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Sunday, July 31, 2011

City Manager Jay Cravens earns City $85,000 refund.

City Manager Jay Cravens
As reported in the Thursday's  Birmingham Bloomfield Eagle, by  C+G staff writer Erin McClary,  DTE refunds Bloomfield Hills for decade of incorrect billing. According to the Eagle the error was noticed during a meeting between City Manager Jay Cravens and DTE officials to to discuss energy efficient LED  lighting. A map was produced and  a sharp  eyed Cravens noticed that the  the city was billed for lighting  at a condominium project which should have been the responsibility of the private owners. As it so happened the  DTE had billed both the City and the condo complex.. More research revealed billing for streets beyond the city's boundaries.

Cravens at the last City commission meeting reported the refund triumph, alluded to an element of luck and mentioned the  $85,000 figure which sounded rather preposterous at the time. Chance however favors the well prepared mind and extensive research going back ten years justified  the $85,000 refund.

A Light in Winter
In the City of Bloomfield Hills the  City Manager  is the Chief Executive Officer of  the City. He is in charge of all departments such as the building department, public safety, department of public works, or office and/clerical.  A complete description of duties appears on the city's website.  The key phrase is The City Manager is appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of the elected City Commission.

Evaluating City Manager Cravens

Cravens,  hired as City Manager in 2007, annually under goes a public evaluation before City Commission. This year the annual review sort of meandered through two meetings an a work session. The first was reported here  in the post on the May 24th city commission meeting. Hiring and firing  involved some discussion. The commission and  the City Manager hire. The commission as the  ultimate authority  can fire but so can the City Manager. It was really all common sense. When in doubt talk to the commission.

No Such  Thing
Some of Mr. Cravens's head scratching may have come from the unique challenges, the unique City of Bloomfield Hills presents. At City Manager networking meetings Mr. Cravens  attended other city managers would tell him ,"  Just have your such and such department take care of it. Other cities have layers and departments that don't exist in our city. Jay would  have to explain  that the city of Bloomfield Hills had no such, such and such department.  "Really ? " was the universal reply. In an era when many municipalities prefer big and bulky, the City of Bloomfield Hills runs lean and mean.

Round 2
At the next commission meeting Mr. Cravens displayed a series of  carefully crafted color charts that indicated that most of the City employees had been hired by commission with only a handful actually hired by the City Manager.  The point being  how could the CM be expected to evaluate, supervise , and perhaps discipline people he hadn't hired. The commission hpwever held fast to the common sense conquers all approach.. "I really don't know where Jay is going with all these charts," City attorney Bill Hampton said looking at one that been passed in his direction

Round 3
The the next  session, a work session, where ideas rather than proposals are the emphasis, it was was Mayor Zambricki  who surprised with a big stack  of  handouts. outs. and a linguistic ability few knew he possessed. In fact to the uninitiated it almost appeared as though he was speaking in tongues.  In a blink of the eye the  English  we all speak (essentially the English  of day time television's panel discussions, Judge shows, and soap operas) was replaced with a  flawless fluency  in the argot of Corporate America. With it's fondness  of  measurements, Corporate America  has become domain of the frustrated tailor. The theory goes  you can't quantify what you can't measure and the Zambricki administration would be measuring. There would be goals and series of seemingly complicated evaluation forms for the City Manager and his departments.

Great at What ?
 At which point Commissioner Pat Hardy( a former Junior high school English  teacher and not a child of corporate America)  asked if all the forms and fuss was really really necessary "You Know (Mayor), if you had  suggested this (when  a couple of infamous city managers of lore threatened  havoc)I would have said "great" and "all for it"  but for Jay Cravens who we like..."  Then she asked Mr. Cravens if he really wanted to fill out forms. Jay said he'd be willing to give it a go. Mayor Zambricki replied to Commissioner's Hardy with, "Every company has someone who everyone says is a great  guy. Yes but great at what ? That's what were are going to measure."
We evaluate City Commission
evaluating
the City Manager
While it is the City Commission's job to  evaluate our City Manager, it is our job as residents  to evaluate Mayor Zambricki's and the commission's handling of  the matter. Since no one else has stepped forward, I'll volunteer  and borrow the the royal "We".

