Salted with Sharks

Archive for the ‘E Beach’ Category

Baby’s Breath: Scourge of America

In E Beach, Environment, Open Season, Wildlife on May 18, 2017 at 10:49 am

Baby’s breath: Nice in a wedding bouquet or a prom corsage (maybe), but not so nice when it takes over your whole beach, pushing out native plants that naturally grow almost nowhere else besides our unique shoreline.

You can help work to remove these shrubby masses from our beach by joining forces with the Invasive Species Network on volunteer bee days this summer. Enjoy the beach, work your hockey muscles, and meet cool people. Wear long pants and gloves, because there’s natural poison ivy out there, too. And we like that. —Emily Votruba

 

Ham from EN64VP

In Culture Bluffs, E Beach, Open Season, Tech on September 18, 2016 at 3:37 pm

160918-em_lookout-elberta-org-dsc2598

September 18, 2016

A group of ham radio operators are up on the overlook today attempting to “work” some of their colleagues over in Wisconsin. It’s part of a microwave contest. Some plan to stick around all day and some are heading down to Chicago later, sending signals down the coast as they go. Their homemade gear is supercool looking! A bit of fun trivia: Elberta’s call location is in EN64VP. One of the operators I spoke to, Gary, is a veteran of the telecommunications industry from back when the government was trying to break up Ma Bell. He showed the Alert some of his equipment and explained how a bit of rain, not overhead but in the signal’s path, could push his call distance much farther. Read the rest of this entry »

Lines in the Sand

In Community Alert, Crime, E Beach, Environment, Law & Order, Open Season, Public Safety, Water, Wildlife on May 24, 2016 at 1:46 pm

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Andy Bolander

Here is an annual reminder of the beautiful frailty our community possesses in the Elberta dunes and beach. It will take persistent and vocal presence for us to protect this resource.

Why is it necessary to protect the dune habitat? Well, something you may feel intuitively is actually true: Elberta Dunes are geologically unique in the world.

“Elberta Dunes lie at a latitudinal transition point between perched dunes to the north and lake-plain dunes to the south. Elberta dunes consist of five parabolic dunes perched on a glacial bluff. Characterized by stabilized dunes with overlapping arms which indicate non-concurrent periods of migration. Elberta Dunes have four distinguishable migration periods.” —Dunes in a Transitional Zone: Using Morphology and Stratigraphy to Determine the Relative Ages of Green Point Dune Complex and Elberta Dunes, Emma Fulop, Davidson College 2014

“Very few dunes in Michigan can be classed as truly migratory.” —Geological Sketch of Michigan Sand Dunes, Robert W. Kelly, Mich Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division, 2001

“[T]he greatest dunes of the entire region occur along the east coast of Lake Michigan because the prevailing Westerlies gather added energy as they fetch across this unbroken expanse of lake.” —Geological Sketch of Michigan Sand Dunes, Robert W. Kelly, Mich Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division, 2001

Human activity on the beach has the potential to change the shape of the dune. Vehicle tracks and the digging out of vehicles kills and/or displaces grasses, shrubs, and other vegetation that stabilizes the dunes. Removal of plant life exposes the sand to the wind and water erosion.

“Whenever plants on the foredune are injured or destroyed, the wind has access to the raw sand and creates a blowout, a saddle-shaped breach in the ridge, through which the sand commences a march inland. Many blowouts change the foredune into a very irregular feature called a dune ridge.” —Geological Sketch of Michigan Sand Dunes, Robert W. Kelly, Mich Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Geological Survey Division, 2001

Dunes along the Lake Michigan coast have vanished before because of human activity. Pigeon Hill in Muskegon was named for the massive number of passenger pigeons that roosted there up until the end of the 19th century. The hill was sold to Nugent Sand and the Pere Marquette Railroad in 1920. By 1936 Sand Products Corporation (owner of about 180 acres of Elberta sand dunes and bluffs) had erected a conveyor system to load the sand onto waiting boats. Excavation of the sand continued until 1967. The site then sat barren until 1992, when there was a change in ownership and Harbour Towne condominiums were built. (http://www.actorscolony.com/) Dune sand mining also destroyed huge dunes that once surrounded Manistee.

But you don’t have to be a large sand mining corporation or a real estate developer to do a lot of damage to these natural areas and to the birds and other creatures who make Elberta Beach their home. The beach and dunes are subject to the everyday threat of human vehicle traffic.

“People are drawn to shorelines for their beauty and recreational opportunities so the remaining shoreline areas with dune habitat are often also public use areas. Hikers and Off Road Vehicles (ORVs) trample Pitcher’s thistle [a protected species] which harms or destroys the plants. ORV traffic in dunes also causes erosion which creates unstable areas where it’s difficult for plants to take hold. Pitcher’s thistle and its dune habitat are also destroyed for the creation and maintenance of public beaches.” —US Fish & Wildlife Service, Fact Sheet: Pitcher’s Thistle, updated 5/2001

