Conan Smith says he and his fellow Washtenaw County Commissioners aren’t prepared to vote on merging Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti’s Convention and Visitors Bureaus; Will Potter on how the threat of terrorism has been used to quiet activists post 9/11; and Edgar Cayce making beautiful music …on episode 26 of the Saturday Six Pack


This Wednesday evening, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the future of the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (YACVB). According to most folks, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that our elected officials will vote to close the Ypsilanti bureau and shift their $1.17 million annual budget to Ann Arbor, where it can be put to use by the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (AAACVB) in their efforts to promote “the Ann Arbor region.” As readers of this site know, I think it’s a terrible idea, and I’ve taken every opportunity available to share that opinion. On this past weekend’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack, though, I decided, in the spirit of fairness, to have on Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith, who seems to be one of the individuals pushing the hardest to consolidate our two bureaus, and ask him why, in his opinion, this has to happen. If you have the time, I’d encourage you to listen to our entire discussion, which touches on everything from Commissioner Andy LaBarre’s possible conflict of interest (seeing as how he works for the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce, which shares board members with the AAACVB) to the recent accusations by Commissioner Alicia Ping that “veiled threats” were made by Smith and other pro-consolidation Commissioners in order to get the YACVB board to stop fighting and accept a deal. It’s really fascinating stuff. If you can’t listen to the entire hour, though, just jump right to the 30-minute mark, where Smith and I talk about the metrics used by the Board of Commissioners to justify the closing of the YACVB.

Here’s the part I think you’ll find most interesting. It’s a quote from Smith.

“Yeah, I don’t think we’re ready to vote on this, because we haven’t done the homework that needs to be done,” Smith said in response to my questioning. “You’re absolutely right. We haven’t taken the time to think concretely about the economic development strategy, the marketing strategy that Washtenaw Country needs, and what it’s supposed to deliver.”

I doubt the Ann Arbor News will do anything with this new information, given that they probably want this $1.17 million brought to their city, where it can help better promote the kinds of big events that generate advertising revenue, but I think this really is newsworthy… I mean, it seems to me to be somewhat significant when an elected official admits that he and his associates will be voting to defund an organization without having done the necessary “homework.” Here, with more on that, as a bit of our our exchange.

CONAN: …When we created this committee [Jamnick, Peterson, LeBarre and Ping] to investigate the CVB dollars and come back with a recommendation, we charged that committee with defining the outcomes of the use of the accommodations ordinance tax money… And that committee did not deliver a product.

MARK: Then how can you vote?

CONAN: Yeah… So here we find ourselves with expiring contracts at the end of the year, people clamoring for a solution, needing to do seeming, and we’re stuck talking about the structure of the delivery model [whether there should be one CVB or two], rather than what the model is supposed to deliver. It’s crappy. And I wish that we could back up six months and be having this conversation, but the reality is that we’re in a pinch. We’re going to have to make a decision…

MARK: Well that’s not quite true, is it? You could extend (the current contracts with both CVBs) for a year…

CONAN: Yeah, we could extend it for a year… And that was one of the options that was discussed. But the appetite wasn’t there… It’s just a reality that we have to accept.

MARK: But we don’t have to accept it, right? Why do we have to accept that, because the County Commissioners didn’t do their job, we have to have this vote now? Why do we have to accept that?

CONAN: You don’t have to accept that, but you have to accept that the board is ready to make a decision and feels as though it needs to make a decision.

MARK: But they don’t have to.

CONAN: They don’t have to… but they’re going to.

So, if I’m understanding all of this correctly, there is no justification for closing the Ypsilanti bureau. In other words, no metrics exist to show that one CVB is performing better than the other. And, furthermore, there is no plan in place to direct the AAACVB, assuming a merger is voted on. So, not only don’t they know how well our current CVBs have been doing, but, it would seem, they have no idea what they’d want from a newly merged entity.

When I ask Smith to propose extending the existing contracts with the Ann Arbor and Ypsi CVBs for one year, during which time a detailed analysis could be completed by a task force composed of various stakeholders, and not just the powerful Ann Arbor hoteliers who are pushing to defund the Ypsilanti CVB, he didn’t make any promises. I do think, however, it’s possible that, come Wednesday, he may do the right thing.

