Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Special City Council Meeting on Monday, with a bit of controversy

21. October 2007 • Chuck Warpehoski
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On Monday, October 20, the Ann Arbor City Council will host a special meeting to discuss and approve resolutions relating to the proposed new city council meeting. (agenda )

Some folks are quite concerned about this meeting. Was the announcement of it properly made? Is this decision fully prepared (I’m told the resolutions mentioned in the agenda aren’t available yet)? Has there been proper discussion about the issue? Is this process transparent and accountable? Is this an effort to rush the issue through before people critical of the proposal join city council?

Whether you think this is a good idea or not, you can share your thoughts at the council meeting, 7:00 p.m. at City Hall on Monday, October 20.



  1. Critics of the current city council are making 2 types of arguments against this meeting: procedural and substantive. The procedural argument is that this is the wrong way to make a decision. The substantive is that this is the wrong decision.

    Personally, I don’t think the process is good, but the question I have is why isn’t it good? Is it a sinister attempt to hoodwink citizens and voters? Is it an honest mistake? Is there a structural flaw in city council process that makes it hard to make good decisions and get good input?

    I don’t know the motives, and I won’t speculate there. But when I see so many decisions that are poorly made*, which I think is now the case for city council, I want to start looking deeper than the politics of the specific issue and ask if the structure promotes or discourages well-made decisions.

    That’s dorky, I know, which is why it’s easier to comment on the individual decisions themselves.

    *NOTE: I can think that a decision is both well-made and wrong. So if city council were to carefully consider its goals and option, gather citizen and expert input, and make a good-faith deliberative decision to pave our roads in peanut butter, I can think they made the wrong decision in the right way. I see a difference between the process of making a decision and the product of that decision-making process. I can like one and not the other.

    And I can keep repeating myself over and over again, redundantly.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    Oct. 22 '07 - 03:38AM    #
  2. The nitrogenous wastes could indeed intersect the rotating airfoils this evening.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 22 '07 - 07:34PM    #
  3. D-1, approving site layout and authorizing next phase of design, passes at 9:44pm after nearly two hours of discussion. No votes were Hieftje, Suarez, Johnson, Kunselman. Others were Yes.


       —HD    Oct. 23 '07 - 01:51AM    #
  4. Though not an exact transcript, this is turn by turn more-or-less how the deliberations went.

    SUAREZ: inadequate needs assessment; do we need a civic center?; analogy of architecture to website design; cites Newcombe Clark, and Jesse Bernstein as sources for square-footage costs being too high; technology should not drive up cost, but rather decrease it; all we need is an internet connection and laptops; wants postponement with only discussion tonight; 100+ page document not available until 5pm today;

    MOTION TO POSTPONE

    JOHNSON: for postponement citing inadequate time

    KUNSELMAN: for postponement not enough time to assess 100+ page document

    MOTION FOR POSTPONEMENT WITHDRAWN LEST IT PASS NOT ALLOWING FOR FULL DISCUSSION OF RESOLUTION

    HIGGENS: CTN equipment that was purchased a couple of years ago is supposed to be portable so that shouldn’t add to cost; county cooperation won’t work despite effort from Hieftje

    WOODS: I’m not a lame duck and I WILL participate in these discussions

    JOAN: Re: Suarez’s complaint of inadequate needs assessment [elicits history of needs assessment from staff]

    EASTHOPE: nobody objected to costs of maintenance facility; courts and police are important; citizens rate them as more important than anything else, including parks; Woods has 7 years of participation in discussions on the issue, so why wait for her to leave?

    RAPUNDALO: responsibility to lead; 7 years history dating back to the time I ran against Hieftje for mayor; partnership with county won’t work; we do still have time to consider details of specific design; time is money

    TEAL: please let Council committee know about concerns about design; time is money; every year 5% is added to cost; maintenance center has dramatically improved worker morale; we have same obligation to other City workers

    GREDEN: special notice done on live television; as a matter of fact and law, it’s not accurate to say that the notice was not adequate; police needs double the amount of space it has; cites various examples … what’s the ‘pattern’ [see SUAREZ below] governments DO this; [cites examples]; you want to vote no—what’s your alternative?

    KUNSELMAN: there been no formal request from the City to the County to partner on this; let’s do that, how about? partnering with a joint facility is important; cites deliberations by the County Board when it approved its space planning—County Commissioner Peterson requested space-sharing with A2, and Country Administrator Guenzel said it would be included; cites various other counties; it’s not the Commissioners who are giving us any trouble and that’s all I’ll say about that [??]

    JOHNSON: We don’t need THAT much space; I had a chance to read through some of the document during some of the ‘rhetoric’ [EASTHOPE below takes this word hard.]

    SUAREZ: Pattern? Pattern is that supporters of the project have ignored my issue about the civic center and park [I think there was some confusion here about whether he said ‘park’ as in a park, ‘park’ as in a car park, i.e., parking structure, or ‘pork’] and stuck to talking points about police/courts; I was doing requirements gathering when Greden was “pre-pubescent”; metaphor of architecture in website development; civic center and parking garage a part of this? nobody responded to my point; [calls president of Chamber of Commerce Jesse Bernstein to share his perspective]

    JESSE BERNSTEIN: no official position for Chamber; personally — why hasn’t council moved on this BEFORE?? [not what Suarez seemed to expect]

    LOWENSTEIN: we’re not talking about a parking structure, that’s not what we’re discussing it’s not in the plan; civic center? We’ve always talked about providing meeting space, it’s not an art center Rash? What planet are you on?! Spinning a space station on top of a space tower is the only option we haven’t considered. Economy bad? We must show optimism; We must say we’re prepared, We believe in Ann arbor; deplores ad hominem [presumably a reference to Suarez’s comment about Greden]

    WOODS: You don’t put a police department in a basement; in favor of resolution

    EASTHOPE: Re: Kunselman mentioned Wayne county, their district/circuit courts are separate; it’s at the door security that you gain SOME efficiency, but there’s different computer system; everything else is different. Re: Johnson mentions rhetoric? rhetoric?! I don’t know what your question is. Re: Suarez’s issue with civic center need. Suarez didn’t attend all meetings of the committee Suarez was on; People for this tonight have been against other plans, it’s not group think. Rhetoric?? That’s YOU guys, I’m tired of it. If you don’t think I’m transparent then you can elect somebody else.

    HIGGENS: Community meeting space—I don’t know. On police/courts I say yes. I regret that $57M was published; The budget I’ve always heard is mid 30’s and that’s what it’ll be.

    VOTE TO SUSPEND RULES TO ALLOW MORE SPEAKING TURNS [Easthope casts lone No vote]

    SUAREZ: Re: Easthope pointing out Suarez’s absence from some of the courts/police Council committee meetings. I have business from time to time that requires me to be out of town. I was just in New York negotiating with 15,000 record labels. [??]

    JOHNSON: The question is the site plan, and this is for 113,000 square feet. Why so big?

    RAPUNDALO: Where would you cut and why? It’s not even a site plan in the Planning Commission sense of ‘site plan’

    GREDEN: Okay, I’ll break it down. [proceeds to break down square footage assignments]. There’s no pork in there;

    HIGGENS: Um, says here in the resolution, it’s a ‘site plan’; Okay, Fraser, why is this?

