City Council Ticker

compiled by Brian Geiringer

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. Not surprisingly, AP is often dominated by the concerns of the most privileged in our community. The City Council ticker exists in part an effort toward demystifying the process to those who have never set foot in City Hall.

Information below can be found on the city website, by clicking on the minutes icon (green checkmark) at cityofypsilanti.com/AgendaCenter. All City Council meetings are now live-streamed as well as audio recorded. 

The city council ticker below is organized by topic area. 

Racial Equity and Representation

On Sept 24 Bashert states that she is “making changes” to the makeup of commissions “with an eye to the demographics of the people”, that “the What’s Left article… is violently inaccurate and including having some outright mistruths stated by some of the folks that were interviewed in it” and that “that would explain why [the article is] not really getting traction.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson then asks Mayor Bashert why ex-Planning Commissioner and Black Ward 1 resident Toi Dennis was not reappointed, to which Mayor Bashert responds that “it involves personal information.”

Mayor Bashert did not respond to a request for comment on the matter while the article was being written, and when a member of What’s Left invites her to respond during the meeting, Bashert responds that she is “not interested.”

On Sept 24 Councilmember Morgan states that although he appreciates the medical marijuana businesses in Ypsi, medical marijuana is meant to increase inequity, further discontent, and that it’s completely imbalanced across the country. He states that while some people are pleading for safety and crumbs, other people are pleading for continued ownership and privilege. Morgan adds that fewer than 15 of Detroit’s over 300 marijuana facilities are Black-owned.

Staffing

On July 16 Kari Burton is appointed the new Dangerous Buildings Officer.

Appointments to Boards and Commissions

On July 2 City Council votes to approve three current Ann Arbor residents, Ben Harrington, Andy French, and Andy O’Neal, to the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority Board. Councilmember Morgan asked how many people from Ann Arbor are on the YDDA. Mayor Bashert stated that there are two others from Ann Arbor who are business owners in the YDDA. 

On July 16 Kyle Hunter states during audience participation that he is curious about approving non-residents to boards and commissions. Mayor Bashert responds that the applicant owns a business in the downtown district and that this is a reappointment. A non-resident needs a supermajority approval from council to be appointed, while a resident only needs a simple majority. 

On July 16 Jared Talaga is reappointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Ylondia Portis is reappointed to the Downtown Development Authority, and Julia Collins is newly appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

On August 27 Athena Johnson is appointed to the Downtown Development Authority, and Michael Davis Jr. is appointed to the Planning Commission.

On Sept 24 Amy Swift is appointed to the Historic District Commission, and Liano Sharon is appointed to the Human Relations Commission.

On Sept 24 City Council receives a resolution from the Human Relations Commission recommending the adoption of a transparent commission appointment process that makes submitted applications publicly available. On Oct 15 the resolution is approved by council, with Councilmember Symmans alone in voting against the resolution.

Heritage Fest

On July 2 City Council approves the sponsorship of the 2019 Heritage Festival in the amount of $5,500. The sponsorship takes the form of waived event fees. During discussion, Councilmember Nicole Brown asks what the policy regarding youth attendance is this year, and Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson states that she cannot support sponsorship if youth are not allowed without an adult. Councilmember Morgan asks Heritage Festival Chair Les Heddle if the Heritage Festival committee reflects the community, to which Mr. Heddle responds that there are minority members of the committee. Heddle also explains that the additional security for the festival has increased its cost.

On July 16 Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson states that she has been inundated with residents upset that the City is supporting age discrimination by giving money to Heritage Fest. She adds that there are many youths in the city who do not have an adult to go with them. 

On Sept 10 City Council votes unanimously to repeal the “Heritage Festival Ordinance,” discontinuing the city’s future sponsorship of the festival. Councilmember Somerville states that this issue was brought up because of the youth restriction. Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson agrees that this festival should stand on its own, and that she does not support a festival that does not allow youth without an adult. Councilmember Morgan states that a ban is not a solution and is interested in how the festival has affected local businesses. 

Rights for Renters and Equitable Development

On July 16 City Council votes unanimously to approve City Staff’s recommendation to exercise their First Right of Refusal for the properties on 206-210 Washington St. This means that prior to the property being auctioned by the County Treasurer, the city will purchase the property for an amount equal to the total value of the taxes, interest, and fees that have accumulated over the past three years it has been delinquent: about $100,000. 

Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson states that this would be a great opportunity to work with Avalon and provide affordable housing in the city, and County Treasurer Catherine McClary adds that Avalon provides case management for their residents. Economic Development Director Joe Meyers states that due to the age of the building, it is not feasible to have the entire building accessible, but that they will strive to have the building as accessible as possible. Ms. McClary notes that the City has emphasized senior housing. 

