With the Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem having left the room, Ypsi City Council votes unanimously to pursue a formal investigation into their recent trip to China

At tonight’s Ypsilanti City Council meeting, as you might imagine, people were anxious to discuss the most recent scandal swirling around the International Village development. Unfortunately, those in the best position to comment didn’t seem to want to talk about it. Mayor Amanda Edmonds, who just last night returned from 10-day trip to China, which may or may not have been paid for by the developer of the International Village project, in violation of City ethics rules, said that, while she gleaned “invaluable” insights on the trip, she was just too tired to go into much detail at the moment. Edmonds, also said that, City Economic Development Director Beth Ernat would be better suited to speak about the sequence of events leading up to the trip anyway, as “she has the most information.” Unfortunately, Edmonds said, Ernat won’t be back in town until later this week, as she’s still making her way back to Ypsilanti. Mayor Pro-Tem Nicole Brown, who accompanied Edmonds and Ernat on the trip in question, said that she couldn’t comment about the trip, and how it was funded, because we’re now in an “investigation stage,” alluding to the fact that City Attorney John Barr had just recently retained a private detective to determine where the funding for the trip originated, and whether or not the four individuals who took the trip knew in advance that their travel expenses weren’t really being paid by a Wayne State student group, as the public had been led to believe.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what’s transpired thus far, it looks as though, after being told by the City Attorney that they couldn’t pay for members of our City government to visit China, the developer behind the proposed International Village project sought to funnel money through a Chinese student organization at Wayne State University, in hopes of skirting City ethics rules. While it’s unclear at this point whether the four people who took the trip knew this to be the case before leaving, some clearly believe that’s what happened. Councilwoman Beth Bashert, for instance, said later in the meeting, after Edmonds and Brown had left the room, “The folks who went to China knew more about the funding than Council did when they took the trip.” Ypsilanti City Manager Darwin McClary, a few minutes later, asked Bashert to clarify, as evidence of their complicity has yet to be established, and she then backtracked, saying that her comments had been based on hearsay. Clearly, though, she has reason to believe this to be the case… She then added, “If true, it’s extremely disturbing.”

While Edmonds said the she wouldn’t be talking about the trip, or what she might have known about the source of the funds, again mentioning how tired she was after two days of travel, she did say that Ernat was preparing an executive summary, which would be shared with the public. She also mentioned that, during the course of their travels, she and other members of the delegation were taken to an area of Shanghai where they were shown the developer’s inspiration for the proposed Ypsilanti development. In this Chinese development, Edmonds told us, there were very small, affordable apartments, which she likened to the demo apartments one might encounter in an Ikea… the implication being that the International Village development, contrary to popular belief, would contain an affordable housing component, addressing the concerns of those who believe the up-scale development would force local rental rates beyond the reach of current residents. As someone in the audience pointed out during the community input portion of the meeting, however, this runs contrary to what we were told in late September by the developer’s own representative, who told us that the smallest units would be approximately 800 square feet and rent for about $1,200 per month.

The community input portion of the agenda, as you might imagine, given this recent news concerning the source of the funding, and the appearance of impropriety, was lively. One after another, citizens lined up to talk about the “dubious nature of the funding of the trip” and accuse their members of Council of being “a bunch of buttered-up politicians,” who lacked the “courage” to stand up to a developer promising to invest $300 million in downtown Ypsilanti. Members of City Council were, in turn, accused of being naive, taking bribes, and being incompetent. Lee Tooson, after asking how it is that, after ten days in China they still don’t have answers for their constituents about what they knew and when they knew it, said, “Y’all sell’n Ypsilanti out for a trip to China.” He then went on to say that their silence was reminiscent of a corrupt police department, where officers are instructed to keep quiet until they can all get their stories straight, hiding behind the excuse that they can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

I could share pages of quotes, a lot of which were really entertaining, but, when you boil it all down, you’re left with a few clear messages. First, people feel as though this entire process played out in secret, with Council not only not soliciting public input, but actively fighting against it, by attempting to shut down forums and discredit community members who raised concerns, accusing them of being emotional, unrealistic, and even xenophobic. Second, it would seem people really don’t like the idea that the developer, perhaps with the knowledge of certain members of Council, sought to skirt ethics rules by funneling money through a third party. And, third, people are clearly hungry for a meaningful, substantive conversation about gentrification and how we as a community stay true to our shared values in the face of growth, which we can all see looming on the horizon, regardless of whether or not the International Village deal goes through. People, in short, want a seat at the table, and they expect honesty and transparency from their elected leaders, which they don’t feel as though they’re getting right now.

But, yeah, there were a lot of calls for our elected representatives to resign, as well as some very specific criticisms directed at individual members of Council. [For instance, one Council member was reprimanded for having said during a committee meeting last night that International Village would be good for the community, as it would bring “real Asian food” to Ypsilanti… a comment which understandably upset those who currently operate Chinese restaurants in town. And two other Council members were called out for having abstained from the purchase agreement vote a few weeks ago, essentially allowing the relationship with International Village to move forward, in spite of public pleas to slow the process down. According to several members of the audience, this decision of theirs reflected a certain degree of “political cowardice.”] In general, though, it was a positive community conversation about what we all love about this City, and how we hope to move forward together, broadening inclusion and striving to solve our problems more creatively.

