Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Go Away

I've already voted absentee.  I've made up my mind and nothing was going to change it.  Admittedly, in some races I found both major party candidates lacking ... in lots of areas.  So, no vote there.

But that does not mean that my evenings will not be disrupted by the phone ringing and some volunteer wanting to remind me to vote for Candidate (fill in a name).  It is nauseating.  I'd rip the phone out of the wall or turn it off completely, but if I forget to turn my cell phone on, I might miss someone important. (not any candidates, of course)

There are also the flyers left on the porch and on the mailbox, not to mention the daily flyers in the mail.  Can you spell 'circular file?'

Then, while sitting in front of my computer this afternoon, I heard a dog barking up a storm out front.  I got up to see a neighbor walking his dog and talking to someone in my driveway.  The neighbor moved on and the guy turned around with 'FLYERS IN HIS HAND'.  I opened the front window and told him not  to leave anything.  He looked hurt.  I told him I had already voted. 

He smiled and said, "Did you vote for candidate ABC?''   I said, "Of course not!"  I thought he was going to cry.  It was like he couldn't believe I had said it.  It felt good.  I may have to answer my phone and upset every caller out there.  And then again...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walking the Line

I have been 'on strike', officially, once in my life.  Refusing to do cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. until my husband and kids helped out doesn't count as 'official'. 

It was in late 1969 that the union I was represented by at the City of Detroit took a strike vote.  Actually, it was a 'call in sick' vote, fitting for hospital workers. I do not even remember the reason we did it.  I left the city for a year from 1968 to 1969 because they hadn't settled the union contract and I was offered more money at Hutzel hospital.  I went back in July, 1969 when the contract had been settled.  In the fall we spent one day on the picket line.  Mayor Cavanaugh went into court and got an injunction.  Facing daily fines for walking out, we all went back to work.  And the hospital suffered no loss from us since we made sure the labs were minimally staffed.

The 1994-95 baseball strike left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I used to go to a lot of baseball games.  I enjoyed sitting there and watching the game, boring as some may think.  Not I.  Returning home from a trip to Baltimore in June, 1995, I decided to swing by old Tiger Stadium and see the Tigers play the Yankees.  OMG.  The stadium was practically empty.  This was the Yankees.  Where was everyone?

Like I did, many had not forgiven their teams from striking.  And it forever affected my attendance at games.

Now I read that the musicians at the DSO are ready to walk out.  And go where?  Your salaries come from patrons like myself.  I was ready to stop being a season subscriber but after talking to someone from the DSO earlier this year, I decided to continue.  The strike may mean this is truly the last year for me.

I understand disagreements with management.  I have been on both sides of the bargaining table.  Sometimes disagreements go far beyond wages and benefits and get into more difficult things like working conditions.  (We joked at the City that workers at the old Detroit Receiving/General received combat pay.) 

But the long term unseen effects of strikes are not usually considered by workers.  And that is that folks will take their money elsewhere during the void and may never bring it back.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Bambi has to go" and she can take Mother Goose with her!

I just received the latest issue of National Wildlife Magazine.  There on page 31 is a story titled 'Oh Deer!'.  Oh, dear, indeed!

The National Park Service in Washington, D.C. is busy counting deer in Rock Creek Park.  The November 2009 census showed 67 whitetails per square mile.  Fort Washington National Park counted 200 deer per square mile.  And at Gettysburg, they are shooting the deer, not reenacting battles.  (Ahem, Rochester Hills).

Deer eat everything under four feet tall.  They'd eat taller stuff, but they can't reach it.  Shrubs and seedlings are rapidly disappearing in Rock Creek, with shrub cover down by 40%.  This results in less habitat for smaller mammals and birds.  Tree regeneration is being affected.  But for the deer, it is a bonanza, and thanks to the food, they are now having twins, making the population increase even faster.

Rock Creek has a deer management plan to reduce the population to 15 to 20 deer per square mile using sharpshooters and euthanasia.  Not everyone in the area is happy about the plan, but it was one local resident who said at a meeting, "Bambi, has to go".

So, I agree with the woman.  And while we are at, let's get rid of Mother Goose too.  Plant damage aside, I personally am tired of cleaning deer scat and goose droppings out of my yard.  Yuck!