“Off-road vehicles, which ruin habitat, crush nests and eggs, and directly kill birds by running over them are a key threat. Chicks that move across primary vehicle paths on their way to feed are in particular danger — especially when they get stalled alongside tall tire-track edges or stuck inside ruts. To save piping plovers from vehicle mortality, the Center has been working hard to keep off-road vehicles out of precious habitat through our Off-road Vehicles campaign. We’re also gearing up to petition the Secretary of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service to establish rules that prohibit motorized vehicle use in all designated critical habitat and on all federal, state-owned, and state-managed public lands within piping plover habitat.” — http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/piping_plover/

“The Great Lakes population of the piping plover is at a perilously low level. Since 1983, the number of nesting pairs has ranged from 12 to 32. In 2000, all of the Great Lakes pairs nested in Michigan.” —US Fish & Wildlife Service, Fact Sheet: Piping Plover

“Piping plovers are very sensitive to the presence of humans. Too much disturbance causes the parent birds to abandon their nest. People (either on foot or in a vehicle) using the beaches where the birds nest sometimes accidentally crush eggs or young birds. Dogs and cats often harass and kill the birds. Other animals, such as fox, gulls, and crows, prey on the young plovers or eggs.” —US Fish & Wildlife Service, Fact Sheet: Piping Plover

The beach and dunes are arguably the greatest asset that Elberta possesses; the village has a handful of businesses and no industry. Most of us who live here have chosen this place, or have stayed here, because we love the beach and the dunes and the forest around them. Allowing the impact of humans to change our unique natural system to a conventional mess would be a great shame. It’s up to the people who live here and the visitors who come to enjoy the beach to treat it with the respect and care it, and we all, deserve. It’s up to locals to demand that visitors behave responsibly and not destroy this amazing place.

We have been given a great responsibility. There is literally nowhere on earth like this beach and dune environment.

Driving and digging out trucks and cars on the beach and dunes not only crushes the nests of piping plovers, hurts the habitat of the Lake Huron locust, wormwood, horsetail, coreopsis, wood lilies, and other native wildlife, but it also hurts the human community. It upsets people who gently walk the beach and live through hard winters here in order to enjoy summer. It upsets people who pay taxes to keep local services running. We don’t have the manpower within local law enforcement or the DNR to deter the destructive activity that goes on down at the beach. So we need to get together as a community and protect this by demonstrating responsible behavior.

In recent years both the Village of Elberta and private citizens have spent money and time posting signs to try to cut down on off-road traffic on the beach. Vandals have removed these signs and in some cases set fire to them. Dollars have been spent and wasted on these selfish individuals, and to no avail.

I don’t have a solution today, but I hope that sharing and refreshing this knowledge of how truly special this environment is will help us keep talking until we do reach a solution.

In the meantime, if you see vehicles driving on the dunes or beach, call the DNR hotline at 800-292-7800, and/or try to get a photograph of the vehicle and its license plate.

Candidate Says Water Management, Passenger Rail, Internet Access Will Help NoMI Folks Stay and Succeed

In E Beach, Environment, Fishing, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Law & Order, On and off the Apron, Politics, Transportation, Water on April 1, 2016 at 11:28 am

Meet the Candidate: Lon Johnson

Democrat

1st Congressional District

Image from WIkipedia

Image from WIkipedia

Lon Johnson spoke at the Bayview Grille in Frankfort to a group of potential supporters on March 29 from 6 to 7 pm. Here are selections from his remarks, arranged by topic. Meet the Candidate is nonpartisan and offers any candidate a place for long-form policy presentations. Invite this reporter to your next meet and greet! —Emily Votruba, emilyvotruba@yahoo.com

TRADE POLICY

The American worker stacked up against anyone in the world can win. Our economy is becoming more and more interconnected worldwide, and we have to be able to compete. But I don’t think [the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)] trade agreement hit the right marks on currency manipulation, sovereign banking, labor protections—we have to be on somewhat equal footing with the rest of the world, and when that doesn’t happen, we have what we saw with NAFTA, where our manufacturing went away. I don’t believe in protectionism, but I do believe in fair trade. The fact that, first off, [TPP] was negotiated in secret, I think was wrong.

TAX REFORM

We need real tax reform. Right now we’ve got companies parking their money offshore to avoid paying taxes. We’ve got hedge-fund executives paying a lower tax rate than somebody who works to pay rent. In our country what moves us is capital and labor: capital finances things and labor makes things for a living. For the American economy to work you need a fine balance. One can’t be over the other. When that happens things get off kilter very fast. When you look at the economy today you see the stock market [going up], you see our GDP [going up], you see our worker productivity through the roof. But what’s happening with wages? Stagnant or falling. And that’s a result of tax policies put together by Congress. We have to rethink our tax policy.

FRACKING

We need to keep Northern Michigan and the UP both beautiful and prosperous. We have to strike that balance, and we can strike that balance. Before we do that we have to realize what our greatest assets are here. We’ve been blessed with incredible beauty, beautiful land, beautiful lakes, beautiful rivers. These are our assets. But we have to extract from them in a responsible way. We have to continue mining and logging, but in a responsible way. Fracking is a prime example. I’m opposed to fracking. We really do have gold underneath our feet: natural gas. We need that natural gas. It is a perfect fuel as we move into renewable energy, away from carbon-based; but we’ve got to extract this gas in a way that’s responsible. And pumping thousands of unknown chemicals into the ground, the water displacement, the earthquakes—to me it just doesn’t seem sound. And until they can show us how we can move this gas out of the ground 100 percent safely, then I just don’t think it’s worth the risk.

