DDA Dilemma

Property taxes used to be collected solely to fund our necessary public services. In 1992 the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was created. At this time, the property taxes collected within the DDA district area were divided to fund both the DDA (attempts to re-vitalize the downtown) and the necessary public services such as schools, library, water, fire and police. The portion to pay the public services was frozen at 1992 levels, yet as property taxes rise year after year, the DDA continues to take a larger and larger amount. The cost of the public services has naturally increased, however due to the freeze put on their funding, you have had to pay more and more in property taxes because the DDA takes away funds from the public services. 

Another way to look at it is – the commercial district (approximately 1/3 of Blissfield)  pays for public services at 1992 rates while you pay 2011 rates plus the extra amount needed to cover the commercial districts shortfall!

The DDA needs to be dissolved and dissolved now!

20 Reasons to Dissolve the DDA

  1.  The DDA has not satisfactorily performed their intended purpose of Act 197 of 1975; to correct and prevent deterioration in business districts; to encourage historic preservation; to authorize the acquisition and disposal of interests in real and personal property; to authorize the creation and implementation of development plans in the districts; to promote the economic growth of the districts.
  2. DDA admitted incompetence when they brought the Michigan Main Street program on board to supposedly do the job they could not do since 1992.
  3. Façade grant program is used by select businesses as a replacement for responsibility of their own building upkeep – essentially used as a building maintenance fund.
  4. Reduce Village residents and business owner’s taxes; DDA has collected $180,000.00 this fiscal year that should be returned to the Village general fund and taxpayers.
  5. Hold Village Council directly responsible for every incoming and outgoing dollar.
  6. DDA functions entirely from taxpayer money – mandated support from everybody.
  7. DDA has replaced the privatized Chamber of Commerce that was donation centric to perform the same duties and accomplish the same goals.
  8. DDA/MMS is more interested in promoting the DDA and the Michigan Main Street Program than Blissfield or Blissfield business.
  9. DDA board member owned businesses received more grants than any other business.
  10. Improve transparency and open government.
  11. Reduce ostracizing volunteers and negative impact of non-favored businesses (corruption).
  12. Vastly reduce government picking winners and losers.
  13. DDA adopted Michigan Main Street suggested Bylaws (rules for us) but is changed at will (rules for them).
  14. The hired position of Michigan Main Street Manager is not a liaison for local businesses and does not address business interests or needs to the DDA. The manager simply follows orders from the DDA and promotes Michigan Main Street.
  15. Officials sold the Michigan Main Street program as free to the community. Diverting taxes is not free.
  16. DDA is not in touch with business needs or best interest.
  17. DDA forces their plans through, whether plans are fair or not, or challenged or not (with repeated Conflicts of Interest).
  18. DDA/Main Street Promotion Committee favors select businesses and excludes others.
  19. Michigan Main Street has sanctioned favoritism and spending.
  20. Let taxpayers decide what events, projects and promotions they want to contribute to…or not.

We should also be aware of the power and revenue sucking entities similar to the DDA like TIFA’s (Tax Increment Finance Authority), RDA’s (Redevelopment District Authority), LDFA (Local Development Finance Authority), BRA’s (Brownfield Redevelopment Authority), BID’s (Business Improvement Districts), PSD’s (Principle Shopping Districts), etc., see the rest of the list , including what Blissfield is currently working on…

Historic Preservation

  • Historic Districts, Sites and Structures Act, 1970 PA 169, as amended, MCL 399.201 et seq. Provides for the establishment of historic districts and acquisition of resources for historic preservation purposes.
  • Municipal Historical Commissions, 1957 PA 213, as amended, MCL 399. 171 et seq. Authorizes cities, villages, townships and counties to create historical commissions and prescribes their functions, to issue revenue bonds and to appropriate money for activities and projects.

Sink your teeth into this snapshot from California. Remember California invented Tax Increment Financing and used it liberally (no pun), Care to guess about the state their economy is in? Find out here; http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=5261&cpage=1. Please also read the second comment down – Scott’s comment is very informative.

What I found alarming was the highly questionable way the DDA brought Michigan Main Street into Blissfield. An unauthorized committee that pretended their meetings were open to the public but never posted a notice of the meetings. An unauthorized committee whose meetings were frequented by DDA Board members and Village Trustees, sometimes even a quorum that were making decisions for the Village. An unauthorized committee that was getting “Main Street” training that the taxpayers have to pay for in the event our 5 year contract is broken. A contract between our DDA and the Michigan Main Street (government) program was signed after it was sold to us as free. A government program that since signed a contract, takes credit for anything and everything any individual does for the Village. 

This was a question and answer about legal council authorized committees, supplied by the Michigan Municipal League in their General Law Village handbook for public officials.

Question 69: Our committees usually consist of three trustees. If a fourth trustee attends, are we in violation of the Open Meetings Act?

Answer: You may be in violation if the meeting was not posted in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, especially if a quorum of the village council was present. It depends on what takes place and what decisions are made during the committee meeting. It is a good idea, however, to publish notice of the meetings even if the Open Meetings Act does not apply.

