Ypsi’s parks and what it costs to maintain them

I’m confused about something, and I’m hoping that someone out there can straighten me out. It has to do with the costs of maintaining Ypsilanti’s Riverside and Frog Island parks. Here, as I understand it, is the background.

A few years ago, in preparation for the budget mess that we’re now facing, it was decided by our elected officials to turn the stewardship of Ypsilanti’s two waterfront parks over to a non-profit. The non-profit entity chosen was the Depot Town Community Development Corporation (DTCDC). As the DTCDC is not funded by local tax dollars, but instead through proceeds generated by way of local events such as ElvisFest, it was thought that the City could save a considerable amount of money. I’ve yet to go back through the minutes of the City Council meetings from the period, but I believe the figure mentioned was between $20,000 and $40,000, per year. That’s how much they were expecting to save each year. So, the deal was struck, and the DTCDC took over park maintenance. My sense is that most folks thought that it was a pretty good deal for the City, even though there may have been a few issues that needed ironing out. For instance, I believe a few people commented here about the grass not being cut often enough, garbage cans overflowing, and a few other things. My sense, however, was that the relationship was not beyond repair. The DTCDC had a relatively aggressive plan to see more large events take place in the parks, and they vowed to work harder on the maintenance.

But then something weird happened…

Last summer, the Depot Town CDC had the audacity to use the word “Ypsitucky” in the name of a big music festival that they were planning for Riverside Park. And, worse yet, they refused to back down when members of City Council told them to drop the name, which, for some reason, they found offensive. And, as a result, control of the parks was taken away from the Depot Town CDC. I believe it was argued that the City could now afford to reabsorb the cost of park maintenance, for at least a year, because $20,000 had been identified in the budget. The money, as I understand it, had been set aside for a new City Hall sound system, but it was now thought that it would be better to direct it toward the parks. No mention was made, however, of how maintenance would be paid for going forward.

Members of Council said that the cancellation of the DTCDC’s stewardship agreement had nothing to do with the equally ugly and ridiculous Ypsitucky debate, but most of the people I talked to about it seemed to think that Councilman Brian Robb proposed it out of spite, in order to strike back at the young turks at the helm of the DTCDC who had thumbed their noses at City leadership.

The head of the DTCDC, Erik Dotzauer, apologized profusely and pledged to change the name of the music festival which had been proposed, but to no avail. City Council, having decided that the DTCDC was an unfit steward, said they would find the money to care for the parks themselves.

And, now, things are bubbling up again, as we here in Ypsi begin talking about laying off police officers and firefighters. Some of us are wondering if it was wise to take the parks away from the DTCDC, when, for that $20,000 to $40,000, we might be able to keep a public safety person on the payroll.

So, it got mentioned today on the site, and Brian Robb responded with the following:

Over the weekend I’d heard that someone said that it was now costing the City $300K a year more now that it is maintaining Riverside and Frog Island parks (a figure greated than the entire parks and DPW budgets combined). I was waiting on commenting in hopes the presumed cost to the City would reach over $1.5M a year.

The claims of an increase in costs of $20K let alone $40K aren’t supported in the budget or statements made by the City Manager. The savings never materialized because the the Parks Department was not able to reduce its head-count.

So, now we’re being told that the DTCDC shouldn’t get the parks back because, when they had them before, it never translated to a cost savings. This, as Brian explains it, was due to the fact that the Parks Department “was not able to” cut their head count. This was news to me, as I was under the impression that the order had been given by City Council to the Parks Department to make the cut. Be that as it may, though, I’m now wondering what our options are. To hear Brian explain it, it sounds as though there are no costs at all involved with the running of the parks. We would basically be allotting the same number of tax dollars to the Parks Department, regardless of whether or not they cut the grass, perform routine maintenance and pick up trash in the two parks. And, I have a hard time accepting that. I don’t buy that there’s no way to identify how much it costs the City to care for the two parks and respond accordingly, even if means reconsidering the CDC deal, assuming, of course, they still want to do it… So, what am I missing here? Clearly there’s got to be something that I’m not seeing.

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  1. Brackinald Achery
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I love this saga! It reinforces my lack of faith in government conspiracy theories that don’t involve really smart bankers.

  2. Posted January 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    No, this saga doesn’t involve anyone even remotely smart.

  3. Brackinald Achery
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Permalink


  4. dragon
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Why did the DTCDC offer to take on $20,000 in expenses for the right to take care of the parks?

  5. Kim
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it was the CDC’s idea to take care of the parks. I believe they were approached by the city, which was looking for ways to cut expenses. They said yes, I imagine, because they saw an opportunity to use the parks more to host large events (which would drive business to Depot Town merchants).

    If what Brian says is true and the Parks department never cut head-count, shouldn’t City Council have gotten involved at that point? Why didn’t Council cut their budget by $20 – 40K?

  6. EOS
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Dragon –
    Did the DTCDC offer to take on $20,000 in expenses for the right to reap the profits from multiple festivals in the park and spend that money (significantly more than $20K) without the oversight of the taxpayers? Just asking.

  7. Karl
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Why were there no cost savings during the period when the DTCDC had the parks? And why is it just now that we’re hearing about this? Why wasn’t the Parks Department made to cut a person when they lost responsibility for the parks? I don’t get any of this.

