Monday, November 27, 2006

Coyote, Again

Just now, 9:15 pm, Liz saw a coyote in the same place as my sighting last week, crossing 204 right before the bridge, but this time running from south to north. Must be a popular place to cross.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Haloscan comments

Since I started using the customizable template, I've often wondered if the "comments" feature of this blog was working properly. When I switched to Blogger Beta the comments feature broke down completely. Tonight I've added comments managed by an outside vendor, Haloscan. We'll see how they work. I opted for the free version, so you will see an ad over the space where you type.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

First Seagulls, Now Loons

The Record Eagle reported today on the ongoing observations of dead birds along the shore of Lake Michigan, in the National Lakeshore. The birds are dying from botulism, but their food sources are being disrupted as an indirect result of the proliferation of zebra mussels, an invasive specie, in Lake Michigan. Ken Hyde, a National Park Service biologist, theorizes that:
Sediments that contain the bacteria are being filtered by non-native Zebra Mussels, thus concentrating the Botulism in the mussels. The mussels are then eaten by non-native Round Gobies, which in turn are consumed by the affected birds.
At first we saw seagulls dead on the beach, but the die-off is also affecting grebes, mergansers, and loons. If there is a bright spot in the situation, it may be that park visitors are now much more likely to follow the rules and keep their dogs on the leash.

Provemont Pond

Across the road from us is the Provemont Pond Nature Preserve. It's not much of a nature preserve, in fact one of the neighbors usually bow-hunts for deer there every fall. And there is some one else who likes to dump household trash there. And some summers there are homeless people camping out there. But it is our woods, the place where we like to walk and pick berries or mushrooms in season.Anna took these photos while walking the dog in very early spring.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leelanau Farm Preservation Board to be Axed?

Well, how do you like that?

Not even a week after the County Operations Millage was passed, promising to "preserve all county services", the Board of Commissioners voted to ax the Farmland Preservation Board, citing the defeat of the Farmland Preservation millage as evidence that the public does not value farmland preservation.

After it became clear that we would have to go for the operations millage I withdrew from the Farmland campaign. I ended up talking about Farmland Preservation, anyway, because people had so many questions about it. This is how I described these conversations in a letter to my County Commissioner:
I spoke to many people who were conflicted about the Farmland Preservation millage. They supported Farmland Preservation efforts but they thought that the millage was too much and for too long. They had practical questions about how the program would work. They wondered if it could be done cheaper. They wondered about a plan that had been designed before all of the talk about the burst of the "housing bubble". People had good questions, but the Farmland campaign was long on scenery and short on details.

I told people that a yes vote on the Operations Millage was supporting the Farmland Preservation Board. If they couldn't support the Farmland Preservation millage, they could still support the preservation effort by voting for the Operations Millage. I told them that the Farmland movement had a lot of momentum, and that if this farmland millage plan was voted down, they would no doubt come up with a more refined (and probably leaner) plan. The Farmland Preservation Board would still be at work, because that was one of the county services that we were saving.

Indeed, that is what we promised, that a yes vote on the Operations Millage would preserve all current county services. With a 90 vote margin, I don't think we can discount any constituency, even farmland preservation proponents.
I feel used. I don't like putting my time and reputation on the line for people who can't do what they said they were going to do a week ago. And it's amazing to me that the Commissioners didn't hear the same sense of conflict about the Farmland millage that I heard.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Way Home, Last Night

I got out of work a little early, 11:30 pm, and faced a routine drive home. Today is the start of firearms deer season so I was watching for deer on the move, especially at the top of M-204 hill, where I've seen plenty and hit one a few years ago.

All was clear and the snow was melting. It was harder to see the deer tracks, but I was still trying to pinpoint where they are crossing so I can avoid them next time. By the time I reached the village of Lake Leelanau, I had stopped worrying about deer.

