Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Ann Arbor ballot round-up, November 2005

4. November 2005 • Murph
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There hasn’t been much talk around here yet about Tuesday’s ballot – here’s a selection of things posted elsewhere on the election:

Use to find your polling location and view a sample ballot

First Ward City Council: Bob Johnson (D-Inc.) vs. Nobody.

Second Ward City Council: Thomas Bourque ( R) vs. Stephen Rapundalo (D).
> Ann Arbor News, 1 November 2005: 2 vying for 2nd Ward seat and 2nd Ward candidates
> ArborUpdate, 26 September 2005: MSA hosts 2nd Ward debate at Markley

Third Ward City Council: Rich Birkett (I) vs. Leigh Greden (D-Inc.).
> Ann Arbor News, 31 October 2005: In 3rd Ward, challenger set modest goals and 3rd Ward candidates

Fourth Ward City Council: Marcia Higgins (D-Inc.) vs. Jim Hood ( R).
> Ann Arbor News, 2 November 2005: Republican challenges in 4th Democratic council incumbent Marcia Higgins to face Jim Hood and 4th Ward Candidates

Fifth Ward City Council: Wendy Woods (D-Inc.) vs. apathyNobody.

Council, all Wards:
> New West Side Blog, 2 November 2005: Candidate Debate, including podcast (~45 MB mp3).
> Michigan Daily, 3 November 2005: City Council hopefuls sound off
> Ann Arbor is Overrated, 3 November 2005: NWS debate recap
> Ann Arbor News, 28 October 2005: editorial endorsements

Special millage to remove trees affected by the emerald ash borer.
> Ann Arbor News, 4 November 2005: Tree millage grows into major issue
> Ann Arbor News, 21 October 2005: Council candidates debate Proposed emerald ash borer millage draws biggest response

> Ann Arbor News, 20 October 2005: Sierra Club opposes ash borer millage

UPDATE: The New West Side submitted additional questions to the candidates that didn’t make it into their forum, on City health benefits, the role of zoning and case-by-case judgements in development, and City labor negotations. So far, Greden, Birkett, Bourque, Rapundalo, and Hood have submitted responses, which NWS is posting to the comments on their Candidate Debate thread.

UPDATE: The Michigan Daily’s endorsements: Hood, Rapundalo, Greden.

  1. If by “special” millage the city means “slow [to act]” or “mentally challenged” then I would have to agree…

    Birkett said he’d likely vote no and questioned why the city would pay $400 to have trees removed. Birkett said the city of Howell is paying $150 to a private contractor for each tree removed.

    That really is worth questioning… Why is Ann Arbor slated to pay more than double? (I will not accept an answer that it is due to Ann Arbor’s being much more urban than Howell – it’s harder to fell trees on a sloping and densely populated San Francisco street, but an Ann Arbor street? No.)

    The city’s argument for why the general fund reserves shouldn’t cover the cost of tree removal amounts to ”’cause maybe other stuff might happen”. I’m not really convinced. If the EAB is such a safety concern right now, why not use that money right now?
       —FAA    Nov. 4 '05 - 06:34PM    #
  2. I’m going NO on the millage, since I’m sick of upping taxes for emotional pleas of environmentalists, and I’m writing myself in for 1st Ward, because I don’t like Bob and can’t stand to vote for people who I don’t like.
    Anyone else in 1st Ward is free to write me in. If I win, expect a lively council.
       —js    Nov. 4 '05 - 06:53PM    #
  3. The bond rating is the thing, as detailed in today’s News. However, today’s article also demonstrates why the News is a crappy newspaper and Ann Arbor has a lame level of political discourse.

    The bond rating is a legitimate issue; if the city has a lower rating, we have to pay a higher yield on the bonds we issue. Duh.

    How difficult would it be to prepare an estimate that calculates the anticipated decrease in bond rating and increase in interest paid for the amount of bond liabilities for last year, or over the average of the last 5 years? Not too hard, I’d wager.

    We could even translate that cost into a property tax equivalent, so we could compare the proposed millage to the potential revenue difference. I’d be upset if the city hasn’t already done this (which is probably the case because the candidates are talking about phantom issues instead of analysis of the economics.)
       —Dale    Nov. 4 '05 - 07:09PM    #
  4. Under the new election law, write-in votes DO NOT COUNT unless the candidate files an intent to receive write-in votes by the deadline.

