County Board Hears Protests, Passes Budget

Also: Commissioners set special board meeting for Dec. 7

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (Dec. 2, 2009): During a meeting dominated by public commentary from residents protesting the county’s funding of Planned Parenthood, Washtenaw County commissioners passed the 2010-2011 balanced budget with little discussion, ending a year-long effort to wrestle with a previously projected $30 million deficit.

Washtenaw County commissioner Conan Smith, left, confers with county administrator Bob Guenzel before the Dec. 2 meeting of the board of commissioners. To the right is Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board's chair. Smith is chair of the Ways & Means Committee, on which the entire board serves. (Photo by the writer.)

Washtenaw County commissioner Conan Smith, left, confers with county administrator Bob Guenzel before the Dec. 2 meeting of the board of commissioners. To the right is Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board's chair. Smith is chair of the Ways & Means Committee, on which the entire board serves. (Photo by the writer.)

The board also discussed a situation with Ypsilanti Township’s contract for sheriff deputies, which the township wants to amend as of Jan. 1. Commissioners voted to hold a special board meeting on the issue on Monday, Dec. 7, when they are expected to take action on the request to decrease the number of contracted deputies.

Another special meeting was held on Wednesday afternoon, prior to the evening board meeting. Attended by seven of the 11 commissioners, the group discussed the role of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, a Ferndale-based nonprofit led by county commissioner Conan Smith, in handling a federal grant to the county for energy efficiency programs. The issue was not discussed at the evening meeting of commissioners, where the board voted to amend a resolution that authorized the county to apply for the grant. The amendment took out a specific reference to the alliance.

Other items at Wednesday’s board meeting included approval of the placement of a display for the Vietnam-era ship USS Washtenaw, and some questions about the progress of a $4 million weatherization grant that hasn’t moved forward as quickly as some commissioners would like.

There was no mention at the meeting of major news that came out the next day – the retirement of county administrator Bob Guenzel, who will step down in May after 37 years with the county.

Nonprofit Funding: More than Planned Parenthood

During the public comment portion of the meeting, more than a dozen people spoke  on the issue of county funding for Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan. Based on recommendations by the Office of Community Development, the board approved $55,250 in 2010-2011 for prenatal care offered by Planned Parenthood. Most of those speaking protested the funding – some had demonstrated outside the building before the board meeting, carrying signs with pictures of aborted fetuses.

The Planned Parenthood funding was part of $1.015 million allocated to over 30 nonprofits for human services and children’s well-being programs. [.PDF file of county allocations to local nonprofits for human services and children's well-being] Mary Jo Callan, who leads the joint county/city of Ann Arbor Office of Community Development, attended Wednesday’s meeting, but commissioners did not call on her to make a presentation.

Public Commentary: A Sampling

Andrew Patton identified himself as a University of Michigan student who strongly opposed funding for Planned Parenthood. He said that the organization doesn’t care about women – it’s all about making money, masquerading as a nonprofit. Planned Parenthood is the country’s leading abortion provider, he said: “An entity so controversial as Planned Parenthood has no business receiving a cent of taxpayer money.” He contrasted Planned Parenthood with Arbor Vitae, which he described as a crisis pregnancy center run by volunteers and funded by donations, not taxpayer dollars. He accused Planned Parenthood of trying to shut down Arbor Vitae.

Jim Palazzolo, a CPA who lives in Pittsfield Township, said he’d looked at the financial statements for Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan, and he urged commissioners to do the same. For the last fiscal year, the organization took in over $10 million in revenue, he said. They have cash reserves of nearly $4 million – “they are sitting on a bag of cash.” In light of that, he said he didn’t see why taxpayers are being asked to fund Planned Parenthood.

Betty Gerstler of Ann Arbor told commissioners that she was speaking from her heart, and that she opposed abortion because she believed in adoption. “The first right should be birthright,” she said. Planned Parenthood tried to downplay the extent of its abortion business, she said, but abortion accounts for 35% of clinical income. At the end of her comments she apologized for running over the three-minute limit for public commentary. “Sorry it took so long,” she said, “but I’m from the South!”

