Only a few people might know that I am a diehard fan of Chrysler LLC’s products. In fact, in 24 years of vehicle ownership, I have never owned another marque besides Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep or Ram Trucks.
Chrysler has just announced a virtual tour of Sterling Heights Assembly Plant using technology similar to Google Maps Street View. It is a fascinating look at the inside of the factory on Van Dyke Avenue that gives the viewer a guided tour of the facility as it builds the well regarded 2015 Chrysler 200 product.
You will recall this factory nearly closed a few years ago, and some of the credit for saving it goes to the folks on Mark Vanderpool’s team in the Sterling Heights City Administration building.
Since Chrysler LLC purchased the factory from the bankrupt remains of the former Chrysler Corporation, over $800 million was invested in bringing the plant up to date to build the current generation of products. I saw the plant before its transformation in person, and now can see all of the improvements that have been made since. If you’re a car guy like I am, you can’t miss this.
In an edition of Fox 2 TV’s Let It Rip, Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Taylor successfully managed to demonstrate the utterly obtuse nature of former Councilman Paul Smith’s opposition to the LGBT protection ordinance. It is several minutes of very revealing television which will show you who is and who is not for human rights in Sterling Heights.
I will let the segment speak for itself, adding only that Mr. Smith recently requested nominating petitions to collect signatures to have himself placed on the November 2015 ballot as a candidate for mayor.
It would be a sad day for all of us should the likes of Mr. Smith actually manage to win an election, and I personally will devote as much time and effort as possible to make this apparent to all who will listen. Fortunately, the position of dogcatcher is not an elected post in Sterling Heights; if it were, Mr. Smith would not be qualified.
As it stands, the folks who opposed the LGBT ordinance claim to have enough people willing to run to replace the entire city council in slightly more than a year from now. It is high time that candidates who are pro-human rights begin to make themselves known.
Last night City Council voted to repeal the LGBT protection ordinance that was signed into law this past June after finding itself in receipt of a legally valid petition to place the matter on the ballot. There were certainly some odd things happening in those chambers last night, and I thought I would comment on them here.
- Contradictions: one of the main themes that emerged was the complaint that the council members are there to “represent us”. Several people enjoined council to “start doing their job”; one lady opined that counsellors needed to “start representing us right.” Yet in the next breath, the same folks were stating they just “want to bring this issue to a vote of the people”. This is curious to me: either you want a representative government, or you want a pure democracy. After some reflection, I’m not sure that many in attendance last night actually know the difference.
- Lack of critical thinking skills: “we don’t need this law in Sterling Heights because nobody here discriminates against gays.” Somehow, opponents of this civil rights law are preternaturally gifted with omniscience and can speak with great authority on what does and does not happen outside their direct view in a city of 130,000 people. Yet at the same time, these folks object to the law because in their view it is “too vague” and “has too many loopholes,” which I would have taken for an argument to make the law even more rigorous if I didn’t know better. Still others were upset because they felt the law did not give a proper exception for people to discriminate in deference to their religious beliefs. This is the “any port in a storm” approach to political discourse: apparently “any argument that I can come up with” will suffice when confused by the facts and logic of a situation and the only thing you’re certain of is that you’re opposed.
- Flagrant disrespect for the political process: We actually had someone get tossed out of the meeting last night for an uncontrolled outburst, and it was necessary to threaten the same to several others whose behavior was becoming unacceptable. Despite the fact that council listened patiently to over two hours of barely coherent rhetoric against the ordinance, a group of people decided they wouldn’t sit still for Mr. Skrzyniarz’s explanation for why he was about to give them what they wanted by voting to repeal the ordinance, and disrupted the meeting by walking out en masse. All of these “great Americans” who were prepared to cite the Constitution chapter and verse weren’t familiar enough with the political process to avoid acting like the very rabble the framers were trying to prevent from ruling the day back in the 1700s.
To only say I’m disappointed that the ordinance appears to be on its way off the books really doesn’t cover the range of things I found distasteful about last evening’s proceedings. I’m far more disappointed that the political process has been hijacked by folks who apparently have no qualms against prevarication in service of achieving their political ends. I find it reprehensible that the ringleaders of this movement against the LGBT community will place themselves on a pedestal of fighting for religious freedom while at the same time ignoring all of the basic tenets of the religion they’re claiming to defend. And I’m disgusted by the sheer lack of decency and decorum that was on display last evening.
