Depot Town CDC director defends stewardship of Ypsilanti parks

A few days ago, I raised a question here about whether or not Ypsi City Council was right to have stripped stewardship of Frog Island and Riverside parks from the Depot Town CDC. As I pointed out at the time, I think there may well have been legitimate criticism of the CDC and they way they’ve handled park maintenance, but, even so, I didn’t like the way that management of the parks was yanked from them during the now-legendary Battle of Ypsitucky. Well, today, executive director of the Depot Town CDC, Erik Dotzauer, left a comment in response that I thought warranted being brought up to the front page. Here it is:

I have no intention of questioning the motives of City Council as to why they canceled our contract. I will state that the CDC never had an opportunity to address any performance or contractual based complaints, but if and when the time comes to do such, I would prefer to have a dialogue with Council instead of exaggerating anything further publicly. You won’t find me fanning the flames of this controversy, as things stopped being productive long ago. And yes, we’ve made some mistakes over the past year. Anyone who has the uncanny ability to go through their lives and career without having missteps, please get in touch – I’d love to have you on my board.

What I will address and clarify is what the CDC has done in the parks. To start, the CDC was formed as a vehicle to make improvements in the city. Anyone who has glanced at the budget projections for the city will realize it is not a pretty scenario, and the CDC has the capacity to provide services that the city may not be able provide. Our primary goal is to improve the quality of life in our community, and in turn, spur economic development. We are a private non-profit organization that raises our money that is reinvested in the community. This is primary achieved through events (ElvisFest brings in over half of our operating budget in a good year, thus the reason for another festival), grants, charitable gaming and other fundraising efforts. I’ll point out that we did receive $5,000 from the local DDA, which is the same amount the DDA gave to the one day fashion show downtown and half the amount given to the Crossroads Music Festival.

Let’s talk about the parks. The two parks that we operate had suffered from decades of deferred maintenance. Feel free to shoot an email to the City Manager or DPW Director to inquire about any improvements made over the past twenty years. As I understand it – they cut the grass, collected trash, plowed snow when it exceeded eight inches, removed graffiti and allowed the Jaycees to handle event coordinating. There were safety issues we had to address when we began operations. The dock had structural issues due to rotting wood and holes were developing where people had stepped through the rotten deck boards. We had to close down the dock for some events last year due to safety concerns. We also inherited an electrical problem with one of the pedestals that supplies electricity for events. At one of the festivals last summer, someone was mildly electrocuted trying to unplug cords from the outlet. It was severe enough that the voltage locked his muscles up, forcing another person to physically knock him off the line.

On short notice I can’t recall everything we have done over the past year, but this is what comes to mind. The most obvious improvement is the dock. And yes, we did fortunately have the assistance of the WCC construction program, who did an amazing job! But anyone who thinks that you throw them the keys and the project magically takes care of itself is sorely mistaken. I won’t get into the permitting, coordinating and other services that we did on this project. And for those of you unaware, the project isn’t completed – we planned to build a gazebo over the dock this fall, but I’m not sure if that will come to fruition at this point.

Most recently, we painted the pavilion in Riverside Park. Check it out, it looks great! This summer we partnered with Wireless Ypsi to provide free wireless internet in Riverside Park, and it looks like our plans to install it in Frog Island won’t happen anytime soon. We painted all the little things in the parks, such as handrails, gates, benches, picnic tables and utility pedestals. We put a refrigerator in the pavilion at Riverside, and our wonderful parks manager passes out water and popsicles to kids whenever he is in the parks. We cleaned out and replaced the broken doors on the blockhouse in Frog Island. We’ve made repairs to the Tridge. We’ve organized park cleanup days. We’ve planted annuals in the parks. We’ve trimmed back trees and brush. We clean up broken glass, trash and graffiti. We’ve hauled out all the trees and debris that had been caught under the dock. We painted signs. We’ve made several repairs to broken water lines underground. We’ve replaced broken valves that supply water from the pavilion. And we rebuilt the electric line and replaced the pedestal that was a major safety hazard. We also spent well over $20,000 to hire a firm to develop the conceptual plan for the parks that was adapted by the city for the Parks & Recreation Master Plan, which needs to be updated every five years to remain eligible for grant funding.

Last summer we brought in eight new free concerts for the community. This year we had three return with an additional three planned that were canceled after our contract was terminated. We also had plans to bring fitness events into the parks such as yoga this summer, but we dropped those plans as well. We brought in an engineer to measure noise levels from events and created a policy to address concerns from residents living nearby. We made an effort (unsuccessfully albeit) to work with Mark to find support and funding to bring his idea of a bike-powered movie series to the parks, and we had planned to continue pursuing that idea to make it a reality.

For those of you who have never done it, it takes an incredible amount of time, energy and money to bring in new events – particularly when you’re working outside without amenities such as shelter, restrooms and other conveniences provided at indoor facilities. I’ll remind everyone that we only operated the parks for a year. One of the primary goals of our organization is achieve self-sustaining operations, meaning that we don’t need to depend on outside funding to keep everything going. And that is why we spent countless hours developing our new festival, which limited our ability to bring in additional events this summer. Each of our festivals costs roughly $40,000 to $50,000 to put on, which brings plenty of risk. Take a look around at how many festivals lose money or are subsidized by local governments, it’s not an easy thing to do. We’ve also been busy working with a production company to launch a new marketing campaign highlighting the events and activities throughout the community. I could get into details about mundane things that new organizations must develop, such as improved accounting systems, website development, building partnerships, recruiting interns, hiring contractors, strategic planning, marketing events, grant writing, fundraising, etc.

