Monday, March 29, 2010

Dowagiac School Forum Is Nothing More Than A Pep Rally

After reading John Eby's thought-provoking article in today's DDN , it brings up a few questions.

Have you ever noticed that whenever the Dowagiac Chamber runs a news story or a TV spot for the city, they ALWAYS have the same store owners talk to the media?

Well, it seems to be the same with the School's forum. Look at the names of those representing the city. It is a "Who's Who" of people who think that Dowagiac is a utopia, and everything is just fine.

Why didn't they select residents who, at the very least, have children in the schools? In order to foster change, you need to have people with different views of the city and schools. It is the same with both the school forum and the chamber. The same people are chosen to represent the citizens' views. It is always people who think everything is perfect in Dowagiac.

This was not really a forum to hear suggestions and concerns of the community. It was more like a pep rally. We need more than a pep rally. We need changes, honesty and representation, and a reality check.

If positive change is to happen in the schools or in the City of Dowagiac, real concerns from real people have to be considered. The views of a hand-picked few who think Dowagiac is a utopia, will not foster change that is needed.

The first step to make positive change, is to first admit you have a problem. We are sure that with the hand-picked group chosen for this forum, the real views of residents never came to the discussion table.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Dowagiac Myor Shocked by No Votes

At tonight's city council meeting history was made in a strange way. When the council voted to increase the permit and parks fees, both first ward councilpersons voted "NO"!!!

If you remember, a few weeks ago, we wrote how the mayor takes a vote at council and he always asks for the "yes" votes but NEVER asks if there are any "no" votes.

Well, tonight it backfired and proved the point we made in a past editorial. When it came time to vote on the permit and park fee increases, the mayor asked for the "yes" votes, and, once again, didn't ask if anyone was against it. He then stated that they both passed until councilman Oliver had to stop the mayor from proceeding forward and passing the resolutions by saying he was against the fee increase. The mayor then asked for any "no" votes, and Lori Hunt and Junior Oliver both voted "no", which made it a tie vote.

According to the Dowagiac City Charter, one of the few jobs the mayor has is to break ties. Well, Mr. Lyons sat there, appeared shocked by the "no" votes, and he didn't do his job and break the tie.
See, Mr. Lyons, this is why Roberts Rules tell you to ask for any "no" votes. Every meeting it appears that you just know that nobody disagrees with you. This time it happened, and you were so shocked that you forgot to break the tie vote.

If anyone sees Mr. Oliver or Ms. Hunt, thank them for doing what is right and for shocking the mayor so bad he forgot to break the tie.

Another congrats to Shelby Willis for speaking to council about her treatment from Vicki Phillipson when she was Ms. Dowagiac. That took a lot of courage for that young woman to stand in front of the council and speak, even though most of the council was reading papers and some didn't even pay attention to what she was saying.
Once again, the city attempted to say they have no control over the chamber. Well we believe they do. Every letter sent out by the chamber has the city logo and DDA on the letterhead.
In the past, when there was an issue with the chamber, the city attempted to pawn it off as "we have no control over that office." We believe they do; after all, the city does pay for the health care of the chamber director.

After seeing "no" votes tonight at council for the first time in many years, there just may be some hope for residents to get an honest and fair council yet.

Howard Hall

Friday, March 19, 2010

This weeks Dowagiac Informer Newsletter

If The City Has a Program That is Good For Residents, Why Do They Change It When Residents Find Out About It?

A few weeks ago JenkinsPC asked the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce to assist them in purchasing a sign for his new business. This incentive was clearly posted on the chambers webpage.

As soon as he requested assistance from the chamber the Greater of Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce they went online and took away the incentive and said it wasn't available for many years.

Why would the chamber have information on their web-page to lure new businesses to town and after they open remove the page from the Internet?

Now recently a resident requested the City Manager to put them on the council agenda. The same thing happened again, here is a link to the web-page the city had about residents being allowed to have an item out on the agenda:

Now here is the new link:

Now why would the City of Dowagiac change two policies as soon as a business or resident decides to use a program offered by the city or Chamber?