Jeff Brown, a UM student, said that for the past two years he’d been involved with the Students for Life group. He told commissioners that they needed to pick a better organization to fund for prenatal care. As the No. 1 abortion provider in America, he said, it’s fair to say that Planned Parenthood doesn’t have the best interests of the women in Washtenaw County at heart. He said it would bring him a lot of peace if the funding for prenatal care were directed to another organization, not Planned Parenthood.

Elise Aikman, a UM student wearing a “Students for Life of Michigan” T-shirt, said she was very conflicted about her decision to protest Planned Parenthood, because she believes there needs to be more services for low-income pregnant women. However, she said, she couldn’t get past the fact that the staff would be giving out prenatal vitamins in one room while killing a fetus in another. She said the premise seems to be that a child is valuable only if you want it.

Nicholas Danne of Ann Arbor said he was shocked to learn that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, had been a eugenicist and a racist – and that the organization is still giving out awards with her name on them. He said he hoped that the board would consider Planned Parenthood’s evil past before giving it money.

Nicole Adelman of Ann Arbor – the vice president of education and outreach at Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan – said there was a lot of misinformation being presented by other speakers. She said the prenatal program had measurable outcomes, and that none of the county’s money would be used for abortion. Increased access to prenatal care is one of the factors that can decrease the rate of infant mortality, she said, and she urged commissioners to support funding for the program.

Christopher Wensley said he was a Republican who supported Planned Parenthood’s prenatal care. His nephew had been born prematurely, and would have been helped by the services that Planned Parenthood provides. Abortion is a contentious issue, he said, but that isn’t what’s at stake here.

Bernie Klein of Pittsfield Township said he’d been a volunteer patient escort for Planned Parenthood for 19 years. Over that time, he said, the message of protesters hasn’t changed. They don’t care about the other programs that Planned Parenthood offers, he said – they’re focused only on abortion. Klein asked commissioners to support funding for Planned Parenthood.

Commissioner Response

Several commissioners first thanked residents for coming to the meeting to speak out, then voiced their support for Planned Parenthood’s prenatal services. Kristin Judge said she knew that the speakers’ messages were heartfelt and that it took courage to come before the commission. However, she added that her own daughter was born prematurely, and that she wasn’t comfortable keeping even one baby from getting prenatal care.

Leah Gunn pointed out that no other organization had applied for the county’s prenatal care grant. Jessica Ping clarified that The Corner Health Center of Ypsilanti had also applied, but prenatal was only a part of its services and it only served teens, not a broader group of women.

At a public comment session later in the meeting, one of the people protesting Planned Parenthood funding said that Family Life Services of Ypsilanti had attended an Oct. 23 mandatory meeting for agencies interested in getting funded, and that they’d been discouraged from applying. The speaker said that Family Life Services was told that faith-based nonprofits shouldn’t apply, and that there’d be no money for agencies that hadn’t previously been awarded grants from the county.

Following up on that comment, commissioner Ronnie Peterson asked Mary Jo Callan whether this was true. Callan, who oversaw the process of awarding these grants, said her staff didn’t discourage anyone from applying. She pointed out that $50,000 in “innovation” grants were distributed to agencies that hadn’t previously been funded, and that several faith-based nonprofits also had received funding. Faith-based nonprofits that were funded include POWER Inc. ($5,000), Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County ($10,000), and Catholic Social Services ($91,000).

Commissioner Barbara Bergman took issue with one of the protesters who had described abortion as the equivalent of the Holocaust. Bergman said the Holocaust was a planned, government-sponsored genocide, while abortion is not something forced on a woman. She said she is a Jew, and found the comparison insulting.

2010/2011 Budget

Commissioners gave an initial approval of the two-year budget at their Nov. 18 meeting of the Ways & Means Committee, on which they all serve. They gave final unanimous approval during Wednesday’s board meeting, with little discussion.

