UPDATE: Jan. 26th 2017--As CM Robb points out in his comment below, I was incorrect in my assertion below that ""this will essentially make Ypsilanti a sanctuary city". Ypsilanti's no-solicitation of papers ordinance is specifically tailored to not be a sanctuary city ordinance. The article has been updated to reflect this correction. Old text has been
struckthrough new text is in italics. The title of the article has been updated too. I've also corrected the location of the Bell-Kramer neighborhood in relation to the city's old dump.
There was a packed house for last night's Ypsilanti City Council Meeting. You can find the full meeting agenda here. The majority of the folks in attendance were there to support an ordinance that would prevent city employees from asking people for their immigration status. There was also a large group from the Bell-Kramer neighborhood. It was my first time attending a full city council meeting in meatspace and it was an enjoyable enough experience. Though, I do wish #YpsiCouncil meetings were live streamed. Here are the highlights from last night's meeting:
No solicitation of paper's ordinance passes first reading. With unanimous support, the city council voted to adopt the "no solicitation of immigration status" ordinance.One thing that really struck me last night was how tight the city budget is right now. Some council members were hesitant as to whether the city should apply for a federal SAFER grant to fund more firefighting positions. The grant would pay for the lion's share of the salaries, but the city would be on the hook for some of the salary in the third year of the grant. It would be a net savings for the city because right now fire department staffing is so low, we are paying about $200,000 per year in overtime to maintain minimum safe staffing. I think it was Councilmember Robb (D W3) who mentioned that accepting this grant might violate the city's hiring freeze ordinance.
Upon passing a second reading, this will essentially make Ypsilanti a sanctuary city.As CM Robb points out in his comment below, this ordinance does not make Ypsilanti a sanctuary city, per se: "The main tenent(sic) of being a sanctuary city is to not permit municipal funds be used to enforce federal immigration laws. The ordinance specifically has a clause regarding this:
Sec. 58-204. - Solicitation of immigration status by public servants, prohibited; exceptions (b)(3) Solicitation of information concerning immigration status where specifically required by any federal, state, or city law or program as a condition of eligibility for the service sought; ...
This ordinance will make it a violation of the City's policy for anyone who works for the city to ask someone about their immigration status except under very specific situations. as I mentioned above, there were about 50 folks in attendance last night to support the ordinance. Many of the supporters spoke at the public hearing for the ordinance including a high school student who spoke about how terrifying it was when her family was pulled over and asked about their immigration statues. A local social worker also spoke about working with an immigrant family whose landlord is violating local rental ordinance but who are scared to report the landlord because of their immigration status.
During the debate about the ordinance, I heard a disturbing rumor. My notes on this are not great, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong. Someone reported to the council that the Representative for Michigan's 32nd Congressional District, Pamela Hornberger was planning on introducing a bill next week that would ban municipalities from becoming sanctuary cities in Michigan. I'm not sure if I have all the details right on that, but regardless, keep your ears to the ground gentle readers and prepare to organize if you believe in municipalities should be able to decide if they wish to become sanctuary cities or not.
Amendment of PMD (industrial) zoning for Bell-Kramer neighborhood passes first reading. The Bell-Kramer neighborhood was built
onadjacent tothe site of the city's old dump in the early50s and 60s, before there were environmental standards. In 2013, the city discovered contamination was migrating from the dump towards the neighborhood. This prompted the city to rezone the neighborhood from R2 (one or two family residential) to PMD (Production, Manufacture, and Distribution) as part of a larger zoning code modernization in 2014. Unfortunately, this made it so every residential structure in the neighborhood was non-conforming. That means that residents had difficulty getting insurance, could not rebuild after a loss, and could not receive financing. Several residents of Bell-Kramer spoke last night asking for the city to return the neighborhood to residential zoning. While the city awaits more environmental testing, they voted to amend the PMD zoning to allow for the residential structures that are currently in Bell-Kramer. This will allow people to refinance their houses and rebuild structures after a loss (eg fire). It will not allow for construction of new residential structures at this time.
Gentle readers, do any of you know more about the zoning modernization effort in Ypsilanti in 2014? I'm wondering if this current issue an unintended consequence of zoning a residential neighborhood PMD. If you'd like to read more about the contamination and zoning issues in Bell-Kramer Mark Maynard has a good series: here and here .