The Division of Law and Records and Division of Safety set forth in Chapter III, Section 11 of the Ferndale Charter, shall be under the supervision, direction and control of the City Manager.
There are at least three strong reasons this ordinance should be repealed.
First, Ferndale voters have already twice turned-down initiatives to rewrite the charter. Apparently, many residents feel strongly about the fire and police chiefs reporting directly to someone accountable to voters rather than a city manager who is not. Even if that someone is five someones, voters believe they have more direct control over the composition of council than they do the occupant of the city manager's office.
Second, council was both arrogant and derelict to not inform residents of their intent to change the charter. Heck, they were even negligent about warning Councilman Mike Lennon about their intent. Of course, Mike Lennon is less likely to ignore his neighbors or dismiss their concerns about accountability as petty, quaint, old-fashioned, or as Councilwoman Piana said, ".. embarrassing."
Third, council provided no justifications beyond the superficial for why the ordinance was necessary, or why it must be voted on immediately. Below is a summary of their reasons:
- Melonie Piana (2 minutes 23 seconds):
- It's hard to get accountability with five part-time bosses and
- It's more stream-lined (take her word for it)
- Kate Baker (1 minute 23 seconds):
- "What Melonie [Piana] said" and
- Other cities scoff at us and her colleagues are astounded she represents so backward-thinking a city as Ferndale when she was used to representing the much-more-impressive Henry Ford Museum where she used to work (I made that last part up, but it fits).
- Covey: Wants to get copied on press-releases (really!)
- Galloway: No reason given.
If Piana and Baker think it's difficult to get accountability with five part-time bosses, they should try remembering what it's like getting a satisfactory explanation why they wanted to spend millions of dollars building a new city hall or why the rush to move the clerk and two chiefs under the city manager so soon after laying off police officers and firemen.
And after what recently-elected Library Trustee Pat Dengate had to report at the June 28th council meeting about the delays, mis-communications, and bureaucratic red-tape working with city inspectors and the Community Development Services (CDS) to design and build the new library, residents are justified in doubting Covey's, Galloway's, Piana's, and Baker's confidence that our city manager will manage public safety any better than he has CDS.
Some may argue that council didn't really modify the charter with ordinance 1094. Even were that true, the change they made to the operation and accountability from the residents' perspective is significant enough they may as well have.
- the language of the ordinance itself reads, "... set forth in Chapter III, Section 11 of the Ferndale Charter...,"
- in the city charter's own opinion what council wanted to do was so extraordinary it required four votes to pass the ordinance (normally, only three are required),
- the memo from City Attorney Dan Christ (sounds like wrist) to city manager Bob Bruner reads like a Carvillian talking-points memo, calling out the city charter's own language, three court cases, sections of the Michigan Constitution, and his own rah-rah talk encouraging Bruner and council that they may proceed with impunity and little concern for the arguments and protests any accidental resident or union representative may fling at them during the ordinance's surprise hearing.
Luckily for residents, the city charter also provides a mechanism for registered voters to repeal any ordinance council passes by presenting sufficient, qualified petition signatures within 30-days of an ordinance's publication.
That petition has already started circulating. If you would like to sign or circulate the petition, please send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a message on my Facebook page.
If 1094 is as good a thing as most members of council believes it is, they'll have plenty of time to convince us before November.