Council Focus: Budget, Safety, Infrastructure

Two key questions about each priority: (1) What is the problem we are solving? and (2) What does success look like?

A key outcome of an Ann Arbor city council planning session held on Dec. 10 was the identification of five priority areas for the next year.

Three of the areas generated immediate consensus among the 11 councilmembers: (1) city budget and fiscal discipline; (2) public safety; and (3) infrastructure. Two additional areas were drawn from a raft of other possible issues as those to which the council wanted to devote time and energy: (4) economic development; and (5) affordable housing.

Five issues identified by the city council as the areas they'd like to invest time and energy in the coming year.

Five issues identified by the Ann Arbor city council as the areas they’d like to invest time and energy in the coming year: (1) city budget and fiscal discipline; (2) public safety; (3) infrastructure; (4) economic development; and (5) affordable housing. (Photos by the writer.)

Possibly more important than the five areas of focus were the answers councilmembers developed to two questions about each area: (1) What is the problem we are solving? and (2) What does success look like?

Based on remarks at the conclusion of the evening, councilmembers seemed almost universally enthusiastic with the outcome of the planning session, which was facilitated by Julia Novak of the Novak Consulting Group. Novak holds a masters degree in public administration from the University of Kansas – the same program where Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers obtained his degree. However, the two did not overlap there as students.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who’d helped plan the format and content of the session during budget committee meetings over the last two months, said: “I think the engagement among councilmembers tonight was extraordinary.” She attributed that engagement at least in part to the fact that councilmembers were asked not to bring their laptop computers or cellphones to the session.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) felt that having an objective facilitator helped. And Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) thought that Novak did a good job keeping the council focused on not presupposing solutions, but rather on trying to clearly define what problem the council is trying to solve.

The general enthusiasm among councilmembers  for the two-question approach that Novak took carried over to the work of a five-member city council committee on public art that met the following day. The group actively attempted to apply the problem/success approach to their work.

Somewhat dubious about one of the problem statements – in connection with public safety – was Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), who still wondered at the end of the session about the implications of the word “optimize.”

This report includes the consensus problem/success statements for each of the areas of focus. The report also provides a more detailed look at how the council moved from an initial draft to its final consensus on one of those priorities – public safety.

The following summary of the council’s answers to the key questions are taken from Chronicle notes, not the final report from Novak, which is expected in about a week, according to city administrator Steve Powers. Added on Dec. 20 after initial publication: [Novak's report of Dec. 10 planning session]

Fiscal Responsibility

What is the problem we are solving? To provide efficient, quality service delivery in the face of the projected gap between revenue and expenses.

What does success look like? Prioritizing expenditures while matching them with revenues over the long term.

Public Safety

The public safety area was divided into fire protection and police protection.

Public Safety (Final Version): Fire

What is the problem we are solving? Fire staffing and deployment is not optimized to meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for fire suppression.

What does success look like? Fire station locations, number, and infrastructure are optimized to meet community needs and industry standards within city resources.

Public Safety (Final Version): Police

What is the problem we are solving? There’s inadequate police staffing resources to do proactive and consistent enforcement and community outreach.

What does success look like? The success statement has three parts:

  1. Part 1 crime rates (major crimes) show Ann Arbor is among the safest 20% in the country.
  2. The community perception of safety is high.
  3. Police officers have between 25-30% of their time available for proactive policing.


What is the problem we are solving? Lack of a coordinated urban core transportation plan that includes road conditions, pedestrian safety, lighting, signage, buses, and stormwater management.

What does success look like? A transportation system that effectively and efficiently moves people regardless of mode.

Economic Development

What is the problem we are solving? Create tax revenue separate from the University of Michigan, and the need to further increase and diversify private sector employment in the local economy.

What does success look like?

  1. Creating diverse employment opportunities in various fields and industries.
  2. Ann Arbor has an earned reputation as an attractive place to create, relocate, and maintain businesses.
  3. Quality of life is maintained and improved.

Affordable Housing

What is the problem we are solving?

  1. The continuing lack of affordable housing units.
  2. The lack of routine and emergency maintenance for existing units, which includes deferred maintenance and a lack of systematic capital investment.

What does success look like?

  1. Additional units – public, private, and nonprofit – are created for a variety of family configurations across the continuum of care.
  2. All city-owned properties are at a good level of maintenance.
  3. A plan for routine maintenance is in place.