    LANGUAGE ADJUSTED TO REFER TO ‘SITE LAYOUT’ or some such.

    HIEFTJE: I was for this plan until 7 months ago; Pfizer left town largest taxpayer; financial reality; requires a perfect scenario, maximum dollar for property sold; not the time to be going out on a limb; don’t need a perfect court facility just an adequate one; county cooperation; point of no return if we go now

    EASTHOPE: Re: Hieftje’s 7 months ago? Where were your no votes for the maintenance facility? Why is the economy an issue for this project but not for the maintenance facility?

    HIEFTJE: At that time Pfizer was still here.

    KUNSELMAN: I support mayor’s comments;

    HIEFTJE: All brought good arguments; not a conspiracy

    HIGGENS: Re: Hieftje’s point-of-no-return. If further economic downturn, then I won’t support it then

    RAPUNDALO: Agrees with Higgens that we’ve not drawn a line here; if conditions change I won’t support it.

    ...

    ...

    PUBLIC COMMENTARY

    Tom Sievers [owner of Tios]: Get it done; don’t do it on the cheap; budget the right amount of money and get it done.

    LuAnne Burlington [ran in Dems primary for 3rd Ward in August, lost to Greden]: This is a time for Hieftje to consider vetoing resolution.


       —HD    Oct. 23 '07 - 02:46AM    #
  5. During public commentary someone presented a letter from Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer, to Tios threatening eminent domain proceedings, sent within the past week or so. Then, during the debate, Council members denied all knowledge of it!

    So, expect the City to try to condemn Tios.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 23 '07 - 01:32PM    #
  6. Very droll, HD! Reads like a Monty Python skit.

    Hieftje: don’t be a fraidycat. Pfizer isn’t sending Ann Arbor down the drain. We still need a decent police & courts building.

    Council: leave Tio’s alone.

    Tom Sievers: kudos for taking a principled position.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Oct. 23 '07 - 02:40PM    #
  7. Thanks for the transcript HD!

    This meeting did seem like a joke. I couldn’t decide if it was hysterically funny or tragically sad. It was sort of shocking at how unformed (and in some cases uninformed) and undecided all the Council members are. It felt as if this was a first reading. I would think at this point people would be pretty set in how they feel about the concept and would have some in-depth knowledge of the process.

    I liked how both Jesse Bernstein and Tim Seaver (not Tom Sievers) said they were tired of hearing about this topic and we needed to just get on with it already. Jesse said he first heard about the need for new facilities in 1969 and Tim said he had been hearing about it for at least 20 years so even if it meant he would lose his store, just build it!

    At one time a year or so ago, I asked the Mayor about Tios, and he said they would always make a space for Tios in the new building because that was what sustained all of them during their late nights at City Hall. I wonder if that would ever actually become a reality?

    My favorite comment of the night was when Lowenstein said (I’m not sure who she was talking to exactly—I thought it was the people who had spoken earlier): I respectfully ask: what planet are you on? Now, my feeling is, if you are going to ask someone what planet they are on, don’t waste your breath asking that question “respectfully.”


       —Juliew    Oct. 23 '07 - 03:38PM    #
  8. Re: Tim Seaver (not Tom Sievers)

    Doh!

    I was unpersuaded by the No voters, because they could not offer a concrete alternative in answer to the question: If you’re against this, then what is it exactly that you’re for? Kunselman came closest to offering something that headed in this direction, by citing remarks of a County Commissioner that are a matter of public record expressing support for county-city space sharing, and by alluding to a possible Council resolution addressing the County Commission on the question of space-sharing. This pretty much died with Kunselman’s speaking turn, however.

    Easthope did address the city-county cooperation gambit by pointing out that the last time the City went to the County with a request for a two-year extension, they responded with the offer of a one-year lease. It’s a fair point that this did not bode well for future City-County cooperation on this particular space. What about since then? Since that time, all the efforts [e.g., those of Hieftje alluded to by Higgens] to create some kind of cooperative effort with the County have been private conversations [I assume] as opposed to communications between bodies of elected officials. So it’s almost impossible to evaluate the merits of the claim that “We’ve tried, and there’s nothing doing,” or the counter claim that “I’ve talked to folks privately and they’re receptive.”

    In the end, everyone agreed on the need for new police facilities and the need to provide court facilities, and there was only one concrete vision of how to meet those needs, one that had a fairly long history of development and study. Under those circumstances, I think it’s hard to vote No.
    The economics of it? Well, it might well be that the civic center module and plenty of other features get trimmed out along the way in order to make fit the budget.

    It’s unfortunate, I think, that Council was not able to achieve a solution to the space needs that had better support than last night’s 7-4 vote. I could have imagined, for example, some of the No votes climbing aboard the train, if they there had been greater clarity on the issue of exactly how much this project is going to cost. I could also have imagined, some of the Yes votes responding to a fairly concretely articulated plan for city-county cooperation.


       —HD    Oct. 23 '07 - 04:48PM    #
  9. The highlights of the night were the Tios owner and the head of the Chambers both chiding the No voters. It really is absurd that prior Councils of the 1980s and 1990s either didn’t address the issue or pushed it into the future by inacation. The folks speaking against the project appear to be the only 4 opposed to it—and they looked foolish on tv. The naysayers again have no plan. It is not acceptable to fail to plan for the future. It is the recent Council that can actually get things done—Wheeler Center, etc. Good job.


       —civic pride    Oct. 23 '07 - 07:10PM    #
  10. I guess I thought it was a good debate on the issue and several council members made good points. Everybody knew how it was going to end up but they gave it their best shot. Greden was a strong advocate for his side along with others but the other side held up their end as well.

    The mayor’s comments were well reasoned and well said. I share his concerns especially in regard to all the efficiency measures the city has made already. Where else will they cut if the financing plan (that no one as ever seen or at least not for this version of the plan) does not work “perfectly?” Last I heard the plan relies on the sale of assets but what will they bring in this market? This was a point Suarez made.

    Anyway, Mr. Pride I disagree, the 4 who spoke against it made solid arguments and I believe there are thousands in this town against it, not just the 4 council members who spoke against it during public comment. As I remember the campaign there will be 2 new council members in Nov. who are opposed to the building. The majority will then be thin indeed, 6 to 5.

    Suarez was a little embarrassed at the Chamber guys comments when he did not say what Suarez expected him to. But again, all and all it was a good airing of the issue and showed a deliberative body doing its work.


       —Dustin    Oct. 23 '07 - 09:19PM    #
  11. Dustin — time is money! Analogy of architecture and web design.


       —Dale    Oct. 24 '07 - 12:57AM    #
  12. No doubt that Suarez provided comic relief… but in a sad and pathetic way. He thought there was a parking garage included in the project even though there wasn’t… he was humiliated when he misquoted the Chamber of Commerce guy… he thinks designing web sites is the same as designing a 100,000 square foot government building… and he was called out for apparently skipping committee meetings.

    Johnson wasn’t much better. He complained about pork, but when the details were explained, didn’t sound like any pork was in there.

