The status of the virtual Ypsilanti income tax debate

I mentioned here a few days ago that Ypsi Votes had submitted a list of questions to people on both sides of the Ypsilanti Income Tax debate. The hope was that we’d have answers from both sides completed by today so that everything could run as a feature in the November 1 issue of the “Courier.” (Contrary to a rumor I heard yesterday, we did have an agreement with the “Courier” to run the questions and answers. If you doubt that, just let me know. I’d be happy to forward you an email exchange that will clear up any doubts you might have.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though that’s going to happen now. The pro-tax contingent got their answers in, but the anti-tax side did not. The good news is, I’ve been assured by Councilman Brian Robb that he will personally be answering the questions on the behalf of the opposition, and that we should expect his answers on Tuesday or Wednesday. So, we will have answers from both sides for this virtual debate of ours — they just won’t be available in the “Courier.”

I haven’t run the idea by the other members of Ypsi Votes yet, but I’m thinking that, since we missed the deadline for the “Courier,” we’d try an alternate method of distribution. I’ve spoken with Linette and she’s volunteered to layout the questions and answers once we get them. I guess it depends on how long the responses are, but I’m thinking that, if it can all fit on one 11″ x 17″ page, we’ll print a bunch up, fold them, and start distributing them through churches, neighborhood associations and coffee shops. (If anyone would be willing to contribute the use of a copier or a folder to a good cause, let me know.) As Election Day is Tuesday the 6th, it doesn’t give us a lot of time, but we should be able to get several 100 into circulation… We will also have a PDF of the document available online that we’ll be encouraging people to print and share.

And, just to reiterate, I don’t expect this document when completed will be enough in and of itself for anyone to base their vote on. In order to make an informed decision, you’re going to have to dig a lot deeper. At least, however, we’ll have people on both sides of the debate answering the same questions, side by side, so that we can compare “apples to apples.” It’s not the perfect solution, but we think it should at least clear away some of the rhetoric being used on both sides.

I don’t think I mentioned it earlier, but after we have the answers from both the pro-tax and anti-tax groups, we’ll be sharing them with the folks on the other side of the debate, and asking them to submit a concluding rebuttal statement… They won’t be able to go back and change any of the answers that the submitted earlier, but they’ll at least be able, in this closing statement, to address any issues raised by the other side that they hadn’t anticipated.

Speaking of the Income Tax debate, I hear that the pro-tax folks had an op-ed in today’s “Ann Arbor News.” Since I didn’t pick up a copy today, and as I can’t seem to find it online, I was hoping that perhaps one of you might be able to send me a scan, or maybe just call me and read it to me over the phone… All I’ve heard so far is that, in the piece, they suggest the possibility of a “Water Street dedicated millage,” by which, I’m assuming, they mean an increased property tax for the purposes of paying down the Water Street debt.

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79 Comments

  1. Posted October 28, 2007 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    See “‘Yes’ vote would bring money from 10,000 out-of-towners,” and ‘No’ vote needed because harm would outweigh good.” At least I think that’s right….

  2. mark
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Steven. I didn’t realize that the pro-tax side had an op-ed in the same issue.

  3. bob doyle
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Mark-

    Just to be clear, the opinion piece that appeared in today’s Ann Arbor News was my opinion only. I am not member of SCIT, though I have supported and continue to support there efforts to defeat the proposed income tax.

    Members of SCIT did ask if I would be willing to submit the previously completed piece to the News, which I agreed to do. But I would hesitate to characterize it as SCIT’s stand or opinion.

    Thanks for letting me clarify things. Good luck in your effort to present an objective review of the election issues.

    bob

  4. bob doyle
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    The idea of having a dedicated millage for Water Street is Ed Koryzno’s, not mine. He mentioned it at a community forum on Water Street, as a potential method for paying the debt should we not have a development in place in time to make the payments, which now appears unavoidable.

    The reason I prefer the idea of the millage over an income tax is that it puts the money directly where it is needed. As you know, I have consistently been a voice of concern regarding Water Street, but the failure must be dealt with and the impacts are not completely defined. My first preference is to kick the project into gear to limit impacts to the general fund, and to avoid a millage. In any case, I’m not completely sure a millage is a good idea, but it’s one worth exploring, should the income tax fail.

    bob

  5. cra
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    a millage , a tax or a project . wasnt the later the way water st was to be redeveloped and not on the back of the taxpayers ? yes it was and after 5 yrs of talking its time to act by looking to the future . this area will support the future and the future is professional baseball a millage / tx will only continue the dormancy .

  6. Union Household
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    The Project needs to show some sign of progress. A fenced off grassy field needs to become something, even added public space, i. .e a dog park or Frisbee field. Any step forward, even a baby step, will catch the publics eye. This strategy of ‘wait for a do it all developer’ has to be abandoned. A dedicated millage has considerably more merit than the risky income tax scheme.

  7. Glen S.
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    “The pro-tax contingent got their answers in, but the anti-tax side did not.”

    Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future enthusiastically accepted YpsiVotes’ offer of a virtual debate, and worked dilligently to deliver answers to all seven questions by the given deadline… SCIT did not.

    Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future was willing (eager!) to participate in the the recent series of City-sponsored forums to provide voters information about this important issue… SCIT was not.

    Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future has a website (www.ypsilantisfuture.com) that features prominent links to detailed City budget information, as well as to both City solvency plans (with- and without-tax) showing which essential services would be saved, and which would be cut, depending on the vote… SCIT does not.

    WHAT don’t they want you to know?

    This may be one of the most important elections in Ypsilanti’s history. Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future and it’s supporters believe that voters deserve to have all the facts before they make this important decision – and we support their right to hear both sides of the story – because we’re absolutely convinced that when they do, they will vote “YES.”

    In fact, we are hearing from voters all over town who are telling us that they originally intended to vote “no” — but changed their opinions once they learned more about the plan.

    Through our recent votes to support local schools, libraries and roads; through our support of our City’s non-discrimination ordinance (twice), and through our vote against the recent ban on affirmative action — Ypsilanti voters have proven again and again that they are capable of carefully examining complicated issues — and making wise and responsible decisions that are in our community’s long-term best interest.

    I believe that this will be true again, on Nov. 6.

  8. maryd
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Funny, I could have sworn I saw questions asked by SCIT supporters. Did the person/s submitting questions have to declare which “side” they were on?
    Yard signs vs. bumper stickers, it’s all political free speech.
    I have to continually remind family members and myself that we are all on the side of Ypsilanti. That all “sides” are friends and neighbors. The pro-tax side is just simply wrong.

  9. Glen S.
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Here’s a question: SCIT launched their campaign in February. More than 8 months later, why is SCIT still unable to answer 7 basic questions posed to them about this issue by an independent group…?

    Better yet, why were they “unable” to answer them in time for both sides’ answers to be printed in the Courier?

  10. mark
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    First off, let me just say that Brian, once we talked, was more than willing to answer the questions. He said that they were fair, but difficult, but said he would answer them. I give him a great deal of credit for that. As for speculation as to why the SCIT folks did not originally respond to our request, I don’t know. I could speculate, but it wouldn’t help move the conversation forward. What’s important to me is that we get good information on which to base our decisions. Brian will be providing that on the anti-tax side.

    As for the questions not representing the anti-tax side, I think you should read through them again. There is a question as to the regressive nature of the tax and whether it disproportionally effects the poor. There is a question about the tax impeding the development of Water Street. There is a question stating that, even if the tax passes, we’ll still run out of money. We made sure all the major points were touched on. So, with all due respect, you don’t know what you’re talking about if you say the questions aren’t fair. Even Councilman Robb agrees that they are.

    So do me a favor, cut out the fighting on the issue of the YpsiVotes questions, and wait for the answers. Feel free to fight about the content of the op-eds, or anything else here, just lay off on the subject of SCIT not responding by the deadline. That, in my opinion, doesn’t help move things forward. What matters is that soon we’ll have answers from both sides, and we’ll be able to look at them side by side and make up our own minds.

  11. Publius
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    “We are asking Ypsilanti voters to say yes to the temporary city income tax on Nov. 6. This important proposal will: Reduce property taxes for all Ypsilanti homeowners.”

    What is the status of the lawsuit?

    The income tax will do no such thing. It is a completely separate action by the council which can be revoked at any time.

