Residents Unite to Identify City Financial Waste
20 attend first official meeting of Ferndale 1st: Ferndale Citizen Watchdogs last week.
A group has formed in Ferndale to watch over government waste and to regain the lost voice of the Ferndale resident, it says.
"We want the city to live within its means," said group's organizer Sean House. "This is not about agenda, but what is best for Ferndale. Republicans, Tea Partyers, liberals, conservatives, gay or straight — it doesn't matter."
House co-chaired Ferndale Against Council's Tax (F.A.C.T.), the group that campaigned for a no vote in the May 3 millage election.
About 20 persons attended the first official meeting of the group called Ferndale 1st: Ferndale Watch Dogs.
In the audience were city council hopeful Sherry Wells and Robert Grix, who was behind a recount of the May 3 election. Grix's efforts turned over one more no vote than originally counted.
"It's important to have some change, to get in (City Council) and break up what is there now," Grix said.
Many of the participants showed frustration with council and displeasure with passage of the millage.
"We were bamboozled," an audience member said. "It was fear tactics, the ol' bait-and-switch."
Kay Watson wanted to break up the "clique and cronyism in city hall," while Brian Donavan felt that the group should "vote down any new tax issue."
House made it clear that the group's mission is to hit on different issues and not just vote against taxes. "This is not just about voting against tax issues and bond issues. I've voted for tax issues and bond issues," House said. "This is about looking at the full picture."
He called on members to use cameras and video cameras to "capture waste" and distribute it among the group. "We need to find and report waste," he said. "We all have a camera or video cameras on our phones. If you see something, like sprinklers going in the rain, it's waste, take a picture."
Some of the group believe that council may not be listening during its public comment portion of the council meetings, and that residents were "pawned off" to the city manager or the Department of Public Works director.
There was visible displeasure for the wayfinding signs that recently went up, which was coordinated by the Downtown Development authority, as well as questions on how much ParkMobil would cost the city's general fund. ParkMobil is a new program that accepts parking payment via a smart phone app.
"You have to get out of this echo chamber," resident Tom Gagne said to the group. "You have to educate yourself."
Gagne explained to the group that the ParkMobil fund is part of the auto parking fund, which makes money for the city and is separate from the general fund. "You have to get out of these echo chambers about issues. You talk over and over again. You have to read what they are reading. Occasionally you'll read something interesting and say, 'Oh my gosh, I didn't think of that.' "
Mary Kay Fredericks, however, wanted to make sure that the group knew that their feelings were legitimate.
"We all have legitimate complaints and grievances," she said. "It is still, to us, very legitimate and it is important. We have lost this in our council. Your complaints and grievances are important."
Pounding her fist on the table, she added: "Am I wrong or am I right?"
Ferndale 1st will next meet on Sept. 6 at Grand Central Storage.
Correction: Robert Grix called for a recount of the May 3 election.