Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Financials and Other Issues - Northstar

Northstar is the name of our local hospital on Ice Lake
Road in Iron River, Michigan.

A municipal bond was authorized and it has been funded
at $23,150,000. The hospital has continuously
experienced a net loss from operations since 2008. We,
in Iron County, should all be concerned.

The second and third quarter reports are available online

The reported cumulative loss from operations is identical
for the second and third quarters, standing at $1,087,000.
That probably means that in the third quarter, the hospital
broke even, a significant (positive) advance in their status.
It all depends on how book keeping was done and reported.

The second quarter report contains information provided
by consultants hired to improve the operations of the
hospital. Hiring of a consultant was predicted in an earlier
report in the series. I've read it and recommend it to
anyone who is interested.

The reported increase of the emergency department from
1500 square feet to 9000 square feet seems somewhat
of an overkill. But the purpose here is not to tear the recent
expansion apart because that's a done deal. Current and
future business practices need to be looked at by a cross
section of the community larger than the board of directors.
Unfortunately in the closed setting of such a board of directors,
they are usually spoon fed such information as the CEO and
CFO chose to provide. It would be nice to know more about
how this hospital, such a crucial part of life in Iron County, is
actually operated.

One of the MBA school discussions (master in business
administration) holds that a good manager will supervise
employees by frequent surprise appearances when and
where least expected. A CEO, for example, will come in
through a back door and appear in a production area (in
this case, anywhere that services are provided) without
appearing to notice anything out of line. The mere presence,
and immediate understanding by employees or staff that
their job performance was just reviewed is usually adequate
to instill focus on their individual job related tasks.

When some performance defects are noticed, that information
should be retained by by the CEO, and if improvement is not
noted during later visits, the next higher tier of supervision
should be invited in for a chat with the CEO. The point isn't
to instill fear in employees or staff, but to remind them that
they're part of a larger team that has a mission statement to
live up to.

In reading the consultant review of hospital operations, it
was obvious to me that a corporate culture that grew out
of this hospital beginning as a politically operated entity has
not yet been overcome. Every hospital ought to be operated,
within the confines of the mission statement, as though it were
a profit making business. Good business practices achieve
strengths in those areas that have a demand for services, and
attract their clients through competence.

As a former consultant, I've witnessed companies that hire
expendable consultants for the sole purpose of continuing
business as usual. When the financial situation fails to improve,
the company blamed the consultant, hired an new consultant,
and repeated the cycle several times until a board of directors
either replaced senior management, or the worse case scenario
unfolded and the company went completely under.

The second quarter report can be accessed at:

I'm not suggesting that to be the case here and I remain
hopeful that it is not. The next few quarters will tell all of us
whether or not Northstar can become a financially successful
not for profit institution. The economic success of the hospital
is important to our community.

Bill Vajk

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 13, 2010

Data Mining and You

Even those of us who have been involved with
computers long before the general public
became aware of PS's and eventually purchased
one are occasionally surprised by the depth
of the invasion into our personal business
that computers have brought about.

Whose business do you think it is that you
buy certain prescriptions from your local
drug store?

In a recently decided Vermont case, represen-
tative of what's going on everywhere, it turns
out that by the mere act of having a prescription
filled, your information no longer belongs to
you, even if you paid for the product using

Insurance companies have always gathered
information.We expect that. But there's a
plethora of "data mining" that goes on with
pharmacy information.

Law enforcement regularly reviews the information.
If you are getting more pain controls than they
think appropriate, you're going to be investigated.
Fortunately I've found a non-narcotic medication
to control my back pain. But then, I never did
need enough to raise any eyebrows.

It doesn't end there.

Data mining companies buy the information from
your local pharmacy. It is sold to, among others,
drug manufacturers who then dispatch sales people
to visit your doctor. They're equipped with a full
listing of every prescription your doctor has
written, so they know what drugs to talk your
doctor into prescribing more!

If you're willing to dismiss this as another of
the paranoid "conspiracy theory" sorts of
articles, perhaps you want to take a look at
this court case recently decided in Vermont.

"Big brother" isn't very far away.

Bill Vajk

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sticker Shock

It was past time to buy new tires for the
snowplow truck. I always try to reward the
best service oriented businesses with
purchases. That means, in the case of tires,
that I will deal only with a firm that stocks
the items I need and that maintains a large
enough a staff to service all who come in
through the door without relying on making
an appointment for another day.

That's not the way things are done in Iron
County for tire sales. I don't accept a
restaurant requiring me to come back another
day when it is more convenient for them, or
a grocery store, or any other commodity
provider for that matter. I drop firms that
make such demands, and refuse to do business
with them.

If we reward those who provide the best service
on a regular basis, then the entire industry,
whatever it might be, has goals that the
providers can look at as targets. The entire
idea of accepting second best, for the
convenience of a businessman, is self-
defeating over the long haul. We can never
expect better service unless we demand it,
and enforce our demands.

I found that the prices were consist no matter
where I went, a number close to $800 for a
set of four tires, mounted, balances, new
valve stems, and installed. The dealer who
can't get to it till tomorrow because he
doesn't stock the item, or because he doesn't
maintain the manpower to do the installation
today, or whatever excuse he has, charges the
same as the dealer who not only inventories
the product you need but has the manpower
necessary to serve you within a reasonable
amount of time after you walk in his door.

That isn't right in so many ways.

I got my tires and came home thinking about the
experience and the price. President Obama had
announced in September of 2009 that a tariff
would be imposed on tires imported from China.
The first year was taxed at 35%, dropping after
a year to 30% and after 2 years to 25%.

Researching the effect this has had on employment,
the excuse for imposing the tariff, has proved
fruitless. The most recent real numbers I found
available are for 2008. According to the bureau
of labor statistics, there were 21,400 tire
builders employed in the USA and the projected
2008-18 employment change is that this number will
decline rapidly.

If any significant improvement had taken place in
the tire industry we'd certainly have heard about
it from our government a year and two months after
the tariff was imposed. There has been no report
of improvement, or even one of stability in the
industry. Instead the average prices have merely
increased across the board for tires by
approximately 20%.

That means that the on the tires I paid approximately
$800 for, I would have saved about $160 had I bought
them two in August 2009, not very long ago.

Unfortunately few of us outside the US Government
have the information available to determine the
overall effects this huge price increase has had on
us as a country. It seems that in the end, government
has achieved a windfall in taxation, and those
manufacturers who have not exported their high end
tire manufacturing to China have benefited. That
doesn't mean that they didn't ship some of their
manufacturing off shore, only that they didn't send
the work to China, the only country hit with this

The odd thing is that the tire industry didn't complain
about jobs going overseas, it was the steel industry
unions that was losing employees as tire manufacturing
moved away.

And apparently it didn't do them any good.

China keeps growing as an industrial power because, at
this moment, they're competitive. In the case of the US
the converse is true, and that, unfortunately, is why
our economy is shrinking.

It is a shame I couldn't buy these tires in Iron County.
There's certainly some competition among our local
providers. But they're all "tomorrow" sales. Not one
is prepared to stand and deliver today with any regularity.

We can never get anything any better unless we demand it.

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Annual Discussion About Using Christmas in the Name

It is that time of year again. Iron River
will have its "Holiday in Lights" parade
on December 4th. The first year it was called
Christmas in Lights because the objector
wasn't around to quash Christmas in the name.

This year, using the internet, I searched
for communities in our region that use the
word Christmas in the names of their
celebrations. Here's that list I compiled,
doubtless one could find more:

Antigo Bessemer Boulder Junction
Crystal Falls Eagle River Florence
Iron Mountain Ironwood Ishpeming
Rhinelander St. Germain Tomahawk

Just goes to show that it can be done, all
that's necessary is wanting to. The question
is, why doesn't Iron River want to use
Christmas in the name of the celebration? Is
Iron River all that commercial?

Bill Vajk

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Michigan's Sacred Cow

The automobile industry has been Michigan's
sacred cow for a long time now. The "Big 3"
market share has been shrinking for a long
time, and it is past time that Michigan
recognize that we cannot afford to skate along
as a one major industry state any longer.

I find that David Littman's analysis of Michigan's
automobile economy is on target while the one from
The Center for Automotive Research has once again
taken a head in the sand political approach to
looking at economic problems.

Michigan had better get used to the idea that
either all large scale manufacturing will
eventually leave this state or right to work
will have to be implemented here. Political
imposition of will over investment capital
only works in the short term. Eventually
capital must flee when faced with such
restrictions as we see in Michigan today.