Public Safety: Path to Final Version

The consensus versions of each of the problem/success statements emerged from a discussion by the council as a body. But they started from draft versions that pairs of councilmembers worked on for about 15 minutes separately. It was the only instance of smaller group work at the planning session. The council’s budget committee, in preparing for the session, had given direction against splitting the council into smaller groups during the session. Budget committee members felt that use of smaller groups in the planning sessions of years past had ultimately had a dividing effect on the council.

Facilitator Julia Novak appeared to resort to the pair-work strategy on that specific task only as a way to save some time. The time allotted for the planning session had been reduced by the length of a special meeting of the council – which was held at the originally scheduled start time for the planning session. That special meeting was called in order to approve a resolution of protest against state legislation that has been passed, which includes Washtenaw County in a regional transit authority (RTA).

For four of the five main areas of focus, the draft problem/success statements underwent relatively minor revision when the council as an entire body discussed them. However, the problem/success statement for public safety underwent significant revision.

Here’s the draft produced by councilmembers Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3):

Public Safety: Initial Draft

What is the problem we are solving? 

  1. Lack of adequate staffing levels to meet community and industry standards.
  2. Closing of two fire stations. [The proposal, still being weighed by the city, is to close three stations and re-open one – for a net reduction of two stations. For background, including the resulting staffing model if this approach is implemented, see Chronicle coverage: "A Closer Look at Ann Arbor's Fire Station Plan."]

What does success look like?

  1. Incremental increases in police and fire staffing.
  2. Optimize the cost/benefit equation.
  3. Meet community needs and expectations for community standards enforcement and public safety.
  4. Metrics indicate improvement in public safety.
  5. Fire station location, number and infrastructure is optimized to meet community needs and industry standards.

Beginning with the issue of adequate staffing levels expressed in the problem statement, Novak asked if the issue being identified was that response times are too long.

Lumm responded by drawing a distinction between police and fire services, saying that for fire services, the issue is response time, but for police services it’s related to enforcement.

Public Safety: Path to Final Version – Fire

The outcome of the next few minutes of discussion was to divide the issue into fire protection services and police services. Mayor John Hieftje felt the goal should be to optimize fire services for the community, but he was a little “leery” about mentioning specific strategies, saying he’d prefer to have staff work on strategies. He described a hypothetical collaboration between the city of Ann Arbor and the townships of Ann Arbor and Pittsfield. Combining some stations with Pittsfield Township could hypothetically provide better fire protection services without necessarily adding staff, he ventured.

Julia Novak was the facilitator for the Ann Arbor city council's planning session held on Dec. 10, 2012.

Julia Novak was the facilitator for the Ann Arbor city council’s planning session held on Dec. 10, 2012.

Hieftje’s basic point was that he didn’t think staffing levels needed to be in the problem/success statements. Novak returned to the basic question: What’s the problem with fire services right now? Kunselman responded to the question by saying: “Not enough fire staff.” Several of Kunselman’s colleagues responded to his statement with “That’s not the problem.” Kunselman was adamant, saying that insufficient staffing had led to the proposal to close two fire stations, and concluded: “That would be a problem to me.”

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) responded to Kunselman’s view by noting that the problem identified in the proposal to reconfigure fire stations [closing three, opening one, for a net loss of two fire stations] was that current firefighting staff is not deployed in a manner that maximizes the city’s ability to get four people on the scene within four minutes. “That was the exact problem,” Taylor concluded.

Novak attempted to draw out some consensus: “Current staffing does not allow us to meet NFPA standards – that’s the problem we’re trying to solve?” Taylor indicated that current resources are not allocated in an optimal manner – and that was a problem that was proposed to be solved – with existing resources.

Novak ventured that it was a very clear problem statement – that current fire staffing does not allow the city to meet NFPA standards. Taylor wanted to retain the idea that the issue concerned optimization. Tentatively summarizing the problem statement, Novak moved to the success statement: “If you’re not currently optimized to meet NFPA standards, success looks like?” The answer from Sabra Briere (Ward 1) was simply, “Meeting NFPA standards.” Lumm wanted to make sure to include more than just NFPA standards, saying, “community and industry standards.”

Taylor offered as an alternative: “Utilizing available resources to meet the standards as best we can.” That was essentially a point of disagreement, highlighted by Lumm’s response to Taylor. Lumm contended it’s not about maintaining existing levels, and it’s not about utilizing existing resources. It’s about elevating the issue to identify adequate staffing levels. The issue, Lumm contended, is “lack of.”

