Stories indexed with the term ‘city budget’

Ann Arbor City Council Elections: Ward 2

On the last Monday in September, the League of Women Voters hosted a forum of candidates for Ann Arbor city council at Community Television Network studios. Ward 2 and Ward 5 are the only two wards where more than one candidate is on offer to voters on Nov. 2. The respective incumbents in Wards 1, 3 and 4 – Sandi Smith, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall, who are all Democrats – are unopposed. The Ward 2 and Ward 5 forum was recorded and is available online through CTN’s video-on-demand service.

City of Ann Arbor Ward 2 Map

City of Ann Arbor Ward 2 is the magenta wedge of the pie in this map on the east side of the city.

While the five candidates for the two wards participated in the same 45-minute forum, this report covers only responses to questions from Ward 2 candidates – incumbent Tony Derezinski, who is the Democratic Party nominee, and Emily Salvette, the nominee of the Libertarian Party. Responses from Ward 5 candidates Carsten Hohnke, John Floyd and Newcombe Clark are reported in a separate account.

As stipulated in the city charter, Ann Arbor wards divide the city into roughly pie-shaped wedges. Ward 2 is a wedge covering roughly the area between the 1 o’clock and 4 o’clock positions on the “city pie.” Each ward is represented on the city council in two council seats, one of which is up for election each year for a two-year term. Stephen Rapundalo serves in the Ward 2 seat that’s not up for election this year.

The four questions posed by the League were confined essentially to two topics: the budget and parks. Candidates uniformly identified the most important challenge facing the city as the budget, and that fit thematically with a specific question about the budget. The remaining two questions focused on specific parks: Huron Hills golf course, which is currently the subject of a request for proposals for private management; and Fuller Park, part of which is a proposed location for a new parking deck to be built primarily for the University of Michigan, and which has a possible future as a train station. [Full Story]

Park Commission: Budgets, Ballots, Ballparks

Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission meeting (Sept. 21, 2010): Held this month in the studios of Community Television Network, the park advisory commission received updates on Tuesday about finances for the parks system as well as RFPs (requests for proposals) that are in various stages for Argo Dam, Huron Hills Golf Course and the Ann Arbor Senior Center.

Sam Offen

Sam Offen of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission hands off his ballot to Christopher Taylor, the Ward 3 councilmember who's an ex-officio representative on PAC. Per its bylaws, the commission elected officers by secret ballot, though only one person was nominated for each position. (They seemed to appreciate the irony.) Offen was re-elected chair of PAC's budget committee. (Photos by the writer.)

A financial report for the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, included news that Ann Arbor’s two golf courses performed better than expected – though one commissioner calculated that the city still paid a $10 subsidy for each round of golf played during the year.

Later in the meeting, Colin Smith – the city’s park and recreation manager – reported that an RFP for the Huron Hills Golf Course has been issued, with a pre-bid meeting to be held on Monday, Sept. 27. Several members of the public turned up at last month’s PAC meeting to argue against the RFP, which is soliciting ideas for a possible private/public partnership at the course. No one spoke during public commentary on Tuesday.

Another RFP – this one for reconstruction of the Argo Dam headrace – has yielded two responses that are being reviewed. A recommendation will likely be brought to PAC next month, Smith reported. If approved, it would change the shape of the embankment.

And an RFP for the Ann Arbor Senior Center has nearly reached the end of the selection process. On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously voted to recommend hiring Hooker/De Jong, a Muskegon consulting firm, to develop a strategic plan for the center, at a cost of $34,570. It now goes to the city council for approval.

A council directive issued last year – asking PAC to prioritize 30 recommendations made in the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP) – was raised during Tuesday’s meeting by Julie Grand, the commission’s chair. She noted that the year-end deadline for completing this task was fast approaching, and they needed to carve out some time to address it. Commissioner Tim Berla said he’d like to see the council form a river stewardship committee – that’s one of the HRIMP recommendations.

The commission also heard a report from David Barrett, a PAC member who’s been assessing the conditions of the city’s ball fields. “With a few exceptions, most are in need of help,” he told his PAC colleagues. [Full Story]

Greenbelt Commission Reviews Finances

The Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Commission meeting (Sept. 8, 2010): At their September meeting, commissioners got a financial update on the city’s greenbelt program, reviewing unaudited statements from fiscal 2009-10.

Peg Kohring, Lindsay-Jean Hard, Cara Rosaen

Lindsay-Jean Hard, standing, gives a presentation about Real Time Farms to the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission. In the foreground is Cara Rosaen, marketing director for the business. Peg Kohring of The Conservation Fund, which manages the greenbelt program, looks on. (Photo by the writer.)

Financial manager Kelli Martin reported that revenues from the 30-year open space and parkland preservation millage, which funds the greenbelt as well as land acquisition for parks, were $2.262 million in FY10. Combined with grants and other sources, total revenues for the year reached $3.413 million.

Some commissioners questioned a sharp drop in investment income – from $815,261 last year to $130,011 in FY 2010 – and Martin agreed to ask Matt Horning, the city’s treasurer, for a more detailed report on that issue.

Total expenditures rose 19% to $5.087 million, an increase mostly attributable to greenbelt projects – $3.427 million spent during FY10, compared to $2.641 million in FY 2009. The program bought development rights to three properties during the fiscal year: the Nixon farm in Webster Township, the Girbach farm Lodi Township, and the Webster Church property in Webster Township.

The Sept. 8 meeting began with a presentation by two representatives of Real Time Farms, who asked the commission to help them market their business – an online guide to local foods. [Full Story]

Shoring Up the Ann Arbor Senior Center

When The Chronicle attended last week’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana Patient Collective – held at the Ann Arbor Senior Center – we were reminded that the last time we’d been to the center was in the context of its potential closing, because of city budget cuts.