We don't  know where Mayor Zambricki is going with all the  measuring and metrics . We would expect  that in his fifth term  as Mayor, Mr Zambricki  "knows" how to run the City,  and that knowledge trumps the need to constantly measure or evaluate. That being said we will concede  an apparent motivational value to such an approach. Mr Cravens is on a roll. In the metro area ,city managers salaries are generally in the low six figures. Mr. Cravens has certainly earned a very large part  of his salary  with the DTE refund. In addition the City will also enjoy cost savings  and the residents will realize added convenience with the SOCRRA  year round hazardous waste drop off program which Mr. Cravens initiated.

We would also like to commend  commissioners Hardy, McCready, and McClure for their input. Pat Hardy's comments provide contrast to the mayor's point of view and requires him to articulate in more detail. Commissioner  Mike McCready's  comments, especially on the subject of shared services, have  been right on. Commissioner Sara McClure is attuned to the wishes and needs of the residents and often says what the residents are thinking or should be thinking.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Communications Tower (Stealth or Otherwise) and Roads on Afternoon Commission Meeting Agenda.

This a special meeting at a special time. It starts at 5:30pm "quitting time " One commissioner is expected to be phoning in  in his participation .The meeting agenda , and documents to be discussed can be found in the July 26th City Commission Agenda Packet.  

Two Big Topics
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Agenda Item 3: The Commission will discuss a proposed communications tower on the Department of Public Works property.                                                           

On  page three of the proposal from the Haley Law Firm PLC ways to "maximize aesthetics" by having the new tower "mimic" an existing one or "alternatively. a stealth structure such as a faux pine tree which the City has previously approved and in now constructed at the Manresa Retreat" are mentioned .

We think City of Bloomfield Hills resident should know what is being considered for their neighborhood.

There  are questions residents should be asking. How many towers are there currently in the City ? Where are they located ?  What do they look like ? How many are disguised to resemble something other than what they really are ? What are the benefits to he city residents ? Are there any known Health issues ?

Commissioner Pat Hardy addressed a couple  of these topics at the last commission meeting.  When the tower topic was briefly mentioned, she asked, "does anyone remember the tower they tried to make look  like a tree at Manresa ? Has anybody said anything about any health issues. ?"  Unfortunately she was the only one. Hopefully this afternoon  other commissioners will ask questions on behalf of the people they represent.

Agenda Item 2: The Commission will discuss Phase 3 of the Road and Improvement Program.

This item takes up eight pages of the agenda package. It is very detailed and discusses works past, present, and future. If  you look hard enough you may be able to find the street where you live. This writer found the street where we now live and the street where we used to live. In The last issue of Hills Highlights, Mayor Zambricki wrote  that the city "will employee best practices   to accomplish certain municipal functions....the road building process is a good example.  In addition the City "will improve the metrics  used to evaluate the road  replacement program. 

Other topics to be discussed this evening include

Agenda Item 4 Commission will discuss locating United States Post Office drop off  mail boxes at city hall.
Agenda Item 5 Commission will discuss the City goals.
Agenda Item 6 Commission will hear an update on  the  Tree Beatification Program.
Agenda Item 7 Commission will consider other business.
Agenda Item 1 As always this item is a call to order and the Pledge of Allegiance.



Communications  Tower Proposal


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Master Plan Epilogue: Even in The City of Bloomfield Hills, this is America.

On May 12 2009  Item 070 -2009 simply titled"Master Plan" came up for a City Commission vote. The minutes of that meeting provide the following elaboration.

 " Motion by Commissioner Zambricki  and supported by Commissioner McCready, the City adopts the Master Plan as amended and adopted by the planning commission.

 The vote was five to to zero with all the commissioners Hardy, Mcready, Utley. and Zambricki, and newly appointed (that very evening in fact) Mayor Kellet ,voting to approve the Master Plan..

The Master Plan now  had received  it's final vote of approval and became the Official Master Plan of the City of Bloomfield Hills.

