johnson vs. murdock: round one

It’s been requested that I start a thread here on the front page about the Ypsilanti Ward 3 City Council race between Rod Johnson and Pete Murdock. I’ve been reluctant to venture into the fray previously as this particular race is so contentious, and since so much of what’s been said thus far is regrettably nonsense, but, since other threads are being hijacked by members from both camps, I’ve reluctantly agreed to open up a new battlefield where people can line up and heave heavy rocks into one another’s skulls while our city continues to falter… So, this is for you, folks. Enjoy.

On the off chance that the ensuing conversation is in any way steerable, here’s an idea. Why don’t I start us off by throwing out a question to both candidates? As they both read this site, I imagine that there’s a good chance that one or both might respond. Then, we can go from there.

Here’s the question:
With the first payments on the $15.6 million in loans associated with Water Street coming due in the next year, I think that you’d both agree that it’s vitally important that we find tax-paying tenants for the 38-acre parcel. What will you do if elected to see this accomplished? And, are there any types of businesses that you would discourage from settling on Water Street?

Oh, and here’s a special request. Please don’t go off on a tangent about what a colossal f’ing mess Water Street is, or how we shouldn’t have done it in the first place. I think we’ve covered that sufficiently for the time being. What I want to know is, given the facts as they are today, what concrete things would you do to get development moving? And please be specific.

Background:
I should have said it up front, but Pete and Rod are facing off in the August 5 Democratic primary, which, barring some unforeseen event, will decide who gets the seat on Council. Three seats are up for vote this time around. As there are relatively strong incumbents in both Ward 1 and 2, however, most of the attention seems to be focused on this Ward 3 seat, which is being vacated by Brian Filipiak. And, as Council is pretty much evenly divided at present between two opposing voting blocks, it’s an important election… Sorry, I should have probably mentioned all of that up front.

Now let’s hear from the candidates.

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82 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted July 14, 2008 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    For some reason, the system wouldn’t let me post the links to the candidates’ sites in the post. Here they are.

    http://johnsonforward3.com

    http://votemurdock.com

  2. Pete Murdock
    Posted July 14, 2008 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Mark –

    The least you could do is spell my name right. Even the AA News gets that part right most of the time.

    Pete

  3. mark
    Posted July 14, 2008 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Damn, Pete. Sorry about that… I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ll always be just a blogger… Anyway, it’s fixed now.

  4. Posted July 14, 2008 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    I hear I’m not supposed to vote for Johnson because he was in favor of the stupid income TAX and I’m not supposed to vote for Murdock because when he was mayor he set himself up sweet heart deal to direct a city service that the courts ruled was totally ILLEGAL and unethical.

    Given the choice between someone so out of touch with voters that he thinks we want to pay MORE TAXES to fix the problems they made and someone who is so CORRUPT he tries to use public office to give himself a high paying job and then has the balls to sue the taxpayers for not giving him his illegal job I don’t have much of a choice do I?

    OR WAIT. OR MAYBE I COULD VOTE FOR THE ONE CANDIDATE WHO OFFERS REAL CHOICE FOR YPSILANTI VOTERS THAT NO ONE WILL TALK ABOUT!

    See for yourself and then decide what future you will choose, taxes? corruption? or LEADERSHIP.

    http://www.mikeellerforypsi.com/

  5. Mark H.
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Thirdward Sam,

    Your preferred candidate may have some good points, maybe not. But your sloppy, hysterical account of Rod’s and Pete’s history is reprehensible: it is cartoonish and ad hominem, not reasoned. You can vote for whoever you want based on what criteria you deem important; Rod’s strong stand in favor of the income tax is and his close alliances with Mayor Cheryl and Mayor Paul are things many people admire him for; they are all honorable people. Pete’s long record of public service is equally admirable to many voters, but to say a long ago, publicly argued dispute over an employment issue is ‘corrupt’ is unfair and insulting to voters’ intelligence. No maker of a corrupt deal would go to court to try to enforce an illegal bargain. Pete like Rod is honorable, no matter how much mud is slung.

    To say that one candidate is stupid and the other is corrupt is to adapt a mindlessly simplistic view of the contest between these two Democrats. They differ on the issues, and their differences, i think, are reflected in and arise from their experiences. Let’s have a real discussion of those issues, not name calling by anonymous anybodies.

    Let’s hear from Pete and Rod on the questons Mark M. has posed, and let’s all try to focus on the real issues.

  6. egpenet
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Ho hum …

    Neither fighter came out of his corner. What do the Queensbury rules say about that?

    I declare that Round One is a draw.

    Round Two, anyone? (And no bikini-clad gal with the game card prancing around the ring?)

    Hmmmm …

    This is a gag, right?

  7. mark
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    I’m sure they’re both working on their responses, Ed. I wasn’t expecting for them to respond right away.

    And, for what it’s worth, I just received a note saying that it was unfair for me to say that I didn’t want to focus at all on what might have been done incorrectly up until now relative to Water Street. My point in doing so wasn’t to excuse mistakes that may have been made in the past, but simply to suggest that, regardless who may have been wrong in the past, whomever we elect is going to have to provide answers today. Simply to vote for one candidate because of something that he did in the past, whether it was as Mayor or as Planning Commissioner, in my opinion, takes our attention from what’s really important, and that’s getting developers to build here in Ypsi right now. As someone who wasn’t here 20 years ago, I don’t really care what Pete might have done to piss people off as Mayor. If he’s got the best ideas now, I’ll vote for him.

    Anyway, I thought that it was fair to start off with that question. We’ll see where things go after that, though. As you know, I never edit the comments left on my site. If people want to take it somewhere else, then that’s where it will go… I hope that makes sense.

    And, I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t take people’s records into account when we vote, or, for that matter, their character. I will, and I’m sure you will too. I just mean that we shouldn’t lose focus on what really matters. It’s too damned easy to throw mud about the very things that the previous commenter brought up.

    And as for Mike Eller, I’d love to have him respond to the question as well… And, for that matter, I’d love to have the Ward 1 and 2 candidates put in their 2 cents. The more the merrier.

  8. Rod Johnson
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    “Here’s the question:
    With the first payments on the $15.6 million in loans associated with Water Street coming due in the next year, I think that you’d both agree that it’s vitally important that we find tax-paying tenants for the 38-acre parcel. What will you do if elected to serve on the Council to see this accomplished? And, are there any types of businesses that you would discourage from settling on Water Street?”

  9. Posted July 15, 2008 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Water Street is the most formidable and immediate challenge the City faces. Looming debt payments starting in the next fiscal year at over $800K and rapidly rising to over $1.3 million annually, without development tax revenues, will cripple the City. The City’s Fund Balance will get us through next year and possibly the following year. After that …

    The most important thing the City can do is open up the Water Street development to a broader range of possibilities. Right now the City is wedded to a singular concept of residential condo development with some commercial activity along Michigan Ave. The Planning Commission just recently adopted a revised master plan for Water Street that while, opening up to multiple developers, essentially maintains this singular concept or residential/commercial designation. It’s not that this concept is a “bad” idea but it is one that two developers couldn’t seem to make work.

