|Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills|
It’s without purpose, and I hope Oakland County Commissioner Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, starts backpedaling on statements he made at a Thursday council meeting in Pontiac faster than a DVD can rewind.
Greimel told the council and city residents at the public meeting that there was reason to believe Republican communities were receiving free services from the county’s animal control while Democratic communities were not.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Mike Zehnder, director of public services for Oakland County, which oversees animal control. “I look at Tim Greimel as an educated man, but some of the things that come out of his mouth disprove that theory.”
Zehnder added: “Politics breeds all kinds of ridiculous statements.”
|Mike Zehnder feeds rescued horses last year|
It is absolutely crazy to me that as one community after another finds itself in a pinch, having to cut animal control and seek out help from the county, the county is somehow getting the blame for having not provided these “free services” to the community all along.
I saw an article on some Ferndale wanna-be news website earlier this year on basically the same thing. The article touted how a Ferndale official “uncovered” the county’s “free animal control services” like it was some huge secret kept from Ferndale all these years. Like it was the county’s fault that Ferndale was forced to sink all their dollars into providing their own animal control when the county could’ve been taking care of it “for free” all along.
Let’s clear the air on a few things here:
1) There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or free services, for that matter. If people don’t stop referring to Oakland County Animal Control’s services as free, I’m going to scream. Are you hearing yourselves say this? It’s not free. How could it be free? Does that even make sense?
The county’s animal control is paid for by tax dollars, just like the rest of the services provided by the county and services provided by government everywhere at all levels. Taxes are collected from residents, governments decide how to spend it. In this case, Oakland County spends some of the tax revenue it collects to provide animal control services.
What people mean to say is, “Oakland County Animal Control provides services at no cost to some Oakland County communities.” This means, the county doesn’t make the community pay extra to have services. Does it make the services free, like they appear out of thin air? No. It makes them “free of charge” to individual communities.
2) Oakland County Animal Control provides animal control services in communities that do not provide those same services themselves. Makes sense, right? No need to be duplicating services. And so, the rule is that so long as a community has opted to provide its own animal control services, the county will stay out and let them do their thing.
On the other hand, state law mandates counties provide animal control services for communities that don’t provide their own. Northern, rural and largely Republican communities — like Oxford and Addison Townships — never provided their own animal control and have always received services from the county, as mandated by the state.
The county did not force any communities to provide their own services. Perhaps those communities, in more abundant times, thought it’d be better to have their own animal control for whatever reasons — more local control, belief the community could provide better services, etc. But for whatever reasons, several historically Democrat communities in south Oakland County decided, a long time ago, that their local government would be directly in charge of and pay for animal control services.
It was not the county saying to the communities, “Do it yourself because we’re not helping you out because your residents are largely Democrats and county government is largely Republican.” That assumption is not true and serves no purpose other than to divide people.
3) Oakland County Animal Control is prohibited from providing services in communities which have ordinances stating the city will provides it own. Those communities need to rescind their ordinances in order for Oakland County to begin providing services at no charge to the individual community. This is where Pontiac is at. The city council needs to rescind its animal control ordinance and then the county can begin providing services there.
4) Lots of communities that had previously provided their own, city-run animal control offices are nixing them during these financially dire times. Oakland County Animal Control is not turning a blind eye to this. In fact, the county’s board of commissioners — and since Greimel is one, he should be aware of this — voted to increase funding for animal control by $500,000 in order to meet the needs of the county’s many communities who have or are expected to nix their own animal control agencies.
Oakland County even has a plan in place for providing services in Pontiac, ready to allocate four officers and two trucks specific to the city.
A day after the meeting, Greimel later called the history of the county’s animal control “long and complicated” and said “Many local communities chose to provide their own animal control services, and at some point, the county animal control said ‘OK, a number of rural northern communities aren’t.’” He added that no formal policy was made until recent inquiries, which prompted a policy to be written and adopted.
I don’t know about all this policy stuff, but I think the state law makes it pretty clear — if a community is not providing animal control services itself, the county government must provide those services to the community.
That is what has been taking place in our county.
It’s not about Republicans vs. Democrats and frankly, it’s irresponsible of Greimel to spread that viewpoint at a time when the city of Pontiac is turning to the county government to provide more and more services.
Just last week, the deal with Oakland County Sheriff’s Office taking over police services in Pontiac was announced. Lots of city residents have expressed anxiety about this. To spread a false point of view that the county government was discriminating against cities based on how its residents tend to vote only serves to increase anxiety amongst residents already nervous about having county officials providing what used to be city-services.
Shame on Greimel. This is petty politics at its worst.
Want to learn more about this topic? Check out these stories
Monday, March 14 — Pontiac city officials might rescind animal control ordinances
Saturday, December 12 — Oakland County Animal Control prepares for expanded services as communities tighten budgets