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Posted on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council reconsiders fee on summer festival ticket sales

By Tom Perkins

Beer fest crowd.jpg

Festival-goers line up for a recent Ypsilanti Beer Fest. Organizers are upset about Ypsilanti's plan to put a tax on festival ticket sales. The city is now reconsidering the fee.

The Ypsilanti City Council is reconsidering a tax on festivals’ ticket revenues following an outcry from the events' organizers. Instead of the tax, festival organizers and council members are exploring alternative ways to generate revenue for the city’s parks.

Council voted at its last meeting to impose a 5-percent tax on festivals’ ticket sales over the next two years and a 10-percent tax starting in 2013. At their Tuesday night meeting, council unanimously chose to reconsider that move, and subsequently tabled the issue.

City Manager Ed Koryzno offered to coordinate a meeting between council and invested parties, but he was instructed to wait until Mayor Paul Schreiber and Council Member Pete Murdock can meet with Michigan Brewers' Guild Summer Beer Festival organizer Scott Graham.

Council is hopeful to have a new resolution ready for its Dec. 21 meeting.

The fee’s purpose was to generate funds for capital improvements in the city’s parks. Those upgrades would include projects like improving lighting, resurfacing the blacktop trail or repairing buildings. The funds would not be used for regular maintenance and upkeep, such as mowing.

The city’s park budget has shrunk by roughly $35,000 over the last three years, and while organizers say they understand the city’s need to raise money, they’ve asked to be part of the process in deciding how that happens.

“We all want to help. No one is saying ‘We don’t want to pay,’” Heritage Festival co-coordinator Cathy Bennett said.

Council Member Dan Vogt asked council to reconsider the tax after a meeting he ran last week attended by several council members and event organizers to discuss the new fees. He said he received a considerable amount of e-mail and had multiple conversations after the last council meeting which led him to begin considering other options for raising money.

“I believe that many of the things that have been expressed as concerns need to be explored further,” he said. “I think we need to take a little more time with it; we should consider how the different groups are affected and how it affects the city’s broader or long-term budget.”

Council has not yet offered a solid figure on how much money it would like to generate.

Festivals already pay usage fees that go towards items like cleanup, utilities and increased police presence, but not toward capital improvement costs. Andy Clock, a volunteer coordinator with the Michigan Roots Jamboree, suggested doubling the usage fees. He said the tax put an unfair stress on ticketed events. Free events, such as the Heritage Festival, wouldn’t have been subject to the fee.

He said none of the organizers understands why they weren’t contacted and why there wasn’t more discussion before council voted on the resolution.

“We would like to suggest recalling (the tax); we would like to double all use fees for the park and convene a commission with all the festivals' stakeholders involved so we can come to a solution to end this problem,” he said.

Erik Dotzauer, director of the Depot Town Community Development Corporation and one of The Jamboree’s founders, expressed similar thoughts.

“The stakeholders I spoke with were absolutely supportive of higher fees for parks, and we all expressed a willingness to work with council for a solution that everyone can live with," he said.

He also asked City Council to more clearly spell out how funds would be used.

Kevin Hill, who is involved with the Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival, said he is opposed to council raising the fees any higher.

Council Member Mike Bodary said that the idea of a tax had been discussed for more than six months, but he understands that some people might not have heard about it.

“Perhaps more discussion and more time is needed to work on this issue,” he said.

Schreiber praised Vogt's efforts to resolve the matter.

“There was outcry not only from sponsors but on the internet,” Schreiber said. “I think reconsidering this is a good move and I appreciate Mr. Vogt’s attentiveness to it.”


Steve Pierce

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

Andy, The ticket convenience fee of $4 doesn't pay for the "full use" of the facility in Grand Rapids. I think you may be mistaken. - Steve


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 7:02 p.m.

@Steve, and for that fee at Fifth Third the brewers guild gets security, ticket takers, and full use of the ball parks facilities and staff. For the proposed fee in our parks, they get vague promises of capitol improvements and has to provide their own staff and facilities, except water and electric(although the Jamboree had to bring in its own electrician to get the power working this year, so thats sometimes questionable, too). Which fee adds value to the Beer Guild and its patrons?

Bob Needham

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 3:40 p.m.

(A comment addressing moderation was removed; the issue is addressed at the end of the comments on our moderation guidelines)

Steve Pierce

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 3:39 p.m.

The fee is added on just like a Ticket Master fee. The promoter does not have to pay any additional money. There is no money out of the promoters pocket for the Ypsi fee. Moreover, the Michigan Brewers Guild holds a festival in Grand Rapids at Fifth Third Park called the Winter Beer Festival on Feb 6, 2011. When you buy tickets for $35 for the Grand Rapids Beer event you are charged an additional $4 per ticket Convenience Charge for each and every ticket. That is a 13.7% fee above the advance purchase price. The Michigan Brewers Guild didn't scream or ask for an exception from this fee. Nor did they threaten to take their event elsewhere if the Ball Park, actually located in Comstock, didn't remove the fee. They just added the $4 to the ticket price. Apparently the fee didn't chase away attendees, the event sold out over a month in advance in 2010 and they are back for 2011. The Ypsi proposed fee is just 5% or $1.75 for the same $35 ticket and all the money goes to help improve our City parks. For a $5.00 ticket to see a car show it is 25 cents. If the Brewers Guild is willing to accept a $4 convenience fee in Grand Rapids, than a $1.75 fee in Ypsilanti that goes to improve our parks including Candy Cane and the Pool is a good thing. Cheers! - Steve


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 7:22 a.m.

