Source: Sherman Publications

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The Snyder Effect
Local official discusses Lansing’s new chief

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

March 23, 2011

New Governor Rick Snyder is shaking things up in Lansing, staying true to his word on running Michigan like a business.

Local government officials recently offered their thought on some of these changes, including the Competitive Bidding Bill and the Emergency Financial Status legislation. Opinions, while mostly positive, remain mixed.

Lake Orion Village Manager Paul Zelenak said he believes the governor has "taken the bull by the horns" in terms of righting the wrongs in Lansing, but also has his concerns.

"I'm really concerned on how some of these changes are going to be implemented, but he's made strong decisions and he's been very forward so far," said Zelenak. "I don't agree with him completely, but that's the way everyone is going to be.

"We're willing to work with other jurisdictions as much as we can to cut costs and continue services."

In relation to the Emergency Financial Status legislation, Zelenak questioned wether it was prudent to impose Lansing's problems on local municipalities. The proposed plan allows the Snyder to replace local government officials with an appointed official if it is deemed that local community is financially unstable. While Zelenak admits he sees merit in the idea, he still had some concerns.

"If a community has shown they cannot be fiscally responsible, then they need someone better to run it, but if this kind of thing continues to occur, a better question is why the community is not putting someone better into office," said Zelenak. "I've always been amazed at how Lansing will tell local municipalities what to do when they cannot fix their own budget.

"We have employees here that haven't had raises in three years, whereas I hear people in Lansing still get their raises and still get their healthcare even after they retire - and they want us to make cuts? Maybe they need to concentrate on their own house."

Concerning the topic of competitively bidding services at government offices, Zelenak agreed for the most part. He spoke to some measure about how while the lowest bidder may undercut the competition, the wording details that the "lowest responsible" bidder will win out.

"If a bidder is not that good at what they do, you don't want them coming in and doing the work - you want someone with experience," said Zelenak. "Lowest bid is definitely good, but we usually get more than one bid, and if someone is 50 percent less than everyone else, you have to ask 'why do they cost so much less?'.

"In another community I worked at, we discovered one group that had bid didn't even have the equipment they needed to do the job - they were planning on buying it if they got the bid. People will say they can do the job, but it's up to us to determine if they can."

Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb was unavailable at the time of this article's publication.