For those of us old enough to remember
John L. Lewis and the coal miners' union,
we're facing very similar problems here in
Michigan today. The mining industry wanted
some of the corporate profits to be spent on
research and development for new products
from coal to replace the heating demand that
was falling off because it was being replaced
by cleaner oil and natural gas. Lewis and the
union insisted that the workers get every
cent that was available, and that led to the
eventual demise of an entire industry.

Yes, the public always has to support, in
one way or another, the next generation of

Another alternative might be the unbridled
growth of industrial robots. As time has gone
on, such robots perform increasing percentage
of production jobs. It could come that an
entire automobile assembly plant might employ
a few dozen workers, with all the real work
of assembling cars done by robots.

Yes, taxation of such facilities would be
favorable for the state and local governments,
with lots of income and very few people
demanding services in exchange. But then
where would such equipment be built? China

Do we end up with legislated limits on
reproduction such as China has, and has
had for some time now?

We need people work. And to get that we need
rational growth of both industry and population.
Government bailouts, and subsidies, don't get
us there.

Please read the web page I refer to below. And
as you do, remember the TV commercials that had
Lee Iacocca standing in the foreground while
they imploded an obsolete manufacturing facility
in the background? The thinking in among our
government officials looks only so far as the
next election cycle. We need thinking for this
lifetime, and the next.

Bill Vajk

P.S. Taking a page out of Iacocca's book, Iron
River's Middle School should probably be
demolished. Are the local governments going to
keep coming back, hopeful of wearing down the
voters who have now spoken on the issue, and
harass us till we comply with their visions to
support a decrepit building (needs a new roof!)
that was built during the Great Depression some
80 years ago?

What of the vision that the voters have expressed?

It isn't as though there aren't enough vacant
buildings in Iron County to house such business
as are presently inhabiting the Middle School.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Statistically Speaking

No place on earth can be reduced to a statistical
description, but statistics do tell us a lot about
a community.

Every once in a while I run across an interesting
web page about Iron County, and the one I'm pointing
the reader to is one of those. Knowing a little
about local government, you have to wonder where
they got some of those numbers.

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Non-Legal Retribution

On Saturday I filed a motion in the Federal
District Court at Marquette, Michigan. It would
probably be inappropriate for me to comment about
it while the case is before the Court, but I can
share the document with the readers because it
is, after all, a public document and by now all
the parties should have received their copy.

The document may be viewed pasting the following
URL into your browser search line.

Bill Vajk

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another Real Estate Tax Issue

Another issue relating to real estate taxes in
Michigan has been brought to my attention.

State statute relating to one aspect, public
utilities, was ruled on by the Michigan State
Supreme Court on February 5, 2008 in a case
called "Toll Northville Ltd v. Township of
Northville" 734 N.W.2d 902.

State statute MCL 211.34d(1)(b)(vii) reads:

"(viii) Public services. As used in this
subparagraph, "public services" means water
service, sewer service, a primary access road,
natural gas service, electrical service,
telephone service, sidewalks, or street
lighting. For purposes of determining the
taxable value of real property under section
27a, the value of public services is the
amount of increase in true cash value of the
property attributable to the available public
services multiplied by 0.50 and shall be added
in the calendar year following the calendar
year when those public services are initially

The statute can be found at:

The Supreme Court held:

"Because public-service improvements located
on public, easements or land that ultimately
becomes public do not constitute 'additions,'
as that term was understood when Proposal A
was enacted, we affirm the judgment of the
Court of Appeals that MCL 211.34d(1)(b)(viii)
is unconstitutional."

The court's opinion may be found at:

Are most of the properties in the State of Michigan
appraised too high as a result of this court verdict?

Bill Vajk

Monday, November 1, 2010

Midterm Election

There's a midterm election tomorrow. Please
vote. Conservatively speaking, it's the right
thing to do!

It wasn't that long ago that a large portion of
the population in Iron County was riled up and
involved in a recall petition. Wouldn't you think
that for this election the same people would have
candidates all lined up and running for offices?

I haven't seen a sample ballot for this election.
Most places I've lived the newspapers published
them about a week in advance. No such luck here.
So most folks are going to the polls with no idea
about who to elect other than to vote a straight
party ticket and go home for two years.

"If we don't get the millage we asked for, our
municipality will be broke!" That's the news that's
fit to print in this part of the United States.

I guess it is time that the "Taxpayer's Association"
be resurrected, along with the "Upper Peninsula Better
Government Association" in order to foster some
badly needed changes in Iron County. The primary
purpose of these two groups will be to work over
the next two years in order to have no less than
two candidates for every elective post. Both of these
organizations are registered with the Iron County
Clerk, it only takes interest by a few to get them
going. We're not interested in political parties
at all. Each group will accept any political
persuasion so long as there is an interest in filling
all the open spaces on our ballots.

The person who is assured that they will keep their
job no matter how badly they perform always makes for
a lousy employee! That's today's political situation
here in Iron County.

Look at the City of Iron River. The most recent
addition to the City Council couldn't even achieve a
simple majority of the available votes, that is to
say, 15 votes in a city like Iron River. Personally
I'd be ashamed to take that seat, and I would leave
it vacant! But apparently we don't have to worry
about personal pride among our elected representatives.

In any event, the two groups will start on November 3,
2010, with all the hopes that such groups can muster.

I've been quiet with this publication of late. Our
federal lawsuit has been taking some of my time, and
at this stage, with one exception in the next few days,
silence about matters has seemed appropriate. My
apologies to the readers for my preoccupation, but
please bear in mind that this lawsuit itself was
designed to have broader ranging effects. Readiness
to serve fees on water bills are widely utilized by
governments in the Upper Peninsula. Services such
as water, sewer, and trash are the few areas in
which municipalities can, for the most part, skirt
around the Headlee Amendment and Proposition A
which restrict the availability of funds to local

Can we maintain the financial grip on government
growth that those two people's mandates have imposed?
Bearing in mind the conservative bent that the people
of the state had when imposing those restrictions, how
is it that political mindsets intent on growing large
governments have managed to take over this state at
almost every level?

It is past time to have these discussions, and as our
president says, to get "fired up!" We need to get
fired up locally. Candidates with a fire in their
belly to improve the situation are being sought, but
so far by not enough people. That's what we need to
do, to gather a group that's set to better our community.

My email is

I'd like to hear from you on these matters.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blue Cross in Michigan

In a copyrighted article, the Washington Post
yesterday reported:

"The federal government sued Michigan's largest
health insurer Monday, alleging it abused its
market clout to inflate health-care costs and
impede competition.

"The government alleged that Blue Cross Blue
Shield of Michigan negotiated contracts that
prohibited hospitals from granting deeper
price discounts to other insurers."

The complete article can be found at:

For less typing, use:

Bill Vajk

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Iron River Township - Sewer Availability Fee

In recent times, Iron River Township began charging
a fee to all township properties where it appears
that there is a building within 200 feet of an
existing sewer. They have claimed that the authority
for this lies in state law. Please see MCL 333.12757

However, in the case Smith v. Township of Norton,
138 N.W.2d 522 (1965), the court held that:

"Anyone using the services of the township water
system by implication contracts to pay the rates
including charges, fees, and rentals. To charge
nonusers for services made available by its presence
without regard to whether any use is made of the
service or facility is in legal effect a tax and
can be effected only by complying with the statutory
requirements and not by creation of a charge within
the rate structure of the public service."

The facts are the same despite that in Iron River
Township's case the pipe holds sewage instead of
potable water. In short, in my layman's opinion,
Iron River Township must provide all the approvals
required for taxing those who own a building within
close proximity to an existing sewer and comply
with the mandates of the Hadlee Amendment to the
Michigan Constitution in order to charge them for
an "availability of sewer."

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Better Information

I’ve previously gone on record favoring a new
airport for Iron County, however I can only
support the current proposal if there's a
reasonable economic justification for it.
There’s a newly surfaced rumor that there
are commitments from large corporations and
the pilot's association to pick up the
County’s "match money." Let's have a full
disclosure of the complete story, and trot
out enforceable contracts if they exist. What
of the longer term? Who is destined to pay
security and maintenance for a new airport?
I’d like to see a ripe proposal before
county commitment is made, wouldn't you?

Any place I've lived before moving to Iron
County the travel time to the nearest airport
has been from one to three hours and the
scenery en route has definitely not been as
pretty as it is here. It seems to me that
the real problem is that our local officials
are tired of ferrying economically important
guests to and from the airport at Kingsford
and spending the day with them.

Do the plans for the new airport include
opening manned Chamber of Commerce and the
Economic Development offices next to an
airport security office? Is the addition
of sheriff’s deputies, and equipment,
included in planning and budgeting? Can Iron
County really afford everything this big
beautiful airport entails? Have we gotten
10 people required to hanger their planes
at Iron County to sign lease commitments for
hanger space? Please show me, so I can
believe that the proposed project will
benefit all of us. I want to get behind
those already supporting this project. I
like growth for the County. But general
promises lacking substance aren’t enough to
help me sleep well at night.

