Editorial

The Clarkston News is nearing completion of a series on Clarkston Schools’ recently approved long-term strategic plan (overview, March 5; student achievement, March 12; technology, March 19; operations, March 26; finance, April 2).
What an outstanding endeavor the school board performed. We take this time to publicly thank the Clarkston School Board for their efforts. This outside-the-“Clarkston”-box thinking will benefit students and the community as a whole.
We encourage openness to new ideas and the elevation it brings to dialogue. We are encouraged by the board’s outreach into the community, to all stakeholders in public eduction as they embark on their five-year plan. Too often in the past, educators only looked to educators to formulate and implement change. This board reached out not only to parents and staff, but also to students and the business community in a search for solutions.
We encourage the board of education and the administration to continue growing a truly open and transparent community entity. (One suggestion would be to again publicize meeting dates and agendas in The Clarkston News, as was done up until the last administration decided communicating with the public through an independent third party was not important).
Our proverbial hats are tipped to the school board President Rosalie Lieblang, Vice President Sue Boatman, Treasurer Joan Patterson, Secretary Craig Hamilton, and trustees Elizabeth Egan, Steve Hyer, and Cheryl McGinnis.
— Don Rush

Clarkston Board of Education is working hard to improve this school district. Their effort is complicated by the lawlessness of one of their members.
Trustee Steve Hyer, as well as others, responded to fellow trustees’ questioning of the superintendent and administration regarding spending and policy at a recent meeting by attacking the questioners’ qualifications and experience. And the technologically savvy board members shared their opinions on Twitter during the meeting (“Trustees tweet during meeting,” April 30).
Posted under hashtag labels such as “stoptalking,” “budgetdiscussiongone wrong,” “ridiculousness,” “outofcontrol,” and “trusttheadministration,” the tweets at the April 28 meeting prompted the board to seek a legal opinion from their attorney, George Butler, on whether they violated the Open Meetings Act.
His view ? “it is recommended that board members refrain from communicating about board business and policy via social media websites at all times” because “communication via social media during and in between board meetings can easily violate the OMA.”
But Mr. Hyer ignored the recommendation, tweeting more than a dozen times during the May 19 school board meeting.
This is not the first time the trustee held himself above the law. Mr. Butler gave a presentation to the school board in 2012 on its communication policy, which included not appearing in the media without making clear opinions are individual, not the school board’s. Days later, however, Hyer was featured in an interview for a local news radio station, without disclaimer.
This sets a bad example, especially for young people looking up to Mr. Hyer on the school board and for his work with Team RUSH. He should not be teaching his Twitter followers, who are among the brightest and most active in the community, it’s OK to ignore rules when inconvenient, and deride colleagues as long as they deserve it.
? An editorial by Phil Custodio

With three seats each open this Tuesday morning, voters will decide which direction Clarkston Board of Education and City Council will go ? in the school board’s case, for the next six years.
We have pages of information in this week’s edition, detailing candidates? views on a variety of issues.
School board candidates’ opinions vary widely on questions such as why they’re there and what their job will be if elected, how to oversee the district without micromanaging it, and how much and what kind of communication is appropriate.
Check out what they have to say, and then head out to the polls on Nov. 4 to make your voice heard on these local issues, as well as county, state, and federal races. Doing so will at least give you the right to complain if things don’t go your way.
-PMC

The election is over and now we move on . . . interestingly, nearly all of the Clarkston School Board candidates prior to the election indicated better communications with the community were needed. Now, it’s time to make it happen. Clarkston School district is the only Clarkston-area government which does not publish Public Notices . . . notices of meetings, issues, etc. They stopped about 10 years ago.
We encourage the new board of trustees to re-enlist the help of The Clarkston News, publish those legals and inform the community.
— Don Rush

Both houses of Michigan’s lame duck legislature slapped Clarkston’s face last week. The State Senate voted against SB 1073, which would have allowed McLaren to build a hospital on Sashabaw Road.
And, here’s the worse news for those who desire transparency in government. The State House approved HB 5560 on Thursday, by a vote of 62-47. This bill is the opposite of transparency in government. The bill would phase out publication of public notices in newspapers by 2025, 10 years from now.
Instead, those critical public notices would be moved to websites operated by municipalities posting the notices, which sort of calls to the mind the fox and hen-house scenario. Do you trust government to keep you informed?
It is with sadness we report our local outgoing state reps, Gail Haines in the 43rd District and Eileen Kowall, 44th District, both voted ‘yes? on the bill. We would have thought they would have asked our opinions on this matter. They did not. To say we are disappointed is an understatement.
We hope newly elected Jim Tedder will reach out to us on this matter when he takes office (or before).
This bill provides no mechanisms ? or funding ? for third-party verification of publication, protection against power outages or hackers, or equipment and training for the municipal workers who would be charged with posting and archiving the notices.
Locally, The Clarkston News posts all notices on-line, free of charge to the tax payer.
If you have questions or concerns about this bill, call your state senator; write your governor. — DPR

As the state legislature considers HB 4181 to allow local governments to post public notices on their own websites in 10 years, we can point to our local city council to illustrate why this is a bad idea.
Clarkston City Council reportedly went into closed session without justification, as told in today’s front page story, ‘Closed session unlawful, says councilman.?
This, along with the city’s history regarding Freedom of Information requests (‘Johnston’s still searching for apology,’May 21, 2014), construction of a new bridge (‘Depot Park bridge fixed, but questions remain,? Dec. 25, 2013), and communication with the Clarkston News (‘City manager breaks contact with News,? Feb 14, 2014), shows the need for an independent public notice system.
Now is not the time for the state to grant local entities more control over the flow of information. We urge the state house to vote down HB 4181.
‘PMC

Clarkston City Council blew a chance to affirm its commitment to government transparency, Monday night, when it voted unanimously to go into closed session.
The city faces a lawsuit by former Council member Richard Bisio. The suit charges the council with going into closed session illegally last March.
James Tamm, attorney representing the city, recommended closed session at the Sept. 14 meeting to discuss the case.
Michigan’s Open Meetings Act allows closed session in only certain circumstances. One of those is to “consult with its attorney regarding trial or settlement strategy in connection with specific pending litigation, but only if an open meeting would have a detrimental financial effect on the litigating or settlement position of the public body.”
Bisio is not seeking monetary damages in his suit. His settlement offer to the city calls for council to admit to violating the Open Meetings Act with the March 9 closed session as well as subsequent emailed conversations between council members.
He does, however, call for the city to pay his court costs for “filing and prosecuting this action, not including any attorney fees” ? Bisio is an attorney representing himself in the case.
Equating “attorney fees” with “detrimental financial effect” is grasping at straws. City council blew an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to open government by declining its attorney’s suggestion and discussing the case openly. ‘PMC

Oxford Village DPW workers were busy again this spring and has completed planting 67 new trees in the village. Here, they are pictured planting a ‘special? tree at 55 W. Burdick Street. The Bradford family, who previously lived at the address, sponsored the tree in honor of their mother, Geraldine Bradford. Family members who made the donation were Mike, Teddi and Ben Bradford. The Village’s Reforestation Program is funded by the village and private donations. Community spirit and pride helped raise nearly $2,000 of the budgeted $4,000. Kudos to the village, community and to Joe Bullen who got the whole ball of wax rolling last year. DPR

The Clarkston News is working hard to provide information on the June 9 school election.
Our news coverage has already included a basic explanation of the open seats on the board of education, and the proposals to restore the full 18-mill ‘non-homestead? property tax and the $83.7 million bond issue for capital improvements. We’ll have more in the weeks ahead.
We’ve also reported on efforts by school boosters to get the word out and motivate the ‘yes? voters to get to the polls, and we anticipate having plenty of representation from those who plan to do so.
To be fair, we want to do our best to get the other side of the story. We want to provide a voice for those who have questions and/or objections about the school ballot proposals.
A couple letter writers have already been brave enough to make their views known, but some tend to be hesitant in speaking out.
We understand why. Virtually everyone realizes the importance of education, and no one wants to be perceived as being ‘against? education. The phrase ‘for the children? has become so overused as to make even the most ardent education supporter cringe.
Some may also fear that questions or criticism of a specific proposal will be perceived as a direct attack on every aspect of the local school system’s personnel and programs.
In some extreme cases, opponents may fear embarrassment from or retribution toward their children.
None of the above are legitimate reasons for holding back. Clarkston school officials are on record as wanting open communication, and we believe they are mature enough to handle constructive criticism when it is offered.
(Besides, if there were documented cases of retribution, we would be happy to report it and let the public respond accordingly. . .)
We invite letters to the editor from those who believe the ballot proposals are flawed and/or unfair. We urge those organizing to fight the non-homestead tax or the bond issue to bring their campaign into the open for a fair and mature debate.
This call for ‘opponents? does not constitute an official position of this newspaper against any school proposal. There may be additional editorials in weeks to come, but our long record of news coverage shows our concern for and support of quality education.
We do, however, have a journalistic responsibility to be fair, accurate and balanced in our news coverage. We simply want to make sure all voices are heard. – DMS

It’s ironic that at the same time Iraq is undergoing a ‘regime change? from dictatorship to democracy, the Oxford Board of Education appears to be heading in the opposite direction.
It appears school board President Ron Etherton has decided to circumvent the democratic process altogether by planning to resign after the upcoming school election, thus allowing the board, not voters, to choose his replacement.
We reported last week that Etherton had decided to resign from the board effective June 25 in order to spend more time with his family, playing golf and working out in the gym.
We find the timing of Etherton’s resignation quite interesting and very disturbing given the fact that just 16 days prior to his last day is the regularly scheduled school board election.
Five candidates are running for two seats in the Monday, June 9 election. Anthony Giannola and Robert Guzanek are running for a two-year seat while Jamie Flemming, Doug Myer and Gary Skelton are seeking a four-year seat.
Why couldn’t Etherton have resigned earlier, say a few months ago, so a third seat could have been included on the upcoming ballot?
It’s not as if Etherton’s resignation was a random thought or spur-of-the-moment decison or an action motivated by some family, work or personal emergency.
Etherton told reporter Jenny Matteson he’d considered not seeking re-election back in 2000. Obviously, the thought of leaving the board had been fermenting in his head for at least three years.
While it’s impossible to know exactly what’s inside Etherton’s mind, it’s hard to believe that the thought of resigning just occurred to him sometime between April 7 (the deadline for school board candidates to file nominating petitions for the June election) and April 28 (when our sources informed us of his coming resignation).
We believe Etherton could and should have resigned prior to the April 7 deadline, which would have made his seat available for the June election. Candidates could have filed for it and voters could have chosen who they wanted to fill it.
The school board could have easily appointed someone to temporarily fill Etherton’s seat until the election, just as it did in March when officials appointed Jamie Flemming to the seat resigned by Steve Drakos in February. Flemming’s appointment expires with the June election when voters elect someone to fill that seat for the remaining two years of Drakos? elected term.
Instead, Etherton chose to resign after the upcoming election, thus giving the board the opportunity to appoint someone to serve until June 2004, when Etherton’s elected term expires.
We believe this is a Machiavellian example of Etherton attempting to circumvent the democratic process so as to allow the school board to choose the ‘right person? for his seat.
And by the ‘right person? we mean someone who is ‘acceptable? to the board. Someone who won’t ask too many pesky questions. Someone who won’t rock the boat. Someone who will champion, not challenge, the status quo. Someone who will fit in nicely with the established clique.
Elections are dangerous things for governing bodies who rule as little oligarchies ? like our school board ? because the frightful possibility always exists that the voters could choose the ‘wrong person? (i.e. an independent thinker who won’t toe the party line).
It’s possible that Etherton wants to control who gets his seat just in case a candidate he or the board deems ‘acceptable? doesn’t get elected June 9 and the ‘wrong person? does. Etherton could be holding his seat open as a safety net for whoever’s the ‘chosen one.?
Make no mistake, the timing of Etherton’s resignation is a purely political ploy to deprive voters of a choice and continue ‘business as usual? on the board level.
We believe the timing of Etherton’s resignation is wrong, undemocratic, unjust and unfair to the school district’s voters and taxpayers.
In a representative democracy, the people, not the politicians, choose who will govern them.
Given this we would like to offer a suggestion that will ensure voters choose Etherton’s replacement, not the school board.
Since there are five candidates running for two seats, we recommend the school board appoint whoever gets the third highest number of votes to Etherton’s seat. That’s the fair, democratic and right thing to do.
Naturally, the candidate who came in third would have to apply for the open seat and the board would, by law, have to consider any and all qualified candidates for the position.
However, the board should appoint the third place winner based on the fact that he or she took the time to run for a seat, beat two other candidates in terms of the number of votes received and most likely could have been elected if a third seat had been available on the ballot.
Considering the school board’s track record in the ‘doing the right thing? department ? i.e. twice attempting to circumvent the Headlee Amendment, treating local businesses like cash cows, approving secretive bonuses, remaining silent during the Oakland Schools scandal, etc. ? it would be nice if officials let the voters choose Etherton’s replacement to help restore some of the public’s lost trust and faith in government.
There’s nothing radical about our recommendation, unless the school board considers representative democracy a radical idea. And we all know what happens to governments with that point of view ? they get ‘Shocked and Awed? into reform. ? CJC

