bussing in ypsilanti

Our City Council here in Ypsilanti is being forced to make some very difficult decisions concerning the funding of public services. One of the things that’s apparently on the table, as they look for ways to balance the budget, is local bus service. It seems like a stupid move to me, but it’s not like there’s still a lot of meat left on the bone to whittle away at. Ypsilanti, over the past few years, has pretty much been picked clean… Fortunately, however, up until now, most of us who live here really haven’t had to acknowledge that fact. In the current round of cutting, that’s going to change though. Whether it’s the elimination of bus routes, the laying off of firefighters or the dimming of street lights, we’re all going to start feeling it. “This,” as the advertising campaign promoting a film about Ypsi’s history may one day claim, “is when things got personal.” (I’m picturing Bruce Willis as the gun-toting City Administrator pushed to his limits… And, Iggy Pop would, of course, have a cameo as grandstanding member of City Council.)

I don’t have a solution. I know that ending bus routes is probably the wrong thing to do, but I don’t know where to suggest that cuts be made instead. Some are saying that we should cut the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Others are suggesting that we go after Eastern Michigan University to start paying their fair share for the city services that they’re using. Those may both be a good things to do, but it’s unclear as to whether either, or even both together, would solve our current problems. (Another school of thought suggests that we stop cutting and instead institute a city-wide income tax.)

I don’t exactly know how all the pieces fit together, but I blame the federal government and their anti-tax jihad. Do you recall how conservative activist Grover Norquist once claimed that he wanted to make government so weak (by draining it of tax revenues) that it could be dragged to a bathtub and drown? Well, I don’t have the evidence to back this up, so take it for what it’s worth, but my sense is that what we’re experiencing are the first stages of death by drowning. The small midwestern city of Ypsilanti, I believe, is just one of the first systems in the body to shut down… The administration cut taxes during a time of war, and, as a result, were less able (and willing) to come to the assistance of the states. The rest, to use a phrase popularized by the Gipper, just trickled down. Sure, some blame probably belongs at the feet of our state administrators, but my sense is that we’d be right to aim higher.

So, we are an extremity in a dying system… Think of Ypsilanti as the black toe of a diabetic in decline.

The responses from the community, as I mentioned above, run the spectrum. I don’t know if it’s exactly what my fellow blogger over on East Cross had in mind, but it sounds to me like he’s saying, “Let’s stop trying to salvage this thing, and let’s just let it fail. Then let’s see how the state responds.” I don’t know that I agree, but I can appreciate what he’s saying (at least what I think he’s saying). Why should we keep postponing the inevitable with our Band-Aid solutions? It’s a question worth considering.

Putting all of that aside, cutting local bus service, is a stupid idea. To not support mass transportation, especially given the issues we face today (such as terrorism and global warming), is absolutely criminal. If the federal government were doing its job, it would be demanding that each and every city aggressively work to promote such initiatives. (There should, in my opinion, be multi-million dollar government awards given to cities that are able to motivate greater percentages of their populations to use mass transit… And an effort should be made to present the use of mass transit as one’s patriotic duty.)

On a purely personal note, I think eliminating local bus service is a bad idea because someone I know, a fellow blogger named Murph, says that doing so may keep him from buying a home in Ypsilanti. Here’s a comment of his left on the Ypsidixit site:

I will note that this has definitely caused plans to buy a home in Ypsi to come to a screeching halt, throw on the hazard lights, and pull out a roadmap.

One of the major things Ypsi had in our consideration over, say, Ferndale or Hamtramck, was AATA – the sister-in-law could live with us and take the bus to work at the UM Med Center.

Cutting AATA service, especially *entirely* is one of the absolute worst things Ypsi could do right now. I suggest everybody complain a lot.

I expect that our plan will be to express shock and dismay, and then continue on as planned, possibly arriving in Ypsi in April, but this is definitely a bad bad thing to hear.

I hope this doesn’t go to his head, but Murph, a professional city planner by trade, is exactly the kind of person we should be looking to attract… Instead we spend our limited resources putting up signs around town proclaiming Ypsilanti a “Cool City,” as though that alone would attract young professionals. (I need to send Murph a note and ask him, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t those banners that were responsible for his interest in setteling here.)

And here, as long as we’re talking about Murph, is an idea that he’s suggested for saving our local bus routes.

What if we were to convince AATA to increase fares by $0.25 for routes #3, #4, #5, #6 and for the routes within Ypsi (10, 11, 20, 33)? $170,000/year is less than 700,000 rides at a quarter a ride. AATA’s press release on 2005 ridership (pdf) says that #4 had 180,000 trips last year, so 700,000 among these seems perfectly reasonable.

Paying an extra $0.25/ride is much much better than having no service whatsoever, and there are ways the sting might be reduced: Many people would have go!passes or UM ids, and only pay a quarter a ride, which is dirt cheap – and maybe the A2 DDA and UM could be convinced to raise their contributions to cover this quarter. Businesses outside of downtown that find bus riders important as either customers or employees could be given the chance to buy $1.25 tokens and provide them to employees for $1 each.

Sounds worth considering, right?

