Recalling Them Who Would Steal from Us and then Lie About It

Why have I submitted a recall petition against Ludington City Councilor Les Johnson?  The simple answer is because I said I would if he voted for a very unpopular tax hike, and I don't want to commit to something and not follow through.  From the July 10th truth in taxation hearing at Ludington City Hall:

XLFD:  ...Where is all of that money coming into city coffers from recent new developments like the bowling alley block, Lofts on Rowe, and the up and coming 106 Laura Street?  It's not, but our city leaders expect us taxpayers to foot our share of the costs of our growing infrastructure needs plus theirs for the future. 

Because you're so deeply involved in a growth Ponzi Scheme, you fail to live within your means and ignore the reality that your addiction must be funded regularly by extracting more of the lifeblood of your tax base and invest it in speculative development projects where you can tout your glory while exploiting your constituents.  Your City's income goes up by a lot more than the inflation rate, while the people you supposedly represent lose ground because you believe that hiking their taxes is the best way to help them even when 94% tell you otherwise.

When 94% of your constituents tell you that they are against this tax hike, you may want to heed them.  I know that if my ward councilor votes to affirm these unpopular tax hikes, I will assuredly take out a recall petition on him and I will easily get signatures based strictly on this vote taken firmly against his constituent's interests and wishes.  I encourage others to do the same with their ward councilor should they get greedy with your money."

At the Lofts on Rowe dedication ceremony, Councilor Les Johnson, with his hand on his face in the picture above, is listening to former Mayor Steve Miller tout that project by saying "Collaboration says a lot more than just 67 units.  To me, it's the doorstep, or the threshold of what more is to come to the city; and whether it's attainable housing, affordable housing, or individual market price housing, there's a need everywhere, and this one checks all the boxes..."

The City will invest over $4.2 million into this project, a project which offers 1-bedroom units with under 400 sq. ft of living space for $1000/mo. for rent.  They are not affordable or market rate housing for Ludington; they are overpriced, possibly-contaminated, smallish, urban-chic units that have limited appeal in this area.  But even though Johnson assuredly likes to take credit for these projects as the chairman of the Finance Committee, he is merely a pawn for such things, likely chosen for his role because of his inability to understand why throwing around $10 million of public monies (adding the state's share) to a $12-15 million project by a private developer isn't good public policy when those developers then nearly double the local market value of similar apartments to start.

He showed that he did not have a firm grasp on monetary policy when he tried to justify his votes after voting for six ordinances that raised about $290,000 in new taxes for the city without one vote from the public by saying:

"Mitch [Foster, city manager], please help me out here if I'm way off base.  But, if we did not approve these ordinances, we would not have garbage pickup, we would not have a lot of other services that we have.  The police department, I don't know of any of you would like to live here without the police department that we have, so I guess I just want to make that clear that if these did not pass, we wouldn't have a lot of these services." 

Oh, he was way off base. Johnson has nearly 13 years of experience on the council, many of those years he chaired the Finance Commitee, and yet he doesn't understand that if the truth in taxation hearing wasn't held and these ordinances weren't on the agenda, that the tax rates for operations, trash removal, and the DDA would just naturally be rolled back by Headlee so that the property tax revenue increase would not exceed the inflation rate in growth over the last year.  This is noted in a memo from Mitch Foster (p. 43):

Neither Foster or any other official would correct the misrepresentation, so obviously there doesn't appear to be any grown-ups on the council, because they would have no issue with Johnson but go after School Board member Scott Foster for a poorly planned and executed email about a dead topic that had no major ramifications, like disbanding the police or squelching trash collection.

So the reasons why I am petitioning to recall Johnson is not only because he raised taxes by effectively $300,000 with his votes that day, but he did so while being either totally ignorant of what he was doing or lying about it.  Never did he, or anybody else in the City of Ludington, tell us why they needed that money more than the taxpayers needed it.  That's a minimum of what they need to do when they decide to raise our taxes, and we as citizens need to hold their head to the fire on these issues, just as much as or more than when they consider parking fees at Stearns.  

Nothing personal, but I believe that any representative that goes against what 94% of his constituents are for (the number would even be bigger if they knew all the facts without all of the city propaganda clouding their decisions) should find another job-- because he's doing it wrong.  The addled statement after the council votes were made just sealed the deal for me, and it should for you if you expect competent representation at city hall.  Here is the language of my recall petition, I had to write small to get it all on and leave some good parts on the cutting room floor:

"On 7-27-23, Johnson voted for several ordinances raising taxes on city property owners by about $300,000 (city estimations) yearly.  He would say after his votes that if they had not passed the tax increases, citizens would NOT have garbage pickup, a police department and a "lot of other services".  Truly, if the inceases weren't passed, the city's property tax revenue would grow by the inflation rate, plus new construction taxes; no services were slated to be lost."

If you think that an elected representative should listen to nearly 100% of his ward's electors and you live in some other ward than Johnson's, what's stopping you from taking out a petition on your so-called representative and go after them for hiking your taxes?  The blueprint is here.

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I agree 100%. Who knows what Les is thinking but we all know what his actions are all about. Maybe he has Alzheimer's. Or maybe his brain is slowly leaking out when he sleeps on his side at night.

What is really on Les's mind?

That' image is troubling and I'm surprised I missed that thought bubble in the video.

Les is lucid enough for somebody his age but he was never very sharp, I just don't think he's paying close enough attention at this point, is term limited out after next year, and doesn't understand that this year the truth in taxation hearing is for a substantial amount and has gotten an earful from staff that the city needs money, and to them it doesn't really matter where the money comes from.