Some simple facts lead The Clarkston News to recommend a ‘yes? vote on the June 9 school ballot proposals.
Building overcrowding caused by an increase in students is not the fault of the school administration. It has come because more people have moved into the Clarkston area, and part of the reason for the population growth is the reputation of Clarkston Community Schools.
Because the new facilities are needed, the $83.7 million bond issue deserves voter support.
Meanwhile, the threat of reduced state funding if the district does not levy the full 18-mill ‘non-homestead? property tax is also not the fault of the school administration. It is a provision of the voter-approved ‘Proposal A? in 1994.
Because of this, the proposal to restore this level of taxation deserves voter support.
Other considerations, however, lead this newspaper to issue a caution along with our support of these proposals.
While the tax rate will technically not increase, for example, the amount of tax collected absolutely will increase. The new bond issue means property owners will be taxed longer to pay off the district’s debt, and restoration of the non-homestead tax means businesses will lose Headlee Amendment protection from increased taxes.
(Besides, businesses tend to pass on their overhead costs to the consumer, so higher prices will likely be part of the ‘cost? of this portion of school taxation.)
In addition, some readers have raised interesting questions about other potential cost-saving moves and the number of administrative positions in Clarkston Community Schools.
While the school district should be commended for their announced budget cuts (including pending teacher layoffs), it appears that district coffers will enjoy a healthy balance for at least the near future.
So, school officials should remember the taxpayers who make their spending possible, and seek additional ways to be thrifty and cost-effective.
School staff (and, dare we say, students) should spend more of their money at local businesses who pay extra taxes in addition to handling numerous requests for donations to worthy school causes.
Many of the policy and spending decisions fall to the board of education, and we urge voters to choose trustees who will strive for both quality education and wise spending.
Check out the candidate profiles elsewhere in this edition of The Clarkston News and evaluate how well they answered (or failed to answer) our questions. DMS

As in past years, area residents have overwhelmingly responded to a request for donations to purchase fireworks for the annual July 4th light show.
As of Monday, almost $20,000 has been collected.
This year Jim Sherman Jr., publisher of Sherman Publications decided to help out in a big way. It was his idea to put donation envelopes into one issue of the Ad-Vertiser and The Lake Orion Review.
So far the Lake Orion Fireworks Association has received between 200-300 envelopes back with checks averaging $20.
There’s still time to support the fireworks. Donations can be addressed to and mailed to: LO Fireworks Association, C/O Century 21 Executives, Attn: Carl Cyrowski, 3604 West Clarkston Road, Clarkston, MI 48348.

Take a drive West on Burdick Street and take a look at to the north, in front of the cemetery.
It’s been a long time coming, but Oxford Cemetery is looking good. Recently, landscapers finished constructing decorative walls, installing classy green wrought fence and planting perennials.
Nice work.
The folks at Oxford Township should be thanked for a job well done.
Since the debacle of the few years ago, when the historic iron fence was taken down and portions of it subsequently lost, the cemetery has looked shabby. Many folks wondered out loud (and to our newspaper staff) why wasn’t it well kept when a number of prominent families, long ago, paid into a perpetual care fund?
About the fund, we don’t know — but we do know the current Board of Trustees orchestrated a good-looking plan with the fence and wall-work for something between $40,000 and $50,000.
However, as Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, said, the job is not done. Every year the township pays to bandage an antiquated systems of pipes underground. Dunn hopes the township will agree with him to investigate and install a new system.
We hope so, too. DPR

With the national presidential election receiving so much news coverage it is easy to forget about important elections at the local level.
Our area is no exception as Clarkston Community Schools are set to hold elections on June 14. Two open school board seats will be on the ballot. Board President Karen Foyteck and Trustee Mary Ellen McLean have their terms ending.
Foyteck has already announced her intention to run for another four-year term, while McLean has said she would bow out.
The good news is that Diane Weller has filed nominating petitions to join Foyteck on the ballot. The bad news is, as of Monday, March 29, she is the only one.
School board members play an intricate role in how our schools are run and how our kids are taught. Contrary to popular belief it is the school board, and not the school superintendent, who are at the top of the food chain. It is the school board that sets the direction of a given school district and is accountable for results.
The fact that only one person has made the decision to run for office is distressing. This is an important time to be a school board member. Issues such as budget cuts and No Child Left Behind legislation need to be addressed. This community needs, and deserves, educated and free-thinking individuals to give of their time in the form of public service.
In order to appear on the ballot, nominating petitions need to be filed by Thursday, April 8. It is really not that hard to file. To earn a spot on the ballot, a nominee must gather at least 40 valid signatures of registered Clarkston school district voters. Nominating positions are available at the office of Deputy Superintendent Dave Reschke or by calling (248) 623-5413.
To register to vote, citizens visit their local government clerk’s office or the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.
Maybe citizens are just waiting until the last minute to file. Let’s hope that is the case because the more candidates we have the better the debate. This occurred last year when Clarkston Schools had eight candidates competing for two school board openings.
The Clarkston News realizes our community is full of intelligent individuals who care deeply about the type of education our children are receiving. It is time for those individuals to think about giving of their time by becoming a school board member.
You have no experience in elected office? We say great. The Clarkston School Board would be greatly helped by independent thinking who could bring a fresh look to old problems. With no preconceived notions, new candidates can ‘think outside the box,? if elected to the board.
Uncontested elections lead to lazy officials who are too comfortable in their position. That is not a shot at the current board, but rather simply human nature. That is no way to run an entity as important as our school board. – KPG
Editor’s note: The Clarkston News found out Tuesday that Jeff Allstedt has also thrown his hat into the ring. Way to go, Jeff!

We would like to join the residents of N. Glaspie St. and Oxford Village Council in requesting that the speed limit on N. Oxford Rd. (between the middle school and village limits) be reduced from 50 to 35 miles per hour.
It doesn’t make any sense that the same road should should be 50 mph in the township then immediately and suddenly drop to 25 mph within the village limits.
On all the other major roads leading into the village ? M-24, Seymour Lake Road, Lakeville Road ? the speed limits gradually decrease as drivers approach the village limits and gradually increase as they head into the township.
On none of the above roads does the speed increase or decrease by 50 percent in the blink of an eye.
Gradual deceleration from higher to lower speeds helps prevent the kind of abrupt transitions that can lead to speeding problems, like the current situation on N. Oxford Rd./N. Glaspie St.
Granted, a lower limit on N. Oxford Rd. will not totally eliminate the problem of speeding.
Only drivers? self-discipline and sense of individual responsibility can do that.
However, it could help reduce speeding in that area, especially when combined with stricter enforcement from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and Oxford Village Police.
It’s also a good idea to reduce the speed limit along that stretch of road given the middle school will become the new high school this fall.
All that student traffic that currently clogs up Lakeville Rd. will be clogging up N. Oxford Rd. come September.
It’s smarter and safer to have these students exiting school on a 35 mph road than a 50 mph one.
Some of our lead-footed teenagers don’t need any more encouragement to go faster.
Finally, we wish to applaud the way the township and village are cooperating with residents on this issue.
Council listened to village residents? concerns and immediately passed a resolution requesting Oxford Township and the Road Commission for Oakland County reduce the speed limit to 35 mph.
Township Supervisor Bill Dunn also listened to residents? concerns and got the old bureaucratic ball rolling with the road commission.
A survey by representatives from the road commission, Michigan State Police and township will be conducted in the near future to determine if the N. Oxford Rd. speed limit merits reduction.
Dunn personally encouraged residents to directly participate in the survey and promised to let them know the exact date and time.
The lines of communication between governments and residents are clearly open on this issue.
It’s nice to have everyone working together for a change.
Lowering the speed limit on N. Oxford Rd. between the middle school and village limits is a logical idea, a safe idea and an idea who’s time has come. ? CJC

Local candidates are running unopposed, but one issue remains: an Independence Township millage proposal.
At stake is about $768,400 in new taxes, all earmarked for land purchases for the “protection of waters and wetlands.”
The Clarkston News brings you the information you’ll need this November
We’re preparing a series of articles describing viewpoints for and against ? find the first on page 1A of today’s edition.
We’ll tell you how much open space, green space, wetlands, and brownfields the township has, and how the millage would affect them.
We invite your letters and viewpoints. We’ll publish them through Oct. 22. Letters around 300 words from new writers will be given priority. We reserve the right to edit or not to print based on space ? tell us what you think, but not every week. All letters will be posted to www.clarkstonnews.com.
Send your letters to 5 S. Main Street, Clarkston, MI 48346; fax 248-625-0706; or e-mail Clarkstonnews@gmail.com.

The Fourth of July is when we celebrate our freedom and independence, but let’s do it together with another excellent downtown parade and fireworks in the park.
The dangers of untrained individuals lighting off cardboard tubes filled with gunpowder in the dark should be obvious, but with the holiday next week, pops and bursts of illegal, airborne fireworks again fill the air every evening.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments had to put out about 1,800 structure and 700 vehicle fires caused by fireworks, causing $39 million in damage nationwide. More than 9,000 were treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries in 2006.
Independence Township’s July 4 celebration was marred last year by the deaths of two brothers. They were assembling fireworks at an Independence Township apartment complex when they went off, killing both of them within weeks.
Let’s not repeat that tragedy.
Instead, celebrate the Fourth of July with your friends and neighbors at Clintonwood Park.
Organizers put on a good show, especially here in a place called Independence Township.
-PMC

We urge Clarkston Board of Education to reconsider their new Board Operating Procedures (“School board OKs rules for communication,” June 15).
Procedures include naming the board president as official spokesperson for the entire board to the media, requiring board members who receive calls from the media to direct them to the board president.
To see what that looks like, how about the story “Berkley school trustee resigns,” in the June 17 online edition of the Observer and Eccentric.
The story includes one set of quotes: ‘Mr. O’Gorman was elected to a six-year term in November 2009 and was a conscientious and committed advocate for the district,? said board President Marc Katz. ‘We will miss his curiosity and openness to new ideas, but we have a responsibility to fill this Board position within the next 30 days.?
Why did Mr. O’Gorman resign? What does Mr. O’Gorman have to say about the matter?
He doesn’t say. He’s not allowed to.
Clarkston’s new Board Operating Procedures are directly based on Berkley’s.
The new rules make the school board a single entity, with one collective viewpoint, a united front.
But as we know in the newspaper business, information is power. Funneling information through the president gives him or her all its power, too. The rest of the board becomes more like a cabinet to their president, a set of advisors.
Is that why board members went through the trouble to run? Is that why voters cast their ballots for them?
Clarkston School Board President Steve Hyer said the board procedures, approved June 13, is just a draft that can be amended at later meetings.
We urge trustees to do so.
? PMC

