Vote!

Get out and vote today! At lunch! After work! In the morning! Take your children! Go with a friend!

At Hartland's polling place, the old high school. Dane is at the polling place all day so come out and say hello!

Over the last few days, Dane has been putting out his last signs, making phone calls, and knocking on doors.

Remember: Dane has concrete priorities for the County Commissioner position

1. Bring parks and recreation to Livingston County, and specifically Hartland Township

2. End full-time benefits for part-time Commissioners

3. Increase transparency in County government – put meeting minutes online and televise meetings

4. Repair our roads

5. Hold a town hall meeting to educate the public about Hartland Township and the County’s special assessment debt issue

If you are interested in these issues head up to the polls and talk with Dane!

The polls are busy on this sunny morning!

If you want a new face on the County Commission and a Commissioner from Hartland Township, vote for Dane Morris!

Posted in Nov 2 Election | Leave a comment

Video and text on Hartland Patch

Check out the just-launched website for local Hartland news and its story on Dane. Dane answers three questions about the county commission position and his answers focus on bringing transparency to county government, developing parks and recreation for our youth, and searching for consensus and common sense solutions to today’s problems.

Posted in In the community, News | Leave a comment

The Livingston County Board of Commissioners’ other greatest achievement? Keeping you in the dark about where tax dollars are spent

Do you know who your County Commissioner is?

Do you know what the County Commission does?

That’s a problem. And if you don’t know the answer to those questions, surely you don’t know where the county taxes you pay end up. The current County Commissioners love to talk about the low millage rate in Livingston County. But what would you rather do – pay a low cost for an unknown services or get a tangible return on your investment?

Our roads are some of the worst in the state, so the money can’t be going to improve them. You have to hire a private company to come pick up your trash, so the money can’t be going there. The county spends $0 on parks, so there’s no money put into outdoor recreation. Most people hire DTE and have septic and well systems, so there’s no money spent on providing utilities. There’s no comprehensive public transportation, so no money being spent on alternative forms of getting around.

The Commissioners make it difficult to find information on County-level activity. The Commissioners’ webpage looks like it was created in 1999 and never updated. Meeting minutes are sparse, and only recently were complete Board Meeting minutes posted online. There are no videos. The recent mishandling of minutes may be in violation of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. Community residents should not need to file cumbersome and expensive Freedom of Information Act requests to view something as simple as meeting minutes.

County government needs to be easily accessible to make it easier for civic participation in the democratic decision making process. The Commission needs a 21st century website with a comprehensive combination of video, audio, and text to accommodate all residents. Sure, the Commission puts up financial reports, but provides it to residents on the back end, saying: Here’s the information, we’re done. The Commission should utilize its website to say: Here’s the information, help us make a decision.

Dane is knocking on your door and running for County Commissioner because he's committed to bringing renewed political discourse to a governing body that's been ruled by one party for 25 years

If you told an incumbent Republican Commissioner that the Commissioners’ need a new website and more transparent communication with taxpayers, he would write you off as a Democrat talking about irrelevant issues. Unfortunately for the current Commissioners, this issue sticks. The idea of using technology to pry open previously opaque organizations isn’t going anywhere. Their party’s gubernatorial candidate, Rick Synder, believes in the importance and necessity of using the web to increase transparency and accountability of government. In fact, he’s made the issue a cornerstone of his 10 Point Plan to revitalize Michigan.

Just like at the state level, we need a new face in order to promote a community of clear, transparent, and accountable County government. Vote for a new face on the County Commission. Vote for a taxpayer upset about the county’s lack of services. Vote because you want to be an integral part of County decisions. And remember: you can split the ticket in the general election. So no matter who you vote for in other races, vote for Dane Morris for County Commissioner.

Posted in Board of Commissioners, County Parks, Taxpayer Funds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Livingston County Board of Commissioners’ greatest achievement? Doing what every municipality is required to do by Michigan law

You’ll hear the current all-Republican commissioners talk all day about balancing the county budget. What they don’t tell you, however, is that almost every other municipality in Michigan has done the same thing. It’s nothing extraordinary that our county has a balanced budget. In fact, it’s required by state law. All municipalities have made difficult cuts to balance the budget. Muskegon Heights did it. Genesee County did it. Grand Rapids did it. Washtenaw County did it. Ingham County did it (and the Ingham County Board of Commissioners is currently focusing on the 2012 budget instead of wasting time lauding its required achievement). The list goes on.

The current County Commission points to the dollars and cents as the bottom line for our county. Dane thinks a little differently. First, Dane doesn’t see a balanced budget as a landmark accomplishment – he views it as an expected outcome of a County Commission. As a contract negotiator for teachers, Dane is familiar with making concessions and working with others.

Fillmore County Park, gifted land to be used as a recreation area for county residents. Current Commissioners lease the land as a source of revenue. Dane will develop the land for its intended use - outdoor enjoyment for our county families.

Second, Dane views our County as more than a dollar figure. Dane knows the success and continued growth of Livingston County resides in the people here. That’s why Dane will be an advocate for parks and recreation. He knows that parks and outdoor recreation improve quality of life and attract business and residents.

Posted in Balanced Budget, Board of Commissioners, County Parks | Leave a comment

Eight More Days!

Matching Yard Signs

Nearing the end of the campaign, Dane knocked on more doors in Hartland Township over the weekend. Dane is hearing from you about the lack of playing fields for our youth. Voters are excited to learn about the potential for parks and recreation right here in our backyard. We have a 100 acre plot of unused parkland on the north side of M-59 between Bullard and Fenton Rd. Dane knows we need more fields to support HAYAA and other activities and is ready to be an advocate for parks and recreation on the County Commission.

