Comments on: DDA Ramps Up PR After First Council Vote it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Wed, 10 Apr 2013 20:23:13 +0000 Regarding dedicated millages, there is now a package of bills in the House designed to hold harmless the millages for the DIA and the Detroit Zoo. [link to .pdf]

The applicability to Ann Arbor is absent, but the precedent is interesting.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Tue, 09 Apr 2013 22:04:37 +0000 As policy, tax capture is bad, period.

1) Tax captured funds are pre-budgeted; i.e. tax capture does not require DDA projects to compete with all other city projects/operations for its funds. The uses proposed for captured funds will not go through the same level of public scrutiny and accountability to which non-captured, traditionally budgeted tax revenues are subjected. This guarantees that the captured funds are not going to their highest and best use,

2) As noted, re-directing dedicated millages at BEST undermines the integrity/credibility of local governments (e.g. people voted to fund parks, not the DDA). With tax capture, we cannot trust that taxes we pay for specific uses will, in fact be used for the things that we were told they would fund when we voted to pay these taxes; at worst, it undermines the integrity/credibility of local government, AND breaks the law, to boot.

The argument that “Since the legislature passed it, tax capture must be both good and legal” (actually used by Carsten Hohnke in our campaigns) is neither here nor there: If the legislature voted to allow people to put forks in their eyes, that would not make it good policy; if the legislature voted to mandate separate drinking fountains for blacks, that would not make it legal (BTW, PLEASE no one mention that putting a fork in your eye IS legal – apparently it might give ol’ “Blinky” Hohnke – and his remaining council allies – some bad ideas…)

3) It may be that the AA District Library board, e.g., thinks that the DDA can use captured library millage funds in support of the library’s mission better than the library board itself can use them. Fine. Let the library board appropriate its funds to the DDA through the board’s regular budgeting process. Using the library’s normal appropriation process – with individual members voting for or against – provides at least a patina of legitimacy to the transfer of funds to the DDA. Of course, an actual DDA millage would have ACTUAL legitimacy not conferred by the current back-door process.

The DDA’s functions may be needed or not needed – and may or may not need to be out from under the authority of the City Manager – but this funding mechanism is illegitimate, breeding cynicism about local government.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Tue, 09 Apr 2013 21:21:47 +0000 Jack,

Are you suggesting that there could have been some other reason for not reappointing Eppie?

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Tue, 09 Apr 2013 18:15:22 +0000 There are no term limits for Planning Commission listed in the City Code.
“1:175. – Planning commission—Membership.

The planning commission shall consist of 9 members who shall be appointed by the mayor with the approval of the council. One member so appointed shall be a member of the council. In making appointments of members of the planning commission, the mayor shall appoint persons who, insofar as possible, represent different professions and occupations having an interest in the growth and development of the city. The term of office of each member of the planning commission, except the councilman member, shall be 3 years. The councilman member shall be appointed for a 1-year term. The terms of office of members of the commission shall begin on the first day of July nearest the date of their appointment. The terms of office of the first planning commission appointed hereunder shall be fixed by the mayor so that the terms of 3 members, including the councilman, will be for 1 year, 3 for 2 years, and 3 for 3 years. The councilman member shall cease to be a member of the commission if he ceases to be a member of the council. Members of the planning commission shall serve without compensation.”

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Tue, 09 Apr 2013 17:42:39 +0000 Re (17) I based my statement about term limits for Planning Commission on remarks made when Ethel Potts was not reappointed to the Planning Commission. While there may not be a formal rule in the Planning Commission’s by-laws, I recall that Ms. Potts was not reappointed because she had served as many terms as were permitted.

It would be sad to learn that Ms. Potts was not reappointed to Planning Commission for some reason other than term limits. She brought so much institutional memory to that body, as well as just good old common sense.

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Tue, 09 Apr 2013 17:22:42 +0000 Re:#15. Although not all boards and commissions are listed in the ordinances, those I have been able to track – with term limits – are the Greenbelt Advisory Board and the Parks Advisory Commission. Planning Commission does not have term limits, for instance. Neither do the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Public Art Commission, the Environmental Commission, the Design Review Board – or a slew of other boards and commissions not enshrined under Title I, Chapter 8 of the City Code.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Tue, 09 Apr 2013 17:14:04 +0000 Here is a recent report by the Citizens Research Council about tax increment financing in Michigan. [link] It has much basic information about DDAs and other TIF authorities in Michigan and their legal underpinnings.

