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Aug 19

Council Wrap-Up, Or Honey In His Mouth, Knives In His Heart

Comments (11) 11:55 PM posted by admin |

Tuesday’s Ypsilanti City Council meeting was uneventful. It was one of those meetings where you wish you were doing something more impactful. Instead, it was mostly procedural. We raised everyone’s water rates, we passed an ordinance allowing us to sell some property we already sold a couple years ago, and within the ordinance to sell property at Water Street, the PUD process was explained for fiftieth time.

If you showed up or know anyone who showed up, you know the topic of the evening was bees, beekeeping, and apiaries.

Let me say that like 99% of the residents of Ypsilanti, I’m indifferent to bees, beekeeping, and apiaries. This was supposed to be handled with chickens, but wasn’t. Now it looks as if we’re going to handle it by itself. There was a lot of talk on the subject. More than fifteen people spoke in favor of bees, beekeeping, and apiaries and audience participation lasted until nine thirty.

The most fascinating thing to come out of the discussion was that of process.

I love chicanery. The discussion showed a giant flaw in how this City Council conducts its business. There were people representing 11 residences within the City limits that spoke in favor of bees, beekeeping, and apiaries. Keep in mind, this is out of more than five thousand parcels in the City. This represents about two-tenths of a percentage point. Later in the meeting Council gave direction to City Staff to prepare an ordinance — based on about two-tenths of a percentage point.

Hey, good for the fans of bees, beekeeping, and apiaries.

The reason this is so exciting to me is can you imagine what kind of chaos we could create if we organized properly?

Seriously now. I see no reason why I couldn’t find at least twenty-five people willing to come to a Council meeting and speak during audience participation urging Council to do something. And I don’t me anything. I mean something completely nuts. If eleven parcels can get Council to work on allowing bees, beekeeping, and apiaries, what kind of action could more than twice that get? Zone store-front churches out of the B3? Create free parking spots downtown for hybrid vehicles? Eliminate the Historic District? What would fifty people speaking on one thing be able to achieve? The elimination of adult uses as a special use? The elimination of the noise ordinance? Increasing the number of dogs allowed to fourteen per household?

The possibilities are endless.

This sounds stupid, but it’s not, and for this I blame the local media.

During audience participation three people who either live in or work at the senior high rise at 401 West Michigan Avenue pleaded with Council to help them with what they thought was predatory towing practices by David Lowell Towing. They told stories of visiting family members getting their cars towed to the tune of $270. They told stories of having vehicles lifted on the tow hook and then being offered to get their car back for $150. They even told a story about an 80+ year old woman who was lifted in the air by a tow hook as she sat in the car.

And what does the local media talk about?

Yep, bees, beekeeping, and apiaries.

Those living in the high rise are a vulnerable population. How did the City react? In a quick cover-your-ass moment, the City Attorney stated (correctly) that the management company of the high rise is responsible for hiring the predatory towing company in question. He went on to float the idea that it might be entirely possible that these people in the audience were in fact plants by a rival towing company. Thankfully, he quickly dismissed that notion, but for crissakes man?!?!

I often put things in terms of David Kircher, and towing was no exception. During a recess, I offered to the City Manager and the City Attorney that if David Kircher owned a towing company and operated this way, we would move heaven and earth to stop him because as everyone knows, he is responsible for everything bad that has ever happened to Ypsilanti or anything that will ever happen.

Okay, okay, you caught me. I didn’t say the last part — at least not out loud. Regardless, it’s still a valid point. My comments were that we are the City. Use some intimidation. Throw our weight around. Help these people out.

The City Attorney only has so many hours in a week in which to work. What gets priority? Is it bees, beekeeping, and apiaries? Or is it predatory towing?

Maybe we would use some alpacas.

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  1. Comment by Lynne Fremont
    August 20, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    Just out of curiosity, what can the city do about predatory towing on private property?

    It is a practice that I detest even though I have been lucky enough never to have my car towed. Still, it seems to me that either the towing company is towing cars in violation of the parking policy which should be allowed even if the towing company doesn’t wait for a phone call from the owner of the lot. Or they are towing cars which are parked in compliance of the parking policy in which case, the management of the parking lot should be responsible for firing the towing company.

  2. Comment by Lynne Fremont
    August 20, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    oh yeah, and for what it is worth. I like bees

  3. Comment by Andy Ypsilanti
    August 20, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    You mean there is predatory towing in Ypsi?!? Really!?!

    I think the question here is what towing company in Ypsi does not practice predatory towing? Maybe we need to look at a set of ordinances upgrading the way towing policies are posted in these lots. Because there is hardly a lot in Ypsi that isn’t patroled by a predatory towing company.

    Also, I think it’s kind of funny you chose bees to make an example of a noisy minority getting their way in city council. I can think of a few other times….

  4. Comment by brobb
    August 20, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

    This isn’t simply about predatory towing. This is about a vulnerable population being victims of predatory towing.

    Unfortunately, the towing ordinance as strong as it can be. Truth be told, the City Attorney will be bringing back a significanly weakened version of the current ordinance due to recent law suits in New York State.

