On Tuesday, May 19th, 2022 the organizational meeting for the Ludington Charter Revision Committee (CRC) was scheduled to meet at 5:30 PM at the council chambers in Ludington City Hall.  I had did my best to have the meeting, threatening what would be effectively a quo warranto action against the City of Ludington, effectively notifying the court that the city council did not fulfill their duties in putting the question of charter revision on the May ballot, thereby engaging in material fraud since the council failed to fix the compensation of the commissioners and the estimated cost of the process. 

Effectively the voters, mostly taxpayers, were left mostly to infer, because of the omission, that the cost would be negligible.  The second question on the ballot filling the commission with nine members either on the ballot or as qualified write-in candidates, had no such deficiency-- but was dependent ultimately on whether the voters decided to have them do a charter revision and pay close to $100,000 for something that is likely not to be passed.  

When it was apparent the city would continue with the meeting regardless of legalities in the future, I wrote up a comment and made sure I was there for the meeting.  City Attorney Ross Hammersley (pictured below nearest the windows) and City Clerk Deb Luskin sat at the head of a horseshoe table arrangement, with four commissioners on both legs and room for another one near the attorney.

On the left going towards the window you see Mike Shaw, Karen Nielsen, Lyla McClellan, and Dennis Dunlap.  To the right, Jack Stibitz, Mark Barnett, Nick Krieger, Nancy Fife, and Mike Winczewski.  If you don't see those people above, they are standing below taking their oath of office.

But before they could get to the swearing in, they had to get through the public comment period.  I distributed a handout to the commissioners in order to let them see the prevailing law and why I was distressed that the revision issue was passed without letting the people know anything about it.

XLFD:  "When four of you handed in your nominating petitions and the other five of you filled out your paperwork for being a write-in candidate, how many of you were told how much compensation you would get for your job in the charter commission and told how much the charter revision process would cost?  Show of hands if you knew either quantity.  Anybody?  {no one raised their hand after a three second pause}

By law, the city council had to fix those rates and they had to fix them prior to the election. In my handout you will see that section 19 of the home rules city act requires the council to fix these.  When I went to get my own paperwork for being a write-in candidate, I was told neither at that point had been set by the council, Clerk Luskin actually noted in November that compensation must be set by the council, and in the resolution putting the revision question on the ballot, it failed to fix either compensations or costs.  Her FAQ posted after the city budget was introduced in relevant part on this handout shows that the clerk knew this had to be done.  The council never set those quantities, however, while section 5.5 of the charter (also provided on the handout) says that your compensation needs to be set by the council by resolution, taken along with section 19 of the Home Rule City Act, this had to be done prior to the election.

This question was put on the ballot without important statutory requirements being met.  The public went into the voting booth without ever being told what the cost of revising or the compensation you would be receiving, and in the simple ballot question, they were kept ignorant after voting, many believing that the costs would be negligible and that this would be what many boards and committees are in Ludington, staffed by volunteers.  The vote was material fraud perpetrated on the voters of Ludington who would be set to pay the estimated $81,500 and any other costs that may come from the changes this commission will make to the charter.

The solution is simple, do not organize this commission and if your heart is set on being on the charter commission, urge the city council to resubmit the question to voters in the November election.  The people who sit up there every other Monday failed to do their due diligence, especially the city attorney.  They are why this is an illegitimate committee founded and funded purely by defrauding the taxpayers of Ludington.  Be respectful of the law, do not put yourself in contempt of it. [END]

The show-of-hands routine is one of the few ways you can get an informal answer from a public body during a public comment, but whereas, Mark Barnett would say (after Mayor Steve Miller and Councilor John Terzano offered gratuitous comments thanking the assemblage for their commitment to the CRC) would clarify that none of the commissioners were under any obligation to raise their hands during the comment period, nobody denied that they were in the dark about their own compensation and how much they would likely be spending.  It's simple, it hasn't been fixed, and it hasn't been fixed by resolution.  

If any of them had any integrity, they would be demanding another vote on the charter revision issue with the law being followed.  If it passed, they would become legitimate commissioners, if it doesn't, they can take a break.  But as you can see in the picture, they took an oath of office, swearing to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this state and that they would faithfully discharge the duties of their position according to the best of their ability.  Not a good start when you are shown state law that wasn't followed by the city council and decide to ignore it.  Below, Nick Krieger signs the Oath of Office book, knowing the facts and the laws.

After the signing, they elected officers.  Mark Barnett was elected chairman, without any contest, as was Mike Winczewski as vice-chairman.  They had a more lively discussion about when and where their future meetings would be held.  In the end, they decided their second meeting would be held on June 16th, and tentatively on the first and third Thursday of each month thereafter (starting with July 7th and July 21) at the council chambers at 5:30 PM.  

This was interesting since the clerk had figured that there would be 60 meetings of the CRC in 2022 in her secret figures, rather than just the 14 they had now planned.  We have no idea how much these people will be paid since their compensation was never fixed, so we don't know whether they will be paid 14/60 of what was on this arbitrary budget or the full amount.

Over the course of the hour they held session, they had a brief presentation by the city attorney who effectively gave them options on how to proceed and a 'reading assignment' in a moderately thick blue binder dealing with revision issues and examples from other cities.  

Among themselves they discussed whether they should use subcommittees, how they should approach the revision process, what they should be bringing to the next meeting, and suggested that if they may want to consider changing the form of local government, this would influence the rest of what they would revise. 

Nielsen made the claim that Ludington had a weak mayor system currently in place and nobody present disputed her claim.  Ludington has a council-manager form of government, a weak mayor system has no city manager, the council effectively manages things and the mayor is the councilor who generally gets elected by his fellow councilors.  Nielsen had at least defended the committees independence from the city council and other city offices when others opined that they should ask them about what they might want to be seen changed by the charter.  

