May 20, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: In Progress

Main item on the agenda is FY 2014 budget, fees, millage rates. Also: economic development task force; video privacy ordinance; appointments

The main event of the May 20, 2013 Ann Arbor city council meeting will be the council’s approval of the FY 2014 budget. The city’s fiscal year starts July 1. Under terms of the city charter, the council is required to amend and approve the city administrator’s proposed budget by its second meeting in May – which this year falls on May 20. The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published “below the fold.”

Door to Ann Arbor city council chambers

Door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber.

If the council fails to act, then the city administrator’s budget, which Steve Powers presented formally to the council on April 15, 2013, would automatically be adopted. It’s been described as essentially a “status quo” budget, with no major changes to personnel levels or basic approaches to service delivery. The council has held work sessions on various aspects of the budget starting in February.

For the general fund, the status quo budget translates to $82,893,312 in total expenditures, which will require tapping the general fund balance for $260,514. That would leave the general fund with $13.8 million in reserves or 17% of operating expenses.

But it’s possible that the council will undertake amendments to that budget. Among the amendments that might be proposed are some that would change the budget of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Other amendments that might be put forward provide funding for an increase in the number of police officers. One strategy for increasing funding for police officers is to take money out of the 15th District Court budget. Another strategy that could be brought forward for funding police officers is to re-allocate the salary for retiring assistant city attorney Bob West.

Affordable housing and human services funding will likely be the topic of some amendments. It’s possible to change the budget later in the year, after the May 20 meeting, but that would require an eight-vote majority. Amendments to the main budget resolution of the year – this year on the May 20 agenda – require only a six-vote majority.

6:59 p.m. Pre-meeting activity. Maybe a dozen people are now in council chambers. Stacks of yellow agendas are printed out available on the public speaking podium.

7:10 p.m. The audience is about 30 people strong so far. Councilmembers are here but not seated. Some are talking to Paras Parekh, who’s been nominated for confirmation tonight as Eric Mahler’s replacement on the planning commission.

7:13 p.m. Pledge and moment of silence.

7:14 p.m. Roll call of the council. All are present and correct.

7:17 p.m. The agenda has been approved with one additional street closing, and the reconsideration of the 413 E. Huron site plan. The reconsideration is because of a technical detail in the resolution previously approved by the council on May 13, 2013. The resolution approved by the council on a 6-5 vote did not specify the correct date on the set of plans that the developer had submitted. [.pdf of May 20, 2013 staff memo explaining the issue]

7:17 p.m. Proclamation honoring Vogel’s Locksmith. It’s the 100th anniversary of that downtown Ann Arbor business. That gets a round of applause.

7:19 p.m. Public commentary reserved time. This is the portion of the meeting for up to 10 speakers to address the council for three minutes apiece. Sign up in advance is required. For tonight, here’s the lineup: Thomas Partridge, Odile Hugonot-Haber, Dory Boston, Clarence Patton, Lily Au, Caleb Poirier, Glenn Lieding, Charlene Tabacchi, Steve Schiring, Larry Deck.

7:33 p.m. Several speakers are objecting to a situation that’s arisen in connection to the issue surrounding the Pizza in the Park at Liberty Plaza. It’s an event where pizza is distributed to the homeless. Caleb Poirer describes the situation. The organization that’s been providing the pizza is apparently being assessed a $137 fee, based on the city’s parks and recreation fee schedule for shelter use. Poirer said the fee is being misapplied. To apply the fee to an organization that’s delivering humanitarian aid is painful, he says.

Larry Deck calls for the increase of allocation of Act 51 transportation funds for non-motorized transportation from 2.5% to 5%. It was previously at the 5% level, but was reduced a few years ago.

Sumedh Bahl, community services area administrator, and mayor John Hieftje engage in a back-and-forth on the Pizza in the Park question. It apparently stemmed from a delivery vehicle parking on private property. Hieftje’s assurance that he wanted to see the event continue without being assessed a fee draws a round of applause.

7:48 p.m. Council communications. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) weighs in for “people first” language in connection with her service on the city’s commission on disability issues. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) alerts the public to public hearings tomorrow at the city planning commission – on the city’s master plan, and the South State Street corridor plan. Briere also highlights a Wednesday meeting hosted by the North Main Huron River task force.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) highlights the work of Ward 5 residents on safety issues in connection with South Seventh Street.

Public services area administrator Craig Hupy explains the reduction from 5% to 2.5% in Act 51 funding for alternative transportation. That happened in the FY 2010 budget – but not to save up money to replace the Stadium Bridges. All transportation funding is less than what it needs to be, he says. Hupy notes the resolution that originally called for the 5% level indicated that the alternative transportation fund should be charged for things like the hand-shoveling of crosswalks, which the city does not currently do.

7:59 p.m. Minutes and consent agenda. This is a group of items that are deemed to be routine and are voted on “all in one go.” Contracts for less than $100,000 can be placed on the consent agenda. This meeting’s consent agenda includes several street closing approvals, including one for the Townie Street Party (July 15, 2013) and Sonic Lunch on June 6, 2013. Councilmembers can opt to select out any items for separate consideration, but no one does this tonight.

Outcome: The consent agenda is approved.

8:01 p.m. Video privacy ordinance. This is the initial consideration of the ordinance. It’s been postponed from previous meetings.

The new ordinance would allow for public surveillance cameras to be installed for 15 days or less at the discretion of the city administrator if the purpose is to address a specific criminal problem.

A period of longer than 15 days would require two-thirds of nearby residents to give written permission. Regardless of the period of the installation, onsite notice of the camera’s presence would be required. If a private residence is in the public surveillance camera’s range, then the residents of that property would have to give written permission for the installation.

The new ordinance would apply only to a limited range of cameras – those used by the city of Ann Arbor “to monitor human activity without the physical presence of an operator, including cameras on remotely operated aerial vehicles.” The ordinance would not apply to a range of city of Ann Arbor cameras, for example: cameras used to improve traffic design, security cameras operating in jails, prisons, water treatment facilities, public housing facilities, or the Ann Arbor Airport and other governmental facilities.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), one of the sponsors, indicates the ordinance still needs more work.