Here’s some news: There are 33,778 registered voters in the Clarkston School District.
Here’s some bad news: Of those registered, only 4.9 percent (less than 1,700) bothered to vote in last Tuesday’s school board election.
Here’s even worse news: That election cost district taxpayers about $20,000. We’ll say it, that’s about $20,000 that could have been better spent on educating kids in the district than on an election with little participation. It is time the school board align its elections to coincide with November general elections.
A, it will save much needed funding in these economically depressed times; and more importantly, B, it would dramatically increase voter turnout which is a great educational tool for the children. In civics we learn the United States is a constitutionally limited, representative republic.
For this republic to succeed requires people (besides the ones in power) be involved. (FYI: We are not a pure democracy, where nine cannibals can vote to eat the tenth.)
Participation at the ballot box ? that’s what the United States of America is all about and one of the lessons students need to learn in public schools. One way the Clarkston Board of Education can improve the American experiment is by aligning our local school elections with general elections. School boards should not be afraid of a large turnout, there can never be too many voters.
According to Oakland County Clerk and former state legislator Ruth Johnson, if every district in Michigan scheduled elections to piggyback on November general elections, as much as $15 million could be saved annually. That money represents a lot of books, supplies and many teachers not getting pink slipped.
When asked about this election process, Board of Education President Stephen Hyer said the current schedule makes sense for the school board — it fits with the school year and the budget calendar, which begins and ends in July.
Further, departing trustees end their terms as students leave for the summer, with new board members on board in time to work on the upcoming school year. November elections, he explained, would mean joining the board in January, in the middle of the school year.
But this is a burden Brandon, Holly, Waterford, and 15 other school districts, along with Oakland Community College, have already taken up.
Aligning all districts in Oakland County with November general elections would save millions, be more convenient, and increase voter turnout. Clarkston schools should not bring up the rear on this. (It can still beat the dreaded Dragons of Lake Orion, which is also sticking with annual May elections.)
We can agree November general elections may be hard on the board — but it’s not about making it easy or hard on the school board. It is about doing what is right and doing right, as most parents teach their children, sometimes means doing what is hard.
The school board has made many hard decisions, it is time for them to make this one, too. Do what is right, change school elections.
? PMC

Tie a string around your finger. Paste up a sticky-note to your computer and add another to the fridge door:
Here’s the reminder: Don’t forget to vote this Tuesday, May 6, in Clarkston Board of Education election.
Five community-minded members of the Clarkston School District are running to fill two seats. Challengers Susan Boatman, Jeff Broughton, Brian L.Kitchin and Joe Wauldron, and incumbent Joan Patterson, are up and capable for the job.
The Clarkston News staff has reviewed each candidate and here’s what we have found.
All four challengers bring financial experience to the table, which is a needed quality, considering the district’s budget woes.
Costs are expected to rise about $2.5 million a year just for contract-negotiated salaries, retirement, health care, and Social Security benefits.
Considering flat or declining student enrollment, floundering property values, unfunded federal mandates and unreliable state funding promises, revenue (regretablly) won’t keep up.
Whoever is elected to the school board must take charge of the situation.
Board Secretary Joan Patterson, running for her second term, has taken on the status quo. In 2006, she challenged quick approval of personnel changes, arguing it disempowers the school board in favor of school administration.
We challenge her to continue this fight, a fight we believe in — because in 2008, the quick, almost automatic approval of personnel change and ‘consent agenda? items remains standard procedure.
This must change and we believe she can help make school board decisions transparent for the community.
She deserves a chance to put her experience and education to work as a second-term board member.
We also like the idea of rocking the establishment and with that, we believe Brian Kitchin would be a good choice for the second seat.
He has interesting ideas like increasing voter turnout and lowering election costs by changing election dates to coincide with the general election — a savings around $20,000.
He also thinks the intermediate school district should be closed, saving $280 million, and its duties transferred to the district’s public relations department.
Makes sense — the PR department is redundant and costs too much in these strapped times. Its budget is $195,000.
If you missed it, last week the candidates answered our questions, these can be reviewed at www.clarkstonnews.com.
This week’s continuation of candidate answers will also be posted. We urge all voters to be informed, get involved and take ownership of their school district, not just the few stepping up to the plate and running for office.
There are roughly 20,000 registered voters in the district and we urge each of you to vote.
? PMC

Independence Township Supervisor Dave Wagner’s illness presents a new problem for the township, calling for a new solution.
As reported on Page 1, ‘Wagner won’t go,? he refuses to step down despite being out of the office since April. He doesn’t expect to return to work until next year.
Township residents pay for and deserve a fully-functional supervisor. State law lists several conditions for a vacated office, none of which apply specifically to this situation. The closest is ‘refusal or neglect to take and subscribe to the oath? of office.
Independence Township should create another, so this doesn’t happen again. If a public official can’t perform his or her duties for any reason for such a long period, he or she should step down or be removed.
Put it in writing.
‘PMC

Letters to the editor have been in short supply lately at The Clarkston News.
Is all quiet in the Clarkston area? No controversial issues? Everything settled? No longer any need for government reform?
Just count the ‘for sale? signs lining local roads for the answer to that one.
America gets a new president this November, candidates for which all promise to fix Michigan’s economy if we give them our vote.
All 14 elected officials on the Independence and Springfield township boards are up to a vote. Half the Clarkston City Council, mayor and three council seats, are up for election.
Now is the time to start reconsidering what’s been done, and what needs to be done.
Should our townships have a superintendent or manager, someone with expertise in writing budgets?
Springfield Township is looking into it to save money, improve efficiency, and open up elected positions to more people. Independence Township considered it for some time early last year, in the wake of a months late budget, before the issue faded away with the winter snow.
Independence Township and City of Clarkston discussed consolidation briefly this past spring, before that also faded away, though with a promise of a joint study.
A grassroots effort to strip fulltime status, and pay, from the state government continues, despite some news reports to the contrary.
Now is the time for these and other reform efforts to come off the back burner.
In 2004, no Democrat ran for local office, so the election was decided during the August primary. At the time, no one believed a Democrat could win in November. Is that true in 2008?
Let us know what you think, with a letter to the editor. If you don’t, those in charge might conclude you think everything is just fine.
– PMC

Congratulations to Clarkston Retailers Group for another successful Clarkston Retro Progressive Cocktail Party.
It’s good to see downtown Clarkston filled with folks enjoying local businesses, and vice versa. And it’s all for a good cause. They raised $2,042.60 for O.A.T.S., Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles.
It may have been cold enough to see your breath, but that didn’t stop crowds of people, going from shop to shop.
The retail group’s downtown activities brings life to downtown, along with very welcome national exposure provided by the Clarkston Union and Woodshop restaurants.
Kudos to all the business owners and employees making it fun for all.
For information on O.A.T.S., call 248-620-0505 or check www.oatshrh.org.

Hundreds of opinions and viewpoints from readers all over the community graced these pages in 2007, offering suggestions, congratulations, and complaints about all sorts of government and community activities.
One stood out: the effort to build a new Independence Township Senior Center. For or against, the project is a prime example of the adage, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Seniors and those working with them wanted a new senior center from the moment the old center came online in 1975.
By the turn of the century, people had enough of the converted farm house ? repair costs were rising and the residential-style hallways and stairs were too narrow and steep.
Township officials and senior-center advocates came up with proposal in 2001 for a $7.5 million senior center and township hall. It was defeated 2-to-1.
A 2002 proposal for a $26 million community center and township hall was defeated almost 3-to-1.
A $3 million bond and millage proposal in 2006 did better ? only about 60 percent of voters opposed that one.
Coming into 2007 with that latest electoral defeat fresh on their minds, proponents of a new senior center didn’t take ‘no? for an answer.
If anything, the drive for a new senior center took on new fervor.
Throughout the year, they kept at it, first with a proposal to convert the former South Sashabaw Elementary School on Maybee Road into a senior center.
That didn’t work out ? too much asbestos. Now the old school building has been cleared away, set to become sports fields next year.
With springtime came another idea ? convert and expand facilities at Bay Court Park, for use as a senior center.
That didn’t work either.
Some complained it was too far from seniors it was to serve. Others said plans already existed for the building, or that it would be too expensive.
Finally, in June, came a third and final idea: build a new center with existing township money.
Instead of a facility costing $7.5 million, or $26 million, or $3 million, it would be built for about $250,000.
The old, dilapidated center was torn down to tears and cheers, and the new building went up with remarkable speed.
It may not be what seniors and their advoc-ates wanted ? the funding for it is about 104 times less than what they previously asked for ? but it seems to be what people, as represented by their trustees, seem willing to accept.
Viewpoints expressed on these pages have been mixed.
While all agree the previous center was completely inadequate and increasingly dangerous, opinions differed sharply over what to do about it.
Praise and scorn have been heaped on the Township Board for moving forward with the project, for either courageously serving local seniors or contemptuously opposing voters? wishes.
The township spent a lot of money on it.
Still, Independence Township has a budget of about $22 million. Without falling into government mentality ? a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money ? the senior center project is modest, about 1.1 percent of the budget.
Our hope for this holiday season is for seniors not to be instantly disappointed with the new center, as they were in 1975.
Back then, comments included, ‘This is better than nothing, but not much.?
Advocates worked hard to get this far. Trustees are risking quite a bit politically. Opponents have a ready made campaign issue, a specific issue they can point to and say, ‘See, they willfully ignore the voters! They’re beholden to special interests!?
Supporters can argue the opposite, that they serve and protect a key constituency from the tyranny of the majority.
Either way, opinions of the subject are probably still strong. Keep them coming, on this and anything else on your minds. That’s what this space is for!

As the saying goes, ‘the solution to bad speech is more speech.? As your local community newspaper, we believe that ? that’s why we’re here.
That’s not what we see in the communications guidelines for members of the Clarkston Board of Education.
School administration issued a nine-point memo to all staff, eight of which say what school board members can’t say or do in our schools.
We think school board members should be encouraged to communicate with as many employees, voters, and residents as possible.
Lack of communication leads to miscommunication, such as the idea that the school board is united behind the proposed $20 million bond.
It’s not. The school board voted 4-3, Jan. 9, to approve the May 8 special election. It voted 4-3 on the Feb. 27 one-mill vote .
Majority rules, so the measures passed. But that doesn’t mean each board member must agree, just as it is for any other elected official.
The rules emphasize collective decision making, setting aside the individual in favor of collective interests.
That’s not the way this country was set up. Everyone wants informed voters. If administration doesn’t like a board member’s speech, provide more speech.

Voters in the Clarkston School district will be asked to approve a $20 million, non-qualified bond issue next Tuesday. Unfortunately, we cannot support this proposal.
We see the bond proposal, developed through committee, as too large and unfocused.
The school district is on the verge of a technological breakthrough, improving the way students learn in a way previous generations couldn’t have even imagined.
That’s due to the vision and leadership of Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock. He knew where he wanted to take this district from the day he took the reins two years ago.
Half the proposal, about $10 million, is earmarked for parking lot, plumbing, and roof work, and other capital improvement projects around the district.
Many of the items would be nice to have but aren’t essential to the schools’ mission, like parking lot improvements at elementary schools, where students are much too young to drive.
We have a problem with this.
The district deliberately underfunds maintenance and updates, instead diverting those funds to the classroom, on teacher salaries and other instructional costs.
Then the district goes to voters with bond issues: $57.7 million in 1997; $83.7 million in 2003; and $20 million in 2012. All this adds up, leaving the district with about $200 million in long-term debt. How many times will they come back in the next 15 years?
It is a cycle that needs to be broken.
A million per year over the past 10 years could have covered it. With revenues of about $76 million a year, that would have meant about a one-percent difference.
The district’s long-term debt should not be dismissed. Because of it, the state won’t back the bond proposal, causing the district to seek a non-qualified bond.
Concerns about increasing taxes are also valid, especially as Independence Township considers a one-mill tax increase for a district library and Springfield Township wants up to a mill for police services.
Also, the school board decided to hold the election in May, costing $35,000 ? this is the cost of about 70 tablets. Piggy-backing on elections last February, August, or November would have reduced that cost to zero. The school board is a problem that needs to be solved this coming November.
Tablet computers are where schools are headed, and students and teachers are justifiably excited about them. They represent a leap forward, setting aside heavy, expensive, hard-to-update textbooks, notebooks, and reams of worksheets in favor of a single device.
We see the proposal as the opening bid on how to pay for it. There’s time for a counter offer.
The district’s technology plan calls for a gradual rollout over the next three years, anyway, starting with the middle school, then junior high, high school, then elementary schools.
Defeating the issue, Tuesday, will make the district tighten up its plan, giving it focus. That’s what we need. Dr. Rock has the vision to make it happen. He just needs a reason.