P.S.  For those who say the deer were here first, I've lived in my home since 1972 and have only seen deer in the last ten years.  I wonder if Mr. Big will be back this fall?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Updates - Round Two

I tried to be good yesterday when doing my updates.  I really wanted to write that if I wanted to see wrestling I'd watch WWE Raw on USA.  But I wanted to behave and not let my cynicism and sarcasm be too evident.

So, I absolutely loved it today when I got to the editorial page of the Detroit News and saw the cartoon by Henry Payne.  This man seems to hit so many subjects right on.  And he sure got this one right.  See for yourself:



9/26/2010:  I have been trying to understand American's fascination with debates and I think I've got it: REALITY TV.  Seems the general public watches more of that than documentary or drama, unless, of course it is sports.  See above. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Updates

1. Update 9/21/2010:  Let's 'Do the Math.'

Back to my blog about the Ponzi scheme.  I give you 250,000 for an investment lasting roughly 420 days based on a 360 day calendar year.  I earn 10,323 in interest.  My effective yield is 3.54%.  Really?  Banks were paying that in 2009? 

My internet search did not show me historical CD offering rates, although I am sure they exist someplace.  But I do know that when I left government in November, 2008, rates were not that high.  And they sure were not going up in 2009.  A 'red flag' anyone?

2.  Update 9/22/2010:  More Interviews

The West Bloomfield Township Board now has six candidate interviews for Police Chief on three different days, but no names are shown.  You can check the agendas online.

3.  Update 9/17/2010:  Just keep rolling along

Another bill was introduced affecting local government.  If enacted, HB 6464, which is tie-barred to HB 6465, would place new requirements on local units when they adopt and amend their budgets.  No provision for funding the mandate, of course.  Why worry about Headlee provisions?  Units not complying would lose state shared revenue.  

Actually, I think this bill should be tie-barred to SB 1464.  That one adds 'giant hogweed' to the definition of noxious weeds.  I could come up with some good descriptions of 'giant hogweeds'.  You know.  The term-limited kind?

4. Update 9/11/2010  Not prime-time for me

Seems like the voters in Michigan can make the popcorn and watch our gubernatorial candidates debate.  Well, count me out.  Do I really need to hear this?  I think not.

5.  Update 8/27/2010  Making Music?

Still no settlement between the DSO and the musicians.  Unfortunately, this is a business with a product that fewer people are willing to buy.  And in that case, you do what you have to do to stay in business.  They all understand that, right?  If not, my CDs are ready to spin.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Decision Time

During the tenure of West Bloomfield's last police chief, Detroit saw eight different men and women come and go as Chief.  You work for the Mayor in Detroit and if he doesn't like you, you are gone.

Next week the Township Board is interviewing two candidates (I do not know who they are) for the West Bloomfield position.  Appointments of Department Heads are made by the full Board.

Whomever this board chooses, they need to get it in writing that he serves at the pleasure of the Board and can be dismissed, or demoted back to whatever position he held internally before the promotion, without cause, at any time.  No claims of Americans with Disabilities, Age Discrimination in Employment, or anything else.  Get it in writing.  If the candidate doesn't sign, don't choose him.

This last situation was a complete fiasco.  I, along with other residents, am upset that we were 'held up' for more money.  Let's make sure that it doesn't happen again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Violating a Public Trust

Update:  Jan, 2011  Latest news on Dante DeMiro

A Columbia Township investment of $100,000 for ten years, a Mona Shores Public Schools investment of $3.5 million from the school improvement bond fund, a Comstock Township investment of $1.75 million in certificate of deposits and a Lapeer County investment of $750,000. 

Unless you live on the west side of the state or follow financial news in the municipal world, you may have missed the news of the FBI criminal complaint against Dante DeMiro of MuniVest Financial Group in Southfield. 

I have listed the FBI complaint below, but as a former financial professional, I can say this:  If you are dealing with a broker, make sure you are holding your municipal certificates and securities in a third party safekeeping account in your name.  And if you don't understand what I just said, then you probably should not be investing public money.

