Commissioners float idea of using broadband bucks to replace COVID funds they’ve refused to accept

8 mins read

This is what we’ve feared: The Livingston County Board of Commissioners is going to find a bazillion ways to chip away at its $37.5 MILLION in funds from the American Rescue Plan, getting our community no closer to a high-speed, fiber-optic broadband system. (You can read about broadband by clicking here.)

Let me explain:

Last year, the commissioners voted to accept federal funds through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to pay for its COVID response. This year? They’ve decided to not accept the money. Wes Nakagiri, chair of the board of commissioners, actually voted FOR the COVID funding before he voted AGAINST it. If you want details of the Nakagiri flip-flop, click here.

But the board isn’t actually as dumb as its vote suggests. Nope. The board knows the health department needs the funds it turned down, and it’s got a plan, a really big plan, to do an end-run around its vaccination bogeyman and get the health department the money it needs.

Wondering where those funds might come from?

Wonder no more, dear reader, because the trial balloon has been floated to take $2 MILLION from the ARP funds — which the board says isn’t enough to get the community a high-speed, fiber-optic broadband system anyhow — and use it to replace the funds it turned down for the Livingston County Health Department.

(And, FYI, someone who knows something about broadband told me the going price for high-speed, fiber-optic cable is $1 MILLION a mile. This means that our commissioners are considering trading two miles worth of broadband funding so that they don’t have to accept funds meant to be used only for COVID response.)

Another interesting thing about these funds is that state Rep. Ann Bollin, in her role on the state Appropriations Committee, joined her fellow committee members in a unanimous vote to accept the federal funds for dispersing to Michigan’s counties for COVID response. A UNANIMOUS VOTE! And then Bollin — along with state Rep. Bob Bezotte and state Sen. Lana Theis — appeared at a recent event at the Livingston County Health Department to protest taking the very same funds she voted to accept.

So, I have to ask: which Michigan county will get the money meant for Livingston? And what will Livingston County do without those funds?

Fear not. Our commissioners have a plan: Check out this post on commissionerwes.com, which is basically Nakagiri trotting down grievance lane and floating his culture-war talking points du jour with the head of Saint Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital, who had written him in the hopes of the county accepting the COVID funds. Since I think your eyes might glaze over before you get all the way to the end, I’ll save you the time by giving you the most important nugget in the piece, and show you what the future holds.

Monoclonal antibodies are effective, but the drawback — at least in my mind — is that they are used after someone becomes infected and meets the criteria for use, and that they are more expensive than the vaccine. You can read more about them here and here. What’s ironic is that those who tout monoclonal antibodies because COVID vaccines were tested using aborted fetal cells from the 1970s don’t realize that that’s how the monoclonal antibodies were tested, too. This leaves those who oppose vaccines on strict pro-life reasons essentially with no treatment at all. You can read more about that by clicking here.

Apparently, the ARP funds have been burning a hole in the pockets of the county board. And after Nakagiri first proposed it, Martin Smith, our newest county commissioner who was recently appointed to fill Kate Lawrence’s seat after she abruptly resigned, proposed the same financial sleight of hand during the commissioners’ epic day of meetings on Wednesday this week.

It’s going to happen, dear reader: The commissioners are going to take that first step toward chip, chip, chipping away at the money meant for infrastructure-type things in Livingston County — including broadband — rather than take funds meant specifically for the health department to use against COVID. And that first chip is going to be a lot like the first puff on a crack pipe, and before you know it, the $37.5 MILLION windfall will end up going to the commissioners’ wrong-headed culture-war schemes, and high-speed, fiber-optic broadband will go up in smoke.

The commissioners know the health department needs the funds it turned down to run its COVID activities, but they won’t accept money from the feds for COVID funding because they fear … what? Apparently, our commissioners think the health department will go rogue, and director Dianne McCormick will command a guerrilla band of vaccinators who will — shots in hand — go door-to-door to hunt down those in the community who haven’t been vaccinated, and when they find them, they’ll jab them with a huge dose of protection against COVID.

Never mind what Livingston County’s medical and public health professionals say. Our commissioners apparently prefer to get their medical and scientific info from Fox News (which has a vaccine mandate in place for its employees), and social media.

It’s simply crazy. These are the people in charge of leading our community. These are the people in charge of the health department, which oversees our public health. These are the people who should make decisions that are best for the community as a whole.

I have no idea what the county Democrats are planning for 2022; if I were them, I’d be pouring every ounce of energy and treasure into replacing these commissioners. I will also be lighting candles that reasonable Republicans come out to run against these radical commissioners in the primary. We have been shown time and again since January that this board is incapable of putting the community ahead of its politics. It can’t crawl out of its culture-war foxhole, and it won’t get us anywhere near state-of-the-art, high-speed, fiber-optic broadband.

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  1. I remind the County Commissioners of their Mission as published on the County’s website:

    “The mission of Livingston County is to be an effective and efficient steward in delivering quality services within the constraints of sound fiscal policy. Our priority is to provide mandated services which may be enhanced and supplemented to improve the quality of life for all who work, reside and recreate in Livingston County.”

    Refusing $1.5 million is not sound fiscal policy. Refusing $1.5 million based on personally held religious beliefs is a serous transgression and betrayal of your civic responsibilities. Those personal beliefs should have zero bearing on fiscal decisions affecting the entire county. I remind the Board that taxpayers’ dollars come from many sources beyond the members of their tax-exempt religious establishments. While all are free to believe in our own way, we are not free to impose our beliefs on each other. Nor should our personal beliefs be controlling decisions pertaining to and affecting ALL who work, reside, and recreate in Livingston County.

  2. Congratulations, Maria. You have successfully completed your DNC assignment of fear porn and distribution of MSNBC talking points. Great job. And your enthusiasm for using taxpayer money as if it is a self-replicating pile of cash protected by rainbows and unicorns is first rate. You make it easy to play “Spot the Democrat”.

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