Outcome: The video privacy ordinance is postponed until June 17.

8:03 p.m. Utility rates. This is the initial consideration of the ordinance that sets forth rates for water, sewer and stormwater fees. In terms of revenue generated to the city, the rate increases are expected to generate 3.55% more for drinking water ($739,244), 4.25% more for the sanitary sewer ($955,531), and 4% more for stormwater ($233,811). [.pdf of complete utility rate changes as proposed]

Here’s a chart illustrating the history of water rates and the introduction of the tiered system, based on amount of usage. This year the top usage tier is proposed to be collapsed. It’s not an elimination of the tier, but rather a setting of the top tier as identical, according to public services area administrator Craig Hupy.

Ann Arbor water utility rates

Ann Arbor water utility rates.

Outcome: The utility rate increases get unanimous initial approval.

8:06 p.m. Rezoning items These are initial approvals of zoning requests in connection with annexations. One is for 0.46 acres from TWP (township district) to R1A (single-family dwelling district) at 3100 Geddes. The planning commission recommended approval at its Dec. 4, 2012 meeting. The other property recommended for rezoning after annexation into the city is a 0.15-acre property at 2503 Victoria Ave. to R1C (single-family dwelling district). The planning commission had recommended approval at its Nov. 7, 2012 meeting. Both rezoning items will need a second and final city council approval, after a public hearing. That’s because any change of zoning is an ordinance change, which requires that two-step process.

Outcome: Unanimously approved.

8:07 p.m. Stephanie Buttrey confirmation to greenbelt advisory commission. Buttrey had been nominated at the council’s May 6 meeting. She’s an engineer and retired Chrysler executive. She’ll serve out the remainder of Liz Rother’s term, through June 30, 2014.

Outcome: Unanimously approved.

8:09 p.m. Establishment of economic development task force. The task force would consist of up to nine members to reflect on “core values, priorities, and activities regarding economic development and identifying operations that may be duplicative, resources including funding, and opportunities for collaboration …” The task force will draw two or three members from the city of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor SPARK and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Named as the city’s representatives to the task force are city administrator Steve Powers, Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). The task force established at the council’s May 20 meeting is supposed to provide a report of findings and recommendations in December 2013. It’s possible that Higgins, as chair of the task force, might not be serving on the council at that time, because she faces a challenge in the Democratic primary election this August.

In more detail, the task force is supposed to do the following:

  • Provide clarity, alignment and specificity on economic development policy and objectives for fiscal year 2014 toward accomplishing city council’s success statement for Economic Development.
  • Provide for strategic alignment of priorities between the Task Force member entities.
  • Highlight cost sharing and maximizing of resource utilization.
  • Identify options for sustaining, modifying, or eliminating operations in a financially-responsible manner through efficiencies and/or partnerships as part of a cohesive economic development plan for the city.

The “success statement” mentioned in the resolution was crafted by the city council at a budget retreat held in late 2012. At that retreat, economic development was identified as one of five priorities. The others where fiscal discipline, public safety, infrastructure and affordable housing. The problem and success statements for economic development were as follows:

What is the problem we are solving? Create tax revenue separate from the University of Michigan, and the need to further increase and diversify private sector employment in the local economy.

What does success look like?

  1. Creating diverse employment opportunities in various fields and industries.
  2. Ann Arbor has an earned reputation as an attractive place to create, relocate, and maintain businesses.
  3. Quality of life is maintained and improved.

Outcome: The council unanimously approve the establishment of the task force.

8:14 p.m. Jennifer Fike nomination to greenbelt advisory commission. Fike is finance director of the Huron River Watershed Council. She would replace Laura Rubin, HRWC’s executive director, whose term on the commission ends in June. Fike attended the April 4, 2013 meeting of the commission to introduce herself and express her interest in serving. Nominations for GAC are made by the city council, not by the mayor. The procedure followed by the council is to place on the agenda a resolution making the appointment at one council meeting, but postpone it until the following meeting. For mayoral nominations, the names are placed before the council at a meeting as a communications item – on which no council vote is required. The confirmation vote takes place at a subsequent meeting.

Outcome: The council postponed the confirmation until June 3, 2013.

8:17 p.m. Site plan for 413 E. Huron. Repeating material from above, this item is being handled because of a technical detail in the resolution previously approved by the council on May 13, 2013. The resolution approved by the council on a 6-5 vote did not specify the correct date on the set of plans that the developer had submitted. [.pdf of May 20, 2013 staff memo explaining the issue]

The vote on amending the resolution was 10-1, with dissent from Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

Outcome: The council vote on the 413 E. Huron site plan as reconsidered at the May 20, 2013 meeting was also 6-5, along the same lines as the vote taken by the council at its May 13 session. Voting against it were: Anglin, Kailasapathy, Briere, Lumm, Kunselman. Voting for it were: Higgins, Warpehoski, Hieftje, Petersen, Taylor, and Teall.

8:23 p.m. Veterans Memorial Park ice arena roof. The vote is on a $535,000 contract with Pranam Global Tech Inc. to replace the roof at Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena.

Outcome: Unanimously approved.

8:25 p.m. Pavement marking and concrete repairs. These are two separate resolutions. The pavement marking item revises a previously approved contract with PK Contracting Inc. upward by $140,000, for the annual citywide pavement marking program. The original amount – for three years – was $405,000, so the new amount is $545,000. The concrete item was also an adjustment upward, from $426,000 to $576,000, for an existing contract. The concrete contract with Saladino Construction Company – for miscellaneous repairs – is for FY 2013-15.

Outcome: The pavement markings item and the concrete repairs item were both approved unanimously.

