Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Ypsi police chief blames Minzey for bond misinformation

3. December 2006 • Bruce Fields
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Larry Kestenbaum passes on "yet another in a series of letters about the jail controversy that have been widely circulated, yet unpublished", in which Ypsi police chief Matt Harshberger writes of the proposed jail expansion:

... upon having a meeting yesterday afternoon with the County Administrator, Bob Guenzel, I learned the information that I was spreading ($9 million for jail expansion & $11 million for court facilities improvements) was patently false/ wrong/ inaccurate/ erroneous. I, along with all the other Chiefs and Directors in Washtenaw County, received this false information directly from the Sheriff and his jail administrator. Obviously, I will not allow this error of trust to occur again.

...The truth, according to the County Administration, is that the entire $21 million bond proposal is going toward jail and correctional improvements...

More:

(Somebody send us more article submissions before we become all-jail-all-the-time....)

  1. So it currently costs twice as much to house a prisoner in Washtenaw County jail than it does in Livingston county and Bob Guenzel wants to spend another 21 Million dollars to expand our facilities. Is there no one in the county government who understands that we need to reduce costs? Our economy is severely depressed, the auto companies layoffs will further impact our communities, and many local governments and school districts can’t make ends meet in funding existing services. So the answer is greatly expanding the services offered by the county jail???

    Washtenaw BOC .. HELLO!!! .. Are all your
    calculators broken?? Did you not understand our votes or our petition??

    Accounts Receivable Tax Building Permit Tax CDL License Tax Cigarette Tax Corporate Income Tax Dog License Tax Federal Income Tax Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)

    Fishing License Tax
    Food License Tax
    Fuel Permit Tax
    Gasoline Tax
    Hunting License Tax
    Inheritance Tax
    Inventory Tax
    IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax),
    IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax),

    Liquor Tax,
    Luxury Tax,
    Marriage License Tax,
    Medicare Tax,
    Property Tax,
    Real Estate Tax,
    Service charge taxes,
    Social Security Tax,
    Road Usage Tax (Truckers),
    Sales Taxes,

    Recreational Vehicle Tax,
    School Tax,
    State Income Tax,
    State Unemployment Tax (SUTA),
    Telephone Federal Excise Tax,
    Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax,
    Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax,

    Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax,
    Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax,
    Telephone State and Local Tax,
    Telephone Usage Charge Tax,
    Utility Tax,
    Vehicle License Registration Tax,

    Vehicle Sales Tax,
    Watercraft Registration Tax,
    Well Permit Tax,
    Workers Compensation Tax.

    Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago
    and there was prosperity, absolutely no national debt,the largest middle class in the world and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

    What the hell happened?????

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    HINT: Unrestrained bureaucracy of low level officials who ignore their constituents


       —Karen Luck    Dec. 3 '06 - 09:12PM    #
  2. Or maybe it’s that between 40 and 50 percent of our discretionary federal tax dollars go to the Pentagon.

    On the jail issue, I have no idea of how Minzey performs as a law enforcement agent, but he appears to be a painfully clumsy politician—or am I missing something here?


       —Chuck    Dec. 3 '06 - 11:36PM    #
  3. Ah, 100 years ago … the golden age of small government. Back in the days before the government (funded by tax revenues) created the internet so that god-fearing, freedom loving Americans could copy and paste talking points on local news blogs.

    Karen — maybe you can negotiate on the gas tax after you move into Ypsilanti, give up your car and the roads you travel on, and ride public transportation like you would have 100 years ago.

    Karen…?


       —Dale    Dec. 4 '06 - 02:02AM    #
  4. 100 years ago I would have driven my horse and buggy into Ypsi several times a year at most. There was no mass transit available in the townships then either, but at least the city wasn’t trying to charge the townships for non-existant services.


       —Karen Luck    Dec. 4 '06 - 05:21AM    #
  5. I’m glad you’re still contributing to our agricultural economy.


       —Dale    Dec. 4 '06 - 03:41PM    #
  6. “There was no mass transit available in the townships then either, but at least the city wasn’t trying to charge the townships for non-existant services.”

