Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Public Forum: Proposed Court-Police Facility

28. April 2008 • Juliew
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Southwest corner of the proposed court-police facilty at Fifth Avenue and Huron Street

Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 6:30pm – 8pm
City Hall, second floor City Council Chambers

Project architects and designers will review the revised design, discuss the project status, and answer questions.

For more information, see the project update page.

  1. I just as soon not waste the project architects’ time at the meeting with the following question about the guy under the tree standing facing 5th St. reading a newspaper, and the other guy who appears to be pulling a little wagon.

    Instead I’ll waste the time of the AU readership.

    Question: I understand that such renderings of buildings are facilitated by AutoCad and SketchUp style software, but do such packages include a drop-down menu with options like ‘populate w/peds’ which then shoots you to a gallery of possible images to choose from? In which case, what’s the range of choices? Or do they have to be drawn in by hand?

       —HD    Apr. 28 '08 - 03:48PM    #
  2. In Sketchup there’s a pallette of people, from kids to couples with dogs, to insert very easily. AutoCAD I think not, but anything imported into Photoshop can have stock figures cut and pasted easily.

       —Dale    Apr. 29 '08 - 03:44PM    #
  3. I’m happy to see the project cost coming down somewhat…does anyone know ahead of time (w/out attending the meeting, that is) what advantages the building has being built on the Larcom site, rather than on the earlier-proposed site on S. Fifth?

    I was also wondering whether this location has advantages over the Y location, now that that site seems up-for-grabs.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 30 '08 - 07:15PM    #
  4. I’m not sure if these are the official reasons or not, but I see 3 reasons to put it near Larcom:

    1. It keeps city services all close together rather than spreading them out throughout the downtown;

    2. It keeps the Y location (and library lot) open for projects that would contribute more to the vitality of downtown life;

    3. The project is controversial enough, to add in the questions of downtown feel and the lost units of affordable housing would just compound the controversy.

    Just as an aside, I really wish the city would set up an RSS feed for their announcements, city council packets, and such. It would make it much easier to stay in the loop about what’s going on.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Apr. 30 '08 - 10:46PM    #
  5. Yeah, I can see that—the mayor once vaguely mentioned the idea that the city hall site could be developed as condos, which wouldn’t be bad, but considering that condo developers are already starting to convert their units back to student apartments (4 Eleven, and the proposed one going up next to it) expecting that the city hall site would actually get developed is maybe a little optimistic? And who wants even more student apartment housing? I also personally think that a convention center would work better on the S. Fifth site(s). City hall workers are already a captive audience for downtown business ;) so nothing gained by relocating them. And then where would a convention center go? The city hall site would be terrible for that, and that leaves the Brown block which I would not want to see developed into a convention center.

    If anyone attends the meeting tonight (that is happening right now), I’d be interested to hear a brief report, thanks. I’m probably not the only one.

       —Young Urban Amateur    May. 1 '08 - 03:19AM    #
  6. I was at the meeting and the Ann Arbor News had a good write-up here. I think the building is OK visually, although the materials look kind of cheap and it is hard to see how it will relate to other buildings around it. I think there is a tension between wanting it to be a cheap, efficient, monumental, useful, and attractive building. The architects have done what they can given the constraints.

    The North side (Ann Street) of the project was somewhat controversial. The people on that side were upset that it seems to be the “back” of the building with few windows and less landscaping than the rain gardens on the South side. However, I’m not sure having an office building with a lot of windows looking onto a residential area is a great thing either. Some of the design decisions had not been made (color of the masonry/metal materials/etc.) so it will be interesting to see if any of the exterior changes.

    The “green” aspects were pretty impressive. They have thought a lot about the issues. I would hope if it is built that it does actually make LEEDs gold status.

       —Juliew    May. 2 '08 - 07:17AM    #
  7. Sorry, Mark, but I wasn’t at the meeting. Also, I assume you meant Ron Suarez.

    The materials distributed by the City at the April 30 public forum on the courts/police facility say that the planning for this project began in June, 2004. They also include the statement that: “To date the City has made many cost reductions without materially reducing services.” The money not spent has wound up in the various pots of money that the City wants to use for the project.

    Here is the beginning of a list of service cuts within the past few years that are apparently not considered “material”:

    Project Grow eliminated (Fiscal Year Ending 2008)

    Adaptive Recreation, a program adapted to people with special needs or limitations, eliminated (FYE 2008)

    Cobblestone Farm day camp eliminated

    Pickup of appliances or other large objects eliminated

    Tot swim program cut from two locations to one

    Garlic mustard removal in parks, and other normal maintenance in parks, shifted to neighborhood organizations

    Use of ordinary containers for compostables eliminated (FYE 2008)

    Animal control officers eliminated

    Park rangers eliminated

    13 full-time equivalent civilian positions in the Police Department abolished (FYE 2008)

    Replacement of defective sidewalk slabs shifted onto homeowners

    Staff for effective snow plowing no longer provided

    I would appreciate any additions or corrections to this list. If the project is built, we can expect many more service cuts that are supposedly not “material” in the future.

       —David Cahill    May. 4 '08 - 04:41AM    #
  8. Project Grow eliminated (Fiscal Year Ending 2008)

    This one, at least, seems to require some clarification, David, given that “Project Grow is a private, non-profit organization….”, according to their web site.

    Replacement of defective sidewalk slabs shifted onto homeowners

    Are you saying that the city used to pay the cost of such replacement?

       —Steve Bean    May. 4 '08 - 09:15PM    #
  9. What is Cobblestone Farm day camp?

       —Kerry D.    May. 5 '08 - 05:35AM    #
  10. You’re right that some stuff on that list could be clearer. What I meant on Project Grow, is that City funding was eliminated.

    And yes, I believe the City used to pay the cost of sidewalk slab replacement before it began the bizarre current program of having interns walk around looking for defects, requiring homeowners to find their own contractors and pay them, and then having the work judged by City inspectors. My belief may be just an urban myth. If anyone here was required to pay for his/her sidewalk repairs longer than five years aog, please speak up!

    Oh, how could I forget:

    Holiday tree pickups reduced from two to one

       —David Cahill    May. 5 '08 - 04:29PM    #
  11. David, I think saying that the city has made many of these cuts in order to fund the Courts-Police facility is greatly exaggerated.

    We have owned our house for twelve years and the city has not paid for sidewalk repairs during that time. The Project Grow support was only about $7000 and there is some discussion as to if they even wanted the funds from the city. I imagine most of the other points could also be interpreted in many different ways. Take the reduction in the Police Force: if (as is pretty generally acknowledged) we don’t provide a decent place to house the regular police staff, we can’t exactly get all annoyed when civilian positions are eliminated. The compostable container change is a reasonable upgrade which will help some of the staff physically, keep areas looking nicer, and I’ve talked to a lot of my neighbors and they are for it (as am I). I spent much of yesterday morning pulling garlic mustard in a neighbor’s yard, it would be fiscally foolish to try to do this with anything but volunteer labor and less effective since a staff person would only be able to do it every so often and teaching people who use the parks on a regular basis to recognize it and pull it whenever they see it makes much more sense.

    As a City, we have been talking about a new Courts-Police facility for twenty years. Obviously doing nothing isn’t working. We have spent millions on this proposal and that proposal. There will never be a perfect time or a perfect proposal. This seems to be a pretty good proposal at a pretty good time. I think we need to get on with it. At least it will give people something concrete to complain about for the next forty years.

       —Juliew    May. 6 '08 - 06:13AM    #
  12. “The Project Grow support was only about $7000 and there is some discussion as to if they even wanted the funds from the city.”

    Oh please. What nonprofit wants to turn away support from the city? Apparently Margie Teall had a conversation with someone who said “they were okay with that”. This was brought up tonight when I spoke on behalf of continuing support for Project Grow. I actually spoke with the ED and heard that $7000 was 20% of their budget. They have two part-time staff who spend most of their time administering and maintaining the gardens. This just means more fundraising for them. The fees from their garden plots are on a sliding scale so that they are affordable to everyone.

    What kind of city can spend millions on many projects (not just city hall) and can’t afford “only $7000” to support a food security issue like allowing people to have community garden space? It is an environmental and social equity issue. Community gardens are the way that people without property, the money to join a CSA, and of lower income can provide fresh vegetables for their own tables.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 6 '08 - 07:27AM    #
  13. Oh please. What nonprofit wants to turn away support from the city?

    If the money comes with too many strings and too much hassle and is up for a vote every year, yes, it might not be worth it. It sounded like there was quite a bit of interest in adding that money back into the budget and if Project Grow could make the case (not someone speaking on behalf of Project Grow, but someone at the organization itself), I think that money would be added in. This budget cut was discussed in a post I made here on AU in 2005. Did Project Grow make the case with the City to keep the money at that time or since then?

       —Juliew    May. 6 '08 - 04:20PM    #
  14. Leslie Science Center funding reduced; management outsourced to a private nonprofit.

       —David Cahill    May. 6 '08 - 05:21PM    #
  15. The point I think David Cahill is trying to make with his list ignores the fact that every single city in Michigan has had to economize in the worst economy in decades. A2 seems to be weathering the storm way, way better than others.

    Using David Cahill’s standards it would be impossible for government to become more efficient. With 85% of their operating funds going to staff costs the only way to become more efficient is to have fewer staff. I applaud reduction of the government paying for things that the private sector can provide. The plan for the Science Center is an excellent example of government/non-profit innovation.

    Look at what the city has done in the middle of the state’s budget crunch… With 200 fewer staff they have the money to pay for long neglected capitol improvements. Don’t we now have a new Broadway Bridge, a new maintenance facility that makes room for a new Greenway (Yea!) and now a funded plan for a new police station plus court house that has been needed for 20 years?

    Back in the 90’s in this town, with the money flowing, nothing was done, this has changed for the better.

    Raising funds for capitol projects is usually not the problem for large institutions, failing to make cuts in the recurring budget to stay balanced is much more dangerous as is failing behind on infrastructure replacement and updating. It would be a huge mistake to use the capitol they have saved for the new building, on everyday operating expenses.

    I also note that David has himself made a point of saying that with a declining crime rate, why do we need better space for judges and police? Now he laments having 13 fewer civilian employees in the police dept? Why would the city need them with an ever falling crime rate?

    There is an answer for just about everything on his list, going to carts for compostables is a good idea, the whole council voted for it. The city never paid for sidewalk slabs in the past and why would I want to pay for all the slabs some slum landlord as been neglecting for years?

    Same goes for large appliances and oh, by the way, the city of Ann Arbor has never, ever had a reputation for being good at snow removal. There was no service cut-back. Anyway, this was the winter with the most snow in history! Who thinks the city should carry more employees just to be ready for a freak winter? We all survived, it was winter, it snowed a lot, get over it.

    And finally, does David disagree with his wife who has called for a whole new city hall? Would he make the same arguments against it?

    The county wants the city out of their court house, they have their own plans, the police need a new headquarters. I agree with Julie, this building has been needed and talked about for years. Millions have already been spent, let’s go forward and finish the job so the city can stop paying $700,000 + a year in rent for the next 50 years. Why shouldn’t the city have a facility for the police and courts that we can all be proud of?

       —LauraB    May. 6 '08 - 07:20PM    #
  16. Laura, the City government is being deliberately “hollowed out” in order to pay for this project. There has been no money for anything for the past several years, except to build up savings for this project.

    If you cut out recreation for the handicapped, cut funding for Project Grow, and build a big building, that is one set of priorities.

    Such a set is not mine. Instead, it sounds like priorities that Republicans would set.

    With regard to snow removal, AA has set a policy of not plowing until 4 inches of snow has fallen. Surrounding units of government don’t have such a policy. On a typical snowy days, AA’s streets are covered, while Ypsi’s streets are plowed down to the pavement.

    Also, this project will not result in a new City Hall. In fact, this project will not even fix its leaking roofs!

       —David Cahill    May. 7 '08 - 12:23AM    #
  17. Why not turn the new city/court into one gigantic chicken house to feed Ann arbor residents eggs!
    What a waste of council time even talking about an ordinance like this. Goofy

       —Sherry    May. 7 '08 - 05:54AM    #
  18. What a waste of council time even talking about an ordinance like this. Goofy

    True, they should have just passed the ordinance without all this discussion. If my neighbor can have dogs, or parrots, or rabbits, or children, no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to have chickens, which are actually useful.

       —Juliew    May. 7 '08 - 06:38AM    #
  19. David: I am sorry but again, you miss the point. The state has cut way back on the funds they used to share with cities and all cites have reacted, most not nearly as well as A2. As I said, in #16, A2 seems to be doing well despite this and they have even been replacing worn out infrastructure. The efficiencies they have created are exactly what city government needed.

    “Hollowed out” is a totally false claim. The city has been expanding programs, maybe not the ones you like, if some were cut it was probably for a good reason. Look at the $100’s of thousands they are putting into the mayor’s public art program, all the money they are putting into energy efficiency and renewable energy.

    And guess what, human service funding from the general fund has not been cut over these years and they are expanding it by something like $300,000 this year.

    You again fail to face up to the core issues of the courts/police building.

    Did you not see the recent news article about the letter from the County Administrator? The city has to move out of the county court house because the county has their own plan for the building. The county has been saying this for a couple of years now.

    And please, don’t say a few County Commissioners are willing to talk about it. Of course they are, what politician would ever say they won’t talk about something?

    And please, don’t say they city should ask voters first. Why? The city does not need a millage for this just as they did not need a vote before they sold bonds to pay for the Broadway Bridges. They sold bonds like $25 million when they built the maintenance center and no one said a word and I heard that everyone on council recently voted for $60 million in bonds for sewer and water improvements. Why don’t you say that should have gone to the voters?

    Everybody on council seems to agree a new police station is called for and not building means the city is doomed to pay over $700,000 in rent each year and the police would be trapped in temporary quarters for another three decades.

    As for snow: A2 has never had a reputation for being great at snow clean-up so there was no service cut back. They also use way less salt than most towns to protect the river. Besides, this winter had the most snow in history and other cities (Grand Rapids for one) have the 4 inch rule. Do you really think the city should carry extra staff to be ready in a freak winter after all the mild winters in a row?

    It was a tough winter, it snowed, get over it.

       —LauraB    May. 8 '08 - 02:25AM    #
  20. Laura, apparently you did not read the entire letter from the County Administrator. He said there was no clear consensus on the Board of Commissioners (which, he said, makes the decision) on what to do.

    Also, you have failed to separate the issue of the police station (which could be remodeled for less than $5 million) from the present plan for a giant courts building at a cost of $47 million (plus the cost of financing). The court caseload is steady. There is no need for a steel-clad court building.

    Whether or not a particular bond issue goes to the voters is up to the voters. Most bond issues are uncontroversial. The one to finance the gold-plated court building plainly is not, or there would not be petitioners going door-to-door to force a vote.

    As to the snow, if the City were not hell-bent on building this stupid project, there would be plenty of money to (gasp) add staff to handle hard winters.

    But service to citizens is not the priority, is it?

       —David Cahill    May. 8 '08 - 04:49PM    #
  21. “The one to finance the gold-plated court building plainly is not, or there would not be petitioners going door-to-door to force a vote.”

    But the relevant measure of whether it’s controversial is the number of signatures collected in the end.

    I’m guessing that the initiative will fall short of the standard, even with positions for petition circulators advertised in last Sunday’s A2 News Bulletin Board (compensation of $1.50 per valid signature) ... and even with AVF canvassing large-crowd events like the recent Huron River Watershed Council rain barrel drop off.

    But I would think that AVF could collect signatures numbering in the few thousands at least.

    A question for AVF: if AVF doesn’t collect enough signatures to make it worth submitting them for validation then how will AVF officially assess whether a signature is valid for payment purposes? I suppose if it were me, I’d just eyeball it and say, Okay here’s your cash, Mr. Petition Circulator. By the premise of the scenario, it’s not like there’s huge potential for petition circulators to defraud AVF.

    A different question: Suppose there’s 11,000 sigs collected—so just a bit over the number required. Then both sides will want each sig to be scrutinized super-carefully. What public servant gets that fun job? And what sort of technology is used? And what is the standard? I mean, verifying that a particular name and a particular address is a registered City voter is a fairly objective assessment. But what about the sig itself? Can the person who’s validating say, “Hey, I know Fred, and that’s not the way Fred signs his name, so I’m going to call Fred up and check with him”?

       —HD    May. 8 '08 - 05:32PM    #
  22. Re: snowplowing

    I think it’s almost uncontroversial that Ypsilanti does a better job of clearing snow than Ann Arbor.

    This past winter I had occasion to bicycle Packard St. from downtown Ann Arbor to the water tower in Ypsilanti. I set off in the morning, after a significant accumulation of snow had fallen overnight. There was a point east of Ypsi High School where the road turned from snow-packed to wet pavement.

    However, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a substantial piece of road between Ann Arbor’s responsibility and Ypsi’s responsibility that is handled by the County Road Commission. Their part was also snow-packed.

    So it might well be that Ypsi is extra specially good at snow removal compared with all surrounding municipalities. (As opposed to Ann Arbor being especially bad.)

       —HD    May. 8 '08 - 05:45PM    #
  23. “There is no need for a steel-clad court building.”

    “The one to finance the gold-plated court building plainly is not…”

    I’m confused. Is the court building going to be steel clad or gold plated? From the drawings in the News it’s hard to tell.

    Because I can get behind a steel-clad courthouse, no question about it, but gold-plated seems a little extreme. Still, I think the crucial thing is that this courthouse be GIANT. I can’t abide a dinky courthouse. Courthouses are like jails, they should always be giant.

    And an aside to HD: I had an awesome time on our bike date to Plymouth to pick the rabbit shit. Thanks again for pulling me in the trailer!

       —Parking Structure Dude!    May. 8 '08 - 06:12PM    #
  24. PSD!,

    You’re quite welcome. It was nice to have somebody along who I could chat with along the way. And it was nice to hear some encouraging words as I pedaled up some of those slight inclines along Plymouth Road. They’re steeper than they look when hauling a load.

       —HD    May. 8 '08 - 07:14PM    #
  25. From what I understand, standard practice for certifying petitions is to audit them. Take a sample of signatures on a sample of pages and see how many of them check out. I don’t know what happens if it’s a squeaker like HD proposes that would be within the margin or error for the audit.

    Dave’s commented that the city could fix the police offices for $5 million. When I look at the plans for the new building, I see that they’ve made that pretty low-use space, so I wonder:

    1. Can we really fix them to where they would be well-functioning for $5 million?
    2. Can we address the concern that there is very little interview space or opportunities for privacy in the current space?
    3. With a new building, we could build the building, then move the police over, then renovate the Larcom basement. If we don’t build new, what do we do with our police while we renovate?

       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 8 '08 - 08:43PM    #
  26. HD and Chuck, the practice locally is to check each signature. In 1990, when my wife led the petition drive to place a Zone of Reproductive Freedom in the City Charter (see now Chapter 20), the petitioners succeeded by only three signatures!

    I think the clerk’s people first check the printed name on a petition. If they can’t find the printed name, then they search on the address to see if they can find a match. All of this is done electronically using the state’s Qualified Voter File.

    Larry Kestenbaum may be able to provide more details.

       —David Cahill    May. 8 '08 - 10:17PM    #
  27. “They seem to be diligent”

    That is because they are getting paid $1.50/signature. From what I have seen, they have been badgering everyone who happens to move and most of the people gathering signatures have absolutely no idea what they are gathering them for. Frankly, I find it embarrasing.

       —Juliew    May. 11 '08 - 01:29AM    #
  28. I was addressed by a petition circulator at 5th and Liberty Street on my way downtown this evening for a lovely performance of Aristophanes’ “The Assemblywomen”.

    Here’s how it went:

    AVF: Would you like to sign a petition to give voters a voice on whether they should be charged 2 million dollars a year in interest?

    HD: Hmmm, well, don’t we get a voice on that sort of thing through our City Council representative?

    AVF: No. Not at this time.

    HD: Not at this time? Why not? What’s special about this time that we’re not represented by our representatives on City Council?

    AVF: Because this is a decision being made by a judge and six of his colleagues.

    HD: A judge?? Why is a judge deciding whether we’re going to pay 2 million dollars?

    AVF: Because the money is going to build a new courthouse, where the judge works.

    HD: Oh. So who’s the judge deciding this?

    AVF: I don’t know his name.

    HD: Hmm. Okay, well I think I’m going to allow my voice to be represented through my City Council representative. Good luck, though. [Exit stage right]

    In contrast to Juliew’s description, I must say I did not feel badgered. But this particular fellow certainly did not have a clear grasp of the issues surrounding the petition.

       —HD    May. 11 '08 - 04:08AM    #
  29. We were at a party yesterday when the neighbor (not invited to the party) crashed it for signatures. Not cool, yo. When she found out it was a going away party for a couple of “teh gays” she couldn’t fathom why anyone would leave Ann Arbor, MI. Sigh.

       —OWSider    May. 11 '08 - 10:30PM    #
  30. The Bureau of Elections and the state Board of Canvassers use sampling methods with statewide petitions. However, locally, we look up and attempt to validate every signature.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    May. 12 '08 - 01:35AM    #
  31. It is great to see someone mention two of the greatest statesmen in the history of Michigan politics – Robert Emanuel Tisch and Richard Headlee. Bob Tisch served as Shiawassee Drain Commissioner during the 1970’s and 80’s and was later a national vice-presidential nominee of the U. S. Taxpayers Party. Dick Headlee narrowly lost the race for Michigan governor in 1982 and later played a key role in the John Engler upset election over Governor Blanchard in 1990; his Headlee Amendment, passed in 1978, transformed Michigan politics and empowered the average citizen. If Bob Tisch were alive today he would be proud of the efforts of ordinary citizens to put the matter of the bond issuance to a public vote. Given severe time constraints Ask Voters First undoubtedly had to rush to put as many petition gatherers on the streets as soon as possible, so it is not surprising that some circulators were not effectively trained and may have included persons with social inadequacies. What is important is that the issue of a voter referendum has widespread grass-roots support along a broad cross-section of citizens. These include rank-and-file Democrats , Republicans, elected officials, as well as various vocal activists including David Cahill, Karen Sidney and others; some are even outside the Ask Voters First organization, including Blaine Coleman. If I were a principal in Ask Voters First, I would, however, likely ensure that petition circulators were polite and well-informed enough to present the issues in the petition cordially and intelligently.My overriding concern is that enough valid signatures get on the petition documents to put the matter on the August 5th ballot; if that happens, I have little doubt the bond will be defeated by voters. The specific political aims of Ask Voters First or its principals are immaterial as AVF is merely a vehicle to make sure the matter is placed on the ballot as a voter referendum issue. I, as many others, am disgusted at the “judicial acrimony” that has been a sideshow for the police/court proposed construction project; I am, also, appalled at the unmitigated gall of certain officials who want to lavish all these tens of millions of dollars on a facility while there is a national major home foreclosure crisis that has affected Ann Arbor residents on a scale that exceeds that of the general U.S. population. This is not mentioning all of the local social programs that shall be affected if the police/court project is constructed as envisioned; the mayor has already warned about this aspect of financing the proposed building.There is no doubt in my mind that voters should have the opportunity to vote on and ultimately scuttle this entire project. It seems that government always ignores our poor, our disavantaged minorities and young persons when we could provide helpful social programs as a safety net and as preventative measures, but is always so generous at providing police, court and corrections “services” to these same disadvantaged individuals when they are alleged to have violated our laws. Spend tax revenues to help, not inflict punishment on our citizens.

       —Kerry D.    May. 12 '08 - 04:16AM    #
  32. I’m glad to see the petition circulators are getting out. According to a brief item in Sunday’s AA News, there are now 100 circulators, with more to come. There has never been a local political campaign with this many workers. Interesting.

    With regard to HD’s report, it would be accurate to say that a candidate for judge and six of his colleagues are behind the project. That candidate would be Councilmember Chris Easthope; his colleagues would be the other five councilmembers who voted in favor of the project.

       —David Cahill    May. 12 '08 - 07:12PM    #
  33. So the question I have is who stands to gain from inadequate police and court facilities? Who benefits from low moral and discontent among the cops and courts? Who would come out ahead even if he or she spent more than $10,000 collecting signatures?

    Golly, who would spend that much money just to avoid a few dollars in interest payments a year?

    I have a cynical hunch, but I’m curious what others think.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    May. 12 '08 - 09:05PM    #
  34. If we remodel the existing police department space, then neither the police nor the court will have inadequate facilities.

       —David Cahill    May. 12 '08 - 10:46PM    #
  35. Oop! Here is another budget cut proposed for FYE 2009:

    Budget for the HOME program, which rehabilitates older houses to use for affordable housing, reduced from $2.6 million to $0.9 million.

       —David Cahill    May. 13 '08 - 08:01PM    #
  36. At any rate, it sounds like it’s a good thing it was moved from the parcels on S. Fifth—didn’t need them left empty in yet another endless round of wrangling over multi-parcel deals.

    I’m generally in favor of keeping plans as simple as possible, and costs as low as possible, for city buildings, so I view the petition as more or less sensible, regardless of the motivations and tactics of those who wrote it.

       —Young Urban Amateur    May. 13 '08 - 11:07PM    #
  37. Having said that, it doesn’t seem like the world’s worst building, though it does seem on the large side, and echoes the architecture of the back side of the old MIBell/Ameritech building (now AT&T, I suppose) more than anything else. I assume this is deliberate?

       —Young Urban Amateur    May. 13 '08 - 11:09PM    #
  38. Ah yes, DC and the anti folks would have us believe that all the space needs could be solved by remodeling the police basement. But wait, haven’t they been crammed into a space that was never designed for them for 40 years? And how would that help the city stop paying over $700 K and rapidly rising) per year in rent and what about having to leave the county court house by 2010? Its all easy if you just avoid the facts.

    Plus, all the most experienced council members, the same ones who have guided the city through years of state and federal budget cuts, the same people who trimmed the budget so the city could survive this decade; have suddenly gone loco, off the deep end and it is only the unexperienced new council members supported by DC who have any sense. They know better.

    By the way, DC’s claim about the home funds is just another example of misleading numbers. If there is a cut in the “home funds” budget it cannot be attributed to the city, “home funds” are federal funds. The feds have been cutting housing money since Ronald Ray-gun. The sad part is, he must know this but misrepresents it any way.

       —LauraB    May. 14 '08 - 01:07AM    #
  39. That’s a good point—I would be interested in hearing where the courts would supposedly go if this building were not approved by either Council or a direct vote…

       —Young Urban Amateur    May. 14 '08 - 04:57AM    #
  40. “The Project Grow support was only about $7000 and there is some discussion as to if they even wanted the funds from the city.”

    I suspect that the source of the “discussion” referenced above is a letter that I wrote in my capacity as President of the Project Grow Board of Directors almost exactly three years ago. The text of that letter is as follows, verbatim:

    Jayne Miller, Community Services Area Administrator
    100 N. Fifth Avenue
    PO Box 8647
    Ann Arbor, MI 48107-8647

    May 9, 2005

    Dear Ms. Miller:

    On behalf of the Project Grow Board of Directors, I wish to thank you for the City of Ann Arbor’s generous support over the years. We have become aware that City Council has elected not to include Project Grow’s funding in the 2005/2006 annual budget. While we are, of course, disappointed by the news, we are not surprised. Having learned of the City’s increasingly ominous budget projections in recent years, Project Grow has taken drastic – but deliberate and strategic – measures to secure alternative sources of funding to offset the anticipated loss of City funds. I am pleased and proud to report that the organization has risen to the challenge, and will only face a small (and manageable) deficit in the operating budget this year.

    We are grateful for the support we have received from the City of Ann Arbor. I encourage you to continue making the difficult decisions that good fiscal management demands. Please share this letter with City Council, your staff, and any other interested parties, and let them know that I have discouraged our membership from voicing protest to your decision. We wish you all the best in the tough times ahead.



    Kerry Sheldon
    Board President, Project Grow Community Gardens

    I have been terrifically pleased and touched to realize just how much support the organization enjoys in the community, as voiced by Ms. Armentrout.

    With that said, I don’t have a strong opinion about whether the current discussion represents an appropriate interpretation of the letter. I think the letter speaks for itself: of course Project Grow would be grateful to receive City funding, as they were grateful to receive funding in the past. And though the organization has made tremendous strides, of course there is disappointment in not having fully achieved the goal of total self-sufficiency to date.

    With that said, I know the organization is certainly aware that the City experiences numerous competing budgetary demands. I think Project Grow would find it understandable – not favorable, not ideal, but understandable – if the City were not able to continue/reinstate funding. In writing the letter, my intent was to communicate all these things in as graceful and sympathetic a way as possible, because I view a positive relationship with the City as absolutely essential to Project Grow’s mission.

    Please understand, however, that I no longer speak for the organization, and I trust entirely in Project Grow’s capable staff and current Board.

       —Kerry Sheldon    May. 14 '08 - 10:56PM    #
  41. First of all, apologies to AU managers. This topic deserved its own thread and hijacked this one by chance.

    I think that it is great that Kerry has made the history of Project Grow’s response to its funding cutoff public.

    It is important to reflect on what has happened since that letter was sent in 2005. Community gardening was one of those lovely utopian ideas from the 1970s. I participated in that, as well as joining a co-op (before they were a type of establishment), making my own yogurt, baking my own bread, and buying the copies that I still own of the NY Times Natural Food Cookbook and Diet for A Small Planet.

    But we’ve moved on to a more difficult world, one in which food scarcity and quality have become issues that are starting to attract attention from the mainstream. Since that letter was sent in 2005, an active Slow Food/local food movement has blossomed in Ann Arbor, there have been food riots in some countries as the price of basic foodstuffs has gone up, Michael Pollan has clued us all in about the weaknesses of the agricultural industrial complex, and we have learned that regardless of your caloric input and BMI, you’d better eat lots of fresh vegetables or else. The price of food has become a real issue, as has availability of fresh food. Foodgatherers is facing a real challenge to keep up with demand.

    I think that we should move on from decisions made in 2005 and recognize that community gardening is part of the new focus on local, healthful food that is a broad community good. Not only are community gardens a nice little occupation for those who love to tinker around in the dirt, they are a solution to a supply of fresh vegetables, produced without pesticides (a policy of Project Grow), available to all income ranges (Project Grow has a sliding fee scale based on income), and gentle on the total carbon load of the planet (all grown locally, no petroleum-heavy transport from distant lands). In short, they are the type of environment- and social equity-friendly enterprise that Ann Arbor prides itself on. They also fulfill the Environmental Commission-recommended goal (adopted by the City Council) of “food sufficiency”.

    It might have made some sense to take Project Grow off the city budget in 2005, when they appeared to be just another nonprofit agency with a nice little mission. It makes no sense today, when they contribute to a goal the city should be embracing strongly.

    Not only should the City Council add Project Grow’s direct allocation back into the budget, they should consider, together with the administration, ways to promote and encourage Project Grow’s mission. Examples might include free municipal compost (or at least some amounts as a grant), some kind of forgiveness on water charges (currently they are assessed), a continued presence at Leslie Science Center, more access to city-owned property for additional plots (Project Grow has lost some to development), and an inclusion in city public announcements to the extent appropriate.

    Now that I’ve laid out all that, I should explain that I was on the board of Project Grow in the 1980s but since have had no affliation with them, though I recently paid membership dues. I am representing only my own views and not speaking for Project Grow’s board or staff.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 15 '08 - 04:44AM    #
  42. I rented a Project grow garden space back in 1979. It’s a shame the city has rid all the land Project grow had then.

       —Sherry    May. 15 '08 - 05:45AM    #
  43. They also fulfill the Environmental Commission-recommended goal (adopted by the City Council) of “food sufficiency”.

    That would be “local food sufficiency”.

    Not only should the City Council add Project Grow’s direct allocation back into the budget…

    I disagree (with just this part, not the other in-kind possibilities.) I think that the city government served the appropriate role of helping to establish a valuable community-focused program, and the organization is making appropriate efforts to be successful without continued public funding. For all the reasons you listed, Vivienne, I think Project Grow will see an increase in interest and support. Of course, the state’s economic situation could either help or hurt, but the city has already done its part.

       —Steve Bean    May. 15 '08 - 07:12AM    #
  44. I’m working a Project Grow plot this year out at Greenview. It’s number 28, if you’d like to monitor my efforts. So far I’ve built two raised beds the length of the plot and have potatoes sprouting out of them.

    So I’m totally on board with the Project Grow mission. And it should be supported.

    But I don’t see in comment [43] an argument that the form of that support should be a tax-payer funded grant.

    If people serving on Council would like a alternative way of supporting Project Grow besides giving other people’s money away, consider something I’m calling Homeless Dave’s Harvest Challenge.

    What if the pair of reps from each Ward on Council rented out a plot together at a Project Grow site in their neighborhood, tended the plot or else paid s.o. to do the labor, gave regular updates on their plot during Communications from Council each meeting, and served some of the harvest at their fall block party. Total cost to taxpayers: $0.00.

    That would set all kinds of incentives in place for Councilmembers to act in the best interests of Project Grow w.r.t. the in-kind sorts of support outlined above.

       —HD    May. 15 '08 - 03:27PM    #
  45. That is an interesting proposal, HD, but it doesn’t get to the point that every PG plot is subsidized by funds raised in some way, whether through governmental grants or through private fundraising. So if Council reps got into the business of having plots, they would actually create a drag on the system (even if they paid the full fee). PG is also supported through extra volunteer time and staff time to give you your potato opportunity.

    This goes to some basic political philosophy. In the past, we have had a consensus that some community goods are worth the broad support of public funds, whether a particular individual uses it or not. In opposition to this communitarian viewpoint (which I hold) is the fee-for-service idea – if you want this service, you get to pay for it. Unfortunately Ann Arbor civic operations seem to have adopted the second view. It is, of course, regressive, because it does not acknowledge that there are different abilities to pay. While our property tax system is not completely equitable, it does provide a rough measure of ability to pay.

    Besides, guys, this is only about $7000 a year or thereabouts – pocket change compared to $200,000 for platinum LEED certification for a new $47 million city hall.

    p.s. – I am totally behind the times. What does w.r.t. stand for?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 15 '08 - 03:54PM    #
  46. Vivienne,

    I don’t think w.r.t. is newfangled lingo, it just means “with regard to.”

    And maybe I sounded sarcastic back in comment #35, but I really am genuinely curious. How can Ask Voters First possibly afford to pay out at least $10,000 (at $1.50 per signature) to signature gatherers to quash this project? On their website I looked up their list of supporters and it’s the same small (I count 22) handful of cranks that you’d expect. Which of those people has $10,000 to spend tilting at windmills? I don’t know about you, but in the Structure-Dude! household $10,000 is a buttload of money. And even if they split the cost up equally that’s like $500 each.

    And then the question is that unless someone is just foolishly generous why would he or she spend that kind of money? I don’t think it’s an unfair question to ask who stands to gain here if the new facility isn’t built.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    May. 15 '08 - 05:09PM    #
  47. PSD, I am not connected with AVF except to have endorsed their effort and to have signed their petition. I’m not the person to answer your questions except to say that I understand that some big donations have come in from people who are very concerned about the toll this project will take on city finances.

    Like any campaign, there will eventually be a campaign finance statement that will make the names and amounts from contributors public.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 15 '08 - 06:06PM    #
  48. The City could easily provide funds for affordable housing rehabilitation to make up for the cut in federal funds. However, according to the proposed FYE 2009 budget, it simply refuses to do so. This refusal is just one more example of budget priorities skewed by the desire of a slim and transient Council majority to build you-know-what.

       —David Cahill    May. 15 '08 - 06:57PM    #
  49. First, someone needs to check the budget to verify what you are saying about the federal funds is actually true. But anyway:

    You believe the city should use the infrastructure funds they have accumulated to pay for recurring costs? It is always a mistake to use capitol funds on yearly recurring costs. What do you do the next year and the one after that and so on? If you are looking for funds available on a year to year basis, you have another great reason to be in favor of the building proposal; in order to stop throwing away over $700,000 per year in rent every year. (And going up by 10% per year.)

    The budget put out for the needed court house/police station does not require a reduction in money available from the general fund for year to year operations.

    DC, we know you will continue to manipulate numbers but in the meantime, please explain how the courts/police building is any different than when the city sold a bond for $25 million to pay for the also much-needed, new maintenance center two years ago? Where were you then? Or for that matter the $49 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements approved by all of council a few months ago? Where were you then?

    Building a new maintenance center had been in the city capitol improvements plan for decades. The police have needed new space for decades, when Larcom was built it was never intended they would stay there. The new building has been talked about at least since 1999 and city has been saving money for in anticipation of building it for at least that long.

    Now the county has told the city they are ending their lease so the courts must move. The city is required to house them in a secure space. Is it because this is for the police that you hate it so much or is it just political? A way to get rid of the council members you don’t like?

       —LauraB    May. 15 '08 - 07:57PM    #
  50. I have more information as a result of obtaining information through a FOIA request on Project Grow’s funding status. Contrary to what has been said, the organization has indeed requested more funding. There was a letter dated June 15, 2007 from Melissa Kesterson, the Executive Director, addressed to Christen Smith, the then-Parks and Recreation director. It requested some continuation of funding so that it “would allow us to maintain our programs and create a transitional funding plan if the city’s contribution to Project Grow is reduced or eliminated in future years.”

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 15 '08 - 10:36PM    #
  51. Laura, please get a grip. State and local finances have tanked. The capital improvement plan is a pure wish list, and is not a commitment to anything. I see no reason to repeat earlier postings to the effect that the courts need not move at all, and that the County is willing to dicker.

       —David Cahill    May. 16 '08 - 12:52AM    #
  52. David: I have a firm grip on the fact that governments need to keep up with infrastructure needs and that you manipulate facts and numbers as a matter of course.

    The county has indeed told the city they need to move out but even if your fantasy worked out, the city would still need to pay the same construction costs PLUS RENT forever!

    None of your scenarios do anything to provide more space for the police. Even Mike Anglin said at the council table that the police needed new headquarters.

    It will be so much cheaper to do the projects together. Why spend millions to build a new police station without fixing the court space problem?

    You never answer the questions asked of you.

    And again, you are wrong, not all local government finances have tanked. A2 seems to be going strong.

       —LauraB    May. 16 '08 - 01:15AM    #
  53. Wishes are different from needs. Some day you’ll understand that.

       —David Cahill    May. 16 '08 - 02:29AM    #
  54. I actually see nothing in earlier posts answering the question of where the courts are supposed to go in 2010 w/out a new building.

    I’m just sayin’.

       —Young Urban Amateur    May. 16 '08 - 06:01AM    #
  55. Did somebody call?