    Seems the “no” votes didn’t really know what they were talking about…


       —Bill T.    Oct. 24 '07 - 02:58AM    #
  13. Sorry Bill, but were we watching the same meeting? I thought the mayor made solid, credible points. His caution about the budget is one of the reasons I have always voted for him. This city used to waste money but that has stopped. I agree this is not the time to be taking on a whole new debt load and where is the financing plan for what looks to be a $50 million investment? Has anybody seen it? It does not sound like council has it.

    He also talked about the desire of some on council to provide a state-of-the arts courts and police building when this is the time to opt for “adequate” quarters until the budget picture in Michigan improves and trying again to work this out with the county makes sense, again given the budget climate.

    I agree with HD, if a solid financing plan had been presented they might have picked up a vote or two for this and more support from the residents as well.

    Four speakers, including a member of the DDA came out to speak against it but not one person from the public spoke for it. As it is I have real doubts. If this project were put to the voters, I have no doubt it would fail.


       —LauraB    Oct. 24 '07 - 04:37AM    #
  14. Is there ever a time when it’s popular to build a munincipal building?


       —Sandi    Oct. 24 '07 - 12:17PM    #
  15. Thank you, Sandi.

    You know, I don’t remember hearing about a budget crunch or a ‘bad economy’ when our City talks about things like Parks millages, or when we reject a new large-ish building project. And how about the new library? All of these things are fine, of course, but you can’t ignore fundamental infrastructure.

    We should be embarrassed that we force our civil servants and police officers to work in that rat trap.

    I’m 100% with Greden on this. Shut up and build the thing. I mean, I about fell off my chair when they started talking about leasing. Leasing? Yeah, it makes a TON of sense for a City of 100K+ to throw money into a bottomless pit, never to see the tax $$ again, rather than obtain an asset with said money.

    I mean, do we really need to explain to a bunch of educated people, all of whom are at least in their 30’s, that leasing is for suckers? (suckers meaning: you get the financial shaft) Especially after we spend millions on security retrofits to some crappy leased building.

    Essentially, the naysayers want to kick the can down the road, making the next generation pony up the dough. It isn’t working for GW, and it won’t work for Ann Arbor.


       —todd    Oct. 24 '07 - 12:44PM    #
  16. Todd; In the 80’s and 90’s the city did nothing about infrastructure; they didn’t fix the plumbing or build the maintenance building they needed or have a way to pay for and build the Broadway Bridges. But the current administration has done all of that and none of them should be accused of “pushing the can down the road.”

    With all that done or underway I can appreciate the idea of stepping back for a bit, legitimate questions have been raised, where is the financing plan? Will the city cut services to pay for this if everything does not fall into place. As the Mayor said, where will they cut after they have already gone to great lengths to make the city run more efficiently? The irony will be fewer police on the streets to pay for a fancy police building. Does that make sense?

    People got to VOTE on the Parks Millage. Where is their vote in this even though they are paying for it. If the people of A2 would rather pay for Parks than $500 per sq. foot government buildings, that is their prerogative, that’s how it is supposed to work.

    Sandi: When the Larcom Building was put up there was a community conversation and at the end of it people voted to tax themselves with a millage. This happens across our country. If it is done right, it works and you have a building the community has invested in. With this project, in the midst of a state wide recession and shrinking revenues, there is no solid financing plan in place and we will still be stuck with the Larcom Building and quite possibly, service cuts.


       —LauraB    Oct. 24 '07 - 01:24PM    #
  17. “Todd; In the 80’s and 90’s the city did nothing about infrastructure; they didn’t fix the plumbing or build the maintenance building they needed or have a way to pay for and build the Broadway Bridges. But the current administration has done all of that and none of them should be accused of “pushing the can down the road.””

    I think that I wasn’t clear enough. I wrote that the “naysayers” want to kick the can down the road….I’m fully aware that this current Council has been stuck with the tab for things like previous admin.‘s not building/maintaining things like parking structures, water pipes, storm water systems, etc.

    “ If the people of A2 would rather pay for Parks than $500 per sq. foot government buildings, that is their prerogative, that’s how it is supposed to work.”

    I fully disagree with this statement. OF COURSE Ann Arborites are going to vote for parks, or any other bells and whistles amenities that they either get to enjoy, or improves their property value. Especially w/ Prop A in place.

    I mean, do you really think that a Library millage would fail in Ann Arbor? Not a chance. Suddenly, Ann Arborites would ‘find’ the funds for the largest possible project…..again, that’s all well and good, but we’re talking about essential services here.

    You can’t let citizens vote on whether or not they want to pay for fundamental services and infrastructure.


       —todd    Oct. 24 '07 - 01:54PM    #
  18. In SimCity when I forget to build police stations and plumbing systems no Sims come to live there. But when I save money and don’t buy a ton of parks I still get Sims to live there. Somehow the Sims are content with a few parks. But of course, that’s just a game.


       —abc    Oct. 24 '07 - 02:45PM    #
  19. If the people of A2 would rather pay for Parks than $500 per sq. foot government buildings, that is their prerogative, that’s how it is supposed to work.

    We don’t get multiple choice millage ballots, for better or for worse. So maybe a comparison with the parks millage isn’t useful.

    That said, …

    You can’t let citizens vote on whether or not they want to pay for fundamental services and infrastructure.

    … I don’t see anything to support this conclusion.


       —Steve Bean    Oct. 24 '07 - 03:46PM    #
  20. “… I don’t see anything to support this conclusion.”

    two words – Representative democracy


       —abc    Oct. 24 '07 - 04:35PM    #
  21. “You can’t let citizens vote on whether or not they want to pay for fundamental services and infrastructure.

    … I don’t see anything to support this conclusion.”

    I don’t think that I understand this statement, Steve.

    If I understand you correctly, my question is, if you can vote on whether or not to maintain things like water pipes or stormwater drains, what the heck do you do if the citizens vote “no”?


       —todd    Oct. 24 '07 - 04:47PM    #
  22. Now you’re starting to lay the groundwork for your conclusion. Your previous post didn’t do that or otherwise build a case for it. Maybe you thought that ‘the obvious’ didn’t need to be stated. Regardless, I didn’t see anything in your post to support your conclusion.

    Beyond that, if we “can’t let citizens vote on” this, how can we be trusted to elect the people who we (or you and abc, at least) want to make those decisions for us?


       —Steve Bean    Oct. 25 '07 - 12:05AM    #
  23. Did you notice how todd’s argument has shifted from building a big new city hall to maintaining water pipes and storm drains? Of course citizens (though they are ever so fallible) will vote to maintain basic services. But not all may agree that a new city hall fits that description.

    todd should also note that the current council didn’t get stuck with building parking structures. The DDA has been doing a fine job with that. And why doesn’t he like libraries? Too pointy-headed?


       —anonymous too    Oct. 25 '07 - 01:00AM    #
  24. My argument hasn’t shifted. I was pointing to two additional current infrastructure items that we’ve neglected. We’ve had independent organizations tell us “hey, you need to fix/repair/replace these”, but I’d bet if you put it to a vote, and the costs, as they often do, run into the millions, our citizens would chose to kick the can down the road. Would citizens have voted for higher water rates? I doubt it, but I guess that’s just me. But more to the point, if they would always vote for the infrastructure improvement that independent consultants say we need, then why bring it to a vote at all?

