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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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tonight Another Tuesday Triple Header

Planning Commission Meeting City Hall 4pm
Tree Ordinance Public Hearing
Birmingham Community House Travel Presentation  6pm
City Commission Meeting 7:30 pm
Key agenda items for tonight's City Commission's meeting.
The City is paying about $10,000 for this survey. That is about 1/5 of a new fire engine. Do you think our surveying satisfaction is worth that ? I think not. So let's look for an alternative motive. The Commission has some thing up their sleeve that they would like us to "approve of " before they announce it. Then when everyone screams bloody murder they can trot out the satisfaction survey and say "see it says you said.."
In October when  survey companies made presentations to the commission two possible topics were suggested by commissioner Sarah McClure (See our post of October 15th,)  who said

" the point of the survey was to help us (city commission) answer more controversial issues. Like should we move elections from May to November or have one city wide trash hauling company."

At the time we wrote
These were not  casual "for instances"  and commissioner McClure knows that or should. The residents of the City don't consider the topics mentioned as particularly controversial and most probably believe they have been resolved. In 2009  at a special town hall meeting residents stated a definite  preference for the multiple trash haulers. A change in election date changes much more than date and would require a city wide vote to amend the city charter. In 2010 at a public hearing residents stated  a  strong desire for keeping the election dates the same. The mention of such relics which even in their day weren't exactly "controversies" may presage a resurrection of these topics as agenda items.

Or packaged in a satisfaction survey One of the Survey Groups who made a presentation but was not invited back touted their efficiency  at changing people's minds.

When you have a City Commission that oversees an Ordinance Subcommittee which spends six months working on a tree survey which will impact on all city lot owners without seeking any public input, and then decides it needs to spend $10,000 on Citizen Satisfaction Survey, Paranoia may be prudent.

Where to begin ? How about adhering to The Michigan Open Meetings Act. That is not ethics. That is the law. The Baldwin Library Board abides by Open Meetings Act with no deviations.

 The City Commission  is pretty good in most cases about publishing meeting announcements. Two notable exceptions lapses were  Tree Ordinance  Subcommittee  and the Dec 6th City Commission meeting which received , as far as we could ascertain little or no notice.  The meeting was on a Monday at  5pm and at that meeting the  decision to spend $10,000 on a citizen satisfaction survey was made.

Where the Commission is at is worst is in the publication of timely minutes. Here the Michigan Open Meetings Act is quite specific. It says

3) Proposed minutes shall be available for public inspection not more than 8 business days after the meeting to which the minutes refer. Approved minutes shall be available for public inspection not later than 5 business days after the meeting at which the minutes are approved by the public body.
History: 1976, Act 267, Eff. Mar. 31, 1977;—Am. 1982, Act 130, Imd. Eff. Apr. 20, 1982.

There are two types of minutes. Approved and unapproved. You as a concerned citizen have to the right to read the draft or the unapproved  minutes of tonight's meetings no later than eight business days at the place where the meeting occurred (City Hall). The Baldwin Library published "unapproved minutes" on their web site no later than eight days after meeting. Eight business days from today is one week from Friday. To inspect the minutes or (even to make a copy of them which you are allowed to do) you will have to go to city hall and demand them. Otherwise the City Commission simply waits until next month's  meeting and puts them in the Agenda Package. The meetings in this month's agenda package (From December 2011) bear the notation "Draft" and  a date no more than eight business days after meeting.  They do that to show that they are "complying" with the law. They do not tell you that the seldom changed draft that appears a month later in the agenda packet must be by law must be made available to you at City Hall eight business days after meeting. They will be say nobody ever asked. Now we are asking. The point of the Michigan Open Meetings Act is to inform the public.The point of an ethical open and transparent Government should not be any different.

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