The September 8, 2014 Ludington City Council meeting will go down as a very quick one, lasting under 18 minutes.  Incredibly, the majority of this time was taken up by two public comments that began at 2:50 into the meeting and extended to the 13:15 mark in the video below.


Before the first commenter, the usual traditions of roll call, Chief Barnett's invocation, the Pledge, and approving the minutes of the last meeting took their time.  In the last five minutes after the speakers former teacher Councilor Winczewski corrected the council room attendance at the last meeting, the first reading of a proposed ordinance was 'presented', Mayor/Reserve Police Officer Cox mentioned a special meeting to interview candidates for the Fourth Ward councilor position, and Councilor Johnson noted the Vietnam War Memorials effect on him and others.


Not very much action, which is generally a good sign with this council, but some important notes must be made. 


1) the open council seat has at least two people from the Fourth Ward interested in it:  Mike Krauch of Melendy Street and Jesse Stubbs of Jefferson Street.  The council will meet in special session on 5 pm September 17 (next Wednesday) at City Hall council chabers to interview these two and any other contenders that beat the deadline of the end of this Wednesday.  They will also approve contracts for the Maritime Museum, now that they have received their big grants from the state taxpayers.


2) the Fire Prevention Code Ordinance (of which I devote some time in my speech) is not readily available to most people unless they check out the ink at the City's minutes on demand and look at this meetings council packet.  It is well worth a look, because it takes what is effectively an up-to-date fire code, and adapts it into a public nuisance by making amendments that aren't  consistent with that fire code.  I reproduce the changes in the current city code as it appears in the packet, with changes from the prior code included:

These changes are critiqued in my speech later.  They effectively make the NFPA Fire Code--that tells exactly what specific standards are-- and reduces it to giving any Ludington police or fire officer the power of telling you to dowse your recreational fire even if it is up to NFPA standards.  heaven forbid if you don't. 


3)  Nancy Mustaikis, who actually got to talk for almost fifteen seconds more than five minutes, brought up an interesting topic concerning vacation rentals.  She is looking for the council to show more latitude in allowing rental properties in the area to be used for our increased population of tourists during the summer.  This makes some sense; if you have rental properties you could conceivably make more money in renting to tourists in the summer in a week than you can by renting to a normal renter for a month. 


Currently, the City under the interests of our local condos, hotels, bed & breakfasts, campgrounds, etc. discourage such vacation rentals by their zoning ordinance, government controlling what you can do with your property.  It is unlikely she will get much support from the control freaks in our government, but she does make some good points, and her logic is generally proved by areas who believe in less restrictive zoning.  Hopefully, she can make some inroads into this despite the waiting opposition.  You will remember Nancy from last meeting where her sidewalk issue was decided in her favor.


She starts at 2:50 in, I hope to get her pamphlet at some point that she handed to the councilors.  I go immediately after at about 8:25 in and my full speech (finished with 8 seconds to spare) transcript follows.

LCC Sept 2014 from Mason County District Library on Vimeo.


"Let me take this opportunity to thank city officials for taking down the bathroom recording cameras this week which were placed surreptitiously in the air vents inside the Waterfront Park privies by them over 13 years ago.  Thirteen months ago, when I made a plea to this very council about this being a problem, the only thing I heard about it from a city official was from a little known board member who famously said:  " I do not expect, there is no expectation of privacy in the bathrooms.  If you don't want to use them, you don't have to; it's your choice."


I must admit, I have used this public bathroom many times and I have always expected privacy when I closed the stall or entered the urinal area.  That is not unreasonable; our own police have helped prosecute a man during this time period whom set up his I-pad at his house to secretly record his cousin when she was taking a shower.  Yet these very same police condoned placing a recording camera surreptitiously in an air vent at a public restroom, where you could see the lens looking at you from inside the stall.  This whole council agreed that it was no big deal, letting the "if you don't want to use them, you don't have to; it's your choice." stand as their reply for the last 13 months.


It looks as if it took an ultimatum by this individual with the threat to remove the cameras by myself at the last meeting to finally get this City Hall spurred into action to remove these cameras, as Chief Barnett said he would to the state police 13 months ago.  Yet, our officials including every single member of this council have not assured the populace that this vile practice of recording people who are expecting a reasonable degree of privacy in our public bathrooms will not be continued.  We don't want our public officials using tax dollars to purchase spy cameras and then using more dollars to have them hidden and installed in bathrooms. 


Consider this meeting your chance to tell the people there will be no more of this indecency in the future, and to explain why the City Manager said he would sell me the edited bathroom tapes of July 2013, while the Police Chief said they weren't recording for a couple of years to the state police.  Does it not bother this council to have their highest powered officials of Ludington be in conflicting testimony on such important matters?


