It Takes a Village

Do we keep electing our public servants from a revolving little group? There seems to be a network of crony capitalism or phony capitalism in Blissfield. I started with a completely open view of things and this is what I keep coming back to. Not capitalism per say from doing honest hard work by selling a great product or service, but capitalizing from others setting you up and vice versa for benefit. This can be effectively accomplished by infiltrating and tapping into the government system where the power and money supply is, and it doesn’t sit well at all for those that believe in good old-fashioned hard work. It doesn’t sit well with me.

Just one article from the Advance paper kind of gives you a snapshot of the way things work. The information was probably provided as a perfectly logical explanation, I was supposed to read it and accept things as such. The article starts on the front page Wednesday July 28, 2010 titled; “Wonacott earns high grades from Blissfield council”. Here’s a link to the online version with a different heading.

Wonacott’s grades were tabulated from five of the seven council members, two members grades weren’t even calculated but they reported the incomplete numbers anyway. If you had stopped reading at that point, thinking the whole article was just blubbering over Wonacott’s golden review, you would have missed something that deserved its own headline. But first…

How much weight does an evaluation have from a council network that’s got each others back have Mr. Wonacott? Of course you would support sharing such an evaluation with the public, thanks for your generosity of sharing that particularly biased information with us.

And then we segue into “Council voted 7-0 to name Darlene Southward to the Downtown Development Authority board”. This move is unethical and a conflict of interest by many individual standards. It doesn’t pass the “smell” test, it doesn’t pass the “common good” or “virtue” test either. I have lost any remaining trust with our local government because of it. 

The position was probably still open after two months because of efforts to demoralize and demean those that have expressed interest in the past. Other willing would be participants have been told they didn’t qualify when in fact they did. People by nature are not gluttons for punishment. How many would continuously subject themselves to sure and certain criticism? I am very saddened to have found too many people just don’t want to get involved anymore. I bet there are a great many good people we have lost from Blissfield because of unsavory politics.

Mr. Southward, did you go door to door in an attempt to fill the position, like you did when you weren’t happy with your choices of applicants for a previous open position on the DDA board?

Appointing a family member to serve and be subordinate to another family member is called nepotism, a conflict of interest and unethical…by most people’s standards. Most boards have a written code of ethics that list this exact scenario. Favoritism and partiality are also on all those ethics lists. It doesn’t take much attention to detect a whole lot of favoritism going on as select businesses are supported and others not. Just because Blissfield refuses to write a code for themselves doesn’t mean they don’t still have an obligation to be ethical.

Mr. Brown, do not most husband and wives vote for the same elected officials? Crack a good joke, it’s a great diversionary tool that marginalizes the issue at the same time. Who knew?

Some people use this kind of information to gauge whether their public officers are serving self or are serving the community.

Mr A. Ray Jones, “so if anyone brings up the issue, so what?” So what?? So long as the system’s working for you right?

The board has already made it known publically that they are going to work around the law to get themselves paid. Gee, that would be a nice family bonus for both the Guetschows and Southwards.

Other problems I see with this is;

  • If the DDA was supposed to accomplish everything (they had eighteen years to do it) the Michigan Main Street program is going to accomplish isn’t it just a novel way to contract out their responsibilities (not my expectations, their own mission statement – the reason they were allowed to capture taxes from other services)?
  • Wasn’t the creation of the DDA also a novel way to contract out the Village President and/or Trustees responsibilities?
  • Why would the council approve the Michigan Main Street application when the DDA had no plan to pay for the new government employee position to be created for the Michigan Main Street Director? If there was a plan…can we see it? I’d like to know how they found the funds.
  • How can Blissfield get fixed if the same damaging stuff is going on? If we continue on the same path with the same people, will we be expecting different results? 

To others and the person(s) that brought up the conflict of interest at that council meeting; If you, your opinions or concerns have been snickered at or demeaned and if the experience has left you feeling there might be something wrong with your intellect…think again. The response was designed to make you feel that way. It’s a classic tactic used to keep you from coming forward. We also need to recognize when we’re being thrown a bone that’s supposed to prove good intentions, like an online vote to select a village logo for instance.

