so, what gets cut?

I’m not watching the polls. I know how things are going to turn out. I know that the tax initiative won’t pass. Everyone knows it. Even the people on the pro-tax side know it. I heard from a friend this morning that the man next to him in line to vote said that he hadn’t voted in 20 years, but that he wanted to come out to “Vote No.” I’ve also heard that there were over 700 absentee ballots requested. My guess is that at least three-quarters of those will be against the tax. Michigan has the worst economy in the country, and people don’t want to hand over even a dollar more. Who can blame them?

So, the question now becomes, “What gets cut?” The folks who advocated against the tax were adamant that fire, police and EMS services would not be cut, but as they account for over half of our budget, it’s difficult for me to image that we can make the kinds of cuts necessary without further trimming their budgets. I’m told that some well-meaning folks in town are suggesting that we, the people of Ypsilanti, begin picking up more of the law enforcement slack. It’s been suggested that we beef up neighborhood watches. I’ve also heard it seriously suggested that we homeowners begin strategically deploying rose bushes so as to keep people from climbing in our windows. And then there are those that say “responsible” homeowners should own guns as a matter of course. Well, I have another idea that I’d like to contribute. I know some of you will think that I’m kidding, but I’m deadly serious. What if Ypsilanti were to institute a “Copless Tuesdays” initiative?

Why pay cops to protect us on a day that isn’t, at least comparatively speaking, terribly violent? We could be responsible for ourselves for one day a week, couldn’t we? The other days we’d train and work on our homemade bulletproof vests. It would be a great community building exercise. Just think of it!

OK, in all seriousness, the deep cuts are coming and we need to make some difficult decisions. The anti-tax side has been saying for some time now that that the City’s solvency plan doesn’t take into account several other alternatives for cost savings. The YpsiVotes crew asked for details as to what some of these might be, but, as you know, we weren’t given answers. Well, now that the game’s over, I think it’s time for everyone to turn over their cards. Like everyone else in town, I want to know what services are going away. Are we cutting a City planner? Are we going to lay off fire fighters? Will the snow be plowed less often? What about recycling? Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and confront the facts that we weren’t given the opportunity to discuss prior to voting… So, what’s on the table, and what’s getting cut?

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  1. Union Household
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the dead possum in the street in front of Mr. Murdock’s house will be there a while longer.

  2. fedupwithMI
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    The reason the other side could not produce any facts (even when they “answered” questions, they provided no facts or numbers) is that there is no alternative to this proposal.

    Most of the people who organized against the tax have no power at all to do anything about the problem except nay-say any real solution; the people with the data presented it and provided a solution and the usual Michigan no-nothing do-nothings defeated civilized processes once again. Can’t provide a solution, can’t bother to try and make their part of the world a better place, can’t bother to self-regulate the population and put criminals in prison.

    I’ve done volunteer work in 3rd world countries where people keep themselves to a higher standard than here.

    You have to pay for sh*t, you know. Else, you end up with, well, what most of Michigan looks like.

    The slide down just got that much steeper and faster.

    I’m sure it’s really someone elses fault, not the residents. Since it’s always someone else doing this to you, not you doing it to yourself.

    BTW, regarding shooting people on Tuesdays on our own: owning a taser is a misdemeanor (the FIRST time you are caught with one, especially if your record is clean). The second time it’s a real felony. As I’ve been told.

  3. Union Household
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    FYI: Final tally, pro income tax 1096, anti income tax 2240. The initiative lost in every precinct. The people have spoken. God Bless America!

  4. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Many of the reasons I voted for the tax are well-documented on this blog. Another was that I was willing to pay to avoid for what I fear will follow … intensified infighting over what gets cut. We all have our priorities, and most cuts are going to bring opposition to those cuts.

    I sincerely hope that council makes cuts unanimously or at least not along the same 4-3 party lines. I hope that members don’t take the politically easy route of opposing cuts, so in the next election they can say, “My opposition voted to cut X, when the city was wasting money on Y.” I hope that members that opposed the tax step up and take leadership in posing cuts and/or solutions.

    I don’t look forward to any cuts, and I think council members should be compensated for their time, but, I think before any city staff member is cut, council should cut their own compensation. It’s not a lot budget wise, but I think if they’re willing to give hard-working city employees the pink slip, they should be willing, as a token, at least, to cut their own wages, first.

  5. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    By the way Union, since you seem to be a man of faith, can you tell me which God you’re praying to so I know who to beseech next time I want to save a buck?

  6. Tommy
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    It will never happen, but I have always thought that the city and the township could join and become one. If there was ever a better time, I can’t think of one. I believe that a unified Ypsi would be a stronger Ypsi -both financially and logistically … back to the bong hits now!!!!

  7. amused1
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 7:13 am | Permalink


    Very often your thoughts are so much like mine that I wonder if I should ask you to move out of my head. But then I think to myself that it’s a nice neighborhood and that you’re a good neighbor. ;^)

    Now that the city income tax issue is settled I fully expect the same amount of energy to be put toward solving Ypsi’s financial problems.

    Four members of CC took an unpopular stand and have potentially committed political suicide. They made their decision and, whatever anyone else thinks, I feel that took guts and a real belief in the principle behind supporting a unpopular idea because they felt it was best for the city. Whether one feels they were misguided or not I think it shows a willingness, a passion if you will, to make the city work.

    Now I think it’s time for the other 3 CM’s to step up and show their mettle. No more half-lidded, reared back “Hrumphs”, no more ernest, wide eyed “Ohs”.

    I expect energetic and thoughful leadership from all members of council. I expect tough issues to be faced with a sense of service to the community as a whole not service to factions of the city. Every decision should be made with the idea of keeping the city intact not keeping a seat on council.

    Neighbors, however we got here we’re at the crossroads. It is our responsibility to keep council on task and working together.

    Oh, and Union, perhaps you could loan a shovel to Mr. Murdock? It’s a great tool for getting rid of roadkill. I’ve tested it out myself and found it to be extremely effective. I’ve also find the shovel great for clearing gutter drains that get clogged with debris.

  8. mark
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    “Shovels and Guns for Ypsilanti”

    Sounds like a campaign I could get behind.

  9. amused1
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    For the banner/flag graphic I’m thinking either a central image of the tower with a shovel and rifle crossed in front of it or the shovel and rifle leaning against it (one on either side). Thoughts?

  10. Posted November 7, 2007 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Before serious alternatives are given, I would like to know:
    Is there even a chance of a plan separate from the 3 year solvency plan being accepted?

    I, too, have been asking for this alternate plan, but from the pro-tax folks. As you say, it was clear how this election was coming out.

    But it also has been clear on every occasion that I’ve asked the question that the pro-tax folks have pointed to the 3 year solvency plan as if there is nothing else.

    CM Gawlas does point to future longer term sustainability. Is there a willingness to work together NOW?

    Rather than 3 on 4 or 4 on 3 at Council, isn’t this something that needs to come more from 7 + the City Manager?

    Is this possible? Can we move beyond this finger pointing?

  11. Ingrid
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Can this discussion be broadened a bit? I recommend as required reading the following:

  12. Sacred Cow
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I agree with what someone above said in that it is time for Councilmember’s Robb, Swanson, and Richardson in particular to step up to the plate and offer some real solutions. It has been widely stated by the anti-tax crowd that a balanced budget can be achieved without cuts to Police and Fire. If that’s the case, now is the time to see it. It’s always easy to just say ‘NO’ to everything, and even easier for elected officials to oppose taxes. It’s much more difficult to offer practical solutions.

    The people have spoken, and done so quite clearly. I eagerly await any solutions to our budget problems from the naysayers. I truly hope they are correct about no Police and Fire cuts, but given the severity of the projected revenue/expenditure gap in the next 5 years, I remain skeptical. Eitherway I believe it is time for Brian Robb and Co. to put their money where their mouth is. Taking politically expedient positions is the easy part of an elected officials job. Making tough choices about what gets cut is not. It’s time to see what our Council is made of. I wish them nothing but the best of luck. It won’t be easy, but our city’s future depends on it.

  13. Katy
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I’m all for moving forward with feasible solutions, but the notion of creating a mockup of a tower/shovel/gun logo may be too hard to pass up.

  14. amused1
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    go for it katy

  15. Union Household
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Ole. E. Cross, “Which God?” Why all of ’em: Zeus, Odin, Kemosh, Brittany… Take you pick!

    Looking at the numbers, I would say that the proposal would have failed even without SCIT.
    But I was unwilling to take that chance.

    Time to move on, at long last!

  16. name
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    The comment on risky positions taken by council members–

    I think the “naysayers” are in a lot riskier position, depending on how much has hit the fan when it is their turn to be the subject of a vote. Perhaps the cuts will be carefully timed to miss the ending of their appointments; I can see some wrangling over *that* coming as well.

    Personally I’m thinking they have no clue as to an actual solution, based upon their inability to actually articulate anything to date.

  17. amused1
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Um, Name?… sorry but could you specify which group you’re talking about? The 3 or the 4? Given all the words that have poured out these past months it’s unclear to me who exactly you’re referring to. Thnx :)

  18. name
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    naysayers: those on the council who voted nay/ led the “no” campaign.

    Rather like the Knights Who Say Ni!. Whatever you bring isn’t right….

  19. amused1
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Ok, thanks for the clarification. I was totally unsure of who you meant. Yes, it will be interesting indeed to see how things go forward.

    I would like to see everyone pull together to find a way out of this hole. My experience tells me this isn’t likely. But I’m a glass half full kinda person so continue to hope.

  20. amused1
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and forget about bringing me a shrub. Got one already that’s totally out of control. Need pruning shears now. ;^)

  21. Lance
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Shrubberies are for irresponsible homeowners. You need things with thorns on your property if you want to deter evildoers. Don’t you read?

  22. ST
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    “Ypsilanti – protecting ourselves, and shoveling our own carcasses”

    Or would that be “carci”?

  23. Demosthenes
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    A look at the Updated Solvency Plan reveals that a more sophistocated analysis is needed, specifically along the following three points:

    1. Page 4/7 of the pdf file shows revenues and expenditures by fical year, using savings from the solvency plan cut backs. It shows the effects on the general fund balance and shows that balance becoming negative in the last couple years.

    However, the line “Total Cuts Solvency Plan” numbers do no match the numbers on page 5/7. Specifically FYE 2008 on page 4 is 373,522 vs 723,522 on page 5; FYE 2009 on page 4 is 1,249,775 vs 1,599,775 (723,522+876,253) on page 5; and FYE 2010 on page 4 is 2,414,380 vs 2,764,380 (723,522+876,253+1,164,605) on page 5.

    2. The “Total Cuts Solvency Plan” numbers on page 4 are not adjusted for inflation, wage increases, and health care increases applied to the cutback positions underlying the numbers (FYE 2009 and outward) and are thus underestimated in the out years.

    3. A TRUE solvency plan would not result in a negative fund balance even in the out years. After my points 1 and 2 are resolved, the proposed cuts in budget should be adequate (increased) to result in net zero deficit in the last year – or possibly return of the general fund balance to the starting balance in FYE 2007.

  24. Locke
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Roses chosen specifically for Michigan can be found at off Rawsonville road.

    After 2008 the business may go away, the owners are retiring.

    Canadian Explorer climbers are super hardy and can get to 10ft or more.

    Roses need lots of sun, water, and food, and should be planted with >1/2 day or full sun for largest growth.

    Some of the shrub roses get very large also, so would meet the “shrubbery” requirement if needed, perhaps for the historical district?.

  25. Visitor - well, not really
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to all that voted, the turnout shows just how important the city’s future is to the residents. For all 1,094 people who voted for the income tax proposal, don’t worry. The city will accept your tax payment, if you wish. Simply go to the city’s website, use the income tax calculator to determine what you would’ve owed, and send a check to the City Treasurer for that amount as a donation. It should still be tax deductible.

    “Donate for Ypsilanti’s Future.” it could be a real moneymaker. 1,094 x $21/month x 12 months = $275,688. That’s more than enough to fund the entire Planning and Development Dept. budget for the year. It would certainly make for a nice “cushion,” and would make streamlining and re-focusing city government easier to accomplish. We could even re-use those “yes” signs, with minor modifications.

  26. Union Household
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Heck, I might send them a check if: I knew what they did with the money for Luna Lake at Prospect Park, or if it could be explained why they rejected a $600,000.00 approved grant to make Frog Island into an outdoor concert venue, or why my neighbors get $50.00 fines for leaving monitor or high chairs in front of their house with “FREE” signs on them. I guess the city will just have to accept my property taxes paid in full and on time, as they always have.