    We’ve also had independent consultants tell us, “hey, this police station is WAY too small, and holy cow, the ceiling is collapsing”...but if you can make it through a tour of our stunning Police Station without saying “my God, I can’t believe you work in these conditions”, you’ve got a lot more gumption than I do. I’m appalled that Ann Arborites would think that these are acceptable conditions for our civil servants, and Police officers who put their lives in danger when they are out keeping us safe.

    When the call came out from the Downtown Library to get a sorely needed facelift/replacement/whatever, Ann Arborites sprang into action. As they should. But I have a difficult time understanding why our court officers and police officers don’t deserve the same respect and finances that our librarians do.

    I love libraries, thank you very much…you’ll see as much when I congratulated David Cahill on his Board’s recent work. I’d vote for a millage myself. Same for Parks Maintenance. My point, which you seem to be dodging, is if we can find the money for park maintenance and libraries, surely we can find the money to pay for an a usable Police Station. That’s what bonds are for.

    “todd should also note that the current council didn’t get stuck with building parking structures.”

    That’s not what I wrote. What I wrote was the current Council “has been stuck with the tab for things like previous admin.‘s not building/maintaining things like parking structures”.

    Things like, oh, the current parking crunch that we’re dealing with, and the oh so lovely RPP band-aid solution that ignores larger transportation issues. Current Council has to put together an overall parking/transportation plan because previous administrations never bothered to worry about things like parking (the DDA shares the blame there).

    But my question is, if we get the heave-ho from our current location in a few short years, and it costs us an additional 5% for every year we stall on putting together the new bulding, what is it that those who don’t want new digs for the Police & Courts want us to do?


       —todd    Oct. 25 '07 - 02:03AM    #
  25. Todd, I’d like you to consider hiring me to write requirements for that new web site you were considering.

    And, I do very much appreciate clients like you, who’ll allow for a variance of 90% out of spec for the actual budget you’ll need to work with what I implement. That kind of flexibility on the part of clients can really help the local consulting business community.

    Thank you and all the other taxpayers who wish to allow for 90% variance on work performed.


       —Ron Suarez    Oct. 25 '07 - 06:40AM    #
  26. Ron,

    Your snotty sarcasm may have been funny to you when you were writing last night at 2:40, but I expect better from my Council representative.

    You should apologize to Todd.

    And here’s a tip; if you must engage in drunken, late night, on-line dickishness then write under a pseudonym. That’s what I do.


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Oct. 25 '07 - 01:10PM    #
  27. Re: [25]

    Ron,

    If you have objections related to the matching of actual budget to what is spent on the project, then spend your time at the Council table tackling exactly that issue, by eliciting clarification for yourself and for citizens about what the actual budget is, and what mechanism will be used to keep the project within that budget.

    You had zero questions for the architect and zero questions for staff. One question you might have asked the architect, given that you had concerns about whether there was really a demonstrable need for civic meeting space, would have been: Can you tell us either in terms of percentage for the project, or in actual dollars, what this stand-alone civic center is going to cost? A follow up to your colleagues could have been: as the project proceeds, are you willing to eliminate the civic center due to cost, or due to a demonstrated lack of need, or both?

    Instead of eliciting information from staff, the architects, or colleagues on Council, you called Chamber President Jesse Bernstein to speak, based presumably on your prior conversations with him. Based on the fact that what he had to say clearly ran 180-degrees counter to your expectation, it doesn’t seem like you were listening all that well during those conversations.

    Apropos of ‘listening’, the 90% figure you’re citing in the comment above is based on a $57M price tag, no? Yet if you were listening Monday, night you heard that number rejected as accurate by everyone who spoke to it.

    Instead of spending your energies asking questions in good faith designed to elicit information, you apparently spent your time at the table trying to think up ‘zingers’. Seriously, Ron, of your many cringe-worthy moments Monday, the worst was the bit about how you’ve been doing needs assessment since Leigh Greden was ‘pre-pubescent’.

    The rest of your energy, you spent trying to establish what a big fricking deal you are. Seriously, Ron, you looked completely and utterly ridiculous when you talked about your ‘real estate magnate’ friend, and when you explained that you had skipped meetings of the building committee you’re supposed to be serving on because you were in New York ‘negotiating with 15,000 record labels’. WOW. 15,000? Really? Woah. Gosh I don’t even know what to say, other than, You must be the Smartest. Guy. on. Council.

    Why is it then, that the smartest guy on Council has the most trouble absorbing the volume of information that Councilmembers have to contend with? I’ve never heard any other Councilmember suggest, as you have, that Council needs a dedicated full time staffer to organize information for them. When you find yourself unprepared because there was too much information, or because you failed to note a scheduling change, your pattern in your first year on Council has been to blame people for being too stupid to use your preferred technology platform and to organize the information in a way you find most tractable.

    Frankly, it appears to me that you simply weren’t prepared for the intensity of the workload. Sure it was short notice for the special meeting, but guess what. Reading 100 pages, and absorbing it in two hours—when it’s material that should in large part already be familiar—is not pure lunacy. For someone who’s done their homework all along, a rigorous two-hour test should not seem all that onerous.

    Sure, it’d be more fun to DJ a dance party than do your homework for Council, but guess what? Council ain’t no fuckin dance party.


       —HD    Oct. 25 '07 - 01:35PM    #
  28. You’re going to have to rainbow curve that comment around me again, Mr. Suarez. That pitch hit the mascot.

    What does the “90% out of spec” refer to, precisely?

    I have to know what the heck you’re talking about before I can feel insulted.


       —todd    Oct. 25 '07 - 01:35PM    #
  29. Larcom building… why is a municipl building named after a so-so newspaper columnist?


       —Cooler Heads    Oct. 25 '07 - 04:09PM    #
  30. Todd – Ron may not get back to this until tomorrow morning. My guess is his “90% out of spec” comment may be properly translated into by-the-light-of-day English to mean the proposed building at $57m is 190% of the budgeted $30m. If I have my numbers straight.

    cooler heads – Guy Larcom was a past city manager. Goeff Larcom (his son) writes for the paper


       —abc    Oct. 25 '07 - 04:44PM    #
  31. Ahhh. How cozy. Larcom to Larcom.


       —Cooler Heads    Oct. 26 '07 - 05:07PM    #
  32. Council member Chris Easthope’s ambition to become a judge is one factor leading to the high emotion of this Council meeting which has not yet been mentioned in public.

    After years of dedicated service, Fifteenth District Judge Ann Mattson is not running for re-election next year. Easthope is running to take her place.

    Easthope has been acknowledged by the AA News as the chief proponent of this courthouse/police building.

    He wants the City to build him a palatial new courthouse at taxpayers’ expense.

    His conflict of interest is plain. I don’t know if he will be disqualified from voting on this project when it next comes before Council, but he certainly should be.

    If he does not vote, then the new Council will be split 5-5, and this boondoggle will die a deserved death.

    Another scoop for Arbor Update. 8-/


       —David Cahill    Oct. 27 '07 - 09:03PM    #
  33. Dave, I don’t understand your position on this. We’ve spent how much money on Libraries in the past few years? And how much will be forthcoming on the new downtown digs?

