May 31, 2019

Report of Airport Commission Meetings


Citizens Taking Action in North West Michigan

Report: Airport Governance Advisory Committee and Airport Commission Tuesday May 28, 2019

Tuesday May 28, 2019

There were 2 meetings held on the same day with mostly the same people present. The first was almost 3 hours and started with a very informative tour of the airport behind the scenes. The next 2 hours were spent reviewing the various models of airport governance. This was done by the firm of Steven Baldwin Associates, Airport Management Consultants. They have been hired to educate the BOC and the Airport Commission about their options. And then probably write up the legal papers to complete the changes.

After an afternoon of discussion, I am going to summarize the issues.

  • The charter for the airport is about 30 years old and has many provisions that are not allowed in the FAA grants and loans. They need to be changed to be in compliance in order to apply for federal money, the major source of capital improvements.
  • One of the two models is a Commission with members appointed by the 2 counties, Leelanau and Grand Traverse, as is now the case. The charter agreement would be updated and it would continue much as it is now with a 7 member Commission.
  • The other major model is an Airport Authority. This would still be a board with locally appointed members.
  • They were asked if either or both models allow for the airport to purchase needed property without BOC consent. They seemed to reply that it depended on how the agreement was written.
  • Another concern was the liability of the counties if the airport went bankrupt. With an authority, the counties would not be liable. Currently under the existing agreement they are.
  • A member from Leelanau asked for a list of pros and cons for each model and this is supposed to be brought to the next meeting the 4th Tuesday of June at noon at the airport second floor.
  • My understanding is that either model may protect the counties from liability for debts if the agreement is written with that provision. However, no straight answer was given.
  • The same ambiguity exists for acquiring property.

The regular meeting had the good news that it is feasible to have a solar panel array that could supply the airport and TCL&P. They just completed the first phase of a study which has been going on for about 6 months. This study considered solar arrays of various sizes as well as geothermal sources of power. The commission has now authorized the second phase which will be setting up the bidding process for approximately 50 acres of solar panels and checking how this could integrate with TCL&P. The commissioners were very excited about the possibility of producing 10 Kilowatts on site.

They are also beginning a process of getting a specialized landing system (ILS) that will enable landings when the wind is from the east. A similar system is installed at the east end of the runway for west wind approaches. Currently they must reroute about 100 flights a year because the wind from the east makes the landing possibly unsafe. They have the infrastructure for this system from when they lengthened the runway. This may be a several year process to obtain the equipment but they are starting the plan now.

Most of the rest of the agenda was housekeeping types of resolutions and reports. One interesting point was that a commissioner suggested expanding the meeting room. Having an audience seems to resulting in them wanting more space.

My usual statement is that this is my understanding of the meeting and I could make a mistake in understanding something. But I am trying to be an outside set of eyes and ears.

Linda Pepper

May 30, 2019

Report on Ethics Committee meeting May 29th


Citizens Taking Action in North West Michigan

Report on AdHoc Committee on Ethics Grand Traverse Board of Commissioners

Wednesday May 29, 2019

Commissioners Clous (Chair), Jewett and Coffia are assigned to this committee

There was a draft ethics policy that was being discussed. There were several points of discussion:

  • Chair Clous was concerned that elected officials such as the sheriff or judges would not want to file such a business/financial disclosure annually as was being required.
  • The disclosure section calls for disclosing the person or spouse’s interest in unincorporated associations, trusts, corporations, business and real estate holdings.
  • If a person had more than 5 real estate holdings, they would list 5 and then just state that there were more holdings.
  • Jewett stated this information is “not anybody’s business”. Later he called it his personal business.
  • Coffia stated that as a taxpayer, it would increase trust to know what someone’s business interests were when they were making county financial decisions.
  • The disclosure section was removed and the conflict of interest sections was strengthened. All three voted for this because both actions were one motion.
  • There was quite a bit of discussion about an employee working in another job after hours. They decided to leave that up to a manager to approve.
  • They will work on a Board Rule to have every commissioner review the policies and then sign that they agree to disclose any conflict of interest and abide by the policy.

There was a discussion after the meeting was over about how a disclosure statement should be required when you file to run for an office. I completely agree with that. I would have been happy to do that. It would be a state law that requires this disclosure

Mr. Clous said several times that a commissioner can still vote even if s/he reveals that they have a conflict of interest. This seemed an odd focus to have.

