Local government is often said to be superior in many respects to state and federal government because it can respond more quickly, is said to be in better tune with the needs of its constituents and usually comes in personal contact with constituents on a far more regular basis.
However, local government is just as capable as its bigger counterparts of entangling residents in bureaucratic red tape that leaves people confused, irritated and, often, unwittingly in violation of the law.
Take the above sign, near an elementary school in White Lake, Mich., which is in the Detroit metro area.
Instead of simply installing a flashing light when the speed limit drops to 25 miles per hour, or having wording to the effect that the speed limit is 25 miles per hour from, say, 6 a.m.-9 a.m. and again from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., officials have detailed five 30-minute periods and one 26-minute period in which the limit drops to 25 mph.
And, as one can see, they’re all oddball segments, rather than, say, 7:00 a.m.-7:30 a.m., further enhancing befuddlement.
No one disputes that newspapers are in serious decline: The question that remains unanswered is how far they will fall.
A recent conversation with a local attorney offered evidence of the industry’s decline. His is a family of six: two college-educated parents and four kids who all attend private school and will almost certainly go on to college themselves.
Yet, the family no longer receives a daily newspaper.
Such would have been almost unimaginable just a decade ago. Up until as late as 2000, at least, college-educated families, and many blue-collar families, took the daily paper as the best means to keep up with what was going on both locally and statewide.
No more, as the Internet and cable television have helped fragment the media market beyond anything imaginable even into the late 1990s.
Pondering the state of newspapers – where I spent a good bit of my career – brought me back to my formative years, when the medium essentially helped shape my life.
It did so by serving as the all-important conduit between me, beginning at age 9, and the first sports team I started following religiously, the Detroit Tigers.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s great entrepreneurs and the founder of General Motors, William Durant.
Durant gained famed as the founder of GM, a multi-brand holding company with different lines of cars designed to appeal to consumers of varying economic means.
Durant was the grandson of a former governor of Michigan and his chief interest was business. Instead of attending college he choose to go to work in his grandfather’s lumber business, one of the largest of the many large lumber mills in Flint, Mich, according to Arthur Pound’s book The Turning Wheel: The Story of General Motors Through Twenty-Five Years, 1908-1933.
He then branched out by opening his own insurance agency before he was 21.
“That suited him, because insurance was something you could go out and sell,” Pound writes. “No waiting around for customers to come to you, as in the store. An almost feverish activity possessed him. ‘Billy’ Durant above everything needed action. While possessed of a notable faculty for remaining calm in the midst of alarms, he seemed to require dramatic tension in business. Yet he had also the power of concentrating intently on work.”