    First off, why do you have a problem with building new space for the police and the courts? That building is dreadful, and everyone knows it. I don’t understand why you think that it’s ok to build new libraries, and yet it’s not ok to build new courts and police stations.

    The “we’re in a fiscal crisis” crap doesn’t work, because you can’t on one hand blow millions on libraries, and then turn around and claim poverty.

    But…..if we don’t build new buildings, what do you propose we do?

    I’m asking in sincerity because for the life of me, I don’t understand why people can be for a new shiny library (as I am) when there’s no rush to replace the downtown library, but yet here we are with the Larcom situation and the lease expiration, and no one seems to feel like they have to make a decision.

    Despite what Mr. Suarez seems to be laying at my feet, I don’t want to blow billions of dollars on the new Courthouse…..I’d be just fine with it being as “nice” as the new library is on Packard.

    Why is this unreasonable? And if you don’t want new digs, what is the alternative?

    This is confusing.


       —todd    Oct. 27 '07 - 09:20PM    #
  34. Todd, I appreciate your questions and will try for complete answers.

    I oppose a new courts/police building because both functions, courts and police, are providing fewer services and/or have fewer employees than was the case ten years ago.

    According to the City’s own recent space needs study, the Fifteenth District Court had 40 staff people in 1998 and has 41 now. The total number of cases filed was 39,855 in 1998 and was 31,077 in 2006, for a decrease of 22 percent. Civil, criminal, and traffic filings all dropped dramatically.

    The police department has dropped from 246 staff in 1998 to 226 now, a declne of 20 staff positions. The police have been able to continue give us excellent service, despite this decline, partly because of the large drop in Ann Arbor’s crime rate.

    So we have two organizations that are doing less than they have been doing in the past, and yet we have shrill demands for a new building. Why is this?

    One reason for the present lobbying effort is that the district court’s lease in the County Courthouse runs out at the end of 2009. Some are saying that the County will not extend our lease. However, that is not what some County Commissioners are saying. The County has no plans for the space presently occupied by the district court. I have been told that if the City were willing to come up with $100,000+ for remodelling, the County might be willing to let the district court stay. Also, while there has been some discussion between City and County people, the City has not even officially made a proposal that the court’s lease be extended.

    I hope that an agreement can be reached to allow the court to stay. But if not, then the City should rent the needed space for the court. There is certainly plenty of nearby vacant office space.

    Even under the now-obsolete plan for construction of the new building, it would not have been ready for occupancy until April, 2011 – well over a year after the court’s lease expired. So the court will either be staying in its present space beyond the end of 2009 anyway, or the court will be in rented space.

    Another reason for the present lobbying effort is that the police department has seen its chance to put into effect its own wish list, which has been lying around for decades. With fewer staff, these wishes are not crisis needs. But everyone is entitled to take their best hold. 8-)

    I suggest that if more space for the police is really needed, another City department be moved out of City Hall into rented space, and the police department be expanded into the vacated space.

    Also, it is far less costly to do a serious repair and remodeling of the Larcom Building than to pay for a hugely expensive new municipal complex. The current cost to build and equip the new Municipal Center is estimated to be $57 million. Making reasonable financial assumptions, including the cost of interest on a bond issue, the total cost to the taxpayers would be $114 million over 30 years.

    There are other, less inspiring, personal reasons and agendas behind the push for this new building, including:

    1. City Administrator Roger Fraser has always wanted to run his own court.

    2. The circuit judges and the district judges cordially dislike each other. When the district court refused to hire Circuit Judge Tim Connors’ wife as a magistrate, he became so irritated that he committed himself to getting the district court out of the County Courthouse. Chief Circuit Judge Archie Brown made a sneak attack on District Judge Ann Mattson’s courtroom, taking it over while she was on vacation. And District Judge Julie Creal was upset that Circuit Judge Don Shelton did not disqualify himself from her divorce.

    3. Chris Easthope wants to be a judge.

    These adults are acting like children. Such nonsense must stop.

    With regard to the library, the situation is different. The library has been able to build its new branches by staying within its existing millage. We have not had to borrow a dollar or raise taxes. If we decide to ask the public for a new or renovated Downtown Library, we will be intellectually honest and ask for the public for an increase in our millage to pay off a bond issue.

    The City, on the other hand, is trying to scrape up the money to pay for a new Municipal Center without having the public vote on a tax increase, because City Council knows that such a bond issue would fail at the polls. Hence the sliming around on selling parks land, plus the possibility of selling off the proposed Greenway parcels to raise funds.

    I don’t think this effort will work considering the unexpectedly large cost of the proposed Municipal Center.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 28 '07 - 02:58PM    #
  35. Thanks, Dave. That was a big help.

    Well, without getting into the rest of your points, do you know how much we pay per year for the Larcom lease?

    And again…kudos on your library work. New branches without borrowing a single dollar (!). Wow. Good planning.


       —todd    Oct. 28 '07 - 03:39PM    #
  36. The City owns the Larcom Building free and clear, Todd. The public approved a millage to construct it in the 60s, but it was paid off some time ago. Sorry, I don’t know offhand what the City pays to lease its other, non-Larcom space.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 28 '07 - 04:48PM    #
  37. “Sorry, I don’t know offhand what the City pays to lease its other, non-Larcom space.”

    Oops…that’s what I meant. Whatever the other space is called.

    Anyone else know?


       —todd    Oct. 28 '07 - 05:16PM    #
  38. David —

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I appreciate the insight on non-analytical factors, but I am not persuaded by your quantitative metrics. Simply counting heads and numbers of “transactions” is only a proxy to the fundamental question whether the space is adequate for professional courts & police services for a relatively affluent city of our size. It’s hard to answer the current space as the answer to the question “what is the right space for a 226-member police force”?

    Maybe we should be thinking a bit more out the box, though. What would be so terrible about renting or building an office building on the south side? We could retain a branch office downtown, but does the police hq building really need to be smack in the middle of downtown?


       —Fred Zimmerman    Oct. 29 '07 - 05:51PM    #
  39. City leased space
    According to the funding plan prepared when the city was choosing between the Library Lot and Larcom, the annual cost of the leases is as follows:
    City center building 272,000
    District court space at county building 293,000
    Probation office on Huron 55,000

    The city rents about 10,000 square feet on the 6th floor, about 5400 sq feet on the first floor and 1200 sq feet in the basement of city center building. Council resolutions authorizing the leases imply that the rent includes utilities but I have not filed a freedom of information request for the lease to confirm that.

    When the courts lease with the county was extended, the rate was changed to 400,000 per year, which includes all utilities and operating costs.

    According to an analysis prepared by Christman and included in a Quinn Evans report, a 90,000 square foot building will cost $334,609 per year to operate. That cost assumes 35% savings from building an energy efficient building plus 15% maintenance savings. It does not include the cost of court security.

    The proposed police/courts building is about 99,000 sq feet plus 11,000 sq feet of parking. The proposal also adds about 12,000 to the existing Larcom building in phase 1 and another 5,000 sq feet in phase 2. About 10,000 of the 12,000 added in phase 1 is for new council chambers and the winter garden.