    Laura, the reason David is so against this building is that he seems to have a personal vendetta against one or more of the judges for one reason or another. Perhaps they ruled against him in one of his ambulance-chaser cases, who knows. He is hiding behind an increasingly translucent veil of financial mumbo jumbo, hoping that all 36 readers of this blog won’t think for themselves.

    The jungle drums are saying he’s lost this one already.

       —imjustsayin    May. 16 '08 - 06:20AM    #
  56. The jungle drums are actually saying that the fate of this project will be decided in the political process, particularly the August primaries.

       —David Cahill    May. 17 '08 - 01:00AM    #
  57. For those interested in the history of “jungle drums”, they were a method of long-distance communication in such diverse areas as West Africa and New Guinea. They were a highly efffective method of warning natives of enemy ships to the extent that European seafarers were stunned as to the range of communication to outlying areas that could be conveyed in a very short time period,even well before the ship’s arrival. Their use was brought to America by black slaves, but quickly banned by slave owners who realized that this was a method of communication that could prevent the owners from understanding what was being communicated. It is still in use today in remote areas.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 17 '08 - 03:44AM    #
  58. For those who have a legitimate question about what happens if the County insists that the City courts move out, there is one scenario that has been discussed. I think I mentioned this earlier, but once more won’t hurt.

    The City Center Building is for sale, and has been offered to the City. The offer is still open. The price would probably be between $5 million and $10 million. If the City buys the building, or leases it with an option to buy, then nearly all City offices except the police department currently in City Hall would move to the City Center Building, and the City’s district courts would relocate to Larcom, where they were long ago.

    The jungle drums are playing a new tune this morning. According to an article in the AA News by Judy McGovern, four Council members (Anglin, Briere, Kunselman, and Suarez) have “indicated an unwillingness to vote for a budget that includes appropriations related to” the courts/police project. She said that if they stick to that position, the budget would need the votes of other other six Council members and the mayor to pass. I had discussed this possibility in an earlier article here.

    McGovern missed part of the story. While it takes 7 votes to adopt the budget, it takes 8 votes to make transfers from one operating fund to another under section 8.10 of the City Charter. Under the proposed budget, several such transfers would be necessary to build the project.

    So, if the budget passes with 7 votes and not 8 votes, the budget will be approved, but the budget transfers will not be approved, and the project cannot be built.

    Yes, this “supermajority” requirement for transfers seems a bit unusual. But after all, this is the same City Charter that contains the $25 marijuana fine and the Zone of Reproductive Freedom.

    We all worship the Charter. “This is Ann Arbor.” 8-)

       —David Cahill    May. 17 '08 - 05:12PM    #
  59. David is wrong (as usual). The entire budget — transfers and all — requires 7 Council votes. Transfers between funds only require 8 votes when they are done later in the year, and thus constitute a budget amendment. Accordingly, the block of four — none of whom have ever presented any alternative — cannot stop this project if the other seven more experienced and seasoned Councilmembers vote for the Budget.

       —Bill T.    May. 17 '08 - 07:17PM    #
  60. Nope, I don’t think so, Bill T. Of course, this is an unprecedented situation. Never in recent memory have we had the prospect of the budget passing by only 7 votes. We’ll wait and see what happens. Any budget transfers would happen later in the year, not right away. We’ll have to see if the City Administration is slimy enough to do the transfers knowing that they are not authorized, and risking a lawsuit in the process.

    Your view would, of course, have more credibility if your real name were attached to it.

       —David Cahill    May. 17 '08 - 11:20PM    #
  61. Again, David is wrong. The Budget was passed with just 7 votes a few years ago, when Kim Groom and someone else (I forget who) joined the 2 Republicans in voting no. So, contrary to what David says, it is not unprecedented.

    There will not be any more budget transfers needed mid-year. Fraser’s proposed Budget, which you correctly point out becomes law if the Council doesn’t pass a budget, has already made all the necessary budget transfers for the building.

    PS- Your real name is attached to your email, but you still have no credibility.

       —Bill T.    May. 18 '08 - 06:40PM    #
  62. That’s Kim Groom*e*, Bill T.

    We’ll have to see how this all plays out.

    Oh – the Golf People and the Parks People are also at it again on the budget.

       —David Cahill    May. 18 '08 - 06:58PM    #
  63. Using the City Center building is intriguing, though I would like to point out that the City Hall block is a pretty inefficient use of space, for a city that is trying to improve downtown density. So sooner or later, probably something will get built there. (Also should look at office availability downtown—would buying/using the City Center building cause problems in that regard in the near future?)

       —Young Urban Amateur    May. 19 '08 - 12:29AM    #
  64. YUA, it could indeed be that, sooner or later, something may get built on the City Center block. However, construction there should be something truly worthy of us.

    With regard to the City Center building, the city government already leases a substantial amount of space in the building, and my understanding is that the principal tenant is moving out soon. At the moment there is a lot of office space available on the market. We should use what is available, rather than building new, if possible.

       —David Cahill    May. 19 '08 - 01:09AM    #
  65. something truly worthy of us.

    Dave, what does that mean?

       —Dale    May. 19 '08 - 01:35AM    #
  66. It means something that is not a giant, ugly, unnecessary, expensive cube.

       —David Cahill    May. 19 '08 - 02:49AM    #
  67. I believe that a much credit should go to Jeff Irwin, Chairman of the the County Board Commissioners who has done a great deal of behind the scenes negotiations in an attempt to resolve the current police/district court building controversy. I believe,also, that the four council members who will engage in a “budget boycott” to prevent any funding of the proposed police/court facility have their political prestige riding on the success or the defeat of such a project. Citizens are pinning their hopes on these four to “dig in” and stand up for taxpayers. Mike Anglin’s defeat of incumbent Wendy Woods several years ago was no accident; the local citizenry know that this man has the integrity to stand up for their best interests and his endorsement of Ask Voters First has reinforced our faith in him. Ditto for the other three council members. Anybody can correct me if they feel I am wrong, but I believe in the end if there is any council deadlock, I do not feel the mayor will feel constrained to support the proposed facility since he has already acknowledged the devastating effect it shall have on the funding of social programs. I also will believe that it will be ironic if there winds up any lawsuit filed over the legality of budgetary issues relative to project funding, it could be assigned to one of the circuit court bozos who were so instrumental in creating this mess in the first place. Ask Voters First will succeed!

       —Kerry D.    May. 19 '08 - 06:11AM    #
  68. Which is not worthy of Ann Arbor — its size, its appearance, or its cost?

    What would a building that IS worthy of Ann Arbor look like? Something more round?

    What would it cost?

    When should it be built?

    You have left the door open for some construction (“something that is worthy of us”), so I’m wondering what you have in mind and how that differs from what is proposed.

       —Dale    May. 19 '08 - 10:12PM    #
  69. Good editorial by Jean Carlberg in the News today. Read the full text here.

       —Juliew    May. 20 '08 - 01:35AM    #
  70. So – Ask Voters First is enough of a threat that the proponents of the courts/police boondoggle have trotted out Jean Carlberg. Carlberg has been an “enabler” of every large development in the past many years. I see she is still playing that role.

       —David Cahill    May. 20 '08 - 04:01AM    #
  71. Lets have a counterpoint editorial for the Ann Arbor News by someone opposing the proposed police/court project. There are many who have performed a cost analysis and can explain that the cost of this proposed project significantly exceeds district courts of similar size in the state. Calberg’s comparison of this project to ordinary sewer upgrading is not persuasive. We can go over many aspects of the current police/court project and point out unnecessary expense items. Jean Carlberg’s position is not that of the “silent majority” of Ann Arbor voters who will oppose the bond financing of the police/court facility in a heatbeat.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 20 '08 - 06:06AM    #
  72. Mark K. I am not so sure you are correct about the cost of the needed police/court facility. Wasn’t the new courthouse in Saline about $380 per square foot? If you back out the funds that will be spent on the Larcom Building from the proposal plus the building of the “pad” for future expansion and other “extras” you get about the same per square foot cost for the new building in A2.

    I suppose the funds being spent for all the environmental extras that will lower operating costs; that I don’t think the Saline building has, (I could be wrong about this) should be figured into the equation along with the added complexity and extra cost of a police station and it looks like a bargain.

       —LauraB    May. 20 '08 - 08:40AM    #
  73. I only saw a couple of minutes of last night’s Council debate. Apparently the AA Chamber of Commerce opposes this project. They sent an e-mail to all of Council. I have requested it. If I receive it, I will post it here.

    Hm. An interesting left-center-right coalition has emerged in opposition.

       —David Cahill    May. 20 '08 - 05:16PM    #
  74. Once again, David Cahill fails to tell the people the truth. The Chamber piece which he refers to was penned by no other then Jane Lumm who sits on the Chamber public policy committee. Jane Lumm also happens to be a active supporter and endorser of the AFV which actually should be named “Lie to Voters First.” And as if David doesn’t have a copy of the e-mail which his wife has already shown to him. Amazing that his wife would vote no on the budget based on the chambers advice when they have urged city council in the past to cut worker’s benefits and promote overall cuts that would have to include funding for human services programs. Some coalition.

       —Rick Deasley    May. 20 '08 - 06:07PM    #
  75. I also watched much of last night’s meeting (while flipping channels to a thrilling episode of “Two and a half men”), and here’s what I witnessed:

    * Ron Suarez said nothing and looked like he was asleep. He reminded me of a “potted plant”....

    * Several budget amendments were made, including one confusing amendment on the parks. It was done with just 6 votes. I guess David’s theory about the 8-vote Charter requirement was proven wrong. Surprise, surprise. I’ve lost count how many times he’s been proven wrong.

    * My wife was accosted by an AVF person Monday who told her some jibberish about the bond costing $2 million each year in interest. We all know that’s not true. I’m curious how many signatures AVF has collected, and how many of those signatures were collected by lying to the signors.

       —Bill T.    May. 20 '08 - 06:21PM    #
  76. Sorry, I don’t have a copy of the e-mail yet. Sabra told me about it when she got home late last night.

    I was only saying the 8-vote requirement applied to budget transfers on the final vote approving the budget, not to budget amendments prior to the final vote. The final vote was 8-3, so my theory doesn’t apply, more’s the pity.

       —David Cahill    May. 20 '08 - 06:29PM    #
  77. Aha! I just got the e-mail. It is signed by Kristine Profit Martin, the AA Area Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President of Government Affairs. Here are the excerpts about the project:

    The proposed funding plan for the new Court/Police facility includes $520,000 annually from the DDA. We believe this request, on top of the millions of dollars transferred the last few years from the DDA to the City for other purposes, places our downtown and businesses at risk.

    * * * * *

    Court/Police facility – the decision and funding plan are not, as has been characterized, independent with no impact on other city activities. Whether it’s the upfront $19 million in reserves to be used, or the ongoing $520,000 requested from the DDA and $350,000 in ongoing cell phone antenna revenue to be diverted, all could be used for another purpose, or not used at all now in anticipation of future needs. This is a decision to spend $50M that precludes its use elsewhere.

       —David Cahill    May. 20 '08 - 06:40PM    #
  78. The e-mail wasn’t written by Kristie Martin. It is a statement from the chamber public policy board ghost written by Jane Lumm. The Governmental affairs person, whether it was Brant Coultas or Kristie Martin always sign the document, but its not their personal position. AFV fancies itself as seekers of transparency but yet it lies to get people to sign its petitions, won’t reveal its financial contributors and didn’t reveal that the ghost writer of the chamber hack piece is an active member of its group. FYI, the DDA voted 11-1 to approve the funding for the project. The only no vote was from a member of AFV. The DDA statutory enabling language clearly states that DDA’s are to participate in downtown municipal projects within the district.

       —Res Ipsa Loquitor    May. 20 '08 - 07:01PM    #
  79. Regarding the Chamber’s opposition: I think it is much more the case that a large, energy-efficient, forward-looking police and courts building would do more to help Ann Arbor than hurt it. Impressive public buildings always make a city look like they care and are prosperous, which is attractive for businesses. Run-down facilities that are known for being inadequate for decades are embarrassing for a city. To be able to do a large facility like the police/courts building without raising taxes and only having to use bonds for half of the money is pretty impressive.

    Jean Carlberg’s position is not that of the “silent majority” of Ann Arbor voters who will oppose the bond financing of the police/court facility in a heatbeat.
    From what I have heard from the people I talk to, I think the AVF is actually the vocal minority. Sure, if you ask a question like “do you want to pay $2000 a year in taxes to support a monstrous new police station and courts for people who live outside of Ann Arbor,” most people will say no. However, you would be lying about the issue. If you give people the facts straight, most of them support the new building or don’t care one way or the other.

       —Juliew    May. 20 '08 - 07:21PM    #
  80. PSD: “How can Ask Voters First possibly afford to pay out at least $10,000 (at $1.50 per signature) to signature gatherers to quash this project? On their website I looked up their list of supporters and it’s the same small (I count 22) handful of cranks that you’d expect. Which of those people has $10,000 to spend tilting at windmills?”

    David Cahill: “The City Center Building is for sale, and has been offered to the City. The offer is still open. The price would probably be between $5 million and $10 million.”

    Thank you, David, for finally answering my question.

    So it’s the Dahlmann’s (the owners of the City Center building) who stand to profit handsomely if the new facility isn’t built. It’s easy to see why they’d roll the dice for $10,000 or $15,000. It’s a longshot, but the payoff is sweet.

    So if you can broker the City Center sale how much do you and Sabra get?

       —Parking Structure Dude!    May. 20 '08 - 11:05PM    #
  81. I have no idea who composed the Chamber’s letter, but it was signed by the person with authority to do so. It is, obviously, the group’s position. A broad coalition indeed!

    I hate to burst your bubble, PSD, but neither Sabra nor I are licensed real estate brokers. 8-)

       —David Cahill    May. 20 '08 - 11:53PM    #
  82. Cost per square foot may not be an appropriate yardstick for ascertaining reasonbleness of proposed expenditures for a courthouse. There are certain economies of scale that may be apparent. For instance, having one clerk’s office to service one judge versus five separate judges. There also does not need to be a consolidation of police and court into one building. In fact, in many district courts in this state this would be impossible since many district courts service multiple city and township jurisdictions; a good example of this would be the 35th District Court in Plymouth that services the City of Plymouth, Plymouth Township,Canton Township,City of Northville and Northville Township. Compare the costs of other recently built courts of similar needs. The 35th District Court in Plymouth had constructed a three-story courthouse to house its three judges after the first court burned down; it was built at reasonable cost and has functioned admirably. The City of Royal Oak has built the 44th District Court without many complaints from its citizens. The City of Dearborn has a beautiful district court/police building with a large mural and an enclosure where geese are kept; like Ann Arbor it is a three-judge court. Its cost was about one-third as expensive(in current dollars as the one proposed in Ann Arbor). Anybody who thinks that the current lodgings of the 15th (Ann Arbor) District Court are substandard or woefully deficient should travel to the 36th District Court in Detroit or the 30th District Court in Highland Park and witness court buildings so bad that many attorneys refuse to handle cases in those courthouses. On the other hand, nobody has questioned the mayor’s assertion that funding for social programs in future years will be materially undercut by the immense cost obligations associated with this proposed project. Ask Voters First and other opponents of the project have emphasized the impact upon social program funding as a key reason why the project needs to be scuttled in its entirety with due regard for establishing reasonable quarters for the district court. There are, in my view, too many serious consequences to a plethora of Ann Arbor’s citizens to impose upon them such a drastic cut in financing for social improvement programs. Impugning the motivations of AVF leaders and criticizing their petition circulators ignores the fact that there will be this profound impact on the young, the disadvantaged, and others who rely on these social programs to get along in life. The current proposed 31 million dollar bond issue will go by the wayside just as the jail millage did a few years ago, largely due to voter information campaigns by such organizations as People Against Corruption. AVF has now taken the lead in voter education on this police/court issue. Michigan District Court judge salaries have more than doubled in the last 20 years, outstripping the rate of inflation and making the position a political “plum” that often creates the most expensive and contentious election races in this state at the local level. City Council should be considering reasonable alternatives to this currrently proposed police/court building.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 21 '08 - 02:09AM    #
  83. The last post evidently believes that continuing to lease is a reasonable alternative to building.

    The only really relevent issue is whether continuing to lease space for the courts and other space will free up money for all these other programs people want.

    Not building this facility will not free up any money over time, because the funds will just be used on the escalating costs of leasing.

    The question is whether we can afford to continue to rent space into the future. All parties should focus on this issue.

    The leasing will not be 750K a year for 30 years.
    At some point within the 30 years, the cost of leasing will exceed the bond payments.

    Even within the 30 year bond period, building is likely cheaper than leasing.

    From year 30 through the life of the building, perhaps another 50 years the cost of leasing will be extraordinary and the bond payments will be paid off.

    This absolute refusal to consider the long term success of the City is really sad to me.

    Why do opponents of the Court/police facility want to throw this kind of money away?

    $750,000 in initial lease payments (with no increase) for 30 years is over $22,000,000.

    $750,000 lease (with no increase) for 80 years is over $60,000,000

    $750,000 lease (average .03% increase/year)for 30 years is over 38,000,000.

    S750,000 lease (average .03% increase/year) for 80 years is over $250,000,000. That is a quarter billion dollars people.

    Can anyone explain why continuing to lease is fiscally responsible?

    Are we holding out to a later time, when costs or bond rates go down? This will not happen.

    That people claiming fiscal responsibility will not face fiscal reality is disturbing.

       —math man    May. 21 '08 - 04:36AM    #
  84. East Lansing has a combined police court facility. None of the courts listed in post 85 have a combined facility with police, not to mention serious renovations to their city halls that will extend the useful life of the building for years to come. All of them were considered quite expensive when they were first built. Some had private donations like Dearborn, which has marble and nice tile reminiscent of our Federal Court. The proposed 15th District Court has none of those frills as made clear from the plans.

    U of M is planning to build a new classroom building for the law school. The plan is for approximately 100 thousand square feet. Total projected cost=$100 million, for a building with classrooms! Where is the AVF outrage at that expenditure? The proposed court police building is almost the same square feet as the law school addition for approximately 47 million, less than half. Are the members of AVF going to attempt to stop UM from such an expenditure on would-be lawyers? It would seem logical when they certainly don’t want decent facilities for victims, witnesses, jurors, citizens and lawyers who actually passed the bar.

    All this talk of cutting social programs is horse crap. Which ones are to be cut? I’ve never heard that one answered. Typical scare tactics from people who supposedly strive for a greater common good is disappointing. Police and courts are two of the most important functions of our society not to mention compromising a large part of the city’s overall budget. Government must always keep up its infrastructure no matter how unpopular it may seem at the time. The council was lectured Monday night on the long term cost of failing to invest in its sewer and storm water infrastructure years ago. Now rates are higher than ever to make up for the neglect. The same lessons apply to all infrastructure decisions. If you ignore the problems today you are only passing the buck to future councils and tax payers. Had the city acted on this issue 10 years ago, it would have saved in excess of 10 million dollars. Think of the social programs we could have funded.

       —Res Ipsa Loquitor    May. 21 '08 - 07:56AM    #
  85. Math Man: Let’s look at all alternatives, including renovating an existing structure, opening up a facility away from downtown, or lease from available spaces. Ask some other companies beside Clark Construction such as Walbridge Aldinger, DeMaria Building Co. or others which have experience in such projects. Keep options open.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 21 '08 - 08:15AM    #
  86. The proposed funding plan for the new Court/Police facility includes $520,000 annually from the DDA. We believe this request, on top of the millions of dollars transferred the last few years from the DDA to the City for other purposes, places our downtown and businesses at risk.

    At risk of what? The DDA is also working on improving the 5th and Division corridors to help businesses and on the development of a new parking structure (which I think may be the worst of all of these expenditures.) What does the chamber see as higher priorities? Will those priorities be precluded by this contribution by the DDA?

    Court/Police facility – the decision and funding plan are not, as has been characterized, independent with no impact on other city activities. Whether it’s the upfront $19 million in reserves to be used, or the ongoing $520,000 requested from the DDA and $350,000 in ongoing cell phone antenna revenue to be diverted, all could be used for another purpose, or not used at all now in anticipation of future needs. This is a decision to spend $50M that precludes its use elsewhere.

    Again, elsewhere on what? Yes, we already know that $700,000+ per year could continue to be spent on leasing office space outside city hall.

    What alternative solution to the needs of the police and court does the chamber suggest? These have apparently been anticipated “future needs” for decades now. Will the chamber then oppose those hypothetical future expenditures as well when they get budgeted for?

    Maybe David will share the entire letter so that we can see if these questions are addressed by it.

    AVF has now taken the lead in voter education on this police/court issue.

    Mark, this is far from true in my experience. I’ve visited the AVF web site several times and read all the materials there. The City’s public meetings and handouts on the issue have been far more informative. The petition signature gatherers (including one who spoke with me today) are providing scant information, some of which has been misleading, according to the accounts of others.

    Let’s look at all alternatives, including renovating an existing structure, opening up a facility away from downtown, or lease from available spaces.

    A committee already did that. City council has explored and discussed alternatives for years.

    Keep options open.

    That will only increase costs absent a viable alternative (which AFV admits to not having)—the city administrator indicated that each month of delay in constructing the building addition will increase costs $150,000. Your post #85 conflates this issue with judges salaries. You haven’t acknowledged that the (unspecified) services and social programs you’re concerned about couldn’t be paid for with funds needed for lease payments. I get the impression that you’re perspective on this is neither objective nor adequately informed. I encourage you to visit the City’s web site and read the materials there, the FAQ in particular.

       —Steve Bean    May. 21 '08 - 09:31AM    #
  87. I have a question: if the police are cramped, why not just eliminate police positions over time? That would solve the space issue. My understanding is that Ann Arbor kept police force levels the same even after UofM added its police department. My question is intended to illustrate a point: those of us who support AVF want less money for repression (police/court) facilities and more money for other things. I truly resent being accused of misrepresenting the facts; this issue is about public priorities. 2 Million per year on bond payments will soak up lots of money that could be used somewhere else. I DON’T WANT TO PAY FOR MORE COPS AND COURTS!

       —Chuck L.    May. 21 '08 - 09:40AM    #
  88. Chuck L.,

    Since you haven’t been “accused of misrepresenting the facts” by anyone here, you’ve now misrepresented the facts. That’s a fact, not an accusation. :-)

    FYI, the district court provides services beyond “repression”. If you don’t want to pay more for cops and courts, you could do something to reduce crime and civil infractions, including obeying all (just) laws yourself. And by the way, this new facility will not in itself result in more cops or courts. The cops and court workers will just be able to work in a pleasant environment. Maybe then they’ll be less “repressive”. :-)

       —Steve Bean    May. 21 '08 - 10:13AM    #
  89. Except Chuck that the money will be used to lease space and to save to pay for escalating lease space costs. The City is required by law to pay for the District Court.The City has to fund the District Court as much as you may disagree with this. Your complaints about the judges won’t change this.

    You don’t even have to like the Courts or the Cops to focus on the central issue: Do you want the City to continue to lease space for the courts and at City Central building.

    Chuck L. demonstrates the logic of AVF perfectly. Because they don’t like the Courts and the Cops they are willing to waste as much money as possible leasing space. At least Chuck admits this motive. But this is empty political protest. AVF does misrepresent the facts: Leasing doesn’t gain additional funds to use anywhere else —except for lease payments for the future.

    The silent majority of Ann Arborites do not want to participate in political self mutilation or to condemn future generations to such waste.

    City leaders should recognize this.

    Continued leasing is fiscal foolishness. Do the math.

       —math man    May. 21 '08 - 10:24AM    #
  90. In my experience, when a new governmental building is proposed, the opposition to the building is usually much louder and more organized than the ones supporting it. The county failed to pass three millage proposals for some combination involving new court space and was denied the bonding option for a reduced proposal. I’m curious where the vehemence originates from the (mostly anonymous) supporters of this plan.They call anyone who opposes it liars and out for personal gain. It makes me wonder what they, in turn, have to gain?

    I will only say that I oppose it (the new building project) because I sincerely believe that it is not based on good financial assumptions and will cement the current slide in service delivery. Perhaps new taxes will not be proposed – but many fee increases and new fees already have been. Yes, I know, some of those can be traced to other imperatives (reconstruction of the water utilities systems, for example). But overall the city has been cutting services and raising fees for some years now while accumulating $ 8.4 M in the municipal center fund. Just for this year alone, it is proposed to take another $1.8 M from the general fund. (These figures were presented by the city administrator at a working session in March.) Ultimately, you need to look at the total money in the city “pot” and ask what you can afford and where your priorities are. Cutting services is an equivalent to raising taxes. It is less value for your tax.

    As to the popularity of the proposal: my city council campaign has been holding small group meetups across the ward. The city hall proposal is only one of many issues we discuss. But so far I have not met one single person who supports it.

    One more point. Leasing is more flexible. Leasing space for another year does not commit the city to escalating lease prices indefinitely. The city can decide to build later, negotiate favorable terms, change the organization so less space is needed, move all the pieces around over and over again for the next 30 years. Who knows what economic winds will blow and what space will come available over 30 years? But if we build an entirely new building, it ties up the funds invested in it inevitably.

    Yes, I do have something to gain from my position. I hope to continue living in Ann Arbor and to see it continue as a community that supports its residents in their daily lives.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 21 '08 - 05:19PM    #
  91. “But so far I have not met one single person who supports it.”

    Wow, really?? I’ve met lots of people who support it and lots of people who don’t support it … and I’m not even running for anything. I’m just walking around the 5th Ward talking to people about chickens … and police/courts when it comes up. By the way, I can’t discern any correlation (either positive or negative), between support for chickens and support for police/courts.

       —HD    May. 21 '08 - 06:05PM    #
  92. My sample is admittedly biased, people who are willing to give up spring afternoons or evenings to come hear me talk.

    I haven’t taken any data on chickens.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 21 '08 - 06:15PM    #
  93. Vivienne: I respectively do not agree with you on this issue but I have posted my reasons before so no need to go into it now.

    However, you question the level of distrust people here have for those who write against the project. It would guess that it has a lot to do with the reputation a couple of the “anti” crowd have here for abusing the truth in the past. Another reason is surely the lies the petition gatherers are telling.

    I have talked to two different people and they are telling some whoppers that have no basis in the truth. They seem willing to say anything to get a signature.

       —LauraB    May. 21 '08 - 11:46PM    #
  94. One footnote: Vivienne, I believe you do have something to gain from this. You need an issue for your campaign so you seek to gain a political advantage by opposing the building. Your campaign for Project Grow crumbled when even Mike Anglin would not vote for his OWN amendment to the budget. The amendment you pushed him to make.

    My read on this is the opposite to yours. Outside of a few neighborhoods in the 5th ward where it may be 50/50 for and against, the rational people I know see a lot of sense in getting the police out the basement after 40 years and stopping the bleeding on the $700,000 in rent. Now that the DDA has voted the $550,000 per year, the costs are covered and it all makes sense.

       —LauraB    May. 21 '08 - 11:59PM    #
  95. LauraB, are you by any chance the treasurer for my opponent? The question is only relevant because you are questioning my motivations with regard to my campaign.

    I just composed and tried to post a lengthy response to all the points you make, but it didn’t post. Perhaps there is a length maximum that I exceeded. I’ll only rewrite a couple of points at this time.

    First, I am only running because of my dismay at the way city finances have been managed, especially with the push for this (city hall/police/courts) imprudent project. It has nothing to do with political ambition. If I had wanted to be in politics for its own sake, I would have run for re-election to the county commission in 2004. I don’t need to make up issues. There are too many of them out there.

    Second, all of us are limited by anecdotal information and our own circle of acquaintances in gauging the degree of approval/disapproval of the city hall project. Without a properly conducted survey (or better, a vote!), we can’t make any authoritative statements. I only know that “the rational people I know” all oppose it.

    Project Grow will have to wait for another time, but I will just say it hasn’t crumbled. Watch this space.

    A historical note: As a county commissioner, I voted for all three courts/public safety millages, both as a commissioner to put them on the ballot, and as an individual voter at the ballot box. But those had adequate funding plans.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 22 '08 - 06:03AM    #
  96. Math Man Can’t Add (or represent percents either, 0.03%=0.0003):

    “Chuck L. demonstrates the logic of AVF perfectly. Because they don’t like the Courts and the Cops they are willing to waste as much money as possible leasing space. At least Chuck admits this motive. But this is empty political protest. AVF does misrepresent the facts: Leasing doesn’t gain additional funds to use anywhere else —except for lease payments for the future.”

    Because I don’t like Cops or Courts, I think there should be fewer cops and smaller courts; AND THEY SHOULD USE EXISTING CITY OWNED SPACES! If you give them more space, they will then say they need more cops and bigger courts to fill the space. The only think I “admit” to is wanting different priorities out of my city government then those supported by the current council majority. You pro “let’s build at any cost” folks are the ones distorting the facts and engaging in dishonest debate; how my post could be twisted to say I support renting out to infinity is a true facile straw man accusation.
       —Chuck L.    May. 22 '08 - 07:13AM    #
  97. Sorry Vivienne but I believe the “anti” faction is only using the building project as an issue to boost their candidates. Without it most of them look rather weak. Do we really want more “potted plants” on city council?

    As for the city’s financial management. We can only look to the facts. What other Michigan city in this decade has had the ability to finance things like the Broadway Bridge, ($35 million?) a new maintenance center, ($40 million) a new bike lane system, revolutionary LED streetlights, solar panels, etc. and all this with no cuts to human services?

    In fact they increased the human services budget on Monday night. Plus they have a healthy reserve fund and taxes have not been raised. If you followed the conversation at the meeting Monday night, things are looking pretty good financially.

    Meanwhile, most Michigan cities I read about in the Free Press are struggling. Look at Ypsi, and of course Washtenaw County, they have a big hole in their budget.

    The city has presented what looks to me like a solid funding plan. It takes nothing from the operating budget. For me, renting is not an option. The DDA agreeing to step up sealed the deal and I don’t worry about them. There are new buildings coming on line all the time that will increase the DDA’s funding.

    As many have written, even if the county agreed to let the city stay, the rent would only go up and the new construction would have to be paid for by the city, and did I say RENT. Nothing would be gained and the police would still be stuck in the basement. I don’t know what kind of run-ins Chuck has had with the law but I like our police, this is a safe town and they treat people with respect.

    Any synergy that can be achieved by having the city and courts in the same building (and still paying ever increasing rents) can be achieved by having the courts on top of a new police station. Then the city saves the other $350,000 in rent when they move out of the other rented space. It all works. The anti faction has never offered a viable alternative that provides the police with space and solves the courts problem but their signature gatherers sure tell a lot of lies.

       —LauraB    May. 22 '08 - 09:06AM    #
  98. I served with Vivienne on the county board, and she is NOT a potted plant, in any sense of the term.

    I think the city is extremely fortunate to have so many intelligent and qualified people willing to run for city council this year. And that includes the incumbents seeking re-election.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    May. 22 '08 - 05:59PM    #
  99. Not to nit-pick but the city didn’t spend $35 million on the Broadway bridge, at least not of its own money. It also apparently isn’t in such wonderful financial shape that it can pay for the Stadium Blvd bridge repairs.

    “When Ann Arbor’s Broadway bridges – another pair – were replaced in 2003 and 2004, the state bridge program paid for about two-thirds of the $31 million project.”

    “The Broadway bridges were unusual, Reynolds said. MDOT’s commitment to that project came at the expenses of communities around the state.”

       —John Q.    May. 22 '08 - 07:05PM    #
  100. LauraB, I’m not going to debate with you and I notice that you did not answer my question. You continue to repeat the same assertions and opinions.

    One point I dropped from my rebuttal last night, though, is that, unlike you, I am worried about the DDA’s budget and the impact of this project on parking fees. The $0.5M a year for bond repayment, as I understand it, is coming from the parking fund (a separate budget from the TIF fund, the one that receives taxes from new development). The parking fund has already taken some major hits after Council increased the rent for parking structures to $1M or $2M a year (depending on your version). This money has gone into the general fund for the last several years and has been in essence propping it up.

    Also, the city hall payment plan calls for rents from cell phone antennae on parking structures to go for bond repayment. But these rents have been going into the parking fund.

    With all these hits, I can predict with confidence (and I am a very cautious person) that we will see increases in parking fees in the future. If council continues to demand $1-2M a year from parking for operating expenditures, plus the $0.5M for bond repayments, it doesn’t take much analysis to conclude that revenue will have to increase. That means increased parking fees.

    The DDA has made many improvements in parking structures and facilities in recent years and is paying down a number of bonds issued to finance those projects. According to the FY 2008/09 draft budget (my version is a month old), the parking fund is already (without the additional payouts for the city hall) $2.45M in deficit. (Expenses are in excess of revenues by $2.45M.)

    I think that given the importance of available parking for downtown retail success, this has a possible impact on the success of the downtown. Not all problems can be solved by alternative transportation – people will want to park if they are coming downtown casually to shop or have lunch.

    True, the DDA could draw from its TIF fund to support parking. But that would lessen its ability to make other types of improvements downtown, and further, those revenues may not materialize at the rate once projected, given the altered real estate market. I believe that I am correct in saying that taxes are not assessed until the building has a CO, so that projects still under construction are not paying in all those TIF revenues. When the parking fund is combined with the TIF fund in the all-funds budget, the deficit is $2.032M. Since their ending fund balance (all funds) was about $11.5M, the parking deficit BEFORE the additional withdrawals is nearly 20% of the total DDA budget. That is unsustainable.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 22 '08 - 09:34PM    #
  101. John Q. Thank you for the correction on the Broadway Bridges. I suspected there was some state funding but did not know it was that much. Still, I don’t suppose any city does a bridge project like that without assistance. My overall point was to say that A2 seems to be in much better financial shape than other Michigan cities.

    Larry: Reading back over it one could construe that I was including Vivienne in the “potted plant” category. My apologies to her. I don’t know her except from what she writes here. This is not to say there is not a “potted plant” currently on council and running for reelection.

       —LauraB    May. 22 '08 - 10:20PM    #
  102. Vivienne: You said you are running because you have a problem with city financial management. I pointed out that by all objective measures and in comparison to other Michigan cities, A2 seems to be doing very well. The evidence support this.

    As for the DDA. I have not looked at their budget but I will look into it. I would agree with you that parking rates will probably need to go up but only to support the new $50 million parking structure they are going to build under the Library Lot and aren’t they rebuilding the old one that was torn down? Of course rates will go up a little but have you been anywhere else lately? Seen what you have to pay in Detroit? A2’s rates were lower than Lansing the last time I was there.

    As I understand it, the $500,000 per year the DDA gladly agreed to put into the courts/police building does not impact parking. A $550,000 per year payment they have been making for the State St. improvements is going away in 2010 or 2011 so they will not experience any new outlay of cash.

    I agree that new buildings will not pay into the TIF until they have a CO. What difference does that make to a long term plan? The big new building on Ashley has people moving in soon, if not already, Liberty Lofts and the new building (I don’t like it.) on Liberty by Seva are occupied, the new student building on Church (or is it E. U?)will be opening in the fall, the 9 story building going up on Washington will be on the tax roles by next year, Mckinley has approval for a large addition to the Google Building, there are probably several more I have missed. Just the buildings mentioned above must represent millions in new revenue to the DDA. They are capturing everything but the School Taxes aren’t they?

    To sum up: The $500,000 payment the DDA will be making on the new building does not represent any “new” money, just soon to be retired debt. The growth in the TIF from new construction coming on line soon will be way more than the lost cell tower revenue. Anyway, nothing precludes the DDA from spending TIF on parking if they want to.

    The courts/police building will have little effect on the DDA, nor will it be the cause of a parking rate increase. If you read their resolution in support of the building, they want the courts and police to stay downtown. So do I and I don’t my city paying rent forever.

    Seems to me the DDA would not have voted 10 to 1 to support the project if they could not afford it.

    Oh, your question: I am not your opponents treasurer. I leave politics to all of you brave souls.

       —LauraB    May. 22 '08 - 11:04PM    #
  103. The money for the bond payments for the police/courts building, to be paid for by the DDA, is being taken out of the TIF fund, not the parking fund. If the DDA decides to use some of the TIF fund for parking, that is the tradition. Both Ann/Ashley and Liberty Square were built with TIF money. In one proposed plan, the DDA parking fund will reimburse TIF. In addition, rates will indeed be raised. Parking rates in the structures were actually LOWERED a few years ago, and it is now time to look at a realistic raise for structures, lots and meters. The parking revenue is needed to pay for the new underground parking structure at the South Fifth (Library) lot. The DDA is working is a close partnership with the library on this project.

    Over the last fifteen years, the DDA has spent about $50 million on building new structures, and refurbishing existing ones – with a net of NO new parking spaces. In order to keep the downtown vibrant and alive, we do need some added parking. Council, by an 8-2 vote, agreed and directed the DDA to proceed with the underground structure.

    In my opinion, the DDA does an outstanding job of stewardship in the downtown.

    Yes, I am a DDA Board member, and justifiably proud of our accomplishments.

       —Leah Gunn    May. 23 '08 - 12:09AM    #
  104. LauraB you wrote, “I have talked to two different people and they are telling some whoppers that have no basis in the truth.” Who were these “two different people” and what “whoppers” did they tell you?

       —Anonymous    May. 23 '08 - 03:14AM    #
  105. I did not know either of them. They approached me with a petition on two separate occasions downtown and began their spiel.

    Interestingly, both said the city was building a “new city hall when many people were out of work and some were losing their homes.” One said the “mayor and council would have new offices but they can’t pay for day to day expenses.” Both said there would be a big tax increase to pay for the “new city hall.” One said this was because the city “did not have a financing plan.” When I refuted these claims with some actual data each of them quickly backed off and tried another avenue.

    One turned to the “huge issue of the council selling bonds without voter approval.” When I disputed this with examples of recent bond sales that were approved by the whole council and never questioned, she backed off and walked away.

    The other attempted to improvise with some more misinformation but I was in a hurry and brushed him off.

       —LauraB    May. 23 '08 - 07:01AM    #
  106. Our city manager has repeatedly stated the city has terminated over 200 city employees and we know about the job losses through Pfizer. Foreclosures are up and it is driving down the value of homes, including mine.

    The city has asked the voters if they wanted a new court/police complex. The project was voted down. The city, by issuing bonds without going back to the them, not only looks like a sore loser but also shows disrespect for the voter’s decisions.

    “Day-to-day expenses” can mean a lot of things. Parents and coaches have complained our soccer fields are in such poor condition that their children, using the fields, must wear ankle supports. It is my understanding the city is also under funding their retirees’ health benefits.

    Two city council members, who have been campaigning for the new district court/police complex, are running for the office of District Court Judge. Neither will be sitting on city council in 6 months. They will not have to respond to their present constituents if fees and taxes rise to pay for a building that is going to be 40% bigger than our present city hall.

