The Ann Arbor Chronicle » 3-Site Plan it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 DDA: Dogged Enough for Development? Fri, 24 Sep 2010 13:52:54 +0000 Dave Askins At a three-hour retreat Wednesday morning, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board met to discuss ongoing negotiations about the city-DDA parking agreement. The DDA manages the city’s parking system under an agreement last amended in 2005, which provides for a total payment of $10 million in rent through 2015. This May, the DDA agreed to make an additional $2 million not required by that contract.


During the retreat, DDA board members marked up a poster-sized version of the DDA enabling legislation using a pink highlighter, undeniably a funky color. (Photo by the writer.)

Wednesday morning’s retreat was meant to focus on the role of the DDA in future development of the downtown area and the role of the DDA in parking enforcement.

The outcome of the retreat was essentially that the DDA is interested in cleaning up various aspects of the parking agreement language, but not in pursuing a role for the DDA in the enforcement of parking regulations. Further, greater support was expressed for the DDA as a facilitator of process, rather than as a driver of development through land acquisition and sale.

Wednesday’s retreat was the third one of the year for the board. Two of them have focused specifically on a revision to the city-DDA parking agreement to provide for additional payments to the city by the DDA.

The board retreat in May of this year had been convened as the board’s “mutually beneficial” committee (MBC) prepared to begin negotiations with the city based on a term sheet with four key elements: (i) a role for the DDA in enforcement of parking regulations, (ii) a role for the DDA in enforcement of non-parking code violations, (iii) provision of services in the downtown area by the DDA for the city, and (iv) a role for the DDA as a development engine for downtown city-owned surface parking lots. [For Chronicle coverage of the May retreat, see: "Ann Arbor DDA: Let's Do Development"]

Now that the two committees have met several times through the summer, the DDA board decided at its Sept. 1 meeting to convene another retreat to give its committee some additional direction as the negotiations grind towards an Oct. 31, 2010 target for a completed new parking agreement. In the course of the summer meetings, elements (ii) and (iii) – non-parking code violations and provision of downtown services by the DDA – have dropped out of active discussion.

And a role for the DDA in parking enforcement seemed to have been pushed nearly off the table at the second joint meeting of the committees in August [See Chronicle coverage: "DDA Parking Enforcement Prospects Dim"]. But from the point of view of its technical feasibility, DDA parking enforcement was resuscitated as a possibility at the first committee meeting in September.

The part of the summer talks that had seemed to resonate most among DDA board members and city council members on the two committees was this: The DDA would take greater responsibility than it currently has for the development of city-owned downtown surface parking lots. [The most recent Chronicle coverage of those talks: "DDA-City Development Ideas"]

Based on discussion at the August partnerships committee meeting of the DDA and the DDA’s Sept. 1 meeting, there was interest among DDA board members in exploring land purchase – which would need approval by the city council – as one mechanism for the DDA to execute a development strategy. That strategy would depend on a process that would build on work done in the community over the last half decade. [.pdf of the current proposal for a DDA-led process]

But Wednesday morning, board member Gary Boren summarized for his colleagues his view of the way the negotiations over the summer had progressed. He drew a comparison to the early days of the League of Nations, when some negotiations had been described as appearing from the outside as if very little was happening – but when you scratched the surface, you saw that absolutely nothing was happening.

How Was The League of Nations Like the DDA?

At Wednesday’s retreat, DDA board member Gary Boren introduced the reference to the League of Nations reluctantly, he said. It came in the context of the DDA’s MBC members’ initial report out to the whole board on how the city-DDA negotiations had progressed. Boren is a member of the DDA’s MBC.

The Chronicle tracked down the specific reference Boren likely meant in a March 7, 2003 volume of the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record reports the remarks of Senator Warren Hatch, who quoted Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, who cited a reporter’s summary [emphasis added]:

Will the United Nations prove as feckless as the League of Nations? Mr. Chairman, in 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. The League of Nations took note of this challenge to international order. Day after day, week after week, the League deliberated what to do. These sessions went on endlessly. After each session, there was a press conference. After some weeks, one of the reporters summarized the situation as follows: “On the surface, very little is happening – but beneath the surface, nothing is happening.

As the chuckles from fellow board members faded, Boren stated that he was disappointed with the progress of the city-DDA talks. He noted that most recently, the talks had focused more on the idea of the DDA serving as a development engine for the downtown. He acknowledged that Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) – members of the city’s MBC – had indicated they are receptive to the idea. He wondered, however, how significant the DDA’s role would be: Would it simply be “window dressing” or would it provide the DDA with “significant development muscle”?

DDA’s Development Role

Woven throughout the discussion at the retreat were different attitudes about what is meant by the word “development” in the DDA’s middle name and what specific role the DDA should play in that. On one end of the spectrum was a view – espoused by board member Newcombe Clark – that is focused on the development of real estate, and sees the DDA as the entity to manage that development through the acquisition and sale of real property.

In their discussion at the retreat, board members acknowledged the political dimension to the nature of downtown development in Ann Arbor, and based on that consideration, seemed reluctant to given their support to the strong version of the DDA’s role envisioned by Clark. They were, however, content to let the DDA “take the heat” and “provide political cover” for elected officials to absorb some of the community criticism that could arise against specific proposals.

At the other end of the spectrum discussed by the board was a somewhat broader definition of “development” than development of real estate, extending to include “economic development.” This was a view espoused most energetically by board member John Mouat.

In the end, there seemed to be a consensus that the role for the DDA in development would be described best with words like “facilitate” and “assist,” not “manage,” “drive,” “oversee,” “control” – and especially not “commandeer.”

DDA’s Development Role: Significant Muscle

Advocating most specifically for the idea that the DDA should have a role in downtown development with significant muscle was Newcombe Clark. His enthusiasm was clear for the idea that the DDA should include not just city-owned surface lots in its downtown development strategy, but also lots owned by other parties – the county, for example.

Clark described how the DDA needed a willing seller of land to demonstrate that it is competent to develop real estate. Part of convincing the city of Ann Arbor to be a willing seller – which could provide a “clean and legal way” for the DDA to funnel money to the city of Ann Arbor’s general fund – could be a demonstration of the DDA’s competence with other parcels, he suggested.

Clark asked his fellow board members to consider a hypothetical situation where Google decides that in order to maintain its presence in Ann Arbor, it needs a new building. If the DDA had a few surface parking lots under its control, it might have the flexibility to solve that specific problem, he suggested. In the interim, those surface parking lots would continue to generate some revenue.

