Friday, January 21, 2005
Think on This
Now wake up and get real because that can't happen.
With the passage of the living wage proposal what large chain restaurant will want to come into the City of Monroe? Restaurants simply do not pay the living wage to most of their employees, they can't. So now if anyone was willing to take a chance on Monroe this decision should help them locate in Dundee. because here they can not take advantage of tax abatements or building improvement grants. So sorry restaurant entrepreneurs, no help or incentives for you. Sorry students looking for part-time work. Sorry folks looking to reenter the job market. Sorry, but we don't want you here.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
City Council Meeting 1/18/05
Mayor Iacoangeli spoke passionately (or in at least his regular "you're stupid if you don't agree with me" tone) in support of his own proposal with a "you're either with us or against us" argument, saying basically, if you don't agree with me you are pro-poverty. Councilperson Wetzel and others in the audience were offended by that characterization. The mayor did not at any time document or show proof that his proposal would actually help a single person in the City living below the poverty line. Actually Councilperson Guyor pointed out that a very large percentage of those living below the poverty line are senior citizens on fixed incomes and would be not helped with this proposal.
Councilperson Compora gave an equally emotional rationale, saying it was her moral obligation to vote for the proposal. She told of seeing a man standing on Stewart Rd. holding a sign "will work for food" and believed she had a moral obligation to help him by her vote. She didn't tell the rest of the story so one wonders if during her moral obligation did she stop and help him, or get him food or shelter, or offer to help find him a job or did she just drive by too? Did Councilperson Compora have enough understanding of the issue before she voted to know that her actions weren't really going to help that guy either?
Councilperson Edwards' performance was insulting to all the citizens of Monroe. Does she not even respect the citizens enough to know about the issues she votes on? Her actions are serious not funny or cute. She has been on council long enough, many would say too long.
Frankly it is past time to get some council representatives who will think and speak independently without looking to this mayor for direction on every issue. We need representatives who will truly represent all the citizens and not just pander to special voting groups.
Former councilperson Mark Worrell spoke out against the proposal but laid out a very well-thought out plan to address both issues, poverty and tax abatements, as it relates to the city government. His ideas actually made a lot more sense than the mayor's "simple" proposal.
Mark Worrell is definitely missed.
Councilperson Wetzel showed the strength of her convictions and did not let the mayor intimidate her. It is obvious because she does not fall into line on every issue with the mayor that she is left out of the loop purposely.
Well, here's a few other questions to ponder:
In the mayor's early days he was a partner in a restaurant in downtown. One wonders, since restaurants have traditionally been composed of low paying jobs, did he and his partners pay their staff a comparable "living wage" particularly since they borrowed thousands of taxpayer's money from the City (and then later defaulted)? Especially since it is such a moral/philosophical issue now for the mayor and wasn't mandated then. Or is "saving the poor" a little more recent revelation?
Are the mayor's union supporters paying attention to how many jobs, services and products that the City pays for with all of our tax money that is actually outsourced to other companies and individuals outside of our city, county and state? Shouldn't that be an important issue? Isn't that a little more important? How about reinvesting our own tax money into our own community and perhaps actually providing jobs here or supporting the ones struggling to stay?
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
"Living Wage" Again
Mayor Iacoangeli's defended his drafting and support of this ordinance by saying it is all about "people". "...people and their opportunity to live and work with dignity and respect. Poverty in Monroe is not a philosophical topic but a real life matter where residents are forced to make decisions between rent, food, utilities and medical care."
No one can disagree with the need to address poverty but is a "living wage" ordinance in the City of Monroe the way to do it? How many local residents will this ordinance help lift out of poverty? Since the City seems to hire companies and individuals from out of this area for various projects and plans one wonders which, if any, local residents actually will benefit? On the flip side, how many local residents will be hurt by the lack economic opportunities if the City makes it more difficult for businesses to operate here and they choose to locate somewhere else?
David Shipler wrote a well-regarded book called the "Working Poor". He does address the "living wage" with the following comments: "More than 100 counties and cities now require that private companies with government contracts pay $6.15 to $14.75 an hour, levels calculated to support a decent standard of living. Preliminary results show minimal budget increases for localities, reductions in government subsidies to workers' families, and relief among contractors who no longer have to squeeze employees' pay to compete for low bids. Some economists suspect that the living wage doesn't target the right people, however, because those being hired into such jobs are workers of higher caliber, not those at the bottom who need a hand moving up from minimum wage positions."