Committees should not take action. They gather information. When the committee takes information back to the council, the council must take care to deliberate on the committee information in an open meeting held in compliance with the Open Meetings Act to ensure that decisions were not made at the committee level. In some communities, the council meets as a committee of the whole on a regular basis to study issues.

It is better to be safe than sorry. We routinely suggest to our members that notices of committee meetings be posted.

I went to some of those unauthorized, law violating meetings. Read the Friends of Historic Blissfield tri-fold publication they put out; FOHB Brochure, claiming they found and spearheaded implementation of the Michigan Main Street program.

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16 Responses to DDA Dilemma

  1. Concerned Taxpayer says:

    Is anyone going to the sign dedication for the Mainstreet program at the west end of town with big picket and protest signs?

  2. Sleepless in Blissfield says:

    Another reason for dissolving the DDA/Main Street is there were no brochures for Blissfield at the River Raisin Fest. I made it a point to look for them at the headquarters booth and there were none. There were brochures at the festival last year. I don’t think Mike has the experience needed for this job. He worked in a concession stand but didn’t put brochures out to promote Blissfield. I feel he is learning his job by trial and error and in the mean time Blissfield suffers. All those people at the festival and no brochures (or not enough brochures). I will not pay to be in the brochure for 2012. I checked the headquarters booth 3 times on Saturday, I checked in the afternoon once and the evening twice.

    • Logan says:

      I would think that one of this overpaid Mainstreet Manager’s goals would be to help promote the downtown (MAIN STEET) any opportunity possible. How much effort would it have taken to lay out some brochures, let alone actually be there to do personal promotion. Perhaps if applicants had known what the REAL wages were going to be for this job, we would have gotten someone that knew what they were doing instead of following the F-Troop like a puppy dog. ( I do apologize to all the puppies out there for the unfair comparison…at least puppies act like we expect them to). I am so tired of the government, including the Village of Blissfield, wasting our money. If I had the lack of effort and production this man, and the Mainstreet program have I would have been fired way before now. I heard there may be a petition to try and end this worthless position and program. If there is, I would be happy to sign and sign and sign…………..

      • Logan says:

        I guess I wasn’t done. How does everyone like the new face on Royal Expressions and Cakes and Shakes after all that expert planning of the Mainstreet program? I thought Royal Expressions was attractive and inviting before. Now I think it just looks boring. I hope the rest of the village doesn’t follow their lead…….Now I’m done!

  3. I am a CAVE person and proud of it says:

    I agree with your response you made. I was just wondering if you ever saw the police report on The Main Street Manager? It is 63 pages long. The report is for his computer prank he pulled and had to do community service for. If you want to look at it just let me know, I printed out a copy from the internet. It’s very interesting. I’ll also sign a petition to put a end to the Main Street program. What a waste of tax payers money.

  4. I am a CAVE person and proud of it says:

    Now you will have more time to walk the pavement to get signatures on the petition to dissolve the DDA. In my opinion I think the DDA/ Main Street needs to be dissolved. If we don’t try we have to accept things the way they are. Change does not happen by doing nothing.——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    • Robin says:

      Cave, you must have heard I was fired from the Michigan Main Street Design Committee. I’m sure this is the first time in history the DDA board has recognized a conflict of interest (I disagree with the program but care and want to contribute to Blissfield). Apparently, government employees and VOLUNTEERS have a “GAG” order. You can disagree with what they’re doing, as long as you don’t tell a soul you disagree. That’s a pretty handy rule. How would a government program fail when the people that have first-hand knowledge can’t talk about it?

      It was explained to me that if you disagree vocally, you’re bad-mouthing your employer and that’s automatic grounds for dismissal. The only problem I see with this is – I thought I am the employer and they work for us. I, as a taxpayer pay their salary and benefits!

      You are right, if I want change, I better be willing to do something.

      • Logan says:

        With all the taxpayer money we are using to “beautify” Blissfield, don’t you think the Village could mow the grass on the little park on 223? What an eyesore for Village property. If any of the businesses let their grass get that high I’m sure we would get a notice from the village.

        • Robin says:

          If any of the residents let their grass get that high, they would probably get a notice. Sadly, is there any grass left there? Most of what’s growing now are weeds. Whenever you let weeds take control, they smother the grass.

          Yes, another fine example of spending our money to “beautify” and neglecting the maintenance factor. If Blissfield were Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen, he’d say “SHUT IT DOWN”!