       —karen sidney    Oct. 30 '07 - 06:33PM    #
  40. Thanks, Karen.

    So, we’re throwing ~$750K per year in lease costs into an empty pit? Do I have that right?

    Why? Unless some of you can point to some other financial law that I’m missing, there are only two reasons that you lease. One is if you don’t have access to capital for a purchase. And the other is if you only need a building temporarily.

    So, help me understand why, particularly when people say that money is tight, we would waste money on these leases (and I shudder to ask how long we’ve been leasing these spaces)? And upgrading the leased properties makes even less sense, financially.

    I don’t get this at all. We spent money for new buses that we didn’t have to replace, because in the long run it will save money. We spent money on traffic lights that we didn’t have to replace, because in the long run it will save us money. Good stuff, right? Right.

    So why aren’t we using this same logic for the courts and police station? Help me understand this. Yes, I know it’s more than lights and buses, but blowing around $750K a year on NOTHING. Why?

    And to be clear, I’m not quibbling over the size and scope of the design. Make it smaller/less expensive…fine. Set that aside for a moment.

    I’m just asking about the fundamental financial silliness of leasing properties. Spending millions on libraries and greenbelt land has an eye to our future and our kids future….leasing buildings is W Bush financing, sticking the tab to our kids. I don’t want to do that.


       —todd    Oct. 30 '07 - 09:51PM    #
  41. This is absurd. So all this talk about renting space turns out to be a total waste of money. Assuming 400,000 a year for discounted government County space. Wouldn’t the cost be even more if there were a private landlord willing to rent to a court facility. Didn’t the City already look for space? Where is this great space ready to be rented to a Court? The City then pays to retro-fit to current jail and security standards or does a landlord do this for free? So rental costs keep increasing and the City pays over $1,000,000 a year down the tubes. Another 25 years, and the savings can pay for the whole building, or a large part. This must be why the City has been trying to do something about this for some time. And what residents want to continue this waste? Why haven’t these figures been a topic of discussion before. From Mr. Cahil, who actually at the County told you that for 100,000 in fixup costs the City could stay?


       —civic pride    Oct. 31 '07 - 12:23AM    #
  42. Todd you are right when you say one good reason to lease instead of buy is if you don’t have access to capital for a purchase.

    According to the latest estimate, the cost of the project is $57 million. The City doesn’t have anywhere near that amount of cash on hand. One way to get the money is to take all the DDA’s funds and sell parks – and even then the City will still fall short.

    Assuming that the City will have to borrow all but the $8 million it has set aside for the project, then the total cost to the taxpayers will be $114 million, assuming a 30-year bond. With constant payments on the bond, that is $114 million/30 years = $3,800,000.00 per year. Every year for 30 years.

    $3,800,000.00 is more than $3 million in excess of what the City is paying in rent. On a project that is not necessary.

    Where will the extra $3 million per year come from in the City’s budget? Service cuts.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 31 '07 - 05:15PM    #
  43. Todd you are right when you say one good reason to lease instead of buy is if you don’t have access to capital for a purchase.

    According to the latest estimate, the cost of the project is $57 million. The City doesn’t have anywhere near that amount of cash on hand. One way to get the money is to take all the DDA’s funds and sell parks – and even then the City will still fall short.

    Assuming that the City will have to borrow all but the $8 million it has set aside for the project, then the total cost to the taxpayers will be $114 million, assuming a 30-year bond. With constant payments on the bond, that is $114 million/30 years = $3,800,000.00 per year. Every year for 30 years.

    $3,800,000.00 is more than $3 million in excess of what the City is paying in rent. On a project that is not necessary.

    Where will the extra $3 million per year come from in the City’s budget? Service cuts. Or a tax increase.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 31 '07 - 05:16PM    #
  44. But Dave, they said it wasn’t anywhere near that figure.

    But, again, set that aside for just a moment, please.

    It is a colossal waste of money to throw ~$750K per year into a trash can, when you can simply pony up for the bonds, and own the asset free and clear in 30 years. You know it. I know it. The fans know it.

    The problem is, no one bothered to take accountability for these lease costs. A healthy municipality shouldn’t lease. We’ll never see that $750K per year again. It’s gone, and we have nothing to show for it, except a big fat bill for our children because we were either too stupid or too selfish to pay for the buildings ourselves.

    For those watching at home, $750K per year buys around $10,000,000 worth of building at 30 yr., Prime. And as it stands right now, the City of Ann Arbor is taking that pile of cash, and sticking it in a bonfire.

    Smart.


       —todd    Oct. 31 '07 - 10:43PM    #
  45. These figures are foolish. Rent is not fixed and will not be 750K for the next 30 years. It will not even be 750K for even another year. Rent could be 1 or 2 million a year shortly. 20 or 30 years, who knows. Todd is right. Paying 30 to 60 or 90 million in rent over 30 years makes no sense. Then after 30 years, the City keeps paying rent at what 4million a year? Nor is the City talking 57 million because the City says it will use money that it has saved. Use some DDA money. Bond the rest and own the building.


       —civic pride    Oct. 31 '07 - 11:27PM    #
  46. “These figures are foolish. Rent is not fixed and will not be 750K for the next 30 years.”

    I simplified the math to make a simplified point for the mathematically challenged (i.e., people like me).


       —todd    Oct. 31 '07 - 11:31PM    #
  47. Todd, I was referring to post 44. I agree with you. I hope there can be an honest discussion about what the numbers actually are. I thought the building would be about 35M. Why does it have to be 57M.


       —civic pride    Nov. 1 '07 - 12:53AM    #
  48. Todd, there’s another possible reason for a local government to lease space: when the cost of the lease is enormously less than the cost of buying or building.

    That’s not the case in Ann Arbor today, but it has happened.

    Not so very long ago, space on the second and third floors of storefront buildings in most Midwestern towns was regarded as so unappealing that the space usually sat vacant or was used only for storage. Some years back, another Michigan county government moved a department into very attractive space above the stores across from the courthouse. The space had gone begging, and the rent was astoundingly low. The county, officially, called it “temporary space” — but signed a long term lease.

    Eventually that county did build an office building nearby, on land it already owned, but I’m sure the newly built space was much more expensive (considering all life cycle costs) than those low-rent upstairs offices.

    The only real problem was ADA compliance — which is another story entirely.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 1 '07 - 12:55AM    #
  49. Last year, the City was thinking of building a similar project on the Library Lot. At that time the cost was about $26 million. The City staff thought it could afford this, taking $5 million from the DDA, selling some land, and using the money that it would save from the leases to pay off bonds for the balance of the cost. That would have meant no service cuts or tax increases.

    This year, the cost first rose to $34 million. Then, the latest estimate increased to $57 million. (All figures exclude the cost of financing.)

    Yes, it would be nice to have an honest discussion about the figures. Unfortunately, this thing is a moving target.

    When you don’t have the money to buy (which the City doesn’t), you should continue to rent. That’s the brutal reality.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 1 '07 - 01:27PM    #
  50. When you don’t have the money to buy (which the City doesn’t), you should continue to rent.