Ann Arbor Senior Center

A sign at the Ann Arbor Senior Center advertises a new fitness program, one of several efforts by the city to raise revenues for the center, which is located in Burns Park. (Photos by the writer)

Last year, the city administration identified the senior center as one facility that, if closed, could save the city roughly $150,000 – the center’s operating deficit at the time. Residents mobilized, and a task force was formed that developed recommendations for cutting costs and raising revenues.

Recommendations include hiring a consultant to develop a long-term strategic plan, paid for by a $16,949 grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. A request for proposals (RFP) was issued earlier this summer for that project, and responses from three companies are now being evaluated, according to Jeff Straw, parks & recreation deputy manager.

Meanwhile, several other efforts are underway, including this coming Saturday’s “Picnic in the Park” fundraiser, which runs from 1-3:30 p.m. at Burns Park, where the center is located. Last year, the event raised about $1,000 for the center. [Full Story]

Seniors Host Ann Arbor Mayoral Forum

In his introductory remarks, Bill Kinley joked that this was the first mayoral debate – and possibly the last ever – held at University Commons, a condominium community for people over 55 that was founded by University of Michigan faculty. They’d have to see how it turned out, he said.

Bill Kinley

Bill Kinley moderated a mayoral debate at University Commons on Monday between incumbent John Hieftje and challenger Patricia Lesko.

Kinley, a University Commons resident and local developer, moderated Monday’s event, which drew about 50 people to listen as incumbent mayor John Hieftje and challenger Patricia Lesko answered questions for an hour on a range of topics, from Argo Dam and Fuller Road Station to the city budget and possible income tax.

It’s the latest in a series of exchanges between the two candidates, as the Democrats head into next week’s Aug. 3 primary election. [See Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Forums: The More, The Mayor-ier" and "Ann Arbor Dems Primary: Mayoral Race."]

After introducing the candidates, Kinley cautioned that the residents there are “a group of wordy people.” They know that “platform” and “platitude” derive from the French word “plat,” he said, “so if you can keep platitudes to a minimum, you’ll find the reception here is much more responsive.”

Each candidate was given two minutes to answer the question. The first person who answered was also given the option of an additional one minute response. Questions had been developed by Kinley and the program committee for University Commons. [Full Story]

Hieftje Urges Unity on Fuller Road Station

Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission meeting (May 18, 2010): During an hour-long presentation and Q&A, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje urged park commissioners to support the proposed Fuller Road Station, saying he’d like the city to present a unified front as they pursue federal funding for the $46 million project – a large parking structure, bus depot and possible train station for commuter rail.

Amy Kuras, Jim Kosteva

Jim Kosteva, right, talks with Ann Arbor parks planner Amy Kuras during Tuesday's meeting of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. Kosteva, director of community relations for the University of Michigan, was on hand for a discussion of the Fuller Road Station, though he did not address the commission. (Photos by the writer.)

Heiftje’s presentation had not been on the agenda, but the commission was set to discuss a resolution that called for city council to stop the project, or at the least negotiate better terms with its partner, the University of Michigan. Several commissioners have expressed concerns about the project, which would be on city-owned property designated as parkland. Under proposed terms – which Hieftje said are not finalized – the city would receive less revenue from UM for parking than it currently gets from the surface lots it leases to the university on Fuller Road. Those revenues support the city’s parks operations.

Another public meeting on the project is set for Wednesday, June 2, from 7-9 p.m. at city council chambers, 100 N. Fifth Ave.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners got a brief update on the urban forestry management plan – the first of two public meetings is set for Thursday at Tappan Middle School from 7-9 p.m. to get input on developing a plan to manage the city’s trees.

The artist selected for a public art project at West Park – Traven Pelletier of Lotus Gardenscapes – spoke briefly about his design. And in a third-quarter financial update for parks and recreation, commissioner Sam Offen reported that they’re in better shape than expected, needing less general fund support than they had originally budgeted for the current fiscal year. [Full Story]

City’s Budget Takes Backseat to DDA Issues

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (May 17, 2010): By its second meeting in May, the city of Ann Arbor’s charter stipulates that the city council must adopt a budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

City treasurer Matt Horning. Chief financial officer Tom Crawford in background.

City treasurer Matt Horning. Chief financial officer Tom Crawford in background.

On Monday night, the council unanimously adopted its roughly $78 million general fund budget – as amended to reflect new revenue items. Those new revenue items allowed the council to eliminate five firefighter positions and no police jobs. As originally proposed, the budget would have eliminated 35 fire and police positions combined.

Next year’s work will not be any easier. CFO Tom Crawford said at the meeting that he’s projecting a $5 million deficit in FY 2012.

Deliberations on the budget did not begin until late in the evening. Occupying more of the council’s time than the city’s FY 2011 budget were two issues related to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. One of those issues was a sidewalk occupancy ordinance applicable only within the DDA district. The ordinance, which legalizes the use of sandwich board signs, passed after a failed attempt by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) to get it postponed.

The second DDA issue on the agenda involved a $2 million payment from the DDA to the city, which helped the council to amend its budget to reduce layoffs of fire and police. In approving the $2 million payment, the DDA board had included in its resolution a requirement to have a future public process for continued conversations between the city and the DDA about renegotiating a parking agreement between the two entities. From January through April of this year, conversations on that topic between the city and the DDA took place out of public view.

On Monday, the council considered a resolution thanking the DDA for the money and providing a commitment to public process for conversations about the parking agreement – parallel to the public process explicated in the DDA’s resolution. The council resolution passed – stripped of its language about open and transparent process on the grounds that it was redundant – after a brief attempt by Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) to get the resolution tabled.

In other significant business, mayor John Hieftje nominated a replacement for Ted Annis on the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board: Roger Kerson, who in 2008 contemplated a run for a Ward 5 council seat, but decided against it.

