This is not an official blog of the City. It is the work of Mark Kapel who is solely responsible for content.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Now Available Year Round at SOCRRA

Starting this Friday July  1st, City of Bloomfield Hills residents may call  SOCRRA  at 248-288-5133 to request  an  appointment to drop off hazardous wastes any time of the year. The charge per visit is $30.00. SOCRRA, "Community partners  in recycling  and waste" does not accept payment. Instead  you simply show your drivers license and the city is billed. The City will pay for your first two visits. If you require additional ones you will be billed by the city for the $30.00 fee. You  may also use the  Recycle drop off center which is open to public for ordinary recycles free of charge. No appointment necessary.Complete details are now available on the city website by clicking here. In addition you will find the SOCRRA brochure. below. This replaces the annual "four day only'' third week of September  hazardous waste collection the city used to  hold. That service never attracted more than 400  residents. If 400  people use the SOCRRA  service the city's saving will be substantial. While not a SOCRRA community, the City is an adjacent community like Bingham Farms. SOCRRA  provides such services to adjacent communities through a contract not unlike a library contact, as a way of being helpful.

To enlarge click on picture

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brave New World.

Welcome readers of the Oakland Press. I am proud to say this  outstanding collection of on line blogs now includes the City of Bloomfield Hills. By way of introduction, it never occurred to me to write a blog. I always thought blogs were "not ready for prime time" boring things that nobody, especially friends, neighbors, or relatives wanted to read. Around Valentines day, I read somewhere that , "I'm going to put this conversation in my blog," was the on the top ten list of worst things you could tell a spouse, a lover, or for that matter anyone.

Sill two acres available  on Pembroke
Epping Lane
I wanted to do something positive. Maybe something for my community .The "crazy" character  in Thomas Wolfe's famous short story,  Only The Dead Know Brooklyn  who attempts to "learn  Brooklyn" by wandering around with a map, came to mind. Like him I had "learned the City of Bloomfield Hills" by reading a map, walking the the dog in new neighborhoods and passing out handbills at election time. I was delighted to discover that my walks  corresponded nicely with my wife's passion for real estate in the city. They also put aside all unpleasantness about leaves not being raked or storm windows not being applied. I'd plan my strategy on the walk and burst indoors  and announce, "two acres for sale on Pembroke!" My wife would say those two acres had always been for sale. So I'd say, "yes but what about Epping Lane," with the thrill of somebody beginning to master a foreign language. "Epping Lane..." she'd say slowly, considering, before speaking. "Epping Lane," she would say beginning  a twenty minute discourse on the pros and cons of living on Epping  Lane with such attention paid to the most excruciating  details that I wondered how I could have possibly passed muster some twenty odd years ago. "Epping Lane. " I'd say in awe of it all.

When it came to writing something, my wife wasn't so sure. For one it wouldn't entertain the dog.
I wasn't a city official nor did I have master's degree in Urban Planning. What would I write about ?  I didn't  exactly know but when all else failed I could aways tell jokes.

What's the Catch ?
When I first heard about the various Community Media Programs available at the Oakland Press, I thought they must be joking or there had to be catch. Maybe they needed bodies to attend time share vacation  presentations. Maybe there  would be a charge for the expertise and service they would provide. Maybe you have to sign a ten page disclaimer which said that in the event of a dispute you would forfeit everything including all  rights and incur other penalties to  determined by a court of law in an as yet to be named  off shore island empire.

 A complementary blog writing workshop
There was none of that at The Oakland Press workshop, I attended on Thursday May 19th. I learned that software I need to produce my Blog (Google Blogger or Word Press) was available on line for free and it wouldn't clutter up my computer. It exists in cyberspace and I can access it from any computer. The only fly in the ointment was me. In my eagerness I had somehow managed to misspell "Bloomfield". I am no  good  at "i" before "e". So the Oakland Press utilizing what,  I incorrectly assumed would
 be army surplus Mir space stations was  initially unable fetch my blog floating into the far reaches of the cyber universe

While we waited  for the eventual space roundez vous and docking procedure to occur, my wife ventured, "maybe they don't like your blog. I mean you are not writing about Botanical tours at Cranbrook are you ?" I admitted I wasn't. If  I was, my lack of any sort of degree in Botany wouldn't have prevented her from telling everyone that I  had suddenly taken it upon myself to go "legit" and write about plant and flower tours that sounded wonderful.

