You Need To Ask These Questions

All is not well in the City of Hillsdale, and there are many answers that you, as a resident, need to be demanding of several government officials.  Here are but a few.  Don't back down until you get the correct responses.  You'll know them when you hear them, and excuses about why all of this is okay are not included in that list.

Questions To Ask City Attorney John Lovinger About the City Clerk Ballot Question

  1. Why, in the city charter, does every other job that includes compensation details do so in either an additional paragraph in that job's section or a separate section altogether?
  2. Rather than improperly amending a section that has nothing to do with the city clerk position, why wasn't a new section detailing compensation for that job added instead?
  3. If the answer to the previous question has to do with logistical organization of the charter, is it not the responsibility of city government to re-number the relevant charter sections within Chapter 4 so as to keep it organized?
  4. When giving your reasoning at Monday night's city council meeting, why did you cite no law or precedent proving that the inclusion of Section 4.12 was valid?  Do you have any such evidence?
  5. If there is no such evidence, how is the inclusion of two completely different job titles in one charter amendment not a violation of MCL 117.21 (3), and why were you unable to explain that Monday night?
  6. What excuse is there for your unprofessional behavior at said meeting; i.e. smirking at those public commentors who spoke about this issue and emphatically attempting to silence all dissent when addressing it during discussion of the topic with the council?

Questions to Ask Economic Development Director Mary Wolfram About the Smokers Club / Center City Deal

  1. Why was Excel Realty Group not directed toward an already empty building or vacant lot?
  2. How does it benefit the economic development of the City of Hillsdale to run a viable business out of town without presenting alternatives, and why did it take an order from the city manager to even bring that option to the table?
  3. If the Smokers Club property was going to be sold out from under the partner (the Suwaises' nephew) who was operating the business occupying it, why were they not notified as early as the process began?  In other words, why were they allowed to pour additional money into the business (i.e. the liquor license transfer from Broad Street Downtown Market) when it was known amongst government officials that they would never be able to use it?
  4. If this process had started in April of 2014, why is it only coming to light now that the process is almost over, especially given that government concessions are involved?
  5. Why have we not seen the MSHDA analysis of need for this type of housing?  Should that not be made available for public scrutiny if the taxpayers are expected to give up taxable property for a PILOT in its place?
  6. As this project is being developed under the LIHTC program, and the LIHTC limit for occupant income is 50%-60% of the area's median income -- a fact which was never stated at Monday night's meeting -- why was the City of Hillsdale's median income of just under $31,000 never presented, especially when Excel owner Peter Jobson claimed that the income limit for the project would top out at $30,000?
  7. Why was it never mentioned that this project requires a zoning variance?
  8. Is there a Land Use Restrictive Agreement in regard to this project?  And if so, why was it not included in the agenda item, which would have addressed Councilperson Emily Stack-Davis's concerns about the age not being limited to 55 and older as has been claimed?
  9. Jobson implied that a member of the public was wrong in incorrectly claiming that Jeff King had spoken to a "clerk" at the Smokers Club -- in reality, King spoke with the operator of the business -- so why did he leave the meeting prior to final public comment before King would be allowed to address that incorrect assumption?  As the government official shepherding the project, was it not your responsibility to inform him of how our city council meetings are structured so that he could address such issues if they arose?

Questions to Ask the City Council

  1. That these questions are being raised by the public -- a public that has just as little free time and just as little motivation to get into the details as you do -- but not by this municipality's governing body is more than a little disconcerting, so can we not be just a little more vigilant in reading the packet and understanding these issues?  (I do thank Councilperson Stack-Davis for her "no" vote against the Center City PILOT and Adam Stockford for his "no" vote against the city clerk and treasurer appointment timeline.  They understood the stakes.)
  2. I've heard that letters were sent out about a public meeting regarding the zoning variance for 8 S. Manning, so why is it that, as of 12:40 PM on September 25th, I see no evidence of any public notice on the city's web site, which I will remind you is legally required under the Open Meetings Act?
  3. Since the project requires concessions from the city, if you say "no," the answer is "no."  This is a public matter.  It ceased being a strictly private transaction the moment government became involved.  Are you aware that the ball is in your court?

Now, to be fair, not all of this is a blatant attempt to skirt the public's best interest.  Even if you look at the big picture through the lens of corruption in city government, Hanlon's razor still applies.  That's not to say that everyone involved is devoid of intelligence, either, but let's be honest here: 99% of these issues are allowed to occur simply because nobody is applying their full effort to the job.  Those in city government who do act with ill intent are able to do so only because those who hold rank over them have not been taking steps to bring them in line.

Slowly, that would seem to be changing.  I'm encouraged to see that City Manager David Mackie -- who continues to impress me -- instructed Wolfram to help Smokers Club relocate in a reconciliatory effort, but that's a situation that never should have needed reconciliation to begin with.  I'm glad that we're attempting to fix things, but it's a problem that the city caused in the first place by failing to inform all parties involved of what was going on from the very start.

Let's get some answers.

Note: For technical reasons beyond my control, Disqus has locked the comment thread for this particular article.  It has nothing to do with content or comments made; I'm relatively certain it's a conflict with the test server that I used to build this site before launch.  Not that that means anything to you, but fellow nerds will know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, if you'd like to participate in the discussion, I've started a new thread in the forums specifically for this article, so that's the place to do it.  I apologize for the (unnecessary, ridiculous, infuriatingly stupid) inconvenience.