    I can’t speak for Ypsi Township but many rural areas had access to Detroit and other major cities via the interurban systems, which are the historical version of today’s light rail systems.

    http://www.sylvanlake.org/historyandtraditions/interurban/

    http://godwin.bobanna.com/iii.html#[II-10]

    Also, the US did have a national debt in 1906 as it has in most years of the nation’s history. The idea that the debt is some modern development displays an amazing amount of ignorance of US history (many political battles of early US history revolved around debt and taxation).

    http://www.toptips.com/debt_history.htm

    None of this is really relevent to the debate at hand except to show how wrong so many of the “facts” that are spread around on the Internet.


       —John Q.    Dec. 4 '06 - 04:49PM    #
  7. Latest update: this morning about 10:30 am, the police service contracts between Washtenaw County, the sheriff, and the three townships were signed in Bob Guenzel’s office. I was there to sign in my county clerk capacity.

    A reporter asked me about the scene. I told her it was a low-key, businesslike meeting.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 6 '06 - 08:56PM    #
  8. Another update, more specifically relevant to the original posting: I heard this evening that Jack Minzey, the sheriff’s father, has sent out a rebuttal to the Harshberger letter. I’d post it, but I have not received or seen a copy.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 7 '06 - 05:16AM    #
  9. I heard on WEMU news Bob Guenzel stating that there would be a need for another jail expansion in 2008 and 2010. Seems like an unending tax and spend ritual !

    21 million bond this year, how much would it be in 2008 and 2010, has anyone asked that question ?


       —srini    Dec. 7 '06 - 01:02PM    #
  10. srini, if you live in Washtenaw County, you are entitled (even encouraged) to ask the question yourself. Go to eWashtenaw.org and find the name and contact information of your county commissioner and give them a call or send them an email. If you prefer, contact the administrator instead/as well. Take the next step beyond being an informed citizen (I appreciate that you are and make that effort) and become an engaged one.


       —Steve Bean    Dec. 7 '06 - 02:08PM    #
  11. Srini, the addition currently proposed by the county administrator is 96 beds as a start. The sheriff has rejected this proposal based on the notion that 96 beds is not enough and won’t solve the problem.

    Notice that they agree that a lot more capacity is needed.

    Since the voters rejected a tax increase to add capacity, the county is trying to add space incrementally WITHOUT a tax increase. So, yeah, that means an addition now, an addition in a few years, another addition a few years later.

    What your objection to this? I’m pretty sure you were against the jail millage in 2005, so you’re not interested in a tax increase to fund expansion. But now you’re denouncing expansion funded without a tax increase.

    Are you saying that the jail doesn’t need to be expanded? (Try defending that position with any local judge or cop.)


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 7 '06 - 05:24PM    #
  12. Please be advised that most of the jail bond money will be spent on upgrading the infrastructure of the jail. It was built in 1978, with some beds added after that date, but it desperately needs improvements in the HVAC, plumbing, lighting, kitchen, laundry and medical facilities, etc. It is a building that is open 24/7 and has received hard use. The way the 96 beds will be added allows for further expansion in later years by adding “pods” that will have a larger capacity to replace exitsting pods. The jail expansion was set at 96 beds, because that is what we can afford, not what the optimum number might be. What I think the number ought to be, after having served on many committees which discussed the problem, is far below what the Sheriff thinks it ought to be. He said at one meeting that he thought we needed 1000 beds. I find this ludicrous, but that is the range of opinion that we must address.


       —Leah Gunn    Dec. 7 '06 - 05:54PM    #
  13. The county administrator and sheriff may both agree that more beds are needed, but the cost per bed is hotly disputed. Why must the beds cost twice that of neighboring counties? Minzey has to house all the people who are sentenced by the judges. The judges are the ones who determine the eventual number. The BOC blames Minzey for housing prisoners in lower cost jails rather than releasing them earlier than their original sentences. I think it is better to release those who are not yet determined to be guilty than giving those already found guilty a “get out of jail free” card. Why can’t Washtenaw county build a jail with costs more in line with other communities?


       —Karen Luck    Dec. 7 '06 - 06:37PM    #
  14. Karen,

    At the previously referenced Ypsilanti community meeting, the Jail Administrator explained that part of the cost disparity was that Washtenaw County’s jail was more “old tech” than the jails in many of the surrounding counties, and has much higher staffing costs. I don’t know what all that includes – I gathered that it’s partially a jail layout that requires more staff to monitor cells, and partially security features that require more staff on hand for safety.

