my last post on the ypsilanti income tax

As you all know, our city has been caught up in a very contentious debate over the income tax we’ll be voting on this November 6. I haven’t decided yet how I plan to vote. There are persuasive arguments on both sides. And, to some degree, I don’t think it really matters. By that, I mean, I suspect that people will vote against it at this time, and then maybe, over time, come to agree that there are services worth paying more for. I think this would have happened regardless of the campaigns being waged on either side right now. No one wants to vote to tax themselves more, especially in an economy such as we’re in now, and people don’t generally value services until they’re gone. So, this post isn’t about the tax per-se. It’s about something that I think is more important in the long run. It’s about transparency in local government and treating Ypsilanti voters with the respect they deserve.

In my capacity as Co-Chair of the group YpsiVotes, a local non-partisan community dialogue group, I recently delivered a list of questions to representatives of both the pro-tax Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future, and the anti-tax Stop the CIty Income Tax. (The list of seven questions can be found here.) They were carefully crafted by our committee after talking with several people in the community, and they are, by the accounts of those we’ve shared them with thus far on both sides of the debate, fair and balanced. They were specifically designed to get behind the rhetoric – on both sides – and to the heart of the matter at hand. Our hope was that both sides would answer them, and then we could run their answers side-by-side in the local press so that people could essentially compare “apples to apples” and make their own decisions. That at least was the plan. Our local Ypsi paper, the “Courier” agreed to reprint the questions and answers, the “Ann Arbor News” indicated that they would cover the results, and we had people ready to start printing and distributing copies for those in the community who might not have caught it on-line or in the paper. The problem is, only one side of the debate responded by the deadline we had set.

As it was clear that the Stop City Income Tax group, run by City Councilman Brian Robb, former Mayoral candidate Steve Pierce, and former Ypsilanti Mayor Pete Murdoch, had received the request, the only explanation I could come up with was that it was their strategy not to engage. As the measure, by all accounts, is likely to fail, I suppose they didn’t see a need to. Their side had outspent, out-organized and out-maneuvered the pro-tax side by orders of magnitude. They, at this point, must have been thinking that engaging on the issue was only likely to cost them votes. (My perception was confirmed when, quite by coincidence, two anti-tax folks sat down behind me at Big Boy one morning and began discussing their non-engagement strategy.) While I understand it on a strategic level, I find it difficult to respect this position. I, quite frankly, find it anti-democratic, and, at least on the part of Councilman Robb, to be in violation of the promise that he made to his supporters in the last election “to bring transparency to local government.”

I wrote to Councilman Robb, whom I voted for in the last election, and told him this: I told him that I, as a constituent, was disappointed in him. He was on vacation, but invited me to call him. I did, and we talked for some time. I respect Brian, and I like having him on Council. He has proven to be a tenacious advocate for the people of Ypsilanti, and I truly appreciate that he invests the time necessary to follow the money and really understand the issues. Brian confirmed that the anti-tax side had no intention of answering the questions put forward by YpsiVotes. He then went on to tell me three things that he’d been told by someone in SCIT that were not true. He had been told 1) that their people had contacted the Courier and YpsiVotes did not have an agreement for them to reprint the questions and their answers, 2) that I told Steve Pierce at some point in the past that I was pro-tax, and 3) that an SCIT member had attempted to reach me to discuss the questions. As I trust Brian, the only explanation that I can come up with is that he was lied to by someone within his group who did not want to answer the YpsiVotes questions, and was trying to come up with reasons not to do so. I sent Brian a copy of the letter I’d received from the “Courier” stating that they did in fact agree to reprint the answers from both groups, and stated unequivocally that I had never spoken with Steve Pierce about how I intended to vote on this issue.

Brian said that our questions were “hard,” but fair. And, he acknowledged the fact that the citizens of Ypsilanti deserved the answers. By the end of our conversation, he had agreed to get me his answers to the seven questions “by Tuesday or Wednesday.” We had missed the deadline for the “Courier,” but I was still confident that, if I could get Brain’s responses by Wednesday, I could get the answers of both sides laid out side by side, photocopied and distributed through neighborhood associations, churches, and coffee shops by the weekend. Well, it is now Friday night, and Brian, in spite of my many attempts, has still to respond to all the questions. (He has posted the answers to a few on his website.) When asked, he tells me that he’s answering them as fast as he can. I hate to suggest such a thing, because I truly like Brian, but the evidence would seem to indicate that he’s being deliberately slow in order to keep us from distributing materials in the community over the weekend. I really don’t see any other explanation. They have had the 7 questions for a week and a half, and, as Brian acknowledged, none of the questions came out of left field.

I should preface this last comment by saying that I do believe there are compelling reasons not to support the income tax. I’m told there are companies in Ypsilanti that have said that they would relocate if an income tax were instituted. For a struggling community like ours, we cannot afford to lose a single job that we already have, and we cannot, especially as we try to lure a developer to our Water Street development project, come across as anti-business. These, in my opinion, are legitimate reasons to vote “no” on November 6. There are, however, ramifications to voting “no,” and I think that people should know what they are so that they can make informed decisions. I’ve been party to many discussions on the tax these past several weeks, and, invariably, there’s an exchange where someone on the pro-tax side mentions that the CIty’s solvency plan calls our letting go of several police officers and firefighters should the tax not pass. Then, also invariably, someone on the anti-tax side will explain the claim away as “fear mongering.” They’ll say that the City is inefficiently managed and they’ll suggest there’s still fat to be cut. They’ll imply that police, fire and EMS service will not be impacted, but, when asked for details as to what specifically will be cut in order to deliver a balanced budget, they excuse themselves from the conversation. I feel that people deserve to know the truth. They need to know, if the tax does not pass, what it’s going to mean to them in terms of police response times, bus service, EMS availability, etc. The citizens of Ypsilanti deserve to know the facts from both sides. (I’d like to point out that the folks on the other side of the fence were asked difficult questions as well. They were asked about the impact of the tax on poor families, the fact that, even if the tax passes, we’re projected to run out of money again, etc.)

Again, I am not advocating on behalf of the tax. As I said above, I think it will fail regardless, but I felt that I had to say something about the way the anti-tax campaign was being run. I don’t appreciate these kinds of campaigns when they’re being waged at the federal level by Karl Rove and I don’t appreciate them when they’re waged locally by my friends and neighbors. And, the worst part is, I’m afraid that when the measure is ultimately defeated, as it most surely will be, that the men behind it will be emboldened to use these tactics in the future. I think that’s a very bad thing for local democracy. Maybe it makes me a democratic sap, but I still think there are more important things than just winning.

People on both sides of the so-called “debate,” however, should be embarrassed by the way they’ve behaved. When I think of the positive things this energy could have been put toward it makes me feel very sad for the city of Ypsilanti.

update: The folks on the pro-tax side have posted their answers to the YpsiVotes questons on their site.

update: Brian Robb’s responses to 4 of the 7 questions can be found on his site.

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81 Comments

  1. Posted November 3, 2007 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    I am very sorry that you feel the SCIT disrespected your request. It was never our intent. I received your personal email to me on Thursday. I immediately responded by sending an email to you asking you to call me or get me a number and I would call you. I sent it from my mobile phone via email within minutes of your Thursday email to me. I never heard back from you.

    You sent the questions to us on Wednesday. You gave us just 48 hours to respond. It simply wasn’t enough time to do a quality job and truly answer your questions rather than cut and paste answers from other articles and letters to the editor.

    Brian was out of town, I was in class plus I have a business to run and was working all day at a clients office. Pete was focused on getting mailings out and canvassing. We simply don’t have a full time staff that can just drop everything.

    On Friday I got a call from Amanda around 12 noon. She did not say what her call was about. I assumed it was about Growing Hope and planned to return her call on Monday. It was later Friday night when I spoke to Brian Robb that I learned that Amanda was on the YpsiVotes committee. She did not say she was part of the YpsiVotes committee or why she was calling me on Friday.

    I called Amanda back on Saturday around 12 noon and got her voice mail. I apologized to her for taking a day to return her call, told her to call any time. She too never called back.

    Regarding your statement, “the only explanation I (Mark Maynard) could come up with was that it was their strategy not to engage.” However, you never asked why we didn’t respond. You just assumed. You have my personal email address, you know where I live, and have my phone number, you could have called or emailed any time and simply asked why we hadn’t responded. I would have told you privately what I am writing publicly now.

    Regarding the conversation you overheard at the Big Boy but I haven’t eaten at the Big Boy in years. So it wasn’t me you over heard and Brian was out of town. When were you there and who did you over hear?

    I also have not seen the email you received from the Courier so I cannot comment on what they promised you. No one from the Courier, reporter or editor ever contacted the campaign to discuss printing our responses. But I had an email conversation with Austen last week. It was specifically on Friday, Oct 26th at 11:12am.

    In that email, Austen told me that he was not publishing any more letters to the editors and said the deadline for submissions was last week.

    Here is the full text of Austen’s email to me.

    from “Smith, Austen” asmith@heritage.com
    to Steve Pierce steve@ypsi.com
    date Oct 26, 2007 11:12 AM
    subject RE: Letters to the editor City Income Tax
    mailed-by heritage.com

    Hi Steve,
    I’m sorry, but we cannot publish any more letters re: the Income Tax for our next issue, b/c if there is a mistake or some sort of misinformation, we will not have an issue b/f the election for which to run the correction. This has been the general policy for all Heritage Newspapers for years, we did the same thing last year for the City Council/mayoral elections. There was an announcement made in our 10/18 edition stating that the 10/25 would be our last paper for running letters re: Income Tax.

    All along we understood that the Courier was publishing the full responses from the SCIT Campaign just like they had published the first set of questions they asked some 5 weeks earlier. Please note, when the Courier asked us to submit the first set of questions, they gave us nearly a week to respond to their questions.

    From Austen’s email I assumed the YpsiVotes Q&A was dead for the reasons Austen said that there would be no chance for any corrections prior to the election. I emailed you on Thursday and hadn’t heard back from you and on Friday Austen told me he had no intention of publishing anything else from the SCIT campaign.

    I had not heard from you, I did not know why Amanda was calling, and so it seemed to me as there would be no way for us to make the Friday deadline and it appeared that the Courier was not going to run the answers from the either campaign. I take full responsibility for my decisions and any blame must fall entirely on me and not Pete or Brian or any other volunteer working on this campaign.

    It bears noting that not even Austen knew about the YpsiVotes questions or what was promised. This is the person who is editor in chief of the Courier. This was evident in an email I received from Austen the next Tuesday.

    from “Smith, Austen” asmith@heritage.com
    to Steve Pierce steve@ypsi.com
    date Oct 30, 2007 1:19 PM
    subject RE: Letters to the editor City Income Tax
    mailed-by heritage.com

    In that email which again was the Tuesday, Austen said:

    If we get he QandA before 5 p.m. today we will be able to run it. Anyway, Dan has more answers than myself as I was not even made aware of this whole QandA thing until yesterday evening.

    According the editor of the Ypsilanti Courier, he was not aware of the “Q&A thing” until Monday evening, some three days after the Friday deadline and less than 24 hours from the actual Courier deadline. It was on Tuesday, with less than 4 hours to go that we first learned the deadline was extended and that the Courier was willing to accept more materials from the SCIT campaign.