That raises another question. Will the City be paying more for contracts because the contractor's mandated payroll is higher? Will not only our tax money go to pay companies who do not contribute to our local economy or our local poor but we will also pay more for the privilege?
The debate for social justice should continue. There are a range of interrelated problems that confront our poor. But the living wage ordinance is not going to come close to fixing it.
Friday, January 14, 2005
City's "Strategic" Plan
When asked about 11 months ago at a Council meeting the mayor described the strategic plan as something internal, in-house, like a business plan for the City - something that really didn't invite citizen input. Now he has presented this vision.
Just a few years ago the City of Monroe with the Citizens Planning Commission updated the City of Monroe's Comprehensive Plan (formerly known as the Master Plan). This plan took over a year to complete and the whole community was invited and involved in the planning process. There were at least two public hearings held and public comments were incorporated into the final draft.
This plan includes land use, transportation, housing and neighborhoods, economic development, historic resources, downtown, municipal facilities, natural features, recreation, greenways, and community character and design. Each category includes policy statements and goals.
What I don't understand is why this mayor seems to have reinvented the wheel (thousands of dollars of taxpayer's money later). If you look at the Strategic Plan posted on the City's website you are not going to find anything really new. (www.ci.monroe.mi.us) Matter of fact, it occurs to me, where was Mr. Iacoangeli when this public process was going on? It was a very good opportunity for him to offer his suggestions and expertise then since he is cares so much for this community. Matter of fact, where was Mr. Iacoangeli during any community discussion or council meeting prior to his running for mayor twice? But I digress.
The article goes on to say that the 11-month study involved civic leaders and citizens - well, does anyone know who, and were they handpicked by the mayor, because he's appears not to be too patient with differing views? And why were "citizens" involved if the original strategic plan was supposed to be in-house? Wasn't that the re-organization of City Hall to make it a "leaner , but more dynamic, organization"?
The mayor also took credit regarding the City's role in the MB&T project (the City persuaded the bank to reject their plans to build at E. Front and Macomb Sts. and instead build at Washington and E. Front Sts.) The mayor was quoted as saying "We want to fill in downtown to have it look the way it was years ago." What "years ago" is he speaking of? Is it 1867, 1932, 1945, 1953, 1969, when? You know, depending on the "years ago" there were quite a few boarded up or vacant buildings - ah, the good 'ol days. (A little background -the mayor is a professional planner and planners are ususally offended by openings in a streetscape and they dislike flat parking lots.)
What studies have shown that shoppers determine where they shop by the architecture? Isn't clean, well-maintained buildings, various choices and selection, convenience and safety more important determining factors? And since when do cars and traffic create increased business? I don't recall cars and trucks buying products and services. I thought people did. Isn't that in Planning 101?
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Some Comments About Comments
First, at the Council meeting citizen speaker Judge Braunlich kept saying that the only thing downtown was six bars (and well, his law offices of course). Well, that comes as quite a surprise to the owner of Leski Office Supply who has been downtown for over 60 years and Martin's Shoe House, a family-owned business for over 100 years, and the Book Nook for over 35 years and Country Gifts and More for over 10 years, and Frenchie's for over 25 years and so on. Forgotten or ignored is the nice coffee shops and diners including Cafe Classic and Village Bistro. In downtown Monroe you can get your shoes fixed, buy a new or used book, pick up a watch battery or an engagement ring, get cake and cookie supplies, find new collectibles and old antiques, rent a costume, find Monroe memorabilia, have a family photo taken, buy a suit, be invited to a tea, learn yoga, pick up natural foods, get a printer cartridge, have your typewriter repaired, eat Chinese, and make travel plans to get out of town so you don't have to listen to this junk. Sure, downtown isn't the way it was thirty years ago but who or what is? Frankly, if I had to choose between more attorneys' offices or more bars downtown it would be a tough call.
Second, the mayor made a presentation to Council outlining his vision for the City. (Which does beg the question, where has he been up until now if he cares so much about Monroe? And are the rest of us just along for the ride?) Unfortunately he couldn't give his presentation without criticizing the thousands of dollars of private investment already made in Downtown. Where there was once empty, run-down buildings, now there are many clean and well-maintained buildings with thriving businesses in them. Businesses that the property owners recruited themselves. There are buildings that have been rehabbed and renovated for thousands of dollars of private investment that the mayor says are bad examples because they do not please his aesthetic viewpoint. He does not like certain building materials because they are not "historically" correct. It matters less that the buildings have become habitable and clean. It matters less that there are people back to living on the upper floors in nice loft apartments. It matters less that there are viable businesses on the ground floors now paying City taxes.