  12. visitor
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    “The idea of having a dedicated millage for Water Street is Ed Koryzno’s, not mine.”
    ITS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT MR. KORYZNO HAS SAID REPEATEDLY IN PUBLIC FORUMS THAT A WATER STREET MILLAGE WILL BE COMPLETLEY INSUFFICIENT B/C THE STRUCTURAL DEFICIT OF YPSILANTI IS UNRELATED TO WATER STREET. YES WATERSTREET IS A STRAIN ON THE BUDGET BUT EVEN IF THE WATERSTREET PURCHASE WASN’T MADE AN INCOME TAX WOULD STILL BE THE ONLY OPTION TO MAINTAIN ESSENTIAL SERVICES. POLICY EXPERTS CONAN SMITH AND DR. JOE OHREN HAVE STATED THIS AS WELL. THIS IS MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS FROM THE SCIT.

    THEY MISSED THE DEADLINE ON PURPOSE. THOSE QUESTIONS SHOULD HAVE BEEN ANSWERED FROM DAY ONE BY SCIT. THEY HAVE BEEN TRYING TO AVOID REALITY IN FAVOR OF PLAYING POLITICS. THEY HAVE NO REAL ANSWERS. THEY ONLY WANT THE COURIER PUBLISHING THEIR OPINION “AS FACT” AND THE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS OF YPSIVOTES WOULD HAVE EXPOSED JUST HOW WEAK SCIT’s POSITION IS. LETS WATCH BRIAN ROBB DANCE AROUND THE TOUGH QUESTIONS AND NOT GIVE THE VOTERS ANY REAL PLAN.

  13. observer
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    visitor, why are you screaming?

  14. Union Household
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    After sitting though two of Prof. Ohren ‘lectures’ on the merits of the tax, I am convinced more than ever that the city’s “only Option” plan is ill conceived and doomed to failure. I am just as surprised to see Mr. Glen S. resorting to Pres. Bush’s tactics of spreading fear to make his point. Sounds desperate. How low can one go? Their plan admits to it’s own shortcomings by the third year of its inception.

    The majority of citizens in Ypsilanti will not stand for this assault on their incomes, plan or no plan. We have our own challenges of keeping the house warm, the pantry filled, gas in the tank, and on time payments. There is little sympathy for the mess that the city has embroiled itself in. I for one, haven’t seen any red signs change to green. We may well see this ruse defeated in every precinct.

    Someone from the Pro-Tax people should start up a home security business so that they can capitalize on the assured break-down of law and order that they have so wisenly predicted.

    Oh, and by the way, if the 2 mil rollback on property taxes is enacted, it will be wiped out in one year of assesment increases.

    I will be glad when this is over so that we can move on.

    J. Delcamp SCIT

  15. Glen S.
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Union Household said: “I will be glad when this is over so that we can move on.”

    That’s exactly the point. We will never be able to “move on” until we can agree (as a community) on a plan to pay for essential City services on which all residents depend.

    However, the vibe I keep getting from SCIT is that they hope Ypsilanti voters will all turn out to vote this proposal down, and then “POOF” – our budget problem will be solved!

    Let’s face it – regardless of what happens on Nov. 6, Ypsilanti is going to continue to face serious budget challenges – and the “Yes” campaign has been very open about that. However, we continue to maintain that a “YES” vote would at least allow us to avoid the most damaging cuts while we continue working to grow our tax base; continue collaborating with other struggling communities to fix the State’s broken system for funding local governments; and while we wait for Michigan’s economy to rebound.

    No matter what the “no” side would have you believe, City revenues have been falling (in real dollars) for years. The City has been cutting its budget every since 1999, but the fact is that we can’t simply “cut” our way to prosperity… the cuts are beginning to eat away at the very core of what we are (or hope to be) as a community. Absent a complete restructuring of Michigan’s tax laws and/or a new formula for funding local governments – Ypsilanti is going to need additional funding to continue meeting its basic obligations. There is simply no other other way…

    And, at this point, the only option we have available that is powerful enough to do that is a City income tax that would allow us to gain approximately $1.8 million in revenue annually from the more than 10,000 non-resident workers who benefit from City services, but don’t pay for them.

    The question for voters on Nov. 6 is this: Do you want to be told what you want to hear; or do you want to know the truth?

  16. Union Household
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    “Let’s throw some tea into the harbor,” said the colonists when King George needed more money for his agendas. He eventually lost it all. Likewise people will look elsewhere for work if they know they will be saddled with a tax for which they have no voice.
    This is part of the unfairness that is embedded in the proposal. MaxTax proponents keep chiming about getting their money (see above). Will the Colonists rise up again as they did 200+ years ago. Probably not. But if the Tax passes, it’s good to know that we’ll keep our Lansing lobbyist rolling in dough.

    Also of note, never once has SCIT ever advocated that a no vote will solve our impending budget fiasco. Grabbing in the air for arguments gets just that, air.
    And… spare me about what “truth” is. The ramifications of the tax are unknown to its supporters because they have spent little time on studying the effects such taxes have had elsewhere.

    I know only how it will affect me. It’s too much of my hard earned money dumped into the hands of incompetents.

    Lets put it away, once and for all.

    J. Delcamp

  17. visitor
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Why wasn’t SCIT able to answer those fundamental questions posed by SCIT by the due date? It could be that they were spending to much time on slogans, t-shirt designs, and lawn signs. Most likely though they didn’t want as many Ypsilanti residents reading how weak their position was in the Courier when they were forced to answer the detailed questions from YPSIVOTES instead of the SCIT editorials or the fluff Kathleen Conant has written against the tax.

    YPSILANTI’S FUTURE has a clear and concise plan to help weather the financial storm that Ypsilanti and most other municipalities in Michigan are facing.

    SCIT can only offer half truths and misleading information in place of a professional comphrensive alternative plan to help
    Ypsilanti get through this financial crisis.

    The reality is if the tax fails core essential services will be cut drastically. Call it what you will but its the truth. SCIT has utterly failed to counter this because its the reality of the situation. When Mr. Murdock says its not our job to have a plan that just further demonstrates that they have no real plan. SCIT’s empty rhetoric will not help Ypsilanti get through this crisis.

  18. MaryD
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Visitor doesn’t like the accoutrement of campaigns, crabbing about slogans and yard signs (one wonders how they will survive this next year?). It almost sounds un-American.
    SCIT has a problem with YPSILANTI’S FUTURE’s clear and concise plan. You know the plan that keeps the admin offices full and cuts fire and police, our first responders, and then passes blame to those who would more prudently plan. However we have elected this council to do IT’S job. Once this election is over, it will be time for rolling up the sleeves and looking line by line, not pointing fingers and whining.

  19. Glen S.
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Union Household said: “proponents keep chiming about getting THEIR money (see above).”

    More “us” and “them” rhetoric intended to make it sound like the income tax proposal is designed to benefit some individuals in our City at the expense of others.

    In fact, revenue from the income tax would go almost entirely to pay police officers, firefighters and other hard-working City workers we all depend on to keep our community safe and clean; and to guarantee the continuation of essential services such as parks maintenance, and AATA, etc.

    I assure you that no one who is supporting the income tax proposal stands to gain anything from its passage personally – except for (hopefully) the chance to continue living in a community that is safe, clean, and attractive.

  20. Glen S.
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    MaryD: The City Manager and City Council has already done it’s job. They’ve already “rolled up their sleeves,” and they’ve already examined the budget “line by line.” (Mind you, during public hearing, at which the public was encouraged to participate.)

    The result is that we now have to plans for the voters to consider:

    Plan 1. (The Solvency Plan that includes a temporary City income tax) Preserves police and fire at current levels; and keeps EMS rescue service, parks maintenance, code enforcement, the Senior Center, Rutherford Pool, Parkridge Community Center, and AATA for at least the next 4 years.

    Plan 2. (The Solvency Plan without a temporary income tax) That will result in deep cuts to many of these services; and the complete elimination of many others.

    City Council believes such a fundamentally important decision should not be made by the City Manager or by City Council, but rather by the voters, themselves. That’s why they’ve placed this measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

    Let’s face it: Ypsilanti’s deepening budget crisis has been public knowledge for YEARS, but this ballot proposal wasn’t finalized until a few months ago. The entire City budget (with projections), as well as the results of the Blue Ribbon report, the Plante-Moran study, etc., have likewise been public knowledge for YEARS. During that time, there was absolutely nothing stopping SCIT (or anybody else) from developing an alternative plan, and promoting it for public discussion. If they had, we might now have an alternative to consider.

    But they didn’t, and we don’t.

    So, all that’s left to consider is “Option 1” and “Option 2.”

    All the “finger pointing” and “whining” seems to be coming from the side that keeps insisting there are “options that weren’t considered” or “alternatives not explored…”

    Frankly, this is nonsense. SCIT had access to all the same numbers we do, but in the nearly 9 months since they launched their campaign, they have failed to put forward any comprehensive plan for balancing the City’s budget without either a tax increase – or draconian cuts to essential City services.