Chapter 4  of the Master Plan  titled How to get there provides three  pages of  line by line instructions on how the plan was to be implemented.  The instructions are graphically presented in terms of  what must be done, by whom, and  in what time frame. Even if  you have not read the plan the instructions are easy to read and follow.The Plan by itself is nothing . It has to be implemented by  a supporting government and a concerned citizenry. Per the State of Michigan,  the plan has to be updated and tuned at five year intervals. That would be in 2014. We are currently in our third  Mayor/City commission  administration since the plan's approval.  Each administration has implemented only what they liked, and more or less ignored the rest . The Chicken in Bucket syndrome.  Despite the extensive input  the  public provided in the plan's development,  no administration has sought the continued involvement of City residents. The Master Plan Task force suggested an annual Master Plan Town Hall Meeting.  The last two administrations (Mayor McCready and now Mayor Zambricki) while claiming to be busy changing city ordinances to reflect the Master Plan has not offered a detailed explain of exactly what ordinances are being changed or how this is of benefit. Instead it is just assumed that everyone knows which if past is prologue is a dangerous assumption.





The Plaza
When you exclude the public they tend, rightly or  wrongly to blame  you when things  go awry or not as planned. This is what happened to Mayor Kellet and the Projects. The Jonna/Plaza project  is now open  and seems to meet with the peoples approval. Mayor Zambricki may be right in claiming the City gave away everything and got nothing for that particular project. Robert Toohey called the Plaza a strip center and it is, albeit a nice one. The people  seems to like it  and talk about the  Plaza   The City  has three shopping strips and the Plaza is the only one which looks like a castle. That did not help the KeIlet  administration in  2010 however  when the public  anger over  the 3-2 majority's perceived refusal  to listen to the people  brought an end to that majority and replaced it with a 4-1 majority of Zambricki , McCready, McClure and Toohey. Pat Hardy remains  as the  last "3-2" hold over. At the last commission meeting when the new Fence/Gate ordinance  was changed commissioner Hardy what someone who didn't like the change could do. After all  The Master Plan did not mandate the change. It simply suggested it.  The Master Plan is not law and has no authority to mandate anything. When the ordnance was changed  however, that portion of the Master Plan became law.  It can however be  changed back or changed to anything the people want.  Even in the City of  Bloomfield Hills this is America. You could also sue the city but by the City Charter the  Commission has the right to change ordinances.You  however have the right on an annual basis to change the commission via  the City election.

 This concludes our series on the City's Master Plan. If you  are still reading , your patience is appreciated. In this series we have mentioned aspects of the Master Plan which at at times seemed to assume a persona beyond words on a printed page. "Demanding" or "easy going" were two of  of many.  The reason such references  are numerous is because there are so many of us. We are the Master Plan. Our current government tells us so when it calls it "your"master plan. That brings to mind the  words and art of  Walt Kelly the creator of the comic strip Pogo. Kelly's characters were animals living in Okefenokee swamp  who resembled  people, and one them  famously remarked, "we have met the enemy and he is us,".  While true that is only part of  it .William Faulkner  who also wrote about the South and whose Southern Gothic characters often resembled animals, said when accepting The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. "I believe Mankind will not only survive, it will triumph."

 So will the Master Plan.







Thursday, July 21, 2011

Master Plan Masterpiece: Bound For Glory on Coffee Tables and in Hotel Rooms Citywide.

The Master Plan The Final Edition, a touched up and tweaked version of Master Plan draft number six, which had survived 63  days of  state government scrutiny and critique,debuted to rave reviews Spring of 2009.


A prettier book couldn't have been imagined.The photography  had a National Geographic feel to it.  The Maps of the city are among the best available and the writing combining demographics, graphics, and concise prose make reading  the Master Plan easy and enjoyable. While not exactly beach reading, it wasn't  the dreary sort of  government report that everyone first imagines when they here the words "Master Plan..In fact the knee jerk "sounds boring" reaction the plan's  title evokes may have kept more than a few elected and appointed city officials away from it as well. Besides there was no special urgency to reading the plan. It was done and not going anywhere,.Regardless of when one got around to it actually reading it  everyone agreed  the Master Plan  was special and deserved better placement in the community than a pull down tap on the city website,  At one point the City considered mailing a  Master Plan to all residents but the price was prohibitive. On an individual basis  if  properly printed and bound The Master Plan  would make an excellent coffee table book. Throw in some Jewelry or Fashion advertising  and perhaps an article on fine dining  or Cranbrook and you'd have  a rather cerebral City Book that inn keepers like put in their hotel rooms. You know the the ones that ask, "Please don't take this book, " and features a response card asking which advertisers you visited during your stay.

