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Thursday, May 30, 2013

City publishes 2013-2014 Budget. Mayor McClure announces City maintains Triple A Bond Rating.

To read  the City's just published  69 page 2013-2014 Budget  click on the blue link below. We are pleased to note that an earlier   posting of the 2012-2013 Budget resulted in 25 readers. It goes to show that ours is a community with an very intelligent readership who know their was around budgets, annual reports, and balance sheets.

Find All Your Friends at the Farm Treasure Sale Saturday June 8th

Thursday, May 23, 2013

City Commission picks David Hendrickson, City of Warren Captain (and third ranking officer, in Michigan's third largest City) as new Public Safety Director/Police Chief.

    Captain David Hendrickson

Captain David HendricksonCaptain Hendrickson has been with the Warren Police Department since 01-23-87.  He grew up in Warren, graduating from Cousino High School.  Captain Hendrickson obtained an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from Macomb County Community College, and a Bachelors Degree in Cultural and Behavioural Science from Indiana University.  He also attended and graduated from the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.  Captain Hendrickson is also a former member of the Special Response Team and was the supervisor for the Hostage Negotiations Team.

The City's selection process began with advertisements in various law enforcement journals  and through the Michigan Municipal League. Said efforts  produced 32 applicants.Six   were invited to interview. Four of which, including  current City of Bloomfield Hills Police officer, and acting Public Safety Director, Terry McDonnell were invited to second interviews.  Each interview lasted approximately an hour.The process which began at 5:30 pm was  open to the public and  the press. At 9:30 pm City Commission went into closed session  deliberations. At that time it was not known whether the commission would make a decision that night or require more time.When it was mentioned that some municipal/township governing bodies were allowing the public to witness final deliberations, Mayor McClure said the commission was acting the advise of the City Attorney by going to a closed session.

Shortly before ten pm a decision was made. The Commission asked that notice of said be held pending notification of the applicants and the acceptance of David Hendrickson That condition was removed this morning. 

At that time, City Manager Jay Cravens reported that four Commissioners (Michael Dul, Pat Hardy,Michael Zambricki, and Mayor McClure) voted for David Hendrickson and one Commissioner (Stuart Scherr) abstained. 

 When asked for an  opinion on the commission's decision, Cravens. said it was indicative of a need to change the culture based on several conduct unbecoming episodes from last fall. It is hoped that new Chief Hendrickson  will bring a fresh approach to the City's Public Safety Department.Very possibly  Chief  Hendrickson could be available to meet the public as soon as early June.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

City Commission votes 3 to 1 to explore outsourcing of Public Safety. First vote to go against a sitting City Mayor since 2008.

The vote ( Pat Hardy, Michal Dul, Stuart Sherr for. Mayor Sarah McClure opposed. Michael Zambricki absent) grants  City Manager Jay Cravens the right to proceed with his previously requested, hand picked, two City Commissioner  committee, consisting of Michael Dul and Stuart Sherr to study outsourcing of the City's Emergency Dispatch unit.

 Also in attendance at May 14th City Commission meeting were two members of the public (of which one was  this writer), a reporter from another publication and a county commissioner.

Previously, this publication had requested a three commissioner committee be chosen  because the addition of a third member would provide a quorum guaranteeing residents the full rights of participation and information as provided by Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

City Manager Cravens in rejecting such a course of action cited, "The difficulty  in getting everyone
( three commissioners versus two) together." For their part despite decades of experience, neither  Commissioner Hardy or  Commissioner Zambricki  (in abstentia) volunteered their services to such an important committee.

Mr. Cravens stating that he had nothing to hide, said he would adhere to public noticing, public attendance, possible public participation, and the keeping and publishing of minutes.

While the City Manager has nothing to hide, he does has something in mind. That is a definite agenda of possibly sharing dispatch with Bloomfield Township, Birmingham, Troy, and the Oakland County Sheriffs who provide police services for many communities in Oakland County. Also considered will be the option of maintaining the City of Bloomfield Hills dispatch services as 
they are now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

City Manager's memo to City commission reminiscent of American living in Paris who wrote "Paris would be a great city if it weren't for the French."

City Manager Jay Cravens  may think the City of Bloomfield Hills would be a great city if only the inhabitants who resist his efforts   at  fiscal community  betterment could be seen but not heard.

