You and four friends decide to buy a $20 extra large take-out pizza from a local restaurant.  Everybody's fair share should be $4 each, but your friend Colin feigns poverty, so the rest of you chip in $5 each for the pizza.  Col says he'll do his part by going to pick up the pizza, so grabs the four $5 bills and heads out. 

Col comes back later with half of a pizza, four slices.  When asked, Col informs you that he was worried that eight pieces couldn't be evenly shared by 5 people, so he sold three of the pieces on the way back home and ate his piece because he was hungry.   When asked about the money he got for selling the three pieces, Col feigns poverty again and informs all that he used it to top off his car's gas tank.  

Most people would agree that Col is a jerk, or even a stronger term, for taking advantage of his four friends, but this pizza parable is analogous to how the City of Ludington (COL) has taken advantage of the general public as regards to their lease with Harbor View Marina (HVM).   Let's take a look at the background, here is a view of the taxes paid by Harbor View LLC, a private company that used to run HVM until December 2019 (tap on it to see it bigger):

As you can see, summer and winter taxes for the LLC amounted to nearly $80,000 for 2019.  That money is going to be totally lost in 2020 because the LLC defaulted on a 25 year lease with the State and forfeited their title to the facilities they had at HVM to the State, the value of that property was nearly $1.4 million.  The assessed value of the state's portion of HVM has not increased since 2019, in fact it remains today almost exactly where it was in 2015, at slightly under $2.4 million even with the defaulted $1.4 million property added on.  

The beneficiary of that $1.4 million worth of property appears to be the City of Ludington, who has zero property tax liability, yet this also means that the $80,000 in taxes (paid over the last 20 years) is gone.  Oddly enough, the State of Michigan has about that same amount of taxes it pays to the City of Ludington each year due to DNR Act 513 despite the $1 million difference in value. 

The tenant COL is actually getting paid $6000 per month to exploit the State's property, while the State stands ready, willing, and able to spend millions of dollars to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to that neglected 21 year old property through gifts and grants paid by your taxes and fees, while the City caters to the slip holders and hopefully maintains a surplus.  

So if we call HVM pool and clubhouse the pizza, the COL has gotten it without any cash down, just for driving to the DNR Pizza Shack and costing the tax base $80,000, which ultimately gets paid for by the citizens of Ludington either in increased taxes or decreased services.  The COL has sold slices of this pizza to wealthy boat owners only, many of whom pay no local taxes.  The COL has pocketed that money, in order to pay their own employees and expenses.

So you and your fellow citizens put in $80,000 each year (and more) to get the pizza with extra marina sauce, but your pal, the COL, takes that money and divides the pizza you bought among the slip holders at HVM, so where does the original analogy fail?

None of you get even one slice of the pizza.  You bought it, you can't set foot within the clubhouse, the swimming pool area, or any of the many other places they have marked 'private'.  They have even went out of their way to mark certain areas as private since it actually became fully public.  The nerve.  

All of this happened after that November lease was signed by both public entities which said in clause 24:   

"Lessee (COL) may peacefully and quietly, have, hold, and enjoy the premises (HVM) provided that the use of the premises (HVM) by lessee (COL) is maintained open to the general public"

All of this happened in spite of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment which determines that:

"Generally, the question of whether the Equal Protection Clause has been violated arises when a state grants a particular class of individuals the right to engage in an activity yet denies other individuals the same right."

The COL has created three classes of individuals for this public accommodation within a public facility, each treated differently:  
1) HVM/LMM slipholders and their guests:  free and unlimited access
2) Harbor Front Condo individuals and their guests:  unlimited access via $1000/month fee
3) general public:  no access at all at any time

Therefore, at the end of the day, the COL has not only robbed everybody of their pizza money and sold the pizza slices to their wealthy and elitist friends, they have robbed everybody from the opportunity and constitutional right to ever get a slice of that pie.

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Interesting analogy, X. Thanks for keeping us informed on a subject no other news would report.

Please explain ... but, but. The city of ludington takes in income from the upper two classes of public (marina slipholders, and Harbor Front Condos). How does that add up? Any information available?

Meanwhile, I agree, the general public is totally cut out of usage and doesn't get an opportunity to even pay a fee to use the facilities.

Isn't that fee of $1000 a month for the Harbor Front Condos very expensive. $12k a year? That's expensive swimming.

The boat owners have quite a deal in comparison. Aren't the season slip rentals around $2500 average? And how much income does that bring in? That'd be around $400 a month assuming a six month lease. That's about $15 a day to use the facilities.

The only way the COL really loses that $80K tax revenue equivalency is if no slips are rented and Harbor Front does not have mandatory fee. Need more answers. Someone must figure that the two classes of fees will equate to $80 at least to be profitable. But then, now how many city workers are we paying to maintain the HV marina?

As long as the economy stays strong (um) COL could possibly break even, and maybe employed a couple more voters.

If you have a modest boat of less than 30' in length, docking it at the LMM between April 15- October 15 is not that expensive, just $2130 as of last year's rates.  The clubhouse is thus only available for 6 months, and HF Condos pay only $6000.  You could effectively live on your boat in the marina for 6 months and pay as little as $356 a month for rent with a lot of amenities included.  It's a nice deal if you have a boat and desire to live on it all summer.

2019 Seasonal Dockage Rates

  • 30-foot rate $2,130
  • 38-foot rate $2,964
  • 45-foot rate $3,735
  • 60-foot rate $5,160

Good comparison X. The big problem I see in all of this is one of the conditions in the lease. That being “maintained open to the general public”. The legal problem here may be how that is interpreted. Many things are open to the general public but a fee may be required. That alone will exclude most of the public. Unless there is some other provision allowing free access and use of the facilities to everyone.