  8. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    The DTCDC does get any profits from events it throws. And so does the Heritage Festival, Car Shows, Jaycee’s Circus, you name it. The city gets a schedule of fees for park use permits, police service, ect. Right now, the Jaycees are taking care of scheduling and hosting events, and they are paid out of those event charges as well. For their part, the DTCDC did use the funds they earned on other projects, like providing the matching funds needed to get the grant that paid for the new dock, or putting on other events, like the Jamboree. I guess you are right, there is no tax payer oversight, but there is no tax money being used. The same can be said of DAY (Crossroads) the Jaycees (currently the park coordinators) or the Chamber of Commerce. I guess what I’m asking you EOS, is it wrong to let local non profits hold events in the park or elsewhere in the city and then use any profits to do other projects around the city? They lay out the money to put on the event, we pay for a ticket, they put the money they EARNED back into the community in a form of their choosing. What needs to be over seen?

    There is some truth to what Brian says about them not knowing how much it costs to maintain the parks. According to the recent independent audit of Ypsi DPW (available in the 1/19/10 council packet and a fairly interesting read) the DPW does not have an accurate way to track labor hours in relation to tasks accomplished. That said, we know how much we pay the guy who mows the lawn, and he knows how long it takes to mow the lawn. We know how much we pay the people that pick up trash, and they know how long it takes to pick up trash. Factor in fuel, equipment repair costs, I think we can put a rough number together. I’m pretty sure the DTCDC could put a number on the 10 years of differed maintenance they did, too. It’s not magic. And to suggest there were no savings to the city is insane! Again, even if a position was not cut, the time normally spent in the park was spent on other projects. Having the need for man hours eliminated on one project and making those hours available for another is a cost saving. What we can’t see there are the intangibles, like having all the trash picked up, painting the shelter all the same color, having the grass nicely striped. By the way, that DPW audit, suggests outsourcing the cutting of grass in the city’s parks and open spaces as a way to cut costs. Ooops.

    Mark makes the point that there were complaints about the DTCDC. The grass wasn’t cut often enough, the trash cans were not emptied often enough. These are things that could easily have been remedied through a tougher, more defined contract between the city and the DTCDC. But to just cancel the whole thing after one year, sounds to me like there was something more than long grass, trash, or one little word at work here. And to come back and claim that the contract with the CDC provided no savings at all?

    For what its worth, it has been suggested by council recently that the city could put a profit sharing clause in for any ticketed event, the city gets 10% of whatever you bring in. I guess you can do that, but most cities reserve that option for when you shut down the streets. I think that such a charge would only serve to chase away other groups who would want to use the park, pay the city money, and draw people to local business. As it stands now, that would effect the DTCDC (Elvis fest, Jamboree) The Jaycees (circus), the Heritage Fest, Car shows, and the Michigan Brewer’s Guild. So we would be taking money mostly from city events/non profits. Next, let’s make the parking meters active on Sundays so we can get all that church money. Oh, and what is to stop the rest of these events from moving to a city that won’t ask for a share of profits? Look what just happened to Pontiac and Arts, Beats, and Eats.

    This issue is just one little piece of our budget crunch here in Ypsi, and it’s certainly on the less important end of the scale. But when you are in as deep as we are, everything is important. City council owes us a real explanation of what happened, and at the very least some estimates of what it did or did not cost. To try to suggest that no savings were realized because no position was eliminated is to treat the public as morons too stupid to understand the ins and outs of a city government or basic principals of business productivity. Either that, or council doesn’t understand how those things work in order to explain them. So hey, all council members who voted the DTCDC out, now would be the time to explain your thinking, or continue to let us draw our own conclusions.

    My conclusion is that there was absolutely no legitimate reason to cancel the park contract. It may have needed to be modified and strengthened, but certainly not canceled. I think that not talking about the numbers, even in theory or generalization, is an attempt to cover up the fact that council made an error in judgment that hurt the city. And I think that Ypsitucky was a way to cover up the true and politically based reasons that it was even suggested that the contract be pulled, whatever they may be. I would love to be proved wrong.

  9. EOS
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Good post Andy. Thanks.

  10. kingpin
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Very good post indeed.

  11. dragon
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    All I’m saying is that I have never seen this kind of pushback on something that supposedly costs them $20,000. My guess would be that the Depot Town businesses do many times better in receipts than even the profits made from the events. It is obvious that they believe having control of the parks is rewarding. There has been a very one-sided arguement here that the city is evil for no accepting the kindness and generosity of our local charity merchants down in Depot Town.
    Since we are now in a fiscal mess does that mean all city services are for sale to the highest bidder?

  12. Kate
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    No one said that the CDC was doing it out of charity. They clearly had a vested interest. But it was a “win, win”. And, if it had been allowed to work, the city would have saved money, and the CDC would have booked more festivals, which would have helped Ypsi merchants. Riverside park is a great place to have a big event, and there’s nothing like it in Ann Arbor. It’s a huge asset, and we should be doing more to take advantage of it.

    I wonder if we’ll hear from our City Councilman, Mr. Transparency, on this.

  13. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    It was a win, win. The city got a service, the DTCDC put on events and merchants reaped the benefit of increased business during the events. On top of that, the DTCDC was using the profit to do other good works around the city.

    During the Jamboree, Andy French was checking Ids at the beer tent. He told me A2 and other locations outnumbered Ypsi residents over 3 to 1. I bet those numbers go way up during beer fest. And everyone attending sees a great event in a beautiful park with two distinct down town districts full of cool shops, bars and restaurants. These festivals bring the city good press that would cost tens of thousands to purchase. They are one of our best assets, and one we should be expanding on.

    Dragon, I’ll give you this, city services probably will soon be up for bid, but it will be to the lowest bidder for outsourcing. With the DTCDC, park maintenance was outsourced at no charge to the city. Which is better for the budget?