Then, at some point after the public comment, Edmonds and Brown recused themselves, and the remaining members of City Council discussed how to move forward with the investigation into the China trip, how to employ their subpoena power, and whether or not to engage an outside law firm to conduct the investigation. In the end, the members of Council voted unanimously to seek outside assistance with the investigation, and to request that all four members of the China delegation, along with the City Manager, both respond to a series of written questions concerning what they knew about the funding for the trip, and show up to be questioned in public on October 10, during a special session of Council. [The meeting is scheduled for October 10, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. in Council chambers, but I’ve got to think that they’ll end up moving it to a larger venue, given the interest.]

Here is the resolution which was passed unanimously by Council members Robb, Vogt, Bashert, Murdock and Richardson.

So, just to recap, there doesn’t seem to be any question that City ethics rules were violated. The only question seems to be when Edmonds, Brown, Ernat and Police Chief DeGiusti knew that Amy Xue Foster and her team had misled us about the true source of the funds for the trip. And, of course, this raises the question of not just how we should handle the internal situation, should it be discovered that City staff violated ethics rules, but also what this means for the International Village project going forward. As Councilwoman Lois Richardson said during the meeting, “This shatters any trust or faith I had in the developer.” Knowing that the developer had been told by the City Attorney that they couldn’t fund the trip, and then funneling the funding through a third party, Richardson said, proved to her that Amy Xue Foster was “not going to be honest with us.” And, she went on to say, that, in her opinion, this wasn’t the kind of group she thought the City should be doing business with. [It was shut down very quickly, but, at some point in the conversation, Councilman Vogt asked whether or not they should subpoena Amy Xue Foster to testify before City Council. Perhaps out of fear that it could scuttle the entire project, the idea was quickly put aside, and the decision was made to just focus on the four individuals who represented Ypsilanti in China and the CIty Manager, none of whom, they hoped, would have to be subpoenaed.]

OK, after five hours of watching Council, I too am tired… Here, however, are a few more things of interest.

PRIVATE EMAILS… I found it interesting that City Manager Darwin McClary, unrelated to the China investigation, mentioned during this session of Council that efforts were being made to ensure that all City employees, when doing City work, were using their official City email accounts. I suspect this has quite a bit to do with the fact that they’re finding it difficult to pin down exactly who knew what, and when they knew it, relative to the China trip, as the Mayor and others are known to use their personal accounts for public business. [Private emails are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, and, hence, are unavailable to journalists and investigators.] It wasn’t brought up at the meeting, but I’m thinking that it might make sense, when these five individuals are being questioned in front of Council on the 10th, to ask if they would be willing to share their personal emails related to the China trip, and the work they did prior to the trip to secure funding. [We don’t know, for instance, if the funds secured from the Chinese consulate were requested by someone representing International Village, or if, by chance, a member of Council started the conversation after unsuccessfully seeking funding for the trip from the MEDC, SPARK, etc.]

COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT… One good thing about going through this process with International Village is that it seems to have forced City Council to look more seriously into how we vet developers, and how we articulate what we expect from those doing business in the City of Ypsilanti. As many people stated tonight, there’s a sense that the developer we’re currently negotiating with really only cares about our community because of its proximity to Ann Arbor and the new American Center for Mobility at Willow Run, and not because they see any intrinsic value in the community itself. And there’s a sense that we should make it clear to not only this developer, but any who might follow, that we intend to demand more of them. And that’s where the Community Benefits Agreement comes in. It would enumerate what we expect from a development partner… from the hiring of local people, to the incorporation of affordable housing… covering everything from sustainable building practices, to principles of participatory design. [This, as others have pointed out, is something that’s already being done elsewhere.] While Councilman Vogt suggested that we should tread carefully, as we wouldn’t want to scare away any potential developers, others seemed less concerned about the possible downside, instead focusing on the fact that such a document would help us to identify partners willing to invest in a City with clearly articulated values, etc., avoiding many of the problem we’re now facing.

HOW MUCH MONEY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT… This investigation, according to City Attorney John Barr, would likely cost in the neighborhood of $6,000, at the end of which, depending on the findings, we may have to pay back the money spent on the trip. When asked how much that might be, Barr and McClary estimated that it would have likely been a little over $4,000 per person, for a total of $16,200 or $16,800. [We’d, of course, have to dig a bit deeper into how much was spend on food, lodging, entertainment, etc.]

FOLLOW THE MONEY… There seemed to be quiet a bit of confusion still as to the path the money might have taken. Going into the meeting, I thought it was pretty well established that the money went from the Chinese consulate in Chicago to the developer, then on to the student group at Wayne State, and ultimately to Ypsi City Hall, where the tickets were purchased, etc. From what it sounded like tonight, though, the money may never have actually passed through the hands of the student group. And, this, according to Vogt, who is an attorney by trade, is why we need a real investigation that gets beyond the hearsay and establishes a verifiable account of events, especially as it relates to custody of the funds in question.