    Up until Austen’s email, we were under the impression the Courier would not accept anything else from the SCIT campaign. The Courier had even rejected my own personal response to some questionable facts that had appeared in a letter from the opposition campaign the week before. Even though it was received on Tuesday Oct 23 at 10am.

    However your original email said the deadline was Friday Oct 26. No one from YpsiVotes ever communicated that the deadline had or could have been moved to Tuesday. Moreover, the editor of the paper confirmed in his email that he knew nothing about the “Q&A thing” until Monday evening, October 30th.

    Had we known that the deadline was 6 days rather than 2, we could have responded to your questions and done a credible job. Had anyone from the Courier told us that despite the prohibition for further letters or other op-ed pieces from either campaign did not apply to the YpsiVotes op-ed piece, we could have responded in time.

    I want to make one other point. You have portrayed us as ducking questions and that we are the only campaign that has refused to answer questions. That characterization is unfair and untrue.

    This week, there was a joint meeting scheduled with the editorial board of the Ann Arbor News where both campaigns were to send representatives to the Ypsi office of the Ann Arbor News to debate the issues and respond to questions from the Ann Arbor News. At the meeting was the Editor of the paper, the editor of the opinions page, and the local reporter.

    The representative(s) from the YES campaign never showed up. No phone call, no email, no nothing. After waiting some 10 minutes, the interview started with only SCIT there. The interview ended and still no one had showed up from the other campaign

    We never heard why the other side failed to show up. Moreover, this wasn’t the first time.

    The YES campaign was also invited to a public forum held several weeks ago at the Methodist church that was to be held in the basement meeting hall after church service. Mayor Schreiber declined to come or send a representative. According to Mayor Schreiber he didn’t think it was appropriate to mix church and state. That was his decision and they were free to come or send another representative if Mayor Schreiber somehow felt uncomfortable entering a church. They chose not to.

    Remember, neither campaign has professional, paid, or full time staff. We are all volunteers and we try to do everything that is asked but in the end, we will fail to do something that was asked and disappoint a supporter or critic or a pundit and no matter what is said, an apology will not be able to soothe the hurt feelings of that person or group and someone, usually an anonymous poster, will likely attack or ridicule the response as inadequate, or insincere or worse turn the whole post into more vitriolic personal attacks.

    Mark, I very much appreciate the opportunity to explain myself and I hope that after you read this explanation, you will understand that it wasn’t my intention to duck the questions, I simply could not see how we could respond in 48 hours and properly prepare meaningful answers to your questions and then after I received a personal email, before the Friday deadline, from the editor of the Courier, in which it appeared to me he was saying the entire Q&A was not going to be published because we were already past the Courier’s own deadline for new material from the campaign or campaign supporters.

    Again I take full responsibility for any frustration or anger you feel towards the campaign. The fault is entirely mine and I apologize both to you and the members of your committee. Please do not blame anyone else, the fault is not theirs, it is mine. I am responsible and I am very sorry.

    I would like to share one last thought. While I appreciate the words you shared about the SCIT campaign when you said, “Their side had outspent, out-organized and out-maneuvered the pro-tax side by orders of magnitude.”

    Please remember, we are fighting City hall and the established political elite. They are well organized, well disciplined, and a very effective campaign machine that has been in power in the city for over 12 years.

    They purposefully put this ballot issue on an off election and off year hoping few if anyone would show up to the polls. Campaign experts tell you, you want a bond or tax to pass, keep your campaign quiet, under the radar, don’t make waves and hope like hell people forget to come out to vote.

    According to one City Council member, this special election is expected to cost the citizens of Ypsilanti $23,000. So the only way to let folks know there is an election coming at a time when few, if any elections, are ever held, we have to work hard to get the word out and remind folks to vote. I am not ashamed of the hustle our volunteers have shown. In fact I am proud of the wide variety of supporters from all walks of life that have put up their time and money to help foster and promote this campaign.

    However, I don’t think this race is by any stretch a sure thing. I think this race will be very close and will likely be decided by as few as a hundred votes. There are new procedures in place with photo-id requirements that I think are going to discourage voters to come out.

    Students were discouraged to register to vote when the City Manager said at the EMU forum the only way the city would know a student needed to pay the city income tax was if the student was registered to vote. Intentioned or not, the word got out very quickly to students you wont pay the city income tax if you aren’t registered to vote and thus new voter registrations on campus quickly dried up. Ward 1 was purposefully slighted by scheduling the Town Hall meeting over a month before the election with the clear intention of drawing out few voters. The real work in any campaign is the last three weeks and by scheduling the town hall meeting a month before, it made it nearly impossible educate voters of Ward 1 about the upcoming issue.

    Signs don’t vote, people do. If there is bad weather or low voter turn out on Tuesday due to apathy, the Income Tax ballot will likely pass. But I can tell you this, no one on the SCIT campaign thinks this is a sure thing. Frankly we have always known this was an uphill battle and the chances of winning were slim at best. There is a reason they say you can’t beat city hall. It is darn near impossible to do.

    So, no matter where you stand on the issue, I encourage every citizen to exercise your right and Vote on Tuesday, November 6th.

    Any failings in the campaign to explain ourselves or respond to your questions rests solely with me as I was the one covering the campaign office last week and I failed you and your group. I again offer my sincerest apology to you and the YpsiVotes committee.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  2. Paul Schreiber
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    Speaking for the city, the income tax town hall meetings were scheduled around Prof. Ohren’s availability. City staff worried that the October 22 and 24 town halls were too late, but that was what was available.

    Speaking for myself, my email concerning mixing church and state was sent on April 2, well before the income tax ordinance was passed in July and well before the Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future registered as a ballot question committee in July. Here is Mr. Fletcher’s original request and my response (my term “eager Methodists” is in response to an interim email from Mr. Fletcher saying that the “eager Methodists” had arranged another date for me to speak):

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Credit Bureau Of Ypsilanti
    Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 2:00 PM
    To: mayor@cityofypsilanti.com
    Subject: Peter B Fletcher

    Your Honor,

    Are you available to speak to an adult Sunday school class at 11:00 am, Sunday April 22 at the First United Methodist Church, 209 Washtenaw Ypsilanti on a subect of your choosing?

    Thanks Peter B Flether

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Paul Schreiber @ Ypsilanti City [mailto:mayor@cityofypsilanti.com]
    Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 10:18 PM
    To: Credit Bureau Of Ypsilanti Ypsilanti
    Subject: RE: Peter B Fletcher

    Hello Peter,

    I don’t feel comfortable speaking about politics in a church or a Sunday school. I hope that you and the eager Methodists understand. If you and they would like to meet some other time, please let me know.

    Thanks again for the invitation.

    Paul

    Paul Schreiber
    Mayor, City of Ypsilanti

  3. mark
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughtful response, Steve. I just with the effort that went into writing it had been directed toward the questions that were asked a week and a half ago.

    As for the suggestion that we did not have a deal with the “Courier” to reprint the questions and answers, here’s the response I got back from Dan Duchene after writing to he and Austen:

    Mark,

    Thanks for the compliment.

    Secondly, I talked to Austen about it, and we’re willing to help. However, we would need what ever it is you’re going to publish by Sunday, Oct. 28, so that it can run in the Nov. 1 edition of the Courier. If that time-line works for you, than we can make the space.

    As far as questions go… I’m pretty busy with the Taylor trial this week (and finding a chance to not have every one of my classes turn by the way-side). So, I can come up with a list of questions by Wed. night and e-mail them to you. I hope that works.

    Thank you, again… this time for thinking of us. Please send me an e-mail with your thoughts.

    Hope we can help,
    Dan DuChene
    Staff Writer
    The Ypsilanti Courier
    Office (734) 697-8255
    Mobile (248) 231-0368

    Sent: Mon 10/15/2007 11:23 AM
    To: Duchene, Dan; Smith, Austen
    Subject: A note to Austen and Dan from YpsiVotes

    Austen and Dan,

    I think you’re probably familiar with our organization, YpsiVotes.
    Over the past few years, we’d coordinated several events around
    Ypsilanti. Last year, when we hosted a Mayoral debate at EMU, well
    over 300 people turned out, and, in the process, we earned a
    reputation for being fair, impartial and effective. So, over past
    several weeks, we’ve been approached by a number of individuals,
    asking us to host a forum on the subject of the proposed Ypsi Income
    Tax. We’ve been considering it, but the consensus within our group is
    that doing so at this late date would be incredibly difficult. So,
    we’ve come to an alternate solution. We would like to poll our fellow
    citizens, arrive at a list of questions that can be posed to
    representatives on both sides of the debate, and then have the
    resulting answers published in a number of different formats. One of
    those venues, we were hoping, would be the “Courier.”

    We would also be posting the results online and asking people to
    print and distribute them. These sheets, assuming you were onboard,
    would list the “Courier” among the sponsors of the project. There
    would be no cost to you. All that we ask is that you help by
    publishing the results. We would also love to have your input on the
    questions to be asked of both sides. If this sounds like something
    you would be interested in pursuing, let me know and we’ll work out
    the details.

    And thank you for the coverage you’ve given the tax debate up until
    now. It’s been instrumental in creating a dialogue.

    Cheers,
    Mark Maynard

    I’m hoping Dan doesn’t mind my posting that, but I felt it was necessary to reprint it.

    As for the conversation I overheard at Big Boy, it was between County Commissioner Ronnie Petersen and Pete Murdoch. It was not my intention to eavesdrop. They just happened to sit down behind me. I finished eating as quickly as possible and left. I did, however, before leaving, hear Ronnie say very clearly that 1) the City had done a terrible job of mobilizing on their side, 2) that SCIT had it in the bag, and 3) there was no value in engaging with the other side. Granted, I heard Ronnie do most of the talking, but Pete was in agreement.

    The bottom line is that the questions were fair, both sides were asked to answer them, and the anti-tax group stalled for over a week and a half. I can accept the idea that an email to me was lost somewhere along the way. The evidence, however, clearly shows that it was not your intention from the beginning to cooperate.

    -Mark

  4. mark
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    And, I should add that not everyone in the YpsiVotes group felt as though I should post this. Some thought that by posting this I would be harming our organization and making it less likely that we could host productive community events in the future. They argued that Steve and Brian may not be willing to participate in future events. So, if that’s the case, and if I’m added to enemies list becasue of this post, I’d like to ask that it not reflect back on the organization, whose only mission is to provide a forum for meaningful, action-oriented community discussion on critical issues. If it helps, I’ll even offer to step down. I just couldn’t stay quiet on this. I tried.

  5. Posted November 3, 2007 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Mark, I hope you continue to be frustrated. After a long series of comments, I noticed that your question STILL have not been answered.

    I did want to respond briefly to claims that high taxes drive out businesses. Most of these are based on anecdotal evidence — usually a business owner concerned over the impact speculating that they will be compelled to leave. While those concerns are valid, the facts typically play out in a different way. Research repeatedly shows that an investment in government gets returned to businesses in the form of higher quality of life, which in turn drives economic growth.

    The most recent evidence of this comes just this week from Michigan State (must give them some kudos out of pity today, as I’m eagerly awaiting their annihilation in E.Lansing later). I’ve pasted the first few paragraphs of their release below. The full text can be found at http://newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/3233/content.htm.

