My Way

Reality check ? Would you spend about $47,500 to have a gaggle of lawyers tell you to take money out of your left pocket and put it in your right pocket?
Oxford Village and Township did.
The above analogy is the easiest way to understand how the village and township settled their dispute over allegedly improperly spent tax monies. (See story on page 1.)
After more than a year of the village attorney and council demanding the township return hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to village taxpayers, in turns out all the township had to do to satisfy the village was repay township internal funds with state revenue-sharing monies and ordinance enforcement revenues.
Go figure.
What a colossal waste of time, effort and tax dollars by our so-called leaders. Let’s look at the results:
n The attorneys for both sides are richer with tax dollars.
n Tax money that could have been spent on silly, trivial little things like roads, public services, parks, teen centers, was instead spent on lawyers.
n The village taxpayers (the supposed victims) who were allegedly wronged will receive no rebate checks in the mail.
n According to the consent judgement agreed to and signed by both parties, the village “does not consent, acknowledge or accept that it is the proper party in this litigation” and the township “does not consent, acknowledge or accept that any money is owed to the village or its taxpayers.” Was anybody involved?
n Money from state revenue-sharing and local ordinance enforcement that would have ended up in the township’s General Fund and Building and Site Fund anyway, will be now be put there over a five-year period to offset the amount allegedly misspent ($416,000) by the township for police services in 2000.
n The township will spend this $416,000 as it normally would have, with part of the money financing the township’s operations (General Fund) and the rest be saved to someday build a new township hall (Building and Site Fund).
So what was the purpose of this costly little exercise in government futility? I have no idea.
What was end result? Nothing.
How is the outcome of the settlement different than if nothing had been done in the first place? It’s not, except for all the attorney bills and a little money shuffled around internally.
Don’t worry, if you’re thinking none of this makes any sense, it’s because it doesn’t.
However, if you think it you think it makes perfect sense, congratulations, you have a future in government ? or as a lawyer.
What still amazes me about the whole thing is the village’s assertion that’s it was not the “proper party” in this whole legal mess.
According to a press release from village President Steve Allen, it was the council’s “belief that it was not the correct party to assert or compromise the rights of its Oxford Township taxpayers (i.e. village taxpayers).”
Wait a minute, didn’t the village spent $16,685 in taxpayer money on the high-powered law firm Miller-Canfield to determine how much the township allegedly improperly spent and allegedly owed village taxpayers?
Didn’t Miller-Canfield send a letter to the township demanding money on behalf of the village in August 10, 2001? The letter clearly stated, “We hereby demand payment of such amount, forthwith. The township should forward payment directly to the village (emphasis added).”
Didn’t the council pass a resolution on Sept. 24, 2001 requesting the township repay the allegedly misspent monies directly to village taxpayers? At that same meeting, Allen stated for the record, “We must get the message out to the public that we folks (the council) are willing to get their money back. It’s their money and we recognize it’s their money and it will be coming back to them.”
Didn’t the village spend thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on village attorney Bob Bunting to also handle the whole matter?
For the village to say it’s not the “proper” or “correct” party is utterly ridiculous and simply not true.
If the village government isn’t the “proper” or “correct” party, all the tax dollars spent on Miller-Canfield and Bunting should be returned to the village coffers.
How can the village claim that it’s not the “correct party to assert or compromise the rights of its Oxford Township taxpayers” yet spend village tax money on lawyers to do just that?
How can the village expend tens of thousands of tax dollars on a matter it now insists it was never a party to?
Oh well, the whole matter is over with and all is right with the world again.
The lawyers are richer. The taxpayers are poorer. And government is at fault.
In our ever-changing world and fast-paced modern society, it’s nice to know some things stay the same. Why doesn’t that comfort me?

“Hey Wang, what’s with the pictures? It’s a parking lot!” ? Comedian Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddy Shack”
While a I wholeheartedly agree with the need for additional parking in downtown Oxford, I must disagree with a few aspects of the Oxford Community Development Authority’s (OCDA) concept plan to reconfigure, resurface and expand the southeast parking quadrant.
Three elements of the plan immediately struck me as completely unnecessary and a total waste of tax money and resources.
The first is the “pocket park” that’s depicted on the concept plan right behind the Oxford Cinema 7, facing Stanton St.
The concept plan calls for a small park space consisting of a gazebo, benches and trees.
First of all, what a lousy, ugly, silly location for a park.
Who wants scenic views of the back of a movie theater and the Oxford Bank parking lot and drive-thru facilities directly across Stanton? Sounds breathtaking.
Second, the proposed park area should be used to provide parking, which by the way constitutes a portion of the land’s current use.
Great idea, eliminate some parking to put in a park in a downtown where one of the main complaints is the lack of parking.
You don’t need a fancy taxpayer-financed master’s degree in government to see it’s a bad idea.
To be fair, the plan does increase the total number of parking spaces in the southeast quadrant, but many of those new spaces are located much further away from the businesses than these current parking spaces tenatively slated to become a park.
Most people don’t enjoy walking long ways through parking lots and try to park as close to the businesses as possible. Some of them do it for safety reasons. Some for physical reasons. Many do it out of pure laziness. (I fall into the latter category.)
If you have parking spaces close to businesses, you don’t eliminate them, especially not for a park.
Also, why develop a new park when the downtown area already has the extremely under-utilized and under-appreciated Centennial Park?
The OCDA should be working to attract more people to Centennial ? which already has a gazebo ? rather than trying to turn existing parking spaces into another park.
It’s interesting to note that the owners of Parkside Dairy, John and Holly Thomas, have done more to bring people to Centennial Park ? and downtown Oxford ? than the OCDA has.
Another example of why if you want something done, look to the private sector, not government.
Parkside’s “Concerts in the Park” series attracted people to Centennial every Thursday evening for 11 consecutive weeks this past summer.
How many times did the OCDA bring visitors to Centennial Park this summer?
Once ? the Taste of Oxford at Celebrate Oxford.
My advice, nix the park, leave the existing parking ? maybe even increase the number of spaces in that area ? and focus on improving and cultivating activities in Centennial Park. Use what you already have before you consider building more.
Let’s move on from parks to the arts.
The concept plan also calls for a “sculptural centerpiece” to be located in the center of a proposed circular drop-off area behind Lynne’s Hallmark, Creative Embroidery and Victoria’s Delights.
Why do we need a sculpture in a parking lot? It’s not a museum or an historical landmark. It’s a place to store your vehicles while you shop, eat, see a movie, etc.
I’m sure the planners will argue the sculpture is designed to beautify the downtown, increase Oxford’s overall aesthetic value and make people feel good inside, but again, it’s a parking lot. Let’s be realistic.
The taxpayers ? particularly the merchants who will most likely pay a special assessment for this project ? should not be forced to pay for a sculpture in a parking lot. After all, it’s a parking lot.
From the arts we go to trees.
The concept plan calls for a bunch of trees to be placed on islands throughout the parking lot.
I bet if those islands and trees were eliminated from the plan, a few more additional parking spaces could be squeezed in and a lot of tax money could be saved. The southeast quadrant needs more parking spaces, not trees.
The bottom-line is when motorists go into a parking lot, they want and expect to find spaces. Businesses want their customers to be able to easily find available parking. The main objectives of the southeast quadrant improvement plan should be to increase the total number of parking spaces and repair the deteriorated lot.
Nobody cares about having islands with trees, “pocket parks” with gazebos and “sculptural centerpieces” in their parking lots except pie-in-the-sky planners and officials out of touch with reality and who don’t have to pick up the tab for their grandiose ideas.

Every time I see one of those Disney movies where a group of kids band together to fight City Hall, it never fails to make me cringe. Allow me to explain.
We’re all familiar with the movie where the out-of-touch City Council wants to sell a vacant piece of land to an evil developer who wants to build a new subdivision or high-rise on it.
The only problem is it’s the same land some local kids are using as a playground or have built a clubhouse on.
So the kids band together, march into City Hall, make a tear-jerking presentation and convince the elected officials to change their old-fogy minds.
In fact, the presentation is so good it convinces the evil developer to mend his greedy ways and offer to turn the land into something for the kids, free of charge. Everyone cheers and hugs, the day is saved and the credits roll. So why does this type of film bother me?
It ignores realities, circumstances, regulations, local ordinances and real-life political processes.
It oversimplifies the way government really works and sets up unreal or false expectations in kids’ minds that could someday lead to severe disillusionment with the political process that underpins our republic.
That’s what I’m worried is going to happen to the members of the Rockin’ Excellent and Determined Youth (READY) youth who are working to convert the old fire hall into a teen center.
The way it looks right now, this teen center might not get off the ground for a number of reasons, including funding and zoning ordinance requirements regarding parking and setbacks.
I’m not saying the teen center’s definitely not going to happen, but the parking and setback requirements appear to make it highly unlikely at this point.
It’s highly unlikely a variance will be granted to resolve the parking issue (i.e. the severe lack of it). It’s also highly unlikely another variance would be granted to allow for a teen center with 7.5-foot and 10-foot setbacks from abutting residential areas, when the zoning ordinance requires a minimum of 100-foot setbacks for indoor recreational facilities.
(Note: There’s a reason we have required setbacks and one of them is noise. A teen center will most likely generate a lot of noise, which could become a nuisance to residents living in such close proximity.)
Variances are not granted “just because” someone wants one. Certain very strict, very narrow requirements, outlined in the zoning ordinance, must be met.
This isn’t just my opinion. I’ve had a few officials tell me in private that this teen center isn’t going to happen, but they aren’t willing to say so publicly.
What I don’t want to see happen is for township or village officials to give READY any preferential treatment, special consideration or bending of the rules because of the nature of the project or the fact that a group of local teens is behind it.
I’m not saying this has been done or even will be done, but I can certainly see where officials not wishing to look like ‘bad guys’ or truly believing in the teen center project themselves, may be tempted to treat READY differently than the average applicant.
When discussing the fire hall ownership issue at the Jan. 14 village council meeting, Manager Mark Slown said he wanted the matter settled because “it may block progress toward completion of the teen center later, harming the morale of the READY crew and other young people in the community. This is a risk we must not take.” Slown told council if the teen center proposal “blows up in our faces” there will be a “bunch of unhappy kids and parents.”
Slown’s comments make it seem like the teen center absolutely must happen, no matter what.
Although Slown’s sentiments and personal belief in the project are admirable, they’re not appropriate.
If we really want the community’s youth to learn about local government through this teen center project, they must learn about things like complying with local zoning ordinances. They must be treated like any other applicant wishing to develop something in the village.
One of the major underpinnings of our political system is that everyone must be treated fairly and equally under the law. No exceptions. But along with fair and equal treatment comes the possibility of rejection and disappointment, as with anything in life.
Shielding the READY teens from these more unpleasant aspects of the process for fear of “harming (their) morale” would do them a great disservice and deprive them of a valuable learning experience.
Contrary to popular belief in our modern feel-good society, self-esteem is not the most important thing in life. One of the greatest lessons in life is “You can’t always get what you want.”
If turning the old fire hall into a teen center can’t happen because of a lack of parking or setbacks which are 90 to 92.5 feet short of the legal requirements, READY should not feel discouraged or give up.
READY could pursue a ballot initiative asking voters to approve money for the construction of a teen center somewhere else. Or they could find another vacant building in Oxford to convert into a teen center. Both are viable alternatives.
This teen center project is a great real-life opportunity for young people to get involved in local government and see how it really works. I just want our local officials to treat them like everyone else, equally and fairly, even if that means the old fire hall can’t become a teen center. And if it can’t, READY shouldn’t quit.
Good job West Bloomfield!
Bravo to the West Bloomfield Board of Education for passing a resolution last week speaking out against the Oakland Schools scandal, thus breaking the “conspiracy of silence” among the county’s 28 districts.
It’s nice to see that not all school boards are filled with cowards and collaborators. Finally, a group of school officials who actually know the difference between right and wrong.
In a letter to the editor published in the Feb. 3 Oakland Press, Gabriel Kowalski, of Oxford, asked, “And why aren’t the local school districts raising their voices over the squandering of tax dollars?”
Mr. Kowalski I suggest you contact the Oxford Board of Education and ask them. I suggested they speak out on this very issue three weeks ago. Since then, their silence has been deafening.

Some suggestions for school cuts
A Feb. 17 press release from Oxford Area Community Schools stated that in response to decreased state funding, rising operational costs and anticipated budget shortfalls ?
“All buildings and every district department (elementary schools, middle school, high school, athletics, transportation, maintenance and grounds, technology, special education, administration, support staff, food services, curriculum support and administrative support) has been asked to identify about 10 percent in cuts to their particular areas in order to achieve a balanced budget for next year.”
I have a few suggestions to help the district save a huge chunk of money.
First, cut the $34,000 in bonuses the district’s top four administrators ? superintendent, assistant superintendent, executive director of curriculum, executive director of human resources ? will be paid at the end of the 2002-03 school year and permanently eliminate such bonuses from future administrator contracts.
When finances are tight, you don’t give bonuses. This is a school district, not K-mart.
Next, the top four administrators should each take a temporary 10 percent salary cut ? just until the district’s financial difficulties are over.
The Big Four currently earn a grand total of $406,228 per year, excluding bonuses.
A 10 percent salary reduction would save the district $40,623 annually.
Then, let’s cut the combined $11,400 per year in monthly stipends the top four administrators receive for “car mileage.”
Finally, eliminate all nonessential, noneducational positions such as the Director of Communications post, which presently commands a salary of about $51,000 annually plus benefits.
All these cuts I’ve suggested are at the very top (Central Administration) and in no way hinder the actual day-to-day education of Oxford students.
Armed with a calculator and some common sense, I’m proposing $137,023 in budget cuts that don’t affect the classroom ? the place that matters most.
The press release stated that “As Oxford Schools looks for more ways to streamline, save money and institute possible cost-effective processes, Superintendent Virginia Brennan-Kyro has emphasized that the decisions made must be in keeping with the district mission, and do what’s best for our kids by providing a quality education for every student.”
I feel my cost-cutting suggestions are in keeping with the spirit and letter of the above statement and ask school officials to consider implementing them.
Let’s not just talk about doing what’s best for our kids’ education, let’s actually do it.
Let’s cut from the top-down, not the bottom-up.
Three cheers for private enterprise
We’ve heard a lot lately about how Oxford needs a teen center, a skate park, more sports fields, more recreational opportunities, more stuff for young people to do, etc. We’ve also heard a lot about paying for these needs with a mixture of tax dollars, private donations and special fund-raisers.
However, in all this community discussion, I hadn’t heard the one solution that could fulfill all these needs without costing anyone ? except for users ? a single dime. Until now.
It seems that a private investment company backed by a wealthy investor wants to build a for-profit sports/recreation center in Oxford Township on M-24 (See page 1 story). What perfect timing.
Oxford has a need for more sports, recreational and youth-oriented facilities.
A private investor has the capital to build a facility in Oxford to meet that need.
In return, the investor wants to make his money back, plus a profit.
It’s basic supply and demand. It’s the free market. I’m sure the 18th-century economist Adam Smith is smiling somewhere.
I applaud the efforts of the Metamora-based Mack Investment Group, Inc. and investor Anthony Calliea to build something that will directly benefit Oxford and its youth while hopefully turning a profit.
Best of all, it doesn’t involve government or tax dollars. Imagine that.
Plus, a privately owned and operated sports/recreation center means more local jobs, more tax revenue for local governments and a major attraction to draw people to Oxford.
Private enterprise is a beautiful thing.
Job opening for former police chief
Through our sister newspaper The Clarkston News, I learned that the City of the Village of Clarkston’s police department is searching for a new police chief.
When I read that, one name immediately sprang to mind ? Gary Ford.
Ford’s been out of work since Dec. 31, 1999, his legal bills have been piling up since then, he was denied disability payments from MERS and now he’s suing Oxford for $40,523.
Obviously, the poor man needs some money, but just can’t get back on his feet.
Gary’s either too proud to ask for help or maybe he just never learned how.
So Gary, if you’re reading this (and you know you are), give the Clarkston city offices a call at 625-1559 and apply for that police chief position.
Let me know if you need a reference letter.
No need to thank me.
Helping a down-on-his-luck, publicly-disgraced, ex-police chief facing a criminal trial is its own reward.

I hate to admit it but I must agree with Governor Jennifer Granholm and even applaud her actions.
In light of the state’s $2 billion budget shortfall and the large number of spending cuts ahead, Granholm said she will cut her own $177,000 annual salary by 10 percent to lead by example, according to the Feb. 24 Oakland Press.
She’s also encouraging state legislators to take a pay cut as well.
Wait just a minute!
A government official is suggesting her own salary be cut by 10 percent because the state’s in a big financial mess.
A government official, who’s preparing to make massive budgets cuts that will affect the lives of many people, wants to lead by example by first cutting $17,700 a year from her own pocket.
A government official is urging other government officials to take a pay cut.
Can this be real? Did a Democrat actually say that?
I sure hope the Oxford school district’s top four administrators are reading this as they face their own budget shortfalls and spending cuts.
Maybe the Educrats will learn a lesson from Granholm. A 10 percent pay cut has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it guys?
I was also forced to agree with another Democrat, Rep. Andy Meisner of Ferndale, who told the Press, “We’re asking people across the state to tighten their belts so I think it’s only fair for us to do the same.”
Egads, fiscal logic from a Democrat! Isn’t that a sign of the Apocalypse? Run for your lives!
Not to be outdone, some Republicans joined in.
Rep. Brian Palmer (R-Romeo) introduced an amendment to the state Constitution that would require a 10 percent pay cut for top state elected officials, lawmakers and Michigan Supreme Court justices in the fiscal year after Michigan’s “rainy day” or emergency fund falls below $250 million.
If approved by lawmakers, the constitutional amendment could be considered by voters in 2004.
Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema (R-Wyoming) said he will reduce his pay by 3 percent if state employee unions agree to forgo a planned 3-percent raise to avoid massive layoffs. He urged his fellow legislators to do the same.
Of course, I shouldn’t have to write a column complimenting government officials for wanting to take a pay cut during hard economic times.
It should be a given. It should be automatic.
It should be the first thing on the chopping block whenever it’s time for serious spending cuts by any government unit ? federal, state, county, city, township, village or SCHOOL DISTRICT.
Too often public officials aren’t willing to lead by example when it comes to cutting their own salaries, perks and bonuses.
Most officials are perfectly willing to cut services, cut programs, cut personnel and cut others’ wages and benefits, but when the axe nears their own pocketbooks, they come up with a million excuses (all of them lame) as to why they should keep making the big bucks while everyone and everything around them takes a hit.
I’m glad to see Granholm and some responsible state lawmakers ? both Republican and Democrat ? are willing to make cuts that directly affect them, not just others. That’s true leadership ? a quality sadly lacking in all levels of government these days.
As for the state lawmakers who have attacked Granholm and her call for pay cuts, I say nuts to them.
State Sen. Mike “Go Mike Go!” Bishop (R-Rochester) said Granholm is “trivializing” the budget situation by calling for a “pittance reduction of official’s salaries.”
“I think it’s political pandering at its best,” he told the Press. Then Bishop turned around and said, “Whatever we decide to do (for reducing salaries), I’ll be the first in line to do it.”
Mr. Bishop, does your mouth ever get sore from talking out of both sides of it?
Bishop’s comments represent mindless partisanship at its best and political double-speak at its worst.
I’m a much more conservative Republican than Bishop and even I can admit Granholm’s call for pay cuts is logical, responsible and an example of real leadership. I don’t like Granholm or what she stands for and I didn’t vote for her in the general election, but I can still recognize a good idea when I hear one, no matter who came up with it.
Some lawmakers said cutting their salaries would be largely symbolic considering the extent of the state budget mess, but meaningful nonetheless.
My grandparents and parents taught me that every penny counts ? especially when money’s tight ? because in the end, it all adds up.
Many families live by that same motto when it comes to their own simple budgets.
Government should live by it too, especially since the money in their budgets is OUR money.
Whether it’s clipping coupons to lower the family grocery bill or shaving a few thousand dollars off government officials’ salaries to help balance the budget, it all adds up in the end.
I hope Oxford Schools’ top administrators remember that every penny counts and take a cue from Granholm’s leadership. If you’re going to cut others, you’d better include yourself.
Thank you Oxford AMVETS
I wish to extend my sincere gratitude and a heartfelt thank you to Oxford AMVETS Post 108 for presenting me with a plaque last Wednesday to show their appreciation for the articles and photos I’ve published about them (see page 4).
Their plaque meant more to me than most of the other awards I’ve received in life because it came from brave souls who have served their country in the armed forces with honor, dignity and courage.
It was their sacrifices and devotion to duty that made possible the freedom of the press that I enjoy every week. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Thumbs up to the Oxford Village Council for voting not to participate in the North Oakland Household Hazardous Waste Consortium (see story page 5).
Village officials correctly reasoned that because the Oxford Township Board voted to join the Consortium in November 2002, village residents will be able participate in the program as township residents and taxpayers.
It would have been a waste of money and redundant for the village to pay the fixed $1,092 annual administrative fee to participate.
Granted, because of the village’s decision, the township will be required to pay its $4,140 administrative fee plus the village’s $1,092.
But that’s okay. Village residents pay 0.95-mill every year to the township so it’s not like the they’re getting a freebie.
Why shouldn’t village residents pay for this new service through their township taxes as opposed to their village taxes?
Based on economies of scale, paying the $1,092 fee through the township makes more fiscal sense because it’s being drawn from a much larger tax base and budget than the village has on its own.
As for the $35 per car fee, it doesn’t matter whether the township decides to pay it all, have residents pay it all or some combination where both pay a portion. Village residents will either pay for it from their own pockets if they choose to participate or through their township taxes.
I’m glad council saw the logic of all this, followed the lead of every other village in the Consortium’s coverage area and decided to participate through its township.
Manager Mark Slown argued it might be to the village’s advantage to participate in the Consortium and pay the fee so the village could get a “seat at the table,” meaning council would be able to select a representative to the Consortium Board to help oversee the program.
The manager stated that going through the township “relinquishes all control of the service to another government.” The township is not some alien government.
Village residents are township residents who help elect township board members. The township board represents each and every village resident.
The village already has a “seat at the table” through it’s township representative (Shirley Clancy) to the Consortium Board.
It would have been a waste of tax money on the village’s part to pay $1,092 a year just to have a council member sitting on the Consortium Board.
Constantly “going your own way” for its own sake is not only illogical, it’s quite expensive.
I’m glad council was wise enough to recognize this.
$3,000 for hats! Is the council insane?
When village residents pay their property taxes I’m sure most, if not all, of them are under the impression they’re money is going to be spent on little things like roads, police, fire, parks, the Department of Public Works, village administration, etc.
I was shocked and dismayed to learn the village council last week approved paying a $3,000 bill for 250 baseball-style hats embroidered with the new Scripter Park logo. No, this is not a misprint.
Council spent $3,000 on hats. Hats!
Officials said these hats will be used to promote Oxford, given away to local volunteers as tokens of appreciation, possibly sold at Celebrate Oxford and given away as gifts at the village’s annual appreciation dinner, held to recognize all village board members, employees and volunteers.
Words cannot begin to describe what a blatant and idiotic waste of taxpayer dollars these hats are.
Words cannot express how frivolous, unjustifiable, ridiculous, inappropriate and irresponsible it was for the village to spend $3,000 on hats.
That’s $3,000 in tax money that could have been put toward some legitimate community need, but was instead piddled away on useless hats that do not benefit the residents in any way, shape or form.
Some may say I’m getting a little too upset over a measly $3,000, but as I’ve stressed over and over and over again, every penny adds up, especially when they’re taxpayer pennies.
It’s the wasting of a few thousand tax dollars here and there for seemingly harmless little things ? like hats ? that eventually adds up to high property taxes.
It’s easy to spot and rail against the obvious wasting of tax dollars when it’s in the five, six and seven-digit range, but it’s the “$100 for this and $1,000 for that” nobody pays much attention to or questions that nickel-and-dime taxpayers into the poorhouse.
Note to village officials ? Either use the tax money we give you for legitimate government functions that benefit the health, safety and welfare of the residents or lower our taxes and let us keep more of our hard-earned cash.
We can buy our own hats. Thanks anyway.
Note: In his State of the Village address Monday, council President Steve Allen mentioned how “despite numerous funding challenges, the village has achieved many of its goals.” He went on to list “challenges for 2003-04” which included “decreased revenue sharing due to state budget pressures” and “continual upgrades to aging infrastructure,” which are getting “more expensive every year.”
If finding funding is such a “challenge” for the village, then stop wasting money on stupid things like hats!

Bravo to Lake Orion school administrators
Reading the Feb. 26 edition of our sister newspaper The Lake Orion Review, I ran across an interesting little tidbit that I thought deserved some recognition.
In light of the Lake Orion school district’s budget crunch, the superintendent and assistant superintendents offered to donate back to the district their 2004 salary increases, totalling $10,600.
I was impressed by their gesture because I’m not used to school administrators voluntarily offering to give up money from their own pockets when faced with budget shortfalls. I applaud Lake Orion’s top school administrators for their action. I applaud them for leading by example. Leading by example ? what a novel concept.
Priorities please!
With the exception of Ron Mutch and Patricia Smith (who was not at the meeting), Oxford School Board members Tuesday expressed their opposition toward contributing any money for a new traffic signal at the intersection of East Burdick (Lakeville Rd.) and Glaspie (North Oxford Rd.).
Although they tabled the item, most officials publicly balked at the idea of matching whatever Oxford Township contributes to the new signal, up to $7,500.
A majority of the high-volume traffic that jams that intersection comes from Oxford High School, Oxford Middle School and Lakeville Elementary School.
Since the schools are the biggest contributor to that intersection’s woes, they should put up some money.
The maximum the district is being asked to contribute is “up to $7,500” for a signal that could cost between $50,000 and $60,000.
School officials claim they can’t spare $7,500 or less to help solve a serious traffic flow and public safety problem, yet they can approve $34,000 in bonuses for four top administrators without batting an eye?
What are the school board’s priorities? Obviously they’re not the same as the public’s.
Goodbye and thanks to John Thomas
John Thomas attended his last Oxford Village meeting Tuesday as a councilman. He chose not to seek re-election after serving a one-year term.
I hate to see John go because he was honest, trustworthy and truly had residents’ best interests at heart. Those qualities will be sorely missed from council.
John didn’t play petty politics or have a private agenda. What you saw was what you got.
John wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and do some hard work, as evidenced by the return of summer concerts to Centennial Park last year ? which would never have happened if not for him and his wife Holly.
Thanks for your sevice to village residents John.
I wish you continued success with your downtown business (Parkside Dairy, Catering and Carry-out) and happiness with your family.
A little clarification
I just wanted to clarify that my criticism of Oxford Village’s spending of $3,000 for baseball caps featuring the new Scripter Park logo was in no way, shape or form meant to portray Creative Embroidery (the Oxford vendor from which the hats were purchased) in a bad light. My opinion was simply that village officials exercised extremely poor judgement by blatantly wasting $3,000 in taxpayer money on something totally unncessary to functioning of a local government and servicing of residents.
I do not blame Creative Embroidery for selling the hats to the village because it was simply providing a service to a customer. It was the customer’s judgement I questioned, not that of the business.
Creative Embroidery acted properly and professionally by providing a quality product and service to its customer for a fair price. In fact, the only positive thing I could possibly say about the village’s purchase of those hats was at least the tax dollars were spent at an Oxford business thereby keeping the money within the community. Creative Embroidery is a fine local business that helps keep downtown Oxford strong.
I wish them nothing but success and longevity.

“We prefer most contact via e-mail if possible. It is more efficient for us to process your
request.” ? a message to visitors on State Sen. Mike Bishop’s website
Over the weekend, a local resident sent me copies of e-mails exchanged between herself and State Sen. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) that I found quite interesting and definitely worthy of sharing.
I believe this e-mail exchange offers a rare and honest glimpse into what politicians really think of the public when they’re not shaking hands, marching in parades or prostituting themselves for votes.
Given Bishop represents the Oxford and Addison areas, I thought his constituents would especially enjoy reading how their state senator actually feels about their thoughts and opinions.
It all began when Oxford resident and Republican Robin Moore sent an e-mail to Bishop on March 14 that both complimented and criticized the newly-elected state senator. Her e-mail read:
Dear Rep. Bishop,
I am proud to know you are working hard to hold off Canadian trash ? thank you! However, I take issue with any whining you might do in response to Gov. Granholm’s suggestion that state legislators take a pay cut. Grow up a little, k? Thanks!
The next morning Moore received an e-mail from Bishop which simply read, “Get a life.”
Moore reponded to Bishop’s sarcastic remark by e-mailing the message, “Isn’t that classy? Thank you for responding.”
Within the hour, Moore received another e-mail from Bishop which stated:
“This e-mail address is no longer available to the receiver of this automated message. Your name and e-mail address has been added to the ‘block sender’ list. We’re sorry that we had to close dialog with you, but the host has authorized blocking in the event our system is abused or used counter-productively. Very few have violated the decorum of our system. In fact, since the inception of this web address, you are only the 6th name to be added to this list.
If you feel your name has wrongly been added to the ‘block sender’ list please contact our office and we will take action immediately. ? Web Host
To recap, a constituent took the time and effort to communicate with the state senator elected to represent her interests and in return was rudely and arrogantly told to “Get a life.” Very classy Mr. Bishop, but your snobbish Rochester attitude doesn’t play too well this far north.
I think “get a life” should be Oxford and Addison’s response the next time Bishop deigns to tour the Provinces seeking contributions and votes.
Moore was then told she can no longer communicate with her seantor via e-mail because her innocent and honest criticism somehow “abused” or used the system “counter-productively” thereby violating its “decorum.”
A constituent who did nothing wrong except express her personal views ? a right protected by the First Amendment, the Supreme Court and countless American soldiers, both living and dead ? has been barred from one avenue by which to communicate with her democraticly-elected representative. God bless America.
Bishop’s overall response to Moore epitomizes the true attitude many politicians have toward the people they allegedly represent ? “Vote for me, then shut up and go away until I need your vote again.” Or as W.C. Fields once remarked, “Go away kid, you bother me!”
I spoke with Bishop Tuesday about his e-mail exchange with Moore and he stood by his actions, characterizing her message as “sarcastic,” “rude” and “very abusive.”
“I characterize it as abusive any time people take advantage” of the e-mail system,” he said.
Of Moore’s remark, “Grow up a little, k?” Bishop said, “That offends me deeply.”
“I’m really offended by those out there with a seek and destroy mentality,” Bishop said.
Of his “Get a life” comment to Moore, Bishop said he merely “responded in kind” and was being “stern” with her. “I wanted her to know that I’m a human being,” he said.
Bishop said Moore was blocked from the e-mail system because she “abused the privilege.”
Bishop said he spends a lot of his free time personally responding to e-mails and a message such as Moore’s “upsets” him and “ruins my ability to communicate with people effectively.” The senator challenged other elected officials to communicate with their constituents as much as he does.
Hey Mike, you want to know what I’m doing right now? I’m playing the worldest saddest song on the worldest smallest violin just for you.
If your skin is that paper-thin, you shouldn’t hold public office. Moore’s innocuous comments certainly didn’t merit your insulting and over-the-top response. You went overboard Mike, off the deep end.
Even if you were severely offended by her e-mail (which I think is a bunch of mule muffins), as a public official you should have risen above the urge to strike back like a vengeful, immature child.
You need to either get a life or grow up a little, k? How about a nice anger management course, k?
Bishop also wanted it noted that the e-mail address Moore was blocked from sending messages to was his private account, not his state one. But I must note that her original e-mail was sent to his state account and he responded using his private e-mail.
I urge readers to contact Mr. Bishop at both his state address mike@gomikebishop.com and his private account MikeBishop@comcast.net and tell him what you think of his snotty attitude toward Mrs. Moore. If he doesn’t respond, send two or three e-mails just to make sure he gets the message.
But be careful what you write. We musn’t hurt the poor “widdle” senator’s delicate feelings.

Just in case any local government officials were pondering asking for a tax increase this year, I thought I’d give them a heads up as to the overall mood of Michigan voters.
The March report from the Citizens Research Council (CRC) of Michigan indicated that of the 187 proposed tax increases across the state on the November 2002 ballot, a whopping 126 were rejected by voters.
“Tax rate increases accounted for 60 percent of the tax issues electors voted on in the 2002 general elections. Only about one-third of these issues received voter approval,” according to the report.
On the county level, voters sunk 23 of the 35 proposed tax increases.
On the city level, six out of 10 potential tax hikes met with defeat.
Township voters torpedoed 88 of their 132 proposed increases.
Special authorities fared the worst with voters saying ‘no’ to nine out of 10 proposed hikes.
Voters weren’t in the mood to override the Headlee Amendment either, according to the CRC’s report.
Of the 17 proposed Headlee overrides on the November 2002 ballot, 15 were rejected.
County voters rejected all four of their Headlee overrides, city voters rejected their six and township voters failed five of their seven.
Although most voters didn’t want their taxes raised according to the CRC report, the majority were willing to renew the ones already in place.
Of the 92 tax renewals requested statewide, 88 were approved.
Tax renewals went five for five on the county level, four for four in cities and two for two in special authorities.
Township voters gave thumbs up to 77 of their 81 renewal requests.
The report’s summary stated that “Overall, electors were willing to continue the levy of taxes that were previously authorized, but approved the authorization to collect new taxes, increase tax rates, or override Headlee rollbacks on only about one-third of the ballot issues.”
In other words, the majority of Michigan voters are not so much “anti-tax” as they are “anti-new tax” and “anti-tax increase.”
Voters are willing to keep paying the same taxes for the same services, but no more, no extras, no frills.
I also believe voters are currently more willing to approve millages for absolute necessities as opposed to non-essential luxuries.
This point was illustrated by the fact that 77 of the 113 (or 68.1 percent) millages involving public safety were approved while millages for parks and recreation were passed only 37.5 percent of the time (nine out of 24), according to the report.
Oxford voters mirrored this statewide trend in the 2002 elections by approving a millage renewal for Oakland County Sheriff’s service contract while failing a tax increase for the parks and recreation department.
Government officials contemplating tax increases for 2003 should look long and hard at these numbers ? and the overall economy ? and ask themselves, “Is a tax increase a good idea this year?”
The wise official would say, “No.”
I hope all of our local officials possess such wisdom. Just because you can ask for more money, doesn’t mean you should.

‘Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.?
? Animal Farm by George Orwell

Oxford is a community with one fire department owned by two governments ? one existing inside the other ? and overseen by a third unit of government consisting of 12 elected officials from the other two governments.
It’s hard to read that statement without going cross-eyed.
Don’t worry if the opening paragraph sounds complicated, confusing or just plain stupid ? it is.
Unfortunately, it’s a completely accurate description of the inefficient, cumbersome and redundant system under which the Oxford Fire Department is governed.
No sane, logical or intelligent person could possibly argue that this arrangement functions well and should be preserved for the ages.
Fortunately, Oxford Township decided a few weeks ago that it was time to stop the madness, simplify things and move toward placing the fire department under its direct control.
Granted, it was a decision that should have been made three years ago, but government moves a lot slower than the real world.
The justification behind township ownership and operation of the fire department can be summed up in one simple statement ? ‘Every Oxford resident is a township resident.?
That’s all residents need to remember as they witness this intergovernmental tug-of-war unfold.
Whether you live in the village or the unincorporated areas, whether you live on Hudson St. or Seymour Lake Road, whether you live in the Burdick Woods Condos or Red Barn subdivision, whether you’re served by the village police or county sheriff, one thing remains the same ? WE ALL LIVE IN OXFORD TOWNSHIP.
We can all vote for the seven members of the township board.
We can all run for seats on the township board.
We are all equally represented by the township board.
We all pay township taxes, which include the fire bond approved in 2000.
It makes perfect sense that the one government under which everyone is an equal part, be the single entity under which the fire department, that also serves everyone equally, is owned and operated.
I’m not going to launch into some infantile debate over whether the ownership split between the township and village is 82-18, 77-23 or 50-50 because the undisputable fact is Oxford taxpayers own 100 percent of the fire department.
Every property taxpayer, from Oxford Lakes to Waterstone, owns an equal share of the fire department because each pays the same property tax rates to support it. Equal ownership demands equal representation in both government and business.
However, the Oxford Public Fire and EMS Commission (OPFEC) does not represent all township and village residents equally and fairly.
Village residents can vote for the five village council members and seven township board members that makeup OPFEC, while unincorporated township residents can only vote for the latter.
The five village council members that sit on OPFEC do not have any accountability ? direct or otherwise ? to unincorporated township residents, yet they hold veto power over all board actions.
While I’m sure village members of OPFEC try their hardest to temper their decisions with what’s best for the fire department and community as a whole, in the end they are elected to represent village interests and are accountable only to village voters.
It’s therefore reasonable to assume OPFEC’s village contingent is somewhat skewed or biased toward doing what’s best for the village as opposed to the township and fire department.
In essence, village residents have double the political representation and rights under OPFEC than unincorporated township residents. That’s wrong.
The residents of Dennsion St. should be entitled to no greater voice in the fire department’s operations than the residents of Newman Road and vice versa.
One of the founding principles of this great Republic of ours is that we are all equal at the ballot box.
But under the flawed OPFEC, to quote George Orwell’s 1945 classic Animal Farm, ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.?
It’s time for the pigs, horses, cows and chickens to put their house in order before it burns down.
I hear a lot of talk about the need for one government in Oxford.
We already have that under the township.
Let’s stop trying to reinvent the wheel.
We don’t need OPFEC or any other type of fire board. We need less bureaucracy, not more.
One fire department requires one government that represents everyone equally, not three governments that represent chaos and inequity.
C.J.Carnacchio is an Oxford Township resident and taxpayer who resides in the Village of Oxford on Park St.

‘It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.? ? Edmund Burke

I was thumbing through some of my old files last week when I ran across an e-mail exchange that I thought would interest readers.
These communications were particularly interesting in light of the village’s renewed drive toward seceding from the township and becoming a city.
Dated Sept. 12, 2002, the e-mails were from village Manager Mark Slown and village President Steve Allen to the village council.
Slown’s e-mail stated:
‘Dear Council,
After Ian Hill’s encouragement yesterday, and after reflection overnight, I strongly recommend the Council consider passing a resolution authorizing an Oxford Community Government Charter Commission be established to craft a new government Charter and a ballot proposal on creation of one government for the entire community with the details to be worked out by the charter commission under advisement from all interested parties in a series of public hearings, and a majority vote in a general election of both the Village and Township required for approval of the new charter. This government change will be a complex and difficult process with many challenges…
I suggest the only absolute restrictions would be
1) Village and township employees not retained in the new government must be properly cared for in closing agreements with their current employers.
2) Village residents would not lose any Village government services which they currently enjoy that a majority of them desire to retain.
3) New elections for newly created elected positions will be held after the charter is approved while the existing governments remain as caretakers until the new government is established.
The form of government (Township, Council-manager, strong or weak mayor, etc) would not matter as long as these conditions were achieved.
Let us act on our responsibilities, as we are able, to achieve a more efficient single government in Oxford. Let us break down the old barrier between the Village and the Township governments to make one whole and more healthy community.?
In response, Allen wrote to council:
‘For those of you that missed last night’s event, it was a life-altering experience. Mark has heard the message and believes. I have heard the message and believe as well. This is scary stuff, but change always strikes us that way.?
From one government for all to cityhood for some, what a difference nine months can make.
I guess ‘the message? had a shelf life.
I also find it interesting that while village officials and some residents are pursuing cityhood, there is a contingent of Oxford Lakes residents researching how to have their subdivision annexed by the township.
Unfortunately, I have not had any direct contact with these individuals nor do I know who they are or their numbers.
All I know right now is that some Oxford Lakes residents approached a township official about detaching from the village and becoming part of the unincorporated township. Apparently, these individuals are tired of suffering under the village’s high tax burden.
Obviously, not all village residents are on board with the cityhood idea. Some would like to be directly governed by the township with no village in between.
I urge them to contact me because I would very much like to write an article about their efforts.
It’s critical that all possible aspects of Oxford’s future governance ? be it in a singular or plural form ? are explored in detail and presented to the public.
Over the last few weeks, the reports on the village’s effort to become a city have been a somewhat one-sided because no public opposition has reared its head.
Now is the time for opponents to speak their minds.
The future of Oxford is being discussed right now.
Everyone needs to join in that discussion, not just the village’s pro-cityhood folks. Don’t be afraid to express a different or unpopular opinion.
Who will govern Oxford and how it will be done are the two most important questions facing all residents. Each demands an informed answer.
Don’t just sit on the sidelines of History, get in the game and win one for the future.
I urge all those involved in the debate over Oxford’s future to remember what the 19th century Southern Senator John Randolph told his fellow legislators, ‘Change is not reform!?

‘How can (a man) be free if the fruits of his labor are not his to dispose of, but are treated, instead, as part of a common pool of public wealth? Property and freedom are inseparable: to the extent government takes one in the form of taxes, it intrudes on the other.?
? ‘The Conscience of a
Conservative? by Barry Goldwater

Much of my mental attention as of late has been devoted to the renewed campaign to tranform the Village of Oxford into the City of Oxford (or the City of the Village of Oxford if we were to follow Clarkston’s example).
One of the major issues that concerns me is the ability of cities to levy income taxes, something townships and villages are NOT empowered to do.
When I was growing up in Detroit, my father, Joe, constantly complained about having to pay a city income tax in addition to the ones imposed by the federal and state governments.
The City of Detroit was able to tax my family’s home through property taxes then confiscate a portion of my father’s hard-earned paycheck through its income tax.
Even though I was just a youngster, I knew this wasn’t right. It was double-dipping, double-taxation. Local government taxes your property, it doesn’t need to rape your income as well. Ever since then, I’ve opposed the concept of city income taxes.
Thankfully, state law requires voter-approval before a city can levy an income tax.
Voter-approval is a proper and necessary safeguard because our elected officials can’t always be trusted, especially when it comes to the power to tax, which is ultimately the power to destroy.
But in these times of low voter-turnout at the polls and high levels of voter apathy, is this enough of a safeguard to prevent the hypothetical City of Oxford from levying an income tax in the future? I say no.
The last village election saw 76 residents (out of 2,372 registered voters) elect three council people ? a voting majority on the board ? and grant permission to sell three parcels of municipal property that the Oxford Community Development Authority purchased for $585,619.
A mere 76 voters decided all that.
The thought of 76 voters deciding whether or not there should be a city income tax is not only unnerving, it’s downright frightening.
Granted, the mass of people who don’t vote or pay attention to what’s going on in government and politics, not only deserve what they get, they deserve to get it good and hard.
Unfortunately, those of us who do vote and pay attention are forced to suffer along side these apathetic slugs as government runs roughshod over our rights, responsibilities and pocketbooks.
As a village resident who could someday unfortunately become a city resident ? should the voters deem so ? I don’t ever want my income taxed by this new government.
I don’t want the hypothetical City of Oxford or its residents to ever have the power to levy an income tax on me. I don’t want city officials to ever have access to my income records.
Therefore, if the village were to incorporate as a city, I would like to see it written into the new charter, that the City of Oxford will NEVER levy an income tax or ask voters to approve one.
I want it carved in stone, written in blood and certified in triplicate.
If the village officials and residents who are pushing for cityhood are truly serious about their efforts, they should have no problem agreeing to this request.
After all, one of the pro-cityhood arguments is that the new government won’t increase the tax burden village residents currently endure.
What better way to ease voters fears about the possibility of the dreaded city income tax than to completely eliminate this power via the new charter.
The best way to guarantee government will never use a power is to never let it have the option of exercising it in the first place.
Give government an inch, it will take your wallet and your freedom.

I used to think the only two peoples dumb enough to fight over a worthless piece of real estate were the Israelis and Palestinians.
I was wrong.
Oxford Township and Village are just as, if not more, idiotic.
On July 1, 2003 ? a day that will live in absurdity ? the village seized the old fire hall on W. Burdick St., behind the township and village offices.
Under the advice of Minister of Billable Hours Robert Bunting and the direction of Generalissimo Mark Slown, village forces conquered the old fire hall in a daring surprise raid by changing the locks and placing the utilities in the village’s name.
It was truly a stroke of genius to commandeer this worthless, vacant building in need of repair so the township couldn’t just steal it in the middle of the night.
It was also genius because now the village can start paying 100 percent of the building’s utility and maintenance costs as opposed to paying 18 percent when the Oxford Public Fire and EMS Commission held it.
No loss of life was reported as a result of the village’s invasion.
However, the fire department responded to several medical calls in which people, upon hearing about the incident, had laughed until their sides ached and dehydration set in from the constant excretion of tears.
In response to this sneak attack, the township has threatened to employ Weapons of Mass Destruction, commonly known as ‘lawyers.?
If the township unleashes its dreaded ‘lawyers,? the entire village could become uninhabitable due to the foul stench, slime trails and general misery these weapons leave behind.
As a township and village resident and editor of The Oxford Leader, I cannot sit by and continue to watch the never-ending battle between these two governments.
The time has come to act. so I hereby declare the formation of the Northern United Taxpayers Society (NUTS for short), a para-military group comprised of heavily-armed township and village taxpayers ready to reclaim their governments from lunacy.
Government officials be advised that at 10 a.m. July 11, 2003, NUTS will storm the two new fire stations and seize them in the name of taxpayers everywhere.
Not only will NUTS change the stations? locks, we will also switch the address numbers on the front of the buildings so officials can’t find them. Ha!
NUTS will then put the utilities under the name of county Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who’s agreed to go along with us in exchange for two, maybe four, glasses of wine and some prescription pain killers ? or was it Advil?
Don’t try to stop us. Resistance is futile.
Once we have taken control of the fire stations, we will begin seizing other things like the village dispatch center, the township cemetery, Addison and Poland, if there’s time. France has already surrendered to us.
Our justification for all these seizures can be found under Michigan Public Act 33?, otherwise known as the ‘Mine! Mine! Mine!? statute. We also base our claims on the 1967 court case Finders Keepers v. Losers Weepers.
NUTS will not stop until we have brought the village and township to their knees ? or at least some sort of squatting position. The Revolution has begun!
Even now, NUTS has infiltrated both governments with spies whose job it is to spread misinformation and chaos. So far, our spies haven’t had to actually do anything because they discovered misinformation and chaos were already being disseminated by the officials.
Don’t bother to try to figure out which residents are members of NUTS.
Just know that the township and village are full of NUTS.

One of the primary reasons America’s original 13 colonies fought the War for Independence from Great Britain was the idea of “No taxation without representation.”
Our forefathers were sick and tired of the British Parliament imposing excessive taxes on everything from tea to stamps without allowing the colonies political representation in the government.
So our forefathers grabbed their muskets and defeated the professional army of the worldest largest empire at the time.
The rest is history. . .
Today, we live under a system of government whereby taxes are set either by elected representatives or direct votes of the people.
As a Burkean conservative, I am ardently opposed to direct, pure democracy, as were the Founding Fathers. This country was founded as a federal republic, NOT a democracy.
I don’t believe every single question or issue facing government requires or should require a vote of the people. That’s why we elect representatives, who will hopefully make prudent and beneficial decisions on our behalf.
However, given the way elected officials behave in our Big Government-oriented society, I do not trust them to make wise decisions when it comes to increasing taxes or creating new ones.
In the area of taxation, I’m more inclined – based on what I’ve experienced with local government here in Oxford – to prefer that the majority, if not all, tax questions should be subject to a vote of the people.
“Taxation with representation” can be just as oppressive and tyrannical as “taxation without representation” if the representatives don’t listen to their constituents or care what their opinions are.
Often times elected officials at all levels of government become insulated from public opinion by contantly listening to the same small circle of people, who hold the same old views.
In the upper echelons of government, some representatives can hear no other voices beyond those of their paid advisers and special interest lobbyists.
In local government, some representatives can hear no other voices beyond those of the usual crowd of friends and sycophants that hangs out at the corner bar.
Given the high levels of taxation these days coupled with the high levels of government waste, I don’t trust my representatives with any increased or new taxing powers without having the opportunity to cast a ballot on the issue.
Without money, government has no power.
If voters/taxpayers had greater control over government’s revenue sources (i.e. our wallets), maybe our alleged representatives would listen to us more often.
I’ve met too many congenital liars, back-stabbers and self-interested, power-hungry connivers in my four years covering local government to trust elected officials with the power to take more of my money.
I’d prefer to live under a form of government where I could vote on almost every single tax, whether it’s a proposed new one or an old one seeking renewal. A form of government where officials are extemely limited as to the amount of taxes they can levy without a vote of the people.
If you find that government, please let me know.

The people have spoken, but will the Oxford Village Council listen?
Last week, village voters denied their government permission to sell a portion of S. Mill St. by a margin of 78-73.
Although the ballot proposal was specifically asking permission to sell the land, voters were clearly given the impression that if it failed, the street would NOT be relocated to the east and rerouted through 38 E. Burdick St.
At the June 24 council meeting, village President Steve Allen made this point quite clear – “Ultimately, the decision of where Mill St. goes is in the hands of voters. Without an affirmative vote, the plan won’t happen.”
Allen told me last week that he “was stating” his “opinion” when he said that.
It’s interesting to note that if Allen was mistaken by saying that during the public meeting televised by cable, none of his fellow council members publicly corrected him or said he was wrong.
I published that quote in my July 16 column and neither Allen nor any village officials corrected his statement.
I guess from now on when Allen makes a public statement at a council meeting as village president, I’ll have to ask him whether it’s fact, opinion, a mixture of the two or none of the above.
It’s interesting to note that Allen made virtually the same statement referring to the proposed street relocation in the July 3 Oxford Eccentric – “The ultimate decision lies with voters. Without their affirmation vote, the project won’t happen.”
It’s also interesting to note that the July 3 Eccentric article also gave the impression that moving the street was contingent upon the ballot issue passing – “If voters pass the ballot proposal, the OCDA is planning to relocate Mill St. to the east on 38 E. Burdick St….”
Another point to make for those village officials who have insinuated that somehow the Eccentric’s coverage of this issue was more accurate was that our competitor’s July 3 article contained a mistake that was never corrected. The story said, “[T]he council passed a resolution to follow through on the relocation, contingent on the ballot issue passing.”
Council NEVER passed such a resolution. But I never saw any correction from village officials.
Anyway, the village’s message to the public seemed pretty clear that a ‘no-vote’ meant ‘no street move.’
People voted “no” because they understood that by denying the village permission to sell the land, they were stopping S. Mill St. from being moved.
Unfortunately, just days before the election, the village changed its tune.
In the July 2003 Village Voice newsletter, it was stated that, “If the proposal fails: The Village would be unable to sell this portion of Mill Street. The OCDA would most likely move ahead with its plan, including moving Mill St.”
The newsletter also stated that “Government may move or close a street without the underlying property being vacated or sold.”
In effect, the 151 residents who participated in the election are being told their vote doesn’t count because the village can decide to move the street anyway.
Now it’s completely true that the village council – not the OCDA – does have the legal authority to move S. Mill St. without voters’ permission.
It’s completely true that the Aug. 5 ballot proposal never asked village voters anything concerning the potential relocation of S. Mill St. Voters were only asked permission to sell a 0.08-acre portion of of the street.
However, voters were given the distinct impression (read Mr. Allen’s statements again) that they were voting either for or against moving the street by virtue of whether they approved or disapproved of selling the land.
Voters were told it was up to them to decide where Mill St. will be located (again see Mr. Allen’s statements). That’s pretty darn clear.
If the council votes to move S. Mill St., it will be in direct violation of the will of the people.
If council votes to move S. Mill St., it will be saying to village residents that their vote does not count.
If council votes to move S. Mill St., it will be silencing the voice of village residents.
If council members vote to move S. Mill St., they will no longer be representatives of village residents, they will be our dictators.
All five council members had their opportunity to vote in the election just like everyone else. Their votes carried the exact same weight as the other 146 residents who cast ballots last week.
But if council votes as a governing body to move the street in spite of the election’s outcome, village officials will send the message to residents that their votes count more than the people’s. Council gets to vote twice on this issue, a luxury village residents don’t have.
The message at the polls was “NO.”
The village should accept that verdict and honor the wishes of its voters by leaving S. Mill St. exactly where it is. Voter-turnout in the village is already extremely, painfully low. If council ignores this vote and does what it wants, it will discourage even more people from voting. Why bother to vote, if government can do what it wants anyway?
As a village voter, I’m asking the village council to do the right thing – listen to the voters and leave S. Mill St. where it is.
NOTE: Sandy Troutwine attended last night’s council meeting and called me afterwards to tell me that Allen publicly stated that he submitted a Letter to the Editor to the Leader regarding the Mill St. issue that was never published.
Allen’s statement was TOTALLY FALSE!!!
This paper NEVER received such a letter be it via e-mail, fax, post office or the Tooth Fairy. If we had, we would have published it as we have in past with Allen’s numerous letters and guest columns.
I submit that when the village dispatch tower was struck by lightning last week, it was just God practicing His aim to prepare for His real target – Mr. Steve Allen. Happy hunting Lord!

Back when I was a budding young conservative journalist battling the lunatic Left at U-M, it used to drive me crazy when the Michigan Student Assembly (our feeble student government) would debate and approve resolutions that had nothing to do with their real role on campus.
MSA passed numerous resolutions opposing wars in far-off countries, advocating the boycott of grapes to supposedly help the plight of migrant workers and urging the freeing of so-called political prisoners.
It was all pure Leftist bull that had nothing to do with the University, campus life or the fact that students’ rights and pocketbooks were being constantly raped by the U-M administration.
Instead of being a real voice for the student body – advocating its needs and reflecting its opinions – MSA representatives frequently chose to make broad ideological statements that were not at all relevant to their elected duties.
The Oakland County Bored of Commissioners reminded me of the MSA last week when it passed a resolution (14-10) supporting traditional marriages and requesting that a state constitutional amendment defining marriages as being exclusively between men and women be placed on a statewide ballot.
What does marriage – gay or straight – have to do with governing this county?
What does marriage have to do with overseeing the county budget?
What does marriage have to do with maintaining the infrastructure or properly managing growth?
What does marriage have to do with attracting new businesses?
NOTHING AT ALL!!!
The last time I checked protecting and upholding the sacred institution of marriage was NOT one of the sworn duties or legitimate functions of a county board of commissioners.
The board is a body of elected officials, not a council of church elders.
Granted, it’s easy to confuse the two given county Executive L. Brooks Patterson fancies himself the Pope of Oakland Republicans, while the disgustingly self-righteous Commissioner Tom McMillin (R-Auburn Hills) views himself as the Second Coming.
While I do sincerely believe that marriage should always remain an institution whereby only men and women are joined to each other both legally and spiritually, I cannot support the county commission taking a stand on the issue when that’s not one of its proper functions.
All the board’s resolution tells me is that county commissioners have way too much free time on their hands. All the vote did was allow yes-voting Republicans to pander to the Religious Right and no-voting Democrats to suck up to gay rights groups like the Triangle Foundation.
The issue of whether marriage should remain an exclusive privilege for straight couples or include gay couples will ultimately be decided by the state Legislature, Congress, the courts and voters, not the lowly county board of commissioners.
The time spent debating and voting on the marriage resolution could have been better spent trying to solve the county’s real problems.
For instance, how about trying to clean up the City of Pontiac? Isn’t it embarrassing that the richest county in Michigan has its government seated in a weeping sore of corruption, blight and crime?

