Friday, June 10, 2011

Linkspam Leftovers: Sustainability News from The Oakland Press for June 6, 2011

Here are the stories that were left over after posting Motie News Brief: GM's Orion plant to go green and Gas prices back above $4.00/gallon in metro Detroit. I was going to finish the linkspam with stories from the Free Press, but never got around to it.

Enjoy your leftovers, warmed by the heat wave.

Pontiac dissolves planning commission, layoffs hit city
The Pontiac Planning Commission will soon be made up of new appointees as the city inks a deal to have a New Jersey-based company run its water department.

Emergency Manager Michael Stampfler issued three orders Friday afternoon, irking elected officials as what they argue is an example of his circumventing their offices. The documents announced layoffs in the water and wastewater department; a deal with United Water Environmental Services; and the reestablishment of a new Planning Commission.

The outsourcing of the department was based on a 30 percent shortfalls in the collection of water/sewer bills for 2009-10, according to the order.
A list of employees to be laid off will be distributed June 6. Their final day of employment will be June 30.

The contract with United Water will become effective July 1 and it is projected to save Pontiac an estimated $2.8 million in the first year, with additional savings in the next five years.
The third order issued by Stampfler announced the shakeup to the city's planning commission.

The commission will be reduced from nine to seven members and no longer include elected officials.
If this were an Emergency Financial Manager decision about almost any other city department or commission, I would have placed it under Culture as a political action. Because it involved water and wastewater, always an environmental issue, and was caused by a shortfall in collections, no doubt because of how depressed Pontiac is, which is an economic issue, I consider it to be a general sustainability story. For anyone who doubts that the Emergency Financial Manager Law has direct effects on the environment, this action is the proof that it does.

Oakland schools defend cost cuts
It is all in how you look at it: And in the case of school funding, Oakland County intermediate district officials and the Mackinac Center of Public Policy conservative think tank folks don’t see eye to eye on budgets and spending.

In a new report that came out at a time when school districts are complaining about state cuts to school aid, Mackinac Center Director of Education Policy Michael Van Beek alleged that, “Many of their exhortations employ misleading claims and creative accounting to exaggerate past and future budget challenges.

In his article, Van Beek cites the claims of several school districts around the state that they have cut their budgets by millions over the last few years, yet he argues that records show their budgets are actually larger now than before the cuts.

Robert Moore, Oakland Schools assistant superintendent for finance, disagrees.

Moore acknowledges school budgets are bigger, which can be confusing to parents and the public. But he argues that deep cuts and changes, such as privatization and health insurance programs, already have been made in Oakland County and Michigan.
I'm with Robert Moore of the Oakland Schools on this one. I was a public school (K12) teacher from 1998 to 2003, and I know first hand about the effects of unfunded and underfunded federal and state mandates on school districts and their budgets. Besides, I've learned to distrust the Mackinac Center. They're not on the side of public education.

Gerrymandering has a 200-year history.
Voters haven’t had a chance to elect new school board and municipal representatives for 2011 yet, but for all intents and purposes, the 2012 election alreay is under way.

Of particular interest to people who already hold office, and for those considering running for office, is what the political district boundaries will look like in 2012.

Across the country, the boundaries change every 10 years after the U.S. Census to adjust for changes in population.
There is a video accompanying this story, but it doesn't seem to want to embed here properly.

That's it for today's leftovers.  Fresh linkspam tomorrow!

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