We allow comments, as you might have noticed.
And, yes, on occasion there may be one or two overzealous commenters who seem to completely monopolize the conversation under a story. In most cases, however, the Ferndale Patch community keeps it friendly, informative and interesting. We went back through each story in 2011 and pulled one from each month that had the most comments. There were a few instances where we omitted a story that had a few more comments than the one listed below here, but that's because that particular story had an overwhelming number of comments from one person. So, we did take that into account, because that doesn't count!
The trend that manifested was people wanted to talk about the government stories. Of the 12 (one from each month), seven had to do with the government or taxes. One had to do with the 2010 U.S. Census, but the discussion in the comments section veered toward government and taxes. One might argue that a Census story is a government story anyway.
So, here you go. This is what you talked about most on Ferndale Patch – based on comments – throughout 2011:
This story racked up 55 comments. It was a preview of the Jan. 10 Ferndale City Council meeting during which the Financial Planning Committee, a committee charged with finding ways to cut city expenditures or raise revenue for a looming shortfall, was to make its final recommendation to council. It ended up being the Headlee Override and it ended up going on a May 3 ballot and passing by 197 votes. Council was also set to make a decision on the hiring of its interim city manager.
This story had 24 people comment. American Pop! announced it was going out of business. Wyll Lewis, the owner of the toy and novelty shop, said the business was closing in part to the economy but also because he felt no one was coming to downtown Ferndale anymore.
The discussion was partly expressing sadness for American Pop! leaving. The other part was a debate on what the Downtown Development Authority was or wasn't doing.
There were 52 commenters for this story. The 2010 U.S. Census numbers were released and the initial story was about population loss in Ferndale, surrounding areas, in Detroit and the state as a whole. Michigan was the only state to lose population between 2000 and 2010. Ferndale ended up losing 10 percent of its population over the last 10 years, dropping from 22,105 in 2000 to 19,900 in 2010.
The conversation on the story, however, ended up being about taxes and why people move in and out of cities. Is it because of taxes?
This was the mother load, as one might say, with 185 comments. It was the story that got the most comments on Ferndale Patch in 2011. A group of people, organized by resident Sean House, protested the millage that ended up on the May 3 ballot. The millage passed by 197 votes (after a recount found that one vote wasn't counted due to voter error).
The entire thread was about the millage, how much it might actually cost, who would be affected and the different people invested in each side trying to make the other side understand their side (whew). Despite the 185 comments, it stayed on topic. It's interesting to go back through these comments with what we know now.
Our live blog for the May 3 election pulled in 32 comments. It was the big day for the millage. We went out, visited precincts, talked to voters, talked to campaigners for each side. It was a long, but fun (and rainy) day. The millage passed by 197 votes. The day started at 7 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m., according to our live blog. Of course, we continued working on the story after that.
Most of the comments came after the results of the millage were announced. There was relief in some commenters, anger in others, but the vibe overall was let's shake hands and try to make this work for both sides.
This story had 21 comments and the report came as a shock. Ferndale is thought of a green-thinking city, open to green initiatives, supporting green endeavors. The Ferndale Public Library has many green aspects (including a partial green roof); the city plays host to a green fair, a green cruise and has its own environmental sustainability commission. So, with all these green ideas, the city is still near the bottom when it comes to resident recycling rates, according to Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, the organization that picks up all of our recycling. Here's the thing though, if we recycling more, the city could actually make money.
This piece pulled in 25 comments. I got shut out of this meeting, though it wasn't an official group and it was well within its right to ask me to leave. Sean House, who was the organizer of the "no" campaign for the May 3 election, held this meeting to discuss the summer tax bills, a potential school bond, a potential fire department consolidation with Hazel Park and potential new taxing districts in the downtown area. This group would eventually form the Ferndale Watch Dogs (a story that got a lot of comments as well).
The discussion revolved around why the meeting was closed to reporters, to which there was no real answer, plus debate on how much more residents would pay in taxes and attempted clarification on the school bond and the new taxing districts – both of which aren't finalized yet anyway.
On Aug. 16, those who were running for Ferndale City Council were made official and our story grabbed 69 comments. Mayor Pro Tem Kate Baker decided not to run for re-election, however councilman Mike Lennon did. Dan Martin and Sherry Wells threw their names into the council hat while Dave Coulter, who had been appointed mayor in January, aimed to retain his seat against challenger Raymond Willis. Coulter ended up winning, along with Martin and Lennon.
The discussion in this story weaved in and out of topic. At one point a commenter brought up Waggs and Wishes and how we followed up on a rumor we heard they were closing. We called them, they weren't. On a few occasions in this discussion I had to remind the participators to stay on topic and remember our terms of service. It was heated and interesting.
Of course, one of the most commented stories was going to be about power outages. This piece had 33 comments, but it really wasn't a controversial issue. Nearly every comment was a statement of frustration with DTE Energy and the outages Ferndale experienced this year. This particular outage, however, was due to a massive storm that blew through the area on Labor Day weekend, knocking down trees, lines and telephone poles and causing nearly $100,000 in damage to Ferndale.
This story had 30 comments. Julie Hall, Ferndale's Recreation Department director at the time, announced her resignation. She took another job at the University of Michigan. This story quoted city officials on what they will look to do to fill her vacancy. In the interim, Ferndale Recreation Supervisor Jill Stricker took over.
The discussion on the story, however, became critical of Hall's time at the Gerry Kulick Community Center as director, and many other commenters came to her defense of said critical comments.
Our live blog for the Nov. 8 election got 40 comments. We covered this election much the same we covered the May 3 election. Up early, from precinct to precinct, talking to candidates and voters. Martin, Lennon and Coulter won, and won fairly handily. Again, like the May 3 election story, most of the comments came after the results were announced.
Discussion on the story was part congratulatory of the winning candidates, but there was some talk that the Republican voters aren't properly represented in Ferndale's government. In the end, those who get the most votes end up at the council table, right? Is that not representative of the voters?
Unfortunately, this is how the discussion ended for 2011. This story had 65 comments. According to police, an unidentified man attempted to rob a 20-year-old adult education student exiting the Taft Education Center. The robbery went bad and the student ended up shot in the leg. The suspect fled and is still at large. As a result, according to Ferndale Police Chief Tim Collins, Taft is increasing its security measures in the form of surveillance cameras.
The conversation on this story covered many interesting and valid points. There has been more than one issue over the past year in which Ferndale Police have been involved at Taft. Residents discussed the safety of the district and this particular school, which is an alternative and adult education facility. Commenters also commended the reaction of the district and Ferndale Police Department as the incident unfolded. Yet questions still arose: Is this incident indicative of the entire alternative education department? How do you make a school safe? How do you make the district safe? Parents chimed in saying, yes, this is a terrible crime, but they feel the buildings their children go to are safe and thus the district is safe. In any event, these questions will have to be examined in the coming year.
So, these are our 12 stories from 2011 that got people talking. How about you? What got you talking in 2011 that we wrote about and that isn't listed here?