Stockings Stuffed!!

I’ve got to say that the “Stuff your Stocking” night in Depot town is a stroke of genius.

Our son, Jack, is now 3 years old. The “Stuff your Stocking” night represents a perfect way for us to celebrate the things we find most important in this season.

I like supporting local business. I like doing stuff for kids, particularly when they’re having a rough run. I like to teach my children about the value of contribution, and about the importance of making a difference in your community with what you have at your disposal.

My wife and I have been developing a set of seasonal rituals for our new family, being that the old ones we had were not appropriate for many reasons.

I grew up in a secular country that gives a nod to religion. For me, Christmas is a celebration of childhood and children. If there are no kids, it isn’t Christmas. Being from the southern hemisphere, beer and barbecue are common Christmas fare in my world, and Christmas itself portends the beginning of the summer season. (There is enough cultural hang-over from Mother England that many have roast lamb and plum pudding despite the heat… what was that about mad dogs and Englishmen?... but I digress).

A browse through the many fine shops in depot-town was a long-overdue excursion we had not previously made the time for. Shopping has always fallen under the category of “necessary evil” in my universe. I find it a lot less daunting in places like Depot Town. Now that I know what’s available and where, I can make a point of stopping by more frequently.

So, congratulations are in order for Laura and FF, of Ypsidixit fame, and Jim from CafĂ© Luwak for pulling this together out of thin air in less than 10 days, and to the participating vendors in Depot Town, without whom it wouldn’t be possible at all.

I’m looking forward to next year.

Well Done!!

Take Care




I realize I’ll probably get shot down in flames for this, but I’ll do it anyway.

So, the Democrats have taken the house and the senate at a national level, and the house at the state level, and City Hall at the local level. I should be heartened by this, right?

I went over to Ypsinews.com to have a look at how our new mayor, Democrat Paul Schreiber, is doing.

While the ypsinews crew managed to lose the first 30 minutes of the meeting, the last 43 minutes (actually the last 5 minutes is great viewing)told enough of the story for me to be see pretty much what I expected. Mayor Schreiber looking nervous but affable, Mayor Pro Tem Swanson looking calm and authoritative, Bill Nickels providing a sage voice of reason and the other players taking their usual roles.

Councilman Brian Robb in a suit and tie looked understandably uncomfortable trying to feel his way into his new role, but his comments made it clear that his heart is in the right place and I expect finesse will come with time.

I wish I could be so kind about the Mayor. Oh, I’m sure he will also develop finesse as time goes on, but the heart in the right place is the part that has me concerned.

Paul’s campaign for the democratic nomination was rife with inaccuracies and controversies. When his commitment to free speech was called to question, it was answered with a legal opinion. When the integrity of one of his endorsements was called into question, he remained defiant. He believed he would win regardless, and he was right. He did win without being held to account for any of it.

Now, all of the above can be put down to the thrust and parry of political campaigning, and the man’s work should really be judged by his conduct in office.

Unfortunately, his very first personal proposal in the mayoral office was to do away with the resolution to call an end to a public hearing. He wanted to be able to do this unilaterally himself. The reason cited? To save time. Now I ask you…? One minute to go through the motions of calling an end to a public hearing, yes it’s a drag, but it doesn’t take long. Far more importantly, EVERYBODY knows the hearing is finished, if someone on council has a point to make, they have a final chance to make it.

To take that right of recourse away in the name of chopping a whole minute off a 4 -5 hour council meeting is absolutely ridiculous. Giving any mayor the right to close a public hearing unilaterally at will is a reckless exercise in trust that begs to be misused by any mayor who has had a bad day, or perhaps, would like to avoid having a bad day.

What disturbs me most is that the Mayor did not think through the implications of his proposal, or if he did he assumes the city council members to be a lot dumber than they are.

Thankfully, and rightly, the proposal fell on deaf ears, as did his very clumsy attempt at reorganising the chairs in city hall. I’ve got no idea what he stokes in his pipe, but my goodness that was a lame, farcical beginning for a man who has taken on the Mayors position at one of the toughest junctures in the city’s history.

Now to the point of this post…

I realize that Ypsilanti is not a huge blip on anyone’s political radar outside Washtenaw County, but I wonder how may other positions held by Democrats are filled with guys or gals who are in at least one step over their heads.

Before this election, I saw the Democrats as a powerless bunch who were unable to give the Current Occupant (of the Whitehouse) the “thump’n” he so richly deserved back in 2004.

The election result hasn’t changed my view of the party.

In my opinion, the Democrats didn’t gain anywhere near as much ground as the Republicans lost in this election, and that concerns me greatly.

It concerns me because Democrats everywhere are congratulating themselves for a job well done when they have done nothing of note. They were simply “not Republicans”.

I hope Democrats everywhere, from Mayor Schreiber, to Governor Granholm, and the leaders of the house and senate federally, can pull themselves together and deliver to this great nation a vision it can get behind.

If the Democrats fail to capture the imagination of the people in these next two crucial years, the subsequent “thump’n” at the polls in ’08 would be an embarrassment from which the party should probably never recover.

I hope they can do it, if only to put an end to the burden of this reckless, fascist regime.

Take Care



Body? ... What Body?

Our own Michigan Democratic Senator, Debbie Stabenow, has voted for the single most irresponsible bill passed in the entire abysmal era of the Bush administration.

S.3930: Military Commissions Act of 2006.

This bill effectively gives the president of the United States power to detain any prisoner at will without trial, provided he can identify the prisoner as an enemy combatant.

At the heart of this legislation is the right of “habeas corpus” (latin:you should have the body]).

“Habeus Corpus” is defined here,

This right is enshrined in the Constitution, in section 9 “Limits on Congress”

“The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

And the act in question as it relates to Habeas Corpus can be found here
or from the official site here, though you'll need to dig a little.

Now to the reason I find this legislation irresponsible and reprobate for any lover of freedom in this country, regardless of party affiliation.

It is clear that the constitution allows for the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus under certain specific circumstances where “public Safety” is under immediate threat.

In cases of rebellion or invasion, (those cited in the constitution), a clear and present threat, which has an arguably determinate period, appears to be the criterion of choice for the suspension of Habeas Corpus. A rebellion is either successful or it is not, an invasion is either successful or it is not. Either way, the imminent threat to public safety passes and the republic progresses to one form of normalcy or another.

President Bush’s “war on terror” has no determinate period, the threat to public safety will ebb and flow according to the whim of the terrorist as fuelled by the arrogance of the administration. Be that as it may, there is not an imminent threat of invasion. The public safety is no more at risk today than it has been any day since that fateful, disastrous day of September 11, 2001.

If an argument is to be made for heightened risk, it is due directly to the launching of an illegal, ill-fated war that has put our young men and women in harm’s way while providing a breeding ground for terrorists, a focal point for their ire, and a proving ground for their weapons and tactics.

Furthermore, this “war” has no end. If we pulled out of Iraq tomorrow, it would make not one jot of difference to this Presidents “war on terror”. Terrorism has been around for as long as civilization has, to declare war on it is to declare war on a fact of civilized life. (That fact being that there will always be uncivilized folk, some of whom will use murderous tactics of terror to meet their ignoble ends).

The US congress has just given the President of the United States despotic, privileges that allow him to pick and choose whom he calls an enemy combatant, and to detain these people without trial, indefinitely. Yep, that’s right, until the “war on terror” is won.

The president no longer has to produce “the body” to the judiciary. “Enemy Combatants” can go missing, forever, without recourse.