    I don’t see anything to support this conclusion. (Sound familiar, Todd? ;-) )

    Todd made a pretty strong case why the opposite is true, David. Would you explain the basis of your disagreement?


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 1 '07 - 02:10PM    #
  51. It’s straightforward. If all the City wanted to do was pay for the bonds through rent savings, I doubt if that many people would care. This is the same as a renter buying a house with his/her mortgage payments equalling the rent payments.

    But this proposed project has ballooned far beyond the original estimate. The mortgage payments (bond payments) are $3 million more than the rent the City pays. There is no way that the City can pay for the current version without either service cuts or a tax increase. I oppose either option, since the project itself is unnecessary. For the public sector, in the middle of Michigan’s depression, “adequate” facilities will do, as Mayor Hieftje pointed out.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 1 '07 - 03:15PM    #
  52. “Yes, it would be nice to have an honest discussion about the figures. Unfortunately, this thing is a moving target.”

    I think you’d find agreement, even among supporters of this project, that it’s a moving target.

    If the intention is to use proceeds from fixed assets to invest in other fixed assets (i.e., land sales to pay for a building), then it’s impossible to know for fact certain that those proceeds are available until the property is sold.

    If the intention is to rely on financial support from the DDA for part of the project, it’s impossible to factor that support in for fact certain, until the DDA actually puts the money on the table.

    And finally, it’s impossible to know how much the project will cost for fact certain, until construction bids come in.

    In this context, I think it makes the most sense to try to understand the territory between the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario, not to argue based on assumptions of either extreme.

    So, for example, given that $45M is the number that project supporters want to talk about as the cost, I’d like to see the lease-versus-build analysis carried out under various scenarios for land-sale proceeds and DDA participation.

    Specifically, let’s write an appropriate equation for yearly bond payments using constants $45M for cost and $8M cash on hand (cf. [43] above), and two variables, letting the x-axis be DDA participation level, and the y-axis be the proceeds from land sales. Plot the yearly bond payments as the z-axis.

    Can someone do that, please? Surely there’s an AU reader out there who do that sort of thing in their sleep.

    The plot of that surface would, I think, inform the lease-versus-buy discussion better than worst- and best-case scenario arguments.


       —HD    Nov. 1 '07 - 04:04PM    #
  53. “For the public sector, in the middle of Michigan’s depression, “adequate” facilities will do, as Mayor Hieftje pointed out.”

    This is a nice bit of BS (not from you, Dave). LED lights are not “adequate”. Hybrid buses are not “adequate”. We’ve got bells and whistles coming out of our you know where.

    But hey, your suggestion works for me, Dave. Let’s put in a $10,000,000 modular facility that we can add to over time….and ditch these stupid leases, and start building. I’d prefer the $33 million dollar plan, but my biggest concern is the $750K we’re flushing down the toilet.

    And Dave, you can call my cynical, but I don’t think that the cost is the issue. It’s the fact that you can’t walk your dog in a courthouse that’s irking people, if you get my drift.

    Thanks for the history lesson, Larry. You need to write a book on the history of Mich. politics. Seriously.

    Steve B.: Merd! I forgot to answer you question about an example of why you shouldn’t be able to vote for infrastructure. I’ll give you three. One is the RPP system, where homeowners put their needs in front of overall infrastructure needs (parking structures/mass transit stops/etc.).

    Then there’s the two groups, one homeowners, the other a golf course, who don’t want to have to have sidewalks. You can’t let them do that.

    Oh, and yes, none of those went to a vote…but if they did…..


       —todd    Nov. 1 '07 - 04:40PM    #
  54. “Can someone do that, please? Surely there’s an AU reader out there who do that sort of thing in their sleep.”

    Bruce Fields. Although he has to have the time to do it.


       —todd    Nov. 1 '07 - 04:41PM    #
  55. Alas, a background in commutative algebra is more-or-less worthless when it comes to understanding finances. (Take it from someone who’s been renting in Ann Arbor for, um, over 13 years now.)

    Set me up some weekend at Leopold’s with an unlimited supply of beer and accounting textbooks. By the end of it I’ll be willing to post all manner of interesting stuff.


       —Bruce Fields    Nov. 1 '07 - 04:49PM    #
  56. “Set me up some weekend at Leopold’s with an unlimited supply of beer and accounting textbooks. By the end of it I’ll be willing to post all manner of interesting stuff.”

    If you throw in colored graphs and piecharts, you’ve got yourself a deal. None of that stupid Powerpoint crap, though. Carousel slides, please.


       —todd    Nov. 1 '07 - 04:56PM    #
  57. It’s straightforward. If all the City wanted to do was pay for the bonds through rent savings, I doubt if that many people would care. This is the same as a renter buying a house with his/her mortgage payments equalling the rent payments.

    Yes, that’s straightforward, David, as far as it goes. However, it stops short of explaining why the City should continue to rent rather than buy. You seem to be saying that borrowing is out of the question regardless of the amount.

    But this proposed project has ballooned far beyond the original estimate. The mortgage payments (bond payments) are $3 million more than the rent the City pays. There is no way that the City can pay for the current version without either service cuts or a tax increase. I oppose either option, since the project itself is unnecessary. For the public sector, in the middle of Michigan’s depression, “adequate” facilities will do, as Mayor Hieftje pointed out.

    If I understand this correctly, what you’re really arguing is not that the City shouldn’t buy because it can’t afford to, but rather that it shouldn’t buy because the long-term cost would be simply much higher than the rent would be (something like $100 million compared to something like $20 million over 30 years.)

    In any case, you’ve set it up as a choice between two less-than-favorable options, one being the status quo (which has a familiar feel.) Would you favor a third alternative that eliminated the need for the current leased space, perhaps by just expanding the Larcom building enough to do so? (You almost got there in post #34 before shifting to gossip about various power plays.)

    On second thought, I’ll make that a question for others. What do you all think?


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 1 '07 - 05:21PM    #
  58. Todd, I wasn’t asking for examples (least of all hypothetical ones), but reasons. Otherwise I’d have to waste time thinking of counter-examples. :-/

    And I’m not sure if you’re assuming that the voting would be limited to just the groups you mentioned. I think those (and the others mentioned earlier) are issues that the whole community (i.e., registered City voters) would vote on.

    I believe in the potential of democracy. That it’s currently flawed in its implementation isn’t sufficient reason to move away from it, it’s just a reason to fix it.


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 1 '07 - 05:35PM    #
  59. Here’s what we don’t need: A brand new building that gets cut back, cut back some more, then cut back some more so that what we have on move-in day is inadequate already. Just build the damn thing, and build it bigger than you think we can afford. Build it with maximum flexibility so it can be used/configured in many different ways as services change. I am willing to pay more in taxes for it. 50 million? Make it 80 million if that is what would really make it a great facility.


       —Rober Moses    Nov. 1 '07 - 06:06PM    #
  60. The video of this special Council meeting is now posted. The comments really start to heat up about 1:40 into the video. Jesse Bernstein comes in at about 1:45 and Joan Lowenstein’s planet comment is at 1:48. There are some good zingers throughout though.


