conan smith on the ypsilanti income tax: part III

OK, I promise this is the last Conan Smith post for a while. Following is a comment that Conan left this morning in response to issues raised by Cameron Getto, Unfiltered, and Oliva in the wake of a former post. As Edweird credited the comment with making him reassess his position on the tax, and as Cameron said it was “the most rational, level-headed explanation (he’d) heard yet” as to why a tax was necessary, I thought that it probably belonged up here were everyone could see it. (In fairness to Cameron, after praising Conan, he then went on to raise additional questions, which Conan has yet to respond to, and state that he would still be voting against the measure.) Here’s Conan’s comment:

Please understand that in no way was I trying to suggest that someone doesn’t love the city if they don’t support this tax proposal. This is a tough enough issue without that kind of rhetoric. Rather, I wanted to explain why someone who neither lives nor works in Ypsi would care to get involved in this debate. It’s easy enough for those of us who live in other communities to close our eyes and turn our backs on Ypsi. True enough, it’s been done so many times in the past.

I agree that this discussion would be better and more productive if it were focused on solutions, but to get to that point there needs to be a shared understanding of the forces at work that have driven the city to this point.

When I say that it is not the fault of city leaders that the city is in this position, it is certainly not nonsense. Take away any, or all, of the past major city decisions that people have taken issue with (including Water Street) and Ypsilanti still will face an ongoing fiscal crisis. This is the inevitable fate of built-out cities in Michigan, thanks to a broken municipal finance system and our constant subsidization of urban sprawl.

The issue that residents must address is two-fold, rooted in the undeniable fact that Ypsilanti does not have enough revenue to maintain its services.

First, there is a rampant debate about the appropriateness of those services. Many have suggested that the city’s budget should be cut to the point that expenses meet revenues. Fair enough. The city administration has identified sufficient cuts to follow this course. The value of the services that would be lost is not really an empirical question. It’s up to each voter to judge whether their city would be better off without those services. Perhaps more important is the question of whether the city can expect to revitalize or prosper without them. In my own judgment, the answer to both those questions is no.

There is an empirical question on the expenses side, however. The challenge is the escalation of the deficit over the course of time. Because the city’s revenue base is unsustainable (i.e. income grows more slowly than the rate of inflation, necessitating continuous service cuts), this year’s cuts will not meet next year’s deficit. Therefore, next year, and each year following, your elected officials will be forced into making more cuts. Ypsi’s citizens have the opportunity to head off this cycle of decline by supporting the income tax.

Second, then, is the question of revenue. I will not argue that the income tax is the best revenue solution. It is, given Michigan law and the state of our economy, the only revenue solution for this time of crisis. Michigan’s entire system of municipal finance — including, significantly, its city income tax law — is pitiful and woefully inadequate. Cities can only take advantage of a narrow set of revenues: property tax, fees, revenue sharing and the income tax.

Ypsilanti could increase property taxes by one mil to the constitutional limit. That would raise about half a million dollars, but the interaction between Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment guarantees that that revenue will not continue to grow at the rate of inflation. Fees for city services can only cover the cost of those services, so they will not contribute to other general fund obligations. Revenue sharing is completely in the state’s control and has been steadily decreasing as the state taps into that fund to balance its own budget (incidentally, despite the tax increases recently passed by the Legislature, the state has a $400M budget deficit of its own to meet through more cuts).

There are systemic solutions to this crisis, but implementing them will take several years, and even then their success is not wholly certain. The income tax will provide short-term relief for the city, keeping it from sinking lower while these other strategies can be adopted.

I wholeheartedly agree that adopting this tax without a strategy to address the underlying issues would be irresponsible. I’ll argue, however, that this is not case. There are residents, business leaders and political officials at every level of government working on those questions. None of the solutions that are truly tenable will result in immediate revenue. So, yes, the income tax would buy time. But it is time that is essential and reasonable — six years. Then the residents will have the option of evaluating the success of those efforts and reevaluating the income tax.

Here’s how I see the systemic solutions to Ypsi’s fiscal crisis shaping up.

The state needs to address municipal finance policy. They need to fix the Prop A / Headlee issue, and they need to renew and stabilize the revenue sharing policy. It would be immensely helpful if lawmakers would also enable a handful of additional fiscal tools (alternative taxation, bonding authorities, support for regionalism), but those other issues are essential. The advocacy community has mounted a strong campaign around these policies and there is solid data to back them up. Whether this dysfunctional legislature will act or not is an entirely different question.

At the regional level, there are ongoing discussions about sharing services among the eastern county governments. These agreements are tough to design and negotiate, often incur significant start-up costs, and take a few years to realize savings. Nonetheless they are important part of the overall strategy. I don’t know where Commissioner Peterson stands on the income tax issue, but I do know that he has been aggressively advocating for a new economic development strategy that will help Ypsilanti find systemic solutions to the economic crisis. In part due to his advocacy, the County is increasing its investment in economic development activities and partnering with SPARK to open an eastern county business incubator. I expect that our investment will have a measurable impact on the city, but it will take a few years.

Locally, the city can realize increased revenue without raising taxes by fostering redevelopment, which is exempt from the Proposal A / Headlee issue. However, to meet just next year’s deficit the city would need to see an unlikely $26M in new projects. And more the year after that. The city needs more time to rationally attract and support that level of redevelopment, time which could be provided by the income tax. Redevelopment might mean jobs, which would increase the value of the income tax. It might also mean new residents, which would increase the value of both the income tax and the property tax.

Attracting new development and new residents, however, depends heartily on the ability of the city to provide stable services. The two major demographic groups expressing interest in city life are retiring Baby Boomers and their children and grandchildren (the Millennials) who are eager for the amenities urban life provide. They do not rank tax concerns among their major deciding factors for choosing a place to live. Rather they evaluate communities based on the quality of life they offer.

I doubt very much that Ypsilanti will be able to present an attractive face to this essential group of potential residents and investors without securing the revenue necessary to halt the decline of the city’s quality of life. Is it worth it to the current residents to dig even deeper into their pockets to fund a long-term recovery strategy? I can only hope so.

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  1. todd
    Posted October 14, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    “Locally, the city can realize increased revenue without raising taxes by fostering redevelopment, which is exempt from the Proposal A / Headlee issue”

    I don’t understand this part, Conan. Why is redevelopment exempt from the Prop. A property tax pop?

  2. rodneyn
    Posted October 14, 2007 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    “Attracting new development and new residents, however, depends heartily on the ability of the city to provide stable services.”

    The only “services” that would attract new development to Ypsilanti are, in order of importance:

    1. Good schools
    2. Streamlined development review procedures with predictable outcomes (no surprises)
    3. Coherent and objective (not subjective) regulations
    4. Low crime (healthy and motivated police department)
    5. Access to utilities and transportation networks
    6. Access to emergency services (fire, ambulance)
    7. Low taxes

    Developers don’t care who provides election, assessing, and other staff services (city, county, contract employee, etc.). They don’t care whether the community has a fully staffed planning department, because they will gladly pay the cost of consulting services to review their project on behalf of the community. They don’t care about recreation amenities, because they are going to have to provide them as part of their development anyway.

    What they care most about is good schools, something the city has no control over right now. Next is predictability in the development review process and clear, objective regulations. The city’s development approval process is one giant Gordian knot, despite having a full plate of planners on staff.

    The income tax is exactly the opposite of what is needed to attract new development to Ypsilanti.

  3. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 14, 2007 at 10:00 pm | Permalink


    Why are the owners of two of the most successful new businesses (Bombadills/Corner Brewery) in Ypsi in favor of the tax?

    If low taxes is what attracts folks to a town, why has anyone moved here in the last 10 years when we’ve long have the highest tax rate in the county?

    A critical reason I moved here was because of the public services. I have dozens of low-tax, low-service options in metro Detroit. We cannot compete with surrounding communities on taxes. Ypsi is a niche market. If we sacrifice our public services, we’ll sacrifice one of the primary things that makes us distinctive and attractive to niche buyers.

  4. Posted October 15, 2007 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Hey Conan:

    Next time your out this way, give me a call, and let’s go to the Corner Brewery for a beer. We got some catchin’ up to do. Deal?

  5. Visitor
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I’m a frequent reader and sometimes poster to MM. Due to my job, I’m deciding to post anonymously. I’ve been studying the income tax for a while and following the debate on the income tax here and I can’t sit by any longer. So here’s my post:

    First, to answer the question about why new development is not subject to Proposal A/Headlee caps. New development (new construction or new property owner) is taxable at its full assessed value it’s first year on the tax rolls. Every year after that while it stays under the same ownership it is subject to to Proposal A/Headlee caps. It takes about 3-7 years (depending on the market) for the caps to start significantly creating a gap between the assessed value and the taxable value. So you as a long time home owner in the city might be paying $3,000 a year in property taxes while your neighbor who moved in last year is paying $5,000 a year in property taxes. This gap, as you can see, can add up to thousands of dollars a year per property. Multiply this by thousands of properties and it adds up real quick.

    The only way for the city to have taxes keep up with the cost of doing business is to encourage new development and/or new ownership. However long-time property ownership (usually) is something that creates stability in neighborhoods and commercial districts.

    The way Proposal A and Headlee are set up, it rewards new development and creates a financial detriment to built out communities. This is why communities with lots of new housing and commercial development are doing relatively well financially (Ypsi Twp, Canton Twp, etc.) and cities without room for new development (Ypsilanti, Ferndale, etc.) are struggling with stagnant tax revenues and greater than inflationary cost increases.

    Second, the housing market slow down is not exclusive to Ypsilanti. If you think it’s bad here, check out Canton Twp, Shelby Twp, etc. (basically any formerly rapidly growing community) with their stalled-out, half-built, bankrupt developer subdivisions and other choice built-out communities (Grosse Pointes, Royal Oak, etc.). The market is as bad or worse there than it is in Ypsilanti. It’s a regional thing, not an Ypsi thing.

    Third, I’ve been working in this town for a while now and doing the daily commute back and forth to Ypsi from where I am currently a homeowner. My family and I need to move to a new house that fits our family size and has good schools and good neighborhoods for our family. I’ve studied the entire metropolitan area (it’s part of my job and my studies) and Ypsilanti is the one community we’ve found that provides true diversity on all aspects, affordable housing, an incredible housing stock, good schools, imensely walkable & bikeable neighborhoods, mass transit, good parks & rec. facilities, libraries, restaurants, culture, etc.

    We are strongly considering moving to Ypsi once we’re able to sell our house which has been up for sale since March of this year (goes to show you that it’s not an Ypsi thing). We’ve got our new house picked out, researched the schools in the area, checked out (and frequently use) the amenities within walking distance of the house, love the MI Branch Ypsi library and use it weekly, etc. etc. etc.

    We will strongly consider NOT moving to Ypsilanti if the income tax does not pass. The resulting cuts to the city budget and city services will so degrade the quality of life in the city that we will not consider Ypsilanti a good investment or a community that will be a plesant place to live in in 2-3 years. We would much rather pay a 1% income tax to maintain the great city Ypsi currently is for the next 5 years than have no income tax, a city in rapid decline and rapidly rising home owners and auto insurance costs.

    Well, there’s my two cents and then some. The first and second items are facts. The third item is my personal/family opinion. Just wanted to answer a question that was posed, clarify the housing situation and give an opinion from someone who is actually strongly considering moving to the city and raising a family here. Our family is considered the ideal family Ypsi would like to attract: Gen X/Y, both spouses with college degrees, both with good paying professional jobs, lovers of urban life, kids just getting to school age, etc.

  6. counter argument
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing that, Visitor. I find myself wanting to agree with you. I know, however, that there are other businesses and people who say that they will move if the tax DOES pass. Of course, a lot of people said that they would leave the United States if Bush was reelected, and they’re still here. Will a .5% or 1% tax make someone move? I’m not sure. Will it keep someone from coming here in the first place, maybe? But, then again, so will cutting services. It’s a toss up right now as far as I’m concerned. One thing I know though is that the pro-tax side has done a piss poor job articulating the value of the tax and what’s at risk.

  7. rodneyn
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    In response to Ol’ E Cross:

    “Why are the owners of two of the most successful new businesses (Bombadills/Corner Brewery) in Ypsi in favor of the tax?”

    I was speaking of NEW DEVELOPMENT (like Water Street), not individual businesses. One of the most important factors in the sinking of the Water Street project was a complete lack of understanding of developers’ priorities and needs among City elected officials and the professional planning staff who were well paid to make the project happen. That ignorance continues in the income tax debate.

    “If low taxes is what attracts folks to a town, why has anyone moved here in the last 10 years when we’ve long have the highest tax rate in the county?”

    As I said, low taxes are one factor (the least important on the list of 7 I noted) that attract DEVELOPERS to a community. However, on the topic of residents – Ypsilanti’s population has FALLEN by 2,791 people or 13.7% since 1990! (from 20,353 in 1990 to an estimated 17,562 today (10/2007 SEMCOG estimate)
    How many houses are vacant in your neighborhood? I know of quite a few, both in Midtown and Normal Park.

  8. todd
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks, visitor. Correct me if I’m wrong, but your answer tells me that new development (by ‘new’, I mean any time a new building owner is put on the books) is NOT exempt from Prop A….that in fact it bears the full tax burden of that stupid law.

    Visitor: “The only way for the city to have taxes keep up with the cost of doing business is to encourage new development and/or new ownership.”

    If the State of Michigan wants to get their economy out of the Stone Age, the first order of business is to repeal the stupid Headlee Amendment. The new businesses get stuck paying the taxes for the older businesses. If you are desperately trying to attract new businesses, this is the LAST thing that you want to do.

    Repeal that fiscally unhealthy amendment, assess all property at its true value, and every single city in the State will have a balanced budget….or, Cities can choose to keep the deep cuts, and drop the property and personal property tax rates across the board. It can be repealed slowly, giving older property owners a chance to gear up for the taxes on the true value of their property.

    I still remember when Larry Kestenbaum first explained how this moronic Amendment worked. It is literally the exact opposite taxing mechanism that a state that is losing businesses and jobs by the thousands should be using.

    They also need to allow cities to levy a sales tax if they choose to do so.

  9. Glen S.
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    rodneyn said: “However, on the topic of residents – Ypsilanti’s population has FALLEN by 2,791 people or 13.7% since 1990! (from 20,353 in 1990 to an estimated 17,562 today (10/2007 SEMCOG estimate)”

    That’s incorrect. SEMCOG’s latest population estimate ( Ypsilanti puts us at 21,038. This is about 5.3% less than their July, 2000 estimate.

    Moreover, it’s not as if people are leaving Ypsilanti in droves. Rather, our population loss has been quite modest, and actually quite typical of many older, built-out communities which have increasing numbers of older couples without children at home; as well as many new, younger families with few children.

    To put our 5.3% loss in perspective, here is how some other, older built-out communities have fared in terms of population loss, over the same period of time:

    Bloomfield Hills – 5.0%
    Belleville – 5.5%
    Dearborn Heights – 5.3%
    Grosse Pte. Farms – 5.0%
    Grosse Pte. Park – 5.5%
    Grosse Pte. Woods – 5.4%
    Livonia – 5.8%

    By contrast, some of Detroit’s other aging, middle-class suburbs have experienced larger losses over the same period, for example:

    Allen Park – 6.9%
    Berkely – 6.9%
    Clawson – 6.4%
    Ferndale – 8.9%
    Grosse Pte. Shores – 6.3%
    Pleasant Ridge – 9.9%
    Riverview – 8.8%

    Certainly our falling population is one additional challenge we face in trying to obtain the funds we need to maintain essential public services — but this situation is hardly unique to Ypsilanti — and one faced by many other communities with higher average incomes, and larger taxable values.

  10. Kirk
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    About Prop A/Headlee – I know it creates inequities but before Prop A we had other inequities. In a hot housing market, assessments and taxes can increase at 10%-20% per year, far exceeding the pay increases of homeowners. People on fixed incomes can be forced to sell their houses because of taxes. A fair system would need to avoid both these shortcomings.

  11. rodneyn
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Glen S.:

    You’ve mixed two different sets of population numbers. I was using the “household population” numbers. I did not use the “total population” count because it includes the “group quarters” population, a volatile number that has been declining even more rapidly than the number of households in the City.

    Using the “total population” count, here is how the falling numbers work:

    1990: Total pop. = 24,846
    2000: Total pop. = 22,237
    10/2007 est. pop. = 21,038

    That means the City of Ypsilanti’s TOTAL population has FALLEN by 3,808 people or a total loss of 15.3% since 1990.

    From your list of other older urban communities, I know that Allen Park, Clawson, Belleville, and Dearborn Heights (and I would add Mount Clemens) have faced similar fiscal challenges, aging infrastructure, bloated city budgets, and declining state shared revenues. Of those, only Ypsilanti has failed to be fiscally prudent – only Ypsilanti is proposing an income tax to “temporarily” re-float a municipal ship sinking under its wasteful spending patterns.

  12. todd
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    “In a hot housing market, assessments and taxes can increase at 10%-20% per year, far exceeding the pay increases of homeowners.”

    You’re forgetting the other part of that equation. The value of the home has increased in your example. But yes, a hot market can really stick it to renters. The property owners bank the increased value, and make the renters pay the tax increase.