    Part of the proposed jail expansion and renovation, I understood from that meeting, would be to address some of these issues, and bring these aspects of the jail up to more “modern” standards. Presumably (I don’t have numbers) the new construction would have per-bed costs more in line with surrounding counties, and the updating of existing facilities would bring existing costs down. The issue is not, as you assert, that Washtenaw can’t build a jail with costs more in line with other communities, but that we haven’t – our lack of capital investment over the years means higher operating costs.

    But, as noted, I’m operating on only partial information here, so you can draw your own conclusions.


       —Murph    Dec. 7 '06 - 07:08PM    #
  15. Hey Karen, you’re on the right track, but I’m way ahead of you. You know what’s even cheaper than jail cells?

    Coffins!

    Think about it, babe.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Dec. 7 '06 - 07:13PM    #
  16. Murph is quite correct. The more modern jail designs require far fewer staff to supervise the inmates. This was all thoroughly discussed at the meetings during the 2005 millage campaign. And to say that boarding out is cheaper is quite wrong because you have to add the costs of transportation (drivers, guards) that I mentioned previously in the thread.

    I am afraid that Ms. Luck is sadly misinformed. The Sheriff has had cost overruns in his budget amounting to over $1 million per year since he was elected. County taxpayers cannot afford such mismanagement.


       —Leah Gunn    Dec. 7 '06 - 08:06PM    #
  17. The Ann Arbor News reported that Lenawee county charges 1/2 the per diem costs and will provide transportation for free. BOC should consider boarding out all jail inmates under these conditions and save the cost of new construction as well!


       —Karen Luck    Dec. 7 '06 - 08:38PM    #
  18. I should have stated Ypsilanti Courier, not AA News.


       —Karen Luck    Dec. 7 '06 - 08:49PM    #
  19. Larry, I opposed the tax increase. Now, the county wants to go the bond route. What does that mean ? In layman’s terms, the county is takig out a mortgage. Is the jail really an asset that they are creating? How will the mortgage be paid ? Which expenditure will be reduced? In fact, the expense will increase, since operating the jail would certainly cost more money. I hope that the citizens of Washtenaw start asking all these questions, if not, I will help them start asking these.

    On the judges side, I feel that Washtenaw has many schmucks as judges. Let us go one by one – An arrest warrant was issued for Boyle for no reason (Connors court), and then it was removed as an error. So, if there were enough jail beds, he would have been in jail for no reason. Bowlds was cited for contempt of court and would have been sent to jail (Archie Brown – is he in bed with Denise Fawcett?-the attorney against bowlds). Bowlds had to bring an attorney from Louisiana to fight it and won in appeals court (local attorneys don’t have the balls to fight these mobsters in black robes in washtenaw). If the jail was big enough, she would have been in jail for no reason. Connors said to an attorney from Dykema Gosset that he would put him in jail because he stood his ground about a federal court order that was supposed to be honored by Connor’s court (bunting’s case). If the jail was big enough, Connors would have sent the attorney to jail. Brian Mackie, brought 700+ cases under domestic violence in 2004 (make a FOIA request, you will see) and almost 50% were dismissed. How many days did these approximately 300 people spend in the jail for no reason. It is time to get answers for these questions before spending washtenaw county citizens’ money. You can look up all the cases I cited and you will find out that I am making accurate statements. If you want, I can cite a lot more. I am sure, you heard from Cahill that Judges are sending people to jail with no rhyme or reason.


       —srini    Dec. 8 '06 - 01:51AM    #
  20. srinni, I sure hope I don’t have to look as far as Louisiana to find a sufficiently endowed attorney to handle my appeals .

    I’ve filed six FOIA suits and the WashCo judges have dismissed all six of them. One judge took care of five of the six. He was the “go to” judge through which, by extrajudicial means, the court administration funneled my other cases.

    I’m just glad I’m a civil plaintiff and not a criminal defendant because I see how the process is manipulated and corrupted when the court personnel take an interest in the proceedings. I would hate to have my life depend on such mischief.


       —Michael Schils    Dec. 8 '06 - 02:48PM    #
  21. Has the BOC come up with a plan to operate the jail if it gets built ? Let us say, approximately 100 beds at 70 dollars a day each cost, $7000 per day and 2.5 Million dollars per year. Which service from general fund will be cut to fund these operations ? Or Bob is going to ask the citizens for another small increase in taxes ?


       —srini    Dec. 9 '06 - 02:07PM    #
  22. What a dubious distinction !

