Stories indexed with the term ‘Stand Your Ground law’

County Board Debates Taxes, State Laws

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Oct. 16, 2013): A packed agenda and extensive public commentary resulted in a meeting lasting over six hours, with the majority of discussion focused on three issues: (1) the state’s Stand Your Ground law; (2) an increase to the Act 88 tax, and questions about the legality of such a levy; and (3) the county’s participation in a Pittsfield Township corridor improvement authority for State Street.

Stand Your Ground, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A supporter of Michigan’s Stand Your Ground law brought his gun to the Oct. 16 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

About three dozen people spoke to the board about the Stand Your Ground resolution, which urged the state legislature to repeal that law. Although there were speakers on both sides of the issue, more than 20 voiced opposition to the resolution, including several who attended the meeting wearing sidearms.

It was after midnight when the board took a 5-to-4 vote to pass the resolution, over dissent from Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1), Dan Smith (R-District 2), Alicia Ping (R-District 3), and Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5). In support of the resolution were Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6), Andy LaBarre (D-District 7), Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) and Conan Smith (D-District 9).

The following week, David Raaflaub of Ypsilanti – a former candidate for county commissioner – filed a complaint against the board in the 22nd Circuit Court. The complaint asks the court to determine two issues: (1) what authority the board has that enables it to “draw conclusions of law,” and (2) what authority the board has to represent the county in seeking changes to state law. Dan Smith has indicated that he would bring forward a resolution to rescind the board’s Oct. 16 action, if it’s determined that the county will incur additional costs – such as fees for outside legal counsel – to defend the lawsuit.

Another major debate on Oct. 16 related to an increase in the Act 88 tax levy, which funds economic development and agriculture – including activities of Ann Arbor SPARK. The board ultimately gave initial approval to increase the tax from 0.06 mills to 0.07 mills, following a long discussion and a failed attempt by Conan Smith to increase the tax even more, to 0.09 mills. His proposal for a draft policy to guide the allocation of Act 88 funds did win support from the majority of commissioners, however.

The county’s position is that it’s authorized to collect the Act 88 millage – as well as a levy for veterans relief services – without seeking voter approval. That’s because the state legislation that enables the county to levy these taxes predates Michigan’s Headlee Amendment. During deliberations, Dan Smith raised questions about whether levying this kind of tax is constitutional. He also questions whether the language of the Act 88 statute allows the kind of general interpretation the county is using to define eligible uses of funds generated by the levy.

Dan Smith also proposed amendments for both the Act 88 and veterans relief millages in the future exempt them from capture by tax increment financing (TIF) districts or authorities in the county. Those exemptions, which were approved by the board, would apply to tax capture from a proposed State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA) in Pittsfield Township. After about 90 minutes of debate, the board gave initial approval to participate in that project, with Dan Smith casting the only dissenting vote. He had unsuccessfully proposed postponement, then floated an opt-out resolution that did not secure enough votes to pass. The board is expected to take a final vote on participating in the CIA at its Nov. 6 meeting.

In other action, the board (1) gave initial approval to a proposed brownfield redevelopment plan by the Chelsea Milling Co., makers of Jiffy Mix; (2) appointed Barb Fuller to the county road commission; (3) took an initial vote to extend the coordinated funding approach, which supports local nonprofits; and (4) authorized the annual apportionment report, with details of the 2013 taxable valuations for property in the county.

And in a vote taken after midnight, the board rejected a proposal that would have given notice to eliminate a lump-sum budgeting approach for Washtenaw County’s court system. That vote was 3-6, with support from only Dan Smith (R-District 2), Conan Smith (D-District 9) and Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1). [Full Story]

Amid Protests, County Urges Repeal of SYG

After hearing from about three dozen people during a public hearing and public commentary – many of them supporters of Michigan’s Stand Your Ground law – the Washtenaw County commissioners passed a resolution asking state legislators to repeal the law.

The 5-to-4 vote took place at the county board’s Oct. 16, 2013 meeting over dissent from Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1), Dan Smith (R-District 2), Alicia Ping (R-District 3), and Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5). In support of the resolution were Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6), Andy LaBarre (D-District 7), Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) and Conan Smith (D-District 9). [.pdf of resolution]

This is the fourth meeting that has included public commentary on the Stand Your Ground law – … [Full Story]

County Board Quickly Covers Broad Agenda

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Sept. 18, 2013): With a third of the nine-member board absent, commissioners dispatched their business in one of the shortest sessions in recent memory, lasting only 45 minutes. The early adjournment elicited a round of applause from staff in attendance – the previous meeting on Sept. 4 had lasted about five hours.

