Versagi Voice

There are no uninteresting topics, only uninterested people.


Frank Versagi
Inform, Educate, Entertain

On this Page

Taking a week or so off from Versagi Voice.

I'll send the usual email alert when I update.

                                                                                                                                                                   Why this website


What happens in City Hall Room 309?
Quite a bit.

Longtime watchers of CITCOM have learned to get a feel of the tone, not the content, of the meeting in Room 309 which precedes each City Commission meeting.

The clues re tone are include how the guys and gals walk out of the room; how many and who hangs back; if a late-minute conversation can be observed through the open door; how many and which commissioners just walk to their seat and settle in compared to how many and who steps down into the audience and schmoozes a little; whether they do more than shake hands with the city officials who have been seated along the walls behind The Table waiting for the meeting to begin; which of those city officials they have a conversation with; whether, when they sit down, they immediately begin fiddling with their computer or look around and wave or nod to someone here and there.

Formally, they cannot make any decisions re CITCOM agenda items in Room 309, but they would be less than human if they didn't touch on an item or two and reach gentlemanly and ladylike agreement about how things will go at The Table. In fact, on those occasions when they have had a tiff, several of them have a facial or body language "tell" which can be observed depending on how the camera is scanning as they work their way to their seat.

One thing to keep in mind is that faces in repose very often are misleading and cannot be used to form a firm opinion of someone's personality or mindset or mood at the moment.

Versagi Voice has been asked to "go around the table" again, now that everybody has been around long enough to have established an identifiable style:

Jim Ellison:
Jim earns a B+ for chairing the meeting. He's smooth and accommodating most of the time, but he gets upset more than he should with others at The Table. It's who he is. Over the years, he's engaged in, brief and heated exchanges with -- from memory -- Drinkwine, Rasor, Poulton, Goodwin.

David Poulton:
Dave is an attorney. He likes to ask questions, detailed questions, too many questions. His quiet style differs from that of former commissioner and attorney Jim Rasor, but the questions and his demeanor often give the same impression as Rasor: that he disbelieves what he is hearing and is cross-examining a hostile witness. When he engages in actual dialogue at The Table, that stern lawyerly image is replaced with friendly chatter.

Peggy Goodwin:
Peggy approaches most issues with her heart, but not unthinkingly. So her first thought re any matter dealing with alcohol elicits a predictable first reaction: negative. But like former commissioner Terry Drinkwine, she openly examines her first reaction most times and changes it occasionally. Her extensive attention to Safety in general and Suicide in particular sometimes leaves the impression that she doesn't pay enough attention to other agenda items.

Jeremy Mahrle:
Jeremy has overcome the concerns that some of us had that his professional involvement in non-Royal Oak politics might improperly affect his work at The Table. Seems not to have been a problem at all. Some have suggested that his national role might be used to benefit Royal Oak, but that doesn't seem to have happened either. His demeanor at The Table is to be quiet unless he has something to say. He is one of the two-and-a-half at The Table who seldom, if ever, pontificate just to hear their own voice.

Sharlan Douglas:
I wish Sharlan would talk more. Most often she asks questions. Good questions, some of them the kind that Mike Andrzejak used to ask: questions he knew the answers to but wanted the public to hear. I get the impression that she sometime wants her colleagues at The Table to hear the answer -- all at the same time and in public.

Kyle DuBuc:
In the last couple of months, Kyle has come alive. Before that, frankly, it was understandable to wonder whether he regretted having won election. He just sat there, saying nothing for almost an entire meeting. His black beard gives him a scowling look in repose and -- unless he is smiling -- when he's speaking. Scowling or smiling, he asks questions in a manner which suggests need-to-know or curiosity, almost never suspicion or anger.

Mike Fournier:
Mike has come a long way from thinking out loud as he forms his thoughts. "I'm rambling," he has acknowledged once or twice. His typical comment, even when it's on-target, still seems a bit longer than necessary, but he does not pontificate. One admirable characteristic: When the panning camera captures Mike while someone else is speaking, he appears to be actively, not passively, listening.