    That said, see if you can say the words “Hot housing market” and “State of Michigan” without laughing. There’s a handful of places in the State where you see a “10%-20%” increase in home values, if you can find any at all. Your hot housing market assumption is based on a condition that Michigan hasn’t seen since WWII, if at all.

    This amendment makes zero sense for this State. It was designed to line the pockets of the Corporate Landowners (the auto companies) by essentially not taxing their assets at current value. Dumb, on many levels. So cities get it in the teeth because of the shortsightedness of Lansing. Get rid of Headlee, and you’ve taken the most important step towards economic recovery.

  13. rodneyn
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Todd: “Get rid of Headlee, and you’ve taken the most important step towards economic recovery.”

    There seems to be a great misunderstanding about the difference between government and the economy. Repealing Headlee and/or Proposal A would indeed provide local governments with more revenue, and would be an important step towards GOVERNMENT recovery. However, this would do nothing for ECONOMIC recovery in Michigan.

    Comments from Mr. Smith and Glen S. on this blog suggest that the Ypsilanti city government is the center of all life in this city – that without a clerk in every office at City Hall, our local economy will suffer. This is not true. A lean, fiscally prudent city government focused on efficiently providing key services (police, fire, public works) is an economic benefit to the residents because limited tax revenues are spent wisely.

    Wasteful and inarticulate spending is not. Our City Council has simply not done what is needed to be done to put its fiscal house in order before coming to the voters to bail them out “temporarily.” Whether it’s eliminating Headlee/Prop A or creating a local income tax, all we would be doing for Ypsilanti is allowing the City Council to go on doing business in the same old, wasteful way.

  14. Glen S.
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    rodneyn: The anti-tax crowd persists in propagating the myth that Ypsilanti is “mismanaged,” while other Michigan cities are doing a good job of managing their financial challenges.

    While it is true that (at least for now) Ypsilanti is the only Michigan city proposing an income tax, many cities all over the state are reducing services AND RAISING TAXES to balance their budgets, and to avoid even deeper cuts to core services such as police and fire protection.

    Just today, the normally anti-tax Detroit News editorial page urged Lincoln Park voters to approve a 4.42-mill increase in property taxes to keep its budget balanced and maintain critical services.

    I would also urge you to read the Detroit Free Press article from March 25, 2007, titled “Suburbs Struggling to Pay the Bills.”

    The full article is available at …

    … but here are a few highlights:

    MT. CLEMENS officials axed the recreation department, replaced the police department with sheriff’s patrols to save about $1.5 million annually and are studying a fire department merger… Residents remember a time when they could rake leaves into the street for pickup, when police officers called business owners by name, and when parks were busy with activities. “You didn’t mind paying high taxes because you had good services,” said Pete Williams, 42, who has lived and worked in Mt. Clemens for 17 years. “But now, you don’t have the services. I’m thinking of moving out of Mt. Clemens.”

    TAYLOR has been selling off pieces of undeveloped, city-owned property to cover a $2-million annual deficit in recent years, but it can’t afford to keep doing it, Mayor Cameron Priebe said. Priebe blames his predecessor for negotiating wage increases that could force the city to give police officers pay raises and pink slips at the same time. “People need to know it,” Priebe said. “Unless there’s a tax increase, services are going to be cut.”

    ST. CLAIR SHORES has eliminated 44 employees — about 14% of its staff — since 2002 through attrition. In 2004, voters approved a tax increase to prevent deep cuts to police and fire services, but that tax expires this year, and officials might need voters to renew it to keep the budget balanced.

    ROSEVILLE leaders agreed last year to seek a 5-mill tax increase, costing an average homeowner $250 a year, to fight a multimillion-dollar deficit. “We were looking at laying off 70 people,” City Manager Steve Truman said. “The south fire station, a recreation center and a senior center would have been closed.” Voters approved the increase by a 52%-48% vote. “Our budget is balanced, and we’ll add to our fund balance,” Truman said.

    Ypsilanti’s situation is, in many ways, much more severe than many other cities because of our lower property values, the loss of much of our heavy industry, and the fact that so much (approx. 33%) of our property is off the tax rolls.

    But, as these examples show, it is simply not true to say that we have this problem because Ypsilanti is “mismanaged.”

    Instead, our problem (like many other cities) is caused by a number of problems (mostly beyond our control), as the Freep article points out:

  15. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    An oldie but a goodie:

    “…though I may bitch about inefficiencies in local government, the City of Ypsilanti is not mismanaged… Ypsilanti is going broke through no fault of their own.” -Brian Robb( 11/11/05)

    Government, providing the services its citizens request, is not wasteful, it’s democratic. One man’s government waste is another man’s AATA.

    On developers, sorry if I responded indirectly but my point is the same. Detroit and Grand Rapids, for example, have had massive redevelopment in recent years, both have a city tax. To be sure, .5-to-1 percent will turn some investors and homebuyers off, but so will a city with reduced services.

    I think we need to evaluate what makes our community attractive, and to whom, and not just assume that what motivates greenfield developers in nondescript townships is the same as what attracts folks to urban cores.

  16. dirtgrain
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s been asked before, but since I’m on the fence, I’ll ask again. Is there a logical reason why the property tax cuts are connected to the city income tax vote?

  17. visitor
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    The reason the property tax is being rolled back is as follows. The purpose of the income tax will be to be more equitable and spread the tax burden among those who benefit from the city’s services such as the folks who work at EMU or any other non-taxable property like a non-profit or church. Since home owners pay more than their fair share of taxes the rollback is to give property owners back some money since they will be paying the income tax should it pass. This way the city can raise revenue across broad tax base instead of having to continue to raise taxes on narrow tax base of property owners who unlike EMU and others pay there fair share of taxes. Its to bad the students at EMU who are opposed to the tax are so uninformed about the issue. They have a Napster mentality. They think they shouldn’t have to pay for anything and that the police and fire protection to the campus and students off campus magically is provided to them.

  18. Kirk
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Settle down, I am not saying Prop A is ideal, I am only saying that abolishing Prop A will only introduce other problems. Ann Arbor and other parts of the Michigan – Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Traverse City to name a few – all saw rapid increases in home prices during 80s, 90s and 00s. Prices in Ypsi are significantly higher than they were, too. I remember seeing houses on Maple near Depot Town selling for 35K and less in the late 80s. In the 80s before Prop A it was common to be paying more in taxes each month than to be paying on your mortgage. Think about THAT. You compare renters vs. property owning landlords but the majority of people in Michigan and throughout the country are individual homeowners. Regular people – teachers, carpenters, secretaries, truck drivers, nurses. These folks are not “banking the proceeds” until they sell the house. If they are buying another one, then they won’t be banking the proceeds at all, they will be using it as a downpayment on the next house. My real point is – it may not be possible to implement a property tax without having one kind of inequity or another.

  19. Posted October 16, 2007 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Glen: It isn’t a myth. Just walk down Michigan Ave. and take a look at the biggest example of mismanagement in the county: Water Street.

    Interestingly, I was recently at a Target event at the Max Fisher Music Center next to Orchestra Hall near downtown Detroit, and lo’ and behold, Studio 555 (a Target grant recipient) presented a slideshow about the history of their gallery. For those unaware, Studio 555 once was located on the huge empty lot filled with abandoned buildings that we now fondly refer to as Water Street.

    Nothing like making Ypsi attractive by kicking out successful artists interested in investing in our town, eh Glen? They are in Detroit now, and they don’t appear to be coming back.

    Don’t take my word for this tale of urban mismanagement, simply read about it here in the hometown newspaper that no longer has an office in Ypsilanti. No doubt a tax will attract them back to Ypsi, too, no?

  20. Glen S.
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    trusty: We are all (both pro- and anti-tax) disappointed by the pace of progress on Water Street. But, even our last prospective developer was quick to point out that the reason they pulled out was the dowturn in Michigan’s economy — not the site’s potential for development.

    Moreover, again contrary to “myth,” Water Street is NOT and has NEVER BEEN the cause of Ypsilanti’s budget crisis. The Blue Ribbon Commission on City Finances recommended that Ypsilanti adopt an income tax long ago … when we were still actively working with a developer, and everyone expected the project would go forward. The truth is that, even if we could take Water Street completely out of the equation, we would still face a growing budget gap.

    While it is true that members of successive City Councils voted for each stage of the Water Street Project (mostly, unanimously, if I remember correctly), these decisions were only made after many, many rounds of community meetings, public forums, and design charettes, etc. … In a sense, it was a decision we made collectively, as a community.

    In fact, I find it ironic that some of the anti-tax folks who are now the most critical of Water Street were once among the project’s biggest boosters.

    Regarding Water Street and the income tax — when the economy finally begins to improve, I don’t honestly believe a 1% tax is going to make the difference to a potential developer. However, I DO believe that being able to provide them with a safe, clean, attractive community with quality public services, will.

    In the mean time, I only wish that those who spend so much time bashing the City, and Water Street, would instead put some of that energy into finding constructive and practical solutions to help us move forward.

  21. Dirtgrain
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    People keep saying “take Water Street out of the equation”–or similar sentiments–to make a point that our financial situation was bad anyway. Please stop saying this. It’s akin to bringing your dad’s car home with the front end all smashed in and saying, “You know, take this smashed in front end out of the equation and your car still had problems–it had a scratch on the bumper, some dings on the hood, and a bit of rust here and there.”

    That said, I can see the Water Street fiasco being a worthy focus in upcoming elections, but to use it as some way to discredit the city income tax proposal is a misdirection, an ad hominem attack, an attempt to call into question the character, ability and judgement of our city government instead of addressing the merits of the tax proposal. Not logical.

    We have only to consider our current financial crisis, Water Street included, and decide what the best options are.

  22. Dirtgrain
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Regarding the property tax rollback: am I being asked to vote for a tax change that won’t even increase the tax I pay overall? I pay over $5,000 a year in property taxes. The reduction in property tax will offset the income tax? That is not how our mayor presented it to me when he stopped by my house the other day (I believe he said the average person in Ypsi would pay $100 more–I’ll have to check the pamphlet again). He didn’t even mention the propert tax rollback (I assume it is in the pamphlet–I’ll check when I go home).

    If this tax won’t affect me, then this all creeps me out. I’m willing to pay more to help our city, but I’m left with the option of sticking it to somebody else–or at least sticking it more to them (more than I will be affected).

    Why not impose the city income tax without the rollback? Then we would make some cash for the city.

  23. Posted October 16, 2007 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “I don’t honestly believe a 1% tax is going to make the difference to a potential developer.”

    Where’s the expertise to back that up? Isn’t it obvious the opposite is true — that a developer analyzing occupancy trends and making economic projections will consider a city income tax to be a negative factor, not a positive one? Isn’t it clear that a tax most certainly makes us less competitive, not more? We aren’t competing with Roseville, Taylor, Mt. Clemens or St. Clair Shores. We’re competing with the Township, with Ann Arbor, with our other neighbors.

    “. . . when the economy finally begins to improve . . .”

    We’re now back to Ypsitopia again.

    I admire your optimism, Glen, but naked optimism bought us Water Street, and the same optimism, if used to substantiate the “need” for a tax, will buy us exactly the same thing. You can wax eloquent about what you feel is a lack of connection between Water Street and city finances, but back when the tax idea was floated, nobody seriously considered putting it up for a vote until AFTER two developers bolted and the debt payments became imminent. So far, Water Street has cost a lot, has delivered nothing but disappointment, has driven businesses away, and there’s no end in sight. That’s not ad hominem–that’s historical context.

    When you add to the analysis that the tax is regressive–or as Dirgrain put it, “sticking it to somebody else”–then the entire situation reeks of cynism and mismanagement. The Blue Ribbon Panel rejected a millage rollback, yet Council voted for it ostensibly to pick up a few extra votes from landowners–not because it’s consistent with our community’s values.

    We can keep touching the hot stove over and over again, but it’s insane to expect that we won’t keep getting burned.

  24. Posted October 16, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    From an email I just received, in response to Glen:

    “In fact, I find it ironic that some of the anti-tax folks who are now the most critical of Water Street were once among the project’s biggest boosters.”

    Please do tell who these boosters of Water Street were that now are criticizing it? Surely you are not referring to those who wrote the letter back in May 2003 expressing a number of concerns about the project as it was then planned. Of the five households represented, only one is supporting the income tax.

    “In the mean time, I only wish that those who spend so much time bashing the City, and Water Street, would instead put some of that energy into finding constructive and practical solutions to help us move forward.”

    Quit perpetuating the myth that no constructive and practical solutions have been offered. They have been, and they’ve been ignored.

  25. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 11:09 am | Permalink


    I partly concur with your no rollback proposal. I’d be in favor of the tax without a rollback. But, it sounds like I pay about the same as you in property tax. I have neighbors, some commenting here, who pay $500-$2000 less than I do, annually, because they’ve lived here longer. They have homes valued at tens-of-thousands more than mine and many earn more than double my household income. (I’ve been here long enough now that there’s also folks paying more than I on houses valued less.)

    The newer the homeowner, the greater the tax burden regardless of their income, i.e., ability to pay. If new homeowners, with lower/moderate incomes experience some relief, I don’t think that’s all bad.

    Right now, we’re sticking it to new residents.

    The folks whose taxes will increase the most are those with a combination of low property taxes and high incomes.

  26. Glen S.
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    trusty: When Water Street was conceived, we had almost 40 ACRES of prime riverfront property, adjacent to downtown, that unfortunately was so contaminated it would likely never be redeveloped. What’s more, the entire site (a major portion of the land area of our small city) was generating only about $60,000 PER YEAR in tax revenues for the City.

    Acquiring and consolidating the properties made us eligible for substantial “brownfield” grants to clean-up and re-develop the site, and made it a much more attractive possibility for prospective developers (as both Biltmore and Freed once agreed). Again, we ALL wish this project was further along … However, if we had not taken the leap, we would still have a major chuck of prime, downtown-adjacent riverfront just sitting there, generating little of benefit for the community. In that regard, I still think it was a sound decision, and I still think the potential of Water Street will eventually be realized.

    On the topic of the rollback, nobody is trying to “stick” anything to anybody. The rollback was an acknowledgement that Ypsilanti’s property taxes are, indeed, high — and especially so for many newer homeowners (or potential home-buyers) who are victims of the Prop. A “pop-up.” My understanding is that the rollback was an attempt to help ease that pain, and to attempt to make Ypsilanti a little more attractive to new home buyers and business owners.

    For most homeowners (like me), who have owned our homes for awhile, and have benefited from the “cap,” the benefit of the two-mill rollback will actually be quite small.

  27. Posted October 16, 2007 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm. $60K in the black per year in perpetuity vs. multi-millions in the red over the next 20 years, at least. Easy pick for me.

  28. Lisa
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I thought I’d comment as somebody who is quite fond of Ypsilanti, and would like to move there at some point (currently I own a small space in the hinterlands between A2 and Ypsilanti, complicating it a bit). However, I’ll second the comment from somebody above about not wanting to live there if services are cut to the minimum. For instance, I take the bus, and would want to continue doing so if I lived in Ypsilanti.

    It’s not as though this is an ideal solution, and it sucks that Ypsilanti has to bear costs that have more to do with the State and bad legislation than anything else. However, as a temporary measure I know I would vote for it if I lived 2 miles east.

  29. rodneyn
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    ‘Tis the season for giving again! (I heard Christmas music playing at a Lowe’s recently, where the Chritmas displays were already out!)

    Lisa, I encourage you, in the spirit of giving, to open up your wallet and give generously to the City of Ypsilanti Relief Fund (otherwise known as the General Fund). I’ve heard more people who live and work outside of Ypsilanti’s borders say they’d vote for the proposed income tax than those that live/work in it.

    I encourage anyone desiring to be generous to a failing local government to use the tax calculators on the City’s homepage to determine your donation level – and send your check today! It’s faster and requires less paperwork than an income tax.

    As for me, I already have a set of charitable institutions that my family supports financially. The City of Ypsilanti is not on that list, and I have no wish to be compelled to add it!

  30. Posted October 16, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone see the Council packet up on the City’s website. The City Council is tonight going to come up with about $150,000 in taxpayer money to fund the lifetime pension plan for the City Manager. I guess they need to make sure it is fully funded before he announces he is leaving.

    In Oct 2005 the City Council moved the City manager from a 401K to a lifetime pension.

    The City Council and former Mayor repeatedly assured citizens that to move the City Manager to a Pension would not cost the taxpayers any money. Sort of like the Water Street promise not to use any General funds.

    Shifting money is just the same as spending new money, it is still taxpayer money and if you shift from one place, you can’t use it somewhere else.

    The City Manager makes over $100,000 a year and is provided a car and other benefits now gets a lifetime pension.

    The City keeps saying they don’t have money but they keep spending it like it grows on trees.

    Have any of you had your 401K converted to a lifetime pension? Yeah, me neither.

    Gotta go,

    – Steve

  31. surfin
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 8:39 pm | Permalink


    I would disagree with your portrayal of the City Manager’s salary and benefits. I agree that the public sector gets more benefits than the private sector, but thats b/c the private sector pays a way higher salary to someone in a position with similiar responsibilities (not including having to sit through 5-8 hour council meetings after a full day of work). These are just things to keep in mind. Most city managers with Ypsi’s managers experience could be make alot more than 100k and a car to drive for work related purposes. Just check out the following website and look at some of the city manager oppurtunities out west or down south. Here are some articles about some managers that Ypsi could save some cash on by hiring. lied on resume, or will take “pay cut” and work for only 65k. Remember you get what you pay for and Ypsi has gotten one heck of a deal.