Focus on Allen’s Performance

It is very important that an elected public official be held accountable for his performance as an elected official.
However, your criticism of Oxford Village Council President Steve Allen with regard to his homestead tax claims (“Village president’s dual homesteads violate state law” Sept. 24, 2000) does not directly relate to his performance as village council president.
It also is bothersome to me that our township treasurer, Joe Ferrari, is quoted regarding a resident’s tax issues.
I realize that tax records are probably open to the public.
However, I believe that such issues should be resolved by the involved parties rather than publicly announced in a local paper.
In the future please focus on issues which have a bearing on Mr. Allen’s leadership role on the village council.
Merle Smith
Oxford Village
Editor’s Note: Thank you for your letter Mr. Smith. Please read my column below.

“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.”
– James Thurber
Above this column is a letter to the editor written by Oxford Village resident Merle Smith.
Because I like and respect Mr. Smith and value his opinion as both a fellow village resident and reader, I would like to explain why my discovery of village President Steve Allen’s dual homesteads ( a violation of the state’s General Property Tax Act) was a legitimate news story.
First of all, whenever it’s discovered that a public official has violated the law, it’s news – plain and simple.
The United States is a nation governed by laws, not men.
Public officials are charged with upholding those laws.
Whenever a public official is found to have violated any of those laws, the public has a right to know and I, as a journalist and newspaper editor, have a duty to inform them of said transgression.
Everyone – both average citizens and public officials – is expected to obey the law, no exceptions. No one is above the law.
When an elected official is found to be in violation of the law, it’s worse than if it was a private citizen because the public has placed their trust and confidence in the official to uphold, execute, create and obey laws.
Elected officials are held to a much higher standard than private citizens because they are put in a position to act as both representatives and servants of the people and the law.
When a public official violates the law – whether it’s in his personal or political business – it’s definitely NOT a private matter that shouldn’t be “publicly announced in a local paper.”
If it’s discovered that a U.S. Senator hasn’t paid his federal income tax for a few years, should the media not report on it because it’s a private matter that has no bearing on his leadership role in Congress?
Should the media just let the Senator and Internal Revenue Service work it out without informing the public?
Whether it’s the Senator’s unpaid income tax or Allen’s illegal dual homesteads, both are public concerns and legitimate news.
If a public official violates the law in his personal business, how can he be trusted or expected to obey the law in executing his public duties?
Secondly, as an elected official, village President Allen is entrusted with the legal responsibility of collecting and spending public monies (i.e. our tax dollars).
Spending other people’s money, especially the public’s tax money, is an awesome responsibility that should never, ever, be taken lightly.
If an elected official is not living up to his legal responsibility as a private citizen to obey the tax laws and pay the full amount he’s legally required to, how can he be expected to live up to his legal responsibility as a public official to properly spend other people’s tax money?
We are all expected to pay our taxes on time and in full. We are all expected to follow the tax laws (even if we disagree with many of them as I do).
Public officials charged with collecting and spending others’ tax dollars should be no different.
If a public official does not live up to his personal tax responsibilities he should definitely be subject to public scrutiny.
Finally, violating the state tax law does have a direct bearing on Allen’s “leadership role on the village council” because leaders are supposed to set an example for the citizens they represent.
How can private citizens be expected to obey the laws, if public officials do not?
How can private citizens be expected to pay all their taxes, if public officials are not?
A leader who’s in violation of the law sets a poor example for the people he represents.
In most instances, a violation of the law demonstrates poor judgement on the part of the responsible party.
If a leader demonstrates poor judgement in his personal business, how can he be expected to demonstrate good judgement in executing his public duties?
Do we really want leaders who exercise poor judgement?
For all these reasons, the article about Allen’s dual homesteads is a legitimate news story. I stand by it 100 percent. It was factual, accurate, well-documented and truthful.
By the way, property tax records are a matter of public record and can be obtained by both journalists and average citizens.
There is nothing improper with a township treasurer being quoted about tax matters that are public record.
Neither the township nor the county brought Allen’s tax violation to my attention.
I brought it to their attention. My research uncovered it.
Thank you for sharing your opinion Mr. Smith. I hope this column clarified my position for you and please feel free to write again any time.

OXFORD – Fearing their own spoken and written words could eventually expose them, Oxford officials announced last week that local use of the English language will be phased out over the next five years and replaced with “Oxspeak.”
Officials said they got the idea for the new language from George Orwell’s classic book 1984.
In 1984, a totalitarian government, known as Big Brother, kept its citizens in line by creating its own language called “Newspeak.”
In the book, “Newspeak” was created so that it would be impossible for people to think or say the wrong thing (i.e. anything not sanctioned by Big Brother) as there would be no words left to express their feelings.
An example of Newspeak could be found in the 1984 government’s party slogan – “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”
“Oxspeak” would operate in the much the same way by changing the definitions of certain words to allow officials to better control the “ignorant masses.”
“What a great idea!” said one Oxford official. “By controlling what people say, we can stay in power and do whatever we want! That Orwell dude was a pretty smart fella. I gotta start readin’ more. Do we have library in town?”
“Everybody knows you can only fool some of the people, some of the time, but with our new language we can fool all of the people, all of the time!” exclaimed another official, who then let out an evil belly laugh which made this reporter’s skin crawl.
“Some people might call this brainwashing, but that would be an inaccuracy probably started by the evil media,” explained one official. “All we’re doing here is twisting the language to make people think only what we want them to think, so they won’t challenge us. That’s not brainwashing. Now, repeat after me, ‘That’s not brainwashing.’”
At a recent meeting, Oxford officials put on their specially designed “thinking caps” – which they paid $5,000 for – and began crafting the new “Oxspeak.”
Here’s a sampling of what they came up with:
1. “Lies are miscommunication.” – Whenever a public official is henceforth caught in a lie or series of lies, he or she will characterize the falsehoods uttered as “miscommunication.”
Example: “The issue is not whether what I said was true or false, the issue is we haven’t been talking to each other enough. The real problem here is miscommunication. We got our wires crossed you silly goose. What we need here is a one-on-one private meeting to straighten things out between us. But it has to be in private so no one can be a witness to what I say.”
“Lie is such an ugly word,” explained one Oxford official. “It’s so negative. It hurts people’s feelings. We want the people to hear nothing but positive words to keep them pacified and complacent. If they hear negative things, they might get upset and do something horrible like vote or run for office. Then we would democracy and where would that get us. I’d be out of work.”
2. “Truth is a lie.” – Whenever the truth is publicly revealed – by one of those negative newspapers for instance – it will immediately be labeled as a “lie.”
Example: “Whatever the newpaper reports I said is a lie, even if it’s the truth. You can only believe my lies because I always tell the truth and the newspaper always lies about the lies that I tell, which are really the truth if you ask me.”
“The truth is a relative thing. It’s not absolute,” said one Oxford official. “Besides the truth can be painful for people to hear. We don’t want to cause our subjects, I mean, residents, pain. For the good of the public and those of us in power, it’s better that the real truth is never revealed. We will decide what’s true and what’s not. Lies are much more palatable. Next question pion.”
3. “Spin is an apology.” – Whenever a public official is caught doing something wrong or uttering a lie, it will immediately be followed by a shallow or hollow public apology that does not explain anything or address the real issue, but is simply meant to quell the masses using the “Science of Pulling-the-Wool-Over-People’s-Eyes,” otherwise known as Public Relations.
Example: “I’m sorry for that one thing I (did or said). It was wrong. I have sinned. It will never happen again. Let’s move on. Discussing this isn’t productive or in the people’s best interest. It’s distracting us from whatever our real purpose is here.”
“An apology always satisfies the stupid masses,” said one Oxford official. “It doesn’t matter if it’s sincere or if it even applies to the situation. You just have to say you’re sorry in front of some television cameras and everybody will forgive you and offer their support. Thank goodness people are such idiots.”
4. “Blame is personal reponsibility.” – Blaming others – be it the media, fellow public officials or imaginary people who are never named – will be henceforth seen as taking “personal responsibility” for your actions.
Example: “I fully admit I did something wrong, but the wrong thing I did was actually made up by the media and my enemies who are out to get me because of my countless hours of devotion to this community. I take full reponsibility for the fact that the media and my enemies are to blame for my misdeeds. Please forgive them for what I have done. They know not what I do.”
This reporter attempted to contact famous lexicographer Noah Webster to get his reaction to Oxford’s abandonment of English in favor of “Oxspeak,” but he could not be reached due to the fact he’s been dead since 1843 and apparently intends to stay that way.
This reporter then contacted the people of Oxford to obtain their thoughts on “Oxspeak,” but they were extremely indifferent to the idea.
“I don’t vote, so why should I care if the government tells me what to say,” said resident John Q. Slacker.
“Who exactly are my elected officials?,” said Mary Clueless. “Do you know their names?”
“What can I do about it? I’m only one person,” said Bob Shirker. “I’m sure somebody else will stop this. I’m just too busy right now.”
“I guess what they’re doing is bad, but politicans do bad things all the time. There’s nothing we can do to stop them,” said Sally Apathetic.
“I give up,” said Quincy Quitter. “Let them do whatever they want.”

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” – Benjamin Franklin

Oxford’s business owners are in dire need of a united voice in their community.
My experiences fighting against the school district’s failed attempts in 2000 and 2002 to increase the non-homestead millage rate – a tax which has a large impact on business owners – led me to that conclusion a while ago.
Business owners currently have no vehicle through which they can take a public stand on issues that directly affect them or lobby local officials for new programs to help them and the community succeed.
Granted, there is the Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce.
However, (and I know I’m going to take a lot heat for writing this) the Chamber functions more like a social club than an organization designed to represent the interests of business owners.
While hosting golf outings, luncheon speakers, multi-chamber mixers, awards banquets and Christmas parades are all positive, fun things for the community, unfortunately they do nothing to advance or promote the interests and needs of local business owners.
I know a number of Chamber members who were extremely frustrated the organization did not take a public position on the school’s proposed non-homestead tax increases.
Whether it was “vote yes” or “vote no,” the Chamber should have polled its membership about the tax issue and taken a stance.
But the Chamber dropped the ball and didn’t say a peep about the election.
I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact Oxford Schools is a Chamber member and one of its employees served as Chamber vice president at the time.
That’s all water under the bridge now, but the fact remains an issue that had serious ramifications – a full 18 mills worth – for Oxford’s business owners was on the ballot and there was no organization in place through which they as a group could have addressed the public.
That’s not only sad, it’s just plain wrong.
But there is hope and it’s called a “Merchants Association.”
I recently chatted with Orion resident Mark Young, owner of the new Mark A. Young Jewelers in downtown Oxford, about his involvment in trying to form a downtown Merchants Association, an organization which actively represents business owners’ interests and gives them a true voice in the community.
Not only do I like the idea, I endorse it wholeheartedly and pledge my full support if one is ever formed.
Such a group would be of particular value to business owners who don’t live here and can’t vote in local elections, but who do pay hefty property tax bills.
A Merchants Association could help mitigate some of the “taxation without representation” out-of-town business owners are subjected to.
That being said, I have a few suggestions for the people who are attempting to form this downtown Merchants Association.
First, I would explore the possibility of such an organization encompassing all Oxford business owners, not just downtown merchants.
There’s strength in numbers and power when those numbers confront government.
Besides, business owners face many of the same problems, challenges and issues whether they’re located downtown or in the township.
The strength of the business community as a whole, not just one area of it, is vital to everyone’s success. None of us lives in a vacuum, what affects one or a few eventually affects all.
As Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “We are made for each other, like the hands, like the feet.”
Secondly, I would make sure Merchants Association representatives attend as many township, village, OCDA, planning commission and school board meetings as possible can so local officials know the organization is active, watching, concerned and informed.
These representatives could report back to the Association if any issues affecting businessess were discussed or acted upon.
When necessary the Association could mobilize its membership to attend a meeting together and voice its opinion in person. It’s been my experience officials act much differently when facing an audience of 30 or 40 people all there for the same issue.
To help keep the public better informed about local issues from the perspective of local business owners, the Association could choose members to write a monthly column in the Leader.
The small business owner will always find a voice and champion in The Oxford Leader.
So, there you have it. Just a few ideas to consider if there’s ever to be a Merchants Association.
But whatever form this organization takes, it must be remembered that cooperation and solidarity will be the keys to its success.
Personality conflicts and petty self-interests must be set aside if a Merchants Association is going to succeed and grow into an influential and respected community organization.
Anytime people with common interests and goals fight each other, they’ve defeated themselves more effectively than any outside force could have.

I’m a big believer in accountability in government.
If people have questions, comments or complaints, they should be able to voice them directly to their elected and appointed officials.
Officials should be there to listen whether it’s the township supervisor, village manager or the county dog catcher.
Which brings me to the point of this column – the proposed Polly Ann Trail pedestrian bridge over M-24 in Oxford.
The site plan and the bridge itself have garnered significant criticism from the Oxford Village president, police chief and planner, not to mention the fire chief and an OCDA board member.
When I interviewed The Great and Powerful Larry Obrecht a few weeks ago about the proposed bridge (which in his mind is “ready to go”) he told me he didn’t want me to get people “riled up” about this project.
(Just in case you don’t know who Obrecht is, he’s a former Oakland County Commissioner, former Polly Ann Trail manager and the man who initiated the bridge project and is overseeing it. He currently manages the county’s Animal Control Division. In other words, he’s the dog catcher.)
During our interview, Obrecht didn’t seem to understand why I was asking questions or doing a news story about the proposed bridge design. When I said the public wants to know what it’s going to look like, Obrecht suggested the public should attend the village planning commission meeting rather than read about it in the newspaper.
While we certainly encourage residents to attend meetings, not everybody has the time and a newspaper’s job is to inform the public, to be their eyes and ears especially when they can’t be there.
Obrecht’s attitude about the bridge was both evasive and arrogant. It was a mixture of “It’s my new toy and you can’t see it!” and “How dare you question me! Do you know who I am?”
Yes Larry, I know who you are.
You’re the dog catcher.
I have the feeling if Obrecht had his way, nobody – officials or residents – would see what the bridge is going to look like until after it was constructed.
From blatantly ignoring the village bridge committee’s guidelines to submitting an incomplete site plan lacking important details, it all seems like an elaborate ruse on Obrecht’s part to create confusion and keep everyone guessing so he can quietly slip his monstrosity through.
I think the public should let Obrecht know how they feel about the bridge – good or bad. I urge people to contact Obrecht. Ask questions. Voice complaints. Give praise, if there’s any to give. Throw the man a bone.
You can reach Obrecht at (248) 391-4100 or e-mail the Lord of the Canines at obrechtl@co.oakland.mi.us.
You’re probably wondering what I think of the bridge project. I can sum it up in a few words – ugly, unncessary, a waste of money, something only a dog catcher who lives in Orion could love.
Bowwow.

For a stone-cold political junkie like me, just thinking about next year gets me higher than a kite.
It’s an election year! It’s an election year!
I know I have a problem, but I don’t care. There’s no 12-step program for those hopelessly addicted to the American political scene.
Even though he’s dead, I’ll bet Richard Nixon will be running for office somewhere warm next year.
Is Satan an elected position?
But it’s not just the presidential election (i.e. the Super Bowl of American Politics) that gets me all geeked up, it’s the local elections.
Next year is an election year for Michigan’s townships and it promises to be an interesting one in Oxford and Addison.
In Oxford, I’m going to predict right here and now that Treasurer Joe Ferrari will NOT survive next year’s election to enjoy a fourth term in office, if he’s faced with a serious, viable, breathing opponent who can walk and chew gum at the same time.
I base that prediction on a few things.
One is my “Wilhammer Theory.”
In the 2000 general election, Ferrari’s opponent, a relatively unknown independent named Bill Wilhammer, garnered an impressive 1,412 votes.
Due to unfortunate circumstances that arose in his personal life, Wilhammer did zero campaigning, erected not one campaign sign, made no speehes or public appearances, received no endorsements, organized no election committee, bought no advertising in the local newspapers, had zero letters to the editor written on his behalf and didn’t participate in any candidate Q&A’s in the local papers.
Despite all that, Wilhammer managed to receive 1,412 votes. That’s astounding!
That tells me there are 1,412 residents who were willing to vote for anybody but Ferrari, even someone they knew absolutely nothing about and who did absolutely nothing to get the job.
I don’t know if these voters were more anti-incumbent or anti-Ferrari, but either way, they’re still out there. Lurking. Waiting. Watching. And ready to vote again.
Secondly, this whole business with Sharon Fahy’s lawsuit is going to cost Ferrari lots of votes at the polls, just as the settlement cost the township General Fund $50,000 and the township’s insurance carrier $50,000.
Whether you believe Ferrari is innocent or guilty of Fahy’s accusations, one thing’s for sure – voters take a very dim view of any elected official who costs the community a $50,000 chunk of its budget.
That’s $50,000 that could have been spent on something the community really needs – like safety paths for instance.
Thirdly, I know some people who are still mad – and I’m one of them – that the township paid $3,955 toward Ferrari’s master’s degree in Public Administration from Oakland University. That figure was equal to half of Ferrari’s tuition.
Granted, the township should not have agreed to do it in 1996, but by the same token Ferrari should never have requested the funds in the first place.
I guess the sweet slop of the public trough was just too tempting for the treasurer to resist. Oink, oink, pass the tax dollars!
Sorry Joe, but I think your time is up. Better start getting the old resume together. I’m sure there’s a village manager position open somewhere.
But hey, it’s just a prediction. If I’m wrong, I’ll put in a few bucks toward your doctorate.

When two or more candidates run against each other for a government position, it’s called an election.
When an incumbent official runs unopposed for his position, it’s called a formality.
The first is a healthy process whereby the system of representative government renews, refreshes and perpetuates itself.
The second does nothing to strengthen representative government. Just the opposite. It severely weakens it.
Uncontested elections perpetuate low voter interest and low voter-turnout. In these situations, people know their votes literally don’t count because there’s no choice, so why bother to go to the polls. All the candidate has to do is vote for himself and he’s in.
Uncontested elections create lazy officials who believe they don’t have to work hard at their jobs or campaigns to garner votes. They expect re-election.
To them, re-election to their office is not seen as a privilege bestowed upon them by constituents making a thoughtful choice. It’s seen as a right. The same way a monarch or dictator views their position. Pure hubris.
Is that how we want elected officials in our villages and townships to view themselves?
The only way to prevent that is to run for office.
There’s no excuse for uncontested elections. There’s no reason every village council seat and township board position shouldn’t have a candidate in the 2004 elections.
Make no mistake, uncontested elections do NOT mean that 100 percent of the people think all of our elected officials are doing a bang-up job and require no challengers. Although some would have you believe it, an uncontested election is not a mandate from the people.
There are a lot of reasons people don’t run for office. Some bad, some good.
The bad ones are laziness, disinterest in government and politics, lack of civic responsibility and pride, apathy, etc. The good ones are a desire to spend more time with family, a demanding job, spending lots of hours doing volunteer work, etc.
But whatever the reason, there’s no excuse that communities consisting of thousands and thousands of eligible, potential candidates, can’t scare up a handful of people to challenge the incumbent officials.
The last three Oxford Village Council elections have been uncontested – mere formalities, not elections.
But maybe the March 8, 2004 election can be different. Maybe there can be a real election with incumbents and challengers, real campaigns with signs and literature and a real choice in which voters are forced to think and decide and translate that into action at the polls.
But it’s all up to YOU whether or not that happens.
There are two, three-year council seats open for the upcoming village election. All you have to do to run is file a nominating petition (which can be picked up at the village offices) containing a minimum of 25 valid signatures from registered village voters with the village clerk by 5 p.m. Friday, January 16.
If you’ve been a village resident for at least six months, are a registered voter, a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years of age, congratulations – you qualify to help govern your community and our tax dollars.
If no one except the incumbents file petitions for their two council seats, the village election will once again be a formality. The incumbents will again be the defacto winners and voters will again be the losers.
NOTE: I learned Tuesday that Oxford Township resident Paul Butkis pulled nominating petitions to run for township treasurer. I applaud Mr. Butkis for wanting to get involved in his local government. I certainly hope more residents follow his lead.

Despite what some state legislators are saying in the news media these days, I think term limits are a good and healthy thing for our representative system of government.
Term limits can give rise to new points of view, fresh ideas and serve as an impediment to business-as-usual politics.
I don’t believe term limits are some sort of panacea which will cure all the ills government is prone to and give us perfect representatives.
Government – and indeed society – can never be perfect because men by their very nature are hopeflessly imperfect beings.
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”
But I do believe term limits prevent incumbent officials from becoming so solidly entrenched in their positions that it usually takes death, retirement, resignation, or a lust for higher office to get them out.
Beyond state government, I would like to see term limits extended to the local level – township boards, village and city councils, school boards, county officials, etc.
One elected position should never become a lifetime occupation for anyone.
Nobody should hold an elected office for 20 or 30 (or more) years. I don’t care who they are.
After decades upon decades in the same position, most people become set in their ways, unwilling to try new ideas, and a little too comfortable to take risks.
I think at a certain point in these long careers making sure you retain your position begins to take precedence over being an effective representative and advocate for your constituents.
A lifetime in the same office can also make some people arrogant, believing they cannot be beaten. And in many cases, they’re right.
Most challengers find it nearly impossible to unseat one of these “lifers” because they have decades upon decades of name recognition and local connections.
For these “lifers,” their entire career has been one long campaign for office.
How can a challenger be expected to gain more name recognition in a few short months of campaigning?
Unless a longtime incumbent has been involved in a major scandal like committing crime or causing a lawsuit to be brought against the community, most voters will likely return him or her to office because of their familiarity with the name or person.
Unfortunately, there are lots and lots of lazy voters out there. For them, it’s easiest to go with the name or person they’ve always known rather than actually study the issues or invest any time learning about the challenger(s). It’s sad, but true.
Sometimes there are no challengers to lifetime incumbents because potential candidates view it as a waste of time, money and resources to even run.
“Why should I bother to run? That guy’s been in office for 100 years. Nobody’s going to beat him.”
The result is uncontested elections which help weaken representative government by diminishing the choice given to voters.
I think the absolute maximum any local official should be allowed to serve is three terms in office – regardless of whether it’s a two, three or four year term. That’s long enough to be effective, but not entrenched, and still give some new faces a chance.
Don’t misunderstand me.
I have never believed that “change for change’s sake” is a good thing. I agree with the great 19th century Southern senator John Randolph who told his colleagues, “Change is not reform!”
But I do believe that effective representative government requires real choices be given to voters and lifetime incumbents are a hindrance to that.
Term limits eliminate the possibility of lifetime incumbents and open up opportunities for new people to serve in greater numbers.
You can’t really have a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” when certain people monopolize elected positions for a lifetime.

NOTE: This column is dedicated to Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts, who’s currently presiding over the case which could end OPFEC for good.
Your Honor, I’d like to make my case as to why the Oxford Public Fire and EMS Commission should be dissolved forever and ever.
Allow me to present Exhibit A – the Wednesday, January 21, 2004 meeting.
Never was there a spectacle so comical and yet so sad – except for maybe L. Brooks Patterson’s last road test.
OPFEC in their infinite stupidity and penchant for wastefulness decided to have three, count them THREE, attorneys look over a single proposed agreement.
Fire Chief Jack LeRoy asked the board to approve the North Oakland County Mutual Aid Interlocal Agreement, in which fire departments from 13 communities agree to cooperate in various areas with the common goal of enhancing public safety.
But the board didn’t feel comfortable doing that without an attorney’s review of the document.
Fair enough. A wise and prudent decision.
But here’s where it gets all OPFEC-ed up.
Commissioner Jerry Dywasuk, also a township trustee, suggested the township attorney review it because the interlocal agreement lists – in the opening paragraph – Oxford Township as one of the participants.
It was later pointed out that the signatory area lists OPFEC as the party and the agreement would actually be with OPFEC.
Village Manager Mark Slown then suggested the village and OPFEC attorneys also review the document.
Finally, the board agreed to have all three attorneys review it.
Let’s see, the township attorney charges $75 per hour, the village attorney $125 per hour and OPFEC’s legal counsel charges $175 an hour.
(Judging by those fees, I’d say attorneys charge more based on how screwed up the government is.)
So, we’re going to spend a whopping $375 per hour in legal fees to review a single document.
And people wonder why attorney bills are so astronomically high in Oxford government.
Heck, I wish I had a law degree so I could ride the Gravy Train too. Now leaving Penniless Taxpayerville. Next stop Fat City and Big Bucks Junction. All aboard!
Granted, OPFEC did do some good last week. Commissioners hired a full-time firefighter.
But even that positive action was tainted because it should have been done when it was originally requested by the fire chief in May 2003.
However, once again OPFEC in their infinite stupidity and reckless disregard for public safety rejected the chief’s request at that time.
OPFEC’s action at last week’s meeting didn’t add an extra full-timer to the department, it simply replaced one who had resigned in April 2003, which left the department short-handed for nearly nine months.
Good job hiring another full-time firefighter, but it should have been done last year.
Finally, there was the fine display of immaturity and profanity by Commissioner and village President Steve Allen at the end of the meeting.
Allen’s use of words that children usually get their mouths washed out with soap for had no place in a public meeting, especially one being broadcast on Oxford public access television.
I don’t care if he was angered by another commissioner’s sarcastic remarks, he could have expressed his criticism much, much more intelligently and professionally than he did.
In closing your Honor, may I just say that OPFEC is an abomination, disgrace and embarassment to the good people of Oxford.
It’s bad government. It wastes tax dollars. It uses naughty words. It’s cumbersome and ineffective.
Every OPFEC meeting becomes more and more like a FOX network reality TV show and less and less like a government body conducting the public’s business.
Your Honor, I and the good people of Oxford humbly request you kill the Twelve-headed Beast.
The Prosecution rests – but not comfortably.

I am by nature a lover of words.
As a writer, nothing gets me higher than finding that perfect word to describe something.
It feels right.
It sounds right.
It looks right.
It even tastes right (watch out for paper cuts).
Some of my favorite words include – oligarchy, brouhaha, totalitarian and happy hour.
But last week a reader turned me on to the what I believe is the best word I’ve ever seen in my life.
I fell in love with this word the minute I laid eyes on its five beautiful syllables.
Are you ready?
Here it is:
“KAKISTOCRACY”
It’s a noun that means, “Government by the worst people.”
In a Feb. 6, 1956 letter to Time magazine, a reader asked if the word meant “a government of parrots,” considering a “kaka” is a New Zealand parrot.
Although there are plenty of bird-brains in government, a kakistocracy has nothing to do with parrots.
The word originated as a combination of the Greek kakistos (superlative of kakos, which means “bad”) and the English suffix “-cracy,” meaning “form of government.”
At long last my five year search to find the perfect word to describe Oxford government is finally over.
No longer do I have to be content to use mundane words like incompetent, deceitful, lazy, moronic, greedy, selfish, stupid, dictatorial, secretive and arrogant to describe my local governments.
The Oxford Board of Education is a kakistocracy.
The Oxford Township Board is a kakistocracy.
The Oxford Village Council is a kakistocracy.
The Oxford Public Fire and EMS Commission is the Mother of All Kakistocracies.
They’re all kakistocracies.
And I can call the officials who run these governments “kakistocrats.” Forget about Republicans and Democrats, they’re all “kakistocrats” now.
I now feel complete, like a whole person again.
I’m living in kakistocracy.
You’re living in a kakistocracy.
We’re all living in a kakistocracy.
Look for me to use this word a lot in future columns.
I invite readers to do the same at government meetings, in letters to the editor, during polite dinner conversation or when having an intense debate with the many voices in your head.
Special thanks to the “anonymous” reader who sent me this word. You made my week.
Hats off to Channel 19
Last week Oxford Community Television Channel 19 began taping the school board meetings.
The meetings will be broadcast on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. and Fridays at 1 a.m. and 1 p.m.
I want to thank Cable Commission Chairman Charles Kniffen and Station Manager Don Huegerich for making this happen so quickly.
Channel 19 is performing a true public service by broadcasting these meetings and I encourage parents, kids and taxpayers to watch them – very closely.
Good job cable guys.
By the way, I sincerely hope Addison Township and the villages of Oxford and Leonard decide to give the cable commission their rightful shares – i.e. the entire 5 percent – of the cable franchise fees.
That money should go toward developing and improving public access TV, not fattening these municipalities’ general funds.
Using that money for anything other than cable services constitutes a sneaky tax in my book.

Hypothetical situation – I surveyed 20 Oxford residents whether or not they liked me as a person.
Based on my survey I learned 16 out of 20 answered ‘yes.’
I proudly report in my column that a majority of the people in Oxford like me and I have an 80 percent approval rating.
How many of you would say that’s an accurate assessment?
How many of you would say that gets a good feeling for the pulse of the community?
How many of you would say I’m full of it like a Christmas goose?
The above hypothetical example has about as much validity and significance as the survey results reported by Oxford Village Manager Mark Slown in last week’s issue.
A pathetic 29 citizens out of 3,540 village residents (or 0.82 percent) answered a survey regarding the village.
Approximately 1,600 surveys were mailed out and it was also available on-line and at the village offices.
I found village officials’ positive reaction to the survey results both amusing and self-delusional – the same reaction I had to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s failed campaign for president.
My favorite quote was from village President Steve Allen – “Even though it may not have been a scientific survey, it certainly gets a good feeling for the pulse out there.”
Based on those results, there is no pulse!
As Dr. Leonard McCoy would say, “It’s dead, Jim!”
I don’t think it was even alive to begin with.
My other favorite quote was from Slown, who said, “I don’t know too many elections where you get a 74 percent approval rating.”
The manager’s comment was based on the fact that 20 out of 27 survey respondents slightly to strongly agreed with the statement, “I like my local government.”
I’ve got news for you, that is NOT a 74 percent approval rating.
Having 20 residents out of a population of 3,540 agree with that statement is technically a 0.57 percent approval rating.
To be fair, we don’t know what the rest of the village thinks because a vast majority of the residents were either too lazy or too apathetic to answer the survey.
Why should a survey be any different than a typical village election?
Hardly anybody runs, votes or cares.
I find it curious village officials didn’t mention what the survey respondents had to say about the form of government they would like to live under.
Three people said “dissolve” or “disband” the village, two people said become a city and one person said remain a village as it has for 128 years.
Based strictly on the survey, the idea of cityhood was rejected 4-2 or by a 2-1 margin. Interesting. . .
But I’m not dumb enough to attach any real significance to that result because it only reflects six opinions out of 29 survey respondents out of 1,600 mailed-out surveys in a community of 3,540 people.
Who could be idiotic enough to draw any real conclusions from that kind of data?
Drop Black issue! Enough already!
I think Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn is being stubborn to the point of pig-headness about his recommendation to reappoint George Black to the planning commission.
Twice now the issue of Black’s appointment has been failed by the township board. It failed in December by a vote of 3-2 and again in 3-3 deadlock in January.
Despite this, the supervisor has foolishly vowed he will bring the issue back to the board for a third vote or until he gets either four ‘yes’ or four ‘no’ votes.
Granted, Dunn is well within the bounds of the law to do this according to the township attorney, but he’s not acting within the bounds of common sense.
Black has served on the planning commission for more than 20 years. That’s way too long for any one official – appointed or elected – to serve.
There are two willing and able candidates – Christopher Bishop and Jack Curtis – who have applied for the planning commission, but were not selected.
I contantly hear officials complain about the lack of citizen volunteers willing to serve on these boards and committees, yet they’re willing to toss aside two perfectly good applicants in favor of someone who should have been replaced years ago.
Good job discouraging future participation.
Either Bishop or Curtis should be appointed instead of continuing to waste the township board’s time (and my patience) with this silly issue. There are plenty of other silly issues to waste time on.
I urge the supervisor to swallow his pride, drop the Black issue and move on. Enough is enough! One person on a board of nine is not worth all this grief.

One of the cornerstones of our allegedly free society is CHOICE.
It’s a beautiful little six-letter word that excites libertarians enough to make them soil their copies of Atlas Shrugged.
Liberals on the other hand have mixed feelings about choice.
When it comes to abortion, liberals say choice is good. When it comes to schools, liberals say choice is bad and start muttering about how vouchers are evil.
Conservatives also have mixed feelings about choice.
When it comes to privatizing government services like trash collection and food in prisons, conservatives say choice is good. When it comes to deciding what we watch on television or listen to on the radio, conservatives say choice is bad and call in the Federal Communications Commission to decide for us. (The chilling spirit of McCarthyism lives on in those Congressional Indecency Hearings.)
For the most part, I think choice is a good thing, especially in elections.
At its best, choice breeds a competition of ideas and a diverse selection of candidates.
At its worst, it leads to a choice between the lesser of two evils. At least there’s still a choice.
But in uncontested elections, there is no choice.
The outcomes are decided after one vote is cast.
Uncontested elections serve no purpose, weaken our representative system of government and worst of all – THEY’RE BORING!
I can stand a lot of things, but not boredom.
That’s why I’m encouraging Oxford Village voters to have a little fun in the Monday, March 8 election.
For the fourth consecutive year, the village council election is uncontested.
Incumbent council persons Dave Bailey and Renee Donovan are running unopposed. The election hasn’t even happened and they’ve already won.
Since the outcome is already decided, why not have a little giggle? A few laughs. A chuckle or two.
Let’s write in candidates name instead of voting for the two non-choices on the ballot.
These write-in candidates can be living or dead, fictional or real, cartoon or flesh-and-blood, residents or non-residents, famous or average, etc.
The only thing I ask is they be fun!
For instance, I’m voting for Eric Cartman (a rude, opinionated, foul-mouthed, big-boned fourth-grader who lives in the cartoon town of South Park, Colorado) and Charo (the 1970s/80s-era celebrity who appeared on the Love Boat more times than the cruise ship itself).
I admire Cartman’s take-no-prisoners style of dealing with people and his unique ability to eat his bodyweight in Cheesy Poofs. I also share his deep hatred of Tree Huggin’ Hippies.
I admire Charo’s gratuitous use of the phrase “Cuchi, cuchi!” and the fact she appeared on the Love Boat as “April Lopez” a total of eight times. Twice in Season Four (episodes #93 and #99).
Candidates Cartman and Charo would also give a voice to the two most under-represented and oppressed minorities in Oxford – obese cartoon characters and Spanish-speaking singers/musicians/comedians/actresses who wear low-cut dresses.
To those who would say it’s wrong to make a mockery of our local election process, I say why?
Constantly having elections with no challengers is a joke anyway – why not treat it like one?
At least now, I’ve given myself – and hopefully others – a choice, a fun alternative in a boring and sad election that epitomizes our apathy and ignorance.
Remember your vote can’t and won’t make a difference, so be sure to get to the polls early on March 8. Relax, the future of the village is not in your hands.

In politics and the court of public opinion, perception and appearances loom large.
The way an elected official or public body’s actions are perceived is just as important – if not more so – as the reality.
Although it appears to be perfectly legal for Pat Fitchena to serve as the executive director of the North Oakland Transportation Authority, I don’t believe it looks good to the public or reflects well on either Fitchena, NOTA or the Oxford Township Board. (For the background see my page 1 story.)
Let me start out by saying that I like Pat a lot and I think she’s been a good representative for the people of Oxford, – especially the Average Joes and local business owners – over the last 16 years.
She’s honest. She’s not afraid to speak her mind. She’s a hard-worker. She’s tough, but fair, and has a good, caring heart that’s as big as all outdoors. I know Pat cares about doing what’s right as much as I do.
That being said, I don’t think Fitchena should continue to serve as both a township trustee and NOTA director in a permanent fashion.
Her taking the NOTA job for a 90-day interim period was perfectly acceptable and I have absolutely no problem with it. She should be allowed to continue as director until that temporary appointment expires April 15.
But after April 15 she should choose which job she wants more – township trustee or NOTA director.
Granted, it appears to be legal for her to serve in both capacities, according to township attorney Chris Kaye.
There’s a state constitutional exception or provision that specifically allows Fitchena to do both jobs because NOTA is an intergovernmental body or interlocal authority.
Kaye stated in this case the state constitutional exception “trumps” the Incompatible Public Offices Act and the law governing conflicts of interest, to the extent those laws could ever force her to give up either position.
It’s my opinion that Kaye’s opinion is correct and the state constitution does trump laws made by the state Legislature. However, just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s the correct or wise thing to do.
I don’t think it ever looks kosher to the public when an elected official is given a salaried position in a government agency over which the governing body the elected official serves on has some degree of oversight.
In this case, the Oxford Township Board votes on NOTA’s annual budget (as do the other communities involved) and has the power to pull out of the authority any time it wishes.
It’s true Fitchena could abstain from votes on such issues, but some could say she still has some degree of influence with her fellow officials by virtue of her seat.
Also, the specter of “political patronage” could raise its ugly head. Some members of the public could say Fitchena was given the job as a political favor which could be later traded in for a vote on a future issue.
An accusation of “cronyism” could be levied. People could suspect Fitchena was given the job strictly because of the friendships and associations she’s made as a township trustee.
I’m not saying any of this is true, but perceptions and appearances must be seriously considered, especially by elected officials. I would hate to see unfair and untrue accusations hurled at Fitchena, which could make her and the township board look bad.
We’ve had enough controversy.
The glue that binds the relationship between elected officials and the public is trust. Anything – be it real or perceived – that damages that trust is harmful to our representative system of government.
Elected officials must always be conscious of how their actions will be perceived by the public.
For much of the voting public, what they think about an elected official is the reality, the facts be damned.
Although the appearance of impropriety is not nearly as bad as actually committing an impropriety, the effects of both can be equally damaging to the official, to the public and to the trust that hopefully exists between them.
As I stated earlier, Fitchena should be allowed to finish her interim directorship of NOTA until April 15, but if she takes the position permanently, she should step down as township trustee. It’s the right move for her, the township board and the public.
Now a few quick words about her main critics on this issue – Oxford Township Trustee Jerry Dywasuk and Orion Township.
I find it interesting that the attorneys for Oxford and Addison townships and the villages of Leonard and Oxford, all agree it’s legal for Fitchena to serve as both township trustee and NOTA director.
I find it interesting the only NOTA community to find anything legally wrong with Fitchena’s dual roles is headed by Orion Township Supervisor Jerry Dywasuk, Sr. – father of Oxford Township Trustee Jerry Dywasuk, Jr., who’s adamantly opposed to her having both jobs. Hmmm. . .
I find it interesting Oxford Township was willing to openly share its attorney opinion letter, but Orion’s letter is concealed under attorney/client privilege, something which can easily be lifted by the client, in this case Orion Township.
I’m inclined to say that Trustee Dywasuk’s opposition to Fitchena having the NOTA job is at least partly based on SOUR GRAPES over Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Praski’s failed bid for trusteeship in 2000.
It’s believed by some that an Attorney General’s opinion stating being a sheriff’s deputy and township trustee (in a community that contracts with the sheriff’s department for police service) are incompatible offices was the main reason for Praski’s defeat.
But the fact is those public offices are legally incompatible because the sheriff’s department is NOT an intergovernmental body and is therefore NOT covered by the state constitutional exception as NOTA is.
Praski lost. Get over it Trustee Dywasuk.

Safety paths are a good thing.
They provide pedestrians, young and old, with a safe area to walk, bicycle, run, jog and roller-blade along side busy roads.
They allow people to get from Point A to Point B without using a motorized vehicle and without becoming road kill.
I’ve got no problem with Oxford Township wanting to build more of them. As newly convicted felon Martha Stewart would say, ‘It’s a good thing.?
However, I do have a problem with township officials looking into paying for more safety paths through a dedicated millage.
Township officials are considering placing a safety path millage proposal on the November 2004 ballot.
The township board will discuss the issue at a future meeting. Officials tabled it at the March 24 meeting as there were only four board members present and they wished to bring the issue before a full board.
According to Treasurer Joe Ferrari, who chairs the safety path committee, no proposed millage rate has been determined yet as the committee is looking for direction from the township board.
I sincerely hope the direction from the township board is NO dedicated millage, NO ballot issue.
If the township wants more safety paths, let it find the money within its own budget first, before rushing to ask the voters to approve yet another new tax.
I’m sure there’s some extra money (i.e. waste, perks, endless attorney bills, $50,000 payments to settle lawsuits from ex-employees, etc.) floating around in that big ol? budget which could be used for safety paths.
Let’s see what can be collected from the existing budget before the township attempts to milk the cash cows (taxpayers) at the polls.
Government has rough, cold hands and taxpayers? udders are pretty sore these days. Moo.
Also, look into collecting private donations from businesses, service groups and individuals.
If we can raise nearly $160,000 for a giant playground, surely there are folks willing to donate some bucks for safety paths ? something of genuine importance to community.
If such a safety path millage proposal does unfortunately make it to the November ballot, I sincerely hope it will be asked ONLY of unincorporated township residents, NOT village residents too.
Ferrari told me they’re looking to levy such a millage over the ‘entire township,? including the village, because the ‘eventual goal? is to link the township safety path system with the existing village sidewalk system.
Village residents already have a sidewalk system, which they have paid for and continue to pay for.
Village residents should not be subjected to another tax burden, so the township can build what it lacks and what the village already has.
In my book, that’s not only unfair, it amounts to double taxation.
Speaking as an overtaxed village resident myself, I can say I would most definitely vote NO on any safety path millage.
And you can count on me to encourage others to do the same.
I hope township officials will take what I’ve said to heart.
See what you can do with what you already have before you ask for more.
And remember ? it’s an election year.

It’s been a long time ? at least 10 minutes or so ? since a public official has angered me as much as Janet Thomas has.
Words cannot even begin to describe the sheer loathing and utter contempt the current vice president of the Oakland Schools Board of Education generates within me.
Much like a freeloading in-law or sloppy drunk party guest, Thomas doesn’t know when it’s time to leave. Worse still, she’s trying to make it seem like she’s doing us a favor by staying.
Even though all the other ISD board members who oversaw the reign of King James Redmond (Tony Rothschild, Helen Prutow, DiAnne Cagle Leitermann and Carol Borich) have resigned, Thomas remains stubborn and defiant to the end ? much like Marie Antoinette.
‘I made a commitment when I was elected the first time. They (the board) need someone with historically accurate knowledge. I don’t think any board needs five brand new members,? said Thomas in the March 3 edition of The Clarkston News.
(Imagine if Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein refused to leave office on the grounds that Iraq’s new interim governing council needed someone with ‘historically accurate knowledge.?)
Don’t mistake Thomas? attitude for fortitude in the face of controversy or living up to her responsibilities as a public official. It’s all arrogance, pure arrogance.
It’s arrogance because she either doesn’t or can’t understand that as an ISD board member she is ultimately responsible for all the deception, mismanagement, wasting of tax dollars and alleged wrongdoings and alleged crimes that went on under Redmond’s administration.
She was one of Redmond’s bosses. She was elected by the county’s 28 school boards to oversee him and the ISD. It was her job to know what was going on, ask questions, request documents, carefully review bills, etc.
As the owner of a Clarkston-based accounting and tax service, Thomas, more than any other ISD board member, should have been aware of the misspending and alleged embezzlement.
The buck was supposed to stop with Thomas and her fellow board members. Unfortunately, the ISD board members served as mindless rubber stamps as opposed to true overseers of the district and representatives of the people.
Also, we’re not talking about one or two silly, little incidents here and there. There was a clear pattern of on-going gross abuse for years.
Either Thomas was a willing accomplice to all of it or she was so totally blind and embarrassingly incompetent, she honestly didn’t know what was going on ? which still isn’t a defense given her oversight role as a board member.
The bottom-line is Thomas did not do her duty as an ISD board member. She failed miserably, along with the other board members at the time.
Thomas failed the 28 school districts of Oakland County. She failed the school boards, administrators and teachers of Oakland County.
Thomas failed the students and parents of Oakland County. She failed the taxpayers of Oakland County.
Janet Thomas is a complete and total failure as an ISD board member. She is an impediment to any true reform on the board.
Thomas is part of the problem, not the solution. She belongs to the ISD’s corrupt past, not its hopefully honest future.
It’s way past time for Thomas to go. And since she won’t resign and exit the political stage gracefully, it’s time to drag her out ? feet first if necessary.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox last week issued an opinion stating intermediate school district board members CAN BE RECALLED!
House Bill 4338, which would make the recall of ISD board members a clearly defined part of state law, was recently approved by the state House.
For the sake of ‘the children,? the recall of Janet Thomas should and must begin immediately.
Send a message that We The People will not tolerate this any more!
C.J. Carnacchio is the editor of The Oxford Leader, another SPI publication. He’s also a fed-up Oakland Schools taxpayer who’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Carnacchio can be reached via e-mail at shermanpub@aol.com.

It’s been a long time ? at least 10 minutes or so ? since a public official has angered me as much as Janet Thomas has.
Words cannot even begin to describe the sheer loathing and utter contempt the current vice president of the Oakland Schools Board of Education generates within me.
Much like a freeloading in-law or sloppy drunk party guest, Thomas doesn’t know when it’s time to leave. Worse still, she trys to make it seem like she’s doing us a favor by staying.
Even though all the other ISD board members who oversaw the reign of King James Redmond (Tony Rothschild, Helen Prutow, DiAnne Cagle Leitermann and Carol Borich) have resigned, Thomas remains stubborn and defiant to the end ? much like Marie Antoinette.
‘I made a commitment when I was elected the first time. They (the board) need someone with historically accurate knowledge. I don’t think any board needs five brand new members,? said Thomas in the March 3 edition of The Clarkston News.
(Imagine if Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein refused to leave office on the grounds that Iraq’s new interim governing council needed someone with ‘historically accurate knowledge.?)
Don’t mistake Thomas? attitude for fortitude in the face of controversy or living up to her responsibilities as a public official. It’s all arrogance, pure arrogance.
It’s arrogance because she either doesn’t or can’t understand that as an ISD board member she is ultimately responsible for all the deception, mismanagement, wasting of tax dollars, alleged wrongdoings and alleged crimes that went on under Redmond’s administration.
She was one of Redmond’s bosses. She was elected by the county’s 28 school boards to oversee him and the ISD. It was her job to know what was going on, ask questions, request documents, carefully review bills, etc.
As the owner of a Clarkston-based accounting and tax service, Thomas, more than any other ISD board member, should have been aware of the misspending and alleged embezzlement.
The buck was supposed to stop with Thomas and her fellow board members. Unfortunately, the ISD board members served as mindless rubber stamps as opposed to true overseers of the district and representatives of the people.
Also, we’re not talking about one or two silly, little incidents here and there. There was a clear pattern of on-going gross abuse for years.
Either Thomas was a willing accomplice to all of it or she was so totally blind and embarrassingly incompetent, she honestly didn’t know what was going on ? which still isn’t a defense given her oversight role as a board member.
The bottom-line is Thomas did not do her duty as an ISD board member. She failed miserably, along with the other board members at the time.
Thomas failed the 28 school districts of Oakland County. She failed the school boards, administrators and teachers of Oakland County.
Thomas failed the students and parents of Oakland County. She failed the taxpayers of Oakland County.
Janet Thomas is a complete and total failure as an ISD board member. She is an impediment to any true reform on the board. Thomas is part of the problem, not the solution. She belongs to the ISD’s corrupt past, not its hopefully honest future.
It’s way past time for Thomas to go. And since she won’t resign and exit the political stage gracefully, it’s time to drag her out ? feet first if necessary.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox last week issued an opinion stating intermediate school district board members CAN BE RECALLED!
House Bill 4338, which would make the recall of ISD board members a clearly defined part of state law, was recently approved by the state House.
For the sake of ‘the children,? the recall of Janet Thomas should and must begin immediately.
Send a message that We The People will not tolerate this any more!

I’m riding high these days ? and not because I just spent the last two weeks on vacation.
The Aug. 5 election was a complete success. Cityhood failed. Safety paths failed. Deadwood was cleared off both the township boards in Oxford and Addison.
New people with new ideas were elected to both boards.
Life is good. I’m actually feeling hopeful about the future.
Now, I can turn my full attention to the Nov. 4 general election and the long overdue ousting of Oxford Township Treasurer Joseph G. Ferrari.
Thanks to a column I wrote back in July, Ferrari is now facing a total of five opponents (including myself) in the November election.
I’m very pleased that so many people answered my call to arms. I just hope no one running for the treasurer’s position thinks it’s going to be easy to unseat Ferrari.
Ferrari has a lot working in his favor.
As an incumbent, he has 16 years worth of name recognition. The public knows who he is and when it comes to elections that’s half the battle right there.
Another advantage for Ferrari is the fact he’s running as a Republican. All five of his challengers are running without a political party affiliation.
Unfortunately, all those mindless straight-ticket voters are going to benefit Ferrari.
Obviously, he’ll automatically receive all the GOP votes. And since he faces no Democratic challengers, all those straight-ticket Obama voters will not hurt Ferrari’s chances.
Those running against Ferrari should take all this into consideration as they begin their respective campaigns.
The best advice I can give the challengers is to work hard at getting your name out in the public arena.
Signs and mailers are good, but there’s absolutely no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
So, put on your most comfortable pair of walking shoes and start going door-to-door right now.
Talk to people. Let them put a face with a name. Listen to their problems. Tell them directly where you stand and why you want the job. Seek their input.
People are more likely to vote for someone they’ve looked straight in the eye and shaken hands with.
When you’re not busy ringing doorbells, go have lunch with groups like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and the Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce. There’s no better way to meet Oxford’s movers and shakers.
Attend all the local township and village meetings you can between now and election day. Introduce yourself during public comment. It’s a great way to get your face and your views on Oxford Community Television.
And don’t be afraid to buy an ad in your local newspaper (hint, hint). I know it’s a shameless plug.
Above all, be honest with people and be yourself.
Don’t worry if you don’t sound slick and polished.
The last thing the world needs is another professional politician spewing forth tired cliches and sound bites.
Beating Ferrari is certainly going to be a daunting task, but not an impossible one if the challengers work hard and don’t take anything for granted.
Let the games begin!

From the cigar-chomping Lt. Columbo to the obsessive-compulsive Adrian Monk, I’ve always loved quirky detectives and a good mystery.
My favorite part was when Columbo or Monk would go up against a smug bad guy who underestimated their abilities. In the end, these detectives always won because they knew how to do their job ? and it’s television.
There’s a big mystery in Oxford right now and I’m forced to wonder why.
Some mystery investor ? an individual, group or company ? is going to loan the Oxford Turf Committee the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to blanket the OHS football field with navy blue synthetic turf (see story on Page 3).
Jim Reis, head of the turf committee, indicated this mystery investor wishes to remain anonymous. He refuses to divulge their identity or any of the loan’s terms.
My question is why all the secrecy?
I’ve come up with three possibilities:
A) It’s a truly benevolent soul who knows that genuine good deeds should always be performed anonymously whenever possible.
B) It’s a person who wants to do good things with their excess cash, but doesn’t want the publicity because he or she doesn’t relish the prospect of facing a sea of outstretched hands from every group that needs a buck.
C) It’s a person or company who stands to profit or benefit in some other way from Oxford having synthetic turf. Who knows, maybe the company that’s going to install the turf is the one fronting the money, so they can drum up business elsewhere by using Oxford as part of their marketing plan?
Which is it? I honestly don’t know. I have my own ideas and theories, but I want facts.
If it turns out to be either scenario A or B, certainly this newspaper would respect the investor’s request for anonymity. However, if it’s option C ? or something else along those lines ? then the public needs to know.
I’ve already submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the school district asking for the investor’s name and contact information.
By law, if that information appears on any document or communication in the district’s possession, it’s now part of the public record and they have to release it.
I’m curious about who this mystery investor is because it’s my job as a journalist and frankly, I want to make sure everything’s on the up and up ? and that the taxpayers aren’t going to be left holding the bag.
While it’s true the turf committee is a private group, it’s also true that the football stadium is a publicly-owned facility on publicly-owned property. Therefore, I feel the public has a right to know all the aspects of this deal.
I’m truly sorry that I lack the childlike ability to blindly trust the school board and turf committee ? the latter of which is not accountable to the voters or taxpayers.
Sure, I could shut my eyes, take a big swig of Kool-Aid and join the Amen Chorus. But that’s not me. I want to know the who, the why and all the details in between like will this loan have to be repaid with interest?
I don’t think being offered a boatload of cash is a good enough reason to shut off our brains.
I’m sure there are those reading this column who will immediately begin denouncing me all over town as a nattering nabob of negativism.
To them, I say if asking questions and wanting answers is deemed negative behavior, then we’ve got bigger problems than the current lack of fake grass.

I’m beginning to think this 235-year-old experiment in self-government is a failure. I’m starting to wonder if it’s really worth voting for or against anything or anyone because ultimately, those who hold power are going to get what they want one way or another.
We might as well stay home on Election Day and enjoy our bread and circuses because the Emperor has the vision to know what’s best for us.
Case in point, it appears Oxford Community Schools could get those new tennis courts it wanted for the high school.
You may recall that tennis courts were part of the $70 million school bond proposal that district voters FAILED in February 2009. That proposal included four courts at $40,000 each for a total of $160,000.
The slimmed-down $32.7 million bond proposal that voters approved in November 2009 contained no mention whatsoever of tennis courts ? at least not in the bond application that I read.
If you recall, the second bond proposal was supposed to focus on needs, not wants; essentials, not luxuries.
Now, we’re being told that if the bond project’s bids come in lower than expected, the district could use the resulting savings to build eight tennis courts for $320,000.
Am I happy that the district could save a bundle?
You bet. I just did a cartwheel.
Am I happy that instead of just saving money, they want to waste it on something frivolous?
Not on your life. Whatever happened to the concept of saving money purely for the sake of saving it, not because you want to spend it on something else?
Do I believe it’s wrong to spend tax money for something the voters originally rejected?
Well, I’m writing this column, aren’t I?
To me, if the school district does this, it’s thumbing its nose at the voters. The district’s basically saying, ‘We know you denied us the money for this the first time, but we’re going to find a way to get what we want ? and we’re going to double it! Your ballot said ‘no, no,? but we say ‘yes, yes.??
Granted, what the school district wants to do is within the bounds of the law because it falls under the very broad language of ‘constructing, equipping, developing and improving athletic facilities? that appeared on the ballot.
But does this make it morally right? Does that make it ethically correct? My answer is a resounding ‘NO!?
When a bond is placed on the ballot, the voters are presented with a whole laundry list of everything the school district wants to construct and purchase. This enables the people to make an informed decision as to whether or not it’s worth taking on extra debt and taxing themselves for it.
To not include something in that list prior to the vote, then add it in after the funding’s been secured is dirty pool in my book. It’s a classic case of bait-and-switch.
I don’t care if it’s legal. I don’t care if a significant savings allows for it. It’s wrong, especially when it’s something the voters previously rejected.
Why even bother to tell the voters what you want the money for if you’re just going to build and buy what you want anyway?
Oh, that’s right. We at least have to maintain the facade of adhering to democratic principles lest the unwashed masses become disgruntled and revolt.
So, when it comes right down to it, elections are just for show. It’s all about romancing the voters ? whispering sweet nothings in their ears, telling them what they want to hear in order to seal the deal.
Once it gets what it wants, government stops calling or even returning our messages. No more dinners. No more roses. Not even cab fare. Being a voter is supposed to make you feel proud and responsible, not used and cheap.
Anyone else need a shower? I feel dirty.
*****
Oh, by the way, if this community is truly in such desperate need of tennis courts, then why don’t we get the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department to fix up the existing courts at Seymour Lake Park that have been allowed to fall into such disrepair over the years.
Back in 2002, the parks department asked voters for a millage increase to, among other things, tear out and reconstruct the tennis courts at Seymour Lake Park.
‘Deplorable condition? was how Parks Director Ron Davis described the courts? condition back then.
Voters rejected the tax increase 3,177 to 2,083.
But if something’s drastically changed in the last nine years and now, Oxford simply can’t live without tennis, then by all means, let’s push the parks department to seek a millage increase for the sole purpose of renovating and maintaining those sorry-looking courts.
It should pass overwhelmingly, right?
Better still, why not start a private fund-raising campaign to do it? We built a giant playground and splash pad at that same park thanks to such campaigns; why not do it for the tennis courts that people are clamoring for?
Maybe we could find a mysterious private investor to loan us the money just like the turf committee did.
Then we can get to work on that dodgeball arena because we have to accommodate every single sport out there.

