Apparently the all talk of a recall has had an effect on Ronnie Peterson, who at least temporarily derailed a takeover of the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau this evening


Going into tonight’s meeting of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, I thought for sure there would be a vote in favor of closing the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (YACVB), and transferring the organization’s funding to a new Ann Arbor-based entity, where it could be put to better use promoting “the Ann Arbor region.” It just seemed like the stars were in alignment. Not only had the pro-merger folks somehow convinced Ypsilanti’s representative on the board, Ronnie Peterson, to vote against the wishes of his constituents, but Alicia Ping, the commissioner most outwardly against the idea off a merger between the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Visitors and Convention Bureaus, was a thousand miles away, on vacation, unable to stop anything from happening. Everyone seemed resigned to the idea, even the folks from the YACVB, who, up until now, had been fighting the idea to the best of their ability.

[For the background on this merger, and why, in the opinion of many, it would be terrible for Ypsilanti, just click here.]

The meeting, which ran for over four hours, started with Commissioner Andy LaBarre calling YACVB Board Chair April King and AAACVB Board Chair Sean Duval up to the podium to read prepared statements intended to convey to everyone in the packed chamber that resistance was futile, and that a merger was going to happen, regardless of what any of us might think about the idea. [I don’t know it for a fact, but I suspect that King was told that the pro-merger folks had the votes they needed to make it happen, and that she didn’t have any choice but to put on a happy face, accept the inevitable, and declare enthusiastically that the YACVB was 100% behind the merger, which would essentially strip us Ypsilantians of any real power when it comes to deciding how our community is marketed.]

King’s statement included phrases like “we are in agreement” and “we are unified in our vision.” Duval, like King, then did what he had to do, talking enthusiastically about the prospect of working together with people from Ypsilanti to promote “Washtenaw County.” [Up until today, Duvall had just spoken about how these funds would be used to better promote “the Ann Arbor region.”] The pro-merger contingent on the Board of Commissioners could not have asked for a better setup for their vote.

In spite of this, people in the audience still lined up to express their disproval of both the process and the outcome, which, by this point, seemed all but certain. “Ya’ll thugs,” said Ypsilantian Tyrone Bridges, referring to the “backroom deals” and “veiled threats” we’ve all been hearing about these past few weeks, as forces in Ann Arbor have aligned to strip Ypsilanti of its $1.17 million marketing budget. “You’ve pissed a lot of people off,” Bridges said, before handing the mic over to an older man, who told the commissioners that the people of Ypsilanti “have a right to a distinct identity” independent of Ann Arbor. He then went one step further, reminding the Ann Arborites in the room that, “if it wasn’t for an accident of history,” that brought the University of Michigan to their town, “Ann Arbor would still be Ann’s Arbor.” “Your identity is the University of Michigan,” he told them, while “our identity is our own, and distinct.” Also of note, Ypsilanti City Council Member Dan Vogt came forward to encourage the commissioners to make sure, if a merger is inevitable, that funds destined for Ypsilanti be controlled by local people. Otherwise, he cautioned, you will “destroy” any goodwill, trust and support that you still enjoy. And, lastly, local real estate agent Tyler Weston, after comparing Ann Arbor to the kind of neighbor that would steal your lawnmower and then try to set the terms for your borrowing it back, raised his voice and said, “How dare you!”

But then, when it came time to actually vote on the language of the merger, a weird, kind of magical thing happened. Ronnie Peterson, perhaps prompted by the talk of a recall, suddenly decided to throw a monkey wrench into the works and shut everything down. [Below is a “Recall Ronnie” banner that was making its way around the internet today.]


I don’t know if Peterson went into today’s meeting looking for a way to turn things around, and get back on the right side of the debate, but, when an opportunity presented itself, he sure as hell jumped at it.

About three hours into the meeting, once the conversation finally turned to the CVB merger, Commissioner Conan Smith requested a more complete version of the proposal be shared with the other members of the board. [Apparently it was requested that this language be added to the board packet, but it somehow never made its way in.] A 15-minute recess was agreed to, and, once we were back in session, Peterson took off, talking animatedly about how he couldn’t in good conscience vote for something that had just been brought to the floor, that hadn’t been shared with his constituents. Others tried to step in, but he kept right on going. Andy LaBarre tried to interrupt him, but he refused to yield the floor. Commissioner Dan Smith tried to get everyone to go ahead and vote, saying that things could always be amended later, but Peterson wasn’t having any of it. He said it would be undemocratic. We needed two weeks, he said, during which time he promised that he would hold an open meeting to discuss the terms of the deal.

