Wednesday, July 29, 2009

About Michigan Taxes - Do Your Part!

Addendum note: There are a few people reported
to have gotten stuck in this article. To read
more of this blog, please click:


"Local Option Taxes" is the name given to a
new movement overrunning the USA like an
unstoppable tsunami. In Michigan, promoted
in a activist fashion by the Michigan Municipal
League (MML), it threatens to undo the will of
the voters as expressed in Proposition A and
the Headlee Amendment.

Looking closely at the MML agendas and conduct,
it becomes apparent that the organization has,
for some time, been pitting municipal interests
against the people that municipalities are
supposed to be serving. The "American Way"
holds all government subservient to the will
and needs of the people. MML has lost sight of
the essential mission of government, elevating
municipal interests above yours.

Even worse, the Michigan Municipal League is
supported by membership fees paid by our cities.
That's tax dollars funding an organization that
has absolutely no oversight. That's tax dollars
funding an organization that has been working
against the interests of the taxpayers who are,
without any say in what is being done in their
name, supporting an MML that's working against
all of us.

It is time to completely reorganize the MML, or
to dissolve it as an un-American organization.
Please insist that your local government withdraw
from membership, and don't take no for an answer.
Make your voice heard before further damage is
done. Please tell your state and local
legislators that you won't stand for gutting the
only laws standing between you and runaway
property taxes. Michigan residents fought this
tax war before and won. Why should we have to
fight the same war all over again? Take a firm
stand and don't let anyone change your mind, or
change the laws about taxation in Michigan. Just
remember, it is your pocket they're reaching
into, and they'll spend your money with nothing
to show. Don't weaken!

Bill Vajk, Iron River, MI

Monday, July 27, 2009

Michigan Municipal League

I became aware of the Michigan Municipal League
some time back and read a few things about them
on their web page without doing any real analysis
about their mission or what they are really about.

In the current news is an issue about taxes and
the basic paradigms relating to how local
governments are funded and operated. A different
approach called Local Option Taxes
is rearing its head in most of our 50 states
at the moment. Michigan Municipal League is right
there with the suggestion that the legislature
should restructure both the Headlee Amendment
and Proposition A in order to eliminate the caps
placed on taxes.

In short Michigan Municipal League is working
against the interests of the citizens of this state
in an attempt to grow larger government at every
level in the state of Michigan!

Here's the worse part of this. Municipalities join
the MML and pay their membership out of funds
provided by taxpayers, the very same taxpayers that
the Michigan Municipal League is working against.
The Michigan Municipal League provides support in
favor of municipalities that find themselves in any
sort of difficulty.

Ask yourself, what sort of difficulties can a
municipality encounter? The Only difficulty
is when the municipality enforces its own interests
instead of those of a taxpayer, or a group of

Gee whiz! Isn't government supposed to be for and
by the people? Where did this against the people
stuff come from? Who allowed this, the MML, to
happen? Who was asleep at the switch?

Wake up, people!

Please read the entire web site:

and especially:

The people of this state won the tax war once. Why
do we have to fight the same war again?

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Truthful Reporting

I've grown weary of the perky (all chime in now)
"everything is wonderful" op-ed pieces in the
Iron County Reporter mixed in with the occasional
"wicked citizens challenge government employees
by submitting FOIA requests" diatribes from Ms.
Volek, the publisher.

In this week's episode, the op-ed reports that
despite the economy collapsing in the rest of
the country, things are progressing in Iron
County, a probable exception to the rule.

She closes out her piece with, "By moving
proactively, Iron County has a good chance of
coming out of this economic slump, downturn,
recession--whatever it's being called--strong
and future oriented. With the support of the
community, we'll keep on kicking, despite."
The last pep rally I attended was in high
school. By college they weren't mandatory. I
hate being subjected to them again.

Ms Volek, I hasten to point out that the
Titanic sank despite the orchestra playing
till the final moments. Berlin fell to the
allies despite high society attending the
Berlin Opera in the final days of the
European war. And Iron County? Will baseless
positive stories make a real difference?

The answer is no.