WHO KNEW WHAT AND WHEN… As Councilman Pete Murdock said, we know for a near certainty that ethical rules were violated. The question is, to what extent were members of our City government involved. “Once the money went into the hands of the developer, it tainted the whole thing,” Murdock said. “We know that.” We just need to know who knew what, and when they knew it. And that’s why Council was unanimous in their decision to bring in an outside law firm to conduct an unbiased investigation. As Councilman Brian Robb said, there’s still a great deal we don’t know. For instance, were tickets for the September 21 trip to China already in hand when Ypsilanti Economic Development Director Beth Ernat sent an email to members of City Council on September 11, alerting them to the fact that the Wayne State University Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) had come forward with the funds necessary to send the entire Ypsilanti delegation to China? And, if so, what, if anything, would that imply?

COUNCIL HAS LOST CREDIBILITY… Several members of Council alluded to how all of this was reflecting on them. Richardson talked of a “dark cloud” hanging over Council. Bashert, discussing the “serious trust issues,” said that Council had to do everything in its power to “repair the damage.” And, that, she said, is why we needed to bring in an investigator from outside. “We do not have enough credibility right now (to do the investigation ourselves),” she said. And, judging from the mood of the audience, I’d say that she was right.

COULD IT HAVE BEEN ETHICAL… In an interesting exchange toward the end of the evening, Councilwoman Bashert asked City Attorney John Barr if there was any way at all this trip could have been ethical. Barr said that there was nothing wrong with the trip in and of itself. The trip, he said, could have been justified as “due diligence,” and it would have been fine. It would have probably been a “positive,” he said. The problem, though, according to Barr, was with “how it was financed, and how it was represented.” And, if I understood him correctly, it wasn’t even that the money had come from the Chinese consulate. It’s that the money passed through the hands of the developer, and that we, it seems, were purposefully deceived.

update: I didn’t think that it needed saying, but, based on the memes that I’ve been seeing since posting this, I think it’s probably worth reminding folks that we still live in a country where people are innocent until proven guilty. And, while I certainly have issues with the way this whole thing went down, and look forward to the findings of the investigation, I don’t feel as though it helps any of our causes to muddy the waters right now with unfounded accusations. Furthermore, I think it’s worth remembering that, whatever might have happened, we’re all still neighbors, and we’ll likely continue to be neighbors well after all of this is long forgotten. So, for what it’s worth, I’d suggest that we hold off on the meme-ification of the situation for just a little while longer, and put our efforts instead into something positive, like the drafting of the Community Benefits Agreement referenced in the post above.

Here, while we’re on the subject, is a short clip (slightly edited) from something I posted a few weeks ago about the International Village development. Given the vitriol I’m seeing today, I thought that perhaps it was worth sharing again.

…I actually like members of our Planning Department and City Council, and I sympathize with them. As Councilman Vogt pointed out a few weeks ago during one of the public meetings at the Freighthouse, it’s not easy to say “no” to a credible developer, especially when the citizens of Ypsilanti, in good faith, just voted to raise taxes on themselves to pay the debt associated with Water Street, with the understanding that our elected officials would do their best to bring in a developer as soon as possible, and terminate said millage… And I know that our overworked and under-appreciated City staff is doing their best to make something positive happen for Ypsilanti. Whether or not you agree that International Village, as explained to us by the developers, would be a positive for the community, I think you’ve got to admit that our folks have been working their asses off to find something that will see the toxins dealt with, create jobs, and increase the tax base, so that we no longer have to cut away at city services and contemplate the prospect of receivership, which would truly decimate this City that we all love…

Yes, it could very well turn out that individuals in our City government knew about the efforts on the part of Amy Xue Foster and members of her team to deceive us. And, if that turns out to be the case, I’ll be demanding accountability. Until then, though, let’s at least try to keep the possibility open that they were unaware of what was happening, and perhaps allowed their enthusiasm for the project to cloud their judgement. Granted, it’s becoming more difficult to accept that possibility, given that the individuals involved haven’t yet come out against the developer, etc, but let’s at least try to stay cordial, and keep the bigger picture in mind… which is that, whatever happens here, we’re going to have to work together to repair the damage that has been done, and move forward in a way that works for all Ypsilantians.

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59 Comments

  1. Posted October 4, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s completely unrelated, but I don’t know where else to put this, and it has to go somewhere.

  2. Quinn Phillips
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    I did actually ask in my public comment that city staff release all their personal emails relating to International Village and the China trip. It’s no secret that many on council use personal email accounts which aren’t subject to FOIA. But perhaps a subpoena could bring those to light.

  3. LAKE
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Another follow-the-money would be to make sure The City Attorney isn’t hiring cronies to do this investigation. If it’s a friend’s law firm or P.I. that wouldn’t be good. I’m not trying to suggest impropriety, just something to be aware of.