Now that voters’ views are clear, school leaders and residents must work together to improve local education.
Last week’s lopsided vote, 5,755-2,945 against, show this hasn’t been happening.
School district leaders worked hard to present their case for approving a one-mill property tax increase for a $20 million non-qualified bond, but they didn’t check with voters first to see if they would support it.
That must change as we move forward.
The plan to reform classrooms with tablet computers for students and teachers is impressive and the way of the future, and school roofs, boilers, and other capital projects still need doing.
So school leaders, reach out to the community to see what partnerships and resources are available. Residents and business leaders, reach out to the school board and administration to see what you can do to make it happen.
With taxes off the table for the moment, this is an opportunity to get together and make it work.

For Independence and Springfield townships, primary elections are key, so be sure to vote.
As in previous elections, most candidates running for seats on the Independence and Springfield township boards are Republicans.
That means most of the winners of this Tuesday’s election will be uncontested in November’s general election due to the lack of Democrat opponents.
There’s an exception this year ? three Democrats are running for Independence Township Board. Since four seats are available, all three will advance to the general election, barring unforeseen circumstances.
So read our candidate profiles in this week’s edition, check out back issues for previous elections stories and letters to the editor.
Check out candidates’ ads, signs, forums on Clarkstontv.com and Independence TV, and make your choice. Also, make sure you check your polling location ? Independence Township changed their’s up a bit this year.
Then make your decision stick by going to the polls. Make sure to turn your ballot over as there are questions on both sides. Then vote.

As reported in our 8A story, ‘Deficits no more,? Independence Township has posted a remarkable turnaround, from budget shortfalls in January to a surplus now.
We commend the township’s financial strategy of hoping for the best but planning for the worst. Officials didn’t know how investments would do or what tax money the state would deign to return.
They planned conservatively, scaling back on programs to avoid deficits until those ‘soft numbers? could harden up. When they did, they found them to be on the positive side of expectations.
This is much preferable to the alternative, budgeting based on the rosiest projections possible. State and federal planners should take note.
? PMC

As the new Independence Township Board is elected and seated next month, we deserve a promise ? four years of dedicated service.
This is something we once took for granted. Not anymore. Independence Township Supervisor David Wagner suffered health issues halfway through his term, keeping him from the job. He didn’t resign, however, resulting in turmoil and waste for the next two years.
Now Trustee Mark Petterson is a frequent no show at township board meetings, due to his busy work schedule. He didn’t resign either.
Break the pattern.
If you can’t do the job, resign. Don’t run a campaign for it. Once you’re elected, serving on township boards, city councils, school boards, etc. isn’t optional.
We deserve that much.

Kudos to Clarkston Farm and Garden Club for their diligent work keeping downtown Clarkston beautiful this past summer and fall with its lively and colorful stone planter boxes.
Summer was long, hot, and dry, but we could always count on fresh flowers and decorations along Main Street. Now, the planters feature spooky white ghosts in honor of the season.
That’s just one thing the club does. The volunteers also apply their green thumbs to gardens at the library, plant exchange in the spring, Garden Walk in summer, programs for the kids, and the upcoming Christmas Greens Market, Dec. 1 at Church of the Resurrection, 6490 Clarkston Road.
Keep up the good work! We’re looking forward to seeing what you have in store for the rest of the holiday season.

Clarkston needs a new kind of school board, and we think incumbents Susan Boatman and Joan Patterson, and challengers Betty Reilly and Craig Hamilton can provide it.
This year’s election is critical. Seven candidates are running for four open seats. People are concerned about what’s happening on the board. It’s great to have the participation of candidates who are involved and knowledgable about the issues. We need their continued support in this community.
The school district is the Clarkston area’s largest employer with the biggest budget. We depend on it to educate residents? children. Its reputation bears on the reputation of the entire area. The board decides who gets hired, promoted, disciplined, fired, where money goes, what gets bought, who teaches what.
To make the best decisions, we want them to have all the information they could possible want.
That’s not happening now.
A presentation to the school board last February made crystal clear what is expected of them. They are not allowed to talk to each other, residents, school staff, or students about anything that might help them make good decisions on the board. They’ve even been told not to visit their own schools.
To do so, they were told, violates operational and communications processes. Everything must be done collectively at the board table. The individual must be suppressed. They were elected only to be part of a collective.
We don’t see it that way. Focusing on process and collectivity makes them dependent on information provided by administration and thus vulnerable to ‘group think? and ‘closed-mindedness.?
We see them as representatives of the public, just like congressional representatives, senators, and other elected officials. Some board members and administrators may look down at such a notion as lowbrow and crass, but we see it as the beauty of representative democracy.
Members of the school board are the only links in the school district chain directly hired by residents. They are our eyes and ears in the running of the school district.
So, we need to trust that school board members can do their job free and unfettered. We need people to ask questions to their neighbors, not those who are afraid of their answers.
The consequences of current policy are made clear in the failed $20 million school bond drive earlier this year.
Board members were foiled in their requests for information, and were limited in their ability to talk to residents, school officials, and students about it.
As a result of this and other missteps, the district moved forward with the drive, set a May special election at a cost of $35,000, and lost two-to-one.
If information was allowed to flow as it should, perhaps the district would have realized the public’s opposition to borrowing more when already maxed out on debt.
Process is not what we need. This November, we need to elect free-thinking board members devoted to independent leadership, not process, consensus, and’image.
Incumbent trustees Susan Boatman and Joan R. Patterson have demonstrated their willingness for reform. Challenger Betty Reilly led an effort opposing the bond, and challenger Craig Hamilton expressed a desire for more transparency. They deserve your vote.
‘PMC

The call to join Main Street Oakland County in last week’s front pager “Clarkston champion needed” has its heart in the right place, but isn’t needed right now.
The Oakland County program would require $35,000-$75,000 in fund-raising to join. For that money, Clarkston would receive advice, networking, training, planning help, funding, and other incentives.
We think downtown is doing fine as it is. Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce revamped its entire headquarters building on S. Main Street last February with exactly this in mind.
Semitrucks stop regularly at Clarkston Flower Shoppe and Bird Feeder on N. Main Street as it completes its renovation projects.
Main Street’s doctors, lawyers, ad designers, bank, newspaper, and other commercial businesses aren’t a “big problem,” as Clarkston City Manager Carol Eberhardt called them.
They, along with retailers, make Main Street strong, all working to keep downtown well maintained with a busy calendar of community events all year long.
Main Street Oakland County does fine work with downtowns in need of a boost, with empty, crumbling storefronts and run-down properties.
We’re thankful that isn’t the case here.
Would Main Street be worth diverting up to $75,000 in community donations to another layer of bureaucracy, all to accomplish development objectives already undertaken by the chamber, and other community groups and businesses?
We don’t think so.

Congratulations to the Clarkston Wolves for a record-breaking season and state championship victory!
The achievement is made more impressive considering the season’s stormy start, with thunder and lightning delaying the Sept. 30 opener. Coach Kurt Richardson pulled no punches.
‘We weren’t very good,? Richardson said at the time.
The Wolves lost that game, but it turns out that loss provided the kick in the pants they needed to not only come back, but go on to win all the marbles, taking the state championship trophy under the big lights of Ford Field.
‘It was a great day for C-Town,? Richardson said, and we agree.
So congratulations to our gridiron heroes, KR and the rest of the coaching staff, parents, fans, and everyone else contributing to a truly outstanding 2013 season! ‘PMC

Kudos to Independence Township for last week’s inaugural Independence Township Times.
At a time when government is measured by how well they spin public relations, it’s refreshing to see a local unit of government leveling with people.
The four-page insert in last week’s Clarkston News had the good (property values have increased!) as well as the bad (sewer rates are going up), and why. It also includes an informative status update from Supervisor Pat Kittle, continuing his series of columns throughout the year in the News, as well as needed info on winter tax bills from Treasurer Paul Brown.
And it was mailed to every residence in the Clarkston area during our Super CNews publication. It’s good to see local government put the word out in black and white, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Chances are you’ve read a lot of news about or surrounding Clarkston Schools. There’s a good reason, it is our Number One beat (responsibility) to cover.
The district touches everybody. Your kids or grandkids go there; you may have graduated from there; you may know someone who works there, and; if you live or own property here, you pay school taxes. Most of the news — 99 percent of the coverage we publish — is positive news. We write about the kids, the programs, the teachers, and sporting events.
However, sometimes news isn’t happy-happy. This has prompted schools superintendent Al Roberts into action. Last week he wrote employees. In part . . .
? . . . there have been a few newspaper articles that have not presented our school system in the best light. I do not believe any of us enjoy negative attention, and I hope we all want the public to think highly of our district. This is why any incident must be handled with integrity and discretion. As your Superintendent of Schools, I can honestly say the administration has done so. That being said, I am troubled by rumors and innuendos that have come to my attention; and by a curiosity that has the potential to violate school policies and/or employee privacy rights. The fact is the district, as a matter of policy and law, does not comment on investigations that it conducts; nor do those involved in an investigation engage in conversations about the incident. It is important for all of us who are employed by Clarkston Schools to understand our rights to privacy will not be violated by an ‘inquiring minds? mentality. So, I am taking this opportunity to remind all employees that freedom of speech does not protect one from libel . . .?
Obviously gossip has no place in the schools and teachers should show students how to handle these sensitive situations. But if the purpose of the memo is to stifle speech, that is inappropriate. Some did feel threatened by this memo and that is why we have raised the issue.
Gossip is not appropriate and would reflect badly on the school AS WELL as being inappropriate. But if bad things are happening at the school and reflect badly on the school, that should not be silenced. That is not the reason to be tight-lipped. There is a line between gossip and hurtful speech on the one hand and transparency of a school that needs help.
If the administration does not wish to communicate to the public through this newspaper (as has been the case for years now) so be it. We then ask all employees, students, and parents to do their job for them and contact us (as you have done).
The Clarkston News did not gossip about a noose hung on the chair of a worker (who happens to be black); the News did not report innuendo with our story on a teacher who drank the night before school.
We did our job and reported the news.
Parting note, a society that does not encourage ‘inquiring minds? is a society doomed to fascism and tyranny.
DPR

Great weather, great crowd, great food – it all came together this weekend at Taste of Clarkston.
It didn’t happen by itself. Hundreds of volunteers and staff with Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce, restaurants, community organization, churches, schools, and neighborhoods put in thousands of hours of work to transform downtown Clarkston into a four-block open-air restaurant, bazaar, and amusement park.
Health food. Butter-fried hamburgers. Lobster. Finger food and gourmet entrees. It was all there.
Like what you tasted? Too full to try out a selection you missed the first couple times through?
Check out what restaurants and shops have to offer when they have their own kitchens in which to cook, and dining rooms in which to serve you. They’re all here ? try them all. Take your time. But not too long.
You only have a year until Taste of Clarkston, 2009, when you have to start all over again.