    That deadline is TODAY at 4pm.

    I believe for Ann Arbor city council seats, the declaration would be filed with the city clerk on the 2nd floor of city hall, but call ahead to make sure.

    If js gets his papers in this afternoon, then his votes will be counted in every 1st ward precinct. If not, you’re just decorating your ballot.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 4 '05 - 07:25PM    #
  5. I don’t know Bob Johnson the guy running in the first ward, but I do know Josh (JS) and I would not recommend him for ANY possition after watching him in his role on the Arrowwood Hills board of directors! Though I suspect he’s joking, I want to make sure it/he is not taken seriously.
    Sure, he seems a nice enough guy, but he has taken on this important role here at our co-op and made a mockery of it. In almost two (yes, 2!) years he has probably attended maybe 6-8 (if that) of the public monthly board meetings ALL of which he showed up anywhere from 30-45 minutes (sometimes over and hour) late to a meeting that typically lasts 1 1/2 hours…tops! They laugh at his so called commitment here at board meetings, which is mostly non-existent. And it works well for them.
    Waxing peotically for you “Arbor Update” folks is all fine and dandy but in reality all I see is all talk and no action. I can do that, hell most anybody can do that.
    I thought he would really do something for Arrowwood Hills Co-op. And instead I think it was the typical “feather-in-the-cap” kinda thing for him. You know, being able to say “hey I’m on the board of directors”! (I’ll bet you Arbor Update guys are impressed right?) Instead we got a no-show board member giving more power to the long standing (15+ yrs.) “click” of a board that continues to do whatever they want with no input from the membership of the co-op. The result???
    More low income housing in Ann Arbor about to be history if they have their way. And at this rate, with the tactics their using, they probably will!
       —Judy Willibey    Nov. 4 '05 - 07:58PM    #
  6. Who’s “they”?
       —Dale    Nov. 4 '05 - 08:24PM    #
  7. I didn’t know js was on the Board of Arrowwood (maybe I did?); he impresses me just by being him. (Ah, those Mr. Rogers moments.)

    I’d advocate writing in Dale Winling for 5th Ward. (Dale! Get thee some paperwork!) I, much like Councilmember Woods, dislike unopposed races, and will also endorse js’ write-in campaign for the same reason. Always write-in against unopposed candidates. They’ll win anyways, and it’s a way of registering the fact that you’re showing up to vote without lending support to a one-candidate election. (others would say just the opposite. we can have a talk, if you want.) Just my cynical two cents.

    And, yeah, write-in even if it is ballot decoration. Your vote will still be indicated as “writein” even if it doesn’t count for a particular candidate. Though if you gentlemen really do file paperwork, let us know what form of your name you use – I had been under the impression that any recognizeable form of the name would be counted, but of the 40 or 50 people who said they wrote me in against Kim Groome, only about five were credited to my name and the rest fell in the “writein” bucket; I’m assuming that’s because I listed my full name on the paperwork and they didn’t use my middle name when writing in.
       —Murph.    Nov. 4 '05 - 08:40PM    #
  8. JS, for the record I am an emotional environmentalist and I still think the millage stinks. But I won’t hold your comment against you… To prove it – I’m in the 1st Ward – how do you spell your middle name?
       —FAA    Nov. 4 '05 - 08:59PM    #
  9. Murph—Done and done. Aided in no small fashion by The Link, I made it from the Diag to City hall in 7 minutes and successfully filed as a write-in for the 5th Ward.

    Now commences the least-expensive four-and-a-half day internet campaign in history.
       —Dale    Nov. 4 '05 - 09:21PM    #
  10. That’s “LaDale C. Winling”
       —Dale    Nov. 4 '05 - 09:22PM    #
  11. Shit, I’ll write you in too, Josh. Worst case scenario you don’t go to any meetings, right? If only Johnson would stay away from the meetings. Did anyone notice that he was the only Council member opposed to the Y redevelopment proposal presented to to Council on Tuesday?

    From the News:

    “After the meeting, Johnson said approving the plan would ‘be a real setback for the city.’

    He said the larger tower will actually be 15 stories because each of the residential towers will have a penthouse.