    MSU researcher says high taxes can spur growth

    Contact: Igor Vojnovic, Geography: (517) 355-7718, vojnovic@msu.edu; Andy Henion, University Relations: (517) 355-3294, cell (517) 281-6949, henion@msu.edu

    Oct. 30, 2007

    EAST LANSING, Mich. – As controversy continues swirling around the Michigan Legislature’s move to raise taxes, a Michigan State University researcher argues that communities with high taxes and robust urban infrastructures, including social-service spending, attract more private companies and development.

    Igor Vojnovic, associate professor of geography, contends the Republicans long-standing claim that low local and state taxes make a city more competitive in the business world has not proven true.

    In the December issue of GeoJournal, an international journal of geography, Vojnovic’s financial analysis of major U.S. cities and the concentration of the world’s 100 largest corporations show that cities with high taxes and spending on public infrastructure and welfare – such as New York, San Francisco and Boston – tend to experience more commercial growth.

    Vojnovic also said Michigan and its communities have not kept pace.

    “In Michigan, you continue to hear from Republicans that we should lower taxes to boost competitiveness,” he said. “This has not worked for the last two decades. We have been dropping taxes and we’re not developing. In fact, as evident with the state’s ongoing decline, we have been losing economic competitiveness since adopting this policy direction.”

  6. rodneyn
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Mark: “Some thought that by posting this I would be harming our organization and making it less likely that we could host productive community events in the future. “

    Mark, I was disappointed in your posting – you seemed to have incorporated all of the worst election tendencies in this city. You overheard something, assumed other things, and jumped to conclusions to boot! Yes, this posting is damaging in the short term.

    However, I must also commend you for providing this wide open opportunity for discussion and dissemination of information for all sides of the income tax debate. I wrote a letter to the Ann Arbor News during the school bond campaign chastising them for failing to do more than publish press releases from the School District. In that letter, I noted that it was the Ypsi area blogging community that was getting out a more complete story, and that if they didn’t do something the News would become truly irrelevant as a legitimate news source.

    Your blog has been a big part of “getting out a more complete story” and for that I am grateful.

    Regards,
    Rodney C. Nanney

  7. Posted November 3, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Mark, when was it that you overheard Ronnie and Pete talking at the Big Boy?

    Was it before or after the questions were sent by email which I think was around noon time on Wednesday Oct 24?

    – Steve

  8. Posted November 3, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    rodneyn wrote:

    Your blog has been a big part of “getting out a more complete story” and for that I am grateful.

    I second that sentiment.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  9. rodneyn
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Conan Smith: “In the December issue of GeoJournal, an international journal of geography, Vojnovic’s financial analysis of major U.S. cities and the concentration of the world’s 100 largest corporations show that cities with high taxes and spending on public infrastructure and welfare – such as New York, San Francisco and Boston – tend to experience more commercial growth.”

    Of all the arguments that the pro-tax side has raised, Commissioner Smith has once again propped up the most ludicrous. Professor Vojnovic’s “financial analysis” missed the more obvious correlation in favor of the obscure one: I’m fairly certain that there are other reasons why major corporations may be attracted to these metropolitan areas than high taxes and infrastructure spending! (at least my relatives living in Boston and San Francisco tell me so)

    Even if we make the assumption, the comparison to Ypsilanti fails on two other counts:

    One, Ypsilanti has historically had one of the highest local tax burdens in the state – where are all of those major corporations? Heck, we’ve even invested heavily in new road and utility infrastructure. Why aren’t these firms knocking on our front door? Oh, yes – there they are, heading out the back door (Motor Wheel, Ford/Visteon, etc.).

    Two, our city leadership has already said that the anticipated income tax revenue will be used to prop up current services, not for new infrastructure investment. If the Professor’s correlation could hold true, we’d still be out of luck.

  10. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth remembering, I think, that Mark announced YpsiVotes plans by asking readers to suggest questions in a post on 10/18. SCIT leaders commented on that post. Everyone knew the questions were coming.

    It’s also worth noting that Mark posted the actual questions on this blog on 10/24. It was the only city tax post I can recall where the SCIT leaders didn’t comment at all.

    Given the agility SCIT supporters have shown on this blog, I personally find it unpersuasive that they were unable to answer questions based on time constraints.

  11. resigned to the truth
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Ugly business this weekend on the blogs. Guess it’s time to let this go, do a little campaigning out on the street, and cast that vote on Tuesday.

    Is there ever a way to keep politics from getting personal? Does any of this attacking and retaliating actually change anyone’s mind? I’d love to know if it does. If not this tactic, then what would do it? I tend to think that people stick with their initial gut reaction, and all the rest is just jerking the campaigners around.

    It’s been a trip. Farewell.

  12. Union Household
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    The fact is, and the fact remains, that Ypsilantians already pay higher taxes than nearly everyone else. Our lower property assessments have little to do with the ability of homeowners to afford to pay more. The city needs to clean its own house first, which, when reading the solvency plan, has not been done. This ill conceived tax is not worth the animosity that it has caused, and should it pass, I will be angry at the perpetrators for forcing me to comply.

    J. Delcamp

  13. Posted November 3, 2007 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Ol, E, you are right, the idea was proposed in 10/18 but the questions were delivered 6 days later on the 24th. So it took YpsiVotes 6 days to come up with 7 questions.

    Mark then expected the campaign to respond with detailed answers to ALL seven questions in just two days. That wasn’t enough time to even pull together everyone to hand out assignments and begin researching.

    Moreover, on the day of the deadline, the editor of the Ypsilanti Courier told me he wasn’t publishing anything from either campaign in the Nov 1 issue. It appeared to me on Friday from Austen’s email that the project was dead.

    Mark had not contacted me and in fact his email from the day before said the YES committee had not responded either. I don’t know why Mark did not receive my email or call me on Thursday. I do not know why Amanda called me on Friday after I had emailed Austen, she did not say what her call was about only to call her, nor did she return my call on Saturday.

    Please also remember, on the day of the deadline set by Mark, Oct 26, the editor of the Courier Austen Smith says he isn’t publishing any more campaign submitted letters because there is no time to have a correction before election day. It seemed to me that the Courier was killing the project and nothing was to be printed on Nov 1. So I made the decision to focus on voter I.D. and door to door.

    I can only ask for just a bit of understanding that we are all volunteers with jobs, families and other committments. If it took the YpsiVotes folks 6 days from idea concept to 6 days later delivering the questions, I am not sure that requesting a response in 48 hours was really that fair to either the caampaign or the voters.

    I accept full responsibility, the blame is on me and not Pete, Brian or anyone else involved in the SCIT campaign. If I somehow how caused this to get screwed up, I accept full responsibility and I very much apologize to both Mark and the entire YpsiVotes committee for my failings.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  14. frenchfries
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    If it takes anyone more then 2 hours to answer straightforward questions about an issue they have supposedly deeply considered, something is obviously wrong. The “didn’t-have-enough-time” defense is a shamefully weak cop-out.

    When I first heard of the tax, I was not pleased. I pay more in property taxes than some people earn in a year in this town. However, a community that won’t invest in itself cannot hope to attract new businesses. I find it deeply disingenuous to play the “businesses will leave” card, since there are always ways to give breaks to them, and reductions in city services do affect businesses even if they choose to ignore it. If I were an insurance company I would raise the rates on a business in a city known to have decreased police and fire services.

    So I decided that if the tax was fair to low-income households, I would support it. It would appear as if it is fair, so I plan to vote yes even though there is no hope of winning. I have no doubt there is waste in government. There is waste in any bureaocracy, so why should a tiny city be any different? In my two years living in Michigan, I have the come to feel that the people in this state are pretty selfish, cutting state taxes and cutting funding for cities, while presenting no visible plan for the future. I am always hoping that I will change my mind.

    Maybe people who have lived here a long time lack reference, but this is a pretty depressing place to live. And quite frankly it is just not this dismal everywhere else. Furthermore, the tenor of this “debate” has only served to amplify my misgivings about Ypsilanti as a viable 21st century community.

    Of course, people like Mark give me hope.

  15. egpenet
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Conan:

    This is NOT, in my mind, about high taxes or low taxes. The citizens have said yes, yes, yes to infrastructure, social services, libraries, schools and MORE!

    What we are objecting to is the recent handling of not only Water Street planning and financing, but salaries, benefit packages, lobbyist non-performance, other spending, some of the public housing snafus, the Chiddister Place give-backs, the Peninsular Park development … all very recent financing dealings that have sent us into a death spiral. THOSE are what we are voting about on Nov. 6.

    I agree with you, Conan, and with my fellow citizens … we want a vibrant, police/fire-protected, socially secure and fun city. We currently HAVE that. Although, in order to finance the spending habits recently, they’ve left positions open in fire and security, and/or otherwise reduced servicees, a shorty-changed AATA.

    And if this city keeps spending unwisely, and foolishly with great abandon … why give them MORE to spend in the same ways? We want to change the spending habits … not inhibit growth.

    Conan, tell the city for me to spend OUR money on just what YOU said and to spend it carefully, as if it is very precious and just what YOU say it is for. Screw the pensions and salaries … there is a lot of talent at city hall and more out there eeager to work for us, but if the willy-nilly increases, hirings/firings and lawsuits continue … it’s simply a waste.
    And we won’t have it any more.

    G’night, again.

    (P.S. I clicked on the “here” link above and responded to Mark’s Q&A in my own way.)

  16. Posted November 3, 2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    If you check, two of the business people that have publicly endorsed the supporters of higher income taxes campaign have both moved their corporations outside the city limits of Ypsilanti and so their companies would not be subject to the City Income Tax. One is a depot town establishment, the other was a general contractor located downtown.

    I am not saying they moved to avoid the Income Tax, but I think it would make everyone else that is sticking around here not feel like rats on a sinking ship if they kept their businesses inside the city limits and still supported higher income taxes.

    So I don’t think it is disingenuous at all to say business will move. They already have.

    Most recently a large medical practice was looking for office space in the area. But their partners from outside the area learned about the City Income Tax and decided to not locate inside Ypsilanti. AF Smith a long time Ypsilanti business, went on record at the Ypsilanti City Council meeting in August 2005 saying they would move if an Ypsilanti Income Tax is implemented. Finally the CEO of one of the great Internet start-ups, OnlyMyEmail based right here in Ypsilanti has also said they would leave immediately if there is an Income Tax.

    The threat of cutting cops or fire has not dissuaded any of them one bit. They all realize, if you have reduced revenue, you have to reduce spending.

    FYI, OnlyMyEmail received the top spam fighter award from PC Magazine a couple of years ago and continues to be an industry leading spam solution. These guys are on a rocket ride and have and will be doing great things. I doubt many on this blog even knew about this company. They were originally located in Ann Arbor but moved here because they like the funky space, great shops, weird name which is a conversation starter at investor conferences, and easy to describe location convenient to 94, 275, 23 and Metro airport. They promised to leave as well and that would be a real shame.

    I spoke with a heating contractor based here that does very little business in the City. Yet he would pay a City Income Tax because his company is located here so it poays 1% on their net and he gets hit for 0.5%. So he gets hit twice. Anyone taht owns a C Corp and lives here will get hit for 2%. !5 on their business and then 1% on their personal income.

    These are the ones we know about and can talk about. There are many more that have said they will leave but do not want to say publicly for fear of retaliation from the current administration. Still others have written personal letters to the mayor and city council saying they would leave.

    I saw one reply from a City council member who responded that the business owner offered no proof or substantiation that things were bad and getting worse for him and his employees in Ypsilanti.

    If you can run your business south of 94 or east of Hewitt and pay much less property taxes and no city income taxes, any business that can move, will.

