Ludington City Council Meeting June 10, 2019: An Unfinished Tail

My report on this meeting will unfortunately be incomplete due to the rather extraordinary coincidence that I did not stay for the full meeting (only the second time I have needed to leave such a meeting early in eight years), and only the second time I can remember that the videographer of the meeting did not have it fully recorded.  I did confirm that there was nothing untoward that happened after the camera went dark, but I apologize to our readers for this incompleteness.

The public was notified that one of the items was taken off the agenda. This was for the council to go into closed session to consider settlement terms for the City with an Open Meetings Act (OMA) lawsuit involving myself and another citizen. Neither the officials or the local media revealed what stalled that item, but I will go into that in detail in short order. It involves a libelous attack out of the blue made by a city official, which the official refuses to recant. When it came time for public comment, I gave a brief synopsis of what us plaintiffs had found out about regarding the conduct of city standing committees over the last years. We have several examples of each bad behavior among our records.

June 10th, 2019 Ludington City Council meeting from Mason County District Library on Vimeo.

XLFD (2:30 in): "Over the course of the last ten years where I have been closely monitoring the city's actions, it has been rather apparent that a lot of the business that should come before the full council has been already discussed and decided at the committee level. Standing committees would be assigned three or more councilors at the first meeting of the year and were free to do their business without a publicly-available agenda at hastily convened meetings held at publicly-inconvenient, non-standard times.

Even though sometimes four or more councilors would attend, a quorum of the city council, and discuss public policy without restriction, these were claimed to be committee meetings not subject to the open meetings act. But they weren't, they were meetings of the Ludington City Council. And even if they lacked that quorum of four people, they were still occasionally making final decisions for the City, stealing that authority from the full council which had to make those final decisions in a meeting open to the public, by law.

They also would resort to 'musical chairs' where one committee may have up to all seven councilors, appear to discuss an issue over two or more committee meetings, creating a constructive quorum of the city council where they would effectively discuss and decide the issue out of the public's eye.

And even though officials claimed these committees did not exercise any government or proprietary authority, the notes of the meetings showed otherwise as did the testaments of the attendees. The city code has three places where these committees exercise sole government authority over an issue, and those were voted into law and are enforced by these very officials.

The city's unlawful behavior at the committee level has disenfranchised the public from knowing what is happening in this system of supposedly local self-government. Public policy often only becomes public after bouncing around multiple committees multiple times, being reviewed and voted on already by quite possibly every single councilor, before it makes its way here as an afterthought.

Each councilor here needs to recommit themselves to their constituents, they need to offer them a seat at the table for the most controversial and most mundane issues. Fear not, most will decline that seat, but they will appreciate you giving them the choice and the opportunity to play their part in what may affect their future. And you may avoid future legal problems. Thank you [END]."

Councilor Winczewski went over a Michigan Green Communities plan (read more about MGC here), a rather progressive network of government agencies that focus on prosaic codewords like 'sustainability' but focus on ideas that typically require the influx of extra tax dollars/grants to make them sustainable over their run because of their economic unsustainability. Green ideas are not always good ideas, so look out for the City doing some silly things in order to get a green ribbon from this liberal think tank as they pretty much said everything but Amen to what she had to say.

Councilor Bourgette spoke of changes in the state fireworks laws and stated there were likely changes that the council would be considering. Being that the council has been far from permissive as regards fireworks in the past-- unless they are shooting them off-- consider more restrictive controls on fireworks to come. It's too bad that some of those who believe they have the right to shoot off fireworks do not also believe their neighbors have a right to reasonable times of peaceful enjoyment at their house, which generate such nuisance laws like this for all.

City Manager Mitch Foster went over a few diverse topics regarding the recent visits by 2nd and 3rd graders to city hall, economic development protocols, improving fiber lines primarily for autonomous vehicles, the resignation of the recreation director, and acknowledging the recent successful world record attempt.

They introduced new business starting with approval of the Convention & Visitor's Bureau (CVB) three sunset bonfires, with Councilor Miller and Bourgette abstaining properly. After seeing this I had to leave for a court appointment (which will be explained later).

Following this was the introduction of the three tax levies and rate-settings of millage rates for the DDA, operating, and the police pension. Only the police pension is increasing, due to an elevated rate of retirements among active personnel who would benefit from it. The 10% raise does not need to come before the public for a vote due to state law, hopefully we will see it fluctuate down when the formula they use mandates it. Councilor Serna expressed concern over the millage hike and the added costs of recycling.

The council then gave a resolution of their approval for the Q Smokehouse to get a 'tavern license', approved a water reliability study conducted by Fishbeck, et. al., and awarded the 2019 alley paving bid to Rieth-Riley. Item K had been removed from the agenda, approving a balancing change order for the water treatment plant.