Eventually, Commissioner Jamnick seconded Peterson’s motion to table the vote, and, at that point, seeing that the train had left the station, everyone around the table jumped onboard, as they didn’t want to be seen fighting against Peterson, who, by now, had begun to paint this as a civil rights battle. After Jamnick seconded the call for tabling the item, LaBarre joined her. Then Rabhi agreed. By the end, it was unanimous that the matter should be tabled for two weeks, until their next meeting.

I don’t know that it had any effect on Peterson, but I don’t imagine it hurt that the woman sitting right in front of him had been outside earlier with a sign calling for his removal from office.


As for what this means, I’m not sure. We may just be delaying the inevitable at this point. The Chair of the YACVB board, after all, came out publicly at the beginning of the meeting, agreeing to the general terms of the deal. What’s more, Jamnick, who, as I understand it, had been against the idea of merger previously, seemed as though she’d resigned herself to it, even though she requested more time to go over the detils. Still, though, it makes you wonder if there might be a chance to keep the YACVB alive, or at least get a somewhat better deal for Ypsilanti, now that Peterson seems to have reversed course. [If we can’t get our own independent office, we at least need to fight for local control of the funds, and some guarantee that funds will continue to be directed toward Ypsilanti in perpetuity, and not just for the duration of this first contract.]

To Peterson’s credit, it would have been easy enough for him to have cast a “no” vote last night, which would have perhaps diminished some of the anger being directed at him, while not changing the outcome of the vote. [It seemed to meet pretty clear that they had the votes to pass the resolution without his vote.] But, instead, he shut things down, buying two more weeks. And this, I think, can only be seen as a positive… While I’m still not thrilled with Peterson’s representation, I think he did the right thing tonight, and that deserves acknowledgement.

I know it’s likely temporary, but I loved watching things go off the rails in such a spectacular fashion tonight. If nothing else, this has been entertaining.

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  1. Recall Ronnie
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Democracy is messy business.

  2. karen
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    we’ve been hearing for years that mr. peterson doesn’t represent ypsilanti.

    that’s just code for mr. peterson doesn’t represent the whitest parts of ypsilanti.

  3. Annonymous
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    That may be true in some instances, Karen, but I’m not aware of anyone in Ypsi, white or black, who supported a merger between our CVBs.

  4. K.
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    The Black Chamber of Commerce, as I recall, wrote a letter of support for the Ypsi CVB. This is not a race issue. No one in Ypsi wants Ann Arbor marketing our city.

  5. Angela Barbash
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Here’s a Ronnie story our family still tells and is one of the reasons we would vote him out… At a fundraiser party for a local non-profit in 2010 Ronnie joined my husband and I at a table to share a drink. He had no idea who we were, but we knew who he was. We got to talking about real estate and he shared that he had rental properties in West Willow and then proceeded to disparage both renters and West Willow residents. You could describe his attitude as crass and elitist. At the time I was the President of WW’s neighborhood association. I shared that with him after he made his remarks. He awkwardly walked away.

    That’s just one story I have. Incidentally, one of his rental properties was identified by nearby residents as one of the decrepit problem properties on that street…

    I’d vote him out in a heartbeat.

  6. AA
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I feel bad for Conan that he wasn’t, in your words, able to deliver this money to the people of Ann Arbor last night and become a hero.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    They still got what they wanted. They got Ypsi to give up and agree to a one-office, Ann Arbor solution. If Ronnie wanted to fight, he should have done it earlier, when it mattered.

  8. Meta
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    From MLive:

    A memorandum of understanding with the Ann Arbor Area CVB stipulates that the organization will change its name to the Washtenaw County CVB and its new board of directors will be chosen by the combined executive committees of the AAACVB and the Yspilanti Area CVB.

