How much to charge the festivals that call Ypsilanti home

I wanted to make it out to tonight’s City Council meeting, as they’ll be considering a resolution (no. 2010-257) that could greatly impact the future of the Summer Beerfest, and the rest of the festivals that call Ypsi home, but it looks like I’m going to be stuck in the house tonight, parenting… Essentially, the resolution, if passed, would amend the contract for park usage so that entities hosting events with paid admission would have to hand over 10% of their gross receipts to the City. This change, as I understand it, would go into affect in 2011. Here’s what Erik Dotzauer, the head of the Depot Town CDC, had to say about it:

…This fee will greatly impact every event that charges a gate fee. I understand the need to increase revenue, but this resolution is targeted at a small number of events and does not fairly spread the burden among all organizations that host events in the parks. Most notably, the largest festival in the city would be exempt from this tax, although they present the largest burden on city staff and residents.

If this resolution passes, it will serve to drive festivals and events away from our city. My organization started the Michigan Roots Jamboree two years ago and we hope to grow the festival in Ypsilanti for years to come. In this tough economic climate, we may need to look for another venue outside the city if this fee is imposed on our event.

Earlier today I spoke with Scott Graham, the Director of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild. When I first informed him of this resolution, he said it was a “deal breaker”, meaning that the Michigan Summer Beer Festival would no longer be held in Ypsilanti if this resolution is adopted. I spoke with him again later today and he softened his initial statement saying it was “not necessarily a deal breaker”, but cautioned that if this fee passes the organization will look at all of their options before making a decision. He said that the resolution would cost his organization roughly $30,000, while the largest festival in the city would pay nothing!…

Before we go on to talk about whether or not this is a good idea for the City, I’d like to congratulate the organizers of Beerfest. While I knew that they did well, having had to navigate through their drunken crowds for several years now, I had no idea that they were, over that one weekend, raking in on the order of $300,000. That’s incredibly impressive.

Oh, and the large festival that Erik referred to, for those of you who don’t know, is Heritage Festival, which would, as I understand it, be exempted due to the fact theirs is not a ticketed event.

Rene Greff, the owner of the Corner Brewery, and an influential member of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild, the organization behind the Summer Beer Festival, had the following to say, when I asked her for her thoughs.

…I think a tiered pricing scheme based on the size or revenues associated with a festival makes sense but a flat percentage does not. This is a classic example of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Even if the city’s general fund does not benefit directly from festivals, the city benefits in many ways including quality of life, exposure, positive press, revenue for local businesses, etc. Council needs to take it’s time and think through all of the possible ramifications before making modifications to the fee schedule…

Between Scott Graham’s stepping back from the “deal breaker” comment and Rene’s acknowledgement that a “tiered pricing scheme” might be appropriate, it sounds as though there might be some room for negotiation. I just hope that City Council is willing to deal. I’d hate to see them kill the festival market here, which is one of the few areas where we seem to have some immediate potential, before it really has a chance to get going. Having an attractive downtown park with a river, and ample parking, is something that other communities in our area don’t have, and we should be marketing the hell out of it. I don’t doubt, however, that we could do a better job of monetizing it. We just need to be smart as to how we go about it.

And, on a practical level, how would a 10% cut on ticket sales even work? Would the City require that the contracting organization open its books? Or would we just take them for their word when they told us that they sold a certain number of tickets? It seems like an incredibly difficult thing to keep on top of, especially for a City with scant resources.

Anyway, if I were on Council, I’d want more data before making a decision. I’d want to know how other cities handle their events. And I’d want to have a better sense of what these festivals mean for our local economy… Do our local restaurants see much of an increase in sales during Beerfest? Are people who attend Beerfest more likely to visit Ypsi at a later date based up their experience here? Might we perhaps negotiate for more money from hosting organizations if they knew that the money would be used to make park improvements which would, in turn, make their future events better? Are there things other than money that we could include in our negotiations, like advertising in festival materials, the use of local vendors, etc? And, how much does it really cost the City to host an event like Beerfest? (As I understand it, festivals are already charged for the increased police presence, as well as clean-up.) Until I knew the answers to some of these questions, I don’t see how I could vote in support of a 10% tax.

Anyway, if you were at the City Council meeting tonight, leave a comment and let me know what was decided. I suspect that the resolution was tabled for the time being, while alternatives are considered, but you never know with City Council.

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  1. Glen S.
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    I largely agree with Rene Greff and others who oppose this proposal.

    As long as the City’s basic costs for hosting festivals (extra police, trash pickup, etc.) are covered through fair and reasonable usage fee, I can’t imagine that any possible benefit to the City budget via this proposed 10% fee could possibly worth more than the visibility, good press, and increased business that results from having so many different and varied neighbors visit and have a good time here in Ypsilanti.

    p.s. – Thanks to Andy Ypsilanti for alerting readers of this blog (and others) to this issue earlier today.

  2. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    Well, since Brian and Pete told me I would be here, spreading vicious lies and slander about them and what happened at city council tonight, I figure I might as well make an appearance and live up to expectations.