  4. anonymous
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    From Michigan Radio:

    “Though, before Tuesday night’s meeting adjourned, Edmonds informed city council member Beth Bashert apparently through text message that she had a scheduling conflict and would not be able to appear at the special meeting. Bashert said Edmonds, who had recused herself and left the room, learned about the planned special meeting on Facebook.”

    http://michiganradio.org/post/ypsi-city-council-investigating-whether-housing-developer-paid-city-officials-trip-china

  5. LAKE
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Also, why should tax payers be responsible for the cost of the trip? I say no to that. This was a big mess and I would have said no, dont go on this trip if I were asked. But, I wasn’t asked…so now I have to pay for it? Plus, there betfer be real receipts for all this shit. I want to see the developers deposit slip if money is going into another account. I just don’t trust anyone.

  6. Wahhhhmanda Edmonds
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    “while she gleaned ‘invaluable’ insights on the trip, she was just too tired to go into much detail at the moment.”

    Wow. Real leadership there!

  7. wobblie
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    People (unless they are rich and powerful like our Governor or ex-sec of state ) are in error if they think using their private email for work related activity is some how shielded from their employer. In point of fact, if you use your private email for work, you have not only opened up everything in that account to your employers perusal, you have also opened up every computer you utilized to access that account.
    People just don’t understand that in this country you have no right to privacy in the workplace.

  8. Sad
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Thanks again for your coverage of this and so many other issues. You should get an award!

  9. Glen S.
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Mark, for this detailed reporting.

  10. Stephen Kunselman
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    The use of private e-mail for City business is subject to FOIA; this has been settled by the Courts long ago.

  11. Jennifer Schlicht
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s actually, y’know, happening in my backyard… following this would be kinda entertaining.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    This is making me reconsider my initial enthusiastic support for the idea of Amanda’s business owning Ypsilanti’s farmers market.

  13. Mary Morgan
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Steve Kunselman is correct about private e-mails being subject to FOIA. Here’s a relevant excerpt from an FAQ on Michigan.gov (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/hal_mhc_rms_email_faq_161101_7.pdf):

    Q: I sometimes use my home computer and personal e‐mail account to conduct government business. Am I creating public records?

    A: Yes. Records created in the performance of an official function must be managed the same way as those created and received using government computer resources.

  14. Maria Huffman
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    yes, the mayor of San Juan is angry with Trump. Probably the hardest days of her life to date has been since that hurricane. She might be mad for a long time.
    If a person was from say, Italy, how accurate is mlive to describe what happens here?
    The press can try and explain things but sometimes, unless a person is there, it is hard to know..and arguing about the cost of delivering fuel..well, I would expect some haggle from a union guy. but not a lot. That is just me.

  15. Bob
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    “She’s fleeing the interview! She’s fleeing the interview!” – Marge Gunderson

  16. Rat
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    It personal emails are FOIAble, I think might get exponentially more interesting.

  17. Posted October 5, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Why would it have alluded to the developer at all, Chinese residents at International Village would be first in line to grab any jobs at the yet built American Center of Mobility? Who would have told them this? Were they promised this? If so, by who? And, what does this yet to be built center has to do with the proposed International Village, at all?

  18. Tommy
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Jennifer Schlicht – the fact that it ISN’T, actually, y’know, happening in my backyard… following this IS kinda entertaining.

    …substantive conversation about gentrification and how we as a community stay true to our shared values in the face of growth, which we can all see looming on the horizon … Really Mark? The city of Ypsilanti and the people living within the city limits see substantial growth and gentrification looming? From someone who lived in the city for a long time, the township a long time, and now a neighboring community, I’m not picking up what you’re laying down!

  19. Lynne
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Just some thoughts:

    1. I am 100% in agreement with Lois Richardson about how this affects trust for the developers of IV

    2. I find it very plausible that our city employees were naive and felt that this funding was on the up and up. Could they have looked into it more than they did? Probably but who knows? I guess that is what an investigation is for. I support the investigation, even with the costs, completely.

    3. Ypsilanti doesn’t have a single Chinese restaurant that I like. I find they go for low menu prices which comes at the cost of quality ingredients. But you know, that is just my preference and I assume that the reason the restaurants aren’t to my liking is that I am out of sync with the prevailing community standards. No big deal of course as I am often in S. Lyon where my favorite Chinese place lives. (Fortuna Inn in case anyone cares)

  20. Posted October 5, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Tasteless Memes on Social Media by some is muddying the analysis on what are important issues: Genefication, Rising Costs of Rental Housing, Proposed New Residential Development, the China Trip Truth, and Questions Raised as a result of these issues.

    There is no reason to copy, paste, screenshot or download a picture, and then upload Meme pictures on Social Media, then claim that meme’s give up to date information about details related to this ongoing debate. It does not. They do not.

    Memes are Lilly-cheap ways on social media to persuade a debate and do nothing to advance the discussion at hand. This article and others, previously written, are giving the facts as they now stand over any “meme”.