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061209/ts_nm/usa_prisoners_dc

    U.S. has most prisoners in world due to tough laws

    The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people in the higA U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

    The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people in the highest, followed by 611 in Russia and 547 for St. Kitts and Nevis. In contrast, the incarceration rates in many Western industrial nations range around 100 per 100,000 people.

    This was predicted long time ago –

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/archive/1999/03/22/EDITORIAL12399.dtl

    (About 600,000 men and women are held in jails; the other 1.2 million in prisons. And for each inmate, the cost to taxpayers is comparable to the cost of a full-ride scholarship to Stanford. Not much tax money is left over for, say, drug-treatment programs, but that’s another story.)
    =================================================
    Washtenaw County as a forward thinking county, should kick the crooked judges out of office, reduce jail beds and put money into right programs.


       —srini    Dec. 9 '06 - 08:25PM    #
  23. I have posted Jack Minzey’s letter to Matt Harshberger on my blog (as well as Matt’s brief response).

    Minzey calls for a jail of 750 beds, which would be about twice as big as it is now. Therefore, he sees the current proposal of a 96 bed addition as inadequate.

    srini: Yes, the concept is to repay the bonds and operate the jail within current county revenues, which absolutely will mean that there will be less money available for other things.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 11 '06 - 07:34AM    #
  24. Thanks for posting the letters on your blog Larry. 750 beds! I will have to ask what is Minzey smoking. May be the smoke from hash bash is still lingering in Ann Arbor.

    Somewhere on arborupdate I saw that 30% of the current beds were occupied by people charged with domestic violence. 50% of them are being dismissed, means 50 beds can be freed up if they arrest only those where there is some case. (30% of 332 is 100 beds). May be the Sheriff and Brian Mackie start looking at who they are arresting.

    Srini


       —srini    Dec. 12 '06 - 01:50AM    #
  25. At the December 5th Ypsilanti City Council meeting, Kirk Filsinger stated that two-thirds of the jail population was people sentenced to the jail.


       —BrianR    Dec. 12 '06 - 02:40AM    #
  26. I think those figures are reversed, BrianR.


       —David Cahill    Dec. 15 '06 - 06:50PM    #
  27. Yup — I received a report today with “snapshot” jail inmate statistics for 20-some specific dates from June 13 to November 7. On each of those dates, pre-trial inmates outnumbered those who were sentenced. The average was about 213 for pre-trial and 165 for sentenced.

    During that same period, an average of 75% of those in the jail were there for felonies — I presume that means either pending trial or serving a sentence on a felony charge. Presumably those convicted of felonies are ultimately drained off to state prison.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 15 '06 - 08:58PM    #
  28. Just because something is called a felony, it does not mean much, we need to take a look at what it is. Anyone behind on child support by $1 used to be a felony in Michigan. I think it got changed to slightly higher number in the last two years. So, it would be better to look up the details.

    On another note, I am wondering why Washtenaw county refused my FOIA request for telephone bills of Judges in Washtenaw county (the bills belong to finance department). County wants to hide behind “Judiciary is exempt from FOIA”. In that case, no one should know how much Judges get paid, what it costs for jails etc etc.


       —srini    Dec. 16 '06 - 02:40PM    #
  29. OK, I’ll bite.

    Why do you need/think that you should have access to a Judge’s phone bill? Are these for phones at the Courthouse?


       —todd    Dec. 16 '06 - 06:35PM    #
  30. Srini, take a look at the local sex offender registry and check out some of those criminal convictions. Next, consider that plea deals are struck as a result of too few prison beds, so that crimes you see listed are generally less severe than the crime committed.

    The consequences are real.

    http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/last_exit


       —Anna    Dec. 16 '06 - 08:18PM    #
  31. Judges phone bills is a way of showing which judge is talking to which attorney (if it is a cell phone, then both incoming and outgoing records are there). We have a list of all cases in washtenaw county for the last 3 years and we can bring up some intelligence about what is really going on behind the scene in Washtenaw county court, if we can correllate the rulings with attorney calls ! Just a thought, and why should the county be scared of that information if the Judges have nothing to hide.


       —srini    Dec. 17 '06 - 04:38AM    #
  32. 1. Since Washtenaw county and state tax payers are paying for Judge’s phones in the county, there is every right for any citizen to look up the bills which they are paying.

    2. Anna, since you have used a Boston magazine article, I will use a Boston Globe article to show how statistics is hidden, twisted/manipulated to push selective group agendas. That is the reason for asking for details than simply using anecdotal evidence.

