Livingston County Daily Press & Argus General manager Rich Perlberg erased any pretense that he is anything other than a Republican with a blanket endorsement of all the Republicans running for the Livingston County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
The editorial glosses over the mismanagement of the nine-member, all-GOP board, and it buries the financial irresponsibility brought to the attention of the paper by the Livingston County Democratic Party.
“The Republican board has done well by the issues that resonate with Livingston County voters — providing essential services in a frugal and efficient way.”
Then why, Mr. Perlberg, does Livingston County have some of the worst roads in the state. They are even worse than a place that many county Republicans love to hold up to ridicule, the City of Detroit.
A blanket endorsement might be in order if they were running as a slate, but they are not. Not only that, there is an open seat in the 5th District I live in where Democrat David Berry is running. He is running against a candidate that has lost judicial races in the county at least twice where you had to stand on your own merit and not simply rely on the R after your name in predominantly Republican Livingston County.
But the biggest example of mismanagement by the board was the more than $100 million in debt county taxpayers could be on the hook for. The county backed bonds for developers for townships to put in water and sewer infrastructure for housing developments using special assessment districts (SAD). The money would be paid back when the owner bought the house and was assessed for it through their property taxes.
But as the housing market hit bottom, developers simply walked away, leaving the townships, the county and taxpayers holding the bag. The county has done everything legally possible to hide the debt until after the election. We don’t even know which townships are in trouble.
The Democrats have asked for a townhall meeting, but Republicans have continued to stall. They were aided by the local chamber of commerce, but it was shut down after the first tough question.
The board has tried to hide it with an obscure committee that never posted its notice of meetings anywhere but on the wall of the board office and only when it was legally required to do so. Then, it never bothered to approve the meeting minutes when it met, so it did not have to post them. Only a FOIA request by Democrats led to a year’s worth of minutes being finally approved. Conveniently, the chair of that stealth committee is not running for re-election, so he will not have to answer any embarrassing questions or be held accountable. It makes you wonder if he will be the scapegoat for the chair of the Finance Committee.
The paper said:
“Democrats have largely ignored these accomplishments. Instead, they have zeroed in on the large bond payments due for water and sewer special-assessment districts in townships across the county. County officials say they have taken the lead in managing the looming payments, which are first and foremost an issue for the townships. The complaints, say county officials, are exaggerated.”
This may be the reason for the blanket endorsement. This is a huge story that could lead to receivership and an emergency financial manger, yet the newspaper was only dragged to it kicking and screaming. The national business publication Bloomberg had to break the story while the newspaper located just across the street completely missed or ignored it. I guess this is payback for the Democrats breaking the story locally and pointing out that the newspaper fell down on the job of being a watchdog on local government.
I also see Mr. Perlberg’s hand in this when he rails against mass transit. He is a longtime critic of the planned Washtenaw Livingston (WALLY) commuter rail line that will link Howell and Ann Arbor.
“Their complaints, however, may largely fall on deaf ears. Many of their programs — such as supporting the WALLY commuter train between Howell and Ann Arbor, or establishing a county-run parks program — are examples, in the eyes of traditional county voters, of unnecessary, overreaching and, ultimately, expensive government. County residents, for example, already have ample access to state and regional recreation areas.”
That’s simply not true, because it has the support of the City of Howell and the Brighton Chamber.
If you want some real accountability and an independent watchdog on the board – a role the newspaper has rejected – vote for one of the Democratic candidates next Tuesday.
District 2 – Thomn Bell of Oceola Township
District 3 – Dane Morris of Hartland Township
District 5 – Dave Berry of Conway Township
District 6 – Keith Tianen of Putnam Township
District 7 – Kelly Raskauskas of Genoa Township
District 8 – Amir Baghdadchi of Hamburg Township
District 9 – Barry McBride of Green Oak Township