(May 30, 2007) Imagine walking down to Depot Town on a beautiful Memorial Day morning to watch the procession from Downtown Ypsilanti to Highland Cemetery. You are waiving to marchers when suddenly you see your fellow City Council members marching by waiving back.
That is exactly what happened to City Councilman Brian Robb (Dem, Ward 3) from Ypsilanti’s east side. Robb is the newest member on City Council, having been elected last November.
While parades and processions are staples of American politics, apparently the Mayor and other members of City Council forgot to tell the newly elected Robb that the City Council always marched in the Memorial Day procession nor did they even tell Robb where to meet.
Robb was seen standing on the sidewalk in front of City Body in Depot Town as the rest of the City Council and Mayor marched by. Five of the seven Council members marched in the Memorial Day procession on Monday. Lois Richardson (Dem, Ward 3) did not march as she is recovering from surgery.
John Gawlas, (Dem, Ward 2) was heard saying after the event that Council had marched in the Memorial Day procession for 12 years. However, unlike Gawlas, Robb hasn’t been on council for 12 years. Robb has been on Council for six months. Robb was contacted for this story but was unavailable for comment.
The route for the Memorial Day procession runs right through the heart of Ward 3, Robb’s district. While the procession starts in Ward 1 on South Huron. The majority of the route goes through Ward 3, proceeding up North Huron, then through Depot Town, and ending at Highland Cemetery on North River.
The City Council has been meeting almost weekly for the past month for budget and regular Council sessions. During all of those some 15 hours of meetings, there was never a mention by any member of Council that they were marching in the Memorial Day procession.
At the May 22nd City Council meeting, Bill Nickels (Dem, Ward 2) announced that he was looking for a convertible to use in the 4th of July parade for City Council members. Nickels said the car used in past parades was no longer available. Nickels said that he had arranged for a Ford Model T for the Heritage Festival Parade in August. Nickels said nothing about the Memorial day event nor did Nickels say he had a car for the Council to use during Memorial Day.
YpsiNews called Mayor Paul Schreiber (Dem) to ask how and when he learned about marching in the procession. Schreiber, like Robb, was elected to his first term in November.
Schreiber said there wasn’t any communication amongst council members about the event, he just knew to show up. He said that he had been going to the Memorial Day procession for years and it is one of his favorite events. He said he finds the tossing of the flowers into the Huron River to be a very touching and moving part of the ceremony.
Schreiber said he felt bad that Robb didn’t know they were marching. The city had even made up new magnetic signs for both Schreiber and Robb, however they went unused as they were locked in the City Clerk’s office. The Mayor said he was shocked to see Robb standing along the route in Depot Town. When the Mayor saw Robb, he invited him to join the group but Robb declined.
(May 29, 2007) Downtown business LookintheAttic has pledged 10% of their sales to the City of Ypsilanti between now and December 31, 2007. John Coleman, president of Look in the Attic, said it is important to give back to the community. So he has pledged 10% from each sale, either online or in the store, back to the City of Ypsilanti.
Their store is downtown at 110 W Michigan Avenue or your can visit them on the web at www.LookintheAttic.com.
(May 26, 2007) The Doom and Gloom over city finances continues. At the Thursday budget session, Ypsilanti City Council laid out the parameters for the City Income Tax. The proposal is for a 1% tax on residents, 1/2% on non-residents, and a 4-mill roll back for all property owners. Numerous residents spoke out against the City Income Tax while only one resident spoke in favor of the city income tax. The lone supporter was former Mayor Cheryl Farmer who is likely heading up the pro-income tax group.
While the current mayor is proposing new services with the City Income Tax, Council finally learned tonight that even with a City Income Tax, by year three they won’t have enough money to pay for current services, much less any new services.
The problem is the crushing debt from the former mayor’s pet project Water Street. Debt payments balloon to over $2 million a year and the only way for the city to pay for Water Street is with the City Income Tax or a 4 to 5 mill increase in property taxes. That is the same 4 mills that is being proposed as a reduction to entice residents to vote for the City Income Tax.
For the first time, council also admitted that the promised 4 mill property roll back could be raised with a simple 4-vote majority at a later date to pay for Water Street or other emergency spending. City Attorney John Barr argues that there may be a lawsuit if the millage is raised, however he also pointed out that the bond holders of Water Street would also likely sue and force the city to increase the millage to pay for Water Street. What a mess.