For what it’s worth, Smith says that his preference would not be a single CVB. He says that he would rather he and his fellow Commissioners identify their objectives and then request proposals from non-profits in Washtenaw County that feel as though they can meet these objectives. This idea, he said, was dismissed by his fellow Commissioners, who felt as though it would require too much oversight.

Here’s Smith agreeing with me that, given the history, one doesn’t have to be a “conspiracy theorist” to assume that mergers like this will go badly for Ypsilanti. [See our experiences with the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Realtors, and Ann Arbor SPARK.]


If you’d like to encourage Smith and his fellow Commissioners to do right thing and postpone their vote until they’ve done their “homework,” come out to the Washtenaw County Administration Building at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, September 16. It may very well be your last chance to tell them how you feel.

[If you would like to listen to episode twenty-six of The Saturday Six Pack, you can either download it from iTunes or scroll the bottom of the page, where you’ll find the Soundcloud file embedded.]

Then, at 1:02, we welcome journalist Will Potter, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, into the studio to talk about the criminalization of free speech in America post-9/11. Potter, the author of the book Green Is The New Red, talks about his own experiences with the FBI, and the increasingly aggressive use of anti-terrorism laws to silence non-violent environmental activists in the United States. [Potter, who covered crime, government and breaking news for the Chicago Tribune’s metro desk, was threatened by the FBI after having been arrested for handing out leaflets against animal testing. The FBI essentially told him that he would be put on a domestic terrorist watch list, which would effectively kill his career as a journalist, unless he helped them in their information gathering activities. While he chose not to help them, and instead fight the charges, the event changed the trajectory of his life and his work, which is now focused on how, since 9/11, the government, with the enthusiastic urging of corporate America, has used the fear of terrorism in order to silence dissent.] Potter and I talked about everything from his current work as a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan to his most recent TED talk, which was received with a standing ovation. Here he his is telling us how he’d learned from watching Law and Order that it never helps to talk with the cops.


“It starts with the so called radicals, it moves on to more and more mainstream groups, and ultimately puts all of our rights at risk,” says Potter of the increasing use of anti-terrosim laws to quiet those involved in peaceful protest. “You can’t give people in power more power and then not expect those people not to use that power. It’s never happened in history.”

We end our discussion on an optimistic note, with Potter noting that corporations, based on their overwhelming response to things like activists with drones keeping tabs on their factory farming operations, must be scared. We might, according to Potter, be approaching the end of this era we find ourselves in.

And, lastly, we welcomed in the incredible Edgar Cayce and His Guitar from Saginaw, who was kind enough not only to play four or five songs for us, but also share stories of his time spent scoring drugs in Ypsilanti and being in jail without access to television. Here he is with his tiny guitar, which his father bought for him when he was 19.


And, yes, he apparently really does have a tattoo of Mr. Burns on his chest.

Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything, Jim Cherewich for keeping me company, and Brian Robb for running the board, making sure the bills paid, and insuring that the toilet paper stays stocked.

If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.


[The drawing at the top of the post is by Jim Cherewick. The subject of the drawing is Conan Smith… If you come on the show, you are in danger of being drawn… The caption of this photo, if I recall correctly, says, “Homework, haven’t done it.”]

This entry was posted in Ann Arbor, Civil Liberties, Politics, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    The train has left the station with no destination or engineer and we can’t turn it back.

  2. Kim
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    As you point out in the interview, this is the kind of thing that the Ann Arbor News should be all over. Conan Smith is saying that the sub-committee did not do their jobs and that no one on the board has the information they need to make an informed decision. That is the very definition of news.

  3. kjc
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 8:51 am | Permalink


  4. Eel
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    We have the votes, and we want to vote, so we’re going to vote. We don’t have any real justification for voting, and we admittedly don’t have a plan going forward, and we could easily delay a vote, but we really want to vote, and we have the votes, so we’re voting.

  5. CNN
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Send this audio to the Ann Arbor News:

    Sent this audio to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners:

  6. Gillian
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Ugh. If this has to happen (and I would still like to see it avoided) I would ask for an amendment that sets aside designated funds for sponsorship of events in Ypsilanti. unlike ann arbor where large companies are clamoring to host “slide the city” or running events (often without proper planning), Ypsilanti has a LOT of fantastic events that are successful year after year with mostly volunteer effort. Ypsi is great for that. We have huge ROI. You can make a lot of amazing things happen with a $1,000 investment because there’s so much energy and creativity here. But again, unlike ann arbor, there aren’t a lot of people here with the $1k. Many times, YACVB’s sponsorship difference between an event happening or not happening. Halloween downtown, Spirit of ’45, outdoor concerts on First Fridays, Elvis Fest, car shows… many of the events that bring foot traffic and public nightlife to Ypsi are sponsored by the CVB.

