Monday, June 1, 2015

Promises -- Promises

For those of you who are receiving this by mail, please
be advised at the outset of 4 things. 1)  THIS IS NOT 
writing this essay is to get people thinking about Michigan’s
political and economic problems in a way that can lead to
change resulting in prosperity and economic success that
has been unavailable in this state for quite some time while
other regions are progressing very nicely. The broader the
base of this discussion the better the outcome is likely to
be. 3) This essay is concurrently being published on the
internet at Iron County Doings. 4) This is the first of
many discussions on this topic.

A few years ago, I had a brilliant experience, some
89 days at Wilson Jones, an office supply manufacturer.
They “invented” the loose leaf binder long ago, but as
with many such businesses they fell victim to the
computer age and the shift to paperless records that
hurt them financially as much as their decrepit obsolete

For example, the carts they used in the warehouse for
gathering materials to fill orders had industrial wheels.
They kept a supply of those on hand, not new, but
sticky hard to turn wheels that had been removed
from the carts over the years. The premise was that
when the maintenance people had a few spare
moments, they should pull one out of the old wheel
pile, disassemble the axle and bearings, clean and
lubricate, and reassemble them. During the time I
was at Wilson Jones, standard new wheels cost
about $25 each. The space allocated to storage,
solvent cleaners, rags used in the process, grease,
and the labor to make an old wheel usable again
ran the company about $40 per refurbished wheel.
Not only was it more expensive, but you still had an
old wheel more prone to failures.

Management at Wilson Jones apparently had
blinders on. This was the way things were done
from the inception of the company till the end of
its life as free standing manufacturing entity. I was
one of a few hired to help wind down / shut down
the company. 89 days represented the maximum
time available as a probationary employee leaving
the company with no additional financial impact
once I was finished. Today the place where their
factory stood is a strip mall with a good sized
parking lot on Touhy Avenue just east of the
Leaning Tower, a landmark in suburban Chicago.

The other “awakening” I experienced at Wilson
Jones had to do with some wind down management
experiments that ACCO Fasteners (the corporate
parent) ran to resolve some issues they had trying
to get a better handle on manning production
departments, as they were apparently experiencing
such problems elsewhere. One of those experiments
was to cut the production workers in each department
to see what the reduction in output would result. I was
friendly with the supervisor of their electroplating line
where the raw metal products that were to be
assembled into the clip section of loose leaf binders
were plated to make them rust resistant.

He was a fine young man who had started with
Wilson Jones on that plating line as a production
worker. He was very success oriented, the reason
for his successful climb out of production work into
supervision. But his limited education (high school
graduate) and absence of vision driving an inability
to see the bigger picture came into play. The
production that management demanded from every
department was not reduced with the culling of

In order to maintain the demanded production
output, he put on a protective suit that line workers
in his department wore, and went back to work on
the production line along side those he was
supervising. It was a true miracle that the union
workers didn’t file a grievance against him. At the
end of the production day, he put in overtime (he
was salaried and didn’t get paid for this) to catch
up on the paperwork for his department. In short,
he was working two full time jobs for a single job

I saw what he was doing and spoke to him early one
evening after the line was shut down and the production
workers were gone for the day. I explained that
management expected production to drop when they
culled people, and now that he was fully engaged in
production as he was, what did he think he could do
when they cut personnel again, because he had given
management every reason to believe his department
had been overstaffed.

So I had two pertinent experiences in one brief
employment period, with different outcomes, a beautiful
experience for someone capable of observing and
understanding all that was going on around him. I really
enjoyed my time at Wilson Jones and have other
experiences to recount at some other time, but these two
are appropriate to this article which is really about why
Michigan is failing politically and economically as a state.

In the first instance, management failed to see that
reworking wheels cost them a lot more than new ones.
This is a variation on the famous story about Henry Ford
discovering it was cheaper to cut the string off incoming
packages and throw it away rather than saving and reusing
string. Wilson Jones management was blind to the costs of
their practice for about a hundred years. I thought everyone
got this memo!

In the second instance, trying to fix a perceived problem
by working around it illicitly destroyed the value of the
experiment. In short, by “preventing” the manning problem
from festering as it was intended it should, the eventual

outcome was useless because the particular failure that was
supposed to result never had a chance to occur. Evolution,
and society is merely an evolutionary social experiment, in
nature, politics, and business, relies on the consequences of
failures as much as it does on successes.

These two problems, and plenty of others are evident in

When the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution
was enacted and became the law of the land in 1978, all three
branches of government thought they were throwing up
roadblocks because they didn’t much like the simple fact
that the people (whose government this is, after all) took
charge and told our political leeches how to do their jobs.
The people simply wanted to have a say in how our
governments spend our money.

