Comments (13) 9:45 AM posted by admin |
Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.
That magical phrase was said by Coughlin, the bartender from the 1988 Tom Cruise film Cocktail played by Bryan Brown (the Australian Brian Dennehy).
At last night’s City Council meeting, a resolution was passed giving 45 days notice to the Depot Town Community Development Corporation on the cancellation of their contract to operate and maintain Riverside and Frog Island Parks. The vote was 4-2 with me and Council members Bodary, Murdock, and Nickels voting in favor and Council member Richardson and Mayor Schreiber voting against.
Last night was bedlam. As a side note, it further proved that he who knows Roberts Rules of Order rules the world, but it was definitely bedlam.
I met with members of the DTCDC earlier this spring and they told me why they chose the name “Ypsitucky Jamboree” for their music festival. I’m a member of the DTCDC’s advisory board, but it is unusual in that the advisory board doesn’t offer advice, we are advised of what is being done. Fine. Whatever.
I told them I didn’t have a dog in this fight. The name Ypsitucky doesn’t mean anything to me. Some find it offensive. Others find it endearing. I don’t care. I did warn them it could end up overshadowing the festival itself and we could end up with this nonsense.
The two Ward 2 Council members brought forth a resolution directing the DTCDC to change the name. There were some passionate speeches about how it was pejorative and stereotyping and inappropriate. They were nice speeches.
When I spoke, I repeated that I was neutral on the name. I said that I wouldn’t support the resolution and ask for the name to be changed. I took the opportunity to address some of the comments made during audience participation. I referenced Bill Ayers, Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, and stated that I can’t help how people feel, and that Council can’t legislate feelings. I said I didn’t want to be the Council member known for being against a name.
My problem with the resolution is that it was weak and made Council look foolish.
For several months people have been lobbying the DTCDC over the name, and depending on which side you are on, without success. A goofy ultimatum asking them to do it or else wouldn’t mean anything.
Or else what?
Or else we ask them again?
At the start of the meeting, I fully expected the original resolution asking for the name change to pass 4-2 with myself and Council member Richardson voting against the change. Much to my surprise, Council member Murdock said he couldn’t support the resolution as written because it was weak and lacked teeth.
Now it was going to get interesting.
This has been a dumb argument all along. Those against the name were asking for compromise. They were defining compromise as changing the name and doing what they wanted to be done all along. Some compromise there. The DTCDC thought Council was weak and would cave. The original resolution was the perfect example of that.
I wasn’t about to blink. I offered up a substitute resolution that gave the DTCDC 45 days notice of the cancellation of the contract to operate and maintain Frog Island and Riverside Parks.
Bedlam just got more interesting.
At our last budget session, we transferred $22K from the Clerk’s budget into Parks. This gave us pre-DTCDC levels of funding and would allow us to operate and maintain the parks if the need would arise. The argument that has been thrown around is that we need the DTCDC because we can’t afford to take care of the parks. This would ultimately provide for some confusion during the second audience participation. For what it’s worth, the DTCDC annual report is attached to last night’s Council packet. It shows they spent $9,371.56 in park maintenance with another $1,404.21 in utilities and water for a grand total of $10,775.77. The whole notion that the City was destitute and was going to board up the parks was born out of the City Income Tax debacle of Ought Seven, and was total nonsense. If Parks are a priority to the community, they will be a priority to Council.
The original vote on the substitution failed 2-4 with me and Council member Murdock voting in favor of the cancellation and Richardson, Bodary, Nickels, and Schreiber voting against.
We were back to the original resolution asking for the name change.
Council member Nickels asked the City Attorney if the City had the right to ask for a name change. There is a vague clause in the Memoranda of Understanding that says:
5. CITY RETAINS APPROVAL RIGHTS.
In order to prevent conflicts between the City and the DTCDC the CITY retains all rights to approve or disapprove any matter (including, but not limited to):
a. City Council Approval.
The question was whether or not demanding a change would be a violation of the DTCDC’s First Amendment rights.
When the City Attorney reversed his opinion of a few weeks back and said that it would be a First Amendment violation, bedlam turned to awesomeness.
I asked the City Attorney if we cancelled the DTCDC contract could they still have the event in the parks. He said yes.
We had reached politically ironic nirvana.
The people who were against the name were essentially screwed. No one would be able to force a name change. The festival could go on as planned. We could give notice to cancel the contract. And no one would be happy.
This was WIN-WIN in the most surreal fashion.
Council member Bodary asked to reconsider my substitute motion since he had voted against it. That passed. We then voted on substituting it back in place of the original resolution. That passed. We had two procedural votes on calling the question mixed in there. But in the end, we finally voted on cancelling the contract 4-2 with me, Murdock, Bodary, and Nickels voting in favor and Richardson and Schreiber voting against. The 45 days must be given in writing. Once that happens, the clock begins ticking.
I’m embarrassed it came to this. Even though I see no issues with the name, others do, and as such, there needs to be sensitivity on the matter. The DTCDC went looking for a fight and found it.
I’m all in favor of a generational culture war in Ypsilanti, but the DTCDC had to have more common sense than this. The name of a festival wasn’t the only thing at stake. Their contract was on the line. It was a poor business decision on their part to risk the entire operation over a stupid, little name.
I hope the festival goes on as planned. I hope they have the courage to stick with the original Ypsitucky Jamboree name. And I hope they keep the festival in Riverside Park. It was going to be a success no matter what they called it, and all of this stupidity could have been avoided.
I opened my remarks on the issues with the following:
One of Ypsilanti’s greatest strengths is also its greatest weakness. That’s our institutional memory.
This debate says a lot about Ypsilanti. I always said the thing I liked most about Ypsilanti is that I could carve out my own niche without anyone caring what I thought. The reality is our community forces us to take sides and fight with one another. That’s insane.