Anya Dale had been nominated by the mayor to replace Paul Ajegba on the AATA board at the council’s previous meeting. On Monday, confirmation of her appointment included one hitch – Sabra Briere (Ward 1) cast a vote against it. [Full Story]

Extra City Revenue Based on Optimism

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (May 16, 2010): On Monday night, the city council will deliberate on several amendments to the proposed city administrator’s budget that, if approved, would significantly alter the assumed revenue picture for that proposed budget. [Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Budget Deliberations Preview"]

Ann Arbor city council caucus

From left to right: mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). Briere looked up various facts in the FY 2011 budget book during the course of the caucus. (Photo by the writer.)

The city council’s regular Sunday night caucus, which again enjoyed only sparse attendance – from four out of eleven councilmembers – gave a glimpse into how part of the city council is thinking of the possible changes in revenue items. One of those changes to revenue items is certain – the DDA agreed at its May 3 meeting to pay the city $2 million to help cover general expenses at the city.

Two other revenue changes are based on projections, not payments – an additional $625,000 in parking fine revenues, plus almost $1 million in statutory state shared revenues. The additional state shared revenue is an amount that the city administrator assumed for his budget would not be forthcoming from the state.

During the Sunday caucus, mayor John Hieftje attributed the difference in outlook on state shared revenues to a difference in political perspective. He said that Roger Fraser, the city administrator, is “not as plugged in” to the political considerations in Lansing as he and the rest of the city council are.

Questions were raised among residents about the certainty of the extra $625,000 in parking fine revenues. Those questions were raised in the context of the DDA’s interest – as expressed in the term sheet produced recently by a “working group” of city councilmembers and DDA board members – in moving towards a parking enforcement system managed by the DDA and designed to reduce the number of parking tickets.

The revenue items are key to budget amendments that would result in eliminating five firefighter positions – instead of the 20 firefighters and 15 police officers that the city administrator’s budget calls for.

At the caucus, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) gave some insight into an amendment he’ll be bringing forward to reduce the tax administration fee from 1% to .81%. When the fee was increased from .81% to 1% in 2007 for the FY 2008 budget, explained Kunselman, it had not come as a request in the administrator’s budget. The increase, he concluded, had not been made in order cover costs of administering the property tax – they were already covered.

Councilmembers at caucus had no information on the possibility of moving maintenance costs for Argo Dam out of the city’s water fund. Indications from city official on multiple occasions through the fall of 2009 and winter of 2010 were that those maintenance costs would be moved from the water fund to the parks fund. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Budget Deliberations Preview

On Monday, May 17, the Ann Arbor city council will deliberate on the city budget and adopt it with any amendments they agree to make. If they fail to reach agreement on amendments, the city budget proposed by city administrator Roger Fraser will be adopted “as is,” as stipulated in the city charter.

orange juice glass half empty half full

Orange juice is not just a healthy drink. Unlike clear liquids, it's also great for illustrating the classic glass as half empty or half full contrast between optimists and pessimists. Possible budget amendments may depend on how optimistic councilmembers are about state shared revenue. (Photo by the writer.)

Among the amendments that will be brought forward is one that calls for fewer layoffs in the police and fire departments. Instead of eliminating 35 total safety services positions, the amendment would eliminate five firefighters.

The police and fire positions would be maintained through a combination of extra revenue items. One of those is the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s $2 million payment to the city, which the DDA board approved on May 5.

A second additional revenue item is simply a more optimistic assessment of the prospects that state revenue sharing will remain at current levels next year. The third major additional revenue item comes from increased revenue from parking fines, which the council will also vote on at its Monday meeting. The projected increases in parking fine revenue had not been included in the budget proposed in April by Fraser.

Another budget amendment would tap the additional revenues to maintain human services funding at last year’s levels – right now, there’s a cut in human services amounting to $260,000 in the proposed budget.

The additional revenues would also be used to fund another budget amendment, which would eliminate the proposed football Saturday parking in Allmendinger and Frisinger parks, plus make the mowing cycles in parks more frequent than they would be in the currently proposed budget.

Other amendments that might be brought forward would make changes that would decrease revenue, compared to what is currently proposed, by (i) eliminating an increase in contractor registration fees, (ii) eliminating an increase in rental housing inspection fees, and (iii) reducing the general fund tax administration fee from its current maximum of 1%. A final amendment that might be proposed would eliminate the proposed loading zone permit program, replacing it with increased fines for parking in loading zones, for a small net gain in revenue. [Full Story]

Budget Round 6: Bridges, Safety Services

At their final meeting to discuss the city’s FY 2011 budget before its adoption next week, Ann Arbor city councilmembers focused on the East Stadium bridges reconstruction project and safety services – the possible layoffs of firefighters and police officers. While reconstruction of the bridges will be funded with money outside of the general fund, safety services account for around half of the city’s roughly $78 million general fund budget.


Hired six weeks ago, Ann Arbor fire chief Dominick Lanza answers questions about the impact of cutting 20 firefighters from the city's staff. (Photos by the writer.)

Margie Teall (Ward 4) and mayor John Hieftje had indicated at the council’s May 3, 2010 meeting that they hoped a $2 million payment to the city from the Downtown Development Authority would be authorized by the DDA’s board later that week. They’d said they intended to use that payment to stave off as many layoffs in safety services as possible, as well as to keep human services funding at last year’s levels.

Although the DDA approved the $2 million for the city two days later on a 7-4 vote, details were scant on Monday night about how the money might be used – how many positions would still need to be cut, and where those cuts would come.

Dominick Lanza, the city’s fire chief, and Barnett Jones, the chief of police, spoke about specific negative impacts on services that would result from the layoffs scheduled in this year’s budget, unless amendments are made next week.

