March 05, 2014 - "There never was, for any long time, a corrupt representative of a virtuous people; or a mean, sluggish, careless people that ever had a good government of any form."
– Edmund Burke
Oxford Village government is broken.
It has been for years thanks to a mix of corruption, apathy, prejudice, incompetence and waste.
More than $20,000 in property tax funds from 2010 remains missing and appears to have been embezzled.
Oh, by the way, that's the second embezzlement – the first was for more than $3,300 and occurred in 2006.
Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth unapologetically admitted to helping cover up the 2006 embezzlement of tax payments and keeping quiet about it for four years.
But hey, it's only taxpayer money, right?
Speaking of tax dollars, the village spends about $270,000 annually for dispatch services that could be easily provided by Oakland County for approximately $28,000.
The village then cries that it can't afford to fix the rapidly-deteriorating, pothole-ridden stretch of W. Burdick St. known as cemetery hill.
But instead of closing the local dispatch center and using the significant savings to fix this road – and perhaps, give beleaguered village taxpayers a break – village officials beg like dogs for scraps from the federal and state tables.
A while back, council sought a legal opinion as to how it could give village voters a choice at the ballot box between local and county dispatch. That opinion is now gathering dust and I see no movement on the horizon to place anything on the November ballot.
This same council then turned right around and decided to take on Lake Orion as a dispatch customer and invest $114,318 in new dispatch equipment and software.
Again, what happened to the idea of giving the voters a choice?
Council seems to think it's a good deal for Lake Orion to pay $20,000 annually for police dispatch services, while Oxford taxpayers pick up the other $250,000 like suckers.
Council members sat on their hands for years while the Downtown Development Authority's finances went to hell, then tried to blame DDA board members and the former director when the mess finally hit the fan.
Truth is council was equally culpable because it always had the final say in the budget approval process, which included annually raping the DDA budget to benefit the police and public works funds.
It's time for a wholesale change.
All five village council seats are up in November. If things are ever going to get better, the council needs to be swept clean and we need to start fresh.
But first, we need good people to run.
We need council members who are willing to break with the past and go in new directions.
We need council members whose judgment is not weighed down and clouded by local prejudices and sentimental notions.
We need council members who want to do what's right for the taxpayers, not what's best for village employees.
We need council members who have the guts and intelligence to fire the people who need to be fired, instead of praising them.
We need council members who want to fight public sector nonsense with private sector common sense.
We need council members who place nothing – not friendship, not personal gain, not ego – above doing the right thing and maintaining the public's trust.
We need council members who aren't afraid to put major issues before the voters, not because they wish to shirk their responsibility as elected decision-makers, but because they realize that some decisions are just too important to be made by five people.
If we don't get at least five new people to run for council, village government will continue to be a joke with an expensive punchline. And trust me, it stopped being funny a long, long time ago.
To be eligible to run for council, a person must be at least 21 years old, a registered voter and a village resident for at least six months prior to the date of election.
Potential candidates must obtain valid signatures on a nominating petition from at least 25, but no more than 50, registered village voters. Deadline to file the petition and an affidavit of identity is 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 22.
Petitions and affidavits can be obtained at either the village office (22 W. Burdick St.) or the Oxford Township Hall (300 Dunlap Rd.).
I'd recommend picking up the paperwork at the village office so as to avoid pothole hill.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.