    Council passed a amended version of this resolution tonight. This resolution will charge a 5% fee (Pete says it’s not a tax!) on ticket sales for 2011-2012, and hike that rate to 10% in 2013 and beyond. This money is to be earmarked for park improvements. It was an interesting road to get to that point. First, when the amendment was read, the wording was changed to apply the fees to tickets sales, not gross receipts, with Pete and Brian claiming that the wording as published was an error, and that they never intended to tax gross receipts. Now, I guess we take that at face value, but to me, you don’t have to be Olympia Entertainment to know the difference between gross receipts and ticket sales. That’s a pretty big difference (to everybody except beer fest, which we’ll get to in a moment.) As debate progressed, Mr. Bodary said he too, never intended to charge a fee on anything but ticket sales. Mr. Vogt and Mrs. Richardson both though that 10% was too high and that some sort of sliding scale was in order, or at least a graduated fee schedule, to see how things went. One thing that all of council could sort of agree on is that they didn’t know how much money they needed or how much money this resolution would generate. They also freely admitted they hadn’t really talked to most of the folks who put on the festivals. There seemed to also be some question of what the true value of festivals were to Ypsilanti, if they really had an impact on local business. But council didn’t let them stop them from passing this ordinance. Those who voted for this resolution were positive it wouldn’t drive out any festivals, and even if it did, there was a waiting list. It was suggested to me by one council member that this was a predetermined outcome, that it was settled before the meeting. The mayor was out of town, so we don’t have his take on it, though in an email to me he expressed reservations, if not opposition. We have the entire debate on video, and hope to have it posted soon.

    Public opinion ran decidedly opposed to this resolution. Of course we were there from the Jamboree, as were representatives of the Elvis Fest, both who told council this would hurt, and didn’t really seem fair. You’ve already read what the Beer Fest has to say. Word didn’t get to the car show folks in time. Most interesting of all was the representative from the Heritage Fest, one of their directors (who’s name escapes me). She came out opposed to this resolution even though it would have no effect on Heritage Fest. She called for a fee system that spreads the burden evenly to all of the festivals, not just the ticketed ones. She called this move unfair. She also shared a story about going to a sort of Michigan Festival Convention, and how everyone there said something to the effect of “Oh, you’re from Ypsilanti, you guys always have a festival going on!” She expressed a real concern that this fee could change that. Still, council refused even to table the motion and research it more.

    Now, I hear you saying, 10% of tickets, that’s not too bad. No, it’s not. To us at the Jamboree, we can absorb that, or pull a Ticketbastard and print “$3.00 city service fee” right on the ticket. The car shows, with their lower ticket prices and but also lower margins, could be different. They may take it in stride, but what’s to stop them from moving to Canton or Plymouth? Are you telling me Camaro Fest wouldn’t do as well or better in Canton? That’s the gamble council took tonight. The real looser, and the loss that would sting the most to local business, is beer fest. Most of their sales are ticket sales. The beer is mostly included. At least the Jamboree and Elvis Fest get beer sales as a cushion. Beer Fest doesn’t have that luxury, and I doubt t-shirt sales can make that up. And it’s not like there are no other cities with parks that would want to host this event, Beer Fest already has other cities courting them. Council’s defense was “well, it’s still cheaper than the township, or Ann Arbor.” Ok, well, sure, but Ann Arbor subsidizes their festivals, and when was the last time you saw a festival at Ford Lake Park? But council took this gamble with out so much as a phone call to the folks at the Brewers Guild. In fact, Scott from the Guild had to call them. Another fun fact, the Brewer’s Guild was charged over $5,000 to fix the parks after this year’s flood, even though the damage was caused by an act of nature. Seriously, what incentive do they have to stay in Ypsi at this point?

    What really kills me about all of this, and the thing that keeps my council reps thoroughly annoyed with me for bringing up, is that we had this all figured out three years ago. Now, I know, it was a whole year and a half ago now, and Brian keeps telling me this current action has nothing to do with that, but do you remember the whole Ypsitucky, DTCDC thing? If you recall, the DTCDC was paying for all maintenance in the parks and working on making capital improvements, the very sort of thing this fee is suposed to pay for. A list of improvements done all or in part by the CDC include fixing the dock, building the gazebo, installing Wireless Ypsi, painting the pavilion, fixing the electrical, and renting pumps to dry the park out when it flooded, among others. But council saw fit to abruptly end that contract and take back responsibility for the parks, telling us we had nothing to worry about and that there was plenty of money, and that the city never benefited from the arrangement anyway. Doesn’t that seem hard to believe now? But I was told in no uncertain terms by Brian that tonight’s resolution was in no way effected by that earlier decision. That there was absolutely no connection between the two, and that by bringing it up I was only out to slander Brian’s good name.

    That must be it. I’m really out to see Ypsilanti go down in a blaze of glory (glory that looks an awful lot like state receivership) so that I can gloat on about how Brian Robb caused it all with help from Pete Murdock. There is no chance at all that I’m concerned about the future of our city, and that I question some seemingly rash and poorly planned decisions spear-headed by Pete and Brian. And the fact that I can see a direct connection between the vote to remove the DTCDC and the lack of funds for the parks speaks only of my hatred of Brian Robb and nothing of any actual relation between those issues. The fact that I question why Heritage Fest is left off the hook when even they thought that was a bad idea, or why you wouldn’t have a serious talk with the Beer Fest folks to understand how their event works and how tonight’s resolution would effect them, only proves that my motives are Machavelian at best.