How grim does the situation look from inside safety services? At one point, Jones paused nearly 10 full seconds before responding to a question from Sandi Smith (Ward 1). She’d asked him to comment on how community standards positions might be filled. When he finally did answer, Jones began by saying, “I really don’t want to.”  [Full Story]

DDA to Tie $2 Million to Public Process

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. [Full Story]

Park Commission OKs Fee Increases, Budget

Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission meeting (April 20, 2010): At Tuesday’s meeting, park commissioners gave their blessing to proposed fee increases and the parks budget for FY 2011, recommending that city council approve both items.

Karen Levin, Gwen Nystuen, David Barrett

Gwen Nystuen, center, passes out copies of a draft resolution to Karen Levin and David Barrett, her colleagues on the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. Nystuen is proposing that PAC form a subcommittee to review the impact of the Fuller Road Station. (Photos by the writer)

The proposed budget would keep all of the city’s 157 parks open, but would cut back maintenance – mowing and snow removal – on 17 parks. The budget also proposes keeping open Mack Pool and the Ann Arbor Senior Center, which had previously been slated to close. A handful of supporters for those two groups who attended Tuesday’s meeting applauded when commissioners approved the budget.

Only one commissioner – Gwen Nystuen – voted against recommending the budget, citing objections to a proposed rollback of funds for the city’s Natural Area Preservation (NAP) program.

Nystuen also floated a proposal to form a subcommittee that would review the impact of the Fuller Road Station. That project, which is jointly funded by the city and the University of Michigan, would initially include a large parking structure and bus station on city-owned land that’s designated as parkland. Nystuen has been vocal about her concerns over setting a precedent with this project, and frustrated that PAC hasn’t taken a more active role on the issue.

Commissioners also got a brief update on the status of an RFP being drafted by city staff for the possible privatization of the Huron Hills Golf Course, and heard from an organizer of the Ann Arbor skatepark during public commentary, who invited commissioners to an April 25 design workshop. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Budget: Formal Commencement

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (April 19, 2010) Part 1: In the main business of the meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser delivered to Ann Arbor’s city council a presentation required by the city charter, which contained his proposed budget for FY 2011. That marks the formal start of councilmembers’ opportunity to modify the budget proposal.

Hieftje Higgins Fraser

From left to right: Mayor John Hieftje, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and city administrator Roger Fraser. The trio were basking in the blue glow of the slide projector before the start of the council meeting, which began with Fraser's budget presentation. (Photos by the writer.)

The council must adopt amendments to the budget by their second meeting in May – May 17 this year – or else see the administrator’s unamended budget enacted by default, as stipulated by a city charter provision.

The council also heard a summary of the parking plan that they had commissioned the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to produce.

Related to the city budget and the DDA board – but not reported during communications time at the council meeting – members of the DDA board and city council held a closed-door meeting last Friday afternoon with city administrator Roger Fraser to discuss a $2 million payment by the DDA to the city this year.

At Monday evening’s meeting, the council postponed a vote on a schedule of fine increases for parking violations. The estimated $635,000 in additional revenues that the increases would bring, said CFO Tom Crawford at the meeting, was not part of the FY 2011 budget assumptions.

The topic of the University of Michigan’s upcoming graduation exercises on May 1, which will feature an address by President Barack Obama, found its way into deliberations at various points in the meeting. The city approved road closures around the football stadium in conjunction with the UM commencement. Residents who live near Elbel Field will contend with floodlights and loudspeakers as early as 4 a.m. on commencement morning. And during public commentary, one resident expressed concern over the city’s denial of a permit to demonstrate – organizers of “Fulfilling the Dream” expect to draw hundreds on May 1, but as yet have nowhere to gather.

The city administrator’s report to the council featured an explanation of parking citations handed out during the previous Saturday’s UM spring football game, as well as an explanation of the closure of city hall last week due to elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

Public commentary was weighted towards an agenda item that allocated $313,000 from the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund for three different permanent housing projects. The council approved the allocation.

The council also satisfied an obligation it had under the settlement terms of a recent lawsuit by voting to remand consideration of an email rule to its rules committee.

In Part 1 of this report, we focus on the budget, parking and UM’s commencement. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Caucus: Fires, Fines, Fuller

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (April 18, 2010): Access to city hall for the caucus on Sunday evening required a manual unlocking of doors with assistance from the Ann Arbor police department. But after gaining lawful entry, about a half-dozen residents discussed a range of topics with the three councilmembers who attended – mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Bob Snyder couch fire

Bob Snyder reads aloud from the preliminary report of the Ann Arbor fire department, which summarizes the events of a recent nighttime house fire that killed one resident.

A recent fire on South State Street, which killed a resident of the house that burned, prompted a call to revisit a 2004 proposal to ban from porches the use of indoor furniture, like couches. That measure was ultimately tabled by the council six years ago, left to demise without any action.

A couple of residents expressed some disappointment that the councilmembers would not be discussing the budget that evening, but budgetary topics did make their way into the conversation. Chief among them were the relationship of the new parking fine schedule – which is expected to generate an extra $635,000 for the FY 2011 budget – to the parking plan that’s scheduled to be presented on Monday night to the council by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Questions about the planned Fuller Road Station were also raised, including the plan for financing the project. That project is not on Monday night’s agenda. But a different major capital project does have an associated Monday agenda item: the East Stadium bridge replacement. The item involves authorization for the city to apply for funds from the state’s local bridge fund – the city’s most recent application was denied. Caucus attendees heard Hieftje explain that the city would delay the start of replacement construction from fall 2010 to spring 2011, to allow for another round of funding applications.