Public Commentary

Tanya Hilgendorf, executive director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, thanked commissioners for the $500,000 that they’d allocated to the nonprofit for 2010, a 25% increase from this year’s funding of $400,000. She noted that HSHV takes care of 3,500 stray animals annually – a state-mandated service that HSHV is providing for the county. If the county were to provide that service independently, she said, it would cost an estimated $1.6 million. Hilgendorf said the Humane Society has moved into its new shelter, but still has just over $1 million to raise to meet its fundraising goal for that facility. They’ve seen a huge influx of animals dropped off because pet owners can’t afford to keep them due to the harsh economy. “Please consider adding a new furry family member to your household,” Hilgendorf said.

Chris Easthope, a 15th District Court judge, thanked commissioners for continuing to fund the Justice Project Outreach Team, known as JPORT, as well as the Homeless Project Outreach Team, or HPORT. [JPORT is allocated $194,558 in 2010 and 2011. HPORT funding is allocated $238,373 in each of those years.] These programs provide support services for people who are mentally ill or homeless and are in the county’s criminal justice system. Easthope said the programs reflect well on the values of this community.

One man expressed concern that the county was spending too much to fund its parks and recreation services. He said he had worked at Rolling Hills and had a bad experience with management there. Especially in this economy, he said it was wrong to spend money on parks – spend it on something like the Wireless Washtenaw project instead, he suggested. During the time for commissioner response, Leah Gunn pointed out that the parks funding comes from a voter-approved millage, and that commissioners have no control over that part of the budget.

Other Budget-Related Action

In addition to approving the budget, commissioners unanimously approved agreements with two units of AFSCME Local 3052, and changes to health care benefits for sheriff department non-union employees. The AFSCME agreements are in line with concessions previously agreed to by other union bargaining units, and include cancellation of salary increases in 2010 and 2011, among other changes. The changes in health care benefits for non-union sheriff department employees aims to align that group with the benefits of employees represented by the Command Officers Association of Michigan union. The changes, which include a medical premium sharing of $50 per month, are estimated to save the county $20,844 over two years.

After the board’s approval of the budget, county administrator Bob Guenzel thanked commissioners and staff for their work. “When we started this in January, I knew we had our hands full,” he said. The unanimous approval reflected the ability of commissioners to work together, he said. And to reinforce that togetherness, he invited them to celebrate after the meeting at the Heidelberg, located directly across Main Street from the county administrative building where the board was convened.

Police Services for Ypsilanti Township, Scio Township

Two resolutions were on the agenda that related to contracts with the sheriff’s department. The first one was a proposal to amend a contract with Scio Township, which asked to increase the number of sheriff deputies who patrol that area from five to eight. It was passed by the Ways & Means Committee and at the regular board meeting without discussion. [See previous Chronicle coverage: "Sheriff Suggests Way to Add Deputies in Scio"]

Getting more attention was a request from Ypsilanti Township to amend its contract. Township voters had rejected a public safety millage that was on the November 2009 ballot. As a result, township officials originally asked the county to decrease the number of sheriff deputies that serve the township by 10, from 38 to 28, as of Jan. 1. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "County Board Faces Full Year-End Agenda: Public Safety in Ypsilanti Township, Washtenaw"]

Negotiations between the county administration, sheriff’s department and township officials resulted in a compromise, and on Wednesday evening, commissioners were asked to approve a contract amendment that would reduce by seven the number of sheriff’s deputies serving Ypsilanti Township. County administrator Bob Guenzel, in a cover memo to the resolution, said that the seven deputies would be offered other positions within the sheriff’s department.

At Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting, commissioner Jeff Irwin said he’d have no issue amending the contract if the county weren’t coming out financially behind. As it stands, a reduction of seven deputies means the county will lose $1.013 million in anticipated revenue from Ypsilanti Township. Expenditures from the change will only decrease by $639,852, however – leaving the county with a projected shortfall of $373,762. Irwin said there’s no mention of the supervisory position within the sheriff’s department that oversees these deputies – that job will not be eliminated, and the county is absorbing the cost, along with other overhead.