  27. Andy C
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    “I agree with what someone above said in that it is time for Councilmember’s Robb, Swanson, and Richardson in particular to step up to the plate and offer some real solutions.”

    Richardson did offer some real solutions, the income tax. It was originally her idea. She talked to other cities who also did it. What she didn’t intend for is the property taxes not being lowered to to balance it out for the residents. She represents the south side and a few folks I talked to from that area don’t have the money to spare. They understand the need but if you don’t have it you don’t have it. I was for the tax to get EMU to pay up. It could have passed if it wasn’t hitting the residents so hard. Some money would have been better than none. Maybe we can try it again in the future and this time do it right.

  28. mark
    Posted November 7, 2007 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I think I was right a few days ago when I said that the tax would fail this time around and pass next time. We’ll see. In the meantime, I, like OEC, just hope we don’t tear each other’s throats out over what services get cut. I don’t want to see the seniors fighting with us breeders over whether the public pool or the senior center gets cut first.

    And I agree with everyone that says both sides need to come together to fix this. While I do think the anti-tax side owes us something in the way of alternatives to the solvency plan they’ve spent the last several months criticizing, I think the pro-tax folks need to rise above any feelings of righteous indignation and join them in their search for new places to cut expenses. This whole thing was a colossal fuck-up from day one, and it’s going to take everyone we’ve got to fix it.

  29. Demosthenes
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink


    This is only my second post ever on these blogs. I only began reading them this week.

    Before we can decide what services should be cut and which should not, we need a better understanding of how much needs to be cut. See My first post.

  30. Visitor - well, not really
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Andy C: “Maybe we can try it again in the future and this time do it right.”
    Mark: “I think I was right a few days ago when I said that the tax would fail this time around and pass next time. We’ll see.”

    The tax proposal failed in every precinct in every ward throughout the city. It failed for multiple reasons, some of which are:

    1. There was not enough compensating reduction in property tax rates.
    2. There was too much of a reduction in property tax rates.
    3. There should have been no quid pro quo regarding property tax rates at all.

    Each of voters had there own reasons for their decision. For the 1,040 voters that voted for Mayor Schreiber in August ’06, it was easy – they just reaffirmed their previous vote. For the 50 or so additional people that the Mayors convinced to vote “yes,” they apparently decided that what the Mayors told them must be true.

    For the 2,200 plus that voted against it, the reasons were equally numerous, but don’t be persuaded that just eliminating or increasing the property tax millage will magically change their minds. This income tax proposal failed by a better than 2:1 margin across the city, and it deserves to rest in peace.

    “The Mask” was a great movie, in my opinion. “Son of the Mask” (or whatever they called that sequel) was a very bad idea. “Son of the Income Tax” is equally bad.

  31. Demosthenes
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Vistor – wnr (and Andy C to lessor extent):

    This tread is not about the income tax or whether it was a good idea or not or whether it might be in the future.

    Mark asked a good question that needs to be answered now that the income tax question is off the table.

    I also proposed a related question.

  32. rodneyn
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I agree, Demosthenes, but the wrong question was asked. If we focus our goal on cutting the budget, we will end up right back in the same rut the pro-tax leadership was in until Tuesday night.

    Our goal should be to streamline and re-focus city government. What Al Gore and others before him called “reinventing government.” If we do that, we will find that we can maintain and even improve key city services while getting our budget under control to live within our means. I’m ready to help.

  33. Demosthenes
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 11:59 am | Permalink


    Don’t ignore the revenue side of the equation. No matter how we “reinvent” our city government, the resulting budget will have to match revenues.

    That said, what are you ideas regarding streamlining and re-focusing the City of Ypsilanit?

  34. Andy C
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    The question is now not only what has to be cut but what we as citizens can do to help. Groups like “Pennies for the Pool” is a great example. I know this won’t work for larger items like Fire and Police, but it can be done for somethings.

    If we can’t afford police then something has to fill the hole. Mark mentioned neighborhood watches, a good start for this is getting involved in your neighborhood associations. Getting police reports and notices about what is happening around you can really help. We need to get the renters up to speed too.

    Two summers ago we had a thief stealing hanging plants in the Midtown/Normal Park area. We asked the police about it at a neighborhood meeting and they just called it “random vandalism by students”. We pooled our info and had the guy caught with in a week. He didn’t go to jail and I still see him almost every day on the streets but at least it stopped.

    We also had a crack house in the neighborhood which wasn’t going away. Pressure was put on the police about it, the busted three people in one week coming out with drugs. This forced the landlord to kick them out. Both of these example just prove that the police can’t do it alone and with less it will fall more on us.

    We as citizens can help out in these hard times if we get involved. The comment by “well, not really” seemed snarky but at the same time those who have money to spare, let see where it’s needed maybe you can contribute to a fundraiser. Those who don’t, maybe volunteering for neighborhood walks, or student awareness so the area isn’t such an easy target for criminals. We’re gonna have to pitch-in if it’s time or money. The whole burden can’t just sit on the CC.

  35. rodneyn
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Demosthenes, the “how” of reinventing city government is important, as are revenues, but it is the GOAL of streamlining and re-focusing city government that we need to focus on achieving. It’s like a baseball – if you don’t keep your eye on it while it’s in the air, no matter how hard or how many times you swing or how high-grade your bat, batting gloves, spikes, and helmet are, you’re not going to connect.

    Setting the right goal and keeping your eye on it is essential to a successful outcome. The formerly pro-tax elected city leaders made raising revenues by passing an income tax their goal, and Tuesday’s outcome is the result.

  36. Demosthenes
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 1:54 pm | Permalink


    Let me extend your baseball analogy for you.

    The GOAL of streamlining and re-focusing city government is like saying you want to have a good batting average.

    That’s fine; but, I want to know how good the batting average has to be to win games. And how many games do we have to win to make it to the playoffs and from there to the world series?

    Your second paragraph contributes nothing to this thread.

  37. Hillary
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Here are a few things that Hamtramck does differently:

    1) police reserves for festivals, holidays, and major incidents
    2) privatized trash collection; standardized containers
    3) updated the zoning ordinance; eliminated the planning department
    4) eliminated payments to all board members
    5) finances debt payments through tax judgments by refusing to pay until court ordered

  38. KD
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I was talking to someone and he mentioned that one of our city planners had been out at a brownfield development conference pitching Water St. He said that one developer had already come to visit site. He was all encouraged. Later in the same conversation he was saying we should cut all the planners to save money. I asked who would be recruiting developers if we didn’t have a city planner and he shrugged his shoulders.

  39. egpenet
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 8:23 pm | Permalink


    What MUST happen is that the “powers that be” in the City and the surrounding Townships (Ypsilanti, Pittsfield, Superior, and others) and their unions need to agree on a single area-wide fire department. No one of our political bodies can afford to maintain proper staffing and equipment. However, together, we can afford to maintain top staffing leveels, fast response and EMS.


    What MUST happen, however is that the hamlets, villages, towns and cities in the entire Eastern part of the County (East of US 23) need what is called “community policing” … street patrol, foot patrol, neighborhood watch support, detective services, short-term jail/remand facilities separate from the County. I propose the Ypsilanti Cheif, Matt Harshberger and his superb police force become the spine of such an eastern Washtenaw County operation. All communities would be invited to participate at a rate “somewhat” below what the County needs to charge.

    I ALSO propose that the citizens ante up to the County for a fast-track jail expansion. Rather than some vague income tax proposal as the City proposed, lets give Sheriff Minzey what he neeeeeeds for sevral new pods, plus other monies for more humane treatment, more social services, more family interaction, more drug and alcohol treatment for his inmates.

    AT THE SAME TIMEE, I propose to the courts what I call, TAKE NO PRISONERS. I ask the social services, prosecutors and courts to innovate regarding juveniles and adult first-offenders and to devisee “creative,” “productive,” “life-changing” sentences for those entering the system. No “boot” camps.

    What I propose is something along the lines of 1) Must go back to school, 2) Must graduate with 2.0, 3) Work assignments at local schools, libraries, cities, Road Commissions … 4) Familiy PLUS Mentoring support so there’s a safety net, 5) Grants for further rehab/school/etc., 6) Wipe the slate clean when reequiremnts are fulfilled, no criminal record … and more.
    What else can we do to free young poor and lower middle class kids from failing?

    That’s all for now.


  40. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 8, 2007 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I remember watching transit activists, who were convinced rail was the only option, work with transit opponents to defeat major improvements to bus service.

    Politics, odd bedfellows, etc.

    I think it was Doyle’s opinion piece in the A2 News that mentioned SCIT included Libertarians, Greens, Democrats and Republicans. My guess is that members of each opposed the tax for reasons as different as their ideologies. On one level, that’s fine, it’s how this stuff works. But how much will the Green’s and Libertarians agree if recycling is on the chopping block?

    On council, the three nay votes opposed the vote (in part) because: Robb, the property tax roll-back made it regressive; Richardson, the property roll-back wasn’t large enough for lower-income homeowners; Swanson, it wasn’t fair that the lowest income folks on social security and such didn’t have to pay anything.

    Our three councilfolk had widely differing reasons for opposing the tax. I think I probably had differing reasons for supporting it than the handful of other yes votes.

    Skip ahead a day and we see folks recommending a volunteer fire department, even though SCIT assured voters they wouldn’t let fire be cut, and eliminating garbage pickup in favor of $20 per month private garbage pickup (more than I, or any resident poorer than I would have paid per month if the tax passed).

    My guess is one reason the SCIT folks avoided the question of “what gets cut” is the answers would be extremely difficult to find with supporters ranging from Green to Libertarian.

    None of the above is intended as an indictment of SCIT or any of the ideas for cuts posed. We joined those Commie Ruskies to defeat the Germans. Political allies come and go. It’s just to help us realize where we’ve landed. Prior to the election, we had two sides … yes or no. Folks choosing sides, on both sides, did so for a range or reasons. Now, we have 20,000 sides.

    In my previous town, side streets were never plowed. My current vehicle can handle it. And, I have nowhere that I have to go that I can’t walk. It would be easy for me to vote to cut snow-plowing. But, that may not be as easy of a cut for others.

    I’m not sure we can do it, but I think best hope now is to step back from our personal priorities, however noble or justified they seem to us, and ask not what is best for us, but what it best for our collective neighbors.

    That’s me trying to be hopeful.

  41. Posted November 8, 2007 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Hillary, a few questions/notes on your list –

    2. A2 recently standardized all of their containers for robotic arm pickup by the trucks, and a “pay as you throw” charge for anything more than the basic size trash container. Savings over time, including less lost work for sanitation worker injuries, but lots of cost up front.

    2b. When you say “privatization”, do you mean hiring an outside company (as Ypsi has), or eliminating a citywide trash hauling contract and letting people fend for themselves?

    3. From what you’ve said of Hamtramck’s zoning ordinance in the past, I understand that the Building Dept. now does the zoning review part of what was the planning dept’s job. Also, Eric whatsisname, the Community Development Director, is essentially a planning department by a different name.

    5. Isn’t this just a way of saying, “If the voters won’t approve the tax, we’ll just let the court force the tax?” I don’t feel like that’s necessarily something I’d call “a solution” – it seems like a general failure of the public process. (Er – except that tax judgements aren’t susceptible to Headlee rollbacks, are they? So if the community accepts this as a workaround to State-imposed limits, I suppose it’s an okay approach.)

  42. Hillary
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    No problem. Thanks for asking.

    2. The switch to curb-carts happened before my time here, but I believe property owners were billed for them initially. We own our cart and have to pay for a replacement if it is stolen. People probably complained at the time, but I think everyone agrees that the carts improved pick-up and the alleys are cleaner. The DPW used to pick up the garbage, and carried guns while they did it, until Schimmel hired an outside company.

    2b. I shudder to think what would happen, but yes, the city could probably just cut everyone loose.

    3. We don’t really have a building department. We have a Public Services Department that handles water, sewers, building permits, signs, roads and code enforcement. I think 5 or 6 people work for Public Services, including supervisors. The city engineer, water and sewer maintenance, and building inspections are contracted out.

    Erik is our Economic and Community Development Director and chief zoning ordinance officer. He also has to deal with our urban renewal lawsuit, and there is no Assistant City Manager. He and the city manager, a secretary, and an intern are the only employees in those offices. (3 of the 4 positions were created after Schimmel left.) The Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals are manned by volunteers.