TIMELINE OF PONZI SCHEME AS OUTLINED IN FBI CRIMINAL COMPLAINT

March 9, 2009

• Lapeer County transfers $750,000 to Dante DeMiro’s MuniVest Financial Group for the purchase of CDs from three banks.

March 11, 2009

• MuniVest check for $600,000 sent to Universal Jewelry & Watch Repair in Birmingham. FBI later determines MuniVest account couldn’t cover the check until the Lapeer County funds had been deposited.

April 2009

• Comstock Township transfers $1.75 million to MuniVest for the purchase of CDs from seven banks.

• United Service Credit Union in Des Moines, Iowa, transfers $396,000 to MuniVest for the purchase of CDs from four banks.

• Lapeer County transfers another $250,000 to MuniVest for purchase of one CD.

• DeMiro sends $1.16 million check to Boiler Makers Local 169 in Allen Park with “refunding principal and interest” in the memo line. FBI alleges account the check was drawn from had only $187,000 prior to the transfers from Comstock Township, Lapeer County and United Service Credit Union.

August 2009

• Mona Shores transfers $3.48 million to MuniVest for the purchase of CDs.

January 2010

• DeMiro tells Comstock Township that one of its CDs had matured and sends it $255,122 as principal and interest. FBI alleges the money came from funds transferred by Mona Shores.

May 2010

• DeMiro sends $250,000 to Comstock Township for a second CD he says has matured. DeMiro also sends $260,323 to Lapeer County for a CD he says has matured. FBI alleges those payments came from Mona Shores’ funds.

Sept. 9, 2010

• FBI informs Mona Shores officials of its investigation of DeMiro.

Sept. 15, 2010

• FBI files criminal complaint against DeMiro in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan alleging he violated federal bank fraud statute and federal wire fraud statute.

Sept. 16, 2010

• DeMiro appears in U.S. District Court on FBI criminal complaint and is released on $10,000 bond.

Source: U.S. District Court filing

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bills that Shouldn't even be Necessary

HB 6443

A bill to amend 1994 PA 451, entitled "Natural resources and environmental protection act," by amending section 32729 (MCL 324.32729), as added by 2008 PA 185.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:

Sec. 32729. (1) Except as specifically authorized under this part, this part does not authorize the assessment of fees.

(2) THE STATE OR A LOCAL UNIT OF GOVERNMENT SHALL NOT IMPOSE ANY TAXES ON GROUNDWATER WITHDRAWALS FROM WATER WELLS. (added)

No wonder some folks refer to lawmakers as 'money-grabbing you know whats'.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sometimes You Just Gotta be that Way

While it seems like only yesterday, it was one year ago that Rep. Joe Wilson yelled 'You lie!' at the President.  An article in today's Detroit News by Nolan Finley is titled 'On Obamacare, Wilson was Rude but Right'.  Thank you Mr. Finley.

When I first heard the report last year, I thought that sometimes you just get so frustrated you have to shout it out.  Somehow, in our world of political correctness, many folk are afraid to speak their mind lest someone trash them for doing so.

I understand the frustration.  I had a reputation in college and in my first profession for being a bit of a hot-head and rabble-rouser.  I, of course, see nothing wrong with that.  And if you enter politics as Mr. Nice Guy or Ms. Nice Girl, you will likely be trampled by someone who sees an easy target.

What I really found interesting about Rep. Wilson's outburst was that the same thing had occurred at a Township Board meeting in the early 90's.  I do not remember the exact issue being discussed, but I do remember the exchange. 

The Supervisor at the time was making one of her well-crafted speeches.  It had something to do with Town Hall and employees.  I remember that because it was an employee who stood up on the issue and told the Supervisor that she was a liar.  No mincing of words, she called her a liar.

The employee was correct in her assessment.  The Supervisor was distorting the facts.  It is what politicians do, so I guess we have to give her that.  But what was a frustrated, non-unionized employee to do other than take the opportunity at a public meeting where the issue was being discussed?  And at that point, the last thing they are thinking about is how others might interpret their actions.

Did I think she owed the Supervisor an apology?  No.  We as elected leaders have to earn respect by performing our job.  We do not earn it at the ballot box, even if we get 100% of the vote.  All we get there is opportunity.  We would do well to remember that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Library of Congress

Last January I visited the Library of Congress in Washington, DC for the very first time.  Well, there are so many places to visit, and it is 'just a library', right?  Wrong.   It is an incredibly beautiful building.

