Ann Arbor City Council meeting (April 19, 2010) Part 1: In the main business of the meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser delivered to Ann Arbor’s city council a presentation required by the city charter, which contained his proposed budget for FY 2011. That marks the formal start of councilmembers’ opportunity to modify the budget proposal.
The council must adopt amendments to the budget by their second meeting in May – May 17 this year – or else see the administrator’s unamended budget enacted by default, as stipulated by a city charter provision.
The council also heard a summary of the parking plan that they had commissioned the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to produce.
Related to the city budget and the DDA board – but not reported during communications time at the council meeting – members of the DDA board and city council held a closed-door meeting last Friday afternoon with city administrator Roger Fraser to discuss a $2 million payment by the DDA to the city this year.
At Monday evening’s meeting, the council postponed a vote on a schedule of fine increases for parking violations. The estimated $635,000 in additional revenues that the increases would bring, said CFO Tom Crawford at the meeting, was not part of the FY 2011 budget assumptions.
The topic of the University of Michigan’s upcoming graduation exercises on May 1, which will feature an address by President Barack Obama, found its way into deliberations at various points in the meeting. The city approved road closures around the football stadium in conjunction with the UM commencement. Residents who live near Elbel Field will contend with floodlights and loudspeakers as early as 4 a.m. on commencement morning. And during public commentary, one resident expressed concern over the city’s denial of a permit to demonstrate – organizers of “Fulfilling the Dream” expect to draw hundreds on May 1, but as yet have nowhere to gather.
The city administrator’s report to the council featured an explanation of parking citations handed out during the previous Saturday’s UM spring football game, as well as an explanation of the closure of city hall last week due to elevated levels of carbon monoxide.
Public commentary was weighted towards an agenda item that allocated $313,000 from the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund for three different permanent housing projects. The council approved the allocation.
The council also satisfied an obligation it had under the settlement terms of a recent lawsuit by voting to remand consideration of an email rule to its rules committee.
In Part 1 of this report, we focus on the budget, parking and UM’s commencement.
FY 2011 Budget Presentation
The city of Ann Arbor’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30 the following year – FY 2011 starts in about two months, on July 1, 2010. The public hearing on the budget will take place at the council’s next regular meeting on May 3.
FY 2011 Budget: Process
City administrator Roger Fraser’s presentation began with a timeline overview of the budget process to date and how it would move forward. Last year at this time, in May 2009, the council had adopted the FY 2010 budget as part of a two-year fiscal plan that included both 2010 and 2011. [Although the city council, per the city charter, adopts budgets one year at a time, the city takes a two-year approach to planning.] Then in August of 2009, the city had forecast a revenue shortfall for the FY 2010 year.
By November 2009, a revised revenue shortfall was calculated with a specific recommendation to make mid-year adjustments. Those adjustments included the layoff of 14 firefighters starting in January 2010, instead of July 2010 as outlined in the two-year fiscal plan presented last year. Negotiations for a 3% pay cut with the firefighters union resulted in a delay of those layoffs to their originally scheduled date of July 1, 2010. The FY 2011 budget proposed by Fraser on Monday cuts the firefighter force by an additional six firefighter positions, for a total of 20.
At the December 2009 city council budget retreat, the council heard that the mid-year adjustments would be implemented. They also engaged in a “big idea” discussion. Since the beginning of 2010, continued Fraser, the council had met in five sessions devoted specifically to the budget – one in January, two in February, and one in March. Chronicle coverage of the December 2009 budget retreat plus the 2010 city council meetings devoted specifically to the budget:
- Ann Arbor City Budget: Cuts Begin Now
- Budget Round 1: Community Services
- Budget Round 2: What’s the Big Idea?
- Budget Round 3: Where’s Your Emergency?
- Budget Round 4: Lights, Streets, Grass
- Budget Round 5: Economic Development
Fraser’s Monday presentation to the council is required by the city charter. Next steps:
- May 3, 2010: City council public hearing on the FY 2011 budget
- May 17, 2010: City council must adopt any amendments to FY 2011 budget
Budget FY 2011: How the Financial Picture Has Changed
Fraser reviewed for the council what they’d been shown this time last year. [The previous year's budget had included a planned use of general fund reserves to pay for early-retirement incentives offered to police officers, in order to achieve a reduction in force without layoffs and demotions.]
