Ypsilanti Shovelgate

Apparently a lot my friends and neighbors here in Ypsilanti awoke this Saturday to find something special in their mailboxes – hefty bills from the City for snow removal. The following note was left on the site by Oliva this morning, in an open thread:

Did anyone else receive a bill from the Ypsi Building Department declaring that someone had applied de-icer to their sidewalks and are now being charged? We and our neighbor did, and I can testify that not only was there no de-icer ever applied here or next-door, but we are faithful sidewalk clearers and always do it within 24 hours (though we think the requirement is within 48 hrs.). Neither of us ever received a notice saying our sidewalks needed to be cleared, and they didn’t need it because, as I said, we’re faithful and timely shovelers. It was a steep charge too, $83. We’re planning to protest the charge–absolutely unjust and not right–but we’re curious to hear if anybody else got a similar invoice. The frustrating thing is that we and our neighbor would happily pitch in to help Ypsi, but it’s so unfair to be charged for something that wasn’t done and didn’t need to be done. Argh!

After posting this note, her husband and a neighbor went to City Hall to complain. The following update was left by her this afternoon.

So, others may know that city council (everyone but the illustrious and wise Lois Richardson) voted for a new system in which the city relies on a private contractor to see about snowy sidewalks, clear them, and then have the home owners billed. But there are real problems because the law now is that home owners get 48 hours to clear their sidewalks (we thought it was 24 hours and always clear the sidewalks within 24 hours) and are supposed to be warned. We weren’t notified, for one thing, and there’s absolutely no evidence that anyone cleared our walk except for us. Plus, there was never a need for someone else to clear our sidewalks.

My husband and neighbor went to City Hall first thing this morning, and they reported that the phones were ringing off the hook there, so presumably a lot of others also received an invoice and are mad.

There is so much to be mad about. For one thing, as if we don’t know to steer clear of private contractors for so many things–after the Bush years, after the Comcast scams in which private contractors do unnecessary work just to get paid, leaving customers to clean up the mess.

For upset Ypsi residents who received the bogus invoices, the boss at the Building Department said we need to write a letter to contest the invoice. So not only do we get some extra stress and frustration on a much-needed weekend, but it’s up to each of us to prove that the charge is incorrect. Talk about a lousy system.

Pardon my infuriation! But this is the update as of now. (As if it isn’t pain enough to have all this snow in the first place–now we have to deal with fake charges about it. Maddening!)

Oh, it’s hard not to wonder whose brother or uncle the private contractor is. But maybe that cynicism is unwarranted. But this move was obviously a really bad idea and unhelpful in fostering trust and mutual respect between residents and city government. (Thankfully, we know some of the people who work for the city are absolutely valuable and good.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I too received a bill for $83 dollars ($35 for clean up, and $48 for administrative fees). And, like Oliva and her husband, I was also not notified in advance that my sidewalk was not sufficiently cleared. I’m told that photos were likely taken of our properties both before and after cleanup, and I look forward to seeing the ones taken outside of my home, as I’m quite certain that no one improved on the admittedly half-ass job that I’d done with my broken back… At least I can’t recall returning home from work on the 5th of February and saying, “I wonder which of my terrific neighbors came along and widened the path that I’d cut in the snow.” And, even if there are photos that show some marginal improvement over the shoveling job that I’d done (which wasn’t really all that half-assed), how can they prove that we were issued warnings in advance? Is there a photo somewhere of a man leaving a notice on my door? Or are we just supposed to believe a company that has a monetary incentive not to warn us?

And Oliva wasn’t the only reader to take the matter to City Hall. The following comes from someone calling him or herself Howdryiam:

I went to the building department this morning to contest an unjust ‘failure to clear the sidewalk of snow violation.’ I diligently clean my sidewalk, and was shocked to see this invoice in the mail this past Saturday. While I was standing there for five minutes, there were several phone calls into the office with people complaining about similar unjust invoices. It seems that if you’d like to appeal a bogus fine, you have to write a letter to the attention of Mr. Frank Daniels of the building department. This is what I’m in the process of doing, and I urge anyone else who got tapped with these charges to do the same.

The ordinance is contradictory in language to what appears on the city’s website. The ordinance itself states that snow and ice must be cleared within 48 hours from first accumulation. This is also what was published in the Ann Arbor News. However the city’s website states that sidewalks much be cleared “within 24 hours of a snowfall”. The ambiguity and confusion certainly doesn’t help matter. And what constitutes “cleared” exactly?

Additionally, the city ordinance states that a notice, (either by telephone, mail, in person, or written notice left on the property) will be issued. The ordinance also stipulates that at least 18 hours will be given before any action is taken once the notice is issued. I never received a notice of any manner. So if I’m reading this ordinance correctly, and I’d like to believe I am (but I’m just a ordinary citizen unfamiliar with the byzantine operations of city government) I should have had 66 hours to clear the snow from my sidewalk before I could justly be fined.

Further, it’s maddening how the city government capriciously enforces ordinances on the books. Either enforce them, or don’t. I know that there are many, many dedicated individuals trying to do the right thing in city government, but no matter how ‘business/people friendly’ city hall tries to claim they are, they then go and shoot themselves in the foot with stupid stuff like this. Perception is reality, and the perception is that the city government doesn’t know (or care) what citizens want or need. It’s this disconnect that will keep Ypsilanti from being the diverse, vibrant, cool, and hip city that it could be… Sad, really.

According to Councilman Brian Robb, who also left a comment in the open thread, the group that supposedly did the snow removal is A&M Services. My guess is that we subcontracted to them in the wake of a recent round of cost-cutting, when we let go the people in Public Works who used to do such things. So now we in Ypsilanti are seeing the efficiency of privatization first-hand, and, let me tell you, it’s just as grand as Bush and Cheney told us it would be. The free market has given us an elegant solution to our problems. No more accountable city employees mucking up the process. Now we have our own local version of Haliburton coming in making everything right. No more waste. No more bureaucracy. We just get the bills, take them at their word, and write checks…. And $83 for clearing 25 feet of sidewalk sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Oh, and lest you think everyone believes this new system is bullshit, one comment was left by a defender of the new order. The following comes from a fellow calling himself Citizen Blogger.

As somebody who spends a lot of time walking around town (and who has made a lot of complaints to the city about unshoveled sidewalks!) I for one am glad to see more robust snow enforcement. There were properties around town that had their sidewalks completely unshoveled for a month – just like every other winter, except this time the city got a policy in place to deal with it. (Really important, since this has been officially one of the coldest and snowiest winters ever!)

I’m not going to say that the city implemented it perfectly, and it sounds like there are some kinks to work out. But I am glad to see that something is being done – that the city is taking into account my needs, as a pedestrian, to travel around town safely.

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  1. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    If the law were applied according to protocol, then I think that would be okay. But this mysterious, shady crap is absurd. I didn’t get one (College Heights neighborhood), and I did quickly deal with the snow. In what neighborhoods did people get the notices/fines? Is there a pattern? A logic to it?

    Wasn’t there mention months or more ago about the City’s intention to step up enforcement? But did they actually see to it that they had enough resources to do it properly? I look forward to reading more reports here.

  2. Oliva
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    I wrote this in the open thread post (pasted below) but see it belongs here. Thanks, Mark, for posting our dilemma so prominently and for managing to inject a little sense of relief in the form of humor, subtle but sturdy. (If only your back felt that way. I think the special Shovelgate letter might not have helped, but I hope your recovery efforts are paying off quickly.)

    I appreciate the comment, Citizen Blogger, but if the system isn’t just, then it isn’t really working right and isn’t worthwhile. The idea might be good, but that’s a whole separate thing–so I think “kinks” is way too soft a word. A lot of us are pedestrians and keep slipping and moving to the street because of impassable sidewalks. So, it seems especially unfair, given that we make our sidewalks safe to walk, that we have to fight to remove a citation from our record and fight a charge we don’t owe. And we’re not the only ones.

  3. Patrick
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    “So now we in Ypsilanti are seeing the efficiency of privatization first-hand, and it’s just as grand as Bush and Cheney told us it would be. The free market has given us an elegant solution to our problems.”

    Watch out, Mark. I hear Blackwater USA is getting into the sidewalk snow clearing business.

  4. nammeroo
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    We are seeing the toxic combination of a poorly-written, over-reaching local ordinance combined with a city building department desperately looking for something to do to justify its budget when no building activity is going on…. Add in the building department’s history of ham-handed ordinance enforcement, and this is what you get.

    Good luck with your appeals. My suggestion would be to organize a mass protest at the next Council meeting. At 3 minutes per audience participation speaker, 20 neighbors could tie up over an hour of the Council’s time…. :(

  5. Paw
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I’m told that a decision was made to focus on specific high-traffic corridors. So, no, this wasn’t applied evenly throughout the city.

  6. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    “I’m told that a decision was made to focus on specific high-traffic corridors.”

    Ahah! Discrimination. Off with their heads!

  7. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    If you lived in that neighborhood for awhile you can recall money making scams every five years or so. The sidewalk replacement project comes to mind about ten years ago. They mad x’s on half my sidewalk pavers that were perfectly level. After some argueing and a visit from the building inspector, he knocked it down to 2 or 3. Those now are the worst ones in front of my house. They stick up 1/2 inch past the older ones and look lopsided. That began in our neighborhood, then mysteriously stopped (was supposed to continue citywide) Seems we are the monetary experimental bellweathers in that area.

  8. Curt Waugh
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    mark, we’ve seen comments from most of the council and the mayor when issues of such local immediacy pop up. (The endless defense of Water St. comes to mind.) But we are seeing nothing here.

    Any of you who have these tickets should not pay them. Private companies have absolutely no rights whatsoever to fine or ticket a private citizen. I don’t give a crap what the ordinance says. DO NOT hand your rights over to a private entity. This is PUBLIC property. It will be handled by public employees only. These people are not deputized. They are not trained. They are not public employees.