In previous posts, I’ve addressed the questions some have raised about spending $4,000 on dining expenses. Simply put, half of that money was used for a one-time event hosting community leaders and partners for a reception when we began operations. We pick up the tab when we meet with partners and volunteers over lunch, as a thank you for all of their help and support. And we have one board meeting a month over lunch.

The complaint about trash being left in the parks is somewhat valid. We partnered with the county sheriff community service department to come through the parks every Monday to collect and remove all the trash. This past Memorial Day, we had an event over the weekend and the group did not come through to collect the garbage on the following Monday. I found out a couple days after the fact and made an assumption that they didn’t come due to the holiday. I had our parks manager take care of the problem when I found out. Then the following week, they didn’t come out again. We made numerous phone calls that were not returned. As is turns out, the gentleman that ran the program had left and we were unaware of the change. And apparently, his replacement was not informed of the arrangement that we had in place. We’ll take the responsibility for the conditions of the parks during that time, but it is an unfair generalization to state that we did not properly remove trash during our tenure of operating the parks.

I do take exception to anyone making remarks regarding the “lakes” that have been in the parks for much of the season. The river has flooded its’ bank three times this year, and from what I’m told, it typically only occurs about once every three years. The park sits in a floodplain and that is what happens in floodplains. And for the record, we did pump the water out once, only to have it rain significantly the next day. The water table is naturally high and the ground is so saturated, even after pumping it out, it naturally seeps back into the low lying areas. If you look at our long-term plan, we do have plans to grade the area and to construct a retention pond to address the water issue. We also pulled about 100 dead or dying carp out of the lakes after the floods.

Sorry for this long post. I could probably keep writing all night, but I hope that people begin to understand that we do a lot more than just cut the grass, eat lunch and pick fights in the community. Our city is in a tight financial position and I hope they utilize resources that can help carry the burden. We’re all in this together.

Erik Dotzauer
Executive Director
Depot Town CDC

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  1. rodneyn
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink


    I would like to commend you for this thoughtful, persuasive statement. Comparing what you wrote here to what was said and written by the DTCDC folks regarding the DTCDC-created Ypsitucky fiasco, I have trouble understanding how this could be the same organization and the same director. This is the smartest thing I’ve seen come out of the whole -tucky business! If this had been your group’s only press release and public statement (rather than defending the smarmy -tucky crap), I suspect that the Council’s action regarding the parks contract would have been very different.

    My suggestion is that you go for a do-over. Send this to Council with a formal request from the DTCDC for reconsideration of the parks contract. Who knows, it just might do the job.

  2. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Um, rodneyn, I thought we were done sniping about “tucky” word? Can we be? But I do have to say that blaming the DTCDC because a word was allowed to cause a fiasco is more than a little ridiculous. The DTCDC didn’t make a city council case out of it. But I digress.

    I only was able to attend the first hour and a half of the City Council Special Budget meeting tonight, but I did get to hear the budget projections, and they are pretty grim. And one of the ways the city wants to save money? Outsorceing city services. The service used as and example? The building inspector, which is currently outsourced to Pittsfield township. I would think that means we have to pay Pittsfield Township everytime we need the building inpector, which in the long run saves the city money. The possibility of outsourcing snow removal was floated as a theoretical example also.

    My point here, and I do have one, is that we had maintenance of our parks outsourced to a non profit organization that has been working free of charge to the city. If we are going to have to pay other local governments or private companies to provide our services, wouldn’t it make sense to start the process with a freebee provided by the DTCDC? Free beat cheaper any day when you have to shop for a bargin.

  3. EOS
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 7:22 am | Permalink


    It’s not free to the city. The DTCDC funds are derived from taxes that Depot Town businesses should be contributing to the city revenues to help pay all the city’s expenses. Instead, DDA’s and CDC’s use their tax contributions to pay for whatever their committees decide and as a result, homeowners carry a larger portion of the burden for things like police and fire, garbage, etc. That the DTCDC was using it’s tax dollars to pay for care of the parks was a good thing for city residents, IMO. Now that the City Council is taking back the responsibility to pay for park upkeep, the DTCDC can use its tax dollars for things like parking lots on the wrong side of the tracks, or clocks, or RAC elevators, or a multitude of other non-necessary items. If the budget projections are grim, why doesn’t council recapture all the business taxes to help pay for necessary city expenses?

  4. Andy French
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink


    There continues to be a misconception on how the DTCDC is funded. The DTCDC is different from the DDA, we are not funded through tax dollars. We raise our own funds through events like Elvis Fest (this weekend), The Jamboree, charity gaming, grants, sponsorships, ect. The procedes from these fundraising sources are then invested in our community to spur economic development and enhance the quality of life for the community.

