Category Archives: Mayor Lou O’Donnell


Walking downtown New Buffalo this time of year is a challenge since many of the property owners don’t clear the snow from their sidewalks, either because there is no images (22)place to pile it or they aren’t around in the winter. But whatever the reason, it’s safer to walk down the middle of Whittaker than struggling over the snow and ice. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you ever have the opportunity to escape to Grand Haven, Holland or Grand Rapids this time of year, the sidewalks are clear of ice and snow makes walking and shopping a pleasure.

‘The snowmelt system is made up of a series of tubes beneath the sidewalks and roads in the first three blocks of Downtown Grand Haven. Water diverted from the Grand River and nearby Board of Light and Power runs through the tubing, warming the substructure and preventing the surface from accumulating snow and ice. As a result, people can wander around without worrying about slips and falls. The next time the weather threatens to shut down your excursion, head on down to Downtown Grand Haven where the sidewalks and streets are always clear!’

hqdefaultYoutube Holland Snowmelt Installation
When the downtown sidewalks and streets in Holland, Michigan were torn up in 1988, it was decided a snowmelt system made sense to the city on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Expansion over time continued due to the success. From a radio interview from a past Holland mayor ‘Imagine, in the wake of a big snowstorm, city sidewalks and streets that never get caked with snow and ice. No salt, no slopping your way through slush or gingerly walking on ice.’ Holland Radio Interview

The residents of Grand Rapids made shutting off of the snowmelt system an annual  ‘rite of spring’ event.  From a MLIVE article ‘The 16-year-old snowmelt system works with Grand Rapids2heated water that flows through tubing laid beneath the brick pavers on downtown sidewalks. The cost of the system is borne by a special assessment district funded by downtown property owners who benefit from the system. There also are several privately owned snowmelt systems in the downtown area.’


Although the costs are substantial, cities with snowmelt systems generate more revenue due to the increase in year round  accessibility.  Since the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) captures all increases in taxes in the downtown district through Tax Incremental Funding (TIF), these taxes can be used for maintenance and operating costs for a snowmelt system.
3682126If green technology isn’t part of the master planning for New Buffalo’s downtown, as it continues to be more accessible and financially viable, it should be.  Solar and wind are clean energy sources of the future that are capable of heating and lighting the entire DDA district at a much lower cost. Winters are harsh but with the environmentally friendly aspects of solar energy, it could make New Buffalo a welcoming green city destination for everyone all year round.

Youtube Solar Roadwaysimages (23)

Ashbaugh and my police report

images (2)At the December 19, 2017 City Council meeting, Donna Messinger spoke truth to power about Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh and his inappropriate behavior against her that was documented on a public video. (I will publish her statement to the City Council next week) During the same meeting, he demonstrated disturbing and bizarre behavior toward me.  It was not the first time and every time Ashbaugh exhibited this aggressive behavior toward me, I told him to stop and for him to move away.  The behavior continued until I finally wrote an email to the mayor and city council members complaining about it.  There was no response,  so in fear of continuously aggressive behavior by him toward me, I filed a police report. The email to the council follows and the police report is attached. Police Report

Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh stated to Berrien County Sheriff Lieutenant Julie Flickimages (3)  that he knew his actions toward me were stupid just as he admitted to 57 News in October that his verbal statements on two videos were dumb.  A member of the City’s administrative team should know how to act appropriately to women while serving in a government position.  The City Council should never accept stupidity as an excuse for inappropriate behavior towards women by a public servant.  The Council needs to start representing the tax payers instead of protecting their employees.

images (7)The Sheriff Lieutenant told Ashbaugh not to attempt physical contact with me in any way.  In response, Street Supervisor Ashbaugh told Ms Flick to tell me not to interrupt him when he is having conversations.

City Council members, truth to power, is this really necessary?  Shouldn’t a member of your administration team know when interrupted in a conversation that lunging forward and trying to kiss the person is not how to handle the situation? Surely you must know this is not professional nor appropriate and that you as elected representatives must do something about it.

Although the Prosecuting Attorney’s office ruled there was not enough evidence to images (4)authorize criminal charges, I was also advised that if the aggressive behavior by Ashbaugh continues, it could be considered stalking.  The City Council should take action.