Jeanne Towar
Thanks for one of the most intelligent and thoughtful observations I have read about gay marriage.

Why do people hide behind a screen name?
During those months (years?) during which that interactive Patch website was alive and kicking, one visitor guessed that an obvious screen name was mine. I appreciated when another poster who frequently disagrees with me about many things posted, essentially, "Versagi never uses a screen name."

There's a bit of validity in the charge that it is arrogant to transparently take unpopular stands. From the other end, is it cowardly to make forceful statements while hiding behind a screen name?

The most frequent reply when this question is asked is, "My best friend (or wife, or husband, or boss) disagrees strongly." Don't want to embarrass or anger that person? That person has never been told?

Geez, some of my most interesting discussions re controversial topics are with my wife and friendly volunteers in our civic circles.

At the moment, for example, the PBS series about the Roosevelts is a hot topic. It is impossible not to sympathize with and admire Franklin's reactions to suffering polio. But that doesn't change detestation for him still strongly held by those who maintain that he knowingly guided the nation into WWII, including provocatively cutting off our oil exports to Japan.

Not many of those who so-detest Franklin, though, would say so in print without hiding behind a screen name.


Work was suspended Friday for the demolition of the Interstate 75 bridge that would allow for the construction on the M-1 Rail streetcar project.

Michigan Department of Transportation Spokesman Jeff Cranson confirmed Friday afternoon that the project was suspended. He said it was the decision of M-1 Rail officials.

James Canning, a spokesman for the M-1 project, said Friday more utility relocation is needed prior to the demolition. The postponement will not delay completion the M-1 Rail, which is expected to be done by late 2016, Canning said.

The work, which was scheduled to begin on Friday was not expected to affect access to the Detroit Lions game or other downtown events. -- Detroit News

Detroit City Council approves regional water authority
The Detroit City Council today approved creation of a new regional water authority and a crucial bankruptcy settlement with bond insurer Syncora. The council also unanimously shot down a proposed transfer of 45,000 city-owned parcels to the Detroit Land Bank. Under the state's emergency manager law, today was the deadline for the council to vote on each of the three items proposed by emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Council President Brenda Jones and Councilwoman Mary Sheffield voted against the new water authority. Jones said the deal should have gone before voters.

But others on council were swayed because creation of the authority is supposed to help fix the water system's aging infrastructure. It wasn't easy, but I think it was the right thing to do," Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said. "Most people just want to have clean, healthy water."

The council was much less supportive of the proposed land transfer. --
Detroit Free Press


Democracy is messy, but no blood was shed Scotland has spoken. After two years of campaigning, thousands of debates and public meetings, and the biggest turnout since the introduction of universal suffrage, Scots voted Thursday to reject independence and remain part of the United Kingdom.

By a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent on a massive turnout of 86 percent, Scotland decided not to become the world’s newest independent state. After a nervous final fortnight, the scale of the "no" campaign’s victory surprised even some of its own supporters.

Although Scotland as a nation voted "no," the "yes" side did come out on top in a number of electoral districts, including Glasgow. Despite long being a stronghold for the Labour party – which spearheaded the cross-party campaign against independence – Scotland’s largest city voted to leave the UK, by 54.5 percent to 46.5 percent. -- Christian Science Monitor

French President Francois Hollande said Rafale jets destroyed an Islamic State logistics depot in northeastern Iraq. France is the first nation to join the US-led air campaign against IS. -- Christian Science Monitor


Charlotte Versagi in Uganda
Just wanted to report a slight change in my activities here.  No alarm.
As I was warned, there is a lot of graft, politics and downright stealing in the government hospitals.  I'm beginning to understand the deep poverty and lack of funds at every level makes good people do desperate things.  One of the projects I told you about was working with HIV + children.  I had been tasked to set up a supplemental feeding program based on a model from another hospital in a nearby city.
Unfortunately, every step of my way here has been paved with being asked for money.  They see the white skin and assume great wealth.  The final straw was that I was supposed to go to the "model" hospital today, spend the day asking 100 questions and get a good understanding of the working model so I could continue my work here.  At first I was asked to buy a "nice lunch" for the person who I was interviewing.  Okay, fair enough, I'd do that stateside.  I then found out that culturally if I agreed to pay for her that she could invite as many of her staff as she wanted and I'd have to pay for them as well. I refused.  When I refused, she then said there would be an outrageous fee for the information she was going to share.