    With that said, please join us at the Elvis Fest this weekend. We have a great line up of artists and it is always a lot of fun.


    Andy French

  5. rodneyn
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Andy Ypsilanti,

    If all you got out of my posting was that I was “sniping about ‘tucky’ word,” you seriously missed the point (which was that Erik’s statement was well written, persuasive, and perfect for a “do-over” request to restore the parks contract).

  6. EOS
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Andy or Erik,

    Is any portion of DTCDC funds received from one of the DDA’s?

  7. Cameraman
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    The City should bend over backwards to thank Dotzauer for letting this illegal action of theirs to go by unchallenged. I haven’t read the contract, but my guess is that, if he wanted to, he could sue for breech of contract. Councilman Robb clearly proposed this action as a result of the DTCDC’s choice of “Ypsitucky” as a name for an event, something that Council had absolutely no jurisdiction over. Dotzauer is a better man than I am. I would have hit the city back hard. Robb and company should reverse this stupid course while they still have a chance and they should apologize to the DTCDC for their petty vindictive behavior.

  8. Andy French
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 8:24 am | Permalink


    We don’t capture any taxes, such as a DDA, to fund our operations. We did receive $5,000 from the Depot Town DDA to help us get started.

  9. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Brian Robb is a bullying tub of lard.

  10. Ypsitucky Headhunter
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Actually, he is a bulling, lardy, fucktard…that fat, pasty fuck…I think he owes us all some sort of royalties on all of the fresh air that he has been breathing and wasting. The rest of us need that oxygen to keep our brains functioning Brian, you lilly-livered bag of monkey shit. Ahhhh, now that feels better.

  11. Curt Waugh
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    rodneyn, you just couldn’t resist taking one more poke, could you? Andy Y has you dead to rights. Why bring it up again except that, now that you’ve ground the ax down, you want to grind the freakin’ handle, too? You anti-tucky folks are a piece of work, I tell ya. You expect people to read past this bullshit and get to the meat of your post? Why exactly would we do that when you undermine yourself from your first spittle? And DTCDC shouldn’t have to request a “do-over”. The city should BEG them to come back.

    I’m in Ward 2. If you any of you are listening, I am watching your voting record. Thanks to all of the messes we have had lately, the issues will be crystal clear in the next election.

    EOS, several times people have described how DTCDC gets its money on several threads. Why are you so fixated on taxes when they are not involved here? Did your knee just give a jerk there or what? (In fact, my read of all this is that the city gets some maintenance cost relief through DTCDC.)

  12. EOS
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink


    Andy just wrote taxes were involved. The DTCDC gets any revenue produced from events held in the city parks and they got $5000 of tax revenue. Which is why I asked earlier if City Council thinks they can produce revenue from the parks. If the city hired temporary workers to cut the grass and pick up trash they might add be able to add revenues that are generated from festivals to the general fund budget. I’m asking questions because I don’t have the answers. (well I did ask on earlier threads) It seems that the DTCDC had $10,000 to spend on lunches and it came from somewhere. That $10,000 could have helped fund police or fire personnel. I could very well be wrong, but it seems to me that this controversy is not primarily about a name. That’s all I’m saying.

  13. Ingrid
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I can’t believe you are hosting such despicable comments about Brian Robb. Is this the level of dialogue you’re looking for? Even it I didn’t have as much respect for Robb as I do, I would be disgusted.

  14. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I appologize for taking a shot at you. You’re right, the point of your post was genuine, and I agree with you on it. But can we leave the “tucky” out, please?

  15. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I really don’t think it’s either constructive nor helpfull to take personal digs at Brian Robb or any other member of council. At the least, could we keep it to the issues, or at lest things said or done in or related to council? Some of us may not agree with his stance on this issue, but we may need to stand by him (or other council members) in the next issue. Going out of our way to build annamossity is not how to go about building our community.

  16. Ypsitucky Headhunter
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Dear Ingrid:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    Now if you will kindly fuck off, I’ll get back to doing my thing. Have a great day.

  17. John Doe #1
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    People really should read the entire post, right? Perhaps you should go back and take a look at Erik’s letter. Also, how did the $4,000 lunch expense ( half of which was spent on a kick-off event for community members and city officials) jump to $10,000? Were you just rounding up?

    The only tax revenue that has been used in any way by the CDC was $5,000 from the Depot Town DDA to help get the CDC started.
    (Which just as a reference point wouldnt even cover the $7,000 annual audit mandated by the city via the MOU.)

    Speaking of money that could be used by police and fire personnel…the $22,000 used to make the case for taking the parks back could be used for training and equipment.

    You should also question, how the one time $22,000 that was suppose to be spent on a new audio/video system for council chambers will be raised next year.

    Also, ask yourself if when budget time comes each year what the funding priorities will be. Police, fire and other essential services, or, park maintenence and capital improvments.

    Too bad the city can’t have a fundraiser to supppliment the budget, huh?

    Too bad the city can’t hold a poker tournament to raise money…

    Too bad the city can’t run self-sustaining events that help strengthen their opperating budget…

    Can the city afford to put on a $50, 000 concert? How about two? More in the future?