    Why not open the process up to potential developers, saying that we have 38 acres of development property, what would you suggest could go there? What would you invest YOUR money in and what do you need from the City to make it work?

    Then we can evaluate each proposal, see how it measures up to community desires and the City’s financial and debt situation and make a reasoned decision. By closing out other possibilities, we will never know what’s out there. We always can say no.

    What about a Green Industry concept with a manufacturing operation that creates jobs building windmills or solar panels? What about a research facility that is developing a long life battery for the electric car of the future–maybe in conjunction with EMU? What about a baseball stadium–sports complex that we have heard rumors of? What about a ca-si-no (Mark’s spam filter prevents spelling this word correctly) complex? Are any of these examples beating down the doors? Are they a real possibility? We don’t know unless we stop clinging to a singular concept and open up the possibilities.

    There have been no proposals offered. When someone comes to the table with a real proposal with real money, then we can evaluate it.

    Second, we need to aggressively market the property in an unrestricted way, as described above, to allow for all possibilities and concepts to be explored. The recent hiring of a marketing firm by the City was a good step if they are not restricted to what they can market it for.

    Third, the marketing of the property, for development of smaller parcels instead of the entire site, while probably not the most desirable direction, is one that is now dictated by necessity.

    Fourth, I would not borrow any more money for the project, unless it is accompanied and linked to a specific developer, and the development is such that the tax revenue can service the debt.

    Lastly, I would attempt to creatively do things to the site that indicates progress and motion. When the Walgreen’s project was being discussed for Prospect and Michigan, I proposed that the City see if they could get Walgreen’s to locate on the Water Street site at Michigan and Park or Michigan and River. This would have created activity at the site and indicate progress. Also by locating at that site, tax revenues would be nearly double what it is now because of the Water Street Tax Increment Financing District (TIFA) and it would all be dedicated to paying off the debt. Both because the City, at that time, did not want to break the property up, and Walgreen’s reluctance to change location, it didn’t happen.

    I have recently contacted both the City and Recycle Ann Arbor(RAA) about the possibility of doing a Deconstruction demonstration project, where by RAA would deconstruct a couple of the smaller buildings on Michigan Avenue and salvage for reuse or recycling much of the demolition debris. Both indicated an interested, and I await the outcome of their discussions. This would be a relatively inexpensive project which would not only show progress on the site but would have an environmental (green) element to it. If successful, other building deconstruction may be a possibility.

    We should open up the River Walk portion so people can connect from Riverside to Waterworks Park and perhaps turn the open area into a dog park for the interim period.

    That’s my ideas on Water Street. I am anxious to hear others. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

  10. rodneyn
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the comments from Pete and Rod, both very articulate gentleman. However, I’m less enamored of Mark’s brush-off of the ward 1 and ward 2 races. The incumbent in ward 2 is facing an electorate that rejected his pet income tax project 9 months ago by a fair margin, even in his home neighborhood. To my mind, that is not a strong incumbent candidate.

    Mark, I would encourage you to make a similar invitation to the candidates from these other wards to come on and present their ideas and answer these same questions.

  11. Steph and Edwina's Dad
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    And I demand that Mark run stories about my oldest daughter, who at 27 is every bit as cute and child-like as lil’ Clemmy.

  12. egpenet
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Excellent.

  13. Dirtgrain
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Brush off? What a weenie characterization, especially when Mark welcomed other ward candidates to share in the comment above Rod Johnson’s.

  14. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you to both candidates.

    As your visions for water street sound similar, I plan to vote for the candidate with the beard.

  15. Reclusion
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I will vote for the candidate that catches the largest bass between Leforge and Frog Island.

  16. Citizen Blogger
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I will vote for the candidate that catches the bass with the most eyes between Leforge and Frog Island.

  17. mark
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Rod and Pete. I think I speak for everyone here when I say I appreciate the time and effort on your part. And thank you, everyone else, for not jumping in (yet) with the name calling and finger pointing.

  18. mark
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Pete, I like the idea of having the remaining buildings on Water Street taken down thoughtfully and recycled. Is it likely that something like that might happen? And, if so, what would it cost the City, if anything?

    And, if I could ask both of you to daydream for a moment, what would your ideal vision of Water Street be? What would you consider a real success for the site?

    Would it be popular shopping complex like Arborland, light industrial, senior housing? Personally, I’d like to have a Google campus abutting a Zingerman’s business incubator, with a green cooperative housing complex right behind it. I realize it’s not likely to happen, but that’s what I’d like, and I’m curious what you both see when you dream….

  19. Posted July 15, 2008 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh my God, the three comments from OEC, Reclusion, and Citizen Blogger were about the funniest three in a row I’ve ever read on this site. Not to mention I was also thinking before reading OEC’s that having a sweet beard is definitely a plus.

    Both of the candidates gave great answers; I just hope Water Street is everything or anything we’ve ever hoped for. One thing I did like about Pete’s suggestion was to open up a pathway along the river in the time being. I run back there, and actually there’s a pretty nice (although very neglected) trail that runs along the river by the Waterworks park (parallel to Grove) behind the disc golf course, past another overgrown park, and then connects to a weedy path by the Huron through the Water Street area that then connects to Riverside. You could easily build a decent woodchip type path in an afternoon, and this would at least make it look like some sort of progress is being made, instead of driving by and saying, uugh, there’s Water Street.

    And take my opinion for what it’s worth, as I live about two blocks into the township on E Cross.

  20. Old Goat
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Useful buildings could be renovated to hold and process the corn crop that would be grown on the 38 acre site for ethanol conversion. The on site solar, wind and hydro electric powered conversion plant would power the facility which would provide Ypsi residents with their own home made heating and auto fuel at under market prices, which would in turn, cause the housing market to grow exponentially as suv and home owners clamor to live in the city limits as a requirement for membership. I could even see Ypsi township again wanting to cede into the city so that they could join the energy party. People driving by on Michigan Ave. might be subject to a faint odor of ‘corn oil’ from all this activity, but, is the smell of corn oil so unpleasant?

  21. John on Forest
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to both candidates.

    I’d also like to see other city council candidates respond, even though I’m not a voter in their wards.

    Couple of questions:

    There seemed to be a differing interpretation, between Pete and Rod, of the current Master Plan/Zoning for Water Street. Am I just not understanding one of the descriptions properly or is one wrong?

    Pete, would your proposed walking path be doable without expense? For example, perhaps DPW could take it on as a project?

    The recycling/deconstruction project sounds like a good idea. We should be careful about what a “relatively inexpensive” project this would be. We should also pay close attention (or perhaps the proposals will address this) to the difficulties posed by contamination on the site. Finally, I would hope that the proposals would be scrutinized to be sure we are short thrifted on the recovery costs for the recyclable materials. Scrap steel is selling for more today than newly refined steel was a year ago. Oh, also, Pete, when you said you contacted both the City and RAA, did you mean the City of Ypsilanti or the City of Ann Arbor?

    Finally, I like Rod’s list of guidelines and goals. While we should encourage the broadest range of proposals, as both candidates said, I do think Rod’s forethought on guidelines is wholly in the best interests of the City.