The council also got an update on one resident’s ongoing efforts to move a mid-block crosswalk in front of King Elementary School to an intersection where cars already stop. [Full Story]

Budget Round 5: Economic Development

Last Monday night, the Ann Arbor city council held its fifth and possibly final meeting devoted exclusively to the city’s financial planning, before it adopts the city’s FY 2011 budget on May 17, 2010. The budget will be formally presented to the city council by city administrator Roger Fraser at its Monday, April 19 meeting.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) sets up his presentation on the LDFA.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) sets up his presentation on the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) before the start of the April 12 council budget meeting. Rapundalo sits on the LDFA board as the Ann Arbor city council’s representative, and currently chairs the board.

At the April 12 budget meeting, the council heard presentations on two related entities: the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) and Ann Arbor SPARK. The LDFA contracts with Ann Arbor SPARK for various business development services.

The two key themes that emerged from the LDFA presentation were consistent with the overall topic of the city’s budget: (i) Where does the LDFA get its money? and (ii) What does the LDFA spend its money on?

Part of the LDFA’s revenue goes towards economic development activities – a business accelerator – for which it contracts with Ann Arbor SPARK. The presentation to the council from SPARK’s CEO, Michael Finney, was followed by testimonials of companies who said they had benefited from SPARK’s efforts.

Development activities are just one kind of investment that the LDFA could make under its TIF (tax-increment financing) plan. It could also make investments in physical infrastructure. During question time, Sandi Smith (Ward 1) drew out from Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) the possibility that the LDFA could contemplate an investment in a fiber-optic network. Rapundalo, who serves on the LDFA board, indicated that such an LDFA investment might be possible, even if Google does not select Ann Arbor as a test community for its current fiber-optic initiative.

The council also heard from the economic development community about how the name “Ann Arbor” is perceived in the rest of the world.

The part of the council’s meeting dedicated to deliberations on its own budget was comparatively brief. Councilmembers were keen to portray in a positive light a couple of different issues, among them a potential increase in the city’s debt load resulting from a failure to complete a $3 million sale of property at First & Washington, as well as proposed increases in water rates. [Full Story]

Mixed Bag: Phones, Fiber, Fire

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 15, 2010) Part 1: In its main business of the evening, the city council took the last in a series of steps towards converting the city’s twin-tote curbside recycling program to a single-stream system.

Dominick Lanza fire chief Ann Arbor

Dominick Lanza is sworn in as the city of Ann Arbor’s new fire chief. (Photos by the writer.)

Part 1 of this report will not include single-stream recycling. Part 2 of the meeting report will focus on that issue, and will be somewhat delayed, in order to increase the possibility that an information request from the city for relevant data can be included in that article. [In this, we thus take a dual-stream approach.]

Aside from the single-stream recycling issue, the council addressed a range of other disparate topics.

The council undertook a wholesale replacement of the housing commission board, a move that will see the return to city service of recently-departed community services area administrator, Jayne Miller. She’s one of the new appointees to the housing commission board.

The council also approved a resolution urging Google to select Ann Arbor as a site for a fiber optic network. Accompanying that resolution was a public hearing during which seven people – two from Ypsilanti – spoke in support of the city’s bid, which also enjoys the support of the University of Michigan.

The city’s new fire chief, Dominick Lanza, was sworn in, though his start date comes a few days in the future – March 22, 2010. [Full Story]

City Council’s Directive: 3% Cut for Workers

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 1, 2010) Part 1: Having postponed a resolution at its last meeting – which directed the city administrator to reduce wages of non-union workers by 3% – on Monday the council passed a revised version of it.

Tony Derezinski talking on a cell phone

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who co-sponsored a new ordinance banning use of cell phones while driving or bicycling. The ban does not apply to driving one's council chair before the meeting starts. (Photos by the writer.)

But it was approved without the support of the measure’s two sponsors, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2). The version adopted by council specified a 3% minimum cut in compensation packages, taken over the aggregate of non-union workers. By the time the resolution was passed, it had also shed a “whereas” clause that Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) called “self-laudatory.”

In development news, The Moravian – a planned unit development (PUD) proposed on East Madison Street – received unanimous council support at its first reading. Approval at two readings is required for final approval. But Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) responded to a resident request made at the previous night’s caucus to give some clue at the first reading as to how councilmembers were thinking about the project: “I’ll be voting against it at second reading – so there’s no question in the community’s mind.”

Based on the Sunday caucus, The Moravian will face a protest petition, which raises the bar for approval from six to eight votes.

The council also wrangled through a proposed ban on cell phone use while driving and bicycling – at a level of detail unusual for a first reading. The measure had undergone enough revisions since it was approved at the council’s previous meeting that its status Monday was reset to a first reading. Dissent on the ban came from Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who questioned whether it should be undertaken at the local level – as opposed to the state. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) also dissented, pointing to the fact that the ban did not include hands-free phones.

The council also transacted a variety of other business, including a repeal of the city’s bicycle registration program, which is to be replaced with a new system after further consultation with stakeholders. The bicycle registration program, as well as other business and announcements, will be wrapped up in Part 2 of this report. [Full Story]

The Moravian Goes Before City Council

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (Feb. 28, 2010): The notion of a “first reading” permeated discussion in council chambers Sunday night among the five councilmembers and the half dozen residents who attended. Ordinances must be approved at two readings by the city council before they are enacted.

Tony Derezinski Stephen Kunselman Sabra Briere

At the Sunday Ann Arbor city council caucus, from left: Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1). Also attending the caucus from the city council were Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and John Hieftje (mayor). (Photo by the writer.)

