ypsivotes asks their questions on the city income tax

No word back from either of the camps yet, but the final YpsiVotes questions went out to both sides today at noon. There are difficult questions, but I think that folks on both sides would agree that they’re fair. Here’s the list. You can decide for yourself… Thanks to everyone who contributed questions. As you’ll notice, we didn’t hit on everything, but I believe we were able to get most of the big issues in, and do it in such a way that questions were applicable to both sides. Assuming both groups reply with their answers by Friday, the results will be in the November 1 issue of the “Courier.”

Q1: Michigan’s older, developed cities are struggling due to decreasing State revenue sharing and the affects of the Headlee Amendment, yet Ypsilanti is the only city currently proposing an income tax. Why?

Q2: It’s been reported that, since 2000, income collected by the city of Ypsilanti has been increasing at a rate of 1.6% annually, while expenses have been growing at a rate of 2.6%. The gap between the two is widening, and, according to current law, we have to pass a balanced budget. Even with an increase in revenue, it’s still inevitable that deep cuts will need to be made if the tax does not pass. What programs and services would you recommend be cut? Please be specific.

Q3: How will the tax passing or failing impact the Water Street development, on which so much of our future is riding? Are there studies that show how similar taxes, like those passed previously in 22 Michigan cities, have impacted home sales, property values, new development, etc?

Q4: Do tax-exempt institutions like Eastern Michigan University, the City’s largest employer of non-Ypsi residents, have an obligation to help contribute to the cost of providing City services from which they benefit? If so, is there any way other than an income tax for the City to be equitably compensated?

Q5: If the tax passes, projections suggest that by 2013 expenses will again outstrip income. What can be done between now and then to better prepare Ypsilanti for the fiscal challenges that may be waiting?

Q6: Does this tax, given the fact that it’s being coupled with a 2mil rollback on property taxes, disproportionally impact renters and the poor?

Q7: Win or lose, what will you do to bring our community back together after this election?

Once we get back the responses from both sides, the plan is to share them with the opposing group, and allow them a chance to respond. They won’t be able to go back and change their already submitted answers based upon the responses given by the other side, but they will have an opportunity to address issues raised by the opposing side in this concluding statement.

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  1. frenchfries
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Not trying to be a schmendrick, but is it possible that part of Q3 answers Q1? If 22 Michigan cities have already passed taxes, how many are left? As a new resident in MI, I am a little surprised to learn that MI has at least 22 cities.

  2. rodneyn
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    frenchfries: “As a new resident in MI, I am a little surprised to learn that MI has at least 22 cities.”

    Wow. Spoken like a true New Yorker (or Parisian?). Yes, we Michi-billies and Ypsi-tuckians sho’nuf know how to build lotsa them cities lik’n thay have out east. Sho’nuf do!

  3. Posted October 25, 2007 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Frenchfries –

    “city” is a legal term, not a comment on populousness. In Washtenaw County alone, we have 5: Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Milan, Saline, and Ypsilanti. The middle three of those have fewer than 10,000 residents within their boundaries. When you include Villages and Townships, I think Washtenaw has 27ish total local governments.

    Oakland County, (half of) Detroit’s northern suburbs, has 30 cities, 62 total local governments.

  4. Visitor
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    For Q2, you may want to revise it a bit to say “What programs and services would you recommend be cut ^to balance the budget each year^? Please be specific.”

    This would result in answers that completely answer the question rather than vaguely answer it.

    Will the Courier’s other coverage for the week this Q & A is published be as unbiased as these questions are? The last two weeks’ issues of the Courier have been unbelievably slanted towards the anti-tax position, especially this week’s article with business owners. Dan, there are quite a few business owners who are in favor of the income tax and it’s not hard to find them. How about a balanced article on the income tax and business owners, not just your personal views of the income tax justified through like-minded interviewees.

  5. egpenet
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I have beeen a shocked and nasty and embittered voice on this issue … but what I see nationally, state-wide, county-wide and here in the city is a total lack of creativity and clear thinking on the part of the goverment and our elected representatives.

    It’s business as usual, save the system … although a few old leaf-bearing limbs may be hacked off in the negotiations … but above all, save the system, save our powerbase, save how we finance it all.

