Comments on: What Does Washtenaw Corridor Need? it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: abc abc Wed, 23 Mar 2011 20:27:33 +0000 @8

“@4″ ???

John, you are 4 & 8. You are not talking to yourself, are you?

By: John Floyd John Floyd Wed, 23 Mar 2011 19:04:38 +0000 @4

Your suggestion would be an improvement from the status quo, and so I would support it. I still believe that the most transparent way to transfer taxes from voter-approved uses, to uses not approved by voters for particular taxes, is to require presently-captured/stolen revenues to be specifically appropriated to the DDA or CIA (corridor improvement authority, not D.C. spooks) by the various local governments.

For example, the AAPS will soon ask voters to re-approved a millage for special education services. I bet the school board will not go our of their way to point out that a portion of that millage will be diverted to the LDFA/Ann Arbor Spark, and will not be used at all for services to Special Ed students. Beyond being personally irked by public official’s (anticipated) use of non-truth-by-omission, I think this is poor, short-term policy. Public officials need to put energy into making the case that, e.g., the LDFA will make better use of their portion of the school millage than will the special ed students it is nominally intended to support. Helping to build public consensus is one of the value-adds that public officials can contribute. Hiding behind little-known or understood bait-and-switch default policies is the opposite of consensus-building. It ultimately breeds lack of trust in public officials and institutions, generally.

It is an improvement to require the AAPS to take a one-time public vote on-the-record to opt-in; it would be better still to require a specific appropriation, appearing on the AAPS financial statements, so that people know what their education dollars actually go for. I would not let the perfect be the enemy of the good; an opt-in system is preferred to the status quo.

By: Fred Posner Fred Posner Thu, 17 Mar 2011 21:12:03 +0000 There’s no reason to build roads for empty parking lots. I think what best can help with this corridor is the attraction of new business. How about incentives to start-ups? New agencies with more taxing won’t help… more business will bring more revenue which will then dictate how to best handle the increased traffic.

The “build it and they’ll come” mentality only helps if Kevin Costner does the building.

By: Stew Nelson Stew Nelson Thu, 17 Mar 2011 19:53:11 +0000 I am not for or against at this point. I just need to educated. :)

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Wed, 16 Mar 2011 16:59:17 +0000 Re: [4] ” If the library board thinks that a corridor improvement authority can make better use of the library’s tax revenue than the library can, then the board can appropriate money to the authority in a fully transparent way.”

Just to be clear, an entity like the AADL can opt out of a CIA. From the article: “In addition, the governing body of an entity that levies taxes in a CIA’s district has the opportunity to opt out. From the state enabling legislation for CIAs …”

But I take the point in [4] to be that the “default” on formation of a CIA (what happens unless there’s some other special action) is that AADL would have its taxes captured — in a way that would be relatively opaque. One could imagine a differently-worded statute that would provide for a default of no capture, but with the possibility of opting in to have one’s taxes captured.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Wed, 16 Mar 2011 16:40:33 +0000 Stew,

Tom has put his finger on one of my chief beefs: taking tax revenue from other government units. If the library board thinks that a corridor improvement authority can make better use of the library’s tax revenue than the library can, then the board can appropriate money to the authority in a fully transparent way.

To me, the tax revenues of a city go into a common pot, and are allocated by a common process. Taking money out of the common pot – via TIF or via appropriation – reduces the amount of funding for common services. Corridor improvements should have to compete with other possible uses. If one or another improvement is less valuable than an expenditure elsewhere – geographically or programmatically – the improvement should wait for higher – value uses to be funded first. Specific appropriation by an elected body keeps the spending accountable, while TIF does not.

I do not think this is a good time to create another layer of government, with its resulting overhead. We have a planning department, we should use it.

The idea that we are going to fund improvements to support economic growth, but not use tax revenues from that growth to support city services, does not work for me.

We can spend Ann Arbor money on Ypsi improvements, if that makes sense. I just want it done explicitly, and accountably. It matters that government officials feel like they have to make, and sell, a genuine case for their spending priorities. It’s annoying work, but it is what creates public trust, and ultimately is what democracy is all about. TIF funding undermines all that, especially when the TIF authority is not accountable to any one elected body. A Washtenaw Improvement Authority would not be accountable to any one elected body, greatly diluting its accountability to anyone.

Let’s agree to disagree on this one.