This airport project has been in the
background for years. Why isn't more complete
information available? Is it because the
pressure that's coming from the few plane
owners is being poorly answered by the county
rather than our crony network learning to say

Or are our appointed officials simply
representatives of a cargo cult mentality in
Iron County?

"A cargo cult is a religious practice that has
appeared in many traditional tribal societies
in the wake of interaction with technologically
advanced cultures. The cults focus on obtaining
the material wealth (the 'cargo') of the advanced
culture through magic and religious rituals and

Another thought on the matter has long been
expressed by the adage, "If wishes were horses,
beggars would ride."

How is a county that can't afford a new public
service vehicle without a receiving a grant going
to provide ongoing support for an airport that
will only be used by a handful of wealthier
individuals? If the county, through our Economic
Development Corporation, manages to round up 10
individuals who actually want to hanger their
airplanes here, why not encourage those 10 to
pony up an build their own airport as an investment
in the community?

After all, Iron County doesn't own any aircraft!

Bill Vajk

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Status of Federal Lawsuit

Our personal federal lawsuit brought complaining of the
Michigan Municipal League, The City of Iron River, and
County of Iron, Michigan is progressing.

All the documents to date are on the internet in two
places, one is at the PACER files in the federal court
system, the other files, put on the internet by the
undersigned, are listed below.

Please copy the url addresses below in order to read the
relevant documents. I have placed them in alphabetical

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Iron County People's Voice-page 2

I received an reply from Mr. Mark Eakin, the General
Manager at WIKB, that is worthy of being shared.

"I read your Iron County Doings, thank you for the copy
and for listening. Telephone Time has never to the best
of my knowledge accepted any political talk, candidates
are not allow to advertise doing that time nor do we
speak about issues. The main reason for this is because
we would be swamped and would not have time to put
items on the air or for people looking for items nor our
regular advertisers. Plus those that did not get on would
claim we did not let them on purpose. It would be a no win
situation for us. Our AM station 1230 is talk radio and we
hope to in the near future put a local show on that these
issues can be discussed.
"Thank you again for the copy, I did enjoy reading it.
"Mike Eakin CRMC RMA
General Manager
WIKB 99.1fm WFER 1230am
Iron River Mi."

WIKB cannot be faulted for the position they take, a
position that was easily predictable. The owners have
invested money and can legitimately expect a return
on their investment, and to be sure, a small station in
a sparsely populated region doesn't have the sorts of
return that a similar station in a densely populated
region can achieve for a similar investment.

They're doing the best they can, and we cannot expect
them to give voice to the community's needs any more
than the Iron County Reporter does. I wouldn't hold my
breath for call in political discussions on the AM radio side
of the operation. I take Mr. Eakin's prediction to be more
about discussions about Medicare and so forth by
"experts" in the field, not our local population because
the exact same management views that he expressed
about Telephone Time apply on the AM station.

So the question, and the challenge for the community is,
do enough people want a voice in what happens to all of
us enough to do something positive about it?

Those of us who have been doing a lot of the pulling in
this community are tired of being out there alone with no
support or backup except for rare occasions. If we can
interest enough people, no one will have to carry a large
burden. But it takes the sorts of numbers that only rarely
come together in Iron County for some single issue that
infuriates many people.

I've been relatively silent for the past few weeks because
I am engaged in a federal lawsuit with the City of Iron River,
the County of Iron, and the Michigan Municipal League as
defendants. I am doing all the work on that suit, I have no
lawyers on my team. While I am doing this lawsuit for me,
I am also doing it for everyone who lives in Iron County.

Since all the documents in lawsuits are a matter of public
record anyway, I'll be making all the pleadings in my lawsuit
available online over the next few days. Or you could go to
PACER, which is a courts web page and read it, but there's a
charge involved to each person for that service.

Right now, I've submitted my papers for this go-round, and
have a brief period of peace and quiet, so here I am
working on current issues. The "new county airport" needs
more discussion. Do you want to pay taxes for the maintenance
that airport will require forever in the future? Will you have
any personal use out of it? Can it actually ever improve the
local economy? Or is it just a plaything for a few rich folks
to have the convenience of flying in and out with a shorter
drive to reach destinations in Iron County maintained at your

I'm not asking anyone else to get quite so heavily involved
as I am, but there's no reason why we can't get some
newsletter and perhaps a monthly, or at least a quarterly
meeting started for folks to formalize their gripes with the
government, and present their ideas of potential solutions.

Please send me email if you have some ideas about creating
a mechanism for the population at large to be heard, and
don't be shy, volunteer if you are able. I promise that if this
thing, whatever it becomes, gets off the ground, nobody will
be asked to donate any more time than you're comfortable
with. You should be aware that we can create a series of
television programs and have the cable providers air them
on the required local access channels, but that sees a highly
limited viewership. Nevertheless it could be a starting point.
And DVD copies are quite cheap as a method of distribution,
cheaper even than print copy.

On the other hand, if you're happy with the way things are,
send me email about that.

My email address is at the top of the page.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where Can People in Iron County Find a Voice?

I was listening to radio station WIKB's "Telephone Time"
program this morning when some old sounding soul
got on the air with Kurt Paro. Among the first words
out of this man's mouth was the word "Medicare" at
which point Kurt cut the line and said something like
"you're not going to get away with that." The average
listener had no idea, from the few words uttered by
this older sounding man, what he was going to say.

I don't listen frequently enough to know whether the
caller has been a regular troublemaker, but I have
listened enough, and talked to enough local people, to
know that Kurt typically quickly censors political any
conversation whenever he's the host on the show,
which is most of the time.

Four things spring immediately to mind as a result.

1) This is an election year with the mood in the USA
is one of great political unrest and a desire for

2) Where and how can the people of Iron County voice
their concerns? The local newspaper, The Iron County
Reporter (which I consider a social rag supporting the
local old-crony network and oligarchy) uses a significantly
heavy hand in deciding what they permit to be published,
whether it is on the opinion page or even in paid ads. For
example, the last paid ad I put in the paper was published
in a tiny, almost unreadable, font surrounded by a terrific
amount of white space, typical Iron County corruption at
work. And they actually had the nerve to take my money
and treat me like that.

We have little voice there, unless you're lining up behind
the people who run municipal or county government.
The radio station apparently affords no voice at all unless
it is something people want to buy/sell/give-away or a
paid commercial unless it is something approved by the
local oligarchy.

3) Our Iron County population is aging more quickly than
the rest of the nation, because our young people mostly
can't afford to live here with limited to no job opportunities.
As such, we're significantly interested in hearing anything
and everything about Medicare.

4) While a commercial business like WIKB has a right to
establish the guidelines for what will and will not be permitted
to air, they haven't published that or taken the trouble to
provide notice to the listeners what's fair game.

It seems to me that in a 15 or 30 second announcement once
or twice a week the station could do that, and people wouldn't
hang on for 30 minutes to get on the air only to have Kurt
(shouldn't that be spelled curt?) hang up on them in 5 seconds
or less. Come on, Kurt, fair is fair, and hanging up on a man
like you did today wasn't fair or reasonable.

I'm providing a copy of this article to Mr. Mark Eakin, the
General Manager at WIKB, tomorrow morning. All the
folks at WIKB need to remember that the only reason for
their success is listeners, and satisfying the listeners needs.
Maybe WIKB should think about having someone host a
political call in show for a few hours a week. Or think about
setting aside a fixed half hour time slot of Telephone Time a
few times a week dedicated to political discussion!

If the people of Iron County aren't given a voice somewhere,
they'll eventually find one, and it might end up being one
that WIKB and the Iron County Reporter (more merged
than not these days) don't like.

Frankly I don't care where it is the people find a voice,
I'll support it, so long as they have a voice.

Bill Vajk

Sunday, September 19, 2010

At a dinner held at the George Young Recreation
Center on the evening of September 18, 2010, the
Iron County Democrats gathered to meet their
nominees for the upcoming election on November

As is a tradition with the local party, the dinner
was held to honor the former chairman of the
County Commission, Lawrence (Larry)

A local attorney, Stephen Tinti, acted as master
of ceremonies. Candidates for the upcoming
election present included Scott Dianda,who is
seeking to succeed. Rep. Mike Lahti, who is
running for the senatorial position for district
#38, was represented by his campaign manager
Jack LaSalle.

Gary McDowell campaigning to succeed Rep. Bart
Stupak, who chose not to run for re-election,
was also present and made an appeal for
support from the Democrats present.