    5. The state accepts tax judgments as a workaround, and that’s all the permission our city government needs. The first few were very controversial, but they are so common now that people are almost used to them. This is why I’ve been saying that it doesn’t matter whether an income tax passes or not and it’s a waste of time to argue about it. You will pay. The only question is whether it will be by millage, income tax, or tax judgment.

  43. Posted November 9, 2007 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    “The state accepts tax judgments as a workaround,”

    Nice to know they’re so invested in fixing the problem they’ve set up in their cities…

  44. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 9:00 am | Permalink


    Your whole post was NO CUTS. But, the generally accepted theory is that without some kind of cuts (and substantial at that) the city will not be able to balance it’s budget. Is an unbalanced city budget your goal? Or do you believe that revenues will keep up with the expenditures you refuse to cut?

    I’d have to look back at the results to be sure; but isn’t my remembrance correct that the majority of voters within the city voted for the jail millage?

    Finally, are you positing that your “take no prisoners” proposal will save the city monys that can be applied against the deficit?

  45. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Ol’ E Cross

    The citizens had better come together on this and reach compromise or else “where the cuts will occur” will be dictated by a smaller number (city council) of people.

    My point is this: Cuts will be needed and everyone’s list of favored cuts will be different. Everyone needs to come to the table with their list of cuts and then start trading them across the table until compromise can be reached. The greens, the libertarians, the democrats, the repulbicans, the business owners, the renters, and the property owners all have different priorities, as you said. Any of them that are unwilling to compromise on those priorities are coming to the table with a “no starter” proposal.

  46. Glen S.
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Over the past few days, I’ve heard from at least three people who have expressed some version of the following sentiment:

    “We already pay high property taxes in Ypsi, but at least we get good services. But now, I’m afraid I’ll still have to pay high taxes, but will instead have to live with poor services.”

    I’ve also already heard from folks who are contemplating whether they should consider moving away before things start to get too bad…

    There was much discussion during the campaign about the alleged negative impact of the proposed income tax … but the reverse might now be asked about consequences of diminished City services. Like it or not, property taxes still provide the bulk of the City’s budget, and homeowners still form the backbone of most of our neighborhood associations, “friends” groups, etc. Most of these folks are very loyal to Ypsilanti and truly want to see our community succeed.

    Still, I think it’s fair to ask: When the consquences of potential cuts to Police, Fire, EMS, Parks, Ordinance Enforcement, etc. start to be felt across the City – at what point will many homeowners start deciding that paying Ypsi’s high property taxes is simply no longer a good “value?”

    Will we, at some point, begin to see “blight flight?”

    On Tuesday, Council Members Richardson, Robb and Swanson, along with the leaders of SCIT, persuaded 2/3 of Ypsilanti voters that our City’s budget could be balanced without an income tax; AND without deep cuts to essential services.

    As City Council is about to begin discussions regarding next year’s City budget, I guess we’re about to find out if they were right or not.

  47. todd
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    “We already pay high property taxes in Ypsi…..”

    This is really misleading. I’d bet if you adjusted for the actual value of people’s properties in Ypsi, it’d have one of the lower tax rates in the State, if not the country. Well, setting aside Detroit, that is.

    Here’s another example as to why Prop A is killing Ypsi and other Michigan cities.

    Yesterday there was an article in the AANews about Tecumseh Products closing a plant in (duh) Tecumseh. It stated that they were the largest taxpayer in Tecumseh, as well as the largest employer. Obviously they’ve been there for years. Know how much they paid to the city of Tecumseh every year in taxes? $120,000.

    Back to my small building that I mentioned before. It was just sold this year, so it is finally assessed at it’s true value. Know how much we pay in personal property, and property tax solely to the City of Ann Arbor? $60,000.

    Yep. This tee tiny 10,000 square foot building and small business with a grand total of 3 full time employees pays half of the taxes that an international company that has the most employees the city of Tecumseh. Why? Because of the world’s dumbest tax law.

    Michigan and its cities are fighting economic battles against other States and countries with both hands tied behind its back.

    Until you fix Prop A, Ypsi is fighting a losing battle. Even if you find places to cut this year, you’ll have to keep cutting next year, and the year after that, and the year after that….until (magically, I suppose) enough new construction comes to Ypsi to counterbalance the millions of dollars of tax revenue that is “lost” by assessing property like it’s still 1990.

  48. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Glen S and todd,

    Niether of you answered the question which is the point of this blog thread. I’m going to keep hitting this point over and over. Mark asked, “what cuts should we make?”

    Answers to that question are the only relevant posts that should be made on this thread, in my opinion. And, I posit that the question of how much cutting is needed is also relevant.

  49. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink


    So far:
    Mark recommends cuts in police (arm the citizens).
    Union Household recommends cuts in DPW.
    Andy C recommends cuts to the public pool and police.

    None of these recommendations carry numbers with them. How much should the police, DPW, and pool be cut?

  50. todd
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    “Niether of you answered the question which is the point of this blog thread. I’m going to keep hitting this point over and over. Mark asked, “what cuts should we make?””

    Ok. Cut Prop A. The rest will take care of itself. Ypsi will have more money than it knows what to do with…

    Then, it can cut taxes and millages.

    The rest, as I’ve said before, is rearranging chairs on the Titanic as it goes down.

    Anyone with a functioning calculator will tell you that without new construction, you’ll never be able to overcome Prop A losses with cuts to services.

    I would have voted for the income tax, with the caveat that the Mayor of Ypsi band together with the rest of the Mayors to demand that Prop A get flushed down the toilet so that Michigan could stand a fighting chance of economic recovery.

    In short, I haven’t the slightest clue as to what you can cut in Ypsi.

  51. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 12:13 pm | Permalink


    Have you started a petition yet? If I’ve read the newspaper correctly about other statewide ballot inititives you need in the neighborhood of 300,000 signatures and you have until Ypsilanti’s new fiscal year starts in summer 2008 to get it passed. OR, if you have good confidence it could be passed but needs more time, then the city can dip into it’s reserve and wait until the Nov 2008 for Prop A to be defeated.

  52. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I forgot our Hamtramck friend’s recommendations. Update:

    So far:
    Mark recommends cuts in police (arm the citizens).
    Union Household recommends cuts in DPW.
    Andy C recommends cuts to the public pool and police.
    Hillary recommends cuts to police, trash collection, the planning department, city council members wages, and debt payments.

    None of these recommendations carry numbers with them. How much should each of these items be cut?

  53. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    To everyone:

    I recommend following the cuts proposed in the solvency plan but with one fewer cut in firefighter positions. I recommend city council and mayor’s salaries be cut to make up for the one firefighter position that doesn’t get cut.

    I believe this recommendation incorporates Mark’s, Union’s, and Andy’s recommendations and most of Hillary’s.

    We can roll back some or all of these cuts to the budget when Prop A gets rolled back, so keep walking that petition around, todd. If or when other revenue positive events happen (water street takes off, other economic development in the city, a city income tax, or Hillary’s suggestion of tax judgements) more of the budget cut backs can be retored or property taxes can be rolled back in the city.

  54. todd
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Permalink


    I already told you that I haven’t the slightest idea as to what should be cut. You’re barking up the wrong tree. Ask the people who voted no for the income tax. They should be able to answer your questions with no trouble.

    I just told you that a dink business pays half the amount of taxes that the largest employer in the city of of Tecumseh does, and you didn’t even flinch.

    Good luck with your cuts.

  55. Paul Schreiber
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    City council will hold public goal setting sessions on December 8 and 15 at the Haab building (111 N. Huron). These sessions run from 9 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. City council and city staff department heads attend to discuss the city budget. Prof. Joe Ohren moderates the discussion.

    The public is invited and welcome.

    Paul Schreiber

  56. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Permalink


    I think Mark was addressing the question to anyone who might have an answer, no or yes voters.

    Ok folks, Paul just gave us a deadline of Dec 8 to get this sorted out. If anyone has a different set of proposed cuts to offer, I just put my cards on the table and I’m willing to start trading them with you.

  57. Tait
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Since the anti-tax people aren’t coming to the table, here are some of my ideas.

    No elected official should collect a dime for at least the next five years.

    We should cut the planning department to one full-time person. At least half of that person’s time should be dedicated to moving Water Street forward. Everything that can be put into the hands of appointed or volunteer groups, with this one employee overseeing their activities, should be.

    The city should employ a full-time grant writer to help bring in funds for the operation of the pool, freight house, senior center, arts center, farmers markets, local not for profits, police department, fire department, etc.

    Neighborhood watches should be established regardless of whether or not police are cut.

    We should attack Headlee and Prop A with passion and ferocity.

    We should force the State of Michigan to pay what it owes us for supporting EMU. We should file suit if necessary.

    We should consider privatizing trash collection.

  58. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 2:17 pm | Permalink


    hmmm, the devil is in the details, but it looks like you just agreed with my recommendation. (I think the planning department cuts as you proposed them are in the solvency planned cuts.)

  59. egpenet
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 3:25 pm | Permalink


    What I am proposing is break down all barriers, old rivalries, give up personal power positions and …

    1) Combine City and Township Fire (as many Townships as can do so to keep firefighters at full strength, suuplemented with volunteers, and to make costs more effrcient.

    2) Maintain community policing in the same way East of 23 by have Matt and his fellow Township departments combine, supported as needed by the Sheriff’s Road Patrol and MSP.

    3) Combine, minimally, Ypsilanti City and Ypsilanti Township. Again, using US23 as a “guide,” create within the County a West administrative council and an East administrative council comprised of duly elected city/township supervisors, using the respective township executives/mayor as an executive board.

    4) Combine all operational departments in the city and townships under this new arrangement.

    5) All taxes go into one bucket, but create a five year program that eases the transition for all concerned.

    6) Bite the bullet. Make peace. Get real.

    7) Cuts, some, sure … but go for productivity, efficiencies, combined efforts focused on a County-wide level … including a new jail … and working to get kids through high school ratrher than through the juvenile justice system.


  60. Andy C
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m not for cutting the police. It’s more of an “if” situation. The pool has already been cut. I hope the “pool support group” can take up the utilities slack too. What should be cut?

    How about snow plows? They’re dumping salt at the first sign of snow. I don’t mind driving slow for a couple of hours.

    Recycling every other week instead of once a week?

  61. Demosthenes
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Permalink


    Thanks for the clarification. A good deal of what you propose sounds fantastic if not a bit utopian. Pulling that off is indeed a noble persuit and we should ask our governments to look into these ideas. I doubt though that agreements could be made and transitions achieved in a short time. I expect several months stretching into more than a year or two would be needed to just begin the transition.

    So, what do we do until then? If the city doesn’t cut it’s budget and then all those plans fall through, for what ever reasons, whatever surplus the city has in it’s general fund will have been depleted and the city will have even fewer options than it does today.

    I do think your idea is worth persuing; but, to use a real estate analogy, we need a bridge loan to buy the next house until the old one gets sold.

  62. Glen S.
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    As the cuts necessitated by Tuesday’s vote are contemplated, it also important to consider that there is often a fine line between cuts that result in legitimate cost-savings and efficiencies; and those that create “false economies.”

    For example, from the 1970’s through the early 90’s, Ypsilanti “saved” a lot of money by not performing necessary repairs and replacements to streets, sewers, water mains, etc. The result was that things eventually got so bad that voters had to pass a major bond issue to fix them all at once.

    In the next few years, I suspect it will be tempting to defer spending on things like the Motor Pool, Building Maintentance, etc. But eventually, these things WILL need to be repaired/replaced, and deferred maintentance (or replacement) almost always costs more than regular, routine maintenance.

  63. Glen S.
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Also, since several folks here have mentioned that we should seek grant-funding to help pay for some services, I think it worth noting that most funding agencies require “matching funds” as a condition of eligibility for grants – and many do not accept private funding for this purpose.

    So, another result of Tuesday’s vote is that Ypsilanti will now have even less money available to “match.” Therefore, we will likely have a much harder time getting grants to help bridge our growing budget gap.

  64. egpenet
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    The only thing holding this economy from collapse is productivity. Making the Eastern half of the county more efficiency (productive) through combining resources, staffing, etc. is what will help get us through.

    We will have a slow economy here for some time. (Worst retail sales in 12 years in October. More bad news to come.) If my utopian ideas aren’t “made” to happen … they WILL happen in the coming recession/depression.

    Why wait for all of the “shoes” to drop and fpr the worst to happen? Yes, some cuts will occur, but only because we are combining efforts, staffs, resources. But there is no NEED to suffer this through, unless the powers that be INSIST on holding onto their offices/powers/influences and
    salaries. The greatest challenge our city faces is admitting we cannot go it alone and that we MUST work together with Ypsi Township, Salem, Augusta, Sumpter and the rest.


