What's Left Ypsilanti

City Council Ticker

What's Left Contributors

Why is it important to track City Council and Commission meetings?

1. Information Gathering – There is a conspicuous lack of media coverage of local government in the city of Ypsilanti. By attending and/or reviewing the minutes of City Council and Commission meetings, residents can obtain crucial information about decisions affecting their community.

2. Audience Participation – During public meetings of the Ypsi City Council and Commissions, there are various points at which members of the public are invited to speak. Individuals are typically allotted 3 minutes to speak near the beginning and end of the meeting.

Audience Participation is a space for residents to air concerns that are recorded into public record, and it is often one of the best places for important issues in the community to gain notice more widely. For this reason, it is important for any news source focused on public voice and underrepresented issues to track Audience Participation and inform our peers and neighbors of AP’s existence. Not surprisingly, AP is often dominated by the concerns of the most privileged in our community. Thus, this City Council ticker is in part an effort toward demystifying the process to those who have never set foot in City Hall.

All information below can be found on the city website, by clicking on the minutes icon (green checkmark) at cityofypsilanti.com/AgendaCenter and downloading the pdf file. Sometimes, the information in the minutes section is actually the ‘action minutes’, and you will need to check the the following meeting agenda packet to find the approved minutes.

The city council ticker below is organized by topic area.


Summer 2019

City Council Ticker

Racial Equity and Representation

Since her inauguration on November 12, 2018, Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert has failed to reinstate two Black city commissioners to their respective commissions. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Mayor Bashert has not nominated a single non-white Ypsilanti resident to a new position on a city board or commission, despite at least three opportunites to do so. At the same time, it appears that, of those who have applied since September of 2018, Mayor Bashert has nominated ten out of fifteen white applicants for new positions on city boards or commissions.

On January 9, Human Relations Commissioner Kyle Hunter proposes an Equity Ordinance to aid marginalized communities in entering the field of Medical Cannabis. Commissioner Hunter shared that Oakland, California, created an Equity Dispensary which provides dispensary permits for those most affected by the drug war, or those convicted of a cannabis crime. On July 16, Ypsilanti Councilmember Annie Sommerville (Ward 3) and Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Allen-Richardson (Ward 1) agree to host a town hall in August of 2019 to discuss economic and racial structural inequalities related to marijuana facilities, per the recommendation of the Human Relations Commission.

Staffing

On March 7, council approves the resignation and separation agreement with ex-City Manager Darwin McClary after McClary received broad condemnation for his decision to hire Livonia Fire Captain Phil Kamm as Ypsilanti’s new Fire Chief. Interim Fire Chief Ken Hobbs, who has served Ypsilanti’s Fire Department for 33 years, was next in line for the position and was seen by the community as the obvious choice for next Fire Chief. Ypsilanti residents accused ex-City Manager McClary of racism and making a decision based in white supremacy; Hobbs is a Black man and Kamm is a white man.

In June, Ken Hobbs is hired as Ypsilanti Fire Chief after the offer to Phil Kamm was rescinded in March, according to Mlive.

Phil Kamm is suing the city of Ypsilanti over so-called “reverse racism” due to the decision not to go forward with his hire (link to story at whatsleftypsi.com).

 

~

In May, Interim Director of Public Services Brad Holman was hired as permanent Director of Public Services.

Development

On May 7, City Council approves a plan to spend up to $500,000 to remove Peninsular Dam located near the northern border of Ypsilanti. City staff expects more than $2 million in grant money to accomplish this removal, which has been estimated by various sources as costing between $2.7 and $4 million. A roughly $750,000 dam repair plan was also up for a vote, had removal not been passed.

Key issues mentioned during discussion included resident safety at the dam site and downstream, the potential for ecological pollution from hazardous sediments beneath the dam, and the responsibility to be stewards of the Huron River.

Although the dam has been deemed in fair condition overall, it has a high hazard potential, meaning its structural failure would likely lead to loss of human life. City Manager Frances McMullan made clear that although the city has up to $500,000 in liability insurance covering dam-related issues, this would not cover catastrophic events.

