March 26, 2006, 10:23 am
Local School on Comics Page. This morning's Speed Bump comic strip, on the first
page of the Ann Arbor
News Sunday comic section, shows several kindergartners in "letter
jackets". On the left edge of the panel, the back of one jacket is partly
visible with "Eberw-" and "Element-".
Is this a reference to Ann Arbor's own Eberwhite Elementary
School? Yes! Turns out the cartoonist, Dave Coverly, lives in
Eberwhite's attendance area. And the sign on the left edge of the panel
looks like it has the Ann
Arbor Public Schools logo.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
March 13, 2006, 3:45 pm
From the Clerk-Register. Today's message to my staff.
Most of us came to work through the rain this morning. The rain has
stopped for the moment, but another line of storms will be here soon. A
tornado watch has been called.
It's pretty easy to feel downcast on a gray day when rain is falling on
your head, when passing cars and trucks splash dirty water on your clothes
or your windshield. Unless we are farmers or gardeners, we don't usually
consider the lifegiving aspect of rain. Wet, annoyed, and in a hurry, we
all think first of our own inconvenience and discomfort.
At least we don't take it personally. Setbacks and frustrations and
accidents are part of the human condition, as are joys and
accomplishments, and we learn to take the bad with the good.
But some people don't see it that way. Bad things don't happen by
accident; they're all arranged by an evil conspiracy. Every small
disaster is seen as further proof of this. There are no coincidences in
the world of a paranoid person, no loose ends. Everything means
something, because the conspiracy controls it all.
The word "paranoid" is not a synonym for "fearful". Paranoid people
are very sure of themselves. They know what is going on, and see
the rest of us as na´ve or ignorant.
Nor does paranoid mean "crazy". Though paranoia can be a delusion, a
symptom of mental illness, it certainly affects a lot of otherwise normal
and rational people.
Paranoia is rampant in competitive endeavors like business, sports, and
politics. After all, the other team certainly doesn't have your best
interests at heart, and it's a short step from there to seeing the "enemy"
as having hidden alliances and powers to control all kinds of things.
Paranoid explanations of world events may seem nonsensical at first
glance, but they gain unexpected credence because they're neater and more
emotionally appealing. Instead of multiple independent actors capable of
doing evil, a paranoid sees them all working together in an all-powerful
Of course, like anyone, paranoid individuals come to the
Clerk-Register's office to transact business with us. In extreme cases,
they may be condescending (if they see you as an innocent dupe) or hostile
(if they see you as part of the conspiracy).
But regardless of deluded motivation, they are still our customers.
If someone brings you an impossible request, calmly explain that you
cannot fulfill it. These situations can be stressful; it is important to
keep your cool and treat the customer with courtesy and respect.
And maybe some day they will come to realize we weren't plotting
against them after all.
Let's have a great week!
Update, March 16: Following a comment pointing out the issue, I
changed "unusual or impossible request" to simply "impossible request".
"Unusual" requests should be no problem in my office.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
March 7, 2006, 9:05 pm
MARD v. MLTA, continued. For those of you who were still curious
after the last
installment of this soap opera, here's more:
Conflict has escalated between the Michigan Association of Registers of
Deeds (MARD), representing the 83 county officials whose offices maintain
the state's land records, and the Michigan Land Title Association
(MLTA), a trade group representing title insurance companies.
Most Michigan counties have two separate positions of "County Clerk"
and "Register of Deeds"; Washtenaw County has combined them, so I am both
County Clerk and Register of Deeds, and thus a member of MARD.
Title companies are the most avid users of land records, especially the
most recently filed land records, since they want to be sure that the
titles they are insuring are safe from last-minute liens or other
encumbrances. Obviously they want to get access to the information as
cheaply as possible, and they are frustrated by the smaller counties which
continue to charge the statutory rate of $1 per page, even if the page is
delivered as a digital image. Counties that do "bulk sales" of deed
images at a reduced rate often restrict resale of the information, so as
to maximize the number of entities buying directly from the county.
The title companies have been pushing legislation (House
Bill 5124) to put some of their desires into law, and this has
been strenuously opposed by MARD. A hearing of the House Local Government
Committee had been scheduled in Lansing tomorrow morning on the bill, and
both sides were organizing to get lots of interested folks to show up and
testify. Suddenly, this afternoon, the hearing was canceled.
Earlier, MARD president Lori Wilson (Montcalm
County Register of
Deeds) sent the following to a legislator, copied to other
Registers of Deeds:
President of MLTA Jerome Jelenick call me last week with a threat, if
we don't support HB5124 then are hurting our Counties. That the Register
of Deeds offices will be getting sued and not only a couple of them, all
of them! He said we will have more in attorney fee's than we would ever
lose in bulk sales. I think he is getting scared that his bill isn't going
anywhere so he is trying the scare tactic. I told him that with the law
suits that are facing the Register's and now with his treats I didn't feel
that we could ever negotiate and come up with wording that we agree on
therefore I would see him in Lansing. He couldn't even agree to disagree,
must be he is losing lots of money and wants to make it up at the
Today, just after 5:00 pm, MLTA president Jerome Jelinek sent the
following reply to the Registers of Deeds (along with a copy of Lori
Wilson's message quoted above):
Subject: Response to Lori Wilson E-mail
Dear MARD Members:
I just received a copy of the attached e-mail attributable to your
president, Lori Wilson. Given the gross inaccuracies contained in the
e-mail and the overall irresponsible action of distributing such
misinformation, I feel it necessary to respond.
As you may read for yourself, Lori indicates that I threatened mass
litigation if HB 5124 was not supported by MARD. First, I have not and
would not make any "threats" regarding this issue. I have and will
continue to conduct MLTA business in a professional manner.
