Monday, February 28, 2005
The "News" is Starting to Get It
City manager Ms. Manns' condescending attitude toward citizens and council members with a dissenting opinion should not be acceptable. Her attempted "spin" on the existence or not of the roundabout in the CIP would be laughable if it weren't so serious. "And Ms. Mann's exchange with Mrs. Wetzel only seemed to poison the atmosphere." (Monroe Evening News 2/27/05)
If this is Ms. Manns' version of leadership then we have a problem. If she continues that condescending attitude toward the very people who pay her salary and it is allowed to pervade the rest of the city staff then we have a really big problem.
The editorial also went on to say, regarding Mayor Iacoangeli's poor handling of the DMBN's parking ticket validation program contract termination - "The idea made some sense but not enough to forgo some dialogue with the DMBN, if only as a courtesy. Both episodes fly in the face of the mayor's pre-election pledge for more openness at city hall."
"It's tempting to want to push through plans and ideas he's been formulating for years. But government is not supposed to run like a top-down corporation. It can be slow and aggravating and confrontational, but that's the way it works. It would be a shame if vision and progress are sidetracked by actions or attitudes that antagonize the very people - other community leaders and constituents - who need to be on board." (Monroe Evening News 2/27/05)
Yes, it already is a shame and unfortunately, Mayor "I"'s actions and antagonistic attitude has already been in place for the last 14 months and there doesn't seem to be much hope that it will change, at least until November.
Friday, February 25, 2005
More Meeting 2/22
Funny thing is that program came from and was developed by the business and property owners downtown who then requested help from the city. Funny thing is, that was how a true Main Street program should work, too - programs and ideas coming from the citizens, not being dictated by the city administration.
Councilpersons Burkett and Wetzel questioned Mayor "I"'s lack of communication skills since no one from DMBN was contacted prior to his pronouncement. "The mayor said there was no perfect way of going about it. He said telling the DMBN first could be perceived by council members as a slight to them. Telling the council first, in front of the DMBN, was the way to proceed." (Monroe Evening News, 2/24/2005)
The most hilarious thing about that statement was he made it with a straight face. By chance ONLY was there even anyone from the DMBN in attendance. Since the mayor hangs out at Panera's with some members of council and he also sees them prior to the meeting and he even knows how to use e-mail and the phone it really begs the question, what the heck is he talking about "slighting council"? Gimme a break. Mayor "I" did not AGAIN have the courtesy to contact another representative organization is this city. His announcement was very calculated.
Mayor "I" again demonstrated his lack of respect for all of the past efforts by that volunteer organization and has over and over again even refused to acknowledge their existence (until, of course, there's something he wants). "I have no issues with the DMBN, he said." Again with a straight face. Yeah, right. There's alot more to that story.
Well, folks, here's the bottom line. The Main Street Program, which was originally supposed to be an organization coming from the whole community to improve downtown, has under the dictates of this mayor, become just another city-run, city managed, city-dictated program. Their track record to date has been unimpressive. The office remained empty from its inception in July 2004 to the end of November 2004 while downtown taxpayers continued to pay its rent. The original idea was that the City would be a partner in this effort, not calling the shots. The City's contribution would be their accredited Main Street planner on staff. The mayor's rationale for calling the shots from now on was that their contribution, the accredited planner, which takes up a big chunk of the budget, and therefore its "their" dime. Well, actually it really isn't their dime it is the downtown/DDA district taxpayers' dime. But anyway.
And guess what? Now, the Main Street's manager is not the promised the accredited planner but a young replacement player. (a little bait and switch, ya think?) So now, does the mayor's rationale still work?
To date, the Main Street's biggest accomplishment is finally removing the Christmas decorations in the office around Valentine's Day and mailing out the Facade Grant applications. Their logo (designed by an Ohio firm) has been popping up on different events with very little effort on their part.
The mayor said he proposed the the idea of taking over the validation program because it made sense to have the city operate the program. Apparently it does not make the same sense to have an idea on how the program actually operates before summarily taking it over. And the mayor wasted no time demanding dibs. City Attorney Tim Laitur personally walked over a letter to the DMBN Chairperson the following morning terminating the contract.
So folks, here it is. The DMBN has been operating a viable and very successful program for over ten years with very little problems. The Main Street Program is going nowhere because they did not get community buy-in like they were supposed to originally. So now Mayor "I" saw a way to take away the DMBN's most valuable asset and he did it. Instead of trying to work together he saw an advantage to pump up his program and cut off the DMBN at the knees all under the guise of "making sense".