Independence Township Board’s decision last year to build a new senior center with no public comment set a precedent.
Buying a new township hall without public comment sets a pattern.
Faced with budget surpluses over the past couple years, trustees had a choice ? tax rebates, lower taxes, or spend it. Trustees have chosen the latter option.
Strike one.
Apparently following the ‘just do it? philosophy, the board decided two important issues, both of which have been put before voters several times in the past, without accepting public comment nor making public comments themselves.
Strike two.
Both decisions reflect paternalistic arrogance out of place here in the Clarkston area. There’s no reason for it. Township residents are smart and well educated. Neither was such an emergency there was no time for at least one public hearing.
It’s not the decisions didn’t make sense. The new senior center is of modest construction, replacing an old, rundown former farmhouse increasingly becoming a danger to people it was supposed to serve. The new township hall was acquired partly through trade and is on the Sashabaw Road corridor, a much better location for Independence Township government than Main Street in Clarkston.
But they should have been presented to the people, as in, ‘hey, we have an opportunity here. What do you think??
Such public hearings were probably not required by law, but would have been good manners as well as good leadership.
The township board is listening to public comment now. Many indicate a loss of trust in their township representatives.
Why should people trust them? If the open-space millage is defeated, will the board decide to provide the money anyway, without public comment? It would fit the pattern.
If Wal-Mart returns with a better deal for Sashabaw and I-75, can the public trust the board not to accept it without consulting them first?
Especially at this level of government, people should be able to trust their elected representatives not to take unilateral action, but they can’t.
Strike three.
The township board will have four new faces in November ? take this opportunity to fix this. Make sure due diligence is completed on the township hall, keeping people fully informed.
Supervisor Dave Wagner and Trustee Larry Rosso, don’t make us regret our endorsements of you this past July. Break the pattern by insisting on public comment, even if not required by law.
? PMC

After months of point-counter-point punditry, advertisements in newspapers, television, and radio, news articles, viewpoints, editorials, and letters to the editor, voters will finally have a chance to make their voices heard.
All we ask is that they take it.
The presidency and congressional races will decide the nation’s direction for the next couple of years at least, but Clarkston area voters also have their own issues on the ballot.
Independence and Springfield township boards were essentially decided in the August primary, and most Clarkston City Council seats are uncontested, but a last-minute write-in campaign for mayor presents a choice to city voters.
Independence Township voters will decide whether to pay a millage for open-space property and easement acquisition, and all local voters get a vote on district court judge.
Read up on these issues in this edition, and check out what we wrote in the past by searching www.clarkstonnews.com.
Don’t let these decisions get made without your input. Casting a ballot gives you the right to complain.
Don’t miss out.

Congratulations and good luck to Clarkston Mayor Steve Arkwright, Springfield Township Supervisor Mike Trout, and other newly elected local officials, joining the struggle to lead local government in a time of falling revenues and increasing costs. May the blessings of President-elect Barack Obama be upon you.
Actually, maybe not.
As a whole, Clarkston and the townships of Independence and Springfield weren’t caught up in Obama fever last week.
Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson’s new election-results website shows this area Republican red, except for four precincts on the southern edge of Independence out of 23 total, and both township boards are solidly Republican.
One reason may be Obama’s populist promise to tax the rich to help the ‘middle class,? which the president-elect defines as the bottom 95 percent of the population.
‘The rich? includes those making more than either $250,000 (official version) or $150,000 (Biden gaff version). They would have to pay quite a bit to fund President Obama’s promised ‘tax cuts? for everyone else.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, households making $150,000 or more make up about 7 percent of the country’s population, indicating Biden was closer to being honest. The Clarkston area is well off compared to national averages, with more than 10 percent at that level.
So the area may be hit almost twice as hard overall for taxes, not a good selling point when looking for votes, although Obama didn’t need them.
It may also help explain why Independence Township voters turned down the open-space millage proposal. Asking residents to vote for a tax on top of what may already be coming adds insult to injury.
Taxes collected from the Clarkston area’s best and brightest entrepreneurs for national programs will mean less for local governments, making a difficult situation even worse.
Good luck with that.

We applaud Clarkston Community Schools trustees Susan Boatman and Joan Patterson’s efforts to move the district’s election cycle to November.
The district’s annual May election wastes money and keeps voter turnout low. Less than 5 percent of registered voters cast ballots in this past May’s school board election.
Voter turnout in the Nov. 4 election in Clarkston and townships of Independence and Springfield averaged 73.5 percent.
Maybe people don’t turn out to vote in May because they like the schools and don’t see any need for change, at least not enough to get themselves out to the polls.
Missing any vote is a failure in a citizen’s civic responsibility, but that doesn’t excuse the school board’s inaction so far on moving the election.
We see the main reason for maintainig May elections as convenience for school board trustees.
Spring elections align terms in office with the school year. Trustees have the summer to aclimate to the position before a new scool year and budgetary process begins again.
But that’s not good enough.
Elections with only 5 percent turn out wastes money, about $20,000 each, as well as local clerks and poll workers’ time and effort.
If it comes down to voters or trustees? convenience, the nod should go to voters.
If there is a mandate for maintaining the status quo on the school board, let it be reflected in actual voting, instead of assuming it from empty polling places.
While they’re at it, consider adjusting trustees’ terms so they begin and end at the same time, as happens with Independence and Springfield township boards.
As it stands, one or two terms come up for a vote every year. This schol year, it’s School Board President Stephen Hyer and Trustee Ronald Sullivan’s turn.
Take the opportunity to lead by example by lending your support to trustees Boatman and Patterson’s effort.

Snowy winters are generally welcome by us die-hard Michiganders.
We all have fond memories of sledding, building snowmen and hurling snowballs with our friends.
But for some of our citizens, snow and ice can be a dangerous hazard. It piles up on sidewalks in front of residences and businesses, creating slippery conditions for the elderly, some of whom are unable to shovel anymore.
This winter, we implore the able-bodied to make it a point to get out and lend a hand to those Orion residents who may have trouble clearing the snow from homes or businesses.
A tough new ordinance enacted by the village last year makes pitching in even more crucial.
And if you are having trouble with snow removal, Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh said there are groups out there willing to help, including high school students.
Chief Narsh has said there’s nothing like witnessing kids in LOHS varsity coats out shoveling snow in the community for those who are unable themselves.
We agree.
So, kids, get involved. You may even get a mug of hot chocolate out of it.
And those citizens who have seen their share of winters and cleared more snow and ice than the rest of us, don’t be afraid to let someone give you hand.

While some predict riots in the streets with the collapse of General Motors, American troops in combat overseas, foreclosures at an all-time high, and a jobless rate highest in the nation, it’s disturbing to note the attention some place on the 5 S. Main Street mural.
Home of The Clarkston News, the building’s north side has been a work in progress for the past 28 months. Patience worn thin, embarrassed and appalled by images so far, 93 residents signed a petition to set a timeline for withdrawal from the mural debacle, as they see it.
Here’s how we see it: this effort at art suppression is way out of line.
The building is owned by Jim Sherman Sr., retired publisher of The Clarkston News and father of the paper’s current owners. He hired artist Michelle Tynan to paint his wall.
It should be as simple as that.
Instead, we have a group of concerned residents letting themselves be offended and asking city council to fix it for them. Why shouldn’t they? We seem to be entering an age of government caretaking.
Thankfully, city attorney Tom Ryan came to the defense of free expression, at least as far as city action.
Bad taste, if that is how you wish to see it, is not against the law. Harassment is, however, whether by citizens on the street or city officials considering ways to increase pressure on a legal enterprise.
Petitioners and their supporters should also consider consequences of success.
This is the kind of thing folks like Jon Stewart and David Letterman love, another way to poke fun at small-town America for being closed-minded, self-important, easily scandalized, banning books, organizing boycotts, running an artist out of town because they don’t understand her work.
Perhaps one of the unintended consequence to which Don Freer referred at the Dec. 8 city council meeting, that would bring at least as much stigma to downtown as the mural.
? PMC

With news of Clarkston Community Schools? budget process comes more of the same ? revenues are falling while expenses are increasing.
About two-thirds of the budget goes to employee salaries and benefits, so the usual solution includes dozens of pink slips for teachers and support personnel ? 40 got them this past year.
We have an idea to avoid some of that ? eliminate automatic step pay increases for all employees.
Employees get a 3-percent raise every year, in addition to whatever other pay raise they may earn. The practice needs to stop. How can any pay increase be justified when revenues are dropping, and have been dropping for several years?
The step increases are built into employee contracts, so they’ll need to be reopened and renegotiated. Superintendent Dr. Al Roberts has accepted pay freezes for himself several times. Lead the way.
Or the schools can jump on the bailout bandwagon, scooping up whatever stimulus money the new Obama administration shovels onto the country. Even the City of the Village of Clarkston is hoping for some. Road Commission of Oakland County is working on a list for $300 million in projects.
Even if the new president succeeds in diverting more money to government programs, step increases should be eliminated as a reform measure. Award pay raises based on merit, not just for showing up.

With the new year has come adjustment issues for Independence Township Board, as new trustees run headlong into long established status quo at their twice-a- month meetings.
One issue: who gets to put things on the agenda ? clearly a power struggle between the old guard and newcomers. Trustees David Lohmeier and Neil Wallace, recently elected, have no use for the traditional, bow-and scrape, by-your-leave manner in which items are placed on the agenda.
Recently codified (see page 1A story), the policy requires trustees, who serve parttime, to secure a qualified co-signer, one of the fulltime elected officials, before putting an item on the agenda.
We see the problem. Every member of the township board was elected by the people, and deserves equal consideration when determining what to discuss.
Cut the co-signing requirement and let any board member introduce any item to the agenda. That’s why people voted for them. If the item has no merit, call the question and vote.
Another issue ? too many questions concerning the consent agenda.
Consent agendas, which groups all ‘noncontroversial? decisions, such as check runs, purchase orders, and other routine business, are a great idea if you want meetings to be short. We hope no one runs for public office expecting short meetings.
If you do, we have another problem.
Consent agendas are open to abuse, an easy way to slip through items that deserve discussion. If a trustee wants information on where and for what a check was used, administration should be happy to provide it.
That doesn’t excuse trustees from their own responsibilities to be prepared for each meeting. Read your packets when you receive them, not at the table after the gavel has fallen. Shoot an email with questions before the meeting, so when you ask them during the meeting the supervisor, treasurer, or clerk has a chance to have the answer.
You don’t have to be on the same team, but you still have to talk to each other.
? PMC

In almost exactly three months, Clarkston voters head to the polls.
If you don’t know why, you’re another reason why Clarkston Board of Education needs to change its election schedule.
As set up, school board trustees? four-year terms are staggered, with one or two up for a vote every year in the month of May.
It doesn’t have to be.
Kudos to Trustee Susan Boatman for her research into alternatives. She learned the school district will have to reimburse about $44,000 to local government clerks for this May’s election.
But if scheduled alongside an even-year November election, such as the presidential one just past, the district could have piggybacked on neighboring municipalities and paid nothing.
This should be an easy decision ? reschedule elections and save money, a stated priority for the entire school board. As a bonus, voter participation would increase. About five percent of eligible voters cast ballots in last year’s May election, while about 70 percent voted in November.
But it’s not likely to be easy. Half the board is cool to the idea, in part because May better fits the budget cycle and school year ? board members elected in May join the board July 1, between school years. November election would mean board members join in January, right in the middle of everything. They also distrust the state, which has a history of saying one thing and doing another when it comes to school funding.
We don’t buy it.
Districts have already made the switch, increasing voter participation and saving lots of money. Clarkston is behind the curve on this one. Get on board and make the switch.
Do it for the voters.
? PMC