Anyway, when I got home I signed up for their emails.  Currently, they are conducting a 'Vote for your Favorite Author'.  If you read a lot, as I do, you may wish to go to the site and cast your ballot.

Now, some of you who have been following this blog for some time, may remember that on the 'Books I am reading' I had the latest Diana Gabaldon listed and said I was stuck on page 206.  I am still stuck on that page and the book is safely stowed in the bookcase for the day when I have absolutely nothing else to read.

After you vote, check out the results at Vote .  I am not saying that someone rigged the voting, but, really, that many?  I enjoy her books immensely and have read all of them.  (Well, 206 pages is significant.)  But if I thought someone would have that many votes, I would have suspected James Patterson, who has a new book every month, maybe more.  Just saying.

So, go vote for your favorite.  Give someone else a fighting chance here.

Yes, You Can

Interesting headline in Sunday's Detroit Free Press:  Will I ever be able to Retire?  The fourth sentence of the article begins with 'Never much on saving, these Americans in their 50's and 60's...'.

Whoa.  Fifties and sixties?  The children of depression era parents?  The ones who told us to eat up because there were starving children in China?  (I know, it never made sense to me either.)

If there was one thing my parents taught me, and so it seems my husband's parents also, was that you need to save first and spend later.  And if these people were not into saving much, then they couldn't have lost too much in the economic downturn.

No, I am not beating up on folks who have lost pensions and seen their portfolios dwindling.  I am only wondering why so many felt the need to spend so much all their lives.  I've lived long enough to ask myself many times, 'How do those people afford their lifestyle?'  I assumed it was either that they spent every penny they earned (as pointed out in the article), or they over-spent and used their credit cards to the max.

When you are young, retirement seems far off into the future.  It sure seemed that way for me.  I left my job with the City of Detroit before I vested my pension.  It did not seem like such a big deal back then.  But if all works out, retirement day arrives and you want to be ready for it. 

I have friends who say they can never afford to retire.  Well, it is not how much you make, but how much you spend.  If you have been relatively frugal in your working years, the transition to retirement is not so bad.  If you have lived 'high on the hog', as they say, well, you may not be able to retire.  Ever.

There is life after retirement, but you need to plan for it when you are twenty, not sixty.  No sense in 'keeping up with the Joneses', if they are never going to retire. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Having my Say

I was on the debate team in high school.  The topic for the year was 'Federal aid to education'.  I was on the side against the issue.  My debate partner used the acronym 'FATE'.  He asked if you wanted the fate of your child's education in the hands of the Federal government.  This was the early 60's and I will leave you to determine if the Federal action was a good idea.

Anyway, that is not the reason I am writing today.  I am writing about the issue of debating, especially between candidates for election.  The public, and especially the media, seem to think this is a good way to make a decision about qualifications.  What it tells me is who is a better performer and can think fast on their feet. 

As a former political candidate, I have participated in these debates, conducted by the League of Women Voters.  Questions are submitted by voters to the candidates.  In my former position as Treasurer, technical questions were good, but often the public does not know the correct answer to technical questions, nor do some candidates.  I remember a candidate in a nearby community who promised that he/she would lower taxes for seniors, something a local treasurer has no control over.  But, most voters do not know that.  It just sounds really good.

When I ran for re-election in 2004, I had decided early on in the campaign that I was not going to allow a forum for my opponent to beat me up in a debate.  Opponents have a way of not answering the question asked and inserting some extraneous, and suspect information into their answer.  I learned this from experience.  Besides, I had a track record to assail if they so desired and they had 'bupkis'.  I figured either the voters approved of my tenure and performance or they could just choose the new guy, based on 'whatever'.

As it was, my body interfered in 2004, I was severely ill for four weeks, and I ended up having emergency surgery and missed the whole debate/interview thing.  (Not to be deterred, my opponent still beat me up in the press for not showing up.  Maybe we could have done the debate in the recovery room.)

