Monthly Archives: July 2006

School District Consolidation 6

The Ypsilanti area, including the city and surrounding township, has three different school districts, Ypsilanti Public Schools, Lincoln Consolidated Schools, and Willow Run Community Schools. Why are there three districts for such a relatively small geographic area? This makes absolutely no sense to me and seems a colossal waste of resources. All three districts are facing severe financial difficulties thanks to a weak state economy and a republican controlled legislature that seems intent on starving the public schools in favor of the charters (many of which are run by for profit companies). The Ann Arbor district has approximately 33 schools including the smaller special units. Between them the three Ypsi area districts have 25 schools. AA has one superintendent, while the Ypsi districts have 3 at similar salaries. The three Ypsi districts have 3 of everything, transportation departments, custodial staffs, human resources and all the associated managerial and administrative staffs. This strikes me as stupid. Just as we need to move toward some regional cooperation at the local and county government levels, we need to do the same for the schools.

Instead of selling off buses to a private for-profit company, why don’t we consolidate all the buses at one facility with one manager. Why do we need three superintendents? three payroll departments? three maintenance managers, etc. If we consolidate the districts we can offer more flexibility to students in terms of course availability (more languages for example). We can sell off redundant properties. We can eliminate redundant managerial positions. Why does no one seem to be discussing this seriously? Anyone?

CiCi’s is a NoNo!! 9

We unfortunately made the mistake of trying out CiCi’s Pizza on Ellsworth tonight. It’s located in the new structure in front of Wal-Mart. First let me get this out the way. The “food” sucked. There tag-line is “The Ultimate Pizza Experience is a Gourmet Buffet”. This place has no business using the word gourmet in any description of their food. I’m not going to get into all the details of the culinary experience because Jules is planning on writing about that over on YpsiBites. Suffice to say that if you think Tios is a good Mexican restaurant, you might appreciate CiCi’s. If on the other hand you prefer your Mexican food prepared by people who originated south of the Rio Grande then avoid CiCi’s at all costs.

Our experience at CiCi’s brought another thought to mind. I don’t often carry much cash with me these days. When possible I prefer to use a debit card. I believe that this is a pretty common practice these days. One thing I never, ever do is withdraw cash from ATM’s that don’t belong to my bank. A few years ago banking regulations were changed to allow banks to charge non-customers for using their ATM’s and charge customers for using some other banks machine. That means that if you use the ATM at bank where you don’t have an account you get charged twice, once by the owner of the ATM and once by your own bank. This can often cost you as much $4, $2 per bank. I make a point of trying to avoid these egregious charges.

Now back to my story. When you walk into CiCi’s there is cash register where you pay in advance before proceeding to the “gourmet” all you can eat pizza buffet. Mull that concept in your mind for a moment! Prominently displayed adjacent to the counter is an ATM. As I place the order and hand the cashier my debit card I am informed that they don’t take cards at the moment, only cash or check. I was also informed that I could use the ATM behind me. I declined to pay the extra fees that would go along with using an ATM that didn’t belong to my bank. So we ran over to Jules’ bank which was right nearby and got some cash. When we returned Jules noticed the little notice on the machine about the fees, and it stated that the machine was owned by the pizza company. All this got me thinking about all the ATM’s you see in gas stations, convenience stores and every other business. It occurs to me that since all these machines collect a transaction fee, these businesses are almost certainly getting a cut of the action. I wonder how much of that dollar or two they are getting? So it seems highly probable that CiCi’s is getting a cut of every time they tell someone they can’t use their debit card, and they turn around to grab some cash. This is ridiculous. Jules told me that New York Pizza Depot which used to take credit/debit cards has informed her the last couple of times that she was there that their card machine was broken. They also happen to have a conveniently located ATM.

It seems that more and more business are taking part in the hidden fee economy. That includes all the assorted regulatory recovery charges you find at the bottom your phone bill under that low advertised service price. There are more and more of these bogus fees popping up everywhere. Companies get your business by advertising really attractive prices and then end up nickel and diming you with all kinds of little fees that add up to a pretty significant percentage of your total cost. I will simply decline to patronize businesses that insist on applying these hidden costs.


I went over to the farmers market in Depot Town yesterday morning and it was already sweltering at 9 in the morning. It was hot but worse it was really humid. Fortunately we have a pool in the yard pool. It is one of those easy set pools, 18 ft in diameter. It is not huge, you cant swim laps in it. But is perfect for just laying in and floating on a steamy summer afternoon like this. I like going over to Rutherford and swimming some laps, but floating in the back yard pool is great. Our yard is surrounded by big trees and we have lots of birds and butterflies and insects. Just laying on a floating lounge and drifting in the slow current of the pool filter is so relaxing and serene. It reminds me of all those years ago when I was still working for what was the Delco-Moraine (Delphi) division of General Motors. We did hot weather testing and development out in Mesa, Arizona at the GM Desert Proving grounds. Summer time in Phoenix is definitely very hot. So on Sunday afternoons a group of us would head out to the Salt River and go tubing. We rented big tubes and went floating down the cool river for the next few hours. It was definitely an awesome way to spend a hot desert afternoon.