Nobody on the commission, however, ever said anything about how citizens might be empowered to determine what's on the city charter.  This was very disturbing to me in this discussion, because the people on the CRC are exclusively people that had or have careers in the public sector and/or have served extensively on other appointed public boards and committees.  The private sector is not represented at all, nor are those untainted by long government service, so if you are looking for better accountability or transparency in the work product from this group, it's a long shot.

After the committee adjourned, with the organizational tasks performed, the city manager who along with other city officials made up the audience (excluding non-official me) offered me a blue binder with the charter materials inside, since he believed I would be asking for it anyway.  I joked with him that he must have been getting a little nervous about his job security when they started talking about a potential change of the city government form.  

Next week, I shall mount a challenge in court as to the charter revision question if the city council does not admit their mistake-- I have no issue with the other vote on commissioners.  People lose respect for elections when public officers try to keep relevant information from them that may change their vote against the bigger tax bill and the bigger government they approved on May 3rd.

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I hope you prevail, X, in sending this Charter revision back to the people to vote on after the City Council follows the law to set the compensation before a vote.

This demonstrates to me just more sheeple (the CRC) with a weak backbone unable to stand up for what is right, for what is law.

What is the hurry ? The mid-terms and 2024 election is the hurry. Please start connecting the dots. 

People really need to wake up. The Covid lockdowns were recess compared to what is going to happen in 2024. This is all in preparation for that. Get ready for emergency preparedness actions in case of a "Severe Event" This is getting downright scary and dystopian. This rag tag crew really does not know how they are being used. Lansing flashes grant money and promises their way and they get in lock step. 

I have yet to see or talk with someone outside of the city hall periphery that are looking forward to seeing the charter change; other than me, nobody from the public attended and the CRC members took great pride in their current or past official statuses.  Granted 3/4 of the public don't understand the revision issue or give a hoot about local government, but those taking notice wonder exactly why they are doing a full revision rather than the amendment process for what they feel is weak parts of the charter.  Problem is that when corrupted city leaders had the opportunity to look at that process 6-7 years ago, the amendments city hall offered were totally against accountability and making a 'better' local government.  

This time expect several attempts at taking away rights guaranteed under the current charter and expanding the powers of city hall.  One should not expect anything different from a document crafted by career officials instead of the common folks of Ludington.

I also hope the court will make this right. I applaud your tenacity X. Most people would have thrown up their hands and just given up. Just look how the participation on this forum has dwindled. 

FS and LL are absolutely correct about the sheeple mentality and the lockdowns being a prelude to what's really going to hit us in the future.

This Charter business was approved by the voters so no matter what has transpired or going to transpire, it's all on the shoulders of the citizens who exorcised their voting rights while those that did not vote sat around picking their noses. I'm ashamed of the newly elected commissioners for proceeding with the business of altering the Charter even when confronted with the truth about how the City failed to comply with the law regarding how the Charter was to be financed.  This happens a lot in Ludington politics. 

The big winner in this will be the City's attorneys, who, no matter how this turns out, will make a bundle of cash on legal fees.

I would argue that the charter business was decided by voters since (with the exception of a couple of people at city hall) nobody knew of what the consequence of the vote would actually be.  To illustrate why it's a fraud election, consider if the City put on the ballot: 

"Should the City of Ludington waive the property tax of those who failed to pay their property taxes in 2021?"  

You would undoubtedly see those who have delinquent taxes vote yes and get as many of their friends to vote as they could, but you would also see a considerable amount of people who have paid theirs vote yes too, without prompting, because they don't want some of their neighbors to lose their home.  It would likely pass in this form; however, the money used to square the accounts have to be borne by the City, and so if they (unlawfully) adjusted everybody else's property taxes upward to make up that amount, the voter has a right to know about it.  So does anybody think that the following question would get the same amounts of 'yes' votes than the first?

"Should the City of Ludington waive the property tax of those who failed to pay their property taxes in 2021, increasing equitably the property taxes of those who paid by the minimal amount needed to recoup the waived taxes?"  

In this case, I think this would have received fewer votes:  "Should the city do a charter revision at a cost of approximately $82,000 and pay each charter committee member $100 per meeting?"

If basically everybody doesn't know what the hell they are voting on, due to the city council not following a statutory duty, then why isn't this an issue of voter fraud perpetrated by the City of Ludington on its own people?  

I understand your point but you also make my point as well. If folks don't understand what the ballot says because it is vague or seems contrary to logic then they should not vote in favor of that particular addition to the ballot. It's up to each citizen  to look for and find the truth and that means researching more than one side of any situation. It still boils down to citizens being ignorant of the subject to be voted on. Ignorance is a self inflicted condition and can be cured only by the inflicted.

I agree that people should not vote for something on their ballot that they don't fully understand, but in this case, the ballot question was easy to comprehend-- but the ramifications were unclear.  The city council who approved the question and the clerk who certified it had duties to provide the voters with more data in this case.  State proposals are notorious for being 'complex' questions, because they typically go over everything the proposal provides and doesn't provide for, costs if applicable, and other relevant data presented in politically-neutral language.

The clerk and council desired for the voters to be ignorant by making the question so basic:  Should the city charter undergo revision?  "Why not" says the casual voter, since it appears it won't cost $101 million or potentially make our city charter an unworkable document in the future.  Many voters were ignorant in this election, but the ignorance was fostered by city officials in order to get it passed.  If I cannot stop the process from going forward, it should be interesting seeing what their priorities are in building Ludington back better. 

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