    These things are in many ways just starting to take off. You see people walking around enjoying downtown Ypsi more often than you did 5 years ago when I moved here, and often there’s a CVB event helping create that spirit. So to take away the CVB is to pull the rug out from under something that is just starting to work.

    It’s been pointed out that people don’t visit Ann Arbor because they want to stay at the Sheraton or the Campus Inn. Honestly, though, they also don’t visit because they want to eat at Gratzi. They do those things because they are in A2 anyway, and the reason they are willing to stay an extra night is because A2 has nightlife, outdoor concerts, an exciting downtown to look around in. This exists in Depot Town, and downtown Ypsi is on its way to having that too, and the YACVB has been a huge part of that effort.

    Marketing effect can be hard to measure, but the sponsorship piece isn’t. Make no mistake, once the CVBs merge, those event sponsorships are GONE, and pretty soon many of those events will be too. Unlike the rest of the county, we don’t have a Parks and Rec department, or a private company to sponsor Sonic Lunch. Right now the CVB is the only thing filling those needs. Our tiny trickle of dollars makes a huge difference here. It’s a safe bet that in five years AACVB won’t be able to point to any difference they have made by having that additional money.

  7. Sean
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    This is good reporting, Mark. Many of the power centers in Ann Arbor consistently behave like reprehensible pirates with respect to Ypsilanti and the rest of the county. Sometimes the County itself acts as a counterbalance to them, but in this case it looks like they’re helping the rich rob the poor instead.

  8. Mr. X
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Ypsi’s representative on the County Board of Commissioners, Ronnie Peterson, has said that he would be holding a public forum to explain to his constituents why he planned to vote against their interests. As the vote is to take place tomorrow, I assume his forum will happen today. Can someone please tell me where it’s to take place? Will it be at Ronnie’s house? If so, when should I show up?

  9. Conan Smith
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Mark, thanks for the opportunity to share what’s happening with the CVB issue. I should clarify that “ready to vote” is completely subjective. I would prefer that we had established more clear goals and metrics for the investment of the CVB funds, which would signal to me that we are ready to vote. Others (a majority of the board, in fact) are more concerned with the structural aspects of the service-delivery model, and having worked diligently with both CVBs, I believe that issue has come to a point where most people are, in fact, ready to vote.

    A County negotiating team met yesterday with the leadership of the two CVBs, and they worked through the initial proposal I share with Mark. The updated of the resolution can be accessed here:

    I believe this represents a reasonable accommodation of the interests we heard from both Ypsi and Ann Arbor.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    It could be the best deal in the world, but it’s just for 10 years. Then it’s over. We’ve had the existing deal for 40. We should have fought harder to retain it. In 10 years, the “deal” offered Ypsilanti will be essentially nonexistent. Wait and see.

  11. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Just a thought: It is impossible to get a definite answer as to whether the Ypsilanti bureau is a good return on investment just like the other side will not be able to prove Ypsilanti will be better served if they merge with the Ann Arbor bureau. Both sides are necessarily working with incomplete facts and the truth is people will vote and form opinions in large part based upon instinct and intuition. What would an in depth study look like, that determined metrics for analyzing the return on investment that the Ypsilanti bureau has had on the community? How would such a study handle the already built-in problem of intervention bias? If the Ypsi bureau had been merged with the Ann Arbor for the last ten years would Ypsilanti not even have a new dollars store, or would Ypsi have a 2 + new dollar stores and a Kroger? Would a 4 decade prior merger have rescued Ypsilanti from it’s reputation that is much worst that the truth–that Ypsilanti is a good place to live. Nobody knows. I suspect even a successful study will not yield the definitive answer. Maybe they should wait another year to vote. I suspect the commissioners will say “the show must go on”. And I felt like Conan was advising that we should all get as ready as we can so the money can be directed an useful ways. I think it is good advice.

  12. kjc
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    “I should clarify that “ready to vote” is completely subjective.”

    also it depends on what the definition of “is” is.