    Why dont they just raise your taxes. Thats how they make money. Of course you have to vote on tax hikes, so thats out. They could just attach operational, administrative, and service-relate fees for everything they do. Have a car accident in the city? No problem police and fire can help…for $1,000. Oh, your house was broken into and you had all of your electronics, money and jewlery stolen? The police are strapped for cash too so in a week you will be getting an invoice for services rendered. But, on the upside, the city does have control of the parks. Which, is more important than being able to PROVIDE services instead of SELLING them.

    City council can bypass a city-wide vote to get revenue like that. All they have to do is pass amongst themselves.

    Too bad the city can’t become a 501(c)(3) tax exempt entity…or else they could do wonders for the city. You could donate money to them and get a tax break..but that cant happen.

    It’s too bad the CITY COUNCIL doesnt even know how to conduct a CITY COUNCIL MEETING…I bet Henry Martyn Robert would be proud…

    Dear City Council,

    Take a class…read a book…stop looking “foolish.”

    Call the National League of Cities or SEMCOG, they can help you.

  18. EOS
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    JD1 – (Curt?)

    Where did I get the 10K figure? From the earlier thread. Nameroo said that nearly half the budget was spent on food and I mistakenly thought that the $22K the city council has set aside for maintenance was the budget. It would be easy to talk numbers if I could go to the city budget and read the line items, but you can’t do that when city services are turned over to “charitable 501(c)(3)’s. (Nor can you always figure out expenses from city budgets with vague line item descriptions.)

    Are there many private individuals in the city that donate money to a charity to run their parks? How well does that work when there are also requests for donations to keep the pool operating and to fix the freighthouse and maintain the RAC as well as other needs? How much of the city is now being run by “charities”? What is the mechanism for citizen involvement and how are elected officials held accountable when services are provided by multiple “charities”?

    Why do you think city council canceled the park maintenance contract?

  19. John Doe #1
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Well, if the City mandates annual audits through the MOU, as soon as the audit is filed with the city (if they are required to be filed with the city), it is public. File a FOIA request to see it. It may also be discussed at City Council meetings, which are public.

    The key to transparency in government services that are being contracted out is, the contract itself. If both the city and the organization are smart, there will be a clause or two outlining the specific dynamics of the relationship. If transparency is a priority, there will be transparency.

    How transparent is government itself? You cant tell they are not guilty of spending money on things like lunches. I am sure if you look at a city audit you will find all kinds of things that are vague.

    Though there is no comparison in terms of size and budget, Central Park in New York City is run by a non-profit organization. Ask New Yorkers how well these type of partnersips work.

  20. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    EOS, if you read Erik’s letter, he explains that a vast amount of the funds the DTCDC uses come from the events they put on in the park, such as Elvis Fest and now the Jamboree. You’re right, there are a lot of causes asking for our donations in the city right now. I would think that is part of the reason the the DTCDC uses events to get funding; you’re giving money, and getting entertainment in return.

    As for accountability of city officials, I think we need to be looking at that in the broader spectrum. What has put us in the situation where we need to contract out city services? Have we done all we can to avoid this? Can we dig out of the Water Street hole?

    This whole thread, and the last, is really about accountabillity. The DTCDC was never brought to account. They were not given the chance. How is council accountable for this decision? Did they make a hasty choice? Did they take the city budget into consideration or was this done in spite?

    We are in a bad situation in the city budget. We are going to loose services. We are going to have to outsource others. Yes, city controll of the parks is problably preferable, but seems less and less feasible. Would we rather just hire Joe Schmo Lawn service to cut the grass and leave it at that, or would we like to have the DTCDC caretaking and making needed capitol improvements on the parks? We can’t afford the perfect solution right now. Shouldn’t we take the one that gives us the most, and doesn’t use city money?

  21. Mark H.
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    1. Brian Robb is an honorable public servant, and we’re lucky to have him on Council. That doesn’t mean one has to always agree with him, but all this name-calling against him reflects quite poorly on those who think he’s been mistaken on the DTCDC contract issue. (Personally, I think he provided a politic solution to the Ypsitucky/DTCDC impasse, but in so doing he offered a solution that the DTCDC types weren’t wise enough to grab; but this is just my opinion. )

    2. Mr. Andy is quite mistaken in thinking that the ypsitucky controversy can be reasonably blamed on Council members and a few other critics; the name was a marketing disaster from day one, despite the inability of DTCDC types to realize it and their inability to beat a diplomatic retreat. I’ve seen not a single response from any of the advocates of the ypsitucky name for the concert that took any of the crtiicisms of the name seriously, or which showed any respect for the critics’ ideas; instead of assuming that the critics were sincere, they were attacked on grounds of having hidden agendas. Ypsitucky is a pejorative, no way around that, even if some want it to be redefined. Wishes don’t change perceptions, as any experienced marketing person will tell you: you gotta start at the point your audiences are at, not at some point you imagine that they should be. And to insult people who you don’t happen to agree with is a foolish way of trying to build community. Ypsitucky defenders didn’t acknowledge that there were sincere reasons for objecting to the term, and instead lashed out. This reaction needlessly polarized the debate.