On Friday June 25th the City of Bloomfield Hills  blog  debuted  on line at the Oakland Press . I would like to thank Glenn  Gilbert, the executive  editor of the Oakland Press, who's forward thinking makes this  newspaper a true community resource.  If you would like to get involved by writing a blog or otherwise report  on your community or another area of passionate interest, look at the last entry in the "blog" drop down menu. It's listed as Community Media Programs and starts with a movie with explains more less everything  and includes comments from current bloggers. For further information you may call or E mail Glenn Gilbert. If you call, like I did,  be advised that the people at the Oakland Press answer the phone, live and in person. No voice  mail.... press "one" for more information, or being told that your call is very important but.... So prepare. The person you want to talk to may be picking up on the second ring.

I  would also like to thank  Paul Kampe  who covers the Oakland  University Grizzlies for the Oakland Press and writes the Grizzly Den Blog listed under  Sports Blogs. He helped me with design and mechanics of laying out my blog.  That brings us to Stephen Frye the online editor for the which is where you find this blog. He also writes a blog. Frye on News, which appears in news section of the blog drop down menu. The encouragement and support these two individuals was  most appreciated.

Last but not least, I would like thank all our readers in advance for any comments  they many have.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Good "Neighbors" doing business in the city.

The line up in front of my house.
The other day, I walked to the mail box and discovered that   my  neighbor was  having  a party. My  tip off  was  the  large number of cars being parked in front of my house and none being parked in front of the party's host. So I went over to the Valet  parking company and inquired.  They said it was going to be a big  party and and eventually they would be parking cars  at my neighbor's house  as well. I suggested they take the cars in front of  my lot and put them in front of party  house now. When the host's road and his expansive circular drive way filled, they could then park cars in front of my lot. They looked at me as though I were  mad.
No cars in front of party house.

 I conceded the possibility but added "Humor me." I explained that my wife was coming home in a two ton Van/SUV  and I didn't want her to drive with baited breath down a now, one lane street lined with other wide two ton vehicles.I also explained that that my experience with companies operating in the city had been quite positive and most companies indicated a willingness to be cooperative with adjacent home owners. I asked if  anyone had a card. None did but they did have a sign with a phone number and they moved  the cars as I requested. Then I noticed that the gentlemen from the valet company were wearing gold and black golf shirts and the valet sign had a depiction of what I  took to be the Lahser Knight. I guess they do a lot business in town. Must be good.

On a similar note I recently found a few piles leaves  and  yard waste dumped on the wooded portion of our lot  from, presumably by the landscape company of a new  neighbor. So I inquired and they came running with wheel barrows and shovels and cleaned up more than I asked for. It seems no one  had indicated a property line. I  could also see from the neighbors yard that they do good work. I asked for card but no one had one. So I took a picture of the truck.
Gonzalez rates a "like" in my rating.

 The moral of the story  is forget the neighbor who quite often isn't there,  dosn't care,  doesn't know, or who says he will take care of it next time if you remind him. Talk to the people who who have a financial interest in being good "neighbors."Don't forget to pass on the good words and the bad.

Very little gets by this guy who is currently supervising a nut clean up.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Civics Lessons as "Seen on TV"

You may  recall in  previous post entitled "Mayor elected..." numerous citizens and three former mayors, to put it politely, appeared fuzzy on the subject of the City Charter. Since none of them mentioned the Charter in the context of the matter at hand (electing a mayor) that's putting it very politely.Maybe they hadn't heard that The Adventures of Robin Hood with Richard Greene  is back on on television. It is on RTV. Channel 7.2 at 5pm Monday through Friday. There are many versions of the Robin Hood. saga but critics consider this one which comes in 145 half hour  episodes that aired from 1955 to 1960, as one of the best. My wife and I, growing up in different parts of the country remember it from  the first grade.  My wife still remembers all the words to both verses of the theme song. I remember playing Robin Hood in school. Not surprisingly  modern day critics who remember the show say it's the kind program they'd  enjoy watching with the grand kids. Younger critics tend to be more critical. They say graphics are  little weak perhaps because there are none.

