Column: Counting on the DDA to Fund Police?

A modest proposal for increasing downtown officers on patrol

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has enjoyed significant attention from the city council through the spring – and that attention will continue at least through next week.

Ann Arbor police department mug shots. Please note: When it comes to counting police officers or DDA board members, six of one is not half a dozen of the other.

Ann Arbor police department mug shots. Please note: When it comes to counting police officers or DDA board members, six of one is not half a dozen of the other. (“Art” by The Chronicle)

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) has been leading the effort by the council to have an impact on the DDA – first by proposing ordinance amendments, then by bringing forward a proposal during the council’s FY 2014 budget deliberations on May 20 – to reallocate DDA funds toward housing. More on that later.

Next week’s June 3 city council meeting would have marked the start of a three-month DDA-free period on the council’s agenda. However, Ward 2 councilmembers Jane Lumm and Sally Petersen, joined by Sumi Kailasapathy from Ward 1, have now placed a resolution on that meeting’s agenda calling on the DDA to allocate money for three additional police officers dedicated to patrolling the downtown area.

For Lumm, this might appear to be a course reversal. Earlier this spring she argued that funding for police officers should be found within the regular city budgeting process. She argued that police officers should be paid for with city general fund dollars – because the city is responsible for public safety. Specifically, she argued that the city should not be looking to the DDA to pay for police.

Yet it’s not actually a course reversal for Lumm. If you follow the city council and the DDA closely, her position now – calling on the DDA to fund police – makes perfectly logical sense, if “logical sense” means “political sense.”

The fact that this reversal makes perfect political sense is not an indictment of Lumm specifically, but rather of the entire 11-member council. They’ve managed as a group to forget what they accomplished together at their retreat in December 2012.

At that retreat, the council achieved a consensus that the city’s achievement of success for the public safety area would not be measured by the number of sworn officers. Instead they agreed that success would be based by actual crime stats, perceptions of safety by residents, and an objective measurement of the time that officers can spend on proactive policing. Yet the council’s debate on May 20 reverted to the familiar past habit of measuring safety success by counting sworn officers.

To the credit of the June 3 resolution’s sponsors, their proposal at least claims that adding police officers downtown would contribute to the perception of increased safety – a nod to the council’s retreat consensus. But I can imagine arguments both ways about whether that claim is true.

The council’s general distraction from its budget retreat consensus might be linked to the energy spent on the DDA. So what has stoked that interest? The fuel for this political fire is the perverse interpretation the DDA has given to Chapter 7 of the city code, which regulates the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) revenue. The DDA contends that the revenue constraint that’s articulated in Chapter 7 isn’t really a constraint. The DDA further contends that the $470,000 it returned to other taxing jurisdictions in 2011 was paid back “erroneously.” Kunselman’s ordinance amendments would exclude the DDA’s interpretation.

Throughout the council’s months-long debate about the DDA, the DDA board and staff have enthusiastically participated in city council politics. They’ve done so in a way that has not added much value to the city of Ann Arbor, except in the form of political drama.

In this column I’ll lay out the DDA’s role in the most recent political play that was performed at the council’s May 20 meeting.

Setting the Stage

By way of background, this year’s council focus on the DDA began on Feb. 4, when Ward 3 councilmember Stephen Kunselman announced he’d be sponsoring an amendment to the local ordinance governing the DDA. A month later, on March 4, the council had the item on its agenda. After postponing it several times, the council eventually gave the measure initial approval. But at its May 6, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council decided to postpone final consideration of that ordinance revision until Sept. 3 – after the Aug. 6 city council primary election.

However, that postponement did not keep the DDA off the city council’s agenda for the regular meeting that followed – on May 20, 2013. That’s when the council debated the FY 2014 budget. During the budget debate, a proposed change to the DDA’s budget occupied more of the council’s time than any other budget amendment. To be clear, it is the statutory role of the city council to approve the DDA’s budget. It’s not so clear that the DDA should occupy so much of the council’s time on budget night.

At that May 20 meeting, Kunselman offered an amendment to transfer money from the DDA’s TIF (tax increment finance) fund to the DDA’s housing fund. It was ultimately approved – as a kind of compromise with a competing DDA budget amendment that mayor John Hieftje had hoped to bring forward. The transfer amount agreed upon by the council was $300,000 – compared to the $500,000 Kunselman had originally wanted to transfer.