Oxford is about to lose its real Citizen of the Year.
A few weeks ago I wrote a story about how Hank Szlenkier is leaving this community on Monday, Feb. 14 after 19 years of faithful service.
Hank is the caseworker for Oxford-Addison Youth Assistance, an organization dedicated to helping at-risk kids by reducing delinquency, abuse and neglect.
Hank’s movin? on up the Oakland County Youth Assistance ladder by taking charge of the Mentors Plus program, which pairs at-risk youth with adult volunteers serving as positive role models.
Our loss is clearly their gain.
A new caseworker will be sent to fill Hank’s job, but she will never be able to fill his shoes.
Hank is different than many of the government-types I’ve encountered over the last 12 years in that he’s humble, hard-working and truly cares about what he does and the community he serves.
Unlike others, he doesn’t play politics, seek out the limelight or spend his days glad-handing. He just does his job ? a very rare thing these days.
Hank never started a project he didn’t finish.
In fact, he often completed projects that others had started or committed to on OAYA’s behalf.
It may sound corny or cliche, but Hank reminds me of a modern-day Father Flanagan, the Catholic priest who founded the famous Boys Town in 1921.
Like Flanagan, he never views any kid as a lost cause. He’s always willing to do whatever is necessary to prevent a youth from ending up in jail, on the streets, in a hospital or in a coffin.
Each kid he helps isn’t just another folder on his desk.
He knows their names. He knows their faces. He knows their stories. He knows their problems.
Hank becomes whatever those kids need be it a friend, a counselor, a mentor or a father-figure. He knows that sometimes what a kid needs most is just someone to listen.
As a journalist, I greatly appreciated the fact that Hank was always open and honest with me. He’d let me know what was going on behind the scenes and he didn’t pull any punches.
Hank’s a ‘tell it like it is? kind of a guy. What you see is what you get with him.
As a result, whenever Hank needed a story to promote one of OAYA’s many wonderful programs or fund-raisers, I was there, from the Children’s Community Garden to the annual Duck Race.
I’m going to miss Hank a lot.
He’s definitely one of the good guys ? someone who’s true to his word, committed to his work and helpful to those in need.
It seems like the good guys always leave much too soon while the bad guys stick around forever.
So long, Hank. Best of luck and don’t be a stranger.
Note: Happy 94th birthday to Oxford’s favorite retired cobbler, Perry Hathaway. He owned and operated Perry’s Shoe Service in downtown Oxford from 1950-89.

Loyalty to a friend is certainly an admirable trait.
But when that loyalty leads a government official to betray the public’s trust in favor of helping a friend cover-up an alleged crime, a serious line has been crossed.
The penalty for crossing that line should be either resignation or recall. To me, those are the two options facing Oxford Village Councilwoman Maureen ‘Moe? Helmuth right now. See story on Page 1.
By her own admission, it was Helmuth who, while serving as the village’s deputy treasurer five years ago, discovered that deputy clerk M. Patricia Paad had allegedly taken between $2,000 and $3,500 in village tax money for her own personal use.
Did Helmuth report this to the village manager, council or police? No.
By her own admission, she chose to protect her friend by loaning Paad the money to repay what she had allegedly embezzled from the village.
Helmuth then remained silent about the alleged incident for the next five years until Jan. 25 when her concerns about Paad’s honesty, as pertaining to her candidacy for the village clerk position, led her to inform Manager Joe Young of what had allegedly transpired.
Too little, too late. Helmuth is no hero here for finally speaking up. She’s no hero for putting the needs of a friend above her obligation to the taxpayers.
She shouldn’t have loaned Paad the money and she shouldn’t have kept quiet. If she truly believed there was wrongdoing here, it was Helmuth’s duty as deputy treasurer to speak up, but she did not.
In fact, Helmuth remained silent as she was promoted to treasurer in 2007 and later, elected to council in 2009.
Helmuth’s questioning of Paad’s honesty is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle the black.
Where was Helmuth’s honesty as she helped conceal an alleged crime against village taxpayers not only with her silence, but with her very own money?
I know Helmuth’s fan base will probably come after me for writing this column because she’s a pretty popular person around here. Everybody loves Helmuth because she’s the one who helped them with their water bills, cut-through the village’s red tape on those building permits or bought the last round before closing time.
But no matter how popular she is, no matter how many favors she’s done for others, what Helmuth did in this case was flat-out wrong and it should most definitely cost her the council seat she occupies.
To me, Paad’s innocence or guilt in this matter is a separate issue where Helmuth’s fate is concerned.
The bottom-line is Helmuth admitted she had knowledge of an alleged crime. She admitted she helped conceal it. She admitted to saying nothing for five years.
Village residents should be asking themselves a lot of questions right now. What else has Helmuth kept quiet about? What else has she done? What else is she capable of doing? Who does she serve ? the taxpayers or her friends? Can she be trusted?
Is this really the type of person village residents want sitting on their council, representing their community and making decisions about how to spend their money?
This 10-year village resident says no.
When it comes to choosing public officials to safeguard my tax money, I don’t care how popular they are or what a ‘true blue? friend they are. I want people who uphold the law, do their duty and honor the public’s trust.
Time for Moe to go.

In last week’s column, I opined on the two options I see facing Oxford Village Councilwoman Maureen ‘Moe? Helmuth as consequences for betraying the public’s trust.
To me, she should either resign her seat on council or the public should petition for her recall.
I believe she’s no longer fit to serve.
Helmuth’s status as a council member aside, there is a third potential consequence for her decision to place a friendship above her duty as a public official.
Helmuth could face criminal charges for admitting that she helped a village employee cover-up an alleged embezzlement of $2,000 to $3,500 in property tax monies paid to the municipality.
Roughly five years ago, when Helmuth was employed as deputy village treasurer, she discovered the alleged embezzlement by the deputy clerk, but instead of reporting it, she loaned money to repay it and kept quiet about it until finally speaking up on Jan. 25 of this year.
I spoke with some legal experts and they seemed to agree Helmuth could be charged with misconduct in office, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Helmuth’s offense could be considered either malfeasance, which is the doing of a wrongful act, or nonfeasance, which is the failure to perform an act required by the duties of the office.
She could also face a charge of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Based on my conversations and research, it’s unclear to me whether Helmuth was a public officer or public employee when she was deputy treasurer at the time of the alleged embezzlement, loan and cover-up. This is significant because misconduct in office applies only to public officers as distinguished from public employees.
However, it is very clear that Helmuth continued to keep quiet about the alleged embezzlement during her subsequent term as village treasurer from 2007-08 and for 16 months after her election to council in 2009. Both positions are defined as public officers and she had a duty to immediately report her knowledge of an alleged crime against the village, especially when the alleged perpetrator continued to work and handle money for the municipality. So, a misconduct charge could apply here.
Of course, all of this will be up to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office to decide. I’m quite confident that if they believe a law’s been broken, Helmuth will be charged.
One of the things that distinguishes this country from most of the world is the fact we follow the rule of law.
No matter who you are, what you do for a living or how much money you have, we are all subject to the same laws. We are all expected to obey the law and we are all subject to punishment when we break it. Prosecutions aren’t based on whether or not we like a person.
The last time I checked we’re not allowed to break the law as long as we’re doing it to help a friend.
The last time I checked a public official isn’t permitted to ignore their duty and disregard the law as long as they’re doing it to help a friend.
The last time I checked we don’t get a pass for violating the law if we volunteer with kids or have a big heart.
Blaming others, making sappy, cliche-filled excuses and tugging at people’s heartstrings doesn’t trump the law nor does it justify doing the wrong thing.
Right is right. Wrong is wrong. The law is the law.
What Helmuth admitted to doing was wrong and she should be subject to consequences.

I’ve never been attracted to meek or subservient women. I’ve never understood men who would rather have a shadow than an equal.
By the same token, I’ve never liked women who annoyingly spout off about ’empowerment? and ‘sisterhood? while sporting some inane inspirational wristband.
Or women whose lives revolve around purses, shoes and imitating ‘Sex and the City? characters.
That’s why 10 years ago I was fortunate enough to marry a woman who wasn’t a cliche; a woman who didn’t neatly fit some stereotypical mold.
My wife, Connie, is truly a unique woman who challenges me ? in a good way ? every day with her intelligence, her passion and her sheer will to persevere.
I have never known a woman ? or man for that matter ? with the inner strength to overcome the obstacles she’s faced with such grace and dignity.
Connie’s survived toxic relationships, life-threatening illness, dire financial straits, emotional trauma and the potential loss of her beloved home.
Anyone else would have thrown in the towel years ago, but not Connie. She faced each situation head-on and refused to let it beat her.
Connie could have easily claimed the mantle of victimhood, as unfortunately so many in our society do these days. But she never did. She never once blamed others, sought pity or became bitter.
Even more impressive than her will to fight on as darkness descends around her is Connie’s capacity for self-sacrifice, empathy and friendship.
She always puts others? needs ahead of her own.
And she doesn’t do it because some book tells her to or because it feeds her ego. Connie genuinely cares for others because that’s just who she is. Helping comes as natural to her as breathing.
When there’s a worthy cause in need of extra hands or a creative mind, she doesn’t hesitate to volunteer, no matter how tired or busy she may be.
When a friend’s in need, Connie’s always there with an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on and a free hand to block a cameraman. She’d take on the world to defend a friend because her loyalty knows no bounds.
Everyone should have a friend like my wife. Someone who listens without judgment, accepts without conditions and loves without limit.
I don’t admire many people, but I admire my wife.
I don’t trust many people, but I trust her implicitly.
Knowing Connie has truly made me a better person.
Having access to her mind and opinions has made me a more thoughtful writer.
Being the recipient of her love has plugged all the holes in my heart and my soul.
I’m so glad she’s in my life and I’m so pleased to be able to celebrate another one of her birthdays today.
I couldn’t imagine my life without her.
I guess it’s sort of my birthday, too because I feel like I was reborn when she came into my life.
Happy Birthday, Connie!
And thanks for everything.

Some folks out there favor the idea of government giving tax abatements to businesses in order to spur economic growth.
The logic is a business that spends less on taxes is more willing to reinvest in equipment and facilities, expand its operations and hire more employees.
In turn, this growth leads to more taxable revenue for government.
While I definitely agree that taxes are a significant hindrance to economic growth and entrepreneurial vigor, I don’t think abatements are the answer.
I’m opining on this subject this week because two manufacturers in Oxford Village ? Royal Oak Boring and Royal Oak Medical Devices ? have approached the municipality about giving them each 12-year abatements on their personal property taxes.
The companies plan to spend a combined $3.95 million on new equipment for their village facilities and as a result, hire 23 new employees. That’s definitely great news and should be applauded.
However, to me, if you have to offer businesses property tax abatements ? which are essentially bribes ? to lure them here or convince them to reinvest in your community then your taxes are too high to begin with.
Case in point, the village alone levies 10.62 mills, which is a ridiculously excessive tax rate to provide services for a 1.4-square-mile area. Businesses don’t care that the village has its very own police department and DPW; all they see is a high tax bill.
School districts around the state, including Oxford, practically rape local businesses with their ability to levy up to 18 mills on non-homestead properties.
Add in the 6-mill State Education Tax and businesses pay 24 mills for public education ? not including all those wonderful extras like bond debts and sinking funds.
If you ask me, the answer to stimulating local economies is not tax abatements for the few, it’s tax cuts for everyone coupled with the wholesale downsizing, elimination and consolidation of local governments and school districts.
Let’s save village taxpayers 10.62 mills by dissolving the unnecessary and costly village government once and for all.
(Actually, the savings would be 7.7048 mills because village residents would begin paying the township’s police tax, which is still lower.)
Let’s reform school funding in this state, so we’re not robbing businesses by forcing them to pay four times what the average homeowner pays for public education.
Between property taxes and the constant stream of donation requests from various clubs, sports teams and booster groups, local businesses have a tremendous weight put on them by the schools.
Instead of abating personal property taxes for businesses, we should be looking at abolishing them altogether.
It’s ridiculous that we tax the equipment and furnishings businesses use.
When a business purchases new machinery, computers or even office furniture, they should pay the sales tax and be done with it. They shouldn’t be taxed on these items year after year after year.
While we’re at it, we should be looking at abolishing real property taxes as well. And not just for businesses, for everyone.
Instead of taxing people’s property, which is an antiquated and inefficient way of doing things, all governments should rely primarily on a system of sales taxes to generate their revenues.
Sales taxes are by far the fairest way to tax people because they’re based strictly on consumption. Those who consume more, pay more in taxes. Those who consume less, pay less in taxes.
Essentially, what a person can afford coupled with their spending habits determines how much they pay in taxes.
The bottom-line is we need to reform the whole tax system at the local and state levels instead of having communities use abatements to prostitute themselves.
If the government officials who offer tax abatements are the pimps, what do you think that makes us?

A friend of mine, Oxford resident Bob Morrison, recently got me interested in the cancelled HBO series ‘Deadwood.?
He loaned me all three seasons on DVD and I spent hours upon hours watching them all in just a few weeks.
I absolutely love this series about the gritty, rough-and-tumble town of Deadwood, South Dakota set in the 1870s.
The plots are fantastic. The characters are well-written and well-acted. They really draw you in, especially my favorite, saloon/brothel owner Al Swearengen.
I highly recommend the series to everyone, except those who don’t like vulgar language. ‘Deadwood? is laden with profanity, but then again, so is real life.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the series except for the way it ended.
The main bad guy, a mining tycoon named George Hearst, is simply allowed to leave town. Hearst had people murdered and beaten. He threatened, bullied and cheated people left and right. Hearst wanted to run Deadwood like a dictator.
Despite doing all this, he was ultimately allowed to exit Deadwood riding atop a stage coach, off to increase his fortune elsewhere.
Frankly, I wanted to see Swearengen cut Hearst’s throat and leave him for dead on his saloon floor. Swearengen’s quite good with a knife.
But it didn’t happen and that left my natural need for justice unfulfilled.
You see I’m the type of person who needs to see the fictional bad guy get punished. He needs to end up dead, go to prison, lose his fortune or end up exposed for what he truly is before the whole world.
As much as I hate it when the bad guy gets away in TV shows and movies, I hate it even more when it happens in real life.
Case in point, I’m still pretty upset that Oxford Village Councilwoman Maureen ‘Moe? Helmuth will not face any criminal charges whatsoever for helping cover-up an alleged embezzlement of village tax dollars back in 2006-07.
Helmuth discovered the alleged embezzlement and chose not to report it. Instead, she admitted to loaning money to the accused, Deputy Clerk M. Patricia Paad, so she could repay the municipality and conceal the alleged theft.
Basically, Helmuth’s not going to be prosecuted because she’s a ‘necessary witness? against Paad. In order to prosecute the case, Helmuth needs to testify in court. There’s no way around it, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Now, my need for justice in the real world is going unfulfilled.
Helmuth’s not going to be prosecuted, even though she should be.
My fellow village residents are apparently too lazy and/or apathetic to kick her off council through a recall drive.
It appears no one on council has the guts to publicly reprimand Helmuth or demand her resignation. I realize the village attorney advised them not to publicly comment on the Paad situation given she’s still a village employee, however, council could express their opinions on what Helmuth admitted to doing because she is an elected official and she’s not facing any charges.
As for Helmuth, she doesn’t have enough class ? or at least a healthy sense of shame ? to do the honorable thing and resign from council.
So where does that leave the village?
I tell you where it leaves this village.
It leaves this community with a so-called leader who admitted to discovering an alleged crime and not reporting it.
It leaves this community with a so-called leader who by her own admission helped cover-up an alleged theft of tax dollars.
It leaves this community with a so-called leader whose silence about the alleged embezzlement in 2006-07 may have led to the $5,000 in village tax money that’s currently missing.
By all means, let’s keep telling everyone how ‘world-class? Oxford is and how our town ‘rocks,? while we allow someone who was complicit in an alleged crime and violated the public’s trust to represent us and spend our money.
Let’s just bury our heads in the sands of vacuous positivity.
Our leaders are good at it.
Our citizens are good at it.
Maybe the village’s new symbol should be the ostrich.
Note: I definitely like the idea of moving the firearm deer season opener to a Saturday. Fits my work schedule perfectly, helps the sport of hunting and aids the state economy. Sounds like a winner.

In an effort to double its number of viewers, Oxford Community Television is expected to formally announce April 1 a new lineup of locally-based reality television shows.
‘Our research indicates the only people interested in watching an endless stream of government meetings are those in comas or those recovering from lobotomies,? said station manager Lon Huguenot. ‘We need to spice things up a bit, so we’re doing what everybody in television does ? ripping off other people’s ideas.?
Here’s a preview of the new shows:
False Idol ? Picture a combination of ‘Survivor? and ‘The Apprentice.? School employees scramble to obey the superintendent’s every whim under the constant threat of being fired. The highlight of the show will be ‘loyalty tests? in which the employees must publicly prove their fanatical devotion or else risk being thrown off a moving school bus. Watch out for informants and spies, they’re lurking everywhere!
The Crammys ? Picture an awards show where folks don’t win based on effort, talent or actual deeds. This awards show is all about who you know and the unique ability to pat yourself on the back while smooching others? hindquarters.
So You Think You Can Govern? ? Hijinks and hilarity ensue as people who lack personal responsibility and possess limited skills are given millions of your dollars to spend. Watch them sabotage and badmouth each other behind the scenes when they think the cameras are off, then become best friends when the tape is rolling.
Are You Smarter than a 12th-grader? ? Instead of being upset and outraged by the fact that only 18.3 percent of local high school seniors are considered college-ready, we’re going to celebrate it with a game show.
Guppy Tank ? Forget rich, successful entrepreneurs judging the merits of new business ideas. This show pits business people against government folks. Watch as the business people try desperately to discuss jobs, profits and investment, while the government folks focus on pretty facades, parking spaces and how many trees and shrubs will be required for site plan approval.
Extreme Makeover: Personality Edition ? This show seeks to stamp out individuality, critical thinking and differences of opinion using a team of motivational speakers, self-help gurus and other con artists. Watch as normal people quit reality cold turkey as they join the Cult of Positivity. Fake smiles and vacant stares are all the rage these days, so this show is bound to be a monster hit.
* Warning: This column is intended to be a bit of April Fools? Day humor. Any resemblance to real people either living, dead or in-between is purely intentional. Those who take themselves way too seriously or are constantly on the hunt for something to be offended by should not read this. If you suddenly feel yourself becoming indignant while reading this, immediately go out and purchase a sense of humor.

It’s nearly 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning as I finally sit down to pen this brief post-election column.
I am exhausted, yet exhilarated because I truly feel that the Forces of Good triumphed in yesterday’s primary election.
For the first time in a long time, I’m actually optimistic about the future of local government around these parts.
The corrupt, the clueless, the senile, the two-faced and the greedy were all swept off the township boards in Oxford and Addison.
For this, I must truly thank the wise voters in both communities because you’re the ones who made the difference.
You’re the ones who seized the opportunity to control your environment, went to the polls and decided to change the direction in which your government was heading.
A new day is about to dawn for both townships and I welcome it with outstretched arms, an open mind and a glad heart.
Oxford Township will have at least four new decision-makers including its first new clerk in 36 years.
I said ‘at least? because judging by these results it looks like there’s a good chance Treasurer Joe Ferrari could get the boot in November.
Addison Township will welcome three new faces to its board including a brand new supervisor.
This is an historic occasion and one which I hope will be recorded as the major turning point for both these troubled local governments.
I’m also overjoyed that the cityhood issue failed in the Village of Oxford. After five years of secret meetings, behind-the-scenes plotting and conniving, way too many attorney bills and plenty of divisive rhetoric, the most recent incarnation of the cityhood movement is DEAD.
The people who should have been asked about cityhood before all this nonsense started ? village voters ? finally got to have their say at the ballot box and the answer was ‘no.?
Now that the drive to divide Oxford is over, it’s time to begin the movement to unify Oxford.
I want to see these new faces on the township board working with the village council to finally bring about one Oxford government for the entire 36 square miles.
And for those 1,164 folks who voted ‘yes? on the failed safety path tax proposal, I have an idea.
Instead of lamenting the fact that the millage proposal tanked, take the bull by the horns and start a private fund-raising campaign to build safety paths without tax dollars.
You all can start the ball rolling if you each write a check for the amount the proposed millage would have cost you had it passed. Add to that some corporate sponsorships, grants, spaghetti dinner fund-raisers, more private donations and you should be able to make some real progress.
It worked for Kids Kingdom. It’s working for the KLR Splash Pad. Why not safety paths?

It’s nice to know that as the rest of us try to make ends meet in the face of rising gas prices and rising grocery bills, the Oxford school district still has plenty of money to burn.
Just take a gander at the laundry list of wasteful spending its planning to engage in (see Page 1).
The school district’s saving approximately $1.2 million in bond money because the construction bids came back lower than expected for Phase 1 and 2 of the $32.7 million bond project.
Is the school district using this considerable savings to help pay off the bond debt? Heck no!
Our glorious leaders are planning to spend it on a whole bunch of stuff we really don’t need.
For instance, they’re planning to spend $399,372 on tennis courts for Oxford High School. You remember those tennis courts, don’t you?
They were part of the February 2009 bond proposal that district voters failed and were not part of the November 2009 bond proposal that voters approved.
As someone who personally and editorially endorsed the second bond proposal because it was supposed to be about needs, not wants, I definitely feel betrayed.
But hey, who cares what the voters did at the ballot box or if taxpayers save a few dollars in the long run, a world-class school district needs tennis courts.
We can’t let the people’s common sense trump our leaders? grand vision.
How can our kids be expected to compete with the Chinese in the global marketplace if they can’t play tennis?
Right now, there are millions of Chinese kids mastering the continental grip, so they can effectively hit a slice shot.
Sure, you laugh now, but how will you feel when the Chinese start dominating Wimbledon?
You know what else a world-class district needs?
A $37,900 pressbox for a middle school athletic stadium.
As long as we’re putting in a pressbox, we might as well throw in $107,900 for bleachers at the middle school stadium.
And finally how can Oxford be expected to be ranked among the world’s finest educational institutions if we don’t spend $119,000 to build a new and separate entrance for the high school’s Performing Arts Center?
We have to spend this money because A) we saved it and B) it’s for the kids. We’re certainly not spending it to feed egos, pad resumes or keep up with the Joneses.
I’m sure there are some killjoys out there who will argue that spending all this bond savings on these frivolous additions while simultaneously complaining about proposed education funding cuts from Lansing is the height of hypocrisy and arrogance.
But it should be noted that bond money cannot be legally spent on a school district’s operational expenses.
Granted, all of the money comes from the same source ? the taxpayers ? and the school district could generate a ton of good will in the community by using this savings to help pay off some bond debt.
But then again, the district’s main goal here is to become ‘world-class? and that means spending money.
Vision isn’t cheap. If it’s truly a vision, you’ll never have enough money to realize it.
By all means, let’s keep spending tons on these unnecessary big-ticket items instead of using the money to lessen the taxpayers? debt burden.
After all, if history’s any guide, we’re probably only a few years away from the next big bond proposal because it’s never enough for the schools. There is no light at the end of the school debt tunnel, only a revolving door.
Maybe buying all this stuff will distract people from the fact that only 18.3 percent of our high school seniors are considered college-ready by the ACT scores.
Maybe parents won’t notice that Oxford ranked 28th out of the county’s 65 high schools in college-preparedness.
Maybe they won’t notice that Clarkston had 24.7 percent of their seniors ready for college and ranked 18th in the county. Or that our archrival Lake Orion had 29.1 percent college-ready based on the ACT and ranked 13th.
But hey, the ACT isn’t all that important, right?
Oh, I’m sorry, Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling did you wish to say something, sir?
‘The reason I care more about the ACT (is) because it’s a true norm reference test that’s valid and a true predictor of future success . . . What’s really important to us is that ACT because that’s what determines scholarships; that determines what students have access to in terms of what schools they can get into or not,? said Skilling in a July 2009 interview.
I guess we all should cross our fingers and hope Oxford’s students earn lots of tennis scholarships.

Never let it be said I can’t admit a mistake or correct an error.
Last week, I wrote that Oxford Schools ranked 28th out of Oakland County’s 28 school districts in terms of college-preparedness based on the ACT.
Actually, the district is ranked 28th out of the 65 high schools in the county, which included traditional high schools as well as alternative education (like Crossroads for Youth) and adult education schools.
So, Oxford’s not last in the county rankings, it’s in the middle of the pack.
It should be noted that the majority of the 21 county high schools listed that had 0 percent college-ready were alternative or adult education schools.
When the error was pointed out to me last week, I immediately corrected the on-line version of my column and wrote what you’re reading right now.
Just to be clear, the other facts stated in the column were completely accurate including the fact that 18.3 percent of Oxford’s high school seniors are considered college-ready based on ACT scores.
It’s also still accurate that 29.1 percent of Lake Orion’s seniors and 24.7 percent of Clarkston’s seniors are considered college-ready.
Lake Orion and Clarkston are ranked countywide 13th and 18th, respectively.
One thing I didn’t mention in last week’s column that I found interesting was at Brandon High School ? our former FML rival to the west ? 19.4 percent of their seniors are considered college-ready. Brandon’s ranked 26th.
Holly High School outdid Brandon with 20.9 percent college-ready and a county ranking of 25th.
Outside Oakland County, I found it interesting that in Lapeer Community Schools ? our neighbor to the north ? the two high schools differed so greatly.
At Lapeer East High School, 19.8 percent of the seniors are college-ready, while at Lapeer West HS the percentage is only 14.2.
College readiness is defined as the percentage of students that meet the following minimum scores on the ACT: 18 on English, 21 on reading, 22 on math and 24 on science.
Again, sorry for the mistake.
****
Thanks to Barbara Johnston and Steve Allen for having the courage to speak up about the school district’s frivolous spending of bond savings. I was beginning to think no one out there cared.

I love political humor, especially during an election year.
Did you hear the one about the candidate who accidentally ran for office?
No? Well, the joke’s on me ? literally.
Because of a heavy work load and a memory lapse, I forgot to withdraw my petition to appear on the November ballot as a candidate for Oxford Township treasurer.
Allow me to start at the beginning.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column urging people to run for treasurer because 16-year incumbent Joe Ferrari had no competition.
I honestly thought people would read it and no one would run because let’s face it, there’s a lot of apathy out there. Lots of folks don’t want to be bothered with voting let alone the hassle of running for public office.
As a backup plan, I pulled petitions and started gathering signatures. I figured if no one else would run, I’d at least get my name on the ballot to give Ferrari some competition and make him sweat.
I vowed I wouldn’t do any campaigning whatsoever. No signs, no flyers, no mailers, no door-to-door butt-kissing, no ads, no endorsements, nothing.
My motto was going to be, ‘I will not spend a penny nor lift a finger to be elected.? Catchy, huh?
Low and behold, other people started pulling petitions for treasurer left and right. I started getting calls and e-mails from people interested in the position. Go figure.
I was greatly encouraged by the effect my column had, but continued collecting signatures because I wasn’t sure if any of these people were going to follow through or maybe they wouldn’t get enough valid signatures.
You never know. And I wanted to make sure there was somebody on the November ballot, so I collected 78 signatures ? a minimum of 60 was needed.
I decided to turn my petition in close to the deadline on July 17 just to make Ferrari sweat a little more.
When I submitted them to the clerk’s office, I learned that four people had already turned in valid petitions.
Ah, the power of the press.
From zero challengers to four opponents, I was happier than a pig in fresh slop. I’m sure Ferrari was reaching for some aspirin with a Pepto chaser.
I decided to see how many of my signatures were valid ? 77 out of 78 ? and then withdraw my petition on Monday.
Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to do this until after the 4 p.m. deadline ? 15 minutes after to be exact.
In my defense, I was extremely busy Monday. With the exception of Dan Shriner filling in part-time for the recently departed Casey Curtis, I’m largely a one-man newspaper right now so my mind is in a million different places.
I called the township clerk’s office to see if there was some wiggle room concerning the withdrawal deadline. They checked with the county.
No dice. I’m on the ballot. Case closed.
I felt the need to explain all this so I wouldn’t appear to be some sort of jerk who urged other people to run and then did himself. I told everybody who signed my petition that I had no intention of running if someone else stepped up to the plate and I meant it.
Normally, I’m a man of my word. But in this case, I simply forgot and made a bonehead mistake. Contrary to popular belief, I am human.
Even though I’m on the Nov. 4 ballot, I don’t want to hurt the other four candidates? chances of unseating Ferrari and making his part-time pizza delivery job a more permanent gig.
So, I’m asking, no, I’m begging, please DO NOT vote for me. I’m probably the first candidate in the history of politics to tell people this.
Please check out the other four candidates running against Ferrari and vote for one of those guys.
If you can’t decide, vote for whoever the Leader chooses to endorse in late October.
I absolutely, 100 percent guarantee it won’t be me.
I’m willing to go to great lengths to convince people to not mark my name on the ballot.
I’ll start vicious rumors about myself. I’ll go on a crime spree. I’ll have loud arguments with myself in the frozen food aisle. I’ll start draining water out of the Stringy Lakes and pumping it into the old cemetery.
I’m quite mad you know.
I’ll do whatever it takes to lose votes including using Walter Mondale, George McGovern and Michael Dukakis ? the Dream Team of Losers ? as campaign advisers.
To all you Republicans, I promise to raise taxes and increase spending. To all you Democrats, I promise to lower taxes and cut spending.
To Libertarians, I’ll threaten to give them government funding for the marijuana plants in their closets, then tax their gun collections to pay for it.
Instead of promising to be all things to all people, I’ll be the antithesis of who you are and whatever you stand for.
I implore you to search your heart on Nov. 4, then vote for somebody else.
Oxford deserves better than me ? just ask my wife.
The preceding was not paid for by the Committee to Not Elect C.J. Carnacchio, 35 Park St., Oxford, MI 48371.

I really don’t know why the North Oakland Transportation Authority bothers to have a board of directors.
Must be for show because it’s certainly not there to make decisions.
I was greatly troubled by the fact that Director Pat Fitchena took it upon her self to hire an attorney ? using money from her own pocket ? to represent NOTA when it came to appealing the December 2007 ruling that ex-employee Danny Poole was entitled to unemployment benefits.
I’ve written several stories about the on-going Fitchena versus Poole saga since early December so I’m not going to rehash the entire soap opera here.
Some people are probably thinking, ‘Hey, what’s the big deal? Pat spent her own money on the attorney and she won. Besides, she helps the seniors and made great omelettes at her old diner. Leave her alone you big fat jerk. You’re stupid.?
I fully expect to be inundated with nasty letters to the editor from the ‘Committee to Elect Pat Fitchena a Saint.? Judging by previous letters, no one is allowed to criticize her because she’s such a great lady and anyone who does is automatically wrong.
Call me crazy, but I have a real problem with a public employee, in this case Fitchena, hiring an attorney to represent NOTA, a taxpayer-funded entity, without the full board’s knowledge or approval.
Fitchena said she talked it over with NOTA Chairman John Sutphin and Board Member Dan Alberty, both of whom represent Addison, and they said it was okay with them if she wanted to appeal the decision using her own money.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Alberty and Sutphin do not constitute the entire NOTA board nor did this discussion take place during a public meeting.
What they told her is frankly irrelevant.
Alberty told me, ‘It was never brought up to the board because there was a short turnaround time as far as appealing it.?
Oh, really.
The judge’s decision in Poole’s favor was mailed out Dec. 20 and the deadline to appeal was Jan. 22. That’s roughly a month.
NOTA’s regular meeting was Jan. 17, plus the board held a special meeting on Jan. 3.
Given these dates, I’d say there was plenty of time to bring this issue before the board for discussion and possible action.
Another special meeting could have easily been called if neither of these two dates worked. As long as they’re posted 18 hours in advance, you’re good to go.
But that’s okay. Who needs pesky things like board meetings, deliberation and votes when we can govern by feelings, hunches and intuition.
‘I truly believe the board would have said okay, that it’s a legitimate expense and should have been done,? Alberty said.
I hope Mr. Alberty doesn’t try to read my mind. He might not like what I’m thinking.
Fitchena claims she hired the attorney and agreed to pay for his services because she wanted to clear her name. Fair enough.
But on the surface, it looks more like retaliation against an ex-employee for filing a written complaint about her alleged actions and abilities as NOTA’s director.
It also looks like fodder for a future lawsuit should Poole choose to take NOTA and Fitchena to court.
It’s interesting to note that the judge who recently ruled in Fitchena’s favor referred ? in writing ? to the attorney she hired as the ’employer’s attorney.?
That’s absolutely false.
She hired the attorney. She agreed to pay him. It was her attorney, not NOTA’s.
Fitchena was not Poole’s employer. She was his supervisor. NOTA was his employer.
The NOTA board should have decided whether to appeal and whether to pay for an attorney to represent it, not an employee.
I certainly hope the board doesn’t at some point in the future decide to reimburse Fitchena for her legal bills like Alberty wants to. I’ll be watching closely for that.
I don’t think anybody on the NOTA board views Fitchena as an employee because she’s a fellow elected official serving as a trustee on the Oxford Twp. Board.
Name another public employee who gets to serve on a government board and occasionally vote on issues that directly affect them.
I believe it’s Matthew 6:24 that says, ‘No one can serve two masters.?
Fitchena would do well to remember that.
But then again, she serves no masters.
The NOTA board basically lets her do as she wishes. And on the township board she’s one of seven equal votes ? no bosses there.
Fitchena answers to no one ? except maybe the voters on Aug. 5.

Little Johnny had a big problem.
He got his report card and things weren’t looking so good. He got one C, three D’s and an F.
On top of that, he got his MEAP test results and they weren’t so hot either.
Little Johnny was sure his parents were going to kill him for doing so poorly.
They were probably going to take away his cell phone, iPod, laptop computer and Xbox 360. They might even cancel his Facebook account and start making him do chores around the house.
The possibility of suffering these cruel and unusual punishments frightened little Johnny very much. So, Little Johnny did what everyone in the adult world does when they want to make something bad look good ? he found himself an ‘expert? to plead his case to his parents.
Little Johnny went on-line and found an expert in education who had a B.S. in B.S., a master’s degree in sophistry and a Ph.D in excuses.
A few days later, Little Johnny presented his parents with his report card and MEAP scores.
As can be expected, they hit the ceiling. Just as they were starting to yell at him and dole out various punishments, Little Johnny introduced his expert.
The expert explained to Little Johnny’s parents that grades and test scores were of no real value when it came to measuring how much a child was learning, how hard a student was studying or how successful he or she would be in the future. The expert baffled them with charts, graphs, statistics, university studies, technical jargon and articles from obscure academic journals that no one’s ever heard of.
He told them how each child is so very different that it’s virtually impossible to come up with an adequate way to judge how much they’re learning. Even if they could, the expert said it’s no measure of how well they’re prepared for the future because college life will undo all their K-12 learning with its endless distractions and temptations such as parties, drinking and late night co-ed biological explorations.
The conclusion to the expert’s presentation was done entirely in Chinese, which Little Johnny’s parents didn’t understand, but they were nonetheless very impressed because it sounded so authoritative and worldly.
At the end of his spiel, Little Johnny’s parents fell to their knees and apologized to their son for judging him so harshly.
The next week they went before the school board and demanded that grades and tests be banned from the district.
They even held a press conference to tell the whole world how meaningless these academic measurements are.
A few months later, during summer vacation, a change came over Little Johnny and for some reason, he decided to take his studies more seriously when the new school year began.
It worked because Little Johnny’s first report card of the year featured two A’s and three B’s.
When Little Johnny showed his good grades to his parents this time, they weren’t terribly interested or impressed because of what the education expert had told them.
So, Little Johnny brought the expert to his house again, this time to explain why grades and test scores are so very important and how they’re the only way to truly measure what a child is learning. By the end of the presentation, Little Johnny’s parents were carrying him around the room on their shoulders and telling him how proud they were.
Just before the expert left, he handed Little Johnny his card and said, ‘Give me call in a few years if you don’t do well on the ACT. I’ve got a whole presentation explaining why it doesn’t really matter.?
The next day, Little Johnny’s parents went to the school board to boast about how smart their son was and how every student should emulate him. They even issued a press release about their son’s academic success and paid to have him featured on an infomercial disguised as a news program called ‘Michigan’s Best Students.?
So what’s the moral of the story?
When you fail, use experts to downplay, spin, distract and shift blame. When you succeed, brag like there’s no tomorrow about how you’re the best in the world.
The key to success in life is only taking responsibility for the good stuff ? and having plenty of scapegoats and excuses for the bad stuff.

With 15 candidates running for seven seats on the Oxford Township Board, it occurred to me that elections are a lot like musical chairs.
Certainly, luck, timing and skill all play a huge role in both games.
Not to mention the ability to trip your opponents and step on them while nobody’s looking.
But in Oxford’s game of musical chairs, there’s only one candidate who’s thus far guaranteed a seat for the next four years ? Treasurer Joe Ferrari.
Amazingly, no one is running against the 16-year incumbent.
I say ‘amazingly? because of all the controversies Ferrari’s been involved in over the years.
First, there was the lawsuit filed by former Deputy Treasurer Sharon Fahy in 2002 that cost the township and its insurance carrier a $100,000 settlement plus all those legal bills.
Then, there was former township employee Patti Durr’s harassment complaint (nonsexual) against Ferrari in early 2007, which was kept hush-hush in a closed door meeting.
Usually, stuff like that upsets some citizen enough to challenge the incumbent.
I guess nobody in Oxford cares.
I’m also amazed no one’s running considering how easy the treasurer’s job is compared to the other full-time positions of supervisor and clerk.
The clerk has a ton of duties defined under state law while the supervisor’s job comes complete with a bull’s-eye on your back for anything and everything that goes wrong.
If I was going to run for a cushy local government office, it would definitely be township treasurer.
It’s an easy gig with a guaranteed paycheck. I can’t believe there’s not some retiree out there jumping at the opportunity.
Contrary to popular belief you don’t need any type of financial or accounting background to run for treasurer. Ferrari didn’t have any when he ran in 1992.
A person can basically learn everything they need to know through the Michigan Townships Association and Michigan Municipal Treasurers Association.
If you can balance a checkbook and manage your own personal finances, you can be treasurer. It’s not rocket science.
Now, if you’re now thinking, ‘Hey, I’d like to run for treasurer, but darn it, it’s too late,? don’t worry.
There’s still a little time left to get your name on the November ballot. But as they say on TV, you must act now!
Candidates wishing to run without a political party affiliation in the general election have until 4 p.m. Thursday, July 17 to file qualifying petitions.
Petitions, which can be obtained at the township office on Dunlap Rd., must have a minimum of 60 signatures from registered township voters, but no more than 150.
They can be filed with either the township or county clerk.
Somebody, anybody, needs to run for township treasurer.
Uncontested elections are a joke and un-American.
They make incumbents feel way too secure, almost untouchable.
No elected official should feel that way.
Fear is a great motivator and one of the voters? best weapons.
It’s the Fear of not being re-elected that helps keep politicians more responsive to the public, less likely to make bad decisions and more eager to do their jobs ? at least while people are watching.
Granted, the Fear doesn’t always keep politicians on the straight and narrow like it should in theory, but can you imagine how much worse they’d act without it?
Caligula would make a comeback with Bill Clinton as his running mate.
Candidates without opponents lack the Fear and sooner or later start to believe they can do whatever they want without any consequences whatsoever.
That’s when things get dangerous.
That’s when we go from democratic republic to slothful oligarchy.
Just to keep things balanced and give Ferrari a healthy dose of the Fear this year, I’m urging, no, I’m begging someone in Oxford to run for treasurer and do it quickly.
Do it for yourself.
Do it for your community.
Do it for the $49,344 a year plus great benefits.
That’s why Ferrari left journalism for politics in the first place.

One of the great things about most property taxes, particularly township millages, is that people get to vote on them.
Instead of being arbitrarily and automatically increased by out-of-touch elected officials who are usually consumed by what they want (i.e. pet projects), most millages must be approved or denied at the ballot box.
Most people vote for or against millages based on their pocketbook.
Personal finances always play a huge role.
When times are good, millages typically pass.
When times are not so good, millages have a tendency to fail.
When times are extremely bleak, as they are now, only a complete idiot would put a brand new tax on the ballot.
Which brings me to Oxford Township’s upcoming safety path millage.
I’m sure that even though the Michigan economy has been brought to the brink of disaster by our Canadian governor, there are still people out there who are doing pretty good, or at least okay, money-wise.
I’ll bet there are people saying to themselves, ‘Hey, I’ve got money in the bank, job security and a little disposable income. It would be nice to have some paths to walk or bike on. I think exercise is swell. Golly, I’m gonna vote yes.?
After all, it’s only a 0.25-mill tax. That’s 25 cents for every $1,000 of a house’s taxable value. That’s not much, right?
That’s great for you.
But what about all those people out there who are just barely hanging on?
People who have lost jobs.
People who are struggling to make mortgage payments and feed families as the cost of gasoline, utilities and groceries keeps rising.
People who literally have to make every penny count in order to survive.
Everyday there are more and more of these people. More than you think. More than you know.
I’d like to see someone who’s in favor of this safety path millage do some campaigning in front of the Oxford-Orion FISH food pantry in Thomas.
Every month FISH’s list of local clients who need emergency food grows longer and longer. Every month FISH is giving away more food and receiving more requests for financial assistance.
Suddenly, people who have never, ever needed assistance like this before in their entire life are showing up on FISH’s doorstep.
White collars are joining blue collars in the charity line.
‘We are receiving white collar workers for the first time, who are embarrassed and even cry at the prospect of seeking help. They’re down on their luck. They’re struggling,? said FISH President John Cass during a Nov. 19, 2007 township ZBA meeting.
By all means, grab your mountain bike and spandex shorts, and please tell these people why a new tax is needed right now.
A word of advice ? I wouldn’t emphasize the ‘America-is-obese-we-need-exercise? argument too much.
That type of thing really doesn’t go over well with people who are hungry.
Before you mark your absentee ballot or go to the polls Aug. 5, I strongly urge you to consider not just what you want or can afford, but what’s happening to those around you. Search your conscience.
Before you vote to tax your neighbor, before you vote to tax a stranger, put yourself in their shoes for a moment.
Allow your belly to feel a hunger pang.
Allow your mind to wander and experience the fear of not knowing how you’re going to pay the bills this month.
Allow your body to feel the depression, anxiety and exhaustion that comes from worrying if you and your family are going to lose everything.
Put yourself in that dark place for a few moments, then mark your ballot.
You may surprise yourself.

As I listened to the Oxford Village Council’s budget discussion last week, I couldn’t help but wonder why they kept debating a lot of nickel-and-dime stuff that really wasn’t going to make a huge difference in the long run.
Finally, Councilman Tony Albensi said something that smacked of common sense.
Being it was at a government meeting, I didn’t recognize it, so I hit rewind, listened again and there it was ? a logical suggestion. Albensi wants the village to explore the possibility of outsourcing its police and dispatch services (see Page B-1).
Based on the projected village police budget for 2011-12 and the options presented by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, the village could save somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $300,000 annually by contracting with the county.
Council owes it to its constituents to seriously explore this very viable option.
Council owes it to its constituents to place this issue on the ballot and let the voters finally have a real say as to who polices the community and how much they pay for it.
You really want to know what village residents want?
Stop making assumptions. Stop talking to the same small group of like-minded people.
Give village voters something the council didn’t give them in December 1999 ? a choice.
Government officials who truly want what’s best for the people needn’t fear the ballot box.
****
Once again, I have to say I’m staunchly opposed to the idea of selling the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum building to a private party just because the village needs to raise some extra cash (see Page B-5).
If council decides to put it to a vote of the people, that’s fine with me, but this village resident will fight it in his column. Allow me to quote from a column I penned in January 2008, the last time this issue reared its ugly head ?
Moving the historical museum out of that beautiful old bank and into those crappy, drab township offices would be a huge mistake.
Housing a historical museum in a historic building is a natural fit. Walking into that bank building feels like taking a trip back in time. It sets the mood for what you’re about to see and learn. Old places, with their unique architecture and musty smells, help connect us with distant times and forgotten ways.
That’s why Henry Ford moved all those old buildings, like Thomas Edison’s laboratory, to Greenfield Village.
Sure, the great inventor’s chemistry equipment and strange gadgets could be displayed in any modern building behind glass cases, but would they have the same impact as being able to view them while standing in the same spot as Edison himself? I don’t think so.
Viewing Oxford’s history in the town’s old bank is very apropos for it was this financial institution that helped build the town we live in.
This is where the working man’s earnings were squirreled away, entrepreneurs found capital for their ventures and families got the money to build or buy that first home.
From the mortgage on the family farm to little Timmy’s first savings account started with silver dollars from grandma, the community bank is a driving force in a small town’s history.
We need to look beyond our billfolds and keep the historical museum exactly where it is.
Instead of worrying about how we can slide a new business inside the museum building, why don’t we concentrate on filling up the myriad of vacancies that currently exist throughout downtown Oxford such as the old Starbucks space, the recently-vacated Cottage Inn space, the former antique mall (that’s a big one), the building that used to house A Familiar Taste, those empty spaces behind the Ox Bar & Grill . . . shall I go on?
Or how about trying to find someone to purchase and develop those three vacant lots along E. Burdick St. that the DDA’s been trying to sell for many, many moons?
There certainly are a lot of holes to plug downtown.
When all of those are filled and businesses are banging down our door looking for more space, then we can debate selling the museum building.
****
I genuinely felt bad for Ron Davis, director of the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department.
It seems the parks department owes the village about $7,000 for back phone bills. To be fair, the village hadn’t charged the parks department for their portion of the phone bill since July 2009. Financial management at its finest . . .
Anyway, as Davis and the council discussed the matter last week, I couldn’t help but wonder why Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth didn’t simply offer to loan him the money to pay off the village? He’s a friend, right?
Better still, Davis should just slip an I.O.U. for $7,000 into the village’s cash drawer. That’s a standard municipal practice ? just ask any auditor.

Here’s something I didn’t include in my front page article on cityhood . . .
I guarantee you if the village becomes a city, the township will stop contracting with the village police for fire/EMS dispatch services and probably go with the Oakland County Sheriff’s disaptch.
Under the current contract, the township is paying the village $56,726 this year for dispatch services.
The village’s dispatch budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is $282,878.
The township’s contract amounts to approximately 20 percent of the dispatch budget.
That ain’t peanuts.
If the township pulls out, the new city is either going to have to make some budget cuts or raise the millage rate to make up the difference.
So, village residents can add another $58,000 a year to the cost of cityhood.
Controlling your own destiny and standing on your own two feet isn’t cheap.
Admittedly, it would be a purely political move on the township’s part to switch dispatch providers, but we’re dealing with politicians so it’s a logical assumption.
It’s also basic human nature.
Would you want to keep giving money to someone who doesn’t want to be with you? It’s cityhood, not divorce.
Speaking of the whole ‘cityhood equals autonomy? argument, when I addressed that in last week’s column, I neglected to mention one other point.
Although the village is not a primary unit of government like a township or city, it certainly does not lack autonomy.
The village has its own governing council, manager, planning commission, ZBA, DDA, DPW and police department.
Township ordinances do not apply in the village. The village is governed by its own set of ordinances, not to mention a charter.
The village collects its own taxes, pumps and treats its own water and maintains its own streets and roads.
There already exists a high-degree of autonomy on the village’s part.
Along with all that great autonomy, village residents also enjoy being able to vote in township elections, run for township office and serve on various appointed township boards.
More village residents vote in township elections than village elections.
As I already stated last week, what happens in the township will always, always affect the village, regardless of whether or not it’s a city.
The question is do village residents want to give up their voice in township politics just to become a city.
Why should village residents choose to toss away those rights in favor of cityhood when we can keep them and our autonomy with the status quo?
Another thing to consider . . .
Does the village want to lose control of the fire department?
Right now, village voters can say ‘yea or nay? to fire millages at the ballot box and vote for or against the township officials who govern the department.
Because village residents are township residents, the township is obligated to provide fire services via the voter-approved millages. However, once those millages finally expire, the new city would have to contract for fire services from the township.
What happens if the city doesn’t like the contract prices the township offers?
What recourse does the new city have?
Increase city taxes so we can spend an ungodly amount of money starting our own fire department? Doesn’t sound appealing.
Contract with either the Addison, Brandon or Orion FDs? Doesn’t sound realistic.
As the cityhood vote approaches, I urge village residents to remember the wise words of the stoic Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who wrote, ‘We are made for cooperation, like the feet, like the hands.?
The village and township are stronger together as one community.
Behnke’s got no guts
As part of the Oxford Twp. candidate profiles (see pages 5, 8 and 10), I asked each one how they planned to vote on the upcoming safety path millage.
Seven candidates indicated they were voting ‘no.? Four said ‘yes.? And one candidate, Doleen Behnke, basically refused to answer because she didn’t want her opinion influencing other voters.
What a load of horse hockey! She just doesn’t want to lose any votes by publicly taking a stand. Typical politician.
Newsflash ? when you’re running for public office where you stand on the issues, especially taxes, is something voters want and need to know.
Instead of stating her opinion and showing some leadership, Behnke took the coward’s way out.
Again, typical politician.

Last week, I was asked to give the keynote speech at Oxford-Addison Youth Assistance’s annual Youth Recognition awards ceremony.
Despite my dislike of public speaking, I immensely enjoyed the experience and thought I’d share my speech with readers. Here it is:
I was deeply honored and humbled when Youth Assistance asked me to be the guest speaker for tonight’s awards ceremony.
I’ve been covering the Oxford/Addison area for 12 years now and based on what I’ve seen, OAYA is one of the most valuable groups this community has because it’s truly dedicated to helping all kids, especially those who might otherwise fall through society’s cracks.
I’m particularly delighted to speak at tonight’s event because we’re here to recognize a terrific group of kids for their community service, their good deeds, their selflessness, their compassion for others, and their leadership.
Each of tonight’s honorees is here because they chose to help make their little corner of the world a better place.
They didn’t do it because they were told to. They didn’t do it because they were paid to. They didn’t do it to build a resume. They didn’t do it so that others would heap accolades upon them.
Each of them did what they did because it was simply the right thing to do and that’s the most honest and genuine form of volunteerism there is.
In that respect, tonight’s honorees are not only role models for their fellow students, they’re role models for us adults. They gave for the sake of giving, not because they expected something in return.
There’s a lesson in that for all of us.
As a community journalist, it does my heart good to see young people helping the community they live in.
Too often, people think that in order to really make a difference in the world they have to travel to some distant Third World country or rush to the scene of some natural disaster.
But the truth is the greatest impact we can make on a daily basis is right in our own backyards.
You make the world a better place when you donate food to Oxford/Orion FISH.
You make the world a better place when you mentor an at-risk kid through OAYA’s Mentors Plus program.
You make the world a better place when you take some time to talk with that senior citizen on your block who lives alone. Or better still, invite them over for dinner.
You make the world a better place when you attend a spaghetti dinner to raise money for a community member battling cancer. Incidentally, there’s one on June 1 at Leonard Elementary for second-grader Gillian Yocum, who’s fighting leukemia.
You make the world a better place when you give voice to the voiceless, extend tolerance to the scorned and protect the weak from bullies in all their forms.
In short, you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to help others. All you really have to do is open your front-door and open your heart to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the forgotten and the marginalized that walk among us everyday.

‘Control our own destiny.?
‘Stand on our own two feet.?
‘Autonomy.?
‘Independence.?
These are some popular words and phrases among people who support incorporating the Village of Oxford as a city.
They make it sound as though we’re rebellious colonists trying to break away from the oppression of a distant empire.
Truth is village residents will lose more than they’ll gain in terms of their political voice and electoral rights by breaking away from the township.
As city residents, we would no longer have the right to vote in township elections or run for township office.
We’d no longer have the option of being appointed to township boards like the planning commission or ZBA.
Contrary to what some believe, cityhood will not automatically isolate and insulate the village from events in the township, particularly development.
Whatever the form of government, what happens in the township will always, always impact the village because this little 1-square-mile area is surrounded by 35 other square miles.
The only difference is as a village resident you have a voice because you’re a township taxpayer and voter. Dollars and ballots are power.
But as a city resident, the township doesn’t technically have to care one iota about what you think or what you want. You might as well live in Addison or Orion.
Except for the recent brouhaha over the ill-conceived safety path millage, relations between the township and village are at an all-time high in the nine years since I’ve been covering the two governments.
That’s largely due to increased cooperation and communication between village and township officials.
Supervisor Bill Dunn, a village resident, has been a regular attendee at village meetings keeping council members up-to-date on township actions, answering questions, addressing concerns, listening and putting in his two cents when needed.
‘Relationships have improved due to Mr. Dunn’s coming to our meetings,? said village President Chris Bishop at the May 27 council meeting.
Likewise, I frequently see Bishop along with council members Teri Stiles, Tony Albsensi and Mike Hamilton at township board meetings.
Their presence helps put a face on ‘the village? and avoid the misunderstandings that often occur when information is received secondhand. Township officials don’t have to wonder what the village is thinking because its representatives are right there in the audience.
I’m glad things have improved between the two governments because despite those imaginary boundary lines on the map, Oxford is really one community with one people. Always has been.
But I fear the dark cloud of cityhood will damage this relationship unless village voters put an end to this nonsense once and for all during the Aug. 5 primary.
Cityhood will only serve to breed fear, mistrust and animosity between the two governments.
Trust me, the prospect of future annexations of township property by the new city will eventually lead to bitter, expensive legal battles and a return to the deeply divided Oxford I had the misfortune of meeting when I arrived here in May 1999.
A vote for cityhood is a vote for divisiveness, civil war and two Oxfords.
A vote to stop cityhood is a vote for unity, peace and one Oxford.
Which side are you on?
NOTE: Congratulations to Oxford DDA Director Carolyn Bennett on her new job with DTE Energy/Detroit Edison.
A utility company is the perfect place to work for someone with absolutely no people skills.
If she does half as good a job for them as she did for downtown Oxford, well, let’s just say it’s time to stock up on candles, flashlights and portable generators.

Every week, the Oxford Leader is chock-full of photographs of K-12 students winning awards, participating in special events or projects, engaging in classroom activities, playing sports, acting silly, etc.
This week you’ll notice a ton more photo pages than usual.
That’s because school ended a week earlier this year and everybody tried to cram every event they could possibly think of into just a few days.
But that’s okay because I really do enjoy taking photos of your kids and publishing them.
I love it when parents and kids come up to me and thank me for putting them in the newspaper.
I love it that my work over the last 12 years can be found in hundreds, if not thousands, of scrapbooks.
I love it when I walk into a classroom and some kid yells, ‘Hey, there’s the newspaper guy? or ‘Look, the photographer dude’s here!?
I love it when the kids come up to me and just start talking about stuff. I can tell you from experience that kids do, in fact, say the darndest things.
Believe it or not, it’s a form of therapy for me.
I spend a lot of time dealing with government issues and officials. That means I spend a lot of time talking to people who I know are lying to me or at the very least, trying to hide things from me and the public.
Dealing with all the phonies, all the self-serving who masquerade as the selfless, all the dictatorial-types who seek to protect their little fiefdoms or impose their will on others, really takes a toll on me sometimes.
Being able to escape to the schools and spend time with the kids is my break from all that.
Unlike many adults, most kids don’t have any hidden agendas. They don’t bad-mouth you behind your back or try to get you to join their ‘team.?
Kids are generally very honest. What you see is what you get. They don’t put on airs. It’s too bad so many of them will lose that innocence and genuineness when they grow up, especially those who enter politics and public relations ? professions of the Damned.
Anyway, I just wanted all the parents out there to know that I couldn’t get your kids in the newspaper week after week without a ton of help from school folks.
I want to thank all the secretaries, teachers and administrators who call or e-mail me on a regular basis with news tips and photo opportunities.
I want to thank all the secretaries, teachers and administrators who take the time to identify students whenever I send them e-mails filled with photos I’ve snapped.
I want to thank all the secretaries, teachers and administrators who place a high value on getting their students in the community newspaper each week.
The Oxford Leader has the best school coverage because it’s truly a cooperative effort.
Sure, I spend many of my days, nights and weekends covering the events, but without all the support I receive there wouldn’t be editions of the paper like this one.
Enjoy your summer. See you all in the fall.

