Are county commis...

Transparency has been highly valued in Livingston County — and Michigan — by both Democrats and Republicans.

For example, in 2007, state Sen. Lana Theis — then Brighton Township treasurer and leader of the Livingston County chapter of Americans for Prosperity — pushed Brighton Township to put its checkbook online, so residents could see where their money was being spent. A decade later, Theis still brags about it.

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a directive banning the use of private email to conduct state business. This directive restricted the use of government email for non-state activity or disposing of said state emails except in compliance with already determined record retention schedules. With the signing of the directive last week, Whitmer said, “State government must be open, transparent, and accountable.” Or as Lana Theis says on her website, “Government should be open to the people it represents.”

It’s rare that a leader of the Tea Party and the top Democrat of the state agree on something. The Livingston County Commission should take advantage of this rare convergence of opinion from opposite ends of the political spectrum and reinstate the videotaping in the interests of transparency and government accountability.

When the all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners did not renew the video broadcast services for its board meetings, they used the excuse that viewership was small. And one member complained that the video could be used for political purposes or to embarrass commissioners.

In other words, they are afraid of being held accountable.

We need a more transparent government that is accountable for the discussions occurring among our elected officials regarding the very decisions that will shape this county and our everyday lives for years to come.

The residents of Livingston County cannot have faith in the government if the elected officials are excused from scrutiny. Instead of trying to hide from the residents they were elected to represent, our local officials should be an example of transparency — as both Lana Theis and Gretchen Whitmer have been.

Guest column by Alex Hansen in The Livingston Post.


Livingston County...

Livingston County families who are struggling to put food on the table will have a little something extra this holiday season, thanks to the efforts of Livingston County Democrats.

Party members contributed to Gleaners Community Food Bank the equivalent of 7,847 meals for those in need. The donations came through on-line monetary gifts as well as contributions of cash, checks, and non-perishable food brought to the Democrats’ holiday party on Dec. 1.

Donating to Gleaners is an annual tradition for local Democrats, who believe that no one should go hungry during the holidays. It is part of the Democrats’ tradition of community involvement that includes more than 25 years of participation in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway roadside clean-up program and participation in OLSHA’s annual Walk for Warmth.
Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114.


Livingston Dems t...

Livingston County Democrats will hold a convention Jan. 17 to prepare for the Michigan Democratic Party’s spring convention at which a new state party chair will be elected.
The county convention will select members to serve on committees for the statewide convention on Feb. 2 at Cobo Hall in Detroit.
Those wishing to vote at the county convention must have been a member of the Michigan Democratic Party by Dec. 18. Precinct delegates, elected officials, and those whose memberships expired after that date may join the night of the convention.
Anyone wishing to serve on the convention committees are asked to email the county party by 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, so that we can be certain all the slots are filled.
The party’s regular business meeting will follow the convention, which will be held at 7 p.m. at the Community Unitarian Universalists of Brighton, 3333 S. Old 23, Brighton Township.
The official call to convention follows:

Call to Convention
Livingston County Democratic Party County Convention
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019
Community Unitarian Universalists of Brighton, 3333 S. Old 23
Registration 6:30 p.m., Convention 7 p.m.

A. Call to Order
B. Credentials Report
C. Rules Report
D. Election of Permanent Convention Chair
E. Appointment of Convention Secretary
F. Election of Convention Committee Members & Alternates
Rules Committee – 1 member, female, and 1 alternate, male (7 p.m. Jan. 23, Hart-Kennedy House, 606 Townsend St., Lansing. A call-in option also will be available. The Committee considers rules for the State Convention and receives training in those rules and on proportional voting.)
Platform and Resolutions Committee – 1 member, male (7 p.m. Jan. 24, Hart-Kennedy House, 606 Townsend St., Lansing. A call-in option also will be available. The Committee considers resolutions proposed by County and District Conventions for the State Convention’s consideration.)
Credentials Committee – 1 member, male. (At the call of the state party chair at the convention, if necessary.)
G. Resolution Consideration
H. Good & Welfare
I. Adjournment

NOTE: The deadline for submitting resolutions to be considered at the convention is Friday, Jan. 11, at 5 p.m. Please email proposed resolutions to so they may be copied and prepared for the delegates’ deliberation. If you would like to be appointed to any of the committee slots, please email by that deadline as well so we can be sure all our positions are filled.

NOTE: To be eligible to vote at this convention, you must have been a member of the Michigan Democratic Party as of Dec. 18. Precinct delegates, elected officials, and those whose memberships expired after Dec. 18 may renew the day of the convention.

NOTE: The executive committee will meet immediately after the county convention for its regular monthly meeting.

The MDP Spring Convention will be Feb. 2, 2019, at Cobo Hall. Convention business includes election of a new state party chair. Schedule: Credentialing begins at 7 a.m., constituency caucuses 9 a.m., district caucuses 12:30 p.m., convention convenes 2;30 p.m.