  32. surfin
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Steve, please explain in detail how the city manager’s pension is funded by the taxpayers. You brought this up but you failed to provide any factual evidence. I’m sure you were just in a hurry and forgot to. Perhaps a city document or newspaper article on the matter would help. Alot of pensions are only funded by the employee. If it truely didn’t cost the city/taxpayers any money what difference does it make. I also don’t see the coorelation between Water Street and the City Manager’s retirement plan. Also shifting money is not the same as spending new money. Thanks, and I look forward to seeing the documents that show that the taxpayers are funding the pension if thats the case. Then we can debate whether its appropriate.

  33. tacky
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    do any of you have a fleet of segways in your garage and a mechanical asswiper in your commode?

    me either.

    oh wait, steve does.

  34. egpenet
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    So, what is the plan, people? Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc.?


    Nothing concrete? Just a constant dig/dig/dig … bitch/bitch/bitch.

    Time for a plan. Anybody?

    Can’t continue business as usual.

    Case in point …

    Someone asked .. if we cannot use the $300K + grant for the elevator at the RAC because there are no matching funds, could we use it at the Depot Town Freighthouse? Duh? City planners weree totally befuddled! Gosh! Never thought of that!

    OK, I promised my wife and the mayor I would not rave!

    (Excuse me, while I go into my backyard and shoot a drug dealer. Oooh. Ah. Bang! Oooh, and a prostitute, too! Bang! Ooooh, the satisfaction is tremendous. I feel better.)

    Please! ASre theree any reasonable, imaginative, sensible people in this city!? For G—- sake! Of course, we could use that money for the Freighthouse! Thank you, myself for answering that question! Give me the money!

    Back to bed … g’night.

  35. rodneyn
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    “Steve, please explain in detail how the city manager’s pension is funded by the taxpayers.”
    “I also don’t see the correlation between Water Street and the City Manager’s retirement plan.”

    Surfin, all I can say is Wow.

    Actually, I understand that the City Council convinced General Motors to fund his lifetime pension liabilities for them. Or, was it Visteon? Maybe it was the Federal government? No, no…it was just us – the city property-taxpaying “us” that is.

    As for Mr. Koryzno’s retirement plan, I’m sure that he has no interest in making sure his pension is fully funded by the City well before payments come due (again) for the Water Street debt in 2009. (“Why no, Mrs. Brown, there’s no reason to be concerned. The White Star Line routinely conducts unannounced lifeboat drills at 11:30 at night in the North Atlantic.”)

  36. mark
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    I don’t have time to comment on all the tax stuff now, but I did want to pick up on Cameron’s comment about Gallery 555. As some of you know, Linette and I had a small studio in their Ypsi space and we felt very strongly that it was a good thing for our city. I was of the opinion that, with the closing of the Tech Center in Ann Arbor and the inflated real estate prices in the greater AA area, there was a huge opportunity for Ypsi to attract artists. When word came down that 555 was being evicted from the space, so that the Water Street demolition could continue, I fought it as best I could. We all knew that our time in the space was limited. The city had told us that from the start. But I didn’t see the urgency. I wanted to stall it. And, if we couldn’t stall it, I wanted the city to help find another location. No one seemed to share that opinion, and, shortly thereafter Monty and Carl were recruited to Detroit, where they continue to do great work. It was a colossal fuck-up on the part of our city. While it’s nice to hear people now acknowledging that fact, it doesn’t change the fact that no one, at least to my knowledge, raised a finger to help at the time. I just wanted to record to reflect that.

  37. surfin
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks Rodneyn for clearing that up. My question should have been “did the mayor and city council ever say that the taxpayers wouldn’t pay for his pension”. My mistake. I still would be curious to know when and if they said it. Steve if you could just link us to a copy of the minutes that would suffice. By the way were do you get that automatic butt wiper that sounds cool. Maybe if the income tax doesn’t pass you could use the money you save to buy and donate one sidetracks.

  38. Posted October 17, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    11/1/05 is when Council gave the City manager a pension.

    Shifting Money is the same as spending new tax dollars. It all comes from one source, taxpayers.

    Say you paid $2,000 extra into your home mortgage. What do you do? Well you could leave it and not make a payment next month. You could ask for a refund. Or you could switch it to your car payment. But when you switch it it doesn’t mean you suddenly get free money to pay for your car. It is still your money. This is still taxpayer money.

    The City did the same thing when they cut off leaf pickup service. The said they would save $40,000. But it was just accounting tricks. They didn’t lay off an employee. They didn’t sell one of their leaf trucks, they didn’t actually save any money. Simply by not doing a leaf pickup, they make one less charge against the leaf account. But some other account has to pickup the cost of the employee and equipment. So there was no actual savings. The $40,000 savings was merely on paper, there was no real savings.

    – Steve

  39. Posted October 17, 2007 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Mark: That’s a damn shame. I didn’t know diddley squat about any of it until just a couple of weeks ago.

    Now that the light’s shining brightly on City Hall, perhaps it will be harder for the City to shoot itself in the foot in situations like this.

    Only time will tell.

  40. Andy C
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    The last election for Ypsilanti mayor went like this…
    Lois E. Richardson 19.43%
    Steve Pierce 36.56%
    Paul T. Schreiber 43.98%

    If you put the two anti-tax candidates together, Lois and Steve, I predict that’s how this income tax vote goes.
    Yes 43.98%
    No 56.02%

    dirtgrain asked “why the property tax cuts are connected to the city income tax vote?”

    When Lois Richardson, who now opposes the income tax, originally proposed it she expect the property tax to come down to off set the residents cost. They came down but not enough to of set the income tax and now everyone is getting a tax increase. Maybe this would past if it went through as it was originally proposed. Now it looks like the city might get nothing.

  41. Scott K
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I am very glad to see so many people care about our city. However, it is frustrating that people who lack the appropriate knowledge in an area such as finance or budgeting start commenting on how money is improperly used. Yes it is all taxpayer money. That’s obvious. But when money is committed in a particular budget area and those funds are not all used, or “saved” as it may be, it is appropriate to use those funds where other deficits exist. Look at the big picture. So the city doesn’t have to use the funds earmarked for leaf pickup but it would be fiscally irresponsible to refund that money….it needs to be shifted to cover other expenses. Not until all expenses are covered…and the budget is balanced are there actual savings.

    The tax issue is simple. 1% is a small investment to keep essential services; services that will attract residents and business (and someone above listed taxes as a service…hmmmm, don’t think so). A 1% income tax is less likely to be viewed upon negatively as would an increase in property taxes.

    If you don’t want to feel the impact of further painful cuts to services we need more revenue until a better solution is developed.

    And vacant houses are not an indication of people leaving the city because they don’t like it here. It’s a state and national issue of foreclosures….just in case some people haven’t come out from under their rock yet.

  42. Posted October 17, 2007 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I feel your pain, Scott.

    It’s also frustrating to see elected officials with little background in budgeting and financing making speculative, overly optimistic decisions that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

  43. Hillary
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    “In a sense, it was a decision we made collectively, as a community.”

    Now, that’s funny. That’s not how I remember the meetings. At the charette meetings, drawings with every piece of street furniture available imaginable were presented, and I don’t remember any of the few people who attended speaking in support of the plans.

    I was at a Blue Ribbon Commission meeting where changes to trash collection services were discussed. Who is collecting your trash, and what containers do you use now? The zoning and planning process in Ypsilanti is both expensive and anti-development. Many suggestions to change these processes have been ignored.

    Regardless of whether the income tax passes or not, you will pay the Water Street bills when they are due, either in the form of an income tax now or a tax judgment later. When will the other changes be considered? Will it take the intervention of the state?

  44. Glen S.
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Andy C: I’m not sure I agree that last year’s mayoral vote is necessarily a good indicator of how the income tax vote will go. But let’s say – for the sake of argument – that’s the case.

    If we all wake up on Nov. 7 to discover that Ypsilanti voters have turned down the proposal, will we really be any closer to a strategy that ensures our City’s long-term survival?

    For example, I understand that when Ford /ACH /Visteon /Whatever finally closes down next year, we stand to lose ANOTHER $800K in revenue (out of a budget of only $16 million.)

    Given such challenges, and the fact that the ongoing budget mess in Lansing will surely mean even deeper revenue-sharing cuts in the years to come – how can we possibly maintain decent City services without some source of new revenue?

    Honest people can agree or disagree with specific aspects of the income tax proposal, as well as the existence and/or amount of the rollback, but again, I ask: If not this plan, then what?

    Our budget clock is ticking … and the cuts we face will be more and more severe with each passing year.

  45. Publius
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    If you implement an income tax, you will get more revenue in the short run. But you will make Ypsilanti less attractive to new homeowners and businesses. Even advocates of the tax say it is not a long term solution. What is really needed is increased residential and business investment. An income tax is the exact opposite of what Ypsilanti needs.

  46. Glen S.
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Slower police response times, diminished fire protection, poor ordinance enforcement, higher home and car insurance premiums, dillapidated buildings, poorly-maintained city parks and no public transportation won’t make Ypsilanti less desirable to new residents and businesses???

    Study after study has shown that when potential homeowners or businesses are considering where to locate – clean, safe communities and quality public services almost always trump local taxes.

    The temporary income tax proposal is just that: A proposal to temporarily maintain basic services while we work on a longer-term strategy.

    So far, I’ve read and heard plenty of doubts about the proposal, but as yet, no proposal whatsoever from the “no” camp spelling out exactly how THEY would maintain basic services for next few years.

    This election is not a choice between “Plan A,” and “Plan B.”

    This election is a choice between “Plan A” and no plan at all.

  47. Posted October 17, 2007 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Glen: I can just hear the sales pitch now:

    “Come to Ypsi, where the taxes are the highest in the county, and it’s almost, but not quite as safe as Ann Arbor, Dexter, Saline, Chelsea, Whitmore Lake, Superior Township, Milan, Manchester, Scio, Augusta and Pittsfield. But, we do have 45 Tasers on the way. We are the only municipality that can offer a contaminated, multi-acre, eight figure boondoggle waiting to be developed into something — we don’t know what yet. The very best part – the housing market is so depressed you can probably snag a foreclosure at tens of thousands off the previous appraised value from 2006! You can be the only person in your new neighborhood who isn’t upside down on the mortgage!”

    No doubt people and businesses will come running. Good luck swaying voters with your “plan.”

  48. todd
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    “What is really needed is increased residential and business investment. An income tax is the exact opposite of what Ypsilanti needs.”

    What is needed is a repeal of Prop A. If you don’t do this, you can raise the taxes this year to cover the shortfall, but if you don’t get either enough new construction, or enough buildings changing hands, you’re going to be in the exact same spot sooner rather than later.

    Revenue comes from new construction and purchases of old buildings by new owners who fix the place up. If you don’t get new construction and new owners *Statewide*, the amount of money available to the State, and therefore the individual Cities will drop.

    Just to give you a tangible example to show how much money the State is missing out on, our building just changed hands this past year, giving us the famed Prop A tax Pop. Overnight, we had to come up with an additional $25K per year. That’s for one stupid 10,000 square foot building for a dinky business.

    According to Conan, the budget shortfall for Ypsi is “$250K this coming year and running upwards of $1.5M in 2009.” Take the example I gave for my building, and do the math for what would happen if (shudder) property was actually assessed at its true value in Ypsi.

    Prop A is THE problem. It’s designed to save the Auto Industry, while sticking it to new arrivals, be they businesses or residents. Ford is paying taxes like WWII just ended (hyperbole, I know, but you get the point). Prop A doesn’t work in a recession….which is precisely what Michigan is experiencing. Prop A depends on new arrivals. It’s a pyramid scheme, for crying out loud. If you don’t get new arrivals, the house of cards falls. Ypsi is exhibit A. High taxes, almost no new construction or arrivals, and now they have to raise taxes again. How long before everyone figures out that this is a cycle?

    All the other taxing ideas, income, millages, whatever, is nothing more than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Get rid of this stupid tax law, and every City in Michigan will be flush again…..or, if you are so inclined, you can actually CUT taxes way the hell down (what a concept), and attract new businesses and residents.

    And Kirk, I am settled down just fine. I’m just trying to point out the real problem here.

  49. maryd
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    The following describes the mindset we are fighting:
    “This election is a choice between “Plan A” and no plan at all.”
    This statement exactly describes my problem with our city leaders, NO PLAN at all…

  50. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 10:20 pm | Permalink


    I’ve asked Brian Robb, in one of the Conan posts, to give his plan. I.e., what cuts he would favor if the tax doesn’t pass. A couple others repeated the request. He has been silent since that request.

    I think those he represents, deserve to know what budget he will pass if the tax doesn’t. It’s easy to get voters to vote no on a tax. It’s more difficult to tell them a no vote means no AATA service.

    I, honestly, would like to hear Brian, or Trudy or Lois’s plan. Until we do, it is no plan at all.

  51. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 10:45 pm | Permalink


    I feel your pain (dang, $25,000?) and agree with your assessment of Prop A. From the resident side, cities have been getting by on millages. Every millage passed increases the regressiveness for the newest residents.

    If I pay $5,000 per year in millage-based tax and my neighbor pays $2,500 per year, every new city or county millage, for streets or schools, costs me double what it costs them. (Hence, it’s relatively easy to pass a millage in Ypsi.)

    I’d suggest that an income tax makes the most sense for all communities because it calls for equal contributions, based on ability to pay, from all members. And, it makes extra sense for Ypsi whose largest employer contributes nothing directly to municipal income but relies on a variety of municipal services, from fire to snow plowing.

  52. rodneyn
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Alternative solutions to Ypsilanti’s budget troubles have been raised in public meetings, in newspaper articles, on local blogs, and in private meetings with elected officials on many hundreds of occasions over the past five+ years. In their wisdom, the elected Mayor and Council have rejected those alternatives and, in some cases, attacked or harassed the residents for even making the effort.

    Our current Council and our Mayoral twins have a one line plan for our City’s future – income tax. Until the voters speak on the issue on November 6th, no other alternatives will be considered. Should the vote go against the tax, then the Mr. Mayor, the Councilmembers from Normal Park, and Mr. Filipiak will have to draw up a new plan. Do you think they’ll listen then?

  53. Glen S.
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    trusty getto wrote: “Come to Ypsi, where the taxes are the highest in the county, and it’s almost, but not quite as safe as Ann Arbor, Dexter, Saline … We are the only municipality that can offer a contaminated, multi-acre, eight figure boondoggle … The very best part – the housing market is so depressed you can probably snag a foreclosure at tens of thousands off the previous appraised value …”

    trusty, if that’s how I felt about Ypsilanti, I’d move away in a heartbeat.

    Fortunately, when I look around, I see a compact, walkable community with a beautiful river, great parks, charming architecture, interesting independent businesses, great public transit — and wonderful neighbors who are committed to their neighborhoods and their city, and who have proven over and over again that they’re willing to carefully examine complicated issues and make responsible choices that benefit the community’s long-term best-interest.

  54. Posted October 18, 2007 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Arguing that imposing more taxes on the most highly taxed population in the county will make us more attractive sounds a lot more like denial than a “plan.” It’s not rational. It’s based on emotion, panic, fear, and a desire to maintain the status quo.

    You can’t seriously think a tax will make us more attractive than we already are. Look at our track record of attracting businesses and residents. Have you even looked at the current real estate figures? Have you walked down Michigan Ave recently and looked at the vacancies? If we can’t fill up Mich. Ave, how we gonna fill up Water Street? I’ve got a foreclosure two houses away that was previously owned by a real estate agent who concluded he was better off abandoning it than continuing to pay for it.

    What we need is rationality, not panic. You just want to throw money at the problem and hope it solves itself.

    Ypsi isn’t prospering now by any measure, and it is fanciful to suggest that after a tax is implemented, it will leap to the head of the pack. You’re promising things you can’t deliver.

    You are trying to raise taxes to maintain a status quo that most of the rest of us feel constitutes a failure by our city leaders in the first place.

    And that’s why a tax is likely to fail. With or without it, confidence in City Hall is at an all time low.

  55. Posted October 18, 2007 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Denial is defined: An unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.

    From the American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary.

  56. Glen S.
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    trusty: The sharp downturn in the housing market and foreclosure crisis are national phenomena, and both are particularly acute in Michigan. I agree that Ypsilanti is being harder-hit than some other communities, but just yesterday, a friend was telling me how surprised he was to see so many houses for sale (and in foreclosure) in a newish neighborhood of “McMansions” in a relatively prosperous suburb. To pretend these problems are unique to Ypsilanti is simply not true.

    There are many vacant storefronts on Michigan Ave. But we’ve also recently attracted some significant new development: The Corner Brewery, GW Kent, a new Walgreen’s on Michigan Ave., the upcoming Thompson block project … all show that business people still see Ypsilanti as a worthwhile place to invest. Our own local business community is, like the rest of the Ypsilanti, divided on the income tax issue. However, I think it is significant that so many (usually tax-averse) local business people are supporting the income tax proposal.

    I personally have no particular interest in maintaining any “status quo.” In fact, I think the wrangling over the income tax issue over the last few years has distracted all of us from focusing on the much more important task of developing an effective long-term strategy for building a sustainable Ypsilanti.