    This is out of character for what I consider the role of government, but in this case I think the City should be the heavy and use our influence where we can. Specifically with the management company of the senior high rise. We also need to be more agressive with Lowell Towing with respect to the overdue fees they owe us. If they are going to continually fail to remit payment per the law, we need to respond in a more fitting manner.

    Finally, it all has to come back to the ‘Tucky, eh?

    The bees, beekeeping, and apiaries issue is nowhere near the scope of Ypsitucky or chickens. Each side of those two issues had far reaching support. The hoopla surrounding bees, beekeeping, and apiaries issue is very limited. I received only three emails prior to Tuesday’s Council meeting on the subject of bees that were the result of a singular rally of support. Even if you discount the traffic I stirred up on chickens, the level of support there was far more widespread coming from many different neighborhoods, cliques, and social and economic classes. You can’t say that about the support surrounding bees, beekeeping, and apiaries.

    Same goes for Ypsitucky. I received emails from people who hadn’t lived in the City in more than ten years voicing an opinion on the subject. Moreover, the support both for and against the name was made up very diverse groups as well. Finally, I think you’d be hard pressed to show who was the minority or majority in that fight.

    As always, I look forward to the next issue that can reference Ypsitucky in some backhanded way.

  5. Comment by Andy Ypsilanti
    August 21, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

    Ok, first, I’m sorry for the back handed reference. It was funny to me at the time I wrote it. But the point is the same, and it hasn’t been just ‘Tucky (for the record, the group of opposed citizens seemed to have an already established email list at the ready, which would explain the volume of emails. Kind of goes to illustrate what we’re talking about. But I digress). Chickens only got more notice because it’s been going on longer and already had its supporters lined up. If the Bee folks had already been to court, we probably would have seen and heard more about bees. As it is, they jumped on it pretty quick and kept it going. I still don’t know how they got my email.
    There are always little issues that get folks stirred up. The folks that are willing to put the time and effort into making that noise are the ones who get to make things happen. It’s one thing if a someone shows up at every council meeting and rants about his issue. It’s a whole other thing if that person sends out emails, gathers supporters and shows up at council with all of those people who then all rant about that issue.
    The point remains the same. If you get people stirred up about something, and actually get them off the couch and into city hall, you can make things happen. I think, over all, we’re marking this one as a point we agree on. Maybe that’s what we need to see on the parking issue to get some attention.
    I do think that the first and most obvious step for this seniors group is for the residents of the center to take up the issue with the management of the building it is a private lot, after all.
    It is distressing to learn that the city attorney is preparing a weakened towing ordinance. Why would we weaken our city policies based on a case in NY? I understand that there are legal ramifications based on court cases, but this is local law. Making these kind of decisions based on state court decisions in other states seems silly. Do we need to practice pre-emptive legislation to this degree?
    I don’t think you can single out Lowel’s towing either; it has been my experience that every towing contract in the city has been abused at some point. I lived in apartments near EMU on Jarvis St. at one point. The towing policy was clearly to keep students from parking in the lot while attending class. But towing was only enforced during the night hours, when those parked in the lots were visiting residents, not trying to get free parking while going to class. Selective enforcement for easy money, it’s an Ypsilanti tradition.
    It would be great if you could keep us up to date on this issue. Maybe this is one of the times we can get the people off the couch and making some noise.

  6. Comment by Andy Ypsilanti
    August 21, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    While we’re at it, I love that the water rates were raise, and Water Street sales were talked about, and that was just let go by all of those people there. At least we know where our priorities lie as a city…

  7. Comment by nammeroo
    August 21, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

    I’m a fan of beekeeping in the City – I had no idea it was banned until a few days ago. Heck, I had a nice hive in my wall for a short time, and a few years back a huge swarm covered the chimney and walls of my neighbors house for several hours – were we in violation?

    Urban apiaries doesn’t have the same ring as urban chickens, but they should be allowed.

  8. Comment by hipsilanti
    August 21, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

    Water rates were raised? Don’t we pay enough as it is?! Crap

  9. Comment by Andy Ypsilanti
    August 22, 2009 @ 11:11 am

    Yes, bring on the bees. Especialy if, like some of the supporters of bees suggest, there is Federal grant money available for urban bee keeping.

  10. Comment by brobb
    August 24, 2009 @ 10:00 am

    While we’re at it, I love that the water rates were raise, and Water Street sales were talked about, and that was just let go by all of those people there. At least we know where our priorities lie as a city…

    That was sort of my point.

    Rome is burning and we’re standing around fiddling, but the residents are calling the tune.

    RE: Towing

    I was over at 401 this weekend and took pictures of the signage. I’ll foward that info to the City Attorney for his review.

    Perhaps the best way to attack this problem is a few strategically placed bee hives in the high rise’s parking lot.

  11. Comment by Andy Ypsilanti
    August 24, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

    I’m pretty sure there is an ordinance somewhere about atack bees… Jeez, that would be brutal, too.

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