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Recall language filed
OHS teacher wants to oust Jacobsen, Marleau

by CJ Carnacchio

June 15, 2011

Daniel Sargent is none too happy that state legislators are, in his view, weakening voter control at the local level and raising taxes for some, while lowering them for others.

That's why the 12-year Oxford Township resident filed recall petition language Friday with the Oakland County Clerk's Office seeking to oust state Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford) and state Sen. James Marleau (R-Lake Orion).

"I have been encouraged by other people to file the petition," said Sargent, who teaches economics, sociology and civics at Oxford High School and has been with the district for 18 years. "In fact, as I've been circulating fire (Gov.) Rick Snyder petitions, I've been asked, 'Where's the petitions for Jacobsen and Marleau?'"

Jacobsen, who represents the 46th district, which includes Oxford, Addison and Orion townships, took the news of the recall petition in stride.

"It's certainly a citizen's right to go out and file a recall if they feel the legislator or government official isn't doing what's in the best interest of the district," he said. "I think it's unfortunate because it's really sort of a distraction (from) what we're trying to accomplish getting the economy going and getting people back to work."

"I think I'm about the 24th or 25th person in the legislature to have (recall) paperwork filed against them. I'm in good company," Jacobsen added. "I think we're on the right track. The squeaky wheels, they can file their petitions and so be it that's part of our system."

A phone message seeking comment from Marleau was left with his staff Monday afternoon, but the call was not returned.

In his recall language, Sargent specifically cited the state's Emergency Financial Management Act, signed into law back in March, as a detriment to local control.

"They are attacking the power of my vote," he said.

Both Jacobsen and Marleau voted for this legislation, which allows the state to intervene at an earlier stage when a local government or school district is having financial difficulties in order to prevent the situation from escalating into an emergency.

The law also expanded the powers of emergency managers, who are appointed by the state to resolve financial emergencies in local governments and school districts.

Under the new law, emergency managers have the power to remove locally elected officials if they refuse to provide information or assistance. They also have the power to merge municipalities or school districts with neighboring entities.

Giving an appointed manager the authority to remove an elected official or merge with another governmental entity without a vote of the people doesn't set well with Sargent.

"That diminishes the power of our vote," he said. "As far as I'm concerned that violates the basic American principle that all of our votes count equally."

Even though Oxford's currently in no danger of having an emergency manager appointed to handle its financial affairs, for Sargent, it's the principle of the thing.

"I don't care if it's Benton Harbor or wherever, it's not appropriate for an appointed official to be able to dissolve a local community or fire lawfully elected officials," he said.

But Jacobsen argued the Emergency Financial Management Act is designed to help local governments, not control them.

"It really starts out with the premise that we want communities that are having financial problems or concerns to come to the state ASAP and see if we can help them with some best practices to try to keep them from getting into severe financial problems," he said.

Should there be a need to appoint an emergency manager, Jacobsen said it isn't a ploy by the state to get rid of locally elected officials. It's simply a mechanism to help a local government or school district "get their finances back in alignment."

"It really doesn't throw out the public officials," he explained. "The emergency manager can encourage and work towards mergers with other communities, that's true, but they don't throw the people out of office . . . It does change some of the control in the community, but the leaders of the community probably haven't been doing an A-1 job if they've gotten to that point already."

"I really doubt that the (emergency) manager's going to throw anybody out of office, but he may usurp part of their powers," Jacobsen noted.

Jacobsen said overall, he and his fellow officials "are doing a lot of what we campaigned on" in terms of "trying to bring financial stability and sound financial management" to the state and local governments.

"We just can't keep spending money like a bunch of drunken sailors," he said. "We've got to make sure we can live within our means and try to pay off the debts that we've got."

Sargent's also displeased with Jacobsen and Marleau for voting to increase state income taxes on public and private pensions while reducing the state's Earned Income Tax Credit for working individuals and families with low-to-moderate incomes.

Sargent's upset that state officials "did not use (this increased tax revenue) to solve the budget crisis."

"They used it, instead, to give a tax reduction to another constituency," he said. "If they're going to raise taxes then let's solve the budget crisis before we go giving out a $1.8 billion tax reduction to someone else."

Sargent's referring to the $1.8 billion tax cut the state gave businesses by eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and replacing it with a flat 6 percent Corporate Income Tax that applies only to certain corporations, typically those that issue stock. As a result, nearly 100,000 businesses no longer have to file returns with the state.

Jacobsen said the business tax changes are "really going to help the mom-and-pop businesses that have been paying taxes on their receipts and paying personal income tax on what they draw from the company."

"The mom-and-pop businesses are what drive America and keep creating the jobs," he explained. "It's not General Motors and Ford and the big corporations. It's all the little diners and newspaper publishers that really make the economy go. They're the ones that have been getting double-taxed along the way."

As for the increased state taxes on private and public pensions (the latter of which was never taxed before), Jacobsen said that was a matter of creating "equity."

"It's awful hard when you've got somebody who's making $60,000 a year on a pension, not paying anything (in state income tax) and a family of four that's struggling to get by on $35,000 or $40,000 a year, paying 4.35 (percent) in taxes," he said. "I think we're just trying to have some shared sacrifice and trying to create a little more equity. Those young families that are struggling, but working, they can't afford to pay anymore."

Regarding the reduction in the state's Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 to 6 percent of the federal version of this credit, Jacobsen said, "That was a tough one. There was a lot of debate about the ITC, but it was one that got trimmed."

Jacobsen admitted he voted for the reduction as a matter of expediency. "That was part of the larger package," he explained. "We had 29 things to vote on, but it all got rolled into two. Personally, it was for convenience . . . to get the whole package put through."

Before Sargent can go door-to-door gathering signatures for his recall petition, his language must be approved by the county Election Commission, which consists of the county clerk and treasurer along with the chief judge of probate court.

A meeting to determine the clarity of the petition language was set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 29 in Judge Linda Hallmark's courtroom (1200 N. Telegraph Rd.).

At this meeting, the Election Commission will "determine whether each reason for the recall stated in the petition is of sufficient clarity to enable the officers whose recall is being sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct which is the basis for the recall."

Sargent is "very hopeful" that the wording of his petition will be okayed.

"It's similar to the language that was approved to recall (Gov.) Rick Snyder," he noted.

If Sargent's petition language gets the green light, it will only be valid for 180 days following the Election Commission's approval.

However, all of the signatures must be collected within a 90-day period. Signatures dated more than 90 days before the petition is filed are invalid and not counted.