    ‘I think we are setting a bad precedent for downtown,’ said Johnson, D-1st Ward. ‘It’s going to be very hard to deny a 15-story building to a private developer because the city has signed off on this 15-story building’”

    To quote from the album that defined my childhood:

    Some kind of help is the kind of help
    That helping’s all about,
    And some kind of help is the kind of help
    We all could do without.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Nov. 4 '05 - 09:22PM    #
  12. $400/tree was the lowest bid Ann Arbor received… vote yes on the millage unless you want to see the costs for tree removal taken out of various other pots. The things need to come down and we’ll have to pay for them somehow—there’ve been enough budget cuts already, I figure.
       —Brandon    Nov. 4 '05 - 09:48PM    #
  13. And I’ll vote for you, Dale.
       —Brandon    Nov. 4 '05 - 09:49PM    #
  14. I wish there was a write-in candidate for the 4th Ward …
       —Juliew    Nov. 4 '05 - 09:55PM    #
  15. “And, yeah, write-in even if it is ballot decoration. Your vote will still be indicated as “writein” even if it doesn’t count for a particular candidate.”

    I’ve always figured that a write-in is the best way to get your ballot thrown out as spoiled. I’m sure that Larry will tell us otherwise but unless there’s a real write-in campaign, I would never take the chance doing a write-in.
       —John Q    Nov. 4 '05 - 10:24PM    #
  16. Brandon, do you know many bids Ann Arbor received? If anything, our bids should be lower than outlying areas since one of the quarantined tree processing yards is within our city limits (no hauling/crazy-high-fuel charges to be added).
       —FAA    Nov. 5 '05 - 12:55AM    #
  17. The only write-in declaration for Ann Arbor city council filed by the 4pm deadline was from LaDale C. Winling, in the 5th Ward, as indicated.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 5 '05 - 06:39AM    #
  18. Dale asked who “they” are…”they” are the board and management of Arrowwood, not to mention a few co-op members who have mentioned it. And if you guys all mean everything you’ve written here regarding the/his no-show issue, it says a lot! These positions boards, councils, etc. are not a joke and should be taken seriously by the person elected regardless of how large or small the position is. They require some commitment and true heart and a belief that you can do something to help make good changes. To help make a difference, to better things in our world or at least really try to. Not just a ‘cool’ (so called) accomplishment to add on your resumes. Josh said “if I win expect a lively council” could that happen with his non-attendance? And we (all, including you folks) loose in situations like that. I guess it’s really true, the saying that talk- is-cheap!
       —Judy Willibey    Nov. 5 '05 - 01:27PM    #
  19. I’m a First Warder, and I’m voting for Bob Johnson. When the City staff tried to sabotage our neighborhood’s vote on speed humps a couple of years ago, Bob made sure we got an honest count, and the speed humps were installed.

    With regard to the height of the possible replacement for the Old Y, even Calthorpe Associates, in its plan unveiled last Thursday, is only recommending buildings 5-10 stories high there.

    I’m voting for the Emerald Ash Borer millage because I think this is an emergency situation which justifies a short-term millage. The City is not in good financial shape, and I would rather not have the City cut into its reserves to deal with this special problem.
       —David Cahill    Nov. 5 '05 - 01:39PM    #
  20. Judy: I appreciate your verve with regard to Board of Directors meetings, and won’t go into comments that I’ve heard made about you. As far as my bid for City Council, well, I didn’t check the board so haven’t filed any paperwork. I’ll still probably write myself in, unless there’s someone else who has filed the paperwork that I should toss my protest vote towards.
    For anyone who would like my private comments on what it’s like to serve on the board of directors at Arrowwood, you’re free to write me.
       —js    Nov. 5 '05 - 04:56PM    #
  21. Hey cool – I’ll write you in, too, Dale!
       —Laura F    Nov. 5 '05 - 06:31PM    #
  22. js – Word is that LaDale C. Winling is the only write-in candidate registered City-wide.
       —Murph.    Nov. 5 '05 - 07:23PM    #
  23. FAA, not sure. I just heard that from someone with an in.
       —Brandon    Nov. 5 '05 - 09:03PM    #
  24. I watched Bob Johnson on tv yesterday and he seems like an ok person from the little I heard from him. David Cahill seems to think he’s ok. Detering a sabotage by the city is impressive and welcomed by the ‘little man’ around this town (or anywhere). That is part of what we’d hoped you (josh) would do for us at Arrowwood (along with newly elected Mike Burns). We tried to get some of the old, set-in-their-ways board out of office for that very purpose since the board is so lame (still it’s a poor excuse for non-attendance on your part, you never even tried)! So I’d like to hear why your so down on (Bob Johnson). What has he done (or not done?) that is so bad? I want to be informed at election time. And sure I know the board doesn’t like me, I’m the only member who attends the board meeting regularly for the last 4 yrs.!! They hate it because I get the word out about goings on and then people rise-up on occasion. It puts a kink in their plans at times and they don’t like it one bit! They were used to doing what ever they wanted with no opposition. Not to mention some of the, shall we say, ‘shady’ stuff I’ve seen go down here. Maybe the same kind of ‘shady’ that David Cahill was talking about at the city level. Somethin’ about power that seems to go to people’s heads I’d say. Not unlike the Bush administration(s) eh?
       —Judy Willibey    Nov. 6 '05 - 02:08PM    #
  25. What are folks’ thoughts on the third ward?