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Labor donated.)


Money in Politics...

An expert on money in politics will speak to Livingston County Democrats at their January meeting.

Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, will speak at the meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton, 3333 S. Old 23, Brighton Township.

Mauger’s appearance comes just months after the November 2018 elections, which were the most expensive in Michigan history, with spending topping $291.1 million, not counting what is yet to be reported at the end of January.

Mauger has been executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network since January 2016.

Prior to that, he worked as a reporter covering government and politics for newspapers in Indiana for nearly seven years. He then spent three and a half years covering Michigan state government and politics for Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS News), an online news service. While at MIRS, he concentrated on covering the Michigan Legislature and following money in politics. That work included tracking political nonprofits and examining how donations affected legislation.

Mauger graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

The meeting will begin with the party’s convention at which committee members will be elected for the Feb. 2 Michigan Democratic Party’s spring convention.

Mauger graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Labor donated. )


Whitmer Bringing ...

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer will bring her campaign bus to Livingston County on Friday, Nov. 2, as she stumps throughout the state to help Democrats get out the vote for the Nov. 6 election.

Whitmer will stop at the headquarters of the Livingston County Democratic Party at 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, at 10 a.m. on Friday.

The visit is part of Whitmer’s week-long campaign swing throughout the state.

All supporters of the Democratic ticket are invited to attend.

Please call 810-229-4212 for more information.

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Labor donated.)


Dems Announce Pla...

Livingston County needs a complete overhaul of its Veterans Services Committee in order to restore trust with taxpayers and deliver the services our county’s veterans deserve and were promised.

“Livingston County taxpayers approved a tax increase to take care of our veterans’ needs and now we find out that new programs are not coming on line, that a committee member did not turn over a donation from the public, and that another committee member is receiving payments approved by the committee he sits on. This good-old-boy network needs to be busted up and replaced with accountability,” said Steve Savela of Hartland Township.

The candidates – Jennifer Garcia of Hartland Township, Steve Savela of Hartland Township, Maureen Martin of Unadilla Township, Alex Hansen of Howell Township, Kasey Helton of Marion Township, and Kristina Drake of Hamburg Township – released a multi—point plan to stop the abuses in the system including:

--A forensic audit covering the entire period that Hansel Keene and Kevin Nagle have been on the board, looking for cases of conflicts of interest or misappropriation of donations, followed by regular audits of that fund that go into more detail than the county’s annual audit.

--A conflict of interest policy barring committee members from receiving payments from the Veterans Relief Fund for services provided to veterans.

--Increased oversight by the county commission, including appointing county commissioners to attend Veterans Services committee meetings on a rotating basis to provide oversight and a regular commission review of all committee spending.

--Replacement of all five committee members and an expansion of the board to seven members with new members appointed after public advertising for applications with an emphasis on attracting younger and women veterans and increasing the diversity of the committee.

--Protection for the Veterans Services staff from retaliation by committee members. Committee staff should be considered county employees rather than be subject to the whims of a volunteer committee. Unfortunately, state law does not allow this to apply to the director, who is appointed by the committee.

--Expanded training for committee members on accountability regarding public funds and soliciting and handling donations.

--A strategic planning process that maps out services that veterans need and a timeline for implementing them along with adoption of a set of bylaws that spell out the duties and obligations of the committee.

“This has been going on right under the nose of our current county commission. This is dereliction of duty and our county commissioners deserve to be fired,” said Drake.

“My opponent prides himself on being a fiscal conservative, but it’s not fiscally conservative to fail to notice that the accounting doesn’t add up.” said Hansen.

Martin said that the one-party system of Livingston County has contributed to the good-old-boy network that has let this system flourish. “Unless we put new faces on the board, county commissioners will continue to look the other way at corruption and misuse of public funds,” she said.

Garcia said she would like to see more transparency around committee spending, with all committee spending listed on its webpage.

Helton said a larger board would prevent cliques from forming that allow conflicts of interest in approval of expenditures. "I attended the most recent board meeting and was bewildered to discover this wasn't even a discussion item on the agenda. If an active police investigation isn't going to rouse them -- what will? The public is demanding answers, and either this board is neglecting its duty or just wants to wait it out until the election is over in hope that more attention won't be drawn to this issue,” she said.

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Printed in-house. Labor donated.)


Dems: County Chea...

More than two years after voters approved a millage to pay for more services for veterans, much of the money remains unspent and few programs promised during the millage campaign have been started, County records show.

In one case, a County official suggested veterans call Uber for rides to medical appointments instead of having the county buy a new van and hire another driver to provide the service that was promised during the millage campaign.