    Kate, your final point is the best. This whole thing was brought about by one of our transparency advocates. Council certainly has been anything but transparent on this one.

  14. Posted January 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I consider myself a friend of most of the DTCDC board, plan on helping with the Jamboree, approved of Ypsitucky (before it became a mess) and appreciate some of the things the DTCDC did with the park. I am not a fan of having any private organization running a public space. I want to be able to voice my opinion and have it heard. I want open discussion as to what is going on in the parks. This is nothing against Erik and the DTCDC who, for the most part, responded to concerns quickly. For me, this is a matter of principle.

    In my neighborhood we undertook a mission to better Prospect Park. We held open community meetings which included our City Council reps, Stan of the DPW, the Principal of Adams School, The YMCA which uses the park, and had a lot of neighborhood citizens show up. Together we were able to prioritize our concerns and we accomplished a lot in one year. In 2010 we, as private citizens, look forward to working with the City to improve the park even more.

    My point is that you shouldn’t think of any of the parks as ‘Ours’ or ‘Theirs’ these parks are the responsibility of all the citizens. There is no reason the DTCDC can’t continue to profit from festivals or volunteer to do work in the parks. As a community I think we can make these public spaces better than we could with a single board. If you see something amiss in the parks call the City and ask them to handle it or form a group to work on the problem if the City can’t.

    Take care,
    Kurt A

  15. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Andy makes some good points:
    “I guess you are right, there is no tax payer oversight, but there is no tax money being used.” And I remember hearing that some of the money went for lots of lunches…
    “The grass wasn’t cut often enough, the trash cans were not emptied often enough.” Overflowing dumpster for YSO concert and dead carp rotting in the fileds…
    I think Curt W. has it right, a collaboration of all stakeholders is needed. There is no bogey man as you may be lead to believe, just poor performance and puposefully encouraged controvery. Not bringing us together as one little ol’ ypsi eh?

  16. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    wdm, what is your point? You quoted me, but I don’t really get you argument. The DTCDC did spend some money on lunches, not tax money, money they earned. In fact, I just went to a DTCDC lunch in December, along with Mark and lots of other folks from the community to discuss ways to implement the city’s 2020 plan. Boy, we better jump all over that one. Hey, how much did you spend on lunch today? Has your company ever bought lunch for you or people you work with? Better investigate. The lunch thing is a non starter. DTCDC is a private not profit company, not a government body, not a charity. How they spend the money they earn is their business, just like you spending the money you earn, or any private company spending profits.

    You also quoted me on maintenance. I guess I should clarify the part that you left out. There needed to be a different, more defined contract with the DTCDC that would have:

    Defined the city’s expectations for maintenance very clearly including how long the grass gets and how often trash is picked up.

    Provided a way for complaints and issues with the DTCDC’s care of the park to be brought to the city and the DTCDC

    It sucks that there was an overflowing dumpster during the YSO concert. Did you know that Waste Management takes care of that dumpster, along with all city trash pick up? I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with a dumpster/disposal company, but they work on a schedule. Whenever your dumpster is scheduled to be picked up, that’s when it is picked up. It is nearly impossible to get an early or extra pick up. Trust me on this one, or ask any business owner who deals with a dumpster and a high volume of trash. And really, are you blaming the DTCDC for dead fish? I grew up in Monroe. Hundred if not thousands of fish died and washed up on state beaches each spring when the lake turned. Guess who cleaned them up? If you guessed no one, you win the prize.

    We really are beating a dead horse when talking about the job the DTCDC did; they are not in charge of the parks now and likely will not be again. Was having the DTCDC in charge ideal? No. Was it a good option? Yes. Did they, overall, nitpicking aside, maintain and improve the parks? Yes. That is what they were ASKED BY THE CITY to do. WDM, your accusation of poor performance is, at best, debatable. And, with over 10 years of deferred maintenance before the DTCDC, and the current state of the shelter, and increase in litter all around the park, can you really make the argument that the city was/is doing a better job? The DTCDC didn’t buy the parks, didn’t own the parks, didn’t rule the parks. They were asked to care for them and host events, and that is exactly what they did. Kurt A is totally right, it was never ideal to have them in charge, that’s a government duty. But they were asked to do a job and they did it.

    Look, the thing I’m hearing here is we want the city in charge because the city responds to us. I’ve got news for you; the city is only mowing the lawn and picking up trash. The Ypsi Jaycees are doing all the scheduling and event planning and getting paid to do it. Do we need to look at how much they spend on lunch? Are we sure the Jaycees are the right people to be in charge? They might have an agenda supporting certain businesses their members work for. Do you see where I’m going with this? For that matter, we can’t get the city to tell us what they are spending on the parks. Is that responding to the people?

    There has been some talk about starting a 501c3 that’s only mission is management and improvement of the parks. This group could take over event planning, as well as raise funds for recreational activities, something that the City of Ypsilanti does not provide. It would also be an umbrella to unite all of the friends of groups, allowing the purchase of liability insurance (something else the DTCDC was covering for Riverside and Frog Island) and act a fiduciary agent for projects that the friends of groups would like to raise funds for. Such a group could also help parks without a solid friends of group get their very own stewards. Would this be an acceptable way to bring in all stake holders, or is it city run or nothing? Another way: What if the DTCDC had picked up the maintenance tab and had event planning privileges, but were subject to a citizen advisory board appointed by the mayor and council? Would we be having this argument if that had been the case?

