Open Letter to Our Governor

Monday, July 13th, at the zoom meeting of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners, I gave a presentation concerning your EO 147. The question I asked was, “What are the limits her power under the emergency powers acts (1945, 1976)?”  The courts have given every indication that there is no urgency (emergency) in Michigan.  They have not told us what limits may be placed upon the office of governor, one person acting as though she has unrestricted authority over any area affected by Covid.

Many of my colleagues agreed that this order is a step too far and that individual choice by a responsible citizenry is sufficient response.

My rationale for this letter is very simple. There are 5 words contained in two phrases that are at the center of this issue. The first three-word phrase from the 1945 Act is “life and property.” The second phrase from the 1976 Act is “28 days.”

The phrase “life and property” clearly infers that it applies to situations where normal policing agencies are or may be overwhelmed by civil unrest, violence, riots, looting, and such like. The authority under conditions of civil unrest is rightfully in place until control is reestablished. It is naturally assumed that each area may be treated differently because of special local conditions. No such corollary can be applied to the situation here, which was a health crisis.

The second phrase “28 days” is found in the 1976 statute. This law gives you broader authority to declare an “emergency.” You rightly use this declaration to apply for Federal Money and to open the State’s purse to help with a snow storm or the failure of a dam, and a myriad of other disasters. There is no argument that the corona/Covid-19 pandemic falls under this authority. When you were confronted with the words “28 days”, and the legislature’s unwillingness to extend your unilateral powers granted by law, how did you react? Did you make a working relationship with the other representatives of the people as is expected by the words of the law? Or did you ignore the clear words of the written law and act on your own, stepping outside of your gubernatorial authority?

Do you expect the courts to say “28 days” has some hidden meaning? Do you think the courts can say that “Life and property” actually means “life and/or property?” Do you think the courts will grant you unlimited, unending authority to act after you have declared any emergency that in your mind meets the definition? The drug epidemic could be called an emergency.  Would that give you unilateral power to make laws without the legislature?

It is clear in my mind that you are acting beyond your legal authority if the natural meanings of the words of the law are upheld.

There are multiple studies on masks with multiple conclusions on both sides of the mask issue regarding the effectiveness of 100% usage of face coverings. You have chosen one side of the scientific arguments and have made it a criminal offense to act according to another equal supported view. You have encouraged citizens to publicly confront other citizens who may have a different view. I have friends who medically cannot wear a mask. You have asked your supporters to publicly shame them.

You have given no warning or directives concerning the length of time a mask should be worn or how it should be disposed of without the person being infected by the diseases that it has collected while “giving protection”. People should know the dangers of bacterial growth and fungal growth in the warm, dark, moist environment of a mask. What about the dangers of limiting oxygen intake?

So far as I can see, you have not addressed these important considerations. You may say people have common sense to know how to wear a mask safely. I would say the same common sense will tell people how to be safe and not spread virus/germs without universal covering of the face.

I would ask all my constituents to write a short note to you to express their support or opposition for your actions that in my mind have no legal basis.

Sincerely for liberty,

Douglas Helzerman

Livingston County Commissioner #4

League of Women Voters Questions and Answers

Campaign Questions and Answers:

What in your training and work experience make you the best qualified candidate for this position?

I am a life-long learner. My Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees were only part of my wide variety of experiences from hourly work in factories to being a teacher and principal in Christian schools. I have been selected to work on various and diverse boards and I enjoy the back and forth that is necessary to come to a common decision.  I agree that all are created with equal value.  I learn something from everyone. I will listen to and value every person’s input. My ability to listen and understand what people of different perspectives are actually saying enables me to determine what are their actual goals. I work to represent each person, though I can only vote one way on any given resolution. I am very open to giving my reasons for my voting record and believe it is important for those in my district to know that my votes will be consistent with the positions I have advocated to be elected. 

What are your goals should you be elected and how will you work to accomplish them with current resources?