You make a good and critical observation that seems logical at first glance, because words on an agreement can often be interpreted in at least two different ways.  The problem arises from the arbitrary classifications created by the public entity running this public marina, along with its multiple signs saying 'private' and having every restroom as 'Boater's only' facilities barred to the public by combination locks.  

If the public marina charges a fee it has to be uniform and non-exclusionary.  They charge no fee for people owning a slip in either HVM or LMM, it's in their agreement.  They charge the condo association $1000 per month, so if 200 people are in that, it costs them effectively $5 each per month.  The public is excluded no matter what they offer, that's why City Manager Mitch Foster has endorsed them putting up brand new signs calling the facilities private and allowing the goons at the public marina to escort the public out of the pool and clubhouse just due to their status. 

John Shay kicked just me out of the city hall and LPD station for 14 months for making too many FOIA requests for his liking, Mitch has kicked everyone out who is helping pay the difference of the evaporated $80,000 in taxes out of a fully-public facility and claiming they can act like a private business in that regard.

Those signs have been up for years and left up after the City took over operations (I am a current slip holder there). While you may not like the circumstance, trying to place blame on a single individual is similar to how those on the left would like to blame President Trump for COVID-19. From your description over multiple posts, the City and DNR are interpreting the agreement to say one thing while you believe it says something different. The primary way these sorts of circumstances are resolved are via the Courts involving the parties affected, which may or may not be you depending upon the court of laws determination of "standing" (especially if you go forward with a 14th Amendment argument as you suggested previously). 

Your blame analogy fails Epictetus primarily because I have been a general fan of Mr. Foster for the majority of his 17 months as city manager, and the problems that have arisen since his assumption of power is that he relies too much on his apartment heads and not enough on the common sense that he possesses. 

If his apartment heads were all as good of managers as Mitch is, there likely wouldn't be much problems, but the former city attorney made a good deal of blunders (the new one isn't off to a good start), the community development director has a long history of ethical lapses, a lot of people have noticed the DPW not doing their jobs this year even with the very low workload they have, and... the marina manager who puts up brand new signs and retains others declaring the premises as private, bathrooms as 'boaters only', and who is allowed to choose who to allow into his public facilities is somebody who should be in the private marina business instead.

So, no I do not place all the blame on Mitch Foster, but if he plans on using a system where he effectively depends upon the judgment of his department heads and eschews what should be his core principles in doing so, his permissive leadership style and performance can be criticized legitimately, and reasonably.  I would more blame the majority of the city council that will sheepishly change the policy tomorrow to put even more liability on the City than I would its city manager.

Logical comments X and one that I may have understood better with a little more nuance in your earlier comments. 

I sometimes put the 'is' in nuance.

Do you realize that as a current slip holder at HVM you currently have the ability to invite me or others as guests so that we can enjoy the clubhouse and pool?

Last couple of days, I've picketed the swimming pool area twice each day, I don't know if you've heard about that, Epictetus, I had a sign with "public marina = public access" on one side and "this isn't a private yacht club' on the other.  It's kind of depressing seeing these people embarrass themselves by classifying me as an Obama-supporter, somebody on public assistance, or a wannabe freeloader.  Somehow reminding them that it's actually a public marina and I'm a taxpayer that helps fund the $80,000 budget deficit the city has this year because of HVM makes them think I'm a commie sympathizing member of Antifa or something.  

I have found that these elites have no knowledge of the 14th Amendment and no empathy to the common folk who pay the bills of their clubhouse and swimming pool.  Pretty sad, but at my heart I'm a teacher and willing to instruct these snobs in what's up, even when I can't go past the white picket fence they have separating them from the unwashed masses.

Interesting point, X, and good way to better see who is coming and going into the "public" marina by picketing.  I wouldn't be surprised if it is becoming more of a "who-you-know" type of entrance than a "pay-for" entrance.  Why heck, it might just become another fringe benefit for city-hallers.  It takes just one to know someone who has a slip and many could enjoy the sunshine in the finest taxpayer funded marina during the Covid shutdown.  Another potential misuse of public funds and public trust in Ludington city hall country club. 

This sounds a bit like a two-way conversation, but please let me add, in regard to the "apartment heads" (supposing that to mean "department" heads in two incidences), I agree with X in that the new city manager seems to be more of a delegator, along for the ride of city failures instigated by certain department heads.

Although he has done more for citizen involvement and communications than has the city council or mayor, his primary job, imo, Is to supervise the department heads and relate budgetary needs. Either he is too young to feel enough authority over the long-established department heads to make much change, or possibly to give Foster a benefit of a doubt, he is slowly progressing and didn't want to come in with blazing changing guns the first year. Either way, maybe 17 months of a three year contract is time enough now to do the city manager's oversight. I hope he can make progress to use his ability to cull out the wrong and especially start spending on projects that will do the most for the greatest amount of residents.
To put a positive spin on this discussion, I have felt positive changes with Mitch Foster in his respect toward the citizen, so much more than the previous city manager, who (among others in the administration) it seems despised citizen input and looked down on citizens as secondary class. That's another set of classes that was, 1. The city, 2. The citizens. It is a big job to work with a staff who has not been trained to treat the citizens with respect. When those at city hall get paid two to three times the average local pay rate, and get benefits unknown of by locals, then it is only too easy to look down on the poor people who pay the taxes. Now with this public marina issue, we have another opportunity to either despise the public and cut them out, or consider them with respect.


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