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Taxes & Issues: It's as easy as 1-2-3 to understand

EASY AS 1-2-3

      Know the government power structure:  who is responsible and who just wants to look good.

      Numbers are powerful in the right hands, and powerfully manipulative in the wrong hands.

      Get your ducks in a row (they will make a tasty victory meal later). 




  • Know the government power structure:  who is responsible and who just wants to look good.  Let's look at the local government level because it has the biggest impact on our families and it is much easier to dissect and understand.  It might surprise you to find out that most politicians, especially if you look at the local level, do not have as much power as we may think.  And if you want to get anything done in government, without getting really frustrated, you really ought to fully understand the power structure from the inside out.



    • Typically for only the largest cities in each State  (In Michigan: Detroit, Flint, Warren, Pontiac, etc.)
    • The Mayor runs the city like a CEO of a company (or is supposed to look out for the "customer/taxpayer") 
    • All decisions on operations are the Mayor's responsibility (ex: staff, contracts, police, water, roads, taxes, etc.)
    • The City Council only approves, denies, or modifies the Mayor's decisions
      (hopefully in the best interest of the citizens of their district, not based on selfish or special interest groups)
    • Estimated annual pay:    Mayor: $100,000 to $500,000+        Council: $35,000 to $100,000+ 


    • Probably about 98% of the cities in the United States
    • A City Manager (CM) is hired by City Council to run the city like a CEO of a company
    • All decisions on operations are the City Manager's responsibility (ex: staff, contracts, police, water, roads, etc.)
      • For the most part, it is the CM and staff, who puts proposals on the agendas for Council/Mayor to vote
      • The CM is the main negotiator on all major Labor Contracts and then forwards the proposals to Council.
      • The CM filters, accepts/denies, and investigates all proposals put forth by a majority of Council/Mayor
    • The Mayor runs the meetings, is a figure head, but is on the same level as City Council when voting.
    • The City Council and Mayor only approves, denies, or modifies the City Manager's and staffs decisions
      • The City Manager can be fired only if a majority of the City Council/Mayor votes to fire them
      • Staff, including police and fire, have a lot of influence on how and what comes to a vote before council
    • Estimated annual pay:    City Manager: $80,000 to $250,000+        Mayor/Council: $910 to $45,000+ 
                    (According to Michigan Municipal League a vast majority of council are paid $35.00 per meeting)
  • Who is getting the credit in the media?  In politics, there is always a motive for getting attention on an issue--just look at the headlines or the leading or teaser story on television.  It is either positive attention; usually to build a politician up for something bigger or to cover up some bad press.  Or it is negative attention; to crush an opponent or to try to quiet someone who is exposing an important issue that may make their politician or special interest group look bad.  Usually the negative information (and even the positive information) is slanted and the truth is hard to distinguish.  Even if the truth comes out later, people today only remember the FIRST shocking headline and not the actual truth.  History is full of examples of this.
      1. Typically those people who want power find a way to take credit for other people's projects/ideas. Or an assistant or staff member had the idea to make their boss look good.  But we, the citizens, think it is the grand idea of a politician.
      2. Usually a political group or special interest group will stir up a network of supporters at the last minute to do publicity stunts, phone banks, and letter writing campaigns to make the group/issue look good even though it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.  This is done especially if:
        • They want to put pressure on public officials to influence a vote (this is done a lot with Union Contracts)
        • Or they want to counter act and negative press.
        • EXAMPLE:  A ton of letters to Council/Mayor and letter to the Editor about how great police are, with personal stories that tug at your heart.  Even though the issue at hand is the city going bankrupt while the Former Police Chief will not take concessions on a $130,000 pension when his base wage was $97,000.  This equates to one officer earning $5.2 million in retirement.  This union greed while the city will be lucky to stay afloat is disgusting and a "hidden truth" in all cities.  What makes it worse in Weak-Mayor Structured cities is that the City Manager who is actually responsible for the union contract negotiations hides behind the elected officials who have really no say in the negotiations.  Council is just a moving target for the unions to get their way and begin to bankrupt one city after another until you the citizen gets wise to the game.



