The council packet for the October 23, 2023 meeting of the Ludington City Council had a rather innocuous action item to "discuss deer cull", it would actually be the first time the deer cull question has been on a council agenda this year. However, when Mayor Mark Barnett boldly brought the topic up at the September 11th meeting, he had promised us, and the council moved in support, to have the issue settled by the end of this month. They did not disappoint, bringing the issue to the floor to discuss and then vote even without any information on the topic in their packet.
But let's not put the deer before the sleigh and look at what preceded their action. All councilors were in attendance, and it's highly likely that this was Les Johnson's last council meeting, as he has been transferred over to the county commission, chosen as the replacement for retiring commissioner, and former three term city councilor, Gary Castonia.
Seven citizens spoke, it would likely have been more if the council had suggested it would take action on the cull question. Instead, Annette Quillan plead with the council to wait on the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) issue until they look at her proposal for one of the properties they plan on giving to another entity. Daniel Jensen would follow up on that topic later and wonder why the new taxpayer-propped up developments were not ever going to be in the realm of affordable housing.
Tom Sanders would end the comments by pounding the council on a topic I hold dear, asking when the council would give the regular taxpayer a break. All these great long term tax abatements the council gives out to spur growth falls on the back of everyone else who pays taxes in the area. The council never seems to be empathetic, or at least sympathetic, that the regular citizen is being taken advantage of. The other Tom made that clear and promised more at the end.
In between all of that the deer cull was mulled over. I led off the topic with admonishing them and their integrity for their latest attempt at fraud that was foiled by the county, finished by chiding them for not developing any type of plan over the last 40 days of their deer cull promise:
XLFD: (8:55 in) "Do our city's elected officials know what integrity is? Back in February, they tried to pass a local playground off as obsolete commercial property, in September they tried to pawn off that same playground as a qualified facility for commercial rehabilitation. You did this for the purposes of dishing out public money to a private out of town developer, to the detriment of the rest of the taxpayers and for all those who develop properties without asking their city for a handout from the community chest under false pretenses.
If you want to know what integrity is, find your inspiration in the county board. They looked at the clear wording of the law, they listened to the city's and the developer's best arguments, and they courageously and unanimously came to the logical conclusion that land that has been a playground for decades is not historically commercial property. While you were fixated on greasing the hands of outsiders who have little care for our community so that they could soon erect a bronze placard at some point with your forgettable names on it, the county board was dedicated enough to their jobs to follow the law and preserve our tax money for what it's meant for: public services and public infrastructure needs.
Another blot on this council's integrity, you all passed a motion back on September 11th on Mayor Barnett's guidance, directing the Public Safety Committee to work with the city manager to create a plan for a deer cull located in the City of Ludington and that the plan approved by the Public Safety Committee come before city council no later than November 1st for full council effect. The committee met on the 10th and did they approve any plan? No, as you can see by reading the meeting notes and the absence of any plan in your packet. The only thing they moved out was the recommendation to the city council that they include funds in the 2024 budget to conduct a cull.
You promised the public a plan before November, and here you are at your last meeting in October without any type of plan at all and only anti-cull comments from the public in the three relevant meetings since. Instead of spreading deer fear to waste even more money, take a deer stand against a dangerous, ill-conceived cull (END comment]
Terry Grams, Ludington's godfather of the anti-cull movement (see his webpage (stopthedeercull.org)), followed with his plea for humane solutions to the perceived deer problem. He was immediately followed by Angie Beyer, the regular face of the pro-cull forces, equating deer as being an invasive species, after Grams reminded the council that the deer were here first. She actually tried to prove deer were antithetical to the natural ecosystems in the city. I lost IQ when listening to this presentation, and any respect for those who agree with her:
Angie Beyer: "The overabundance of deer in our city and environments has led me to believe the white-tailed deer should now be called an invasive species. The massive number of "cute" deer roaming our streets and countryside are a safety hazard, as well as creating economic and environmental harm. I'm thinking of the farmers and also anyone wishing to grow produce on a small garden plot to feed their family, only to have their efforts wiped out by marauding deer.
Invasive plant species pose a threat to our forests, so can an overabundance of deer, which gobble up native flora so fast, that the plants are disappearing, leaving a vacuum for invasive species to fill. For example, in a forest where the understory has been eaten by deer, the habitats for birds requiring a thick understory, such as wood thrushes and Kentucky warblers, etc. will decline, leaving the forest's migratory birds in trouble. Disappearing also are native orchids, trillium ginseng, and a wide range of wildflowers.
With the loss of these and other plants, we lose bees, butterflies, beetles, and other insects that feed on them, in turn, depriving birds, amphibians, and other forest animals of their food. Research shows a direct connection between deer overpopulation and a threat to us humans of lung disease spread by ticks that feed on deer and white-footed mice. We have a dilemma, we must choose wisely."
It sounds like you should take up a bow and a firearm and go out hunting this fall, Angie, to save our county's forests, insects, birds, amphibians and humans rather than force your odd philosophy on the rest of us. Self-proclaimed mayor of the Fourth Ward Chuck Sobanski followed her, agreeing with her sentiments, but not understanding that any deer cull would not even occur anywhere near his ward. Another citizen (James Koszabowski(?)), complained about a cat problem. Look for a stray cat cull in the future, because his earnest concern was about as supported as Ms. Beyers'.
Getting down to business, the council considered the first reading of the PILOT ordinance (more on this before the next meeting) and the approval of another waterway grant to replace another dock (D) at the city marina.