This President has proven himself incapable of disciplined governance, intolerant of dissent, a promoter of loyalty above ability, a promoter of privilege above justice, and woefully inadequate as a commander-in-chief. To give this man the right to pick and choose whom he will detain without trial, indefinitely, is the most egregious travesty ever visited on the American people. I say travesty, because the whitehouse today is a grotesque manifestation of a once-great institution, and then there are the American people who are blissfully un-aware of what this administration is doing, and care even less about it.

While Senator Stabenow’s vote, not even combined with the votes of ALL of the democrats and the republican lovers of freedom would have been enough to stop this egregious affliction on the people of the United States, I am dumbfounded as to why she voted in favor of it.

I believe she has just lost a large chunk of her support base in this state with that action.

If this reprobate act of congress is not enough to get the Democrats stirred up to win a victory, there is no hope for the democratic process in this country.

And lets not forget proposal 2 at the state level.

The yawns from the populace at large are chilling, eerie in fact. Its almost as though the American people have finally ceased to give a damn, in which case, we get the government we deserve.

What will it take, swastikas, goosestep, and a bad moustache?

Take Care



Neither Civil Nor Right

I am talking, of course, about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Full text Here. Official version Here

Cameron Getto has, as usual, produced a great article on this issue.

In a previous incarnation, (reporter for the Courier) I took the mayor to task over the ignorance of white citizens to their own sense of privilege.

Quoting from the op-ed section of the Ypsilanti Courier, October 13, 2005

Should it [race] matter? In an ideal world, perhaps not. But looking around our fair city, one has to be wearing very rosy glasses indeed to describe it as ideal in that sense. The level of distrust between certain sections of the black community and city officials is well documented at any audience participation session in city hall.

Why does this matter bother me so? Like many well meaning white folks, I have the luxury of believing that there doesn't need to be any difference between people based on the color of their skin.

I am reminded, however, whenever I think of my own [black]sons in Australia, that in white dominated countries, the difference will always be there for those who are not white. Racism is a fact of life for my sons, not an optional ideology as it is for well meaning white folks like me.

Are my sons racist? Not particularly, but they cannot escape the influence of those who are, and that is my point.

The same holds true for all forms of discrimination, be it gender, race, socio-economic, regional, and so on.

The “majority” players have the luxury of feeling it doesn’t matter, while the repressed minority cannot avoid the discrimination.

The thing that disappoints me most is that, for all of the rhetoric of “equality” posited by the proponents of this regressive legislation, it entrenches elitism and actual disadvantage into the State constitution.

To entrench elitism in this way is fundamentally contrary to the way most Americans see themselves.

Equality is a purely theoretical concept in North American (or any other) society. Disadvantaged parties must, in civilized society, be given assistance to prosper, lest the unrest grow so great as to destabilize the civilization.

It is madness, in times of hardship when jobs are scarce and the outlook is gloomy, to tread on the heads of the already downtrodden. It is a recipe for civil unrest that will make the 60’s look like a bake-sale.

Our Statewide community needs to look at two possibilities. Do we step on the heads of the oppressed, and increase spending on police and incarceration? Or do we work towards a more equitable solution for all of our citizens? Both options cost money. Both options require commitment.

With jails and police forces strapped for cash state-wide, it would be both morally reprehensible and fiscally irresponsible to abandon affirmative action, let alone to go so far as to make it illegal.

A vote for proposal 2 is a vote towards repression and civil unrest.

Lots of well-meaning folks could be duped into thinking it is a step in the right direction.

I’ll be working at a NOW fundraiser in a couple of weeks because anything I can do to help in my own little corner of the world is a step in the right direction.

Take Care



Pluto: Dirty Snowball or Planet?

The quick answer is “both”.

Kate asked for a comment to Pluto’s status a week ago, and I figure it deserves a post of its own.

When Pluto was discovered, (February 18, 1930) the astronomers were looking for a much larger body to explain the (still mysterious) perturbations to the orbits of the outer planets, and specifically of Neptune. Something out there is big enough to pull the king of the sea off course in a regular and predictable manner. We still haven’t found it.

In a “rags to riches” scenario, Pluto happened to be in the right place at the right time. The somewhat insignificant dirty snowball achieved the high and lofty position of “planet” and became a star overnight (yes the pun is intended, and no I’m not giving up may day-job to write historic fiction just yet).

Astronomers were mostly happy to add the quirky little guy to the fold of planets, and the astrologers set to work to find out its significance.

To determine the significance of any object in the solar system, astrologers put the object through its paces in thousands of charts to work out what it means for them. (Truth be told, some astrologers do this, the rest of us buy the books and then do our own more limited research.)

By that test, Pluto earned his stripes in the astrological world very quickly. Cycles of roughly 245 years (Pluto’s cycle in the tropical zodiac) appear fairly consistently in history, and transits of Pluto to natal horoscope positions are easily identifiable as huge turning points in the lives of individuals.

No two astrologers practice their art exactly the same way. There are some who use ancient techniques who have no use for Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto at all. There are others who use everything, including various collections of asteroids. There are others who use the 10 regular chart objects and several mythical objects that don’t physically exist as far as we can tell.

Me? I use Sun thru Pluto, one other dirty snowball called Chiron, a couple of significant nodal points, the “horoskopos” (ascendant) and the Medium Coeli (meridian).

Astrologers are far more interested in the fundamental usefulness of an object in the various forms of astrology one might practice, than they are in the scientific classification of solar system objects.

In short, astrology does not rely on astronomy’s classification methods for determining significance.

Pluto’s demotion by astronomers does not diminish its effectiveness as an astrological tool. Astronomy and Astrology are two separate studies that rely on some common information.

Take Care


The Impetus for Change

I was catching up on Cameron Getto’s excellent blog today, and came across this article.

Being that Cameron’s post is over a week old, I figured I should re-post my comment here.

The context (for those of you who haven’t read Cameron’s post) is the disenfranchising of the worker’s bargaining position through legislation that makes strikes illegal, staged in the broader context of the corruption that comes with power.

My comment to that issue reads as follows:

Coming from a country where the Government, the Industry leaders, and the Trade Unions sit together at an annual summit to set basic wages, cost of living increases, standards for working conditions and so forth, yeah I can see the benefits of a strong Union movement to a country's overall productivity and stability. We occasionally have major strikes, and when they occur, they bring the entire country to a standstill. We also have a living wage, national health, and a strong social security net, and we don’t pay much more tax than you do here.

Big business is working very hard to disenfranchise the unions in my home country. Bit by bit, with a long-standing conservative government at the helm, they are doing it. Big money is going to work to keep that government in power.

In its most progressive phases of history, the US is very conservative by world standards, and when it runs into a conservative slump like it has now, it is so much more so.

Neither political party is blameless in empowering the wealthy and disenfranchising the individuals who generate that wealth.

This bodes ill for the trade union movement, who rely on the impetus for change to drive their case forward.

How bad does it have to get before there is impetus for change? The answer is obviously “worse than it is”.

The greatest enemy facing both of our great nations is indifference. The average American and the average Australian are having a hard time working up a "give a shit" sufficient to the task.

Until that changes, we can piss and moan all we want, but not much will change.

Take Care



In Print again...

This time, in a letter to the editor on a subject I care about a lot.

The article that raised my ire was this one.

My response was published here.

However, I was in a pretty acrid mood that night, so they edited my work fairly heavily.

This is my original response, with a "1.00 am grammar" mistake fixed, but otherwise verbatim.