    I don’t like voting for the sort of establishment Democrat, Greden, that Burns Park basically keeps putting there. Definitely against student interests. (Pot! Couches!)

    On the other hand, voting for Birkett is basically a protest vote, and I’m not sure I’d like my protest to be for his issues. (Pot! Couches!)

    Oh, and I’m definitely voting for the ash borer millage. The tax hike will stick it to my landlord, and I’m moving to Ypsi asap, before they can pass the cost along to me. Take that campus management!

    This is of course a temporary strategy until someone gets around to organizing a tenants union. Any takers?
       —Ryan Bates    Nov. 7 '05 - 04:36AM    #
  26. Yes. Click here.
       —Dale    Nov. 7 '05 - 04:55AM    #
  27. Ryan,

    Third Ward – I don’t know if I can take seriously a campaign on a year-dead issue (couches). And Greden has typically been one of the more responsive/engaged/communcative Council members, which is a good trait to encourage. Not that I’m any more “establishment Democrat” than you, but that seems like the easiest choice on the ballot.

    Ash borer millage I think I’m voting a very reluctant “yes” on. I agree that it’s probably been handled poorly so far – that the City should have been cutting down trees years ago, and probably could have avoided crisis / addressed the problem more cheaply by starting work earlier. My old student co-op – flaky as student co-ops may have a reputation to be – managed to come to that realization a year and a half ago when the first sign of infestation appeared and cut down our 8-10 ash trees for
       —Murph.    Nov. 7 '05 - 01:26PM    #
  28. Don’t leave us in suspense, Murph—how much??!!
       —Dale    Nov. 7 '05 - 01:43PM    #
  29. Sigh. I meant to write “less than $200 each”, but textile apparently stripped out my text from the less-than sign on.

    So, to continue, we cut down all of our trees for less than $200 each, replanted later that year, and were done with it. I think part of the cost and the urgency that the city is facing is from not addressing the problem earlier and letting it turn into a crisis – and, while I think that’s lamentable, I also think that’s no reason to ignore a safety risk. Days like yesterday provide a good argument for why the trees need to come down fast; it’s kind of the 100-year-flood problem – a sizeable ice storm or wind storm could realistically bring down hundreds of weakened ashes, and that’s not a probability we want to let linger too long.

    So “yes” on the millage, but I’m going to smack anybody who, two years from now, tries to put another special millage on the ballot and says, “Oh, this isn’t a new tax – it’s preventing an existing tax from ending.”
       —Murph.    Nov. 7 '05 - 02:39PM    #
  30. And, to roll right along on my picks, it looks like I’m lining right up with the Daily and the News on Council.

    In my own Ward (4th), I’ll vote Hood.

    A part of this is because I do believe that a one-party Council is a bad thing, unless any of the current Council members are planning to take on Kim Groome’s role. I want people on Council who are going to ask questions and work towards solutions rather than shutting things down with no discussion whatsoever (see, e.g. Council minutes of 4 Feb 2002, pp63-64 ), and I think that’s more likely with more than one party represented on Council.

