Monday, June 27, 2005
Don'tcha Just Love America?
Only in America can we have a little "weak-ass" blog like this that only "three or so" people read but by golly it sure seems to have struck a chord with at least one other person out there enough to get the trash talkin' going. If this blog is not a big deal why take the time to read it and respond to it? And then respond with threats and not to the specific issues? Just curious.
Mr. Smith has been a credit to the discussion as an example of a person (self-described friend of the mayor) who does not always agree with the postings but usually gives a reasoned response, whether you agree or not. Perhaps the DOIs could emulate him. If the mayor and council's actions are defendable please do so with a well-reasoned and thoughtful response. Responding with threats and bonehead comments is not helping the mayor and council because if that is the best their supporters have than we are all in trouble.
We are a pluralistic democracy that is supposed to have checks and balances. When one group begins to get too powerful there must be an opposition group to check them. That's America not Communist China, by the way.
If you remember any of your American history than you would know this country was formed after the citizenry got tired of the king's decrees and his blowing off of the citizenry and their concerns. Of course, he was the king and he could do that.
But that is why we formed our country with a representative government. And that is the beauty of an elected government - when you have elected officials who are no longer responsive to the concerns and the needs of the people they are supposed to represent then you replace them. When you have elected officials who begin to think they are not accountable to anyone, least of all the taxpayers, or if you have elected officials who are more concerned about voting on the "winning side" or are more concerned with promoting their own personal agenda than what may be the best for the whole community then you can replace them and try again.
Well, listen, to the three people who read this, have a nice Independence Day holiday weekend!
And to the other guy who reads this blog against his better judgment - I don't agree with a single thing you write but I'll defend your right to write it - I can only hope that you could say the same. Oh, and one other thing, if you're looking for union support I wouldn't exactly brag about shopping at Wal-Mart.
God Bless the USA!
Some questions for after the holiday:
Apparently the City of Monroe did not make the cut for the Cool Cities grant program announced today by Gov. Granholm. So how exactly is the renovation and plans for the newly acquired United Furniture building going to get paid for? Are congratulations in order for the taxpayers of Monroe since we apparently are the proud owners of a number of buildings in the city?
Has MASA (the volunteer soccer group) fared as well as Habitat for Humanity (the volunteer home building group) in their dealings with the City?
And a philosophical question: How do victimizers become the victims?
Saturday, June 18, 2005
"in the vein of being obstinate"
Here's a brand new event with a rumored $40,000 budget and DDA, understanding their own fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer, simply asked to see where the money is going. Since the DDA has very limited funds it should not be an unusual request to ask where and how the money will be spent and if it meets the mission/goals of the DDA.
The honorable mayor has a funny way of defining transparency and openness in government (last campaign issues) especially if it can leave him unaccountable.
This new event sounds nice. However, to paint it as some great downtown revitalization event is a little over the top. While it may bring many folks into town they will be on the north side of the river during a holiday weekend in the evening. May be a lot of fun but realistically not a lot of revitalizing.
Both major parking lots will be closed that weekend according to Cheryl Bagnall and Ryan Solomon who spoke to Carolyn Lavoy on her Monroe Alive program on cable TV. The Lauer-Finzel lot (the pit) will be closed off for fireworks and the St. Mary's lot will be open only for "V.I.P.s". Wow, how cool is that? The mayor's passionate advocacy for the those poor senior citizens who can't bag their own leaves doesn't extend to a closer parking area for his event. They may schlep their chairs onto a LET bus from K-Mart and Powerhouse Gym so that the healthy and able-bodied big shooters who donated some bucks to his party (don't know how much they donated and how much is taxpayer funded (hey, maybe the real big shooters are the taxpayers) because no one is allowed to see a budget.
And to be fair the DDA should not have given any money to the Jazzfest either under those circumstances since Mr. Patterson of Travel and Tourism certainly by now knows the drill. Doling out taxpayer's money is just as serious as an owner of a business choosing to donate his own hard-earned cash. And the DDA Board has a responsibility to alot more people than themselves (something our mayor would do well to remember as he is doling out money all around town) and while I am certain they understand that, I think the mayor just simply ticked them off and Mr. Patterson's Jazzfest reaped the benefits.