Do we need to respect and celebrate our historic architecture? Yes, but it is a very expensive undertaking and there needs to be a balance between private investment and "historic" regulations. There needs to be a willingness to work with folks who are investing their money to get the results the City wants.
It is another interesting message that the mayor has sent. "Do as I say, not as I do." It has already been documented regarding his foray into renovation/restoration and defaulting on a loan from the taxpayers of Monroe. And how many businesses has he or his administration been responsible for bringing to downtown? And how much "hands-on, put your money where your mouth is" experience is offered by the City staff and the mayor's advisors?
It is unfortunate that this mayor seems compelled to disrespect the efforts of other citizens and taxpayers who "have put their money where their mouth is" and have been here the last 15 to 20 years doing their best to improve downtown Monroe.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Another Snowy Day
Friday, January 07, 2005
Councilperson Guyor spoke of learning about democracy practiced at the local level on her last jaunt.
When citizen committees are stacked with cronies or city staffers or council members (a little conflict of interest) or when the mayor tries to subvert the normal process or when citizens don't find out about issues that impact them until it is a done deal, it is an interesting sort of democracy being practiced.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Thoughts to Ponder on a Snowy Day
Why was the Citizen's Survey results wonderful when it said the citizens were satisfied with the City's service and horribly flawed when those same citizens didn't think leaf pick up was necessary? $16,000 wasted or worth it?
Who knew that our City manager was psychic? She directed that citizen's property information be uploaded on the City's website after "getting indications from the council in work sessions that that's what they wanted." Where was the official vote for the record?
Why does the City's new strategic plan look suspiciously a lot like the City's Comprehensive "Master" Plan just thousands of dollars later?
Isn't there anyone in this city, this county or even this state qualified to do business with the City of Monroe? Why are so many projects and studies and more outsourced right out of our local economy?
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Council Meeting 1/4/2005
The session raised more questions than answers.
Who initiated this change? Was there a problem no one knew about? Who exactly is on the Traffic Committee? Since the mayor got rid of the downtown Parking Committee, which was composed of City and County representatives, downtown residents, property owners, and business owners, who downtown was asked for input on the impact of this change? Based on the discussion at the Council meeting apparently no one.
For a council willing to spend time and money on surveys and studies, wouldn't it have been nice if someone from the City ( Engineering Dept., Development Services, or our Main Street "advocate", or even our Council representative Sabo) talked to or at least gave the courtesy of giving a "heads up" to those affected property and business owners that this was even being discussed? Unfortunately it is already apparent that this is not a mayor and council big on consensus building or working together with other affected groups to find solutions.
When asked what the point of the change was Councilperson Sabo and Mayor Iacoangeli (both former Monroe City planners) said that an increase in traffic is good and that would translate into increased pedestrian traffic which would lead to increased business. Hmmm. There's a LOT of two way traffic on S. Monroe St. that has not translated into increased foot traffic.
The mayor said there has been a "traffic model" running on the Government Access channel for two weeks and seemed quite disgusted that no one has seen it or maybe appreciated it. An interesting thing about the model is there is some question if deliveries and large local truck traffic had been factored in. That's an interesting "oops" if it wasn't and questions the validity of the results. Also questions regarding the intersection of E. First and Washington Sts. raises quite a few concerns. Exactly how much did we pay this Toledo, Ohio firm for this study? Do we have to hire them again to factor in variables they should have been in the first time around? Boy, getting the City to pay you for a "traffic study" is not a bad gig if you can get it.
Councilperson Guyor said not to worry this action could be temporary, however, what she did not mention is the Council had already accepted the following agenda item which was approval of the expense to purchase a traffic signal for the intersection of E. First and S. Monroe Sts. As Judge Braunlich alluded to in his statements you cannot really trust a government official/politician telling you their actions or decisions are "temporary".
Councilpersons Compora, Edwards and Burkett voted against this action.
Monday, January 03, 2005
We are going to recap their activities and decisions during 2004 and keep a close eye on their activities and decisions this year.
If you are interested in running for mayor or council this year you can pick up your petition on August 10th at the City Clerk's office at City Hall. You must have 50 signatures (City residents) and have it turned in by September 9th at the City Clerk's office at City Hall. If you have any questions please contact Charles Evans, City Clerk.