Having spent the weekend out of town and away from Mosque Madness(TM), I have a few thoughts after reading the Facebook posts documenting the protest.
Traffic: I live on the corner of 15 Mile Road close to the Ryan intersection, and I have been frequently seen at City Council meetings talking about traffic issues, mostly traffic crashes within view of my house. The site of the proposed mosque does not have the same density problem that areas closer to Ryan or Mound do. Roughly 100 cars a few times a week will not make a noticeable change in the traffic flow on a road that handles thousands of cars daily. I think the added traffic will go almost unnoticed.
Better Sites: people that I ordinarily agree with have started talking about how there might be better sites to build a mosque. The “if we built it there instead of here…” sort of arguments are now making their way to the fore. Why don’t we simply locate the mosque on the moon? Aside from the expense and effort required to get there, wouldn’t that be the perfect place to put it so nobody can object? “But wait, Geoff, you’re being unreasonable! Surely you know the moon has no oxygen!” I don’t think this would be much of a problem for most of the people who are against this mosque. They would be happy to see ALL Muslim folks on the moon. Preferably not breathing.
Immigration: Paul Smith’s group of candidates have lately been talking about immigration policy. It seems they want to make this the larger issue the mosque debate is framed within. I find this extremely revealing. Many of the Chaldean folks in town (most?) are resettled refugees who were persecuted by Saddam Hussein and the people who came after him in Iraq. Do the Chaldeans realize that Mr. Smith and his cronies are also talking about them? Mr. Smith’s group doesn’t like foreigners. Even the foreigner in Mr. Smith’s group doesn’t like foreigners! My message to the Chaldean folks reading this: Paul Smith will turn on you the moment your usefulness in getting him elected has ended. If you want to see yourself relegated to second class status in Sterling Heights, just like you and your family were in Iraq, vote for Paul Smith, Moira Smith, Senna Elias, Jazmine Early, Verna Babula, Joe Judnick and Jackie Ryan. Right now, Smith is using you as leverage against the Muslims. Next he will use his Tea Party friends as leverage against the Chaldeans. Then, he will get his licks in against the labor unions. He’ll probably go after the Democratic Party in general after that. Mr. Smith is against anyone who isn’t just like him.
Challenger Candidates: Having now seen most of the challenger candidates or their signs photographed at the site of the protest, any doubt I had about who the challengers were or what interests they represent has now been removed. Mr. Judnick is Mr. Smith is Ms. Elias is Ms. Ryan is Ms. Early (and I assume Ms. Smith and Ms. Babula.) These folks are all of the same stripe, and they all bring the same thing to the table: an extremist agenda which cares little for democracy or the rule of law. They seek to use mob tactics to achieve their goals. By and large, they are not meeting with success: no report places the size of the demonstration over a couple hundred people. This is what a lunatic fringe element looks like, not what a party sweeping into power looks like.
Remain alert, friends, this election season is just getting underway.
In light of the recent City Planning Commission meeting and the subsequent City Council meeting where a proposed new mosque was discussed, I think it might be an opportune time to reflect on some facts about life in an urban area.
You don’t get to decide who your neighbors are.
When I moved into my house on Cavant Drive, no polls of the neighborhood were taken beforehand to see if a majority agreed it was okay for me to live there. There wasn’t a city representative, clipboarded questionnaire in hand, leaning on the fender of the UHaul truck asking me about my religion, political views, number of children, how many pets I had, or in any other way attempting to vet me before granting me admission to the neighborhood. The matter did not come before City Council. I’m pretty sure that the only folks who got a say in the matter other than my wife and I worked for the credit union that holds our mortgage.
In addition, the reverse was true. The real estate agent was prevented by law from telling me about the racial or ethnic make-up of the surrounding area. I made no attempt to discern how many Lutherans or Presbyterians lived on the street, and I didn’t count the number of driveways that had Toyotas parked in them.
The decision came down to this: was the place big enough? Was it located close enough to work? Could we afford it? Did we like the way the neighborhood looked?
You don’t get to decide who your neighbors are. You get what you get, and that’s the end of it. The reasons for this are many, some coming from lessons learned the hard way in the past about block busting and other reprehensible practices.
