Ann Arbor Council OKs Ypsi in AATA

The city of Ypsilanti’s membership in the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has been approved by the city of Ann Arbor in action taken by the Ann Arbor city council on June 3, 2013.

The specific action taken by the council was to approve changes to AATA’s articles of incorporation. The AATA itself and the Ypsilanti city council will also need to approve the document. Given the unanimous vote of the Ypsilanti city council requesting membership – and the AATA board’s generally positive response to the request – it’s expected those two bodies will also vote to approve the revised articles of incorporation. [.pdf of proposed AAATA articles of incorporation][.pdf of existing AATA articles of incorporation]

Ypsilanti’s request for membership came in the context of a demised attempt in 2012 to expand the AATA to all of Washtenaw County. Since then, conversations have continued among a smaller cluster of communities geographically closer to Ann Arbor.

In addition to admitting the city of Ypsilanti as a member, the revised articles expand the size of the board from seven to nine members. One of the new seats will be appointed by the city of Ypsilanti. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Ypsi Waits at Bus Stop, Other Riders Unclear."]

While the change to the articles will affect the governance of the AATA, the goal of the governance change is to provide a way to generate additional funding for transportation. The AATA could, with voter approval, levy a uniform property tax on the entire geographic area of its membership – but the AATA does not currently do that. The cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti currently levy their own millages, which are transmitted to the AATA. However, Ypsilanti is currently at its 20-mill state constitutional limit. A millage levied by the AATA would not count against that 20-mill cap.

A millage proposal would require voter approval. There’s an outside chance for the AATA to place a millage on the November ballot – if the change to the articles of incorporation are also approved in straightforward fashion by the AATA board and the Ypsilanti city council. Any decision to place a millage request on the November 2013 ballot would need to be made by late August. [Ballot language needs to be certified to the county clerk by Aug. 27, 2013]. But the practicalities of mounting a successful millage campaign mean that a decision to make a millage request would likely need to come sooner than that.

The change in the articles of incorporation also calls for a name change – to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA). Customary pronunciation of the current name is to sound out each letter: A-A-T-A. One possibility that’s been suggested is to pronounce the new letter sequence Triple-A-T-A.

The Ann Arbor city council’s June 3 resolution on the AATA articles of incorporation was co-sponsored on the agenda by mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). Along with Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), the three have participated in ongoing meetings among the “urban core” communities. The next such meeting is scheduled for June 27 at Pittsfield Township hall, starting at 4 p.m.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]