FY 09–Adptd FY 10 FY 11 Revenues $86,169,851 $85,202,388 $82,868,508 Expenses 89,214,660 84,735,376 83,250,520 Surplus/Deficit (3,044,809) 467,012 (382,012)
The difference between the planned and actual deficit in FY 2009 of $3 million versus $8.5 million was a result of two main factors: More police officers opted for the early-out retirement program than the city needed in order to achieve its long-term budget goals ($4.9 million), and the city had to pay to settle a police union arbitration case ($673,000). The early-retirement incentives resulted in 24 sworn officers and 2 dispatchers leaving the force. This chart shows the actual general fund activity for FY 2009, and current projections for FY 2010 and FY 2011:
FY 09–Actl FY 10 FY 11 Revenues $82,593,860 $81,830,921 $76,345,552 Expenses 91,019,044 82,368,636 77,877,563 Surplus/Deficit (8,425,184) (537,715) (1,532,011)
The $6.5 million change in revenue projections for FY 2011 are due to a variety of factors other than property tax revenues – which have actually performed better than predicted. Property tax revenues were forecast to be down in FY 2010, but have not been down as much as expected, with the result that the city received about $300,000 more property taxes than expected in FY 2010.
The specific issues that have caused the revenue shortfall, Fraser said, were first and foremost the reduction in state shared revenues. State shared revenue is the portion of the Michigan sales tax that the state redistributes to local municipalities in an arrangement whereby municipalities have relatively little authority to levy taxes of their own – property and income taxes are the extent of Michigan city tax options.
Fraser said the city had made a mistake in believing the state when they said state shared revenue would be held harmless in the state’s budget planning. In October 2009 the state announced that reductions in state shared revenue would be implemented. This year, the city is forecasting that by this time next year the state will cut the statutory portion – that part of state shared revenue controlled by the legislature – by half of what is currently left. That would mean another $1.2 million reduction for the city.
In addition, investment income is off, traffic citations are down, development review fees compared to previous years are virtually nonexistent, and revenue that had been forecast from the installation of new parking meters in neighborhoods near downtown has not been realized, Fraser said. [In large part, the parking meters have not been installed, due to efforts undertaken by a group of councilmembers led by Sandi Smith (Ward 1) to find alternative revenue options besides the meters.]
In forecasting property tax revenues and state shared revenues, Fraser did not paint an optimistic picture. On a mid-range forecast of property tax revenues, they’re not predicted to come back up to FY 2009 levels until 2015. The statutory portion of state shared revenues is predicted to disappear completely by FY 2012.
Fraser also pointed to the city’s problem over a lack of agreement with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority regarding the DDA’s lease for operating the city’s parking system. The previous five years, Fraser said, that agreement had yielded around $2 million for the city. For this budget, however, the city could not yet report that $2 million as revenue, because there was no agreement in place.
Budget FY 2011: The $2 million DDA Question
Last year, the city and the DDA publicly enacted a mechanism to begin consideration of a revision to the agreement by which the DDA administers the city’s parking system. The 10-year deal was struck in 2005 and calls for the DDA to pay the city $1 million a year, but provides the city an option to request up to $2 million in any given year. However, there’s a cap of $10 million on payments for the 10-year period. The city has exercised the $2 million option every year for the first five years of the contract, leaving the DDA under no obligation to make a payment for FY 2011.
The publicly enacted mechanism for reconsideration of the city-DDA parking agreement included the appointment of sub-committees last year – one committee of the DDA board and another from the city council – to negotiate the deal. [These have been referred to as the "mutually beneficial" committees.] Under the requirements of a 1991 city council resolution, sub-committees of the city are required, to the best of their ability, to comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
On Friday, April 16, at 3 p.m. members of the DDA’s committee met with some city councilmembers in Roger Fraser’s office to discuss the deal. In barring The Chronicle from the Friday meeting, which we attempted to attend, Fraser rejected the applicability of the council resolution that requires the meetings of city sub-committees to comply with the Open Meetings Act, contending it was a “working group,” not a sub-committee.
Present in addition to Fraser were six others: Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA; DDA board members Roger Hewitt, Sandi Smith and Russ Collins – all members of the DDA’s committee established to discuss the parking deal; and city councilmembers Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5). Hohnke is on the council’s committee, while Taylor is not. The council’s committee consists of Hohnke, and Margie Teall (Ward 4), and originally included Leigh Greden before he was defeated in the August 2009 Democratic primary by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). [Note that Sandi Smith (Ward 1) serves on the city council as well as the DDA board.]
Since establishing its committees to renegotiate the parking agreement, neither the city council nor the DDA board has reported at any of its meetings on the replacement of its publicly enacted committee process, in favor of one involving a “working group.” [Previous Chronicle reporting on this topic: "Parking Report Portends City-DDA Tension"]
If the city is to include the $2 million in its FY 2011 budget, the DDA board could authorize an expenditure of a $2 million contingency in its budget at its regular May 5, 2010 meeting. Failing that, the board could also convene a special meeting to authorize the payment.
Budget FY 2011: Cost Reduction Strategies
Highlights of some of the cost reductions that have already been implemented, said Fraser, include a 25% reduction in personnel since 2001. Overtime charges continued to be reduced – in particular in public safety services. Technology is being used to improve services. Health care costs are being reduced through use of self insurance, with premiums and co-pays for nonunion workers.
