Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Another Illegal Tax?

The agenda for the Iron County Board of Commissioners on 
13 May 2014 contains the following item: “Discussion and 
Possible Action on the Iron County Construction Code's 
Request to Increase House Numbering Fee”

During last month's meeting, the board reversed an earlier 
increase of the FOIA per page charge of 30 cents because, 
as attorney Tinti pointed out to Commissioner Patti Peretto 
before the meeting, “You can't do it that way.” But the 30 cent 
“fee” had been in effect for some time and is one of the counts 
in the lawsuit brought by the undersigned against Iron River and 
Iron County.

Now here we are, with another department asking for an 
increase in a fee, this time for something as simple as “house 
numbering.” Why? Because “fee for service” is one place 
where a local government can gin up some extra income. The 
entire principle of collecting fees is to help offset the cost of a 
governmental department existing. Back in the 1970's the 
Federal Communications Commission tried it and were sued 
by the National Cable TV Association[1] which handily won 
the case with the Supreme Court establishing the credo that 
The phrase "value to the recipient" is, we believe, the 
measure of the authorized fee. The words 'public policy or 
interest served, and other pertinent facts' would not seem 
relevant to the present case, whatever may be their ultimate 
reach. “

Since this was a Supreme Court case it applies universally 
to every jurisdiction in the USA. In the famous Michigan 
Bolt v. Lansing case[2], our Supreme Court (repeating from 
an earlier case) stated that, “"Exactions which are imposed 
primarily for public rather than private purposes are taxes. 
Revenue from taxes, therefore, must inure to the benefit of 
all, as opposed to exactions from a few for benefits that will 
inure to the persons or group assessed."

Applying the Court's reasoning, for whose benefit is “house 
numbering” generated and applied? It seems to the 
undersigned that significant thought ought to be given to this 
topic before changes are applied, with consideration 
given to the possibility that this exaction should be eliminated 
since the service being provided is to the community as a 
whole, not to the person whose property gets a number. 
Once the consequence of the exaction benefits the entire 
community, it is a tax prohibited by the Michigan 
Constitution rather than a fee for service unless it was 
permitted as a tax prior to the enactment of the Headlee 
Amendment to the constitution.

Because local governments in Michigan are so careless 
in applying their power, it seems to the undersigned that 
an initiative needs to be undertaken by the citizens to 
assure that we are not being taxed inappropriately. The 
system that is currently in place encourages inefficiency 
on the part of government employees because they can 
simply improve their lot by applying to the county board 
or equivalent governing body at lower levels for a “fee” 
increase every few years. In the meanwhile the entire 
premise of the Headlee Amendment is defeated with 
the exception of an occasional whimper by someone 
paying an illegal tax. The only way to stop this is for 
citizens to band together and study the problem, 
bringing lawsuits whenever and wherever necessary 
to enforce the law that citizens enacted by voting for 

So as soon as the lawsuit in which the undersigned is 
presently engaged is completed, this describes the new 
initiative I will undertake. All local government bodies 
keep saying that they welcome greater participation by 
the public. Here's a chance for everyone to participate 
without actually attending those generally boring meetings 
where the public knows little, and usually understands 
even less, of what happens during those meetings. Here 
is a chance for the public to sink their teeth into how 
government functions where it is significant and 

We will make a difference!

[1] National Cable TV Association v. United States, 
    415 US 336, 1974
[2] Bolt v. City of Lansing, 587 NW 2d 264, 1998

Bill Vajk

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Civics Catechism - Lesson First

A Civics Catechism – Lesson First

Question: What is civilization and why have it?


Civilization is the organization of human beings into 
artificial groups for the purpose of eliminating internal and 
external predation. Today we have nothing to fear from 
the animal kingdom killing and eating us. Living outside 
the footprint of civilization, for example in the Alaskan 
bush, continues to provide such risks.

Here in Iron County our predators today are local 
governments subjecting us to economic destruction; 
sometimes they nickle and dime us, sometimes a heavier 
hand is evident such as in charging $870 a year for 
municipal utilities we cannot use, or overcharging $10 
for a few pages of a court docket. Such economic 
predation has no legitimacy.

Our governments have been around so long they think 
they are like people, especially here in Michigan. They 
forget their reason for existing, to provide safety and 
services for every citizen as a servant of the people, 
not as an organism on equal footing with human beings. 
Government is artificial, it has no life of its own! Our 
laws are designed to have governments work for us, 
not the other way around.

Michigan is worthy of mention because there is 
absolutely no oversight or control of local governments 
by those who give them limited powers, the state. We 
have to look no further than Detroit to see a worse 
case example. Or how about 13 local governments 
serving, on average, less than 1000 souls each in Iron 
County. Why two school districts, just to make a few 
jobs at the expense of providing the best education 

The model for what our governments are supposed 
to be is completely defined in our constitutions and laws. 
We must not permit failed civilizations, like Putin and 
the Ukraine, to detract from the high standards we 
have established. But sadly we haven't been living up 
to those standards.

Bill Vajk

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