May 16, 2005

Conflict of Interest, and then some

Not only is Commissioner Boynton in conflict of interest in discussions pertaining to the West Front Street Development and its link to Parking Lot T, but he was allowed to pull a three-fer: he acted as commissioner at this evening's commission discussion, and when he decided to abstain from voting, was allowed to leave the commission panel and speak as a citizen on the issue, then return to his commissioner position ... all as a partner in the firm of the owner of the west side development property.

When he asked the city attorney if this was permitted, the city attorney allowed it, stating that he wasn't sure ... "that he had never been asked this question before." The city attorney should have erred on the side of caution and instructed Mr. Boynton to remain seated, and abstain from voting.

Imagine the hoo-ha if anyone else tried this.

By the way, as a "citizen" he wanted to encourage the commission to not go along with the developer's request for an 18-month exclusivity. Of course, if some other developer came along during the 18 month exclusivity agreement, and wanted to purchase Mr. Boynton's partner's property (not linking it to Parking Lot T) it could not be sold. Of course!

Posted by Gadflygirl at 09:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2005

Conflict of Interest

Saturday's Record Eagle reported, "the newly appointed commissioner might have a conflict of interest." You think? What puzzles me is why the Record Eagle did not print this "possibility" prior to the dog-and-pony show of Thursday, May 5th, when after several interested contestants were interviewed for the appointment, there was only one nomination.

We are talking about Jack Boynton, whom most people knew was running for the appointment at least a week ahead of time, as did the City Commission. His law firm partner owns the West Front Street property, which is up for sale for a massive redevelopment project. This topic is up for discussion at the upcoming Monday (May 16) Commission Meeting.

Even if Jack Boynton were not allowed to vote on this subject, because of the financial connection to him and his law firm, the appearance of influence is clear. I cannot understand how he was appointed, and as I stated in my last post, I like Jack Boynton.

In the meantime, his appointment and the upcoming agenda bring to mind the treatment of Commissioner Melichar over the brick power plant building. She was barred from closed session meetings, she was berated constantly and accused of being a dues-paying member of a group advocating for saving the building. The City Attorney accused her of lying in a deposition, and accused people who knew her of being in cahoots. One person had to hire an attorney in answer to a subpoena asking that emails from her, many of which had nothing to do with the power plant, be handed over to the City Attorney.

What about Jack Boynton's "group?" His advocacy? His financial interest? His emails?

Once again, these Commissioners favor only those in agreement. Anyone else should fasten his or her seatbelt.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2005

Want to be on the Commission? Don't Hold your Breath

Mr. Morality has resigned from the City Commission for unspecified personal reasons, and the rumor is he is on his way out of town. So, the City Commission had to appoint someone to fill his spot until November. The criteria were someone who has served as a City Commissioner in the past, and someone who would not be interested in running again in November. But … anyone could apply and would be interviewed.

The interviews took place last night, and what a waste of everyone's time. There was one person who was City Commissioner in the past, and this is Jack Boynton. The floor was open to nominations … he was nominated (and no other), and won the position by unanimous vote.

During the interview process, Scott Hardy asked everyone why he or she decided to try for the position, since he had not seen him or her appear before the City Commission at any other time, nor run for appointment to any subcommittee/board. I believe he even prefaced his question by referring to "ascending" to the City Commission. I do not remember Scott Hardy appearing before the City Commission ever, nor am I aware if he served on any other board. It could be that he has. But at least two of the interviewees have committed to service in the community. Scott Hardy was appointed to the City Commission to fill his father's seat. His father's wife, I recall, considered the position his due. He then ran for the position when his father's term was up.

Another Commissioner, T. Michael Jackson, who will not run again (and made quite the announcement to this effect), questioned why the applicants would not consider running. Well, the criterion was that they not run.

