Taxes

Decision Time: DW&SD Rain Tax Comes To A Head In Court

Detroit Water & Sewerage Division Has Colluded With Trial Lawyers To Avoid A Constitutional Test Of Their Outrageous 'Stormwater Fee'

The Detroit Water & Sewerage Department’s Non Residential Drainage Rate became a political hot potato in 2013 when the City finally started applying this breathtaking, disguised tax to all non residential properties within the City.  Mayor Duggan is scraping the bottom of the barrel for every revenue dollar he can find.

Prior to 2013, the City of Detroit only extracted this rate from 12,000 non residential property owners, although 41,237 non residential property owners should have been paying it. They also extracted this rate from the State of Michigan and Wayne County for roads in Detroit, after a lengthy appeals process which ended in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Detroit shielded politically preferred and connected property owners from this tax for 35 years, notably the politically powerful black churches.  But that ended in 2013 when the City of Detroit “discovered….that there are some errors with respect to our billing of stormwater charges”.

This rate, which is often referred to as a stormwater fee or the rain tax, is not inconsequential. It is now $ 660 – $ 750 per acre, per month. Run of the mill churches with on site parking were rudely surprised with $ 3,500 monthly charges in 2015, on top of their already expensive water bills. They thought as religious entities they were tax exempt. Tee-hee.  No one in Michigan is truly tax exempt!  Michigan Public Act 178 of 1939 (MCL 123.161 et seq.) converts unpaid DW&SD stormwater fees into a property lien, same as unpaid property taxes, so these fees quickly result in property foreclosures.

Ever wonder why Detroit has such a problem with commercial property blight? Now church blight is in the offing.

Non residential property owners in Detroit have just received a legal notice in the mail announcing a proposed settlement of a Wayne County Circuit Court class action case filed by Michigan Warehousing Group LLC and Midwest Valve and Fitting Company against the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department over the DW&SD’s outrageous stormwater fee. This case is identified in the Wayne County Circuit Court as 15-010165-CZ. The parties reached a settlement agreement which is carefully constructed to cripple legal challenges to the constitutionality of the stormwater fee in higher courts and handsomely pay off the trial bar.

The settlement notice fails to inform non residential property owners that another, far more comprehensive class action law suit is progressing in the Michigan Court of Appeals. Detroit Alliance Against The Rain Tax v. City Of Detroit in the Michigan Court of Appeals, Case Number 339176, just got consolidated with a similar suit on 24 October and appears ready for litigation – also as a class action.

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Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

This piece started off when I was asked for my $0.02 this weekend on something in the local paper (which I freely admit that I do still read), written by someone whom I consider an absolute imbecile (which I’d told my friend on multiple occasions what I thought of this particular writer).

Still, if this wasn’t coming from a friend of mine, it probably would’ve ended differently.

{Post continues below the fold}

 

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10 Years Later

The 'temporary' tax hike is still with us.

It didn’t go away.

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the signing of Jennifer Granholm’s income tax hike in October 2007.  Liars lie, and we have had our share over the years. On whether a particular democrat would sign on to such a drastic measure as reducing the net income of every single Michiganian?

Which is why it may have been encouraging for job makers and Michigan families when Bieda got the nod. After all, just last fall while campaigning for reelection he told the Detroit News that he was not out to raise taxes on Michigan businesses.

Q: There’s growing talk in Lansing about placing a sales tax on services that are now exempt. Would you support that approach?

A: Generally speaking, I think a tax on services, with perhaps some very limited exceptions, is something that I do not support.

One of a majority signing on to the temporary tax.

It was temporary. It was supposed to be rolled back.  Given GOP has had control of all branches of the state since 2010, and how we have been sold a bill of goods on the (NEW) gas tax, who is it that really needs a kick in the ‘ass?’

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University Wannabes

Empire building adds to cost of education

Community college is an affordable option for those who wish to pursue higher educational choices.

Or not. Or maybe .. not so much anymore.

The mystery of unaffordable post secondary education is really no mystery at all.  Scooby doo wouldn’t even need the rest of ‘the gang’ to find a clue with such overt fiscal madness that is seemingly mainstream. From today’s ticker:

Much of the Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) campus is a construction zone this summer. A 21st-century residence hall is almost finished, and the completion of a glass-walled addition to the Dennos Museum that will double the amount of display space isn’t far behind.

The biggest project hasn’t even commenced: construction of a new library and “innovation center” is set to begin in the spring and will cap $34 million in projects that will transform the campus.

Into what?

A ‘white elephant’ no doubt?