    I personally would really NOT like to see manufacturing go in at Water Street, given that other manufacturing real estate is lying dormant in the city.

  22. John on Forest
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Edit: NOT short thrifted.

  23. mark
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I’d be happy to sponsor another round. Are there other other questions that people would like to pose to either candidates?

  24. John on Forest
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I have one, Mark:

    Concrete ideas on maintaining a balanced budget. What are the priorities for services and what gets axed?

  25. Posted July 16, 2008 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I ran into a new book at the library. I felt like it was helpful to this discussion. It is called The Great Neighborhood-a Do-it-yourself Guide to Placemaking by Walliasper. It covers lots’o’topics about revitalizing a city and giving it character, but each topic is covered superficially-which is great as one only needs enough to get one’s brain working on different ideas to pursue.

    I have it out right now and will rush through it if anyone is interested in checking it out when I’m done.

    Seriously. Let me know, or I will greedily and rudely keep it out the length I’m allowed by library law!

    Marlena

  26. Brackache
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Give developers a tax break for developing water street. Or does that only work in the movies?

  27. rodneyn
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a question for any/all of the candidates:

    What do you envision as the best or most appropriate relationship between the City Council and the City Attorney?… … between the City Council and the City Manager? … between the City Council and local business owners? … between the City Council and residents?

    As a follow up question: If you were elected to Council, what do you intend to do to improve each of these relationships?

  28. amused1
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    While I feel Rodneyn’s questions are interesting, I can’t help but wonder if the answers might be subject to so many variables that they are almost impossible to answer “correctly”. Some situations may require equal partnership between two groups. Those same groups in other situations may require one or the other to take a strong leadership role. It seems to me that this need for fluidity makes it rather difficult to narrowly define a relationship. But that’s just me.

  29. rodneyn
    Posted July 16, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    The questions are intended to gain a better understanding of each candidate’s philosophy about the business of being a member of City Council.

    The reason the questions are important (in my opinion) is because we currently have a couple of councilmembers who are (also in my opinion) overly-deferential towards the City Administration, especially the City Attorney. It would be my preference to elect councilmembers who are more active in asking questions of and requiring adequate information from the City Administration, and who will hold the City Administration’s feet to the fire when things aren’t right (such as the retiree payment overpayment/underpayment fiasco raised by Pat Mills at last night’s City Council meeting).

  30. Posted July 17, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Mark and John

    The deconstruction demonstration project can be a reality. Both the City (that’s Ypsilanti, John) and RAA have expressed interest and RAA has assigned one of their people (also an Ypsilanti resident) to the project. I assume discussions are under way or being scheduled. Of course, like everything. The devil is in the details and bureaucracies both public and private have a habit of grinding to a halt sometimes.

    The buildings that are being considered initially are the two on Michigan Ave (the Chop Suey Restaurant at 160 E Michigan and the larger building to the west at 144 E Michigan that once housed a club as well as the residential house behind the restaurant. The plan is for demolition, NOT environmental remediation, and the buildings selected were chosen in part because they did not have complicated environmental issues. The restaurant and house, according to the Brownfield Report have “no recognizable environmental conditions” and the club was the site of or adjacent to an underground storage tank (UST) and has some metal contamination that needs to be investigated further and remediated if necessary. , This shouldn’t prevent the building from being demolished.

    As to costs, again the Brownfield report estimated the demolition of the restaurant at $ 6,500 and the residence at
    $ 5,500. The cost for the club demolition, which is about twice as large, would probably be twice these costs, say $10K to12K. (They estimated $ 50,000 for demolition, investigation and remediation.) Whether these estimates are still valid today or negotiations with RAA would result in lower costs is yet to be determined. But compared to the millions of dollars left to do at the Water Street site this is “relatively inexpensive” for a highly visible and decidedly “green” project.

    As to the value of recyclable materials, scrap prices are high, but much of the high value, easily accessible scrap metal and wire has already been pilfered. But these commercial building are cinder block construction , and the block, although low value, can be salvaged for reuse or crushed to use as aggregate materials keeping much of the volume of material out of the landfill.

    As to opening up the River walk connection between Michigan Ave and Waterworks Park, I wasn’t proposing a multi-million dollar project, although the City once had a 500K Core Community grant for park development at Water Street that was transferred to the Riverside Arts Center (RAC).What I envisioned is just opening up access for public use. There was a connecting trail already existing prior to City’s purchase of all the property. Much of it is overgrown or needs to be relocated closer to the River. Some of it was part of the actual Water Street. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a recognizable path or trail. With City permission and guidance this could be a great community project for a few weekends.

  31. Posted July 17, 2008 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Pete,
    Does Council approve being able to use the walk way (legally) for public use? Do we need to send a proposal to them or ask for it in the comments section of the meeting?

    This would be a perfect nature path for me when walking my dogs–currently we walk down to Riverside, but the Water St. stretch along the river is even cooler, both literally and figuratively.

    Please let me know when we can start clearing the brush on an earlier Sat. morning and I will bring my clippers/axe.

    Thanks.

  32. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Pete. Does the city have to insure its public spaces? Just curious how much this would cost, both in insurance and public safety. I look forward to the day the riverfront is open and connected, but if I had to choose, I’d rather have the swings fixed in existing parks, for now.

  33. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Also, to both candidates or anyone who knows, how much is Water Street going to start costing us, individually, if we need to add millages until it’s developed? Let’s say worst case scenario, where the city defaults on the payments and a judge orders millages, how many millages would it take to cover the debt?

    It’d be helpful to know in evaluating proposals. I realize beggars can’t be choosers, but there’s a lot of things I would rather not see on the site (a manufactured home park, for example). It’d be nice to know how much turning down less desirable projects will actually cost me.

  34. Paul Schreiber
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Concerning Water Street payments:

    A judge can’t force Ypsilanti residents to pay a Water Street bond tax. That can only be done by a vote of the people.

    Therefore, Water Street bond payments will be made starting in 2010 from the general fund and have precedence over any other general fund expenses (police, fire, etc.) This is because the city’s full faith and credit is pledged to fund the Water Street bonds.

    Paul Schreiber

  35. Brackache
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Paul — let me get this straight. If we don’t pass an income tax or millage to cover the debt, and we default and go into recievership or whatever, we aren’t going to be FORCED to have a millage to pay for it? We can vote it down and the debt is paid by funds that would normally go towards fire/police/whathaveyou?

  36. Posted July 17, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    While on the topic of Water Street understanding and information:

    What are the new “For Sale” signs stating the property is for sale about? Is this because of an agreement that it can now be sold by parcel? Does this mean that we now have real estate professionals helping to sell the land?

    I am sure there is a good reason and hope someone will reply here who has more information.

    Along those lines . . . is insurance the consideration that keeps the property from being open to the public? [I thought it was the contamination.]

    Does a walking trail fall under the same insurance consideration as a public park?

    Is there any use that any part of the 38 acres can be put to “in the mean time” other than Heritage Festival parking without exploding budgets? Are there uses that might help sell the land? [A tip jar with tips in it attracts more tips than an empty jar.]

    Also, What is the cost per acre? Is a “That’s the cost of a bushel, how much for one piece of corn. No, not the cob. One piece of corn?” alternative even feasible?