There’s definitely no shortage of people running for Oxford Township Board this year.
Fifteen candidates. Seven seats.
This should be interesting.
So many things to look forward to.
So many questions to be answered.
For instance, will the planning commission’s attempt to seize control of the township board be successful?
It’s definitely no coincidence that planning commissioners Lawrence Kucemba, Don Silvester and George Black are all running this year.
Me thinks a coup d’etat is afoot.
Expect to see more campaign speeches and attacks on the township board at PC meetings and less tedious debate over the height of decorative bushes or the need for facades that resemble Amish barns and western frontier towns.
One thing’s for sure, Oxford voters can’t complain about a lack of choices in this crowded field.
Personally, I’m looking for candidates who have no desire whatsoever to increase taxes over the next four years.
I’m also looking for candidates who aren’t itching to build grandiose projects that will require bonds, millages and more debt. The last thing we need on the township board are seven pharaohs all demanding the taxpayers beat more straw and mud into bricks for their monuments.
Candidates who aren’t overzealous about creating new ordinances are okay in my book, too. Would that more government officials believed in the spirit of ‘live and let live? and the philosophy of ‘leave me alone.?
Those who wish to regulate every aspect of people’s lives and properties should be publicly horse-whipped.
My ideal township candidate is someone who’s more prone to vote ‘no? when it comes to spending increases and creating new government programs. My ideal township candidate is someone who’s more prone to vote ‘yes? when it comes to budget cuts and decreasing millage rates.
Candidates who are pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-tax base as opposed to pro-fake village facades are what this township needs right now.
Heck, it’s what the whole state desperately needs.
I can only hope voters will have the wisdom to see the truth, read between the lines and know who’s full of it.
I also hope village residents won’t be foolish enough to vote for continuing the cityhood process simply because of the township’s safety path millage proposal. Both questions are on the Aug. 5 primary ballot.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m vehemently opposed to both.
Not only is this definitely the absolute worst time economically speaking to put a new tax on the ballot, it’s not fair or just to include the village.
For many years, village taxpayers have funded and maintained their own sidewalks and safety paths. They shouldn’t be taxed for what the township lacks.
That being said, I sincerely hope my fellow village residents will not be shortsighted and vote for cityhood simply because of the possibility ? not certainty? that this 0.25-mill safety path tax could be approved.
If by some slim chance the safety path millage passes, which I believe it won’t, becoming a city won’t relieve village residents of their obligation to pay the 10-year tax.
The best thing village residents can do is vote NO on cityhood and township safety paths. Make no mistake, the village’s approximately 2,300 registered voters can tip the scales if we turn out in force and vote as a block.

‘I like a little rebellion now and then . . . The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.?
? Thomas Jefferson
One of my favorite words in the English language is ‘choice? because to me it goes so well with some of my other favorite words ? freedom, liberty, self-government.
In the American political system, the most pure and direct way that people make choices is via the ballot.
We elect our leaders through the ballot. At the state and local levels, we can enact laws, approve (or reject) taxes and decide whether to sell or purchase property through the ballot.
The ballot is at the very heartbeat of our democratic republic.
That’s why it both saddened and disappointed me to hear some of my fellow residents at the June 14 Oxford Village Council meeting state they were opposed to the idea of putting the issue of police services on the ballot (see Page 4).
Well, this is one village resident who wants a choice. This is one village resident who believes all village residents should be given a choice.
Fact is, the current incarnation of the village police was created by a vote of council in December 1999, not a vote of the people. Since then, the annual millage levied to fund the police department has been decided by council, not a vote of the people.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask that in these difficult financial times, village residents be given a choice regarding how much they wish to pay for police services, especially if it’s possible to save money by outsourcing.
I know that legally we can’t have an advisory ballot with language specifically asking voters to choose between the Oxford Village Police and the Oakland County Sheriff.
But what about a ballot asking voters whether they want to pay X mills or Y mills for police?
Prior to the election, the village could conduct an informational campaign to let voters know that one millage rate represents how much it costs to fund the local department while the other tax rate represents the amount necessary to fund a sheriff’s department contract.
If a majority of residents are truly are happy with the local police in terms of service and the amount of taxes they’re paying, they’ll vote that way and I won’t bring the issue up again because the people have spoken.
But I really don’t know how the entire village feels and I’m sorry that I’m just not arrogant enough (I know it’s hard to believe) to say I know for a fact everybody wants their local cops or everybody wants county deputies.
That’s why I want to see this finally go on the ballot.
In my mind, there are only two real reasons why someone would not want this question on the ballot:
A) They wholeheartedly support the local police, but they aren’t confident that enough village residents share their opinion, so they don’t want to risk it.
B) They’re so arrogant they honestly believe voters are just too darn ignorant, uninformed or easily-swayed to truly understand the issue and as a result, the electorate could make what they deem to be the wrong decision.
Either way, they don’t want the question to be asked because they’re afraid of the answer. To me, that kind of thinking is the antithesis of a free society.
I support giving people as many choices as possible; whether or not I like the outcome is my problem.
We should not fear the ballot. We should fear people who fear the ballot.

Oxford’s beginning to remind me of that 1988 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled ‘Angel One,? in which the crew visits a planet run by women.
I base this on the fact that we have umpteen events for ladies and zero, count’em zero, for men.
The Oxford Chamber of Commerce has the Women’s Expo, Hats & High Fashion, the Spring Fashion Show and Ladies Night Out.
Outside of the chamber, we have the twice-yearly Girlfriends Walk put on by female downtown merchants, the Oxford Women’s Club’s annual fashion show, plus two annual events on the Polly Ann Trail aimed at fighting breast cancer.
If you’re keeping track, that’s a total of nine women’s events per year. It’s almost a monthly thing around here.
On the surface, it appears that Oxford’s men don’t buy anything, leave the house or get cancer.
Granted, the reason we have so many ladies events is because Oxford’s female merchants are definitely more active, more organized, more visible and more vocal. They’re really quite good at marketing and networking.
It also doesn’t hurt that the chamber’s leadership is dominated by women ? eight of the 11 board members are women, plus the director is a woman. And let’s not forget the DDA director is a woman.
Now, before you put on your Bella Abzug t-shirt and start blasting that old Helen Reddy album while writing a nasty letter to the editor, hear me out.
I’m not saying all this is a bad thing; it just explains why guys around here get the short end of the stick. The men have been forgotten. We’re practically invisible.
We need a men’s event full of manly things and plenty of manly fun. I’m talking power tools, cigars, beer and whiskey, fishing and hunting gear, classic cars and their accessories, manly food (i.e. no wrap sandwiches or vegetarian dishes), Carhartt clothing, motorcycles, men’s jewelry and watches, grills and barbecue accessories, lawn and garden stuff, golf, poker, and anything else men love.
And let’s make this event a fund-raiser to help fight prostate cancer. Except for skin cancer, cancer of the prostate is the most common type of cancer found in American men. In fact, 1 in 6 men (about 16 percent of all men) will get prostate cancer during their lifetime. Eight percent will develop significant symptoms, while 3 percent will die.
Or how about testicular cancer, which really doesn’t get much attention. About 8,000 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer and about 390 die of it each year. Granted, the numbers aren’t huge, but it’s still significant.
My point here is men own businesses, men earn money, men buy stuff, men get their own types of cancer, so why shouldn’t the men of Oxford have their very own event? I think it’s long overdue, especially considering we generally die first.
It’s time to get off our butts, fellas and organize in the name of fun, commerce and charity. As luck would have it, the chamber is currently looking for ideas for a men’s event. Suggestions are due by July 15. Call (248) 628-0410 for more information.
Men of Oxford unite! You have nothing to lose, but that purse you’ve been holding while she shops.

‘There never was, for any long time, a corrupt representative of a virtuous people; or a mean, sluggish, careless people that ever had a good government of any form.?
? Edmund Burke
I must applaud Oxford Village Councilman Tony Albensi for finally speaking up last week regarding fellow Council Member Maureen Helmuth’s role in covering up the alleged embezzlement of property tax payments (see Page 1).
Albensi had the guts to publicly say what Helmuth did was wrong.
It was quite refreshing given all the apathy and cowardice exhibited by village residents since it was first revealed by this newspaper in February that Helmuth violated the public’s trust, ignored her duty to the taxpayers and helped cover up an alleged crime.
The silence of village residents has been both deafening and disappointing, but certainly not surprising.
Over the years, I’ve met so many Oxford residents who are willing to pull me aside to tell me how much they agree with my columns or how angry they are with their local governments, but when the time comes to speak up for all to hear, they suddenly develop laryngitis.
When the time comes to stand up and do what’s right, they leave it to others.
When the time comes to write a letter to the editor, they decide it’s too much trouble or if they do pen something, they send it anonymously or ask to have their name withheld, both of which devalue the opinion.
People say they’re worried about repercussions ? be they real or imaginary.
People say they don’t wish to offend friends who might disagree ? although if a friendship can’t withstand a difference of opinion, it’s obviously a very superficial relationship that’s of no real value.
People say they don’t want to put their name out there, make waves or call attention to themselves.
People say their opinion won’t make a difference, so why bother to get involved.
Whatever reason they cite, they’re all just excuses.
Excuses for apathy. Excuses for cowardice.
Ironically, we just celebrated the Fourth of July, the historic date on which in 1776, our Founding Fathers adopted the final wording for the Declaration of Independence.
By affixing their names to that piece of parchment, the Founders were effectively signing their own death warrants. Publicly declaring their independence from Great Britain and the Crown was an act of treason, the penalty for which was a date with the hangman and his noose.
These brave men risked their lives, the lives of their families and their property to regain the liberty they had lost, to right the wrongs perpetrated by the British and to further one of the most just causes in human history.
It’s hard to believe that we’re descended from these noble and courageous men when 235 years later we’re afraid to sign letters or publicly chastise a government official who so obviously flouted the law.
The shame I feel every time I see Helmuth acting as my representative at a council meeting is nothing compared to shame I feel when I look at my fellow village residents whose silence and inaction make them just as guilty.

‘We need to get our average composite score on the ACT to at least a 21 (or) 22. That, to me, is a minimum . . . We’re going to make a more concerted effort to get our kids? scores up on the ACT . . . I’m not saying 21 is the goal. I don’t want to be lower than that. I want to get higher than that.?
Those were Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling’s words in July 2009.
At the time, the district’s average composite ACT score was 19.4 and that included juniors from both OHS and Crossroads for Youth’s alternative school.
The average composite ACT score for just Oxford High School was 20 back then.
Two years later, the composite ACT score for the district is still 19.4, while OHS remains at 20.
In 2010, the year in between, the district’s average score went up to 19.6 while the high school composite went down to 19.9.
My question is where is this ‘concerted effort to get our kids? scores up on the ACT??
I see tons of emphasis on all things Chinese. I see lots of hoopla about fake blue grass. I see tremendous amounts of time and effort being poured into marketing, glossy publications and creating just the right image.
I also see that the average composite ACT scores are higher in surrounding school districts such as Clarkston (21), Lake Orion (21.7) and Brandon (20.3).
Even when you take out the alternative education students, OHS? average of 20 is still lower than Clarkston HS (21.5), Lake Orion HS (21.7) and Brandon HS (20.5).
What I don’t see is this ‘concerted effort? in Oxford and frankly, it worries me as it should really worry every parent out there. You see unlike the MEAP and MME tests, which the education community tends to look down on and always tries to dismiss the results of, the ACT is extremely important and extremely accurate.
But you don’t have to take just my word for it.
‘I’m going to be quite honest with you, I don’t really care about the MEAP scores as much as I care about the ACT,? said Skilling in July 2009. ‘And the reason I care more about the ACT (is) because it’s a true norm reference test that’s valid and a true predictor of future success.?
‘We can compare ourselves to kids all across the country (with the ACT),? Skilling said. ‘With the MEAP, you can’t compare yourself with anybody except in the state of Michigan. It’s not a very good predictor of future success.?
‘What’s really important to us is that ACT because that’s what determines scholarships; that determines what students have access to in terms of what schools they can get into or not,? Skilling explained.
Two years ago, Skilling explained he wanted Oxford to have an average composite score of 21 at the very least because that, along with a good GPA, would get a student into any what he called ‘B-type? university such as Western Michigan, Grand Valley State, Oakland University and Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools.
‘I want to make sure that every student who graduates from Oxford has the ability to be able to go to a (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) school, a MAC school, at least,? he said.
My reporter, Andrew Moser, has submitted some questions to the school board concerning the latest MME and ACT scores and what is going to be done to improve them.
Maybe, just maybe, instead of focusing so much time and energy on setting up schools in China and bringing Chinese students here, Oxford should be focusing on increasing that average composite ACT score.
Maybe Oxford should start taking care of Oxford.

‘Subjection in petty affairs, is manifest daily and touches all citizens indiscriminately. It never drives men to despair, but continually thwarts them and leads them to give up using their free will. It slowly stifles their spirits and enervates their souls . . .? ? ‘Democracy in America?

I’m used to Big Government taking my money and my freedom bit by bit through its increasingly intrusive ‘we-know-what’s-best-for-you? legislation.
But this time those liberty-draining, parasitical, soulless whores in Lansing have gone too far!
Now, they’re seeking to take away one the great pleasures I have in life ? smoking in my favorite tobacco shop in Ann Arbor.
There’s a quaint little shop in Nickels Arcade called Maison Edwards.
It’s an old-fashioned smoke shop complete with jars of pipe tobacco lining the shelves, a walk-in humidor and an irrepressible owner named Chuck Ghawi, whose wry wit, love of a good joke and friendly, easygoing demeanor make him an Ann Arbor icon.
I hung out and worked at Maison Edwards during my five years at the University of Michigan.
It was my home away from home. For me, it was what Cheers was to Norm Peterson.
The conversations and debates I had, the friends I made, the laughs we all shared over a fine, hand-rolled cigar helped shape who I am today.
Every time I go back to attend a football game, I stop in either before or after to have a cigar at the shop.
During my vacations, I always set aside one day to go back to Ann Arbor to smoke a stogie at Maison Edwards.
Walking through the door, hearing Bing Crosby, Louis Prima or Ella Fitzgerald playing on the stereo, and seeing a group of guys enjoying their smokes, takes me back to my college days, a very happy time for me.
All of that’s going to disappear for me if the State House passes the smoking ban as amended by the State Senate.
Last week, the sinister Senate passed the ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces that was previously approved in the House.
I opposed this ban because I am one of the very few people in this country who still believes in individual liberty, personal responsibility and freedom of choice.
These are all things that most people don’t seem to give a damn about these days because they’re all too worried about telling other people how to live their lives.
Health Nazis, Busy Bodies, Liberal Do-gooders, Moral Majoritarians they all scream at us ? ‘Don’t eat that cheeseburger! Don’t smoke that cigarette! Don’t drink that alcohol! Don’t just sit on the couch! Don’t watch that television show! Don’t listen to that music! Don’t believe what we don’t believe! Don’t be different!?
God endowed us all the greatest gift in the universe ? Free Will. But everyday Big Government and Elitists who act like they know what’s best for everyone continue to chip away at our natural rights in the name of Public Health, It’s For the Children and whatever other Trojan Horses they can use to hide their despotic agendas.
I knew eventually the smoking ban in restaurants and bars would be passed, but still I fought it.
And now the Senate has proven that if you give the enemies of freedom an inch, they’ll take it all.
Not content with merely banning smoking in the places proscribed by the House bill, the Senate extended the ban to include those establishments previously exempted by their colleagues in the other chamber.
If the House approves the Senate’s version of the bill and our socialist, Canadian, governorette signs it, smoking will also be banned in casinos, bingo halls, horse tracks, CIGAR BARS and SMOKE SHOPS!
That’s right, under this bill, I will no longer be able to smoke inside Maison Edwards ? a place that sells tobacco products, a place where smokers buy tobacco, a place where employees light up while working, a place where patrons go to smoke.
Exactly who is this asinine law protecting? You can bet it’s going to hurt business at Maison Edwards. I guess overtaxing my friend Chuck wasn’t good enough for the state. Now, they want to shut him down altogether.
As for me, if this bill passes, I will no longer be able to smoke in my favorite smoke shop!
Government wants to take away my Happy Place and destroy my ability to relive some of the best days of my life. I view this as a highly personal attack.
I guess all that stuff about ‘the pursuit of happiness? in the Declaration of Independence doesn’t mean anything these days if what you do to relax and socialize isn’t Politically Correct.
If Thomas Jefferson were alive today and saw everything government’s doing to us, you can bet he’d be urging people to grab their muskets and revolt.
This time government has gone too far.
And for all you militant anti-smokers who helped make this kind of legislation happen with your complaining and know-it-all attitudes, I can’t wait until government goes after all the things you love in life and takes them away one by one until you’re left wallowing in utter misery and despair.
Make no mistake, once you start taking away rights from one group, once you start persecuting them because they’re a minority or because what they do is unpopular, you unleash a beast that will eventually consume us all.
Taking away my freedom to smoke in my favorite cigar shop may not seem like a big deal to most people.
But it’s the smallest freedoms ? the little choices and pleasures we enjoy in our everyday lives ? that are the most important because once government starts taking away those, it won’t be long before Bill of Rights is meaningless and a column like this could get me thrown in prison.
The 19th century political observer Alexis de Tocqueville understood this when he wrote, ‘I should be inclined to think that liberty is less necessary in great matters than in tiny ones if I imagined that one could ever be safe in the enjoyment of one sort of freedom without the other.?
How true.

Over the last few weeks, Oxford’s experienced two incidents of senseless vandalism, one involving private property, the other concerning public property.
The first occurred on July 22-23 at Koenig Sand & Gravel on Lakeville Rd.
Some destructive idiot (or idiots) smashed up trucks belonging to lifelong Oxford resident and businessman Jeff Acton, then proceeded to trash the interior of the Koenig office.
The second occurred last week when some malicious bonehead (or boneheads) pried Centennial Park’s soldier statue off of its base and left in laying on the ground like a piece of garbage (see story on Page 3).
The individual or individuals responsible for these mindless acts have yet to be identified and brought to justice. Make no mistake, whoever is responsible for these crimes is loathsome and contemptible.
They cost two local businesses thousands of dollars which they can ill afford in this troubled economy and they disrespected the memories of the 44 fallen soldiers represented by that statue.
Based on past experiences, my guess is kids are probably responsible for both crimes.
If that turns out to be the case, it’s inevitable that someone out there will pen a letter to the editor about how kids do bad things like this because they’re bored and there’s just nothing for them to do around here.
It will probably end with a call to build a skate park, a teen center or some other taxpayer-financed playpen.
I really hate the argument that vandalism is the result of boredom and that we as a community have a responsibility to open our wallets and keep these kids occupied.
Vandalism is not the product of boredom.
Vandalism is the direct result of poor parenting, poor decisions and the overall lack of discipline in this ‘if it feels good, do it? world.
Growing up in Detroit and Eastpointe in the 1980s and early 1990s, there were plenty of times my friends and I got bored, particularly during the summer.
But believe it or not, we didn’t smash windows, we didn’t spray paint things and we didn’t destroy other people’s property for poops and giggles.
Why? Because we knew it was wrong ? and we were deathly afraid of our parents.
No one had to bribe us with fancy youth facilities to keep us from sacking the neighborhood like crazed Vikings on a drunken rampage.
That’s not to say we didn’t get into our fair share of trouble, but we never violated the law.
I sincerely hope the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and Oxford Village Police catch these vandals and they are punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Parents, talk to your kids about vandalism. Explain to them that it’s a crime, not a harmless prank. Explain to them why it’s important to respect other people’s property.
Citizens, keep your eyes open. If you see something suspicious, no matter how seemingly insignificant, immediately report it to the police. Let’s put a stop to this.

‘Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams, The islands and bays are for sportsmen.? ? ‘The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald? by Gordon Lightfoot

I celebrated the Opening Day of Trout Season (April 26) in a most unusual way this year.
Instead of grabbing my Orvis fly rod, donning my waders and heading for Paint Creek, I loaded my shotgun and gobbled away with my turkey call right here in Oxford Township.
Ever since I applied for a turkey license in January, I’d been looking forward to this magic moment ? the chance to bag North America’s largest game bird.
It was one the few things that kept me going through the extra long, cold, snowy, depressing winter we just suffered.
Well, I’m happy to report my first ever turkey hunt was a complete success.
The victim was a 15-pound tom with an 8 ?-inch beard. The subject was unarmed, but I was not.
What a thrill! It all happened so fast.
I arrived at my spot around 5:30 a.m.
It was still dark out, but you would have never known it by the ultra-bright full moon shining down on me like a spotlight.
After setting up my decoys ? a hen and a jake (a juvenile male) ? I took my position about 20 yards away and started calling.
I could hear the turkeys coming down from the trees where they roost overnight.
The more they gobbled, the more excited I got.
I didn’t actually see anything until around 7:30 a.m.
That’s when I spotted them ? two toms (adult males) headed straight for my decoys like a pair of heat-seeking missiles.
Not once did they stop or hesitate during their approach, which was by no means a slow or leisurely pace. These boys were clearly on a search and destroy mission.
You see most toms won’t allow a jake to get near any hen in their area. It’s a male dominance thing. These fellas were looking to beat up my poor jake decoy, then mate with what they perceived to be his lady.
There’s no chivalry in the animal kingdom.
I could feel my heart pumping faster and faster as those plump toms approached. My breathing got heavier. I was practically panting like a dog in July.
I had to calm down.
But if you don’t get excited, what’s the point of being out there, right?
The toms reached my decoys in a matter of seconds.
Slowly, I raised my Remington 12-gauge, picked one and fired. Boom! Down he went.
I had no choice ? I had to defend my hen’s honor! Those boys we’re planning to do unspeakable things to her.
Let this be a lesson to anyone who tries to date my daughter when she starts high school next year.
Between the time I first spotted those toms coming and the moment I shot, probably 30 seconds went by.
It was one big, adrenaline-filled blur.
To my amazement, after I shot, his friend didn’t run away.
He stuck around pecking at his buddy on the ground as if to say, ‘Hey, what happened? You all right? Get up ? you’re making me look bad in front of this punk.?
Now, if I was a hunter who didn’t obey the rules, I could have easily loaded two toms in my trunk that morning. But I didn’t.
Once I got up and started walking toward them, the friend high-tailed it out of there.
They had to surgically remove the smile from my face I was so happy.
My first time out and I bagged a nice-sized bird.
Those tail feathers and that beard are going to look great hanging above my bar next to my seven-point rack.
My wife couldn’t be happier that I have more dead animal parts to hang on the wall and tell stories about over and over again when guests come to call.
I roasted the breast later that day for dinner. It was the whitest, most juicy, delicious turkey I’d ever eaten.
There is a real primal satisfaction that comes from eating something you just killed.
No hormones, no factory farms, no cloned animals ? just the freshest meat Mother Nature can provide.
My wife loved it. Even my daughter tried some, which surprised me. She liked it.
Because my turkey hunt went a lot quicker than I expected, I had plenty of time to head down to Paint Creek and do some trout fishing. Didn’t catch anything, but the tom waiting for me in the refrigerator more than made up for it.
Oh, how I love Michigan.
No matter how bad things get economically in this state, I’d never leave.
I love it too much as a sportsman.
Turkey hunting in the morning. Trout fishing in the afternoon.
That’s a pretty good day in my book.

Psst . . . fellas . . . come here.
Don’t tell the womenfolk, but there’s a men’s event being planned in Oxford.
A men’s event, you say! Shhhh….
The event is called ‘It’s a Guy Thing? and it’s going to take place at Devil’s Ridge Golf Club on Saturday, Oct. 29.
A committee consisting of Parks/Rec Director Ron Davis, Jeweller Mark Young, township Supervisor Bill Dunn, Oxford Leader Publisher Jim Sherman, Jr. and myself began meeting informally at my house a few weeks ago to toss around some ideas.
Right now, we’re looking at a full day’s worth of things that guys love including college football, Texas Hold’em poker, golf, hunting, cool cars, adult beverages, cigars, assorted grilled meats and other manly things.
It’s going to be a full day of vendors and activities geared toward the Y chromosome.
Sounds good, right?
Not only is this going to be a fun event, it’s going to help folks in need.
In order to attend ‘It’s a Guy Thing,? each guy will be asked to bring at least two nonperishable food items that will be donated to the Oxford/Orion FISH food pantry.
We’re also planning to have a Texas Hold’em tournament, the profits from which will be donated 50/50 to two very worthwhile causes.
The first is Wheelin? Team 457.
Founded in 2003 and based at American Legion Post 457 in North Branch, the nonprofit group helps people, including veterans, confined to wheelchairs participate in indoor and outdoor sports such as target shooting, archery, swimming, deer and turkey hunting, fishing, golf, weight-lifting, table tennis, wheelchair racing, bowling and billiards.
The second is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the mission of which is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.
This was a cause very near and dear to the heart of the late Anthony J. Munaco, Jr., who owned Devil’s Ridge until his passing in December 2010.
We’re still in the planning stages, so right now we need vendors, volunteers, ideas and sponsorship money.
Don’t be shy. We want to hear from you. We want to work with you. Tell us what you want to see and how you can pitch in.
You can communicate with us by e-mailing itsaguythingoxford@hotmail.com or by visiting us on Facebook. The Facebook page is called ‘It’s a Guy Thing (Oxford, Michigan).?
I’m really excited about this event because it’s about time the men of Oxford had a day of their own.
As I stated in a previous column, Oxford has nine events for women and zero for men. Approximately 50 percent of this community is being ignored.
We want to make ‘It’s a Guy Thing? a huge success, so it becomes an annual happening.
If there are two things men are good at, it’s having a good time and helping others.
Let’s show the ladies how it’s done.

‘Subjection in petty affairs, is manifest daily and touches all citizens indiscriminately. It never drives men to despair, but continually thwarts them and leads them to give up using their free will. It slowly stifles their spirits and enervates their souls . . .? ? ‘Democracy in America?

I’m used to Big Government taking my money and my freedom bit by bit through its increasingly intrusive ‘we-know-what’s-best-for-you? legislation.
But this time those liberty-draining, parasitical, soulless whores in Lansing have gone too far!
Now, they’re seeking to take away one the great pleasures I have in life ? smoking in my favorite tobacco shop in Ann Arbor.
There’s a quaint little shop in Nickels Arcade called Maison Edwards.
It’s an old-fashioned smoke shop complete with jars of pipe tobacco lining the shelves, a walk-in humidor and an irrepressible owner named Chuck Ghawi, whose wry wit, love of a good joke and friendly, easygoing demeanor make him an Ann Arbor icon.
I hung out and worked at Maison Edwards during my five years at the University of Michigan.
It was my home away from home. For me, it was what Cheers was to Norm Peterson.
The conversations and debates I had, the friends I made, the laughs we all shared over a fine, hand-rolled cigar helped shape who I am today.
Every time I go back to attend a football game, I stop in either before or after to have a cigar at the shop.
During my vacations, I always set aside one day to go back to Ann Arbor to smoke a stogie at Maison Edwards.
Walking through the door, hearing Bing Crosby, Louis Prima or Ella Fitzgerald playing on the stereo, and seeing a group of guys enjoying their smokes, takes me back to my college days, a very happy time for me.
All of that’s going to disappear for me if the State House passes the smoking ban as amended by the State Senate.
Last week, the sinister Senate passed the ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces that was previously approved in the House.
I opposed this ban because I am one of the very few people in this country who still believes in individual liberty, personal responsibility and freedom of choice.
These are all things that most people don’t seem to give a damn about these days because they’re all too worried about telling other people how to live their lives.
Health Nazis, Busy Bodies, Liberal Do-gooders, Moral Majoritarians they all scream at us ? ‘Don’t eat that cheeseburger! Don’t smoke that cigarette! Don’t drink that alcohol! Don’t just sit on the couch! Don’t watch that television show! Don’t listen to that music! Don’t believe what we don’t believe! Don’t be different!?
God endowed us all the greatest gift in the universe ? Free Will. But everyday Big Government and Elitists who act like they know what’s best for everyone continue to chip away at our natural rights in the name of Public Health, It’s For the Children and whatever other Trojan Horses they can use to hide their despotic agendas.
I knew eventually the smoking ban in restaurants and bars would be passed, but still I fought it.
And now the Senate has proven that if you give the enemies of freedom an inch, they’ll take it all.
Not content with merely banning smoking in the places proscribed by the House bill, the Senate extended the ban to include those establishments previously exempted by their colleagues in the other chamber.
If the House approves the Senate’s version of the bill and our socialist, Canadian, governorette signs it, smoking will also be banned in casinos, bingo halls, horse tracks, CIGAR BARS and SMOKE SHOPS!
That’s right, under this bill, I will no longer be able to smoke inside Maison Edwards ? a place that sells tobacco products, a place where smokers buy tobacco, a place where employees light up while working, a place where patrons go to smoke.
Exactly who is this asinine law protecting? You can bet it’s going to hurt business at Maison Edwards. I guess overtaxing my friend Chuck wasn’t good enough for the state. Now, they want to shut him down altogether.
As for me, if this bill passes, I will no longer be able to smoke in my favorite smoke shop!
Government wants to take away my Happy Place and destroy my ability to relive some of the best days of my life. I view this as a highly personal attack.
I guess all that stuff about ‘the pursuit of happiness? in the Declaration of Independence doesn’t mean anything these days if what you do to relax and socialize isn’t Politically Correct.
If Thomas Jefferson were alive today and saw everything government’s doing to us, you can bet he’d be urging people to grab their muskets and revolt.
This time government has gone too far.
And for all you militant anti-smokers who helped make this kind of legislation happen with your complaining and know-it-all attitudes, I can’t wait until government goes after all the things you love in life and takes them away one by one until you’re left wallowing in utter misery and despair.
Make no mistake, once you start taking away rights from one group, once you start persecuting them because they’re a minority or because what they do is unpopular, you unleash a beast that will eventually consume us all.
Taking away my freedom to smoke in my favorite cigar shop may not seem like a big deal to most people.
But it’s the smallest freedoms ? the little choices and pleasures we enjoy in our everyday lives ? that are the most important because once government starts taking away those, it won’t be long before Bill of Rights is meaningless and a column like this could get me thrown in prison.
The 19th century political observer Alexis de Tocqueville understood this when he wrote, ‘I should be inclined to think that liberty is less necessary in great matters than in tiny ones if I imagined that one could ever be safe in the enjoyment of one sort of freedom without the other.?
How true.

It’s amazing how you can see something for years, then one day, all of the sudden, it inspires you to create.
That’s what happened to me as I gazed at the painting shown right while making some routine phone calls.
For those of you not familiar with it, it’s part of a series called the ‘Four Freedoms,? painted by American illustrator Norman Rockwell in 1943. It’s called ‘Freedom of Speech.?
It’s always been one of my favorite works of art. Honestly, I must have sat and stared at it a thousand times, but I was never inspired to write about it until now.
To me, this painting is the very essence of what American government, particularly at the local level, is supposed to be about.
Take a good look at the man who’s speaking. Notice the way he’s dressed. He’s not wearing a fancy suit with a silk tie; he’s dressed in his rumpled work clothes. He probably just came from a long day of laboring on his farm or perhaps at some local factory.
He’s not someone pretending to be the common man or trying to relate to the common man, he is the common man.
He’s standing up amidst his fellow townspeople, addressing some type of governing board about an issue that’s important to him or important to his community.
He’s probably nervous about speaking in public, but at the same time, he’s also not afraid to speak his mind.
My guess is whatever he’s saying isn’t very eloquent or polished, but you know it’s honest, you know it’s based on common sense and you know it’s from his heart.
Notice how the folks around him are listening so intently. They seem to genuinely care about what he has to say even though he possesses no degrees, no titles, no expert credentials to speak of. They care about what he has to say because he’s their neighbor, he’s their friend, he’s truly one of them.
I find myself getting lost in a sea of idealism when I stare at this painting. I think this how it was meant to be; this is how it should be. But that wonderful spell is soon broken when my mind dwells on many of the people I deal with on a regular basis in the political realm ? the two-faced, the cowardly, the deceitful, the apathetic and the easily-led.
I ask myself, ‘Where has the man in this painting gone??
He didn’t just exist in Rockwell’s imagination. He used to be flesh and blood. He used to be us.

One of the main reasons government in general suffers from a poor reputation and low public confidence is not because of the Evil Media.
Government is viewed with suspicion and scorn because of the actions and attitudes of public officials ? you know those guys who allegedly work for us.
Last week, I found myself on the receiving end of a rude public official who berated me for basically doing my job.
My 1 minute 28 second conversation with Oxford Downtown Development Authority Director Carolyn Bennett on Thursday, April 24 left me stunned and quite livid as both a newspaper editor and a taxpayer.
I called Bennett because she hadn’t faxed over a piece of public information I requested the previous day.
Basically, I requested a copy of a letter from Oakland County Equalization Division declaring that the 3?-acre James Lumber property on E. Burdick St. is functionally obsolete and eligible for Michigan Business Tax Credits should some lucky developer wish to buy it and transform the land into something other an abandoned lumber yard.
Although the DDA does not own the property, it is seeking a developer for it. The DDA is sending out requests for proposals from developers and will be advertising the property with a booth at the National Brownfields Conference being held May 5-7 at the Cobo Center in Detroit.
When I inquired about the county letter which enabled the James property to be declared a ‘brownfield,? Bennett told me, ‘I’m not going to give that one to you. I think that you need to take my word for it, otherwise what kind of relationship do we have??
I thought we had a professional relationship, but given Bennett’s defensive tone and over-the-top reaction (read on) to a simple, routine request, it appears I was the only professional on the phone that day.
‘I can’t find the original letter. I only have copies,? Bennett explained.
For the record, I didn’t ask for the original. A copy would have done just fine. Of course, I later learned she didn’t actually have any copies.
‘I don’t understand why I have to give you the assessor’s letter that says it is a blighted property when I’m telling you it’s a blighted property,? Bennett said. ‘Don’t you trust me??
My request was not about trust or any lack of.
It was about me simply doing my job and asking for documentation which is supposed to be available to me or anyone else in the public via the Freedom of Information Act.
It was also supposed to be about Bennett giving me the letter I requested so I could publicize the DDA’s efforts to find a developer for this rather important piece of village property that’s just sitting there, benefiting no one.
I wanted to have all the information so I could write a story that frankly would have reflected positively on the DDA and maybe even help sell the property.
‘I just don’t understand why it is you need the assessor’s letter. That’s coming from Oakland County. Do you not believe me that I did it?? Bennett said. ‘I just don’t understand this mentality here that nobody believes anybody about anything. And I don’t know why I have to keep proving myself over and over again. It just makes me angry.?
When I said, ‘It has nothing to do with that, I just . . . whenever there’s documentation . . .?
Bennett interrupted me and said, ‘You just want to make sure I did it correctly ? well, I did.?
When I told Bennett she needed to ‘calm down,? she replied, ‘Yeah, probably. But you know what? I’m probably not going to.?
My reply ? ‘I’ll call back when you’re in a better mood cause this is unacceptable for a public official.?
I then hung up. Bennett later e-mailed me with what was probably the worst apology I’ve ever received in my life ? ‘Sorry you were so angry.? What? Is she serious?
Fortunately, I recorded our conversation ? as I do all my interviews ? and later shared this inexcusable behavior with DDA Chairman Mark Young, who was understandably embarrassed and apologetic.
I don’t blame Young for any of this. In fact, he graciously offered to get the document for me, which he promptly did that very afternoon.
I just felt I should bring this to his attention because it reflects poorly on the DDA and our downtown.
Who else has Bennett talked to this way? How many current and potential volunteers have been put off by her demeanor? What face do business owners and developers get ? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Or is there a third personality?
In the past, a handful people have talked to me off-the-record about her arrogant, abrasive and dismissive attitude toward them and others. Now, I’ve experienced it firsthand.
With regard to Bennett’s query as to why she has ‘to keep proving myself over and over again,? I would say it’s because she keeps dropping the ball over and over again.
A prime example was her failure to file the necessary paperwork with the village Zoning Board of Appeals, which led to the January closure of the temporary gravel lot in downtown’s northwest quadrant.
Or how about last year’s unauthorized purchase of 300 polo (or golf) shirts for $8,250 for Celebrate Oxford volunteers.
Bennett bought them without board approval and without obtaining three bids ? both violations of DDA policies she wrote and convinced the board to adopt.
As far as failed projects, let’s talk about the ‘Ornaments of Oxford? ? putting giant Christmas ornaments in Centennial Park throughout the month of December.
The four, count’em four ornaments ? three of which could hardly be classified as giant ? attracted no one and did absolutely nothing to enhance our downtown for the holiday season. It was a pathetic and feebly executed attempt to create an attraction similar to downtown Rochester’s ‘The Big, Bright Light Show.?
For this, Oxford taxpayers spent approximately $3,000.
My impression of Bennett is she’s disorganized and talks a big game, but lacks the ability to follow-through. Her ‘this is the way we did things in Lansing? attitude is tiresome.
As I understand it, Bennett’s contract expired January and she’s currently working without a new one.
Now’s the time to terminate Carolyn Bennett and begin the search for a new DDA director.
If Bennett demands severance pay, give her a giant Christmas ornament. If we get it rolling down M-24, she can ride it all the way to the next community dumb enough to hire her.

The greatest lesson the Chinese students visiting Oxford can return home with won’t be learned in any of their classrooms at the high school.
The lesson I’m referring to has nothing to do with mathematics, language or even art and athletics.
The lesson to which I’m referring is how to live in a truly free society, something which I’m guessing they have no experience with given the authoritarian nature of their one-party system government.
When I speak of freedom, I don’t mean the crass materialism that often gets mistaken for liberty.
I don’t consider a people free because they’re able to eat at McDonald’s, drive oversized SUVs and visit shopping malls. I also don’t consider a people free because their government is practicing its own bastardized form of capitalism and allowing some folks to get rich.
The freedom of which I speak springs from natural or inalienable rights, which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights.
Living in a free society means expressing opinions and ideas, either verbally or in writing, without the fear of being arrested and imprisoned by the authorities.
Living in a free society means being able to worship as you please without worrying about who’s watching you enter a church, synagogue or mosque.
Living in a free society means being able to surf the internet and access any website you wish because the government has not censored or blocked those it deems unacceptable or dangerous to its grip on power.
Living in a free society means reading a newspaper that’s been written by independent journalists who have not been told by the government what stories to write or how to write them.
Living in a free society means attending a government meeting and watching representatives you elected debate and vote on various policies and issues.
Living in a free society means being able to go wherever you please, whenever you please and with whomever you please.
By the time these Chinese students return home, I sincerely hope they will have experienced all of these things and so much more. I hope they will have learned what it truly means to be free and that it is man’s natural state.
I hope they will infect others in their country with spirit of liberty and perhaps, one day, spark the long-overdue revolution that will finally free the Chinese people from an oppressive and corrupt government that should have been relegated to the ash heap of history long ago.
Who knows? Maybe one of these students can be the next Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who, in December 2009, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for ‘inciting subversion of state power.?
Liu was arrested for co-authoring Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform, greater human rights and an end to one-party rule in China. Although he pleaded not guilty to the subversion charge, the defense was not permitted to present any evidence at his trial.
Last year, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his two decades of fighting for peaceful democratic reform.
To the world, Liu’s a hero. To the Chinese government, he’s a dangerous criminal that must remain locked away.
There’s a lesson in that, too, and the question these Chinese students must ask themselves is, ‘Do I want to continue to live under that kind of tyrannical government or do I want to actively work to change things??

Nothing pleases me more than when an arrogant politician is finally revealed for what he or she truly is.
The only thing that makes it sweeter is when it’s someone I’ve locked horns with in print, someone who viewed him or herself as untouchable.
For this reason, April 2 was one of the happiest days of my life. Why?
That’s when the news broke that former Oxford Village Council President Thomas L. Athans, wife of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), got caught with his pants down ? literally.
I was absolutely thrilled as a slew of local and national newspapers, radio stations and TV programs all reported on how Athans, 46, was caught in a prostitution sting at the Residence Inn in Troy on Feb. 26.
From Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno to Greta Van Susteren and Jimmy Kimmel, all the big names were talking about how Athans admitted to Troy Police that he paid a 20-year-old prostitute he met on-line $150 for sexual relations.
Congratulations, Tom. You finally made the Big Time just like you always wanted. You always thought you were meant for bigger things than lil? ol’ Oxford.
Locally, folks may remember Athans served on the village council from 1996 to 2002 and as president from 2001-02. He’s been involved in liberal/progressive talk radio since marrying his Congressional meal ticket in February 2003.
I’m sure Athans? fellow liberal Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore are proud of him right now. Gore because Athans arranged his sexual tryst via the Internet he allegedly invented and Clinton because . . . well, you know why.
Anyone familiar with my previous diatribes against Athans probably expects me to really let him have it in this column. But you know what? I’m not going kick a man when he’s down. Besides, I’m sure Stabenow’s doing plenty of that.
Instead, I’m going to do my best to put a positive spin on this for my dear ol? friend Tom. Stabenow’s media relations people might want to start taking notes.
Sure, the Evil Media wants to portray this as a story about a man engaging in an illegal activity, a husband cheating on his wife, one human being soullessly and selfishly using and debasing another for money.
But that’s not what happened at all. That’s not the real story here.
Fact is, Tom Athans is a hero.
Yes, I said hero.
He knows how bad the Michigan economy is doing. He knows people are struggling with out-of-control gas prices, house payments, unemployment, credit card debt and high taxes.
In an effort to help the sagging economy of the state his wife misrepresents in Congress, Athans decided to ‘Buy Michigan? by keeping a local woman gainfully employed.
Sure, he could have bought a hooker in Washington D.C. where they are plentiful. But he didn’t. He decided to spend his wife’s hard-earned dollars in Michigan.
And by the way, we in the Media shouldn’t be calling this poor girl a prostitute or hooker, we should be referring to her as a ‘local entrepreneur? or ‘entertainment specialist.?
By employing her, Athans was showing himself to be a champion of the small business owner and firm believer in capitalism. He’s a one-man chamber of commerce.
Feminists, like his wife, may frown on what he did, but they too should see it in a different light.
Athans was not using or exploiting this girl like a thing or a cheap piece of merchandise, he was being a proponent of women’s rights in the tradition of Steinem, Abzug and Friedan.
By hiring her, Athans was saying, ‘I support independent women in the work force. I support a woman’s right to earn just as much money as any man.?
We shouldn’t be vilifying Tom Athans. We should be celebrating his commitment to this state and its people.
We should be honoring him for drawing all the negative attention away from Detroit and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s scandals.
Tom Athans is a prince among Johns.
Okay, seriously
It’s nice to see Athans finally exposed on the national stage for the weasel he truly is.
Behind that overly-toothy grin and smarmy charm, lurks a man with absolutely no honor, character or conviction.
It’s true I’m no fan of Stabenow’s liberal politics, but even I think she deserves a lot better than to be publicly humiliated and lied to by this cheating scoundrel.
Take my advice Debbie and divorce him immediately.
I’m really upset that Athans is not going to face any criminal charges over this because the Troy Police are using him as a witness against the prostitute.
According to The Detroit News, during these type of stings, police only arrest the prostitutes.
?(Detectives) stop people coming and going and interview them. If they have a cooperative witness, they will use that person to testify against the ring rather than arrest them. That’s what happened in this case,? according to Troy Police Lt. Gerry Scherlinck, who was quoted in the News.
Talk about sexist double-standards. The women get charged with crimes, but nothing happens to the men if they cooperate. Correct me if I’m wrong, but prostitution is a two-person crime. There would be no hookers if there were no Johns like Tom Athans.
Athans should be prosecuted, not protected. He confessed what he did to police. He should pay the price like anybody else would.
But I wouldn’t send him to jail.
Being a liberal Democrat, he might start demanding taxpayer-financed conjugal visits.
NOTE: It always feels good to exercise your constitutional rights and participate in the democratic process. I’m proud to say I collected 72 of the 152 signatures to finally put the cityhood issue on the ballot.

Bill Service, commander of Oxford American Legion Post 108 and a jack-of-all-trades for Oxford Community Television, stopped by my office Monday and gave me my laugh of the day, perhaps even the week.
He handed me one of the small American flags that were distributed during Ridgelawn Cemetery’s veterans ceremony on Saturday (see Page 32).
Service pointed out that the flags were unfortunately ‘Made in China? and contained only 41 stars.
For those who don’t know it, Old Glory has 50 stars, one to represent each state in the union.
After I got done laughing, I had to wonder why only 41 stars?
Do the Chinese have difficulty counting? Not to stereotype, but I thought standardized test scores indicate they’re better at math than we are?
Was it done deliberately as an insult? A subtle jab at the old imperialist running dogs?
Are they jealous because China’s flag only has five stars and one less color? Don’t believe me ? just go in any Oxford school and ask to see its Chinese flag.
Does China plan on foreclosing on nine of our states as payment for the approximately $1.2 trillion of the U.S. debt it owns? If so, they can have Ohio today.
Did the nine missing stars say something against the Chinese government and now, they’re being held in a re-education camp?
Are we slowly being brainwashed into believing our nation is smaller and weaker than it actually is? Will we all wake up one day and think America’s no bigger than Rhode Island?
Is there some sinister attempt afoot to rewrite American history? God help us if China’s printing our textbooks, too. Keep a close eye on those chapters about the Korean War (or the ‘War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea? as it’s known in China).
Is this part of some left-wing environmentalist statement that we need to conserve all the stars we have now because if we don’t, they’ll be no stars left for our children?
The mind literally reels at the sheer volume of conspiratorial ? and hilarious ? possibilities. Or maybe it’s just a simple case of shoddy work by cheap labor.
All I know is if this country can’t even manufacture its own flags, our most precious national symbol, we’re in deeper trouble than I thought.
****
On a serious note, thanks to Chris and Loretta Acheson, who operate Ridgelawn Memorial Cemetery, for making me one of their honorees Saturday.
I was quite humbled and appreciative.
I know they’re very grateful for all the coverage I’ve given their annual Wreaths Across America event, but as I always say, ‘All I do is take some photos and write a few words. You guys do the real work.?
Oxford should be thankful that it has people like the Achesons who take the time to ensure that no veteran ? deceased or living ? is forgotten.
They’ve set a fine example for how this community should honor its heroes and teach its children about their sacrifices to protect our liberty and security.

Telling people what they want to hear ? with absolutely no intention of actually doing it ? in order to get what you want is the essence of politics.
Politicians call them promises.
Regular folks call them lies.
No one on either side really has any faith in what’s said, but we go through the motions because that’s what we’re used to. Sadly, it’s all we know.
I’m thinking about promises, lies, etc. this week because on Monday, I was on the Polly Ann Trail bridge over M-24 snapping some photos of a professor and some students from Lawrence Technical University.
Part of the reason the good folks from LTU visited Oxford is because they’re going to help the Downtown Development Authority figure out ways to give trail users, particularly those crossing the bridge, easier access to the downtown area (see Page 16). Anyone who’s familiar with the trail bridge knows it was never designed to allow users convenient access to the downtown.
The two giant ramps that lead to the bridge afford absolutely no connection to Washington St. (M-24). One ramp is located off Pleasant St., while the other is located near the intersection of Center and Louck streets.
Despite all the rhetoric prior to the bridge’s construction about how it was going to greatly benefit the downtown area by creating more foot traffic and spurring economic development, the structure was actually designed for one purpose only ? to get trail users safely across M-24.
The reality is the bridge discourages trail users from visiting the downtown. It actually diverts them away from the shopping district by keeping them on the trail.
Back in August 2004, Oxford Village Planning Commissioner John DuVal suggested incorporating staircases, connecting the bridge with M-24, into the design to make it ‘more conducive? to downtown pedestrian traffic. The idea was to allow pedestrians the option of getting on and off the bridge at Washington St. as opposed to going out so far of their way by using the ramps.
Larry Obrecht, the guy who spearheaded the bridge project, told DuVal he thought stairs were ‘a good idea.?
‘And I’ll attempt to incorporate it,? Obrecht said. ‘I can’t envision that being very expensive . . . I’ll be pleased to pursue that and see if we can install a staircase.?
In a Dec. 30, 2004 e-mail to Oxford Village Manager Joe Young, Obrecht wrote, ‘It was always my intent to handle the stairs? through the bridge contractor as a ‘change order? rather than engineering them into the plans, which ‘seems to incur an expense that’s not necessary.?
Steve Allen, who served on the village council at the time, smelled a rat. He publicly stated, ‘We have asked for those stairways, but we’ve yet to see them in writing . . . I want them to be committed to paper and an approved site plan document, so they will be required to be built.?
Despite all this talk, when the trail bridge was finally erected in October 2006, it included no staircases.
Five years later, there are still no staircases and no plans to install any.
Back then, I said Obrecht had no intention of building those staircases. I said Obrecht was just shining village officials on to get his project through. And I was right.
Five years later, Oxford’s left holding the bag, trying to figure out how to get trail users off the bridge and into our downtown businesses.
Is it any wonder why I’m so cynical when it comes to government folks and their empty words?

The tables have turned and suddenly I, the interviewer, have become the interviewee.
Oxford High School student Jessie Ojeda e-mailed me some questions Monday as part of a class assignment.
The questions are about my job as a newspaper editor. I’m always happy to help our local students and teachers whenever and however I can, so here are my answers, Jessie.
1) What responsibility or responsibilities do you think you have to your reading public?
I believe I have a responsibility to be as accurate as possible, to present all sides of a story in a balanced manner and to keep the community informed about any and all newsworthy happenings including local government meetings, school events, fund-raisers and charities, crimes, corruption, what your neighbors are up to, etc.
I’m not just a journalist, I’m a historian for Oxford and Addison. What I report on now will be used 10, 25, 50 or 100 years from now when someone wants to research the town or an event or even their own family. Today, it’s a newspaper. Tomorrow, it’s a historical document.
2) What do you consider the three most important elements of a successful newspaper article?
First of all, a good story must answer the following basic questions ? Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Answering these basic questions is absolutely critical for any successful news story.
Next, a story must be interesting or at least written in a way that grabs people’s attention and makes them want to read more. A bored reader isn’t a reader for very long.
Finally, a successful news article must be factual and informative. We want readers to come away from a story knowing more about the topic than they did before.
3) How do you determine which information is newsworthy enough for publication?
The Number One criteria for publishing a story in the Leader is it absolutely, positively must be local. That means it must involve a person, place, thing, event, business or organization that’s associated with Oxford Township or Village, Addison Township, Leonard Village or the Oxford school district. If it’s not local, it’s not in the Leader.
A story must also be relevant. It must be something that has an impact on our readership. It must be something that helps them better understand their community or some other facet of their lives. It must be something that keeps our readers informed and aware of what’s going on around them. We also look for stories that are unique, funny, quirky, interesting, heartwarming or just plain bizarre.
4) What are the main criteria used for determining which Letters to the Editor the paper publishes?
We publish 95 percent of the letters we receive. We value everyone’s opinion on virtually every topic.
The only instances in which we won’t publish a letter are if it contains profanity, libelous statements, information which we know for a fact to be false, or if we feel a writer is beating a topic to death by making the same points over and over again, week after week. We also won’t publish anonymous letters, however, sometimes we will withhold a writer’s name if there’s a valid reason and only if we know who they are.
Contrary to what some believe, having a letter to the editor published is not a right, it’s a privilege. Everyone has a right to commit their opinion to paper, but the newspaper is under no obligation to publish it.
5) Why did you decide to become an editor?
I love to write. I want to help make my little corner of the world a better place. I want to help people. I want to stand up for the little guy and those who feel they have no voice.

I find the Oxford school district’s plan to embrace all things Chinese from language and culture to history and etiquette both interesting and troubling.
I have nothing against our students learning about China, its unique language and ancient origins.
Curiosity about Asia’s great power didn’t end with the great explorer Marco Polo. Our students? knowledge of this nation shouldn’t be limited to General Tso’s Chicken.
Expanding knowledge is a good thing. Enriching the mind and broadening one’s experiences are never bad.
My only concern is I sincerely hope in teaching Oxford students about China we’re not going to gloss over its Evil government ? and no, Evil is not too strong of a word to describe the criminals and sadistic monsters that rule from Beijing.
Fact is, if I were a Chinese journalist writing the above sentence, I would be carted off to prison or simply disappear in the middle of the night. Actually, if I were a Chinese journalist I most likely wouldn’t have written that sentence at all.
We all hear about how China’s embraced its own brand of free market economics ? certainly not Adam Smith’s version ? and is fastly becoming an economic powerhouse in the world.
Dollars and cents are the main reason Oxford students are going to start learning Chinese this fall.
‘This generation’s going to be doing more business with China than any other generation has,? said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum James Schwarz. ‘The forecasts are that China’s going to be a major market player in this generation’s future.?
This is very true. And China’s doing its very best PR job to appear on the world stage as a progressive nation.
That’s the whole reason China’s hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Much like Adolph Hitler used the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin to lend legitimacy to his brutal Nazi regime, so the Chinese government will use the games to gain acceptance and help make it look credible in the eyes of the world.
But beneath China’s smiling, quasi-capitalistic mask lurks the ugly, violent, dictatorial beast that Chairman Mao ? may he roast in Hell ? unleashed on the populace. The beast is older, wiser, a little more refined, slick and modern for the benefit of Western eyes, but he’s still devouring the rights, liberties and lives of the Chinese (and Tibetan) people.
To America’s amoral corporate types, the Chinese government is someone to do business with ? a lush market of 1.2 billion consumers, not to mention cheap labor.
But to people living under that cruel system ? the Tibetans, people of religious faith, proponents of democracy, intellectuals and journalists ? the Chinese government is an oppressive machine that thrives on blood, fear, suspicion, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and complete control over thought, word and deed.
As the recent events in Tibet showed, the desire for economic growth and a glossy global image hasn’t changed China’s attitude about using Stalinist police tactics and Orwellian censorship to silence its critics.
Will the Oxford school district teach students that China still regularly imprisons journalists and writers for expressing themselves or merely printing the facts?
Will the schools teach students that China employs internet police or has a filtering system that automatically blocks forbidden web pages and materials containing banned words like ‘democracy? and ‘Tiananmen??
Beginning in 2007, cartoon images of the ‘Beijing Internet Police? began appearing every 30 minutes on computer screens to remind users to avoid banned sites. It also reminds them they are being watched.
Will the schools teach students that the only way people of faith can practice their religions is under strict state supervision in buildings authorized by the government (that way monitors don’t have to strain to listen in)?
What about all those thousands and thousands of Chinese who have been arrested, tortured, killed and even had their organs harvested (while alive) for transplants because they engage in the spiritual practice known as Falun Gong?
Will Oxford students learn about them? I hope so.
I have nothing against the Chinese people. I wish them to be as free and prosperous as we are.
But their government is another story. And when you deal with China, you’re dealing with the government.
Unlike the former Soviet Union and its now-defunct Eastern Bloc allies, the Chinese Communist Party has remained in power by adapting to changing times just enough to keep its grip. True, it’s not as unified and strong as it once was, but the CCP is still ruthless and absolute in its repression of opponents and perceived enemies.
To the world, the Chinese government tries to appear friendly, open and as entrepreneurial as one of Horatio Alger’s rags-to-riches characters. But those trapped in its clutches know the truth.
There are some who simplistically argue that the introduction of the free market into China will someday automatically bring about political freedom for the people.
But as economist Milton Friedman pointed out in his 1962 landmark book ‘Capitalism and Freedom? ? ‘History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.?
Friedman elaborated on this statement in a November 1991 speech ? ‘Over the centuries many nonfree societies have relied on capitalism and yet have enjoyed neither human nor political freedom. Ancient Greece was fundamentally a capitalist society, but it had slaves. The U.S. South before the Civil War is another example of a society with slaves that relied predominantly on private property. Currently, South Africa has relied predominantly on private markets and private enterprise, yet it has not been a free society. Many Latin American countries are in the same position. They have been ruled by an oligarchy, and yet they have employed primarily private markets. So it is clear that capitalism is not a sufficient condition for human or political freedom, though it is a necessary condition.?
As long as Beijing’s rule is being aided by countries like ours who are more than willing to gloss over atrocities and turn a blind eye to tyranny so we can make a buck or two ? or in the case of all you Wal*Mart shoppers, save a buck or two ? don’t look for things to really change in China anytime soon.
If Oxford’s best and brightest are someday going to be doing business with China, it’s only fair they know exactly what kind of devil they’re dealing with and why their money is stained red with innocent blood.