It also takes the question of dedicated millages and these authorities head-on. The article was evidently inspired by concern about the loss of revenues from a voter-approved dedicated millage to support the Detroit Zoo. A number of TIF authorities have claimed that income.

Some may not realize that our DDA also captures the income from dedicated millages within its district. So among others, they capture the roads, parks, Greenbelt, and AATA millages.

The article points out that capture of dedicated millages is different from capture of operating funds, and questions its constitutionality.

Like so many other issues, this one is complex. I hope that Council begins by implementing those very modest reforms proposed. As Dave Askins says, it shouldn’t be about whether the DDA is “bad”, but about what policy is good.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Tue, 09 Apr 2013 16:00:27 +0000 Re (13) Thanks Dave, that needed to be said. The Kunselman/Kailasapathy resolution is not an attack on the DDA. It is a few small modifications to the governing ordinance.

The resolution will not reduce the DDA’s revenues, when compared to its current revenues. It will only restrict how quickly the revenues can increase. More important, it seeks to clarify ordinance language that I think we can all agree is less than clear now.

The restrictions on DDA Board terms is also a moderate change. Other important commissions have similar term limits, such as the Planning Commission and the Parks Advisory Commission. I think allowing DDA Board members serve for up to 8 years provides a level of stability and continuity. At the same time, limiting the Board members to those two terms means that the DDA will be perceived as an entity, rather than an unchanging collection of personalities.

Dave’s comment that the DDA would win a referendum if put to a vote, presents an interesting question. Recently, we have seen downtown-centric ballot issues, such as the library bond and arts millage, go down in defeat. I wonder whether all of the tax paying residents of neighborhoods that are not near the downtown really appreciate the level of spending and importance our leaders place on the downtown. A ballot issue that presented the question of diverting taxes revenues from cash strapped governmental entities for the use of the DDA could easily go either way.

By: Dave Cahill Dave Cahill Tue, 09 Apr 2013 14:03:43 +0000 Also, it’s not correct that ordinances are “written in stone”. If the proposed new ordinance passes, and if someone discovers a problem a week after its passage, an amendment to that new ordinance can be in effect within a month or so.

Amending ordinances is not rocket science. It’s not even computer science.

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Tue, 09 Apr 2013 01:10:09 +0000 Observatory,

Consider this. To weigh in on the specific ordinance amendments regulating tax capture – calculations that I’ve argued for two years are in fact the correct interpretation of the existing ordinance language – does not require any point of view on the merits of the Ann Arbor DDA or the quality of the people employed by the Ann Arbor DDA.

But it seems to me that you’re translating the specific policy issue on tax calculations into a referendum on the merit of DDAs generally, or on the Ann Arbor DDA specifically, and perhaps on those who serve on the board and are employed as staff of the DDA.

Frankly, I think that the Ann Arbor DDA, Leah Gunn, and Susan Pollay would win that referendum. So if the issue of the correct TIF calculations is cast in terms of that referendum, then the ordinance revisions lose. And that would be disappointing, in my view.

I think if the ordinance revisions are considered as an attempt to clarify the calculations – in a way that harmonizes all of the terms of the existing ordinance language and factors in the historical context of the DDA’s formation – then the only rational course (all due respect to the DDA’s legal counsel) is to adopt the ordinance revisions on tax calculations.

If you make the conversation one about the merit of DDAs generally, or about the people associated with the Ann Arbor DDA, then it decreases the chance that the tax calculations will be decided on a rational basis.

For a councilmember who might be on the fence, I don’t think it tilts them to a yes vote on the ordinance amendments to argue: The DDA is terrible, so screw them. I think what might persuade a councilmember who has not yet closed their mind on the issue is to point out how the existing words on the page lead to the unavoidable conclusion that the calculations as currently laid out in the ordinance: (1) regulate TIF revenue, as opposed to defining the way surplus should divided after the DDA satisfies debt obligations; and (2) can be rationally based only on the “cumulative” method.