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.


Republican Michigander said...

As I'm sure you know, school elections aren't statewide, and aren't on the Secretary of State's website. I'm not involved with "Parents Union Local No. 1", but it would probably be a ballot question committe and not a PAC because it refers to proposals. It also wouldn't be registered on the state level.

Communications guru said...

Perhaps you are correct. I assumed any group that tries to influence an election has to be registered. I searched for any committee, so if it was statewide it would have come up.

So what Republicans are involved in "Parents Union Local No. 1?" What is their real agenda? You really think it's OK for a county party to get involved in a local millage election? What does your party have against public schools?

Republican Michigander said...

I saw those signs. They do have to be registered, but not with the Secretary of State unless it is a state level campaign. (Gov, AG, Sec of State, State Senate, State Rep, Some of the college trustees, statewide ballot initiatives). The rest are county, city, or township registrations.

As far as I know, although I've disappeared for a year from county politics, the county GOP did not take a specific position on this, although we are generally against taxes, specificaly when funds are not being spent properly. I didn't know the millage was on the ballot until I saw the sample, but I only support them when it is a last resort.

Communications guru said...

Thanks for those comments. I guess I have to disagree with your assessment that "funds are not being spent properly." I have a problem with the Livingston County Republican Party advocating and actively campaigning against a local millage. If it's not illegal, it's shady at best. With those people involved and their past actions, agenda the so-called "Parents Union Local No. 1" doesn't seem clear or pure. If Vieau is so concerned about the actions of the board, he should not have left.

ka_Dargo_Hussein said...

Sorry if I'm being obtuse, but how is it shady? It's not as if these folks are from Missouri and campaigning against it.

It's early, I've only had one cup of coffee, so I'm a little slow today.

Anonymous said...

It's "shady" because Guru clearly believes that you can't campaign or have an opinion unless you think like he does.

He's a little bit like a facist in that he takes away rights for others. You want to vote againts a tax hike? You must be breaking the law. You have a sign in your building? That means you must be conducting phone campaigns against the millage.

Really...that's his argument.

You are generally on his side, but still he wouldn't answer you. You should feel slighted. He spends a lot of time on people who are obviously trying to yank his chain. He even asked people to call the sheriff's department and report him.

But the reason he doesn't answer you is because he doesn't have an answer. There was nothing shady...unless it's shady to practice your democratic right to have an opinion and vote the way you want to. I sometimes think that's the way he truly feels.

Communications guru said...

You just don’t get do you, who-ever-you-are? You can campaign all you want and have an opinion all you want, but don’t break campaign laws like the county GOP did here.

You can have all the signs in all the buildings you want. The problem is the person paying to have them printed has to follow the law.

Anonymous said...

And so you know that the county GOP paid to have them printed? A little proof please...just once, back up your asinine claims with a fact. Just once.

You say the county GOP broke campaign laws. Prove it.