    – Steve

  17. Posted November 3, 2007 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Frenchfries,

    Perhaps that is the problem. When you slap together a two hour response you get a two hour solution. It is just that sort of mentality that got is into the mess at Water Street to begin with.

    Brian Robb has been busting his butt working hour after hour on the responses, checking facts and researching the issues to make sure the answers are meaningful and can be a part of a larger solution.

    It is easy to spew rhetoric. Vote yes and we will preserve service.

    For how long? Well perhaps until 2012 if we don’t count the water street debt.

    But how long is the income tax? 2014.

    So what do you do in the last two years? Oh, well we hope Lansing fixes the problem if not the city is short some $3 million and will have to cut police and fire.

    Really, that is the current plan. Hope that a developer shows up for Water Street. Hope that Lansing will solve all their state budget problems and then will save Ypsilanti by giving the City more money, and hope the voters will approve a City Income Tax.

    That is one plan, but is it the best plan?

    George Washington was very fond of saying that he was capable of seeing things as they were, not as how others hoped they were.

    Well, still one more hour to make campaign calls,

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  18. Glen S.
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Steve Pierce said: “If you check, two of the business people that have publicly endorsed the supporters of higher income taxes campaign have both moved their corporations outside the city limits of Ypsilanti and so their companies would not be subject to the City Income Tax.”

    Steve, according to SCIT’s latest Campaign Finance report, you list your local business (HDL.com) as having it’s “World Headquarters” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I think it’s fair to ask: Did you incorporate there to avoid paying the City income tax?

  19. dirtgrain
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Sorry if I ruffled anybody’s feathers as I tried to figure out how to vote. I can be demanding at times, but I do value seeing others’ perspectives, even when they differ drastically from my own. It’s good to see who lives in Ypsilanti and what they think. Rock the vote!

  20. Posted November 3, 2007 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I am back from making campaign phone calls. OK, what did I miss.

    Hey a post from Glen Sard. OK, lets see what is he asking about. One of my companies I own. OK, here is the answer. Gosh I hope I don’t get criticized because it took over 79 minutes before I responded to his request for an answer. Oh well, here goes…

    HDL was founded in Albuquerque in 1987. HDL celebrated our 20th anniversary this year which was pretty cool. When I founded HDL in 1987, I could neither spell or pronounce Ypsilanti.

    I am proud of the connection I have with New Mexico, HDL remains a New Mexico business so as to support the city and state that has treated me well. I never mind paying taxes in New Mexico because if I am paying taxes it means I am making money.

    I do the same thing here. I am involved in three other business ventures currently and all of them are Michigan based companies. I believe it is important to invest where you live and all you need to do is to search the City Records and see that I have invested in Ypsilanti both as a property owner as well as purchaser of goods and services from numerous Ypsilanti based companies and residents.

    So, a great question.

    I think it is only fair to ask a question in return: By those two Ypsilanti corporations moving their corporate address outside the City limits in the last two years, if there was a City Income Tax, what would they have saved annually on both their corporate taxes as well as personal income taxes for the owners?

    The calculation is real easy, it would take less than 2 minutes to calculate. Have them take a look at their corporate state return for what was paid to the state. That would be 3.9% in state income taxes. Then take 1/4 of the state tax and you will get very close to what they would pay to the City for an Income tax.

    Since both owners are non residents, to calculate what they save on their personal returns, again look at their state return for their personal taxes paid to the City, take 12.5% of what they paid to the state to determine their obligation under the proposed City Income Tax.

    I am not criticizing their moving their address outside the city nor am I saying they did that to avoid the implications of a City Income Tax if it passes. However, by moving, the potential savings to both corporations as well as on their owners personal returns for the owners is huge as both owners are high net worth individuals.

    Again, I am not criticizing the move, but for the non-business types on the blog, I am just trying to show how easy it is to do and by doing it, for whatever “official” reason, the result is an avoidance of the City Income Tax if it should pass.

    If I owned that same company, I would do the very same thing. All they had to do was change their corporate address to an address outside the City limits and that simple change removes them from any obligation to pay a City Income Tax on their Corporate return. It also saves them from paying any City Income Tax on their personal income derived from the corporation. The only local City Income Tax owed would be on income derived from operations inside the City limit. But you could easily front load costs like insurance, legal fees, and many other expenses and eliminate any paper profit inside the City limit and thus avoid all City Income Tax liability

    If it is that easy, and legal, for supporters of higher income taxes to make paper changes to incorporation papers that when they do it, for whatever reason, saves them from having to pay a City Income Tax, just imagine how many other businesses will also be so motivated to do the same thing if there really is a City Income Tax.

    The supporters of the City Income Tax say that businesses won’t do that. I just wanted to point out that two supporters of the YES campaign have both done just that in the last two years. I am not saying they did it to avoid the income tax. Whatever their reason for the move, by moving, they WILL avoid the city income tax and the savings are measured in the 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of dollars a year by not having to pay Income Taxes to the City if it should pass.

    Since it is really that easy to do, imagine all the other business that will leave if the City gets their wish for a City Income Tax. Katy bar the door.

    Why this all works and why it is so easy is because the owners of the corporations live outside the city and pay the lower non-resident rate. I feel sorry for those whose company and house are both inside the City. In that case they get hit twice. Their company pays 1% on the corporate income to the City and then the individual pays another 1% City income tax on their paycheck because they live inside the city. Ouch!

    One last point, ACH will likely pay nothing in income taxes from their Ypsi location as it makes no profit from their Ypsi operation. Yet ACH will get a huge windfall from a 2 mill roll back on their real estate property taxes which is around $500,000 a year. That comes out to about $20,000 a year less that will NOT go into the general fund.

    Plus, is there really more? Yes there is.

    Plus ACH saves 2 mills on all their equipment (personal property) in the plant. That savings is about $15,000 a year that won’t go into the City’s general fund. This City Income Tax is a great deal for companies like ACH, they won’t pay a City Income Tax and their property tax bill will drop by about $35,000 a year. Sweet deal for the owners of ACH, not so good for the rest of the taxpayers in Ypsilanti. That lost annual revenue from ACH would annually pay for half a fire fighter or police officer.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  21. rodneyn
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Glen S.: “Steve, according to SCIT’s latest Campaign Finance report, you list your local business (HDL.com) as having it’s “World Headquarters” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I think it’s fair to ask: Did you incorporate there to avoid paying the City income tax?”

    Glen, nice try. Spoken like a true someone who made no effort to learn a little about Steve Pierce when he was a candidate for Mayor.

  22. Paul Schreiber
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Concerning the Chidester payment in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) being characterized as a giveaway, I’ve pasted my email response to Rodney Nanney below. Mr. Nanney wrote to city council and also wrote a letter to the editor on the subject:

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Paul Schreiber @ Ypsilanti City [mailto:mayor@cityofypsilanti.com]
    Sent: Friday, November 02, 2007 8:25 AM
    To: Rodney C. Nanney
    Subject: RE: Chidester Place PILOT

    Hello Rodney,

    I’ve attached the presentation by American Community Developers (ACD) that was given to city council on October 16, 2007. The ad valorem assessment to the general fund would be $52,914. With a 4% payment in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) and a $35,000 municipal services agreement payment, the general fund contribution is $44,316. So, for approximately $8,600 dollars out of the general fund, the city gets the following benefits:

    1. A quality management company at a location that has had a troubled past

    2. Preservation of decent housing for low-income elderly and disabled in our community

    3. A $4 million infrastructure upgrade to the Chidester building through low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) made possible by the PILOT.

    4. Reduced police and ordinance enforcement expenditures with better management

    5. A municipal service fee with an annual increase

    In your letter you cite $178,000 in lost taxes. Of that amount, $52,914 goes to the general fund. The remainder is apportioned to the Ypsilanti District Library, Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Ypsilanti Public Schools, Washtenaw County, and Washtenaw Community College. Although these taxing authorities are vital parts of our community, I believe they are better equipped to shoulder a tax revenue loss than the city of Ypsilanti. While I agree that the city must be very careful with general fund expenditures, I believe that $8,600 per year is a good investment to rehabilitate and preserve housing for low-income elderly and disabled.

    For these reasons I intend to vote in favor of the Chidester PILOT resolution at the second reading on November 7, 2007.

    Thanks again for writing to me.

    Best regards,
    Paul

    Paul Schreiber
    Mayor, City of Ypsilanti
    734-277-5446

  23. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Steve,

    I think your post about OnlyMyEmail raises an interesting point that more communities should be grappling with. To me, it makes businesses sound like bullies who care little about the communities they live in (i.e., cutting police and fire doesn’t dissuade them and any business will move to save a buck).

    I hope you’re projecting a bit and are overly cynical about all business owner’s motives, but am willing to admit you may not be. I admit, I am not a business person. I’m not very in touch with the business psyche.

    It’s unfortunate that the interests of business owners, esp. those that live elsewhere, seem so often at odds with those that live in the communities where their businesses are housed. I think it’s noteworthy that businesses in favor of the tax are also owned by city residents.

    It was easy enough to look up the tax benefit of having OnlyMyEmail in town. According to the city assessing site, they paid $155 in city taxes last year.

    I find the thought that any business would move to another city/state/country for nothing more than tax savings incredibly depressing.

    So, what do we do about it? I don’t know.

    But, if you’re worried about who will make up the $155 lost from OnlyMyEmail jumping ship, don’t worry, what I’m willing to pay in extra income to protect city services that I have to live with, will more than make up the difference. Not to mention EMU, which ain’t going nowhere.

    (I do realize this issue is more complex than I just made it sound. Obviously, this post ain’t trying to persuade anyone Steve’s not right, I honestly don’t know. I’m just very tired of businesses threating communities into submission. There’s all kinds of fearmongering. Part of me is proud to have OnlyMyEmail in town, part of me says if they don’t care about police/fire, let them go.)

  24. Amy Doyle
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Paul,

    You said, in part:

    “In your letter you cite $178,000 in lost taxes. Of that amount, $52,914 goes to the general fund. The remainder is apportioned to the Ypsilanti District Library, Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Ypsilanti Public Schools, Washtenaw County, and Washtenaw Community College. Although these taxing authorities are vital parts of our community, I believe they are better equipped to shoulder a tax revenue loss than the city of Ypsilanti.”

    While I have no idea how much of that total would have gone to the Ypsilanti Public Schools, I have to say I am shocked that you would consider YPS “better equipped” to “shoulder” ANY tax revenue loss! Have you not been paying attention to the MILLIONS of dollars cut from the YPS budget over the past 3 years?

    I think we need to look at the impacts on the entire community when these decisions are made.

  25. Posted November 4, 2007 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Ol’ E,

    Remember this important fact about business. You work at the company to make money. Money for you, money for the owners, money for the investors and shareholders.

    Money is a good thing. It pays for food, housing, school, retirement, kids, car, and things for your house.

    You make money by reducing costs and providing a service or product others are willing to buy. If you can locate your business outside the city and save money, that means more money for you and your employees and your shareholders.

    Government and politicians often forget this basic rule of business. Capital flows to where it can make the greatest return.

    A business is capital. If it can make more money by saving money by locating in the township or another state, it will.

    There is more than just property taxes paid by OME company. They are renting space, so you need to look at what the owner of the building pays in taxes. The building owner is able to pay those taxes because they have a tenant. OME is also paying employees and these are high tech jobs that pay well. They also pay utilities, they shop and eat here, employees live here and in the surrounding community. The economic impact on the City is way more, measured in the 10’s of thousands of dollars per year.