Whatever your political view, the goal of the political process remains the same: to achieve peaceful, and maybe even thoughtful, resolutions to the issues of the day. I would like to think that, for most of us, a fair hearing of the facts is the preferable method of arriving at a decision for or against an issue. Distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies by the petitioners were the only way that these folks were able to bring down a decent if not perfect city ordinance. Unfortunately, last night the nut jobs won, and we’re all worse off for it. I hope sanity returns to those chambers soon.
This has been a helter-skelter, everything coming on at once sort of week in Sterling Heights as many of you well know. Most of the stuff I have for this week is only tangentially related to Sterling Heights politics, but here we go…
- Sterling Heights was at the center of a demonstration by the Chaldean community on Sunday, August 10th. The demonstration was designed to attract more attention to the atrocities being committed against Christian civilians in Iraq by ISIS, the jihadist group that has taken over a large swath of Iraq. Some reports pegged the number of participants around 1,500 individuals, some more, but at any rate there was a large turn-out. Some video of this demonstration shot by a contributor can be seen below.
- On Monday, August 11th, Sterling Heights was whalloped by nearly 5 inches of rainfall in the course of just a few hours. The impact on the Detroit area in total was devastating and will probably reach into the billions of dollars; here in Sterling Heights the basements of many homes were flooded, dozens of vehicles were stranded and abandoned on major thoroughfares, and roads were temporarily closed by the Police Department because of flood waters. As a result, the Sterling Heights CERT team, of which I am a member, was activated and deployed to relieve police officers in watching over flooded roads. In all, eleven CERT members were able to relieve several officers, freeing them up to respond to calls. At one point, the 911 dispatch was so busy that callers were receiving a busy signal.
I’m going to try a new occasional feature: a quick gathering up of news, rumors and photos from events surrounding Sterling Heights politics. N.B. I am not a professional news reporter; if factual errors come to light I will correct them. I’m not looking to create scandals or publish completely unsubstantiated rumors, but it would be great if my readers would send me things they would like to see published, attributed or not. Send me your tips, cell phone photos or videos, and I will consider them for possible inclusion in future posts.
- Unconfirmed Rumor: Paul Smith filed the paperwork to become a candidate for Mayor of Sterling Heights on the day Mayor Notte announced he is taking a leave of absence to undergo treatment for cancer…
- National Night Out on Tuesday, 5-AUG-2014 was a success. Sterling Heights CERT received the names of several new recruits; Sterling Heights COPS members were there in force as well.
- The group petitioning to place the new LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance on the November ballot submitted 6,050 signatures to the City Clerk’s office on Wednesday. The Clerk’s office has 10 days to count and verify those signatures, during which the group can continue to collect more signatures. If signatures are found to be invalid, the group has 15 days to make up any shortfall.
- Meanwhile, police were called multiple times to resolve arguments in front of the public library between the petition signature-gatherers and protesters…
Tips and/or corrections to email@example.com….
There has been a concerted effort on the part of the opposition to the new ordinance protecting LGBTs in Sterling Heights to circulate a petition asking that the matter be placed on the ballot for a vote.
As I understand it, petitioners are telling the public that they don’t want to repeal the law, instead they simply want to put the matter to a vote of the public so it can be decided democratically. They are also stating that Mayor Pro Tem Michael Taylor somehow “forced” the legislation through in only one meeting.
None of the above is true.
What’s Really Going On
First and foremost, the petitioners want to repeal the law. There is no reason to put the matter to a public vote unless you’re hoping the vote goes the way you want it to, and the people who are petitioning spoke out publicly against the law. Signing the petition is the same thing as saying “I don’t like this law, and I want it repealed.”
Whether the petitioners oppose the law for religious reasons or for some other reason, I cannot say, but there is no reason for a petition or a vote of the public unless you don’t want the law.
Second, Mr. Taylor made NO attempt to force anything through the process or to somehow shorten the amount of time the public had to react to the issue. If you’ve been paying attention to city politics for more than 15 minutes, you will know that the process of ordinance introduction involves two City Council Meetings: one to introduce the ordinance, which is put to a majority vote, and the second to actually enact the ordinance into law, which also requires a majority vote. Occasionally, there is some discussion prior to the first meeting at which the ordinance is introduced; towards the end of a regular City Council meeting there is an opportunity for members of council to discuss new business. In this case, Mr. Taylor discussed his intention to bring a new ordinance to the attention of council during the meeting before the meeting where the ordinance was introduced.
