Political Column — The Struggle of Politics
Life is a struggle. A struggle wherein we strive to capture value and meaning in what we create, in what we experience, and the perspective that we take on the challenges that we face.
Politics is a part of life, and also a struggle. Dalton Township has been faced with a lot of challenges over the years. In the last year a lot of those challenges have been confronted, and a lot of those challenges have been conquered. There is a natural tendency in politics for people to focus on personality, on the style and presentation of a person. This is inevitable, it is part of being human. But there is something more important, there is substance, the underlying reality of the situation. Promises are not solutions, hopes and dreams are not results.
Promises, hopes, and dreams can help to orient us to the future, but what so often happens is that the promises of politicians are empty. They use hopes and dreams to sell a vision that is an illusion. They get people committed to that illusion, and when the people are confronted with reality they must choose between stark disillusionment, or to live in a delusion.
There is another way. Rather than focus on the next election, a reformer such as myself can choose to focus on actual reform. With an approach of finding the problems, accepting them as real, figuring out what progress can be made and how, accepting what can’t be done, and doing what can be done, forward motion can be made. This is what I have striven to do.
Dalton Township has previously been restrictive and a difficult place to do business. This has changed. Dalton was featured in the cover story of the magazine ‘Township Focus’ in July about supporting local businesses by working with them rather than standing in their way. In my first board meeting in office we started the process for changing the overly restrictive sign ordinance. Such positive changes have continued at a steady pace.
Previously there was a lack of openness and transparency. This has changed. Now Dalton Township has a Youtube channel where recordings of the meetings are posted. Previous board trustees have told me that before they wouldn’t be informed about things coming to the meetings. The biggest criticism of me has been that I bring too many things to the board, and provide too much information. Plus, resident packets of that same information are now posted on the website before meetings so it’s publicly available.
Previously Dalton Township had a very restrictive trucking ordinance. This has changed. Those restrictions have been rolled back to a more reasonable level to allow business to happen.
Having an ORV and golf cart ordinance in the township has been discussed for years. Nothing had been done. This year Dalton Township was the first township in Muskegon County to legally pass an ORV ordinance.
The Planning Commission had made a marihuana ordinance proposal a year before I entered office. It had never been brought to the township board. I brought it to the board until a decision was reached.
There have been concerns over the enforcement process in Dalton, as there are in many townships. The board passed a resolution to make a better process. Such an innovation will take another year or two to work out, but an objective process of justice with built-in checks and balances is important and progress is being made.
Business Park North on Whitehall Rd. had been sitting empty for two decades. There was a bad deal between Dalton Township, Muskegon County, and the City of Muskegon made in 2002. There was a fifty year contract in place. Nothing was going to happen in that business park until after 2052. Instead, I worked with the county and the city and we agreed to break the contract 31 years early. Now businesses are buying the property and moving in.
The township owns a lot of land that it has just been holding. There have been various points over the last century that land was transferred from the state or the county to the township. Previously, if there were certain restrictions on the deed one-hundred percent of the sale went to the county. So, it made no sense for the township to take the actions necessary to sell property. I worked with the county and negotiated a 50/50 split. Now the county is getting funds, the township is getting funds, and individuals can buy, own, and develop the land.
Previously the township employed a crossing guard on M-120. No kids crossed there, and if they were going to it would be dangerous. I talked with the Reeths-Puffer Superintendent and we decided to discontinue the position, which saves money and hassle, and is safer.
There is a lake level outlet device on the south side of Twin Lake that leads into the Ribe Drain that was installed in 1984. The boards were rotting, and it had been cut to permanently be set at the lower winter levels. I talked with the Drain Commissioner and she used funds she already had to replace the underground damn to prevent leaking and so that the summer levels can be properly maintained.
Lack of engagement is a problem in the society in general, and more noticeable in the younger generations. This leads to bad self-selection bias. I’ve guest lectured two classes at Grand Valley State University and spent one day teaching all of the 8th grade students at Reeths-Puffer Schools.
We have achieved an immense amount over the last year. I prefer to talk about these things that have been accomplished as opposed to promises about the future so that false expectations are not established. Where progress can be made it will be, where it cannot it will not. There are a number of things I’m working on: getting better ordinances in place for food trucks, tiny homes, home businesses, and agriculture; improving the parks and buildings that have been allowed to fall into disrepair; the possibility of township hunting land; inspecting and maintaining the sewer system; sorting out the financial mess with the sewer system; maybe even getting some railroad crossings fixed.
There are an infinite amount of problems, needs, and wants, and a limited amount of resources to tackle those problems, needs, and wants with. Facing that test, confronting those challenges, seeking to grasp the attainable value that life presents us with is where meaning in life is waiting to be discovered. If we orient to that, then the path that we walk is the best that we can choose.