Four years after Michigan’s election consolidation law took effect, Clarkston Board of Education tabled a proposal to take advantage of it because of lack of information.
We don’t buy it.
Passed in 2004 and implemented the next year, the law allows school districts to ‘piggyback? their elections on regular November votes, saving most or all expenses. Most districts in Oakland County made the switch. Five of them chose even-year November elections, which saves the most. Sixteen others switched to November odd-year or annual elections. Seven districts, including Clarkston, maintain annual May elections.
The board’s sticking point, Feb. 9, was four- versus six-year terms in office. Four-year terms would mean half the board up for a vote at a time, four seats one cycle, three the next. Six-year terms would mean a third of the board, two or three seats, at a time.
We see no problem with half the board up at a time ? if voters pick four newcomers at once, something seriously is wrong and change would probably be a good thing. Six years on the school board also seems excessive.
We encourage Trustees Susan Boatman and Joe Armstrong to stick with this and call for a new vote.
This year’s school board election will be here before we know it, with board President Stephen Hyer and two challengers up for two seats. This issue needs to be decided before then, so voters can consider Mr. Hyer’s actual vote on the issue.
This is not a new issue, being in The Clarkston News and other media for the past four years. Save the more than $30,000 a year and increase voter turnout by switching to even-year November elections.
? PMC

A couple questions on a single online survey ? not usually something to get worked up about, except when they deal with tax issues settled just a few months ago.
Independence Township Parks and Recreation wants to know how residents feel about millages to fund park improvements, development, and land acquisitions.
We already know the answer. They oppose it by almost 15 percent.
How do we know? We can read election results from this past November. Voters turned down the .45 mill, 10-year millage proposal, 10,507 to 7,809.
The survey apparently doesn’t cost very much and there usually is no such thing as a stupid question.
But we’ve seen how votes of the people are treated as a minor setback in Independence Township, how funding rejected at the ballot box is suddenly found in another part of the budget.
We speak, of course, of the senior center and township hall, both projects rejected by voters only to happen anyway.
It’s happening again, this time with open space. Strong support on the survey for public acquisition of undeveloped land for environmental reasons could be used as justification for township spending.
Don’t do it. Supporters made their case and the public voted. Respect their wishes by keeping the open-space millage idea dead and buried.
? PMC

The benefits of consolidating school elections with general elections in Orion are obvious. One, in this cash-strapped economy, it could save up to $36,000 per election. Put it another way, in three elections the district saves over $100,000 — $100,000 better used to educate.
It would also increase voter turnout to generally, lackluster elections. A change to the general election date encourage folks to weigh in on school issues who don’t ordinarily do so.
Keep in mind, the dough for schools comes out of everyone’s pockets, even if they don’t have school-age children. Having school elections alongside general elections, where voter turnout is higher, makes the process all the more democratic.
These benefits apparently elude the Lake Orion Board of Education, who voted on Feb. 18 to keep their elections in May.
This decision is not the kind of forward-thinking expected from an ‘exemplary? school district.
Rather, it’s an embarrassment that Orion schools are one of only seven in Oakland County still holding out for May elections. It seems the board is intent on playing old school, crony politics and wasting taxpayer money in the process.
They argue having stand-alone elections keeps sharper focus on the issues, and prevents them from becoming politicized.
We think having more people vote on any issue is healthy. Otherwise, the same voters show up to vote for the same board members.
They argue there are ways to save money on May school board elections in the future.
We think the school board worrying about how to save money on elections is time ill-spent when consolidation has been available under state law for four years.
Township Clerk Penny Shults said she’s already met with both Superintendent Ken Gutman and Bill Walters, the school board president, about the possibility of switching the elections to November next year.
Shults said it is something she is more than willing to do.
We implore the district to do so.
It’s crucial for the sake of healthy democratic practices and fiscal responsibility to consolidate school board elections with general elections.
~~JTC

Voters are writing in about the Board of Education’s reluctance to move May school elections to November, thereby saving money and increasing turnout:
“The school board wants to have elections in May is because they know they’ll get fewer voters…”
“The board obviously has no respect for the taxpayer’s ability to vote intelligently…”
“It flies in the face of democracy as it is intended to be exclusionary…”
All good comments … about the Lake Orion school board. Published last week in The Clarkston News’ sister newspaper The Lake Orion Review, four letters reflect readers’ dismay with their elected officials seeming indifference to election consolidation.
Not so much in the News.
This paper received only one letter about the school board, three weeks ago.
Clarkston Board of Education seems in no hurry to bring the issue back, after tabling it last month. Deadlines have passed to make the change effective for next year, so why bother?
And since not many here in town seem to mind, why should they?
Switching election dates seems an easy way to save $30,000 a year and increase voter participation. If you agree, or disagree, let us know. Enough trustees expressed support to give the change a chance.
Give them a reason to try again.
? PMC

Deputies protecting our homes and businesses in Independence and Springfield townships deserve the best, but now is not the time to request new headquarters.
As reported last week and in today’s edition, deputies in both communities are asking for new digs, Independence Township next to the new township hall, and Springfield in the new fire station.
Existing facilities may be inadequate, but property values are falling, meaning less tax revenue. Now is not the time to spend accumulated police millage money on new construction, but to keep police services steady at a time when we need them most.
We applaud township trustees for their commitment to conduct open hearings on the proposals, and in that spirit, we offer a few suggestions.
Independence Township officials can reexamine floorplans of their new township hall ? perhaps room can be made for at least some deputies.
Maybe there is room for officers in the township’s other fire stations. The former Farmer Jack’s store sits empty about 100 yards from township hall ? perhaps that can be used.
Local police deserve our support. Let’s just make sure we can afford it first.

Almost 10 years into the 21st century, it’s time we move beyond the past and embrace the future.
From our location on Main Street, we can clearly see the excesses of the 20th century automobile culture. As Big Three CEOs have learned, those days are gone. Cars are loud. They pollute. They’re expensive. People use them too much.
The time has come for the next step:
Monorail.
Clarkston must lead the way. A figure-eight, concrete rail, with the City of the Village of Clarkston at its hub, one loop out to Sashabaw Road, the other to Davisburg. It would cost a few billion, but that’s a mere fraction of a percent of the trillions shoveled out of the federal treasury nowadays for stimulus.
It’s a win-win-win-win, with less pollution, greater commuter convenience, increased sense of community, and it’s a valid use of stimulus dollars, as opposed to the scams other states have been coming up with.
To pay for continued operations, we will obviously need to change how we think about development around here, as in, let ‘er rip.
Bring it on, Beaumont!
Walk right this way, Walmart!
Cutting across three jurisdictions, a new governing body, headed by a Clarkston Zone Administrator ? Railways, will be set up, separate from existing township and city governments.
This CZAR would require broad powers to effectively run the system, requiring powers to tax, regulate, and repurpose needed property for the project.
Consolidating political and economic power is the 21st century American way. Clarkston needs to jump on board.
Oh, and April Fool’s (we hope)!
? PMC

Every once in a while I believe it is important to discuss newspapers with readers. This is one of those times and I’d like to talk about opinions, how they are incorporated into a newspaper — namely this one.
Columns, editorials, guest columns and letters to the editor are the only places where I allow opinions in my family’s newspaper. And, the only places you find opinion in my family’s newspaper are on pages six and seven (and the occasional spill over from those pages, which are jumped to pages further back). Everything else, news stories and features are accurate reports. Occasionally there will be an error in fact, those are mistakes and corrected when we find out about our error.
A column (like Jim’s Jottings) is one person’s own ideas, articulated in his or her own words. They are not necessarily those of the newspaper.
The newspaper’s opinion, then is called an editorial. We write these occasionally. An editorial can be written by any member of the staff, as long as the ownership authorizes, directs and/or approves of it. Your newspaper has three owners who have lived in the area their entire lives.
Columns and editorials are OUR opinions. So, what about yours? We love them, we want them and we publish them (even if we disagree with them). Your opinions are published in one of two ways: Letters to the Editor, and Guest Columns (essentially, a longer letter to the editor).
Letters to the editor are just that, letters written by the community to the newspaper about what is on the writer’s mind. These letters are the writers? words and ideas (not ours — yours).
Some letter writers want to voice an opinion that will (in their mind) give them or members of their family problems with a person(s) in positions of power. In certain cases, we do and will continue to withhold names, but we DO know who they are. We DO ask them to use their name, as we feel it lends credibility to their letter/argument. We feel without the name it is too easy to dismiss even valid criticisms. So, to all letter writers we say: Use Your Name!
We are in the process of better labeling opinion pieces in our community newspaper. More on that later.
A note about ownership . . . we sincerely care about our community. We want everybody to succeed and thrive… but then again, that’s just another opinion.
Which brings me back around to my point: All newspapers, TV stations, radio and internet ‘news? groups have opinions. Some are more informed than others, but we all have them. So do you, and we invite you to share them.
— Jim Sherman, Jr., publisher

Despite recent problems–lawsuits, criticism about when to hold elections–the Lake Orion Community School District can be proud of one thing: they earned exceptional MEAP scores (see page 1).
Huzzah, Lake Orion students and teachers.
You deserve a pat on the back. Your hard work paid off in high percentages in all categories.
The scores are effectively A’s and B’s, proving that the district is a great place to learn. A 92 percent score in reading, math, English language arts and science is extremely encouraging.
It’s just one example of why Lake Orion is a great place to live and raise a family. Schools are why many people move to, and stay in, a community, bringing with them dreams and dollars.
These MEAP results are a reflection of what kind of community Lake Orion is overall: one that does its homework and will continue to thrive.
Having scores in the top seven statewide will help Lake Orion weather current economic times by continuing to make it a destination for those with school-aged children.
The scores are also hard evidence of the positive future Orion taxpayers have invested in, a future where the community benefits from their kids learning at such a high level.
The school administration should be applauded. They showed they are not afraid of change when they implemented a new, more consistent evaluation method while preparing for the tests.
Most of all, we applaud the teachers and students in classrooms across Lake Orion who work hard daily.
One cringe-worthy statistic for us at the newspaper was in the writing category. Lake Orion placed sixth with 82 percent.
While still not high enough to set off too many alarms, we hope it’s something that can be raised in the future.
Writing clearly and concisely about ideas is crucial in a free society, where the exchange of ideas is on par with the exchange of goods and wealth.
Superintendent Ken Gutman said they achieved the top-seven scores despite having per-pupil funding that was fifteenth in Oakland County. Lake Orion received $8,218 per-pupil in 2008 while Bloomfield Hills, who recieved the highest amount per-pupil in the county in the same year, was at $12,387.
Doing more with less is something the district will have to get used to.
And if the MEAP scores are any indication of how the district goes above and beyond where they’re expected, then taxpayers and parents in Orion can be sure the future is bright.
~JTC

Like you, we read, hear, and feel the state of our economy. In a few words, it ain’t good. We understand, too, no amount of hoping or stimulus dollars from Washington, DC will keep our community a viable place to live, and do business. If we want to save our community we need to save ourselves. We need action!
This week The Clarkston News, and each of its sisters papers (Oxford Leader, Lake Orion Review and Citizen) will embark on a ‘shop local? campaign. Local businesses are stepping up to the plate and still spending their money new products, building improvements and on marketing.
Despite the economy, local businesses still support many school projects, service groups, charity and give residents opportunities for goods, services and employment.
We are all in this boat together, businesses and residents will ride the waves and weather the storm. We are asking local readers to do their part.
We ask government/school officials to review their purchases and to offer more consideration to local vendors.
We ask local business to keep us informed of their own initiatives to retain and grow customer bases; let us know of your special dates, anniversaries, sales and of new business news.
We ask readers to send us ‘one-liners? about shopping locally. Give us (and your neighbors) reasons to shop locally. Look for reasons each week on the Clarkston News? page 3.
Each winning entry will receive a free, 10-word classified.
To all, we ask . . . send us your ideas so we can get the word out.
Send your one-liners to: Clarkston News, 5 S. Main St., Clarkston, MI 48346 or via email to: shermanpub@aol.com (in the subject line type Shop Clarkston/Springfield.). Include your name, daytime phone and address with your reason. DPR