Another specific kind of suggestion mentioned by Clark is essentially now out of play – because the dirt currently being excavated for the underground parking structure is, according to Clark, being sold to a fill dirt broker. The idea, Clark said, was to look at the former MichCon property north of the Broadway bridges and use the excavated dirt as part of the environmental cleanup that would be required before that property can be developed.

Sandi Smith, who serves on the city council as well as the DDA board, stated that she did not think the DDA needed to focus on purchasing land, but rather more on mapping out the downtown critical assets and helping to broker properties. She stated that she was comfortable with the DDA as a “facilitator of process.” She said she was “less comfortable with the DDA commandeering a site and putting out an RFP,” referring to a request for proposals.

Smith did draw out the fact that the sale of public land within the DDA district – with zero taxes currently collected – meant that after a transfer of ownership and taxes began to be assessed, all the city taxes on the property would be captured through the DDA’s TIF – all other things being equal. However, it was pointed out that an adjustment in the amount of future TIF capture could be made a condition of the sale – lest the city of Ann Arbor be concerned that the only benefit to the transaction would be the sale price, with future taxes simply padding the DDA’s TIF.

Mayor John Hieftje, who serves on the DDA board, indicated that he did not imagine the city council would agree to sell land to the DDA. Roger Hewitt also said he didn’t see the city council selling public land without knowing what’s going to go there.

Russ Collins, for his part, noted that there was virtue in the DDA’s ownership of the land as a way to overcome political obstacles.

DDA’s Development Role: Impact of Politics

As the board discussed the role of the DDA in development – whether it is “community development” or “economic development” or “real estate development” – John Mouat characterized most of the board as “somewhat pro-development,” but noted that a lot of people in the community don’t feel that way. Things don’t always work very well for developers, he said.

Current board chair Joan Lowenstein asked how the political roadblocks could be avoided that the DDA had experienced in the past. Although Lowenstein did not cite the 3-Site Plan specifically as an example of that, Russ Collins did bring it up. Regarding the DDA’s  3-Site Plan, Collins noted that it was stopped by a political process.

By way of background, 3-Site Plan was a 2005 effort to develop city surface parking lots, including lots at First & William, First & Washington and the Kline’s lot – on the east side of Ashley Street, between William and Liberty. The concept underpinning of the 3-Site Plan was that parking could be decoupled from development – build a parking structure at First & William and free up the other two sites for development without the constraint of building on-site parking.

The 3-Site Plan was never voted on by the city council. The site at First & William provoked controversy that continued through most of 2005 when supporters of an Allen Creek greenway objected to the use of that parcel for a parking deck.

The political process to which Collins alluded was one that saw city councilmembers declining to put the 3-Site Plan on their meeting agenda for a vote in early 2005, just after the city-DDA parking agreement was signed. DDA board members at the time apparently believed, based on information they received from city councilmembers, that there were sufficient votes on the council early in 2005 to approve the 3-Site Plan. But councilmembers apparently wanted additional time to lobby to ensure that the vote was more decisive than 6-5 on the 11-member body.

Later in Wednesday morning’s discussion, Newcombe Clark said the DDA needed to be able to “take the heat” and that if they “freak out because we don’t have complete unanimity, then we don’t move forward.”

Russ Collins suggested that in connection with the Delonis Center – the homeless shelter on Huron Street which was spearheaded by the county – Bob Guenzel could attest to the fact that not all projects have unanimous support from start to finish. [Guenzel, the recently retired former Washtenaw County administrator, was appointed and confirmed by the city council last month as the DDA board's newest member. He replaced Jennifer S. Hall on the board.]

Guenzel weighed in just once during the 3-hour meeting, saying that he thought the proposed plan for a development process the two MBCs were exploring showed “tremendous vision” and stressed the importance of identifying both the available properties as well as the need for land and building space. The question, he said, was whether the process was good enough that the city council will approve it – there has to be a partnership with the city, he concluded, where the city has “buy in.”

Joan Lowenstein suggested that a long-term strategy can’t rest purely on city councilmembers, because they serve two-year terms. Roger Hewitt suggested that the development of a long-term strategy could only emerge incrementally – the DDA could not go off and work “in a cave somewhere” isolated from everything, and then bring forth some proposal.

For his part, mayor John Hieftje said at the retreat that whether there is public support for a project depends on what you try to do. In Ann Arbor, he said, the public has a strong voice. If a project is perceived as a benefit, then support is “cut and dry.” On the other hand, if the public perceives a project as planned to be “big and ugly,” then the developer needn’t bother.

Hieftje also said that elected officials tend to hear from a very narrow segment of residents – the council hears from the same individuals over and over. He implied a contrast between those individuals and the general public, by posing as a question: How do we educate the general public about what we’re doing?

Leah Gunn appeared to concur with Hieftje’s assessment of the public’s voice, saying that from her experience most public enthusiasm tends to be against something as opposed to for something. But she noted that Hieftje’s support among voters is obvious. [He outpolled Democratic primary challenger Patricia Lesko in August by an 84% to 16% margin.] It’s a noisy, loud crowd, she said, but does not represent the vast majority of people.

Board member Newcombe Clark – who is running independently for the Ward 5 city council seat currently held by Democrat Carsten Hohnke, and is joined in that race by Republican John Floyd – responded to Gunn and Hieftje’s remarks by asking: “Why let a vocal minority hold back a city of over 100,000 people?” Later in the discussion, Hieftje characterized Clark’s sentiments as a call to “ignore the public,” which Clark said was an attempt by the mayor to put words in his mouth. Clark did eventually say that he did ignore those people who always say no and never offer any alternative.

Hieftje indicated that he did not believe that city councilmembers base decisions on whether they’ll be re-elected or not, but rather based them on the interest of the whole public, including everyone. Clark attempted to counter that idea based on the fact that the DDA’s recommendations on the A2D2 rezoning plan had not been incorporated in the package that the city council approved last year.

DDA’s Development Role: Facilitator of Economic Development

Fitting into the idea of economic development was Clark’s allusion to the hypothetical example of the DDA helping retain Google by being in a position to develop specific real estate parcels. But other board members seemed to indicate an interest in seeing the DDA pursue economic development through means other than construction of new buildings. “‘Development’ is a tricky word,” said John Mouat, “There’s building buildings, and then there’s economic development.”

Keith Orr suggested that one role the DDA could play would be to provide “political cover” as well as help to market a development strategy. There seemed to be a general consensus that the DDA would be the “point of the spear” without necessarily being in control of the spear’s handle.

