Meeting Watch: City Council (6 Oct 2008)

601 S. Forest public hearing continued to Oct. 20

Public Commentary Reserved Time

Tom Partridge. Partridge described himself as a “proud and determined Democrat,” stressing the importance of electing Democrats in general and specifically Mark Schauer to replace Tim Wahlberg in the 7th Congressional District. He said that he is running as a write-candidate for state representative in the 52nd District because he’s not convinced that any of the other candidates, including the incumbent Democrat, are running on truly progressive platforms.

Jim Mogensen. Mogensen reiterated his remarks made at the previous night’s caucus about student occupancy at The Courtyards. The situation is reflected in a document that was included in the “communications to council” section of the agenda packet, which is a letter from the University of Michigan to the developer.

The Courtyards is a residential development at Plymouth and Broadway, which required an easement through university property for access. The condition the university placed on the granting of the easement was that 70% of the residents must at all times be UM students. Mogensen pointed out that if the percentage of students fell below 70%, The Courtyards could not legally discriminate against non-students in order to meet the 70% threshold. But if The Courtyards did not discriminate against non-students in order to meet the 70% threshold, they risked losing the easement. Without the easement, there was not the necessary access into and out of the site to ensure public safety. Said Mogensen, the university is effectively using its considerable economic and political clout to have other parties violate our city’s non-discrimination ordinances on its behalf.

Mogensen stressed that the university’s requirement on the developer’s property puts it at odds with the city’s non-discrimination ordinance contained in Chapter 112:

9:155. Other prohibited practices.

(5) No person shall conspire with, assist, coerce or request another person to discriminate in any manner prohibited by this chapter.

Mogensen concluded: “Laws apply when it is convenient for the university.”

Henry Herskovitz. Herskovitz noted the passing last month of the 5-year milestone for vigils held by demonstrators outside the Beth Israel synagogue. He characterized the invasion of Iraq as not a war for oil, but rather a war for Israel that was prosecuted at the urging of supporters of Israel. Herksovitz described the origin of the vigils as resulting from the travels in 2002 by some members of the group to Palestine, where they observed “apartheid conditions” and their return to find that their witness was not welcomed by the Jewish community in Ann Arbor. Herskovitz concluded by saying that the ratio of dead Palestineans to dead Israelis is 48 to 1.

Michael Benson. Benson, treasurer of the Michigan Student assembly, reported a successful homecoming with the theme, “Go Blue, Live Green,” which included a voter registration drive that culminated in the registration of over 350 new voters on the last day it was possible, thanking the city clerk’s office for the use of drop boxes. Benson thanked council for last year’s street closure for homecoming as well as the 650 reusable water bottles this year. Benson then presented T-shirts in an assortment of sizes as well as pens as a token of appreciation.

John Floyd. Floyd, who is a Republican candidate for city council’s Ward 5 seat, outlined the effect of new development on tax revenue, contrasting the impact on revenue of a homeowner putting an addition on their home in a residential area, with the impact of any improvement to property inside the district of the Downtown Development Authority. While all of the the additional tax revenue generated from the increased value of the improved home accrues to the general fund of the city, the same increment in tax revenue for an improvement inside the downtown district is captured by the DDA, instead of going to the general fund. On a scenario where downtown improvements are undertaken to increase downtown population – by 5,000 or 10,000 or 15,000, or 20,000 additional residents – who, asked Floyd, pays for the additional city services that all those people need (police, street repair, solid waste, elections, etc.)? Floyd’s answer: all the people who don’t live in downtown.

Agenda Items

601 S. Forest Site Plan

Developer Dan Ketelaar presented at the start of the meeting a revised site plan, in conceptual form, that is reduced from the 25-story proposal previously submitted.

Conceptual drawings of the revision depict a reduced frontage along South University and an overall reduction in height to 14 stories (12 stories above a base of two stories). In terms of feet above grade, the change reflects a reduction from 263 feet 4 inches to 162 feet 8 inches. In what appeared to be an intended laugh line, Ketelaar said he assumed that with the height reduction all those who previously opposed the plan would jump on board and support it fully. There was no audible laughter. At the podium, Ketelaar offered no further details, but made himself available for any questions from councilmembers. Councilmembers had no questions for Ketelaar. Conceptual drawings of the revisions are available here.

