Nannies or Leeches?

     I’m going to be politically incorrect again and suggest that we are at the time where we need to be less complacent and begin to ask the necessary questions to protect our future. The question I want to ask today is are the agencies operating in and around our society nannies to take care of us whether we like it or not, or are they leeches seeking to enrich themselves at our expense?

     The agencies in question today are the IRRRB, SEH, IEDC, GREDA, and our local governments themselves.

     The IRRRB (Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board) requires all government units under its area of interest to maintain current comprehensive plans to be eligible for grants. We should all realize by now that these grants aren’t provided by money from some mysterious benefactor. Although individuals and companies can certainly contribute, it is tax money (our tax money) which makes most of these grants possible. We are essentially being taxed so that we can receive grants from ourselves as a reward for following the rules set for us by people who are paid by siphoning off of our productivity.

     Comprehensive plans are one of the best means that they have  to trick us into spending money on them. We are told that we need these comprehensive plans to prepare ourselves for the future, and for necessary future projects. Let’s look at how these comprehensive plans actually work against our interests and enrich those agencies listed above.

     The comprehensive plans are sold as necessary by the IRRRB. There is some confusion as to whether or not they are necessary by statute, but in reality they are merely recommended, or allowed, for us by the state.

     Once we agree to do the comprehensive plan, we are told to use what is sold as a local engineering firm, SEH, to manage and moderate these meetings. There are three big problems with this, though. First, although SEH has a local office and is portrayed as a local firm, it is a large engineering company with a vested interest in getting the maximum number of projects approved so that it can put our money in its own pockets. Where are the local “occupy” protesters who were so visible a couple of years ago now? Second, having the same firm which profits from the recommended projects manage the very meetings in which the projects are recommended should stand out as the most obvious type of conflict of interest possible. Yet we allow this on a regular basis, simply because our local spin artists repeatedly tell us that it is the best way to do it. Do we even know how much these spin artists are profiting themselves? Third, and quite possibly worst, is the fact that both the City of Grand Rapids and Itasca County have in their employ a number of ex-SEH employees. How much have these individuals benefited by leaving SEH to work in the local government’s employ, then ensuring that their former employer gets virtually unlimited access to that government’s contracts? This whole set up is full of conflicts of interest, and possibly, if we look deeper, legal violations such as potential violations of the anti-trust laws, and maybe even a little bribery.

     Those of us who have been at these meetings to discuss or update the comprehensive plans have all noted how the managers of the meetings, usually SEH employees or those influenced by them, steer the conversations away from some of the subjects and ideas which we would like to discuss, and stress that we MUST talk about future projects, even if they appear to be completely unnecessary. They skillfully cause us to agree that many of these projects would be really nice, particularly such things as trails, park benches, and the other “green” projects. What they do not tell us is that even though we never were serious about the need for these projects, or though we do not really want to spend our money on them, they will not do exactly as they promised. Instead of just including these expensive projects in the plan as possible future considerations, these projects will be presented as “the desire of the people,” and will be used in the near future as mandates for spending. Much of this spending will go, of course, to SEH, who will very likely get the engineering contract with no bid required. Again, how much are local officials who are ex-SEH employees getting to make sure that this keeps happening?

     The next step on the road to higher taxes and assessments is the hearing for approval of the recommended project by the city council or county board. What is their usual answer to the proposition that the people do not want them to approve the project or spend the money? Well, based on the comprehensive plan, it sure looks like the people already approved of it, and since the planning has already taken place, it is too late to stop it now. They neglect to mention that they knew full well that the meetings to update or amend the comprehensive plans were managed by the same people who stand to profit by the projects, and that the people at the meetings were not told that their thoughts were going to be considered as a mandate to do these things. Is the whole process beginning to sound deceitful?

     Now we’ve briefly gone through all of the steps, all that remains is the taxes and special assessments required for us to pay these people’s way to prosperity. While the “occupy” protesters were speaking out against the 1% in Wall Street, it looks as if we have had our own 1% hiding right here amongst us. Maybe we should get the signs back out and set them up alongside Pokegama Avenue again.

     I mentioned at the beginning of this piece IEDC and GREDA also. There will be more on them later, but for now, as a way to tie all of this together, allow me to give you a partial list of former SEH employees in and around our local governments.

  • Karin Grandia, County Engineer
  • Tom Pagel, City Administrator and former City Engineer
  • Julie Kenndey, current City Engineer

     There are several others, but isn’t it a little suspicious that our city and county engineers are former employees of an engineering firm which receives contracts from the city and county without having to compete in a bidding process? Why would the city and county boards agree to hire these people when there are such obvious conflicts of interest? How deeply are our elected officials involved? We already know that one of our county commissioners sits on the board of the IEDC, even though he has been told that it is a conflict of interest. What is he gaining? What controversial projects is he facilitating? How many laws are really being broken here?