Leah Gunn said she wasn’t comfortable with the contract change, but that she’d support the resolution because Ypsilanti Township is in a financial bind.

Mark Ouimet said the county needs a plan to address how to deal with these kinds of situations, when municipalities that contract with the sheriff’s department for police services request altering their contracts. Rather than looking at a specific jurisdiction, the board needs to consider the overall impact to the county, he said. It’s critical to have a policy in place that applies to all, equally and fairly.

Saying that she’d just had lunch that day with sheriff Jerry Clayton, Barbara Bergman asked Clayton to hold a series of working sessions for the board to describe how he was managing the department. There are complex factors, she said, and it was important to have a better understanding of how things worked.

Clayton came forward to address the board, saying that he understood the challenges they faced, and that he’d welcome the opportunity to go over the costs associated with his department line by line. The difference between the price that the county charged for its contract sheriff deputies, and the cost that the county actually incurs for those deputies has been diminishing, he said. Responding to Irwin’s comment about supervisory positions, Clayton said that even after changes to the Ypsilanti Township contract, the department would still have fewer command officers than they need, according to standards of national best practices.

Responding to Ouimet’s comments, Clayton said that the department is trending toward more coverage in jurisdictions that don’t have contracts for sheriff’s deputies, as well as more coverage in contracting jurisdictions that historically haven’t received as much attention. He said he’s happy with that trend, given that his administration has only been in office since the beginning of the year. The sheriff’s department serves all of Washtenaw County, he said, whether or not they have contracts in place.

Commissioner Kristin Judge thanked Clayton – specifically citing the response by deputies to a shooting that same day in her district, Pittsfield Township. She cautioned that the board shouldn’t micromanage his department. Her comment prompted Bergman to respond, saying that the board had every right to ask how other elected officials spend the money that the board allocates. Bergman said she wouldn’t deign to tell Clayton how to run his department, but she was entitled to know so that she would better understand how it worked. Clayton broke the tension by joking, “How do I respond to that – can I just walk away?” – a remark that drew laughs from commissioners.

But the discussion wasn’t over.

Irwin noted that Clayton’s job was to provide public safety services, and the board’s job was fiscal responsibility. Clayton has the board’s trust and respect, he said, but there’s a fundamental problem with this issue. When the county set up contracts with municipalities that wanted to hire sheriff’s deputy patrols, the county charged an amount that reflected overhead costs for 81 contract deputies countywide. Now, Irwin said, there will be seven fewer contract deputies, but no change in overhead costs for the county. Under an arrangement with the previous sheriff, Dan Minzey, the county allocated one supervisory position for every 7.5 deputies, Irwin said – that’s why he assumed that a reduction in seven deputies would mean the loss of one supervisory job, too. And given the economic climate, the county will likely face the same situation with other municipalities wanting to alter their contracts, he said.

Wes Prater said he was glad that no one had mentioned the word “subsidize” during this discussion, saying he was glad they’d gotten beyond that point. To which Leah Gunn responded: “Commissioner Prater, we are subsidizing these deputies.” Her constituents in Ann Arbor are paying taxes for their own police department, she said, as well as county taxes for the sheriff’s department.

Stating that he’d support the resolution at Ways & Means, Ken Schwartz said he wanted to talk to his constituents about the Ypsilanti Township proposal, including the township supervisors for Superior and Ann Arbor townships, which also contract with the sheriff’s department for deputy patrols. He said a special meeting would in order.

Corporation counsel Curtis Hedger said that procedurally, they could simply set a date when the board meeting would be continued.

At its Ways & Means Committee meeting, the board approved the resolution authorizing the contract change with Ypsilanti Township, with Irwin dissenting. They will take up the resolution again at a special continuation of the board meeting on Monday, Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Grant

At their Nov. 24 administrative briefing, some commissioners had raised concerns about a $766,900 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, wondering about the role of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, a nonprofit led by commissioner Conan Smith. That topic was also the focus of a special meeting held in the late afternoon just before Wednesday’s board meeting.