A reading of the agreement shows the COL will match the $543,000 of the $543,000 grant being given them to replace one dock with a floating dock. Just two years ago, replacing the 'F' dock was done for $500,000, less than half of what this grant was for.
How can private marinas fairly compete when our city gets over a half of a million in free handouts to replace just one dock, and why are the citizens paying the rest of it from the general fund rather than the supposed enterprise funds of the marina? From the Marina Board this summer:
The city marina should be totally able to support their own lavish spending, but they have received many millions from the state and guilt-free loans from the city bank over their lifespan. This is what happens when you take a government mindset into the private sector, and it's poisoning the private marina market, a market that would flourish if the two public marinas in the city went private and actually provided money through taxes to the City.
The deer cull discussion had a lot of surprises. Last year, this same council passed an ordinance to have a three year deer cull with Councilors Terzano, May, Winczewski and Cain voting for it, Councilors Johnson, Stibitz and Bulger against it. Winczewski would change her mind later on to stop it, but this time around the three (then four) nay votes changed their votes and not give any good hints as to why. Terzano would explain why he would become the only "no vote" for a cull this time around, desiring to do a head count on the deer with an infrared flyover.
In a refreshing moment of self-awareness for this group, he would later note the irony when the council would approve spending funds to do an invasive plant species survey, that they were all gung-ho to do a survey on invasive plant populations, but not on the actual count of the deer population. The reason it makes sense, Councilor Terzano, is that they all know that a deer survey, especially one done during February, will not show any deer problem in Ludington, and definitely not the 100 deer per square mile in the City as some ludicrously proclaim.
So, by the time when Councilor Stibitz introduced a simple motion to "approve a deer cull using general funds", after a motion to use remaining ARPA funds failed 3-4, I was mildly surprised to see the 6-1 vote to do so and see five of them change their 'deer cull philosophy" since last year. Nothing has changed except for the votes of these flip-flopping councilors.
Talk about lack of integrity on display once again. Judith Dila would lead off the second comment period thanking profusely the council for passing the deer cull, speaking of her personal problems with deer at her home in the First Ward. Neither her or Ms. Beyer would ever consider getting a hunting license, one can bet, or take any of the preventative plans Mr. Grams offers to keep deer off your land.
Terry Grams would explain that if the 300 deer in the city were true, taking as much as 40 would really have no effect as they would just come back. Tom Sanders continued his arguments, emphasizing the City's inability to snow plow city streets on the weekend, and scoffing at the inflated deer population figures.
Daniel Jensen, would opine on whether there were actually invasive species and some other errata, and I would finish the comments by talking of the deer cull and the lack of plans, as I presumed the council would do more than discuss:
XLFD: (1:42 in) "This council didn't create a working plan for the deer cull last year, they just passed it and believed the myths told to them by city administrators: it would take place on 3-4 areas in and out of the city, it would be totally safe and it would take place on public land.
But what you passed last year as a council wasn't even a plan, nor was it part of the rather short description the USDA wrote out: "Wildlife services will lethally remove white-tailed deer under permits issued by the Michigan DNR. Wildlife services may utilize suppressed firearms from vehicles, ground blinds, elevated stands, and/or baiting. Wildlife services will prepare deer for processing in a secured building." I will leave that here (under the kiosk).
In its work initiation document last year, city management indicates that it will take place only on one tract of property corresponding to the school forest area, which is outside of the city limits. They erroneously call this private property and certify that the six methods and devices to be used, four of which are unlawful if done by hunters, have been fully explained to the owners of the property including all potential hazards, and approved. The school board was not forewarned of these methods, devices and potential dangers, nor was this council for that matter adequately informed.
Last year, there was no safety mitigation plan in place, these hunters could shoot at any time during the day, with high powered rifles on back of vehicles within 450 feet of residences. This is the relevant public safety issue here." [END comment]
In their haste and their hys-deer-ia, the city council has made some mistakes that will come back to munch on their hostas. But that is a deer tale made for later, as they choose their deer path to follow.
thanks for the post, X. I hope Angie Beyer does some research in biology and botany because she needs to. If the deer that have been here before the natives are considered an invasive species, then Lord only knows what she thinks about the invasive species that cut all the lumber around Ludington many years ago. With her logic, tourists are also an invasive species. Ludington has a total of 3.61 sq. miles so according to the proponents of culling that means there are at least 360 deer permanently residing in Ludington. That's a lot of deer. Even 100 deer total would be an exaggeration in my opinion.
X, your are totally correct regarding the Marina scams. These Government funded marinas are bad for private marinas that were thriving before Big Brother stuck it's nose in the marina business. The money we are paying to maintain these luxurious marinas which are off limits to locals and are used by the free loaders to park their boats is absolutely unbelievable. Millions of dollars wasted.
When the City of Ludington made the citizens nearly $300,000 (beyond inflation) adjustments) extra to pay in taxes this year, you can imagine they plan to use it as mad money to fund folly like this and stuff in the pockets of out-of-town developers. That's why it was a big deal to me and should have been to everyone else, and why I took out a recall on my ward councilor.
Your picture hits on all points.
I hate to make generalizations about either side in this issue, because I'm sure there are exceptions, but the pro-cull folks seem to possess a lack of imagination except where it comes to the naive fantasy that there is a government solution to their deer problem. The rest of us have adopted a live-and-let-live philosophy and so when our hostas get decimated by deer we adapt, either by developing smart landscaping with smart plant selection and fencing options or by taking out our frustrations during hunting seasons. The thousands of deer taken in the rural parts of the county each year have a lot more impact on our city's deer population than some February cull of the few dumb deer that try to winter in the city limits.