Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Reappointments

                                                                          Ben Smith
                                                                          Iron River  MI  49935
                                                                          May25, 2012
SpeakOut Editor
C/0 Daily News
215 Ludingfon
P.O. Box 460
Iron Mountain MI 499801

To the Speak Out Editor:

Please find enclosed evidence that the NERD is now a
politician first class. (Editor’s note: Governor Snyder has
dubbed himself “ one tough nerd”.)

The following documents 'were obtained directly from a
recipient and may be used by your dept. any way suitable to show
the desire of the Authors of the instructions contained in them.


Ben Smith

(The following document contains the new requirement,
"current state appointees will not be eligible for reappointment
in 2012.")

Department of Human Services


Field Operations Administration
Tel: 517 373 3570 Fax: 241 7526

To: County Directors                           Date:  May 15, 2012
From: Terrence M. Beurer, Director
Field Operations Administration.

Subject:  DHD Board Appointment Procedures

The terms for the current state appointees for all Department
of Human Services (DHS) County Boards expire on October
30, 2012. In anticipation of the vacancies we are seeking
qualified candidates who share the Governor's vision and goals.
The process for filling vacancies is slightly different than in 2009.

• In some counties potential appointees have been identified,
  therefore these counties will not receive the application and
  will not need to seek potential appointees.

• Also current state appointees will not be eligible for
  reappointment in 2012.

For filling me October 2012 vacancies, the following timeline
will be utilized:

1. Applications will be provided to me counties electronically,
so that the applications can be printed for hard copies or emailed
to requestors. All applications will be due to the DHS Director
office on July 20.2012.

2. By June 5, 2012, a letter will be sent to state legislators or
other government officials notifying them that the DHS Board
applications will be available at the local DHS office and asking
the legislators to direct any individual that wishes to apply for
a DHS board to obtain an application by contacting the local DHS

3. DHS Communications will develop advertising materials to
notify interested persons that applications are available from their
local DHS office and to submit their application to the DHS
Director's Office, 235 S. Grand Ave. Suite 1514, P.O. Box 30037,
Lansing MI, 48909, no later than July 20,2012.

4. DHS Directors are also encouraged to advise individuals who
are interested in the DHS Board position and who share the
Governor's values and visions to request an application from the
local DHS office.

5. Once applications are received, a three person selection team
will screen the applications and interview the nominees to
determine interest and capacity for the DHS Board member role.
The top candidate and an alternate for each county will be
selected and provided to the Director for final selection.

 6. Once the appointment has been made, the appointee will
receive an appointment letter from Director Conigan. The
Selection Team will then generate a notification to the applicants
who were not selected. A copy of those communications will be
forwarded to the County Director.

7. Because County Commissioners are also providing funding for
the State Appointees, county directors are asked to share a copy
of the appointment letter with their commissioners.

Editor's Note: IronCountyDoings recognized the issue at the core
of Ben Smith's comment to be a partisan one. Former appointees
were named by  Democratic governor. The decision to deny
reappointment has been made by a Republican state administration.

IronCountyDoings is a non-partisan publication, but news must be
reported whether the content is partisan or not, and it is on that basis
we bring the facts reported above to the attention of our readers and
we encourage open discussion about the topic. We provide no
commentary about the facts.

Bill Vajk

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Public Education & Iron County

On March 22, I attended a meeting at the George Young
complex that addressed education in Michigan in a setting
similar to a focus group. The program was run by “The
Center for Michigan” with Amber Toth the facilitator for
the session. While Ms. Toth did an admirable job in
presentation and facilitation, I left with the same sense I
always experienced after participating in a focus group,
that being that the essence of the problems were never quite
touched on even when that essence was mentioned by
participants. That’s actually, in my opinion, the shortcoming
of any gathering where the agenda does not permit the
discussion, and the results, to go where the participants think
the emphasis should take the discussion. The group attending
this meeting was erudite. Given the time to expound on the
problems of public education absent specific intended
directions, the discussion might have been much broader in

In this case, the questions were narrowly construed with
the obvious intention to advise the legislature and/or the
education department about improving the education
situation here in Michigan. And, I think, the fundamental
concepts about what a public education was, is, and should
be, were glossed over with an essential misunderstanding
holding that everyone agrees about those issues. That is
not necessarily true.

