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Jun 03

You Say Ypsitucky, I Say Ypsi-Tucky

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.

13 Comments »

  1. Comment by Matt
    June 3, 2009 @ 4:12 pm


    After reading the AA News account, I was prepared to come here and call you a sensitive little bitch, Robb. But, the paper didn’t quite get the story right (big surprise) and the situation and your position seems to be very much nuanced. So the DTCDC won the battle but lost the war. You don’t care about the name change, but you couldn’t blink and had to prove the council had the power, so you led the charge to take away their contract. Even if you don’t care about the name change issue. You said the CDC made a poor business decision, but at least they stood on principal that they wouldn’t be shoved around by a bullying government body. I guess you showed them who’s boss. Where can I buy an Ypsitucky T-shirt?

  2. Comment by John Delcamp
    June 3, 2009 @ 4:49 pm


    I suggest a name compromise that is more inclusive: i.e. Ypsituckytennessee Jamboree. If others feel left out, we could keep adding their respective states until all are satisfied. I will however, draw the line at U.S. colonies, (no Virgin Islands)!

  3. Comment by Lynne Fremont
    June 3, 2009 @ 6:42 pm


    I have to admit that I find all of this very confusing. What is the point of terminating the DTCDC’s contract? How does that mean they can still have the festival and keep the name? Am I missing something here?

  4. Comment by brobb
    June 4, 2009 @ 8:47 am


    Ms. Fremont,

    Anyone willing to pay the required fees can have an event in Riverside or Frog Island parks. The City has no authority to change the name of any event — that’s why it was so wrong to bring the original resolution to Council.

    This issue stopped being about Ypsitucky a month ago. This issue became about the business relationship between the DTCDC and the City. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of the City to enter into contracts that aren’t beneficial to the City. The relationship the City had with the DTCDC stopped being beneficial and rightly had to end.

  5. Comment by Bill LaLonde
    June 4, 2009 @ 9:54 am


    I was at the meeting the other night and spoke in favor of Ypsitucky. Unfortunately, I had to leave a little earlier due to a previous engagement, and missed the vote. The article in the paper was very confusing, and I’m really glad that I found your blog. Your stance on this issue makes some sense to me. I wish you were my councilman…instead of that Bodary fella’! Please let him know that my associates and I will be doing everything we can to make sure he does not get re-elected.
    My only problem with your stance, is…yes…the city does have money to take over the parks…but not really. That money could be used in a million other places around town, like, fire and police, and many other useful applications. Also…the proceeds from this show where going right back to the parks…so…in essence…the city is losing money. Now, the festival has to pay to have their shindig, and the city gets to pay for the parks again. Kind of a lose-lose…
    I wish that the council would have just said “the name stays whatever the DTCDC wants. They are helping the city out by taking care of our parks, and bringing you great festivals and activities there”. But, hey…old people vote too, i guess…for a little while longer, anyway. God, I can’t wait for the next election cycle. Censorship is going down. The vote shall be rocked. Sorry council!

  6. Comment by brobb
    June 4, 2009 @ 10:59 am


    Mr. LaLonde,

    Thank you for your input and your kind words.

    Don’t forget that the DTCDC spent just $10K in maintaining the parks. If you read their annual report (attached to the City Council packet located HERE, you’ll see the DTCDC spent $4,171.65 on Dining Expenses?

    WTF is that?!?!?

    They spent nearly half as much on lunches as they did on parks maintenance.

    I think it’s incorrect to suggest the City is losing money. I think cancelling the DTCDC contract means someone is losing a free lunch.

    If you ever want to sit down and talk about this or the parks or whatever, let me know.

  7. Comment by Bill LaLonde
    June 4, 2009 @ 11:25 am


    Yeah…that’s not cool. I hate when I’m duped! I should have done a little more research. So…do these lunches and dinners come out of the money that they raise to take care of Riverside & Frog Island?

    I’d love to have a chat about the parks sometime. Maybe at the Corner over a beer.

    I’ll let ya’ know.

    I’m still hoping for the name Ypsitucky though.

  8. Comment by Erik Dotzauer
    June 5, 2009 @ 12:57 pm


    Brian,

    Is this the fight you want? I’ll start with your reference to the dining expense…

    Yes, we did spend $4,000 over the course of a year on food and entertainment. Of that, almost half was spent on a “welcome reception” when the DTCDC kicked off operations. So the people losing their “free lunch” were city leaders, council members and other partners that we hosted for an evening and told them about the goals and plans for the DTCDC. As for the rest…. The DTCDC Board (5 members plus myself) does have a monthly board meeting over lunch. It usually costs about $70 with tip. And yes, we do have other lunches where we pick up the tab. When our committees and other volunteers meet with us we feel it is appropriate for us to buy them lunch. Would you like more examples? How about when we organized a park cleanup day with roughly 70 volunteers. Guess what, we bought everyone pizza and drinks. Do you need? There is no abuse of money being spend by the DTCDC for food and entertainment. We always keep our money local and with the exception of the welcome reception, we have never spent a penny on alcohol or entertainment.