Now floating around my pool and listening to the birds dangling my arms and legs in the cool water is a perfect way to get relief from the oppressive heat and humidity.

A Democrat for mayor of Ypsilanti 4

So far I haven’t written about the candidates running for mayor of Ypsilanti. However, after reading what people have been saying over the last couple of days I think it is time for me to jump in here. First let me say I have been a liberal all my life. I grew up in Canada as the son of a steelworker who live through 3 strikes including 2 protracted ones. I was a supporter of the NDP (the New Democratic Party) I believe that government should work for the improvement of the community and the common good. Serving the common good does not necessarily preclude and in fact I think demands some fiscal responsibility. There are times when a government needs to spend more than it takes in, but even this needs to be done with care. The reality of the situation today in Ypsilanti is that they have limited revenues and opportunities for short-term revenue growth. They also don’t have the resources to run any kind of deficit. This means that whoever the next mayor of the city is must find a way to minimize costs while maintaining the services that are needed by the people of the city. The new mayor must also find a way promote growth and improve the revenue basis of the city.

Based on what I have heard from the candidates, I would have to say that Steve Pierce is the best of of the choice for mayor. I have heard criticism of Steve, accusing him of being a Democrat in name only. He is being accused of being a Republican running in a Democratic town under the only banner with which he could be elected here. To this I say Bullshit! Steve Pierce has demonstrated repeatedly his commitment to this community. He has demonstrated a belief in civil rights. My friend Cam Getto uncovered to documentation about what really happened with the DDA (of which Steve Pierce was a member) during the campaign to amend the city charter to protect the civil rights of all members the Ypsilanti community so I will not reiterate the whole story here. Steve Pierce has some good ideas about how to improve the fiscal stability of the city in both the short term and the longer term. Consolidating administrative services with the surrounding region makes sense for the city and the region. The health of the city has an effect on the health of the region. Neither exists in isolation from the other. It is vital that the city, the townships and the county find ways to cooperate and make the best use of the resources that each possesses.

Steve has also been accused of being too “eloquent”. This is also ridiculous. Being eloquent is no sin and is certainly not antithetical to being a democrat. There are many “Democrats” who claim the title but clearly don’t walk the walk (witness Joe Lieberman, Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton). I don’t think that Steve Pierce is one of them. No doubt he is not perfect. If I were him I would not drag out that shirt I saw him wearing on the 4th of July and Memorial Day quite so often. I don’t know the man personally and my knowledge of him is limited, but from what I have seen he is definitely the best candidate for the job. I think with Steve Pierce as mayor, the city stands a fighting chance. I think the voters of the city should give Steve Pierce a chance.

Part of the community 2

My house is not within the Ypsilanti City limits. We live in the township. We are however a part of the Ypsilanti community. We participate in events in the city, we eat in city restaurants and bars, we swim at the city pool. What happens to the city of Ypsilanti also affects people who live in the surrounding municipalities whether they like it or not. As the phrase goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. I want to help make the city of Ypsilanti a better place because it benefits the people who live in the city and it also helps the people in the surrounding region. I try to help in ways that I can. Promoting the region as a whole here on this blog and elsewhere is one way. Participating in the political process, by publishing the debate and getting people out to vote is another. We donate to projects like Friends of Rutherford and the skating rink they tried to get going last winter.

A community is not defined by some arbitrary line drawn on a map. It is defined by the people who populate it and participate in it. This can be a geographic or a virtual community. I am a member of many communities. It is the responsibility of all members to do what they can, big or small to make it better for everyone. Ultimately the one in which I and my family live is the most important one. Viva Ypsilanti!

Audio of the Ypsi Mayoral Debate 4

I have posted the audio of the Ypsilanti Mayoral Debate held tonight at the McKenny Union at EMU. If you are bandwidth challenged I will be posting another lower bit-rate version tomorrow. This first version is about 36MB The lower quality version should be quite a bit smaller. I will also do a multi-part version that can be burned to audio cds for anyone who who doesn;t have a portable mp3 player and doesn’t want to listen on the computer.

BTW Congratulations to Mark Maynard and all the other organizers. The ballroom was packed with probably over 300 people and there were excellent questions. It was a great event and demonstrated that the people of of this community do care about its future.