The political backdrop for this includes the fact that Kunselman faces a challenge in the August Democratic primary from Julie Grand, who currently serves on the city’s park advisory commission. She also lives on the same block of Brooklyn Avenue as Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who’s been one of the council’s leading defenders of the DDA. Taylor was elected to the council in 2008, over then-incumbent Kunselman. But Kunselman returned to the council the following year when he received more votes than Leigh Greden.

Kunselman is also a political rival of mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the DDA board. Kunselman has stated that if Hieftje seeks re-election in 2014, then Kunselman will run to oppose Hieftje.

The sparring between Kunselman and Hieftje can be overt, with Hieftje writing to Kunselman in an email sent during the second week of May: “I understand your need to automatically oppose anything I may be in favor of …” And on May 20, Kunselman told Hieftje during the council’s meeting, “Of course, you’re not going to support anything that I bring to the table.”

Budget Amendment & DDA Special Meeting

The fact that Kunselman proposed his DDA budget amendment on May 20 was not a surprise – because he’d announced at the council’s May 6 meeting that he’d be doing that.

Three days later, on May 9, the DDA board called a special meeting – scheduled for May 13. According to the posting, the meeting was for the “purpose of discussing budget priorities and any other business that the members deem necessary.”

The DDA board had already adopted its FY 2014 and FY 2015 budgets – an action that took place at its Feb. 6, 2013 meeting.

So when the special meeting was announced, I expected there was an interest among DDA board members in using the special meeting to modify the DDA’s adopted budget. If the board took action to modify its budget – at least in the spirit of Kunselman’s planned amendment, if not in the same dollar figure – that might have blunted the effect of Kunselman’s amendment.

The argument against Kunselman’s budget amendment would have gone something like this: The DDA already transferred $X from its TIF fund into its housing fund at a special meeting of its board held on May 13 – so why are we quibbling about the difference between X and $500,000?

As it turned out, the special meeting of the DDA board on May 13 did not result in the transaction of any business. No resolutions were considered. No votes were taken. The 12-member DDA board did not even achieve a quorum of seven members. I marked the following six board members present for the May 13 special meeting: Leah Gunn, Joan Lowenstein, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Roger Hewitt and Newcombe Clark. That’s the same as the DDA staff’s tally of attendance.

An Accounting of Events

Yet during deliberations on May 20, John Hieftje described the gathering on May 13 as a having achieved a quorum. He also described “DDA action” taken on May 13.

In fairness to Hieftje, he had to rely on information from others – because he was absent from the meeting. But he also had no political interest in questioning or confirming the accuracy of the information.

What was Hieftje’s political interest? He certainly didn’t adduce the May 13 DDA gathering as a random point of recent history. He adduced it in support of his own DDA budget amendment, which was meant to compete with Kunselman’s. Hieftje took the occasion during the meeting to point out that his own proposed amendment was based on the DDA’s May 13 “action.” For example, the dollar amount to be transferred to the DDA housing fund in Hieftje’s proposed budget amendment was $100,000. That’s the amount that the DDA had purportedly resolved on May 13 to transfer from its TIF fund to its housing fund.

So how would anyone get the idea that the DDA board had – through a vote or some kind of other consensus of a quorum of its members – taken some action, or passed a resolution to update its previously adopted budget?

The part about a quorum is likely attributable, I think, to an inadvertent miscounting of board members by DDA board chair Leah Gunn. She sent an email to city councilmembers stating that seven members had attended the May 13 meeting. With six members plus staff sitting at the table, it’s the kind of miscount that anyone could make.

Except for the miscount, Gunn’s email does not, on my reading, try to portray the meeting as more than what it was – an informal meeting where no action was taken. From Gunn’s email:

The DDA had an informal meeting last Monday to discuss the allocations to the budget considering the added TIF that will be received in the next fiscal year. Although no formal action has been taken, the attached memo describes the consensus reached by the seven members present.

However, if the phrase in Gunn’s email were read contrastively as “no formal action” had been taken, the ordinary rules of contrastive stress would open the door for Hieftje’s description. So during deliberations on May 20, he could refer to some “DDA action,” presumably an informal one. I have no idea what it means for a public body to take informal action. But grammatically, at least, it works.

Gunn’s email refers to an attached memo. It’s the attached memo, written by DDA executive director Susan Pollay, that I think actually misrepresents what happened on May 13. The subject line indicates a “budget update” when no updating of the DDA’s budget was undertaken at the meeting.