Due to receive its first reading on Monday night at the council’s regular meeting is The Moravian – a  five-story residential and work/live space planned unit development (PUD) along the 500 block of Fifth Avenue and the 200 block of East Madison. The project was given a recommendation for approval from the city’s planning commission on a 7-1 vote in January 2010. [Chronicle coverage: "Moravian Moves Forward Despite Protests"]

At Sunday’s caucus, some residents said they were keen to see a substantive discussion at The Moravian’s first reading, but councilmembers cautioned that the first reading was typically not the time when they argued a particular position. Residents indicated that they’d gathered enough signatures from surrounding land owners to meet a city code threshold that would force an 8-vote super-majority – out of 11 votes – at a second reading of the PUD proposal.

Also receiving a first reading on Monday will be a proposed ban on cell phone use while driving. The ban had already received approval on first reading at the council’s last meeting, but due to subsequent significant revisions to the ordinance language, it will be heard again Monday as a first reading. The council’s agenda indicates that the public hearing, generally held along with an ordinance’s second reading, has been canceled. That will be rescheduled to coincide with the second reading.

A budget directive – reducing all non-union staff salaries by 3% – had been postponed from the last council meeting and will be considered by the council on Monday in a slightly revised form. As a council resolution – as opposed to an ordinance – it will require just one reading. A key revision in the intervening postponement: It’s now a minimum 3% cut that’s specified, which leaves the door open for even greater cuts. [Full Story]

Budget Round 3: Where’s Your Emergency?

With limited success on Monday night, city administrator Roger Fraser prodded city councilmembers to confront the city’s budget impact statements. Each of the city’s service units had prepared the statements and made them available to the council a few weeks ago.

chief of police Ann Arbor Barnett Jones

Chronicle file photo from August 2009 of Barnett Jones, chief of police for the city of Ann Arbor. Jones was recounting for The Chronicle how the assigned budget exercise for FY 2010 – the current year – had begun with funding cuts that were equivalent to an elimination of 40 sworn officers. It didn't end that way – due to cost savings in other areas and an early-out retirement incentive. For FY 2011, the exercise began with funding cuts equivalent to 19 officers, which Jones says he's now been able to limit to 9-12 officers. (Photos by the writer.)

It was the third council meeting since the beginning of the year held to focus specifically on the budget, after the council’s budget retreat in December 2009.

In ballpark numbers, Ann Arbor faces a $5.2 million budget shortfall for FY 2011, which begins July 1, 2010. And even if every measure listed on the budget impact sheets is enacted, it would amount to $4.8 million in savings, leaving the city still almost $0.4 million short of balancing its budget.

The meeting did not include any discussion of possible other specific revenue sources, either in the form of payments from the Downtown Development Authority, a city income tax or a Headlee override. The Headlee option has been suggested in a recent “budget white paper” circulated by Sabra Briere (Ward 1), but only if certain conditions are met. Briere, along with Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), did not attend Monday’s meeting.

The meeting began with presentations on possible outsourcing of emergency management and IT functions at the city. Councilmembers as a group reflected the same lack of enthusiasm for outsourcing those functions as Barnett Jones, chief of police, and Dan Rainey, head of IT, had expressed in their respective presentations.

When mayor John Hieftje appeared ready to send everyone home without any discussion of the budget impact statements, Fraser reiterated a point he’d made earlier: His expectation was that council would discuss the budget impact statements – he had city staff on hand to answer any questions. The council indulged Fraser by quizzing Barnett Jones about the possible layoff of 9-12 sworn police officers. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Delays Vote on Pay Cuts

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Feb. 16, 2010): Looming budget decisions were a prominent part of the council’s meeting. Around a dozen speakers addressed the council during a public hearing on housing and human services needs – the input will be used by the office of community development in making recommendations for city general fund expenditures.

Jim Mogensen

Jim Mogensen, speaking about the University of Michigan shouldering a half-million-dollar cost for the Central Campus Transit Center that the city would ordinarily have paid: "Look, it's not free." (Photos by the writer.)

The approval of a contract extension for the city’s public art administrator generated a great deal of discussion – partly concerning the dollar amount of the contract – and was passed despite dissent from three councilmembers.

But the council postponed a resolution that would have cut the base salaries of the city administrator and the city attorney by 3%, and would have directed the administrator to cut the salaries of non-union employees by 3% as well.

Another prominent theme of the meeting was real estate and infrastructure. Council approved the acquisition of a property within the city limits – a portion of the Black Elk’s site on Sunset Road – using greenbelt millage funds. They also approved the capital improvements plan (CIP), modified to delete an item for the extension and shifting of a runway at the Ann Arbor municipal airport. [Full Story]

Budget Round 2: What’s the Big Idea?

On Monday night, the Ann Arbor City Council continued with the second in a series of extra meetings devoted exclusively to budget issues. Much of the discussion was a review of information that councilmembers had deliberated at their Jan. 25 meeting, when the focus was specifically on the community services area.

Tom Crawford and Roger Fraser

At left is Tom Crawford, the city's CFO. To the right is Roger Fraser, city administrator. (Photos by the writer.)

The community services area comprises the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, planning and development, human services, and parks/recreation. The council had chosen to focus on that area first, because of the community service area administrator’s imminent departure – Jayne Miller’s last day working for the city is Feb. 12, 2010.

But Miller’s new post as director of the Huron Clinton Metro Authority (HCMA) factored into some of the conversation on Monday, ranging from HCMA’s canoe rental fee structure, to the (remote) possibility that HCMA might take over some of the city of Ann Arbor’s parks. It was those larger scope issues the council was meant to address on Monday.

So at Monday’s meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser labeled the occasion as a time to talk about the “big ideas” the council had been presented at their December 2009 budget retreat. And councilmembers did eventually come around to start grinding through the list of ideas.