Kunselman added that it’s not just an issue of fire suppression response, but also first medical response. He cautioned against solving one problem but creating another. Novak re-stated Kunselman’s point as a worry that solving the fire suppression problem and meeting the NFPA standards could create another problem – of not providing sufficient EMS response. Hieftje was quick to say that he thinks the city has very good EMS response, provided by Huron Valley Ambulance.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) then sought to resolve the different points of view by saying he was hearing an attempt to have the policy debate right then – and he wanted to focus on defining the problem. He allowed that the council was going to have a debate on the policy question through the whole budget cycle.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5)

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) ticked through three elements of the problem as he saw it, which left two fingers for additional elements.

But for the purposes of the planning session exercise that Novak was asking them to complete, Warpehoski suggested finding how to express the problem in a way that allows for increased firefighter staffing of five stations, but also doesn’t automatically say that’s the solution. Warpehoski continued by saying that he was hearing three elements to the problem: (1) meeting the national and community standards; (2) how resources are allocated; and (3) how many resources the city throws at the problem. And the council is trying to bring those three things into alignment, Warpehoski ventured.

Sally Petersen (Ward 2) indicated she wanted to add one more element. Warpehoski, who had counted out the elements on his fingers, which he still held aloft, quipped: “I’ve got two more fingers.” Petersen’s additional element was the perception of safety. There’s the issue of whether standards are being met, she allowed, but what she hears from constituents concerns the perception of safety. Yes, with just three fire stations, Ann Arbor may meet the standards – because enough firefighters are staffed at each one. “But do residents feel more safe?” she asked.

Perception, Petersen ventured, is a “tougher nut to crack.” Warpehoski indicated he felt that the phrase “community and industry standards” incorporated the notion of perception. Novak returned the council’s attention to the problem statement: “Current fire staffing is not optimized to meet current NFPA standard for fire suppression.” Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) seemed skeptical, saying that she wanted clarity whether the reference to staffing dealt with levels, or configuration of staffing. Was the council saying that instead of having three people in four places, it would also be okay to have six people in two places?

Briere and Margie Teall (Ward 4) responded to Kailasapathy by stressing that the issue was optimization. For Kailasapathy, optimization indicated that the council was content with current levels of staffing. Teall responded by saying that it’s not a statement about staffing levels, but rather a statement about optimization. “The number is not enough, is that what we’re saying?” asked Kailasapathy. No, answered Teall, saying “There are other ways to optimize.”

Briere ventured that at that point they were supposed to be trying to define the problem, not the solution. Novak supported Briere’s comment by suggesting that there’s not a clear solution contained in the statement: “Fire staffing and deployment is not optimized to meet NFPA standards for fire suppression.” It doesn’t point you toward a solution, Novak ventured. That problem statement could result in a solution that doubles the number of firefighters at all five of the city’s current fire stations – or it could mean putting all the firefighters in three stations and doing it differently. Those are just the two extremes, Novak said.

Novak indicated that the success statement corresponding to that problem statement is: “Fire station locations, number, and infrastructure is optimized to meet community needs and industry standards.” Taylor wanted some reference to the resources that are available. Teall responded to Taylor by indicating she was hearing a desire by some councilmembers to revisit that. Taylor argued that without regard to whether current staffing levels are proper or improper, he felt they could all agree that the solution should be guided by the resources the city has available.

Novak restated the success statement as: “Fire station locations, number, and infrastructure are optimized to meet community needs and industry standards within city resources.”

Public Safety: Path to Final Version – Police

The council moved on to handle the police services part of public safety. Novak began by eliciting reasons for including police staffing levels as part of the problem statement. Kailasapathy offered that people don’t stop at stop signs anymore, because they know it won’t be enforced. It’s not about having a low crime rate, she said, but rather those things that have an impact on how safe the environment is – for children to walk, for example.

Novak wondered if the inadequate police staffing resources were related to the ability to do proactive enforcement and outreach. Lumm rejected the idea that it was just about outreach and education. “It’s about improvements in public safety,” Lumm said, as indicated by specific metrics. Novak told Lumm that would be handled in the success statement – and Novak wanted to focus on defining the problem. Petersen ventured that to her, it was a matter of having enough police to ensure public safety.

As the conversation seems to stall out a bit, Novak then told councilmembers, after quipping that police chief John Seto should plug his ears: “I’m kind of pushing you guys a little bit … because it’s really easy to just say, ‘Hire more police officers – that’s the answer to everything.’ And that’s what you might need to do – I’m not making any judgment. But I want you to tell me what the problem is that more police officers are going to solve.”