And the body of the memo indicates formal action in at least three places, when no action was actually taken:

  • “At its Monday morning meeting the DDA board members resolved that …”
  • “The board members authorized me to …”
  • “On Monday, the DDA members resolved to set aside $75,000 …”

Even if a quorum of members had been present, then based on my own attendance at the May 13 gathering, no action was taken by those assembled. It would perhaps be fair to say that among the six board members gathered, a general consensus, along the lines described by Pollay’s memo, was apparent during the casual conversation.

Pollay was present at the May 20 council meeting and was asked to the podium to respond to questions. She was present when Hieftje characterized the May 13 DDA gathering as having achieved a quorum, and she was there when he referred to the DDA board action. She had an opportunity to correct the statements made about the May 13 meeting.

So I inquired with Pollay by email about her memo’s characterization of the May 13 gathering – given that no quorum had been achieved on that occasion. Her response was to cite an email she’d received from board member Bob Guenzel saying that he couldn’t attend the meeting, but expressing his thoughts on the budget. From Pollay’s email:

Bob Guenzel wasn’t able to attend, but had shared ideas with me via email, and I let everyone know what these ideas were so they could be included as part of the discussion and ultimately weighed before they came to some kind of consensus. Bob’s interests were to direct additional funding to housing and to funding some kind of economic development study in partnership with SPARK. 6 board members were present for the discussion, but 7 provided input into the list of priorities.

Even given this additional context, I don’t think it’s remotely reasonable to represent the gathering of DDA board members on May 13 as having resolved anything or authorized anything.

Pollay’s justification for her memo’s portrayal of the meeting appears to be based in part on the idea that the seventh board member necessary to achieve a quorum was somehow actually in attendance – by dint of the email he sent prior to the meeting.

That’s just not how you count attendance at a meeting of a public body.

As it turned out, the DDA’s non-meeting of May 13 was not sufficient as a political prop on May 20 to allow Hieftje’s proposed budget amendment to win the day. I’m curious to see how the DDA will be used as a prop in the council’s June 3 discussion of downtown police funding.

Counting Police Officers

If the Ann Arbor city council wants to abandon its consensus success statements on public safety, and return instead to the familiar routine of counting police officers, then by all means let’s get the DDA involved, as proposed in the council’s June 3 resolution.

If the DDA is involved, perhaps we could adapt the DDA’s quorum-counting approach to police staffing levels. We could count officers as on patrol even if they don’t report for duty.

But, of course, we would still insist that such officers at least send an email to their shift commander, sharing their thoughts on how to fight crime.

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  1. May 31, 2013 at 1:18 pm | permalink

    I appreciate Jane Lumm’s persistent pursuit of funding for additional police officers. Her budget amendments that would have transferred funds from other departments to the police budget did not receive sufficient support. This is a good alternative source of funding. The DDA is awash with new money.

    The mission of the DDA should be to improve the downtown for everyone. I recently dropped in on a block party while campaigning in the 4th Ward and listened to a resident express concern about the aggressive panhandling she encounters on her bike trip from the west side to campus. The presence of foot patrol in the downtown would likely provide a sense of safety, even if the increased staff did not result in increased arrests or ticketing. That sense of security is the kind of improvement our downtown needs.

    The conflict between the City and its DDA over the correct method of calculating the TIF has the odd result of the subordinate DDA telling the City how to interpret the ordinance that describes the limits on TIF diversion. It is past time for the Council to take the lead in this relationship, both in the questions about the TIF calculation and the issues surrounding the DDA budget.

    I applaud Lumm, Kailasapathy and Petersen for their efforts to fund the Council’s number one priority.

  2. By Mark Koroi
    May 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm | permalink

    It should also be noted that the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council has not been reconstituted as of yet via re-appointments due to the expiration of all members as of October of 2012.

    I appeared before City Council several times on this issue and indicated that there needs to be greater input from a broader cross-section of downtown residents on this public body – which is authorized by state law (Public Act 197 of 1975).

    @Jack Eaton: Mr. Eaton has a campaign website – but no supporters are listed. Marcia Higgins has no apparent website up and running yet – and did not have any when she ran in 2011 against Eric Scheie.

    There semed to be a groundswell of support for Mr. Eaton following the 413 E. Huron matter. Citizens, such as Alan Haber, began sporting Jack Eaton lapel buttons and Jack was being mobbed by citizens outside of City Council chambers trying to volunteer for his campaign.