Fraser pointed out that in 2006, nonunion employees, as well as Teamster police professionals and Teamster civilian supervisor employees, started contributing a greater amount to their insurance costs. For 2010 and 2011, nonunion employees were already subject to a pay freeze and they will have a 3% total compensation reduction this year.
In January of this year, firefighters agreed to a 3% wage reduction, and increased employee contribution to the pension plan by 1%. The existing contract with the AFSCME union has a 3% wage increase specified for this year, scheduled to start on July 1, 2010 – they are the only group of employees that are due for an increase, said Fraser.
It is fair to point out, cautioned Fraser, that this year is the final year of a five-year contract for AFSCME and for the first three years of their contract, they had no wage increases at all. Fraser allowed that there had been some lump-sum payments for those years, but in terms of base salary they had gone for three years without a wage increase. Still, the city has asked AFSCME to open the contract for July, and that request is still pending.
With other bargaining units, Fraser said, the city is still negotiating. Fraser then ticked through a list of various collaborative efforts with other government and nonprofit entities.
Budget FY 2011: Assumptions
The proposed budget for FY 2011 assumes that there will be no new major sources of revenue either in the form of an income tax or property tax. However, in the printed budget message to the council, city administrator Roger Fraser indicates that after July 1, 2010 he plans to discuss other revenue options with the council.
In conjunction with the budget, there will be a set of selected fee increases recommended where the city feels that it is out of place with the market or with the city’s costs, Fraser said.
The assumption is that the state of Michigan will continue to struggle with its own budget deficit. That is compounded this year, Fraser said, by the fact that there will be a massive turnover at the state legislature with a number of people in the House and the Senate and in the governor’s office, who will not be seeking election this fall because of term limits. It is yet to be seen what the impacts will be in terms of their willingness and ability to make decisions affecting the future of the state, Fraser concluded. “We have not assumed a great deal of optimism about that,” Fraser cautioned.
For FY 2011 for nonunion workers there is an assumed 3% total compensation reduction, which will include increased pension contribution and health care premium co-pays.
Budget FY 2011: Specific Recommendations for General Fund
Specific budget recommendations presented by Fraser included eliminating 15 positions in police services, one of which is vacant, in addition to the five vacancies that occurred last year – for a savings of $1.6 million. This proposal differs slightly from the drafts of budget impact sheets prepared in the course of the budget season, which showed $1.6 million in savings resulting from nine police officer layoffs, and five community standards officers – two of them supervisors. However, during deliberations on parking fine enforcement later in the council meeting, when questioned by Sandi Smith (Ward 1) about reductions in community standards officers, Fraser said that the final reductions did not include community standards officers.
Savings for FY 2011 include a reduction in the number of police vehicles, which would result in a $270,000 savings. In addition to the 14 firefighter positions originally planned for FY 2011 as part of the two-year fiscal plan, another six positions are to be eliminated for a total of 20 fewer firefighters – a savings of around $2 million.
Community services recommendations include a $260,000 reduction in funding to nonprofits. A transfer of funds to the affordable housing fund would be eliminated, for a savings of $100,000. A restructuring of staff in the planning and development department, which eliminated one full-time position, would result in a net savings of around $75,000.
Mack Pool and the Ann Arbor Senior Center would be kept open. Implementing suggestions of two task forces – formed as a result of last year’s discussion of the FY 2011 plan, which originally proposed shutting those facilities – will allow them to operate at a cost in the coming year that’s $140,000 less than before. Increases in parks and recreation fees will generate around $60,000, and football parking at Allmendinger and Frisinger parks is projected to generate $34,000. In public services, the mowing cycle for parks will be lengthened from 19 to 23 days, but hand trimming would be kept in place, for a savings of around $112,000. Maintenance in 17 parks would be eliminated except for right-of-way areas – that would save a little over $50,000.
Fraser reported that the city had an agreement in principle with DTE on the de-energizing of certain streetlights for a savings of around $120,000. The cost of right-of-way tree planting is proposed to be shifted to the stormwater fund for a savings of $142,000. This is based on the city’s research, said Fraser, indicating that the most effective thing that they can do to reduce runoff is to plant trees.
The implementation of loading zone fees would generate around $20,000. Revised agreements with the Downtown Development Authority on revenues from the 415 W. Washington parking lot and the Fifth & William surface lot will generate around $180,000.
This year’s budget – for the first time, said Fraser – would include increased maintenance costs due to the construction of the new police/courts building, for an increased expenditure of $277,000. The plan for installing new parking meters in near downtown neighborhoods, which was included in the FY 2010 budget but not implemented, will also not be part of the FY 2011 budget, for a projected revenue loss of around $450,000.
The 15th District Court, said Fraser, had been responsive to the city’s communications about cost reductions, and had proposed that the staff work week be reduced to 37.5 hours. Salaries for the magistrate, the court administrator, the deputy administrator and probation supervisor would be reduced by 3%. The financial manager salary would be set at a lower level – $55,000. The district court would also eliminate three full-time positions, two of which are currently vacant. One of the positions would be eliminated after the court moves to the new police/courts facility currently under construction at Fifth and Huron.
