Thursday, September 19, 2013

Education and General Government are Electorate Driven

The following is my reply to an article published in
Bridges magazine about the comparison between
Windsor, Ontario schools and Michigan schools. A
significant local event (Blossom Street) is incorporated
for comparison.

I went through high school at Princeton NJ during
the period before the university professors were
receiving the high levels of pay they now achieve. As
a result, I attended public high school with the professors'
children. The pressure from those academics to
guarantee that their children received a first class
education was incessant. Princeton High School was
in a constant competition with one other school in the
state for first place, and many years Princeton won.

Then the university began paying better salaries and the
professors sent their children to private schools they
could finally afford. Princeton High School's status
slipped and will probably never recover. As a transplant
to the UP of this state I have come to the view that
parents who don't demand any better of their schools
than they do of their politicians reap the rewards as,
unfortunately, do their children.

In an angry meeting last night (9.18.2013) the city
council in Iron River told the people that there is no
money to repair half a block of Blossom Street so it
will remain closed. But where were those people during
the past 20 years while the street was deteriorating?
They seem to think that anyone they elect will look out
for the interests of those who elected them. That simply
is never the case. Similarly, the comparison of a
Michigan education to those of other states as well as
foreign districts has been available for decades.

Parents of today should know the quality of their
education compared to that of people they compete
with from elsewhere, and have made no significant
moves to improve the Michigan standards. In theory,
in the representative democracy we live in, the key isn't
the legislature, but the electorate, the parents who have
the power to apply political pressure if and whenever
they will. Until they do that, the best that Michigan has
to offer will, for the most part, leave for greener pastures.

Bill Vajk

Monday, September 9, 2013

What's Wrong With You People?

On Monday, 9 September 2013 I presented myself
at the Iron County Clerk's office with the intention
of reviewing the copy of the City of Iron River
charter that is on file (as required by state law) there.

Joan Luhtanen, the elected clerk, was out for the day.
Ordinarily that would not have presented a problem,
but only 2 of the three additional county employees
who form part of that office were present, and neither
of them know where/how to find the required
documents. Indeed, one of them wasn't even aware of
their presence in the office or the reason they were to
be found there.

The employment level at the clerk's office has been four
for a very long time. Iron County Doings finds that the
failure of the clerk, who is set to resign/retire at the end
of this calendar year, to cross train all her employees to
provide any and all the services that are the mission of
the clerk's office is inexcusable.

Will the county board take notice of this fact? Are all
the county offices this incompetent? Cross training of
all employees to fill in during emergencies should
always have been the norm.

Is it possible that the elected officials keep employees
in the dark because they're afraid that they might be
challenged in an election? That's awful!

The more I see, clearly, of the behavior of local politicians
the more I am convinced that unless we get some real
education in civics into this region, and it comes soon, this
local political structure is headed for a financial collapse.

Some newspaper articles I recently read about Iron
River's consolidation saving the three municipalities from
bankruptcy observed the local facts better than the
politicians in Iron County were willing to admit. But
here we are, a mere 13 years later, and draconian
measures are necessary to stave of another threat of
bankruptcy for Iron River. Crystal Falls was on the
same path till recently, and partly saved by handing
their fire department and water system over to
Crystal Falls Township.

These problems stem from poor management practices
by inept local politicians who, unfortunately, have not
learned anything from their failures. They seem to think
that any sort of reorganization will solve the problems.

Here's a free clue, ladies and gentlemen, they will not!
First you have to learn to live within your means. That
means streamlining every operation!

While we're on this subtopic, the electorate needs a
major wake up call as well. After all, they are the
clowns who actually voted these other clowns into
office, and when the public officials fail, they ask why
can't local government get more grants to patch things
up for a few more years.

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost....

So Iron County Board, why don't you have rules in
place requiring cross training of county employees
wherever possible. And then spend a little time
studying the clerk's functions with an eye to reducing
the 4 employees there the three, or perhaps two. With
all the automation that's taken place over the past few
decades, who has undertaken the responsibility that's
inherent in county board officials jobs to streamline all
county operations?

Why I'll bet a cup of coffee that nobody has ever
looked at the operations in such light.

Shame on you Joan, and shame on the board of
commissioners, that a simple request to review a
document cannot be fulfilled because an employee
was out for the day! And the county board wants
to eliminate another position and put an additional
entire department under the jurisdiction of the clerk
when the clerk is already doing an inadequate job
as matters presently stand? The county board
isn't even aware that offices they're responsible
for aren't functioning correctly? Is Iron County less
that a full service organization? Is that what it is
supposed to be, because that's what we have now!

What's wrong with you people?

Bill Vajk

Is This The Best Iron River Has To Offer?

The following memorandum is a copy of my reply to the
letter that Iron River's city manager sent out with the
water bills received by people who have their water
shut off at the curbstop. If any reader would like a copy
of the documents mentioned in the memorandum, (with
the exception of the 1876 case) please send me email
and I'll send you a copy.

To:        Mr. Perry Franzoi, City Manager
(Personal Service)
From:        William J. Vajk   
Date:        9 September 2013    
Ref:        413 Plum Street “Water” bill       
CC:        Carl Lind

Thank you for your letter of August 26, 2013 addressed
to “Dear Utility Customer.” It was clearly sent to me in
error as I am not now nor have I ever been a utility
customer of the City of Iron River. In fact an admission
by the city that I am not a utility customer at that address
was faxed to the Department of Treasury by your office
on July 13, 2009.

