Susan Vogt receives Liberty Bell Award at Law Day breakfast

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By Frank Weir

Legal News

A long-time Jackson County staffer and current coordinator of the county prosecutor's Victims Rights Unit, is the 2011 Liberty Bell Award winner.

Susan Vogt received the award at the annual Law Day breakfast, held Wednesday at the Jackson Country Club.

The award is presented each year by bar associations nationally "to honor outstanding citizens within the local community," according to the State Bar of Michigan.

It always is given to a non-lawyer who gives of her time and energy to "strengthen the effectiveness of the American system of freedom under law."

Jackson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jerry Jarzynka nominated Vogt for the award and made the formal presentation on behalf of the Jackson County Bar Association, and NALS of Jackson County.

In addition to those two organizations, Comerica Bank also co-sponsored the breakfast.

"She has worked with hundreds of crime victims helping them navigate the judicial process, all of whom are going through a lot of stress and trauma," Jarzynka said of Vogt.

"She is an unsung hero to many and she has not gotten a lot of recognition and I know this because I work with her and have seen her in action."

Vogt began her service to the county in 1990, joining the Victims Rights Unit in 2000, Jarzynka noted. She was named coordinator of the unit in 2010 when Ruth Stressman retired.

Keynote speaker for the event was Michigan political analyst and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics Bill Ballenger.

He was introduced by JCBA President Brad Brelinski.

Ballenger spoke about several current political issues facing the state, most surrounding its economy and proposals by Gov. Rick Snyder.

"Even as we speak," Ballenger began, "the legislature is toiling to meet a May 31 deadline set by Gov. Snyder to pass a budget for the state.

"Any timeline they follow would be better than the last four years when budgets were not passed until into the fall and we had partial governmental shutdowns. If they pass one even by July 4 it would be a big improvement."

Ballenger told the large audience, one of the largest ever for a Law Day breakfast according to organizers, that the number one issue in the state politically is whether taxes will be restructured and whether education revenues will be cut to the level that Snyder has proposed.

"Already bills have passed one chamber and there are key votes this week. Currently the tax package is just a few votes short of passing. The plan would replace the much talked about state business tax with a business income tax plan."

Ballenger noted that Republicans have "super voting majorities" in both the senate (26-12) and house (63-47).

About the proposal to allow the governor to appoint an emergency financial manager in economically troubled municipalities, Ballenger said that he had heard Jackson Mayor Karen Dunigan talk of the possibility of the plan being imposed in Jackson.

"It's interesting to me that a couple mayors like Dave Bing in Detroit and Flint Mayor Dayne Walling are openly accepting if not encouraging the use of emergency managers. Most other mayors with heavy liberal Democratic and union support are vociferously opposed to emergency managers.

"Others seem to be saying, 'Bring it on, give us the tools even if I lose power.' This is one of the things going on in Michigan that I find really interesting."

Ballenger also noted that Jackson's millage proposal to merge police and fired failed.

"Your city and the city of Lansing are two municipalities that failed in their ballot proposals this week. Mayor Bernero in Lansing tried to get a property tax millage passed to save police and fire jobs but it also failed."

Ballenger also noted that several counties, including Jackson, are proposing to cut the number of seats on their boards. "That's happening a lot around the state and I'm not sure why. Is it streamlining or cost saving? But even if they aren't cutting, district lines will have to be reconfigured due to population shifts over the last decade."

He noted that Michigan is the only state to have lost population between 2000 and 2010 as population continues to shift toward the south and west, he said.

The Law Day committee included Pam Maynard, Mary Sue Thome, and Marion Stone.

Published: Mon, May 9, 2011

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