We contacted Dowagiac City Manager Kevin Anderson and was told that the web-page is just out dated and they are in the process of updating the page.

It sure seems odd that they are updating the page only when a residents wants to take advantage of a program.

Mr Anderson also told us that the council changed the policy of a resident getting on the agenda many years ago. The resolution that Mr. Anderson was talking about was passed to force residents to put questions in writing 4 days in advance and has nothing to do with getting an item on the agenda.

This story fits right in to the story about the Dowagiac City Charter. If there is something on the books that helps residents, they just remove it at will without a vote of council.

All of this will stay the same until there is a change at city hall.

Residents Beware

Residents beware, there is a person that has been telling residents to stay away from the stores that provide the Dowagiac Informer to their customers.

At this time we do not feel there is a need to provide the name of this of this official but we will in the near future if this behavior continues.

Please continue to visit the businesses that support the Informer to show that Informer readers cannot be bullied.

Why would an official tell residents to shop out of town when Dowagiac has so many businesses struggling to stay in business?

Print Edition

The print edition of the Informer will be out on Saturday, sorry for the inconvenience.

Council Questions

Well it has been a month since we put our questions in writing to council and we still have not heard back.

This falls under the same resolution that Mr. Anderson talked about changing when we addressed a resident getting an item on the agenda.
Why is it that the City of Dowagiac only follows the rules when it benefits them and ignores the rules when it is in the residents favor?

Just Wondering?

The residents of Dowagiac go to the polls every two years to elected councilman that will represent the residents of their wards.

The Dowagiac City Council has made it almost impossible to be able to attend a meeting and have dialog between their elected officials and residents.

You are forced to put any questions in writing in advance to give the city time to get together and come up with an answer that most of the time doesn't even answer the question at all.

Here is what we were wondering about. When a resident puts a question in writing to council why is it that the mayor is the one to answer all questions? As we wrote about in our article about the Dowagiac Charter, the Mayor is nothing more than a figurehead position. The Mayors only job is to run the meeting, break any tie votes and to appoint his friends to city boards.

Why do we even need councilman if the mayor answers all the questions directed at the councilman? Here is a good example, in the past we have put questions in writing for our first ward councilman, after all that is what they are elected to do. When it comes time to answer the questions the councilman just sit there while the mayor answers the questions.

I have two councilpersons, Lori Hunt and Junior Oliver. How can they represent the residents of the first ward when they are not even allowed to answer any questions from their constituents? To make things worse many times when residents put their questions in writing, the councilman don't even know that residents put any questions in until the mayor starts answering them.

Mayor Lyons, please follow the charter and allow the people that residents voted into office answer their own questions. Remember your job is to run the meeting and sit back and hope that just maybe there will be a tie vote and you can break the tie.
Please allow the councilman to do what they were elected to do. I put in two questions this week and requested that my elected officials answer them. Lets wait and see if Mayor Lyons will follow the Dowagiac City Charter and allow the councilman to answer the questions or once again disregard the charter and answer the questions himself.

Online Townhall With Mayor Don Lyons

we have been informed that Mr. Lyons will attend a townhall with Dowagiac Informer readers, so keep sending in your questions to

we will meet with Mr. Lyons Monday night at council and set the date. Stay tuned for more information next week.

As far as any other councilpersons attending a meeting, we hav no idea due to the fact that the city has refused to answer the questions we put in writing two weeks ago.

Join Us Wednesday Night at 7:30

Joine us Wednesday night at 7:30 in our chat romm to discuss the city raising out water bills to pay for the road repairs in town.

This is a chance to bmake your voice heard and let the city know that you are tired of having rate increases to pay for their money management problems.

Why should residents have to pay more money on their water wills when not long ago the city spent MILLIONS to buy our an electric contract.

Every resident has to live within a budget and so should the city.

make you voice heard by attending our online meeting Wednesday night.