    The city has only recently proposed a financing plan. The debate is still going on over the soundness of the plan. Did the petitioners say “financial plan” or “sound financial plan” and did they say “city hall” or “city hall complex”? It also seems once the petitioner understood your position she respected it and did not bother you further.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

       —Anonymous    May. 23 '08 - 08:46PM    #
  107. With regard to the claimed “need” for a huge increase in space for our police department, an article in today’s AA News points out that we have 60 fewer police officers than we did a decade ago.

    Crime has also dropped from last year.

       —David Cahill    May. 24 '08 - 04:34PM    #
  108. David, you obviously haven’t toured the police department. There is no room to separate victims from the accused, no separate juvenile facilities, incredibly poor lockerroom facilities, especially for female officers. Evidence storage in areas that were never contemplated for such a use (under the stairwell). The number of sworn officers does not include police support staff. I have yet to meet a person who actually toured the police department and said those facilities were just fine for the number of officers that the city employs. The problem was ignored for at least 30 years. The longer the wait the more expensive it gets. You use terms such as “huge”. What a joke. Two space studies were done by oustide consultants who recommended MORE space than what is being planned. You continue to espouse the 60’s utopian view that all police are bad and that out of sight out of mind is the best remedy for them. You ignore the fact that the police department makes up the largest portion of the general fund budget and along with fire service is considered a core city service.

       —Res Ipsa Loquitor    May. 24 '08 - 07:20PM    #
  109. Actually, I have toured the police department. And I think the AA police are fine; the best in the county by far.

    Why should anyone pay attention to “consultants” whose job is to go around recommending bigger facilities? I consider them lobbyists for the police, no more and no less.

       —David Cahill    May. 25 '08 - 02:00AM    #
  110. Good point. I also agree with Larry Kestenbaum that barbs directed at Ask Voters First supporters is uncalled for. Has anybody heard if the petition circulators have collected the necessary signatures?

       —Kerry D.    May. 25 '08 - 03:18AM    #
  111. By the way,for the benefit of myself and the readers,I researched the term “Res Ipsa Loquitor” and it appears to be Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”. What is the import of this handle?

       —Kerry D.    May. 25 '08 - 03:36AM    #
  112. The phrase “res ipsa loquitur”(that is the correct spelling), for those lay students of the law, is a legal rule of evidence. It applies to situations where someone has exclusive control of an instrumentality and imputes a rebuttable presumption of negligence upon that person, who then has the burden of coming forward with proof that he was not negligent or otherwise at fault. An example where this legal doctrine was cited was by Melvin Belli about 20 years ago when a plane crashed near Metro Airport; Belli stated that the theory of res ipsa loquitur would rest against the airline because planes do not fall from the sky absent the commission of negligence by airline employees. I would also beg to quibble with Mr. Loquitur at Post #87 wherein he asserts that none of the facilities cited are police/court buildings; in fact, the 19th District Court in Dearborn is a three-judge police/court facility constucted at a fraction of the 47 million dollars that Ann Arbor proposes to spend.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 27 '08 - 07:21AM    #
  113. The AVF effort has apparently failed.

       —Eric    May. 28 '08 - 01:55PM    #
  114. Not surprising. It was a failure from the start. The opponents failed to understand that most Ann Arbor residents are very practical and support the courts and the police. The campaign never faced the reality that a proper court facility was necessary and the County facility was not an option and that leasing would be a very expensive waste.

    Just waiting for a few more years to decide what to do is really not good policy.

    It would have helped if it had proposed a credible alternative plan, instead of just been a negative voice.

    Post 99 is a perfect example. He wants to put the court in existing city facilities. However, there are no such existing facilities.

    The personal attacks on the 15th district court judges and the council also made the effort look petty especially after years of looking at the options.

    Finally, the misinformation given by the signature getters mentioned above was bound to turn off anyone who knew even the basic facts.

       —math man    May. 28 '08 - 03:38PM    #
  115. Well good for the people of Ann Arbor! You all suprised me. I thought AA people blindly signed petitions as a matter of daily life and you proved that this proposal was so foul that even you couldn’t sign. It failed BIG, too.

       —imjustsayin    May. 28 '08 - 05:58PM    #
  116. While I personally am not a supporter of the Ask Voters First effort, I don’t think the failure is more due to a high bar they had to cross. 9,400 signature is a lot, and they really didn’t have a lot of time to get them. And for a mostly volunteer effort without an existing institutional base, I think they did a pretty good job.

    I do think if they had gotten on the ballot, there’s a good chance the bond would have been defeated.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 28 '08 - 06:42PM    #
  117. This is not the end of the opposition to the “Big Ugly Cube”. As set forth at Post #60, there will be further hurdles in City Council and possibly even a court fight over a legal interpretation of the City Charter. I wish to congratulate all Ask Voters First organizers and volunteers for a valiant effort and in the end I believe that this particular project will be scuttled.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 28 '08 - 07:58PM    #
  118. Post 60 was complaining about the 7 vote requirement of the Charter. Post 60 thought there should be 8 votes required. You might want to know that there were 8 votes in favor. What exactly are you referring to re: a court challenge.

    Maybe I think 10 votes should be required, and the Council should have to jump up and down on one foot while voting. But wanting this doesn’t make it so.

    I thought the City Council actually had the ability to govern the City, build buildings, issue bonds. The Council should probably be notified before the Project is scuttled.

       —math man    May. 28 '08 - 08:30PM    #
  119. Post #60 explains that transfers from operating funds will be necessary to fund the project and that this will have to be passed as a “supermajority” under the Section 8.10 of the City Charter. Post #62 suggests if the city administration attempts these transfers, opponents may attempt a court challenge to determine their legality. If not legal, a judge could declare the transfers void and restitution made to the operating funds from whence they came. I am assuming that budget vote has not happened yet. Obviously Mr. Cahill was responsible for those two posts and is in a better position to explain his interpretation than I am. In response to Post #117, I would like to assert that I never witnessed any personal attacks by anyone on the 15th District Court judiciary and in fact they were the ones who seemed to be victims of the much ballyhooed judicial infighting, particularly Ann Mattson, who suffered the reported embarrassment of being the subject of a “lockout” from her own courtroom. There was also the report that Tim Connors being angry that the District Court did not accept his wife’s application to be a magistrate in that court. I do not believe these accounts have reflected adversely on the District Court, and I have, in prior posts in recent months, lauded the judicial performances of both Ann Mattson and Libby Pollard-Hines in high-profile cases in past years. Judges Brown and Connors are certainly not considered the most well-liked judges in Ann Arbor and rumors abound as to why Brown just left the chief judge post he had held for five years. If anyone could shed more light on these matters I would be glad to hear about it.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 28 '08 - 11:03PM    #
  120. Mark Koroi wrote: “I am assuming that budget vote has not happened yet.”

    Council approved the 08-09 budget at the 19 May Council meeting. As math man notes in [121], there were eight votes in favor.

    I have no clue what implications that has for the ability of Ask Voters First to continue the campaign in a legal arena.

       —HD    May. 29 '08 - 12:06AM    #
  121. Thank you HD, however David Cahill at Post #62 has mentioned “any budget transfers would happen later in the year not right away” and Post #61 described such future transfers as a “budget amendment”. The specific language that previous poster used was: “...transfers between funds only require 8 votes when they are done later in the year and thus constitute a budget amendment.” My inquiry would be whether the vote at that May 19th council meeting and ensuing resolution approving the 2008-2009 fiscal year budget fully and finally resolved the transfers between funds necessary to fund the police/court project. If this is so, this means that two of the four councilpersons cited by Judy Mc Govern in the Ann Arbor News article did a sudden about-face. Can anybody give a definitive answer?

       —Mark Koroi    May. 29 '08 - 02:03AM    #
  122. “If this is so, this means that two of the four councilpersons cited by Judy Mc Govern in the Ann Arbor News article did a sudden about-face. Can anybody give a definitive answer?”

    It’s worth bearing in mind that Council is made up of 11 members: 2 from each of 5 wards, plus the Mayor. So the 8 votes for the budget reflected 3 votes (not two) against. Those voting against were Anglin, Suarez, Briere.

       —HD    May. 29 '08 - 04:18AM    #
  123. Council member Kunselman opposes the project, but said he was voting for the budget because the cooperation between the City and County he had hoped for had not happened.

    The final tally on the petition drive is about 5600 signatures. More people signed the petition than voted in all the City Council primaries in August, 2007 combined.

       —David Cahill    May. 29 '08 - 04:30PM    #
  124. That’s an interesting comparison, David. How many contested races were there in the August, 2007 primary? Were there any Republican contests?

       —Steve Bean    May. 29 '08 - 06:39PM    #
  125. There are countless stories about AVF lying to people to get them to sign the petition. Heck, even the NEWS article pointed out that one of its own staffers was given misleading information by an AVF circulator. Conclusion: It’s easy to get 5,600 signatures when you lie to people.

       —Bill T.    May. 29 '08 - 06:44PM    #
  126. This appears to be a big political victory for Chris Easthope and increase his chances for a win in the August 5th judicial primary as his successful organizing of the “pro-build” coalition will now augment an impressive list of endorsements from civic leaders and elected officials that is currently rivalled only by Eric Gutenberg.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 29 '08 - 06:54PM    #
  127. There were contested primaries (all Democratic) in the First, Third, and Fifth Wards last August.

       —David Cahill    May. 29 '08 - 07:55PM    #
  128. I concur with Chuck’s analysis at Post #119 – AVF’s prohibitive enemy was time; this was a victory for representationism versus populism – a victory by City Council as opposed to the people of Ann Arbor. Another week or so AVF could have gotten the threshold number of signatures. One positive by-product of constructing the “Big Ugly Cube” is that Ann Arbor citizens will get something in exchange for all the beneficial social programs that are going to be reduced or eliminated due to the cost of funding this project.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 29 '08 - 08:53PM    #
  129. “There are countless stories about AVF lying to people to get them to sign the petition. Heck, even the NEWS article pointed out that one of its own staffers was given misleading information by an AVF circulator. Conclusion: It’s easy to get 5,600 signatures when you lie to people.”

    Have you ever circulated petitions? I’m guessing from your statement that you haven’t.

       —John Q.    May. 29 '08 - 10:13PM    #
  130. Heh!

       —Larry Kestenbaum    May. 29 '08 - 10:39PM    #
  131. The problem may not be lying. I suspect the circulators may have been poorly informed and really did not understand what was the proposed ballot language. I believe “negligent misrepresentation” nay be a kinder characterization of such statements posited by these AVF functionaries. The petition drive was a “noble cause”, to borrow a quote from Ronald Reagan.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 29 '08 - 11:13PM    #
  132. If you are a determined proponent of this project, it is easy to say that a petition circulator putting forth a different version of the facts is lying.

       —David Cahill    May. 30 '08 - 01:52AM    #
  133. Post 135, if one knew any basic facts about the issue, one would know that the petition circulators were misinformed. These were not different versions of the facts.

    I don’t see anything noble about this effort.

    The campaign got bogged down in negativity. It provided no constructive dialogue.

    It is very easy to be critical.

    The petition circulators encouraged those in favor of the facility to sign the petition, are the proponents now saying that all of the signers were against the facility? How would they know that.

    Time was not the enemy of this campaign, negativity was.

       —math man    May. 30 '08 - 05:02PM    #
  134. The proponents are saying that the signers wanted a vote on the bonds.

    There will be further action on this at Monday’s upcoming Council meeting.

       —David Cahill    May. 30 '08 - 07:49PM    #
  135. Math man said, “Not surprising. It was a failure from the start. The opponents failed to understand that most Ann Arbor residents are very practical and support the courts and the police. The campaign never faced the reality that a proper court facility was necessary and the County facility was not an option and that leasing would be a very expensive waste.” I would point out that supporting the courts and the police does not mean the citizens of Ann Arbor want to approve a white elephant project like with the current proposal! I collected 32 signatures in 90 minutes at a parade on Memorial Day with only about 3 people who were informed on the issue choosing not to sign. People were very glad to see me collecting signatures in the 2nd ward district I was in and were explicit in telling me so.

    I find it interesting that flaks in favor of the city hall expansion like math man are shameless in presuming to know what citizens of Ann Arbor think when they have not even been out on the streets talking to people and then turn around and accuse supporters of Ask Voters First of distorting the facts! Oh, and here is a factoid AVF discovered about the supposed 94,000 registered voters in Ann Arbor: many of the people listed don’t live at the registered address anymore! That’s right, one example run across was a woman registered to vote in Ann Arbor that had not lived at the address in question for over five years. Think about it; half of the housing units in Ann Arbor are rentals with high turn-over. There are multiple people registered at the same address due to the fact that the registered voter list is not aggressively culled of people who have moved. There is a good reason not to remove names from the voter roles but the downside from a citizen activist point of view is that it greatly inflated the minimum number of valid signatures that needed to be collected (also, the percentage turn-out is understated.) I am convinced that the average voter in Ann Arbor would like to vote on the proposed City-Court facility project based on the contact with people I had when collecting signatures. The idea of letting voters approve/dis-approve of the bond issue clearly resonated with registered voters I talked to. My spiel was pretty simple: I simply summarized the content of the ballot language. That is, that enough signatures would result in putting the question before voters; and that the council had already voted to approve the bond issue and the bonds would be issued unless enough signatures were collected to force the vote. Before flaks like math man get too giddy with excitement let me point out another factoid: it only takes less than 6000 signatures collected over one year to change the City Charter. There has been talk that AVF should threaten to launch a new campaign to force the city to put all bond issuance proposals before voters if the City Council does not put this issue before voters. Think about it, 100 people came together to get over 5000 signatures in 45 days; what could these same people do in a year? There also is the matter of the August primaries and the November election; this could be the perfect issue to launch an insurgent campaign if the Council chooses to dis the voters by refusing to put this issue on the ballot. This issue is still in play, stay tuned!
       —Chuck L.    May. 31 '08 - 04:35AM    #
  136. I concur in your assessment, Chuck. Ask Voters First should launch an effort to amend the City Charter.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 31 '08 - 04:55AM    #
  137. Wow, asking voters to vote on every bond issue? That’s one of the most conservative ideas I’ve ever heard. I can’t see getting voter support for all the issues that need to be funded: stormwater sewer upgrades, maintenance facilities, etc. It feeds into the most parochial, anti-tax, anti-government tendencies in the electorate. Not to mention that it would bog down efforts to invest in our infrastructure if every initiative needed a political campaign to make it happen.

    Take stormwater for example. I’ve already heard enough griping about the utility changes there, and I’m not sure it could win on the ballot. But if you don’t maintain and upgrade the stormwater utility, you get more pollution in the Huron, more flooding, and more expensive problems when you let the system deteriorate through neglect.

    Please AVFers, I understand your frustration here, but do not do this to the city.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 2 '08 - 05:29AM    #
  138. You’re absolutely right, Chuck W.! The idea makes me wax nostalgiac back to 1978 when Bob Tisch and Dick Headlee stood at the forefront of a tax revolt in this state. Put more fiscal power in the hands of taxpayers rather than a City Council who care chiefly about themselves and their cohorts in city government. I salute Ask Voters First and implore them to regroup and organize an effort to amend the City Charter. Somewhere Bob and Dick are looking down and are smiling at the efforts of AVF.

       —Kerry D.    Jun. 2 '08 - 06:14AM    #
  139. Chuck, Kerry,

    Your both engaging in scare tactics and label mongering. What’s wrong with Democracy? Afraid the voters will vote wrong, are you? Ann Arbor voters routinely approve millage renewals without much fuss and vote for increases when they think there is value to be added to public infrastructure. Skyline High School is a case in point; voters voted for a bond measure to fund it which is the way the decision should have been made. This issue is about citizens actually owning government by participating in it; what better way to accomplish that then by having citizens vote on every bond issue? People should contact their council reps and the mayor and tell them to put the city hall expansion bond issue before the voters at the June 2nd council meeting!
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 2 '08 - 06:43AM    #
  140. Chuck W., I see AVF as cutting across a wide cross-section of the political spectrum.The concept that taxing and spending power better resides with the people by direct vote is a conservative notion, I agree. However, the expenditure of public monies to fund such “law and order” projects as the extravagant police/court building at issue herein at the societal cost of reducing or eliminating entirely beneficial social programs flies in the face of Liberal ideals normally associated with the mainstream of local Democratic Party platforms. Greens, Republicans, Democrats, and other political persuasions were all represented in AVF.It is a grass-roots movement that I take great pride and confidence in endorsing.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 2 '08 - 08:11AM    #
  141. No doubt, Mark, that the AVF campaign against this bond issue cut across partisan lines, but to take that farther and put a roadblock to public spending on other projects I think is a step too far.

    Chuck L., I think direct democracy is least effective when it is subject to emotional bias and prejudice. I think the history of the Headlee amendment, proposal A, term limits (AKA mandatory inexperience laws), the anti-marriage equality vote, and the vote against affirmative action are testaments to this. Given the anti-spending bias among voters, I think requiring all bonds to go to a vote would hurt investment in needed public projects.

    That said, since the barrier that AVF faced seemed more an issue of time than support, I could see extending the signature gathering window to challenge bond issues. That seems a more appropriate system of checks and balances.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 2 '08 - 06:06PM    #
  142. Chuck L. asks “What’s wrong with democracy?

    The United States has never been a direct democracy. It has always been a representative democracy.

    While the former has its attractions, our system of government for 200+ years has been the latter, to generally good effect. Using direct democracy as a check on representatives means that it should be rare and difficult to utilize (as appears to be the case here), not “the norm”. If it becomes the norm, then we effectively have a direct democracy, contrary to our culture, history, and traditions.

       —Eric    Jun. 3 '08 - 12:14AM    #
  143. The “time window” should be extended.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 3 '08 - 05:43AM    #
  144. Folks,

    “Math Man” is none other than councilperson Leigh Greden! What are you afraid of “Math Man” (why the alias?) Are you afraid it’s true that most Ann Arbor voters would like to vote on the City-Court expansion project but you don’t want to acknowledge that fact? Yes, your point about owning versus renting is true over a 30 year window; but that is not the issue. The issue is over how the city’s resources are used and I say the city does not need 102,000 sq-ft of new prime office space downtown. I’m really disappointed that a public official such as yourself refuses to acknowledge this and even goes so far as to conceal his identity when engaging citizens in a public forum such as this.
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 4 '08 - 02:39AM    #
  145. Leigh Greden’s employer, Miller Canfield Paddock & Stone, advertises on their website that they are the most prominent “bond counsel” law firm in Michigan. I know that fees of law firms overseeing bond issuances often run into the hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. It is considered to be a highly lucrative specialty of the law that only a select few law firms in this state practice. Another would be Dickinson Wright. Does anybody know which law firm is acitng as bond counsel for the 31 million dollar bond that is financing the “Big Ugly Cube”? It would certainly be interesting to find out, especially if it can be confirmed that Greden is “Math Man”.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 4 '08 - 03:56AM    #
  146. Over the years, I have periodically posted e-mails on Arbor Update, and have allowed my budget e-mails to be posted here. (Some of those are still included in the AU archives). During that time, I have always posted as myself. I am not “math man,” I do not know the real identity of “math man,” and I am disappointed that Chuck L would accuse me of being “math man” without any facts to support his accusation.

    My employer, Miller Canfield, does not represent the City of Ann Arbor in bond work or any other work. Historically, the City has used Dykema Gossett for bond work. I do not know which law firm has been retained by the City to assist with the Police/Courts bond.

       —Leigh Greden    Jun. 4 '08 - 08:11PM    #
  147. Thank you for your clarification, Councilperson Greden. “Historically, the City has used Dykema Gossett for bond work”; I quibble with your assertion in that regard as incomplete. Tom Colis of Miller Canfield’s Detroit office previously appeared as bond counsel before City Council a number of years ago when Ingrid Sheldon was mayor (see December 17,1998, Ann Arbor City Council Minutes, Special Session). If you could find who is the current bond counsel or tell us how to locate this information, this would be greatly appreciated. I would also appreciate if Chuck L. could impart to us his source that you are “Math Man”. Better yet, I would like to hear “Math Man” himself disclose his identity.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 5 '08 - 01:15AM    #
  148. I accept the statement of Leigh Greden that he is not “math man”. This whole episode would not have happened if Arbor Update had been enforcing a “no screen name” policy.

    If people want to post here, they should grow up and use their real names unless there is a good reason not to.

       —David Cahill    Jun. 5 '08 - 10:14PM    #
  149. A “no screen name” policy is impossible to enforce. I could post as “Ryan Smith” (to pull two names at random) and no one would know the difference. At least with a name like “math man” you know you don’t know his real name.

       —Tom Brandt    Jun. 5 '08 - 10:49PM    #
  150. Not necessarily, Tom. The webmasters have the unique I.P.(Internet Protocol) number of the poster, so to the extent that Math Man posted previously under his true identity and to the extent that he does not employ Tor or some other gizmo to hide his IP number, the webmasters will know its from the same computer. That said, there have been some suspicions that council people and other local officials are posting under aliases to promote their agendas without having it known that they are the posters. Frankly, I believe Mr. Greden’s assertion that he is not Math Man and think the inaccuracies and smart-alecky attitude of Math Man are inconsistent with Councilperson Leigh Greden.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 6 '08 - 12:15AM    #
  151. Oh. My. God. This AGAIN?

    This was settled back in the early 50’s you know. Doesn’t anybody remember the TV show? You know, the one where the guy would ride into town and clean up all the accounting errors, ride away, leaving everyone wondering, “Who was that math man?”

       —HD    Jun. 6 '08 - 01:09AM    #
  152. Mark, not to get too geeky about this, but an IP address will identify the particular network some posted from, but not necessarily the particular computer. The public IP address assigned to my company’s router is whatever it is, and any traffic coming from any computer on my LAN will show that public IP. Furthermore, if your internet service uses dynamic IP addressing, the same computer could – most likely will – have a different IP address every time it connects to the internet. So it is hard to ID someone using an IP address alone.

    But this way too geeky.

       —Tom Brandt    Jun. 6 '08 - 01:14AM    #
  153. I have no comment about the IP stuff because that is way over my head.

    Miller Canfield may or may not have been bond counsel for a particular City bond issued ten years ago; I have no idea because that was before any current member of Council was elected. However, Dykema Gossett has served as bond counsel as long as I can remember, they served as bond counsel for the $54 million water/sewer bonds issued in February 2008, and I just confirmed they are bond counsel for the Police/Courts bond.

       —Leigh Greden    Jun. 6 '08 - 01:25AM    #
  154. Moreover, if you are posting from home and have a Comcast connection, for example, the typical Comcast account gives you a new IP address every time you reboot your modem.


       —Eric    Jun. 6 '08 - 02:32AM    #
  155. HD wins this thread. The rest of you can go home now.

    Anyway, pseudonyms are here to say. Like David, I’d like to believe that use of real names would help keep people from, say, presenting random unsupported speculation as fact, but #147 would seem to wreck that theory. Plus, lots of thoughtful people have told me that they don’t like to use their real names online.

    So, we’ll just make a best effort (using whatever heuristics we can) to keep people from changing pseudonyms, and then as readers we can all use past experience with screen names to decide who’s worth paying attention to. OK? OK.

       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 6 '08 - 06:34AM    #
  156. Folks,

    So, Leigh Greden has been lurking in the background of this thread all along (we didn’t know that until he posted June 4th)! I must say, I was impressed with how quickly he responded to my post. I’m also impressed with the uncanny ability of math man and Leigh to read each others minds (remember, Leigh does not know math man—according to him); I saw Leigh make the same arguments math man has made on this thread Monday night at the council meeting. So, we had a council person here all along who could have engaged us as a council person but chose instead to let math man speak for him. That gives me confidence in my elected officials! This was a major issue 5600 registered voters chose to express their opinion on and all Leigh can do is let math man make his arguments for him.
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 6 '08 - 07:10AM    #
  157. That said, there have been some suspicions that … local officials are posting under aliases to promote their agendas without having it known that they are the posters.

    Speaking only for myself, I post to Arbor Update under my own unvarnished identity. I think it would be foolish and self-defeating for any politico to do otherwise.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 6 '08 - 02:58PM    #
  158. I just want everyone to know that I am actually Dick Cheney.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Jun. 6 '08 - 05:23PM    #
  159. There are all kinds of reasons a person may not want to use their real identity. I don’t even put my name in the phone book or more importantly, let my boss know my views on politics. Where a person works can make a big difference as to what they want out there in public view. I have a friend who works for a local real estate company and they do not let their people write letters to the editor, blogs, etc. That’s just the way it is. So should he not blog?

    If people want to exclude all but the “real people” from posting go ahead but maybe open up another venue for the rest of us. Of course then you would have to be able to tell who is really “real.” Blood tests?

    As a lot of residents do, I sometimes write council members or the mayor or even call them on the phone to get their take on things. Most of them reply, some don’t (Suarez and Anglin) I also have a friend who works with a council member and they sometimes go out for lunch in groups and council stuff is talked about. I’m sure it happens all the time. Most of the council members and the mayor are very accessible and they share their views freely.

    Anyway, the point is, there are all kinds of ways for people who care, to have the same information as council members. A2 is not a big place and the people who really pay attention to city government form a pretty small circle. Lots of conversations are going on all the time, not just here.

    So, Math Man could be part of the larger conversation. Besides, what in the world is “Chuck L” doing questioning someones ID?

       —LauraB    Jun. 6 '08 - 05:30PM    #
  160. I wasn’t questioning the value of anonymous participation. Indeed, some of my favorite voices here (“John Q”, “Parking Structures Dude!”) are unknown to me.

    However, I was rebutting the notion that local officials would be so shy about their opinions as to post under pseudonyms.

    There are three reasons for this.

    First, deservingly or not, opinions posted by politicians get some automatic credibility, and are taken much more seriously than when posted as “Flaming-Jerk-Head” or whatever. Probably because I’m county clerk, stuff I write here is rarely dismissed as just a steaming pile of baloney — even if it is.

    Secondly, we politicians are usually eager to seize credit for being right about stuff. After all, we wouldn’t be saying it if we didn’t think our words were pearls of wisdom, no? And we don’t get any credit for stuff posted anonymously.

    And third, it would be hugely embarrassing for a public official to be caught posting as “Flaming-Jerk-Head”. People would be calling us “Flaming-Jerk-Head” or “sock-puppeteer” for the rest of our political lives.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 6 '08 - 06:33PM    #
  161. I post under my real name and I’ve expressed some political viewpoints that I will undoubtedly have to divorce myself from when I run for president. Maybe I’ll just say it was someone impersonating me so they could use it against me, later.

    “Flaming-Jerk-Head”? “sock-puppeteer”? Those sound eerily similar to screen names that are chosen for porn sites—like “Hugh Jardon”, “Ima Peeper”, or “Seymour Klitz”...uh, Larry…oh, never mind.

       —Michael Schils    Jun. 6 '08 - 08:23PM    #
  162. Re Post #154: Thanks for the humor, Kemo sabe!

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 7 '08 - 01:07AM    #
  163. Uh, yeah, that was humor too where I implied that the screen names mentioned by the County Clerk were porn-ish sounding. I was attempting to illustrate how public officials who post messages are sometimes subject to baseless innuendo from fringe elements. But perhaps my sarcasm was too abstract for this medium and was considered to be sophomoric and in bad taste. Alas, my dreams of becoming POTUS some day are dashed once again by an ill-conceived post on AU. I should have posted anonymously.

       —Michael Schils    Jun. 9 '08 - 05:46PM    #
  164. When I imagine some oppo-researcher combing through all the online postings I have generated in the last 25 years, looking for things to use against me in a campaign, I am consoled by the fact that the accumulated volume of my verbosity is so overwhelming that it will take him a long, long time to read it all.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 9 '08 - 07:36PM    #
  165. “there have been some suspicions that council people and other local officials are posting under aliases to promote their agendas without having it known that they are the posters.”

    What “suspicions” other than the one extremely poorly-supported claim made by Chuck L on this thread?

       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 9 '08 - 09:07PM    #
  166. Hey Folks,

    I actually collected sigs. for the AVF, and we were all given “talk sheets.” Those sheets were very clear on what the talking points were. If people strayed from the script, that’s what happens when non-professionals gather signatures. I stuck to the issue that no one was saying the Council’s decision was right or wrong, but rather the question was this: Should voters decide whether to encumber themselves further financially through this particular bond sale for this particular project?

    I collected about 100 signatures, and had the pleasure of speaking with lots of people who couldn’t sign (Ann Arbor Township folks), as well as three who wouldn’t (one of whom was a A2 employee). I did not walk my Ward, but rather worked “events.” Thus, I came across a wider spectrum and cross-sample of people. In my experience, voters wanted to put this particular bond issue to a vote.

    From what I understand from people who did walk their Wards, they found the voter records terribly inaccurate. We gathered more than enough signatures to vote to change the City Charter, and strip Council of the right to issue bonds without voter approval. This would defeat one purpose of elective government, of course, but the comments made in earlier postings about Easthope and Lowenstein BOTH leaving Council after this decision, strikes me as an argument for more voter control over the issuance of multi-million dollar bonds.

    I collected signatures, because of the condescending, defensive and thoroughly unsatisfactory (from those who bothered) answers I received from Mayor and several Council members to my questions about the finances of the City and the financing of this project. I am very unhappy with my First Ward Council members; they ought to have worked harder on an alternative plan, because a lack of one was why both of them voted against the project several times.

    I think this whole issue reveals some serious communication and information-sharing problems on Council between the Mayor and his long-term colleagues, such as Leigh Greden and Chris Easthope, and newer Council members and the voters. The AVF discussion was held at 12 a.m., and the Mayor made sure he and his like-minded colleagues got their awards at 7 p.m. It may be politics, but he’s playing politics with other people’s money.

       —First Warder    Jun. 9 '08 - 11:38PM    #
  167. From what I understand from people who did walk their Wards, they found the voter records terribly inaccurate.

    Most active Michigan voters have driver’s licenses. Whenever they update or renew their driver’s license, they also automatically update their voter address. As a result, a very large proportion (of Michigan residents who are eligible to vote) are on the voter list at their correct address.

    Michigan death certificates are carefully combed for individuals with Michigan residence addresses, and such folks are systematically removed from the voter list.

    What these methods do not address are people who lived and voted here once upon a time, but moved away to another state.

    Originally, if you failed to vote in any election for two or four years, you would be deleted from the voter list. That hasn’t happened since the 1980s. The federal rule is that it’s your right to be registered to vote regardless whether you actually participate in elections, so not voting is no longer considered a valid grounds for deletion.

    As a result, there are a great many people on Michigan voter rolls who are long gone (some haven’t voted since 1988), and the only legal way to purge them is cumbersome, expensive, and perhaps prone to errors.

    Moreover, there is no political consensus on whether this or any other method of removing people from the voter rolls is a good policy, let alone worth the resources it would take to carry it out.

    Hence, a door-to-door campaigner with an all-inclusive voter list, sorted by address, will find an appalling number of people who don’t live there any more. That’s why most political campaigns limit walking lists to people who have actually voted in a recent election.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 10 '08 - 01:58AM    #
  168. Bruce, the speculation openly voiced previously has been by “Mucho Gusto”, and also David Cahill, who has believed that “John Q.” is really the mayor; others have privately speculated that certain posters are really certain council members. I would note that “Math Man” has never posted until recently and has not been heard from again – his only theme was to bash AVF. Another poster, “Res Ipsa Loquitur(sic)”, also suddenly appeared at about the same time as “Math Man” and was antogonistic to AVF. “Res Ipsa Loquitor” is a Latin term that is common to lawyers but not well-known by laymen; there are at least three lawyers on City Council that supported the police/court project and this particular poster at Posts #87 and #111 evidences a great working knowledge of both the current Ann Arbor Police Department headquarters as well as local courthouses. It is a reasonable suspicion that one of the lawwyer/councilpersons may be Res Ipsa Loquitor. Any concrete proof? Of course not. To address Larry’s opinion that there are reasons for public official not to use a pseudonym, there are equally good reasons to do so, the most salient of which being that these pseudonym posts convey the impression that they are from relatively disinterested members of the public with no axe to grind. I personally see such posts as an attempt to counter the high number of known AVF supporters who have disclosed their opinions on this thread.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 10 '08 - 04:24AM    #
  169. Larry,

    Thanks for the summary.

    I am by no means a fan of democracy by referendum, but it is legal and therefore should either be reasonably possible or removed from the list of options.

    The system you describe, coupled with a requirement that one get signatures equal to X% of the total registered population would seem to significantly reduce the likelihood of a successful ballot initiative in a town with high population turnover (such as a college town like Ann Arbor).

    Is this a correct reading of the situation? Can anything be done to ameliorate this effect?

       —Eric    Jun. 10 '08 - 04:32AM    #
  170. Larry Kestenbaum’s explanation of how voter records are updated (by the state, I presume) was very useful.

    I think the point that AVF supporters are trying to make is that since there are many people on the registered voter list who no longer live here, the bar for collecting petition signatures is set unrealistically high.

    I have a question, since I am a current consumer of lists of voters for a particular election: will their addresses be automatically updated from the QVF, or will the addresses be current only for that election?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 10 '08 - 04:37AM    #
  171. “Mark” (or should I call you David),

    I have no evidence that you and “Mucho Gusto” are not aliases of David Cahill. Therefore, by your logic, I should conclude that all the posts by many AVF supporters on this thread are simply posting under multiple names to create the illusion of support for AVF.

    In fact, i could take this to its logical conclusion and assume that all the posts on Arbor Update are the mad ravings of the many personalities of HD.

    This is a long way of saying that given the current system of posting on Arbor Update (which I don’t have a problem with), I suspect we have to be content with evaluating the content of each post on its merits, regardless of its apparent “support” or “lack of favor.”

    PS For the record, I don’t doubt that you are a different person than David Cahill. I’m simply making a rhetorical point.

       —Eric    Jun. 10 '08 - 04:39AM    #
  172. Based on the responses I received from the Mayor, Chris Easthope and Leigh Greden, when I emailed some questions about the Police/Court House project, it was clear from their answers that they all took the perceived questioning quite personally. One of the main reasons that I’d hoped the proposal would pass, was to force those Council members who’d supported the project to provide voters with more information, and a clearer picture of the proposed financing.

    One question I had throughout was why, if the county was going to toss out the judges, and the Police desperately need new facilities, and DDA was thrilled to sign on for $500,000 per year for the next three decades, did none of the leaders of those groups ever speak in concert with the Mayor or Council members supporting the expenditure?

    Why the conflicting answers to the simple questions? Why the Mayor asking me to suggest an alternative plan? Isn’t that his job? Mightn’t a better answer have been to have outlined what

    My hope is that with Chris Easthope and Joan Lowenstein replaced by more fiscally conservative candidates, the new members will propose a resolution to stop the project until such time as all of the conflicting information can be sorted out, and some real alternatives to a new building.

    I had the chance to speak with Sandi Smith, and she supports the project. I’d prefer the “potted plant” I do know to the realtor I don’t.

    One last comment and that has to do with politicians using their own names: I am sure this blog owner gets the IP addresses of posters along with the post (as I do when people post to my blog). One need only go back and compare the IP addresses on various posts. It doesn’t prove identity, of course, but it does provide some interesting clues. Masking one’s IP address is possible, but the ineptitude of Comcast makes it quite difficult.

       —First Warder    Jun. 10 '08 - 05:27AM    #
  173. First Warder, thank you for your post to rebut assertions that AVF petition circulators were nothing but incompetent nincompoops trying to delude voters. By the way, the term “potted plant” was initially used to decsribe “token” minorities, particularly African-Americans, sitting as group members to refer to their inaction as members of those groups and their presence solely to impute diversity to the organization in question. It is an offensive term and it, unfairly, has been used to describe Councilperson Suarez by prior posters.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 10 '08 - 05:41AM    #
  174. First warder. If I could let me point out that the order of the agenda for a city council meeting is set. Just read an agenda. The introductions (presentations, awards, etc.) come first, then public comment then public hearings, and later on the D items. I thought the awards, solar city, best place to walk etc, were for the whole community. I was proud to see A2 shine. How can you equate the city receiving awards with “playing politics?”

    I wrote the mayor and my council member about the courts and police building too and also received a copy of the financing plan. The city had it on their web site. (probably still there) It made sense to me. Why pay rent?

    The mayor even posted his position statement on this blog as did Sabra Briere. Full disclosure from both and I appreciated it.

    As for looking for alternatives, he spent over a year voting against the project while searching for alternatives and when he couldn’t find one, he admitted it and finally voted for it.

    The city has been talking about this issue for 10 years, they finally pulled the trigger.

    I favor the project, I don’t want the city paying over $700 K in rent when they can own. But that said, I don’t hold a grudge against the council members who opposed it. It was openly discussed,there were public meetings (going back over many years) and finally they voted. It was the democratic process at work.

    As for the bonds, I agree with the arguments that were made at the meeting. It would be a bad precedent to set to have every bond sale go to the voters. How is this bond any different than others the city has recently sold, one for $44 million and one for $34 M. Where was the protest then? Mike Anglin voted for those bond sales.

    The final vote on the bonds was 9 to 2 so two more council members came around. That’s one vote better than a super majority.

       —LauraB    Jun. 10 '08 - 07:43AM    #
  175. Mark: Thank you for the origin of the term “potted plant” that has recently been applied to council member Suarez.

    I first heard it two years ago (?) when David Cahill used it to describe then council member John Roberts who was African American. I didn’t know it had racist overtones. I supposed it just meant someone who didn’t do or say anything.

       —Dustin    Jun. 10 '08 - 07:53AM    #
  176. I didn’t take this term to have any such (racist) overtones when it was first applied, apparently, to me in this thread. I recognized it from a Congressional hearing meaning someone who was merely occupying a chair and not being allowed to speak substantively, or not choosing to. (Scroll down to the paragraph “Career” to see the quotation as originally applied.)

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 10 '08 - 02:44PM    #
  177. Mark,

    Thanks for the information about “potted plants.” Is it a colloquialism from a particular region? As far as I understand, it can be taken to mean placed in a pot, such as a plant, intoxicated, or preserved. Colloquially, we speakers of British English will refer to an abridged novel as a “potted” novel. So, how’s about sharing a bit more information for the curious ones among us?

    Language relies on context, of course. Let me make my context perfectly clear. In my opinion, my First Ward Council member, Ron Suarez, is not a drunk, cooked, preserved, or an abridged novel. IMHO, his work (thus far) on Council has been ineffectual; his visibility in the First Ward limited. He’s just, well, there, like a potted plant, albeit with more fiscal reserve than most, and certainly more than his opponent Sandi Smith, and several of his colleagues on Council.