LINE 5 PIPELINE

It’s a 63-year-old pipeline that’s running through the Straits of Mackinac. It starts in Canada, runs through the UP, cuts across the Mackinac Straits and down through the heart of Michigan to Sarnia. I’m not opposed to pipelines. Pipelines are the safest way to move oil. But there are smart places to put pipelines and not-so-smart places. A 63-year-old pipeline that hasn’t been independently inspected, independently verified to be safe, in the Mackinac Straits with its associated currents is just not a smart place to have a pipeline. So we call for this pipeline to be shut down until it’s independently inspected and proven to be 100 percent safe.

If we were to move to build a new pipeline I would oppose putting a pipeline in the Great Lakes. Enbridge has enough capacity to move oil without Line 5. I was on the phone with an engineer on the way over here who said we could keeping moving propane along Line 5. This pipeline carries three things now: natural gas liquids, synthetic oil, and light crude. We can shut the oil down and still continue to move the propane, which will nullify the argument that Enbridge and the Republicans will use against us, that we’re going to drive up the cost of home heating fuel. A propane leak would do nowhere near the environmental damage that an oil leak would.

At four o’clock today at my office Mary Hess called. She’s a commissioner in Alpena. And we have a resolution right now that we’ve been pushing all around the state opposing Line 5. And it went before the commission today in Alpena and it tied 4 to 4. One person can make a difference. What we’re trying to do is get 50 towns/municipalities/counties in northern Michigan to pass a resolution opposing Line 5 so we’ll have better moral authority to put before the governor. And if you don’t think local people matter at that point, there’s your answer right there.

The fact is, this governor [Snyder], and the people of Michigan, need a clean-water win. Let’s give him one. If we make him a hero on Line 5, fine, let’s do it.

ENBRIDGE…FLINT

There are our Great Lakes. When you don’t show us the results of your testing, if you’re not prepared to operate 100 percent transparently, in my mind you’ve forfeited your right to move in our Great Lakes. It comes down to who do you trust. In this case we’re being told this pipeline is safe by the same people who told us the Flint water was safe. Literally the very same people. And the same people who own Enbridge, this pipeline, were responsible for the largest inland oil pipeline disaster in the history of the United States, right here in Michigan, into the Kalamazoo River. So bottom line is, who do you trust? Corporate and government officials who have very limited, short-term objectives, or the people? I’m going to side with the people all day long and twice on Sunday.

What the Line 5 debate is really about, is what do we believe is the future for Michigan? I believe it’s our credibility with freshwater. Our ability to lead in that marketplace. If we have another Flint, if we have another Kalamazoo, that credibility is gone.

LOCAL RESILIENCE: STAY AND SUCCEED

The last thing I want to do in Congress, and this is the most important, is we have to create a place here in Northern Michigan where our families can stay and succeed. We’re losing too many of our kids and grandkids to downstate for job opportunities, for education opportunities. It doesn’t have to be that way. Everyone should always have the option to travel and leave the state, discover the world, and come back, but it shouldn’t be mandatory that you leave here so you can succeed.

We in Northern Michigan have a long proud history of leading the world. In the 1700s, we led the world in international trade—the fur trade. Why did the French come and settle this area? Fur. Then we led the world in mining. Copper and iron ore: We helped win the Civil War. Then what did we lead the world in? Lumber. Our lumber built the American West. You can track our lumber DNA all the way out to San Francisco. What’s next? We still have the same assets. We still have great people. We still have land, the most beautiful in the world, we still have the Great Lakes. But we need to use them smartly.

PASSENGER RAIL

I want to do three long-term things that I think will start to create that place where people can stay and succeed. One: we need to restore passenger rail service to Northern Michigan. All the consultants downstate say don’t say that, don’t talk about it. We used these lines for decades to export lumber. For decades we used them to export value away from us. Now we need those same lines to bring value to us. As long as they go home on Sunday…[laughter]. Now, think about this: the hard work has already been done. Let’s get these tracks turned on. I’m not talking about billion-dollar bullet trains, but regular old 55-mile-an-hour passenger rail service moving from Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor and Detroit, bringing people to us. It can be done.

HIGH-SPEED INTERNET

The second thing we need is high-speed internet and mobile cell phone service in all our communities. You look around, you have one bar on your phone. My wife and I literally fight over the WiFi. We’re massively moving toward an economy where people can live and work wherever they want. Nearly a third of the workforce is already there. When people can live and work wherever they choose, where are they going to go? Where it’s beautiful. And that’s where Northern Michigan can compete and win. But we’re just not ready. Why not? Because our members of Congress aren’t fighting as hard as our forefathers did when they fought the electric companies. The Rural Electrification Act changed America. What members of Congress did is they went to utility companies and said we’re going to give you a right to exist on our public airwaves and our public land, but in return you have to wire up rural America—because there was no money in that for them. So Congress struck that deal and that’s how we got wired up.

We need members of Congress who will fight just as hard. The template is already there. Internet service, cell phone service is every bit as important as electricity. We need to wire up the north. We need a member of Congress who’s going to work with other rural legislators to get this done—march into the FCC’s office, march into Verizon, AT&T, and compel them to invest in this and get this done.