No reporters from the traditional media were
present to interview candidates and interesting

Ben Smith

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

N ew Airport - Not Again!

Iron County, through the Economic Development
Corporation and Julie Melchiori is once again
proposing that the county build a new, much
larger, airport. Unfortunately the reasons for a
new airport haven't changed since the last time
when a lot of people showed up for the county
board meeting to voice their opposition. If there
were some legitimacy for a new airport, other than
county funding for a private flying club for a few
wealthy individuals, I would be supporting the

In general, the public doesn't care about the money
needed to build an airport, perhaps 5% of the total
cost, but what of the ongoing expenses, with no
significant user base to support those costs.

Melchiori told then press that "corporate customers
don't want to make the long drive from Iron
Mountain airport." I have to ask, whose customers
are they? Three names are mentioned by
Melchiori, Hover Companies/Crystal View Place,
Oldenberg Group, and Pine River Hardwoods.

Each of those corporations are already doing business
in Iron County with specific financial and tax
advantages previously granted to entice them here
in the first place. Now they're double dipping at the
taxpayer expense? Get smaller airplanes if
you're coming to Iron County so you can use the
existing airports, yes, count them, two airports
already here. If they don't want to buy another
aircraft and hate the drive so badly (I know for a
fact that Julie Melchiori has provided free taxi
service for Hovey at taxpayer expense) then
rent a smaller aircraft the few times a year that
they actually come to Iron County on business.

Pine River Hardwoods personnel live nearby in
Wisconsin, not a fly-in situation. Oldenberg has
another fifteen or so years tax incentive to keep
the Iron River facility going, so he's not locked
into a new airport to come here. Besides, he has
facilities in nearby Wisconsin and Kingsford,
where he can easily rent a small aircraft if he
wants to fly into Iron River.

There's no justification for a new airport.

By the way, did anyone notice that as a prelude
to the new thrust to building an airport, Krist
Oil dropped the price of gasoline at Iron River
and Crystal Falls to match the regional prices.
Iron County Doings has asked for their
justification for charging typically 15 cents
per gallon above regional prices, driving
many who live here to buy their gasoline in
other counties, damaging the local economy
through reducing the road taxes collected and
available to our road commission. I didn't
really get an answer, but I never expected one.
But the timing of the price reduction is highly

There's a lot more discussion on this topic
but alas I just don't have the time for it as
I am embroiled in a federal lawsuit against
the city of Iron River and Iron County. I
am specifically seeking articles on this topic.

In the meantime, if you have "No Airport"
sign from the last time this community fended
off building one, please put it out. I took this
photo today.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why did this take 10 years?

In February's Manager's Report to the city council,
city manager John Archocosky wrote about the
Department of Public Works (DPW):

"I have also asked that they begin evaluating
equipment that is no longer needed or used by the
City, so it might be placed up for auction. By selling
the unused items, I believe we can consolidate the
remaining items into fewer storage areas, and
therefore can sell the storage buildings that we will
no longer need. This will result in less insurance
and maintenance costs for the City. Further, once
the buildings are sold, they can then be placed on
the tax roll.

"The City crew has also begun to downsize through
attrition, and therefore we no longer have need or
use for some of the older plow trucks, pickups,
and other equipment we acquired through the
consolidation of the three communities in 2000. I
have been meeting with our DPW foreman Dick
Anderson, and our head mechanic Ed Rauterkus
to develop a plan whereby the City can eliminate
some of those unnecessary items, and as with the
buildings, will result in an overall savings. By selling
several of the older pieces of equipment, we will be
able to use the proceeds to make some upgrades
and still reduce the overall size of the fleet. I will be
reviewing this plan with the Council in the near
future, and hope to receive your approval to move
forward with a sale process very soon."

Why has it taken 10 years for the city to begin the
steps to consolidate equipment and services? If
the DPW can get by with less equipment and
fewer personnel, what have those persons been
doing for the past ten years that is of benefit to
the taxpayers?

The March 2010 manager's report provides us
with the results of the auction:

"Following last month’s approval by the Council,
the City DPW has been working on the plan to
eliminate excess equipment and to consolidate the
remaining assets and inventory into fewer locations.
By doing so, I anticipate that the City will be able to
sell two or three of its current storage facilities,
saving both on maintenance and insurance costs.
Further, when these properties are sold, the real
estate can be placed on the tax roll. The recent
auction that was conducted for the City by Nitke
Auctions produced about $14,000 in sales of
equipment that no longer was of use to our DPW.
The miscellaneous revenue that was generated by
the auction will be reinvested in upgrades and
repairs to our existing fleet."

Spring cleaning should be an annual event, no?

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

School Consolidation Revisited

Things are pretty hectic at the moment and I will
eventually have time to write specific comments,
but I thought reading this we page and the places
it leads might get things going.

A beneficial school consolidation requires public
participation in holding costs down.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Comment Response - Chapter 2 Page 2

Here are the two comments that we’ve been
discussing of late:


Just curious Bill,

If you are so unhappy with Iron County
and it's "Doings". Why do you choose to
live in this community? Your negativity
tarnishes the joy that those of us who
appreciate Iron County feel. Remember
the old adage, "If you have nothing nice
to say..... If you are not part of the
solution you are part of the problem.
I'll be looking for my opinion to be
added to your blog.


You have clearly taken my comment out
of context for the purpose of this blog. I
am simply a citizen of Iron County who
appreciates the beauty of the area, and
all of the wonderful people who make
this a special place to live. I have no
political agenda. My point was, I spent
half an hour browsing this blog and
found not one positive thing said about
this community. In that half an hour, I
read derogatory posts about the Judge,
the school system, the city manager, the
hospital, and the dog catcher to name a
small few. And yes even the way this
county celebrates Christmas! I can agree
that change is needed in our county as it
is everywhere, but a negative blog such
as this is in no way proactive towards
that goal.


And my reply:

You’ve missed the entire first part of
the story, the part where when I moved
to Iron River Township and I attempted
to work with the people who are doing
the pulling. The folks who wrote earlier
replies to you are more familiar with
those efforts at the time I was engaged
with the City of Iron River, the Chamber
of Commerce, and the Economic Development
Corporation. I’m going to provide you
with a brief highlight of the results.

I brought to town a small startup business,
and I was looking for someone to partner
with. Asking around, I landed with the
Chamber of Commerce and with the Economic
Development Corporation. Neither of them
came up with a timely answer but I found
one on my own and we started. As it is
related to the construction industry, that
business has moved to the back burner until
the US achieves some economic recovery and
major construction projects are once again

Because I was dealing with Julie Melchiori,
I joined in at a meeting of Community
Concepts discussing the first Christmas in
Lights parade. Julie had been out of town
for part of that period and wasn’t around
to quash “Christmas” in the name that first

But I was there and suggestions were being
tossed about and I suggested a banner
across the highway, an idea they all liked.
I said I could provide one inexpensively
but Julie Melchiori nixed that, saying the
work should be given to a local business. I
had just run headlong into the cronyism
that represents everything you’d ever need
to know about Iron River. It was an
embarrassing moment for the community, but
nobody, other than me, even noticed because
these things are so ingrained in people who
have spent their entire lives here.

Here I was, a new businessman in town, and
I wasn’t allowed, by the director of the
Economic Development Corporation, to
compete with the established businesses in
town. In the end there was a postage stamp
sized banner put up on the highway that
year, but never again. And by the following
year the name had been changed to remove
“Christmas” from the celebration.

You wrote that I complained, “And yes even
the way this county celebrates Christmas!”
Yes, I complained about the fact that the
very word that you used, “Christmas” is
not permitted. I publicly offered to
privately replace the first hundred dollars
of DDA (government) money and that letter
as published in the Iron County Reporter.
Where were you, pulling your part? Did you
even read the newspaper to know what was
happening in your community? Did you offer
to fund part of the celebration in order to
be able to retain the word Christmas?

Typically the total amount that the DDA has
provided has been less than $1000 each year.
I didn’t think, in a community like ours,
that was a too big price to pay to keep
“Christmas” in Christmas. But nine other
people didn’t step up to make similar
offers so I guess I was wrong.

My take on the situation is that the
interleaving of personnel among various
government agencies needed DDA money to
be spent on something for the community
and the Christmas celebration was a good
place to spend part of it, so “Christmas”
was quashed in the name for the sake of
political expedience. Yes I am critical of
that. And that’s not, as you colored it,
“the way this county celebrates Christmas.”
Tell me, please, did you hurt your back
doing that contortion? We have three
chiropractic practices in Iron River and
from what I understand they’re all very
good. There, I said something positive!