People do not live in the City of Bloomfield Hills  because they desire a low cost alternative. Mr, Cravens does not understand this. Mr. Cravens does not live in the City of Bloomfield Hills. He just works here

It is probable that a less expensive emergency dispatch service  or for that matter a discount City Manager could be found. The citizens of the City  pay dispatch and Mr. Cravens  pretty pennies  because residents believe they are worth it. Bargain Basement alternatives  are not what the City of Bloomfield Hills is all about.

Nor is  compromised  Public Safety. The dispatch department is particularly important for the 3800 residents because it is their 24-7 portal to Peace of Mind. The City of Bloomfield Hills Dispatch department provides additional programs of benefit to residents. One is Alarm Monitoring. Recently in this writer's neighborhood the Police answered an alarm triggered by a burst pipe. The family was away but public safety's prompt response prevented additional damage. Dispatch also provides a House Watch Program for vacationers and House Key program great for when you lock yourself out.  City Residents like and appreciate those sort of things.

Mr. Cravens doesn't understand that because he is not a resident.

In a perfect world, residents, City Commission and the City manager could sit down and discuss the matters. Regrettably it is an imperfect world, which in the City of Bloomfield Hills grows worse.  Two years ago when Cravens first suggested a outsourcing of Public Safety' s Emergency Dispatch, the residents turned out droves to speak at a Public Hearing. Many insisted that they would rather pay a millage than outsource dispatch.

This year that won't happen. 
Jf the the Commission  next Tuesday agrees to form the two member committee Mr. Cravens suggests it will mean the end of Emergency Dispatch in the City. How can we say 
that ? Very simple. The key words are "two city commissioners" 

Our City Commissioner has five members. Three members are a quorum. A committee with less than a majority falls into an undefined  Open Meetings Act grey area. It is not required that the public be allowed to attend but it is not forbidden either. The determination of the Committee Chairperson of the sub committee is what matters.

If three City Commissioners were chosen a quorum would be  present and all the provisions of the Michigan Open Meetings Act would  come into play.  The Open Meetings Act of Michigan is intended to allow the Public to attend meeting and see how it's government operates.  It is mandatory that all meetings with a decision making Quorum be open to the public. Notice of meetings  would be posted or published. Residents would be welcome to attend and witness the proceedings. Minutes would be kept and published for those who could not attend.

With two commissioners no quorum is present and the precepts of open meetings are optional. Members can conduct meetings on the phone or not meet at all. It is unrestricted because  no final decision is reached at until  the full commission votes at a meeting where a public hearing will be held. The subcommittee is considered simply advisory.

If the Emergency Dispatch Public Hearing follows the format of Public Hearings in the Mayor McClure era, the point will not be to hear the public. The point will be to present the Commission's case . Mr.Cravens or a member of his sub committee will begin the hearing by telling of the merger's benefits. Maybe Supervisor Savoie will have that honor. Floor time for the Commsion's point of view is usually 12 to fifteen minutes. No speaker offering a opposite point of view will be granted  a similar opportunity. Then the Commissioners will be asked  their opinion.  This is highly prejudicial because the the Commissioners are not supposed to, per the precepts of the Open Meetings Act, to have an opinion until they hear all opinions including those of the public. At the last public hearing  City Attorney Hampton caught this and the people spoke before the commissioners. If Mr Hampton is not present the people may slip back to last again.

Mr. Cravens says he will be ready in 45 days which is when the current Dispatch contract expires on June 30th. The City Commission June meeting is scheduled for the 12th almost a month away from the May meeting next Tuesday the 14th.

What happens next Tuesday will be interesting, 

If Cravens  suggestions are simply accepted carte blanche then we live in a City where the petty wishes and insentient  questions of 3800 are ruining it for the creme de la creme City Commsion.

If the Mr. Cravens gets the sub committee he wants but agrees to be subject to the precepts of Open Meetings with a periods for public comment that will work. The committee could even host an evening town hall at City Hall. If no residents show up ....C'est la vie. 

Of course even Mr. Cravens on Open Meeting steroids  is not the ideal solution. Mr.Cravens has made his viewpoint clear and he is tie breaking vote. He is also a non resident but some cooperation on his part would at least, preclude the building of street corner barricades.

If City Commission should decide to look in to the matter with a three member committee of current City Commissioners who are residents of the City that would be the ideal. Off hand we would prefer Zambricki and Hardy for their years on City Commission. They are also up for re-election this fall.We would exclude Mayor McClure because she is relatively new and not up for re-election until 2015. The same could be said for Commissioner Dull. Commissioner Sherr  while new, is financially knowledgeable, has expressed a willingness to hear from the people and is up for election this fall.