Briere responded to Novak’s challenge by observing that people complain in two ways – that the city fails to enforce existing ordinances, and also that the city enforces ordinances too aggressively. Both of those are complaints that councilmembers have heard, Briere noted. What that meant to her is that police are unable to enforce our ordinances consistently. Kunselman added “It’s complaint driven.” Novak suggested as useful phrasing to add to the problem statement: “effective and consistent enforcement.”

Hieftje floated the idea that what people were talking about amounted to a traffic problem – which met with little support from others on the council. Novak took another shot at phrasing the problem statement: “There’s inadequate police staffing resources to do proactive and consistent enforcement and community outreach.” She asked councilmembers if that expressed the problem they were trying to solve.

Ann Arbor chief of police John Seto

Ann Arbor chief of police John Seto.

Taylor wanted the statement to acknowledge that crime is at an historic low. Lumm countered that it’s possible that crime is only apparently low and that lower reported crime levels are a function of fewer police to take the reports. Hieftje put the question to police chief John Seto. Seto indicated that for Part 1 crime – a classification of serious crimes – he felt most of them are reported, because they’re very serious crimes. Most people who have their houses broken into report it, and most people who are robbed report that, he said. Part 2 crime is something that takes a little more analysis, Seto said. Those crimes might be reported less frequently – giving as an example an offense like theft of a lawn ornament – if there’s a perception that the police are not going to deal with it.

Higgins wondered if lower staffing levels could still impact response time and follow-up for Part 1 crimes, even if reporting of the crimes wasn’t affected. Seto allowed that the response time and also the follow-up could be impacted. Novak asked Seto if the Ann Arbor police department’s clear rates and response times were lower. Seto thought that would take a little more analysis – but he indicated those metrics are currently tracked. Novak ventured that, generally speaking, Part 1 crimes are probably not what councilmembers were talking about. “You don’t have a crime problem,” she said. “You have a quality-of-life type enforcement issue problem, which is community expectation here.”

Lumm again floated some language from the original draft of the success statement: “Optimizing the cost benefit staffing model for public safety, for police staffing.” Novak appreciated Lumm’s sentiments, but said that the phrasing Lumm was using was not familiar to her – in terms of how people talk about proactive policing. Novak wanted the councilmembers at that point to focus on what success would look like. About Lumm’s suggestion, Briere asked: How do you know when you’ve optimized the deliverable – the response time, the clearance rate, the sense of public safety that people have? Lumm ventured that there are natural break points along the spectrum, but she didn’t think that the council would be able to decide that during the planning session. Lumm just wanted to make a general statement.

Teall returned to Petersen’s earlier statement about the perception of safety. Novak suggested that if the community perception of safety is high, that would be an indication of success. She pointed out that in national surveys there are certain bellwether questions about safety: Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? Do you feel safe in parks? Do you feel safe in parks during the day? Do you feel safe in parks at night? Certain questions lead you toward an index of a perception of safety, Novak said.

Novak then paused to ask Seto if the Ann Arbor police department currently tracks the amount of officer availability for proactive policing. She went on to explain for councilmembers that this meant the time available to officers after subtracting the time they spent on dispatched calls for service. Seto indicated that right now, police officer activities are tracked – but it’s a manual tracking on a datasheet written using pen and paper. Analyzing that would require quite a bit of effort, he said. However, the department is currently testing an online system. And in January the department will start recording officer activity electronically. That will provide a much easier way of reporting the amount of time available for proactive policy.

Novak suggested to the council that although this data is not available now, over time they’d have it. And that data would provide insight into the council’s perception of the problem. As a group, their perception of the problem is that there are inadequate staffing resources to do proactive, consistent enforcement and committee outreach. “Part 1 crimes are not your worry,” Novak told them, “It’s Part 2 crimes, and it’s the community’s perception of safety that you want to get a handle on.”

After some back and forth by Briere and Hieftje on graffiti and other Part 2 crimes, Novak suggested there were three elements to the success statement: (1) Part 1 crime rates show Ann Arbor is among the safest 20% in the country. (2) The community perception of safety is high. (3) Police officers have between 25-30% of their time available for proactive policing.

That kind of success statement is one for which councilmembers will have the metrics to judge, Novak said. And then the council will know “if, for a fact, the answer is adding cops.”

The public safety priority area wound up with the following problem/success statements (repeated from above):

Public Safety

The public safety area was divided into fire protection and police protection.

Public Safety (Final Version): Fire

What is the problem we are solving? Fire staffing and deployment is not optimized to meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for fire suppression.