8:26 p.m. PACE bond repayment. The property assessed clean energy (PACE) program allows commercial property owners to take out loans, from the city. The money lent to property owners comes from bonds sold by the city. The city of Ann Arbor issued $560,000 worth of bonds for the program earlier this year, and $23,000 in interest is due on Sept. 1, 2013. So the resolution authorized expenditure of the bonds and transfer of $23,000 to the debt service fund, so the interest can be paid.

Outcome: Unanimously approved.

8:27 p.m. $101,200 for an emergency backup generator for Fire Station 6. Fire Station 6 is the one located south of town on Briarwood Circle. Of that amount, the general fund is being tapped for $38,485, to cover what was not available in the FY 2013 budget for the fire department. The generator is a 3-phase natural-gas-fired unit. Key functions supported by the generator during an outage include dispatch and radio communications, bay doors, and lighting.

Council discussion is focusing on the need for generators at other stations. Fire chief Chuck Hubbard fields the question.

Outcome: Unanimously approved.

8:29 p.m. Contract amendment for public art administrator. This amendment on the contract of Aaron Seagraves extends the agreement by two months through July 31, 2013, which increases the total compensation in the contract by $5,410 for a total of $30,400.

Outcome: Unanimously approved.

8:34 p.m. Fee adjustments for fire services, public services, and parks and recreation. These are three separate resolutions. For fire services fees, notable changes include the fact that inspections of fire alarm systems and suppression systems will now be done by the building department. Fees for individual items are in most cases identical to previous inspection fees. For parks and recreation, fees for Cobblestone Park and the Gallup Park meeting room are increasing.

Mike Anglin is questioning the practice of open burning. Chuck Warpehoski weighs in for management of natural features through fire. Stephen Kunselman questions the amount of the fee for an open burn permit – prescription burns and bonfires. It doesn’t encourage compliance with the law, he says. He proposes reducing the fees from $180 and $150 to $50.

The council is discussing different types of fires.

The council unanimously approves the fee reduction proposed by Kunselman before adopting the fire inspection fee schedule.

Outcome: All three sets of fee adjustments were unanimously approved.

8:50 p.m. Recess. The council is now in recess. Next up after the recess will be the budget discussion.

8:55 p.m. Still in recess. Several budget amendments are possible. It’s possible that not all of them will be moved. Even if moved, it’s not certain they’ll have the six votes needed. [.pdf of one-page summary of possible amendments] [.pdf of longer detail on FY 2014 budget amendments]

9:04 p.m. The council is back, out of recess.

9:06 p.m. Budget Amendment – Human services. This item would increase by $46,899 the amount of funding available for human services nonprofit entities. The city allocates this money through a coordinated funding process with the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, the United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw County and the Washtenaw Urban County.

Outcome: Unanimously approved with no debate.

9:07 p.m. Budget Amendment – Restore loose leaf collection in the fall. The cost of this amendment is $311,000. This is being put forward by Jane Lumm. It includes a provision for holiday tree pickup.

Mike Anglin allows that in certain areas of the city it’s a problem. Ward 2 makes a contribution to the city with trees. He’s going to support it. But he’ll continue to rake his leaves and put them in the compost carts. He cites the aging population, saying they feel stressed by this situation.

Sumi Kailasapathy argues from the perspective of economies of scale. She compares the situation to school busing. If you eliminate school busing, a few children might walk instead, but most parents will drive their children in cars. She says it’s more efficient to pick up holiday trees all at one time. Sally Petersen, Lumm’s wardmate, also says she’ll support it. She compares the service provided recently when the windstorm brought down a lot of branches.

Margie Teall argues against the proposal by saying the city still has leaf pickup, but it’s done differently now – with compost carts. She expressed concern about bike lanes – when leaves freeze in the street. She advises keeping holiday trees in your backyard for the birds. She argues against Petersen’s point by saying that if the city spends money on loose leaf pickup, it might not have the capacity to implement pickup of storm debris as it did this year.

Public services area administrator Craig Hupy and solid waste manager Tom McMurtrie are at the podium fielding questions from Sabra Briere. Hupy says the change to the current system was driven by economic pressure. It was expected to save $100,000. Now it saves about $300,000, he says. Community feedback has been heard on both sides, he says.

Briere ventures that the amount of compost collected has decreased as a result of the change in leaf pickup method. McMurtrie says it’s been reduced because people mulch or compost on site. Hupy also says that when leaves sit in the street, they pick up moisture, making them heavier, which is how the amounts are measured. So now there’s less weight.

Chuck Warpehoski inquires about the quality of the composting product you get from a cart-based approach versus storing the leaves on the street for a while. Hupy reports that the city has tested this. There’s not a difference revealed in the testing so far. There’s one more round of sampling to be done this fall. Warpehoski continues to inquire about environmental issues and suspended solids in waterways.

Stephen Kunselman clarifies that the city sweeps the leaves that happen to fall naturally into the street. He ventures that it’s just a guess as to the environmental loading. He says he doesn’t bag his leaves. Warpehoski teases Kunselman, asking if Kunselman burns them – an allusion to the earlier discussion of bonfires. Kunselman questions if there’s enforcement against people pushing leaves into the street. He identifies enforcement as a cost.

Kunselman says he’s not sure how he’ll vote.

Hupy describes a concern about the drop-off center at Platt and Ellsworth. One corner is sinking and will need to be rebuilt. Relevance is that it’s the solid waste fund that pays for leaf collection as well as the drop-off. McMurtrie also describes efforts to add food waste composting capability. The point of this information, which is being elicited from mayor John Hieftje, is to highlight risks that the solid waste fund faces. This is meant to counter Lumm’s point that the fund balance in the solid waste fund is quite healthy.

9:40 p.m. Hieftje is explaining that he’ll be opposing the restoration of loose leaf pickup. He reiterates Teall’s point that the city still does pick up leaves in compost carts. Hieftje describes how he handles his leaves.

Kailasapathy inquires about the cost savings that were supposed to have resulted from single-stream recycling. McMurtie confirms that collection costs have gone down, even with a contract adjustment with Recycle Ann Arbor. He allows that revenue has been reduced. Two factors contributed to that. The market has dropped. And the material the city previously processed from Lansing and Toledo no longer comes to Ann Arbor, McMurtrie explains. He says that’s due to competition.

