Last night, after a long absence, I attended a City Council meeting out of interest to see what might happen. I got my money’s worth in sheer entertainment from the spectacle that ensued, but that’s certainly not a good thing.
In no particular order, the evening’s festivities included one gentleman being escorted out of the lobby after the meeting by the police for an angry outburst (in reality, he had several), one speaker nearly being escorted out after nearly getting into a shouting match with Mayor Taylor during her presentation, a former councilwoman angrily attacking council and slandering another audience member and then further disrupting the meeting from her seat afterward, and a candidate for council campaigning from the podium and getting into a verbal melee with Mayor Taylor over Mrs. Taylor’s “like” of a group on Facebook that the candidate doesn’t appreciate.
Honestly, folks, is it any wonder the city has felt the need to station a police officer just to the side of the council bench?
I nearly laughed myself silly at the antics of people who purport themselves to be legitimate candidates for office behaving like small children at a playlot. I am amazed there are people who have been around council chambers for literally decades who do not know how to behave themselves. You cannot expect to be taken seriously if you won’t conduct yourself with decorum at a public meeting. You will not be a serious contender for office unless you demonstrate you have some respect for the office you seek. And you cannot complain about a Facebook page that treats you badly when it displays video of your public behavior!
In the past, I have attended council meetings and played the role of the aggrieved party. When I first started going to these meetings five years ago, I was upset about a 1.9mil tax increase proposed to take place during the depths of an economic recession. Here’s what I did: I wore a tie. I spoke respectfully to members of council. I prepared for what I was going to say, and I tried to be economical in my word choices while saying it. I was mindful of the fact that I was being watched on television by a lot of people who weren’t at the meeting. And most of all, I tried to be reasonable.
Now I did not perform perfectly at every appearance. Speaking before council is a skill that takes awhile to learn, and I am not a master of it even today. Although I try to avoid it, sometimes my comments can be ill-considered. Sometimes my emotions come out more strongly than they should. And sometimes I’m just plain wrong. It happens. I’m human like everyone else.
One thing I try to remember, though, is that the folks behind that bench are there because thousands of people like you and me voted to put them there. They are worthy of your respect because of the democratic process that put them there. Every single one of those folks beat a number of lesser candidates that voters decided did not measure up.
So the difference between my past performances and what I saw last night, in my opinion, is a matter of respect. You are free to express whatever opinion you may have, but you have to do it with respect. Respect, it seems, is a commodity in short supply as of late. It results in Facebook pages with images of the least respectful holding signs in public that depict decapitated politicians.
You and I as residents are an important part of the equation at council meetings. When we attend the meetings, we are there to represent our own interests, certainly, but we are also there serving as a check and balance. We help keep the elected folks honest and focused on what’s best for the city. When we voice an opinion, it should be understood by those behind the bench as representative of the opinions of a significant number of people who aren’t in attendance.
When you behave poorly, as several people did last night, it’s impossible for council to take you seriously. It’s impossible for the opinions of residents to truly be considered. It is counterproductive, disruptive, and just plain rude behavior to shout from your seat during a formal meeting! Don’t do that!
City Council meetings are more than just a formality. They are a legal requirement and an important part of the political process we adopted when we as a nation decided to govern ourselves, rather than accept a leader anointed because of his bloodline. In order to keep council meetings from turning into a circus, rules have had to be enacted.
When those rules fail to eliminate bad behavior, guess what happens?
We get more rules. Eventually the rules will become onerous, and it will be difficult if not impossible for residents to have a positive impact on the direction our city takes.
I fear this is on the verge of happening. I hope I am wrong.
If you read this blog and belong to Facebook, there is a new Facebook group you might also find interesting.
My friend Malcolm has started a new Facebook group which focuses on Sterling Heights politics. The address is https://www.facebook.com/groups/SterlingPolitics/?fref=nf.
The group has been declared a ‘Free Speech Zone’, so say what you like as long as it doesn’t involve libeling private individuals, but be advised that the folks here are not strangers to controversy or putting together a well crafted argument. I would imagine that anyone using the group for the purpose of put-downs or trash talk will get their come-uppance.
