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Dec 08

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

Comments (0) 12:00 AM posted by admin |

At Tuesday’s Ypsilanti City Council meeting, the City passed a resolution to become the first community in Washtenaw County to sign Wireless Washtenaw’s Master Participant Agreement.

The plan is vague and incomplete. The agreement referenced Wireless Washtenaw would gain exlcusive rights to certain assests. Simply put, this means if one of the assets was City Hall or the historic water tower, the City could not allow anyone else to use these assets for a competing wireless network. The list of assets that was given to City Council was blank. That’s not totally insurmountable because the City has the option of declaring what assets they wish to provide to Wireless Washtenaw. What does seem unusual is that Council would pass legislation that was incomplete. Not surprisng. Just unusual.

The plan failed to include the types of speed users would see, the number of free hours, the cost to upgrade the service, who the provider would be, etc. You know, the details.

The frustrating part of Council’s questioning of Wireless Washtenaw’s James McFarlane was that with the exception of Council Member Brian Filipiak, they didn’t appear to know what they were talking about. Council didn’t ask the right questions, they didn’t know what the right questions were to ask, and many of the questions they asked were answered in their packet had they read it carefully. Council Member Filipiak grilled Mr. McFarlane like a swordfish steak during his examination. He questioned how Wireless Washtenaw would fulfill their claim to “bridge the digital divide” if they were not supplying computers. He asked what the City of Ypsilanti had to gain by signing the agreement now instead of waiting until a provider had been selected and the pilot program had been run. He even knew that Sylvan Township would not sign their agreement before the County knew it. He was en fuego. Unfortunately, the only question he failed to ask was who had signed the agreement.

By the time their presentation had ended Mr. McFarlane looked dejected. It appeared that the resolution would not pass or at least be put off until the City could make a more reasonable assessment of the project. Instead of looking to their most knowledgeable peer (i.e. Mr. Filipiak), Council voted to pass the resolution 4-2. Only Council Member Lois Richardson paid attention to what Mr. Filipiak was saying.

Signing the agreement isn’t the end of the world. In theory, Wireless Washtenaw is not a bad idea. The problem is we don’t know if it’s a good idea either.

The way this issue was handled by Council does raise some serious questions though. If they are going to pass legislation on Wireless Washtenaw without having a firm grasp on the issue, how can we trust them to properly handle more important issues like an income tax, reversing budget deficits, or downzoning?

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