Michigan Still Has Money?

I went to a council meeting last Monday night (Sept. 27/2010) much to council members chagrin. It would have been perfectly understandable if they expected me not to show up after calling me a vindictive anarchist in the local newspaper last week.

Mr. Wonacott was talking to council about an application for a Rehabilitation Grant he’s been working on – we’ve probably paid for endless hours filling in paperwork and attending meetings with the Lenawee County Commissioner to get further funding to help out building owners – County aids Blissfield with grant to recover from fire. Different accounts I’ve read have different numbers of buildings that were affected by the fire, I’m just going to be safe and say the whole block was affected.

Mr. Wonacott was suggesting that if we offer more subsidy (he called them incentives) to these business owners, then his application for the grant would look even better to the grantor, it would give the application more credibility. He gave Council a couple of examples, one of them being a 12 year tax abatement.

I felt obligated to make the connection for them that the grant money they are trying to secure is provided by taxpayers and that the extra funds they are proposing to add to make the grant application more pleasing for issuing taxpayer money is also a taxpayer burden. I heard someone retort that the money comes from MSHDA. That prompted another question – where did MSHDA get their money? I then offered to answer my own question with the two choices I thought provided the likely funding sources – taxpayers or China.

I don’t think the exchange was particularly appealing to Councilman Brown as his little charade demonstrated his superior point of view and frustration by immediately swinging his head back as he swept the ceiling with an eye roll. He further pounded his point by removing his glasses from his face and slammed them down in front of him. Brown’s wife eventually came to her husband’s defense from the audience at the end of the discussion. I’m guessing it was defending a few other council members philosophy as well, basically the sentiment was; “if our community doesn’t compete for the funds, another community will get it”. She forgot to add; “it makes our Village pretty”.

But of course, how could I be so stupid – that’s the open dyke effect that perpetuates continuous spending. While we all race to get some free Obama money, let’s not concern ourselves with government agencies bankrupting our State, decimating our credit and threatening State sovereignty. How is it possible to stay sovereign when we’re beholden to the Federal Government? At which point Michigan would have no choice but be at the mercy of the Federal government for whatever does or does not come down the pike. How can the Nation stay sovereign when they are beholden to China? Do we just trust there will be no overstepping bounds or calling in the debts? It doesn’t really matter what level you’re looking at, we don’t have any funds left and our future ability to create wealth has already been mortgaged as we spend today. I’m sure we all feel better that select individuals from our community get State and Federal grants over select individuals in another community.

The only reason the United States of America is not the same as Canada or the European Union is because of your Constitution – the very thing that has protected you thus far. A closer look at the Constitution would show that the Founding Fathers did not set the country up the way it is currently running. I’d be worried that the majority of your Council is acting more like Canadians than some Canadians. Canadians, for the most part, allow their government to run the show, to provide all with entitlements and make all the decisions. Their citizens rights just aren’t as protected as the States, I don’t believe there’s another country as uniquely blessed as the U.S.

On the one hand, MDOT can’t come up with the proposed funds to repair and implement the US 223 corridor improvement project they’ve been talking about, but MSHDA and a number of other agencies such as CDBG can issue façade grants and apartment rehab grants as insurance supplements for fire damage. Keep in mind this is only listing 2 agencies with 4 grants for 2 businesses in 1 community (not including tax abatements). Add up all the grants our community has been receiving and multiply that number by every community in the State.

It’s clear that government or government grants didn’t keep other businesses viable or the foreclosed homeowners in their homes. Every week in the Blissfield Advance there are almost 2 pages of legal notices of foreclosure and debt collections in Lenawee County regarding mortgages. MSHDA has been cited many times as the collectors of those mortgages they are foreclosing on. This looks to me like the government giveth and the government taketh away. It’s the giveth part I’m not sure was well thought through; however, if taxpayer money is flowing through all of these government organizations, our taxes are sustaining them and qualifying their existence.

Have you ever wondered why our taxes are so high? Have you ever felt you were taxed enough already? What the government gives, the government has given itself the power to take away. Government has to take it from someone to give it to someone else – but not without taking their operational cut first. Great job right – take money – take a cut – give money? That’s why government is a consumer of wealth, not a producer, a great argument to reduce government size to small. 

