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Giant swine makes appearance in Whitehall and Montague

WHITE LAKE AREA – According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word swine means either a pig or in the informal sense, “a person regarded by the speaker with contempt and disgust.”

Retired truck driver Jeff Tillman takes an issue with politicians, in particular the ones that want to abolish term limits. He sees it as an abuse of power, and drives a gigantic 18-foot model pig around to show his disdain for them.

“It’s a way to get the message out. It represents our politicians in Lansing, and their desire to have more time at the public trough. They want longer terms, to abolish terms, and there is a group of lobbyists/ former politicians that have actually filed a lawsuit to abolish Michigan’s term limits,” said Tillman.

On Nov. 20 eight former lawmakers filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over Michigan’s term limits. A mixture of Republicans and Democrats, these lawmakers are now registered lobbyists with McAlvey, Merchants & Associates.

Michigan’s term limits were set in 1992, and are some of the shortest in the nation. Elected officials can serve a total of 14 years between the two branches.

“It keeps fresh ideas and people coming in, It has brought more minorities and women into the political mix of things,” said Tillman.

“It’s got more [people] elected, because Michigan does have the most competitive races in the United States. Every six years there is going to be an open seat and that gives people, normal citizens the means to take a shot at getting elected.”

Tillman is a volunteer for the non-profit U.S. Term Limits (USTL). His son, Scott Tillman, works as the national field director for the organization.

According to the U.S. Term Limits’ website, “U.S. Term Limits (USTL), based out of Washington, D.C., advocates for term limits at all levels of government. Since it was established in the early 1990s, USTL has assisted in enacting and defending term limits on state legislatures in 15 states as well as congressional term limits in 23 states.

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, Tillman toured his giant pig through the northern parts of Muskegon County. He made stops in North Muskegon, Whitehall and Montague.

Tillman is a Fremont resident, but has driven the pig all over the state.

“Last week I was in Traverse City, Grand Blanc, and St. Joseph. He [Scott Tillman] has me travel all over to the representatives districts,” said Tillman.

The pig itself has a steel frame that was then covered in foam. An artist in Grand Rapids sculpted the animal, and it was then given a protective coating.

“We had overall three of these, and this one has turned out the best, and has withstood the weather [sic],” said Tillman.

Tillman said he has been concerned with term limits issues since the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich, a Republican, was the Speaker of the House. In 1994, Gingrich pushed through a number of reforms, one of which set term limits on his position.

In 2003, members of his same party reversed action. At the time of the decision Republican Dennis Hastert had been the speaker, and abolished term limits on the speaker position.

“Historically every few years some of the folks, not all of them, that are re-elected to office get a wild idea that term limits are something to change. They are drinking the Kool-Aid,” said Tillman.

“They become part of the special class of people that think they should be there forever instead of stepping aside and letting someone else have a shot at it.”

Tillman said he supports term limits, because it allows for new ideas to enter politics, which he believes won’t happen if term limits are abolished.

“It keeps fresh ideas and people coming in, It has brought more minorities and women into the political mix of things,” said Tillman.

“It’s got more [people] elected, because Michigan does have the most competitive races in the United States. Every six years there is going to be an open seat and that gives people, normal citizens the means to take a shot at getting elected.”

Some people may disagree with Tillman’s views, and may think that people can always vote out the politicians they don’t like. However, he believes without term limits it is much more difficult to do so.

USTL’s website says that incumbent politicians have “an insurmountable advantage of power and money that guarantees a lifetime of re-elections.”

This power and money potentially comes from big business and special interest groups. Many of which can be found out about on the website www.opensecrets.org.

According to a poll that was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, and commissioned by USTL, most Michigan residents are in favor of term limits with 69-percent of people saying they are opposed to a change being made to the current ones.

To view the poll and the questions asked visit: https://tinyurl.com/ubugz76.

Tillman said there are other states that have term limits, and they deal with the same issues that Michigan does, and are managing just fine.

“So we have to be watchful and dial back and control our government, or they are going to go hog wild,” said Tillman.

Both President Donald Trump, and his predecessor Barack Obama have said at certain times in their careers, they were for term limits.

At the higher levels of government, outside of state politics, both Congress and House of Representatives are without term limits. U.S. Senators serve six-year terms and U.S. Representatives serve two-year terms.

However, these politicians can win an indefinite amount of elections for these positions. The longest of which was Michigan’s John Dingell, who served 59-years in the House.

