Fletcher: Of transparency, schools, economy

As summer ends with the last of the Yngling races and the planting of rye fields for the deer, I’ve had some time to mull over events of the world.

  • Take for example water negotiations between Alpena Township and the city. I recommend you visit a website named “Loudoun Water” and examine the transparency of their operations and financials. Their board of directors looks to have excellent credentials for managing that type of public enterprise. They have years of audited statements at the site. They don’t talk about transparency, they are transparent. After viewing them go to our city and township sites and compare.

Maybe our sites have all the information they possess online, but if that is the case then you have to wonder how decisions are made with the paucity of facts. The Loudoun site is a prototype of what transparent government looks like and should be emulated wherever possible.

  • Don’t get panicked yet about the negotiations between the Alpena school board and its teachers. If you put yourself in the teachers’ shoes you would also reject the prospect of a 10 percent wage decrease offer. Mediation will clarify the facts but won’t change them. The State of Michigan is reducing the amount of money available to the district, creating a deficit situation in Alpena. Those facts won’t change. Simply saying “no” won’t work.

Class sizes, which as I recall were around 32-36 pupils when I was a kid, will increase. Interactive video conferencing will become more widespread and extracurriculars, including athletics, will take a hit. There probably will have to be a millage increase proposal. All of this constitutes a paradigm shift in the way our schools teach. All of this will take conflict and hair tearing to figure out. I’ll remind you that as taxpayers, students, parents, teachers, and administrators we all are in this together. If you can’t compromise, don’t get into this discussion because there is going to be radical change in what has been a somewhat staid system. This is going to be a harrowing experience for all concerned. Intelligent proposals will help but shouting won’t get us anywhere.

  • I read today that, as a nation, we are not so worried about the economy any longer. Concerns in Syria, college tuition, and high gasoline prices have successfully masked economic troubles. How easily our heads are turned.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on a recent visit equated Michigan’s progress with economic progress. I would have too given our region and its high unemployment and declining population. Even though the state as a whole has “turned the corner,” Northeast Michigan has not. We still cannot provide meaningful employment opportunities for our offspring and still sustain jobs for those lucky to have jobs.

Are they any other initiatives other than the drone project on the horizon? From an industrial perspective we’ve lost Detroit Gasket, Fletcher Paper and Thunder Bay Manufacturing/Allegheny Technologies over the past years.

Calley said growth of jobs and population would help Michigan and it’s also the tonic for a region. The economy may not be foremost in our minds, but it is the single topic that can solve many problems within our area. If we are to see economic growth, we have to restructure our infrastructure and regulations to accomplish that goal. Consolidating high, inefficient government units with efficient, low-expense units is one means to accomplish this. Providing the same or better services more economically should be the goal of any consolidation effort.

That’s what school districts are starting to do and it’s a great first step for others to follow.

It might be gut wrenching at first, but ultimately we all will benefit from it.