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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Sunday, February 28, 2016

2016 Oscar night preview.

It was a very good  year for films. Perhaps too good.  Of the eight pictures nominated  two, Spotlight and The Big Short are  worthy of Best Picture awards. When that happens  it creates the possibility that a lesser film  like  Mad Max or The Revenarent  might win in a split vote In January  USA Today touted Mad Max as the Best Picture of the year.  

Leonardo  DiCaprio the star of  Revenant is favored for Best Actor and  the Director Alejandro G. Inarritu. (Last year's winner)  is a favorite for  Best Director.

Oscar's recent trend  of sharing the  wealth  among  the nominated  films may end  this year drowning in a sea of too many good films confusion .

It might help to think of  four best films  as twins which in fact they are.

The Big Short is essentially a caper movie similar to the Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis original  Oceans 11  of the 1960's . Then the plan is to knock off every Casino in Las Vegas in a single night.

With an equally stellar cast, the Big Short  plans to do the same thing on Wall Street and with a tad of  moral equivocating walk away with Billions. Legally.  For non the financial expert the finer points of how they are  to do so is casually are cleverly explained in the film.  For example
  a lady in a bubble bath pauses to takes viewers through finer points of sub prime mortgages.

There is no glitz or glamor to Spotlight which is rated "R" for subject matter. It is a Working person's  movie set in Boston. The Spotlight is the  investigation journalism side of the paper as opposed to news which is called  "Metro". Years before the paper went down the same path only to bail at the last moment and "dump"  provocative the story in Metro" where it got lost in magnitude of everyday news.

Neither the the ensable cast of either movie realizes the magnitude of what they are taking on. In both cases the information they seek can be found directly in front of them and  readily available to them via a computer or  a public directory.
Both movies are Best Picture caliber films but this writer would give a slight edge to Spotlight. While  there are women newspaper reporters, both films  are essentially guy movies.

Room and Brooklyn are Chick flicks but they will enjoy them too. There is not much that I can say about a movie titled not "the Room" or  "A Room" but just "Room"without giving away too much much the movie but clearly it is the third best of the nominees for Best Picture. Brie Larson the star is excellent as is the writing, the direction and a the rest of a mostly female cast.

Were it not for the Picture being a virtual remake of 1940 movie Kitty Foyle staring Ginger Rodgers as an Irish American working girl (way back when women didn't work) and with romantic decisions to make, the picture might  have rate higher. Trivia wise IMB says Brooklyn star Satires Ronan was considered for the role played by  Brie Larson. In Room. One wonder how that might have worked out.
 The movie Kitty Foyle was told mainy in flash backs using a snow globe to indicate  shifts in time. A year later Citizen Kane would use the technique. In 1940 Ginger Rogers got the Oscar for Best Actress topping Betty Davis ( The Letter),                    
Joan Fountane    (Rebbeca), Katherine Hepburn (Philadelphia Story) and Martha Scott (Our Town).

Bridge of Spies is an excellent cold war movie  directed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (Neither were nominated. Who was  was Mark Rylance who according to one critic stole every scene he was in  for a Supporting Actor Nomination.  We  agree. Rylance  is also a three time Tony Award winning actor.
 Mad Max and The Martian are 3D special effects films which aside from those effects the air author found boring.

This  writer has not seen Revenant and is in essence boycotting  the film for leaving the theaters early and  making itself available only as a "pre-order ( meaning you have to buy it to see it) on Oscar weekend. The writer regrets any inconvenience this last item may caused the reader.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

City Manager Jay Cravens promises April/May Town Hall meeting to get Citizen's Input.

In the January 6th 2016 Edition of the Birmingham Bloomfield Hills Eagle, in an article titled  

As another year closes out, local leaders discuss what’s ahead in 2016, 

  Mr.Cravens is is quoted  as saying “I’m really excited about this opportunity. We will have a town meeting, probably in April or May, to get citizen input on issues or matters that concern them,” Cravens said. “If any of these matters need to be budgeted, we can do it as we adopt the 2017 budget in May.