MICHIGAN SHOULD LEAD THE WORLD IN WATER MANAGEMENT

The last thing I want to do, and this is the most long term: We need to position Northern Michigan as the world’s thought leader on the use and protection of freshwater. We have a competitive advantage over every other state and over every other country: 21 percent of the world’s freshwater is right here. I’m not talking about selling our water. I’m not talking about that. But in our lifetime, water will become the most valuable natural resource in the history of the world. Who better to protect that and show the world how to use it than us?

And you might ask well, how does that help us make money? Let me tell you how. At Stanford University, in the ’60s and the ’70s, some smart people got together and said you know what, computer science, computer engineering, that’s going to be the future. So they increased their curriculum in computer science at Stanford, which produced graduates who stayed in Palo Alto, which created what? Silicon Valley. Which created Google. Amazon. Microsoft. They created a whole new economy. And in our lifetime, water will become the number one natural resource. Right now millions of dollars are being spent on the use and protection of freshwater. Factories are trying to figure out how they can use less water, farmers are trying to figure out how to grow more product using less water. The military is trying to figure out how to move more troops and use less water. Cities are trying to figure out how to better manage their water and wastewater. This is a billion-dollar market, and we are losing to Israel and Saudi Arabia and Arizona and Alabama. We need to create a freshwater institute and show the world how to better use and protect water. And from that, thousands of jobs can be created.

None of this is Buck Rogers/George Jetson stuff. But you need a member of Congress who will sit down and get this done. All these things require cooperation between corporations and local governments, state governments, the federal government and even international governments. Your member of Congress is where that starts.

We have to show people in very simple terms. People are busy. They’re not ignorant, they’re not stupid, but we have to educate people about our water. You create a post on Facebook and show that a barrel of oil and its price, $39 or whatever the latest is, and you show a barrel of freshwater: it’s higher. It’s $45. You have to put it in very simple terms that people can understand. Our water is now more valuable than oil. That’s what a member of Congress does. We have a lot of education to do. We all were taught in 8th grade geography class the value of our water, but sometimes as we go through life here seeing it constantly, we think “We have plenty of water.” We become complacent.

GUNS AND GUN VIOLENCE

The problem we have right now in Congress, and it’s more acute on the campaign trail, is that we can’t even have a conversation. If you mention even the word “guns” there are organizations who will take it as an intrinsic threat to their organization, not just to their issue but their organization. And they come down on these candidates with two and three million dollars in television ads, not necessarily about guns but about anything they can. The question is, how do I get elected and have that conversation both within my district and Washington? It starts with demonstrating to the voters of this district that I believe in the 2nd Amendment, first off. I’m a lifelong hunter. I was in Iraq as a civilian. I’m no stranger to what a weapon can do.

But whether you carry a weapon in war or for self-protection or for hunting, you also carry with you a set of values. And those values are primarily about responsibility, respect for that weapon. The problem is that around the country, others don’t carry those same values. Here in northern Michigan if I see a guy walking down the street with a shotgun on his arm I don’t think twice about it. In other areas of our country that’s a problem.

I’m not opposed to having the conversation. I’m not opposed to background checks. I think we also have to have an underlying discussion about why people are feeling the need to carry so many weapons. What is happening in our country? I’m not here to defend or attack anyone. But because our Congress does not address this issue in a holistic way these shootings are proliferating, and people figure well, if my government can’t protect me, my police force can’t protect me, I’m going to carry a weapon. Which creates a whole other series of problems. I’m willing to have the conversation to solve these problems.

When you cut mental health—and I’m not putting gun violence all on mental health—but when the federal government is cutting the states, the states are cutting the counties, the counties end up warehousing people in jails. Because they don’t know what else to do with them. They’re putting these folks who have serious problems into county facilities, and they’re coming out after three days, a week, after it’s been adjudicated they’re no longer a threat to themselves and others. These are people with serious paranoid delusions, and if they can get access to a weapon it’s like throwing gas on a fire. We have to have a holistic approach to the problems of these mass shootings.

I believe in bringing it local, local, local. We used to have gun boards in the state of Michigan. The county would determine whether somebody had the right to carry a concealed weapon or open carry. Just because a person hasn’t been arrested three times doesn’t mean they should be carrying a weapon. The sheriff knows whether someone’s a threat to the community or not. It’s like the old draft board. The draft board was made up of people from the community who understood who was a conscientious objector and who wasn’t. The solutions to our problems on the gun front will only come from districts like this one. When you elect people from districts with a high percentage of gun ownership. Because I can go to the gun community and say look, I hunt, I fish. No one is going to come to my home and take my gun. And I’m never going to vote for someone to do the same to you. But we have to have a conversation about how do we stop this. Right now, the minute I even mention having a conversation, organizations come in with millions of dollars spreading absolute lies.