  37. Mark H.
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Teaspout,
    I like your questions. My understanding is that the new for sale signs on the Water Street land reflects both a new found willingness by city officials to consider a piecemeal development of the land, if someone would make a proposal o some kind; and also, the city’s decision, in the last year or so, to finally get a commercial reality firm to, er, market the land to potential developers. Nobody ever buys something that they don’t know is for sale. A decade or so into the Water Street project, the city has decided to market the property. The for sale sign is from that realty firm, I believe.

  38. BrianR
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    In June of 2007, Council adopted a Water Street action plan that called for setting aside money for debt payments, hiring a national real estate broker, and build a trail and park as resources allow.

    In May of 2008, Council adopted Water Street action plan amendments that said the same thing except made considering breaking the land up into smaller parcels and selling it a higher priority option.

    In June of 2008, Council approved a proposal from CB Richard Ellis to market the project.

    The fence will come down in areas where it can come down and will then be open to the public. It’s important to remember that part of the original $13.1M bond, some clean up was done. Although it hasn’t been officially remediated, the area along the river where there is grass will probably be made open. Not all of the buildings are secure. As a result, safety measures will remain on a portion of the site until we have money to take them down (hopefully tied to some development). I’ll try and post a scan of the environmental survey.

    The CB Richard Ellis web site has the property listed, however, their map shows the property to be at the intersection of E Michigan and Rawsonville Road. Hopefully if any City employees read this site, they can ask CBRE to fix that important detail.

    The price is undisclosed.

    The ACH property is listed as well. It can be had for $7.25M. As a comparison, the City was hoping to sell Water Street for $5M in the 2005 time frame and had no takers, but that was for the entire site. Freed wanted the land for free. Now that we are parting it out, I can’t imagine that it’ll continue to be free.

    If we could do Luna Lake in one day, with a little more help, we could probably do a Water Street path along the river in the same amount of time.

  39. Lisele
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry neither of the candidates took the bait from Mark about their dream for Water Street. I liked the creativity of Old Goat’s idea about an energy production facility. Actually, market prices for energy are still very low and we couldn’t grow enough corn to make ethanol. Actually, ethanol in general is a pipe-dream (tail-pipe dream?) as it takes energy to produce — generally more energy than is generated by the ethanol. However, a green housing development, powered by solar, heated by geothermal, with rainwater cachement, and off the grid would be a draw. That would be my dream — and it would go along so well with our solar powered co-op and city hall!

  40. Paul Schreiber
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Brackache,

    The city of Ypsilanti residents will not pay taxes on Water Street bonds unless they vote for it. Water Street payments will be made out of the general fund that also funds police, fire, ordinace enforcement, planning and development, etc. The full Water Street bond payments are approximately 10% of the current budget, so those payments will not cause the city to go into receivership.

    City council has the first Water Street bond payment in 2010 covered with available funds.

    Paul Schreiber

  41. Wondering?
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Paul,

    Why are police and fire always the first items you suggest will be cut? Why don’t you consider cutting less essential services that wouldn’t have such an immediate impact on residential lives?

  42. applejack
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    My question for the candidates would be: do you think Michigan ave and Huron st should be slowed down/reduced to two lanes? if not why not? and if so how would you go about doing that?
    imho making Ypsilanti walkable would be the fastest way to improve downtown.
    Thanks

  43. Paul Schreiber
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Wondering? Asked:
    “Why are police and fire always the first items you suggest will be cut? Why don’t you consider cutting less essential services that wouldn’t have such an immediate impact on residential lives?”

    I don’t want to hijack this thread, but please allow me respond to the question. I didn’t mean to imply that police and fire should be cut first. I listed the services that the city provides in the order of spending. Police protection accounts for about $5 million and fire protection accounts for about $3 million out of a $14 million budget.

    City council went through a very long and deliberative process to determine the budget priorities and cuts. The budget process started with city council goal-setting sessions on 12/8/2007, 12/15/2007, 1/12/2008, and 1/26/2008. The city council goals and objectives were passed by city council on February 5, 2008 (see pages 5 through 11). These directions to the city manager created the FYE2009/2010 budget that was passed on June 3, 2008 (pages 5 through 7).

    Please call (734-277-5446) or email (mayor@cityofypsilanti.com) me for further clarification. Now, back to the thread.

    Paul Schreiber

  44. Wondering?
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Paul,
    You say you didn’t mean to imply that police and fire should be cut first. So I looked at the links to see what city council goals and objectives actually are. The action strategy to reduce costs is itemized in your link. Number one – cut police services. Number two – cut fire services. Council vote was six yes, zero no, 1 absent. Feb. 5, 2008

    I don’t think you really want to cut the budget. Your actions show that you really want to increase taxes another 10% so that you aren’t “forced” to cut police and fire. But what’s not on the table is cutting the waste out of the budget. Too bad for the taxpayers.

  45. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Paul,

    I was just trying to figure out how many millages it would take to cover the Water Street payments, if it comes to that, so I can evaluate what the cost of waiting for better proposals. Is 3-4 the magic number? That’s what I’m hearing. That’d be $300-400 a year for me, not pleasant, but not catastrophic.

    Wasn’t Water Street on the agenda of the last council meeting? I tried to find footage of the meeting but its not on Steve’s site. Is there a record of that meeting anywhere?

  46. Dirtgrain
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    “But what’s not on the table is cutting the waste out of the budget.”

    With such accusations should come specifics. Please show us the waste, as I’m not quite sure to what you are referring.

    Why does the Mayor want to maintain the waste in the budget? Corruption? Inside deals? What? That might also help us understand your accusation.

  47. Katy F
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    I like to watch the city council on Ypsinews.com even if I fastforward alot. It’s much quicker and more colorful than the city minutes that isn’t posted until months later. Ypsinews is always available right away. You might want to check there.

  48. Swing Chick
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    I want to know if either Mr. Johnson or Mr. Murdock would support urban chickens. I just want to raise fresh, local eggs from my backyard without worrying that the vice squad will bust me. This may not be the most important issue to some but it is important to this voter.

    Thanks!

  49. Wondering?
    Posted July 18, 2008 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    City hall is a bureaucracy and everybody wants to keep their piece of the pie. Employees want their salary to increase faster than the rate of inflation, departments spend every dime that is budgeted so that they can claim they need more next year, etc. A good city council/mayor looks at each line item and determines what is essential and what can be reduced to maintain essential services and limit the effects of budget cuts so that they have as small as impact as possible.

    The current council wants more money than they currently have. Hence, they advocated for an income tax. Since that failed, they have determined to make the necessary budget cuts in the most necessary and visible services: police and fire. If the cuts have a negative impact on city residents, people will complain, and they will say “I told you so”. Then, they will schedule another millage or income tax vote. If the residents are suffering from the decrease in services, they will be more likely to vote an increase in the taxes. The goal is to increase revenue rather than reduce the cost of doing city business.

    I’ve not made any suggestion of corruption or inside deals. But I do think the city council/mayor/city manager show a lack of concern for the financial struggles of many residents, especially those with young children. Most family incomes do not rise as fast as city taxes and fees. Other costs, such as gas and food bills, are also rising at a faster rate than family incomes.