While you’re at it, tell your friends about this blog!
Something happened in my neighborhood today, and I would like to share it with you and how it colors my viewpoint on some of the discussions I hear going on in our city.
The other day we noticed a neighbor’s house that was having some work performed by a cement contractor. This neighbor’s house is home to an elderly woman and her middle aged son. The woman has a severe case of dementia, the son apparently stays there with her to take care of his mother.
I received a call today from a different neighbor, asking me to look out my window to see if the police were at the house having the concrete work done. I looked, and sure enough there were several cruisers parked on the street.
The caller told me that he had observed the middle aged son screaming and striking his mother. From what little I was able to glean later, the son was possibly upset because his mother had wandered onto the freshly poured concrete. After this happened, the elderly woman was laying on the ground, apparently injured.
The police came quickly, and the fire department shortly thereafter. The son was led away in cuffs, the mother was placed into the back of an ambulance, and the situation was resolved.
Now contrast this outcome with what would have gone down had Paul Smith been in power. Mr. Smith has stated that he would reduce police and fire coverage by 50% were he to become mayor and able to get a majority vote.
With emergency services cut in half, not only would fewer cops have shown up to my street, they might not have shown up at all. The City of Detroit is infamous for the four-hour police response. Why? Because they’re drastically under-funded and simply cannot keep up with all of the crime that takes place there. Things that have “already happened” get a lower priority than “crimes in progress” and, well, there are always crimes in progress.
Do we want that here? I sure don’t.
Yes, police officers and fire fighters are expensive people to keep on staff. They are highly trained, and there is a market for their services. If they’re good, they can go where the money is, and they frequently do. Right now, one of the cities that happens to pay them well is Sterling Heights.
This has been a point of contention in a city that up until recently has been having some financial problems. Regardless of whether or not you like labor unions — and my record is clear on this, I do not — you have to acknowledge that market forces are at work regardless of how employment with a municipality such as Sterling Heights is structured, either through collective bargaining or an individually based process. Although I believe the argument that unions drive up the price of doing business has some merit, the fact remains that good people are hard to come by, and when they can be found it behooves an employer to reward them well. You and I deserve the best cops and firefighters our tax dollars can buy. To a large extent, I believe we have them.
One of the very few things I ask of my local government is that it is well protected by emergency services. As a conservative, I don’t need bread and circuses, but I do want to live in a place that is subject to the rule of law. The alternative is a striking contrast with the situation as we have it today, and one only needs to look a few miles south to get a sampling of what Mr. Smith’s vision for the city would be like. The rule of law in the City of Detroit is little more than a concept, rather than a reality. If you want a fast police response down there, you better tell the 911 operator somebody’s shooting people.
This election promises to be interesting. There are a number of new contenders for council seats that are not well known. I will, as I have in the past, try to get a sense of who these people are and report my observations here. I will also once again approach incumbents and ask them about their views and plans for the city.
Maybe there are some gems amongst these newcomers. It’s hard to say just based on a single issue or a few council appearances. I hope to find out. All will be treated fairly.
As far as Mr. Smith is concerned, he is a well known quantity. We are nowhere close to November as of this writing, but I can tell you with complete confidence that he would be the worst choice the city could possibly make. With little doubt I will be able to demonstrate that to you in great detail over the upcoming months. Stay tuned.
This morning I was in receipt of an email accusing me of being “behind a nasty Facebook page” that had posted a picture of one of the candidates for City Council, Joe Judnick. Details on the Facebook page were not given in response to my request, so I’m not really certain what it’s all about.
What I did learn, however, was that there is a Facebook page entitled “Paul Smith & His Cronies” which offers some really professional-looking videos about Mr. Smith. Here’s my favorite:
Let me go on record as saying that I am not responsible for this video, this or any other Facebook page related to the upcoming election, or really anything else posted anonymously on the Internet.
Anonymous is not my style.
As I explained to Mr. Judnick, if I’m going to take a shot at somebody, there will be no mistaking the fact that I’m the one pulling the trigger. This upcoming election will be a very target-rich environment, and I plan on taking some shots. You will know it’s me when I do. Trust me on this.