In the clerk’s office, costs would be reduced by publishing legal notices in the Washtenaw Legal News, for a savings of $24,000. Overtime charges associated with the election preparation season would be eliminated. On Fridays in advance of the election season, the clerk’s office service windows would be closed, as clerk’s staff would be working on preparation for the elections. In previous years, because of the demand at the window, that preparation work could not be completed during the day, which necessitated overtime, Fraser said. Staff believes that by closing the window on Fridays and devoting that time to election preparations, $17,000 can be saved.
In financial services, one position is being eliminated in the budget office for a savings of $90,000. An accounting position is being re-allocated so it would be serving on a project for the remainder of FY 2011 – that would save $82,000 in the general fund. Virtually all professional consulting would be eliminated in financial services, with the exception of the auditor and the fraud hotline, for a savings of $55,000. Installation of the new phone system has also resulted in savings, which would be recognized in this year’s budget in the amount of around $165,000.
Budget FY 2011: Outside the General Fund
Outside the general fund, the first item in the set of budget recommendations is the evaluation of Huron Hills Golf Course as a self-sustaining enterprise with private management. Fraser indicated that an RFP had been put out – or if it had not been put out yet, it would be soon – for proposals to run that parks facility with a private vendor.
Other proposals centered on the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage: focus on maintenance of existing facilities, with no building of new infrastructure; and eliminate the 3% annual increase that the city’s natural area preservation (NAP) unit is provided by a council resolution governing allocation of the millage funds.
Leaf collection will take place via a containerized operation, with residents no longer invited to dump their leaves loose into the street for collection via front-end loaders and dump trucks. The city’s compost operation is also currently undergoing an RFP process.
Not this year, but for FY 2012, the city will be looking at the privatization/franchising of its trash collection service.
Fraser concluded his presentation: “That’s it. Council?” Councilmembers had no immediate questions. Those will come at the next two council meetings.
Budget FY 2011: Public Commentary, Response on Police/Courts
As she has done occasionally since the summer of 2009, Libby Hunter delivered her remarks during public commentary in the form of a song. This week’s melody was from the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral” – the “Ode to Joy” choral part. Her lyrical focus was on budget issues, with particular attention to the police/courts building currently under construction.
The criticism of the decision to build the police/courts facility and the lyric’s contention that police officers were laid off in order to afford its construction provoked a reaction from mayor John Hieftje during the council’s communications time on the meeting agenda.
Hieftje stressed that the city of Ann Arbor had never laid off a police officer. In the course of his remarks, he allowed that there’s “a lot of leeway in a song.” [The budget proposed by city administrator Roger Fraser less than an hour previously had called for police layoffs.]
On the merits of the decision to build the police/courts facility, Hieftje’s response began: “I thought everyone had figured out the need for the police/courts building.” He then recounted some of the history of the decision to build the facility. Back in 1999, he said, there was discussion of rebuilding the entire Larcom building, but the city chose not to go forward.
The decision to restart a building project was triggered by the Washtenaw County administrator, he said, because the county had another use for the courtroom that the city was leasing from the county to house the 15th District Court. [The city is required to house the court.] That alternate use, Hieftje continued, was for the juvenile court, which will be moved from its location on Platt Road to the space that the city now leases for the court.
The city looked at 10 different locations for constructing a new building, Hieftje said, after not being able to find another building to retrofit. There was never a plan to keep the police department in the Larcom building, he said. He noted that the city will save $700,000 in rent with the new construction. In addition, the DDA is helping out, which is consistent with their mission of developing buildings in the downtown area.
Police/Courts Building: Historical Perspective
In his remarks at Monday’s council meeting, Hieftje was echoing sentiments he’d expressed online a few years earlier on ArborUpdate, in a comment that responded to a question from local attorney David Cahill. Cahill had challenged Hieftje to explain why he had not vetoed the police/courts building after voting against it and threatening a veto on the key council decision made on March 5, 2007.
The ArborUpdate comment was written a year after that key vote. Hieftje wrote the comment on March 23, 2008, after an effort by Mike Anglin (Ward 5) at the council’s March 17, 2008 meeting had failed to win support to restart the conversation with the county on the court’s lease question. Hieftje’s comment reads in part:
I have not vetoed the proposal because I have no viable alternative to constructing a new police/courts building. I have been searching for an alternative to a new building but could not find one. We have investigated existing buildings both on the edge of the city and in the downtown but none have met the requirements for a secure court house, even with extensive, expensive renovation. We investigated building on the Library parking lot and the Ann Arbor News lot. [link to complete ArborUpdate comment]
As Tom Gantert reported in a March 13, 2007 Ann Arbor News article:
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje has backed away from his promised veto of the resolution that cleared the way for the city to start planning for a new police station and courts building next to the existing city hall.
