Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Of Momentary Interest

As the principals already know, your humble correspondent
is preparing another lawsuit against local governments and a
few elected, and appointed, officials. We won't tip our hand
here this time out, until after the case is filed. It will not be a
long wait.

I was reviewing the impacts that this newsletter has and
discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that there's much
more interest outside the US than I had realized.

The list of foreign readings of Iron County Doings follows.
The most frequent foreign visitors come to us from Russia,
possibly more of a shock than anything else.

United Kingdom
Czech Republic
Puerto Rico

Bill Vajk

Monday, May 6, 2013

Where is that cat anyway?

Late last fall it came to my attention that someone I wanted to
reach at Iron County Courthouse on a Friday afternoon wasn't
available. That's one of those things that became a typical mental
note, because I know that A) it might have been a legitimate
absence and B) I know that some people like to sneak away
from work to start a weekend a bit early.

Earlier this year there was another occasion to contact the same
person, again on a Friday afternoon. Honestly it could have waited
till Monday, but with a one incident history I wanted to know what
would happen. I wasn't really surprised when the office was
unmanned  a second time.

So the following week I found a reason to appear to that office in
person on a Friday afternoon. I found the office open, empty, and
with the lights on as though the county employee had stepped out
and would be back from wherever in the courthouse business had
taken them. But no such luck. I went back after 4PM to find the
same situation.

I did find it odd that I got the following email the same day. "Why
don't you check into the schedules of the people that work in the
courthouse? It seems like they don't like to work 8 hour days."
Perhaps someone became aware of my interest and was
urging further attention to the matter.

And this past Friday, May 3, 2013, I repeated the experience. I
picked up a document from Joan Luhtanen, only to find the target
office lit up and vacant once again. The pattern is now established.

Every management curriculum, from the shortest course on
supervision right through to a full blown MBA program teaches
that a good manager must randomly check the work habits of all
employees. The classic example is that a factory manager should
occasionally arrive early and walk in through a back door at his
factory in a surprise inspection to see what the workers are doing
when the shift starts. Are they in the cafeteria having coffee instead
of working? Is everyone there or has someone punched time cards
for tardy friends?  Are salaried workers at their desks at the
beginning of their shift? And are they there at the end of shift,
especially on Friday afternoons?

These elements of good personnel management are so well
established that they can even be called ancient. But there is
clearly no supervision of county employees at the courthouse,
and it is apparent that supervision has been non-existent for
a very long time.

Where are the members of our elected County Board, the
folks the taxpayers of Iron County have entrusted with the
running of the county on our behalf? We are paying to have
employees present and at attention, ready to serve, during
regular business hours. We certainly are not getting what we
pay for when offices are empty during regular business hours.

Do we blame those county employees who are stealing our
time? Yes! Do we blame the County Board for failing to
properly supervise the employees? Yes!

Note to all members of the County Board. Please fix this
immediately. It isn't difficult to do. We should not have to
introduce you to a standard chapter from a management
textbook that explains why it is that no manager can ever
be a friend to an employee. That's one of the reasons for
never promoting from within.

Bill Vajk

Wanted: An Economically Successful Iron County

I sent a letter to the editor of the Iron County Reporter. Today
is the day the paper decided whether to publish it or not, so
I thought I'd go ahead and put it up here because it is an
important, though short, piece and there are comments that it
deserves and I knew the paper wouldn't publish those.

In fact, the commentary is perhaps more crucial than the letter


 To the Editor:

Having met with Mr. Franzoi to review 

the actual dollars available for Iron River 
operations, I find myself in the odd position, 
for me, of defending the solutions offered 
by the Manager. In 2006, Joseph Martin 
wrote his MSU thesis about Iron River, 
noting a 2.5% decrease in employee fringe 
benefits between 2000 and 2005.

Today’s fringe benefits for police have 

climbed to well over 100% of wages. This 
situation was created by the former City 
Manager who promoted unsustainable 
budgets to approving City Councils, 
yielding the problems for which Franzoi 
is merely a messenger. Don’t shoot him! 
Who voted in those city councils? City 
residents did. And don’t for a moment 
forget that the former city manager 
recommended raiding of the city’s water 
savings account to feather his retirement 
nest to the tune of $150,000 late in year 
2011 shortly before he “retired.” As a 
result, sewer and water rate increases are 
now pending after yet another $5000 is 
being spent to justify those changes. 
Why did the voters permit money to be 
spent on fringe benefits instead of the 
pension fund and fixing city streets and 

Please attend the budget meeting in May 

so you’ll know how to vote when most of 
the City Council is elected in August. As 
citizens and voters we’re not supposed to 
get all up in arms when a financial crisis 
is in full bloom. We’re supposed to 
supervise our elected officials; demanding 
complete and accurate reporting by our 
local news media all of the time. That’s 
the only way to keep bad news from 

Since some are now interested in 

government, please run for office. You 
have my support! New ideas are important. 
Just don’t think answers will come easily 
once you’ve arrived.

Bill Vajk

end letter to the editor

When the mines were operating, the owners/managers of those
mines controlled some mighty large purse strings here in Iron
County. They flexed their muscles and literally ran all of local
government. In a relatively short period, they closed up shop
and left. Along with them, headed for greener pastures, went
most of the population of the county.

Among those who stayed were a "power elite" (for want of a
better term) who jumped in and took the reins of local
governments. They all knew one another as members of an
informal club that persists through the modern day.

Newcomers, if they want to join, have to work at it in the first
instance, and then be accepted. But there's an informal
ownership agreement that's part of the price for belonging. The
individual has to be a "team player" without having to be told
exactly what to do.

I grew up in a community where things ran pretty much as they do
here. When an individual was expelled, they didn't have to be
told. They pretty much disappeared off the scene and weren't
seen again. It was something akin to being shunned by the Amish
or the Quakers.

The important aspect is that so long as the group that's been
running things in the county since the late 1970's continues to
operate as they have and they do today,  nothing important will
change in Iron County, we'll continue to be the economic failure
that we are. The reason for it is simple enough. Those who are
calling the shots already have it made, and don't really need the
Iron County economy in order to live in the fashion to which
they have become accustomed.

Sadly enough, they consider themselves liberal Democrats.
Perhaps they are that, ideologically, but not in practice. And
they'll be the first to deny membership in any sort of "club."
Would you expect any different?

So if your reason for becoming interested in government is to
assure more of the same, please don't bother. The bunch
already occupying positions of power are doing an adequate
job of maintaining the status quo.

But of course that's not doing most of the population any good
at all. And without better opportunities, most of the children
achieving early adulthood will have to leave to earn a decent
living. I had a woman tell me that she never was without a job
whenever she wanted one. The unspoken truth of the matter is
that she could not live as well as she does were it not for her
husband working a high paying job out
of the region.

There's a relative newcomer in our midst who wanted to start
a bus service from Gaastra-Caspian-Iron River to Iron
Mountain with several round trips per day. She bought the
buses. But you don't actually think she was able to get the leg
up she needed to get the route actually running, did you? Some
member, or some members, of that invisible club might object.
But then, they never actually have to voice an objection. She
was stopped at the first intersection with a representative of the
club, without being given the real reason for her failure.

If you want to improve the economic situation here in Iron
County Michigan, please get in touch with me. We need to have
like minded individuals work together towards a brighter future.

Bill Vajk

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