Candidate questions Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett’s letter to Madonna

By Paul Kampe,

After his response to entertainer Madonna’s assertions that Rochester Hills is full of narrow-minded people, Rochester Hills Mayor Brian Barnett’s likely opponent in this fall’s election has questioned Barnett’s dedication to protecting all of the city’s residents from unfair treatment.

Barnett penned an opinion piece Monday, March 16 which ran in many news outlets, including The Oakland Press, where he boasted of the city’s positive characteristics and even invited Madonna to visit.

Barnett’s response to the pop singer has gone viral and earned praise via social media from community members.

His upcoming opponent, though, questioned the timing and the effort of the mayor’s retort.

Former Rochester Hills City Councilman Ravi Yalamanchi plans to run for mayor this fall. Photo courtesy of Facebook/Ravi4Mayor

Former Rochester Hills City Councilman Ravi Yalamanchi plans to run for mayor this fall. Photo courtesy of Facebook/Ravi4Mayor

“He spent half a day writing an op-ed in response to Madonna’s comments because he felt it was an opportunity for him to take advantage off (sic) as he plans to do a write-in campaign this year although he is term-limited,” former city councilman Ravi Yalamanchi said. “The mayor spent more time writing a response back to Madonna than demonstrating true leadership in recognizing a real issue from his community members and seeking viable solutions against discrimination.”

Barnett defended his letter, saying it was necessary to protect the city’s honor.

“I’m not interested in someone wanting to play politics with this issue,” he said via email. “My letter speaks for itself. I’m standing up for the residents of the City of Rochester Hills.”

Citing city council’s 2012 discussion of the need for an equal rights ordinance, Yalamanchi specifically accused Barnett of failing to protect the city’s LGBT community.

Yalamanchi was the only member of the seven-person council to support a measure, as other leaders decided the issue should not be a matter decided by the city, but rather regulated by state law.

“It comes as a total surprise to me after my experience with the mayor, who did not see any reason to support an equal rights ordinance,” Yalamanchi writes. “Where was the mayor’s outrage when there were protests in front of Rochester Hills City Council and there was an outcry of discriminatory practices concerns in housing and employment against the LGBT community?”

Barnett and other council members recommended a dozen residents in attendance at a July 30, 2012 meeting direct their concerns to the state legislature.

According to the published minutes of the meeting, Barnett expressed his appreciation for their comments. He then read a Feb. 13, 2012 resolution passed by council which reaffirmed its support of the human rights and civil liberties of all city residents by opposing a state house bill which would have prevented municipalities from enacting laws protecting specific groups of residents.

Barnett reiterated at the meeting the city does not ask anyone’s sexual orientation or offer preferential treatment when considering building permits, employment, or use of city facilities.

Some Oakland County communities, such as Royal Oak and Ferndale, have passed equal rights ordinances, but many others have not.

Barnett, who was elected in 2006 and reelected in 2011, recently announced a write-in campaign seeking a third term in office, which is required by city charter. Yalamanchi has also expressed his intentions to seek the office.


About Sarah Hovis

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  1. Marianne Maurer says

    In response to the Mayor’s comments Rochester Hill’s honor does not need to be defended in the case of Madonna. One entertainer on a off color radio program does not touch who we are or what we represent. City leadership that ignored by using idle semantics the basic human rights of others does determine who we are. The safety of our community and home values does determine who we are . The protection of our green space is what we want and expect. Open and honest communication with citizens and hearing what they say is what we want to be. Fast food restaurants, drilling, water towers, and group always forever a Coucil who constantly refuses to challenge each other is not what we want. As for Madonna and even taking the time to respond is giving her more attention then she deserves.