In 1955 commercial television  was barely seven years old. Robin Hood was a British Eastern to compete with American Westerns.  Like every show of that era, Robin Hood, was shot in black and white. Fight scenes  that do not include a bow and arrow are staged only a little  better than we able to do on school yard.. The same castle, village, and countryside scenes get reworked constantly. Character development ? Forget about it. Everybody knows or is supposed to know who Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and the evil Prince John are or were. The power of the show 50 years later is in the writing. Surprisingly for 1955 women a play strong role in the series. Without Maid Marian getting inside info from the castle Robin's plans for righting the wrongs of the world would have gone nowhere.
Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, and Robin Hood
The show was produced by one Hanna Weinstien. She was a  left leaning socialist  who found Sherwood Forest where "good men are  forced to become outlaws" the  perfect setting for her point of view. She then hired writers who had been blacklisted in  Hollywood during the just ending McCarthy Era.  Thus the quality of the writing and a role for women beyond what may have been the reality of the 13th Century. Some critics have gone as far as to pair the writers (all of who were writing under assumed names )with  the various Robin  Hood episodes they wrote, and what they wrote before  and after the series.Of the forty or so episodes I've seen, only one was overly preachy. Most just  revolve around the rights of the individual and the tendency some governments  to at best overstep and at worst to completely usurp the rights of the people.

The Robin Hood revival, has nothing to do with the marriage of Prince Will and Kate, but everything to do with the fact the show is now entering the realm of Public Domain. For awhile it will turn up everywhere. Currently Robin Hood  in the Detroit Area, is on Channel seven's second station (7.2) RTV which is broadcast over the air. It is also available on the Internet at Hulu and You Tube. The boxed set containing all 145 episodes on eleven DVD's can be special ordered from Borders or Barnes Noble. Last week Borders was slightly cheaper at $22 including shipping and tax.
Naturally the charter is hidden in a candle stick holder

 If  a 1957 episode of Robin Hood (appropriately titled The Charter )is to be believed.Robin knew all about charters.It seems that one that had been lost, suddenly turned up,  and then disappeared again. Everybody wants it.  Price John wants to destroy it. The Sheriff of Nottingham wants the charter  to blackmail the Prince. Robin wants it because as an agreement  between a Government (in the 13th century a Sovereign) and it's citizens, The Charter may give the people more rights.

Real people in the 13th Century also knew about charters as well. History tells us so.The nobles of that time forced  King John to sign one called Magna Carta in 1215. It is viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy. Winston Chuirchill said of Magna Carta "here is a law which is above the King and which even he must not break. This reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is the great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it,"

So without further ado, I am happy to assist our "charter challenged"  friends with a direct link to The Adventures of Robin Hood The Charter which debuted in 1957. There are  three segments which appear on You Tube. The links also allow you allow you explore You Tube's website as well. Each Robin Hood segment is approximately ten  minutes long and  listed in order.You get 25 minutes of program and five minutes of promotions.

The Charter Part 1
The Charter Part 2

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Agenda of Tonight's City Commisson Meeting and Baldwin Library Agreement

The  official agenda packet  for tonight's City Commission meeting which starts at 7:30 pm at City Hall ,45 East Long Lake is  linked  to this blog at City Commission Agenda Packet June 14th 2011.
. This packet presented in an Adobe PDF file format  consists  or more than 200 pages of documents that  relate to what the city commission will be discussing this  evening. The aagenda  first two pages is the agenda. The library documents are on pages 167 to 170 and most PDF readers allow you to go directly to those pages.

This writer believes the total dollar amount and the per household dollar dollar amount are very agreeable. The money solution has been found.  There are three aspects of every major purchase. There is the price or the money involved. The second and perhaps the trickiest aspect  is  the terms or how the item or service will be paid for. Interest free financing for no money down is a term. So is a ten page contract. The last aspect and perhaps the most crucial is the timing. Ice cream does not sell in winter but Campbell's Soup does. When you go the supermarket, your receipt, usually has printed coupons for some of items you just bought. To those uninitiated in the way of sales, money is always the factor. In reality,  if a item is priced correctly most  sales are lost to terms and bad timing.

 If the City commission were to propose an end of June  referendum to pay the Baldwin Library the $180 per household per year in annual assessment,  this writer believes the issue would get the voter's approval  immediately.The price is right. The terms are fair and summer is a great  time to use the  Baldwin Library in scenic downtown Birmingham.

The City has unfortunately chosen to go the millage route and will ask for  .4 in the November election. To this writer that indicates a lack of imagination and foresight.