    We really are way off the topic of this post. We debated the job the DTCDC did a long time ago. We are here because Brian Robb claimed that there was no savings realized by the city during the duration of the DTCDC park contract and that we have no idea what we are spending in the parks and because Mark is asking how those two things can possibly be true. I don’t want to keep talking about the DTCDC. I want an answer to the question that Mark posed. I don’t think I’m causing a division in the city by saying that this claim that no money was saved is totally bogus. If you think trying to get an answer out of elected official is divisive, move to Cuba right away! To the contrary, a straight answer on the entire park/city/DTCDC issue would put the whole thing to bed, once and for all. And that would go a long way in bringing people together.

  17. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Any time I have a question from my council representatives, I simply call or email them. Sometimes I knock on their doors, I ask, they answer. It is that simple. I wouldn’t expect an answer on this forum.

  18. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Meant to say, Any time I have a question for my council representatives…
    just saying

  19. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had this conversation with Brian in person about this issue back when it happened. Brian made a statement on this forum, Mark asked for an explanation of that statement. Why shouldn’t we expect an answer an this forum? This whole post is based around something he said!

  20. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    on this forum.

  21. Posted January 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, it’s probably better that the hundreds of local readers of this site line up outside of Brian’s house so that he can, one by one, whisper the answers in our ears, instead of just explaining it here.

    [the above was sarcasm]

  22. Posted January 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    And I hear you, Kurt. I agree that, in a perfect world, the parks should be maintained by the city. I also think, however, that we should be able to send enough fire fighters to a burning house so that they can at least attempt to rescue people. This isn’t a perfect world, and we’re being forced to make difficult decisions. Temporarily handing management of the parks over to the CDC was a compromise that I could live with, especially if it means being able to afford that additional fire fighter.

  23. Posted January 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe I’m sitting here on my couch with a giant mason jar full of generic Crystal Lite in my hand, and pork rind crumbs all over my Ypsilanti shirt, reading this.

    I wish someone had told me when I was seven that this was what my life would be like.

  24. My Opinion
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I agree with Kurt. Riverside is our park. Give it away again, Brien Robb. and I will campaign against you!

  25. Kim
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    So, who went to knock on Brian’s door last night to get the answer?

  26. EOS
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Wet Dolphin –

    I found many locally elected officials operate like you say, but maybe a little less likely to be specific in an email. When they campaign, they go door to door. On your porch (or in a telephone call), they ask your opinions and then respond that your opinions are exactly what they believe. And then they go next door to your neighbor and tell him something completely different. If you compare notes with your neighbor and then confront the elected official, they’ll tell you that your neighbor misinterpreted what they said. An honest person should be able to respond on a blog and tell everybody the same thing at the same time. However, on every issue there are people on both sides, and by explicitly stating their position, they anger a portion of their constituents. So their defense is to be vague and non-specific on everything. If the voters don’t know what is being voted on, then they can’t complain.

    So what can voters do to improve this situation?

  27. Whatever
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a thought. A lot of dog owners visit Riverside park daily and have their dogs off the leash and allow them to run freely throughout the park.

    There have been numerous reports of un-leashed dogs fighting and injuring other dogs in this park (including mine that was on a leash). Luckily no small children have been hurt by these dogs.

    These negligent dog owners should be fined the $100 for not adhering to the leash law and use that money to clean up the parks. The city could easily make up to a $1000 a day with as many dog owners who let there dogs roam the park with out a leash.

  28. Andy C
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t we just fence the park off? Rabid dogs, dangerous sledding, high costs. It seems like a menace to the city.

  29. kingpin
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    After comments on this forum the other day, I recieved an unsolicited email from Mr. Robb, to my private email, with a detailed explanation. It was very informative…

    On a side note, your “democracy” is officially over…

  30. Once Upon a Time
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    This whole thing is a joke. The parks wern’t taken away from the CDC, they lost them fair and square. They were inept and rude to the other festivals who had to use the parks and go through them (except Beer Fest as it was after the complaints) The truth is the YpsiTucky fiasco just brought all this to light. Wasn’t anyone listening at the council meetings when people were talking?
    The CDC needs to control Riverside park so they can pay their director and have a power base. Only a handful of people in Depot Town have any thing to do with the CDC and they are the ones who run the CDC.
    Use the name YpsiTucky, have your festivals but stop trying to control our parks.
    I also will vote against any council person who is in favor of giving the parks back to the CDC, including Mr. Murdock.

  31. Mike
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    What if we just hire some out of work drifters to catch dogs and drown them. We could pay them for each pelt.

  32. Edward
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    So let’s have it Kingpin.

    Hurry the hell up and post it already.

  33. kingpin
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to, but I think that would be unfair to Mr. Robb. I like to poke fun at people, but not drag them through the mud. I was a little weirded out that he had my email address though…A little stalkerazzi if you ask me…

  34. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Once Uppon a Time, if you call what happened to the CDC in Council fair and square, I’d hate to see your version of petty and vindictive.

  35. Edward
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see how it could be considered dragging him through the mud if, in his email, he explained coherently why the parks were taken back from the CDC and how much the City is currently paying to keep them up. There’s no mud there.

    The only way there’s mud is if he confesses to having done something wrong, petty and vindictive, which I doubt that he would do.

    So, let’s have the email and stop this “let’s go one by one and let him whisper in our ears” bullshit. It’s silly.

  36. Brackinald Achery
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Be more fun to solicit as many private explanations to as many different people as possible in writing, then post them all at once.