My ultimate goal for Livingston County is liberty for each citizen. Liberty is most fully experienced by people who are able to own their own property and those who are able to take full responsibility for the wellbeing of those in their household. The primary purpose of government in a free society is to protect life and other rights necessary to sustain freedom. County government elected and appointed officials provide most of the structure for an orderly community.  I believe my most important responsibility is to represent those in my district to find the way to fulfill these basic functions using the best practices available. The functions of the sheriff and the courts, for example, are at the heart of a just society and must have the highest priority even when resources are limited.   

What are Livingston County’s greatest assets and how can they be used to help the community thrive?

Our greatest assets are the people of our county. We have quality elected officials that have been chosen to perform necessary functions, making sure that the people of our county (who live within the limits of the law) may live freely to reach their full potential.  Another great asset of our county is our location between Detroit, Lansing, Flint and Ann Arbor. This gives our residents a large variety of employment options within driving range.  The intersection of two important interstates highways also makes Livingston an optimal location for job-producing, manufacturing facilities that depend on an easy flow of components and finished products. The lakes and rivers and ample fertile acreage for farming, along with a variety of cities, villages, and hamlets, make Livingston County a place where almost anyone can find the life of their dreams. 

What are the most serious challenges facing the County post-pandemic, and how will you work to solve them?

We must reestablish a natural flow of life, where no one underestimates the danger, nor is anyone paralyzed by unsubstantiated fear. Reliable facts that give honest contextual information must be easily available. If the public knew, for example, the comparable number of yearly deaths from flu, diabetes, heart disease, abortions etc., our level of fear might be different. The County will need to give every advantage to businesses that need to regroup. The county must do everything within its power to live within its means and to resist efforts that would add to the tax load upon a recovering economy. The county has experience in gracefully weathering the “Great Recession.” We will use that wisdom to employ every tool at our disposal to maintain a high level of service in uncertain financial times. Our conservative approach to spending has given us an advantage in facing and successfully surviving this real crisis. 

Welcome Our New Administrator

Nathan Burd, our new county administrator, has arrived.  He has already moved his family to our county and is getting acquainted with the Livingston team. The Covid restrictions are making the process much slower than normal, but we have confidence he will form strong and positive relationships with all.

We reconfigured the board chamber to have a “hybrid” meeting with social distancing, for commissioners who want to appear in person while allowing other commissioners to join by Zoom. We had one such meeting. Four of us were there in person along with two IT people and the county administrator. The others joined by Zoom. The public can join only by Zoom. It was somewhat surreal to have a “public” meeting without the public being there. For now, we have decided to go back to full online meetings, because there was very little advantage in having a group of four in one place while all others joined separately. To me, the in-person interaction with the public is the highlight of any truly public meeting.

We anticipate a very tight budget for this year, and for several coming years, and have instituted a hiring freeze (among other measures) to be able to balance our budget and retain fund balances needed to keep our excellent bond rating. We are very careful to watch for increases in demands on our general funds that exceed the approved budget for this year. One such red flag came to the Commissioners’ attention in a recent meeting.

The number of autopsies has been up significantly. Only 9% of the increase can be attributed to Covid. Deaths due to overdoses and suicide are up, but the biggest reason for the increase is heart disease. No definitive reasons were given for this new pattern, but it happened during the Covid shutdown, where life has been different and many people were unable or afraid to go their doctor or to a hospital for medical help.

The last Covid death in Livingston County was June 5th, and with an average of 3.1 positive tests per day, the number of people in “14 day quarantine” is less than 50. Since March, Livingston has had only 710 confirmed cases and 175 probable cases (from the early days when tests were not available). This is very good news for us.  Out of the 190,000 residents, only a small minority has had a severe case of this dangerous disease.

I ran for the office of commissioner for one main reason— to protect and preserve the liberties that we are privileged to have in our country. It is important to all of us that government do its assigned tasks well. If our county government is working well and efficiently, we have done our part toward this cause. When government takes on other functions, not given to it, and gets “out of its lane”, individual choices to do good are hampered.