I don't have anything against Jack Boynton. I recall his term as Commissioner in the past, and thought he was fair and listened to the concerns of the public. He didn't snort, roll his eyes, exhaust his breath, nor did he belittle verbally and nastily his fellow commissioners. I think he could bring some civility to the commission. However, as a partner in the law firm of the owner of the west Front Street property, up for a massive redevelopment, how can his position not be considered a conflict of interest? Perhaps he would abstain from voting on this issue as well as any other concerning a bank client of his, but then we are back to five votes … something the Commission wanted to remedy (or so they say).

Appearance is everything.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2005

No More Phooey to FOIA

This past week was Sunshine Week, highlighting the Freedom of Information Act, passed in 1966. It could otherwise be called "accountability to the public."

Last week, Benzie County was kicked in the pants to the tune of $65,000 because its sheriff said "phooey" to FOIA and refused to hand over documents requested by The Record Eagle through the FOIA. The public documents pertained to citizen complaints against the sheriff's department and jail employees.

Recently, the Cool Cities Grant snafu was uncovered by the newspaper's FOIA filing. Some would find it unfortunate that the grant was retracted and although I don't believe the city's original intended use of the grant money was a deliberate attempt to "get away with something," the uncovering of the rules did lead to a more appropriate use of grant money.

In December, the local branch of the ACLU settled with Traverse City, costing taxpayers $3,000, because the police department would not respond to the ACLU's annual FOIA request for records.

There have been other cases which have not resulted in a monetary award or settlement, but in filing the FOIA, the public has learned about toxins dumped into the bay, the possible new development of a portion of the downtown district, to name two.

But apart from the FOIA, there have been groups operating on their own which should definitely have been doing so in the sunshine … because there could be no reason not to. One is the plan to spruce up west bay, and the other is the County's self-appointed group (which has since widened and become inclusive) studying transportation and land use.

"Sunshine Week" is too cute a name. I like better: "We Taxpayers are Paying You So Tell us What You are Doing Week."

Posted by Gadflygirl at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2005

Titmo on the Boardman

A couple of weeks ago, the local newspaper published a story about a young woman who spent several months in the county jail and who is now joining others to express concerns over the conditions in the jail. Her experience consisted of not getting her pain medication (for a broken back and sternum in a car accident a few years ago), headaches caused by black mold, and bedbug bites.

Other former inmates complained about mismanaged medications (lost, wrong dosage, wrong time, or overmedication … resulting in death in one case), and not getting medical attention when needed.

About ten years ago, I heard there were similar complaints, as well as instances where women in the jail were not given sufficient sanitary necessities, and were not able to obtain even a Midol.

The sheriff stated that all of these complaints are untrue. Simply stated, "I had the whole jail looked at. We just had another 100 percent compliance, and they would not give you that if you had mold in the jail. As far as infestation, there is nothing like that at all," he said. The jail is inspected by the Michigan Department of Corrections which is somewhat like the fox inspecting the chicken coop.

Following the article there have been two letters to the editor scoffing at the bringers of the complaints. One writer, a woman, was "disgusted," at the story (not the conditions), feeling that women who make lousy choices should not expect The Ritz. She wondered if the paper was "joking."

The women in the county jail are there probably for failure to pay child support, bad checks, shoplifting, driving under the influence. Certainly the law is the law, and these women are paying the penalty, having lost their freedom, contact with their families and children. But the punishment did not include, when levied, pain from not getting medication for four to five hours. No one should have to be exposed to mold (mold is not a housekeeping issue as much as it is a health problem), or a bug infestation in mattresses.

Maybe if the sheriff is so confident these complaints are without merit, he wouldn't mind an independent panel of women dropping in from time to time to make sure the female inmates have nothing to complain about.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2005


I don't know the local attorney involved, but I don't have to; nor was I present at the August rally for President Bush. The attorney claims he stepped off the curb, cordoned off for the motorcade, to try to represent two women who were being arrested while protesting in the path of the motorcade (which had not yet begun). He was arrested in the process. A six-member jury convicted him yesterday for resisting arrest, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

The attorney claims he was trying to prevent one of the women from making incriminating statements, and was talking to two state police sergeants when a third appeared to arrest him. Meanwhile, a videotape showed several people crossing the road without being pushed back or arrested.