In the meantime, enjoy the video. There are several good ones produced by the same account; here’s another:
Even though I am not responsible for this material, I am 100% in support of it.
Thanks, Mr. Judnick, for tipping me off.
In what I can only imagine is an act done out of pure defiance of logic and good sense, people are placing locking bars on their analog power meters to prevent DTE from replacing them with so-called ‘Smart Meters’, and are reaping what they sow in the form of a power shut-off.
There are few things that make sense to me about the Smart Meter debate. There is no privacy issue: the fact that you are using electricity in your home can be seen with the naked eye by anyone standing in front of the place at nighttime. There is no health and safety issue: the world we live in is literally bombarded by microwave radiation, all of which bounces harmlessly off of our skins. There is no issue with rising energy cost: Smart Meters are being installed to lower the public utility’s cost of operation and improve its response time to power outages, not nefariously find ways to charge you more; if they want a rate hike, they’re going to have to go through the Michigan Public Service Commission if they want a rate hike, and that has always been something done out in the open.
And perhaps most importantly, this is not a Sterling Heights issue. The vast amount of time that has been wasted at City Council meetings over something that is not within the city’s legal purview to regulate is the result of the pure sophistry of anti-Smart Meter advocates. I have little to say to anti-technology Luddites other than to point out that their ongoing temper tantrum has gotten them exactly nowhere, and can we please have our city council meetings back now?
With a little luck, these folks are soon going to have to spend their spare time refueling their generators and resupplying their stock of dry ice. Hopefully they’ll be too busy with that to trouble city council any further.
I’ve spoken several times at City Council meetings and with Sterling Heights Police regarding all of the accidents that take place just outside my house at 15 Mile and Cavant. Although I keep hearing that there are things which might get done to help, it has been going on for years and there has been little or no relief.
Now it has become personal: someone I know has recently been involved in an injury accident which destroyed his vehicle and has put him onto disability for the at least the next two years.
A few weeks ago, my next-door neighbor was involved in a crash while travelling east on 15 Mile past the 7-11 store at 4191 15 Mile Road. A driver trying to turn left out of the shopping center crossed the two westbound lanes of traffic and the left turn lane at a high rate of speed, broadsiding my neighbor’s F150 pickup. The collision was severe enough to bend the frame of the truck and intrude into the passenger compartment, striking him as he sat in the driver’s seat. He has significant spinal and neck injuries as a result, and now is unable to work at his job as a glass installer.
Crashes near my location are hardly uncommon, and I’ve recently started taking pictures when I’m unable to render assistance. I didn’t get a picture of my neighbor’s collision, but here are a few photos of the wreckage from just some of the accidents that took place over the past few months.
Vehicles involved in collision 28-JAN-2015
The problem is not limited to my corner. The entire area between Hatherly Place and Ryan Road along 15 Mile Road, highlighted in yellow below, is dangerous. Just last evening I was almost involved in a head-on collision myself. At the very least, this stretch of road should have ‘Dangerous Area’ signage.
I am not a civil engineer, but it has been my observation that many of these accidents seem to have one thing in common: drivers attempting to turn left out of the driveways of businesses and the condominium complex onto 15 Mile during periods of heavy traffic. Another prevalent problem comes from people using the left turn lane as a traffic lane. Someone doing just exactly that nearly hit my vehicle last night during the snow storm.
A large number of adults living in my immediate area are new to driving. Many have not had the benefit of driver’s training. The stretch of 15 Mile Road for about a quarter mile east of the intersection with Ryan is heavily congested and home to a significant number of retail businesses and restaurants. Unfortunately these folks lack the experience behind the wheel to negotiate a left turn onto 15 Mile at peak traffic times safely.
As a result, the sound of a high speed collision has become all too familiar. Having had a modicum of training in emergency first aid, I go running when I hear the sound but typically I can’t even get across the street on foot through traffic to be much help. People, many of very modest circumstances, are losing their vehicles and suffering serious injury. Something must be done.
