Nov 7, 2008
Republicans incognito try to influence millage election
Something is fishy in Brighton, and if that's the case it's a pretty good bet that the Livingston County Republican Party is behind it.
In Tuesday's General Election, the Brighton Area School district was seeking a $15 million bond for buses and technology, and a separate capital projects sinking fund that was defeated. With the bond funds, the school planned to purchase 1,600 new computers and 46 new school buses. While this is not entirely a new millage, it would have replaced an old one with a slightly higher millage. If approved, it would have cost the owner of a $200,000 house in affluent Brighton $100 a year or about 28 cents a day.
That still would have left homeowners with the lowest school millage in Livingston County. Without those needed improvements, it will become more difficult to compete for school-of-choice students, causing the district to lose even more funding.
While watching a Youtube video of Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis make a stop in Brighton just a few days before the election for his highly successful "Fight to the Finish Tour," I was surprised to notice among the candidate yard signs stacked up was a stack of yard signs urging people to vote no on the millage. I had no idea why a political party would advocate against a local millage issue.
Raising further suspicions was a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus two days after the election on a group calling itself "Parents Union Local No. 1" pushing to reopen the teacher contract that was just approved in April and put their health benefits out to bid. The name is an apparent attack on teacher's unions.
The so-called leader of this group is businessman John Conely, owner of Conely Auto Sales in Genoa Township. But his associates really raised my eyebrows, and their ties to the local Republican Party are strong. The rest of the group consist of Genoa Township attorney Neal Nielsen, county assistant prosecuting attorney Bill McCririe and former Brighton School Board Treasurer Miles Vieau.
Nielsen is a former Republican Regent for the University of Michigan, and an ardent Mike Rogers supporter. You may recall he caused a major controversy when he refused to take down a Rogers for Congress sign on property he donated to Genoa Township for a fire station in violation of campaign law.
McCririe and Vieau are both members of the Livingston County Republican Party Executive Committee. Vieau decided not to run for reelecting to the school board last year. Instead, he began recruiting Republicans to run for the nonpartisan school board seats in an underhanded attempted to do away with the nonpartisan designation.
Republicans are not content to control the majority of partisan seats in the county, and now they are apparently trying to make nonpartisan races a sham.
The Brighton teachers had been working without a contract since August 2007, and after some often bitter negotiations and with the assistance of a state mediator, the school board approved the three-year contract by a vote of 4-2. It included moderate annual raises from 1.13 percent to 2.26 percent and teachers must pay more toward their health care benefits.
According to the P & A, the anti-school group has previously called on school board members Joe Carney, Beth Minert and Joyce Powers to resign from the board. The three all voted for the teachers' contract. You have to wonder if it has anything to do with their ties to the Democratic Party. Carney is the former chair of the county party.
Not a cent from the recently rejected millage would have been used for teacher salaries, benefits or even to operate the schools. But the group admitted they bought and paid for the yard signs discovered stacked in the GOP "Victory Center" opposing the recent school bond and sinking fund millage
Now, I seem to recall that any group spending money to influence the outcome of an election must be registered as a Political Action Committee. I checked the Michigan Secretary of State's web site, and I could find no listing for "Parents Union Local No. 1" or anything to do with Brighton Schools.