  5. I am a CAVE person and proud of it says:

    I saw the pictures for the volunteer picnic. Same old people. Nothing new. I see they made a point to show a picture of them using a meat thermometer, hats and gloves. What they forgot to take a picture of was the special event license. Maybe someone should call the health department and check to see if they got one. I’ve got a food handlers license, but that is mostly for restaurant workers. Food handlers license has nothing to do with preparing food for the public.. I also hope they have a license for the raffles they have for the car shows. I see nothing budgeted for raffles. I found a complaint form and am sending it in with the flyer about them having a raffle. I also got the info from The Advance about the one they had at the River Raisin Festival. I also didn’t see any money budgeted for the special event license. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to make sure everything is on the up and up with the DDA/Main Street. I also would like to thank you Robin for the great job you are doing on the petition. It goes to show there are more of us than them. You may start something by letting people know in the village of whats going on in our government, and whats going on with the DDA/Main Street. I hope you succeed in dissolving them. I think the town has not improved since Main Street has invaded our town. I will be glad when Main Street is gone. It will save us a lot of money if you disslove it. I could not imagine what the downtown could do with the money they are paying Mike Sessions. All I know is $28,000.00 plus benefits would do a lot of good donwtown.

    • Robin says:

      Sorry for taking so long to answer your comments Cave. I have received a great deal of support with the petition, my gut feeling that there were other people who wouldn’t look kindly on being duped for a few to benefit was correct. After I’ve collected enough signatures I’m going to write about my experience going door to door. I’ll tell you this much…there are plenty of great people living in Blissfield, I’m blessed and proud to be a part of this community!

  6. I am a CAVE person and proud of it says:

    I just visited the Village of Blissfield website and seen that they did buy a special event license for $88.00 and paid Michael Sessions $25.00 for a license. They also paid for a magic show for $350.00. This isn’t including the postage or invitations they sent out. It appears to me that Michael is not keeping google docs up to date. I thought we were going to be keep up to date on whats going on. Also, they don’t keep the committee members up to date. Your still on the list of volunteers Robin. Also it appears the budget for this event was more than what’s on google docs so does this come out of the village monies? So is Main Street spending more of our tax payers monies? I was told Main Street would not cost any money. So lets see!!!!!!!!!!!!! Over $400.00 was spent on a invite only picnic. Of course the public could of attended this private event if they called Michael and got permission. Let’s see private invitations for a few and the rest of Blissfield needs to call to see if they are welcome. Somethings wrong with this picture since the tax dollars paid for this event.

    • Robin says:

      Hi Cave, I’ve got another bit of trivia for you. I was on the design committee as a volunteer for a year and I didn’t receive an invitation. The honorable thing to do was to send me an invitation because I volunteered. Furthermore, the invitations were mailed out Tuesday, July 12/2011, the DDA had a board meeting Wednesday, July 13/2011 where they made the decision to not “renew my membership” as a member of the program’s Design Committee (they fired me) and I received a certified letter July 14, 2011 stating this decision. Because I never received an invitation, it proves the board made the decision before the meeting. This is a violation of the open meetings act.

      Am I surprised? Not so much, it’s business as usual.

  7. A Resident of Blissfield says:

    Hi Robin,
    Lets see the latest gossip is a restaurant has closed. The Place is gone. Another store is having a moving sale. My logic is for every business that opens 2 moves out. More and more retail business keeps going out of business in Blissfield. Why? You can replace these businesses that has been here for years but if these businesses has been here for years why are they going out of business? My guess is that there is not enough customer base in Blissfield to support these businesses. This is another reason why the DDA/Main Street needs to be dissolved. I don’t think they are doing their job. This is my opinion. Whats your opinion? The Main Street has had a couple events downtown. The Love the Local events. I watched Mike Sessions at these events. He waits until he gets a group of 10-20 people together for the Love the Local event then takes the pictures to make it look good for the papers and the Main Street Officials that he has to answer to. Love the Local did nothing for certain businesses. Cake and Shakes, Royal Expressions and Back on the Rack had events in their stores which they were invited to do but certain stores again were not asked to participate If Main Street is thinking Love The Local is going to support the downtown they better think again. It is not going to work. There is not enough local people to support the downtown I Love the Local also but Main Street has better look at the population Blissfield has before it makes a decision that the local has enough citizens in the town for a business to be a success. If Main Street is going to survive they need to think outside the box. I am really scared of what is going to happen with Yuletide. Rumor has it Mike Sessions is trying to get free advertising. So far the list of events for Yuletide is not very impressive to me. I hope someone steps up and takes over Yuletide especially for the advertising. Last year was such a success and I would hate to see it fail this year because we have someone with little experience running the show. I read where he wants to hire someone to help him without pay to help him with logos and such due to the fact he has little experience in this. It’s been over one year since Main Street has been in Blissfield and I personally have not seen any improvements downtown. What are we paying this person? Last I heard was $44,000.00 a year. If I am wrong on this figure Robin please correct me. I can’t imagine what could be done if the DDA presented the downtown business owners with $44,000.00 to do events. It could cover advertising, commercials plus events. I remember trying to get monies for events from the DDA and their famous saying was we are brick and mortar. What Happened? Maybe we have turned into a communist town where one person is telling us how to spend our money. It’s O.K. for Main Street to spend the money but not the businessses. I am personally having a problem with our towns logic. I am also very disappointed with our president Mike Guntner. I supported him and voted for him. I made flyers and posted them eveywheres. I thought things would change with him but I was wrong. I will not vote for him again. I think the next time I blog it will be 10 reasons why I feel you should not move to Blissfield.

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