What we need to discuss with voters here in the 1st district is what we’re going to do to provide real solutions for our communities. Jobs. Passenger rail. Internet service. Shutting down this pipeline. We need to show what we’re going to do for people specifically. If we just say “we’re going to fight for the middle class” without giving specifics, we will get beaten by these organizations coming in and saying I want to take away your guns. We have to show the voters what they get when they vote for us. And that is: a place to stay and succeed. My biggest complaint about past campaigns in this district is that we’ve listened to consultants who’ve said, just give them poll-driven, nebulous nothing. And that’s how we lose. We have to go out there and show voters precisely who we are and what we’re going to do.

TRUMP

I think Trump is going to be the nominee. And I think it’s going to tear [the Republican] party apart. And I don’t say that gleefully. We need a two-party system for politics to function. The whole party’s going to melt down. And that is a terrific advantage for us. But I don’t say that gleefully. This country is going to pay a price for years to come from Donald Trump being our nominee. I was in Iraq in ’05 as a civilian. I didn’t live in the Green Zone. I didn’t live in an army base, I didn’t live on a FOB or in any government facility. I lived downtown in a city of half a million people, and my neighbors were Muslims. I chose to live next to a mosque because I thought they would help protect me. And they did. When I’d walk out I’d see my neighbor out there playing with his kid, whatever, and I didn’t have to worry, because he knew what I was doing and we had a shared sense of mission. My colleagues right now doing the same job in Muslim countries all over the world, they now have to wonder what did Trump say last night that’s going to get them in trouble or get them killed. What Trump is saying right now is nothing but recruitment for Al Qaeda. This is dangerous stuff that he’s doing. This country will pay a heck of a price for his language for many years to come. I think decades.

OUR DEMOCRACY, HOW WE VOTE, AND YOUR PARTICIPATION

Our campaign finance system needs to be torn down. Citizens United needs to be overturned. That’s going to take a lot of citizens’ involvement. But we have to overcome this. Millions of dollars, probably billions have poured in to our government, to our campaigns—we’re marching toward an oligarchy. I just read that we have about 158 families that are controlling the entire Republican presidential primary process. There’s the Koch brothers and 157 other families. We’re driving toward an oligarchy and we need to do better.

The 1 percent: people who run Wall Street and fund a lot of our political activities. They are looking at the demographics of our country and they’re wondering how they can win. They have been slowly grabbing the reins of power. In the last four years, look what has happened. Repealing parts of the Voting Rights Act. Citizens United. Redrawing the lines. Voting rights violations. Voter ID laws. Emergency managers. Fewer polling places. This is all by design. It’s all designed to tell you: You don’t count. Don’t bother giving $5 to Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, because the Koch brothers are going to come in with a billion. Don’t bother running for office because we’re going to throw an emergency manager in there. Don’t bother voting. It’s all compounded to tell you to give up. Don’t participate.

One person can make a difference. The first race I worked on, in 1992, we beat an incumbent Republican member of Congress with $110,000. It was three of us, we were all in our twenties in the back of a house. The other candidate was 35 years old. Then in 1994 we won a race by 113 votes. In 2000 I was in Miami sitting at the recount tables. One person can make a difference. Let me show you how. Throw something up on social media and see how many likes you get. You’ve influenced the opinion of however many people. And that’s how this works. You have an idea, and no matter how crazy you think that idea is, there’s someone else out there who’s had that same idea. And you can then create change.

People don’t see a difference between one party and the next. It’s all corporate-bought politicians and they say forget it, it doesn’t matter. That’s why Bernie Sanders is gaining real traction. We have to show people that the system isn’t broken, and where it is, it’s your responsibility to fix it. [The big-money interests] rely on you saying “Screw it.” They want you to walk away. They win when that happens.

This is the best chance in decades to win this seat. We have an open seat. We have a three-way Republican primary, and they’re all pretty equally matched: We’ve got a three-star general out of Watersmeet, we have a current state senator from the UP, and a former state senator from Traverse City. Which means they’re going to beat the heck out of each other and be broke and banged up come August. And we’re going to have presidential year level turnout. Turnout is always a problem for Democrats, but it’s less so in a presidential year. I think we have one of the best issues of any race in the country, and that’s Line 5. It’s something all voters can care about and both Casperson and Allen are on record saying Line 5 is fine and can stay there. There’s a clear difference between the parties on this.

To win, all of us are going to have to do two and three times more than what we’ve ever done. We cannot afford to lose. If we lose this seat, Casperson or Allen will have it for 20 years. This is our moment right now. A democratic member of Congress helps with other seats. The downstream organizational value to a member of Congress is enormous. We’ve got 32 counties. We’re building an organization in every county. We have 1,500 endorsements. We’re going to ask you to make a contribution, put up a yard sign, make phone calls. We have 396 towns. That’s 4,000 elected officials just at the municipal level that we need to be in touch with.

One enormous advantage we have this year is that there’s no governor’s race and there’s no senate race. So people will vote for president and then next line underneath that is congressional. There’s always dropoff as you move down that ticket, but right now we’re the first after the presidential race.

I go to bed and I wake up with one number in my head: 1,881. That’s what Gary McDowell lost by. We can make up that number of votes. But we have to raise more money, go to more counties, get more endorsements, put up more yard signs. It’s going to take a heck of a lot of work. We hope to have yard signs by June. We have to raise $60,000 for signs. We have a website called LonSigns.com.