    I think that’s because they know (like we do) that those are the only two realistic options… but their “politics” won’t allow them to admit it.

  21. Posted October 30, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Give it rest, Glen. Your hot air is contributing significantly to global warming. ;)

  22. Union Household
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Mr. Glen S. continues to ignore the ‘only option’ solvency plan and the work ‘already performed’ by our illustrious council that has put administraitors and lobbyists above essential services. Maybe it’s time for a Haiku:

    His head in the sand
    He repeats his worn out lines
    Broken record plays

  23. Pete Murdock
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Glen –

    “City Council believes such a fundamentally important decision should not be made by the City Manager or by City Council, but rather by the voters, themselves. That’s why they’ve placed this measure on the Nov. 6 ballot”

    What self serving nonsense. The reason this issue is on the ballot is that the STATE LAW REQUIRES IT. Otherwise, you and Mayor Farmer would have imposed this income tax on us years ago.

    Pete

  24. Posted October 30, 2007 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I have been lurking on the site reading the posts and haven’t had time to respond much because of pressures at work. But when a falsehood is published, it must be corrected. SCIT, and for that matter joe blow citizen, does not have access to the same data as the supporters of higher income taxes.

    Any time we have requested specific data, we have been told we have to file a FOIA request and pay whatever fees are associated to collect the data. Those fees can run into the hundreds of dollars for a single request. We have also been told by the City attorney’s that the City can only produce information they have, they will not combine or report on data and if you can’t name the specific document you want, the City will not help you determine where or how you you could get that information.

    For example one request was made for the number of police officers that have worked for the City from 1990 to 2007 on a year by year basis. I was told they don’t have that information and it would be quite expensive (i.e. several hundred dollars to research that question). But then the mayor requested similar data earlier this summer and he was able to get how many employees in the police department and the breakdown by year by year in a special report generated just for his request. That information was never shared with the public and to the best of my knowledge not given to the rest of Council.

    Even sitting Council members have repeatedly asked for information and haven’t been able to get it. Lois, Trudy and Brian have all been denied or stalled about getting info. For example Lois has been asking since 2001 for inspection records at Paradise Manor for the Housing Commission.

    The Police Chief has routinely said at numerous public meetings and was quoted in the Ann Arbor News that Ypsi had 54 officers in 1999 and now has less than 40. Citizens have been asking for years for the names and/or head count for officers on an annual basis. While the city continues to claim that statistic, they have never been able to back up that data. Then when citizens asks for the data to support the claim made by a city official, the answer is it will costs hundreds of dollars to get that information.

    Even simple questions don’t get answered. I have been asking for over three years what the City pays to rent the fence around Water Street. Only this year did they finally disclose that they pay $400 a month to rent the fence around Water Street. Which means they paid over $20,000 in the last couple of years to rent a fence they could have bought 5 times over. Any time I made the request before I was told to submit a FOIA.

    So it is not true that the public has the same access. You can only get access to the data if you come with VERY deep pockets to pay the huge FOIA costs charged by the City.

    Even requests for electronic documents are often times charged on a per page basis. So if you ask for a spreadsheet that the City did to analyze for eg. the costs of purchasing police cars, even though it is a single file that will fit on a disk or CD that costs less than a $1 and takes two minutes to copy, they determine how many pages it would have been had it been printed out and then charge you on a per page basis and then give you the CD.

    Hey look I know that it costs money to produce documents and there should be some cost recovery, but the costs of even simple requests is exorbitant. In one request for a set of emails, it cost me nearly $30. But in the emails, the same document was reprinted some 5 times and it was a multi-page word document so I go slammed with huge fees for duplicate pages. But it would have been a simple matter to instead of printing the emails, save to a single CD, and then it would have cost less than $5.00 and it would be faster. But the city refuses to do that.

    Just thought you would want to know that our government is not transparent and they often hide behind the shield of FOIA to prevent citizens from really asking questions and getting answers.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  25. Glen S.
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    “Global warming…”
    “Haiku…”
    “STATE LAW REQUIRES IT…”

    Again, we get not-so-clever attempts from the “no” side intended to change the topic at hand:
    That being that SCIT has offered Ypsilanti voters NO PLAN whatsoever for how they would balance the City’s budget without either a tax increase, or drastic cuts to essential services…

  26. Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The FOIA says that you can only be charged “reasonable” costs for information. So you might get comparable costs from other cities and bring a suit.

    A lot of judges take FOIA pretty seriously. I think you can win $500-$5000 per FOIA violation.

  27. observer
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    What do the pro-tax folks think are the ulterior motives of SCIT and its supporters? There have been many accusations, both overt and implied, that Brian Robb and Steve Pierce are only in this fight because of political ambition. Brian and Steve already have fine track records of selflessly serving the public, and if there is political advancement to be gained, they will have earned it–though God help them if that is the “prize.”

    Vilify these two citizens if that makes you feel better. And keep going down the list of SCIT members and supporters and find ways of maligning their character, regardless of their well-known status as highly-regarded community supporters. It’s a long list, isn’t it? I wonder how so very many people could have been fooled by these two charlatans. Is Ypsilanti really so full of so many gullible, though well-meaning, people? Are Brian and Steve really that charismatic? (No offense intended, guys.)

    Or is it possible that there are actually a lot of Ypsilantians who are, finally, “doing their homework” and not buying the whitewashed “truth” as they once did? And if this campaign has been better funded than Ypsilanti’s Future has been, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that people are “putting their money where their mouth is”? (Sheesh, to get nasty about which side has more signs is just petty.)

    So much anger for such a small town.

  28. Posted October 30, 2007 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    It bears reminding to those that are just watching this discussion, the Solvency Plan was never approved by City Council and was never discussed at a public forum nor were citizens ever given the opportunity to make comments or suggestions except for 3 minute sound bites during audience participation.

    The City Manger said at the the City public forum last week that the Solvency Plan was his plan on how to deal with the budget but that the ultimate decision would be made by the City Council.

    If the City Council wants other alternatives, all they need to do is ask. They can ask citizens to come up with alternatives (Hey we could have a green ribbon committee on the budget) I would gladly serve if asked. Council can even ask city staff to come up with alternatives.

    One alternative that Council should ask for: what would the budget look like if Police and Fire was left alone for three years. The City manager has access to all the data and spreadsheets, they could, with very little effort, run that scenario.

    I don’t know why City Council has never asked for other plans and scenarios. That you would have to ask each of the members on Council.

    But lets be clear. The plan offered up as the Solvency plan is only the City Managers plan, it was never voted on by City Council. City Council simply listened to his presentations on the ramifications but never took the opportunity to ask questions about other alternatives.

    Ed Koryzno said last Wednesday, “This was his plan and Council would make the final decisions on what would and wouldn’t be cut and how money would be spent.”

    That is not a plan, it is a proposal, no plan has ever been approved or adopted by City Council.

    I am confident that if the Council asks for other proposals, citizens will step up to make suggestions.

    Of course remember last year, citizens stood up with a plan to provide permanent funding for AATA. City Council, including every Council member that is supporting YES, soundly criticized that Plan to preserve the bus service. Council even went so far as to pass a resolution condemning the petition efforts of local citizens who had a Plan to preserve and fund AATA service in Ypsilanti for years to come.

    Council in response never offered another plan to preserve the AATA service, in fact Council then cut funding from AATA that very same year.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  29. Glen S.
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    This is a political issue, and people have taken “political” stands on both sides of this issue.

    Still, I don’t see how questioning income tax opponents about why they have failed to offer an alternative plan is maligning anyone’s character. I think it’s a fair question – and one that voters should be asking themselves.

  30. Posted October 30, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Steven (not me) wrote:
    The FOIA says that you can only be charged “reasonable” costs for information. So you might get comparable costs from other cities and bring a suit. A lot of judges take FOIA pretty seriously. I think you can win $500-$5000 per FOIA violation.

    The City says printing out electronic files and then charging a per page cost is reasonable.

    I ran an experiment earlier this year. I requested the same document from EMU and the City of Ypsilanti. It was a letter from the EMU Police Chief to the City Police Chief. EMU provided the document for no charge, the City charged me something like $10. EMU also provided me with a copy of an email Hall sent to Harshberger. The City never provided me with that email.

    Just to file a lawsuit is $150. Then you have to respond to motions, counter claims and the rest. Each filing takes money. Then hire a lawyer who can do battle with the taxpayer funded lawyers at City Hall with no limit on budget. That will cost you $200 or more an hour.