Hieftje said Monday that after meeting privately with various council members that he expects the council will reconsider the vote and bring it back up at next week’s meeting. He said a final decision will then be postponed until after the 2007-08 budget is passed in late May.
The mayor had said he would veto the resolution after the council voted 7-4 at its March 5 meeting to pay an architect $1 million to design the $34 million building. Hieftje and Council Members Ron Suarez, D-1st Ward, Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, and Bob Johnson, D-1st Ward, all voted no.
The reconsideration of the vote at the council’s following meeting resulted in the splitting of the architectural fees. An amount of $129,250 was specified for initial architectural services, leaving the decision on spending another $833,350 for later. The later expenditure was also approved.
Some hint of the nature of the private meetings reported by The News is provided by a March 5, 2007 email exchange among Margie Teall (Ward 4), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), and former councilmembers Leigh Greden and Joan Lowenstein [.pdf file of email exchange discussion of councilmembers about Hieftje's potential veto].
In that exchange, Greden initially proposed that the group threaten the mayor with specific kinds of uncooperative behavior:
We say the following: “If you follow through with your veto, we are prepared, as a group, to vote against all committee appointments, Agenda items, resolutions, budget amendments and other projects you bring to the City Council for the foreseeable future. We constitute a working majority of City Council. We will not announce this to the public in order to give you the chance to do the right thing w/o our position being made public. The choice is yours.”
In a later draft, Greden appears to settle on softer language:
If you follow through with your veto, you should know it will change the nature of our working relationship with you on this Council. We will not announce this to the public in order to give you the chance to do the right thing w/o our position being
Hieftje’s ArborUpdate comment reflects that his decision was affected by a potential level of non-cooperation from the Greden-led majority if he vetoed the project. Wrote Hieftje:
I have worked for several years with the “veteran” majority on City Council that is supporting the Building. They are thoughtful individuals who have been working on a solution to this problem for years. [...]
Council veterans supported me in devoting more funding and staff support to non-motorized transit. They supported the Greenbelt Campaign and the Clean Communities Program. They supported the Mayor’s Green Energy Challenge and the commuter rail proposal and One Percent for Art. Disagreeing with a majority of council members whom I respect is one thing, a veto is yet another. A veto would make it harder for me to work with the majority of council members on other issues. Frustration over this issue could spill over into other council business even more than it already has. A cohesive majority has a much better chance of coming together around solid solutions than a fractured council.
Ann Arbor Parking
The topic of parking was woven throughout the meeting in the form of the DDA’s report, a discussion of parking violation fines, and University of Michigan commencement exercises.
DDA Parking Plan: Presentation
Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, and Roger Hewitt, who serves on the board and chairs its operations committee, shared the presentation of a parking plan. The city council had asked in December 2009 that the DDA produce a plan. In her opening remarks, Pollay referred to the December 2009 city council meeting as featuring some “fairly intense dialogue.”
By way of some recent background to the report, at the DDA’s partnerships committee on March 14, 2010, which was attended by city councilmembers Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), tweaks to the final draft of the parking report were considered. DDA board member Jennifer S. Hall objected to any edits of the language that would soften the idea that revenue generation was the impetus behind the city council’s consideration of the evening enforcement idea back in December.
An email was circulated at the partnerships committee meeting from an unidentified city official, who wrote:
My only comment is the report starts out indicating it was kicked-off by a request from Council to extend meter enforcement in order to obtain additional money for the City. I think this oversimplifies the questions and concerns of Council and suggests the issue was raised just as a method to solve the City’s budget.
The draft of the report’s executive summary considered by the partnerships committee reads as follows:
Partnerships Draft Version:
On December 21, 2009, the question of extending parking meter enforcement past 6pm came before Ann Arbor City Council as a revenue‐generating idea, as City Council and City staff have worked hard over the past several years to find new sources of revenues that enable the City to maintain current service levels for its citizens. The discussion about “evening enforcement” was enlarged to a broader conversation about public parking, and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was asked to pursue the development of a parking plan that included the following elements [...]
The final version of the report’s executive summary delivered to the city council reads as follows:
[Ann] Arbor DDA has managed public parking since 1992 with the goal of a healthy, attractive, and diverse downtown. Over the years the DDA and Ann Arbor City Council have engaged in an ongoing conversation about how “demand management” can be used to shape policies and programs to gain even greater efficiencies from the public parking system by spreading demand, as well as encourage even greater use of sustainable transportation. As part of the 2009/10 City budget, parking meters were to be installed in several near downtown neighborhoods where commuter parking demand had been detected. During the fall of 2009 there was much discussion about these new parking meters, and on December 21, 2009, City Council approved a resolution that had three components 1) it suspended the plan to install these parking meters, 2) it requested that the DDA direct net revenues from the 350 S. Fifth Avenue parking lot (the former YMCA parking lot) to the City General Fund, and 3) it requested that the DDA present a public parking plan at its April 19, 2010 meeting that was to include the following elements [...]