The initial police report made no mention of "resisting arrest," and one officer's report was not written until January of this year. The judge in the case threw out two charges: "attempted resisting arrest and obstructing", and "jostling." In other words, prove the attorney actually resisted arrest and actually obstructed. But jostling? Jostling? The arresting officer claimed the attorney was screaming "I'm an attorney," and "seemed to be very angry." Well, yeah.

In the week following the President's visit, there were letters to the editor about protesters spitting on babies, and screaming obscenities at the President's supporters. There were probably a few shameful incidents. Did this sway public opinion about this attorney?

These days, as found recently in a study conducted by the University of Connecticut, there are too many young people willing to surrender their first amendment rights to the government. Some of them are even bucking the beliefs in the first amendment rights held by their parents. Reporters are being arrested for doing their jobs, and newspapers must use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information for citizens' right to know. Huge fishnets are thrown over demonstrators at the Republican Convention, despite their peaceful protest in the area so designated by local authorities. Women's medical records are being subpoenaed in a huge invasion of a right to privacy.

Jostling. Since when?

Posted by Gadflygirl at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2005

It Takes a Real Man

I've been waiting for tonight's City Commission meeting for an apology from our City Attorney, and two other commissioners, for the debacle over the brick building lawsuit. The joke was that it would take a real man to apologize to Commissioner Melichar and to Jeff Nixon (and so the expectation was that one would not be forthcoming). Jeff Nixon's lawsuit, and Commissioner Melichar's advocacy of saving the brick building, was deemed not frivolous, and so the city did not win its counterclaim for expenses.

Wouldn't you know it? The two commissioners who insisted the City countersue Mr. Nixon are absent from tonight's meeting. As is another commissioner who agreed this would be appropriate.

More than the lawsuit, it would seem an apology in public would be appropriate after the meeting during which Commissioner Melichar was accused of all kinds of misbehavior in connection with the city's pursuit of expenses. And in the press.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 07:19 PM | Comments (9)

January 25, 2005

Slapped Down

Good news! The City lost its case against Jeff Nixon and the SaveTCBuilding group for legal expenses the City incurred in fighting Jeff Nixon's lawsuit. The City asked for $41,000.00+ ($36,000+ in legal fees on the part of the City Attorney).

As the judge in the case said, Jeff Nixon's lawsuit was not frivolous; he had legitimate concerns about whether the City Charter required a vote of the public to demolish the building. No doubt! The Court of Appeals thought Nixon's case worthy of a hearing twice (and in one instance halted the demolition of the brick power plant building temporarily), and the Supreme Court once.

No, this was frivolous and indeed personal on the part of the City, and some City Commissioners. If there were a waste of taxpayer money, the waste was in vigorously pursuing a citizen in what can only be considered the first SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) in Traverse City.

If the City had agreed last summer to allow a vote of the public on the demolition of the brick building, the building would have been demolished (and so the City would have gotten what it wanted), and the City would have saved $31,000.00+ of the total spent on a vendetta.

Still, the SLAPPing goes on in communities around us. Anti-SLAPP laws are in effect in 22 states, Anti-SLAPP Bills are pending in 8 states (including Michigan), and advocated in one state.

What are SLAPPs?
SLAPPs -- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation -- are civil complaints or counterclaims (against either an individual or an organization) in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. SLAPPs are often brought by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials and entities against individuals who oppose them on public issues. Typically, SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as defamation, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage.

While most SLAPPs are legally meritless, they effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources and thus diverts the defendant's attention away from the public issue. Equally important, however, a SLAPP also sends a message to others: you, too, can be sued if you speak up.