    The City has unlimited legal resources and would bury anyone with filings and paperwork if anyone dared file a lawsuit. Besides, why do you have to file a lawsuit, much less a FOIA, to find out how much money was spent to rent the the Water Street fence or how many cops were on the force from 1990 to 2007.

    If government is really transparent, answers to those questions should not cost citizens tens if not hundreds of dollars to get a answer.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  31. Publius
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I am sick of hearing the argument of “where is the plan from anti-tax proponents?” I for one am just a citizen of Ypsilanti. I am being asked for my vote on the City government’s proposal. I think it’s a terrible idea. I will vote no. That is my only responsibility. The job of the city council is to govern. They have all the real data and facts. My personal plan is that the council will have to balance the budget without an income tax.

  32. Glen S.
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Nobody’s asking ordinary citizens (nor should anybody expect them) to solve the City’s budget crisis.

    However, the leadership of SCIT has mounted a campaign that is based entirely on their repeated assertions that the temporary income tax is the “wrong” plan, because (they claim) “better solutions” and “unexplored alternatives” exist.

    As such, they have an obligation to tell the voters EXACTLY what those “better solutions” and “unexplored alternatives” are – and how, SPECIFICALLY these alternatives would generate enough additional revenue (or savings) to guarantee essential City services in the coming years.

  33. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Steve,

    I assume you’re referring to the Keep Ypsi Rollin’ ballot initiative as the proposal to fund AATA. It was a well-intentioned piece of bad policy. All city council members (including then candidate Robb and no-tax Richardson and Swanson) failed to support it. In fact, all mayoral candidates, yourself included, failed to support it.

    Now, a year or so later, you’re referencing something you yourself opposed and criticizing the council for opposing it?

  34. Glen S.
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I might add that, as elected officials – Council members Richardson and Robb, and Mayor pro-tem Swanson owe it to their constituents to specify (since they don’t support the income-tax proposal) exactly what spending cuts, revenue increases, and/or cost-savings they support to balance the City’s budget, instead.

  35. degutails
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Out of curiosity, why would SCIT have to offer an alternative plan for if the tax doesn’t pass? Isn’t that the city government’s job?

  36. observer
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    OEC,

    I think Steve’s point–as he specifically stated–was that Ypsi’s citizens DO step up and contribute their ideas to solving problems. If Council votes the idea down, it might be helpful if THEY came up with a better alternative. (I bet there are lots more examples of how Council has ignored citizen suggestions and plans.)

    It fascinates me how you’ve twisted that remark.

  37. rodneyn
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m ready to help the city’s elected leadership put together and implement a real plan for the future of Ypsilanti. Like many other residents and business owners, I have specific skills and experience that could be of benefit to the city as a volunteer. Past offers have been rejected (I especially appreciated receiving one particularly polite ‘not in a million years’-type rejection note from our former Mayor years ago).

    I’ve had the same experience Mr. Pierce related with regards to FOIA requests. The city routinely skirts or violates the Freedom of Information Act to delay or prevent public information from reaching the public. To develop a plan, data must be available. If even the City Council is not receiving the information its members request, how can sound fiscal decisions be made or a plan be developed? A tax is not a plan, Glen. Nice try.

    Alternative voices have been offering ideas and volunteering assistance to the city for years. An entrenched minority, preserved in their elected council seats by a disenfranchising ward voting system, has sought to ignore, minimize, vilify, or shut down those alternatives at every opportunity.

    On November 6th, we residents of this community can let our voices be heard. We may only have one vote each, but together the people of this town can change the downward spiral created by our Mayors and that entrenched minority on Council. Once the local income tax “plan” has been settled and buried by the voters, I’m ready again to volunteer my time to help the city leadership with a real community plan for the future of our local government, and for the betterment of our community. I’m certain that there are many others who are ready to do the same.

    Vote “no!” on November 6th to stop the city income tax.

  38. Publius
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Let’s say by way of metaphor, that a person goes to a doctor with a weird skin rash. The doctor suggests chemotherapy. The patient doesn’t need to tell the doctor the best way to treat his rash before he rejects the chemo.

  39. Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of owing, Glen, you owe it to the readers of this blog to lighten up a bit, if not a lot.

    You’re sounding kind of desperate. You getting enough sleep?

    But I digress. Perhaps we could find a way to preserve all this hot air and use it to lower heating costs in the winter. I propose we form an exploratory committee, which could spend several months coming up with a framework for a plan. Then, after implementation of the plan, a report can be drawn up, properly appended with an addendum, we can hold a couple of public forums on the issue, people can polarize and hold fundraisers for the various sides, and then we bring things to a proper conclusion with a heated debate on Mark’s blog.

    Whad’ya say? I think a late 2011 target date is in order, but I should caution you that the economy might turn around by then (as foretold by the wise Council Sages), which would obviate the need for the hot air collection and preservation in the first place.

    On second thought, maybe Glen’s right. It may be not-so-clever an idea. But since I’m not-so-clever myself, I’m probably not the best judge of that.

    Let’s instead let our politicians decide. They’ve gotten us this far, right?

  40. pissed off
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I know I can’t be the only one in the audience who is still on the fence as to how he’s going to vote.

    I know I’m also not the only one who is completely disgusted over the tenor of the debate in this thread.

    You don’t do your cause much good by acting like children. You do know that, right?

  41. Posted October 30, 2007 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh, pissed off, so many seemed to lose their sense of humor on the first or second Conan post.

    Given the polarization on this issue, though, I doubt it will come back until after the vote. For some, it may never.

  42. pissed off
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I should have added that my comment was directed to both sides.

    Of the 7 questions posed by Ypsi Votes, the one that interests me the most is the last one. I want to know how leaders on both sides of this debate plan to bring our community back together again once all of this is done. Regardless of who wins, we’re going to have several difficult years ahead of us, and we’re not going to make it without a little more teamwork.

  43. Posted October 30, 2007 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    That’s a very good question. I dare say, however, that so long as criticism is aimed at people instead of at the issues, so long as motives are openly questioned without basis, and so long as criticism of issues is interpreted as personal attack, no “plan” is likely to solve that problem.

    And I think the scope of your own criticism was crystal clear. It seems to have not only stopped the tone and tenor of the conversation, but the conversation itself.

  44. dirtgrain
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m still on the fence. I was leaning toward voting yes, but now I hesitate yet again. On one side, the anti-tax side has argued against the proposal (regressive tax, barrier to attracting business, etc.), and they have argued that we cannot trust our elected officials, which when I read it one way has the air of conspiracy theory–when I read it another, I wonder what the crap is up with the lack of transparency that Steve points out.

    On the first argument, I am not convinced. Connecting a property tax rollback to the proposal seems fishy to me–I still don’t get it. But the claims by some that attracting all sorts of new businesses to our area will save us also seems fishy (if it happens, great–but how the hell likely is it? I don’t think we can count on it or plan on it happening, although trying is always noble).

    On the second argument, I have nothing to go on but what I’ve read here and in the paper (oh, and I can count stupid lawn signs, as if that means something–DOWN WITH LAWN SIGNS). I don’t know any of you people, so when you say, “Don’t trust them,” how can I trust you?

    Mark, you’re the only one whom I know who has an inside view (to some extent) on who these people are, how our government is operating, and what the crap is going on. I know you want to remain neutral, as a good reporter/blogger would (I think that’s your reason, but it’s been a while since I read your initial post on that stance). But, could you at least address the legitimacy of the claims from both sides of the debate. Is the city government dicking us around and keeping us in the dark? Is this FOIA circumvention truly going on? If so, who is behind it? Are our government officials unreasonably threatening our safety while maintaining a fat bureaucracy? Is SCIT pulling a fast one by not offering alternatives to the two options being presented to us by our mayor and his’n?

    I would love to trust our elected officials, but politicians are so often liars. I don’t see what our elected officials’ reasons for misleading us would be on this issue, however. But I haven’t looked, and I don’t know where to start on that. What does the Mayor and what do our council members (and whoever the crap else is behind the proposal) have to gain by misleading us?

  45. dirtgrain
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    MaryD wrote: “Visitor doesn’t like the accoutrement of campaigns, crabbing about slogans and yard signs (one wonders how they will survive this next year?). It almost sounds un-American.”

    Un-American, where have we heard that term before? Be careful, Mary. Don’t go overboard (or were you joking? These debates are making me lose my humor, perhaps the only remedy for what they do to me).

  46. visitor
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Again SCIT your trying to divert the voter’s attention away from your weak position with your FOIA comments. Is that the best you can do to explain why SCIT doesn’t have any plan?