Of course input by “the people” is crucial in a democratic
form of government, and not only have state politicians
since 1978 ignored that importance, they’ve done
everything in their power to thwart the consequences.
What we have had in these regards since 1978 is a nasty
form of an oligarchy supporting misconduct by local
government officials who regularly ignore the state
constitution and do as they damn well please because
there are no consequences. And whenever (except for
the 1997-1999 Bolt case) the government’s misconduct
comes before the courts, the courts play a strong
supporting role for that misconduct at the expense of
upholding the Michigan Constitution, something they took
an oath to do. You have only to look at the record of
Headlee Amendment cases to see how the court decisions
have often been political rather than legal.

The legislature, quite early on, established a one year
statute of limitations for Headlee Amendment complaints.
What a horrible thing to do and then they clearly indicated
their displeasure at the very thought of “the people” exerting
control beyond ordinary well spaced periodic elections.

Justice Weaver, in Taxpayers Alliance v. Wayne County
(1995) entered a dissent They labeled it “concurring in the
result only.” Justice Weaver wrote, “I would find the
one-year period of limitation to be unconstitutional
because it curtails the guaranteed right to no taxes
without a vote of the people and places undue burdens
on the people by its limiting nature.” But the court
reporter followed the “politically correct” labels in their
misguided efforts by not labeling it a dissent. So much
for honest reporting.

For their part, the Michigan Courts have found all
sorts of inane and insane excuses for avoiding the
effects intended by the people when we enacted the
Headlee Amendment. My case is currently found on
the Supreme Court docket as case no. 150015. You
can find it at . The
nonsense I’m talking about continues unabated there.

The only case I have been able to locate in which the
Michigan Constitution was upheld as was intended by
the framers is the famous Bolt v. Lansing. The case that
took several years to wind its way through the courts.
And it took a substantial seven page dissent by Judge
(now a justice on the Supreme Court) Markman at the
Court of Appeals (COA,) as opposed to a 5 page
order by the other two Court of Appeals judges, to
drive the case into a proper review by the Michigan
Supreme Court (MSC.) 

In reading the 1997 original COA verdict in the Bolt
case it is rife with statements this writer considers
pretentious nonsense. The Court of Appeals blames
the Headlee Amendment itself for failing to distinguish
between a fee and a tax and relied on a 1954 case,
Ripperger, for direction. But the Ripperger case had
altogether different circumstances, and a different state
constitution underlying it, so misusing it as a precedent
for Bolt was a serious abuse of the Court’s discretion.
Despite the COA protestations, the fee – tax decision
had already been resolved and nicely defined by the
US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in National Cable
Television v. United States (1974). SCOTUS simplified
matters tremendously in saying, “The public agency
performing those services normally may exact a fee
for a grant which, presumably, bestows a benefit on the
applicant, not shared by other members of society”

How simple and how elegant!

But MSC, when it decided the Bolt case, introduced
unnecessary complexity that doomed all future cases
to judicial review, saying in effect that only the
Michigan judiciary is qualified to decide what is a fee,
and what is a tax. Nonsense! Everyone can fully
understand the definition SCOTUS provided in 1974,
and in a minor fashion MSC included that definition as
a “by the way” sort of statement.

MSC gave instructions to the court below when it
decided the Bolt case. Isn’t it interesting that as quickly
as the Bolt case was resolved and laid to rest, the lower
courts immediately ignored everything MSC had
directed them to do/consider in Headlee Amendment
cases and fell back into the same old rather stupid
games they originally played in the initial findings for
Alexander Bolt. What, are we, the public stupid that
we can’t see what is happening? I’ll bet that poor
man is spinning in his grave. In fact, if you would
care to read my motion for reconsideration at You can see exactly
the same insultingly inane arguments that have been
provided by CO A over the years repeated in their
full glory.

We’re not going to be able to legitimately succeed
or fail as a state until the Headlee Amendment is
enforced as it was intended and written. It isn’t so
much Headlee itself, but the behavior of Michigan
governments that comes into play. All local
governments have to do is ask the people to provide
the taxation necessary for their cities, towns,
townships, and counties to be successful. If the
people don’t like it, then local government needs
to go back to the drawing board and devise
political and economic solutions at the local level
that actually work. Right now, the kludge that’s
holding it all together is a system of lies and
corruption extending from the lowest municipal
 levels of government through every level of all
three branches of state government.

You doubtless already know that before large
entrepreneurs invest money to undertake a new
business in a region they learn literally everything
 about that region. They are averse to taking
unnecessary risks such as they’ll face trying to do
business in a region that has a proven unpredictable
government. When government promises certain
things, then delivers only what they feel like doing,
investment flees. Unless you deliver what you
promise to your citizens, your word in making
promises to big money investment is clearly
worthless. These people didn’t manage to
accumulate massive investment funds by being

So talk with your peers about this simple problem
that Michigan does not deliver what the state
promises, and lets all work together to change
 how this state does business so we can progress

Bill Vajk    31 May 2015

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