PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Notes from the Ward 3 Candidate Forum

Posted by ppna on August 4, 2008

Notes from the Ward 3 Candidate Forum:
The audience was given note cards to write their questions.
Each Candidate was read the same question and given 3 minutes to respond. Neither Candidate used the full three minutes.
Included here are summaries of the answers from notes I took during the meeting. I tried to be as complete as possible but some points may have been missed.

I sent this summary to the candidates a couple of days ago and have only heard back from Rod who said there were some points he’d correct me on but all in all it was a good enough summary that he didn’t have a problem with it.

The Forum started with Candidate introductions and then went onto questions.

Question 1
What sets you apart from your fellow contender?

Murdock: Pete explained how he has a broader range of experience and listed all of the committees and projects he’s worked on since moving to Ypsilanti. Pete suggested that he would look at a wide array of voices and look for a consensus on what is right for the city.

Johnson: Rod explained how he has current experience which is helpful because of the ever changing face of the people and the direction of the city. Rod mentioned that only Ed Koryzno remains and that Ed had been doing a good job. Rod said he is “Fresh and up to Speed” has worked with neighborhood associations through COPAC and has a good sense what the current concerns are and what people do and do not want.

Question 2:

Do you know what condition the water lines are in between Detroit and Ypsi? Who’s checking? What cities do the water lines pass through?

Johnson: “I don’t know.” Rod explained that he didn’t know the answers to the questions but was interested in the concern about the water supply.

Murdock: Served on the advisory board for YCUA and said there are 2 connections from Detroit and emphasized that the water quality has always been excellent.

Question 3

When (or will) the Amtrak stop in Ypsi?

Murdock: Doesn’t know when but pointed out it is a distinct possibility. Pete said it would be a great catalyst for development in Ypsilanti. He pointed out that there have been plans and studies and thinks its just a question of when.

Johnson: Don’t know, but when it does it will get Dennis Dalhman off his butt. It’s what everybody wants. Rod promotes the idea of public transportation and feels we need public transportation.

Question 4:
What would be your position with the Water Street project south of the property on Michigan, and its infrastructure problems and the lack of it? This question was taken as referring to Water Street

Johnson: We’ve got to get moving on it. The planning commission is working to update zoning. Rod wants to let developers tell us what they want. Rod also stated that it is time to publicize that the City is almost done with remediation and the resources that surround it. “There is no reason we can’t aggressively market & get a developer.”

Murdock: Explained that he agreed with most of what Rod said. Pete suggested the need to look at things differently. Pete wants to open up options to see what is out there. He suggested asking developers what they would do noting that we can always say, ‘no,’ to projects but we have to ‘open the door.’

Question 5:

How can we keep the city from another Water Street disaster?

Pete: We can elect people that would make different judgments and not speculate.

Johnson: Rod pointed out that the city learned from Water Street. When the group proposed Peninsular Place the city did its due diligence and got it going. He pointed out that you need to know what you did in the past and stay away from mistakes and go with what worked. He said the city will be cautious in the future.

Question 5:
What is going on with the Thompson block and the depot?

Johnson: In regards to the depot there isn’t much the city can do. Rod said he has written a letter to Dalhman that received no response. All the city can do is hold his feet to the fire to keep the building up until he decides to do something with it.
In regards to the Thompson block he said the Beal is ‘just about done’ and is looking for tenants. Rod is open to whatever Beal is looking to put in the space. Rod want to say, ‘Yes, to business in Ypsilanti.’

Murdock: Rod’s answer on the depot is correct. On the Thompson block Pete explained that it is a complicated situation with the building and that Stu needs commercial lease agreements before Beal can get a loan. Pete pointed out that it took the city sometime to get the work done to provide the new liquor licenses but they have the papers in order but Beal’s prospective tenant has not applied.

Question 6:

What are your plans of action for brining business into Ypsilanti and reducing the tax burden on the city from unused land?