  2. Linda Davis-Kirksey says

    Mayor Barnett and his alleged defense of Rochester Hills honor is pure political theater. Enough said.
    Where was Mayor Barnett defending the rights of his LGBT community? Where was his CNN interview when he signed away with the support of HIS City Council leasing rights to light frack on our community’s beautiful Park land and cemetery? I call the title to those film clips missteps in leadership.
    If he put as much energy and public dollars in honoring the Rochester Hills City Charter, defending equal rights for all residents regardless of their sexual orientation, protecting the environment- now that could be a real “media buzz.” The real up close story however would reflect the dissatisfaction of residents of the community that know his record well. It is not substantive as he leads you to believe. Rochester Hills residents are intelligent people. Sound Bites and marketing pizzazz last but for the 24 news cycle. In the remaining months of his term of office he should focus on real issues of the community not putting his personal agenda forward.

  3. Scot Beaton says

    Just the Facts

    Yes… there are those who would throw Madonna ‘pop star’ comments aside. But when a $600 million dollar ‘pop star’ makes hurtful comments about her home town… those are cheap shots heard around the world. Our City Charter is quite clear that our Mayor is the spokesperson for the city, and I as a resident agree with the Mayor such a response was necessary… that’s their job.

    Ravi continues to stay the course, putting misinformation on the streets… recently posted on this online newspaper a lot of misinformation about our Fire Department. According to the Mayor he wrote his response to Madonna on a Sunday night and the “1/2 day” the Mayor brought up at a City Council meeting was his networking selling our great City to national and local media sources. When a billion dollar news network CNN calls what is Ravi to do, have his secretary dismiss the call. Madonna 0, Barnett 1… he wins the battle… and the big plus… hundreds of thousands worth of free advertising world wide for our great City.

    Plus… I don’t know if Ravi and I read the same letter… this particular letter was all about our City not him.

    Our City Charter is also quite clear a Mayor’s responsibility is also the day to day operations of the City and not the City’s policy, this is the responsibility of City Council. If City Council would pass a LGBT rights ordinance similar to Ann Arbor or Royal Oak; I’m 100% certain that the Mayor would sign such a bill. Don’t believe me call or ask the Mayor the same question.

    I personally attended every one of the City Council meetings when this issue came before City Council during Citizen Comments… I personally would support the legislation… I’m in the minutes. note: an LGBT rights ordinance is a … don’t have a politically correct way to put this; a ‘feel good ordinance’ … Michigan home rule city law prohibits communities from passing an ordinance on Civil Rights that is more restrictive than Federal or State regulation. But from a PR point of view it’s a great tool progressive cities like Ann Arbor used to make ‘all’ feel welcome.

    Ravi showed little leadership on this issue on City Council… though he may have thanked all those attending… many City Council members also stated they support Civil Rights … the big question; Ravi had the opportunity to put a motion to the floor to instruct the City Attorney to draft such legislation… Ravi sat there and did NOTHING! Ravi is great at demonstrating typical politician behavior as of late; all rhetoric no action.

    note: Pamela M. Gordon, SPHR… Director of Human Resources Rochester Hills is well versed in Civil Rights… the Mayor and Pamela M. Gordon for years have publicly demonstrated they both support LGBT rights! Don’t believe me call her.

    Just the Facts… drilling for Oil in Rochester Hills. Yes… after a City Council policy decision the Mayor did sign the lease. Just a thought… those who comment on this issue should take the time to read the lease first so they don’t come off sounding like a complete idiot before they comment on this subject. The lease prohibits Hydraulic fracturing. The geology under Rochester Hills doesn’t even support this technology. The lease prohibits any surface exploration or drilling on City property. And if any Oil is to be had; it would have to come from a wellhead not on City Property (with out a vote of the residents) and if any Oil is under a City Park or Cemetery it’s invariable the height of the Empire State building by over three times underground… just the facts.

    Scot Beaton
    Political Experience former Rochester Hills City Council member 1988 to 1997
    President, Rochester Hills City Council (2 Years)

  4. Scot – “Our City Charter is also quite clear a Mayor’s responsibility is also the day to day operations of the City and not the City’s policy, this is the responsibility of City Council.”

    So then, why does Mayor take credit for every good legislative decision Council has made, including when Mr. Yalamanchi was on Council? Barnett takes all of the credit and none of the blame. Can’t have it both ways.

    But thanks for informing us. Now we know that the Mayor deserves no credit for great policy based on decisions of Council.

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