  65. mark
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for letting us know about the upcoming goal setting session, Mr. Mayor. I’ll get mention of it up on the front page this weekend.

    And, Todd, I plan to use some of your notes on Headlee in an upcoming post as well.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have time for anything right now, so it’ll have to wait until later.

  66. egpenet
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Not Sumpter … duh.

    Salem (maybe?) … certainly, Superior, Ypsi, Augusta …

  67. amused1
    Posted November 10, 2007 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Regional cooperation certainly seems to be the best long term solution. If you’ve seen my other posts you know I’m a big fan of cooperation. That said…

    We can tell city hall to send the invitations, put on their dancing shoes and play the music but unless the others show up there ain’t no party goin’ on.

    Those of us who champion regionalism now have to take the next step and come up with compelling reasons and incentives for the surrounding communities to combine services and programs. Remember that we’re asking other local govt. entities to share and/or give up some level of power and control (whether perceived or real). How many politicians do you know who willingly give up these things?

    Instead of trying to get the politicians to dance perhaps we might want to focus on the benefits to the population as a whole and inform the voters. Clearly and specifically show how regionalism can save all of us tax dollars while maintaining or even improving services.

    Show how regional planning and development can effectively and efficiently utilize existing infrastructure. For example, regionally plan new housing to take advantage of existing underutilized schools rather than building new schools to service “sprawl” development. Use some of that “saved” money to lower taxes or improve existing facilities and equipment to the benefit of all.

    We must find examples of successful regional partnerships and see what programs might apply to our area.
    Instill the desire for regionalism in the population and make it unreasonable for the various governing boards, councils, etc. to reject the idea.

    Let’s get googling folks :)

  68. egpenet
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I agree, amused.

    In a conversation ouitside of the BP on Michigan Avenue, my fellow conversationalist proffered that nothing seems to get accomplished until disaster strikes. I have said many times here that there is no creativity, no leap of political will … it’s all textbook politics and business as usual.

    Well, the voters have spoken on this issue, enough to say “NO” to higher taxes as well as to ask for a better long term solution.

    Someone above offered that “Ypsilanti has no economy” to build upon. I beg to differ. Tourism, light retail downtown, theatrical and musical entertainment, food and light manufacturing are here, are growing slowly and will continue to do well. Major contributors are EMU and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital (despite the fact that St. Joe’s says they are in Ann Arbor, whohaw!)

    Let’s drop all the fancy words … regionalization … and just admit that there is a tall invisible wall around the City of Ypsilanti, which everyone on both sides of this wall enthusiastically contributed to building … some with their goodwill (liberals hoping to help the poor and homeless and mentally ill) … some with their spite and political gall (you’re not taxing US at those levels) … and many other reasons and motives.

    The biggest issue is City versus Township. From the little I know, we have a solid County Government and, aside from the jail issue, Washtenaw County is OK. (By the way, on the centerformichigan site, Powers points out that three of the job-healthiest areas of Michigan are also the sites of three expanding Michigan prisons.)

    I hope we don’t go THAT way. The reason we have so many single moms and fatherless children in our fair city is because we society has declared an unreasonable “war” on them with too strict penalties. At the same time, our schools are ill-equipped to deal with poor, bored, disinterested, jobless juveniles. So, the boys go off to a life of crime. And the girls have babies so they can get money. Dumb! And there’s no room now for REAL criminals at the County, because wee’ve locked uop our purely directionless kids. Real dumb!

    This issue contributes to that wall around the City. “We don’t want that trash wandering in the township.” Heehee. (Tell that to the Sheriff’s Patrol.) This is not an Ypsilanti diseasee. It’s a USA epidemic. It’s systemic, institutionalized racism.

    Dear amused: I agree. Let’s bypass the City and get a voter education thing going concerning Ypsilanti City/Ypsilanti Township … throw in Superior and Augusta, as well. In my view, community fire propection, community policing, as with YCUA, the library, AATA, etc. County parks versus city parks, where appropriate. Let’s see how much bang we can get for every buck in the budget mix WHILE NOT changing the political and union mix … YET.

    What citizen needs/services could be delivered on a Township-wide basis, including legacy costs, WITHOUT costing political control and without making drastic changes in taxes.

    The difficult step is by-passing City Council and Township Board. They don’t talk to one another and will make it hard for the voters to get together. But let’s see if we CAN gain enough momentum to make it work. Clearly, after decades of NO TALK, it’s up to us. God help us! We have so little time.

  69. todd
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    From the Ann Arbor News on the Ypsi Budget issues:

    “Council Member Brian Filipiak, D-3rd Ward, who supported the tax, said some residents have suggested he start a political action committee to put pressure on state government to reform the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A. He said he will check to see if a similar committee has been formed in other cities because it’s easier and more effective to join an existing group than to start a new one.”

    Looks like I’m not the only one with a working calculator. The ONLY chance that there is of repealing Prop A is if Michigan cities band together….entrenched business interests and residents who could care less about attracting new business and residents to Michigan will fight like hell to stop this. They won’t want to be taxed fairly.

    I think that repealing Prop A will require something on a ballot, and I dread that inevitability. Essentially, older residents will have to vote themselves into higher taxes, or at least initial higher taxes followed by millage and tax reductions as the State would have an enormous surplus. I don’t think that these long time business owners and residents will vote for that, sadly.

  70. egpenet
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Changes to the Headlee/Prop A taxation will require a three to seven year phase out to allow previously capped residents to re-emerge and to allow a sane reduction plan to the point of equalization. Both personal and business property taxes requireee such surgery. It CAN and MUST be done to get Michigan back on track.

  71. todd
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    “Changes to the Headlee/Prop A taxation will require a three to seven year phase out to allow previously capped residents to re-emerge and to allow a sane reduction plan to the point of equalization.”

    Yeah, this is the tricky part. People are used to paying taxes at an absurdly low rate.

    IMHO, Michigan just has to lower taxes (a great thing) as they pull back the Headlee ‘protection’. THIS is where the true benefit lies. Over a very short period of time, Michigan will look much more attractive to new companies and residents.

    I’d push for closer to three years than seven. But there’s no way that the whole State could handle the overnight Prop A “pop” all at once.

    Another really good thing about repealing Headlee is that poorer areas of the State will gain the most, as their property values have either held steady or gone down over the years. If you follow with tax cuts, Michigan will be much stronger as a result of the repeal. You’ll hear a lot of whining from people who’ve been living in Bloomfield Hills for 20 years, though.

  72. egpenet
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I’ll whine, too, but it HAS to be done.

    I’m ready to get out the pencils and paper, are you?

    Who else?

    The trick is to work around the elected officials who have no incentive to torpedo their lovely power base, salaries and retiremnts. Politics has failed us.

    Time for torches and pitch forks and pencils and paper.

  73. John on Forest
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know who most of you folks are. This is my first time on this blog. I was attracted here because I was looking for information on the city income tax issue.

    I’ve been reading about the Headlee amendment and Prop A ideas on this question of “What to Cut” and I’m really encouraged that there may be some ideas that in the long term will help Ypsilanti, and a lot of the rest of Michigan.

    I voted yes on the CIT because I knew these types of solutions could not be implemented overnight and the city needed the time for something like repealing Headlee to occur. (Same goes for the regionalization ideas too, by the way.)

    As I read letters to the editor in the Ann Arbor News over the past couple of months, regarding the CIT, I was continually amazed that the “vote no” letters never offered any ideas about what to do about the city budget if the CIT was not enacted. While the ideas about Headlee/Prop A and regionalization offer something, I still find myself hungry for ideas to fix the immediate problems (a city budget that will be in deficit within a year).

    The topic heading for this blog thread asks “so, what gets cut”. If the “vote no” folks had been able to offer something palatable in their letters to the editor and their campaign literature, I might have been convinced to vote no. Sadly, they did not offer that kind of insight to me, so I voted yes.

    Even now, as I read this long list of responses to this blog thread, I don’t see any new ideas, except cutting our elected official’s salaries. I doubt they get paid 2.7 million dollars a year. Is there any solution, other than that already proposed by the city manager? I certainly can’t think of any; and, I fear we are stuck with the proposed cuts.

    Of course, what I’ve said all along about this is that the “vote no” folks really do want the city budget to be cut. And the voters did overwhelmingly vote for the budget cuts. Perhaps this question, so what gets cut, is really moot.

  74. amused1
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Okay, so let’s say we don’t eliminate any public safety. If we define that as police & fire we have to find other cuts to reduce spending by ~ $366,000.00. If we choose to retain building inspection we have to figure out another $120,000.00 cut.

    So if people decide that public safety is the most important then we have to figure out the next priority.

    While this isn’t going to be popular I’m going to suggest that, if current contracts allow it, recycling be suspended. Yeah, it’s short sighted but then again I’m not sure we have a long horizon to contemplate at the moment.

    I guess we’ll go to the practice that some neighboring towns/cities have and wait for snow to stop falling before we start plowing and cut down on, or eliminate, overtime plowing. This might make weekend driving and the morning commute kinda rough but it should save some money. Oh, only salt major streets and leave side streets unsalted.

    I think I heard somewhere that council members get something like $7000.00 per year. Anyone know if that’s correct? It might be interesting to see who stays and who resigns if there’s no money involved. Not that $7000.00 is a huge incentive to stay on the council or even a huge savings, but it is something.

  75. Union Household
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    John on Forest, Stop City Income Tax (SCIT) ceased to exist at 8pm Tuesday, Nov. 6th. The sole purpose of SCIT was specifically spelled out in its name. It was never SCIT’s intention to offer an alternative ‘plan.’ SCIT’s goal of 1,500 votes was well surpassed. The People informed their city what we have known all along: An income tax, in Ypsilanti, cannot be sold. Hopefully, the four that insisted on pushing the tax on us will buckle down and work with a broader constituency to tackle the problems that they’ve ignored since the election a year ago. They would be wise to swallow their big slice of humble pie, and get their collective noses to the grindstone.

    John Delcamp

  76. Posted November 11, 2007 at 9:30 pm | Permalink


    Not so fast on the recycling! As I understand it, the curbside recycling program is actually a (very small) money maker for the City. The city has to pay to have our garbage hauled off, but it sells our recycling, covering the costs of pickup and then a little bit. So don’t touch that curbside pickup – if anything, start charging people for anything more than one can of garbage per week, to encourage more recycling. (and reducing, and reusing, and composting…)

    Also, I believe that solid waste is a separate fund, with a separate millage, from the general fund, so I don’t think any changes to solid waste make a difference here.

  77. egpenet
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Professor Monsma’s comments and Mr. Gawlas’s comments were spot on … the voters do NOT want a reduction in Fire or Police.

    My comment is that we’d gladly pay for INCREASED fire and FULL police staffing … IF … the City would STOP blowing monies on Chidister, Peninsular Apartments and other “givebacks,” AND if the City developed a sound fiscal package.

    We have NEVER voted NO to sound tax planning or spending. We are a generous populace. What we have seen over the past several years is a council that is totally irresponsible with our monies.

    And we have seen a planning department that totally miscalculated the extent of the Watwer Street brownfield devastation.

    Historically, we voted FOR school funding, FOR library funding, FOR streets and sewers, FOR emergency communications networking, etc.

    Patterned after the UAW/GM/Ford/Chrysler deals …

    We ask the police, fire and city employee unions to do the same. Take your retirement programs into your own hands. We will vote for FULL STRENGTH fire and police and civil service jobs within the city IF the unions will accept 401k, etc. or union ESOP management of ALL retiremnt/legacy responsibilities as of Januasry 1, 2008.

    We will vote FOR an income tax proposal if EVERY penny is covered by a rollback in property taxes.


    Let’s look at the programs on a County map …

    1) All aspects that involve City/Township border cross-over … Fire, potenial community policing, AATA, Water, etc. should be looked at from a City/Towhship/
    County point of view as a SHARED responsibility. What’s fair? We’ll pay our fair share.

    2) All aspects that involve City/Township/ State … ie. EMU fire, State roads, etc. What’s fair? We’ll pay our share.

    3) Community policing for the City/Outlying Villages/Crossroads/Areas of the far Eastern County that want a frequent and efficient community policing and patrol … we can help … and Matt Harshberger stands ready … and so will we … we’ll pay our share.

    4) OK … after all of that, what do we owe the city? We’ll pay that.

    5) Point is, dear Manager/Council … make a list of what we NEED … we’ll pay that.