Rather than organize our account of the meeting based on that list, we’ve identified some themes that might provide an alternate framing of some of the budget challenges. We’ve formulated them as questions: (i) What are the basic philosophies? (ii) Should anything be held harmless? (iii) What do we do with our land? (iv) Is increasing revenue an option? [Full Story]

Fee Increase Suggested for Athletic Fields

Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission (Jan. 19, 2010): As part of a project to upgrade the athletic fields at Fuller and Olson parks, members of the city’s Park Advisory Commission approved an increase in fees to use those fields. One commissioner described the fields, which had previously been in serious disrepair, as “a thing of beauty.”

Sign at the entrance to the Fuller Park soccer fields, next to Fuller Pool.

Sign at the entrance to the Fuller Park soccer fields, next to Fuller Pool. (Photos by the writer.)

Three speakers during public commentary, all representing groups that use the fields heavily, said they didn’t have a problem with the fee hike, but hoped that the change could be phased in over three years, rather than implemented this season. The recommendation for an increase, along with changes in how the fields are used, will be forwarded to city council.

Commissioners also approved recommendations from the task forces that are working to raise revenues and cut costs for Mack Pool and the Ann Arbor Senior Center. Commissioner Tim Berla clarified that the PAC resolution was primarily an “atta boy!” for the work of the staff and task forces, and support of the direction they’re headed. The recommendations – which aim to keep those operations open – will be presented to city council at their Feb. 8 meeting.

And finally, as a bonus for readers who stick with this report until the end: One commissioner is championing an urban dog park, and has identified a potential location within the city. [Full Story]

Council OKs Firefighter Deal, 911 Center

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Jan. 19, 2010): The Ann Arbor city council approved an agreement with the local firefighters union that reduces pay by 3% to ensure that no firefighters will be laid off before June 30, 2010.

Pam Byrnes and Karen Sydney

State Rep. Pam Byrnes, left, and Karen Sidney talk before the start of the city council's meeting, which included a presentation at the start of the meeting from Byrnes. (Photos by the writer.)

And, in a move that some councilmembers described as leadership, mayor John Hieftje announced that he was writing a check for $1,273 as a contribution back to the city, because that’s the equivalent of 3% of his annual salary – the same percentage conceded by the firefighters union. It’s also the same percentage Hieftje has suggested that all employees citywide accept as a wage reduction. Some councilmembers indicated they’d be making similar gestures, which they allowed were only symbolic.

The city council also approved a budget increase for the 911 call center modification, a project to facilitate co-location of the city and county 911 centers – it’s expected to be a cost-savings measure.

Council also directed the city administrator, Roger Fraser, to plan an event to honor volunteer members of various boards, commissions and committees that do much of the work required to make the city run.

In other business, the council approved without discussion a University of Michigan project for the soccer complex on South Main Street.

State Rep. Pam Byrnes (D-District 52) gave a presentation to the council at the start of the meeting outlining exactly how bleak the economic outlook is in Michigan.

Many of the items on council’s agenda were postponed: revisions to bicycling and pedestrian ordinances (including bicycle registration); revisions to parking fines; and the capital improvements plan.

And two of the items were pulled from the agenda at the start of the meeting: a revision to the ordinance on signs and outdoor advertising to allow portable signs; and a resolution to approve the transfer of a liquor license to BW&R GoBlue LLC, located at 640 Packard Street. [Full Story]

Initial Vote Set for Mack Pool, Senior Center

The entrance to Mack Pool, located at the Ann Arbor Open @ Mack school at the corner of Miller and Brooks.

The entrance to Mack Pool, located in the Ann Arbor Open @ Mack school at the corner of Miller and Brooks.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission will consider recommendations that would cut costs and raise revenue for Mack Pool and the Ann Arbor Senior Center, with the goal of keeping both operations open. If approved by PAC, the recommendations would be forwarded to city council.

Last spring, city administrator Roger Fraser proposed closing both the pool and the senior center, as part of a larger effort to address the city’s general fund budget deficit. Both entities cost more to operate than they generate in revenues, and are subsidized by the general fund.

Council subsequently created task forces to look at how more revenues could be raised and expenses cut from those operations. City staff held public meetings in December to present the initial recommendations from the task forces. [See Chronicle coverage: "More Options for Ann Arbor's Mack Pool" and "Task Force Tries to Save Senior Center"]

At its Tuesday meeting – which begins at 4 p.m. and includes time for public commentary – park commissioners will discuss and possibly revise those recommendations, before voting on whether to send them on to city council. The meeting is held at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. After the jump, we provide a summary of the proposals. [Full Story]

Twittering at the Ann Arbor Senior Center

The sound is like heavy rain clattering on a tin roof. “It’s called twittering – yes, we know how to twitter!”


This kind of twittering is also social and interactive – to shuffle the Mah Jongg tiles. (Photos by the writer.)

The “we” is a group of six who’ve come to the Ann Arbor Senior Center on a frigid Monday afternoon to play Mah Jongg, and they’ve graciously allowed The Chronicle to sit in on their game.

It’s a slow day at the center – typically, there might be 16 or more people here to play the traditional Chinese tile game, plus another couple dozen playing bridge – but wind and snow and perhaps the holiday weekend made for a thin turnout.

The Chronicle has covered two meetings of a city task force that’s trying to save the center – it’s slated to close on July 1, unless the task force can come up with ways to cut expenses and raise revenues to overcome a $151,687 operating shortfall.

But we hadn’t yet visited the center to see what goes on there during a typical day. So on Monday, we made the snowy trek. [Full Story]

Budget Crunch Backdrop Drives Council

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Dec. 21, 2009) Part II: In Part I of our report, we handled two meeting topics clearly related to the looming budget shortfall: public art expenditures and parking revenue.

members of firefighters local union

Members of International Association of Firefighters Local 693 waited past midnight until their president finally was able to take his turn at public commentary during unreserved time at the end of the meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Two rows of firefighters from the International Association of Firefighters Local 693 – layoff notices have already been sent to some of them – sat in the audience through the whole meeting, which lasted until midnight.