       —First Warder    Jun. 10 '08 - 05:00PM    #
  178. LauraB,

    I’ve found your posts most interesting. I went up and read them along the thread of the discussion. You make some very good points, primary among which is why the “sudden” and, to some, irrational reaction to this proposed bond?

    First of all, the new building will house fewer than 300 people. The cost per person per square foot is palatial, in those terms. Second, one imagines, there are at least 5,600 voters in the City who had (have) questions about the project (Shall we say 5,000, and split the difference about a percentage of the voters who may have met up with those allegedly overzealous signature collectors?). I had questions; you did. You received more productive answers than I did. It’s a shame that the finance plan was not written about more frankly and extensively in the local press. I know the A2 News can be somewhat parochial, but at least for the moment, the fourth estate is a better communication tool than the Mayor posting to a blog, or sending out boilerplate emails filled with rhetoric.

    The Mayor tried for a year to find an alternative. Why did he not appoint a committee of Council members, including those who were concerned about the proposal? He tried for one year; he has been Mayor for much longer than that, yes? Again, part of the problem is, I believe, a lack of clear communication concerning the basic facts. Tell me, will the County toss out the judges when the lease expires? I’ve read yes; I’ve read no. Why not renovate the Police station? I’ve read it’s impossible; I read one Council member ask why the leaking ceiling cannot simply be repaired? Why rent? For the same reason everyone is America doesn’t own a home. They can’t afford to buy.

    To be sure, City finances are somewhat different from those of the families who provide the bulk of the revenue, and whose demand/need for services consume the bulk of said revenue. However, the basic premise remains that as a rule revenue must exceed expenditures, or one will surely suffer the fate of Mr. Macawber: misery.

    There were fewer arguments about the other bonds, one imagines, because the revenue was shown to be clearly available to cover the long-term encumbrances resulting for both of those bonds (the resulting use of which also impacted, per capita, more residents). Long-term financial impact is one of the crucial questions currently under debate at the moment, and one of the most important aspects of this debate those Council members who support the new building have not done a good job addressing.

       —First Warder    Jun. 10 '08 - 05:52PM    #
  179. First Warder: RE Post 180: I am having trouble understanding what you are saying about Mr. Suarez. I have gathered from your posts that you believe the financially responsible vote was against the sale of up to $31 million in bonds for the new police and courts building. As you know, I disagree with you in that the long term financial health of the city will be better served by getting out from under the rent payments especially when the city has saved so much for the downpayment and the bond payments do not take away from the ongoing budget. The city will have a valuable asset, etc.

    But given that we disagree, from your point of view, how can you say Mr. Suarez took (again in your opinion) the more fiscally responsible path?

    Mr. Suarez voted FOR the bond sale.

    This was the single most important vote to date on this project and Suarez now supports it. Only Briere and Anglin voted against it. It was still a super majority even without Suarez.

       —LauraB    Jun. 10 '08 - 06:17PM    #
  180. 1st Warder RE post 181: This building will house a modern police station and court house. Last time I looked it was going to be LEED Gold. When you take off the money that will go into upgrading the existing Larcom Building you see that the cost will be in line with what the County recently paid for the new courthouse in Saline, $380 per sq. foot.

    Perhaps you have not been following this issue for very long. The mayor appointed a task force 2 or 3 years ago to come up with an alternative for the police and courts. They looked at a lot of sites and finally recommended the Library Lot, a poor choice in my opinion. In a public hearing the people made it clear they did not want the police and courts moving to the Library Lot and council listened. The Larcom site was finally agreed upon.

    As most know the city has been looking at this for 10 years.

    There was also a subcommittee of council looking at this a couple of years ago. I think what the mayor was saying was on top of all that, he personally looked at it for over a year, starting when he almost vetoed it last spring. If you read his post, you see that he only voted for it after $4 million had already been spent and he could not find an alternative. His other reason was that there was a financial plan in place that had not been there before.

    If you watch the meetings over time you see that the financing plan has been explained and updated. I agree with you about the newspaper but note that they have been running a sidebar giving the basics of the financing plan and the city had the full version on the web site and it was presented at the budget Town Hall.

    Gathering 5000 signatures is not such a big deal especially if someone is willing to spend thousands paying people to do it. There is a very recent example of a successful petition drive in the county jail issue not long ago, done in the same time frame.

    Perhaps you can you explain why all of most experienced council members, (even including Jean Carlberg who retired after 14 years?) who must know the budget far better than the new members, all supported the bond sale and the new building?

    In the end, all but two council members voted to sell the bonds. That is a very strong majority.

       —LauraB    Jun. 10 '08 - 06:51PM    #
  181. LauraB,

    Again, thanks for the background. You’re making some greats points. As far as the paid gatherers—bloody hell—I did it for free. It’s a common practice to hire help; that’s not really at issue, is it? However, there were 100 people who gathered, and fewer than five were paid. I think had the organizers paid more people, it would have succeeded. It was precisely because the vast majority of collectors were A2 voters, that the drive failed. It was also because of the lack of media savvy of the leaders, I think. There was no ongoing media coverage, for instance.

    As for your question about why the most experienced Council members, including Ms. Carlberg (ret.), support the expenditure, I wish knew. Leigh Greden wrote recently that his analysis of the budget anticipates a deficit; this was before the bond issue was approved and Pfizer threw in their cards. The Mayor has said the same thing. The budget is already heading toward deficit. Perhaps they support the project because they just want it? Perhaps they support it because it’s not their money their spending? Perhaps they support it because they have invested 10 years in having something built, and elected officials sometimes get confused and think they should “vote their conscience.” Perhaps the ones who voted for it think their constituents are all ignorant gits who should piss off, and let the pols do the work.

    The “green” money going toward the structure is less than $300K. It will be LEED Gold, and that’s great. With $1.5-$2.0 million dollars each year for three decades, Ann Arbor could make loans/grants to every homeowner and business to green up properties and businesses. The new facility is one building, and one building that will require an immense investment to produce results consistent with a single LEED Gold building. With $500K per year, the DDA could green every parking structure in the City. I think you see where I’m going with this.

    Really though, don’t the unanswered questions pique your curiosity even a little bit? Wouldn’t you like to see if the judges would really be tossed out on their gavels once the lease expires? Can you explain why we need a 100,000 square foot building to house 300 employees? Oh, and taking out the Larcom renov money doesn’t work for me. It’s a package deal.

       —First Warder    Jun. 10 '08 - 10:12PM    #
  182. Several specific points:

    (1) I know Mucho Gusto. I have met and talked with him. I will gladly vouch that he is a real person, though he goes by another name in his offline life.

    (2) I have not met John Q (I’d like to some day). Obviously, he’s very well informed, but I am almost positive he’s not a politician.

    (3) “Res Ipsa Loquitur” is also the title of the newsletter of the county bar association.

    (4) Eric: Given that the number of registered voters is inflated, I don’t believe any signature requirement should be tied to that number. Most already aren’t.

    (5) Vivienne: The Qualified Voter File (QVF) is operated by the state, but it is still the city and township clerks who make decisions about whether to devote resources to purging records. Most don’t, due to the expense and controversy.

    (6) The county is eager to get the district judges out because, once they’re gone, the juvenile court can move to the courthouse, and the Platt Road property (current juvenile court location) can be reused or sold.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 10 '08 - 11:21PM    #
  183. 1st Warder: I think you just hit the nail on the head. There is no alternative plan.

    Your plan would have the city stop planning for the future, do nothing about the courts problem and just see if the judges are thrown out. It would have the AAPD stuck in the same inadequate space and the city still paying rent, 30 years from now.

    I watched a meeting where Mike Anglin said: “I’ve taken the tour, everybody agrees the Police need a new headquarters.” Sabra Briere proposed a whole new city hall right on this site. As somebody said at the last council meeting, it makes no sense to build a new police station and not put the courts on top of it.

    Then you charge 9 of the 11 council members, those who voted to sell the bonds, for whatever their own reasons, of not voting in the best interests of the city. NINE OF ELEVEN! I don’t buy it and I don’t think most residents will either.

    Many of them are the same council members who have guided A2 through what have been the worst years for governments in Michigan that anyone I talk to can remember. Ever read the Free Press or the Det. News? Compared to what is going on in the rest of the state, A2 city government is doing very well indeed.

    So, no alternative plan and you slam better than 2/3rds of the city council. Guess AVF knows best.

    BTW, as I remember there have been about 4 space needs studies for this building going back over several years. Seems like the professionals would have figured out how much space the courts and police need by now.

    All I did was subtract the renovations money for the old building from the new construction. Seems like the only way to arrive at the cost per square foot.

       —LauraB    Jun. 10 '08 - 11:37PM    #
  184. LauraB,

    Why yes, poppet, voters do know best, even when their leaders may believe the voters are totally arse-backwards fools. Jefferson hoped for an educated populace in order to sustain the Republic. We’ve got that here in A2, don’t you think?

    As my Mother used to say “If all your friends on Council voted to jump off a cliff, would you vote to do it, as well?” Political thinking based on the “follow-the_crowd” mentality? LauraB, you shock me! I’ll retain the right to be an arse-backwards independent! :-D

       —First Warder    Jun. 11 '08 - 12:44AM    #
  185. LauraB,

    So buying is better than renting? Not if your paying rent to yourself! The city is currently paying the county (not some private entity) and so the county will be out the revenue from the city. So, do Ann Arbor voters pay taxes to the Washtenaw County government? Yes, they do, da! Why has nobody pointed this out? Also, from Larry’s comment in post #185, “(6) The county is eager to get the district judges out because, once they’re gone, the juvenile court can move to the courthouse, and the Platt Road property (current juvenile court location) can be reused or sold.” is info I find disturbing. Most of the people using the juvenile court are probably coming from Ypsi and so I think it is totally inconsiderate to move the juvenile court to downtown Ann Arbor especially when parking is not free as it is at the Platt Road facility. From the point of view of someone concerned with preventing government from squandering valuable resources, it looks like preventing the city from building the “Big Ugly Cube” is a good way to also keep the county from selling off a valuable asset for a song (another one of Gunzell’s schemes to build a Giant Jail?) BTW, I’m also ticked that the money being spent for the “Big Ugly Cube” could offset the water rate increase.
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 11 '08 - 01:21AM    #
  186. FWIW, I got the “potted plant” term from Brendan Sullivan. Thanks for the link, Vivienne!

    As to an alternative plan, it is not that difficult, if people set reasonable criteria for new space. I think it would be possible to move the three district courtrooms, etc., into Larcom, where the district court used to be housed. There is also already a secure elevator for prisoners. The police department, suitably remodeled/expanded, would stay in Larcom.

    Move the displaced Larcom employees into ordinary office space which the City would buy – goddess knows there is enough of it around.

    It hardly pays those who oppose the giant new courts/police facility to come up with a more detailed plan than that, considering that the votes are not there to approve an alternative plan – at least not until November.

    Remember that anything done can be undone.

       —David Cahill    Jun. 11 '08 - 03:08AM    #
  187. Larry,

    Does the current method of calculating the voter turn-out use the number of registered voters in the denominator of the equation? If so, this seriously understates the turn-out. Perhaps the county should maintain two lists, the registered voters list as it is and a new “likely” voters list. The likely voters list could be maintained the same way the old voter registration list was maintained, that is, people who do not vote in 2 years get removed. This new list could be used to calculate turn-out. Also, would 50% be a good guess at the amount of inflation in the voter list; that is, there are only about 64,000 people who could vote in 2008 in Ann Arbor?
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 11 '08 - 04:06AM    #
  188. BTW, as I remember there have been about 4 space needs studies for this building going back over several years. Seems like the professionals would have figured out how much space the courts and police need by now.

    My understanding is that the space was actually reduced in each of two subsequent designs since the original proposal. So I agree with LauraB that due diligence has gotten it to an appropriate size. Keep in mind, FW—I’m assuming that you know—that in addition to the 300 employees, large portions of the new space will be used by the public or will be used for movement of detainees by the police. It’s simply not a typical office building.

    As for LEED building and energy efficiency investments, it can be both/and rather than either/or. In fact, the DDA has a committee that’s determining how to distribute a pot of money for energy audits (and perhaps additional grants) for downtown businesses; the Energy Commission is discussing the possibility of a millage/bond proposal to create a larger fund to help residents (and maybe businesses); and we’re about to schedule meetings for a Sustainable Community Program committee of the Environmental Commission to discuss the key components of such a program beyond energy efficiency. I’m fairly certain that we will make investments along these lines, as a community. In any case, the soundness of those investments won’t take away from the soundness of the investment in the police/courts building.

    Why yes, poppet, voters do know best, even when their leaders may believe the voters are totally arse-backwards fools. Jefferson hoped for an educated populace in order to sustain the Republic. We’ve got that here in A2, don’t you think?

    No, not with regard to this issue, and not in general with regard to moderately-or-more complex, long-lived issues addressed by council. Really, only a small percentage of voters devote the time to get and adequately digest the necessary information. Significantly, AVF members demonstrated ignorance of this issue on the street, here, and at the public hearing in their statements and questions. Of course, that doesn’t make them or other voters fools, so I don’t buy into your false premise.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 11 '08 - 05:30AM    #
  189. Chuck L: Yes, the percentage of voter turnout is artificially low due to the inflated voter list.

    However, calculating the percentage of registered voters who turn out to vote in any specific election is a byproduct of having those two numbers, not a mandated function of the County. Maintaining a separate list would be very impractical. In any case, the determination of “likely voters” is a very controversial topic (ask any pollster).

    I always explain to reporters that they shouldn’t take the “official” percentage seriously. I’ll leave it to the pundits to come up with a better number.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 11 '08 - 06:14AM    #
  190. The term “potted plant”, in my experience, is used as a form of political terminology slang. In its most general sense, it is used to label a person in some phase of the political processes who is inactive or beholden to other participants. In the current Democratic presidential primary, for example, Mike Gravel, was nicknamed “Potted Plant” due to his perceived inactivity during the campaign. An excellent article as it relates to African-Americans as so-called “potted plants” or “tokens” in the political arena was written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Gregory Kane and titled “GOP’s Black Delegates Are ‘Potted Plants’” published on September 2, 2004, which critically examined the 2004 Republican National Convention and accused the Republican national leadership of increasing the percentage of blacks among total convention delegates not for the laudable goal of improving relations with the African-American electorate, but to appear as a more diverse party so as to attract large numbers of white moderate “swing voters” for the general election; the article can be viewed in its entirety at the following source: Various definitions of “potted plant” as it relates to African-Americans can be found at and one suggestion as to its origin was that literal potted plants have the ability to “darken” a room.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 11 '08 - 07:38AM    #
  191. I suspect that ChuckL is wrong with his assertion that the money for the courts building could offset the water rate increase.

    Water is a utility. You pay for what you use. If you use more, you pay more. If you don’t use it, you don’t have to pay for it.

    I suspect then that to use tax money to fund the water utility would get into legal problems. We’d be charging people to subsidize the water utility without regard to how much they use the utility, and I don’t think that’s legal.

    Now, I’m not a lawyer or an expert in municipal utility regulations. I’m just going off what I learned serving on the citizen’s advisory council for the storm water utility. If I’m wrong, please correct me. And I suspect someone will correct me even if I am right :-)

    The point of this detour is that there are limits to where money can be transferred, whether it’s for scholarships or water rates.

    (As a side note, as an environmentalist I don’t want to see water rates set artificially low. Artificially low rates encourage excess water use, and I’d rather not subsidize private swimming pools or the businesses I see running their sprinklers in a rainstorm.)

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 11 '08 - 07:09PM    #
  192. “I suspect that ChuckL is wrong with his assertion that the money for the courts building could offset the water rate increase.”

    Your assumptions are correct but I’m not sure your interpretation of ChuckL’s comments are accurate. I’ll leave it to ChuckL to clarify what he wrote but I didn’t read his comments to mean that he thought the money could be used that way.

       —John Q.    Jun. 11 '08 - 08:23PM    #
  193. Steve,

    Yes, the voters DO know best. Unless, of course, we’ve switched over to a different form of representative government while I wasn’t looking (I don’t pay close attention to the news all the time:-). My point is that for better or worse, voters have the last word on issues put to a vote — whether voters inform themselves or not.

    As to the long-lived “complex” issues wrestled over by our brave Council members, let’s try to remember that, literally, anyone can be elected to Council with the right address and some friends to sign the nominating petition. Someone whom I know was watching the last Council meeting and was bemused as she watched Council commenting about whether grass clippings should go into the new carts. Poor communication on the part of City government, lack of transparency, and micromanagement are curable with open, inspirational and talented leadership. Maybe some day we’ll have a Mayor who embodies those qualities.

    To David Cahill: Not coming up with an alternative plan because there are no votes to support it is not leadership; it’s poor representation. Selling an alternative plan to the voters, new Council members, city staff, etc… means coming up with one that is just as detailed as the plan currently under consideration. Simply saying we need one, will not suffice. I’m waiting and hoping that in November the course Council has chosen can be held up, but it’s hubris to hold it up WHILE those who pushed for an alternative plan make one up.

       —First Warder    Jun. 12 '08 - 12:16AM    #
  194. Mark,

    Not to get off topic, but a quick thanks for the information concerning the “potted plant” pecadillo, though your initial post on the topic implied the use thereof qualified as a “pecado,” rather than the diminutive of the noun. The fine article to which you refer uses the term not in racial terms (other than the fact that the author happens to be writing about African-Americans), but rather in the sense with which it was initially used here: to describe somewhat inexplicable inactivity. Interestingly, I asked a university friend who works as an senior aide to a U.S. Representative, and she confirmed that Congressional representatives do, in fact, use the term, but to describe colleagues who have reputations as “rubber stampers.”

       —First Warder    Jun. 12 '08 - 12:39AM    #
  195. FW, I wasn’t commenting on who “know[s] best” (which is more subjective), but on how relatively informed I believe people to be based on the evidence I’ve seen.

    You’ve shifted from knowledge to judgment, so I’ll follow along and add that I don’t always think that council members display good judgment even when they are (presumably) well informed. This isn’t one of those times.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 12 '08 - 02:04AM    #
  196. FW, there is no way that the opponents of the project could pay for an architect to prepare an alternative plan. The architect for the project has already received over a million dollars for the drawings so far.

    I was amused that you called LauraB “poppet”. She’ll have your guts for garters. 8-)

       —David Cahill    Jun. 12 '08 - 02:51AM    #
  197. If we wish to draw analogies about the $47,000,000 police/court project and its impact uon the electoral processes, let us review what occurred in the City of Warren last year when elected officials were forced to face the voters after approving an unpopular $45,000,000 new City Hall plus a $450,000 abstract art sculpture to place in front of the new City Hall while numerous Warren homeowners were losing their homes in foreclosure and abandoned and dilapidated structures dotted the city’s south end. Only a handful of city officials opposed the expensive new City Hall, one being a city councilman by the name of Jim Fouts. Term limitations forced the mayor to seek other office and the city establishment politicians backed long-time City Clerk Richard Sulaka to fill the mayoral vacancy. Sulaka raised a record war chest of $277,000 and obtained endorsements from the Detroit News as well as Free Press and numerous influential labor unions, not to mention many career politicians at the state and local level. Fouts declared his candidacy for mayor but only obtained one major endorsement – an AFSCME local and could only raise $36,000 in campaign contributions which he augmented with $75,000 of his own money. Fouts was viewed by some political observers as a maverick and by others an utter fool for believing that he could mount any serious run against Sulaka. As it turned out, Fouts campaigned on a platform of cutting perks for city officials and restructuring municipal government to funnel city revenues back to citizens with an emphasis of allocation of funding such core services as police, blight renewal, and neighborhood redevelopment . Fouts stunned political pundits by beating Sulaka by a 62% to 38% margin. Well-known term-limited Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh ran for a city treasurer vacancy – and was handily defeated by a 60% to 40% margin by a middle-aged housewife; Steenbergh had been a major supporter of the Warren City Hall project. The Fouts victory bears relevance to Ann Arbor. With a bit of campaign funding could Tom Wall muster the kind of support that Fouts had in Warren last year? Wall has been opposed to the “Big Ugly Cube”; could he upset the “Boneless Wonder”?

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 12 '08 - 04:35AM    #
  198. David:

    From reading this blog people have mentioned several alternatives, which include buying, as opposed to building. Of course those Council members in dissent haven’t a cool million to pay another architect, but they do have the present million dollar plans plans to shop around, pass around, study, and to use for comparative analyses. My point is that to simply say we must find an alternative to the present plan, is as weak an argument as simply saying we must spend $60 million dollars.

    As for LauraB, I have the feeling she is much too busy with the important business that is dissecting what are perceived to be our somewhat feeble arguments against the Royal Court House/Police Palace/City Hall Citadel to gut me for referring to her as “poppet.” I may be mistaken; and if I am, well, it won’t be the first time. :-)

    Finally, Steve, I believe it was Ian McEwan who said that “politics is the enemy of the imagination.” Voters inform themselves as need be. In this particular instance, I believe that the AVF petition demonstrated that thousands of voters are well aware of the project and the costs (though in my experience, not about the somewhat Kafkaesque financing arrangement). Those whom I spoke with routinely mentioned the possibility of finding a more imaginative solution to the problem at hand.

       —First Warder    Jun. 12 '08 - 05:18AM    #
  199. Chuck W.

    The city issued about $50 million in bonds to upgrade the water system and the Larcom expansion will cost about $50 million. Given the creativity Roger Fraiser has shown in ripping off the Parks budget to fund Larcom($8000/year computer charges—for example); I’m sure a way could be found to grant money from the city to the water system for capital improvement. And if not, the simple fact that $2 million/year for 30 years will be used to service the bonds for the Larcom expansion could theoretically be rebated to tax payers in the form of a lower millage rate. Remember, the Mayor, Leigh Greden and other Council supporters claim that no tax increases will be needed to pay for the Larcom expansion. If that is indeed true, then it would seem logical that the money could instead be given back to tax payers in the form of a lower millage rate. But we are all grown-ups and we know we should not hold our breath waiting for the Council to lower our millage rate since this same Council knows the City’s employee pension and health care VEBA are both underfunded. The story about renting vs. owning is a ruse; the rent is going to the county which we as Ann Arbor residents pay taxes to as well. I believe the Council is rushing to get this project done so when it comes time to pay the piper for the employee’s retirement benefits, the city can come back to voters with a sob story and talk of how badly the sky will fall if there is not an immediate tax increase/fee increase/service cuts turd dropped on Ann Arbor residents. They don’t want people asking pesky questions about why is the city spending lavishly on a giant monument to Roger Fraiser when the city can barely pay its retirement plan obligations.
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 12 '08 - 05:30AM    #
  200. Chuck L., the City pays rent for more than just the court space. From the FAQ on the City’s web site:

    Annual Debt Service Schedule
    Discontinued leases
    City Center Building $280,926
    15th District Court $400,000
    Probation Office $54,570
    Total discontinued leases = $735,496

    The City Center building isn’t owned by the County. I don’t know where the Probation Office is housed, unless it’s that little space on Huron I walked by today, in which case I’d guess it’s a privately owned building.

    Is your omission of that information intentional or out of ignorance?

    FW, I’m all for imagination—I don’t think we differ there. However, I still haven’t seen any product of the imagination of those thousands of voters that’s a viable alternative. The City has been at it for years, and this thread is almost two months old. When do you think we might hope to learn of an alternative solution? Please keep in mind that costs for the new facility are expected to rise by $150,000 per month, so time is indeed money in this situation. (I couldn’t find the reference for that number, which I heard at the town hall meeting on the budget. Maybe someone else can confirm its accuracy and whether it refers to construction costs—as I remember it—or overall costs of delay.)

    David (lately I’ve been thinking of him as DD, or Disingenuous David, to Homeless Dave’s HD) teases with the potential for renting elsewhere. Where is a single building that could house City staff and services, David, if Larcom were used for the police and courts as you suggest? That information wouldn’t cost millions to obtain. In fact, if a landlord had the space wouldn’t they want—and be actively pursuing—a long-term tenant like the City? Or if you believe that City government could be adequately housed in multiple locations (contrary to the administration’s position), I would gladly consider your two cents. Let’s hear it.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 12 '08 - 06:53AM    #
  201. Failing to offer an alternative plan to the courts and police project and after bashing nine of the 11 members of city council including his own Ron Suarez, who voted to sell the bonds, FW now attacks the mayor. His grounds:

    Lack of transparency: But wait, didn’t FW say the mayor was one of the few council members who wrote FW back and didn’t the mayor put his position statement on the project out for the public to see? Didn’t he openly debate the issues with other council members on television and were not all the votes done in public session?

    Poor communication on the part of city government:
    The new building has been talked about for 10 years, on television. The most recent version for at least 3 years. There have been many public meetings, town halls, newspaper articles, much info on the web site, and FW wrote the mayor and he wrote back. He had his position statement out for all to see. How is that poor communication? What’s he supposed to do, call FW at home?

    Micromanagement? I watch most of the meetings and it seems like there are council members who do it but I don’t think I have ever seen the mayor micromanage except when the details were important to the policy or decision before the council.

    Open leadership? Just read the above about his responsiveness. Want to talk to him, call his office, he has open office hours every week.

    Inspirational leadership? As a member of the Michigan League of Conversation Voters I received an invitation to their yearly awards ceremony. It’s a big event for the LCV to be held in Grand Rapids this year. The mayor of A2 is to receive the Environmental Leadership Award. This goes on top of all the other awards he has received (see his bio on the city web site). Sounds like an inspirational leader to me.

    Talented Leadership: As I have said before, A2 seems to be doing very well in a state economy that has other cities on the ropes and if you were watching the council meeting a few weeks ago you know the millage is a little lower now than it was in 2000 and council just significantly increased the human services budget.

    Many fine things are going on with quality of life issues; public art, energy and the environment, bicycling, walking, new buses, trains, the Greenbelt, etc. The city has been winning national awards for all of this the last few years.

    But because he doesn’t agree with FW that the police should be stuck in the basement for another 40 years; the city should keep paying $700K in rent and ignore the county’s call to get out of the court house even though the county has other plans for the building (Maybe they could fight it out in court!!!) FW thinks we need a new mayor?

       —LauraB    Jun. 12 '08 - 08:35AM    #
  202. Let’s talk about transparency on this project.

    At least two written requests for financial and design information about it (neither by me) were denied.

    The project was put together in secrecy by a committee stacked with proponents of the project.

    No wonder there are a bunch objections when the financing and design for the thing are finally revealed to the world in March!

       —David Cahill    Jun. 12 '08 - 04:24PM    #
  203. LauraB,

    Marie Antoinette couldn’t have put it any better (though that famous saying is merely attributed to her). She is also reputed to have said, “There is nothing new except what is forgotten.” What you’ve forgotten is that relativity is not a particularly stable base from which to judge an economy. In the past seven years under our Mayor, unemployment has risen 80 percent, and under his administration the labor force (employed workers) has fallen by 10,000 individuals. The largest growth is those sectors measure by the Department of Labor has been in the government sector.

    As anyone who reads the A2 News will tell you, Mr. H. has an abominable relationship with the local press. Open government relies on the ability of pols to sustain important relationships with the media, and make good use of them.

    Council meetings are televised. You forgot the civics lesson for those who do not know, as do you, that as in the U.S. House, the bulk of work in City Councils is done in Committee. City Council is not the U.S. Senate where sterling oratory is expected, and decisions are influenced by speeches. Thus, the actual meetings are like so much pemmican.

    Finally, please if you can find the data, do a somewhat more detailed analysis of the overall millage growth. Long-term data tell a much more detailed picture.

       —First Warder    Jun. 12 '08 - 04:31PM    #
  204. “In the past seven years under our Mayor, unemployment has risen 80 percent, and under his administration the labor force (employed workers) has fallen by 10,000 individuals”

    Sorry to jump in, but could you please cite where you obtained this information? I’m confused, as I know that many of the positions within the City were lost due to attrition…and they never numbered 10,000.

       —annarbor1us    Jun. 12 '08 - 05:53PM    #
  205. Steve B.,

    I am so glad you brought up the subject of rising costs.

    The anticipated growth of costs which you quote is based on which data? Is there an index different than, say, the government’s own, or perhaps the construction pricing index (CPI) or the Producer Price Index (PPI) which you use to calculate $150,000 per month? The CPI tracks a rise of 2.2 percent per quarter at the moment, which could (should the inflation not abate) raise construction costs by 8.8 percent per year over the initially projected (budgeted) amount. The PPI data are to be released on June 17th, I believe.

    This inflation is, of course, having quite the opposite effect on construction in other cities than the Mayor would have us believe. In fact, the inflation is forcing many entitles to scale back projects, as costs of raw materials are not fixed, as is neither the availability of certain key raw materials, such as copper, for instance, guaranteed.

    At the last Council meeting, Mayor assured Council members (and voters) that the City expects to be able to procure rather better than average bids thanks to the recent economic downturn. How does this jibe with the rise you quote as we wait, and the CPI’s 8.8 percent rise as measured by the government?

    I suppose the question is this: If, as you point out, it’s simply going to cost more and more to build what was designed at a moment when the PPI rose at a rate significantly slower, or cost more not to build, doesn’t this make building the current project at the current projected level of cost rather the last resort due to the economy, as opposed to the best solution?

       —First Warder    Jun. 12 '08 - 06:16PM    #
  206. annarbor1us,

    I will most gladly share my source: It is the U.S. Department of Labor’s statistical data on the economy of Ann Arbor. The data go back over a decade, and cover all of the major indicators.

    I also want to make clear that it’s folly to hold Mayor H. completely responsible of the city’s economy. However, one looks at these economic data and it’s quite clear that he did inherit a robust robust economy (and budget). By his own admission, the budget has slid toward deficit.

    This expenditure is raising objections, I think, because the City’s profit margin is razor thin at the moment. Infrastructure (the water system bonds) must be maintained, but leaders are borrowing immense sums over and again, which the budget (with no significant new sources of revenue) cannot simply absorb anymore without Mr. Fraser having to dance a fast and complicated jig, and without Council members having to assure us there will be no new taxation involved.

    That sort of thing harkens back to George H.W. Bush famous: “Read my lips: No new taxes” speech, I think. Ironically, that promise was was delivered almost 20 years ago to the day.

       —First Warder    Jun. 12 '08 - 06:37PM    #
  207. Good to see some discussion regarding Hizzoner’s leadership or lack thereof, depending on one’s perspective. For those interested in an alternative, check out In 2006, Mr. Wall was also a Homeless Dave totteree.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 12 '08 - 07:26PM    #
  208. Is there an index different than, say, the government’s own, or perhaps the construction pricing index (CPI) or the Producer Price Index (PPI) which you use to calculate $150,000 per month?

    I didn’t calculate the number, FW. You might re-read what I wrote.

    The City will get a fixed (i.e., guaranteed) bid for the construction. Costs won’t rise during the construction, only prior to the bid.

    doesn’t this make building the current project at the current projected level of cost rather the last resort due to the economy, as opposed to the best solution?

    We have reached the last resort, but the economy has nothing to do with it. Let’s not conflate issues. We either build it ASAP to keep the costs as low as possible, or wait and pay more as a result, or do nothing. Sometimes doing nothing is a viable alternative. Again, this isn’t one of those times.

    Oh, yeah, then there’s DD’s solution. I wonder why he changed the subject to transparency.

    Just to be clear, I don’t think David’s necessarily wrong (not WD, just DD.) Maybe the City Center building is a viable alternative. I don’t know. Is it still for sale? Is the other major tenant still moving out? Do we need to FOIA you to find out what you know, Mr. Transparency?

    No wonder there are a bunch objections when the financing and design for the thing are finally revealed to the world in March!

    It’s June, David, what have you (or AVF members, for that matter) suggested to the City in the last 3 months to make the project better? Or are you content to complain and oppose without doing anything constructive to improve the most likely outcome?

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 12 '08 - 07:35PM    #
  209. Steve,

    I was suggesting two possible sources for the number you quoted.

    Steve, I think we have more than enough micromanagers on Council at the moment, don’t you? To suggest citizens come up with an alternative is simply ridiculous. David Cahill wrote that requests for information were denied. Must we FOIA project information from our own Mayor and Council?

    The voters who signed the petitions were asking the pols to take it back to the drawing board. That may appear incredibly cheeky and bloody frustrating, but that’s what voters get to do. Pols who consider it asking too much are encouraged to resign their posts and/or take their political marbles, go home, and not stand for election the next time round.

    If Mayor wanted more input, he would have asked for it in a more comprehensive way other than individual boilerplate emails to people who bothered to contact him. Asking rhetorically is little more than facety hubris.

       —First Warder    Jun. 12 '08 - 07:50PM    #
  210. Once again arguments and data have been presented to dispute each of FW’s points and he/she has simply ignored this but gone on to make new claims.

    Unemployment? The US Labor Dept. figures you site don’t sound right at all but anyway they are for the Ann Arbor AREA, that includes Ypsilanti and all the townships around.

    The Mayor of A2 is supposed to be able to somehow create enough new jobs to offset the decline of the auto industry in a region of a state that is mired in recession? I note that A2 has the lowest unemployment in the state.

    I think the creation of SPARK was one of the best things ever done for economic development in this town and they are having a lot of success. A2 city govt. had a lot to do with their creation and support.

    Government jobs are growing? Not in A2 govt. They have 20% fewer employee’s than in 2000. They went from 1000 to 800. That must be saving $10 million per year at conservatively, 50,000 per position and so far as I can tell, they still do the same work.

    Since mayor H was elected in 2000 the state economy and govt. budget has been going downhill fast. The revenue sharing to cities has followed the same downward track. This has been a terrible time for government funding, where has FW been?

    Let me say it again, it is remarkable that A2 city govt. is doing so well. Read a state wide paper for a week and you will know how bad it is in other cities.

    And yes, I recall someone said the actual millage is down a fraction since 2000. I will try to get the numbers. Of course property taxes will have gone up but no more than the inflation rate unless there was significant new development.

    Is FW referring to the A2 News when he talks about the local press? The same paper that endorsed Bush, the far right Republican, in both 2000 and 2004? FW expects them too be nice to a progressive democratic mayor. Especially one who led his party to hold all 11 seats? The mayor is supposed to have a good relationship with the paper that endorsed Bush?

    If you watched the meeting, the mayor gave the example of a recent DDA project that came in much lower than expected and said the city might expect to do the same. He didn’t promise anything.

    FW, you still have no alternative plan to the police/courts building except the default: to keep the police in the basement for another 40 years, the city paying high rents and apparently let the city and county fight it out in court over staying in the county courthouse when the lease is up. Good plan.

    This despite the fact that the unimpeachable Larry K. (post 185 and earlier) and others at the county have said the county wants the city out because they have their own plans for the building.

    The city budget was robust in 2000? As I have learned, way back in the 90’s a task force predicted a structural deficit for 2000 and beyond.

    The city’s bond sales to support water mains and the new sewage plant they need to build are funded by water and sewer rates, not the general fund but instead completely separate. If you watched the most recent meeting you know that A2’s rate increases are way below what is happening in comparable cities.

    This was BTW the way the same $50 million bond sale that was supported by all of council including members Briere and Anglin. Neither called for a vote of the people.

    The bonds council voted 9 to 2 to sell are all supported by funds documented in the budget plan. Including the $700K saved rent and the DDA commitment.

    BTW FW, going back to a topic that was discussed here a few days ago, parts of your posts are starting to sound a lot like Karen Sydney….

       —LauraB    Jun. 12 '08 - 07:54PM    #
  211. Sorry FW but LauraB has offered solid arguments and data to refute each of your points. You are going down in flames as did the opposition to the courts and police building when a super majority of council voted to sell the bonds.

    In RE to post 212, to repeat what others have said, the city has been talking about this for 10 years! The city has asked for input over and over again. There have been countless public meetings and forums for citizen input and you, strangely, are complaining the mayor personally wrote you back?

    How many mayor’s of a city this size personally do that? If he had not written you back you would be flaming him for that. Get a life.

       —Dustin    Jun. 12 '08 - 08:11PM    #
  212. To suggest citizens come up with an alternative is simply ridiculous. David Cahill wrote that requests for information were denied.

    Those are both straw men, FW. I didn’t suggest that citizens come up with an alternative, only that DD share what he (and his councilmember wife?) know about a possible alternative he suggests, without being so coy about it. DD doesn’t need info from the City to tell us about that.

    In fact, you were the one who suggested that a more imaginative solution might be found (in #221), I simply stated that I’m open to that possibility. If not the citizens or AVF members, though, then who? Were you referring to the council members and other community members who’ve already spent hundreds of hours thinking about and exploring possibilities? If they haven’t come up with it yet, what do you suggest they do differently? Either give us something concrete to consider or drop it.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 12 '08 - 08:52PM    #
  213. Steve Bean,

    You said, “City Center Building $280,926
    15th District Court $400,000
    Probation Office $54,570
    Total discontinued leases = $735,496

    The City Center building isn’t owned by the County. I don’t know where the Probation Office is housed, unless it’s that little space on Huron I walked by today, in which case I’d guess it’s a privately owned building.

    Is your omission of that information intentional or out of ignorance?”

    I never claimed that all of the rent was to the county; only that the court’s portion was. As you’ve pointed out it’s $400K out of $735K, which is substantial. But you and LauraB apparently could care less and continue to prattle on as if it were not true. You and LauraB never pointed out that any of the rent money went to another public body Ann Arbor residents pay taxes to. I find it both telling and particularly annoying that this does not stop you from questioning my veracity on the matter!
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 13 '08 - 04:31AM    #
  214. Regarding the issue of dormant voter registrations and high residency turnover, there was a case where the Michigan Supreme Court addressed the ability of the government to purge voters from active registrants who did not vote within a two year period; the case is “Michigan State UAW Community Action Program Council(CAP) vs. Austin,387 Mich 506 (1972)”. The high court held it was unconstitutional to place such a burden on electors for not voting upon penalty of cancelling their registration. One argument advanced was that by not voting a registrant could be engaging in political expression by shunning unworthy candidates from receiving any support. I, however, am unaware if any cases have come down in recent years that have upheld the legality of decertifying electors for not casting votes. I agree a city such as Ann Arbor could have a very high turnover rate due to registered student voters. Does anyone know if there have been any changes in the election laws that have been proposed to effectively address the problem of a jurisdiction having its election rolls filled with a high number of registrants who no longer qualify as electors due to moving out or other grounds?

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 13 '08 - 06:00AM    #
  215. MK: Many things have changed in election law since 1972. These changes have generally been statutory rather than case law. In particular, the federal voter registration act, and the statewide Qualified Voter File (QVF), brought about dramatic changes to voter registration in Michigan.

