Thank you for your service …… now prove it.

This is only the second time Bear Lake News has written an Editorial. As the masthead states, we print information not opinion.

On Veterans Day we make this exception.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the most bloody example of human barbarity (to that point in history), World War One, came to and end.

The Village of Bear Lake sent its young men off from the platform of Kaleva railway station to that war, and some never came back from the killing fields of Flanders.

[In Flanders Fields was written by a Canadian officer called John McCrae and is read by poet Michael Rosen.]

The Village has sent it’s share of service men and women to fight and uphold the spirt and principles of democracy in every war and ‘police action’ from the Civil War to this day. From the Grand Army of the Republic Reunion in Hopkins Park to the Rolling Thunder honor rides – we stand and pay tribute to those who serve, fought, were injured, or died defending the self evident principles of our government: for the people, by the people with liberty and justice for all.

For some returning from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the wounds are not so evident. Many carry the legacy of psychological or chemical trauma – but without exception they do not complain or define themselves by the horrors they have witnessed. They only ask for fair treatment and respect.

Surely not too much to ask?

Especially on this Veterans Day?

They came back here – to live, build homes, raise families, support the community and paid their taxes each year, every year, on time.

Because that’s how we raise our children here – with honor and integrity. That a debt paid is a credit earned in the life of this, or any, small community. Do unto others.

“We firmly believe in ‘open government’, ‘transparency’, ‘communication’”.

Do we really?

Consider these questions.

When is a ‘public’ document, well, ‘public’?

If a document is ‘public’, which ‘public’ does it belong too?

The one who paid for it to be created?

The one for whom it was created in the first place?

The one it affects, either by regulation or actual cost?

The one who then has the right to contest it?

When do the public have the right to request a ‘public’ document?

Running for Governor of the State of Michigan in 2018, current Attorney General Bill Schuette has this to say in his guide to the OMA_handbook_287134_7:

The Open Meetings Act (OMA) is 1976 PA 267, MCL 15.261 through 15.275. The OMA took effect January 1, 1977. In enacting the OMA, the Legislature promoted a new era in governmental accountability and fostered openness in government to enhance responsible decision making.

Using e-mail to distribute handouts, agenda items, statistical information, or other such material during an open meeting should be permissible under the OMA, particularly when copies of that information are also made available to the public before or during the meeting.

Excluding individuals – no one may be excluded from a meeting otherwise open to the public except for a breach of the peace actually committed at the meeting.

It’s worth looking at the opening preamble of PA 267 of 1976 itself:

Open Meeting Act of 1976

P.A. 267 of 1976

As amended through 2016:

AN ACT to require certain meetings of certain public bodies to be open to the public; to require notice and the keeping of minutes of meetings; to provide for enforcement; to provide for invalidation of governmental decisions under certain circumstances; to provide penalties; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts.

(3) After the effective date of this act, nothing in this act shall prohibit a public body from adopting an ordinance, resolution, rule, or charter provision which would require a greater degree of openness relative to meetings of public bodies than the standards provided for in this act.

The State of Michigan Legislature published its own guide to the “Sunshine” Laws OpenMtgsFreedom in which the following introduction states:

Dear Citizen,

The ideal of a democratic government is too often thwarted by bureaucratic secrecy and unresponsive officials. Citizens frequently find it difficult to discover what decisions are being made and what facts lie behind those decisions.

The Michigan Freedom of Information Act, Public Act No. 442 of 1976, establishes procedures to ensure every citizen’s right of access to government documents. The Act establishes the right to inspect and receive copies of records of state and local government bodies.

The Open Meetings Act, Public Act No. 267 of 1976, protects your right to know what’s going on in government by opening to full public view the processes by which elected and nonelected officials make decisions on your behalf.

This guide to the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act is designed to make it easier for citizens to keep track of what their government is doing.

“designed to make it easier for citizens to keep track of what their government is doing.”

The Open Meetings Act was amended in 2012 to require the inclusion of this language to all Village of Bear Lake meeting notices:

Persons with disabilities needing accommodations for effective participation in the public hearing/public meeting should contact the Bear Lake Village Clerk at 231.970.2066 or at the above address one week in advance to request mobility, visual, hearing, or other assistance. 
Cindi McPherson Village Clerk

Any member of the ‘public’ is legally entitled to reasonable accommodation, to have the same ability to be an active participant in the business of their own government as if they were physically able to be present.