Murdock: Water Street Water Street Water Street. Pete pointed out that other vacant land needs to be developed or restructured. Pete mentioned the Exemplar building on Lowel and Motor Wheel. Pete also brought up the downtown blueprint plan and the fact we need aggressive marketing downtown. Pete also pointed out that with high taxes attracting businesses is hard and that most projects will be tax abated because major projects need a push.

Johnson: Rod wants the city to be POSITIVE and aggressive, he wants businesses to know that we want them here and to change the perception as being a hard place to start a business. Rod wants to talk to our state and federal representatives he doesn’t think we as a city are getting our fair share from the state of the federal government especially with our consistent support for the Democrats as a community.

Question 7:
Regionalization has been said to be one of the solutions to Ypsilanti’s budge problems. Who do you see as potential partners with Ypsilanti and what will you do to foster those partnerships?

Johnson: Rod explained that everybody can be seen as a potential partner. He suggested that the City needs to prove ourselves as good faith partners. He talked about the bus contract and the fact that by us paying our money it says we are willing to partner with communities. Rod mentioned the Eastern Leaders group which is coming up for a vision for Eastern Washtenaw County and that having a third party like them involved in discussions will better facilitate talk with surrounding communities, ‘a third party helps with partners.’ Rod also explained that Downtown Ypsilanti is the gateway into Washtenaw Country from the East so it would be beneficial for the entire county to have a successful downtown.

Murdock: Pete explained that the logical partners are the geographic partners which are EMU and the township. Pete that that regionalization with the Township is not very likely so we need to seek partners who are available. He suggested that as more of the surrounding communities come into a need for better police protection they will be more willing to come to the table to support the regionalized police study. Pete mentioned that EMU needs to become more involved and not just on committees but in their planning and direction. He would like to see EMU make a planning commitment to come into the city instead of their current trend to move the campus North and away from the city. Pete talked about AATA and the potential of making it a fully regionalized bus service but there has been no structure set.

Question 8:
What have you done to improve the housing properties in the East Side?

Murdock: Pete answered the question literally but jokingly by stating that he keeps his house in good repair. Pete mentioned the community getting involved and taking care of foreclosed properties by mowing the lawns and shoveling the walks. Pete talked about the foreclosure crisis and how the city needs to come up with a strategy to reverse the negative impacts it has/will cause.

Rod: Rod talked about his involvement with COPAC where citizens meet with the Police to discuss crime and ordinance violations. He also mentioned the ‘city roundabout’ where a representative from each city department explains to COPAC members what they do and who needs to be called about specific issues. Rod pointed out the need for ordinance awareness and the need to be vigilant about ordinance enforcement to keep neighborhoods up.

Question 9:
The Housing Commission has failed to renew certificates of occupancy for the majority of their rental units. As a council member, how would you propose to help make the housing commission be successful in meeting its obligation to our residents?

Johnson: Rod pointed out that the housing head needs to come to meetings and make sure they meet all goals. Rod also pointed out that the city needs to enforce its own rules even on itself.

Murdock: Pete explained that the housing commission is a difficult organization because of the way it is set up. He pointed out that the city needs to make the housing commission live up to its obligations

Question 10:

Please state your position with respect to weather the fire department should expand its services to include transport to the hospitals thus allowing the city to collect funds from health insurance.

Murdock: Pete explained that he is not opposed to the idea but it is something that he would need to look into.

Johnson: Rod pointed out the he thinks the Ypsilanti Fire Chief Jon Ichesco was a wizard giving us protection with less and less personnel. Rod would talk with Jon and see if it makes dollars and cents. The project would have to pay for itself and it would have to be a fairly substantial amount to make it worth while.

Question 11:
How can you help to reduce cutbacks on vital services such as police, fire etc. without increasing taxes on the residents?