Like the firefighters, sitting at least in the background of nearly every item on the agenda, were the looming budget issues that the city council faces.

When they came to the foreground, the concerns about the budget managed to connect topics as seemingly disparate as Verizon antennae and parking revenues.

Even a garden-variety contract with a consultant for the greenbelt provoked some brief discussion related to the budget shortfall.

The impetus behind the council’s committee reorganization was again … the budget. What was previously one budget and labor committee was split into two committees: (i) the budget committee, and (ii) the labor committee, which is now combined with the council administration committee. That reorganization was pitched as a way to allow representation from each ward on the five-member budget committee.

Councilmembers and the city administrator also made robust use of the communications section of the agenda to provide status updates on their recent work – much of it related to efforts to identify new revenue streams and ways to cut expenses as part of the effort to meet budget goals.

In other business, the purchase of carts for single-stream recycling was authorized, plus an energy grant totaling over $1 million was accepted. [Full Story]

City-DDA Parking Deal Possible

At the Dec. 16 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee, DDA board member Sandi Smith previewed a city council resolution on parking she said she expected would be on the Dec. 21 city council agenda. Smith also serves on the city council.

Ann Arbor parking meter

Ann Arbor parking meters are currently enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday. (Photo by the writer.)

Key elements of the draft resolution that Smith shared with fellow DDA board members included: (i) net revenues from the Fifth and William (old YMCA) lot would go into city rather than DDA coffers, (ii) downtown parking meters would operate and be enforced until 10 p.m., which is later than their current cutoff of 6 p.m., and (iii) the city would discontinue its plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near the downtown.

The city’s plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near downtown was formulated as part of the city’s FY 2010 budget (the current fiscal year), but implementation was not immediate. Reference to the city’s installation of “its own meters” alludes to the fact that the DDA manages the public parking system via an agreement with the city – the new meters would not fall under that agreement.

Although the specific wording of the draft differed in parts from the resolution that was added to council’s agenda on Friday, the key points remained.

Within hours of its appearance on the agenda, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce had sent a memo to city councilmembers asking for postponement of the resolution.

Smith’s resolution puts one question that’s been simmering for nearly a year closer to the front burner: Will the parking agreement between the city and the DDA be renegotiated as part of the FY 2011 budget? [Full Story]

Task Force Tries to Save Senior Center

The Ann Arbor Senior Center is a projected $90,355 closer to bridging a $151,687 gap between revenues and expenses, according to an update given Wednesday. At a public meeting, city staff presented preliminary recommendations of a task force that’s been working on ways to generate revenue and cut expenses at the center.

The Ann Arbor Senior Center already offers bridge games, but a task force hopes to raise additional revenue by adding to the center's bridge programs.

The Ann Arbor Senior Center already offers bridge games, but a task force hopes to raise additional revenue by adding to the center's bridge programs. (Photo by the writer.)

Like Mack Pool, the senior center is slated to close on July 1, 2010 as part of the budget plan for FY 2011, which was presented to the city council earlier this year. Following protests from users of those facilities, the council appointed two task forces this summer to develop strategies that could potentially prevent the closures.

Recommendations for the senior center include expanding a trip program, putting a membership fee in place and using part of a bequest to cover operating expenses in the short-term, among other ideas.

During a Q&A following staff’s presentation, several of the 40 or so people attending the meeting pressed for more information and criticized the city in general for having misplaced spending priorities. “We are not blades of grass,” one woman said. “We’re not golf balls. We are human beings, and closing this center would have a devastating impact on people and their families.” [Full Story]

More Options for Ann Arbor’s Mack Pool

Though the closing of Mack Pool was on a list of budget-cutting ideas during Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 5 retreat, a task force continues to work on ways to save the pool, and held a public meeting on Thursday to give an update on its progress.

Tuesday's public meeting of the Mack Pool Task Force drew about 25 people.

Thursday's public meeting of the Mack Pool Task Force drew about 25 people. (Photos by the writer.)

Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, told a group of about 25 people that the task force is focused on bridging the roughly $100,000 gap between expenses and revenues for the pool – even though the group is well aware of the city’s larger budget crisis. That broader budget crisis includes the possibility of up to 30% cuts in the city’s general fund budget through fiscal 2012.

Smith noted that the task force had come up with nearly $36,000 in net savings and revenue – about a third of the way toward its goal so far. With just over two months before recommendations will be delivered to city council, “we’re not done,” he said. [Full Story]

AAPAC Plans Response on Public Art

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (Dec. 8, 2009): One day after Ann Arbor city council voted to temporarily cut in half a program that funds public art projects, the commission that oversees that funding strategized over how to respond.

Jim Kern, outgoing public art commissioner, gets a hug from Margaret Parker, the commission's chair, after Tuesday night's meeting. The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is recruiting replacements for Kern and Jan Onder, who is also leaving AAPAC at the end of the month. (Photo by the writer.)

Jim Kern, outgoing public art commissioner, gets a hug from Margaret Parker, the commission's chair, after Tuesday night's meeting. The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is recruiting replacements for Kern and Jan Onder, who is also leaving AAPAC at the end of the month. (Photo by the writer.)

They hope to rally others in the community to attend a public hearing at the Dec. 21 city council meeting, when councilmembers will take a final vote on the three-year funding cut.

Several commissioners expressed concern that some councilmembers didn’t seem to understand how the city’s Percent for Art program works.

Since it was formed in 2007, the program has set aside 1% of any city-funded capital improvement project, to be used for public art. The proposal initially approved by council on Monday would cut that funding to a half percent.

Also at the Dec. 21 council meeting, a vote is expected on the program’s first major project: a water sculpture by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, proposed as an outdoor installation at the new municipal center next to city hall. [Full Story]