    That small property tax bill are the personal property taxes on some of their computers. It isn’t a measure of what they bring to the community

    Most communities would kill for young start-up companies like this. But I doubt anyone at City Hall even knew they were here, much less when they moved here or bothered to stop in to welcome them to the community.

    I went door to door to the businesses in the Key bank building explaining the impacts of the City Income Tax. I found two businesses whose leases were up within two months after the vote on the Income Tax. Both companies told me they would wait to renew their leases pending the outcome of the vote on the City Income Tax. Total loss to the city would be about 10 jobs. There are way more stories like this. But no one at the city wants to ask because they don’t want to hear the answer.

    One last point, OME cares about police and fire just like all businesses. Businesses are not careless evil ogres. But they can locate in the township, get very good police and fire service, not pay a city income tax and pay lower property taxes. And for companies in class A office space, there is little cost to move to new space and there are real savings.

    But look at it from their view. No one from the city ever stopped in and said hi, nor did the mayor or DDA director say hi. But now you want them to care by paying more in taxes and for what. They get no better service and they now are at a competitive disadvantage because they are paying more for office space.

    What then happens, the investors tell the CEO, move to a cheaper office space and look for a community that might offer incentives like tax credits to further reduce costs and make more money for the owners, employees, and stockholders.

    – Steve

  26. Posted November 4, 2007 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Mayor,

    You are asking every taxpayer to pay more with the City Income Tax. It seems only fair to ask the owners of Chidester Place to also share in the pain and pay more.

    They use far more police and fire service than thousands of other homeowners in the community. Why do they deserve a break on their property taxes and the thousands of homestead property owners are not offered the same discount on their taxes.

    If Chidester is denied the tax break, are they going to stop being a good landlord and start offering crappy housing? I don’t think so.

    Your predecessor denied additional tax breaks for Penn Place.

    Deny the same tax breaks for Chidester.

    If you are asking homeowners to shoulder more taxes with a City Income Tax, the owners of Chidester should be asked to share the same burden and pay their far share of property taxes. We are not asking them tovpay more, only pay the same as every other property owner in the City. That is fair.

    – Steve

  27. Union Household
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    …and what was that the city manager said about “All properties, business and residential, are taxed at the same rate as required by state law.” Or apparently, until a gaping abatement can be enacted. How about a tax rebate for new home buyers? This could revive the local real estate market and vacant houses into occupied homes.
    A sort of “Temporary Pop Up Relief Abatement.”
    After all, the City of Ypsilanti is not just bricks, mortar and staff. Is is the people themselves.

  28. mark
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    For those of you who are still following this, I just wanted to point out that I’ve still to receive the answers to the remaining questions. It’s now been well over a week and a half since they received them.

    It’s also worth pointing out again that in my discussion with Brian Robb last week, it was clear to me that the requested 48 hour turn around time was not a factor. If it were, they would have contacted me and asked for more time. What he indicated to me is that there was never any intention on their part to participate. (The only reason he contacted me is that I played the “transparency” card and told him that I was personally disappointed in him.) I find it silly to be arguing here that it was because we didn’t give them enough time, when we all know what was going on. Like I said in the post, I think there are merits to voting either “no” or “yes”. I just don’t like being lied and treated like a child. We all know what happened. The question in my mind is, “can the SCIT group own up to it and answer the questions?”

  29. edweird
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    My only question at this point is this: how will the City Income Tax effect the hookers at the end of my street and their ability to line the pockets of their pimps?

    You people need to lighten up.

    BTW I’ve decided.

  30. Sacred Cow
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Offering a tax rebate for new home buyers only worsens the city’s financial situation. Unless someone is building a large addition on a newly purchased house, the city’s tax rolls don’t even benefit from having a new resident move to the city. Quite the contrary if too many perspective residents decided to move here in the same year, all the assessment roll-ups on those properties would force the city to roll back its millage rate under Headlee. State laws screw built-out cities like ours.

    Attracting new residents may be important for quality of life issues in the community, but it does not provide new revenue sources for City Hall.

    I also can’t help but feel that your observations are spot on, Mark. Mr. Pierce has posted enough words to write a book in this thread alone, yet he conveniently had no time to answer the tough questions you submitted?? Forgive me if I’m less than convinced.

  31. degutails
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Mark – you posted an update saying that the SCIT answers to the YpsiVotes questions are up on their website, but you then just commented that they haven’t answered the remaining questions. What am I missing?

    Meredith

  32. Mark H.
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    hey Mark —

    with all due respect, my friend, i think the time factor in replying to the seven questions must have been real. Lots of times i get asked to do something, and even as i start calculating what other things i’ll have to shift to do that something, I don’t always mention that to the person asking me to do something. And aren’t there rather detailed answers to 5 of the seven questions now up on Brian Robb’s blog? Never underestimate the realiity of work, especially thoughtful work, taking time.

    that said, it’s also clear to me that each side in this dispute has sought venues and forums and timing that they think most effectively promotes their viewpoint. For instance, the mayor says the timing of certain “city” forums to discuss the tax issue was determined by the availability of an EMU prof, an expert on municipal government (who supports the tax and does not live in Ypsi), to be there to preside over the forum – as if that professor is the only person who can preside, as if he’s an unbiased neutral party. That’s a choice that the mayor is entitlted to make, but it is at least as subject to criticism as the ability or willingness of the no tax side to reply to the YpsiVotes questions in a time frame that, however you cut it, came very late in the day.

    Each side has set its own priorities for this campaign. Each side is made up of honorable people. But campaigns are tough, and they are demanding in terms of time. Only a fool would have dashed off a reply to these seven questions – and neither side is led by fools. I think everyone’s intentions here are honest – and everyone’s judgment can be questioned without alleging dishonest, Karl Roveian motives. Neither Paul nor Pete are following Rove, but each, naturally, want to focus on the activities and the time table that suits their campaign.

    If only the choices made by Council and the manager in the last five years had been so strategic and so calculated for long term impact as the pro tax and anti tax campaign is now being conducted!

    Thank you, Mark, for hosting the Town Hall meeting on the tax issue on your blog!

  33. mark
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Sorry for the confusion, degutails… Brian Robb has answered 4 (now 5) of the 7 questions on his website. The link at the end of my post will take you there.

    And, with all due respect to my friend Mark, whom I still hope to have beers with when all of this is over, the facts in this case speak for themselves. The pro-tax side responded. The anti-tax side did not. If it was merely a matter of time, I think someone from the SCIT side would have raised an issue. They did not. Quite the contrary, they did not respond to either calls or emails. I could be wrong, but, from where I’m sitting, the evidence looks overwhelming. And, as I said, when I talked with Brian, it was very clear to me that there was no intention of answering, regardless of how much time there was.

  34. Posted November 4, 2007 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    Like I said, I emailed Mark on Thursday before the deadline and he never responded. I returned Amanda’s call as well on Saturday. She was not home and I left a message for her to call me. She never called me back too.

    There was no way to contact anyone at YpsiVotes except by email. Except for Mark, I had no idea who else was on teh committee. When I asked Mark fro a list of YpsiVotes membes last eyar he said he did not want to disclose that list becasue somee members wished to remain private.

    I accept Mark’s statement that he did not receive my email on Thursday, but I sent it. But I had no other way to contact him. Mark did not leave his phone number or an alternate email address when he sent the questions to the campaign.

    I still don’t know why neither Mark or Amanda did not return our calls and emails. I tried to reach the YpsiVotes folks on Thursday and again on Saturday and they didn’t return the call or email. But somehow neither Mark or Amanda will take any responsibility for not returning calls or emails. To this day, neither Mark or Amanda has called us.

    Mark, you didn’t answer my other question. What day were you at the Big Boy and overheard Ronnie and Pete talking? Was it before or after you submitted the questions which was around around noon on Wednesday OCt 24th.

    Actually Sacred Cow is wrong about the tax rebate or credit being bad for the city. If it is bad for the city, then why is the current Mayor advocating a tax credit and waiving of taxes due over teh next several years for Chidester if it wsa bad for the City.

    That is often the problems with these discussions. Anytime someone makes a suggestion, their idea is immediately attacked by the pro-income tax supporters as being unworkable instead of asking questions about how it could work.

    Because of the Headlee cap the city sees little if anything from the pop-up of home sales and renovation of existing homes and commercial space. But the new home buyer gets hit with a substantial tax increase. So if there is little benefit to the City on the sale of a new home when it comes to property revenue for the city, why not see if there is a way to offer tax credit or rebates or freeze taxes like an OPRA for homeowners to encourage new home sales and people to move into, not out of the city. It is an interesting proposal and one that should be seriously considered instead of being dismissed without any real research or consideration. Hey this may be hard, but if it is a good idea, then lets together work on it.

    What is fun about these discussions is I don’t use anonymous names when posting. So it is easy to heap scorn on me, you know my name. But the attacks usually come from an anonymous poster. Even the host of this website has been known to make an anonymous post or two to stir up debate or float out an idea not under his name.

    Glen Sard being the rare exception which I think is very commendable and while he may not believe it, I still have a great deal of respect for Glen and for his ideas and beliefs. He is willing to attach his name to them and that shows a lot of class and integrity.

    Time to go work doors,

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  35. mark
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know why Amanda didn’t return your call, Steve. As I said, however, I never got a call from you. I did, however, send several emails to you that were not returned.

    As for when I overheard the conversation at Big Boy, I’m not sure. It was a weekday a few weeks ago. I’ll see if I can find a receipt. I can’t imagine how you’ll spin it, but I look forward to hearing your theory. Maybe there was a Ronnie Petersen look-alike in town that day or something.

    I don’t remember you ever asking me for a list of YpsiVotes members. I think I would have remembered that. Likewise, I never told you that I was pro-tax, which is something that Brian told me that you told him. That, I can say with a great deal of certainly, is simply not true. As for the members of the group, I gave their names to Brian, so I’m sure you’ve got them now. I imagine you’ll try to show some kind of connection between them and the pro-tax folks, but I don’t think any exist. They’re good, honest, open-minded people, and the questions we came up with are good, fair and balanced…. Still, in all of this conversation, no one has said that the questions weren’t legitimate. We didn’t pull any punches on the administration side. We asked about the regressive nature of the tax, we brought up the fact that even with the tax, we’re right back in the same mess by 2012. So, have at it. Hunt these folks down for trying to create good, honest debate and discourage them from doing so in the future… I will tell you that, for the purposes of this project, we asked three people to sit out. 2 were very much on the anti-tax side, and 1 was very much on the pro-tax side. During the mayoral debate, we tried to do the same thing. We only had people helping who had not already picked a side, put up yard signs, etc. Regardless, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that the questions were fair and we all know it.

    We also all know that you’ve still not answered the questions… But, if you want to make this about the exact time I heard Pete and Ronnie talking, or the backgrounds of the people on the committee, have at it. I’d rather have a substantive discussion on the issues, but if that’s how you’d rather spend your free time, be my guest.

  36. egpenet
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I have ranted and raved about these issues … including apologies for my slams and jams, and slanders … but I must say that Brian Robb’s responses to the seven questions from the YpsiVotes folks satisfy me. Well done, Brian Robb.

