| 3 min read | by John Hansen and Doug Marrin |
Even though it was a new year we began with an old topic – the county mental health and public safety millage from 2017. The millage was promoted by our sheriff as a way of dealing with a large number of jail residents with mental health issues but it was configured in a pretty complicated way that allowed some communities to use the funds for other purposes. No governmental unit in the Dexter area got any of the ‘special’ funds since we all contract with the sheriff’s department for police protection so we don’t really understand where the approximately ten million dollars actually ended up.
Washtenaw County Commissioner Jason Maciejewski was on hand to comment on the millage. “(The millage) is two pieces,” explained Jason, “the public safety component, and then a mental health services component. The very controversial part of it was the return of funds to municipalities that have their own police departments. They get their funding back for the police portion to do whatever they want with it because the county government can’t tell municipal governments what to spend their money on. So that’s a very controversial part of it.”
The new redistricting commission that will draw the lines for the 2020 election was required to mail out 250,000 applications to serve on the commission as one of the first steps in the process. Actually anyone can apply but 250,000 folks chosen at random received a personal invitation. With around 8,000,000 eligible voters the odds would be about one in thirty that you might be chosen. We had five winners at the forum. The people who follow through and apply and are not disqualified for any of a number of reasons will then be whittled down to 13. Hopefully one of our five will make it so we can have a front-row seat to what is likely to be a very contentious process.
“I look forward to a free and fair process,” said Bill Gordon who works within the county’s political system. “I am interested to see how square the district’s come out because the only way to have a nonpartisan treatment of redistricting is to draw the district square instead of having the snake district that I live in the 12th which runs from my house to Wyandotte.”
Friend Rex, and everyone who subscribes to the sheriff’s department notification service called Nixle, was invited to apply for the citizen’s police academy and he wondered what it was all about. In true Forum style, we had both an instructor from the academy and a graduate of the program to explain how things work. It is basically an outreach program to help regular folks understand the scope of the sheriff’s department and build community goodwill.
“(The Citizen’s Police Academy) was designed to show the different functions of the sheriff’s department,” commented the academy instructor, “with exposure to the jail, booking processes, marine division, SWAT team, canine, just all the functions the sheriff’s department has to give people a better understanding of what the sheriff’s department does.”
One of the things we do at the Forum is to honor our public officials. To have good government we need good people to step up and run for office and we are pleased to have become a bit of a proving ground for candidates so we acknowledge their presence, let them introduce themselves and encourage them to campaign out in the lobby afterward. When we get closer to the election we will invite them to get up on our stump. Each candidate faces a different set of procedural hurdles. Some need 14 signatures on a nominating petition while some need 1,000 and some can just waive the whole requirement. All need money to get their message out and they all must report all of their contributions. It is a real plus to get to know these folks on a personal basis.
We closed with an emotional goodbye from school board president Michael Wendorf who is moving to California. During his 15 years on the school board, the district has made clear progress on all fronts and he can leave knowing that he helped make a good school district even better.
“The school district is in very good shape,” Michael told the Forum. “It’s a pleasure to say that I and my colleagues, through the years, have always believed in the community and the children. We invested in growing the district in good times and bad, and I think it reflects in what we have today. I appreciate all the support that I’ve received over these years. It’s been a pleasure to serve the district, and our children and our families. I will miss you.”
The next meeting of the Dexter Forum will be on Saturday, January 18, 2020, at 8:30 AM at the Dexter Wellness Center.