    Looks like Marcia will face her toughest primary challenge since she squared off against Rosewood Avenue’s Eric Lipson in 2005.

    Marcia is a consummate political insider having the backing of influential Fourth Warders such as Leah Gunn, Diane Giannola and Margie Teall.

    Could the Marcia Higgins era on City Council be over by Election Day?

  3. May 31, 2013 at 2:56 pm | permalink

    Downtown police presence is not a new issue. It has played a significant role in Ann Arbor politics in the past.

    It was a different era, but back in the 1980s, then Mayor Ed Pierce was portrayed as insufficiently concerned about aggressive panhandling and other factors contributing to a perception that downtown was unsafe. Downtown merchant associations were very concerned and outspoken about the perception that it wasn’t safe in the business district. Pierce was replaced by Gerald Jernigan after one term as mayor in part because of the public’s concern about security downtown.

    Additional police patrols in the downtown are something that the DDA should be eager to support. The public library has to invest in four full time security personnel for its downtown branch. Support for policing seems like a tangible action within the DDA’s power.

  4. May 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm | permalink

    I recall when we had a couple of bike-riding officers downtown (they used to hang out at Thano’s Lamplighter, no donuts as far as I know). It was my impression that the DDA was funding them. It seems a very reasonable request if the DDA are actually the only people who know and care about the downtown, as Christoper Taylor and Joan Lowenstein have stated in comments on a different Chronicle article.

  5. May 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm | permalink

    Too bad Drake’s closed. I don’t even know where the cops hang out now.

  6. By Joan Lowenstein
    May 31, 2013 at 5:04 pm | permalink

    The City receives more than $3 million annually under its parking contract with the DDA. Than money goes into the general fund and is more than enough to fund police officers, as it was supposed to do. People who use the parking system would surely feel better knowing that the City’s portion of their fees is going towards public safety.

  7. May 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm | permalink

    Re: $3 million to the city from public parking system.

    The following doesn’t bear on the debate about how police officers should be funded or if we need more officers. Rather it’s just historical nit-picking.

    The rough dollar figure is right – 17% of gross revenues from the public parking system comes to a bit more that $3 million a year. But the 17% figure was calculated in 2011 (as a part of the renegotiated contract between the city and the DDA) to approximate the total sum of the revenue that the city was already extracting from the public parking system. That sum was up to $2 million per year under the existing contract, plus around $800,000 annually paid to the city’s street fund. The connection to the street fund was based on the fact that the DDA took over responsibility for the on-street portion of the parking system in 2003. That payment was meant to address the capital maintenance need for the street surface taken up by the parking spaces.

    My understanding, based on a conversation with CFO Tom Crawford back in 2011, is that the city continues to transfer that portion of the 17% payment to the street fund. The principle is that those payments were connected to a specific capital maintenance need. And the fact that those capital maintenance dollars are received as part of an over-arching contract applying to the entire public parking system doesn’t eliminate that capital need.

    So back-of-the-napkin-wise, the city’s general fund gets about $2.3 million of public parking revenue annually.

  8. May 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm | permalink

    If a group does not have an in-person quorum, it cannot hold an “informal discussion”. If there is no quorum, the group has only two choices: seek a quorum, or adjourn.

    Every schoolchild knows this. Why doesn’t the DDA board?

  9. By John Floyd
    May 31, 2013 at 10:56 pm | permalink


    Thank you for your ongoing work of holding public officials accountable. This work must involve much tedium, but it has to happen if self-government is to continue.

    @8 The Other Dave

    You would have to have a body concerned about the rule of law, process integrity, respect for their friends and neighbors, right and wrong, and “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” for annoying niceties like quorums to matter. Or at least, you would have to have a body composed of adults, rather than an over-aged middle schoolers jockeying for position at the mean kids’ lunch table.

  10. By John Q.
    May 31, 2013 at 11:47 pm | permalink

    “If a group does not have an in-person quorum, it cannot hold an “informal discussion”. If there is no quorum, the group has only two choices: seek a quorum, or adjourn.”

    The attorney general’s handbook on the Open Meetings Act doesn’t require a public body to adjourn in the absence of a quorum.

    Quorum – is the minimum number of members who must be present for a board to act. Any substantive action taken in the absence of a quorum is invalid. If a public body properly notices the meeting under OMA, but lacks a quorum when it actually convenes, the board members in attendance may receive reports and comments from the public or staff, ask questions, and comment on matters of interest.