To begin at the beginning, compulsory public education
in the United States was a relatively late invention,
responding to a political and economic problem created
by New England factory owners who provided a box for
child machine operators to stand on so they could reach the
controls. Child labor was cheaper than adult labor, and the
factories took advantage of the situation.

In 1852, Massachusetts passed laws compelling all
children between the ages of 5 and 16 to attend a public
school for 3 months of the year. This effectively deprived
the factory owners of inexpensive labor just long enough
that they were forced to hire adults instead. Internet
research today reveals that history revisionism has damaged
this information with many web pages avoiding these
historical realities. However, the closer one gets to the
date of the original problem when seeking source
information, the more likely one is to find the real reasons
for the compulsion of public education in the United States.
Information that is today swept under the carpet was
common knowledge and the topic of ordinary grammar
school textbooks on the topic in the 1950’s when I first
became aware of the information. Even 20 years ago,
internet web pages discussed these matters more openly
than one can find it today.

How did the philosophy what a public education should
provide evolve from those beginnings into what people
today seem to think it should provide? Well perhaps it
hasn’t evolved quite so much as one would hope.

American educator and philosopher John Dewey
promoted the idea that the purpose of a public
education is to “create good citizens.” Would the matter
be resolved so easily, because even what is meant by “good
citizen” depends significantly on who is defining that term.
The American Education Association appears to continue to
hold Mr. Dewey’s teachings in high regard today. Here and
there I’ve been able, over the years, to see that Dewey’s
ideas regarding the purpose has leaked through just enough
to assure me of its continuing validity.

For those who hold with Dewey’s understanding, it doesn’t
matter what level of education any child achieves, or even
whether the child graduates from high school. The premise,
in those circumstances, can be considered as being met if the
child becomes a “good citizen,” whatever that might mean. I
suppose if that child doesn’t end up in jail, the purpose could
be said to have been fulfilled, and the compulsory education
systems has achieved its goal even if the child becomes
dependent on the state for a lifetime of complete financial

On the other hand, I believe I am representative of most
Americans today who believe that the compulsory education
system is supposed to provide such benefits as are the result
of the maximum achievement level possible for each
individual student. Does that mean that a child of 14 or 15,
if they are intellectually ready for college, should be able to
attend a university? I don’t believe so, because it is the
whole child we should be educating, not just the intellect.
Children mature at their own, individual, rate. My children,
for example, achieved lousy grades in high school, but
became ready for a college education somewhat later, and
saw to completing their education then.

So it appears, at the outset, that there is a disconnect where
it comes to what various categories of people believe a
compulsory public education should, or must, provide. To
begin at a new beginning, we should probably formally
decide, and legally define, a set of goals for public education,
and get everyone on the same page.

Some time back, a wise aunt told me that a child’s education
begins, under the parents’ tutelage, the day the child arrives
home from the hospital. After that, IMO, it is a lifelong
process, with every interaction between a parent and child an
opportunity. Even playtime is learning time for a young child.
In the modern western world, that interaction becomes reduced
to the time a family can usually share the evening meal, making
dinner the most important time spent together, a time when
values are instilled. And please make no mistake, a strong,
effective, personal value system ranks very high among
educational goals while providing all individuals with the keys
to happiness and success.

I refer the reader to a Michigan Department of Education
web page that discusses parental involvement in terms that
make a lot of sense.


Because some time ago the Lindwalls had written a letter to
the Iron County Reporter commending the West Iron School
District for the excellent job done with their child, while
preparing to write this article, I sought out Sylvia Lindwall
to have a brief conversation about the topic. Primarily I
wanted to ask her about how much interaction the parents
had with that child. It turned out that she and her husband
had significant involvement with their child’s education. In
fact, Sylvia reported that she had been a home economics
teacher, and that subject had been dropped by most school
systems across the country, thus she mirrored a comment made
at the March 22 meeting by Sara Jane Basso (Sara and Ron
were responsible for organizing the session, a belated thanks
to you both). Sara commented twice on the importance of
nutrition as an aspect that has an effect on the success of

Historically the children that most needed a home economics
course as part of their formal education were those who lacked
the interaction with their parents who had traditionally taught
those skills. The inattention to teaching basic living skills today
appears to involve the entire socio-economic spectrum.