    Mr. Mayor, what sayest thou? Are you listening to what’s going on here? Do you care?

  9. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Brian Robb did post in the other thread, I think.

  10. walter street
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine who lives near me (not far from campus) got a ticket for this recently. My landlord takes care of the shoveling but I wouldn’t have a problem if there was consistency and warning in the enforcement (which there doesn’t seem to be)

    What really irks me is that I have to walk about 15 minutes to work past many foreclosed and empty homes that are nearly impassable. These houses for the most part are being bought up and rehabbed by entities that should be responsible enough to shovel but don’t. I won’t mention any names but a certain local construction company doesn’t seem to take clear sidewalks very seriously.

  11. BrianR
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I love conspiracy theories as much as the next guy, but some of what’s been mentioned here is a little off.

    The City contracts ordinance abatement to private contractors and always has — at least as long as I’ve lived here. Can you imagine the furor that would be created if the parks didn’t get mowed because DPS was mowing the weeds in front of Motor Wheel? Or that the paths through the parks hadn’t been cleared with snow because they are shoveling in front of your house?

    The ordinance officer — a City employee — issues all warnings and tickets. Private companies are not running around warning or fining people.

    This is an interesting issue to say the least. I think the City has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to ordinance enforcement. I say that at about every Council meeting we have. I’ve expressed concern over the upkeep of Motor Wheel. The same for Dahlmann’s depot, the Thompson Building, and the towing operators on N Lincoln.

    Well good for City Staff, they finally listened and we had a special session devoted to ordinance enforcement. They invested time and money into a issue tracking system. They are doing something about the problems. They have a long way to go, but I’m pleased we are trying to make progress. It may not be as much fun for people to complain about our foibles, but we’re finally trying to be responsive.

    The snow ordinance is a little weird. We’ve always had a snow ordinance. You could always be subject to a $100 fine for not clearing your sidewalks, so requiring removal is nothing new. We revised the ordinance to allow the City to remove the snow if you failed to do so. I had big issues with this — mostly our lack of enforcement. My friends at the Ypsilanti Courier did a nice article about it. I ultimately voted in favor of it because I was given the promise of stonger all-around enforcement.

    A lot of people want Ypsilanti to be a walkable community removing snow goes a long way to helping further that goal. For what it’s worth, over 300 warnings went out when this went into effect.

    Feedback from the community is imporant and I encourage it. I hope Rodney does bring out 50 people to the next Council meeting to express their concerns at audience participation, because after all, isn’t that what government is supposed to be about?

  12. Oliva
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Re. high-traffic areas. Wish this explained things, but several rental properties around us (on our street) haven’t had clear sidewalks, but they weren’t given a citation. And busier streets than ours have snowy, iced-over sidewalks.

    Curt Waugh, thank you for your post!

  13. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Government Contractor Info

    Defense Contracts for this contractor from 2000 – 2007

    Government Contractor/
    ANN ARBOR, MI 48108
    Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to this Contractor from 2000 to 2007 $5,063
    Number of Defense Contracts Awarded to this Contractor from 2000 to 2007 2
    Industry Classification Other Services to Buildings and Dwellings
    Type of Business Entity Other Small Business (SB) Performing in the United States
    Women-Owned Business No
    HUB Zone Representation No
    Ethnic Group —
    Veteran-Owned Small Business —

  14. BrianR
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    HERE is a link to the Ypsilanti Action Center.

    If you have issues with sidewalks in your area, please use it or call the ordinance officer directly at 734.482.1025. We can’t help fix problems unless we know they exist.

  15. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Brian: there were no notices issued. It was unfair. It has caused much axiety and grief. Someone needs to make sure officers are following correct proceedure. This was not done!

  16. BrianR
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    If notices were not issued, there is an appeal process. I would encourage everyone who feels wronged to use it.

  17. Bill Kilgore
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    And who would compensate us for our time? Who will investigate why notices were not issued? Or convieniently removed by someone once the list was generated? Or that city employees don’t golf with or have some relationship with A.M. Services? Or that any work was done to begin with?

    The point is, the city is also paying a contractor for work that wasn’t done. And at this point, the contractor will demand payment (or has already been paid) for work that wasn’t done, or done surepticiously?

    I appreciate your comments Brian, but you really are missing the larger pointin this.

  18. Oliva
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    It would be nice to think some of those citations Brian R. referred to went to people who actually deserved them–particularly absentee landlords. I am concerned that people without access to this discussion and without great mobility or means, who were also unfairly ticketed, will be harmed without knowing there’s proper recourse. (I’m still holding out hope that there is proper recourse w/o too much difficulty–for now, the difficulty is falling to those unfairly ticketed, but I’m stubbornly trusting [for a few more days] that someone in authority will investigate and see that there is indeed something improper going on that needs to be corrected.)

  19. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Complaints about snow removal on some properties have routinely come up during Ypsilanti city council meetings. Last month city council had a session on ordinance enforcement. Many council members expressed dissatisfaction with the complaint-based approach to ordinance enforcement that the city has previously employed.

    Through these comments, Ypsilanti city staff was given verbal direction to actively enforce the snow ordinance. The city ordinance calls for the enforcement officer to leave notices at buildings where the sidewalk had not been cleared . If the snow is not removed after the notice, the snow is cleared by a private company. Persons who wish to contest the charges can visit for more information.

    I encourage all interested persons who think that the ordinance is being too (or not) aggressively enforced to contact your city council persons, speak at a city council meeting (the next one is Tuesday, March 3), or call me at 734-277-5446.

    Paul Schreiber

  20. Bill Kilgore
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    It’s being enforced on sidewalks that are clear! Uncleared sidewalks in my neighborhood are still uncleared and they received no notice! No work was done on my property (except by me personally) that I am being charged for! The city is paying a contractor that is not doing work, or poor, little work. Its not a matter of too little or not enough enforcement….Its that in this last instance there were huge mistakes made.

  21. Oliva
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry to keep posting, and we have already formally contested the ticket, are awaiting resolution. The most important thing seems to be that notices weren’t left, so the private contractor did not fulfill his/her responsibilities or follow protocol. (The city knows that these notices weren’t left.) And second, people who cleared their sidewalks in a timely manner were given citations (without any notices first). So surely the burden falls to the contractor to clean up his/her act or be replaced. An apology wouldn’t hurt either. Sad to think we’re helping pay a possible crook, when we give our time and care to this city–picking up garbage and other people’s dog poop, among other things–at no cost to the city or its residents.

  22. Emma
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I recently purchased two foreclosures on the S. side. Neither one of them had their walks shoveled by the bank who owned them, or these mysterious snow removers, for the 2-3 months between the time I first saw the properties and the time I took posession of them. They are both on main roads visible to anyone entering or exiting the city. I have a hard time believing that even the most complacent ordinance enforcer could’ve missed them. One is next door to a still vacant property on a corner lot. The snow has not been shoveled there either. That being said, I would much rather shovel someone else’s walk, than bring the ordinance officer next door to me. Even though I don’t think I have anything to hide…

  23. maryd
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    The neighbors in our hood all shovel each others walks and even car parking places. It is not at all unusual to wake up to find a neighbor working hard to remove snow from all our sidewalks. We even mowed the foreclosed home’s lawn, hoping to attact future neighbors to purchase said home. I think all of us want our neighborhoods to have clear walks and we want the business districts accessible too, including those curb cuts. Just implement a fair system.

  24. maryd
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I meant to say attract (NOT ATTACT) future neighbors, which we did.

  25. nammeroo
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noticed that the walk along Factory/Spring St. adjacent to city-owned Waterworks Park and the adjacent UAW property has rarely been cleared this winter, and was still snow covered when I drove by last. Will the city cite the union? …will it cite itself? What is the penalty for the city’s failure to keep this walk along a major street clear?

    I appreciate the city snow ordinance, and the publicity surrounding it did move some folks to make a greater effort to keep the walks clear. As an example, the walks on both sides of North and South Summit St. were kept clear, with the exception of one or two foreclosed properties.

    However, Ypsilanti’s ordinance officers have a bad habit of heavy handed enforcement activity, and have been guilty of ignoring due process and common sense in the past. Such behavior is unacceptable, especially at a time when the city has multiple means of communicating directly with the neighborhoods and property owners.

    If the latest reports are accurate, the people responsible for this should be shown the door, whether they are the contractors or city employees. It is unacceptable behavior

  26. Bill Kilgore
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see some statistics from the 300 citations Brian references. If I were a coucil person I might ask the addresses, where they all in the same neighborhood? How many contested them? If there are hundreds contested wouldn’t that show that something or someone went wrong? How many contested are let off the hook? If all of them then what is done so it doesn’t happen again. And how much will the city have to spend on attorney fees defending against angry members of the public?

    I will not be paying this fine. If they say I must I will take the city to court.

  27. Bill Kilgore
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    PS: Charlie doesn’t surf.

  28. BrianR
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ve already asked for the addresses that received a warning as well as the addresses of those who did not heed the warning. I’ll have that information tomorrow.

    If you know me, then you will love the irony in me defending the City so much.

    The park and sidewalk that Rodney refers to is not a City park. I believe he’s talking about the sidewalk on Spring Street in front of Ford Field. That’s ACH property. Waterworks Park is to the north and does not abut Spring. Again, if you have a problem with this not being shovelled, call the City and express your concern.

    I complain about the areas of the City that seem like they receive no ordinance enforcement. The poster child for that lack thereof is the Bell / Casler neighborhood. At the end of Kramer (see it HERE, there is a property with a half dozen unlicensed, unregisterd taxi cabs parked in the front yard. If you look at the aerial, you can see the other junk in this yard. I started expressing my concerns for this (as you see it as you come down South Huron) last February.