The most remarkable aspect of the Master Plan is that the four individuals of very diverse opinions and backgrounds, assigned to  the Master Plan Task Force,  came to together, worked together, and included the residents (via town meetings and  a remarkable survey) in  the process. If the Master Plan never gets read or implemented  in a manner worth of the City the accomplishments of the four individuals and the residents of the city who participated,  will remain.

Pat Hardy and Robert Toohey are the city's biggest  political mavericks. Some love Pat Hardy and some love to hate her. Some love Bob Toohey and some love hate him. The mention of either is enough to polarize any conversation. A less emotional analysis would reveal that both are very similar,  an opinion that both would regard as heresy. John Utley's  city commission career was detailed in a previous post.. On City  commission  Hardy and Utley's voting record indicated  that they  were of the L.David Kellet persuasion..Hardy and Utley supported both the Projects and the Master Plan which is rather unique. Robert Toohey did not support  the Projects.The view points of the fourth member of the Task Force, Virginia Cox are less well known. Her voting record on the Planning commission provides few clues.Sometimes she voted with Robert Toohey. Sometimes not. Once when Toohey suggested a modification to a motion which had just passed, she withdrew her vote pending on what the modification would be. She also served as chair person of The Master Plan Style and Drafting which also included Walter Cueter and Pat  Hardy.

So how could four unique   individuals, include a diverse population,  and produce a Master Plan Masterpiece when the most powerful and important  government body in our city, the  Mayor and city commission,  produce so much squabbling and so little results ?
Maybe it's like a friend once told me on the occasion of his 25th wedding anniversary. It helps to start with low expectations,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Master Plan Who is your Daddy ?



Hills Highlights Spring 2009 #79. Click on to enlarge.

   .
By early 2009, the Projects  had the Tom Toms beating. The natives were restless. It should be noted however that in the City of Bloomfield Hills, which prides itself on being unique, even the Tom Toms were different.One did not thump on animal hides, make phone calls, or ring door bells. Instead one wrote a letter, and had it professionally printed and mailed every household in the city. The cost of such an endeavour was estimated at  $1300 at a Cheap Charly's  to $1700 at the Creme de le Creme. With the latter you could get upgrades  like a little "Urgent Projects Alert ! Please Read ." message for the envelope. In the tough economic times having a bevy of signers who also might also help defray the cost was not considered gauche. 

The concern about the projects  helped  the Master Plan. The Plan said  NO to commercial development. . The Project letters urged readers to vote for commissioner  McCready, and Mayor Zambricki who could not succeed himself  as Mayor but would be running for commission. It was believed that McCready and Zambricki  were  champions of the Master Plan and they would listen to the people.

 Then a couple rather candid articles is  in the Hills Highlights  which should have raises a series of embarrassing questions slipped by, as did the years, before those questions were eventually asked.It seems the Master Plan  wasn't  like  Chicken in a Bucket that you pick up on the way home,eat what you want, and discard the rest. The Master Plan was a child of  State Law and it required a certain protocol.
 State Law required "each city" to have a Master Plan. That meant the City of Bloomfield Hills had to have
one. Mayor Zambricki implied as much  when he said the city "was completing the most comprehensive revision to the Master Plan in City History." That meant there was an old unrevised one. Where was it ? What did it say ? How was the new one different ? A year later Mr. Zambricki  again in a Hills Highlight article referred to the Master Plan Tune Up of 2009 and again no one asked. "do you mean to say that immediately after it's inception in 2009 the Master Plan needed a tune up or are you again  as you apparently were in 2009, referring to an earlier master plan which was the predecessor our current plan ? And if so where is it, what did it say, and why was it revised ?"  One imagines an old,old Master Plan living in a shanty by the railroad tracks next to Department of Public Works. The truth is even stranger, which is  why such questions are seldom asked.

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hand corner  box for full size.

Yes,  There was an old Master Plan but per usual (see Master Plan: How it Got This Way) no one could remember  seeing it or recall what it said.. Then one bright fellow on the Master Plan Task Force paid a visit to the Department of Plans. He waited and waited and waited some more, while a clerk rummaged around in back. Eventually  the Clerk returned with  The City's Master Plan on a  single sheet of paper.
"That's all there was !  A single sheet ! Woefully inadequate!  I mean there are mandatory topics the plans must cover like Land Use and Transportation that could hardly be put on a single sheet ," the  fellow explained. "The pressure was on .We  had to produce."

