Questions and Answers About Vision Council
Discourse on the Vision Council
ROBERT W. KAUFMAN
Following are biographical references relating to Dr Kaufman provided that you might better know his experience and background, as you read his testamony at the Fresh Start Meeting on May 30,1998
EDUCATION AND HONORS.
PhD. American, 1961 (Political Science); M.A. American 1953;
B.S. Wisconsin, 1946;
University Distinguished Service Award, 1985.
Fellow, Center for the Study of Values, University of Colorado, 1985-86
Faculty Fellow, National Center for Education in Politics, 1966-67.
(Served as a consultant to the California State Assembly)
National Political Science Honors Society, Pi Sigma Alpha.
Foreign Study, University of Paris, L'Institut de Phoenetique
(Diplome), 1950. Alliance Francaise (Diploma), 1950.
Professor (various ranks) in Political Science, WMU, 1959-1995.
Director, University Center for Envirommental Affairs, WMU, 1979-86.
Director, Institute of Public Affairs, WMU, 1970-80.
Director, Evnvironmental Studies Program, WMU, 1971-80 (tbcont.)
Director, Michigan Center for Edlucation in Politics, WMU, 1964-66.
Research Writer, Congressional Quarterly, Inc., Washington, D.C.1954-59
TESTIMONY OF ROBERT W. KAUFMAN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS WESTERN MICHIGAN
UNIVERSITY BEFORE THE "FRESH START" MEETING MAY 30, 1998
This testimony has three parts: A consideration of the concepts and goals of the "Fresh Start" proposal, a more detailed discussion of the proposed Public/Private Economic Development Board, and some longer term recommendations.
The "Fresh Start" project has developed a document called, an "Economic Development Alliance Concept for Kalamazoo County". It proposes an administrative structure with a focus on economic development.
PART I - CONCEPTS AND GOALS
The objective and goals of the "Economic Development Alliance" are indeed commendable.
A case can be made for a strong thrust for economic development in the County based on short term perceived needs for more jobs and for longer term economic growth and stability.
A countywide effort to create a network of industrial parks coordinated with a countywide land use plan serving all county interests would certainly serve the common good.
No less is it desirable to find a formula among users to modify the ownership of Kalamazoo's Waste Disposal plant and therewith find a fair tax formula among participating units of government.
Equally worthy, is the effort towards administrative service consolidations and the improvements of services such as parks, public safety, and transportation.
PART II - THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BOARD
The Alliance Concept anticipates entering into some critical activities of county government. The proposed Economic Development Board anticipates serving as the sole decision maker in identifying parcels on which to build a "network" of industrial parks within Kalamazoo County. Associated with these efforts the Board also needs a strong hand in countywide planning as well as administrative control over all sewer capacity. These are very important governmental functions.
However, there is no precise indication about the size the Board. It is made clear that all units of government may join for a fee, and that respective representatives are appointed by their units. Other members come from business and the Kalamazoo Foundation but the appointing authority for these members is not identified.
The Board expects to start its operations with $10 million plus from business, the Kalamazoo Foundation and governments. Because of the mixed membership, voting, especially finance decision-making becomes interesting.
Foundation funds are approved by the Foundation Board of Trustees upon recommendation of the Economic Development Board acting as an advisory committee to the Foundation Board.
Spending public money is more complicated. Public units are generally obligated to spend money within their political geographic boundaries, and such moneys must be appropriated by elected public officials. The document suggests a "Government Board of Trustees" consisting of the government members of the Economic Development Board. "Since the three members would be on each (Board?), by legal necessity other government members may have to be appointed to the Government Board of Trustees. (p. 7.) This sentence needs clarification but it suggests two sets of voting rules: one set for the Economic Board and a second set for the "Government Board of Trustees" There is another sentence on the same page, "Voting powers would be equal to contributions" That is a clear reference to weighted voting for the units of government. Is voting weighted for other members as well?
While examining the document I found no mention of "democracy", the "democratic process", or "elected officials". There is apparently no proposal for voter approval of the Board Charter or the Board.
Implementation would require an agreement by participating units in conjunction with a business and foundation consortium and/or the creation of a nonprofit corporation or possibly some other vehicle which may be necessitated by special legislation." (p. 5.) However, "all participating units would have to agree to adopt resolutions requesting the County Board to place a ballot question before the voters to fund such services." (p.5.) It would appear more appropriate for the electorate to have a voice in agency approval following the publication of its legal identification, its powers, and its limits, but prior to operating.
Furthermore, there is no indication to which agency, if any, the Board reports, nor which agency, if any, will evaluate the Board's work. We are also in the dark about how it might be dissolved. The document makes it clear that public support is desirable but a public mandate is not mentioned. In my reading of the Concept document the Board will be accountable to no agency. I am confident the group will want to address these matters in the next draft. Taxing authority also raises some questions. Sources and the amount for the initial Development Fund are precisely identified. But these funds are considered inadequate and additional means of funding will be reviewed, "including but not limited to the allocation of portions of new tax base created through the assistance of the Fund, added private and government funding, portions of interest from the Development Fund, grants, educational and other institutional support, and other financial mechanisms." (p.14) Obviously this agency intends to raise many millions of dollars for this operation. How large an agency should this be? It is not unreasonable to expect that such an agency be placed under the control of the County government. Some further clarification would be useful. Judging by what is said in the document and by what is not said this conception of the Board cannot by any reasonable definition be seen as supportive of the democratic values of the nation, Michigan, or of this County. The Board is designed as a powerful but nearly independent agency, aloof from our local governments, without mandate from the voters, without public direction, lacking in transparency and not accountable to any elected public agency.