    I’d like to see our community become a leader,and an innovator in delivering high-quality and cost-effective public services. As I see it, if the income tax passes, it would give us a 3-4 year window of opportunity to re-envision, re-tool, re-develop our City to be able to do that.

    But I also think that doing so would require something that might prove even more difficult than passing an income tax — bringing our divided community (and its leaders) together to buckle down and build a consensus approach toward solving our most pressing issues.

    However, what I see in so many of these posts coming from the “no” side is a kind of relentless negativity – about Ypsilanti, about City Hall, about government in general, and even about the possibility of solving our problems, that I think will make that difficult.

    Campaigns are fun, and (sometimes) sparring with your neighbors over blogs is fun. But again, seriously, the budget clock is ticking.

    If not this plan, then what?

    If you and others don’t think this plan is the right one, then what SPECIFICALLY do you propose instead?

  57. Posted October 18, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    City leaders have had plenty of time to re-vision our community. Trouble is, the “community” (as pointed out by Hillary above) doesn’t get much of a voice. They get lip service, a pat on the head, and then City government does whatever it wants.

    Let’s look at the historical context:
    – – Council didn’t even listen to its own Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendation to display some equity and avoid a regressive tax with a rollback;
    – – Council hasn’t responded an iota to calls for a commitment about where the new tax money will go;
    – – New hires keep getting paid more than their predecessors (sometimes with double digit percentage increases);
    – – We are currently considering spending more on the City Mgr’s pension;
    – – Council enacted a resolution looking to INCREASE its rainy day fund, exhibiting total fiscal irresponsibility (if this ain’t a rainy day, I don’t know what is).

    While the above is happening, leaders are visiting old folks in senior communities, telling them to “invest in Ypsi’s future,” assuring them they won’t have to pay a thing, and in the next breath threatening to lay off police officers and firefighters.

    And, then, there’s the fact that at the “expiration” of this “temporary” tax, we’re right back where we started.

    I’d love to be more “positive” about the situation, but the historical context seems to predict more of the same, not any true reason to think anything will change in the foreseeable future.

    I don’t find anything fun about talking to a wall, Glen. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit silently while you advocate making a bad situation worse. Your tax doesn’t actually solve a thing, yet you have the nerve to complain about all the other solutions that have been proposed and ignored, pretending they don’t exist.

  58. Dirtgrain
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    When cities woo busineses, don’t they usually offer tax cuts anyway? How would an income tax factor into a businesses decision, then? Or are we talking about small businesses that don’t qualify for the royal treatment?

  59. Glen S.
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    trusty: The City Manager has developed two “solvency” plans: One details what the City budget will likely look like over the next 3-4 years with an income tax (maintaining most services at their their current levels); The other details what the budget will likely look like without an income tax (deep cuts to police, fire, parks, ordinance enforcement, no pool, senior center, AATA, etc.).

    Both plans remain readily available on the City of Ypsilanti website for all residents and voters to study and consider for themselves.

    Meanwhile, I am unaware of any comprehensive plan, either from SCIT, or from the Council members opposing the income tax (Richardson, Robb, Mayor pro-tem Swanson) that spells out EXACTLY how they would keep the City budget balanced over the next few years without significant additional revenue.

    The budget gap next year will be several hundred thousand dollars. The year after that, it will be in the millions … As Ol’E Cross and several others have now pointed out: Don’t Ypsilanti voters deserve to know exactly how they propose to balance the budget?

    Do any of them have a plan to bring MILLIONS of dollars of revenue to Ypsilanti in the next 3-4 years without an income tax?

    If not, will any of them go on record as being in favor of specific cuts to specific programs? Police? Fire? Parks? Ordinance Enforcement? Senior Center? Pool? AATA?

    What’ll it be?

  60. Posted October 18, 2007 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Glen: [Yawn]

    Dirtgrain: The City Income Tax Act (MCLA 141.501 et seq.) provides only narrow, strictly defined exceptions for city income taxes, so new businesses, big or small, can’t legally be offered such an incentive to locate here.

  61. rodneyn
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Glen: “…I am unaware of any comprehensive plan, either from SCIT, or from the Council members opposing the income tax…that spells out EXACTLY how they would keep the City budget balanced…without significant additional revenue.”

    Glen, now I understand. You want a sanctioned group to preach to you. It’s not a “real” plan until either the Council or a recognized group like SCIT makes an official pronouncement. I understand. Mr. Mayor has expressed the same need: As I recall, during the campaign he advocated the creation of a “Friends of Chickens” group to lobby for the keeping of fowl in the city. For the Midtown neighborhood, neighborhood-based alternaties to a flawed rezoning scheme were not heard by Council until hundreds of signatures were gathered to force a super-majority vote, effectively killing the flawed plan.

    There is so little respect for individual residents among the city leadership, that alternatives to an income tax cannot possibly be acknowledged until an officially sanctioned interest group speaks. I cannot fathom how intellectually deaf the Mayors and Mr. Gawlas and Mr. Nickels have become to end up in that position.

    How sad for them.

  62. Glen S.
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I don’t want any sanctioned group to “preach” to anybody.

    I want our elected Council representatives who oppose the income tax to level with the voters.

  63. Sacred Cow
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    It’s awfully petty for the anti-tax crowd to resort to accusations of our City Manager being overpaid. My understanding is that Mr. Koryzno is held in incredibly high regard by his peers (and yes, other City Manager’s would know far better than all the armchair administrators on this board), and that quite frankly our struggling, dysfunctional community is lucky to even have him.

    I watch clips of Council meetings where the man has insults hurled at him left and right by the usual clowns in the crowd, some going so far as to call him a racist and a bigot. It’s not an easy profession, but he almost certainly could be better paid while dealing with a lot less crap elsewhere if he so chose. The reality is we are damn lucky to have Mr. Koryzno, and those who think we can do better sorely misjudge our community. Sorry to break it folks, but working for our city is NOT a desirable municipal job. Look at how many of our dept. heads from 5 years ago are still here if you need evidence of how much people want to stick around. Those who complain about Mr. Koryzno will be in for a rude awakening when he leaves, once they discover that few if any qualified candidates even consider applying for this job.

    If anything Mr. Koryzno’s performance has created a double-edged sword in that he has cut non-essential services for the past 4-5 years so effeciently that it has created a disconnect amongst the skeptics who proclaim “services still seem pretty great, so I don’t see how there can be a budget problem”. This city has been cutting and cutting for years already, and the fact that so many seem oblivious to this reality is a testament to our C.M.’s capabilities.

    I don’t care if you support or oppose an income tax. But to gripe about salaries of city personnel shows a total lack of understanding of municipal gov’t. Not only is there zero evidence to suggest our employees our overpaid compared to comparable communities, but low-balling the hell out of city staff as Mr. Pierce or Mr. Naney prefer would lead to nothing but inept, unqualified people working at city hall. Unfortunately I believe some here have such a fierce ideological anti-gov’t stance that they would almost rather see us low-ball staff on salaries and thus attract lousy candidates, just to satisfy their own self-fulfilling prophecies that gov’t is incompetent.

  64. Posted October 18, 2007 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Okay, to re-cap the above comments, then, it must just be that everyone who opposes a tax is petty, stupid, totally lacking in understanding, not in love with Ypsi as much as those in favor of increased taxes, wrong about the facts, mixing up the numbers, propogating myths, lacking in appropriate knowledge and expertise, and overly negative.

    Did I miss anything?

    I’ll leave the remainder of the discussion, and the last word, to you experts. See you at the polls on Nov. 6.

    P.S. Mark, as to the question that initiated all this, whether we need a debate, it appears that we do not. Looks like minds are made up.

  65. maryd
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I look forward after the city income tax is defeated to the city coming together and finally working on a real plan B. I had a glimmer of hope after the last election, however that was quickly dashed. I did recommend reading to our newly elected mayor that I thought he might find beneficial for his future leadership of our contentious town. That was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” a book about Abraham Lincoln that is a multiple biography of the entire team of personal and political competitors that he put together to lead the country through its greatest crisis. I was very disappointed when it seemed that that he was mostly sticking with his own homies for advice and discussion of how to move forward. And now we have more of those informational meetings promoting the income tax or else. And many in our town seem to think that department heads salaries and retirements are so much more important than those folks that serve and protect.

  66. visitor
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    10/18″Since Ypsilanti began reducing staff in recent years, downtown Ypsilanti has seen a renaissance as new restaurants and shops have opened. Even the Ann Arbor News called downtown “burgeoning” with the success of development projects such as 200 West Michigan. 10/11″The rumor of this tax has already driven the property market through the floorboards, decreased home values, decreased the wealth of the community and driven residents out of town. The income tax is already bad for residents. Implementing the tax will only make things worse.”
    From Brian Robb and Steve Pierce. This non-sense pretty much sums up their understanding of the economy and municipal government.

  67. Glen S.
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    “I’ll leave the remainder of the discussion, and the last word, to you experts.”

    I’m not an expert. I’m a concerned citizen who wants to do what’s best for my community.

    However, the Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finances – a group of Democrats, Republicans, independents, business people, neighborhood leaders, and both supporters and critics of City Hall – carefully studied Ypsilanti’s fiscal crisis for 18 MONTHS. They educated themselves about these complex issues, and becoming experts on this topic. Their conclusion: A City income tax is the right thing to do.

    Conan Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance – a group formed for the sole purpose of helping Michigan’s older urban communities foster economic growth and redevelopment – has now devoted three full, page-long posts to this topic on this very blog. His conclusion: A City Income tax is the right thing to do.

    Paul Tait, Executive Director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), perhaps one of the most knowledgeable people around regarding the challenges and opportunities facing Michigan’s local communities and governments – is a co-chair of the “YES” campaign. His conclusion: A City Income tax is the right thing to do.

    Owners of several of Ypsilanti’s most successful new businesses, as well as a few long-established institutions, have all weighed the impact of the proposal on their business interests. Their conclusion: A City Income tax is the right thing to do.

    3 current and former mayors, and 7 current and former City Council members – all of whom have had to struggle with Ypsilanti’s budget challenges, and who have all experience developing, passing, and living with the consequences of numerous City budgets over decades have all joined the “YES” campaign: Their conclusion: A City Income tax is the right thing to do.

    What all these people have in common is that they support an income tax proposal that is a real plan. It exists — it contains specific information, specific numbers, and a specific timeline. It is readily available for all voters to read, study, praise, criticize, ignore, support – or reject.

    What the other side seems to be offering is a lot of anger, criticism and negativity – but little in the way of concrete proposals or realistic alternatives.

  68. Publius
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I have a plan. Spend less money.

  69. Huckett
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Well I, for one, have found the debate on these threads interesting and informative, and it seems to me that the pro-tax camp has a more persuasive argument.

    When I walk through my neighborhood, though, I can barely see the grass for the tons of red “VOTE NO” signs on the lawns.

  70. E.P.
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Just because they have more money for printing signs doesn’t mean they’ll win. In the last election there was a backlash against Steve for the amount of marketing that he had done. The same thing could happen here.

  71. Glen S.
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Huckett: Many people’s first reaction to any new tax proposal is to say “no.” Likewise, the details of municipal revenue and spending (especially in Michigan) are very complicated – so it’s only natural that it’s taking a while for people to fully understand this complex topic.

    However, as we move toward election day, and more voters begin to really to tune into this issue – and begin to understand just how modest the additional tax burden would be; how detrimental the consequences of a “no” vote would be; and how there really is no real, viable alternative – I think you may just find that the tide of public opinion, and the sea of red signs, will begin to turn.

  72. visitor
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Good point EP. I hope that people will vote based on the merits of the issue not just how much money Steve can spend on signs and t-shirts. I think Ypsilanti voters will be very concerned with the lack of detail coming from SCIT. Catchy slogans on signs and t-shirts bought by Steve Pierce v.s. detailed financial information created by professionals. I guess well find out who wins in November.

  73. rodneyn
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Publius, SPEND LESS MONEY is a great plan for the fiscal future of Ypsilanti city government. Continuing business as usual by propping up the budget with additional taxes is a dead end prospect.

    The City has wasted and has plans to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects and programs of dubious benefit. The City has also dug itself into a multi-million dollar pit of debt with potential interest-only payments coming soon that alone may crush the general fund.

    Non core public safety personnel (police, fire, public works) should have been terminated long ago, and expensive projects like the streetscape and dumpster enclosure improvements should never have been started.

  74. Union Household
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Glen S. I sat down and came up with an estimate of the total cost that this tax will inflict on me and my family. That includes working student daughters, son and his wife who own property and a daughter who lives in the township and works in town. The total ADDED figures to be well over $2Gs. $2Gs is not what I’d call a modest amount. It falls on top of the other $7 to 8Gs that the collective Delcamps are currently forking out to the city. For you to declare that there is “no real viable alternative” is because the ever dwindling number of pro-tax supporters have been afflicted with an acute case of tunnel vision which began even before their one vote majority swung the first gavel.
    The more your people go door to door to solicite support, the more people become attuned to what this really is: “A money grab at the pocket book.”
    Glad to see you out there knockin’ on doors Glen S. You’re doin’ a heck of a job!”

    John Delcamp: a “New” Democrat

  75. egpenet
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Both feet on the planet …

    I recommend reading the latest post on for the insight into brownfield development (ie. Water Street). It speaks volumes about all the RIGHT things about Water Street.

    I’m lifting up one foot now …

    It must seem strange to the city council that after supporting the state income tax, saying YES to the street and water project,
    even after saying YES to Water Street with a few reservations, and after saying YES to the school millage, and a thousand YESES before that … that some of us are saying NO to a measly and temporary 1% income tax, which supposedly comes with a 2 mil rollback of our property taxes. Well …

    We were led to believe Water Street was a done deal, a good financial deal for the city, that the pollution was modest, and … blah, blah. Turned out it was NOT a done deal, the pollution is very serious and the full extent is not yet known, the developer got a fantastic payment when they backed out, and we left holding the debt.
    (This is the point at which some of the angst is assuaged by the post at … all good things in their time.).

    The delays due to the “suprises” of the vaults, among other things, and curb accessibility issues, almost strangled the downtown business community. In fact, the city and/or contractor knew about the “hidden vaults” but attempted a work-around which did not work.

    Now cometh the management team (and attorneys) from Chiddister Place to demand payments of $9000/year for three years in disputed property taxes. As strapped as we are the council rolls over and says: OK.

    The tax isn’t going to kill Ypsilanti. NOTHING is going to kill Ypsilanti. No thanks to the Chamber or the DDA, we are a growing and dynamic little town. Even the 20/20 group is suprised at thee area’s vitality … a lot of it focused right here. Duh?

    The 1% has simply tipped us over into feeling that council is working against us. It’s business as usual. Listen to the ideas and the complaints, then go back to what they were doing. And rather than sell a vision of the future … they go about town painting a cloud of doom.

    Ed Koryzno is fantastic. Bill Bohlen is a can do guy. Charles Boulard is one of the best. I think Ed does a splendid job of hiding the spending decisions made by council … problem is he has fewer and fewer options from this point on … how’s he gonna “hide” the $18,000 to CP?

    I’m changing feet now …

    Water Street is gonna happen. And the ACH thing is gonna work out, too. There’s too much real financial opportunity for developers and monied people in this town for people with any brains to abandon it. Our greatest treasure is our Historic District, and an equally great treasure with EMU. We CAN’T lose.

    But thanks to the poor financial planning and a spend happy council, whose fear mongering is making people crazy … we are getting a bad rap. And we are about to enter a tunnel of pain.

    But, it’s not us citizen bloggers who are hurting the city with our rants and raves, bad taste jokes and slurs, it is the team of elected city officials themselves, past and present, who we elected by the way. I should also include a few paid staff who I suspect are blogging during “working hours” supposedly in favor of the tax. Those council people had YEARS to prepare us for these issues. We’ve had ample warning from Ford, GM and others. Still, we supported them, with reservations, but fully and with great gusto … until now.

    No, you can’t have 1% more. As we say at Dos Hermanos … no mas!

    With both feet on solid ground, g’night.

  76. dirtgrain
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    So, the proposed income tax is not open to exemption in order to attract incoming businesses. That does not preclude property tax exemptions, does it? I’m not in favor of corporate welfare, mind you. But it seems to be our reality.

    Some here state that we need to lure businesses to Ypsi. The current system demands that we sell out and offer tax incentives–offering more than other competing locations. Even with an income tax, couldn’t property tax be negotiated? If there is some notion that we would sell out all the way and give a free ride–no property tax–to an incoming business, leaving only the income tax as a deterrent to the deal, then who cares? If a business will not be contributing to our tax base, then that seemingly will not fill the expectation some have here about luring businesses (note, I realize jobs would be welcome–but some here have said they want businesses for filling the upcoming Visteon void).

    I admittedly don’t know the details about tax deals that businesses make with local governments.

  77. Hillary
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    dirtgrain: Corporate deals on property taxes are called PILOT agreements: payment in lieu of taxes. For example, GM’s agreement with Hamtramck on Poletown says that GM pays Detroit a certain amount, and then Detroit pays Hamtramck $1.4 million per year in lieu of property taxes. The Wayne County Jail has a similar agreement with Hamtramck that they stopped paying on recently, and we had to sue Wayne County to get our PILOT money. We also have a PILOT that covers R-31 housing, single family houses being constructed on contaminated soil by court order, which effectively lowers the tax rate for plaintiffs/homebuyers to NEZ levels where NEZ designation is not legal.