  13. Andrew Clock
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Sorry Conan, but you believe wrong.

    If this was really about marketing the county, then you’d be absorbing the AACVB into the YCVB. Why would I say that? Easy: the AACVB left the job of marketing the out county and supporting events outside of Ann Arbor to the YCVB a decade ago. Even Ann Arbor bed and breakfasts were too small for the mighty AACVB to deal with, they dumped those responsibilities on the YCVB as well.

    You have no metric to show this merger will improve anything, but you’re pushing through anyway. That isn’t good governance, that’s bending the will of the people with the biggest pockets.

    There also needs to be a lot more of a guarantee on board make up: you’ve left 25% that will clearly shift the board to favor Ann Arbor. You’re asking a group to help Ypsilanti that would rather pretend Ypsilanti doesn’t exist. We all know this is still being done at the behest of hotel owners, so I’m going to guess they’ll fill that 25% along with a hefty presence from Main Street Ventures.

    As it stands this deal guarantees one thing: that Ypsilanti looses its CVB office and all CVB support in 10 years.

    One thing is certain here; Ronnie Peterson needs to loose his seat over this (and a general failure to properly represent Ypsilanti interests.) Because here’s the thing: much like Conan’s double talk on not supporting a merger but voting for it anyway, Ronnie could vote against a merger in support of his constituent’s wishes while still trying to make sure Ypsi gets the best possible deal if the merger goes through. Instead, he’s taking the easy road, a road paved with money leading to Ann Arbor. We deserve better.

  14. Andrew Clock
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    FYI, the document Conan posted is live on Google Drive/Docs. If you have an account you can use the chat feature to make comments. Not sure any one see them, but worth a try….

  15. Elliott
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I know you’re all preoccupied by the take over of your city, but I wanted to add that the segments with Will Potter and Edgar Cayce were also awesome.

  16. Patrick McLean
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    The self imposed deadline is completely arbitrary and there is no reason a vote has to take place tomorrow. That said, if it does take place, I am giving serious consideration to taking out a recall petition for Commissioner Peterson. Of all the commissioners, his vote makes the least sense, at least if he is voting in the interests of his constituents.

    Just at the time when Ypsilanti is coming into its own, we’ll end up as two sentences on an Ann Arbor trifold.

  17. kjc
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    “Marketing effect can be hard to measure, but the sponsorship piece isn’t. Make no mistake, once the CVBs merge, those event sponsorships are GONE, and pretty soon many of those events will be too. Unlike the rest of the county, we don’t have a Parks and Rec department, or a private company to sponsor Sonic Lunch. Right now the CVB is the only thing filling those needs. Our tiny trickle of dollars makes a huge difference here. It’s a safe bet that in five years AACVB won’t be able to point to any difference they have made by having that additional money.”

    Dead on.

  18. Marcy
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    If the Board would like to do some homework on the outcomes of an effective CVB they should just march into Visit Ypsi and ask what their goals are. It is obvious that Visit Ypsi is incredibly engaging– every member on the Board has a mountain of angry letters to prove it. If you look at social media metrics as an example of community engagement Visit Ypsi has 1/4 of the funds and 14,000 Facebook likes, Ann Arbor CVB has 3/4 of the funds and 19,000. That’s just social media– anyone from a design, marketing or advertising background can see they are clearly miles ahead not just of AACVB but of many other agencies representing larger cities nationwide. They don’t take $1 for granted at Visit Ypsi and they have never phoned it in. For every lame stock photo of Michigan Stadium AACVB casually throws out Visit Ypsi puts out something that suggests they have actually had their boots on the ground. In many ways to many people this is about wanting to see a group that have had the freedom to do amazing work continue to do so instead of being swallowed alive by a lazy monster. It’s too bad the Board didn’t do their homework because their mission could have been a lot more successful had they interviewed residents and business owners or consulted with an expert or two before slapping things together. Conan passes the buck onto the committee but he could have easily done some homework himself. This has been nothing short of a total shitshow and I hope they all lose their seats.

  19. Dan
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Apparently I’m not allowed to comment on the “Ypsi Real” post.

    so it’ll go here:

    How awesome is this ad campaign now that the CVB had to pull the banners, admit they wasted money and alienated businesses? And the same time that there is a vote about their need and effectiveness?