By: Tom Whitaker Tom Whitaker Wed, 16 Mar 2011 12:18:24 +0000 Where is the “blight” you speak of Stew? I could see this term applied loosely to that vacant property at Washtenaw and Platt that was supposed to be developed (and may still be soon), but otherwise, I think the use of the term “blight” for Washtenaw is way overkill, if not flat out wrong. One doesn’t have to travel far from Ann Arbor to see real blight. Here, I’m afraid the term gets overused as justification for other ambitions–like Brownfield financing to tear down one old house (Zingerman’s).

Washtenaw is one of those heavily-trafficked business strips located along major arteries into town–usually near where they intersect with highways. They are found in almost every town of decent size. Ann Arbor’s has clearly been very successful over the years, judging by the nearly constant private investment in new businesses and buildings from Whole Foods to Glencoe Plaza.

The problem is these businesses also generate a lot of traffic along a route that once only served to get people from the highway to town and back again. At rush hours, add in thousands of commuters trying to get to US23 or on to Ypsilanti and it can get quite clogged up. An hour later, it is reasonable again.

To me, the focus should simply be on better traffic management, and where studies of this traffic show potential benefits, possibly some upgraded mass transit options. If most traffic is single-occupant vehicles headed to US23 to leave town, then that would require one strategy (demand management, engineering, etc.). If it is mostly commuters to Ypsilanti, that would require another (rapid buses, express buses, etc.).

I’m with John on this one. TIF zones should only be implemented to address very dire circumstances because they steal tax dollars from our schools, our County government, our library, etc. I don’t think the traffic situation on Washtenaw justifies this reallocation of resources, which would appear to be aimed at even more development on an already crowded strip.

By: Stew Nelson Stew Nelson Wed, 16 Mar 2011 11:28:24 +0000 John,

What would be the harm in setting up a TIF with a very specific mission and a fixed year lifetime that could be extended if the milestones were met? i.e. getting rid of the blight and polishing up on the primary “gate ways” to both cities. I know you personally want to include Ypsilanti in the plans for Washtenaw County. If the TIF is the catalyst for the change what harm would that be? The same amount of money is going to be needed and it seems to me the TIF would contain the expense to those that would benefit most. Just thinking out loud.


By: John Floyd John Floyd Tue, 15 Mar 2011 19:59:29 +0000 Development of this corridor is one of the issues I ran on, both in 2008 and 2010. I fully support infrastructure and zoning changes to accomplish this. What I oppose is the creation of yet another layer of government, especially an electorally unaccountable government, with pre-budgeted tax dollars.

Nothing in current law stands in the way of cooperation among governments. Right today, they can adopt similar zoning, land use and transit planning, and anything else they want to coordinate. I suspect that one of the issues here is that each government would be accountable for the money is spends on its share of the corridor – accountable government seems to be out of vogue just now.

In particular, a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) scheme would make it easier to take taxes raised in Ann Arbor, and spend them in Ypsi, by reducing both transparency, and accountability. After all, city residents might object to – or at least have to be sold – on spending Ann Arbor property tax dollars in another city. Such appropriations would have to take place each year, holding council accountable for these funds each election. It is likely that Ypsi, for example, does not have the tax base to raise funds for improvements without drastic cuts to services. Corridor development probably depends on Ann Arbor tax funding. There might be a case for doing this, but I want to see it made, and made well. I also like the idea of keeping council on a short leash with our money.

Mr. Kahan rightly points out that creating a new layer of government raises our public sector overhead. What he does not point out is that new development along this corridor, like new development downtown, will not generate any new tax dollars for public services for many, many years, while creating more demand for public services.

Further, Mr. Kahan does not point out that due to county property taxes taken up by a TIF entity. People in Milan, Manchester Dexter, Chelsea, Bridgewater Twp, etc. will have a hand in funding Washtenaw improvements. This doesn’t seem right to me.

Ann Arbor steals half the public education portion of new property taxes from downtown development via the Local Development Finance Authority (this in turn funds An Arbor SPARK – that is, SPARK is an off-budget expenditure of the “broke” Ann Arbor Public Schools)?. If this Corridor “DDA” passes, look for The Ruling Class to create some analogous structure to take 50% of the new school taxes from this corridor, as well.

Like our DDA, this Corridor Development Authority amounts to worthy goals gone about the wrong way – a very wrong way.