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Mar 08

Declare The Pennies On Your Eyes

Comments (2) 9:00 PM posted by admin |

On June 3, 1989, Detroit News columnist Chuck Moss wrote an editorial where he pretended to interview a local school superintendent named Dr. Roger Gravelhead.

The newspaper was later sued for defamation by a Roger Garvelink, who was the superintendent of the Birmingham School District. During the two years prior to the editorial being published, Garvelink and other school officials cut $12M from the school system’s budget after a proposed property tax millage was defeated by the voters.

The Michigan Court of Appeals dismissed the libel suit in September of 1994 ruling the column was a “lampoon” of Garvelink and was therefore a satire. The court went on to say the column was “humorous” and that Dr. Roger Gravelhead was obviously a ficticious name. Finally, the court ruled that Moss was protected under the First Amendment.

Below, please find the article in its entirety. I post this only as a service to the community and not as some sort of subliminal message that parallels current events here in Ypsilanti.

“Your millage went down, Doc,” I said. “What now?”

“Time for us educational professionals to provide decisive leadership,” he said sternly. “It’s time for punishment cuts.”

“Punishment cuts?”

“Yes, punishment cuts.” He folded his soft hands across his well-cut suit. “Just because these foolish voters defeated a millage, don’t think we professionals are down! There’s a time-honored strategy for putting the great unwashed in their place.

“Punishment cuts?”

“Sure thing.” He laughed. “Within two weeks, you regretfully announce a new ‘money-saving budget’: no more sports, no more band, drama, art, music, study hall. All extracurricular activities are axed. Bus service is severely curtailed. Support staffs are reduced and their unions trashed. Of course, essential administrative personnel like me and my pals stay safe, nor do we cancel vital expenditures such as the new carpet for the Administration Building. Just things that impact the voters.”

“Does this work?”

“Like a charm!” He rubbed his hands together. “We make the kids hurt and the parents howl. When they come back screaming, we just shake our heads. ‘Too bad, chums. The next millage will be on the calendar in six months.’ I guarantee, the electorate will be fighting for the privilege to raise its own taxes!”

“Gee Doc, this sounds, well, cynical.”

“Not at all,” Dr. Gravelhead said. “Educational professionals have a duty to manage the system in the best interests of the children…and who knows better what your kids need than educational professionals?”

“The parents,” I ventured. “Some of them are professionals. Lawyers, doctors…”

“Parents!” he barked. “Parents are the last people we rely on.” He handed me a paper. “Like the Birmingham Public Schools say, parents are ’emotional,’ ‘diffused,’ ‘submissive,’ ‘helpless,’ individualized,’ and concerned ‘with the here and now.’ While we professionals are ‘objective,’ ‘dominant,’ ‘universal,’ and ‘focus on the whole class or group.’ Parents are just happy-go-lucky big kids. It’s our duty to make the parents understand that we professionals know what’s best for their children. We need to give them the wider perspective.”

“By punishing the electorate.”

He smiled. “Let’s just call it re-education. We feel the voters just didn’t UNDERSTAND the issues involved.

“Maybe they were trying to send you a message, whup you upside the head and get your attention. You’ve made some questionable moves over the years…spent bad money, sold needed buildings. At a time of budget crisis you have an $ 80,000 community affairs director while the city manager only makes, $ 60,000. Maybe the voters want to teach you a lesson.”

“Teaching without a license?” Gravelhead laughed. “They’re not in the union.”

“In union is strength, I recall.”

“RECALL?” He gasped. “Please! Not that word! It’s, it’s…”


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  1. Comment by Tin Foil
    March 12, 2007 @ 8:00 am

    Yes, Oakland County Republican state rep, Chuck Moss, has always been anti-tax, anti-transit, etc.

    I’m sure there’s no shortage of quotable quotes on the wastefulness of big government from the right. I’ll look forward to reading many more…

  2. Comment by brobb
    March 12, 2007 @ 9:10 am

    If the solution is an income tax, then the question must be, “Are Ypsilanti residents being taxed enough?”

    According to the Michigan Municipal League, residents of Ypsilanti currently pay 31.3776 mills towards City services (i.e. General Fund, Road Bond, Police & Fire Pension, Sanitation, etc.). If you look at the 22 other municipalities that assess an income tax on residents, the first thing you notice is they rolled back property taxes 5 to 10 mills to offset the tax.

    An interesting side note is that prior to the new City Charter, there was a provision that should an income tax pass at the ballot, there would be an offset of 5 mills in property taxes. The only time this ever went to a vote — back in 1969 — it failed.

    The following list contains the millage rates the 22 other communities with an income tax pay towards City services.

    Hamtramck – 36.9491
    Detroit – 34.6508
    Highland Park – 32.4738
    Pontiac – 20.3961
    Albion – 19.9636
    Lansing – 19.4900
    Flint – 19.0000
    Muskegeon Heights – 18.8500
    Springfield – 17.0000
    Port Huron – 16.7114
    Saginaw – 15.3664
    Portland – 14.5822
    Grayling – 14.8000
    Jackson – 14.4686
    Big Rapids – 14.1940
    Battle Creek – 13.9210
    Muskegeon – 13.4755
    Hudson – 11.6419
    Lapeer – 9.800
    Grand Rapids – 9.0723
    Ionia – 5.4992
    Walker – 3.1660

    It should be noted that the MML figures are incorrect for Ypsilanti because they include the Library as part of City services. This would bring that number down to 29.0301. I included it because I could not distinguish whether communities like Walker have a city of district library. I posted the MML numbers in whole.

    It’s not a question of being against taxes or not wanted to pay for services, it’s a question of how much more of the burden can be shifted to residents.

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