Tuesday’s school-board ballots won’t have much on them, just three names, two of which can be marked for approval.
With only one incumbent, Stephen Hyer, on the ballot, the board is guaranteed at least one new face among challengers Michelle Beck and Rosalie Lieblang.
That doesn’t mean the election is any less important than November’s general election.
As the area’s largest employer as well as custodian of our children 180 days of the year, Clarkston Community Schools plays a vital role in the city and local townships.
It’s leadership is just as critical.
Relatively high MEAP scores as well as much lower teacher layoffs this year compared to the last couple point to the hard work of Clarkston Board of Education, and speaks well of Hyer’s leadership abilities.
His dogged insistence on May elections despite up to $44,000 in costs each year may prove a vulnerability for those who place top priority on saving money. Both challengers support moving elections to November.
Whatever your views, be sure to get out to the polls and vote! ‘PMC

‘Disarming myself.?
That’s how Independence Township Trustee Neil Wallace described signing proposed Principles of Governance just before he turned them down(‘Clerk seeks principled agreement,? June 10).
Differences in opinions should be valued in any governmental body. Indeed, constant agreement among all would be derided as ‘rubber stamping.?
But a power struggle, with near open warfare, among members of the Independence Township Board is just as bad.
The ideals expressed in the Principles include ‘insist on the highest standards of ethical conduct,? ‘bring credit, honor, and dignity to our public offices through collegial board deliberations,? and ‘treat all persons with dignity, respect, and impartiality, without prejudice or discrimination.?
Six members of the Independence Township Board signed, or agreed to sign, the principles.
Mr. Wallace declined, judging some of his colleagues to be unworthy.
Even if they were in the past, coming together to sign them could, and still can, serve as a first step towards fair and professional conduct by all.
Getting everyone on record wouldn’t hurt, either.
A split vote on approving a list including things like ‘further the understanding of the obligations and responsibilities of American Citizenship, democratic government, and freedom,? illustrates the problem.
If board members can’t come to an agreement on this, what hope have they on important issues facing the township, things like collapsing property tax revenue?
Township government shouldn’t be about who has the power. That belongs to the people, anyway.
? PMC

Money is flowing again all across the Clarkston area, for government at least.
Raises for school employees, almost 4 percent for the superintendent, one percent for everyone else ? cost to the school district: about $700,000.
New paid position in Independence Township, a human resources specialist, performing tasks assigned to the supervisor by township charter ? cost to the township: $100,000.
An assistant for Springfield Township supervisor, $15,600-$19,500 per year.
Is this still post-bubble recession/depression America? Is this still Michigan?
Of course it is. School officials speak of “structural deficits,” with expenses outpacing revenue with no relief in sight.
Deer Lake Beach, another deficit operation, is again in the township’s budget-cutting sights
Maybe local officials find inspiration in their federal counterparts. The hundreds of thousands doled out here are next to nothing compared to the billions spent at the national level.
Everyone’s spending as if there is no romorrow, the last gasp before total economic collapse.
They may be right. Oakland County reported 8,000 foreclosures in 2007, almost 10,000 in 2008, which means collapsing property tax revenue at all levels of government.
Governments are used to steady spending increases ? spend money to save money, or just because folks are entitled to it.
That used to work. Not anymore.
‘PMC

Every week, The Clarkston News publishes numerous photos and articles featuring local young people.
We highlight the good deeds they do, the fun they have at local events, the impressive feats they accomplish and the awards they win.
Nine times out of ten, this paper shows our young people in a positive light.
But now it’s time to share that spotlight on this community’s most precious natural resource ? our wonderful senior citizens (60 and older).
Beginning with the July 22 issue, the News will publish a monthly page dedicated to those age 60 and over who earned their gray and white hairs by fighting wars, working in factories, raising families and making those house payments every month.
Part of this page will feature a calendar of local happenings specifically for seniors including enrichment classes, bingo and card games, social activities, luncheons and musical entertainment.
Vital local services for seniors such as the Independence Township Senior Center and Meals on Wheels will be highlighted as well.
We’d like to feature articles about the seniors we see around town everyday.
We want to hear those life stories. We want to write about those unique hobbies. We want to see those interesting collections of memorabilia and antiques. We want to recognize those who show you’re never too old to volunteer.
We want to hear those thrilling memories of yesteryear when Clarkston was a small bedroom community and Detroit was still a thriving city with a vibrant downtown.
If you’ve got old photos of the Clarkston area, we’d love to see them and publish them.
We also want to know what interests today’s seniors. What do you want to see us to write about? What subjects do you want to read about? Tell us. Your input is going to be absolutely critical to making this page a smashing success.
Share your thoughts, ideas and stories with Editor Phil Custodio by calling 248-625-3370 or e-mailing Clarkstonnews@ gmail.com.
Thanks for reading and caring.

Imagine a community where elected officials consider electoral results final, votes of the people the definitive word on controversial subjects.
Where defeat of a senior center and township hall meant the township didn’t build the senior center and township hall anyway.
Where ballot-box defeat of candidates running in favor of transferring power from elected officials to an unelected, independent contractor meant the board didn’t transfer power from elected officials to an unelected, independent contractor.
All Independence Township residents can do is imagine such a place, because last year’s Board of Trustees disregarded electoral results, deciding to build the senior center and township hall, and the new board does it too.
Hiring a human resources director to do a job officials were elected to do reverses the will of the people. Voters rejected a slate of candidates campaigning last year to transfer their power to a professional manager. That means officials shouldn’t transfer their power to a professional HR manager, either.
That would demonstrate accountability by our elected officials, and show how voting actually makes a difference.
Imagine that.

Government expansion is on the march, including here in the Clarkston area.
As citizens fill town halls all over the country over federal health-care plans, residents of Independence and Springfield townships have a chance to make their voices heard at a public meeting, here about a government trash-pickup plan.
Don’t let that chance pass you by.
Nationally, Tea Party activists and other citizens are moving the debate. They have an effect on where and how health-care reform/takeover will happen. Take their example by filling Clarkston Junior High School, 6595 Waldon Road, 6-8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27.
The plan to consolidate trash pickup plan deserves your scrutiny. This area has a tradition of private trash pickup ? companies offer their services for a price they set and people are free to choose who they wish.
A single hauler under government contract to collect everyone’s trash may indeed be the best option. It would be more efficient and friendly to the environment.
It would also mean companies, instead of having to sell their services to thousands of customers, would just have to sell to a couple dozen people on local township boards. That idea deserves all the public scrutiny it can get.
? PMC

Kudos to the Clarkston Board of Education for its decision to move school elections from May to November.
We appreciate the effort to pass it by the community and school board members, especially its newest ones.
We encourage trustees Susan Boatman and Rosalie Lieblang to keep it up.
The trustees also showed what they were made of when they held up a consultant contract, wanting more information (‘More data,? page A12).
This in the face of pressure from fellow board members who suggested they simply trust Superintendent Dr. Al Roberts to do what is best.
If they fail to place complete trust in the superintendent, we could understand. Our trust in him was compromised by his decision to negotiate for and accept generous pay raises, especially in these economic times, over the next three years.
Of course, trust in the school board, which approved the contract, was also compromised. Actions like these will go a long way in rebuilding it.
? PMC

This weekend brings the fourth Sunday of September ? for Clarkstonites, the chance to fill their bellies with the best this town has to offer.
Downtown Main Street closes down to traffic, Sunday, to make room for dozens of restauranteurs and thousands of hungry patrons at the annual Taste of Clarkston.
This isn’t an easy time economically for anybody, much less local restaurants. Take the opportunity to see what they have to offer.
Try a deep-fried Twinkie or chocolate-covered slice of bacon. Get some pizza, pasta, clam chowder, frozen custard and/or cookies, washed down with some iced coffee or a root beer float in a frog-shaped glass.
A successful Taste of Clarkston fills the coffers of the Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce, which we need to help attract new businesses to the area.
So fill the streets, rain or shine.
? PMC

Trust.
It’s a fragile commodity, one the Clarkston Board of Education is quickly exhausting.
The school board doles out a three-year raise to the superintendent even though state funding is expected to fall hundreds of dollars per student. This violates rules of economics ? spending money they don’t have and won’t get.
Now comes an example of the school board disregarding its own rules.
Voting by phone at an official meeting? Who would even consider such a thing? If you can’t make a meeting, don’t. But don’t vote either ? it’s common sense.
School policy explicitly forbade it, but instead of refusing to accept the vote, the board is working to change the policy, after the fact.
School board election officials? title is ‘trustee.? They need to start acting like it.

Mea culpa.
We got it wrong in last week’s story “$600,000 oversight.” Independence Township’s dispute with Comcast actually cost taxpayers about $350,000 in lost fees.
Working on this story has been like pulling teeth. The township’s lawyers withheld information, citing attorney-client privilege, and wouldn’t return calls ? how can they not share blame when information is reported wrong.
Now Independence Township Clerk Shelagh VanderVeen is getting into the act, responding to a request for clarifying documents with a new policy requiring application of the Freedom of Information Act for anything.
It even applies to fellow Township Board members. This is the opposite of government transparency.
If the public, of which this newspaper is a part, requests public information, public officials should not be throwing up walls.
We want to get it right. Stop making our job harder than it already is.
? PMC

Let’s face it, the Clarkston News is in the information business, and the business going down in our schools makes us leery. On page 1 today, you can read about Clarkston School administration’s attempt to stem the flow of information from elected officials.
The district pays two communications employees to run interference for Superintendent Al Roberts. When anybody in the district wants to talk to Dr. Al, you get Communications Director Anita Banach first. There is no direct communications from Dr. Al. Anita is always there. As a newspaper, trying to get insights from the district’s nearly $200,000 a year, top employee (Dr. Al), getting the politically correct, company line, pat answer from the district’s $90,000-a-year public relations person is distressing.
Now, the administration wants all elected officials to be in-line with the administration’s point of view. We are scared of this way of thinking. We believe it strangles free thought, outside-the-box imagination, individuality, and chips away at the First Amendment right of free speech.
There must be diversity in thought — and that means at times, unpleasant disagreements — if we are to handle the problems this district (and all in the state) is facing. The best solutions will not come from a single, drone-like, robotic mind-set the administration seeks to control. Solutions will come from the many minds that make up this district — administrators, elected officials, staff, parents, students, business owners and regular, plain-old, taxpaying residents — coming together, debating, arguing — being American — and doing what is best.
We urge the board, at its next meeting, to stand-up and vote for the free flow of information. –dpr

The Lake Orion Community Schools? Board of Education sent mixed messages to the community last week and put democracy on a slippery and frightening downward slope when it voted 6-1 to continue with May elections.
The vote came directly on the heels of a discussion to set parameters for next year’s monumental budget cuts. $10 million? $12 million? That’s a big chunk of Lake Orion Community Schools to lose in one year, and where the bleeding will stop, well, no one knows.
But as one of only four districts in Oakland County opting to continue with May elections rather than piggybacking November general elections, the district spent some $33,000 on the May 5, 2009 unopposed school board election.
Its reason? The district functions from July fiscally and September academically. May elections, in the words of Board President Bill Walters ‘allow us to initiate and bring new board members into play with some effectiveness in the cycle of the school year.?
Besides, the board thinks it can cut those costs down. For example, it will continue trying to convince the township clerk to consolidate precincts and stop sending notice to voters about the upcoming election.
And it thinks state lawmakers should get to work on legislation so unopposed candidates can be reseated, sans the election.
These are bad ideas, the kind that should strike fear into the hearts of any democracy-loving, red-blooded American.
The board’s decision to continue with May elections, and its comments supporting that decision, are a shameful slap in the face to the entire Lake Orion community, and we think the board would do well to sit down and take another look.
The excuse about new members ‘coming into play with some effectiveness? doesn’t cut it. New members, if they haven’t been in the audience watching and learning for months, can work harder to get up to speed when they’re elected in November. Everyone is working harder these days. It’s just necessary.
And instead of declaring an unopposed candidate elected’a move that could, and likely will, end up with undue pressure on potential candidates’the board should be spending its time and energy thinking of ways to encourage more people to run so fewer unopposed elections take place.
Stop sending out notices? Another terrifically bad idea. The last election had a 4.09 percent turnout. Does the board want to see that number go lower?
Perhaps they do.
Lower voter turn out means a controlled election; it means, in fact, the board can excercise its influence and end up with the new members it wants, the like-minded individuals who won’t throw a monkey wrench into the mix by contributing new ideas or controversial opinions.
It’s a dangerous, slippery slope. This community deserves better.

