Friday, March 13, 2009

City of Ypsilanti Does the Right Thing

I am very happy that the City of Ypsilanti has decided to do right by its citizens and waive the fines from the recent snow ordinance enforcement fiasco. My faith in the city has been restored as has my trust in city employees.

Here is a link to the story in the Ypsi Citizen

Ypsilanti Citizen: City Waives Snow Removal Fees

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

But What About the Hookers???


This weekend, I was hanging out with my sister bitching about this whole shovel mess in Ypsilanti. My sister reminded me of a story that she feels captures the essence of Ypsilanti...

A while back, I went to a neighborhood association meeting where representatives from the Police Dept were available to listen to citizen's concerns. For TWO hours, it was nothing but bitching about barking dogs, uncut grass, and people speeding on Prospect. Finally, after everyone was finished with that, one man stood up and asked, "But what about the hookers? Is anyone going to do anything about the hookers"

That made me laugh for days. And it has helped me put this issue into perspective a little bit. I want a walkable city as much as the next person and obviously I think it is important that the city government be accountable to Ypsilanti citizens. But our city has problems that are way worse than snow on sidewalks. Just sayin.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ypsilanti Shovelgate - The Saga Continues...

About a week ago, I received an invoice from the City of Ypsilanti for $103 for snow removal which they said occurred on 1/31. My initial reaction was to just pay the invoice because I couldnt remember if there was possibly any snow or ice on my walk that day. I was angry, though, because I was never issued a warning or notice of any kind. I also was angry because although I was being charged for snow removal, I never noticed that any work had been done. I was pretty angry, too, because this is not the first time I have had a bad experience with the city regarding ordinance enforcement (Click HERE to read about that experience)

Later, I came across Mark Maynard's post on the subject (which can be viewed HERE along with a subsequent post which can be viewed HERE). I came to learn that several other citizens received similar invoices and not a single one of them had received a notice or warning of any kind. Also, unlike me, many of them were certain that their walks were clear.

During the course of the discussion on that blog, there were a lot of people claiming that they received no notice. In fact, not a single person came forward and said that they had received a notice. Also, many people claimed that they had shoveled and as it happens, when they appealed, the city was unable to provide them with the photos the contractor is required to take of the walks needed shoveling. Also during that discussion, I was directed to a web site where I could see which properties received invoices. I was curious because the vacant property next to me has never had the snow shoveled even once this winter. They did not receive an invoice.

I decided to go to the City Council meeting tonight to voice my concerns. The first of which was that it appears that people were not given notices. The second of which was that there were consistent reports from many people that the work was not done. And the third issue was that the enforcement was selective such that the worst offenders, such as the vacant property next to me was not cleared or invoiced.

I was hoping that the city council would recognize that there was a problem here that was greater than just the people who have appealed this action or who have publicly complained. I suspect that if none of the loudest of city residents received a notice or warning, it is likely that many of the quieter residents did not either. I was hoping that the council would apologize to the residents of the city on behalf of the city employees who CLEARLY made a mistake here with the implementation of this ordinance. I was hoping to hear some plans about ensuring that ordinances are carried out properly.

I was disappointed. The attitude was basically, if you have a problem, appeal. And I heard that as far as notifications go, if a city employee says they left a notice, that is all the proof anyone needs. I also heard council members commend the staff on the job they did. Now, I wasnt expecting anyone to publicly censure a city employee for this but to *commend* them when there clearly is strong evidence that notices of abatement were not given is beyond the pale. At this point, I am just hoping that I misheard and they were being commended on taking the effort to enforce the ordinance in the first place (which they do deserve) rather than on the implementation which they do not. No one said anything about the selective enforcement even though I was not the only one to bring that up. Nor was there any discussion about how the city could make sure that the contractor did the job they were supposed to do. There was *some* discussion about improving the notification process and I appreciate that. But it isnt enough and it especially isnt enough in the absence of an apology or even much of an acknowledgment that the city was wrong

