RetakeOurGov Uses Robo-Calls for message delivery

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The article below appeared in the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus on Tuesday, May 1, 2012.

RetakeOurGov Makes Headline News in Local Paper

As with most Tea Parties, our intent is to engage individuals in governmental affairs.  It is not about big government vs. small government, it is about self-government.

One of our biggest concerns about this millage was the Board's decision to hold this vote when voter turnout is known to be low.  This goes against the principle of self-government.  History suggest that turnout could be as low as 15% for the May 8 election.  Contrast that with 75% turnout in the November general election.

While reasonable people can differ on this point, in our view, holding the vote when few citizens are aware of it is the essence of "sneaky."  The Board is attempting to go behind the backs of the electorate, essentially promoting taxation without representation.

After having turned the Brighton School District into a deficit district, the Board, the Administration, and the government employees union have lost the trust of the electorate while also disappointing the students.  Trying to sneak a fast one by the voters further damages the already broken level of trust.

Here is the entire text of the article.

 

'Tea party' calls target Brighton Area Schools bond issue

If residents think automated calls known as robo-calls occur only in national elections, think again.

A Livingston County "tea party" group had thousands of recorded messages sent out to targeted Brighton-area residents in early April, calling the Brighton Area Schools' $88.4 million bond election "sneaky" and encouraging them to vote "no" May 8.

This isn't the first time this group has called the election sneaky, and school officials have once again called this description "misleading." Brighton school officials pointed out numerous public meetings have been held to inform the community about the bond election.

"Our thinking in terms of the committee planning it out, it was a good way to reach the people we wanted to reach," Wes Nakagiri said about the automated calls.

The Hartland Township man, who doesn't live in the Brighton school district, is treasurer of RetakeOurGov. The group has been critical of the proposed bond issue and is getting involved in the matter because more than 200 of its members live in the Brighton school district.

RetakeOurGov has continued to label the May 8 vote as a "stealth" election and an attempt by the Board of Education to "secretly raise your property taxes," which is what is stated on its Web site.

Nakagiri declined to say whether more robo-calls or other campaign actions would occur in the week leading up to the election.

"We don't want to lose the element of tactical surprise," Nakagiri said.

Nakagiri said the group is opposed to the May election because there's typically a low voter turnout at that time. He said it would prefer that the election be held in November so that more voters can decide this important issue.

"I think they're ducking the issue by holding it in May," he said.

Cheryl Leach, the school board president, said the board and district officials have done as much as they can to inform residents about the vote. The bond has been discussed at public meetings and forums, and Superintendent Greg Gray has held more 50 meetings with local groups to explain the issue.

"In no way would I term this as being sneaky," Leach said. "To term this as sneaky is disingenuous and misleading."

Leach said the district is making a "great effort to make sure questions are answered."

She also stated the second Tuesday in May is one of four election dates established by the state Legislature.

After studying this issue, she said, the board came to the conclusion that May would be the best for the taxpayers because the district could get the most "bang for the buck" in terms of the money it's putting back into the district.

By holding the election in May and borrowing money from the state's school bond-loan fund, district officials said they can cap the debt levy at 7.19 mills. If the district were to go for the bond later, officials said the debt levy would increase and the district wouldn't be able to borrow as much.

"I'm encouraged with the amount of support from people who live within the community that they're showing for improving the schools," Leach said.

If voters approve the $88.4 million bond issue, Brighton Area Schools will use the money to renovate and update all school buildings, athletic facilities and fields as well as update technology.

The largest chunk — just more than $46 million — will be spent on roofs, better security systems, upgrades for the Brighton Center for the Performing Arts, a new gym at Hawkins Elementary School, parking lot fixes, new doors, carpet, updating bathrooms, separating vehicle access from buses, heating and ventilation, playground improvements as well as a host of other repairs and replacements necessary in a district where the newest building is 25 years old.

Nakagiri said he's not disagreeing that some of the buildings must be repaired, adding, "If you have a leaky roof, you need to repair it." However, he said, the district appears to have mismanaged funds in the past and is currently in deficit. The district has an accumulated deficit of just under $8 million. If the district had spent its money more prudently, he said it might not be in its current situation.

School officials wouldn't necessarily disagree.

Superintendent Greg Gray has said he understands how residents may be upset over how the district handled its previous budgets.

"We deserve the abuse we got in the past," Gray said. "We didn't have good budgets."

However, he said the current board and administration has turned the district around, and this bond is needed to move the district forward.

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Jim Totten at (517) 548-7088 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Paid for by RetakeOurGov with regulated funds, Wes Nakagiri, Treasurer, P.O. Box 37, Hartland, MI.  Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.  Contributions or gifts to RetakeOurGov are not tax deductible for Federal Income Tax purposes.

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