It has come to my attention that the aforementioned letter,
copy enclosed for your convenience, was only sent to
those property owners whose water was shut off at the
curbstop. Given all the circumstances attendant to the
public discussions and the letter, it is clear that the
ordinances along with the billing and collections
practices of the city in these regards are violative of all
three prongs of the test imposed by the Bolt v. City of
Lansing (1998 and 1999) case from which I have attached
a reprint of the two pages discussing those prongs. Below,
I repeat those prongs in an abbreviated form.

1) A “fee” must serve a regulatory purpose rather than a
revenue raising purpose.

2) A “user fee” must be proportionate to the necessary
costs of the service.

3) A “user fee” must be voluntary-users must be able to
refuse or limit their use of the commodity or service.

For further guidance on these matters please see Jones v.
Detroit Water Commissioners, 1876 that said, “The
price of water is left to be fixed by the board in their
discretion, and the citizens may take it or not as the price
does or does not suit them." The Jones case implicated no
permanence to the customer’s choice. In Roman days it
was customary to disconnect the service line from the
water main for non-payment. Today that is unnecessary
because a curbstop provides any necessary disruption to

To add insult to injury, it is obvious that the garbage
collection aspect of the “water bill” has nothing to do
with water service, and that the newly imposed charges
for 413 Plum Street have only a revenue raising purpose
because the city has never collected any solid waste
from the property since I have owned it. I deem it
disingenuous on part of the administration that the city
knew this fact until such time as it became inconvenient
to the current scheme to raise additional revenue by any
means including illegal measures. The newly added charge
for the collection of solid waste also violates all three of
Bolt’s prongs.

Ignoring that the City of Iron River is unable to point to
any state authorization for initiating utility billings as has
been done for 413 Plum Street ever since I have owned
that property, there are a number of other reasons that
clearly demonstrate the illegality of the ordinances and
practices of the City and Iron County relevant to such
city services as this potential customer has determined to
refuse. Please note that since all such services have been
refused while I have owned the property, no contract,
implied or otherwise (see “implied-in-fact contract”, City
of Cincinnati v. U.S., 1998) has ever existed in these
regards. “…[A]n implied-in-fact contract arises when an
express offer and acceptance are missing but the parties'
conduct indicates mutual assent.” Also see Attorney
General Opinions 5167 and 7263 that relate directly to
some of these issues.

For the reasons listed above, as well as others
unstated here, I refuse to pay the invoice submitted to
me. I and will enter a more formal response to these
latest illegal actions by the City of Iron River in terms of
additional counts to the pending lawsuits that presently
remain in work.

For your amusement, while pertinent, I have included
a copy of an email generated on 11 May 2012 by your
predecessor. In the final paragraph, Archocosky
discriminates between “0 pay” and “not paid” clearly
demonstrating that he, therefore the City of Iron River,
understood the value of zero and “shut off at the
curbstop” in the conventional sense that the city, in
its ordinances, has chosen to ignore where it comes
to municipal utilities.

This letter is provided to formalize, once again, my
position on the illegal charges imposed by the City
of Iron River and to afford the city council the
opportunity to take corrective measures prior to
lawsuit. The time available, however, is short. I
understand that their reticence to obeying established
state laws, court precedent, and constitution that are
inconvenient to city council members will doubtless
prevail until the courts insist otherwise. I dare say such
attitude is ignorant, arrogant, and obstinate to say nothing
of plain stupid. Is this really the best that Iron River has to

Bill Vajk

Monday, September 2, 2013

An Inconvenient Variable

In every field of study and discussion, the "variable"
has an important place. When it comes to politics, the
most crucial variable has a name, "the Overton
window." Its importance has to do with what a
politician or political group can get away with and
still be re-elected. The concept that a politician's
primary reason for existing is to serve the public
falls by the wayside whenever such ideology
assumes control over the decision making process.

Whether Iron River's torturous lengthy demise is
the consequence of stupidity on the part of elected
officials or one of "what can we get away with"
becomes inconsequential at some point. The fact is
we are engaged in the total collapse and failure of a
very small city that is well on its way to complete
irrelevance. Iron River is, under all the present
circumstances, unsustainable. Within the rules
governing how municipal governments may behave,
as established by the legislature, Iron River cannot

Many variables have been hidden from the taxpayers
and citizens of Iron River for a very long time. And
there's a plethora of wrongdoing yet to be uncovered.
The following was sent to the Iron County Reporter for
publication as a letter to the editor. At the time of this
writing we have no idea whether that newspaper will
publish my contribution or not.


During the August 27th city council meeting, damage
to and closure of Blossom Street was blamed on a
failed or plugged culvert. Show me that culvert, please.
I looked and the only thing I found was a lame excuse
for failure to maintain our streets. There is no culvert
there. Go around a few corners you’ll see an identical
failure evolving on Coolidge near Cherry. There’s
another in the alleyway behind my house on Plum
Street. How many more are around the city? With
public works trucks driving all over the city every day,
why not report similar problems in writing? 

Misallocation of funds for decades, leaving no
money for maintenance, has brought us a Blossom
Street looks like an episode of the TV show “Life
After People,” perhaps 50 years after.

Cost cutting by the city should never be done at the
expense of diminishing infrastructure that the
taxpayers paid for. Come on, City Council, we
handed you a well functioning street, why can’t you
maintain it? Every property affected by a permanently
closed street, whether it is a longer altered traffic
pattern to get home, or loss of street access, should
experience an immediate reduction in property taxes
by 50% until the problem is fixed.

Blossom Street has been there for about 100 years
because it is needed. Does the city have an inventory
of failing assets in order to plan repairs or are you
simply “grant chasing” and permitting everything not
covered by a grant to fail? How many more make-
believe culverts will collapse before the recall petitions
begin to circulate?

I fear that Blossom Street is just the tip of an iceberg.


Bill Vajk

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