Opinion | $20 million for ex-Republican chair’s firm is good for Michigan

Eric Winkelman is a Glen Arbor Township resident who serves on the Leelanau County Planning Commission. In the early 1970s, he was an associate at Schostak Brothers in its real estate leasing department.

Many people are missing the point about the state grant to provide utility connections for the 800-home development that Schostak Brothers wants to develop as one of their projects in Salem Township in Washtenaw County.

The larger picture has to with all the jobs that will be maintained and/or created due to the project. The people who will buy these homes will pay real estate taxes that will support schools, local programs and Salem Township, for they too have budget needs.

Thus, I must take exception to Michigan Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, for it seems that he too has been drinking the Democratic Party Kool-Aid of wanting to resist, object, and obstruct anything Republican that could contribute to making both Michigan and our nation Great Again! Ambitious real-estate development projects are a definite indicator that our economy is working, and there are future paybacks for providing temporary economic incentives to have it move forward.

Also these new home owners will be paying utility bills, and eventually that $20 million investment could be recovered, through utility payment cash flows, along with real estate tax cash flows, some of which aid local and state governments.  

So additional encouragement is extended to Bobby Schostak, his firm, and all others wishing to do positive, contributory, cash flow developments, in which it is indeed a win, win, win situation for us all!

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Comments

Kurt
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 8:40am

How can anyone say this is good? Michigan taxpayers paid for this special interest and it doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots that it was a political payback thru the wallets of ALL Michiganians!

Dave
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 8:49am

The commenter ignores the will of the people. Elected officials in Salem Township do not want, and did not ask for this "development". I don't know current zoning, but not long ago most parts of Salem Township were requiring a minimum 2 acre lot for new home construction, trying to maintain the rural character of the township. I suspect that current zoning will not allow what Shostack wants to build. Stretching utilities further from the city core does nothing but increase traffic and pollution. If new development is needed, why not put it toward brownfield redevelopment that more efficiently uses tax payer resources? This was nothing more than a give away to a corrupt developer at taxpayer expense.

Pat Burden
Thu, 02/07/2019 - 10:54am

Despite so many municipalities having minimum lot size requirements, there is also something called the condominium act. Most people hear "condo" and think large building with a bunch of attached units. Not true. You can condominiumize a development such as what is being proposed here. This circumvents the local land split requirements.

Cheryl pelava
Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:10pm

Amen

Charlotte Morton
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 8:54am

Why couldn't he just get a loan from a bank? This is a for profit company. $10,000,000 would fix a lot of roads and also provide jobs. This will benefit a small area of MI when the money could be used to fix the infrastructure we really need.

Bob Potocki
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 9:09am

Gimme a break.
At no point have I ever voted to use my property tax dollars for enriching insiders.
Checks and balances that were built into our government were stripped out by single party leaders in a dark room, late at night, without public scrutiny or due process. Two years in a row.
Michigan is rated the most corrupt state in the country. And this deal demonstrates that more effectively than any single editorial ever could.

Cliff Yankovich
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 9:25am

One wonders how this lines up with the tired old Republican chant: "It is not up to the government to pick winners or losers."? I might suggest a better spend of the money might have been roads that we all use or fix the $%#@ water problem in Flint. Well, I can rest assured that the financial blessing given to the brothers will trickle down to all kinds of regular people. Why, just look at the 4,250 people GM is letting go as they celebrate tax breaks and healthy profits.

Jeffrey Kless
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 9:30am

I love it when politicians say that an expenditure will pay for itself but they never say how long it will take to pay for itself. Any time over 10 years is a fool's investment.

Jeffrey Kless
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 9:30am

I love it when politicians say that an expenditure will pay for itself but they never say how long it will take to pay for itself. Any time over 10 years is a fool's investment.

Bones
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 9:42am

Bridge, why did you run this?

Olson_jr
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:44am

Bones, it is just an Opinion piece, like one used to see in the newspapers Opinion Pages, back when we had newspapers.

Paul Jordan
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 9:54am

But it is REALLY, REALLY good for Shostak--which is the whole point, isn't it?

It is very telling that Mr. Winkleman and the other Republicans can't small corruption. (Perhaps that is because it is all around them)

Nancy
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:04am

More Republican justification for using our tax dollars to enrich one of their own. If this project is so great for our economy, why aren't the principals paying for it? We have enough real problems in our state to use our tax dollars on. We don't have to cater to rich Republicans.

Lisa Patrell
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:17am

Whether or not the Schostak development is good for the tax base, does not address the misuse of public money. This is a private development that will not be profit-sharing with Michigan taxpayers, and thus Michigan taxpayers should not be cost-sharing.

Lisa Patrell
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:25am

Since Schostak will not be profit-sharing with Michigan tax-payers, Michigan taxpayers should not be cost-sharing with the private developer with our public tax revenues.