Sally Petersen gives a plug for Cummins engines in the form of vacuum trucks powered by such engines. Why can’t the city explore that? Hupy explains that “pushing and loading” is more efficient than vacuums. He explains that sticks, branches and pumpkins after Halloween get included in the piles that are put on the street, which clogs the vacuums.

9:50 p.m. The council has now been discussing the loose leaf pickup budget amendment for about 40 minutes.

Briere inquires if other options exist besides pushing or vacuuming. Hupy describes a conveyer system as a possible alternative. Briere ventures that whatever method the city uses, it’s still labor intensive for her. She reports that of the various methods, she prefers bagging or putting leaves in the carts. She keeps asking, “Is it broken?” Hieftje encourages the council to move to a vote.

Christopher Taylor asks for a more detailed explanation of the impact on the solid waste fund.

Teall asks how much the storm debris pickup cost earlier this year. Hupy reports that cost $375,000, which will need to come from the solid waste fund balance.

9:59 p.m. Jane Lumm is weighing in again for her budget amendment.

Lumm gives a shout out to the Ann Arbor Newshawks’ treatment of the loose leaf pickup issue – their video is posted on YouTube. “I think I’ve exhausted this topic,” she concludes.

Hieftje reiterates his objections based on the stress it would place on the solid waste fund.

Kunselman asks for practices in comparative communities. McMurtrie lists off communities that collect leaves in a containerized way, compared to loose leaf collection.

Taylor says there’s no possibility the city would be able to perform the service well. “Leaves will not cooperate,” he says. He won’t support the amendment.

Anglin contends that not providing the loose leaf pickup is targeting the elderly.

10:07 p.m. The council seems like it might be ready to vote soon on the loose leaf pickup budget amendment, now an hour into the debate on this budget amendment.

Anglin says he’ll vote yes.

Warpehoski still isn’t sure how he’ll vote. He asks for more information about the financial impact of leaf pickup in the context of freezing weather.

10:15 p.m. Warpehoski asks about the impact of flooding due to clogged storm grates. Hupy says it’s more labor intensive to clear storm grates when the approach to leaf collection is to push leaves into the street.

Petersen counters Taylor’s point about the ability of the city to perform the task well. She ventures that the city doesn’t do snow plowing well, either, but it’s still a basic service that the city should try to provide.

Kunselman says he’ll vote no. He cites technological advancements that people can use to take care of their lawns. He doesn’t want to base leaf collection just on the needs of the older population.

Outcome: The vote is 4-7, getting support only from Lumm, Petersen, Kailasapathy, and Anglin.

10:16 p.m. Budget Amendment – DDA budget Competing amendments are possible for the DDA budget – one championed by mayor John Hieftje, with the other put forward by Stephen Kunselman. Both deal with the fact that the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture is now expected to be $500,000 more in FY 2014 than the roughly $3.9 million on which the DDA based its FY 2014 budget.

One version of the amendment specifies three areas that the additional revenue is supposed to be spent on: housing, replacement of failing Main Street lamp posts, and Ann Arbor SPARK. The other version is confined to housing.

The council is considering Kunselman’s amendment first.

Kunselman says he wants to see the DDA spend the $500,000 that’s placed into the DDA housing fund on Miller Manor, which is an Ann Arbor housing commission property.

Hieftje invites city CFO Tom Crawford and executive director of the DDA Susan Pollay to the podium. Kunselman asks Crawford when the numbers for the tax assessment are available. Crawford allows that estimates can be done on fairly good data in January.

Pollay responds to Hieftje’s prompting about the nature of the DDA board’s discussion at a special meeting on May 13. Pollay says there’s an interest in replacing the lamp posts on Main Street. Pollay says that the DDA wants to support some affordable housing efforts and economic development, which are council priorities. She describes the possibility of sending DDA board members and SPARK officials to other communities to find out what they’re doing better than Ann Arbor. For example, Chapel Hill and Madison.

Briere notes that the amendment proposed by Kunselman is to allot 100% of the additional TIF revenue to affordable housing. She asks Pollay how those funds would be used in the future.

Pollay says that the DDA is planning to meet with housing providers in the near future that will help determine how the board might spend the $500,000 on affordable housing.

Briere asks if the DDA has a plan for housing that has criteria to determine how grants are made to housing. Pollay describes the “full spectrum” of housing. The DDA is interested in housing at all levels for all people.

Petersen contrasts the alternative amendments. She wanted to see if they could be combined. She asks Kunselman if he’d consider lowering the amount to $300,000.

Kailasapathy reminds the council that the public hearing on the DDA ordinance made clear where the gap is – affordable housing. Some residents have been left behind. Not everybody is meant to be a Google worker. She wanted to stick to the $500,000 for affordable housing.

Hieftje invites Craig Hupy to the podium to talk about the urgent need to replace the light poles on Main Street. Hupy says no provision has been made in the city’s budget to replace them. The cost is estimated to be somewhat less than $500,000.

Warpehoski says the light pole replacement is important but ventures it could be stretched out over several years. He proposes a change from $500,000 to $400,000 for affordable housing with $100,000 for light poles. Kunselman indicates that would be a friendly amendment. Kunselman stresses that it would actually just reduce the amount of the transfer to $400,000, but not specify the $100,000 be designated to light poles.

Briere draws out the fact that the unbudgeted TIF amount, not originally anticipated by the DDA in its budget, is actually $568,000. She wanted to know why the full amount is not being dealt with. City administrator Steve Powers says it’s because this is the amount Kunselman put in the resolution and the staff didn’t take the liberty of changing it. Briere wants to change the amendment to reflect the actual amount.

10:49 p.m. The council is still discussing the DDA budget amendment. Briere highlights another project the DDA wants to undertake – South University improvements.

