Public Comments Dominate Chelsea City Council Meeting

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City of Chelsea

| 4 min | by Doug Marrin |

The following are notes from the Chelsea City Council meeting held on Nov. 2, 2020.

Public Comments

During the public comments portion of the meeting, some Chelsea area residents voiced concern over the City’s lack of follow up to the community listening sessions held two months ago. Comments included the following, to which the Council responded at the close of the meeting.

“Tonight, there was a candlelight vigil that I was set to attend, but I didn't feel safe because I'm definitely nervous about Chelsea's police department. We have seen racial tensions and violations. And we've also seen the lack of attention to these very pressing racial matters.”

“I don't understand why this issue is being pushed and pushed and pushed down the road…Couldn't have a session that is facilitated by a neutral party?”

“Let's have a facilitator, who might be more open to what the community is saying, not just the reactions from council that we've been seen. So I would appreciate seeing this on the agenda as soon as possible.”

“I really so look forward to our community really being able to process that information and that pain together. And the longer that it is stalled, I just feel like it just exacerbates the wound. And so I just look forward to those conversations when they can happen.”

“Our leaders really need to act with some urgency, because the longer we wait, and the more silent we stay, the less faith people like me, who lived here my whole life, have in our town.”

“I'd also like to see a neutral facilitator because as someone else put it, that trust has been lost. And we need someone neutral, who can run a conversation, and make sure that everyone actually feels heard, because I think that's really important right now too.”

One resident, echoed by another, also expressed concern over the money the City was spending on the court cases involved and the salary for the suspended police officer.

Remote and Hybrid Meeting Policies and Procedures

The Council passed a resolution that, as of Jan. 1, meetings would consist of limited staff and public presence and allow for remote participation. The move complied with recent changes to the State’s Open Meetings Act.

Council Boards and Committee Liaisons and Delegates

The Council approved the assignment of members to various boards and committees in the area. A list of which can be found in the meeting packet for Nov. 2.

Resolution to Assign Delinquent Stormwater Invoices to Taxes

A resolution to roll delinquent stormwater bills to the 2020 tax roll was approved. It is an annual practice of the Council to do such.

Council Reports

Councilmember Tony Iannelli reported that changes could be coming to the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority’s elected seats. The Human Rights Commission is continuing discussions of training programs that will be presented to the Council.

Councilmember Charles Wisely reported on witnessing Chelsea’s voting machines being tested.

Councilmember Jennifer Kwas reported that the POP Survey received over 100 responses. Feedback was that the project generally slowed traffic, increases comfortability, and was overall successful, with 45% of the respondents happy with how the POP was communicated. She also encouraged everyone to watch the St. Joe’s video on the WAVE shuttle.

Councilmember Cheri Albertson reported that the Planning Commission is hosting a Zoom webinar presented by the Michigan Municipal League on parliamentary procedure Thursday at 7:00 pm.

Councilmember Jane Pacheco responded to the public comments saying, “I'm also uncomfortable with the pace of the City's follow-up to the listening sessions. And I have put agenda items on in the past to prompt our discussion of the listening sessions and set those listening session dates. At our public meeting last week, where we had our fall review of our goals and envisioning session, we did discuss setting a work session to follow up…So I want to just say to the public that I hear you. We all hear your concern and discomfort. I'm going to urge our staff to put that on our agenda to have a work session set as soon as possible.”

Mayor Johnson reported on her participation in SEMCOG and the new program for transportation equity grants that they are working on. The DDA met with the accounting firm Plante Moran to review the audit process. The DDA also looked at establishing some methodology for art installation around town. Along with Mr. Hanifan, Mayor Johnson toured the Saline courthouse regarding its safety protocol and what, if any, may be applied to Chelsea’s courthouse. The City will not hold regular Veterans Day programming this year, but Mayor Johnson will participate in a video celebration.

The Mayor also responded to the public comments by saying, “We have all taken quite a bit of time to listen and are processing the information. As Miss Pacheco noted at our work session, we specifically added a new priority, which was to follow up on those and created an outline based on the over eight hours of listening that council members all participated in hearing from members of the community.”

Mayor Johnson also noted that two active investigations were submitted to the prosecutor’s office—one for the incident in Pierce Park and another for a complaint against the police department. The Mayor wanted to reassure the community that the administration is listening and takes its concerns very seriously.

The entire audio recording of the City Council’s meeting can be found on the City’s website.

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Thank you very much for this article. I don't believe that the actual comments from citizens have ever been included in a Council summary before. It is important to hear what our fellow citizens feel strong enough about to address Council, so your effort to include them is much appreciated!

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