    The cars and junk are still there? Why you ask? Because our local magistrates are allowing this to drag out in court. That’s a quiet neighborhood with some cute houses down there, but can you imagine living next to that? It wouldn’t surprise me to find out those residents think City Staff selectively chose not to enforce them.

    The 3 biggest complaints I get is that taxes are too high, we don’t have enough cops, and ordinance enforcement is non-existent.

    I think we can fix that third one rather easily. We’ll find out if the City was too heavy-handed, too selective, too incompetent, or maybe we’ll find out they did their job. I can only ask for patience.

    Sadly, the reason so many people are up in arms over ordinance enforcement is because we haven’t done a very good job with for 10 years, and now that we’re trying to correct that, it’s throwing people for a loop. Hopefully we’ll be able to take the feedback, look at the data, and then make adjustments if necessary.

  29. Steve
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I am up in arms as I have planted flowers in city parks on Ypsi Pride Day. Helped clear Frog Island of invasive trees and construct the community garden, and shoveled my walk 200 times over the last fifteen years. And I have been one of the people who has not been happy with ordinance enforcment. I am not “thrown for a loop” because enforcment has picked up, I am thrown for a loop because I opened the mailbox saturday to find an $83 bill for work I did. And so did my next door neighbor who does his meticulously every snow event. Its the principle. Why on earth would I pay $83 for work that I did? Its such a large mistake its maddening. ENFORCMENT IS NOT THE ISSUE! Its the appearance of complete incompetance!

  30. Howdryiam
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I say cite the living daylights out of people not in compliance of an ordinance. If that means I’m cited, so be it, but there needs to be a warning. The irony is I was aware of the city’s new stance regarding the clearing of snow when rumbling were first heard in November. As such, I’ve been especially diligent this year, though I’ve always cleared my sidewalk.

    My compliant is the same as Bill Kilgore’s; I did not receive a notice that I was in non-compliance (though my sidewalks were cleared). And there was no evidence that anyone other than me had done anything on my property. Thus, I’m being charged for a service the city’s contractor failed to perform but is still claiming to have completed.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with the ordinance if it was more clearly written, and was enforced as it was written, meaning that a notice was given before action was taken.

  31. Oliva
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Brian. Will be interested what shows up tomorrow.

    Sadly, the reason so many people are up in arms over ordinance enforcement is because we haven’t done a very good job with for 10 years, and now that we’re trying to correct that, it’s throwing people for a loop.

    Back when we were deliberating about a city income tax, my husband suggested that better ordinance enforcement was an obvious way for the city to receive revenue–parking meters and such. But it’s one thing to enforce ordinances and a whole other thing to randomly charge people for phantom ice removal without notice and then make those people fight the charge, rather than get to the heart of the problem. I’m grateful you’re looking into it and will have some information for us tomorrow.

    It’s not true that we’re up in arms because until now enforcement has been lax. It’s because the approach is clearly flawed and harms valuable members of the community.

  32. Steve
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Being ticketed for this also permanantly appears on your assessment records. My homes record is currently spotless, and I intend to keep it that way. And when I look at the rental house across the street there are dozens of citations recorded, but no snow citation for February. And yes, there was snow on there walk for the last 12 weeks.

  33. maryd
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    This is why we elected Brian! And I do appreciate the irony…

  34. Scott K
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve received two invoices as well with never receiving a notice. I’m sending the city a bill for $83 for each time it takes the city a week to plow my alley and my neighbors and I have to struggle trying to get our vehicles in and out.

  35. Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Ticketing people for not shoveling is a clear violation of rights. People have a right to not shovel their property if they like.

  36. Steve
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Ticketing people FOR shoveling is an even clearer violation of rights.

  37. BrianR
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Ordinance enforcement generates revenue, but it also costs us in legal fees. Last year we collected around $85K in ordinance fines. We collected another $75K in parking meter revenue. We spent similar money on ordinance prosecution. We could definitely get more revenue from ordinance enforcement, but we’d have to spend more in prosecution. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do it. In fact, I want us to be more aggressive. Ordinance enforcement is a quality of life program, but it not a massive revenue generator.

  38. Curt Waugh
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    1) dude, it’s not really your property. By law, the sidewalk is in the city’s right of way and we are obligated for its upkeep. It’s an odd synthesis of public and private space, but it works and its something to which we all agreed a long time ago. Yes, we have an obligation for upkeep of the sidewalks. That’s part of the deal of having them. Just the same, the city has an obligation to cut down and remove a diseased tree in the right of way, but you have to mow the grass. It’s all part of the deal and it’s good neighborly behavior. Hush up and grab a shovel.

    2) Brian and Paul, the first couple posts you made here said nothing more than, “If you don’t like it, you can always complain to city hall.” (Brian, you appear to have gone the extra step of considering this matter more thoroughly.) You can’t imagine the bile that rises in our throats when you say things like this.

    We are all, en masse, telling you there is a systematic problem. We are identifying non-anonymous, credible community leaders who are telling you there is a problem. DO NOT dump it back in our laps and say that it’s our job to hash it out one complaint at a time. And don’t go off on tangent about the general philosophy of ordinance support. We don’t give a crap about general ordinance enforcement here. We are complaining about THIS ordinance enforcement here. We are not complaining about our own experience, we are using our personal examples to inform you of an acute problem. Until one of you can prove otherwise (see? it’s not really our problem at all), the problem very much seems to be that a private contractor has horribly blown the whole program and that our public officials have abdicated their responsibility to manage it. It’s now YOUR job to disprove this as the preponderance of evidence suggests that it’s true.

    Please fix this. Do your job as the good citizens of our city who have faithfully cleared their walks have done theirs.

  39. Posted February 24, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink


    Exactly. The city should get those sidewalks off of of private citizen’s property.

  40. Posted February 24, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I talked with the Mayor, and, as I understand it, it wasn’t the contracted company responsible for leaving warnings. That would have been the job of the enforcement officer. The way it’s supposed to work, according to the Mayor, is like this.

    1) Enforcement officer sees unshoveled walkway, posts warning, and takes photo of the sidewalk.

    2) 24 hours later, the enforcement officer returns, sees the sidewalk has not been shoveled, and calls the company contracted by the city to shovel the walkway.

    3) The company comes and shovels the walkway.

    4) The homeowner is billed for the service.

    In this particular instance, it would seem that many of us were not alerted to the fact that we were in violation (seemingly a failure of the ordinance enforcement officer)… Furthermore, the City does not require that the contracted company take a photo to prove that they cleared said walkway.

    I asked the Mayor point-blank if he would pay the bill, if there were no notice given, and if there were no evidence that the sidewalk was actually cleared by the contracted company. For what it’s worth, he did not respond with an enthusiastic, Yes. Instead, we talked about how complicated the issue was, etc.

    In his defense, I think the Mayor really wants to find a solution that works for us. My sense is that he’d rather go to a system where the enforcement officer just responds to neighborhood complaints. I guess we’ll all have to work it out together at the next meeting of City Council.

    More later…. I need to put Clementine to bed.

  41. Steve
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Thats one hell of an employee the city has there. Seems he can go to over three hundred houses for an early February snow event and then return to each one 24 hours later to issues citations. What crap.

    Fact is, of all the citations I heard of, none were issued warnings. I guess we are all liars.

    I say we all collectively hire a lawyer. And get all our wasted time and stress returned to us.

  42. Scott K
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I agree with that idea. It’s not as complicated as the mayor seems to think. I’m all for finding a lawyer.

  43. Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I notice that this subject is being discussed on the Ann Arbor Chronicle site. I wonder if maybe an article in the Ann Arbor News is in our future…. One suspects that the ordinance enforcement officer would make for a good interview subject.

    And I don’t know that I’d go and get a lawyer just yet. Maybe I’m gullible, but I’m optimistic that we can come up with a solution without going to court.

    For what it’s worth, though, I’m not planning to pay $83 for a job that no one can prove was done, and I know I wasn’t informed about in advance, as is required under law.

  44. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    BrianR said: “We’ll find out if the City was too heavy-handed, too selective, too incompetent, or maybe we’ll find out they did their job. I can only ask for patience.”

    I agree. Please give the city time to determine all of the facts.

    Paul Schreiber

  45. Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone in the city receive written notice that, if they didn’t shovel their sidewalk, it would be shoveled for them? So far, judging by the folks here, it doesn’t sound as though anyone did.

  46. Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    When’s the next City Council meeting? And should we try to get this on the agenda, or just deal with it during public comments?

  47. Steve
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m really pissed off. I think someone should be disciplined or possibly fired over this. I wasn’t so upset about the money issue as the pride issue. I take pride in my property. And I’m quite able-bodied. Now I’m accused of some sloth-like behavior, that really pisses me off.

    City Council meeting would be fine to vent, but thats more unnecessary time I’d have to spend for someones incompetence.

    I don’t want someone on my property shoveling my walk! No one did come on my property and shovel! And the city will have to pay for the shysters, which means we pay.

    Please Mayor and Council, get it together. Our city frequently looks like fools.

  48. Steve
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Someone should demand to see all the copies the officer wrote.

    What a freakin joke.

  49. Steve
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunatley, he would not make a good interview subject. He won’t look you in the eye (I wonder why, maybe feelings of guilt) and refers you to his supervisor.

  50. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    If you folk haven’t figured it out, I live on a high pedestrian route (Cross St.). I understand that sometimes we go to work and come home to heavily trodden snow that’s very difficult to scrape dry. I shovel, it isn’t always clean and dry, but I ain’t got no tickets yet.

    That said, I have a neighbor who’s commented above, who is rather able bodied that hadn’t shoveled a flake all winter. I walked tonight, after the aforementioned ticketed, and this neighbor’s walk was finally clean. I say, Hoo-rah, on that particular case. I’ve slipped and twisted through their ounce of sidewalk many times this season. It hasn’t made me happy and I wear grippy boots. His/her walk has made me think of rocks and rubber bands through windows with “shovel you asshole” attached.