    Everyone points up the chain starting with council, who points to the mayor, who points to the city manager, who points to the township and the county, who point to the state and the state who points to Washington. “Nice job, Brownie!” is all I can say to all of you.

    And I’ll add the poly sci faculty at EMU to this group, who teach the system, consult with the system and appear willing to defend it against all odds AND against the will of the people. Wait till Tuesday evening.

    I apologize to the mayor and the public housing people who I spoke poorly to … but my feelings haven’t changed.

    Water Street will happen. Ed Koryzno and the young planners and zoners we have working for the city are super class. Growth is continuing downtown, despite these silly election battles … witness two new stores opening up (Fashions, Gift/Cards) … and Ave Maria site is back on the rolls!

    To answr all of the above questions … I may vote NO, but if the city needs help, then take fire and police reductions off the table and craft a better salvage plan for me to vote on.

    I will LOAN the city $21 a month at the current Fed Funds rate if they need it, but I won’t give it up as a tax (even though it’s deductible). I don’t need the state deduction, but I DO need the income. I’ll loan them more at that rate.

    I will gladly pay the truee total cost for any city service … $20 to stop for leaf pickup or limbs … $3-5 for a one-way bus ride to Ann Arbor (saving gas, parking, cost of owning a car! wow!) … increased fees for permits, inspections etc. SURE! $5 to get into the Heritage Festival (as long as the food quality improves) … stronger enforcement of parkland restorations by Festival Sponsors with hefty rehab penalties (my Riverside Park STILL looks like the Taliban were there). Pay as you go.

    The OLD way of thinking is subsidies. I’ve heard all the arguements about how big the USA is and how we neeeeed to subsidize roads, rail, air … all that. Everybody wants a subsidy. Who WOULDN’T! Those days are over. If a business or other service cannot survive without a subsidy …there’s the FIRST cut we make in Ypsilanti.

    NUMBER TWO is legacy costs. The autos did it. It’s our turn. Contract by contract, court battle by court battle. Cuts, reductions, co-pay increases, buyouts, rolling layoffs (if necessary) … the currently rapidly increasing legacy costs of the city MUST BE curtailed.

    NUMBER THREE privitization. We STILL have to pay for a service, whether it’s done in-house ou out-house. But going out-house usually reduces or eliminates altogether the commitment of legacy costs … THAT risk is borne by the private individual or company. SHIFTS to the County or State of some required services ALSO save OUR legacy costs, although not necessarily the cost of the service itself.

    NUMBER FOUR … “Ask what we can do for Ypsilanti” If I hear one more guy or gal my age about how bored they are in semi or full retiremnt, I’ll scream! I propose two things: 1) A mandatory civics class in the middle/junior and high schools on the DUTIES of CITIZENSHIP … followed up by 2) A mandatory skills inventory of every registered voter in Ypsilanti and their availability to provide those services if the City is in need governed by the same strict provisions of jury duty for appropriate excusee from service. There is no time like the present to call on US to do what WE need done. It’s our DUTY.

    There’ya’go mayor … an army of 10,000 trained, experienceed and willing citizens to do what we can to help! PLUS a bunch of kids coming up through the ranks who will take our place in the months and years to come as participatory citizens in Ypsilanti.

    Nice ideas, huh? Won’t happen, I’d bet, because THAT’S NOT THE WAY IT’S DONE.

    I can visualize a bunch of folks standing around Lincoln’s podium at the Gettysburg battlefield … and as he says “…of the people, by the people and for the people …” and they say, “Huh?” … “That’s not how we DO things in government, Abe.”

    “Power to the people” … nice thought Huey Newton. Best of luck Malcom X. “We shall overcome.” Over government’s dead bodies, Dr. King. “No tax without representation,” sounds awfully silly in 2007, Mr. Paine.

    We need change. And what need most is to be better represented … not as if we weree absentee, but asked what we really want, ask US what to prioritize. No more doomsday. We can handle the reality. You cannot govern by inference or assumotion or we seem to think this would be better for the city … so here it is … take it or suffer.

    Vote as you wish on Tuesday, but vote.


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