A millage issue on an  item of choice is a bad term. In a millage the $180 dollar amount that is so attractive to everyone now becomes an average. Half below and half above.

Not only is a millage inequitable  but it is a  terrible way to sell a  product.  A millage is a tax and people taxes only because they have to. Residents  at the high end of a millage for item of choice, total all their monthly costs and wonder if they will really get  $45 monthly dollars of value out of a library that has no parking and  is far way. Especially in November.

What's wrong with November?  Everything. First of  all the people have five months to think of reasons why they don't need a library. In November people think about the holidays and spending money on entertainment, travel, or gifts.  In today's economy some even think of losing their jobs as companies cut back to make next year's budget. Bad economic or international news makes things worse. In Bloomfield Hills we will also have a divisive school issue on the ballot. Saying "no" will be presented as as the way to go.

This writer asked a city official about the library terms and was told the millage was the traditional way to pay for city services.  Really ? In the days when the city had an agreement with the Bloomfield Township Library there was no millage. The money was taken from General funds.
In fact a library millage (even in good weather) has never passed in the city of Bloomfield Hills.

The City Planning commission also meet today at City Hall at 4pm.The Planning commission meeting agenda packet is available at Planning Commission Agenda Packet July 14th 2001.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Baldwin Library, City Agree, Ready for August Deal, November Vote !

The  Birmingham Baldwin Library Board meeting of Wednesday June 8th minutes are now on the library's website.Birmingham Baldwin Library Board Minutes June 8th 2011.

They are marked as "un- approved" because final approval will await a vote of the board members at the next board meeting in July. Major news sources however have been reporting the library's approval as of  Sunday June 12th. All local news sources as well as the website of the Birmingham Baldwin Library are linked to this blog and appear in the right  hand column  under" Resources."
 The Birmingham Bloomfield Eccentric in it's Sunday edition reported ..."it appears a deal was reached for the Baldwin Public Library to begin providing library services to residents in Bloomfield Hills."

The Detroit Free Press also reported on Sunday that "The Bloomfield Hills City Commission could decide Tuesday (at the city Commission meeting  Tuesday  June 14th at 7:30 pm) whether to approve a three-year contract that would let Bloomfield Hills residents have full privileges at the Birmingham library."

 The estimated cost per household on an anual basis would be $180 and all households would presumably pay the same amount. Should the Bloomfield Hills commission shoul approve the offer, final approval would await a vote of the city residents which could come as early as the November election.

City Commission Meeting May 24th 2011

This was a meeting to make new appointments. It was the first time in perhaps a decade or longer that the position of Mayor was not one of the appointments made. Instead a Mayor actually elected by city commission presided. Also on the agenda was the annual review of the City Manager's performance and time for a discussion of other topics. The meeting was not televised .
It is easy to know when you are in the city of Bloomfield Hills. The street signs are black and gold.
Commissioner Ms.Patricia Hardy (who would have been Mayor under the old rotating mayor system (see previous post) sat  next to Mr. Michael Zambricki (first elected mayor in at least nine years). She was sitting where she sat last year as the then Mayor Pro tem. He was sitting in former Mayor Mr Michael MCready's old chair, the mayor's chair. Ms.Hardy and Mr. Zambricki spared back and forth in a nice sort of way. When the subject of planning commission appointments came up she wants to know why he  picked  some applicants who turned their applications in late when the very well qualified, former Mayor Mr. L David Kellet(who was  the audience)and Mr. Michael Dul turned their applications in early. Mr. Zambricki agreed  that both applicants have excellent qualifications, but Mr. Dul owns a Landscape Design Business and Mr. Kellet owns a construction company both of which could be regarded as a possible conflict of interest. In his administration, Mr. Zambricki said he wanted avoid even the suggestion of impropriety. A year earlier the then Mayor Michael McCready rejected Mr. Dul's desire to renew his position on the planning commission and picked Ms. Connie Salloum instead.

Mayor Zambricki picked himself to continue on the Cable Board. He also chose Ms. Hardy and Mr.McrCready to continue on the library board, and Commissioner Salloum to serve on Semcog or Southeast Michigan Council of Governments which is where, years ago a young Mr. McCready got started.