  37. Publius
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Brian Robb is a contrarian tool.

  38. Posted January 21, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Kingpin, you disappoint me.

    I’m wishing now that I kicked you in the balls when I had a chance.

  39. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I think there’s been a secret Transparency Squad meeting….

  40. What's In A Name
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Well, someone FOIA Brian Robb for the email to kingpin. It’s a discussion that’s open to the public per state laws. Within 10 days or less the City would be required to produce it. It would likely cost $50 or less, probably way less. Heck, FOIA for all of Mr. Robb’s emails and letters to constituents regarding the termination of the CDC agreement and see what he’s been telling folks.

    And Once Upon A Time, are you living in a fairy tale? “Power base”, and other paranoia about the CDC taking over the city? Really, the place is worth that much that folks are going to scheme over it? Wake up to reality folks.

  41. kingpin
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Ok…so, this mail isn’t really a big deal. No big bombshells or anything. I responded and thanked him for his explanations, and said that we should all work for compromise, instead of all push and no give, which seems to happen sometimes…so for What’s In A Name, and the other request I got, here it is. I did not solicit this private response, and nowhere in it does it say not to share. Someone pointed that out to me….Enjoy:(email from Brian Robb to The Kingpin)

    – “Maybe this will work better.

    Like a lot of things in Ypsilanti, it’s less about the issues than it is about the argument. The DTCDC fight has gone on for nearly eight months. Why? Because people want it to continue. Because it continues, Council can be compared to Hitler, or you can call me an asshole, or you can accuse me of lying and never have to prove your side of the argument. Isn’t that awesome?

    You may not appreciate my sardonic comments, but Maynard’s blog isn’t my blog and I don’t have office hours there. If you are really concerned about issues, email me, call me, or meet with me. When I’m not at work and you can’t reach me by email or telephone, I’m either Downtown or in Depot Town. I’m hardly a person that is difficult to track down.

    The DTCDC originally wanted to be involved in the Freighthouse. For a variety of reason unrelated to the City, that fell through. They then wanted to manage the Riverside and Frog Island Parks.

    One of the more unfortunate things to come out of the City Income Tax debate was the threat to board up and close the parks. And people question whether or not there was fear-mongering going on in that election?

    The DTCDC started to organize their plan to manage the parks. I met with Sandee and Gerry French on many occasions to discuss this. Prior to this, I always had a good relationship with Sandee (she supported me in my first campaign) and the DTA. Depot Town is obiviously in my Ward and I was willing to give this a try.

    The hope in all of this was that the Parks Department could be reduced to one person if, in addition to purchasing some new equipment, we privatized the City’s two largest parks. If that could happen, we would save money.

    Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

    When the Ypsitucky thing rolled around, I met with Gerry and Candace (along with the Mayor) and told him if they went with the name, the name could overshadow the event and hurt it. When the issue started building up steam, a petition opposing the name was circulated. Three Council members signed that petition: Bodary, Nickels, Schreiber.

    Bodary and Nickels brought a resolution to Council opposing the name and that’s where you got involved. If you recall, I never opposed the name. I never said that if they changed the name, they could manage the parks again. I was even the one Council member who paid for his own tickets to the event. I brought up the motion to cancel the contract because it obviously wasn’t working out. For any partnership to work, it needs to be collaborative and not antagonistic.

    It’s true, we transfered $22K from the Clerk’s budget to the Parks budget. So? It wouldn’t surprise me if we transfered it back out to fund Parkridge and the Senior Center. Just because we transfer money into an account doesn’t mean that’s what stuff all of sudden costs. Prior to approving that budget, there had been talks about not spending enough money on parks. Maybe you don’t know this, but we spent $4K on 400 cu. yards of fall protection (i.e. engineered wood chips) for the playground equipment in Propsect Park. Just because Andy Clock says something 100 times doesn’t make it true.

    Remember, the argument is more important than the issue.

    So there are my facts. When you get some of your own, give me a call and we’ll hang out.


  42. Stephen R
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Is he serious?

    One of the more unfortunate things to come out of the City Income Tax debate was the threat to board up and close the parks. And people question whether or not there was fear-mongering going on in that election?

    Does the phrase “fear mongering” ring a bell? It’s the same thing Brian said during the City Income Tax debate, when asked whether the police and fire departments would have to cut people. No, he said, that’s just fear mongering. Of course we know now that it wasn’t.

    And I love the last line “When you get some (facts) of your own, give me a call and we’ll hang out.” What a pompous SOB.

  43. Edward
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Kingpin.

    When I asked for the letter, I thought that it might have substance. I thought that Robb might be able to explain why, when the DTCDC had the parks, there were no savings to be had. I see that as a failure of Council.

    Also, if he had issues with the DTCDC, why did he vote to give them the parks to look after? He makes it sound like Gerry and Sandee forced them to do it.

    And if he really thinks that this issue continues because people want to find a reason to call him an asshole, he’s sadly mistaken. We care about this issue because we were told the city had a way to save $30,000 a year, and it never materialized. And now, I guess, as we’re getting ready to lay off more cops, we’re not supposed to ask questions about it.

  44. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Ok, that email answers one question; what was the reasoning behind the cancellation of the park contract? Answer “it wasn’t working out”. I guess that’s something…. But it misses the core issue of SHOW US THE MONEY!!!!