    There are proven alternatives to luring businesses with tax incentives. Richard Murphy wrote something not too long ago about regional corporate tax sharing agreements that would greatly reduce the competition between cities by sharing a portion of newly collected taxes among municipalities. Perhaps new developments in Detroit will make this idea more popular.

  78. Posted October 19, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m a popular person to cite on today, it seems.

    The tax-base sharing arrangements that Hillary refers to (and that are being discussed for the Detroit – Ypsilanti corridor in relation to the “Aerotropolis” concept) are intended to level the taxation playing field between municipalities by taxing new commercial and industrial development at a regional level and distributing the revenue to the individual municipalities. No matter where the new development, everybody in the region gets a cut, and the tax rate is determined regionally.

    This helps older, established communities (like Ypsi, Detroit, Hamtramck) by reducing the property tax gap that a business looks at. It also helps promote regional goals like directing development away from fields and farmland and into those established areas, while still providing some revenue for the outlying communities that no longer look quite so appealing to businesses.

    That’s the short version. For the mid-length version, check out the Twin Cities Fiscal Disparities Program, which is the oldest and biggest implementation. For the long version, check out Metropolitics, a book by Myron Orfield, who put together the Twin Cities program.

  79. egpenet
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    After I toured the public housing in town, I drove out to Willow Run Airport. I am amazed at the growth. And I frealize we have a new company downtown that services/plans such developments.

    I AM rather unnerved, and I wrote thee airport board about this, that the two East-West runways produce fly-bys at very low altitudes over Washtenaw avenuee and over Catherinee, approximately. My house is regularly “buzzed” by the Pfizer jets (who wikll be departing forever, thank god), but also by some really big-ass NWA cargo planes. Bottomline, I thibnk Willow Run and the FAA should reconsider their expansion designs and/or pay us for the “thrill” of their ever-increasing traffic volume.

    They are so low, even Orange Taylor III could “hit” em.

  80. dirtgrain
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks Hillary and Murph.

  81. Hillary
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Murph: If I wanted to send letters in support of a tax-base sharing agreement, who should I send them to? I’ve talked to several elected officials in this area, but aside from spreading the word, they’re not in a position to do anything about it. Who will have to agree to it?

  82. Posted October 20, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Hillary –

    I think that the State would have to pass enabling legislation – and I haven’t heard any legislators who are talking about the idea yet. If Conan’s still lurking around here, maybe he knows whether there’s an active proposal. So I’ve got no particular pressure points to suggest – just your State Rep and Senator, and your local elected officials.

  83. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Union House,

    So, what you’re telling me is you and your extended family earns 5-6 times what my household does. Not sure how this breaks down to your sisters and cousins and all, but I know from the city tax site that you currently pay $2,000 less than I in city taxes (on a house much more valuable than mine).

    Coincidentally, the $2,000 less you pay to the city than me and my family, which includes a child, is the same amount your family’s $200,000 plus income is angry about paying.

    So, I’m supposed to feel sympathetic to your six digit income, why?

  84. rodneyn
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ E Cross: “So, I’m supposed to feel sympathetic to your six digit income, why?”

    Good one, Ol’E. Pull that Ace of Spades “reverse-class card” right out of your sleeve (“My Dad makes less than your Dad, so there!)…. You even managed to bring a little whiff of “real” Ypsilantians vs. “newcomers” too. Nicely done.

  85. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks rodneyn. And congrats, to you, on pulling the “call something a card rather than address the issue” card.

    A lot of anti-tax folks are fond on labelling the income tax regressive, but the fact is, the current system burdens the newest residents the most, regardless of income. Every millage that passes costs Union House half what it costs me, and costs me less than my newest neighbors.

    I earn far less than Union H but pay far more. That’s the definition of regressive taxation and the that’s the reality new businesses and homeowners are currently moving into.

  86. Posted October 23, 2007 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    OEC: No, it was actually the City’s own Blue Ribbon Panel that “labeled” the tax regressive. Presumably, they chose to use that “label” because the tax is, in actuality, regressive. I doubt the panel was trying to mislead the people of Ypsilanti by expressing that view, as you seem to suggest others are.

    You can read the addendum to the report here.

    If you don’t want to read the entire addendum to the report, I’ll excerpt a couple of quotes, then:

    “A roll-back of property taxes in conjunction with an income tax would result in an inequity in which poor individuals in Ypsilanti households pay a greater percentage of their income to the City to maintain city services than wealthier households whose members would benefit from a millage reduction. This feature turns the proposed income tax/rollback into a regressive tax, i.e. a tax that takes a larger percentage from the income of low-income people than from the income of high-income people.”

    “It would be more equitable to implement an income tax without the millage rollback.”

    Quotes from Proposed Addendum to Final Report to the City of Ypsilanti, Mayor Farmer and City Council From the Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finances July 2005.

  87. Mrs. L
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Has anyone asked the poor what they’d prefer? I always get suspicious when I hear a bunch of rich white men talking about what their poor neighbors want. I think that many, if you would ask them, would rather have bus service, police on the street, and firefighters willing to come into their burning homes and rescue them.

  88. Posted October 23, 2007 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Mrs. L: To be perfectly clear, I am not purporting to speak for the “poor.” They are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves, and they can vote. A significant aspect of my personal opposition to the tax is that I am not comfortable voting to impose a sizable economic burden on others, regardless of whether they are better or worse off financially than I am. To do so, speaking personally for myself, strikes me as selfish and un-neighborly.

    In SCIT’s efforts canvassing, the opposition to an income tax has been overwhelming, and it has come from persons living below and above the poverty line, whites and non-whites, and men and women. Opposition to this tax, and to its regressive nature, appears to ignore demographic categorization, including the categories you’ve chosen to invoke in expressing your personal skepticism.

    However, if suspicion is to be directed anywhere, I would suggest that it be directed at the four white, affluent, male, Democrats on City Council who overtly betrayed the values of the Democratic party (and their constituents) by voting in favor of raising taxes more on the middle class and impoverished than on the wealthy.

    From the 2004 Democratic National Platform:

    “. . . we must restore our values to our tax code.”

    “We will cut taxes for 98 percent of Americans and help families meet the economic challenges of their everyday lives. And we will oppose tax increases on middle class families, including those living abroad.”

    It seems difficult, if at all possible, to reconcile the values and platform of the Democratic Party with the concept of a regressive tax. And since its regressive nature appears to be little more than a cynical attempt to sell the tax to landowners (who tend to be more affluent on balance than non-landowners) at the expense of non-landowners, well, it simply makes a bad proposal look even worse.

    If people want to make a contribution to our fair city up and above what they already do, they should feel perfectly free. Most of us already do, whether it be giving money to the ice rink, to the pool, to our public schools, or sprucing up the neighborhood on Pride Day. However, voluntarily contributing time or money is entirely different than voting in favor of legally compelling your neighbors to pay more in taxes, regardless of the consequences to them.

  89. Glen S.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    “In SCIT’s efforts canvassing, the opposition to an income tax has been overwhelming, and it has come from persons living below and above the poverty line, whites and non-whites, and men and women…”

    trusty: And I’m sure that when you were out canvassing, you were very careful to let these folks know what’s at stake if they vote “no” (police and fire, parks maintenance, code enforcement, pool, Senior Center, AATA, etc.), right?

    I agree with Mrs. L: Every voter in Ypsilanti, including our lower-income neighbors, will have to decide for themselves whether paying 1% of their (non-Pension, Social Security, or disability) income is worth it to preserve essential services that we all depend upon.

  90. Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Glen, but voters aren’t really deciding for just themselves, are they? While couching your argument in terms of personal sacrifice, you disingenuously obfuscate the fact that what you’re really asking is for people to vote to compel “others” to make sacrifices, with no regard for whether those “others” are able or willing to do so.

    You know as well as I do that this isn’t merely about deciding to make a personal sacrifice. If that’s all it was, people would simply make a voluntary contribution, like they do to their public radio station. That’s an easy decision to make, and it’s a decision that thousands of us make each year.

    This vote is about self-righteously compelling others to make sacrifices with no regard for whether they want to or whether they are able. And by your arguments, as well as your continual avoidance of responding to any issue that mitigates against your chosen path (like, e.g. the fact that it is a betrayal of Democratic values), you obviously don’t give a hoot.

  91. Glen S.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    trusty: You know was well as I do that, in our representative democracy, we elect representatives to make decisions on our collective behalf. There is no “check box” on my Michigan income tax return asking me if I want to support better education vs. more state prisons; just as there is no “check box” on my federal return asking whether I wish to support national health care vs. the war in Iraq. On a State and Federal level, these collective decisions often compel us to do (and pay for) things we don’t necessarily agree with.

    On a more local level, however, the Nov. 6 ballot will give Ypsilanti voters a “check box” they can use to vote FOR preserving police, fire and EMS service, and FOR benefitting themselves and their neighbors — including our most vulnerable residents — by keeping affordable recreation, maintaining our parks, continuing code enforcement; and continuing the pool, the Senior Center, and AATA.

    While you are busy waxing rhetoricaly about “reconciling with the values and platform of the Democratic Party ..” and accusing me of “disingenuously obfuscating the facts…,” Ypsilanti’s budget clock continues ticking… and Ypsilanti residents are in real danger of losing their most essential City services, some as soon as next year.

  92. Posted October 23, 2007 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Glen: I’m sorry you feel as if I’m “accusing” you of something. But you simply have no credibility when you sanctimoniously frame the issue as a no-brainer just a few comments after stating how complex the issue is. It’s either complex (which necessarily means reasonable people can reasonably reach differing conclusions), or it’s simple (and everyone who disagrees with you is just a wacko).

    And you are certainly entitled to your opinion that permitting my values to guide my decisions involves “waxing rhetorical” (which I guess is some backhanded way of minimizing my opinion), but I would respectfully suggest that acting in conformance with one’s values is the best way to guarantee the exercise of good judgment.

    If you want to simplify the issue, then the best way to do it is to ask yourself, will a tax do more harm than good? I think it will. You think it won’t. It’s the complexity in the analysis of why that causes us to differ in our conclusions.

    It doesn’t matter how many times you opine that it’s okay for neighbors to shoulder other neighbors with a regressive tax burden, or oversimplify a complex issue to suggest I’m some kind of wacko for disagreeing. My values don’t permit me to vote in its favor, and I’m not going to.

  93. Glen S.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    “It doesn’t matter how many times you opine that it’s okay for neighbors to shoulder other neighbors with a regressive tax burden, or oversimplify a complex issue to suggest I’m some kind of wacko for disagreeing. My values don’t permit me to vote in its favor, and I’m not going to.”

    Oh, come now, trusty… I KNOW you really want to…

  94. egpenet
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Hey, guys …

    Since when is voting forcing anything on anyone? Provided we have a large turnout … the will of the people shall prevail.

    If it were up to four council votes … the percentage would be at the max for everyone.

    The property tax rollback WILL be reversed with four votes once someone deciphers the handwriting on the wall.

  95. Posted October 23, 2007 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness! I’ve been outsnarked by a timely bit of humor! Good call, Glen, good call . . .

    One thing’s for sure — we’ll all know the result in two weeks.

  96. Mark H.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Old East Cross wrote

    “A lot of anti-tax folks are fond on labelling the income tax regressive, but the fact is, the current system burdens the newest residents the most, regardless of income.” Let’s be factual here: by “newest residents,” OEC just meant the newest homeowners. Most residents of Ypsi are not homeowners. The tax will hit them. Most renters are lower income than homeowners. The tax is regressive.

    Now, lots of respectable Americans support regressive taxation – it’s a principle of Reaganism and its heirs in Washington. There just aren’t many people in Ypsilanti who favor regressive taxation.

    I predict the tax will be voted down by a large margin.

  97. Posted October 23, 2007 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Tangential question: having come but recently from the battle lines of Ann Arbor politics, I’m familiar with concerns about housing cost, taxes, etc, being quickly followed up with statements about how many lower-income renters are students, who are “artificially poor” (as they are expected to have higher incomes once they leave school), and therefore shouldn’t really be counted when discussing the needs of or impacts upon low-income residents.

    Considering that college students make up at least as large a portion of Ypsilanti’s rental population as of Ann Arbor’s, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen this come up at some point during the discussion. I’m curious why that is…Guesses?

  98. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Mark H. (Others, feel free to ignore this long post.)

    By way of background, I went to community college. Then I went to Wayne State. I worked part-time, lived at home, and paid my way. Living on/near campus was a want, but not an option … it’s also not an option for my (much) younger sister currently enrolled at EMU and living at home.

    I respect that EMU students aren’t, generally, coming from the highest income homes (compared to UM). But, from working at EMU, the student workers in my department who live on/near campus are eating buttered noodles because it’s an option … part of the “college experience.” The un-artificially poor students who don’t have that option are living with their folks and aunts and commuting from Detroit, Canton, wherever.

    Point being, I feel justified in taking students who have the financial choice to live on/rent near campus out of the true “poverty” equation. I’m more concerned with the long-term resident poor who reside in our town and depend on bus, parks, police, EMS, code enforcement from Kirchers, etc. for quality of life.

    Shifting gears, I, personally, support a tax with or without a roll-back. But, I think you and I share an overly optomistic view of Ypsi citizens. I’ve been surprised at “liberal” homeowning friends who, when discussing the issue, ask how much will they save with the rollback. When they discover it will still cost them more, they’re opposed. I’m afraid this is coming down to “what will this cost me” as opposed to “what will this cost my neighbors.”

    On regressiveness. I would be more opposed to the rollback if the current system weren’t so entirely random and regularly regressive, both for new homeowners and business property owners (including rentals). Given current state funding options, if I were king of Ypsi, I’d eliminate property tax and go entirely by income. As I’ve said too many times, I’m surrounded by folks who pay less than I in taxes and earn far more. I have friends who rent in Ypsi, as a lifestyle choice, earn thousands more than I, and pay (proportionally) far less. City tax, alone, currently makes up 6.5 percent of my household income and more than 50 percent of my mortgage payment. The current system is sick, unequitable, and originally devised by right-wing folks in power to protect their status. Personally, my vote doesn’t count on the roll-back, but I’m not opposed to eliminating a Reagonequse prop-A tax for one that is more consistently equitable.

    Finally, as I’ve said, if regressiveness is the issue then the leaders of the anti-tax crowd can lobby with me and you for a no-roll-back tax. I think, after reading their comments, like me, you must sincerely doubt that will happen.

    So, for better or worse, we have what we have. The question we have is, if we care primarily about the poor, will asking everyone to pay more for public services most benefit the least or most wealthy? Is a tax, on everyone, that will provide services most vital to the poor regressive and Reagonequse? Given that it is likely this tax or deep cuts to services, what will benefit our poorest residents the most?WWRD?

  99. Glen S.
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Mark H. and trusty:

    In an article in today’s Free Press, titled: “Battered speaker stands by role in budget dealing,” the Freep examines the recent performance of House Leader Andy Dillon.

    Here’s what our own State Rep. had to say about the legislature’s recent wrangle over choosing between deep cuts to services and increasing taxes:

    “Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Ypsilanti, is among the more liberal House Democrats who did not support Dillon for speaker. But she commended him for sticking to the tax increases, though she preferred a bigger income-tax increase.”

    You both have said the City income tax proposal is “regressive,” and a betrayal of our “Democratic values.” Question: Do you think Alma would agree?

    Maybe, instead of “What Would Reagan Do?” as Mark H. suggest above, the question we SHOULD be asking ourselves is “WWAD?”

  100. Scott K
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “I’ve been surprised at “liberal” homeowning friends who, when discussing the issue, ask how much will they save with the rollback. When they discover it will still cost them more, they’re opposed. I’m afraid this is coming down to “what will this cost me” as opposed to “what will this cost my neighbors.”

    Unfortunately, this vote will be about a selfishness and how much MORE it will cost “me” to get the same services the city has now (that old idea of entitlement) regardless of how liberal one is (are there really any non-liberals in Ypsi?)….it should be a vote for the community as a whole.

    My personal feeling is that it will be voted down. And that may actually be good. Then, when services get cut and people start to feel the pain, the next time it’s on the ballot there won’t be the need for another great debate on how it will affect the city and it’s residents. That will be obvious.

    Vote Yes for the Future of Ypsilanti

  101. egpenet
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Reading an article in the NYT Magazine about the water shortages out West …

    One of the interviews had this quote: “A crisis is an interesting thing. It’s the point in a story, a moment in the narrative, that presents an opportunity for characters to think their way through a problem. A catastrophe, on the other hand, is something different; it is one of several possible outcomes that follows from a crisis. We’re at the point of crisis on the Colorado (River). And it’s at this point that we decide, O.K., which way are we going to go?”

    I maintain we are at such a crisis point in Ypsilanti and, indeed, Michigan. In order to keep spending on all of the programs supported by the State, given the population loss, the state is “forced” to ask for more from each of us. With a fiscally sound State, perhaps, revenue sharing to strapped cities can be resumed or at least increased. Parts of the State are doing OK and those pockets of growth and success can help. I certainly hope that’s what our local representatives are thinking.