The public hearing on 601 S. Forest will be continued on Oct. 20. Those who spoke at the hearing on Oct. 6 will not be able to speak again at the continuation. They included the following:

Karen Sidney. Sidney said that while she doesn’t live near the 601 S. Forest project, she judged her Ward 5 councilmembers by their performance on all projects, and she criticized Ward 5 councilmember Chris Easthope for helping push through the zoning change (inclusion of the parcel in a downtown zone) that allowed the parcel to be developed under the floor-area ratios that had resulted in a 25-story “matter of right” project. Sidney’s main focus, however, was her objection to funding of the project through brownfield credits, which she characterized as a way for developers to get taxpayers to provide the risk capital, which in this case she projected could be around $9-10 million.

Stewart Nelson. Nelson echoed Sidney’s objections to funding the project through brownfield credits, after first expressing his appreciation to councilmember Stephen Rapundalo for helping achieve a good compromise, as it seemed to set aside the threat of litigation, and he characterized the reduced project as a “handsome building.” Nelson expressed his skepticism that the reduced version of the project was motivated by taking to heart the feedback from the community or “civic pride,” and suggested it had more to do with current financial conditions. Nelson stressed that brownfield credits are designed to give incentive to developers to develop blighted and polluted parcels instead of building out in a cornfield somewhere, and that it was appropriate to grant such credits when the parcel would not otherwise be attractive to any developer – which he did not believe was the case here.

Brian Russell. Russell, who is listed as a “Campus Legend” in the UM online directory, stated that he had lived off campus on State Street for three years. He noted the recent zoning change to the Burns Park area as reflective of community sentiment against student encroachment into neighborhoods and said that the 601 S. Forest project would mitigate against such encroachment by providing an alternative to the substandard housing alternatives near single-family neighborhoods. Compared to other Big Ten institutions, Russell characterized some UM off-campus housing options as “slum housing.” He stated that the improvement of student housing is the responsibility of both city council and student government, and suggested that current student government might not necessarily be mindful of the support among many students for the project.

Jim Mogensen. Mogensen’s theme was process – the process that a project typically goes through, from a meeting between developers and planning staff, to planning commission, to council, to first reading and second reading. Noting that with the 601 S. Forest project a substantial revision had been introduced, Mogensen framed the current challenge as how “to integrate it back into the process.” While conceding that starting from the very beginning was probably not necessary, he stressed that citizens have a right to have the process be an orderly one, so that everyone knows what is going on.

Arvind Sohoni. Sohoni, vice president of the University of Michigan Student Assembly, first apologized for being underdressed after attending the Bruce Springsteen concert in Ypsilanti just prior. Sohoni said that, contrary to the statement by Brian Russell, an earlier speaker, the MSA was actively engaged on the 601 S. Forest issue. He related how the MSA had devoted an entire meeting to the project (consulting with a member of city council) even while planning for homecoming weekend. Sohoni said he appreciated compromise on both sides that resulted in the revised proposal and said it reflected solid stewardship of the community. Sohoni concluded by stressing to members of council that students are their constituents as well, and that while some conceptions of students might be true – they’re transient and fairly lazy – it’s not true that they just don’t care. They simply don’t necessarily know the avenues of conveying their concerns – which he described as part of his job to address.

Result: Postponed to Oct. 20 meeting with public hearing to be continued.

African American Cultural and Historical Museum PUD Rezoning

At the public hearing, Tom Partridge commended the planning commission for its role in pushing the proposal for the museum forward, but called upon the commission and council to explore the rezoning of properties adjacent to it, and the requirement that those parcels, as well as other parcels across the city, provide affordable housing. Architect Dick Mitchell, of Mitchell & Mouat Architects, made himself and other members of the design team, plus representatives of the African American Cultural and Historical Museum, available for any questions.

Result: The PUD rezoning was approved unanimously.

Ordinance on Private Street Standards and Accessibility

During the public hearing, Mark Davis, speaking on behalf of the Arbor Hills Condominium Association, expressed concern that the new regulations on how lots can be divided and the required dimensions of private streets that give access to the new lots would cause established communities to be non-conforming. Davis asked how an existing community within the city would be protected.

Councilmember Rapundalo asked for explanation regarding Davis’ concern from the city attorney’s office and it was clarified that the provisions governing Arbor Hills in particular would be those associated with its status as a PUD. In general, existing private streets are grandfathered in, but if someone were to undertake lot divisions on an existing private street, the lot divisions would have to meet the new code.

After clarifications by councilmembers Sabra Briere and Stephen Kunselman, Kunselman characterized it as a good ordinance that had been a long time coming and that it was important for the creation of orderly development of property divisions.

Result: Unanimously approved.

