LETTER: Libby Williams Writes About Issues with Local Government
(Letter submitted by Libby Williams)
I’m writing to express my concern about Saline’s local government, specifically their lack of awareness. It has become increasingly apparent this past year that the Mayor and members of the City Council have either been out of touch with the wants and needs of the people of Saline, or feel they know better than their constituents. Let me provide some examples:
A large number of people spoke at the September 18, 2023 city council meeting regarding the consolidation of Saline’s police dispatch with Washtenaw County. Their concerns were not solely about the issue at hand, but also the lack of transparency leading up to the vote. Community members stated they were poorly informed about public meetings involving the outsourcing, and should’ve had better information disseminated to the public.
Mayor Marl adamantly insisted that there was plenty of notice given to the community. He even berated a member of the public, informing her “she is in the audience, which is derived from the Latin ‘to listen.’” This was a missed opportunity for council to listen to their concerns and respond with ideas to better convey information in the future.
At this same meeting, Council was asked by the city clerk for a vote to join the Washtenaw County voting consortium to ease the burden of the nine-day early voting mandate as required by the new law subsequent to Proposal 2.
Council member Jack Ceo responded with, “Who’s the knucklehead that proposed this legislation in our state?” He later doubles-down, and states “I would compel my colleagues and everybody out there in the audience to talk to your congressperson [state representative] about how in the hell did this happen?”
Mayor Pro Tem Dillon recalled at a Michigan Municipal League (MML) conference, she and “a room full of electeds [sic] sat there sort of slack-jawed going, ‘what did we do?’…I don’t think we totally understood what we were doing when this was voted in.”
Council member Nicole Rice assured the dais that at the next conference, she “will find every opportunity to discuss this issue should it be available, and I will also write our local representatives and tell them this is a hot mess.”
Mayor Marl suggested at the conference it would be great for council, “if there is a legislative panel to voice our consternation and concern and hope that MML can advocate on our behalf to members of the state senate, house and the governor’s office to make the appropriate modifications to the existing statute.”
Our city council does not seem to understand that Proposal 2 was a voter-led initiative that was passed by 60% of the voters in Michigan - including Saline constituents. It was advanced through the system, onto the ballot, and into law, by the people of Michigan.
Those are the “knuckleheads” they were talking about.
The people of Michigan were not concerned about how it was going to be implemented -that is the job of our elected officials. The people of Michigan availed themselves of the democratic process to put a law in place that secured their rights. It is State and Council’s job to implement the process. It was not their job to comment on what they thought about it while live-streaming on YouTube. I found it inappropriate and very out of touch with their own voters to see them essentially complaining about having to fulfill their duties.
Proposal 2 not only provided early voting, it also recognized and solidified several other important voting rights such as; the fundamental right to vote without harassing conduct, requiring military or overseas ballots be counted if postmarked by Election Day, voter rights to verify identity with photo ID or signed statement, right to single application to vote absentee in all elections, required state-funded absentee-ballot drop boxes, postage for absentee applications and ballots, that only election officials may conduct post-election audits, and allow all donations to fund elections be disclosed. It was a landmark effort by the people.
This is why I find the statements by Mayor Marl and Councilman Ceo particularly troubling. It illustrates local government’s arrogance that they know better than the people. Their actions have real consequences.
For instance, on September 28, 2023, eleven Michigan lawmakers filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The lawsuit claims the changes in election policy that were approved by voters, Proposal 3 in 2018 and Proposal 2 in 2022, violated the U.S. Constitution, which says that state legislatures are to set the time, place and manner of conducting elections. This lawsuit is a direct attack on the will of the voters.
Our municipal government has a lack of accountability, a disconnect with the community, and displays inappropriate broadcasting of personal opinion from those in positions of authority. Listening to and actually following through on constituents needs and concerns should be paramount. When errors or missteps occur, it is important to acknowledge them and accept responsibility to maintain the public’s trust and respect.
Those in city positions conceivably hold power over others. Therefore they must be very careful expressing their personal views, opinions, and grievances in public forums. It is unethical and inequitable to use that position for personal benefit. This is not to say politicians can’t express themselves, but the nature of the career they chose requires that they be more mindful when doing so.
This letter does not endorse/detract any candidates for any election positions. My concerns are the practices and standards of the city government as a whole.
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