A  quorum of three commissioners worked well during the Budget Hearings where with one exception the commission  worked  with two absent members per meeting.

Up for election means accountability to the constituents who elected you. If that sounds harsh it no more harsh than taking away city services residents cherish.

If these suggestions seem audacious or out of place they are no more so than those of City Manager Cravens.  At least we are City residents who pay taxes. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

In Spring In the City of Bloomfield Hills There Will Always be Purple Trees.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Update to May 10th Emergency Dispatch Consolidation News.

The Downtown Birmingham Bloomfield Hill  online edition  is reporting that according to City Manager Jay,Cravens City Commission and the Public Safety Department Union were notified  last Friday May 3rd that a letter from  Bloomfield Township would  be coming.

That letter we believe is the one the City placed in May 10th Agenda package for discussion at next Tuesday's March 14th City Commission meeting. Since all the details of that letter from Township Supervisor Leo Savoie  have now been published in various mediums, and the City continues to refer the letter we are providing it now. 

Downtown Publications also reports that "A concern for  Cravens and Bloomfield Hills Commissioners regarding consolidation  (of emergency dispatch) had been displacing  members of the  Bloomfield Hills public safety staff. The Consolidation agreement would help mitigate that concern, Cravens noted."

To the contrary this publication has noticed no mitigation of concern in either the public safety department or City residents contacted. Cravens letter to City Commission  suggests a two member sub committee which will leave  3800 residents with the absolute  minimum of public participation, and input in  the decision.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bloomfield Hills (City Manager Jay Cravens) and Bloomfield Township ( Supervisor Leo Savoie) meet, discuss and correspond over shared Emergency Dispatch options.

The correspondence, from Supervisor Leo Savoie  referenced above is posted on the City web site in the Agenda package for discussion at next Tuesday's meeting.

The topic is not without controversy in the City of Bloomfield Hills.
Two years ago, (virtually to the day- May 11th, 2010), City Manager Jay Cravens invited then Township Supervisor  Dave Payne to a City Commsion meeting  to discuss outsourcing emergency dispatch. That  almost prompted a fire storm. An overflow crowd at (then  Mayor and now State Representative) Michael McCready's  inaugural  meeting spoke in opposition to any sort of dispatch merger. 24 residents said they would prefer to pay a millage rather see the department outsourced.

Today, Cravens, a non resident, sees a different City. In his letter to City Commissioners informing them of his talks with  Savoie, he writes that in a recent City Survey, sharing services was approved by 60% of the residents. Shared dispatch however was not mentioned in the survey question he cited and when the values of City Dispatch services such as Alarm monitoring, House Key program, and House Watch are included the approval rating for City Dispatch goes to the top of the chart.

Supervisor Savoie, in his correspondence is  matter or fact and quite specific. He mentions price. He is not interested in a long term commitment but a "win/win" situation for both communities. Since the Township is in the process of interviewing he says  time is a factor.

 City Manager Cravens  says he can  have a recommendation in 45 days. He also said that the sub committee he recommends the City form  could review other dispatch options as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

City commission passes budget. Fiscal year 2013-2014 to start with $100,000 depletion of General Fund. Fiscal year 2012-2003 closes with $527,000 fund.

On a warm Spring Day, May the first to be exact, City Commissioner said goodbye to the "rainy day" fund by a unanimous five to zero vote

No tears  were shed for the $527,000 depletion to the General Fund that occurred in fiscal year 2012-2013. The $100,000 less income that the Commission received from revenues in 2012-2013 also was passed on to fiscal year 2013-2014.

New Treasurer Karen Ruddy said the money should be used the for residents "here now." Commissioner Michael Zambricki agreed and added the General Fund ( before depletion) had more money there than should have been  there, He said the fund balance was still healthy. The Mayor and others we talked to with experience in City Government said the same. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Friends of Preservation Bloomfield Present Spring Fling. A Vintage Fashion Show, Boutique, and Luncheon.