The Reporter's income seems to me to be
shrinking. If The Reporter wants to improve
its financial situation by increasing paid
circulation it needs only a small paradigm
shift in the stories that are published. If
The Reporter actually reported all the news
in the county, most especially printing (as I
first heard a complaint about this rag) "the
dirt," then I think that circulation would
increase three to four fold over the present
sales and it would afford a real service to
the community. It isn't as though the region
wouldn't be well served by honesty for a

This blog, with limited resources, is
attempting to fill that gap.

Bill Vajk

P.S. I started out wanting to write this piece
in a humorous mode. Unfortunately there's nothing
funny about the situation. I'll do humor soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Job Well Done - By All Involved

Today was a sort of anniversary for me, because it
was this date, in 1969, the mission was launched
during which man first set foot on the moon.

In 1968 I worked, as a consultant (contractor) at
ILC Industries in Dover, Delaware. ILC was then a
division of Playtex Park, the same folks who made
women's girdles but were probably best known for
the "cross your heart bra." ILC designed and custom
manufactured the Apollo space suits.

Model A6L was their entry level suit that was
completely redesigned after the fire that took 3
astronauts lives during an earthbound practice
session. By the time I arrived to ILC we were
manufacturing the A7L model that had many features
to improve the fireproofing of the space suit
system. Almost nothing is 100% fireproof in the
pure oxygen atmosphere used during the Apollo

I had, at the end of my stay at ILC, two projects
that were given to me that were my crowning
achievements at that time. The lesser one was to
find all the misplaced/forgotten change orders that
NASA had issued for helmet R&D, especially the
optically correct gold splatter coating on the pull
down visors. Having those change orders was absolutely
necessary in order that ILC be awarded the profit that
was due them for the work that was done. The NASA
contract was what is called "cost plus." That meant
that the government trusted ILC to spend their money
frugally, and all costs would be reimbursed. But in
order to receive the profit portion of the contract,
the monies already paid out had to be justified and
all work performed under the authority of change
orders issues by NASA.

ILC suspected that some $10 million in reimbursed
costs had not been submitted for profit payout,
partly because the man in charge of that R&D, named
Tomasetti, had experienced a couple of heart attacks
and though he had managed to pull himself together
well enough to get the necessary job done, he had
lost track of the documentation. On days that Mr.
Tomasetti was well enough to come to work, I sat
with him over a two week period and very patiently
documented the entire process, including all the
change orders that had been scattered through his
desk and office. In the end I managed to document
about $18 million in approved work that resulted in
recovery of approximately $1,080,000 in profit for
the corporation, and I prepared the documents needed
by ILC's professional negotiator.

As pleased as I was with that success, even more
important to me was the other final project. I was
given the task of writing the proposal for all the
alterations to the A7L space suit needed for the
lunar missions. In house we called it the Omega
Configuration. I still have my draft copy of what is,
to the ordinary reader, a boring and dreary document.
The only difference between the draft and the final
version was the title and a reduction, across the
board, of 15% on all projected costs.

I was, considering that the year was 1968, well paid
for my efforts. I never received any other compliments
(with reference to John Archocosky's call for compliments
for "job well done" by city crews.) In fact, the proposal
took 95 hours of my active work, start to finish, for
the draft copy. And a week was all the time I was given.
Two secretaries stayed most nights well past midnight
in order to get the typing done.

Along with everyone else involved with Apollo 11 took
pride in our work, and more especially in the achievement
of a successful mission. By then time Apollo 11 launched
I had been working for some time at Fairchild-Hiller on
the F-15 fighter design in R&D, and coordinating that
aircraft design with the airborne phased array radar
system that I had worked on in the R&D phase at Raytheon
several years earler.

Ever since July 16, 1969, every time I look at the moon
for one reason or another, I am internally pleased with
myself while realizing that, "I helped to put men there."

The feeling never gets old. For me there is no reward
greater than knowing a job was well done.

Happy anniversary Bill. Happy anniversary America.

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's Wrong with Iron River 090706 - Part 2

I received the following email from Iron River
City Manager John Archocosky which I publish
intact in order to answer it in public:

From: "John Archocosky"
Subject: What's Wrong with Iron River 00706
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 10:01:33 -0500

Good morning Bill,

I received the hard copy of your article.