  20. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Why did they need to take the banners down, Dan?

  21. Posted September 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    You’re allowed to comment wherever you like, Dan. No one has been blocked. I wouldn’t know how to even if I’d wanted to.

    As for the banners coming down, I’m aware of a local business owner who took one down as he didn’t like that it featured a photo of another restaurant’s hamburger. Seems silly to me, but some people are silly. As I noted on Facebook, I happened to be eating outside of this person’t business, eating one of his hamburgers the other night, not more than a few feet from the banner in question, and it didn’t cause me to go running across town to eat at Sidetrack.

    I wish more people could see the big picture, which is that campaigns like this help everyone. I’m not pissed that my radio show and blog weren’t pictured. I didn’t run through town, ripping down banners. I can appreciate what they’re trying to do on a limited budget. They picked 15 local businesses to feature. And, yeah, in a small town that’ll piss some people off. But the truth is, it’s good for everyone that Sidetrack is in town and has an awesome reputation.

    Furthermore, this was just the start of the campaign, and I’m sure that this business owner would have had ample opportunity to participate, had he not freaked out because he was worried that someone might see a tiny image of Sidetrack hamburger and decide never to eat at his establishment again.

  22. Dan
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    for Frosted, and others:

  23. Dan
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    “it’s good for everyone that Sidetrack is in town and has an awesome reputation.”

    so you subscribe to trickle down economics?

  24. Posted September 15, 2015 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    That was actually funny, Dan. Thanks.

  25. Steve
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I am so tired of fighting right wing corporatist fAke liberal assholes like that lying sack of shit Conan Smith. His comments have had me pussed off all day. Fuck him, fuck Ronnie Peterson, fuck Hillary Clinton, and fuck all the elitist vampires in Ann Arbor. At least republicans look you in the eye when they’re raping you.

  26. karen
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    i heard from a pretty reliable source there was a meeting at spark east this week and the mayor was promoting the merger as a good thing because growing hope is getting over two hundred thousand dollars from the county at tomorrow’s meeting.

    any truth to this?

  27. kjc
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Wondered why Amanda hadn’t weighed in. That’s disappointing to hear.

  28. Sean
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Wait, what? So the county paid our mayor’s organization 200K to sell our CVB to them?

  29. Icanmath
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

  30. JAV
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    It seems like this story is exaggerated. The county commission agenda only lists $115,000 of taxpayer money going to Growing Hope at the meeting tomorrow.

  31. Sean Stidd
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I talked to Amanda today and she says she has been opposing this for a long time…her current Facebook status reflects this for whatever that’s worth:

    Hopefully some of us can get out to the meeting and protest this naked cash and power grab by the Ann Arbor fat cats tonight.

  32. Marion11
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    This is hugely disappointing. I talked with a board member of the Ypsi CVB yesterday and they said they were told they just do not have the votes. It’s amazing what 5 of 9 people can do. Thanks to Mark for reporting the real story.

  33. From the Mayor's Facebook
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Tonight! Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting at 6 pm re: future of the YCVB. As many of you know I’ve stood up over the last 6+ months with many of you fighting to retain the control over our YCVB and the funds in Eastern Washtenaw. I am gone as of today for my wedding– otherwise I would be there tonight to speak once again– it’s the one excused absence I get, right? Please go and represent and pack the room again. The Ypsi City Council and Ypsi DDA (the two bodies I’m on) have passed and continued to affirm very strong resolutions against the merger. Many commissioners have heard from me in individual meetings, group meetings, through emails, texts, calls. They’re getting the final press from me this morning. They need to hear from all of you as well. Talking about the feelings on online forums about it fine and good, but the next step of action is calling and emailing, and calling and emailing again, all of the commissioners, and then showing up tonight. As I said at council last night, what I don’t see in any of the proposed plan is any guarantee of local control– a guarantee of money spent is totally different from our community being able to control and move forward the things the YCVB is an essential leader and partner on here in Ypsi– we just can’t afford to backtrack and lose steam– branding (even with some initial roll out snafus), way finding, entrance signage, visit ypsi fb, supporting local stuff, etc etc. There’s no plan, no guarantee the the Ypsi CVB strategic plan would continue, and definitely no guarantee that a combined board would have the Ypsi voice to continue what is essentially our community’s marketing arm. There are also no measures of success– that a merger has worked or not. So it leaves me with no confidence or assurance. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the commissioners to be looking at different ways of doing business, but answers and plans haven’t been provided to justify changing course in any way at this point. So, please show up. Please make those direct contacts.