A person’s religion does not tell us anything about who they really are
In my life I have known Catholics who were criminals and others who were saints. I have known Mormons who had never seen the inside of a church who would spend the afternoon helping you dig up your front yard. I’ve been half scared to death by the driving of a Jehovah’s Witness, and put to sleep by the driving of a Hindu. I’ve descended from a Presbyterian who decided that flavor of Christianity wasn’t for her and converted to Catholicism. I know a woman who converted to Islam before marrying a Muslim man. I’ve met Christian swingers, been fed by Krishnas, and learned life lessons from Jews. I’ve worked with atheists and the devout.
In all of these cases, the religion was merely an attribute of the person. What is inside a person’s heart rarely has much to do with which god they pray to. Who you are is more a function of what you decide to be than the name on the church sign.
Have there been Islamic terrorists? Certainly. Have there been Christian mass murderers? You bet. It happens. No religion is immune from violence. There is not one you could name that didn’t have an adherent who had ever killed someone.
Your property’s value is exactly what somebody is willing to pay for it at the time of the transaction
I’ve got a nice, shiny pickup truck in my driveway that originally stickered for $40K. Did somebody pay that amount for it? Doubtful. A price is rarely a hard and fast number; it’s a negotiating point.
On paper, my house is worth thousands of dollars less than what I paid for it. Have I actually taken a loss, or is it just theoretical given that it isn’t currently for sale? Again, the “value” is not a hard and fast number. It’s an estimate.
Does the color of your neighbor’s shingles impact your property’s value? Doubtful. What about the height of their roof, or the color of their car? Equally doubtful.
Does the religion of the place of worship down the street impact your property’s value? Similarly doubtful.
For people who worry about a new mosque causing their property values to go down, I ask this: what if a nice, wealthy Muslim family was looking for a new home near their place of worship? Wouldn’t your place become an outstanding candidate for their purchase? Do you think they would be willing to pay a premium to live there?
A House of Worship is a Legitimate Use In a Residential Zone
When I was a kid growing up, I don’t recall driving to an industrial area to go to church. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even pass by a commercial area to get there. The place was down the street about a quarter mile, right across from a middle school, inside the neighborhood.
Our zoning laws reflect the idea that most people worship a god and want to be able to do so close to home. There is a long tradition, then, of allowing those facilities to be built among the houses in the area. Some of these houses of worship bear little resemblance to the private homes surrounding them. The ones I’m thinking of have steeples, huge entryways, and large parking lots that empty out onto common, residential side streets.
Somehow, we have all survived the traffic, noise, and activity surrounding a house of worship during its peak usage in the past. I believe that will continue to be the case regardless of the religion of the folks inside.
We live in an urban area
Sterling Heights is on its way to being the third largest city in the state by population. It is growing because people want to live here and people want to do business here. Urban areas are not, by their very nature, homogeneous. They attract people from all walks of life, from the well heeled to the impoverished, from the devoutly religious to the ardent atheists, from the college educated to the immigrant who never got past the fourth grade.
There will always be tensions between different peoples. It is part of human nature. One thing that we’ve learned, however, is that societies that adhere to the principle of Liberty and Justice For All seem to work best. The concept of E Pluribus Unum is not on the currency because it’s a catchy phrase. Equal opportunity must be equal for all. Does this sometimes create problems? Sure. Nothing is perfect. But the alternative leads to Balkanization, hatred, and civil war. We don’t want that. So we accept some minor tensions in exchange for keeping the peace and enabling everyone to lead the best life possible.
I am amazed at the bigotry and intolerance we are surrounded with. I am deeply saddened by the fact that in 2015, we have people willing to stand up in public, in full view of a camera, and espouse their distrust of people from another religion. I am angered by this to the point that I’ve been avoiding going to the meetings, simply because I don’t need the stress and resulting high blood pressure that comes from being forced to deal with ignorance and bigotry by grown adults who ought to know better. I am reminded of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and I reflect on how the struggles of the American blacks have never really come to an end, and I see now that Muslims are subjected to the same thing.
In the end, the mosque will be built over the protestations of the intolerant. It will turn out to be no big deal. I am confident that the bigots among us will return to the woodwork from whence they came.
Personally, I hope the bigots put their money where their mouths are and just move out.