The Commissioners were basically pleased with City Manager Mr. Jay Cravens. Ms.Hardy who is usually more pleased than most about most thing, indicated a list of bullet pointed list of accomplishments Mr. Cravens  provided as "outstanding". During the evaluation
Mr. Cravens mentioned that Cranbrook is the City's largest property owner and with shifting responsibilities there was large liaison presence the city and the commission had to maintain. Dinners, parties, luncheons and so forth. Commissioner Ms.Sarah McClure since she "knew all the Cranbrook people anyway" promptly volunteered but there was no immediate indication other than a wan smile that Mayor Zambricki was ready to give all that up just yet. Ms.McClure was the financial brains of the McCready commission and it is hoped that she will have a similar roll in the Zambricki administration. In addition she was appointed as Commission's ex offico position on the zoning board of appeals.

In other business Jay Cravens said Soccra, a large waste hauling and recycling center in Royal Oak will meet on June 8th to consider the city's desire to provide residents with on going hazardous waste drop off.

In terms of the Baldwin Library no news has been received since the city's counter proposal..

The next scheduled meeting for The City Commission will be at 7:30 pm Tuesday June 14th. The planning commission will meet earlier in the day at 4pm. The Zoning Board of Appeals will meet the following Tuesday June 21st at 4pm.

Mayor Elected ....Most Unusual

Commisioners Pat Hardy. Michael  McCready, Sarah McClure, and Connie Salloum
The City  commission meeting of May 10th 2011, was an important one in the history of Bloomfield Hills. A long standing informal tradition of rotating the position of mayor amongst the commissioners which had no basis in law, was  discarded. Instead  the commissioners nominated candidates and voted  as the City Charter required.  The meeting was televised in its entirety by Bloomfield Hills Cable (BCTV Channel 15). It  can be found on the City’s web site at Front Desk, Video on Demand City Commission May 10 2011.
The portion dealing with the election of the 2011-2012  mayor starts at the 14:30 mark and ends at 43:30. It is 29 minutes and 20 seconds long.  The length of the entire meeting  is two hours and twenty six minutes. You can however fast forward to key points.The purpose of the this post is to introduce you to  the participants and to provide fast forward points so you may zip to the highlights. For those who do not  have a high speed Internet access we will describe those scenes.
Background and the nomination of Pat Hardy
Prior to the meeting, city commissioner Pat Hardy, the next in line to be mayor  via the traditional rotation, was told that she did not have the support of the commission  for an automatic appointment to the position of  mayor. Instead the commission would elect  a mayor as the City Charter called for.  She  was entitled run for the position and have supporters at the commission meeting to speak for her. Pat Hardy, perhaps the most politically astute member of the commission, knew the person elected would not be her. Who is Pat Hardy ? Pat  Hardy has been on City Commission since 2003. In 2007 per the tradition of mayor rotation she became Mayor. Her crowning glory as mayor was the City's 75th anniversary celebration  held that year. She also became the first Commissioner in modern times to poll over 700 votes in a city election. Since then her vote totals have  declined in each election. In 2011 she  polled approximately  25% of the vote. The other three candidates Michael Zambricki, Connie Salloum and outgoing Mayor Micheal McCready  polled 75%  and disagree with Pat Hardy on almost every issue. Pat Hardy will be a city commissioner until 2013. As a commissioner she represents a unique point of view. How beneficial that unique point of view  which does not represent the views of 75% of  the electorate  would be as mayor was the  subject of debate. Her nominating speech,  in which she nominated herself,  occurs at the 16 minute mark of the video. She thanked the  audience and her supporters  and added ,"Maybe somebody will will tell Michael Zambricki what I had to say tonight.  It is an unusual evening for me. I see an unprecedented effort to set aside a historic tradition that spans thirty years. I've been doing some talking and this idea of rotating the mayoral position has been in effect for thirty years. It is not a recent idea by any means.There is no question  we are a unique city, a very prestigious city, and a  premier city,.We are unique. We are different. Because we are different, I believe we have a compelling need to remember our shared values and shared traditions that have served us so well all these years. There is indeed merit in honoring past precedent or a long standing practice such as a rotation of mayor. Of course there is a great need for showing respect for one another., because if you look at it, we are all neighbors. We are all friends. We are all giving of our time to make this city move forward in a positive direction. We have through all these years respectfully agreed to share the friendly honor of this wonderful office of Mayor of Bloomfield Hills. And with this because I know what I did in 2007 which was our anniversary and many of you here this evening made it a great event.Thank you for that. I know I did a great job in 2007 and I know I would do an excellent job in 2011. So with that, because we don't need a second I nominate myself.
  Public Comment
Bill: We have a tradition that allows
a certain correct way of doing things.
At the 31:30  minute mark, in section of the meeting devoted to public comments, a resident Mike Zuzenak asks outgoing Mayor McCready , "30 years of tradition. I would simply like an answer. Why do you want to change it. ?