    I’m not just voting “not all Democrats”, though; I do think Hood is a good candidate in his own right. I asked him some follow-up questions on his comments from the LWV and NWS forums about things like the planning and development process, affordable housing, supporting small/local business, and the role of City Council, appointed Boards, staff, etc. He had good comments and ideas on all, with the willingness to admit a lack of expertise on certain details and the need to leverage experts, say, architects and planners on Planning Commission, to supplement Councilmembers’ knowledge. I asked him about his definition of “Republican” enough to say that the label shouldn’t scare people off; as already noted, he takes a fairly Todd Leopoldish line on the need to do better planning upstream to reduce the amount of planning needed downstream, with an emphasis on allowing smaller local builders and business owners to compete with large developers with lots of lawyers. As mentioned in the NWS forum, he takes a fairly Carlberg-esque view on affordable housing – if we value it, we need to make that decision and acknowledge that it will require action and money, and take that action, rather than making vague statements about it.

    Also, always a good trait in a candidate, he’s communicative. Willing to respond to follow-up questions from the NWS and to phone calls from me.

    So, yes, it’s very possible for any candidate to read this site and feed me what I want to hear. And, yes, I supported Higgins in the primary. But, at this point, I’m happily voting for Hood. (As a double-check on my inclination to do so, I polled 30-40 homeowners in my neighborhood for additional thoughts, concerns, opinions. Not many were decided, but those who were supported Hood.)
       —Murph.    Nov. 7 '05 - 03:21PM    #
  31. 4th was the ward that required most explanation, since it’s where I’ll actually be placing a vote, and because it’s a change from my previous support. The last will be shorter.

    For 2nd Ward, I’d pick Rapundalo. (My not-all-Democrats position comes with a responsibility to shoot my own dog, I feel, rather than relying on the 2nd ward to do it for me, so I don’t feel this is inconsistent.)

    Rapundalo did very visibly oppose the ADU proposal the first time around, but has stated an interest in considering a revised proposal that addresses the concerns with the original. (Rather than, say, burying it without discussion…) He sounds like he’d be willing to consider reviewing/revising the RPP program to try to work out some of the concerns with it. And he’s already managed to take concrete steps to engage and inform students, having proposed the council/student committee approved in October. Of all the candidates on the ballot, I’d say Rapundalo has made the most clear and vocal commitment to consensus-building.
       —Murph.    Nov. 7 '05 - 03:34PM    #
  32. Is there a place where I can see what is going to be on the Pittsfield Twp ballot? I did some rooting around the eWashtenaw site, and around the pittsfield township site, but I couldn’t find anything useful.
       —jhallum    Nov. 7 '05 - 03:46PM    #
  33. Try to find your polling place and see a sample ballot. I think they cover all of Michigan.

    Also, I think the current issue of the Observer has an article on Pittsfield’s issues – you might try browsing a copy at Borders?
       —Murph.    Nov. 7 '05 - 03:56PM    #
  34. Murph said:

    “A part of this is because I do believe that a one-party Council is a bad thing, unless any of the current Council members are planning to take on Kim Groome’s role.”

    Nice to see someone talking about this only a year after I was campaigning on it…
       —Marc R.    Nov. 7 '05 - 05:07PM    #
  35. Yeah, it’s all a giant conspiracy, Judy. Our secret plan is to cover Arrowwood with a bubble and launch it into space after perfecting our death lazer that we’ll use on the poor and underpriveledged.
       —js    Nov. 7 '05 - 06:04PM    #
  36. Murph, what do you think about the argument that the “insurance” fund needs to be repaid by the millage revenues? To me it appears to be another case of council (re)acting in the absence of a set policy, much like with the Pfizer tax abatement. (AFAIK they still haven’t set a policy on that issue, even though several of them noted a need for one at the time.)

    I don’t think I would vote against the millage for that reason alone—absence of a policy, that is. However, the argument for the need to replenish the “insurance” fund is weak. In addition, council hasn’t addressed the fact that removed trees will be burned to generate electricity which will be sold to DTE. A forthright description of the issue would include that, and a responsible accounting would include those revenues in the formula for determining the millage requirement and the payback of the loan to the “insurance” fund.

    I may be wrong, but I think this is a case where council should not be let off the hook. I agree that the tree removal is a serious safety issue. That’s irrelevant, though, since the money is available. The only relevant question is whether the “insurance” fund loan should be repaid. Since we all end up paying for it one way or another, I think that calling council on this is the better choice.