Regarding the sediments beneath the dam, Councilmember Steve Wilcoxen (Ward 2) claimed that members of “[State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality staff [have] reviewed samples and [do not believe it’s] dangerous to remove the dam,” or that it’s necessary to move sediment to a hazardous waste fill.

During audience participation, six community members recommended that Council delay their decision on whether to remove or repair Peninsular Dam until further information is gathered. Councilmember Nicole Brown (Ward 1) stated that she asked to get the vote delayed, and Councilmembers Allen-Richardson and Anthony Morgan (Ward 3) both expressed that there are too many open questions to feel comfortable voting on the issue. Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson stated that this decision could have the same scale of effect on the community as the 1999 vote to buy the Water Street property- a decision many have seen as shortsighted.

On May 21, Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson stated that constituents are asking her about dam removal, and that there is a need to find a better way to inform people about what is happening in the city.

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On May 21, City Council unanimously approves an amendment to Ypsilanti City Code that makes it so that businesses in Ypsi are required to be inspected every two years to ensure that they are in compliance with zoning and property maintenance laws. Businesses passing an inspection are granted a business occupancy permit, and businesses which substantially pass inspection are granted a temporary business occupancy permit.

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On May 21, City Council narrowly denied the Patient Station dispensary their request to purchase city land adjacent to their current property: 30 Kramer Street. Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson stated that her constituents do not support that business, and so she must vote in accordance with their desires.

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On May 21, Council unanimously approves city staff to apply for the BUILD grant to help fund the construction of a train platform. The city has already applied for the CRISI grant, the allotment of which has been delayed. City Manager McMullan clarified during discussion that applying for the BUILD grant does not affect the city’s standing application for the CRISI grant.

New Council Representation

On May 28, City Council held public interviews of four Ward 3 Ypsilanti residents who applied to fill the City Council seat opened by the death of City Council member Pete Murdock on May 4: John McMillian, Desiraé Simmons, Annie Somerville, and Tyler Weston.

On June 4, City Council appoints Annie Somerville to the Ward 3 Council seat, after failed attempts to appoint Desiraé Simmons and Tyler Weston.

Move

Second

Morgan

Symanns

Brown

Bashert

Wilcoxen

Richardson

Result

Simmons

Richardson

Wilcoxen

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Fail

Weston

Brown

Symanns

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Fail

Somerville

Morgan

Symanns

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Pass

City Finances

On May 7, City Manager Frances McMullan presents on the city’s budget.

Notable data include:

Appointments to Boards and Commissions

On May 7, the following Ypsilanti residents are appointed to boards and commissions:

On June 4, Ypsilanti residents Jared Talaga, Matt Dunwoodie, and Phil Hollifield are all reappointed to the Planning Commission. City Council also approved appointing Ann Arbor residents Takunia Collins to the Ypsilanti Sustainability Commission, despite Commissioner Collins’ non-Ypsilanti residence status.

On June 18, Ypsilanti resident V Rosser is appointed to the Human Relations Commission.

Police

On April 25, late Police Advisory Commissioner Susan Melke agrees with another commissioner that more youth members should be added to the Police Advisory Commission, and allowed to vote. Commissioner Melke brought up that there is precedence in a nearby city for youth commissioners to have the power to vote.

On February 28, Commissioner Melke requests that the Police Advisory Commission research the possibility of expanding their power.

Commission Melke was a beloved member of the Ypsilanti community; Susan passed away in June.

On May 7, City Council unanimously approves spending about $55,000 on two new Dodge Chargers to be used as police vehicles

On May 16, police chief Tony Degiusti requests 30 new tasers on behalf of the police department, at a cost of about $49,000. Councilmember Morgan asks if the amount of tasers issued could be decreased. Chief Degiusti responds no, since each taser is associated with a single officer for accountability.

In the same discussion, Councilmember Morgan asks if witnesses who provide information to the police are offered any protection. Chief Degiusti said no.

Parking

On April 3, City Council holds a joint session with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to discuss the Downtown Parking Study drafted by the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and contractor Rich & Associates/Giffels Webster.

