Comments on: Ann Arbor Council Delays Budget Vote it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Fri, 20 May 2011 18:48:34 +0000 Thanks for the quick turn around on this report. The budget discussion is so important that it is good to have a complete record of these discussions before the budget is passed.

Secretive governance. This meeting provided two examples of the city administration’s continuing effort to keep important information from the public.

First, the Mayor and the current Police Chief/psuedo-Fire Chief engaged in a clumsy rebuttal of the recent news coverage of fire fighter staff cuts. Reporter Ryan Stanton was required to file a freedom of information act (FOIA) request just to get data about fire services. Then the acting Fire Chief claimed that Stanton’s article was inaccurate and offers to meet with the reporter after the acting chief has a chance to review the records. Why did it take a FOIA request to get information from our city government? Because the administration has a policy of denying access to information. The conversation the Chief now wants to have should have occurred when Stanton first inquired about the fire data.

As an aside, in response to the acting Chief’s claim that there was no record of anyone jumping from a roof of a burning building (as reported by Stanton), former Fire Chief Dominick Lanza commented on the Firefighters’ FaceBook page: “I was at that fire, they jumped.”

The second example of secretive government is found in Council Member Stephen Kunselman’s request for a written legal opinion from the City Attorney on the diversion of dedicated millage funds to the percent for arts program. Apparently, the City is operating under legal advice that this diversion of restricted funds is proper, but citizens and certain Council Members are not allowed to see the basis of that advice.

We are so often told that money cannot be taken from one “bucket” to be put in another “bucket”. Yet, the City allows street millage money and water millage money to be diverted to purposes unrelated to streets or water. We should at least have access to the legal advice on which this action is based. If there is legal justification for these transfers of restricted funds, maybe we can have a percent for safety program, too.

If you belong to FaceBook, “Friend” the Support the Firefighters page: [link]

And change the batteries in your smoke detectors!

By: Stephen Lange Ranzini Stephen Lange Ranzini Thu, 19 May 2011 22:47:35 +0000 The cost of the new waste water treatment plant is $82 million (see page 4 of the 2010 CAFR report). The Water, Sewer and Storm Water Systems are included in the “business-type activities” portion of the financial statements, as noted in your article and the CAFR report (page 11). On the city’s balance sheet (see page 21) there is actually a total sum already of $89.2 million in cash and short term investments available to the city in the “business-type activities”, which would include the waste water treatment plant.

In the “government activities” portion of the financial statements, what we call the general fund, there is actually $164.75 million in cash and short term investments available to the city. NONE of that money is set aside for the waste water treatment plant, so when the Mayor states that the reason for the accumulation of cash in the general fund is to pay for the waste water treatment plant, as he did at this meeting, he is being economical with the truth.

I also note that the CAFR report has a footnote 17 on page 81 which purports to list ALL externally restricted funds held by the city. That total is just $68.718 million:
Highways and streets $40.584 million
Culture and recreation $23.093 million
All other $5,041 million

The footnote reads:
“A portion of the city’s net assets are presented as restricted, due to external requirements either by the source of the funding (i.e., state or federal funding) or by the nature of the funding (i.e. millage funding) to indicate they are not available to meet the City’s ongoing needs. The purpose of these restrictions is evident from the Statement of Net Assets [page 21] except for the following:”

The list and amounts summarized above then follows. It is important to note that the footnote clearly implies that ALL OTHER RESTRICTIONS on the money are not imposed by the source of the funds or by the legal text of a millage, but by the POLICIES of the city council or terms of the City Charter. Policies of city council can change if they have the will. The City Charter can change if we the citizens find it inconvenient. The only items noted on page 21 are the funds in the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, Smart Zone and the Downtown Development Authority, whose total cash and short term investments are listed on page 21 as just $13.6 million.

Do the financial statements lie, or do the people who claim the money is in buckets and cannot be accessed? Persisting with the fiction of the various “buckets” enables claims of poverty which are easily seen through by those with financial budgeting experience. Let’s drain the buckets!

By: Kai Petainen Kai Petainen Thu, 19 May 2011 22:45:43 +0000 wow. that’s a lot of work for that write-up. excellent work.

By: Andy Andy Thu, 19 May 2011 17:17:41 +0000 Nice leg work on the numbers, Dave Askins. You just don’t see that kind of attention to detail in local news anywhere else.