And here, for a different perspective, is a clip from our friend Brett’s post on the subject:

…Which brings me back to the bus service situation, as nearly everyone I ride the bus with is black and pretty clearly not rich. When I first moved here, I thought it was patently absurd for Ypsilanti to build their main library several miles away from the population. The only silver lining was that, indeed, there were a few times each day that one could take a bus there. Just a year or so after it was opened, though, that bus line became one of the first to be cut, to be followed now by all the remaining lines by 2008. I must confess that I’m having a hard time even wrapping my brain around this situation, it makes me so furious, and I apologize for the resulting incoherence in this post. My first thought was actually “Good, maybe if there’s no bus service, then the ‘Service Class’ in Ann Arbor, many of whom can’t afford to live there themselves and instead reside in Ypsi, will be forced to quit their jobs, leaving a lot of silver spoons dangling out of wealthy mouths and nobody to wipe up after them…

Who knows what will happen? If it’s not the busses, it’ll be something else. Our city is failing and we need to come to grips with that fact.

Regardless of where you come down on the issue, it’s probably worth your while to read through the conversations that are taking place on the subject at Maproom Systems and Ypsidixit… You might also want to sign the Save Our Bus petition.

And, just because it wouldn’t seem right not to do so, I thought that I’d mention that, beginning in 1891, there was an interurban streetcar running between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Scrapped in 1925 in favor of newer, more glamorous “motor coaches,” it doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea to me now. (The image above shows the tracks of the interurban as they were recently discovered outside the former Martha Washington Theater (presently an all-nude strip club).)

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  1. murph
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Wow, even when I don’t personally post, other people string together statements for me to make posts. Notes:

    1. The concept of and math behind the fare increase: not mine. I’ll let somebody else take credit/blame. I’m just trying to get conversation started around a potential Third Way.

    2. Note that, after making comment screeds in various places, Cara and I spent Saturday meeting with our buyers agent and touring homes in Ypsi anyways. This is not a deal-breaker, in large part because I think that, as you say, this is about the point where people will sit up, take notice, and start realizing that we need to make hard decisions and try new things. And, hey, every city in Michigan will crash, so I kinda agree with East Cross – may as well try to bring Ypsi to a soft landing now so that we can get out, top off various fluids, and start ‘er up again, rather than struggling to keep her in the air until we totally lose control.

    3. My first bright idea for helping the city’s finances is to auction off the Hipsilanti banners. From the collection of opinions I’ve heard about them, I think people would pay good money for the privilege of making one disappear. Unless you’ve got some outside, 100% grant that can only be used for streetscaping, I don’t think that kind of windowdressing is what a city in Ypsi’s position needs.

  2. schutzman
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Mark, thanks for isolating the most incoherent and rambling section of my post, and making that the quote you used. As I’ve now been identified as someone stirring up racial tension (the Black Panthers just sent me a membership kit), I thought I should mention something else racial/ethnic I noticed that I hadn’t even thought of initially.

    When the petition started filling up that you linked to, I noticed that a very high percentage of the names were asian, and when those signers wrote something specific it generally involved school. I began thinking about how many foreign exchange students, obviously not just from Asia, have come to Ypsi and AA to attend the universities, and who don’t have the ability or interest to get a car for the short time they may be in the area.

    As far as I understand the situation, it seems like obviously everyone from Fed to State to local is to blame, somewhat, but the lack of support from EMU is starting to bother me the most. I already brought up my experience with campus bussing in the comments of Laura’s site, when I said:
    When I lived in Kent, Ohio, they had a great bus system that was actually owned and operated by the university, even though its routes covered the entire city (and even had daily runs up to Cleveland, a forty mile trip). The way it worked was that rides were $1, unless you had a student I.D., in which case you flashed that and the ride was free.

    Finally, Murph, I believe that the best thing to do with the Hipsilanti banners would be to collect them and sew them together, ala Gilligan’s Island, so that we might be able to construct a hot air balloon to escape from Ypsi, if the need arises.

  3. ol' e cross
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 10:09 am | Permalink


    You the blame

  4. murph
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    As Ol’ E.C. says, it ain’t just the Federal government. The Norquistites have been at it for decades in every State in the country.

  5. Ted Glass
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps some sort of localized sin tax is called for. Have the ladies at the Martha Washington Theater, for instance, fund the AATA with some kind of All-Nude Lap Dance Tax.

    As for the Hipsilanti flags, why not use them to spell out “S.O.S.” on the banks of the Huron. Someone might spot them. You never know.

  6. mark
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a problem with what you’re calling “hyper-individualism,” I just think that those individuals (the ones who amass great fortunes) need to realize that they are benefiting from the infrastructure that came as a result of taxation. They all use our interstate highway system, hire individuals who have gone through our public education system, and benefited from the stability provided by a system that doesn’t turn its back on the most needy. Bill Gates’ father wrote a book on the subject not too long ago in which, if I remember correctly, he made the case that inherited wealth should be taxed much more aggressively, etc.

    If they keep pushing in this direction, there will be a correction, and it will be painful. There will be riots as cities fail and as the safety net begins to unravel. Those in power, I imagine, are banking on the belief that they can somehow stay above it – that the military, their gated communities, their Hummers, and their money can protect them. I think they’ll find that the the levees won’t hold forever. You can only push people so far before they snap.

    And, on that note, I’m headed off to watch “24”, my favorite pro-torture, anti-civil rights television show.

    Oh, before I go, I just have one last thought on EMU. If we’re serious about getting them to pay what we perceive as their share, and if we’re confident that doing so won’t put us in a worse position (bankrupting our largest employer wouldn’t be much of a victory), I suggest we put a grouop together to look into the specifics. If we find that there’s a good case, then we should go at them with picket lines on the first day of classes. (Parents dropping off kids would not like to see signs saying, “We have fewer police on the streets becasue EMU won’t pay their bills.”) Doing so will get press, and there will be a response… Again, however, I don’t suggest we do this without first talking with the administration, clearly defining our objectives, and understanding the ramifications of our actions.