In other matters, the council today will consider revising the fire prevention code.  The basic idea is rather sound; the current standards are based from a 1996 publication and the city wants to update to the more recent 2012 NFPA standards.  I have read through much of the 2012 NFPA Fire Code standards and they are generally very precise in what they set. 


The City is prepared to eliminate the sections in the NFPA Standards on issuing permits and other objective rules and tables dealing with storing and using flammable materials.  Is this wise for the public safety?  The section of the fire code the City of Ludington wishes to amend (and I find it rather presumptuous that the City Attorneys would try to eliminate or amend the NFPA fire code) has such a precise direction.  Section reads:  "Recreational fires shall not be located within 25 ft. of a structure or combustible material unless contained in an approved manner."  That’s it.


The City of Ludington in its wisdom and maternal benevolence wants to change this objective standard to allow any police officer (and presumably any of our 14 reserve police officers) and the fire chief or any of his designees to be able to use their discretion to determine whether a recreational fire is a nuisance or not by using their own subjective standards.  It further allows them to issue a citation and extinguish the recreational fire if the fire's attendant refuses to do so at their bidding. 


This ordinance would only go to alleviate the citizen of any right to question the motives or authority of the police or fire officer who tells them that their recreational fire that otherwise conforms to the objective rules of the 2012 NFPA Standards is a nuisance.  Enforcing such subjective standards may prove legally difficult, but it will provide our attorneys with more work.


Why can we not just adopt the 2012 NFPA Standards which handle potentially dangerous fires and hazards without the council taking the opportunity to take more rights away from the people of Ludington by these ill-conceived amendments to our city code that go against that fire code's objective specificity?  Like the recent fireworks ordinance banning the use of fireworks except on holidays, it is a tyrannical overreach of power that this city council is adopting as its infamous trademark."

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Another well expressed speech to the City Council X but I don't think they understand intelligent logic so I'm sure the Council will continue to erode the rights of the people.

The problem is that they do get the logic, which is precisely why they haven't been able to counter any of the logical assertions I've made about their continuing power grabs over the last few meetings. 

The best defense for their oppressive fire code ordinance would likely be to say that it improves enforcement issues.  The police and fire officers of Ludington don't like responding to people reporting on their neighbors for their backyard fires and not really having any power to do anything if the recreational fire is otherwise safe and legal. 

Now, they can declare it a nuisance without any standard for doing so, and force the neighbor to put his fire out, or get ticketed and get the rush of putting it out themselves.  This is progress?  This is madness and tyranny, King Leonidas! 

Well I see it as a ploy to run your fire wood business out of business. No back yard fires, no sales of fire wood. What's next no wood burning fire places in our homes?

Well, I started the firewood business this summer on a lark to supplement the kids' ambition for a lemonade stand and clear out some of the excess stored firewood I had partially filling the shed in back.  Cool weather and low volume sales hobbled the lemonade stand and the ambitions, but the self-serve firewood business did okay, but rarely did over $50 a week during the season.  I used the back of my 2011 City Council campaign signs to bring attention to the $2 deals on firewood bundles on good old Dowland Street. 

This off-season, I am hoping to put in a lot of hours to greatly enhance my supply so that I can improve the business volume next summer and keep prices low. 

But are the city leaders that vindictive and petty so as to create these fire codes amendments to hurt my fledgling business?  I hate to think they would, but then again I had the City Manager libel me with three different false accusations at the back end of a city council meeting following him and his official buds settling the Rotta v. Shay and the City of Ludington lawsuit for $15,000.  Then I had the police and fire chief attack me in similar manner earlier this year for questioning the reserve police force's legality.

So, the officials involved and the timing of this ordinance may indicate they are once again going after me like they did with other policies during that 2011 era.  But, I thought that may have been my own conceit thinking what you just voiced, stump. 

But I think its because they want more control, as they have banned outdoor wood furnaces, non-holiday fireworks, and next meeting, recreational fires of their choosing, among other things in the last few years.  But they won't be able ban the guiding light of the Ludington Torch or the fires of freedom that burn within us all.