You’re right; the Rodeo banner crossing US2
after the wind caught it certainly did not
look good. The problem actually stemmed from
the fact that the banner was not designed to
fit between the supporting cables that have
been in place for years.

The city did not order the banner nor were
we asked what size it should be to fit the
cable arrangement. When the banner arrived,
the city crew did the best they could to
secure it with the ties that were provided
and it appeared to work fine for the first
few days that it was displayed.

Unfortunately, when the stronger wind started
to blow over the weekend, the ties provided
were not sufficient to hold the banner in place.
As soon as the DPW schedule permitted, the city
crew went back and had to reinstall the cable
system so it could accommodate the nonconforming
banner that was provided.

As I’m sure you know, it is not a simple task
to install anything over a US highway. Special
permits are required which must be processed
through MDOT. Permits require minimum ground
clearance as well as other safety related
conditions that needed to be met. As the crew
would have to be working in the middle of the
US2 traffic lanes to reinstall the cables, it
required coordinating the crew’s time with that
of the police department for traffic control
and our employees’ safety. Considering what
had to be done I feel the City of Iron River,
who was donating its time and effort, responded
to a non-emergency situation in a reasonable

When I received the copy of your article I
wasn’t sure if you wanted an explanation or
simply wanted to use it as an opportunity to
complain about the City of Iron River. In
either case "you now have the rest of the

Criticism will always be accepted here and
even appreciated when it is offered in a
constructive manner for the betterment of
the City. It would be nice however, to
receive some positive reinforcement from
time to time for all the things done well
by the city staff and employees.

Thanks for your observation on the banner.
Sorry we never seem to meet your expectations.



I noticed that the initial repair was made to
the Rodeo Banner within a few days after John
Archocosky received the hard copy of my
previous article about this banner. This
is a busy season for me, so it took a few
days for me to have a camera along when I
drove through once again. From what I could
see, the city crew shortened the lower cable
somewhat and installed two spreaders to make
the cables, spreaders, and banner operate as
a single system as this photo shows:

It now works.

For comparison, here is one of my archive photos of a
Florence County Fair banner for 2007 hanging over
US2 with approximately the same length of cables.
I provide this as a model of what can be achieved. They
have exactly the same difficulties in Florence County
as we have in Iron River when it comes to this matter.

But on to other issues John raises.

If anyone cares to go back and look, every criticism I
have made concerning any Iron County governmental
unit always had a problem with an available solution.
Yet mostly my comments have fallen on deaf ears (meaning
solutions were not undertaken) with responsive complaints
at what appears to be an unending stream of criticism from
Bill Vajk co-mingled with the whispered rumor that "Bill
Vajk is out to destroy Iron River." That gives rise to a good
chuckle on my part.

I hasten to point out that my upbringing, including a
parochial school (St. Paul's at Princeton, NJ, see their
web page on the internet, still a fine school!) sent home
a report card every semester that had a comment at the
bottom in the beautiful script of the "Sisters of Mercy"
that said, "There's always room for improvement."

And so there is. The routine praise we received at the
hands of the nuns was the grades we earned. The same
thing is true of all employees, everywhere. They earn
a paycheck in exchange for which they are expected
to perform a "job well done." It is expected. In fact,
it is demanded, even more from government employees
than in any other setting.

Praise and positive reinforcement were, in the sane
society that existed before the "baby boomer culture"
came of age, reserved for extraordinary performance.
I identify this expectation of praise for doing what's
expected and what people are paid to do as a cultural
phenomena belonging to your generation, John. Are
prison guards expected to clap every prisoner on the
back every day and praise them for not having shanked
anyone in the past 24 hours? Where does all this
constant praise requirement come from?

Along with the classic report card footnote, there was
one other unremitting message that we were hammered
with that apparently fell by the wayside for your
generation. It is a brief statement that, "Anything worth
doing is worth doing well." A later version that I started
hearing in the 1970's went, "If you don't have time to
do it right now, when will you have time to do it over?"