    What is very apparent to anyone who looks at the overall budget, is that the City spends more money to provide services than other municipalities of similar size and population. How is it that other communities can provide services at far lower costs? How are they able to control costs to a far greater degree than Ypsi? What are they doing that Ypsi could emulate? Why doesn’t the city’s action plan set clear goals to seek alternative, less costly ways to operate city government?

    Instead, residents are told there is no waste, the budget is bare to the bones, and Water Street payments are no problem because it’s only an additional 10% of the entire city budget. Let’s cut police and fire and see how quickly the residents change their minds about higher taxes. It was reported that their intention is to make the cuts as visible as possible.

  50. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Wondering. Sorry to get involved, but that was just silly. Dirtgrain asked for specifics, you offer more ambiguous assertions? What would you cut? Specifically.

    Katy F. Thanks. Actually, that’s where I was looking. The latest isn’t up yet, (and, I fast-forward, too). The best report I’ve found so far is on Brian Robb’s new blog which also wants some new videos. (And, I’m just kidding [or am I?!] about this being Brian’s new blog. After all, only six percent of what I write is true…)

    Swing Chick, just keep your hens outta my corn.

    Oh, and I don’t need to bother you all with the details, but I’ve decided who to vote for. Thanks to a banner ad.

  51. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Oh. And this is a huge aside folks should feel free to ignore. But, on the Washtenaw County Sheriff election…

    I haven’t loved everything Sheriff Minzey has done. Some folks I know are behind his opponent, Jerry Clayton.

    Voting for sheriff is way outta my league, but I’m trying to learn. Anybody out there with any thoughts on this one?

  52. parade watcher
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    On the sheriff’s race — I was dismayed to see the massive display of sheriff’s personnel and equipment at the Fourth of July parade. Dozens of officers, SUVs, horses, water rescue equipment, the whole nine yards — all lined up behind Dan Minzey, and all being paid holiday pay! Clearly meant to aid in the spectacle of his reelection bid. Bad use of limited law enforcement overtime budget! That decided that election for me — Vote for Jerry Clayton for sheriff. A new broom sweeps clean.

  53. MaryD
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I see nothing silly about Wondering’s comments. The fact is the comments a scary and true. The only way to cut is too look at all line items, all variables, listen to all stakeholders. What does our council do? Give away the store to AATA and then cut fire and police, that has been their battle cry for years now.
    For the city, vote for Pete!
    As for sheriff, vote for Clayton.

  54. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    MaryD,

    Ypsilanti is one of the most efficiently run cities in the state. They spend far less to provide the same services than other communities their size. If it were not for the wisdom and fiscal prudence of the city manager and council, the city would have gone into receivership years ago. Elected officials have been so diligent in cutting excess, for the last 20 years, that police and fire is all that’s left to cut.

    Do you accept what I just said, or would you challenge me to give some specifics?

    What Wondering said, may or may not be accurate. What was silly was to act like he/she was responding to Dirtgrain’s request for specifics with an even longer list of vague accusations.

  55. KP
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I am another supporter of urban chickens. What say you?

  56. Posted July 19, 2008 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ E,

    Yes please, since you offered, what are the specifics for your statement “Ypsilanti is one of the most efficiently run cities in the state.”

    If you are comparing against Detroit, yes you are correct. But the benchmarking the City has done in the past has been seriously flawed and not very good science.

    Secondly, you say that all that is left to cut is police and fire. I am not advocating any cuts, but I think it bears noting: Police and Fire service costs about $7.5 million a year. The overall budget for the City is right around $16 million. So there is $8.5 million in annual spending not related to police and fire.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  57. Dirtgrain
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Oy veh, you missed OEC’s point.

    So, $8.5 million in waste. It helps when we get more specific. Let’s cut that $8.5 million then.

  58. Posted July 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I get so tired of the criticism of our city government. I would encourage criticism if it was offered constructively; but, it’s not. No solutions are ever suggested. No alternatives are suggested. All the criticism I ever see is characterized as ‘current city government doesn’t know what they are doing, cite exhibit A.’ There is never an alternative. There is never offers for help. This latest by Wondering is just the most current example.

    My perception for a very long time about this negativity is this: A certain camp is trying to gain political power by tearing down the current government. They try to build as much doubt and discontent with current government as they can. Their goal is simple: To supplant the current government with themselves.

    My perception is that this group doesn’t have solutions for the city. They don’t care about the city itself. Their actual agenda is hidden, a well guarded secret. It scares the heck out of me. Why? Because the unknown scares me.

    I think this group purposefully refrains from submitting alternative solutions to the city’s problems because they know those ideas could also be criticized. They know they would have a more difficult time grasping the power they desire, if they opened up their ideas to debate. If they have any solutions at all, they know those solutions are probably not much different that what is already begin done or proposed by current government. They know those solutions might not be popular, so they obscure them, hide them or avoid the question.

    My perception, that I just penned is just that: A perception on my part. I don’t claim that it is true. I don’t claim that certain individuals are power hungry. I’m just saying that that is the feeling I get when their are never details to back up the claim that they have a better idea.

    I urge voters to vote for concrete ideas, solutions, and cooperation.

  59. MaryD
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Ol’E,
    I attended a few city council meetings, Tues. is a very busy night for me, so I miss most and cannot stand more computer viewing after a long day at work. The meetings I attended left me shocked on how little our council members understood the budget process or even which numbers to trust. They seemed to depend solely on the manager. It was clear evidence that we needed representatives that understand the very complex budget process. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I recognize that when cutting a budget you need detailed line items to consider, the big picture and the little picture.
    I am continually impressed with the work Brian Robb has done on council. He gets it. That is why we elect representatives in the 1st place.
    I know Pete Murdock will represent my interests in the city and look forward to that in the future.

  60. MaryD
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    As for “this group” that has scary plans and is grasping for power. This type of rhetoric just proves my friend’s comment about how this is the “silly season”. Silly is putting it nicely.

  61. Brackache
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    KP and Swing Chick: Urban chickens/goats is an issue for me as well that I keep forgetting to ask about, and am curious as to how Rod or Pete or that other libertarian type guy I haven’t researched at all would propose and/or vote on the subject.

    I figure if we cut police funding, there will be less chance of getting busted for illicit urban chickens, not to mention a bunch of other fun stuff that shouldn’t be illegal.

    I will therefore be voting for whoever seems most likely to make cutting police funding unavoidable, accidently or otherwise.

  62. Dirtgrain
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Since when do Libertarians want to maintain police forces? It sounded funny when I read it.

  63. Brackache
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, Dirtgrain, I don’t know. I wish that thirdward sam feller would come back and post a list of specific stuff he wants to cut. If anybody aught to have a concrete list of services that need axing, it’s the libertarian guy.

    Why on earth CAN’T somebody just post such a list? Everyone’s been asking for it. Just go down the list of expenditures, write down some preliminary ideas of what to cut (doesn’t have to be exhaustive yet), grow a pair, and post the damn thing.