    It sounds like this measure has been poorly implemented. But, I’ll just add that at least one of the above commenters is full of shit and deeply deserving of the fine.

  51. MizKitty
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m a senior citizen who shovels at every snow, yes, even within 24 hrs. But, being a side street, the snowplow NEVER comes during that time. So this means not only do I shovel my snow, I ALSO HAVE TO SHOVEL THE CITY’S SNOW THAT THE PLOW THROWS BACK ONTO MY WALK. You bet I’m pissed. And did our fine Ward 3 council person even try to get resident comments before he voted for this travesty? Is he even aware that some of the streets in his Ward have no strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb? This means when the Kamakazi snowplow careens down our street, snow is thrown 6 feet covering the walks (again), our driveways, and our lawns.
    Can anyone tell me what the speed limit is for snowplows on residental roads?

  52. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Brian: Maybe he actually had a written warning and HAD an opportunity to do it himself. I was not that fortunate.

    An the other point is the invoice said “applied ice melter” There has been no ice melter applied to my sidewalk as I shovel it well. My wife also works from home. She would know if someone actually DID something.

    I think your again missing the point that something terribly wrong has happened. Its disappointing as our representative that you don’t understand the seriousness of the fraud that has occured.

  53. Luke Bison
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    I think I hearist sheep. Baaaaaaaaah. BaaaaAAAAAggggh. We waaaaaahnt. We waaaaaaahnnnt! Feeeeeeed meeee. I’m oooooold. Baaaaaaaaaaaah. Snow plowstoooo faaaaaaast. My shovel tooooo slooooooooow. Baaaaaaah. Fuuuuuuuck eweeeeeeeeee…. I’m waaaaaarrrrrrmmmmm…. fuuuuuuuuck children walking to schooooooooool…. they should take SUV down the alley at twice legal speed to get to special private schoooooooool … baaaaaaaaaah…. if they have to walk fuuuuuuuuuuuck eeeeeemmmmmm.

    Clear your fucking sidewalks you able bodied whiners. Here’s a hint. If you have time to bitch on this blog you have time to scrape the snow off your shit. Assholes.

  54. KitMizzy
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:34 pm | Permalink


    I’d like to be clear, are you suggesting that you shouldn’t shovel your walk or the city shouldn’t plow your street or that the city should plow your street before anyone on your street shovels their walk?

    I’m just trying to figure out what your idea of good citizenship is? Perhaps the city should call you and your neighbors in April and say “the streets are clean and dry, it’s okay to shovel now!” Really, what’s your complaint? What am I missing besides your being a senior with a shovel?

  55. Oliva
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ll just add that at least one of the above commenters is full of shit and deeply deserving of the fine.

    Oh my. What I thought of when I read this was the NY Post’s first “apology” for the awful cartoon in its paper, in which they ended with a dig at Al Sharpton, blaming him for complaining about what the paper had done. I know it’s a different situation but somehow reminiscent. We’ve been trying to get real understanding from those in charge and those representing us, and there seems to be a potent willfulness to shrug and say, in different words, “Tough luck–live with it.” (I know, I know–we were asked to be patient and want to be, but it would help not to read basically dismissive posts from those who could help or at least be supportive.)

    I hear Ol’ E Cross’s fury about his neighbor, and I think maybe that’s working to obscure the actual problem that’s going on. It really isn’t a matter of those who want clear sidewalks vs. bad people who won’t let them have them because of laziness or some such. It’s a matter of an ill-thought-out program that is not working and is in fact damaging goodwill when that’s the precious ingredient we NEED during these difficult times. Why would Ypsi shoot itself and its residents in the foot? Without feet, how do we shovel? how do we slip or not slip?

    I know I said it before, but please recognize that many of us shovelers are also pedestrians, and a whole lot of us regular walkers didn’t call and complain about neighbors and others–we just walked in the street when we had to–because you never know why on a certain day or even week someone wasn’t able to shovel well or even at all. When did Ypsi get the this me-me-me illness, anyway? Being different than that has been its saving grace. I hope it will be that again and quickly.

  56. Oliva
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Luke, baby–

    A tablespoon of honey with that apple cider vinegar WILL make you less sour.

    (Grab a shovel ’cause we’re about to get more snow.)

  57. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 12:21 am | Permalink


    I don’t know that I disagree that this measure was poorly planned and implemented. And I agree with your sentiment. My frustration (not quite reaching fury) was at the commenter who had actually been quite negligent in clearing snow jumping on the “I’ve been wrongfully ticketed!” bandwagon.

    All I’m saying is, at least one commenter, earned a ticket. (Or, at least, I would have given it.) I’m not the best on my beautiful block at clearing sidewalks, but I do my best. And, I think we’d both agree that establishments that clear a path to their door but don’t clear their property around the corner aren’t serving pedestrians well.

    I think it’s decent for folks to shovel and clear sidewalks; it’s among the most basic civil service folks can perform. I have little doubt that the private contractor has made bad mistakes. All, truly, all I’m suggesting is that one of the above comments may not have had a warning note in their mailbox but has not been civil on sidewalks in the least. I think you can appreciate that if you saw someone who you knew was negligent try to slide in amongst legitimate claims you’d feel compelled to say something … I don’t in any way mean to undermine legitimate claims, but there is one that stinks.

  58. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 12:29 am | Permalink


    Don’t get me wrong … you’re amusing, but can you, on behalf of you and yours, explain why people in A2 are so obsessed with life in Ypsi?


  59. galan
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    I am over 60 years old. I have shoulder pain 100% of the time because of inoperable shoulder joint degeneration. I have had my right hip replaced twice and my left one once. However, my partner and I shovel our walks whenever it snows for the following reasons:
    1. It makes the job of our newspaper and mail delivery persons safer and easier;
    2. It is respectful of our neighbors and to pedestrians who need to walk;
    3. It increases the “walkability” potential of our city in a time of economic difficulty and excessive greenhouse gasses;
    4. It enhances the look of our city and thereby the value of our property and that of our neighbors.
    Ordinances are created and passed for the overall good of the citizens of our city, to insure their safety and to maintain property values as well as for other reasons. Enforcement of them is necessary for compliance when citizens are thoughtless or inconsiderate of others. In this particular case there appears to be a problem with implementation. Let’s figure it out, stop all the drama and move on with the long term goals of ordinance enforcement firmly in mind. As for the person who mentioned suing the city? I would like to suggest that you put that energy into shoveling your walks where it could do us all some good.

  60. EOS
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Well said Curt!

  61. Oliva
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I agree. Thank you, Curt.

    Galan, will you consider this, in light of your comment (and given that the poster who mentioned suing puts his energy into cleaning his walks):

    As for the person who mentioned suing the city? I would like to suggest that you put that energy into shoveling your walks where it could do us all some good”?

    Say you’re driving 25 mph in a 25 mph zone, and a deputized EMU officer pulls you over and says you were driving 45 mph. You say, “Not so,” but you get a ticket and it goes on your record. You feel badly and wonder what to do, so you speak up, and someone tells you, “Just drive the speed limit, you knucklehead!” You might like it or not. But it might feel frustrating.

  62. galan
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Frustrating yes. But why not give the city time to figure this out? Both the mayor and one city council person have said on this blog that they would be willing to follow up with those who consider themselves wronged. Doing this can make future enforcement activities go more smoothly. I think everyone is of the opinion that warnings should be issued first especially in a case like this were people who may be disabled or otherwise unable to comply need time to figure things out with the city.
    Good to keep in mind that ordinance enforcement is in our own best interest.

  63. Oliva
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you, Galan. I think the problem was that at first our public officials seemed dismissive, but speaking up here changed that. Then, after we were asked to wait for things to be straightened out, some posters here started in with name-calling and more dismissiveness, when neighborly support and even compassion would’ve been nice. I know people like to vent at blogs and that sometimes they’re just having a bad day so say unhelpful things. I also know that it’s easy to imagine what one can’t see, that maybe some of the people feeling wronged have other troubles at the moment so this one stings a little more than it might have. Plus, winter is getting old, and snow is too, so the whole subject is . . . unpleasant even without enforcement errors.

    But now we await justice and take deep breaths, knowing spring is coming. And I hope spring will bring a little extra kindness to our little town. That has been a sustaining quality in some Ypsi neighborhoods, anyway.

  64. Posted February 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    It snowed.
    You did not shovel.
    Probably, you have not been shoveling regularly for a long time.
    The city gets complaints about people not shoveling.
    You get fined.
    You pay.
    You shovel in the future.

    Stop whining.

  65. walter street
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink


    maybe there’s some merit to what all these residents are saying

    stop being a dirtbag

  66. Posted February 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ve lived next to people who do not shovel on a regular basis.

    I, myself, have been guilty in the past of not shoveling on a regular basis.

    I would not be surprised if the city came around and gave me or my neighbors a ticket.

    Go to a prison. Ask people if they are guilty or not. Chances are, many will say they didn’t do a thing.

    Pay your tickets and shut up.

  67. Worried
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Hey, how can Ol’ East Cross be so sure that it was *really* his neighbor commenting above? Don’t we all have the ability to put in any name we want here, including those of other e-people? I’ve always taken comfort in that notion, at least.

    Just curious…

  68. Oliva
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Genius system, dude.
    You project your own guilt and condemn others accordingly. You mistrust others, so they are therefore guilty. Then you just get ugly and name-call, to be a bully? Brilliant form of justice.

  69. Posted February 25, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Did I call anyone names?

  70. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink


    Don’t worry. It’s someone who clearly identified themselves (e.g., “I’m Pat Smith and I live the big red house on Shamrock St). Of course, it could be an impersonator/impostor…

    I’m very sympathetic to folks who had their shoveled walks ticketed, but I don’t see the need for a warning (I get that it’s in the rule book so should have been given). It’d be nice if the meter police would leave a warning on my windshield before writing a ticket. But, it seems like the risk of warnings will be that some folks never shovel until they get a warning, and then shovel quickly to avoid the ticket. Seems kinda expensive for the city to give warnings over and over and never collect any fees. I’m mean, if you’re in violation, you get a ticket. Do the crime pay the dime.