Your September 26, opinion column “Life is really not in the stars” by Astronomer Daniel B. Caton is a classic example of an expert holding forth about something entirely out of the realm of his expertise.

Asking an astronomer for an astrological opinion is like asking a lab technician for a medical opinion. He might know something, but chances are he doesn’t. To carry the allegory one step further, this “technician” would say all doctors are charlatans because he met a charlatan who called himself a doctor.

While astrology relies upon good astronomy for accurate results, the reverse is not the case. An astronomer knows nothing about astrology unless he or she has taken a separate course of study.

It is clear that Caton has taken no such study. His cheap shot anecdote about an illusionist writing astrology columns in ignorance, and Caton’s own irrelevant and insignificant, “experiments” with his students do not qualify as study.

They do, together, qualify as pseudoscientific piffle.

There are charlatans everywhere. Some of them write poor or misleading astrology columns. Others opine about things they know nothing about.

Rodney Smith


Designs on Intelligence

Well, here we go again

This time its not local, its state politics, and the illogical notion of teaching creationism (yes folks, that’s what “Intelligent Design” (ID) means) in a modern science curriculum.

We have a couple of ID proponents trying to weaken the Michigan Board of Education science curriculum guidelines to the point of absurdity, and they have won a couple of extra weeks to browbeat the legislature and then the board of education into their way of thinking.

The wording they are petitioning for will mandate the discussion of alternatives to evolution which will, surprise-surprise, bring the teaching of ID into the classroom.

The Detroit Free Press carried this article on Thursday which outlines the proceedings.


The people at Michigan Citizens for Science have called for concerned citizens to write to the board of education expressing our concern.


I encourage you to write and express your concern.

The reason I think this is illogical has nothing to with my opinions on ID, it goes to the roots of western science and the teaching of the prevailing scientific paradigm.

It defies good sense to attempt to teach high-school students a well-established and extremely successful method of scientific evaluation, and at the same time entertain a philosophical debate regarding its efficacy. This creates unnecessary and unwarranted confusion and erodes understanding

Evolution is the basis of the current scientific paradigm regarding natural science. It needs to be taught and understood for our students to progress in the field. The method also needs to be taught and understood before it can be intelligently debated.

Science has been dedicated to the parameters of space and time since the days shortly after Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Sir Isaac Newton left the crystal spheres of Ptolemy and Aristotle shattered once and for all in an untidy heap on the on the science room floor. They had shattered a 2200 year old prevailing belief that the Earth was at the centre of the Universe.

These men fully understood the prevailing teaching of the day. The debates about the nature of the Universe were rightly entertained at university level, and conducted with a complete understanding of the prevailing scientific, philosophical, and theological paradigm.

The day that western science made the leap of mathematical proof, was the day that the metaphysical universe was entirely removed from the western science classroom. The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, the theology of the Church, and the astrology of Ptolemy were divorced from the hard physical reality of the mathematically defined universe. It was a marriage that had lasted over 1000 years.

Whether I believe that this was a good thing or not is irrelevant. This was the direction that our scientific community took, for better or for worse.

Those who are teaching science in a metaphysical context maybe teaching philosophy, astrology, theology, or cosmology, but they are not teaching modern science.

Intelligent Design predisposes a metaphysical context.

Introducing a metaphysical debate to the student before the foundation for modern scientific investigation is laid defies good sense. The metaphysical debate belongs in the universities once the foundation is laid for our students, and the current paradigm understood.

The onus of proof lies with ID because it requires a complete paradigm shift.

There is nothing to stop Intelligent Design being proven beyond reasonable doubt if that is at all possible. On that day, it should become part of the modern science curriculum. In the meantime, evolution is taught because it fits enough of the prevailing scientific paradigm to be a useful analytical tool.

Intelligent Design does not.

If our legislators wish to turn the scientific clock back 400 years to the Ptolemaic Universe where God the Creator was in charge of the crystal spheres that contained the planets, then perhaps they should like to teach Astrology, Alchemy, and Occult Philosophy along with their Theology.

It was all part of the same science curriculum.

Take Care



A Final Word on the Primary

A Final Word on the Election

The errors and nuisance value of the last Schreiber offering on the campaign trail make me certain that I have done the right thing in getting behind Pierce.

read it here http://www.schreiberformayor.com/images/hype10.pdf

Making plans that depend on a tax that is not going to fly is daft. Holding the Police and Fire department for ransom over the tax is almost criminal. There are many ways to trim the fat from City Hall:- Police, Fire and Trash should last on the list of any responsible community leader. They are right up there, front and centre, in the City cross hairs if it doesn’t get its tax.

A vote for Schreiber is a vote to be arm-twisted into accepting an income tax.

The factual errors Schreiber makes about the BRCCF and the income tax are well documented in my comments on this forum as well as on trustygetto.com.

The negative spectacle of the 2004 Township election is not something that needed to be dragged up here, but again, the Schreiber team have gone for impact and innuendo over substance and fact.

What those slogans from the township campaign bring to mind for me is the fundamental inability of the current administration to negotiate, and the determination of Schreiber to follow in its footsteps.

There is no doubt that the township officials won their seat with a negative campaign rejecting a closer relationship with the city. Using old rivalries and turf wars to get elected is an old ploy in politics. Ypsilanti cannot afford another 4 years of “us versus them” when “them” is every other unit of government in our region.

What surprises me is the negativity presented by Schreiber towards the idea of regional co-operation. This displays to me the Schreiber team’s wanton lack of vision.

Schreiber’s Ypsilanti 2020 initiative (released July 28, though I didn’t hear about it until much later) makes a lot of noise about getting Ypsi’s best and brightest to come up with a plan. On Schreiber’s own list of priorities is greater regional co-operation. This latest (and probably last) volley shows us that he has no interest at all in regional co-operation, either that, or Mr Schreiber has a lot to learn about negotiation if he thinks that rubbing salt into old wounds is any way to solicit a favourable negotiating environment.

Schreiber’s Ypsilanti 2020 statement is an admirable piece of work on the surface. It’s a pity I didn’t read it sooner, I might have given it a better run. It addresses several of the lacks that I had been carping about on this forum, but it does make 2 things very clear. The first thing the Schreiber administration will do is initiate a bunch of talk-fests. The last thing the Schreiber administration will do is put the Income Tax to the vote. This means that the tax issue will hover over the heads of Ypsilanti citizens for as long as Schreiber can make it last.

I realize there is more support for a vote on the tax than for the tax itself. Under those circumstances, putting it to the vote quickly is the best option by far.

Dragging this issue out for another 100 days of talk-fests, then another 100 days formulating the language for the ballot, then another 90 days lead time required by the state for the ballot…. How long do you want to drag this out for? For how long do you want to demoralize our Police and Firemen? By my estimation, the Schreiber plan won’t have the vote on the ballot before November 2007. Then what are we going to do when the people say no?

The City of Ypsilanti can ill afford another 4 years of bumbling around in the dark, trying to find a way to justify an unpopular tax.

There is another option, and the good folk of Ypsilanti would do well to take it.

Take Care



Just a thought....

My wife put an interesting question to me the other day, and I thought I would share it.

“Bill Gates draws your name out of a hat, and gives you 1 million dollars with which to help the City of Ypsilanti out in any way you saw fit. How would you spend the money for long-term gain?”

I thought about this for a while, and after the visions of the wildest street party you ever saw and other frivolous adventures dissipated, I then figured that a million really isn’t enough to do anything meaningful…. Then I thought about it some more.