    3. The poster who thinks the city can be sued successfully for breach of contract with the DTCDC either hasn’t read the contract, knows nothing about the law, or is just making stuff up. Maybe he feels good, being incendiary and anonymous, or maybe he’s just foolish.

    4. Erik D.’s post is an informative and forward looking statement. I think it may be a basis for a “do-over,” as has been suggested. Last time i looked at the DTCDC’s web page, however, no such language was there, and the “Jambore” was still identified by the pejorative ypsitucky, as the point to “click” for more information. More importantly, nothing on that web site that i could find came close to transparency regarding funds. This is unfortunate, as there are conflicting accounts out there, and rumors are flying. Some say the Executive Director of the DTCDC is paid $40,000. and that this salary comes form ElvisFest profits. I don’t know. Others say it’s funded by the DDAs, others that it gets no DDA money (except for the DDA money it has gotten). If you want this group to have the support of the public, the DTCDC must disclose all fiscal details, gets its rabid name-calling defenders to be more politic and respectful and more factual. Don’t let the rumors fly….for months of the ypsitucky debate, it was all rumor, all the time. The ineptitude by which the ypsitucky name was proposed and defended, and its’ critics assailed and our personal motivations questioned, does nothing to build up confidence in DTCDC as a vehicle for pursuing the common good of all Ypsilanti residents. Not saying it ought to be that way, just saying it is that way.

    5. I quite agree that Erik D’s statement is a worthy one. Too bad most of the commentators on this post who are already in Erik’s corner come out swinging whenever legitimate questions are raised. No big surprise that they mainly do their swinging and name calling behind the cloak of anonymity. The H in Mark H stands for Higbee, and it’s my real name. If you want to call people names, and do so with anonymity, you are a coward and a disgrace to the community, imho. If you want to advocate for what you believe is right, and are willing to respect people whose ideas you may disagree with….well, then you are a community asset, and you have something to contribute to the goal of civilizing the discourse of this little blue collar city on the river. Have at it – but with reasons and civility, please. If you want to make the issue personal toward others, you are nothing but a coward incapable of reasoning.

    History is always relevant: 40 years ago, Depot Town was, among other things, the hang out for some tough white racists, including Ku Kluxers. Neither blacks nor effete college educated types, nor lots of others were welcome in Depot Town then. Around that same time, in 1971 I think, the Willow Run schools superintendent was tarred and feathered one night, out in what some called “Ypsitucky,” east of the city of Ypsilanti. None of this history is so distant as to make the past irrelevant to our present; much of it is vividly recalled by people living here today. Much else has been forcefully repressed. My point? No ethnic pejorative is free of offensive impact; and in this community, the lines of division are real even if they are invisible to some. Pretending that pejoratives are not real and do not reflect actual social relationships, is just whistling in the dark, and whistling in the dark while trying to build community (or businesses’ revenue) is just asking for failure. So too is name calling.

    Let Erik D. speak without being burdened by name-calling supporters. Let the facts of the DTCDC’s operations be candidly stated in an open forum. Let City Council members be free to propose actions they think are responsible without foolish people alleging that the Council is motivated by secret motives and conspiracies. Let the music be played and heard. Let reasoned discourse prevail.

  22. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Mark H,
    For the record I did not mean to imply that council was responsible for what happened over the name of the festival. It was an issue that should have never come before them or the human relations commission. But you can’t call it a marketing disaster; that is only the opinion of the oponents. For what it’s worth, the name was not aimed at residents of Ypsilanti. It was intended to be a brand to draw in young people from all over the region and country that attend music festivals such as Rothburry in Northern Michigan, or Bonaroo in Tennessee. Like it or not, Ypsitucky is used by many, many, young residents, and that won’t go away. In fact I think it’s become more prevalent since the great debate. But the fact that it was allowed to get so out of hand by both sides is unfortunate. But don’t talk about it in terms of respect, because there was little from either side of the debate.

    I’m also not entirly sure why we need to know where every dollar of the DTCDC money goes to. They recieved $5,000 of seed money from the DTDDA. The rest seems to have come from events they put on or perhaps from grants. But they are a private organization. If the funds they gather are not being distributed back into the community in an acceptable way, they won’t continue to get funds from the community. As with many charities and non profits, it’s self regulating in this manner. If they don’t produce, they don’t continue to exist.

    I do agree that name calling of city officials, or any one for that matter, is not only counter productive and rude, but also childish. If we want to have a serious discussion on the issues, that needs to stop now.

    I’m not sure what the histor lesson was intended to point out. That Depot Town is nicer and more welcoming than it used to be? That Ypsitucky has meant bad things in the past? There is little in our modern world that doesn’t offend some one some where. And there is a lot that used to offend lots of people, that offends very few now. It is important to know and remember history, but that doesn’t mean that things, and meanings, don’t change

  23. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I just read my last post again. Even I’m of hearing the “tucky” work. So let’s all make a deal: we can talk about the DTCDC, council, the parks, money, taxes, Elvis, festivals, or anything else. But can we just drop that word all together. I will if you will.

  24. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    One more thing. No, I havn’t use my real name, which is Andrew Clock. And yes, I am the Volunteer coordinator for The Jamboree. But Andy Ypsilanti has been my stage and screen name for years. Google it, I’m not hard to find. I would tend to agree that using multiple screen names to support your own points is a little silly, and not very open and honest.