    Under existing election law, there is a process for deregistering voters who the clerk has reason to believe are no longer resident in the jurisdiction. However, as I noted above, expense and controversy limit the use of this process.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 13 '08 - 07:40AM    #
  216. Chuck L., in #202, the post I was responding to in #203, you wrote:

    The story about renting vs. owning is a ruse; the rent is going to the county which we as Ann Arbor residents pay taxes to as well.

    And back in #188 you wrote:

    The city is currently paying the county (not some private entity) and so the county will be out the revenue from the city.

    And then in #216:

    I never claimed that all of the rent was to the county; only that the court’s portion was.

    I suggest that you give as much attention to what you write as you would like us to give it when we read it.

    I can also recommend a book to help you let go of your suffering (“disturbed”, “ticked”, “annoyed”): Byron Katie’s Loving What Is. In fact, I recommend it to everyone, above any other book I’ve read.

    Finally, in response to your complaint, the reason I didn’t previously point out that some rent goes to the County is because it’s irrelevant. If you don’t understand why, that’s okay. I don’t need to explain it.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 13 '08 - 09:30AM    #
  217. Yesterday evening was Ray Detter’s traditional Old Fourth Ward and Downtown Neighbors spring party on North Division. It was packed as usual.

    In a discussion about the court/police facility and possible alternatives, Dennis Dahlmann, who owns the Dahlmann City Center Building, told a reporter for the AA Observer that the building is for sale.

    You can’t make a more public announcement than that! 8-)

    Moving the ordinary offices out of Larcom and into the City Center Building (or similar purchased office space) would be the key to the alternative plan.

       —David Cahill    Jun. 13 '08 - 06:31PM    #
  218. LauraB,

    If I don’t always answer your questions (particularly the rhetorical ones), have no fear; I’m merely being polite.

    Let’s start with numbers that don’t “sound” right. Shall we have the Secretary of the Department of Labor sing them in a different key for you? Since the Mayor was elected, unemployment has risen 100 percent, and the City budget has slid toward deficit. If it were projected prior to his election to go into deficit, does he bear no responsibility thereafter? If he votes on the budget he most certainly does. Unemployment in A2 is 4.2 percent. It is not the lowest in the state at the moment; it’s not the highest either, but let’s not get carried away with enthusiasms and believe everything our friends in Council tell us. Ditto with the water hikes (18 percent this year): we were socked with a higher percentage hike than owners in New York City. Again, not the largest hike nationally, but it was higher than the national average. Again, facts versus enthusiasm.

    Just for kicks here is Leigh Greden on the subject as quoted in the A2 News:

    A2 News June 2008: “Council Member Leigh Greden countered that Ann Arbor’s rate increases are lower than many other communities.”

    A2 News June 2007: “Other cities are raising rates at much higher rates,” Greden said. “But we’d like to give Ann Arbor taxpayers a break.”

    Evidently, no break for the wicked.

    As for the whom the A2 News editorial board chooses to back for president, let’s unbunch our bloomers and realize that the editorial board does not dictate whether Mayor H. and Council can manage productive and savvy media relationships with the local Press. Mayor and Council have not demonstrated this talent, thus far. Only someone who is naive would imagine the job of the Press is to be “nice.” Further, if you believe Mayor and Council deserve love notes about their genius and progressive liberalism, send along copies of your posts here :-). The job of the Press is to examine and question. If pols in A2 managed Press relationships well, there would be the opportunity to comment at length in response to the questioning and examining. This is how people (voters) get information. It doesn’t work in our city, because Mayor and Council are thin-skinned and media neophytes.

    When’s the last time Burgermeister H. had a nice, long sit-down with the A2 News about anything? The last long piece about him I read was:, about the Mayor and Council’s manipulation of DDA (back to Sandi Smith’s run at First Warder Suarez).

    [A TOTAL aside: ] Just so you can roll your eyes: by the bye, in this town, where winners are lauded, the A2 News editorial board chose the winner in the presidential election I’ll be watching to see whom they endorse this next time around. I may hate the choice, but the the politics of the editorial board represents views outside of the liberal bubble that is A2. If they endorse McCain, at least I’ll have time to stock up on anti-depressants.

    Thanks very much for looking up the millage numbers. I think some clarification on the longer-term trends could be very useful.

    Finally, saying I have no alternative plan to the Buckingham Palace project, is getting hackneyed. That’s why voters have pols. I have written several times that I believe Council Reps who question this project need to do the hard work necessary to come up with an alternative. Simply voting against the project at various stages is not enough. David Cahill’s #220 seems to be a recurring theme (buy something available). Why not buy and renovate? Palace Proponents? Any serious replies?

       —First Warder    Jun. 13 '08 - 06:43PM    #
  219. Re Post #220. Is it not too late to be discussing an alternate plan?

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 13 '08 - 09:00PM    #
  220. Steve Bean said, “Finally, in response to your complaint, the reason I didn’t previously point out that some rent goes to the County is because it’s irrelevant. If you don’t understand why, that’s okay. I don’t need to explain it.” This proves you are an arrogant know nothing. Much organizational disfunction starts with various departments trying to optimize their little empire while losing track of or just not caring about the broader picture or mission. In the case of the City and the County we see in the leasing of court space by the City from the County an example of synergistic cooperation that ultimately benefits residents of Ann Arbor. I estimate the present worth of the $735,496/year rent assuming 3%/year inflation and 5.5%/year interest on the bonds to be $29.4 million which is less than the $47 million projected cost of the project (the savings is less than the cost of the project before taking into account the rent paid to the County.) The present worth of the $400K/year rent paid to the County is $16 million. Given that Ann Arbor is about half of Washtenaw County, I would estimate the opportunity cost to Ann Arbor of passing up the chance to rent space from the County at about $8 million. This means I estimate that Larcom is costing $47M – $29.4M + $8M = $25.6 million more than what it is saving in rent.

       —Chuck L.    Jun. 14 '08 - 01:21AM    #
  221. No, it’s not too late to discuss an alternate plan. I expect that Stewart Nelson (Second Ward candidate) and Vivienne Armentrout (Fifth Ward candidate) have their own ideas about alternate plans. If they win in the August primaries, they will be in a position come November to reverse the approvals of the courts/police facility and consider a plan that is in the best interest of the public.

       —David Cahill    Jun. 14 '08 - 06:10AM    #
  222. Oh, please. Don’t bring me into this. I have a number of thoughts about alternative pathways we could have taken to solve the stated problems, but I expect that if elected in November it will be too late to exercise them. I am currently running on the premise that the new council will be having to do damage control for a city whose finances will be severely compromised. In April 2008 the council hired Clark Construction Company to be the construction manager ($2.37 M). They are to receive subcontractor and materials bids and come up with a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) in September 2008. I am expecting that all those contracts will be enacted before the November election since construction is predicted to begin in February 2009. I am sure that the current council majority, mayor, and administration have no intention of permitting a future council to derail this project.

    Since I’ve been hauled back into discussion, I’d like to correct a bit of history. I have been astonished at the claims that this city hall project has been under discussion for 10 years or more. I was on the county commission when the 2000 millage to rebuild the courthouse failed. At that time the city was committed to building a section for itself in a shared facility. I was then later on a county committee considering how to deal with space needs when it became evident that the relationship of the 15th District Court with the Circuit Court was breaking down, especially with regard to space needs. In the fall of 2002 I wrote up a set of points that I took to the county administrator,who established a small task force that included me, Leah Gunn (the then chair of the BOC), and a couple of judges. We spent 6 months considering options for expanding court space. At all times, the 15th District court was still included within the county infrastructure. After mid-2003 that task force had submitted its report and the discussion moved on with other players. The ultimate outcome was the Criminal Justice Collaborative Council, the body that came up with the 2005 “jail millage” that also failed.

    I believe that it was in the context of that failure that serious discussion of terminating the city’s lease began, and the city began to examine alternatives. The Community Security and Public Space Task Force first met on March 16, 2006. It operated more or less in obscurity if not quite in secret (I had to make some special efforts to obtain their minutes). Its members were Rob Aldrich, Roger Fraser (Chair), Julie Creal Goodridge, Roger Hewitt, Carl Luckenbach, Joe O’Neal, Josie Parker, Evan Pratt, Sandi Smith, and Margie Teall. It issued a report in September, 2006. It is this committee that considered 18 potential sites and settled on only two, the library lot and Larcom. The library lot was the first choice. There was a public hearing held on November 27, 2006 to discuss this and two other options. To the best of my understanding, this was the first public hearing on this subject. The library lot was unpopular in many quarters, so the council settled on the Larcom site.

    I won’t attempt to continue this account (yes, supported by documentation) to the present day but if you accept it, you will see that the hyperbolic claims that this has been discussed endlessly in public for many years are not correct. Serious discussion has only been ongoing in public view for less than two years.

    I think that Arbor Update has played a valuable role in allowing different viewpoints and perspectives to be discussed, but endless repetition of half-truths or outright inaccuracies does not serve us well.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 14 '08 - 07:33PM    #
  223. It is not two years, or ten years but TWENTY years that this construction/renovation has been a topic of public discussion. In 1988, I was appointed by Council to serve on a Blue Ribbon Task Force on City Hall. Our recommendation was to build a court, a police station and some parking east of Larcom (similar to one plan that was contemplated in this latest go round). So to say that this has been a public topic for only two years is inaccurate. Also, I would like to point out that any space that included the 15th District Court in the county building would also include the fact that the district court would pay building costs, as well as operating costs. At no time did the county ever contemplate paying for the city’s space. Therefore, it would not be saving the city any money, and also would not address the utterly disgraceful condition of the police dept. That condition has not changed in twenty years, and it is not the amount of space so much as it is the condition of that space. Even in 1988, it was agreed that the police dept. needed new space, and that renovation was not the answer. Reading this long thread, I want to state that I agree with the arguments put forth by LauraB and Steve Bean – they are cogent and sensible. And, as to the city budget – the city’s finances are in fine shape, and anyone who says otherwise should put forth facts to back up the claim that they are not.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 14 '08 - 08:51PM    #
  224. So Leah Gunn,

    Care to tell us what kind of state the City’s employee pension plan and health care VEBA are in? If you go to:

    the minutes will point out that as of Aug. 2006, the VEBA had only $55 of $185 million in funding.
    A quick estimate I did of the annual funding required to erase this deficit indicated that at least twice the $1.86 million/year for debt servicing of the Larcom expansion was needed to erase the deficit in about 20 years.

       —Chuck L.    Jun. 15 '08 - 12:12AM    #
  225. Post #225: Don’t bring YOU into this? What?!? Why in the name of heaven would someone running for public office simply do so to control the damage, and not to undo it? Construction projects are modified, canceled and otherwise undone for any number of reasons in cities around the country. I am sure a reporter for the Ann Arbor Observer is singularly qualified to mitigate any and all damage done.

    Do you just need the money sitting on Council pays to supplement your freelancing, or are you frightened of those who’ve set this into motion?

    Either way, if tossing up your hands is your political platform, I’ll look forward to you doing a disservice to not only those voters in the Fourth Ward whom you’ll represent, but all of us.

       —First Warder    Jun. 15 '08 - 05:49AM    #
  226. First Warder,

    That’s the Fifth Ward.

    I would be, I hope, as consistent in opposing the city hall project as the brave minority who has been carrying this issue forward for months. No, I am not afraid and if I am elected and if there are still opportunities to change the course of the project I will take them. I’m just being practical and realistic in saying that I think it will be a done deal by the time I am sworn in. I have been campaigning against it since March and was tremendously disappointed when the last several nails hit the coffin. I think that oversight will be necessary to keep additional flourishes and side projects from creeping in, and to watch what programs money is diverted from as the cost continues to climb. I am a fighter and will do so when there is an opportunity to achieve a purpose.

    I said that I didn’t want to be brought into it because I didn’t appreciate David’s making statements on my behalf. I’d rather make my own campaign promises, preferably some that I can actually stand behind. I have never campaigned on alternate plans (except to urge early on that the city negotiate with the county for a lease extension) but rather on the infeasibility of the financing plan that has been advanced for this one.

    I agree with Leah that the city hall has been a big issue for a long time and remember the 1988 millage vote. Also, that the city has had and would have to pay its own way on any shared facility in the county courthouse. The county is a separate government and has to be responsible for its own fiscal integrity. I do think that it would be a savings for both entities if a shared facility could be continued. The county will miss the lease payments and the city will have to assume responsibility for security (expensive).

    My intent was to say that public discussion of the current plan has only been two years, not of the general problem of poor old Larcom. I lived through many, though not all, of the years of frustration for all involved in trying to resolve the question of courts facilities, and it has been a long story that everyone would like to close the book on.

    I should clarify that I am not “a reporter” for the Ann Arbor Observer. As a freelancer, I submit story ideas for consideration, some of which get turned down. A couple of years ago, I voluntarily stopped writing about governmental issues because I realized that my feelings about these subjects were too strong to maintain the objectivity and distance required.

    I have submitted a number of comments to AU without being attacked personally. It was unreasonable to expect that could continue indefinitely. It was also unreasonable to think that I could comment on factual matters without getting entangled in a political discussion. I have tried not to use AU as a political vehicle but I guess that anything coming from a candidate for office is necessarily political.

    So I’m stopping. Now.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 15 '08 - 07:39AM    #
  227. Thank you. It now appears that construction of the Big Ugly Cube is inevitable.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 15 '08 - 07:56AM    #
  228. I’m surprised and disappointed to see Vivienne’s withdrawal from the discussion — at least, that’s how I interpret her last line.

    As a public official and candidate who comments and argues here frequently, I guess I am, in some sense, using AU as a political vehicle. What’s wrong with that?

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 15 '08 - 10:22AM    #
  229. First Warder is right, that construction of the Big Ugly Cube is far from inevitable. There is no way that the current transient pro-build majority can “lock in” the construction of the project between now and November. Any contract entered into can be cancelled – even after ground is broken.

    Also, my reference to a reporter for the AA Observer in #220 above was not to Vivienne; it was to Eve Silberman.

    Vivienne’s mixed feelings about posting to blogs while running for office are typical. I expect her to be back. A variety of public figures “lurk” here without posting. Some may feel that they would rather not be shot at if they post. At Ray Detter’s party I learned that Paul Schreiber, the mayor of Ypsilanti, is a lurker. (Hi, Paul!)

       —David Cahill    Jun. 15 '08 - 05:07PM    #
  230. Larry, my withdrawal is not aimed at you in any way. You are a pioneer in blogging among the politically active people I know and your contributions are valuable. Do what you do.

    David, I will not be back. I hope that you will refrain from making statements on my behalf. You certainly do not represent me.

    Thanks to Juliew and Bruce especially for making this a valuable public service. Juliew’s reporting makes it worthwhile tuning in just to find out what the current issues are.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 15 '08 - 05:26PM    #
  231. I forgot this is small town pols and politics. As I wrote earlier, anyone may run for office with the right address (FIFTH WARD—pardon my error made writing in haste) and some friends/colleagues/neighbors willing to sign your nominating petition. This level is where we get relatively representative government, including (and this is not meant pejoratively) candidates like Ms. Armentrout.

    Her response to questions concerning her political opinions regarding this City Hall project disappoints. “I’m a fighter,” she writes. She’s a fighter who just flounced off after having her political opinions challenged. In essence, we have learned Ms. Armentrout does not consider reversing the City Hall project practical (would she consider reversing any project she considered a “done deal” practical?). Her reply makes clear she considers catastrophic care (in this case) more practical than preventative medicine. Better voters know this sooner than later.

    Further, 5,600 voters disagree with her. I hope some of them live in the Fifth Ward and vote against her.

       —First Warder    Jun. 15 '08 - 06:48PM    #
  232. I have just learned that there will be a major “add-on” to this project.

    Sandi Smith, who is running against Ron Suarez in the First Ward Council primary, is telling people that “everyone knows” that the new Council chambers add-on will be built. It will be a peninsula that sticks out of the southeast corner of the Larcom Building. Council did not approve this add-on when it approved the construction budget of $47,200,000.

    Nevertheless Smith, who considers herself an insider and attended some of the project’s committee meetings, says that people who were at the meetings intend for this add-on to be built. She said that other people interested in the project could have attended the committee’s meetings (assuming such people had some way to find out about the meetings) or could have read the committee’s minutes (assuming that they were available).

    This new Additive Alternate A is shown on the plans, with a budget of $2,506,319.

    If this is built, then so will Additive Alternate B, the renovation of the second floor of Larcom, which would move offices into the space to be vacated by the present Council chambers. The budget for this is $1,446,898.

    Assuming Smith is telling the truth about how the project will actually proceed (in contrast to what Council approved), then some time this fall we will probably see Council being asked to approve Alternates A and B, adding about $5 million to the cost of the project.

    Smith says this was the plan all along.

       —David Cahill    Jun. 15 '08 - 07:32PM    #
  233. I hope some of them live in the Fifth Ward and vote against her.

    I’m wondering if you think the other 5th Ward candidates would be better representatives (or is it just about this issue?) and if you have anything to support that opinion.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 15 '08 - 07:42PM    #
  234. “She’s a fighter who just flounced off after having her political opinions challenged.”

    OK, but the post she “flounced off” after seemed a little heavier on histrionics and ad-hominimens than substantive challenge:

    “What?!? .... Do you just need the money sitting on Council pays to supplement your freelancing…?”

    Could you please tone it down a little, First Warder? Thanks.

       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 15 '08 - 09:30PM    #
  235. It is ironic that I am being forced once again to reply to a charge that I am not sufficiently supportive of the issue that motivated me to run for office. I did not “flounce off”. It simply became clear to me that any anonymous person can attack me personally (my motivation in running for office was alleged to be financial) when I offer a different opinion from theirs. I took a risk in commenting on Arbor Update because I think it has been a rare opportunity for the community to discuss local issues. First Warder has made it clear that the risk has become too great, not to mention the annoyance factor.

    Once and for all, here is my position.

    I oppose the current project. The city cannot afford a completely new building at this time. I consider the project as proposed to be severely overbuilt (did you know that it includes new space for a joint county-city IT facility?). It was clear from the presentation at the council working session that there would be add-ons (as explained in post #235). They were already designed and described as an “alternate”. They include a fancy new city council meeting space. I had no question at that moment that the add-ons would be brought forward once the project was sewed up.

    My choice would have been to extend the lease with the county and to consider alternatives such as leased and/or purchased space in existing buildings, especially the City Center building. From my past experience with court facility planning, I know that it is not that difficult to install courtrooms in any built space of sufficient quality.

    I believe that the financing plan that has been advanced is unrealistic. I don’t want to go into each detail of the plan and why it doesn’t make sense because it would consume too much space. (Although I am able to if given time to make a lengthy presentation.) I will just point out that the financing plan stretches over a 30-year bond payment and makes a lot of assumptions that can be challenged. Also, the city fund balance is going to be taken down a considerable notch at a time of economic uncertainty. Even the administration’s own projections show a budget shortfall next year. I would prefer a cautious approach until the economic picture stabilizes. We have already had service cuts and fee increases. I expect that there will be more. The administration’s own presentation of the future economic plan speaks of “emphasizing core services” “developing trade-offs” “emphasis on efficiency” “seeking collaborative opportunities to deliver services” (that last one means transferring responsibility to others). All are bureaucratic buzzwords that mean service reductions are planned.

    On what can be done from here on out: My understanding of contract law is that once the city engages in a contract with a supplier, we cannot break the contract without exposing ourselves to lawsuits. Governments have to obey ordinary business rules and law. As I tried to indicate earlier, I believe that the city will have already signed all the contracts for construction before November. If that is not the case, I certainly would do anything feasible to revisit the plan. But there appears to be an unflinching majority (6 councilmembers and the mayor)in favor of the project. To my knowledge, there are no more steps in sewing it up that require a supermajority. If there are, possibly the project can be derailed. From my experience with the way both legislative (political) bodies and government finance work, if the city can be committed unalterably to the project before November, it will. I recall the “October surprise” from last year, when a hastily-called special council meeting awarded the $4 million contract to Quinn Evans for the architectural plans days before new councilmembers were installed.

    History: I lobbied the mayor to veto that decision. I lobbied county commissioners to extend the lease. I endorsed the petition drive. I bored numerous groups of voters sitting in their neighbors’ living rooms with the figures. I’ve put it into my campaign literature. I don’t think that my position on this issue should really be in question.

    To reiterate, if elected and if I can do anything to stop, modify, restrain, or ameliorate this ill-considered, financially ruinous project, I will. Otherwise, I will focus on protecting the residents of this town from the worst of its effects.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 15 '08 - 09:32PM    #
  236. To follow up on Vivienne’s comment: Yes, we are talking about ordinary business contracts and ordinary contract law. A construction contract may have a clause providing for cancellation, and reasonable rules for who pays whom for what. If it does not (and why shouldn’t it?), then the ordinary contract rules for damages apply. Whether or not a suit is filed, the amount owed contractors for a cancelled project not yet started, or just barely begun, is: not much.

    I knew Vivienne would be back! 8-)

       —David Cahill    Jun. 15 '08 - 11:20PM    #
  237. In 1978, the taxing and spending power of the Michigan Legislature was permenently altered by the Headlee Amendment to the state constitution. Four years later this pioneer in tax reform, Dick Headlee, ran for governor and assailed elected officials for abdicating the will of Michigan citizens through overtaxation and government waste. He had little support from retiring governor Bill Milliken and suprisingly pulled in 47% of the vote against James Blanchard. Almost immediately after his election, Blanchard and the Democratic-controlled Michigan Legislature repaid the favor by handing taxpayers a 38% state income tax hike. This led to successful recall efforts by voters against two state senators which further led to the Democratic Party losing control of the state senate; a recall effort by John Lauve against Blanchard almost garnered enough signatures to place his recall on the ballot. In 1990, a well-coordinated plan by leaders within the Michigan Republican Party, including Mr. Headlee, Spencer Abraham, and Dick DeVos to market John Engler as a tax fighter resulted in the upset victory of Engler over Blanchard and resulted in a three-term control by Engler over the governor’s office. Ann Arbor, by comparison, finds itself at a similar crossroads. Having the electorate had its will ignored by City Council in approving the 47 million-dollar “Big Ugly Cube” and AVF not having been able to gather enough signatures to place the matter to a public vote for a referendum on a bond issuance to finance the “Cube”, AVF and those who opposed the bond issuance are now faced with only one viable alternative – collect signatures to place as a voter initiative on the ballot a referendum to require all prospective municipal bond issuances on the ballot for voter approval in lieu of City Council approval – thus completely disenfrachising City Council on these issues. The factors that may have influenced the district court’s discontinuance as a tenant in the County Building were not in the public interest but in the apparent self-interest of certain officials:(1) two City Council members who are running for a disrict court vacancy and who,naturally would like more luxurious surroundings, and (2) a certain bozo on the circuit court bench who was steamed his wife’s magistrate application in the district court was denied. Ask Voters First, much like the Michigan Republican Party, must take advantage of the popular support it now enjoys and begin circulating petition forms for signature to amend the City Charter. AVF leadership must sit down and convince David Cahill that any he must terminate his now-quixotic efforts to derail the construction of the “Cube” and redirect his energies to amendment of the City Charter. History is on the side of fiscally conservative taxpayers and a City Charter amendment is the most viable avenue AVF has to translate its popular support into productive change. Remember in 1978, it was Robert Tisch’s ballot initiative led to the later success of the passage of the Headlee Amendment. While Bob Tisch was being cast as a dangerous kook by the Democrats in power, it was the less radical Headlee Amendment that eventaully passed and altered the course of the political landscape in this state.

       —Kerry D.    Jun. 16 '08 - 02:09AM    #
  238. VA is a political candidate, and she is communicating her views and opinions on this particular topic at the moment. For the record, I hope she keeps posting, but does so less naively. I am dismayed that she is somewhat surprised and obviously exasperated that people may take her at her word, disagree with her political opinions and question her comments and judgement. For the record, asking a political candidate why s/he is running is a fair question. I was a tad sarcastic, (my apologies, of course) but not anymore than the poster who referred to Steve Bean as an “arrogant know-nothing,” (maybe they’re friends?), and petition circulators as, well, read up in the thread.

    Not to be too awfully impolitic, but all Council members are paid officials. If VA takes exception to being “accused” of accepting money from the City for her work, it’s a rather shocking response, considering she has not made public any plan to refuse her stipend.

    VA’s initial post (#225) was, perhaps, somewhat ill-fated to begin with. She writes in response to D. Cahill: “Oh, please. Don’t bring me into this. I have a number of thoughts about alternative pathways we COULD HAVE TAKEN (my emphasis) to solve the stated problems….” She also writes, “I am currently running on the premise that the new council will be having to do damage control for a city whose finances will be severely compromised.”

    By #238, VA is making campaign promises she said she couldn’t make in her earlier post: “To reiterate, if elected and if I can do anything to stop, modify, restrain, or ameliorate this ill-considered, financially ruinous project, I will. Otherwise, I will focus on protecting the residents of this town from the worst of its effects.”

    Steve Bean asks a good question: would her opposition be stronger or more qualified? Again, this is a specific thread on a specific topic, and going off-topic isn’t politic, if you will. However, Ms. Aremtrout’s posts contain contradictions, the kind that reporters live for, and voters should take note of. Her exchange is, perhaps, somewhat akin to the Suarez comment about Council pay and coffee-money, and the A2 News follow-up in which he was made to suffer the consequences of forgetting the first rule of public office: people take quite seriously what elected officials say, as well as those standing for election.

    If what D. Cahill posted (#235) turns out to be verifiable, it shows quite clearly the problems which may develop with respect to finances. Further, Mayor and Council members have sent numerous emails to constituents protesting that the new building would absolutely NOT contain renovated/new space for Council Chambers.

       —First Warder    Jun. 16 '08 - 02:22AM    #
  239. I miss hearing from Math Man

       —Kerry D.    Jun. 16 '08 - 02:33AM    #
  240. Kerry D.,

    I wish Council and Mayor had understood the message implied by the fact that AVF gathered twice as many (and then some) signatures from voters as the number of voters who participated in the past elections for City Council.

    However, the suggestion you propose is rather draconian in response. It would hamstring a competent and motivated Council and Mayor. Better, perhaps, would be to choose three particularly politically vulnerable members of Council, who support the project (perhaps three of the so-called “veteran” members), and launch a recall effort against them. This, I believe, could be achieved, and could be explained relatively simply to voters from whom sigs would be gathered.

       —First Warder    Jun. 16 '08 - 02:40AM    #
  241. A recall effort, if properly organized, would an excellent idea. As a precedent, the recalls of State Sens. Philip Mastin of Pontiac and David Serotkin of Macomb County in 1983 following the passage of the 38% state income tax hike are still debated today as to whether it was a populist tax revolt or Republican-inspired movement. Either way, in Ann Arbor’s case the will of the people will control in any recall effort.

       —Kerry D.    Jun. 16 '08 - 02:56AM    #
  242. To reiterate, if elected and if I can do anything to stop, modify, restrain, or ameliorate this ill-considered, financially ruinous project, I will.

    I don’t mean to pile on, Vivienne, but now you’re overstating a bit. You haven’t made the case for “ill-considered” or “financially ruinous” beyond expressing concern for those possibilities. And even then, “ruinous” is probably unsupportable.

    Even the administration’s own projections show a budget shortfall next year. I would prefer a cautious approach until the economic picture stabilizes.

    On the surface, this is sound thinking. However, the state of the economy is only one factor among many to consider. I think you’ve given it too much weight here. (And when would we know that it has stabilized?) In particular, absent a viable alternative, assuming that the economy goes downhill—or even if not—I don’t think that opposition to the plan is rational. Setting up this project as the scapegoat for any financial difficulties in the future isn’t helpful either. If the City Center building is a viable alternative, please focus on that. I don’t think it’s a welcoming public space (and couldn’t be made to be), but I’m open to you or DD or anyone else making the case for it.

    Kerry D., (Chuck L. and Mark Koroi, too) please insert some white space in your longer posts. It’s not the length of the post but a visual thing. TIA.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 16 '08 - 05:04AM    #
  243. Vivienne,

    In an earlier post (#227), I pointed out that the City’s health care VEBA was short $130 million in 2006; how do you see overcoming this problem? Or maybe it would be more relevant to ask how the current Council sees handling this problem. Is it not reckless to be squandering $47 million on an essentially new City Hall when a shortfall such as this exists? What do the employees want, a secure retirement health plan or new digs to work in (along with all the cut-backs needed to pay for it)?

    I believe the Council is rushing to get the building rammed through precisely due to the fact they know this health care VEBA bomb is waiting for a future council. They see it as a now or never kind of thing. I believe the current Council thinks they can either cut services or raise taxes and fees or screw city employees to their hearts content AFTER they are perched from on high in the Big Ugly Cube (but how is this meeting the needs of citizens?)

       —Chuck L.    Jun. 16 '08 - 07:30AM    #
  244. The Portland, OR City Charter (Section 57) requires voters to approve all revenue bonds. The Charter was changed in 1996. Evidently, the change has not kept Portland City Councils and Mayors from pursuing green and urban renewal, infrastructure and improvement projects. However, voters have been asked in every instance to oversee the issuance of bonds.

    Perhaps this is the alternative plan?

       —First Warder    Jun. 16 '08 - 05:27PM    #
  245. Re Post #238: I agree with the poster’s position. This is an unnecessarily expensive project that the City of Ann Arbor can ill-afford. Citizens must continue to place pressure on their elected officials to engage in fiscal conservatism. A recall effort or referendum on amending the City Charter as discussed above should be considered. Show your displeasure at the polls this fall.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 17 '08 - 12:45AM    #
  246. I did some research and it turns out the mayor could be recalled with about 10,000 signatures collected over a 90 day period. AVF collected 5600 signatures in 45 days. Hiefje will more than likely be reelected in November in no small measure due to the straight ticket voters who will come out for the Presidential race. A recall vote after the November election will be held in a special election where the people voting will tend to be better informed on the issue.

    Another point I had not fully appreciated was revealed by Vivienne: the new court facility will need to duplicate the same security the county courthouse has. The $400K/year the city pays the county includes security (what a deal!) I estimate the cost of four security officers and one supervisor to be 4*$75K + 1*$100K = $400K/year, about equal to the rent the city pays the county now! This effectively adds $8-20 million (assuming a 5-8% interest rate and a 3%/year inflation rate) on to the cost of the project.

       —Chuck L.    Jun. 17 '08 - 05:40AM    #
  247. Thank you for the information, Chuck. Check out and for some good information on active recalls throughout the state. I and many others would give wholehearted support to any such recall effort.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 17 '08 - 07:18AM    #
  248. Mark Koroi is a Republican precinct delegate from Macomb County ( appears to work in Plymouth. Interesting that he wants the Democratic Mayor of Ann Arbor recalled. He refers to the right wing anti-tax website for information on recalls that tried to recall Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon. The recall effort is under investigation for fraud.

       —Bill T.    Jun. 18 '08 - 05:44AM    #
  249. Let us hope “Mr. Perks” pays a visit to Ann Arbor in the near future. As to the “investigation for fraud”, this was just another one of the frivolous attempts at harassment perpetrated upon Leon Drolet’s fine group. The badgering of Michigan Taxpayers Alliance functionaries was well documented and prompted Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Bill Giovan to call the Redford Township Police Chief for assurances of impartiality. Thousands have viewed the film footage on YouTube of the shenanigans pulled by Dillon’s henchman upon the recall supporters. There are many in Ann Arbor who are calling for firm action by way of City Charter amendment or recall against those elected city officials who supported the Big Ugly Cube’s construction. It is not a Democratic, Republican, Green, or other party issue – it’s fiscal responsibilty – which the mayor and some City Council members lack.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 18 '08 - 08:10AM    #
  250. “Mark Koroi is a Republican precinct delegate from Macomb County”

    That makes sense. I assumed there was a Republican connection based on his lavish praise of Headlee and Co. His latest post praising Leon Drolet confirms that.

       —John Q.    Jun. 18 '08 - 01:16PM    #
  251. I am a DEMOCRAT, and I would like to see the Council members (including the Mayor) who blithely ignored the wills of twice as many voters as the number who voted in the last election to put them in office, answer for their lack of leadership, transparency, fiscal responsibility, and responsiveness.

    John Hiefje is a Democrat. So what? A Democrat has led the City into deficit, the loss of 10,000 jobs, unemployment that is double from when he was elected, further and further into debt, into development projects which have been ill-fated, is attempting to make the DDA his own creature, ($15,000,000 over the next 30 years of development money will go toward a SINGLE building in downtown), and now has provided the go ahead for a project, the financial viability of which is being questioned by thousands of voters.

    Voters can be apathetic, but Mayor Hiefje may have deluded himself that multiple years in political office are akin to immunity from voter lash back. Wendy Woods recently lost her Council seat after just about as many years on Council as the Burgermeister has been in office.

    The “Republicans” are out to destabilize the politics of Ann Arbor? Mark Karoi, hmm….Mark, maybe you’re Russian, as well? Are you an Islamic “element” is our midst?

    Maybe Dems on Council who’ve supported this project, and the Kafkaesque financing arrangement thereof, have the political instincts and savvy of small town pols, and the Big Ugly Cube just hit the fan? That sounds like a more likely scenario.

       —First Warder    Jun. 18 '08 - 03:23PM    #
  252. Mark Koroi,
    Detroit could use your “talents”. As a Republican, I’m sure that they would welcome your input. Or are you too chicken-shit to dive into their politics? Better yet, your hometown of Warren could use your help too…

    I’m willing to bet you’ve never set foot in the Larcom Building…

       —annarbor1us    Jun. 18 '08 - 04:49PM    #
  253. If you want to hold the Mayor accountable for his votes and those actions that have a direct impact on the city budget, etc. is fair. But to hold him accountable for the “loss of 10,000 jobs” and “unemployment that is double from when he was elected” is a bit much. By that standard, the Mayor is to blame for global warming, the ongoing war in Iraq and the bad summer movie season. Unless you can point to specific actions that the Mayor has taken or not taken that resulted in the loss of 10,000 jobs or doubling the unemployment rate, you should stick to the points that actually touch on his position.

       —John Q.    Jun. 18 '08 - 05:08PM    #
  254. John Q.,

    Your logic is faulty in this case.

    The Mayor touts his reorganization of City government and the resulting savings. In his last “state of the city” address, he was quoted as talking about his “economic efforts.” He participated in creating “Pfizer action teams,” and the resulting photo opportunities. He’s most certainly willing to take credit. He must take the responsibility for City policies that impact the overall City’s economy pejoratively. Ann Arbor’s slide into deficit has been under his leadership.

       —First Warder    Jun. 18 '08 - 10:52PM    #
  255. “Your logic is faulty in this case.”

    Which logic exactly?

    “He must take the responsibility for City policies that impact the overall City’s economy pejoratively.”

    Which ones?

    That usage of “pejoratively” is new to me.

       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 19 '08 - 12:07AM    #
  256. FW: Your continued line of BS was amusing at first but it is getting old for everyone. And we all note your friend Mark has now been outed.

    As requested I have done a little research. I don’t hardly know where to begin.

    You asked a while back for the millage rates from 2000 and 2008, here they are:

    The mayor took office in Nov. of 2000, when the city millage rate was 17.132, for 2008 it is 16,785.

    “Sliding into deficit?

    On 7/01/2001, the new mayor’s first budget and the first budget after the abundant 1990’s and before the state begin cutting revenue sharing, the city’s General Fund Reserve balance stood at $6,700,000.

    On 7/01/2008 the GFR balance is estimated to be $14.2 million. This after 7 of the worst economic years in recent state history with revenue sharing being cut year after year and huge increases in health care expenses. A better than 100% increase in the reserve fund is a deficit?

    Cities in Michigan are required to have balanced budgets, they can’t run a deficit budget so what are you talking about??? If you mean the city has needed to make yearly adjustments to match revenues to expenses, I imagine every city in Michigan has had to do that and probably most cities in the country.

    Also note that between 2001 and 2008 the city built a new maintenance facility to replace two that were falling. Yes, they sold a bond for $24 M. of the $36 million building, but did you pay cash for your house? They also,with state help of course, built new Broadway Bridges, they are expanding bike lanes, new streetlights, new water pipes etc. So they aren’t just standing still even in a terrible state economy.

    The city has what is described as “one of the best bond ratings in the state.” This is from a bond rating agency, an outside party.

    You want to know about the retiree health care issue? The city is making payments of about $14 million per year (about 50% from the general fund) and is on schedule to pay off the liability. It is not all due at once you know. They also have nearly $60 million socked away in the VEBA trust, something most towns don’t have.

    The oft quoted line from the city’s pension and retiree health care auditor is: “Ann Arbor is in the top 10% of cities in being prepared for the retiree health care crisis.” I recall this was from a council meeting last year and it was repeated to me by my council member yesterday.

    In this discussion I learned that Detroit is said to owe many billions, G. Rapids has no VEBA and is looking to bond their liability to reduce the payments as is Wash. County. Lansing is in deep trouble but again, A2 seems to be on target to handle the problem.

    Much better efficiency, accomplishing the same work with fewer people seems to be the key. With 200 fewer staff members at a conservative $50,000 each = $10 million saved per year.

       —LauraB    Jun. 19 '08 - 12:52AM    #
  257. I think that John Q. made a reasonable and logical point. Of course, that’s assuming that the intention is to be objective in assessing the performance of the mayor. Cherry picking negative outcomes (or positive ones) isn’t being objective. Neither is ignoring the broader context of what’s occurring at the state and national levels. For example, the state’s economy is still struggling. Finally, as John pointed out, making unsupported assertions about responsibility isn’t fair—or logical.

    Speaking of which, annarbor1us asked for your source on the “loss of 10,000 jobs”, FW, but you ignored the request. Quoting yourself doesn’t count as substantiation.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 19 '08 - 12:55AM    #
  258. FW: As for your unemployment BS:

    As others have noted; to say that the mayor is responsible for the state of the overall economy is a stretch but let’s put that aside. The actual numbers for April are:

    Michigan unemployment: 6.9% and as usual, the WORST in the country.

    A2’s unemployment: 4.2%, again the BEST (read lowest) in the state. The Kalamazoo statistical area is next lowest at 4.9%.

    Unemployment figures are for large areas, A2’s area is for all of Wash. County. A2 makes up less than a third of the county and for this statistic, must drag along the less prosperous eastern half of the county.

    Given this, perhaps we should assume the actual unemployment in A2 is much lower than the area wide 4.2% for April.

    Of course A2 is also in Michigan where the auto industry is shrinking and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost and cannot help but be affected by these outside forces.

    10,000 jobs lost in A2’s statistical area? Where did you get this? It may be the total lost in Wash. County? And it does not include the jobs gained. Certainly some jobs have been lost in A2, Pfizer anyone?

    BUT, did you catch the talk about SPARKS progress in 07, contained in their annual report?