    Maybe Leigh or another council member can respond.
       —Steve Bean    Nov. 7 '05 - 06:32PM    #
  37. Larry—do you have an estimate of when election returns will be available and the best place to get them?
       —Dale (Calling Larry Kestenbaum)    Nov. 7 '05 - 07:08PM    #
  38. JS…..what the hell you talking about regarding Arrowwood???? I don’t get it. And why don’t you like R. Johnson? You never answered that question.
       —Judy Willibey    Nov. 7 '05 - 07:38PM    #
  39. As a 2nd Ward resident, I’ll be voting for Rapundalo—from everything I’ve read, he seems more engaged with student/renter interests than Borque (not that I necessarily mind voting for sane Republicans, as I did for Jane Lumm last year).
       —Lazaro    Nov. 7 '05 - 08:39PM    #
  40. Steve,

    I definitely don’t see a “yes” vote as a vote to end the issue. I want to know where the trees are ending up (is DTE the given chipped-ash buyer?), and whether there’s a better way to use them.

    I speak from ignorance on this point, but, what has the city’s environmental commission been doing over the past few years regarding the ash borer control/disposal? (And, if they haven’t been doing, why not?)
       —Murph.    Nov. 7 '05 - 08:56PM    #
  41. Murph,

    Thanks, I’m only a third of the way through last months observer, I usually just read it straight throught without hitting the ToC. I’ll look there (Publius drew a blank, BTW).
       —jhallum    Nov. 7 '05 - 09:58PM    #
  42. First, I need to correct my statement about the tree disposal—according to a document put out by the city:

    “The ash trees are shredded on site into chips less than one inch in diameter and trucked to a Mid-Michigan Recycling wastewood cogeneration plant in Flint, which produces steam and electricity. The electricity is sold to the Genesee Power Station, an ISO 14000 certified plant to provide alternative ‘green’ electricity within Michigan.”

    The chipping site is at the landfill, but the city apparently isn’t the sole operator. I apologize for giving the wrong impression. (I had conflated this with another city operation at the landfill.) I don’t know if the city gets anything from providing the chips to the cogen plant. It would be good to know in order to better evaluate the millage proposal.

    To answer your question about what the Env. Comm. has done, I’ll start by saying that we have been kept informed of the issue by staff from the beginning (more than a year ago.) At our September meeting, staff presented us with a draft resolution in support of the millage proposal to consider. Other than that, the city forester and his (now her—Paul Bairley retired recently and Kay Sicheneder is his replacement) crew have been removing trees as a large proportion of their time.

    City council had already passed a resolution to put the millage increase on the ballot prior to our September meeting. (To confuse things temporarily, someone stated at our meeting that council hadn’t yet passed it. We cleared that up before proceeding.) I raised the concern that our charge is to make policy recommendations to council. If council had already acted, what would we be recommending they do? The resolution was amended to state that we “advised” council of our support of the proposal (not to my liking, but I saw no significant harm in it) and to recommend that replacement trees be planted ASAP. I voted for it and it passed unanimously.

    The draft resolution had come from a staff member with a memo to Matt Naud asking for the commission to consider it. During a later, private discussion, a friend raised the question of whether the communication constituted advocacy on the part of the staff person, which is apparently a legal no-no. I called the city attorney’s office the day before our October meeting and posed the question. The assistant attorney I spoke with committed to (someone in the attorney’s office) getting back to me, before the meeting if possible. No one called that day, and I still haven’t heard. I placed a followup call earlier today to find out the status. No reply as of 5pm.

    Aside from asking these questions earlier in the process and getting answers, I don’t know what else the commission could have done (other than postpone the vote and potentially not pass the resolution.) I’m open to input.
       —Steve Bean    Nov. 8 '05 - 05:00AM    #
  43. ”(not that I necessarily mind voting for sane Republicans, as I did for Jane Lumm last year).”

    Please! Jane Lumm used to be a serious, sane alternative. The campaign that she ran last year was unhinged from reality.
       —John Q.    Nov. 8 '05 - 05:12AM    #
  44. Regarding tree removal, $400 is not a bad price. I expect that some locations will be more expensive, some less. The best price I could get for cutting down a large ash in my lawn extension on east end of Dexter was about $450 (including stump removal). The job was done by a former city employee.