But the story of my experiences with
Community Concepts isn’t finished yet.
I was getting involved with the next
celebration, Rum Rebellion Days. Let’s not
even get involved in a discussion about the
community thinking that violation of the
law is something to celebrate!

I had some ideas and went to Bill Leonoff
at the Chamber of Commerce to discuss them.
The upshot, at my second brainstorming
session was that Bill complained, “Every
time I see you I end up having more work
to do.” I only need one invitation to leave
and not bother a person any further. I
suppose the Chamber of Commerce wasn't
paying Bill enough for working on Community
Concepts? Perhaps he’s lazy? I don’t know,
but once was quite enough and that finished
any work I offered to do with Community

When the federal lawsuit in which I am
presently engaged with the City of Iron River
and members of the city council as some of the
defendants is finished, I’ll be able to address
some of my experiences with the city.

The upshot is that I tried to work within “the
system” that exists here in Iron County. That
system has failed you, and all of us, in so
many ways that any reasonable person quickly
loses count. Every criticism noted in this
publication is, in my opinion, fair and
represents how things really are in Iron
County. All of them are correctable if you,
and the other residents, took an active
interest. So why is it that there’s so much
apathy in the community? Perhaps citizenship
and responsibility weren’t part of the
curriculum when and where you went to school?
Do people really need to be taught those

Next example, do you actually think that a
hospital expansion with a 23.15 million
dollar municipal bond is appropriate for a
community where services were adequate and
the population is collapsing? And in the
first quarter of this year that hospital
lost in the range of $400,000, so how do
you feel about that? Should I have made
up something wonderful to say about it?

Have there been any layoffs at the hospital?
Has anything changed that might give us
some indication that there’s a fiscal
recovery program underway? No, of course

Yes, this publication I have put together
focuses on the problems this community
experiences. There’s an occasional blip
about this being a beautiful place to live,
but that’s the entire thrust of the local
newspaper and radio station with only an
occasional inkling of the problems faced
by all of us, and even then the other
local news outlets don’t provide the
necessary depth of coverage for citizens
to understand what’s going on.

Instead of complaining as you have, you
should be reading what’s here and trying
to make improvements to the community so
this publication could lose its purpose.
Here I call attention to the difficulties
that aren’t being discussed anywhere else.
Head in the sand won’t achieve anything
at all (maybe get some sand in your

I grew up at Princeton, New Jersey. I
remember Albert Einstein wandering through
town on his personal errands when I was a
child. I was only 15 when he died. He was,
in the 1950’s, elderly and living mostly
alone. He looked, and most of the time
smelled, like a street person. He seemed
to enjoy stopping by the Woolworth’s
store and haggling with the clerks over
the prices of small items he purchased
there. So it took some time for me, with
that personal experience, to come to
appreciate the wisdom of the man in his
better days. A friend who reads my
scribblings here sent me one of Einstein’s
admonitions because it applies beautifully
to conditions in our community:

The world is a dangerous place to live, not
because of the people who are evil, but
because of the people who don't do anything
about it.
-Albert Einstein

So please tell me what you have done for
your community in the past five years or so.
Anything? Have you attended any of the public
body meetings? Or is your criticism limited
to the people who are actually trying to
improve the situation? I urge you to read
the Iron County Reporter for feel-good stories.
That paper is full of them. But keep reading
here to understand what’s really going on in
your community.

If you have anything to offer that could
improve conditions in our community, please
feel free to submit them to me in email. I’ll
want to talk to you to verify your identity,
and even if I disagree with what you say, I’ll
publish your submittal, just as I have your
comments so long as the goal is to improve
the community. On the other hand, you could
submit them to the Iron County Reporter.
Although I’ve mostly worn out my welcome there,
they’re always looking for well thought out and
well written input from the community.

Let me finish with this thought. Dammit, quit
complaining at me and DO SOMETHING for
your community. It is sorely needed!

Bill Vajk

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Comment Response - Chapter 2 Page 1

The same individual who provided us with an
earlier comment provided another comment to
Mike Sheehy's reply, Comment Response - page 2,

In all fairness, since it was addressed to Mike
I forwarded it to him for a further discussion
which is published here.

Page 2 begins with:

You have clearly taken my comment out
of context for the purpose of this blog. I
am simply a citizen of Iron County who
appreciates the beauty of the area, and
all of the wonderful people who make
this a special place to live. I have no
political agenda. My point was, I spent
half an hour browsing this blog and
found not one positive thing said about
this community. In that half an hour, I
read derogatory posts about the Judge,
the school system, the city manager, the
hospital, and the dog catcher to name a
small few. And yes even the way this
county celebrates Christmas! I can agree
that change is needed in our county as it
is everywhere, but a negative blog such
as this is in no way proactive towards
that goal.


Mike Sheehy's answer follows:


Is there some manner in which to tell someone
you're unhappy with some of the shenanigans
they're pulling, notwithstanding that they are
illegal, patronage or cronyism, and stay
positive? If there is I have yet to hear it,
because if no one can locate anything they do
not like then there's nothing wrong and it will
certainly NEVER get corrected.

(I also take umbrage with your nothing positive.
I believe I was when I said the "powers that be"
are excellent at keeping out business and

It is too bad also, that in those "derogatory
posts" I noticed they missed a few. Without a
political agenda I suppose it would be like
looking thru rose colored glasses, but the
stagnancy that would bring would only make
things worse.

If those that want this type life are content,
more power to them. But if things don't change
around here to provide work for our children
those "contented gomers" will be caring for
themselves in late years. Everyone else will
have left to find employment.

Mike Sheehy


And the beat goes on.

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Comment - Page 3

The comment that's bringing replies:

Just curious Bill,

If you are so unhappy with Iron County and it's
"Doings". Why do you choose to live in this
community? Your negativity tarnishes the joy
that those of us who appreciate Iron County

Remember the old adage, "If you have nothing
nice to say..... If you are not part of the solution
you are part of the problem.

I'll be looking for my opinion to be added to
your blog.

Submitted for publication by Mare Peterson:

Isn't it wonderful that anyone in this country
can speak out--even if one chooses to speak
out against someone else for speaking out?
I think that taking the risk of speaking out
with an opinion is an act more people should
entertain if for nothing more than to clarify
their own positions on various issues. If
silence is part of the problem, couldn't noise
be part of the solution?

My thanks to Bill Vajk and you other vigilant
vocal people who are willing to say something
besides, "Sh-h-h. Be quiet. I don't like you
or what you are saying."

s- Mare Peterson

There's another chapter to this discussion that's
been kicked off by the original commenter. But
we'll wait with that till this chapter is complete. I
still have my response to provide before we move
along and there's no telling what else will come
arrive in the meantime.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Comment Response - Page 2

Here's the comment in question repeated:
Just curious Bill,

If you are so unhappy with Iron County and it's
"Doings". Why do you choose to live in this
community? Your negativity tarnishes the joy
that those of us who appreciate Iron County

Remember the old adage, "If you have nothing
nice to say..... If you are not part of the solution
you are part of the problem.

I'll be looking for my opinion to be added to
your blog.


An answer from Mike Sheehy, published with

I have no idea what "Iron County Feel" is, but I
know that the county administration is as
anti work/jobs as any I've come up against. I'm
wondering if the writer knows the difference
between progress and stagnancy.

It sounds like one of the "quaint old burg" group
as her penning supports. To keep in her good
stead however I would say that the "County
administration is doing an EXCELLENT job;
they've kept industry and jobs completely at
bay around here." Nicey feely enough ?

Mike Sheehy


Bill Vajk

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Election of 8/3/2010

I selected some candidates and promoted them
in 2008. They seemed to me to have a reformist
streak in them but I haven't seen any of that in
their performance since the election of 2008.

For that reason, I am not supporting any of the
candidates tomorrow. We badly need some
real reformers in office, not folks who make
statements along those lines as candidates.

At the "meet the candidates" night for the
2008 election. Mark Valasano stood in front
of us and said the he felt the job of the sheriff's
office was to solve problems while avoiding
arrests whenever possible.

He did not do that when a county employee's dog,
running loose and trespassing, was injured. The
county employee is a 911 operator.

I had no stake in that case. The fact that an injustice
was knowingly undertaken by the office of the
Sheriff of Iron County, in the name of the people
of Michigan, has sure put me off. The old boy
network is alive and well in this county. And it
continued working all the way through the
prosecutor's office and the court.

If we want good government in this county we need
a clean sweep. That takes a change in the mindset
of a majority of the Iron County population.