Liquor License for the Blue Tractor

Councilmember Rapundalo asked that the request for a liquor license and dance permit be separated out from the consent agenda and when it was so separated, then asked for a postponement on the grounds that it had just landed on the doorstep of the liquor committee. He also described how every application was being given appropriate scrutiny in light of the new redevelopment licenses that have been added to the “portfolio” to make sure everything is evaluated in a uniform manner. The liquor committee is leading up to a new component in its work to perform annual reviews that align with the state-mandated annual review.

Result: Postponed.

Ordinance Prohibiting Plastic Carry Out Bags

After a postponement from the July 21 agenda, Rapundalo asked for a further postponement to the first meeting in March 2009 in order to give adequate opportunity for outreach to the retail community. Rapundalo said he hoped for an informal, ad hoc kind of outreach that could solicit the desired input rather than formalizing it as a taskforce.

Result: Postponed

Fire Protection Grant Program

Councilmember Leigh Greden explained that the Fire Protection Grant Program is the means by which the state of Michigan compensates municipalities for the fire protection they’re required to provide to state institutions in their midst. Examples of such institutions are state parks, prisons, and universities like UM. Historically, the state has never funded the program at 100%. The resolution before council called on the state to provide full compensation to municipalities.

Result: Passed unanimously.

Purchase of Ice Control Salt

This item, which authorized purchase of salt from North American Salt Company ($211,800) and Morton International, Inc. ($155,200), resulted in more discussion among councilmembers than might have been expected. Councilmember Greden invited Sue McCormick to the podium to explain that Ann Arbor is avoiding what other cities in Michigan have faced: running out of salt, and paying exorbitant prices. Councilmember Easthope, who is leaving council in November after eight years of service, said that he would miss the angry phone calls about lack of plowing. He suggested that the 4-inch rule – where streets are only plowed if snow accumulates more than 4 inches – might not be the best thing. McCormick said the problem was not with the rule, but that it required looking at the long-range forecast. A single snowfall with a warming trend behind it is one thing, but when you have a few inches and choose not to plow, it gets pounded down to ice, doesn’t thaw and the next snowfall collects on that – you can’t go back and change your mind and plow it off.

Result: Passed unanimously.

Cable Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals Appointments

Anthony Ramirez, who is replacing R. Thomas Bray, was appointed to the Cable Communications Commission.

Jean Carlberg, who is replacing Ron Emaus, was appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Carlberg currently serves on the planning commission and formerly served on city council.

City Place PUD Rezoning

This item, concerning a project that developer Alex de Parry is bringing forward to city council despite a 2-6 planning commission vote against it, was stricken from the agenda. Newcombe Clark, who was originally signed up to address the project during public commentary, did not appear.

Communications from Council

Easthope reported that the free breath tests offered by the Arrive Alive Foundation on Main Street after the Michigan-Wisconsin football game resulted in 300-400 breath tests. Easthope reported that some people changed their mind about driving home as a result of taking the test.

Rapundalo expressed his thanks to Sgt. Fox of the Ann Arbor Police Department for his time in allowing him to ride along on “party patrol” on a couple of recent Saturday evenings and said that the AAPD was doing a magnificent job in making sure our young folks are going about their evenings in a respectful and mature way.

Margie Teall alerted council colleagues to the resolution at the upcoming Oct. 20 council meeting to appoint Valerie Strassberg in a one-step process to serve on the environmental commission.

Present: Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Chris Easthope, Leigh Greden, John Hieftje, Marcia Higgins, Stephen Kunselman, Joan Lowenstein, Stephen Rapundalo, Ron Suarez, Margie Teall.

Absent: None.

Next meeting: Monday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave.


  1. By Leah Gunn
    October 7, 2008 at 1:41 pm | permalink

    Mr. Floyd should understand that when the DDA receives Tax Increment Financing, it gets only the increased value on the first go round. Any further increase in the value of a property then reverts back to the participating jurisdictions. For example, the Ann Arbor District Library has about $100,000 taken for DDA TIF each year, but with the increase in property values in the downtown over the last number of years, it receives about $400,000 in additional revenue from the DDA district. The same is true for the city and the county. So, the people as a whole do indeed benefit directly from downtown development. This is an unusual way of funding DDAs, so Mr. Floyd’s confusion is understandable. Most other DDAs grab the whole amount.

  2. By Patricia Lesko
    October 7, 2008 at 4:36 pm | permalink

    What Ms. Gunn neglects to point out is that the TIF represents only 21 percent of the DDA’s total revenue. The bulk of the DDA’s operating budget comes from parking revenue. The cost of parking in some instances is slated to be substantially increased (doubled in some cases) within the next two years by the DDA Board on which she sits.