    While not having a real plan is bad, there is no excuse while SCIT couldn’t answer those questions in the time provided. We all know that Brian Robb, Peter Murdock, and Steve Pierce have been reading the posts on this site for months now. Those questions were very fair and did not come out of know where. They could have been easily anticipated. SCIT can’t even answer these basic questions or even worse they purposely missed the deadline to keep their weak position from being exposed when placed next to YPSILANTIS FUTURE’S responses in the Courier.

    I encourage all of you to go to Ypsilantisfuture.com and stopthecityincometax.com and compare information. Decide for yourself.

  47. visitor
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain makes a good point. Mark has kept a very close I on this issue. Could he address some of the claims made by both sides?

    This claim of FOIA conspiracy is a diversionary tactic. Ypsilanti City Hall is not Area 51 (or is it Steve?) or even worse Detroit City Hall. The reason why governments need to see FOIA requests FOIA because its proper procedure. The law says that the government unit can charge the requester for the FOIA. In order for that information to be discovered an employee needs to 1)stop working on government business 2)spend X amount of days or weeks researching and compiling information for the request. Lets not assume that City Hall has all this information in a nice little package with “to:steve” on it. If ypsilantisfuture recieved information from a FOIA they filed free of charge SCIT would be screaming “do you know how MONEY the city spent giving them that information!”

    I’m sure now SCIT will go on diverting attention by talking about FOIA and igonoring the factual debate ypsilantis future is trying to engage them in about the PROPOSED INCOME TAX.

  48. Union Household
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Months ago, before the city council had voted on the tax, I addressed them and said that I could not possibly see how they could sell their scheme to the people. Well, lo and behold, they have chosen fear as their method of motivation for a yes vote. It may have worked for certain paranoid presidents in the post 9/11 period, but for Ypsilanti, well, it’s a dismally poor tactic that I am hopeful people will see through. They could have expressed the positive results and improvements that such added revenue would have brought to our city, but they have offered nothing except a vague promise that the inevitable will be delayed for a few years in hopes that a knight in moneyed armor will come to the rescue. Remembering the recession of the late seventies, it took nearly twenty years for a turn around. This was evidenced in the new housing development on Rue-Deville. Twenty years to finally fill out the street. I don’t think the six year time limit on the tax will be near enough, and when it comes up again, the pro-tax people will be clamoring for its renewal with “We need more time” slogans. If we defeat it now, and defeat it overwhelmingly, then we can begin to make some serious progress towards fixing our city. Eleven months squandered and polarization of the community are the results of this ill advised proposal. The sooner it dies, the better for us all.

    John Delcamp

  49. maryd
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    dirtgrain- it was an attempt at humor and a bit of irritation with those that find issue with other’s free speech. Sorry if it gave you McCarthyism chills. An unfortunate choice of words, for which I apologize.
    Pissed off is on the fence and is disgusted with the tenor of this discussion. Democracy is messy and sometimes mud gets slung, it is a time-honored tradition dating back to our forefathers (And is endemic to Ypsilanti politics, stick around). Some feel politics, religion and sex are beyond the pale for polite discussion but then they must be terribly boring.
    This discussion could not be any worse than sitting in the Professor’s Public Hearings for the 3rd time, hearing his same jokes and his insistence on his impartiality (LOL!).
    I am voting NO and I encourage you too to vote NO on Nov. 6th.

  50. visitor
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    “Well, lo and behold, they have chosen fear as their method of motivation for a yes vote. It may have worked for certain paranoid presidents in the post 9/11 period, but for Ypsilanti, well, it’s a dismally poor tactic that I am hopeful people will see through.”

    OK ITS OFFICIALLY OK TO LAUGH AGAIN ON THIS THREAD.

    PLANTE MORAN, ED KORYZNO, CONAN SMITH, JOE OHREN… OSAMA BIN LADEN?

  51. egpenet
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Fellow Property Owners:

    We’ve done it to ourselves … ridden the wave of equity growth and debt increases to the point that is unsustainable. And those of us who bought anything with a variable rate credit card or a subprime delight from Rock Financial since 2002 are in for a ride.

    Those of us who have been around for a while are watching the dollar going down and prices of everything going up. I’m on Social Security and I supplement my income in five or six different ways … but I still struggle to pay bills and cut everywhere I can.

    My opinion is that we have professionals at every level in City Hall. But we have to tell them, as we say at Dos Hermanos, “No Mas!” … UNLESS we get much, much more detail and transparency.

    Yah, yah, yah, the budget is on the website. “Madre Dios!” Who can read that 250 odd page thing and it keeps shifting.
    Big decisions … cuts everywhere else except fire #1, police #2 and bus service #3. Thanks to AATA … bus service should be OK. So we have TWO priorities. All else is fair game.

    The new DepotTown CDC will keep Riverside Park and Frog Island Park alive and well.
    The new downtown DTA … no thanks to the DDA or Chamber … will keep downtown going with activities and promotions. The State of Michigan Blue Ribbon panel will get started in January … thanks to the DDA, so there’s some State attention being paid to our issues.

    The Starkweather House is in good hands. The Ave Maria site is sold and will house a new private enterprise for the tax rolls. And Dave Curtis’s Mongolian Grille and the newly renovated Elbow Room will be open soon.

    There’s so much more great news …

    But what we’ve done to ourselves with debt and easy money is going to hurt us for the next two to three years, with special thanks to Lansing’s inexperienced and virtually screwed up politics.

    We’ll muddle through and get the job done of rebuilding Ypsilanti, basically by ourselves.

    The first step is NO on Tuesday. The second step is insisting on priorities #1 and #2. The third step is riding herd on the city budget, buckaroo by buckaroo. Tuesday nights will never be the same.

    P.S. My vote is for “The Olympians” and my second choice is “The Generals.”

    I love’ya, Ypsi.

    G’night.

  52. Posted October 30, 2007 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Once again, there is a shortage of facts proffered by Ol’ E. I supported Keep Ypsi Rollin’, with my time, with my money, and I signed their petition.

    As far as SCIT members, we are just ordinary citizens each of us with just one vote. I disagree with the previous writer who suggested that anyone in this community is not an ordinary citizen. We are all ordinary citizens. As soon as anyone, a voter or elected official, starts to think they are not an ordinary citizen, that their stuff doesn’t stink or that they have all the answers, it becomes the path to a dictatorship and anarchy.

    Everyone has ideas on how to balance the budget and make ends meet. Many have differing ideas. Those that are in power have decided those ideas wont work and will need to forward their own plan. The current leaders have suggested a City Income Tax. Now as citizens we are debating that idea and on Tuesday we will let our elected officials know what we think of their plan. Remember this is their plan. They are asking us to vote on their plan.

    So on Tuesday we get to find out, what everyone else thinks of their plan.

    But beyond Tuesday, we are still ordinary citizens and our success will be the willingness of everyone involved to listen, share, be respectful, and move forward. What I fear if this issue is defeated are the “punishment cuts” to prove to the supporters of the No vote that they were wrong by slashing police and fire and gutting other needed service like bus in a vain attempt to prove a point. I hope we can all rise above it, I am hopeful and optimistic that we can, no matter how the vote comes out on Tuesday.

    Mayor Schreiber said it best when he said, “The City Income Tax doesn’t solve the problem.”

    I think voters in this community want our elected officials to put forth a plan that solves the problem. Then we can decide what sort of services we want and how we are going to pay for them. But this current plan is just a three or four year stop gap, there is still no real plan on how the problem can be really solved.

    All that has been put forward is a plan that at best holds off the wolves for three years.

    The problem doesn’t get easier by waiting longer. If we need to solve the problem, lets fix it now. The longer we put it off the worse it gets.

    No leaky roof gets better if you wait a couple of years before you repair it. And the fix is never cheaper the longer you wait. If this is supposed to be a temporary fix, then lets quit messing around and lets fix the problem.

    If the problem is not fixable, then be honest with the voters and tell us you can’t fix the problem.

    However, there are communities all over this country that have already dealt with these problems and we can learn from them, use their experience, to craft policies and plans that truly fix the problems and challenges we are facing today.

    This problem can and will be fixed. The real question is this: who will be the leaders in the community to stand up and fight for the best solution? Not a quickie fix, a slap-dash roof patch, that does nothing to address the fundamental problems. we don’t need a finger in the dike solution that ends up costing everyone in the community more and more money but never solves the real problem. We need a real solution, a real plan to our fiscal problems. That is the plan we need and that is the plan the voters want to see from our elected officials.

    If our elected officials need help coming up with that plan, there are a lot of folks inside and outside this community that would be glad to step up and help. All our elected officials have to do is just ask, we will be there.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  53. Posted October 30, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I like Generals, I least like Phoenix.