  71. Oliva
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Dude, you didn’t, technically (you didn’t call us whiners, just said the sound to you was whining). So, I appreciate the correction. I went out after leaving my comment and thought about you wonderingly. I have a feeling you might just be very nice and lovable. I’m gonna go with that idea–even if it keeps being frustrating to hear people say, “Shovel,” absolutely ignoring or denying the fact that it was never the case that we don’t. (In fact, OEC’s last post is seriously maddening–oh my, “Do the crime.”)

    I also realize it’s lucky I’m not a fish, as I am a sucker for bait and might not last long in the river or sea.

    I also thought I should mention, for you and anyone else needing love–berry-flavored vit. D3 is an amazing winter antidote and does wonders for the spirit.

  72. Oliva
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    “But, it seems like the risk of warnings will be that some folks never shovel until they get a warning, and then shovel quickly to avoid the ticket. Seems kinda expensive for the city to give warnings over and over and never collect any fees.”

    Sounds like you know something we don’t. Like you used this phrase before, or discussed that theory. Thats really screwed up logic. I find it pretty scary that you have a hand in public policy. You don’t seem to think things out very well.

    What happened here is I put money in the meter, plenty of money, and still got a ticket. So did my neighbor, and Mark. But the assholes across the street who park in the handicap zone never got one.

    You’re not out there ticketing, you’re not supervising the ticket writers at all. You assume there doing things correctly. This would’nt be the case if you had a fine in your mailbox tomorrow.

    Your anger at your neighbor clouds your vision.

  73. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, that last post was from me, not Oliva.

    Sorry Oliva.

  74. Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink


    Where can I submit a bid to get some of this action? I’m thinking I could get some teenagers to work for a couple bucks an hour, and then mark it up to $20 an hour per shoveler. Then, I could add a “billing fee” to every invoice, and perhaps an “Internet convenience fee” for those who want to pay via credit card. I’m already seeing dollar signs and there’s this $60,000 wristwatch I’ve got my eye on.

    I’m also interested in perhaps mowing lawns that aren’t done on time, too. Maybe I could also get a few cars towed that have been left parked on the street more than, say 48 hours. Sounds like those of us that get in on the ground floor of this wonderful new privatization scheme could make a killing!

    Let me make sure I get this — if the charge isn’t paid, it becomes a lien on the house? That’s f-ing BRILLIANT!!! What a forward-thinking idea! It’s like a license to print your own money!

  75. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Trusty: Good idea but the city has a better one already. You don’t even need the shovelers. you can just say they did it. No ones watching them anyway. Just ticket the whole neighborhood wether they shovel or not. Throw enough shit at the wall and some will stick.

  76. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    “But, it seems like the risk of warnings will be that some folks never shovel until they get a warning, and then shovel quickly to avoid the ticket. Seems kinda expensive for the city to give warnings over and over and never collect any fees.”

    This sounds good. A photo with some sort of official date stamp would be evidence enough? I would want proof, and I would want a clear and simple way to dispute a ticket if it were wrongly given.

  77. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    And while were at it, lets install cameras at all the stop signs. Ticket everyone that doesn’t come to a complete stop. All the angelic posters here would be safe.

  78. BrianR
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like you know something we don’t. Like you used this phrase before, or discussed that theory. Thats really screwed up logic. I find it pretty scary that you have a hand in public policy. You don’t seem to think things out very well.

    Caleb = Ol’ E Cross

    Ol’ E Cross is not me, but I’m often times Trusty Getto.

  79. Posted February 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    From what I understand, as of yesterday, only 20 people had contacted the city to either complain or inquire about the tickets. And that’s from a pool of some 300 people. If this is true, I’d say it was pretty successful. Of course, there could just be people out there who haven’t gotten around to calling City Hall yet.

    I’ve also been told that not all 20 people who called to complain/inquire said that they hadn’t received written warning, as I, and several other people leaving comments here have claimed.

    So, it sounds like there might just be a handful of us who weren’t warned and/or believe that we had indeed shoveled our sidewalks. Given the number of comments left here, I was thinking that it was an epidemic, but, as it turns out, maybe not.

    As for my case, I sent in a letter yesterday saying that I 1) didn’t receive a warning, 2) thought that I’d sufficiently cleared my sidewalk, and 3) don’t recall noting that it was shoveled any better when I returned from work on the day in question. I’ve requested their photos of the sidewalk, a copy of the warning notice they claim they left, etc. I’ll let you know how the appeal goes.

  80. Posted February 25, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I should also mention something the Mayor told me. Apparently, in the current version of the snow removal guidelines, it just says that the city “may” warn you if you’re found to be in violation. So, while it’s “policy,” it’s not guaranteed.

  81. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    And thats bullshit and possible retaliation or some sort of selective enforcement.

    Sounds like they didn’t notify all and are now spending their time trying to justify the mistakes they made.

    No one did anything at my house.

    I’m not paying a phanton charge as for some “mysterious reason” they think I should.

    And you know it too Mark.

  82. Oliva
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Wow, we are one screwy municipality. The city “may” warn you. At first we heard about photos and warnings, and then we hear, nope, no photos actually. Oh, and no copies of warnings. Whoops, not even warnings. And then there’s the slick correspondence of time periods: within 24 hrs. but also within 48 hrs. I am relieved that some people here not directly affected have astutely illustrated how ludicrous the system is (or, as Peter Tosh would’ve said, the shitstem). It finally is seeming funny in a way. Intelligent support sure does help (thanks, Curt and others, and thanks, Mark, for good information gathering and kindly hosting us, even if we’re not always so pleasant).

  83. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    talked with the Mayor, and, as I understand it, it wasn’t the contracted company responsible for leaving warnings. That would have been the job of the enforcement officer. The way it’s supposed to work, according to the Mayor, is like this.

    1) Enforcement officer sees unshoveled walkway, posts warning, and takes photo of the sidewalk.

    So the Mayor didn’t understand the nuances of the policy. Excellent. Good job.

    And we can take the word of a private contras

  84. bob
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I find it ironic that the city contracted with the company for snow removal and then the next day all the snow melts because of the warm weather and rain. If “Complaints about snow removal on some properties have routinely come up during Ypsilanti city council meetings” why hasn’t this been addressed earlier? Especially this Winter where there has been so much snow? Why now at the end of the season? It would have made more sense to piss people off four months ago which would ensure nice, clear walks all season long.

    I did not clear my walk after this latest snow because, to be honest, I can’t stand the fact that is snowed again. I am tired of doing it. After learning the city was “clearing walks” and fining people, I went out with disdain to shovel my walk and was pleasantly surprised that Mother Nature had already taken care of this for me. I am not going to tell AM Services where I live because they will probably charge me for the work nature did for them.

    Also, with the taxes I pay I think the city should clear my walks anyway. I don’t get anything else for my high taxes. Maybe the $250 I pay for water could go towards snow removal. The city should think long and hard about pissing off their residents. We already pay quite a bit for very little. I have an idea. How about if we, the residents contract a pothole repair company and send the city the bill?

  85. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Nor did Brian seem to pass an ordianance that he didn’t fully understood..

    “I’ve already asked for the addresses that received a warning as well as the addresses of those who did not heed the warning. I’ll have that information tomorrow”. Brian R.

  86. nammeroo
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m all for even-handed, reasonable enforcement of well-written, unambiguous city ordinances. If we had experienced this on a regular basis in Ypsilanti, our neighborhoods would be better for it. Unfortunately, too often the ordinances are poorly written, ambiguous, and unevenly enforced by ham-handed agents of the city.

    The sidewalk ordinance is one example of this. What would otherwise be a positive city policy (clear and walkable sidewalks across the city) turns into a negative because of lousy implementation.

    ps Brian, Waterworks Park does have frontage on Spring/Factory St. from the end of Catherine St. west to the Huron River. That is the stretch of walk that I was referring to as unshoveled all winter. The ACH property on the south side of the street has no public sidewalk.

  87. the injector
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    i have to say that all through this winter i have been so pissed that the city plows the ADA approved corners out onto the streets in, so that anyone who might be trying to get around ypsi in a wheelchair or with a walker would never be able to get up onto the sidewalk. and then to see folks having to wheel themselves around down the middle of the street cause there is no way to get through the bank of snow…arghh. i’d pay $83.00 to a collective pot of public money to get whoever–private or public– to go out there and break down the icy barriers to people who may be unable to walk over 2 to 3 feet of piled, rock hard snow. and i would also take a shovel to the corners on my street, too, but i am not strong enough to bust through the ice at times.

    I am able to walk on slippery, unshoveled sidewalks, but there are a lot of people who can’t. and, has this ticketing and clearing been happening in only selected parts of town cause my absentee–yes, moved away to TX–landlord has left his sidewalk unshoveled all winter and never was it cleared in the night by a special snow removal company. he leaves his grass uncut also–like lets it get 2 to 3 feet tall. will council contract grass cutting ordinance enforcers during the summer:) ha.

  88. Oliva
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    i’d pay $83.00 to a collective pot of public money to get whoever–private or public– to go out there and break down the icy barriers to people who may be unable to walk over 2 to 3 feet of piled, rock hard snow . . .

    Kinda brilliant.

    People in wheelchairs and using walkers absolutely deserve that thoughtfulness and ability to move around all winter, and I just hadn’t thought about how difficult the plowing makes things for them. On our skinny street the plows scream past, leaving loads of chunky ice and snow all over the sidewalks and driveway. (Oh geez, how ironic actually, in light of Shovelgate. But that wasn’t meant to be my point.)

