This year’s local elections are coming at a perfect time because — whether it’s inability, unwillingness, or just plain attitude toward citizens – much of Tuscola County is ripe for change.
We say this now, after a key filing deadline for elected positions at the county and township levels recently passed and an impressive number of citizens have stepped up to not just talk change, but be the change.
And we will likely say it again when deadlines to run for school boards and city elected positions deadlines come up in July.
Plain and simple, we call for election of transparent and forward-thinking elected officials.
We call for an end to electing officials because of name-familiarity, because we go to church with them, or because he/she “has always just had the job and, well, that’s who I’m comfortable with.”
We call for elected officials who put the community as a whole first and foremost – as opposed to too many “behind-the-scenes” type meetings and dealings.
We call for election of people who embrace technology – and yes, it IS important for elected officials to have access to, and know how to, use “technology” as basic as email.
We call for election of people who embrace input from members of the public, rather than show disdain or simple apathy for those they will soon ask to vote for them.
Need some examples? We have plenty (with more in the works, rest assured).
Earlier this year, The Advertiser requested contact information for all six elected city council members in the city of Caro (there was a vacant seat at the time). Only one councilmember – Joe Greene – provided both email and phone information. Three members – Rick Lipan, Charlotte Kish, and Gordon Taggett – provided neither phone number nor email. Mayor Richard Pouliot and Mayor Pro-tem Mike Henry provided only phone numbers. Remember, these are your elected officials.
Last November, The Advertiser tried to obtain information about a relatively small development in Tuscola Township – a $2 million senior residential center – and repeated emails sent to Township Supervisor Tod Fackler were ignored. We’re still waiting for a response.
In Almer Township, residents who have tried to express concerns over the health, safety, and welfare of the community with regard to wind turbines were accused of “filibustering” to delay a wind farm project in the works.
In Ellington Township, when resident Russell Speirs requested official minutes of public meetings, not only was a request through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act required, but township officials used the full 15 days (including a 10-day extension) to respond.
We sat mere feet from Diane Wilder, treasurer, Ellington Township, balancing a checkbook during a public hearing in February (that the board held during a snowstorm when the rest of the county had shut down for the next day already) about the township’s wind ordinance.
These examples raise one resounding question: Huh?
Don’t get US wrong, we by no means advocate for some kind of systematic dismantling of the community that is Tuscola County.
What we do advocate however, is a dismantling of a system that seems largely controlled by a few who seem to put self-interests and/or the status quo and/or both above anything that will keep Tuscola County from moving forward in a manner that will put the county in the best position to be competitive and grow.
We need to do away with this notion that our elected officials are “King Supervisor” or “King Mayor” who act as if they sit upon a throne ruling the kingdom and anyone who wishes to address “the court” should kiss the ring and speak during the three minutes allotted by “Your Highness.”
Is this the kind of community we want Tuscola County to have?
Of course not.
Thankfully, for whatever reasons in 2016, there are a growing number of residents stepping up to initiate change.
Speirs, of Ellington Township, told The Advertiser that as recently as February he had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get basic meeting minutes – available in many communities on their respective websites – is now running for supervisor in Ellington Township.
Jim Mantey, a member of the Almer Township planning commission – who recently raised the question of whose interests are first and foremost, companies’ or residents’? – is running for supervisor in Almer.
Leo Shafke, the Dayton Township resident who was threatened to be “run over” by a township official in January, is running for supervisor of Dayton Township.
Nancy Barrios, member of the Cass City Village Council, who recently raised the question of a potential conflict of interest involving one current member of the Tuscola County Board of Commissioners, is running for that board.
The list goes on and on.
And that’s fortunate because this isn’t necessarily a debate about old vs. young, Republican vs. Democrat, city vs. country, or this vs. that.
This is about being open to new ideas.
About being open in general – not balancing a checkbook when people are upset and trying to talk to you, for example.
It’s about time for change.