There is an ancient English saying that either “the law is the king” or “the king is the law”. You can’t have both. Over 800 years ago, the king was made to sign the Magna Carta, which said the king had to obey the laws of the land. Our legal system and form of government is based on this “rule of law” where all are equally under the same set of laws. Executive orders of our governor seem to shout “the king (governor) is the law”. Many may agree with the reasoning for wearing masks or other provisions of the orders, but that is a whole separate argument from, “Does she have the authority to make such sweeping orders (laws)?” If one person may make a medical decision for everyone in the state, our personal liberties in every other area are also in danger. No country, state, or county can have both liberty and one-person laws.

I hope your summer is going well.  Feel free to contact me, as usual at dhelzerman@livgov.com or 517 375-4869.

Administrator Search

 We are close to the end of the seach for an administrator for Livingston County. It has been a path with many twists and turns. The first cut was to Thirteen prospectes. Six of those withdrew for a variety of reasons including rate of pay that Livingston county was willing to pay. At our next review of the seven remaining, two more were removed from consideration basicly because we did not feel they were stong enough candidates to provide leadership for our county.

During this process we all started to feel the effects of the corona viruss on local, state, and  our national governments. Two of the 5 felt that they could not feel right about leaving their post in the middle of this unprecedented national emergency.

We held a thorough virtual interview with each of the three remaining candidates. The committee was virtually unanimous in the selection of the  two candidates to take to the full board of commissioners for  the final decision. Both of these have the possibility of having a long and prosperous career in Livingston. One being Don Parker, who resigned as chairman of the board of commissioners to persue this position and the other is the mayor of a larger city in southern Michigan. Though his name is public, I will not say it unless he is the final choice.

The biggest objection to the search process was the concern that the “home town” candidate was a “shoe-in” for the job. I, as well as the other members, have been careful to be open minded. The vacancy of the fifth district seat and the subsequent filling of the 8th district seat by a new face has made the selection process impossible to predict.

There are many levels of qualified staff people at the county that have made to transition time relatively seamless even with the extra pressures associated with the attack of the invisible

Thoughts on July 4th

It is sad to me that the celebrations of our country’s birth have been cancelled in Fowlerville and Gregory.  I plan to participate in the July 4th parade in Brighton.  Though my home town has chosen not to have any gatherings, parades, or fireworks, I encourage all, as individuals and families, to remember and celebrate this event that took place two hundred forty-four years ago.

Freedom is not free. In the history of the world, there has not been a place like the United States where liberty and justice has been the norm. Our system of government was constructed from a close study of many forms of government over time.

Most governments have started out with enthusiasm for a new idea by a new person and new promises of well-being for the citizens. Over time, the leader or ruling class became partial to a certain group of friends and oppressive to another class. The resentment spawned by the oppression then grows to a point where it could, by force, overthrow the existing authorities. If they were triumphant then that “new” idea or person could set up a new system where there was new hope for those formerly oppressed.

Our founding fathers, though not perfect themselves, devised a system where the power was not concentrated in one institution or one person. Competing values were allowed to be freely circulated and when a number of people could be convinced of the benefit of a new idea, then that idea could be implemented. If it turned out not to live up to its billing, it could be removed or improved. The transfers of these powers could be peaceful and without bloodshed or destruction of property.  Each submitted his individual will to the “rule of law” which bound everyone equally to the same system. Equal justice means no favoritism for those in power or for their friends.

Lasting liberty must have a clear and shared definition of good and evil. Evil destroys itself and those who embrace its tenants. There should be absolutely no law preventing a person from doing what is good.  We must have clear laws that are equally applied to any and every person in society. Liberty must allow access to information and the means to verify its truth and accuracy; it insists on tolerance for people of another opinion. Independence belongs in its fullest sense to those who own their own property and who provide for themselves and those in their family without outside help or interference. One of the most powerful forces against liberty is the false promise of security in exchange for freedom.  Liberty means the ability to live and take risks.

Monday, the 7th , at 4:30 p.m., the General Government Committee will have a presentation by Diane McCormick,  the director of the Livingston County Health Department. She will be telling what has happened with the Corona Virus in our county and giving context to the information that is always available on the Livingston County website. We will also be asking her to help us determine policy for a continued safe opening of our county offices and businesses. I encourage everyone to tune in to this meeting to find the real scoop on the risk to residents of our county.