Sandi Smith indicated that the DDA’s role might not be to control, but rather to facilitate. The DDA role would not be to find companies and attract them to Ann Arbor – that’s more the role of Ann Arbor SPARK – but rather to facilitate or broker existing properties. As part of developing a more comprehensive vision, instead of a one-parcel-at-a-time approach, she suggested grouping various of the city-owned lots into “zones.”

Mouat, for his part, was not telling his fellow board members anything they hadn’t already heard about his view of the DDA’s role in economic development. At the board’s May retreat, Mouat had this to say:

Mouat suggested that they marshal their energies in the area of “economic development” – attracting businesses, attracting the next Google, and other start-up companies. Mouat said he felt like it would be a more exciting and palatable way to approach development. The vision should go beyond a building being built. A developer putting up a building on speculation had not been very successful in Ann Arbor. He suggested banding together with SPARK – the area’s economic development agency – and other organizations and figuring out what niche the DDA might fill in that world. …  he didn’t think it was as simple as growing the TIF or just economic development. It had to do with vibrancy and attracting young people and making Ann Arbor the best place it can be – a cool downtown, he said.

DDA’s Development Role: Coda – Big Dogs, Small Dogs … Funky Dogs

Commenting on some of the political issues involved with development in Ann Arbor, Russ Collins cited a marketing phrase used by the nonprofit Think Local First: “Keep Ann Arbor Funky.” He suggested that typically it was meant indicate that Ann Arbor was unique, creative, new and eccentric. But he noted that it also carried with it the meaning of being “just a little dysfunctional.” Sandi Smith chimed in that a third, additional meaning could be “It’s perfect the way it is.”

Although it did not occupy much of the discussion, the impact that the University of Michigan plays in the community did make mention. John Mouat reminded his colleagues that the DDA was a “little dog” compared to the city, which is a “medium dog.” The “big dog,” he said, is the university. Joan Lowenstein acknowledged that UM needs to be involved in the process, citing the previous participation of people like Doug Kelbaugh and Robert Beckley, both former deans of UM’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

The Parking Enforcement Part of The Contract

At the retreat, there seemed to be little enthusiasm to pursue a role for the DDA in parking enforcement. At the most recent MBC meeting, fresh statistics had been made available on the revenue generated by parking tickets. From Chronicle coverage of the Sept. 13 meeting:

The five-year trend for monthly tickets issued is decidedly downward. Almost five years ago, 11,000 tickets were issued in a month, but in the last year around 6,000 tickets have been issued per month. In the most recent month for which data was available at the meeting, January 2010, only 4,647 tickets were issued. Fewer tickets means less revenue: In FY 2006 around $2.1 million was collected in parking ticket revenue, but in FY 2010 that fell to around $1.1 million. Commented Russ Collins: “It’s hard to see the business case for the DDA taking this over.” However, Sue McCormick indicated that the lower numbers are due in part to lower staffing levels for community standards officers, who write parking tickets. The city currently has two community standards vacancies, she said.

And at Wednesday’s retreat, Collins’ skepticism about the business case for the DDA was shared by others. Leah Gunn talked about a vision of Ann Arbor with no parking tickets. Joan Lowenstein and Roger Hewitt seemed persuaded that advances in parking technology – sensors embedded in pavement and the like – would mean that parking policies would be driven by that technology.

Keith Orr, whose biography includes a chapter as a computer programmer, cautioned that assuming technology is the answer is often a mistake – it changes the nature of work, but it doesn’t eliminate the work. Orr, however, noted that from his perspective [not sitting on the DDA's MBC], there appeared to be little movement during the MBC talks on the part of the city towards embracing the idea of the DDA taking a role in enforcement.

Collins advised that it was not a matter of movement, but rather that they’d learned that for the DDA to be involved in enforcement of parking regulations, it would be “very complicated.” In that case, said Orr, it did not make sense to continue “butting our heads against the wall.” There seemed to be more excitement, said Orr, about being a development authority than being a parking authority.

Newcombe Clark cautioned that if the DDA walked away from trying to take a role in the enforcement of parking because it’s complicated, then he wanted them to understand that developing real estate was much “deeper and murkier” and complicated than the enforcement of parking regulations.

At Wednesday’s retreat, John Hieftje expressed the same view that he’d expressed at a July 6, 2010 city council working session [Hieftje, as mayor, serves on the DDA board as provided in the enabling state legislation]:

Mayor  John Hieftje expressed concern that they were starting to talk about two different enforcement entities operating in the downtown area. He said that based on conversations with the deputy police chief, he thought it would be much easier to train the current community standards officers who do parking enforcement to implement enforcement in the specific ways that the DDA had in mind – to make them “ambassadors” for the downtown. He said that it made sense to invest in training the people we already have.

Based on the declining number of citations and the declining number of tickets issue, there seemed to be little enthusiasm in the room for the DDA to take over enforcement of parking regulations.

Board member John Splitt asked Susan Pollay, the DDA’s executive director, if there was any benefit to formalizing some kind of customer-service arrangement with respect to parking enforcement and other code violations between the city and the DDA. Pollay indicated that when the city retains all authority, they are at the center of all the contracts.

As an example, Pollay cited the arrangement the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has with the Ann Arbor police department for a patrol officer to monitor the Blake Transit Center downtown. The officer can be pulled off that duty by the city for a number of different reasons, Pollay said.

Pollay stressed that it’s not just a matter of having a friendlier person enforce the parking but rather a matter of having an overall parking strategy. As an example, she noted that when the DDA first moved its offices to the 303 Detroit St. Market Place building in Kerrytown, they heard from fellow tenants that one of the “perks” was free parking at the nearby Farmers Market. Pollay said that apparently there’d been complaints from people who’d received tickets and that there were issues with finding spaces for Farmers Market vendors to park. The outcome was that parking was not enforced in the area, she said – no one was managing the parking enforcement strategy. She concluded that it was not about having “a nicer person” hand out the tickets.

Hewitt indicated agreement with the idea that the DDA would not pursue a role in parking enforcement. Instead, the city’s community standards officers would be trained to implement a customer-friendlier approach, and to be the eyes and ears on the street. Still, Hewitt expressed skepticism about Hieftje’s idea that city staff can be retrained to get the same result – if someone is not reporting directly to you, you don’t get  the same level of customer service, said Hewitt.

Lowenstein summarized that the MBC would continue to work on clarifying the parking agreement – without including the idea of the DDA taking on enforcement of parking regulations.

The Contractual Part of the Contract

Among the items that need to be cleaned up in the parking agreement are topics like the actual amount of money the DDA will pay in rent for the city-owned parking facilities. All the specific points that need to be addressed were summarized in a one-page document, which DDA executive director Susan Pollay distributed at the retreat [.pdf file of the one-page document].