    It would be a pool of citizens pitching in $$ and hiring corner clearers? We could also appeal to the plow drivers to slow down just a bit, which would help.

  89. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    “I should also mention something the Mayor told me. Apparently, in the current version of the snow removal guidelines, it just says that the city “may” warn you if you’re found to be in violation. So, while it’s “policy,” it’s not guaranteed”

    But the Mayor needs to continue reading…

    This notification may be made in person, by telephone, by mail, or by written notice left at the property. If the owner or occupant fails to remove snow or ice prior to 12:00 noon of the day after notice is given (provided there has been at least 18 hours since delivery of the notice),

    Merriam-Webster (May)
    shall , must —used in law where the sense, purpose, or policy requires this interpretation

  90. Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Seems that it is not the notification that is optional, but the method of notification (in person, by telephone, by mail, by written notice left at the property). The ordinance officer (or whoever) can choose HOW to provide notice, but they can’t skip that step.

  91. Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I just want to add my voice to this. I received a bill from the city for $103 on Monday for snow removal and have to admit that I am angry about it for the same reasons people here are angry about it. It is possible that I might have had some ice on my sidewalk as, like Mark, I admittedly do a half assed job of shoveling. If I did have ice on my sidewalk then I have no objection to being charged. I do have three concerns.

    1. Why would someone put ice remover on my sidewalk and completely ignore the vacant lot next door which has *never* been shoveled (except once or twice by me) in the entire eight years I have lived in my house? I have no way of knowing if the owner of that property received a bill but I can say with certainly that no one removed any snow or ice from there this winter. Also, I am pretty sure that that property across the street from me has only had the sidewalks cleared after the heaviest of snow storms. Since I see city workers working over there, I assume that property is the responsibility of the city. On the day I received my bill from the city, I looked outside my window and sure enough, all the snow was still there. I wont even start on how I had to pay $50 to get my car towed out of the city lot by the AATA station on Xmas eve (3-4 days after a big snow) because I was stuck in the snow. There was so much snow in that lot that when the tow truck came to get me out, the tow truck got stuck! From a customer service point of view, the city should not issue tickets when sidewalks and parking lots they are responsible for arent plowed or cleared of snow.

    2. I am not sure that anyone actually did any work at my house on the day in question. The actual work was done two weeks ago and my sidewalk gets a lot of sun so sometimes I come home and find it totally clear so I suppose it is possible that someone threw some salt on the walk and I attributed the totally clear walk to that. But if the city has a contractor and that contractor isnt doing their job, I want the city to know that.

    3. My biggest complaint is that I wasnt notified about this before it occurred. If ordinance enforcement actually comes out and takes photos before ordering the work to be done, would it be that hard for them to put a notice on the door of the property. The city could buy those hanging tags that go on door knobs and I think that would go a long way towards easing the frustration and anger that people are feeling about this situation.

    Anyways. I have really mixed feelings here. On the one hand, as a person who has slipped and fallen at least once a winter on someone’s unshoveled and icy sidewalk, I strongly support enforcement of this ordinance. On the other hand, I think giving notice and fairly enforcing the ordinance is very important and I dont think that has happened here.

  92. Daniel Kaffee
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    You go girl.

  93. Daniel Kaffee
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink


    If you haven’t done so already, contest this. Write a letter immediatly the the Code Enforcement office. State those issues above. No notice is bullshit. No work done for a charge is bullshit. Don’t give give them money for work not done or deserved by you. You try well. This was selective. They didn’t notify you I would bet on it. Enforcement is fine but this shenanigans need to stop.

  94. Daniel Kaffee
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    And while some of us wait for the city to respond to our appeals, remember for $25 you can file a small claims case at the Washtenaw County Court. Keep track of all the time you spend on this (writing letters, going to court, travel, etc.) Whats your time worth? $25/$35/hour) Time that could have been spent with your family, or work.

    This aggression will not stand man.

  95. Posted February 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Community reeling from snow removal invoices: City sends 348 homeowners bills http://ypsiciti.com/section/News/Community+reeling+from+snow+removal+invoices-article-442.html

  96. Posted February 26, 2009 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate that sentiment. I have decided to pay the fine because I honestly cannot remember if there was ice on my walk that day or not. There very well may have been. Also, it was snowing hard when I left town for DC to see Obama’s inauguration so I know for a fact that I was not in compliance that time since I didnt come home for a week and I figure that they could have ticketed me for that time and didnt.

    I will however, enclose a letter with my check that explains my concerns. This isnt the first time I have had an issue with the city about the way they enforce ordinances. One time I caught the contractors mowing my lawn and only was able to fight that because I rushed outside to take pictures of my lawn, which while it needed mowing was not out of compliance.

    One thing I can say about this is that it has me seriously wondering if I might not be happier in some other community. I am stuck for the moment because I dont think I could sell my house even for what I paid for it in 2000. I have some friends who are considering buying a house in the area and I was going to try to talk them into a house that is for sale a couple of doors down from me. I still might but they’ve already gotten an earful from me about this situation so the damage might already be done.

    I dont mind the city enforcing ordinances, fwiw. I do mind how such things are executed.

  97. Oliva
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Daniels said most people were charged $83; the administration fee was $48 and the clean-up service was $35, which goes directly to the independent contractor A.M. Services. It is estimated upwards of $28,000 in invoices was sent out to residents. — http://ypsiciti.com/section/News/Community+reeling+from+snow+removal+invoices-article-442.html

    Thus A.M. Services bills the city for just shy of $12,000 for no actual service that anyone can account for other than helping to damage the goodwill of residents, some at least who have put great effort into making this a better place to live.

  98. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    If some homes were ticketed while unshoveled neighbors were not, that’s a problem (are we sure this was the case)? And it’s a huge problem if folks like Oliva were ticketed when they had clean sidewalks. I hope those cases are quickly resolved. And if this is the result of an overzealous private contractor, that’s another huge problem. And, from what I saw, the private contractor didn’t clear some walks but just sprinkled something that melted through the snow which refroze over top. Hopefully the hub-bub will generate answers to the above.

    Again, my comments are not directed at any of those wrongly issued citations, but at the many places I pass that never shovel and create a public nuisance as snow hardens into uneven lumps of ice (some on our scenic inclines) that are difficult for even sure-footed adults to pass. Asking anyone, let alone kids going to school, to walk in the street isn’t a viable solution for me. A ticket happy city may not be attractive to homeowners, but neither is one where folks won’t even lift a shovel to make it easier for people to pass by. From my perspective as a daily walker, the city may have been pushed to this type of enforcement because the problem has been so widespread.

    As an aside, if you haven’t yet,read the entire city ordinance; you’ll note that their are two “mays.”

    94-136a: If snow or ice is not removed or treated as required in Sections 94-133, 94-134, and/or 94-135, the city may notify the owner or occupant of the violation. This notification may be made in person, by telephone, by mail, or by written notice left at the property.

    The lack of “will” or “must” on the first “may” sure makes it sound like the city has discretion. It’s worth noting that section only applies removal. If you read the following paragraph on civil infractions, there’s no mention of any need for issuing a warning.

    The measure was passed 6-1 by City Council, with Richardson as the sole dissenting vote.

  99. Oliva
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    The important thing about may in legal usage is that it means shall, must, and not the more general be able meaning of layman’s English.

  100. Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    OK, I just read the article on the Ypsi Citizen site, and was struck by the following:

    …April McGrath, administrative service director for the city, said 121 properties were given a warning notice and 441 properties were given notice of abatements. Calls to the city to clarify the difference between a warning and notice of abatement were not returned…

    Could someone please explain this to me? Does this mean that only 121 out of 441 were issued a warning? If so, what was it exactly that differentiated those who were warned from those who weren’t? Why wasn’t I one of those warned?

  101. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Just this afternoon Ypsilanti city council members received a memo from the director of administrative services. Below is a section that answers Mark’s question. Some owners received two warning notices. Anyone can call me with questions at 734-277-5446.

    “On December 16, 2008 Council approved an ordinance allowing the City to not only ticket a property owner for failing to clear their sidewalks within 48 hours, but allowing the City to abate the removal by hiring a private contractor and billing the property owner. The ordinance was published on December 28, 2008 and became effective January 23, 2009. During the waiting period for the ordinance to become effective staff started issuing warnings to residents who were failing to clear their sidewalks. In total 121 properties were given a warning notice with the information regarding the new ordinance.

    On Thursday January 29, 2009 staff began placed “Notice of Abatement” door tags containing the effective ordinance on the doors of property owners explaining they were in violation and failure to remove the snow from the sidewalk would result in an abatement. The snow fell much of the week prior allowing residents a week to remove the snow from their sidewalks. Over 441 properties were given a Notice of Abatement and we began abating the properties on Saturday, January 31, 2009. A total of 348 properties were abated and invoiced.”

    Paul Schreiber

  102. FW Murnau
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Thats a bunch of crap.

  103. FW Murnau
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Someone is lying to you mayor.

  104. Oliva
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Mayor, this just is not accurate. No warnings, no clearing, no nothing. We will come to city council meeting next Tuesday at 7 p.m., but for now please accept that at the very least there’s been a mistake that still needs attention.

  105. Karl
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Mayor-

    Thank you. Your empty rhetoric and excuses for ineptitude, while costing me $83, absolve me of feeling bad for withdrawing any support I may have had for the city government. Further, I don’t see much point in cooperating with entities within the city, such as the DDA which I was (past tense) volunteering with. What’s the point? Clearly, when a city can’t get a snow shoveling ordinance properly drafted and enforced, what hope is there for bigger, real issues like the redevelopment of downtown, crime, or Water Street? If I volunteer and try to help, what’s the point when city government can’t manage to get out of it’s own way?