Every year thousands of people are hit with SLAPPs for such activities as writing a letter to a newspaper, reporting misconduct by public officals, speaking at public meetings, filing complaints with officials over violations of labor laws or health and safety laws, "whistleblowing" in corporations, or organizing tenants.

credit: California Anti-SLAPP Project

Good news in this case, but until the Anti-SLAPP bill is re-introduced in the State Legislature and is enacted, local officials could pull this stunt again.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 07:14 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2005

ACLU ... Where Art Thou?

I emailed Senator Liz Brater's (District 18) office the night of the City Commission meeting of 1/3/05 during which a city commissioner was barred from her elected duties by our City Attorney (and supported by four other commissioners). I asked the status of Sen. Brater's Bill 1195. The following is taken from Sen. Liz Brater's website:

"I recently introduced legislation to protect citizens exercising their constitutional right of free of speech from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP.) Developers, gravel pit owners, and even public employees have filed libel and slander suits against citizens who express their views in public settings to protect natural resources, protest public decisions, or serve as whistleblowers on illegal activities. These lawsuits have an intimidating effect on citizen efforts to express their views. Our democratic system relies on the ability of citizens to express their views freely in a public forum.

When developers and others threaten citizens with lawsuits, citizens often lack the resources to defend themselves in the legal system. Therefore, this legislation provides for dismissal of such cases, prescribes fines for those initiating such cases, and allows for recovery of attorney fees. Also, it conveys immunity from civil lawsuits to citizens communicating with governmental units or public officials regarding public policy. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary committee and is awaiting action."

Much to my surprise (responses are slow in coming, if at all, in Traverse City) I received a phone call the very next day from one of her aides and was told this bill will be re-introduced within the next two weeks. Sen. Brater's office is also interested in getting the ACLU involved.

The SLAPP actions are taking place all over the U.S. (except for 22 states where it is illegal and 9 states pending) and it would seem in Northern Michigan in particular. The Tondu lawsuit for $810 million against Manistee is the most obscene in terms of dollar amount … but in actuality, the most obscene is what is happening in Traverse City against a lone activist citizen, who supports this community in every way (and believes he is supporting this community in his activism). Obscene because this is a case where the city is going after someone for expenses in answering his lawsuit, and casting a wide net, under the guise of discovery, in pursuing him. This means others, who have no stake in this action, are being subtly and not so subtly threatened, subpoenaed and having to hire attorneys themselves.

ACLU … if ever there were a cause for your involvement, this is it. What is taking so long? Do you have to be invited? Hired? What?

Posted by Gadflygirl at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

Oh, really?

The banning of Commissioner Anne Melichar from the closed session of the City Commission last Monday (1/3/05) was "no surprise" to the other commissioners after all, according to the 1/8/05 Record Eagle. No kidding.

Anyone observing the meeting could tell this was a staged event on the part of the City Attorney, with the purpose of humiliating an elected official. Punishing, in fact.

My own belief is that the City Attorney had a practice session in front of a mirror prior to the meeting. His comments were scripted, and the comments of the other commissioners were well thought out prior to the meeting (didn't we have a case a few years ago where commissioners called other commissioners to discuss their vote prior to a meeting?).

I have been watching City Commission meetings since the early 90s. I cannot recall one time when the City Commission voted to go into closed session, and actually went into closed session before the end of the meeting. In this instance, the cameras continued to film an empty chamber with the exception of Anne Melichar sitting at her place. No surprise indeed.

And then, after the meeting (on Wednesday, in fact), the City Attorney, who had obviously been questioned about a legal precedent, cited a New Jersey case involving a school board member who was a plaintiff in an action against a school board. Well, if this isn't a reach. To my knowledge, Ms. Melichar is not a member of the organization which has a lawsuit against the city, nor is she a plaintiff in that case.