"Fresh Start" has chosen to establish a policy unit almost free from county or state requirements for purposes of enhancing economic development with strong influence over the creation and direction of a county land use plan.
The Board, as designed in this document, reflects an economic development perspective which assumes a business definition not subject to influence from other interests. Is there not some room on Board membership for interests such as farming, environmental, public health, or indeed, labor?
PART III - LONGER TERM RECOMMENDATIONS
A case can also be made for a more comprehensive approach to the modernization of the legal structure for local government in Michigan. Such an argument was made by the two urban experts visiting our county in recent months. Local leaders including the publisher of the Kalamazoo Gazette have made similar suggestions. Political Scientists since the 1950Ős have made the case for local government revision. I suggest exploring the following possibilities:
1. We should call on our Governor and our state legislators to modify the structure of local government in Michigan law to meet the needs of our county. Some states have modified their rules which facilitate the economic development sought by the "Fresh Start" proposals. A more effective county government may pursue short and long term economic goals balanced with objectives in public health, education, natural resources, and the resolution of social problems.
2. Continue the dialogue between Portage and Kalamazoo. Many short term issues may be settled to the mutual advantage of both. Issues between these two units impinge on countywide problems. But citizens and elected officials should not shy away from the establishment of a single city in this urban area. An overt and serious effort should be directed to citizens of both communities. It is unlikely that the political problem can be solved without the approval of electorate in both units.
3. Begin discussions which will clarify issues existing between urban and rural communities in the County. Land use considerations are of prime concern to the farmers both in terms of life style and market value of land. They too must have a part in the discussions on the future of the County.
4. Open talks with Calhoun county and with Battle Creek would be useful on regional issues such as land use, economic development and transportation and labor markets. As one example, the region should face the long term eventuality that Kalamazoo municipal airport may become inadequate.
The case for the status quo is very weak. The political parties in the County Commission fall to bickering because neither has a mandate to lead the county government. We might consider an elected a county chairperson based on a party programs offered by candidates seeking the Chair of the Commission. The winning candidate would come into office with a mandate to enact the party program. The chairperson and his party are thus authorized to lead and be held accountable for what ensues.
The current structure precludes a campaign based on program offered by the leadership. Nor does it encourage the evolution of a program following the election. Rather, the structure inclines a benign government to await the next crisis prior to taking action. That is a formula leading to the fewest possible options and may preclude the preferred choice.
The current local government system has been found wanting by critics and participants inside and outside Michigan. The "Fresh Start" proposals evoke another "no confidence vote" in Kalamazoo county government. They imply that the system is not working and must be by-passed by a public/private non-democratic agency. It is appropriate and timely to initiate political change in county government in Michigan. True, it is a more difficult route to seek a mandate of the electorate. But the result would enhance the short and long term efforts of all policy areas. More important the results would be consistent with our traditional democratic values.
I would like to close on two notes of agreement. Last year a viewpoint articles appeared in the Gazette written by Blaine Lam. It reinforced my less precise impressions on the quality of leadership in Kalamazoo. His statement recalled many names who have and still do contribute the diversity of this community. I have only praise for leadership in the county. The structure, however, does not permit our political leadership to use a voter mandate to lead. Perhaps we can overcome the frustration of useful proposals being defeated by the electorate. A portion of the problem may be that there is no elected leader with a mandate who is willing to step out in front and lead the voters to approval. A corollary to that problem may be that administrative levels in the system do not have a mandate and cannot carry major political issues.
I can concur with the "Fresh Start" group that a change is overdue and necessary. The "Fresh Start" participants have my respect and thanks for submitting their initial proposals for discussion and modification. It is in the same spirit that these proposals are submitted
Degrees: Ph.D. 1961; M.A. 1953, both at American. B.S. 1946, Wisconsin
Honors: Fellow, Center for the Study of Values, University of Colorado, 1985-86
WMU, University Distinguished Service Award. 1985
Faculty Fellow, National Center for Education and Politics,
Washington, D.C. (Served as a Consultant in the California State Assembly.)
National Political Science Honor Society, Pi Sigma Alpha, 1960.
Experience: Professor of Political Science, 1959-95 (various ranks) Director
University Center for Environmental Affairs, WMU, 1979-84.
Director, Science for Citizens Center, WMU, 1979-84.
Director, Institute of Public Affairs, WMU, 1970-80.
Director, Environmental Studies Program, WMU, 1971-80.
Research Writer, Congressional Quarterly, Inc., Washington, D.C. 1954-1959.
Military, U.S. Navy, World War II, 1943-1946. Currently, Lieutenant Commander, USNR, (Retired.)