    The new board will include two Washtenaw County elected officials, at least 25 percent of the board’s membership—and two members of its executive committee—must come from the Ypsilanti area and at least 25 percent of the board must either live or work in other non-Ann Arbor communities.

    The memorandum also ensures that the Ypsilanti CVB office will remain in operation and existing Ypsilanti Area CVB staff will be offered ongoing employment in the new CVB at comparable rates of compensation and responsibility.

    The terms of the memorandum could change between now and October, when the board will next take up the issue. Ruth Ann Jamnick, D-Ypsilanti Township, said during Wednesday’s meeting that she’d like to see at least 3 elected officials on the board and had other suggested tweaks to the document.

    Read more:

  9. 734
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Might there be an opportunity now to offer a counter proposal that keeps an office in Ypsi and gives our reps on the board control over spending?

  10. kjc
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    to quote Dan Smith’s response to me:

    “I’m curious why you think Ypsilanti should have ‘local control’ over these funds; my understanding would be that the accommodations tax revenues belong the people of Washtenaw County.”


    “The people of Washtenaw County” is funny, as if it were a republic and Ypsi wants to wrest power from the people. Certain powerful interests, and their representatives, have the power to decide for everyone obviously, as with this vote.

  11. Liz DMG
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    To add to what kjc said, if the point of the tax is to promote the interests of Washtenaw County as a whole (something Andy LaBarre said at the committee meeting some months ago getting public input on the idea), hasn’t Ypsi CVB done that?

    Ypsi CVB is the one that’s given grants to communities around Washtenaw County to promote themselves. Just ask Milan. And Manchester.

    Ypsi CVB’s work has shown it promotes all of Washtenaw County, not the Greater Ann Arbor area.

  12. Andrew Clock
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    One stand out issue for me in the merger is how the board is divided. Ypsi gets 25%, out county 25%, and Ann Arbor 25%, but none of the commissioners seem to want to address the final 25%.

    Closest thing I got was from Conan on twitter: “last I checked 25 + 25 does not equal 51. No Ann Arbor majority”.

    To me, that say, “Yup, that final 25% will be drawn from Ann Arbor.” And while his math is correct, to say that a 50% voting block vs two 25% voting blocks in pretty disingenuous. Maybe there is another plan for that final block of the board, but at this point, with no one speaking to it, that 25% looks like the way Ann Arbor guarantees control of a merged board.

    And yeah, I’m seeing comments on facebook from folks that would likely be in the know that lead me to believe the executive board of YCVB was given a final ultimatum on Monday: “we have the votes get on board or get left behind”.

    You know, its almost funny to see some of the same so-called progressives who are happy to torch the Governerd for taking local control away from schools and communities with EFM laws so casually taking local control away from Ypsilanti. Thanks Conan and friends for making it clear that voices and votes without money attached don’t count.

  13. Monica Ross-WIlliams
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    It appears at least for now, the inevitable did not happen.

    That is because of every single Eastern Side of Washtenaw County resident who came to the meeting, spoke up, talked in person to, or wrote an email to either of the Eastern Washtenaw County Commissioners. I was glad to be one of these valiant fighters at last nights meeting for our wonderful side of the County.

    However, the fight is not over.

    In fact, it just begun. By what should be looked upon as at best, a temporary delay for the vote to merge YVCB with AAVCB.

    Now it the time for our Commissioners on this side of the County to hold at least two or more Public Meetings to hear concerns of their VOTERS as it relates to this issue. Let’s hope these Public Meetings are scheduled, as soon as feasibility possible.

    As I stated last night, we have lost so much on the Eastern Side of Washtenaw County. The various mergers of past, has not left this area better. What they have done is taken more resources away from the City of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti, Superior, Augusta and the Eastern side of Pittsfield Township.

    Before deciding what next steps to take, the Commissioners should deeply review their own Economic Development Department Study completed earlier this year. My personal take on the study as a lament resident, is our that respective communities desperately need ample marketing of amenities, resources and businesses with Eastern Washtenaw — adding to a what can be view as a small resurgence — which has many more steps to climb.

    The best prospective would be to craft solutions to keep the YVCB strong, right where it is, in Eastern Washtenaw County. Let’s hope this idea will get its proper due diligence going forward in this process.