Ms. Melichar has been an advocate of saving the brick building portion of the power plant … just as other commissioners have been advocates for many other issues throughout the years. Most recently, two cases come to mind: the lawsuit filed against BATA and the City by two commercial property owners in town, and a lawsuit filed by a neighborhood for surprising them one morning with a power pole installed on a prominent corner in that historic district.

Unfortunately, if you are an elected public official, your advocacy can only be for issues on the "winning side."

Posted by Gadflygirl at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2005

The SLAPPing Continues

Well, here we go. Anne Melichar was nastily and with brute force eliminated from the closed session discussion of the settlement strategy in the lawsuit Jeff Nixon filed against the City. Why? Because supposedly she is a member of the SaveTCbuilding group.

There is no membership. Although she contributed some money and time to this effort, it would be the same as another commissioner becoming involved in another neighborhood issue and perhaps, believing in its cause, reporting on the issue at a subsequent meeting.

So, in effect, the people who elected Anne Melichar to office were not represented tonight. It is shameful, but more, scary. If you have a legitimate concern in Traverse City, but if it goes against the majority of the commission, you can be in legal trouble.

By the way, the fact that one commissioner voted for Anne's participation in the closed session … this commissioner is quite regularly against anything which Anne views favorably. So could it be this vote was pre-arranged so it doesn't look as if she were being ganged up on?

Posted by Gadflygirl at 09:21 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2004

SLAPPing in Traverse City

See my entry of December 18th, All Politics is Local. A friend of mine sent the following to me, so I guess I'm not dreaming. This should be a concern of everyone. I added the bold highlighting, not that I needed to.

What are SLAPPs?

SLAPPs -- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation -- are civil complaints or counterclaims (against either an individual or an organization) in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. SLAPPs are often brought by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials and entities against individuals who oppose them on public issues. Typically, SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as defamation, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage.

While most SLAPPs are legally meritless, they effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources and thus diverts the defendant's attention away from the public issue. Equally important, however, a SLAPP also sends a message to others: you, too, can be sued if you speak up.

Every year thousands of people are hit with SLAPPs for such activities as writing a letter to a newspaper, reporting misconduct by public officals, speaking at public meetings, filing complaints with officials over violations of labor laws or health and safety laws, "whistleblowing" in corporations, or organizing tenants.

credit: California Anti-SLAPP Project

The Michigan Senate has a bill (1195) pending making SLAPPs illegal. I wonder how our city commissioners and attorney would respond when presented with this fact?

Posted by Gadflygirl at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2004


Underdogs ...God bless her, our Mayor is one:

May 3rd City Commission meeting: "Moved by Csapo, seconded by Orth, that the request to allow Jeff Nixon, 114 E. Ninth Street, to take actions as delineated in his communication dated April 26, 2004, regarding preservation of the old brick water treatment building on the east side of the bay front power plant be received and filed."

No: Melichar, Smyka.

Then … "Moved by Jackson, seconded by Melichar, that the City Commission requests Jeff Nixon to create an economic analysis at his own cost regarding the preservation of the old brick building on the bay front and to work with the City staff, with such an analysis to be presented June 1 for consideration at the June 7 regular meeting."

Yes: Jackson, Melichar, Smyka, Hardy.

June 7th City Commission meeting: "Moved by Orth, seconded by Csapo, that the request from Jeff Nixon regarding preservation of the old brick building located on the bay front immediately west of the open space, be denied."

No: Melichar, Smyka.

August 2nd City Commission meeting: "Moved by Orth, seconded by Csapo, that the City Commission hereby denies any public showings of the Traverse City Light & Power bay front power plant and reaffirms the Commission's desire to have Traverse City Light & Power demolish, as soon as possible, all buildings and structures on the bay front and return the property to the City as open space." (Note: Jeff Nixon requested public tours and a two year moratorium on tearing down the brick building only).

No: Melichar, Smyka.

