Saturday Shorts: What’s with DIA pay hikes?

The Detroit News

The Detroit Institute of Arts is again raising eyebrows over a proposed compensation package of $625,185 for its top executives. It includes $285,000 retirement severance pay and forgiveness of a $155,832 housing loan for former director Graham Beal, as well as $135,000 combined bonuses and 3 percent raises for executives Annmarie Erickson and Robert Bowen.

Just a few months ago the DIA signed an agreement with Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to be more open. It also gave taxpayers a voice in spending public funds.

But the proposed compensation package will test the board of directors’ public relations savvy. Even though the DIA can approve the expenditures using “private funds,” it sets a bad example and could be considered a slap in the face to tri-county taxpayers.

The DIA board needs to be judicious with its finances and particularly sensitive to the voters, who approved a special millage to help keep the museum open.

Let lake users pay for marine patrols

A recent boating accident in Oakland County raised the question of why the Sheriff’s Marine Division wasn’t patrolling the lake and others free of charge. The reason makes sense.

County-funded marine patrols were discontinued about five years ago as the sheriff’s office absorbed layoffs and cutbacks. Now, the only marine patrols by the Sheriff’s Office are conducted on 17 lakes, paid for under contracts with homeowner associations or municipalities.

The policy is fair, even if budgets aren’t as tight as they were a few years ago.

Sheriff’s marine patrols and dive teams still respond to emergencies on all county waterways, including missing boaters and swimmers. They also assist with searches outside the county.

In addition, statistics don’t support the need for routine marine patrols. Boat accidents and deaths on Oakland waterways are few. In the past five years, the county has recorded three boating fatalities.

Most Oakland County residents don’t live on a lake or go boating frequently enough to justify marine patrols at taxpayer expense.

Local communities struggle with roads

The state Legislature’s ineptness in not breaking a bureaucratic deadlock for financing road improvements continues to promote the deterioration of Michigan’s highways and impact local budgets.

Because of the stalemate, municipalities are reallocating limited road funds and trying to find stop-gap measures to finance work.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans says the county is identifying solutions to help combat the shortage of available funds by establishing partnerships with cities in the county to conduct road swaps, coordinate capital improvements and improve communications on scheduled road maintenance.

In Macomb County, officials hope to replace a former heavily traveled bridge on 32 Mile that was shut down more than a year ago through the use of state-approved emergency funds, or by borrowing money from future projects that already have been funded.

Officials in both counties rightly criticize Lansing for a lack of leadership that has created funding shortages for repair or replacement of roads and bridges.