Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ely...

First of all I need to say, though I am on a couple of city commissions/committees, my comments do not, in any way, reflect the view of those groups and I am in no way speaking for them or as a person connected with the city in any way. My views, observations and comments have been and always will be completely my own. Some things need to be said and I am too old and have come to far and invested too much into my life in this community to care what people think of me for these views:
We only have till Tuesday in which someone could apply to run for the the Ely city council or mayor seats. Hopefully more people will step forward. I have a real fear for the future of the community of Ely. This is a place I have chosen to dig in and build a family and business and life so many years ago and I care deeply about it's future...
I spent a couple years going to city council meetings and watching the political game being played out and I have even been personally involved with some of it. For the most part it is harmless stuff.
The people in power play their games and make their decisions and we grumble if we disagree or applaud if we agree and life/policy etc goes on see-sawing back and forth and somehow finding it's way. I would even admit I have been a part of some questionable decision making there myself.
But occasionally an issue comes up that is clearly right or wrong and the people in positions of authority, for whatever reason, make the completely obvious wrong decision.


We have lost the Ely Community Center this past year.
A valuable asset that could have been built into a huge win/win for Ely and we just tossed it aside...
Regardless of whatever other industries might or might not come and give us the much needed jobs, our city government should be focused on what makes Ely work as a community. We need to focus on the core... the heart. And the community Center was just that: the Heart.


I am not an old building fanatic. I am not one who wants to save old buildings at all cost. I understand the practicality of these types projects. I am a businessman. I believe in using the information available to us and assessing risks and rewards and then trying to make the decision that would be in the best interest for the overall health of the business, in this case the city of Ely.


I started off believing all the numbers being thrown around and thinking there was no way to save this old building. But I have looked at the costs and angles behind this project for the better part of a couple years now and every day it becomes more and more clear to me what a monumental disservice the current mayor and some members of the city council have done for the city of Ely.


There is no question that under proper, gutsy, forward thinking, open-minded leadership, this could have been built into a huge asset for the town. It may still survive... somehow, there are some efforts underway and ideas being evaluated, but it is extremely difficult and leadership from the city is going to be an essential part of righting this mistake.


I'm sure the new library will be nice but I'm quite sure that an amazing library in the old historic building would have been a fantastic asset to the community. It is unfortunate that we can not go back and change this, but hopefully we have the opportunity to do the next best thing: take this up in the voting booths. The people that made this decision ran unopposed the last time they were up for election. Maybe we get the government we deserve. Maybe these people are just all that we have...


All that said, there is evidence all around of people working hard to improve their community. And this is always heartening. The people who are actually the boots on the ground working hard to make these things happen day after day. We all know who they are. They are the true heroes in this town and they are everywhere you look. Whether or not there is change in the council, these people will continue forward undaunted and under-thanked and Ely will be a better place for having them here.


...still, I am hopeful that somebody will step forward and bring just a bit of common sense to the process of city government.


-John Huisman

The above was printed in the Ely Echo as a letter to the editor.
Prompting a response from Ross Peterson, Ely's mayor, (?!?) in hi usual colorful manor:

I was going to let this go. Everyone knows from our Mayors letters to the paper what kind of a guy he is, having told tourists to take their ignorant views elsewhere because of their stand on wolves and bashing Morse Township residents for sticking their noses into Ely's business even though the vast majority of Ely's businesses are owned, (and paid very high taxes on), by people who live outside the city limits in the surrounding townships but it seemed he needed a response. SO the following week I had this letter printed in the Ely Echo:

First off again I need to say, my words here are my own. There are some people working very hard toward the re-purposing of the CC and my words should in no way reflect badly on them. They are visionary, resourceful and dedicated people with a respectable goal and from what I have seen of their work so far, it is impressive to say the least.
I wrote the letter last week out of frustration that we would, once again, have an election where the incumbents run unopposed. Possibly I used the CC issue a little unfairly but it was an honest opinion and I stand by my words. If I had known the numbers of folks who would come out on the last day and throw their names in for council and mayor, I am sure I would not have written the letter. I did not call anybody names or accuse them of any moral or ethical wrongdoing. But it is understandable that it might have upset some people. I figured Ross's rebuttal would be entertaining, but when he misrepresents the facts I feel I need to say something more.
Ross said I “threatened the city council” saying “you will be sorry”. In reality what I said was, “if the CC is still standing dark and empty 20 years from now, I will likely remember those responsible”. Seems like a relatively innocuous statement but plausible considering I drive by the place several times a day. Hardly what I would call a “threat”. Still I guess it probably could have been stated a little more thoughtfully. Hopefully it will be a non-issue and the building will be a thriving element in our community 20 years from now.
The fact that I was “unable to convince the council” is obvious. The insinuation that I have lost “credibility with most of the council” is immaterial. If the only way to maintain credibility with certain people is to agree with them, then my credibility to those people is of little value to me.
Ross said that we had numerous studies which showed that it would cost 4 million to bring the CC up to ADA standards. The fact is the high end of estimates to bring the building up to ADA standards was about $710k, the low end about 350k. I have always gone with about 500k in any numbers discussion I have had. That is the last estimate figured by Ely's engineering firm, JPJ, at the time these decisions were being made. There are many other costs involved to be sure but Ross's numbers here for ADA are at best, misinformation.
The idea that I personally carry the clout and charisma to influence reputable architects and engineers to compromise their professional integrity and reputations by altering their opinions simply because I am guiding them through the building I find flattering. I will let that one go at that.
And once again we have the standard Morse Township bashing. Good stuff.
Seems my letter hit a nerve which is good I think, it helps Ross show his stuff, but we need to let this all go now. As I said in my letter the new library will be very nice and the start of a project like that is always exciting. The construction of significant public buildings is something a builder guy like me always takes an interest in but I am a small contractor and, thankfully, once again, plenty busy with projects to get me through the season and I was unable to take a look at the plans.
If Ross wants to beat me up some more, that's fine. I think we all would agree his thoughtful, eloquent, letter writing is certainly entertaining and will probably be the most memorable and profound part of the two years he has generously given us, but I think people who know me know what I am about. I would be happy to have a rational discussion about the CC or anything else with anybody who wants to seek me out. I am not hard to find, but hopefully my foray into letter writing to editors is short lived and over.
Thanks to all those who have put their names in for mayor and council. It looks like we have some excellent candidates running and it should make for an interesting election. I am sorry I ever had any doubts.
Things always seem to work out somehow...
Every day is a good day in Ely.
John Huisman


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Hopefully that is the end of it.