  25. Posted July 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m not in the habit of editing comments. I’d like to think that, in a community of adults, I wouldn’t have to. You would think that, by the time one gets old enough to access a computer, he or she would know how to participate in a conversation. The last time I removed comments was a few years ago, when, in the wake of a local murder, a few people felt compelled to leave what I considered to be hateful racist comments, in the hopes of provoking violence. I debated it, but ultimately my love of free speech lost out to the part of me that hits the delete button. And now I’m having this same internal debate over the comments made about councilman Brian Robb.

    Let me first say that I like Brian as a person, and respect the time and energy he’s put into Council. Where others just talk about getting involved and changing things, he’s actually doing it. With that said, though, I do occasionally disagree with him. In the past month, he voted to support urban chickens, which I like, and he indicated that we need more young people on the DDA board, which I also agree with. But, he also went after the DTCDC in a way which I think was unfair and ultimately harmful to the City. As I’ve said here on a few other occasions, I can understand how he might have been pissed over the actions of the DTCDC concerning their insistence on keeping the “Ypsitucky” name, and he could have had legitimate concerns about their maintenance of the parks, but I don’t think either warranted the response. It was a political maneuver. I didn’t appreciate it, but it worked. He got the DTCDC to change the name of their event. And I could have lived with it, but then, after the DTCDC backed down and changed the name, Brian and the City Council didn’t reverse their decision and give thmanother chance. I thought that was shortsighted and petty. And I said as much here. I didn’t, however, resort to name calling, and I’d appreciate it if others in the audience could learn to do the same.

    The bottom line is that I don’t want to keep doing all of the work of keeping this blog going if it’s going to become a haven for small-minded assholes who, unable to form real arguments, resort to this kind of bullshit. I want to have this be a place where people of all backgrounds can come together to argue respectfully, and, sometimes, even arrive at solutions to the problems that we face.

    So, whoever you are who left those two comments, I’d like to ask that you find another Ypsi site to patronize. You’re not wanted here.

  26. Mark H.
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Mark — right on. Well put. Your blog is a great venue and community service.

    Andy Ypsilanti — marketing is all about positioning one’s product/brand/whatever in a way that appeals to people, to the intended “market.” The ypsitucky label clearly failed to do that; indeed, it alienated many people in the Ypsi community, and turned the DTCDC into a target of suspicion. No successful marketing campaign is based on alienating the potential market! As for the great music festivals in Rothbury and Tennessee that you name…ah, what’s your point? Which of those festivals has a name that many people deem offensive? None! Indeed, they are all largely marketed by the name of a town! What a concept – Ypsilanti could have a music festival with the city’s name in! That that concept was rejected, and still is rejected, by the DTCDC indicates that that group is not up to speed on marketing.

    As for the Human Rights Commission: I believe that that city body is obliged to hear any complaint brought to it that alleges a violation of human rights in the city. It most certainly was appropriate for it to hear the issue. It did not cause the controversy, but it was a reasonable venue for the two sides to have a say. Andy Ypsi’s point of view seems to be that the critics of the Ypsitucky idea should have shut their mouths.

    As for the point of the history lesson I offered? Well, Andy, I guess I wasn’t clear, but the lesson is this: The ypsitucky name was picked by a small group of Ypsi folks, ignorant of what the word would convey and naive about the controversy it would produce; and that ignorance and naivety arose from they, as a group, not realizing where the lines of division in our town actually are, or where they come from.

    And Andy: If you can produce one solid bit of market research showing that young people as a group — across all demographics, not just a few who hang out with your friends — are actually increasingly using the term Ypsitucky and using it in a favorable way toward Ypsilanti, then I’ll gladly buy you dinner at the Depot Town restaurant of your choice. Indeed, I’ll buy dinner for anyone who produces valid marketing research that suggests that Ypsitucky has a net positive connotation. Why do I keep talking about this? Because the level of denial about how ill founded this idea was is amazing, and because lots and lots of people are still bringing the subject up.

  27. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Mark H, I’m not going to spend the rest of the night on here so I’ll be brief. To suggest that using that word some how violates anyone’s human rights is beyond ridiculous. And yes, the word was picked by a small group of Ypsi folk, and it was opposed by a small, but certainly better connected, group of Ypsi Folk. Clearly, just by reading this blog, you can see that more people than ever are using the word ypsitucky. As I hand out poster for the event, the first thing out of the mouthes of many of the buisness owners is “Oh, is this the Ypsitucky Jamboree?” And that’s here in town. There are now songs being written, stickers and t-shirts being made, all with the word. None of that would have happened without the controvercy created by the opponents of the word. And no, none of this is being done by the people I hang out with. It’s not just me, and it’s not just a few. I spoke to people from all over the state who couldn’t believe that such a big deal was being made of a word, some of whom went out of their way to get ahold of me and ask about it. Young and old. It’s become funnier to many because of the uproar And, again, I don’t think there was anyone involved who didn’t know thay the word was originally used as a put down. As I said before, meanings change. I’m not going to talk about this again. Feel free if you must.