The millage authorized in August 2016 brought in $1,035,190 during 2017 for Livingston County Veterans’ Services, but the agency spent only $430,792 that year, just 41.5 percent of what taxpayers shelled out. This year the millage brought in $1,018,000, but the agency plans to spend less than $501,000 this year, based on budget reports dated Sept. 10.

“Clearly, the county has failed to live up to the promises made to veterans when they asked voters to approve the millage,” said Judy Daubenmier, party chair.

“Backers of the millage promised they would spend the money on more services for veterans – more benefit counselors, more mental health services, more outreach – but none of that has materialized.

“County Commissioners have failed to oversee implementation of the millage, and have allowed the Veterans Services Committee, whose members they appoint, to stymie attempts to implement more programs.

“Veterans deserve to receive the services that we taxpayers thought we were paying for, but right now the County is cheating them. Democrats will see to it that veterans get the services they deserve – and that we are paying for – by immediately replacing the members of the current veterans committee. Democratic county commissioners would not be asleep at the switch in overseeing the agency like the current commissioners clearly are.”

Daubenmier said one Veterans Committee member actually misled county commissioners about the balance in the Veterans Services’ account. At the Sept. 4 County Commission meeting, Veterans’ Committee Chair Hansel Keene told County Commissioners that the agency will have a balance of just $80,000 at the end of the year when in fact it is projected to be more like $1 million. County Commissioners should have known that the $80,000 figure was inaccurate since the commission has not approved any new programs.

Information on the Veterans’ Services website shows that during the campaign for the millage, supporters, including Keene, promised it would pay to:

-- “Increase the number of Benefit Counselors from 3 full time counselors to 4 full time counselors.

-- “Increase the number of Drivers from 1 part time staff to 2 part time staff.

-- “Provide funding for the addition of a Court Coordinator for the Veterans Treatment Court.

-- “Substantially increase outreach to Livingston County Veterans including education of what benefits are available and helping veterans access benefits earned by their service.

-- “Provide funding for the creation and assistance of mental health services.

-- “Update IT infrastructure.

-- “Assist veterans with job placement and resume services.

-- “Expand transportation services with the potential purchase of an additional van.”

The van and a part-time driver have been added, but overall the agency has actually reduced staff and the Veterans’ Services Committee has resisted implementing the other programs. For example, in April, staff proposed spending $37,000 to expand mental health services for veterans through a contract with Livingston County Community Mental Health, according to the Committee’s minutes. As of early September, it still had not been implemented and committee members were asking that bids be taken from private providers who wouldn’t provide the 24-hour service available through CMH.

In May the Veterans Services Committee denied a staff request to replace two counselors who left. The motion failed on a 2-3 vote. The counselors would have made staff available for late hours and weekend events. The committee agreed to replace only one of the two counselors who left.

A full-time court coordinator for the Veterans’ Treatment Court was finally approved on Sept. 4 by the County Commission – but that was over the objections of committee members – including Keene and Bruce Hundley.

The other members of the committee are Jim Wallace, Kevin Nagle, and Joe Riker, community liaison for 8th District Congressman Mike Bishop.

Committee members also resisted expanding transportation services for veterans, as promised in the campaign for the millage. Minutes of the Nov.16, 2017, meeting say that instead of providing more transportation services for veterans, Keene suggested that the office encourage veterans to use other means of transportation such as LETS, the VA Shuttle, and Uber. “Hansel Keene made light of expanding medical services being offered in Livingston County that may be utilized by some Veterans in the future,” the minutes said.

Uber service was not available in the county at the time of the meeting.

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Printed in-house. Labor donated.)


Progress Michigan...

The head of an organization devoted to holding government accountable will speak to Livingston County Democrats this month about the shady record of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, will speak at the July 26 meeting of Livingston County Democrats. Progress Michigan, based in Lansing, tries to hold public officials and government accountable by investigating the actions of government officials and publicizing the results, while also promoting progressive ideas.

Michigan’s attorney general has been under Progress Michigan’s microscope because he has used his state email for private business and put campaign workers on the state payroll while he runs for governor.

Scott has served as chief staffer for state Reps. Alma Wheeler Smith and Jeff Irwin. He also served as state director for Enroll America, a national non-profit that spread the word about how to obtain health care through the Affordable Care Act.

He will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 26, at the meeting at the Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton, 3333 S. Old 23. Light refreshments will be served. The party's regular business meeting will follow.

Please note this is a new meeting location.

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza, Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Labor donated.)


Democrats: Use Id...

The six Democratic candidates for Livingston County Commissioner have proposed a plan to fix county roads using millions of dollars that the Republican administration has left sitting idle for years.

The candidates are calling for the county to use at least $10 million from the huge surplus sitting idle in its delinquent tax revolving fund to pay for road improvements throughout the county to begin fixing roads right now.