A reasonable accommodation would be a copy of the Meeting Agenda, the previous draft Minutes, the financial reports, any document of importance to be reviewed and discussed in the open public meeting – a facility easily afforded by many municipalities who simply post all that to their web site as the Meeting packet. A one time, cost saving, time saving ‘public’ service.

Which leads to our closing question – when a veteran makes a request to attend via telephone conference, can a FOIA request be required to receive those ‘public’ documents every other member of the public in attendance can simply walk up to the table and pick up for themselves?

Should a veteran be required to pay again in advance to receive the public documents his tax dollars have already paid for?

Should any unit of government spend his, and your, tax dollars for your municipal attorney to write a 9 page letter TitleVIFOIA1161706112017 (1) asking that veteran to prove his disability? (and send that same letter to others asking for the same reasonable accommodation)

Why, in good conscience would any municipality of 137 households do that?

Thank you for your service.

Village Council Meeting October 18, 2017

Please bookmark this link – the conference connection for the meeting yesterday was poor and our volunteer has sent their recording for audio reformatting.

A microphone was given to the Village Council but was not accepted.

No Agenda or meeting documents were received by a subscriber who had requested such assistance on multiple occasions.

When the recording is somewhat audible it will be posted here.

If you would like to add your name to those requesting assistance to attend add it here.

Village Council meets tonight, Wednesday September 20 at 7pm.

We regret we are unable to provide tonight’s Agenda, August 23rd Draft Minutes or any business documents as in spite of numerous requests by multiple individuals under both – the Open Meetings Act (OMA) is 1976 PA 267, MCL 15.261 through 15.275 and the Village’s Title VI Policy none have been received.

Multiple requests have been made to confirm the reasonable access to attend the meeting via Conference Call, we can’t confirm this service will be available at:

Time: 5 minutes before 7pm
Phone number:1.302.202.1107 (this maybe a long distance call with charges for some – in which case we suggest calling in via Skype or Google VOIP service)
Conference Code: 149002
Please observe the Meeting protocols.
NOTE: The following was received at 2.25pm
No Minutes are available for the August 23, Special Meeting.
Should a Village Resident be required to pay a fee to FOIA their own Meeting Agendas?
From: Cindi McPherson, Clerk
Attached is the agenda that will be used for tonights village council meeting.

I am sending this as a one time courtesy email, from here on a FOIA subscription for 6 months would need to be made.  Note; there could possibly be a fee when requesting documents.  The FOIA form can be found on the village website, please be specific as to which meetings you would like information from on a monthly basis.  www.bearlakemichigan.org
Please understand when you are requesting documents there could be a charge that needs to be paid in advance.
We have a conference call-in number where you can listen to the village council meeting.  Note: there could be a cost for this call by your carrier.
Conference call-in number: 1.302.202.1107  Conference code: 149002  Please mute your line once you are in.
You do not need to ask for this information monthly, it is always the same.  Conference number information will be on our website soon.
The August meeting minutes are not on our website as they have not been approved.
If anyone has ADA disability requirements you must contact the village clerk directly so we can assist you.
Thank you for contacting Bear Lake Village Office.

AGENDA
Village of Bear Lake Council Meeting

September 20, 2017
7:00 p.m. – Village Hall

CALL TO ORDER and PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

ROLL CALL

ADOPTION of AGENDA

Additions:

PUBLIC COMMENT: Any agenda item ONLY (two (2)-minute maximum)

Note: Members of the public will speak only when recognized by the chair person.