Kailasapathy describes the additional TIF revenue as a “windfall.” Pollay counters Kailasapathy by saying that $3.4 million will go toward debt service. She brings up the $500,000 the DDA gives the city annually toward the bond payments for the new Justice Center.

11:03 p.m. Warpehoski introduces the idea promoted by Dave DeVarti and Alan Haber that the DDA would pay off the loan on the old Y lot, which would free up the proceeds of the eventual sale of that city-owned land to be dedicated to affordable housing. This approach has the advantage that the proceeds wouldn’t have to be spent on properties within the DDA district.

Briere says she’s not a 100% fan of SPARK. But she’s still concerned about allocating funds for some kind of economic development.

Petersen says she’s not expecting the need for the economic development task force to travel to other cities. The task force was not set up with a budget. She was grateful for the spirit of generosity in Hieftje’s amendment that would put the DDA in a position to provide those funds. She figured any expenses would be nominal and would be shared among the parties.

Hieftje comes back to the issue of the light poles. Hupy says you won’t be able to hang banners until the poles are replaced. He asks Hupy if efficiencies would be gained by replacing them all at one time.

Hieftje also comes back to the issue of South University. Pollay describes wanting to finish off the Fifth and Division street project in the Kerrytown area.

Hieftje says he has some concerns about trying to tell the DDA what to do. He reiterates his concern about the light poles on Main Street. He calls it a command-and-control strategy.

Taylor concurs with Hieftje. He calls it an attempt to micromanage the DDA. Downtown is a complex place, Taylor says, and the city doesn’t understand the downtown as well as the DDA. He calls Kunselman’s amendment a blunt instrument for a delicate task. He says he’ll vote against it.

Lumm responds to Hieftje’s characterization of the amendment as a “command-and-control” approach. She stressed the fact that the message the council had heard in response to the DDA ordinance changes was clearly about affordable housing.

Kailasapathy disagrees with Taylor’s assessment of the DDA as a sophisticated organization. She quotes from an email Pollay wrote back in 2008. Pollay’s email states that the new underground parking structure would be paid for with parking revenue not TIF revenue, which did not prove to be the case. Hieftje reminds Kailasapathy that she wasn’t serving on the council back in 2008.

Kunselman calls the debate one about “loyalty to the DDA.” Kunselman accuses Hieftje of just opposing the amendment because it’s Kunselman’s amendment. Kunselman says Hieftje is playing politics.

Higgins says if the council really wants to support affordable housing, it should simply take it out of the general fund.

11:27 p.m. Higgins notes that the light poles fell down a year ago, so she wondered why it was now a crisis. She didn’t remember hearing about how it was a crisis.

Teall says she had the words “micromanagement” in her notes as well. She wanted to work with the DDA collaboratively, not by directing the DDA. She wanted the city to be the entity that supports affordable housing. She didn’t want the city to tell the DDA “how to run their business.”

Briere doesn’t believe the vote is a litmus test on blind support for the DDA or not. She’s disappointed by the direction the rhetoric has taken. She reported that she’s been nagging about the light poles for a year. City staff have said they don’t have it in the budget. The Main Street Area Association asked the DDA if the DDA could pay for it and Pollay had responded by saying the DDA would have to find a way to pay for it. Briere stresses that the DDA is responsible for downtown infrastructure. For her, spending the money on infrastructure is the most important part of the DDA’s work.

Briere stresses the fact that the DDA’s housing fund is not specifically designated for affordable housing. She again rejects the idea that it’s a loyalty test.

Hieftje said he didn’t disagree with everything Kunselman brought forward. He wanted to make sure the light poles are fixed. He suggests splitting the amounts between light poles and affordable housing.

Kunselman agrees to the split, saying it was a nominal difference anyway.

Lumm proposes to split the question on affordable housing and to vote separately on affordable housing and light poles. Hieftje tells her that’s not what he’s proposing to do.

The specifics of the amendment are to transfer $300,000 of the additional TIF to the DDA’s housing fund and to request that the DDA spend $300,000 on Main Street light poles.

Outcome: The council approves the DDA budget amendment, with dissent only from Taylor.

11:50 p.m. The council is in recess.

11:52 p.m. Budget Amendment – Affordable housing. This would tap the general fund for $100,000 and place it in the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

Hieftje hopes there’s agreement and the vote can be taken quickly. Briere calls it a modest amount. She wants it to be a recurring amount each year, not just a one-time allocation.

Lumm won’t support it and asks that her name be removed as a sponsor, saying that had been mistakenly attached. Petersen says that the city should also have “skin in the game.” That is, Petersen supports the $100,000 transfer to the affordable housing trust fund.

Higgins says that she’ll support it because the direction is for staff to find a way to put it in the budget every year.

Outcome: The amendment passes, with dissent only from Lumm.

12:01 a.m. Budget Amendment – Police officers/15th District Court This would provide funding for three police officers, with $270,000 taken from the 15th District Court budget.

Lumm, who put forward this amendment, says this is “not pick on the courts.” She cites the court’s caseload. [.pdf of caseload trends for 15th District Court]

Kailasapathy compares 2002 and 2013 FTE reductions across departments. The police department has been reduced by about 40%, she says. She compares the number of sworn officers in Lansing to the number in Ann Arbor. She wants to improve proactive policing. Hieftje points out that Lansing doesn’t have campus police, because those are in East Lansing.

Keith Zeisloft, the administrator for the 15th District Court, is now fielding questions.

Briere asks Zeisloft what the impact would be of a $270,000 reduction. He replied that the court would need to look at the only area that’s not mandated by law. He feels that it would mean losing three of six probation officers.

Zeisloft raises the possibility of impacts to the specialty court dockets: veterans court, sobriety court, domestic violence, street outreach court. Zeisloft also points out that there’s a reduction in revenue that would come from probation fees. Reducing probation officers might reduce the recovery rate of fines, he said.

Kailasapathy highlights the 49% decline in civil infractions – from 2007 to 2011. Zeisloft allows that there’s been a dramatic decrease in the number of cases. In the last six months, however, there’s been a one-third increase in citations. He describes how the workforce has also somewhat declined as the caseload has declined.