When I asked the doctor for whom I am setting up the program, why HE didn't for pay lunch and the requested fee, he said, "Ah, this is the African way and I am broke,"  Ah, to which I responded,  "I may be white but I am not a stupid white person and I am not an ATM machine; you wanted to work with me for my skills, not my money, I thought. This is unacceptable."  He was shocked.  I may meet with him next week and determine if I will continue the work there. I doubt it.

In contrast, the other organization I'm working with (YOFAFO) run by the Valence I have mentioned previously, is highly ethical, the whole family is in the business of building schools and educating poor Ugandans, they have not asked me for a shilling and they have a very strong and high respected presence in the community.  Valence and I will meet this week-end to discuss my extended work with him (as opposed to the two days at the hospital) and I'm hoping he will agree to a medical needs assessment I want to start immediately, rather than waiting a few months as we previously planned. It will require me going deep into the bush where the medical need is greatest.
All good...learning to roll with the culture.  The people are amazingly assertive when they want something; I've had neighborhood farm workers try to take the money out of my wallet for me when I was paying for a pineapple!  I have no trouble serving that dish right back and they simply understand the returned behavior since it has how everyone is treated.
I taught a class on "the five senses" to a kindergarten class of 20 on Thursday. What a hoot. Although they are fun to teach, most of my work will be with older children who speak better English and are ready for the tougher lessons.
Got a small desk for my room -- the boda driver roped it to the back of his motorcycle, squeezed me in between him and it and drove us all the way home....very skilled!
Kindle is working, reading novels at night is a blessing.  Pure escape.
Love to everyone....stay in touch.


On the Road years ago:
"Buona sera," greeted the owner as we entered an Italian restaurant in Louisville. Because I would be going to Italy in a few months, I welcomed the chance to practice the language, so I replied, "Buona sera. Possiamo avere una tavola per cinque?" Good evening. May we have a table for five?

Pleased, the owner escorted us to a quiet alcove, seated us, called over the head waiter, and recommended two bottles of Valpollicella to begin the evening -- all this while still speaking Italian.

Three hours later, as we were leaving, I saw him sitting wearily on a stool in a corner. "That was a great meal and the service was excellent," I said in English.

"A-a-h-m glah-id y'all enjoyed the foo-id," he drawled, with not a hint of Italian accent.


Half-Robot helps marine archaeologists
A group of marine archaeologists kicked off a mission this week to explore an ancient shipwreck at the bottom of the Aegean Sea — not with a sub, but with a semi-robotic metal diving suit that looks likes it was taken straight out of a James Bond movie.
Sponge divers first discovered the 2,000-year-old shipwreck off the Greek island Antikythera in 1900. They recovered fragments of bronze statues, corroded marble sculptures, gold jewelry and, most famously, the Antikythera mechanism, a clocklike astronomical calculator sometimes called the world's oldest computer. Teams led by Jacques Cousteau pulled up more artifacts and even found human remains when they visited the wreck in the 1950s and 1970s.

But none of those previous expeditions had access to the Exosuit, a one-of-a-kind diving outfit that weighs 530 lbs. (240 kilograms), and can plunge to the extraordinary depths of 1,000 feet (305 meters) and stay underwater for hours without the diver being at risk of decompression sickness. -- Christian Science Monitor

The world is coming to an end -- again
     2012: The Mayan Calendar has been added to the list
The Last Word re Global Warming?
Global warming "hucksters"
Ancient climate change link to CO2?
The global-warming hockey stick is broken
No energy is "renewable"
Monsoons getting drier?
DTE getting serious about solar?
Pseudo climate change science

Current Year's CITCOM meetings

CITCOM Meetings since 2004

How to watch a commission meeting

Split Votes

Do televised CITCOM meetings last longer?