On Sept 24 Councilmember Symanns states that just because 82% of voters in Ypsilanti voted for recreational cannabis does not mean they voted for there to be places to sell it or use it. She states that she is not comfortable with Ypsilanti having places where people can go to legally consume cannabis. Councilmember Somerville notes that such establishments are highly regulated spaces that create safe spaces for consumption, and that if landlords do not want their tenants to consume in their buildings, this could leave renters with no alternative for places to consume. She adds that many of Ypsilanti’s residents are renters. Councilmember Symanns responds that she does not want to take power away from property owners. Council approves the amendment by a single vote.

On Sept 24 Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson passes an amendment to the recreational marijuana permitting ordinance which ensures that applicants enter Community Benefits Agreements. 

On Aug 27 City Council unanimously approves an update to voting information provided to tenants upon occupancy as required by city ordinance. This update will reflect the changes made to Michigan Voting Law, following the voter support of Proposal 3 in the November 2018 election. 

Human Relations Commission

On Oct 15 City Council approves a transparency policy forwarded by the Human Relations Commission, making applications to boards and commissions publicly available information and sent to the board or commission being applied for. You can view the last year’s worth of commission applications, and learn more about the city’s boards and commissions at https://cityofypsilanti.com/148/Boards-Commissions.

On Sept 24 during audience participation, Human Relations Chair Amber Fellows makes a formal request for reappointment. Fellows reports that her term ends on October 18th, and states concern mayor Bashert has broken precedent by failing to reappoint other commissioners, including prior HRC chair Sam Jones-Darling. 

On Oct 1 Mayor Pro-Tem Richardson asks Mayor Bashert to explain her failure to reappoint Planning Commissioner Toi Dennis and HRC Chair Amber Fellows. Bashert responds that Dennis is a “loose cannon” and Fellows is a “bully”. Bashert adds that she is frustrated with the HRC’s work. Allen-Richardson responds that it is hard for her to believe Bashert’s claims about Dennis, and adds that she has seen good things come out of the Human Relations Commission.

On Oct 15 City Council considers a resolution to extend HRC Chair Fellows’ term by 60 days. The resolution fails despite receiving a majority vote due to commission extensions requiring a supermajority vote. 

On Oct 18 HRC chair Amber Fellows becomes at least the 3rd commissioner of color Mayor Bashert fails to reappoint in less than a year, and the second chair of the HRC to be decommissioned by the mayor.

Eye on the Mayor

On July 2 Mayor Bashert states that there is not currently an affordable way to allow youth to attend Heritage Festival without supervision. 

On July 16 Mayor Bashert asks Council what the need is to have public input on the topic of economic and racial structural inequalities pertaining to marijuana facilities.

Shootings/Gun Violence

During audience participation on July 16 an Ypsi resident states that at noon on the previous Thursday a bullet went through her front window. She asked the Housing Commission to replace the windows as they are still boarded up. She requested that her windows be replaced immediately so she can feel safe in her home.

Anthony Williamson, Community Development Manager of Parkridge Community Center, notes that he spoke about the unsafe conditions at Parkridge a couple of months ago. Since then, there have been two shootings. Mr. Williamson states that Parkridge would like to increase staffing during the summer to increase safety, and that he has met with state officials and is reaching out to other public housing officials who are having similar issues. 

Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson states that someone was injured during the last shooting, and that something must be done. She states that there has been a shooting a week for the past three weeks.

On July 2 City Council votes to support the Summer Without Any Guns initiative and the creation of SWAG houses as safe spaces. The focus is to create an environment safe for youth and residents at large by offering safe places and encouraging gun safety throughout the community. 

During audience participation on July 2 Srikar Chiravuri, representing the CREAM Inc., states that they are collaborating with the Ypsilanti Police Department to host a firearm buyback to get guns out of the hands of teenagers.

On Sept 10 City Council votes unanimously to award a mini-grant to The CREAM Inc. in the amount of $5,000. Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson asks that the funding be for direct service to youth, and that she does not see the gun buyback program as direct youth service. Councilmember Brown states that the CREAM Inc. has many programs, including the buyback, that directly affect youth, and City Manager McMullan states that they have a record of youth involvement and supporting mental health in the city. City Council unanimously approves an amendment to include that the grant will support their work with Ypsilanti youth, proposed by Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson. 

Accessibility

On July 16 City Council unanimously approves opening an invitation to bid for the Rutherford Bathhouse Renovation. Councilmember Annie Somerville asks if there were showers for people who do not identify as male or female included in the bid. Economic Development Director Meyers responds yes.