Some of the concerns stemmed from the belief that the alliance would be acting as fiduciary for the grant – that, in fact, is not the case. There were also questions about whether Smith would directly benefit from the grant.

The board was being asked to vote on a resolution authorizing Washtenaw County staff to apply for the grant, even though the funds are already designated for the county. The application deadline is Dec. 18.

Discussion During Dec. 2 Special Meeting

At the special meeting, Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, told commissioners that he’d spoken to the state Attorney General’s office about this issue, and had met Wednesday morning with commissioners Wes Prater and Conan Smith to discuss their options. One option was to make a disclosure of Smith’s role in the form of an affidavit, signed by Smith.

In addition to the affidavit, Hedger said other options include making an announcement disclosing any potential conflict of interest at a public meeting, either verbally or in writing. The board would then need to wait seven days before taking a vote on the resolution, which would require a two-thirds majority. Because Smith couldn’t vote under this scenario, eight of the 10 remaining commissioners would be required to approve it.

The third option would be to amend the resolution, removing the Michigan Suburbs Alliance and substituting “qualified nonprofit” or “qualified firm” in its place. The advantage of this, Hedger said, would be that it would breeze through the vote on Wednesday night, because it would eliminate the issue altogether. Smith would also be allowed to vote on the resolution, in that case.

Smith said that he’d talked to county administrator Bob Guenzel, and he characterized Guenzel’s position as “get the money.” Smith proposed eliminating the specific reference to the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, and said he’d like to sign an affidavit as well. If the county chose to contract with the alliance, Smith said, the alliance’s Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office would act as a service provider in support of the grant. The county would pay the alliance $76,690 over three years in exchange for that service, and would be able to appoint a representative to the energy office’s board. [.PDF of memo from Smith to potential partners in the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office]

Tony VanDerworp, who’ll be leading the county’s new economic development and energy department, said his office would provide commissioners with an annual report on the grant. Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board’s chair, said he wanted more frequent updates, and asked for quarterly reports.

Action by Commissioners

During Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting, commissioner Wes Prater proposed an amendment to the resolution, inserting the phrase “a qualified firm” in the place of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. Here’s the relevant section from the resolution:

Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office – $76,690 Partnership of SEMCOG, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance a qualified firm and the WARM Training Center to create a regional energy office that will assist member communities with: technical consultant services, residential and commercial building energy audits, financial incentive programs, energy efficiency retrofits, energy efficiency and conservation programs for buildings and facilities, development and implementation of transportation programs, energy distribution, material and conservation programs, traffic signals and street lighting and renewable energy technology on government buildings. [.PDF file of full resolution]

There was no discussion of the change, which was accepted. The resolution was approved unanimously as part of the consent agenda for both Ways & Means and the regular board meeting.

In a phone conversation after the meeting, Hedger told The Chronicle that Smith also signed an affidavit declaring that he would receive no direct economic benefit from the grant, but that the affidavit wasn’t brought forward to the board because the amendment eliminated the need for it. Now, it’s up to Smith to make a proposal to the board regarding a deal with the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, he said, which could happen in January or February.

USS Washtenaw

Several veterans attended Wednesday’s meeting, and some of them spoke during public comment about their efforts to raise money to exhibit a model of the USS Washtenaw, along with memorabilia from that ship – the most highly decorated ship of the Vietnam War. Elmer White explained that local veterans had raised nearly $7,500 to build a museum-quality display case for the model, which they hope to place in the lobby of the county building at 200 N. Main St. White said that the exhibit – including the ship’s bell – had been on display at the county courthouse but had been moved into storage in 2005. He noted that they weren’t asking for money, just the resolution allowing the display to be placed in the lobby, which is open to the public. “It’s just a great ship and we’re very proud to have it,” he said.