They handled a couple of zoning issues, rezoning 1108 S Madison from commercial to residential and splitting three lots of 60' width owned by the same person into two 90' width lots at 1014 Vogel. The next two items were closely related. They changed the rules at Cartier Park to not allow commercial operations without express approval of the city council, and to stress that marijuana (any type) could not be used in the campground, along with other controlled substances.

The video then ends, so all mayhem may have broken loose, but the remaining 'new' business of the council was to deny the use of Cartier Park to Kelly Morrison's business venture, which for all intents and purposes, they had already done at the committee level, and to approve the city manager executing the waterway's grant for repairing docks at the municipal marina.

The only other topic on the agenda was for the mayor to announce four volunteers for various boards: Jean White and Andrea Sargent to the Board of Ethics (alternates), Melissa Reed to the Planning Commission, and Susan Johnson to the Library Board. And for the council to approve them, which they undoubtedly did.

I've asked another person present whether anything else off-agenda happened after the filming ended, they do not remember anything, but that could be because there wasn't a lot of controversy this evening-- and not even a closed session-- or because their mind had dulled by that point.

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No marijuana at Cartier Park... Is that legal? What a camper does inside their tent is private, presumably.

How does the State of Michigan MML read? Does that law extend just to your home? Or anywhere in privacy of some vehicle/camper you own? I'm not sure either, but, it appears Ludington officials again are trying to evade state laws, not surprising nowadays.

Here is a snippet from the policy that was approved unanimously last night.  

The wording of the new state law prohibits consuming marijuana in any 'public place' — that includes streets, sidewalks, parks (the campground is in a public park), and parking lots and in vehicles traveling on or parked in those locations. Additionally, the law also allows property owners to control whether or not to allow marijuana use on their properties.  

Inside your tent is generally considered private, but if the camp hosts are able to triangulate that the pungent smell is coming from your tent while passing by, they can probably evict you without consequence.  If you have an electrical hook-up and feel you may need some medication, bring an air purifier or two for the inside of your camper.  Going native, bring what they call a 'doob tube' for your tent.  Never used them or pot myself, but they do help mask the odor.

Police pension fund

Underfunded by decree

Taxpayers suffer.

Why should a $2million+ shortfall in the police pension fund worry the recipients when the tax fairy can be called upon to make up any shortfall.  Indeed here is a lesson in bad government with no redeeming social value save a taxpayers revolt which will never happen.  If you don't believe so look at the results of the recent school bond.  With a critical mass of 25% poverty rate who don't have a dog in this fight but have a vote you only have to convince 26% of the remaining 75% of the voters and money will flow your way.  

It almost seems at time like our city leaders have been trying to find success in failure.  For example, In early April, our Community Development Director was looking to get some easy money for Legacy Park, and seeming to be at best 'opportunistic' about a downturn in Ludington's housing market.  From an April 3rd E-mail to a potential contractor:

"I was recently made aware that Ludington is now on the HUD low/mod list, which opens up some grant options that were not available to us previously.  That means we can dust off some plans that were put on the shelf just waiting for funding availability."

Isn't that special? HUD has downgraded Ludington's housing stock, that means we can spend a million from grants to have Detroit, GR and Chicago transplants and contractors design a park on an easement downtown that supposedly celebrates our local heritage and history.  Meanwhile, we still have tens of millions of water and sewer infrastructure to complete, a $100M school modification plan, local streets that rate a 3 out of 10, and a pension problem that nobody wants to talk about (if they or their peers qualify for them).  

Thanks X for this information which we would never see in the LDN. Your description of how business is conducted by the Council reveals how sneaky and corrupt they are, but that's been par for the course for years. It's hard to understand why they continue to act this way. Shay's gone so who's orchestrating this behavior? I don't want to see fireworks eliminated but shortening the time they are allowed makes sense because many  of the fireworks do not sound like firecrackers anymore , they sound like bombs. I'm very happy that the evil weed is not allowed at the park. I would be an unhappy camper if the neighboring tents /trailers were occupied by potheads openly scrambling their brains in front of kids in my camp group. Good luck on your court case. These "green" organizations are nothing but outlets for progressive causes which eventually want everyone blanketed under one omnipotent controller. I do not trust these types of organizations because they are not interested in helping humanity only the control of it.

And this is just the three minute version of the subversion that John Shay and John Henderson created as they sinisterly reformed the standing committees into secret committees; if our case does go to court and we are allowed latitude to explore the extent of the intent of these officials and willing councilors, it will be enlightening to everyone that attends.  The good news is that there are some good reforms in the making, the bad news is that overcoming inertia is not easy, and even though Mitch Foster and some new councilors are working on some positive changes, the old guard still remains at odds with involving the public in their plans.

A lot of the green agenda does seem to follow the Agenda 21/Climate Change goals of having more centralized power with control over more money; all need to be looked on with suspicion, for there usually are underlying motives once you know what you're looking for and you look closely. 


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