    SPARK brought in 2,600 jobs and $102 million in new investment. The mayor and city council did indeed have a large role in creating SPARK, something they did 3(?) years ago. A wise move. And, I am told the UM is adding about 500 jobs per year on their own to people all the new buildings.

    So First Warder, if as you say the mayor is responsible for the unemployment numbers in the city and in A2 they are the lowest in the state: I guess you would have to say he is doing better than any mayor in the state.

    Have a nice day.

       —LauraB    Jun. 19 '08 - 01:30AM    #
  259. While you are thinking of what outrageous claims you will make next let me make a point:

    By your logic any council member who after years of considering the issue, voted to support the new police/courts building should be voted out, recalled etc.

    That means there would only be two members left, Mike Anglin and Sarbra Briere. The two council members with the least experience. Both took office last November.

    So you would replace 9 of the 11 because they don’t see the issue your way. Experience may not be everything but it matters.

       —Dustin    Jun. 19 '08 - 02:48AM    #
  260. LauraB,

    Whether the VEBA is being paid down or not depends on what the rate of health care inflation assumed is. This year, for example, health care inflation is expected to run at about 10%! Even GM has underestimated the rate of health care inflation for their retirees in recent years. The head count reductions since 2000 are for the most part not a good thing and will probably be greater in the future if Larcom is expanded. Also, the $14.2 million GFR balance is due to Roger Fraiser saving money to cover the Larcom expansion not paid for with bond money ($47 million project, < $32 million in bonds). You also inadvertently raise another point, that is, with less staff why does the city suddenly need much more space? O.k. so the courts need to go back to Larcom—when they were there before, the city had a larger staff but did not need so much space. Also, why is purchase of the City Center not viable? The city could also build a satellite station for the police to relieve the crowding (why do all of the police need to be downtown?) This dispute is over how the city’s money is spent. Money spent on the Big Ugly Cube can’t be spent on other things!
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 19 '08 - 03:07AM    #
  261. Let it also be pointed out that Sabra Briere opposed the Police/Court project and the last time I heard she was the county Democratic Party chairperson, so party affiliation is not the issue. In fact most AVF organizers were the same political affiliation as the mayor. What is AVF doing now? Are they a defunct group?

       —Kerry D.    Jun. 19 '08 - 05:12AM    #
  262. Much as I love the promotion, I am not now, nor have I ever been the Chair of the County Democratic Party. I was once the Secretary, lo those many years ago, and I was once the Chair of the City Democratic Party. AND I’ve been a number of other things. But Jeff Souza is currently our County Party Chair, and I wouldn’t want anyone to take that away from him.
    Thanks for the promotion, though, KerryD!

       —Sabra Briere    Jun. 19 '08 - 05:26AM    #
  263. I stopped reading AU for a while (partly because of time, partly because of what Vivienne Armentrout described). After being alerted that I was accused of being anonymous mathematical people, I’m periodically reading again and I find this debate interesting.

    Opinions are different than facts. First Warder is entitled to his/her opinions, but it’s not right for him/her to express false statements of purported fact.

    DEFICITS: FW claims the Mayor has led the City into deficit. But as LauraB points out, the City cannot by law run a deficit. In fact, the City’s General Fund ran seven-figure surpluses in FY 06 and FY 07, and we project another surplus in FY 08. FW is wrong.

    WATER RATES: In #221, FW claimed that water rates are rising 18% this year. Again, FW is wrong. In FY 09 (which begins 7/1/08), the average residential water rate will rise 3.56%, the average residential sewer rate will rise 6.7%, and the average residential stormwater rate will rise 11%. There will be an increase in the stormwater customer service charge, but no changes to the water and sewer customer service charges. In sum, the consolidated average residential water/sewer/stormwater bill will rise 5.45%. That’s less than most other southeast Michigan communities — and far less than the figure wrongly cited by FW.

    UNEMPLOYMENT: FW has repeatedly claimed that 10,000 jobs have been lost since the Mayor took office. Yet again, FW is wrong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed people in the Ann Arbor Metropolitan region increased from approximately 5,100 in January 2001 (when the Mayor took office) to approximately 7,800 in April 2008, for a difference of 2,700 – about one-quarter of the number claimed by FW. And, these data represent the entire statistical region which includes all of Washtenaw and Livingston counties. A disproportionate number of those jobs were lost in areas outside the City. (Incidentally, Ann Arbor’s unemployment rate of 4.2% in April 2008 was far less than the State rate of 6.9% and the national rate of 5.5%). I agree with others that it’s silly to blame the Mayor for private-sector job losses in Ann Arbor, but that’s a policy debate. For now, I’m more interested in making sure FW’s false factual statements are corrected.

    TAXES: In #209, FW expressed his/her belief that the City would raise taxes to pay for the Police/Courts building. The City’s general operating property tax millage is at the Headlee cap, thus any tax hike must be approved by the voters. There will be no tax hike unless the voters approve it.

    I enjoy these debates, but debates are always better when the participants actually use facts instead of making things up.

       —Leigh Greden    Jun. 19 '08 - 07:33AM    #
  264. Chuck: The city has an overall budget of $300 million and things certainly seem to be well managed (see post 259 and 266) with growing fund balances even after all the state cuts, I think the financial people know to figure the rate of health care inflation into their calculations.

    Sorry I didn’t say it before but as I recall the estimated $14.2 in the General Fund Reserve as of 7/01/08 (the new budget) was “un-designated.” My bad. Anything going to a new project would be “designated.”

    If you check out the financing plan, there are numerous other sources for the down payment and only about $3 million “designated” from the Gen. Fund.

    There are 200 fewer staff, a good thing in my mind, government should run as efficiently as possible, but they did not all come out of Larcom, the city has a lot of operations. The latest I heard, at the forum on the new building, was that Larcom still has way more people in it now than what it was planned for. That’s why they have to rent space outside.

    Having the police in a central station, on the city hall site has been a priority in A2 for years. It goes back to the 60’s.

    The City Center Building was addressed at a council meeting. It was one of the alternatives the mayor made them look at on top of all the other options. It would cost mega bucks to retro fit it, it has the same issues as all the other old buildings and it won’t be free. It would be like a $20 million band-aid after the work is done.

    But hey, the building project has been argued about here for months, why rehash it? Just go back and read the old posts. I was simply writing to show that FW is spouting a lot of BS.

    The facts are that over $4 million has already been spent with more right around the corner.

    The bonds are approved for sale and they may be in the market already for all we know.

    Nine of the eleven council members support it.
    (Like FW, do you want to throw out all 9?)

    The city budget is in good shape.

    It will be all over by November.

    Why not move on. Gotta like them Tigers, finally starting to win.

       —LauraB    Jun. 19 '08 - 09:55AM    #
  265. Leigh Greden wrote: “FW has repeatedly claimed that 10,000 jobs have been lost since the Mayor took office. Yet again, FW is wrong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed people in the Ann Arbor Metropolitan region …”

    As a lay person, when I read the phrase, “10,000 jobs have been lost” I take that as a claim about the number of jobs that exist in the economy now compared to the number of jobs that previously existed—not a claim about the number of people who don’t have jobs.

    So to me, a discussion of the percentage of unemployed—while related to the claim about the number of jobs that exist in the economy—misses the point.

    So, for example, the Pfizer jobs that were lost to the area economy, I would certainly throw into the mix in counting “number of jobs lost”. But the majority of those who held those lost jobs are no longer here and did not, in fact, lose a job to be counted as unemployed anywhere.

    Maybe professional economists think of ‘jobs lost’ in the same terms that Greden measures them.

    All of which is not to say that assigning the mayor blame or credit for the area’s economic condition is a useful exercise—especially given the city’s system of governance of city manager plus council. And no, I’m not suggesting that it’s Roger Fraser we should blame/praise instead.

    Because this thread’s original topic was the police/courts facility, and some folks would like to discuss the mayor’s performance in office, then why not focus specifically on the question of whether the mayor has displayed the kind of leadership you’d like to see as exemplified by the police/courts facility?

    For example, the mayor’s public comments ranged from early enthusiasm for an ice-rink equipped Civic Center on the Library Lot, to a rejection of the Library Lot as a location, to concerns about proceeding forward in light of Pfizer’s departure, to finally ‘warming up’ to the idea of building it.

    In a different AU thread, one commenter has analyzed the mayor’s failure to veto the project at a particular stage (instead of merely voting no) as a failure to lead. The mayor defended his decision to not to use his power of veto based on the principle that exercise of that power could make it more difficult to work with Council on other issues, and the fact that he had no viable alternative to propose.

    I think it’s possible to analyze the evolution of the mayor’s position on the police/courts facility as simply being responsive to different conditions of the world, i.e., not making up one’s mind and pig-headedly sticking to that position, no matter what.

    Or it’s possible to be less generous and say that he simply tested the political winds at every stage and formulated his opinion based on that—i.e. he waffled. One way to undercut the defense of no veto due to lack of viable alternative would be to say, If you had led by devoting tangible resources to finding such an alternative over the course of the previous two years (in a transparent way, e.g., in a joint working session of Council and the County Board) it’s possible you would have had a tangible viable alternative to choose.

    I think the whole business of a planned recall effort of the mayor after the November election, and the blaming of the economy on the mayor, is less useful than asking:

    “How has the mayor demonstrated leadership with respect to the question of whether we should build the currently proposed police/courts facility?”

       —HD    Jun. 19 '08 - 05:31PM    #
  266. According to the BLS (LauraB prefers to refer to it as the BS, and Leigh Greden should never accuse anyone else of making things up; it’s a pot and kettle black kind of irony), when the Mayor was elected, the labor force stood at 187,000 with 181,000 employed. Unemployment stood at 2.9 percent. In 2005, the labor force peaked at 194,000, with 186,000 employed, and unemployment rose to 4.1 percent. From that high, the current labor force stands at 187,000 with 179,000 employed and unemployment has risen at 4.9 percent. The number of employed individuals stands at what it was in December of 2003. The number of unemployed individuals has doubled. It peaked (one hopes) at 9722 individuals in June 2007. Looking at the beginning and now isn’t as useful as looking for highs and lows. I should have made that clear in my original post.

    Water/Sewer/Run-off increases: This from the A2 News (6/3/08): “Water rates will go up 4.62 percent; wastewater 3.2 percent; and stormwater 11.09 percent.” LG quotes different figures. Putting the debate aside, which figures are accurate? Anyone? The bottom line, however, is that we will be paying a combined increase of either the total of LG’s or the AA News’s percentage increases. Big picture: we’re generating a combined increase of $2 million more per year for water services. Perhaps a more interesting thing to do might be to know what percentage of the total line item in the City’s budget water services amount to, and look at the $2 million in light of that total.

    Finally, I see no point in recalling the Mayor. It would simply be better to vote him out of office, if the political will exists to do that. Better to change the City Charter to place revenue bond decisions in the hands of voters. Loads of cities have such amendments to their Charters, and the system works just fine. We might still be having this discussion, but it would be much much different if we could point to the will of the people, instead of the supposed system of representative government in a system populated by people who sometimes get carried away with their own “big fish in a little pond” syndrome.

    Finally, as per the budget. No, the budget may not run a deficit. How boldly you all point this out. And how do our officials avoid the “slight” (or any resulting) deficit predicted by the Mayor in emails to constituents when asked about the Palace at Versailles project?

    I actually find HD’s email concerning leadership (not just of the Mayor, but of all Council, a more interesting debate to have with regards this Police/City Hall Project.

    Finally, LGreden, if you’re still around, can you please address David Cahill’s comment #235 concerning the add-on?

       —First Warder    Jun. 19 '08 - 08:44PM    #
  267. Leigh, I had logged on to ask the same question that FW just asked: What about the add-on? Are we likely to see this? If so, can you provide any further details?

       —David Cahill    Jun. 20 '08 - 12:38AM    #
  268. I would like to point out some legal caveats for recall enthusiasts:(1) A recall petition may not be filed within the first six months or last six months of an elected official’s term of office according to Michigan law at MCL 168.951; (2) judicial officers may not be recalled by authority of the same statutory section and also the State of Michigan Constitution. Some have discussed a possible recall against Archie Brown and Timothy Connors. In fact, the county clerk’s website shows prior filings for two political action committees – “Independent Committee to Dump Timothy Connors” and “Committee to Unseat Judge Connors” – the latter being dissolved in March of this year, per the clerk’s website information. People Against Corruption, which has been a vocal critic of Connors, remains active according to county records.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 20 '08 - 06:32AM    #
  269. Post #255 is directed to me and I would like the opportunity to respond. As to the City of Warren, there is no need for a recall. The anti-tax slate led by Jim Fouts , as I set forth at Post #200, took over the mayor’s office and numerous key offices. I was sitting behind Jim Fouts when he addressed TV news reporters after his upset victory last November. As to Detroit, ther is no need for a recall as the criminal court and removal processes will achieve the same result without the need for citizen input. Regarding the Larcom Building, I have never had the need to step into that edifice as I can watch recent City Council meetigs on Googol video and must say Ann Arbor’s Public Commentary period is extremely colorful; I have, however, been in the county and federal buildings.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 20 '08 - 07:03AM    #
  270. I am happy to address FW and David’s questions about the secondary add-on for the Municipal Center.

    Throughout the multi-year process of examining the City’s space needs, there has been agreement that the current Council Chambers is substandard. For example, the space is too small, as illustrated by the repeated need to open the walls and require some people to stand. The installed benches reduce the ability to use the room for standing or multi-purpose public functions. The audio and visual equipment is outdated. Moreover, the Council Chambers utilize prime space within Larcom on the 2nd floor and 3rd floor (where the Chambers’ raised ceiling occupies space). There have also been numerous comments from public groups that the City lacks sufficient public meeting space downtown. Based on these issues, the steering committee planning the Municipal Center Project agreed that a new multi-purpose public meeting room was desirable.

    However, the City Council Committee planning the project recommended not to include the multi-purpose room in the primary project because of our insistence that the project’s financial plan be very conservative. Nonetheless, the Committee wanted the project’s design and construction process to be efficient, thus it recommended that the architect design a new multi-purpose room as a secondary add-on to the primary project. If built, the multi-purpose room would be located on the southeast corner of the Larcom site. By designing the secondary add-on, the City can ask contractors bidding on the project to submit two bids: one for the primary project, and one for the secondary add-on. If bids for the primary project come in low, the City has the option to also complete the secondary add-on. The estimated cost of the add-on (which includes building the multi-purpose room, renovating the 2nd and 3rd floors, etc.) is approximately $4 million.

    At this time, I have no idea if bids will come in low, although they have for other recent City projects (probably because of the poor economy). Even if the bids come in low, I have no idea whether the City Council will elect to move forward with the secondary add-on. As of now, the issue has not generated much discussion because it’s premature.

       —Leigh Greden    Jun. 21 '08 - 03:08AM    #
  271. In stark contrast to the luxurious $47-million police/court building that the Mayor and City Council wish to lavish on the local judiciary, it appears, according to recent press reports, that a ballot initiative to amend the State of Michigan Constitution is gaining momentum that would, amongst other things, slash judge’s salaries 15% across the board, eliminate a number of Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court positions and require elected officials to make comprehensive financial disclosures. The Michigan Legislature would be reduced in size and lawmaker’s salaries would be significantly reduced. It is expected that the group organizing the effort will have an excellent shot at placing the initiatve on the ballot by garnering the requisite number of voter signatures. In the last fifteen years the appellate courts and legislature of this state has vastly expanded the rights of creditors and taxing authorities to the extent that property tax and mortgage foreclosures are easier than ever to accomplish with no significant relief for consumers. The judges who sign the foreclosure judgments and eviction orders are earning six-figure salaries and get an unbelievable fringe benefit package; there is sense in having the judiciary engage in some economic belt-tightening after years and of cumulative raises that outstripped the rate of inflation. There is also some poetic justice that the Michigan Legislature, who has done little to relieve the plight of those undergoing home foreclosures and other financial reverses, will feel a pinch economically if this ballot initiative is passed. The bad news is that the initiative appears to disciminate against Republican jurists in the appellate court system by eliminating their positions disproportionately compared to Democratic apppointees; as such it may encounter stiff opposition from Republican voters and may cause the entire ballot initiative to fail. In any event, the unexpected popularity of this initiative, which “came out of nowhwere” to get huge amounts of voter signatures on petitions, has illustrated that voter attitudes are strongly in favor of fiscal conservatism in these lean times and against wasteful spending such as that exemplified by the Mayor and City Council with respect to the Big Ugly Cube.

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 26 '08 - 01:22AM    #
  272. More right wing crap from the guy from Warren who’s never even stepped into Larcom. You can cut the judges and law makers salaries all you want but you will get what you pay for. Typical consrvative, doesnt want taxes for infrastructure but wants government to fix the private mortgage mess.

       —Bill T.    Jun. 27 '08 - 01:14AM    #
  273. Leigh –

    You know that the library is making plans which include new multi-use public space; while I don’t think it makes any sense to hold council meetings in the library, you might take a look at how those two projects work with each other.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 27 '08 - 04:58AM    #
  274. The City, through the DDA, is working closely with the Library. Hopefully the Library’s new public multi-purpose room will have more space than their current basement room, which is nice but too small. But the City is in desperate need of more and better public meeting space. We have dozens of boards and commissions that meet regularly in the Council chambers. In fact, we plan to also install television cameras in another new board room in the new building to double the number of rooms where groups can meet and be televised for the public to see.

       —Leigh Greden    Jun. 27 '08 - 06:54AM    #
  275. “to double the number of rooms where groups can meet and be televised for the public to see.”

    I’m going off-topic here, but has there been any talk of adding web distribution of Council and other public meetings? I don’t have cable, but I would occasionally like to be able to watch public meetings.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 27 '08 - 11:35PM    #
  276. Chuck,

    “...but has there been any talk of adding web distribution of Council and other public meetings?” No, the city will give us yesterdays technology at tomorrows prices. Also, be careful for what you ask for, since the city might very well give it to us and pay 10 times what it should cost. It’s nice that Leigh wants to add more meeting space, however under the current plan, the participants in these meetings will not be able to park at City Hall since most if not all of the public parking spaces there will be used to make room for the Big Ugly Cube.
       —Chuck L.    Jun. 28 '08 - 06:29AM    #
  277. @Chuck L plenty of public parking nearby in the evenings near city hall; the county lots on Fourth Ave are both open after hours, and there’s parking at Farmers Market and Community High just a couple blocks down.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 28 '08 - 06:47AM    #
  278. Washtenaw County webcasts our meetings. In addition, we have an indexed video archive where you can watch past meetings and skip right to the part that interests you.

    Also, we are exploring opportunities to work more deeply with the City of Ann Arbor on technology needs as well as a host of other commonly provided services. I hope it works out for our mutual benefit.

       —Jeff Irwin    Jun. 28 '08 - 07:08AM    #
  279. City Council recently approved Ann Arbor District Court Chief Judge Julie Creal’s appointment of Margaret Colleen Currie as a successor to Michael Gatti as magistrate. Gatti is leaving his position after six years of excellent service to the people of Ann Arbor. Jeff Irwin, as many may recall, had cited the failure of the District Court to hire Margaret Connors (the wife of circuit judge Timothy Connors) as a magistrate as a source of the “much ballyhooed” judicial acrimony between the circuit and district court judges that was a sideshow to the negotiations and discussions on whether or not the District Court was to continue leasing in the county building or instead constructing the new police/court building. There is speculation that Julie Creal appointed Currie, who has been a longtime employee in the office of Judge Connors, in an attempt to mend fences with Tim Connors and the circuit court judges by appointing this longtime county employee to this district court magistrate position. Does anybody have any information/opinion on the genesis of the Currie appointment?

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 4 '08 - 04:19AM    #
  280. Edward,

    The thing I find most insulting is that the City appears to be considering the needs of the tax paying public as well as concerned citizens who volunteer last when it comes to planning. The current parking spaces around city hall serve citizens who have business during working hours; these spaces will be eliminated or significantly cut back under the current plan.
       —Chuck L.    Jul. 7 '08 - 12:31AM    #
  281. Re Posts #274 and #275: That ballot initiative to amend the state constitution has recently been endorsed by Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer and , further, is expected to face a tough battle in the courts as to wheteher the petition language is defective and also whether so many separate topics can be incorporated into a single initiative. Local elected Democrats should declare some kind of stand on this ballot initiative;the criticism I have heard is that most local Democratic City Council officeholders do not advocate core liberal issues such as affirmative action and social programs for the disadvantaged, but rather are interested in spending tax dollars on wasteful matters such as the police/court building.

       —Kerry D.    Jul. 14 '08 - 06:08AM    #
  282. Kerry, there are so many problems with that ballot initiative that I don’t think I can support writing it into the constitution. However, notwithstanding clear precedent, I doubt that our partisan Supreme Court will allow it onto the ballot anyway.

    Local elected officials are responsible for maintaining facilities for local government functions. Whatever you may think of the police-courts building proposal, it is proposed as part of living up to that responsibility.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 15 '08 - 12:44AM    #
  283. I find many parts of the Reform Michigan Government Now! ballot initiative to be quite appealing. I especially like that it would require all legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state to disclose their incomes and assets, as well as the incomes and assets of their spouses; and that it would ban all legislators and top government officials from lobbying for two years after they leave office.

    The only part I’m somewhat uneasy with is reducing the Michigan Supreme Court justices from 7 to 5, as I’m not sure that consolidating such power to a fewer number of decision-makers is such a good idea.

    Larry, I would be curious to hear if your problems with the proposal were related to its form or with its substance. But as this subject is somewhat off-topic and the number of posts in this thread is nearing the 300 mark, perhaps such a discussion would be better reserved for another thread.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 17 '08 - 09:01PM    #
  284. Michael, I like a whole lot of the proposal, including all the things you mention in your first paragraph. However, as usual, the devil is in the details.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 17 '08 - 10:52PM    #
  285. Thanks for the link, Michael. Overall its a good initiative, but I believe that the reduction in Court of Appeals seats will only exacerbate an average 18-month wait to have claims of appeal reviewed in that court. In the last few years circuit judges were appointed to the three-judge panels that typically hear appeals. Additionally, the fact that the impact will fall disproportionately against Engler appointees on the Court of Appeals may alienate Republican voters. But the remainder of the initiative looks great, however I think that, in the end, the courts will most likely strike down the ballot initiative.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 19 '08 - 04:55AM    #
  286. Saul Anuzis, the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, also uses the expression, “the devil is in the details” in his editorial criticizing the ballot initiative. However, his main objection seems to merely be that it is “so complicated” that its contents can’t possibly be explained within the 100 words or less that is required for the ballot.

    The proposal requires paper trails for the voting machines and allows absentee voting without having to make up a reason. The Judicial Tenure Commission, which investigations disciplinary cases against judges, would be replaced with a new panel that has more non-lawyers on it. Jury lists would have to be representative of the population from which they are drawn.

    In my opinion, this proposal has enough good things that more than offset whatever bad parts are in it. The opposition seems to be driven primarily by a preference to maintain the status quo.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 19 '08 - 11:49PM    #
  287. The Judicial Tenure Commission has an impossible job. they oversee over 1,000 judges, justices, referees, and magistrates with a staff of only three attorneys and three clerical employees serving under the executive director to investigate 700 grievances filed by citizens per year. The criticism I have heard and read also involves the perception that the Commission unfairly targets certain judges for political reasons; black groups, as reported in the Michigan Chronicle, have complained that African-American jurists were being unfairly investigated and charged and have also pointed out the lack of black representation on the Commission. I, likewise, share your concern about the need for greater layperson representation on the Commission.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 20 '08 - 12:20AM    #
  288. It’s pretty obvious that the RMGN proposal will pass if it makes the ballot. Even though Republican leaders are vehemently opposed, Republican voters will surely support it.

    Therefore, the partisan majority on the Supreme Court will not allow it on the ballot. They will defy precedent and logic if necessary. It will be the Michigan equivalent of Bush v. Gore. And it will all take place before the election.

    And it will dramatize to everyone how we have the worst and most partisan state high court in the nation.

    So, maybe we can defeat Cliff Taylor after all.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 20 '08 - 10:30PM    #
  289. Larry: Who is “we”? Take a look at Secretary of State website on as well as to do a contribution analysis of judges living in Ann Arbor and you will find that these judges have overwhelmingly made donations to Republican candidates and causes. Timothy Connors, whose wife is a District Court candidate, has donated to Clifford Taylor’s campaign in the past as well as many other Republican efforts over the years. Ann Mattson likewise has made numerous donations to Republican committees and candidates, as have Archie Brown and David Swartz. Its hard to find any jurist from Ann Arbor who is a Democrat, although District Court candidates Joan Lowenstein and Chris Easthope are both Democrats. I like the ballot initiative and its key proponent is a Republican, but I agree that I see the higher courts eventually voiding the initiative in its entirety, which is sad. I also agree that the ultraconservative members of the Supreme Court have heavily ruled in accordance with partisan lines, rather than made neutral and reasonable decisions.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 21 '08 - 06:39AM    #
  290. Mark, I don’t see where you disagree with me. I was referring only to the Michigan Supreme Court majority (“high court” = Supreme Court). Our local judges are great.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 21 '08 - 09:02PM    #
  291. Larry, I don’t disagree with you. I was attempting to point out that elected officeholders in Ann Arbor (e.g. city council, mayor,county commissioners) are overwhelmingly Democratic, however Ann Arbor residents serving on the judiciary buck this trend as most are supporters of conservative Republican causes and would likely see Mr. Clifford Taylor,as well as Justices Markman and Young, in a more favorable light than your local Democratic brethren holding public office.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 21 '08 - 11:48PM    #
  292. Larry, you seem to differentiate between our local judges (which you feel are “great”) and the Michigan Supreme Court majority (which you feel is the “worst and most partisan”). However, the two are not so distinct.

    Like the MSC majority, former republican governor John Engler also appointed both David Swartz and Archie Brown to the Washtenaw Circuit Court, and both were subsequently designated as Chief Judge in successive terms by the MSC. (Judge David Swartz will be on the ballot for re-election this year.)

    The common element shared by Engler and the judges he appointed is that they are all members of the Federalist Society. The influence of the FS has succeeded in weakening or rolling back statutes on civil rights and affirmative action; voting rights; women’s rights and abortion rights; workers rights; prisoners rights; and the rights of consumers, the handicapped, and the elderly. The FS has accomplished in the courts what Republicans can’t achieve politically. There is nothing like the Federalist Society on the left.

    According to a survey several years ago, in 20 cases pitting private citizens against insurance companies and corporations, the Engler appointed majority on the Michigan Supreme Court decided against individual plaintiffs 19 times. During the previous year, when moderates held a 4-3 majority, individuals won 22 of 45 cases.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 22 '08 - 11:05PM    #
  293. Michael, since I work directly with the local judges in my court clerk role, and rely on their continued support and cooperation, don’t look to me for critiques.

    And, yes, I definitely make a sharp distinction between the Washtenaw County bench, which is excellent, and the Supreme Court, which is problematic.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 23 '08 - 01:01AM    #
  294. So the distinction you made between the two courts is based on nothing more than the fact that you work with one but not the other.

    I kind of figured that, but I just wanted to hear you say it, Larry. :-)

    Would I be presumptuous in assuming that your unspecified problem with the Reform Michigan Government Now! proposal is also based on nothing more than your desire to take a position consistent with the judges you work with? You probably shouldn’t answer that. I understand…

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 23 '08 - 04:10AM    #
  295. Michael, you make a valid point. In January of 2006, I argued on behalf of a personal injury plaintiff/appellant in the Michigan Court of Appeals and obtained the only reversal I have in that court in that kind of case in a half of a dozen cases heard over ten year period. I also was fortunate enough to draw on my 3-judge panel the only two Granholm appointees of the 28 judges sitting on that court at that point in time; the third judge was a “middle-of-the road” Engler appointee. I was told by a retired judge appointed to mediate thae case after remand how fortunate I was to have the political makeup of the appeals panel that I had. Very often the matter of winning or losing of a case for a voter,consumer, injured person, or civil rights litigant turns on the judge or judges assigned to a case. That’s a fact and a sad one. I doubt that any member of our Bar would dispute my assertion in these regards.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 23 '08 - 04:18AM    #
  296. Michael, I have many problems with the RMGN proposal, which I’m sure I’ll have occasion to specify and discuss. My opinions on this are mine alone, but I’m happy to share.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 25 '08 - 01:41AM    #
  297. I notice that the mayor is actively endorsing opponents of Ask Voters First activists currently running for City Council seats; these AVF candidates are Mrs. Armentrout and Stewart Nelson. I am assuming the mayor is antagonstic toward the AVF movement and his endorsements are motivated by this antagonism. Should these two candidates beat their mayoral endorsed opponents, this would mean we would have four AVF veterans on City Council.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 25 '08 - 06:27AM    #
  298. Mark Koroi wrote:
    ‘I am assuming the mayor is antagonstic toward the AVF movement and his endorsements are motivated by this antagonism.’

    Maybe. But I think for a lot of voters, the police/courts facility will not be the litmus test some observers think it will be. First, for many voters, the police/courts facility isn’t even a concept. (The AVF effort reduced the number of unaware folks, but it really is possible to exist quite happily in Ann Arbor and even be reasonably involved in various community activities and STILL not have any idea what the phrase police/courts facility means. )

    Or some voters, acutely aware of the police/courts issue, might be so impressed by other qualities of a candidate that they allow those qualities to guide their vote. For example, I would have preferred to see AVF supporters coalesce the support around the police/courts facility and begin exercising the kind of oversight that’s required to get the highest quality, longest lasting, most cost-effective facility we can get—as opposed to trying to ground the project before it takes off, even though we’re already taxiing down the runway, perhaps even past the point where we’ve got to either take off or crash.


    The general approach that Stewart Nelson has taken to his candidacy is remarkable enough that I’d vote for him if I lived in the 2nd Ward. Rather than simply mobilizing his existing network of contacts and trying to meet as many rank and file voters as possible, already in January Stewart had started working on the challenge of meeting with and talking to a list of 100 community leaders to get their perspective on issues they felt were important. And he’s reported back on some of those encounters on his campaign blog. In the last two months, Stewart is the only candidate for Council from any ward who has shown up to Sunday caucus about any issue. And on the night he appeared, he was thoroughly prepared, succinct, and generally quite personable.

    I like the idea that Stewart has challenged himself to meet community leaders he didn’t know before and with whom he might well disagree vehemently. It’s not easy to meet with and have conversations with 100 specific people over the course of 8 months. I don’t even have a list of specific people—I’ll ride my teeter totter with pretty much anybody who knocks on my door—but my pace is only something like 50 a year.

       —HD    Jul. 25 '08 - 06:02PM    #
  299. This conversation remains interesting… but I still find it odd that Mark Koroi refers to “we” and takes such interest in Ann Arbor politics. As previously pointed out, Mark is a conservative Republican operative with no ties to Ann Arbor who is attempting to exert GOP anti-tax and anti-civil rights policies into City politics. Ann Arbor voters deserve better.

       —Bill T.    Jul. 26 '08 - 05:46AM    #
  300. Is Bill T. really Leigh Greden?

       —David Cahill    Jul. 26 '08 - 04:04PM    #
  301. “Is Bill T. really Leigh Greden?”

    If you have any evidence of that, say so. I see none.

    If it’s just a lame attempt to start a rumor—please cut that out.

       —Bruce Fields    Jul. 26 '08 - 05:53PM    #
  302. I usually disagree with Mark Koroi, and it sounds like he is involved in Republican politics, but his views don’t seem to line up with standard right-wing ideology. It would be a mistake to dismiss the issues he raises as simply Republican talking points.

    No doubt he works in Ann Arbor or has some other kind of strong connection to this town. I welcome his interest.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 26 '08 - 06:00PM    #
  303. Folks who hide behind screen names should be outed.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 27 '08 - 05:26AM    #
  304. Mark Koroi, by his own admission, has never set foot in the Larcom Building, nor attended a single City Council meeting (he Googles them). His interest in the city of Ann Arbor is baffling to say the least.

    Is there nothing of interest happening in Plymouth, where Mr Koroi lives?

       —annarbor1us    Jul. 27 '08 - 05:46AM    #
  305. I find ironic these anonymous speculations into the motives of a person who is at least willing to identify himself.

    On another note, a suit has been filed to block the RMGN proposal from the ballot. One of the plaintiffs is Ingham County Clerk Mike Bryanton. I would be interested in knowing if he shares Larry’s undisclosed concerns with the proposal, or if this other county clerk is simply aligning himself with the judges he works with.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 27 '08 - 08:41PM    #
  306. “Folks who hide behind screen names should be outed.”

    Well then, go ahead, if you want to: where’s your evidence? Or is your sole contribution here speculation based on… err… nothing whatsoever? What’s your motivation for that?

       —Bruce Fields    Jul. 27 '08 - 08:51PM    #
  307. There’s one more thing that could make this thread even longer. That would be if the administrators of the police/court building announced a supply contract for Israeli-manufactured couscous for cafeteria facilities within the building.

       —Kerry D.    Jul. 28 '08 - 01:49AM    #
  308. Re #306: Is David Cahill really Karl Rove? My evidence for this assertion is that, as far as anybody knows, the person posting as David Cahill is using a phony screen name. And folks who hide behind screen names should be outed. So, Karl, please use your real name from now on.

    From About this site ,

    We ask that you use a consistent screen name and leave a valid email address.

    I think we’ve had this conversation before. AU doesn’t require that you use your real life name, only that you use a recognizable screen name. There are myriad, very legitimate reasons why someone might be uncomfortable posting under their real life name.

    I see no compelling interest why commenters should be bullied into outing themselves – or threatened with outing by others. I think this kind of behavior is in fact detrimental to discussion, as it could intimidate people from participating. And, much as I’d love to know who John Q is, for example, I’d far rather have him or her taking part in discussion under a pseudonym than staying quiet under his/her own name.

    So, David, let’s please stay away from the Rovian intimidation tactics.

       —Murph.    Jul. 28 '08 - 05:31PM    #
  309. I think I figured it all out. The situation may be even more complicated than Murph suggests.

    We now suspect that Karl Rove is impersonating David Cahill. By his own admission, David Cahill sometimes impersonates Sabra Briere.

    From these facts, we can speculate with some certainty that Karl Rove also impersonates Sabra Briere. Except, of course, when Karl Rove is impersonating David Cahill impersonating Sabra Briere.

    Another level of intrigue is added when we consider that sometimes David Cahill and Sabra Briere disagree with each other (see here and here ) From this, we can conclude that sometimes Karl Rove is only impersonating one, but not the other.

    Or maybe neither, in which case, David Cahill and Sabra Briere may be impersonating each other, and are just having a marital dispute, with Karl Rove just being himself…..wait, does that make sense?

    But seriously, the anonymous “outing” of Mr. Koroi as having Republican ties and being a non-resident of Ann Arbor illustrates both sides of this “anonymous” issue. On one hand, if Mr. Koroi had not used his real name, then he would not be the target of “Bill T.” and the other anonymous hecklers. On the other hand, if “Bill T.” was put into a “glass house” by being required to identify himself, then perhaps he would be less inclined to throw stones.

    All in all, I think the AU policy should remain as it is. The increased participation by allowing anonymous participants outweighs the occasional noise from the peanut gallery.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 28 '08 - 11:55PM    #
  310. I am a person who lives and works inside the City, but I am not Leigh Greden. My first name is Bill and my middle or last name starts with “T.” My reasons for remaining anonymous were well summarized by Murph. I recall David Cahill once describing how he tried to discover the identity of an AU poster by scouring the phone book and voting records. It sounded a bit like stalking.

    I “outed” Mark Koroi’s politics because I found it intriguing that a conservative Republican was advocating the same policies as David Cahill. But, Michael Schils is right that my outing of Koroi may be hypocritical. For that I apologize, and I commit to not “out” anybody else and to play by the rules.

       —Bill T.    Jul. 29 '08 - 03:10AM    #
  311. Murph,

    I think it is really lame for publicly elected officials to post under an alias. I would hope that officials who try to post under an alias are outed. Hats off to Larry for setting a good example in this regard.
       —Chuck L.    Aug. 2 '08 - 05:02AM    #
  312. Hey, Chuck L. I always post under my own name, thank you very much! :-)

       —Leah Gunn    Aug. 2 '08 - 05:23AM    #
  313. Of course, Bill T.‘s claims may be false, and there is no way of verifying them.

    I would think that people would be proud to identify themselves. Maybe Bill T. is just one of those people who lives in his parents’ basement….

       —David Cahill    Aug. 2 '08 - 07:31PM    #
  314. Arbor Update’s comment policy is clearly posted and has been reiterated multiple times in the last couple of days.

    This thread is for the discussion of the Police-Court building proposal. Please, let’s not let it devolve into personal attacks.

       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 3 '08 - 05:34AM    #
  315. Ask Voters First activists lost most primary races in which they participated. Mrs. Armentrout was edged out by Carsten Hoenke by a 51% to 49% margin. Tony Derezinski beat Stewart Nelson in a landslide, as did Sandi Smith over Ms. Lesko. The only AVF winner was Republican nominee John Floyd, who will square off against Hoenke this November. The mayor’s endorsement of Hoenke was key to beating Armentrout as both were popular candidates. Is AVF planning any further activities or is it now defunct?

       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 6 '08 - 08:04PM    #
  316. AVF should organize a petition to change the City Charter to require all bond issues go before the voters!

       —Chuck L.    Aug. 16 '08 - 06:45AM    #
  317. I agree 100%, or at least target for recall veteran City Council members supporting this white elephant. Let’s get moving now!

       —Kerry D.    Aug. 18 '08 - 03:58AM    #
  318. Re Post #274: The ballot initiative in question was struck down by a Michigan Court of Appeals panel yesterday as unconstitutional but the initiative’s backers vow to seek leave to appeal in the state supreme court.

       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 21 '08 - 10:15PM    #
  319. This RMGN proposal has the bipartisan support of over 70% of the voters.

    However, the proposal would have affected the pay and benefits of the CoA 3-judge panel it went before, and could have cost one of the judges, William Whitbeck, his job if it had been allowed to proceed to the voters.

    Once again, judges with obvious conflicts of interests were able to thwart the will of the people.

       —Michael Schils    Aug. 23 '08 - 12:01AM    #
  320. Re Posts #251 and 252: U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell today held that a state law used to disqualify 2,000 signators to the petition effort to recall Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon is unconstitutional and set the stage for a possible recall election this November. The legal requirement that a petition circulator be a resident of the district of the officeholder targeted for recall was struck down as too restrictive by Judge Bell. The ruling is a stunning reversal to Dillon who had prevailed in state courts on this issue and a huge victory to former Republican state representative Leon Drolet, the leader of the Michigan Taxpeyers Alliance, who was the driving force behind the recall effort, which was vehemently opposed by the Michigan Democratic Party establishment.