  34. Recall Ronnie
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

  35. Sean Stidd
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I am glad Amanda has spoken out and hope people write and call everyone they can. What could we have done to mobilize against this earlier?

  36. kjc
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    contact info for the commissioners:

  37. kjc
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I guess Alicia won’t be getting back to me about her vote:

    Hello and thank you for your email. I am out of the county until 9/21 and unable to respond to your email. I look forward to responding upon my return.

    All the best,
    Alicia Ping
    Washtenaw County Commissioner
    District 3

  38. kjc
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    doesn’t sound like he’s gonna “do the right thing”. his reply to me today:

    The BOC has actually done extensive work on the structure of the service delivery model, and the proposal recognizes the input of more than 100 residents (most of whom are from Ypsilanti). While I did say that we had not done enough work on defining the outcomes that this model should deliver, and that I would prefer to have more time, it does not invalidate the work that others have done around the governance and operational models. The fact that Ypsi represents 5% of the hotel beds and receives >25% of the funding is a clear statement about the board’s investment priorities. The Ypsi communities represent 25% of the county population and are guaranteed at least that measure of representation on the new board. That we retain the office and staff in Ypsilanti is a recognition of the important presence the CVB has provided over the years. In my estimation, the structural work folks have done addresses all of the major interests of the Ypsi communities except one, which is your desire for autonomous control of the resources. Since these are not Ypsi’s funds, it seems completely reasonable that communities that generate them get some measure of oversight regarding their expenditure.

    I should not have said the board is not prepared. A truer statement is that I personally feel unprepared because I want to better understand how all $5-6M are going to move our economic development metrics. My motivations are not the same as my colleagues, and they have, in fact, done excellent work on designing an investment structure than can support my goals.



  39. Posted September 16, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Interesting discussion over a topic which impacts the lives of many.

  40. Meta
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Conan, after he had the votes, then tried to go back on his promises to Ypsilanti.

    From MLive:

    At approximately 10:30 p.m. the board began to take a final vote on the deal and Conan Smith interrupted proceedings to introduce a series of new amendments. The amendments attacked the positions that Peterson had pointed to as the reasons he had been willing to support the negotiated settlement.

    Under the current contract the county keeps 10 percent of the collected funds for administrative costs, 75 percent of the remaining funds go to the Ann Arbor Area CVB, and the Ypsilanti Area CVB receives the other 25 percent of that pool.

    According to the resolution negotiated by the parties, the new WCCVB will be required to spend at least 25% of the organization’s annual accommodations tax revenues on programming in the Ypsilanti community.

    Smith’s first proposed amendment would have brought that number down to 15% and stipulated that five percent each be given to the communities of Chelsea and Saline.

    “You basically have done what Ypsilanti said you would do,” Peterson said when the amendment was introduced, visibly upset with his colleague. “You’ve broken trust.”

    Conan Smith argued that Ypsilanti receiving 15 percent of the ordinance tax money collected would still be three times the amount collected from hotels in the municipality.

    “This isn’t Ypsilanti’s money,” he said. “It’s county money that needs to be applied in the best way possible. We need to grow the economy in the hardest hit places across Washtenaw County.”

    Ruth Ann Jamnick, who represents Ypsilanti Township, called the proposed amendment an embarrassment for the commission. She apologized to those who had worked negotiating the deal for putting them through another twist at the last minute.

    The commissioners eventually voted the amendment down 5-4, with opposition from Peterson, Jamnick, Brabec, LaBarre and Yousef Rabhi.

    Conan Smith then introduced a measure that would have shortened the period of the initial contract with the new CVB to two years. Peterson had argued for a 20-year contract to ensure that the guarantees made to Ypsilanti were held for as long as possible. Peterson said the proposals taken together crossed a line and broke the trust he felt he had with Smith.

    “If I step on your toe now, look out,” he said. “Because next time I might stomp on it.”

    The same five commissioners voted down the amendment and the board proceeded to vote on the final plan piece by piece, taking nine votes in all. Smith indicated after the voting that his plan in introducing the amendments was to garner support for the original plan.

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