Nothing pleases me more than when an arrogant politician is finally revealed for what he or she truly is.
The only thing that makes it sweeter is when it’s someone I’ve locked horns with in print, someone who viewed him or herself as untouchable.
For this reason, April 2 was one of the happiest days of my life. Why?
That’s when the news broke that former Oxford Village Council President Thomas L. Athans, wife of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), got caught with his pants down ? literally.
I was absolutely thrilled as a slew of local and national newspapers, radio stations and TV programs all reported on how Athans, 46, was caught in a prostitution sting at the Residence Inn in Troy on Feb. 26.
From Rush Limbaugh to Jay Leno to Greta Van Susteren, all the big names were talking about how Athans admitted to Troy Police that he paid a 20-year-old prostitute he met on-line $150 for sexual relations.
Congratulations, Tom. You finally made the big time just like you always wanted. You always thought you were meant for bigger things than little ol’ Oxford.
Locally, folks may remember Athans served on the village council from 1996 to 2002. He’s been involved in liberal/progressive talk radio since marrying his Congressional meal ticket in February 2003.
I’m sure Athans? fellow liberal Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore are proud of him right now.
Gore because Athans used the Internet he allegedly invented and Clinton because . . . well, you know why.
Anyone familiar with my previous diatribes against Athans probably expects me to really let him have it in this column.
But you know what? I’m not going kick a man when he’s down. Besides, I’m sure Stabenow’s doing plenty of that.
Instead, I’m going to do my best to put a positive spin on this for my dear ol? friend Tom. Stabenow’s media relations people might want to start taking notes.
Sure, the Evil Media wants to portray this as a story about a man engaging in an illegal activity, a husband cheating on his wife, one human being soullessly and selfishly using another for money.
But that’s not what happened at all.
That’s not the real story here.
Fact is, Tom Athans is a hero. Yes, I said hero.
He knows how bad the Michigan economy is doing. He knows people are struggling with gas prices, house payments, unemployment, credit card debt and high taxes.
In an effort to help the sagging economy of the state his wife misrepresents in Congress, Athans decided to ‘Buy Michigan? by keeping a local woman gainfully employed.
Sure, he could have bought a hooker in Washington D.C. where they are plentiful. But he didn’t. He decided to spend his wife’s hard-earned dollars in Michigan.
And by the way, we in the Media shouldn’t be calling this poor girl a prostitute or hooker, we should be referring to her as a ‘local entrepreneur? or ‘entertainment specialist.?
By employing her, Athans was showing himself to be a champion of the small business owner and firm believer in capitalism. He’s a one-man chamber of commerce.
Feminists, like his wife, may frown on what he did, but they too should see it in a different light.
Athans was not using or exploiting this girl like a thing or a cheap piece of merchandise, he was being a proponent of women’s rights in the tradition of Steinem, Abzug and Friedan.
By hiring her, Athans was saying, ‘I support independent women in the work force. I support a woman’s right to earn just as much money as any man.?
We shouldn’t be vilifying Tom Athans. We should be celebrating his commitment to this state and its people.
We should be honoring him for drawing all the negative attention away from Detroit and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Tom Athans is a prince among Johns.
***
Okay, seriously
It’s nice to see Athans finally exposed on the national stage for the weasel he truly is.
Behind that overly-toothy grin and swarmy charm, lurks a man with absolutely no honor, character or conviction.
It’s true I’m no fan of Stabenow’s liberal politics, but even I think she deserves a lot better than to be publicly humiliated and lied to by this cheating scoundrel.
Take my advice Debbie and divorce him immediately.
I’m really upset that Athans is not going to face any criminal charges over this because the Troy Police are using him as a witness against the prostitute.
According to The Detroit News, during these type of stings, police only arrest the prostitutes.
?(Detectives) stop people coming and going and interview them. If they have a cooperative witness, they will use that person to testify against the ring rather than arrest them. That’s what happened in this case,? according to Troy Police Lt. Gerard Scherlinck, who was quoted in the News.
Talk about sexist double-standards. The women get charged with crimes, but nothing happens to the men if they cooperate.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but prostitution is a two-person crime. There would be no hookers if there were no Johns.
Athans should be prosecuted, not protected. He confessed what he did to police. He should pay the price like anybody else would.
But I wouldn’t send him to jail. Being a liberal Democrat, he might start demanding taxpayer-financed conjugal visits.

I sincerely hope some Oxford Village resident out there starts a petition drive calling for a referendum election on cityhood.
See story on page 1.
Before we go to all the trouble and expense of electing a nine-member commission to draft a proposed city charter ? which will undoubtedly result in endless meetings and more taxpayer-financed attorney bills ? let’s vote on whether or not we want the incorporation process to continue.
We really don’t know how village residents feel about cityhood because to date no one’s asked them directly via the ballot box.
So far, all we’ve had is a pro-cityhood petition circulated by a convicted felon, who’s since skipped town, leaving behind the mindless dolts who supported him.
To be fair, the state Boundary Commission held that May 2007 public hearing at the middle school which was completely packed with empty chairs.
All that was missing was the sound of chirping crickets and rolling tumbleweeds.
And let’s not forget the village did its part by spending thousands and thousands of tax dollars on a special attorney, hired at the convicted felon’s request, to handle the cityhood process.
The Oxford Village Council keeps saying publicly how cityhood ultimately needs to be decided by the voters.
Whatever the voters want is just fine and dandy with council.
It’s a democratic process and this is America . . . blah, blah, blah.
Well, let’s ask the voters point-blank if they want the incorporation process to continue by holding a referendum election on the subject as soon as possible.
It would be nice if all five council members worked together to circulate a petition calling for this referendum.
It seems only fitting that our elected officials ? the ones who are constantly asking for more public input and saying how much they value residents? opinions ? should spearhead this petition drive by going door-to-door, gathering signatures.
Cityhood has clouded Oxford, both village and township, with a haze of uncertainty for far too long.
Let’s gain some clarity as to Oxford’s future by doing something novel and actually asking the voters what they want.

I hate it when any government is proud of the fact that it’s sitting on a large pile of our money.
Whatever name you give it, be it fund balance, reserves, fund equity, surplus, etc., government folks never call it what it really is ? over-taxation.
In the latest issue of the Wildcat Review, Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling glowingly reports that ‘this past year we have grown our fund balance by another million dollars, the highest ever recorded in the history of our school district, over 16 percent.?
According to Assistant Superintendent Tim Loock, the district has a total fund balance of $6.86 million as of June 30, 2011, which equals 16.2 percent of the general fund expenditures.
In other words, the Oxford school district has lots of money saved in the bank and is consistently adding more and more.
Frankly, I don’t see this as something to brag about.
For a private business, this would be great news.
But for government, a bloated bank account is an indication that it’s receiving more money than it actually needs from the taxpayers.
[I realize the state collects and distributes a majority of the tax money that local school districts receive, however, districts levy local operating taxes (up to 18 mills) on non-homestead properties (i.e. small businesses, industrial properties, second homes, etc.), so they do have some control over how much they choose to collect.]
Don’t get me wrong, I believe governments should have some sort of savings to deal with unforeseen expenses, emergency situations, large repairs, cash flow problems and the like. However, to me, a sound and reasonable fund balance is 10 percent. That’s a fair cushion.
Anything above 10 percent is rape and pillage ? I don’t care what auditors and government financial experts say.
Now, government folks will argue they’ve accumulated their fund balances by being conservative, prudent and responsible in their budgeting and spending practices.
As taxpayers, we all want our government officials to be good stewards of our money.
But at what point does fiscal restraint turn into simply hoarding our money? If a fund balance climbs to 20, 25 or even 30 percent, should the taxpayers cheer?
Or should they scratch their heads and wonder why their government needs to sit on all this money?
At what point do government folks think their fund balances are too large? Or does that thought ever even enter their minds? I don’t think it does.
Granted, these days, excessive fund balances aren’t something most local governments and school districts are experiencing. Some would argue it’s a pretty nice situation to have in these tough economic times.
I’m not one of those people. I don’t want my governments to operate with deficits, but I also don’t want them just sitting on excessive amounts of my hard-earned money, waiting for ‘what ifs? to come true.
I realize the Oxford school district can’t lower the education tax for us beleaguered homeowners because that’s controlled by the state, but it could certainly afford to cut the non-homestead tax and give local businesses a break.
Maybe the district could reimburse the Lakeville Elementary PSC the approximately $7,000 it recently spent making long-overdue repairs and improvements to the playground. That type of thing should be the responsibility of the school district, not a parent group.
Or perhaps the district could use some of its mountain of money to pay 100 percent of the cost for a school liaison officer from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Dept.
I would prefer that to employing unarmed private security, who have zero authority to make arrests and would be defenseless against armed students or intruders.

My publisher, Jim Sherman, Jr., found something on the Oxford Community Schools website that bothered him.
Frankly, it bothered me, too.
There was a section encouraging folks to shop on-line at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, so the district can receive some extra funding.
‘At no charge to you, anything you purchase through this link will contribute up to 6 percent of the purchase price to Oxford Schools,? according to the district website.
That’s all well and good for the school district. It’s easy money for them.
But what about our local businesses that continue to struggle in these tough economic times?
How does this help our merchants as they look forward to a hopefully profitable holiday shopping season?
How will this help them go from simply surviving to finally prospering?
Call me crazy, but I don’t believe the schools should be promoting shopping anywhere but right here in good old Oxford, where local businesses year after year pay the district’s operating tax, help pay off the school bond debt and keep local folks gainfully employed, so they can live here and send their kids to school here.
There’s no Best Buy located in this town, so shopping there isn’t helping an Oxford business that pays Oxford taxes and employs Oxford people.
As for Amazon.com, they don’t have any brick-and-mortar stores anywhere. The whole thing is an internet business, so they don’t pay any local property taxes except maybe to Seattle, Washington, where the company is headquartered.
I realize that many of the types of items sold by Best Buy and Amazon.com can’t be found in Oxford stores, but to me, it’s the principle of the thing. I know principles don’t mean much anymore, but I still care about them.
Local governments that collect local taxes should only promote shopping at local businesses, period.
It’s bad enough our local businesses must compete with shopping malls, big box stores and the inherently lazy concept of on-line shopping. Do the schools have to pile on by giving outside competition free advertising?
We constantly hear the Oxford Chamber of Commerce and Oxford Downtown Development Authority encouraging us to shop in our hometown, especially during the holiday season when our local merchants need us most.
So, why is the school district promoting on-line shopping for out-of-town corporations?
Sure, the schools will get 6 percent of every purchase, but that’s shortsighted when one considers all the money our local businesses contribute annually in the form of property taxes and generous donations to everything from sports teams to school clubs to PTO fund-raisers?
For instance, when all is said and done, between the July and December 2011 tax bills, Funky Monkey Toys (5 N. Washington St.) will pay $2,126 in local school operating taxes, plus another $846 to help pay off the district’s bond debt. And that does not even include the 6-mill State Education Tax.
To me, $3,000 from Funky Monkey is a hell of a lot more valuable to the community than 6 percent from some outside corporate giant that probably doesn’t even know where Oxford is. Think locally, act locally, buy locally.

It was certainly interesting reporting on the termination of Don Huegerich as station manager for Oxford Community Television (see Page 1).
As I covered the Nov. 30 meeting of the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission (what a mouthful), a few thoughts occurred to me and since it’s the season of sharing, here they are.
I don’t understand why two government entities that contribute zero dollars to the cable commission ? namely the Oxford Public Library and Oxford Community Schools ? are allowed to have voting representatives on the board.
These entities don’t have any skin in the game, so how come they get to help make decisions concerning how cable funding is spent and the future direction of OCTV?
It really bothers me that the school district gets two votes on the commission, the same amount as the single largest funding contributor, Oxford Township.
It bothers me that the school district gets two votes, which is equal to Oxford Village’s representation and double that of Addison Township and Leonard, who each get one vote. All three communities contribute funds.
The other thing that concerns me is the school district’s desire to forge a ‘new relationship? with the cable commission and OCTV.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for local governments collaborating and sharing resources in an effort to save money and deliver services in a more efficient manner.
But frankly, in the 12 years I’ve covered local government, I’ve never known the schools to be a very good partner when it comes to helping its fellow entities.
I was here when the school district chose to stop funding the Downtown Development Authority when state law gave it the ability to opt-out of the tax capture.
I was here when the schools told OCTV it had to move its station out of the old high school because there was no room for it in any of the district’s renovation plans.
I was here when the school district didn’t want to contribute any funding to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Glaspie and E. Burdick streets, even though traffic from the middle school and high school was creating significant problems there.
I was here when the school district didn’t wish to help pay for the paving of Ray Rd., even though they greatly contributed to the increased traffic on it. (That happened well before the township got federal money to do it.)
Based on these past experiences and the fact the district currently contributes zero funding to OCTV, I would be extremely wary of any offers from the schools.
One word of advice, if the cable commission does make a deal with the district, get every last detail spelled out in writing. Don’t rely on handshakes or verbal promises.

First off, I’d like to commend Oxford Community Schools for doing the right thing by telling the cable commission that it no longer wished to have two voting representatives on the board, given the district contributes nothing to it financially or otherwise (see Page 4).
I’m hoping the Oxford Public Library, which also contributes zero to the cable commission, will follow the school district’s example and request that it’s voting representative be removed as well.
If not, I hope the cable commission will vote to amend its bylaws and remove the library’s seat on the board.
As I’ve stated before, it’s not fair in any way, shape or form to give an entity that contributes absolutely nothing a vote on a board whose other members all represent paying entities.
As for the big land deal and proposed development involving the private investors from China (see Page 1), I’ve thought hard about it for a while now ? I knew it was coming three or four weeks ago.
I must say I really don’t have a problem with it and believe it’s a good thing for the community, particularly the addition of a hotel and convention center.
For the township, it means more property taxes and a big help paying off its massive water bond debt.
For residents, it means full-time jobs to support families and part-time jobs for high school kids. The hotel and convention center could also provide internships for OHS students and graduates interested in fields such as culinary arts and hospitality management.
For our local businesses, it means visitors coming to Oxford to dine at our restaurants, utilize services, and shop at our unique stores for clothing, toys, wine, etc.
I do hope when the site plan comes before the planning commission, our officials will require the Chinese investors to pay for the extension of E. Market St. all the way to N. Oxford Rd. as part of the approval process.
It’s the logical extension of that road, which is currently a dead-end, and it would help improve local traffic circulation. Might as well strike while the iron’s hot.

I’m really excited about the prospect of Texas Hold’em poker coming to downtown Oxford in the form of resident Rick Lovely’s proposed ‘The King of Clubs Poker Parlor? at 18 N. Washington St.
(In case you missed last week’s front page story, you can read it on-line at www.oxfordleader.com. The headline was ‘Texas Hold’em in downtown Oxford??)
The idea of opening up a facility to host state-licensed poker events for various nonprofit groups is a win-win-win for everybody.
It’s good for nonprofits. It’s good for merchants. It’s good for area residents.
All that’s standing in the way, as usual, is government.
Lovely and his partners need to get a formal interpretation from the village Zoning Board of Appeals as to whether or not they can open a poker room in the C-1 Central Business District.
Much to its credit, the ZBA appears to be keeping an open mind about the proposed poker room.
At the Feb. 4 ZBA meeting, there was a productive dialogue between Lovely and the board that answered some existing questions and raised some new ones.
Nobody on the ZBA was hard-nosed or stated any flat-out opposition, so I take that as a good sign.
I just hope the ZBA does the right thing March 3 (see public notice on page 14) and allows this poker room to move into the former Oxford Antique Mall building, which has been vacant since May 2007.
According to the village zoning ordinance and Planner Seth Shpargel’s Jan. 27 memo, ‘the ZBA has the authority to approve, deny or approve with conditions any uses not specifically cited in the ordinance? (i.e. they have the power to make this poker room happen).
Charity card rooms are a relatively new thing in Michigan, so they’re not specifically included as a use in the village’s existing zoning ordinance.
To me, the use is a natural fit for downtown Oxford, especially since the $35,700 Market Analysis and Strategic Plan conducted for the DDA last year clearly stated the area’s focus should be on food and entertainment.
‘We look at Oxford as ultimately a regional entertainment and restaurant destination,? said Charles Smith, of McKenna Associates, Inc., one of the firms that did the market study.
‘You get 36,900 cars a day that drive through downtown that don’t necessarily identify Oxford as a destination,? Smith told the DDA last year. ‘With new entertainment and restaurants, that will change. The whole idea is to get people out of their cars.?
According to the market study, using restaurants and entertainment as downtown’s ‘anchors? will help create the ?24-7 kind of energy? that’s needed to make the district successful.
‘Right now, there is very much the perception in all of our focus groups that the town closes up at 5-5:30 p.m. and doesn’t open on Sundays,? Smith told the DDA. ‘We need to change that perception to encourage people to think of this as their primary destination.?
Other than movies, a few seasonal events, summer concerts one night a week, a cyber cafe and some entertainment at Casa Real and The Oxford Tap, there’s really not a whole lot to do downtown. There’s a good reason the DPW rolls up the sidewalks at night.
A poker room will help make downtown Oxford a destination, not just a place you drive through while speeding down M-24.
A poker room will help get people out of their cars and into restaurants and shops.
A poker room will help get people walking around downtown in the evening and at night, making the area seem lively, vibrant and fun.
One of the many reasons Michigan’s economy is in such dire straights is because we have a governmental structure that does nothing but push business away with taxes and fees, rules and regulations, and enough bureaucratic red tape to make even the most ardent entrepreneur cry uncle.
I’m going to have faith the ZBA will do what’s right for Oxford’s charities, merchants and residents ? give us a poker room.

I’m proud to say I don’t have internet service at home.
I never send text messages or feel the need to download television shows, music videos or sports scores on the PDA I never bought.
I’ve never based where I have lunch or grab a cup of coffee on whether or not it’s a Wi-Fi hot spot.
I don’t have a blog to share every inane thought that pops into my head with the world (I have a newspaper for that, thank you very much.)
Don’t get me wrong, I use technology everyday at work. I’m not a neo-Luddite.
I send e-mails, Google things, take digital photos, record interviews and type these award-winning columns on a Dell computer.
But when I’m not at work, I don’t let technology rule my life.
I don’t have a legion of gadgets and gizmos that own me.
It’s amazing how these tools and devices that supposedly were created to make our lives easier, our work more productive and our entertainment more fun end up enslaving us.
Our chains are not made of cold, iron links forged by some cruel tyrant.
Our chains are wireless and invisible ? and we forged them ourselves with monthly rate plans.
Many of us feel like we absolutely have to maintain constant contact with the rest of the world at all times.
If we’re not logged on, uploaded and staring at a screen, we assume we’re missing something, we’re falling behind.
That’s why we have Blue Tooths in our ears, computers on our laps, Black Berrys in our hands and ulcers in our stomachs.
There’s really no such thing as peace and quiet or rest and relaxation anymore.
Dinners in restaurants are interrupted by annoying ring-tones and loud, rude chatter about who remembered to potty the dog.
Wireless contact with the office is easily maintained over vacations. Nothing like a week of sand, surf and reports from Human Resources.
Contrary to popular belief, the fact that people can be reached while walking in the park, camping in the woods or fishing in a stream is not a good thing.
The ability to escape and leave the world behind is becoming an endangered species.
Some would argue we’ve gained lots from all this technology.
But when I measure what we’ve gained against what we’ve lost, the price we paid for our so-called success, our alleged advances, is much too high.
All this infernal technology is dehumanizing our society.
Yes, it’s putting us in constant, immediate contact with others, but it’s also isolating us, turning us into little social atoms.
Those MP3 players and iPods are less about carrying around your favorite tunes and more about shutting out the world around you ? giving us yet another excuse to ignore each other.
More and more we’re replacing simple face-to-face contact with the push of a few buttons because it’s more convenient, more efficient, less messy.
Who needs to see a person’s face when the emoticon they e-mailed can tell you how they’re feeling.
By the way I’m :-(
They claim the internet has brought the world closer together.
But somehow I don’t see billions of people sitting alone in homes and office cubicles, huddled in front of computer screens, as a triumph for humanity.
It’s like we’re all marooned on our own tiny desert islands sending and receiving flickering messages in bottles.
But we don’t want anyone to rescue us because we might actually have to interact with somebody and there is no tech support when it comes to dealing with people.

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows.
Well, I found out just how true that old adage is when on Friday, I found myself in the position of defending a member of the Oxford Board of Education.
A few people posted comments on the Oxford Leader’s Facebook page inquiring as to whether or not it was a conflict of interest for Carol Mitchell ? local Realtor and school board trustee ? to broker the deal for the 56 acres of land that some private investors from China are in the process of purchasing so they can build student housing along with a hotel and convention center.
In a nutshell, my answer was no.
Why? Because the pending sale is between private parties; the school district isn’t technically involved. Private investors are buying the land from a private party and they plan to use their money ? not taxpayer money ? to develop it.
It’s not a school district project. The district is not buying the land. The district will not own the land. The district is not financing any of the construction that’s planned for it.
In fact, I’m extremely grateful it’s not a school district project because if it was A) they’d be spending tax dollars; B) it would be able to completely bypass the township planning process and ignore local input; and C) the property would be removed from the tax roll.
The only real connection to the district is that the visiting foreign students slated to live in these proposed private dormitories are supposed to attend Oxford Schools.
I saw no conflict here. I talked to an attorney I trust very much and he saw no conflict as of now.
Now, it would be a different story if Mitchell was brokering a real estate deal involving the school district as either the buyer or seller. That would be a definite conflict.
If the school district was expending taxpayer money for this project, that would be a definite conflict.
If the school board was required to give any sort of approval for this project, that would be a definite conflict.
But we’ve been told it’s going to be a completely private development. Unless something changes such as the district becoming involved in the financing or entering into a contract with these investors, there’s no conflict with Mitchell being involved in a private venture.
That’s her business and she’s entitled to earn a living.
After all, we’re not communists. Ho, ho, ho.
Believe me, if I thought there was a conflict here, I’d have been railing against it in my column week after week.
In my 12? years with this newspaper, I’ve seen many conflicts involving public officials.
The largest and most disgusting conflict involved the late Renee Donovan, who served on the village council from 2001-06. During her time in office, the village spent $185,917 on computer-related equipment and services provided by a company owned by her husband and operated out of the couple’s Oxford Lakes home. Although she abstained from votes concerning these expenditures, Donovan still directly profited from them. It was wrong.
Then there was former Oxford Township Trustee Pat Fitchena, who from 2004-08 continued to hold elected office even though she was employed full-time as the director of the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA).
Given the township board helps fund and oversee NOTA, there was a definite conflict there, in my opinion ? even though the township attorney argued otherwise. In November 2005, Fitchena was not permitted by the board to abstain from voting and she ended up casting the tie-breaking vote to increase the township’s funding for NOTA by $22,000.
In both of these examples, the elected official was profiting from the taxpayers and to me, that’s the worst form of conflict there is. Sadly, in both cases, there was no public outcry.
In Mitchell’s case, she’s not profiting from the taxpayers. She’s not using her voting power on the school board for personal gain.
Granted, if she hadn’t been a school board member, she most likely would not have met these Chinese investors, so her elected position absolutely benefited her in that sense.
But legally, there’s no conflict in making connections like that. People in business and government do it everyday.
Let’s face it, the whole reason many ? not all ? local business people volunteer for or get elected to boards is to make contacts, promote themselves, keep abreast of new opportunities on the horizon or advance their interests.
At one point, the Oxford School Board had three, count’em three, Realtors serving on it.
Do we really believe that’s because they were all so very passionate about education?
Or maybe it’s a little easier to sell houses to parents when you can tell them how great the school system is because you just happen to serve on the board of education.
Self-interest is everywhere. It’s what makes the world go round. But self-interest doesn’t automatically equal a conflict of interest in the legal or ethical sense.

There’s one word in politics that gets overused and misused especially during an election year.
That word is ‘change.?
And it drives me nuts because people ignorantly throw it around.
Every presidential candidate, Republican and Democrat alike, is promising ‘change? this year.
Voters claim they want ‘change.?
The media reports about the public’s demand for ‘change.?
But we forget ‘change,? as an abstract principle devoid of context, is not a good thing in and of itself.
Nothing in the abstract ever is.
As Edmund Burke observed, ‘The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints.?
Like anything else in life, change can be positive or negative depending on who wants to do what.
The German people freely elected the Nazi Party because they wanted a change from the weak Weimar Republic.
The Bolsheviks offered the Russian people a change from their czarist past.
Fidel Castro offered the Cuban people a change from President Batista.
All three of these changes led to mass murder, despotism and darkness.
My attitude toward change was best expressed by 19th century Virginia Sen. John Randolph of Roanoke who said, ‘Change is not reform.?
When I vote or when I criticize government in print, my objective is not change for change’s sake ? only a fool supports that ? it’s reform.
I seek to make things better, to reconcile the old with the new, to keep what is good and eliminate what is harmful, useless and wasteful. True reform is the application of a remedy to a grievance.
I do not wish to simply replace the devil I know with one I do not simply because he or she is different or represents a novelty.
What good is ‘throwing the bums? out of office if you replace them with a fresh crop of bums? When a candidate offers ‘change? people should be asking what exactly is he or she proposing to do? Is this preferable to what I have now? Will it solve the problem? Is it realistic?
There are many, many people I would like to see removed from public office at all levels, but not if that means replacing them with someone worse simply because I have not yet grown accustomed to their face.
Voters need to really think long and hard about what they want this year and who they’re supporting because when they finally get the change they’ve been clamoring for, they might not like it.
Oh, Mr. Wilson: At last week’s meeting of the North Oakland Transportation board, Eric Wilson claimed he’s an ‘at-large? member , not a representative for Orion Twp.
Funny, the official meeting minutes have been listing Wilson as representing Orion for quite a while and he never bothered to correct it until I brought it up in last week’s column.
When did his membership status officially change? Who changed it? Was there a vote? Does being an ‘at-large? member require a monthly weigh-in?
But wait, NOTA already has an ‘at-large? member ? Lisa Sokol, director of the Orion Senior Center. How many ‘at-large? members does a 15-member board need?
Could it be Wilson’s playing fast and loose with the facts? Typical lawyer.
Clarification on Kohl’s vs. the PC: Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, I want to make it crystal clear that I have never printed one word saying the planning commission is against a Kohl’s coming to Oxford.
The lead to my Dec. 19 news story regarding the issue plainly stated ? ‘Oxford Twp. Planning Commissioners made it clear they want a Kohl’s department store in this community, they just want one that looks like a little village instead of a big box.?
Later in that same story, I quoted Commissioner Todd Bell saying, ‘A lot of us have said that we want you here and we want to work with you, but you’ve got to understand what we want.?
‘I’m for Kohl’s. I want everybody to know that,? stated Commissioner Tom Berger at the Dec. 13 meeting. ‘I’m not against it, but I’m for the residents, too.?
Commissioner Jack Curtis indicated to me he’s in favor of Kohl’s.
The issue is not whether the PC wants Kohl’s here. The issue is whether it will be required to have a ‘village look? and whether this will force Kohl’s go elsewhere to build a new store. Given the inside info I received, it appears Kohl’s will abandon its Oxford plans if made to do an expensive village facade.

I’ve never been a fan of local governments constantly employing the services of high-priced consultants.
Yes, there are times when it’s necessary to get an attorney’s opinion or have an engineer provide some sort of technical expertise.
But I draw the line when a governing body wants to hire somebody to basically do its job.
Case in point, the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission last week debated the idea of hiring a headhunter to help it find a new station manager for Oxford Community Television (see story on Page B-1).
Nothing’s been decided yet, but I must say I’m opposed to this idea for a few reasons.
One, I find the concept of possibly paying someone a five-digit sum to help hire someone else repugnant, wasteful and shameful.
If the commission is really eager to spend more than $11,000 on something, I’d rather see that money invested in state-of-the-art equipment, dedicated personnel and quality programming ? things that could actually enhance the viewing experience and make the station more relevant to the community.
Secondly, the job of advertising, searching, finding and hiring a new station manager should be the cable commission’s responsibility and no one else’s.
It really shouldn’t be such a complicated matter that it requires hiring an overpaid headhunter. We’re looking for someone to manage a public access TV station that covers two townships, not an international space station orbiting the Earth.
Coming up with a list of qualifications and job responsibilities shouldn’t be too difficult.
Whatever information the commissioners lack can be ascertained by talking to folks at other TV stations, experts at educational institutions with broadcasting programs and existing OCTV personnel such as Jim Hughes, Bill Service and Dave Kenny.
The great part is none of these options cost a dime.
To me, if the cable commission decides to hire a headhunter, it’s choosing to abdicate its responsibility and take the lazy man’s route.
It’s also telling the public there’s no reason for its existence.
A cable commission that doesn’t feel it has the knowledge or ability to conduct a proper station manager search on its own certainly doesn’t have what it takes to oversee whoever it hires for the position.
I urge the governing boards for Oxford and Addison townships along with the villages of Oxford and Leonard to direct their cable commission representatives to reject the high-priced headhunter option and conduct their own search.
It’s not rocket science.
All that’s necessary are dedicated people who are willing to invest the time and effort necessary to do the job right and properly serve the community.
Isn’t that why we elect and appoint people to these types of boards?

We are individuals born with free will and living in a free society, but that does not mean we should act without considering how it will affect others.
There is a big difference between freedom and selfishness.
The free man knows that he may say what he wishes, he may go where he pleases and he may do what he wants, but he tempers this liberty with the knowledge that he has a responsibility to at least consider how it could affect his family, his friends, his neighbors or his community.
The selfish man knows only that he is free to do as he pleases and that’s all he really cares about. His actions are his actions and he cares not for how they impact those around him.
Too often we make excuses for selfishness, or worse glorify it. That is why we must constantly remind ourselves that we do not live in a vacuum.
Every choice we make, every word we utter, every action we take affects someone else in some way, shape or form. That’s the price we pay for living in a civil society.
The world would be a much better place if we all remembered that.
****
I read something in another newspaper the other day that gave me quite a chuckle.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was explaining that the reason why the county is trending more toward the Democratic Party these days is because it continues to ‘accept people fleeing Wayne County and Detroit.?
I hate to disagree, but the real reason more and more county voters have chosen to ride the proverbial Donkey is because for years, Patterson made such a big push to attract as many high-tech professionals here as he possibly could.
It’s no secret that folks who work in the tech industry tend to punch Democratic tickets.
Ironically, if this county ever does become a Democratic stronghold, it will be because of the policies Patterson pursued.
Frankly, I don’t know why the Democrats would even try to oust Patterson from office this year.
He’s done more for their party than they have.
****
Hats off to Onekama Township which was recently awarded $355,365 in grant funding from the state’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP) to help with local efforts there to disincorporate the Village of Onekama.
The EVIP is an incentive-based program to help offset costs for cities, villages, townships and counties interested in consolidating or sharing services.
The Onekama Disincorporation Commission is currently holding meetings and preparing a plan about how various issues would be addressed if the village disincorporated into the township. When completed, this plan will be presented to the village and township boards for approval. The question of disincorporation would then be voted upon by residents.
All I can say is good luck to Onekama. This community is to be commended for taking a bold step toward eliminating the antiquated, inefficient and unnecessary layer of government known as a village.

I’m glad I don’t live in Orion Township or have to cover its government. The place is a breeding ground for arrogant politicians.
Larry Obrecht. Jim Marleau. Gerald Dywasuk. Eric Wilson.
The list is endless.
Unfortunately, I’ve crossed paths with a number of Orion’s past and present leaders over the years. Every encounter has left me feeling either enraged or in desperate need of delousing.
I had another of those encounters at the Jan. 3 meeting of the North Oakland Transportation Authority.
For some reason, Eric Wilson still sits on NOTA’s board of directors.
His attitude toward members of the public attending the meeting was haughty and dismissive, in my opinion. Whenever the public spoke, Wilson appeared bored and had a look on his face that screamed, ‘Why are we listening to these peons??
As I sat and watched him, disgusted by his air of superiority, I kept thinking, ‘Why is he still on the NOTA board??
It’s true Wilson used to be an Orion Township trustee. Then he got elected as the Oakland County commissioner representing Orion and Oakland townships.
Three years later he was voted out.
Given his personality, I can see why voters gave him the boot.
Now, he sits ? thanks to cronyism at 1200 N. Telegraph Rd. ? as an appointed member of the Road Commission for Oakland County.
Again, why is he still a member of the NOTA board?
In the meeting minutes, he’s listed as a representative for Orion Township, but our neighbor to the south already has two representatives from its township board sitting on NOTA.
In fact, all three townships that make up NOTA each have two representatives from their respective boards.
Why does Orion Township get a third vote? That’s not fair to Oxford and Addison.
Yes, Orion contributes more money to NOTA, but township representation on the board is supposed to be equal, not based on funding. If we want to start basing things on money, then Oxford should have more representation than Addison.
Also, it’s my understanding that everyone who sits on NOTA represents an entity which contributes money or resources to the authority or has some type of obvious interest in its operations.
Since Orion already has its two township representatives on the board, what funding source is Wilson currently representing? Did the road commission suddenly start pumping cash into NOTA and somehow I missed it?
Given all the road commission knows how to do these days is cry poor-mouth and make excuses for why the roads are always in such lousy condition, I sincerely doubt it’s putting money in the NOTA pot.
I think it’s time to streamline NOTA’s membership and make sure everyone who’s on the board spending our money belongs there and isn’t just hanging around for political reasons.
Do we really need a 15-member board to govern a local transportation authority?
Orion claims its community is ‘where living is a vacation.? NOTA should send Wilson on one ? for good.

I’m glad I don’t live in Orion Township or have to cover its government. The place is a breeding ground for arrogant politicians.
Larry Obrecht. Jim Marleau. Gerald Dywasuk. Eric Wilson.
The list is endless.
Unfortunately, I’ve crossed paths with a number Orion’s past and present leaders over the years. Every encounter has left me feeling either enraged or in desperate need of delousing.
I had another of those encounters at the Jan. 3 meeting of the North Oakland Transportation Authority.
For some reason, Eric Wilson still sits on NOTA’s board of directors.
His attitude toward members of the public attending the meeting was haughty and dismissive, in my opinion.
Whenever the public spoke, Wilson appeared bored and had a look on his face that screamed, ‘Why are we listening to these peons??
As I sat and watched him, disgusted by his air of superiority, I kept thinking, ‘Why is he still on the NOTA board??
It’s true Wilson used to be an Orion Township trustee. Then he got elected as the Oakland County commissioner representing Orion and Oakland townships.
Three years later he was voted out.
Given his personality, I can see why voters gave him the boot.
Now, he sits ? thanks to cronyism at 1200 N. Telegraph Rd. ? as an appointed member of the Road Commission for Oakland County.
Again, why is he still a member of the NOTA board?
In the official meeting minutes, he’s listed as a representative for Orion Township, but Oxford’s neighbor to the south already has two representatives from its township board sitting on NOTA.
In fact, all three townships that make up NOTA each have two representatives from their respective boards.
Why does Orion Township get a third vote?
That’s not fair to Oxford and Addison.
Yes, Orion contributes more money to NOTA, but township representation on the board is supposed to be equal, not based on funding.
If we want to start basing things on money, then Oxford should have more representation than Addison.
Also, it’s my understanding that everyone who sits on NOTA represents an entity which contributes money or resources to the authority or has some type of obvious interest in its operations.
Since Orion already has its two township representatives on the board, what funding source is Wilson currently representing? Did the road commission suddenly start pumping cash into NOTA and somehow I missed it?
Given all the road commission knows how to do these days is cry poor-mouth and make excuses for why the roads are always in such lousy condition, I sincerely doubt it’s putting money in the NOTA pot.
I think it’s time to streamline NOTA’s membership and make sure everyone who’s on the board spending our money belongs there and isn’t just hanging around for political reasons.
Do we really need a 15-member board to govern a local transportation authority?
Orion claims its community is ‘where living is a vacation.?
NOTA should send Wilson on one ? for good.
***
C.J. Carnacchio is the editor of The Oxford Leader.

When I heard that one of the owners of Great Lakes Elite (GLE) Gymnastics & Cheer was on the phone, holding for me on Line #1, I’ll be the first to admit I was not looking forward to the conversation awaiting me.
I was 100 percent certain this person was calling me about the story I was working on concerning the gymnastics coach who allegedly sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in the GLE parking lot (see Page 1).
Based on my past experiences with some other businesses and government entities, my first thought was, ‘Here we go. They’re going to try to persuade me to kill the story and if that doesn’t work, threaten me with lawsuits, boycotts or lost advertising revenue.
‘Or they’re going to tell me how the story should be written, to not mention the name of their business and ask to read it before it’s published. They’re going to want more spin and less reporting.?
I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up the phone and none of what I was dreading happened.
In fact, GLE co-owner Beth could not have been more cooperative, open and refreshingly honest.
Thank you, Beth.
She wanted to make sure I had all the information I needed for my article and that it was accurate.
She wanted to know if I had any questions for her and indicated she was more than willing to answer them as best she could. When it came to anything she didn’t know or wasn’t sure of, she referred me to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.
Beth told me how this alleged crime was impacting GLE’s staff, students and parents. She informed me of the immediate steps GLE management took when it learned of this alleged incident.
Above all, she wanted to ensure the victim’s identity would be protected in the story.
I found her comments to be genuine. I found her shock and anguish over the situation to be heartfelt.
Despite the horrific nature of this situation, I found Beth’s willingness to be open about it quite refreshing.
Too often, businesses and government entities have this bunker mentality when it comes to dealing with the press over bad news.
The usual reactions range from ‘no comment? to manufactured statements that really say nothing at all.
In GLE’s case, it was nice to talk with someone who was being honest about the situation and actually trying to help me inform the public about it.
I prefer that to getting meaningless quotes from overpriced lawyers and empty-headed public relations people, excuse me, communications specialists.
The world would be a lot better off if people just did their own talking as opposed to hiding behind useless mouthpieces who don’t give direct answers and understand nothing about real journalism, or truth for that matter.
I commend Beth and GLE Gymnastics & Cheer for their handling of this entire situation. They clearly have nothing to hide and want to do the right thing.
I wish more people were like that.

When you stop and think about it, children and government really do have a lot in common.
Children are completely dependent on their parents for everything in life. Without them, they have nothing ? no money, no home, no clothing, no possessions, nothing.
Government is completely dependent on taxpayers for everything it has. Without us, it has no money, no facilities, no vehicles, no land, no fancy offices.
Children have trouble taking ‘no? for an answer. When they don’t get what they want, they incessantly pester their parents and wear them down until they finally get a ‘yes.?
Government most definitely has trouble taking ‘no? for an answer. When a millage or bond proposal fails, officials just keep putting it on the ballot until the voters finally give in and cough up more cash. Or they take public funds from elsewhere, call it a ‘savings,? then use the money to get whatever the voters wouldn’t give them in the first place.
Children have trouble listening and paying attention. You can tell them the same thing a thousand times and it still doesn’t sink in. They only hear what they want to hear.
Government isn’t the best listener, either. Officials say they want to hear from the public, but most of the time, what they really mean is they only want to hear words of agreement, support and praise. Criticism, opposing views and questioning are all viewed as ‘negative,? and we can’t have that, now can we? We mustn’t hurt poor widdle government’s feelings.
Children can be bullies who steal lunch money, tease others and pick fights on the playground.
Government bullies folks all the time, but with more finesse and on a much grander scale. It uses things like red tape, citations, endless fees, eminent domain and worst of all, lawyers.
Children love new toys. The minute they see something big, shiny and expensive in the store, on television or at a friend’s house, they must have it, too.
Government’s no different. The worst thing in the world is when officials visit other communities and come back with a major case of envy, which they pitch to the public as ‘new ideas.? They have a pool; we need a pool. They have a community center; we need a community center. They have a pavilion complete with roller rink and frozen yogurt bar; we need one of those, too. Gimme, gimme, gimme!
Children have trouble admitting they’re wrong and saying they’re sorry except when forced to by authority figures. Children are prone to lie, make excuses or blame others for their mistakes.
Ditto, ditto, ditto for government. The only difference is government should be old enough to know better.
Children require constant supervision. If you don’t keep an eye on them, they get into all sorts of trouble.
Government has a variety of baby-sitters ranging from the news media to watchdog citizens. Unfortunately, no matter how much they watch it, government still gets away with murder.
Children believe the world revolves around them.
Government doesn’t believe a world exists beyond its walls, its rules and its desires.
Fortunately, children eventually learn from their mistakes, grow up, leave the house ? if we’re lucky ? and become self-sufficient, productive members of society.
Sadly, government is always with us. It’s the greedy, self-centered, ill-mannered child who never leaves, never learns and constantly embarrasses us.
Unfortunately, we’ve all let it grow much too large to put it over our knee and give it a good spanking.
Maybe we can send it to boarding school?

I’ve been keeping score and so far the tally in Kohl’s versus the Oxford Twp. Planning Commission is 12-1 in favor of the department store.
That’s how many e-mails and letters to the editor I’ve received from people since my Dec. 26 column regarding the planning commission’s demand that the proposed Kohl’s store have an artificial village facade.
Two things are clear ? people want Kohl’s here and they think the planning commission is full of idiots.
Some residents are ready to take action.
Patricia Flack, of Oxford, wrote:
‘Would it be helpful if residents obtain a petition to move ahead with the project, without the facade, (and) submit (it) to Kohl’s, making them aware that a handful of people DO NOT represent our feelings? I will be glad to head that up!
‘Can we impeach the commissioners? If their ridiculous quibbling costs this community a Kohl’s, there should be some sort of consequence.?
A petition is an excellent idea. Go for it.
Maybe our stubborn planning commissioners will change their minds if they see how many residents want Kohl’s here and really don’t care one iota about making the front look like some cheap Hollywood set with a row of little fake shops.
If you would like to help Flack with a petition drive contact me and I’ll put you in touch with her.
As for Flack’s second question, YES it’s possible to get rid of planning commissioners, but only if the township board has the guts to pull the trigger.
You see, the planning commission consists of people appointed by the township supervisor and approved by a vote of the township board.
No one elected them, so their direct accountability to the public is practically nonexistent.
But according to the Michigan Townships Association’s ‘Little Red Book? ? which spells out the authorities and responsibilities of Michigan township officials, boards and commissions ? the supervisor and township board do indeed have the power to clean house.
‘Planning commission members . . . may be removed by the supervisor, after a hearing, with the approval of the township board.? ? ‘Little Red Book,? Page 91 (Feb. 1997 edition)
I suggest those citizens who are unhappy with what the planning commission is doing to Kohl’s should call township Supervisor Bill Dunn (248-628-9787 Ext. 109) and demand he take action, if the commissioners don’t come to their senses and drop this silly ‘village facade? nonsense.
Given all seven township board members are up for re-election this year, this is a very opportune time to apply the rippling muscle of public opinion. Fear is a great motivator and for a politician, fear of being kicked out of office by an angry electorate is the best motivator of all.
But lodging complaints and demanding action isn’t enough. It will only get part of the job done.
People must be willing to step up to the plate and fill those vacant seats on the planning commission should the township supervisor and board decide to empty them.
You can’t expect the township to kick people off the planning commission with no viable candidates waiting in the wings to take their places.
You don’t need a college degree in planning, engineering or architecture to apply.
You don’t have to be an expert in zoning, ordinances or the real estate market to serve.
All you need is common sense and a pulse.
And if you have both, you’re already one up on all nine members of our current planning commission.
Primary Election Note: I’ve had several people ask me who I plan to vote for in the Jan. 15 Michigan presidential primary. I’ll be casting my ballot for Congressman Dr. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
He’s the only candidate truly committed to limited, constitutional government and low taxes.
If you want real reform in Washington D.C., an end to Big Government and a return to states? rights, vote for Paul.
If you just want more of the same, vote for any of the other Republicans. They’re all sellouts, it doesn’t matter.
If you want to give up everything you own and put an end to Liberty once and for all, vote for Hillary Clinton.
Local Democrats who don’t want Hillary, you do have a viable option ? please mark your ballots ‘uncommitted.?

‘You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshanks? table that you’ve missed your God-given right to something better.?
? Mel Gibson, portraying Scottish rebel William Wallace in the 1995 movie ‘Braveheart?

Next week, when I trek to the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center to vote in the Republican presidential primary, I’ll be casting my secret ballot for Ron Paul ? the only candidate who has principles that mirror our Founding Fathers. Actually, he’s the only candidate who has any principles, period.
Does Paul have a shot at winning the GOP nomination?
Not a snowball’s chance in Hades.
Some would argue I’m wasting my vote because Paul isn’t a realistic contender for the Oval Office currently occupied the Great Failed Hope.
I don’t agree with that logic. I believe voting is about more than just trying to pick the fastest horse in the race.
To me, the ballot box is where I voice my conscience and frankly, I’m sick and tired of holding my nose and voting for the lesser of two evils because the GOP can’t produce a decent candidate.
I want somebody I can vote for because I truly believe in what he (or she) stands for ? not because I believe he has the best chance of beating the guy I loathe even more from the other party.
Granted, I don’t agree with many of Paul’s foreign policy stances. In fact, I’m dead-set against them. They’re not practical in today’s increasingly-dangerous world.
However, Paul is the only candidate who truly favors restoring the constitutionally-limited Republic that began with such promise and hope in 1787 and ended with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vile New Deal.
Paul believes in low taxation, individual rights, the evils of government intervention and the virtues of a truly free market as espoused by 18th-century economist Adam Smith and later, the Austrian School of Economics.
Paul believes, as our Founders did, that the proper role for the federal government in America is to provide national defense, a court system for civil disputes, a criminal justice system and very little else.
Paul’s voting record in Congress earned him the nickname ‘Dr. No? because he refused to vote in favor of any legislation unless the proposed measure was expressly authorized by the Constitution. What a novel concept.
Too many folks who call themselves conservatives and Republicans today are phonies and turncoats, especially those who occupy positions in government.
They talk the talk, but when it comes time to act they vote in favor of expensive and grandiose projects, tax increases, expanded governmental powers and taking on more crushing debt, which is killing us at all levels.
Take a real good look at Greece, folks because that’s exactly where we’re headed if we don’t mend our ways.
Unfortunately, the reality is nothing’s going to change given our current field of candidates. Whether it’s Obama, Romney or Santorum in the White House come January 2013, either way, it’s all over. All of you who plan to support any of the aforementioned Three Stooges are the ones actually wasting your votes, not me.
For those of you who aren’t Ron Paul fans, but still want to send a message to the corrupt and diseased GOP establishment, I beg you to check the ‘uncommitted? option on your primary ballots.
Save your vote for someone who deserves it.

‘The cheap drives out the dear.? ? Gresham’s Law

History and I have enjoyed a lifelong love affair.
Growing up I spent a lot of time going to antique shops, visiting Greenfield Village, reading history books and watching old movies. I’ve always been fascinated with the past.
As a student of politics, I find the past to be a wise teacher and valuable guide.
As a person, I find it romantic and inspiring. To me, the past is most always preferable to the present and infinitely better than the dreadful future.
Unfortunately, these days many people simply don’t care about history. If it’s not shiny, new and now, it’s irrelevant.
We live in a society where the past is often forgotten as one-by-one the links to it end up landfills and graves.
As a lover of history, I was alarmed to learn there was some brief discussion ? no action ? at the Dec. 17 Oxford Downtown Development Authority meeting about possibly moving the historical museum out of its current downtown home in the historic Oxford Savings Bank (1922-66) and into the former township hall on W. Burdick St. (See story on Page 1).
New DDA board member Chuck Schneider, who’s also a real estate developer and owner of numerous downtown properties, raised the issue. If I was a betting man, I’d say Schneider wants the village to kick the museum out so he can either purchase the property or work out some kind of trade with the village ? say the old bank building for that vacant piece of land (formerly a parking lot) he owns between Sisters Hair Care and the Healthy Smile Center.
But that’s all just wild speculation on my part.
For those of you who don’t know, since 1972, the historic bank building has stored, preserved and exhibited local artifacts and memorabilia reflecting the everyday lives, labors and pastimes of those who came before us.
Toys, clothes, kitchen utensils, tools, photographs, military items ? walking through the museum one can see the remains of many lives and the basis for many stories.
I guess some people feel that since the museum is usually only open one day a week for three hours that the building could be better utilized.
I agree. I wish the historical society had more volunteers so the museum could be open at least four or five days a week. I wish more people, particularly younger ones, cared more about where they came from, especially since so many have no idea where they’re going.
Some people see the building as a potential commercial development to enhance the downtown. Some people see it as another source of tax revenue for the village and DDA (it’s currently not on the tax rolls).
Some see it as just another piece of property to be exploited in hot pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.
Yes, it would be nice to put a thriving business in that building. Of course, we can’t even fill the empty spaces we have now in the downtown, but that’s another column.
Yes, it would be nice to have another source of tax revenue for the local governments in order to alleviate some of the pressure on residential taxpayers.
As a practical matter, moving the museum out of there and using it for commercial purposes makes perfect sense. Clearly, it’s the logical and efficient thing to do.
But you know what? Sometimes the logical and efficient thing to do is not the best thing to do. Just because we can do a thing doesn’t mean we should or we must.
Too much of life is controlled by soulless, money-grubbing men whose only concern is the bottom-line.
Moving the historical museum out of that beautiful old bank and into those crappy, drab township offices would be a huge mistake.
Housing a historical museum in a historic building is a natural fit. Walking into that bank building feels like taking a trip back in time. It sets the mood for what you’re about to see and learn. Old places, with their unique architecture and musty smells, help connect us with distant times and forgotten ways.
That’s why Henry Ford moved all those old buildings, like Thomas Edison’s laboratory, to Greenfield Village.
Sure, the great inventor’s chemistry equipment and strange gadgets could displayed in any modern building behind glass cases, but would they have the same impact as being able to view them while standing in the same spot as Edison himself? I don’t think so.
Viewing Oxford’s history in the town’s old bank is very apropos for it was this financial institution that helped build the town we live in.
This is where the working man’s earnings were squirreled away, entrepreneurs found capital for their ventures and families got the money to build or buy that first home.
From the mortgage on the family farm to little Timmy’s first savings account started with silver dollars from grandma, the community bank is a driving force in a small town’s history.
We need to look beyond our billfolds and keep the historical museum exactly where it is.
If our sole interest as a community is making money and worshipping the God of Progress, then why not sacrifice Centennial Park on the Altar of Commercialism.
Here’s a prime piece of real estate right in the heart of the downtown area. I’m sure we could demolish the gazebo, rip out those lovely trees and flower gardens, stow those veterans monuments in the DPW garage and construct a brassy three, four or five-story building there.
Imagine the outcry if some idiot wanted to do that.
The historical museum is as much a part of the downtown as the park or any of the businesses.
It is the repository of our community’s past and as such we should honor that by displaying our town’s artifacts in a proud and prominent historic building, not disrespect it by shoving everything off to the side in some vacant government office of no particular significance.
History is to be revered, not hidden away.

I had to put off writing this column for a week because I was so angry I couldn’t pen anything coherent without using a bunch of words I’m not allowed to print.
I’ve never been so embarrassed, frustrated or ready to choke a bunch of officials as I was at the Dec. 13 meeting of the Oxford Twp. Planning Commission.
We have a 97,423-square-foot Kohl’s ready, willing and able to open its doors here and give us much-needed jobs, property taxes galore and convenient shopping , but what’s our idiotic planning commission worried about?
Making the store look like a quaint little village or a block in downtown Oxford.
Why? Because Meijer did it.
Commissioners kept holding up the Oxford Meijer, with its fake village storefront facade, as some kind of shining example of what the Kohl’s store should aspire to look like.
Anyone who thinks that Meijer facade is a work of art or something to emulate is a tasteless cretin.
No offense to Meijer (my family shops there a ton), but, to me and others I’ve talked to, the facade looks cheap and tacky. It looks phony.
It looks like a corporate chain trying ? and failing ? to mimic the mom-and-pop stores of yesteryear which were all driven out of business by shopping malls and big box stores.
And by the way, Meijer didn’t go out of its way to create this village facade just for lil? ol? Oxford as some planning commissioners would have us believe.
Meijer was using that type of facade at ‘several stores? ? including Auburn Hills, Livonia and Scio Township ? before the Oxford location ever opened, according to Frank Guglielmi, director of public relations for Meijer.
It wasn’t ‘unique? before or after the Oxford Meijer was built. Meijer doesn’t even use that facade anymore on its new stores, Guglielmi told me.
I can’t decide whether the planning commission is just insane or hopelessly out of touch with the community.
It seems to be the latter given this quote from Commissioner Kallie Roesner ? ‘This is Oxford. Most of us walk around in barn boots.?
That may be true in the rural northeastern part of the township where Roesner lives, but in the more developed southern half, where the vast majority of this community’s residents live, it’s not even remotely accurate.
When was the last time you saw somebody walking around in ‘barn boots? in Waterstone, Oxford Lakes, Oxford Woods, Lakes of Indianwood, the old village, Red Barn, Tanview, Glenmoor, Crestmoor, Willow Lake, Paint Creek Village, The Moors of Oxford, Oxford Meadows, Woodbriar Village, the Hills of Oxford . . . you get my point.
How dare Roesner give Kohl’s representatives a patently false impression of this community and its people.
How dare she be so out of touch with the rest of the township that she assumes her rural area is the center of the universe. ‘That’s the input I’m getting from my neighbors and the people that talk to me ? yeah, we like Kohl’s, but I’m willing to go down the road because I really don’t like that look in my community,? she said.
Maybe Roesner should get off her horse and talk to some people outside her little manure-filled bubble.
Then again, maybe the planning commission is insane.
Commissioner Tom Lepping’s comments certainly appeared that way when he suggested Kohl’s representatives ‘maybe tie in some Victorian detail and some Greek revival detail? into their store design.
It’s not a museum or plush residential estate that’s going to someday be featured in Architectural Digest. It’s a Kohl’s!
Commissioner Todd Bell won the award for the Most Arrogant Statement. When Kohl’s representatives mentioned they have ‘a limited budget to work with? for this store, Bell replied, ‘I think you can spend the money to make it look like what we’re suggesting.?
Bell’s remark exemplified the typical government attitude of ‘It’s not my money, so I’m going to tell you how to spend it.? Unless he’s the Kohl’s accountant or financial adviser, I don’t think he has the knowledge or the right to tell this private corporation what does and does not fit within its budget.
Let’s not forget the land Kohl’s wishes to purchase and build on along M-24 is a vacant parcel scarred by the gravel industry and chock full of weeds, brush and probably debris. It’s not like it’s some wildlife preserve or natural treasure.
It’s an extremely ugly piece of property. Simply building on the land would be an act of beautification.
If Kohl’s decides to pull out because Oxford seems a little too high maintenance (which I’m willing to bet will happen if the planning commission continues this nonsense), I wouldn’t blame the department store chain a bit.
Businesses prefer to work with government that’s cooperative, not nit-picky, demanding and overbearing.
When Kohl’s calls it quits here, I’ll blame the nine people sitting on the planning commission, then I’ll blame the township board for appointing these knuckle-heads.
We desperately need jobs. We desperately need more tax base. And with gasoline hovering around $3 per gallon, we need places to shop that are closer to home.
We don’t need village facades or picky planning commissioners who have lost touch with reality.