Notable recommendations from the Study include:

DDA Board Member Andy French inquires about extending enforcement hours in Depot Town until 9 or 10 pm. Mayor Bashert states the discussion has been to extend hours from ending at 8pm to 9 pm. Councilmember Morgan and DDA Board Member Kayia Hinton agree that they would not like to see parking enforcement extending too late. Mayor Bashert replies no matter what is decided some people are not going to be happy.

DDA Board Member Ylondia Portis asks if there has been any consideration regarding outsourcing the entire parking system. David Burr from Rich & Associates responds no, however there are organizations that provide that service.

Ypsilanti City Planner Bonnie Wessler states that building a parking structure in Depot Town is not off the table. DDA Board Member Jen Eastridge adds that there is also a parking deficit Downtown.

Eye on the Mayor

In a City Council session on April 3, Mayor Bashert states that Ypsilanti is “not afraid to outsource”, in reference to the potential new position of Parking Services Manager.

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On April 17 2018, then-Councilmember Bashert voted in approval of EMU’s parking privatization, despite much public dissent.

On April 3 2019, Mayor Bashert states that the privatization of parking “is not going well for EMU”.

~

On May 16, after Police Chief Degiusti’s explanation that taxpayer money would fund two new police vehicles, Mayor Bashert asks why only one of those two vehicles would be a hybrid. Chief Degiusti explained it is to ensure a hybrid would be adequate.

Ethics Board

On April 18, Ypsilanti’s Ethics Board meets after years without having enough members to hold official meetings. The lack of a functioning Ethics Board in Ypsilanti was notable during the fallout of the International Village scandal, during which then-Mayor Amanda Edmonds was accused of violating the city’s Code of Ethics.

The five Ethics Board members agree unanimously to meet throughout the year to establish by-laws and a more streamlined method to submit ethics complaints to the city. Unlike other boards and commissions, the Ethics Board is only required to meet once a year and when ethics complaints are filed.

Anyone who thinks the City’s Code of Ethics has been violated can submit a complaint by going to city hall or contacting the city clerk.

All five Ethics Board members are white.

Miscellaneous

On June 4, City Council unanimously supports State House Bills 4351 through 4360, which aim to create an environment where regressive arbitrary bail schedules no longer repress the less fortunate.

On June 4, AAATA Rep. Matthew Carpenter presents a plan to rebuild the downtown transit center. The AAATA requests one third of a city block to make room for twelve bus bays and a bigger building. A number of other locations were considered, but none of them were determined as suitable as the transit center’s current location.

On June 18, City Council approves support for the concept that gender is a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Morgan

Symanns

Brown

Bashert

Wilcoxen

Sommerville

Richardson

Result

Accept McClary resignation

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

Yes

Pass

Spend 55K on cop cars

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

Yes

Pass

Remove Peninsular Dam

Yes*

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

No

Pass

Inspect businesses every two years

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

Yes

Pass

Sell land to the Patient Station

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

N/A

No

Fail

Support ending regressive bail schedules

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Pass

Gender is a protected class

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Pass

* after attempting to abstain



Spring 2019

City Council Ticker

On November 12 2018 the following council members were sworn into office following the general election on November 6th. A seat in Ward 2 is vacated as former Ward 2 rep, Beth Bashert, takes the mayor’s seat.

Inauguration Ceremony & Oath of Office

Mayor — Beth Bashert

Ward 1 — Nicole A. Brown

Ward 2 — Jennifer Symanns

Ward 3 — Anthony Morgan

On Nov 13th 2018 council member Murdock provided the following statement: “You all may have noticed my increasing hoarseness. There is a reason for that. I have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer. And have started aggressive chemo and radiation treatment yesterday. I will be spending a lot of time at St Joseph Mercy Hospital for the next few months. I intend to continue serving on City Council as I battle the cancer. This will probably slow me down but, as a quote from an injured football player in Remember the Titans said, ‘I ain’t dead yet’. I will be just as ornery as ever just a little slower. Thanks for everybody understanding.”