The only thing I could come up with that would actually help the city in the long-term (that a million dollars could help with) is if Lansing produced some legislation that allows built-out cities to collect fair taxes.

To have any clout at all, such an initiative needs to have the backing of many municipalities, and there must be thousands of businesses state-wide that are hurting because their downtowns are deteriorating.

A million would go a long way to drafting a piece of legislation that businesses and municipalities could get behind, and that Lansing could benefit from as well, and hopefully the businesses would be able to add a little to the pot to put greater pressure on Lansing to act. A couple of studies that make the point, a protest rally or two, you get the idea…

So there it is. Organize a state-wide campaign to MAKE Lansing listen. It wouldn’t solve all of Ypsilanti’s problems, but it would sure up one part of its funding.

So… what would you do?

Take Care



Income Tax: The Real Mayoral Issue

To tax or not to tax, that is indeed the question.

I attended the CBC Candidates Forum the other night and had the pleasure of submitting a question to the candidates. I asked, quite plainly, (and somewhat aggressively, sorry folks, it slipped out that way!!) are you going to implement the tax, and secondly, how are you going to secure funding from Lansing in the future?.

Schreiber opened the discussion by saying that he reluctantly supports the tax, that the problems the city is facing are state-wide, and that no immediate help is coming from Lansing. Schreiber made the assessment that the tax removes the city from the edge of financial insolvency, while placing Ypsilanti in the middle of the state-wide tax bracket. [Having read his figures some time back, I know that he has standardised his findings across income and property value averages- the claim is otherwise clearly fallacious]

Richardson made the point that she had suggested the tax before anyone else had come up with it, and her hope that the property tax rollback could be sufficient to offset the impact of the tax. Richardson mentioned the need for greater regional co-operation and intergovernmental agreements at very level.

Pierce is opposed to the tax, period. He believes the tax will create a barrier to business and place a greater, unnecessary burden on the community. He explained the rollback couldn’t be made large enough to offset the impact of the tax, and that over half of Ypsilanti’s residents are renters, and therefore get no benefit from a rollback at all. Pierce believes that the City needs to rethink the way it does everything from the payroll upward. Pierce’s approach to Lansing was the same, he says he will go to Lansing, not to demand a better deal, but to find out “what we can do better.” Pierce made the point that the income tax would place Ypsilanti as the highest taxed municipality in the state.

While the candidates each have different styles, it is on the issue of the Income Tax that their paths truly diverge. I believe that the Democratic Primary on August 8 will be a referendum on the tax, between Schreiber and Pierce. Those who vote for Richardson will most likely be doing so for reasons other than her stand on the income tax.

When the tax was discussed at length last year, I took a long look at who was supporting it, and who was against it, and I figured it was going to be inevitable eventually. The people who really mattered as far as setting policy and direction were resigned to it as a necessary evil.

State Legislation restricts the tax to a maximum of 1 percent and a maximum property tax rollback of 2 mils. There is also a $600 minimum exemption written into the legislation. These restrictions do not allow the tax to raise sufficient revenue to offset the problems faced by the city in the long term. The tax is at best a “band-aid” that will buy some time.

Even as a band-aid it is weak, and long-term fiscal sustainability is thoroughly dependant on better balancing of the budget.

Schreiber wants the tax in order to keep the city afloat a little longer and buy some time in the hope of a miracle from Lansing and from the greater community.

Pierce is banking on being able to make huge savings fairly quickly from negotiations that have not begun yet.

Neither solution is without risk. The Income Tax poses the single biggest threat to residential and business growth in our community for as long as it is in place. People have other attractive options for both residence and business in the area. Higher taxes are not going to make Ypsilanti any more attractive. While the level of impact on population and trade is not known, the tax is bound to have significant negative impact on both residential and business growth.

The income tax cannot be implemented responsibly without a long-term strategy for growth in the community. To date, no such strategy is forthcoming. The community needs to know how and where the City will make the necessary changes to its current practices and structure to justify the cost to the community that the tax will impose.

Such a plan has not, to my knowledge, been put forward by City officials.

For Pierce, the risk is being able to turn Ypsilanti around before it runs out of funds completely. The situation is likely to look fiscally scary in the meantime. There is not much more to say about that risk. Its going to be hard to balance the budget for a few years. We are going to have to make some cuts, and do a lot of things differently, but we are not saddling ourselves with the baggage of an income tax to inhibit growth.

My own opinon is of little condsequence. It is for the community to decide which level of trouble it wants to buy, because there are no easy solutions.

A vote for Pierce is a vote against the Income Tax. A Vote for Schreiber or Richardson is a vote to put the tax on the ballot.

Lansing could, with the stroke of a pen, make things a lot easier for built-out communities, and it would not cost them a red cent.

It is time someone started pushing that barrow, because tax or no tax, we must come up with better solutions than we currently have.

Take Care



Pierce Scuttlebutt

So to the Pierce scuttlebutt.

Nobody who is criticizing Pierce wants to be quoted. I have always honoured that request when it is made of me (that’s how I get to know things, and eventually turn up something that can be quoted as authoritative).

So far, the most damning thing I have heard about Steve is that working with him leaves ”a bad taste in the mouth”. It is true that several of the people who have worked with him on various boards have openly supported Schreiber. Behind this “bad taste” lie accusations of double-talk and self-serving ends. There are folks who say he can’t get things done, and others who accuse him of being a snake.

Several people have quoted the Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finances and the infamous “not at the same meeting” comment from Paul Tait, who chaired the BRCCF. Paul’s comment was in response to a loud and lengthy objection from Steve when Mayor Farmer misconstrued the BRCCF final recommendation.

As it happens, I attended the deliberations of the BRCCF because I saw its recommendations as the most important discussion affecting the future of the City at the time.

I like Paul Tait, I think he did a great job with the BRCCF and I believe every member of that committee should be commended for the effort they put in to sorting through the city’s issues. It was a difficult job, and sitting in on those deliberations provided a great perspective on the problems the city faces.

As the committee was winding up and putting together a recommendation, it was clear in the minds of all present that an income tax, though entirely undesirable, represented a plausible band-aid respite that could buy the city enough time to get Lansing to pay attention and fund its commitments.

Paul Tait put together a resolution that basically recommended that the city put the tax to the vote. Steve Pierce objected to that recommendation, saying that the BRCCF was both ill equipped and unqualified to address the political questions about whether or not the tax should be put to the vote. Steve worked long and hard, against considerable resistance, to get the word “consider” put into the recommendation. He was successful. Ingrid Kock worked long and hard to get an alternative plan for the tax’s implementation to be appended to the final recommendation. She was also successful.

When Mayor Farmer came out with a blanket statement to the effect that the BRCCF had recommended that the city put the income tax to the vote, Steve hit the roof.

I probably still have a copy of the e-mail exchange that ensued over the next couple of days, it was long and loud and impassioned. Steve wanted to make it clear that he did not support the tax. Farmer said, “what am I missing here?” Paul Tait was saying that the committee had decided it was the only feasible solution. Pierce went on to elaborate other alternatives, making it clear that he did not support the tax. Tait was eventually quoted as saying, “we were not at the same meeting” by way of saying that Pierce had reconstructed the deliberations to suit his own ends.

At the time, of course, I was working as a journalist and had to stay out of the fight completely. Pierce did not want to be on the record as supporting the tax. Tait could not see a viable alternative to the tax. Farmer had wanted the tax as a means to maintain solvency.