    Brian’s right, just because my alter ego says the parks cost the city $22,000 doesn’t make it true. But that’s the number the city and council threw around at the time. So the question remains: what is it costing the city to maintenance Riverside and Frog Island Parks? Just saying that we hoped to cut the staff, but we didn’t, so no savings were realized is a cop out and totally bogus! Again, there was no city staff, equipment or money being used to care for the parks while the CDC was under contract. Did that parks budget money just vanish? Did the city staffers who would normally do that work just sit in the DPS yard for the time they would have normally spent in the park? If the answer to those questions is no (I sure hope it is) then there was a savings realized! And that doesn’t take into account the 10 years of differed maintenance that the CDC picked up the tab for.

    Also, the part where Brian says “they (the CDC) then wanted to manage the parks” I’m not clear on this, but didn’t the city approach the CDC about the parks? I’m truly not clear on that, but I thought that’s how it went down.

    I guess the next step is to line up at Brian’s door and let him whisper in you ear. Or maybe flood his inbox with requests for an accounting of the park costs, kind of the modern equivalent. Or, you could go to
    east-cross.com and start flooding the comment sections there……

  45. Leo
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Andy, whats up? You about to run for office or something?

  46. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m considering thinking about looking into the possiblity of forming a work group to consider the pros and cons of the idea…


    If you ever run into me, I’ll explain why. I just thought it was funny, seeing my name here.

  47. Leo
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Andy, change your name to Andy Ypsitucky

  48. ClarkW
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I just drove by Riverside Park and there are bales of hay in front of all the obstacles. Way to be a martyr Mark and take one for the team!

    Andy – Going to the east-cross blog reminded me of something I read today in the Dundler Mifflin newsletter:


    by Michael Scott

    It’s a new decade and I took a big leap forward. I joined MySpace. I had been all over Friendster for the past few years, but most of my friends’ accounts became inactive and the ones that didn’t all seemed to live in the Philippines. As much as I loved discussing Jo Koy and telling them my name was “Phil Ipino,” the long distance relationships just weren’t giving me what I needed. So I made the switch to MySpace. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing many of you on there. People, it’s time to get with the 2010’s, this is not your momma’s social networking site (although it is my mom’s). You need to make the switch – everyone is doing it. MySpace is crazy hip. You can customize your page. Mine is a picture of Andy Samberg (from Hot Rod) and me, well actually me and a cardboard cutout of him, but it looks real. Also, you can make your page go on forever and ever and ever if you have lots of people post on your wall. My page is not big yet, but I figure I’ve a got a decade to fill it out and I want you there with me.

    Just saying… that blog is a ghost town

  49. Posted January 22, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I think a lot of folks feel let down by Brian because he campaigned on transparency, and made a lot of promises. He said that he’d use his blog to keep people informed on everything. And none of that really materialized. I don’t dislike the guy. I think anyone willing to serve on Council deserves credit. It’s not an easy job. But I’m kind of insulted by his insinuation that the only reason anyone cares about this is because we want to have a reason to go after him. Believe me, I’d much rather write about other stuff. The reason I care about this, as others have suggested, is because it was never sufficiently explained. We were told there would be a cost savings, and they never materialized. I think we deserve an answer as to why that was. And the same goes for the CDC deal. I don’t get it. I don’t get why they gave the CDC control of the parks in the first place, if, as he suggests in this note, they (Gerry and Sandee) were just looking for ways to increase their control over Depot Town. Why, if that’s the case, did he vote for it? I think that these are legitimate questions.

  50. gtrplyrman
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    What are you missing, Mark? A significant number of brain cells.

    Here you have a full blog post and some 50 comments, a great many of them bashing Brian Robb. And the focus? A lack of information rather than an abundance. You start with what you don’t understand and build magnificently on it. You admit that the basis of your complaint is a lack of understanding, you haven’t done anything to augment the dearth of information you do have, and then you’re “disappointed” when the guy you spend a significant amount of time bashing doesn’t fall over himself running here to explain himself.

    Why haven’t you emailed him? Why not do what normal people do and ask him out for coffee or a beer to raise your concerns? Oh, I forgot. He offended you, and ever since then, you’ve treated him like a leper while claiming you don’t have a problem with him.

    I hope someone does FOIA Robb’s emails. No doubt the FOIA will show that the only person commenting on this blog who did email him was kingpin. This suggests that you prefer to leave your own questions unanswered, putting your speculation and conjecture before the reality of the challenges that Ypsi actually faces. By this very approach, you make this about people you don’t like instead of about solving problems. In this way, people become the problem — a problem solved by working to replace them. This creates the illusion that you are actually accomplishing something rather than blowing hot air.

    You complain about “transparency” while totally failing to acknowledge that Robb is by far the most transparent council member in well over a decade. You going to tell us, Mark, that Gawlas was transparent? Richardson? Larue? Swanson? Puh-lease.

    This thread isn’t about wasting money. $22,000 is 3/20 of one percent of Ypsi’s budget (.00147). Saving $22,000 isn’t going to matter an iota, and you know it. Other city councils are facing criminal indictments for bribery, receivership and state control, and you’re complaining that the CDC isn’t going to manage our parks at a speculative, potential cost of $22,000 that none of you can substantiate. Wow.

    This blog has become a caricature of its former self. I yearn for ypsidixit, where spirited, real discussions and debates about real local issues used to happen.

  51. Posted January 22, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    God kingpin? You thanked him for that? (Please take it ratta-tat-back.)

    “Dear Kingpin. I’m on council and know more than you so if you don’t have super secret shit to disprove what super secret shit I say then fuck you.”