Gary Lillie told commissioners that he never set foot on the ship, but that during the Vietnam War he had worked on an airstrip that had been built with materials delivered by the USS Washtenaw. Last year he returned to Vietnam, and reported that the airstrip still existed and that a massive industrial zone was being built around it, providing jobs to thousands of Vietnamese.

Several commissioners thanked the veterans for their service. Wes Prater pointed out that the USS Washtenaw display was actually an historic district created in 1978. As part of their consent agenda, the board voted unanimously to approve the exhibit’s relocation. Because the item wasn’t voted on separately, it wasn’t immediately clear to the veterans whether the board had taken action. “May I ask – did our motion pass?” Elmer White asked. When he was assured that it had, the veterans gave a round of applause.

Funds are still being collected for this effort. Donations can be mailed to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 310, P.O. Box 3221, Ann Arbor MI 48106. They request that “Project Harbor” be written in the memo field of the check. Any extra funds raised will be redirected to the chapter’s Support Our Troops program.


At the board’s Nov. 18 meeting, commissioners made appointments to a range of county boards, commissions and committees. Appointments for two groups – the Community Action Board and the Workforce Development Board – were deferred until the Dec. 2 board meeting.

On Wednesday, the board unanimously approved the following appointments:

Community Action Board: Paul Ganz, Michael DuRussel, Brenda McKinney, Trudy Swanson, Juanita House, Eric Copeland, Shoshana DeMaria, and Mary Smith. The Community Action Board works with the county’s Employment Training & Community Services (ETCS) department to fund community services programming.

Workforce Development Board: Paul Ganz, Mark Ouimet, Keith Peters, John Hansen, Diane McKnight-Morton, William Miller, Clifford Smith Jr., Gregg Weaver, Charles Penner. The Workforce Development Board was set up to provide oversight and management of employment training initiatives and programs in the county, which are handled by the Employment Training & Community Services (ETCS) department.

Weatherization Project

During the time for commissioners to raise items for current or future discussion, Barbara Bergman asked about the status of the $4.1 million federal grant that the county received this spring to weatherize homes of low-income residents. Bergman noted that the area could be receiving its first snow of the season that night, and she wondered what was holding up the project. [See previous Chronicle coverage: "County Gets $4.1 Million Weatherization Grant"]

Patricia Denig, director of planning and operations for the county’s Employment Training & Community Services (ETCS) department, said that the federal program was initially held up because the U.S. Department of Energy – the granting agency – decided to conduct a national prevailing wage survey, and those results weren’t released until August. In September, ETCS issued a request for proposals (RFP) to get bids from local contractors to provide weatherization services. Bids were received and ETCS was ready to sign contracts in early November, Denig said, but local labor organizations raised concerns about whether those bids had been reviewed by the the county’s Construction Unity Board, known as CUB. Now, ETCS was awaiting a decision from CUB.

Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, reported that CUB hadn’t approved the wage rates in the weatherization contracts, but that the county would just have to move forward without that agreement.

Commissioner Ken Schwartz noted that he’d been dogging this issue for a long time – in fact, he has asked for progress reports during several board meetings over the past few months. He said the weatherization funds were supposed to help the county’s more vulnerable residents, and he hoped the program could overcome any obstacles that existed.

After the meeting, Denig told The Chronicle that 221 people are on the waiting list to receive weatherization services, which could include an energy audit and adding insulation, among other things. The grant runs through Sept. 30, 2010. She said that some residents were already taking part in the county’s regular weatherization program. That program is funded at about $350,000 and typically weatherizes about 100 homes annually.

Public Comment: Misc.

Thomas Partridge spoke at three of the four opportunities for public comment during the evening. He urged commissioners to work for deep reforms so that county services could be fully funded, including health care, education, transportation and public safety. The board should also pass a resolution asking the state legislature to fully fund K-12 and higher education, he said. Describing himself as a uniter behind a Democratic agenda for progress, Partridge called on the public to turn their backs on the abortion protesters, who were trying to put forward their authority to tell women what they should do. He said the board also needs to take up the issue of the war in Afghanistan. The country needs comprehensive national health care and education, he said, or it will be unable to have a healthy defense and fulfill its obligations overseas. He said if he had been elected to the commission, he would have raised these issues.