    6) Next time, give US the choice of a PILOT sweetheart deal with Chidister Place and we’ll tell them to stuff it! Same for Peninsular Place. Same for ACH.

    7) Give US the choice of running Public Housing … not like a Warsaw Ghetto … which is the way it is being run (ACLU alert) … and we’ll say NIX on that! … but like a humane servicee for folks/families in need. So far, we have had little say. The public housing tenant manual is an insult! I’d love to see somee other local COPAC neighborhood organization stuff such a document down the throats of their neighbors. What a way to treat human beings.

    8) Cuts? What cuts? What we voted NO to is WASTE! Give us a REAL budget. After that are cuts/layoffs/rolling blackouts requireed on a temporary basis … OK.

    But in the meantime, get the civil servants and unions to agree to firm controls on legacy costs.

    Then, come back to us with a REAL budget, no hidden deals, no tricks, no sleight-of-hand. You will soon find out how generous we can be … or how demanding we are regarding politics as usual.

    9) It DOES interest me that out of several administrations I have seen in Ypsilanti, some of which I have supported and worked for during their campaigns, how many have been poli-sci faculty from EMU … and I must say … how poorly those folks have prepared us for this obviously declining economic future. The handwiriting has been on the wall for 30 years, but poly-sci appears to have been oblivious to what your cohorts in econ. have been warning of for the same generation … declining manufacturing, declining dollar, trade issues, global emergence and competition, plus global climate change.

    You guys need to talk!


  78. Demosthenes
    Posted November 12, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    amused1 said:

    “Okay, so let’s say we don’t eliminate any public safety. If we define that as police & fire we have to find other cuts to reduce spending by ~ $366,000.00. If we choose to retain building inspection we have to figure out another $120,000.00 cut.”

    But, your figures are only for FYE 2009. The proposed cuts in the solvency plan for FYE2010 are even deeper regarding fire and police.

    Unless someone has a sharper pencil than I have, I don’t see any way around cuts to public safety; and, Union Household just told us that SCIT didn’t even have a pencil.

    Now, go back to my post on 11/07 @ 14:02 regarding needing a sharper analysis of how much the cuts need to be. Are we sure that $2,764,380 worth of cuts is what will be needed to balance the budget? Is it less? Is it more?

    If we are willing to accept the 2,764,380 number then we can continue to talk about WHAT to cut. If we think the number might be more or less than 2,764,380, then we need to figure that out first.

  79. cra
    Posted November 12, 2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    nothing for if a city cant secure itself via public safety then it cant promote its economic welfare and then it doesnt exist . th e baseball pk maybe the catalyst to bringing $$$ n people back into the city both of which are sorely in need !

  80. John on Forest
    Posted November 12, 2007 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Union Household,

    Hold on a minute partner. I didn’t see the CIT ballot as “pushing the tax on us.” The WHOLE idea of putting it on the ballot was to give us voters a choice. I would have seen a movement by our city council to simply implement deep budget cuts, without first giving the voters a choice, as “pushing ‘it’ on us.” By having it on the ballot, we voters were able to chose: between budget cuts or imposing an additional tax on ourselves.

    What worries me even more than the direct effects of reductions in vital services to the city, is that the reduced level of services in the city will become an impediment to finding longer term solutions, such as regional cooperation and solicitation of state government to revamp revenue sharing, Headlee, and Prop A.

    If the defeat of the CIT results in setting up our city council for failure, will those who opposed the CIT be held responsible? Or will the failure of city coucil be used by the SCIT coalition for their own political gains?

    John Shuler

  81. Glen S.
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Union Household said: ” It was never SCIT’s intention to offer an alternative ‘plan.'”

    So, a former Ypsilanti Mayor and a former Mayoral candidate didn’t think it was their responsibility (as community leaders) to offer an alternative “plan?” Well, I guess that is their right.

    But what about Council members Richardson, Robb and Swanson? As elected officials, are they not each at least 1/7 responsible for the future of our City?

    While the voters may have voted “no” on the income tax plan offered by the four-member Council majority, I don’t think that necessaril means they voted “yes” for setting our City’s financial future on a crash course to insolvency.

    Throughout the election, the three-member Council minority stood firmly on the side that loudly claimed we could maintain a balanced budget without an income tax — and without cuts to essential services such as police, fire, EMS, AATA, parks maintenance, code enforcement, etc.

    You can bet that many voters (including even some who voted “no,” I’ll bet) will watching very closely in the weeks and months ahead to see what they propose.

    “Grindstone,” indeed…

  82. Demosthenes
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    John on Forest, Union Household, and Glen S,

    You guys are taking this thread off topic again!

    How much needs to be cut and what should be cut???

  83. Union Household
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Robb, Richardson and Swanson had enough sense to understand that the tax would fail, with or without SCIT, thus saving the city yet another $20,000.00+ wasted on a hopeless cause. The ‘Gang of Four’ plan was NOT a plan, other than to put off what really needed to be started last December when they took office. Meanwhile, Mr. Glen S. adds his sour-grapes mis-information by insisting that the three member council minority claimed the budget could be balanced without the tax. Stuffing words in their mouths he is! If the Mayor and his allies start listening to “The People” instead of just their close-nit little clic of boot-lickers, then we might finally see something done to reverse the downward spiraling trend that began when Amy McMillem left the city.

    The Tax, poorly timed, ill-concieved and ultimately unmarketable, deserved to fail. May it REST IN PEACE!

  84. Union Household
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Demosthenes, you are correct. I apologise for allowing my buttons to be pushed by the vanquished.

    We can start by eliminating Kirk Profits $40,000.00 annual stripend to ‘lobby’ our plight in Lansing. We don’t need him, that’s Almas job.

  85. Glen S.
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    You say “sour grapes,” I say “sore winner.”

    I fully acknowlege that 2/3 of voters believed your side’s claim that the budget could be balanced without a tax increase, AND without cuts to core services. (“Scare tactics” I believe the proposed cuts were claimed to be…)

    But, the question still remains: How are they going to do it?

    As “Demosthenes” keeps pointing out, the title of this thread is “so, what gets cut?”

    The “no” side consistently refused to answer that question before the election… but eventually, they will have to do so.

  86. Glen S.
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    “boot lickers?”… “vanquished?”

    Jesus, John… this was an extremely important local election and all, but it wasn’t the “Battle of Berlin.”

    There is no question that the income tax issue divided the community, but all I’m saying is that only time will tell which side was “right.”

  87. Publius
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    The election has ended. The people have spoken. They don’t want to give the city government more of its money. No means no. It is now the job of the entire city council and mayor to balance the budget. That is their job. No one else’s.

  88. Union Household
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    As pointed out by Mr. Murdock and Mr. Robb, there were no winners on this one. Cuts are eminent and the status-quo will have to go.

    BTW, Nice house for sale next door to mine, huge yard, good neighborhood and at a bargain price. Now it has a chance of being sold without the income-tax stigma.

  89. egpenet
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    For starters, legacy costs get a long-term solution …

    a) Unions are asked to step up and take responsibility for past, present and future members’ retirement. Qualified non-union employees are converted to their choice of self-funded 401ks or IRA. (Similar to UAW)

    b) Health care programs are reduced via larger co-pays and more HMO options. Retiree programs are also re-packaged. (Similar to UAW)

    c) Township and City should “get over it” and merge the fire departments. City and Township should cooperatively fund present staffing as equitably as possible with a further agreement to increase staffing in the short term to meet mandated staff safety and state insurance levels. Again, unions should support these plans, knowing that the Township and the City cooperation will help ensure proper staffing, which protects their members’ lives. As a further inducement to unions to control legacy costs, Township and City will provide a safety net for up to 70% of the union retirement plan for the first ten years of the plan using reinsurance against potential “ESOP” failure.

    These are NOT cuts, they are suggestions for a longterm solution. And they provide better than adequate fire and police protection. They DO get a lot of buried fiduciary and related costs off the books.

    Now, we have to work on Public Housing.

  90. John on Forest
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Demosthenes, point taken.

    Union Household, I like your Yoda imiation.

    egpenet, Didn’t the UAW contracts result in the transfer of billions of dollars (to cover ~100,000 workers) from the automakers to the unions for health care? Does the city have a comparable amount of money (maybe in the low millions?) laying around in cash for such a transer?

    Otherwise, egpenet, I like your ideas for attacking long term legacy type costs with any and all creative thinking.

    I believe the best thing for the city will be for everyone, that is ALL 6 on city council, not just the four or the three to work with interested/concerned citiziens like ourselves to lay out all the different ideas and then select the best from all of them.

    In the short term, some deep cuts are going to be needed. Has anyone made notice of the $39 billion charge GM had to make for restructuring? Restructuring the city will not be free either.

  91. egpenet
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m just one uninformed citizen … but I want long term solutions.

    I started with legacy costs … whatever they are … wherever the money is … however we neeed to work with the Township and the unions … let’s get THAT monkey off our back.

    Next … is public housing. Here’s where I’d start cutting.

    I “love” all these expressions … public housing … public transportation … as if it was all free or our right. What “public” this and that means is government staffing, salaries, committees, Federal oversight, Sate meddling and even MORE legacy commitments … not to mention all of the risks and pitfalls of potentially poor management and, worse case, subjugation of the intended beneficiaries … witness the Public Housing Manual.

    Do some of our fellow citizens and family members have serious, on-going needs for adequate shelter they can call a “home?” You bet. Bad luck. Bad decisions. Poor health. Domestic violence. Racism. Poverty. Elderly needs. You name it. We got it … like most other towns and cities. Should we take care of our own? Yes, but I mean CARE, not confine.

    I don’t like subsidies, but if the City must do what it must do for those of us (someday it may be me) in need, then we may need to subsidize a local NGO (SOS, perhaps) to provide an absolutely secure although limited safety net for the very most in need. How many apartments is that? 10? 20? 30? This could be a sliding subsidy in excess of State or Federal aid available as a rent. If that’s a stupid idea or a legal issue, then we provide those most in need with food assistance or clothing or whatever. But we have got to get out of the “housing ghetto business.”

    Why are we creating islands of poverty and crime, anyway? Most cities around the world are blending their folks in need in a variety of neighborhood settings. It shames them less, benefits the families more, gets the kids into better environments and is a better deal all around, actually reducing crime. It’s called mainstreaming.

    Perhaps, we do NOT subsidize, but assist SOS or another NGO with client counselling, job training, tutoring, mentoring … any number of other more productive programs … all of which can be run under existing agencies or through faith-based organizations. Perhaps we help Growing Hope and in that way help thesee families and elderly with good food. Come’on churches, step-up.

    I’ve ben told that the facilities the city now terms “public housing” represent a large financial obligation for the city to HUD and perhaps the State, as well. Selling those facilities/properties to the private sector and eliminating staffing, maintenance, etc. costs … longterm … makes some sense, but the monies would need to go back to HUD, I assume.

    How we do it? I don’t know. If the last two years of inspections and non-conmpliance at Paradise Manor, plus the boarded up units that greet folks coming and going along Huron/ Hamilton/Harriet are any indication of our ability to provide good housing … well.

    How? I don’t know. But we have to get these huge obligations off our plate. And we neeeeed to help these folks by mainstreaming, not segregating/relegating them to ghettos.

    As for Chiddister … there’s a privatization story. Heck … and they came back and got a really sweet deal with the PILOT program giveback. That aside, the residents I’ve met and the few other anecdotes I’ve heard say that it’s a better place than it used to be.

    We have a generally good track record in the city with private landlords. Even with down zoning, landlords appear to be doing a good job provioding good housing values and doing adequate maintenance.

    This is the value of effective zoning, planning and code enforcement. Don’t hang the team we have in place now with Water Street. In fact, the many new commercial tenants and residents downtown CREDIT the current team and the aggressive developers with downtown resurgence.

    In this regard, I’d ask the zoning, planning and building departments to suggest for themselves what could be done to maintain their effectiveness, while boosting efficiencies and productivity. Can EMU help with more interns? Can we share our team members with the Township/County or other bodies to keep them going strong? Again, I don’t know. I don’t want to change horses in these three major areas for at least three to five years.

    Next on my lists … Building, Parks, etc.


  92. amused1
    Posted November 14, 2007 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Murph, thanks for the recycling info, I didn’t know it was a small profit center. Anyone know if reducing the amount of trash would lower the cost under the new trash removal contract?

    Now for something off topic (apologies)

    Touching upon affordable housing I just pulled the draft for the Washtenaw affordable housing study:

    According to the study (pages 195-196):

    Ypsi has a disproportionate number of lower-income residents and rental units compared to the rest of the county.