       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 28 '08 - 01:17AM    #
  321. To call it “a stunning reversal to Dillon” is a thundering understatement. It pretty much upsets the applecart of Michigan politics.

    The requirement that circulators of a recall petition be a resident of the district of the official to be recalled has meant that no recall gets off the ground without a critical mass of citizens angry with the official. A recall hardly ever makes the ballot without a grass roots effort.

    Take that rule away, and it becomes possible to recall anyone, simply by applying enough money. Both parties will be constantly at work with paid petitioners trying to dislodge every rep or senator in a marginal seat. And without grass roots involvement, party and special interest money will dominate low-turnout recall elections.

    You think term limits changed the atmosphere for the worse in Lansing? This is much bigger than that. From now on, for a smallish amount of money, like $100,000, any interest group can buy total legislative paralysis.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 28 '08 - 08:19PM    #
  322. Larry nailed it. The requirement that petition circulators be residents of the district where they were circulating the petitions seemed a very reasonable and common-sense reform. It promised to curb the worst abuses of the petition campaigns which were the out-of-state financed and operated campaigns meddling in state and local races and issues. I haven’t read the opinion yet but if this isn’t overturned on appeal, it’s likely that we’ll see a lot of nasty recall campaigns financed by outfits like “Club for Growth”. As we saw with the Acme Township recall election, we have enough problems with monied interests within the state of Michigan. The last thing we need is outsiders attempting to manipulate the political process.

       —John Q.    Aug. 28 '08 - 10:18PM    #
  323. The Detroit Free Press agrees:

       —John Q.    Aug. 28 '08 - 10:20PM    #
  324. For those interested the full text of Judge Bell’s opinion its available on Westlaw under the citation “Bogaert vs. Land, 2008 WL 3915148”.

       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 29 '08 - 12:54AM    #
  325. I also have the opinion and order (PDFs) on my web site.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 29 '08 - 01:22AM    #
  326. Larry,

    The argument seems to hinge on the distinction between initiative petitions on the one hand, and recall petitions on the other.

    It looks to me like both sides agreed that
    (i) initiative petitions involve core political speech and as such, should not be subject to the residency requirement for circulators.

    Where they differed was their view of recall petitions. One side said that (ii) recall petitions were different from initiative petitions (recall being a right created by the State of Michigan and therefore subject to constraint by the State of Michigan). The other side said that (iii) there was no basis for the distinction between initiative petitions and recall petitions. The judge agreed that there was not a good basis for the distinction.

    It’s possible that’s not a fair summary. But on the assumption that it is, it seems to me that for anyone who thinks this is a disaster (I think I’m in that camp), then you have to disagree with either (i) or (iii).

    If I deny (i) then I can say, You’re right, Judge Bell, there’s no difference between initiative petitions and recall petitions, but neither one is ‘core political speech’ so we can constrain either kind of petition.

    If I deny (iii), then I’m just flat out disagreeing with the judge’s conclusion. I don’t really follow the nuances of the judge’s reasoning well enough to say, “See, that’s the specific point where I disagree with the conclusion.”

    So put me down as disagreeing with (i): petitions is petitions, and if we want to say you can’t pay people to circulate them, or if we want to say you gotta live where the issue lives in order to circulate them, then we should be able to do that, no matter what kind of petition that is.

    In this I disagree with the Free Press, which states that “Bell got it right when he said circulating recall petitions constitutes core political speech, the kind that merits the strongest protections under the First Amendment.”

    I think the First Amendment protects the right to circulate all the petitions you want—we’re not going to put you in jail for that. But we don’t have to count the signatures you collect. Protection of free speech? Yes. But it doesn’t mean that particular speech must factor into a particular process.

    I mean, if I go to a polling place on election day that’s not the precinct where I live, and exercise my right to free speech by filling out the application for a ballot, I cannot very well insist that I be given a ballot on pain of violating my right to free speech. My right to free speech (and to stupidity) will have been protected just as long as I don’t get thrown in jail for trying to apply for a ballot at the wrong polling place.

       —HD    Aug. 29 '08 - 03:39AM    #
  327. The aspect of Judge Bell’s opinion that also must be considered as equally favorable to the recall organizers as the successful First Amendment argument was the ruling that ordered the Secretary of State to place the matter on the November 4th general election ballot in the event that the recount he ordered Mrs. Land to perform revealed that at least 776 of the 2053 ballots previously disallowed due to out-of-district circulators were otherwise valid. Dillon’s arguments of mootness were rejected and creates the possible outcome of Dillon winning the general election and being recalled simultaneously, forcing him to vacate his office for about seven weeks until he is sworn in for his new term. Dillon did quite well in the August 5th primary and its conceivable that he will prevail in any recall effort. In the event Dillon is recalled, however, he will be the first state house speaker ever recalled in U.S. history.

       —Kerry D.    Aug. 29 '08 - 03:59AM    #
  328. Judge Bell rejected a reconsideration motion on Friday from attorneys for Andy Dillon. Dillon is expected to have papers filed with the U.S.Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by as early as tomorrow. Interestingly, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has filed papers indicating she is also going to appeal Bell’s ruling.

       —Mark Koroi    Sep. 2 '08 - 07:50AM    #
  329. “Interestingly, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has filed papers indicating she is also going to appeal Bell’s ruling.”

    No surprise there. The SoS and AG should be defending the state law, even if they don’t agree with it, which I wouldn’t even assume in this case. I’m sure that the Republican establishment understands the potential for mischief as well as the Democrats do.

       —John Q.    Sep. 2 '08 - 07:47PM    #
  330. Election officials generally (including Terri Lynn, a former Kent County Clerk) are pretty negative about recalls. Compared to my county and local clerk colleagues, I’m wildly pro-recall.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Sep. 2 '08 - 10:58PM    #
  331. Until Michigan has effective campaign finance reporting and disclosure laws and elected officials willing to stop abuses of that law, it’s difficult support our current petition and recall laws. Meijer’s efforts in Acme Township were nothing less than an attempted coup d’état, a term I don’t use lightly but that perfectly describe what Meijer was attempting. For their gross violations of our election laws, Meijer got a slap on the wrist and protection from criminal prosecution by the elected officials in our state who are supposed to protect against such criminal acts.

       —John Q.    Sep. 2 '08 - 11:10PM    #
  332. While I agree Meijer may have gotten a slap on the wrist by the respective offices of Terri Lynn Land and Michael Cox, Acme Treasurer William Boltres filed a claim for defamation against Meijer, Inc. that a mediation panel gave a recommendation of a $3 million award on. The case later settled pursuant to an agreement with confidential terms (see Also, the attempt of Land to appeal the Bell ruling may backfire to the extent that if the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the ruling of Judge Bell in a published opinion, this will create binding legal precedent for all states within the Sixth Circuit. I further agree with you Judge Bell’s ruling is a double-edged sword and could be used against the elected officials of either Democrats or Republicans.

       —Mark Koroi    Sep. 3 '08 - 12:59AM    #
  333. In a split decision today, an appeals panel in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld Judge Bell’s ruling, making a recall election a near certainty this November against House Speaker Andy Dillon. Congratulations to Leon Drolet!

       —Mark Koroi    Sep. 10 '08 - 04:45AM    #
  334. “Acme Treasurer William Boltres filed a claim for defamation against Meijer, Inc. that a mediation panel gave a recommendation of a $3 million award on.”

    Let’s point out that it was Boltres lawsuit that exposed what Meijer had done. If Boltres had not been driven to file that lawsuit, Meijer’s actions would never have been revealed.

       —John Q.    Sep. 10 '08 - 06:53AM    #
  335. Re Posts #321 and #322: The September 8,2008 Michigan Supreme Court decision striking down the RMGN ballot initiative is finally available online on Westlaw under the citation “Citizen’s Protecting Michigan’s Constitution et al vs. Secretary of State et al, 2008 WL 4163899”. While the decision of the majority is not surprising, the sole dissenting justice, Marilyn Kelly, authored an opinion that would have remanded the matter back to the State Board of Canvassers for further proceedings and was sharply critical of the majority’s lack of consideration: “ I submit that we have neglected our duty to the citizens of the State of Michigan to serve as the final arbiter of the law. And in few instances is that duty more important than in this case.” Justice Kelly is correct; without providing standards for future ballot initiative organizers, one will continue to have to guess what constitutes a legal petition and appellate courts will have great leeway to find grounds to invalidate such efforts. The sad part is that well over one million dollars and thousands of hours of volunteer worker manpower was wasted when well over two-thirds of Michigan residents backed such a ballot initiative.

       —Mark Koroi    Sep. 19 '08 - 01:50AM    #
  336. Does anybody know what Ask Voters First is up to nowadays, if anything?

       —Kerry D.    Sep. 29 '08 - 06:44AM    #
  337. I have heard that Clark Construction is slated to commence its initial phase of its project this month. Can anybody verify this?

       —Mark Koroi    Feb. 3 '09 - 09:37AM    #
  338. The new City Hall entrance will be erected next week. Basic shuffling of offices from the first floor to the sixth floor also begins next week.

       —scooter62    Feb. 3 '09 - 07:37PM    #
  339. Thanks, Scooter. The Ann Arbor Chronicle today also indicated that the actual ground breaking with shovels will be about two months away.

       —Mark Koroi    Feb. 4 '09 - 08:38AM    #
  340. In the News, today: “Washtenaw County faces huge deficit as property tax values drop $1.5 billion”

    Why take on this debt now, for a building? Better to go into debt for the education and health care of the county’s children. Education produces wealth. A court building doesn’t.

       —Campus    Feb. 5 '09 - 08:42PM    #
  341. FYI: at the last DDA Meeting the Mayor remarked that the Courts Police Project may be ideal for the economic stimulus money apparently coming to Michigan as part of the federal bill (if and when it is voted into law). Since all of the plans are completed and it would put people to work right away, it has many of the elements suggested during the stimulus deliberations.

    Wouldn’t that be an interesting turn of events?

       —Nancy    Feb. 7 '09 - 11:03PM    #
  342. Actually, the bonds are for a lesser amount – I recall a figure of $31 Million but I haven’t looked it up. The $47 Million is the total cost, a good fraction of which is coming directly from the fund balance (aka the city’s cash reserves).

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 7 '09 - 11:21PM    #
  343. Re Post #344: I posit to the citizens of Ann Arbor that those facts exhibit a gross and disturbing lack of leadership on the part of those City Council members that have supported the Police/Court building.

       —John Dory    Feb. 8 '09 - 01:57AM    #
  344. Re post 344: I heard no buyer’s remorse from the councilmembers. What I heard was the councilmembers correcting misinformation that has been broadcast to the public. It appeared to me that they wanted the truth said publicly and put on the record.

    This is the responsible thing to do. Part of their job is to educate the public. They need to ask these questions in a formal setting so that a record is made (minutes) that contains the official stand of the council.

    The public needs to hear the truth.

    Just because people say lies repeatedly, that doesn’t make them true.

       —Diane    Feb. 8 '09 - 03:20AM    #
  345. I agree with John Dory that what the council has done in not voting down the Police/Courts facility is highly irresponsible. But I disagree with John that there is not leadership; there’s leadership but it’s bad leadership, shot through with substantial dis-information. I analyzed Leigh “Math Man” Greden’s spreadsheet that was used to justify the cost of building over continued renting of current facilities and found the assumptions to be highly skewed in favor of building. For example, Leigh assumes that the rent the county charges the city for the courts will expand at about double the rate of inflation (8%) over the next 60 years. Also, the cost of money is not included in the calculation properly; this is the most egregious error. The discount rate on the cost of money is the most significant factor since the time span of the calculation is so long (60 years). The calculation is also very sensitive to the discount rate assumed, just to make things interesting. A low rate favors building, a high rate favors renting. Leigh assumes a low rate of 3.5%. A rate of 4.77% or the rate the city is paying on the bonds to finance the construction would have been a better assumption. When I assume the rent the county is charging the city only increases out to 2018 at 8%/year and 3.7%/year after then plus an annual discount rate of 4.77%/year, my calculation shows building costing about $195 Million more over the next 60 years than renting.

    I believe the game the council and city are playing with voters is what I will call bureaucratic chicken. The city is rushing to get this project built knowing the funding shortfalls that will hit in the future because they believe that when the crisis hits, they will either just cut services or ask voters to raise taxes, threating dire consequences if tax increases are not approved. They got to have their pet project come hell or high water; it’s what the voters get for turning the city over to developers.
       —Chuck L.    Feb. 8 '09 - 09:13AM    #
  346. Does nobody on this list care that the city is blowing more than $400/sq-ft on a new city hall expansion? If my house cost $400/sq-ft, I would be paying $870,000 for the house with about a $6300/month mortgage. A landlord would need to charge about $2000/month for a 700 sq-ft one bedroom apartment just to break even with construction costs like what the city is paying.

       —Chuck L.    Feb. 12 '09 - 08:09AM    #
  347. Chuck L: A prior poster almost one year ago not only pointed this out, but did research on the cost of court facilities and could not find any single courthouse in the U.S. that cost as much as the facility contemplated in Ann Arbor for the 15th Judicial District Court. Even one court in New York City, which has property values exponentially higher than Michigan, had a per square foot cost significantly lower than the Ann Arbor project.

    It has also been pointed out previously the 19th Judicial District Court in the City of Dearborn, which has a population similar to Ann Arbor and has three judges and a police station in the same structure, had the entire project completed about ten years ago at cost of $13 million dollars. It is considered to have state-of-the-art architecture and being one of the finest district court buildings in Metro Detroit.

    There is no question that many have raised red flags over the cost of this Clark Construction project. And, as stated above, this was not a low-bid project award.

    Last August 5th, all Ask Voters First activists running for City Council were defeated, except John Floyd, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary, and got beaten in the general election by Carsten Hoenke. I wonder what will happen this fall to those council persons who supported the project and those who opposed it who are facing re-election races? It shall be interesting to see if the electorate makes the project a significant campaign issue.

       —Mark Koroi    Feb. 12 '09 - 09:07AM    #
  348. Considering this issue has been going on for years, wasn’t last year’s election a referendum on this issue.

    The public has overwhelmingly supported those councilmembers who are in favor of the project.

       —Diane    Feb. 12 '09 - 07:17PM    #
  349. For those of you that argue in against the new Courts/Police building and in favor of “remodeling” the existing space:

    The accepted level is 2.0 pCi/L, the locker rooms, lunch room and detective bureau were as high as 20.

    Not to mention, but where are they going to find housing for 30 people?

       —scooter62    Feb. 12 '09 - 08:59PM    #
  350. Chuck L and Mark Koroi: The cost for this project has been repeatedly publicized, and the cost per square foot is nowhere near $400. I have looked into it and my numbers are nowhere near your estimates.

    The construction of the new PD/Courts building is approximately $27.1 million. The new building is 102,000 square feet. That equals a cost of approximately $265/sf.

    What you do not acknowledge in your statements above is that the other $20 million in the total project budget includes things like renovating Larcom and other contingencies which have nothing to do with the PD/Courts addition.

    If you want to argue the fact that $265/sf is too high, that is one thing, but please stop insisting that the number is $400/sf for a new building. It is misleading.

       —Diane    Feb. 12 '09 - 09:44PM    #
  351. The proposed guaranteed price contract was attached to the 2/17/09 council agenda. It breaks down the $38 million in construction costs as follows:
    courts/pd 28,103,949
    Larcom 7,909,187
    Sitework 2,135,610
    total max price 38,148,745
    To get to the 47.4 million total, you need to add another 9,251,255 in owner costs, which include professional fees, such as the 5.3 million for the architect, permits, testing, moving, site prep and legal and financial costs. If you allocate owner costs in the same ratio as building costs, you get 9,827,203 for Larcom reno and 37,572,798 for the new building and site work. That figure is close to the estimate for the police/courts building of 36,325,421 in a 2/27/08 cost breakdown showing total cost of 47,256,292. Assuming a 103,000 sq foot building (which I think includes some parking) and that the site work is part of the building cost, you get 365 per foot for the courts/pd.

       —karen sidney    Feb. 13 '09 - 02:48AM    #
  352. “The public has overwhelmingly supported those councilmembers who are in favor of the project.”

    I would consider that proposition to be debatable.

    Fisrtly, Steve Kunselman voted for the project and was defeated in a landslide on August 5th.

    Secondly, Margie Teall voted for the project and ran unopposed last year in both the primary and general elections.

    Thirdly, Councilpersons Lowenstein and Easthope voted for the project but did not run to retain their City Council seats last August.

    Fourthly, Sandi Smith had only nominal write-in opposition to her candidacy so her support of the police/courts facility construction cannot be gauged by the number of votes she got.

    Lastly, Mrs. Vivienne Armentrout, Fifth Ward candidate for City Council and one of the most vocal activists of Ask Voters First, garnered 49% of the Democratic primary vote on August 5th, despite the fact her opponent, Carsten Hoenke, had the endorsement of the Mayor and support of numerous other Council members.

    To me this does not show overwheming public support for City Council members supporting construction of the Big Ugly Cube. In six months, we will have another City Council primary and I believe that those council persons who voted for this project may have a difficult time in contested primaries.

       —Mark Koroi    Feb. 14 '09 - 07:04AM    #
  353. Karen,

    Correcting my comment #352 above for $365 vs $400/sq-ft the the results are: If my house cost $365/sq-ft, I would be paying $790,000 for the house with about a $5700/month mortgage. A landlord would need to charge about $1800/month for a 700 sq-ft one bedroom apartment just to break even with construction costs like what the city is paying. Even at the $265/sq-ft cost, my house would cost $575,000 which is way more than what it is worth today. I find it interesting that the cost of Skyline was in the $200/sq-ft area so, what gives with the high construction costs of city hall at a time when building costs should be lower, not higher?
       —Chuck L.    Feb. 14 '09 - 08:20AM    #
  354. Although I can appreciate the disecting of every penny spent by the city and especially this project, it seems the reality of the situation has been lost on many. Scooter62 posted an article regarding the radon levels in the basement of city hall that garnered zero discussion…has anyone truly looked into the present condition of city hall?

    In addition, much of the expense in building the new city hall is attributable to “green” elements of the building. When the architects suggested if the city wanted to save money they should cut back on some the “green” building aspects and materials…this suggestion was met with a resounding no! Folks in examining the plans…this is not going to be grand space the public thinks it to be…at least not for the police department…which will still be undersized for recommended space needs and the locker rooms for officers to change in will still be located in the basement of city hall (a separate building)…which hopefully will be mitigated properly by that time.

    A dose of reality or should I say realignment of priorities please…

       —Life Inside 26 sq Miles    Feb. 14 '09 - 08:19PM    #
  355. Re Post #360: I have not heard anyone contest that the police department needs better facilities. Your point is well taken in those regards. And if radon is truly a problem I have no doubt it should be addressed in a manner that is both efficacious and expeditious; the safety of persons in the building must be a paramount concern.

    You mention “green” issues. What I have a problem with is that you do not quantify the cost increases that are linked to the use of environmentally friendly materials and hence we cannot determine what are truly necessary components of the project and what constitutes what prior posters on ArborUpdate have termed “gold-plating”. If you can give us a ramified breakdown that the apparently excessive cost of the police/court project as a whole can be explained by the employment of “green” materials that are reasonably necessary , can extend the life of the facility, or justify the initial incremental capital expenditure by decreases in maintenance costs and/or projected repair expenses, I and others, I am sure, would be glad to review it. I would note many persons who collected signatures for Ask Voters First or who have opposed the project were Huron Valley Greens members or associates, or were otherwise strongly concerned about the environment in general.

    My concern and the concern of many others locally is that the decision to go forward on this project was due to all the wrong reasons, most of not all of which have been discussed at length already. These reasons are primarily political.

    Firstly, there was the problem of infighting between certain circuit and district court judges, resulting in these circuit court jurists wanting the District Court out of the county building. Judge Timothy Connors had been reportedly angry that his wife, Margaret Connors, did not receive an appointment as magistrate that she wanted. Then there was a reported “takeover” by Chief Circuit Judge Archie Brown of District Court Judge Ann Matson’s courtroom.

    David Cahill expressed on ArborUpdate that he felt there was a possible conflict of interest of Councilpersons Easthope and Lowenstein in voting for the project when they were running for a judgeship at the district court level and would be housed in the same structure under consideration.

    There were other concerns by citizens that the City Council was going to vote the District Court a luxurious courthouse as a political favor much as U.S. Congress had done in recent years as apparent political patronage to federal judges who often hear controversies involving matters that are of congressional concern.

    Lastly, many local residents had felt that there would be a severe impact upon worthwhile social programs due to the diversion of municipal funds to the police/court project. There was also the grim reality that many local residents were losing their homes in foreclosures.

    It was under this backdrop that Ask Voters First was formed to address the City Council’s apparent lack of adherence to the chorus of doubts voiced by citizens over the wisdom and scope of the project and its anticipated costs.

    You raise significant points that I have not heard addressed by City Council previously. To the extent that they did not publicize these issues in support of their positions, this would add to my criticism of their conduct. Perhaps you are better versed in these issues than they are which would not surprise me given what I have witnessed of the general competence(or lack thereof) of the City Council members who have been unabashed cheerleaders for this mammoth undertaking from the get-go.

    I have a great deal of respect for all the residents of Ann Arbor on both sides of police/court issue who have taken the time to examine the pros and cons and have made their decision either way. I believe that this is consistent with a participatory democracy and why I supported placing the issue for a public vote.

    On the other hand, I believe the decision of City Council to support construction of this facility was for all the wrong reasons, as stated above. Now that we are in a severe economic period that decision appears even more the product of a flawed and biased reasoning by City Council.

    City Council failed us and the penalty is 31,000,000 dollars in bond obligations that the taxpayers can ill afford.

       —John Dory    Feb. 15 '09 - 01:33AM    #
  356. Life Inside 26 sq Miles,

    Radon can be mitigated with proper maintenance and ventilation; this begs the question of why the facilities in city hall have been allowed to degrade? Would it not have been better to have spent the money the city has been saving as a down payment on the new mega facility to repair the existing one? You know, it truly is sad that people can’t see through the disgusting game being played by the city with the citizens. The game is to blow valuable public resources on over-priced and over-bloated show projects like the current plan to upgrade city hall; since the money that could have been spent maintaining the infrastructure that already exists is blown on the pet projects, it won’t be available for upkeep. The sorry state of the existing infrastructure is then used as justification for blowing more money on new white elephants! See how it works? And why blow the money on white elephants like the new city hall? Simple, think of the law firm that did the work to float the bonds, the firm that did the design work, the firm that builds the building and so on. There’s lots of money to be contracted out and lots of future favors owed to the people doling out the cash. If the money went to unionized city employees or on behalf of same, it would be “wasted” since no favors could be extracted from grateful and more to the point, entities on the receiving end who can advance the careers of the people doling out the cash (you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.)
       —Chuck L.    Feb. 15 '09 - 07:07AM    #
  357. Re Post#357 and #362: Does anyone know how much money was paid in legal fees to the Dykema Gossett law firm as bond counsel on the project?

       —Mark Koroi    Feb. 15 '09 - 09:09AM    #
  358. Re post 357 from Karen: The cost of the building is what the contract for actual construction will be, and that is (using your numbers) $28,103,949 .

    I understand that you want to add all the pre-construction costs but they are not typically included in the actual CONSTRUCTION (building) COST. Yes, the PROJECT COST does include pre-construction and construction cost but most people in this string of comments are mixing up the two terms. If they want to compare our court building to other cities than they need to make sure that they are comparing the correct numbers.

    Also, I might add I believe that your calculation for pre-construction cost is inflated. Some of this cost was from fact-finding and analysis of whether we needed a new building. This money would have spent whether the built the new PD/court building or not. It is more of a SUNK COST rather than pre-construction cost.

    When some of you argue total project cost (regardless of whatever inflated pre-construction cost you use) as the cost of the new building it looks misleading. Most people out in the public are looking at the final construction contract for the building as the cost of a new PD/court building. They are not including the sunk cost or the pre-construction areas of the project cost.

       —Diane    Feb. 16 '09 - 01:50AM    #
  359. Diane,

    Would you pay $1800-$2000/month for a 700 sq-ft, one bedroom apartment in Ann Arbor? I think most people would gag at that price but that is the amount a commercial landlord would need to charge just to pay the project costs and taxes at the rates the city is paying for the city hall expansion. Your distinction between project costs and construction costs is facile and just another way of blowing smoke in people’s faces. The public is getting 103,000 sq-ft of space and all the costs associated with that addition should be looked at when comparing to what people pay for say a house or an apartment. If the city continued renting, the rents would be based on project costs, not construction costs for the property in question.
       —Chuck L.    Feb. 16 '09 - 03:23AM    #
  360. When the groundbreaking of the project occurs this spring, will there be a ceremony with local dignataries present?

       —Kerry D.    Feb. 22 '09 - 12:55AM    #
  361. Has anybody looked for or found any financial link (e.g campaign contribution,professional relationship) between any City Council member supporting this project and any of the firms that have been contracted to perform any of the job? This could concevably include Clark Construction, the bond counsel firm, the architectual engineering company, the surveyors, material suppliers, building trades subcontractors, caterers, others.

    Somewhere down the line I expect financial beneficiaries of the project, if not already or in the future, will bestow some direct or indirect emolument on one or more of the Council members in the most subtle manner possible who have given this advantageous contractual relationship to these companies in these most adverse economic times.

    I am going to be looking at the campaign finance disclosures of City Council members running for re-election this year to see if such “gratitude” will be expressed to any City Council member supporting this project.

    There was a lot of “gratitude” appearing in last year’s August primary.

       —John Dory    Mar. 6 '09 - 06:26AM    #
  362. Re #344: I see that Councilperson Mike Anglin apparently, according to that post, is attempting to seek re-election to City Council. I am sure the Police/Court project will be a major campaign issue.

    Does any one know which City Council members will have their seats up for election this year and, of those, which have declared their candidacy for re-election?

       —Mark Koroi    Mar. 8 '09 - 04:33AM    #
  363. I would like to thank Judy McGovern on her recent article regarding the citizen outrage over the perceived improper priorities by City Council as it relates to the Police/Court complex.

    I would also like Marcia Higgins to back her assertion up about all the trade jobs that will be created by the project. My understanding is that Clark Construction is headquartered in Lansing. I know of no local subcontractors who have been selected to work on the project. And how many of the tradesmen will themselves be local?

    I first expressed my displeasure with this project about a year ago as well as numerous other citizens. It appears now more than ever that we were right and City Council was wrong.

    Ann Arbor citizens need to express their displeasure at the polls this year.

       —Kerry D.    Mar. 9 '09 - 05:23AM    #
  364. The Ann Arbor Chronicle covered discussion last week by City Council members relating to public art to grace the new municipal building – specifically the “Dreiseitl Project”.

    The Dreiseitl Project’s preliminary design is $77,000, with the project estimate expected to be around $700,000.

    At a recent Ann Arbor Art Commssion meeting, the commissioners noted a lack of support among the public for this project and some members were surprised about the large amount of money available to fund the project, the Chronicle reported.

    Marcia Higgins likewise at a City Council caucus in early February was surprised at how much money had accummlated through the “One Percent For Art Program” and questioned whether or not art was being over-funded by the city.

    Does anyone else ahve any concerns over the spending for the Dreiseitl Project at a time when the spectre of massive police department layoffs and significant cutbacks of other municipal services is being considered?

       —Mark Koroi    Mar. 12 '09 - 08:28PM    #
  365. Is ANYONE running for City Council in the 4th Ward I can throw my support to?
    I’m not happy with my one party choices for city elections.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Mar. 12 '09 - 09:14PM    #
  366. The council members up for re-election this November are Sabra Briere (First Ward), Stephen Rapundalo (Second Ward), Leigh Greden (Third Ward), Marcia Higgins (Fourth Ward), and Mike Anglin (Fifth Ward). All are Democrats. All have taken out petitions for re-election.

    The road to power in Ann Arbor is through the August Democratic primary. This year the filing deadline is June 22.

       —David Cahill    Mar. 13 '09 - 12:43AM    #
  367. Thanks for the info. I’m fine with Ward One. Lol.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Mar. 13 '09 - 09:38PM    #
  368. It is nice to see that the First Ward and Fifth Ward seats are finally and mercifully up. I will do whatever I can to unseat Anglin in the Fifth. Can we get anyone (ANYONE!) to run in the First? Potted plant?

    I’m happy with the rest.

       —Marvin Face    Mar. 13 '09 - 10:10PM    #
  369. Kerry: Most people outside of the construction industry don’t have an understanding of how the union work rules function.

    Public entities all have a competitive bidding process for all the contractors. Lets say that a contractor from Flint comes in at low bid, has a proven record and all the rest and they are chosen to do the excavation. They use a number of members of the Laborers Union. Under the union set up they can only bring in 4 workers. All the rest will have to come from the local Laborers Union. So if they have 25 laborers on the job, at least 21 will be local. Most companies don’t even bring 4. Same for the Electrician’s Union, etc.

    There are probably not many trade workers who actually live in A2 city limits but they belong to the locals here.

    Clark is a Construction Management Co., they supervise the subs and are responsible for the project but they won’t bring more than a few people from Lansing, just supervisors.

    So, almost all the jobs will be local.

    All that said, it’s hard to think of someone from within a 50 mile radius as not being local.

       —Ted Ancil    Mar. 13 '09 - 11:06PM    #
  370. I understand that the electrical contractor that has been chosen is from Lansing , that all electricians live in Lansing and commute and that all supplies for this electrical contractor are purchased from Lansing-based companies.

    It is also my understanding at least one electrical contractor from Ann Arbor bid the job but did not get it. Also, some local electrical suppliers have approached the electrical contractor chosen to obtain supply contracts but were turned down.

    Can anyone verify or refute this information;it appeared on a “Letter to the Editors” link in the “Public Art = Local Artists” thread recently added to this site?

    Being that Clark Construction is a construction manager and not a general contractor on the Police/Courts project it would seem to me that the city would have a lot more control over the bid process and ensuring Ann Arbor businesses have an inside track to working and supplying materials on the project.

       —Mark Koroi    Mar. 14 '09 - 01:37AM    #
  371. Delta electric is from Lansing but they can bring no more than 4 electricians who do not work under the Local here but it seems like there would not be work for more than one or two electricians at this early stage.

    There are several people who do residential and live in the city. I don’t know of many building trades union members who work on these large projects and live in the city limits but there must be some. They mostly live in Chelsea on out to Grass Lake and Manchester, to the east in Ypsilanti Twp., Whitmore lake and on toward Brighton, Pinckney, etc.

    Their are huge construction projects going on with all the UM work.

    I don’t imagine there are many companies who are actually in A2 City Limits who could bid, most are in the township. They draw from the local union labor pool, same as the others from the rest of the state.

    So what is local? Are Brighton, Canton, Grass Lake, Jackson, or Flint, Lansing and Pontiac local? Where is the line and who gets to draw it? They are all in Michigan and no more than an hour away.

    If the workers are largely coming from the same local union pool anyway, how much more should the city pay for a local contractor if they are not the most qualified low bid? 10%?

       —Ted Ancil    Mar. 14 '09 - 07:06AM    #
  372. Re Post 374: Thank you for your interest in the First Ward race, Marvin.

    There are several possible candidates who could conceivably defeat the incumbent City Council member this year.

    In 2007, Richard Wickboldt, an engineer employed in a supervisory position at U-M, ran in the Democratic primary for the First Ward City Council position and garnered a respectable amount of votes. He is relatively knowedgeable about municipal issues and involved locally.

    John Roberts, a former college football star, who previously served on City Council also ran in 2007 and lost in a close race to Ms. Briere. Some had been critical for his lack of involvement on issues before the council, but he was fairly well liked by his constituents.

    There have been some rumblings that the time is ripe for the Huron Valley Greens to field candidates in the City Council races. I recall not too long ago in one ward a Green candidate was able to pull 30% of the vote for a Council seat. There is one resident in the First Ward with ties to the Huron Valley Greens who has been touted by some as a possible viable City Council candidate – nationally recognized civil rights activist Dr. Catherine Wilkerson.

    It however remains to be seen if any of these three possible prospective candidates is interested in running for City Council.

    That said, I believe that Sabra Briere would probably be a difficult incumbent to beat. I say this for several reasons.

    One, she has a long history of activism locally in liberal causes. She previously has held leadership posts in the county and local Democratic parties as well as the Ann Arbor chapter of the ACLU. She had a history of service on city boards as well, so she cannot be accused of having a lack of relevant experience. It also cannot be ignored that she is considered to be accessible to constituents unlike a number of other current or former City Council members, such as Marcia Higgins or Ron Suarez.

    There are several reasons that she is, however, vulnerable to attack in a contested election. One would be her minority position on City Council that the Police/Court project should not be constructed. She and Mike Anglin have been a thorn in the side of the Mayor and other City Council members in this regard. Her statement published on the Ask Voters First website in support of that failed movement rankled many who had a vested interest in seeing that project go forward; some of these interests undoubtedly would contribute heavily to a Briere opponent. It is also worthy of note that not only did Ask Voters First fail as an organization but their organizers also could not get elected to office last year.

    Also of interest is the possible role of the Mayor in this possible race. Every candidate he endorsed in the 2008 primary and general elections won. This included newcomer Carsten Hoenke and others. The Mayor’s endorsement of a Briere opponent could tip the balances against Ms. Briere. There could be a certain degree of rift between Ms. Briere and the Mayor as evidenced by the fact she was the only City Council member not attending the Mayor’s victory party last November.

    In any event, without disclosing which, if any, prospective candidates or incumbent I would be inclined to support, I will say that I believe that it would be in the best interests of the citizens of Ann Arbor if the First Ward election was contested.

    Your statement, Marvin, seems to imply that there will be someone who is planning to oppose Mike Anglin in the Fifth Ward. If so, who?

       —Junior    Mar. 14 '09 - 10:26PM    #
  373. I have a question regarding the Dreiseitl artwork that is being proposed for around $700,000.

    Does artwork’s funding expected to come out of the $47 million earmarked for the police/court project or is it going to be an additional $700,000 funded from a separate source?

    Also, does the approximately $70,000 allocated for the design of the artwork included in the $700,000 or is this amount a separate and additional allocation?

       —Junior    Mar. 28 '09 - 11:52PM    #
  374. In response to #379 and anyone else who wonders:
    the funds that resulted in the 1% for art that are earmarked for Mr. Dreiseitl’s work at the new Courts/Police facility came from a number of projects, many of which were storm water projects completed last summer. None of these dollars are connected with the millions of dollars earmarked for the Courts/Police facility itself.

    The process is: 1% of capital improvement funding is set aside to provide funding for public art. The funds available are from already completed projects. The art work does not need to be installed at the site providing the funding.

    The funds allocated for the design of the project are separate from any funds required to build the project. At this time, no funds have been approved or budgeted to build the project — or to maintain the project in the future, for that matter.
    Sent while on vacation, when I have the leisure to read . . .
    Sabra Briere

       —Sabra Briere    Mar. 29 '09 - 08:59AM    #
  375. So storm water projects, which are paid for by our water fees, are subject to the 1% contribution? I doubt that is constitutional. Bolt Decision and all that. Those fees are only supposed to be used for direct service. Or was there a special bond issue floated to be paid for out of the General Fund?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Mar. 29 '09 - 05:10PM    #
  376. Um, Sorry!
    Capital Improvement Projects are paid for in a number of ways — and not generally paid for at all by fees.

    For the curious, I have a list of the specific projects involved so far in the 1% for Art and their funding sources. None of this is secret, but I don’t want to bore the forum.

       —Sabra Briere    Mar. 29 '09 - 05:49PM    #
  377. Is that list available in a public location, like the city website?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Mar. 29 '09 - 08:01PM    #
  378. Could you post the funding list on the (empty) ArborWiki page about 1% for Art?

       —Matt Hampel    Mar. 29 '09 - 10:40PM    #
  379. I’ve posted the budget information on ArborWiki. What I didn’t include was all the details — it’s four pages worth of information. Funding sources include bonds, millages, operating funds and grants. Mostly millages in FY08; mostly operating funds in FY09.

       —Sabra Briere    Mar. 30 '09 - 06:59AM    #
  380. Re Post#380: “The art work does not have to be installed at the site providing the funding.”

    Hmmmm. That’s too bad in some ways. I would liked to have seen a statue commissioned of Ed Norton from capital improvement funds allocated for storm sewer facilities upgrading to honor the unsung heroes in local government.

       —Mark Koroi    Apr. 1 '09 - 03:02AM    #
  381. I would have gone with a sculpture garden and statues of Iggy Pop, Ron and Scott Asheton, Bob Seger, the Brownsville Station and maybe Scott Mogran, celebrating the grand Ann Arbor musical contribution to pop culture but then the Arts Commission would probably not gone alone with it. God knows how we will suffer from low self esteem if we didn’t get to have a ‘Dreiseitl’.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Apr. 4 '09 - 08:43PM    #
  382. Re Posts 341 & 342:The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported that a groundbreaking ceremony was to be held @9:00 a.m. on April 3rd with coffee and luminaries present.

    Did anybody attend and can impart how it all went?

       —Mark Koroi    Apr. 13 '09 - 09:41PM    #
  383. I was not there, however the Titanic had quite an upbeat launch ceremony prior to its maiden voyage, but ran into some problems a few hours later. I believe that down the road the Police/Court construction project shall likely be as warmly remembered as the maiden voyage of the Titanic – one of a monumental blunder and disaster.

    The City of Ann Arbor has got hit with a triple whammy – a significant decrease in revenues due to projected decrease in property tax revenues from falling home values, the Pfizer departure, and the bond obligations arising from Police/Court project and its extravagant art masterpiece from Herr Dreiseitl that City Council is in love with.

    What is City Council doing about foreclosure relief for its citizens? Why is not that being discussed?

    This is why I support the GO Ask Voters movement. City Council needs to be taught a lesson.

       —John Dory    Apr. 16 '09 - 04:42AM    #
  384. Re Post#380: reports the following public comment regarding the Art Commission and the One Percent For Art Program.

    “Since 2008 one percent of funds from large capital projects has been building up in the Percent For Art Fund. The money set aside does not have to be used in a given year, but it cannot be used for any other purpose beside public art. Funds can be pooled within departments or can be used on other projects as long as projects reflect the theme of the funding source.”

    Was a “storm water” theme adopted for the propossed municipal facility artwork contemplated by Dreiseitl so as to comply with the requirement that “projects reflect the theme of the funding source”?

    Secondly, Is there a per project limitation of how much money can be allocated from the Percent For Art Fund to finance a specific project?

