meeting where children had offered to give their pennies to save the library that, "These pro-library people drag children in here to get sympathy." 
It did not occur to Ms. Daniels that children like libraries because they have books for children and programs for children. (Janice, smack yourself and repeat after me -- Moms and Children want libraries because they are GOOD.)
Now, this silly woman who gets up at every city council meeting and yammers about taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes and then she mentions taxes, is a Libertarian (they hate taxes) and a Tea Party leader (they hate taxes) and a TCU leader (they hate taxes). In all of her feverish anti-tax hysteria she writes:
Every single person who speaks on behalf of a tax increase speaks on pure emotion — I think, I wish, I want, I need. 
WE are "emotional" apparently because we want something so foolish as a LIbrary. She is wise, because she wants a part-time, no frills government. Who needs silly things like cops, libraries and water--pishtosh!
Yes, Janice, I think, wish want and need--I think, therefore I wish for good schools, I want a library for my children. They NEED a frickin' library. Why don't you understand, Janice? Because your kid is graduated and gone? You've had yours and we can all shove it?
Please recognize this will be TCU's message this summer. They will say, "The people who want you to vote yes to SAVE THE LIBRARY are too emotional, they are hysterical, they are needy..."
We are women and children, yes indeed. But unlike Ms. Daniels, I am smart enough to understand that our home is the biggest investment in our lives and by destroying our city, by closing our library, by weakening our police force, TCU is costing Troy residents REAL money, by hurting our property values. And when people don't buy houses here, children don't move in and bring more state funding to our schools, and empty houses cause blight and empty houses don't pay taxes, it puts more burden on the rest of us.
Yes, I'm emotional about the library, but I am also smart. So shall we conclude that Ms. Daniels not only has no emotions, but she ain't too bright, neither? Why doesn't this real estate agent understand that very obvious point? Was she as good real estate agent?
I'm sorry, Janice, but I see the city government looking weak and spending money on surveys and analysis because YOU AND TCU have completely emasculated our city government and staff. The best of our city staff is leaving in droves to cities where they don't have to deal with nutjobs like all of you who get up every meeting and blather nonsense and lies incessantly.
Am I on a rant here or what?
Now one more thing--let's go back to this line from her little article:
However, we should not reduce the hours of operation for the library because the library is shown to be the glue that holds this community together.
In the same article she says we a over-emotional fools for wanting the library. And now (cue the strings) the library is sweet glue. *&^$!
Again, the woman who worked harder than perhaps anyone else (except perhaps Howrylak and Kempen) to ensure the failure of Proposal 1, last November, now suddenly thinks a library is good? A library is important?
Trust me, people, last year Janice Daniels made it extremely clear that she believed a library is a joke and a waste of space.
And even though we have the lowest taxes of 95% of cities in Oakland County, she wants still lower taxes and still fewer services.
This is what a dangerous person looks like, folks. And she will say ANYTHING to get what she wants.
And if you don't like my implying she has no heart, here's what Daniels wrote in her Oakland Press guest opinion piece in August 2010 (you know, back when the library was a joke to her and not "glue")...
"And, closer to home, what about those folks who prefer to keep the hard earned fruits of their labor in their own pocketbooks instead of in the taxman’s coffers or the politico’s war chest — Guilty — Uncaring, unconcerned, uncommitted to the advancement of (you fill in the blank for the issue of the moment: Children, libraries, home values, poor people, old people, safe streets, parks, museums, fairs, Washington insiders). The list of issues that you should be ashamed of yourself for not supporting is as endless as the requests for taxes or retributions or contributions or revenue enhancements or commitments or condemnations."
Yes, you should be ashamed.

Follies on Ice...Troy Style

One of our more illustrious anti-tax zealots in Troy has been granted more space for an op-ed in the Oakland Press. I have quite a response percolating for the bulk of the article…and you will get it soon…but there is one aspect of it that really needs to be allowed to stand all on its own.

From Janice Daniels of Troy Citizens United, I bring you the Troy Ice Follies...

“Now is the time to pare down government excesses, tap into some of the emergency money because a recession is an emergency and look for ways to reduce regulations and red tape to create a friendlier business climate. Someone mentioned the idea of an outdoor city ice rink.”

Wait…hold on…what did she just say??

Janice Daniels of the TCU wants Troy to use our emergency money (fund balance) for an outdoor ice rink. That is what Troy needs to create a “friendlier business climate."

Now, I know many households here in Troy are struggling financially. Families have had to make tough choices in figuring out how to pay bills, which bills to pay, and which bills can't be paid. But even in the WORST of circumstances, would YOU drain your 401K and retirement accounts to fund an ice rink in your back yard for a friendly atmosphere? Would you spend your reserves trying to woo your neighbors over for a party in hopes that it would build your portfolio???

No, that can’t be right…let’s give her a chance to explain herself. Surely I misread is the very next portion of that paragraph...

“That is a good idea to increase the community atmosphere without a great deal of expense. We should take these kinds of proactive steps to spend existing funds wisely without further burdening the citizenry with an unnecessary tax increase when there is clearly money hidden in the set of assumptions that is called “the budget.”

Ummm...yes. That's really what she meant. So, again, we’re going into SUMMER, and Ms. Daniels thinks we should “proactively” create an outdoor ice rink to create a friendlier business community. That’s what she deems spending wisely in an “emergency.” She calls that "good idea." She wants to spend "hidden money" on an ice rink.

She thinks allowing the Troy voters to vote on a millage to fund the library is foolish...but the city should use existing emergency funds ice rink.

I'll just let you sit with that for a day or two before I give the rest of my response to Ms. Daniel's most recent diatribe. I have to go get some ice for the cool drink I need to wrap my head around the rest of her nonsense...