Among them:

By contract the DDA is to provide the City with $1 Million/year in “rent” for an exact number of parking spaces in the City Hall lot, Farmers Market lot, 4th & Catherine lot, Palio lot and 1st & William parking lot. Yet the City eliminated the City Hall lot and approved a change to the Farmers Market lot that would reduce the number of spaces. Should the “rent” be determined by some other means than parking lot spaces?

Referencing the list of suggested edits to the parking agreement, Newcombe Clark stated, “To be blunt, these are all mostly molestations of the current contract.” He continued, “These are symptoms of a problem.” Turning to the attorneys in the room, Clark asked: “How do you stop people from violating a contract?” Russ Collins and Gary Boren seemed to suggest it was a matter of asserting the fact of the contract: “We say we have a contract!”

By way of historical background, the DDA has not done that. DDA executive director Susan Pollay related at a July 2010 MBC meeting how the DDA had handled an apparent violation of the parking agreement by the city, when the city decided to install parking meters outside the DDA district. From Chronicle coverage of that meeting:

In early 2009, when the city staff elected to pursue a strategy of installing parking meters in residential areas outside the DDA district, that was not consistent with the contractual language of the city-DDA parking agreement, Pollay said. Revenues from the parking meters in “the city’s parking system” are, per the contract, supposed to be received by the DDA. Given that the city was looking for ways to make up revenue shortfalls for the FY 2010 budget at the time, Pollay said that the DDA weighed whether or not to “make a stink.” Instead of challenging the city’s move based on the contract, Pollay said, they’d expressed their skepticism that the additional meters would actually generate the kind of revenue that the city was hoping for.

Responding to Pollay’s description at that same meeting, Carsten Hohnke, who serves on the city’s MBC, characterized the lapse as “institutional amnesia.” From The Chronicle’s coverage of that meeting:

Hohnke alluded to some of Pollay’s previous remarks about topics that the current agreement already addressed but that had not been treated by the city as contractual obligations. Those had been instances of “institutional amnesia,” he said. The new agreement needs to reinforce what was covered in the original 2002 agreement as a contract, he said – the parking system.

With respect to the idea of a contract between the city and the DDA, Boren said at Wednesday’s retreat: “I don’t think there’s a sense of mutuality.” Various board members suggested that it was a matter of a cultural difference between the DDA and the city.

DDA board chair Joan Lowenstein ventured that such a cultural difference would not be solved during the retreat.

At the DDA’s May 5, 2010 meeting, when the board authorized a $2 million payment to the city beyond what the current parking agreement required, Lowenstein had expressed frustration at the view of the DDA as separate from the city:

Lowenstein said she found it distressing to hear the kind of “us and them” discussion. It’s not us and the city but rather it’s all the city.

The idea that “it’s all the city” has been attested during the MBC summer negotiations. At Wednesday’s retreat, Boren recalled an exchange with Christopher Taylor – who serves on the city council’s MBC – at one of the early MBC meetings. In that exchange, Boren had stated the need to get something for the $2 million the DDA had voted to allocate to the city. [Both Taylor and Boren are attorneys.] Taylor’s response, reported by Boren at the retreat, was to ask Boren: “Is there an element of corporatism here?”

That, said Boren, seemed to be an unwitting acknowledgment on Taylor’s part about how the city’s representatives see the DDA: “I don’t believe they understand that we’re an independent entity. It’s a function of the people here and who the mayor – appropriately – appoints.” Continued Boren,”It has to do with who they think we are and who we think we are.”

The assumption on the DDA’s part that the DDA is a separate corporation [as specified in the state enabling legislation for DDAs] with whom the city can negotiate a binding contract has been made explicit during the MBC summer talks. From The Chronicle’s report on the talks as they had unfolded through late July ["City-DDA Parking Talks Gain Tempo"]:

[Roger] Hewitt weighed in on the contractual aspect of the agreement by saying that if the view of the city was that the DDA was merely an arm of the city, as opposed to an entity that could enter into contracts with the city, then the committees were wasting their time.

At Wednesday’s retreat, Newcombe Clark stated that he did not care if the city wanted to simply take the money from the DDA, but that his concern was that the DDA – by extending additional payments to the city beyond what’s required by the existing contract – was effectively trying to create a contract with no financial consideration. Otherwise put, in order to make a contract legal and binding, there needs to be some “consideration,” something of some value, that one party offers to the other in exchange for money.

Clark’s attempts to find ways to establish consideration have received relatively little traction with the board: (i) purchasing land; (ii) funding downtown police patrols; (iii) sunsetting the DDA’s obligations in the Village Green City Apartments development at First & Washington; (iv) waiving the DDA bond fees it must pay when bonding using the city’s full faith and credit.

Based on remarks by Roger Hewitt at Wednesday’s retreat, any needed consideration might be achieved by extending the length of the contract.

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DDA to Tie $2 Million to Public Process Thu, 29 Apr 2010 14:31:38 +0000 Dave Askins At their Wednesday morning meeting, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee decided to recommend to the full board that the DDA pay the city of Ann Arbor $2 million. The payment is not legally required of the DDA under terms of an existing parking agreement that was struck in 2005.

A draft of the resolution with the recommendation was to be sent to all board members for review late Wednesday. If the full DDA board approves the resolution at its next meeting on May 5, city councilmembers who are up for re-election this year may not have to campaign under the shadow of police and firefighter layoffs. The $2 million from the DDA would allow the city council some flexibility in amending the FY 2011 city budget, before it is adopted at the council’s second meeting in May. That budget was formally introduced at the council’s April 19 meeting and showed a roughly $1.5 million deficit. It also included some police and firefighter layoffs.

But how much of the $2 million will be put towards avoiding layoffs versus offsetting the deficit is far from clear. Two city councilmembers attended the DDA operations committee meeting: Sandi Smith, who also serves on the DDA board; and Margie Teall, who serves on the council’s sub-committee appointed for the purpose of renegotiating the parking agreement between the city and the DDA. Last year, the city council and the DDA board each appointed a committee for the purpose of renegotiating that agreement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Smith said it was not certain whether layoffs could be avoided with the $2 million payment or if so, how many could be avoided. Smith’s contention that there was no guarantee the $2 million would avert layoffs came in response to one of several sharp questions put to his fellow DDA board members by Newcombe Clark. Clark began the discussion by asking if the $2 million was tied to anything.