    I paid for this myself and am voting no for to this millage.
       —Dave    Nov. 8 '05 - 01:57PM    #
  45. Steve,

    I apologize, I wasn’t trying to assign any blame to the Env. commission. What I was suggesting is that you (and I hadn’t realized you were still on the commission?) were a resource that might have been asked for a little more. If “we were kept informed” and “staff presented us with a draft resolution in support of the millage proposal to consider” is the extent of what you were asked for, what does the City think you’re there for?
       —Murph.    Nov. 8 '05 - 02:33PM    #
  46. At 10:30, I voted in Ward 2, at the polling place for districts 3 and 4. (Angell School) I was voter #154, and poll workers told me that was a big turnout for an off-year, two question election. They also told me they had about 150 absentee ballots for these two districts.
       —JennyD    Nov. 8 '05 - 03:53PM    #
  47. No apology necessary, Murph. It was a good question. This is the kind of conversation that democracy needs. I shared what I did as an example of what citizens’ commissions have to deal with at times.

    Sometimes the role of commissions is in the eye of the beholder. Another way of putting it might be that we’re there to do what others might have us do, to the extent that we’re not already doing something about it ourselves. In that sense, I think that we should be more prepared to say “No” than we are.

    At the same time, commission members are supposed to be capable of determining a useful recommendation for action by applying our experience and knowledge to the issue at hand. In this case, the issue was already being dealt with (in an environmentally responsible manner) and we were simply asked to give our seal of approval. That’s not our role, and it takes away (somewhat, anyway) from our other efforts.

    The best case scenario would have been for one of our members to come up with a brilliant idea to improve the ash situation, i.e., a policy recommendation. Then it would have been simple for the group to set aside the fiscal (not environmental) question put to us.

    (I’ve been a minority of one when it comes to interpreting what falls within our charge, although I once convinced Marcia Higgins to change her vote on that basis.)

    I don’t want to give the wrong impression (again.) Such cases are the exception. The commission has been proactive on a number of issues and has made several important recommendations to council over the past few years, and I expect that to continue.

    I’m still open to input (or questions) on this issue as well as any others that any of you want to raise. A good place to start to see what’s within the Env. Comm.’s purview is to check out the State of Our Environment Report.
       —Steve Bean    Nov. 8 '05 - 04:20PM    #
  48. I voted for Hood in Ward 4 for many of the same reasons as Murph. But I think mine was a little more of a protest vote. I don’t think Higgins is very good for Ward 4 and I really don’t think she is good for the Council as a whole. I’m hoping if she is not there that Teall will step up. Unfortunately, Hood showed a lack of knowledge about the workings of the City that I thought was surprising in a Council candidate. If he wins, hopefully he will be a quick learner.

    There was a place on the ballot to write in a candidate. There was no language that said that the candidate had to be pre-registered. I think that is a big problem. If you have a rule that limits a ballot, that needs to be written on the ballot. I hate to think that people are writing in candidates and thinking that their vote counts, when in reality it does not. My mother was elected to an office several elections in a row based on write-in votes. These votes are supposed to matter.

    I voted no on the millage for several reasons. First of all, I don’t like that the City did not have all their facts straight before the millage was written. They now say that they won’t actually need to spend all the money from the millage, but it was too late to change the ballot. That alone is enough for me to vote no since I haven’t seen any plan to reduce the taxes people pay once the millage goes through. The $400/tree cost is very expensive and in a brief look around the web, I see prices are lower for other communities and no other communities are using millages to pay for EAB. Other cities and towns seem to be able to do this without taxing their residents. The city has been paying into a “contingency fund” for this sort of thing, but now they say that the fund is a “bond fund” and should not be touched. Which is it? The final straw for me was the flyer I had waiting for me when I got home. It was the second EAB pro-millage flyer we had received from the city and this one was sent first-class mail. So between the two flyers, I’m sure the city spent at least $10,000 (conservative estimate). I would like to see the city try to find a better price, get a real estimate of the costs, and continue to look for other funding sources before attempting a millage.

    All in all though, it was a thoroughly unsatisfactory election with difficult choices.