  7. chris
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Don’t they know that making babies walk to school will only make their meat tough and stringy?

    Appeal to them from a stance they can understand. Letting babies ride the bus to school will keep their flesh tender and juicy, kind of like veal. And the one’s who have less access to private transportation (their parents own a car) are the least likely to get media attention when they go missing.

    Hey, just want them to know I can meet them at their level of total irrational madness. And look I didn’t even use the word fucking in this comment.

    One of my top 10 favorite things is public transportation. I have not purchased a single new item since I last posted about Compact. I even went to barney’s warehouse sale and just kind of started laughing maniacally (sp?) and then left.

    Are they cutting off the bus lines to the shopping malls?

  8. mark
    Posted February 20, 2006 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    I think that I might sign the Compact too, Chris. I’m pretty sure that I could go a year without buying anything new. It would be challenging, but I think I’m up to it. And, in a lot of ways I think it would simplify life… I’ll try to do a longer post about it this week.

    And I hadn’t thought about the fact that the meat of those who walk, when compared in blind taste tests next to that of their bus-carried neighbors, would be more stringy. I’ll begin work on the marketing campaign for Ann Arbor right away… “Fund the bus in Ypsi, and enjoy the tender flesh of children.”

    And, yes, the bus to the shopping mall would be included in the cuts… (Actually, now that I think about it, if not for fact that people need to get to their jobs, not having a bus system might be a good thing for our downtown. I need to give this some more thought.)

  9. ol' e cross
    Posted February 21, 2006 at 8:48 am | Permalink
  10. trusty getto
    Posted February 21, 2006 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I’m clearly not smart enough to join this conversation and hold my own, but I can ask a question.

    How is it, in progressive, liberal Ypsilanti, we are suggesting balancing our budget on the backs of people who need busses to get around?

    I don’t mind bearing the brunt of whatever cuts come my way, and goodness knows I asked thousands of people to bear theirs last year when I was a party to balancing our district budget in part by closing schools and eliminating jobs. But doing it on the backs of people who ain’t mobile sounds an awful lot like another tax cut for the rich from where I’m sitting.

  11. murph
    Posted February 21, 2006 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I dunno – it doesn’t sound like anybody’s getting off particularly well in these cuts. Where’s the fat to trim that could be borne by the rich? (And just how many rich are there in Ypsi, anyways?) From what I know, it sounds like more of a question of just which way we want to screw the poor.

  12. chris
    Posted February 21, 2006 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Can you imagine what government and communities would look/be like if we voted on how our taxes would be appropriated rather than how we were taxed? I know we say we do when we pick a certain party’s platform and their policies.

    But I truly feel that the average voter has, at least at a federal level, not even a modicum of choice of where their tax dollar goes.

    Her in NYC, Gov. pataki though ordered by the state supreme court to release some 657 million in “funds” to remove the disparity between state and city schools, has refused to do so. As a result, BADLY needed schools and school additions will not be built. Bloomberg blames Pataki but I think Bloomberg could give a shit and is just going through the motions. In the meantime, Pataki has been hospitalized w/ a mysterious stomach ailment that the removal of his appendix was not able to ameliorate.

    When we had our big transit strike noone really seemed to care at the govt level. I just feel that everyone is so angry at each other nothing is going to get done ever for anyone. So I would hate to see your fair city lose its most vital municipal resource short of sewage treatment but I see it as inevitable. Just as it is inevitable that I will NEVER take the three penny nail out of my Pataki voodoo doll’s tummy until he gives it up. Fucking stubborn bastards.

  13. Shanster
    Posted February 22, 2006 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    When we make charitable donations, we reduce our tax base, so in effect we tax ourselves, and decide where that money goes. Is there a Ypsi bus system charity, or is that just accomplished by giving homeless people spare change? They don’t usually give receipts.

  14. ingrid
    Posted February 22, 2006 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    You are right. There are hardly any rich people in Ypsi. SEMCOG says there were only 170 Ypsi households in 2000 where the household income was more than $150,000.

  15. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    So, while we’re arguing about who’s dissing Obama or how Obama is going to turn our kids into Mini-Castro, Ypsi city council quietly slashed our bus service. The 9 and 10 now stop an hour earlier, and say good bye to the #5. The mayor at least voted against the cuts. Last night by was the first city council meeting I’ve missed in a while, and I’m regretting it already. No warning again on this one. Another budget shortfall. Hmmm I know this is my pet issue, but didn’t we just waste $22,000 on mowing the lawn in Riverside and Frog Island park, when the DTCDC was willing to do it for free? Kind of wish I would have been there to ask that question of our fine council members. (I wonder if Mayor Pro-tem Swanson-Winston was there. Pretty sure I attend twice as many council meetings as she does) But please, let’s keep arguing about who’s dissing Obama

  16. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 9, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Ok, sorry to be harsh (again) in that last post. But you know me. Ypsi first. Read about bus cuts here:


    and here


    And while we’re at it, I’d like to talk about starting an Ypsi City Council Social Club. We can all go to council, and then all go out for a drink. Hell, we could go right over to the Tap Room and listen to some great R&B from the Witch Doctors, and listen to Theyrone’s right wing rage…

  17. Mike want longr name
    Posted September 9, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink


    “Mayor Pro Tem Trudy Swanson, D-Ward 1, was absent from the meeting.”

    And with regards to the public video ban that came up in another thread, “Mayor Pro Tem Trudy Swanson, D-Ward 1, was absent from the meeting.”