    You can believe that if you want. Hell, I think that would make me a much more interesting person. Or you can believe that this stuff just really makes me upset because everything that has been done with our parks in council over the last two years has been mind boggling dumb in light of our city’s finances, and all of these seemed to be spear-headed by Brian and Pete. And here we are again with another poorly thought out plan that could cost us much, much more than it saves us. Well, Brian, Pete, Mike, I hope your assumptions about the effects of this resolution turn out to be right. Because if you’re wrong, we all loose.

  3. Knox
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the report, Andy. I look forward to hearing what Pete and Brian have to say on the subject. Hopefully they’ll leave comments here as well.

  4. kjc
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Exactly why I didn’t vote for Brian Robb this time around. What a stupid idea.

  5. Scott Newman-Bale
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I know the Brewers Guild already were upset with the “damage bill” from this years flood. I cannot imagine it being in Ypsi past next year.

  6. Megan
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Andy – Thank you for letting people know this was on the agenda. Your posting on FB was the first I’d heard of it. Seems to me it was something they might have wanted to sneak through. I’m shocked they didn’t at least have a conversation with the directors of the largest festivals that this would affect – Elvis, Beer, etc. Do the car shows charge admission? Anyway, they should have done their homework and reached out to these people. This was very bad, rash decision.

  7. Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I’m feeling torn on this. The last thing I want to see happen is for festivals to be driven away, but at the same time the city seems to be struggling to pay for the parks that have to be up kept in order to have the festivals at all. I mean, I go down to riverside every day and the south end has been a torn up mud pile for about a year and a half.

    Another reason I can see supporting a fee on ticketed events is that they are the only events that block off the parks to the public. The only days I can’t take my dog to riverside are the days that it’s fenced off. And these ticketed events, while being great for the city, do use public land to make their money and then don’t have it open to the public. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to charge for that. Especially when the festivals will probably pass that cost onto event goers.

    Now, I don’t have much to say about the execution or the details of how this is getting done. I wasn’t at the meeting, and like Mark said, there is a lot that we don’t know. I think if the city does institue this fee, more information has to be gathered about pricing, who it may drive away, who it may not, effects on businesses, ect. I don’t think any decision that could have such a large impact on the city should be made in such haste. I don’t know if I completely disagree with the principal of it, but I want to make sure it’s done right.

  8. Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Did anyone take notes on how each council member voted?

  9. Sylvia
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I agree with Joel as I also live near the park and walk my dogs there. But, since this is about feastivals and how they help the business districts, which in turn helps the residential areas, why not have the DDA or the CVB pick up a portion of this to soften the blow to the festivals? It could be done in the form of providing some service that the festival needs like insurance, marketing, private security or cleanup. This could end up being a win win for everybody including the taxpayers as we could get capital improvement in the park, keep the festivals and help the strugggling business owners
    Just a thought

  10. Edward
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    My guess is that Council voted on this before knowing the answers to some of the questions that Mark mentioned. Have they benchmarked the other competitive spaces in SE Michigan? Do they know how much the charge to hold events the size of Elvisfest, Beerfest and the Roots Jamboree? And, have the polled the people involved in planning these, and other similar events, to see what criteria they base their decisions on? If not, I don’t see how they could make a decision.

    I hope that I’m proven wrong, but this looks like another instance where our Council goes shooting from the hip without thinking through the ramifications of their actions. Remember how they put the Keep Ypsi Rolling millage on the primary ballot, without realizing that they couldn’t do so legally? How about the whole Shovelgate fiasco, where they allowed a private company to bill Ypsi citizens for snow shoveling that wasn’t done? It seems that we’re always failing in the execution. I don’t doubt that we need more money for the parks, but it’s not going to help us if they drive the festivals from town for good.

  11. Andy Ypsilnti
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    To be clear, no one is saying the basic idea here, of a capital improvements fee is bad. The problem is that council failed to consult anyone from our local festivals. They did say that they checked rates with other cities as to rates, and claim we are still cheaper. But most other cities don’t have the kind of privately run festivals we do here. And again, the ticketing structure of beer fest will cause it to bear the brunt of this. It also lets small events and the Heritage Fest off the hook, even though many of these close the park to its usual public use as much as any ticketed event.

  12. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Ha ha, I misspelled my own screen name. BlackBerry, bus, and blogging don’t mix.

  13. Ted
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I thought that maybe you changed your name from “Ypsilanti” because City Council was considering a tax on blog aliases using the city’s name.

    Mr. Robb ran on transparency, yet I don’t see him responding to these changes. As someone in his district, that concerns me.

  14. Fuzzy Math
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    He meant his _motives_ would be transparent, not his methods.

  15. TT
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Maybe he IS leaving comments. They’re just transparent.

    And are his motives transparent? Were they transparent in the case mentioned above, where he orchestrated to take control of the parks from the DTCDC.

  16. Barley Whine
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I hope Grand Rapids enjoys the beer festival.

  17. Kim
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    So, when we lose the Beer Festival next year will people hold these politicians accountable?