CORRESPONDENCE:

REPORTS/DISCUSSION

MINUTES APPROVAL:

  • Regular Meeting August 15, 2017

VILLAGE MAINTENANCE REPORT:

TREASURER’S REPORT:

  • Approval of Treasurer’s Report
  • Amendments:

BILLS to be PAID:

REIMBURSEMENTS to the GENERAL FUND:

COMMITTEE CHAIR REPORTS:

  • PARK:
  • STREETS, TREES, SIGNS, LIGHTS, SIDEWALKS:  
    • Tree purchase – Schroeder
  • WATER:
    • Water Ordinance – held from June meeting
  • BUILDINGS, GROUNDS, EQUIPMENT:   
    • Plow Truck Grant
  • BLIGHT/CABA:
    • CABA :
    • Blight Enforcement Officer report:
  • PLANNING COMMISSION:
  • MANISTEE COUNTY TRAIL COMMITTEE REPORT:
  • BEAR LAKE IMPROVEMENT BOARD REPORT:
  • TWO LAKES SEWER:
  • AD HOC COMMITTEE: Policy, Resolution & Ordinance Committee – No report

OLD BUSINESS:

  • Appointment of elected positions; clerk & treasurer
  • Village Christmas lights, banners & old wreaths

NEW BUSINESS:

Follow up on items from August’s council meeting:

PUBLIC COMMENT: General Time – Any Village-related item (two (2)-minute maximum)

Note: Members of the public will speak only when recognized by the chair person.

Items on agenda or not listed

UPCOMING EVENTS and ANNOUCEMENTS:

  • Church dinner

ADJOURNMENT

REIMBURSEMENTS to the GENERAL FUND:

WAGES August 2017 Amounts

Water Fund 591-000-702 $327.00

Park Fund 531-000-702 $1,477.00

Major Fund 202-463-702 $40.50

Minor Fund 203-463-702 $36.00

TOTAL $1880.50

EQUIPMENT RENTAL August 2017 Amounts

Water Fund 591-558-943 $223.49

Major Fund 202-463-943 $380.88

Minor Fund 203-463-943 $326.46

TOTAL $930.83

No Village Council recording tonight

Our apologies – the Village did not activate its conference line. If you tried to call in and got no response please let us know?

A noise cancelling microphone had been donated and delivered to the Village Treasurer today.

On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 3:38 PM, Cindi McPherson, Clerk <bearlakeclerk@gmail.com> wrote:

There is no meeting at 6:30pm this evening.

I have no dates, times or locations of meeting nor any minutes for the sewer meetings..
If and when I do receive those I will add them to the calendar. I am not sure how the minutes will be shared.
We will not be using the device you dropped off as we use our office phone for the call in.
You can pick it up during regular business hours
From: “Cindi McPherson, Clerk” <bearlakeclerk@gmail.com>
Date: August 16, 2017 at 5:36:51 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Bear Lake council meet Aug 16, 2017

We have provide reasonable accommodations; a phone call-in service with our office phone (as your group has requested) for individuals to call in.  The phone is placed in the center of the table.  There are not emails or texts coming through but possibly other individuals calling in that gives a tone.

And as you stated the 302 area code is for conference calls, just a reminder, some calls could be charged.

Cindi McPherson, Clerk

Changes to FOIA policy

The reasonable rights of residents to ask and receive information about how their local government expends their taxes would seem to be a given.

In the majority of local governments, open and transparent 2 way communication between the elected and those who elected them is seen as both a public responsibility of service.

At the July meeting the following was enacted:

  • FOIA Detailed Cost Itemization/FOIA Policy & Summary
  •  A motion was made to change the wording from 15 minutes to one (1) minute increments (where it applies) when charging for a FOIA request for Labor Cost, by Bass, seconded by Johnson. Motion carried.

Aye: Bass, Evans, Johnson, McPherson Ronning, Bair

Nay: none

Absent: Schroeder

  • Second motion to FOIA Detailed Cost Itemization/FOIA Policy & Summary o A motion was made to start new price change immediately on FOIA Detailed Cost Itemization by Bass, seconded by Johnson. Motion Carried.

Aye: Bass, Evans, Johnson, McPherson, Ronning, Bair

Nay: none

Absent: Schroeder

Although the audio recording is poor, a proviso was made to have a legal opinion on this matter before instituting.

This cost itemization is now published to the Village web site. http://www.bearlakemichigan.org/foia.html

 

Village of Bear Lake: Conference callin service established

Bear Lake Village Council meetings may now be accessed via telephone conference call.

Date:Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Time:7pm
Phone number:1.302.202.1107 (this maybe a long distance call with charges for some – in which case we suggest calling in via Skype or Google VOIP service)
Conference Code: 149002
Please observe the Meeting protocols.