I thought about all this this morning when I read that debates between Snyder and Bernero had been called off.  I am sure the press is not happy.  A screaming candidate is wonderful viewing, if you go in for that sort of thing (I don't, BTW).  Nothing like a 'you did/you didn't/you said/ he said etc' hour on television.  There would be great You Tube videos for everyone to see in case they missed it.

But is this how we should be deciding who should be Governor or any other office holder for that matter?  This is not an audition for a role in a play, but for a job getting our state back in the running.  We need less acting and showmanship and more 'roll up the sleeves and get to work'.  And we cannot get them from grown men, or women, arguing in front of TV cameras.  And it is not so much about what you have done as what can you do in the future. 

So, let's sit the candidates down separately and ask the intelligent questions.  Boring?  Not good TV?  So be it.  I do not care what the candidate thinks about the other guy.  I only care about what he can do for all of us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Missing in ???

It has been awhile since I have had time to sit here and write.  I have spent the better part of the last week sitting in a hospital room, not as a patient, but as a parent. 

I truly believe there is nothing worse than having an ill child.  And yes, they are always your little children no matter how old they get. 

But if the feeling of helplessness is not enough to wear out your body and mind, there is the actual experience of not being able to find help on the hospital floor when you need it.  I will grant that in the middle of the stay, the holiday occurred, but having spent ten years working in the medical profession in a hospital, I know that they are open 24/7, weekends and holidays included.  Patients and family are not enjoying a day off, so if you work in the medical field, get used to it.  Hospitals should be making sure that the patient is not suffering just because they did not schedule their illness at peak working hours.

Trying to buy a sandwich at the deli counter yesterday, I nearly had a meltdown.  It took five people to get change out of a register.  There was a very nice nurse at the counter who asked me what was wrong and then asked me to call her at home.  What is wrong is that hospitals need to be better staffed.  I have heard this same complaint from people who have been hospitalized recently at the hospital here in West Bloomfield. 

Beautiful new bricks and mortar buildings are wonderful, but when you are on the inside, all you care about is having someone there when you need them.  That being said, there were some wonderfully attentive nurses and aides, just not enough of them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

'Friends'

If you read this blog, you may have noticed that I have two followers.  Now, I know from emails I receive and phone calls I get, that more than two people read this blog.  Forgetting that dental company in Ohio, I have readers in Florida and even received an email from someone in England. 

But recently, a friend mentioned someone who told him he had 800 followers on his blog!  800?  Really?  What in the world could he possibly be writing about that 800 people want to follow?

I mean, that would be great if I had hundreds of people reading this.  I would just hope they were getting their local news from someone other than me.  Or at least an unbiased opinion from a newspaper or watching what happens on their own. 

So, if you are reading, and you haven't yet done so, drop me an email.  I'd love to hear from you.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I once sat where the Township Trustees sat on Monday night.  I do not envy them and I do not miss having to spend my Monday's in their place.  On this past Monday, they were truly between a rock and a hard place.

First of all, I never did understand why you negotiate a retirement, especially with supposedly 'at-will' employees.  Years ago I remember that department heads were asked to sign an acknowledgement that they were truly 'at-will' and could be terminated at any time.  Not being in charge of personnel, I do not know that it actually occurred.

Nevertheless, after the insubordination to the Township Board by a department head at a previous meeting, the Township Supervisor, who should be representing the interests of the public, should have called him into her office and demanded a resignation and then dismissed him for cause if it was not agreed to.

Now, in my book, anyone who is asking for special consideration and refusing to leave if it is not granted is no more than a thief, essentially extorting his employers, the citizens of the community.  If he truly meant what he said in telling the papers that it was 'time to go', then he should have just gone as everyone else did, incentive or not. 

But this Board found themselves in a difficult situation in granting those demands.  If they were dissatisfied and wanted to fire him, would he sue them under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the Supervisor cited medical issues at the meeting one week earlier) or sue under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (he is 67)?  The payment of money is certainly less than the cost of a lawsuit and possible settlement.  But does this mean the Board cannot fire someone they are dissatisfied with, if indeed they are, for fear of another lawsuit?  As my former colleague, Ray Holland, used to say, 'Let them get in line'.

Now, if this department head is truly interested in the welfare of the community residents, the $40,000 check should be returned and he should leave with no special privilege.  He is not that special, IMHO.