  18. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    If we loose the beer festival and its 9000 visitors and half million or more dollars of economic impact, I think yes.

  19. Tim
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I remember correctly, Brian Robb told me when he ran for City Council that he’d keep his constituents aware of everything through his website. And he also used the term “transparency” repeatedly.

    I just checked his website and it was last updated on May 11. As of today, that’s exactly 6 months ago.

  20. Steph's Dad
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink has an article about it too.

  21. lorie thom
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    once again, bad tactics on top of bad strategy and that will lead to a loss for the city instead of a gain. Nothing new here – its the 80s all over again.

  22. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Yet another reason to dislike Brian and Pete…. Thanks to Andy Ypsilanti for bringing their stupidity to light.

    BTW – I’ve checked out Brian’s website/blog. Completely useless, ugly font and nothing worth reading.

  23. Posted November 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Another thought occurred to me this afternoon… Why wouldn’t the Beerfest just restructure, making tickets cheap and then selling beer tokens to be separately, once they’re inside the event, essentially decoupling the ticket price from the beer price? I’d have to read the language that was passed by Council, but I can’t help but think there would be an easy way to work around it, if someone were so inclined.

    Also, no one responded to my question concerning how the City would know the quantity of tickets sold to any event.

    I get that we have to pay for park improvements, but this whole thing seems really shortsighted and rushed to me, and I have to believe that there will be ramifications. If Council wanted to do this right, they would have engaged the citizens of Ypsi in a conversation before voting on it, and made public the benchmarking data that they’d collected on how other towns stack up.

  24. Posted November 17, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Two comments: 1) What if a new festival (Ton Up) happens to be held on a weekend that has lousy weather. They’ve already put out funds for tents, permits, vendors, etc AND they have to pay 5% of the gate fee to the city. They could very well end up in a negative position thereby putting a halt to any potentially new festival. 2) We squawk about the negative perception Ypsi has. The ONLY way to change that perception is to invite the thousands of festival goers to our city so they can see for themselves that we are a safe, fun city.

    This resolution was handled improperly. To put it on Council’s agenda without getting input from the current festivals, to not consider alternative ways to raise funds, and to not look at the positive image that comes from being the ‘city of festivals’ was very short sighted. The council members that placed this on the agenda with no notice and the members who passed this resolution when it should have been tabled will come to find the unintented consequences of their actions.

  25. Posted November 18, 2010 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    I bet everybody’ll cave and have the festivals here anyway, and fork over the 5-10%, after the obligatory toothless bitching session.

  26. Posted November 18, 2010 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Aww. Wouldn’t be a city council if they actually, you know, had a fact-finding or a report that answered these questions or anything. Better just to vote. Voting feels good! Vote for voting!

  27. Knox
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone is against them charging more. It’s just the way they went about doing it.

  28. Posted November 18, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I generally do not like it when councils impose fees since that’s often the cowardly way out of raising taxes or cutting other spending, but it seems to me that the city should charge whatever the market will bear, if these are for-profit events using public property. Of course they should take into account the spillover benefits of these festivals. My main concern would be that private groups do not overly disadvantage the use of the spaces by other residents. It’s easy when you like the festivals yourself, but totally different if, say, Tom Monaghan was holding a for-profit party on public space.

  29. Hmm
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Are each of you absolutely certain that the members of City Council did not research this in advance? After some research of my own it is my understanding that there was discussion with several people who organize these events, and they also researched the cost other cities are charging for similar events. Because you do not hear something does not necessarily mean it did not happen. It is important to remember that we should not accuse anyone of making decisions before having all the facts and then in turn make our own accusations before we know the facts.

    It appears that only a couple of these comments are coming from people who actually attended the meeting. The rest of these comments seem to be based on what others are saying or simply an emotional response based on your dislike of some of the Council Members.

    None of this means I necessarily agree with the way this was handled. Personally I would have liked to see this issue tabled to allow more time for discussion. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding this issue that could have been cleared up with more time.

    Contact your Councilperson and share your ideas/concerns with them. Don’t wait until after an issue has been voted on. If you are aware of upcoming issues contact them early, give them time to consider your suggestions.

    Councilmember’s – listen to your constituents. Make sure they have all of the same information available to them as you do. Be open, honest, and objective. This will serve us all well.

  30. ytown
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Another idiotic decision by council, thank god i moved out of Ypsi. I know, lets raise the business tax for all stores downtown since there are more of them.

  31. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    @Hmmm, right on. Though I’m clearly on a side here, your comments sum up this whole issue for me.

    @Mark, why would the beer fest restructure when they could just as easily move to a new city that will be happy to set a fee structure that is sensitive to their format? After all, this format predates not just this resolution, but the Ypsi location, to my understanding. Members of council could have easily called up their director and said, “this is what we need to do and why, how can we get there in a way that doesn’t cripple you?” But they didn’t. They decided to just assume that the all the festivals would take it on the chin and keep on. That’s a pretty big gamble in my book.

  32. Stephen
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t at the meeting, but I’ve spoken with people who were, and none of them have mentioned any discussion of rates that are being charged by other towns for similar events. If they did conduct a thorough benchmarking they kept the results to themselves.

