After listening for more than two hours to 44 Public Comment speakers, CITCOM conducted business to 12:31. Unfortunately, Two of the matters they discussed -- ethics and, separately, Arts Beats & Eats -- combined to reveal that the commission may have reached a tipping point and will return to the across-the-table animosity which characterized the previous commission.
Commissioner Pat Capello introduced discussion of an ethics pledge, which she had composed, as an agenda item. Taking the long pledge herself, she asked that the commission immediately agree that commissioners should publicly take it before each meeting.
The discussion that followed went sour immediately. Most other commissioners and the mayor agreed that they were offended. Jim Rasor quickly contended that Capello's move was aimed at him. He and others reminded Capello of there is a rule against unilaterally introducing new items without prior notice. Jim's anger led him to make using derogatory personal terms while making his case that Capello was ignoring the " "innocent until proven guilty" tradition. Peggy Goodwin, who shares with Dave Poulton the reputation of being the quiet ones at The Table, became visibly angry objecting to Rasor's rhetoric.
Mayor Jim Ellison asked City Attorney David Gillam to comment on the legality of some of the language in the Capello-composed pledge, and Gillam demurred. On a 5-2 decision, CITCOM sent the document to the Rules Committee to see if some of it might fit the city's Ethics Ordinance. Rasor and Kyle DuBuc voted No.
Listening to speaker after speaker praising ABE, I assumed that Witz had arranged for a claque to defend the festival against complaints about noise, which were streaming through blogs. Then someone mentioned the Detroit Free Press article, which I had not seen. The article apparently dealt with complaints about more than just loud music. Witz later presented his views and essentially said that he would work on reducing the volume and that if the sound level is controlled, the matter of the music running beyond scheduled hours would become less of a problem.
The anger, which arose during the ethics discussion flowed into and distorted the ABE debate, with Rasor suggesting that the Free Press story had been planted. The festival's producer made soft promises about addressing the complaints, repeatedly saying he would have face-to-face conversations with City Manager Don Johnson, who unfortunately is considered part of the problem by many of the unhappy residents.
A less angry discussion about the loud music running past agreed upon time appears elsewhere on this page. ABE as an issue will go on for a bit more time, I'm sure.
Despite the worrisome new tone, which pervaded the evening after the ethics squabble, CITCOM professionally dealt with issues like changing policy to permit the selling of some land to Oakland Community College and mandating annual hotel/motel inspections, before ending after midnight.
Frank Versagi is the editor of Versagi Voice.