Who is Michael McCready ? He is the outgoing city mayor who's term ended with  the election of Michael Zambricki. McCready  ran for city commission  in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 losing every year. In 2006 he lost by one vote. In 2007 he finally got elected. In 2009 he got highest vote count of any commission candidate  in the modern times. In 2009 and 2011 he was again  the top vote getter. His crowning glory, was, that after only three years on city commission, he  was able to manage  an a very popular administration that listened to the people, stressed financial responsibility, and provided open access to information. Almost all the facts in this blog come from the city's website and that material first began appearing  in the McCready administration. As did televised commission meetings.
McCready replies, "I will keep it short. After the election I had phone calls from all the different candiates and they were congratulating each other for our re-election. And it was always the same topic. They were concerned about the (mayor) rotation and Pat (Hardy) becoming mayor. And they told me they did not support Pat becoming mayor. And I said if you don't support Pat what do you want to do ?And they said  that our practice has been to appoint the best people capable. And I said  who is it. And they said they'd like to see Zambricki as Mayor and Sarah McClure as Mayor Pro tem."
Zuzenak interrupts at this point to ask who exactly "they"  were. McCready replies, "Sarah (McClure), Connie (Salloum) Mike Zambricki and Bob Toohey. So they decided to talk about going to 'best practice'. I said OK. I think we owe it to it to Pat to sit with with her and the commission and discuss this. So in an email last night that I sent out I suggested that we hold off on making a decision until we could meet as a group together in a work session and discuss this. But unfortunately our charter says we have to meet  the first Monday after the election. So we couldn't delay it. So we had to come forward and that's why were here tonight."

 Then at the 36 minute mark Sarah McClure who earlier in the evening had nominated Mike Zambricki sparred with Bill who said "with all do respect" that  she was  "the newest resident of  the city on the commission." Sarah McClure replied that she was 16 year resident of the city. Who is Sarah McClure ?
A second year year commissioner who is considered to be the financial wizard of the McCready administration. Her crowning glory  was that very early in game Mayor McCready had  her signing all the checks and making sure that all city expenses were on the QT. She is also a very popular resident getting 700 votes in her first run for office. Sarah and Pat Hardy are however like nails on the blackboard. Pat thinks the old accounting was just fine. Sarah disagreed. This writer professes to know very little about economics but I vaguely recall  a commission meeting where the old accounting firm was called in to explain how an anticipated short fall actually turned out to be a surplus.. I think (and maybe I'm wrong) that answer had something to do with accountants not being rocket scientist.

In supporting Zambricki as an continuation of the McCready administration, McClure said "the City, has made has huge progress in the past year, in adopting what I would call Best Practices and getting our financial house in order. We have cut three quarters of a million dollars out of our 8.5 million dollar budget and we haven't cut services or laid off people."

Bill however was not impressed. When Sarah mentioned a conversation  she  had with a Mayor of another community about always voting for your best people, .Bill said he had no interest in how other communities functioned."We have a tradition that allows a certain correct way of doing things". He also said that he did not " believe if you listen to what Mr.(Mayor) Dawkins says, you quite understand what it is we do here. It's (the mayors job)  is an honorary position. Mr Zambricki, who I have enormous respect for, will continue to lead this commission,but to come in here and in the face of everything else, and quite frankly in the dark of the night change a 30 year tradition is appalling, childish, immature, and ridiculous." Then he sat down to a round of applause.