  102. todd
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    “I maintain we are at such a crisis point in Ypsilanti and, indeed, Michigan. In order to keep spending on all of the programs supported by the State, given the population loss, the state is “forced” to ask for more from each of us.”

    This ‘crisis’ has been caused by nothing more than the Prop A assessment methods. Assess property at its true value, and the artificial crisis goes away. In fact, you could actually lower the rate at which property is taxed if you chose to do so….stimulating more investment in Michigan and Ypsi.

  103. Posted October 24, 2007 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Murph: I don’t really know how to respond to the “artificially poor” label. I don’t think that’s actually true. Regardless, if you look at student demographics, the current generation of students is shouldering more debt than any generation before them, so to the extent that some aspect of their “poorness” is artificial, that’s probably less and less true with each passing year.

    So while some may go on to be fabulously successful, others will enter the job market in low paying jobs and yet others will move on to graduate school. I’m not sure why shouldering them with a regressive tax as they try to get a start on their careers is any fairer than shouldering a single mom or dad living in an apartment trying to make ends meet with 2 minimum wage jobs.

    Glen: I can’t speak for Alma, but if I had to guess, I would imagine she would agree. We’re not talking about raising income taxes uniformly throughout the state, we’re talking about raising them with a regressive millage rollback in the City of Ypsi only.

    As the Blue Ribbon Panel’s report shows, using the example of a non-landowner making $30K vs. a landowner making $50K with a home worth about $100K (3 exemptions assumed for both), what you will find is that the non-landowner will shoulder a new city income tax rate that is effectively 20%+ higher than the landowner.

    All I’m really saying is that it is the hard times when I believe we should look to our core values for guidance. When I do that, a regressive tax clearly betrays those values. I’m having trouble seeing your side of that argument, and OEC’s. It looks to me like this “tax relief for newer owners” argument was crafted after the fact to counter the criticism of a regressive tax rather than something considered beforehand and evaluated to be sound tax policy. And, of course, the Blue Ribbon Panel said to not do it, and Council did it anyway.

    Todd: You’re absolutely correct. I’ve been advocating that for years, more particularly in the context of equitable funding for our public schools. I’ve posted on it many times, like here, here and here. Unfortunately, nobody at the state level seems to give a hoot.

    This is a state problem, not a local one. It needs a state solution, not a local one.

  104. Glen S.
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    trusty: If, indeed, you believe the income tax proposal (with the rollback) is regressive; are you willing to support an income tax without a rollback? Yes or no?

  105. Posted October 24, 2007 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    No. And it’s not my mere belief that makes the proposed tax regressive, its the very definition of a regressive tax that cause me to appropriately apply that label.

    No doubt you’ve read the dozens of well-articulated reasons from so many others here and elsewhere why a city income tax:

    a) isn’t an actual solution to the problem;

    b) is a bad idea; and

    c) if adopted, will move us in the wrong direction as a community.

    So, as I’ve said a number of times before, the regressiveness simply makes a bad proposal even worse.

  106. Glen S.
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    trusty: I though so.

    So, here’s a story problem for you:

    1.) Lost tax revenue from factory closures (Motor Wheel, Peninsular Paper, Exemplar, etc.)have cost Ypsilanti city $3 million since 1998; a 40% cut in revenue-sharing has cost us over $900,000 since 2001. Next year, when Visteon/ACH closes, we will lose another $700,000 annually. This is all from an annual City budget of around $16 million.

    2.)The City has responded by cutting administrative staff by 30%; eliminating or combining jobs; outsourcing jobs to the County; reducing police and fire personnel; eliminating the recreation department; and paying only 50% of our bill to AATA, etc…

    3.) Still, revenue-sharing from Lansing just keeps dropping every year, and, as Todd and others have pointed out – because of Proposal A and Headlee, we have absolutely NO way of capturing the potential tax revenues “embedded” in the actual values of many properties.

    4.) The State restricts Ypsilanti from raising revenue to fund essential services through additional property taxes, user-fees, or a sales tax.

    5.)Maintaining essential services at roughly current levels will require several MILLION additional dollars in future years to make up for the loss of revenue-sharing and lost taxable values.

    4.) Every day, approximately 10,600 non-residents come to Ypsilanti to work, but don’t pay any taxes to the City. Meanwhile, our largest employer, EMU, takes up approximately 25% of the City’s land area, but,likewise, doesn’t pay a penny in taxes to the City.

    5.) Just about the only revenue option the State DOES provide to Michigan cities is the ability to tax non-resident workers — but only at a rate that is 1/2 the resident rate — and only if residents approve a City income tax.

    6.) A City income tax would generate approximately $1.8 million each year from non-resident workers who benefit from services they don’t pay for. Meanwhile, the tax would cost an average Ypsilanti family approximately $21/month.

    Given these factors, would you:

    A.) Pass a City income tax that provides nearly $2 million annually in stable funding to continue adequate police and fire protection, EMS rescue service, parks maintenance, code enforcement, the Senior Center, Rutherford Pool, Parkridge Community Center and that continues AATA bus service?


    B.) Do nothing and “hope for the best?”

  107. todd
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see how Ypsi has a choice in the matter. I live in Ann Arbor, obviously, but until Prop A is dumped, you have to do SOMETHING to mitigate the lost tax revenue…..but yes, unless Ypsi can attract lots of new construction or ownership change, it’ll be in the exact same predicament in a few years.

    Why mayors from around MI haven’t gotten together to get rid of Prop A, I haven’t a clue.

    I still can’t believe that Prop A was entered into law. In Michigan, of all places.

    Michigan Legislator back in the 90’s: “Yeah, I was talking to my colleague here, and I was thinking we should just pretend like it’s always 1990 in terms of tax revenue, and yet the cost of operating a government, like all organizations, will continue to rise as times goes on. Can anyone foresee this being a problem in a few years? No? Ok, let’s do it!”


  108. Posted October 24, 2007 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I’d do C) none of the above, job-killing, home value reducing, crappy options that you have suggested.

    Face it Glen, your solution isn’t actually a solution.

    To use an analogy I recently heard, if the patient is suffering from cancer, and the only way the patient can survive is to cure the cancer, treating the symptoms with a remedy that kills the patient will certainly make the symptoms disappear. But doing so doesn’t really cure the cancer now, does it? And it doesn’t make the patient any better, either.

    Your tax is merely a symptomatic remedy that stands to kill off the potential we already have and the economic growth we seek. If you win, you’ve certainly temporarily dealt with the symptom, but you’ve utterly and completely failed to cure the underlying condition that caused the symptoms in the first place.

    If that’s your “solution,” then good luck to you.

    Having indulged you, perhaps you can answer me a couple of questions. Why is it that over 60 thriving businesses have opened on or around Huron Street, in the Township, right across from the freeway, yet less than 10% that number of businesses have opened in downtown Ypsi in the same time frame and stayed?

    What specifically has Council done to attract any of those businesses here?

    Other than higher taxes, what precisely will we have to offer businesses to attract them here that we don’t have already?

  109. Publius
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t Debbie Stabenow partially responsible for Proposition A? It seems like schools have been struggling with funding ever since. Her reward? Election to US Senator.

  110. Publius
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    “1.) Lost tax revenue from factory closures (Motor Wheel, Peninsular Paper, Exemplar, etc.)have cost Ypsilanti city $3 million since 1998; a 40% cut in revenue-sharing has cost us over $900,000 since 2001. Next year, when Visteon/ACH closes, we will lose another $700,000 annually. This is all from an annual City budget of around $16 million.”

    It seems to me that a real solution would be to attract businesses to replace those that have left. The income tax makes this highly unlikely to impossible.

    Also, since the State of Michigan just raised taxes $130 million, shouldn’t we be seeing the revenue sharing roll in?

    Let’s face it, the everyday citizens of Ypsilanti just can’t afford to pick up the tax bill from major industrial companies.

  111. Glen S.
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    “Other than higher taxes, what precisely will we have to offer businesses to attract them here that we don’t have already?”

    But, it’s not just about businesses. We also need to attract new residents.

    I can’t imagine how we’re going to be able to attract EITHER if Ypsilanti lacks the staff and resources necessary to maintain clean, safe, and attractive neighborhoods and business districts – not to mention affordable recreation and public transit.

  112. Posted October 24, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    If your “solution” is to improve City finances, it’s the non-homestead properties and commercial properties that provide bang for your buck. You know as well as I do that flipping houses in this weak market will NEVER solve the problem with or without a tax.

    You going to answer the questions? Or are you going to avoid answering the hard questions while sounding like a broken record?

  113. Glen S.
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    trusty: If you’re asking if I want to engage in a discussion about how we could/should ovehaul Michigan’s thoroughly-broken system of financing local governments — one that actively ENCOURAGES sprawl by making it artifically cheap to build strip-malls and “McMansions” in the middle of corn fields by subsidizing those developments on the backs of residents in more densely-populate cities (therefore, actively DISCOURAGING development in older cities)– I think we should save that it for another day.

    I doubt you and I could fix it here, and, even if we could, it would likely take DECADES to make it happen.

    In the mean time, Ypsilanti’s budget deficit will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars next year; and in the millions after that.

    So, what do you propose we do RIGHT NOW?

  114. maryd
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 4:31 pm | Permalink


    B.) Do nothing and “hope for the best?”

    Do nothing about sums it up.

    After the tax fails, hopefully the above statement won’t be our council’s response. If it IS, out they will go…

  115. rodneyn
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I read with interest a story about the current race for Mayor in Monroe. Here’s some excerpts from the story showing the position of one of the candidates on issues of local spending and taxes:
    He says he believes business practices can be applied to running government and would start by
    applying those principles to balancing the budget. He also says he thinks the city needs to act more quickly to tackle financial woes. “In a business environment, we cut our expenses and we cut our costs immediately,” he explains.

    But implementing it would be done with input from employees, he adds “Every president of every union will get a letter and we’ll sit down and do this collaboratively,” he says. “We’ll work together to cut the budget and contain costs.”

    A self-described “local government junkie,” Mr. Iacoangeli says his experience as a consultant allows him to see first-hand the failures and successes of many other communities. That has given him ideas for saving or leveraging city dollars through cooperation with other local communities.

    Mr. Iacoangeli said the city’s current financial problems didn’t happen in one or two years.
    They’ve been growing over time due to structural problems involving union contracts and other
    issues. And he says he doesn’t think higher taxes are the answer. “I wouldn’t want to raise taxes to try to compensate for the deficit,” he says. “That’s not treating the disease. We really have to get back to cost containment.”

    As a fellow consultant and “local government junkie,” I concur with Mr. Iacoangeli’s priorities. Nowhere else but Ypsilanti do I hear otherwise intelligent elected officials and citizens say that a tax hike will bring prosperity, new residents, and new business opportunities. Mr. Iacoangeli’s plan for what he will do if elected Mayor is exactly the sort of plan Ypsilanti needs right now.

    A local income tax is not a plan.

  116. Posted October 24, 2007 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, Glen, see, that’s where your argument disintegrates. ‘Cause if you truly believe that, then you are being duplicitous about the “temporary” nature of the tax. You’re willing to sell the tax to voters as “temporary,” but you don’t really believe it to be that. And, in fact, to actually “solve” our problems five years out (or “decades” to use your word), the tax rate will have to be steadily increased.

    Which is why so many of us don’t believe you when you say your tax is a solution and that you “have a plan.” It’s a potential disaster for our community dressed up to look like a solution, nothing more, nothing less.

    I’m not asking you to get into a discussion you don’t want to have. I responded to your direct query about not supporting the tax, and I had hoped that you would respond to mine, that’s all. If you don’t have a response, I’ll let it go.

  117. dirtgrain
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes. Let’s run our city like Halliburton, Enron or Amway because the business model is the solution to everything. Feh.

    All the claims that attracting businesses will solve our problems are starting to worry me. We are talking about bigger companies, right? What’s the last big company we have brought to Ypsilanti? I don’t know.

    How many businesses (big and small) have set up shop in Ypsilanti in the last five years? The last ten years? The last twenty? Over these time frames, have the incoming businesses kept pace with the outgoing ones? I’m pretty sure they have not. So, where does all this optimism about “attracting businesses” come from? I’m thinking every community in Michigan is planning on attracting businesses–but businesses are leaving Michigan (and the US). Are we all planning on something that isn’t likely to happen? Is it a gamble, wishful thinking? My impression from reading the news is that we aren’t going to be able to attract new businesses.

  118. Posted October 24, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain: What are you worried about? Nobody’s suggesting we run anything like Halliburton. The township appears to be attracting new businesses by the dozens nary a mile away. There clearly is demand, and closeby, just not apparently within the city limits of Ypsi. I think we as a community should spend more time asking ourselves why that’s the case rather than engaging in some esoteric analysis of what a tax may bring.

    So the question on my mind is, why aren’t we attracting any of that, and why do people believe that an income tax is going to make that situation better rather than worse?

  119. Glen S.
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    trusty: I’m not avoiding your question, I just don’t think I’m the best person to answer them.

    If you really want to know more about the business climate in Ypsi; what the City has done/is doing to attract new ones; and what Ypsilanti to offer them – I’d suggest that you ask:

    Peter Rinehart, owner of Bombadill’s
    Bill French, owner of Cady’s & Aubree’s Saloon
    Matt & Rene Greff, owners of the Corner Brewery

    I’m sure they’d all be more than happy to answer your questions… And, since they all enthusiastically support the income tax proposal, they also could fill you in on why the proposal will be good for local business, too.

    While you’re at it, you might also want to talk to Stewart Beal, who is re-developing the Thompson Block; as well the folks at G.W. Kent, vg kids, The Rocket, Queen of Hearts, Real Kids, Dos Hermanos, CVS, the Walgreen’s on Mich. Ave. (now under construction), American Broach, etc… since all are successful new businesses that have opened in Ypsilanti recently – or soon will.

  120. dirtgrain
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Yah, but how many businesses have closed in the time that these have opened? I’m not trying to be pessimistic for the sake of being pessimistic–I just want to understand the reality of Ypsilanti. I’m pretty sure that “attracting businesses” is not going to solve our problems because it’s not going to happen to the degree that we need. And I thought people were thinking on a bigger scale–luring some bigger companies to set up headquarters, offices, and manufacturing here. How likely is this? I can say, “That would be nice and solve our problems.” But is it going to happen?

    As for the strip mall crap on Whitaker Road, it just doesn’t compare to our situation. That’s a newly developed area, and the businesses fill the demand. Success in capitalism is fundamentally tied to growth. I don’t think our city is growing much, and it doesn’t seem like there is a huge demand that businesses will respond to.

    I do wonder why we don’t have a good grocery store in my area. I live in College Heights, and when Farmer Jack closed (wasn’t a good store at the time, anyway), I shifted all of my shopping to Kroger at Packard and Carpenter and Meijer at Carpenter and Ellsworth. It seems weird to me to have to travel that far. Save-a-Lot sucks. Where do you all buy your groceries? The co-op? The farmer’s market? The Kroger on Michigan Ave.? Sheena’s (is that the name of the store that took Busch’s place?) on Ellsworth? Where do Eastern students buy their groceries?

    Why don’t we have a bookstore (I know of used bookstores, but not a bookstore that sells new books)? Why don’t we have a hardware store?

  121. Posted October 24, 2007 at 8:05 pm | Permalink


    Bookstores are rough. The Amazon era, on top of the pressure from Borders and B&N, has seen the closing of numerous indie booksellers. Meanwhile, Borders and B&N, like any big box retailer, like to be in big, new, boxes with lots of parking on major roadways. Ypsi’s got major roadways, but not the kind of nice, big, clean, empty sites that big box builders go for. Yes, big boxes will go into more difficult-to-develop urban sites with urban-shaped buildings, but you generally have to be a Portland or an Austin to make it happen.

    As for hardware stores, try Congdon’s Ace Hardware, on Pearl, between Huron and Washington. Sure, you can’t buy drywall there, but, again, we’re not going to see Home Depot or Lowe’s in Ypsi.

  122. mark
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have time to respond to all of that right now, Dirtgrain, as Clementine needs a bath, but we do have a hardware store. It’s Cogdon’s Ace and it’s between Riverside Arts Center and DejaVu. It’s a good place, but they aren’t open on Sundays, which kind of sucks as that’s when I usually need hardware.

  123. mark
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    You beat me to it, Murph!

  124. Glen S.
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Although I do some of my shopping at Meijer, I try to buy most of my groceries at the Ypsilanti Food Co-Op. If you haven’t yet been, I highly recommend it.

    Although some items do cost a bit more that at traditional grocery stores, they have frequent sales that make shopping there somewhat more competitive, and also have a better selection of locally-grown and organic items – not to mention fresh bread from the Depot Town bakery.

    Like Mark, I try to shop at Congdon’s, but also wish it was open on Sundays.

  125. mark
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    As for a bookstore, we don’t need one… has an Amazon link!

  126. Posted October 25, 2007 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Glen, perhaps you would care to explain why this existing, already in business, viable out of town corporation was granted a hefty tax break by the Ypsilanti City Council earlier this week. And that, after it had paid off its mortgage debt. If the tax is voted in, won’t residents simply be subsidizing this out of town corporation? Is this a good example of what Council has in mind to do with the extra tax money it is seeking?

    Or are you “the best person” to answer this one?

    It may be that Dirtgrain is right. What’s the point of increasing our commercial tax base if all Council is going to do is cut businesses huge tax breaks at the expense of residents?