Historically, the very poor had never acquired any such skills,
and the middle class with increasingly two working parents, or
one divorced parent who has to work is rapidly gaining on the
same status. The very wealthy who remain busy with economic
advance sometimes have been equally guilty of neglecting
important aspects of their children’s education.

When I addressed the group, off the provided program that
The Center for Michigan plans to present to the legislature as
the result of meetings such as the one I attended, I brought up
several topics:

1) The best group of teachers I ever had were nuns teaching in
parochial grammar school. Those nuns did not have, or need,
teaching certificates. They were so good because they were
dedicated in ways you cannot legislate or in any way regulate.

2) The worse teacher I ever had in high school was the most
beloved, and continued in her career well into her 90’s. She
was, in her later years, a gifted administrator, but made a
lousy classroom teacher.

3) A child’s education begins when they are brought home
from the hospital.

4) Of all the communities where I have lived, this one, Iron
County, has the worse parent involvement in their children’s
education. Unfortunately that includes the “dinner table”
interaction that doesn’t exist for many local children.

Shortly after my comments, another participant mentioned that
he had just attended a gathering honoring the Forest Park children
who had made honor roll. He said it had been well attended by
parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The fact that there are
parents involved, as all should be, with their children’s education,
was echoed by Sylvia who, with her husband, had recently
attended a dinner the top 10 students in both of Iron County’s
school districts.

I believe that the community interaction and rewards for
success are good for those families because success breeds
success, good going, and Godspeed. Like so many other things
with good intentions, this unfortunately leaves a disaster, an
unintended consequence, in its wake. All the relatives of the
children achieving educational success are the very same
people in a position to do something for those who are not
doing very well in school, b ut most of them appear to be
blind to those problems. In the March 22 meeting, several
mentions were made of “at risk” children and those who had
already dropped out, but no solutions were offered to improve
those situations. Those who have successful children are left
with good feelings about their own case, felt encouraged to
continue their work with their own children, but generally
become blind to the problem(s) that the less successful
children will be creating for the community as they reach

I found a published report about another meeting facilitated
by Ms. Toth at Hastings, Michigan. The published report
presents results that sound very much like the highlights of
the meeting I attended, and can be found on line at: 


The legislature can do nothing to improve the dedication of
teachers. But the two critical aspects that would make a
significant difference to the future of education can be
addressed by lawmakers. The first is to reinstate “life skills”
courses at least as electives in high school. Those are
consumer education, home economics (for both boys and
girls,) remedial reading, and letter writing. The second is to
create, mandate, and fund a mentoring system for all
children who are not achieving at least “C” level grades
in all their courses and not reading “at grade level.” “To
provide everything essential for the successful education of
children” must be taken to heart at all official levels.

During my tenure here in Iron County, I have run across one
individual who offers to teach young illiterate people who are
out of school, either as dropouts or graduates, to read. The fact
that we have young illiterates among us in the 21st century is
disgraceful as well as unnecessary. It need not happen, and it
should never happen. But the simple fact is that it does happen.
And if they can’t read, how much of an education did they
actually receive in the public school system? How did they
manage to achieve any sort of score on the state mandated tests?

Rewards and competition at the top end of the student scale is
important. But even more important is that no child should
be left handicapped for their entire lives by an educational
system and parents who fail to provide them with essential
skills. Those are the children who, left to their own ignorant
devices, eventually engage in antisocial behavior that lands
them as guests, sometimes permanent guests, of the justice
system where they are provided an altogether different sort
of education.

It makes much better sense to the undersigned to fund such
educational mandates as will reduce the next generation of
justice system guests, to say nothing of improving the
earning capacities of all those who presently flounder for
lack of caring and concern for them.

Among those who actually graduate high school in Iron
County and undertake some sort of an advanced education,
the percentage requiring remedial coursework to bring them
up to a college ready level is, in this writer’s opinion,
abysmal. Forest Park graduates requiring further
development represent 16.1% of the graduating class of
479 (2011) while for the same period  27.8% of West Iron’s
920 graduates fell into the same category. This makes it
clear that a goodly portion of the middle, as well as the
bottom end of the student success scale, needs performance
improvement in ways not presently available.

Bill Vajk

Monday, May 21, 2012

What's With the Iron County EDC?

It took a while to get the Iron County EDC's corporate charter but
an excerpt appears below after being processed through an optical
character recognition and scanner program. Blame the original typist
and the scanner for any errors! I reformatted it to fit this publication.