But it should matter for Les because he's representing about 1300 of us; however, until now, he didn't have to worry about his position coming up for vote again.  Now he does, and I hope he learns a statement, and I hope my fellow citizens take note that they can do the same when their's act badly.

I just read the LDN article which i felt gave the reader good coverage of your side. X, would you please explain the basis of the recall (the law)? Can a Councilor be recalled for stating false information? Thanks again for fighting for the tax payer.

Since some of our readers don't have a subscription to the COLDNews here's the article in question:

Johnson Target of Latest Recall Filing

"The Mason County Election Commission will meet in August to host a clarity hearing for a potential recall in the City of Ludington, and its the fifth such hearing the commission has held this calendar year.

Ludington resident Tom Rotta submitted petition paperwork to recall Third Ward Councilor Les Johnson into the Mason County clerk’s office on Tuesday. Johnson was notified via email Wednesday that the clarity hearing for the petition is scheduled for 9 a.m., Aug. 4, in the Board of Commissioners Room of the Mason County Courthouse, 304 E. Ludington Ave.

Rotta stated in his petition that at the July 10 meeting, “Johnson voted for several ordinances raising taxes on city property owners by about $300,000 (city estimation) yearly. He would say after his votes that if they had not passed the tax increases, citizens would not have garbage pickup, a police department, and a ‘lot of other services.’ Truly, if the increases weren’t passed, the city’s property tax revenue would grow by the inflation rate, plus new construction taxes. No services were slated to be lost.”

The Daily News attempted to reach Johnson for comment Wednesday afternoon and evening but was not able to do so.

Rotta said in an email to the Daily News that he warned Johnson that a recall would be filed if he approved the proposed ordinance changes.

“He voted for all of it, inflicting about $75 of additional tax burden average on all Ludington taxpayers without an explanation of why city hall needed it more than our citizens and their families facing historically high levels of inflation,” Rotta stated. “He offered an explanation after he inflicted this on us all by saying that if they did not pass these tax increases, the city could not offer police services, trash removal, or a lot of other services. Total horse manure, but none of the ten assembled city officials present corrected him.

“They should all be going if they believe that, but Johnson has no business figuring out more than his home budget if he can’t figure out that city services will not go away if the city doesn’t take special action to raise tax rates above Headlee maximums,” Rotta continued. “Time to retire this liability early.”

The hearing is the fifth such hearing since January that the Mason County Election Commission was needed. The commission is composed of Mason County Probate Judge Jeff Nellis, Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly and Mason County Treasurer Andrew Kmetz.

Two hearings were hosted on recall efforts against Pere Marquette Township Supervisor Gerald Bleau and one hearing was held regarding PM Township Treasurer Karie Bleau. An election was called in both instances after petitioner Tim Iteen was successful in his first attempt against Karie Blue and in a second attempt against Jerry Bleau. Jerry Bleau’s appeal of the commission’s decision in 51st Circuit Court failed.

Last month, Scottville Mayor Marcy Spencer faced the first of two recall hearings, with filings coming from former Scottville City Commissioner Eric Thue. His first attempted was denied by the commission, but the second one was approved last week by the commission.

Spencer is still within her 10-day window to appeal the election commission’s decision in 51st Circuit Court. According to online records, nothing has been filed.

Before 2023, the last meeting of the Mason County Election Commission was 2003 when five members of the Free Soil school board were the subject of an effort. That effort was denied by the commission.

A recall election was hosted in the City of Ludington in 1986 when then Ludington Third Ward City Commissioner Carol Cain was the subject of a recall. Those who circulated the petition — German Clark and Kay Mullarkey — successfully won a recall effort to remove Raymond Mayer from office in 1984. He was an at-large member of the city commission.

Cain was ousted from her seat in that June 1986 election, 198 to 100, with 20.7% of the registered Third Ward voters showing up at the polls. A special election was called to fill the remaining term."

I was impressed that Bossick retained my full statement, even my colorful "horse manure" line which may fall flat on citizens that can't own horses within the city limits.  If you want a basis, a recall is a "political action" which can be taken out for any reason, but is usually doomed to fail if it's not compelling enough.  So if one took issue with a councilor for parting his hair the wrong way, that could conceivably pass the election commission for clarity, but you would have a seriously hard time getting about 200 signatures or a viable shot at unseating them in a recall election and look quite foolish in the process for your strange hair-parting bias.

In my opinion, recall is appropriate if the elected official does not act as a representative of the electors in one or more of their actions, that's why I told him that he would be recalled at the meeting if he voted for the large tax hikes.  Nearly 100% of informed voters would not look at these tax hikes as a good thing when the city can't give even one reason why they need the money more than you. 

His comments made afterwards helped the cause tremendously because it shows his 12 years served on the council has left him out of touch and that he is unfit to be serving as the Finance Committee chairman if he hasn't figured out why these hearings are held and how they raise tax rates on everyone.  I hope that answers your question?

Yes. Thanks. I hadn't really read MCL 168 etc. Les Johnson has been so entrenched for so long I think he may have forgotten why he ever ran for office or whether he ever swore to serve FOR the people of the City of Ludington.

The administration and "unionization" of COL employees and manager (and Council seemingly in cahoots) is, imo, a snowball of "FOR-the-City not the taxpayers", on a steep hill when the snow is sticky and packable (i.e., the snowball of city greed is getting huge rolling down the hill). The snowball needs to be stopped. I hope your recall prevails and sets a new pace of leveling the hill for the cause of the people. I am especially disgusted by how quickly the city manager seems to have jumped on the side of the city when he first seemed to understand and respect the taxpayers. The whole Council who voted for the tax increase should be recalled, imo.


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