In the course of the discussion, it was made clear that the $2 million would be tied neither to a promise of no layoffs at the city, nor made contingent in any way on specific progress towards a renegotiation of the parking agreement between the DDA and the city.  It would also not be tied to the implementation of any part of a “term sheet” that will form the basis of the city-DDA discussions in the coming months.

Key aspects of that “term sheet” are the idea that regular payments will be made to the city, that the DDA will assume some responsibility for parking enforcement, and that the city will be “held harmless” in any revenue loss associated with cessation of its enforcement activities.

But by the end of the discussion, Clark had eked out a victory of sorts: a provision in the draft resolution that ties the $2 million to a public process, from this point forward, for the city-DDA negotiations. They have been going on a few months now out of public view. In that regard, the resolution can be fairly be analyzed as a fresh commitment to the committee structure, with its associated expectations of public process, that the two bodies had already adopted, but not implemented for discussing the parking agreement.

Background: The Parking Agreement of 2005

We begin with the basic background on the parking agreement between the city and the DDA, which was a $10 million deal struck in 2005, extending through 2015. It’s that deal that underpins the current discussion on the $2 million payment the DDA is now contemplating.

Since 1992, the DDA has administered the city’s parking system on properties owned or leased by the city of Ann Arbor. Set to expire in 2012, the agreement was extended in 2005 through 2015 – in light of the financial challenges the city faced in that year – to provide additional revenue to the city. In broad strokes, it was a $1 million-per-year deal, with the added wrinkle that the city could request up to $2 million from the DDA in any given year, provided the total over 10 years did not exceed $10 million. From the DDA board’s 2005 resolution:

Whereas, The City is facing a funding crisis and has asked the DDA to significantly increase its payments under this Agreement in order to help the City address this crisis;
Whereas, The City and the DDA agree that the DDA can afford this increase only if the City and DDA cooperate to increase revenues into the DDA;
Whereas, Both the City and the DDA agree that the DDA is a separate governmental entity that has a statutory responsibility to support and expand community values and services in the City’s downtown and near downtown neighborhoods;
3. Increase the annual rental fee paid to the City for use of City parking facilities to $1,000,000.00/year beginning with the 2005/06 fiscal year, for a total of $10,000,000.00 during the ten year period of the Agreement.
4. During the period of July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2015, provide the City the opportunity to draw an advance on future rent not to exceed one full year’s rent, thus providing for up to two year’s rent on any year. Any request by the City for pre-payment must be made to the DDA by December 1st of the preceding year so as to be included in the DDA’s annual budget.

The situation now confronting the city is one anticipated by DDA board member Rob Aldrich in 2005: What happens if the city requests $2 million each of the first five years? From the board minutes of the March 2, 2005 meeting:

Mr. Aldrich asked if it would be possible for the City to draw the full $10 million in the first 5 years; Mr. Solo said yes. Mr. Aldrich asked what would happen in year six, which is to say, would the City be satisfied to receive no further rent for the remaining five years. There was no response to this question.

In the city’s fiscal year terms, FY 2011 is “year six.” At that March 2, 2005 meeting, representing the city was councilmember Leigh Greden (Ward 3) who was filling in for mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the DDA board as mayor.

Other members of the DDA at the time were: Ron Dankert, Bob Gillett, Rene Greff, Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, Sandi Smith, Dave Solo, Rob Aldrich, Fred Beal, Gary Boren, Dave DeVarti, Leah Gunn. Of those, remaining now in 2010 are Hewitt, Hieftje, Smith, Boren and Gunn.

Background: Foundations of Good and Bad Faith

Based on the March 2, 2005 DDA board meeting minutes, then-councilmember Leigh Greden, who was filling in for mayor John Hieftje at the board meeting, gave an assurance on the part of the city that it was not the intent to ask for $2 million beyond the first year of the agreement [emphasis added]:

Mr. Solo said that approving this resolution does not preclude renegotiations at any time, by either the City or the DDA. Mr. Greden commented that the City would have to agree to renegotiate in the future, and that it was important to note that it was not the intent of City Council to rely on this money more than to get them through the next few years. City Administration and Council have put in place short- and long-term strategies to solve the structural budget deficit, and have budgeted for $2 million only in the first year.

The fact that the city ultimately did request $2 million each of the first five years is one possible reason for a perception by some DDA board members of poor faith on the part of the city.

Another reason some DDA board members might perceive a historical lack of good faith on the city’s part can be traced to a DDA development plan for three different downtown parcels that was in the works back in 2005, in the same time frame as the parking agreement was renegotiated. It was known as the “3-Site Plan.”

The 3-Site Plan was an effort to develop city surface parking lots, including lots at First & William, First & Washington and the Kline’s lot – on the east side of Ashley Street, between William and Liberty. The concept underpinning of the 3-Site Plan was that parking could be decoupled from development – build a parking structure at First & William and free up the other two sites for development without the constraint of building on-site parking.

But instead of pursuing the 3-Site Plan in 2005, Ann Arbor’s city council opted to create a Greenway Taskforce to explore the possibility of incorporating the First & William lot into a greenway along the Allen Creek creekshed. And in July 2009, the city council passed a resolution  expressing the desire to see the lot become a park, when money for environmental cleanup could be identified. [Chronicle coverage "First & William to Become Greenway?"]

The First & Washington site now has an approved site plan for City Apartments – a combined residential/parking development by Village Green. Nothing has been built because of a lack of financing for the developer. Its site approval has been extended by the city administrator until June 30, 2010, after which additional city council action will be required to allow more time for the project to move forward. No similar progress has been made on the Kline’s lot.

The reporting of Tom Gantert of The Ann Arbor News during 2005 chronicles the struggle between supporters of a greenway and supporters of the 3-Site Plan, which was championed by the DDA, through the better part of the year. [Ann Arbor News archives from 2003 until it closed last year are available from the Ann Arbor District Library's online research portal.]

The friction that year between greenway and 3-Site Plan supporters was reflected in friction between DDA board members and city councilmembers, as well as between the city’s planning commission and the city council. At the time, mayor John Hieftje was accused of trying to prevent the city’s planning commission from holding its own public hearing on the matter, in part by preventing CTN coverage of their planned hearing.

The attitude of some at the DDA towards the idea of decoupling the First & William parcel from the 3-Site Plan was essentially that it would be better to start from scratch: From a June 28, 2005 Ann Arbor News article by Gantert:

[DDA executive director Susan] Pollay did show the DDA’s commitment to its plan when she said was asked about “unhitching” First and William from the proposal.

“Unhitching a piece of it?” Pollay asked, repeating the question. “You may as well start afresh.”