To those that didn’t know Blissfield even had problems that should be fixed; it’s an underground thing. And you just have to be in the right place at the right time to feel the effects and witness the workings.

  • We need to remove the power to abuse the system.
  • We need to dissolve the DDA.
  • We need to elect officials that have the community’s interest at heart.
  • We need to elect officials that know what ethics and obligations are. 
  • We have needed unity and business retention not factions, exclusionary practices and agendas that aren’t business or community friendly.
  • After we accomplish that, we need to demand accountability.

If they don’t get it right, it’s left up to us, the rest of the community. Do ask some questions but don’t fall for pat answers…disseminate the information and decide for yourself what is right, what is moral and what makes good business sense. Why would we be throwing good money after bad? How much will any other efforts help when we have not addressed the root of the problem?

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20 Responses to It Takes a Village

  1. Another Resident says:

    I just got some interesting news. I heard Kay Brown now owns the old Rose Auction
    Company. I checked and it is true. Rumor has it the new Main Street Director is going to have a office upstairs. Also, rumor has it she is turning it into a incubator business. A incubator business is-a comercial property that is divided into small work units which provides equipment and support to new businesses. It should be interesting to see what comes of this as far as tax dollars goes. I just wanted residents to know about this. I will post info as I get it.

    • Robin says:

      I pitched the incubator idea to Jim Wonacott back in April with my 7 page proposal; I also discussed the idea with Kay Brown…it was supposed to be by the community, of the community and for the community to grow entrepreneurs, giving them a minimal risk start. I guess we’ll wait and see how things pan out. If the taxpayers are slated to foot the bill, I didn’t see any proposal in my mailbox. I didn’t see a proposal to pay for the wages and benefit plan of a director for the Michigan Main Street program we got signed up for either.

  2. Kay Brown says:

    Wow!! All of this is pretty strong stuff. I’ve always believed that wise people talk to people, not about them. I’ve not yet heard from either of you. I would have answered all of your questions honestly if you had just talked to me face to face. In my opinion, this is the problem with blogs and gossip. Half truths become fact, repeated over and over by people who don’t care enough to get the whole story. We all see what we are looking for, weather it be good or bad. From my point of view, there are hundreds of good people working and volunteering here. They are trying to make this village a better place for all of us. Paks and Rec. coaches, assistant coaches, instructors of all kinds number nearly one hundred every year just so that our kids can have good, healthy, supervised activities. Make-a-difference Day has logged over one hundred volunteers in just three years of effort, all done for the good of Blissfield. What about Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, all of the civic organizations filled with volunteers. What about all of the people that make the River Rasin Festivale such a success? There are many, many more wonderful people that give of their time and talents to the elderly, to the kids at school, to their church and businesses that give time and again to support these community efforts.
    Yet, it seems that there are always a few who choose to look at the glass half empty. They want to find fault with those who do try to do good. False statments are thrown around like candy to hungry children. Again, I ask, Who has spoken directly to the people whose name are being thrown around in these bloggs? The gossip persists and the damage is done?
    Yes, I bought the building, hopefully it will incubate some wonderful growth and jobs. The office space is offered rent free if the DDA wants it. More questions? Please Call .

    • Robin says:

      Thanks for contributing to the dialogue Kay, this is a public forum – not behind anybody’s back, you have the ability to read it and you’re not prevented from responding. It’s better than a phone call because that which affects the community, lets the community in on the conversation.

      Your post gave me the impression that you are standing among the boy scouts and girl scouts, pointing to their good works and saying “look how good we are”. Yes, there are numerous good hearted people in Blissfield that go out of their way in honest effort to make a difference…for the right reasons. Giving credit where credit is due to deserving individuals and a bunch of great organizations is proper, but shining light on their actions do not cast a favorable reflection on you. Each one of those organizations and deeds, as does yours, stands on their own merit.

