At the November 11, 2014 Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser had a proposed Oakland Township Veterans Memorial presentation given to the Board and the public. The Veterans Memorial proposal was met with positive feedback. The less than positive feedback from the public came from two issues. One was Gonser’s proposed location, the other was his method of bringing this concept forward. Fortunately, the Board requested that, before the Township take any further action on this topic, a nonprofit organization (501c3) be created to pursue the details (including financing) for this project.
At the November 11 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser had Steven McKay, an architect that Gonser stated had been working with ‘the Township’, present three conceptual drawings for a Oakland Township Veterans Memorial. The proposed location was in the Paint Creek Cider Mill parking lot near Paint Creek and the recently redone bridge over Orion Road.
There were many citizens present who supported the desire for a Veterans Memorial in Oakland Township. However, several people were opposed to what was being presented. The major issue raised was the proposed location. Several citizens thought that the location was inappropriate, and wanted other locations to be considered.
Several citizens expressed concern that this was another project that Gonser was bringing forward without input from others. Gonser stated that he did get help from other citizens, but did not disclose their names. He did not acknowledge getting input from either the Parks Commission, Historic District Commission or other Township staff. One citizen shared his concern that this project would result in failure, just like another project Supervisor Gonser initiated without any other input from Township Board members or Commissions.
Supervisor Gonser stated:
“This site was chosen with the help of others.”
“There is no reason that this memorial can’t go forward more quickly than subcommittee and process would permit.”
He did not apologize for how he brought forward the project, and then suggested that the Board approve the use of this property or let the concept die. It was a childish display of ‘my way or the highway!”
Fortunately, the Board requested that, before taking any action on this concept, a nonprofit organization be created that would take the lead on working through the details. Their proposals would then be reviewed by the Township Board and other Commissions, ensuring that it was truely what the entire community desired.
As a reminder, Supervisor Gonser, during the August 13, 2013 BOT meeting, stated “Process is everything!” when a proposal he did not support was rejected because it had not followed the approved township process. Apparently processes are not necessary when HE wants to do something. Here is his statement:
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? This is yet another example of Supervisor Gonser’s approach to unilaterally taking action on items without soliciting input from others. The idea may be a good one, but his approach to getting things started on projects seems to be centered about making sure that his name, and his alone, is associated with the idea. He stated that the architect “had been working with the Township”, yet the only Township personnel who he had been working with was Gonser. In Gonser’s eyes, HE is the Township. His continued efforts to change the political structure of Oakland Township to a ‘Strong Supervisor’ form of governance is consistent with his behavior.
This proposal was, not accidentally, introduced on Veterans Day. It appeared to be a political display by Gonser. Prior to the meeting, the author of this post overheard one individual tell the person who presented the proposals, “I was asked by Gonser to come out and speak in support of the memorial.” Clearly there is nothing wrong with this, but Gonser’s real motives come into question.
During the discussion of this proposal, the author of this post pointed out that he found it ironic that the Supervisor and the Board appeared to support a memorial to veterans, but were not supportive of the Blossom Ridge development that would have provided housing for crippled veterans in Oakland Township. The Crippled Veterans of America – Michigan Chapter was part of the Housing Discrimination complaint against Oakland Township over the Blossom Ridge Development.
The Board’s decision to reject the Blossom Ridge Special Accommodation Request was clearly a political one. Their future support for the Memorial will probably also be based on politics.