  28. EOS
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Mark H. –

    I’m hoping that you considered my questions legitimate and aren’t placing me in the category of “foolish people alleging that the Council is motivated by secret motives and conspiracies”. As I wrote on the last thread, “Just trying to understand this issue and asking in case anyone knows.” And many responses were informative and I appreciated them. I certainly didn’t mean to imply any secret motive and thought the number of factual errors I wrote about and had corrected made my ignorance of this subject matter clearly apparent to everyone. I couldn’t agree with you more about an open and transparent process.

    For the record – there’s no constitutional ground to regulate speech whenever someone might find it offensive. Every unique idea is offensive to some. You have to agree that the vast majority have no issue with the term and it’s absurd to consider elevating its status to the new “N” word. Your marketing argument carries more weight than your support for HRC involvement. Ypsitucky and Hillbilly are neither ethnicities nor nationalities and therefore have no grounds for special protection even under the vastly encompassing city ordinances.

  29. Mark H.
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Andy Y — I see you decline my challenge to produce any actual marketing study that validates the claim that there’s a broad positive appeal to the term Ypsitucky. So I repeat the challenge: if such exists, please produce it. Until that’s done, it’s all vague impressions and unverifiable reports of positive appeal. For each of those — there are equally valid reports of the opposite, of a negative appeal. Also, what on earth induces you to think the negative meaning of Ypsitucky is a thing of the past? I thought you read this blog, where I and others have reported on the current, on-going usages of the term that are clearly negative. Such as “Better stay out of Ypsitucky, or they’ll beat your black ass” and “In Ypsitucky, we don’t let the N—–s come around”, or “That’s Ypsitucky. Nothing but white trash and bad schools over there.”

    EOS — No, I most certainly did not mean to include you in the group of cowards I was indicting earlier tonight. Your comments on this seem reasonable. However, I think the HRC grounds are both stronger than you imagine, and the powers of the HRC far less than is generally believed. Public bodies like the HRC often convene meetings to hear issues — and they were asked to do so in this instance.
    I know we disagree, EOS, on the issue of whether the city has “vastly emcompassing city ordinances” but I certainly favor ordinances that bad discrimination against gays & lesbians, or against anyone on grounds of religion or ethnicity. (Is being Appalachian an ethnicity? Sure, I’d argue it is, though that’s not a commonly made argument. But old stock Appalachians have all the distinctive group markers that define an ethnic group: a very strong tendency toward commonalities in all these areas — language (dialect), history, religous background, cultural values, family structure, ancestoral heritage, etc. Mind you, I’m not being scholarly or precise here, but yes, Appalachians are reasonably defined as an ethnic group. They are certainly not a merely “white” group, or a group defined by roots in a given state….)

    As for the idea that the DTCDC should not disclose its finances: Well, if it’s a charity or a non profit, isn’t that information public domain information anyway? And if it’s asking for authority to run a public property, the city parks, isn’t it right and proper that the fiscal details be readily transparent? Mind you, I don’t think the DTCDC is mispending public funds, but lots of folks do have that impression, and all arguments by DTCDC supporters AGAINST greater transparency add to the suspicion. Adding to public suspicions is not good marketing! My comments on this are meant to be entirely constructive, and if the DTCDC had listened to such good advice 4 months ago, it’d have saved itself a whole lot of trouble. Taking steps to alleviate public distrust, or to minimize it before it grows, are smart elements of good marketing. Can the DTCDC rise to that challenge?

    Great discussion of THE DOLLMAKER at the Corner Brewery tonight! Thanks to everyone who came and participated! The place was packed, and the conversation was great!

  30. Mark H.
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Andy Y. — I did not say that using the word ypsitucky violates anyone’s human rights. I said it was a legitimate issue for the Human Rights Commission to talk about. Big difference, eh? The HRC exists to hear complaints that are filed with it, and to make recommendations. If I recall correctly, it’s recommendation on this was merely that the city council should think twice about allowing the city parks to be associated with an activity whose name was so deeply offensive to so many. That’s not the same as finding the promoters of the festival guilty of a human rights violation.

    Also, your claim that the pro-Ypsitucky group was a small but not well connected group of Ypsilanti folks, and that those who were against the name are an equally small but far better politically connected group, is nothing but a dodge. It entirely overlooks the possibility that city leaders actually listened to the arguments made by each side, and tried to resolve the complex issue of how to proceed. They did not make any official declaration on the ypsitucky name, did they? And don’t Depot Town business owners remain very well connected in this town? The issue was debated on the merits by one side, and the other side – yours, Andy – used name calling as a substitute for arguing on the merits. One side reported much historial experience, and your side said history wasn’t relevant anymore. One side said the term remains widely used as a put down, and the other side said people should not be so thin skinned.

    This continues still, Andy Y., as your side refuses to produce any verifiable factual claims or marketing studies to justify its position. Could that be because there are no actual demographic marketing data to support the claim that ypsitucky is a positive brand, for anything — or is it because your side really wants to move on, even while still claiming ypsitucky was a good idea that only a small group of well connected trouble makers wanted to stop? You can’t have it both ways. Produce the data, or admit the concept was fatally flawed, politically and as a marketing concept.