    Oh, and I was Number 3 at 9:00 at Mary Street.
       —Juliew    Nov. 8 '05 - 05:25PM    #
  49. Here’s the 2003 precinct report from the city’s site, for use in comparing turnouts.

    I was number 52 at the Coliseum at about 10:45. (How come I have to walk past Mary St. to get to my polling place? There is no household in the 4-3 that is closer to the Coliseum than it is to Mary St…)

    I assume the results will be on CTN this evening – anybody wanna meet up at Leopold’s and see if we can get them to put on the election counts? :)
       —Murph.    Nov. 8 '05 - 05:48PM    #
  50. Steve-

    Unfortunately, the question is not “if” the insurance fund gets repaid. It must be repaid. The City is self-insured. That fund covers our payments for claims filed against the City.

    The question is “how” the insurance fund will be repaid. One option is $62 per year in higher taxes (for the average homeowner) for two years (the millage).

    If that fails, we have to make some tough decisions. Some people say we should use the general fund reserves. Sounds like Bush economics to me: mortgage our future to pay for today’s problems.

    The general fund reserves are intended for two purposes: (1) secure our bond rating and (2) cover future emergency shortfalls. “Future emergency shortfalls” could be caused by, among other things:
    (1) a dive in the stock market that requires us to increase our pension fund contribution;
    (2) the State deciding to end statutory revenue sharing in 2007;
    (3) a loss in arbitration on a labor matter involving decades-old labor contracts that could cost the City $1 million; etc.

    If we want to spend down our savings for tomorrow to save a few bucks on our taxes today, then we risk our future. That’s why I support the millage.

    Many cities in Michigan are asking their voters for much more expensive and longer-lasting millages to pay for basic operating expenses.

    I admit the City’s outreach on the millage has been poor. We should have done a better job providing important information to the public. But I hope people don’t cast a vote against it based on spite.
       —Leigh Greden    Nov. 8 '05 - 05:58PM    #
  51. Leigh, could you elaborate on why the EAB situation isn’t enough of an emergency to use the reserves? This is happening now, while your future scenarios are pretty big maybes. If you could address Juliew’s very well put points on the matter as well, that would be great…

    Many cities in Michigan are asking their voters for much more expensive and longer-lasting millages to pay for basic operating expenses.

    Some towns are experiencing many more financial issues than others. A number of those proposals are basically civic altruism via taxpayer dollars, which given their extenuating circumstances looks to be the only solution. If Ann Arbor is ever hurting for cash as much as East Pointe and needs $62 more per year from me to make sure police and fire employee’s pay cheques don’t bounce, just say the word. But to cut down trees, which should have been addressed a year or two ago, at twice the price of other cities – that’s a “no” vote.
       —FAA    Nov. 8 '05 - 08:31PM    #
  52. FAA-

    The general fund balance is about $11 million. We must keep approximately $8 million to maintain our bond rating. That leaves just $3 million. If we’re lucky, the tree project may not cost the full $4.2 million projected in the millage, but it will almost certainly cost more than $3 million. That means the fund balance is at its bare minimum. It’s therefore a myth that the fund balance can be used to cover the cost of this project. More importantly, what do we do in the next emergency?

    You don’t think my scenario #2 is likely? The State has already cut millions from revenue sharing in Ann Arbor.

    You don’t think my scenario #3 is likely? Just wait and see…

    In summary, this is a policy choice for the voters:

    Do you want to spend your reserves NOW and jeopardize our ability to protect ourselves in the future?

    Or are you willing to pay $5/month for two years for sound, long-term financial planning?
       —Leigh Greden    Nov. 8 '05 - 10:25PM    #
  53. Leigh, my question was what makes the EAB, a real and immediate situation, less important than a situation which may or may not come to be? That is, If the “emergency” funds aren’t tapped in lieu of mils now, on what basis do you expect me (and other voters) to believe scenarios #2 and #3 wouldn’t result in more mils as well?

    As for #2, I don’t doubt there could be more cuts (I wrote letters and made a noise before the last 5% cut…maybe Lansing didn’t hear) – but a complete end? That would be Michigan suicide – is the state really that depressed?

    But with #3, you’re either employing some kind of governmental scare tactic I’m only used to seeing on higher levels, or you know something the rest of us will read about in the paper later. I’ll assume the latter for now.
       —FAA    Nov. 8 '05 - 11:59PM    #