What does success look like? Fire station locations, number, and infrastructure are optimized to meet community needs and industry standards within city resources.

Public Safety (Final Version): Police

What is the problem we are solving? There’s inadequate police staffing resources to do proactive and consistent enforcement and community outreach.

What does success look like? The success statement has three parts:

  1. Part 1 crime rates (major crimes) show Ann Arbor is among the safest 20% in the country.
  2. The community perception of safety is high.
  3. Police officers have between 25-30% of their time available for proactive policing.

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  1. By Rod Johnson
    December 17, 2012 at 11:24 am | permalink

    I cant tell you how great it is to get detailed, dispassionate coverage of process as well as product. I feel like I’ve learned so much from reading the Chronicle’s coverage of all kinds of things. Thanks.

  2. December 17, 2012 at 11:42 am | permalink

    This is great so far! Will the Chronicle be reporting in detail on the Council discussions about infrastructure, economic development, and affordable housing? I hope.

  3. By Jack Eaton
    December 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm | permalink

    Thank you for this clear distillation of what must have been a long evening. I think this process of identifying how to prioritize budget issues is very important. Nonetheless, identifying the top five priorities is easy compared to developing a full budget based on order of priority.

    Spending the first million dollars out of an $80 million budget should be relatively easy. The hard questions will arise when deciding how to spend the last million dollars. If the Council pursues an objectives based budgeting process, like zero based budgeting, it can be sure that it is not spending on things or programs that are relatively less important than the things and programs it decides not to afford.

    It is especially refreshing to hear Council members Lumm and Kailasapathy advocate the priorities of their constituents (including public safety). It is disappointing to see Council recognize that infrastructure problems include storm flooding but describe success in terms of only transportation issues (gondolas for the west side?).

  4. December 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm | permalink

    Re: “Will the Chronicle be reporting in detail on the Council discussions about infrastructure, economic development, and affordable housing?”

    I don’t anticipate having time to do that. The whole-group discussion of public safety was by far the most lengthy, and resulted in significant changes from the initial draft to the final version. And I thought it was interesting purely in its discourse dynamic. So in writing up that chunk of the session, I thought it was worth laying out public safety in somewhat gory detail, accepting as a trade-off the consequence that the other discussions wouldn’t be included. Also not included was the process that produced the priority areas, which involved standard sticky notes and “dot voting” mechanisms – also interesting stuff.

  5. December 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm | permalink

    This is a very encouraging start to the new term, and especially to the term in which Steve Powers will be fully guiding the council with regard to the budget. My understanding is that up to now we were just completing the two-year budget solidified by Roger Fraser.

    I have such gray, cold memories of those council retreats held at the Wheeler Center in which Fraser was commanding the council about all the areas to cut. The setting was as glum as his presentation. He attempted and to some extent succeeded in consolidating,reducing, or eliminating many service areas in the city. This attempt to bring the council together as a constructive visionary body is so different and makes me hopeful that they can function as they should – as our leaders.

    Fraser was disrespectful of the council when they tried to get their heads around things like priorities. I remember my shock in 2008 when I attending a meeting where he responded to a council priority session by choosing just one priority of many, one tiny fraction of that priority, and giving a progress report on that one thing. (I don’t remember exactly what it was, but on the order of reducing paperwork by changing work requirements.) This contrasted to me with the priority exercises we went through at the BOC under the aegis of Bob Guenzel, who was respectful of the BOC and produced lengthy staff updates on request. Instead, Council has often been presented with fragmentary decisions based on the immediate need.

    By the very way this retreat was organized, it appears that we are indeed into a new era. One thing – could we please stop having resolutions introduced after agendas have already been posted? Give our councilmembers time to discuss major moves with constituents. Thank you.

  6. December 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm | permalink

    > One thing – could we please stop having resolutions introduced after agendas have already been posted?


  7. By Jack Eaton
    December 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm | permalink

    Re (5) & (6). I agree that Council should limit late additions to the agenda.

    I recently raised this issue with a member of the Council’s agenda committee (before the change in membership). I got the impression that the committee does not have criteria for granting/denying the addition of resolutions to the agenda and that most requests are granted out of polite deference to Council colleagues.

    The agenda committee should set standards for late additions to the meeting agenda. If it’s not on fire, it probably should wait for a subsequent meeting.

