Risk & Associates County Civil - April 2020


APRIL 2020

Keeping Busy and Staying Happy


W hen I found out that April was National Stress Awareness Month, it made me think. I have to admit that I thrive in high- stress environments. I don’t like idle time too much — being busy and active fits my personality and, overall, makes me happy. When I’m under pressure, I thrive. But that doesn’t mean stress relief isn’t important. See, everyone needs a way to relax. How are you going to be productive if you don’t have a way to unwind? For me, that’s spending time with my grandkids or working on projects. Both leave me exhausted in a good way, of course. I like to joke that my grandkids are the only ones who can make me run. I’ll do anything to keep up with the little ones, but — and any grandparent can agree — the best nap comes after they’re picked up by their parents. Besides babysitting, working on DIY projects at home or in the office actually relaxes me. I think there’s something really fun and soothing about getting things done, and people might be surprised by the kinds of easy projects they can do to relax. (I have some suggestions inside!) I know things like meditating is relaxing to some, but taking time to get projects done is what helps me the most.

Personal stress relief isn’t the only important thing to me. At work, what’s really important is keeping a happy atmosphere and having mutual respect for everybody. A big part of stress relief can be eliminating stress before it even happens. Keeping people involved from the bottom up and getting input on difficult decisions is super important to me for keeping stress down. That’s why I keep things a bit spontaneous at work every week. Whenever I feel like it, at least once a week, we’ll have a joke-telling or trivia day. We’ll either go

I’ll let you in on another secret, too. I live about 200 feet away from our office, and we have a pool in the back. In the peak of summer, sometimes our building gets unbearably hot. One day, I decided to invite everybody to my pool for some barbecue. We have plenty of mothers who bring their kids, and we all just have a lot of fun. That’s been a small office tradition ever since. I hosted three barbecues last summer, and it gave me a lot of happiness. Our team is amazing and hardworking, and spending time together makes all the difference for team cohesion and connection.

“I hope you spend some time for yourself this month, friends, even if it means keeping yourself busy.”

around sharing jokes (appropriate ones, of course!) or I’ll hold out a $20 bill and ask people trivia. I enjoy taking a break from work with my employees and having a giggle together. We never prank, except for random acts of kindness like surprise parties. Last month, my operations manager had a birthday, and we decorated the whole office without telling her. Even her friends came to join us, and we were excited to set that up.

I hope you spend some time for yourself this month, friends, even if it means keeping yourself busy. Happy April!

-Rick Risk



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Digging for the Truth

The Freedom of Information Act, commonly

Rosenfeld filed a second lawsuit in 2007 accusing the FBI of withholding information during former President Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Five years later, he was awarded $479,459 in attorney fees. Rosenfeld is known for having some of the longest-pending FOIA requests and has received over 300,000 pages of FBI documents since the 1980s. THE SCOMM SCANDAL In a landmark FOIA settlement concluded in 2013, the federal government paid $1.2 million to settle a suit brought by several civil rights groups over the Secure Communities (SCOMM) Immigration and Customs Enforcement program. The litigation exposed a plan to create a multi-agency database focused on collecting DNA, a person’s gait, and iris scans. When evidence was uncovered during the litigation, governors of New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts tried to opt their states out of the program, but the Department of Homeland Security determined SCOMM mandatory, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. The case also changed how the government is required to identify, collect, and produce data for all FOIA requests. Thanks to FOIA and these important cases, the people’s right to government information (and honesty) will continue to progress in America’s democracy.

referred to as FOIA, has been a crucial part of the democratic system for

decades. It was designed to improve public access to governmental records, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always work as intended. In most cases, requests are only answered if a

lawsuit is filed. Nevertheless, FOIA has had a crucial role in many high-profile legal cases. Here are a couple of the most significant ones in American history. A JOURNALIST’S 16 YEARS IN COURT California-based journalist Seth Rosenfeld has had some serious contention with the FBI. In 1985, he filed his first lawsuit against the FBI for ignoring his requests for information about the Berkeley protests of the 1960s. The case was eventually settled in 1996, and Rosenfeld was awarded $560,000 in fees. In their settlement agreement, the FBI agreed to be more thorough with FOIA requests.


NO. 1: IMPROVED DECISION-MAKING As people and as a business, we have more access to data than ever before. Think about it: What aspect of your business eludes you the most? How about effective marketing tactics? Tools like jump links and customized web pages can change your approach and tell you exactly how effective that approach is. Collecting and organizing that data can make powerful changes to the way you make decisions in your business. You’d be surprised by the amount of tools that are inexpensive and available to you but aren’t utilized. Thousands of resources and processes exist on the internet that can help capture insights from tracking your business’ data flow. You can react faster and more accurately to every aspect of your business.

NO. 2: IMPROVED EFFICIENCY AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION It’s likely that one or more aspects of your business are already using a digital process of some kind. But what slows you down the most? Are your processes going as smoothly as possible, or can the method be tightened? Sometimes a process goes through a single department and creates a bottleneck to your company productivity. Thankfully, digital transformation can eliminate those bottlenecks and more. If you can complete your services faster, more people are satisfied. These are only a couple examples, and we’re convinced! Pass this along to anybody who is still struggling to digitize, and we can all build greener, more eco-friendly businesses together.

For decades now, there’s been a digital transformation movement within businesses. The service processing industry is no exception. At County Civil, we digitize as many of our services as we can because we believe it’s incredibly important to join this movement. However, since we communicate to many other municipalities and businesses that still rely on paper (such as keeping paper files for individuals), a complete digital transformation is a real challenge for us. With the new decade, we hope that changes. In honor of Arbor Day in April, we want to write about the benefits of going digital — not just for our industry, but for businesses that are looking to reach peak efficiency with the help of technology.