[Previous Chronicle reporting on the content of the report: "Parking Report Portends City-DDA Tension"]
The report that the council asked the DDA to deliver was supposed to address issues like a communication plan to downtown patrons, merchants and evening employees, options for low cost parking for evening employees, variation of rates and meter time limits based on meter location, as well as the original change in hours of enforcement.
The final report is structured around nine strategies:
Strategy 1: Downtown curbside public parking should be managed to create turnover at the most convenient, commercial locations so these spaces can be more easily used by a large pool of downtown users.
Strategy 2: A comprehensive TDM [transportation demand management] strategy should be developed and utilized to support the downtown evening economy, including a management strategy for on‐street parking spaces, creation of additional evening employee parking/transportation options and communication strategies.
Strategy 3: Develop new off-street parking strategies to make it more attractive for patrons to park off‐street in public parking facilities, and thus relieve pressure on curbside parking, support downtown commerce and entertainment, and increase patron awareness of their parking use and costs.
Strategy 4: Develop policies and plans to add and subtract public parking downtown based on redevelopment, walkability, and transportation goals.
Strategy 5: Develop additional parking options for personal transportation vehicles, including motorcycles, bicycles, and vehicles using new energy.
Strategy 6: Increase downtown employee use of public transit by expanding AATA service hours, developing a strong Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor transit plan, and making downtown transit stops more user‐friendly.
Strategy 7: Improve communications to downtown business owners, employees, customers and visitors by developing new communication tools and sharing information more broadly.
Strategy 8: Develop a parking and transportation strategy for downtown & near downtown residents.
Strategy 9: Miscellaneous parking and transportation suggestions.
At the conclusion of the report presentation, Hewitt asked the council to consider a joint working session with the city council and the DDA board after the council had wrapped up its budget process – that will be the end of May, at the earliest. The point of the working session, said Hewitt, would be to go through each strategy in detail and to figure out a way to move forward.
DDA Parking Plan: Council Deliberations
After Hewitt and Pollay delivered the report, council deliberations were dominated by praise for the DDA staff for their work on the report, which had been completed in a relatively short timeframe.
Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) drew a parallel between a Huron Parkway-Nixon road roundabout project – which received a project-of-the-year award during the council’s meeting from the Michigan chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) – and the DDA parking plan.
With both projects, Derezinski said, there was suspicion initially with a lot of questions. But there was a large public process and explanation. As a consequence, the suspicions and complaints have disappeared for the most part, he said, and also because the project is actually working. He felt the same would be true of the blueprint for parking that the DDA had put together.
Derezinski complimented in particular: (i) the comprehensive nature of proposal; and (ii) the interrelated nature of how parking is linked with transportation. On the question of whether the DDA had completed the council’s assignment, he concluded: “We asked for it to be addressed and it has been addressed.”
Mayor John Hieftje also complimented Hewitt and Pollay and everyone at the DDA – he said the work was done on a short timeline and the council appreciated the work.
Sand Smith (Ward 1) echoed Derezinski’s comments. One piece of the plan that wasn’t brought out is that “parking is going to be friendlier.” It will be less an attempt to ticket and punish. It would be more about carrots rather than sticks.
She also stressed that the parking violation fine schedule, which the council also considered the same evening, was not an outcome of the parking plan: “It’s distinctly different – those rates are not informed by the plan.” The parking plan presented by the DDA, she said, is a different philosophy of managing parking.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) asked if any consideration had been given to making parking free. Naperville, a city in Illinois west of Chicago, had implemented free parking, said Kunselman. Pollay asked if the free parking rule applied to the whole city – Kunselman replied that it did. Pollay noted that best practice in the industry is going away from that. She said she was very eager and interested in seeing how a retrograde shift backwards worked in actual practice.
Responding to Kunselman, Hewitt said that it’s more a suburban community in Naperville. He also pointed out that Ann Arbor’s parking system is self-sufficient. If parking were free, said Hewitt, that would be a $14 million hole in the parking system budget.
Following council discussion on the parking plan – it was simply heard without any council action – Ray Detter addressed the council about the plan during public commentary. He spoke on behalf of the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council, echoing in large part the sentiments that he had expressed at the DDA’s last board meeting. Only the DDA, Detter concluded, had the expertise to administer the parking system.
Parking: Fine Schedule
The council considered two resolutions related to parking fines at its Monday meeting. One related to how the fines are administered, while the other affected actual fine amounts. The first was approved, while the other was postponed.
The first resolution changed the city’s ordinance so that all parking violation fines are reflected in a schedule that can be changed by simple resolution of the city council, rather than embedded directly in the ordinance, which requires two readings before the council.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) clarified with the city treasurer, Matthew Horning: “I just want to be clear: This is not setting rates, it’s just setting ordinance about how we set rates.”