    We do NOT send elected officials into deliberations to make up policies, budgets and laws out of whole cloth. Representative government is totally out of wack here in town … more so in Lansing and especially so in warriorville Washington.

    As I recall, there was (or were) a couple of CPAs on the Blue Ribbon committee, but somewhow the details of how money works in this economy escaped the understanding of the council on just what they needed to do about Water Street and other day-to-day budget matters, after the planners (who are no longer whinnying with us) had botched.

    As I have said, and as Brian pointed out … we have ALWAYS voted YES to progress, social issues, schools, libraries, streets and other clearly defined programs.

    Now come re-elected members and a new mayor who are spending like there is no tommorrow on givebacks and tax abatements, salary increases, retirement plans, and who have no guts to enter into serious regional issues with other governments … because we pissed off half of the county townships with our arrogance over the years … and at a time when, in fact, there IS no tomorrow for us. We are being left to stew in our our juices. And we deserve it.

    Where are the CPAs now?

    I agree with/and can respect all of Brian Robb’s efforts and responses to the seven questions. I urge everyone to go to his website and read his responses. (Link is East Cross on MM above on the right column.)

    It is simply time to say NO to THIS specific taxation proposal and start over. Between now and the time the caca hits the fan, we don’t have a lot of time.

    The City Manager’s Plan A is a non-starter.

    We need a Plan B and a Plan C that bite the bullet in other potentially brutal and yet possibly creative ways, besides police and fire/EMS.

    We then need to go on with life in the city
    by employing citizen, business and charity involvement to get done what needs to be done.

    FYI – This Sunday’s NYT had several articles about pay as you go for transit, anti-subsidies all around, the politics of the farm/food bill and tacked on democrat party earmarks for pet projects (including millions for Pelosi’s district as “paybacks” to contributors) … the politicians spend, spend, spend … whether it’s there or not.

    As Dingel would say, “My wife works for GM, she makes all the decisions.”

    As Ben Franklin would say, “Waste not, want not.”

    As Che would say, “No mas.”

    Vote on Tuesday. And if you agree to stop the recent policy of waste, vote NO.

  37. mark
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Ed, I’m not sure where you saw Brian’s answers to all 7 questions. Did he mail them to you? He hasn’t sent them to me, and they’re still not up on his site. On his site, as of 8:45 this evening, there are answers to 5 of the 7 questions. I’ll have to go and check the SCIT site… Maybe that’s where you saw them.

  38. Posted November 4, 2007 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    Thanks for continuing to push for a response from both sides.

    I am glad that Brian has, even though late so far with his reply, agreed to answer your questions. I too respect Brian and especially respect his unwillingness to play the politician with regard to your questions. It would be far too easy to give non-answers to the missing questions.

    As near as I can tell, Q1 and Q2 are the big missing answers, and Q1, while purportedly addressed to both sides, seems to be very directed at the history of why the Income Tax issue is on the ballot at all. This is clearly a question for City Hall.

    Which leaves question 2.

    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.

    I don’t see anyone from either side answering this question honestly. The Pro-Tax answer seems to carry the pretense that if the tax passes we will avoid deep cuts.

    And the Anti-Tax side would need a crystal ball to specifically say which cuts will be needed, and a faulty crystal ball at that since City Hall will actually need to originate the new proposed budget.

    Which leaves you placing Brian in a Catch-22.

    If he doesn’t propose a fictitious answer to a question he can not possibly know the answer to in a definitive sense, he looks unresponsive.

    If he does answer, he is labeled as the one Council member looking to remove City Services.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think this kind of entrapment is what you are after with Ypsi Votes. I hope not, since there are so few City forums striving for balance.

  39. egpenet
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Mark:

    You are correct, I checked back … no specifics, as Teaspout would have it on 1 & 2, at least, not yet.

    I would vote YES if I knew where that money was going to go. Right now, all I know is what I see, read and hear … about salaries, raises, tax givebacks, etc. And what I know about the “suprises” along the river.

    I don’t need a Plan B or a Plan C in my pocket to vote NO at this time. Let’s see what council comes up with the second time around.

    G’night.

  40. Posted November 5, 2007 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    If you overheard a conversation several weeks ago, you should have said that in your earlier post. You gave the impression that the secret cabal meeting between Pete and Ronnie to decide they weren’t going to answer your questions was AFTER you has sent the questions on Oct 24. It was not.

    Moreover, it is the worst kind of fear and rumor mongering to overhear a conversation that you clearly did not hear every word or in what context but then took what meaning you wanted to hear to somehow justify your frustration with me and then lash out against the campaign.

    Like I said before, I emailed you the day before the deadline trying to get a hold of you. I was trying to contact you to talk about the deadline and your request. When you didn’t call me or email me back, and then hearing from Austen Smith, the EDITOR of the Ypsilanti Courier, who said he was not going to run anything from the campaign. It was at that point after not hearing from you and hearing from Austen Smith, I figured the YpsiVotes project was dead. So we moved on to other work.

    By he time I learned WE COULD in fact submit a response and it WOULD be published in the Nov 1 edition, it was after 1pm on Tuesday October 30 and Austen said we had to respond by 5pm that day. It was by then too late to do anything.

    When I got the call from Amanda on Friday ( which was after emailing Austen) she did not say that she was calling about YpsiVotes. In fact she said Amanda from Growing Hope. I assumed her call was about Growing Hope and knowing that it was not urgent, I planned to return her call on Monday.

    I never connected or knew that she was with YpsiVotes. Had Amanda said she was with YpsiVotes, I would have called her back immediately. I was trying to figure out what and how we could respond to your questions on Thursday. When Brian told me, while he was out of town on vacation, Friday evening that in fact Amanda was also on YpsiVotes I called her back after my early morning meetings on Saturday and left her a message where I identified myself and said in the message that I heard that she was calling about YpsiVotes and was returning her call. She still never called me back.

    Mark, I tried to get a hold of you and anyone else on YpsiVotes BEFORE the deadline passed so we could talk about the questions and timing.

    As the Fri Oct 26th deadline was fast approaching, the only person I could reach was the editor the Courier and he said they weren’t going to run stuff from the Campaign, I thought the YpsiVotes questions were dead.

    Again, I sincerely apologize to both you and the YpsiVotes crew, I did the best I could with the info I had. I tried reaching you the only way I knew how, your mindspring.net address. It was the only email address I had for you.

    I did not know then, or now, any of the other members of YpsiVotes so I had no way to reach them.

    I still do not know who is on your committee. I don’t know when you sent Brian the list of members, but I suspect it was after the Friday deadline had passed. I didn’t know you sent Brian the list, so I wouldn’t know to ask him and I wouldn’t ask him because you told me you didn’t want me to know who was on the list. This is correct, you told me last year you didn’t want me to know who was on the YpsiVotes list.

    Mark, I had asked you for a list of the YpsiVotes folks last year and you refused to disclose the list saying that members wanted to be secret. I did not ask this year because I figured you still did not want to disclose the list. It is your club, your group, your list. I am not going to read into it anything more than that some folks don’t want it to be known they are on the committee. Cool with me. If someone wants to remain private, I am not going to try and figure out how to crack the secret decoder ring to learn who is on the committee. They want to remain private, I respect that and move on.

    Before the general election last year, you and I had a chance meeting I think at the Corner. You told me you had voted for Schreiber. I said that was OK, I didn’t take it personally. You also told me that you disagreed with me that the City Income Tax would drive out businesses and that you saw the Income Tax as the only thing that would work. We also talked about your other favorite subject SPARK, where you complained that they weren’t doing anything to promote or even understand Ypsilanti. We also talked about your ideas for the downtown business forum.

    What is really funny in this whole thing is you seem really pissed at me. But you don’t call or email me to find out what happened. You assume the worst including some pretty wild conspiracy stuff overheard in a diner with a red and white checkered fat kid out front. The only thing missing is Deep Throat and an empty parking structure.

    You get your quotes about what I said third hand from someone else. You take out of context a conversation that may have happened at or very near the time you first announced the YpsiVotes Virtual debate on the 18th but WELL BEFORE when you actually sent out the questions and then you assumed based on that snooped conversation that the campaign had made a secret pledge to not respond. Since no one from your committee had contacted the campaign about your time line or the parameters, all we could do is wait for you. But I can tell this, the 48 hour deadline was pretty unreasonable considering your own committee took 6 days to write 7 questions.

    That was cool that the other side could respond that quickly, but remember, they have been promoting this Income Tax since they first tried to put it on the ballot in August 2005. They have been working on this thing for two years solid and they were going to tell you the same thing they have been telling everyone else for those two years. The fault is Lansing, it doesn’t have anything to do with Water Street, this is the only solution.

    We hadn’t decided about anything, we didn’t have the questions. It would be silly to make any decisions without first seeing what was being asked.

    We didn’t get the questions until Wed Oct 24. Mark, you never even warned us earlier that the questions were coming or to give us a CLUE about your tight deadline. It was suddenly launched on us at 12 noon on Wednesday and you said we had 48 hours to respond.

    But when things started falling apart, instead of calling me or emailing me to find out what was going on, you get your quotes from a meeting that was days or weeks before in a restaurant where you snooping in on the conversation the next booth over. A meeting that I was NOT AT.

    Yet not once did you call or email me to ask why we didn’t respond. But you were quick to attack and pull out the ‘transparency card’ (your words not mine) when you felt you had been slighted. Then, when I tried to explain how it happened and why and offered my apology, instead of continuing to talk about the issues before the voters on Tuesday, you have continued the rant and put forth even more conspiracies. Look I understand you are pissed at someone, and SCIT seems as good as anyone else to blame.

    The is not Brian’s fault and it is not Pete’s fault, it is not the fault of anyone on the campaign. it is my fault. I repeat, this is my fault. I accept full responsibility.

    But Mark, I don’t have your number, you have never given it to me, despite asking several times over the past year, Each time you have declined my request. I don’t recall ever getting your number. I searched my email archive to see if I have it, I don’t.

    Just like I respected your request to not disclose the members of YpsiVotes, I respected your decision to not give me your number. I wasn’t going to press why you didn’t want to give it to me. Frankly, it was none of my business.

    You didn’t want to give it to me, instead preferring that I contact you via email and I accepted that as perfectly reasonable request without reading into any weirdo conspiracy theory. Look some people are very private about their phone numbers. I accept that and read nothing more into the request except that they don’t want me to call them at home or work.

    Because you had made it very clear you didn’t want me to call you, I didn’t then try to call everyone that may have had some dealing with you to try and get your number. That would have been an unfair invasion of your privacy and I respected your wishes and accepted them without questioning them or casting any aspersions on you.

    On Thursday, I tried finding your number in the phone book. I figured that perhaps if your name was in a public book you wouldn’t mind a call from me. You are not listed. SO respected your wishes for me to not call you and stopped trying to find your number.

    So the only way I can reach you is via email and this blog. So I emailed you on Thursday October 25 around 3pm and asked you to call me ( I put my phone number in my email to you) or asked for your number so I could call you. I never got a response. To this day, I don’t know if you have said you even got that email but I am assuming you didn’t. If you did, why didn’t you call me?

    I wish you or Amanda would have responded to my email or call. I wish Austen had not have told me on Friday that the Courier was not going to print anything from the SCIT Campaign. I would have kept trying to get a hold of you and would have left a note on your door if need be to call me.