Bill Vajk

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Coffee Cup

The following was posted to the
IronCountyINdependent discussion group
by Ben Smith. That group is moderated by
John Faccin, a candidate in the running
for a sear on the County Board. Although
the premise and promise proclaimed in the
description of the discussion group says
that any topic may be discussed there, John
has seen fit to excise a number of Ben's
comments before they saw the light of day

Since that's the sort of representation John
gives at the IronCountyIndependent, I'm not
inclined to give him any benefit of the doubt
where it comes to what he would do if he were
elected to the Iron County Board of

But then, John has a long track record of
crossing swords with me so my comments should
come as no surprise to anyone.

Ben's letter follows:
I am billing Iron County for the sum of $17.50
as the cost to replace my cup seized by the
county administrator "Jan Huising" who informed
me when I requested its return that it had been
disposed of by the maintenance personnel of the
County Courthouse while in his possession.

Enclosed please find an excerpt from the minutes
of the Iron County Commissioners from Oct.11-2005.
Said minutes do not mention the administrator can
willfully seize property from citizens of Iron County.

Thank You in advance for your assistance in
forwarding this matter to the proper authorities
in the courthouse !

Ben Smith
601 Harding
Iron River,Mi. 49935

Sue please see that Mr. Fran Wills and Carl Lind
get a copy of this !



I'm not a lawyer, and to my way of thinking this
event experienced by Ben represents an illegal
seizure, by government, of personal property, which
act is prohibited by both the US Constitution as
well as the State of Michigan's constitution.

When will this sort of thing end? Do local government
officials think that they are above the law? It seems
so to me!

Bill Vajk

Comment Response - Page 1

I received a classic comment from an individual
who identified themselves and thought it is time
to publish the sentiment and a few replies from
others in the community. I am not including the
name of the individual at this time because I
have not taken the time to verify that the
individual submitting the comment is the person
they claim to be. Our local "newspaper," the
Iron County Reporter, requires a signature on
opinions submitted for publication. It is within
the norm for any publication to require that the
identity of authors be verified in advance.

To those who have not noticed, this is a
publication in blog format. You can find our
Library of Congress registration at the top of
the page.

Because of the generic sort of comment that it
is, I thought it might be a good idea to
submit the question to a few others who are
outspoken in the community and to ask for their
opinions on this opinion.

The first of the replies was provided by Ben Smith
and is published below. There are several others
to follow, including mine. If as a reader you wish
to add your opinion, please email them to me at
the address listed at the top of this page. Much
greater consideration will be given to those who
include their phone number for verification of the
submitter's identity.


Here is the comment:

Just curious Bill,

If you are so unhappy with Iron County and it's
"Doings". Why do you choose to live in this
community? Your negativity tarnishes the joy
that those of us who appreciate Iron County

Remember the old adage, "If you have nothing
nice to say..... If you are not part of the solution
you are part of the problem.

I'll be looking for my opinion to be added to
your blog.


And Ben's response:

I can not vouch for the authenticity of the authors
name however it is a common result whether it is
progress OR CHANGE that is being advocated.

I have been aware of similar situations arising
in Iron County since an event I was involved with,
a petition to force a TV cable operator to obey the
ordinance in effect in the city served by his
company. The operator was forced to rescind the fee
increase, put into effect without the approval of
the governing body.

And in a related matter being new to the
municipality, and a public minded person , I
volunteered to serve as a volunteer firefighter
only to be blackballed, because of being new
politically active in the community. The
feelings expressed by the author are not
uncommon in many areas especially in the
Iron County area. We are 12,900 people and
all supportive of each other.

Most of the points raised by newcomers deserve
a better hearing than being told "GET OUT OF

Ben Smith

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is Iron County Going to the Dogs?

The following article was presented to Iron
County Doings for publication by Mare and
Tom Peterson, its authors.



I think that the Iron County (MI)
Prosecutor’s office, staffed by Prosecutor
Melissa Powell Weston (P57048) and Assistant
Prosecutor Lisa Brouilette (P42717) caused
an area resident, Roger Barrette, to be
placed under false arrest, criminally charged,
tried and convicted for acts for which he
could not be held culpable pursuant to Michigan
Statute. Court records for case number 09-5265
can be obtained through the Clerk of the Court,
95B District Court, Iron County Courthouse,
2 South 6th Street, Crystal Falls MI 49920. I
base this complaint on my understanding of
Michigan’s Dog Law of 1919, Act 313 of 1919.

On March 9, 2010, my husband and I were in
the Iron County Courthouse for a hearing on
a civil matter before Iron County’s Unified
Trial Court Judge Joe Schwedler (P26055).
That hearing ended just before the Barrette
trial was to begin. Interested in learning
more about state and county law concerning
animal control, we decided to observe the
trial. What we saw and heard for two days
was a demonstration of malicious prosecution,
replete with what would prove to be
unsubstantiated assertions made by prosecutor
Brouilette as though she and she alone had
seen the defendant commit a crime on October 9,
2009. In fact, it can be said that only
Mr. Barrette and his neighbor’s dog “know” what
happened between them, as there were no other
witnesses identified at trial. We are
embarrassed to be represented by a prosecution
who affords a presumption of innocence to an
Iron County co-worker’s untagged dog running at
large but flagrantly denies a human being the
same presumption of innocence—particularly when
the untagged dog running at large is trespassing
on the human being’s private property.

Equally egregious is the fact that the
prosecution, having misapplied the law to begin
with, went on to misrepresent the law itself,
both to the judge and to the jury—in a two day
trial, no less—at considerable taxpayers expense.
It is clear to us that Mr. Barrette committed no
crime as defined under the law, had the incident
been appreciated correctly. Also, when Judge
Schwedler permitted the prosecutor to bring the
dog into the courtroom, he allowed the dog’s
reputation to have standing more favorable than
that of the defendant whom prosecutor Brouilette
said was lying. After all, how absurd would it
have been for Mr. Barrette’s attorney, John Berry
(P34268), to challenge the dog’s honesty!

Shortly after Mr. Barrette’s trial, I had a chance
encounter with the jury foreman who told me things
about the jury’s deliberation and the reasons for
the verdict. I have reported, in writing, the
nature of his remarks to the Iron County
prosecutor’s office and have been told that I
would have to bring my concerns to the defense
attorney Berry since the prosecution had won and
would not pursue mistrial. Believing that this
is a case of prosecutorial misconduct causing
a miscarriage of justice, I have given the same
writing to Mr. Barrette for his information and
use. My husband and I had no previous relationship
with Roger Barrette prior to this trial. Yet so
unrighteous was the prosecutor’s attack on his
character and so outrageously specious was her
closing argument, we have decided to bring this
matter to the Attorney Grievance Commission with
a request for investigation with the hopes of
ensuring the future integrity of the Iron County
system of justice and possibly mitigating the
damage already suffered by Mr. Barrette and his

We wish it were possible for us to provide the
Commission with transcripts of the proceedings
but we do not have the means to pay for copies
of what we understand are almost 400 pages.
However they can be obtained from the Clerk of
the Court whose address is listed above. The
date of the incident was 10-10-2009. The dates
of the trial are 3-9 and 3-10-2010. The date
of sentencing is 03-29-2010.

s- Mare Peterson and Tom Peterson

Monday, July 26, 2010

For Eyes Only

For some time we've had two eye doctors serving
folks in Iron River. Recently Dr. Bathje's
practice was closed and combined with that of
Dr. Atanasoff.

The history is just a bit more complicated.

Several years ago, Dr. Mark Stempihar, an
ophthalmologist who does eye surgery, had an
arrangement with the hospital here in Iron
River. He did surgeries here, locally, for
those folks for who needed it.

Then for some reason no one is talking about,
a typical Iron County unofficial secret, the
good doctor and the hospital had some sort
of falling out, after which Stempihar's
practice was only available at Grand View
Hospital, at Ironwood.

Dr. Stempihar continued to visit Iron River
and took referrals for surgery from both
Bathje and Atanasoff.

The two local eye doctors tried for several
years to cut a deal with Iron County
Healthcare, and its successor Northstar, to
combine practices under the hospital's
umbrella. Alas it was all to no avail.

But the merger did eventually take place
under the auspices of Grand View Hospital.
Their sign is not on the door. But we are
led to wonder why it is that a hospital
some 90 miles away saw the need for complete
eye care for our aging population, and found
it economically advantageous to get into the
business here in Iron County, while our local
hospital, underwritten through municipal
bonding of the City of Iron River (both alleging
to serve the public)failed to seize the
advantage of being local and take charge of
businesses offering themselves to being taken

Properly operated, the eye business here in
Iron County offers a positive cash flow in
an economic climate that doesn't have much
to offer, and Northstar Health Systems is in
financial trouble and need. But true to the
local paradigm favoring failures the hospital
passed up yet another opportunity leading to

I am pleased to hear that Grand View has hired
a retinologist, the first in Michigan's entire
Upper Peninsula, and that he will be accepting
appointments right here in Iron River. That
will save those who need these services from
traveling to Wausau or Rhinelander, Wisconsin.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, I spent
a few hours at Rhinelander in a retinologist's
waiting room that held at that moment 6
individuals from Iron River

We are an aging population here in Iron
County. One wonders why so little is locally
attuned to that fact.