Hieftje said that was the first time he’d heard Pollay say it’d be better to scrap the plan than break up what has been pitched as a “three-site plan.”

But by the end of 2005, a 2-Site Plan compromise had evolved. It involved development just of the Kline’s lot and the First & Washington lot.

Do some at the DDA have lingering ill feelings because the outcome of the political process didn’t go their way on the 3-Site Plan? Yes – but it’s about more than a lost political battle.

It’s the fact that when the parking agreement was negotiated in 2005, there was a conscious expectation on the part of the DDA that if the $10 million parking agreement was approved, the city council would approve the 3-Site Plan. In an April 28, 2010 email sent to all members of the current DDA board, plus current city councilmembers, former DDA board member Rene Greff put in writing what she’d told The Chronicle a couple weeks earlier in a telephone interview. [Though she no longer serves on the DDA board, Greff attended Wednesday's operations committee meeting.]

Specifically, Greff writes that in 2005 the DDA’s negotiating team saw a link between the parking deal and the 3-Site Plan:

But the council members on our committee cautioned that we couldn’t link the increased rent with the 3 site plan in writing because that would make it look like the DDA was bribing council for passage of the three site plan. And besides, we were all working in good faith and knew that the city was going to approve the 3 site plan.

But those 2005 negotiations were conducted out of public view. Greff told The Chronicle that numbers of councilmembers and DDA board members present were consciously chosen to be fewer than a quorum to avoid Open Meetings Act requirements, and that the committee had chosen meeting locations to avoid being discovered by Gantert. In her April 28, 2010 email, Greff calls the meetings “clandestine.”

In her phone interview with The Chronicle, Greff allowed that she’d been complicit in keeping the meetings out of public view. She said that as a relatively new member of the DDA board, she’d relied on Leigh Greden’s assurance that “this is how things are done,” with things worked out in private before they’re made public.

The lesson she drew, she said, was that to protect the interests of the DDA, keeping the process public was important.

Committees, Expectations of Public Process

Although the process that began in January 2009 to renegotiate the parking agreement between the city and the DDA began with the expectation of a public process, up to now it has been shielded from public view. And Wednesday’s operations committee found DDA board members attributing that shielding to the lingering hurt feelings from 2005.

How did the renegotiation process start? It can be traced to the fact that the city of Ann Arbor plans in two-year financial cycles, even though it adopts budgets one year at a time. Back in January 2009, councilmember Sandi Smith (Ward 1) noticed that for the FY 2011 plan, which was the second year in the 2010-11 two-year cycle, the city had “penciled in” a $2 million payment from the DDA – despite the fact that the existing parking agreement did not require such a payment.

Smith brought forward a resolution to the city council, which it passed, asking the DDA to begin a discussion. The DDA responded by appointing a committee tasked to negotiate the parking agreement with a corresponding committee of the city council. The council was not swift in appointing its own committee, with some councilmembers expressing reservations about the membership on the DDA’s committee.

At Wednesday’s operations committee meeting, DDA board member Newcombe Clark observed that for 15-months, the city council had been unwilling to engage in dialog, partly because they didn’t like who would be sitting across the table from them.

Russ Collins responded to Clark, contending that he did not know that was the case, saying he had not heard that or read that, allowing that perhaps he should read other things.

Reading a timeline overview of the relevant history, which summarizes material The Chronicle has published twice previously, confirms Clark’s claim [See Chronicle coverage: "Parking Report Portends DDA-City Tension" and "DDA Retreat: Who's On the Committee?"]:

  • Jan. 20, 2009: City council passes a resolution asking the DDA to begin discussions of renegotiating the parking agreement between the city and the DDA in a mutually beneficial way.
  • March 4, 2009: DDA board establishes a “mutually beneficial” committee to begin discussions of the parking agreement between the city and the DDA. On the committee: Roger Hewitt, Gary Boren, Jennifer S. Hall, and Rene Greff. The DDA’s resolution establishing their committee calls on the city council to form its own committee.
  • May 20, 2009: During the mid-year DDA retreat, mayor John Hieftje states publicly that city councilmembers object to the membership of Jennifer S. Hall and Rene Greff on the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee.
  • June 3, 2009: DDA board chair Jennifer S. Hall removes herself from DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, replacing herself with Russ Collins.
  • June 15, 2009: Mayor John Hieftje nominates councilmembers Margie Teall (Ward 4), Leigh Greden (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) to serve on the city council’s “mutually beneficial” committee, and they’re confirmed at the city council’s July 20 meeting.
  • July 1, 2009: DDA board chair Jennifer S. Hall appoints Sandi Smith to replace outgoing DDA board member Rene Greff (whose position is filled with Newcombe Clark) on the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee. Smith is also a city councilmember, representing Ward 1.
  • August 2009: Leigh Greden is defeated in the Democratic primary by Stephen Kunselman.
  • August-December 2009: Sandi Smith, the chair of the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, reports at each monthly DDA board meeting that there is nothing new to report.
  • Dec. 5, 2009: Dissolution of the DDA is included in an “everything is on the table” list for discussion at the city council’s budget retreat.
  • January-April 2010: Roger Hewitt reports at monthly DDA board meetings that only informal discussions are taking place.

As The Chronicle has reported previously, the expectation that the two committees would meet publicly rests on a 1991 city council resolution stipulating that even sub-committees of public bodies that do not constitute a quorum are expected, to the best of their abilities, to conform with the Open Meetings Act:



Whereas, The City Council desires that all meetings of City boards, task forces, commissions and committees conform to the spirit of the Open Meetings Act;

RESOLVED, That all City boards, task forces, commissions, committees and their subcommittees hold their meetings open to the public to the best of their abilities in the spirit of Section 3 of the Open Meetings Act; and

RESOLVED, That closed meetings of such bodies be held only under situations where a closed meeting would be authorized in the spirit of the Open Meetings Act.

Expectations of Public Process Not Met

No meetings of their respective “mutually beneficial” committees have ever been acknowledged by either the city council or the DDA board at any of those bodies’ regular meetings. However, starting in early January of this year, members of the committees – with the addition of councilmember Christopher Taylor, who was not appointed as part of the council’s committee – began the work of renegotiating the parking agreement in the guise of a “working group.” From the “term sheet” memo that was circulated at Wednesday’s operations committee meeting:

To: DDA Board
From: Gary Boren
Russ Collins
Roger Hewitt
Carsten Hohnke
Sandi Smith
Christopher Taylor
Margie Teall
CC: Roger Fraser
Susan Pollay
Re: City of Ann Arbor – DDA Operations
Date: April 28, 2010

In conversations beginning after the New Year, Roger Hewitt approached a number of us in order to discuss additional areas of possible cooperation and resource allocation between the DDA and the City of Ann Arbor. As a result of these conversations, this working group formed to sketch the framework of what could be a new relationship between the DDA and the City. That general framework is described below.