    So, while Ms. Gunn assures us that the DDA’s “unusual” TIF capture method limits property tax money funneled to the entity, she is also well aware that the current TIF funding scheme benefits those few who own the property located within the DDA boundary.

    Surely, it would be less of a burden on Ann Arbor taxpayers who park downtown if the bulk of the DDA’s revenue were to come from a TIF structure that taxed real property values. If the downtown real estate is as valuable as Ms. Gunn asserts, it’s almost criminal to freeze/deflate tax values for downtown property owners as far as the TIF capture is concerned, while property tax rates for homeowners outside the downtown (where the majority of homeowners live) remain obscenely high, and parking rates are doubled to create additional DDA revenues–several million dollars of which was given over to the new City Hall project as opposed to parking projects.

  3. By Steve Bean
    October 7, 2008 at 11:43 pm | permalink

    I think it’s accurate to say that the current TIF funding scheme benefits not only downtown property owners, but also the business owners who lease their buildings, the employees who work there, the employees of businesses who transact with those businesses, and the customers who purchase goods and services from all those businesses. In other words, we have a downtown business district that we all benefit from directly or indirectly and can enjoy if we choose to.

    I don’t think it would be accurate to say that changing the DDA’s revenue mechanisms would necessarily benefit Ann Arbor taxpayers. What are you suggesting here specifically, Patricia, lower parking rates or higher TIF assessments or something else?

    I’m hoping that Leah will “Be Generous” and clarify whether the contribution to the police/courts building would come from the parking system fund, as well as give a general overview of that and other DDA funds.

  4. October 8, 2008 at 12:28 pm | permalink

    I assume that Ms. Gunn is not dissembling, but rather is not thinking clearly. The best one can get from the DDA’s Tax Increment Capture funding is that years from now, inflation will begin to provide the city, the AATA, Washtenaw CC, Washtenaw County, the Street Maintenance millage, the Parks Maintenance millage, the Greenbelt Land Purchase millage and the City of Ann Arbor some tax revenues from redevelopment. In the interim, residents and business outside the DDA zone pick up the tab for all government services to all new downtown residents and businesses.

    Again, new downtown residents will use neither more, nor less, services than other city residents – they simply will contribute nothing to their funding. The DDA captures all the increased tax revenue from the building of their apartments. Ms. Gunn is right to point out that years from now, inflation on the initial increase in property value from re-development will provide some relief to the rest of the city – but she neglects to point out that this will be years from now, and only some relief. The cost of services does not stand still, either. The purchasing power of the tax revenue captured by the DDA slowly erodes over time, but never, ever reverts to the city.

    No resident – or Stadium Boulevard business – gets to say that the increased tax on an addition to his home or business must be used on his street, or on the park near his home. In any case, much of what government does is “general service” stuff that is not geography-specific: planning department, building department, fleet maintenance, accounting and finance, city administrator, law, fire, police, EMT, etc.

    There is no reason that all taxes from the downtown redevelopment should be exempted from the same budget process to which taxes on homes and businesses outside the DDA zone are subjected. If more parking really is the city priority (but I thought we wanted to encourage non-motorized transit, buses, and ‘light rail”?), then it can be built out our normal budgeting process.

    In the meantime, the rest of us carry all the costs of government to new downtown residents. Remember, downtown development does NOT fund Greenbelt land acquisition – you do.

    Does anyone know what Mr. Carsten Hohnke thinks about any of this? I haven’t heard, and he does not address it on his web site.

  5. By Stewart Nelson
    October 8, 2008 at 2:20 pm | permalink

    What happens when businesses in the DDA ask for a reduction in their assessed and taxable valuations like Pfizer did? Residential property values are going lower and rents are dropping. Can the commercial sector be far behind? My guess is many more commercial property owners will make the same claim Pfizer did. Also, outside the DDA what would keep Briarwood and DTE from asking for breaks?

    These are tough financial times. It is time for the City Administration to have their foot on the brakes and not the accelerator. I spoke at Caucus on Sunday night and recommended keeping the General Fund Reserve target at 12-15% instead of the 8 to 12% like it currently is.