Tone of City Commission meetings

Limit Public Comment Speakers
to 3 Minutes

Public Comment speakers should be limited to 3 minutes, rather than 5, whatever the topic.

First, with rare exceptions the speaker's basic thought is understood within the first minute or two. All the rest is repetition of the basic thought -- sometimes rambling, sometimes in exactly the same words.

Second, watch the speakers watch the digital clock. They feel compelled to keep talking until they have used up their 5 minutes.

Ferndale permits only 3 minutes and when Ferndalians speak at our CITCOM meetings  they comment on the bonus we give t hem.

Civics 101
Essay on local government
Micromanagement in Government
Royal Oak Politics

2009 CITCOM Campaign
2009 Royal Oak Politics
What can we expect from CITCOM in 2009?

City Hall
City Website
Commissioners on Committees
The Debate over Ethics
Appointments to City Committees
City Attorney
City Manager Reports
General City Hall News
Ill-mannered mob at Plan Commission
Legacy Costs
Legacy Costs: the spreadsheet
Liquor Control Committee
Liquor Licenses
     How much liquor is too much?
Local Streets classified by traffic count
Police Department
Royal Oak Officials Over The Years
Sitting In: Occasional reports from city/civic meetings
Who serves on Committees & Boards
Zoning Board of Appeals
Bordine/English Gardens/Jim Rasor
Commissioners on Committees

Ask City Hall
Late posting of meeting agendas
Driving south on Main to Lincoln
How real estate assessments are made
Re Municipal Bonds
How recalled city commissioners are replaced
Who creates the city commission's Consent Agenda?
Snow Removal & Angle Parking
Conditional Zoning and How It Works
Main Street widening seems successful
How does movie-making help the city?

Citizens for Property Rights (CPR)

Ongoing Discussions
Debate about some matters never ends. New thoughts are seldom introduced, but new people present them, sometimes using fresh language.

Micromanaging  vs. Oversight
Tax Credits for Movie-makers? The Revolution Cometh
Health Care Debate
Legalize Drugs
Global Warming
It's the End of the World, again
Budget Talks never end
Internet Filtering

The Sound of Downtown Music (noise ordinances)

Useful websites

City of Royal Oak
Royal Oak Library
Royal Oak Historical Society
Royal Oak Schools

Royal Oak Community Coalition
Ezra Parker Chapter DAR
Royal Oak Woman's Club
Downtown Royal Oak
Chamber of Commerce
League of Women Voters
Cindy La Ferle


Daily Tribune
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South Oakland Eccentric

Links to Pages & Folders

2009 Election
Overview of issues, candidates, and results

2010 Tax Dialogue
Ongoing news and opinion

2011 Election

Old, but still informative and interesting

Book Reviews
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You know: Dollars & Sense

Business Management
Some Guidelines work in the public and non-profit sectors, too.

Club News
News from announcements about Local civic, service, and political organizations

Coffee Chats
List of conversations with noteworthy civic and political figures

City Commission Meetings & Activities
News Reports and comments about substance and tone -- since 2004

City Hall
Mostly information about the Administration

Downtown Development Authority
Probably the city's most controversial panel

Concepts re curriculum and funding.
Royal Oak and Worldwide

Guest Columns
For those needing more than a couple of paragraphs to make their point in Readers Say

Historical Society
About Versagi Voice's favorite civic organization

Pieces about everything from "Merry Christmas" to drug legalization

News about the News Media

National Affairs
Elected and appointed officials come and go. Arguments about the role of government remain pretty much the same.

Readers Say
Mostly thoughtful, occasionally angry, sometimes humorous

Royal Oak General News
Not everything interesting or important comes from city hall

Science, Environment, Technology
From global warming to molecules

World Affairs
European history . . . Islam . . . Mideast: The world is One

CPR: Citizens for Property Rights
Monitoring the threat of mandated historic designation of private property

Versagi Vanity
Hey, it's my website!

Versagi Voice
25975 York
Royal Oak 48067