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South Suburban Exclusion Article — Aug 7, 2002

CURRENT EVENTS

A periodic updating of events and issues in our Village

August 7, 2002 Update

IN THIS UPDATE:
  • South Suburban Rec District Exclusion Discussion
  COUNCIL MEMBER’S FORUM — DOUG TISDALE WRITES {The following is the text of a column to appear in the August/September issue of The Village Crier}

Ann Arbor Daze.   Crisler Arena loomed like a giant UFO over the Ann Arbor landscape. It was late October and the autumnal residue of burning red, brown and golden leaves clung to the damp air over The University of Michigan campus. The muddy Huron River rolled through the chilly town. The still of the night was interrupted by periodic blasts emanating from the silver-clad arena. Inside that pulsating dome, illumined as if awaiting a close encounter of the third kind, thousands of students clapped, chanted, cheered and sang in celebration of the environment.

Earth Day.    It was the very first Earth Day. The year was 1969. And the Pied Piper playing to The University of Michigan multitudes was Professor Barry Commoner. Professor Commoner’s message that first Earth Day, complicated a little — as were all messages on campuses in those days — by anti-war protests, was stewardship. “We are all stewards of the environment,” the speakers from the podium declared. And the energized throng readily pledged unconditional and unremitting stewardship.

It is said that promises made in youth are the most genuine and sincere promises we make in our lives. When we have not yet encountered the disappointments and duplicities of our adult lives, we still have the capacity to be inspired to great pursuits. Our commitments are passionate. Our vision is unclouded. Our purpose is clear.

Given the intervening years, I cannot now recall with clarity the speeches spoken that evening or the songs sung or chants chanted (although I do have a vague recollection of one that began “One, Two, Three, Four, . . .”). But I do recall the mass mutual declaration of stewardship, and it is a theme that has informed my actions through the decades that followed.

Stewardship.    Stewardship is a value prized by all of us who are privileged to live in Cherry Hills Village today. It is reflected in our protection of the environment and in our support of worthy causes protecting all forms of life and the quality of life. But stewardship is not restricted to clean air, clean water and public health. It extends to all elements of our journey on Spaceship Earth.

Council as Steward.    Your elected representatives on your City Council are stewards of Cherry Hills Village. The 6,000 or so people who live in our 2,000 homes, the 2,000 or so young people who attend our three schools, the thousands who worship at our dozen churches, and the multitudes who recreate in our parks and along our trails — all of them expect their Council members to husband and care for the limited resources of this precious Village.

This is a serious responsibility, a heavy duty, and it is not discharged by the simple expedient of “counting noses” on an issue. It is fulfilled only by a conscientious examination of all sides of an issue, looking for what is in the best interests of our citizens, and then taking action. That is the essence of a republican form of government.

To Exclude or Not to Exclude, That is the Question.    An issue now is presented for action by your Council. Whether it is better for Cherry Hills Village to take control of its own parks and trails, or to suffer the status quo. Whether it is better for Cherry Hills Village to take control of property tax dollars paid by you as homeowners for purposes of open space acquisition, or to leave that to others who do not share our values and our residency. Whether it is better for Cherry Hills Village to act as stewards of your city assets and your tax dollars, or to continue surrendering that function to non-Villagers. That is the analysis upon which your Council has embarked. It is a journey for all of us, one in which your navigational assistance is requested.

The counterpoints raised along the way are already framed. “Will we enjoy the same recreational benefits if we exclude?” “Can we trust our Council to act wisely in the expenditure of our money?” “Will we be excluded from participation in beneficial programs for our children?” Serious questions, deserving of serious answers.

The Long Road to Here.    We have spent three years examining this issue, and its ramifications. For the last twelve months alone we have spent thousands of volunteer man hours assessing the economic, environmental and social impacts of withdrawal from South Suburban Parks and Recreation District. Numerous meetings with South Suburban representatives have been conducted to explore rational solutions to a documented inequity in costs versus benefits. And with what result? Rather than acknowledging our fiduciary responsibility of stewardship, South Suburban has charged Cherry Hills Village with being elitist in its efforts to seek equity. Rather than recognizing our good faith in proposing an Inter-Governmental Agreement that would resolve the financial issues in the context of remaining in the District, South Suburban rejects as unacceptable a fair and appropriate realignment. And at last, rather than honoring a pledge to negotiate to conclusion — whatever that conclusion might fairly be — South Suburban has pledged that it will “neither willingly nor gracefully” proceed further.

Quo Vademus?   And so, where do we go from here? We are left, I submit, without a reasonable alternative to a reluctant withdrawal from South Suburban. Our goal in our dialogue with South Suburban, expressed in writing last year when we commenced this process, was stated in this way:

At the conclusion of this process, we hope that the ultimate resolution will become as self evident as it is inescapable. We aim to engage in a process that will ensure that the result is perceived by all as a fair and rational exercise of deliberative discourse by elected officials and citizens. We look for the constructive and realistic resolution of our previously expressed concerns by the entry into a restructured relationship or by the orderly unstructuring of our current relationship.

As other cities have done, in their reasonable stewardship of limited financial resources, Cherry Hills Village must now present to its citizens the question of the “orderly unstructuring of our current relationship [with South Suburban].”

A Public Forum.   For that reason, we have scheduled our second annual Forum for citizens of Cherry Hills Village to hear information regarding this matter and to share their views. Our first Forum one year ago followed a survey of our fellow Villagers. The survey revealed an overwhelming desire to realign our relationship with South Suburban. A Forum was put together to explore those issues. Despite the two years that had already been spent in examining this matter, some people argued that we were proceeding with undue haste. Sensitive to that perception, the Council spent the next twelve months in a careful and thoughtful examination and assessment of the relationship between South Suburban and Cherry Hills Village, exploring the advisability and feasibility of entering into a comprehensive Inter-Governmental Agreement and seeking to create a relationship whereby the relative value received by the Village is equal to or greater than the monetary contribution made by it. All of this was conducted in a civil constructive frank dialogue with our elected peers from South Suburban regarding all these issues. We did this on the understanding that each person in the process was to be respected and free to express themselves candidly without fear of censure for their ideas.

Cherry Hills Village remains committed to an orderly process. Surely we cannot be accused of haste when we have taken three years to examine this issue, including countless direct contacts and public communications over the past year. That process now culminates in an open communication with our citizens, the residents of Cherry Hills Village, to expand upon all of the ideas communicated here.

Forum Details. That Forum will be on Thursday, August 22, at 7:00 p.m. at the Cherry Hills Elementary School, La Tronica Center. The date was not selected by accident. We carefully considered the school calendar, to make sure that our families would be back in town and available for the Forum. School starts a few days before that date. And it is 54 weeks after we held our Forum last year. And we have mailed a notice to all Villagers about the Forum three weeks before the scheduled date. We have done all that we reasonably can to gather information, to share information, to negotiate, to communicate, to reason together and to resolve this issue.

We hope that you will join us on Thursday, August 22, so that we may continue in the fiduciary discharge of our duty of stewardship as we embark upon the final phase of this process. It is the most important part of the process, and your participation is invited, welcome and important. For those of you who cannot attend the Forum, please feel free to contact me or any member of Council at any time to discuss this important issue.

— Doug Tisdale

Disclaimer. The views expressed herein are those of Doug Tisdale (Univ. of Michigan, B.A. ’71; J.D., ’75) only and do not necessarily represent the views of the City of Cherry Hills Village or of any Council member or any of the staff.

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