    Back in March, she “was not present at the meeting.” I think that means the same thing. Once, in December, she was “absent at the meeting” rather than “from the meeting.” Maybe we could start emailing Dan DuChene with ideas on how to rephrase that. My first idea is to preface it with “once again” or “for the nth time this year.” How about, “as is her wont, Mayor Pro Tem…”

    But seriously, I did a google search of “site:ypsiciti.com absent” and 14 of the stories were about City Council meetings, and it was her that was absent in every case, usually by herself, but sometimes with Bodary or Richardson, too.

  18. Posted September 9, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    If all goes as planned, there should be a new thread on the AATA cuts coming in the next day or two.

  19. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Sorry, mark, should have read this post first today. And Mike, thanks for all of your research here. I can understand the occasional absence, but seriously, I go to city council more than the Mayor Pro-Tem. I may have some dissagreements with my council reps now and again, like on this issue, but at least they tend to show up for the meetings. I’m just glad she isn’t my rep…

  20. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Here is the resolution:

    Whereas the City Council of the City of Ypsilanti believes that public transportation is a core service necessary for the community’s economic, social and environmental well being, yet not immune from the City’s financial and economic circumstances

    And Whereas the City of Ypsilanti is strongly committed to providing public transportation to the residents of the City of Ypsilanti

    And whereas the City Council adamantly believes that a regional system with a dedicated source of funding is the best method to provide that service

    And whereas the City is desirous of creating a road map to achieve those goals

    Therefore be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Ypsilanti that AATA be requested to

    1. Enter into an extended 21 month agreement from October 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011 based upon the proposed rates for AATA’s FY 2009-2010

    2. institute service cuts beginning in April 1, 2010 consisting of elimination of Packard Route No. 5 and the shortening of the hours of Local Routes # 10 and # 11 by one hour for an estimated annual savings of $ 64,000

    3. Utilize AATA Stimulus dollars to make up the shortfall for City FY 2009-10 of approximately $101,000

    And further resolved that the City Council will budget approximately $218,000 for City FY 2010-11 to fulfill its contractual obligation for the extended contract.

    And further resolved that AATA be strongly urged to move with all deliberate speed to pursue the creation of a regional transit authority

    And further resolved that lacking any progress on the establishment of a regional transit authority and the accompanying scheduling of an election, the City Council will place on the November 2010 general election ballot a Headlee Rollback proposal that captures and designates the increased revenues solely for funding public transportation.

  21. BrianR
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Mayor Pro-Tem Swanson-Winston’s mother passed away last night. I’m sure she appreciates you keeping her in your thoughts like this.

  22. Mitch
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    You know, that’s just the kind of comment that I’d expect from Brian Robb. Anyone else could have shared that piece of information without the snark, but Robb really gets off lowering the boom on people. He’s a real class act.

    My condolences to Ms. Swanson and her family. I look forward to seeing her back in Council, representing the best interests of the people of Ypsilanti.

  23. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I too, send my condolences to Mrs. Swanson Winston. It is never easy to loose a family member, especialy a mother. But that does not excuse the previous absences I’ve missed one council meeting since 6/1/09. She’s attended two. Which one of us is elected? Again, I’m not in her ward, but she is supposed to be representing our citizens. No one is going to critisize some one for wanting to be at the side of a dieing loved one. But for three months worth of responsibilities to our citizens. I guess we’re playing the Martha Reeves card…

  24. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    So? Buses? What can we do to turn around this miserable decision?

  25. EOS
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a good financial decision. #4 and #5 buses run parallel a very short distance apart from each other. Eliminating one is a good allocation of scarce resources.

  26. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    and by “very short” you mean what exactly? i assume it’s a distance you usually drive instead of walk. in whatever weather. or do you ride the bus?

  27. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    and EOS, i admire your ability to never consider the human dimension of any issue. with christians like you…

  28. Mike want longr name
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I am sorry to hear that. My sincere condolences go out to her and her family.

    But what’s your point, Brian? That no public official should ever be criticized because something unfortunate may have happened to them? It’s not like I knew that, and said “oh, here’s my chance to kick her while she’s down.”

    kjc, is there any amount of bus service that would be too much? Sure, all else equal, no one would ever have to walk in the snow, but we don’t get to hold all else equal. More buses come at the cost of fewer police or firefighters, or less park maintenance, or less of whatever else you expect the city to do. Is it possible, just maybe, that resources are not unlimited, and that every project cannot be pursued?

  29. BrianR
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Mike, the point is if you have questions, then ask them. If you want to know where the Mayor Pro-Tem has been, ask her. It’s certainly a reasonable question that deserves an answer, but it you’re only asking it on a message board, are you really looking for an answer or just blowing off steam? The beauty of local politics is that it is local, and we live right down the street.

  30. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    “kjc, is there any amount of bus service that would be too much? Sure, all else equal, no one would ever have to walk in the snow, but we don’t get to hold all else equal. More buses come at the cost of fewer police or firefighters, or less park maintenance, or less of whatever else you expect the city to do. Is it possible, just maybe, that resources are not unlimited, and that every project cannot be pursued?”

    is it possible that you’re unaware of your annoyingly condescending framing of this issue for me?

    but yes, mike, theoretically i guess there could be too many buses. but at this point i’m considered with the limited service that already exists and is about to get worse. as are many bus riders who need the bus to get to their jobs.