    – Steve

  54. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    observer,

    I apologize. I wasn’t trying to twist Steve’s comment.

    Those who have chosen sides have slipped into the place where we no longer give each other the benefit of the doubt. For that reason, I’ve been trying to limit my comments.

    Maybe I owed Steve the benefit of the doubt. But, honestly, it seemed to me that he was intentionally omitting facts by, to me, seemingly accusing Council for criticizing (again, however well intentioned, AATA was one reason I moved to Ypsi) a plan that virtually everyone, as Brian Robb recently posted, failed to support.

    Steve mentioned that the four yes-tax folks opposed it. He neglected to mention that he and the three no-tax council voters opposed it. That, to me, seemed to be an attempt to intentionally mislead.

    Again, we’re in a place were we are each reading each others posts and assuming the worst … projecting tone and intent. Maybe I did that. Maybe that’s what we’re all doing at this point.

    As for coming together again, on my walk tonight I smiled and waved at neighbors with red signs. Tomorrow night, I plan to follow my daughter to their doors for treats.

    This is a hard issue. Ypsi’s in a hard place. It’s unpleasant that we’re forced to have this discussion, but I don’t see any evil monsters on my block. Just folks trying to make sense of something that is both highly personal and highly complex.

  55. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Ah. I post that and see that Steve has posted.

    Steve, did you support the ballot initiative by KYR to change the Ypsi charter? Specifically, the one Brian Robb recently referred to as:

    the proposed charter amendment brought forth last year by Keep Ypsi Rollin’ to preserve bus service that everyone (including myself) thought was a bad idea.

    (http://www.east-cross.com/?p=411)

    Sorry folks. I’m trying to lay-off.

  56. Pooty
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Union Household: “If we defeat it now, and defeat it overwhelmingly, then we can begin to make some serious progress towards fixing our city.”
    How, in your view, will that happen? What are your ideas?

    Steve Pierce: “What I fear if this issue is defeated are the “punishment cuts” to prove to the supporters of the No vote that they were wrong by slashing police and fire and gutting other needed service like bus in a vain attempt to prove a point.”
    Do you really think they would put our citizens in physical jeopardy just to make a political point? Might some such cuts simply be necessary (if not next year, then in the following couple of years), and more directly attributable to your own anti-tax jihad? Your framing of this particular wrinkle of the issue strikes me as cynical in the extreme.

  57. local firefighter
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    The following is posted on the “Ypsilantisfuture” website regarding Fire Cuts:

    “Fire Department Elimination of three additional firefighters: Would require the Fire Department to rely heavily on mutual aid and no longer be able to put out any fire other than a small room fire.”

    As Cam or Brian can vouch for, I know something about the fire business, and I am curious how the City figures they will get mutual aid while they have laid off their firefighters, and why other communities should subsidize the city’s services. Those mutual aid departments that are referenced are willing to come now and help, and YFD comes out to help when called. However, when the city administration decides to cut those positions, they can’t expect the taxpayers of Superior, Pittsfield, Augusta, and Ypsilanti Townships to fill the needs all the time. Public safety cuts should come last…
    By the way, where has there been any discussion of merger or fire consolidation. It seems to me that Ypsi Township could use YFD police services (instead of Washtenaw County Sheriff), and Ypsi City could use Ypsi Twp. Fire services…

  58. Posted October 30, 2007 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ E,

    You post to observer was pretty cool, nice job.

    Yes, like I posted earlier, I really did support KYR. Initially I wasn’t a supporter but Cam and Laura met with me early on to talk about the issues and I became a believer. In fact it was during those early discussions that I really got to meet both Laura and Cam for the first time. Before that it was just through the blogs.

    I was really offended when Barry LaRue verbally attacked Laura outside of a polling place during, if I remember correctly, a school board election and LaRue accused Laura of being like Tom Monaghan — an outsider meddling in City politics. This all too often happens. You try to help and the politicos jump up and snap at you because they disagree with and instead ofarguing the merits for or against, it becomes a personal attack.

    I was involved with the committee from the very beginning, helping with committee registration with the County, getting the website setup, and helped with the press conference that Laura held announcing the campaign at the Ypsi AATA and then worked on getting the word out to the press. I also got the KYR campaign a spreadsheet of current voter records to help with the door to door efforts.

    I supported their efforts by speaking passionately at City council asking them to not cut buses and to get behind the charter amendment. I was one of over 500 people that signed the petition and my company hosted, in fact still hosts their website.

    I don’t see any evil monsters on this blog too. I like passion, and I like opinions. If I make a mistake I will admit. If I said something stupid call me out on it.

    But I am also going to stand my ground and I am going to tell you my position and how I came to it. I hope you will also understand that sometimes people change their minds and I hope you will respect a person and believe them when they tell you they did change their mind.

    I don’t find this or any conversation about the community we love unpleasant. And I hope that we can keep this discussion going on-line and if we can ever meet face to face, I will buy the first round and together we can make a toast to good friends and a great community.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  59. egpenet
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I said good night twice. I need my sleep! But Mr. Firefighter (my son is a Fire Captain in Missouri) are you telling me no one is talking consolidation with the Township … control! control! control!

    This is what I bogged about earliwer tonight … “It’s my little firee department and I want me to be in control.” For Pete’s sake! (No offense, Peter M.) … we are all citizens of the Township … and when MY house was on fire, the township showed up to help. I am forever grateful for our guys and gals, and the Township guys and gals who helped save my home.

    Let’s vote NO and then start off clean, smart and hand-in-hand. If the townies and the shipper’s are having a problem talking … let us citizens know and we’ll get into the mix. I undertsna d there’s a lot of old wood hidden in the closeet. OK. Let’s clean out the closet. Time’s a wastin’. This is topo good a part of the State of Michigan to waste more time and more dollars feudin’. Let’s grow up and clean up!

    If I keep blogging my dogs will insist on goin’ out another time and I’m too tired. G’night!

  60. observer
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    OEC,

    Apology accepted. Thank you.

    I’m tired, my eyes are blurry, but it looks like people are trying to play nice.

    I love this politically charged little town, though times like these can make tempers short. We all have to be neighbors before and after any election, and so far it’s worked out pretty well. I trust it will again.

  61. Mark H.
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Five points:

    1. there are lots of fine people on each sides of this Ypsi tax issue, and neither side is without strong arguments. I think the personnel attacks should be dropped. Argue ideas and means of analysis, as well as premises, and do so pointedly, but don’t speculate on the motives of one’s opponents.

    2. one of the hidden costs of this proposed tax is that when it’s settled, there will be more, not less distrust in town than before the debate.

    3. the city govt. does have a serious problem in transparency – and even in returning polite phone calls from citizens. The buck gets passed up the line, and then it stalls out – that’s my experience. How one views our city hall is probably the greatest determinate of how Ypsi people vote on this.

    4. the motives and questions of the YpsiVotes group are honorable and honest. Any suggestion to the contrary must arise from being ill informed or overly heated up by the electoral contest.

    5. While I am voting against the tax, and urge all good people (and bad ones as well) to vote NO, I think comparisons to the Boston tea party are overdrawn. Maybe cute as theater, but weak as analysis. That tax on tea was a merely symbolic tax by the British govt., an effort to get the colonials to admit parliament had the right to tax the colonies; in fact, the tea, with a tax, cost less than it had before, because parliament has relaxed other restrictions on the East India Company that imported the tea. But the patriots in Boston weren’t gonna accept even a symbolic tax, so they tossed the tea and started a revolution. The city income tax that’s proposed will start no revolution, no matter the outcome on Nov 6 — but it is far more than a symbolic tax. It’s one percent of income for residents, and probably more for residents who don’t get the roll back.

  62. Posted October 30, 2007 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Pooty,

    I am just reporting things as I see them, Don’t take my word, check the facts and then draw your own conclusions.

    Case in point. What has the supporters of higher income taxes been telling us. Vote yes or the City will cut 3 firefighters.

    So lets talk fire for a moment. To have a full complement and provide all those cool services like EMS and aggressive attack fire fighting that got us our low ISO rating, the city says we need 23 firefighters including the chief and fire marshal.

    The YES folks are saying they plan to cut 3 firefighters and reduce head count to 20 if the Income Tax does not pass.

    I think everyone would agree, right now with no cuts, we have a pretty good fire department. I would argue we have one of the best in the state.

    How many firefighters do you suppose we have right now. Not 23. Not 22.

    Would you believe 20. Yep you guessed it, the city has already eliminated three positions.

