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Commissioners considering resolution to raise property taxes 30 percent**

**Now that I have your attention, if your jaw dropped and your wallet screamed when you thought about your property taxes going up 30 percent, why would you NOT react that same way to a 30 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in our community in September?

What if the number of traffic deaths rose 30 percent in one month? Or the number of drug overdoses rose 30 percent? Could you call that “flattened” with a straight face?

I ask these questions because Livingston County Commissioner Wes Nakagiri thinks our community’s COVID-19 numbers — which rose by 30 percent overall in September — have “flattened,” and he’s pushing for mask mandates for visitors in Livingston County buildings to become voluntary.

Based on Commissioner Nakagiri’s theory that a 30 percent increase is “flattened,” he’s pushing to have us depend on the kindness of strangers to remain safe from COVID-19 in Livingston County’s buildings. Presumably, county buildings include our courthouses, the jail, the east complex (which houses the drain commissioner and the health department), the animal shelter, the airport, EMS, 911 Central Dispatch, maybe even the LETS buses. County buildings serve a lot of county residents and employ a lot of them, too. Why, when the science proves masks keep us safe, does Commissioner Nakagiri want to make us less so.

Does this make sense to you as Livingston County’s numbers — like those in Michigan and across the U.S. — are on the rise?

Consider, too, as Nakagiri starts the slow march to a mask-less community, that September’s 30 percent increase comes on the heel’s of a nearly 44 percent increase in number of COVID-19 cases in August.

If I were a cynical person, I’d say Commissioner Nakagiri thinks we’re a bunch of dopes.

For those of you who prefer math to political stunts and spin, here is how Livingston County fared on the COVID-19 front in September: The percentage of cases rose 30 percent overall.

THIRTY PERCENT.

And the groups that saw the greatest increase are our young people.

The number of cases for those 20-29 rose 49 percent — from 165 at the beginning of September to 246 at the end. And the number of cases for those under 20 rose nearly 34 percent — from 215 at the beginning of September to 287 at the end. This means that on Sept. 30, there were 533 people in our community under the age of 20 who now have a pre-existing condition that will be with them the rest of their lives.

Think about that: 533 people under the age of 30 — about the number of souls inside the average Livingston County elementary school on any given day — are now having to deal with COVID-19.

So, I have to ask Commissioner Nakagiri to explain to us how — in just the month of September — a rise of 49 percent and 34 percent in our two youngest age groups — and 30 percent across all age groups — is anywhere near being “flattened”?

If your taxes went up 30 percent, Commissioner Nakagiri, would you shrug your shoulders and open your wallet?

While COVID-19 and property taxes are apples and oranges, a 30 percent increase is a 30 percent increase.

The door for Nakagiri opened a crack when the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the law under which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a series of COVID-19 restrictions in the form of Executive Orders.

Commissioner Nakagiri was on WKAR’s “Off The Record” with Tim Skubick recently, and there’s been some social media yakking about Nakagiri’s inability to denounce the Proud Boys during his interview. While I didn’t find that noteworthy, my ears perked up when Nakagiri said he thinks decisions on COVID-19 restrictions should be made county-by-county. (I guess he’s looking at how successful the every-state-for-itself strategy has worked in the U.S. now that over 210,000 people are dead, a number greater than the entire population of Livingston County.)

Then, a couple days later, Commissioner Nakagiri’s subcommittee advanced a resolution on a 4-0 vote that will make the wearing of masks for visitors to Livingston County’s buildings optional.

Sounds like these commissioners are heading down the path to turn Livingston County into the recent super spreading White House territory that resulted in the president, guests at the event, and a lot of the White House staff testing positive for COVID-19.

Think that’s unlikely to happen here? Apparently, the Livingston County GOP, which has had a virtual stranglehold on our county government for years, thinks COVID-19 is either a Democrat hoax or not all that dangerous.

Check out these pictures of Saturday’s Trump Road Rally in Howell, which took place ironically as the president was at Walter Reed Medical Center for treatment of COVID-19. You’ll see the creme de la creme of Livingston County’s Republican political elite — from our state legislators to our county officials to the Republican congressional candidate, and everyone in between — whooping it up like it was 1999. Or like they are at the White House welcoming a Supreme Court nominee. And I’ve been able to identify just one mask in the group. (There might be more, but I don’t see them. If you find more than one, please let me know.)

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When it comes down to it, maybe we should make the use of car seats for kids voluntary. Or seatbelts. Or texting while driving. Maybe we can make shirts and shoes optional in restaurants. Maybe Commissioner Nakagiri can figure out a way to also repeal no smoking laws in the county’s public buildings.