Zeisloft calls the court “frugal.” Lumm says she has a different definition of frugal. She lists out increases in various categories.

Lumm and Zeisloft go back and forth about an executive secretary position that was restored. She tells Zeisloft that historically the 15th District Court has not met its budget reduction targets. Lumm cites a pay increase given to court workers in October 2012. Zeisloft allows that’s correct. But he points out that up to then, the court employees had four-and-a-half years of a wage freeze, with a decrease in one of those years. Retention of workers became an issue. He described how human resources had been asked to do a comparative analysis, and that some of the workers had been found to be dramatically underpaid. Lumm is not persuaded.

Kailasapathy stresses that the wage increase was an average of 9.6% increase.

Hieftje asks for a review of the cuts that would have to be made. Zeisloft identifies non-mandated services – probation. He reviews how three out of six positions would have to be eliminated.

Lumm points out that the cut would still leave a slight increase comparing year to year.

Hieftje asks chief of police John Seto to field questions. In 2011, crime levels were at a record low. In 2012 there was a slight increase, but it was still relatively low.

Hieftje argues that 226 Lansing officers compared to the 179 in Ann Arbor – when you count UM campus safety officers – is comparable, when you consider the reduced crime in Ann Arbor.

Briere says she sees both the courts and the police officers as safety services. We need the police officers but we also need the courts as well, Briere says.

Taylor agrees with Briere that this amounts to a service cut. His focus is not the change in the budget from this year to last year, he says, but the amount of services. He didn’t think the three police officers who would be added would add to the actual or perceived safety in the community. The budget reflects around 50% to safety services, so he felt the administrator’s budget reflected the council’s priorities.

Kunselman asks where the court revenue goes. It’s a state formula, Zeisloft explains.

Kunselman ventures that there are other ways to accommodate the $270,000 reduction besides laying people off. Zeisloft counters that the main costs of the court, like any governmental entity, is with personnel.

12:38 a.m. Hieftje recites statistics in support of the idea that Ann Arbor is safe. He says he’ll be supporting the allocation of DDA budget funds for police in the downtown area.

Lumm points out that in the last 10 years, the DDA hasn’t provided any money for beat cops. Kunselman asks Hieftje how the DDA could provide recurring revenue to support downtown beat cops, when it can’t plan to replace light poles.

Executive director of the DDA Susan Pollay traces the original parking agreement from 2005 as originating in a desire to provide downtown beat cops.

The focus has turned to downtown policing.

Kunselman objects to the idea that increases in parking rates might be used to fund police officers. He cites $1.20/hour parking in Pasadena, which he recently visited, compared to $1.50/hour in Ann Arbor.

Anglin wanted to send a message that would come from hiring more officers.

Petersen observes that there seems like a lot of agreement that more police are needed downtown, but she wonders what that means for this amendment.

Kunselman says he’ll support the amendment. He didn’t take the possible cut to three probation officers lightly but thought there could be other ways to deal with a reduced budget. He points out that the 15th District Court had a nice new building. UM campus safety officers don’t help Ann Arbor neighborhoods, he said.

Outcome: The amendment fails, getting support only from Lumm, Kunselman, Anglin, Higgins, and Kailasapathy.

12:52 a.m. Budget Amendment – Washtenaw Health Initiative. The amendment would allocate $10,000 to the Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI), a county-wide collaboration focused on how to make healthcare more accessible and improve care coordination for disadvantaged populations. It’s meant to help prepare for federal healthcare reform.

The WHI is co-chaired by former county administrator Bob Guenzel and retired University of Michigan treasurer Norman Herbert, along with Ellen Rabinowitz, executive director of the Washtenaw Health Plan. The city joined the WHI on July 2, 2012. Washtenaw County is also a member of WHI.

Outcome: Unanimously approved without debate.

12:53 a.m. Budget Amendment – Public art funding. The amendment would eliminate $326,464 in spending on public art. This anticipates possible approval of revisions to the public art ordinance. If the council waits until it enacts the public art ordinance – likely on June 3, 2013 – it would require a subsequent vote with an eight-vote majority.

Warpehoski questions whether it’s allowed to make this amendment, under the existing ordinance.

Taylor says that he expects there’ll be a change in the ordinance, but until it’s changed he wants to stay the course and support the existing program. So he’ll oppose the amendment.

12:59 a.m. Assistant city attorney Abigail Elias explains that the amendment continues the public art set-aside but prevents spending it.

Hieftje concurs with Taylor.

Outcome: The vote is 7-4, with dissent from Warpehoski, Hieftje, Taylor and Teall.

1:02 a.m. Budget Amendment – Miller Manor Senior Meals. This would replace $4,500 in funding lost due to federal sequestration for a senior meals program. Miller Manor is an Ann Arbor housing commission property.

Outcome: Unanimously approved without debate.

1:03 a.m. Budget Amendment – Sidewalk gaps. This would tap the general fund for a one-time use of $75,000 to fund a sidewalk gap prioritization study.

Briere asks why Act 51 money and why the sidewalk millage can’t be used for new sidewalk construction. Millage money is supposed to be used only for repair and maintenance of existing sidewalks. Act 51 is not for first-time improvements, Hupy says.

There’s more than $25 million worth of sidewalk construction that could take place, Hupy explains. That’s why it’s important to prioritize.

Hieftje says that reductions in transportation by the Ann Arbor Public Schools have highlighted where some of the sidewalk gaps are. Kunselman notes that some neighborhoods have no sidewalks at all. How does that fit in? Hupy indicates that’s the reason the prioritization study is needed. Kunselman wants to know if the study will be done in-house. Hupy thinks it’ll require a fair amount of community engagement. So outside assistance would be tapped for that.

Lumm says she’s inclined not to support it, but probably will.

Anglin tells Hupy that he’s glad conversations are happening with AAPS.

Outcome: Unanimously approved.