As far as never meeting my expectations, I am alone
in these only insofar as voicing them goes. This
community is an old mining culture that was well
taught to shut up, do your job, and be grateful for
what the company provides. That paradigm continues
intact today with government replacing "the company,"
for the most part. There is a lot of seething undercurrent
in the region that remains silent for the most part rather
than risk getting labeled a troublemaker.

Look at the voter rejection of the Iron River Township
millage request in the last election. This is, for the most
part, the only protest the general population will mount,
and even then with great difficulty. And look at the
township's response, a move to create a new "fee" for
"sewer availability." Good grief, what's this community
coming to.

A label of "troublemaker" doesn't bother me because
my background includes not only a good educational
background, but also a personal history of successful
risk taking in military/industrial research and development
world. I found out at a young age that when you go for
the gold all the time, you make friends and enemies, and
the individuals in those positions are apt to shift back and
forth with as much volatility as the weather. I keep my eye
on the goal. The chips can fall as they will. In my opinion
if one worries about everyone's feelings, nothing is ever
achieved. There is some evidence in the history of our
personal interactions that you understand, and practice,
this same philosophy yourself, albeit sometimes mistakenly
(that's probably the consequence of your personal
experience being limited to typical midwestern cultures.)

In wrapping up this exchange it probably makes good sense
to tell the reader a bit more about the world outside Iron
County. I grew up at Princeton, New Jersey, and off and
on resided there till 1974 when I moved out of the region
permanently. Starting sometime in the 1960's, major
corporations that had midwestern and west coast operations
began promoting executives from Chicago, Detroit, St.
Louis, and the like, to their corporate offices in New York.
These folks settled mostly in New Jersey as daily rail
commuters into the city. By rail, a Princeton area resident
could find himself in most midtown Manhattan offices in
about an hour. Even in Chicago that's not considered a
bad commute.

Most of those promoted to New York corporate offices
lasted about a year, and then they packed up their homes
and returned to whence they had come. The New York
business models are a whole lot more demanding than those
of the midwest, and the midwesterners simply couldn't
acclimate themselves to the demands and the pace.

Anyone who grew up here in Iron County, let alone has
lived here better part of a lifetime, experiences pretty
much the same culture shock if they move to Chicago.

What I'm trying to say, John, is that I am two major
cultural paradigms away from living here contentedly
and quietly, because where I come from, and where I
live (internally) my expectations are those of a
mainstream progressive America that demands a
number of things that the folks who live here all their
lives all too often seem willing to give up. These are

> constitutions limit government powers

> the rule of law is necessary

> unless handicapped, earn your keep honestly and honorably

You'd think these are simple rules to live by, but
in Iron County it appears to be very difficult for

Unfortunately, it seems I will soon be in litigation with
the City of Iron River as well as perhaps some officers
of the City and Iron County, and potentially with Iron
River Township as well if the currently envisioned
sewer ordinance revisions become a reality. These could
be settled at a much smaller cost to the taxpayers by
negotiations, but there's a generalized arrogance in Iron
County governments that seems to prevent such solutions.

best regards,

Bill Vajk

Friday, July 10, 2009

Buy Local

I tried.

I needed a replacement mirror for the passenger side
of my pickup truck. While backing up with a trailer
in the forest on my farm, I got the mirror up against
a tree and made a bunch of little mirrors out of the
large one. I got a price of about $225 for a
replacement mirror from Kevin's Auto Body.

So I went to the Auto Value parts store on US2 in
Iron River. They ordered a replacement mirror for
me, but when it arrived a couple of days later it
was the wrong one. So the clerk called in to his
supplier and came up with a price in the high $68
range but I also saw him write down his cost of
$ 31.89.

I haggled. In my opinion, the ordinary markups
(typically doubling the cost to the customer)
are not realistic for an item that a retailer
has not had to inventory. Here's how it works
for special order items.