    This is good fiscal stewardship?

  127. Dirtgrain
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Congdon’s! I’ve walked by it many times–but it has never come to mind when I needed a quick screw (hah). Thanks for pointing it out–I’ll check it out the next time I something.

    Is there any other demand in Ypsilanti that you think new businesses could be enticed to meet?

  128. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    I’m kinda sorry to comment now that the post has reached such a mutally edifying place of support for the great folks at Congdons, but I’ve been internet deprived for a bit and wanted to get to Getto’s “regressive tax” stuff.

    Getto, as much as you may suspect the “new homeowner” arguement was “crafted after the fact,” I suspect the regressive tax arquement was crafted before the fact to persuade folks who otherwise would support the tax to oppose it.

    In any case, my arguement may have come after the fact. I am after the fact. I have no affiliation with the pro-tax folk. (That may change.) I’m not proud to say it, but I read this blog. As a newer homeowner, the arguement occurred to me independently.

    I wonder how well you read the wikipedia entry you linked to. You’ll find that an income tax is “proportional” i.e., not regressive. You’ll also find that property tax is frequently regressive (since housing takes up a greater portion of income from lower-income folks than higher) and is definately regressive in Ypsi’s case (being short on corporate sugardaddies). Do a little research and you’ll find that under Prop A, property tax has been determined to become more regressive each year. I’m still curious (I first posted the question months ago) why if landlords, who are in good measure funding the anti-tax campaign, are concerned about their tenants, they wouldn’t simply pass on the savings from a property tax rollback to their tenants? After all, everyone (well, almost) in Ypsi lives on property. Why wouldn’t renters benefit from a millage rollback, as well?

    Is your arguement that reducing a regressive tax with a non-regressive tax results in less regressive taxation? If you are in favor of (re)constructing a tax system in Ypsilanti that is non-regressive, I’m all in favor. I’m curious how you would do that without an income tax.

    I’m fine with debating/discussing the merits of an income tax on new investment/residents, wastefulness in government, tax philosophy, etc. But, the regressiveness, to me, seems designed to persuade, okay, mislead, voters who are sympathetic to needs of lower income residents.

    Congdon’s rules!

  129. Posted October 26, 2007 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    So, OEC, you’re accusing the Blue Ribbon Panel of crafting the “regressive” tax label themselves “before the fact to persuade folks who otherwise would support the tax to oppose it?” With due respect, that makes no sense.

    The Blue Ribbon Panel recommended putting a tax before voters, and shortly thereafter authored an Addendum to its report indicating it was against a millage rollback, calling “regressive” and “inequitable.”

    Maybe you should read the report before you comment further. Just click on the link, and the Addendum report will open up in your browser. It’s on the City’s web site.

    I’m aware of no authority supporting the position that the “tax relief for landowners” argument was in existence until very, very recently, which makes it considerably “after the fact.”

    Feel free to correct me with some actual evidence if you have some.

  130. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    The BRFC’s final recommendation was:

    As City Council considers the option of a city income tax and, as appropriate, a ballot proposal, we suggest some specific features City Council may want to consider. Those specifics follow with brief comments on why they might be considered:
    -Income tax rate of 1% resident and .5% non-resident
    -Exemption of $1000
    -2 mil reduction in property tax
    -Sunset the income tax after 5 years.

    Exactly what’s on the ballot.

    They continued:

    We believe the regressive impacts of a potential income tax on lowerincome and renter residents should be minimized. That is why we recommend a higher exemption level than the minimum. Plante Moran has identified the impacts of the Committee’s specific recommendations on several types of residents. The attached proposed addendum dated July 18, 2005 is one SUCH option to consider should Council desire to pursue this further.

    The addendum was intended as food for thought, not results of a study definitively saying if the tax was regressive. You’ll note, that in the addendum the BRFC assumes that a millage rollback would not impact renters. My question for them is the same as for you. Why wouldn’t a reduction in property tax on rental properties result in lower rents?

    Council took the BRC’s first recommendation. I believe they looked into the .4 or .8 percent no rollback tax. (Someone on or closer to the Council than I will have to enlighten us on why that wasn’t adopted.)

  131. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink


    You’ll note that in the BRFC meeting minutes, they vote 7-3 against making the proposal in the addendum their recommendation:

    It would seem that what we have on the ballot is what 7 of 10 BRFC members preferred.

  132. egpenet
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Here’s a question …

    With a 6% drop in housing prices, those in foreclosure much more, will our assessments drop this year? Why pay the same or more, when the market has declined?

  133. rodneyn
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Ol’E Cross: “…if landlords, who are in good measure funding the anti-tax campaign, are concerned about their tenants, they wouldn’t simply pass on the savings from a property tax rollback to their tenants?”

    Ol’E, I guess my friends, neighbors, and I may all have to ask for our donation checks back from SCIT – I had no idea those evil landlords were bankrolling the “No!” crowd! I’ll have to tell all of the many resident volunteers that they’re “really” working for those evil landlords!

    It must be great to feel confident enough to throw stuff like that comment out there, just let it fly and hope it sticks, eh? Evil landlords, the “communists” of Ypsilanti!

  134. Posted October 26, 2007 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Actually, OEC, just below the vote you referenced, another vote on the Addendum was taken, and the minutes say:

    “Paul Tait referred to numbers on page 3 of the final report. He suggested referencing an attached proposed addendum.

    Thomas Biggs moved that the second bullet on page 3 of the final report be changed to read: ‘The attached Proposed Addendum Dated July 18, 2005 is one such option to consider.’ Motion supported.

    Yes: 10 No: 0 Vote: Motion carried.”

    So, the Addendum, and all that it says and stands for, was made a part of the Final Report, and it carried unanimously. There was no other Addendum modifying any other recommendations in the report, which means the Panel thought the “regressive” nature of the tax was important enough to clarify by authoring an all new Addendum, attaching it, and incorporating it in the Final Report by reference.

    And it proves, contrary to your prior assertion, that the position wasn’t thought up “after the fact.”

    EG: No, I don’t think they will drop. It is my understanding that they are based on formulas that take into consideration multi-year averages, so it would take a considerable length of time to get the average to drop. If the market weakness goes on long enough, however, it could conceivably happen.

  135. Publius
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    From The Detroit Free Press


    Find smarter revenue policies to save cities
    October 26, 2007

    A new study by the National League of Cities should prompt a national debate on tax and fiscal policies that penalize cities and subsidize sprawl.

    City financial officers, including those in a dozen Michigan communities, expect spending to exceed revenues by more than 3% this year, according to a City Fiscal Conditions Survey done by the League. In the Midwest especially, weak real estate markets are holding down property tax revenues.

    Cities will respond by cutting services and raising taxes and fees, said Chris Hoene, the League’s director of policy and research.
    Municipalities can continue to react to financial hardship by crisis management. In the end, however, raising taxes and reducing services will just push more people out and weaken the population centers that drive regional, state and national economies.

    The better answer is for the local, state and federal governments to enact a coordinated strategy for urban America.

    Reviving federal revenue sharing, which ended in the 1980s — and amounts to returning tax money closer to its source — would help, even if the funds are targeted solely at public works projects. Such projects would help rebuild aging city roads, bridges and sewers while creating jobs.

    To be sure, large-scale public investments won’t happen in an era of scarcity, but tax policies could play an important role in keeping capital and people in cities. In Michigan, several laws governing those policies are ripe for change. They include the 1978 Headlee Amendment and Proposal A, which squeeze older cities by restricting property tax increases on existing development, and PA 198, a costly and ineffective tax abatement and economic development tool that has pushed investment from urban cores.

    Nationally, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, has underscored important environmental and urban issues by proposing a hefty gas tax increase and changes to mortgage interest deductions for huge homes.

    Policies that, directly or indirectly, revive cities must be thoroughly debated. Cutting services to balance municipal budgets is a short-term strategy. U.S. cities need a long-term plan for success that includes significant shifts in tax and fiscal policies.

    Find this article at:

  136. rodneyn
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Here’s an interesting aside on the residential property tax issue as it applies to Mr. Dingell’s proposed cap on mortgage interest deductions for homes over 3,000 square feet. It is those same high-value homes (generally over $400,000 or so) that actually pay more in taxes than the home’s residents require in services. These higher value homes actually are modest “profit” centers for local governments (like agricultural, commercial and industrial land).

    Homes of lesser value (including most homes less than 3,000 square feet in area) pay less in residential property taxes than the residents require in services. In other words, most homes are property tax sinkholes for local government.

  137. Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The above article is biased and cherry picks the report. Above is the actual summary from the National League of Cities website, decide for yourself instead of letting the Detroit News decide for you.
    Here are some excerpts if you don’t want to go to the website.
    “City Finances OK for Now; Storm Clouds Ahead”
    by Sherry Conway Appel and Chris Hoene

    The fiscal condition of the nation’s cities improved in the past year, according to a new report released last week by NLC. Seven in 10 city finance officers report that their cities are better able to meet fiscal needs during 2007 than in the previous year. Conversely, one-third of cities report they are less able to meet their fiscal needs. This was particularly true of MIDWEST CITIES, where just under half of cities reported they were less able to meet their financial needs.
    The picture for 2008 is LESS OPTIMISTIC with city officials predicting a SLOWDOWN in revenues and increased spending pressures. Concerns about the health of real estate markets and their potential impacts on property tax revenues, combined with increased calls for property tax relief from homeowners and residents, will cloud the picture in 2008. Health care and pension costs, in particular, are increasing at a faster rate than city revenues.

    The NLC report, City Fiscal Conditions in 2007, found that when adjusted for inflation, city revenues grew only 1.1 percent from 2005 to 2006, while expenditures grew by 1.2 percent. Looking at 2007, revenue growth is expected to be less than 1 percent (0.4 percent) while expenditures are increasing by 3.5 percent, creating a revenue gap of 3.1 percent that cities would have to close by cutting services or raising revenue.

  138. visitor
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    This discussion is a very difficult one because even comparing cities of similiar sizes is like comparing apples and oranges.

  139. Union Household
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Visitor is correct about comparisons. Walker, Mi (pop.21,000) is a suburb of Grand Rapids, has been incorporated since 1961, and had/has undeveloped land. Other than the population, there is little else that is similar to Ypsilanti. Yet the pro-tax-to-the-max people like to use it because it has sustained growth since its incorporation.

    I am not a landlord, but I have opposed the tax since the ’04 election when Mr. Filipiack won the general election riding the coat-tails of overwhelming support on the national ticket lever pullers. He has, in his three years since taking office, shown himself to be out of touch with his constituents as he religiously follows the lead of the old and entrenched democrats left over from the Homel years. This would explain why Mr. Kirk Profit is still on the city payroll as a lobbyist to the tune of $40,000.00 per annum, and in the face of already enacted police and fire cuts.

    At the Adams School ‘dog and pony’ show, the solvency plan was addressed as a “worst case scenario” by the not so unbiased Prof. Orrin. No mention of a ‘best-case’ scenario that shows continued increases in revenue from maxing out assesments at the highest rates allowed. The tax-to-the-max proponents don’t want us to hear this, as it would deflate their strategy of spreading fear. Also of note at the meeting was Mr. Korysno’s statement that wages have been frozen for the workers on Ypsilanti’s payroll. Apparently he likes to exdclude himself and a few other select administrators from such statements, otherwise, he’d be lying through his teeth.

    A short couple of years ago we went through a similar battle with a corrupt school board which constantly hired and gave raises to administrators while derailing teacher contracts. We won that fight at the ballot box and as a result, have seen marked improvements in our school district.

    Now the fight to restore fiscal sanity has moved to the city government.

    On NOvember 6th, the people will speak, and if they speak loud enough, than we will see an end to this evil and insipid attempt to fleece the home-owners, wage-earners, renters, and students who reside in our fair city.

    John Delcamp

  140. Posted October 26, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    John: Now that you’ve used that word (you know “live” spelled backwards), I’m beginning to wonder, what does Cthulhu think about this income tax proposal?

  141. visitor
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Thats true about Walker and the same goes for the “income tax paradise of Pontiac” as Brian Robb would say.

  142. egpenet
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Since Kirk’s lobbying for the City hasn’t resuled in diddley … mwat other “ghosts” exist on the line item budget?

    Must we go line by ,ine or does council have red pencils available?

    RCut, cut, cut … rolling layoffs … do NOT touch fire … do NOT t6ouch police … cut your OWN hours and efforts and stafff, Mr. City Manager … go to 401Ks … cut, cut, cut … tell Mr. Profit goodbye and more.

    Next step, throw up our hands and tell ther County we want to give up and beceome a township. We cannot afford to be a city. We have been priced out of the market. We want the sheriff and the township ot take over policing and fire. We want the county to tawke over financial affairs. We’;d like the City Manager to day goodbye and go off to Neverland. We’d like Kirk Profit to go bytebye. We’d like Joe Orhen to stop pontificating. We’d like to know that our homes, which have suffered a 6% to 12% deckline in vaklue will be taxed at the lowwer assessed evalutaions. We are losing equity day by day. I want a fre-evaluation of my property before I pay my 2008 taxes. We are getting screwwed in Ypsilanti, very which way!

  143. Posted October 26, 2007 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    We’d like to know that our homes, which have suffered a 6% to 12% deckline in vaklue will be taxed at the lowwer assessed evalutaions. We are losing equity day by day…We are getting screwwed in Ypsilanti, very which way!

    Ed, it’s been said a dozen times: this has nothing to do with living in Ypsi. This has to do with living in Michigan, and having spent the last 13 years on Prop A’s borrowed time. You can teleport your house from here to Kalamazoo and back, and it’s not going to change the assessing formulas.

    Look, it’s one thing when you advocate for my job to disappear, but when you start blatantly ignoring facts, I get cranky.

  144. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Evil, Union Household? I’m honestly dumbfounded.

    “Old Democrat,” “Tax-to-the max,” “Evil.”

    Jeez Ypsilanti. Please.

    This tax will hurt me. I’m not looking forward to paying more. But could it be any more clear what this debate is really about?

  145. rodneyn
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Murph, Some areas of Ypsilanti have suffered far worse than a 6-12% decline. The Midtown Neighborhood has seen declines for in the range of 15-25% or more, and it is not just because of the state economy. The City of Ypsilanti has made decisions and taken actions that have directly impacted the use of and marketability of homes in this neighborhood. We may advocate for cutting City Hall staff before policemen, but we are not blatantly ignoring facts.

  146. Union Household
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    The tax assaults the very lively hood of my family and puts at even greater risk the equity that I have spent the last 32 years of in investing into my home. Perhaps ‘evil’ is a bit harsh. Ill planned would be more accurate. If the tax passes, they are offering nothing in return for our collective $4 million except a vague promise that things will be maintained at current levels of staffing. If it fails, we will be blamed for everything which fouls up whether by fate or design. If the current $16.1 million budget is too much for our administrators to manage, then perhaps they should retire so that we can find people who are capable of budget management.

    Homeowners of our Dear City, don’t let them use your property as a stake in this risky venture. Vote NOvember 6th.

    John Delcamp

  147. Mark H.
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    OK, will any advocate of the city income tax admit that it will be a regressive tax? (One could favor the tax for other reasons and still admit it’s regressive…..but I can’t seem to find an advocate of the tax who will be so bold, and perhaps so impolitic, to admit that it will be a regressive tax. )

  148. Posted October 27, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Rodney – As I read Ed’s comment, he was not charging that City Hall was responsible for losses in home value. If you want to charge that, go right ahead – I won’t get into that argument. (In no small part because there’s no way you’ll treat me as an unbiased commenter.)

    The part of Ed’s comment that I was taking issue with was his apparent claim that the City was the responsible party behind the fact that his house’s assessed and taxable values are different. That’s a “problem” that exists across the State, as scads of news articles attested to last spring when people were receiving their tax notices. Say what you will about City Hall’s influence on property values, but they’re not the ones responsible for a statewide unintended consequence of tax policy.

  149. Union Household
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Just got my hands on the latest flyer from the Tax-to-the Max gang. Apparently it’s going to cost me a bundle to install a security system for my house if the tax fails and Our Fair City is over-run with burglaries. Plenty of other examples of fear-mongering can be found in their little green flyer, but little else. C’on you guys, can’t you do any better than this? Perhaps you need to hire a professional marketer. Tell us what we’ll see accomplished with the extra revenue. Re-open the Freighthouse? Develope Water Street, (even partially)? Provide incentive for starter home seekers?

    No. Just more of the same old squandering of our hard earned money.

    Vote: NOvember 6th
    J. Delcamp

  150. visitor
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    The label of fear mongerer shouldn’t be used in this discussion. Police and Fire are going to get cut without it. Fire everyone at City Hall except for those positions mandated by law (clerk,treasurer, etc) and your still going to have to cut Public Saftey in the short-term without the income tax. Its not fear mongering to say this, its just the reality of the situation. You get what you pay for. Conan Smith and DR. Ohren said its the City’s only viable option. Conan and Dr. Ohren are experts in economics and municipal government… Steve Pierce and Brian Robb are not. Believe who you want to believe. If the tax doesn’t pass things the anti-tax crowd will see that the tax was the only option in this emergency situation and it will HAVE TO be put on the ballot again.