We’ve got a real shot. Let’s not waste this opportunity. Let’s go win. Ψ

 

 

Benzie Emergency Management Seeks Feedback on Its Natural Hazards Draft Plan

In Agriculture, Community Alert, E Beach, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Environment, Fishing, Gov't Watch, Green Elbertians, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Public Safety, Transportation, Water, Weather, Wildlife on January 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Get back to Frank Post, our county emergency management coordinator, by email or phone asap! (fpost@benzieco.net, 231-882-0567)

Read and download the draft plan here: 2015 Hazard Mitigation Plan

More information is available at the Region 7 website.

Elberta Summer Solstice Festival no. 12: Wilder Than Ever

In Calendar, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff, Open Season, Water on June 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Elberta Solstice Festival_Poster_2014WITHLOGOSmaller

The Elberta Solstice Festival is back for its 12th year, Saturday June 21! Join the teeming masses of music and food buffs descending on our magical Village amid the dune bluffs of Lake Michigan for live music, local food, beer, games, Michigan’s best beach, and other attractions to amaze and astound you, all capped off with one of the premier fireworks displays in the region.

Benzie County’s number one music festival is family friendly, quirky, cutting-edge, and eco-conscious, with some of the best bands, craft beverages and artisanal food around. Up until this year, admission to Solstice has been totally free, with guests paying as they go for food and beer. This year, because of the Village’s dire deficit situation, a fee of $5 will be charged for entrance to the beer tent, starting at 8 pm. It’s still possible to hear and even see the bands from outside the beer tent (but you can’t buy beer outside the beer tent). The Solstice Committee and P&R regret the change but hope everyone will still crowd the beer tent and help the Village get back on its feet.

Our Solstice Queen Jennifer Wilkins and other volunteers from Parks and Recreation and the Solstice Committee have prepared some special new treats this year. Coming all the way from Detroit are Magician Keith Stickley, Wood-E the Clown, and Animal Encounters with the infamous “Ghetto Gators”—large and scary scaly creatures recovering from shady servitude in the Motor City. While your reptile brain is turned on, stuff a bunch of food in you, from TuGo’s Egg Roll Co., Elberto’s Taqueria, Conundrum Café, The Lions, Cabbage Shed, Frankfort Takeout, Louie’s Burgers, Why Knot pretzels, and A.Papanos Pizza, plus bebidas from St. Ambrose, Acoustic Mead, and your favorite beers in the beer tent. You’ll be glad to know that this year, for the first time, you can catch a free Benzie Bus shuttle between our Waterfront Park Pavilion and the Antique Car Show and Art Fair in Frankfort. Call or text 231-930-8100 for pickup at one of the stops (see photo below).

Oh, you want to know about the *bands*? But of course: THE ACCIDENTALS, ALFREDO, MEDICINAL GROOVE, E MINOR, THE STANDING HAMPTONS, BLAKE ELLIOTT & THE ROBINSON AFFAIR, K. JONES & THE BENZIE PLAYBOYS, BLUE DIRT, SOUL PATCH, and late at night after Wolverine’s fireworks display, G SNACKS.

Don’t miss this northern Michigan hometown extravaganza on the wild side of Betsie Bay! 12 noon to 2 am, Saturday June 21st, at Elberta’s Historic Waterfront Park on old M-168.

(The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Solstice Committee would also like to us to mention that the Benzie County Sheriff Department is planning extra patrols the night of Solstice, including on the beach. They’d like to remind everyone that fireworks and camping on the beach are unlawful activities. Let’s all have a safe and hassle-free Solstice Fest.)

 

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Road Ends Sign Gone

In Community Alert, E Beach, Environment, Green Elbertians, Open Season, Transportation on May 4, 2014 at 8:42 pm

The “Road Ends” sign the Village installed last June has apparently been removed (not by the Village). Jennifer Wilkins sent this photo yesterday, May 3.

Photo by Jennifer Wilkins

Photo by Jennifer Wilkins

Fuzz-y Math: Has the Sheriff Made the Case for the Public Safety Millage?

In Crime, E Beach, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Law & Order, On and off the Apron, Politics, Public Safety on November 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm

By Emily Votruba

On November 5 (tomorrow), county residents will be asked to approve a funding increase for the Benzie County Sheriff’s Office. The 1.5 mill “public safety millage” will replace the jail millage (.9 mills) and is meant to allow the return of 24-hour road patrol, which proponents say is needed to “Keep Benzie Safe.”

The funding issue was raised repeatedly during both the primary and general elections in the 2012 sheriff race. While opinions vary on the need for additional financial support at the sheriff’s office, a fact remains clear: as candidate for sheriff, Ted Schendel on multiple occasions, notably during the final campaign forum held by the League of Women Voters, adamantly stated his opposition to a public safety millage. Schendel was quick to remind everyone a millage amounted to nothing more than a tax increase. So why the change of heart?

In an October 23 letter to the Record-Patriot, Sheriff Schendel wrote that after working with the county commissioners to consider “many options” to resolve the department’s financial challenges, he decided he had only two choices to provide 24-hour coverage to the county: a millage, or “(2) Sue the County for not adequately funding the Sheriff’s Office.” No breakdown of those considered and rejected options was provided, if only so we might understand what sorts of priorities we have as a county. Could funding have been found some other way? If not, why not? What we have in the paper from Schendel is a threat: “Keep Benzie Safe” by voting yes on this millage, or get sued.