Bill Vajk

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Lesson From The Roman Empire

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned
to repeat it. Well that’s an adage from George
Santayana (1863-1952) that has been proved many
times over. The only miracle is that it took so
long for someone to formalize the idea.

In my lifetime, very little has been discussed
about the economic impacts of slavery. One of the
books I acquired along the way is “Our Nation’s
Heritage” (1925, American Book Company, New York)
which was a school textbook at one time at Fence.
As a common teaching of facts in the 1920’s, the
book discusses the fact that as the Roman Empire
was winding down, the “free” labor of the slaves,
that had for a couple of hundred years replaced
paid labor, was shrinking because the Empire was
not so much at war as it had been in earlier times,
and warfare was the main source for slaves.

As the economy was contracting, the ruling class
became aware that they were headed into a period
where necessary goods, from food to clothing, would
become impossible to buy because as the slaves were
dying off there was no one to replace them.

Rome then passed laws, and provided oversight
throughout the empire, to assure that if a man were
a farmer, that’s the only career permitted for his
sons. Shoemakers, and tradesmen of all sorts, found
that their children were not permitted to better

Much has been made in the 20th century about the
evils inherent in slavery. Nevertheless, it is an
institution that has been around for most of the
history of mankind. While slavery is generally
thought of as the outright ownership of one human
being by another, over time mankind has discovered
and created a different form of slavery best
described as economic enslavement.

In economic enslavement, the “owner” has no actual
investment in the slave, but reaps all the benefits
without acquiring any of the liabilities. If an
employer pays minimum wage (and in the case of
illegal immigrants they often pay less) and it
takes all 10 members of a family to earn a poverty
level of living for the group, that’s no skin off
the employer’s nose.

What has happened in the US is that inexpensive
shipping has brought even cheaper labor on the
Pacific rim into our economic sphere. While our
southern border brings us more illegal immigrants
every day, all of our significant manufacturing has
moved overseas, leaving us with millions of people
who are now partly entitled, and after the next
round of amnesty for illegal immigrants will become
100% entitled to government handout programs.

We have a growing number of individuals with no
possible way remaining to support their eventual
entitlements. Heck, we can’t afford the entitlements
we already have. Look at California and Michigan!

Rome solved her economic problems by creating a
working class. The demand for the locally produced
goods was already there and no entitlement programs
existed, making their problems far simpler.
The problems in the US could be similarly solved
by the imposition of protective tariffs, bringing
manufacturing home once more and removing the
Pacific rim from our economic sphere. Similarly we
could exempt Mexico from protective tariffs,
thereby encouraging investment in manufacturing
there, and encouraging low wage illegal immigrant
workers in the USA to return home before shutting
the southern border.

Once those things are achieved, we could impose
protective tariffs on Mexican goods, and bring all
manufacturing work home to the US if that’s what
our population and economy require for best

Being “the nice guy” in a world that marches to the
beat of a different drummer is what has brought the
US, and the world economy, to the edge of economic
ruin. There are only two choices available. 1) Take
control of our own economy before world economic
collapse, or 2) take control of our own economy
after world economic collapse.

Wake up! Wake up America and smell the coffee!

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ObamaCare Report from Cato Institute

The first report I've seen published about the
Health Care law is available on the Cato
Institute web page. Please copy the link into
your web browser in order to read it.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Need a Doctor?

June 5, 2010

I have cardiac rehab exercises at the
Northstar Health System (the renamed
hospital at Iron River) three times a
week. It’s a pleasurable exercise, but
necessary, on the tread mill and
stationary bike. Heartbeat during
exercise is monitored to determine that
all is well. After the workout, I go
to the café for coffee and then down
the hall to exit through the lobby. As
I passed by the “first impression”
position (i.e., the receptionist) I
heard her say something very disturbing.
An older lady had come in and told the
receptionist that she needed a doctor.

The reply was “there are no doctors here
today.” The lady looked frail and
slightly bent over the counter and seemed,
even to a layman like me to be in need of
medical attention, but the answer was still
the same, no doctors here. She was told to
look somewhere (I couldn’t hear where) to
find an M.D. As I listened it seemed that
she was out of luck today but tomorrow she
could come back.

My sympathy for the lady tool over and I
spoke to a few people in the lobby about
what was taking place. They agreed with
me that it was a terrible injustice and
that the $18 million renovations did
nothing but enhance the looks of the
facility in Iron River. If you find you
are in need of a doctor, please make sure
it’s on a regular work day, not a day
after a holiday or on some weekends. You
may be left as this poor lady was.

I wish I had stayed longer and had
gotten the lady’s name so that I could
keep track of how she finally got the
treatment she needed.

Gloria Vajk

(Editor’s Notes: The hospital has
experienced a loss from operations of
$ 463,000 for the three months ending
March 31, 2010. The hospital has a
municipal bond relying on the City of
Iron River in the amount of $ 23,150,000
(that’s 23 million dollars, folks) yet
almost every measurement like patient
admissions and so forth have been
dropping for the duration of the reports
filed as required of all those who have
a municipal bond. This community has a
hospital and we need a regional hospital,
but offhand it looks like we have a
financial disaster in the making. How
much money did the Hospital spend this
year giving the employees gratuities
during “Hospital Week?” How much has
the hospital spent on frillish outdoor
décor this year? Have the “city fathers”
been paying attention to what’s going on
here? Are we in for another of the sorts
of surprises that the City of Crystal
Falls recently experienced? Do we like
the fact that the chairman of the hospital
board of directors is also the City of
Iron River’s attorney? What of the recent
ethics ordinance passed by the city council?
I was asked to write a favorable piece
about the hospital’s foundation that seeks
contributions, but under the current
circumstances of apparent mismanagement I
sincerely regret I am unable to do so. and – Bill Vajk)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

More City of Iron River Nastiness

The summer tax bills have been issued.

MCL 211.44a(5) says, in part, "Interest shall
be added to taxes collected after September 14
at that rate imposed by section 78a on
delinquent property tax levies that became a
lien in the same year."

With the intention of causing confusion among
taxpayers, the following statement is printed on
the tax bills sent out to property owners by the
City of Iron River:

2011 PAY TAX, 1% ADM. FEE & 2% PENALTY.
FALLS, MI 49920."

Under the state statute, the tax money is due to the
city on July 1, but no penalties are imposed until
September 15. The City of Iron River clearly is
willfully in violation of the state law. This,
unfortunately, is not the only time and place
they're violating state law.

You can find the statute on the internet at:

Bill Vajk

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Iron County Social Reporter

The Iron County Social Reporter

That's what the name of the local newspaper
ought to be based on its content. To be sure
there are reports from some of the official
board and council meetings. The June 23rd
issue held information about the June 8 County
Board meeting, and even at that the article
ends in mid-sentence on page 5, the layout
was so poorly designed.

The county board thinks it will take a year
to create and pass a new solid waste disposal
ordinance. Guess what folks, except for the
favoritism showed to favored disposal firms
in the past, this county doesn't have any real
need for a solid waste ordinance. Just revoke
the thing and let state laws, which supersede
local mandates in every important way, control
what happens. The only reason for creating a
new ordinance is political without any real
benefit to the people of Iron County.

The Adeline Hazel article that graces page 1,
a story about a woman who lived in Iron River
for a while, mentions that "she became an avid
gardener, better known as the 'flower lady' on
the local radio station." Heaven forbid that
the rag mention the radio station by name!
Anyway, this was such an important story that
it graces page 1 complete with a color photo
of Adeline. But there wasn't enough room to
finish the story about the county board meeting!

Another page 1 story is about seeking Miss IC
contestants. "Application must be submitted
along with a $75 sponsor fee, to the Michigan
State University extension office." That smells
wrong to me, doesn't it bother you? It seems to
me that any single woman in the county ought to
be able to enter without paying a fee of any sort
if the winner is going to represent Iron County
officially for a year! The rodeo beauty pageant
doesn't have an entrance fee, why should the
county one? I'm certain that if asked, some
local business would gladly underwrite the
scholarship if only they were asked!