It’s never a good idea for government to investigate itself.
Even if it’s done in the most open, fair and objective manner, it still looks bad to the general public.
Why? Because most of the time when government investigates itself bad things happen.
Cover-ups.
Friends protect friends.
Documents go missing.
New documents are created to replace the ones that were shredded, I mean, went missing.
Meeting minutes get changed . . .
Oxford better than most communities should know how things can go terribly, horribly, disasterously wrong when an government entity investigates one of its own.
That being said, I agree with Oxford Township Trustee Sue Bellairs that an unbiased, independent, third party needs to investigate the allegations against NOTA Director Pat Fitchena.
I haven’t the foggiest idea whether or not any of the accusations are true, but I do know the way NOTA has handled things so far is making me very uncomfortable and frankly, more than a little suspicious.
An ad hoc subcommittee, that apparently wasn’t officially formed by the NOTA board during an open meeting, allegedly conducted an investigation.
NOTA Chairman and Addison Twp. Trustee John Sutphin supposedly reported at the September meeting that the subcommittee conducted an investigation and ‘decided it was not worth going any farther.?
Funny, that never made it into the September meeting minutes and the NOTA board will address its possible addition at the next meeting.
Anyway, so now NOTA’s hired a $120-per-hour attorney to look into the Fitchena matter and advise the board how to proceed.
I get the feeling this attorney’s main job is to rubberstamp whatever the NOTA board ? or at least certain members of it ? wants.
Sutphin’s comments to me about using the attorney to ‘give some kind of an answer? that Bellairs ‘can accept? sounded like he was only hired for cosmetic reasons ? to make things look good and shut the critics up.
No offense to the legal eagle, but somehow I don’t see unbiased and independent analysis and conclusions coming from someone who stands to make up to $3,000 from NOTA. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
If I were a betting man, I’d say the lawyer is going to tell NOTA that no further investigation is required. He’ll then draft some sort of tidy little positive public statement for NOTA to release to the vultures in the press (i.e. Me).
Taxpayers should be infuriated that NOTA approved spending up to $3,000 for an attorney, when the authority is constantly complaining about a lack of funds, cutting services to its riders and asking the townships, hospitals and others to kick in more and more money.
I’d rather see that $3,000 spent on giving more rides to local senior citizens and the disabled.
Personally, I’d like to see the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department investigate all this in a professional, objective manner.
The allegations of physical abuse of NOTA employees perpetrated by Fitchena are enough to bring in the boys in brown.
Frankly, the allegation of repeated duplicate payments to vendors is what concerns me.
If it’s true, it could just be a case of bad accounting ? or it could be something not so innocent, something much worse.
Again, I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
That’s why its so very important to have an agency, like the sheriff’s department, look into this and settle things one way or the other.
This is still the United States of America and Fitchena is innocent of any and all wrongdoing unless proven otherwise.
I don’t think Big Brother’s Patriotic Act has completely eroded that civil right yet.
Public bodies need to operate in a completely open and above-board manner that eliminates even the slightest appearance of impropriety.
Plenty of corrupt officials at all levels of government over the years have almost completely destroyed the public’s trust.
That’s why it’s imperative that whenever allegations are brought against a public official or employee ? even the ‘wonderful? ones ? they be investigated by someone who’s completely independent and isn’t on the payroll.
I would hate to see Oxford torn apart ? along with Addison and Orion ? by another special authority hellbent on protecting a favorite employee from allegations.
Let’s do it right this time.

‘Who am I going to talk to now??
I didn’t know how to answer my wife, so I just hugged her when she asked me this question with tears in her eyes.
I had just told her that Father Bernard J. Mullen passed away Nov. 28. He was 72.
Father Bernie, as he was known to many, was the associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion from 1994-2003.
He married Connie and I on Jan. 27, 2001. Actually, he married us twice that day ? once at the church and again at Devil’s Ridge.
He helped baptize my daughter, Larissa.
More importantly, Father Bernie was always there for my wife when she needed to talk. Even after he moved to St. Anne in Ortonville, Connie would call to bend his ear.
He listened without judging you. He called a spade a spade.
He offered comfort, consolation and kindness with no strings attached.
There was no need to stand on ceremony for him. If you needed to cry, swear or be angry at God, it was all okay because he understood ? he’d been there himself.
Father’s Bernie’s perspective and advice were always grounded in the real world ? that place where we all make mistakes and nobody’s perfect.
What I liked most about him was he was a regular guy. Sure, he was a Man of God, but he never got confused as to which one he was in that title.
I think it was his 24-year leave of absence from the priesthood that made him such an effective member of the clergy. His living and working as an average Joe gave him a unique perspective that went beyond church walls.
He knew what it was like to leave and come home again, something which made it easier for lapsed Catholics to relate to him.
Father Bernie’s talks with my wife meant the world to her. I will forever be in his debt for all the times he helped Connie when I could not or offered her a much-needed, third-party perspective.
I’m not Catholic, but even I went to Father Bernie for help every now and then.
A few years back, when Connie was facing a potentially life-threatening illness, I stopped by St. Joseph and asked Father Bernie to please pray for her.
After a good cry and a hug from him, I felt better, I felt like everything was going to be all right ? and it was.
Father Bernie was always willing to take time to do the little things that mean so much to people. One year, I bought Connie a St. Christopher medal for her birthday. I stopped by St. Joseph to have it blessed.
Even though he was quite busy at the time, he didn’t mind taking a few moments to bless the medal, ask how I was and ask how my family was. His blessing was more of a gift than the medal itself.
My wife and I are both sorry we didn’t get to say goodbye to Father Bernie and thank him for all the good he did in our lives, for all the small miracles he worked.
God couldn’t have asked for a better field representative.

They say you never forget your first.
I know I won’t. On Nov. 16, 2007, I shot my first buck ? a seven-point, no less. It was probably one of the most exhilarating and poignant experiences of my life.
I’ve never felt more alive or in tune with that predatory instinct all humans have buried deep beneath our civilized exteriors ? the same instinct once used to hunt Woolly Mammoths and buffalo with spears.
Sure, I’d been hunting before.
Since the age of 12, I’ve tramped through woods and farm fields hunting pheasant, grouse, woodcock and rabbit with my trusty 12-gauge Remington.
I only started deer hunting about four years ago. Some friends invited me, so I shelled out $150 for a slightly used .30-30 Montgomery Ward Western Field M72 rifle (circa 1970s) complete with scope.
During the first three years, I saw only a few deer and took one or two shots ? all misses, thanks to a bad case of Buck Fever.
Part of me was starting to think I’d never bag a deer. Would I be doomed to spend my life buck-less like Jeff Daniels? character in the hilarious 2001 movie ‘Escanaba in Da Moonlight??
On the morning of Nov. 16, I admit I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself.
As I sat in my blind waiting for daybreak, I could hear deer moving through the trees. As the sun rose, I could see brown bodies trotting along and white tails flickering, but still nothing to get a clear shot at.
A while later, a pair of does came within 30 yards of my blind and stuck around for about 5 minutes before they got a whiff of my scent. I cursed myself that I hadn’t purchased a doe permit. I wouldn’t have had a problem shooting one of those gals, after all, I’m an equal opportunity hunter.
After about 45 minutes of bustling activity ? I mean it was like being in the middle of a venison highway ? everything suddenly stopped. Nothing was moving.
Around 10 a.m. I was thinking about heading back to camp for a hot bowl of caribou chili, a Bloody Mary and a long nap.
I was also thinking about how once again I would return to Oxford with no buck.
People would ask me, ‘How did you do?? and I would be forced to meekly respond, ‘I saw a few, but didn’t have any shots.?
Then I heard him. The sound of small branches snapping and leaves crunching filled the quiet, crisp morning air. I lifted my rifle, looked through the scope and saw him.
I can’t tell you how excited I got when I caught a glimpse of that brown body moving through the trees. When I saw the rack, I nearly passed out. After seeing about 10 does since Opening Day, I finally had a buck in my sights.
I tried to be as calm and quiet as one can be when confronted with a prize he’s been stalking for years.
Using a doe bleat call that imitates the sound a female deer makes in estrus (or heat), I lured the buck closer and closer.
With the sound of my heart pounding in my ears, I patiently waited as he made his way through the trees, biding my time until he got to a clearing about 50 yards away from my blind. When he got there I used the doe call one more time. He stopped dead ? forgive the pun ? in his tracks and looked in my direction.
Looking through my scope, I could see I had a perfect shot. I took a deep breath, said to myself ‘well, it’s now or never? and gently squeezed the trigger. Boom!
He fell right on the spot. Didn’t take a step. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock.
I did it. I finally did it. I raced over to the buck. As I stood over him shaking uncontrollably, I was in a state of disbelief and total euphoria. My heart was pumping so fast and so hard, I thought it was going to literally burst through my chest and they’d find me dead next to my buck. Just my luck.
But for all my jubilation, there was a touch of sadness to my emotional state as I looked into his lifeless eyes.
You can’t help but feel a little bad because as a fellow living creature you have respect for him. But I gave him what every hunter should give their prey ? a quick, clean death. Contrary to what animals rights wackos say, the vast majority of hunters aren’t out there to make animals suffer.
I can’t describe the feeling of accomplishment I had that day and will carry with me for the rest of my life. I went out into the woods, stalked a creature, killed it and put meat on my table. I am now part of a chain that links me with cavemen, Indians, Pilgrims and pioneers. I feel . . . like a man.

I’m sick and tired of government taking on the role of protecting stupid, lazy, irresponsible people.
Case in point, the Village of Oxford’s attempts to get a traffic signal installed at the Dennison/M-24/Stanton intersection.
Officials and some residents say we need a traffic signal there because of all the pedestrians ? particularly careless young people ? who like to cross between the Oxford 7 Theater and Starbucks.
Actually, if it was up to some residents there would be a crossing guard or police officer stationed there.
Others would have an overhead pedestrian walkway constructed over M-24 at the taxpayers? expense.
All this fuss because we have people in this town who are either too stupid or too lazy to walk down to the traffic signal at Burdick and cross M-24 there.
Yes, that was harsh, but I really don’t care anymore. I’m sick and tired of suffering fools, especially when I’m expected to pay for it as a taxpayer.
Is it really so arduous to walk down to Burdick and cross there?
Is it really such a time-consuming chore?
The Jews wandered the desert in search of the Promised Land for 40 years, yet these folks can’t be bothered to walk a block or two to the north.
I thought we were supposed to be encouraging physical activity because we’re all a bunch of overweight sofa slugs.
Every year Oakland County gives school kids thousands of free pedometers as part of its ‘Count Your Steps? program, yet when it comes to crossing a busy road we don’t think people should be forced to walk a little bit out of their way to do it safely.
And by the way, whatever happened to the idea of personal responsibility?
Sadly, it seems the phrases ‘it’s my fault? and ‘it’s my kid’s fault? have all but vanished from the public lexicon.
Get hit by a car while crossing illegally or at a spot commonly known to be unsafe and it’s not the pedestrian’s fault ? he or she is just a poor victim.
Time to play the Blame Game.
It’s the driver’s fault.
It’s the government’s fault.
It’s the Devil’s fault.
Somebody call the lawyers!
It’s time to sue anyone and everyone because we’re a nation of greedy, whining, spoiled children who believe the world should pay for things that are our fault.
The solution to the perceived pedestrian safety problem in downtown Oxford is real simple and oddly enough, most of it’s free.
Parents tell your kids over and over and over again to only cross M-24 at the Burdick traffic signal. If they don’t, punish them.
Adults set a good example by only crossing at the light. Age is supposed to bring wisdom, patience and maturity ? show it!
Oxford Village Police start cranking out those jaywalking tickets. Forget polite warnings, ticket ALL violators!
Hold special assemblies at all the schools reminding kids of the importance of crossing at the light. We do it for drunk driving and ‘stranger danger,? why not hold one on pedestrian safety?
Get rid of those idiotic crosswalk lines between the movie theater and Starbucks.
Have big, bold signs erected on each side of M-24 that read ‘Hazardous to Cross Here; Cross at Burdick St.?
Want to make downtown Oxford safer for pedestrians? Encourage common sense.

It’s comforting to know that during these apocalyptic economic times our Oxford Twp. trustees will still be able to get away from it all and enjoy a lovely conference with their fellow officials at the taxpayers? expense.
Did I say comforting? I meant infuriating, disgusting, despicable ? just take your pick.
I cannot believe the township is going to spend $4,148 to send its four elected trustees ? Charlie Kniffen, Pat Fitchena, Sue Bellairs and Doleen Behnke ? to the Michigan Township Association’s annual conference Jan. 8-11.
And that $4,148 doesn’t even include reimbursement for valet parking and food expenses.
See Casey Curtis? story on page 4.
People are losing homes and jobs while property values spiral downward and businesses leave the state in droves, but hey, at least our elected officials can afford to spend four days educating themselves and networking ? wink, wink ? at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.
I’m sure the township employees who have been laid off or had their hours drastically reduced and their benefits completely eliminated because the public trough is supposedly low on slop will be glad to hear these elected officials? ability to travel hasn’t been hindered one iota.
It’s funny, but all I’ve heard from township officials over the last year is how money is scarce, we have to watch every penny, new home construction is dead, more budget cuts are coming, we’ve got a huge water bond debt to pay off, revenues are decreasing . . .
And yet things aren’t bleak enough to force our elected officials to give up little extras like $129 per night for separate hotel rooms or being paid an extra $440 per trustee for simply attending this little soiree.
Why doesn’t that surprise me?
Whenever there are budget cuts to be made that affect the lives of real, honest, hard-working people, government officials are fond of telling us how we all must hunker down, make sacrifices and share the pain.
But when it comes to cutting their little junkets, we can’t do that because that’s a necessity, something absolutely vital to conducting government business.
Without these trips, democracy as we know it could collapse, then the terrorists would win!
I don’t care what our arrogant and out-of-touch officials say about how beneficial these MTA conferences are to the future governance of the township.
It’s all a giant steaming load of dung.
These conferences aren’t necessities. They’re publicly-financed luxuries.
They’re not invaluable learning experiences. They’re mini-vacations for officials chock full of free food, free lodging, elbow-rubbing and good times.
God forbid an official be deprived of an opportunity to stuff his or her fat face with free grub.
Simply being an MTA member already gives the township ample access to tons of publications, internet resources, experts and consultants on a wide variety of subjects ranging from public policy and property taxes to state legislation and zoning ordinances.
There are plenty of ways for officials to educate themselves about all the complex issues facing township government these days without attending a four-day conference and forcing all of us to foot the bill.
I have to commend the Village of Oxford as none of its elected officials or employees attended the Michigan Municipal League’s annual conference held in Traverse City back in September.
Everybody from the village stayed home because times are tough and they saw cutting the MML conference as a prudent way to save their beleaguered taxpayers a few extra dollars. Good job, village.
As for our greedy township trustees, all I can say is please enjoy every single minute of this MTA conference because I hope the voters will make it your last one when they go to the polls next year.
If you’re counting on voters forgetting all this by August 2008, don’t worry, I’ll be sure to remind them.

Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
This week’s paper is chock full of news stories about kids committing really stupid, irresponsible and destructive acts at Oxford Middle School.
Breaking and entering, vandalism, carrying weapons, making a bomb threat ? whatever happened to passing notes or skipping class to go to the movies?
Now, I’m not one of those touchy-feely, fuzzy-minded dolts who believes kids do this stuff because they’re ‘bored? or because of what they watch on television or because we don’t have a multi-million-dollar community center.
Kids pull this crap because their parents aren’t doing their jobs.
No one at home is teaching these kids right from wrong.
No one’s telling them that actions have consequences.
No one’s educating them on the forgotten idea of personal responsibility.
No one’s paying attention to where they’re going, who they’re with, what they’re doing and when they will be back.
Fact is, there are too many lazy, incompetent parents out there who believe it’s everyone else’s job to raise their kids.
They turn their little terrors loose on the world and expect the schools, police, business owners and other parents to deal with the fallout.
Downtown Oxford’s full of them on any given Friday or Saturday night.
I’m tired of it as a parent, as a taxpayer and as someone who prefers civilization to anarchy.
We need to start holding parents more accountable for their children’s actions.
Irresponsible parents breed irresponsible kids who will in turn have irresponsible kids of their own one day.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Even worse are those self-righteous parents who think their children can do no wrong and it’s everybody else’s fault that Junior set a car on fire.
Personally, I really hate those parents who try to be ‘cool? or their kid’s ‘buddy.?
Effective authority figures don’t worry about popularity. Their concern is respect.
I’m all for laws that make parents pay fines and damages, do community service and even spend a few nights in jail when their kids screw up.
Make parents feel some pain and maybe they’ll keep a closer eye on their offspring.
It’s getting to the point where I’m actually starting to like the idea of making people get a license in order to even have kids.
You need a license to drive a car, own a handgun and be employed in certain occupations. Why not a parenting license?
Think about it. It’s the ultimate responsibility in life. You’re creating another human being who has the potential to do loads of good or tons of evil in this world.
Shouldn’t there at least be a test?
For the most part, it’s easy to keep kids out of trouble if you just pay attention, ask questions and listen to the answers, instill decent values and remind them who’s in charge.
Why? Because I said so.

In this era of Big Government doing way more than it should and citizens believing they’re entitled to everything, it’s often hard to discern where the line is between public and private responsibility.
Sitting through last week’s special Oxford Township Board meeting regarding how to fix the mess in Elk View Estates, it was difficult to formulate an opinion on the situation (see stories on page 1).
Here was a room full of angry subdivision residents who had been screwed over by a developer who, according to officials, manipulated the system, broke the rules and got away with it all.
You couldn’t help but feel bad for them.
For most of us, our home isn’t just our castle, it’s our single biggest investment.
Finding out it’s pretty much worthless and the only way to correct that is to pay more taxes is an unimaginable nightmare.
There’s no question the vast majority of the blame for this situation falls on developer Scott Constable. But he’s bankrupt and living out of state. He’s out of the picture.
So how much responsibility should fall on the township government and its taxpayers? Clearly, the ineptitude and laziness of the township building department is partially at fault here.
The township issued the Certificates of Occupancy leading homeowners to believe everything was OK when it was not.
But Oakland County is also at fault for allowing too many land divisions, not communicating effectively with the township and not keeping a closer eye on a development they basically approved with no input from the township.
Now, I don’t believe the township should pay 100 percent of the cost to fix everything that’s wrong in Elk View Estates because it’s not 100 percent at fault.
Besides, the township’s already spent more than $200,000 in legal fees going after Constable on behalf of Elk View residents.
It’s not like the government didn’t do anything here. Officials tried to help.
Unfortunately, the legal process did absolutely nothing for residents and ended up being a costly waste for taxpayers.
Still, I can’t help but feel the township should shell out more than 15 percent toward fixing the drainage problems and making the subdivision’s roads public.
Right now, the township’s basically inviting starving people to a $161,100 dinner, but only promising to pay the tip.
I’d like to see the county cough up some big bucks here, but we all know 1200 Telegraph Road is too arrogant to do that.
Ideally, there should be a three-way split with the township, county and Elk View residents each paying about $53,700.
However you slice it, Elk View residents have to pay something because ultimately people are responsible for what they buy even when they’re deceived.
Government should always be accountable for its lapses and made to pay up, but the taxpayers can’t be expected to pick up the whole tab for the misdeeds of private individuals. As the Romans warned, ‘Caveat emptor.? Let the buyer beware.

‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.?
First uttered more than 2,000 years ago, this most important of commandments is practiced on a daily basis by the selfless volunteers who comprise Oxford/Orion FISH.
Last year, FISH provided food to 1,227 local families (3,328 individuals) in need, not to mention offering financial assistance to those who need help paying utility bills, rent and for prescription medications.
The group also gives rides to doctor’s and social service appointments, provides free school supplies to needy students, and distributes hundreds of food baskets at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
FISH does a ton of important work around here. Every day someone’s survival depends on them and the need just keeps growing and growing.
That’s why it’s important for FISH to be able to devote every penny it can to helping those who truly need it.
Right now, the Oxford Twp. Zoning Board of Appeals has a wonderful opportunity to save FISH $800 by not charging the nonprofit group its usual fee to conduct a meeting.
You see, in order to build a handicap ramp for their food pantry in Thomas, FISH has to obtain a three-foot variance from the ZBA. John Lychuk, who serves on FISH’s governing board, approached the township board about waiving the ZBA fee at last week’s meeting.
‘With $800, FISH can provide a lot of food for the community,? he said.
Unfortunately, township officials were unable to comply because it appears they legally can’t waive the ZBA fee.
Besides, if FISH it didn’t have to pay the fee, then taxpayers could be forced to absorb the cost for holding that ZBA meeting, assuming there were no other applicants on the agenda the same night.
‘I’m not sure the township board can do that,? said Supervisor Bill Dunn. ‘I don’t think it’s appropriate.?
Normally, residential applicants can share the cost of a ZBA meeting, if there are two or more on the same agenda.
However, based on what I’ve been told, it appears commercial and non-residential applicants (a category FISH seems to fall under) have to pay $800 regardless of whether or not someone else is on the same ZBA agenda.
Meeting fees are what help pay the ZBA. Board members, of which there are seven in all, are paid $95 per meeting except for the chairman who receives $105. The recording secretary is paid $100 per meeting.
Dunn told Lychuk to have FISH write a letter to the ZBA requesting they voluntarily waive their $800 fee.
If it turns out that the ZBA is prohibited by state law from either waiving its fee or doing the meeting without pay, then it would be nice if each board member and the recording secretary voluntarily donated their pay to FISH, nullifying the cost.
All that’s really being asked of anyone here is a donation of time ? time to meet, time to listen, time to discuss and time to vote. That’s it.
Surely, that’s not too much too ask given all that FISH does for Oxford on a daily basis and has done since 1971.
Surely, the ZBA can forgo being paid, if necessary, for one little meeting.
After all, nobody volunteers to serve on government boards to get rich.
They do it because they care about their community and want to make a difference in others? lives. Here’s a golden opportunity for ZBA members to do just that.
It’s already going to cost FISH an estimated $16,000 to build this handicap ramp, which will also require construction of an additional entrance/exit.
Let’s not add to that cost with unnecessary government fees that could be better spent feeding the poor. I’m personally asking each ZBA member to look into his or her heart and do the right thing.
NOTE: FISH is in desperate need of monetary and/or material donations to help build this handicap ramp, which according to Lychuk, will be between 60 and 70 feet long and three feet wide.
For more information or to contribute please call (248) 693-0638 or e-mail mmoxfordorionfish@sbcglobal.net.
FISH’s mailing address is P.O. Box 732, Lake Orion, MI 48361.
PERSONAL NOTE: I want to thank my wife, Connie, for all the love, support, help, understanding, tolerance and patience she gives me on a daily basis.
Having her by my side as my partner through life allowed me to win another five Michigan Press Association awards.
I couldn’t have earned 19 awards in eight years without you, Connie. They’re just as much yours as they are mine.

This isn’t so much a column as it is an obituary. A close friend of ours, the State of Michigan, died early Monday morning.
I’m not talking about the state as in the woefully wasteful and haplessly mismanaged governmental entity we’ve come to know and loathe.
I’m talking about the state we live in and most of us grew up in. The Great Lakes state where we work hard and play even harder.
It’s dead. I can hear Gordon Lightfoot now ? ‘The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the great state killed by a dim-witted Canadian broad….?
Rather than make truly significant, not superficial, budget cuts, the state Legislature and Gov. Jennifer Granholm decided to approve two tax increases in order to avoid shutting down the state government.
Personally, I would have preferred the shutdown. It wouldn’t have bothered me.
I don’t waste money on Lottery tickets. I buy my liquor at the Canadian duty-free store. I’d sooner wear an adult diaper than make a pit stop at a highway rest area.
And between all the municipal cops and county sheriffs, I highly doubt Michigan would have collapsed into anarchy without the State Police writing seat belt tickets.
As for the so-called ’embarassment? of having a state shutdown, who cares? Anyone who lives under Oxford government is used to being embarassed.
So, thanks to Granholm and her GOP accomplices, the state income tax will increase from 3.9 to 4.35 percent. And don’t forget, the 6 percent state sales tax will be extended to approximately 60 services.
What better way to finally finish off this terminally ill economy than to increase taxes on the people and businesses who either choose to remain here or simply cannot leave.
Our state has hit rock bottom so the politicians decided to start digging a tunnel to Hell. At least it’s warm there in the winter.
During all the nauseating media coverage surrounding the so-called ‘Countdown to Shutdown,? I kept hearing how the good-guy Democrats were protecting schools and public safety from the evil Republicans.
But the truth is there’s plenty to cut in the state budget that won’t affect our health, safety and welfare one iota.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy listed $1.9 billion worth of cuts ? a lot more than the paltry $440 million the Legislature’s planning to cut ? that could be implemented to avoid raising any taxes.
Here are some highlights:
n According to a Rio Grande Foundation report, if 5 percent of prisoners are placed in privately-managed prisons, the state saves 14 percent on overall prison spending because government-managed prisons have an incentive to ‘sharpen their pencils.? Savings: $192 million.
n Eliminate ‘History and Arts? subsidies, and cut state library subsidies in half. Savings: $35 million.
n In 1999 the Citizens Research Council noted that ‘a number of changes have occurred over the past decade that have reduced the need for intermediate school districts.? Let’s help the ISDs catch up by reducing their operations grants. Savings: $32 million.
n Repeal the ‘prevailing wage? law that requires above-market rate wages be paid on school construction projects. Savings: $150 million.
n Thousands of private sector workers have given back painful wage and benefit concessions to save their jobs. The average state employee receives salary and benefits worth nearly $75,000, compared to approximately $58,000 in the private sector. Comparisons of specific job classifications produce similar comparisons. State workers should be grateful for their much greater job security and benefits, and more than willing to assume some of the burden through concessions. Savings: $300 million.
n Eliminate the Michigan State University cooperative extension service and agriculture experiment station. Savings: $61 million.
But rather than make any of these real cuts, the Democrats and a handful of traitorous Republicans voted to raise our taxes ? the easy solution whenever government’s eyes get bigger than its wallet.
Why make spending cuts when you can just force people to pay more money? A citizen’s only options are jail or poverty.
That’s what happens when you give government a monopoly on stealing.
It’s easy to say our so-called leaders have failed us. Every Average Joe interviewed by the Talking Heads on TV kept saying it.
But the truth is We The People have failed ourselves because we put these bone-heads in office. It’s our fault. Not theirs.
We all killed Michigan.

Oxford Village’s recent election signaled more than just the end of deposed council President George Del Vigna’s political career ? ha, ha.
It spelled the end of cityhood as a viable political movement.
Del Vigna’s defeat was a clear message that voters don’t want cityhood.
Three of the five council candidates voiced opposition to cityhood and they all got elected by healthy margins.
Councilperson Teri Stiles is undecided about the issue and she still got elected.
Del Vigna was the only clear, unwavering supporter of cityhood and he was knocked to canvass hard like Joe Frazier.
To me, cityhood is dead and will be decomposing by the time it actually makes it to the ballot. The vote will be more of a burial than an election.
I can’t wait to write the obituary.
More cooperation, please
Personally, I’d like to see the township and village put this cityhood nonsense behind them and begin to foster closer relations.
Talking with Councilman Chris Bishop a few weeks ago, he casually mentioned an idea that I thought needed to be put out there.
Bishop would like to see the township appoint either one council member or village planning commissioner to its planning commission.
Makes sense to me. Village residents are township residents. Development in the township affects the village.
Currently, there is no village representation on the township planning commission.
By the same token, I would like to see the DDA appoint a township trustee to its board. Afterall, money captured from township millages helps finance the DDA.
In my book, that makes the township a stakeholder.
Currently, township Trustee Sue Bellairs is considered an ex-officio (non-voting) member of the DDA.
But she never attends the meetings because it’s a waste of time if you don’t have a vote. I can’t blame her.
The township should be given a voting seat on the DDA just as the village should be given a voting seat on the township planning commission.
Let’s make Oxford whole again.
You shouldn’t vote here if you don’t live here: Part II
I was not happy to learn that former village Clerk Chris Burns and her husband, Bill, voted in the Sept. 11 election via absentee ballot.
Granted, their votes were legal because they’re still registered here even though they’re staying near Cedar Springs where Burns works as city manager. The Burns still own their home in Oxford Lakes ? the only real property they own in the entire state ? and return every other weekend.
But the point is they don’t really live here on a day-to-day basis so they shouldn’t really vote here. It’s not right.
Their voting is just as wrong as the time former village President Renee Donovan and her husband, Tracy Miller, voted here in the November 2006 general election after they had been living in Lapeer Township for months.
I can understand why Burns wanted to vote given the shabby way she was treated during her time here. But that’s still no excuse.
By the way, I obtained a copy of Del Vigna’s note to the township clerk challenging the Burns? votes.
All I can say is the challenge was a waste of time because A) the votes were legal and B) two votes won’t get Del Vigna back on council.
The only thing worse than a poor sport is a whining loser.
Good riddance.

On Friday night, as my wife, Connie, and I were on our way to a fine meal at Palazzo di Bocce, we witnessed a horrific accident.
While stopped on Dennison St., waiting to turn onto M-24, we watched as four 13-year-old girls standing on the curb in front of the Oxford 7 Theater carelessly and recklessly darted out into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
We watched in utter disbelief as one of the girls went flying through the air, landing in the roadway.
What we saw upset and disturbed us a great deal as it would anyone. My wife is still having nightmares about it.
My story about the accident is on page 1. But I felt a simple news article wasn’t enough to express my feelings about what happened and hopefully help prevent another such incident.
First off, let me say thank God all four girls are alive and well with no life-threatening injuries. I’m so grateful that no one lost a daughter, a sister, a friend, a classmate or a student.
I’m relieved I didn’t have to write any obituaries this week or tragic stories about young girls in comas or breathing on ventilators.
That being said, make no mistake this whole thing was the fault of those four girls.
They were jaywalking. They were crossing illegally. They did not use the crosswalk about 15 feet to the south or the much safer traffic signal at Burdick.
The girls were horsing-around, not paying attention and not taking the dangerous business of crossing M-24 seriously.
And they paid for it.
But they’re not the only ones who paid for it. Their parents paid for it with all the worry, fright, helplessness and panic that comes with receiving a phone call letting you know your child’s been hit by a car.
The 18-year-old driver who hit them paid for it with the terrible images and feelings of guilt that will probably haunt her for the rest of her life. I want that driver to know it was not her fault and from what my wife and I saw, there was nothing she could have done to prevent this accident.
I can only hope those four girls and all the other children, preteens and teenagers in Oxford will learn a valuable lesson from all this.
The next time you find yourselves between the movie theater and Starbucks, ask yourself this question ? Is getting that fancy coffee drink or being on time for that funny new movie really worth risking your life by carelessly and illegally crossing a busy state highway? Is it worth not growing up?
Is it worth not going to prom or graduating high school? Is it worth not going to college, getting your dream job or having a family of your own some day?
Is it worth shattering the lives of your parents, grandparents, siblings and friends?
Is it worth being confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed for the rest of your life?
Is risking all that worth it in order to avoid taking the few extra minutes and steps it takes to cross at the traffic light?
You kids think you’re invincible. You think nothing can harm you. You think you’re going to live forever. You’re so very wrong.
I know there’s a crosswalk connecting the corners between the theater and Starbucks, but I’m sorry, I don’t believe that’s any safer than jaywalking. The DDA was foolish to request those white lines and MDOT was more foolish to put them there.
The safest place to cross in downtown Oxford is the traffic light at Burdick.
I know, I know, there’s the Polly Ann Trail bridge, but honestly, if someone doesn’t want to take the time and effort to walk down to the light, who’s going to travel all the way down to the bridge?
I urge parents to talk to their children about this latest incident. Tell them to cross at the light. Tell them how important they are to you and how terribly unimportant movies and coffee really are in the grand scheme of things.
Repeat it again and again until they get sick of hearing it, then say it some more.

I have mixed views on this whole ordeal involving DDA Director Carolyn Bennett (see story on page 1).
First off, spending $8,250 on fancy red polo or golf shirts for Celebrate Oxford volunteers is absolutely insane!
Not only was it completely out of line, it’s a disgusting waste of $6,750 in public funds ? the other $1,500 was donated by Oxford Bank.
This is worse than back in 2003 when the village council stupidly spent $3,000 on baseball hats embroidered with the Scripter Park logo.
Bennett could have easily purchased 300 screen-printed T-shirts for a heck of a lot less and that would have been just fine.
Volunteers don’t need fancy gifts. They need a heart-felt ‘thank you? and maybe a free lunch. Whatever happened to idea that helping is it’s own reward?
Should Bennett have gotten approval from the DDA board before ordering $8,250 in shirts? ABSOLUTELY!
She clearly violated DDA policy ? a policy she urged the board to adopt.
Bennett also violated the village’s credit card policy when she purchased gasoline with the DDA credit card, an expense considered to be personal, but one which she immediately repaid before the issue was raised during a meeting.
It’s obvious Bennett did things without board approval and violated both DDA and village policies. That being said . . .
She fully admitted what she did was wrong and explained what happened. She hasn’t tried to cover anything up. She hasn’t refused to comment.
Bennett wants all these issues discussed publicly in open session at the Sept. 17 DDA meeting, even though it’s her legal right to request a closed session.
I have to say while I disagree with her actions, I applaud her response and willingness to face the music in front of an audience.
Usually, when officials do wrong in Oxford they don’t admit it, they try to cover it up, they blame the media or they want everything discussed behind closed doors, so nasty C.J. can’t write about it.
I find Bennett’s honesty and openness about this whole matter both odd (for government) and refreshing. I also find it interested that the DDA is considering either firing or suspending her.
Manager Joe Young has a history of doing things without council approval, not following council’s direction, and he clearly violated the village credit card policy (i.e. buying alcohol for DDA committee meetings).
Young hasn’t been fired or suspended.
He usually either apologizes or makes excuses, mumbles something about how ‘we’re all God’s children,? then officials let him off the hook cause he’s just such a swell fella ? shucks.
I find the double-standard interesting, frightening and sickening.
Should Bennett be fired? My gut says no ? unless other things come to light or something like this happens again.
Should she be suspended without pay for a while? Definitely. No question.
Without consequences, policies are meaningless pieces of paper.

One of my favorite quotes has always been from the Irish political thinker Edmund Burke ? ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.?
In Burke’s maxim, we find not only Truth, but inspiration and comfort.
Inspiration to fight all the enemies of that which is good, just and noble in the world.
Comfort that all is not lost when it appears the deceivers have won the day. The war is far from over.
I hope Oxford Village Councilwoman Teri Stiles will take Burke’s words to heart and withdraw her resignation (see page 1).
I completely understand why she called it quits. She feels defeated, disillusioned and downright exhausted.
Stiles feels like the bad guys are winning and there’s nothing she can say or do to stop it. I know that feeling well.
I too am prone to fits of melancholy as I lament the pathetic state of local political affairs. Thank goodness for Martinis.
Unfortunately, Stiles? departure from council means village President George Del Vigna is guaranteed another two or four years in office in the upcoming election.
This is no doubt a relief to the man who pulls Del Vigna’s strings ? village Manager Joe Young. Not only is Young rid of a council member who dared to question him, he gets to keep the one who always buys whatever he’s selling.
Despite Del Vigna’s phony comments to me about how sorry he is to see Stiles go, I’m sure both he and Young were elated when she resigned.
First, they got rid of former Clerk Christine Burns who was a constant thorn in their sides. Now, they’ve pushed Stiles out the door. But it’s not over yet.
Even if she doesn’t withdraw her resignation and council accepts it at the Aug. 28 meeting, Stiles? name cannot be removed from the Sept. 11 ballot. She can still be elected and serve again.
I know I’m still going to vote for Stiles and not for Del Vigna.
And I urge other village residents who aren’t fooled by cookies and balloon animals to do the same.

I’m all for saving local historic buildings in situations where it’s possible and appropriate.
It’s nice to have old buildings around because they link us with our past and help foster a sense continuity between the living, the dead and those yet to be born.
Historic structures spark memories and invoke nostalgia in older people while giving younger folks a tangible glimpse of where they came from.
I’m all for the effort to save the 151-year-old Arnold Auditorium located at the northwest corner of Hosner and Lakeville roads in Addison Township.
It would be a shame to let this old building ? which served as a school from roughly1856 through 1957 and as a place of worship until 1902 ? be burned to the ground as part of a fire department training exercise.
I hope Addison resident Connie Corbin is quite successful in her efforts to spark public interest and garner private funds to save Arnold Auditorium.
This newspaper will do whatever it can to support Corbin’s cause. Good luck to her.
Also, for the record, Fire Chief George Spencer favors saving the building. He views burning it as both a last resort and a way to do the church a favor since it lacks the financial means to demolish it.
That being said I hope the Addison Township Board, particularly Trustee Ed Brakefield, will keep in mind that the building is private property owned by the Addison Township Community Church and not try to interfere with the auditorium’s destruction should the campaign to save it be unsuccessful.
I was greatly disturbed by what I read in the July 16 memo Brakefield sent to his fellow board members.
‘It is pretty sad that the board was not informed of this issue back in April, when our Building Official and Fire Chief discussed the destruction of this building,? Brakefield wrote. ‘As a board member, (I) would have never approved this.?
Newsflash ? there was nothing for you to approve. The fire department doesn’t need the township board’s permission to conduct a training burn.
The church doesn’t need the board’s permission to get rid of a building it owns ? especially one that’s already been deemed unsafe by the township building inspector.
Where was Brakefield’s concern when Arnold Auditorium was rapidly deteriorating year after year?
Funny, when an old building sits and rots, we could all care less. The minute someone wants to demolish it, it suddenly becomes a public treasure.
Me thinks Brakefield was doing a little grandstanding and using the Arnold Auditorium issue as an excuse to bash the township administration.
Brakefield continued in his memo writing, ‘Also, I would like to find out if anyone in administration knew about this issue, and if so, why wasn’t this brought to the board for discussion.?
Again, there was nothing for the board to discuss because frankly it’s none of the township’s business.
If private citizens wish to try to save it, that’s fine. If the church has no choice but to have it destroyed, that’s fine too.
Either way there’s no room for nosey government. Just because something’s historic doesn’t automatically transform private property into public domain.
If the Arnold Auditorium ends up being burned to the ground at least it will not have died in vain.
The church will be relieved of all the legal liabilities that go along with owning a structure deemed unsafe. It will also be saved from spending money it doesn’t have to demolish the building.
Firefighters from Addison and neighboring departments will gain valuable hands-on experience and training that will aid them in the event of a real fire.
Whether it’s preserved or burned, the Arnold Auditorium will once again contribute something positive to the community.
That’s one expensive rock
Last week, my reporter learned that $11,830 grant the DaimlerChrysler Corp. Fund is donating for the Aug. 4 Polly Ann Trail Dedication Ceremony isn’t just going to be spent on a big party.
It appears the grant money is also going to be used to purchase a really big rock with a bronze plaque commemorating the auto company’s previous $250,000 donation to the trail.
Anyone else think it’s absolutely hilarious Chrysler’s basically going to buy itself a monument to honor its generosity?
I’m thinking about saving my pennies for a Pulitzer or maybe a Nobel Prize.

Our state economy may be in the toilet, but we can all take solace in the fact that big corporations still have plenty of money to waste while workers lose jobs and people lose homes.
Over the weekend, I received a bit of news that raised my loathing for Corporate America to new heights ? or should I say lowered it to new depths.
The nonprofit DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund has approved an $11,830 grant to sponsor the Aug. 4 Dedication Ceremony for the Polly Ann Trail and its new bridge over M-24.
Granted, it’s not taxpayer money, which believe me is a HUGE relief.
But still, it’s nearly $12,000 for food, prizes and t-shirts at a stinkin? dedication ceremony. That’s one expensive photo opportunity for the Big Wigs.
Forget hot dogs and hamburgers, break open the Dom Perignon and Beluga Caviar!
Silver-plated shovels for everyone!
Gee, I wonder if Larry Obrecht’s going to use about $1,439 of this grant money to reimburse himself for those special ground-breaking shovels he never got paid for? Better keep a sharp eye on those invoices.
Honestly, how GROSSLY OBSCENE is it for a corporation’s non-profit arm to spend that much money on a fancy shindig designed to kiss Obrecht’s hindquarters and give local officials yet another excuse to pat themselves on the backs?
Glad to see Chrysler’s not worried about the fact that foreign competitors are kicking the American auto industry’s unimaginative and inefficient butt across the board. No time to fret because they’ve got a P-A-R-T-Y to throw in Oxford!
Looking over its website, I realize the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund has contributed millions upon millions of dollars over the years to thousands of worthwhile charities, educational institutions and community endeavors across the country.
But this latest grant to the Polly Ann Trailway Management Council is an egregious waste of money that could otherwise go to more deserving causes.
It’s downright offensive to spend so much cash on a single party in a state where it seems like everyone has one foot in the unemployment line.
I’d rather see Chrysler make a $12,000 donation to Oxford/Orion FISH to keep stomachs full and roofs over heads.
I don’t know who should be more ashamed ? the Polly Ann Trailway Management Council for seeking this grant money to pay for its opulent desires or the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund for approving this disgusting request.
Looks like it’s a tie between Government and Corporate America as to who’s more out-of-touch.

They say the only two things certain in this life are death and taxes.
In Michigan, the latter often leaves people praying for the former.
Let’s face it, life in this state is pretty depressing these days.
Everyday, the media is filled with stories revolving around unemployment, foreclosures, down-sizing, bankruptcies, the usual economic doom and gloom we’ve all come to expect.
Money’s tight all around.
Leave it to Gov. Jennifer Granholm to find new ways to make things even more miserable with her proposed ‘Tax on Joy,? as I’ve dubbed it.
The ‘Tax on Joy? would expand the state’s 6 percent sales tax so it would be levied on tickets for sporting events, plays, movies, concerts and possibly other leisure activities such as bowling and golf.
Isn’t that great?
Let’s tax all the activities that bring us happiness and enjoyment.
Let’s tax every single entertainment opportunity that helps us escape, if only for a few hours, the dreary realities of our everyday lives in this lousy state.
Two of the things I love in life ? alcohol and tobacco ? are already heavily and unfairly taxed, why not add my U-M football tickets and my visits to the Oxford 7 Theater?
But why stop there?
If the state really wants to net some serious cash for its coffers, it will start taxing jokes, smiling, laughter, silliness, frivolity, love, hugs, kisses and feelings of relaxation and contentment.
Think of all the money that could be made off young couples in love or kids running around a playground.
Release herds of kittens and puppies through the streets and the state could end up with a budget surplus next year.
To collect the tax, the Governatrix could establish a whole new department called the Ministry of Joy & Fees.
Adding another bloated and useless bureaucracy to the mix means more jobs for the unemployed, right?
Thousands of brand new state employees could be hired to fan out across Michigan to monitor and tax happiness in all its forms, wherever it lurks.
Whenever they see someone experiencing a moment of joy, no matter how small, they could immediately issue a tax bill right on the spot.
Five dollars for smiles and laughter. Ten dollars for public displays of affection.
Fifty dollars for anyone who dares utters phrases like ‘Life is wonderful? or ‘I feel good today.?
If that coldhearted Canadian in Lansing is truly serious about generating more state revenue and stamping out every last trace of happiness in Michigan ? a pet project she’s been working overtime on ? she’ll take my suggestion.

Government is, or at least should be, the art of compromise.
It was compromise among the Founding Fathers that produced the Constitution.
It’s compromise that prevents America from breaking down into factions of armed citizens engaged in open civil war.
But somewhere along the way, compromise became a dirty word in politics.
People who compromise are viewed as weak-willed, spineless or worse, traitors to the Cause, whatever it may be.
Compromise is the key to this whole soon-to-be dispute between Oxford Township and Village as to who should pay for the four M-24 businesses forced to switch from village to township water back in February. (See Page 5 for the story).
I’m not interested in the whole ‘who said what? aspect of the situation or assigning blame. And I definitely don’t wish to see the township and village suing each other ? again ? or any of the property owners involved suing the municipalities.
No more tax dollars wasted on lawyers, please.
The fact is these four businesses are now hooked up to township water and somebody needs to pay for it.
To me, the best way to handle it would be to split the $22,125 bill between the township, village and four property owners.
Each municipality would kick in $7,375 while each property owner would be responsible for $1,843.75.
Although I’m sure all the parties will argue somebody else is responsible, the fact is everybody bears some financial responsibility in this instance.
The village bears responsibility because these properties were loyal paying customers on the village water system for years. Removing them from that ancient, unreliable village water main is going to save a lot of money in the long run.
The township bears responsibility because these people are now on its system and they didn’t ask to be. Plus, the township just gained four new customers to help pay off that massive water bond debt.
The property owners bear responsibility because it’s not fair to force other taxpayers and water users to completely subsidize their system switch. Chalk it up to the cost of doing business.
I’m sure this suggestion will not make any of the involved parties happy, but that’s what makes it a compromise.
Nobody gets exactly what they want, yet the solution is fair to everyone involved.

Government is, or at least should be, the art of compromise.
It was compromise among the Founding Fathers that produced the Constitution.
It’s compromise that prevents America from breaking down into factions of armed citizens engaged in open civil war.
But somewhere along the way, compromise became a dirty word in politics.
People who compromise are viewed as weak-willed, spineless or worse, traitors to the Cause, whatever it may be.
Compromise is the key to this whole soon-to-be dispute between Oxford Township and Village as to who should pay for the four M-24 businesses forced to switch from village to township water back in February. (See Page 5 for the story).
I’m not interested in the whole ‘who said what? aspect of the situation or assigning blame. And I definitely don’t wish to see the township and village suing each other ? again ? or any of the property owners involved suing the municipalities.
No more tax dollars wasted on lawyers, please.
The fact is these four businesses are now hooked up to township water and somebody needs to pay for it.
To me, the best way to handle it would be to split the $22,125 bill between the township, village and four property owners.
Each municipality would kick in $7,375 while each property owner would be responsible for $1,843.75.
Although I’m sure all the parties will argue somebody else is responsible, the fact is everybody bears some financial responsibility in this instance.
The village bears responsibility because these properties were loyal paying customers on the village water system for years. Removing them from that ancient, unreliable village water main is going to save a lot of money in the long run.
The township bears responsibility because these people are now on its system and they didn’t ask to be. Plus, the township just gained four new customers to help pay off that massive water bond debt.
The property owners bear responsibility because it’s not fair to force other taxpayers and water users to completely subsidize their system switch. Chalk it up to the cost of doing business.
I’m sure this suggestion will not make any of the involved parties happy, but that’s what makes it a compromise.
Nobody gets exactly what they want, yet the solution is fair to everyone involved.

First of all, let me say I am extremely grateful and humbled by the fact that Oxford/Orion FISH selected me to receive an ‘Advocate of the Needy? award.
Of all the journalistic and community awards I’ve received since arriving at this newspaper eight years ago, this one means the most to me because of FISH lives the words ‘love thy neighbor? on a daily basis.
Frankly, I don’t think I deserve an award for all the publicity I’ve given FISH over the years because it’s nothing compared to what the group’s volunteers have accomplished and continue to do.
My contributions to FISH’s cause are a pittance compared to the thousands of local needy people they’ve helped feed, clothe and keep roofs over their heads during the group’s 30-year history.
I’m just the guy who chronicles, photographs and promotes their charitable acts.
FISH’s volunteers are the ones who roll up their sleeves, get in the trenches and do the real work.
That being said I would like to dedicate my award to every single FISH member past, present and future. I applaud and thank you for your compassion and dedication to doing God’s work on earth.
Let’s make it part-time and unicameral
It always warms my heart when two people I absolutely detest agree with me.
Both Gov. Jennifer Granholm and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) have indicated they would support a part-time legislature.
A part-time legislature would save the state big bucks in a number of ways.
That $79,650 salary every lawmaker currently earns could be slashed in half while their outrageously out-of-touch-with-the-real-world benefits packages could be drastically reduced or eliminated altogether.
And let’s not forget that less time in Lansing means less idle time for lawmakers to come up with new and exciting ways to spend our money.
Let’s face it, most new programs, new laws and new departments are dreamed up by the legislature because lawmakers have to justify their existence.
It can’t look like all they’re doing all year is lunching with lobbyists, chasing young interns and counting piles of PAC money. So, they vomit forth a constant stream of new legislation, most of it useless and costly.
Unfortunately, we all end up picking up the tab so they can look busy.
But a part-time legislature isn’t enough.
I say we also dissolve the state Senate and govern the state with a unicameral legislature like Nebraska has done since 1937.
A unicameral legislature would put our 38 state senators out of work, meaning 38 less paychecks and benefits packages the taxpayers would be responsible for.
And if the senators go, so do their office staffs, which are also financed with tax money.
Imagine having 38 less self-serving, opportunistic political whores in Lansing pushing their own agendas at the public’s expense.
A bicameral legislature (i.e. two chambers) makes sense at the federal level given the varying populations and land sizes of our 50 states.
California heavily outweighs Rhode Island in the House of Representatives, but in the Senate both states have an equal number of votes. (For those who missed civics class, each state has two senators.)
But at the state level, where representation in both the House and Senate is based solely on district populations, a bicamercal legislature serves no purpose other than having a redundant, costly layer of government.
If I had my druthers, the state Legislature would be part-time and unicameral, plus representatives? pay would be docked 10 percent for every vote they miss.
And there would be no more pensions.
It’s time to make the swine in Lansing feel our pain!
Republicans wanted for council seats
I was talking to someone with the Oakland County Republican Party last week and this person told me the GOP’s looking for people to run for the Oxford Village Council and other local boards.
Apparently, the county party’s formed a ‘candidate recruitment committee? so it can begin grooming Republicans for higher offices in the county, state and nation by running them for village councils and school boards.
‘Right now, we’re focusing on the villages because their filing dates are in a couple weeks,? according to the GOPer I talked to. ‘We’re trying to identify who’s a Republican, who’s a Dem.?
That 13-12 GOP majority on the county commission has apparently got the Republicans worried.
My Republican source explained the logic behind what the county party’s doing.
‘The Democrats are very good at (candidate recruitment), knowing who their people are, getting them onto school boards, planning commissions, zoning boards. They get name recognition and it’s a real easy leap to go to the county commission. That’s why we lost three seats (in November 2006).
The county GOP’s not only looking for candidates to run and support at the local level, it’s also trying to determine which incumbents it needs to ‘target,? meaning get rid of.
I casually mentioned a couple names on the village council that should be added to the political Hit List.
The filing deadline for the Oxford Village Council’s election in September is 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 19.
Remember, four seats are up for grabs.
Nominating petitions for council require a minimum of 25 valid signatures from registered village voters, but no more than 50.
So, if you’re a Republican village resident who’s interested in running for council give me a call and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.

‘I’m just not happy because my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Hey, join the club!
I thought I was going to be the starting center fielder for the Boston Red Sox! Life sucks, get a helmet!? ? Comedian Denis Leary
We’re raising a generation of kids who aren’t mentally or emotionally equipped to deal with biggest challenge in the world ? life.
I’m not talking about the kind of ‘life? that conjures up images of bluebirds, sunshine, puffy white clouds, cotton candy and a hippie playing an acoustic guitar next to a lemonade stand.
I’m talking about real life which involves failures, setbacks, ungrateful people, long hours, money troubles, quiet desperation, sleepless nights and frequent use of the word ‘no.?
Kids today aren’t going to be able to deal with any of that miserable crap because we give everybody who runs the race a medal, tell them they’re all winners and throw a pizza party.
Unequal results demand equal rewards. Call Joe McCarthy, we’ve turned into communists!
There’s way, way too much emphasis nowadays on making sure every kid has high self-esteem.
Self-esteem is more important than everything else ? grades, good manners, discipline, morals, rules, self-control, hard work, all those things society used to value before it started reading those moronic self-help books and listening to Oprah.
Whether or not kids actually have a right to feel good about themselves is irrelevant because everyone just has to feel special no matter what.
I’ve got news ? if everybody’s special, then nobody’s special because the word ‘special? by definition means ‘different from others; distinctive, peculiar, unique, exceptional, extraordinary.?
For years now, society has been programmed by so-called experts and the Media to heap constant praise and endless rewards on kids as if they were little Aztec deities demanding their daily sacrifices.
It seems like parents are always seeking approval from their kids instead of the other way around.
That’s why so many parents are quick to defend their children when they violate school policy or break the law rather than punish them. It’s everyone else’s fault! My precious child’s not to blame!
Unless their kids get absolutely everything they want and feel good all the time, parents feel like failures. Putting a roof over their heads and keeping their little bellies full just isn’t good enough anymore.
As a result, we’re seeing more and more disrespectful, lazy, spoiled children who become indignant if they’re not coddled and fawned over by every single adult they meet. God forbid a kid feels bad about him or herself. That’s the ultimate sin!
But feeling bad about yourself is not such a terrible thing, if there’s a good reason for it.
Feeling bad because you failed math is good because it can motivate you to do better. Feeling bad because you disobeyed your parents or broke the rules at school is good because you were wrong.
Feeling bad because you didn’t win a competition will light a fire under you to take the gold next time.
It’s important to feel good about yourself, but it’s not the most important thing in life. It’s important to feel good about yourself, but only if you do good things.
Like everything else in life, self-esteem is something that must be earned otherwise it’s meaningless.
Everybody who runs the race is not a winner.
There shouldn’t be a medal for coming in 33rd.