  31. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink


  32. Glen S.
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    From AATA’s recent report to City Council detailing possible alternatives for service cuts needed to close the budget gap between what would be required to maintain current service, and what Ypsilanti City Council has budgeted for 2010:

    ” … However, it is important to understand that the current level of service in the Ypsilanti area is already low, and a cost reduction of the magnitude required will eliminate service or significantly increase travel times for many existing riders.”

  33. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    oh whatever, those are just facts. seriously, glen, have you considered the theory of too many buses?


  34. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    While the #5 does run parallel to the #4 and #6 bus, but ask the folks that live along that route how they plan to get to work without that bus. While many can walk to an alternate route, many are dissabled and cannot. I would guess that there will be at least a couple hundred people a day who are about to loose their transportation to and from work, not to mention access to the many stores (including Kroger) that the #5 services.

  35. Hold Your Horses
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Can’t you all hold your horses? The man said a new thread was on its way.

  36. Glen S.
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    It is worth noting that this resolution (advocating service reductions that have the potential to reduce or eliminate transit service for potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of Ypsilanti residents) was introduced and voted on at a “special” meeting on the day following the long Labor Day weekend — with no public notice (of the resolution) and virtually no opportunity for public review or input.

    Even more interesting is that it was introduced and supported by the same folks who ran for office promising to bring more “transparency” to City Hall.

  37. Oliva
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Re. the dismissive reference to this “message board” in an earlier comment, evidence suggests it’s otherwise. For plenty of readers here, Mark’s blog plays an important role in city politics and governance, among other things–and it’s nice that the mayor and others regularly check in to see what people around here care about and maybe even need. (That comment to say why Trudy Swanson was absent the other night carried a serious piece of chip-on-shoulder and was needlessly mean.)

  38. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    For the record, my point in calling out the Mayor Pro-Tem is to get the folks who put her in office asking her why she hasn’t been attending council. As I said, she isn’t my rep, but she is on council, and plays a role in our government. Her vote counts.

    I’ve heard tell that some members of council don’t really read blogs or use email. Really. In 2009. That’s who we elected. Personaly, I want my council people to be as connected and informed as possible. I may not agree with everything they do in council, but at lest I can be reasonably sure they know what’s going on around the city, and have an idea of what people here think.

  39. EOS
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Andy –

    The Kroger on Packard is closing, the one on Washtenaw remains open. #4 will service that Kroger. In the city, I think it’s less than a quarter mile distance between the two at most. The disabled can arrange to be picked up at home by a cab/van/small bus under an existing program: A-ride. If the #5 will still run in the city of Ann Arbor, a rider can transfer to reach locations along Packard. A regional transit authority is unlikely to gain approval outside of the cities so the best alternative is to cut costs. Few can afford higher taxes in light of the large volume of millage’s, fees, and additional taxes already in the plans

  40. Mike B
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    To Mark, Andy, Glen, Chris, Trusty, EOS, Ingrid, murph, and the rest

    Yes I do read the blogs and posts and it means a lot what you say. Cutting any transit services is painful, also for me who works in that field elsewhere. If you could see the whole picture of the present and future money and what we have to spend just to keep the City running safely you would also be worried. The AY-PAC would have folks believe that this is arbitrary. They would also have you believe that this is a sudden secret move. Discussion with the AATA has been going for months and they forced us to give a budget offer before Oct. 1, their physcal year start.

  41. Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    OK, there’s now a new thread on the front page. You can find it here.

  42. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 11, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Again, for the record, I never ment to suggest that is only my council reps that read blogs, emails, and other online material, only that there are some that do not. That is most certainly a true statement.

    Also, I was not refering to the Kroger on Packard, I was refering to the one on Carpenter that is serviced by the #5 at Carpenter and Packard. The tranfer station at Arbor Land is gone. There is really no way to reach that area without walking or taking a cab.

  43. Glen S.
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink


    On February 21, 2006, you said, on this very blog:

    “How is it, in progressive, liberal Ypsilanti, we are suggesting balancing our budget on the backs of people who need busses to get around?

    I don’t mind bearing the brunt of whatever cuts come my way, and goodness knows I asked thousands of people to bear theirs last year when I was a party to balancing our district budget in part by closing schools and eliminating jobs. But doing it on the backs of people who ain’t mobile sounds an awful lot like another tax cut for the rich from where I’m sitting.”

    Then, in 2007, you were a vocal supporter of a group (along with then- Council candidates Murdock, Robb and Bodary) , which encouraged Ypsilanti residents to vote against the proposed city income tax, in part, by promising that a “No” vote would be a vote in favor of preserving public transit. A flyer sent to voters just days before that election stated:

    “the only way we are going to maintain funding for public transportation is to keep the pressure on. It is up to us to continue demanding that public transportation is a basic service to be funded by the City. It takes the votes of four City Council members to cut services. Let’s see how they really vote.”

    The question of whether and how we fund public transit in Ypsilanti is a legitimate one, and the decisions we make will have enormous consequences for our community — so naturally, there is a major political dimension to this issue.

    However, based on your previous statements and positions — for you to claim that those who disagree with you about this issue are merely playing politics is hypocritical, at best.

  44. Mark H.
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Glen S. you present things so out of context….I won’t debate all the allegations you raise, but face it, the Pete Murdock resolution that Council passed is a more forward looking plan to deal with declining revenues and rising expenses than a Nancy Reagan-esque “Just Say No” position, which is what you advocate. Your stance sounds like campaign grandstanding, Pete’s and the Council’s position constitutes leadership. The whole resolution and the rationale for it offers a path that can work. All claims that Council has the power to just “Full Funding for buses” (as if that term really meant something) and thereby solve the local bus funding issue, is absurd on many levels; it most certainly is not a plan – it’s a refusal to confront the actually existing situation. Pete’s offered up, and council has passed, a first step toward a plan. They deserve to be commended for that.

