Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harbingers of Our Future

Last week, our final space shuttle mission returned
to earth. As matters stand we do not have any
launch vehicle system available to carry humans
and cargo into space.

I participated in the space program before the first
of the moon missions at ILC Industries, the designers
and manufacturers of the Apollo space suits. One of
the most interesting aspects of that project was the
fact that the chief designer for all U.S. high altitude
and space suits was a man with little education.
George Durney was “discovered” while he as selling
reupholstery services and curtains for Sears. The
man was the consummate genius with fabrics. This
vividly contrasts with today’s paradigm that in order
to get ahead one must have an advanced education.
A terrific education may make progression into
success easier for some folks, but it is no assurance
of a successful career. The business of learning and
getting good grades on tests improves a completely
different set of skills than one encounters in the
business of earning.

While the usual article we read today covers one or
perhaps two issues, this one, of necessity, does
much more because of the interleaved concepts that
affect our daily lives.

My two hallmark efforts at ILC Industries were:
1) recovery of profit for work done to the tune of
$15 million on which the documentation had been
misplaced, and 2) writing the fist proposal for
modifications to the then existing space suits to
make them appropriate for the lunar mission

My copy of the cover page for the draft is displayed.

That was another of the classic hurry-up assignments
of that day. I had a week to complete the proposal, and
I worked 95 hours that week in order to get it done,
along with three secretaries who did all the typing while
I wrote and prepared charts and tables. I was then given
a few days in which to revise the draft to change the
name of the document (it became the Omega
Configuration for the existing space suit) and to reduce
all the estimated numbers by 15%. Since the suits were
fabricated on a cost-plus basis, the actual cost of
building any suit was covered anyway, and ILC’s
profit was negotiated after the fact based primarily
on the approved aspects of the expenditures.

We knew already that the future of the manned
US space effort was going to be the space shuttle,
a project I opposed then, and now in hindsight,
for the same underlying reasons. In order to
demonstrate my reasons for opposing the shuttle
program we temporarily depart from a discussion
of space and briefly go underground.

I used, as my model, the New York City subway
system. I’ve known the story since my youth
since I first rode the NYC subway in 1946. It
was a dilapidated and old system at that time,
but it still functioned well enough. But in looking
on the internet for a web page or more to include
in support of my thesis, I found that modern
NYC politics has done extensive revision of the
underlying facts, to the point that a published
copy of a 1904 brochure is the only place I was
able to find the unabashed and unrevised truth.
You can find that brochure at:

In the 1800’s, New York’s city fathers recognized
the need for a public transportation system and,
unlike Iron River’s elected officials, determined
to do something about it.

(From the web page: “Our city-loving Mayor was
still the practical business man and while he
advocated all speed in the pushing forward any
crying public need, he was wise enough to consider
the ways and means by which the public need was
to be supplied.” I've always been of the opinion that
that's the way things are meant to be!)

After a number of attempts, they finally got the
state constitution amended to accommodate the
needed public transportation system. Thy found a
contractor willing to build what became known as
the IRT system, and to run it under franchise for
50 years. “By the terms of the contract, the road
was leased by the city to Mr. McDonald for fifty
years…” Work began in 1898.

By the time I rode on the system in 1946, and
later, the equipment was mostly worn out and
was technology from the year 1900. Of course
the cost of the ride for the entire 50 year
franchise was limited to a nickel, 5 cents.

Consider the reasoning. Working with budget
limitations in mind, the ideal circumstances would
be that in the last minute of the last hour of the
contract, the last train would arrive to its
destination and irreparably break down, all used
up. That didn’t happen because the IRT system
was too large and equipment deterioration isn’t
100% predictable anyway. In 1948, when the
City of New York took over the system, the very
first thing that happened was that the fare was
doubled, to 10 cents. And the City, of necessity,
began to acquire new rolling stock as well as
infrastructure supporting the system. The
important point is that what the City received
from the contractor at that point was a much
deteriorated public transportation system
comprised of old technology.