      If your impetus for doing good deeds are for the warm fuzzy feel-good feelings, for the glory, control, profit or to set yourself up for something else, they are not good deeds. By the same token, you can’t throw a jigger of arsenic into a glass of lemonade, pass it to me and say “hey…it’s all good, look how good it looks”. Mixing the bad with the good doesn’t make the bad good, it only disguises it.

      If you know going in that something will yield you profit, it is not considered a good deed it’s a business deal.

      If your venture is funded entirely by you without utilizing government funds like an incubator grant and you’re giving free rent – that would be private enterprise. If not, the taxpayer has been forced to help pay the free rent and your business venture, rendering the rent not free. If a business venture that’s government subsidized does not become profitable then the taxpayer money was also then wasted.

      There is a difference between vicious gossip and concern. Expressing concern and providing information is a good and healthy thing, it’s called communication. All the names listed on this blog have had the unique opportunity to dispel any erroneous information/gossip, they all read it. Please take the time to let me know what you specifically consider are the half-truths and false statements, we can address them.

  3. kay brownrn says:

    To make things as clear as I possibly can, I bought the building with my own money, the people planning to work with me are spending their own money. No tax dollars are being used but if they were would that really be so bad? We are a community and we all profit from improvements to our town. Housing values are impacted in a positive way, merchants chances of success are increased, civic pride is stronger when things are well maintained and on and on it goes. If we had chose to do nothing during these past three years, my brothers quote from the summer of 2007 would be even more true–“this is a dying town”. Instead many of us have worked very hard, invested our own time, labor, energy and resources to make Blissfield a better place in which to live– FOR EVERYONE!! Not a select few as has been stated.
    Profit from any of our efforts is the least of our intentions. This village helped us raise all of our children and we feel it is time to give back. It is the least we can do!!
    My impetus is a grateful heart, that is as clear as I can be. We are so thankful to share this village with lots of really good people who also work very hard to make things better.
    Am I perfect, are either of you, or anyone else for that matter? No, we all make mistakes but to focus only on the negitive seems terribly wrong to me. To demoralize good citizens with false inuendos also seems wrong. ALL DDA members are volunteers—it is against the law for them to be paid. George’s humor got us through the death of our son, Peter. Not always taking things so seriously isn’t all bad. To infer that anyone is doing anything for a warm fuzzy feeling seems mean, especially when you don’t really know their heart. Concern is stated with the good of the other person at heart (usually as questions) but these blogs appear to be more about hurting people and starting rumors. What a shame!
    A very good book states that if you have a difference with someone you should go to them privately. I think that is great advice for everyone.

    • Robin says:

      There you go mixing the bad with the good and calling it all good again. I don’t have a problem with George’s humor. I have a problem when humor is used to divert attention and marginalize an issue that effectually marginalizes the person raising the issue, it is at that point not humor anymore it has become a tactic. It is bad when used in a derogatory manner.

      “No tax dollars are being used but if they were would that really be so bad?” That’s a pretty cavalier way to dismiss others concern about the way taxes are spent, I stated what I thought was bad about it in my last reply. However, if you are funding the venture, kudos to you, I hope it works out well for you. Obviously I thought the venture was a good idea, I don’t agree with, nor would I have funded it by using government (taxpayer) sources.

      The DDA information I provided in this and a previous post about calling other DDA’s to find out how they got around the law to get themselves paid came from Lynn Southward’s mouth directly to my ears, I’m not the only one that heard it or was aware of it.

      Just because someone knows all the right things to say or gives the illusion of doing good doesn’t mean their heart is pure or even that their motives are right. It’s common knowledge that many do what they think is good for the wrong reasons. That’s exactly why some Christians are called Christians in name only.

      Nobody is perfect, myself included…that doesn’t mean we should give up trying or ignore the negatives and hope they go away. Why not identify, address and resolve the negatives? I don’t understand how this doesn’t make sense. Why not work together to create a less hostile environment? Don’t you think a feeling of community, belonging and having a stake or voice about what goes on in the community is the basis of civic pride? You want us to look like Mayberry, why can’t we be Mayberry? If this blog was more about hurting people and starting rumors, I would have been making stuff up. I’m sorry you misunderstood the purpose of the blog.