Maintaining the college extravagance and operations outside its primary and logical mission (cheap & local higher ed) will always be borne out by higher tuition, and pilfering from taxpayer.  Attracting the dozens of students from such far off places as Ohio or maybe even Indiana is certainly worth the millions of dollars in investments, and the ongoing maintenance of such ‘investments.’

Right?

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Fox Conned

Go Big, Or Go Home

Just as Governor Snyder signed the SB 242 – 244 ‘Good Jobs’ subsidy package yesterday, Foxconn announced that they accepted Wisconsin’s insane subsidies. The new Foxconn industrial campus will be built in the Badger State, not Michigan. The Foxconn competition, however, was the bait used to stampede the Michigan Legislature into passing the ‘Good Jobs’ package much sought by Michigan’s government and business establishments.

Wisconsin is going to lavish $ 3 billion in subsidies on Foxconn for somewhere between 3,000 and 13,000 new jobs. That works out to somewhere between $ 1 million and $ 230,769 in subsidies per job. Amortized over a 10 year period, the state of Wisconsin will be paying somewhere between $ 48.00 and $ 11.09 per labor-hour of every Foxconn worker’s wages using taxes extracted from other less fortunate Wisconsin workers. Subtract these per labor-hour subsidies from the headline wages touted for the future Foxconn workers and their ‘Good Jobs’ don’t look quite so good. Gussied up minimum wage jobs at best, wage theft at worst.

The little pig gets to feed at the trough, the hog gets taken to market and slaughtered.

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Riot, Insurrection, Rebellion, or Uprising?

A Cure Always Requires a Correct Diagnosis

All Americans alive in 1967, of all races, called Detroit’s five day long spasm of violence, arson, and looting in July 1967 a riot. Some labeled it a race riot, others just a riot. Not for long. Within a year, government and media were plying the public with a long list of racial grievances said to be responsible and an even longer list of expensive liberal programs which promised to cure them.

The Detroit riots were deceitfully recast as an insurrection, rebellion, or an uprising to drive those liberal programs, but ultimately this revisionism just glamorized base criminality, Fifty years later, billions have been doled out in Detroit through those liberal programs and Detroit is in even worse shape by every metric.

Let’s start with some definitions from Merriam-Webster:

Definition of riot

  1. archaic a : profligate behavior : debauchery b : unrestrained revelry c : noise, uproar, or disturbance made by revelers
  2. a : public violence, tumult, or disorder b : a violent public disorder; specifically : a tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and acting with a common intent
  3. a random or disorderly profusion the woods were a riot of color
  4. one that is wildly amusing the new comedy is a riot

Definition of insurrection

  1. an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government

Definition of rebellion

  1. opposition to one in authority or dominance
  2. a : open, armed, and usually unsuccessful defiance of or resistance to an established government b : an instance of such defiance or resistance

Definition of uprising

  1. an act or instance of rising up; especially : a usually localized act of popular violence in defiance usually of an established government

Note that the definitions of insurrection, rebellion, and uprising all state that these events are a defiance of established government, while the definition riot does not.

Were the events in Detroit from 23 to 27 July 1967 a defiance of established government?

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Battles of the Lower Depths in Detroit

Davis et al v. Detroit Downtown Development Authority et al; U.S Eastern District of Michigan Case Number: 2:17-cv-11742

Eastern District of Michigan U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith ruled on June 19th that Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority can issue $34.5 million in bonds to pay for the relocation of the Detroit Pistons basketball team to the new Little Caesar’s Arena. The Judge’s ruling rejected arguments that the eventual use of school tax money to repay these tax increment finance bonds violates Detroit residents’ constitutional and statutory right to vote on a school tax money diversions.

Judge Goldsmith’s ruling denied Robert Davis‘ and D. Etta Wilcoxon’s motion for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order in their lawsuit against the Detroit Downtown Development Authority. The Judge said the plaintiffs did not establish the need for an emergency injunction. The Judge politely neglected to mention that Robert Davis was sentenced in the very same Eastern District U.S. District Court to an 18 month Club Fed vacation for stealing $ 200,000 from the Highland Park School District in 2014. Mr. Davis should still be on probation for this minor peccadillo.

One complication here is that the tax monies being diverted are not those of the current Detroit Community Public School District, but rather those of the legacy Detroit Public School District which was reduced to zombie status last year in the DPS bailout. Is the old DPS really a school district today, or just a financial entity? The Detroit Community Public School District is a near bankrupt ward of the State of Michigan that won’t receive any Detroit property tax revenues until the legacy DPS district debts are paid off. No one alive today will live to see that.