1:13 a.m. Budget Amendment – Police officers. This amendment would allocate $90,000 of the recurring savings from the retirement of assistant city attorney Bob West to the police services area to pay for an additional police officer. The recommendation is to eliminate an FTE from the city attorney’s office for next year FY 2015.

Kailasapathy says the attorney’s office has had the least amount of decline in FTEs.

Briere seconded the amendment. But she offered a friendly amendment that specified the assignment of the saved funds simply be returned to the general fund. That is, the outcome of the amendment was simply to reduce the FTE count by one without specifying that a police officer would be added.

Lumm said she was set to support the original amendment, but only because it would have added a police officer. That resulted in Kailasapathy reverting back to the original amendment.

Taylor asked chief of police John Seto to come to the podium. Taylor wanted to know if he’d been asked about that. Seto said the police department worked closely with West.

City attorney Stephen Postema explains that West does more than just prosecute civil infractions. In contemplating West’s replacement, that person will take more time than West does to complete those duties, Postema said. It’s incorrect to say that the attorney’s office has been reduced less, he contended. He described going from 14 FTEs to 12 FTEs. He said that eliminating the position “willy nilly” would do a disservice to the police department and the city attorney’s office.

Outcome: The amendment failed on a 2-9 vote. Only Kailasapathy and Lumm supported it.

1:25 a.m. Budget Amendment – Parks fairness. By policy, the general fund allocations to parks and recreation must not suffer any decrease beyond what other areas in the general fund do. So in the course of making amendments to the other parts of the budget, that can have implications for adherence to this policy. At the end of all the amendments, financial services staff have now provided the council with the adjustment that needs to be made to the parks budget, in order to comply with the policy. This year, that amount is $22,977.

Outcome: Unanimously approved without debate.

1:28 a.m. Deliberations on the budget as a whole. Lumm is explaining why she’ll be opposing the budget again this year, like she did last year. She contends that the budget makes no progress toward making public safety a priority.

Kunselman understands Lumm’s position but says that politics is the art of compromise. He’d seen a lot of compromise that night. He pointed to the small increases in firefighters. He pointed out that there’s no longer a plan to close fire stations. He believes in patience and putting his shoulder to the pile as in rugby and pushing toward a score.

Higgins thanks staff. Briere said she wouldn’t vote against the budget because she has to “own it” even if she doesn’t like every item in it.

Outcome: The council votes 10-1 to approve the FY 2014 budget. Dissenting was Lumm.

1:35 a.m. Appointments. Appointments include Susan Baskett to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA), and Paras Parekh to the city planning commission. Baskett currently serves as a trustee on the board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, an elected position. She’s worked with a committee to replace some school bus routes with AATA service.

Her confirmation by the council was 11-0, unlike the 7-4 vote taken a week earlier on May 13, 2013 on Eric Mahler’s appointment to the AATA board. Mahler’s term on the planning commission currently ends this summer and he won’t continue in that position after accepting appointment on the AATA board.

Replacing Mahler on the planning commission is Paras Parekh. Parekh is currently director of marketing and membership for the University of Michigan alumni association. His undergrad degree in economics is from UM. He has worked in marketing for a bit more than a decade, and spent two years as a legislative aide in the U.S. House of Representatives working for Congresswoman Lynn Rivers.

Donna Tope had originally been on the agenda to be confirmed as the replacement for Melissa Goldstein on the housing board of appeals. And she’d also been nominated as the replacement for Maureen Sertich on the zoning board of appeals. Those nominations had been put before the council at the May 13 session of its May 6 meeting. However, during the day on May 20, her name was removed from the list of nominations to be confirmed. And Jennifer Geer was confirmed as Tim Doyle’s replacement on the park advisory commission.

The entire downtown citizens advisory committee, whose appointments had all expired, had also been nominated at the May 13 meeting. But those nominations did not appear on the agenda on May 20.

1:47 a.m. Adjournment. Details on some individual voting items can be found in The Chronicle’s Civic News Ticker.

Ann Arbor city council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

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  1. May 21, 2013 at 9:51 am | permalink

    Thank you again for this method of reporting action at the Council meeting. Very useful.

    Rugby? Like the scrimmage? Where everyone puts heads together and tries to kick the ball out from under?

  2. May 21, 2013 at 11:19 am | permalink

    The Council’s fall leaf pick up discussion affirms the popular belief that the smaller the expenditure the longer the debate. Thank you Dave for having the stamina to sit through these exercises so we have a good record of the whole meeting.

    The leaf pick up discussion made me wonder how a program that “saved” us only $100,000 when it was discontinued would cost $300,000 to restore. How has this service tripled in cost over such a short time?

    Also related to the leaf pick up, I wonder how much surplus the solid waste millage generates each year. When the City converted to the single stream recycling process, it spent more than $6 million that had accumulated in the solid waste fund. It is my understanding that the fund has again generated a sizable surplus, which may be used to build a new drop off center for recycling. Does the solid waste millage generate enough surplus each year that it could cover the cost of the leaf and tree pick up at the same time that it adds to the fund balance at a steady but slower rate?

  3. By anna ercoli schnitzer
    May 21, 2013 at 11:35 am | permalink

    I have to say (burbling in admiration) that I still don’t know how you do it! Such exquisitely excruciating detail and such an unbelievably immediate turn-around! We are very, very fortunate to have “The Ann Arbor Chronicle” and its intrepid, oh-so-talented reporter-editors in our fair city!

  4. By Peter Zetlin
    May 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm | permalink

    “Kailasapathy disagrees with Taylor’s assessment of the DDA as a sophisticated organization. She quotes from an email Pollay wrote back in 2008 …. Hieftje reminds Kailasapathy that she wasn’t serving on the council back in 2008.”

    To clarify, Pollay’s email is one I received from her in 2008. It is copied below. It serves as an example of Sumi Kailasapathy’s observation that DDA has not conducted business as poficiently as Mr. Taylor believes.