  21. somebody
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    @Anonymous, the ACM facility won’t have a whole lot of employment on site. Mostly it will be used by research teams based elsewhere. Last time I spoke with the ACM folks it was 30-40 people. If the tech park that was recently proposed takes off, that might change. However, I’m skeptical the tech park will be embraced in the way the employers want.

    On another note, how could our city council be so dense? This probably ends up us losing Mayor Edmonds and a few city staffers. I’m okay with losing the Mayor, since she never stopped managing day-to-day operations at Growing Hope like she said she would. However, at the staff level it just makes it more difficult for us to attract good people in the future.

  22. somebody
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    *I mean to say ’embraced in the way the township wants’ in reference to the acm site

  23. Anne
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Any large scale developer that develops the Waters Street area will be doing so largely because of the proximity of Ann Arbor and the opportunities of the new Mobility Center because those are the economic drivers of the area. It would be great if they chose to develop in Ypsi due to just our intrinsic value, but for-profit development is largely based on economic decisions. We can advertise the quirkiness of our City all we want (much to the dislike of the Defend Affordable Ypsi folks who apparently want this to be a well guarded secret) but developers are looking towards Ann Arbor.
    How many of us moved to Ypsi for this exact same reason -it’s affordability and proximity to school or jobs in Ann Arbor (or companies that located in the area to be near Ann Arbor) or were pushed from Ann Arbor to Ypsi? We can hate Ann Arbor all we want, but if we’re honest this is why we located here. I rarely go into Ann Arbor these days, but if weren’t for grad school at UofM, I wouldn’t have moved here 16 years ago. To not acknowledge that this is the reality of why someone will be drawn to developing here, feels a bit dishonest. Kinda of like the DAY folks not acknowledging their own members roles in the gentrification of this city. Like the DAY folks we can go on pretending that we aren’t part of the very process that we so vocally abhor or we can acknowledge it and figure how to turn things towards our advantage. Instead of hating any developer for developing here with an eye to the Ann Arbor market or the Mobility Center which I think a lot of us are probably excited about, we can figure out how to be a constructive part of the process in molding it into something that we as a community can take advantage of and will be part of the future we see for Ypsi.

  24. Sara
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    totally agree that the memes — while somewhat amusing — are petty. But I think they can co-exist if paired with a real strategy to fight for a CBA at the same time.

  25. Anonymous
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    We need to subpoena Brian and Pete’s emails. One of them contacted Perkins about the story as soon as that team got on the airplane. Did Brian or Pete know about this in advance and then wait till they left to pick up all the dust for political reasons

  26. Meta
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Buckle up.

    From the Metro Times: “Chinese government denies providing funds for Ypsilanti officials’ China trip”

    The Chinese Consulate in Chicago is denying that it was the funding source for a controversial trip to China for four city of Ypsilanti officials.

    “We hereby clarify that the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago knows nothing about and has nothing to do with this trip, and there is no such thing as ‘funding the trip,'” Qiwen Shen, a Consulate spokesperson, wrote in an email to Metro Times.

    Read more:
    https://m.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2017/10/05/chinese-government-denies-providing-funds-for-ypsilanti-officials-china-trip

  27. Posted October 5, 2017 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    #WaterStreetGate! With what just came out in Tom Perkins new article about the Chinese Govt denying involvement, i would say that the plot just keeps getting thicker!

    And i am so confused about which memes are upsetting you all? Every one i have seen has been TRUE. If the memes were dishonest or wrong, i could see you getting upset. But I don’t see any that are accusing people of anything that HASN’T ALREADY BEEN PROVEN.

    Sorry, but if you decide to go into public office, you’d better be ready to be under PUBLIC SCRUTINY. Memes are a way of getting the word out that grab people’s attention.

    OUR CITY GOVERNMENT DID NOTHING TO MAKE US AWARE OF THIS ISSUE AT ALL. THEY SCHEDULED NO PUBLIC INFORMATION HEARING AT ALL. THE CITIZENS HAD TO FIGHT FOR THAT. IF WE HADN’T SPOKEN UP, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE COME OUT. Since we do not have a budget for getting the word out, MEMES CATCH ATTENTION. If you would like to donate money so that we could make more proper fliers to be sent to every Ypsilantian’s house and to be hung up all over town, then maybe we wouldn’t have to use electronic memes so much.

    THE CITIZENS ARE BEARING THE BURDEN OF MAKING PEOPLE AWARE AND HOLDING OUR OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE. THIS IS NOT OUR JOB, NOR DO WE HAVE THE TIME OR MONEY TO DO IT. BUT WE ARE DOING IT ANYWAY!

  28. Posted October 5, 2017 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    #WaterStreetGate! With what just came out in Tom Perkins new article about the Chinese Govt denying involvement, i would say that the plot just keeps getting thicker!

    And i am so confused about which memes are upsetting you all? Every one i have seen has been TRUE. If the memes were dishonest or wrong, i could see you getting upset. But I don’t see any that are accusing people of anything that HASN’T ALREADY BEEN PROVEN.

    Sorry, but if you decide to go into public office, you’d better be ready to be under PUBLIC SCRUTINY. Memes are a way of getting the word out that grab people’s attention.