At any rate. I am going to appeal this. And then I will file it away with the other instances where I have been disappointed in how the city handles things. I can say this though. I am proud of all of my fellow citizens who came out to the meeting and spoke up, not just for themselves (as most of them have already had their invoices waived) but for everyone. One of the things this city still has in its favor is that folks in Ypsilanti are alright!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Inauguration Day 1/20/2009

This is my account of my own experience of Obama's Inauguration. I stayed at my brother and his wife's house in Vienna, VA. My young nephews generously shared a bedroom while I was there so I could have my own room. By complete coincidence some friends of mine from Seattle were staying in a hotel in Vienna, VA that was only 1/2 mile from my brother's house.

I met up with my friends Beth and Barry, Beth's mother, Gratia, and their daughter B. at the Vienna Metro station. Although we all left the house very early, we didnt get downtown until around 10:30am which was too late to get anywhere in front of the Washington Monument.


The trains were running slowly because someone was pushed or fell onto the metro tracks so they had to turn the trains around before that station. That person was not seriously injured because of the quick thinking of some guy on the platform who knew that there was a space under the platform. He pushed her into the space and the train missed her. I was relived when I heard that. Click here for the story.

My brother was a couple of trains ahead of me because I wanted to wait for Barry/Beth et al and I figured I would text him and then find him once we got down there. While on the train, someone else got a text that streets were closed near the mall so we decided to get off the Metro at Foggy Bottom. Once I got out of the station, I got the text from my brother to get off the train at Foggy Bottom and head towards the WWII memorial. That was just one of many lucky occurrences that surrounded this event. I mean, I missed my brother's text but did the right thing anyways.

Once we got there, there were already too many people for me to find my brother even though he texted me his exact location. I could see where he said he was but I couldnt get over there. So I found a spot near a tree and sat down for a while. I had a pretty good view of the jumbo-tron for most of the ceremony but eventually the space in front of me filled up so I had to stand to see. It got really crowded even way back where we were. I mean crowded like you could barely move crowded. It looked like there were crowds all the way back to the Lincoln Memorial!


During the swearing in people were *very* emotional. There was lots of crying and hugging strangers and cheering. It was awesome! When Aretha came on, I yelled out "Detroit Represent!" and lots of people near me cheered and said they were from Detroit too.


After the swearing in, some people started to leave so I sat down again and watched the rest of the program. I was really happy to have found such a comfortable spot. It was a little cold but not too bad. I was only cold because I had taken off my coat to sit on it. Once it was over, I put my coat back on and was fine.

When it was time to leave, there was discussion about heading towards one of the museums to warm up but it quickly became obvious that there was NO WAY we were going to make it to one of the museums. We stood in a huge crowd that was moving towards the streets. It was remarkable because there was no pushing and no shoving even though the crowd was so dense that everyone was pressed up against everyone else. I have never been around such a mellow nice crowd except for at some Dead shows but those people were high. These folks were just plain NICE although there was some cheering and out breaks of a certain Bananarama song when the helicopter that may have contained Bush flew overhead.


Eventually we made our way back to Foggy Bottom where we ended up in a big crowd waiting to get into the station. They were limiting how many people could enter the station at one time, possibly because of the earlier incident. After around 45 minutes in yet another incredibly nice and pleasant but very dense crowd, we got into the station. I was impressed with the transit workers who were in charge. They kept making everyone repeat "when the person in front of you goes, you go" and "when the person in front of you stops, you stop" and cracking jokes so again, there was no pushing or shoving and lots of laughter. I think they took a potentially dangerous situation and made it much safer so huge props go to the Metro staff.


Eventually we got in but everyone was tired so we got on a train going the wrong way because it had seats and we just rode to Maryland and then eventually got off and got on the train in the right direction. There is nothing like a little discomfort to make one appreciate things like a seat on a warm train. People were very nice on the train too. One guy even gave us a free bumpersticker


Eventually, we made it back to Vienna. We met up with my brother then and we all went out for a very nice dinner.