Thursday, April 11, 2013

Annexation Alert!

For months, I have been hearing rumors that City Hall is pursuing annexation of many surrounding areas, including annexation of a large portion of Taft. Trying to determine the truth of these rumors, I requested from City Hall all documents and communications regarding its annexation plans. I first posted about these records back on March 22. All public records provided by City Hall can be found at records.belleislesun.org under "Annexation." The provided records confirm that City Hall is indeed pursuing annexation of a large number of surrounding areas, including Taft.

Seeking more information, I asked Commissioner Harvey Readey what he knew about the City's annexation plans. Commissioner Readey is always happy to share his knowledge of City Hall's plans with any resident who cares to inquire. Maybe that's why they don't seem to tell him much. Commissioner Readey stated that he doesn't know of any present annexation plans, but cautioned that he and many of the other Commissioners may not learn about the City's annexation plans until the day that those plans are put up for hasty Council consideration.

In a conversation with Belle Isle resident Sue Nielsen, I learned that she too been inquiring about City Hall's annexation plans. After the Council meeting on April 2, Mrs. Nielsen questioned Vice-Mayor Lydia Pisano about the City's annexation plans. Vice-Mayor Pisano stated in no uncertain terms that City Hall has major plans for Taft.

According to Vice-Mayor Pisano, Taft is such a large area compared to the present size of our city that voters in Belle Isle would have to approve the annexation. She stated that residents would never approve the annexation because, among other reasons, the proposed region contains Rachel's, our friendly local "steakhouse." She went on to indicate that the only way City Hall would be able to annex the region was to break it into many smaller segments, annexing it one piece at a time. Perhaps realizing she had said too much, Vice-Mayor Pisano then quickly changed the subject.

Put together, these statements paint a clear picture. City Hall plans to annex Taft, and possibly other areas, right under our noses. Just like the fire department and charter school before, it plans to go through with another project that it knows residents would never approve if actually asked. In the words of Mrs. Nielsen, "It is amazing to me how much the city officials manage to consider doing without ever seeming to discuss it in a meeting, or publicizing it to the citizens."

As I consider the effects of these annexation plans, I can't stop thinking about riding my bike around Belle Isle as a child. My friends and I would try our hardest to get lost. And every once in a while, we would succeed for a moment. Like the first time we wandered into Belle Isle West. But we knew that we would always be safe and able to find our way home so long as we stayed within the confines of our little hometown.

This is my personal vision for Belle Isle. Other residents might have a different vision, and that is fine. If annexation is what the residents of Belle Isle want, then I am all for it. But the idea of City Hall slipping through more massive changes to our City without the knowledge or consent of its residents does not sit well with me. We deserve better from our elected representatives.

What can you do to make sure you get a say in Belle Isle's annexation plans?

Contact your Commissioner - or all the Commissioners - and tell them that you don't want annexation without resident knowledge and consent. If City Hall wants to propose annexation, then it needs to be forthright about its plans.

Keep attending City Hall meetings. Resident attendance is quickly rising. The more of us that attend, the more our elected officials must listen to and take notice of our wishes. Regular meetings are held on the first Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. Workshop meetings, where upcoming plans are often first discussed, take place on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 8:30 a.m. All votes are required take place at regular meetings unless City Hall convenes a special meeting.

If you want to receive notice of all upcoming special meetings as well as other important Belle Isle news, be sure to sign up for The Belle Isle Sun Newsletter and/or our Twitter feed (@belleislesun)!

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