Tag Archives: city commission

More on Sidewalks; We’re Past Horsemanure.

Sidewalks were first elaborated when dirt roads and horses reigned transportation. Women hated the dust, mud and semidigested oats from streets and so insisted that these be paved and swept daily. In commercial areas the merchants provided walkways for pedestrians to keep the two modes of transportation separate. Walkers could keep their shoes clean.
Later as cars took over the streets, most families did not have a second car but did have an icebox and so women walked to the grocery and kids to the local small school. Sidewalks made sense.
A very few folks still walk; dog walkers, The few using public transit, an oddball like myself who walks to clear his head. I’m alone when I walk from our condo, cross 28th street, and hit my usual haunts, all the while thinking. Occasionally when there is light snow, I emerge from my fog enough to notice that I’m usually the first person to walk on many sidewalks. I should take pictures next winter just to document this failure of government.
After my last blog on grass growing on unused sidewalks, it occurred to me to do a documentary now. We on the commission spent (?) $700,000 in the last few years to line 28th street with sidewalks; “It would allow walkers to patronize those businesses!” I voted in favor because it was “free” money from the Feds or someone.

I biked over and photographed a few segments….
I have included one picture because it is all I can load, but another shows a grape vine all but crossing the sidewalk on a segment opposite Roaring Twenties strip mall. Long grass is growing in cracks and over the edges in one year old sidewalks in front of Fruitland and Lazy Boy. Everywhere some grass grows despite a hot, dry summer.

They say that grass won’t grow on a busy street, but in Kentwood, our ideologically justified sidewalks carry legions of imaginary customers to shop along 28th Street. Images don’t need to step on the cracks, y’know.

Next, our planners will grind up the road and have fantasy horses trotting up and down our street producing fertilizer to encourage very real weed growth and mud just to infuriate the cleaning crews in the grateful stores.

Watch for it.

Grass Growing Across the Sidewalk

On this Tuesday’s COW we are being asked about who should pay for the replacement of 4 segments of a sidewalk. There are a half dozen fuzzy pictures of the damage. As far as I can tell, the walkway is flat, there are no places where a skateboarder or a walker might trip, so I’m not sure why this an issue.
What does entertain me however, is grass growing out of the cracks where the sidewalk is segmented. No one uses this “walkway” which is at an intersection of two important streets (Jefferson and 44th.)
The sidewalk in front of my condo is also broken, but one person does walk on it, an older lady who is up at dawn wearing a robe and encouraging her dog to urinate on my patch of lawn. She does pace around, back and forth, once a day and so my sidewalk has no grass, but, of course, my grass has small brown patches (small dog.) I’d include a picture, but don’t want to offend pubic decency.
But returning to Kentwood’s stance. Why would anyone spend money for something as useless that is nothing more than a public conventional bromide, namely that we have to have “walkable communities”, or parks that are empty, or Farmer’s Markets staffed by hucksters?
I’m going to vote against this outrage.

Breton Taking Wing on Wing Avenue, a Proposed Double Purposing

We just got the proposed agenda for the 5 July meetings. Planning wants to put on its dog and pony show of how they propose to ease Kentwood back to the 20th century by willing businesses and builders to behave abnormally, but, I digress.

The one real muddle involves the necessary rebuild of Wing Avenue along with the upgrade of the infrastructure forcing the folks along it to hook up to utilities. This seems inevitable and will be unpopular.
The other yet longer term building project will be extending Breton Road seamlessly through to 60th Ave. It currently stops at 52nd , and folks have to stop, make a left turn, then a right turn at Wing to go through to 60th. The current vision is to build an entirely new road across an existing farm when that can be acquired, over wetlands with those bureaucratic headaches and necessitating two signals.