On Dec 3rd 2018 following the Ward 2 appointment interviews, Steve Wilcoxen was appointed by city council for the vacated Ward 2 seat. This means that 3 members of the council cohort going forward (Mayor Bashert, Wilcoxen from Ward 2, and Symanns from Ward 2) were not primary contested, and Wilcoxen and Symanns were also not vetted by voting constituents during a general election.

Rights for Renters and Low Income Residents

The Housing Affordability & Accessibility committee of Ypsilanti held a housing survey over winter 2018 and found that out of the 600 respondents, nearly 10% reported experiencing housing discrimination in Ypsi based on source of income. Despite this, the City Attorney’s office, Barr and Associates, have no reports of complaints with regard to housing discrimination — suggesting that the current policy is potentially ineffective and/or inaccessible.

On Jan 23 2019 Council member Murdock, who was absent, sent in his goal-setting list which included the establishment of a Community Land Trust as an affordable housing option.

On Feb 5 2019 City Council passed a partial property tax exemption for homeowners with income at or below the federal poverty guideline.

On June 25 2018 The Human Relations Commision sent a resolution to council recommending adding definitions to source of income protections in the Non-Discrimination Ordinance to include voucher holders (HCV and other housing vouchers) and student loans. The HRC also sent a resolution recommending landlords furnish a tenant’s rights handbook and voter registration upon lease signing.

On August 9 2018 Council approved changing the Ypsilanti City Code of Ordinances to provide further clarification of the definitions of the terms “income” and “disability” for the purposes of discrimination.

On August 28 2018 City Council approved a resolution to require landlords share documents listed below with tenants upon occupancy, while also amending the resolution to reduce the enforcement feature from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction.

Required documents given to tenants upon occupancy:

The City of Ypsilanti Landlord and Tenant Relations, and its attachments

The City of Ypsilanti Anti-Discrimination Summary

The City of Ypsilanti Voting Information, and its attachments

It is explained in the ordinance that the city clerk will make the required documents available to local landlords to pick up without charge, and that a landlord shall be deemed to have furnished a tenant a copy of the information if the landlord mails it to the tenant or gives it in person. Tenants and prospective tenants may also pick up a copy at the city clerk’s office without charge. Finally, the failure for a landlord to comply with this section does not construe a lease violation, but is deemed a civil infraction and is reportable to the city clerk and attorney.

Updates to Source of Income and Disability definitions in the Non-Discrimination Ordinance:

Income means, without limitation [and in addition to previously listed sources of income], any of the following:

Housing vouchers issued to an individual by the government of the United States, a federal agency, the State of Michigan, or any political subdivision thereof. This shall include, without limitation, vouchers issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development pursuant to 42 USC §1437f.

Student loans, grants, or scholarships provided to an individual by any legal entity.

Disability means, with respect to an individual: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual, a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. A disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C §12102, shall qualify as a disability under this article.

Development in Ypsi

On Sept 11 2018 after a year long process between coalition group Rising for Economic Democracy in Ypsi (REDY), city council members Richardson and Murdock, and attorney staff Dan Duchene, the Community Benefits Ordinance was passed by city council.

On Feb 6 2019 it is announced that 220 N Park Norfolk development deal is dead due to lack of communication and a missed deadline from the developers.

On Feb 19 2019 Council member Murdock stated that Mayor Bashert has been lobbying the [peninsular] dam removal for months. The minutes for this meeting cover much of the Peninsular Dam discussion, and generally it appears the mayor is pushing for a decision to be made sooner than later — “Mayor Bashert stated Council needs to decide what the plan is for Penn Dam...Ms. Bashert stated the city is in the middle of a process, and the process needs to be completed.”

Eye on the Mayor

On Aug 28 2018 the minutes reveal Beth Bashert’s politics of sustainability via an approved increase in water rates: “Council Member Bashert commended the [water] authority in helping the sustainability of this community for incentivizing decreased use in water.”

