Ypsilanti Citizen Opinions Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant

Thank you Ypsilanti
By Dan DuChene & Christine Laughren
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   5:07 p.m.

Christine Laughren and Dan DuChene, co-owners of the Ypsilanti Citizen, pose in front of their company's banner at Frenchie's during the Citizen's one-year anniversary party.

The Ypsilanti Citizen was launched in November 2008 to inform the Ypsilanti community about the news and events that were happening in their area.

Since our launch,...read more

Crossroads Summer Festival; rockin’ ladies night
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   4:37 p.m.

Barbara Payton and the Big Boss Trio rock Washington Street.

A special Ladies Night was held Friday at the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Just...read more

Crossroads to hold Ladies Night for Relay for Life
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   9:13 a.m.

On June 11, the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival featured a rousing opening set from roots and blue grass band Dragon Wagon.

Dragon Wagon was joined on...read more

Electric rail pollution leads to dirty laundry
By Laura Bien
Jun. 15, 2010   ·   11:42 a.m.

From the approximate vantage point of the present-day Materials Unlimited, the interurban car barn and powerhouse on Michigan Avenue loomed large.

Maggie Smith was not looking forward to a forenoon of sewing pleats.

She put down her newest customer’s summer dress. Downstairs, she offered to get potatoes...read more

EMU students in wartime
By Laura Bien
Jun. 1, 2010   ·   10:32 a.m.

The 1942 Aurora yearbook, the 50th
anniversary edition, included images that contrasted modern and
old-time students.

Leroy Grindle was an Ypsilantian soldier who lost his life in WWII. He was a member of the Michigan Normal (EMU) class of ’41, and is memorialized with a black...read more

Let the sun shine in



By Citizen staff
Nov. 9, 2009    ·    10:40 a.m.

There has been some bickering amongst people in the city about the Michigan Open Meetings Act, mostly on how it pertains to committees and subcommittees.

The OMA, along with the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, are considered “sunshine laws.” They were put in place to allow the residents of the state to know what is happening with their government, and to ensure said government doesn’t operate in a vacuum.

The law, with few exceptions, forces all public bodies in the state to operate just as that, publicly. Those bodies must post meeting dates, times and locations. They must allow citizens to somehow participate in those meetings. Finally, they must take minutes at the meeting, and make those minutes available to the public after the meeting.

The law exists to ensure the residents know not only what a public body decides, but how the group came to that decision.

A public body, under the law, may only deliberate without the public present in a closed session. A closed session, at least as far as Ypsilanti politicians and officials are concerned, may only be called by a public body in four specific situations. Those situations include discussions relating to collective bargaining, purchasing or leasing property, settling pending litigation and items exempt under FOIA.

Additionally, if the employment status or performance evaluation of an individual is being considered, the employee in question may request a meeting to be held in closed session.

Note, these closed sessions allow the discussions to take place in private, not the decisions.

Finally, the law defines a public body “as any state or local legislative or governing body, including a board, commission, committee, subcommittee, authority, or council, that is empowered by state constitution, statute, charter, ordinance, resolution, or rule to exercise governmental or proprietary authority or perform a governmental or proprietary function; a lessee of such a body performing an essential public purpose and function pursuant to the lease agreement; or the board of a nonprofit corporation formed by a city under section 4o of the home rule city act.”

Now, here we are at the meat of this discussion.

Ypsilanti City Council has acknowledged they are considered a “public body.” They also seem to recognize organizations like the Downtown Development Association and the Planning Commission as such. Where they get a little hazy are the committees those organizations, themselves included, establish.

There seems to be this idea, where if a public body in Ypsilanti establishes a committee with less than a quorum of its own members then the requirements of the OMA don’t apply to the committee. These committees can meet anytime and any place and never divulge what they are discussing.

The argument for this is these committees don’t make decisions. These committees simply discuss a matter, leaving the decisions to still be rubber stamped by the parent body, whether City Council or DDA.

The Citizen commends City Council, what ever its motive, for passing the resolution requiring all committees and subcommittees in the city to adhere to the OMA. Regardless of whether the resolution is necessary, it’s nice to see they understand the merits of operating in the open.

The fact of the matter, however, is the resolution is not necessary, as those committees and subcommittees are already required to operate under the OMA. The law states clearly, committees and subcommittees established by a public body in the state of Michigan meet the definition of a public body. The definition goes on to say any lessee of a public body performing a function and purpose pursuant to an agreement also establishes a public body.

And, as the Citizen doesn’t believe any governmental body in Ypsilanti would establish a committee with no function or purpose, then no committees, or at least very few, are outside the scope of the OMA.

City Attorney John Barr somewhat concedes this point.

According to a memorandum, written in July from City Attorney John Barr to City Planner Richard Murphy on the matter of sub-quorums, “The safest policy is to follow the requirements of the OMA, including the timely posting of the meeting and allowing the public to attend and observe the meeting.”

The Citizen asked a lawyer with the Michigan Press Association. She agreed with our stance as well, only a little more directly.

There are other opposing arguments floating around. Some say adhering to the OMA is an inconvenience to city staff or officials. Taking minutes is burdensome or finding an adequate meeting space is difficult.

Frankly, who cares? We sure don’t.

This is a petty argument with no merit whatsoever. This law wasn’t enacted to be convenient, or easy. It was enacted to keep the government operating in view of the people who it is supposed to serve, who pay to have it exist.

Additionally, the Citizen has become aware there is discussion among councilmembers to bring the resolution back on the table with the intention to vote it down.

This would be a mistake.

Though the resolution they passed last month was unnecessary, it wasn’t pointless. If City Council were to repeal this legislation, though such an act wouldn’t change the requirement for these committees to operate publicly, it would send a rather public message to the Ypsilanti community.

Do you want your voice in the Ypsilanti Citizen? Feel free to contact us to submitt a letter to the editor, or to give us feedback in any way.

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