On Jan. 5, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board held a retreat to discuss current negotiations with the city of Ann Arbor about the agreement under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system. And this past Monday, the respective “mutually beneficial” committees of the city council and the DDA board met to continue their conversation on the parking contract – a dialogue that has taken place in public view since June 2010.
Left to right: Teddy Bear (on screen); DDA board member Newcombe Clark; Ward 1 city council representative Sabra Briere. Clark and Briere were chatting during the break between the regular DDA board meeting and the DDA board retreat. Briere did not take part in the meetings – she was there as a member of the public. The teddy bear was featured in a video short that was meant to kick off the retreat with a bit of humor. (Photos by the writer.)
Two days later, at Wednesday’s meeting of the DDA partnerships committee, board member Gary Boren reported back to his colleagues about the conversation that had taken place at Monday’s mutually beneficial committee meeting. Boren was frank in his assessment that the city’s team appeared intransigent.
To Boren, it appeared that city representatives had staked out their position, and they saw anything less than that position as meaning the city was not receiving what it is properly owed. For his part, Boren considers the DDA to be in the driver’s seat, because the current contract runs through 2015, and would not require the additional payments the city is seeking for that period.
At the partnerships committee meeting, Susan Pollay – executive director of the DDA – drew attention to the fact that there will be an increasing sense of urgency to firm up the contract as both the city and the DDA put together their respective budgets for the next fiscal year. The city administrator will need firm numbers by March, she suggested.
In this report, we put Boren’s comments and the ensuing discussion by the DDA’s partnerships committee in the context of the DDA’s board retreat last week, when board chair Joan Lowenstein noted, “We’re not a savings bank. We’re supposed to spend money.”
The retreat included a discussion of the kinds of projects the DDA would like to undertake over the next 10 years, some of which would need to be deferred, depending on the amount of parking revenue the DDA passes through to the city. The DDA also appears ready to defer some of its scheduled maintenance to the parking decks, if the maintenance activity is of a more aesthetic or cosmetic nature.
It emerged during the retreat that the politics of parking contract negotiations include the city’s ability to fund public safety – firefighters and police. The speculation was floated at the retreat that it might actually help the city’s negotiating stance with its labor unions, if the DDA took a firmer approach to the parking contract. [Full Story]