(May 24, 2007) In another first for Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County, YpsiNews.com has posted video of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) Board meeting on the Internet. This is the first time an AATA meetings has been available to the public. The meeting was held Wednesday night in Ann Arbor. AATA is very important for Ypsilanti and the surrounding area especially as the City of Ypsilanti has proposed cuts to AATA funding beginning in 2008. YpsiNews is going to do our best to record as many meetings as possible.
We have also been asked if we can provide videos for the Community Access Channel. Yes! We don’t know if they are interested in our videos, but we have a call into their office and we will let you know what we find out.
As this was our first meeting, we have a lot to learn about AATA. One of the board members came up to us and said they visit the YpsiNews.com website all the time, which is pretty cool. I hope recording their meetings doesn’t scare them away. There was hushed discussion at the table before the meeting, and you could over hear one staff member tell the board that the public can video tape a meeting.
The meeting got started about 10 minutes late as they were waiting for one board member. There was an extended discussion, mostly by Ted Annis, Secretary of Board, and Chris White from AATA about moving forward on a Park and Ride. In Washington D.C. they call them Kiss and Rides. Without AATA owning land and no specific developments or sites identified as possible partners, it seems like it will take a while before the Park and Rides will get off the ground.
There was an announcement about the free service on all AATA fixed routes this Friday, May 25th.
Being this was our first meeting, it was interesting to see the process. One feature that was very positive was Audience participation was right at the very beginning of the meeting. As long time readers know, Ypsilanti has been pushing and pushing the audience participation part of their meeting later and later in the meeting.
In Ypsilanti, even when the meeting starts on time, which doesn’t happen too often, audience participation is often an hour or more later. AATA has audience participation right at the beginning and that is very good.
AATA also had an executive session (closed meeting) at the end of the meeting to talk about real estate and labor issues. It appears that the AATA Board violated the Open Meetings Act. They didn’t state the part of the act as reason for the closed session, nor did they take a roll call vote as required under the act.
It was our first time at an AATA Board meeting, so no need to get started on the wrong foot. It may have simply been that the Chair didn’t know the rules governing the Open Meetings Act. However, it is important to make sure that every public board is conducting their business in view of the public and following state law. We will continue to be vigilant and push for more open government.
We plan to be at the AATA board meeting in June. If you would like to volunteer to help record these and other meetings, we need volunteers. The equipment is very easy to use, it take less than 5 minutes to train someone, so if you are interested, call or email YpsiNews.com.
(May 21, 2009) The City of Howell is considering toughening legislation to ban sexually-oriented business from their downtown. The former Ypsilanti Chief of Police George Basar, who retired and became the Chief in Howell, had suggested that Howell tighten their ordinances before adult businesses appeared in Howell. Last week, a planning consultant from Carlisle/Wortman spoke to the Howell Planning Commission about the issues and it was a discussion item on the agenda.
In a story reported in the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus, Planning Commissioner and City Council member Dawn Cooper is reported to have said during the public meeting, “All we have to do is think about what (Ypsilanti) looks like. We don’t want that here.”
It is too bad a Howell City Council member has to take a cheap shot at a neighboring community by perpetuating untrue and negative stereotypes. There were three adult business in Ypsilanti in 2000. Today, despite what was reported in the Daily Press and Argus, there is just one. The other two were closed down, not because of the City of Ypsilanti’s planning ordinance, but because they were operating illegally and were in violation of both the State health and fire codes.
One of the businesses, an adult video store, in order to avoid prosecution including possible tax evasion charges, agreed to pay the city $100,000 plus he gave his building to the City and he promised to not return. The City later sold the building for some $80,000.
According to Chief Basar when he was here in Ypsilanti, the one remaining adult business had been in the community for over 20 years and has never caused any problems and has always worked well with the local police department. Chief Basar said there were more problems at the bus station across the street then there ever was with the lone remaining adult business.
We believe it is appropriate for a community to set standards and create zoning regulations in their downtown districts. However, to demonize a neighboring community, especially when what Ms. Cooper said was untrue, is politics at it’s very worst.
We called Ms. Cooper to invite her to lunch in Ypsilanti, our treat. Perhaps after she visits Ypsilanti, when she thinks of our community, she will see Ypsilanti and our Downtown for what we truly are and not for some stereotype formed from bigotry and ignorance. We will let you know if she accepts our invitation.