    Moreover, two of our firefighters are on long term disability for injuries so we only have 17 firefighters working plus the chief. And one of the 17 firefighters is scheduled to leave before the end of the year. So by the end of the year, the department will be down 19 total firefighters. With two out on injury, we are down to 16 which is more than twice the number the YES folks say they will cut to if no City Income Tax.

    Folks we are already at the level the YES folks keep saying is bad news if they cut three (3) firefighters. Yet EMS calls are still be answered, Fires are being fought, and heart attack victims are being saved. I don’t thing the opposition has told anyone about this. They don’t want you to know that they have already made the cuts to fire before the election has even occurred.

    Now you asked a very fair question when you asked “Do you really think they would put our citizens in physical jeopardy just to make a political point?”

    I hope not, I really do. But here is my concern. Having just 17 fire fighters to cover 3 24 hour shifts is causing a lot of overtime. That means you have tired firefighters which means that you are increasing the chance that a firefighter is going to get hurt on the job. Remember these men and women work 24 hour shifts. So when they pull over time they end up working a 48 hour shift.

    It isn’t like being a factory rat and working 2 extra hours each day and 6 hours on Saturday. These are tough shifts and it means more time away from family and reduces your recovery time from one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

    Now step back for a moment. This past summer we had a real chance at meaningful regional cooperation between the City and the Township with the joint response agreement. This plan would mean that Ypsi City and Township departments would simultaneously respond to any fire call inside the city or township. That means a quicker response to major fires, it means more firefighters on the scene which means it is safer when they enter a burning building. Great concept, little to no additional cost and substantially improve response time and save lives both firefighters and citizens.

    Then remember we had not one but two fire fighters killed while off duty in the last year. The last member killed was in the plane crash while on a life flight to procure an organ for a patient at U-M hospital. Besides being a firefighter, Rick LaPensee was a flight nurse for U-M organ procurement program. He along with the rest of the crew were killed in the plane crash this past summer.

    You know what the city did. They didn’t fill his position telling the firefighters they would wait until after the City Income Tax to see what they would do.

    Well that is putting the rest of the staff at risk because they are working extra overtime to cover the shifts and they are working more tired because of these extra shifts.

    Worse, the township is skeptical that the City was using the joint response to cover up for man shortages inside the city. When the Township learned that LaPensee’s position was not to be filled, the township backed out of the agreement. They are willing to proceed with the agreement but only if the City gets up to full staffing. But the City says they won’t do that.

    So this sunk the first real chance we had at regionalization and trust building with township officials, one of the critical points in the blue ribbon report was to build trust, and this decision to not hire firefighters is putting the lives of our firefighters at serious risk.

    So is this cynical. I don’t know, you need to decide. But what it does prove. That we won’t ever succeed at regionalization if we can’t even meet our partners half way and you can judge for yourself the effect of a 3 person cut on our fire staff. We are down 4 right now and down 5 by the end of the year. The City is currently operating 5 firefighters short tonight as we speak.

    Should those cuts have ever happened. I say no. Should LaPensee’s spot been filled, absolutely. They had the budget last year and this year to hire new firefighters but choose not too.

    And don’t buy into this argument that they don’t want to turn around and layoff a new hire if the City Income Tax doesn’t pass.

    They just hired a new assistant city manager that makes over $70,000 a year and she is cut in year two or three of their plan. They also recently hired at least three new people in the clerks office in the last year, two new planners, new DDA director, and new hires all over city hall. Most if not all of those recent hires are cut in the the current Solvency Plan from the City manager by year three.

    But they won’t hire a new firefighter to replace a guy killed in a plane accident. We didn’t need to hire new City clerk folks. We could have used that money for a part time clerk and contracted with the County to run elections. But the City manager with the blessing of City Council hired a new City clerk and new support staff and choose not to hire one much less three new firefighters.

    So you need to decide for yourself, do you want to have planners and election clerks or firefighters. Me, if I have to make a choice, I want my firefighters first, I want them safe, and I want the department staffed so they are not at any unnecessary risk because someone is trying to prove a point about how bad it will be with 3 firefighters cut.

    Nothing to cheer about here,

    – Steve

  63. mark
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Dirtgrain, I’m honored that you think so highly of my opinion, but I have no intention of posting anything here about how I plan to vote. I think keeping my mouth shut about the last mayoral election was probably the best move I ever made (at least blogging-wsie), and I don’t want to undo all of that by choosing a side now. I think it’s necessary for the community to have relatively neutral places to discuss issues of importance. I fall short of that sometimes, like when I champion a particular cause, but I always try to keep an open mind and welcome debate.

    And, Steve, thank you for your comment. I’m moving it to the front page. The most critical deciding factor for a number of the people I’ve spoken with in the community is how fire, police and EMS service will be impacted if a tax does not pass. I’m glad that you brought it up… Hopefully someone from the other side will post a response.

  64. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Mark H.

    Just by way of info as we try to figure out the regressive issue. Are you aware that city income tax payments give you a credit on State income taxes and that it is at a progressive rate?

    You receive a 20% for the first $100 you pay in CIT, 10% of the
    next $50 you pay, and 5% of anything above that.

    Keeping the math simple (leaving out deductions) the real tax rate for folks earning 10k would be .8 percent.

    Just something that should be factored in.

  65. Posted October 31, 2007 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Sorry to nitpick, OEC, but I don’t think you can leave deductions out of your analysis since landowners are far more likely to itemize, and persons with income in the $10K range are far more likely to not itemize. The primary benefits of itemizing on the federal returns are to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes, so if you don’t own a home and don’t itemize, you don’t get any credit for local taxes. Most people with $10K in income wouldn’t be able to itemize anyway, as generally speaking their standard deduction would far exceed their itemized deductions.

    I would suggest that the federal credit is more likely to increase the regressive nature of the tax, as landowners will tend to benefit not only from Council’s millage rollback, but additionally by deducting the income tax on their federal tax returns. Unfortunately, non-landowners won’t generally receive that benefit.

  66. Union Household
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Pooty: First of all, the city can eliminate more of the non-essential fluff a.s.a.p. (see the solvency plan and pick some out, there are many, particularly in the third year scenario. Next, the city can reopen the freight house using some of their rainy day money that they have insisted on sitting on. Much work was put into the freight house when it was first considered and throwing out all of that effort has discouraged many people. Reopening it would show a sign of progress to those who made the place their Saturday morning destination. The city can also do something to show progress at Water Street. The only time this lovely piece of water front is used for is to park vender vehicles at the Heritage Festival. The city can solicit ideas from its citizens on how to incrementally move the project forward, one step at a time. They can also bring the fire department up to full staff and begin a serious attempt to incorporate the department with the township. The city can also promote and market our excellent police department to the nearby townships that are disgruntled with the county. If successful, this could lead to expanding the department. The city could also offer to cover pop-up property tax increase to new home seekers for a couple of years as an incentive to buy. The lost revenue from this would be made up by having occupied houses with people to spend their incomes in town and by rising property values from a newly invigorated market. The city can also become a catalyst in helping new businesses to get started by smoothing over the red tape as opposed to being a stumbling block.

    These examples are just a few ideas. Many people, smarted than I, have some much better plans, but the threat of an income tax has made it impossible for anything else to be seriously considered.

  67. Citizen Blogger
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m just now hearing about this state tax credit.

    trusty, it looks like you aren’t quite right on the terminology. A CIT appears to be a Federal DEDUCTION (reduces your taxable income), but a State CREDIT (counts directly against your tax liability). From the State legislature website,

    (2) The credit shall be computed as follows:

    If the total city income tax is: The credit shall be:

    $100.00 or less
    >> 20% of the city income taxes

    Over $100.00 but not over $150.00 >> $20.00 plus 10% of the excess over $100.00

    Over $150.00
    >> $25.00 plus 5% of the excess over $150.00, but the total credit shall not exceed $10,000.00.

    So the lowest income residents, making less than $10,000 + $1,000 per exemption, get a 20% credit, while the highest income get about a 5%+ credit.

    It looks like the SCIT income tax calculator does not factor this in. When I test an income of $11000, 1 exemption, and no taxable value, it rather humorously returns a percentage increase of “Infinity”.

    The blue ribbon addendum does not include this credit either. When I recalculate the bottom and top income columns in that report, I get .72% and .70% (compared to the .85% / .77% spread without this credit). It doesn’t completely equalize, but it is significant.

  68. Glen S.
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Union Household said: “The city can also promote and market our excellent police department to the nearby townships that are disgruntled with the county.”