  11. By John Q.
    May 31, 2013 at 11:49 pm | permalink

    How did the Councilmembers arrive at 3 as the magical number of police officers needed downtown? Dave A. raises an excellent point – is this policy making based on politics alone? Or is their some data that the proponents can point to for this move?

  12. June 1, 2013 at 12:14 am | permalink

    Re: [11] “How did the councilmembers arrive at 3 as the magical number of police officers needed downtown?”

    I don’t think their contention is that three is the “magical” number, but rather three is a number that’s within the DDA’s financial capacity to absorb without imposing undue hardship on the DDA. That’s actually a reasonable contention – because the DDA’s FY 2014 budget includes a line for $300,000 in its parking fund for “discretionary” spending. And that item has been actively discussed by the DDA board itself as either being put towards police officers, community standards officers or some sort of ambassadorial type staff – all of whom would be dedicated to the downtown district. And at $90,000 per police officer, $300,000 gets you three.

  13. June 1, 2013 at 7:09 am | permalink

    Re: [11] and [12]: I believe the ‘magic number’ of 3 is reflected in the effort – during the budget discussion – to add 3 more police officers (Sumi Kailasapathy’s amendment to add 1; Jane Lumm’s amendment to add 2 both failed).

    In addition, last year during the budget discussions, Council member Lumm asked then-Police Chief Barnett Jones what the magic number was; he indicated 150. The police department currently has 146 staff; the addition of 3 using whatever funding source would bring the number to 149. (Quoting from Council member Kailasapathy’s campaign last year, “Sumi has repeatedly said that she will go with the “magic” number of 150 police officers recommended by the police chief.”)

    Those who can do simple math might ask ‘why not try to add 4 police officers, to get to that magic number?’ And that you’d have to ask the proposers of this resolution.

    Of course, if the resolutions wins approval on Monday night, it’s only a recommendation. And the recommendation isn’t to use $300,000 from the parking fund; it’s that the DDA allocate $400,000 for police from the budget for grants. And whether the DDA will choose to allocate any additional dollars to the City for police officers when they’ve tried that in the past without a City commitment and without resulting police . . . that’s an unknown.

  14. By Joe Dohm
    June 1, 2013 at 7:42 am | permalink

    As a busy person, I really appreciate pieces like this. I support the chronicle, but don’t have time to read every article. It is good to have some higher level review articles. Thanks Chronicle!

  15. June 1, 2013 at 10:54 am | permalink

    Re: [13]

    “Jane Lumm’s amendment to add 2 [officers] …”

    Her proposal on budget night was actually to add three.

    The three officers were to be funded from a reduction to the 15th District Court budget by $270,000, which was an amount just less than the $312,000 increase (compared to the previous year’s budget). From that, I think it’s fair to conclude that the approach taken here was: “as many as we can afford.”

    That’s also reflected in the resolution on the June 3 agenda. It’s true that the “whereas” clauses for that resolution describe $400,000 from the total grant expenditures. But the DDA simply doesn’t have a single “grants” line item in its budget. The way you get to the $400,000 identified in the June 3 resolution is to sum $100,000 in the TIF budget and $300,000 in the parking fund that are labeled “discretionary.” Because the DDA itself has identified the unassigned $300,000 in the parking fund as the source of funding for whatever “clean and safe” initiative it undertakes, I think it’s fair to say that this resolution essentially says: Hey, DDA, that idea you’re already mulling over with the “clean and safe” funded out of parking revenue – go ahead and do that; and, by the way, we want officers not ambassadors. The way you get to three is the same way Lumm got to three for the failed budget amendment: It’s what’s affordable.

    Now for the implication that it really should be four officers that the resolution’s sponsors want to add, if they’re oriented purely to a number, that’s an idea worth debunking.

    So, [13] introduces the 150 figure from former chief of police Barnett Jones. But Jones was talking about sworn officers, not total FTEs. The 146 figure cited in [13] is for total FTEs – a number greater than the number of sworn officers. So I don’t know why anyone would want to do simple math on 150 and 146 and get four. The total number of sworn officers in AAPD is closer to 120 than 146. For anyone who wants to achieve the 150 figure proposed by former chief Jones, there’s a much taller hill to climb.