 Since the last town hall meeting in the City of Bloomfield Hills was October of 2010  that is indeed news. The 2010 Town Hall meeting was not however about residents  providing        input for  City Commissioners.  Instead It was an opportunity for residents to  express their views on  a $600,000 contract  to restore services with the Bloomfield Township library. The Commission which donated it's time from a regular scheduled meeting for the Citizen Town Hall  claimed neutrality on the subject and let the residents go at it.

One  would think that after a six year absence  such a reversal of  policy  would deserve a fanfare  greater what a phone call to City  Manager Cravens could muster. Say trumpets blaring and cymbals crashing. Perhaps even an announcement from City Commission  and the  Mayor  himself. Mr Cravens   who has a tendency to talk 
out of his hat, did not however say  on what authority he was speaking.

 The idea of the town hall meeting is a good one. Having  it at the time of  City Budget meeting in which money is allocated for various departments and  projects  for the coming  year  is not  so good . Budget meetings are already  open to  residents provided that they realize that  a ticket to a baseball game  allows one  to observe but does not allow one to play in the game.

In recent years residents attending the  annual budget meetings have  been offered  only no view admission. The audio visual  aids at City Hall are  one sided  but for the Budget meetings the City does not  even employ something as  basic as an overhead projector.  One needs the binder that is given to the "attending"commissioners to follow along. Commisioner attendance at Budget meetings  has not been outstanding.  Once to force  attendance a former Mayor schedules a budget meeting immediately following a  regular evening  Commission Meeting.
Residents were welcome to stay but without   visual aides  in the court room like setting all they saw was the top of commissioners head behind binders as  the particulars were narrated to them by a droning voice  of a presenter also staring at binder.

If you want to attend  a Budget meeting(s) one should   file a  Freedom Information Act  (Foiya)  in advance by simply by writing  on a sheet of "I want to attend the (Date) budget meeting  and request a copy of what is being discussed at the meeting be made available to me at the meeting (the Binder)." Then you take  your request it to City Hall , get  it date stamped, submit it, and ask for  a copy of the request which will cost you ten cents.  The date stamping and the copy  is not  a requirement but I included them  lest you arrive  to discover the your request got lost in a bureaucratic shuffle of big government. Even simpler, e-mail your request which is automatically  date stamped  and you save ten cents in the process. 

No you can not  take the binder home or anywhere off premise  but you may return  to City Hall and review it any time until budget is approved and the material used to prepare it trashed.

Now back to the  Birmingham Bloomfield Eagle which is best bare none at reporting local Municipal news, and every  City of Bloomfield  household an receives an  edition in the mail free of charge.  The Eagle does not fancy itself  a King  or Queen maker,  endorse candidates or positions, or preach. It simply provides the news. The newspaper  is unique  in it's ability to get scoop caliber   comments  from the high and the mighty that  is the envy of other publications including this one. The Credit is due to  Eagle writer

Who actually covers many  communities, county services and even a school Board in addition to Birmingham Bloomfield  Hills. The newspaper  has also has what seems to be a new and expanded 
.archives for finding back issues or topics on line

So  Mr.Cravens, a Town Hall Meeting,(the first in six years) in April or May to coincide Budget 2016-2017 planning time ? So the commissioners can pencil in residents requests as fast they 
come up ? 

Actually it is much simpler than that. If the City Manager, The City Clerk,, and the  City Treasurer could  prepare four or five extra Budget 2016-2017 binders for the  four or five residents who would wish to attend, a better  budget informed citizenry would make for a better Town Hall in say September. 

If the extra binders. are a problem interested residents could be asked To RSVP them in advance to prevent over loading the system.

 If security is a concern(IE residents going off with the binders) The binders could be chained to the tables medieval monastery style. Last but not least do not give up on the overhead  projector. They are fairly bulky and not likely to be put somewhere and then forgotten. Try the basement under the fire station 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Planning Commission Feb 9 2016

Open Meeting Hand Book as Published by the State of Michigan Attorney General

Attorney General Bill Schuette

The Michigan Open Meeting Act (OMA) law  dates back to 1976 It's intentions were and are to make  local government  open and transparent  to you the tax paying Citizens of of the State of Michigan. Essentially  OMA says you have the right to attend almost all of Michigan Government meetings and that  all governing decisions requiring  and vote be done at public meetings.