Tait, while listening to the deliberations of Pierce and Koch and others, was looking to find the language of consensus, and perhaps paying less attention than might be expected to the substance of those deliberations. Paul had a tough job, and he did it very well. Tait was, from a point earlier than my attendance at meetings, largely resigned to implementation of the tax as a solution.

Pierce wanted to distance himself from any recommendation to implement the tax. Anyone who was at those meetings should know that much, unless they ignored him completely.

Farmer was looking for BRCCF’s authority to justify pursuing the tax.

Was Pierce’s reaction over the top? Maybe. But his point was nevertheless valid. Farmer had no business generalizing the committee’s recommendation in the manner that she did. (I recall hearing it at the time and thought… oh dear; this is not going to sit well) That’s what he was initially reacting to. Pierce had fought to have the word “consider” included, and both Farmer and Tait were ignoring it.

I can see why committee heads and others would find this tendency of Pierce’s to make sure he is not ignored irritating. If that’s what leaves “a bad taste in the mouth”, then this is a matter of personal style rather than of substance.

Oh, and I did personally laugh aloud when Steve nominated as a Democrat. You need to keep in mind that, where I come from, the Left is a long way further left of centre than it is here. True to form, however, he now has the support of several key Labour unions which places him a lot further Left than I would have given him credit for. A property owner and businessman who can successfully get the support of Labour must have a pretty convincing argument.

We are blessed with 3 candidates, none of which can be faulted for anything more than infractions of personal style and attention to detail (or the lack thereof).

We have the “Staus Quo” player, who is Schreiber. I have yet to see anything from him that suggests we will get too many surprises out of his tenure, should he win. In fact the
proven leadership in tough times” slogan suggests that nothing much will change.

We have the “Voice for Change” player who is Pierce. The conversation about the future of Ypsilanti is likely to take a sharp turn if Steve is elected. This may or may not be a good thing, but the conversation will be interesting, Steve will be ignored less often if he is Mayor

We have the “Voice of the Oppressed” candidate who is Richardson. Anyone who has lived in or around the city for a while knows that there are plenty of oppressed folks live in Ypsilanti. Lois’ grassroots support should not be underestimated, even if it is invisible online.

The vote for the Democratic primary, at this point, is a vote for style rather than for substance. I find this a bit disappointing. Hopefully the contenders can come up with a platform or two we can sink our teeth into.

Take Care



Back to Business

I made the comment below in response to John Gawlas, and I figured I should elevate the question to a post of its own.

This city, ... should be tired by now of pitched battles between factional groups.

I have yet to see a definitive written action plan from any candidate on

1. Water Street
2. the city income tax
3. the future for economic development.
4. securing adequate funding from Lansing

So, a note to all 3 candidates, lets cut with the crap and get down to business shall we? Who has a better plan?

Take Care


FOR THIS POST ONLY, I will ONLY ACCEPT comments that speak to these issues. (others will be deleted, and I am the only and final arbiter of that decision.) There are plenty of other posts on this blog where those who want to indulge in a Mayoral skirnmish can post. I want to hear about these issues here


3 Hyenas...

Well, that tears it…

Here I was figuring I could be sanctimonious and impartial about the Mayoral election, but there’s something about smear campaigns that sticks in my craw.

Our mayoral candidate Schreiber has a smear campaign on his hands. Front and centre on his website is the “endorsement” from a group which was dissolved a good while back and no longer exists in any shape or form beyond the memories of those involved.

This non-existent group handed over its still existent mailing list and letterhead to the Schreiber campaign and used his campaign funds to deceive the community into a) believing that the group still exists, and b) believing that Steve Pierce blocked the YCFE campaign at a 2002 DDA meeting when he was DDA president.

The text of this quasi-endorsement reads in part

“Steve Pierce is the third 2006 mayoral candidate. As president of Yp s i l a n t i ’s DDAin 2002, he refused to endorse us. We believe that if either Richardson or Pierce becomes mayor of Ypsilanti, our cause will no longer enjoy strong political support in this community. “

Please don’t get me wrong, I like what the YCFE stood for, I just don’t like deceit.

If you go over to Ypsidixit http://www.ypsidixit.com/blog/ for a look-see, you can read 40-comment brawl over this paragraph. Trusty Getto http://www.trustygetto.com/ also has a bit to say.

Cameron Getto did the legwork and got the minutes of the DDA meeting in 2002 when the YCFE asked for the DDA’s endorsement. Then president of the DDA and now mayoral candidate Steve “Devil is in the Details” Pierce did refrain from endorsing YCFE campaign because he saw it as out side the charter of the group. And so it is outside the charter of the City (and by extension, its commissions and authorities) to endorse a political campaign. Pierce knew that. Some other heads of various council commissions did not.

Steve was faced with a simple question. Should he use his influence to direct the DDA beyond its charter in the interest of a political campaign, or should he keep the DDA focussed on its job?

When put as simply as that, it’s a no-brainer. Of course he should keep the DDA doing what it does best, and lend his personal support to the YCFE, as he did, in other ways.
Were I in his position, I’d have done the same thing.

As it stands at the moment, Paul “Details? What Details?” Schreiber has two strikes against him in my view. There is the open meetings act, and now the smear campaign. Its a pity, because I like Paul and I think his intentions are pretty good, but jeez I wish he’d pay attention to what’s going on, and I’d be happier to see him conducting more of his YHC meetings in the open. My opening question about Schreiber still stands “does he have the time for the job?” If attention to detail is any measure, apparently not.

There is a third strike against Schreiber, and that is the “turncoat” mentality Just over a year ago, it was the Mayor and City council who hamstrung the YHC in their plans to develop Parkview. Paul was leading the YHC at the time, and the City’s stand made it very clear that they did not believe that the YHC (and Paul) could administer the project. So strong was the City’s conviction, that its interference overturned a “done deal” between HUD and the YHC for the development of Parkview.

This same city turned about face and now Paul enjoys their support. It seems that Paul can’t manage his YHC sufficient to the City’s standard, but he’ll make a good Mayor. Had someone insulted my talent to that degree, I’d have a hard time accepting his or her endorsement.

Politics is a dirty and duplicitous game. It is with good reason that I ignored it for a long time.

Pierce hasn’t done anything to upset me yet, and the more I see of him the more I like what he has to say. I’m not certain that he enjoys enough grass-roots support to win the Democratic nomination.

Richardson hasn’t done anything yet. She did approach me about putting a web-site up for her, but her chances are better without a site than with one I would make. Words, yes, websites, not really. It might have been a good way to find out what she stands for, but I’d feel guilty taking her money for something I do that poorly.

So, we have Steve “Devil in the Details” Pierce, Paul “Details? What Details?” Shreiber and Lois “If only I had Details” Richardson.

My money goes with someone who knows what’s going on.

You can be sure that if there are 3 hyenas and one piece of meat, some unseemly fighting will ensue. Forasmuch as we have striven for better in 5 millennia of civilization, we haven’t advanced all that much.

Take Care



Dear Mr Schreiber

Dear Mr Schreiber,

It has come to my attention that, apart from our wee skirmish over open meetings, some friends of yours have endorsed your candidacy, and directly slammed your opponents using the letterhead of a defunct Human Rights organization, in a campaign funded by your organization.

Now, we know that this is legally murky ground, in fact, its simply illegal.

So, where do you stand on mistakes, good man?

How will you handle them? You are going to make some mistakes as Mayor, as will Pierce or Richardson if either of them win.

You have lost some credibility, sir, and you need to regain it if you want to capture the swinging vote.