What I Think You Should Do: Inform Yourself
The people circulating the petitions have a constitutional right to do so, and you have a constitutional right to sign the petition if you think it is a good idea and are a registered voter in Sterling Heights.
But do not be fooled: signing this petition means that you are signing on to repeal an anti-discrimination ordinance.
If you intend to sign the petition, that’s fine by me, it is your right to do so. But I would ask you to please make sure you understand the issue, and the way to do that is to read the ordinance as passed. Follow the link, read the language in the law, and let your conscience be your guide: do you want to repeal a law that simply protects a class of people from discrimination?
In a letter released to the public dated August 4, 2014, Mayor Richard Notte announced that he is undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, and will not be discharging his duties as mayor in the immediate future.
Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Taylor will take over for Mayor Notte until such time that he can resume his duties.
First and foremost, I would like to extend my sympathy and best wishes to Mayor Notte for a complete and speedy recovery. As many readers here know, the Mayor and I have not seen eye to eye on a number of subjects in the past, but as time has gone on I have grown in my respect for the man and can appreciate where he is coming from on the issues we disagree upon. Pancreatic cancer is a scourge that even the worst political opponents hopefully would never wish upon each other. I hope that his doctors are inspired, his treatment is precise, and he, his friends and relatives remain strong throughout this ordeal. Godspeed, Mr. Mayor.
Since the mayor will not be returning for the foreseeable future there will be a considerably different dynamic on City Council. With only six votes, a deadlock becomes possible on any contentious issue, and a spirit of cooperation will be the only thing keeping that from happening. Although the council has been considerably less acrimonious since the last election, I hope that all of the counselors continue to work harmoniously to keep the city operating efficiently. Now more than ever it is important they do so.
Of special note is the fact that the non-command officers on the police force are still operating without a contract. I will be discussing this in more detail in the upcoming weeks, but suffice it to say that it is high time this gets resolved. With six members on council instead of the usual seven, I worry about this becoming a divisive issue that creates a problem. Here’s hoping it doesn’t.
Finally, a note of explanation regarding this blog and my less-frequent appearances at City Council meetings: for the first several years of this blog I was fortunate to have employment where I worked from home full time. That situation changed this past May, and the nature of my employment itself changed in December, 2012. With a commute to work and a more demanding job, I have not had as much time to devote to city politics, although it has not been for the lack of wanting to do so. Although my participation in the city’s political process will continue to be more sporadic than I would like, my interest remains strong and I will continue on with these writings as much as possible. Thanks to my readers for their patience and understanding.
Sample Sterling Heights ballot: here
Once again it is time for the oft-ignored August primary election. This year there are a couple of ballot proposals worth your consideration: one is a proposal to eliminate the business “personal” property tax and replace the revenue from different taxes via Lansing, and the other is a millage increase for Macomb County to support the SMART transportation system.
I have looked into both matters. Although the removal of the business personal property tax has been a cause for concern for the city in the past, a deal has been struck that the city administration seems to think it can live with. I will be voting “yes” on this issue.
As far as the tax increase to support the SMART system is concerned: I must confess that I am anti-public transportation, I don’t use it, and I think the system is poorly run. I will be voting “no” on this issue.
Your voice is important, and your vote counts. Please make sure you make it to the polls tomorrow.
Tom Ziarko, husband of Sterling Heights councilperson Barbara Ziarko, passed away June 12 after battling lung cancer.
I met Mr. Ziarko in the parking lot of Hatherly Elementary school this past November on Election Day. He was there in support of his wife’s re-election bid; I was there in support of Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Taylor’s effort. As the day wore on, we engaged in a lengthy conversation, and probably spent the better part of five or six hours talking over the course of the day.
As acquaintances go, Mr. Ziarko’s and mine was a short one, but even in a few short hours I knew he was someone I enjoyed being with. A longtime Chrysler employee, Mr. Ziarko shared in my passion for all things Mopar, and a good chunk of our time together was spent discussing that company’s recent history of being acquired and merged twice over the past couple of decades. We talked about the products, our ownership experiences, and people we both knew who were associated with the company. It was good conversation.
As people who read my writings here might recall, prior to the 2011 election I opined that Mrs. Ziarko might be replaced by better candidates, a recommendation I have later come to regret. As Mr. Ziarko was a reader of this blog, this came up in our conversation. It was a remarkable point in our talk for the grace and equanimity with which he treated the subject. Had I been in his position meeting someone who had written something like that concerning my own wife, I could scarcely hope to later handle it with such poise or kindness. I looked at Tom in that moment and told him he was a better man than I, and I sincerely meant it. It is rare for me to meet a person who so impresses me. It was perhaps the most gentle lesson in humility and respect I have ever had and one I will not soon forget.