And the space shuttle system has some parallels.
The last flight was completed using 30 year old
technology. Oh yes, the shuttle is quite impressive,
but the advances made in materials alone over the
past three decades has made the existing spacecraft
significantly obsolete. The weight reduction, using
modern technology and limited use vehicles reduces
the cost per pound for launches of men and products.
Any long term, multiple reuse vehicle is built heavier
than a one or two use vehicle.

My final objection to the shuttle model of manned
space flight has to do with the dearth of technological
advance. If we had continued with limited use vehicles
as we started with, an ongoing effort to make
improvements would have benefited not only the
space program, but also helped to drive our
technologically based economy as well as other
health an social programs. None of such development
was available to the US public once the shuttle design
was frozen.

It used to be that the United States was “the
innovator.” I foresaw our loss of that status when
Japanese manufacturers came out with the first
F 1.9 camera lens. The best that anyone had
achieved up to that point in time was F 2.8. The
improvement in lens technology was huge! And
then we saw our manufacturing moving overseas.
Now a company founded by a most favored son
and inventor, Thomas Edison, is moving to
China. General Electric’s X-Ray unit is moving.

Our economy, and soon to be followed by our
living standards, is collapsing because we’ve
moved from being a nation of innovation and
capitalism into one whose inhabitants believe
social programs are the be-all and end-all rather
than technological and productive progress.

The demise of our manned space program is
merely another in a sequence of harbingers of
the truths that represent our future.

As a final chuckle, I wonder if the history of
mankind in space will be revised as much as NYC
subway history has been.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Men Who Cook!

July 26, 2011


Saturday, September 10, 2011

5:30 – 8:30 pm

This year’s MEN WHO COOK!! fundraiser will be at the

George Young Recreational Facility the first Saturday

after Labor Day weekend – Saturday, September 10, 2011,

from 5:30 to 8:30 pm.

Please join us! Your ticket to this great event can be

reserved by sending your check for $35 per person

payable to “Kinship of Iron County” to:

Sara Basso

PO Box 63

Iron River MI 49935

Please include your name as you would like it to appear

on your name tag. Rather than sending out printed

tickets, we will have printed name tags at the

registration table. I would also appreciate your address,

phone number and email address.

If you have any questions, please email me at

or call 906-265-4410 and leave a message. I will

return your call as soon as possible.

Tickets will be made available to the general public

the first week in August – so don’t wait! Send your

check today to reserve your date with


Thank you for helping to make Iron County a great



Sara J. Basso

PS – If you are unable to attend this year’s event, please

consider making a contribution to Kinship of Iron County.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seniors Met In Anticipation of DICSA Action

In an effort to present a unified position, the
site counsels from three (3) Iron County Senior
Citizen sites met Friday, July 22, 2100, at the
Iron River Senior Center. Present were repre-
sentatives of the Iron River, Crystal Falls, and
Alpha Senior Centers.

The meeting was requested by the Iron River
Senior Center, to discuss how to deal with an
effort by the Dickinson Iron Community
Services Agency to reduce the amount of
staffing and financial assistance provided
to the centers. It was the opinion of the
members present that representatives from
each site should attend the special meeting
of DICSA next Friday the 29th of July to ask
if any decisions had been reached about
sharing the reduction in funding among the
three centers.

Given the atmosphere in Washington and
Lansing, the attendees of Friday's meeting felt
that some fair method of allocating the
anticipated reductions in funding should be
agreed to by interested parties. There will be
more coming on this subject as soon as
information is available.

The events precipitating the meeting came
from an anticipated reduction in the number
of days on which meals will be served in Iron
River and Crystal Falls Senior centers and
the shutting down of the Senior Site in Alpha.

This reporter sensed a willingness of the
representatives to present a united front to
the DICSA board of governors next Friday,
July 29, 2011. That meeting is open to the
public and will be held at the Crystal Lake
Senior center in Iron Mountain at 10:00 AM.

Ben Smith

Editor's note:
With federal and state budgets
on the decline, and a reduction in Iron
County's population, ongoing cuts to
essential social programs are a reality that
must be faced even though costs for providing
those services continue to increase.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The TIF Lawsuit - The Complaint

I've been sitting on this information for a couple
of days because while this publication intends to
present some appropriate commentary about
this litigation, that is so complex that it will take
a number of articles to adequately cover the
realities of what this litigation means to us.

