City Council Ticker 4Brian Geiringer
City Boards and Commissions
During discussion of a Human Relations Commission recommendation to increase diversity in board and commission appointments on Nov 5, Councilmember Somerville suggests creating a report of demographic information from city commissioners through a voluntary survey of commissioners.
In a 3-to-3 decision on Nov 5, Council rejects a unanimous request from the Police Advisory Commission to amend the ordinance governing the commission. The amendment would have stated that the commission has a goal to consist of members that are diverse and representative of Ypsilanti in regards to income level, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and who are representatives of communities that have been marginalized, are vulnerable, and are more likely to have encounters with the police. The amendment also would have given the commission power to review and examine sections of the police department with respect to individual incidents, and would have required the police chief to send a report to the commission upon the closure of any internal investigation of the police department that was prompted by a complaint referred by the commission.
During public comment, Human Relations Commissioner, Liano Sharon, speaks in favor of the changes to the Police Advisory Commission, stating that the commission should have power. Ex-Human Relations Commission Chair, Amber Fellows, also speaks in favor of the changes to the Police Advisory Commission, and for changes to the nomination process for commissions.
Mayor Bashert, and Councilmembers Symanns and Brown vote against the change to the Police Advisory Commission, and Mayor Pro-Tem Richardson is absent for the vote.
On Nov 19, Councilmember Brown states that she is concerned about the decommissioning of Anne Brown from the Board of the Huron River Watershed Council.
On Dec 3, Mayor Pro-Tem Richardson, and Councilmembers Brown and Somerville speak against Mayor Bashert’s decision not to renominate former Councilmember, and opponent to Mayor Bashert in the 2018 election, Anne Brown to the Board of the Huron River Watershed Council. Mayor Bashert states that she is still learning the commission appointment process. Anne Brown was the only person of color on the 25+ member board. Anne Brown was also Mayor Bashert’s top competitor in the 2018 election for mayor.
On Feb 4 City Council considered a charter amendment requested by the Human Relations Commission to expand the power of nomination of boards and commission members to all members of City Council and the public. Currently only the Mayor has that power.
Councilmember Nicole Brown proposes an amendment to the resolution which reduces the expansion of power so that the power of nomination is granted to any two councilmembers jointly nominating a person for a city commission. Council unanimously approves the amendment.
After two more amendments, which would further expand the power of nomination to city commissioners, fail, Council unanimously approves the original resolution as amended. Since this resolution would alter the city’s charter, it will have to be approved by a vote of the electorate. On Michigan’s state primary, Aug 4, voters will approve or deny the expansion of power via two ballot questions: one regarding the city’s Ethics Board, and one regarding all other city boards and commissions. The power of nomination will only be expanded regarding the Ethics Board if it is also expanded regarding the other commissions.
On Nov 5, Council approves a contract with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to renovate Rutherford Pool. The project will receive a $300,000 grant from the DNR, the city will provide $25,000, and the rest of the needed funding has been raised by the Friends of the Rutherford Pool.
During a discussion about the future of Water Street on Nov 5, Councilmembers affirm to Economic Director Joe Meyers that they are willing to negotiate for a potential development on Water Street. Mr. Meyers states that the city will work with MEDC and provide an update in June. He also states that many developers interested in the property have asked if the business already operating on the property, Family Dollar, is willing to sell.
Councilmembers share their vision for the Water Street property, including mixed-use housing; commercial, entertainment/recreational, community space; and riverfront-focused development.
On Nov 19, Council rejects an ordinance banning cannabis consumption facilities in Ypsilanti.
On Jan 21, City Council approves a plan to reduce the size of Huron Street, Hamilton Street, and Washtenaw Avenue. The plan is, with a few exceptions, to remove a lane from the three-lane portions of the roads, within the project bounds. They will be replaced with parking on Washtenaw, and bike lanes on Huron and Hamilton. The plan’s projected completion date is 2022.
On Jan 21, City Council passes an ordinance changing city zoning and tax law to allow for the sale of recreational cannabis.
During discussion on Jan 21 of the management of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse some city staff and councilmembers raise concerns about the Friends of Ypsilanti Freighthouse (FOYF), the group currently managing the Freighthouse: Joe Meyers, the Director of Economic Development of Ypsilanti, states that FOYF has not lived up to their obligations to regarding an application for an MEDC grant, and Councilmember Somerville expresses concern that FOYF could not answer her financial questions.
During public comment, members of FOYF express concern with the speed of a possible management transition of the freighthouse from FOYF to the city, and frustration that they learned of the city’s plans to transfer management back to the city via Mayor Bashert’s newsletter. Mayor Bashert states that there are many more issues with FOYF than any other “Friends” group, and that the speed of the proposed transition was due to the possibility of FOYF disbanding.
City Council passes a resolution with amendments to create a special focus committee to address the city’s relationship with FOYF. Amendments ensure that the committee will last no more than 60 days, will include a councilmember from each ward, and will focus on the implementation of a transition plan.
On Feb 4, City Council resolves to terminate their Operation and Management Agreement with the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse (FOYF) in 60 days. Council also resolves to create a “Freighthouse Transition Committee” to assist with the transfer of operations and management of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse from FOYF to the city. The transition committee consists of the city manager, councilmembers, current and former members of FOYF, and the vice-chair of Downtown Development Authority.
On Nov 19, Council votes to declare a climate emergency and commits to take action.
On Nov 19, Council passes an ordinance banning city employees from being drug-tested for cannabis, except for employees with safety-sensitive jobs.
On Nov 19, Council resolves to urge Governor Whitmer to consent to refugee resettlement in the state of Michigan. The resolution was sent to Council by Jewish Family Services. During discussion, Councilmember Morgan asks if Ypsilanti has accepted refugees in the past; Mayor Bashert responds that Ypsilanti has done so.
On Nov 19, Council discusses potential changes to meeting functionality. They agree that all councilmembers should be allowed to speak before allowing someone to speak again, and oppose shortening public comment.
On Nov 5, City Council approves the appointment of Andrew Hopper to the Police and Fire Pension Board, and Pamela Escalante Gonzalez to the Human Relations Commission.
On Nov 19, Mayor Bashert nominates Elijah Shalis to fill Anne Brown’s ousted position on the board of the Huron River Watershed Council. Councilmember Wilcoxen states that the applicant does not seem qualified for the position, and before the vote to approve nominations occurs on Dec 17, his nomination is rescinded. Nobody else has been nominated to fill that role.
On Nov 19, City Council approves the reappointments of Andy Fanta and Craig Hupy to the Board of Review.
On Dec 17, City Council approves the reappointments of Tasha Palmer to the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and Lisa Wozniak to the Huron River Watershed Council Board, and the appointments of Paul Aljouny to the Downtown Development Authority, James Chestnut to the Historic District Commission, and Yen Azzaro to the Housing Commission.
On Jan 21, City Council approves the reappointment of Anne Stevenson to the Historic District Commission, and the appointment of Madeline Baier to the Police Advisory Commission.
City Council also approves the appointment of all nominations to the new Arts Commission: Kimmie Wolfe, Michael McAtee, Garret Schumann, Jennifer Goulet, Jakara Ventour, Aaron Seagraves, Matthew Kirkpatrick, and Gina Thompson, as well as one member from outside of Ypsilanti city, Lynne Settles.
On Feb 4, City Council approves the appointment of Brian Jones-Chance to the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, and Michael Borrellino to the Planning Commission.
On Feb 18, City Council approves the reappointments of Gail Wolkoff and Heather Berkovitz to the Police Advisory Commission, Michael Bodary to the Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority, and Roberta Wojcik-Andrews to the Board of Review.