  6. By Karen Sidney
    October 9, 2008 at 11:27 am | permalink

    The agenda for the Oct 9 meeting of the Washtenaw Co Brownfield Authority reports that 601 Forest wants a $9.4 million Brownfield credit, with $3.5 million going toward MDEQ eligible activities and $5.9 million for non-clean-up expenses. The agenda summary also reports that the city brownfield committee will meet Oct 13 to review this project as well as the two below. Last month, I asked if these city meetings were open to the public and I was told they were.

    The Michigan Inn wants $607,588. The site is contaminated with 1-4 dioxane but the basis of the request is that the site is functionally obsolete.

    Maple Shoppes on the corner of Dexter and Maple, which will be a new retail mall, is asking for $1.2 million.

  7. By Patricia Lesko
    October 11, 2008 at 8:43 am | permalink


    Just between you, me and everyone who reads my response, it’s just not clear to me why we need a DDA in Ann Arbor. A little comparison shopping while I was running for Council (just to satisfy my own curiosity) was pretty eye-opening. In Berkeley, CA, if you have a look at the city’s budget, you’ll see out of the $309 million in revenue, the city is giving over $750K each to two downtown development areas. The city has just about as many residents as A2 (100K) and just about as many households (44K). The tax rate is HALF of what ours is, and they spend twice what we do on parks, and have a general fund tat is 35 percent larger than ours, just to name a couple of differences. The downtown is vibrant in Berkeley, and the goal there is to produce tax revenue that finances CIVIC goals, and to support artistic and cultural activities for the people of the city.

    The goals of A2′s DDA are significantly different. Our DDA relies on the Reaganesque “trickle down” economic effect and citizen benefit, whereas in other cities the benefits are much more direct. Property taxes paid by businesses in Berkeley fund $1.5 million for affordable housing. In the 2009 Ann Arbor budget, Mayor and Council funded affordable housing to the tune of $170K, and the DDA will pull in $13 million in parking fees, and spent $8 million (plus $500K per year) to build a new City Hall. Metered parking fees are being doubled to build more underground parking for a conference center the Mayor wants to see built, I believe.

  8. By Steve Bean
    October 11, 2008 at 11:30 am | permalink

    Patricia, it’s still not clear to me what your specific objections are and what you would suggest changing.

    We have a DDA as a community choice–city council renewed our DDA recently with what I observed as minimal grumbling from some citizens. (Did I miss some organized opposition?) We don’t necessarily need a DDA, but we’ve chosen it as a tool to keep our downtown districts viable. Alternative approaches are possible, but they’d need to be laid out in some detail and would need to demonstrate a clear advantage over our current system. In the meantime, one obvious alternative is to try to get our DDA to function as efficiently as possible, to make better decisions, and to consider broader community goals as much as possible. That’s the approach that I’ve been taking. My primary effort is to encourage our DDA to incorporate community sustainability more explicitly into their mission, goals, and decisions.

    With regard to Berkeley, I vaguely remember seeing a comment in the last year or so that explained some of the differences in their system. (Might’ve been on ArborUpdate, but a search there turned up nothing relevant). In any case, if there are components of their approach that could work well here, I’m sure our DDA board would welcome input.

    Your comments illustrate some differences between Berkeley’s and Ann Arbor’s investments in affordable housing, but I don’t see that they demonstrate that their approach is more direct than ours (with regard to community benefits), only that they’re different.

    If you look at our DDA’s budget ( ), you’ll see that in addition to the $13 million in projected revenues (I wonder how conservative that estimate is–I wouldn’t be surprised if they fall short, given the economy) there are over $14 million in projected expenses for parking. (There seems to be an addition error in the total expenses line for that column, which shows about $15.5 million as the value.) No doubt different priorities could shift some of those numbers around. However, the budget needs to be considered as a whole–referencing isolated numbers has little value.

  9. By Dave Askins
    October 11, 2008 at 9:14 pm | permalink

    Steve Bean wrote: “With regard to Berkeley, I vaguely remember seeing a comment in the last year or so that explained some of the differences in their system. (Might’ve been on ArborUpdate, but a search there turned up nothing relevant).”

    It’s possible that the thread you remember on ArborUpdate is
    this one, which includes contributions from Patricia Lesko and Jennifer Hall.

  10. By Steve Bean
    October 12, 2008 at 12:49 pm | permalink

    That was it. Thanks, Dave. Apparently AU’s search feature doesn’t dig into comments.

    It’s a little spooky how I practically repeated Jennifer’s comments. But I won’t say that we should agree to disagree, Patricia. I hope you keep asking questions and that this discussion continues. You do have a responsibility to “listen” and acknowledge where you’ve been mistaken, otherwise it’ll be a waste of everyone’s time.