    Ranked highest in both female-headed households with childern and large families earning below $25K.

    Ranked highest in persons with disabilities. Almost 22%!!

    Ypsi has the highest concentration of poverty and subsidized rental housing (in the county).

    Ypsi appears to be unduly burdened by affordable housing. Given the quantity of units and need I’m not surprised that there are failures in the system. Not making excuses for the current administration but how can Ypsi afford the upkeep on these properties? Ypsi is tiny yet offers support to a disproportionate number of its residents compared to other communities in the county. It’s little wonder the facilities are a mess.

    I often hear the rallying cry “More affordable housing in Ypsi”. According to this study Ypsi appears to already offer “more affordable housing” already.

    Perhaps concerned citizens should put more energy toward pushing the envelop in other communities rather than beating the dead horse in Ypsi. Push the County to ACTIVELY encourage our neighboring communities to build affordable housing. Take a bit of pressure off of Ypsi. Perhaps this reduction of pressure would allow the city to catch up on its deficiancies in upkeep, etc. of current properties?

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled topic. ;^)

  93. Demosthenes
    Posted November 14, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink


    I don’t see your post as off topic. To me, it suggests that fewer cuts (the topic) would be necessary if we are able to move some of the “affordable housing” costs onto the shoulders of our surrounding communities. Then, some of the housing inside the city could be converted to higher-income housing, which would pay more property taxes.

    I have seen over and over arguments that the city’s property taxes are the highest in the county and perhaps in the state. Doesn’t it make sense then that more affordable housing could be found in a lower tax rate location like Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti Township?

  94. Demosthenes
    Posted November 14, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Adendum to my post:

    Chalk up the move of affordable housing, to outside the city, as a regionalization solution.

  95. amused1
    Posted November 14, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we should remove affordable housing, I’m saying more affordable housing must be developed in the surrounding communities.

    I think we all recognize that the need for affordable and subsidized housing is increasing. We have a greater percentage of facilities than most surrouding communities. People with needs go where they can find the resources they need. By other communities limiting options Ypsi becomes the de facto destination because we have facilities. (Good condition, bad condition or otherwise.) Ypsi takes responsibility for a segment of the population the is underserved by the surrounding communities.

    The glass half full side of me says it’s due to lack of thought by our neighbors. The glass half empty side of me smells a plot by other communities to shift a vulnerable population into Ypsi.

  96. egpenet
    Posted November 14, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    With many of the key Social Services agencies located here … thanks to the generous efforts of Gary Owens and Kirk Profit, and others … which offices are County and State properties and pay no taxes … our citizens in neeed have easy access to financial aid, counselling, child care, health care,

    So, it’s a mixed bag.

    My only points were … folks need help, thye should have it, and have it nearby. Beyond that, housing should NOT be a city thing. NGOs, churches, and private landlords should be well-equipped to handle the load. The subsidies are genrous and make local living affordable.

    We don’t need State, County, NGOs AND a little City housing money pit also involved … especially if they cannot maintain safe, up-to-code and crime-free living. Let’s really help folks by mainstreaming them and getting them back on their feet and into the community. It’s better for them and their kids.

    So, IMHO “Public Housing” gets cut.

    Also, on my short list …

    . The City’s State Lobbyist

    As well …

    . Something needs to be done about the fact tyhat we have TWO DDAs. I know the situation is “gradfathered” … but it causes us no end of problems. We have one DDA chief and he’s working nearly full time on the Depot Town DDA/CDC effort … to the point that he has no idea how MANY businesses there are downtown or WHO they are, or WHERE they are. Duh?

    It’s time to ask Depot Town to fold their DDA and CDC into one organization, and to hire their own guy or gal at THEIR expense. And if the present DDA guy wants that job fine.

    IMO, we neeed a new, knowledgeable, fully-involved and aggressivee downtown DDA leader. God knows the Chamber isn’t up to much, except golf outings. Businesses aree dropping out of the chamber (not renewing) and are joining the new DAY, which has been actively sponsoring all of the music, family and downtown promotional events we’ve enjoyed these last two years. Also needing our support are the two neighborhood association bordering downtown … Riverside Neighborhood Association on the north side of Michigan, and the Historic Southside. Citizens from both neighborhoods are DAY members and are active downtown/shop local/farmer’s market shoppers.

    More later.

  97. Posted November 14, 2007 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    to the point that he has no idea how MANY businesses there are downtown or WHO they are, or WHERE they are. Duh?

    Uh, Ed, maybe you’re not talking to the same DDA director I know. (Though who would want the headaches of impersonating a DDA director, I’m not entirely sure…) It’s been my observation that Mr. Vosburg has a pretty good finger on the pulse of downtown, to the point of having decent relationships with property owners that haven’t been heard from in decades.

    I also think it’s somewhat odd that you call out our two DDAs as an issue, but then suggest /widening/ the gap between them as the solution. Consolidating them has typically been the suggestion I hear.

  98. egpenet
    Posted November 14, 2007 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    In point of fact, he recently asked the DAY for THEIR recently researched and updated inventory of downtown businesses … his plan to do a downtown inventory AT SOME SIGNIFICANT PROJECTED COST to us somehow was sidelined (thank heaven). DAY … AT NO COST to us … developed and now maiontains a very detailed record and uses it for recruiting and involvement in downtown development.

    I know Brain and truly feel his loyalties have become divided. I’d urge him, as I said above, to choose the CDC or the DDA … and then I’d urge the Depot Town/Cross Street DDA to either merge within its CDC charter or become one with the downtown DDA to form a single Ypsilanti DDA.

    This is a development issue … it is a money issue … and it has been dividing Brian’s loyalties for some time. Let’s get over this one and move Ypsilanti with ONE VOICE.

  99. egpenet
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Thursday AM …

    I would hope that Mayor and Council understand now that it was THIS BALLOT PROPOSAL that was overwhelmingly rejected.

    It’s NOT a matter of what gets cut. It’s a matter of REFORM. It’s happening everwhere … the latest example is France, where voters elected Sarkozy for REFORM.

    We want reform in Ypsilanti. As I have written in previous posts along this thread …

    1) Attack all sources of legacy costs and benefits packages and get these costs under control LONG TERM.

    2) Combine City and Township Fire Departments … with a pledge to our Township neighbors and the fire fighters, we WILL PAY OUR SHARE for adequate staffing and equipment.

    3) Privatize “Public Housing” and get the city out of the management and maintenance of concentrated ghetto complexes. Help mainstream those of us in need … poor, elderly, disabled … counsel and mentor and help us fight the battle … but don’t stuff us into raggedy apartments and abandon us to street crime, prostitution and drugs.

    4) Cut kickbacks and subsidies that do not benefit all of us .. like the PILOT giveback to Chiddister.

    5) Stand firm on putting the Water Street rail spur back for ACH. NO WAY – JOSE!

    6) Do NOT cut zoning, planning and building inspections. Note the last two year’s of successes at regaining our neighborhoods for all of us … renters, landlords, family owners. Note the major improvements downtown. Note the development downtown and thee rise of the DAY association. Note the increased pedestriam traffic downtown and the well-attended activities on Washington, at the Library, at the restaurants and clubs.

    7) We have elcted representatives … Alma, Dingell, et. al. to fight for us in Lansing and Washington. We do NOT need to pay a lobbyist. In fact, Gary and Kirk BUILT the box we’re now trying to think our way OUT of. We want NEW# school thinking, not OLD school thinking. (Dingell is also OLD school, sad to say.)

    … I have more to say on REFORM. Later.

    For now, I urge everyone to check our Phil Power’s Center For Michigan website and see that REFORM is what the state really needs. Does reform entail budget cuts? Some. Program eliminations? Some. Term limit change? YES! etc. etc. Then, apply some of that open style of thinking to Ypsilanti. See what you come up with. More later.

  100. Demosthenes
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink


    “It’s NOT a matter of what gets cut. It’s a matter of REFORM.”

    I think you’re splitting hairs on this one. It is ALL about a balanced budget for Ypsilanti. To balance the budget expenditures have to match revenue.

    The “reforms” you propose sound reasonable to me. But, it is still unclear to me where each of them lines up on the expenditures and revenue line items. Specifically, which of your reforms will result in decreased expenditures, by how much, and when; and, which of your reforms will result in increased revenue, by how much, and when?

    We need realistic projections on these numbers and the time frame; because, in the end each fiscal year needs a plan that is in the black.

  101. Sacred Cow
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Legacy costs are something the city is stuck with. Plain and simple, retirees who have probably long since moved to Florida are not about to give an inch of their retirement or pension plans to help out our city now. You can address benefits with current employees through collective bargaining, but it is my understanding that those bargaining units have nothing to do with retired employees. Expecting retirees to give up anything for the good of a city they used to work for, but probably no longer live in, is nothing short of pie-in-the-sky idealism. It’s not happening.

    As for cutting benefits of current employees, sure it’s an option. Of course we need to recognize that it will lead to our city becoming an even more undesirable place to work, literally attracting the poorest candidates out there. I would think in these difficult times we need competent staff more than ever, rather than encouraging those people to leave our city only to be replaced by incompetent boobs. Forcing city staff to carry the burden of cuts on their backs is always an option, but we need to remember that you get what you pay for. Eliminating positions is one thing, but cutting all employees benefits may cause more harm than good. My guess is most staff don’t even live in Ypsi. They probably like our community, but if they feel they’re underpaid and can make more in a different municipality, I doubt they would feel an allegiance to stay. What you might see is those who stay being mediocore employees who can’t get work elsewhere, while those who are good at their jobs take the first train out of here.

  102. egpenet
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Dear Cow:

    The UAW, Chrysler/GM/Ford salaried … all have absorbed benefit reductions and seen retirement program terms “changed” and understandably so. The latest contracts have shifted full responsibility for retiremnt management to the unions. THAT is the type of REFORM of legacy costs I propose.

    Workers (union and salaried, alike) taking their own money and doing with it what they need to do … leaving the City of Ypsilanti out of the business of providing, accounting and otherise managing legacy costs.

    CUTS? In future City contributions, perhaps, maybe not. Increases in co-pays, a push toward 401ks and HMOs or other managed care … you bet!

    What we said at the ballot box is WE WANT REFORM. Will we pay more taxes if the total deal includes longterm legacy cost reform … among other key reform measures … YES!

    It’s the whole package and it;s gotta be long term … not temporary … not under threat … but looking at how the city must change for the future.

    Legacy costs and the other ideas I have posted aren’t the only elements required to put a total REFRORM package up to the voters. There’s a lot more.

    Later …

  103. Demosthenes
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 4:20 pm | Permalink


    Are you proposing, then, that we need to get a reformed city package laid out and implementation begun in time to support a revised CIT (or other tax increase proposal) by summer 2008?

  104. egpenet
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Hm! 3PM meeting moved to 2PM Saturday. OK.

    Crossed the street with Chief Harshberger, who, by the way, is working on a regional community policing concept with the outlying Townships. The team IS working on the stuff, folks. Be patient.

    Seeing the Chief reminded me of a major REFORM I want to propose.

    As rude and nasty as I have been to the Mayor, for which I aplogize once again, he was very cordial with me as I popped in and out of the Ladies Literary Club last night, as I was schlepping boxes. Thank you Mr. Mayor for that smile.

    I know we do NOT have a parlimentarian form of government, which includes from time to time, votes of confidence/no confidence, and which from time to time requires ministers or whole cabinets to resign, setting up a new election.

    Prior to the tax vote this fall, I lost confidence in the PRO as well as the CON council members. Negative ballot measures, bolstered by dire threats are always a turn-off. And the fact that the CON side stayed mum, bothered me quite a bit.

    In addition, as the numbers of wards and precincts have shrunk over the years, it has become increasingly clear to me that city politicians find it more and more convenient to make two or three phone calls to line up votes and get stuff done. No debate. No loyal opposition. Batta-boom, batta-bing! It is also easier, under such a regimen, to make stuff up … rather than do the will of the people. There’s too many of us and we have too many different opinions. It’s a LOT simpler to make two phone calls, line up the votes, OK, done!

    I’d like to seeee a major REFORM shake-up at City Hall. Ed Koryzno and his staff stays … provided they get the union and non union legacy monkies off our backs longterm. The Mayor, who has the BEST attitude and a most positive outlook for Ypsilanti, stays.

    I’d ask the entire city council to resign … ALL of them. And I would propose doing away with the Wards and Precincts. There are not enough, there is no longer true, local representation.