    Monica Ross-Williams, M.B.A.
    Vice-Chair Eastern Washtenaw County Democrats & Resident of Eastern Washtenaw County.

  14. Elviscostello
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to remind everyone of Ronnie Peterson’s first foray into office. In 1985 he was a Civil Service Commissioner in Ypsilanti Township and was part of a conspiracy to rig the testing for Firefighters. They took the legit list and moved people up and down based on their whim, friendships, connections, etc. Peterson pled guilty to a misdemeanor in the case.

  15. Close Ann Arbor's CVB!
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Learning that the Ypsi CVB has been marketing and supporting areas in the entire county, while Ann Arbor’s CVB has been limiting their efforts to their cloistered city, why are we not fighting for Ypsi to absorb up Ann Arbor’s CVB? Ann Arbor is already overfunded by the county wide lodging tax. As one Ann Arbor B&B owner even commented, it will take some time for the Ann Arbor CVB to overcome the learning curve of supporting an entire county. They have no experience beyond their own city. This proposal is completely warped. If any CVB should be closed, it should be Ann Arbor’s.

  16. blueeyedpupil
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I have the perfect solution. Divide the money 60/40 between Ann Arbor CVB and Ypsi CVB. The Ypsi cvb will promote Ypsi and the rest of eastern Washtenaw and AA bed and breakfasts. Then AA can promote ann arbor and have a sports commission (whatever that means). This way everyone gets representation. If the goal is to do what would be best this plan is it. If the goal is just for AA to suck up all the money then this plan would not do that. AA cvb is really concerned about filling the excess of hotel rooms they have, and they can do that with their 60%.They wont have to worry about anyone but Ann Arbor, which im sure would please most Ann Arborites. Ypsi can keep doing what they are doing for Ypsi, bed and breakfasts and the rest of Washtenaw County. And with the extra 15% they can promote the county more. The Ypsi CVB is really good at what they do for ypsi and the other cities in WAsh. This is a fine idea unless the only objective is a money grab by Ann Arbor.

  17. Angela Barbash
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Then there’s also this on Ronnie’s record:

  18. Brainless
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Man, every time I read Conan Smith’s name, whatever shitty business with which he’s associated makes my skin crawl. He’s just such a typical shameles old-school slimy politician, isn’t he? Just another douchey asshole hellbent on “consolidating” power (aka, “hoarding” – or maybe in his case “whoreding”). Is he from Ann Arbor, by any chance?

  19. kjc
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    When I read this article I knew there was no convincing him he doesn’t know what’s best for others. One of the reasons no doubt he feels sure of his progressive bonafides and cannot be swayed by the rabble.

  20. Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    The are many people who feel strongly about this issue.

  21. Demetrius
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the generational pioneers who fought for progressive values over many years – especially when they were were relatively new and unpopular.

    That said, these days it seems that much of the Democratic Party “establishment” is remarkably out of touch with the needs and desires of ordinary poor and working people.

    It seems that many of them expect that we will all continue to automatically support anybody who has a “D” after their name … regardless of whether (or not) they stand up for actual, progressive issues and values.

  22. Unsure
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Perhaps I’m dense, but what do “progressive values” have to do with this issue of the CVB merger?

  23. Anonymous
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    The people on the eastern side of the county have spoken. With the exception of Ronnie Peterson, who now seems to be waffling, everyone seems to be in agreement that this is a bad deal for Ypsilanti and the surrounding townships. Yet the powers that be continue to push for merger. Why? Why are they pushing so hard to make this happen right now, in spite of clear opposition?

    Because they’ve made promises. In order to sell the idea of a large hotel in downtown Ann Arbor that would be able to accommodate conventions, they had to demonstrate to the existing hoteliers that they wouldn’t be hurt. They did this by offering Ypsilanti’s current allotment of the hotel tax (over $1.1 million) in free advertising. “If you don’t fight the new downtown hotel,” they said to the hoteliers, “we’ll bring that money over from Ypsilanti, and we’ll use it to create huge events in Ann Arbor that will bring in thousands of people.”

