November 10, 2010 I want to write a column about my disappointment that two important millages on last week's ballot were shot down by voters. But I don't know where to begin.
Normally, I could resort to blaming the conservation district's demise on all of those 'city people' who don't appreciate the wide open spaces and rolling fields of rural St. Clair County, but I can't rely on that bias this time. It appears that every single municipality, even the most rural ones, weren't in favor of giving the conservation district 10, maybe 20 dollars a year. I know the numbers are still unofficial but in Berlin Twp. 60 percent of the voters said 'no thanks.' In Mussey it was 64 percent and in Lynn, close to 70 percent. Those city dwellers in Port Huron were a little more generous. Only 58 percent cast 'no' votes.
Considering the parks millage in Lapeer County was lost by a smaller margin, should I assume that this was purely a case of bad economic timing? The parks department has certainly proved themselves worthy of support.
They've streamlined operations, adopted a great program that employs Community Mental Health clients and crafted some very successful promotions that boosted water park attendance numbers this summer.
Their plan to return a share of the millage monies to local governments 'sweetened' the deal, so to speak.
Somehow it wasn't enough.
Even if personal economics drove people to vote the way they did, that doesn't ease my mind. The defeat of these millages is just one more blow to this region's future.
I think we get so caught up in the rhetoric coming from candidates about luring new industry and creating new jobs that it's easy to overlook the good things we already have—the gems that already exist in our community and that deserve our investment.
The land is our future. Agriculture, our state's second largest industry, is highly dependent on healthy soil and water quality. Hunting and other outdoor activities relies on protecting and creating habitats for wildlife. Quality of life is something my generation values just as much as a good paycheck. If you want to lure new industry and entrepreneurs to Michigan's Thumb, things like recreation and entertainment will factor into their decision to relocate.
I hope that supporters of both of these causes will be willing to take another stab at a millage in two years. If voters are still fixated on all that's shiny and new, it will be a challenge...again.
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Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.