More Money For Dowagiac?

It looks like the city of Dowagiac may not see a cut in revenue from the State of Michigan. It looks like thay may even get an increase.

Maybe the city could use this increase to fix the roads in Dowagiac instead of raising the residents water bills.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dowagiac Informer Shows Dowagiac Government Not Following City Charter

The Dowagiac City Charter is so outdated. It is my belief that the city keeps it that way so they can continue to do as they please without any input from residents.

Over the years, when questioned about more than one person on a city board, the city has said it is ok because the charter only names the 5 original boards.

How could the charter address boards that were started after the writing of the charter? Common sense would tell you that if there were more boards in Dowagiac at the time the charter was made, those boards would have also been added.

The city doesn't think that way. It is my opinion that as long as they can keep this outdated charter in effect, they can continue to stack these boards with members of their club and keep total control over the residents of Dowagiac.

Why is it that the mayor cannot find people to fill the vacant seats on the boards? Could it be because he has run out of "club members" to appoint? There is no reason to have any open seats on a single board in the city.

The charter says the parks and recreation board offers programs. The reason the city has stopped having programs is not because of money problems. I think it is because the city does not want Dowagiac youth anywhere near or around downtown. As I see it, in the eyes of Mayor Don Lyons, children are not worth taking the time to offer programs for their benefit.

In the past, Mr. Lyons has always used the word "entertain" when it comes to youth programs. This is a perfect example of someone who has no clue of how important it is to provide programs for youth. If you remember a few years ago, he thought kids still played "kick the can".

This is a good example of why Dowagiac residents need to clean house in the next Election. Our city is being represented by a council that is too old to understand the needs of the community and still thinks we are the same town we were in the 1960's.

The best example is the item in the charter about the electric plant. It is crystal clear that nothing should have been done with that plant without a vote of the residents of Dowagiac, but the mayor and council appear not to care about the charter and just make up the rules as they go.

If your grass is too long, you get a letter from the city. If you have blight in your yard, you get a letter also. But when it comes to the rules voted on by residents to keep their government under control, they seem to think that they are above the rules and do as they please.

Residents are starting to take notice of the out-of-control government in Dowagiac, which is evident in our online poll. We can only hope that the council can see the slow change and start following the rules. If not, maybe a recall in May is just what the residents need in order to take back control of their city.

Local Publication Questions Dowagiac Michigan City Charter

March 5th
Dowagiac City Charter
The Dowagiac City Charter was voted on by residents November 3rd 1964 by the residents of Dowagiac and made effected April 12th 1965.
We are going to give you a brief history of the Dowagiac City Charter and let you decide if the City of Dowagiac is following the rules set by the voters of Dowagiac.
Amendments: section 1.1
This charter may be amended at any time in the manner provided by law. Should two or more amendments adopted at the same Election have conflicting provisions, the amendment receiving the largest vote shall prevail.
I am no attorney but this makes it sound that any changes made to this charter needs to be voted on my the residents of Dowagiac.
Keep this in in mind as you are reading the rest of this article and you decide if the charter if being followed.

Penalties for violations of Charter: Section 1.9
Any person found guilty of any violations of this charter may be punished by a fine which, in addition to court costs, shall not exceed $500.00 , of imprisonment for not more than 90 days.
If this rule was enforced we wouldn't need the increase in the water bill to pay for road repairs.

Permitted and other powers: Section 2.2
To provide for the public welfare by: Regulating trade and amusements which are detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of its inhabitants.
The city council regulating trade? Does this mean that the council has a say on what businesses can operate in Dowagiac?
We would like to know what the council uses as a guideline for regulating the morals of the City of Dowagiac.

To establish and reasonably control streets, alleys and public places Section 3 (V)
Compelling all persons to keep the sidewalk which are in the area of streets immediately to the premises owned, or occupied by them, free from snow, ice, dirt….
Although is was nice for the city to change this section without a vote of the people and offer snow plowing of the sidewalks, to change it back should only be made by a vote of the people.

