A welcome ‘voice of reason’ is heard at last

March 15, 2012  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.


We are relieved to find ourselves in some good company.

Somebody else simply doesn’t understand the conduct of the Plymouth Township administration.

Last week, after watching the shenanigans in the township for months, Northville Director of Public Safety John Werth appeared at the meeting of the board of trustees and politely asked if he could speak.

When he did, he left Supervisor Richard Reaume stammering, Treasurer Ron Edwards sputtering and shouting accusations and insults and other trustees with wide-eyes and nervous tics. He also brought forth some surprised reactions from many of the residents who crowded the township hall for the first meeting since the board laid off a third of the firefighters and closed the fire station that serves the largest subdivision in the township.

Werth was professional, calm and effective as he spoke. He told the board members that he agreed with them that they had the right to set the level of service, but once they did, they had to “own it.”

Amen to that.

He specifically told Reaume that he needed to begin to answer residents’ questions about the issue. Another point with which we heartily agree. He made many more salient points at the meeting, but the quote most remembered will probably be: “My family lives in the township. Eight people I love live in the township. Your actions have made me concerned for their safety.”

When a man of Werth’s long experience with public safety management, both police and fire, makes a statement like that, it behooves his neighbors to listen to what he has to say. We have long ago taken a stand that the drastic cuts in public safety in Plymouth Township pose a threat to residents there, but we also understand the financial constraints township officials face in attempting to balance the budget after the loss of revenue from the City of Plymouth.

What we don’t understand is this board’s determination to thwart the will of the electorate and conniving to ensure that the layoffs of the firefighters take place. These trustees contrived to ignore the petition signatures of 3,000 people by any means possible. They fought the will of the people who elected them to have a special millage question on the ballot to allow residents the right to vote on the issue. Even after a court order, they denied residents the right to vote on a 1-mill question, raising it to 10 mills to ensure failure so that they could impose their will on a mostly unsuspecting public.

We have said we feel this is a denial of the constitutional rights of the citizens to vote and the actions of this board infringe on the rights guaranteed to American citizens in the constitution.

What kind of leadership does this arrogant demagoguery demonstrate? Certainly not what Americans should expect at every level of their government.

Werth told the trustees that he could run a fire department with one firefighter if necessary, but it wouldn’t be the right thing or a safe thing to do. He also told them that this was a management and negotiation issue. His other quote which rang through the chambers was damning, indeed. “I’d love to negotiate with these guys,” Werth said, referring to the firefighters union officials who have already offered more in concessions than the township officials demanded.

We don’t understand the rush to lay off these firefighters when binding arbitration is currently under way. We don’t understand the contrivance of this board to avoid listening to and answering the public. We don’t understand the disregard for public safety and failure to find an objective, credible expert to offer advice in both negotiation and operations. We don’t understand the disregard of these board members for the constitutional rights of the citizens or their ignorance of the legal jeopardy in which they have placed the township should a court take up their assault on the civil rights of the residents, and some may say, the individual firefighters.

Werth, who is rumored as a possible opponent of Reaume in the August election, obviously doesn’t understand either.

If somebody as smart, as experienced in municipal public safety and as respectful of the responsibilities of elected officials as Werth appears to be can’t make sense of the conduct of Plymouth Township officials, well, as we said, we’re in good company.

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