Starting the Ball Rolling
Back at the beginning of 2009, the Mayor and his family celebrated the New Year down in Grand Rapids, and watched them drop a New Year's Ball, much like the one that gets dropped annually in Times Square. They thought it may be a good thing to have happen in Ludington. While some may have never connected the concept of lowering a lighted ball with the
beginning of a new year, I know a couple of people who just have to watch the ball drop on the TV to ring in the New Year. It's about as good as any other tradition in that respect.
The idea of having one in Ludington germinated over the winter and began being developed by the Mayor at the monthly Downtown Ludington Board (DDA) by March. By April's meeting, they were devoting funds to the project:
and by June they planned on having the framework of the project available for the Fourth of July Parade. By September and October's DDA meeting, the funding of the ball and the various activities they had planned for the event was in full swing, with left over funds being used and sponsorships encouraged to cover the costs.
Getting on the Ball
December saw flurries of activity in preparing for the event. Although the CVB (Convention and Visitor's Bureau) were supposed to be putting together New Year's Eve (NYE) packages, City Hall (400 S Harrison) was getting the $10 payments for them, and the $20 for those who were ordering special glasses made by the Red Door Gallery.
On December 15, the Daily News' Melissa McGuire reported that the ball was made by GLC, Harsco employees and the lights by Tye Signs. “It’s really cool,” DDA's leader Heather Venzke said. “From what we know, it’s the biggest ball in Michigan. It’s pretty amazing that for such a small community we can do something so huge.” She said most of the work and electrical equipment has been donated, except for the steel and lights. Mayor Henderson said everyone is invited to come downtown for the free event and share in Ludington’s first ball drop. On the 24th and 30th, Ms. McGuire wrote two more glowing stories about the upcoming event, and when the new year arrived, things pretty much went off according to plan.
Knocking the Cover off the Ball
Let's not forget that in 2009, the DDA was primarily funded through tax-increment financing and a 2 mill tax. This accounted for over 80% of its revenue, so that when they spent money it was almost exclusively from property taxes and 'captured' taxes from the city and county: taxpayer money. DDA's are required to have their financial records available to the public and their monthly expenses itemized and available by state law MCL 125.1654. I managed to get these, even though the itemizing was not the best for determining what was spent in a lot of cases. Here are the expenses of the DDA in 2009 earmarked strictly for the NYE Ball Drop:
12-03-09 Liquor License for NYE Ball Drop: $25
12-07-09 One Day Liquor License : $50
12-07-09 Supplies/repairs : $798.97
12-22-09 NYE Ball- Ball Drop : $950
12-22-09 NYE DJ : $600
12-29-09 Supplies-Entertainment Tent NYE : $594.80
12-30-09 NYE Glass Order : $160
12-30-09 Advertising- Light Up the Lake : $100
12-30-09 Transfer- NYE Dial-a-Ride : $200
12-30-09 Lights- NYE ball : $6226.68
12-30-09 Supplies NYE : $679.40
12-30-09 Reimburse NYE Supplies : $86.16
12-30-09 Supplies- NYE : $77.66
12-30-09 Supplies- NYE : $25.86
12-30-09 NYE Fireworks Display : $2000
12-30-09 NYE Supplies : $296.04
12-30-09 NYE Supplies : $191.49
12-31-09 Reimburse NYE Supplies : $59.94
12-31-09 Supplies- NYE Ball : $500
12-31-09 Supplies NYE Ball : $987.71
TOTAL SPENT DIRECTLY FOR NYE BALL DROP: $14,549.23
Now there could have been some vaguely marked "supplies" or "advertising" earlier in the year that may have added to this total, since the records have no 'NYE' marked purchases before 12-3-09. Let's just key in on this near $15,000 of public expense. A DDA has limits on what they can spend their money on. One could say that some of these were marketing initiatives that benefit retail and general marketing of the downtown district. But many cannot, particularly when you break down the supplies into actual purchases. Bus transfers, glass orders, fireworks, etc. are dubious expenses that the taxpayer should pay for, particularly when the money spent by the DDA is unaccounted for...
For even though, they spent nearly $15K on the above, the revenue created for the DDA/City was recorded as $0.