  33. Erik Dotzauer
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Mark – to address your question, it wouldn’t be as simple as lowering the ticket cost and raising the price of beer tokens. The reason being that the Brewer’s Guild has to pay sales tax on the dollar amount of beer tokens sold. So that would reduce the tax from 10% to 6%. But because they are a non-profit organization, they currently do not have to pay sales tax on the entry fee….

    Regarding the question of how the City would know the amount of ticket sales – from my understanding they would have to rely on the organization showing them the books for the event.

  34. Lewis C.
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    As Erik pointed out with the beer fest, shifting ticket cost to token cost isn’t a simple thing when alcohol/the State is involved.
    Something else Erik -inadvertently- pointed out; does it seem fair that the largest yearly tab/tax due to all of this, some $30k plus on the Beer Fest, is on a NON-PROFIT?
    And yet dozens of vendors at Heritage Fest operate at a clear profit.
    This issue needs far more research and numbers provided, to make it a good sell, especially after the council’s DTCDC debacle.
    I also wish our Mayor would make a statement/take a stand on this as well.
    I know one council person I’ve supported that will not get my vote again.

  35. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Brian and Pete are clearly in love with each other. I’m waiting to see an extended lip lock during a coucil meeting. I think it will happen after one of their whispering sessions….

    I just wish the rest of coucil would grow a sack and stop these two lovers from running the show.

  36. Hmm
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    This has certainly been an emotional issue. But to be fair this is a very small sampling of the population of Ypsi. I’m sure there are many people in the City who totally disagree with some of these comments and others who don’t care one way or the other. It would be very interesting to hear other points of view, but it is common that people who agree with issues usually don’t speak up. So, having said this, I would like to add my final comments on this topic.

    Based on the comments, I think it is pretty safe to say that the main objection (from this group of comments) to the new fee is how it was handled by Council. It appears that the organizers of the festivals were willing to discuss additional fees for park usage and they were willing to discuss options. But somewhere along the line it appears to most of you that the Council dropped the ball and did not respond to your request for more discussions before a vote.

    Andy Ypsilanti said “Members of council could have easily called up their director and said, “this is what we need to do and why, how can we get there in a way that doesn’t cripple you?” If a discussion like this took place but the result was the same, how would you feel?

    On the flip side, I understand the Council’s main focus is our finances. Is this fair? Yes. This City is in financial turmoil and I hope Council will continue to consider our finances in every decision they make. However, I think it is fair to expect Council to listen, give their constituents adequate time to respond, and then help them understand why certain decisions are made.

    So, where does all of this leave us? How many of you have actually contacted your Councilperson to ask them to explain what drove them to their decision. If you are truly serious about this, call them and ask for a meeting. And then listen. You want them to listen to you, take the time to listen to them. Bring some ideas to the table. It’s my understanding this recent decision is able to be changed. Give them something concrete to think about. Hmm, maybe good relationships might come of this.

    A decision has been made and is very disappointing to many of you. Let’s all pull ourselves up, find some common ground and work together to find a peaceful resolution.

    Wishing each of you a Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving.

  37. Dave French
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    It would have been nice if council bothered to solicit community input before voting on this matter.

  38. Edward
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Brian, Pete and Paul read this site. They know the questions. For some reason, though, they’ve chosen not to comment here.

  39. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm, the problem is a great many of us were at city council and spoke before the vote, asking them to take more time and work with festival organizers. Council refused to table the resolution for further discussion.

    One of my council people will hardly look me in the eyes, let alone answer any of my questions. He called me out by name in a letter to a constituent, reprinted on this site, saying “just because Andy Clock says something 100 times doesn’t make it true” but still didn’t counter my statement or answer any of the questions I posed. Still hasn’t.

    This isn’t a case of uninvolved people not talking to their representatives, it’s a case of the representatives refusing to listen.

  40. Dave French
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    *Andy, I don’t recall any public announcement, in the media or otherwise. Am I mistaken?

  41. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    From what I understand, this was talked about in council goal setting, and was also put before the Park commision, though it was never put to a vote there because of the lack of a quarum. What council says they talked to the Jaycees and the CBV. Mysteriously absent from thier conversation was the majority of the people the resolution effects.

  42. Posted November 20, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I’ll have to read through my post again, and all of the comments, but I don’t believe that anyone has said that Council shouldn’t be exploring the idea of raising the rates. I’m not sure what the current rate is, but, if I’m not mistaken, I believe it’s the same regardless of how big the crowd is. That means that Beerfest, which brings almost 10,000 people and makes over $300,000, pays the same as something much smaller, like an antique car show. I think everyone agrees that we need to figure out a solution which compensates the City fairly for the upkeep of the parks. I believe people were just hoping for more transparency in the process. I, for one, would like to know what kind of impact our festivals have on local businesses, and what other venues in the area charge. That’s pretty simple stuff. And, from what I’ve heard, we don’t have it. Or, at least I don’t think they had that information when the vote was taken.

  43. dragon
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Seed spittin’ contest or Rebel flag raffle, how will the folks from Ypsitucky jamboree raise the needed 40 bucks?

  44. Andy
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m voting for cow pie bingo.

  45. abe newman
    Posted November 25, 2010 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    The Bible doesn’t say anything about charging for festivals, so they should be free.