    This is a GREAT idea. In fact, Ypsilanti is currently participating in a Regional Police Authority Study (along with Ann Arbor, Augusta, Northfield, Salem, Superior, York, and Scio, and Ypsilanti City). The group is currently contracting with a firm to study a regional police authority.

    Meanwhile…

    * Ypsilanti was recently in discussions, along with Ypsilanti Township and Superior Township, to collaborate on a joint request for bids from solid waste collection contractors. In the end, all three governments accepted separate bids, but, for the first time, our contracts are now all synchronized to expire in 2014 – for another try.

    * The City is actively involved in the “Aerotropolis” project – a multi-governmental effort to spur business development around Metro and Willow Run airports. Other participants include Ypsilanti Township, Washtenaw County, and Wayne County.

    * The City is working to develop “SPARK-East,” a proposed small business incubator that would partner Ypsilanti with EMU, Washtenaw County, and Ann Arbor Spark. The goal is to have the incubator in downtown Ypsilanti – and the former Smith Furniture site is at the top of the list.

    * Ypsilanti also applied for and received a Blueprint for Michigan Cities Grant that will
    fund a business plan for downtown Ypsilanti. To that end, the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority has already formed a committee of local business-people to help create the plan.

    * The Depot Town Association Community Development Corporation has formed a CDC to improve, operate, and expand programming at Riverside Park and Frog Island – in an effort to draw more visitors (tax revenue) to Ypsilanti. Under the agreement, the city still owns the parks and maintains approval authority.

    * Regarding Water Street – Ypsilanti recently participated in a major Chicago conference sponsored by the National Brownfields Association. Several developers showed interest, and follow-up has been initiated. I’m told that a developer who is active neighboring States has toured the site in the past few days and expressed interest in further information.

    * Ypsilanti is also working with the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to showcase the site at the National Brownfields Association national conference in Detroit in May 2008.

    It seems to me that some folks are so busy blaming City Hall for not being proactive enough – that they’re missing some of the very real, very positive initiatives that are already underway.

  69. On the Fence
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Trusty,

    Your $10,000 household being less likely to itemize/file a tax return also fails to consider the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal tax credit given to low income families. You don’t have to itemize for that, you get it based on your income and family size. But you do have to file an income tax to get it. There are also economic benefits to file your state income tax if you qualify for the federal EITC.

    So a family making around $10,000 would get the EITC and also get the city income tax credit because they’re already doing their taxes. The EITC has created a dramatic increase in poor families filing state and federal income taxes (hence the unfortunate explosion of H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and their userous tax refund loans/advances etc. in the age of Turbo Tax and other online, easy to use tax programs.). The old stats/assumptions that poor folks rarely file tax returns is no longer true because of the EITC.

    If someone doesn’t qualify for the EITC because they don’t have children, they likely fall into one of the city income tax exemption categories (social security, pension, etc.)

  70. Dirtgrain
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I suppose I was trying to take the easy way out–hoping to have you tell me who is dissembling here. I do not want to know how you are voting. But I do want to know if these claims about Ypsilanti’s government are correct.

    As a voter, I should demand proof (not testimony on character). I’m not seeing proof from either side of this debate. Many claims. Many “look it up and see for yourself” comments. But proof? I don’t think I’ve seen anything that will sway me one way or the other (in relation to the questions I asked in my previous post). In such a scenario, logic is dictating that I don’t vote for changing the current system.

    Eh, screw it, I stil can’t decide. To supporters of both sides: please sway me with proof.

  71. dirtgrain
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Has any reporter uncovered any corruption in the Ypsilanti government? Has a reporter confronted this FOIA circumvention? I’ve not seen any such reports in the Ann Arbor News (my rickety mind recalls none). I would think Steve’s story about ridiculous cost of FOIA requests and the low-down on how many firefighters are employed would make for a worthy news story.

  72. rodneyn
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Nice try, Dirtgrain. ‘It must be o.k. because the Ann Arbor News hasn’t written the definitive word yet.’ At what point did the Ann Arbor News write its first article on PROBLEMS with Water Street? Many glowing, happy articles were written about the project, but it wasn’t until the disaster was so obvious it could not be avoided.

  73. Posted October 31, 2007 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    On the Fence: Since the EIC is available regardless of the CIT, that doesn’t factor into the equation in the federal return. It doesn’t affect the analysis one way or the other. People who qualify for it get it regarless of the CIT.

    Also, the EIC is on the 1040EZ, so even if someone files one of those to get the EIC, they can’t itemize deductions — they’ll get the standard deduction only.

    Citizen Blogger: You are, of course, correct with your state credit calculations. What OEC was trying to explain, I think, was whether the tax was less regressive when you factor in state taxes. But if you are going to add credits from other taxes, the sound approach is to take them all into consideration, not just some of them. It is misleading to focus on the state credit while ignoring the federal deduction, because they work against each other in the context of a CIT, particularly when discussing landowners vs. non-landowners.

    So, when all taxes are factored in, the modest state credit does not actually make the tax less regressive, because its relatively small credit will be eclipsed by the larger credit afforded by itemizing the tax. This is something that will be an option to a much greater extent for landowners as opposed to non-landowners.

    Thus, if state and federal taxes are left out of the equation, the tax is regressive. If they are both factored in, the tax is regressive.

  74. dirtgrain
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Nice try, my ass. I’m not buying all the accusations of city government wrongdoing until you all put up some proof (I’m not saying it’s unfathomable (I remember the shady school board and superintendent the Ypsi schools used to have)–just that it needs to be proven and not just claimed). We’ve heard claims that they want to tax the crap out of us to fluff up their lofty salaries and to maintain their useless positions. Prove it. People have implied that our Ypsi leaders don’t have our best interests in mind. Prove it. Innuendo may be an effective political tool–but it is crap, and it undermines democracy. One could throw out just as many innuendos about the anti-tax crowd (psst, they’re a bunch of greedy, rich people who don’t care about Ypsi’s future–or, they’re so wrapped up in bitterness about the outcome of the last mayoral election that they pettily fight against our future–or. . .).

    Pierce posts this hot detail about the fire department, and I’m all like “Whoah, that seems crappy.” Then Schreiber posts numbers that are slightly off of Pierce’s report. I step back and realize, “What was Pierce’s point again? Smoke, no fire?” Come up with something substantial, please.

    If we get another “here’s something you don’t know about Ypsi” line without proof, I’m going to flip out.

  75. visitor
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Dirt grains got a point. Its up to both sides to substantiate their claims. Lets debate the facts not try to distract the public from them.

  76. rodneyn
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Nice try, dirtgrain.

  77. dirtgrain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Ok, got ya. I played the “proof” card. What a fool I am. Wink, wink.

  78. Glen S.
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    The “YES” campaign’s answers to the YpsiVotes “virtual debate” questions are available at:

    http://www.ypsilantisfuture.com/

  79. amused1
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I am very much on the fence about this tax thing. Given the situation of my household the tax would have a marginal effect on my end of year financial state. That said, here are my non tax-deductible 2 cents:

    Would a tax drive out business and residents? Possibly.

    Would a tax give the city and state time to find better alternatives? Possibly.

    Would a tax create division among the community? Um, read the above comments posted by our neighbors.

    Does the city waste money? Perhaps.

    Is the SCIT lawsuit a waste of city money? Perhaps.

    Is the city alone in facing a financial crisis? Nope.

    According to David Rusk, a recognized expert in urban planning and development, the city is facing a crisis that will hit the surrounding communities in the near future. It is his studied opinion that the situation in the city is less about mismanagement and more about the way the overall system is rigged against aging communities.

    His study of the area showed the other communities, specifically citing the township, as being closer to crisis than most folks realize.

    Interestingly enough, Rusk said that the city was actually better prepared to face the upcoming crisis than many surrounding communities because the city had relatively recently updated much of the infrastructure: water, sewer, roads, etc. Yes, some roads are aleady showing wear and tear but think about how much worse they’d be if they hadn’t been worked on over the past 5 or so years.

    If the city is the first domino to fall it’s pretty sure to have company soon enough.

    Will a tax stop this from happening? Perhaps.

    But my feeling is that the local communities who are watching Ypsi with a “Good thing it’s not us.” sense of relief (or smugness) are doing so at their own peril.

    Whatever the outcome of the vote on Tues., we residents of the city really need to talk to our friends in neighboring communities about the benefits of regional cooperation. I doubt if politicians are going to freely share power, money, control, etc. without some pretty darn strong incentives. If we the people don’t ask for regional cooperation politicians have little reason to change their current behaviour until crisis forces them to. Personally, I prefer avoiding crisis rather than managing it.

    There… my non tax-deductible 2 cents. ;^)

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