Jeff
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:31am

I am glad Bridge ran this opinion because it lays bare the logic of those in power. This $20M of graft ONLY happens because of connections. All the arguments in the piece are window dressing to the truth about why a single party in control corrupts. Wasting my tax dollars to force local municipalities to enrich a few is so un-Republican, it is why I am now an Independent. I blame our One Lame Nerd for not using his line item veto when it mattered. His fiscal credibility and legacy is lost.

John R
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 2:41pm

Well said! I'd welcome more coverage of Snyder's fall from grace here, and just what legislative priorities he was trying to advance that made him engage in this deplorable horse trading.

Bob
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:41am

Once again we see and hear a political spin on how good it is to waste taxpayer monies on special interests. No accountability nor conscience is spending taxpayer (my money) for this ridiculous project. As our schools in Michigan head in the wrong directionally, we continue to pull money from that fund.
This is a good argument for a part time legislature. The whole Christmas Tree legislation (pork barrel) legislation is shameful and proves we cannot trust politicians with our money. Since when is it the job of the politican to pick winners and losers

Bob
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:41am

Once again we see and hear a political spin on how good it is to waste taxpayer monies on special interests. No accountability nor conscience is spending taxpayer (my money) for this ridiculous project. As our schools in Michigan head in the wrong directionally, we continue to pull money from that fund.
This is a good argument for a part time legislature. The whole Christmas Tree legislation (pork barrel) legislation is shameful and proves we cannot trust politicians with our money. Since when is it the job of the politican to pick winners and losers

Olson_jr
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:47am

The last time I saw "win, win, win situation for us all!" comment used was when they were granting huge tax breaks to GM to keep their Willow Run Plants open. That did not end well for the state.

DT
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 1:21pm

Mr. Winkleman must have been drinking GOP goop to call this a win-win-win situation.
So I would like to open a pizzeria. Would you be so kind as to allocate taxpayer monies to cover my expenses? It will create jobs and I will pay taxes, and that is good for the economy.

Jeremy Gilliam
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:20am

Deliberate, deliberative process does not warrant just outcomes but sanctions skullduggery. Mr. Schostak received these gifts not as a result of proper legislative consideration but a dead-of-night insertion in an appropriations bill. If the legislature through its appropriations committees had properly considered and funded this project, their crime would be poor judgment. But this craven conspiracy is a raised middle finger in propriety's face.
There is a potential development in my community hampered by a developer who cares not to invest millions in infrastructure. This should be funded. There is another in the community to my north, and three more to the west. And so on across the state.
We should believe Mr. Schostak's development is especially special? That it's qualitatively distinct from thousands of others in Michigan? So manifestly and obviously important that it was not worthy of debate?
No, it's the same story too often told: guy with money and power gets access and favors, and our giggling gaggle of immature, short-sighted, term-limited legislators have no conception of the public trust.

None of these is a beneficiary of legislative appropriations

Dennis
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:21am

I have several projects in Livingston County who could use State tax dollars to fund their private projects. Mr. Winkelman's comments about the boon to the Salem Township is typical balderdash. Will the 800 buyers of new homes get a discount on the price of their new homes since Schostak didn't have to invest a dime into the infrastructure? What Kool-Aid are you drinking, Mr. Winkelman?

Bruce
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:42am

Public support for infrastructure improvements can be a justifiable way to leverage private development. But first there should be a public policy decision made that development in the area in question is essential to the health of the jurisdiction. Secondly it should be demonstrated that there are no private sector developers that will undertake the development without public assistance. Third, the award of public assistance should ALWAYS be done on a competitive basis to ensure the public gets the best deal. Finally, the whole process should be conducted in a fully transparent manner with provisions for ample public input.

The Schostak deal falls far short of a win, win, win!

John R
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 2:46pm

Absolute garbage being peddled by another intellectually dishonest yes-man, the sole supporters this boondoggle. I welcome the Bridge's effort to encourage a diversity of viewpoints, but this is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. A former employee who appears to live over 200 miles from the proposed development? One would think that Shostak could afford to find a lickspittle within 50 miles from this site of massive taxpayer fraud.

Barry Visel
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 4:05pm

I’ll say one thing, this guy was pretty brave to write this opinion (as all the comments make clear). Aside from the state $$’s controversy, another aspec of projects like this has to do with roads. Typically, a developer will pay for and build the roads in a subdivision, to local or county standards, and when the subdivision is complete the roads are turned over to the local or county road commission, which now owns and has to maintain them forever. I once asked the Kalamazoo Road Commission at a meeting where they were accepting new roads from a subdivision if the new tax dollars from that project were sufficient to cover maintenance and, when necessary, rebuilding. The answer was no, but they accepted them anyway. This is a much less blatant, but still real, subsidy to developers as well as the owners in that new subdivision. Perhaps subdivision roads should stay private and managed by a homeowners association, while tax dollars take care of the state and primary arteries we all use.