Ah, the perks of power.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
You Gotta Be Kidding - Council Meeting 2/22
Except that when Councilpersons Wetzel and Guyor each held up their copies of the CIP and said well, yeah, its in there and when Councilperson Wetzel also said City Engineer Pat Lewis very patiently explained the non-existent project to a citizen just that morning and then when Councilperson Sabo acknowledged the non-existent roundabout word and blew it off by saying that it was merely semantics, and then when the non-existent roundabout was acknowledged by the mayor and passed off as a typo and said golly, don't you people read the paper I pulled that project out, well things just got better and better.
Ms. Manns then semi-acknowledged that so what if its in there and if that's the worst mistake in a multi-million dollar budget then big deal. Of course that's easy to say when it is someone else's money. Couldn't have Ms. Manns simply acknowledged at the beginning of the CIP public hearing that it was simply a typo and asked that it be corrected before Council voted on it or was it really always the plan to leave it there in hopes that no one would take the time to read it and the mayor, while publicly saying he took it out, slid it in anyway? Who knows? The lesson here is pay attention to Mayor "I'"s actions not his words.
When Councilperson Guyor questioned the numbers/cost for the non-existent project Mayor "I" explained that there has to be sewer and water work done in that intersection and then a repair of the road and golly, if he really wanted to do the roundabout the whole project would be closer to three quarters of a million dollars and not the half million plus that he originally presented to the Citizens Planning Commission anyway.
The City Council proceeded to vote in favor of the CIP with the non-existent roundabout project still in there by a vote of 5-2 (Wetzel & Guyor - NO)
More meeting news to come.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Here We Go Again
And guess what project is still in the budget? The roundabout, you say? Well, you got it one. Budgeted this year is $50,000 for engineering plans and then the following year $529,000.
After the CITIZENS Planning Commission said NO twice. Those proposed expenditures are still in there.
Gee, folks, ya think you can come up with a whole bunch of ways that money can be better spent without providing this mayor his "legacy - the Iacoangeli Roundabout". Now wait a minute, there is some interesting imagery there. Hmmm. Nah, it still doesn't make sense.
Well, stay tuned. Mayor "I" (I want, I did, I need, I want, I drafted, I believe, I did it all my way) has spoken and boy, he loves those pronouns.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
During the "living wage" discussion the mayor took the philosophical high road and talked about our moral responsibility to make lives better by making sure folks are paid more. Shouldn't they also be able to breathe cleaner air too? According to the Sierra Club if the current Clean Air Act is simply enforced (you know like the NRA's argument - just enforce the laws we already have) we would have cleaner air and alot sooner than the Clear Skies Initiative's 15-year plan.
So far, I understand the mayor to want to pay folks a better a "living" wage but he doesn't necessarily want them to live here evidenced by his comment in the Monroe Evening News, 12/13/2004 - "We're starting to be the affordable housing capital for Monroe County and I don't like that trend." Hmmm. And air quality, so what.
According to Environmental Defense scorecard Monroe County ranks first in the state as the dirtiest in air releases of chemicals and second in air releases of recognized carcinogens and the list goes on. Wow, talk about quality of life.
So where is his great philosophical argument about quality of life now? Guess he doesn't have to do a political payback on this issue, does he? So what the heck, this one's isn't a great moral issue, what's a little toxins between friends? And gee, DTE Energy is such a great corporate neighbor (it's true, they have done some great stuff for our community)but they would never do anything detrimental to our air quality, unless , of course, it were legal.
Kudos to the Monroe Police Department
Congratulations to the City of Monroe Police Department on becoming one of only six police forces in the state of Michigan to be accredited by CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies).
This Commision was created through the combined efforts of four major law enforcement organizations: the International Association of chiefs of Police, the National organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriffs' Association, and the Police Executive Research forum. The Commission was formed for two reasons: to develop a set of law enforcement standards; and to establish and administer an accreditation process through which law enforcement agencies could demonstrate voluntarily that they meet professionally-recognized criteria for excellence in management and service delivery.
Our police department (Barclay Stewart) did a complete review and update of all of their policies. Chief JohnMichrina made the presentation and the department passed with flying colors. The chief was even asked to serve on the committe that reviews other departments applying for accreditation.