Credit: Minutes of Commission meetings

Even our mayor cited at one meeting that the City of Milwaukee renovated a water plant on the lake for public use. I wouldn't think she'd bring it up if she weren't in agreement that other ideas should be considered.

Now we have these two commissioners, Jackson and Orth, others, suggest the City go after a citizen for expenses (and no doubt, their co-commissioner, Melichar). Would this include the Mayor? Are they mad at her too for voting the "wrong" way?

These people need some humility.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2004

All Politics is Local

I know a man in our town who, when it was decided it was next to impossible to pursue his former career upon moving here, thought perhaps web design would be a part-time option until something else came along. Over the past two years, he has had a few small clients, two of which were on the order of "pro bono." These clients were two people who were running for re-election to public office, and this man felt they were representing him well … if he could make some small contribution to their efforts, great.

There is another local man, whom I don't know at all, but anyone could see he was a "grass roots" kind of guy, trying to save the brick building portion of the power plant on the bay for another community use. Whether it could be done is beside the point … he felt he had a good idea. He repeatedly showed up at City Commission meetings to offer his case, and to ask that the building not be torn down so fast. He also felt (and perhaps it is so stated in the City Charter) that the public utility building, bought and paid for with public funds, could only be disposed of with a vote of the public.

Mr. Grass Roots was getting nowhere fast, and it seemed the City Commission would now, as a result of his pleas, move full steam ahead in taking the building down. He appealed to the Courts to stop the demolition by suing the City.

Well back in the summer, before the lawsuit, a third citizen asked the web designer to put up a website with information about the brick building and the efforts to save it. The web designer did so and was paid minimally for his efforts. Mr. Grass Roots collected signatures on a petition, held public meetings attended by architects, local citizens, and local developers. You know, doing some of the same work done by others to save Building 50, or the Barns at the Commons, when both ideas were unpopular (and then turned out to be two of the best ideas ever).

The City, in the meantime, decided to sue Mr. Grass Roots for expenses the City has incurred in answering his lawsuit, "in order to teach a lesson." Mind you, there have been two other suits filed against the City by other citizens … one by two business owners who objected to the placement of the BATA station, and the other by a neighborhood which objected to the placement of a power pole in their historic neighborhood. The City won these two cases and to my knowledge, has not then "gone after" the business owners and neighborhood for expenses.

The City, in pursuing its case against Mr. Grass Roots, contacted the web designer for a discovery deposition, asking who hired him for the website, who paid him, how much was he paid, and for any and all material, including all emails, connected with the website. It was (in my opinion) not so subtly threatened that if it was felt by the City Attorney that all material from the web designer's computer was not delivered, the City could subpoena his hard drive.

So, here you have it. If you are a citizen of this community who goes against the mood of the city commission (a small body of people with special interests), then you may be sued. If you are a person who tries to help a grass roots group by putting their information on a website you designed, your method of livelihood, such as it is, may be taken from you just because someone has a "feeling" you may not have delivered all material.

Let's take it a step further … trying to effect change in your community by letter writing, letters to the editor or forum pieces in your local newspaper, photocopying flyers, placing ads in newspapers, holding public meetings about the issue, getting petition signatures, making a video for the public tv channel, or literally anything else, is subject to prying into your personal life and intimidation.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2004

Sue the Bastards

At last night's commission meeting, Commissioner Jackson once again brought up the question: when do we counter sue the group who wants to save the brick portion of the power plant? The Appeals Court has allowed the demolition of the brick portion of the power plant to continue. In the meantime, the Save TC Building group will have its lawsuit heard in court sometime in March.

The answer to Commissioner Jackson's question, from our City Attorney, is that the time for the City to ask for its expenses in answering this lawsuit would be in March, when the City "wins the case" against Save TC Building.

In the past year, there have been a couple of lawsuits filed against the City. One was to remove the tower on Wadsworth, which was placed in this Central Neighborhood without advance notice. The other was a suit brought by a market on Front Street and a commercial office/residential building on the Bay, where the BATA station will be located.