Second, additional litigation and continued escalation of acrimonious
behavior between Register of Deeds and those in the title industry is
exactly what I have been fighting against since my term as president of
the Michigan Land Title Association began last summer. Litigation is a
wasteful process and should be avoided if at all possible. Furthermore,
Register of Deeds and title companies have worked well together for
decades; many still do. We are, in many ways, mutually dependent.
Efforts by those to distance and destroy these long standing relationships
are extremely regrettable and, in my opinion, constitute poor
What I most recently communicated to Lori Wilson was in response to her
informing me that MARD was not in any way going to attempt to compromise
and resolve this dispute. I informed Lori that as presidents of our
respective associations, I felt it our obligation and in the best
interests of both associations to resolve this matter through compromise
and get back to our long history of working together to resolve common
issues. A legislative compromise is our best hope of avoiding the current
dark environment of lawsuits and appeals leading to more lawsuits and more
appeals. I assured Lori that doing nothing, affecting no compromise as
Lori indicated MARD supports, would not end the litigation mess that
currently exists. I told Lori directly, if that happens, I would equate
it as failure on my part and hers.
Reasonable people and groups may disagree. In the grand scheme of
things, this is a mighty small issue that professionals in your
organization ought to be able to resolve with the professionals in my
organization. It does not warrant and we should not permit the type of
emotion, false information and demagoguery that clouds the minds necessary
to resolve this dispute. On behalf of the members of the MLTA, we would
welcome your constructive efforts to fix this problem so we may proceed to
mutually address others confronting the real estate industry. Thank
Jerome E. Jelinek
President, Michigan Land Title Association
Update, March 10: I received this yesterday, from the president
To MARD Members,
I would like to thank every Register who sent letters, made phone
calls, met with their Representative asking them to oppose HB5124. With
all your hard work we were successful, the committee hearing was canceled
because they knew they didn't have the votes to get it out of committee.
A few of us met with Lew in Lansing yesterday, the work isn't over, they
are working on some kind of amendments and they will try and bring this up
again. So at a moments notice I might be asking you all once again to
come to Lansing. They know what they are doing, between MARD and MAC we
had to many members that were going to be in Lansing opposing HB5124.
The next time they might not give us as much notice so we can't have as
many people there to oppose it. I would like everyone who has a
Representative that sits on the Local Government and Urban Policy
Committee to send out a letter to their Representative and thank them for
their support and ask them if this is going to come up again for a vote to
please contact you before the meeting.
As many of you know from all the emails that you have been getting it
is an extremely emotional time. I have not and will not respond to Jerome
Jelineks email, I do not feel that I need to defend myself or our
Association to him. He knows full well were our Association stands on
HB5124 and he doesn't like it that we are winning the battle and
protecting our Counties that put us in Office.
I hope to see everyone in Clare on April 9 & 10. I will have an agenda
for you soon.
Again I can't thank you all enough. Remember TEAM work is Together
Everyone Accomplishes More.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
March 1, 2006, 2:32 pm
From the Clerk-Register. Yesterday's message to my staff.
Today is Election Day in Augusta Township, where they're voting on the
recall of two officials, and in the parts of Ypsilanti and Salem townships
which are in the Northville and Van Buren school districts.
Across the state, I think people are coming to know and appreciate the
new schedule of (only) four elections per year: February, May, August, and
November. I'm very disappointed that the Governor ignored this schedule
when she set a special primary and special election to fill a state senate
vacancy. Under the law, she has broad discretion to set special election
dates, but she could have used that discretion to reinforce a consistent
message about when voting takes place.
We have, in effect, a hierarchy of elections, with levels of
participation such that we also have a hierarchy of voters.
If you vote in presidential elections in November every four years,
you're a foot soldier in the great army of democracy. You have a voice in
the final round of choosing the world's most important elected official.
In Washtenaw County, there were 174,061 of you who voted in the
If you also vote in the congressional and gubernatorial elections in
November every two years, you've promoted yourself to corporal, a step
more influential, helping decide who runs the state capitols, the U.S.
House and Senate, the state House and Senate. In November 2002, this
county had 108,382 "corporals" take part.
If you vote in the August primary elections every two years, you're
like a sergeant, helping set up the choices that everyone else will have
in November. In 2004, we had 36,794 "sergeants" making those
If you vote in your local school elections, or in city or village
elections for mayor or village president and city or village council,
you're like a major, with a large voice in the world of education, or in
the operation of your local government. The last round of city and
village elections drew just 15,119 voters; the 2005 school board
elections, only 17,778.
If you relate those last numbers back to the first one, that means that
about 90% of the presidential election voters get no say in school and
Election consolidation is at least an attempt to change that ratio.
Starting last year, school elections are no longer held in mid-June, after
the school year is over, when many families are on vacation, but rather,
in early May. They're now held on Tuesdays, like all other elections.
For most people, school elections are now held in the same polling places
as used in presidential elections.
In short, we have taken away some of the stumbling blocks which kept
people away from taking part, and made it easier for a broader cross
section of voters to participate.
But this year's school board elections (most of them will be on May
2nd) are not likely to draw many voters - because the candidates didn't
show up. About half of the school board members whose terms are up this
year are unopposed. That can't mean that everyone is happy about the
state of the schools - a glance at any local newspaper in recent weeks
would demonstrate otherwise. But few are willing to step up to the
challenge of seeking election and serving on these boards.
The best chance of changing that is to expand the pool of people who
participate in these local elections. When the whole community takes
part, when knowledge is not confined to the few, better decisions
Let's have a great week!
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
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