    I would replace the city council, in the interim, prior to reorganization of the Wards and Precincts, and 2008 elections, with the Chairperson or President (and one alternate) from each of the COPAC Neighborhood Associations in the city. Those associations who have bylaws and regular meetings and are “fully functioning” get a VOTE on our “Interim Council.” Those which are NOT yet fully functioning get representation and a voice, but NOT a vote. (That’s the incentive.)

    WOW! Think of it! Every corner of the city … thanks to COPAC … every neighborhood … 16 neighborhoods to be exact … white, black, rich, poor, working class, union, salaried, renters, owners, students, businesses, landlords … EVERYONE gets a voice. Can you imagine the debates we’ll have!? Will they get anything done? Sure. Consensus? Compromise? A whole new ballgame.

    COPAC is ready to move right in. We don’t have time for a recall election or the stomach for another pitched battle of the yard signs. A letter of resignation is fine … and the City Manager and Mayor can take it from there.

    That’s REFORM. I’d vote for that. And it wouldn’t cost a dime.

    Of course, supporting the business of the COPAC reps who would be our sworn interim council, would be the Mayor and his 20/20 think tank. Can’t beat that combo with a stick! NOW we’re cooking.

    No Democrats. No Republicans. No independents. A city-wide council of neighborhood reps doing the will of their neighbors … not the other way around.

    (Gotta walk the dog.)


  105. Posted November 15, 2007 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Ed, I think that replacing the current council/ward system with anything else would require amending the City Charter. Trying to do that on top of everything else seems to me like an unrealistic effort, especially since ballot timing probably would let us enact it until May(?), meaning it wouldn’t do much good in the budget starting July 1.

    For those suggesting eliminating the City’s lobbyist, isn’t Mark’s challenge to come up with something *different* than the City Manager’s much-maligned Solvency Plan? Check it out – the lobbyist is already on the block, so isn’t available as an alternate cut to anything you might be trying to save.

    Sacred Cow – My guess is most staff don’t even live in Ypsi. They probably like our community, but if they feel they’re underpaid and can make more in a different municipality, I doubt they would feel an allegiance to stay.

    My guess is that even those who live in Ypsi aren’t going to put up with cuts forever. Allegiance or no, the resident employees have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed too.

  106. egpenet
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Ammend the Charter? OK.

    Nothing is unrealistic at this point. As you say, we have mouths to feed.

    Murph, et. al. … although I will continue this track … what the voters REALLY want is change. If the Mayor/Council REALLY understand that … and if the City makes substantive, longterm chnages and REFORMS business as usual …

    We the citizens will come up with bucks to make it happen. We aree totally prepared to sacrifice … but NOT line the pockets of bureaucrats, create ghettos for the poor, pay for a lobbyist, giveback to Chiddister, etc., etc. Show us REAL change … and WE will show you da’money!

  107. rodneyn
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Comment from: Demosthenes: “egpenet, Are you proposing, then, that we need to get a reformed city package laid out and implementation begun in time to support a revised CIT (or other tax increase proposal) by summer 2008?”

    I’ve seen several comments on this blog from you floating the idea of a new city income tax ballot proposal. Let it go! Approval of a new tax as a source of city revenue is a dead and gone issue. The formerly pro-tax city council members know this, you should too. Move on, please.

  108. John on Forest
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    egpenet and Demosthenes,

    I agree with rodneyn on this. Any chance of passing a second income tax inititive is a dead issue. The voters spoke clearly about that.

    I wrote a letter to the editor, appearing last night in the Ann Arbor News, suggesting that fewer overall cuts in the budget will be needed if all the cuts over time are averaged and then applied up front. Here it is again in case any here missed it. I’d be interested in comments on my idea.

    “… I think a broad consensus from both sides can be reached by focusing on the idea that the cuts should be as small as possible, while ensuring the future of our fine city.

    While the numbers in the city’s solvency plan can and will be criticized and may indeed benefit from closer scrutiny, the final analysis will still show that ever deepening cuts will be necessary to balance the budget. By the city’s solvency plan reckoning those cuts would approach $2.7M by the third year and $3.5M in the fourth year. These are steep cuts. The cumulative savings needed for the first three years is $4.9M and for four years it is $8.4M. The average of these numbers over three or four years is $1.6M and $2.1M respectively.

    I propose that making a $1.6M cut in the first year and sustaining it would be better than gradual cuts culminating in a $2.7M cut by the third year. More so, a sustained $2.1M cut in the first year, would be far better than the ultimate $3.5M cut by the fourth year…”

  109. egpenet
    Posted November 15, 2007 at 9:24 pm | Permalink


    If not implementation, certainly specific commitments to reform policies, practices and attitudes. I’ll go with the promise, if the plan is in detail.

    The schools did it. The library did it. This is NOT impossible to do before a vote in April.


  110. egpenet
    Posted November 17, 2007 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    109 comments and counting …

    Stopped in to get this thread back at the top of the list. There is a LOT we can do to keep the city solvent provided the city enact serious internal reforms.

    I’ve listed eight or nine things I would like to see done. No one else has chimed in to date.

    And I have more to add.

    YpsiDixit has called for a Charette. And the city has offered public time during their yearly retreat to hear from us. So … get busy.

    For me, it’s not a matter of short term cuts, it’s a matter of serious reform, including sacrifices on the part of city employees, union and non-union.

    More later.


  111. John on Forest
    Posted November 18, 2007 at 9:59 am | Permalink


    I might not have the vision to know what I want, long term, regarding structural changes to our city’s governing. I can’t offer you many ideas, yet on that topic. I will put my mind to it though.

    Regardless, though, some short term cuts are going to be needed until longer term solutions can kick in and begin being felt.

    So, in answer to your post “No one else has chimed in to date.”, I beg to differ. I have chimed in that we can avoid the deeper cuts if we make all the cuts, calculated to be necessary, up front.

  112. egpenet
    Posted November 18, 2007 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    True, you and others HAVE chimed in, but we still have time to wring some fundamental changes and sacrifices from City government in exchange for “maling further investments” in Ypsilanti ourselves.

    I have detailed nine, ten or eleven changes and/or reforms I’d like to see. Other writers, John on Forest, say the issue is dead and say lets’ seee what the City Manager comes up with.

    YpsiDixit and I (and perhaps others) want to ask ourselves, including you, John, what do WE want from the city. If we wait for council, we’ll have a long, frustrating wait.

    I’ll add to my list of wants and desires later. But WE are the deciders about what’s on or off the table … NOT council … as WE are the deciders about whether to fund any future deficits to “invest” in Ypsilanti.

  113. Mark H.
    Posted November 18, 2007 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    I agree with John On Forest that the city budget cuts that are necessary should be made “up front” rather than dragged out over time. Saving money early on will reduce the need for later cuts. I also think it’s grossly irresponsible for the city to have not started making the serious cuts that have been basically inevitable for a while.

  114. Demosthenes
    Posted November 19, 2007 at 9:39 am | Permalink


    I’ll be happy to respond to your allegation that I’ve suggested a second try at the CIT, if you can show me where I made that suggestion. I deny it. My question to egpenet was not retorical. It was a genuine question of his intentions.

    I have consistently stated on this thread, that the question, what gets cut should be answered. That is my only agenda on this thread. Period.

    John on Forest, I support your idea for making cuts up front to reduce the total cuts needed.

  115. Sacred Cow
    Posted November 19, 2007 at 11:15 am | Permalink


    The only problem I see with trying to follow a UAW-esque restructuring is that the city’s Unions represent workers in hundreds, if not thousands of communities. I don’t see how Unions like AFSCME could absorb retirement manangement for workers in a few municipalities, while not doing it in other communities.

    I agree your suggestion is innovative and progressive, but I just don’t see how it’s possible without these unions undergoing a drastic overhaul they likely aren’t interested in doing. The UAW didn’t have a lot of leverage and represented workers largely in just three companies which were all in dire financial straights. AFSCME, by contrast, represents workers in hundreds of communities that aren’t even in any financial trouble. They have no need to change the status quo, and the city has no leverage to force their hand given what a tremendously small percentage of their membership comes from Ypsi workers. AFSCME has tens, if not hundreds of thousands of members, of which maybe 30 are Ypsi employees. It only works if the unions are willing to do it, and how do we get them to buy into these proposed changes? Is it possible they would create special retirement banks for a select few workers in struggling communities only? What would the rest of the union membership think about this? Just some things to ponder

  116. egpenet
    Posted November 19, 2007 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the abovee … begin making cuts NOW, not heaping them into the future.

    But my intent … in addition to stimulating thought, debate and a little angst … is to get some action from the City Manager and the Mayor.

    As regards legacy costs … it MUST be done. Such renegotiations occur all of the time, local by local, depending onm the contract. The City has its own contracts and whatever their deals aree … they are applied only to the City of Ypsilanti. (No thanks to my ranting and raving … but it’s happening as we speak.)

    Legacy costs are a longterm step. I applaud (in advance) any progress the City can make.

    So-called public housing is another peeeeve of mine. I’ll only add now a bit of history. I refer you to the op-ed piece by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in last Sunday’s NYT: “Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth.” His conclusion is that poverty, to a great extent, becomes endemic in a group due to lack of wealth … ie. a sense of ownership. When I ask the City to divest of the beaurocracy, wasted dollars and virtually operating a ghetto … I cite the article as Mr. Gates’ reference to Margaret Thatcher, who in the 1980’s turned 1.5 million residents of public housing in Britain into homeowners!

    I ALSO asked for the entire City Council to resign … pros and cons. The failure of either side of the issue to truly help solve our fiscal crisis over these many months, led me to suggest such a no-confidence measure, and to suggest that the duly-elected Chairs/ Presidents of the various COPAC neighborhood groups be “sworn in” as a temporary council until new elctions can be held (likely in April).

    In the same election, I proposed that if the City made serious and effective longterm legacy advances, dumped public housing, made other real reforms … I would support an income tax. And I would prefer that it be packaged WITH an “equalized” rollback of “x-mils” of property taxes.

    I suggested other cuts above on this thread, but I want to point out something. HOW business goes on often puzzles me. We had a really fun charrette concerning the new Depot Town CDC’s plans for Riverside Park and Frog Island. Many suggestions were made to improve thee current pathways, added pathways along the river and new picnic areas. Of course, those suggestions were accompanied by requests for lighting and even scenic seating.

    THIS week, a crew began to install huge, 16-foot tall lights in the park following some old layout. For cripes sake! The left hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing! The height of the new lamp posts is WAY OUT OF HUMAN scale … four feet taller than the old lamps. So much for citizen input. So much for human scale park planning. So much for bothering to attend the charrette. Again, the city just does what it does. That’s a problem.

    Could the City have waited a few more weeks, until the park design was complete? Guess not.

    I STILL think a “What to Cut Charette” per my and YpsiDixit’s suggestions is a good idea. More on that soon.

    Other cuts? More later.


  117. John on Forest
    Posted November 20, 2007 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    On the idea of having a charrette:

    Paul Schrieber, somewhere in this thread, invited us to two six hour sessions (Dec 8 and 15?) where the city budget will be discussed. Would the proposed charrette be something different from this?

  118. Sacred Cow
    Posted November 20, 2007 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    If indeed the city can “re-negotiate” past collective bargaining agreements with unions, I’m all for it. Not working in local gov’t, I admit I’m not sure whether such proposals occur elsewhere in the public sector. I’m still skeptical that public sector unions have the authority and/or inclination to slash benefits promised by municipalities in past collective bargaining agreements, but I suppose that’s a good question for our Council or City Manager to answer. At the expense of sounding cold, I’d far prefer screwing past employees over current ones if the option is out there. Former employees provide nothing for our city today, but current employees quite obviously do. Again though, I recalled reading somewhere that our City Manager suggested legacy costs from retirees are something the city is pretty much stuck with at this point.

  119. egpenet
    Posted November 21, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    From the responses/lack of responses I’ve seeeeeeen, and knowing that most of us are mired in making a living, and for other reasons, I’d guess most folks would be intimidated. We’ve been to so many public meetings wheree the story is always the same … the income tax is the ONLY solution, “four square miles,” “that won’t work,” so it’s like talking to a blank wall.

    A public charette might not get us anywhere either, certainly not without the cooperation of the City Manager and Mayor.

    My view is we are in an undeclared emergency. And my fear is that NOTHING is going to be done until Grandholm is forced to send in the accountant from Blackwater.

    My view of the public charette is to get as many wild and crazy ideas out there … as well as to test the waters from the standpoint that IF the Manager and Mayor make EVERY effort to REFORM legacy costs with the unions, and IF the Fire departments in Eastern Washtenaw merge and get back to full strength for everyone’s safety, including their own, get THAT burden off the table, and IF other issues we’ve discussed here get dealt with … and on … WOULD WE reconsider a tax increase?
    My view is that the answer is YES.