     It’s time to call things as they are. The IRRRB, IEDC, and GREDA would all like to be portrayed as legitimate government entities, but they are all really outside the realm of what we normally think of as government. They are development agencies with their own agendas. They are also full of instances of conflicts of interest. the best example of this is the Grand Rapids City Council member who is also a Vice President of the bank in which the city keeps much of its (our) money, and at the same time was a paid consultant for the IRRRB. Amazing the things they have been getting away with, isn’t it?

     After reading this, let’s get back to today’s question. Do you think that these operations are nannies, taking care of us because we can’t take care of ourselves, or are they leeches, enriching themselves by deceitfully convincing us that they are helping us when they are really stuffing their own pockets with our money?

          Mike Vroman.

Funding for the Reif Center

     The funding for the Reif Center has been included in this year’s bonding bill. As a reminder, there have been promises of $3.3 million from local sources, and the remaining $3.9 million dollars for the renovations is what is included in the bonding bill.

     I saw the article announcing this a few days ago, but it was not clear if the money was to come from the surplus, from revenue bonds (which would be paid for from revenue generated by the Reif Center), or from general obligation bonds (called GO bonds, these are the responsibility of the taxpayers to pay for).

     Since this was not clear, and since the article listed Rep. Anzelz as the prime mover behind the request for funding, I sent him an e-mail asking him to detail exactly where the money would come from, thinking that he would be more than happy to share this information with me as he was described in the article as being “ecstatic” about the approval of this funding.

     His first response in answer to my question was rather ambiguous, and described the typical procedure rather than the specific origin of the $3.9 million. I had the impression that he was reluctant to give me the specific answer, so I asked again, in simpler terms. After a day’s wait, I received a one word answer to my query as to whether the money was to come from GO bonds. His answer was one word: “YES!” I do not know why he chose to capitalize the whole word and follow it by an exclamation point, but I had my answer.

     So what does this mean? Unfortunately, most people who have never been told of how all of this works only know that this money comes from somewhere, but they don’t know from where.

     As a brief explanation for those who missed my earlier article explaining them, GO bonds are issued when the politicians want to spend money today which we do not yet have. Rather than waiting for the money to be raised otherwise through revenue and donations, the politician typically wants to complete the project as soon as possible, usually because there is an upcoming election, and advocates for bonding, but seldom reminds the constituents that they will be the ones paying the interest and the principle.

     I have likened this before to having someone give you a nice, new car for Christmas, then handing you the payment book as well, trying to tell you that it is a gift, but you will be the one who has to make the payments. They probably also neglected to ask you in advance if you wanted, or could even afford, these payments.

     That’s kind of what the situation with the renovation of the Reif Center reminds me of. We were not asked if we could afford to go even further in debt. We were not asked if we would rather do a smaller renovation project this year, and save the rest for later, after the money had been raised. We were simply put on the hook for not only the cost, but the interest on the bonds as well. By the way, we can thank Rep. Anzelc by voting for him again, can’t we? At least, I think that this was his intention.

     Let there be no doubt, the Reif Center is a very valuable asset for our area, and I do not advocate for the avoidance of needed repairs and renovations, but I think that most of us would agree that it would have been much more economical and fiscally responsible to put off a portion of the work until the money could be raised otherwise. This may not have helped Rep. Anzelc’s career, but it would have been better for us in the long run. How much debt do we really want to pass on to our children? How much debt and interest do we want to be saddled with, when without this debt and debt service we would have a better chance of our taxes being lowered in the future?

     I don’t know how much good talking about this will do, because politicians will be politicians, and as long as we allow the free spenders, who have no qualms about borrowing money on our behalf to further their own careers, to stay in office, funding will happen, bonds will be issued, and we will continue to sink further and further into debt.

     At least they haven’t yet decided to tear down the Reif Center like they did so many other of our former landmarks. We can still enjoy it, though now we have to pay to attend and pay the interest on the bond. Thanks, Mr. Anzelc, I’m sure you will be remembered in November.

         

Judging

I recently found a good writer to follow in the world of blogs. Yesterday he published a very good piece which I will share here with his gracious permission. For your convenience, I have put the full link first for those who want to follow it to his site, followed by his article itself.

Thanks to Dave for sharing this with us.

http://www.deliberatingdave.com/judge-not-that-ye-be-not-judged/

Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged

JudgingThere are many phrases associated with hypocrisy.  There are many people who are accused of being less than honest in their speech.  In my opinion, the phrase “Judge not, that ye  be not judged” is frequently among the most hypocritical in use.

Let me illustrate like this.

A couple of days ago many observed what is commonly known as April Fool’s day.  A friend of mine, in a moment of transparency and candor, shared his concerns about the common practice of misleading people intentionally in the name of fun.  Mind you, I am not saying I agree with him or disagree with him, but I appreciated the thought.