Tom Jankowski
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 6:07pm

Republicans hate socialism...except when it benefits them personally. This is just another egregious example of socializing costs while privatizing profits. There is no way in hell the people of Michigan should have to pay to line Mr. Schostak's pockets. Jeff Irwin is 100% right.

Anonymous
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 7:05pm

And did ANYONE expect Mr. Wilkelman to write any differently?

That been said, this op piece fails to address one glaring hole in his logic that I can drive my truck through: If this is such a "great investment", then why didn't Schostak Brothers take the financial risk themselves if this is such a sure bet?

The fact that Schostak Brothers DIDN'T want to put their own money on the table should speak volumes regarding how much faith that they have in their own little enterprise!

And given the brevity of Mr. Winkelman's op piece, he would've had an interesting time citing the relevant portion from the Michigan Constitution that authorizes such an expenditure from the general fund. That "oversight" is also telling.

If the "republicans" supporting this graft actually believe in the Constitution, they would not only sign their name on the sponsor line, but proudly be able to cite the relevant section themselves.

They only embarrass themselves and their principles by doing otherwise!

Kevin Grand
Thu, 02/07/2019 - 7:11am

The above comment was written by me.

RCP
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 7:29pm

If your premise were true then no developer anywhere should ever have to pay to install utility connections, roads, sewers , etc. The state should pay for all of this always then and that has never been the case.

Geoffrey
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 7:44pm

My tax money is now a windfall for a developer in one township. The township did not make a bid for this. Maybe he will build 800 homes, maybe 400. I won't dispute that Salem Township will increase its tax base and will see that much tax over the next 4 -8 year period. If there is a demand for these homes this would have happened without the state giving Shostak this money. Mr. Winkelman, you failed to make this look like a wise move at any level.

L.B.
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 8:53pm

If the taxpayers' "investment" can be recovered over time through the homeowner purchse of utilities, who is paying for the utilities they use when in the home? Would that be other utility users? If the taxpayers can recover the cost if this "investment" from homeowners why can't the developer recover those costs when it sells each property?

Terry
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:28pm

You've got to be kidding. This is all pork. Salem Township doesn't want this. So the state just pushes it down their throats! Look at all of the taxes they will need for police and safety services. And how about the neighbors to the east. They don't want it either. But those out state don't care what happens out of their region!

Karen Dunnam
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:22pm

Bridge, if you offered a "like" button, I would have hit it on each of my fellow commenters' offerings.
I've stated this before on the other articles about this boondoggle: there are fewer than 6000 residents in the township. There's one school. Data from the most recent census shows it to be a relatively wealthy community of families.
I am not interpolating a crying need for the sort of minimum wage jobs provided by big box development, nor am I seeing a large cohort of the demographic that typically works such gigs.
--former city planner, not a private developer

Josh
Thu, 02/07/2019 - 4:06am

It's always nice to hear from the socialist wing of the Republican party! I look forward to Mr. Winkelman's full-throated support of funding our poorest public schools!

Bill
Thu, 02/07/2019 - 6:41am

Spoken like a true Trumpster.

Cheryl Pelava
Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:09pm

Uh, where is the democratic process whereby fairness is insured. Are you crazy? Because this fine fellow is willing to build here (profit here) we should hand over to HIM how many millions of taxpayer dollars?

Eric Winkelman
Sun, 02/10/2019 - 4:18pm

To DT: RE the following statement " Mr. Winkleman must have been drinking GOP goop to call this a win-win-win situation.
So I would like to open a pizzeria. Would you be so kind as to allocate taxpayer monies to cover my expenses? It will create jobs and I will pay taxes, and that is good for the economy."

To Mr. DT: If as a private business entity you needed some help in order to open your pizzeria, I would support such a strategy. Why ? If your Pizza is going to taste very good [ I like mushrooms, cheese and fresh tomatoes on mine] that's very good and I will want some. So now your he employees can earn some money and pay some income taxes including yourself I am for it. Hopefully your employees will work for you so as to add to family income or put them serves through an institution of higer learning

So all the best in your new venture as a pizza guy !

All the best in your new restaurant venture. Mmmm Mmmmm good !!

Eric Winkelman

Bryan Watson
Mon, 02/11/2019 - 8:46am

“Also these new home owners will be paying utility bills, and eventually that $20 million investment could be recovered, through utility payment cash flows, along with real estate tax cash flows, some of which aid local and state governments. “

As my math teacher would say, show your work.

How long is “eventually”? How much of each dollar in “utility payment cash flows” will flow into the repayment of this investment? At what earnings rate? And will you be complaining about how high real estate taxes are if holding taxes down disrupts the “real estate tax cash flows”?

Deborah
Mon, 02/18/2019 - 5:21am

Wow Winkleman who do you think you're fooling? I don't think Trumps base reads this paper. They might believe your nonsense.

Deborah
Mon, 02/18/2019 - 5:21am

Wow Winkleman who do you think you're fooling? I don't think Trumps base reads this paper. They might believe your nonsense.