    It’s also worth noting that when Mayor Hieftje insults a council member by indicating that they are newcomers to council, he speaks against the proper and ordinary procedures of representative government. Council is not meant to be a body with permanent members, and seniority has no official standing. Perhaps voters elected Kailasapathy because they wanted a different sort of representation than has been provided by the Mayor’s circle.

    From: Susan Pollay
    Date: Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 8:33 AM
    Subject: RE: Opposed to 5th Ave. parking development
    To: Peter Zetlin

    Dear Mr. Zetlin
    Thank you so much for making time to email. I will be sure to forward
    your comments onto the DDA so they are aware of your concern about the
    timing of their investment, especially in light of the latest national

    For what it’s worth, the proposed parking structure would be paid for
    with parking revenues (not tax dollars), and unnoted in the local press,
    the demand for public parking has been increasing every year – including
    this year, where the numbers of people paying to park exceeds the
    numbers in all previous years.

    Again, my thanks that you took the time to contact the DDA. Best
    Susan Pollay, A2 DDA

  5. By Eric Boyd
    May 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm | permalink

    Whether we can afford the leaf pickup or not, the city absolutely should not do it.

    It’s a total safety hazard to be sticking leaves (which then freeze) in the bike lanes.

    It’s not any harder to bag them then it is to rake them into the street.

  6. May 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm | permalink

    Re (5) Oh please. I doubt that you have ever filled 20 yard waste bags with leaves.

    Just to be clear, I compost all my leaves. But not everyone can manage 8 compost containers. I’m an outlier, I’m pretty sure.

    I’ve been watching how this is handled in my neighborhood. Some people hire lawn care services to take away everything at once. That is an expense that not everyone can bear. I’ve seen others blow the leaves onto city property (medians). Some just leave the whole mess until spring, which also means a lot of leaves find their way into the street anyway. And yes, some energetic souls do fill 20 bags.

    This is one of those issues that hit people unevenly. That makes it harder to have a polite conversation about it.

    Excuse me, I have to go turn my compost now.

  7. May 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm | permalink

    Re (5) I agree that leaves left in the curb area of the street become a hazard. Wet or frozen leaves become wickedly slippery for both bicyclists and pedestrians.

    One thing you may have overlooked is that absent the bulk leaf pick up in the fall, the leaves that fall from trees into the street are not collected either. The City fails to maintain the quality of our road surfaces, fails to maintain the bike lane markings, and fails to remove leaves and other debris or plow snow from the curb area. All of these failings affect pedestrians and bicyclists.

    The fall leaf pick up required residents to keep leaves out of the street until the day before the bulk pick up. If the rules are followed, that one or two day obstacle is much less bother than the overall failure to maintain and clear the curb area in general.

  8. By Steve Bean
    May 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm | permalink

    @1: I think you mean “scrum”.

    @2: My understanding is that commodities, including recycled materials, have mostly dropped in value over the last 5 years or more (though I haven’t looked into it recently), so I suspect that the additional surplus you’re talking about hasn’t accumulated.

    @4: The mayor’s comment also discounted the fact that Sumi was a citizen in 2008. Not that facts and information are dependent on the messenger for validity.

  9. By Steve Bean
    May 22, 2013 at 8:23 am | permalink

    The council’s problem and success statements for economic development demonstrates their overreach. When they focus on policy making, they actually do a decent job. It’s when they overstep their bounds as elected, non-professionals in other areas that they don’t give us value for our tax dollars and represent other interests than those of us, their constituents.

  10. May 22, 2013 at 9:49 am | permalink

    Re #8: My knowledge of rugby is completely limited to that movie with Matt Damon about Nelson Mandela. You are right, I meant scrum. I always get into trouble with sports terms and should never attempt them. I guess I was batting 0.001 with that one.

  11. By Eric Boyd
    May 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm | permalink

    Re #6:

    Yes, every spring and fall I drag a dozen or more bags to the street. We also have two compost bins, which we fill. Whatever doesn’t fit in the plastic compost bins, we put in bags and take to the street. We do it in the fall and the spring. (Many of the leaves get raked on to flower beds in the fall, and then raked off in the spring and into bags.) While we don’t have a lot of trees, all our neighbors do just over the property line, so we get lots and lots of leaves.

  12. By Eric Boyd
    May 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm | permalink

    Re #7: As far as I’ve noticed, regular street cleaning works sort of OK to get the leaves that fall in the street. It doesn’t work great in neighborhoods where on-street parking is almost always filled (like the eastern half of the Old West Side, near downtown). It would work better if we had alternate side of the street parking rules in the fall. (Snow clearing would work better if we had that in the winter.)

  13. By John Floyd
    May 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm | permalink

    @8 Steve Bean, on #4:

    An obvious point, that the Council Party seems unable to grasp. Thank you for making it, Steve.

    When elected officials need to be reminded of this kind of thing, it tells us something about our political culture.

  14. By Steve Bean
    May 26, 2013 at 7:24 am | permalink

    @13: Well, John, now that I’ve read the detailed report that Dave has posted, I’m going to take back what I wrote, because it apparently doesn’t apply. Here’s the description of what the mayor said from the new report on the meeting:

    “Hieftje reminded Kailasapathy that she wasn’t serving on the council back in 2008: ‘Just to point out, Councilmember Kailasapathy, because I know you weren’t here, the underground parking structure was fully supported by city council.’”

    I think it’s inaccurate to characterize that statement by the mayor as a reminder. It appears to be informational. I can’t see how it could reasonably interpreted as an insult (to use Peter’s word). I think it’s relevant for her and others (both council members and the audience, and now us) to know that council supported the structure. If anything, the valid criticism of the mayor’s comment would be that council didn’t “fully” support the structure if at least one member opposed it, but I don’t remember if that was the case.

    Dave’s use of the word “reminded” both in this piece and the followup is interesting.

  15. By Steve Bean
    May 26, 2013 at 7:29 am | permalink

    Now that I continue reading the “Details…” article, I see that the very next paragraph indicates that Mike Anglin voted against the structure, which was my vague recollection. (Kudos on including that note, Dave.)