The Lake Orion Community Schools? Board of Education sent mixed messages to the community last week and put democracy on a slippery and frightening downward slope when it voted 6-1 to continue with May elections.
The vote came directly on the heels of a discussion to set parameters for next year’s monumental budget cuts. $10 million? $12 million? That’s a big chunk of Lake Orion Community Schools to lose in one year, and where the bleeding will stop, well, no one knows.
But as one of only four districts in Oakland County opting to continue with May elections rather than piggybacking November general elections, the district spent some $33,000 on the May 5, 2009 unopposed school board election.
Its reason? The district functions from July fiscally and September academically. May elections, in the words of Board President Bill Walters ‘allow us to initiate and bring new board members into play with some effectiveness in the cycle of the school year.?
Besides, the board thinks it can cut those costs down. For example, it will continue trying to convince the township clerk to consolidate precincts and stop sending notice to voters about the upcoming election.
And it thinks state lawmakers should get to work on legislation so unopposed candidates can be reseated, sans the election.
These are bad ideas, the kind that should strike fear into the hearts of any democracy-loving, red-blooded American.
The board’s decision to continue with May elections, and its comments supporting that decision, are a shameful slap in the face to the entire Lake Orion community, and we think the board would do well to sit down and take another look.
The excuse about new members ‘coming into play with some effectiveness? doesn’t cut it. New members, if they haven’t been in the audience watching and learning for months, can work harder to get up to speed when they’re elected in November. Everyone is working harder these days. It’s just necessary.
And instead of declaring an unopposed candidate elected’a move that could, and likely will, end up with undue pressure on potential candidates’the board should be spending its time and energy thinking of ways to encourage more people to run so fewer unopposed elections take place.
Stop sending out notices? Another terrifically bad idea. The last election had a 4.09 percent turnout. Does the board want to see that number go lower?
Perhaps they do.
Lower voter turn out means a controlled election; it means, in fact, the board can excercise its influence and end up with the new members it wants, the like-minded individuals who won’t throw a monkey wrench into the mix by contributing new ideas or controversial opinions.
It’s a dangerous, slippery slope. This community deserves better.

Kudos to Clarkston students, teachers, support staff, and administration on continued improvements on the MEAP test (“Officials pleased with test results,” April 7).
Scores are up in almost all categories. Third-graders especially achieved outstanding scores, 98 percent in math and 96 percent in reading.
As Deputy Superintendent David Reschke said, the test is a tool to highlight areas needing improvement. As such, it appears social studies and science need attention, with scores in the upper 80s and lower 90s. Science is important as Michigan struggles to develop sustainable energy and industry. In as much as social studies includes civics, history, and the U.S. Constitution, this is also critical as we move into the future.
The test is but one aspect of a total education, but parents and the community should be proud of Clarkston’s academic performance.
‘PMC

The retirement of Superintendent Al Roberts presents an opportunity Clarkston hasn’t seen in the past 15 years, a chance for new, effective leadership sorely needed in these tough economic times.
We ask that they take it.
This is a chance for a new direction, away from the current regime’s market-driven focus. A chance to show real leadership instead of spending money the district doesn’t have on the latest prestige programs like Fast ForWord or International Baccalaureate, then blaming the state when pink slips start flowing.
With so much control concentrated at the top for so long, the school board will be tempted to keep Roberts on board in some capacity to “help with the transition.” They have several options to do this, such as extending his service for a month to a year.
They can also allow him to retire, then rehire him as a contract employee, as they did with Deputy Superintendent Dave Reschke and Human Resources Director Linda Nester this past year.
Don’t do it. Trust your teachers, principals, and central office staff to run things while selecting a new superintendent.
We’re all for innovative methods, teaching students to be critical thinkers with a love for learning. Maybe they can come up with ways to do it without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the latest thing.
To retire means to withdraw from one’s occupation, to stop working. We ask the school board to honor Roberts’ request to retire and let him do it, July 1.
The last time this school district had the chance for a new direction was in the 20th century. Don’t let it slip away.
-PMC

Ironic. Sad.
On June 19, 2002, The Oxford Leader printed two separate stories celebrating life.
‘Good luck OHS graduates!? the banner headline screamed. ‘Chemo Boy? saves the day for sick kids we teased on Page One.
A community newspaper like The Leader is a cheerleader. We shout with joy at the triumphs of our community and of the individuals who are an integral part of it. Back in 2002, on Page One we celebrated the 238 graduates of Oxford High School. Among those graduated was Scott Boyl. The son of Nina and Jim Boyl, Scott was one of his classes top students, graduating 16th.
On Page Three that week, we told readers the story of Chemo Boy, the comic book alter ego of Oxford fifth-grader Michael Magdaleno. Michael, son of Tony and Marureen Magdaleno, created Chemo Boy to inspire and help other children like him. Michael was diagnosed with a kidney tumor and was undergoing chemotherapy. Michael and his class at Clear Lake Elementary self-published 46 Chemo Boy books, to be distributed at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital.
He wanted to give kids like him a comic book hero they could relate to. He wanted to show that ‘chemo can overpower cancer.?
A community newspaper like The Leader also mourns when the community loses one, or two, of its own. This week we are sad to report two of ‘our kids? have died. Scott Boyl was 20. Michael Magdaleno was 13. Nobody likes to read of young lives cut short. Nobody likes to write these stories either. But we have, and while not enough, we also send our prayers and wishes to the Boyls and Magdalenos. ? DPR

We’re all making do with less, even government. Or it should. The primary election next week, Aug. 3, is a chance to make them.
Voters face a plethora of millage proposals. Independence Township residents have three local requests: police renewal, police increase, and library renewal. Springfield Township voters have a parks millage proposal. Clarkston residents, a general millage increase. Everyone also has two Oakland County millage renewals, for Oakland Community College and county parks.
The renewals serve as referendums. If you like the Independence Township Library, the local community college, and county park system, vote to continue funding them.
Independence Township Library is a jewel, with a comprehensive collection of books and services. We recommend its renewal. It’s reasonable, especially considering revenue is falling along with property values. As with us all, it must make do with less.
Springfield Township Park Millage doesn’t ask for much, but it’s a new tax. This isn’t the time for that, even for something as deserving as our natural areas. With its world-renowned fen and headwaters, find the resources needed to fund it without raising taxes. Turn it down.
Regarding Independence Township sheriff service, we recommend voting for the renewal. As a dedicated millage (except for Sashabaw Road business sending 1.17 percent to their Corridor Improvement Authority), the money will go where it’s supposed to.
Closing the local substation, which officials say would happen if the proposals are rejected, would create new problems. Those who go that route can end up fighting over whatever police protection is left, as happened recently in Groveland and Brandon townships.
Turn down the increase, however. Find another way to fund the substation.
The Clarkston ballot proposal is sold as a way to save the police department. But it’s not a dedicated police millage. It’s a charter amendment, increasing the maximum tax allowed from 15 to 20 mills.
So this is an issue of trust. Would city council use funds for police as it says? Or is it using public safety as a tool to push through a tax increase? We’ve heard from residents saying taxes are too high in Clarkston. This would make it worse, increasing city taxes by more than a third.
It is not a reasonable solution. City residents are taxed enough already.
Defeat the proposal, but then save the police department anyway. Look at the budget and cut across the board ? $128,230 for city hall operations seems high, with $3,600 for office supplies, according to the 2010 budget expense reports. More than two-thirds of police expenses are for personnel, so this will mean cutting some officers.
These are tough decisions for tough times. Raising taxes is the easy way out for government leaders, and would bring more money when property values eventually improve ? we wouldn’t get a vote on that, though.
That’s not the way things work for taxpayers, and it shouldn’t work that way for government, either. ‘PMC

We welcome new Clarkston Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock, and look forward to working with him.
There’s still much to talk about regarding school operations and finances.
We and parent activists such as Mike and Dawn Schaller raised many questions over the past several months, regarding how things were done in the district under the previous administration.
The former superintendent pushed the Freedom of Information Act to its limit, invoking every delay and fee it could in an effort to impede clear, complete understanding of parents’ own school district, billing hundreds of dollars for public records requested under FOIA.
We ask Dr. Rock to lift these limits, at least for his own education. Allow the Schallers and other interested parents to take a look, and/or bring in other independent auditors to check into their questions once and for all.

In this Tuesday’s election, we recommend John Shrei for Clarkston Board of Education. For Clarkston City Council, we support Peg Roth, Charles Inabnit, and Mike Sabol.
The school board election, the first since the former superintendent left, is crucial.
Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock may not be the one to air out district finances as they need to be. He told us emphatically his job is all about the kids. Perhaps this is as it should be. But this underscores the importance of the Board of Education in the quest for reform. John Schrei says he is commited to restoring trust in the district ? we will hold him to that.
For city council, we commend all five candidates for getting involved. We appreciate Richard Bisio’s analytical talent, and hope he contributes them to the city if voted in or not.
But we view Sabol as being more decisive, with a more specific plan of action.
Charles Inabnit is on record putting taxpayers first, opposing an $8,205 lawn tractor, calling out the council for removing DPW logs from city council packets, and voting to cut funding for extras such as police motorcycles and new tree plantings in the park.
We’re impressed with Peg Roth’s business experience and her emphasis on downtown, founding and working with Clarkston Retailers Group,
She brings a business perspective on the council, and isn’t afraid to talk to residents about issues such as August’s millage proposal, finding people didn’t want more taxes. ‘PMC

Those in government who seek to hide what they say and do from the public won a significant victory last week.
Those who seek to expose wrongdoing, corruption and waste in government suffered a momentous defeat.
In a 4-3 vote Dec. 29, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal in a key case concerning the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
The case involved a citizen’s FOIA request to review e-mails sent by school employees on the Howell school district’s e-mail system. In January 2010, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied the request. The ruling was subsequently appealed to the state Supreme Court.
We are amazed that an institution designed to interpret the law and protect the rights of citizens chose to take a pass on hearing this vital case.
Exactly what are we paying these justices to do? We realize many judges are just lazy or unsuccessful lawyers looking to collect a steady paycheck, but this is ridiculous.
Everyone from journalists to average citizens routinely use FOIA as their primary weapon in the never-ending struggle to keep government open, honest and accountable.
The Supreme Court’s indifference in this case coupled with the Court of Appeals? original ruling has effectively replaced the people’s sword of freedom with a dinky cap gun.
We can still make a lot of noise, but we won’t actually hit our targets.
We’re not judges nor are we lawyers, but we do know that e-mails sent by public employees over a computer system paid for by the taxpayers are by no means private and they should never be classified as such.
We the people bought the computers.
We the people pay for the operation and maintenance of them.
We the people have a right to see whatever government employees put on those computers or use that system for.
Case closed.
If government employees don’t want people to read what they’re writing, let them use their private e-mail accounts and their personal computers to communicate. And let them do it on their own time.
Shame on the Court of Appeals for its ignorant and dangerous ruling.
Shame on the state Supreme Court for just sitting on its hands as citizens get stripped of their rights.
Who needs to worry about terrorists or the Chinese depriving us of our liberties, when our own court system seems content to do the job for them.