    That’s where the Sports Commission comes in. Pointing to the success of the professional soccer match at the University of Michigan stadium last year, and the NHL winter classic, the commissioners told hoteliers that they could expect more of the same once this Ypsilanti money was in hand. Once we truly tapped the potential of UM’s 100,000-plus seat venue, they told the hoteliers, every hotel in Ann Arbor would be profitable.

    It’s not a bad idea. A convention center in downtown Ann Arbor would be a good thing. It’s dishonest, however, to present this as an “opportunity” for Ypsilanti.” It’s not. Conan Smith and company don’t want this money in order to better promote the eastern side of the county. They want it to help promote big events in Ann Arbor that result in hotel room rentals. That is all that matters to them. And they’re fighting hard to make it happen, paying off or threatening everyone that stands between them and their ultimate objective.

  24. Meta
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    From Concentrate:

    What is difficult to find in the online clamor is the Washtenaw County board of commissioners’ reasoning behind moving to a single CVB, and how the conversation got started in the first place. According to commissioner Conan Smith, the origins of the pending decision are fairly simple: The county’s contracts with the two CVBs will expire at the end of the year, the board wants to convert them into the outcomes-oriented governance model they’ve been applying to all areas of country government and, he says, the YACVB simply hasn’t been delivering on desired outcomes.

    “We have invested more than a million dollars a year marketing the east side for the last five years, and we have not seen the needle move on key economic development metrics,” says Smith, “We’re doing something wrong. And we cannot continue to do the wrong thing.”

    The argument for one CVB

    The wrong thing, according to Smith and others, manifests itself in a few ways at the YACVB. First, a group of hoteliers asked the commissioners for a merger of the two CVBs, citing inefficiencies, duplication of services and confusion created by the sales staff of two entities often trying to attract the same organizations to hold events in the same locations.

    “There were legitimate areas of confusion and inefficiency that needed to be addressed,” Smith says.

    Additionally, the lack of specific, desired outcomes for the YACVB’s marketing investments has resulted, in Smith’s opinion, in some really excellent, creative work that simply misses the mark.

    “The Ypsi Real campaign, like many of the Ypsilanti Area CVB’s marketing investments, is inwardly targeted,” he says, stating the campaign is geared toward encouraging Ypsilanti residents to take pride in their community and shop locally. “The intention of the tax is to bring people who are outside of our community into the community to spend their dollars here.”

    And those dollars matter to the whole county. While Ypsilanti has five percent of the hotel beds in Washtenaw, the YACVB receives 25 percent of the hotel tax. While that percentage is set to continue under the new structure, Smith says Ypsi’s subsidized CVB money must be better invested.

    “We’re actually going to increase the number of dollars we’re going to invest in the east side with this model,” he says. “However, we’re going to have to be really smart about who we’re targeting that investment towards.”

    Is a single, countywide CVB the only way to achieve that? Smith doesn’t necessarily think so.

    “One CVB fine. Two CVBs, whatever,” he says. “Tell me what you’re going to do with the money and how that’s going to make the community better, that’s what’s important to me.”

    Read more:

  25. news
    Posted October 8, 2015 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    From what I’m told, the vote happened last night and the CVBs merged. Ronnie voted against the merger in Ways and Means, but for it during the board meeting.

    Apparently Conan was pissed during Ways and Means when Ronnie voted no. I’m told Conan yelled, “I’m going to come to your house!” when Ronnie voted against him. He then tried to pull the money away from Ypsilanti, saying that Ann Arbor is the “donor” to all the cities because that’s where all the money comes from.

  26. Posted July 24, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Ronnie Peterson is awful he does represent us, he does bad job character JUST awful job is all about self the whole Ypsilanti Township needs to be flushed flushed down with the holes the township isn’t just dirty it’s filthy we need a new political staff new police new share who doesn’t know how politically uncorrect biased Criminal the township is corrupt get them out of there and everybody to like them flush out the whole system lets both people get these police out get ready Peterson out let’s clean house

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  1. […] engagement” forum, which I think is a little disingenuous, seeing as they were forced into it, and as they’ve shown very little interest in what the people of Ypsilanti actually think, […]

  2. […] engagement” forum, which I think is a little disingenuous, seeing as they were forced into it, and as they’ve shown very little interest thus far in what the people of Ypsilanti actually […]

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