    And nobody should forget that the roots of the city’s fiscal crisis are in that boondoggle called Water Street, and the politicians and City Manager responsible for that should be held responsible for it. My recollection, which could be wrong, is that Glen S. argued in favor of trusting the judgments made by those who created the Water Street boondoggle, over much criticism that was shut out. I think those who, like the current Council majority, were doubtful about those Water Street decisions, have shown better judgment and are worthy of trust from the voters.

  45. Glen S.
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Mark H.

    Let me clarify: I do not think that “full funding” this year will solve the funding crisis. I’ve seen the City’s budget projections, and understand that a situation where the cost for bus service continues rising every year is unsustainable.

    However, I also believe that, in the near term, maintaining the integrity of our current system will be fundamental to building political support for any future efforts to pass a county- or region-wide funding plan. Again, my main concern about Murdock’s plan is that — by continuing to cut routes and trim service hours — we risk shrinking service to the point that we create the impression (or worse, reality) that the system is no longer really that useful or valuable to the community.

    Once that happens, how in the world will be convince voters on this side of the County that voters that public transit is worth supporting?

    It seems most everyone here (except for EOS and BA) agrees that the current funding model is unsustainable, and that we need a more regional (and stable) approach. The disagreement comes in how to get there.

    Personally, I favor restoring the 9/10 of one percent of the City budget that would be necessary to prevent cutting routes and service hours — while, at the same time, getting serious about working with other communities and institutions on this side of the County to develop and promote a regional solution.

  46. Mark H.
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Glen S., good to stress what areas we do agree on.

    Still, I note that you don’t bite the bait I offered on whose decisions caused the city’s fiscal crisis, and duck discussing why we have a city revenue to expense crisis now; and I also note that, in my view, the Council’s resolution is a step toward making a plan with AAATA for the next two years or so that would hold costs and service at some predictable level, around which planning could be made. The alternative, of saying “Full Funding,” contains no practical step toward reaching an agreement with AAATA and ignores the requirements of that agency’s procedures, at least as I understand it.

    And if I remember correctly, the City Council’s resolution, if it became the basis for an agreement with AAATA, would maintain current levels of service until April 2010. Perhaps Pete, if he reads this, will correct me on this point if I’m misrecalling the details.

  47. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    It seems most everyone here (except for EOS and BA) agrees that the current funding model is unsustainable, and that we need a more regional (and stable) approach.

    Actually I don’t disagree with that at all. I’m being misunderstood. I disagree with the idea of forcibly taxing people outside of the city’s jurisdiction on the thin basis of make-believing that busing cuts here appreciably affect everyone in the county or state, which they clearly don’t.

    The more I think about it, the more I agree with Dan’s idea about voluntary funding. We have the technology to get genuinely progressive about this — we could set up something along the lines of a paypal account, but (like he said) with an option of making a regular donation taken directly out of our bank accounts, like some utility companies do. My offer of voluntarily donating $500 plus $25/month if this plan is implimented would probably amount to more than I would normally be taxed for. Someone correct me if I’m wrong on the figures.

    There are a lot of rich folks who like to feel better about themselves by throwing money at things. I say give them the opportunity. This method can draw in revenue from areas outside of Ypsi, outside of Washtenaw county, hell, even outside the State if it’s online. Look how much money Ron Paul raised online from across the country with his various money bombs.

    We need to think outside the “tax or don’t tax” box and use advances in technology to really bring in revenue from more widespread areas in creative ways — ways that don’t piss people off or get divisive because they are voluntary.

  48. kjc
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    paypal funding for basic transportation? it’s hard for you to believe that something in this town could appreciably affect people outside this town but it’s easy for you to believe that people will naturally provide for the public good by paypal if they remember to do so to feel better about themselves unless the plight of the less advantaged didn’t occur to them that month cuz they were on, say, vacation? i don’t get this version of the world that extrapolates from your own experience only. do you not know that other people have very different lives and experiences and that many of us find it odd, for example, to think of taxes as something we’re forced to provide “against our will”–insofar as the social question is of significance, not just a narrative of stupidity and gall.

  49. Oliva
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    This discussion brings to mind—but does not mirror!–the one that took place in NYC in 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg faced serious budget shortfalls and had to make drastic cuts. One area that was cut was the recycling program. The city had been having residents sort but had regularly begun adding the sorted materials to the other trash tossed in landfills, finding it hard or too expensive to recycle glass and plastic, so the program was hardly fulfilling its purpose. But residents had by then gotten into the habit of sorting their trash intended for recycling, and this way-of-life aspect was, as even the mayor acknowledged at the time, key to recycling’s success over time, and upsetting it would be a big hurdle to overcome when it came time to restart the program. Right now I can’t find Bloomberg’s quote from that time, but here is a similar sentiment from the NYT’s editorial board:

    New York City’s programs to recycle plastic and glass were years in the making. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg abruptly suspended them this week as a budget-shaving measure. The change, imposed on people conditioned to recycle as automatically as they brush teeth, has triggered a crisis of conscience and left many New Yorkers cringing as they throw out milk jugs and beer bottles. . . .

    Interrupting our recycling rituals was a drastic move.