The change approved on Monday had received its first reading on Jan. 4, 2010. It removes fines related to handicap parking, odd/even parking districts, and snow emergencies from the city’s code and places them in the rest of the fine schedule.
Outcome: The ordinance amendment to place all parking violation fines in a fine schedule instead of embedding them in the city’s code was unanimously approved.
The fine schedule for parking violations was ultimately postponed on Monday. It had previously been postponed from the Jan. 19, 2010 council meeting. Still, it received a fair amount of discussion from councilmembers. The most basic change in the fine schedule is to increase expired meter violations from $15 to $20 – keeping the discounted rate of early payment the same, at $10.
Sabra Briere (Ward 1) indicated she’d received an email asking her a question she’d never been asked: Had there been any effect to research the impact on parking rate increases on downtown businesses?
City treasurer Horning indicated that the specific effect of rate increases had not been looked at but it was a fairly common belief, he said, that to get turnover of vehicles using parking spaces, you need to have a fine.
Sandi Smith (Ward 1) – who had asked for the original postponement in January, so that the DDA parking plan would eventually inform the fine schedule – asked Horning to talk about adjustments he’d made since the last time. Horning was not sure what Smith meant. Smith clarified that back in January, city council had just put in a request to the DDA to deliver a report on a parking plan. Parking enforcement was a piece of that plan, she said. Her hope, Smith concluded, was that the plan would inform the direction of fines.
Horning said that no changes had been made to the schedule of fines since January.
Smith noted that in the DDA plan, proposed fines are presented in an appendix. Safety hazard fines, said Smith, should be higher than nuisance violations. Horning allowed that there was a logic to that. Smith asked about the projected $635,000 increase in revenue that was projected. Horning explained that the increase was a result of all proposed changes in the schedule. They’d assumed the same level of ticketing and enforcement as 2008 in the initial estimate of $875,000 additional revenue, but based on more recent data from 2009, revised it downward to $635,000.
Smith said she’d like to see it discussed more fully in light of the reduced number of community standards officers that would be available to enforce tickets. City administrator Roger Fraser indicated that no further reductions were planned in community standards officers – there’d be the same number in 2011 as 2010.
Smith moved to postpone the change in parking violation fines.
Briere asked if there was a reason why it’s outside of budget deliberations, instead of being part of the budget discussion. The city’s CFO, Tom Crawford, indicated that the fine schedule change was kicked off before the budget season started.
Mayor John Hieftje then asked if the increase in fine revenue was part of the budget. Crawford indicated that the increase was not assumed as part of the FY 2011 budget – it would be additional revenue.
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) then asked Smith what she was looking to accomplish during the postponement. Smith explained that she wanted to look at that part of the parking plan addressing fines – she wanted to understand the number of people who would be writing tickets.
Before the council voted, Horning pointed out that the new schedule includes discount rates for early payment for all categories of fines, and the discounted rate for expired meters would remain the same, at $10.
Outcome: The council unanimously postponed the new schedule of parking fines.
Parking: Commencement Logistics
Parking was also part of the council’s discussion of logistics for the upcoming University of Michigan commencement exercises at Michigan Stadium, which will feature an address by President Barack Obama.
Parking is expected to be a challenge, due to the decreased inventory of usual parking spaces normally associated with Saturday football games. The Pioneer High School parking lot is not available, due to a project under construction that will install massive underground stormwater detention tanks as part of the city’s effort to improve water quality in the Allen Creek watershed.
Margie Teall (Ward 4) asked on Monday that the usual off-street rules for football Saturdays be put in effect, which allow residents in neighborhoods around the football stadium to park cars on lawns [emphasis added]:
5:166. Use of off-street parking facilities.
(1) No person shall park a motor vehicle in the front open space, except on the driveway, in a structure or within an approved parking space or lot. This subsection shall not be applicable on those days when football games are played in The University of Michigan stadium.
Because Obama’s speech is not a football game, the ordinance would not apply. Teall was concerned about the ability of traffic to move around the stadium area.
Another kind of exception likely to be made for the commencement exercises is to treat on-street parking as if it’s a football game day. In neighborhoods around the stadium there are some streets posted as no-parking zones for football days.
Last weekend for the UM spring football game, the city initially ticketed cars parked on the street, if they were in no-parking-on-football-day zones. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) asked if those tickets had been voided. City administrator Roger Fraser indicated that 95 citations had been issued in violation of the parking restriction on football days.
Fraser allowed that this had not been well-communicated to the neighborhood area. He reported that the city staff has voided every one of those 95 tickets, but stressed it was only those tickets written for violation of football day parking rules that had been voided.
Jim Kosteva was on hand to answer questions from the council about UM’s request for street closures around the stadium [.pdf with map of UM commencement street closings]. Main Street will be closed in both directions between Pauline and Stadium. The university also asked that the council prohibit sidewalk vendors around the stadium, to help reduce congestion.