Is the situation this dire? Has there been a crime surge since the election? When compared with other counties of similar size, is Benzie County understaffed with law enforcement personnel? These are important questions that should be answered before county residents vote to approve what amounts to a 60% budget increase for county law enforcement, which would place approximately $1.6 million under the direct control of the sheriff.

The county currently pays approximately $1 million out of the general fund to provide for law enforcement functions, namely road patrol, while jail operations are financed by both the jail millage and the general fund. If approved, the four-year public safety millage will finance all law enforcement functions of the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Schendel says the new millage will provide enough revenue to allow 24-7 road patrol by two deputies, a school liaison officer, new patrol vehicles, and a full-time secretary in the detective bureau. The jail millage will be eliminated and the operation of the county jail will be paid exclusively out of the general fund. Advocates of the new millage argue that the jail should be fully paid out of the general fund anyway, as maintaining a jail is one of the services the county is required to provide according to the state constitution—road patrol is not a required service. With the .9 mill jail millage gone, the 1.5 mill public safety funding amounts to a tax increase of .6 mills (or roughly an additional $60 a year for four years for a $200,000 house).

If crime in Benzie has gone up, Sheriff Schendel has not made this a big part of his case for the millage. Indeed, the premise of the millage campaign is “Keep” Benzie safe. Benzie is already safe, the campaign seems to say, but if we don’t have 24-hour patrol, it might get unsafe.… In a September 2012 interview with the Elberta Alert, Sheriff Rory Heckman said the crime rate had remained stable overall since 2011 except for an increase in illegal narcotics use (traffic accidents were down at the time). On October 19 on the Benzie Citizens for Public Safety Facebook page you could read the following exchange:

Dennis Rodzik: Could I see some crime stats for the past 5 years to justify a increase in taxes??????

Benzie Citizens for Public Safety Dennis, there was a 23.52% increase in felonies between 2009 & 2012 in Benzie County. The Sheriff’s Office has all that information on file and would be happy to provide you a copy (231-882-4484). The central point of the millage is access to service and the gain that Benzie County would have from 24 hour road patrol. Passing the millage will also ensure that we have the same hours of coverage that all of the surrounding counties enjoy.

Felonies apparently went up in the four years between 2009 and 2012, but you wouldn’t know that (or any reasons for it) from the millage campaign. Instead of claiming that a higher crime rate justifies increased expenditures, advocates of the millage rely on a vague threat of some crime-ridden future, and the idea that Benzie “deserves” 24-hour police protection just like all the surrounding counties. In addition, a strained connection is being made in the millage campaign between economic development and law enforcement protection. Those who are for the millage contend that business owners and entrepreneurs must “feel safe” before they will invest in the county. How many businesses are sitting on Benzie’s borders, wringing their hands, waiting to see whether we pass this millage or not? The campaign doesn’t tell us. A better question, also unanswered, would be: Have any businesses actually left because they felt unsafe?

In the March 27 edition of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, Sheriff Schendel was quoted saying that in a county the size of Benzie the appropriate number of road deputies is 36. But according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the same agency cited by the sheriff in support of his claim, in 2007 sheriff’s offices in counties roughly the size of Benzie employ on average about 14 sworn police officers.* Per the 2012-2013 Benzie County budget, we had 13 sworn officers in our Sheriff’s Office. That number includes road deputies, sergeants, secondary road patrol, undersheriff and sheriff. It does not include the recent hiring of a ninth road patrolman. With that addition, we now have 14 sworn officers. The sheriff is asking for a funding increase so he can hire four or five more road patrolmen. This will bring the total number of sworn officers to 18 or 19. By national standards, in terms of population, we are on par at our current staff levels. Could those 14 officers be rescheduled to cover 24 hours?

Do more officers mean less crime? The campaign hasn’t made that case, and the facts from other localities don’t bear it out. For example, on a per capita basis, the city of Detroit has more than 5 times the number of police officers (Detroit Police, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, FBI, and ICE) as Benzie County has and it had more murders last year than at any point in the last 40 years. The correlation between more police officers and less crime has not been substantiated.

Your vote on this millage may come down to whether you feel the need for more, and more frequent, police coverage. But there’s an additional factor to take into consideration: Placing the Sheriff Department’s entire budget under a millage, as this measure does, means that every four years we’ll have a referendum on whether or not to fund the Sheriff’s office at all. In 2017, the next sheriff will have to spend time and energy fighting for 100% of the budget within the first year of his or her term. By putting the entire budget of the sheriff’s office on a millage, the sheriff’s office is running the risk of not having a budget in the future, putting the careers of every single employee at the sheriff’s office up for grabs.

The public safety millage is a sort of extortion against the voter: either approve all of it, every four years, or get no Sheriff services at all. That shouldn’t be the choice given to the voters. The sheriff’s office can be funded up to at least a minimum level by the general fund sufficient to allow the sheriff to perform his basic duties. If the current fleet of patrol vehicles is inadequate, if reinstating a resource officer at the schools will promote a good relationship between youth and the law, if Elberta residents on either side of the beach-driving issue will have their enjoyment of the beach affected by 24-7 patrol,** let’s hear the case for those items on the Sheriff’s wish list.