    Oh, imperfect world. NYC doesn’t deal well with recycling but shines on the public transit front, whereas we have a pretty impressive recycling program but need big help on the public transit front. Big Apples and oranges [or at least orange recycle bins] . . .

  50. EOS
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    kjc –
    So in your mind, coercion to pay taxes for services in other jurisdictions is justified because people wouldn’t choose to do so on their own?

    The reason that NYC and the vast majority of communities that collect recyclable materials end up putting it in the landfill is because there is no market for the amount of material that is collected. If no one will buy it, then someone has to be paid to dispose of it. If it ends up in the landfill, then we are wasting time, energy, money, and natural resources in order to preserve the facade that we are helping the environment.

    I think in your example, New York is 2 for 2, and Ypsi 0 for 2. However, regional mass transit is affordable, effective and desired only where the population density is sufficient to make it feasible. That it works well in NYC does not mean it could be beneficial in a smaller city or much less dense township.

  51. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Sure it could work, kjc. I’d donate to it and I’m a “selfish” working class libertarian who doesn’t use the buses at all. But I realize that a lot of people depend on them.

    All it would take is for someone who knows more about computer stuff than I do to set up a paypal (or similar) account, set up a website with a little donations widget thingy like a thermometer (or a bus) so everyone could see how much further you had to get to reach the goal, and which shows donor’s names after they donate (or “anonymous” if they don’t want to toot their own horns). We can advertise it at City Council meetings, and in various local news sources. Individuals could (like with youtube clips) put the donor widget onto their various myspace or facebook accounts or blogs to advertise it for free, and spread it around that there’s going to be a AATA moneybomb on such and such a day.

    As far as the regular direct deposit thing goes, I know the phone company has figured out a way to do it, so I’m sure the AATA can.

    It’s not unrealistic at all. Ron Paul’s supporters set it up themselves independant of his campaign and donated millions in a day, several times! And he didn’t have a fart’s chance in hell of winning a Presidential election, but they did it anyways.

  52. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    My point in my last sentence being that AATA buses have a tangible use and most people can see that something good is actually going to come out of their donations, unlike with Ron Paul’s few supporters donating to his shittily-run Presidential campaign. So how much more so would people donate to the AATA?

  53. Oliva
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Thankfully, EOS, the situation has been changing, as more and more green companies come to life, some of them doing great things in the recycle arena. Forward-looking people have been insisting for years and years that it’s time to make the shift (even if costly at first), bear the costs, build demand for recycled goods, restructure a giant old dirty but easier system, and so on, and even back in 2002 things weren’t moving quickly enough. But already it’s different. NYC acknowledged in 2002 that moving toward a more sustainable system is slow and involves great shifts in mind-set and economies and other unwieldy things and so the sorry state they’d gotten to, throwing glass and plastic into landfills again–and that cutting the recycling program would absolutely set these important efforts back. Fortunately, innovative people didn’t wait for enlightened leadership and have recently made great strides in the realm of reusing and recycling, so promising–such as in creating many new jobs for civil engineers, designers, inventors, bottle collectors, who knows what.

  54. kjc
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    “kjc –
    So in your mind, coercion to pay taxes for services in other jurisdictions is justified because people wouldn’t choose to do so on their own?”

    i guess that’s one way to describe it. think of it like i’m a christian and you’re the unsaved. i coerce you to care about others besides yourself and imagine the world as being about principles greater than “i don’t have to do anything if it doesn’t personally benefit me.”

    and again, it’s not about paying taxes for services in other jurisdictions. it’s imagining yourself as part of an interdependent world, as you are, whether you think outside your tiny little township or not.

  55. Oliva
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Just want to clarify, for no good reason. I wasn’t picking on Bloomberg in regards to lacking enlightened leadership–I’m sure there are plenty of things to criticize, but to me, from a distance (but with family in NYC), he’s been a surprisingly good mayor, with a willingness to try new things, show humility pretty regularly, and retain a sense of humor even while being decisive in unwelcome ways. I was mainly intending the past national administration, whose priorities went a different direction from conservation and renewal.

  56. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    That interdependent world justification for funding anything with taxes is pretty thin. A church visit to a prison affects a lot of people in a lot of interconneced ways, but I don’t think people should be taxed to pay for that, either. I seriously doubt most voters outside Ypsi will buy it as a justification to make them pay for our stuff that we can’t pay for because we’re bad with finances.

    I think a butterfly farting in China may have more effect on a rural Chelsea-ite than a few cut bus lines in Ypsi.

    However, there are still a lot of people out there who like to feel good about themselves by giving to a worthy cause, especially if it’s local. Whether it’s voluntary or a tax makes all the difference on whether they feel like doing it or not. If it’s a tax, and they don’t buy the rationale for having it imposed on them (which in this case they may not), then they’ll oppose it, and Ypsi will lose. If it’s voluntary, it gives them the reward of feeling good about themselves by helping out, and we avoid the painful legislative process to try to vote a potentially unpopular policy into reality.

  57. Jennifer
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Let me just add that just because I have a little pipe dream about taking the $1000 or so that my property taxes will be reduced this year because of the real estate collapse and endowing some Ypsi bus service (or whatever the outrage is next month) doesn’t mean that I don’t think that Paypal idea is pretty ridiculous as public policy. I’m no bureacrat, but I know ‘soft money’ when I see it–and municipalities and transit organizations can’t plan around that kind of super-soft money.

  58. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Suit yourselves.

  59. EOS
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    kjc –

    So in this interdependent world, why don’t the christians in the city send their cash to the surrounding townships? What moral value makes your municipality deserving of everyone elses’ tax dollars? Don’t you care about the people outside your tiny little city?