The University has requested that the City prohibit sidewalk vendors in the vicinity of Michigan Stadium on May 1 to reduce congestion in and around the ceremony area. Chapter 47 (Streets) and Chapter 79 (Solicitors and Peddlers) allow Council to determine by resolution that on certain dates congestion in the City or a part of the City will be too great to permit peddling and soliciting and sidewalk occupancy.
Kosteva, who is director of the university’s community relations, was asked to the podium by Margie Teall (Ward 4) to comment on the university’s plan.
Kosteva said he appreciated consideration of the resolutions to facilitate desired lane and street closing. He expressed appreciation for the responsiveness of city staff in working with the university. He noted that the change from the normal course of commencement has brought additional responsibility to a whole host of folks. The university was establishing a secure area around stadium – all four lanes of Main Street would be closed. There’ll be a real shortage of parking in and around the stadium area, he cautioned, but the university would be making aggressive use of shuttles.
Kosteva also broke down the seating allocations. There are 80,000 seats that will be available in the stadium, but he reminded the council that first and foremost, it’s a commencement exercise. Of the 80,000 seats, 60,000 have been set aside for graduates and families. Other students, faculty, and staff who are interested in attending can get up to two tickets. If there are any extra tickets, they’ll be made available to the general public on Friday at 9 a.m. in the Michigan Union basement ticket office.
Teall asked Kosteva at what time the graduates would start assembling on Elbel field. Kosteva said that it would be as early as 6:30 a.m. However, even earlier – at 4 a.m. – floodlights will be turned on and instructions will be given to students, he said. [Instructions will be delivered via loudspeaker.]
The university has used a neighborhood email group as one of various means to alert neighbors around the stadium [emphasis added]:
Undoubtedly you have heard that the University of Michigan is honored to have President Barack Obama as its May 1 commencement speaker. Hosting such a prestigious guest means some changes to our normal commencement plans to accommodate increased security.
Among these changes is the closing of all lanes of Main Street from south of Pauline to Stadium, from about midnight Friday April 30 to about 2 pm Saturday May 1.
In addition, our plan is to have graduates gather at Elbel Field starting at 6:30 a.m. We wanted to alert you that field lights will be on as early as 4:00 am and loud speakers will be in use for this gathering.
We apologize for any inconvenience these changes may cause and hope you will join us in congratulating our graduates on their achievements.
Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the university’s traffic control plan and to prohibit sidewalk vendors in and around the stadium area.
Parking: Allmendinger Park and UM Commencement
Part of the recommendations reported by Roger Fraser in his budget presentation included a plan to generate revenues by parking cars in Frisinger and Allmendinger parks. Allmendinger Park was also mentioned during public commentary by Alan Haber, who reported that a permit for demonstration in the park on the morning of May 1 had been denied by the city. The demonstration, called “Fulfilling the Dream,” is expected to draw hundreds of people, one of the organizers, Laura Sanders, told The Chronicle in a phone interview on Wednesday after the Monday council meeting.
Sanders works with the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, but the demonstration is sponsored by other groups as well, including Michigan PeaceWorks, American Friends Service Committee and One Michigan. The most recent group email sent out by organizers reads
Please pass the word about Fulfilling the Dream in Ann Arbor on the morning of May 1st, when President Obama is in town, and our trip to the Fifth Grand Peaceful March for Immigration Reform in Detroit in the afternoon. So far, the city of Ann Arbor has denied us a permit for Allmendinger Park, but we are looking into alternatives and will not give up! Please stay tuned for the exact location, and in the meantime, spread the word with the brief advertisements pasted below in both English and Spanish.
After Haber made his remarks, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) indicated that it was her understanding that something was being worked out.
However, Sanders told The Chronicle that as of mid-day on Wednesday, nothing concrete had been put in place to provide a place for the demonstration to be held. She said that six weeks ago her group had begun working with the city to find a way to hold the demonstration. Their efforts had included applying for a parade permit for Main Street past the Stadium, but that had foundered on the planned closure of the street.
A permit to rent Allmendinger Park had been denied, she said, with the city citing the park’s proximity to the stadium. They’d also asked a private property owner at Stadium & Prescott, who ordinarily rents out the space for football day parking, if they could rent the area for their demonstration. The property owner had agreed, Sanders said, but the city’s planning department had pointed out that the area is zoned residential, which prevented its use for a demonstration. Sanders said that they’d contacted Pioneer High School for use of the school property, but that effort had also not been successful in gaining permission for the demonstration.
Sanders said that there’d been indications in her communications with the city that “free speech zones” would be established in connection with the commencement exercises, but it was not clear where or how big they would be. The demonstration is planned to run from 9 a.m. to noon.
Present: Stephen Rapundalo, Mike Anglin, Margie Teall, Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins, John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor, Carsten Hohnke.
Next council meeting: May 3, 2010 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]