|Posted on Friday, March 25, 2005 - 6:21 am:
I attended a city council meeting on Thursday, March 24. It was interesting, although very time-consuming. The council voted unanimously (or passed by an unvoted motion procedure; there was no roll call vote) to keep the Aquarium open until July 1, 2005. More interesting that the vote or motion itself was the commentary and politicking.
I believe that the motion was sponsored by Barbara Rose Collins. Ms. Collins, Sharon McPhail, Maryann Mahaffey, and Joann Watson all made comments indicating their support for keeping the aquarium open. Lonnie Bates commented that 385,000 or 500,000 dollars (I can't remember which figure he said) was a significant amount of money, because the only way the budget would be balanced was cutting chunks of that size here and there and and they would all add up. the other members did not comment.
Before the vote on the July 1 Aquarium motion, someone I believe was the Mayor's representative asked Council to pass a motion authorizing a SEVEN MILLION DOLLAR SUBSIDY for the People Mover. It was stated that the PM is losing so much money that it is on the verge of not being able to pay its employees and the Mayor's rep. asked Council for an immediate vote.
Sharon McPhail (who was chairing the meeting) stated that she thought that this motion could be postponed because Council was going to recess next week for one week only and it could be dealt with then. The mayor's rep disagreed, stating the PM's fund shortage was too acute to wait.
Barbara Rose Collins suggesting cutting $400, 000 from the PM at this time and giving it only 6.6 million, and assigning the other 400K to the Aquarium. McPhail, Mahaffey, and Watson made brief comments indicating that they thought this was a good idea. The mayor's rep said no, because the PM had to pay all of its bills to keep running, and if it did not keep running, the City would have to refund the matching funds used to build it. (Fed and or state I guess)
Collins then asked the Mayor's rep, Okay, you need all 7 million. How about if we vote you the 7 mllion, will you promise us that you will find 400,000 for the Aquarium somewhere else and keep it open? the Mayor's rep said NO.
(Actually, this may have been when McPhail suggested tabling the motion. )
However, it wasn't tabled. The Council then voted (or motioned) the People Mover its seven million unanimously.
Reflecting on this, it looks like at least now, there are only four strong votes for saving the Aquarium. The unanimous votes dont really mean anything, except that a real crunch vote (which would take money from somewhere the Mayor wants to spend it and give it to the Aquarium) has not been taken.
(or a conditional vote, where the council only votes to pass something the Mayor wants after securing a promise as BRC suggested)
Of course, it would have been interesting how a vote would have come out. (Aquarium supporters either voting down the entire PM subsidy in the absence of a mayoral promise on the AQ, or AQ supporters offering an amended motion 6.6 million PM, .4 million AQ, if such a motion could have been introduced)
Of course, it may be bad tactics to force such a vote unless you are sure you're going to win it.
Perhaps MM, SM, BRC, and JW would rather push a vote like this on some other appropriation where they think they'd be more likely to get a fifth vote. There may be some other matter where one of the other four are either more likely to buck the Mayor, or already want to buck the mayor and are looking for votes themselves. (Council has 9 seats. One is vacant, so it still takes five to get a majority)
Of course, we can strengthen the hands of the four who seem to want to keep the Aq open and make it more likely that other members or at least one will join them by keeping up our getting more people (especially Detroit people to the council) involved in going to Council mtgs when there is a chance to speak, having rallys, of all AQ supporters etc., etc. as well as fund raising, which would show to rational people that many people care about the aquarium and that voluntary contribution can offset some of the need for public subsidy. Of course, it may all have to be decided by the next mayor and the mayoral primary and election. because the current mayor has the power to line veto what council does, unless they force a compromise on him.
however, we should note that the boycotting four (those who didnot go to the mayor's state of the city speech---the same four who support the AQ the most vocally) intends to present a total alternative budget of their own. so the whole thing is rather complex and may involve some compromise that may actually resolve the issue favorably.
Problem is, the Mayor's budget will be announced on April 12, So it cant be voted on and resolved until sometime later. and he seems committed to making the closing of the AQ a fait accompli after April 3.
The mayor's budget will be announced on Tuesday, April 12. There is a demonstration that same day lead by city unions protesting it at the Young Municipal Bldg (aka city county building, Woodward and Jefferson) at 4:00 PM. I think that as many of us as possible should go to it with our own Save the Aquarium signs.
I went to a prior demonstration lead by the same people at Orch Hall, March 22. I'd guess there were about 125, maybe 150 city workers picketing, about 75 percent afro american. there were at least four unions presidents who spoke briefly. A couple of other regular meeting attending FOBIA people also came, as well as six or seven Center for CReative Studies students carrying their own homemade Save the BIA/fish signs.
The city workers were very supportive and happy to see us there. Of the people working at BIA are City workers too. They all support keeping the Aquarium open, as well as preserving essential city services in general. (and yes, recreation is an essential city service. police fire and EMS (the only services supposedly exempted from layoffs by the Mayor, although the workers in those areas dont believe it) are not enough to keep a city livable, civilized, and functioning)
I would bet that the April 12, Tuesday 4:00 pm demo at woodward and Jefferson would be at least as large as the March 22, probably significantly bigger. Hopefully, this will present a good opportunity to get a some publicity for the BIA with us there with our signs, as it should get some media coverage and a good opportunity to pass out our literature to supportive and active Detroit City workers.
I'm not saying we should not being doing our own stuff, especially before April 4. But we should also look ahead to an extent to after April 4.
As a matter of fact, it occurs to me that I think that for literature we produce to hand out on April 3 and April 4, we should include information about the April 12 demonstration-picket. Much as we might hate to, we have to prepare for the possibility of the AQ closing after April 3.
in addition to burning candles, we should also encourage everyone to get out and demonstrate with the most active, diverse, and militant group protesting the Mayor's budget. Because closing the AQ is part of that larger problem. as far as I know, the people holding the April 12 demo-picket are the mayor's most organized and active opponents out there, although there may be others. (I'm not sure, for instance, if the bus drivers and mechanics were at Orch Hall).
|Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 - 9:49 pm:
welcome to the world of big city politics. what you saw was what has been happening in cities over the state of michigan. from grand rapids to warren this has been the rule. cut back on small projects and keep the big ones going, even if they are no-bid or given to friends. however in the past several months taxpayers in macomb, oakland, washtenaw, and wayne counties have put the tax burden back on the politicans, and are looking at their spending.
perhaps our small historical aquarium has hit a sore point with many frustrated taxpayers in southwest michigan. if it has we owe it to the friends of the belle isle aquarium, who started a grass roots effort from nothing. they have taken what was considered a done deal by the detroit zoo and the mayor to major effort by citizens to help cultural exhibits in our fine city.
as a member of the national trust for historic preservation there are so many sites in michigan in harm's way. hat's of to fobia and all of the groups that want to preserve michigan.
see you at the fundraiser on friday.
|Posted on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 9:18 am:
Has anboby read the article in Times magazine about the country's worst mayors? I know Kilpatrick is in the top 3.If someone could post some highlights that would be great.shame,shame on you Kilpatrick.