Dan Smith, Catherine McClary, Conan Smith, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2), county treasurer Catherine McClary, and commissioner Conan Smith (D-District 9). The treasurer’s office is instrumental in a new approach to helping local municipalities pay off bonds backed by the county, which received initial approval on Sept. 18. (Photos by the writer.)

Even so, a wide range of resolutions were passed – mostly with no discussion. The absence of three commissioners also led to non-votes on two items originally on the agenda, out of concern that there would not be sufficient support to pass them.

During the meeting, the board postponed a final vote on a countywide micro loan program for small business. Under the county board rules, a resolution requires votes from “a majority of the members elected and serving” in order to pass – that is, five votes. Supporters of the resolution weren’t certain they could achieve that number. A resolution regarding the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law had been pulled from the agenda earlier in the day for the same reason.

Opponents of the “Stand Your Ground” resolution – which called on the state legislature to repeal the law enacted in 2006 – had been expected to appear at the meeting in force, prompting county administration to add extra security. However, after the resolution was pulled, only a handful of people attended to speak against it, as did one supporter.

In another resolution that addressed a statewide issue, commissioners voted to direct staff to explore options – including possible legal action – to help set cleanup criteria in Michigan for the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane. In part, the item relates to a 1,4 dioxane plume stemming from contaminants at the former Gelman Sciences plant, west of Ann Arbor.

Dan Smith (R-District 2) stated “present” during that vote, rather than voting for or against the resolution – because board rules do not allow for abstention. After the meeting, corporation counsel Curt Hedger told The Chronicle that he’d be looking at the board rules to determine how Smith’s vote will be recorded. Hedger pointed out that the resolution needed five votes to pass, which it garnered even without Smith’s vote.

Commissioners also gave initial approval for a new approach to paying off debt incurred from bonding – typically for public works projects in local municipalities. The proposal would allow local units of government to repay bonds early via the county’s delinquent tax revolving fund (DTRF), which is administered by the county treasurer. The intent is to reduce interest rate payments and the county’s debt burden. In a related resolution, commissioners gave initial approval to restructuring debt held by Bridgewater Township, using this new approach.

Several items that received initial approval at the board’s previous meeting on Sept. 4 were passed in a final vote on Sept. 18 with minimal discussion, including: (1) strengthening the county’s affirmative action plan, as well as other nondiscrimination in employment-related policies; (2) authorizing a range of grants administered by the county’s office of community & economic development, as well as a resolution that would give blanket approval in the future to nearly 30 annual entitlement grants received by the county; (3) adding three new full-time jobs for stewardship of the county nature preserves; (4) adding a new 10-bed treatment program for female teens in the county’s youth center that will create a net increase of 5.46 jobs; and (5) budgets for the county’s public health and community support & treatment service (CSTS) departments.

And after postponing action on Sept. 4, the board voted to create a 13-member community advisory group to look at options for the county-owned Platt Road site in Ann Arbor. The Sept. 18 resolution was much more general in its direction than the one that was debated on Sept. 4, stripping out most of the details related to a previous focus on affordable housing.

Also on Sept. 18 as an item of communication, Yousef Rabhi updated the board on plans to fill a vacancy on the county road commission, which will result from the recent appointment of current road commissioner Ken Schwartz as Superior Township supervisor. Applications for the road commissioner job are being accepted until Sept. 25, with the county board likely making an appointment at its Oct. 2 meeting. [Full Story]

“Stand Your Ground” Pulled from County Agenda

In a phone conversation with The Chronicle on the morning of Sept. 18, Washtenaw County board chair Yousef Rabhi confirmed that a resolution asking for the repeal of Michigan’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been pulled from the Sept. 18 meeting agenda. Although the item was still listed in the online agenda that’s posted on the county’s website, Rabhi said the resolution will not appear on the printed agendas distributed at tonight’s meeting.

Two commissioners on the 9-member board – Felicia Brabec (D-District 4) and Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) – will be absent, Rabhi said, and he expects that three other commissioners would vote against the resolution. Because of that, it would likely only garner four votes in support. … [Full Story]

Gun Group Plans Protest at County Board

Michigan Open Carry Inc., an advocacy group based in Lansing, is encouraging people who live near Ann Arbor to attend the Sept. 18, 2013 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners and protest a resolution that asks state legislators to repeal Michigan’s version of a “stand your ground” law. Update: The resolution has been removed from the Sept. 18 agenda, but will likely be considered on Oct. 2. See: “‘Stand Your Ground’ Pulled from County Agenda.”

A post on the group’s Facebook page states: “We understand the County Building does not contain a court, but we have not verified this. If it is indeed not a court, open or concealed carry would be lawful and the county … [Full Story]