But first, let's look that the "mission statement" the EDC has been
promoting ever since I moved to Iron County:

"To implement strategies that will increase job opportunity, tax base
and quality of life within the county of Iron."

see:   http://www.iron.org/business.php

That's nowhere near what the corporation charter, the official document
I got from the Iron County Clerk's office says in the excerpt below. I've
reproduced Article II.

One of the aspects of the authority granted by this charter, in in
this writer's opinion a very important one, has received no attention
of which I am aware. Item J is authority to advertize. There should be
a huge advertising budget every year, in markets like New York, LA,
Chicago, and any other region that has a concentration of corporate
headquarters where decisions to expand are made. It doesn't end
there, of course, but this is the most crucial example of a shortcoming
by the EDC.

And according to this charter, the EDC is supposed to be pro business
even where it bucks the desires of local government officials.

Obviously you're not going to get very good mileage out of an  EDC
that has the same people running it that have been running everything
else in Iron County during the County's declining decades. A new, full
time, visionary, hands on, director needs to be hired and given a budget
that will allow growth and progress. The EDC, as it has been organized
and operated since I've been in Iron County (since 2003) is nothing
more than a social club lacking a positive agenda. Where is the
public dissemination of the minutes of the public meetings? Where
are the constant invitations for the Iron County public to participate?

A working, positive, growth oriented EDC is important to this
County and indeed to this region. All that requires is a County
Board and an EDC board willing to put in whatever it takes
to achieve positive, significant, results. All I've seen has been
coasting and the traditional grant searching that has become
the hallmark of Iron County. Isn't it time to actually do something
about the economic depression that's been here for 35 years?

Bill Vajk

Excerpt from EDC's corporate charter follows.

                                       Article II

Purpose: The corporation Is organized pursuant to Act 338 of the
Public Acts of 1974 as amended. Its purpose will be to alleviate
and prevent conditions of unemployment, to assist and retain local
industries and commercial enterprises, to strengthen and revitalize
 the economy of the County of Iron, to provide means and methods
for the encouragement and assistance of industrial and commercial
enterprises, including small business concerns, in locating, purchasing,
constructing, reconstructing, modernizing, improving, maintaining,
repairing, furnishing, equipping, and expanding in the County of Iron
to encourage the location and expansion of commercial enterprises
in the County of Iron, to more conveniently provide needed services
and facilities for the commercial enterprises in the County of Iron
and its residents, and to accomplish the foregoing by the following

A) Construct, acquire by gift or purchase, reconstruct, improve,
maintain or repair projects and acquire the necessary lands for
the site therefor.

B) Acquire by gift or purchase the necessary machinery,
furnishings, and equipment for a project or projects.

C) Borrow money and issue its revenue bonds or revenue notes
to finance part or a11 of the cost of the acquisition, purchase,
construction, reconstruction, or improvement or a project or any
part thereof, the cost of the acquisition and improvement of the
necessary sites therefor, the acquisition of machinery, furnishings,
and equipment therefor, and the costs necessary or incidental to
 the borrowing of money and issuing of bonds or notes for such

D) Enter into leases, lease purchase agreements or installment
sales contracts with any person, firm, or corporation for the use
or sale of the project or portions thereof.

E) Mortgage the project in favor of any lender of money to the

F) Sell and convey the project or any part thereof for a price
and at a time as the corporation determines.

G) Lend, grant, transfer, or convey funds, received pursuant
to Section 27 of Act 338 of Public Acts of 1974, as amended,
as permitted by law, but subject to applicable restrictions
affecting the use of those funds.

H) Assist and participate in the designation of the land area
which will be acquired in the implementation of a project
or projects.

I) Prepare, assist and aid in the preparation of plans,
services, studies and recommendations relative to the
public purposes of the corporation and secure approval
of the same by the affected municipalities.

J) Encourage citizen participation and assistance in
industrial and commercial enterprises, housing and
community improvements and,to disseminate
information to the general public concerning the purposes
and objectives of the corporation.

K) Aid, assist and participate in the acquisition,
rehabilitation or construction of industrial and
commercial improvements, dwelling units or other
structures or matters incidental thereto.

L) Hold, demolish, repair, alter and improve or otherwise
develop, clear, and dispose of real property.