Johnson: Water Street Water Street Water Street. Rod suggested the need to court other businesses besides water street. He also suggested that he didn’t know if there was waste in city government but it would be important to find it. Rod even suggested thinking about an idea for an incentive program for employees that showed the city where they could save money.

Murdock: Water Street Water Street Water Street. Pete admitted that even Water Street wouldn’t solve all the problems but it is very important to get it going to stave off the debt. Pete talked about the need to try to generate revenue wherever possible and that we need to try to get regional cooperative efforts to save money.

Question 12
Given that Ypsilanti has the highest property taxes in the county, how would you address the need to attract new residents while compensating for the constraints & growing demands of the city budget?

Murdock: Pete pointed out that he didn’t know if that can be done. Pete explained the need to look into regionalization to reduce the tax burden. Pete also pointed out the value of living in the city.

Johnson: Rod pointed out that we don’t have the highest taxes we have the highest mileage rate. Rod suggested the city market its affordable housing and ‘don’t shout high mileage rate.’ Rod also suggested that we make sure our revenue streams are enhanced and that the city needs to keep on top of the budget. Most of all he suggested promoting the fact that we have affordable housing.

Question 13
If you were elected to office, how would you help get the freighthouse open? What would your vision be of the freighthouse once opened?

Johnson: Rod suggested that he would work with the ‘friends of the freighthouse’ and support them any way city council could. Rod suggested that the city needs to support groups like FOF with dialog and nurturing but said the city couldn’t support financially.

Murdock: Pete gave some background into his early experience with the freighthouse as a city council member when the city was trying the buy the frieghthouse from the railroad. Pete emphasized the need to get together with inspectors and insurance companies to allow at least a portion of the freighthouse to open. Pete wanted to get people re-connected with the building who might have become disconnected over time in hopes that this would get more people interested in opening the whole building.

Question 14:
Peninsular Place was a disaster in terms of shoddy workmanship, multiple code violations and involved with in the destruction of an important historical site. What would you do to avoid this in the future?

Murdock: Pete said that the Peninsular Place project had good and bad results. He pointed out that the project would probably not have continued had the city not offered tax breaks on the property so the city could stop projects by rejecting tax breaks. Pete pointed out that this was an example of the Northward migration of EMU that he had spoken earlier of and that it had a negative impact on off campus housing which was an unforeseen consequence.

Johnson: Rod pointed out that disaster is a strong word and many of the allegations against Peninsular Place are undocumented. Rod pointed out that as far as code violations and shoddy workmanship that the city has techniques to enforce the laws but needs the will to do it. If the city enforces its laws even handed than the word will get out and work will get done properly.

Question 15
Would a meeting of a quorum of city council at your home, where some of the members were in your house and the others were participating through the front door from the porch, be considered a violation of the open meetings act? If not, do you think it would be a violation of the city charter?

Johnson: Rod explained that it depended on the topic of conversation. Rod pointed out that if there were a discussion of city business it would be a violation.

Murdock: Pete said that, ‘Yes, it is a violation, unless it is a social gathering.’ Pete also pointed out that there is some question whether emails between council members violates the open meeting act.

Question 16
What are Three mistakes the city has made in the past two years?

Murdock:
1) Proposing the income tax. Pete pointed out the mistake was the misreading of the people and spending money on the vote when they should have known it wasn’t going to pass
2) Past decisions on Water Street
3) The failure to pursue regionalization of the AATA instead it was used as a political football

Johnson:
1) Putting the income tax on the ballot
2) Not addressing or keeping the public informed with the actions on Water Street even if nothing is going on
3) Letting Nothing go on at Water Street, there shouldn’t be a period without aggressive action.

Closing Remarks

Johnson: Rod emphasized the need to have a vision and to remain positive. He reminded people to always move forward and to always hope and ‘let’s do it together.’

Murdock: Pete called for more voices and more ideas on council. Pete suggested to address challenges and to get ideas and to move on the issues that council can agree on quickly and come back to the contested issues later.

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