    Thirdly, If City Council has not approved and ultimately does not approve the Dreiseitl plan designs they have allocated $70,000.00 for, is that $70,0000.00 deemed lost.

    Fourthly, did the city department administering the storm sewers have any input over what type of art project would ultimately be authorized?

    Fifthly, does the Art Commission have any authority or say-so on whether the Dreiseitl project is implemented; for example, is there a requirement of concurrent approval of the Art Commission and City Council before the project is authorized.

    Sixth, does City Council have the power to repeal the enabling ordinance creating the Percent For Art Fund? This question bears specfic relevance since the Art Commission members have both expressed surprise over the large amounts of monies they are receiving and Councilperson Marcia Higgins in a caucus awhile back has expressed concern that public art is being overfunded through this program. This is not to mention the public outrage that has been expressed that the City Council is considering police layoffs at a time that expensive public art construction is contemplated.

    Lastly, is there a “sunset provision” in the One Percent For Art Program that requires the City Council to, at some point, review the appropriateness and effectiveness of this program.

       —Junior    May. 2 '09 - 08:34PM    #
  385. Re Post#390: Those are a great series of questions.

    Does anyone have any answers?

       —John Dory    May. 3 '09 - 09:01PM    #
  386. Question 2 – post #90: By my reading of the ordinance, there is no limitation of how much can be spent on a per project basis.

    Q 3: Yes, the $70,000 would be lost – paid out for a service (the design).

    Q 5: Best I can tell, the council does not have to vote on the project – the ordinance refers only to “reports”.

    Q 6: Yes, the City Council can always repeal ordinances.

    Q 7 (Last): The ordinance does not appear to have any expiration or review clauses.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 5 '09 - 03:08PM    #
  387. That should have been post #390, sorry.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 5 '09 - 03:10PM    #
  388. Re Post#392: Thanks for the information and the link;it was helpful.

       —Junior    May. 9 '09 - 09:01PM    #
  389. The “Project Update Page” link at the top of this thread has been updated as of May 15,2009.

    The updated page contains an aerial view photo of the construction project as of May 15th.

    Also posted is a snapshot of hardhatted dignitaries who attended the April 3rd groundbreaking. All 15th Judicial District Court jurists are pictured except Judge Elizabeth “Libby” Pollard-Hines. All City Council members are visible in the photo with the exception of Sabra Briere and — you guessed it — Marcia Higgins, the Fourth Ward’s “Invisible Woman”.

    Just a reminder! The Ann Arbor Art Commission has planned an Open House on Thursday, May 21st to explain its goals and activities. Information regarding the proposed Dreiseitl project and the One Per Cent For Art Program are expected to be discussed.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 17 '09 - 08:27AM    #
  390. John (#389),

    I’m delighted you support GO Ask Voters, and of course everyone who does has her/his own reasons. Just to be clear, however, the drive is aimed at giving voters the opportunity to authorize Municipal GO Bond issues—voter rights, education, and governmental transparency (particularly with the demise of our newspaper).

    Our petition circulators report an 80 percent sign rate, and we’ve gathered about 700 signatures over the past three weeks.

       —Patricia Lesko    May. 17 '09 - 09:27PM    #
  391. The 80% sign rate is good to hear, however how many valid signatures are needed, how many have been collected in total and what is the time deadline for submission of those necessary signatures to the applicable authority?

       —Kerry D.    May. 18 '09 - 03:59AM    #
  392. GAV previously said that they were going to target specific houses for signatures, not go to every house on each block or stand somewhere in public (eg. outside a store) so that they could maximize their efforts. Therefore, an 80% sign rate is not all that telling. Actually, if these houses were supposed to be guaranteed supporters you have a 20% failure rate.

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 04:10AM    #
  393. Re Post#398: Not necessarily; the residents of the targeted homes could have moved, been on vacation, or otherwise not present when the GO Ask Voters petition circulator came calling.

       —Kerry D.    May. 18 '09 - 04:22AM    #
  394. Kerry (and Diane…and, well, Steve Bean, too),

    Steve Bean initially asked why we were targeting voters, and I explained that it was a result of the inaccurate voter rolls. The majority of the 60 current circulators have used their walking lists (door-to-door to targeted 80-100 percent voters). A few haven’t, and I’m not inclined to push them to do it (partially because I agreed with Steve Bean’s original comments concerning the democratic principal involved). They are, however, not standing in public, but rather going around their own neighborhoods. To make sure our sigs are valid, we are checking all of them against the voters rolls as we go along.

    The sign rate is about the same between the two groups (also interesting). The one difference, of course, is that a signature from a 80-100 percent voter is, perhaps, more likely to be a vote in November. We never assumed all 80-100 percent voters would agree to sign; that would be miraculous! I just want to make sure we talk to as many 80-100 percent voters as we can (Dem & Republican, alike). Next month, we’ll hand out literature at the Farmer’s Market, and we plan to visit neighborhood meetings and events.

    We need to collect signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters in AA, or 5,400 sigs. Our goal is 5,800 signatures, and we have a year from March 30, 2009 to collect those signatures. The weather has been kind of uncooperative (cold and rainy), so I’m delighted we came near to hitting our first goal of 1,000 signatures. I just finished raising money for the Y’s Strong Kids campaign, and the Y’s goal system for the fundraising teams was truly inspiring (and I’ve borrowed it).

       —Patricia Lesko    May. 18 '09 - 06:55PM    #
  395. Thanks for the update information, Patricia.

       —Larry Fugle    May. 21 '09 - 03:43AM    #
  396. Re Post#395: That web “Project Update Page” has been updated apparently as to the aerial photo only to last Friday, May 22nd.

    It appears the city is updating that on a weekly basis.

       —John Dory    May. 27 '09 - 04:38AM    #
  397. The aerial photograph of the costruction site was updated today afternoon.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 30 '09 - 03:32AM    #
  398. I hear that Herr Dreisetl is coming to Ann Arbor this July.

    Does anyone have any specifics?

       —Mark Koroi    Jun. 19 '09 - 08:11AM    #
  399. There was a very interesting e-mail exchange between Leigh Greden and Margie Teall that I saw that was published from the released texts where Greden acknowledged to Teall that the public wants roads and cops before art and that the proposed Dreiseitl project was a public relations disaster.

    Does this mean the Dreiseitl project may be scuttled as it deserves to be? Is their a discussion or vote coming up on the matter?

    Ann Arborites should be putting continued pressure on City Council to cancel this Dreiseitl art project proposal and, yes, repeal the One Per Cent For Art Program.

       —Junior    Jun. 20 '09 - 10:57PM    #
  400. The mayor and Council reps Greden and Teall don’t give a damn about what any of the people objecting to the Dreiseitl project are saying and it will be interesting to see if any more of the dealings with this issue come out as more emails are released. As Greden says, Money for Art but not for Roads.

    And it would be nice if the Arts Commission would post minutes for their monthly meetingsin a more timely fashion. March 2009 is the last one on the City of Ann Arbor webpage. I guess they could be too busy running documents through paper shredders of course to have the time to do that. Lol.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jun. 24 '09 - 05:47PM    #
  401. Alan, typically boards do not publish meeting minutes until the drafted minutes are approved which typically takes place at the following board meeting. Then the approved minutes are posted. If that board meets monthly then the posted minutes are always at least a month old. How do you get more up to date information? You rely on the press.

       —abc    Jun. 25 '09 - 10:16PM    #
  402. Typically boards prepare packets of information – either in paper format, or as scanned in paper turned into PDFs – so that board members are prepared for the discussions of the meetings they are at. You can generally get a copy of these board packets by asking the board secretary for a copy. (In a pinch, you ask for it by FOIA, but that’s hardly necessary unless for some reason you manage to make someone mad who would otherwise generally be helpful).

    What you’ll find in there is unapproved minutes from the previous meeting for review; they are not “published” per se but they are still readable and usable.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 25 '09 - 10:32PM    #
  403. Check out the Ann Arbor Chronicle for a detailed description of the latest meeting.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 25 '09 - 11:04PM    #
  404. It also depends on who is required to do the minutes and/or approve them. Some of the AATA (sub)committee minutes have been weeks late or missing because they had to be reviewed by the chair. If the board does not have staff support but minutes are done by a member of the board, the time delay can get to be substantial. I don’t know what the circumstances for the Arts Commission are.

    Happily, many boards and elected bodies post minutes online, especially if they have staff support.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 25 '09 - 11:46PM    #
  405. Re: Board Packets.

    The DDA has begun posting its board packets online — the technique used to indicate the fact that minutes in the packet are not final approved minutes is to watermark the pages with “draft for review” in the PDF file. packet

       —HD    Jun. 26 '09 - 04:43AM    #
  406. How do minutes get “approved”?

    Is the approval process uniform across all boards and commissions?

    Who is in charge of drafting proposed minutes?

       —Junior    Jun. 27 '09 - 10:48PM    #
  407. Each Board, Commission or other body appoints or elects a Secretary who takes the minutes during the meeting. This could be either a Board member or a member of support staff. That person is in charge of drafting the minutes of the meeting, which are then sent out to the members in the packet for the next meeting. The body then approves the draft minutes at its next meeting, adding any additions or corrections as necessary.

    For official elected bodies, such as the City Council or the County Board of Commissioners, minutes are taken by the City or County Clerk’s office. These minutes are part of the official archive of that elected body. For other meetings, usually it is someone on the staff.

    Also, both the city and county televise many meetings, and these videos are available on line through their web sites.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 27 '09 - 10:57PM    #
  408. Thank you, Commissioner Gunn.

       —Junior    Jun. 27 '09 - 11:07PM    #
  409. Minutes are usually approved by the vote of the body (the board or commission). Members have an opportunity at the next meeting (usually) to suggest changes or corrections. In many bodies, the chair has informal influence over the drafting of the minutes and may work with the person who drafts them to ensure accuracy and completeness prior to release for the vote.

    Every board or commission has its own bylaws and rules that may also influence the way minutes are approved, but the vote to accept minutes by the full body is usual.

    For many boards and commissions, a staff person is responsible for drafting the minutes. That person is usually not a member of the group but serves only to support and facilitate it. For some smaller bodies, especially subcommittees or “minor” committees, a member of the committee may volunteer to do this task.

    Another wrinkle is whether the minutes are complete transactional records or “action” minutes. Action minutes (which the City Council has now now adopted) only reflect the name of the action, the material presented with regard to it, and the recorded vote. Complete transactional minutes like those used for the Planning Commission often reflect at least the highlights of the discussion so that the drift of the arguments can be understood for and against the measure, and the persons who spoke have their points summarized.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 27 '09 - 11:07PM    #
  410. Thank you also, Mrs. Armentrout.

       —Junior    Jun. 27 '09 - 11:10PM    #
  411. The Ann Arbor Chronicle awhile back had an article disclosing that the artist Dreiseitl was slated to address the Art Commission and also City Council on July 20th.

    Is this date still valid and is a vote scheduled to approve or reject this $700,000.00 artwork?

    It seems to me that, given the current fiscal climate, it would be an absolute travesty for City Council to authorize such an expenditure with dozens, if not hundreds, of Ann Arbor residents losing their homes in foreclosures and there exists the prospect of wholesale layoffs at the police department not to mention crumbling roads and bridges.

       —Kerry D.    Jul. 6 '09 - 03:50AM    #
  412. Are there any specifics on Dreiseitl’s July 20th appearance before City Council and the Art Commission?

       —Kerry D.    Jul. 19 '09 - 04:57AM    #
  413. Herbert Dreisetl will be present at a public recetion at City Hall today at 4:00 p.m. in reference to his proposed storm water masterpiece.

    I would recommend that everyone attend who can make it.

       —Mark Koroi    Jul. 20 '09 - 07:16PM    #
  414. Did anyone attend the Dreiseitl reception yesterday? Any impressions?

       —Jerry Gilbert    Jul. 22 '09 - 04:03AM    #
  415. The Dreiseitl presentation went well. I believe that those that were present were impressed by his range of expertise and experience. However, I do not believe that many who were present who were opposed to the project were swayed to his support.

    For more details, take a look at the Ann Arbor Chronicle, who gave extensive coverage to the event.

       —Junior    Jul. 25 '09 - 10:42PM    #
  416. One matter mentioned in paasing in the Ann Arbor Chronicle article was a “task force” to make recommendations to City Council regarding the project.

    Can anybody shed more light on this “task force”?

    Who authorized its formation? Who are the members of this task force?

       —Junior    Jul. 25 '09 - 10:58PM    #
  417. Has the the Dreiseitl project been scheduled for any discuusion before any upcoming Art Commission or City Council meetings?

       —Kerry D.    Aug. 16 '09 - 01:20AM    #
  418. I am thinking our friends on council, who were dancing on the table with joy at having this great artist creating his masterpiece for us poor Midwestern hicks, might be a bit more reserved about spending the nearly $1 Million (after all costs are factored in) with all this talk of income taxes and cutbacks and closed bridges. And with lawsuits and discussions of recall elections. Or maybe not. Oh, it’s not REAL money, it’s just the One Per Cent For Art magical fairy dust money and isn’t really tax dollars.

    Still waiting for the FOIA release of the under-the-table dealing on this fiasco as well. Or will it take another lawsuit?

       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 16 '09 - 05:24PM    #
  419. Re Posts#423 and #424: The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported today that the Art Commission recently met and was discussing possibly augmenting the approximately $800,000.00 earmarked for the proposed Dreiseitl project with another $225,000.00 monetary outlay in other separate art exhibits for the municipal building. The idea was to undertake a nationwide search for these additional art projects.

    To me, given the current economic situation and the city’s fiscal woes, this proposed additional art funding seems ludicrous, especially with the considerable citizen outrage over the proposed expenditure for the Dreiseitl project in the first place.

       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 18 '09 - 04:40AM    #
  420. It’s obvious the AAAC isn’t going to change one thing about their process and this is going to be yet another of the bullet point major issues when the city tries to pass an income tax. I’m thinking Margaret Parker is a poster child for reckless spending of city tax dollars.

    Sorry, I’d write more but I have to run and read the article about the proposed County cuts in Head Start.

    ONE MILLION for the Court-Police Building and counting. Mark, it’s not ludicrous, it borders on criminal.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 18 '09 - 02:37PM    #
  421. …but I have to run and read the article about the proposed County cuts in Head Start.

    Sounds like Head Start is a County budget expenditure and would not be directly affected by line item adjustments at the city level. But your point remains well taken, nonetheless. A glorious, water-correct art appliance represents conspicuous consumption during a time of severe recession with depression-like potential.

    It would bring a more positive reaction if the Dreiseitl-related million were alternately spent on a basis similar to a 1930s WPA works project. If most of the project’s expense had been slated to be paid out as labor income to underemployed locals working as builders & artisan helpers, that would make it something worthy of support, or at least serious consideration, as a local economic stimulus package.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    One Percent for Green Art: If the Council majority were more sly in going about this, they would have nixed the controversial Dreiseitl concept early on, replacing it with a long strip of drainage-friendly greenway, constructed along a side of the new building. A high six-figure cost for the ‘art’ project cost could thus become politically untouchable, as many Council opponents, under greenway pressure, would grow relatively quiet on the matter. To question or criticize the expense would become all but verboten.

    For comparison, how much criticism has there been of Mayor Hiefte’s $3M First & William park proposal, other than from a few downtown retailers & shoppers? Despite three times the cost of Dreiseitl, less than 1/30th the number of complaints.

    Afterwards, to confirm that the strip of green outside city hall is indeed art, Council could plop down a smaller, far less expensive sculpture on one end of it, or contract with local artists to create nice crop circles in the grass.

       —yet another aging boomer    Aug. 20 '09 - 09:11PM    #
  422. Re nos. 426 & 427: It is “conspicuous consumption” that “borders on criminal”.

    But do not put all the blame on the Art Commissioners – who have publically stated that they are surprised at their funding levels. They are simply spending what City Council gives them.

    Councilperson Marcia Higgins at a Council caucus in February of this year expressed concern that the One Per Cent For Art Program appeared to be resulting in overfunding of the Art Commission. Despite this recognition, nothing was done by City Council to address this. Why not?

    Citizens should be calling their City Council representatives or be appearing before City Council demanding action be taken to correct this outrageous waste of taxpayer money.

       —Annette Gilbert    Aug. 21 '09 - 03:32AM    #
  423. But Marcia Higgins went along with the spending, did nothing, and was quiet as a mouse and she’s one of my Fourth Ward reps. And the A2PAC had no problem with their process for the Police/Courts Building, which was hidden from public view and had more to do with the Chair’s art resume than anything else.

    Calling Ms. Higgins isn’t going to do anything. Tossing her out of office will.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 21 '09 - 06:03AM    #
  424. It is “conspicuous consumption” that “borders on criminal”.

    While you’re all out there working to stop pricey-sculpture-related criminal consumption outside city hall, please remember to also get on your councilperson’s case about First & William. Tell her/him to rescind the July nonbinding resolution that calls for wasting scarce city funds on tearing up the downtown surface lot at that location.

    Again, putting a stop to future spending at First & William will save close to an additional $3M — that’s on top of the nearly $1M conserved by not moving forward on the Dreiseitl water sculpture project. Join Robin of Aunt Agatha’s book store, among others, in opposing conspicuously expensive demolition & cleanup on the currently very useful lot.

    LIMITED TIME OFFER: Add this second budget-conscious local issue to your anti-Dreiseitl artwork lobbying message TODAY and earn yourself the chance to receive quadruple the original estimated savings!!! Four times the conspicuous savings for including just one additional timely issue!!

    This offer available mainly to Ann Arbor residents. Some restrictions will apply — property owners may most directly benefit, while renters and out-of-town commuters may experience indirect benefits, including parking. May not necessarily be combined with other offers. Expires at some point in time.

       —yet another aging boomer    Aug. 22 '09 - 03:04AM    #
  425. Did you see the Chronicle’s speculation that this move was intended to head off the lawsuit over the parking structure on 5th?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 22 '09 - 03:53AM    #
  426. Do Council members Mike Anglin and Sabra Briere, opponents of an underground parking structure below the library lot on 5th Ave., share in this speculation? If so, I hope that would provide them additional motivation to lead a charge to rescind the July Council vote and thereby take the pointless demolition of this surface lot off the table.

    Once more, unnecessarily spending millions during a time of economic contraction on urban renewal in the First & William area — fixing something useful that isn’t currently broken — represents roughly three times the financial waste as compared to the proposed outdoor eco-art project at city hall. (Here, It’s somewhat ironic that I’m pushing a line of reasoning — unnecessary change — rather similar to a point marshalled several years ago against the then-proposed First & William parking structure.)

    Possibly in ten or twelve years Dreiseitl can return during better economic times to design a practical sculpture on the grounds of a brand new First & William park, a creative installation which artfully redirects raging waters during rare Allen Creek floods.

       —yet another aging boomer    Aug. 22 '09 - 05:33PM    #
  427. Sabra Briere voted to construct the parking structure. Refer to the council minutes for February 17, 2009, available for download from the Legistar calendar. (There is no handy link to the minutes themselves.)

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 22 '09 - 06:55PM    #
  428. “Calling Ms. Higgins isn’t going to do anything. Tossing her out of office will.”

    Yes, but the question is will that happen?

    Leigh Greden was held accountable for his support of an unpopular city income tax as well as his participation the questionable electronic mail correspondences. Higgins has, to my knowledge, not expressed such support over the proposed city income tax however did engeage in e-mail correspondences that were clearly childish as well as petty, and which also may well have violated the Open Meetings Act as well as Michigan Campaign Finance Act.

    My beef with Marcia Higgins preceded the e-mail mess and focuses largely with the police/court project that is the subject of this thread. It is my opinion that Greden, Higgins, Hohnke, Taylor, and anyone else on Council that supported construction of this project should be voted out of office and that the GO Ask Voters group would punish City Council as it would remove their powers to issue general obligation bonds.

    What remains to be seen is whether the Mayor and his supporters will attempt to organize another Humpty Dumpty political rescue operation of Marcia Higgins as they unsuccessfully tried with Leigh Greden, who only received 36% of the vote. Given that Higgins previously ran against Hieftje for mayor, I doubt that.

    Given Leigh Greden’s abysmal election performance on August 4th, it will be intersting to see how Higgins does in November. One thing that Higgins does not have against her re-election bid is a well-known former councilperson as a challenger, as Greden did, but on the other hand, Higgins will not have a third candidate such as Luanne Bullington draining away anti-incumbent votes either.

       —Junior    Aug. 22 '09 - 11:12PM    #
  429. Junior,

    Thanks for mentioning GO Ask Voters. To be clear, GO Ask Voters would amend the City Charter so that voter assent would be required before City Council could issue General Obligation Municipal Bonds backed by the City’s power to levy taxes (i.e. the bonds for the new courthouse, and the Library lot parking garage bonds). City Council retains the power to issue all Municipal Bonds under the auspices of the proposed amendment.

    As I’ve said before, the proposed amendment is not a drive to “punish” Council nor is it a referendum on the votes of particular Council members. It’s a drive to expand voter’s rights. Voter assent of GO Bonds is the law in 44 states.

    If you have questions, please visit the group’s web site:

       —Patricia Lesko    Aug. 23 '09 - 10:20PM    #
  430. Patricia, there has been some speculation that GO Ask Voters will have enough petition signatures to get the issue of city charter amendment on the November ballot, while other reliable sources have rejected such an early ballot presentation.

    Is there currently a future election in which GO Ask Voters expects this issue to be on the ballot?

       —Kerry D.    Aug. 24 '09 - 02:41AM    #
  431. Kerry,

    Thanks for checking in. We have collected about 2/3rds of the necessary signatures. Lots of our volunteers had summer commitments and plans. Now that August is drawing to a close, and folks have more time, we expect to collect the remaining signatures. The ballot proposal won’t be on the November ballot, but rather on a subsequent ballot. We have until March 30, 2010 to collect the necessary signatures from registered voters in Ann Arbor.

       —Patricia Lesko    Aug. 24 '09 - 05:58AM    #
  432. Sabra Briere voted to construct the parking structure.

    Yes, I stand corrected on that earlier assumption. She did vote for underground parking, as part of a 10-1 Council majority on that item. That leaves it up to Mike Anglin, I guess. As the sole “no” vote, he can step up to the plate with a proposal to rescind the Council’s July vote on First & William, so as to eliminate any chance of lot removal being used as legal defense in a lawsuit over the $50M underground structure.

    * * * * * * * * * *
    A flip flight of fantasy inspired by GO Ask Voters references above (#434-37):

    Though the amounts are far too small to necessitate G.O. bond sales, and thus would not fall under a GO Ask amendment, it’s interesting to imagine — and caricature — how it might play out in the future if “lesser” Council expenditures needed voter approval. That is, if A2 politics functioned somewhat like a Vermont town meeting. While that may not bring the most optimal process, it’s one not without potential for commentary on our local social priorities. As a humble initial offering, here’s a few suggested talking points for campaigns to use during an imaginary election day for line-item budget referenda:

    VOTE YES on a new city hall water-sculpture eco-artwork:
    “Sure, it sounds a little pricey, but we think you’re really, really going to enjoy it!! On Sale TODAY ONLY for just $999,999.99 until polls close. Vote for approval right now so you don’t miss this terrific one-time opportunity! Payment in twice-a-year installments. Plus, should you eventually lose your mortgage, you’ll find it a pleasant place to wash up!”

    VOTE YES on a First & William park:
    “We urge you to pledge $2,999,999 in tax dollars for removal of this bland surface lot. As everyone knows, there’s already far too much parking throughout downtown. Give your approval TODAY, before demolition & cleanup rates increase!! In return you’ll have new park benches to sleep on in the event of home foreclosure — more restful than asphalt!”

       —yet another aging boomer    Aug. 24 '09 - 05:13PM    #
  433. Pat,

    The May ballot is probably when the City Income Tax issue will be voted on. If the Go Ask Voters referendum is also on the ballot, that would be interesting, no?
       —ChuckL    Aug. 29 '09 - 03:26AM    #
  434. I doubt the City Council has enough votes to put the municipal income tax issue on the ballot as an initiative at this point or in the near future.

    My guess is the City Council will stall until the matter goes away since no member will want to tagged as pro-income tax around election time.

       —Junior    Aug. 29 '09 - 09:20PM    #
  435. Re No.434:
    “What remains to be seen is whether the Mayor and his supporters will attempt to organize another Humpty Dumpty political rescue operation of Marcia Higgins as they unsuccessfully tried with Leigh Greden, who only received 36% of the vote….”

    I should think not. She was in the e-mail controversy up to her eyeballs and is a Republican turncoat in addition to opposing the Mayor in a prior election, whereas Greden is Hizzoner’s yes-man. Her opponent, running on an independent basis, probably has stronger ties to traditional Democratic values than Higgins and will be a suitable and electable Anybody But Marcia candidate.

    Regardless of the result this November, I believe that young Mr. Elhady will receive a significant percentage of votes and the turnout will be substantial. That said, I hope he continues his campaigning so as to increase his chances of victory in the general election.

       —Kerry D.    Aug. 31 '09 - 03:26AM    #
  436. The current buzz at City Hall is that at least 25 officers have accepted early retirement packages from the City of Ann Arbor, resulting in a rollback of about one-fifth of the police department’s manpower. This buyout was part of the City’s plan to cut costs.

    The flip side of this is that Tree Towners can expect an upswing in crime, although the Mayor cheerfully has suggested otherwise.

    These massive cuts are outrageous when one considers the City plans to simultanoeusly spend one million dollars on artwork for the Police/Court project in addition to the $47 miilion expended for the project itself.

       —Kerry D.    Sep. 16 '09 - 05:21AM    #
  437. This is very old news Kerry. The city budget was decided months ago. The police chief said repeatedly that the number of officers on patrol would stay the same, they cut back on the police behind desks. Just as many workers, fewer supervisors.

    The building seemed unavoidable to me and is providing a whole lot of jobs. The art work money is something they have saved over time besides, the state has gotten into so much trouble using one-time money to plug holes that just come back the next year. The city does not do that.

    I doubt there is a larger city in the state that does not have fewer police than they did before the recession, look at the state govt. If they keep it up the state police will be gone.

       —David Lewis    Sep. 16 '09 - 07:08PM    #
  438. An interesting reflection on the crime story is an opinion piece by a retired police officer today on

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Sep. 18 '09 - 07:13PM    #
  439. Thank you for the link to the Rich Kinsey opinion piece.

    I believe that Kinsey’s observations are dead on right and show that a reduction of 20% of the city’s police force is going to have, and is having, a terrible effect on the ability of the remaining officers to do an effective job.

    One of the key selling points the supporters of the police/court project tried to push was that the police had insufficiect building resources to perform their duties in their current lodgings. It is silly to give them these improved facilities and turn around and reduce the force by over 25 officers.

    Back in February at a City Council caucus Marcia Higgins made the observation that she believed the Art Commission was appearing to be overfunded. The Art Commission itself was surprised at the amount of funding it was receiving. Despite this, there has been no repeal of the One Per Cent For Art Program which created the overfunding. In fact, the Art Commission plans to spend another $225,000.00 in art for the police/court building over and above the $775,000.00 proposed expenditure for the Dreiseitl project.

    City Council has continued to drop the ball on these budget issues. Ask the public who are forced to drive on crumbling roads and bridges and are now seeing a back-up in police response to calls. Ask the hundreds of Ann Arborites facing foreclosures and evictions and are losing their jobs due to the economy. They are expected to be squeezed for more taxes to fund this insanity.

    Last August was the tip of the proverbial iceberg in voter rejection of the Gang of Seven coalition. After Marcia Higgins gets bounced this November look for Hohnke, Teall, and Taylor to get the heave-ho by voters next August should they try to seek re-election. There is a substantial undercurrent throughout the city that the public is fed up with incompetency in managing city finances.

       —Kerry D.    Sep. 24 '09 - 05:27AM    #
  440. If that 1% was repealed, how much of that money would be available for police services? If the answer is little or none, this is grandstanding.

       —John Q.    Sep. 24 '09 - 07:04AM    #
  441. You make a good point, John Q., however I believe it is simply bad public policy to lavish hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on art work when there are massive cuts in essential municipal services such as police and social programs. Art should be one of the first areas cutbacks should be made where city revenues have been reduced.

       —Junior    Oct. 10 '09 - 11:13PM    #
  442. John Q has it right. The money could not be spent on police services. I spoke with a member of the arts commission who said the funding mechanism is tied into the financing package of city projects. The money has to be spent on a city project and for the intended purpose, art. She said working the program through the state regulations was very complicated and it is clear that the funds cannot be moved to some other activity.

    The whole idea of these types of programs in A2 and other cities across the U.S. is to consider the art as being just as important as other features of a building.

    The A2 program caps the funding from any project at $250,000.

       —David Lewis    Oct. 12 '09 - 06:28PM    #
  443. How the money that goes to the arts programs can be spent depends on which fund is paying for the project. Since the general fund is paying for the police/courts building, the 1% from that project could go to police, or any other general fund expense. If it is a water fund project, the 1% arts money could have been spent for other water projects, such as upgrading the pipes or it could be returned to users in the form of smaller increases in water fees.

       —karen sidney    Oct. 12 '09 - 08:42PM    #
  444. Without doing any research, I am sure that the council could rescind the ordinance that established the fund. I’m less sure about money that has already been designated for the fund. But council frequently reallocates money in various funds and unless there is a state or federal law that prohibits the new use for previously allocated funds, I’ll bet it could be done.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Oct. 12 '09 - 09:56PM    #
  445. I believe it could be done, also.

    City Council should be exploring solutions to these funding problems. It is overly obvious the current funding structure for art is not working; Marcia Higgins recognized the overfunding last February at a City council caucus. Nothing has been done by way of remedial measures.

    A sad state of affairs.

       —Annette Gilbert    Oct. 13 '09 - 04:41AM    #
  446. “the 1% arts money could have been spent for other water projects, such as upgrading the pipes or it could be returned to users in the form of smaller increases in water fees”

    NOW we get to have our water and sewage payments going to fund the AAPAC administrative position for her work on the new ‘arts’ project at the new Court-Police building.

    This is beginning to border on criminal.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Oct. 15 '09 - 08:29PM    #
  447. Re No. 452:

    Amen, Mr. Goldberg.

       —Jerry Gilbert    Oct. 15 '09 - 08:33PM    #
  448. Oops! That should have been Mr. Goldsmith.

    I also would like to add that the one million dollars in proposed artwork presents an interesting and sad situation.

    As Larry Kestenbaum has noted in his monthly tallies, there have hundreds of mortgage foreclosures in Washtenaw County with a substantial number of those being within the City of Ann Arbor.

    The last step in the lengthy foreclosure process is when the homeowner receives an eviction summons by the District Court. The eviction procedure provides to the homeowner one last opportunity to object to the legal sufficiency of a foreclosure initiated by the financial institution. If the District Court judge finds that the foreclosure actions taken by the financial institution is valid and in compliance with applicable law judgment for possession is entered against the homeowner by the judge and the homeowner is advised that he or she has ten days before the lender can request the judicial issuance of an order for eviction to be presented to a bailiff for forcible removal of the occupants and their possessions.

    I have been in the District Court on many occaisions and seen this process and seen family members sobbing and literally leaving puddles of tears on the courtroom floor in front of a judge.

    The irony is that the homeowner losing his or her house will be forced to view a lavish million dollars worth of artwork paid with his or her tax dollars on their way in and out of the courthouse when receiving the final court judgment extinguishing the remaining possessory rights in their home.

    It is absolutely cruel that the supposedly socially compassionate Democratic Ann Arbor City Council would squander one million dollars on artwork when those funds could go a long way to assisting financially distressed residents in foreclosure relief.

       —Jerry Gilbert    Oct. 16 '09 - 02:10AM    #
  449. “those funds could go a long way to assisting financially distressed residents in foreclosure relief.”

    How much assistance could you provide with a one-time payment of a million dollars?

       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 16 '09 - 06:01PM    #
  450. Bruce,

    A million dollars would go a long way in funding a legal clinic to help distressed home owners. It turns out that a lot of lenders cannot produce the necessary documentation when properly challenged. The extra time can give a homeowner time and/or leverage to come up with a better fix. Remember, a foreclosure hurts surrounding home prices which in turn lowers local government’s tax base. Here is an idea, cut the funding for sheriff’s deputies so it takes longer to forcibly evict someone or get the Sheriff to limit the size of the team that handles evictions (so it takes about a year to get it done.) I don’t see why local government should be so eager to assist banks in kicking people out of their homes.
       —ChuckL    Oct. 16 '09 - 06:28PM    #
  451. Are we still pretending that these dollars are available to spend on things like legal aid clinics or hiring police officers?

       —John Q.    Oct. 16 '09 - 08:28PM    #
  452. It is absolutely cruel that the supposedly socially compassionate Democratic Ann Arbor City Council would squander one million dollars on artwork when those funds could go a long way to assisting financially distressed residents in foreclosure relief.

    True, we do not have a crying need a new million dollar artwork outside city hall.

    However, the reallocation of that million toward foreclosure relief — even if legally do-able and not just a rhetorical posture — would barely qualify as a drop in the bucket, given the enormous scale of the problem and the likelihood it will deepen in the future. Further, economic hardship on many levels may be here for quite a few years to come.

    Other, more effective means of response to mortgage problems can be found elsewhere. To help alleviate homeowner misery during the Depression, about half the states in the country passed laws that initiated a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures. These were in force roughly from 1933 until 1943, at which point war spending had ended the Depression. Also, entire neighborhoods in cities like New York and Chicago took matters into their own hands during the early 1930s, openly resisting attempts by authorities to remove foreclosed residents, with some success; neighbors didn’t let neighbors lose their homes to bankers. One story which briefly highlights these methods may be read here.

    To add a bit of my own grandstanding to this comment thread:
    Where do the council candidates stand on banning home foreclosures in town?

       —yet another    Oct. 16 '09 - 08:42PM    #
  453. The county has a funding crises; I say cut the staff of people who go around and handle foreclosures. I would like to see data on how many people have been forcibly evicted from their homes for the past 5 years and how much this has cost the County. The Sheriff of Wayne County announced a moratorium, how did that go?

       —ChuckL    Oct. 16 '09 - 09:03PM    #
  454. Chuck, lenders pay a fee for conducting evictions to the District Court bailiffs or the county for conducting the actual evictions. The lenders also pay a fee to the Sheriff’s Department for conducting the foreclosure auctions that precede the actual eviction.

    The foreclosure crisis has created a great deal of stress for persons involved in the process.

    Earlier this year the acting CFO of Freddie Mac, David Kellerman, a University of Michigan alumnus, was found by his wife to have hanged himself by his wife in the basement of his $900,000 Virginia home. His suicide was blamed on all the pressure he was under by persons upset over the mortgage crisis.

    Last fall, Addie Polk, a 90-year old deaconess at a church in Akron, Ohio, shot herself twice in the chest with a handgun after her mortgage lender, Freddie Mac, foreclosed on her home and deputies were at her doorstep to physically remove her from her home.

    I know an elderly man in Wayne County who was in a default situation on his mortgage but two foeclosure auction sales that had been scheduled by the lender were thwarted by Sheriff Warren Evans’ courageous policy not to hold sales of homes unless the lender disclosed proof of strict compliance with what Evans considered to be mandatory federal guidelenes. The lender in that case eventually granted the man a loan modification that allowed him to meet monthly obligations and save his house. There is no doubt that Evans’ actions likely saved hundreds of Wayne County homeowners from foreclosure.

    You are correct that city funding of a legal clinic to combat foreclosures would likely be a great deal of help for distressed homeowners since lender often make deals for loan modifications if they face projected long legal battles over the legality of thier actions.

    Sadly, little has been done at the state, county, or local levels for foreclosure relief around here. I am appalled that the Ann Arbor City Council would lavish one million dollars in artwork on a building that housed the judicial entity that evicted homeowners following their foreclosure auctions. Absolutely cruel but not surprising from the City Council we have in Ann Arbor.

       —Kerry D.    Oct. 19 '09 - 04:45AM    #
  455. Kerry D.,

    Even if they collect a fee, they can still limit the number of people authorized to do the work. Have they increased the staff since business is good these days? With foreclosure rates running 5-7 times normal, just restricting the staff to what it normally is would slow down foreclosures. The reality is that the county is shooting itself in the foot doing foreclosures since foreclosures reduce the taxable value of property in the county. It will take years to recover the taxable value lost in this latest financial meltdown; why make the effect worse by facilitating foreclosures?
       —ChuckL    Oct. 19 '09 - 05:45AM    #
  456. The Ann Arbor Art Commission on Monday unanimously voted to recommend approval to City Council of the Dreiseitl art project while also recommending exploring ways to cut costs on the project. Full coverage of the commission discussion can be found in the Ann Arbor Chronicle.

       —John Dory    Oct. 26 '09 - 12:00AM    #
  457. Actually, both the City and the County fund mortgage and tax foreclosure specialists in the County Treasurer’s office, and have done so for the past couple of years. These positions are supported by the general funds of both jurisdictions. They have had some success. Contact Treasurer Catherine McClary for more details.

       —Leah Gunn    Oct. 26 '09 - 01:35AM    #
  458. Leah, what do these “mortgage and tax foreclosure specialists” actually do?

    Is their primary duty to conduct the legal foreclosure process at the behest of the lenders, to provide a degree of assistance the homeowner or landowner who is the foreclosure target, or rather some level of both?

       —Junior    Nov. 7 '09 - 11:40PM    #
  459. Junior, the “mortgage and tax foreclosure specialists” referred to by Commissioner Gunn are there to assist the homeowner in avoiding foreclosure.

    Foreclosure is bad for the homeowner to be sure, but it is also bad for the neighborhood and the whole community. Usually, it isn’t the lenders preferred option either – so we work with the lenders and the homeowners to devise other options that can hopefully better satisfy all parties.

    Here is some additional information

       —Jeff Irwin    Nov. 9 '09 - 12:25AM    #
  460. Thank you, Jeff. I have been away for the week-end, and I appreciate your sharing of the information.

       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 9 '09 - 05:11AM    #
  461. The website has a copy of an e-mail from Councilman Taylor to his constituents going over the pros and cons of the One Per Cent For Art Program and asking whether funding needs to be diverted to social programs at this juncture.

       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 12 '09 - 03:59AM    #
  462. I’ve asked the Arbor Update Powers That Be to start a new article on the issue of the art project.

       —David Cahill    Nov. 12 '09 - 07:52AM    #
  463. Thank you for the information, Jeff.

    It would be really “peachy” if the Ann Arbor City Council saw fit to lift a finger toward households facing foreclosure of their homes.

    But I guess that would detract from all of that expensive art that they want to install at City Hall.

       —Junior    Nov. 14 '09 - 11:31PM    #