On Oct 2 2018 then mayoral candidate Beth Bashert brings a proposal to address housing affordability: “Therefore be it resolved that Ypsilanti City Council directs the Planning commission to consider changing the [zoning] text from ‘3 unrelated adults’ to ‘one heartbeat per bedroom plus 2’ in CN [Core Neighborhood] and CN-Mid.” ‘Core Neighborhood’ and ‘Core Neighborhood-Mid’ are zoning density designations that are currently assigned to rental areas.

Council member Brian Robb said that although then Council member Bashert intended to allow more people to live in one dwelling, this change could in some cases have the opposite effect. In his own home, for example, the allowed number of residents would decrease under this law. Council member Bashert responded she chose the CN and CN-Mid [rental] districts as a way to stay away from single family homes.

On Jan 8 2019 Mayor Bashert stated the funds received from the county through the Mental Health and Public Safety Millage were not intended for mental health issues. She also stated that the money received by the city was for Ypsilanti to maintain its own police force.

Recycling Center Removal

On Aug 28, Sept 11, and Sept 25th 2018 in liaison reports, it becomes clear that the removal of the Ypsi Recycling Center is tied to Friends of Rutherford Pool’s desire to apply for grant funding.

Council Member Bashert stated: “The closure of the recycling center is helpful to the Friend’s groups pending DNR Grant application.”

For context, on June 6th 2018 Pete Murdock wrote on Facebook, “tonight the City Council mandated the removal of the Recycling drop off station at Frog Island by September 1, 2018 and appropriated $25,000 to accomplish this and $25,000 for the Rutherford Pool Grant match in 2019-20. This will eliminate penalties on the Pool grant and future grants and provide much needed resources for our parks.”

A resident responded, “So basically we are taking away a valuable community resource and making recycling not only inconvenient but inaccessible for those who don't have reliable transportation? I'm deeply disappointed. Was this put to a community vote? How do we make our voices heard?”

Another resident responded, “[the City has to] move [the recycling center] or parks and orgs like Rutherford pool cannot get grants. [The recycling center] was built on designated park land and the [Department of Natural Resources] deducts quite a bit of points on a grant score because of this anywhere in the city. So the Rutherford pool is trying to raise money for a new bathhouse and because of the violation the recycling center causes, [Friends of Rutherford pool grant application] score would be seriously affected. It’s weird, but true. The pool urged the city to move the recycling center off of park land.”

On December 11 2018 Mayor Beth Bashert publishes in a newsletter: “This Week with the Mayor Breaking News Congratulations to Rutherford Pool - The city of Ypsilanti is being recommended by the Department of Natural Resources to receive a grant for $300,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for renovations at the Rutherford Pool. While the city needs to wait for the National Parks Service to approve the grant, we were among the top scoring applications.”

Since Ypsi Recycle Center’s removal, residents have expressed confusion over where to drop off recycling. Minimal education and outreach efforts on the part of the City have resulted in many residents unaware of instructions to apply for a ‘recycling pass’ to utilize Recycle Ann Arbor’s services, who are newly subcontracting to Ypsi.

Staffing Controversy at City Hall

In the Aug 28, Sept 25, Oct 2 2018 meeting minutes, Council member Lois Richardson points to a historical precedence for internal promotion for city staff positions, with regard to the hiring of a new fire chief. Despite Richardson providing several examples to this claim and voicing disapproval for recent staff reorganization, then city manager Darwin McClary informs council that “recruitment would occur externally.”

On Jan 23 and Jan 29 2019 it becomes apparent via allocation discussions for filling vacant positions that city staff in various departments are leaving unexpectedly.

Over the meetings of March 5 and 7 2019 many residents, including a local NAACP president, the former fire chief, several city commissioners and county representatives, made public comment condemning City Manager Darwin McClary’s decision to do an outside hire over interim fire chief, Ken Hobbs. Hobbs, who has served the department for 33 years, is a Black man and next in line for the top position. Residents brought up white supremacy as playing a role in McClary blocking Hobbs’ promotion. Some called for McClary’s resignation. In an unprecedented move to circumvent issues of speaking on personnel matters, 2 members of council, Mayor Pro-Tem Richardson and Council Member Morgan, stepped from the table to voice concerns during audience participation. During that same meeting, a resident remarked, “people often state they did not intend a decision to be deemed racist, but often the impact of the decision accounts more; intent is immaterial.”

