There were two major upsets in the Grand Traverse County Commission primaries. Incumbents Cheryl Gore Follette and Carol Crawford are out. Both Gore Follette and Crawford talked about wanting to take care of employees. They glossed over the looming disaster that is the County employee pension deficit.
Cheryl Gore Follette is out of the Grand Traverse County Commission when her term expires. She lost to Brad Jewett in the August 2018 primary. Gore Follette is one of those who is perpetually running for local office.
Follette was also on the NMC board for a long time but quit. There were allegations that she was ticked that her daughter didn’t get a job at NMC. All we officially know is that she quit abruptly and cited personal reasons. Apparently, she was a part of the NMC board for more than two decades before the drama went down.
In his campaign, Jewett talked about fiscal responsibility and paying the pension down. That appeared to work with voters. So Follette is out.
Carol Crawford is out, too. She opposed Tom Menzel’s tough-love policies.
Dan Lathrop will take on Betsia Coffia in the fall. I admire Coffia, but I don’t think she’s a serious threat to Lathrop. Lathrop has consistently taken the taxpayer-first stand on issues. And that’s the stance he took in the August primary. So that’s likely one in the — the-pension-debt-is-too-damn-high — camp.
Total it all up, and it looks like the pension-first crowd might have the majority come January.
This is a big swing from the 2016 elections that saw anti-Menzel commissioners sweep the field and march in to put an end to Menzel’s aggressive austerity measures.
Perhaps the new underfunded pension reporting requirements are part of the swing. County governments now have to start publicizing their pension financials so that the public can respond with their votes. Perhaps the electorate isn’t that organized or informed and I’m giving them too much credit. Perhaps it’s a knee-jerk reaction to Nate Alger’s coronation. Whatever it is, we might actually get somewhere in November and in the coming year.
I think a lot of people have a hard time with calling it public service when, let’s be honest, you get a competitive wage, pension, health care that most people in the private sector can only dream of, job security that people in the private sector can only dream of, holidays that people in the private sector can only dream of, a retirement age that people in the private sector can only dream of, and the jobs often go to the friends of people already in the government in-crowd. People in the private sector who have to pay into their own 401ks each month, if they even have a 401k, have to listen to county officials tell them it’s not important to fully fund the government pension, that county employees need more morale (read money) to do a good job, and it’ll just be the taxpayers’ problem sooner or later. For now at least, the electorate is swinging back to pro-austerity measures.
Ton Menzel is probably singing some Randy Travis “I Told You So” right now.