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The Forest For The Trees

Grand Traverse County Commissioners don't even understand why the county is broke.

We all like nice things.

Sometimes we have to choose which nice things we want however.  As a community, the pie is only big enough for so many parks, so many police officers, and some of the other necessary ‘amenities’ to make it all happen.  One thing it requires is choices and priorities.

Attending a board of commissioners meeting tonight, one participant noted that our Northern Michigan county had the worst pension funding situation in the state.  While probably true, the rest of the commissioners in their own ways acknowledged it, and then moved on to prove in no uncertain terms why it is unlikely to change.

In an effort to raise money to cover the ballooning pension liabilities, Grand Traverse County Commissioners voted 6-1 to sell a county property for nearly $100K less than the highest bid for the property.   They were convinced by a number of hikers, bikers, and cross country skiers, that letting the property in question into ‘private’ hands would make our slice of heaven intolerable.

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Does Detroit need a lesson on the Fourth?

And no. I don’t mean that thing where we exercise out "right" to set off large quantities of fireworks next month.

Last weekend, I spent some time with some friends who now live out of town.

We did the “usual touristy” things like Greektown and the Casinos.

They wanted me to go with them to the Grand Prix, but I’m more of a NASCAR Guy than IndyCar.

Afterwards, I insisted on changing things up and that we go down to Lafayette to eat.

I told them that it was part of the “Authentic Detroit” dining experience and that sort of thing.

They had never been down there and after initially scarring the hell out of them (along with equally confusing them with how the food was ordered/delivered), they settled down a bit and we started to catch up on things. They began to comment on local stuff, basically regurgitating what people like Gov. Snyder, et al, were shoveling to the rest of the country about how things have turned around since the bankruptcy.

I laughed at their comments and replied to the effect that, “Yeah! They wish!”

“Look at all of this new stuff downtown? How can you argue that things aren’t better?”, they replied.

I told them that “Yes”, the Downtown Area has improved. Large amounts of government money tends to eventually do that. “Yes” places like the Riverfront have gotten nicer.

But then I added, the same cannot be said for the rest of the city.

They didn’t believe me.

They couldn’t accept the fact that everything was as bad as I told them it was.

I told them, “Fine, want to go on a little trip?”

They were a little apprehensious to say the least, but we loaded up into their car and we went happy motoring…away from the freeways.

I took them in places where even Crowder wouldn’t dare to venture!

We went up and down places like Jefferson, and then Warren and Mack where it didn’t take that long to notice the large swaths of bombed out/burned out neighborhoods (at least I think they were neighborhoods at one time), large piles of trash and abandoned/stolen vehicles (along with boats…yes boats) strewn about, pretty much every other building covered with graffiti, I told my now visibly scared “driver” that I wanted to stop at the next party store because I wanted to get something to drink.

Yes, I did that on purpose.

So, while we parked across the street and started walking towards the party store, I got bombarded with a ton of questions (besides is this really safe) like why that particular store had a chain-link fence around the roof topped with razor wire, why there were thick metal plate doors next to the entrance and why was there a flashing green light on the sign outside of the building. When we went inside, they did a double-take at the walkway surrounding most of the perimeter of the inside of the building separated by 1-inch thick Lexan.

I casually grabbed a 2-liter of Rock N’ Rye, they didn’t get anything (I cannot imagine why) and we went back to their car. I still had more to show them.

Continuing our “tour”, they still couldn’t get over the flashing strobe light on the sign.

“Oh that? That’s Green Light.”

And here is where out story turns to next…

{More after the fold}

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It’s About Time already

Michigan lawmakers look to plug the big gaping hole in government liability.

1997 was actually a good year for Michigan.

It could have been better however.  It was the year that Governor Engler signed off on pension plan changes for state employees, but not including the school retirement system. For those it did affect, It adjusted the way in which pensions are funded from defined outcomes at high risk for taxpayers, to defined contribution with real ownership to the recipients.

It also saved the state billions in the last 2 decades. 

The change to the Michigan State Employees’ Retirement System saved the state an estimated $2.3 billion to $4.3 billion in unfunded state employee pension liability from 1997 to 2010, according to the report, authored by public pension expert Rick Dreyfuss.

Seven years later we are still benefiting (no pun intended) from this change.

This 20 year anniversary could well produce the finishing touch and allow Michigan to move toward a predictable liability scenario for good.  School employees somehow remained outside of the course correction in 1997.  House Bill 4647 and Senate Bill 0401 being nearly identical, provide the mechanism for the fix to that problem that has been long overdue.

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