  8. December 18, 2012 at 4:26 pm | permalink

    Re: late additions to the agenda

    The council rule governing approval of the agenda (and additions to it) is this one:

    3B – Review of the Draft Agenda
    The City Administrator shall submit the draft agenda and supporting materials to the members of the Council Administration Committee for review and comment 10 days prior to the next Council meeting. Such review and comment shall be made no later than 7 days prior to the next Council meeting. Once reviewed by the Council Administration Committee, no matter from staff shall be placed on the agenda. Council members may add items to the agenda at any time, but will use best efforts to do so prior to the Friday before the next Council meeting.

    So for this type of late addition, it’s not really a matter of polite deference of councilmembers to each other. It’s a matter of city clerk staff implementing the council’s rule. Namely, if they get a request from a councilmember to add an item to the agenda, then they add it. The language about “best efforts” is, of course, not objectively measurable. In fact, some councilmembers understand the rule to mean they should try to have the item added by 5 p.m. Friday — when in fact the rule indicates that it’s “prior to the Friday” i.e., Thursday. In any case, it doesn’t need to be reviewed by the council administration committee.

    At the meeting itself, that’s where polite deference can come in. If a councilmember wants to add an item “from the floor” then this is the rule:

    Matters not on the published agenda may be added at the time of approval of the agenda with the consent of 3/4 of the members present. …

    In the last few months there’s been a couple occasions where a resolution has been added at the meeting. E.g., The resolution on suspending funding for public art projects was added to the council’s Nov. 19, 2012 agenda at the meeting itself. Jane Lumm voted against that addition to the agenda. And before that, the public art millage was added to the Aug. 9, 2012 agenda at the meeting itself. Properly, I think there should have been a vote on adding the item, and then on the entire agenda; but the vote on adding the item wasn’t taken separately, and the council approved the agenda, with the additional item, on a unanimous voice vote.

    So, up until Monday afternoon of a meeting day, the “late” additions (that is, after Thursday the week before) can be attributed to specific councilmembers who exercise their individual rights under the council rule. At the meeting itself, the late additions can be attributed to the council as a body, which could simply vote against adding the items.

    For councilmembers, the polite deference at play here is tinged with some political practicality. If you stake out a zero-tolerance position on late additions to the agenda, it could make it tougher when you find yourself wanting to add something late to the agenda yourself.

    Perhaps we can grant that there might be some rare occasions on which adding an item at the meeting itself – as opposed to waiting until the next meeting – is ultimately in the public interest. Still, I think it’s worth thinking through how that can best be handled to ensure accessibility to the meeting by the viewing public. If an item is added during the meeting itself, I think it would be suitable to recess the meeting for 15 minutes, timed from the point at which printed copies of the item are distributed to the council chambers audience, and the text is available online, whichever is later. That would allow people a chance to digest whatever it is that the council is considering. And it’s consistent with the council rule that “Every resolution and ordinance shall be in writing.” Currently, for agenda items added at a meeting, councilmembers achieve compliance with the “in writing” rule by using email, which is, of course, not accessible to the public.

  9. December 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm | permalink

    I wouldn’t even mind if certain types of resolutions were added – small-bore fixits or symbolic statements, or even emergency items (which would presumably come from staff).

    What I resent is when big-impact items like the last-minute Fuller Road Station funding item, which included a call for a future public referendum, are added with only a day or so to respond. Since there is no public alert system to notify interested public of such late additions, it behooves us to check the agenda constantly to make sure no bombs have been added.

  10. By liberalnimby
    December 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm | permalink

    Excellent reporting as usual, thank you!

    My perception is that two councilmembers (from the same ward) were able to torpedo both the police and fire “success metrics” by insisting that the phrases “community perception of safety” and meeting “community needs” (as distinctly separate from measurable standards) be included.

    Was there discussion about exactly how “community perception of safety” or “community needs” for fire safety (vs. actual standards) shall be measured? If so, I’d be interested in hearing how. Are they proposing to fund a random phone survey of residents to measure “comfort” in these variables?

    My Spidey senses are telling me that these wishy-washy terms will be deployed in the near future to attempt to deliver on fiscally unsound campaign promises. Unless there’s a plan, I’m a bit disappointed that the moderator allowed a sign-off on these unmeasurable metrics.

  11. By Steve Bean
    January 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm | permalink

    “Create tax revenue separate from the University of Michigan, and the need to further increase and diversify private sector employment in the local economy.”

    “1. Creating diverse employment opportunities in various fields and industries.”

    This is absolutely not the job of local government, let alone its highest priority. We apparently don’t have anyone–not a single council member–who understands that, and our residents will suffer for it unless that changes very soon.