    You been played brotha! You really freaked out that the masta of wireless town tracked you down? Brian Robb’s ace card is to intimidate. He got you by finding you. He’s calling out Andy Ypsi by Andy Clock. He’s the queen by intimidation by outing. Try commenting on his site as a negative. Expect a smack down. Intimidation. No explanation.

    “Brian Robb. Intimidation. No explanation.” Ah, fuck yard signs? Let’s get serious.

    Take a sip. Read it again. What the hell did he say, anyway?

    Seriously, folks. Read it. It’s all intimidation, vague associations and nothing, nothing close to an answer. Kingpin, don’t worry. He’s just a dude with poor muscle tone, big ego, inflated sense of worth and lame people skills. If you think he sucks online, try to arrange his proposed sit down and try to talk to his smurky ass. Now try to arrange witnesses who know shit. No wonder he whispers in ear-mail. Truth is, he’s obsessed and ambitious enough to pull the right fingers and will probably stay in the seat longer than you and I live. He has weened quite a posse. But don’t swoon, sweet Kingpin. In the scheme of things, he’s just a little local *#&!@. And parks are a state of mind.

    Excuse me, for a moment.

    Hey! Briiiiian Roooob!

    Brrrrriiiiii-ann! Rob!

    I get you’re all like the girl nobody will dance with since nobody comments on your ugly step site (see why, above), but since all the pretty girls are here, why don’t you step on the floor?

    Oh wait. You voted for in favor of urban chickens.

    I get it.


    P.S. Kingpin. Thanks for the post. It’s something more than others in your place have done. Just take it for what it is and don’t get all light-headed. As someone told me once when I was organizing a union, “You’re safer now than if you hadn’t.” If you get a fucking parking ticket in town, bring this shit up to the judge.

  52. Andy C
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    On the topic of parks. If I’m not mistaken, and I’m pretty confident I’m not, Little League took over Recreation Park and it’s had no problems. The pool seems to be funding itself pretty well. The Community Center, aka Senior Center, (glad they changed that name!) seems to be having an event every night since it started the “Talk of the Neighborhood” series. At least one park is holding it’s own. So there’s a positive lift off the city budget.

  53. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted January 23, 2010 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Hey Andy, do not forget the coalition of supporters working to maintain and improve Prospect Park, including 3 neighborhood associations and a school (School currently threatened w/ closing, a much bigger issue for the city than the whining going on here!).

  54. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 23, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    The Friends of Prospect park are a fantastic group and have done great work in that park, with the help of Brian Robb and Pete Murdock. They are probably one of the best “Friends of” groups in the county. The groups at the pool, the senior center, and Parkridge center all doing truly fantastic work with help from other members of city council. These are all independent groups who are being given control of a city asset, raising their own funds to do so. One big difference between them and the DTCDC: liability. If there were to be a injury or an accusation of abuse by a volunteer, who is responsible? The city? The individual? The Group? The DTCDC took on that responsibility in Riverside and Frog Island. This is one of the reasons that there is interest in a 501c3 to run Ypsi Parks and Recreation, these groups can all keep doing the great work they do with an umbrella organization to worry about the details and the fundraising. Of course, this also goes to illustrate that we have given independent groups control of city parks and buildings all across town; I understand some of the folks in those groups are pretty strong willed when it comes to dealing with the city. But I guess they’ve just worked out better.

    And WDM is right, the closing of neighborhood schools is a vastly important issue. But so is our city budget crisis, and that is what this thread is about.

  55. kingpin
    Posted January 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    It’s all good, Rob In Da Hood…I wear a bullet-proof washboard.

  56. Posted January 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Yup, that’s me Cameron… lots of dead brain cells. The ones I have left, though, are still able to look up an IP address.

    I’ll give you that Brian is more transparent than our other members of Council. I don’t know what the proves, though, as a cement block is more transparent than the rest of Council. This Council is not known for transparency. In their defense, though, none of them stood on my porch and told me that they were going to be “completely transparent,” as Brian did. Brian ran on transparency, so, even though you don’t like it, Cameron, it’s relevant to bring up.

    And, like it or not, it’s also fair to ask why $22,000 in savings that we were promised didn’t materialize.

    And I love how you guys keep trying to talk things over in private with me, instead of just stating your case here, in public. This whole, “we’ll whisper it in your ear” thing is bullshit.

    I could go on, but I’d just get myself in trouble. So, I’ll leave it at that.

    Oh, I did want to say how much I enjoyed this part of your letter. It made me laugh until my broken ribs hurt.

    This blog has become a caricature of its former self. I yearn for ypsidixit, where spirited, real discussions and debates about real local issues used to happen.

  57. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    gtrplyrman, I totally missed your post. I’ve talked with Brian, and others on council, several times. I sent an email to every member of council (posted by Mark as a thread) the week the parks contract expired. I got one response; from Mayor Schreiber, who voted against the proposal. I’ve never gotten further then agree to disagree with Brian. I’ve heard the amount of money the CDC spent down played, but never that there was no savings at all before now. Last spring, remember, it was going to cost $22,ooo just to mow the lawn and empty the trash cans for one year. That’s the number that was quoted in council. So what is the truth? Why is it dragging Brian through the mud to ask him to clarify his statements? We’re not name calling or spreading rumors.

    Rob in ad hood, that was priceless. Look out! The Transparency Squad is coming! And Mark, are you really being lobbied behind the scenes on this issue. That’s really interesting.

  58. Dora
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Cameron, if you paid as much attention to the budget when you were on the School Board as you do monitoring this site, maybe we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re now in.