On March 7 2019 Amid public outcry, council approved the resignation and separation agreement with City Manager Darwin McClary. Frances McMullen and Andrew Hellenga are appointed as interim City Manager and Clerk, respectively.

On March 18 and 19 2019 many residents speak out in support of Frances McMullen as permanent city manager.

After weeks of procedural complication and consistent community engagement on the issue of staff hires, April 2nd 2019 saw the approval of appointment of Interim City Manager Frances McMullen to the permanent City Manager position, as well as Interim City Clerk Andrew Hellenga to the permanent City Clerk position. The issue of hiring interim fire chief, Ken Hobbs, and interim DPS director Brad Holman to permanent positions—both who are Black men and long-time employees of the city—remain unresolved.

Racial Equity and Representation

On Sept 11 2018 Council Member Richardson stated she would like the city to begin developing a Racial Equity Policy. Richardson points out that the city has a Non-Discrimination Ordinance but racial equity is not the same as non-discrimination and suggests that the city form a committee to address this issue. Later, Richardson requests a report of the current racial balance of staff in relation to the city’s demographics.

On March 19 2019 City Council approved the new Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone board composition agreement between the Cities of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Eleven SmartZones, including Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, were created by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2001 with the purpose of providing capital to facilitate commercialization of research products, some of which are developed at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

During the meeting, Council Member Morgan asked the location of the [SmartZone] districts. Downtown Development Authority Director Christopher Jacobs responded: West Cross, Downtown, and Depot Town. Morgan stated, “none of these funds will affect Ward 1 [approximately the area south of Michigan Ave].” Jacobs responded “no.” Mayor Bashert interjected with, “it could help the youth of Ward 1 through training and employment opportunities.” She added that much of the Downtown is located in Ward 1.

SmartZones are managed by the MEDC, a creation of the administration of Republican former Governor John Engler. The MEDC defines SmartZones as “certified technology parks or zones where technology-based firms, entrepreneurs and researchers locate in close proximity to all of the community assets that assist in their endeavors. SmartZones are able to capture the growth in property taxes through tax increment financing within the park, with the revenue to be used in the park for a variety of purposes, including infrastructure, marketing and promotion, and creating high-technology support facilities, such as laboratories and training centers.” Effectively, ‘tax increment financing’ is the privatization of a portion of public taxes for the benefit of development — like ‘technology-based firms’ in the case of SmartZones—which are assumed to be responsible for the increase in property values. Tax increment financing has been linked to gentrification.

Need for Local News Coverage

On Jan 23rd 2019 during goal-setting, Ward 3 council member Anthony Morgan stated, “somehow there needs to be a local media in order to inform the constituents of this city.”

On Jan 29th 2019 when speaking on issues of transparency in city government, Mayor Bashert stated that the absence of a daily news media also compounds the problem. She added that the city will need to work extra hard in order to compensate for the lack of news media.

Marijuana Enforcement

Despite the recent passage of Prop 3 — the state proposal legalizing recreational marijuana — on Nov 13th 2018 City Council voted to make possession of marijuana paraphernalia a municipal civil infraction. On Nov 27th some on council attempted to attach fines to the civil infraction but failed to do so in a split vote, effectively removing the incentive for police to enforce the law.

Public Facilities needed in Ypsi

On Feb 5 2019 In a discussion with Downtown Development Authority Director Christopher Jacobs, Council Member Murdock criticized the DDA for not taking on many public projects and spoke to interest in the community for public kiosks and recycling services, which the DDA could fund. Jacobs responded that he is supportive of the DDA playing a role in various infrastructure improvements. Later, Council Member Morgan stated that the DDA has not provided anything for the youth in this community, to which Jacobs responded that he has not received requests for projects of that type.

All information listed here can be found on the city's website at cityofypsilanti.com/AgendaCenter

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