Appointment process still problematic for Escanaba DDA

What's happening: The Escanaba Downtown Development Authority has struggled to find a procedure for appointing new board members. A new process to try and give the DDA more power in appointing members to its own board was recently tabled by the Escanaba City Commission on Thursday, November 3. 

What it is: In Escanaba’s growing downtown district, appointing people to the DDA has been controversial and political. Initially starting with changing appointment procedure from the mayor to the city manager, the current DDA membership is asking for the power to appoint their own members. However, the city is concerned about the legality of that procedure, given state law. The council did approve a new application for prospective members. 

What they're saying: “The City Council is stymied on the language and the procedure for everything else suggested; however, I believe the council might be willing to approve the new application,” Mayor Mark Ammel said. 

How did this start: After a two-year-long fight over the appointment procedure, the city changed how people were appointed to the DDA in 2022. Prior to that, the mayor would make the appointment with a simple-majority approval from the city council. That was challenged in 2019 when former mayor Marc Tall did not appoint local business owner Kelli Van Ginhoven to the DDA. When Tall lost his election in 2021, new mayor Mark Ammel appointed Van Ginhoven to the development authority.

In early 2022, appointments were switched from the mayor to the city manager. According to interpretations of state law by the city attorney, the city manager serves as the city’s chief executive officer and would be the rightful holder of appointment power for DDA’s.