I can pretty much bank on the reason the U.S. is the most generous country in the world is because the government hasn’t provided citizens with everything. Those provisions, mind you, come with a cost. Instead of 6% sales tax you would be paying over 15%, there is also a hidden cost we can’t ignore – it’s your liberty. There’s a threshold that gets crossed where you no longer have a voice or a choice, once we’re passed that, you’ll approach a limit where you no longer have the charity in your heart. Take for instance the Valdez fire, how many would offer their help to rebuild, knowing the government has provided them with all the financial help they need? When the government eclipses your generosity and purpose to serve your fellow-man, we’ve got a huge problem. If you’re a Christian, your Church should be the organizations to provide charity and care for the less fortunate. At the same time government is crippling a leading function and role of our Churches, this function had provided connection and contact with people outside their walls. Charity was an opportunity to share brotherhood and role model Christian principles, behavior and leadership, etc., etc. I’m certain a few grants here and a few grants there together with the governments impending intervention, we will end up like Canada and never have to concern ourselves with anybody else’s health and welfare because government programs would be taking care of it.

Nothing personal nor disrespect intended to the recipients of all that funding but I’d like to know the criteria present that warrants our public officials to bend over backward for some and not for others. Blissfield has a high vacancy rate downtown, we have numerous existing apartments downtown owners have been struggling to rent. Not only does it seem like the same businesses are the beneficiaries of favor over and over but, providing these rounds of grants this time around (on top of previous grants) are investment in something we don’t even need (rental rehab grant for apartments) It does give these businesses another competitive edge and increase the ability to lure renters from the existing rental market. After all, since the building owners aren’t carrying nearly the full weight of the financial load for their apartment projects, they’re unfairly positioned to offer lower rates with brand spanking new accommodations complete with better energy efficiency and new energy-efficient appliances.

I’ve got to wonder if combining the insurance from the fire damage (whatever that amount was), a façade grant of $15,000.00 over three years and a $25,000.00 rehab grant that’s meant to produce more income opportunity for the building owners, plus a 50% tax abatement for five years would actually promote thinking a building fire is pretty lucrative. 

Yes, well…I’m going to refer to Groucho Marx on this one; “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”.

And that’s how government grows – together with continuously fixing their unintended consequences. Who knows, maybe bankruptcy is the intended consequence? If so, and since the general taxpaying population is mandated to carry the load for whomever our public officials choose to exempt, why not at least look fair and reward everybody with a deserved tax reprieve for 12 years. That way they can quickly force us to our subservient knees, before they swoop in and save us – and we’ll think we got something out of it.

It’s scary to imagine how many programs and government entities are out there, here’s an example list of grant funding/subsidy programs available through only one government source – Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA)

Photographer: Paul

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5 Responses to Michigan Still Has Money?

  1. concern citizen says:

    It is nice when the mayor’s wife would benefit from the “extras”

    • Robin says:

      As you might of expected, Jae (the mayor) recused himself from the vote citing the conflict of interest, but made his argument first – engaging in the negotiation as he stated why Debbie (his wife) needed the funds because the alternative was to bulldoze the building. I found his comments very reminiscent of an exchange from this blog between Shawn Ellison and myself regarding a response to another comment; Wasting Time, Money and… He mentioned that bulldozing would have been in her better financial interest and he admires her willingness to rebuild.

  2. Annie says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, thank you! (concerned citizen)

  3. Pingback: Lenawee County Auditors | Michigan | County Auditors

  4. Robin says:

    I wanted to give some updated information about this. Tran raised his hand at the meeting and asked if the grants came with a lien on the property. Mr. Wonacott replied with misinformation, stating that the the government would have an interest in the property but it wasn’t a lien.

    The truth is, the Village government is the lien holder for the property for the five year term as stipulated by the grant contract. Other communities call it a lien, when I spoke to MSHDA, they called it a lien and I have written documentation from MSHDA, calling it a lien. The lien is described as such; A deferred payment mortgage between the “City” and the building owner to be recorded at the register of deeds. There are no interest or mortgage payments due.

    Also, for existing apartments the grant is maximum $25,000 per unit (Cakes n Shakes). $35,000 maximum per unit for space being converted into apartments (Royal Expressions).

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