  4. keepitpositive says:

    Wow – this is getting out of hand, Robin.

  5. keepitpositive says:

    I would love to; however, I feel that anything I write will be taken to task.

  6. keepitpositive says:

    There was a wonderful event this past weekend – Plow Day. One man’s idea came to fruition and created a two day event that was enjoyed by several hundred people. I think that says ALOT about our community. Simple, just folks having a good time.

    • Robin says:

      Is that an argument for keeping it positive? Arguing for the positive portions of a whole (talking about the community here), does not…in any way, fix the negative, nor does it make the whole positive.

      Has an inability to use critical thinking opened you up for manipulation? Are you on a bandwagon? Maybe you were just writing random thoughts; nevertheless, you have committed the same fallacy of composition that Kay Brown had in her reply.

  7. Pingback: Fallacy of Composition | Blissfield's Blog

  8. keepitpositive says:

    Making a simple statement that good, positive things do happen in the Blissfield community.

  9. Kay Brown says:

    What a silly thing to ask. Your blogs have only been about the negative. They are demeaning and insulting to anyone that doesn’t agree with you. To quote you, “How many would continuously subject themselves to sure and certain criticism?” That’s what you dish out to those who state the facts that you choose to ignore.( exp. Mr. Kaffer)
    You are not looking to build a better community, to resolve issues in a positive way or to get the truth.
    I’ve yet to get a call from you or anyone else seeking honest answers. Can you read mind?
    You have critized the DDA VOLUNTEERS and asked that the board be dissolved. Not one good thing has been said about thier efforts and successes over the last 17 years. Now before Michigan Mainstreet even gets a chance to help our community, you have had a lot of negitive “Opinions” about it. Just give it a chance!
    You accuse the council of not having ethics (We need to elect officials that know what ethics and obligations are) quoted from it takes a village. Who are you to judge them or their ethics? You don’t know them either! You talk about “their agenda” as if you knew what they were thinking. Have you talked to each and everyone of them and asked what their agenda is or for that matter if they even have one?? Perhaps what is best for Blissfield is their agenda. Will they please all of the people all of the time “NO” but making decisions based on the facts that they have and the rest of us don’t isn’t always easy, especially if they have integrety.
    You critized Mr. Wonacot’s evaluation scores. Did you know that the two counsilmen who’s scores didn’t appear in the tally didn’t do their homework. They knew the deadline and came unprepared. That’s why their grades weren’t calculated into the total. Before writing what you did on this issue, a simple call to the Village President could have answered that question for you.
    You use words like Opportunistic, self-serving, attempting to confuse, DECIEVE ( pretty cruel things to say when you don’t even know the people you are talking about). I’m done with this nasty site!!

  10. Robin says:

    Please, don’t even pretend I would get honest answers…I tried that route. That was my first red flag.

    The DDA has not done its intended job, even by their standards – judging what their own mission statement says. Partnering with Michigan Main Street is an admission of that fact. It doesn’t matter how many times you jump up and down, stomping your feet. High turnover and nobody willing to step up to the plate is another red flag, combine that with everything else I have said, it’s dysfunctional and needs to be dissolved. We have two new spots open on the DDA right now. I have not singled out individual members except the leader of the group, who has showed me why he is ineffective. Did you notice you couldn’t list one good thing the DDA has done either?

    I don’t have to know you, the DDA or council members to know what is right and what is wrong. I doubt anybody expects our public officers will please everyone all the time, but I do expect them to make common sense and ethical decisions, as I expect everybody does. Why do other municipalities have a written code of ethics? Have you ever clicked on any of the links that I supplied to back up my information in any of the posts?