So, congratulations to our professional law enforcement agency!
Friday, February 18, 2005
Even I Can't Make This Stuff Up
However two councilpersons took issue with either his appointments or lack of appointment/re-appointments on the Planning Commission and the Historic District Commission.
As was reported earlier although Sue Gartz had professed a willingness to continue to serve on the Planning Commission (she communicated that desire in December 2004 to Laura Kreps, city planner, who then passed that info on to her boss Ben Tallerico) the mayor seemed to ignore it. He was called on it by Councilperson Wetzel at the meeting. He replied he hadn't had an opportunity to talk to Ms. Gartz. He still did not call her. It then took him nine more days (lots of respect and professional courtesy there) to send a quick e-mail to her on Wednesday, February 16 to inform her that he would re-appoint her to the CPC.
But wait there's more!
Then the Planning Commission had another meeting later that evening (February 16) in which Ms. Gartz had the temerity to question AGAIN another roundabout expenditure on the revised budget before them and also wanted to know from Mr. Tallerico and his planning staff what other projects got bumped off the list to make way for the mayor's personal projects.
Well, golly, guess what happened next? Ms. Gartz received a short e-mail Friday morning, February 18 from the mayor telling her he changed his mind, she's out, he's appointing someone else - end-of-story.
The message, boys and girls, is that this mayor does not appreciate dissent of any kind. Ms. Gartz didn't play ball so she is gone.
Also, Councilperson Guyor did not appreciate the mayor's original re-appointment of Kathleen Costello to the Historic District Commission. Apparently she had a problem with Ms. Costello's attendance. The thing is, Ms. Costello was sick and also hospitalized for a time, I think, and that little bit of info was not conveyed to the rest of the HDC members by the city liaison Jeff Green even though he knew it. The mayor withdrew Ms. Costello's re-appointment and replaced her with Alicia Cooley, who is serving as secretary of the county's Historical Commission. Will this be a conflict of interest for her? Isn't there at least another person in our community with an interest to serve who isn't the mayor's neighbor?
The message, boys and girls, is don't get sick and miss some HDC meetings even though they haven't really accomplished anything anyway. Oh yeah, where are those plaques?
So remember, if you want to volunteer to serve on a city citizens committee make sure you understand the first rule of business is - what this mayor wants, he gets and if you are not sure, refer back to the first rule. Got it?
Thursday, February 17, 2005
The Roundabout That Refuses to Die
At their meeting this week the City's Capital Improvements Budget was up for review and approval. Much to their surprise and dismay the roundabout project (that was supposed to be dropped) had a $50,000 line item for engineering plans!
Each day I continue to be amazed at the hubris of this mayor. Here is a plan that no one but he wants (ask anyone on the street what they think of that project) and yet he continues to try to waste our tax money on it. A committee of citizens representing all of the City said no AGAIN and yet don't be surprised if at this week's council meeting (Tuesday, February 22) the mayor and his minions (the mayor has some council members buffaloed and some others, with the exception of Councilperson Wetzel, are incapable of an independent thought) try to pull a fast one on the citizens of this community.
The Commission approved the Capital Improvements Budget contingent upon the removal of any expense toward this roundabout project so this mayor may try to add some kind of "roundabout rider" for Council to approve while approving the budget. Talk about ignoring the will of the people and continuing to waste precious tax money.
The Commission also asked the City staff what happened to other capital improvement projects that were waiting their turn and have now suddenly disappeared to be replaced by the mayor's ideas. Oddly enough, Mr. Tallerico, the Community Development Services Director (the head planner) couldn't answer that. Well, if he doesn't know, who does over there?
Are Mr. Tallerico and his staff that clueless or are they that worried about protecting their jobs that they kowtow to every whim of this mayor and his consort, the city manager? Either way the citizens of this community are being ill-served.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
I wonder now where all the outrage is over this mayor's handling of citizen appointments. He seems to be exercising his "mayoral prerogative" in a big way particularly when it comes to reappointing persons who disagree with him on some issues. He even went a step further and made changes to the City ordinances to make sure he is the one who chooses the bulk of the appointments to various boards. He expects the Council to approve his choices simply out of "professional courtesy" and not judge or examine, at all, whether these appointments are appropriate.