It’s occurred to me that there is a more compact way to solve both problems. Why not make two round and rounds on 52nd Ave, one at the south end of Breton, and the second at the north end of the newly rebuilt (maybe slightly widened and graced with a bike path that would preserve its scenic charm and make at least two commissioners happy.)? The traffic from either direction would not have to stop, but rather would be routed onto 52nd Street for about a quarter mile. Breton Ave would not have to be built through saving money and stress on the environment.
Since we’re into round and rounds, maybe also put a round and round at the junction of Wing and 60th Street?
It’s also possible to make what would technically be just one round and round on 52nd to be more of a long rectangle, but traffic and civil engineers get paid a hell of a lot to figure out small details like that.

I probably won’t be able to be at the meeting but will forward this to several commissioners; might make for some interesting conversation, and actual planning..

Planner Counting the Chickens, Our Well Managed City Hall

A valued constituent of mine, Thomas Webb, has just called me about at least the second attempt by the city planner to enter his property to count chickens. Seems that Tom keeps a flock and sells the eggs produced. An number invented by the city planner limits Tom to 50 chickens. Chickens is a slippery term as we know from the battles over adolescence-when does a teenager become a human? And when does a chick become a chicken. The nature of things is that chickens have to be replaced so eggs incubated and hatched, chicks raised and at some point these adolescent birds have “chickenness” conferred on them. But when? Another problem has to do with sexes of the birds. Males get the ax, but male not obvious until they are adults.

In any case, our city planner appeared at Tom’s door a few weeks back stating that he’d heard that Tom’s flock was larger than his sanctioned 50 and that he needed to count the birds. Tom asked whence the information, how did a waxing and waning number of chickens bother anyone much less cause the cosmic order to unravel? He wanted to know what sort of disturbance, anxiety, or nuisance was being caused upon another resident as he would address it immediately. He quite appropriately denied our planner access to his property, and told him beyond any doubt that if he wanted to count chickens on his land, he’d need a warrant from the court. Thursday our planner contacted him again asking to count the chickens and seemed surprised when Thomas made it clear he meant it when he denied him entry because there was no warrant.

It turns out that Tom is leaving Kentwood, (an enormous loss of a vigorous, informed and concerned citizen) and moving to Columbia, SC. The flock will be liquidated within a few days. Even if a warrant is sworn (and what judge would go along with this farce?) and carried out in the usual “government time” there won’t be anything to count.

There are two considerations here. The first concerns the harassment of Mr. Webb by city hall. He had run for mayor 3 years ago and for at large city commissioner last year. Our mayor spent a fair number of taxpayer dollars sending out a letter to voters alleging that it was necessary to correct one of Tom’s campaign issues, all the while ignoring an outright lie told by Tom’s opponent. Is this chicken episode part of a scheme to use political and government resources to pester a governmental official’s opposition?

The other issue has to do with our city planning. Would I be out of line if I were to question whether the $400,000 plus budget (sixteen hundred dollars per workday charged to Kentwood taxpayers) is budgeted to judge the maturity of chickens?

City Hall Wants a Communications Officer; the Real Motives Unmasked. Castration by the Hatch Act.

The next commission meeting is this next Tuesday. On the agenda is a request to approve 78K to hire a “specialist” to communicate good news etc about Kentwood (and here I thought that I did a pretty good job.)

One of the provisions gave me a start. This employee is tasked with “Develop(ing) and execut(ing) campaigns and/or associated materials to support City millage initiatives.”

Wow.

First of all, what millage initiatives or tax increases does City Hall envision. What shortage of funds exists to justify this assault on our benighted taxpayer? And who exactly wants to raise taxes? Someone who promised not to when (s)he was elected?

I’m going to vote against this entire fraud on laws well established nationally and apparently also copied into the Michigan law. (I can’t link for some reason.)

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/wda/00-16_Hatch-Act_454709_7.pdf

Supporting this schema would be against the law and I’ll vote no.

Information sources that serve the government. Propaganda for Whom?

A kind of unbidden and unwanted monster reared its ugly head at this latest meeting when we were presented with the 2016-7 budget. The Mayor wants us to hire a full time communications specialist in his department “to get the message out about Kentwood.” We apparently need somebody who was dedicated to and knowledgeable about our city to manage Kentwood’s Facebook page and websites, to address the news media if  adverse stories emerge, to place Kentwood in a favorable light and to manage the forthcoming 50th (golden?) anniversary of our founding.