It is easy to “show leadership” when times are good, and on tough issues, however when the excreta hits the propeller, that’s when the true calibre of a leader can be measured. Will you tough it out or will you stand corrected? I know which course of action would win my vote if it mattered.

I watched our current Mayor preside over some monumental blunders and then defend those blunders as the right course of action. Some people find that admirable. I find it devastating, because the people of this city are paying for it every day. Don’t get me wrong, the city is a far better place to live in for the contribution that Mayor Farmer has made, but that doesn’t mean every decision she made was good, or that every course of action she defended was right.

You may feel sufficiently confident in your support base that you don’t need to answer this note. So be it. But whether you grace my corner of the net with your comments or not, the good folk of Ypsilanti should see the sort of stuff of which you are made,

Take Care



"He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

There are greater threats to national security, Mr. President, than 20,000 hippies giving the forest a collective hug.

From the June 29 edition of the DenverPost.com


""We're not picking on innocent people," said Denise Ottaviano, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman who came to Steamboat Springs from Washington as part of the task force. "Everyone there is part of an illegal gathering."

“Hundreds of those ticketed are set to appear before a federal magistrate in a makeshift courtroom today. The magistrate, manning the bench in a firehouse a few miles from the gathering site, could impose up to a $5,000 fine and six months of jail time on each defendant.”


"Federal officials contend the gathering is being held illegally, and officers last week began issuing citations to dozens of participants."

"The civil case, filed Tuesday by Denver attorney David Lane, argues that closed hearings on those citations being held in a nearby firehouse violate the Sixth Amendment".

US constitution, 1st Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

US Constitution 6th amendment

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Can someone explain to me what constitutes an “illegal gathering” in this country?

From an e-mail circulating on the subject

"The Bush Administration has spent millions of dollars trying to stop the Rainbow Gatherings. They are enforcing a 'Noncommercial Group Use' permit regulation that is impossible for unaffiliated individuals to comply with. 36 CFR 251.54 They require that that someone sign as an agent for a fictional group entity named as permit Holder -- which then must assume full liability from the Government and bind participants vicariously to its terms."

"By the creed of the gatherings, no one can appoint themselves to such a position. More importantly, such an ad hoc gathering has no legal capacity to designate agents or act as a group party in any way."

So there is the “legal” issue. Do I need to re-quote the constitution? I haven’t tracked down the law in question to verify its contents, but it would appear to be a pro-forma permit requirement of little real consequence… until now.

Last tally I heard was that over 500 people had been ticketed and that those ticketed were herded into makeshift detention centers and tried in a local fire station without adequate legal representation.

This sort of unwarranted and unnecessary conflict does nothing to quell the very real fears of American citizens that their president is abusing his power.

What possible threat does a bunch of tree hugging hippies pose to national security? If they pose no threat to national security, why are we spending a bazillion dollars arresting them?

A bunch of hippies is going to look after the forest in the same way that a bunch of devout Catholics will be respectful of St Peter’s Basillica. Of all citizens who gather in the forest in summer, these are the ones who present least threat of all.

This same non-cohesive gathering of The Rainbow Family has been meeting in national forests for 30 years without causing a major fire, or even leaving a major mess. That’s an impressive track record.

From the same e-mail.

"The Forest Service requires that a permit be applied for in advance of the gathering. And they use any excuse possible to deny a permit application when we [Rainbow Gathering] manage to submit one. This year their denial was based on the fact that a logging company had a permit to log in a nearby parcel of the national forest, even though there is no logging activity present whatsoever. The site is far remote from any inhabitants -- but still the Forest Service is all over our case."

"Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to block this harmless gathering from taking place."

So, here is the situation that the Federal Government is faced with.

A group has requested permission to gather in a national forest. The group has no designated authority; such authority is antithetical to the group’s nature. It is better described as a gathering than a group. This gathering is perhaps 20,000 people or so, it is a BIG gathering.

These people can’t sign a liability guarantee due to the nature of the gathering.

Looking at the track record of this gathering, they have been meeting for 30 years in National Forests, in summer, without lasting harm to the forest or to the surrounding communities.

A logging company has a permit that includes the parcel of forest near to the gathering, but is not being actively logged during the timeframe of the gathering. Basically, the logging is a non-issue, though the company should be advised of the presence and duration of the gathering.

So, we can let these people gather, as is their constitutional right, and we can waive liability guarantee based on the group’s track record of responsible behaviour, or we can spend a gazillion dollars rounding them up and ticketing them because their paperwork is not in order.

Guess which course of action our federal government has taken. Yep, you guessed it, our tax dollars are being spent rounding up and arresting, detaining, and charging hippies, because they want to gather together and hug some trees.

The fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party should be spitting nails about this. This is a very expensive show of force that serves no useful purpose.

The trillion dollar deficit continues to grow, our liberties continue to be eroded, and the republicans are sitting around their campfire singing “kum-ba-ya… He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

These are not the actions of an administration that is watching out for its citizens, these are the actions of an administration bullying a marginal group of citizens in an attempt to prove how tough it is.

I thought this country was founded by people who wanted something better than this.

Any administration, Republican or Democrat, that rounds up an orderly gathering of innocent people; which then detains and charges them without adequate legal representation on charges of insufficient paperwork, needs to be watched very carefully indeed, for these are actions befitting a tyrant…

I wonder if the Germans were singing a similar song in the 30’s as their democratically elected government led them down the path of tyranny.?

How does it go now?

“He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

Take Care



A Question of Violence

A Question of Violence.

This is an article that I have been mulling over since the “offended” post.

The issue of abortion should not be debated in terms of “rights”, but in terms of violence, and in particular, the level of violence we are prepared to abide within the framework of our civilized societies.

Abortion has been present in organized civilizations for as long as societies have provided compelling reasons for a pregnancy to be unwanted. The reasons vary form one society to the next, and indeed form one person to the next, but they are compelling, or there would be no call for the service.

Many folk traditions have herbal concoctions that will terminate a pregnancy. These are not the quaint folk traditions that tourists travel the world to see; these are the traditions that were rarely discussed in polite company, and never made into a spectacle… and neither should they be. If there were no compelling reason to seek termination, this lore would not exist.

So, abortion has been with us for a long time. In our modern days of clinical and surgical medicine, we feel confident in surgical procedures where we may be less inclined to know about, or seek out, ancient folklore. Unfortunately, when a surgical procedure is illegal, the risks posed to the patient increase dramatically, risks including disease, sterility, or even death.

The gravity of the decision to terminate directly implies that the consequences of not doing so are graver than the removal of the spark of life from a developing child.

I’m not going to attempt to argue the morality of that decision.

Regardless of what I think of the decision to terminate in esoteric, moral, or religious terms, the fact remains that people weigh up their options and take the decision to terminate daily. And these people have always existed within civilized society.

People will take that decision whether it is legal or not.

I remember one of my schoolmates left town for a few weeks to have an abortion. She was pregnant to one of my other schoolmates. Broken condom. I was 16 at the time, and so were they. They were both nice kids, they never seemed to be the same after that. It was kept very quiet because it was still illegal back then. Rumour was, the abortion made her sterile. I remember talking with my classmate (the guy) about that possibility before the event. I know it haunted him for years afterwards. I don’t think she ever got over it. I’m not sure that she could have.

So, abortion laws and protests do not stop the act. They never have. The fact that illegal abortions are unsafe, high risk, enormously traumatic experiences doesn’t deter people from seeking them out.

Rights issues are entirely eclipsed by the facts.