The retailer orders the item that arrives a
couple of days later. The day the supplier ships
the item, the supplier puts the cost on the
retailer's account that the retailer receives,
on average, 15 days later, and then has about
20 more days to pay. So the wholesaler carries
the cost of the special order item on the books
for, on average, about 35 days. The retailer
generally has his money from the sale on the
second day. This means that any special ordered
item will, on average, result in the sale amount
of money in the retailer's account for 32 to 33
days, at interest. Given no outlay till well
after the retailer gets payment, a 100% plus
markup is, in my opinion, severely unreasonable.
The retailer experiences no risk whatever,
and that's one of the elements that goes into
retail markup!

Inventory costs (the cost of money and warehousing)
are built into the wholesale price for the item.

Anyway, I walked away from the Auto Value store
without ordering this item. As I told them I would,
I came home and got on the internet and found I
could buy the replacement mirror for $18 and
change with something under $13 for shipping
and handling, so the total price for ordering
off the internet came out to be a few cents
over $31.

The cost difference to the consumer, between
$31, and $68 is plenty big, but even larger yet
is the difference to the highest price of $225.

Is it any wonder so many people have abandoned
"main street" merchants in rural area like Iron
County? I don't mind paying a small premium, with
a limit of perhaps $45 tops for this mirror. That
would mean a 45% premium over what the internet
cost is, and a 15% markup based on what I know
the local merchant was going to pay for it. By
increasing his sales while charging reasonable
rates for special orders, any merchant could
make a nice living out of that.

The $68 cost to me would be a 119% premium over
what the internet wants to charge me and $225
would represent a 625% premium.

I'd like to help the local merchants, but they
won't let me, not when they do their customers
like this. I've had Kevin's do some work for me
in the past. They really do very nice work, and
as things happen, I'll continue to use them for
body work and painting. But as a parts supplier,

Bill Vajk

Iron River Township money woes

Iron River Township is being financially squeezed
by the prison closure. However that does not afford
license to impose a new tax on the residents in
violation of the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan
Constitution. Here are some guidelines:

"There are three factors to consider when deciding
if a charge is a fee or a tax. Id. To be considered
a fee, a charge must: (1) serve a regulatory purpose
rather than a revenue-raising purpose, (2) be
proportionate to the necessary costs of the service,
and (3) be voluntary, in the sense that the payor may
choose not to avail himself of the benefit and thereby
avoid the charge.


It is clear to me that Iron River Township's proposed
revisions to the sewer ordinance, as reported, runs afoul
of case law as does Iron River's and the township's
"readiness to serve" charge in their water ordinance.

Bill Vajk

Monday, July 6, 2009

Iron County Road Commission Problems (1)

Recently I had complimented the Iron County
Road Commission for having done a good job
of maintenance grading Kallio Road. They
did the job right for the first time in
years by putting the proper crown back in
the road, and not building berms that keep
rainwater in the road, making it muddy even
after a light summer rain, and keeping spring
snowmelt runoff on the road that's a real mess
far too long into the season.

Unfortunately my congratulations on getting it
right was premature. They've regraded the road
and got it wrong again. The photo below, 4 July
2009, shows the brand new berms created by the
most recent maintenance work.

This isn't a difficult thing, grading a gravel
road. You get the results shown in the photo
below by turning the grader blade the wrong way,
as though the operator were plowing snow. To
grade a gravel road properly the blade must be
turned the other way, to move sand and gravel
away from the edges of the road towards the
middle, in order to create a proper crown that
assures water runoff instead of water retention.

Could we please, please, get the appropriate
training for the people sent out to do this work?

There's just no excuse for what's been going on
with Iron County's gravel roads for the past
several years.

Bill Vajk

What's Wrong with Iron River 090706

What's wrong with Iron River, I ask, with tongue
in cheek and a nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say-no-more.

I moved to Iron County in late 2003. I discovered
that there was a place on US2 to mount a banner
advertising local events near where the river
crosses the highway in town when the first postage
stamp banner for the "Christmas in Lights" parade
was put up.

The wind wrapped that around the support cables,
rendering the banner useless.

I've noted that nearby communities never have this
problem. Crandon's banners always look good as
do the ones in Florence. But Iron River, feh, it
always gets messed up because apparently those
in charge of maintaining the facility, as well
as those who install and take down the banner
don't seem to take the care necessary to do a
good job.