And, jeez, this is not a rant against big donations and the companies who give them. We could get very little, if anything, done around town without the financial support of our large and small businesses. That's that whole private-public partnership stuff.
Yet I am willing to bet that if you ask any of those folks they would tell you they don't need a "donor reception" and they don't especially need "V.I.P. parking" and since they probably think that supporting a community event the money should be spent to make the event a success and enjoyable to the whole community and so they can be happy to have their company associated with it. The recognition of being associated with a successful community event will last longer than $500 worth of hors d'oevres and a close parking spot.
Wonder if someone downtown is going to get the food gig or will they outsource that?
Just out of curiosity why will it be OK to shoot off fireworks in the Lauer/Finzel lot when for other fireworks requests in the past it was considered a danger to the surrounding buildings? What changed?
Friday, June 10, 2005
How About Some Critical Thinking?
In any case apparently she is also researching other communities that have a DDA-Main Street format. I wonder why this research was not done BEFORE this particular format was chosen. And as the following information will illustrate this format is not the best choice, especially with the results to date.
Here is what the National Main Street Center says:
THE FREESTANDING NONPROFIT MODEL
Establishing a new nonprofit organization to implement the Main Street program is often the best action. A new organization is frequently able to accomplish things that an existing group with an established agenda cannot. A new organization can set up a board with a broad-based constituency, clearly define an independent mission, create new goals, and infuse a fresh spirit of change into the community. A new group can also forge all of the principles of a successful revitalization organization into a working unit.
DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
An existing downtown development authority (DDA) or similar group often has many of the qualities and characteristics desirable in a Main Street program., but its appropriateness depends on the authority's track record and inclusion of non-downtown interests. Before housing a program in a DDA, carefully and objectively examine its past performance and evaluate community perceptions of the organization. A new Main Street program may suffer if the the public perceives the group as ineffective in dealing with downtown issues. Also, analyze the legalities of the authority: states define the legal power of DDAs in different ways. In some states, these groups may not legally be able to perform certain functions required of a Main Street program.
Additionally, the local legislation that established the DDA may restrict board membership to downtown business or property owners, which can create a perceived or real exclusion of broader community participation if the Main Street program is housed there.
Does any of this sound familiar?
I believe that it is not only the perception but the reality that the Main Street Program we currently have is run by the City administration (the Main Street director's situation is a perfect example). This is simply not the way to set up a Main Street program. The Main Street director should be answerable to the Main Street Board, not mayor and council, and the Main Street Board should be an autonomous group of members of our community. Set up any other way lacks credibility in the community.
In January 2004 the newly elected mayor moved to have the ordinance changed that would allow him to appoint members to the DDA. A few weeks after that he proposed at a DDA meeting that they forsake any connection with national and the state's Main Street programs and get going and go it alone. The DDA, unfortunately some did not think through the ramifications, in a very close vote, elected to follow the mayor's recommendation. Then the office sat empty and unstaffed for five months. Now it is staffed by a young person who is just trying to do her best in a very difficult situation - a situation she should have never been put in.
I have no clue, conspiracy theories aside, why the mayor pushed this very poor recommendation. The program, as is, lacks credibility in the very community it is supposed to be an advocate for. Even if this mayor was all that and a bag of chips what about the next mayor and council - the Main Street Board needs to be autonomous from any city administration.
I would hope that the DDA would seriously take another look at set up of the Main Street program here and consider reorganizing it the correct way before it is too late and this valuable program fails.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Here's Some Parking Info
To get some information about the parking ticket validation program all you have to do is ask - something this mayor and council seemingly have refused to do. So here's some info:
Since the program's inception in the erly 1990's, which was brought about by business owners recognizing a parking problem and being pro-active to find a fair solution, the DMBN member volunteers have validated literally thousands of tickets. And, no, this is not lost revenue. Because of the removal of parking meters and a reduction to one-hour for parking to stop employee parking in the main customer/client corridors there have been even more tickets given. So far, the DMBN has validated approximately 20% of parking tickets given in downtown so the City has seen a net gain of revenue.