  11. By Patricia Lesko
    October 16, 2008 at 8:09 am | permalink

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your reply, and your points are well taken. Berkeley’s budget includes grants (state and federal) that Ann Arbor’s budget doesn’t. That was Jen Hall’s main objection when I brought up A2′s abysmal commitment to affordable housing in comparison to Berkeley’s. What she didn’t refute was that in Berkeley there are two downtown development areas and each received $750K this year. Berkeley’s downtown is incredibly vibrant, and has a much more robust mix of retail. Berkeley is just one example.

    As for the DDA, it has become a City Council cash cow; it has dedicated $23 million dollars toward the new City Hall. Oh, but the projected revenue is $17 million (The TIF capture has to be included).

    For $17 million dollars, Steve, we are getting parking garages, several of which have the minority of spaces made available to the public (the new proposed underground garage is a perfect example with a mere 150 spaces open to the taxpayers who’re footing the construction costs), free bus passes for 5000 or so employees who work downtown, and large tax incentives to developers to “mitigate their risks,” of developing in our city, or so said Sandi Smith at a DDA meeting when awarding a several hundred thousand dollar pile of cash to the out-of-town developer of Liberty Lofts. Other city leaders and DDAs use their money much more carefully and, frankly, with much better business sense and a commitment to civic improvement. It’s just that most people don’t bother to scrutinize at the budgets of other city’s, or other DDAs to see that, yes, it can be done differently.

    Does Ann Arbor need more parking structures? I don’t think so. Perhaps we disagree on this. We do agree, of course, that what we have needs to be maintained. My point is that pols in A2 seem content to reinvent the wheel, and end up with a square, sometimes, and spend money like there are, well, no ramifications to the taxpayers. There are. Where I grew up, Steve, the city’s several indoor and outdoor swimming pools and sports facilities were free to residents. Every child got a pool pass on the final day of school. There was (still is) an immense civic center where kids could (can) spend their days skating, playing games and hanging with friends. On street parking is free. There are several cultural centers, and a large art center. There were (are) concrete benefits to living in that community and paying taxes there that revolved primarily around civic improvement.

  12. By Steve Bean
    October 16, 2008 at 11:45 am | permalink

    Patricia, I appreciate you continuing this discussion.

    I’ll start with some questions that aren’t intended to be rhetorical–I’m interested in the answers, and I think our city’s decision-makers would do right to be open to them as well.

    What do you think is the reason for Berkeley’s robust mix of downtown retail? Is it a matter of money? Does the affordable housing make the difference? Is the downtown the only retail district, or are there malls that the downtown successfully competes with? Is there more and/or cheaper parking, better public transit, better pedestrian infrastructure? What specifically do you think we can learn from their example?

    (This goes back to my first sentence in comment #8, which it seems you haven’t clearly addressed re: specific recommendations for changes.)

    You shifted the topic to parking structures, and I’ll gladly go there, briefly. I’ve already communicated to the DDA board that I’m concerned that the proposed underground structure would create a surplus of parking downtown for a very high per-space cost. A number of considerations have not been given even minimal analysis, and the majority of the board don’t seem open to exploring them. I think that that’s unfortunate for our community. I hope that city council members will be more so, but I haven’t gotten that impression from a couple of them. As I said earlier, my focus is on community sustainability, and devoting resources to an unsustainable transportation system is a waste of valuable resources that we need for the transition to a sustainable one.

    Comparing present day downtown Ann Arbor to whenever-it-was-you-were-growing-up in wherever-it -was-you-grew-up isn’t constructive. In general, I think your efforts would be more effective if you focused on the specifics of how you think the DDA and City Council could more wisely allocate our tax dollars. I don’t think any comparison (or contrast) with other communities (or eras, for that matter) are necessary, and are probably more easily dismissed by people who aren’t open to your perspective when those comparisons get tenuous.

    I noticed a couple of cases where you could have supported your position better. For example, you state that “there are” ramifications to taxpayers of spending money. Tell us what they are, referencing present-day Ann Arbor. You also expressed that you don’t think we need more parking structures. Why do you think that? Obviously, your comments were directed to me and not the DDA or council, but I’m attempting to help you (and others, including them) to improve our collective communications about these issues. It’s very important that we do.

    As I said, I’m interested in your responses, but I’d understand if this just got to be more than you have time for. (It would also be great of others would chime in.) Thanks again for your willingness to discuss. I’ve been referencing your words a lot and I appreciate that you haven’t gotten defensive. Some people aren’t capable of that.