The facts remain despite the arguments about the rights of unborn children, and the rights for women to decide what happens to them.

Women do abort, whether they have the right to or not. Whatever rights an unborn child may or may not have, these are terminated daily.

To solve the problem of abortion, one must first create a society in which every child, and every pregnancy, is welcome. Our society is far too violent for that to be the case any time soon.

We are far too concerned with making pronouncements on how other folks should live their lives to welcome every child born into our world. In many cases, we remain judgemental about those who have children out of wedlock, and for reasons I have never understood, blame the child for its situation.

We have yet to devise a mechanism to effectively support parents in the most important job they have- raising our children. Other countries are making inroads in this direction, the US is still sadly lacking.

There should be no question in anybody’s mind that abortion is an act of violence. It is. Irrevocable harm is done to healthy human tissue. Patients know it, practitioners know it, and even protestors know it.

The question is not one of rights, then, but one of control. How do we minimize the societal impact of an act of violence that will continue whether we condone it or not?

To make abortion illegal is to add significantly to the dangers inherent with surgical procedures. It puts our women of childbearing age at greater risk than legalization does. Those who survive an illegal abortion and are not sterile may well be marred for life by the trauma of an event for which they were not mentally and emotionally prepared.

It is my opinion that, as a society, we do better if those who find themselves weighing up the issue have a means for making this onerous choice with appropriate counselling, and in a facility that puts them at less risk of injury, sterility or death.

Less violence is done to our women as a society by allowing abortion than by banning it. It is a sad paradox, but there it is.

In my estimation, the violent people who display images of a dismembered foetus do a far greater violence in our society than those practitioners whose presence they protest.

The placard holders assault our entire community and desensitise our children to gruesome dismemberment. The ramifications of this act are profound. I don’t want to live in a community that is not disturbed by such images.

The practitioner is providing a discreet service, complete with counselling and support, for those members of our society who have weighed the gravity of their situation and find themselves without a viable compassionate alternative.

It is better that we face abortion and minimize the damage that it does in our society, than to hide from it and pretend it won’t happen because we told people not to do it.

The prohibitionist approach didn’t work for Moses and hasn’t worked any time since that I can tell.

No, our society is nowhere near compassionate enough to welcome every pregnancy. Our society is, sadly, not ready to dispense with abortion.

Take Care



Open Meetings and All That

Paul Schreiber and the Open Meetings Act.

If the worst thing you can say about Paul Schreiber is that he may have contravened the open meetings act, then you really haven’t got much mud to throw at him.

Lets get this in perspective.

The open meetings act is very clear on the type of circumstances in which a closed meeting can be called. There is nothing in there that says “because the matter under discussion is damned embarrassing” though I’ll bet there are a few thousand committee chairs wish it did from time to time.

So, Paul has called a couple of closed meetings, the grounds for which are arguably spurious. The YHC attorney made it clear last Thursday night that he saw no infraction of the open meetings act, though I’d like to see him explain how the embarrassing subject of building code violations comes under any of the headings described in the open meetings act, article 15.268 Closed sessions; permissible purposes. Sec. 8.

I suspect that the attorney is resting on the premise that nothing will come of the inquiry; therefore there is no legal issue (however, I’ll wager that the YHC clerk is WELL ABREAST of the open meetings act now).

This act only really becomes a legal issue if someone wants to challenge a decision made during such a closed meeting (those decisions SHOULD be on the public record). Then there is the issue of correct minute taking, a part of the act that was possibly contravened, and which may present some embarrassment should anyone want to contest such a decision.

So, the legal issue is a non-event unless someone is aggrieved by a decision made in one of the closed meetings, and has the means and inclination to take their grievance to court.

The legal implications do not absolve Paul of the political issue.

It is only a little bit of mud that has been thrown, but the question remains, what is Paul’s commitment to open government? Will he deal with embarrassing situations behind the scenes?

Lord only knows that the actions of the present city council have been directed more from behind the scenes than in the public meetings. It is true that all the decisions are made in public and in a proper and orderly manner, but the votes are apparently tallied and arms apparently twisted long before the oath of allegiance is ever sworn in a public meeting.

I’d like an answer from all of the candidates on that question.

As I said in my first blog, were I inclined to vote for Paul in the first place, this issue would not sway my vote at all, however if I was swinging, I’d have to weigh Steve and Paul fairly carefully.

If Lois ever makes a public statement about what she hopes to achieve as Mayor, we can weigh her in the balance as well.

Take Care




Yes I was Offended!

Anybody who knows me at all knows that it is pretty hard to offend me. You’ve got to be REALLY trying to get up my nose.

I spent most of my first year in the USA apologizing because I inadvertently offended folks by being more frank than is the custom in these parts.

You can imagine my horror, then, as I drove down the main street of our fair town recently to be confronted by enormous placards of a dismembered, late term fetus.

I mean, what gives? I understand that the constitution enshrines the right to free speech. Does that include the right to violent visual assault?

If I were to find a TV program offensive, I could change channels or turn it off (presuming I had a TV in the first place.) If I find a newspaper article offensive, I can choose not to read. If I find a film or performance offensive, I can walk out. I have control of what I expose myself to, and far more importantly, I mostly have control over the level of visual violence I expose my 3-year-old son to.

I am driving my car. I not only have to pay attention to the road, but to the pedestrians lining the street, on the off chance that one of those god-awful placards has a child darting from behind it.

It is an outrageous offence that these people are permitted to make such a gruesome display on public streets particularly at a time when children are out and about. Its wrong!. A mutilated corpse is not something anyone should have to confront while going about his or her business.

The most bitter irony of all of this is that these are the folks who campaign on “Family Values”. Family values be damned. Their "Family Values" are entirely betrayed by their actions. At what age is it acceptable to assault a child’s sensibilities in this manner? How dare these people take it upon themselves to decide that my kids should see this.

Thank the gods my child was asleep in the car as I drove through!! I can imagine the question from the back seat

“What’s that picture Dad?”

“Oh, nothing son, just bits and pieces of an unborn child”

The rest of the conversation might have gone “Why are these people holding up those awful pictures?” and my answer would have to be “Apparently they don’t find them awful, and they apparently don’t think we should find them awful either. There are some sick and violent people in the world, aren’t there?”

Why else would they be shoving them in my face?

Now, before some well-meaning individual tells me that “this is happening every day”, and “it’s the truth” and waxes gruesome about the evils of abortion, I was well aware of these facts a long time before these violent people assaulted me with their images of gore. I don’t need a visual prompt to tell me that abortion is an unsavory business.

I certainly don’t want to have to explain to my pre-school son how it is that such violent people are allowed to make such a foul display of our streets. My son is completely unable to comprehend the complexities of the abortion issue, and I have no intention of explaining it to him before he is able to understand it.

The abortion clinic that opened up does not have a billboard display, I have no idea who runs it, nor do I care, I am unlikely ever to need its services. For those who feel the need for its services, it is a legal facility operating under the protection of state law. The clinic is not in my face about its work, nor should it be.

If these people want to get in someone’s face about the issue, they should start with the legislature and issue their macabre pictures in discreet folios. They might want to make a power point presentation of gory picks, or even a gruesome movie…

That’s it… they can take their god-awful material and publish it on the “adult” sites on the Internet where it can be censored by their own “Family Values” filters for its repulsive content.

Whatever these violent people do with their gory pictures, I must commend the group of citizens who took it upon themselves to hold up sheets in protest of the protest. WELL DONE!!