Government is stupid.
I’m sure there are pithier ways to express that sentiment using fancy adjectives from the thesaurus and witty phraseology.
But nothing else puts it so succinctly, so simply, so truthfully.
It strikes me as ironic that last year the township built this brand new, spacious, $1.8 million office complex and now it can’t afford to staff it with existing employees or keep it open for the same amount of hours.
Only government is dumb enough to construct buildings it can’t afford to operate.
Last week, the Oxford Township Board voted to completely eliminate its 40-hour-per-week receptionist position.
Prior to that, at a special May 16 meeting, the board voted to ‘consider reducing the hours of township operation to 35 hours per week.?
In other words, instead of being open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the township is considering implementing a 9-5 schedule.
That includes one hour for lunch so employees would actually be working seven-hour days.
All this is being done because the township is facing a budget crunch.
Cue the world’s smallest violins, please . . .
New home construction in the township has gone from boom to bust, from ‘Wow!? to ‘Ow!?
As a result, the township’s not getting nearly enough new water taps at $6,075 per REU to help pay off its nearly $11 million in bonds for all those system improvements.
In 2006 and 2007, the township needed a total of 520 water taps to meet its bond obligations. So, far it has received 114.86 taps.
That leaves the township $2,461,225 short to meet its bond obligations unless the demand for water quickly picks up in a big, big way.
And with practically no one pulling building permits these days, the township’s building department, which was normally self-sufficient and even had a reserve built-up, has been left with budget shortfalls that had to be made up by more than $200,000 in transfers from fund equity.
Yada, yada, yada . . . We’re all on the same sinking ship called the S.S. Michigan. Thanks, Capt. Granholm!
The thing is the state economy didn’t suddenly go down the tubes overnight. It’s been bad for quite a while now, getting worse and worse every year.
Knowing this, the township never should have built its $1.8 million hall.
I would like to quote an editorial I penned a few years ago against building the new township hall:
‘The other thing township officials should consider is the state of the economy, which despite what the White House says, is poor.
‘As a result, municipal governments all over Michigan are facing tough financial times. Some are already in crisis-mode . . .
‘Now is a good time for the township to save that ($1.8) million it plans to spend on a new hall and see what the future holds.
‘That Building and Site Fund money came in awfully handy back in 2000 when two failed police millages forced the township to use a good deal of it to pay for its first year with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.
‘Who knows? The township could end up needing that ($1.8) million for another emergency situation.?
I’m not just a newspaper columnist. I’m a prophet. I think I’ll change my name to Nostradamus.
Anyway, I thought the whole reason for building this fancy new township hall was because the old facility on W. Burdick St. was just too cramped and unsafe for the suffering employees.
Now, we’re firing those same employees and talking about cutting the hours of those who stay.
I bet they miss those tiny offices now.
I also thought the new hall was constructed so township officials can better serve the public.
Well, opening at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. is not better serving the public. It’s certainly not serving those citizens who start work at 9 a.m. and like the convenience of having the township open earlier to pay a bill or obtain some information.
Government is here to serve the people, not build empty monuments to itself with a closed sign hanging in the window.
A personal note
I felt bad about the township firing its receptionist, Rebecca Rendon because she is probably one of the nicest people I’ve met not only in government, but anywhere.
A classy gal, Rendon didn’t participate in the petty office politics that have created the toxic atmosphere at the township hall.
She never uttered a bad word about anyone. She didn’t spend her time blatantly sucking up to board trustees. She didn’t join any of the office cliques that operate like prison gangs only more vicious.
Rendon did her job efficiently, politely and quietly everyday, then she went home.
God forbid we keep people like that in government.
By all means, lets keep the lazy, the nasty and the rude on the payroll.

I’m a firm believer in two things about life.
1) Those who fail to learn from history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.
2) People don’t change when it comes to their basic nature.
From time to time, we may change the face we present to the world in order to fool those around us. At times, we may even fool ourselves into believing we’ve become different people.
But the deep down stuff, the essential core of who we are and what we’re capable of at 3 a.m. when we think no one else is watching, always remains the same.
That being said, I’d like to tell a story about a little place called Hazel Park and the city manager it fired back in February 2002.
His name was Kervin Joseph Young.
Everybody just calls him Joe.
I found a lot of interesting stuff about Young in The Daily Tribune’s internet archives. Enjoy.
Lots of dollars, zero sense
Young was blamed for two projects which cost Hazel Park a ton of money and helped drown the city’s budget in a giant hole filled with red ink.
?(Councilman Andy) LeCureaux said the 4? year veteran Hazel Park city manager has made some poor judgements while pushing for projects that are costing the city money.? ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
Project #1 ? ‘The city purchased seven homes near the Calvary Baptist Church so a new and smaller church could be built while the city converted the larger, older (church) building into a municipal complex. The city purchased the homes for $1.1 million and sold them for a little more than $300,000 after voters nixed the plan.? ? May 13, 2002 Daily Tribune
Project #2 ? Construction of the Viking Ice Arena was considered another big Joe Young boo-boo.
‘High interest costs for the bonds on the $9.7 million arena has some believing the city never will raise sufficient money from arena operations to cover those costs.? ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune
‘The ice arena had operating losses totaling $1.2 million since opening in 1999.? ? May 13, 2002 Daily Tribune
So why did officials say these costly, failed projects were Young’s fault?
‘When you look at the state of the city financially and what happened, I don’t think (Young) did enough research on the projects before submitting them to the city council,? said City Attorney Arnold Shifman ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
‘LeCureaux also blames the previous city council for approving many of the problem projects. However, he said they had to rely on Young’s information about them.? ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
No council approval?
‘Shifman also faults Young for not notifying the council the city borrowed $500,000 from the water fund to help finance the (Viking Ice) arena. While the action may be legal, Shifman suggested it wasn’t wise not to bring the transfer to the council for its approval.? ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
‘It was never brought to the council. It was a bookkeeping arrangement,? Shifman said. ‘Bookkeepers may say it is legal, but it shouldn’t have been done. You’re taking $500,000 in taxpayers? money from a fund that needs money.? ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
The Great Purge: Dissent will not be tolerated
Following the November 2001 election, Young felt he had enough council support to begin purging his political enemies from city government.
‘It became immediately apparent to city hall workers Young wanted to rid city hall of certain administrators who caused him problems . . .? ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
After the election, Young pushed the community development director to retire, demoted the city treasurer/finance director to an administrative assistant and terminated the assistant city manager. ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
In the community development director’s letter announcing his retirement, he wrote, ‘In order to protect my reputation, I must leave my position because of what I believe are unethical and possibly illegal activities being perpetrated by others in managing the city.? ? November 28, 2001 Daily Tribune.
The assistant city manager fired by Young had publicly supported Councilwoman Donna Vance’s unsuccessful mayoral bid. It just so happened Vance was an outspoken detractor of Young while the sitting mayor was good ol? Joe’s biggest fan.
It was when Young pushed for firing the city’s legal counsel that he committed the fatal move which led to his termination.
‘It’s based on the fact I know too much about the city of Hazel Park, in particular the city manager,? Attorney Shifman said. ? February 5, 2002 Daily Tribune.
A man with a plan
‘Shifman said Young has his ‘own agenda.?? ? February 5, 2002 Daily Tribune.
‘Things just got too political at city hall,? LeCureaux said. ‘Joe felt as long as he had three votes he didn’t care about the others (on the council.)? ? February 7, 2002 Daily Tribune.
?(Councilwoman Donna) Vance said Young doesn’t inform her about the things happening in the city, gives her late or no notification about meetings, and fails to carry through with some motions or resolutions approved by the council.? ? November 22, 2000 Daily Tribune
Epilogue
A lot of this stuff seems a little too familiar when I survey the political landscape in Oxford Village.
From Young’s manipulation of the village council (in particular its puppet president) to his interoffice power struggle with former Clerk/Treasurer/Assistant Manager Christine Burns (which ultimately forced her to leave town), I see a frightening pattern emerging.
We must beware of the man who plies the gullible, the naive and the foolish with home-baked cookies, cute little balloon animals and cocktails at Casa Real.
Wake up, people! Wake up before it’s too late!

Well, another election has come and gone.
For the Oxford school district, the election was a complete waste of money ? our money.
Two candidates, two seats and roughly 800 people voting in a district that’s 96 square miles and encompasses six townships in two counties.
I’m not ashamed to admit I didn’t vote.
I was not about to cast a ballot in this money-burning farce that could have easily been avoided if the school board had simply moved their elections to November when everybody else ? except a few stubborn villages ? holds theirs.
But they didn’t do that. Schools think they’re special because after everything’s ‘for the children!?
There’s this High and Mighty Attitude that schools are busy doing the Lord’s work.
I’ve got news ? school districts are no better than cities, villages, townships, counties, or any other form of local government.
We pay schools tax money to provide us a basic service. Make no mistake, education is a service no different than police, fire, roads, water, sewer or anything else we expect our local governments to provide efficiently to benefit our communities.
Although it seems like some parents believe they’re paying schools to baby-sit their screwed up kids until they’re old enough to either leave home or go to prison ? whichever comes first.
Oxford, along with many other districts in Oakland County, chose to have costlier May elections instead of holding them in November because they didn’t want to get ‘lost? on over-stuffed ballots with tons of other races and millage issues.
But the November 2006 election with its seemingly endless list of candidates and local millage issues proved this isn’t the case.
Oxford put the renewal of its 18-mill non-homestead tax on the ballot and it passed 6,704 to 3,087.
You never would have had nearly 10,000 people vote on that issue in a May election, that’s for sure.
The simple fact is more people vote in November than May elections.
I know some school officials like to keep their elections separate so as to guarantee more mindless, vote-yes-on-everything, PTO zombies turn out than your average voter who has the audacity to actually vote ‘no? every now and then.
Bottom-line ? Last week’s election was a waste of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to elect two people who basically won by default. Two people who won because nobody else wanted the job.
Time to move Oxford school elections to November. Save tax money. Increase voter-turnout. Maybe even get a few more candidates. The best way to reduce apathy is to make government less pathetic.
Voters in no mood for more taxes
Just in case any of those tri-township senior center folks get any ideas about putting their failed bond and millage proposals back on the ballot, they should look long and hard at the election results in Orion.
Voters in Oxford’s southern neighbor rejected a $19 million library proposal. They also turned down two safety path millages.
Nobody’s in the mood right now for new taxes or higher taxes ? except The Mole Queen in Lansing.

As I sat at the public hearing on cityhood last week, surrounded by a tiny group of all-too-familiar faces and about 175 empty chairs in the Oxford Middle School Commons Area, I had to wonder ‘Who really cares about cityhood??
When it came time to speak, the only ones who did so were four township officials, three village officials, a well-paid attorney, a developer, the petitioner and two ? count’em two ? residents who had nothing to do with either government or the cityhood committee.
Again, who really cares about cityhood?
Where were those 346 people who signed the cityhood petition? At their summer homes in Lapeer?
Of course, the virtually nonexistent audience at the hearing didn’t surprise me at all.
Nobody really cares about the village government, so why should they care about becoming a city?
Look at council elections. Hardly anyone votes.
In the 2005 village election, a grand total of 127 (5.49 percent) of the village’s 2,349 registered voters cast a ballot.
In 2004, 223 villagers voted. In 2003, 76 residents voted. In 2002, 65 residents cast a ballot. In 2001, 92 villagers went to the polls In 2000, 214 residents voted. In 1999, 33 voted.
Nobody votes for the current government, so why would they want to vote to change it? So they can not vote in city elections?
Does being an apathetic resident of a city offer a grander social status than being an apathetic village resident? Is it cooler to not care in a city?
In the eight years, I’ve been covering village council elections only two have actually drawn more candidates than available seats ? 2000 and 2005.
The rest were all uncontested yawn fests.
Make no mistake, the reason nobody runs for council or cares to vote is not because everybody thinks village officials are doing such a fantastic job.
Don’t mistake apathy for popularity or some sort of mandate from the electorate.
If nobody cares, how can the village justify spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a cityhood attorney? Let’s remember this whole thing was never, never a grassroots movement.
It was started by the husband of a former council president, neither of whom lives here anymore.
Council basically agreed to hire an attorney for a private citizen because he was connected to them. They wanted cityhood, but didn’t have the guts to push for it themselves, so they got a Trojan Resident.
I wish I didn’t care about cityhood. But alas I do.
I care because I don’t believe cityhood will save village residents money despite Manager Joe Young’s estimates.
(I don’t trust Young’s financial projections, especially after all the news articles I’ve read lately in The Daily Tribune’s internet archives. Check them out on-line at www.dailytribune.com and see why Young was fired as Hazel Park’s city manager in February 2002. It’s very interesting reading. More on that another time. . .)
I care because I don’t want to lose my right to vote in township elections and influence township policy and development.
I care because I don’t trust any of the shifty folks pushing for cityhood. I care because I believe in one Oxford, one people, one community.
I care because nobody else does.

I remember when I first started covering Oxford Township Board meetings back in May 1999.
Occasionally, I would see this elderly gentleman sitting in the back of the room, quietly listening to the proceedings.
He wasn’t like some of the other people I’d first encountered at those rather lengthy meetings.
He was always polite and dignified, never uttered an unkind word or caused a stir.
Whenever I saw him, he would smile and say hello. Sometimes we’d make a little small talk.
I eventually learned he was the man who made the senior citizens program run like a well-oiled machine and kept an eye on the Vets Hall.
His name was Evald Jorgensen or ‘Evie? as he was affectionately known by many.
Sadly, Evie passed away last week at the age of 79.
I don’t mean to sound cliche, but I’ve got to believe if you look up the word ‘volunteer? in the dictionary, you’ll see a smiling picture of Evie with the caption ‘Also see selfless.?
We all say we wish we could do more to help others in this world. But Evie never had to say something like that because he was too busy doing it everyday ? picking up the slack for the rest of us.
Doing most of the shopping, cooking, cleaning and organizing for the Oxford Senior Citizens since the early 1990s, the soft-spoken Evie put in countless hours ensuring the group’s meals, social activities, trips and other events always went off without a hitch.
And when he wasn’t doing all that, he assisted his fellow seniors with personal errands and was always quick to offer them a ride home.
He also worked closely with township officials to ensure renovations, repairs and other maintenance issues at the Vets Hall were done in a timely manner so as to avoid future problems and wasted tax dollars.
Evie was a one-man senior center ? no hefty bonds or millages required.
It seems like lately whenever I hear someone say they want to do more for our local senior citizens it’s always some self-centered politician hungry for votes or opportunist looking to create a new position and salary for him or herself.
Unlike those jackals, Evie never asked for, desired or received one red cent for all the things he did.
But make no mistake, he was well paid for his tireless efforts.
Evie’s paycheck consisted of all the good friends he made at the senior center ? people who loved, appreciated and respected him.
He was made wealthy by the lives he touched, the people he helped, the difference he made in his little extended family at the Vets Hall.
Evie earned interest compounded daily every time he felt useful, every time he felt needed, every time he contributed to his community.
No offense to Bedford Falls native George Bailey, but I dare say Evie was the richest man in town.
Unlike some people who regularly do volunteer work and accomplish good deeds, Evie never sought the spotlight, never asked for credit.
For him, volunteering wasn’t about press releases, photo ops, shiny awards, padding a resume or patting himself on the back.
He was much too humble for any of that prideful nonsense. Evie did what he did because he saw a need and he knew he could help.
Doing the job was its own reward.
With Evie gone, it’s now our turn to pick up the slack. We can never replace him, but we can all do a little bit more to make our community a better place.
I can think of no better way to honor Evie’s memory or say thanks for all he did.

I often imagine what it would be like to travel back in time to 1787 and sit in on the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
Imagine being able to listen to all the wit and wisdom of our Founding Fathers as they framed a form of self-government that continues to endure some 200 years later albeit a little battered and bruised.
But dreaming about those legendary proceedings only makes me sadder when I sit in on meetings like last week’s session of the cityhood committee.
Instead of observing intellectual giants, I get to report on mental midgets (see story on page 5). Oh well, I did want to get a few things off my chest so here goes . . .
Numbers? Numbers?
We don’t have no stinkin? numbers!
Considering the village’s latest cityhood effort was started way back in May 2003, it amazes me that when a resident today asks the question, ‘Is this going to cost us more money?,? he’s told by the cityhood attorney, ‘It’s unclear.?
That’s kind of an important question.
Cityhood proponents are fond of telling us there will be a savings, but they’ve failed to present any concrete numbers whatsoever.
You would think after four years someone on the cityhood committee or in the village government would have crunched a few numbers or at least purchased one of those newfangled addin? machines.
Oh wait, someone did do all the grunt work.
Former village Clerk Christine Burns wrote a whole research paper on the subject for her master’s degree. But she determined cityhood will cost village residents more money, so her work is being completely ignored by the powers that be.
If the facts don’t fit your goals, load them in the paper shredder ? that’s Politics 101.
So what if cityhood costs more?
We’ve got plenty of money!
A few residents said we shouldn’t focus so much on money and whether cityhood will cost us more because the ‘advantages? might be worth it.
Spoken like somebody who has money to burn.
Me, I’m not rich ? not even close.
I don’t own an overpriced home in Oxford Lakes or spend my winters in sunny Florida, so I’m not so keen on the idea of changing to a form of government that could take more money out of my pocket.
To me, there are no advantages to cityhood worth more property taxes. The only ‘advantages? I want my hard-earned paycheck to generate are groceries, mortgage payments, utilities, college for my daughter, and maybe, although not likely, a retirement fund.
Besides, it sounds like somebody’s getting ready to shift gears just in case the old ‘cityhood will save us money? battle cry goes up in flames.
Rule #124 in politics: Toss out a bunch of arguments in favor of your cause ? doesn’t matter if they’re all true, one of them is bound to work sooner or later.
Next thing you know, cityhood will cure cancer, remove warts, make us slimmer and cut our lawns.
Everything will be all right if we just click our ruby slippers together . . .
Being a Burkean conservative, I know that there’s no such thing in the political world (or real world) as a magic wand that solves all problems with a simple wave and a few kooky words spoken in rhyme.
Utopian plans always end in disaster (i.e. Jacobin France, Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany). One-size-fits-all ideas create more problems than they solve.
But some people, bless their naive little hearts, still believe rose-colored glasses are best way to view political situations.
One resident spoke of how he’s lived in Oxford 13 years and the township-village relationship is ‘just awful.?
‘I’m ashamed of it,? he said ‘It’s terrible.?
He then said, ‘I think if we were a city suddenly that would change and we’d work everything out.?
Only if the new city council consists of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Peter Pan, Big Bird and the Easter Bunny. We’ll make Tinker Bell our new city manager.
Fact is, cityhood doesn’t solve Oxford’s main problem, the root of all our ills ? We are one community with two governments.
We need to be one community, one Oxford, one people with one government.
And if you think cityhood will magically solve all our problems overnight, wait until the new city decides it wants to annex some township land.
We’ll see how harmonious everything is when the lawyers are called in and the court battles commence.
We’re outta control!
A representative from the pro-city Michigan Municipal League told the audience cityhood ‘boils down to ? do you really want to control your destiny and if so, one way to take another step . . . would be to become a city, which would give you greater control of what happens in this community.?
The village already has control over its destiny.
We have our own home rule charter plus a council, planning commission, ZBA, DDA, DPW, police department and numerous committees for just about every subject. I’d say we’re controlling the hell out of our destiny on an hourly basis.
In reality, cityhood will cause the village to lose a measure of control over a large portion of its destiny ? namely all the growth and development in the surrounding township.
Right now, village residents can vote for township board members, run for township office or be appointed to the township’s planning commission and ZBA.
As city residents, we will be able to do NONE of those things. How’s that more control?
As village residents, we can affect change in the township if we get off our lazy butts and actually do something.
As city residents, we will have ZERO say in the township and NO voice in decisions affecting what’s going on around us. Gee, where do I sign up?

So much of life involves being in the right place at the right time.
One cold and rainy night in November 2006, I was in the right place at the right time on Dennison St. and ended up rescuing a tiny kitten.
I heard her crying in the darkness and when I approached, she practically leaped into my arms.
With her shivering little frame wrapped tightly in my warm coat, I brought her home.
My wife, Connie, immediately dubbed her ‘Gypsy? because she was a traveler and we were only a stop on her journey to a new home.
If absolutely necessary, we were going to keep her, but the prospect of owning a fifth ? yes, I said fifth ? cat was not a tempting one.
More vet bills and cuteness aside, we were worried what friends and neighbors would say.
I already refer to my wife as the Crazy Cat Lady of Park Street. I didn’t want other people to call her that too.
Having no kitten chow in the house, we took a trip up to Meijer that night.
While there, my wife ? who’s notorious for talking to complete strangers while I hide ? struck up a conversation with friendly cashier Dave Kalmanir, who lives in Addison Township.
She jokingly asked him if he wanted a kitten. As luck would have it he did.
A few hours later when Dave’s shift ended, Connie brought Gypsy to Meijer to meet him. It was a perfect match.
Fast forward to last week. Gypsy had kittens ? six of them to be exact.
Dave’s other cat, Patches, is the papa.
In this case, curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it led to parenthood.
Since I rescued Gypsy and Connie found her a wonderful home, we felt obligated to help Dave find responsible owners and loving homes for the wee furry offspring.
Dave’s keeping one and he has a good home lined up for another one, so that leaves four adorable week-old kittens eagerly waiting adoption.
If you wish to adopt one, two or four, we need to know they will be kept indoors, safe and sound at all times.
People who believe in letting their cats roam outside all over the neighborhood need not apply.
Besides being irresponsible, it’s cruel and dangerous.
Anyone interested in adopting a kitten can call Dave at (248) 765-0562 or me at (248) 628-4801.

I’m sick and tired of closed session meetings ? particular when they involved public officials whose salaries are being paid with our tax dollars.
Lately, it seems like everything’s being done in closed session.
The Oxford Board of Education went into closed session last week to discuss Superintendent Virginia Brennan-Kyro’s handling of an administrative personnel issue.
Next thing you know, they vote to put her on administrative leave until June 30 ? the date she was planning to retire anyway. (See story on page 1).
No reasons. No answers.
No explanations. Just boom, here it is, we can’t share anything with the public because it was closed session.
Thank goodness Virginia was willing to talk to this newspaper or the general public would still have absolutely no idea what precipitated her early departure.
When the school board effectively lets the superintendent go 90 days before her scheduled retirement, there really should be an official explanation to avoid creating speculation, rumors and mistrust.
When you’re the highest paid and highest profile employee in the school district and you’re suddenly forced to go bye-bye, the public ? particularly parents ? wants to know why.
They have a right to know why.
If the school board wants the public to trust it at millage time and bond time, it has to give us reasons to trust it during the rest of the year.
Closed sessions and sudden actions taken without explanation do nothing to build public trust.
Last week, the Oxford Village Council also held its own closed session to give a performance review of Manager Joe Young. He specifically requested it be in closed session, which he has a legal right to do.
But to me, closed sessions are more about hiding things from the public eye than protecting anyone’s right to privacy. When you work for the government, you should have no right to privacy where your job is concerned. Every action you take and every public dime you spend should be open to scrutiny.
It’s ridiculous that village residents pay Young $77,000 per year plus benefits and they don’t get to hear what every single council member thinks of the job he’s doing?
Whether council’s words were harsh and critical or warm and fuzzy or a mixture of the two, the public has a right to know because they’re the ones ultimately picking up the tab for Young’s services.
At least we’re not paying the bar bills anymore.
Then there was the harassment complaint against Treasurer Joe Ferrari which was discussed by the Oxford Township Board in closed session Feb. 12.
Now, Ferrari wants to make the whole matter public, but unfortunately the person who lodged the complaint, township employee Patti Durr, doesn’t want to reopen the issue at the next meeting because she considers it resolved. (See the story on page 9.)
I understand where Durr’s coming from. If she feels there’s been some sort of resolution, some closure, why dredge it all up again? Why rehash it?
Why make Durr go through it again, relive it, just because Ferrari has second thoughts about the way he handled things the first time.
Ferrari had his chance to make everything public nearly two months ago, but instead he chose to discuss everything in closed session like a coward.
I seem to remember a statement the treasurer made right before going into closed session Feb. 12: ‘I hope the elected official’s name doesn’t come up ? just to protect the township.?
Ferrari now claims he chose closed session based on ‘poor advice.?
I’m torn here. On the one hand, I would like all the details of the harassment complaint to be made public because residents have a right to know.
On the other hand, Ferrari screwed up by choosing closed session so he should have to live with all the gossip, rumors and speculation as punishment for his original desire to hide from the public eye.
I sincerely hope the treasurer doesn’t keep pursuing this issue and bringing it up at meetings so as to give Durr grounds to file a retaliation lawsuit against him and the township.
I understand closed sessions when it comes to things like real estate purchases, attorney-client communications and lawsuits against local governments.
But when it comes to public officials ? whether its evaluating their performance, giving them the old heave-ho or hearing complaints against them ? all of that should be done in open session for all to see, hear and record.
We have a right to know because it’s our money!
If they can’t deal with that, if they want their precious privacy and dirty little secrets, then let them go work in the private sector. I don’t care what you do when somebody else is paying you.

There’s a radical idea being considered in Independence Township right now and I like what I’m hearing.
The idea isn’t radical in the negative, destructive or militant sense of the word.
It’s radical because it’s based on efficiency, common sense and doing what’s best for people ? concepts alien to government.
As I write this, there are elements of the Independence Township Board who wish to do away with the tiny City of the Village of Clarkston, consolidate the two municipalities and become simply Clarkston Township. Stop the presses!
Somebody in government actually has a good idea!
Somebody in government is looking for ways to save taxpayers? money!
I tip my hat to Independence trustees Dan Kelly and Charles Dunn for bringing the issue before their township board.
According to Kelly, the impetus for the idea was Governorette Granholm’s recent budget address in which the Canadian Mole Queen warned that, in the future, the state revenue sharing dollars local governments receive would be tied to whether they seek out consolidation or sharing resources.
Anyone in either the Oxford Township or Village governments happen to catch that little speech?
Smarten up you knuckleheads or the state’s going to take our money away!
The savings to city residents in Clarkston would be significant, according to Kelly.
The Clarkston News reported, ‘The city currently taxes residents 13.1 mills, while the township taxes 7 mills. If the consolidation were to occur, city residents would move to the 7 mills of the township.?
Funny, if Oxford were to consolidate into a unified township, village residents could cut their property taxes by nearly 50 percent.
Right now, village residents pay 11.12 mills to the village government for administration, police, dispatch services, DPW and local roads.
Village residents pay another 6.992 to the township for four services ? the public library, parks and recreation department, fire/EMS and township operations. That last one only amounts to 0.95 mill.
So, village residents, of which I’m one, pay a grand total of 18.112 mills. Ouch!
In contrast, township residents pay a total of 9.9072 mills ? the same 6.992 mills village residents pay for the aforementioned services plus another 2.9152 mills for the sheriff’s department contract.
Think about this ? if the village government were to completely disappear tomorrow, its residents would pay 9.9072 mills for township services and that’s it.
Or the village could become a city, keeping paying 11.12 mills (or more) and eliminate the 6.992 mills residents pay to the township.
But wait, I can’t imagine village residents would want to stop using and supporting the Oxford Public Library. After all, back in 1995, they too voted for the bond to build the new library and the operating millage to run it. So, village residents would probably want and need to keep paying that 1.8082 mills.
People absolutely need a fire department and EMS services, so village residents would have to keep paying that 2.5 mills for operations plus the 0.88 mill bond debt. Approved in 2000 by both township and village voters, the bond built the two current stations and stocked them with new vehicles.
If village residents wish to keep enjoying and supporting the 504 acres of lush township park land plus all those fun recreation programs Ron Davis and his energetic staff provide, they’ll probably want to keep paying that 0.8538-mill tax.
I know, I know, village residents could probably continue to use the library and township parks/rec. without paying property taxes ? maybe user fees instead ? but eliminating such a large chunk of tax base would negatively and severely impact both entities? budgets and their level of services. Without village taxpayers, neither would be the same, neither could continue doing everything they’re doing now.
I guess the only thing cityhood for the village would really save is 0.95 mill ? the township’s operating tax.
Gee, which is better?
Dissolve the village, become one township and save a whopping 8.2048 mills.
Or have the village incorporate as a city and save 0.95 mills ? pocket change.
But wait, according to village Clerk/Treasurer/Assistant Manager Christine Burns? research paper, village residents wouldn’t even save that much.
‘Rather than contribute 0.95 mills to Oxford Township’s operating budget, taxpayers (would contribute) that same 0.95 mills to the City of Oxford’s operating budget in order to offset the additional responsibilities undertaken by the city (i.e. Vets Hall Community Center maintenance, cemetery maintenance, etc.),? Burns concluded.
Actually, if the village were to become a city, an increase greater than the township’s current 0.95 mills would be required, according to Burns? paper.
‘A millage increase of 1.58 mills would be necessary, at least in the first year, in order to maintain the current levels of service throughout the city and assume responsibility for newly acquired assets (Vets Hall, cemetery, etc.),? she wrote. ‘It should be noted that due to one-time costs disappearing after one year, the millage rate could be lowered in subsequent years by appromixately 0.47 mills.?
So, even if that first year’s increase was lowered by 0.47 mill later on, city residents would still be left paying the 0.95-mill they thought they had gotten rid of plus an additional 0.16 mill.
To me, it seems like cityhood’s a no-brainer. And if you support cityhood, you definitely have no brains.

Next week residents of the Oxford school district are invited to attend a special meeting seeking their input regarding the qualities and characteristics they would like to see in a new superintendent.
I’m glad to see the board of education is soliciting the thoughts and opinions of the public before hiring the new face of the school district.
Since I’m a resident and taxpayer in the school district and the proud parent of a talented middle school student, I thought I’d throw my two cents in. Actually, since I have my own column its more like five cents.
Above all, the new superintendent needs to be honest and truthful ? an old school straight-shooter.
We don’t need someone who will feed the public and press a steady diet of lies, spin control, PR gobbledygook and positive buzz words nobody in the real world uses or understands.
The district needs a leader who says what he (or she) means and means what he (or she) says.
Give us the straight skinny ? no sugar, no crap.
The new superintendent needs to be very approachable and inspire a feeling of openness among the district’s employees and residents.
We don’t need another Marion Ginopolis who, in my opinion, inspired fear among her minions, alienated people and ruled the district like Stalin minus the Soviet dictator’s warmth and charm.
I want a superintendent who says, ‘Come on in. Have a seat. So, what’s on your mind??
Someone who always makes the time to talk one-on-one with parents, teachers, business owners, students, custodians, lunch ladies and newspaper editors.
Someone who wants to hear differing points of view, not just the same old ‘I agree, Master? from lackeys and sycophants (i.e. other administrators).
Someone who listens to others because they’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying, not because they’re just trying to stroke them at election time.
We need a superintendent who doesn’t think Privatization is a dirty word.
The mere mention of the P-word sends Educrats and union officials wildly screaming into the night.
Listen, you can hear one now.
The Spring 2007 edition of the Michigan Education Report noted, ‘As costs for employee retirement and benefit plans continue to grow, many Michigan school districts report they are saving money by contracting with private companies for janitorial, food and/or transportation services. A survey of Michigan districts in August of 2006 by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy showed that 37.8 percent contracted out for one or more of the three services, up from 35.7 percent in 2005.?
Lapeer, Goodrich, Holly and Almont are all examples of nearby school districts that privatize one or more services.
Sadly, in Oxford, Lake Orion, Clarkston and Brandon nothing is privatized.
It also would be nice to have a superintendent who lives in the school district or is at least willing to pack up and move here.
To truly understand a community, one must live there and become one of its people. You can learn more about a place as a local than as a hired gun.
Oxford will trust and support a superintendent who lives among us much more than some outsider who’s here on weekdays, then collects their fat paycheck and splits for a posh home elsewhere.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a superintendent who’s property taxes help pay Oxford’s school bond debt?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a superintendent who regularly shops at local businesses to help merchants pay their non-homestead millage to the schools?
The late Roger Oberg lived here for 65 years. Mark Orchard still lives here.
I can’t think of two better former superintendents for the new one to emulate.

If You Go…
WHO ? You, John Q. Public
WHAT ? Meeting seeking citizen input regarding the search for a new superintendent
WHEN ? 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29
WHERE ? Board of Education Offices on Pontiac St. (right behind Oxford Elementary)
WHY ? 1) It’s for the children {cue sobbing}; 2) Because you should care and your opinions matter; 3) You pay taxes.

He’s no king, he’s a puppet
I don’t know what it is with village presidents and their propensity to be so rude while running council meetings.
Oxford Village President George Del Vigna was rightfully taken to task by former President Sue Bossardet during the discussion over Clerk Christine Burns? resignation at last week’s council meeting.
‘You are, as council president, very rude,? she said. ‘You constantly interrupt (Clerk) Chris (Burns) when she’s trying to explain something and you do the same thing to (Councilwoman) Teri (Stiles).?
Bossardet admonished Del Vigna to ‘behave like a council president? and ‘allow people to complete their sentences before you reprimand them in public.?
‘What you’re doing tonight is inexcusable,? she noted.
Kudos to Bossardet for speaking up about behavior I’ve witnessed ever since council foolishly elected to hand the gavel to Del Vigna.
I once told Councilwoman Stiles I was going to buy her one of those giant foam fingers to wave in Del Vigna’s face whenever she wants to speak.
Right now, Stiles gets the award for Most Ignored Councilperson. I’m hoping she’ll get a little louder.
Because of his arrogant behavior as village president, someone recently suggested I write a column about King George. But to me that would be giving him way too much credit, too much importance.
He’s really just Puppet George. I say this because the two people really running the village these days are Manager Joe Young and Attorney Bob Bunting.
Del Vigna has no crown, only cheap strings pulled by Young and Bunting.
Too often have I seen incidents where Young has dropped the ball ? the credit card alcohol policy, ordinance and building code violations concerning the new village well house, issues related to the Broadway Plaza, new development encroaching on village property, information submitted late to village auditors, not following council’s specific directions ? and Del Vigna automatically rushes to his defense.
The pattern seems to be Young does something wrong or questionable, Del Vigna immediately takes his side and Bunting has a legal opinion to back everything up.
Don’t forget to pass out those fresh-baked cookies and balloon animals, both of which seem to turn ordinary people into drooling idiots blind to all wrongdoing.
I’ve always hated puppet shows. Didn’t like them as a kid. Really don’t like them now.
Don’t let the developers wear you down
Springwood Park LLC requested the March 22 public hearing regarding the proposed rezoning of the Koenig property be postponed. No new date has been set.
Gee, I wonder if the developer did this in the hopes of wearing the opposition down.
Put it off long enough, maybe people will stop paying attention. Maybe they’ll get distracted and forget.
I’m sure the developer would rather see a large empty room at the public hearing rather than one filled with angry residents opposed to the insanely high density that’s being proposed.
I promise the minute a new hearing date is set, I will keep reminding people when it is, where it is and how important it is. Everyone I’ve talked to is opposed to building another 2,500 homes here ? myself included.
Those voices need to be heard at the public hearing. The planning commission needs to hear them. The developer needs to hear them. Your fellow citizens need to hear them. Speak up.
Hats off to Helen Barwig
I love a good surprise, especially one that makes me laugh out loud.
During last week’s Oxford Township Board meeting, resident Helen Barwig publicly took Treasurer Joe Ferrari to task over the Feb. 5 harassment complaint lodged against him by employee Patti Durr.
‘I guess what really upset me about that is we’ve already put out money for one harassment case and cost the taxpayers $80,000,? said Barwig, referring to when former Deputy Treasurer Sharon Fahy sued Ferrari and the township in 2002-03.
Actually Helen, it was a $100,000 settlement, but hey, who’s counting? Please continue. . .
‘It is very wrong for you to have two harassment cases against you,? Barwig told Ferrari.
Barwig pointed out that Ferrari has nothing to do with supervising the Building Department for which Durr works. ‘I don’t understand how you could have been harassing her in the first place,? she said.
Barwig is not pleased with the chilly atmosphere in the township office. ‘When you go into that office, sometimes you can just see the cold feelings in there,? she said. ‘Somehow, some way with the new building, I hope all this will straighten out.?
The great thing was Barwig spoke her mind while the camera from Oxford Community Television Channel 19 was rolling. So, Channel 19 was forced to air something about the Ferrari complaint after all thanks to fearless reporter Helen Barwig.

Anyone can make a mistake.
That’s probably the essence of being human.
But its takes an especially ignorant person to make the same mistake again, on purpose, thereby compounding the first error.
Over the weekend, I caught Oxford Community Television Channel 19’s alleged news broadcast ? it’s like watching a hideous train wreck, but I just can’t look away.
First up was Station Manager Don ‘All the News that’s Fit to Hide? Huegerich. Normally, he doesn’t appear on camera during the news broadcast, so this peaked my interest.
Huegerich proceeded to read my column from last week ? something that’s never done ? in which I criticized him for choosing not to air the recent story about Oxford Township employee Patti Durr’s harassment complaint against Treasurer Joe Ferrari.
You remember the Feb. 14 story where Ferrari and the township board voted to discuss the complaint in closed session so no details are available to the press or the public. You can still read the article at www.oxfordleader.com.
Huegerich read my entire Feb. 21 column, but arbitrarily deleted any and all references to Durr’s complaint against Ferrari.
‘I have chosen not to mention the names of the principals of the story,? he proudly told viewers without any explanation for his decision.
By completely eliminating any mention of the Ferrari issue, Huegerich presented my opinion to viewers with no context, no explanation of why I was criticizing him in the first place.
Listening to him read my column minus that crucial piece of information was like listening to a prosecutor argue why a man should go to prison without ever mentioning what his crime was.
As if purposefully altering my opinion piece wasn’t bad enough, Huegerich again committed the very same despicable act that enraged me to begin with.
He censored the Ferrari story for the second week in a row, thereby once again depriving the public of their right to know about their government and elected officials.
I don’t know if Huegerich somehow thought he was being a brave little man by reading my column on the air, but all he’s done is prove my point.
Once again, Huegerich deliberately chose to censor news. But now instead of ignoring an entire story, he’s reading items from the newspaper and presenting them out of context.
Does he think that’s somehow better?
If Huegerich was a real man he would have either taken to the airwaves to explain and defend his decision or sucked it up, admitted he made a bad call, apologized to viewers, then read the original story.
But instead he chose to read a censored version of my column ? a gutless move that makes absolutely no sense.
It appears to me Huegerich is still trying to protect an elected official who happens to have a vote regarding how much funding Channel 19 receives.
But if he is indeed shielding Ferrari or was ordered to do so, he’s certainly doing a lousy job because he keeps giving me column fodder.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to just air the story in the first place and avoid all this grief?
I’m sure Ferrari doesn’t want to keep drawing attention to this matter week after week after week.
Frankly, I don’t know whether to be angry or embarrassed by Huegerich’s latest action.
By the way, just in case Huegerich wants to read this column on the air, he does NOT have my permission unless he reads it word-for-word ? nothing omitted, nothing deleted, no one protected.
I won’t have my writing ? news or opinion ? butchered and censored by talentless hacks who aren’t real reporters, but they play them on TV.
Keep it up, Huegerich. I’ve got plenty of ink.

Every week residents can tune into Oxford Community Television (Channel 19) to hear all the news as reported in The Oxford Leader and various other publications.
From government news and features to sports and Peeking in the Past, virtually everything that’s printed in the Leader ? with the exception of our brilliant opinion columns ? is read by Channel 19’s on-air personalities during their weekly news broadcast. Or so I thought.
I tuned in to last week’s news program and noticed the Leader’s front-page story regarding township employee Patti Durr’s harassment complaint against Treasurer Joe Ferrari was curiously absent from the broadcast.
Was this a simple oversight or a deliberate decision? First thing Monday morning, I called Station Manager Don Huegerich to find out why the Ferrari story was not aired.
‘We chose not to run it,? Huegerich told me. ‘We just figured it was in a developmental stage and (we) don’t want to add fuel to a fire.?
‘I ran it by folks,? he said, referring to how the decision was made. Which folks? Who?
‘Some people,? Huegerich replied. ‘We decided we’ve just been through a bunch of very close things recently and we just decided to stay out of it for this development part of it.?
That’s about as clear as mud topped with old motor oil on a foggy night.
Again, I asked Huegerich which ‘folks? he ran this decision by.
‘I just talked to some people on staff,? Huegerich replied. ‘And we decided . . . let’s wait on it.?
‘It was a hard call,? he added. ‘We just didn’t want to put ourselves in a position of being involved ? making something worse for somebody else at this stage of the development of it.?
Here’s what I think happened.
Channel 19 derives all its funding from cable franchise fees paid to our local governments including Oxford Township. Each government decides how much, if any, of this money to give the local cable access station.
These public monies pay for things like cameras, audio equipment, the TV studio and Huegerich’s salary.
In addition to being paid with public funds, Huegerich answers directly to the Cable Commission, which is comprised of elected and appointed officials.
My guess is the station manager didn’t want to bite one of the hands that feeds him and his annual budget, so he decided to exercise his discretion ? a polite word for an evil thing called CENSORSHIP.
But the type of censorship Huegerich chose to exercise in this case was not to protect the public from material deemed obscene, patently offensive, inaccurate or even slanderous.
The material Huegerich chose to censor was completely factual and a matter of public record.
The material Huegerich chose to censor was information about our township government and our elected officials. That’s unforgivable!
I sincerely hope Huegerich dropped the story because he was just trying to be a good little government toady sucking up to his bosses and not because he was ordered to by an elected official.
If I find out an official was pulling Huegerich’s strings, well . . . to quote Dr. David Banner, ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.?
I shouldn’t be surprised by the spineless decision to keep the public in the dark about the Ferrari situation. Government and coverups go together like peas and carrots. It just goes to show that government ownership of media is never a good idea.
From Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels? control of all media in Nazi Germany to the former Soviet Union’s leading newspaper Pravda, it’s always bad news ? no pun intended ? when government makes itself the supreme and final arbiter of what the people should and should not know.
To control information is to control people ? government’s favorite thing next to taking our money.
Besides broadcasting local news, Channel 19 also tapes and airs all the government meetings.
If something controversial arises at a village council meeting or unflattering facts about a public official are brought to light during a township board meeting, will Huegerich decide not to air it?
Or will he simply edit that part out?
Perhaps the tape will just mysteriously vanish.
Maybe Oxford Community Television should add a couple digits and become Channel 1984.

For the last few years all I’ve heard from Addison officials is how cash-strapped the poor little rural township is.
Cue the world’s smallest violins and tinny piano music, please.
Remember when poor Addison couldn’t afford to be a member of the North Oakland Transportation Authority?
Remember when impoverished Addison didn’t have the money to keep paying dues to the Polly Ann Trail Council?
Remember when indigent Addison couldn’t scrape together the funds to keep participating in Oxford-Addison Youth Assistance? Sniff ? pass the tissues.
Addison’s neighbors bent over backwards to ensure the township could afford to keep participating in all of the above groups and receiving services.
From changing funding formulas to using private donations to getting creative with ‘in-kind? contributions, everything’s been done short of checking underneath the sofa cushions for loose change.
Let’s not forget the township’s big ‘the budget is doomed!? sob story in May 2005 when it tried to convince voters to increase the operating millage. Addison’s electorate sure failed that sucker in a hurry.
And how about that Oakland County Sheriff’s split sergeant Addison dropped because it simply couldn’t afford to keep sharing the cost with Oxford and Brandon?
Oxford’s neighbor to the east has basically been the equivalent of the unemployed, good-for-nothing, deadbeat brother-in-law who always disappears into the rest room just before the waitress brings the bill. Don’t worry, he’ll get it next time.
Now, some Addison board members are pushing for pay raises. Read Casey Curtis? story on page 1.
For the supervisor, treasurer and clerk, a $1,101 per year increase is being proposed for each of them. If approved, each official would earn an annual salary of $32,559 (not including benefits).
It’s also been proposed to increase the flat fees trustees are paid for each meeting they attend.
Regular meeting would go from $100 to $110 per trustee and special meetings from $50 to $60. Special meetings held the same night as regular meetings would earn each trustee an extra $25.
Between elected officials and township employees, the proposed raises would cost a total of $9,000. On their own, these pay raises may seem pretty small in monetary terms. A mere bag of shells.
But put them into the context of the last few years and they’re an insult to the township’s taxpayers and all the neighboring communities to which Addison’s been a lousy partner.
Don’t sit there Addison officials and whine to me about how destitute your township is. Boo hoo.
Don’t cry about how you can’t afford to improve your roads. Don’t snivel about rising costs.
Governments that are hurting financially should NOT propose ANY pay increases whatsoever for elected officials or public employees.
If you government types need a little extra cash, just borrow a few bucks from your attorneys.
They’ve got all the township’s money.

I am so sick and tired of the Health Nazis never-ending assault on our personal liberties.
Don’t drink. Don’t smoke.
Don’t eat that cheeseburger.
Wear your seat belt.
Hey, you on the motorcycle ? where’s your helmet?
As if their annoying, nagging ways weren’t bad enough, they’re constantly trying ? and in many cases succeeding ? to pass new laws designed to force everyone to bend to their twisted wills.
Soon we will all be nothing but a population of healthy slaves who’s personal habits are scrutinized, regulated and controlled by government.
The latest assault by the Safety Fascists comes from Oakland County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson (D-Bloomfield Township) who’s pushing for a countywide ban on the use of artificial trans fats in food service establishments.
Common in some cooking oils, artificial trans fats have the effect of increasing ‘bad? cholesterol, reducing ‘good? cholesterol and boosting the risk of heart disease. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Anything that bad for you must taste terrific.
If Gershenson and her liberty-loathing supporters have their way, trans fats will be eliminated from all county eateries by December 2008. Boo! Hiss!
Never mind the extra cost to restaurants to switch to oils not containing trans fats ? a cost their competitors in other counties would not have to bear.
Never mind the extra cost to county taxpayers for enforcement of this ban ? a cost taxpayers in other counties would not have to bear.
My issue here is freedom. The freedom to put whatever I want into my body.
The hyprocrisy of liberals and Democrats never ceases to amaze me. Try to prevent an innocent baby from being aborted and they all scream, ‘Get your laws off my body!?
Try to enjoy some French fries cooked in an oil with trans fats and they scream, ‘We need a law here to protect this poor citizen for his own good!?
To me, a person’s health, their personal habits, their vices, are their business, not mine and certainly not the government’s.
I have no problem requiring disclaimers on restaurant menus to let customers know if trans fats are used and their potential ill effects. Nothing wrong with keeping consumers informed.
If people choose to eat at establishments that do not use trans fats, that’s fine and dandy.
If people choose to eat at restaurants using trans fats, that’s just swell too.
You know why? Because I know how to mind my own business and live my own life.
God gave us all free will. The U.S. Constitution and the marketplace give us the freedom to make choices both good and bad.
When it comes to what we eat, drink and smoke, let’s all exercise our freedom to choose instead of passing draconian laws that treat us like little children who constantly have to be told what to do.
What’s next? A law mandating we eat all our vegetables or else face five years in prison?
Don’t laugh ? it’s coming.

Am I the only one who’s sick and tired of the political mess known as the Polly Ann Trailway Management Council?
It seems like every week it’s something with those boneheads.
Addison’s in.
Addison’s out.
Addison’s back in ? maybe.
Okay, Addison’s definitely back in, but only if the trail council accepts the township’s latest ultimatum.
Then there’s the whole taking a $100,000 private loan from Larry Obrecht with no contracts, no signatures, just ‘a wink and a smile? as Oxford Township Treasurer Joe Ferrari aptly described the deal.
Both Oxford Township representatives voted against the fishy loan, expressing valid concerns and serious reservations. But Obrecht’s got enough blind support from Leonard and Orion representatives to get anything he wants.
And let’s not forget all the power tiny little Leonard seems to wield on the council.
Chairman Geno Mallia, Jr., president of Leonard Village, runs those trail meetings with all the charm and courtesy of Mussolini dictating from the balcony. Say something Mallia doesn’t like and he’ll shut you down with all the rudeness he can muster.
The PATMC has fastly become a three-ring circus dominated by petty politics and even pettier personalities. It’s time to pull the old plug.
It’s time for our governments to stop funding the trail council. It’s time to dissolve it.
The bridge is built. The trail is surfaced. The project is complete.
We don’t need yet another layer of government with its own budget to manage a strip of land who’s only purpose is to give people a place to walk, bike, jog or ride a horse without getting hit by a speeding gravel hauler.
Each community should be responsible for maintaining the trail portion within its own borders using parks and recreation employees, DPW workers, volunteers, prisoners, etc.
As for the trail manager’s position, the communities can always contract with Amy Murray on an as-needed basis to do things like coordinate special events on the trail, deal with equestrian issues that require a certain amount of expertise, etc.
The dissolution of the Oxford Fire and EMS Commission taught us that we didn’t need a 12-member board to govern a fire department.
Likewise, we don’t need an eight-member board (or 10-member board, if Addison rejoins) plus a trail manager to govern a 14.2-mile stretch of rocks and dirt with a few pieces of asphalt here and there.
The trail was supposed to be a source of pride and recreation for the five communities it runs through. Instead, it’s become a source of tension and bitterness as five governments argue over everything from who pays what to Obrecht’s sainthood.
But it needn’t be this way if we just eliminate the council and let each government maintain the trail on its own. It’s not rocket science. It’s a trail.
Why must government complicate everything?

The Village of Oxford needs to get serious about its administration in 2007.
The time has come for the village council to hire a full-time manager ? someone who’s interested in overseeing the mundane details of the village’s daily operations as opposed to flitting around like a social butterfly.
Don’t get me wrong, Joe Young has done a terrific job promoting himself.
Young is tirelessly committed to making himself visible in the community every single day.
So much so, he’s hardly ever in the office.
That’s real dedication.
True, a village manager should be out there in the public talking to people, listening to them, but Young’s elevated it to an art, nay, his entire job.
He’s made schmoozing and networking his Number One Priorities ? how else can you cultivate a positive image without actually ever accomplishing anything?
Young’s administration has been defined entirely by style and personality, not substance.
You can fool some of the people some of the time, but in Oxford it seems you can fool everybody all the time as long as you put on a good show.
Make a few balloon animals, bake some cookies, shake a few hands, attend some luncheons, pose for a few photo ops, take a DDA committee out to dinner a few times, get chummy with certain local business owners and gullible people will believe you’re the best thing since sliced bread.
Heck, they’ll even make you Citizen of the Year.
Never mind the two major downtown developments Young’s constantly touting ? Centennial Commerce Center and Broadway Plaza ? have been fraught with problems because no one seems to be paying any attention to silly little things like local ordinances and encroachments on village and private property.
But don’t worry, when those problems reared their ugly heads, Young was right there to take the developers? side and help them in any way he could.
When a village construction project was recently started with no building permit, no site plan approval and no inspections, Young was there to chastise the building inspector for noticing all this and lift his stop work order ? after all that wouldn’t look good in the newspapers.
But don’t fret because nobody keeps a closer eye on tax dollars than Young.
Back in October, Young issued a $54,000 check to OYK Investments ? developer of the Broadway Plaza ? for construction of a 36-inch storm sewer.
However, he released the money prior to receiving the lien waiver that council specifically requested be presented to it before approving any payment to OYK.
A tearful apology from Young laced with references to how ‘we’re all God’s children? and everything was all better.
I don’t blame Young for all this. I blame the council for hiring him for a job he’s clearly not suited for.
The mind-numbing details that come with the village manager’s job are stifling Young’s true talents.
I’m not saying fire him. Heavens, no!
I’m just saying hire a new full-time village manager and keep Young on the payroll as the town’s official mascot ? like The San Diego Chicken.
This way the village gets the proper oversight it deserves and Young can keep being Mr. Popularity without having to ignore now and deal with later all the boring issues that arise when managing a community.
It must be exhausting for Young to always have to come up with explanations and apologies when the village council inquires about something that’s gone wrong or has been neglected.
Without attention to detail and hands-on management, the Village of Oxford could wind up in a big mess just like Pontiac.
Wait a minute, isn’t that where Young spent most of his career in government? Uh-oh.
Correction: In last week’s column I incorrectly mentioned how former Oxford Police Chief Gary Ford pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge back in 2004.
Actually, he pleaded no contest to the charge in exchange for the prosecutor dropping a felony charge.
While technically not an admission of guilt, a no contest plea does mean the defendant is not refuting the charges.
Judges treat no contest pleas as admissions of guilt, find the defendant guilty as charged and sentence him or her accordingly. This is what happened in Ford’s case. It’s still a conviction.

They say you can’t keep a good man down. Apparently, that also holds true for people who aren’t so good.
A friend of mine e-mailed me a press release dated Sept. 23, 2006 announcing that Veritas-Global, a business intelligence and global investigative firm, has added a new senior investigator to its staff ? Gary Ford.
Yes, the same Gary Ford who served as Oxford police chief from 1995-2000.
Yes, the same Gary Ford who brought scandals, investigations, failed millages, lawsuits, controversy, negative publicity, mistrust and disgrace to the former joint Oxford Police Department.
Yes, the same Gary Ford who cost local taxpayers thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in attorney fees, misused federal COPS grants and bills associated with dissolving a police department that had completely lost the public’s confidence.
Yes, the same Gary Ford who was shown on the television news playing golf while on medical leave.
Yes, the same Gary Ford who stood trial on criminal charges. (To be fair, he was acquitted of two felony charges while the third was dropped in exchange for him pleading no contest to a misdemeanor).
Yes, the same Gary Ford who eventually sued Oxford and won $1.
‘Gary Ford has years of investigative and leadership experience that he brings to every situation,? said Gregory Suhajda, Veritas? chief operating officer. ‘His experience as chief of police in two communities (the other being Harper Woods) coupled with his detective experience make him a great asset to our team.?
You know what’s really scary?
One of the many services Veritas Global offers is background checks. Yikes!
Veritas-Global, which has an office in Southfield, provides comprehensive business intelligence, investigative and security consulting to corporations worldwide.
And now Gary Ford is part of that vast network spanning the globe.
I know I’ll sleep better at night knowing Gary Ford is helping safeguard the world economy.
I’m just glad ol? Gary was able to get back on his feet what with those numerous physical and psychological problems that came up during his workers compensation hearing and his criminal trial.
As Don King would say, ‘Only in America can a man like Gary Ford get a third chance in life!?
Like the mythical Phoenix, Gary has a knack for rising from the ashes.
Should the world ever suffer a nuclear war that wipes out every human being and animal on the planet, I have no doubt the only survivors will be the cockroaches and Gary Ford.
Even though Gary’s been on the job for three months now, I think Oxford residents should let Veritas-Global know what a great guy he is.
If you would like to share your thoughts, opinions or personal experiences with Gary’s new employer visit www.veritas-global.com for contact info.
Note to Veritas-Global ? if Gary ever offers to plan a company golf outing or awards ceremony, politely decline .
Trust me.

The best way to describe Oxford Village’s official position regarding cityhood is council hailed a taxi three years ago and asked the driver to keep the meter running, but never actually went for a ride.
With the legal sufficiency hearing for the cityhood petition coming up before the state Boundary Commission in Lansing on Jan. 18 (tentatively), I recently inquired as to how much the village has spent on the issue.
As of June 13, the village has spent a whopping $13,395 on cityhood attorney Thomas Ryan. (The township’s even worse ? it’s spent $19,431 opposing cityhood. So much money, so few brains.)
That’s a lot of tax money especially since the only one Ryan appears to work for is cityhood committee chairman Steve Allen. An Oct. 19 document from the state Boundary Commission listed Allen as the ‘petitioner? and Ryan as the ‘attorney for petitioner.?
Allen, by the way, holds no elected or appointed positions with the village whatsoever ? he quit everything when he heard Jake and Elwood were getting the band back together.
In other words, Allen ? a private citizen who is accountable to neither the village government nor its taxpayers ? has his own taxpayer-financed attorney hired by council to do his bidding and push a political agenda no one’s sure the village electorate will support.
While it’s true 346 people signed the petition favoring cityhood, it’s also true that 358 people signed another petition asking the village council to stop spending money on cityhood unless authorized to do so by voters.
The latter petition was summarily dismissed and quickly relegated to the dumpster. Sorry, but council only gives support and tax money to people who regurgitate their views without question.
Ironically, council itself has never taken an official stand on cityhood. Council’s actions certainly indicate a ‘pro? stance, but officials have never come out and said, ‘We think Oxford Village should become a city.?
Back in June 2003 when former village resident and convicted felon Tracy A. Miller, Sr. presented the so-called findings of his cityhood committee to council they voted 4-0 to thank him for his work and ‘encourage him to continue? his ‘research? and ‘be as active as can possibly be.? Wink, wink.
Then in December 2003, council, at Miller’s request, hired Ryan at $165 an hour to handle the legal aspects of the private cityhood effort.
When Miller moved to Lapeer County earlier this year ? don’t worry you can still run into him at the village polls on election day ? Allen took his place as cityhood’s Grand Poobah.
In June 2006, village Clerk/Assistant Manager Christine Burns ? the only village official who’s actually done any unbiased research on cityhood and thoroughly documented it in writing ? recommended council establish an official cityhood committee so the village could have silly little things like oversight, accountability, a firsthand knowledge of how the public’s money is being spent.
But as with anything that’s too logical, reasonable or responsible, it was never done.
Council’s taken a decidedly hands-off approach to cityhood and it doesn’t make any sense.
Officials are willing spend thousands and thousands of tax dollars to help private citizens push it through the legal process, but won’t form an officially sanctioned village committee or take a definite stand saying the village is ‘for? or ‘against? the idea. Wonder why that is?
For an idea that’s supposedly so great and allegedly supported by so many residents, why does council continue to keep its distance?
If cityhood is so very vital to the village’s future as supporters claim, why aren’t village officials directly involved instead of leaving it all to ol? Steve Allen ? a man who never held a position he didn’t quit.
Maybe council wants to have a fall guy in case this whole thing goes down in flames?
By the way, whatever happened to that cityhood paper Burns wrote for her master’s degree?
You know, the one where the research determined cityhood would not lead to any savings for village taxpayers and would, in fact, cost them more money?
I guess we’re ignoring that too. I’ll be glad to make extras of my copy if anybody wants one.