A benefit for the Barton Farmhouse, Spring Fling, will according to City resident and a Bloomfield Historical Society Director, Katie Kiyo, provide an afternoon of “fun and folly”. Writing in the Bloomfield Hills Patch she described it as a
 Tickets for Spring Fling 2013 on Thursday, May 16th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. are $60.00. For more information and to purchase tickets call 248-642-7806.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Baldwin New Titles 5/7/2013

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harrs:  When Sookie learns the reason why Eric's vampires are keeping their distance from her, she is devastated. Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime in this final Sookie Stackhouse novel. Check Availability

A Delicate Truth by John LeCarre: In 2008, a counter-terrorist operation, codenamed Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms-buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, a private defense contractor who is also his bosom friend, and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far-right. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister's personal private secretary, Toby Bell, is not cleared for it. Cornwall, UK, 2011. A disgraced Special Forces Soldier delivers a message from the dead. Was Operation Wildlife the success it was cracked up to be - or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up? Summoned by Sir Christopher ("Kit") Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house, and closely observed by Kit's beautiful daughter, Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and duty to his Service. If the only thing necessary to the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, how can he keep silent? Check Availability

Hyde Park on Hudson (DVD)s Great Britain faces an imminent war with Germany, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, invited the King and Queen of England for a weekend at their home in upstate New York. But during the first-ever visit of a reigning British monarch to America, international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR's domestic establishment, as wife, mother, and mistresses all conspire to make the royal trip an unforgettable one. Check  Availability

Jack Reacher (DVD): Ex-military investigator Jack Reacher leaps off the pages of Lee Child's bestselling novel and onto the big screen in this explosive thriller. When an unspeakable crime is committed, all evidence points to the suspect in custody who offers up a single note in defense: Get Jack Reacher! The law has its limits, but Reacher does not when his fight for the truth pits him against an unexpected enemy with a skill for violence and a secret to keep.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Safe Haven (DVD): Based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, a young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.
Check Availability

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Complete 2012 -2013 City Commission Annual Budget

Clicking on the above red  words will produce the  the entire 74 page 2012-13 (Last year's budget. The one with  the $500,000 plus deficit to the General Fund )  City Commission Budget. We happened on it quite by accident while actually searching the City web sight for something else  entirely. Reading it will give one something to do while awaiting tonight's 2013-2014 budget approval meeting.

The official budget, approved on May 1 2012, a year ago today, has many useful features like  a table of contents, glossary, and more explanations in 74 pages than we could manage in two. When the 2013-2014 budget  (which begins on July 1st  2013)is made avialble  we will compare it with the the 2012-2013 budget (which ends on June 30th of this year) to test for accuracy and adherence.

City Commission taps General Fund for $500,000 making 2012-2013 a very expensive year.

The City’s fiscal year ends on June 30th. On that day, the most expensive year in the last five years of City history will have taken $500,000 from the City’s General Fund. The amount is more than double that of any General Fund Deficit posted in the last five years. 2012-2013 may be in terms of actual dollars spent (or committed) the most expensive year in the City’s history.

 Weeks ago,  fiscal year 2013-2014,  with a proposed   -$447,227 addition deficit to the General Fund was slated to be possibly the second most expensive year in City History. That possibility still exists  but an 
“essentials only “  strategy in  budgeting has brought the year beginning  July 1 2013  down to a manageable  -$111,804  deficit which if it stands will be the  fourth  most expensive  year in the past seven.
Today the City Commission will conduct a public hearing and hold a special meeting to adopt the fiscal year 2013 and-2014 budget. It will be a 5:30 pm meeting at City Hall.

Understanding the General Fund
The General Fund is the is the City's main pocket book from which the bills are paid.In recent years at its height in 2011-2012 it was $4,821,909, at its lowest in 2012-2013 it is at an estimated $4,293,988. The difference reflects the  estimated excess expenditures over revenues of $527,911.
 Understanding the $527,911 Deficit
It is a result of three things. The Commission of 2012-2013 had revenues of -$100,000 less that the one that preceded it.


Property Taxes
Special Assessments
Licenses Permits
State Sources
Charge for Service
Fines and Forfeitures
Investment income
Other Revenues
Operating Transfers in
Total Revenue

The Commission of 2012-2013 was not adverse to spending money. Expenditures exceed that of every recent commission with the exception the 2008-2009 Commission which folowed on the heels of major economic collapse.
The only other commission to come close in spending was the 2009-2010 commission which began in the May of Nig three bankruptcies

2008 Real Estate Wall Sreet Crash

GM Chrysler Bankruptcy



The Commission of 2012-2013 also ear marked $425,000 for roads.This money isplanned for  Orchard Ridge Road on a project slated for this summer. Last year the city spent $723,000 on paving Epping Lane and revamping Kennsington Rd. Some of this money perhaps as much as half may be coming back in government funding.

To understand the process by which these decisions are made you have yo understand the budget process which varies city commission to city commission. 

S.Mclure  TBD
Excess Revenue over or   under Expenditures