This article is also being mailed, in hard copy,
to the city manager, John Archocosky. The lack
of care and concern by the city for simple things
gives a really bad impression to those passing
through, folks who might otherwise decide to stay
and to spend some money here.

Bill Vajk

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rule of Men v Rule of Law - July 4

In terms of Rule of Men v. Rule of Law, today,
the 4th of July, is one of several important
dates as it is the birthdate of the American
Declaration of Independence. As important as
the event of the framing and signing of that
document was in American history, the ideas
in our Declaration had firm footing in earlier
struggles involving the English Crown.

The earliest codification of universal human
liberty was offered up by Henry I of England
at the time of his coronation. Henry was a
usurper. His brother Robert had been away,
involved in the First Crusade, at the moment
it became his turn to succeed to the Crown
of the combined England and Normandy. Henry,
next in line, took advantage of the absence
of his brother Robert, seized the treasury
and was crowned king on August 5, 1100.

Henry signed the Charter of Liberties, a
document that reads somewhat like the Magna
(executed a little over 2 centuries
later) in order to assure the support of the
earls and barons of England, or perhaps better
states, to prevent the opposition of the barons.

He negotiated the other problems, with the people
within arm's, reach his ascendancy to the throne
by settling a long standing problem with the
Pope, and by marrying a woman of mixed Scottish
(her father had been Scotland's Malcolm III)
Anglo parentage. In those days signing the Charter
of Liberties was, for a king, giving up a
significant amount of power.

Unfortunately for England, the promises did not
descend through successive kings.

By 1215, the barons had had enough of the King's
antics. They went to London in an armed group on
June 10, 1215, and forced King John to agree to
their demands on June 15. The document took another
month to prepare, and that was completed on July
19, 1215, becoming the official and original
Magna Carta.

Even so, it became a requirement that a new copy
be agreed to at the coronation of new kings, and
the specific requirements in those successive
documents changed over time. The version that
remains the law in England and Wales is the
1297 edition with many individual clauses repealed
over the years. The critical parts, habeas corpus
and due process, remain intact.

Much as the Magna Carta had been based on the
Charter of Liberties in an earlier time, the
American Declaration of Independence found its
principles rooted in Magna Carta.

We celebrate the 4th of July as the beginning of
the United States of America. It led to the first
war in which Americans, as a people, fought so
that the Rule of Law replaced the Rule of Men. It
is just as important to recognize that every
single war we, as a people, have engaged in ever
since the signing of the Declaration of Independence
some 233 years ago today has been the very same
war. Each war has been to enforce the supremacy
of the Rule of Law where others have replaced it
with the Rule of Men. There will be more on this
topic in subsequent articles in this series.

I had mentioned earlier that my family came to the
USA after WWII precisely over this issue. The
document displayed below was one that my father
had to carry in Hungary after the war. On the
left is the Russian language version, stamped and
signed off by the Soviet official in charge of the
occupation forces. On the right is the Hungarian
language version, signed by the minister of natural
resources and a corporate official of the
Hungarian-American Oil Company. What the document
says is that my father is employed in a job that
is important to the state and must not be taken to
do other work.

TAKE NOTICE: Personal rights are not the
focal point! All that matters is the needs of the

There was a real need for my father to carry this
with him at all times. In those days, when some
workers were needed to perform some task or another,
whoever was charged with getting the work done was
authorized to send armed men out on the streets to
round up anyone they saw and bring them back to do
whatever job that needed doing.

While today we understand that this is one of the
more extreme cases of Rule of Men prevailing over
the Rule of Law, the simple fact is that people
lived and died because of such conduct by the
state. And it also pays to understand that we,
the United States of America, condoned such
conduct by our allies, so long as it wasn't in
our face. Consider also the political perspecive
of President Obama who put political expediency
over the principles we have bled and died for
since 1776 when he remained quiet while Iran was
killing citizens involved in peaceful protests
in the streets of their capital.

Looking the other way.........a problem prevalent
in Iron County today, and our White House as well.

Bill Vajk

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