    Your reference to the $10,000 cost to maintain the parks is a little misleading. First, we didn’t start cutting the grass last summer until July, so that doesn’t quite reflect the true cost to operate the parks. Second, you didn’t mention that other cost that we incur to operate the parks. Such as insurance (over $5,000) and the audit requirement that the city mandated (over $7,000). I should also point out that we are able to maintain the parks with considerable cost savings compared to the city. As I recall a conversation with the head of Ypsilanti DPS, the city paid over twice as much as we pay each time the grass is cut! I know the city has a union contract, but I think we’ve demonstrated that the private sector (and competitive bidding) can achieve more efficient operations than municipal government. We also have partners like the Washtenaw County Community Service Program that come through weekly to pick up trash – something the city would have to pay for. In fact, when the city found out about our arrangement, they contacted them to see if they could help with Water Street…

    One last thing. The DTCDC received $5,000 from the Depot Town DDA to assist with operations last year. To compare, the Crossroads music festival received $10,000 this year in funding from the Downtown DDA and the fashion show last week in Downtown received $5,000 from the Downtown DDA. The rest of the money used to operate the parks is money raised by the DTCDC. It costs nearly $100,000 to keep things going, and yes (that includes my salary of $40,000).

    As I hope most community members realize, the DTCDC is not out slinging mud at anyone. On the contrary, we have been attacked both personally and professionally now for months. All we’re trying to do is set the record straight. I hope the community remembers how city leaders spend their time when the next election cycle comes around.

    Erik Dotzauer
    Executive Director
    Depot Town CDC

    http://www.depottowncdc.org

  9. Comment by brobb
    June 8, 2009 @ 4:15 pm


    So much for having a strong spam filter.

    Mr. Dotzauer,

    I think we can agree on this much, insurance, auditing costs, and your overhead are not park maintenance. If you add those costs up ($5K, $7K, and $40K), plus the $10K spent on actual maintenance, you get $62K. With the exception of actual maintenance, the rest of those costs are part of the City’s operations structure. It costs $22K for the City to maintain Riverside and Frog Island parks. You would have to agree that the City is more efficient in its operations than the DTCDC.

    The DTCDC did a great job with the dock. No one can deny that. Shame on the City for not working with the appropriate groups to get that fixed first. I have to admit that I don’t see the “couple of thousand” the DTCDC spent on the dock in your audit. I see a negative $149.45 for dock renovation.

    Finally, with respect to the priorities of City leaders, I’d like to add Council had a presentation on Water Street at the beginning of the Council meeting in which we updated the community on the fact that we have received $600K in EPA grants to knock down buildings and remediate soil. This is in addition to the $250K in neighborhood stabilization funds we received to remove the remaining buildings (with the exception of the Arlen’s). Updates were also given on the four purchase agreements comprising 75% of the 38 acres of Water Street that are making their way to Council. Council passed a $14M budget that contained no public safety cuts preserving the current levels of Police and Fire protection. Council also passed an update to the City purchasing and contracting ordinance adopting buy local / hire local policies. In addition, Council strengthened its Living Wage and Prevailing Wage requirements for people contracting with the City and for developers receiving tax abatements such as Brownfield credits and OPRAs.

  10. Comment by Gtrplyrman
    June 8, 2009 @ 9:23 pm


    Erik and DTCDCers:

    You use a name that you PLAN to create a controversy with, for the purpose of getting free publicity, and then when you lose control of the controversy and create division in the community, you have the nerve to whine and moan about the response you get?

    You guys are a real class act. I hope the city follows through with the cancellation of your contract.

  11. Comment by nammeroo
    June 10, 2009 @ 12:09 pm


    Erik,

    Your defense of the DTCDC’s park maintenance activities is thorough and admirable; your organization’s publicity efforts – not so much. I really don’t care what you name your bluegrass festival, but I do care when a civic organization goes out of its way to stir up contention in our community over nothing. Ypsilantians have enough issues of substance to debate – we don’t need to manufacture controversy!

  12. Comment by bullshit comments
    June 11, 2009 @ 12:42 am


    Want to see if I can actually post uncensored by politician shit here. Testing. One two and so on.

  13. Comment by Don Sicheneder
    September 9, 2009 @ 7:07 pm


    Brian,

    After all the BS, you came through buddy. Thank you so much for all the help at The Jamboree. To think you even drove That 1 Guy back to the airport on Sunday and were willing to take him to his hotel at 1am on Saturday is impressive as hell. I was running around and you helped me stay on point. I truly appreciate it. I look foward to doing many more events in Ypsilanti and the surrounding areas.

    Sincerely,

    Don Sicheneder
    Director, The Jamboree

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