    But when Austen told me he was not going to publish anything from SCIT which was about 12 noon on Friday, the very same day as your deadline, I stopped working on the YpsiVotes thing and moved my attention back to the campaign.

    I wish there was something more I could do to quell your anger at me, I don’t know what else I can say or do except to say I am deeply sorry.

    I hope this event doesn’t hurt our abilities to work together on future events but I fear it has. I also hope that at some point in time you can trust me enough that if you have a question or concern about something I have done or not done, that you can pick up the phone and call me.

    But until you can trust me enough to give me your phone number, or trust me enough to call me when you have a question or concern, the only way I can reach you is through your mindspring.net address and as we can see, on Thursday Oct 25, that didn’t work. It really is too bad a single technical failure to deliver one email from me to you on Thursday caused all of this. But it has.

    But please, if you are going to quote me in the future, quote what I said to you, not what I may or may not have said to someone else and then is relayed to you and could easily be taken out of context. If you heard something you don’t like, call me and confirm it. I am very easy to get a hold of and I return my calls as quickly as possible. That is the only fair and reasonable way we can work to repair and rebuild our trust.

    Again I am very sorry for my failings last week and I hope you can accept my apology.

    Steve Pierce
    734-482-9682
    Steve@Ypsi.com

  41. John Gawlas
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Teaspout,

    Other council members have continually pointed to the 3-Year Solvency Plan as compiled by the City Manager as what some specific cuts to the operation might be. I do not think asking SCIT what specific reductions they view as applicable is unfair to Council Member Robb. Perhaps unbeknownst to you, the solvency plan was compiled and updated following the so-called “goal setting”? meetings that City Council, department heads and the City Manager hold close to the beginning of the year. This is done to help assist the manager in developing the upcoming year’s budget by collectively identifying priorities. Other Council Members have pointed to the manager’s outline as the plan they would discuss in establishing each year’s budget. If SCIT (and by inference, CM Robb) take exception to that outline, then they should be giving us some specific revisions or an entirely new outline of how they would accomplish the task of bringing a budget in line with the available resources.

    John Gawlas
    Council Member

  42. mark
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Steve, I’m not angry with you. Really. I’m not. I respect what you’ve been able to accomplish in your time here in Ypsi, and I think your voice is a welcomed addition to the local conversation. Like you, I think there is waste and excess in the budget and appreciate having you there to identify it. With all of that said, however, I do not like the way you’ve run this campaign. I don’t know how I can be any more clear than that.

    And, I know that I never told you how I voted in the Mayoral election. I guess I’ll have to start carrying a tape recorder around with me.

    For what it’s worth, and you can choose to believe this or not, even though I am on the Mayor’s 2020 Task Force, I am not a friend of Paul’s. I’ve only had one beer with Paul in my life. (That’s how I measure friendship.) He simply asked me to serve on the Task Force, and I agreed. I would have done the same thing had you been elected Mayor and had you asked me. I care about this City passionately and I want to help provide constructive solutions.

  43. Posted November 5, 2007 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you Mark for your kind reply.

    Perhaps you will have time to go get a beer later this week. First round, my treat. Hope to see you Tuesday at the polls.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  44. Posted November 5, 2007 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    Regarding how the campaign run, I wish you would have called me to tell you didn’t like something. We could have talked about it. I would have listened and I would have done what I could to address your concerns and implement your suggestions.

    Seriously, call me, lets talk.

    – Steve
    482-9682

  45. Posted November 5, 2007 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    With respect to Mr. Gawlas’ comments about the solvency plan. Brian Robb did voice his opinion about the solvency plan at Council. He even wrote about his experience it at length on his blog (http://www.east-cross.com/?p=340).

    That was it. There wasn’t any choice and we didn’t give any priority. We were simply told this is how it was going to be. I guess we all agreed this was the direction we should take, but there wasn’t a choice to chose another path to solvency.

    Again, as a newcomer to City Council, I was expecting a smorgasboard of choices that could make up the deficit. The menu was not very elaborate.

    The City Manager should have produced a large list of options. (my emphasis) As an exercise, we prioritized Public Safety, Recreation, City Council, Development, and Public Works on a scale of 1 to 5. I suppose that’s a very broad form of priority setting, but I would have preferred options. I’m always making the mistake that government should work like the real world, and in my real world experience, when I have a problem to solve I’m supposed to provide a laundry list of options.

    It’s a learning experience for me, and I’m sure I’ll be frustrated a lot. — Brian Robb

    What’s interesting is that when it came time to produce a solvency plan this year, there were items on the list that have never showed up in a solvency plan to date. There was a savings of $188,971 for “changes in revenue and expenditures.” It was never there before and when it finally did appear, Council never discussed it. There was also an additional $120,000 of expenses that were moved into the Major Streets Fund. Again, Council never asked why that wasn’t in the solvency plan the first time around.

    It’s disingenuous for Mr. Gawlas to suggest there was a time for input when the suggestions and questions were ignored.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  46. Posted November 5, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    CM Gawlas,

    To be clear, if the income tax passes do you promise there will be no further

    “cuts to police and fire protection; the EMS rescue service, parks maintenance, building code enforcement, the Ypsilanti Senior Center, Parkridge Community Center, Rutherford Pool, and an end to AATA bus service in Ypsilanti, including the “A-Ride” program that serves those with special needs.”

    All of these services/programs will receive the funding they require?

  47. John Gawlas
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    As it relates to CM Robb’s blog posting, I guess the menu list was longer in the past. Once each option is employed, it comes off the menu.

    As to the time for input…the time has been NOW. Isn’t this what Mark has been saying here. Actually, there has been at least 8 months since the campaign was launched by SCIT. So, No – I don’t think it disingenuous to suggest there was time for input.

  48. Glen S.
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Throughout these many threads, two consistent points of “debate” have been 1.) Whether or not the “No” side, including Council Member Robb, Richardson and Mayor pro-tem Swanson, have offered constructive solutions for alternatives to the tax; and 2.) Whether or not Water Street is a primary cause of the City’s budget deficit, and therefore – the income tax proposal.

    It is therefore worth noting that, in yesterday’s Ann Arbor News editorial “A Tough Choice, But Income Tax is Needed – Ypsilanti’s Fiscal Crisis Calls for Action” The A2 News Editorial Board took pains to specificially point out that income tax opponents have NOT offered constructive solutions; and that Water Street is NOT the cause of the City’s problems.

    You can see it for yourself at:
    http://www.mlive.com/columns/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-1/119427180735740.xml&coll=2

  49. Posted November 5, 2007 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Glen,
    Yes, I read the “Ann Arbor” News view of the situation in Ypsilanti. I find it painful that the newspaper for a neighboring city with no income tax would feel they could take the “little brother” attitude to recommend a tax they themselves do not have for a neighbor. Especially when dealing with many of the same issues themselves and no income tax proposed for their city.

  50. Glen S.
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    As “rodneyn” might say: “Nice try,” Teaspout.

    1.) The Ann Arbor News covers Ypsilanti (including Ypsilanti politics and Ypsilanti City Hall) extensively. As our only local daily newspaper, they have also provided the most extensive coverage of Ypsilanti’s fiscal crisis, and the income tax campaign. You can choose to trust their opinion (or not), but I think it’s disingenous to claim they don’t “understand” our issues.

    2.) While both are experiencing budget issues, there can simply be NO comparison made between the magnitude of Ypsilanti’s vs. Ann Arbor’s situations. Despite the loss of Pfizer – Ann Arbor has never been forced to make cuts anywhere near as deep (nor for as long) as Ypsilanti. Likewise, because Ann Arbor has a much higher percentage of taxable property (with much, much higher taxable values), they have capacity to weather lean budget times that we (in Ypsi) can’t even begin to dream about. At some point in the future, Ann Arbor voters may or may not decided to consider a City income tax, but that is completely irrelevant to our situation.

  51. Tea for Two
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I agree with Teaspout that you should lay off Councilman Robb. It’s only the two hardest questions that he avoided. It’s not like he didn’t respond to the others.

  52. Posted November 5, 2007 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Glen,
    If I felt that the Ann Arbor News provided adequate coverage of Ypsilanti (as our only daily newspaper) I wouldn’t have to rely on Mark for community news. (I would still read Mark’s blog because Mark is a stand up guy.) I do not find it disingenuous to claim they do not understand Ypsilanti issues. How many Ypsilanti staff members do they employ? This is not to say that I don’t think Khalil Hachem does an admirable job. He is ONE person. One person does not a newsroom make.

    I agree that there can be no comparison between the magnitude of issues between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, but rather than this lessening my objection to the Ann Arbor News big brother approach, it only heightens it.

  53. Posted November 5, 2007 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Glen wrote:
    “Ann Arbor has never been forced to make cuts anywhere near as deep (nor for as long) as Ypsilanti.”

    Really! I think the numerous Ann Arbor staff that have been cut over the last 10 years would strongly disagree that Ann Arbor hasn’t been facing deep cuts. At least two employees that I know of that were cut by A2 were recently hired by the City of Ypsi. Usually at substantially higher salaries then what they were getting when were laid off by A2. There may be many more.

    At least one member of the 20/20 committee lost their job in A2 because of cuts in the police department.

    Ann Arbor looked at a City Income Tax but their charter said any City Income Tax would mean an almost complete elimination of the general operating property millage. So that is why the City of Ann Arbor dropped any discussion of a City Income Tax. It wouldn’t raise enough Money.

    The City of Ypsi used to have the same Charter provision that required a 5 mill reduction if there was a City Income Tax in Ypsi. But it was removed by the Charter Commission in 1994.

    Oh my gosh, do you realize this? The co-chair of the YES vote was one of the proponents on the Charter commission to remove the City Income Tax provision requiring a mandatory 5 mill reduction in property taxes.

    I hadn’t even thought about this. The folks at the City of Ypsi have been planning the City Income Tax since 1994. Oh where is G. Gordon Libby and Oliver Stone when you need them.

    Time to go work doors.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  54. John Gawlas
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Teaspout –
    The solvency plan is a contingency — for when we no longer have sufficient revenues to sustain our current operation. Public safety, including EMS, and adequate funding for AATA service, building code enforcement, direct contributions toward utilities and administrative staff support for volunteer recreation facilities organizations (such as those that support the Senior Center, Parkridge Community Center, and Rutherford Pool), and parks maintenance continue to be the priorities I promise to champion. If the tax passes, there will be no new endeavors supported that take money away from these core services.

    The Mayor and my fellow council members all have a responsibility to address the longer term sustainability of our community. This means advocating (both individually and collectively) for changes in our state’s financing model for municipal governments. State legislators must not usurp local control if regionalism and collaborative endeavors are to be effective. Regional sales taxes, for example, can be used to build and sustain transit systems. The State could reform Act 312 binding arbitration legislation to reduce cost barriers to combining public safety departments of adjoining communities.

    We are already working with the Michigan Suburbs Alliance (www.michigansuburbsalliance.org), Washtenaw Metro Alliance (www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/planning_environment/planning/wma_html), SEMCOG (www.semcog.org), MML (www.mml.org) and other organizations to advance the integration of local resources to deliver quality, cost-effective services to our taxpayers. This is the best way to promise we won’t have to cut support for services that are essential for any of the constituencies in our community.

    I am not going to be breathing a sigh of relief should the proposal pass. Quite frankly, we will have only reset the clock…which will continue to tick as we come up with sustainable solutions for Ypsilanti’s future.