M) Enter into agreements and contracts with and accept
grants from any state or Federal agency or department,
its political sub-divisions and agencies or departments
thereof, or any other official public body and any individual,
corporation or other organization in connection with or in
furtherance of the purposes of the corporation, subject to
applicable laws and regulations.

M) Accept, hold, own and acquire by bequest, devise, gift,
purchase or lease any property, real or mixed, whether
tangible or intangible, without limitation as to kind, amount
or value.

N) Sell, convey, lease, rent, and mortgage of any such
property, or any interest therein or proceeds therefrom, and
to invest and reinvest the principal thereof and receipts
therefrom, if any, subject to applicable laws and regulations.

O) In general, and subject to such limitations and conditions
as are or may be prescribed by law, to exercise such other
powers which now are or hereafter may be conferred by law
upon a corporation organized pursuant to Act 338, Public
Acts of 1974, as amended, and for the foregoing purposes.

P) This corporation shall not, however, exercise jurisdiction
over any project within a municipality which has been or may
hereafter authorize the organization of an economic development
corporation for such municipality, unless said constituent
municipality and its corporation each specifically consent to
such jurisdiction.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Goodbye Hello

In his farewell manager’s report to the mayor and city council, 
John Archocosky wrote: 

“The title ‘City Manager’ is an overstatement as it 
suggests that the individual in that position is in 
control. In reality however, that’s seldom the case. 
The City Manager is there only to follow the direction 
of the Council and the individuals that elect them to 

Theoretically that’s correct, however in the case of Iron River, 
that has not been the active model. Since my arrival, in most 
cases the city manager simply ran away with decisions and the 
city council has been no more than a rubber stamp providing 

Will that now change? Is this past behavior significantly ingrained 
in the local culture? The stronger a city manager that is hired, the 
more likely such practices will continue. 

“Much of what occurs in small towns like this is the 
mirrored reflection of its ‘citizens’. Citizens have the 
ability to affect every major and minor decision that is 
made on their behalf. The catch however, is that they 
have to show up, speak up, and participate in their city’s 
government. From time to time, decisions are made 
which may reflect the wishes of only a small group who 
let their feelings be known. As Council members and 
staff, we need to be mindful that we are here to serve 
the entire community and all decisions must be made 
which will benefit the majority. I’m pleased to say that 
every Council that I have worked for has demonstrated 
that ability.” 

Here again, nice in theory, but absent in practice. More on this in 
future articles. One needs to read Archocosky's statements for what 
are called “hedges.” That is to say, statements carrying meaning not 
immediately obvious to the casual reader. Archocosky’s writings are 
rife with such things as, “has demonstrated that ability.” 

Really? They demonstrated that ability? How so? If they had 
“exhibited” that ability wouldn’t the writer, who is clever with words, 
simply said so? By writing, as he did, “demonstrated that ability” the 
author has placated his intended, dare I say it, victims, and mislead 
them into a sense of complacency for his future intentions, whatever 
those are. 

This is called "critical reading."

When I was a young man, the local lumberyard and builder supply firm 
was in trouble because of infighting by family members after the death 
of one of its two founders. A salesman who had worked for the firm 
for a couple of decades quit them and opened a hardware and builder’s 
supply right across the street. Because he knew how his former employer 
made business decisions, and the entire customer base, he was able to 
make short work of putting them completely out of business, and 
subsequently purchased his former employer’s property, soon moving 
his operation back to where he began. 

This is the model of seeing an opportunity and taking the risk to one’s 
personal advantage. This is the underbelly of the “free market.” Wherever 
there is a weakness, someone is usually ready and able to take advantage 
of the situation. 

The present experience in Iron River and this county will doubtless exhibit 
a similar game plan. John Archocosky now knows all the political players, 
their strengths and weaknesses, and with great precision, how decisions 
are made at both the municipal as well as state levels. In keeping with the 
history your humble correspondent has watched unfold over the past 8 
years, he will maximize the benefit of this knowledge for himself. 

Don’t forget what he wrote, “As you know, this will be the last Regular 
City Meeting that I will be attending as the City Manager of Iron River.” 

Like MacArthur, he’ll be back. No, he won’t be the city manager, but 
he’ll have advantages of knowledge that a newly arrived city manager 
won’t. John Archocosky is changing his hat, nothing more. And it is to be 
expected that the city council, and others, will listen and obey as they have 
become accustomed to do. 

Bill Vajk 

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