    OUR CITY GOVERNMENT DID NOTHING TO MAKE US AWARE OF THIS ISSUE AT ALL. THEY SCHEDULED NO PUBLIC INFORMATION HEARING AT ALL. THE CITIZENS HAD TO FIGHT FOR THAT. IF WE HADN’T SPOKEN UP, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE COME OUT. Since we do not have a budget for getting the word out, MEMES CATCH ATTENTION. If you would like to donate money so that we could make more proper fliers to be sent to every Ypsilantian’s house and to be hung up all over town, then maybe we wouldn’t have to use electronic memes so much.

    THE CITIZENS ARE BEARING THE BURDEN OF MAKING PEOPLE AWARE AND HOLDING OUR OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE. THIS IS NOT OUR JOB, NOR DO WE HAVE THE TIME OR MONEY TO DO IT. BUT WE ARE DOING IT ANYWAY!

  29. wobblie
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    I have a question for those who oppose the International Village because of affordable housing issues. Why has there been no push back to City Council denying the proposed affordable housing development on West Michigan Ave. and Hawkins St.? I have not seen a single comment about this action. Yet this proposal was specifically to build a 64 unit (?) affordable housing project.

  30. Deep City
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    If I had to guess, I’d say Amanda and company knew something didn’t seem right about the funding of the trip, but thought the developer’s story about it coming from the Wayne State student group gave them enough plausible deniability to say yes to the trip. For what it’s worth, I also think that Amanda used the trip as a way to reward her closest allies in the city, negotiating with the developer to increase the size of the delegation from 2 to 4, so that she could take the Police Chief and the Mayor Pro Tem.

  31. Jean Henry
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Belted Kingfisher– actually it is the job of the citizenry to advocate for it needs. Participatory democracy is what we are expected to do. I’m grateful for your work, but it’s not something anyone does but the people and, critically, the press. In this case, the metrotimes, a remaining vestige of our once vital independent press, did critical work to answer the questions DAY posed. Unless the writer is a member of DAY, which would constitute a serious conflict of interest, then the ‘4th branch of government’ is merely acting as it should in a functional democracy. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_branch_of_government

    Memes are an effective political tool, lots of blunt instruments are effective political tools. They don’t do much to improve discourse however and tend to limit it, with all parties retreating to corners certain that they are right. I don’t expect them to go away. They are an expression of free speech, but so is criticism of them. It’s all just as it should be. I’m glad you are asking what offended people. I hope someone offers you the respect of a real answer. (I was not offended or I would do so)

  32. site admin
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Mayor Edmonds has released a statement:

    A Statement from Mayor Amanda Edmonds re: Trip to China

    As Mayor of Ypsilanti, it is my job to consider viable opportunities for economic growth and sustainability, such as through our city delegation’s recent trip to China. This kind of travel is common practice to objectively consider a potentially valuable project for our city. Our Council has launched an investigation into the trip’s funding, and I am fully participating and cooperating. My understanding since before departing was that our trip was funded through a scholarship the City delegation received from the Wayne State University Chinese Student & Scholars Association, and that those funds originated from the Chinese consulate. If the investigation uncovers that not to be the case, I, too, have very serious concerns. I remain accessible and transparent so Ypsilanti residents know that I have and will continue to act with integrity and in the best interest of our community.

    Our task on this trip was to understand the people, culture, design, and intentions behind this project, since it has such major implications for Ypsilanti. I learned a tremendous amount about Chinese culture, development strategy, urban design, transportation, and sustainability. I also had the chance to meet many partners involved with the project and gain insight as to their motivations, backgrounds, and approaches.

    I returned late Monday from China. At the beginning of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, I made a public statement that I was and still am happy to cooperate with any investigation and had already. Later in that meeting, the city council chose to lead the investigation going forward; the Mayor Pro Tem and I recused ourselves from that decision.

    Everyone is welcome to either support or oppose this or any development project, but they should not do so at the expense of those–elected leaders and residents, alike– who are diligently working to consider carefully whether a given project will provide a collective benefit to our city and region. It is my honor to serve the citizens of Ypsilanti and I continue to make my best effort to move our city forward.

    I am releasing this statement now since I have learned that doing so still complies with the integrity of the investigation. I want residents to hear from me that in no way did I knowingly participate in any inappropriate behavior.

  33. Posted October 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Social Media is owned by publicly stock traded corporations, not the government.

    The term “Free Speech” and U.S. Constitution First Amendment, therefore, applies to governmental speech and not what is uploaded as a meme on a publicity stock traded social media site.

    If the derivative works “memes”, which are not actual speech per say, are being placed on publicly stock traded corporations social media space and others are offended, deal with the criticism on the same level you expect the public governmental officials or the public at large to deal with the meme.

    As for not having money to flyer various residential neighborhoods, if this was an actual idea, why not take up a fundraising cause to do just that. Of course, it was not nor was it ever so why the ad nauseam subline was used to refer to this?