Recently  the office of the state's Attorney General published on line an eminently readable guide book to the Open Meetings Act. This not  legal   mumbo  jumbo but a listing of what your rights as a Citizen are  and the Government's obligation to you. It pertains all governing bodies from local libraries, to  committees formed by a City Commission to, the Governor and State legislator.

You pay your taxes  to the State  and  the City so you should know what you your rights  are regards to what to do about what such governing bodies  may decide.

You don't have to care if you don't want to but ignorance to some who govern is licence and you don't want to go to sleep, only  to discover  that  have you inadvertently awaken, in second coming of the late great East Germany.

To read the above 21 page handbook  Click here.

The above presentation by  Sue Jeffers and the Michigan Municipal League is even more readable in that it uses big type and colors. It also highlights  areas of  responsibilities that were once considered grey areas. No pun intended. To read the 32 page presentation click here

  In the Current issue of  the Hills Highlights,  the official news letter of the City of  Bloomfield Hills, newly elected City Commissioner Susan McCarthy describes,  aYou won, now what training she received from the MML. Two bullet pointed topics she mentioned in her article  are a review of the  of the Michigan Open Meeting Act Oma  and the better known Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  pronounced "Foyah".

How does the Government of the City of Bloomfield Hills do in maintaining the purpose and the precepts of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. ?

Not particularly well. 
Mention of  MOA  conjures up all sorts of lurid images of secret  meetings facilitated by  the electronic age devises used  to avoid public witness but that is not our point here.There are  no allegations about our government doing said nor have there ever been to the best of our knowledge.

What there has been however and, is currently, is a refusal to adhere to the most simple and easy to fulfill requirements of MOA that indicates a unhealthy disrespect for MOA.

Because MOA is meant to open government for its citizens, ignoring  the minor points of MOA indicates an unhealthy  disrespect for citizens as well. There are two areas where our City delivers less than what the Michigan Open Meeting Act requires.
1)MOA requires is that proposed (or draft) minutes of a meeting ) must be made available for public inspection within eight days after the applicable meeting. At the next meeting the governing body  has five days furnish  the public with approved minutes.

1) 0n the City's web site under Welcome to minutes on demand it states that meeting minutes will be posted once they are approved by the "Council Board". That means  a delay of a month   before residents  are able to learn what was their government discussed at the last meeting.  MOA does not require Citizens to attend meetings. It does require the Government to provide  it's citizens with  draft status of  the most recent meeting in 8 days. That includes  City Commission meeting, Planning commission meetings and Zoning Board meeting. To ignore that requirement is an violation of the Open meeting act.

2) The formation of sub committees and committees of one.
By Michigan law a committee of one is not a committee and therefor not subject to MOA. Nor are advisory Committees because they  advise rather than  decide.

  Claims of lack of a quorum and "therefore not a sub committee subject to MOA" is in some cases a subterfuge. The key is what is the intent. Is it  a lack of bodies or is it  intended to by-pass the Citizens it is supposed to include ?

In the Current issue of Hills Highlight. Commissioner McClure writes " The City Manager, Building officials, with some input from our consultants, and  a subcommittee, will be reviewing our building department organizational structure and some processes."  

Who is on the sub committee ? Do they they meet ?  Are  meetings  open to the public ? Are minutes kept of their meetings ? 

Per Moa Minutes must be kept for all meetings and are required to contain:
  • a statement of the time, date and place of the meeting;
  • the members present as well as absent;
  • a record of any decisions made at the meeting and a record of all roll call votes; and
  • an explanation of the purpose(s) if the meeting is a closed session.
Except for minutes taken during a closed session, all minutes are considered public records, open for public inspection, and must be available for review as well as copying at the address designated on the public notice for the meeting.
Proposed minutes must be available for public inspection within eight business days after a meeting. Approved minutes must be available within five business days after the meeting at which they were approved.

These are the  questions and principles behind  MOA an with the goal providing an open and transparent Government.