  60. Mark H.
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    BA writes “That interdependent world justification for funding anything with taxes is pretty thin”, and in that statement reveals once again that he is no true conservative, but rather an ideologue of the far-right. He devalues membership in society, which always contains obligations as well as benefits, and entirely rejects the social contract that John Locke theorized about. To BA, there is no social good beyond what he personally prefers, and he is little concerned with democratic decision making. This is not conservatism — it’s a rejection of the core values of our civilization. It is extremism of the far right, not a sensible conservatism at all. Indeed, BA’s politics involve conserving nothing….

  61. Oliva
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    MANY people have argued that humans are naturally cooperative. Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, the Dalai Lama, Russian zoologist and anarchist Peter Kropotkin, neurobiologist James Rilling and psychologist Dacher Keltner, among many others including myself, have all made the case that our animal nature is characterised as much by kindness and collaboration as it is by competition and carnage. . . .

    Empathy, de Waal explains, is the social glue that holds communities together, and if humans are empathetic animals it is because we have “the backing of a long evolutionary history”. “Bonding… is what makes us happiest,” he writes, and rapidly accumulating evidence from the behavioural and neural sciences supports the claim. . . .

    As we study more species in situations where they can show us who they really are we’ll likely see that caring for those in need is more prevalent than many think. There’s ample evidence that the “age of empathy” has been with us for a long time but has been overshadowed by the prevalence of the competitive paradigm. Maybe it’s a paradigm we cling to as a sort of biological excuse. The truth is, it’s not a dog-eat-dog world after all, because dogs don’t eat other dogs.
    –from Marc Bekoff, review of “The Age of Empathy: Nature’s lessons for a kinder society” by Frans de Waal,

  62. kjc
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    you’re right, EOS. it’s all about cash. none of this is about anything but cash.

  63. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    BA writes “That interdependent world justification for funding anything with taxes is pretty thin”, and in that statement reveals once again that he is no true conservative, but rather an ideologue of the far-right. He devalues membership in society, which always contains obligations as well as benefits, and entirely rejects the social contract that John Locke theorized about. To BA, there is no social good beyond what he personally prefers, and he is little concerned with democratic decision making. This is not conservatism — it’s a rejection of the core values of our civilization. It is extremism of the far right, not a sensible conservatism at all. Indeed, BA’s politics involve conserving nothing….

    I wonder if anyone besides me is willing to voluntarily contribute as much to a service they don’t even use, and in fact find annoying on the road, just for the sake of people he doesn’t even personally know, who talk smack about him on a blog. Shame on you for mischaracterizing and slandering me.

    I find it ironic that I, the guy who’s willing to put up his own cash thusly, is considered selfish and stingy; while those who are only generous with other people’s money and who will pay far less in taxes are considered caring and generous. That’s hypocricy in it’s original meaning — phoniness.

    How much would you contribute of your own money, Mark H.? I bet you make considerably more than I do, O paragon of caring for the poor. If you are only generous with other people’s money, you have no moral highground to throw stones at me, you self-righteous hypocrit.

  64. EOS
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Mark H.,

    Locke’s social contract emphasized the rights of the individual. No contract could be imposed without the consent of the governed. Where there is an attempt to subvert that consent, he advocated rebellion. Locke believed that individuals would consent to laws only when they achieved benefits for the common good. His philosophy rings true today. You can waste money on an election, but I have no doubt that the rest of the county will not consent to paying for the bus service between Ann Arbor and Ypsi city. To suggest that Locke would consider it a social obligation to pay for a bus system in a community where one doesn’t live or benefit from is absurd. A real conservative believes in less government and more individual responsibility. I think you reject a core value of our civilization – government is best that governs least.

  65. dan
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I wish someone besides brackinald had championed my idea first. I think it was a good idea, but now no one will agree to it who thinks brackinald is a jackass, which is almost everyone.

  66. EOS
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s principal number 7 of the 9/12 project:

    “7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.”

    Especially when the government chosen charities have no eternal value!

  67. Oliva
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Who wouldn’t reject that professed value, even if someone as enduring in our culture as Thoreau popularized it? (Do you think the line would even be known today if Thoreau hadn’t borrowed it for Civil Disobedience? In that work he spoke about being unable to support a government that constitutionally permits slavery, as his did at the time. Maybe Beck misrepresents the line as “a core value of our civilization” in his book? Could be that.)

    He’s also the one who said: “The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.”

  68. Posted September 13, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    While I certainly hate to stick my neck out and get in the middle of heated debate or stir the pot in any way, just today I posted this very essay from Thomas Paine on my facebook page, and I tought it too on-the-nose to pass up posting here. He’s no John Locke, but it seems to me that the misunderstanding between some folks here is over the difference between the words “society” and “government,” which Thomas Paine did not consider the same thing.


    Of course, Thomas Paine is just a human being like the rest of us, and can be disagreed with. But I think it illuminates a point of contention here by defining the words a little better. The contention is not whether the buses should get funding or not, but whether society or the government will do the funding. If nothing else, it’s an interesting read.

    Please note that neither my, nor Thomas Paine’s, opinions in any way necessarily reflect on my band-mates’, affiliates’, or fans’ opinions, obviously. Also, I could just be flat out wrong about any subject, and maybe Thomas Paine was a complete buffoon spouting off nonsense, just like everyone else.

  69. Oliva
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    (That is, Thoreau said, “The finest qualities of our nature . . .”)

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