    You had a chance to take a leadership position with this, but you opted to hide behind the fig leaf of “following the ordinance” and “letting the appeals process work itself out” and begging for “patience and understanding”. Instead of seeing that the ordinance was broken to begin with, and the enforcement was bungled, you choose to continue this charade of an established procedure when clearly, there is none. You dropped the ball. The council, including my representatives Mr. Robb and the so far non-entity and entirely unimpressive Mr. Murdoch dropped the ball. The building department dropped the ball. Mister Mayor, as your constituent I ask you, pick it up, won’t you?

    Alternately, you can let this matter occupy too much time and space in the life of our town as it continues to fester, breeding more and more ill will. I would like to be a part of a community, but there are many to choose from. The day I have to write an $83 check for a fine that I didn’t deserve will be the day that I start looking for a community that I can be a part of for years to come. Maybe I’ll look to the township. I hear the taxes are much lower and they have fewer sidewalks to boot. And that’s not blackmail- that’s just economic sense.

    I’d like not to do that. But until someone has the courage to stand up and say “we messed up” I don’t see much future in Ypsi, because the real issues of our day will require much more backbone than anyone in city government has shown thus far. So, what’s the next step, Mister Mayor? I hope it’s something good, because the natives are restless.

  106. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Karl and All,

    Please call or email me if you wish to discuss the snow ordinance or anything else.

    Paul Schreiber

  107. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Are there records of notices sent, then? In what form? And how did A&M report the work it completed?

    Why would some of A&M’s supposed work not be visible? Did they visit some properties, see that snow/ice was removed enough, and still bill the city? Do they get to bill just for having shown up? It would help to hear from the one in charge at A&M.

    Are there really photographs of each sidewalk that led to a ticket and/or abatement? Seemingly this would settle at least part of the issue–aside from the lack of warning (but I’m with OEC on this one–if it was not properly cleared after 48 hours, then how would ire be justified?). Has anyone seen a photograph of their uncleared sidewalk?

  108. Posted February 27, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I am very concerned that I have not heard a single person say that they received a notice yet the mayor says that they were issued. Is a city employee lying to the mayor about this. I find it difficult to believe that everyone in this discussion who claims not to havbe received a notice is a liar. Granted, since I also didnt receive a notice, I am inclined to believe others when they say that they didn’t either. I am also concerned with the level of work the contractor did (or didnt do as the case may be.) The reaction from the city is worse.

    From a customer service point of view, the bare minimum the city should do is acknowledge that they didn’t go about this well and apologize.

    If the city wants to give a slightly better level of customer service, they could apologize and take some action to show their level of committment to providing good service. I would recommend getting a new contractor and having a talk with the city employees involved about the importance of doing things correctly.

    If the city wants to be the sort of city where people are proud to live there and go around saying “Ypsilanti is great in many ways including the city government” (and dont discount the value of positive word of mouth), I think the city should accept that they went about this badly, issue an apology, and refund the fees already paid and tell people who havent already paid that they dont have to. Eat the loss and chalk it up to an expensive learning experience. I also would suggest that the city require every employee read that Zingerman’s book on customer service. Everyone should read it but especially whichever employee(s) who were supposed to deliver notices but didnt and who then apparently lied about it to the mayor.

    Now if I were the mayor and I wanted to do the worst possible thing, I would get on a public forum and essentially accuse the citizens who are complaining of being liars when they say they didnt get notices and then for an extra kick in the pants, I might say that the city wasnt required to give notices in the first place.

  109. Oliva
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Lynne. Beautifully stated.
    Dirtgrain, no photos (or notices or, for that matter, service claimed to have been done).

  110. Chris
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Mayor, or Brian:

    Please try to emplain the constant changes in the policy as you knew and described it. Explainyour quotes above that are diametrically opposed to each other. Brian got pretty silent. As elected representatives, this is where you should act and show us why you were elected. Step up and solve this, or admit that you are not up to the job.

    Either you are all in on it and should be ashamed at yourselves at this moneymaking scam, or admit you were duped and act. Either way start doing what good policy makers should do. Ask the right people the right questions. Ask them in person. Have all the parties tgether (and at next councils meeting.)

    The city does not have the authority to arbitrarily go out and do work that does not need to be done(or charge for work that wasn’t done to begin with)

    Please don’t insult us with answers from city staff. Proper noticing was not done. The policy was NOT followed.

  111. Artnut-
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I too received the $83 fine. I live on Washington St, Historic South Side.

    Our walkways are ALWAYS cleared within 3-4 hours of snowfall. If it is a heavy snowfall, my husband will bring out the blower, and clear the neighborhood.

    We have 2 forclosed properties next door, which are NEVER cleared.

    My husband did telephone the city to complain of the bill. He was told he would need to file a complaint in writing. We were planning on having our neighbors sign a petition stating that we always remove our snow. This is a tremendous imposition, we have to PROVE our innocence in the matter!

    We, also, did not receive any notice with regards to the walkways . I am home 24/7, I am unemployed, and our house sits about 10 ft from the walk.
    I also have 3 Labrador Retrievers, if anyone was infront of the house shoveling the walkways, I can assure you, I would have know about it.

    I don’t mind being fined if it is deserved, but, to receive a fine when you know that you have been diligent in clearing the walkways was, I must say, suprising!!! and annoying as hell

    The city really needs to find out where they went wrong, retract the fines, and send out letters of apology to its citizens. The city also must not make this mistake again, or they are going to find themselves in a very tough spot in the future.

    Thanks for all the info posted – it was very enlightening.

  112. the injector
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    BTW in my 1st comment I said my landlord…I meant the landlord who owns the neighboring house to the house I own. We have multiple absentee landlords on the street I live on–where the tenants/the landlords do not shovel. And then we have some present landlords. And frankly, I wish that these absentee folks would get the hell fined out of them. I wish there was good policy that was enforced with regularity and ferocity.

    Whatever the case, it would be helpful if we all made shoveling snow when it falls a priority and if we are facing hardship (bent bodies, pregnancy, illness, etc), it would be good if we could call on our neighbors to help us shovel. It is straight up unacceptable to leave your walk unshoveled. And if you go out of town, you should arrange to have it shoveled by friends or neighbors or a company if it happens to snow. Sorry to be such a fascist about it but shoveling makes every pedestrian’s life a little easier.

  113. Derek Foreal
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    My invoice said the “removal” and I use that term loosley, said “ice melter applied and snow removal on Feb. 3rd. If I check the Old Farmers Almanac or other weather history, I find the average temperature for the week preceeding was well above freezing (39 degrees) and one day had .08 inches of precipitation.


    Jan. 25 precitpitation 0.00
    Jan. 26 precitpitation 0.00
    Jan. 27 precitpitation 0.00
    Jan. 28 precitpitation 0.00
    Jan. 29 precitpitation 0.00
    Jan. 30 precitpitation 0.00
    Jan. 31 precitpitation 0.00
    Feb. 1 preceipitation .08
    Feb. 2 preceipitation 0.00
    Feb. 3 precipitation 0.00

    Average daytime temp. 39 degrees.

    No way was any snow or ice on my walk by Feb3rd. Since I shovel. No way was I warned or notified. No way was I warned in any way that anything was wrong with my sidewalks.

    And there was no eveidence of anything done at my home.

  114. Posted February 28, 2009 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    FWIW, the injector, I have not heard a single person object to fair and consistent enforcement of the snow ordinance. I imagine that if the city went out after every snow fall and gave those with snowy walks notices followed by having a contractor come out the next day as the ordinance reads, it wouldnt be a problem. This is especially true if everyone with snow on their walks gets the same treatment.

    That isnt what has happened here. What has happened here is some people who are sure their walks were clean were ticketed. Not every property with snow on the walk had the snow removed giving the appearance of selective enforcement. No one seems to have received the required notification. There are consistent reports of either no work being done or extremely shoddy work being done. In short, the city screwed up.

    Trust me, fair and consistent enforcement of this ordinance is exactly what will lead to all of the sidewalks in the city being cleared. People *will* make arrangements to have the snow cleared when they are unable to clear it themselves if they perceive that the likelihood of getting a ticket is high. People are less likely to protest the ticket if it is delivered fairly and to everyone and people will have an easier time paying for the snow removal if the snow is actually removed from their sidewalks (which, btw, has the added advantage of having the snow removed from the sidewalk thus making it easier for pedestrians)

  115. ytown
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the rare informative post Mark! I also received a notice without a warning. I live in the College Heights neighborhood and am curious how A&M could complete all of this snow clearing work on one day? Please keep up the good work everyone. I will see you at the city council meeting.

  116. Posted February 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m concerned what kind of message this sends to people in other communities who are thinking of moving here. Our attention should be on absentee landlords, not the good men and women of this community who stay here and keep contributing, in spite of the high taxes and the dwindling City services. The amount of ill will generated by this poorly thought out policy, I have to believe, far eclipses any short term economic gain.

    I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’m quite serious when I tell you 1) I did not receive any kind of warning, and 2) did not see any evidence of my walk having been cleared. Like I said in my original post, I didn’t clear the entire width of the sidewalk. I’ll admit that. I thought what I did was sufficient, though. Had I received a warning, however, I would have gone out and taken care of it immediately. I can assure you of that.

    And I haven’t verified whether it’s true yet or not, but when I hear folks saying that this will be on my “permanent record,” it does a lot more than just rub me the wrong way… When I think that the record of our home won’t show that we removed the hideous chain link fence that was here when we bought the home, or the fact that we went into debt for over $10K for new windows (using a licensed lead remediation company so as to make sure we weren’t damaging the local environment in the process), but that it will show we didn’t care enough to shovel our walk, in spite of receiving warnings from the City, it makes me wonder if maybe I’ve been misguided in all my Ypsi boosterism.

    I’m sure you can appreciate, Mr. Mayor, that some of us see this as a slap in the face, given the fact that we consider ourselves to be good neighbors.

    And it’s particularly insulting to have this happen when there are so many code violations in this CIty which remain unaddressed.