Just in case you think I haven’t heard the other side of this dispute, I was in a public meeting a week ago when a member of our community stood up and complained bitterly that a 10-year-old boy penned a less-than-perfect letter to the editor outlining why he was offended by this display.

I was offended by that display and I’m a lot older than 10.

I would expect any 10-year-old to be deeply troubled by such violence being thrust on him, and SHAME ON YOU to those violent people who argue for life and yet revel in images of brutal death. TAKE YOUR DISGUSTING IMAGES OFF OUR STREETS.

There, that feels better

Take Care



Steve answers his critics.

Steve Answers his critics.

As I expected, Steve was quick to jump on the bankruptcy rumor and I can’t say I blame him.

I’ll add a couple of carefully chosen quotes here rather than giving you the full response. It is representative of what he said, and I’m sure he will comment if I have made any conspicuous omissions or altered his intent.

Steve opens his response with a couple of clear assertions.

Wow, rumors of bankruptcy. That is a new one. No idea where that is coming from.

“I have never declared bankruptcy and I always pay my bills. No idea where this is coming from. ”

He goes on to elaborate on his early working life. The most important disclosure here is one that he has made many times.

“When I was 20 years old I was head of marketing for a company called Innovative Woodworking. It was a woodworking shop with about $100,000 of high end woodworking tools and shop equipment. We were in a 3,000 square foot building in what was at the time in 1983 booming Aurora, Colorado. It was a cool concept. It worked like a health club, you paid a membership and you could use the shop. After a year the business failed for a variety of reasons, one of the big ones was the inexperience of all three principals of which I was one of them.

That business cratered after spending $500,000 of investor money including money of some very close friends. It was a hell of an experience. So, passionate to understand why the business failed, I went back to school and got a business degree. What I learned was the business professors had no idea how to run a business either. What I did learn from that experience was the importance of cash flow and if you don't have receivables, you better not be spending cash. Another thing I learned is that, when you are in trouble, ask for help. There were good people all around us that could have and would have helped, and we didn't reach out while things were savable.

When you talk to successful businessmen all over the world, they will tell you, that the best experience they ever got was from a business that failed, more so than one that succeeded. Moreover, if you don't fail or fall down every once in a while, you aren't trying hard enough. The true measure of your character is how you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and then get back in the game…”

“…From that experience, I have been involved in at least 5 start-up or high growth companies, every one of them is either a going concern or was sold.”

Steve went on to outline his many contributions in the Ypsilanti community and made it clear that he has indeed been a persuasive voice for change.

Rather than risk becoming member of his promotional team, I’ll let you ask Steve about his achievements, I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell you.

Take Care



well, here goes nothing.

So... Who's gonna be Mayor of Ypsilanti?

Who Cares?

Ypsi citizens should, the rest of the world will sleep well regardless.

Many readers will know me from the Ypsilanti Courier, where I made pocket money as a correspondent for a while. The problem is that the pocket money wasn't enough to buy a decent dinner most weeks, and City Hall is a beat that requires a lot of time and effort if one is going to do it well.

I figured if I'm going to work for peanuts, I might as well work for nothing for a while and truly enjoy writing what I do. This way I am making a contribution to the good citizens of Ypsilanti without contributing to the coffers of corporations who don't know where Ypsilanti is, let alone care what goes on here.

So, Mayor anyone?

I will preface these comments by saying that these are the candidates as I know them. I know Steve better than I know Paul, and I know Steve and Paul better than I know Lois. I haven't dug deeply to find this stuff, so these are the candidates as I see them, with whatever cheap gossip is floating around about them as well. If any or all of them want to set up an interview, I'll be in that, and I'll be happy to publish my thoughts.

Steve Pierce.

Steve is seen as a Johnny-come-lately developer with a lot of good ideas but little track record for lofty accomplishments according to some. Mind you, he DID manage to negotiate a settlement with K-Mart for the old Kresge building, which made way for the loft apartments now occupying that site, and he has sat on as many committees as he can in the community in the time that he has been here. He is at more meetings more often than any other citizen I know (or at least he was when I was covering city hall) so there is no doubt that he has the time and the commitment for the job, and he knows everyone he is likely to be working with should he be called upon to serve as Mayor.

The question on many minds is "can he do it?" and that really remains to be seen. There are those who question his track record with business, rumors of bankruptcy and the like. To the detractors I'll say "put up or shut up." Show me some proof. To Steve I would say "If there is something folks need to know, you need to get it out in the open now."

While matters of personal integrity need to be addressed, it is the City Manager who MUST be a capable administrator, and Ed Koryzno is pretty good at his job by all accounts.

With Steve, what you see is what you get. He has a talent for detail and you can be sure he will interpret details to his advantage. This is not a bad thing, but its worth keeping in mind

Paul Schreiber

My experience of Paul is largely gleaned from the Parkview debacle. It is my estimation that the YHC did what they could to come to the party in that dispute. Paul did a good job representing the YHC position, but unfortunately lacked the clout to push it through. (Mind you, I think the only way to change the city’s decision was to change the mind of a couple of key council members, and I’m not sure anyone could have done that.)

I like Paul. There is no doubting his sincerity or his dedication. Whether he has the time to do the job is another question. While I realize I was never the top name on his in-box, most communication I received from him was very late at night. I was very impressed with Paul’s analysis on the income tax. I believe it is the best synthesis I have seen of the issue anywhere.

The only gossip I have heard about Paul related to a YHC closed session that was called improperly. This is something that should be addressed if it contains a thread of truth, however it is hardly a hanging offence. Its not an event that would sway my vote (not that I can vote in this or any other election), though I’d be watching his interpretation of the rules, and I’d make sure he was open.

Rev. Lois Richardson.

I’ve probably had more exposure to Lois than to the other two candidates, but I don’t know her well. I have watched her represent her constituency with tireless dedication. She has raised many issues in City Hall that have left the administration embarrassed.

If I have a criticism of Lois, it is that I haven’t seen her sway the opinion of City Hall on any key issues. I see her as vocal and tenacious, but not particularly persuasive.

Actually, in my brief stint as a journalist in City Hall, I can’t say that any of these candidates are particularly persuasive people. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not.

Of all the members of council and the community that I have seen closely enough to comment, I’d put Trudy Swanson in the mayor’s seat in a heartbeat. She is passionate, persuasive, and believes in doing the right thing BECAUSE it’s the right thing. Its true, she didn’t win Parkview in the end either, but it wasn’t because she didn’t try.

Anyway, those are a few somewhat dated thoughts about the Mayoral race.

I’m glad that Mayor Farmer is not running again. She worked very hard to alter the city charter, and then administered that charter from its inception to the present day. Much of the great work that has been accomplished in this city has been facilitated by her generous contribution (along with that of many others). I feel, however, that she has given enough, and that her most recent term has seen her tired and overcommitted.

I would betray my own voice if I did not also acknowledge that there have been some monumental mistakes made by City Hall under her administration. Parkview and Water street being the two that spring to mind immediately. I am not surprised at the number of folks who have abandoned ship from the heads (and tails) of city departments of late.

The impression left on me by City Hall was one of lip-service to the people with final deference to the “experts”. I hope this will change, for the experts have been sadly lacking in anything resembling expertise to date.

On one hand a good job has been done, on the other a mess has been made. The citizens of Ypsi city will have to cop it sweet and mop up the mess made by the experts, but they do have a better charter to work with and a cleaner city council than they had before.

The new Mayor will have quite a job on his or her hands. Lets hope he or she is up to the task.