    I’ll throw something out there to get the ball rolling just off the top of my head based on no research whatsoever: cut the hours of those building permit folks in the basement of city hall to just a couple hours a day, like 11-1. I honestly have no idea what their hours already are, but you get the idea.

    Someone do this who’s running for city council or shut up already with the vague cutting expenditures talk.

  64. nearby
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    urban chickens:

    I’ve heard 1 (the guy filing the violation thing) against them, and many many for them.

    It’s our city and a city ordinance. It’s changeable.

    Where’s the petition? I’ll sign. I’ll walk around with one.

    Something like AA’s (4-6 hens only, no roosters) should have zero trouble passing. There is a huge impetus to both support local sellers and also to grow local food.

    It would be neat if a petition for a vote on the ordinance got finished before whatever other legal issues were even heard.

  65. Posted July 19, 2008 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Great discussion – we’re new to the neighborhood as of last August and are getting more and more involved as we settle in.

    I really hope to see more posts by the candidates and representatives of the City administration. Maybe Mark could do a weekly “Town Hall Thread” or something.

    And on the topic of urban chickens:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/annie734/sets/72157605738732345/

    I hope the police don’t show up later tonight because I posted that link. The neighbors have been happy about the prospect of fresh eggs, and we’re having fun taking care of our new pets.

  66. Posted July 19, 2008 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Doug and Annie,

    Welcome to Ypsilanti!

    I was really impressed with your chicken coop, love your chicken’s names and can see that the cat is going to have hours of entertainment watching!

    I hope you will continue posting as winter sets in so we can see how the chickens adapt to the colder weather.

    Good luck with your decision for voting August 5.

  67. egpenet
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I actually submitted the concept and background information to the planning department about a solar production facility for Water Street … one currently searching for a site within the state … one that is a joint venture between Dow and a Japanese Company … and I submitted it several MONTHS ago. I assume they were contacted and I also assume they have not responded or have said No.

    Regarding the upcoming election … I’d still like to hear from candidates their “planks” … their visions for the immediate future … what their goals would be … how we could measure their contributions in future years.

    Campaign promises? Well, sort of. No council person can go THAT far … but I’d sure like to know what Lois … Pete … Rod … and everyone else has in mind. The literature is the usual.

    I guess I’m looking for the unusual.

    If I was running, but Im NOT …

    My first term goals would be:

    1 – All downtown store front occupied with sensible retail hours.

    2 – All downtown second and third floors occupied (within reason) … there are some problems with sprinkler requirements in some buildings.

    3 – All parking lots DONE and the parking program DONE within my first year.

    4 – A new fascade program for downtown commercial space.

    4 – A 50-50 match program within the historic district for all exterior improvements … emphasizing BOTH restoration and energy efficiency.

    5 – Expansion of the historic district to selected neighborhoods, with neighbor approvals, to provide price and livability stability to the proposed areas, which HD residents presently enjoy, and to expand the many other benefits of a historic district to these areas, such as improved living conditions, improved beautification, and the HDC’s authority to exsercise reasonable enforecement.

    6 – Focus on faster streamlining of the City’s zoning changes … knowing the city wants to make changes … adding citizen and business pressure to get the new zoning into effect ASAP to encourage business and a creatively yet senibly wider variety of uses.

    7 – More citizen involvement. We are ALL busy at work. We ALL struggle. The times are VERY bad, and will get WORSE. And yet civic volunteerism is needed more than ever to help build, maintain, control, plan and execute our City’s re-emergence into prosperity. (When representatives of the local Rotary Club must ASK me on my front porch where the R.A.C. is located, so they can pull weeds … which they DID quite expertly after some way-finding suggestions) then I must assume that MOST people haven’t a CLUE what’s going on in the city or the downtown.

    8- Shape retail, city services, and civic activities to fit the bill. This is a working men and women’s community. Three shifts for some, most two. Some, maybe half, work two jobs. We’re tired. We’re almost broke. But we are still willing to “drink the local kool aid” if a good case can be made for what the city needs, and if we see some control being exercised downtown. The LACK of good PR and communication between the City/Council and the voters is what killed the tax … and the fear-mongering didn’t help. In my first term I would actually RE-OPEN the income tax issue! (Now you know I am crazy.) The City simply needs the money. Until we are humming downtown, and until ACH and Water Street are settled, and until we are back-to-back and belly-to-belly downtown on our sidewalks (which we were in WWII days) … the City will MAYBE scrape by. But there will be a lot of roadkill at the Sheriff’s auctions.

    VOTE for whomever … I’m not running. But these are my planks. IMHO, they are light years ahead of anything I have had stuck in my door. You?

  68. egpenet
    Posted July 19, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Anybody else?

    What’s the plan? What’s the vision? Where do we go from here?

    BTW …

    Kudos to our Chief … four+ weeks without a call to the AATA Depot. Great job!

  69. Brackache
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    That’s the spirit, ed. Although I only 100% agree w/ you on #7 on your list, I 200% agree that the people who are actually running need to pony up and post specifics of their own.

  70. Doug
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Are there enough people posting enough here to warrant a “forum” page/site? Not that Mark’s blog comments aren’t comfortable, but it might be nice to be able to let people post threads and let the topics stretch out a little.

    New forums frequently wither pretty quickly, so if we don’t have “critical mass” it might not be worth it.

  71. Glen S.
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    For those who haven’t yet seen it, Rod Johnson has posted his plan at:

    www(dot)johnsonforward3(dot)com/platform.html

  72. Posted July 20, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Hey Glen S.

    That’s great: A plan and vision. This man with a beard has my vote.

  73. Old Goat
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Plans are fine, but greasing the wheels of implementing them is another matter all together.

  74. Dirtgrain
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    That’s it. Screw plans.

  75. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Steve,

    Yes, exactly. Statements like the one I made should be backed with specifics. You might of missed it in the thread, but I was responding to MaryD and Wondering. My remarks were just an illustration. By the way, are you able to make the tape of latest council meeting on Water Street available?

  76. amused1
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    egpenet,

    I like most of your ideas but have some thoughts about a couple of them.

    With regard to number 1, well, I think downtown is growing. I see more people walking around town now than I did 5 years ago. That’s a good sign. Yes, there are a couple of businesses I’d like to see have more regular hours, but it’s their business. And I’m pretty sure city hall only has power over limiting hours to avoid public nuisance not force businesses to open their doors at “regular” hours.

    I struggle a bit with numbers 4A and 5. Historic Districts are important to any community. That said, there are people who simply won’t buy a home in an HD due to the additional regulations and costs associated with them. I see you recommend a 50/50 deal. While helpful if there’s money somewhere to be had for this, I suspect it will add additional steps (and possible headaches) to tasks like replacing doors or windows. In a time when real estate is struggling, any potential barriers to home sales need to be carefully considered.

    About number 7, you actually saw a Rotarian walking? Man, National Geographic would pay a fortune for photos of the extremely rare Walking Rotarian. It’s almost as rare as the all but extinct Convivial Ypsilanti City Council Meeting. ;^)

  77. egpenet
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    When a candidate says “I’m FOR or AGAINST something …” that means something.