    I agree that there has to be a way to get these sidewalks clean, but this is not it, Paul.

  117. Matt
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    In my mailbox today (from Building Dept. Manager:)

    Thank you for your correspondance regarding the invoice for snow removal that you have recently received. (Yea, thanks for wasting many hours time, causing stress, and insulting me)

    I have reviewed your appeal and found you were placed on the list as a property that had not complied with the snow removal ordinance, (Sec. 94-136) (COMPLETE BULLCRAP) However, I also reviewed the pictures that were taken during the removal and found there was an error in photography (Ha.), and you photo could not be found. (Because there was no photo and the officer is lying) Due to the fact that I do not have sufficient evidence to deny your appeal, I will support your request for a waiver of the invoice.

    We trust in the future the sidewalks will be maintained in accordance with the ordinance to avoid further enforcement action.

    Please don’t insult me by saying “we trust in the future” My sidewalks were fine, are always fine, and the city tried to pull a huge scam, and really did succeed in ripping people off. Everyone should contest this. Photos or not, photos WILL NOT TELL YOU ANYTHING. the contractor did nothing.

    Council needs to review the contractor selection process, interview the owner, workers, who supervised them? Or did they just go to Powells all afternoon. Cause I haven’t seen anyone do anything around here, except homeowners shoveling.

    What happened was immoral and theft. They suceeded in ripping off many innocent residents. I have no confidence in our city to do anything correctly anymore. When they engage in this type of underhandness how can they actually move forward and engage in real revenue enhancement or development? Who is really responsible for this activity? And who is now covering it up? If they cannot take photos, they cannot notify correctly, and they cannot perform any work, but only falsley charge , why trust them to do anything honestly or correctly?

    Council should demand this contractor is never again used. The city manager should speak up and admit this was a farce. So should the mayor. Is it a lower level employee that didn’t do their job? Or a directive from administration?

    Who else can they find no photos for? Not that it really matters. Who supervised the contractors? No one. We can just take their word for it.

    Everyone should be outraged that a public entity engaged in what amounts to a vast fraud. Don’t pay, demand evidence. I plan to go to small claims court and get reimbursed for my personal time in this. Which was significant. I did nothing but be a good citisen and neighbor. Was falsely accused by incompetance, and spent hours defending myself. I know this is the case for others as well. One would be bad enough. Hundreds is a crime.

    We deserve answers.

  118. Matt
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    PS: My neighbor just opened up the exact same letter. No photos found. Coincidence?

  119. Posted February 28, 2009 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    What I most object to is the rental properties on Summit (which I wade through every day on the way to the bus) not being cleared. If the goals are walkability and access, then certainly major arteries like Summit which connect to the bus routes should be among those whose sidewalks are cleared FIRST. Not over in College Heights. And at least half a dozen rental properties on Summit haven’t been cleared all winter. And were not cleared in the recent ordinance enforcement action.

    But hey, at least I’m providing some comedy for passing drivers, as I waddle, slip, slide, fling out my arms, collide with fences, climb over crusty plow-levees at curb cuts, etc. A car careening into someone in a wheelchair forced to use the street would probably be even more amusing.

  120. Posted February 28, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I got the same letter too…. I hope it’s not the case, but it’s starting to sound like no warnings were given, no photos were taken, and no work was done. What a mess.

    For what it’s worth, I’m still planning to go to the City Council meeting on Tuesday… Maybe it’s overly optimistic, but I’d like to think that perhaps, by then, we could come up with something better.

    We need a comprehensive policy on ordinance enforcement, and we need to have the snow cleared. I don’t have a problem with a private contractor doing the work, but we need to be sure that the work is being done, and everything needs to be documented… And I wonder if perhaps it’s possible to put neighborhood associations in more control of the process.

  121. Matt
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Your still not not safe until it removed from the assessment records. They might bill your taxes or send another invoice in a year. Demand it be taken off the public records immediately! Or don’t lose that letter for 15 years.

  122. Dirtgrain
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I would like to know if anybody witnessed their walk being cleared by AM Services? Did anybody know that their walk had been cleared by AM? Did things work according to plan in any instances? Any photos? Any warnings?

  123. Curt Waugh
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    mark, I must say – in spite of the gravity of what is shaping up to be a huge scam perpetrated on our residents – that this thread has been one of the most relevant and entertaining you have ever had. If you’re not the 7th or even 6th most influential political blog in Michigan by now, then there’s no justice in the world.

    And a bonus: As a community organizer, you are now the laughing stock of Rudi Giuliani, Sarah Palin and failed politicians the world over. Congrats!

    In all seriousness, when I was a kid and the game got this screwed up, we employed the greatest device in history: DO-OVER! We prevented so many larger fights and so many ill feelings by throwing in the occasional do-over. When things are this bad, everybody realizes that nobody has anything to gain by digging in and trying to defend a position or some such thing. (Why adults forget this, I cannot explain.)

    Let’s all just raise our hands, admit that this just flat-out didn’t work and declare a do-over. There’s nothing illegal or weird about it as this is only a city ordinance. And it would show the world that we here in Ypsilanti are human beings and that we can recognize when we make mistakes and that it’s no big deal just to call it a day and start over when it means taking care of our own. Bring back the good will.

    To our city leaders: Please show us some proof that any of these fines and clean-ups were legally executed. We have several very credible stories here about incorrect enforcement. We have two stories here of folks who challenged the fines only to discover the city has no evidence that they were either cited legally or that any work was done. You are the city’s elected leaders, but the citizens are still in charge here and we demand an accounting.

    Citizens, do not budge until we are satisfied. I’m assuming we have drummed up enough interest in attendance at the next council meeting. I suggest the council prepare itself for some ‘splainin’.

  124. Derek Foreal
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Council needs to be our checks and balances for how the policies are actually implemented. It was obvious Brian and the Mayor were not aware of how the actual policy was actualy metted out. They assumed, as most did by reading the ordinance, that common sense said there would be were warnings. Then city employees told them that, well, no, we don’t actually have to warn anybody. Leading to abuses, overreaching by staff, and what amounts to fraud perpetrated on many residents. A big attempt at revenue grabbing. And by and large they succeeded with most.

    What will be interesting to see if anything is learned from this, anyone is held accountable, and wether this nefarious stuff just continues. Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope that much will change. Its my experience here every few years that show me that.

    But I commend you Mark. And you should win the Emmy of blog investigative journalism. With no common public voice, we’d all have to go see the butchers one by one. This shined a good spotlight on something terribly wrong.

  125. the injector
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Lynne, I realize the policy is totally flawed and I agree with you that good enforcement of a well written and applied policy will make a difference. But, I guess I just get a little sad that people have to be fined once or twice or however many times to engage in an activity that makes our community more walkable and safe and overall friendly.

    And now, that the city has made such a mess at a go around of heavy and outrageously misguided enforcement of this flawed ordinance, how many people are going to take seriously a new ordinance that is supposedly written more comprehensively…? It is a mess I hope we can dig ourselves out of or else we will be slipping and falling all next winter over the same walks that never get shoveled…

  126. Posted March 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I actually don’t think that the current ordinance is that bad. It seems fair at least how I understand it. It sounds to me like the city can issue notices 48 hours after a snow fall which is a very reasonable amount of time. And then the city can have someone remove the snow after noon the next day as long as at least 18 hours have past since the notice was given. That also seems reasonable to me.

    I don’t think that people would be complaining if the city did what it is supposed to do according to the ordinance. If the city went out and took photographs of the sidewalks, then issued notifications and then had a contractor who did the work, I don’t think this would have been such a big problem.

  127. Mary S
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Reading everyone’s comments, I have not read anyone who actually received 2 violations. The first was received for 1/30/09 “Apply ice melt to sidewalk” for $83.00. We received a second notice for 2/2/09 “Apply ice melt to sidewalk”. This one was for $93.00. With no warning notice, the city states that it applied the ice melt on Friday, and then returned on Monday. This also does not align well with the note above stating that the city took remedial action first starting on January 31. And when does the 24 or 48 hour clock start?

    My husband shoveled on Sunday, February 1. Upon receiving both invoices dated Feb 20, 2009, the only evidence that I have is knowing that we shoveled. No warning was given, and I don’t think we deserved to be cited with the violation, two times!

    No notification, 2 fines on a Friday and a Monday. Yes, we do shovel within the required time, and apply our own ice melt accordingly. We are in a high traffic area on River Street, and we try to do our best. These charges are unfair and abusive. No warning was given. You can bet we are being very careful about the side walks now. Paying $176 for this is out of the question, when we always follow the rules of trash pickup, Historic District neighborhood requirements, parking restrictions, etc……..

  128. Jim
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Mary S. Get down to city hall tomorrow and write out an appeal letter on the third floor. Then write the mayor, coucil and city manager. You must realize by now that that you were ripped off by our city. Also go to next council meeting. If Brian Robb is your coucilperson than call him too. Though I’m noit sure how much help he will be. He seems to be on the side of the crooks at this point.


    This was all a random game they played. A crime actually. Sad that we may not ever get it really straightened out.

    Don’t pay! Make them show you proof they did anything. They did nothing!

    No one in this comment section received ANY invoice. Let alone 2.

  129. Bill Kilgore
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    McGrath said the response from the community was not unexpected.

    “The response seems typical to the type of response the city gets when it enforces a new ordinance,” she said.

    No, a smart person would realize its the response when a lot of people are trying to be ripped off.

  130. FC
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    And only one guy at City Hall took the fall for this? What about his superiors? Is everyone of the opinion that this was sufficiently resolved?

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Ypsi Shovelgate: Meltdown Edition on March 1, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    […] those of you not following the conversation that developed in comments section after my last post on the Shovelgate controversy, a lot has happened. It’s really too much to cram into a single post, but here, as I understand […]

  2. By Carmen on February 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    You fight City Hall with only a shovel, not a gun, and you win. There should be tshirts with your face.

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