  • Numbers are powerful in the right hands, and powerfully manipulative in the wrong hands.  A favorite book is by Barry Glassner "The Culture of Fear:  Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things."  It is an entertaining book explaining how we are manipulated into being scared about things and why we give up so much of our time, money, and taxes to try to secure our safety for ourselves and our family.  Unfortunately all of this fear is wearing us out or even worse it is having us be fearful and hateful to people. 
    1. Numbers and statistics are powerful but they can also be manipulated in many ways to make a point
      • Any kind of study/statistic can be found on the internet to make a point 
      • There are many ways in which numbers can be added up or deleted from a report in order to make a point
    2. Learn to hate percentages--they are very manipulative
      • Example:  a 100% increase sounds great until you realize
        • a $1.00 to $2.00 increase is a 100% increase
        • AND a $1 million to $2 million increase is also a 100% increase
      • When interpreting crime statistics, deaths, employment numbers, be cautious when the reporter does not give you the actual numbers along with the % ages.  They are most likely manipulating the figures.
    3. Property Taxes--If you try to interpret your property tax bill you will start to notice the complicated web of formulas that you need to use to determine the amount of the taxes you have to pay.
    4. Bonds--these are popular for government schools to use. And they have the nerve to try to convince us that it is not a tax increase.  The evidence is on your property tax bill called "School debt".  Debt=tax increase.
    5. Government vs. business account with wages and pensions
  • Millions of "off the books" unfunded liabilities.  A lot of municipalities like to give away fat contracts (even hide the contract negotions even today see: but legally do not have to report the future liabilities in their budgets.  They can just blow off any accountability by saying, "Those numbers are reported by the Pension board actuaries" and thus never really having to tackle the problem. 
                          See Erin Stahl's budget presentations on: 
  • Statistics can be used to prove almost anything--even hide the truth.  ATo get a clear picture of the finances of government you should have simple graphs showing overall expenses and revenue for at least 15 years or more.  And then for different groupings of departments, and then for each department.  This was done in St. Clair Shores with some SHOCKING results.  




  • Get your ducks in a row (they will make a tasty victory meal later).  When tackling any issue, like making a home purchase, buying groceries, or even taking on an important political issue, get your facts in order.  This is so you can make your case, bring people in to help you, and to counter any attacks.  Most attacks your opponents will have, most likely will be filled with fictitious information that you can easily shoot down with the truth.  But you need to do your homework beforehand.
    1. Get your facts in order.  Try to categorize them by subject matter--this will help to search for the information later.
    2. Look what was done in the past, the solutions, and the results.
      • Preliminary search:  The Internet
        • Beware of information:  Anyone can publish anything without a factual basis
        • Beware of information:  Studies can be found to support any position on any issue
        • Beware of information:  Newspapers/media do not publish everything online (they want you to subscribe)
        • Beware of information:  Newspapers/media do not keep all historical additions online.
        • Beware of information:  Newspapers/media's historical documents are not always searchable
      • Mandatory search:  Library databases
        • Why:  Using your tax dollars, they subscribe to the most popular and legitimate publications
        • Why:  You can find much more legitimate studies and published opinions
        • Why:  You can search all of the historical copies of a publication in its entirety
        • Why:  At the local Universities you can find tons of information on any subject in books and archived
    3. Come up with an emotional appeal based upon factual information. Emotional stories that people can relate to are far more impactful than too many facts and figures.  People tend to tune out when you throw around a lot of numbers.
    4. Use your facts to dispel bogus claims by the opposition.  Remember: KISS   (Keep it simple stupid)
    5. Use various outlets for your message:
      • Letters to the editor
      • E-mail elected officials (be persistent)
      • Press releases to TV and other media outlets
      • Speak out at local, county, and state government meetings
        • Make a good argument on an important issue--do not irritate them with unimportant suggestions
        • It's free but be prepared to make your point in 2-5 minutes.  This is the typical time limit.
        • Follow-up with your local officials
        • Be pleasantly persistent...don't be a pest
      • Commercials on local cable stations are really inexpensive
      • Mail or distribute flyers -- make sure to include contact information for help or questions













(Citizens Opposing Unfair Needless Taxes)
(586) 774-8181




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