We Are One Plymouth

I have been attending meetings of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees now for a few years.  I have been sharing my thoughts on these meetings here at Patch for awhile as well.  Considering myself somewhat of a veteran of these meetings, I had pretty much come to the conclusion that nothing they could do anymore would shock me.  I really felt that I had seen it all.  I was wrong.

Never in my time watching these elected officials, had I seen them so infuriate their constituents, that folks simply threw up their hands, and stormed out of a meeting.  This happened Tuesday night.

A large group of people, became so angry at Treasurer Ron Edwards, and his cohorts, that they simply got up, grabbed their coats, and walked out. To be honest, I am still trying to wrap my head around this thing.  Like I said, I am a veteran of these meetings, and a veteran of meetings of the Livonia City Council, where I was a resident before I moved to Plymouth Township, and I've never seen anything like it.

In my 20 plus years of attending municipal meetings, I have never seen folks so infuriated that they just gave up, and walked out.  They walked out because they could no longer take the bullying.  They could no longer take the strong arm tactics of their elected officials.   An issue that was near and dear to their hearts, an issue that they felt good about, an issue that they have worked hard to present, was shamefully and callously dismissed by this Board of Trustees.

That issue is the Plymouth Arts & Recreation Complex, or PARC as folks are calling it.  It is the effort to study the feasibility of re-purposing Central Middle School into an Arts & Recreation complex.

These folks showed up and asked for one thing.  They asked the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees to designate one or two people to sit down, look at the facts, and discuss the feasibility of re-purposing Central Middle School.  They did not ask for support.  They did not ask for money.  They did not ask for an Authority to be set up.  They simply asked for a conversation.

Heck, Mr. Don Soenen, who is one of the folks leading this effort, went one step further, in an effort to be as conciliatory as possible.  He invited Supervisor Reaume to simply meet with himself, the Mayor of Plymouth, and the Supervisor of Plymouth-Canton Schools.  He asked the Supervisor to just get together and sit down for an hour or two, and see what they could figure out, and after that meeting, if Mr. Reaume was still opposed, then so be it, but at the very least, let's just sit down for an hour or two, and have a conversation.

That is a reasonable request in my opinion.  Supervisor Reaume did not even give him the courtesy of a response to this invitation.  As the senior elected official on this Board of Trustees, how do you not accept this invitation?  It was irresponsible not to accept the invitation, and unprofessional to refuse to even respond to it.

Mr. Soenen has been professional in his comments, and presentation.  He has been more than courteous and respectful in every dialogue he has had with this Board of Trustees.  To put it bluntly, he has been the adult in the room.

He was not the only adult at this meeting though.  Trustee Bob Doroshewitz was reasoned in his comments.  Trustee Chuck Curmi was reasoned in his comments.  The responsible boardmember quietly listens to the presentation, listens to constituent comments, and offers a rational explanation for the stance that they take on this issue before they vote, and those two gentlemen did exactly that.

The reasonable Supervisor accepts an invitation for a conversation with the civic leaders in our community.  The responsible Supervisor sits down at a table in search of the facts.  Mr. Reaume has done neither of these things.

I have read the articles about this meeting at Patch, and at the Plymouth Observer, and I commend Patch for accurately portraying the events at this meeting, but I think one thing has been lost in all of this, and that is the fact that Supervisor Reaume never explained his vote to opt out of the PARC proposal.  

Supervisor Reaume never explained why he is not willing to designate a representative to study the feasibility of the PARC proposal. Supervisor Reaume was elected to be the leader of our community, and he offered no rational explanation as to why he voted no.  That is a troublesome thing.

A more troublesome thing is the behavior of Clerk Nancy Conzelman.  

William James once said, "There is nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it."

It seems as if Clerk Nancy Conzelman has chosen to take this quote to heart.  She has chosen to poison the well in a manner of speaking. Apparently Clerk Conzelman has been conducting  a little bit of a whispering campaign, telling folks that the PARC project would cost 60 million dollars.

Mr. Soenen briefly addressed that issue, not naming names, but rather to clear up the misinformation.  Ms. Conzelman though, was happy to take credit for her statements, but later in the meeting, she backpeddled the number down from 60 million dollars, to 40 million dollars, which in and of itself, is absurd.  How do you go from 60 million to 40 million in a matter of minutes.  She claimed that she researched this thing for cripes sake.  

She gave a mostly incoherent rational for her assumptions, and suffice it to say, her assertion is not based on facts, and no evidence to back her claim was produced.  The part that should trouble folks, is that she went on to use this "40 million dollar" reference every time she mentioned the project in her ongoing comments, and this is nothing more than a cheap political trick.

"A lie told often becomes the truth."  ---  Vladimir Lenin    

And so it comes down to this.  Who do you believe?  Clerk Conzelman, who has zero experience in this kind of endeavor, and no proof to back up her statements?  Or do you believe Mr. Soenen, who was instrumental in restoring the Penn Theater in Plymouth, and building the Village Theater in Canton Township?  Both, very successful endeavors, done out of civic pride, and with no financial gain for himself.  