The term “working group” in this context was first encountered by The Chronicle in conversation with Christopher Taylor, when he arrived on the third floor of the Larcom Building on Friday afternoon, April 16 to attend a meeting of the “working group.” Taylor seemed visibly surprised to see The Chronicle waiting there. We had learned of the scheduled meeting the previous Wednesday, when Russ Collins mentioned it at the DDA board’s partnerships committee meeting.

Asked if he was also there to attend the meeting of the “mutually beneficial” committees, Taylor rejected the idea that the committees were going to meet, saying that it was “more of a working group.” He’d been asked to participate by Roger Hewitt, Taylor said.

As The Chronicle previously reported, city administrator Roger Fraser then refused to allow The Chronicle to attend. In barring The Chronicle from the meeting, Fraser rejected the applicability of the 1991 council resolution that requires the meetings of city sub-committees to comply with the Open Meetings Act, contending it was not a sub-committee of the council that was meeting.

Present in addition to Fraser were six others: Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA; DDA board members Roger Hewitt, Sandi Smith and Russ Collins – all members of the DDA’s committee established to discuss the parking deal; and city councilmembers Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5). Hohnke is on the council’s committee, while Taylor is not. Missing from the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee at the meeting was Gary Boren.

In rejecting the applicability of the 1991 resolution, Fraser may have been relying on the idea that Smith, Taylor and Hohnke – though a committee-like subset of councilmembers that were part of a “working group” –  did not constitute the appointed sub-committee of the council. The DDA’s committee, however, had three of its four members present, constituting a quorum of its members.

Following Wednesday’s DDA operations committee meeting, Sandi Smith told The Chronicle that a meeting that included the city’s committee did take place in the fall of 2009. However, that meeting didn’t go anywhere, she said, attributing it to Leigh Greden’s defeat in the August primary.

The work of producing the “term sheet,” Smith said, was accomplished largely through rotating one-to-one meetings, not group meetings. In explaining why the process had been kept out of the public view up to that point, Smith echoed a sentiment that Russ Collins had expressed during the meeting, when he said that the parties needed the initial privacy to get to a place where they could have a dialogue – otherwise they’d just be throwing spitballs across the table, Collins said. Collins described the “term sheet”  as a “beachhead” for communication, and the conversation needs to unfold now publicly.

Hearing the phrase “beachhead” from Collins more than once prompted Smith to kid him: “Define that for me, Russ.”

In her post-meeting conversation with The Chronicle, Smith attributed that initial barrier to communication between the city and the DDA to a “culture clash” and lingering resentment about the failure of the city council to approve the 3-Site Plan back in 2005.

Why the DDA Operations Committee Met

To set the context of Wednesday’s DDA operations committee meeting, where the recommendation to pay $2 million to the city of Ann Arbor was discussed, it’s worth reflecting on why the committee met.

The short answer is that the operations committee of the DDA always meets on the last Wednesday of the month, which works out to be the week before the meeting of the full board.

The topic of the $2 million payment may have turned up on the operations committee’s agenda in any case. But the thing that virtually guaranteed it would be discussed on Wednesday was a conversation at the end of the partnerships committee meeting two weeks earlier.

At that meeting, Newcombe Clark had questioned why the partnerships committee had not considered  a resolution to bring before the full board on the $2 million question. He noted that timing of the city’s budget process – adoption by the city council before the end of May – meant that the full DDA board would need to vote at its next monthly meeting  (May 5) on converting the $2 million contingency in the DDA’s budget to a payment to the city.

At the partnerships committee meeting, Clark questioned whether the resolution could be brought to the board without recommendation by a DDA board committee. And when it was suggested that the “mutually beneficial” committee could make the recommendation to the full board, Clark questioned whether it could do that as an ad hoc committee.

At issue was adherence to the DDA bylaws. The city of Ann Arbor’s need for the $2 million could be analyzed as a “request for funding” under the DDA bylaws:

Section 10 – Requests for Funding. The Board may not act upon a request for funding unless the request has been referred to a committee of the Board for review and recommendation. In the event that a committee has not made a recommendation to the Board within 60 days from the time that the request was first presented to the Board, the Board may, by majority vote, bring the proposal to the Board for consideration without benefit of the committee recommendation.

[Approval of amendments to the DDA bylaws, which have been approved by the DDA board, are on the city council agenda for its May 3 meeting. Section 10 does not contain any proposed revisions.]

At the partnerships committee meeting, the issue was settled when Clark asked for and received from the rest of the partnerships committee an assurance that there would be at least a seven-day notice of any resolution on the $2 million question. Said Clark: “I think that it’s reasonable to have seven days notice before we have an item that’s going to make the board meeting crazy.”

The seven-day assurance meant that the last opportunity for a standing committee to review the $2 million resolution before the May 5 board meeting was at the operations committee meeting.

What’s Tied to the $2 Million, If Anything?

Deliberations at the operations committee meeting began with the distribution of the “term sheet.” Several minutes went by as those who were seeing the document for the first time read through the text. It features in most significant part the idea of unifying the administration of the parking program and the enforcement of parking fines with a single entity – the DDA. That’s consistent with The Chronicle’s previous analysis of the DDA’s recent parking plan as an implicit pitch by the DDA to the city to assume responsibility for enforcement of parking rules downtown. [Chronicle coverage: "Parking Report Portends City-DDA Tension"]

The “term sheet” envisions signing an actual contract by Oct. 31, 2010, which is just before the general election in the fall.

DDA board member Russ Collins called the “term sheet” document a “beachhead” that was established to begin a dialog, one that members of the DDA’s mutually beneficial committee felt would ultimately be fruitful and beneficial. At that point, Newcombe Clark sought to clarify if the idea was to pay the $2 million because of the start to the dialog.

If it was something else besides the start to the dialog that was to result in the $2 million payment, Clark wanted to know what that was. If there was nothing else, he wanted to know what the urgency was about the timing. Collins answered that it had to do with the timing of the city’ budget cycle. Clark observed that the current city budget as proposed by the city administrator, if enacted, would include layoffs. So he asked if the idea was to make the $2 million payment in order to guarantee no layoffs.