So here is how it works: Member (at least until a few months ago) businesses had to sign a contract promising not to allow the owners and employees to park in the prime downtown areas so these may be available for customer/clients. Businesses could then validate their customer/clients tickets by recording the pertinent information and turning it into one of three business collection points by each Monday. The tickets are all put together and entered into a database to help track the validation and watch for problems. After recording all of the tickets they are then given to a three-person volunteer committee for review to make sure they are legitimate customer/client tickets and that the other rules are followed. Then the tickets are stamped and turned into the City Clerk's office for their removal from the city's databank. The list of validated tickets is then given to another volunteer who sends out a note of appreciation to those folks who have come downtown and received a ticket and then each month two validated ticket holders are awarded a $25.00 downtown gift certificate at the DMBN's expense. And then the process starts all over again every week.
So it takes a lot of dedicated volunteers who understand the importance of administering this program consistently and fairly every single week. So the city manager's contention in a meeting not long ago "listen mister (or was it buddy?) I can get a group of volunteers to take care of this program in a second" kind of misses the point. (Plus she has absolutely no idea how this program is administered because she's never asked either.)
This program isn't "free" either. Yeah, it costs money to administrate it and the DMBN pays the whole freight with the exception of some parking brochures done years ago.
The mayor's (and Mr. Sabo's) rationale (even after receiving years worth of DMBN newsletters and then professing "surprise" that a benefit of being a DMBN member is the validation ability) for terminating the contact with the city changed back and forth between "we don't think people should have to pay dues to be able to validate" and "we want to place this benefit under the auspices of the Main Street Program". Well, after presenting what they perceived as a problem (membership requirement) and the DMBN's acquiesce to allow non-members the benefit as long as they sign a contract, do you know how many downtown businesses jumped at the chance to validate their customer/clients' tickets without being a DMBN member? ZERO. Matter of fact one new business insisted on paying dues for the privilege.
So if the joining the DMBN to validate parking tickets has not been a big deal for anyone downtown what is the mayor's problem? Good question.
I could speculate the mayor may have abused his power a smidgen simply because he has a personal issue with some DMBN members. Or I could speculate that the mayor wants to exert control on a successful program to validate his poor recommendation of the current setup of the Main Street Program. Or I could speculate that the mayor saw an opportunity to eviscerate a "competing" organization instead of communicating and trying to work together. Could be all three.
In any case the contract deadline for a successfully operating program is looming AGAIN for a poorly thought out decision and AGAIN no one fromt the city or the mayor/council has bothered to get any facts before making another decision other than directing the Main Street director to try to find somebody else who does it to justify their action here.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
It's the Darnedest Thing
Why just a few weeks ago the city manager told the chairperson of the DMBN her recommendations regarding the parking validation program and then at the last council meeting spun a different yarn for Councilperson Wetzel. How creative - a customized story for whoever she's talking to.
Remember the roundabout in the CIP? First, it wasn't there, and then when confronted it became a wee mistake in a big document.
Or how about the illegal removal of a meeting notice? First, she was just trying to protect the City (huh?) , then it was not posted long enough (of course, that was when she interfered with the posting time) and the spin continued. Wonder which story the state police investigator got.
Then there's the issue of her ability to handle the "human resources" portion of her job that she assured council she could "do it all" when they (5-2) hired her - but surprise, she can't and wanted an "assistant". Now the City has to backtrack and re-create a position they eliminated (remember Mr. Lybik of Personnel?) Curiously they are paying the person for that position considerably less than the newly created Economic Development Director (who by the way is back to doing only industrial development and not also downtown development which was part of the original rationale for the full-time position) Anyway I'm sure that is comforting to the City employees and their concerns regarding their health care, benefits and pensions.
It's the darnedest thing.
And if you've been following the council meetings, whether on TV or in person, have you noticed how often the mayor speaks for the city manager when she is asked a question either by another councilperson or a citizen?
It's the darnedest thing.
And the posters on this blog go off on some of the wildest (and sometimes interesting) tangents.
It's the darnedest thing.