At the October council meeting, Mayor Lou O’Donnell pointed out that a letter from the Michigan Federal Highway Commission to me, a private citizen, could be viewed on the city’s web-site while claiming my concerns increased the cost of the Safe Route to School sidewalk project. The posting of my letter serves as a warning to others that it is inappropriate to challenge the authority of the council.
This is the first time the city council used the city’s web-site to try to publicly shame a resident for challenging council actions. While they are allowed to use the publicly owned web-site for their own agenda, we have no access to the outcomes of bad decisions and waste of money by them and their employees.
To promote transparency, the city council should post the following on our publicly owned city web-site.
- Two correspondences to Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that informed him the city was ineligible for large state grants in 2016 but he could reapply in 2017. By not applying in 2016 and 2017, the street supervisor lost the potential of a great deal of much needed funding for the beachfront while the city council is trying to piece together $200,000 of local grants to patch the dune walk and cover up the error committed by their employee. DNR Communications
- The court order issued by Judge Wiley that required the city to release public videos because the council had violated the Freedom of Information Act. There was no mention that the City and Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh were held responsible for all the legal fees and court costs. 16-280 Order Granting MSD
- A public apology to Ray Kirkus for forcing him to hire an attorney to obtain videos that the public owned.
- Judge Donahue’s findings in the city’s lawsuit against the Planning Commission last year. The city council lost the case but never told the public the total cost of their actions that included legal fees and court costs for both suing and defending the Planning Commissioners.
- A public apology to the Planning Commissioners, the owners of the Home Town Pharmacy, and the owners of the New Buffalo Drug Store for a baseless lawsuit.
- The judge’s finding in a zoning violation suit against Vito and Rubia Jasinevicius that the city lost.
- A public apology to the couple for the money they spent on attorney fees to prove the city had violated state law.
- A letter to the city council that Shannon Swindle read at a special meeting earlier this month that pointed out numerous zoning violations made by the Planning Commission following the recommendations of City Manager Richards. Instead of a public apology to Swindle, the majority of the council supported Richards’ bad advise that violates zoning ordinances. Ms. Swindle had no alternative but to hire an attorney to prove the various violations of zoning ordinances. SpecialCouncilMeetingLetter10-3 (3)
- The private lawsuit by Street Supervisor Although that could make the responsible for $840,000 in damages he is demanding. Corrected Motion
- At least three city violations that are being investigated through the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, with one recently found in favor of the complainant. These cases have the potential of large financial settlements by the city yet not a word is said to the public.
The power of decisions that impact all of us solely rests with the council because they routinely bypass state mandated public hearings where citizen input is supposed to be documented and considered. Because the public hearing process is ignored, the only opportunity for input is a complaint to the state or retaining an attorney and taking the city to court. While the council members chasten those who challenge them, it is appropriate and necessary to question their actions. They are supposed to be public servants not authoritarians. Even the downtown project was supposed to go through a public hearing process prior to beginning but as long as the council’s political base is satisfied, the council members are free to run the city in a vacuum.
The Safe Routes to School grant contained the following fabrications.
- Inflated numbers of children within the walking boundaries of the proposed sidewalk.
- Documentation of a public meeting that never took place.
- The number of children who could use the Norton Street sidewalk in the 2015 grant revision.
- Sidewalks that had no school foot traffic.
- Public input that was never substantiated.
The Michigan Department of Transportation allowed the grant even though the city never provided the prerequisite of a public hearing with a documented public input process, violating the Michigan Planning Enabling Act. FHA Division Administrator Russell Jorgenson ruled that the falsifications and disregard of state law dd not meet his definition of fraud. But then, the Michigan EPA didn’t think there was a problem with lead in the drinking water in Flint.