Anne (netmouse) wrote,
Anne
netmouse

Kestenbaum starts to prep for the 2008 County election

Larry Kestenbaum's first annual President's Day fundraiser will be
held on Monday, February 20, starting at 5:30 pm, at the home of Al & Mary
Hegerich, 5195 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor (3 miles north of Dhu Varren Road,
on the left).

If you're not able to attend and would still like to contribute, send
contributions to Kestenbaum for Clerk-Register, P.O. Box 2563, Ann Arbor MI 48106.



It was just over a year ago that I took office as your Washtenaw County
Clerk and Register of Deeds, the first Democrat to hold either position in
seven decades.

I've had a great first year, with many accomplishments.

First, we had an orderly transition to the new management team, consisting
of myself and my Chief Deputies Jim Dries (Deeds and Vital Records),
Derrick Jackson (Elections and Administration), and Karen Edman (Court
Services).

Starting on the first day, we worked with the townships and cities and
schools to negotiate implementation of the "election consolidation" law,
avoiding the lawsuits and recriminations which plagued nearby counties.

As a result of the new law, all elections are now on Tuesdays. Most voters
no longer have different polling places for different types of elections.
These changes helped boost voter turnout in school elections last year.

We improved the training of poll workers. Instead of dry lectures full of
legalese, we provide hands-on experience with the equipment and forms they
will use on Election Day. We also refocused the training toward the kinds
of issues and problems that poll workers are likely to see in a real
election.

I didn't get to choose the tabulators used in precincts for counting our
optical scan paper ballots, but I advocated the use of hand counts of
randomly selected precincts as a check on the equipment and programming.
I'm happy to report that the Secretary of State is now supporting
legislation to mandate this statewide.

My office was tasked with the job of reviewing and validating 20,000
petition signatures submitted in opposition to the jail bond issue. We
accomplished this big job with fairness and efficiency, and received
praise from both sides for our work.

During the past year, groups in three Washtenaw jurisdictions launched
efforts to recall a total of seven local officials. To assist the press
and public in tracking this complicated story, I made all the proposed
versions of recall language and other material available online on the
county's web site. See:
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/clerk_register/elections/el_recalli.html

In the Register of Deeds office, we greatly reduced (from about 60 days to
about 10 days) the lag time for processing deeds and mortgages and other
documents. Delays tie up financing, so quicker processing helps reduce
costs and make mortgage money more available to prospective homeowners in
Washtenaw County.

In the Vital Records office, we improved the handling of marriage licenses
by putting postage on the return envelopes. Ministers and other marriage
officiants are required to send back the completed marriage licenses, but
the search for the right amount of postage often led to greater delays,
and not uncommonly the license would be put aside or even lost. That
doesn't happen any more.

On behalf of the Jury Board, my office chooses and summons potential
jurors for circuit, probate, and district court. Our new approach to
managing these lists has eliminated weeks of tedious work purging
duplicates by hand, and reduced by thousands the number of jury
questionnaires we need to send out.

Formerly, circuit court jurors were paid in paper checks mailed four to
six weeks after they served. We wrote over 600 checks a month to jurors,
most of them around $20 each. Many of those checks would come back
undeliverable from the post office; many more were never cashed; the funds
had to be labor-intensively escheated to the state. No longer. Now, we
pay jurors immediately in cash, using a special purpose ATM in the
courthouse. Other courts around the state will soon follow our lead.

And we have many more things to work on. As I start my second year in this
position, the honeymoon isn't over yet!

In addition to all the management tasks that the job entails, the County
Clerk is one of a five-member board which draws county commission
districts after each decennial census. Moreover, the County Clerk is one
of a three-member committee which fills vacancies in county elected
positions. That committee had a Republican majority until I took office.

Many thanks for your past support. It's now time to start preparing to
win re-election in 2008. I hope to see you on President's Day!

Larry

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