    So I think there’s a reasonable financial logic and rationale to three as the number. I’m less sympathetic to the public policy implications of the proposal.

    What I don’t think is reasonable public policy is to assign basic government functions to the DDA. It makes no more sense to me to task the DDA for funding downtown police services than it does to task the DDA for downtown waste collection. The DDA is not supposed to be “the downtown government.” Tasking the DDA with the provision of core services sets up the DDA with the following argument: You shouldn’t force us to give Chapter 7 of the city code the clearly sensible interpretation, because you’ll be jeopardizing {police services, affordable housing, parks, CoreServiceX}. To that, people say, Yikes! and blanche at the idea of complying with the Chapter 7 language that’s already on the books.

    I also think it’s unfortunate that the idea of adding police officers doesn’t take as its starting point the council’s own consensus success statements from its December 2012 retreat. Taking those success statements as a starting point would look something like this: “We’re not achieving success as a safe community as measured by these crime stats, and we’re not achieving success as a community perceived to be safe by its residents as measured by this scientific survey, and our officers have less than 25% of their time available for proactive policing as measured by the officer activity reports. But adding three officers, deployed in a manner recommended by chief John Seto, will help us achieve success as we’ve defined it.”

    Instead, the idea of adding police officers appears to me to be taken as the starting point. It’s good to see the nod in the resolution given to the council’s consensus success statements – in the form of the claimed impact that adding three police officers will have. That is, the proposers of the resolution are at least incorporating the success statement language into their discussion. But I don’t see that they have included an argument that we are not already achieving success in the police services area. Do I have an argument that we are achieving success as measured by the council’s statements from the December retreat? Heck no.

    And that’s why I think starting in January, it would have made perfect sense for the council as a group to say: Let’s get this rolling now. Let’s authorize now the $20,000 needed to conduct the community survey on perceptions of safety that we haven’t done in several years. Let’s insist that chief Seto make the complete rollout and debugging of the electronic officer activity tracking a priority, and ask that the council be provided with baseline proactive policing stats by some date certain.

    The reason that kind of approach didn’t unfold naturally over the course of the council’s spring budget work sessions is related to the council’s dysfunction with respect these work sessions – a topic I’ll leave for a different time.

    Lumm is supposed to be bringing forward a proposal for a safety services task force at the council’s second meeting in June. [This is analogous to the economic development task force – also an identified council priority – established by the council at a recent meeting.] Maybe that will get the ball rolling – so that the council as a group is eventually in a position to make statements like: “We’re not achieving success, because …” or “We’re achieving success, because …”

  16. June 1, 2013 at 1:03 pm | permalink

    It’s good to be corrected – and I agree with Mr. Askins on this: we need to have that policy discussion.

  17. By Steve Bean
    June 2, 2013 at 9:24 am | permalink

    @15: Cheers to that.

    @16: The challenge in having a policy discussion on council is that the majority, including the mayor, don’t have policy backgrounds. In the absence of policy you get what we have. Is it politics? Dysfunction? “Who cares?” what it is. It’s not good, representative, democratic government, in spite of whatever success there’s been in certain areas.

  18. By Laurie Howland
    June 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm | permalink

    @8: I’m betting that most school children wouldn’t know what a quorum was if you asked them, let alone Rober’s Rules of Order. Perhaps Council members who are meeting privately with citizens outside of council should ask those same school children about the Open Meetings Act, hmmmm?

    @15: Yup!

    As for me, I walk the downtown area all of the time and I do not feel like there is a need for beat cops downtown (though I’m not in the 4th ward so maybe it doesn’t count), at least not at this time. There are random pan handlers around, but there are far fewer of them than I have seen in even the recent past. Adding three cops does look quite a bit like a political box to check (see I have voted for and backed adding more police officers whether it made sense or not), not a value added decision. And as for the snarky comments about cops hanging out drinking coffee and eating dougnuts (and shame on you for those knee jerk silly remarks) could it be that there wasn’t enough actual work for them to do which is why they’re not out there at the moment?

  19. By John Q.
    June 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm | permalink

    Dave A. nailed it. Relying on “because the Chief said so” isn’t a good enough answer. Council members should be making this decision based on real numbers and real objectives. Police officers, for all the good they do, are some of the most expensive employees in the city organization. Blindly adding officers based on nothing more than a “feel good” basis isn’t good government. Is Ann Arbor even using tools like CompStat to evaluate where and how often crime is happening in the city and to deploy officers where they are needed?