Sandi Smith, speaking from the perspective of a city councilmember, indicated that the outcome of the community conversation over the next two weeks would affect whether there are layoffs or not – it was unsure whether the $2 million would avert layoffs, and if so, how many, she said.

If the $2 million was to be paid just because the city was now talking to the DDA, wondered Clark, what would happen in November if no progress had been made towards working out the contract?

Smith allowed that there was “an element of faith” involved. Margie Teall, who represents Ward 4 on the city council and who was also present at the table for Wednesday’s DDA operations committee meeting, indicated that the faith was based on more than just the fact that there is a great conversation going on. There was an intent, said Teall, to keep working on the plan.

Collins noted that one reason it had been important to involve the staff of the city and the DDA in the process was to ensure the continuity of work on the plan. And the idea, said Collins, was to establish a longer-term, multi-year contract – something echoed by Hewitt.

Clark then picked up the contrast between the staffs of the two organizations and the members of the two public bodies. Clark noted that there are three people involved on the city’s side who might no longer be involved after the Democratic primary election, held in August. He meant Teall, Smith, and Carsten Hohnke, all of whom will face primary challenges. [Christopher Taylor does not currently face a primary challenge; however, the deadline to submit petitions is not until May 11.] In that context, Clark wondered if there would be follow-through from new councilmembers replacing those who could potentially lose. Speaking to Smith and Teall, Clark said: “I trust your ability to follow through on these agreements, because you are there. But if you are not there …”

Clark himself has taken out petitions to run as a Ward 5 candidate, challenging Hohnke for his seat. It’s a point to which Clark would eventually return as the discussion unfolded to focus on the nature of the future meetings that would be held between representatives of the DDA and the city. Clark secured an assurance that those meetings could be attended by anyone on the DDA board, “even if we don’t like certain people or even if certain people are running against certain people.”

As Russ Collins clarified, the DDA’s working practice for the committee in the future would be consistent with the way that the DDA’s committees work in general. In particular, DDA committee meetings are noticed, open to the public and open to any DDA board member, whether they’re a member of the committee or not.

Before the operations committee reached a point of committing to a public process from this point forward, Clark floated a different idea: staggering out the payments to the city. He suggested a contingent payment schedule of, for example, $100,000 a month based on the city’s ongoing good faith efforts to negotiate the details of the contract. He went as far as to say the conversation could end right then if everyone agreed that the city would get the $2 million only on a contingent, staggered basis – that would satisfy his concerns.

Teall rejected the idea of a contingent payment, as did Smith, Leah Gunn and Hewitt, saying that the city could not budget based on that kind of contingency.

Clark then changed tack slightly, pointing out that the good faith discussions up to that point had been accessible to only some of the DDA board members and not to the public. Clark expressed his concern that the city would opt to have discussions only when they want to, and it would be closed, it wouldn’t be announced, some people would be invited, some people wouldn’t. Concluded Clark, “That is a ridiculous way to talk in good faith, in my mind.” He pitched the idea that the meetings should be open.

As the conversation seemed to stall, Collins told Clark that he sensed there was nothing that could be said to allow Clark to get past his anxiety about the $2 million. As examples of what would help him get past his anxiety, Clark then appealed to the two specific suggestions he’d made: (i) to make the $2 million payment in a contingent, staggered fashion; and (ii) to make the meetings open and public.

Collins indicated that he didn’t think anyone had a problem with future meetings being public. Teall echoed that sentiment. Clark declared that for $2 million he’d be willing to buy 12 above-board meetings that are held publicly and that will take the DDA and the city toward an agreement. Collins said he thought there was no problem with that at all. Replied Clark: “I think that there has been a big problem up to this point.”

The operations committee eventually set about sketching the language of the resolution that it would bring before the full board. Collins noted that nobody had brought a resolution to the meeting and that it had depended on the dialog of the committee. Gunn focused the committee’s attention on two “resolved” clauses that needed to be written – one to allocate the $2 million and one to establish the monthly meetings. [.txt file of the draft resolution circulated later that evening by Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA].

The resolved clauses from the draft resolution:

RESOLVED, The DDA authorizes providing the City with $2 million in fiscal year 2010/11 with the following expectations:

  • The DDA and City representatives who have developed the preliminary terms will continue to meet at least once a month to complete work on an agreement that will go to the DDA and City Council for approval, and these meetings will be open to the public, but not subject to the Open Meetings Act.
  • The DDA and City representatives will aim to conclude their work by October 31, 2010, but certainly no later than the end of the fiscal year 2010/11.
  • The DDA will provide the City with $2 million by providing half on July 1, 2010 and the second half no later than January 1, 2011.

The DDA’s tie of the $2 million to the public process in that draft does not bind the city council to the public meetings beyond the expectation expressed in the 1991 resolution.

Coda: Beat Cops

As the operations committee discussion of the $2 million resolution wound down, Newcombe Clark brought up the issue of downtown beat cops.

By way of background, as a part of the FY 2010 budget process – which involved early retirement incentives for police officers – dedicated downtown beat patrols were eliminated in favor of an approach where police officers would spend their “out-of-the-car” time walking downtown. Officers are supposed to spend an hour out of the car for each shift anyway, and the change was to ask them to spend it downtown. Previously, there’d been dedicated patrols for downtown – often done by bicycle-mounted police officers.

Back in 2005, besides the expectation that the city council would approve the 3-Site Plan, there was an expectation that the beat patrols downtown would also be preserved – if the DDA accepted the $10 million parking agreement. From Greff’s April 28, 2010 email cited earlier:

Just so the record is clear this journey began in 2004 when the City threatened the DDA with beat officer layoffs if we did not provide financial assistance. [...]

We would increase our rent to the City by $1 million a year. The City would not have to lay off any beat cops, and the City would pass the DDA’s 3 site plan which would add to the DDA TIF capture and ensure that we could afford to make the increased payments to the city without raising parking rates or foregoing our other priorities.

At the operations committee meeting, Clark asked whether discussing the question of downtown beat patrols was considered to be inconsistent with good faith for the future conversation of the “term sheet.” He’d been told recently at the city staff level that it was counter to good faith, and said that he’d been denied some information he needed to formulate a proposal on downtown beat patrols. Clark was assured that it was not counter to good faith, and when asked by Clark, Teall indicated that she’d weigh in with city staff to get Clark the numbers he needed.

The resolution that Clark may bring to the full board next week would call for the DDA to begin reserving $60,000 a month to fund beat patrols. Initially, the money would be sourced from the $335,000 already allocated by the DDA for the north-south Howell-Ann Arbor commuter rail project (WALLY). As the resolution draft notes, the rail project has shown little progress.

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