There aren’t many things in life I’ll point to and say, ‘That’s government’s job.?
Why? Because I believe the legitimate functions of government are very basic and very few in number.
To me, the most basic, the most necessary, the most vital job of government at any level is to protect people’s property.
I’m not alone in that.
The 17th century English Whig philosopher John Locke believed protecting property was the main motivation behind the creation of a civilized society.
Over and over again, Locke wrote, ‘The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property.?
Locke’s idea that society was formed so that men may better secure their natural rights to life, liberty and property influenced America’s Founding Fathers ? even though they decided to substitute ‘the pursuit of happiness? for property.
At Tuesday’s Oxford Village Council meeting, I listened as village President George DelVigna and village Manager Joe Young declared that a resident’s potential property dispute with a neighboring developer was ultimately a ‘civil matter,? not the village’s problem.
I’ll be writing a story on this whole issue next week, but the long and short of it is Paul Phelps, who lives on Ensley Street, believes the brick wall being built next door to him is on his property.
The wall belongs to Fred Hadid, developer of the adjacent 20,000-square-foot Broadway Plaza, a retail/office building currently under construction.
A survey done by Rowe, Inc. at the village’s request indicated the wall is encroaching on Phelps? property by 13 inches at the south end.
Phelps plainly told council he doesn’t want any part of the wall on his property.
At the north end, the Rowe survey indicated the wall is encroaching on the adjacent Broadway Street property by 8 inches. Those homeowners enthusiastically told council how much they love the new wall and would gladly give up their 8 inches.
If indeed the Rowe survey is correct, the village government has a responsibility to help Phelps by enforcing its ordinances and the site plan submitted by the developer and approved by the village.
The village is also obligated to help Phelps because the developer is building this wall on village-owned land which council agreed to lease for 25 years to Hadid in November 2005. The 75-foot-wide alleyway between Broadway and Ensley streets remains public property, thus it remains government’s bailiwick.
Fortunately, it appears most of the council agrees the village has a responsibility to do something to help Phelps protect his property if it’s being violated.
‘One of the most basic purposes of government is to protect this gentleman from some of the actions that are currently happening to his property,? said Councilman Chris Bishop at the Nov. 28 meeting.
Phelps should not have to hire a lawyer, go to court and spend his own hard-earned money to resolve this potential wall problem.
He’s a village taxpayer who deserves to have his property protected by the local government he pays to support and relies on to protect his rights.

Being in the journalism business you get used to hearing complaints about things printed in the newspaper.
Some complaints are valid.
Some are baseless.
Others are really off-the-wall.
On Monday, I received a complaint that was so petty, so ridiculous, so lame, so completely out of left field that it merited an entire column.
It seems local attorney and Parking Lot Baron Lee Knauf no longer wishes to give comments to this newspaper because he was being quoted too accurately in previous articles.
‘You’re putting my quotes exactly as I say (them) in the sense that ? you make it sound uneducated,? Knauf said. As an example, he said when quoting him, I would write, ‘We’re gonna? instead of the more proper ‘We’re going to.?
Knauf didn’t say he’s been misquoted. On the contrary, he claimed I’ve been purposely quoting him accurately to make him ‘sound uneducated? and he finds this ‘offensive.?
‘It’s obvious you’re taking pains to do it,? Knauf said. ‘I’m sure it’s fun. I know you enjoy doing things like that.?
When talking to me in the future, Knauf said, ‘I’m gonna have to speak very proper English.?
Shouldn’t an educated man with a law degree do that anyway?
I explained to Knauf that it’s my job to quote him accurately and there’s nothing wrong with printing the conversational slang word ‘gonna,? especially when that’s exactly what the person said.
As a result, Knauf told me, ‘I guess I won’t be able to talk to you about anymore of this stuff,? referring to his family’s legal dispute with the village.
For the record, I went back over the stories I wrote since August in which Knauf was quoted regarding this whole parking lot brouhaha and I never once used the word ‘gonna? in any of his quotes.
For the record, Knauf was quoted as using the word ‘kinda? ? instead of the proper ‘kind of? ? in an Aug. 23 story and an October 25 article. He also used the phrase ‘fessed up? in an Aug. 23 story.
Despite Knauf’s assertions, there’s no secret plot or grand conspiracy to make him appear ‘uneducated? by quoting him accurately.
I tend to think Knauf’s just upset because things aren’t going his way in court these days.
In October, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in the village’s favor by reversing a Court of Appeals decision and sending the parking case back to circuit court for further proceedings.
Then last week, Circuit Judge Fred Mester ordered Knauf Family Properties to clear out the vast assortment of eyesores it had stockpiled in the northeast quadrant, giving downtown Oxford that charming Sanford & Son look.
I’d say the Knaufs are on the ropes legally.
I take back what I said in a previous column.
I’m now rooting for the village to win this thing.
The publicly pious Knaufs are in desperate need of a little humility ? make that a lot of humility.
Halos fit better on smaller heads.

I was standing in line Tuesday, waiting to vote, feeling good about being an active participant in our democratic republic, when I saw something that made my blood pressure shoot into the stroke range.
Guess which infamous couple I witnessed voting at Oxford Township Precinct #1 even though it’s well known they both now live in Lapeer County?
Former Oxford Village Council President Renee Donovan and her convicted felon husband Tracy A. Miller, Sr.
Remember how Donovan resigned from council back in May because the couple bought a big house along M-24 in Metamora?
Remember how they moved up there to pursue their drag-racing hobby?
Over the summer, Miller was even quoted in the Lapeer County Press complaining about how the M-24 road construction was negatively impacting the businesses his family runs out of their new home.
Isn’t it nice that Donovan and Miller live in Lapeer County, but are still registered to vote in Oxford?
As far as I know, they still own their old home in Oxford Lakes, but they definitely moved to Lapeer earlier this year and the house has been up for sale.
Oxford Township Clerk Clara Sanderson said she was told by Miller that the Lapeer residence was his ‘summer home.?
What a complete crock! Sure, lots of people live in Oxford, then spend their summers a few miles north in Metamora ? it’s like heading to Jamaica.
When Donovan announced her resignation in March, she told the council, ‘Our family has chosen to relocate.?
In her March 14 letter of resignation, Donovan wrote the family ‘will not be moved out of the village prior to the 10th of May (the date her resignation became effective).?
No mention was ever made that this new house in Lapeer was a ‘summer home.? She clearly told everyone she and Miller were leaving Oxford.
If Donovan was planning to keep living in Oxford Lakes and only ‘summer? in Lapeer, why didn’t she stay on council? Why did she resign?
In my opinion, it was a blatant and public display of dishonest, unethical and downright sleazy behavior for Miller and Donovan to vote in a community they don’t even live in anymore for local candidates that don’t represent them and local issues that don’t affect them.
Gee, I wonder if they’ll keep their voter registration here in the village so they can vote on the cityhood issue should it ever make it to the ballot?
Don’t forget Miller was the founder of this latest cityhood drive. That should tell you a lot about this movement’s character ? or lack of.
I feel like Oxford’s election ? my election, your election ? was tainted by these two carpetbagging voters from the north.
In my opinion, what Donovan and Miller did in that voting booth was FRAUD, pure and simple.
Their voting may have been legal because they’re still registered here, but it was wrong, wrong, wrong.
If you don’t live here, you shouldn’t vote here!

As opposed as I am to government and taxes in general, even I see why voters must say ‘YES? to the Oxford school district’s 10-year, 18-mill tax RENEWAL on non-homestead properties.
It’s real simple.
If the school district’s millage renewal fails on the Nov. 7 ballot, Oxford will lose the entire 18 mills, which equals approximately $5.4 million in funding annually. That’s roughly 15 percent of the district’s budget.
There’s no way the school district can lose that much in revenue and not suffer severely in all areas.
There’s no way the district could still deliver the same level of high caliber educational programs and extracurricular activities after losing $5.4 million a year.
Have 15 percent of your annual income disappear and see if your life-style doesn’t change dramatically.
Now imagine the impact on Oxford students.
People who have read my column for the last seven years know I’m not some whiny ‘it’s for the children? liberal or mindless PTO zombie who agrees with everything the school district says and does.
I’ve repeatedly criticized the school board and administration.
I helped defeat two non-homestead millage increases (2000 and 2002) which were contrary to the spirit and letter of the Headlee Amendment.
I’ve defended the rights of parents and taxpayers against bad policies and wasteful spending.
That’s why I believe my support of this millage carries a little more weight with the average voter than the usual self-righteous pro-school crowd who lives in a bubble and believes the district never has enough of anything.
Bottom-line is this millage is not about extras or frills. It’s not about trying to circumvent the state constitution. It’s not about pumping more money out of non-homestead taxpayers.
This millage renewal is about meeting the basic educational needs of Oxford’s students and continuing to offer the same level of service we’ve all come to expect from the school district.
The school district needs this basic funding to continue operating as it does right now.
Oxford students need this millage to keep receiving the same solid, well-rounded education that will eventually make them responsible, contributing members of society.
The community needs this millage if we are to continue having top notch schools that make parents and future parents want to live here.
Local employers need this millage if they wish to hire young people who have the necessary language, math and problem-solving skills to be productive workers.
I personally urge everyone to vote ‘YES’on the district’s 10-year, 18-mill non-homestead tax renewal. We can’t afford to vote against it.

As supporters of the tri-township senior center for Oxford, Addison and Orion continue to spread their propaganda in an attempt to convince voters to approve two tax increases on the November 7 ballot, I’ve noticed some proponents using school taxes as a justification.
The argument goes something like this ? Senior citizens pay school taxes, but no longer have any children attending school, i.e. they enjoy no direct benefit from this service, but still pay anyway.
Because they help pay to educate other people’s children, we should all be willing to pay for a senior center in return. Ipso facto paying school taxes entitles seniors to a center of their own.
Frankly, that argument is weak and baseless.
First of all, most seniors have grandchildren, great grandchildren, even great-great grandchildren, attending a public school somewhere.
The school taxes seniors pay are in fact helping to educate their younger family members, thus there is still a direct benefit.
Unless you want your grandchild to grow up to be a complete moron.
Secondly, education is crucial to maintaining a free and prosperous society.
Even if you no longer have kids in school or don’t have any kids at all, paying school taxes still benefits you because everyone requires the services of educated people everyday, senior citizens are no exception.
In fact, many of the people senior citizens rely on a regular basis require an education to do their jobs.
The doctor who treats you needed an education.
The pharmacist who dispenses your medications needed an education.
The nurse who administers your flu shot needed an education.
The financial planner who helps manage your retirement funds needed an education.
The lobbyists hired by the American Association of Retired Persons to pressure Congress for more senior benefits needed an education.
The employers and employees who help pay for government programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid through their payrolls and paychecks needed some kind of an education.
I’m no fan of school taxes, but education is needed to help our society function as much as the other basic public services ? roads, police, fire, etc. ? we pay taxes for.
A senior center is not a basic public service. It’s not a necessity.
It’s a luxury item that some view as a necessity because we are a society that often confuses wants with needs.
Taxpayers shouldn’t feel obligated to increase their burden on Nov. 7 because senior citizens pay the same school taxes and derive the same benefits from an educated society that the rest of us do.
Tax cuts are the real way to reward all taxpayers, not grandiose buildings that increase everyone’s taxes, but only benefit a certain population segment.
Yes, we’re all getting older, but we’re also getting poorer as the millages keep piling up.

I think everyone should be allowed now and then to toot their own horn.
There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Those self-pats feel especially good on days when you feel like the whole world is against you or you’re not getting any appreciation for the seemingly endless amount of work you do.
Well, I’m going to toot my own horn a bit here because I just won five, count’em five, awards in the 2006 Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
I won first place in the local columnist category, first place in enterprise reporting for the series I penned on the H2O water convoy to Oxford, Mississippi last year, third place in editorial writing and in the feature photo category I took both first and third.
If you’re looking for The Man, I believe that would be me.
Since 2000, I’ve now won a total of 14 MPA awards.
I won’t lie to you, winning feels good ? damn good.
It’s especially rewarding when you work days, nights, weekends, at the office, at home, in the car, in the park. I really need to slow down.
Despite the fact I work like a lunatic, I can’t take all the credit for my awards.
I have to give a lot of the credit to my wife Connie, who for some reason continues to put up with me.
I talk about work a lot, too much to be healthy really, and she listens to every word. Sometimes I know she’s tuning me out, but to her credit she always still looks interested.
Connie’s my unpaid, unofficial second staff member. She’s my sounding board when I need advice or just need to vent.
She’s my therapist when I need to be talked down.
She’s my proofreader when I need another set of eyes.
She’s my ‘how does this sound to you? person when I’m not sure about a story lead or a particular sentence.
She’s usually the first to read my column.
She tells me if she thinks I’ve gone too far.
She has dinner ready and waiting on those nights when I’m running late.
She’s my biggest fan and cheerleader.
I believe we often don’t the tell the people we rely on, the people who support us, the people who form the background of everyday lives, just how much we appreciate all they do for us.
Feeling under-appreciated is a terrible thing. It makes you angry, but most of all, it just hurts.
I don’t want my wife to feel under-appreciated for all she does for me and this newspaper.
So, I’d like to dedicate my five, count’em again five, MPA awards to my wife Connie.
You earned them just as much as I did.
Thanks for being there. I love you.
I’d also like to congratulate reporter Casey Curtis on winning her very first MPA award ? 1st place News Photography.
I think it’s important for bosses to tell their employees when they’ve done a good job, especially when their work has brought an award to the company.
You’re doing excellent work, Casey. I’m proud.

One of this week’s letters to the editor contains a line that’s so completely over-the-top, so melodramatic, that it not only gave me a hearty laugh, it spawned a column.
Thanks so much to Michele Hodges, president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, for penning this priceless gem:
‘We all must support the Somerset Collection, for it is a county wide asset and, if it weakens, or ceases to exist, the negative impacts would not be limited to Troy.?
Wow! I mean, wow.
Is she talking about the whole American Way of Life or an upscale shopping mall where yuppie women pumped full of Botox and Collagen go to do lunch and run up their credit card bills?
I half-expected the letter’s next line to be a quote from President George W. Bush saying something to the effect of ‘If we all don’t shop at the Somerset Collection, the terrorists win. Send Osama bin Laden a message ? buy that $600 Louis Vuitton handbag.?
Hodges wrote a letter this week (see above) defending the Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce idiotic decision to raffle off a $1,000 shopping spree ? paid for by Oxford businesses ? to Troy’s Somerset Collection during this year’s Women’s Expo Oct. 5.
Gee, I wonder which chamber board member called Troy and asked for a letter of support?
In her letter, Ms. Hodges talks about ‘the benefits of collaboration? between chambers of commerce.
I have two problems with that argument in this case.
First of all, I doubt Troy’s highly popular and wildly successful shopping mecca needs little ol? Oxford’s help to promote it.
I know, I know ‘we all must support the Somerset Collection,? but in this case, it’s like asking one of our downtown merchants to buy advertising for a Fortune 500 company.
Secondly, there is no collaboration here. Oxford businesses are paying for the $1,000 shopping spree and Oxford’s chamber is promoting it.
It’s not like the Troy Chamber or Somerset Collection is donating anything. They’re just reaping the benefits.
As for Hodges? talk about possibly holding an Oakland Chamber Network event in Oxford to ‘reciprocate? for our chamber’s support, I say big deal. Oh boy, maybe we’ll get to host a business card mixer.
Chamber-type events really do nothing for the local economy.
Contrary to Ms. Hodges? Troy-centric view of world, the Oxford Chamber’s main job is to support and promote businesses and merchants in Oxford.
I sincerely doubt anyone with a storefront in Oxford is tossing and turning at night trying to dream up new ways to promote shopping at Somerset. Or worrying if the Troy mall is having a good 3rd quarter.
Oxford business owners are worrying about making enough money to pay their leases, property taxes, utility bills, employee salaries, and maybe earn enough of a profit to support themselves and their families.
In her letter, Ms. Hodges writes that ‘In this case, if the Somerset Collection creates the draw necessary to continue the success of the Women’s Expo, and the need cannot be met within the (Oxford Chamber) membership, then it is most appropriate.?
On the one hand, she’s right.
Somerset does offer customers many shopping opportunities that Oxford cannot, particularly when it comes to ladies? apparel.
On the other hand, as I pointed out in my column a few weeks ago, Oxford offers a variety of other shopping and dining opportunities such as works of art, antiques, high quality jewelry, fresh flowers, fine wines, interior decorating services, home furnishings and decor, delicious meals, savory desserts, a whole store with Michigan-made products, a gourmet cookware shop, quilting supplies.
And by the way, a thousand bucks spent here in Oxford goes a lot farther than in overpriced Somerset.
Plus, all the money supports local businesses owned by local people, not retail stores owned by out-of-town corporations.
I don’t care about Troy. I don’t care about Somerset.
I care about Oxford. I care about Oxford business owners, their futures, their prosperity.
That’s what separates me from our chamber of commerce, which is about as useful to Oxford businesses as the appendix to the human body.

Whether we want it or not, the Polly Ann Trail bridge will be here in two weeks ? maybe.
Who knows?
It was supposed to be here this week.
It was supposed to be here earlier this summer.
Come to think of it, it was supposed to be here earlier this year.
Anyway, Larry Obrecht ? a.k.a. the Lord of the Canines ? got his way. I guess it’s true what they say ? every dog has his day.
I’m sure readers are expecting me to launch into another tirade about what a colossal and disgusting waste of tax dollars this bridge is.
Or wax poetic about how the bridge is a monument to what brain-dead local officials led by one man with delusions of grandeur can accomplish when they ignore the public.
I could refer to Obrecht as the Dog Catcher one last time or make a joke about Leonard and Orion officials fighting over who gets to have Obrecht’s puppies.
That last part isn’t even funny because we all know Oakland County Animal Control requires its managers to be fixed.
But I choose not to dwell on any of those mean-spirited, yet witty and true, observations in this column. I won’t stoop to that level. It’s beneath me.
Obrecht and his mindless acolytes on the Polly Ann Trail Management Council ultimately won the war, so I will magnanimously acquiesce to them.
Never let it be said I wasn’t gracious in defeat.
To show there are no hard feelings I finally picked a winner in the ‘Name the Polly Ann Trail Bridge Contest? I started back in November 2005.
Picking a winner was tough. I received a lot of good entries.
Unfortunately, many of the proposed names, while funny, sounded awkward. They didn’t quite roll off the tongue.
In the end, I was looking for a name that was simple, clean and expressed exactly what this bridge represents to Oxford, to all who will cross over it or drive under it.
Drum roll please.
And now without further ado, I present the winning name . . .
‘Portal to Idiocy?
Take a moment to reflect.
Congratulations to Bill Savage, of Oxford Village, who submitted the winning name.
At first glance, you might think it’s not much of a name, but I assure you it expresses things perfectly.
Good or bad, the bridge will now be the gateway for M-24 traffic entering our fair village from the north. In essence, it’s a ‘portal? to our community.
As for the idiocy part, that sums up Oxford’s alleged leadership in a nutshell.
Idiocy is actually the form of government Oxford residents live under. In the ancient language Sanskrit, ‘idiocy? means ‘rule by idiots.?
The village and township have separate governments, but they’re both run by ‘Idiocrats,? who constantly waste tax money and make bonehead decisions like the Polly Ann Trail bridge, for example.
Yes sir, ‘Portal to Idiocy? is the perfect name for this million dollar White Elephant.
As the contest winner, Mr. Savage will be presented a 21-inch shovel spray-painted chrome with the words ‘Portal to Idiocy, Polly Ann Trail Bridge 2006, Thanks Bill Savage? engraved on it.
The shovel represents those $1,439 chrome-plated ceremonial shovels Obrecht tried to con the trail council into paying for earlier this year.
The shovel also represents all the manure that has dripped from Obrecht’s mouth over the years while pushing for the bridge.
Well, there’s not much more to say.
The bridge is supposed to be here on a Friday. The concrete deck will be poured on a Saturday. I’ll be setting explosives underneath it on a Sunday.
What a busy weekend.

When you think about it the whole concept of property taxes negates the very idea of owning private property.
Twice a year we pay the government a sum of money to keep living in our homes.
Yes, we get services in return, but should our homes be used as leverage to make us pay for those services?
Should your home be used as weapon against you?
If you don’t pay your property taxes, the amount owed plus interest piles up and the government can eventually take your home away from you.
Except for putting a gun to your family’s head, there’s no more effective form of coercion than threatening to take a man’s home away from him.
Even if you pay off your mortgage and finally own your home free and clear, you still have to pay the government’s property taxes to keep living there.
You never really own your home.
You just keep renting it from the government, which includes villages, townships, counties, school districts and all the other bodies and authorities that impose taxes on your property.
You’re one tenant with multiple landlords.
So much for the old adage that ‘A man’s home is his castle.?
More like a man’s home is the government’s castle and he just works there as a lowly serf.
When property taxes become too high, when they get to the point residents can no longer afford to pay them, people start putting their homes up for sale.
In essence, the power to tax becomes the power to force people out of their homes.
You don’t want move, but the government makes it impossible for you to stay. Ironically, the taxes also make it impossible to sell your home.
Businesses have it worse because not only are they taxed for their ‘real property,? which includes land and the buildings on it, they also have to pay taxes on ‘personal property.?
Personal property is generally interpreted to be that which is not permanently affixed to land ? equipment, furniture, tools, computers, etc.
In Michigan, only businesses pay the personal property tax. Items for household use have been exempt since the 1930s.
How insane is it that the company computer I’m writing this column on is taxed? Or the table you eat off of at your favorite local restaurant gets taxed? Or the exercise bike you ride at your local gym gets taxed?
Businesses already paid the sales tax on the equipment they own and use in their operations.
Why should they keep paying property taxes on these same items year after year?
The point of all this libertarian ranting is we need to find a better way than property taxes to finance our municipal services and schools.
I favor replacing property taxes with consumption taxes such as local sales taxes.
You only pay sales tax on the goods you consume. The more you consume, the more you pay. The less you conume, the less you pay.
People with higher incomes tend to consume more, so they would pay more in taxes.
People with moderate-to-low incomes generally consume less, so they would pay less taxes.
What could be more fair?

Hi, my name is C.J. Carnacchio and I’m a recovering straight-ticket voter. I’m ashamed to admit I used to vote straight GOP ballots when election season rolled around.
Don’t judge me. I was young. I needed the money.
I’d go into the voting booth, mark my ballot, then completely black out.
I’d come to hours later, groggy and unable find my pants, with the words ‘I Love Bob Dole? tattooed on my right butt cheek. Maybe it was the left cheek . . .
But that all changed when the Republican Party completely abandoned the sacred principles of limited, constitutional government and individual liberty under George W. Bush.
With the party of Goldwater and Reagan gone, I started voting for Libertarian candidates in recent years.
As a Burkean conservative, I don’t agree with all the tenents of the Libertarian platform, but at least they stand for something real, something honest.
It seems like third party and independent candidates are all the rage this year. Yesterday, my new political hero, Congressman Ron Paul, endorsed Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party’s candidate for president.
‘There is no real choice between the two major parties and their nominees, only the rhetoric varies,? Paul said.
Earlier this month, Paul held a press conference to draw attention to America’s third parties and independents on the Right, the Left and those floating somewhere out in space (i.e. the Natural Law Party, dude).
Paul made the ‘strong suggestion? that people should vote for what they believe in. What a novel concept ? voting based on your beliefs instead of casting a ballot for one of two candidates forced on us by a corrupt system that accepts neither outsiders nor true reform.
Even the Media’s starting to take notice of alternative candidates. Splashed across Monday’s front page of that newspaper down in Pontiac was the headline ? ‘Independents may wield influence in November.?
The article talked about the impact Libertarian and Green Party candidates could have on the general election.
It noted there are 14 people on the ballot for races in Oakland County who are third party or independent.
I’m glad to see so many people out there challenging the political duopoly that’s been dominating the political landscape and stifling meaningful debate for years.
We live in a country where the free market and competition are supposed to reign supreme. We’re a nation that loves choices, options and variety.
Why then do we settle for a political system monopolized by only two parties who have nothing to offer but more of the same? Who do we constantly resign ourselves to voting for the lesser of two Evils?
If we truly believe competition is healthy and choices are necessary for a free society, why then do we tell people that voting for anyone besides a Republican or Democrat is a waste of their vote?
It seems like everybody wants to be seen an agent of change this election year. Everybody wants to be the ‘radical? or ‘maverick? who’s going to shake things up.
If you really want to try to change things, don’t vote for the out-of-touch, clueless elephant or the polished ass braying empty promises, and start looking at the alternatives. Wouldn’t it be nice to exit the voting booth without feeling the need to take a shower?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought the purpose of a chamber of commerce was to promote business, shopping, tourism and economic growth in the community it represents.
So why is the Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce going to send one lucky person and 1,000 local dollars on a fancy out-of-town shopping excursion?
As part of this year’s Women’s Expo, the chamber is raffling off a grand prize $1,000 shopping spree to the Somerset Collection in Troy. Let’s pay close attention to the last two words of that sentence ? ‘in Troy.?
The last time I checked neither the Somerset Collection nor Troy are located in the township or village of Oxford. Not even close.
My understanding is the vaunted chamber Brain Trust believes a dazzling shopping spree at hoity-toity Somerset will draw more visitors to this year’s Women’s Expo and entice attendees to buy more raffle tickets than usual.
Raffle proceeds will be used to fund mammograms for needy women ? a noble effort which I applaud.
Drawing more women to the Expo is good.
Selling more raffle tickets to benefit a charitable cause is wonderful.
Sending people somewhere else to shop is BAD.
Giving them local money to do it is WORSE.
Oh, did I mention it’s all being financed by local businesses? The chamber got 10 local businesses to donate $100 each to pay for the shopping spree.
I sincerely hope the Troy Chamber of Commerce will reciprocate by sending some customers and a few bucks our way. Yeah, right.
Now, I don’t blame our businesses for donating when called upon. Their generosity is well-known, appreciated and certainly not to be criticized.
Of course, I wonder how many of the donors actually knew their money was heading out of town?
Mainly, I blame the Chamber for thinking the best way to draw people to Oxford and this Women’s Expo is the promise of an out-of-town shopping spree financed by local businesses.
It’s a slap in the face to the local business community. It’s an insult to our downtown merchants.
To me, having our chamber of commerce promoting shopping at Somerset sends the message, ‘Oxford is a hick town with nothing in it. You have to go somewhere else to do your shopping, not crummy old Oxford.?
While it’s true Oxford does not have the numerous apparel shopping opportunities Somerset offers, our town has many other treasures to purchase.
Fine wines, delicious meals, works of art, antiques, savory desserts, high quality jewelry, fresh flowers, a variety of Michigan-made products, interior decorating services, home furnishings, quilting supplies ? all of this is available right in downtown Oxford.
Once again, the chamber has proved not only does it have zero value to local businesses, it’s actually detrimental to merchants.
Troy is sacking Oxford with our Chamber playing the role of the Trojan Horse.
The next time you pass a ‘Going Out of Business? sale or see a vacant storefront in Oxford, don’t forget to thank your local chamber of commerce.
If I were a business owner who belonged to this alleged pro-Oxford group, I’d stop paying those useless dues and scrape that embarrassing chamber member sticker off my front window.

I’m not sure what the motivation behind it was.
The cynical side of me believes it’s just another election year ploy designed to get votes in November.
The optimistic side of me ? yes, there is one ? wants to believe there are lawmakers in Lansing who care and even use common sense once in a while.
As with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but then again who cares because property tax relief could be on the way!
Last week, the state House of Representatives voted to place a constitutional amendment before Michigan voters that would put a further cap on property taxes.
Can I get an Amen from the pews?
Under the proposal, known as House Joint Resolution III, any year the State Equalized Value (SEV) of a piece of property goes down, the taxable value of that parcel may NOT increase. Sounds good to me.
The state Senate, which is expected to vote on this Oct. 2, is looking to place it on the February 2009 ballot.
Finally, some relief for all of us embattled property owners who watched the value of our land and houses go down this year, but our property taxes still go up. Talk about getting held by the nose and kicked in the wallet.
This proposal would fix a problem with the 1994 constitutional amendment known as Proposal A.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Proposal A.
For years, it prevented people from being taxed out of their homes as property values skyrocketed in many areas. It did so by capping the taxable value and limiting increases to the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever’s less.
My wife and I most likely couldn’t afford the property taxes on our Oxford Village home if not for Proposal A.
However, Prop A had one flaw. It was so focused on keeping property taxes low when times were booming that it didn’t take into account what would happen to taxable values when the economy started circling the drain like now. That’s why most of us this year saw our homes? SEV go down while our property taxes still went up.
HJR III would stop this scenario from repeating itself ever again. It simply doesn’t make sense to force people to pay more taxes on property that’s worth less. If suddenly your employer cut your paycheck in half, would you expect to pay more income tax? Of course not.
HJR III would also change the taxable value cap for the better. Under the proposal, if the SEV increases by less than the rate of inflation, then the taxable value could not increase by more than that percentage.
As stated earlier, right now Proposal A caps taxable values and limits increases to the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever happens to be less at the time.
Already lobbying groups that represent local governments ? like the Michigan Townships Association and Michigan Municipal League ? are sniveling and wringing their hands about this proposal and how it, coupled with other factors, is going to mean less money for townships, villages, cities, etc. and ‘crippling? cuts in local services.
Boo hoo, boo hoo . . . my heart bleeds for you.
Frankly, I really don’t care about government.
I care about people like you and me being able to put gas in our cars, food in our refrigerators, clothes on our kids and heat in our homes this winter.
If government has to make due with even less money, I say, ‘Oh well, join the club. The poverty line forms here.?

‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.? ? Mark 10:25

Have you ever watched a fight where you didn’t feel like rooting for either side?
A fight that involves two unsympathetic characters slugging it out.
One’s going on right now in Oxford between the village and Knauf family over the parking property in downtown’s northeast quadrant.
I have absolutely no sympathy for either side.
The village really started this whole mess in 2002 when they offered the Grove family the insulting, low-ball offer of $170,000 for the property based on an appraisal the municipality had done.
Given the real estate appraisal business is a crooked one where the customer is always right, I don’t doubt the village got exactly what they paid for.
When the Groves wanted to convert it to pay-to-park, the village aggravated things by trying to condemn the property claiming free parking is a necessity. Parking is a necessity for businesses, but free parking is definitely not and certainly not a reason to take a man’s property.
Enter village attorney Bob Bunting who always seems to make a bad situation worse with his questionable legal advice and perplexing ability to make council feel great about their lousy chances in court during those mysterious closed session meetings.
Personally, I think he hypnotizes officials.
Being the masterful barrister he is, Bunting and his associates managed to lose the case in both Oakland County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals.
And for this legal expertise, we pay him a $14,000-per-year retainer plus $125 an hour for non-retainer items. What a waste of tax money.
Now the village is foolishly waiting to learn if the Michigan Supreme Court will agree to hear their case.
Fat chance. Denny Crane.
Enter the Knauf family, specifically Bob and lawyer son Lee. They bought the property in April 2006.
Lee claims they purchased it as an ‘investment.?
Being a strong property rights proponent, I believe the Knaufs are well within their rights to properly close their property to the public, to ask whatever lease or purchase price they want for it (no matter how outrageous) or to convert it to a pay-to-park facility.
They’ve indicated publicly their intent is pay-to-park.
That being said, I don’t believe the Knaufs purchased it as merely an ‘investment? or to defend the sacred concept of property rights from government tyranny.
Allow me to engage in a little personal speculation based on my own humble observations and opinions.
I believe the Knaufs bought the Grove property for two very simple, very base reasons ? Greed and Vengeance, two pretty big no-no’s in the Bible.
Greed because I figure ol? Bob thinks he’s got the village, DDA and northeast quadrant over a barrel ? a proverbial one, not those unsightly rusted ones he put all over the parking lot.
They all seem to want that parking. They all believe they need that parking. Many believe parking there should remain free to the public.
Being the extremely cunning and shrewd business man he is, my guess is ol? Bob figures sooner or later they will come crawling and give him whatever his heart desires for the property ? which seems to be about $1.5 million or $9,500 a month in rent, depending on who you talk to.
Call me crazy, but I think ol? Bob would prefer getting a ton of cash out of this deal rather than investing more of his money to construct and run a pay-to-park.
I’d say if there’s one thing Bob Knauf knows, it’s how to take full advantage of a situation where he thinks he holds all the cards. That’s why he’s a wealthy businessman as opposed to fry cook.
I also think ol? Bob is still pretty upset the village didn’t sell him or trade him the public alleyway between Broadway and Ensley streets. This is where the vengeance comes in.
Instead, the village leased it to the Broadway Plaza developer for $1 a year for 25 years in exchange for the developer agreeing to pave the entire alley and create free public parking at his own expense.
Bob wanted alley. Bob didn’t get alley. Bob make village pay through nose.
As a village resident and taxpayer, I say the best way to handle this situation is to completely ignore the Knaufs and not give them a single penny.
Let them close off their property.
Let them build their pay-to-park facility.
I agree with DDA Director Amanda Cassidy when she said, ‘Free parking, yeah that’s nice, but it’s not essential.? Downtown Oxford and the northeast quadrant can survive pay-to-park, especially when it’s surrounded by free parking.
The one thing we shouldn’t do is give the Knaufs our hard-earned tax dollars in either cash or village/DDA-owned land. Why should our precious tax dollars be spent to help make the Knauf family richer than they already are?
I don’t work hard and pay property taxes to make rich people richer. I refuse to be an enabler.
One more thing . . . Owning the property since April 2006 and suddenly deciding close it off on the eve of Celebrate Oxford (unless their price was met) was a cheap, dirty, rotten stunt and a slap in the face to the entire community, in my opinion.
The Knaufs? behavior reminds of a line from the 1965 Barry McGuire song ‘Eve of Destruction? ? ‘Hate your next-door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace.?

Last week, a coalition calling itself ‘Democrats for Patterson? held a press conference to show support for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.
Kind of reminds me of the ‘Jews for Jesus? movement, only difference is Jesus is God, Brooksie just thinks he is. I guess we should just be thankful Patterson can’t change water into wine. Heck, he can’t even get Wireless Oakland off the ground.
***
Speaking of arrogant public officials, as I was driving through the Village of Leonard last week, I noticed that none of village President Geno Mallia, Jr.’s campaign signs had anything printed on them as to who paid for them, a clear violation of state law.
I took a few photos just in case someone from the state or county wanted to see for themselves.
On each campaign sign, state law requires the words ‘paid for by? followed the full name of the person or committee paying for them, and the person or committee’s street number or post office box, city or town, state and zip code.
There’s absolutely no excuse for someone who’s held public office for 16 years to not follow state law.
In this case, I’m inclined to believe the violation is not ignorance of the law, but arrogance of the individual.
Unfortunately, Geno owes his lengthy presidency not to hard work or proven leadership, but to a large gene pool in a town of only 330 people.
I’m hoping Leonard voters will end the Mallia dynasty Nov. 4 and elect Mike McDonald to the village presidency.
Governments should be elected based on whoever receives the most votes, not whoever has the most relatives.
***
Now that the cityhood issue is behind us, we must look for ways to bring the township and village closer together.
One way is to have more village representation on the township board and I think electing village resident Rudy Reyes as a trustee is a good start.
Village residents are less likely to feel alienated and suspicious of the township’s decision-making process if they have more of a voice on the board.
Currently, the only village resident serving on the board is Supervisor Bill Dunn. Although he’s done a good job representing the interests of village residents, particularly on the recent safety path issue, he’s only one vote.
It wouldn’t hurt to have another village resident on the board. Personally, I think Reyes along with Joe Bunting, Mike Spisz and Melvin ‘Buck? Cryderman would make a good group of trustees. That’s how I’m voting.
***
It appears the Village of Oxford’s deal to purchase the old township hall on W. Burdick St. is falling through and as a village taxpayer I couldn’t be more pleased.
Last week, council said it wants the $262,500 sale price lowered by $75,000 due to needed repairs. I seriously doubt the township’s going to knock that much off the price.
The best thing that could happen is for the township to tell the village to ‘take a hike? and move the Oakland County Sheriff substation into the space. Plans to convert the space were drawn up last year at taxpayer expense. Why not use them instead of just letting them collect dust?
Besides, the village shouldn’t be purchasing any real estate while it has a $2.45 million debt hanging over our heads for construction of the new water treatment plant.
The last thing the village needs right now is to shell out a bunch of money for property that’s just going to sit there ? just ask the Downtown Development Authority.
***
Supervisor Dunn tells me there’s just over $7 million in the township sewer fund and he would like to see about using some of that cash to reduce sewer rates. With everything else going up in price these days, I’m sure township sewer customers would appreciate having at least one bill go down. No government should be allowed to just sit on that much extra cash, especially in these tough times.
Hopefully, the new township board will agree.
***
Well, it took more than a month, but the Libertarian Party finally got me a lawn sign for its presidential candidate, Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman.
I’d like to get a bumper sticker and maybe a couple of buttons too, but I can’t wait until January.

I sincerely hope Oxford Village will reject any and all plans to allow the developer of the Centennial Commerce Center (see page 5) to use a large chunk of Centennial Park to build and maintain an outdoor patio/plaza area on public property.
At this point, no such plans have been approved by either the village planning commission or council. No formal plans have even been submitted for review.
However, the DDA at its July 17 meeting made a recommendation to council ‘to support the development of an open patio plaza area to the south (of the new building) within the public property with the developer responsible for maintaining the plaza area.?
And at the July 25 council meeting, Manager Joe Young indicated the patio/plaza idea came from the village, not the developer.
‘We came to them saying the downtown master plan calls for an extended park patio area, plaza area. Would you consider that?? he said. ‘We asked him to come back for that … So don’t put all this on him. The DDA and our master plan calls for this plaza area as well. Not all these things came from the developer. Some of them came through the DDA or our master plan.?
Where this whole idea is headed seems unclear at this point and varies depending on who you talk to.
That worries me because this is how things get quietly approved in empty meeting rooms.
Although I’ve only been here for seven years, I’ve developed a fondness for Centennial Park because it embodies the small town charm of Oxford.
Centennial Park is the place we all gather on Memorial Day to honor our fallen soldiers.
Centennial Park is the place we congregate every Thursday evening in the summer for free concerts, family fun and fellowship with our neighbors.
Centennial Park is where we sample all the wonderful foods our area has to offer during the Taste of Oxford.
Centennial Park is a place to have lunch on a sunny day or sip coffee while reading the morning paper or smoke a cigar.
I would hate to see even one inch of the park given over to any developer for any reason.
Even if the developer agrees to pay for all the construction and continued maintenance of a patio/plaza area and keep it open to the general public, I would be vehemently opposed.
Why can’t we just enjoy the simplicity of what we already have? Why do we always have to make things bigger, better and more complicated?
Why can’t we just leave things alone, master plans be damned? Let’s not ruin a good thing.
Centennial Park is not some diamond in the rough waiting to be cut and polished. It’s already a jewel that sparkles and has value beyond mere dollars and cents. The park is a unique spot that helps define Oxford and give us sense of pride in our community.
Although technically the park belongs to all of us, we each think of it as ‘my park.?
Nobody will ever view some developer’s fancy patio/plaza that way.
Concerned residents should keep a close eye on this situation.
Council should head it off at the pass and say NO to the idea at its next meeting.

I must have missed a meeting.
At what point did it become government’s job to keep people occupied in their spare time?
When did it become taxpayers? responsibility to make sure every age segment of the population has something to do?
When exactly did the government crusade to wipe out boredom officially commence?
It seems everybody wants their own little hangout these days and they want everyone else to pay for it.
The chorus of do-gooders is unrelenting ?
Our teenagers have nowhere to go and nothing to do.
We need a teen center!
Our senior citizens have nowhere to go and nothing to do.
We need a senior center! Oh, we already have a senior center? Then we need a bigger, grander, more luxurious senior center!
Wait a minute, if the teens and seniors have centers of their own, where will everyone else go?
We need a community center!
What? There’s not enough money for all this?
We need more taxes! More millages! Confiscate everyone’s paychecks!
I don’t mind paying taxes for basic services like police, fire and roads, but I do mind paying taxes to meet everyone’s recreation and leisure needs.
Fact is, there are more activities, hobbies and other ways to keep ourselves occupied, amused and physically fit now in this world then there’s ever been before, yet the number of people who cry boredom and claim there’s nothing to do seems to be growing.
And this growing segment demands more and more from government and taxpayers.
More centers, more pools, more gyms, more classes, more arts and crafts! If we all can’t learn Tai Chi, then the terrorists have won!
People have turned recreation into a God-given right and somehow society’s been burdened with the responsibility of providing it.
We’re like spoiled children, never satisfied with what we have, always wanting more.
Spoiled children is a good analogy considering the proposed $9.85 million senior center (and that’s just Phase I) for Oxford, Orion and Addison boils down to one thing ? envy, pure and simple.
We keep hearing wonderous tales ? as if it’s the Lost City of Atlantis ? of the Older Persons Commission Center in Rochester.
Did you know their swimming pool is a Fountain of Youth like in the movie Cocoon?
Our officials and their minions visited the OPC center and were dazzled by the taxpayer-financed Taj Mahal. They all came back here thinking the same thing ? ‘I want one of those! We need one of those!?
Like little children bugging their parents to buy them the same cool new toy all their friends have, the Senior Center Feasibility Task Force will be pestering voters until November 7 to give them what that rich kid in Rochester has.
After all, it’s just not fair Rochester has one and we don’t.
Not fair! Not fair! Gimme, gimme, gimme!

My friends, I have some tragic news.
Please sit down.
I, C.J. Carnacchio, editor of The Oxford Leader, have been banned from the Village of Leonard.
Please, please, settle down and let me explain. I know it’s shocking.
It seems that because I dared to criticize village President Eugene Mallia, Jr. ? Geno to dear friends like me ? I am no longer allowed to enter Leonard.
Last week, one of his relatives used the ‘tricity to send me a disparaging e-mail regarding my opinion of good ol? Geno.
I’m used to letting things just roll off my back, but there was one part of the e-mail which hurt me so deeply that I . . . I . . . I must be strong here.
This person wrote, ‘And as for Leonard, you’re not welcome here. We will find someone else to cover stories for our events.? Heavens to Murgatroyd!
No longer will I be able to attend the Strawberry Festival and take all those wonderful photos. Say it ain’t so!
No longer will I be able to cover cute little stories at Leonard Elementary. Sniff. . .
No longer will I be able to attend the Christmas tree lighting and sing carols inside Rowland Hall. Sniff, sniff.
No longer will I be able to visit Fire Station #1 because it’s just inside the village limits. Curses!
Oh my God, this means I’ll never, ever be invited to play in the big money Texas Hold’em poker tournament held inside somebody’s pole-barn every July. . .
What have I done?
Why did I dare to criticize the great and powerful Geno?
I was so foolish to take sides against ‘the Family.?
Didn’t poor Fredo Corleone’s fate teach me anything?
Okay, enough fun.
Who the heck has enough arrogance to tell someone their banned from a community and actually mean it?
I realize Geno views himself as some sort of a prince entitled by birth to rule Leonard as part of a family dynasty, but I never realized the delusions of grandeur extended to others in the blood line.
You know what? Two can play at this game.
I hereby ban Geno Mallia, Jr. and all his family members from entering the Village of Oxford. I’ve alerted the village police to be on the lookout for Geno and set up checkpoints around the village limits.
Since Geno works at Oxford Bank’s main branch downtown, I’m sure this action will cripple him financially.
Wait a minute, I’ve got an even better idea. I hereby ban Geno Mallia, Jr. from entering the entire Charter Township of Oxford, period. Checkmate! I win! In your face!
But then again, I already won when, according to two Leonard residents, Geno went around last week stapling little notes on his campaign signs indicating who paid for them, as required by state law.
When I drove by ? prior to the ban ? I noticed how some we’re just hanging, ready to blow off.
Funny, Geno didn’t do all this until after I pointed out his obvious violation in last week’s column. I guess if you play the right tune, you can make good ol? Geno dance.
Maybe if Mike McDonald is elected village president Nov. 4, I can request he lift the ban and allow this humble scribe to return to the quaint shire.

Well, the votes have been tallied and another election’s come and gone. Thank God it’s over.
I was extremely pleased to see that the Village of Leonard will be getting a new president in the form of Mike McDonald.
The Mallia dynasty is officially over and the town’s people have been liberated. It’s like somebody finally stood up to the school bully and gave him a bloody nose.
Good job, Leonard!
I assume the ban against me has been lifted and I may return without having to worry about being run out of town on a rail.
However, before I set foot within village limits, I would like an official resolution from the village council stating I’m welcome again. You can’t be too careful.
Unfortunately here in Oxford, township Treasurer Joe Ferrari was re-elected.
But hey, I wouldn’t call four more years of potential column fodder a loss for me, so what the heck. I’ll put in an order for a few more barrels of ink.
Even though I encouraged people not to, I do wish to express my gratitude to the 495 people who voted for me.
It’s a very humbling thing to receive someone’s vote.
It means they have confidence in you and trust you to represent them well.
A vote is more than just a darkened circle on a piece of paper, it’s a sign of faith and an expression of hope that the person who receives it will always serve the people’s interests and do the right thing.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who cast their ballot for me. I’m truly honored.
To all the independent candidates who sought the treasurer’s position and the one who ran for trustee, I applaud your willingness to put yourself out there and try to make a difference.
A democratic republic only works when good people are willing to step up and take an active role in their government. Voting doesn’t mean a whole lot if people don’t have real choices.
You guys didn’t win, but you tried. You showed you care about Oxford and how it’s governed.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Hold your heads high.
And if any of you still have the itch to serve in government, I believe there’s still a job opening in the Village of Holly . . .
As for the national level, no surprise there ? Democrat Barack Obama’s heading for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
All I can say is the American people have no idea what they’ve done.
Those long lines we waited in to vote are good practice for the ones we’ll be standing in to receive our socialized medicine and turn in our guns.
All hail the rebirth of socialism, comrades!
I, for one, can hardly wait for Obama to start redistributing what’s left of my wealth.

During the more than nine years I’ve covered the Oxford/Addison area, I’ve always been extremely impressed with this community’s ability to come together to help those in need.
Generous and compassionate are words that don’t even begin to describe the people of this area, from next door neighbors and complete strangers to small business owners and school students.
I watched the community rally when the Rivest family in Addison Township lost a father, a baby boy and a home in a tragic explosion and fire.
I watched the community rally when Addison resident Hunter Strunk needed a new wheel-chair lift to make life a little easier for him and his care-giving mother.
Every year, I watch as Oxford/Orion FISH pantry gets stocked and re-stocked with donated cans and boxes of food from people who don’t want to see anyone’s cupboard go bare.
Every week it seems like there’s a story about Rotarians, Lions, Kiwanians, church members or veterans of American Legion Post 108 helping individuals and families who have fallen on hard times.
The people of this area give their money, their time and in some cases, the clothes right off their backs when one of their own cries out ‘I need help? ? or someone else says it for them.
This week I wrote a front page story on how a trio of friends in Addison have come together to help Audrey Tenaglia’s dream come true and give her family a lasting memory.
Right now, a young husband is facing the grim prospect of losing a soulmate and becoming a widower.
Four children will soon know what it’s like to grow up without a mother to hug them through the bad times, tuck them in at night or pack a little something extra in their school lunches.
No more kisses on the forehead to check for a fever. No more Mother’s Day breakfasts in bed. No more mom to make it all better.
A loving mother will miss watching her children grow up. School plays, little league games, holiday meals, graduations and weddings will forever be marked by an empty seat.
I will never understand why things like this happen. To throw up my hands and simply say it’s all part of some Divine Plan is of little comfort.
Maybe when all is revealed at the end of our days, we will look back and understand, but for now I’m sad and angry that a 42-year-old mother’s life is being cut much too short.
All I know right now is the community can’t cure Audrey Tenaglia.
We can’t give her more time to spend with her family.
But we most certainly can give the Tenaglias one perfect, final memory to carry in their hearts forever.
We most certainly can raise enough money to send them to Disney World.
We most certainly can raise enough money to lighten some of the financial burden imposed by household and medical expenses.
We most certainly can show Audrey she need not fear leaving this earth because there’s a whole community standing ready to care for her family in her absence.
We most certainly can give Audrey some peace of mind and peace in her heart.
The Darkness doesn’t care if we curse it. It only shrinks when our hearts light the way for another like Audrey.
Times are tough all over and many of us are watching our bank accounts dwindle.
But when it comes to our ability to love others, especially those who need it in their darkest hours, the account of human kindness can never be overdrawn.
I’m calling on the residents of Oxford and Addison to once again rally for Audrey Tenaglia and her family.
To all those who can relate to Audrey’s situation ? from cancer survivors to parents of school-age children to those robbed of someone they love much too early ? I call on you to do your part.
To all those fortunate enough to not know what Audrey’s situation is like, I call on you to do your part.
Time is short. We must act quickly.
Let’s give the Tenaglia children an early Christmas present and grant Audrey’s wish. Judging by what her friends told me, she’d do it for anyone of us.

Roger Oberg was many things to many people ? educator, community leader, devoted Rotarian, jokester, local icon, mentor, gentleman, friend, neighbor on Dennison St.
But to my 12-year-old daughter Larissa he was, and will forever be, simply ‘Great Grandpa O.?
They weren’t related by blood or marriage. Their bond was one of pure affection and friendship.
When she was only 4 years old, Larissa decided to ‘adopt? Mr. Oberg as her great grandpa ? a role he was certainly eager to fill.
From then on, without fail, he sent her greeting cards, each containing a little pocket money, on her birthday, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Easter.
She always phoned him to say thank you and chat a bit. He cherished those calls and said he should send her a card every day.
Sometimes when she was riding her bike around the block, Larissa would stop by his house to say hello and talk for a few minutes.
Whenever I spoke with Mr. Oberg the first words out of his mouth were, ‘How’s that great granddaughter of mine doing??
You could see him swell with pride as I told him of her latest sterling report card or the various awards she’s won or some community service she performed.
It was a sweet relationship.
A little girl who wanted and needed a great grandpa to help make her young life complete found this distinguished gentleman who devoted his life to kids and still had a lot of love to give.
Some would say it was fate.
I tend to believe it was more a reflection of what a gracious and caring person Mr. Oberg was and what a big heart he had.
He truly was the Grand Old Gentleman of Oxford, a kind, gentle soul whose foremost concern was for those around him and the community he called home.
Mr. Oberg represented the best in all of us, what we could be, what we should strive to be.
Humanity was his business and the profits he earned were evident at the Rotary Club of Oxford’s 68th President’s Installation Night held Friday at the Oakhurst Golf and Country Club in Clarkston.
Going around the room, each Rotarian shared a touching story, fond memory or humorous anecdote concerning Mr. Oberg.
From the guidance he gave and the jokes he told to the history he embodied and the sage advice he dispensed, one by one the Rotarians painted a picture of a gentleman who touched countless lives.
Listening to a room full of people celebrate Mr. Oberg’s life with laughter, joy and thanksgiving for having known him makes you realize how much of a local treasure he truly was.
Oxford has suffered a great loss with Roger Oberg’s passing, but it’s vastly outweighed by what the community gained from his 65 years here.
We shall not see his like again.

I recently got to realize one of my dreams by shooting my own Thanksgiving turkey right here in Oxford.
Just like a Pilgrim, I went out into the woods and bagged me a nice plump wild turkey with a 7?-inch beard.
Hunting turkeys in the fall is a lot harder than the spring because they’re not mating, so calls and decoys are fairly useless. You just have to be in the right place at the right time.
Fortunately, I was just that when not one, not two, but three Toms came wandering through. Thrilling doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.
This year when the family sits down to give thanks it will not be over a store-bought or farm-raised bird, but over one that I bagged.
Putting meat on your table gives one quite a sense of accomplishment and feeling of connection to the past, especially in this urbanized, modern world where too many of us forget where our food really comes from.
I wish more people were able to experience this feeling or at least understand it before they judge others.
Over in Ortonville at our sister paper, The Citizen, a few people recently wrote letters to the editor maligning hunters and criticizing the newspaper for running photos of their deceased prey.
I can only pity these poor ignorant people because they have limited and distorted views of the world.
Whether you believe in God, Darwin or Obama, there’s no denying that man is part of nature and part of the food chain. In order for us to live, something else must die whether it’s an animal or a plant. It’s that simple.
With all of our food neatly packaged at the grocery store, often in forms not found in nature (i.e. the McNugget), most of us don’t know what it’s like to get a little blood on our hands before supper.
As a result, many people are disconnected from nature.
Going for a walk or bike ride on the Polly Ann Trail decked out in spandex with an iPod and a big bottle of vitamin water may be good exercise, but it does not put you in touch with nature.
Killing something, gutting it, cooking it and eating it does.
There are those who say hunting is primitive and barbaric. Yes, it certainly is.
Other than the desire to mate, killing to survive is probably man’s most basic and necessary instinct.
When we lose touch with that instinct, we lose touch with part of what it means to be human.
We diminish who we are and forget where we came from as a species.
And by the way, there’s no such thing as ‘animal rights.?
Animals don’t have rights, only people do.
With rights come responsibilities like voting, paying taxes, donating to charity and holding up our end of the car pool.
The last time I looked animals don’t have any responsibilities. They eat, crap, mate, sleep and try not to get eaten by toothy predators ? that’s it.
To claim animals have rights implies they are equal to human beings, which they most certainly are not.
Animals are here to serve us. We eat them. We wear them. We have them in our homes to provide loving companionship. We use them for medical testing to lengthen and improve our lives.
As humans, we have a responsibility to treat animals humanely and use them wisely as we would any other natural resource.
Hunters aren’t out there to abuse animals or make them suffer. We’re there to get the cleanest kill possible, fill our freezer with fresh, chemical/hormone-free meat and have some fun and relaxation. There’s nothing wrong with that.

As my family gathers round the Thanksgiving feast this year, one of the things I will be most thankful for is the fact that I live in and serve such a generous and compassionate community.
In the Nov. 11 issue, through a front page story and my column, I sounded the call to help Audrey Tenaglia, who’s dying of cancer, and her family in Addison Twp.
To say the response was overwhelming would be the understatement of this still very young century.
As of Monday, I learned that $13,400 had been collected so far to help send the Tenaglias to Disney World (Audrey’s dream) with plenty left over to help pay household and medical expenses.
By the way, Audrey, her husband and four children are leaving for Disney World on Nov. 28. Mission accomplished.
On Tuesday morning, I learned that Oxford High School’s Student Council, National Honor Society and various clubs, teachers, and departments had collected an additional $3,005 for the Tenaglias.
Tuesday evening Brett Knapp, own