Voters spoke, but Alcona Co. listened

Thousands of miles separate Nigeria from Alcona County, but these days, the two might as well be next to each other.

An internet scam involving someone in Nigeria who offers a person at the other end of an email a large sum of money if that person helps them move a money transfer out of Nigeria, is at the root of the current problem. The story sounds somewhat legit as the money is supposedly tied up in banks because of civil war. The scammers ask the person at this end to help them transfer the funds, and help them pay some fees to get the transaction going, with the promise to repay the fees as soon as the money is freed up.

If it sounds too good to be true, obviously it is. But that isn’t to say it doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that Wired magazine reported in May that the Nigerian princess scam is as effective as it ever was, even after all these years of publicity about it. In fact, it said that, between October 2013 and December 2016, the FBI estimates that 40,000 email compromises worldwide resulted in $5.3 billion in stolen funds. That’s a pretty lucrative scam.

It obviously fooled then-Alcona Treasurer Thomas Katona, who embezzled more than $1 million from the county in 2007 to participate in it, before being convicted. And, even though it happened 11 years ago, for many county residents, the pain from that embezzlement is just as real as if it happened yesterday.

Old wounds don’t heal quickly.

Unfortunately, many fester and fester.

And, county officials now understand that it was that incident, along with other factors, that led to voter distrust at the polls in August when voters rejected a property tax proposal. The bitter reality is that it was a fictitious “Nigerian princess” across the Atlantic that has left Alcona County officials with no other choice than to start eliminating programs and services in an effort to balance a budget woefully short now on revenue.

Yes, county commissioners will try again in November to pass another millage that would accomplish the same things as the first, which was defeated. However, it is months to November, and with every passing week the county gets further and further behind in its budget. Thus, commissioners also have begun the painful and agonizing process of cutting programs.

While other millage requests across Northern Michigan were being approved in August, Alcona County’s was the only one in our circulation area to go down to defeat. That fact hasn’t been lost on commissioners, who I believe have done a great job since the election to try and analyze the results, then get busy on working out plans to not only change voters’ concerns, but also develop strategies moving forward as if no more tax revenue is going to be forthcoming.

It is very noticeable their intent to address the problem “head-on” in a timely fashion. I applaud them. And, I have to believe Alcona County residents do, as well. Yes, the residents spoke. But when they did, I also believe commissioners listened to what they had to say, and the tone that was in residents’ voices with that communication.

It’s frustrating to me that a Nigerian princess could have had such an influence. Then again, think about Russia and elections.

And, as you do, can I interest you in a bridge in Brooklyn I have for sale?

Bill Speer can be reached at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or 989-354-3111, ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13.