He also said several times that the voters could throw him out if he violated their trust. The reality of our elections is that the violation has to be detected and widely advertised for any incumbent to not be reelected.

May 26, 2019

Column from the Northern Express

   MAY 26, 2019



There’s no denying that by traditional measures, the economy is doing fine. As of this writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is well over 25,000, unemployment remains very low, wages have begun rising, estimated GDP growth in the first quarter was 3.2% (though it’s expected to be revised slightly downward), neither inflation nor deflation are a problem, and personal bankruptcy filings are low. What’s not to love?
Plenty. Forty million Americans, including one in five children, live in poverty.On any one night there are more than a half-million homeless people sleeping in public places or shelters in the U.S. In Michigan, according to the United Way, 61% of jobs pay less than $20 an hour, and 1.66 million households, comprising 43% of the population, can’t afford basic household necessities.
Personal bankruptcies are down in part because the Affordable Care Act brought health insurance to millions. Obviously, that’s good. But Republicans are still trying to kill the ACA; if successful, they’ll throw millions of people off of health insurance, which will cause bankruptcy rates to rise again. Another reason personal bankruptcies are down is that a 2005 law made it harder to file; it appears that some who are insolvent don’t have enough assets to bother protecting them, can’t afford the fees and costs, or don’t know how to navigate the process.
Young people are staggering under a cumulative $1.5 trillion of student loan debt. Life expectancies are decreasing, largely because of the increase in “deaths of despair” — drug overdoses, suicide, and liver disease from alcohol use. People live in fear of incurring prescription drug bills not sufficiently covered by their insurance. People have died while trying to ration their supply of insulin.
Farm income dropped substantially in the first quarter. Trump’s tariffs destroyed markets for some U.S. farmers while simultaneously raising the cost of farm machinery. Current immigration policies have contributed to a shortage of farm labor. More family farms are going bankrupt and being bought up by big agribusiness.
More of the recent corporate tax cut was used to finance stock buybacks, rather than for capital investment or job creation; that raised stock prices, providing a kind of sugar high that we can’t afford to maintain. The Trump tax bill also contributed to what by 2020 will be an annual deficit of over a trillion dollars. If a major correction or recession happens soon, we won’t be able to afford the stimulus spending we might need to get the economy back on track. Meanwhile, our infrastructure is falling apart.
And perhaps worst of all, economic mobility in America has been slowing for some time now. The days when you could expect your kids to do better than you seem to be over for mainstream America. For many, the American Dream is slipping out of reach.
Of course the ultra-wealthy are doing fine. While some amount of economic inequality is normal, what we have now is over the top. Reportedly the top one percent have as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Many CEOs make hundreds of times what their employees make. Some get huge bonuses and “golden parachutes,” even when the companies they lead are laying off workers or failing. We have become a two-track economy: the very rich, and everyone else.
This state of affairs isnotthe result of the natural workings of a free market. The ultra-wealthy are ultra-influential, and they use their influence to write the rules for their own benefit, while the rest of us lack sufficient representation in Washington. Some billionaire hedge-fund managers pay taxes at the same rate as their secretaries. How does that make sense? In 2008, when the economy collapsed, who got bailed out? Homeowners? Nah. Big banks. Middle-class folks got a tiny tax cut in 2018, while the Koch brothers picked up a billion dollars a year. If you paidanyfederal income tax at all in 2018, you paid more than Amazon did.  
What can we do? Give the middle class a real tax cut, and raise taxes on the wealthy. Raise the minimum wage. Create an infrastructure modernization program, including development of renewable energy, because we need it, and because it could generate thousands of good paying jobs. Move toward universal health insurance by beefing up the ACA or gradually phasing in some version of Medicare For All. Give Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices. Invest more in early childhood education and public schools, to give all kids a better chance at success. Invest in job training. Raise the income limit on Social Security tax to keep the program solvent. Rein in corporate welfare. And so on.
To get much of this sort of thing done — if we are to again have a government that pays more attention to the needs of ordinary citizens than to the demands of big donors — we’ll have to get big money out of politics, end gerrymandering, and protect every citizen’s right to vote. Not easy tasks, but doable if enough people stand up for a revival of grass roots democracy in America.
Tom Gutowski earned degrees in economics and history before entering the insurance industry, from which he retired after 36 years.

May 24, 2019

New website

We are going to be revising this website. We hope to consolidate all local Indivisibles into one site. That includes Indivisible Traverse City, Indivisible Grand Traverse and Leelanau Indivisible.