I think that it is possible to "engage", discuss issues and disagree without insulting each other. Personal potshots are not "engaging". Ypsi cannot afford to behave like Washington DC. There is too much at stake.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 11:49 p.m.

I know a lot of folks see the elevated "public involvement" in Ypsi as unproductive bickering. And, while I encourage folks to remain respectful, I see it as a good thing. Ypsi is a small town with a big name. Because it's small, you've got a lot of opportunity to actually engage and make a difference. And, all of this stuff is evidence of how deeply invested and in love with this town folks are... on all sides of any given issue. I'm delighted to live in a town where people care, pay attention (despite what "ypsilanti" vaguely asserts) and council lives close enough to their neighbors to have to listen. More on topic, I love our festivals and encourage council to listen to organizers and come up with a solution that is a bit more in tune with their structures. Remember, we know where you live!; )


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 10:52 p.m.

Fee or tax? They are the same thing just different names.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 9:54 p.m.

Actually folks, this WAS a fantastic example of different groups in Ypsilanti pulling together. In the past, many of the people running these festivals have clashed over a variety of issues. But this resolution brought all of them together, and the power of this united front convinced council to reconsider. It was really amazing to see. When it comes right down to it, if you mess with our parks and our festivals, (ok, and out beer) you're stirring up trouble. This issued really did bring people together that a lot of folks, including some council members, probably thought would never agree on anything. In fact, in Mr. Vogt's meeting last Tuesday, several people expressed exactly that sentiment. It really gives me a lot of hope moving forward. Just think of what could be done with all of the people who put on all of our festivals and events working together!


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 6:29 p.m.

drosefree, Amen! All of this energy and commitment to the community and quote Rodney King "Can't we all just get along? (for the welfare of the citizens of Ypsi)" Taking potshots at individuals accomplishes nothing but more divisiveness. So sad when the need is SO GREAT....just think what COULD happen in Ypsi if everyone was pulling together.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 5:15 p.m.

Pete has done a lot of good things for the community over the years; he cares a great deal about Ypsilanti. But I don't agree with all of his choices, and I think Paul is doing a very good job.

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 5:11 p.m.

what a great way to kill the festivites and any $$ outside visitors bring into ypsilanti. boombaye


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 1:37 p.m.

I've lived in Ypsi all my life, but only recently got involved in civic matters. I felt like a new guy to my City of 54 years,and immediately noticed the history of resentment between some of those that have been active for years. I have a lot of respect for ANYONE willing to get active in improving their community. I hope something...some issue or project come's along that put's ALL of Ypsi's resources on the same page and allows us to put resentments in the past.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

@Ypsilanti: apparently just about everyone wasn't paying attention. reminder: Murdock was the guy who spent over 1000 hours creating a city department for his own career(personal gain). He's simply going to do what he wants and his preferred method is to dream something up and rush it through avoiding transparency, discussion, debate, proper planning and considered legal advice. @Steve, these struggles and raw political games have been played at least since the 1980s. There is only one name who is generally constant in all that. I happen to think that Mayor Scheiber is doing a stellar job in his role as Mayor. He was re-elected by a large margin. Its Murdock that won't allow leadership from anyone but himself.

Honest Abe

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 12:36 p.m.

@Ypsilanti,your knowledge of local politics is limited at best!


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

This was first proposed over six months ago. Anyone who did not know about it wasn't paying attention. I think most in Ypsi are sick of the polarization the whiners bring to the table every time council tries to actively address something before it gets out of control. Schreiber just wants to slow everything down and do nothing rather than do what's right for those of us who live and pay taxes here. I still can't believe voters re-elected him. More of the same for the foreseeable future. What has Murdock done? Way more than his predecessors, who shouldered this town with millions in debt without any viable plan to develop Water Street. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn't paying any attention at all.

Honest Abe

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 12:23 p.m.

Council Member Murdock should retire from politics. Exactly what HAS he done for Ypsilanti that would not have been around if not for him?

Steve McKeen

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

A lot of people in Ypsilanti have a lot of hatred and anger towards each other. This is a perfect example of that. Is it any wonder Ypsilanti seems to struggle so much? Too bad someone can't step up and lead.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 9:21 a.m.

I was glad to see this reconsidered as well. Murdoch said this had been discussed for a year. Does anyone know about that?


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

@Glen S. I second your comment! I am glad to see this reconsidered. I would like to see council take steps to prevent this kind of bad policy/resolutions from wasting our time, money and energy in the future. I would like them to introduce resolutions for consideration at least one council meeting in advance. They have asked this of the mayor for commission appointments. I believe they should hold themselves to the same standard. It is clear from the number of missteps based on Mr. Murdock's midnight ideas that this council should learn a lesson about doing their home work and allowing their attorney do the same. It clearly takes him time to give proper advice. Ypsi - we all have to hold them accountable for wasting our time, energy and money on them.

Glen S.

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

Council Member Murdock has a long history of introducing surprise, last-minute resolutions like this one -- without first doing his homework, and getting adequate input from stakeholders or the public. This "Events Tax" proposal was just the latest example. However, I'm glad to see that in this case, City Council had the good sense to re-examine their vote, and reconsider this flawed resolution. I'm especially glad to see that new Council Member Dan Vogt had the good sense (and humility) to recognize that his earlier vote was a mistake, and to put forward a motion to reconsider. Now, City Council and event organizers will have an opportunity to work together to develop a fee structure that is fairer and more reasonable, and that hopefully will allow the City to make sure its legitimate costs are covered -- while still making sure that Ypsilanti remains an inviting place for current and future festivals, and their attendees.