One example is the mayor's handling of the reappointment of Sue Gartz to the Citizen's Planning Commission. She had already indicated months ago that she would like to serve again when her term ended. She has always taken that position very seriouslyand makes sure she knows the issues and gathers information that is important before voting on issues before the commission and she shows up. (That is more than can be said about many of our current City Council members.)
The mayor simply does not want to reappoint her. Why, you ask? Well, Ms. Gartz had the temerity to disagree and not support the mayor's pet project for one reason. Ms. Gartz rightly believed that our community's tax money would be better spent on other, more pressing projects.
Apparently "professional courtesy" only applies to others and not the mayor because here we have a concerned citizen, more than qualified to serve, who has demonstrated a willingness to serve who the mayor hasn't even spoken to. His appointments seem to have less to do with who would represent our community in a positive and progressive way and more to do with who will support him and his personal agenda.
Even Councilperson Guyor was not thrilled with some of appointments (apparently she thought she had an "understanding" with the mayor about HDC appointments and, surprise, he ignored her too.) Perhaps the suction attaching her to the mayor's hip is pulling away a little.
So the machinations continue and now it is OK? Seems pretty hypocritical doesn't it?
Saturday, February 05, 2005
Commonsense Triumphs Temporarily
Mark Worrell had it right when he said, "The community is going to jump all this if we spend over $500,000 on this. There are potholes all over this town and we are behind in resurfacing projects."
After spending $10,000 on another "feasibility study" at the mayor's request last year (its his idea after all) Mr. Lewis, our City engineer, explained that it was "feasible" to do the project (well, just about anything is possible) what really never comes up is does it make sense.
The mayor rationalized his opinion by siting safety concerns. Well, perhaps if we took that half million bucks and got an extra cop or two to enforce our traffic laws and truck traffic, that may actually benefit everyone, instead of providing some half million dollar "legacy" for the mayor.
It is also interesting that "the project could resurface next year, Mayor Iacoangeli says." Well, that is providing that he is re-elected, right? And it will still be a waste of taxpayer dollars next year.
Friday, February 04, 2005
In the Monroe Evening News, February 2nd, this year's capital improvement plans were announced. Included in the street repairs is a "roundabout" project at the intersection of of E. Sixth, LaPlaisance and Scott Sts. to the tune of $579,500.
This project, by the way, didn't work its way up the list. The mayor introduced his pet project last February by funding a "traffic study" of that intersection. At that time a resident of the area questioned the expense of the study at the February 17th Council meeting since a fifth stop sign was then recently installed to alleviate the problems there. The mayor explained that it is common for people to think that four or five way stops are safer but in many cases they are not; it sometimes gives a false sense of security, especially for children. (February 17, 2004 Council meeting minutes)
Huh? So a roundabout is going to be less confusing and "safer" for kids? If a four way stop is not safe than why do we have them at all?
I hope the mayor doesn't go to his "if I can save one person" justification like he did for the living wage proposal. Spending over a half a million taxpayer dollars on a project that a $30 stop sign has probably solved is crazy and irresponsible. If the mayor really cared about kids as pedestrians you would think he would have factored that in his poor decision to make E. First in front on the library a two-way street. Apparently in downtown Monroe cars are more important than people and the kids there will have to fend for themselves.
Not only is this project a big waste of taxpayer money (this project alone eats up over 35% of the street repair 2005 budget) but it has also bumped other street repair projects that have been not so patiently waiting their turn. Whose streets are not going to be repaired this year because of the mayor's pet project?
Capital improvement projects should be based on need and the greatest benefit to all taxpayers in the community not just the mayor's personal desires.
I am sure folks in our community could figure out more important street repairs to spend $436,500 on and perhaps the $50,000 he wants to use out of the general fund could be used to spend down the debt on the ice rink that they also want to spend $20,000 landscaping.
If the mayor and council vote to include this project in their capital improvements budget it will be a total abdication of their fiduciary responsiblity as stewards of our tax money and worthy of a recall.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Spending Millions of Taxpayer Dollars
The majority of projects make sense but one, the most expensive one, bears some notice and comment. The City wants to spend $486, 500 to build a roundabout at the intersection of LaPlaisance, Scott and E. Sixth Sts. This idea was presented by the mayor earlier last year where an affected resident or two came to a council meeting and gave their opinion that it was an unnecessary waste of money.
How serious of problem is that intersection that would warrant the largest expenditure of all the capital improvements?