  46. Ypsiluv
    Posted November 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink


    The big issue with this is not the idea of increasing fees. None of the organizers have any issue with this. It is doing it with the right research and some target in mind. When asked who they spoke with about the tax, Pete and Brian got very uncomfortable. After speaking to multiple people involved in the jaycees, I now understand that no one was contacted by council on this matter (or at least public within the Jaycees organization) Does this mean that Pete and Brian lied about their research? Was there any research done at all? Is it a coincidence that this happened to appear on the agenda the day of the meeting when Paul was out of town? I think not. Nice planning Council! Piss off everyone with absolutely no plan in place. As an involved community member, I can say first hand that no one from any of the major festivals was contacted.

    Dont ask, dont tell, BEG the DTCDC to graciously take over the park systems again to take away the financial burdon from the city . Make the maintenance and capital improvements managed by a Non Profit who’s sole responsibiity is to raise funds to manage and improve the parks!!!

  47. beer lover
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Did something happen with this last night?

  48. lorie thom
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    What kills me is the penny ante crap. 10% Tax on ticket sales is stupid – more importantly how much do they think that will really raise? It has a huge loop hole, costs the city in its own labor and accounting for tracking it. By the time all that is covered it will raise very little. Its symbolic at best and the symbol is that our council is greedy without a plan and acts without involving the public.

    Good public policy involved honest dialog with the public which is in stark contract to the dream or nightmare Pete has the night before the meeting.

    Stop with the last minuteunresearched/gang of four crap – its bad for the city.

  49. dragon
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Was Franzia on sale this week?

  50. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m working on an update from last night’s meeting now. Bob, Gary, Sylvia, anybody else that thinks I’m a tool, asshole, or pussy, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

  51. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Last night, at the request of Scott Graham, the president of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild, a group of concerned festival organizers and members of city council gathered to discuss the recent “festival tax” resolution. In attendance were several members of the Heritage Festival Board, Director of the Elvis Fest, Erik Dotzauer from the DTCDC/Jamboree, Linda French, Council Members Vogt and Murdock, Mayor Schreiber, and myself. I’m going to try to give you the rundown in the most unbiased manner that I can, given that I’m clearly on one side of this issue.

    We started the rundown with a look at city fees for park use which you can find here:

    Looking at this document, you can see under the current arrangement, all use fees collected for the parks and the application fee go to the Jaycees, who are currently managing the schedule for park events. According to the Mayor, this may change, as taking back scheduling duties for the parks, as well as capturing those fees, is currently being reviewed by city employees.

    Scott made the view of himself and the board of the Brewers Guild quite clear: the resolution passed calling for 5%-10% of ticket sales to go to the city was unacceptable. At 5%, his organization would be on the hook for $15,000, at 10%, $30,000. He also made it clear that no other city that the guild worked with asked for anything like that. Scott also took time to point out that this issues should not be connected to the damage done to the park after Beer Fest this year; not only was it exceptional weather that caused damage to be done, but that any event that caused damage was billed for repairs, just as the Guild had been this year. He further stated that he was shocked that such a resolution would be passed with out even a call to his organization. All of the festival organizers in attendance agreed that it was strange that none of them had been contacted prior to this resolution being brought before council. Scott went on to say that his organization would love to see the park improve, and that, if asked, they would be happy to write a check for a grant match or any other project they could help with. But to the Guild Board, this kind of broad tax would mean looking at every option, including leaving Ypsilanti, and he was there to ascertain the likely-hood of council changing or compromising on it’s position. Linda French led the chorus of support for the Guild, offering that Beer Fest weekend is the busiest of the year for Sidetracks, by far. Most at the table seemed to agree that losing the Beer Fest would be a major blow to Ypsilanti.

    At this point, there was a general discussion about each event and what it could handle, and what was the most fair and even-handed way that money could be captured for the parks. The members of the Heritage Festival board emphasized that, even though the resolution that was passed did not effect them, they did not agree with the plan and that any plan to capture money for the parks should include Heritage Festival and any other event to use the parks. At this point, Mr. Vogt and Murdock were asked exactly what the goals of council were in this resolution; how much money they hoped to collect and exactly what it would be used for. Mr. Murdock stated the money was to make improvements to the park, that maintenance fees were covered in the city budget. In the article here: Brian Robb states they hope to collect $25,000 to $30,000 annually, for use in capitol improvements. Last night, Mr. Murdock seemed to be saying closer to $35,000 – $50,000. This brought Scott to ask, in concurrence with several others, what the money was earmarked for. Mr. Murdock offered examples of work this year, such as fixing the railing on the gazebo, repairing the stairs, or painting the pavilion. Some pointed out that these were maintenance items, not improvements, to which Mr. Murdock suggested that that was a matter of opinion. Mr. Vogt pointed out that Ypsilanti is a city in financial crisis, and that money would be needed to keep the parks operating in general, not just for capitol improvements, and stressed the need to begin gathering funds now. At this point, Erik Dotzauer asked Mr. Murdock to answer directly: the resolution that was passed was to gather funds for capitol improvements only, not maintenance, and items such as the ones he had mentioned fell under the later category, so what was this money to be used for? In response, Mr. Murdock suggested that Erik must have been getting his numbers or facts from yours truly, to which Erik reiterated his question: what was this money for? Adam, a member of the Heritage Festival Board, picked up the line of questioning from Erik, stating that maintenance and capitol improvements are completely different. He also asked again where council got it’s numbers from, considering the directors of all of the major festivals were at the table, and none of them had been asked, and also exactly what the goals of this resolution were. He pointed out that, while he and Erik had never really seen eye to eye in the past, they were in total agreement on this issue.

