|Photo Purple Walrus Press.|
By Editor & Publisher Jeff Brown.
Tuesday evening, October 10, 2017, one of the most important Ypsilanti City Council meetings in recent memory took place at Ypsilanti City Hall. The purpose of the City Council Special meeting was to hold an investigative hearing relating to the financing of city officials trip to China which was tied to the proposed International Village development at Water Street in Ypsilanti.
I attended to the Special Meeting Tuesday night in order try to get a better understanding of the trip to China / International Village issue, and to, hopefully, write an informative article about the meeting. Let me tell you that in my opinion, this is one complicated and messy topic. What is clear to me is that this International Village/trip to China issue has become a very polarizing matter for the city. I for one, feel that the fact that the issue has become so divisive and polarizing is frustrating, disappointing and frankly sad.
The matter of the proposed International development which would be built on the Water Street property in Ypsilanti, and four city officials recent trip to China that was related to International Village, has divided the community in Ypsilanti. The four city officials questioned at the hearing about the recent trip to China included Mayor Edmonds, Mayor Pro-tem Nicole Brown, Police Chief Tony Degiusti and Economic Development Director Beth Ernat. City Manager Darwin McClary was also questioned at the hearing by City Council members.
In this article I am going to try to share, as best I can, my take on what occurred at the Tuesday night Ypsilanti City Council Special Meeting. I am certainly no expert on the ins and out of city politics and or the procedures at hand pertaining to investigative hearing, but I'll try provide, from my perspective, a small window into Tuesday's meeting. Here is my perspective on the meeting.
The Special Meeting / Investigative Hearing began with an audience participation segment. It was my impression that many people, in fact, quite possibly, the majority of people present in the room at the meeting were very unhappy and skeptical about International Village and the trip to China taken by the four city officials. During the audience participation segment I counted that 25 members of the audience came to the microphone and addressed City Council. Of those 25 individuals only 4 people had positive opinions or spoke in support of International Village matter and/or the trip to China issue. In my estimation, of the 25 people who spoke from the audience, 21 individuals were critical of the China trip and very much concerned about or plain old unhappy and frustrated about the general direction of the proposed International Village situation. Many in the audience were skeptical about the China trip.
City Manager Darwin McClary was questioned first by City Council members. According to my notes, (paraphrased) when asked about his involvement with arrangements for the trip, McClary replied that he had no involvement with the trip arrangements. When Council member Lois Richardson ask McClary if he should take care and over see the city, McClary replied that he should have known what was going on. This represents just a fraction of the statements made by McClary.
Next, Beth Ernat was questioned. The basic message I perceived from Ernat's statements under questioning (paraphrased) was that if she could do things differently, she would have taken funds for the trip from LDFA. (Local Development Financing Authority).
Under questioning, Mayor Pro tem Nicole Brown also said that looking back she would have done things differently as far the trip to China, stating that she would have more checking about funding, but has always had trust in the administration. Also paraphrased.
When approximately four hours into the hearing, Mayor Edmonds was questioned, Edmonds sounded clear and confident. When asked by a council member about what she could have done to avoid suspicion, Edmonds replied, and this is paraphrased as well, that the trip to China was confirmed shortly before it was scheduled and that she attempted to find out more about funding in the short time she had. Mayor Edmonds added that she wished she'd had more time to check into funding.
Obviously, I have only included brief little statements from city officials who were questioned Monday night. There were many more statements made and back and forth between City Council those officials being questioned.
I do wonder how and why these four city officials were chosen to go on this trip to China. Why didn't the entire city council go on the trip? Possibly, there is a good answer for this question. I don't know. But it seems worth asking.
I'm also wondering how well Ypsilanti City Council and administrators get along and work together as a team. I detect a discord. This only reflects my opinion.
The bottom line is that it was apparent to me that many people in the audience at City Hall Tuesday night are skeptical about the administration and want to see more transparency on the part of the Mayor and City Council. On display Monday night was, from many in attendance, a general lack of trust. Whether or not this lack of trust exhibited by many in the room is deserved is something that the City needs to get to the bottom of. I'm sure they will.