Political Column - Politics: Internal and External

Politics and problems go together like a hand in a glove. One set of problems are those we all think of, which have to do with laws, regulations, ordinances, government relations, taxes, and resource allocation. How much money do we put toward roads this year? Should the minimum square footage for a house be more or less? These things are often discussed and debated in public meetings. The field of politics is this, a mass negotiation arising from the societal culture to arrive at a livable compromise. This is both the ideal and the reality.

Then, there's a whole different set of problems, operating the organization. The office has to be open for people to come in. The roof has to not leak and the boilers have to produce heat. Grass in the parks has to get mowed in the summer, leaves picked up from the cemeteries in the fall, snow at the transfer station plowed in the winter. Trucks have to be ready to run fire and medical calls. Taxes have to be collected, properties assessed, burial plots sold, meetings scheduled, hearings held, notices posted, elections coordinated, contracts signed, personnel hired, etc.

The township is a complex organization by design. It makes sense for governments to have checks and balances. That limits the bad that one person can do. It also means that government organizations don't usually operate very smoothly. Many businesses don't either, but governments are worse. A separation of powers also means that when important things aren't being done it can be difficult to fix.

In the meeting on 9 October 2023 a few of the agenda items had to do with operational problems. The Clerk, Tracy DeMarse, had blocked me and other township officials and staff from having access to certain computer files and programs after the election in August. This included blocking me from being able to see financial reports in the general ledger.

Another item addressed two things. One, the Treasurer being able to cut checks for tax disbursements. Most of the taxes that people pay to the township are not for the township, ninety percent go to other places like the schools, the county, colleges, and the state. That's not the township's money and needs to be passed on. Not long ago we were the last in the county to do those disbursements. This clarifies that the Treasurer can make and send those checks so that the process doesn't get stopped by the Clerk.

The second thing concerned bank reconciliations. We just recently missed the legal deadline to file our audit with the state. This is significant. Over half of the township budget comes from state revenue sharing. The audit deadline was missed because the Clerk didn't get bank reconciliations to our auditor in time, who had emphasized the importance of doing them, and even made a special trip to the township office just to ask for them to be done. The Clerk said they would be done the next day, a few weeks passed and they still weren't done, and the deadline was missed.

These problems stack on top of other major problems for over a year. Quarterly budget adjustments not being done on time, cemetery checks not being deposited for up to eight months, and employee retirement accounts not being paid for five months. These are serious failings.

We've had some success with moving responsibilities to other people, such as designating a separate Cemetery Coordinator, but the Clerk is correct in that I cannot just take her state mandated duties away from her. However, I have a responsibility to both citizens and employees as the head elected official to make things better. I attempted to resolve these things internally through discussions, encouragement, and offering help over many months. That didn't work. Then I decided to start moving some of the work to other people. That worked for some things, but not all. Over the last two months I've brought these things to the awareness of the township board in an attempt to resolve them moving forward.

Life involves a massive amount of problem solving, politics is no different. Over the last three years the township has been successful in having debates and changing laws. We've also been successful at improving many operations. However, there are some that we are not doing so well and are important. I will press forward in the endeavor to improve things during my last year in office, and we will continue to make progress.



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