Upon reflection, I think that the Sterling Heights Police are doing everything they can about this situation, but their hands are tied. There is no existing traffic ordinance preventing left turns out of businesses or the condominium complex onto 15 Mile. There should be. There may well be an argument to be made that left turns from Cavant Drive onto 15 Mile ought to be banned as well. This would personally inconvenience me greatly, but I could work around it if I had to.
It is no secret that 15 Mile and Ryan is one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, topped only by the intersections at 16 Mile and Van Dyke. The problems there may have no easy solution, and I’m not certain 15 and Ryan can be made perfectly safe either, but I’m certain that a change in the traffic laws here would make a big difference.
According to today’s Detroit Free Press, Southfield has enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBTs very similar to what was made into law and subsequently repealed in Sterling Heights.
I have to wonder: what will the fallout be from this?
Can Southfield expect to see a petition drive to remove the law? Will there be a cadre of small-minded, pro-discrimination candidates for Mayor and City Council at the city’s next election? Will the churches rise up and demand the right to continue to discriminate?
Perhaps even more importantly, will the folks who did all of those things in Sterling Heights take their message and their mission over to Southfield? Will Paul Smith be making an appearance at that city’s council chambers?
I’m asking these things but I strongly suspect that none of the above will take place. I could be proven wrong, but my gut instinct tells me that without a disgraced ex-councilman to lead the charge in Southfield, there is little chance that the town will be embarrassed by a sudden materializing of its most Neolithic residents. People there will live and let live, and there will be little in the way of an organized effort to deny basic human rights for all of Southfield’s residents.
I could be wrong, though. If our local batch of crazies happens to ask you for directions to get to Southfield, do us all a favor:
Direct them to Ohio.
After a long and storied career serving as the Mayor of Sterling Heights, Richard Notte passed away this morning after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
Although the mayor and I did not always agree, he was ever the perfect gentleman to me, even one time offering me a hot cup of coffee as I stood in a cold parking lot in support of his opponent on election day. Though we differed on matters of politics and style, he was a worthy political opponent, a gentleman, congenial, a tireless booster of Sterling Heights, a man who worked hard at doing the job the way he thought it should be done, and a proud American.
Whomever follows in his footsteps will find it difficult to approach the level of respectability, dedication and high esteem he brought to the office, and without question he will be sorely missed.
I can only offer my deepest, most sincere condolences to the entire Notte family in their time of mourning, and hope they soon are spending their time not in grief, but in reflection on the great credit that Richard brought to the Notte family name.
Rest in peace, Mr. Mayor.
Last evening I spoke before council regarding the now-repealed Anti-LGBT Discrimination Ordinance. As it happened, I was the first in line to speak on the issue. Citizen participation took a couple of hours.
My Proposed New Ordinance
My major point in this, which may have eventually gotten lost in the shuffle of hours of testimony, is that I believe the city has a responsibility and a duty to protect its employees, board members, and volunteers from LGBT discrimination. I believe strongly that we can and should at least do that. It should take the form of a new ordinance. I hope that my friends on Council and in the City Administration take me up on this, it is the right thing to do.
Somehow, only an hour or so later, people were coming up to the podium and misquoting what I had said. One person stated that I wanted to only protect “Cops and Firemen” with my proposal for another ordinance. In order to set the record straight, here is a video segment of my talk.
Why We Need This
Last night’s meeting was painfully long and depressing for all of the hatred plainly on display. I don’t think I can stress enough that this means we need to continue to fight for freedom and justice for everyone.
It is plainly evident that discrimination pervades our city despite the protestations to the contrary by the religiously or politically motivated. The fact that a member of the city’s Ethnic community committee was openly discriminated against by the chairman, who I might add sat two seats over from me during this meeting applauding every anti-ordinance speaker, is simply incredible. I renew my request that this man, Dr. Steve Naumovski, be removed from his post.
I respectfully submit that one doesn’t need to be LGBT themselves to feel the scorn of those who are against these protections; you only need to be pro-freedom in order to be the subject of ire. That just amplifies the need for legal protection as soon as possible.