December 20, 2017
Mayor O’ Donnell and Council Members Liz Ennis, Mark Kroll, Mark Robertson, Robert Spirito
New Buffalo City Hall
New Buffalo, MI 49177
Dear Mr. Mayor and Council Members,
     Last evening, December 19, 2017 in the parking lot adjacent to city hall, during the city council meeting, I joined in to a conversation with Ray Kirkus, Ralph Hullet, and Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaguh. Mr. Ashbaugh became agitated with me, loudly telling me not to interrupt him although Mr, Kirkus and Mr. Hullet did not seem to mind.
     Mr. Ashbaugh suddenly raised outstretched arms and quickly advanced toward me stating that he loved me and wanted a hug. I told him to get away from me and that I considered that sexual assault. This is not the first time he did this to me but this was the first time I had witnesses. The first time he did it was after a hearing at the Berrien County Courthouse on October 2, 2017. It was the same type of quick advancement with arms outstretched telling me he loved me and asking for a hug. I backed up and told him if he ever touched me I would report him for sexual assault. I consider this type of behavior extremely inappropriate for a member of the city’s administrative team.
     I am debating whether to file a police report. I volunteered at a sexual assault organization and was taught that inappropriate behavior tends to escalate and since Mr. Ashbaugh continued this type of behavior even after I firmly told him in October that I felt it to be inappropriate, I fear it will continue. In an August 2016 reprimand then City Manager Anderson warned Mr. Ashbaugh about using inappropriate behavior but that warning appears to have gone unheeded.
     As I said, I am not sure if I will file a police report but I knew I needed to document this incident after just listening to Donna Messinger state what Mr. Ashbaugh said about her and how he has access on Sundays to female employees’ personnel files, now without any surveillance oversight. I can only hope that these continued incidents help Ms. Messinger’s Civil Rights Suit and might help to stop Mr. Ashbaugh from continued threats and sexual advances on other women. Please take this seriously and not shrug it off as frivolous.
Sincerely,Susan Gotfried
CC: Ray Kirkus Ralph Hullet

After I sent the email to the council members with copies to Ray Kirkus and Ralph Hullet.  Ray Kirkus responded to all of us with the following email.  

For the record, I also witnessed the incident outside the courtroom and so did my wife, who commented that he was lucky he did not try something similar with her.  I also heard Ms. Gotfried tell Ashbaugh to never touch her at that time. In addition, it was Ashbaugh who came out and interupted the converstion  I was having with Mr. Hullett. I have told him numerous times not to talk to me nor engage me in converstaion.   After Ashbaugh attempted his “hug” on Ms Gotfried, he Told Mr. Hullett to give him a hug and physically engaged him. Mr. Hullett had to push Ashbaugh off of him telling him , “Don’t  effen touch me!”  Ashbaugh continued with sarcastic and condescending remarks toward Ms Gotfried until finally urged by Mr. Hullett and myself to go back inside.  He finally did so. 
Ray Kirkus

Hurrah for safe routes to school!

One must appreciate the vision and genius of the city council when they decided that almost a million dollars should be spent on sidewalks for children to walk to school.  In anticipation of the many winter school days, they promised in their Safe Route to School grant application sidewalk snow removal maintenance. We could all rest assured that during those dark winter mornings when ice and snow covered most of our City, the children would be able to walk safely to school on the expensive new sidewalks.  But DSCN0444unfortunately, it appears that this was never the intent of the City Council because on the first day back to school after Christmas break, this is what the sidewalk looked like on the city owned lot at the corner of Indiana and Jameson. Great fun when playing King of the Mountain, not so much when trudging to school while carrying heavy  backpacks.

Division Administrator for the Michigan Division of the Federal Highway Administration Russell Jorgenson seemed unconcerned with lies on the City’s grant applications, ruling there was no fraud. If the number one man in Lansing is fine with lies on grant applications so is the City’s leadership and then of course the employees who report to them.

download (3)Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh cannot be faulted when he violates the requirements of the grant application because it appears that when the City Council approved it, they had no vested interest in the actual requirements they pledged to enforce.  More than likely, the City Council’s laissez-faire attitude toward government requirements trickles down to city employees. In other cities, it is a no-no for city employees to pile snow on sidewalks, here not so much even though the City Council committed to snow removal maintenance in their pledge to safely routing children to school.

In the dead of winter, this is how children should walk to school in a city that has accepted thousands of grant dollars for Safe Routes to School.

       images (1)

In New Buffalo, children have no safe route.

images (9)  images (15)

In their rush to get ‘free money’ from the State, it appears the City Council give no thought about the upkeep of their expensive sidewalks.  They used their concern for the children walking safely to school as the rational to apply for Safe Routes to School funding but in reality, it was always about the free money.

Progressive cities use the following equipment to keep children safe in winter, why doesn’t New Buffalo?



Within the walls of city hall, we should all have a window

Here’s a collective New Year’s resolution for the residents of New Buffalo – make sure the city council and employees are accountable to us instead of each other. This can only become a reality if citizens become involved, informed, and are willing to give voice to their concerns.

downloadThe New Buffalo City Council, their employees and The New Buffalo Times try to limit freedom of speech by discrediting people who question the use of tax dollars and the job performances of the City Council and their employees.   But in an unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in 1964, the Court favored the United State’s unique system that allows citizens to participate in discussion and debate without fear of retribution by those in power. 

Since the The New Buffalo Times reporters shrug off their journalistic duty to examine the decisions made by their buddies at city hall, it is left to us, the tax payers, to insist on accountability with checks and balances in local government.  It is our constitutional responsibility to challenge the decisions of elected and appointed government officials when we see misuse of their leadership duties.  Starting in 2018, working together we can make a stronger goverment. Write letters, attend meetings, make comments during public input.  Do not allow them to intimidate you because the United States Constitution has your back.

‘In a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times. In order to prove libel, a “public official” must show that the images (2)newspaper acted “with ‘actual malice’–that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard” for truth. The Court asserted America’s “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” Free and open debate about the conduct of public officials, the Court reasoned, was more important than occasional, honest factual errors that might hurt or damage officials’ reputations.’