Posted in County Parks, In the community | Tagged | Leave a comment

What a County Board of Commissioners meeting is like

You have probably never been to a Livingston County Board of Commissioners meeting. You probably don’t know what the Board of Commissioners is.

Wondering what happens at their meetings? Not much.

The Monday, October 18 Board meeting was no exception. The meeting started with the pledge of allegiance, an attendance roll call, and small correspondence. During the call to the public, Kelly Raskauskas, Democratic candidate in District 7, spoke of the need for a town-hall meeting about the County’s special assessment district (SAD) debt issue. Her comments were ignored.

There were no tabled issues from previous meetings, the agenda was approved, and two Commissioners provided small reports. Then the meeting rolled into voting mode. In this phase, the board Chairwoman reads the resolution. Then a Commissioner immediately motions to adopt the resolution. Then a Commissioner seconds the motion. Then everyone on the Board says “Yay.”

There is no discussion. Sometimes an audience member is asked to provide information about a specific resolution, but it’s a mere formality. The Commissioners have a streamlined system: motion, second, yes. Motion, second, yes. They have done it thousands of times.

In an unprecedented event, Commissioner La Balle motioned to table an agenda item for further discussion. The motion passed. Dealing with employee pay grades, it is the only resolution known to us that has not passed unanimously. For some reason, the historic vote felt planned and executed.  The rehearsed nature of the full Board meeting is not surprising when we realize that Commissioners actually discuss and decide these issues at their Finance Committee meetings. Convenient for the general public, these meetings take place every other Wednesday at 7:30am.

Another call to the public and no response. The meeting is over at 8:00pm. Starting a few minutes after 7:30pm, the meeting lasted approximately 27 minutes.

Do you think these meetings should have more discussion and debate about the issues affecting our County? Dane does. As president of his local teacher union upon retirement, Dane knows what it’s like to negotiate complex issues and arrive at compromises. County government should account for a variety of perspectives, manage trade-offs, and create a unique solution that is appropriate for all stakeholders. It is well known in the private sector that successful strategic and project management teams are diverse. A CEO would never put nine like-minded people on a team because the CEO knows the team won’t question their peers, challenge assumptions, change opinions, or arrive at innovative ideas; the members will merely agree on the status quo.

Do we see a variety of perspectives on the Board of Commissioners? We see nine Republicans. We see a governing body that has been ruled by one party, to the best of our knowledge, since the mid 1980s. A CEO wouldn’t choose our current Commissioners to be on a leadership team together. Voters should borrow this insight from the private sector and elect a new Commissioner. Dane is ready to work with constituents and Board members to create the unique compromises and innovative ideas that will move our County forward.

Posted in Board of Commissioners, Government Meetings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

WHMI Report: Democratic Candidate Challenging Commissioner’s Expenses

Yesterday, WHMI ran a story on Dane’s recent press release (available for reading right here) about Commissioner Domas’ excessive use of taxpayer funds. Maybe you heard the story on WHMI yesterday. If you didn’t catch it, here’s the text from http://whmi.com (highlighting added).

“10/14/10 – The Democratic candidate hoping to unseat a long term commissioner is challenging his county reimbursement record. Hartland resident Dane Morris is alleging that District 3 Commissioner Dave Domas (pictured) leads the entire board in requesting additional compensation and personal reimbursement at $2,340. Morris says transparency is lacking at the county level and says various democratic candidates have had to file freedom of information act requests for items he feels should be posted online, such as expense accounts and committee meeting minutes. He tells WHMI that Domas is taking credit for freezing his salary but after investigation, feels he’s making up for it with his expense account. Domas defends mileage reimbursement is a common tool for both businesses and government and the county does not abuse it. He says the board is always working to improve county government and reduce costs but protecting the public is the number one responsibility. He says it’s important that members of the board and others have the opportunity to travel to complete assignments. He says the amount is likely for trips associated with various public safety departments for meetings since he chairs the committee. He says every department in the county has a line item for mileage reimbursement and the commissioners likely have the smallest one, adding that the board reduced the mileage reimbursement rate by about 40% last January so year-to-date figures are likely lower than what’s been released. All county commissioners are part-time elected officials who receive salaries and various benefits. Morris is a retired teacher from Grand Blanc schools. Domas, who also resides in Hartland Township [sic], has served various terms on the county board. The pair will square off November 2nd. (JM)”

Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Domas’ logic. He claims that his $2,340 in requested funds, compared to the average Commissioner’s $845, is due to trips relating to his position as Chair of the Public Safety Committee.

One would expect the other Chairs of important county-wide Committees to have equally high expense accounts. Not the case. Commissioner Mantey, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, requested $0 in additional taxpayer funds over the same time period. Commissioner VanHouten, the Chair of three committees, requested less than half of Commissioner Domas’ expenses. In fact, of the eight other Commissioners, six are Committee Chairs and all requested far less money than Commissioner Domas.

Is Commissioner Domas really “Standing Up for Livingston County Taxpayers?” Once we peel back the opaque veil created by our all-Republican County Commission, we see that Mr. Domas is a “fiscal watchdog” when it comes to everything except his personal compensation. Is there any other part-time job in the State of Michigan that pays $15,000 annually, provides full medical benefits, life insurance, and a pension? With residents in our county unemployed and losing more homes than almost any other county in Southeast Michigan, should we provide our part-time Commissioners with full-time benefits?

As a public school teacher for 34 years, Dane understands that benefits and salary must be aligned with the type and amount of work performed. He is committed to working with County residents to move our community foward through open, interactive, and engaging conversations. In the meantime, if Commissioner Domas is committed to reducing the size of government, he should start by reducing the size of his personal compensation.

Posted in Board of Commissioners, News, Taxpayer Funds | Tagged , | Leave a comment