The Dark of the Night
The dark of the night  began a long time ago. Commissioner Pat Hardy "after doing some talking" believes it was thirty years ago  but offers no further substantiation. Commissioner Sarah McClure after talking to a friend believes the "tradition " goes back but not all the way back."  So neither really know. There are no records ? No smoking gun form 1981 ? Nothing to indicate  how five city commissioners in the days of President Reagean (?)  decided to change the way the position of  Mayor of our city was determined without consulting the people. Changes that legally require a change in the City's  Charter  that can only be made when approved on  by a vote of the electorate. And for three decades  the residents of  the City of Bloomfield Hills knew nothing and did nothing ? Are we learning anything ? Do we know why we have Charter ?. Do we know what it says ? One one woman does. I heard only  the first name. It was Mary. Two  local publications that cover the city of  Bloomfield Hills municipal scene,  while emphasizing without substatiation,  the end of  a thirty year tradition , left Mary's comments on the cutting room floor. Mary speaking at the 40 minute mark, began by asking City Attorney, William Hampton to read what the City Charter says about the election of mayor. He obliged. You can see for yourself what the Charter  says  by reading this blog or by clicking on this link City Charter.
 Mary: What does the Charter say ?
The Charter is  on the left hand side. Chapter three  section five. Mary then addressed the commissioners," I would like to say we have elected  you five people who are here today to represent us . It is up to you to decide who to choose. That is what the charter says. It doesn't say anything about tradition or rotation. It may just be time to break with tradition and do what makes the most  sense for these times. For the commissioners to vote for who you believe will best lead you through the next year.
Abraham Lincoln said you call fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. On May 10th 2011, "some of the the time" ended for the residents  of Bloomfield Hills. 
In a 3 to 0 vote (with Pat Hardy not voting), Michael Zambricki was elected Mayor of the City of Bloomfield Hills. He will serve a one year term. His first city commision meeting is the subject of our next post.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

How come the next mayor was always the last name on the letterhead ?

Chapter Three, Section Five of the City Charter states the commision shall elect one of its members as mayor .Some have called position an honorary one. Former two time mayor, Dale Dawkins said the position of  mayor, "is  our way of saying  "thank you." The Charter however describes the role of mayor as much more extensive. The Charter says  (a)  mayor who shall be the presiding officer of the commission and chief executive head of the city and who shall have such other powers and perform such other duties as are or may be imposed or authorized by the laws of the state, by this charter or by the commission. He shall be the conservator of the peace and may exercise within the city the powers conferred upon sheriffs to suppress disorder.

Words out of sight, out of mind
Some years ago, ( some say more than thirty of which that last eight can be documented by archived records available on the city's website) a change was made. The wording in Chapter Three, Section 5 of the City Charter which states the commision shall elect one of its members as mayor was ignored,forgotten, left to benign neglect, closeted, deep sixed, put out to pasture or whatever.The words from the City Charter concerning the election of a mayor,  somehow vanished from the collective conscience of city commission. The words were not officially or legally changed. To do so would have required a Charter amendment and a vote of the electorate. The words remained the same but  the city commission decided to do it their way. When none of the voters seemed to notice or object and the years went by  a new word was found to explain it all if anyone ever asked. The word was "Tradition" and the tradition was simply the replacement of reason by rote. Electing one of their member as mayor required  a certain amount of reasoning, Rotating the position of mayor amongst all the commissioners  required none. It also eliminated any unpleasantness or  bickering.  So instead of the election of a mayor as the charter called for the "Tradition"  became an appointment of the commissioner,  who had been on the commission the longest and who had either never been mayor or had been mayor least recently.  Repeat mayors popped up at more or less four year intervals.Mayor Dawkins  was mayor in  2002 and 2006. Mayor Zambricki was mayor in 2004, 2008, and was due again in 2012. Mayor Hardy a first time mayor in  2007  was scheduled to be Mayor again this year. The Tradition lasted because the commissioners liked it and the people weren't paying attention, but not everyone was in complete agreement.
"I often wondered " mused one former commissioner "what would happen if  we asked for a Charter amendment that said,"the Mayor of Bloomfield Hills will be the  commissioner whose name appears last on the City's letterhead,. Who would vote for that ?"

A flawed tradition.
Probably no one. Besides the sheer inanity  of replacing rote for reason the Tradition  had other flaws.  It short changed the people of Bloomfield Hills in two ways. By law all changes in the Charter must be approved by the people. The city commission,  by ignoring  the charter and doing their own thing usurped the power of the  people.  By making the appointment of  mayor a mere formality the commission completely removed the people from having any say in who the mayor would be. When the mayor was elected by a vote of the city commissioners, the people had  at least had some
influence by voting for commission candidates who would support their choice for mayor.
The last flaw was the one that destroyed the Tradition and that was the failure to factor in a doomsday scenario. What if the commissioner next in the rotation to be mayor was one who the other four commissioners couldn't tolerate. ? That is the subject of our next post .