    From there, the table turned to Mayor Schreiber. The Mayor reminded everyone that when fees had been raised a couple of years ago, a committee had been formed of festival board members (many in attendance had been on that board) to study the issue. He stated that he planned to ask council to recall this resolution and vote it down, replacing it with one of the alternatives provided by the city manager: doubling, and collecting, park use fees for 2011, while a new committee is formed by festival board members to provide suggestions for increasing funding in the following years. As most of us at the table nodded in agreement to this suggestion, Mr. Murdock stood and walked out without a word. Mr. Vogt suggested that Mr. Murdock had told him before the meeting his time was limited, but Scott, who had driven 200 miles for this meeting, was offended at his manner of departure and apparent lack of interest in what he had to say.

    All of the festival organizers agree that putting aside money for the improvement of our parks is an important and worthy cause, but that the resolution passed by council was not thoroughly researched (again, none of the festivals were even asked about what kind of revenue it would generate or effect it would have on the bottom line) could have a discouraging effect on new or future festivals, and was, in general, totally unacceptable. There was also agreement that the most fair way to raise more funds was to increase use and application fees, but that, if the city felt this would not create the desired level of funding, the proper course of action was to form a committee to study the issue and offer suggestions, as had done in the past. (It’s important to note that every event also pays a damage deposit, utility fees, and fees for police, fire, and DPW services, as well as being required to carry insurance if the size and type of event warrants it) All of the organizers agreed with Mayor Schreiber’s plan to recall the resolution and replace it in the interim with a doubled fee schedule.

    That’s my (mostly) unbiased report. Now for my utterly biased opinion. This resolution was not well thought out or researched. None of the festivals were asked their opinion. There are no firm numbers on what it would generate, and there seems to be no real plan as to what the money is for. The numbers quoted by Mr. Robb as goals would be met by just the Beer Fest under the current plan. Contrary to statements made by Bodry, Robb, and Murdock, this IS a deal breaker for at least one festival, the one that brings with it the most economic impact. The Mayor is correct, the wisest course of action is to recall and vote down this resolution, replace it with the doubled fee schedule in the interim, and form a committee to suggest fair ways to raise capitol improvement funds. It also needs to be clearly defined as to where this money is going, maybe not with a specific project, but at least with language within the resolution earmarking it for it’s destination. Here’s the rub, in order for the motion to be recalled, when the Mayor brings the issued to the table in council, one of the members who voted for it must second the proposal. That means Vogt, Bodry, Robb or Murdock. This is where we need your help. Call or write your council members, especially if you are in the second or third wards (first ward council members both voted the measure down) and tell them to support the Mayor’s recall of the resolution and new resolution doubling use fees. Better yet, come to city hall next Tuesday, December 7th and let council know in person that you want them to fix their mistake and work with Ypsilanti’s Festivals for the future of our parks.

    The stakes are high for us, Ypsilanti. The Beer Festival is the jewel in our festival crown, It brings in well over half a million dollars and 10,000 people each year to our city. Are we willing to give it up, when they are so willing to compromise, and really just want a fair shake?

  52. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I forgot to mention that Matt Greff was also at the meeting, and had a few choice word for the council members on the situation.

    There is also now a FB event to bring people to council next week to support the repeal of this resolution:

  53. lorie thom
    Posted December 2, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    a) wow – even if wildly successful and raises 50K – after costs and games, its merely symbolic and won’t do capital improvement at any scale…btw…fixing railings is maintenance and repair not capital improvement.

    b) I am disgusted with the council members individual statements on this issue and it is indicative of Councilman Murdock and his gang of four to dream something like this up in the vacuum of their own head(s) and push it through without actual public input or consultation with those affected or involved.
    Again this is a pattern of behavior and its sad that we have allowed it to continue.

    c) I am wholly disappointed with Councilman Vogt in particular because I met with him before he took his seat and spent a great deal of time talking about how independent he is and how he would analyze and gather input independently and think for himself. He clearly failed to do that.
    Mr. Bodary is already on record for blindly following Murdock and I believe it will shorten his service on council.

    c) Given that there was already an example of the city, its elected officials and event organizers getting together in the past to work toward solutions it is even more disappointing that Murdock, Robb, and Bodary (who, in theory, have some experience) didn’t approach the events people to form a better solution.

    d) now is NOT the time for the city to take on more services and activities. The Jaycees have been good stewards of scheduling – they should continue if maybe working with the city in some closer arrangement but the city cannot take this service back under its wing. Murdock has a history of growing city government by taking over independent services. The disastrous recycling games come to mind.

    Bad tactic built on bad policy built on bad politics built on insular thinking.

  54. lorie thom
    Posted December 2, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    but I can still screw up the alphabet better than them.