Commissioner Artz led the counter charge. She was concerned about costs and suggested that contracting with a company that could do these various functions would save money as other communities do. I agreed, adding that we could break the functions down so that we’d take advantage of the division of labor. A handful of specialists would be able to do these functions efficiently and cheaply. We would be prudent to begin this venture slowly rather than swallowing a large expense in one gulp. I even opined that my blog was the definitive and best written ongoing account of what was happenin’ in Kentwood.

But the troubling political power grab that information flows would be in the sole control of the Mayor hung in the air like an untreated sewage odor. Mark Rambo, his administrative assistant assumed great authority as he argued for hiring a communication specialist; one would have thought him a commissioner. We have already seen the mayor spend taxpayer dollars to effect the election for the city commission last November. He and other commissioners oppose the recently passed Michigan state law that forbids them from “informing” the voters on critical issues within 60 days of an election.

Now we will have a full time writer who deals in social media (overly rated IMHO) and delivers city hall’s version of things, controls information flows and talks in a familiar manner to TV, radio and newspapers. No one will need to look more deeply. We will have in effect created an information cocoon-an Oculus Rift World.

And no one in the room mentioned this aspect of the inconvenient and troubling diktat. It was not specifically voted on, but I guess that the final vote that approved the preliminary budget blessed this assault. I alone voted against it.

Eighty years ago my mother walked out on Hitler after 3 years of hearing his “information.” How did she know that he was evil and up to no good? She couldn’t, no body dared whisper the truth.

 

City Commissioners Vote to Starve Poor Children and to Lower Real Estate Prices

The big roll out of the 2016-7 budget occurred last evening, six hours of it. I voted “no” twice, once on a proposal to hire a new rental property inspector and the second time against the entire budget in part because of the inspector issue.

The pitch was that the city could help control crime and shiftlessness by improving the housing in which renters lived. Therefore the city should increase the inspection of these properties so forcing correction of perceived deficiencies. The city would do well by doing good!

I differed. The sociology here is dubious and the economics is even worse.

Sociologically, there are data showing that hooligans don’t own their apartments but rent. I’d intuit that these lowlifes don’t have much money, live in shabbier and cheaper quarters and are likely beat property up more than their more civilized contemporaries. But none of this supports the notion that living in a self created fleabag causes bad behavior. Correlation is not causation. Crime, poverty and laziness are not treatable by “improving” housing. It doesn’t pass the sniff test.

The economic implications of increased inspections are actually more ominous especially here in “Rentwood.” Nearby Grand Rapids increased inspections in 2011 and drove rental costs up by about $100 per unit.  Inspections cost landlords a average of $5,000 per unit which, capitalized, might have supported a $50 dollar a month increase But landlords had to come up with lots of money rapidly, they were uncertain about what other fantasies that the GR city fathers harborred and facing risk, doubled the rent increases. The knock on effect was that fewer renters could afford the new fare, so they moved back in with parents or doubled up in existing units so the demand for rental units faltered.  Marginal landlords were forced to exit the industry, they sold or abandoned their properties and so lowered real estate prices. Decrepit areas of Grand Rapids became more threadbare, not that you’d notice.

Well, say the reformers who wanted to improve the lives of the poor by improving the housing in which they live, it only costs each renter an extra $100 dollars a month to live in housing that we approve of. True enough, except that for many a $100 dollars is  a $100 dollars and spending it for rent means that they can’t afford peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their kids, so they go hungry and, at best stare listlessly at the well fed reformers who arranged the original inspections and “improvement” of their quarters; at worst the urchins slit the throats of their oppressors.

If renters are unhappy with the cleanliness, safety or cost of their apartments they can easily move to others that they can afford that satisfy their wants. Governmental intrusion intended to make folks better by forcing them to live in more expensive housing than what they prefer comes at huge costs both socially and economically that dwarf the minor costs to the city of hiring another inspector.

Doesn’t anyone pay any attention to theory of unintended consequences anymore?