Comments on: Ann Arbor Council Passes Watery Agenda it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Tue, 23 Nov 2010 18:48:10 +0000 The delay in the Area Height and Placement (AHP)zoning changes are not causing any investments to be put off. Current economic conditions have dried up available funding. Lenders are not willing to fund risky developments and there is little demand for new development.

In addition to the economic reality, the AHP proposals seem ill-timed and poorly conceived. The zoning code changes encourage conduct that seems counterproductive.

The AHP proposals encourage new, dense development at a time when the City is losing population. Additional housing units will increase the already high vacancy rates. High vacancy rates cause declining property values and declining property tax revenues.

Currently, the population of Ann Arbor is less than it was ten years ago. SEMCOG estimates project that it will be decades before our population will increase beyond what it was in 2000. You cannot build your way out of a housing surplus.

The AHP proposals encourage demolition and replacement development. That scheme incurs a significant carbon footprint which takes even the most energy-efficient new building decades to recover. The so-called “best practices” would replace most commercial development in areas like Washtenaw near US23 with high-rise, multi-use. All of the existing buildings would end up in a landfill. Retro-fitting the existing buildings would have a greater environmental impact.

The City is pressing ahead on the AHP proposals as an ideological matter, in spite of the ill-effect that the zoning changes will have. Further delay in moving these changes forward are of little consequence. It’s too bad that they will eventually pass.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Sun, 21 Nov 2010 19:56:39 +0000 Good analysis (#17) but here is another point: if we wish to support “the arts” with tax dollars, is this (the Percent for Art) really the way to do it? Buying just a few examples of “public” art chosen by a committee?

I’d think that there are many other ways “the arts” can be supported, including making it easier for local artists to work and live here. You hint at this in your paragraph about a hypothetical millage. I’d think that a 2-hour brainstorming session with any 10 Ann Arbor lovers of the arts could come up with a long laundry list of activities that might do more to support an active art presence here. I’ll name just one: how about some support for FestiFools?

There is a hollowness to the current program, which clearly has caught the public imagination in a way deleterious to enjoyment of the arts, rather than otherwise. It reminds me of the continuous insistence that because Ann Arbor shows up on various award lists, we must be happily enjoying a better quality of life. It is the symbol of the thing, not its actual existence.

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Sun, 21 Nov 2010 18:29:26 +0000 RE: [13] “… or like ONE council member, so arrogant she’d gladly raise it to TWO per cent …”

The apparent reference seems to be to this line of the report: “Teall noted that other communities have public art programs that range from 0.5% to 2%” I think it’s inaccurate to characterize Teall’s comments that evening as indicating a willingness to raise the public art allocation to 2%. It’s possible that the intended reference was to some other councilmember on some other occasion, but I’m not aware of any such occasion.

That said, I think the public art program is a good occasion to reflect on the general disconnect at all levels of governance between (1) our expectations of what government should provide and (2) how much it costs to meet those expectations. I think it’s fair to say that there’s a consensus — not unanimous by any means, but still a consensus — that the arts are important to Ann Arbor as a community, and that it’s appropriate to use public money to support the arts. That is, we as a community expect the local government to provide support for the arts. Fine.

But when push comes to shove, we as a community don’t have as great a consensus that we really want to pay for that support. Why don’t I think so? Part of the rationale for funding the public art program through capital investments we’d make anyway is based on the idea that 1% is still less that the 10% contingency that is built into all capital projects — money that would be spent anyway.

Is this really part of the rationale? Yes. In addition to McCormick’s remarks at Monday’s meeting, consider this passage from a December 2009 AAPAC meeting:

Currently, the percent for art comes out of a project’s contingency fund, which is typically 10% of the total project, Parker said. The half percent would likely remain in the contingency fund, she said. Zuellig, a landscape architect who also serves on the Ypsilanti planning commission, said she doesn’t recall ever seeing a project that ended up with anything left over in its contingency fund. Unless there’s a political reason not to spend it, she said, if it’s in the budget, it gets spent.

What is said in support of the public art program is not: We think the arts are important, and we’ll reach into our pocketbooks and pay for it. Instead what we’re saying is: We think the arts are important, and we have been clever enough to figure out a way to fund it without it costing anything. It doesn’t cost us any dollars that could be spent on fire protection, on police protection or anything else — so goes the narrative.