Was the City of Bloomfield Hills smarter than a fifth grader who just discovered the  family dog eating the homework ? Stay Tuned....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Master Plan Survey: 38 Questions

 Where we last left off...
When  we last left our city's beloved Master Plan the year 2007 was coming to a close. Just when the Master Plan should have been picking up steam two new projects The Damone project (a Senior citizen's home now called the Woodward) and the Jonna project (A shopping center now called the Plaza)came along and stole the show.These two projects, not the Master Plan would be discussed, debated , and dominate the agenda of City Hall for the next three years.

Directions
If the Master Plan was about the directions  the residents wanted their city to take, the Projects were about the directions developers and members of city commission planned on taking.


 On May 6th 2008, oddly enough the day of the City's annual election. an unsigned letter was  sent a letter to to outgoing Mayor Patricia Hardy, incoming Mayor Michael Zambricki, , City Manager Jay Cravens and all city commissioners including  L.David Kellet, Michael MCready, retiring Dale Dawkins, and commissioner elect John Utley,  The letter was respectfully submitted by the Master Plan Task Force which included outgoing Mayor (but still commissioner Pat Hardy), and newly elected city commissioner John Utley, Planning  commissioner Virginia Fox,  Task force chairman  and Robert E Toohey, the letter's probable author of the letter.

 
The letter presented  the results of survey, which perhaps on a per capita basis was one of the most elaborate and comprehensive ever taken by a municipality. Thirty eight questions on five major topics of concern were asked.  It was mailed  to 1621 households of which 430 or a whopping 27% responded. In a world where most direct mail solicitations go in the trash. a less than a ten percent return is the norm and a  15% percent return would be fantastic. The Master Plan Survey also required the recipient to fill out a two  page questionnaire and stop ands think  about  whether they strongly  agreed, agreed. strongly disagreed. or disagreed or had no opinion 38 times. For even,a well educated  moderately paced population that is a lot to ask.


The Master Plan Task force summarized the results of the survey by saying."Residents who responded favored wide open green spaces landscaped with abundant trees and bushes, large lots with low density, and a commercial area limited to it's current size."

Another Uncontested Election
The two candidates,  John Utley and  Commissioner L. David Kellet  running unopposed for two City Commission seats that same day, May 6th 2008, received  an embarrassing 12% voter turn out. It was the second straight year the city commission elections  had been uncontested. In the previous year in a three seat race   the Hardy, McCready, Zambricki, trio had produced a more respectable  34% turn out.Pat Hardy had received 704 votes and Michael McCready "winning " his first city commission  election in five attempts was second with over 621 votes.  Even third place finisher Michael Zambricki topped six hundred votes. By contrast a year later, newcomer John Utley topped sitting commissioner L.David Kellet 354 votes to 344 in the two seat race.




Hills Highlights Spring/Summer 2008. Click on to make bigger.

 
The urbane and dapper Mr. Utley. a candidate straight from central casting, was in fact sponsored by a citizens group who liked what they saw. Utley was member of the planning commission, and a member of the master plan task force. Surely he would uphold the principals of the Master Plan and support Mayor Mike Zambricki and  Mike McCready against the commercialism of the Projects. City Commissioners Kellet and Hardy (also members of the Planning Commission by virtue of  a cross over position on City Commission) had  in the Spring of 2008 fallen in a predictable vote pro project pattern. John Utley's Planning commission votes that Spring seemed much more thoughtful and balanced.


