As most of you know, Grand Rapids Community College bigwigs are demanding more money from the taxpayers again. Several weeks ago GRCC lost a millage election that would have hit homeowners with a hike of $24 for each $100K of their property's taxable value. The voters spoke and said no. Apparently democracy is not to the liking of the GRCC board of trustees, because they have put the millage hike back on the ballot in August -- this time expecting the voters to give them the right answer.
Of course, the GRCC board has made dire predictions of doom and gloom if the voters don't do what they are told and approve the tax increase. Migosh, students might have to pay higher tuition to cover higher compensation to the all of the employees feeding at the GRCC trough. Yes, that's harsh, but then much of the argument for why the schooling GRCC offers is critical lies with the failure of the public school districts to teach the general education, college prep, and vocational classes that have become the core of the GRCC cirriculum. As GRCC is part and parcel of the Michigan public school system, it does not escape blame for allowing this shift of responsibility for decent education from K-12 to it -- especially when it gets to stick the cost of that shift to homeowners.
The ballot box is the only brake on this ballooning of K-12 education out to K-14 left to the taxpayers. They get to say no to pouring more money into a system of sinecures for overpaid administrators and instructors. When they say "no", that should mean "no". A close election doesn't change that. A one-vote margin in favor of "no" is the same as a 10,000-vote margin. But the GRCC board of trustees has no respect for the voters. They don't care what they have decided, so they'll keep demanding higher taxes from us until the voters get it right.
Seeing that a reprobate like lawyer Gary Schenk is one of the leaders of the GRCC board, perhaps this contempt for the voters is not surprising. More surprising is the endorsement of this millage hike by some other community leaders. For example, at Tuesday's Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, mayoral candidates George Heartwell and Rick Tormala backed GRCC's demand for higher taxes.* In light of Heartwell's sanctimonious fit (here and here) when Michigan voters banned racial preference policies by state and local governments, maybe ignoring the will of voters isn't so surprising for him. Tormala, however, showed good sense in response to Heartwell's desire to go to war against the voters on that issue. He should apply the same principle to this second bite at the apple that GRCC wants.
Likewise with the G.R. Press, which out of respect for the voters editorially opposed Heartwell's nonsense to go on a jihad for racial preferences. It also has set aside that principle to support the GRCC millage hike. I suppose we could lament the absence of any champion for the voters' will to oppose this tax increase on the principle that the voters had already said no to it only a couple of months ago. However, the issue is in the voters' hands. They should be incensed that GRCC will not take no for an answer, and so they can vote in August accordingly. Yes, it's unfair that Michigan law allows outfits like GRCC to keep hauling people back to the voting booth every three months, and the state legislature should restrict millage ballots to the November general election. But, unfair or not, it's up to the voters, with or without a champion, to take control of this matter.
It's up to them to make clear what they think of those who say, "To hell with the voters." If they won't, they have only themselves to blame for the contempt that the GRCC board of trustees has shown for them by putting the millage hike back on the ballot.
(* At least Heartwell and Tormala went on the record. As far as we can tell, the other two candidates for Grand Rapids mayor, Jim Rinck and Jackie Miller, are AWOL on the GRCC issue. However, Rinck has publicly stated that he opposes further property tax increases, so that would appear to put him at odds with a millage hike. But then he has made a lot of noise about education being the salvation of our community, so his position is not clear.)