But the simple fact is that more that $2 million in funding has accumulated into this program since its inception. This is not a di minimus amount of cash. It could be used to buy a couple more feet of water mains, stormwater drains, or fix a few more potholes. So it does cost something — indeed it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that every capital project costs 1% more than it would in the absence of the 1% program. And that’s why the narrative that implies it’s somehow not really costing anything strikes many residents as disingenuous.

Further, if they’re being interpreted correctly by the city attorney, the legal requirements involved in drawing money from various funds make it impossible to fund a broad range of activities that it would be desirable to fund — if we as a community really want to support the arts with public money. The performing arts, for example, are completely left out of the equation.

Steve Bean’s suggestion that the funding of a public art program should most appropriately come from a millage dedicated to the arts would have two effects: (1) establish whether there really is a connection between the local community’s consensus that we want to use public money to support the arts and the local community’s willingness to pay for that support (2) allow a broad range of activities and different kind of artists to be supported with public money.

Here’s a back-of-the-napkin millage rate calculation for what kind of millage rate could support some public art in Ann Arbor. A rate of .025 mill would generate a little over $100,000 per year. That’s comparable to what we spend explicitly every year on economic development in the form of general fund support to SPARK — $75,000. A .025 mill tax would cost the owner of a $200,000 house, with taxable value of $100,000, about $2.50 a year. So the question for taxpayers would become: Are you willing to reach into your pocket and take out $2.50 [give or take, depending on your property taxes] and hand it to the city government to invest in support for the arts? My guess is that better than 50% of Ann Arborites would actually vote for that, even given the current economic climate.

By: suswhit suswhit Sun, 21 Nov 2010 18:04:28 +0000 Re [15]: That is a good one! LOL! I hope they’ve planned for extra parking to accommodate the throngs of people this will bring downtown.

By: Jack F Jack F Sun, 21 Nov 2010 17:07:34 +0000 “Briere established with Clein that the fountain would not operate as a fountain for nearly half the year. Clein suggested that there might not be water, but that there was a possibility that the water would freeze on the fountain in a way that was aesthetically pleasing”


By: Jack F Jack F Sun, 21 Nov 2010 17:04:33 +0000 “Percentage-wise, that’s 28% from water; 68% from sanitary sewer, and 0.04% from stormwater. Kunselman indicated that he would leave that for his counsel colleagues to contemplate and for the city attorney to tell him whether it was legal or not. City attorney Stephen Postema did not respond.”

Kind of like George W. Bush saying waterboarding was legal because the ‘lawyers told him it was ok’.

By: Jack F Jack F Sun, 21 Nov 2010 17:02:11 +0000 “According to the % for Art accounting, the General Fund has contributed nothing (a blank amount) toward this fund.”

No it’s just magic fairy dust money, not from the General Fund but STILL from the taxpayers. And perhaps illegal to boot. Guess if Council is gutless is repealing it (or like ONE council member, so arrogant she’d gladly raise it to TWO per cent if she could) or the City Attorney in issuing a written opinion, we’ll like see this taken to court in the near future.

By: ChuckL ChuckL Sun, 21 Nov 2010 15:02:42 +0000 The thing that is most galling about the use of 1% for Art is not that Ann Arbor has made a commitment to funding art with public funds. But rather, such a huge percentage of the amount was used on one project by a non-local artist. The funds wasted on the Dreisetl could have gone very far in supporting our local art community, which was effectively dissed by this decision. I am very disappointed that the city used a process that in the end, appears to have been nothing more than an impulse purchase by some political appointees who were out of touch with residents of this city.

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Sat, 20 Nov 2010 20:02:45 +0000 Re [10]: The City provided $1.275 million from the General Fund for Human Services for FY2011; of this, a portion was allocated for prevention of home foreclosures; another portion was allocated for helping find emergency housing for those who have lost their homes.

According to the % for Art accounting, the General Fund has contributed nothing (a blank amount) toward this fund.


By: Junior Junior Sat, 20 Nov 2010 19:12:43 +0000 Kudos to the councilpersons who are questioning the appropriteness of the One Per Cent For Art Ordinance.

Its a colossal waste of public revenue when many residents are in the throes of financial distress.

Why not do as the county is doing now and allocate funding for persons who need assistance in home foreclosures?