  20. June 5, 2013 at 9:02 am | permalink

    Re 18: if you are referring to my comment, I specifically said no donuts. That was intended as humor, not snark. I think they just used Thano’s as a break location, reasonable considering they were on bikes, not sitting in a patrol car. They were cool guys.

    Most of my information about downtown police needs is anecdotal. I hardly go there any more, given problems with parking and the lack of real services. But I know there have been many calls for more enforcement from business people as well as citizens.

    I think the need for more police presence in Ann Arbor needs to be based on more than crime statistics. They can be misleading. That statement would take too long to defend in this forum, so I won’t try. (More anecdotes.) But I’m glad that Jack Eaton has consistently supported a better law enforcement presence, even though I don’t live in the 4th ward, either.

  21. June 5, 2013 at 10:52 am | permalink

    Re (19) While I agree that “Council members should be making this decision based on real numbers and real objectives”, there is no reliable data upon which to base current budget decisions. As Dave Askins clearly demonstrated in an article, the City does not measure fire response times. [link]

    Similarly, Stephen Ranzini frequently notes in comments on the ann arbor dot com site that the a past police department budget included funding to establish metrics upon which to base an analysis of police services. Unfortunately, that money has not been spent to perform that task.

    What we do have is a highly qualified Police Chief gently informing us that at our current level of police staffing, we are incapable of performing proactive, community policing. We have had to revert to mere reactive policing because of the long decline in police staff.

    For many years the reduction in police staffing was defended with the explanation that crime was down. Now that crime is up, should we expect that our Council will increase spending on police staff? [link] (violent crime down, property crime up). Or will we now be treated to a variety of excuses why crime rates should not influence police staffing levels?

  22. June 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm | permalink

    Re: #21: I think Mr. Eaton may have missed the fact that the numbers in that dotcom article were from 2012 – when the City faced a large increase in B&Es. From the article, “However, Hieftje expects 2013 to be another year where crime decreases. He said he meets once a week with Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto for a briefing on crime statistics in the city.

    “I’m not sure if we’ll be back to 2011 levels,” he said, adding that breaking and entering reports are down 25 to 30 percent in 2013 from the same period in 2012.

    Seto backed up those numbers and said the preliminary numbers show Ann Arbor is near 2011 levels in crime.

    “We have made reductions compared to 2012 in just about all the areas we track,” he said.

    Looking at the last five to 10 years, the trend of crime decreasing in the city is ongoing, he said.”

    I completely agree that the City should implement the technology that will provide the metrics the City Administrator should be using.

  23. By John Q.
    June 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm | permalink

    “What we do have is a highly qualified Police Chief gently informing us that at our current level of police staffing, we are incapable of performing proactive, community policing. We have had to revert to mere reactive policing because of the long decline in police staff.”

    I know that’s the chief’s position. The City Council needs to challenge the chief to show that the resources already allocated to the police department are being used as effectively and efficiently as they can be. Adding more officers should be the last resort after all other avenues have been explored, not the knee-jerk first reaction to real or perceived increases in crime.

  24. June 6, 2013 at 11:28 am | permalink

    Re (22) I am happy to hear that the department is projecting reduced crime for this year. The last hard data we have is for 2012 and I think it reasonable to rely on information from neutral reports. More importantly, the distinction between proactive and reactive policing is the ability to respond to a sudden, unexpected spike in crime (such as we saw last year) without delay. So for example, a string of sexual assaults can be addressed without waiting for overtime hours to be approved and before the perpetrator moves on to another community.

    Re (23) I would share your skepticism of the Police Chief’s claims, if he were taking a position dramatically different from previous Police Chiefs. Police Chief Barnett Jones also warned Council that the cuts to police staffing affected the ability of the Department to provide safety services.

    The number of full-time employees in the police department,including sworn officers and civilian employees, dropped from 244 in 2001 to 146 this year (that reduction includes the elimination of about a dozen dispatchers when the system combined with the County’s dispatch). We can pretend that the UM police department offsets some of that reduction, but those officers should not be responding to problems at off campus student neighborhoods or student focused businesses. There is a limit to what the UM can do about crime and crime prevention.

    The professionals are telling us we are constrained in our ability to provide safety services by our reduced police staffing. Our Council identified public safety as its number one priority. We have no metric to measure the efficacy of our current staff, other than the department’s change of method from proactive to reactive due to lack of staff.