What totally floored me was the rapidity with which he was attacked.  A couple of individuals rose quickly to the attack, telling him he was a “sour pus” and a “spoil sport” and was trying to take the fun out of other’s lives.  Another quoted the most quoted scripture of the Bible to him – “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”   I could almost see the long, bony fingers being wagged in his face.  The “fun loving” individuals were making a quick judgement of my friend.

What many fail to realize is that the famous command works both ways.

There are many who find the more conservative lifestyle of their neighbor offensive, and they are vocal about it.  They are quick to judge those individuals as “straight-laced” or “sour pus” or “wackos.”

While it is definitely wrong for someone living a strict lifestyle to slander those who don’t and try to force them into a more thoughtful way of living, it is equally wrong for those who characterize themselves as “fun loving” and “carefree” to slander and demonize the conservative.

Many use this scripture as a way of bringing judgement against their more conservative neighbor.  Ironic, isn’t it.

So there you have it, my “rant” for the day.  I hope it wasn’t too hard to follow.

Thanks for reading,

Dave

A Lesson From History

     Prior to the American Revolution, the British government passed a series of acts which were one of the prime motivators for the Revolution. We can take a lesson from these acts today. They were called by many “The Intolerable Acts.”

     There were five acts in total, and they were ostensibly passed as retribution for the Boston Tea Party. I’ll summarize these acts and add parallels describing what is happening today. Read the comparisons below and decide for yourself what they mean, if anything.

     The first was called the Boston Port Act. This act closed the entire Port of Boston, effectively shutting down the bulk of the economy there, until such a time as restitution was made to the East India Company for their lost tea. Even though only a handful of people were responsible for the actual loss, everyone connected to the City of Boston was punished financially.

     Today, we have something similar which happens frequently. Small businesses being seized for back taxes. However you feel personally about this, rather than collecting taxes a little at a time through collection of a portion of proceeds, the tax collection agencies, and even many local governments, have come to prefer a confiscation of the business itself in lieu of payment. This not only causes the employees to lose their jobs, but it hurts the customers of the business and the vendors who sold material and supplies to that business. This effectively punishes all who were connected to the business because one or a few people were behind on their assigned tax payments.

     The second was the Massachusetts Government Act. This ended democratic elections in the colony, replacing elected officials with officials appointed by the Crown.

     In today’s world, we have something different yet similar. This is less a local problem and more a national and state problem. Rather than only those approved by the King being allowed to represent us, now only the wealthy and those approved of by the party establishments have a real chance of gaining higher office. Instead of an aristocracy, we have a pseudo-plutocracy.

     The third act was called the Administration of Justice Act. This act allowed officials of the Crown to select their own venue if accused of a crime, meaning that they could choose to be tried in England, making it as difficult as possible for the accuser and the witnesses to appear in court, rendering the balance of justice to be weighed heavily in favor of the British officials.

     Today’s situation for us may be even worse. Many of our government officials are mostly immune from prosecution and litigation. To make things even more difficult are the stories we are all familiar with of officials claiming executive privilege, officials and agencies refusing to turn over documents, and many of the documents which are finally turned over being redacted to the point on indecipherability. How can we expect justice over these obstacles?

     Fourth was the Quartering Act. This, simply put, gave automatic first priority of lodging etc. to the British troops, to the point of closing buildings and businesses to the general public whenever the redcoats demanded these facilities.

     At first glance the parallels of today are not obvious, but how many times are airports and highways closed to the public for the exclusive use of government officials? These same officials can even trump the public by reserving an entire hotel for their exclusive use, regardless of public desire.

     The last one was the Quebec Act. Here the intention was to reward the province of Quebec for their loyalty to the Crown, while punishing the New England colonies for their resistance. It took land away from the New England colonies and awarded this land to Quebec.

     Not quite as blatant, but today we have the abuse of eminent domain. Eminent domain was intended to be used only to acquire land which was necessary for the benefit of the community, and requires fair payment to be made to the land owner for their loss. This is frequently abused in many areas now to seize property which is desired by those friendly to government officials, often against the public wish and with less than adequate compensation for the original land holder. This is also done in a roundabout way using tax forfeit lands, which should be considered the property of the public rather than the government, as was tried in our own county recently.

     Make up your own mind. Are these lessons we would be wise to heed today? Or are they just a coincidence?

          Mike Vroman.

Goodbye, Common Sense.

Found in my e-mails:

 

 

An Obituary printed in the London Times…..Absolutely Dead Brilliant!!

 

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

 

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;

– Why the early bird gets the worm;

– Life isn’t always fair;

– And maybe it was my fault.

 

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

 

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

 

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

 

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer suntan lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

 

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

 

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

 

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

 

Common Sense was preceded in death,

-by his parents, Truth and Trust,

-by his wife, Discretion,

-by his daughter, Responsibility,

-and by his son, Reason.

 

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;

– I Know My Rights

– I Want It Now

– Someone Else Is To Blame

– I’m A Victim

– Pay me for Doing Nothing

 

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

 

If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.