Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pump up the volume. Dance! Dance!

[Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2010 edition of Ferndale Friends]

NIMBY is an acronym for Not In My Back Yard.  It’s a term thrown around whenever a bunch of folks are in favor of a refinery, an incinerator, a jail, a half-way house, adult book store, or anything else many think is Good For The Community (GFTC – not an acronym) but they don’t want it near them.  It’s ok to be by someone else’s home, to increase someone else’s health risks, or increase traffic on someone else’s streets as long as it’s not our health, our safety, or our streets.

The current issue that has all the NIMBYs out in force is Ferndale’s noise ordinance.  A petition circulated this summer proposes to lower the nighttime volume from 65 to 60 decibels.  Not surprisingly, there are many that feel those five decibels would kill the downtown, drive away night-time revelers, shutter the bars, and return tumbleweeds to Nine Mile.

As much as Ferndale likes being like everyone else, I wonder how Ann Arbor manages to survive with its residential nighttime limits at 55 decibels.  Birmingham, East Lansing, and Kalamazoo are 60, 55, and 45 decibels respectively.

According to Ferndale reactionaries, these cities must be ghost towns.

At a city council meeting earlier this summer, council-woman Melanie Piana (or was it Kate Baker?) suggested Ferndale consider New Jersey’s “model” sound ordinance.  I doubt either of them actually read it as it recommends a residential night-time limit of 50 decibels.

In Detroit, amplifiers aren’t even allowed to be used if they’re within 250 feet of a residential area.  I don’t think anyone enforces that, but this summer Mt. Clemens’ new noise ordinance ordains that any downtown sound that can be heard 500 feet away is too loud.

Heck, according to other cities’ standards, at 60 decibels petition organizer Sherry Wells is a partying sorority chick gone wild.  Reserve your “The Girls of Troy St.” calendar at a Ferndale retailer near you!

So, before everyone shouts-down the residents on Troy asking for a little consideration, remember they aren’t nearly is prudish as the folks in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Kalamazoo, or San Francisco (45 dBA measured inside the house).

At their September 27th meeting, city council directed the DDA director and city manager to retain a sound engineer (spend money) to develop guidelines (spend time) for a non-sound-pressure-based measurement (spend credibility).  I humbly submit the research provided above for free, printed in a free magazine, dropped on your porch every-other-month for free.

It’s just my little contribution to help Ferndale balance its budget.

It’s always darkest just before it goes pitch-black

Speaking of balancing the budget, if you haven’t visited, you should check it out.  If you’re sick of reading all those motivation posters hanging in the hallways at the office, this is the website for you.  My favorite is named, Mistakes.  It’s a picture of a sinking ship in the middle of a tranquil sea.  You’ll have to read the caption for yourself when you visit the website.

Anyway, on September 13th, council appointed 12 residents to accomplish in 55 days what council couldn’t accomplish in 163 days—fill a three-year budget deficit of approximately $12 million with expense reductions and tax increases.  Believe it or not, the 12 people selected were among 29 that volunteered for the job (including yours truly).

One of my favorites was Melanie Piana’s nomination of a guy she admitted she didn’t know, hadn’t met, but heard was “a nice guy.”  With keen and penetrating rationale like that I wouldn’t trust her recommending a hair dresser much less someone with influence to cut city services and raise property taxes.

Heck, with those qualifications she may as well have nominated Ashton Kutcher.  I suspect they haven’t met either and he seemed a nice-enough-guy on That 70’s Show and the Nikon camera commercials (at least until rumors of his pulling a Tiger-Woods on Demi More).

To bring everyone up-to-date, the Financial Planning Committee has met three times.  The first was a get-to-know-you meeting with a few people declaring the DDA and Kulick Center off-limits (out-of-the-box-thinking).  The second was elections of a chair, vice-chair, and secretary (Bob Porter, Joel Petrie, and Bob Bruner respectively), followed by 100-level Municipal Accounting primer given by the city manager to catch everyone up on the definitions of fund, expense, income, and statutory.  I don’t remember if he covered the words discretionary, frivolous, indulgent, and reckless, or if he’ll just show video of the July 26 council meeting when they approved spending $447,930 for a $21,500 chair lift while staring down a $3 million deficit in next year’s budget.

Conformity is its own reward

On this November’s ballot Ferndale citizens will vote on whether our police and fire chiefs should report to the city council as they have since the city’s beginning, or report to the city manager.  After council attempted to make this change without residents’ input a petition forced the issue to the ballot, hoping that by election-day city council will have provided some justification for why both chiefs’ visibility and independence should be eliminated.

Residents have been waiting since mid-summer for council to explain themselves.  If the new arrangement is as efficient as they claim it should be easy to back up with numbers rather than anecdotes (“other cities do it”), whining (“they’re making fun of me”), or hissy fits (Galloway’s wanting police and fire personnel to account for their time in 15-minute increments).

If city council can’t explain their actions other than to say others are doing it, then we don’t need our city council.  Instead, Ferndale can just imitate Madison Heights’ charter and ordinances, or Royal Oak’s, or maybe Ann Arbors—then we can resolve the who-reports-to-the-city-manager, medical marijuana, and implement a 55 decibel residential noise limit from 10PM-7AM and free-up two Monday evenings a month.

So until that time comes, residents should vote NO.

1 comment:

  1. I received a lot of grief about this article after it was published. In fact, it was the first hate mail I think I've ever gotten (if you can call it that). I took it as a good sign that people were reading my articles.

    I publish it above as it appeared in Ferndale Friends for purposes of fidelity to what was printed, though I truck-out a paragraph I would like to think I would have removed had I more time to edit the article (I was pressed for time).

    Excuses aside, I went overboard in my criticism of Melanie Piana's recommendation of a guy she didn't know, and later apologized to her publicly at the start of debate on Ferndale's ballot initiative.