    When a candidate says “I want all the storefronts occupied and open for business … and all of the apartments and lofts developed … and I’ll work for that during my term … that’s something you can TALLY UP in two, three or five years.

    Those are “measurable objectives.” Obviously, a candidate who makes those kinds of promises is going to be working an awful lot behind the scenes between council meetings to make it happen. The people want things like this to happen and so someone, somehow has to get the job done.

    The city will support these kinds of goals every which way it can with new zoning and all of that. But only someone jawboning and cranking up the heat from the bully pulpit and naming names will get it done.

  78. Brackache
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Here’s Ron Johnson’s plan for those who don’t trust any news sources beyond mark’s blog comments:

    Rod Johnson’s POSITIVE Plan for Ypsilanti’s Future:

    1. There will be NO City Income Tax. Ypsilanti voters have spoken on this issue and I am absolutely opposed to any attempt to try to raise it again. The City must work with the resources we have. Period.

    2. Public Safety must be a priority. Although our resources are limited, we must not back down on our efforts to control crime, which has so many negative impacts on our community. My experience on COPAC has taught me the many ways in which neighborhood residents and the police can work together to make our streets safer, and I intend to bring that experience to City Council.

    3. Our Quality of Life must be protected: Neighborhood nuisances like noise, speeding, gang graffiti, and drug sales must be stopped. One “bad” house should not be allowed to ruin a neighborhood! As vice president of the Historic East Side Neighborhood Association, I have learned a lot about the neighborhood issues and concerns facing Ward 3 families. I also know that active, involved residents are the key to healthy neighborhoods, and will work to encourage more citizen involvement.

    4. Our Economic Development efforts must be strengthened. As chairman of the City Planning Commission for the last three years I have helped many businesses locate in the City, including, in Ward 3: Standard Printing on Cross St., the Corner Brewery on Norris St., the new Walgreen’s on Michigan Avenue, and American Photo Studios — which will soon move into the former Ave Maria property on Forest Avenue. Each of these businesses is now paying property taxes and providing jobs for our neighbors. I am eager to keep this progress going, and I am currently leading the work of the Planning Commission to simplify zoning and streamline the planning process to make the Water Street site more attractive to a wider variety of potential developers.

    5. Regional and Public-Private Partnerships must be encouraged. We can stretch our resources by working together with our neighboring townships, as our wonderful Ypsilanti District Library demonstrates, and by working with private groups such as those who are helping keep Rutherford Pool open and working to raise money to reopen our Freighthouse in Depot Town. I will work hard to make the City of Ypsilanti a good-faith partner in these efforts.

    6. We must keep Ypsilanti’s Positive Momentum going. Despite our challenges, there are many things we can all be proud of: Our unique downtown, Depot Town, and attractive historic district; our beautiful Huron River and many parks; popular festivals and special events; thriving local and independent businesses; a growing community of creative artists and musicians; our many exciting, citizen-led efforts to foster greater sustainability and a “greener” community; strong neighborhoods and active, committed citizens; and, Ypsilanti’s tremendous diversity, and our proud history of tolerance, inclusion and hospitality. All of these things make Ypsilanti a place like nowhere else, and provide us with an opportunity for a bright future … together we can make it happen!

  79. Brackache
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Mike Eller’s plan:

    Police and Fire
    Stop cutting police officers and firefighters. These people save lives.

    Furthermore, there should be a definitive goal to add sufficient number of police officers in order to have cops on the beat in downtown Ypsi. This would insure greater safety, a feeling of security, reduce the negative activity, all contributing to an increase in positive activity – foot traffic, customers, business owners, etc.

    My thoughts on “Water Street”:
    The City of Ypsilanti is not in the business of real estate and they should get their hands out of this immediately. In order to move forward and right a wrong, you must be willing to admit that you made a mistake! The Water Street Project was wrong from the start and consequently has resulted in one faux pas after another.

    Kicking taxpaying land owners and businesses off their private property for the supposed benefit of “redevelopment” in order to fulfill the “vision” of a few elitists and to generate more tax revenue for the city is wrong. It sends the message to private property owners and business owners that we don’t care who you are or what your business does, we have a better vision for your land, so its time for you to go.

    Well those that were the “architects” of the Water Street Project are now gone, moved on to greener pastures and not the least bit interested in Ypsi. The city’s elected officials made a big mistake and now it’s time to fix it.

    Here’s a thought: find a solid, reputable developer, remove all restrictions on the land, and give either the entire property, or part of it, away, enabling the developer to maximize the opportunity and profits. This would put the land back on the tax rolls immediately. As the developer progresses, instant and increasing value would be added to the parcels. This is the kind of “shot in the arm” approach that is needed. Anything less will sputter along at the very best.

    Reducing the Tax Burden on Residents
    This is about taking care of our current residents, and those who have been here for many years. This would additionally attract new residents.

    We should look for ways to reduce the overall mill rate in Ypsilanti. Residents pay one of the highest rates in the state. And yes, we’ve all heard the excuses about lower values, rollbacks, the amount of land not on the tax rolls, etc., etc. None of this is going to change any time soon and perhaps never. These are factors that we have to live with.

    The fact remains that folks who are able to shop for homes in the $150,000 range generally are not folks who can pay $4500 in taxes, nor should they have to. So what’s the result of a high tax rate? Houses don’t sell until prices drop significantly, thereby reducing all values in the area, which results in an eventual lower taxable value. Then, of course, with significantly lower values comes a different shopper. A vicious spiral downward. It’s simple: higher tax rates equal less interest in the area from both prospective, responsible homeowners and potential business investors.

    The question is not whether or not the city can reduce the tax burden on its existing residents. The question should be HOW can we do it? Make the decision to do it because it’s the right thing to do, and then figure out how to get it done!!

    Less Government
    Get the government out of the private lives of our residents.

    People want to know that they are safe, and that they have decent services (trash pick up, roads cleared, fire protection, police services). Otherwise people want to be left alone.

    For years I have heard stories about the city meddling in the affairs of private residents. I have also experienced some of this first hand. While code inspections are necessary to maintain safe conditions for renters, homeowners, and surrounding neighbors, harassing residents about what kind of hand rail to put on your porch, whether or not you have a permit to put up a shed, requiring the “mom and pop” business to pay a business license fee in order to operate quietly out of their own home, or requiring the taxpaying resident to pay for the new sidewalk that the city mutilated, is all completely unconstitutional.

    Get the government out of development.

    Obviously the local government has botched the Water Street Project. Government does not have any business being involved in these types of projects. Government as a unit, and its paid bureaucrats have no true motivation! Their salaries are paid by you and me. The number one and number two motivators in the marketplace are profit and fear. These two factors combined, engage the instinctive traits of private enterprises to move forward and produce successful results, at speeds and ability that far surpass what government is capable of doing.

    Then there is the Historic District Commission, which I have seen deny the owner of a home the right to enlarge the opening of a window in order to gain more light in his house without cutting down a tree. In another case HDC said “no, you must have a rectangular window, not an oval window in that front door”. HDC sending a letter saying: “we noticed you painted your house without our permission”. Gee, you’re right, I spent my money on my property, which I pay the mortgage on, ungodly high taxes for, the property looks 1000% better, and the neighbors are happy. So what’s the problem? HDC is all about control, thereby restricting your ability to control your own private property. For years I have heard the complaints about, and experienced “Nazi” City Planners, Building Inspectors, and City Staff treating us as if we work for them.