Something darted across the road just before County Road 641 -- a coyote, small and fluffy in its winter coat. It was going from north to south, towards O'Brien Road. I often hear them howling from that direction when I get home on still nights. From its small size and lush coat, I'd guess it was a "teenager", born just this spring. Teenagers of all species are known for hanging around town and darting in front of cars.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Changing seasons

  Posted by Picasa Anna took this picture of a winter sky. I am getting it ready to serve as a new walpaper for this blog. Our digital camers is kaput, so I am limited to images that are already on the computer. I will also be moving on to the next generation of Blogger. It is supposed to install seamlessly, with no effect on previously published content or on the template. We shall see.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Leelanau Operations Millage Squeaks By

Out of over 11,000 votes cast on the Operations Millage, it won by just 90 votes. At least that's the count according to the county website . I was afraid to make the announcement, or take down the signs, until the recounting was over and the official results were sent in. Since there was no noise about it on the 6 o'clock news I feel safe actually accepting congratulations.

Such a close vote is worthy of some reflection. It certainly would have failed were it not for the efforts of a few people. I was suprised to find out how much animosity people have towards county government and how folks have been trained to demand tax cuts without cuts in services. I also did not understand Headlee and Proposal A work together to force these sorts of millage votes in counties with growing populations. We need to do a lot more work in showing how county government works.

The Farmland Preservation millage failed. It lost me about 4 weeks ago when the campaign started waxing so ecstatic about the scenic virtues of farmland that I began to worry. Farming is not always scenic and doesn't always smell so good, either. When people asked me specific questions about how farmland preservation would work, I couldn't find answers in any of their brochures or on the website. Just more pictures of scenery.

The letter to the editor comparing the operations millage to the farmland millage and claiming that the operations millage was only needed because we decided to move the courthouse......well, that really irritated me. Just because it's a good story doesn't mean it's true. In the end I voted for the farmland millage, but I gave up trying to convince my husband.

Dan Scripps lost in a close race. His opponent, David Palsrok, was aided by some sleazy push polling. But this is an entrenched Republican area, so Dan had his work cut out for him. He was the nicest and smartest candidate that I've met in years.

I have to keep studying this property tax stuff, but I will be happy to write about non-millage issues for a while.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

No, It's Not About the Courthouse

I'll admit, it was the first thing out of my mouth, too.

"You mean they're building that brand new building but we can't afford to pay people to work there?"

I never liked the idea of moving the courthouse. The new jail bugs me, but the old jail (our current 4-H office) was obviously too small, cut up like a mouse maze, and falling apart.

It is true that we helped balance the county budget for the last four years by drawing on the interest on the building fund, and that we could have put off this vote for a year or two more if we had put off building. But we would have built anyway, eventually, and the building fund would have been depleted no matter where we built. (Check out this Enterprise article from 2001 , predicting a one mill tax increase if the courthouse stayed in Leland)

It is true that we are paying off the bond that financed the new jail, in the amonut of $4.5 million per year. This is a new expense, and part of the budget shortfall. It made sense to finance the jail with a bond because interest rates were so low at that point. But (according to Bob Hawley) the cost of running the new jail, even with its empty beds, is about the same as running the old one when you factor in the money we used to spent to house overflow prisoners in Benzie County.

People who tell me that they hope the millage fails so that we have to stop construction on the new courthouse need to get a grip on reality. We had a referendum on whether to move the county seat and the majority of voters agreed to move. The County Commissioners cannot undo that vote.

"If we stopped construction tomorrow......", as various people have suggested, we would still need to do something about our aging and cramped courthouse. We would still lack revenues to cover our expenses. We would still need the operations millage.

I was interviewed by the Record-Eagle yesterday, in the middle of baking a pumpkin pie. We talked for about 15 minutes with the end result being a two sentence quote. I'm relieved that I wasn't quoted out of context, but somewhat disappointed that there was not more interest in the underlying tax policies. Sometimes I feel like a geek.