Candidate Jazmine Early has been complaining about the treatment she has received over on Michael Lombardini’s “Sterling Heights Local Politics” Facebook page.
Speaking as a citizen activist, I would like to comment on my participation on this page, especially with regard to Ms. Early.
My background and natural proclivities lead me to a life of skepticism. This is closely intertwined with my Conservatism, as I believe that at the heart of a true Conservative lies a skeptic.
I was also trained to be purposeful, ethical and competent, and to demand the same of those with whom I would associate.
I react to incompetence, ignorance, and poor behavior negatively. Always have, and always will.
Thus my participation on this page will tend to the acerbic toward folks who are participating in the public arena without a firm grounding in the rules of engagement, limitations of government and proper role of elected public officials.
Ms. Early, who seems like a very nice woman with a good heart, does not appear to understand American governance, Freedom of Speech, or the basic tenants of the rule of law. Her behavior exemplifies her lack of familiarity with our culture vis-a-vis proper behavior for a local government official. I might well say the same thing for several of the other candidates, but she has come into focus here, so I will limit my observations to her.
I am highly skeptical of her qualifications for office. That does not make her special. I am highly skeptical of MOST peoples’ qualifications for office, including incumbents, until I get to know them and become familiar with their points of view. For some people, that happens sooner than others. The astute reader will recall that I once recommended voters not vote for several of the people on council; a position that I have reversed myself on as new and better information became available to me.
In Ms. Early’s case, I have made an overture in an attempt to get to know her better and allow her to expand on her philosophy of government and what she would bring to the table if elected to public office. This will be familiar to people who follow my writings, as I have spoken to candidates during election season for several iterations now. The overture has been rebuffed. The overwhelming sense I came away with was that she was not welcoming to being examined objectively, and perceived that I would bias my coverage of what she had to say in such a way as to make her appear foolish. I would point to my record of reviewing candidates for office and rely upon it to show that not to be the case.
If you are unwilling to play the game by the rules, won’t answer questions, and treat everyone who wants to inform themselves fully about your candidacy and qualifications as an adversary, you will feel the brunt of people’s distaste for your aspiration to public office.
Ms. Early, your invitation to respond to questions about your candidacy stands. You may contact me through this page.
On August 4, 2015, City Council will consider introducing an ordinance which will ban the sale and use of Sky Lanterns within the City of Sterling Heights. Reducing or eliminating the use of Sky Lanterns is a good idea, but I believe this ordinance will be unenforceable and thus a bad law.
As has been documented in many places, Sky Lanterns, although beautiful and a sight to behold when released, represent a serious fire hazard owing to the vagaries of the wind and the possibility that they may come into contact with flammable materials on the ground before their fuel supply is exhausted. There is no question they are dangerous. However, an ordinance will not prevent their use. At best, it might cut down somewhat on the frequency of their use, but at the cost of adding to the problem of an already overburdened Police Department on “fireworks nights.”
- Fireworks laws were never effective at preventing the sale and use of fireworks to and by the people who wanted them. I have spent my entire life in the State of Michigan, and for most of those forty-seven years any firework that left the ground or went bang! was illegal. Yet the air was reliably clouded with smoke and filled with the loud report of firecrackers every July 4th. How could this be? Simple: people could buy fireworks from out-of-state vendors, and the police were overwhelmed to the point they couldn’t enforce the law. Effectively, the people overruled the ban. There is no reason to expect this law would be any different.
- The effectiveness of any law is dependent upon people understanding it and agreeing with it. I recall one time about ten years ago being so upset by a distant neighbor’s use of fireworks after 11PM on a weekday night that I drove over to discuss it with him. The guy was setting off some pretty powerful stuff, and it could be heard for hundreds of yards. When I got there, he made an important point: how could these things be illegal when one could buy them in the parking lot of the grocery store? The fact is, people will still be able to purchase Sky Lanterns after this law has passed. They are readily available online, and surrounding communities that don’t enact a ban will still have them available for purchase. People who want them will still be able to get them very easily, and with the recent legalization of fireworks in the state, will not understand why some are allowed and some aren’t.
