Letter to the Editor: More questions for the city

Dear Editor,

In the spirit of Sunshine Week (March 14-20), promoting open government is good government, here are some things I think the City of the Village of Clarkston should be informing the public about:
What is the status of the settlement of the Bisio v City of the Village of Clarkston Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit where the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against the city after five years of litigation? Why is the city hiding the settlement details and misleading the public when the information is part of the public court records? The city council meeting minutes and city manager comments imply this matter is settled but the court filings reveal that everyone has not agreed to each other’s demands. The city has provided no details other than $35,000 of taxpayer funds being used in some undefined manner and payment of $14,000 to an attorney. Why isn’t whatever the city thinks the agreement is part of the open meeting information minutes as required by law? Why does the public not know what they are paying for and why?
Considering that the issue of Bisio v Clarkston was regarding the city and city attorney withholding information in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), why does the city council continue to discuss it only in closed meetings? Do you not see the incongruity in this, as well as a disregard for the Supreme Court ruling, intent of the Act, and Michigan’s Open Meetings Act?
What amount of public funds are being spent on legal costs to defend the actions of the Historic District Commission and why isn’t that budgeted as a cost of that commission?
How much did the city hall renovations cost the taxpayers? We know it was far more than the “not to exceed” $300,000 approved by the city council and we know there is still more work to do such as the recent permit inspection cost of $1,885 for work that is still ongoing, unfunded, unbudgeted, and noted as the 101-265-728.000 Park Materials account which it is not.
Where in the budget is the payment for the loan that was used for the city hall renovations since it does not appear as a defined line item?
How are the reserve amounts calculated for the water and sanitary sewer funds? These funds were borrowed from to pay for the city hall renovations and the city now wants everyone to pay more to replenish the sewer fund to pay actual sewer related costs. The amount in the water fund has now been reduced even further. Was the repayment of the city hall renovation loan included in the calculation of when and how to replenish these funds with higher user payments?
Why were the residual funds from the special assessment district for streets and water, not used for streets and water? Nicer street signs do not make our streets, sidewalks, or water service any better or safer. Why weren’t these funds used for the reason they were collected or at least to pay down existing debt versus taking on more?
Is there a fund for stormwater management and maintenance and if not, how is this planned, budgeted and paid for? There is still a known but unresolved issue on the east side of downtown Main Street and similar expensive issues have occurred in the past which led to litigation that the city lost.
Why did it take five years to get current and past budget information on the city web site?
Why is committee information on the city website so out of date? How does anyone know what these committees are doing if they never report anything?
Why is it that some public comments at council meetings are in the meeting minutes while others are not? Who determines policy and procedure since it is obviously not the city council?
What are the official resolutions of the city council and how does anyone know since the approved meeting minutes are so brief and far less than the proposed resolutions submitted for meetings? Putting a draft resolution, or anything else, in the meeting information package does not make it accepted or valid. A previous council resolution said the minutes are the official record so one must presume that is all there is. Resolutions have never been organized and made available as required by city charter section 6.9. Why not?
In general, why are official city actions so difficult to find information for and rarely explained?
While there are more questions, let us first see if any of these are answered.
Happy Sunshine Week.

Cory Johnston

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.