The Mayor: section 5.2
Shall preside at the meeting of the council and shall have a voice in its proceedings, but no vote, except in the case of a tie, and no veto power.
Does anyone remember a tie vote from the council?

Elected Officers Section 4.1
The following people shall be elected in the City of Dowagiac, one mayor, one Supervisor at large, one clerk, one treasurer, six councilman, to justices of the peace, three supervisors, being one from each ward, and three constables being one from each ward.
According to the charter the charter cannot be changed without a vote of the people. What happened to the supervisor and the justices of the peace positions? How did the city change this part of the charter without a vote of the people?

The Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tempore Section 5.2 ©
He shall preside at meetings of the council and shall have a voice in its proceedings, but no vote, except in case of a tie, and no veto power..
The Mayor of Dowagiac is a figure head position and has no power to do anything at the city except as outlined above.

Rules Section 5.7
On all votes, the yes and no votes vote of each member shall be recorded by roll call and published in the regular proceedings.
In all the years I have attended meetings I have heard the mayor ask all in favor of a vote but never heard him ask if anyone is opposed.

Investigations Section 5.10
The council or any person or committee authorized by it shall have power to inquire into the conduct of any department, office, or officer of the city.
I requested them to honor this part of the charter when pedophile William Nelson had children's school records in his possession once again the charter was not followed.

Compensation Section 5.4
Each member of the council shall be compensated in the amount of one-hundred dollars annually, except the Mayor who shall receive three hundred dollars annually.
This amount raised by a vote of the people on 11/8/66 just 6 months after the charter was written. Seems like it was all about the money even then.
Why is it that when it came to getting a pay increase the city followed the charter and went before the voters, but when they decide not to follow the charter they have failed to bring it before voters?

Quorum Section 5.6
Four members of the council shall be a quorum for the transaction of business and the vote of four members shall be required for any official action of the council.
This section has been ignored by the council a few times. Could it be because they knew how the missing councilman would have voted in advance?

Supervisors Section 5.29
The supervisors of the City of Dowagiac shall have the same powers and duties as the supervisors in the townships.
Who are the supervisors of Dowagiac and what are their duties? If the city did away with this position why wasn’t it approved by the voters?

Publication of Ordinances Section 6.5
The council shall make available at the office of the Clerk not less than fifty copies of the full text of any ordinance which is published by digest for FREE distribution to the public.
Ever wonder what is really in the electric ordinance? Stop by the city clerk and get your free copy

Administrative Officers Section 7.2
The administrative officers of the city shall be a City Manager, a Clerk, a Treasurer, an Assessor, a City Attorney, a Police Chief, a Health Officer, and all heads of departments.
How did the city once again change the charter and do away with the Police Chief, Fire Chief and Health Officer without a vote of the residents?

Citizenship Participation Section 13.1
To afford citizenship participation in the affairs of the city government for the purpose of determining community needs and means of meeting such needs through the government of the city, the following citizen boards shall be continued or established under this section.
Airport Board, Library Board, Cemetery Board, Parks and recreation Board, Electric Facilities Board
(B) No person shall serve on more than one board or committee.
(C) Each such board shall hold at least one meeting in each calendar quarter.
The charter is so old that it only addresses the 5 original boards which allows the city to not follow the charter rules for all the other boards that have been formed since the charter was voted in.
Many of the city boards have the same person serving on more than one board. Is this so the city can control the decisions of all the city boards? You decide.
The city has many boards that meet as needed even though the charter says quarterly

Parks and recreation Section 13.5
The city manager shall be responsible for the proper functioning of the department.
The city manager shall be responsible for the care and maintenance of the city’s parks and shall be responsible for the recreational facilities and programs of the city.
The city charter clearly states that the city is responsible for recreation programs for city residents.
Many years ago the city did offer many recreation activates from a wading pool to organized programs for youth.
The city has stated in the past that the funding ran out to offer any programs. According to the charter it is the responsibility of the city to provide funding for these programs.
Does anyone remember voting to take away the youth programs from city residents?