- This will be an unpopular law, regardless of the number of complaints the city receives about fireworks. We cannot expect that people will follow a law that is unpopular, unenforceable, and difficult to understand. Regardless of the number of complaints about fireworks, they are wildly popular. Realize there would be no complaints if there were not many, many people purchasing and using fireworks in celebration of certain holidays. Therefore, it is not a huge leap of logic to conclude that a large number of people will not be happy with a law that once again restricts the use of fireworks. When large groups of people are unhappy with a law, they ignore it. And when large groups of people ignore a law, it becomes impossible to enforce. The national 55MPH speed limit is now a distant memory, but when it was enacted in the 1970s it was terrifically unpopular. Songs were written about how bad the law was. People routinely ignored the limit, and this led to them ignoring speed limits in general. Scofflaws were created in wholesale quantities by the 55MPH limit, and scofflaws don’t limit themselves to ignoring just one law.
- The Police Department already cannot enforce the fireworks restrictions on the books. In the words of City Manager Mark Vanderpool, it is extremely difficult for the police to enforce the restrictions that have already been enacted regarding fireworks. Adding one more law to the pile will not improve the situation, it will worsen it. Although it will technically add another enforcement angle the police can use to quell a loud, disruptive party, they already have plenty of tools to do so. I predict that “Sky Lantern” calls will be assigned a very low priority, and will hardly ever result in actual enforcement.
The City Council, unfortunately, has only one tool that it can use to react to a problem: it can create an ordinance. This tool has a great deal of power under the right circumstances, but is of limited utility under the wrong circumstances. I believe the proposed ordinance is being brought up under fundamentally bad circumstances, and thus will be not only ineffective but also potentially bad news for a host of other ordinances.
The old saying that “when you only have a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail” comes to mind here. City Council would be wise to carefully consider whether they should break out their hammer in this case. I don’t think they should pass this ordinance. Instead, there should be an extensive public education campaign to help people understand the dangers that Sky Lanterns pose, and hopefully with some time and effort we will be able to reduce their use organically. If we were to devote significant resources to fire prevention education in Sterling Heights, I believe the needs of the Fire Department could be met without enacting new, more restrictive legislation.
This is what happens when the traffic laws fail to address the peculiarities of an area. The silver Dodge Avenger was making a left turn from the 7-11 parking lot (on 15 Mile Road, east of Ryan) into moderate traffic. The white GMC SUV, westbound on 15 Mile Road struck hard enough to deploy the air bags. The liquid you see on the ground is from the vehicles.
There should be NO left turns allowed from parking lot driveways onto 15 Mile Road in this area. The current situation produces far too many injury accidents. Other cities have posted signs disallowing left turns onto busy roads from parking lot driveways, but for some reason Sterling Heights refuses to do so. Why?
This is the exact same cause of the accident that injured my neighbor several months ago. His recovery is ongoing, and he is still on disability as a result.
Come on, traffic engineers and city administration! This problem is eminently solvable! How many more people have to get injured before you do something?
I want to address some thoughts that lately have been bubbling below the surface of my consideration of the challengers running for city council. Please allow me to ruminate a bit on human nature and I’ll come to the point shortly.
There is always a difference between the world we want to perceive and the world as it actually is. The most successful people in life are the ones whose perception of the world is closely tied to objective reality and who have the ability to work within its parameters to achieve a positive goal.
What I’m seeing so far in the challengers is a group of candidates that collectively refuse to acknowledge reality on several different levels. Some are choosing to ignore a sea change in world wide public opinion with regard to LGBT rights. Some are choosing to misunderstand the role of local government and the import of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States vis-a-vis “Smart Meters.” Some are badly misreading the public’s willingness to accept bigotry and close mindedness in a public official. So far, out of the group of challengers to the incumbents, I do not see a candidate who would actually serve us well if elected.
That is not the same thing as saying these folks won’t be elected; it is, however, my assessment of how likely they would be to succeed as politicians once they found themselves in the role.
Their nominal leader, Mr. Paul Smith, was a textbook example of a failed politician: someone who managed to be elected to office, but who did not manage to meaningfully enact the changes he sought to make. Mr. Smith frequently found himself on the losing end of 6/1 council decisions because he did not succeed in persuading anyone that his ideas were superior on their own merits. Instead of making persuasive arguments that resonated with his fellow council members and a majority of the electorate, he chose to make enemies and employ verbal bombast as a means of achieving his political goals. Unsurprisingly, he failed spectacularly. Instead of focusing the blame on his own ineptitude in getting things done, he chose to brand his fellow council members with the worst label he could think of: “liberal”. He hoped this would serve as sufficient explanation to his small cohort of supporters as to why he let them down.