    Maybe it was a vain attempt at deflection similar to what a meme saying nothing substantive to advance a preconceived viewpoint on Publicity Stock Traded Corporations social media space was.

    These memes core design was to inflame, not advance, Governmental matters related to Affordable Housing, the International Village, rising Rental Housing Costs, the Questionable China Trip, City Councils’ future actions as a result or anything else.

  34. blueeyedpupil
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I tend to support the mayor and those who went on the trip did not knowingly do any thing wrong or unethical. Its sounding more and more like the ones who were unethical were not our city officials. But I support a complete and through investigation so that we are all clear on what exactly happened. I will NOT make a final judgement (as many have done) without all the information that should be forthcoming. Its real easy to throw stones and make accusations without all the facts. But most of us are better than this and will wait for all the information. So lets wait and see what is uncovered. And those of you who have already decided they are all corrupt and taking bribes without all the facts well shame on you. I also thought that the comment above about the city releasing this info as soon as they left on the trip was interesting and possibly disturbing. I know that many of the council members do not use their official emails. And that should be corrected immediately.

  35. Sad
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Please stop the bickering and remember…..

    It Takes a Village

  36. Jean Henry
    Posted October 7, 2017 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    “The term “Free Speech” and U.S. Constitution First Amendment, therefore, applies to governmental speech and not what is uploaded as a meme on a publicity stock traded social media site.” — Nope. That’s just straight up incorrect.

    It’s interesting that both DAY activists and Amanda have stated would like more respect for their diligence re International Village. It’s clear they both feel put upon by the democratic process. Politics is ugly. A case of moral certainty seems to have failed both sides. Both sides seem to believe that what they do is so right, that it should not bear criticism. And the measure of rightness is their own belief in it… their earnestness. Both sides failed to check themselves, and then bellyache when the public did.

    I have been accused of ‘punching down’ when critiquing DAY– a phrase that assumes inviolable power through denial of their own power (neat trick). Amanda et al created a vacuum of information through a stubborn lack of transparency. Lots of fear and paranoia will fill such a vacuum. No politician should ever have the expectation: “I’m a good person, I work hard; trust me.” That’s counter democratic. Every public official should be subject to criticism and expect such and reply honestly to such. I certainly hope Amanda gives the public an opportunity to ask her questions in person. To issue a statement looks like she is protecting herself legally. While that may be prudent, it wont lessen public suspicion. It’s a bit incongruous to ask for public respect in a written statement that dodges public inquiry.

  37. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 7, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Jean,

    Is there a place online where I can learn more about the ongoing debate around IV? Is the debate happening on Facebook mostly? I read the public articles but feel disconnected from the issues…(Maybe that is a good thing?)

  38. Bob
    Posted October 7, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    So what’s the chain of command when she resigns soon?

  39. Jean Henry
    Posted October 7, 2017 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    https://www.facebook.com/defendaffordableypsi/

  40. Parent Out Here
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It looks bad for Ozone House having two of their employees on Facebook harrassing and bullying people nonstop. I have no doubt the two of them are behind some of the Ypsi Really memes and know who is the admin of the page.

    The bullying and unprofessional conduct by these two women is unwarranted. They just alienated a bunch of people that would have been more than willing to be an ally in their DAY activism.

  41. Iron Lung
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Ypsilanti has to be the most petty and dysfunctional town in Michigan.

    Just sayin.

  42. Jean Henry
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Small town pettiness animated by political conviction and moral certainty: Ypsi Real.

  43. Jean Henry
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Ok I just looked at the Ypsi really memes and there is no way to defend them as truthful. The earlier DAY memes were politically slanted but weren’t total bushit. Now it’s just off the rails. I’m not surprised that DAY activists are now finding themselves targeted by counter memes. Tribalism 101. Won’t end well. Ypsi is fucked.

  44. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I just looked at those Memes.

    I am not surprised those memes were created but I am shocked that quite a few adults seem to think they are a good idea (regardless of whether or not a person happens to be against IV).

    Stupid. Very very stupid.

  45. Anonymous
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Mark encouraged them to stop with the “meme-ification” early on. They responded by making him a meme.

  46. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Could someone with Facebook tell me: Are the people behind those Memes adults? Are the people supporting those memes with “likes” adults?

  47. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I am wondering if this kind of stuff is coming directly from college students? (Who I tend to think of as young adults.) Anybody know?

  48. Jean Henry
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    No. They are mid 20’s to early 30’s. Well meaning people, making some good points, asking even better questions, but far too certain that being right about what’s wrong is the same thing as knowing how to fix it. I would not judge their whole movement on the memes. Those memes were very effective for Bernie’s campaign. It’s just part of what the social media fabric now. But what played to the crowd in the presidential election is not going to play as well in a small town where people know one another. It’s easier to defame someone who you don;t know. I think they imagine that, because people are paying attention to what they say, and agreeing with parts of it, that they have more total support than they do. They dont know when people are merely being polite. they certainly dont seem to have much understanding of how to be politic in politics. They believe that any opposition to them is old, white and land-owning and that they represent POC, youth and renters. (having said as much) Again, I think they have conflated attention to support. And so feel free to attack anyone who questions them. Leftists do not like anyone who gives them less than total allegiance. My guess is, despite how badly the city f’d this up, they will still alienate a lot of people, because what they accuse people of just doesn’t sound like who we know them to be. They think it’s all good fun. I expect that soon their room will be much smaller. But I was wrong about the bros, so maybe I’m wrong about this too. It;s amazing how susceptible we are to populist propaganda really.