While I'm working through such information I
thought it best to make the complaint from the
case available to the public. And please bear
in mind that this isn't simply a "complaint," it
is the "second amended complaint." This means
that the case has shifted from what the original
complaints contained.

That being said, you can find the document here:

Bill Vajk

Monday, July 11, 2011

Error Correction in TIF article of July 10, 2011

We published the following sentence:

"When the problem was addressed as prescribed by
statute, it was found that the election committee of
the county had not meant to approve the wording of
the proposal before it was put on the ballot, and, in
fact, had not met for 13 years."

The sentence should have read:

"When the problem was addressed as prescribed by
statute, it was found that the election committee of
the county had not met to approve the wording of
the proposal before it was put on the ballot, and, in
fact, had not met for 13 years. "

Our apologies for any confusion caused by this error.

Bill Vajk

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The TIF Lawsuit - Some Spillover

The following article has been submitted by our
Associate Editor Ben Smith. This information
has not been thoroughly researched and is being
published as the opinion of both the Editor and
Associate Editor. More will be published here on
this topic that's been receiving only a minimal
notice of any sort by a local press that's more
intent on making believe that Iron County is a
happy place with no problems and no issues.

Bill Vajk


Iron County taxpayers are in a similar predicament
to Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield,
and Southgate downstate.

The Election Committee is supposed to meet and
approve as "understandable language" the wording
of any proposal before ANY issue can be put on a
ballot. Right now a judge's careless disregard of the
law (no election committee meeting being set)
makes the taxpayers of Iron County possibly subject
to a huge tax burden.

The cities of Iron River and Caspian are suing Iron
County over a misunderstanding about what is
meant by the wording of the "TIF" (Tax Increment
Financing) law proposal which was implemented
by both the cities and the county. Recently a
different interpretation of this wording has emerged.

When the problem was addressed as prescribed by
statute, it was found that the election committee of
the county had not meant to approve the wording of
the proposal before it was put on the ballot, and, in
fact, had not met for 13 years. As a result, there
have been many ballot proposals over the last 13
years on which the wording has not been approved.

All these proposals are now in question as to their

Whose fault is it when the letter of the law is not
observed? Downstate, in the areas mentioned above,
the judges involved were accused and convicted
of violating the law. The convictions were upheld
by judicial oversight boards, consequently the
taxpayers PAID.

Is Iron County facing a similar fate ?

Ben Smith

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The TIF Lawsuit

Michigan’s economic development platform is
based on TIF (Tax Increment Financing,) the
notion that increased taxes paid by businesses
locating in a specific area will be used to pay for
infrastructure and other economic development
incentives needed to assist their location in the
designated area.

A few days ago I went to the Iron County
Courthouse and briefly reviewed the TIF
lawsuit between municipalities and the
County. Some things came to light that are
generally not known by the public at large.

For example, did you know that when someone
is late in paying their property taxes, the County
lends the money to the municipality before that
tax is paid?

What does this mean to Iron River Township where
delinquent water and sewer bills are supposed to
go to property taxes by law? We have the recent
report from the Township Supervisor that the
township has been sitting on late/non-payments!

And of course so long as the township is sitting on
those delinquent payments, they're charging those
poor souls 10% per month late penalty. That 10%
becomes 314% when annualized. If they forwarded
the delinquent amount to the treasurer on schedule
that penalty drops to 1% per month and the township
would have its money.

Why did Iron River Township violate the law?

A few pages from the County's reply to a motion
by the Plaintiff cities is online. They are pages
5-6 and 13-15. If you read them, please don't try
to make sense of the discontinuity between pages
6 and 13 because it won't work.

They're now arguing about the wording of millage
proposals on the ballots, and whether or not those
proposals were valid or not! It is a mess.

The copies from the TIF lawsuit are available
for you to read at:

This lawsuit has not received much play in the
other local news media because it airs some dirty
laundry among the county and some municipalities.
Heaven forbid that those of us who elect the people
involved in this debacle should have any solid
information on which to base our choices on
election day!

As time permits, IronCountyDoings will attempt
to bring you more information on this matter.

Bill Vajk

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