    This is wrong! Take your fascism somewhere else!

    Business Approach to Leadership
    There is a lack of business experience and leadership on council. That specific experience and leadership has not been present on council for as long as I can recall.

    A local and very well respected business man in Ypsilanti recently expressed his opinion to me that, and I paraphrase: in order to serve in public office, one should have to have had a minimum of 10 years of business ownership experience, and had to have paid the enormous amounts of taxes that businesses pay to multiple levels of government in exchange for nothing.

    Strong words from a seasoned successful businessman. He’s got a point. The only way we can successfully approach and solve the fiscal challenges in this city is through the minds of people who have the experience of making the hard decisions day in and day out, decisions that affect their bottom line and their rear end today, tomorrow and the next day. Voting to kick the can down the road and put off today’s tough choices to another generation of elected officials and taxpayers is morally and fiscally irresponsible.

    We need more of Ypsi’s successful business leaders to be engaged in politics. If business leaders are not willing to step up and make a real difference in the political arena, then you can expect those without business experience to step up, and we’ve seen the results of that for years.

    Take your choice!

    Funding AATA
    See Letters to the Editor, Ypsilanti Courier

    More Individual Responsibility
    The Constitution never guaranteed anyone anything other than the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    If we get government out of our lives and back to its original intent, then we would all be free to capitalize on the endless opportunities that cross our paths everyday without unnecessary government interference.

    Take for instance the AATA issue – It is not the role of government to ensure that I have transportation to and from work. The majority should not be taxed to ensure that the few are guaranteed a ride. Each individual should be responsible for carrying their own weight. Either pay a higher bus fare (we are all paying more at the pump), ride a bike, walk, take a taxi, call a friend, whatever. But don’t force me pay the way for somebody else.

    The fact is that when we, Human Beings, are responsible for ourselves and perhaps backed up against the wall, we respond with much greater determination to succeed. But if we are counting on the “hand out”, then we fall into the continual trap of laziness and continue to take the hand out, never really maximizing our potential for independence and success.

  80. Brackache
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Pete Murdock’splan (sorry if there’s more than just this stuff on waterstreet on your site, I admitedly didn’t dig very hard):

    WATER STREET

    Water Street is the most formidable and immediate challenge the City faces. Looming debt payments starting in the next fiscal year at over $800K and rapidly rising to over $1.3 million annually, without development tax revenues, will cripple the City. The City’s Fund Balance will get us through next year and possibly the following year. After that …

    The most important thing the City can do is open up the Water Street development to a broader range of possibilities. Right now the City is wedded to a singular concept of residential condo development with some commercial activity along Michigan Ave. The Planning Commission just recently adopted a revised master plan for Water Street that while, opening up to multiple developers, essentially maintains this singular concept or residential/commercial designation. It’s not that this concept is a “bad” idea but it is one that two developers couldn’t seem to make work.

    Why not open the process up to potential developers, saying that we have 38 acres of development property, what would you suggest could go there? What would you invest YOUR money in and what do you need from the City to make it work?

    Then we can evaluate each proposal, see how it measures up to community desires and the City’s financial and debt situation and make a reasoned decision. By closing out other possibilities, we will never know what’s out there. We always can say no.

    What about a Green Industry concept with a manufacturing operation that creates jobs building windmills or solar panels? What about a research facility that is developing a long life battery for the electric car of the future–maybe in conjunction with EMU? What about a baseball stadium–sports complex that we have heard rumors of? What about a ca-si-no (Mark’s spam filter prevents spelling this word correctly) complex? Are any of these examples beating down the doors? Are they a real possibility? We don’t know unless we stop clinging to a singular concept and open up the possibilities.

    There have been no proposals offered. When someone comes to the table with a real proposal with real money, then we can evaluate it.

    Second, we need to aggressively market the property in an unrestricted way, as described above, to allow for all possibilities and concepts to be explored. The recent hiring of a marketing firm by the City was a good step if they are not restricted to what they can market it for.

    Third, the marketing of the property, for development of smaller parcels instead of the entire site, while probably not the most desirable direction, is one that is now dictated by necessity.

    Fourth, I would not borrow any more money for the project, unless it is accompanied and linked to a specific developer, and the development is such that the tax revenue can service the debt.

    Lastly, I would attempt to creatively do things to the site that indicates progress and motion. When the Walgreen’s project was being discussed for Prospect and Michigan, I proposed that the City see if they could get Walgreen’s to locate on the Water Street site at Michigan and Park or Michigan and River. This would have created activity at the site and indicate progress. Also by locating at that site, tax revenues would be nearly double what it is now because of the Water Street Tax Increment Financing District (TIFA) and it would all be dedicated to paying off the debt. Both because the City, at that time, did not want to break the property up, and Walgreen’s reluctance to change location, it didn’t happen.

    I have recently contacted both the City and Recycle Ann Arbor(RAA) about the possibility of doing a Deconstruction demonstration project, where by RAA would deconstruct a couple of the smaller buildings on Michigan Avenue and salvage for reuse or recycling much of the demolition debris. Both indicated an interested, and I await the outcome of their discussions. This would be a relatively inexpensive project which would not only show progress on the site but would have an environmental (green) element to it. If successful, other building deconstruction may be a possibility.

    We should open up the River Walk portion so people can connect from Riverside to Waterworks Park and perhaps turn the open area into a dog park for the interim period.

    That’s my ideas on Water Street. I am anxious to hear others. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

  81. Posted July 21, 2008 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    To Ward Three Voter Doug and Others Interested in the Urban Chicken Issue –

    First a disclaimer, I have known the Thomasons for many years and my wife taught some of their kids. We even purchase eggs from them now and again. (Does that make us an accessory to the crime?)

    Now for the substance, I am not opposed to urban chickens. I do think we can craft an ordinance to allow them under well defined circumstances. I do think the Freedom to Farm rationale is a stretch. IMHO, a statute intended to rightly keep urban sprawl and subdivisions from encroaching on existing farms is not a license to reintroduce farms into an urban area regardless of zoning and other ordinances.

    When this issue came up two years ago, the Mayor and City Council essentially punted and put off any discussion of the issue. As Mr. Thomason instigated the discussion, it was well known what his intentions were. He went ahead with his chickens, and now goats, and as long as nobody complained, all was “right” with the world. But then came a complaint, and off to court the City and the Thomasons go. As I understand it, there is a court date in the Fall and eventually this issue will wend its way up to the higher courts on the Freedom to Farm defense.

    I don’t think this is the preeminent issue facing the City but having ordinances that are selectively or not enforced is no way to run City Hall. City Council should take up the issue, review what other communities, including Ann Arbor, have done on this issue, hold hearings and either change the ordinance or enforce it.

  82. Swing Chick
    Posted July 21, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Mr. Murdock for your response on that. It may not seem like a pressing issue locally, but I think having locally produced food is a pressing issue as we consider ways to address global climate change.

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