Last but not least, Marian Volek's "Opinion"
piece is another disaster of muddy thinking and
political correctness, heaven forbid any of the
monied friends be upset. A strong part of the
reason that roads in Iron County are in such bad
shape is the fact that the residents purchase
gasoline, as they are able, in other areas,
because usually the local prices have been as
much as 15 cents per gallon higher in Iron County
than they were at Iron Mountain. And why do the
local petroleum retailers charge more? Ask Krist
Oil to explain it. Nobody has ever officially asked
and reported! The problem isn't as Volek claims,
a federal and state issue.

Next Volek justifies the abandonment of segments
of township water systems, saying "but the reality
is, they probably shouldn't have been there in the
first place."

Ms. Volek needs to get facts in place before she
starts writing, sort of like the old admonition
to "engage brain before opening mouth." The reason
that municipal water systems were initiated is that
the mines, by pumping ever deeper and deeper shafts
dry, lowered the regional water tables such that
the people living in the region, all with wells,
ran dry. That's why the mines provided the materials
for the water systems in the first place, and the
reason why the townships gladly provided water service
to the people who lived in such far flung locations.
To voice a judgment of past behavior based on not
knowing, understanding, or caring about the reasons
for water systems being as they are speaks very badly
of our local paper and is a strong part of the reason
it should promptly be renamed the Iron County Social

Bill Vajk

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Iron River sued in Federal Court

I have filed a civil rights lawsuit in the
U.S District Court at Marquette, Michigan.

The defendants are:

City of Iron River, Michigan
Roger Zanon, city councilman
Thomas King, city councilman
Ray Coates, city councilman
Edward Marcell, city councilman
Michael Brozack, city councilman
Suzanne A. Johnson, city treasurer
Richard Anderson, manager of public works
County of Iron, Michigan
Marcia Cornelia, Iron County Treasurer
Michigan Municipal League

The City of Iron River has known for the
better part of two years that this
lawsuit was coming.

A lightly modified copy of the complaint is
available at:

The case number is 2:10-cv-114 and the
judge assigned to the case is
Robert Holmes Bell. The date of filing
is June 15, 2010.

Bill Vajk

No Certification

On June 1st I published a story about a FOIA
request I submitted to the county about the
dog catcher/animal control officer for Iron
County. I closed with the question:

"Is our dogcatcher in his position legally, or
did the county illegally waive the requirements
imposed on them by state law in order to hire
the son of the chairman of the county board of

The answer arrived dated June 15th. There are no
documents laying out the county's hiring policy,
"physical, educational, mental, and moral fitness
minimum standards" for hiring a dogcatcher. Also
there is no documentation of Mr. Tom King ever
having completed a 100 hour instructional course
as prescribed by the Michigan Department of

These are requirements specified in a state
statute, and our dogcatcher doesn't meet those
minimum standards.

So what? Does this really matter? Who cares that
the chairman of the County Board gets her son
hired to the job.

I care, as we all should. This, it tuns out, is
much more than another little bit of corruption
and nepotism. Beside that, Thomas King has not
demonstrated in any way that he is qualified for
the job of animal control officer. Is Mr. King
actually able to qualify by passing a prescribed
course of study?

Earlier this year, the state, through the
prosecutor's office, ran a case through district
court in front of Judge Schwedler, and prosecuted
a man who was bitten by a dog and then stabbed the
dog with an arrow to stop the attack. It is the
case of People vs. Barrette, and a case you'll
be hearing a lot more about in coming months.

Today's report concerns only the simple fact that
Tom King was called by the prosecutor as an
expert witness.

Mr. King does not qualify as the county animal
control officer, and putting him on the stand as
an expert witness, using some presumed but non-
existent credentials to bolster his testimony
constitutes a fraud upon the court by the

That's a fraud upon all of us, because the case
was brought in the name of the people!

Since out illustrious judge sits to advise the
County Board, he either knew or should have known
that presenting King as the animal control officer
was yet another sham, one of many, in the state's
case. He sat silent and permitted the county
prosecutor's office to proceed. What disgusting
conduct on the bench!

I'm sad to say that this speaks ill of the County
Board, Judge Schwedler, Tom King, the Iron County
Sheriff's department, Melissa Powell Weston, the
person I supported for the job of prosecutor some
months back, and Lisa Brouilette, the assistant
prosecutor who conducted the actual case in court.

This is not a case of simply overlooking a requirement
for someone to be hired as animal control officer, it
is the usual case, in Iron County Michigan, of the
collusion of a number of individuals who have been
given a public trust throwing every semblance of
honesty and decency to the winds, because a county
employee's dog, running loose with no license, was

As if that's not enough, there's more to come on this
story which continues to unfold.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MEDC and Iron County Economic Development

Our Iron County Economic Development Corporation
relies heavily on the state's MEDC. This author's
experiences with Iron County's EDC is that
they're particularly transparent.

The following paragraph was most telling about MEDC.

"A 2005 study by the Mackinac Center showed that
MEGA (ed:Michigan Economic Growth Authority) had no
impact on per-capita personal income or job creation.
We did find that for every $123,000 in tax credits
offered, one construction job was created, but 100
percent of those jobs disappeared within two years."

Additional information that reflects poorly on the
MEDC clearly depicts why the state is in trouble
where it comes to jobs:

"Last year, we used a different modeling technique
to isolate MEGA's effects from the larger economy
and found that for every $1 million in tax credits
earned in a county there was an associated loss of
95 manufacturing jobs.

"The Anderson Economic Group study, published in
March and funded by the Michigan Education
Association, found that MEGA and two similar state
programs cost the state 25,000 jobs and $85 million
in tax revenue annually.

"The Upjohn study, published in April, was by far the
most favorable study done. Even so, the authors'
claim that MEGA has created 18,000 jobs since 1996
totals just 1,600 a year on average. If this is the
MEDC's idea of success, we would hate to see their
definition of failure."

The trouble with employment in Michigan has for
decades been that this state married the automobile
business, and everything else fell by the wayside.
Nobody involved with Michigan government has any
idea about how to grow away from the car biz and get
geared up into dealing with a variety. In short one
might say that Michigan was ruined by Henry Ford's
success and the state becoming a hanger on.

I've discussed a feature called "corporate culture"
in this publication before. It is that immovability
in ways of thinking that brings the state to the
current employment debacle, along with the huge
vacant tracts of abandoned homes in the auto
manufacturing districts.

The only solution is to import, and listen to,
development experts from outside the this region.

Give them authority!

This lack of entrepreneurial vision extends from
local city councils, township, and county boards,
upwards. Local governments became accustomed to
suckling at the state's teat, and the state has
run dry.

Bill Vajk

Monday, June 7, 2010

The 'Ick' Test

Newsweek had an article about the Charles Dean
Hood case and suggested that it didn't meet the
"ick' test. The New York Times also discussed it
in an article at that can be found

Hood was tried and convicted in Texas of murder,
and sentenced to death. Without commenting on the
validity of the case itself, the fact that the judge
and the prosecutor had slept together, despite being
married to other partners, throws such a taint over
the entire process that it should be thrown out and
the entire process started from scratch. The case is
well over 20 years old.

There's a certain arrogance about judges and their
misconduct that runs rampant in this country. Even
the US Supreme Court isn't above such arrogance as
they refused to consider the Hood case. Some 21 former
judges and prosecutors filed briefs, along with some
30 experts in legal ethics, all supporting a retrial.
But the Supreme Court didn't want to get involved
despite Hood's previous close calls with the

I was still living in Illinois when a review by the
governor's office of all the death penalty inmates on
death row demonstrated clearly that each had been
wrongfully convicted. DNA evidence played a large role
in a number of cases. There were, at that time, 13
individuals on death row. The next day, death row was
empty, and all 13 had been released to the street
because it was clear that they were innocent. It wasn't
that the conviction was questionable, it was a case
of wrongful conviction in every case. When Blagojevich
took office in Illinois one of his announced priorities
was to fix the broken judicial system such that Illinois
could reinstate the death penalty. He took office in
2003. During the six year period during which he was
governor he was unable to achieve that goal.

The problem, of course, is that when a legal system
gets too efficient it also becomes too easily
corruptible, whether the judge is sleeping with the
prosecutor or not. And at the same time the system,
as a whole, becomes arrogant, unwilling to admit
that errors in judgment can, and do, happen at every
stage of the process.

If we were only dealing with these issues in capital
cases the correction might be easier, but the simple
fact is that we have the same system at work in all
cases, even down to a case as simple and straight
forward as a dog bite, the topic of a multi-part
series of articles that will be appearing here soon.

The only reason that Michigan has not had a drastic
review and revision to the judicial system is that
Michigan has banned capital punishment since 1846 which
itself is a good thing considering how screwed up our
legal system is, but the net result is that corruption
grew quietly and out of the mind and sight of the
majority of our citizens.

It is time. It is past time for a thorough overhaul.

Bill Vajk

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