If there is a need or demand for any of these items, why not put them to the voters as separate issues? As it stands, a yes vote on this prix-fixe millage sets us up for a tax increase now and a possible case of severe indigestion in 2017.

___________________

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

* There were 862 sheriff’s offices in the United States that served populations between 10,000 and 24,999. The total number of sworn officers employed by those agencies was 12,167.

** Regarding patrol for Elberta Beach, Sheriff Schendel did propose last year that Elberta could pay a special contract fee to ensure increased patrol of the beach.

A Soaring Letter regarding the Financial Crisis

In Alert Reader, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, Historic Elberta, Soaring on October 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

The Alert received this letter and photo from Mr. Embertson on October 12. Note that Elberta does not in fact own all of the beach area in question, and so far the Village Council has not proposed to voluntarily sell any beach access to satisfy the Treasury Department.

Dear Alert and Elberta Village Council:

I am a hang glider pilot of 38 years, former president of the Green Point Flyers Association, landowner at Green Point, and have been flying with my hang glider and paraglider friends and group/club members on the Elberta ridge since 1979.  As pilots we see the Elberta area from a very special perspective, and all of us have enjoyed recreation in a myriad of other ways in the Elberta area for as many years.  We are exceptionally grateful that the village of Elberta has allowed us wonderful and easy access to the resources of the village, the land on the ridge, the woods, the beaches, the piers, and the water – all owned by the village and the public for so many years.  Thank you so much for the extraordinary beauty and natural resources that are available to all of us!  We have landed our gliders at Elberta beach for 35 years and love the place!  Some of us remember the days of our partnership with the village of Elberta and City of Frankfort during the Annual Soaring Festivals of the late 70’s.

When we land there, or recreate there, we have so many great conversations with tourists, beach goers, and visitors from out of town and out of state.  We share our love of the area with people we meet, and I want to believe that we (and those conversations) are part of the reason that people return to visit Elberta and all that it offers.

More personally, my family – my wife and four children (ages 19, 19, 17, and 14) have been blessed to have the Elberta area and Lake Michigan environment to enjoy as a family.  We have been enjoying swimming, kayaking, kite boarding, rock hounding, playing, and lounging on the spectacular beach and dune areas that Elberta has managed.  We are so grateful to your village for allowing us to enjoy these things for so many years!  We have hundreds of family memories, family videos, family pictures that have captured the days, moments, sunsets, and family togetherness that has made our family closer and stronger. My children have grown up at those places in Elberta I mentioned above. Elberta and all that is beautiful about Elberta is a part of my children’s lives. For 19 years, they have returned to Elberta with us parents every spring, summer, fall, and even in winters. We were together at Elberta and Green Point this Labor Day 2013 weekend!

THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!

Now we hear that your village is facing challenges, and considering selling properties and land, possibly and dramatically changing access to the places we love to come?

PLEASE do not do that!  Problem solve this!  Creatively find alternatives! Plan for long term impact not short term gain. Please do not take away from so many thousands, the natural beauty and places we all love dearly.

Sincerely,

Dave (and Linda) Embertson, Isaac, Elizabeth, Joshua, and Timothy

Lake City, MI 

 

The Embertson Family

The Embertson Family

 

 

Village Deficit Crisis: Brief, Important Update

In Breaking, Community Alert, E Beach, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Politics, Village Money Situation, Water on October 11, 2013 at 1:18 am

By Emily Votruba

According to Reggie and Laura Manville, the state expects to see a plan that might realistically eliminate our $558K+ deficit within the next 5 years.* If the Village does not come up with an acceptable plan by October 17, it’s very likely, again according to Reggie Manville, that the state will bring in an emergency manager. The state could act on that decision, Reggie said, as soon as December.

When Bill Soper and I asked Laura if the Village’s beach property is potentially saleable, she said, “That was the first thing [the State Treasury rep] asked about, was how much beach property the Village has.” Laura said she would look into how much Village beach property is potentially in play if an emergency manager is appointed to take over the Village. It does not seem to be the intention of anyone on Council to sell our beach property.

Some possible cost-cutting and revenue-raising ideas discussed at tonight’s (October 10) meeting:
• cutting employee time across the board (office and DPW down to two or three days a week)
• reducing or eliminating employee benefits
• cutting just the office down to 32 hours total per week (16 hours per employee), with the office open four days a week; keeping DPW the same (Ken and Corey) and eliminating benefits for office
• contracting out Life Saving Station rentals to a management company instead of having office staff handle it as they do now
• charge fees and/or have donation boxes for use of boat launch, beach, trails, etc.
• sell off one or more of the following assets: Community Building, Library, Ballfield, Marina/Farmers’ Market Park, Anderson Park, Tots Park, Veterans Park
• consolidate with Frankfort or Gilmore Township
• hold a millage vote for fire department services and/or general tax revenue increase
• cut services
• raise fees for water, sewer, garbage, permits
_______________________
* This deficit amount does not include the tens of thousands of dollars we owe in legal fees—an amount that keeps growing.