Janelle Baranowski spoke during two public comment sessions. She noted that in January 2009, the board voted to limit the amount of time that citizens could speak to three minutes, down from five minutes. They also voted to restrict the topics on which people could speak to those that were on the agenda or “they’ll boot you out,” she said. In protest, she proceeded to read listings from the phone book, under the category of “Violins.” During her second turn, Baranowski said she hoped to see an agenda item at the next meeting, changing the rules to remove restrictions on topics that can be addressed. She said she didn’t have a problem with the three-minute time limit. If that doesn’t happen, she said she’ll return to each meeting and read from the phone book again, adding that she’s not intimidated to do that. “It’s a mighty thick phone book, so please don’t make me go there,” she said.

During the time for commissioner response, Conan Smith said he wanted to make sure Jeff Irwin was satisfied with Baranowski’s recitation – an allusion to Irwin’s dissent on the rules change in January. From Chronicle coverage of that meeting:

Irwin said he thought people should be able to read the phone book for 5 minutes if they wanted to, though he’d prefer they didn’t. He said the board generally gets very few people at its public comment sessions, and that he didn’t want to restrict it in any way. “We need to keep our doors as open as possible.” He also noted that the Ways & Means Committee meeting can last for two hours or more before the board meeting begins, thus forcing someone to wait who wants to speak on a topic that’s not on the agenda.

Smith joked that “I understand he welcomes phone calls as well.”

Commissioner Kristin Judge noted that since the change took effect, they have never enforced the requirement that a topic be connected to an agenda item. During the board’s regular meeting, she added, there are no topic restrictions, and speakers get five minutes each for public commentary, at the beginning and end of the meeting.

Present: Barbara Levin Bergman, Leah Gunn, Jeff Irwin, Kristin Judge, Mark Ouimet, Ronnie Peterson, Jessica Ping, Wes Prater, Ken Schwartz, Rolland Sizemore Jr., Conan Smith

Next board meeting: Commissioners are holding a special continuation of the board meeting on Monday, Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss an amendment to the Ypsilanti Township contract for sheriff deputies. That meeting will be held in the board room of the County Administration Building, 220 N. Main St. The next regular meeting is Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 220 N. Main St. The Ways & Means Committee meets first, followed immediately by the regular board meeting. [confirm date] (Though the agenda states that the regular board meeting begins at 6:45 p.m., it usually starts much later – times vary depending on what’s on the agenda.) Public comment sessions are held at the beginning and end of each meeting.


  1. By Marvin Face
    December 6, 2009 at 10:24 pm | permalink

    This link doesn’t seem to work: “.PDF file of county allocations to local nonprofits for human services and children’s well-being”

  2. By Mary Morgan
    December 6, 2009 at 10:37 pm | permalink

    Re. #1: Thanks for flagging that. It’s fixed.

  3. By Leah Gunn
    December 7, 2009 at 6:48 am | permalink

    Also fixed was the issue of weatherization. The CUB BOard approved the salaries the very next day! So, we are on our way to helping people as the cold wweather sets in. All it took was a mention by Cmsr. Bergman.

    I would also like to point out that Planned Parenthood has received this prenatal grant for 10 years, and they have delivered over 1000 normal weight healhty babies. As a citizen, as well as a Commissioner, I support all the services they provide, which are vital to women’s health.

    Thank you, Chronicle for a detailed coverage of what we do.

  4. By D
    December 7, 2009 at 8:36 am | permalink

    Commish Bergman, The parallel between abortion and the holocaust is a valid argument if you are talking about the baby, not the woman. Abortion is a state sanctioned infanticide. Millions of babies have died. Again, how is this not comparable to the Holocaust? Websters says holocaust can be defined as a slaughter of people. Again, how is this comparison off?