  55. Posted November 5, 2007 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    CM Gawlas,
    Thank you for a thoughtful response.

    I applaud your efforts to maintain a vibrant City, and am heartened that you are looking to continue your efforts towards longer term sustainability.

  56. Andy C
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Amen to everything Mark said in his post. Even though the YpsiVotes questions are a great idea, I do feel lit was a little to late and the damage is done. I had both sided flier my house this weekend and both fliers where received by my dogs who gave them the same care I would have. I also had multiple request to put signs on my lawn by both sides. I didn’t put signs on my lawn for this or the last mayor election and I feel I had better dialog with people than if I had.

    This is what I’d love to see in the future…
    No signs and no fliers. Ban the eye sores!
    Issues get posted on YpsiVotes with both sides make there plea.
    Boxes around town to submit questions to, a blog or email for the same purpose, like for the mayor election debate.
    Questions submitted to opposing sides, answered, and fact checked.
    People can add there names to a support list, which would be far more accurate then signs on landlord properties.
    The Information gets posted online, printed in the paper, and a flier is put on my fence, for the dogs to get.

    How about that? Could we all agree to that in the future? Wouldn’t it be nice?

  57. Publius
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Really Andy C?
    No signs?
    No flyers?
    These items are the essence of political speech. You want to ban them?!

    Do you like democracy? Sometimes it can get a little icky. Not everyone is going to go to YpsiVotes.com to get the “truth.

    The idea of regulating campaigning makes me want to puke.

  58. Glen S.
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    And so another epic Ypsilanti blog-debate begins…

  59. dirtgrain
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Yah, democracy depends on people making their choices based on the lawn signs they see. Feh.

  60. Andy C
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Publius,

    My apologies, ban was kinda a harsh term. How about “Agree not to use signs and fliers” in place of “No signs and no fliers”. The thought here is to try an alternative to what we’re doing. I believe in democracy but democracy only works if the public is well informed. So with that, and when you’re done puking, please go back and read all of my post again with the above in mind.

  61. Publius
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I like lawn signs in the fall. They are very colorful like the leaves changing. It makes me think of democracy in action.

  62. egpenet
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    This is also MY last post on this subject.

    I invite everyone to check out the centerfor michigan.net website as a source of inspiration and motivation for new ideas here in town and within the county for political change and fiscal responsibility.

    I’m reminded of a scam that used to run in those little classified ads in the back pages of little magazines, like Reader’s Digest, etc. … “One Full Yard of Pure Chinese Silk – Any Color! Only $1.00!”

    Many seamstresses dug out their pattern books and ordered the requisite yardage for their skirt, blouse, or gown.

    To their suprise, they received their “yardage” in the correct color and amount … but in the form of silk thread!

    We’ve beeen promised a lot here in town, and most has been delivered and is literally visible … streets, lighting, even the sewers, and more. But there’s a LOT of money flowing right through th city’s fingers to the Chiddister, Peninsular, and other givebacks, not to mention the allowances to be made for the railroad tracks, should they have to go back in. Then, there’s all the unseen hirings, raises, retiremnt guarantees.
    And on top of that there are the “performance” questions with lobbyists, our double-DDA/CDC focus.

    And we still haven’t managed to build truly productive political bridges within the county, except for paying for services rendered. There’s no reorganization success to tout, save for a YES vote from US to pay for better emergency communications. Aren’t WE smart!

    We’ll I’m depressed about having to vote NO tomorrow. I have never voted AGAINST ANYTHING in this town. I’ll probably puke all over my ballot and embarass myself … but what’s new about that? But it isn’t me that should really be embarassed.

    G’night.

  63. Union Household
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Don’t puke egpenet. Just think about how another entire department of city bureaucrats will be avoided by your no vote. At least four full time bean counters would have been needed to figure out how to get everyone to pay up. Much rather see those jobs go to health and safety personnel.
    See you at the polls.
    J. Delcamp for SCIT

  64. dirtgrain
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Publius said, “I like lawn signs in the fall. They are very colorful like the leaves changing. It makes me think of democracy in action.”

    I like the smell of napalm in the morning. Sticking a sign, that someone else made for you, in your lawn is political action? It just seems pathetic to me.

  65. Union Household
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey dirtgrain, I hope those aren’t union made signs you’re complaining about!

  66. MaryD
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    My only wish is that Steve had joined Brian Robb in winning, that is his campaign for Mayor, then none of us would be having this conversation.
    They would have not squandered this last year on this ballot initiative and instead would have been working on that very “plan” you all have slavered over endlessly in this post.
    Oh and THANK YOU Brian for your thoughtful and intelligent responses to the questions.
    As for the solvency plan bahhhhhh!
    One cat, one vote and one beer, tomorrow!

  67. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    There’s a lot above I want to respond to, but, at this point, I assume everyone still reading has pretty much decided how they’ll vote in the morning. As such, I don’t see much reason to post it other than personal satisfaction. Tempting, but I’m gonna skip it.

    I hope everyone goes out tomorrow and votes for the side with the fewest yard signs.

    And, if you want to know if those yards signs were union made, you can always go to campaign.ewashtenaw.org and find out.

  68. Will S.
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone else find it odd that Steve Pierce can find the time to post — sometimes at great length and in great detail — at least a dozen times in this thread alone, yet couldn’t find the time to answer seven questions about an issue with which he’s so obviously well versed?

    If he and the anti-tax team didn’t want to answer the questions, then fine. But I think its disingenuous to make that choice and then cry foul about short deadlines, etc. If they wanted to answer the questions, surely they could have made it happen. Instead, as I see it, they chose not to — for whatever reason — and then decided to turn the tables and blame a short deadline. That dog don’t hunt …

    Speaking of dogs, I don’t have one in this fight. I now live in the township and work in Ann Arbor, so I’m watching as an interested bystander. But I do care deeply about this community as a whole and it makes me sad and angry when I see the same bunch of politicos — and a few relative, yet like-minded, newcomers — using the same old scare tactics and strong-arm methods that have stood in the way of progress in this town (and township) for far too long. Maybe a little less ego and a little more commitment to a spirited-but-honest debate would better serve the common good. But that isn’t the way these folks do politics. And, after all these years — many as a professional observer of Ypsi politics — I’m not even sure that’s their aim.

    Pretty sad,

    Will

  69. Kit S.
    Posted November 5, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    WARNING: If you vote yes, the segway army will be coming for you.

  70. Union Household
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Will S. this is not progress, this is regress! …and Kit S. if you vote no, you’ll keep a lot of hard earned money in the pockets of your friends and neighbors.

  71. Will S.
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Union Household – Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that the income tax is a good thing or a bad thing. As I said, I don’t have a direct stake in the result. My point is that, as a community, we’re better off without the old-school, scare-mongering, back-biting politics that divide neighbors instead of pulling them together.

  72. Andy C
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I like attack ads on the TV, it makes me think of democracy in action.

    I like fund raising dolars deciding the next candidate, it makes me think of democracy in action.

    I like pollsters inferring John McCain has an illegitimate black child, it makes me think of democracy in action.

    I like fliers on cars in Ohio telling people to vote on the wrong day, it makes me think of democracy in action.

    I like letters sent out on the letterhead of a no longer active group implying things about a candidate for mayor, it makes me think of democracy in action.

    I like recounts being blocked by lawyers, it makes me think of democracy in action.

  73. Union Household
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Welcome to politics in Ypsilanti. Occasionally as mean and nasty as any union election. It’s the nature of the beast. After observing for 30+ years, it has changed little.

  74. degutails
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I have found this campaign neither mean-spirited nor nasty, to be honest. I have friends voting on both sides of this issue, and have found lots of room for agreement, as well as disagreement. That’s how things work. No one has lied, although I have serious questions about some of the decisions the city government has made.

    To be honest, the only event in this whole debate that has offended me was the highly suspect assessment made by Mark (Maynard, not H.) of Brian Robb’s motives in not getting the answers to the YpsiVotes questions in on time. I am grateful to both sides for taking the time to answer these questions at all, regardless of deadlines. It would have been enough, I think, to mention that the deadline had come and gone without throwing speculation as to motivation into the mix.

    The friends that I have (as judged by the minimum standard of who I’d have a beer with) would not say they liked and respected me, then publicly accuse me of deliberately sabotaging a cause for which I had worked diligently over the years. I don’t speak for Brian, but as someone who knows him and also someone who values friendship and its ideals, I can’t fathom why that comment ever made it into print.

    Meredith

  75. maryd
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Degutails, I like the way you think! I agree wholeheartedly. I think it was made clear that without data you cannot reasonably plan. When we worked on YPS budget problems on the Community Schools Committee, we had access to any and all info necessary to understand the budget as well as historical data. No FOI requests were necessary. Of course that all happended after major changes in the BOE. I love the passion this community has for it’s politics and embrace it!

  76. Dodsun
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    It sounds to me like Brian promised Mark the responses by Tuesday or Wednesday, after that deadline passed Mark wrote to Brian several times asking for the answers, and then on Friday night he posted the letter to which you object. I’m not sure what kind of friend breaks a promise and avoids contact like that, especially after admitting that their strategy had been to not answer difficult questions.

  77. maryd
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Dodsun, you say “especially after admitting that their strategy had been to not answer difficult questions.” Nobody at SCIT ever had any strategy to avoid the hard questions. Read what Brian wrote instead of dickering about timing. You have never been late, never miscommunicated? You set an unreasonably high bar for your friends…

  78. degutails
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I think, Dodsun, that we’re reading the original post differently. It sounds to me like Brian promised the questions and couldn’t follow through in time, but it does not, to me, sound like Mark was saying that Brian was non-communicative. It just sounds like the questions weren’t received by the deadline.

    Personal hurt at non-compliance with the aforementioned deadline does not equal willful attempts to keep YpsiVotes from distributing materials. It’s speculative, and it was unnecessary, especially from someone trying to stay above the fray.

    Meredith

  79. Elf
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Rumor is Brian wanted to answer the questions as promised but Steve told him not to. Brian’s compromise was to answer them slowly.

  80. observer
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    So Brian is Steve’s puppet? It all makes sense now.

    Now when’s that healing supposed to start?

  81. amused1
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    Thanks for your post. I too was disappointed when I heard the scit folks were, for whatever reason, unable to respond to the questions in time for publication.

    Reading the questions I don’t see any major surprises or out of the blue questions. These all look like distilled requests for the facts/plans/opinions we’ve all been asking for all along. In other words, I saw answering the questions as restating the wheel not inventing the wheel.

    I’m amused by the idea that, given the level of involvement and passion the members of scit have put toward their goal, that no one (or group of)member(s) was(were) able to find the time to communicate to the community at large via the ypsivotes question forum. I put it on my tally card right next to saying “the city wastes money” while filing a lawsuit against the city that, imo is a waste of city time and money. Frankly, at times I found myself leaning toward “yes” simply because I personally found the scit tone and tactics to be offensive. And no, I’m not some city employee or vote yes mole. Let’s face it, it’s Tues afternoon and anything I type here is unlikely to have any effect on the outcome of the vote. I have offered support to no side and have taken pains to listen to my friends and colleagues, read what I can find and ask questions in order to make a fact based decision. I walked out of the booth this morning very divided over my own vote.

    I just want to get it off my chest that I’m not happy with the members of scit and the city council who said no to a tax but failed to come up with a considered, convincing alternative. You have lost my respect and very likely any future votes I may cast.

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