       —Juliew    Nov. 2 '07 - 09:24PM    #
  61. Here are incoming Council member Sabra Briere’s comments on this issue from Arblogger.com.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 3 '07 - 12:37PM    #
  62. Interesting to read these comments. The police problems have been well known to anyone paying the slightest attention over the past 15 years. The prior police chiefs all raised the issue quite publicly. These concerns have fallen on deaf Council ears in the past. Read Jesse Bernstein’s column in the Ann Arbor Business Review: “When I worked for the County’s Emergency Mental Health Service in the early 70’s less than ten years after the building was completed, the police area was inadequate. So the first question is: Why do the citizens of Ann Arbor not have the will to provide an adequate facility for the Ann Arbor Police Department.” The answer to this is that Council hasn’t paid attention to the needs of the City in the past. For the last 5 or 6 years the Council has really worked to get this matter done (and other large facilities issues), only to be slowed by people who would rather push the decision to Councils in the future. It might help for the Council to actually ask people involved in the Courts and the business of the police whether these facilities are adequate. The decision to not do anything is a real lack of leadership. As Bernstein states: “We must stop this game of blocking every effort to correct this problem.”


       —police supporter    Nov. 3 '07 - 02:55PM    #
  63. Political junkies should be watching the Second Ward, where Ed Amonsen is waging a write-in campaign against Stephen Rapundalo. According to his campaign finance reports, Amonsen has spent $6,042.67 so far. Rapundalo reports contributions of $1000.00.

    The big issue in the race is the threatened sale of parkland to pay for a new police/courts building. Write-in campaigns almost never win, but this one could be a surprise.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 3 '07 - 04:20PM    #
  64. Why is that an issue, when the parkland won’t be sold?

    Anyway, I still want to understand why leasing space is the right way to go.

    Let’s say the new building will last 75 years.

    Post 43 says 57 million over 30 years is 3.8Million per year. I don’t know if this is correct at all. But assuming the City needs to bond half of this figure, say 28Million and that amounts to 1.5Million/year payment for 30 years and 0 payment for the 45 years after this.

    The City is already paying over 750,000K per year.
    Assuming the City will soon have to pay over 1million per year after it leaves the County Court building and this amount increases each year (or every 5 years).
    Rent from years 30 to 75 will be substantially more than 0 per year, which is the bond cost during that time.

    Isn’t it likely that the total amount of lease payments over 75 years is likely to be well over 100 million dollars, maybe over 200 or 300 million dollars.

    How is this a better deal? Very quickly (say 10 years)the cost of renting and bond cost are equal. And the bond cost is fixed, leasing costs are not.

    Even if a long lasting building cost 50 million to build, wouldn’t this still be the smartest thing in the long run?

    Could someone with better economics skills explain this?


       —civic pride    Nov. 3 '07 - 05:06PM    #
  65. The resolution on the sale of parks Rapundalo sponsored is non-binding, so the pro-build caucus can simply repeal it and go on to do what they want. They simply ignored their earlier resolution on the parks millage, after all.

    My figures were based on the $57 million figure, and assumed the City had to bond for $49 million for 30 years. Interest on this amount increases the total amount of the bond payments to $114 million. That is the amount to focus on. These figures result in $3.8 million every year for 30 years.

    The useful life of this project may only be 30 years. The pro-build caucus says the useful life of the Larcom Building, which was constructed in the 60s, turned out to be only 30 years, after all.

    So after 30 years of large bond payments for the new building, the City might wind up with nothing but a pocket full of mumbles: a building that will have to be replaced again.

    Leasing is looking better and better to me.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 3 '07 - 05:44PM    #
  66. Mr. Cahill, what is the total projected cost of leasing for the next 30 years and the next 75 years/per year? For 200 or 300 million dollars over the next 75 years in lease payments, I think the City could do much better.

    Why not build a building that actually lasts a long time? This is clearly possible.

    Have the architects said it will only last 30 years? What makes you believe it will only last 30 years?

    If the Larcom building only lasted 30 years, then why not replace it now? Maybe the City did spend the money when it should have.

    If leasing is such a good idea, why not just sell the Larcom building and lease all space all the time? No municipalities do that. I wonder why?


       —civic pride    Nov. 3 '07 - 05:55PM    #
  67. Wait, buildings have to be replaced? This is unbelievable!


       —Dale    Nov. 3 '07 - 06:02PM    #
  68. The current County courthouse is 50 or 60 years old and they plan to keep using it for an indefinite period of time.

    So why isn’t the 75 to 100 year figure reasonable for a City Courthouse?

    Why does Mr. Cahill believe the new building will fall apart in 30 years? Has he gotten that information from the County, just like his assertion that the City could stay in the County for an extra 100K. I assume this is just made up.

    I’m very interested in actually finding an accurate answer to these issues?

    My question again, what is your projected lease payments for at least 75 years?

    Wouldn’t building cost less than leasing over such a period?

    Even over 30 years, building seems less expensive.


       —civic pride    Nov. 3 '07 - 06:33PM    #
  69. The $100K figure came from a County Commissioner. S/he asked that his/her name not be used.

    My guess about the new building possibly falling apart is based on the pro-build caucus’ belief that the Larcom Building’s life has slipped peacefully to its close.

    Plus, the City’s architects are now in the process of “value engineering” this project to bring the cost down. Typically this process means using cheaper materials, which may reduce the project’s life. Personally, I think the Larcom Building could be repaired, which would be a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing it.

    I don’t know what assumptions should be made in projecting lease figures far into the future. Maybe someone else does.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 3 '07 - 06:45PM    #
  70. Why not just find out from the architect what the projected life of the new building is?

    If it is 75 years, does that change your mind?

    45 years of no lease payments?


       —civic pride    Nov. 3 '07 - 06:53PM    #
  71. Perhaps Mr. Cahill’s continued opposition to a new Police and Court building is not merely on financial grounds, but because of a bias against any action that might strengthen the police and the courts over what he deems as personally acceptable. Would his opposition be as strong if the proposed building were for any other purpose other than police and courts? After all, if his other goal of working against mitigation of rising residential housing prices within the city limits is successful, then surely the subsequent rise in socioeconomic status of city residents will result in a fall in criminal activity, and thus, a reduced need of city police and court services. By passing this problem to the surrounding townships, it is no longer Mr. Cahill’s concern.


       —jcp2    Nov. 4 '07 - 01:17AM    #
  72. Yes, I would oppose any building which is so costly and which is supposed to house organizations with dropping loads.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 4 '07 - 02:30PM    #
  73. Extension of that line of reasoning further could lead to advocating for growth of the University Hospital System, increased services for low-income and no-income individuals, more funding for the County Road Commission, and for shrinkage of public schools, parks, and libraries.


       —jcp2    Nov. 4 '07 - 04:58PM    #
  74. Thanking Mr. Cahill regarding breaking the news of the Julie Creal/Danny Goodridge divorce case; does anyone know the current status of that divorce. Have they reconciled or is it an ongoing “Clash of the Titans”? I am still hearing the Timothy Connors/Susan Connors divorce of 1995 still being talked about. Who needs the “Wars of the Roses” or “Kramer vs. Kramer” films when the local judiciary provides such entertainment.


       —OWBanker    Feb. 15 '08 - 07:44AM    #