  5. December 7, 2009 at 10:24 am | permalink

    “Leah Gunn said she wasn’t comfortable with the contract change, but that she’d support the resolution because Ypsilanti Township is in a financial bind.”

    Ypsilanti Township is in a financial bind of their own making. The voters have made it clear that they don’t want any additional policing beyond the very basic — fine, let’s don’t have the rest of the county subsidize services that they’ve said they don’t want.

  6. By Leah Gunn
    December 7, 2009 at 11:53 am | permalink

    That is exactly why I am supporting the resolution to reduce the number of deputies in Ypsilanti Township. They have a record of not paying us for services, and the Court of Appeals ruled that they owed us $2M from the lawsuit they filed against us years ago. We have not seen a penny of that money. The reason I am supporting this reduction is not only that Ypsi Twp. is in a financial bind, but because Ann Arbor already pays twice – and THAT is what I said at the Board in response to Cnsr. Wes Prater’s comment about “subsidies”. I am told that the Sheriff can take care of the extra admin. money within his budget. There are not the votes at the BOC to change the police services subsidies, so Ann Arbor City pays and pays.

  7. December 8, 2009 at 11:08 am | permalink

    My concern was that mentioned by Irwin: “When the county set up contracts with municipalities that wanted to hire sheriff’s deputy patrols, the county charged an amount that reflected overhead costs for 81 contract deputies countywide. Now, Irwin said, there will be seven fewer contract deputies, but no change in overhead costs for the county.” But revisiting the way the sheriff’s deputy patrols overhead costs are allocated was obviously beyond the scope of this discussion.

    That’s a very good point about Ypsi Twp’s record of not paying for things. I live in Ypsi City, and like Ann Arbor, we pay twice and subsidize the township’s lower tax rates. Actually, I’d say we pay three times: once for our policing, once to subsidize their policing, and a third time when township crime lowers city property values. (There’s a misperception of where the crime is happenning: I recall discussing this with an Ypsi Twp resident who didn’t realize that all the then-recent crimes they mentioned had occurred in the township.)

  8. By Rod Johnson
    December 9, 2009 at 9:43 am | permalink

    Tangentially, I stumbled on Janelle Baranowski’s blog (via a2politico), where she details the ins and outs of her recent encounters with the BoC, and she raises some interesting questions on how people get appointed to County boards and commissions (and how she didn’t). It would be interesting to hear more about that process–as Baranowski says, it seems somewhat lacking in transparency. (While literally reading the phone book seems kind of juvenile, I’m liking Baranowski’s willingness to play the gadfly role.)

    Also, kudos to Barbara Bergman for pushing back against the Holocaust comparisons.

  9. By Nicholas Danne
    December 9, 2009 at 4:02 pm | permalink

    I wish to complain about the inaccurate representation of my comments. I believe I used the word “shocked” not in relation to Margaret Sanger’s philosophies [that abortion is linked to racism is not shocking] but rather I was shocked to read that 3/5 black women abort, as reported by As a secondary reference, in 2006 the Center for Disease Control reported that black women abort at a rate of 459 per 1,000 live births, a rate nearly 3x higher than that of white women. Because of abortion, it is argued, black Americans have dwindled in number to become the 2nd-largest minority in America, behind Hispanics, and that by the year 2038 — because of abortion — the black vote could become insignificant.
    Secondly, I believe I urged the Board to consider Planned Parenthood’s evil “origins”, not its “past”. Henry Ford and Bayer medicine have anti-semitic pasts, but not evil origins. If the Planned Parenthood grant is not racist, it nevertheless strengthens a murderous enterprise.

  10. December 14, 2009 at 9:13 am | permalink

    Rod Johnson, I too am surprised (as far as I know) no local news outlet has asked the question, “Why were only these two particular appointments tabled to the next meeting?” They were all on the agenda that night. All were recommended for approval by the board. As far as I know, there’s no public debate regarding the appointments; the names are read and then the Board votes.