May 13th 2008. Left to right John Utley and L.David Kellet take
Oath of Office while Mayor Zambricki looks on,


The Art of Persuasion

 In an interview, 2008-2009 Mayor Pro Tem Kellet,  once told a publication he was not a politician. If true that was only partially true. Working a crowd may not have been his  forte. That Spring however he did not have to the convince the world . All he had to convince was one man, John Utley, and L. David Kellet was very good one on one.  In 2004 David Kellet lost his first race for City Commission by one  vote to two time Mayor Dale Dawkins. Dawkins and Kellet later became kindred spirits. Dawkins served as Chairman of the Planning Commission when Kellet was mayor. In 2007-2008  Kellet served  on the  Commission of Mayor Pat Hardy, who would for ever after sing his praises much to the irritation of her fellow future City commission colleagues. Who convinced who is a matter of conjecture, Maybe Pat Hardy an early supporter  of the Master Plan   convinced the other two. Maybe it was John Utlety who dazzled the other two.  Maybe it was L. David Kellet. Maybe  they all arrived at same conclusion independently.
The Master Plan Survey gets a rare mention.
 By The commission meeting of August 12th 2008  John Utley, in the eyes of his supporters who sponsored his candidacy, had gone rogue. Thus  the famous or in infamous 3 to 2 majority of Hardy, Kellet, and Utley which would rule City Hall until  May of 2010 was born.
The August 12th 2008 meeting was the first time the Master Plan was mentioned in the City Commission Meeting Minutes since the Master Plan Survey was  made public three months earlier.  The topic was "110-2008 Request for Conceptual Pud Approval  41150 .Woodward Avenue. Commissioner McCready  according to the minutes commented "that the city's zoning regulations should be upheld. He stated that the community has voiced their opinion by way of the Master Plan Survey to minimize commercial development and maintain green open space in the city." Despite such efforts Commissioners McCready and Zambricki were on the losing end of 3 to 2 vote , the first of many. Apparently Commissioners Hardy, Kellet, and Utley agreed to strongly disagree with a commercial area limited to it's current size. To Be continued.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Public Participation In City Commission Meetings.

Like my old boss used to say, buying a ticket to a basketball game does not mean  you get to play in the game. The City Charter and laws of the state of Michigan gives City of Bloomfield Hills residents numerous rights in regards meetings that effect them.  Those rights include the right to be notified of meetings, the  right to attend meetings, the right to witness the governing body actually governing  and the right  to access  the meeting's published minutes.  The right to witness means that decisions made by the governing body are to be made in open debate at the meeting. They are not to be made  in advance or in private and simply rubber stamped at the meeting. Aside from showing up and keeping one's mouth shut, there are no rights of public participation provided by either the city charter or The state of Michigan
In the City of Bloomfield Hills, public participation at city commission meetings has been allowed at at the discretion of the Mayor or presiding officer. The rules of procedure included in this post were adopted in by the City Commission  on October 9th of 2007 when Ms. Patricia Hardy was Mayor. .The  City Commission meeting minutes of that date indicate that the rules were adopted by a unanimous vote of  the commission consisting of five individuals who either or were or went on to become Mayor. The extent of  public participation at their meetings varied. Mayor David Kellet was believed to be the least enthusiastic in this regard. Mayor Michael McCready was regarded as the most positive and enabling. Current Mayor Micheal Zambricki is thought to be somewhere in between.  A stack of the Rules of  the Procedure was  put beside  a stack of the City of Bloomfield Hills Tree Initiative  one sheets on a little table in the lobby at the last City Commission meeting.

The rules of procedure  are important to every resident because they provide  privileges (always subject to change) that are not given elsewhere in any document or law.

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Last but not least, fans of our on going series concerning  the City's Master Plan will be happy to know that  despite two digressions (Tree Initiative and Rules of Order)  we are right back where we left off. The Tree Initiative mentions the Master Plan and speaks for it, but it is voluntary and funded privately. Rules  of Procedure was adopted at the October 9th 2007, city commission meeting which coincided more or less with the Master Plan, "Kick off.". The minutes of that meeting are linked above to this post in red. Included  in the minutes under  "Recognition of Citizens in the Audience " are two individuals, Robert Toohey and Walter Cueter, who spoke that night under the same rules that apply to you or I. They both went on to be eventual chairmen of the city's Planning Commission and both played major roles  in the development of the Master Plan.

Anonymous Donor Agrees to Match First $25,000 in Donations.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Master Plan: How It got this way.

The year was 2007. It could just as well been 1979. A long time ago. Ancient History which nobody can recall . City Commission meetings sometimes  move at the ponderous pace of dogs years where one minute is in fact seven minutes.Thus it is  possible that  the city in the last four years, has aged 28 years.That may explain why nobody can remeber anything as far back as '07.

