Put it to the Voters

Here’s an idea – let the voters decide what they want government spending their money on. I’m betting taxpayers don’t appreciate sinking money into programs and initiatives that only sound good, or only benefit a few at everyone’s expense. I understand why they sought out a work around for many expenses – making sure certain things were paid for, things that wouldn’t have passed muster if it was put on a ballot.

It would also be great if the ballot language was clear. For instance, instead of asking for an increased millage to fund new sidewalks and curbs – I’d like to know if those improvements and subsequent costs will be offset by not adequately fixing the roads.

What’s an Improvement?

I don’t consider a last-minute decision to remove perfectly good – real brick pavers and replace it with an inferior stamped and stained concrete for an extra cost of $10,000.00, an improvement. I’m not sure how that decision was even considered when it wasn’t even remotely historically accurate for the so-called historic preservation movement the DDA was supposed to promote since 1992. Neither does it coincide with the historic preservation theme that our newly contracted Michigan Main Street uses as an agenda.

Even if you look back on all the façade grants given out – which, by the way were supposed to have strings attached (the hook to impose some sort of control on historically commensurate decisions), it begs the question; how serious has historic preservation been? Have we just been playing? If we had just one more commission or one more designated district…just one more funding stream, would we be serious then?

Let’s face it, Blissfield is a simple town, it’s a rural village. We never started out with 
architecture used in larger centers. The adornment of architectural detail of our traditional downtown was scant and simple compared to architecture elsewhere in the Victorian era. We’ve even lost much of what little we did have as buildings changed ownership and detail was covered up or replaced in the name of repairs or updates. The softer Victorian brick hasn’t been preserved with grant funds but further damaged over the years through less expensive practices of using portland cement based mortar for tuck pointing and re-pointing.

Who’s Responsibility is it?

All the previous building owners were the ones in charge of each buildings fate since Blissfield was established. Rightfully so. The attention paid to each was based on things like how important historic integrity was to each owner, building maintenance funds available and probably how well historical accuracy fit into the vibe of their business. As far as conscientious building owners go, we got what we got – and we got a mixed bag. As far as I’m concerned, the business owners should be the ones to collectively agree to have some sort of theme (including historical or traditional), depending on what they collectively want to pay for.

Historical Preservation Thwarts Economic Development

Preserving historical architecture is an expensive mandate (unless we pretend), it’s also an unnecessary restriction and burden – if you want to promote economic development. It certainly shouldn’t be the government’s decision what colors and style you use to define your brand as a merchant. Forget about using any creativity.

Pay Me the Money and I’ll Give You What You Want

Why would someone want to sell their liberty…their freedom of choice anyway? Of those that do, why would they then expect everybody else to go down with the ship and pony up for the bill because they sell out? Instead of investing in more regulation, could we perhaps pay more attention to the ominous undertow of debt that’s been pulling us under?

I’d Be More Comfortable Tackling the Big Issues First

How is it we can pay for awnings, tuck pointing and new facades but we can’t properly pave our streets and roads. We can’t get our water issues fixed and reduce those costs sufficiently. We can pretend to hold historic preservation in higher esteem and at the same time allow Mark Dobronski to snatch up a century old ice house through eminent domain and demolish it. As well, we can watch the Village put to bed a pet peeve of Councilman Brown’s wife and brick up two street entrances of a 1910 Odd Fellows Hall and fill the below grade door wells with cement. First, our Officials land-locked the building, leaving it without any vehicle access, now they’ve left it with only one exit. How fire safe is that? How preservationist is that?

It’s Clear to me What We Should Do

If this isn’t compelling evidence that the tail needs to be wagging the dog, I don’t know what it would take. We need less of the cliques pie in the sky, fantasy cheerleading and more feedback and “NO’s” from the pocketbooks that feel it.

I’m liking what’s going on in the courts right now – New York’s top court hears arguments on incentives

“Nations crumble from within when the citizenry asks of government those things which the citizenry might better provide for itself.”

Ronald Reagan, 4/7/1975

Related Reading:

Wheres the Cash Going

Government Knows Best

Image: scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to Put it to the Voters

  1. Tom says:

    Thanks for pointing out what’s happening in New York. If that group is at least partially successful, a concerted Michigan coalition of concerned taxpayers might be able to make some inroads here on the public giveaways. Our laws also restrict the loaning of public money to private entities and the most applicable law seems to be in the Penal Code of Michigan produced here: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(zkc0tuerj32bcr5522kv4su1))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=mcl-750-490&query=on&highlight=public%20AND%20private%20AND%20loaned.

    This law pre-dates the Economic Development craze, and seems to invalidate most public ‘authorities’ use of public funds that are taken for granted now.

    The “Historical Preservers” up in my neighborhood have been doing the same thing yours are by taking out brick pavers on the James Street Plaza and putting in stamped concrete for ungodly sums and calling it an improvement. They’ve also taken out monuments and murals that have been here for ages that didn’t appeal to them. Most of the current decision-makers didn’t even grow up here; why are they deciding what our historical character and heritage is or isn’t?

    • Robin says:

      I expect you’re right Tom, success of the New York group will have a profound effect on incentives everywhere. A Michigan Citizen’s Coalition could certainly use it to promote a major break for taxpayers. Thanks for your contributing gem from the Penal Code, information is priceless. I’ve been educating myself on the Michigan Constitution and expect to find more along these lines.

      Murals and monuments are an even bigger deal than pavers, I’m sure they expect the spending is forgivable if done under the guise of historic preservation…and, in our case, it’s another pipeline to qualify for grants. I just wanted to point out the hipocrisy.

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