Trump on April 30, 2018 tweeted, “I recently had a terrific meeting with a bipartisan group of freshman lawmakers who feel very strongly in favor of Congressional term limits. I gave them my full support and endorsement for their efforts. #DrainTheSwamp”

However, as recently as September the President has made comments to think he may no longer be in support of some term limits. Term limit restrictions for congressional committees are mostly dictated by the party a politician belongs too.

Republicans have a limit of six years for chairs on congressional committees — Democrats do not. Trump made comments suggesting that his party abolish these limits.

Tillman said if Muskegon County residents who are fed up with Michigan politicians and lobbyists trying to take away term limits should contact Michigan House Representative Greg VanWoerkom, R-Muskegon, or visit www.termlimits.com/pig where they can sign a petition.

He said VanWoerkom has not responded in favor or against term limits.

For more information about USTL visit: www.termlimits.com.

Main breaks spills sewage near lake

WHITEHALL – Seven hundred gallons of raw sewage spilled out onto Lake Street and in the nearby soils last Tuesday when a force main failed.

“The leak was discovered when an employee (Department of Public Works) drove along Lake Street,” said Brian Armstrong, City of Whitehall Public Works director. “He saw water in the gutter pan and stopped to investigate. At the moment the pump kicked on sending sewage out of the leaking main which is located on the White Lake side of Lake Street near the Arconic Plant 3 parking lot by Misco Drive.

Armstrong said the leak was discovered about 11 a.m., and the city DPW crew responded immediately. The repair was completed in the dark at 9:15 p.m.

The DPW director said the sewage had not been in the ground long before it was discovered. The area also is a natural surface water filter, used to capture storm water drainage before it hits White Lake.

“There was significant pipe loss,” Armstrong commented on the force main break. “We don’t know if it was a defective (ductile) iron pipe or the installation which contributed to the leak.”

The city used its sewer vacuum truck, plus one from Northern A-1 Services, an industrial environmental company with a facility in Whitehall.

Armstrong said he reported the leak to the Muskegon County Public Health and the State of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

The director said the city will further investigate the condition of the force main which he believes was installed in the 1980s.

Bound over on murder charge

MUSKEGON – A man who has been charged with the August 15 shotgun murder of a Dalton Township man has been bound over to Circuit Court to stand trial.

Ryan Berry, age 27, waived a scheduled preliminary examination before Judge Geoffrey T. Nolan in his 60th District courtroom last Wednesday (Dec. 4).

Berry remains in the Muskegon County Jail . He has been charged with murder of Evan Yonker, the boyfriend of Berry’s ex-girlfriend, Chelsi Allan.

On August 15, police responded to a call that a suicidal man might have shot someone at a home located at the 5000 block of Meeuwenberg Road in Dalton Township.

Berry is believed to have been with Allan when he shot Yonker at the home. They broke into the house they grabbed Yonker’s 12-gauge shotgun off the wall and shot him with his gun. Police believe Berry then forced Allan into his car and left the scene.

Berry then fled to Grand Haven after the murder. Muskegon police located Evan Yonker’s body, and police at the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety located Berry and Allan.

According to a police report provided by the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department, Berry fled police on foot and jumped off the Grand Haven pier into Lake Michigan in an attempt to kill himself. At that point Allan called police.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit, with the help of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office negotiator were able to take Berry into custody.

Berry is charged with open murder, unlawful imprisonment, and two counts of felony firearm.

The trees are coming down

WHITEHALL – It’s been a rough year for trees in the city, and a contractor has been busy trimming or removing about 20 mature ash and maples on city property recently.

Brian Armstrong, Whitehall Public Works director, said last Friday he hoped the tree work would be completed that day.

Armstrong said about 20 trees were scheduled for removal.

“We lost a lot (trees) this year,” he said.

The director said the removed trees were damaged by disease and just end of life issues.

“The ash trees were nearing the end of their life in the city,” Armstrong said. “Some maples were diseased and some were at the end of their lives.”

Ice storms and high winds this year also contributed to damaging trees.

This was worse than a normal year,” he added.

Borgman Tree Service of Muskegon is contracted to trim and remove trees on city property.

A year ago the city entered into a two-year contract with Borgman to maintain the city trees. The city had requested proposals from five companies at the time and Borgman was the only one to provide one.

The contract calls for tree trimming, tree removal and stump grinding as needed.

Armstrong said the city is planting nine new trees.