On  the night of February 21st  2007,  the consulting firm of Hubbel Roth and Clark  made a presentation  entitled  Safety Path Master Plan to the City Commission.  Safety Path Master Plan which was not adopted and which only addressed sidewalks  was a remarkable  forerunner  to to the eventual  Master Plan. By way of introduction  it  explained that  residents had inquired about pedestrian facilities, family friendly recreational opportunities, quality of life improvements, and attracting new residents to the city, As a result City commission had authorized the study and creation of a Safety Path Master Plan.

 In the fall of  2007 the city would launch a much more extensive study and survey called the Master Plan. It asked residents to describe their feelings on 38 questions on five topics which included  land use and commercial development, natural features of the city, transportation, the library, and historical aspects of the city. Safety paths were again discussed under the topic of transportation.

 The  Master Plan "Kick Off" (that is what it was called in the plan) was in October 2007 . Like Safety Path  Master Plan which pitched sidewalks in February, the Master Plan was a victim incredibly bad luck and bad timing. During the next four years while the Master Plan was being formulated and parts of it implemented, the  Master Plan served as a political football, talked about only in terms of how the speaker would benefit, and bouncing between projects and issues of more interest. (To Be Continued...)


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Friday, July 8, 2011

The Master Plan as of Today

In the current issue of of the Hills Highlights Summer 2011 #80 the official newsletter of the City of Bloomfield Hills, Mayor Zambricki lists a number of priorities. One of which is "amending ordinances to ensure compatibility with our Master Plan." This  is not  a new idea. Six months ago in the previous edition of the Hills Highlight, Winter 2011 #79,  Then Mayor Michael McCready wrote "Planning Commission is currently following the Master Plan directive to improve and update selected ordinances.. In the same issue in an article entitled "Master Plan Tune up " then  commissioner Zambricki wrote about "ideas" such as enforcing the Master Plan objectives by allowing gated driveways and front yards walls only in neighborhood where they already exist". In the current issue of the Hills Highlight, Commissioner Connie Salloum  mentions that she served as a member of the ordinance task force  "where we are reviewing  our current zoning ordinances, where needed. to become the Bloomfield Hills of Tomorrow, while preserving our city's character. As of this writing we are finalizing our recommended revisions on fences, walls, and Gate within our city. Next on our agenda is the review of the Woodlands protection ordinance."

 Something is going on.
City Ordinances are being reviewed and changed.  The reviewers and changers are hardly trying to keep it a secret.While the Hills Highlights may not be the most read publication in town , it is the official publication of the City Government where the movers and shakers  tend to move and shake.

The Scary Part Is....
In George Orwell's novel 1984 history is constantly being rewritten to satisfy the ever changing demands of Big Brother. The Master Plan is not Big Brother but a rather  an engaging little fellow when you get the chance to meet him.  The scary part is the persona of the Master Plan as the Holy Writ which has emerged. This persona answers no questions, tolerates no viariances, and  simply issues mandates or directives.

 Ordinances are laws and the Master Plan is neither.
 Ordinances are laws and are laws and enforceable. The Master Plan  is  not a law, or an ordinance or enforceable.  It is just a plan. To legalize the Master plan you would probably have to change the charter which would require a lot attention and maybe a big fight. Change the ordinances  one by one to mirror what the Master Plan says,  and you make the Master Plan the Law, legally and unobtrusively.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Etiquette for Bootleg Backyard Fireworks

video

 Happy Fourth of July weekend . In regards  to backyard fireworks, if the explosives used  in the rocket's red glare or the bombs bursting in air are strong enough to annoy the neighbors, then they a probably illegal in Michigan. For those who can't resist the lure of illicit bootleg backyard fireworks, a few etiquette tips might be in order. Be safe and be a good neighbor. Sound carries. A critical eye will note that in the opening frames of the  above video, it is obvious the that movie is shot through a closed window and a screen. Bad cinematic form but an indication of how loud the sound is outside. If you are turning the neighborhood  into a war zone please tell all concerned, when it will happen and for how long.  Be sensitive to pets. Also remember some people have to work on Monday and for that matter Tuesday.
 Looking for all out family fun ?
Don't forget the City of Clawson. Going all out for the fourth of July has been a Clawson tradition since 1933. Activities include a parade, amusement rides, arts and crafts,  and of course a fireworks show happening tommorow in Clawson.