(May 20, 2007) Neighbors are reporting a shooting tonight on Ypsilanti’s Eastside. Neighbors called YpsiNews and said there was a drive by shooting at the corner of Forest and Prospect.
According to Ypsilanti Police, the victim is a 28 year old male from Ypsilanti Township. The victim was sitting in his car when he was shot twice. He was struck in the face and left shoulder. The victim is at St. Joseph’s hospital where police are reporting he is in critical condition.
Neighbors are saying the shots came from a second vehicle. Police do not have a suspect and are continuing the investigation.
Updated 5/21/2007 10:51 — Received press release from Ypsilanti Police
(May 9, 2007) Andy Fanta and Floyd Brumfield have both won re-election, each to another 4-year term to the Ypsilanti School Board. The race was not much in question as there were just two candidates for two positions. Brumfield garnered 846 votes and Fanta 798. According to the Washtenaw County Clerk there were 36 write-in votes cast. Write-in votes are not counted unless a write-in candidate publicly declares before the election.
Ypsilanti School officials were also closely watching the Lincoln Consolidated School election. Lincoln had a school millage proposal before voters. Proposal B passed 919 to 786 with nearly 54% voting in favor. A second millage, Proposal C, which asked for a 0.25 mill increase in taxes for recreation and senior services narrowly failed. The vote difference was just 20 votes, 843 to 863, with the no vote getting 50.59% of the vote.
Ypsilanti is planning to put a school millage before the voters in August and officials were watching the Lincoln election to gauge voters opinions towards a school millage.
Watch Video of the School Board presentation on the upcoming millage
(May 4, 2007) The City of Ypsilanti has hired April McGrath as the new Assistant City Manager. McGrath will earn $73,946 per year plus retirement and benefits.
McGrath was Human Resources Director for the City of Monroe. Prior to that she worked in Grand Haven for nine years where she held several positions including Assistant Coordinator of Prevention, Director of Prevention in Public Safety, Human Resources Director and Assistant to the City Manager.
McGrath has an MBA from Baker College in Muskegon and a BBA from Grand Valley State University.
McGrath replaces former Assistant City Manager Bob Bruner. Bruner quit in December to become City Manager in Ferndale. Bruner was making $64,000 a year when he left Ypsilanti. McGrath’s annual salary is some $10,000 more than Bruner.
This continues a trend of ever increasing salaries for newly hired department heads at the financially strapped City Hall. All the while the City has continued to layoff or not fill entry and mid-level positions in the Police Department, Department of Pubic Works, Clerk’s office, Finance, and Assessors office. The City has also targeted other employees for cuts in the next three years.
To increase revenue, the City Council passed a resolution on February 6, 2007 to put a City Income Tax before the voters in August or November of this year.
(May 2, 2007) An arsonist charged with setting a house on fire in the City of Ypsilanti has been released back into the community on a personal recognizance bond. Chris Kearns was charged with setting a house on fire on Ballard as well as setting fire to several trash cans in Ypsilanti.
Kearns was arraigned on April 30th in District Court 14A-2 and was released with little more than a promise to appear for a pretrial hearing on Tuesday May 8th. Magistrate Thomas Truesdell set the bond. Many in the community wonder how a potential serial arsonist could be released back into the community on his own recognizance, especially given that he was charged with setting a house on fire.
(May 2, 2007) Washtenaw County has launched a video webcast of all county meetings. The county has been broadcasting live meetings on the Internet for over a year. Now an archive of those meetings is available on the Internet.
One great feature of the service is the agenda is tied to the video. So you can quickly skip to a specific agenda item and immediately see the video. There are also links to supporting documents so you can watch the video and at the same time view a PDF of a written report that is being presented.
County officials said they had spoken with a number of vendors receiving bids of up to $70,000 for initial setup of the service plus some $1,700 a month in hosting fees. County IT was able to put together the system for around $1,500.
Perhaps the City of Ypsilanti could look at a similar system. It would save money on the recording of minutes and make it much easier for citizens to learn more about the inner workings of their government. In the mean time, YpsiNews will keep recording City Meetings and posting them on the web.
A tip of the hat to the County for putting their meetings on-line.