  49. Jcp2
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Facebook and other social media posts have unintended future consequences because they are treated as transient emotional expressions, yet are durable evidence of past behavior.

  50. Jean Henry
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    PS Folks are defending Ypsi Really against being called bullies by saying they are the nicest people ever– A bit ironic since they feel free to attack some of the ‘nicest people ever.’ Everyone is nice to their friends. That doesn’t mean they aren’t bullies to others. So personal reputation is the defense for everyone in this horse shit. As though good people don’t fuck up… All the moralistic bs I left the bible belt to be free of. Oh well…

  51. A Girl Has No Name
    Posted October 9, 2017 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    confession: I don’t have strong feelings about this development either way so I am detached enough to enjoy the drama. I have found this is one reason I enjoy smaller towns.

  52. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your valuable insights, Jean.

  53. Jean Henry
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I care a great deal about affordable housing and the lack of adequate housing supply in the area. I also care a great deal about social justice. I’m not sure how anyone loves bing here in this time could not. None of that matters to DAY members, many of whom proudly refused to vote for HRC and spent the past election season deriding her and Dems, rather than worrying about that other populist, Trump. They are opposed to the system entirely. And as we all know, that’s a sentiment not without cause; it is however also not offering a solution. Apparently, bybtheir own statements, these Marxist/socialists don’t believe in the government raising revenue, which is funny as hell (again, I’m not saying suspicion of the state isn’t warranted) . I give them all a decade before converting to libertarianism.

    The only people they don’t hold with disregard are those who agree with them. They believe anyone else’s ‘mind has been colonized.’ Everyone is supposed to ‘check themselves’ but them. Only they are pure of mind, with right intention and inherently right action. Since most of them missed the 20th century, they do not know that ideology is the ultimate form of colonization of mind.
    Unfortunately, those of us who know history, know these lessons are hard won.

    One thing is certain, DAY have no fucking clue how to make housing in Ypsi more affordable or what makes it unaffordable. If they did, they would at least have some inkling as to why the city supported IV. Of course the neat trick about being ‘against the system’ is you will never be accountable for shitty outcomes and always have someone else to blame.

  54. Jcp2
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s a long road, but the path has already been broken.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/16/birth-of-a-white-supremacist

  55. Jean Henry
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    JCP2 most of the DAY activists are POC so I have a hard time seeing them moving in that direction. I feel a need to be very clear here. Their intentions are very solid. They’ve asked important questions. They have just failed utterly to understand the financial state of the city. Their fear and suspicion of anyone in elected office (and anyone who disagrees with them) can only be eased by some of them actually engaging in solutions. I find their positions incongruous at best. But they rarely respond to critique or even questions with anything but invective. They believe that being righteous is being right. Many people in many ideologies fall into that camp. They don’t necessarily believe the same things.

  56. Jean Henry
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    DAY’s greatest hubris is probably that they believe that people trying to make change within the system don’t understand how the system is fucked. No one knows it better.

  57. Jcp2
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    You’re right. Not applicable to POC, but more for contrarian white Sanderistas who wish to continue their political development towards Trumpism.

  58. kjc
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    read tom’s article. watched the livestream for a while last night but not the questioning. admittedly i want the whole thing to go away after a while, esp when no one is particularly likeable. but i’m sure many people feel that way and it’s still our role to hold public officials accountable.

    in that vein, WHAT is the nature of this weird honesty problem? i don’t know amanda personally. is she not used to making mistakes or having her decision-making questioned? the lack of humility is strange:

    ***

    Murdock asked Edmonds, “How do we deal with a developer who misled us on a funding source?”

    “That’s not a valid question of the facts of the case,” Edmonds replied, but later added in response to a Richardson question, “If there was knowing deception then I’m going to have real concerns about working with anyone who deceived us along the way.”

    ***

    i thought we could all agree that someone wasn’t truthful. i thought we knew that much. but no? it’s just mass confusion and no one is to blame? i do agree with Dave H on one thing: it’s everybody’s fault.

  59. kjc
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    i’m into Brianna Kelly and the On the Ground-Ypsi thing though. (here you go, HW, actual information!)

    http://wemu.org/post/ground-ypsi-reevaluating-ypsilantis-public-housing-program#stream/0

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] October 3, as you may recall, Councilwoman Lois Richardson was already saying that “any trust or faith” she had in the developer had already been “shattered,” and this was before we even knew that, in all likelihood, the money hadn’t come from the […]

  2. […] has blogged about this issue four times and has done a great job summarizing this COMPLEX issue, and, as always, has not been afraid to […]

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