Saturday Shorts: U.N. is not helping Detroit

The Detroit News

The recent hearing by two United Nations officials who tried to determine if the water shutoffs in Detroit were human rights violations was a waste of time.

Granted, the Water Department is a mess and initial attempts to get residents to pay their water bills or shut off their service were clumsy and poorly executed.

But Mayor Mike Duggan has instituted a plan that is a pragmatic solution. It recognizes that some people can't afford to pay their water bill, while at the same time dealing aggressively with scofflaws who can pay but don't. In all cases, delinquent customers will receive adequate warning and guidance on how to get assistance before the tap is closed.

No city can afford to provide free water and sewer services or grant carte-blanche approval to not pay the bills.

Certainly there are worse crises in the world — such as the Ebola epidemic and the fighting in the Middle East — for the U.N. to focus on instead of a witch hunt in Detroit.

Transit center open, finally

The Troy Transit Center is finally open for business. The $6.3 million facility will serve as an improved Oakland County stop for Amtrak's popular Wolverine Line.

However, construction of the center was anything but easy or efficient. The opening was preceded by years of political infighting in Troy that, at one point, led to the recall of a mayor. Meanwhile, a real estate dispute dragged on in the courts.

The center was constructed prior to the city obtaining clear title to the land. That was not a wise business move. Developer Grand/Sakwa Properties owned the property, which is adjacent to its Midtown Square Shopping Center.

Initially, instead of sitting down with the developer, Troy took Grand/Sakwa to court in a failed effort to get the property condemned.

Simply negotiating a fair price for the land could have saved thousands of tax dollars that were spent on court battles. Although construction costs were covered by federal funds, the expense of the related court actions was absorbed by the city.

A feather in Snyder's financial cap

Balancing the state's budget and making Michigan more business friendly were at the top of Gov. Rick Snyder's to-do list his first term in office.

And the governor is getting recognized for his hard work.

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has awarded Snyder the 2014 Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform award for his continual efforts over the last several years to improve the competitiveness of Michigan's tax code.

The Foundation, a national independent tax policy research organization, said in a news release that Snyder was honored for "balancing the repeal of the disruptive Michigan Business Tax with a sweeping reform of individual and corporate exemptions and credits, which eliminated complexity and improved the fairness of Michigan's tax code."

This is the second year in a row Snyder has earned the award for his sound, fiscal policies. Residents should be pleased with Michigan's improved financial standing in the nation.