Disposal of the Municipal electric Plant: Section 13.10
No action shall be taken to sell, exchange, lease or in any way dispose of the municipal electric public utility or any property, easement, equipment, privilege, or asset needed to continue the operation of such utility, unless the proposition to do so is approved by three members of the board and, in addition thereto, four members of the council, and further, by a three-fifths vote of the electors of the city voting at a regular election or at a special election called for that purpose.
Here is a very clear example of the city doing whatever it wants no matter what is set forth in the city charter.
The section above clearly states that the city couldn't dispose of using the plant or sell it for scrap without bringing it before the voters.
Anybody remember voting to stop using the electric plant or vote to sell the plant for scrap?

Online Poll
Would you support a recall of Dowagiac elected officials?
Yes 78% 85 votes
No 22% 24 votes

Dowagiac Queen Complains About Treatment From Chamber and DDA Director

To the Community of Dowagiac:

As the Mother of Miss Dowagiac 2009 I would like to thank this Community for supporting my daughter during her reign. It was a greatly appreciated privilege to have been selected to represent the Community of Dowagiac and one she took very seriously. The opportunity to visit our schools and participate in Community activities allowed Shelby to explore and educate herself in preparation for her future. She was able to promote learning and offer friendship and encouragement to many of our Community members. The tremendous positive response she received was awesome. Again, I thank you.

Shelby participated in many activities accepting invitations from a variety of Community groups. She was honored to be chosen to represent this Community and eager to become involved. Her enthusiasm and willingness to participate was never ending. Regrettably some of the organizers of the Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant did not feel this was acceptable. We received many callous communications from the Director, some Committee Members, and the Chamber of Commerce including the implication that her dismissal was under consideration due to her excessive involvement in the Community as Queen stating in writing at one point that “Shelby's extra public appearances have far exceeded both the requirements and expectations of our Pageant Director and Executive Committee … it is clearly time that her excess public appearances as Queen, which either you or Shelby have selected, be discontinued or limited. We suggest that you start with the elementary school classroom visits …”

I was appalled. I understand that the nature of organizing most anything these days is often challenging. However, we simply can't afford to be unproductive and allow opportunities to better our Community and support our youth and future pass by. For the Chamber of Commerce along with the organizers of a scholarship pageant to discourage the support of our Community schools was unbelievable. Shelby’s activities cannot be perceived or represented as a burden to this volunteer organization as I chaperoned her to every event in the absence of her Director. Despite all the resources at their disposal and considerable time to deal with the situation, we found disorganization and lack of support to be the given. In everything from poor planning and discouraging participation in activities to refusing to communicate with, or acknowledging the role of family, the conflict never seemed to have an end.

It is unfortunate Shelby did not receive the support from this organization that she received from the Community that welcomed her involvement. With the exception of one Committee Member who offered encouragement, this Committee as a whole, including the Directors and the Chamber of Commerce took a united position against her. In spite of opposition from this group regarding her acts of volunteerism in the Community and its school system, Shelby continued on without their support. Regrettably, the experience we had was not what we had anticipated. We had expected a much higher level of performance from this organization, and were quite disappointed.

Making the decision to send this letter was difficult as I considered the likelihood of the retaliation it may generate. When the offensive behavior by Directors continued the day after the 2010 pageant I concluded it was better to come forward in an effort to recognize and improve the situation rather than to enable it to continue by taking no action. I can only relay our experience and wish those who follow the best. After more than 70 years, it may be time for change. This organization needs to review and recognize its shortcomings. It would be advantageous for this organization to try to view this conflict as an opportunity to analyze the situation objectively and come up with a solution that could benefit everyone. Surely, our unfortunate experience can be the exception rather than the norm.

To the future Miss Dowagiac, this is a very exciting time for you. In the months to come you must persevere and make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. The outlook for the coming year is bright, be proud of your accomplishments. With a positive, confident attitude, nothing can stop you!

Julie Willis