This move is reminiscent of how Nakagiri led the charge to eliminate insurance coverage for elective abortion for Livingston County’s non-union employees, arguably the least powerful people in county government. It’s how he gets it done: chip, chip, chipping away, bottom up. And who am I to pick nits with his approach because, so far, he’s been successful.

The resolution goes before the Livingston County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. And you can express your opinion: Nakagiri has asked for feedback on the proposal. Of course, he’s only asked his Facebook friends (unless I missed the press release), but I’ve got the info for you here if you want to provide our county officials your view of the issue.

And I’d skip using the commissioners@livgov.com address as Commissioner Nakagiri suggests as it likely goes to a general mailbox to be seen first by a non-elected person. When I make my opinion known, I like to make sure it gets right to the person responsible, so I’ve provided you links below.

District 1: Kate Lawrence (who, as a member of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor). Email her here.
District 2: William Green (who, as a member of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor). Email him here.
District 3: Wes Nakagiri (who, as chairman of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor) — email him here.
District 4: Douglas Helzerman — email him here.
District 6: Robert Bezotte — email him here.
District 7: Carol S. Griffith — email her here.
District 8: Jerome Gross (who, as a member of the subcommittee advancing the resolution, voted in its favor) — no contact info available
District 9: Gary Childs — email him here.

And while you ponder all that, here is the LivPo’s month-end chart of COVID-19 cases in the community, which looks anything but flat:

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Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. These days, she runs The Livingston Post, and is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.

7 Comments

  1. Wear a mask. WEAR a mask. WEAR A MASK! Do I enjoy it? NO! But it’s not difficult. We all put on pants to leave the house everyday and that doesn’t even save lives, so why is it so hard to put on a mask?! It’s temporary, people. TEMPORARY! Just wear the stupid mask. Nobody is trying to revoke your freedom. We’re simply trying to save lives. WEAR A MASK! When this is all over in 6 months or a year or 2 years or however long it takes, we can gather together and have a giant mask burning if that’s the motivation you need. Just PLEASE, stop whining and wear the mask.

  2. Wes is fighting the demons of his own mind. A while back it was stripping non-unionized women working for the county of their right to healthcare which included elective abortion. It is easy to do this when you are in power. The chair of the board insisted that all commentary be directed to him. Such bravado on Wes’s part.

    And now Wes is taking on another tough and challenging project, allowing people to go optionally maskless in the county offices. Wow Wes, you are really working hard. When I was there during the county commission meeting and the chair was giving you shelter from the onslaught of questions, I suggested a harder project project for you such as fixing roads. At that time 50% of them were in poor condition which requires a major rebuild. It has improved since then to 33%; but, there still is another 38% of county roads in Fair condition.

    Lana Theis said the Governor can not use bonds to repair the roads. So this is going to be a tough job to complete, Looking at your resume of taking away elective abortion for women and now allowing people not to wear masks gives me the impression you need a harder project. I suggest you work on getting our roads fixed.

    It should not be that hard as the state Senate has been controlled by Repubs since 1990 and the the State House has been controlled 80% of the time since 1990. Simple Ballotpedia. Repubs have both branches in 2020. Perhaps talk to them and make a proposal to fix our roads in place of worrying about masks and whether women have an abortion. I might even applaud your efforts then.

  3. FAKE NEWS! Taxes are not going up 30%. If they were, that would impact every homeowner and the effect would be long-lasting; likely scores of years. The headline is shameful and misleading. The use of Covid to create fear, impact elections, and shutter businesses is shameful. Covid 19 is a serious virus. It’s easily spread. It impacts some segments of society harshly. But, it does not warrant the measures that have been taken. Politicians like to say, “Follow the science.” Well, the science differs. There are many epidemiologists that believe we should take aggressive efforts to protect the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, but that the rest of society should continue as normal, without masks! Herd immunity is as real as gravity. You may not see it, but the effects are there. our government’s over-reach as it relates to this virus may be the reason it’s still a lingering threat. We are Americans. We are a free people. I, for one, applaud the effort of the Livingston County Commissioners. As a side note, when will this publication publish an article about the number of persons who died in nursing homes and Senior Living Centers? When will this publication do a study on the number of people in the USA who have died from Covid-19 SOLELY (no other conditions)? When will this publication publish the number of YTD deaths in the USA compared to 20108 and 2019. Look it up. You may be surprised.

      • A little John. S Mill to back you up: That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant … Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign. taken from “On Liberty.”

    • Randy, please stop spreading lies. The CDC reports that so far this year, 2.39 million Americans have died of all causes. At the same point in both 2018 and 2019, it was 2.17 million. The difference nearly matches the reported number of COVID-19 victims. Death certificates take upwards of 2 months to process so you can expect the number to be quite a bit higher. If Livingston county wants to keep the kids in school you better keep the masks on. I for one do not want to shutdown and home school as it destroys productivity.

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