  151. rodneyn
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    The labor cost numbers have been run by numerous people – well except the Blue Ribbon Committee. The Blue Ribbon group (who originally “recommended” an income tax as an option) was specifically prohibited by Mayor Farmer et al from even considering City Hall administration cuts as part of their deliberations. Talk about tying both hands behind their back! Labor costs are one of the highest parts of the city budget!

    Here’s how the numbers come in: The City of Ypsilanti could save $1 Million or more per year by eliminating all but Charter required positions at City Hall (City Clerk, City Manager, etc.). Yes, this is difficult to consider, but those cuts would affect core city services to residents far less than the threatened police/fire cuts.

    The county is already assisting with election services, planning services, information technology, etc. Assessing, planning, and finance are all “services” that can be privatized or handled with county assistance until the city is back on firm financial ground. Police and fire are not.

    The beauty of city government is that you do not need an advanced degree in economics or political science to understand it. To be a good elected or appointed official, all you have to understand is that you are there to serve the people and be a wise steward of public resources (including tax revenue).

    Unfortunately, too many of our elected and appointed city leaders have failed to comprehend this simple concept, or have forgotten it.

    Vot “No!” on November 6th to remind them.

  152. dirtgrain
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Rodneyn, could you explain how Ypsilanti would be different if it were a township? You present it like a no-duh magic elixir. But I want to know how things would be different–positively and negatively. What is the advantage of being a city?

  153. visitor
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Rodney what you say sounds good but Police and Fire will still have to be cut even with contracting out. The potential savings (its not guarenteed there would be any) would not save the kind of money you claim it would. I’m not saying contracting out isn’t an option in the long term. It is definately an option that needs to be considered in the long term but its not something to just rush into blindly. Heres some questions to consider.

    If you cut a million dollars annually by eliminating those services (Assessing, planning, and finance) provided by city hall staff HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY A PRIVATE COMPANY OR THE COUNTY TO PROVIDE THEM? Its not free. Saline, Dexter, AA, and Manchester would have a serious problem with Ypsilanti getting there services for free from the county. Also the county doesn’t have the staff or budget to do it anyway.

    Who administers those contracts on behalf of the city? Do they need to have an advanced degree in the area the contract covers (finance,planning, human resource management, etc)?

    What if the company is not doing a good job? Do we have to take them to court and how much is that going to cost?

    There are way more questions than that but the point I’m trying to make is that the only option in the next couple years to keep Ypsilanti from having poor service levels, lower property values, and higher insurance rates is to pass the income tax ordinance.

  154. Union Household
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Visitor parrots the Pro-Tax lie that their plan is the only option. This being the case because other options have been omitted from their considerations. The anti-tax group can argue the same point about lower property values and can site the cheap houses in most of the cities which have an income tax as examples. Adequate staffing levels can be maintained for police, and fire if the people in charge are held to the task of careful prioritizing, which I might add, they haven’t been. Korysno is no genius. I’d rather place the budget in Brian Robb’s stewardship.

    As stated before, the whole scheme is a risky leap into uncharted waters.

    J. Delcamp

  155. rodneyn
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain, I said nothing about “becoming a township.” I doubt that the city could dissolve itself and become part of Ypsilanti Township, even if it wanted to. I suppose that the state legislature could do it, but the likelihood of that is nil.

    Visitor, the potential savings from privatizing certain city work and services is substantial. The county HAS provided certain services (like planning) to the western rural townships and villages like Manchester in the past, so doing so for the city makes good sense – especially on a “temporary” basis (like the income tax proposal). The $1 Million figure is a conservative one.

  156. dirtgrain
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Oi veh. So we’ve got “conservative” promises of million dollar savings and manifold options to solve our problems. Pith.

    Rodneyn, so you didn’t say you wanted to turn Ypsilanti into a township. Whatever it is that you want to turn Ypsilanti into, could you please tell what it would be like, explaining the positives and negatives?

    Union Household, we should assume that other options were considered. I’ve read this whole thread–and the others. To my recollection, those who have championed other options did not specify. I’ve read fire this or that person, cut this or that salary–all too vague. Is there a plan from the anti-tax crowd? With specifics on what Ypsilanti will look like if it’s carried out?

    I’m still on the fence.

  157. Union Household
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    1. To call the tax temporary is a joke. Of the 22 cities in Michigan that have enacted a tax, not a single one has eliminated or reduced their income tax.
    2. The 2mil rollback is just a carrot, and a very small one, I might add. Other cities have offered considerably larger roll-backs: Ionia -15mils, Lansing -8mils. I was, in fact, surprised by how little the council offered. Smells pretty greedy.
    3. We don’t need to offer a ‘plan’. Our elected officials are entrusted to do that, but for the last eleven months, they have promoted only one plan, which, if you read their ‘worst-case-scenario/dooms-day plan’ is vague, extremely misleading and relies on fear as a motivator.
    4. Judging from their track record, I simply don’t trust them to use this additional 4 million wisely.
    5. No, we’re not advocating joining the Township (another group of questionable stewardship). But if the tax passes, we could possibly see a movement for secession of the East Side, which has historical president dating back to 1860.

  158. Glen S.
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Union Household said: “We don’t need to offer a ‘plan’.”

    This entire thread (and several others) has debated the “pros” and “cons” of the income tax proposal in great detail. The plan has some advantages (and perhaps some disadvantages), but let’s face it – at this stage the income tax proposal is the ONLY concrete and comprehensive plan available to evaluate and vote on … and therefore, our only real option for guaranteeing essential City services.

    Meanwhile, I keep reading about all the “alternatives” and “options” that were never considered… Yet, curiously, when pressed for specifics, opponents can offer nothing even resembling a plan.

    In February, when they launched their campaign, SCIT spokesman Peter Murdock was asked by a reporter what his group planned to offer as an alternative to the income tax plan. His reply? “It’s not OUR job to come up with a plan.”

    Now, nearly 9 months later – and only a week before this crucial vote – we have SCIT leader “Union Household” telling us: “We don’t need to offer a ‘plan’.”

    Ypsilanti is truly in trouble, and more than ever, we need real leadership. Sometimes, real leadership comes with a responsibility to tell people difficult truths, and put forth proposal thats are potentially unpopular – but necessary – in the best interests of the entire community.

    The four City Council members who voted to put the income tax before the voters (and the Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future) have done exactly that.

    So far, City Council’s 3-member minority (and SCIT) have failed in their responsibility.

  159. rodneyn
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Nice try Glen.

  160. visitor
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Union Household: The proposed tax is not temporary? Are you Serious!?
    Its in the ballot language that its temporary. It has a sunset provision in the ballot language and THE ONLY WAY IT CAN BE EXTENED IS THROUGH ANOTHER VOTE OF THE RESIDENTS. Why does SCIT have to spread so much disinformation? Maybe b/c they don’t have a plan or a clue what they’re talking about?

    The other 22 cities passed PERMINANT income tax ordinances over the past 40 years. They specified that their tax would be PERMINANT when they passed the ordinance. Their city councils enacted the income tax. AFTER 1994’s PROPOSAL A, ALL NEW LOCAL TAXES HAVE TO BE PUT BEFORE A VOTE OF THE CITIZENS OF THAT MUNICIPALITY. THATS WHY THE INCOME TAX IS UP FOR A VOTE OF THE PEOPLE NOT THE COUNCIL. Ypsilanti would be the first city out of all those cities to enact the income tax since Proposal A passed. Additionally the first city to put a sunset provision in the ballot proposal. The council has proposed a TEMPORARY tax that by-law will be TEMPORARY. I can’t even believe that you suggested its not.

  161. rodneyn
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Temporary taxes become permanent all the time. The telephone tax imposed by Congress to pay for the Spanish-American War was only repealed in recent years (remember the extra tax credit on last year’s federal income tax form?).

    The Ypsi income tax will become permanent by necessity of continuing to pay the salaries of the tax department personnel, because the Council will have become very comfortable with spending the revenues, and because the City will have used the intervening years to further entrench the fiscal incompetence into the budget.

    All of the same pro-tax arguments will be resurrected: “We need more time to work out a solution to our ongoing budget crisis” (read: “You mean the state hasn’t rescued us YET?”)

  162. visitor
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    The proposed income tax that will be voted on November 6th by the residents of the City of Ypsilanti is TEMPORARY. Would become effective July 1, 2008, and expire July 1, 2014 if passed. In 2014, Council will vote to put it on the ballot again and if placed on the ballot THE VOTERS will decide again like they will this November if they want to continue the tax. Heres some advice Rodney, stop making comments that show how little you know about the issue.

  163. Union Household
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully, the TAX will be permanently put to rest when an overwhelming percent of the people reject it. If the city hadn’t insisted on keeping their 10% slush fund in the the face of police and fire lay offs, or insisted that we needed raises for top administrators, or kept useless lobbyists on the payroll, or allowed Water Street to become even more of a blight, or offered a millage roll-back with some teeth in it, then the TAX might have had a chance. But, sorry for its supporters, none of this was done, so down it goes as it well deserves.

    J. Delcamp

  164. rodneyn
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Visitor, the tax may be set up to require a new vote by the people in 5 years to continue it, but that is a far different thing from a “temporary” tax. Some of the pro-tax side have said that only they have put forward a “plan”, but their “plan” (the income tax) supposedly ends in 5 years. Will Ypsilanti cease to exist at that time? Will the state have miraculously discovered oil or gold under the capitol building in Lansing – enough to fully fund revenue sharing to refill city coffers? No, of course not.

    The proposed income tax is no more temporary than the pyramids in Egypt. If the Mayors have gained a vote or two from pitching the “temporary” business, more power to them. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric. Vote “No!” on Nov. 6!

  165. egpenet
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Who the heck knows what the Fed is going to do Tuesday … 25 basis points, 50?

    All I know is I live in a great little town, in the BEST part of that great little town, downtown and in the Historic District.

    What I seee unravelling is a political welfare agenda that has brought County and State burocracies into the city taking up taxable territory, and while creating a lot of jobs for folks that dole out handouts, we have lost taxabale territory. (I say this realizing that if worse comes to worse, I may be standing in line in a month or two.)

    The citizens of this town have done all the smart things (funny how the mahjority responds). We said YES to school millage proposals, because the plans were clear and laid out. We said YES to the Water and Sewerage and Strets proposals, because infrastructure is what a city depends upon.

    We are now paying overides on our taxes for all of the above.

    Then comes Bush … then comes Granholm … and the waters get much merkier. Then comes the national economy and the housing fiasco. Now we aree losing equity in our homes … while property tax rates force our pasyments even higher.

    Now comes the City asking for a measley 1% and I have to say, along with my foreclosed neighbors, we’re simply tapped out. And this money is for salary increases and retirements!? You have GOT to be kidding.
    How about job layoffs, job endings, retirement freezes, renegotiated contracts, etc.?

    This “government” has let us ALL down … come what may … as in my household with the bills that are due … the fan is running and the doggies insist on making their waste … in no time now all will hit the fan! STAND BACK!

  166. Union Household
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Forget not, egpenent, that the city was compensated for the loss of taxable property when EMU’s acquisitions removed properties from the tax rolls. That money is long spent/squandered, but to say there was no compensation, is incorrect.
    J Delcamp

  167. dirtgrain
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    “How about job layoffs, job endings, retirement freezes, renegotiated contracts, etc.?”

    What will this do to Ypsilanti? Has anyone traced out the consequences of firing this particular person, freezing retirement benefits on that job, and so forth–all in a proposed plan with specifics? I would love to consider it. As it is, I still haven’t made up my mind how I will vote, but if I see no legitimate proposed plan for what we can do if the income tax is not passed, then I’m thinking I’m going to have to vote for it.

    I’ve not gotten into digging into the public record, but I do remember several posters linking to city council minutes and other government records. Is it on record somewhere what other options our city government considered besides this income-tax implementation and property-tax rollback plan?

    By the way, the “no tax” signs are dominating the “vote for Ypsi’s future” signs in the College Heights and Normal Park neighborhoods. Is that an accurate representation of how people will vote, or is it just that the anti-tax crowd made more lawn signs available? It sure seems like it’s easy for the anti-tax side to sway voters without presenting any substance. The Ann Arbor News editorial section today had a pro article and a con article, and I didn’t see anything about other options in the anti-tax piece.

    By the way a second time, I hate lawn signs. I propose we ban them. I’ll never vote one way just because of signs on my neighbor’s lawns; I’ll not bow to peer pressure or subliminal political advertising via red or green repetition (at least I think I won’t). Lawn signs are a blight–they make our neighborhoods look terrible, temporarily decreasing our property values. Down with lawn signs!

  168. dirtgrain
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I hear you, Union Household, on the squandering of money by our local government. I don’t think it will do at this time to dwell on the past, however–not until the next election for governmental positions in Ypsi. What about our future? What can we legitimately sacrifice? Pay more in taxes? Lose public services and safety? Trim city government?

  169. egpenet
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    PS. Oil is approaching $100 a barrel, Mr. Dingell-Dangell.

    Gold is nearing $1000 and ounce.

    Our dollar is going “looney” and buying less.

    And your friends in Lansing are raising taxes as are your buddies in Ypsilanti. Hillary and Obama are asking the samee. You guys are nuts!

    Meantime, our banking and major money center brokerages are writing down tens of billions of stupid loans. Gimme, gimme, gimme … all on the backs of the taxpayers. You want us to play in your game? OK, but we all play by the same rules.

    Kirk … get a job.

  170. visitor
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    “Visitor, the tax may be set up to require a new vote by the people in 5 years to continue it, but that is a far different thing from a “temporary” tax.”

    Citizens are voting for a temporary tax. I don’t know what part of my explanation you don’t understand. Even SCIT says its a temporary tax. If the council (elected by the citizens of YPSILANTI) deems it neccessary to put the tax on the ballot again after it sunsets then it will be up to the citizens to decide for themselves whether they want to vote for it again.

    “Some of the pro-tax side have said that only they have put forward a “plan”, but their “plan” (the income tax) supposedly ends in 5 years.”

    In economics you can only forecast so far into the future and be approximate enough to make plans in a RESPONSIBLE and PROFESSIONAL way. I’m sure SCIT will make up whatever they can about the budget to make them vote no. Atleast the yes side has presented a plan based on reality.

  171. dirtgrain
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    On forecasting, interestingly, the pro-tax piece in the Ann Arbor News editorial section said something about covering our costs until the Michigan economy turns around. There’s an assumption in that. But what else can we do?

    Egpenet, has this debate always been divided Republican vs. Democrat? I didn’t think it was, but I read your last post as indicating that it was. Does it break down that way?

  172. visitor
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Union Household: That “10% slush fund” you talk about is called GENRAL FUND BALANCE.

    Everyone I googled fund balance and heres what PLANTE MORAN has to say about fund balances. I know they don’t were red shirts and ride segways but I think you should listen to what they have to say because they’re CPAs.

    “Fund balance provides the necessary amount of working capital that a governmental unit requires to finance its day to day operations, meet payroll obligations and pay its bills timely. Unlike a business, local governments cannot just simply borrow money from a bank to make payroll. The Michigan Municipal Finance Act appropriately controls and specifies the ability of local governments to issue debt. In addition to needing fund balance to finance daily operations, fund balance provides local governments with the financial flexibility to deal with unplanned losses and expenditures.”

    This is the “10% SLUSH FUND” that UH references

    “To maintain the financial stability of a local government, A GENERAL RULE OF THUMB is that General Fund unreserved/undesignated fund balance should be at least ten percent of its annual expenditures. For smaller units of government, the minimum amount of unreserved/undesignated fund balance may need to be as much as thirty percent of annual expenditures. As a result of significant unplanned cuts to state shared revenue, local governments are using fund balance.”

  173. egpenet
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    This is NOT Republican vs. Democrat … those days are long gone … this is basically, what do we have we can afdord to spend on governing the city and how best to utilize those resourses.

    In the meantime, city government continues to grow along with the rest of the pub,ic sector (teachers, universities, etc.) all expectign us to keep financcing their fabluous retirement programs. Not any more. Over. Done. Ist verslichct.

    An entirely new and creative way needs to be devised within the city to finance services and other payroll. The State, meantime, needs to go to a flat tax or another methods of making this systeam understanbdable and equitable.

    Us Ypsilantians willl ALWAYS do what is reasonable … what is UNREASONABLE or UNEXPLAINABLE we will NOT DO.

    With the millions of tax dollars at their disposal, if the four critical votes on council will vote to strip the city of essential services … god help those people.

  174. visitor
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    The millions of tax dollars at their exposure are not even to run those essential services. They have to balance the budget so they will have to cut those essential services. The pro-tax side has explained in detail why there is no alternative if the tax doesn’t pass. The anti-tax side has lied and tried to confuse the voting public. God help Brian Robb and Steve Pierce if this doesn’t pass b/c they are going to be responsible for spreading all of the disinformation. Their political motives will be exposed.

  175. edweird
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    You people are seriously making me want to either a) hurl from all the circular arguments or b) stay the fuck home.

    Still undecided.


  176. MaryD
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Visitor hides his identity, yet hurls insults at fine hardworking Ypsilanti folks, accuses people he doesn’t even know of lying. I suggest he/she opens his or her pocket book and write our fine city a check it so desperately needs. Maybe it will relieve some of his/her angst.
    I thank God for Brian Robb’s presence on council regularly.
    Try attending city council meetings for an education on city politics. It is what made me firmly decide to vote NO on Nov. 6th.

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