  55. Knox
    Posted December 2, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I had high hopes for a certain Council member who ran his entire campaign on transparency.

  56. dave french
    Posted December 3, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Andy Ypsilanti, Thanks for being a tool and dragging this thing into the sunshine.

  57. kjc
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Wow, great work Andy. I’ll definitely contact my council member, Brian Robb. But i’m not sure where to contact him. I only see his campaign page. Anyone know the best place to write/call?

  58. Erik Dotzauer
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink


  59. kjc
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    thanks Erik.

  60. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    1. Ypsilanti needs to hire Dave Curtis’s publicist ASAP.

    2. I’ve seen all of the information provided to tom for the ElvisFest story. I’ve seen the emails exchanged between Tom and Erik. How he could publish the story he published, given the information he was provided with, is beyond my understanding. one glance at the festival financials vs the yearly financials of the organization is enough to clear up any discrepancy. Tom had both sets of documents before his article was published, but chose to ignore the information provided to him by the parent organization of both festivals. the article was as fair and balanced s any on fox news.

  61. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Just a reminder, our chance to change this happens tomorrow. Please come to city council at 7pm (ok, feel free to be up to 40 minutes late, there are a lot of issues on the docket tomorrow) to let council know what you think about this. All it will take is getting one of the four council members who voted for thier (Vogt, Bodary, Robb, or Murdock) to agree to review the issue, and to change their vote. If you can’t make it to the meeting, please take a moment to drop your council members a line and let them know you want this resolution repealed and revised.

    And lets be crystal clear: no one is trying to get out of paying more money to improve, and if it comes down to it, maintain our parks. We use them, we profit from them, and we want them to be better. All we are asking is for council to work with us to develop a plan that works for everyone.

    The future of the Michigan Beer Festival in Ypsilanti is at stake tomorrow. We can not afford to loose its 10,000 visitors and more than half a million dollars in economic impact. We can not afford the blow it will deal to our reputation as Michigan’s best festival host.

  62. Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Andy Ypsilanti,

    Festival fee resolution 2010-257 is on the 12/7/2010 Ypsilanti city council agenda for reconsideration.

    You can download the city council packet (14MB in three parts) at:

    Paul Schreiber

  63. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    To quote Neil Young, “Tonight’s the Night”. See you all at Ypsilanti City Hall, 7pm, and lets make a plan to care for our parks that works for all of of us!

  64. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    Tonight, city council voted to recall this resolution and table it for more discussion, including talking with all of the festivals to work out the best solution for the future of our parks. We won a victory here, but it won’t mean anything until we follow through with a plan that works for all of our festivals and the city.

    What I really take away from this though, is the cooperation that happened here. The group working to change this resolution included the DTCDC/DTA, The Heritage Festival, Elvis Fest, The Jamboree, Linda French and many others that, before this, might not have even spoken to each other, let alone cooperated on anything. I think it goes to show that, even though we might not all agree on how best to do it, we all want to work to make Ypsilanti better, and when it comes right down to it, we can put our differences aside and do what needs to be done. It gives me hope.

  65. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    I almost forgot. I would like to thank council for their unanimous decision to revisit this issue. I especially want to thank councilmen Bodary and Vogt for their thoughtful words on why they thought it was important to reconsider. I want to thank Mayor Schreiber for bringing it back to to the table, and of course, council members Richardson and Jefferson for taking a stand against the resolution in the fist place.

  66. Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Did they figure out how much to charge the babysitter while they were at it?

  67. Edward
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    So they basically admitted that they fucked up by trying to rush something through without seeking input or conducting even the bare minimum of research. Why is this always the case with our elected officials? It’s so frustrating. And, while we’re at it, where’s their plan for Water Street? The property has been sitting vacant for years and years now. For a group of people who ran on transparency and new ideas as to how to move the Water Street deal forward, I’ve seen very little of either.

  68. Not there - sorry
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    What did Bodary and Vogt say? I wasn’t able to make it to the meeting.

  69. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Not there – I couldn’t tell you word for word what Bodary and Vogt said because, to be honest, I had a lot of caffeine yesterday but very little sleep, and the meeting went very, very long (We got through our issue by about 10:00, and there was 2/3 – 1/2 of the agenda left to go) The gist was that they weren’t 100% comfortable with passing the resolution in the first place, but felt they had to act in some way. They also stated that there was clearly more information that they needed to have to make an informed decision.

    As a commentary, those involved with the festivals pledged to bring more to the table; this reconsideration could result in an even better outcome for the city in regards to funds to improve the parks. I think the fact that so many people who haven’t worked together in the past did in this case was a powerful statement of commitment, and council had no choice but to hear.

    Edward, if its any consolation, city staff has won an urban forestry grant that is going to plant, I believe, 3 acres of trees on Water Street, most for use as a nursery for trees to be transplanted to other areas of the city. Some of the trees will be used for phytoremediation (removing ground pollution with trees/plants) of the old ypsi metals site. They have also worked very hard to make the trail happen. I know it’s not what we really need, but they are trying to do something besides just waiting for a buyer.

  70. VDC
    Posted October 11, 2014 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Will you writing about the public fight between Andy Clock and Laura Bien?

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