    Here is the lead sentence of a Boston Globe article that appeared on May 9, 2002: “Murder is the leading cause of death for Massachusetts mothers in the 21-month period from when they become pregnant until their babies reach their first birthday, according to a state review that shows domestic violence today is more dangerous than medical complications from childbirth.”

    This statement is based on a study carried out by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

    But what are the actual numbers used for the report in that study?

    From 1990 to 1999, here were the causes of death of pregnant or recently-pregnant women:
    • Medical conditions – 152
    • Motor vehicle accidents – 21
    • Domestic violence homicides – 20
    • Other homicides – 10
    • Miscellaneous – 29
    So how do you possibly get from these numbers to the lead sentence above? The answer is: you twist and spin the numbers, or just plainly hide the complete details of the numbers.


       —srini    Dec. 17 '06 - 05:01AM    #
  33. Whatever.

    I suppose you’ve never had any experience with the court system. If you don’t trust the data, go sit in court during a murder or rape trial or two. Better, stand in the hallways outside of court and listen to plea negotiations. Miscarriages of justice happen, but there are some scary people locked up in prisons; people who deserve to be there and should be there for the good of the rest of us.

    As for your numbers above, I have no idea whether those are the “actual” numbers or not, but murder is second only to “other medical conditions” (i.e., 10+20 = 29). Who knows what’s in that miscellaneous category? Who knows what time frame those stats are covering (i.e., do they follow the mother for 21 months? Doesn’t sound like it. If it’s 9 months, who knows what happens in the rest of those 12 months). Weak.


       —Anna    Dec. 17 '06 - 06:31AM    #
  34. I have a lot of experience with the court system. I have gone to Supreme Court of Michigan for giving public comments on Rule changes. I have sat through many cases. So, I have heard enough about this lock them up. More people per capita are locked up in USA (more than russia, more than china) and it is no better. Just because some media wants to harp about violence does not mean one should not look seriously at the stats. The stats that I provided in my posting are accurate, so don’t tell me they are weak.

    May be you should read Freaknomics by Steven Levitt. His stats (he is a economics professor at univ of chicago, with degrees from harvard and MIT, so he should know what he is talking about)show that children in USA are killed more by swimming pools at home than gun accidents at home. So, we should make laws to stop building swimming pools at home than stopping guns. It would really make a difference in the lives of more children. If you have a gun at home and a swimming pool, what is more dangerous for children? Swimming pool! Just because media wants to make a big issue of whatever they want to say does not mean that the media is accurate.


       —srini    Dec. 17 '06 - 02:38PM    #
  35. There is no “freedom of information” at Washtenaw County because of who they put in charge. The same individual who holds the position of “Risk Management Coordinator” is also the “FOIA Coordinator”. So the same person whose job is to protect the County from lawsuits is also the one who decides what information is released.

    Now how’s that for a conflict of interests.


       —Michael Schils    Dec. 21 '06 - 01:12AM    #
  36. Did anyone else read the comment made by an inmate of the county jail in yesterday’s Ann Arbor News? It certainly doesn’t support the claim of either horrible conditions due to overcrowding or outdated facilities.

    “Another inmate Bill Ujczak of Dearborn, served 35 days of a 60-day sentence for failing to pay child support. He described himself as “a truck driver by trade,’‘ but said lost his driver’s license.

    “I had a home and stuff before I came in here,’‘ he said. “Now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.’‘

    Ujczak dismissed concerns about crowding inside the jail. “This is kind of a hyped-up plan so they can get money for a new jail,’‘ he said. “This is a Hilton as far as jails go.’‘ “


       —Karen Luck    Feb. 15 '07 - 01:42PM    #
  37. Right, as far as he’s concerned, heaven forbid the county spends money expanding the jail, so that mass releases like this one would no longer be necessary.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Feb. 15 '07 - 05:19PM    #
  38. It is interesting that the television cameras, the photographer, and the reporters were all positioneed to capture the release of the *male prisoners, but not the females. It’s like the orchestraters had a specific image in mind and the pictures of women who may even be mothers leaving confinement, just wouldn’t cut it.

    This riff between the sheriff and the board is mildly amusing. Kind of like two drunks arguing over whether to spend someone else’s money to buy a case of beer, or a keg.


       —Michael Schils    Feb. 16 '07 - 12:53AM    #