Is that COL council listening at all? Hello! Where are Kathy, Les, and Dan Jr., and you too Special/K?? And why for God's sake aren't the CM Shyster & LFD  Chief Jerry,  LPD Chief NOT answering their accuser? And, why State of Michigan Fire Code rules have now been over-lorded on? ONLY in Ludington? That in itself should at long last tell us what we already know, something stinks, and it aint just the Salmon guts now ! These people have a fixed agenda, to dominate, rule by iron fist, and continue into the future with insincere and offensive policies toward common everyday expected Ludville American freedoms. As Nancy said, private home owners, offensive zoning rules, no rule by votes, and ignoring most ethical and moral standards that are practiced and policy for most of the republic's citizens. Can anyone tell me if that "special meeting on 9/17/14", Wednesday afternoon, is open to the public, or is it a private meeting to initiate a 4th Ward City Council candidate, chosen at the foot of Mayor Cox? This to me, is NOT REAL DEMOCRACY, if True! Oh, late read, your firewood business is very nice X, I too have contributed when I need the wood, and you're the cheapest around, and the quality is excellent imho. Keep up the good work, and we should have a special year-end burn when time permits. Thanks, Aqua. 

You'll notice from at least the last two meetings that anything I have brought to the table has been completely ignored by both the city officials and the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) reporters.  It's as if I hadn't showed up at all, but when you look at the meetings on video and even when you read the minutes of the meeting you are struck by the fact that they are completely denying their responsibility to the public to address some of the issues brought forth-- this time by both me and Nancy Mustaikis taking about 60% of the meetings time with straight talk on important issues. 

When the City Council can't address an issue and the COLDNews can't report an issue, my aim has more than likely struck through another chink in their armor.   Some things cannot be defended by the City of Ludington or their propaganda wing without looking even more corrupt and/or incompetent in the process. 

Thanks for the testimonial for my humble firewood stand, Aquaman, and for the business you sent my way. 

Maybe it's time a coalition of locals went down there in person, like 10-15+ people. All should take their 5 minutes up to address these issues, and make it a joint effort in earnest. The ONLY way these people listen, just like the Mason County Commission, is if people in numbers show and protest their actions, and lack of good judgment. When that Wind Turbine issue came here to be put on Lk. Michigan out along the shoreline, you can bet that 80-100 people showed up, standing room only into the courthouse hall, to counteract the entire matter. It was ONLY THEN, that the MCC did a u-turn and voted it down. You did another fine job X, you are the ONLY voice of truth in that mtg. that makes sense, except for Nancy this time The rest of the clowns are there for their own benefit, and arrogance. Turning a deaf ear on these important issues should only reinforce all our efforts to bring justice and freedoms back to local citizens. Those people are NOT public spirited servants, but rather tyrants, requiring their eventual recall, resignations, and/or firings! 

stump, that's a good point. What is the difference between burning wood in a back yard firebox or in a fireplace? The by products end up in the same place. Also what's the difference between burning wood or charcoal in a bbq, outside cooker, grill, pit or one of those fancy outdoor type ranges that uses wood or charcoal. I think the City Council had opened a can of worms.

Willy, where can I buy one of those BBQ grills, lol??? No doubt, custom made, and that guy should be taking orders for more. I'll bet he could sell a pile of those around the USA, and world too. That's a great Patriot Day picture today imho.  

Aquaman, I agree that is a fantastic grill. What never ceases to amaze me is the creative nature of humans.

I just wanted to update this article with what I think was behind the city's rationale at the time to effectively 'suppress' your right to have a fire in your backyard.  An Mlive article from yesterday states:  "Grand Rapids City Commission last month in a 4-3 vote decided to legalize recreational fires with certain conditions, despite the plea of a poet. Once an application gets filed, the city within 10 days will send notices to all neighbors within two lots of the applicant, and those neighbors will have 21 days to veto the permit for any reason." 

So it looks as if you have over a month waiting period to get a backyard campfire in GR, if none of up to eight neighbors decides to veto it at any time-- and this only because the city council of GR decided to allow any recreational fires at all in a close vote this year.  As noted here at the Ludington Torch, the current leadership of Ludington idolizes former three term GR Mayor George Heartwell as some kind of spiritual guru in the realm of sustainability, et. al. which mostly requires the local government to control almost all aspects of your life inside and outside your home.

Sure enough, Mayor George Heartwell in his first term as mayor had set the backyard fire ban.  This article from last year tells the tale of that initial fire ban:  "Grand Rapids City Commission in 2004 was prepared to permit portable fire pits that stand off the ground and have a lid or chimney, but Mayor George Heartwell changed his mind and the existing ban was upheld by a 4-3 vote. Heartwell at the time said fire pits would be fine "if we could keep the smoke in our back yards." Lacking that, the pits pose a health hazard to neighbors, he said."

One could use the same logic to ban the automobile, because they so upset your health whenever you are walking or riding your bicycle down the street.  The upside for such a ban, however, would be that Heartwell couldn't peddle his lame ideas up here without actually pedaling to get here, and I doubt that's within his ability. 



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