A bit hard to comprehend, when you consider that they sold at least 300 of the $20 glasses, and a good deal of $10 packages. Some people in the city got pure profit from the taxpayer's money. In the DDA's financial records they also had notated therein a figure of over $40,000 for "donated" items for the NYE Ball Drop, without itemization of where it came from, where it went, or how it figured into the equation. Further inquiries into this amount yielded nothing new from the DDA or FOIA Coordinator.
Amanda St. Hillaire of the DDA (the same one that made a motion to divert more funds to the NYE project in September) just so happens to make specialty glassware for the Red Door Gallery which made at least 500 of the $20 glasses. Tye Signs Inc., ran by DDA member Nick Tykoski (the same Tykoski that motioned $1500 be diverted to creation of the ball in April) charged $200 of the vinyl lettering for glasses to the taxpayer, as well as $300 for lettered banners, and $987.21 on electrical supplies for the New Year's ball. It is hard to explain away the apparent conflicts of interest, and misuses of office and public funds.
I don't get you. You come on here and quibble over some small stuff that X has put up here claiming some knowledge yourself, but with an obvious false name and no documentation yourself to prove your points. You claim to have some insider knowledge, put up or shut up. The "Light up the Lake" link above the video above shows that 'packages' were offered up by the city including Ms. Hillaire's artwork.
To check on your facts, I tried to find a package on the Ludington CVB for 2010 and could not find one on a site search. The one for 2011 says that a 'package' offered by the event comes free with a two night stay at some motels.
As for your saying "There is not a person or group of people who benefit or profit from this event, or any event run by the City." Ha, ha, ha.
Edie, thanks for your research on the facts.
Sally, we encourage contributors to offer proof to support their assertions or opinions here. To reply to your concerns:
1) The link Edie shown was for last year's package, here is this years: http://www.ludington.mi.us/departments/community_development/docs/2...
Once again. the money for the packages are being sent to City Hall, 400 S. Harrison. Edie covered your misinterpretation.
2) The financial records, sketchy as they are for a DDA, seem to disprove your claim. Explain the 'NYE Glass Order' and show me the receipts/invoices for some of the 'supplies' and this entry and I may capitulate on that point.
3) The financial records do not support your point, and your first claim is easily disprovable.
4) All the money came from DDA funds (over 80% of these funds are taxes) the financial records show this. Mr. Tykoski is invited to show all his invoices with the City of Ludington, as we cannot get them from that source without having our money extorted from us.
The link Edie provided is a link from KTVU to the story about the Hooters lawsuit. Edie probably made a mistake in copying & pasting the wrong link, but you obviously were already aware of the link Edie wanted to post. This lends credence to the suggestion that you and Edie overtly conspire together to make your point here.
I was familiar with the link to the CVB, and didn't check Edie's link out as I should, figuring she would be competent enough to paste the right link she set up.
Look out, everyone-- concerned citizens are conspiring together to try to get the truth our city government won't reveal to us like it should.
Sally.... I have no dog in this race other than the fact I see no incoming funds that support your belligerent stance, that the person who had to pay to get what little the city has passed out here has a problem with authority.
In fact the city works for the tax payers not the other way around.
You may be completely correct in your stance BUT YOU CANT TELL THAT BY tHE PIECE MEAL CITY RECORDS THAT THE CITY SOLD TO ITS TAX PAYERS.
iF YOU CAN SHOW US WHERE THE MONIES COME BACK INTO THE BUDGET INSTEAD OF WHINING Maybe your thorn in the side would go away. Instead we have to play hide go seek with what should be PUBLIC RECORDS.
No one said anyone personally benefited from anything.. just that how would anyone know looking at the records your city made a resident pay for.
I don't believe I have knocked the event itself, just the process of how it is funded, the use of public funds for what appears not to be in the mandates of a DDA, and some of the ethical issues involved by some of the players.
If you are the Brandy Henderson who is the Communications Marketing Asst. at the Ludington Chamber of Commerce and the prior Public Relations and Event Coordinator Intern of the City of Ludington, we welcome your knowledge here at the Ludington Torch. You can feel free to enlighten us with any 'counter-proof' you have at your disposal.
Which is probably a lot more than I can get through the City of Ludington's FOIA Coordinator, who charged me $57.23 to look at records which confirms he never looked for competitive bids for the water tower painting project. That lack of process cost the true City of Ludington entity-- the people that live and own property here-- hundreds of thousands of dollars. This event costed us considerably less.