  31. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Mark H, I said I’m done. If you’d like to meet for a beer some time, we can have a debate about it. It’ll be fun. But there are more important things to worry about right now. I’m go’n back to Elvis fest. If you see me there tonight or tomorrow, feel free to flag me down….

  32. ZP
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Bizarre. I have only recently started following local politics of my own accord since Ol’ E Cross hasn’t been keeping me as well informed lately. So forgive me if I come across as naive.

    I’ve heard a lot of people complain about Robb and Murdock but when I actually go to council meetings they say things that make sense. Not to rehash it but . . . DTCDC was asked repteadedly to change the name, they wouldn’t do it, Robb recognized that asking again wasn’t gonna make any difference so he gave them an ultimatum – on behalf of the vocal majority of people who attended the public hearing.

    I’m personally OK with ‘tucky – but I gotta say the other side won the debate hands down. Robb is just the politician who saw a way to actually make it happen and close the issue. He’s not a bad guy. If people are upset about it then they should have come in larger numbers, better prepared & defended it. What I witnessed wasn’t a screw job – this was local democracy in action.

    DTCDC – I don’t care about the specifics but I’ve been thinking about this as a business manager. Your customer has dropped your services. You’re complaining that they dropped you for the wrong reasons and you could’ve made it right . . . if they’d only told you! With this in mind I’m guessing you missed a lot of signs along the way and a lot of opportunities to strengthen this relationship. If (as a business, charity or whatever) your actions are consitently focused on the customer’s needs with solid communication then you’re much less likely to be wondering how the hell you lost your main account (government contract . . .whatever)

    Zach Pollock

  33. Dirtgrain
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    “Robb recognized that asking again wasn’t gonna make any difference so he gave them an ultimatum – on behalf of the vocal majority of people who attended the public hearing.”

    Mr. Robb, under the name BrianR (this is Brian Robb, right?), denied any connection between the DTCDC contract not being renewed and the Ypsitucky name issue. Was he lying?

    From a post by BrianR:

    “As far as the termination of the DTCDC contract, this wasn’t a threat to get them to change the name. I didn’t care about the name. Changing it isn’t going to influence me any.”

    In another post on that thread he wrote the following:

    “At the last City Council budget session in May, we moved $22K from the Clerk’s budget into Parks for the maintenance and operations of Riverside and Frog Island Parks. This gave us 2007-08 levels of funding for parks. Said another way, it got us back to pre-DTCDC budget levels. The argument that the City can’t maintain its Riverside and Frog Island parks is now null and void.

    “If you look at the Council Packet for last night on the City’s web site, you’ll see the DTCDC’s annual report. They report they spent $9,371.56 in park maintenance with another $1,404.21 in utilities and water for a grand total of $10,775.77. Prior to the DTCDC, the Ypsilanti Jaycees handled scheduling. They currently do it everywhere else in the City.”

    Consider this in comparison with a Brian Robb campaign promise:

    “As your Councilmember, Brian will:

    ” * Effectively reduce spending, but preserve the core City functions of Police, Fire, DPW, and parks without laying the burden on taxpayers who are already paying more than their fair share. ”

    Can somebody explain to me how his role in the cancellation (or non-renewal) of the DTCDC contract is not contradicting his campaign promise? The decision is costing us money, right? Money that could be used elsewhere in the city is now going to park maintenance, right?

    Another campaign promise–Brian Robb will: “Restore trust by making transparency in government a priority.”

    Is Robb being “transparent”?

    Several times in recent threads here, some have said that we should just let it go, that we should not fan the flames (whatever that means), that we need to work together. But how can we work together with a council member if he is contradicting campaign promises and not being honest (transparent) about his decisions regarding the DTCDC?

    Does Mr. Robb still claim that the DTCDC decision had nothing to do with the Ypsitucky controversy? Can he address a point Mark Maynard has brought up several times: why was the DTCDC not given a chance to respond to any issues the council might have had with it? What about the other council members who were for canceling the DTCDC contract? Did the contract cancellation really open us up to potential litigation, as some have suggested?

    Did Andy Ypsilanti’s letter get any responses?

    Fanning the flames? If council members aren’t being honest with us, then that is exactly what we should do. I want the truth.

  34. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    My letter to city council did get a response; from the Mayor. Because that response was over private email, I’m going to choose to keep what he said between he and I, just as I have with coversations I’ve had with Brian Robb in the past. I will say I was happy with his response and it was highly professional, not naming any names and sticking to the issue. Brian and I have had some exchange on the issue, but I did not get a direct response to my letter.

  35. dp in exile
    Posted July 12, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, Erik.

    I’m guessing it took you at least an hour to write that, including the due diligence required for editing.

    Thank you, also, for your time.

  36. Posted July 12, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    And than you for your questions, Dirtgrain. I’m hopeful that Brian will respond.

  37. Dirtgrain
    Posted July 17, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink


  38. Amanda
    Posted August 2, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Can someone tell me where the line up schedule for the event us? Debating scheduling a plane ticket around Daisy May playing, but haven’t been able to come across the schedule.

  39. Posted August 2, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I know that Daisy May will be playing on Saturday… We should have the lineup on the website in the next couple days, been making a few final adjustments.

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