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HOMEMADE BEAUTY Beautiful projects at home can be intimidating to finish, but they can also be one of the most rewarding and stress-relieving ways to spend your time off work. It’s definitely one of Rick Risk’s favorite ways of passing time at home. That’s why we collected some easy DIY decor projects that you could finish in a day. Enjoy the immediate beauty and practicality it adds to your space, and have fun the entire way! WINE CRATE COFFEE TABLE

have many different blankets for family movie night. Design your ideal blanket ladder in any color and height, and get the instructions here: Bit.ly/blanketl (with a lowercase “L” not an “I” at the end). INDUSTRIAL WIRE MAIL BASKETS

This might be the easiest project on the list! You know those wire baskets for your shower? Try spray-painting them black, attaching chalkboard labels, and hanging them on the wall to organize your mail easier. You could label each basket “Action,” “Bills,”

Need a vintage addition to your space? If you or your friends buy wine by the crate, then you’ll especially enjoy this project. The premise is pretty simple: Collect each crate, line them on their sides, and connect them into a square. There should be a square hole in the center, but that’s very intentional. Simply cut a piece of wood in the center (to whatever depth you prefer), and fill it with an ornamental plant or decor. Painting or staining the crates is completely up to you. It makes a perfect, light project that’ll be a unique centerpiece with plenty of showcase storage beneath! Check out Bit.ly/winecratect for more info! BLANKET LADDER Want to spend under $10 for your DIY project? Make your own blanket ladder! If you’re not sure what a blanket ladder is, it’s simply a wide- legged ladder that leans on your wall, and each rung can hang a different blanket. It’s a simple, fun addition to the living room when you

“Cards,” or “Coupons” as you see fit. The full instructions can be found here: Bit.ly/wiremb .

These projects can even involve the whole family, especially with the painting

process. We hope you and your loved ones get to try a new project this month!

Rick Risk and wife, Marti, at the second Annual “Start by Believing” dinner, held at Steele Street Hall, Ionia, Feb. 22, by the Ionia Montcalm SAFE Child Advocacy Center

Rick Risk, Ginger Zemla, and Kurt Orosz representing Risk & Associates at the 2020 RPOA

The Center’s mission is to protect children by providing multi-disciplinary investigation, assessment, and treatment of child abuse in an environment that is child- sensitive, supportive, and safe, ensuring cases of suspected child abuse are investigated in a consistent, effective, and child-appropriate manner using a coordinated, multi- disciplinary team approach, with the overriding philosophy to consider first and foremost what is best for the child.

(Rental Property Owners Association) Conference held at Devos Hall, Grand Rapids, Feb. 27–29.

This was a fantastic event to vendor at, and we had a wonderful time meeting and speaking with landlords, property managers, real estate investors, and real estate salespersons and brokers.

We strongly encourage anyone interested or

such involved in these or a related business to join the RPOA. It’s a great group of people and an invaluable resource. its offer your

We are proud to be members and sponsors of a vital and critically needed organization and dedicated staff. We encourage everyone to

assist and donate whenever possible.



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2383 Tamarack St., Lake Odessa, MI 48849 616-374-7170 | COUNTYCIVIL.COM R isk & A ssociates

Rick Risk is Founder and President of Risk & Associates, a legal support service provider in Michigan, and has assisted hundreds of attorneys, municipalities, courts, Sheriff Offices, businesses and others with their strategic process needs.




Rick Risk’s Tips for Staying Relaxed With a High Work Ethic Influential Freedom of Information Act Lawsuits Digital Transformation Benefits to Business Top 3 DIY Practical Home Decor Projects


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The History of Libraries in America

The Oldest Libraries in America A STORY OF MANY FIRSTS

What’s the oldest library in America? It’s an easy question to ask, but it has an unexpectedly complicated answer. Before the Industrial

Revolution generated greater interest in public services, a library’s function and purpose varied widely. Several libraries in the United States claim to be the country’s “first,” but for different reasons. COLLEGES AND THE CLERGY Some believe Harvard University hosted the first library in the United States. Harvard was the first university in the United States, founded in 1636, and clergyman John Harvard seeded the library with a 400-book collection. Soon after, however, Thomas Bray, another clergyman, began establishing the first free lending libraries throughout the colonies to encourage the spread of the Anglican Church. Not surprisingly, most of the libraries’ holdings were theological. A FEWMORE FIRSTS During the 1700s, a few more “first” libraries were established. In 1731, Ben Franklin and a few others started the first subscription library in the United States. Members of subscription libraries could pay to buy books or borrow them for free. In 1757, 60 men founded the Library Company of Burlington in New Jersey, and Thomas Rodman received a charter from King George II to operate the business in 1758. The library

still operates under that charter today. The Library of Burlington was the first library to operate out of its own building after a prominent resident donated the land in 1789.

BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE In 1833, just as the

Industrial Revolution was picking up steam, the Peterborough Town Library was founded in Peterborough, New Hampshire, at a town meeting. It was the first tax-supported free public library in the United States and in the world. Not long after that, the Boston Public Library, known as the “palace for the people,” became the first municipal public library in the country. The Boston Public Library was also the first library to have a space specifically for children.

Out of all the “first” libraries in the country, these are the most probable progenitors of most libraries today — even if they weren’t exactly “first.”


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