Cannabis

On July 2 City Council votes to allow for the transfer of old local medical marijuana permits into new permits under the new state laws. Councilmember Somerville notes there are opportunities for equity for women and people of color within the recreation and medical marijuana industry. Mayor Bashert states that she views this as a pro-business policy to support the existing businesses. Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson asks how much revenue these businesses have brought into the city. Councilmember Symanns states that there have been significant improvements to the buildings these businesses occupy. City Planner Bonnie Wessler states that that information is not typically gathered; however, a few businesses have taken over challenged properties and restored them to a functional state. City Clerk Andrew Hellenga notes that the license previously cost $2,500 and $1,500 to renew, and that now it is $5,000 to renew. Councilmember Morgan states that additional marijuana does not make the city better. 

On July 16 City Council receives a resolution from the Human Relations Commission recommending City Council seek public input to address economic and racial structural inequalities pertaining to marijuana facilities. Councilmember Somerville states that she thinks they should have open discussion starting in mid-August, and adds that she is interested in working with City staff to offer multiple sessions at different times of the day. Mayor Bashert asks Council what the need is to have public input on this topic. There was a general consensus that it would be beneficial. Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson and Councilmember Somerville both expressed interest. Councilmember Morgan states that specific policy would be needed to follow up with any general discussion. 

During audience participation, Human Relations Commission Vice Chair Kyle Hunter speaks in support of the resolution, stating that policies made without input from those most vulnerable to discrimination can reinforce structural inequities, and that it is imperative to receive input from the community, especially from those disproportionately affected by criminalization.

On Sept 24 City Council approves a Recreational Marijuana ordinance to establish standards and procedures for the issuance, renewal and/or revocation of permits for marijuana establishments within the boundaries of the City, making it legal to sell cannabis within the city with the proper permit. During audience participation, many residents of the city spoke both for and against the ordinance. For example, one resident expresses concerns about the placement of marijuana retailers and youth access to marijuana and states that drugs are an issue for areas experiencing blight, while another resident notes that 82% of constituents voted for recreational marijuana. 

Before the ordinance is approved, Councilmember Symanns  proposes an amendment to the ordinance removing the language stating that the City of Ypsilanti shall pursue the creation of spaces for on-site consumption of cannabis. Council approves the amendment by a single vote.

Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson proposes an amendment to the ordinance that requires applicants enter the Community Benefits Agreement process. Council approves the amendment. 

Resident Organizing

On Sept 10 Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson mentions during proposed business that there is an upcoming resident petition regarding speed control on Hawkins and Burton Ct.

Flags

On Aug 27 City Council receives and passes a resolution to limit the flags flown in City Hall to the flags of the city, state, and country, effectively removing the Black Lives Matter, transgender pride, and LGBTQ pride flags from council chambers. The resolution was requested by City Manager McMullan, prepared by City Attorney John Barr, and sponsored by Mayor Pro-Tem Richardson and Councilmember Morgan. 

Councilmember Morgan states that it is critical to be inclusive of all members of the community, and that he does not think the flags add or take away from the work of City Council, adding that he has a clear understanding of who he represents beyond the flags. Councilmember Jennifer Symanns states that it would be difficult to draw the line about which groups to include, adding that Council support is shown through its actions. Councilmember Somerville states that suggesting that Council may face First Amendment rights issues is a fear tactic. She adds that she would feel comfortable refusing a request to display the Confederate flag because it represents hate, terrorism, and white supremacy.

Mayor Pro-Tem Allen-Richardson states that the addition of the other flags was not originally displayed with Council approval. Councilmember Symanns asks City Attorney Barr what the city’s legal exposure would be to retain the flags; he responds that it would be difficult to defend against a First Amendment suit once some flags are displayed. 

Arts Commission

On Sept 24 City Council votes unanimously to create an Ypsilanti Arts Commission. The ordinance states that City Council has determined that the presence of public art will advance the interests of the City, aid in the enhancement of property values, improve the aesthetic quality of public spaces and structures, provide cultural and recreational opportunities, contribute to the local heritage, stimulate economic activity and promote the general welfare of the community. 

Miscellaneous

On Aug 27 Councilmember Steve Wilcoxen states he was a little disappointed with the low turnout of 12 people at the Ward 2 Visioning Session to update the city Master Plan.

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

City Council Voting Records


MorganSymannsBrownBashertSomervilleWilcoxenAllen-Rich ardsonResult
Create Arts CommissionYesYesYesYesYesYesYesPass
Remove FlagsYesYesYesNoNoYesYesPass
Recreational Cannabis AbsentYesYesYesYesYesNoPass
Purchase Washington St. PropertyYesYesYesYesYesYesYesPass
Update Voting Info Given to TenantsYesYesYesYesYesYesYesPass
Sponsor 2019 Heritage FestYesYesYesYesYesAbsentNoPass
Stop Sponsorship of Future Heritage FestsYesYesYesYesYesYesYesPass
Approve non-residents to DDAYesYesYesYesYesAbsentYesPass
Extend HRC Chair Fellows’ Term YesNoYesNoYesNoYesFail(needs 5 votes)
Commission ApplicationTransparencyYesNoYesYesYesYesYesPass