I did not know Tom for years and I cannot claim we were friends, but I am saddened by his premature death; he is someone I surely would like to have had the opportunity to know better. I believe he was a good man, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to the entire Ziarko family on their loss.
Point blank: if you’re truly for freedom, liberty and equality, you’re for freedom, liberty and equality for anyone and everyone, no questions asked. Anything else is authoritarianism disguised as morality.
As regular readers of this blog probably know, it has been months since I have published a post. I’ve had some big changes in my everyday work that have made big demands on my time.*
I remain plugged in to events in and around the city, however, and when the issue of this ordinance came up, I made the effort to attend the meeting and have my say. I feel it’s incumbent upon me to comment here as well. The issue is too important to ignore.
As I said last Tuesday, homosexuals have been part of humanity since antiquity. Their reception by the heterosexual majority depends on the culture they find themselves in and the vagaries of history, but nonetheless they have always been with us. We happen to be at a turning point in our history as a nation here where it has become permissible for homosexuals to identify themselves as such and agitate for fair treatment by the rest of us. Personally, I think this is a good thing.
My reasoning is simply that oppression is abhorrent. We wouldn’t tolerate discrimination against racial groups, religious groups, or national groups in matters of employment, housing, or public access, much less open discrimination. Such discrimination is clearly immoral, it creates the conditions for hostility and violence, and it is patently un-American in my view.
Why then would it still be okay in 2014 to discriminate against homosexuals? And why then were there so many folks claiming to be Christian turning out at last week’s meeting to protest and say that was exactly what they wanted the “freedom” to do? Are these people not aware that their God, Jesus Christ, embraced the lepers, the prostitutes, the poor and the disaffected? Do they not know that the Golden Rule applies to the least among us as well as the mighty? The hypocrisy and tone deafness astounds me.
Several others attempted to make the argument “there’s no discrimination of this sort going on in Sterling Heights!” Since when have the omniscient among us felt the need to come to City Council meetings? I should think that the all-knowing who can be so certain that no discrimination against LGBTs is taking place here would be spending their time stopping traffic accidents before they happened, winning big in Las Vegas, or perhaps making a killing in the stock market. I am saddened and amazed by the “logic” that these folks employ.
Discrimination is subtle. Discrimination is pervasive. Discrimination is part of the human condition, and if an especially pernicious form of it arises, good people everywhere need to stand together to stamp it out.
I stated at the meeting and will repeat here that I am acquainted with several folks in the gay community. I have a few observations: first, not a single one of them would have chosen to be gay, lesbian or transgendered considering the reaction society has toward them. Of course there are some who have come to terms with their homosexuality and have moved beyond acceptance of their plight to advocacy for their rights, but this is not the norm. These folks want to be left alone to lead their lives as they see fit, just like any of us do.
LGBTs would not be asking for or publicly supporting ordinances and laws such as this if it wasn’t necessary. I reject the idea that this is some sort of attempt to throw their increasing political weight around. If you looked at the people at the meeting the other night and saw what I did, you would understand this was not something these folks were doing for fun. In a very real sense, it was obvious these people were fighting a grave injustice against perceived long odds: you could hear it in the quavering of their voices and see it in the fear in their eyes. For most of us, taking on City Hall is a trial, not a hobby, and these folks are no exception.
I can’t claim to understand the motivations of the people who spoke against this ordinance the other night. I have my doubts that anything they dared to say in public represents their real feelings, but that’s idle speculation on my part. What I do know is this: the freedom that I enjoy in being able to buy a house, get a job, rent a car, eat at a restaurant, or hail a cab is not mine because I’m white, conservative, heterosexual and somehow special. It is mine because I am an American, and freedom is my birthright. I would be just as American if I was black, wore a dress, or had a sex change, and my claim to our collective birthright to freedom would be just as valid. The people who don’t understand that freedom’s availability to all is the bargain we’ve struck in our society as a firewall against the evils of oppression deserve to live without it.
* I’m an experienced software developer who works in Perl, SQL, .NET and several other popular technologies. I am still comfortably employed, but I’m looking for a new job, preferably in Sterling Heights or very close by. If you have a need for a skilled programmer, see my resume here.