Whether the objectives of these two lawsuits, or the Save TC Building lawsuit, are worthy to anyone else is beside the point. When a group feels it has a serious stake in the outcome of an action by the City, and the City and the group cannot come to an agreement, it would seem that the group may have no other recourse than to ask the court to step in. I'm sure these groups are not happy about spending time, nor money for attornies' fees, other than they feel there is no other choice.

So what does this say to anyone who has something which they feel should be mediated by a third party (the court)? It means that no one will feel they can approach a compromise, or settlement, or even a determination that they are right in their plea, for fear they will be sued by the City in which they live, work, pay taxes, raise their children, support their schools, and so on.

I wonder if the ACLU, which sued the City over a Freedom of Information action, and won, also sued for its expenses ... you know, to "teach a lesson."

Posted by Gadflygirl at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2004

Cool City, Not So Cool Use of Grant Money

I really reeled at the thought of our Cool Cities Grant being used essentially for the expenses of the Chamber of Commerce. So glad was I when it was reported in today's Record Eagle that the money has been withdrawn by the State of Michigan!

Our $100,000 grant would have gone to paying:

∙ $40,000 in rent and utilities (on behalf of whom?)
∙ $15,000 in furnishings (for whom?)
∙ $10,000 for creating a "business resource center" (meaning what?)
∙ $10,000 in technology and equipment purchases (for whose use?)
∙ $10,000 for construction finish work (oh, really?)
∙ $10,000 for creating a public art project (remember the last one?)
∙ $ 5,000 for marketing (marketing what?)

It seems to me that the $10,000 for a public art project is a bone tossed to the citizens of Traverse City in exchange for paying the expenses of the new Chamber building (which rents the land on which it stand for $1.00 year).

Here are other communities' uses of the Cool Cities Grant:

Saginaw: Redevelop two vacant buildings into 1st floor commercial & residential uses.

Kalamazoo: Move Smartshop, a unique metalworking school, gallery, and sculpture garden to a new location. The business community adjacent to the new location will add a clustering of gathering places, advancing mixed use, neighborhood intrinsic, pedestrian friendly development that enhances culture, community, and economic development.

Grand Rapids: The Avenue of the Arts Project includes the historic renovation of seven buildings, streetscape improvement along with creation of public art, murals, and development of 35 loft apartments.

Marquette: Project consists of groomed, refrigerated ice plaza, with a skating rink, warming house, walking/bike trail, and fountain, located near the heart of the city, and the site of a former parking lot and railroad trestle.

Sault Ste. Marie: Soo Theatre Project plans to restore and renovate the classic and historic Soo Theatre Complex to its original grandeur of the 1930s.

Our original use of the Cool Cities Grant is tantamount to giving it to the Cherry Festival for their new offices … perhaps some new office equipment, furniture, or outdoor sprinkler system. Or maybe give it to Bart's Texas Barbeque on the ground floor of the Parking Structure, since it is having a difficult time paying rent to the DDA. Oh yes, that's right … they received some sort of special payment consideration at the last City Commission meeting.

So uncool.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 06:02 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2004

Brick Portion of Power Plant

I don't imagine there are too many people losing sleep over the fate of the brick building portion of the power plant. If there is a good re-use of the building … and there seem to be some good ideas floating about … then it should be pursued. If not, then not.

But for former City Commissioner Carol Hale to say the City should not be "swayed" by a "small group that are terming themselves as preservationists" is laughable. Ms. Hale has recounted several times her story of standing in front of the bulldozers prepared to take down Building 50.

At last count, there were 750 signatures on a petition to save the brick building, and we all know the Saving Building 50 group of preservationists started out small.

Then, to hear Commissioner Phil Orth suggest the citizens who want to save the brick building be countersued to teach a lesson … well, this is one more expression of his disdain for the public process and for the citizens he claims to represent.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)