Friday, June 3, 2011

Governing the City. The Rules of the Game.

Reading this post will give you more knowledge of how the City  government functions than most of the city residents possess . The residents of Bloomfield Hills are well informed and intelligent but they don't pay much attention to city government until things  are about to boil over or  appear on the ballot. Studying the charter (just a little) will put you up there with the City Attorney  and actually ahead of some former mayors.Former Mayors as rule are more apt to discuss how they did things rather than how the Charter says they should be done.

City Charter
Written in 1932 during the great depression and months before Franklin  Roosevelt became President, the charter is  the  granddaddy of  municipal government  in Bloomfield Hills. It is a legal document and the most important one in the city's history. It is the document that transformed a village of many previous names into the City of Bloomfield Hills. You will find it on the City's website at City Charter
The charter is in the left hand column above the city codes.

City Commission
In Chapter three section one , the Charter states " all powers of the city, except as otherwise provided by statue or this charter, shall be vested in a commission of five members elected at large as hereafter provided." All  departments  of city government report to the  powerful City Commission. A detailed explanation of this can be found on the city's web site at Overview of City Government.

The Rights of the People
The rights of the people are addressed only through other provisions in the Charter. These  provisions address the right of the people to elect  commissioners in  annual elections.  In addition The  Charter and the laws of of Michigan  mandates that the Charter can only be amended  or changed by a vote of the electorate.
Rock. Scissors. Paper.
 It is really very simple. Rock breaks scissors but scissors cut paper and paper covers rock.. The Charter gives the city commission all the power unless the Charter says otherwise. The  people elect the commissioners and all changes in the charter us must be approved by the people.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Welcome to the City of Bloomfield Hills

 Some say Cranbrook is the jewel of Bloomfield Hills. I would say it is but one of many jewels  in the city. Bloomfield Hills is a great placed to tour on foot, on a bicycle, or even via a blog. My name is Mark Kapel and my blog is your guide to all things in the City of Bloomfield Hills.

Imagine if you will one of  those tourist trolleys sitting in the parking lot of the Bloomfield Hills City Hall. It is painted black and gold, the city's colors. The trolley  barker  offers many enticements. Easy on. Easy off. Repeats available 24-7. No need to pay the driver, conductor, or anyone at all ! Departures and returns three days a week. Sometimes more !

Imagine me talking through a microphone, answering questions and explaining the rules of the road. No ma'am we don't do Bloomfield Township, Birmingham, Troy, or West Bloomfield. We just do the five square miles that is the City of Bloomfield Hills. We may talk about other cities but in a City of Bloomfield Hills context. We will, on occasion, travel around the world  to cities which are remarkably similar to the City of Bloomfield Hills in important ways. Savannah Georgia would be one example.

Initially we will  be staying put in the parking lot  of City Hall. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, the people of Bloomfield Hills are an interesting lot but they value their peace, quiet, and  privacy. If this were a real  trolley instead of an imaginary one, eye brows would be raised, and the loud speaker would be in violation of a city ordinance.  So the easiest people to meet in the city of Bloomfield Hills are the politicians and the residents who either seek or hold public office.

The second reason was best said by James Baldwin the author of The Fire Next Time and If Beale Street could talk.  He was an avowed atheist  who religiously attended Sunday church services  in Harlem. When asked why he bothered he said,"because it's the best show in town."

 In the City of Bloomfield Hills politics rivals one's home as the best  show in town. This year's spring season was  quite the affair. A  long ignored  section of a chapter of the almost eighty year old City Charter, was revived at the last minute. The mayor apparent  did not become mayor. Instead  the City Commission elected  another person  mayor in the first "legitimate"  mayor election  in the last nine years. By legitimate, I mean the it was an election in keeping with all precepts of the city charter, offered more than candidate and was decided by a margin other than an unanimous vote.

This blog is intended  for both City of Bloomfield Hills resident and non-residents. The  resident  familiar with many of the attractions the city has, hopefully will benefit from up to date and detailed information on City government and what's going on around town. For the non resident such information ( hopefully presented in an entertaining manner )will provide insight into his or her own community. As always your suggestions and comments will be appreciated.