  59. Erik Dotzauer
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I debated whether or not to comment to this post, but I wanted to clarify our position so that community members can make informed conclusions and we can learn from the past and progress as a collective people committed to improving Ypsilanti. I’m sorry for the length of this comment and any redundant points that I’ve made in previous conversations on this site.

    Prior to the CDC’s involvement with the parks, some city officials had stated that they were considering closing down the parks, due to not having enough money in their budget to maintain the parks. With this news, the CDC started to organize a plan that began by hiring Mueller Landworks to create a conceptual site plan for the parks, which we planned to implement. We paid for this service out-of-pocket, which was over $20,000. Shortly after, the City and the CDC came to an agreement and committed to a contract that gave the CDC management of Riverside and Frog Island Parks.

    I want to again stress that the CDC entered into this relationship because our first and foremost priority is to improve the quality of life in the community. Well-maintained parks benefit the community; more people will spend time in the parks and in Depot Town and will consequently spend money at our local businesses. In this way, Ypsilanti’s money circulates and helps out the local economy. A few people have suggested that the CDC took on this project to gain power, make money, and have control over the parks and therefore have free reign to hold events and festivals; this is not the case. The CDC took this opportunity as a way to reinvest in local projects while creating a healthier environment for Ypsilantians to live and play. In total, the parks produced roughly $5,000 in income for the CDC in 2009.

    During the year that the CDC managed the parks, we spent approximately $42,000 on maintaining the parks and all that it encompasses, while only making $5,000 in return; I hope that this demonstrates that we had no financial incentive but rather took on the project to improve the community.

    On a different note, we’ve heard that a few community members feel like they have not had an opportunity to give their input in the process. Prior to the CDC taking over the park operations, we held a series of community meetings to which we invited community members to attend. At these meetings, we presented our conceptual plans and welcomed individuals to ask questions, give their opinions, and become directly involved in the design process. Other people still question if a non-profit should even be in charge of a public space that is traditionally run by the City. In response to this, I would like to point out that Central Park in New York City is maintained by a non-profit organization. Moreover, Riverside and Frog Island Parks were neglected for over ten years and consequently became rundown and attracted undesirable activities. Since the management of the parks transferred from the City to the CDC, many improvements (including a new dock and gazebo) have been made.

    I would like to reiterate that the CDC is a private non-profit organization in which we raise all our money through our own means; taxpayers do not fund our operations. The one instance when we received taxpayers’ money is when the DDA allocated $5,000 annually for a three-year period to the CDC. I would like to emphasize that our organization is not unique in this way; the DDA also allocated $10,000 to the Crossroads Festival and $5,000 to Dressed, an Ypsilanti fashion show, among others. The CDC’s long-term goal is to generate enough money through events such as The Jamboree and ElvisFest to be a self-sustaining entity.

    Some months ago during a council meeting, the name “Ypsitucky” and the commotion it caused was discussed; the ensuing discussion resulted in our contract being terminated. We were not aware that our performance was even an issue and were not given the chance, much less asked to respond to the allegations made against us. I would therefore like to take the opportunity to address the concerns pertaining to the CDC’s performance in the parks, including trash removal, lawn care, and flooding. I first want to start off by humbly saying that I’m not perfect, the CDC is not perfect. We made mistakes and we most definitely learned from them.

    The CDC had an agreement with the Washtenaw County Sheriff Community Service Department outlining that they would pick up trash and empty receptacles in the parks every Monday. On Memorial Day, the clean-up crew did not pick up the trash in the park; I assumed that this was due to the holiday. However, they did not come the following Monday either. At this point, I contacted the department and discovered that there was a change in leadership and that the clean-up duties had fallen through the cracks. Let me stress that the neglect only happened two Mondays and was corrected as soon as possible. On the same note, some have complained that the CDC allowed its dumpsters to overflow, especially after events. The dumpster is managed by the City, and as such, it has never been the CDC’s responsibility.

    Others have commented that the parks’ lawn was not maintained. On the contrary, the CDC had the grass cut as often if not more than the City did when they managed the parks. When the CDC first took responsibility for the parks, we consulted with the City and found that the grass had been mowed fourteen to sixteen times annually; we not only upheld this standard but also had the lawn mowed a few additional times in preparation for events.

    Lastly, we have heard complaints about the “lake” which was caused by Huron River’s flooding. Let me start off by saying that the pool of water that formed was due to an act of nature, which I obviously had no control over. The CDC paid to have the water pumped once, but it rained shortly after and the pool reformed. Later when the water dried up and fish were left stranded, the CDC hired people to pick up the fish.

    We can only hope that the City has realized the cost-saving benefits that it reaped when the CDC managed the parks. Just because they did not make any employee cuts when they turned over management of the parks, does not mean that it does not take any money to maintain them. Even if the City did not necessarily save money, they did save time and resources as their employees could put their energy into other projects.

    Let me reiterate that the purpose of this post is not to further fuel the controversy. Like you, I live in Ypsilanti and want to see our town thrive and our quality of living improve. My intent is simply to clarify the facts so that the public can draw its own conclusions about what has happened and how we can move forward as a community.

  60. Posted January 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for taking the time, Erik… I’ve moved your note, and the one send by Brian Robb to Kingpin, up to the front page.

  61. Dora
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Where did gtrplyrman/trusty getto go? I want to hear more from him about what it takes to produce a relevant blog.

One Trackback

  1. […] be moved up here to the front page. [For those of you new to this, I’d suggest you start by reading my last post on this topic.] The first letter comes from Erik Dotzauer, the head of the Depot Town CDC. And, following it, is […]

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