City Council Ticker 2

Racial Equity and Representation

Since her inauguration on November 12, 2018, Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert has decided not 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 Mayor Bashert has nominated ten out of fifteen white applicants for new positions on city boards or commissions.

On January 9, Human Relations Commissioner Hunter proposes an Equity Ordinance to aid marginalized communities enter 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 Councilmembers Sommerville and Allen-Richardson agree to work toward hosting a town hall in August of 2019 with the purpose of seeking public input to address economic and racial structural inequalities pertaining to marijuana facilities, per the recommendation of the Human Relations Commission.


On March 7, council approve 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In June, Ken Hobbs is hired as Ypsilanti Fire Chief after the offer to Phil Kamm was rescinded in March, according to Mlive.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 (see link above).


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

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 will hope for more than $2 million of 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 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 Wilcoxen claimed that members of “DEQ 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 Brown stated that she asked to get the vote delayed, and Councilmembers Allen-Richardson and Morgan 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 has the potential to have the same effect on the community as the 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.


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.


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.


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.

City Finances

On May 7, City Manager Frances McMullan presents on the city’s budget.
Notable data include:
-For the upcoming fiscal year, there is a decrease in the millage of 0.17 mills
-For the last fiscal year, Ypsilanti both made and spent more money than had been planned
-The City spent more than it made; Ypsi spent $14.68 million, and made $14.46 million
-More than half of the city’s revenues for the last fiscal year, $8.57 million, are from property taxes
-More than half of the city’s expenses for the last fiscal year, $8.61 million, fund “public safety”
-The city expects to spend more on “public safety” next year than this year. –At $9.31 million, McMullan estimates that 64% of the city’s expenditures in the next year will be for “public safety”, compared to 59% this year

Appointments to Boards and Commissions

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

Beth Gibbons to the Sustainability Commission
Dillon Navarre to the Parks and Recreation Commission
George Hagenauer to the Human Relations Commission

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.


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 the Commission’s police oversight 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.


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:
-Appointing a Parking Services Manager
-The DDA having a larger role in parking management
-New parking control equipment
-Changing some private business parking to surplus parking for public use
-Increased bicycle parking
-Employing a two-hour maximum parking time for convenient on-street parking
-Clear parking signs
-Improving walkability for employee parking
-Lower cost bus permits for employees
-Pedestrian enhancements
-Addressing ADA deficiencies
-Developing a policy of issuing courtesy citations to first-time parking offenders
-Developing new parking, particularly in the Depot Town district

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 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 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 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.


On April 3, Mayor Bashert states that the privatization of parking “is not going well for EMU”. On April 17 2018, then-Councilmember Bashert voted in approval of EMU’s parking privatization, despite much public dissent.


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, 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.


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.