  11. gwen dusa says:

    Hello Robin.
    I’ve read with some interest what’s being/been said on this blog and I have to say I take offense to what you’re writing about DDA and its members.
    #1. I did meet with you personally for approximately 2 hours and was honest during our entire conversation.
    #2. I can only speak to what I’ve seen and experienced since I’m fairly new to the board (March/April); cooperation among the members and volunteers -no stomping or jumping up and down.
    #3. I believe partnering with Michigan Main Street will assist in accomplishing the mission statement.
    #4. I can’t discuss the “high turnover” rate you are referencing, as I’ve not experienced that; however, when a position recently became available and notices were put in the paper, Darlene Southward applied and was voted unanimously by council to become a part of the board.
    #5. The definition of dysfunctional states: impaired or abnormal functioning; characterized by a breakdown of normal or beneficial relationships between members of the group. I HAVE NOT seen this. What I’ve experienced is community members coming together. My firsthand knowledge has seen board members make true commitments to Main Street and all the duties it entails for the betterment of Blissfield.
    #6. Again, being new to the team, I can’t list all the “things” DDA has accomplished, but I can say that I have observed a team of individuals from the board and community members working tirelessly to make Blissfield Yuletide 2010 Celebration a wonderful experience for our business and residential communities. They have come together several times meeting for several hours planning and discussing the variety of events that make it a special time of year for our community. Numerous hours have been spent on the phone and emailing participants of these events.

    DDA board members, Council members and volunteers collaborated together and hosted Sammy Thompson’s guests from High Yield Productions (affiliates with RFD tv). Talking to Marilyn (High Yield Production personnel), you would hear how welcome she and her family felt while here in Blissfield.
    #7. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but my experience with the DDA board has been nothing short of common sense and ethical decisions.


    • Robin says:

      Thanks for taking the time to offer your sentiment Gwen, I’m happy for you that you haven’t experienced any dysfunction, here’s another definition:
      not performing as expected: failing to perform an expected function
      (a dysfunctional bureaucracy)

      I hope you never witness what I have seen, or the sabotage that I have experienced when taking on a task and the tools to perform that task has been withheld. Most of what the DDA is taking on as accomplishments have been what other people or the Chamber of Commerce had started and has been in operation for a number of years. Are you saying volunteers that have volunteered to take on tasks would not have done so if not for the DDA?

      It’s good that affiliates with RFD TV felt welcomed but at the same time many residents and business owners do not. It was Plow Day’s fifth year and a proven success, one could clearly determine jumping on board with help at that point was a Public Relations move to promote a more positive view of the DDA and/or its unofficial, extended DDA committee.

      Commerce was choked when the Village allowed MDOT to remove all the parking from the front of businesses on the 223 corridor in 1952 to become a four lane truck route and their answer came a mere ten years ago – pave a few parking lots behind the buildings where businesses had purchased and donated property. What do you think the probability that the Oddfellow building had not become a business development project due to lack of parking is? I don’t know how long the DPW has been sitting in their current downtown location but if the DDA was concerned at all with aesthetics don’t you think they would have moved an industrial facility to the industrial section of town before now?

      There are many business owners unaware they fell into the Downtown DDA district, their tax dollars are being spent to support a select few businesses like facade grants, they’re not even entitled to, or events never held near or in front of their business. The proper way to fund an event is for individuals and businesses voluntarily contributing, on their own accord. Businesses fund events willingly based on a number of factors but mostly because they see benefit for investment in a particular event, not mandated to pay for everything the DDA decides to pay for. How many facade grants have been granted to DDA board members as opposed to non board members?

      Even though it was sold to the public as free don’t think there won’t be major expenses and debt associated with Michigan Main Street initiatives. Partnering with them is admitting they couldn’t get the job done. Even the timing is incredibly poor, when the economy was much more favorable was a better time to play dress up, but they are going to further burden the financial viability of a community that’s already lagging, not to mention facing the unknown, heading down the pike. The Village turns to the county and state for grants and the state turns to the federal government, whereas the taxpayer contribution has long been depleted and future revenue is also already spoken for, should we be overextending ourselves too? Because everybody else is doing the same thing to accrue massive debt and nobody wants another community to get what they can get, where and when does the line get drawn?

      No disrespect intended to any individual board members but in the case of leadership, there have been ethics issues, a conflict of interest is indeed an ethics issue. I feel the funds the DDA leaches; or as the terminology with a more positive spin they would prefer “captures”, could be better spent elsewhere.

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