“Enough is enough. Our roads have been left to crumble while the county has just been sitting on money that could be used to fix them, make us safer on the road, and give people jobs. We have the money, but our county commission lacks the vision and the will to make road funding a priority. When elected in November, we will see to it that this money is put to work for our community,” said Democratic candidate Kasey Helton of Marion Township.

The County’s delinquent tax revolving fund had $42.7 million in unrestricted funds as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to the latest financial report delivered to the county board. Investing $10 million would still leave a large amount of available cash to make pension contributions and for emergencies without jeopardizing the county’s financial position.

Michigan law gives responsibility for maintaining local roads to county government, but for too long the County Commission has kicked the can down to the townships. Many townships, including Hamburg, Green Oak, Hartland, and Howell, have had to ask their voters to approve millages to pay for road improvements. In other cases, property owners have had to form special assessment districts to tax themselves to fix the roads.

It’s not just the County Commissioners that refuse to act. Republicans in Lansing have offered only band-aid solutions for the multi-billion-dollar problem of fixing Michigan’s infrastructure.

“We have had years of failed Republican leadership on roads here in Livingston County. We can do better for our community, and we will,” Helton said while announcing the plan on behalf of the Democratic candidates at an event Tuesday night in Howell.

While the commissioners have been bragging about having the State’s lowest tax rate, they have overlooked the obvious solution of using idle county funds. Their lack of vision has left Livingston County with the worst roads in the seven-county region of southeast Michigan, according to the latest figures from the Transportation Asset Management Council data on the state website,

With 50.5 percent of county roads rated as being in “poor’ condition, Livingston County is worse than Wayne (35.1 percent); Oakland (48.2 percent), Macomb (42.6 percent), Washtenaw (37.5 percent), Monroe (32.9 percent), and St. Clair (48 percent).

The County’s percentage of “poor” roads is nearly 10 points higher than the 42.3 percent for the region as a whole. And it’s actually getting worse and worse. In 2008-09, the data showed 35.44 percent of Livingston County lane-miles as being in poor condition. In 2012-13, the percent poor had dropped slightly to 33.05. But in the last five years, it has shot up by more than 18 points to more than half (50.45 percent).

The County Commission’s decade of neglect means that County residents have been driving on dangerous roads, dodging potholes, and paying for front-end alignments, wheel hubs, and tie rod ends when, all along, there was money available to start addressing the problem. Furthermore, letting road repairs go means it costs more to fix roads in the long run. According to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, once a road is rated in poor condition it must be completely replaced rather than repaired.

“That amounts to neglect of duty. It’s time to end the decade of neglect,” Helton said.

The candidates said they would work with the Livingston County Road Commission to devise a program of spending the money, with a portion reserved for the Road Commission’s priorities and a portion used for a matching program with local governments, both townships and cities. The Road Commission’s budget for this year is $36.8 million.

Money in the delinquent tax revolving fund comes from interest and penalties for late property taxes. Other counties, such as Wayne, have used these funds to supplement their general fund. Recently, Macomb County officials proposed using its delinquent tax revolving fund for roads as well.

The Democratic candidates for County Commission are: Jennifer Garcia of Hartland Township, District 2; Steve Savela of Tyrone Township, District 3; Maureen Martin of Unadilla Township, District 4; Alex Hansen of Howell Township, District 5; Kasey Helton of Marion Township, District 6, and Kristina Drake of Hamburg Township, District 8.

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee. Labor donbated.)


Neighbors Don’t L...

Neighbors don’t let neighbors skip voting – especially when the survival of the middle class is at stake.

That’s the heart of Livingston County Democrats’ Neighbor to Neighbor Program that we are kicking off with training programs in June.

In non-presidential election years, tens of thousands of Michigan Democrats don’t vote. The problem is getting worse, not better, and it’s why we haven’t won the governor’s office and have lost the U.S. House.

Our Neighbor-to-Neighbor program tackles this problem by asking precinct delegates and other volunteers to send special letters to a carefully selected list of voters in their area who voted in the 2016 election but not in the 2014 election.

The party will provide a list of names and address, copies of the letter, envelopes, and stamps (if desired). Similar appeals have worked in other areas to greatly increase turnout among this group of Democrats.

Please help us reach these voters in a personal way. Sign up for a training either on Saturday, June 23, at 10 a.m., or Tuesday, June 26, at 7 p.m. Both will be at party headquarters, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton. Each training is limited to 40 people. Email your name and address to and indicate which training you will attend.

Signing up ahead of time is important so that we may carefully select a list of voters for you to contact.

The training is designed for precinct delegates and those running for precinct delegate in August, but other volunteers are welcome.

When Democrats vote, Democrats win. Let’s make sure Democrats in Livingston County vote!

(Paid for by Livingston County Democratic Executive Committee, 8028 Grand River, Woodland Plaza Suite 7, Brighton, MI 48114. Labor donated.)