Part of this was due to his misperception of City Council as being a partisan body. Mr. Smith saw the council as being predominantly “liberal” in its makeup; a charge he repeated many times, most prominently in the immediate run-up to his loss in his bid for re-election. The concept of council partisanship, in my opinion, is an important thing that needs to be addressed.
It has been said there are no “Conservative” ways to plow snow. No “Liberal” ways to collect trash. While there are certainly different philosophies on how such services should be paid for and the workers who accomplish them are employed, at the end of the day the city still uses snow plows and garbage trucks, and somebody with a pair of work gloves on has to make things happen. I’ve met a lot of city workers in my brief time of involvement with city politics. There are Democrat cops and Republican ones; liberal fire fighters and conservative ones. The men and women we are privileged to have working for us are not uniformly of one stripe or another. Many are independently minded thinkers such as myself.
City Councils do not exist to trade in top-down political philosophies conveniently branded as Conservative or Liberal (or Libertarian, for that matter.). City Councils exist to make sure the roads are cleared and the garbage doesn’t stack up. City Councils endeavor to make sure the government remains solvent while doing so, and they typically employ a very pragmatic approach in their financial oversight that bears little direct relationship to the predominant political ideas of the day. Yes, some cities opt for a volunteer Fire Department while others employ their fire fighters full time, but at the end of the day, the Council is responsible for producing results regardless of the labor arrangement, and the best ones tend to be fairly politically agnostic about how they do so.
Mr. Smith, and some others like him, want to exchange the city government we have that is focused on delivering the goods — plowed roads and trash-free residential areas — for a city government that is focused on the philosophy of how those goods should be paid for and which political parties (and their adherents) will be rewarded with the tax revenue. They want to change the city from a place that enjoys the equal rule of law to a place where you have to be of the “correct” religion and “correct” sexual orientation in order to be a first class citizen. They propose broad, sweeping changes in order to achieve their goals: removing the current city manager and most of the administration, decimating the public safety departments, and marginalizing those residents who do not fit into their vision of what a proper American should look like.
I do not support such changes. Now, mind you, I reserve the right to complain, and do so vociferously, when the city is about to make a bad move by spending too much on something or expanding outside of what I see as the purview of local government. The current administration has made some mistakes in this regard, and I have not been, nor will I be, hesitant to be critical when these things come up. It has been awhile since I’ve felt the need to do this, but I am sure I will get another chance. Overreaching is part of the nature of all human institutions, and our city government is no exception.
But slashing the government and destroying the services we all enjoy in exchange for some version of political correctness goes beyond being merely foolish. It would have a direct, measurable, negative impact on our quality of life, not to mention our property values. The ripple effects would be enormous, devastating, and long-lasting.
Those who would serve us need to remind themselves what the true purpose of city government is and isn’t. They need to convince us that they would be good stewards of the public trust in getting the streets swept and keeping police and fire response times low. If they cannot make that their main focus, they don’t deserve to be elected.
I challenge those who want city government to focus more on political ideas than on cleaning sanitary sewers to first start out by publicly documenting thoroughly what changes they would like to see made with a full explanation of how those changes would benefit us all. I have made overtures to the challengers to come and tell me their ideas with the promise that I would present them here unaltered, but so far I have been rebuffed. One candidate has simply cut off public comment on her Facebook page because, I fear, she is incapable of addressing the questions people were starting to ask of her. I find this very telling and quite ominous.
One final note: I consider myself to be a Conservative. I am not a rabid culture warrior, nor am I a pushover for the utterings of people like Ann Coulter. My conservatism is based on respect for the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land, civil liberties, low government involvement in the daily lives of citizens, reasonable taxation, and the rule of law. I think most people who have come into contact with me would tell you that I enjoy listening to the ideas of both the left and the right, and debating them fairly and equally on their merits. The reason why I say this is because I think there has been considerable distortion locally as to what true Conservatism really looks like. It doesn’t look like Paul Smith.
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.