I don't know about anybody else, but I am inclined to believe a man who has been there, and done that.  I'm going to go with the person who has the experience, and a track record of success.

The responsible Clerk would have wanted to take the time to ask how Mr. Soenen came to his estimate for the project, before making such an irresponsible statement.  The professional Clerk would have backed her statement up with corresponding facts.  Clerk Nancy Conzelman did neither of these things.

Now we get to Treasurer Ron Edwards.  If Mr. Soenen, and Trustees Doroshewitz and Curmi were the adults in the room, Mr. Edwards was most certainly the child in the room.  I would say that Mr. Edwards reminded me of the six year old child in the backseat of the car, on the way up north, who was fighting with his older brother, but that would be an insult to six year olds everywhere.  Maybe the playground bully would be a more apt description of his behavior, but you get my point.

Mr. Edwards wanted to hear nothing about the proposal.  He wants nothing to do with PARC, and furthermnore, he wants nothing to do with the City of Plymouth at all.  His explanation for his no vote was, "It's in the city, I want nothing to do with it, I represent Plymouth Township."  

The thing Mr. Edwards fails to acknowledge is that this thing has been driven by folks in the township, as well as folks in the city.  He just can't seem to understand that there are those who consider Plymouth Township and the City of Plymouth as one community.  Mr. Edwards seems to be a man who is driven by competition with his neighboring communities.  An "us against them" mentality, is probably a good analogy.  

Mr Edwards went on to claim that, "There's a lot of people that are not here tonight that have voiced their opinion the other way (against PARC), some have even said to me that a recreation center is not possible."  I guess my question to Mr. Edwards would be, where are they?  Why aren't they here if they feel so strongly against PARC?  

It's the same game Ms. Conzelman played.  Make a big rash statement, with absolutely no proof to back it up.  I've heard Mr. Edwards say the exact same thing a dozen other times, on a dozen other issues when he couldn't support his argument with facts or logic.

On this night though, this issue literally morphed into an "us against them" mentality on steroids, and after the vote not to participate in the feasibility study, Mr. Edwards doubled down on his stance by making a motion that I still can't comprehend.

Treasurer Ron Edwards made a motion to prohibit Plymouth Township from entering into an authority of any kind, with the City of Plymouth until November of 2016, when his term ends.  This is simply outrageous, and to be honest, I'm not even sure it is legal.  I'm not sure if it violates the Township Charter.  I am pretty sure he doesn't know that either, as he made this motion literally, in a fit of rage, and bravado.  He made this motion in the heat of the moment.

I believe that after the no vote on the PARC proposal, Mr. Edwards smelled blood in the water, and the "bully" in him took over.  I believe that he decided, in the heat of the moment, to bury his perceived opponent once and for all, and he concocted this ridiculous motion, and rammed it down the Board's throats.

Supervisor Reaume, in his one lucid moment of the night, dissented on Mr. Edwards motion, but at that point, it had already passed.  The damage was already done.

So this is how we came to the point of everybody walking out of the meeting.  I got up and walked out as well.  Folks got into the hall, and they were stunned and angry.  Many were trying to understand what had just happened, and how it affects everything,.  Coats were being put on, and folks were getting ready to leave.

Then, in a moment I can only describe as the equivalent of a Bo Schembechler locker room speech at halftime, former Trustee candidate Sandy Groth spoke up.  She said, "Don't you people leave!  If you people walk out of this building, they win.  They want you to leave, and if you do, they win."  I'm not sure if those were her exact words, but you get my point.

Well,  I gotta tell you, it was an amazing thing to see, because everybody sort of realized that she was right, and the next thing you know, all of these people, myself included, turned around, and marched right back into that meeting.  It was truly a beautiful thing to see.

At this point, the public comment portion of the agenda came, and one by one, folks stepped up and respectfully gave their comments.  One by one folks stated that we are one Plymouth.  Folks stated that we shop in the city, and we shop in the township.  We support the city we support the township.  We are one Plymouth.

Mr. Edwards looked very puzzled by this.  It is clearly a concept that he doesn't comprehend... 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jerry Thompson January 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM
Nothing good can come from these negative, aloof trustees. Time for a recall.
Suzan Heimbaugh January 17, 2014 at 09:03 PM
Mom2two January 18, 2014 at 08:17 AM
Sounds like it's about time to get some new officials.
Irene Grandville January 18, 2014 at 06:02 PM
When is Supervisor Reaume and the rest of the Board going to realize that there is one common element in all the disagreements with local communities--Northville Twp., City of Plymouth, Canton, Livonia, the PARC committee--that common element of hate and vindictiveness toward our neighbors is Ron Edwards? When are they going to stop allowing Edwards' hatefulness drive their own personal opinions? Only by forgiving and forgetting past wrongs are we, Plymouth Twp., going to move forward to once again become the greater Community of Plymouth that residents want.


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