4:30 PM Zoom Virtual Meeting Room Meeting ID: 399-700-0062 / Password: LCBOC https://zoom.us/j/3997000062?pwd=SUdLYVFFcmozWnFxbm0vcHRjWkVIZz09

Or by phone: +1 929 205 6099 US Meeting ID: 399 700 0062 / Password: 886752

Happy 4th to all.

August Issues 2020

Because of the economic uncertainties surrounding the Covid shut downs and extra expenses to deal with efforts to slow the spread of the disease, the Board of Commissioners has instituted a hiring freeze across the board as a method to control our largest expense in the budget salaries and benefits. This Monday we made several decisions that were largely affected by the necessity to maintain a high bond rating and to perform the necessary functions of government while balancing the budget.

 The Board made some divided decisions. The first was to deny the filling of the full-time position of teacher in the jail.  The second vote was   not to give $ 500,000. toward the constructing of a separate building to be used in preparation of meals for Meals on Wheels, which serves all of Livingston and the Western side of Oakland County (with no contribution from that county). These decisions were driven by the anticipated lowering of revenue and increased expenses. I voted “yes” in the 4-4 unsuccessful vote to fill the vital teaching position for those incarcerated in our jail. In my mind, the hiring freeze left room to allow positions to be considered one by one as to their importance, also considering whether the responsibilities could be performed by other current employees for now.  (A real picture of the county’s ability to balance its budget will later be established.)  I voted for this because the position makes a huge difference in the lives of the young people in jail and has been an integral part of our efforts to give offenders the tools and vision to go back into society permanently.  A contributing factor in regards to this job was that the position is 100% paid for by the “commissary funds” that generate income from inmate phone services and other items that are purchased in the jail.  

The Meals on Wheels building vote was 1 to 7. I, sadly, thought it best to join the majority. The biggest reason for saying no was that $500,000. given in a lump-sum at this time had the potential of causing other cuts in the county that would be necessary to maintain a balanced budget. We believe that we will be able revisit this in the next fiscal year. This is a project to which individuals and civic organizations could donate to help the project come to life. I would be happy to share the details to anyone who would like to know more. 

As a citizen, I have read both the majority and the dissenting opinions given by the Michigan Court of Appeals concerning the Governor’s continuing use of emergency orders without the approval of the law -making branch of government.

The majority opinion gave no satisfactory answer to my question: “What are the limits to one-person rule?”

Our system wisely gives one person the authority to act unilaterally under times of crisis and to have broad powers to give “reasonable” rules to bring each “affected area” under “control.” But there are understood limits.

The majority opinion concluded that it was solely the prerogative of the Governor to declare an emergency and it was solely her/his prerogative to declare the end of the emergency and that the Governor retains broad powers to deal with any crisis indefinitely. They gave no direction as to the meaning of “reasonable,” “affected area,” or “under control.” The meaning of these terms are left to the purview of one person, the Governor. They further indicated the words “28 days” of the 1976 law were overridden by the words of the 1945 law which does gives full discretion to only the Governor to declare an end of an emergency.

The Minority ruling stated that both laws should be read together and that all of the provisions of both should be observed to the fullest degree possible and that the 1976 law had the supremacy because it came after the 1945 Law. The later law broadened the meaning of a public crisis to particularly include an “epidemic” as a possible reason to declare a crisis. While broadening the reasons to declare a crisis, it also gave the legislature a part in determining if the condition is still a “crisis” at the end of 28 days.

Just for your consideration, on the day that the crisis is declared to be over, all of the Governor’s orders will have no effect and any policy that draws its authority from an executive order dealing with the virus will be null and void. All of these special powers given to the governor will vanish. We will have to think for ourselves again as free people. We will see when the Governor will trust the legislature to be partners in what has (in my opinion) been a “one-man show”.

I appreciate all of the input that I have received. I give all comments serious consideration. Please fell free to contact me a dhelzerman@livgov.com or 517-375-4869.