    It’s the Chiddister, Peninsular Park, new lights in Riverside, and all the other “side” deals council and the double-dipping DDA, and everything elsee we are upset about. It’s the “public housing” issue we are upset about. It’s new business and devlopment that gets “put off” by zoning issues that remain unresolved or confusing or overlays or whatever. It’s railroad tracks to ACH. And on.

    Clean up and we’ll put up is my position.

    I’d still like to see the entire council resign and have COPAC chairs from all over the city fill in until an April election. We are NOT being represented well … including rich, poor, students, renters, home owners, north side, south side, east or west.

    Perhaps, the charette should be a COPAC rally instead to get ideas out there. Hmmm?

    More later.

  120. John on Forest
    Posted November 24, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink


    I don’t like your idea of sending in the CoPAC representatives. Neighborhood associations are great groups for what they are formed for; but, they are not representative of the population within their respective neighborhoods. They are comprised of a very small subset of the population. Yes, a subset that in interested in being involved; but still a small subset and IMHO quite cliquish. I can easily envision the neighborhood association boards of directors electing CoPAC representatives expressly for the purpose of putting thier “darling child” on city council.

    I’d much rather see the neighborhood associations flex their muscles by holding the current elected city council reps accountable. Invite them to the neighborhood assoc meetings and tell them exactly what we want them to do for us.

  121. Posted November 24, 2007 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    John on Forest,

    We could even combine one or two Association for these meetings so there is more folks and it is a good reason to get together with your neighbors.


    – Steve

  122. egpenet
    Posted November 24, 2007 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    John on Forest:

    The CoPAC folks are EXACTLY who should perform an interim lobottamy on the city. They DO represent a much closer cross-section of their neighbors who elected them than the current council people.

    We HAVE invited council and mayor, and the mayor and council listen, but have THEIR agenda to sell. OUR ideas aree not practical, don’t fit the Charter, aren’t legal, will hurt city staff, affect hiring, unions won’t stand for it, are NOT the way things are done, won’t fly with the County … and on.

    We have designed, built and voted ourselves into a system that no longer represents our needs, takes an increasing share and returns a decreasing benefit, and is totally unresponsive to OUR concerns. I repeat … WE VOTED FOR this.

  123. John on Forest
    Posted November 24, 2007 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    That’s a great idea, Steve, which we have done on several occasions. The actual combining of NAs though, I don’t think will work. Just in the past few years, I’ve seen fracturing of large NAs into smaller ones because they serve tighter knit neighborhoods.

    But, we do need to occasionally have a get together of combined NAs to foster city wide unity.

  124. amused1
    Posted November 24, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine about neighborhood associations. It was back when mine was fighting the resale shop. He said he was a neighborrhood assoc. orphan. He’d asked 3 assoc. presidents if he/his house was in their association area. Two said absolutely not because his house was on the wrong side of the street. One said maybe but wasn’t sure and never got back to him. I suspect my friend wouldn’t feel like he was being represented by the CoPAC neighborhood leadership.

  125. John on Forest
    Posted November 24, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink


    Of course there are structures we must work within. There are other structures that might be restructured for better effect.

    I think what is needed is a genuine working session following the listening sessions. Rather than list a bunch of changes that one thinks need to be made, it would be better to list a few areas where some restructuring is wanted and invite all sides to a workshop to pound out the details.

  126. Posted November 26, 2007 at 10:17 am | Permalink


    Where does your friend live?

    – Steve

  127. Posted November 26, 2007 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    John on Forest,

    I didn’t mean to suggest merging NA’s. I agree with you, not a good idea. I was suggesting getting two NA’s together for one meeting.


    – Steve

  128. Demosthenes
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    This thread is off topic again.

    egpenet, I hope your fear of Blackwater accountants is unfounded.

    We need to look at the $2.1M John on Forest calculated was needed in cuts. We need to take a closer look at how those cuts are affected by inflation, increasing health care costs, etc; because, in the end (say FYE 2011 or so) that $2.1M in cuts will net something subtantially larger than $2.1M. So maybe only $1.9M in cuts are really needed.

    Now, once we get a better idea of how big the cuts need to be, we need to look again at the line items that could be cut and decide which ones to cut and which to keep, making sure they add up to the $1.9M (or whatever the number turns out to be).

  129. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I have suggested in the blog thread at least ten or more REFORMS within the city.

    I’d like the Fire Chiefs in the area to get together and create a proposal for one department … at FULL strength … for everyone’s safety … and then we’ll go from there.

    The Police Chief is talking to our neighbors about providing them with top-notch community policing so we can have a full-strength police department by increasing efficiencies and productivity.

    Union contracts are currently being discussed with one eye, at least, on legacy costs. I would hope those discussions can be expanded to salaried and retired employees … again with one eye on medical care costs.

    Next is the de-ghettoization of public housing and the dismantling of the burocracy via privitization WITH OVERSIGHT. As I’ve said … if Maggie Thatcher can turnm 1.5 Brits on the dole into property owners … why can’t we?

    With fire, police, public housing and legacy costs under control … we can look at what gets cut.

    I STILL feel the council has received a NO CONFIDENCE vote and should resign … all of them … with elctions scheduled for April. The Manager and Mayor stay.

    I agree with Steve … that a desk and a chair for the planner be placed under a 10×10 tent in the middle of Water Street and KEPT there until the deal is done.

    I’d also like to see thee two DDAs merged and then see the director chose to remain full time at the DDA or move on to work for the Depot Town CDC … both NOT BOTH. Those are two different focuses.

    With public safety fully covered … and publicly financed ghettos eradicated … and legacy costs contained … if the city can propose a conservative financial plan to move forward from here … and they STILL need money … I will vote FOR a tax increase of some kind.

  130. Posted November 26, 2007 at 1:43 pm | Permalink


    I think these are great ideas. How do we get buy in from our elected officials?


    – Steve

  131. Demosthenes
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 1:47 pm | Permalink


    that is a no-starter proposition. Or at least I need to see more details.

    Show me a timeline for your proposals and how much in City expenditures your proposals will save, on that time line.

    I don’t think your long term solutions will do anything to solve the shorter term balanced budget crisis. And don’t show me “hoped for” savings or “if this happens” scenarios. If your propositions fall through where will the city be. The cuts should be made first. Then if the “what if’s” come to fruition, things cut can be restored.

  132. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink


    (Sounds like you have a mouthful of M&Ms when you speak.)

    Anyway …

    Timing is IMMEDIATE … next six months. Knock all of the overhanging legacy costs down to manageable levels. These costs aree burdening us today and are growinmg 2x to 3x faster than the rate of inflation, Mr. D! These are what killed the car companies, until recently. They’re killing us, as well.

    The rest are major REFORMS.

    Get FIRE off the table … except on a new fee-for-service basis … after the area chiefs make the deal.

    Get POLICE into a full-strength, most efficient and productive basis, while getting fee-for-services spread over a wider basis.

    Get OUT of public housing … while maintaining a small, appointed commission to oversee the new overseers.

    Internal reforms at City Hall, too, per my comments over the last several weeks. Focus on Water Street and ACH until the deal is done.

    DDA reform.

    Creative solutions by retailers for sharing rental spaces and keeping this town open day and night.

    Commitment from residents to park at home and shop, eat, drink and walk downtown … with a concomitant commitment from retailers to stay open so we can do our thing.

    And more … including a new city council.

    Do all of these and more … and we’ll see about more monies.

    – Ed

  133. Demosthenes
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 3:48 pm | Permalink


    Your last sentence doesn’t even make sense to me. I didn’t ask for more monies and as far as I could tell the voters rejected more monies.

    I’m asking for cuts, or more specifically, what cuts and how much.

    As for the immediate legacy cost reductions you propose, do you have a dollar number for how much they will save?

    A equals reduced legacy costs
    B equals savings by taking Fire off the table
    C equals savings by fee-for-service Police (would I have to pay a fee every time I call the police to my door for a prowler?)
    D equals savings for eliminating public housing
    E equals savings for reforms at city hall
    F equals savings for DDA reforms

    So, what are A, B, C, D, E, and F such that

    A+B+C+D+E+F = -$1.9M

  134. Posted November 26, 2007 at 4:54 pm | Permalink


    I think we need a new approach. Instead of running around saying “What are we going to cut” lets first find out

    A) How much money do we have
    B) What are the priorities of services we want.

    From that we can figure out what we can afford.

    Then when it gets to specific departments, we need the departments to break out the major services and what each service costs to deliver. Then as a community we need to figure out if that is something that we want or is there a way to provide the same service cheaper or can we partner with someone else to save money or improve service.

    Across the board cuts is not productive. We should instead focus on our priorities and then make sure we fund these departments or services appropriately.

    Business that have gone through cuts will tell you, 10% across the board cuts just wounds the entire organization. It is better to eliminate those things that are no longer priorities, or you don’t do very well, or you can no longer afford to do, and then focus and fund those things we do great and that we can afford to do.

    But ah heck, what do I know, I am just a computer geek. {grin}


    – Steve

  135. Bonnie
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 5:31 pm | Permalink


    Thatcher didn’t turn 1.5 million people “on the dole” into responsible homeowners. The situation was much more complex than that. Many, many Brits had been forced into council housing due to housing shortages, and many of those had steady, fairly well-paying jobs. Thatcher’s privatization of many council houses was actually a pretty mixed bag- the ghettoes remained ghettoes, often getting worse, because those that lived there *were* on the dole, and the nicer areas (there are many council homes that are really quite nice) got nicer. Citing Britain’s public housing system and the solutions that they’ve come up with as comparable to ours isn’t remotely comparing apples to apples.


  136. Bonnie
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Whomever was citing CoPAC as the solution (it’s hard to keep track after 100+ comments)-
    Although a system similar to CoPAC may work, what you’re proposing isn’t at all within the mission of CoPAC, as I understand it. I would not like to suddenly find myself serving on a quasi-rebellious board- I signed up to be kept up to date on who’s getting broken into, how often, and where, not the business of reforming the local government on a volunteer basis, and I’m pretty sure that goes for most of the CoPAC reps. My neighborhood association would be pretty surprised, too- and I’m not even sure where Stadium Meadows would fit into the picture, because we are very, very different from other NAs.


  137. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Re: Brits … the post mortem on Thatcher’s moves show fater these many years that many came off the dole and became “invested” in society.
    That’s my goal. At lot of folks here will continue to neeeeed such help … but living in substandard housing hand-to-mouth with a social services sytem that keeps social scientists employed is NOT my idea of public service.

    CoPAC’s role is NOT to jump into a mess like this … however, between the resignation of the present council and new elections … there exists throughout the city an able and democraticly elected group of CoPAC officers who clould help the mayor and manager get a closer ear and feeel for what the citizens want than a mere handful of “I Have My Mind Made Up” politicians. I’d hope we’d do better after April.

    Some NAs may chose NOT to send a rep. Some are NOT as well organized as others. Point is … we neeeed to solve our issues at the street level, not in an ivory tower or poli-sci theory level. We are at the brink of disaster and we have no time to putz around cutting critical public safety jobs as the FIRST resort.

    Like Stevee says, and I say, the question isn’t WHAT TO CUT? The real question is where do WE GO FROM HERE? REFORM or same-old-same- old. I say, OUT with the old and IN with the new.

  138. amused1
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Steve, he lives on Charles north of Thomas.

    Egpenet – I’m not sure one can reasonably interpret voting no on an income tax as a vote of no confidence in the current administration. And I’m with Bonnie, I don’t want my NA representing my interests on a city council type level. Talk about ladies in hats!

  139. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    amused1: you’ll have more control over your NA reps (hats or no hats) than your present council person. (Your NA is more important than you imagined! Get to those neighborhood meeetings and get involved! That’s better than shopping local, that’s your neighborhood for cripes’ sake!)

    Anyhow …

    It’s only until April. And I’ve thought we should reverse the consolidation of the council wards and precints. I think we need to double the wards at MINIMUM and get back toa much more representative council. That’ll make it much more difficult for little cliques to form policy over the phone and/or to railroad “lazy” opposition into a dumb decision.

    Our RNA bylaws give the responsibility of attending or at least actively monitoring what happens at council meeting to our chairperson with the vice chair as a backup. Supposedly, we should HAVE a rep with their butt in the seat at every council meeting. If your NA isn’t doing at LEAST that, I’d suggest an ammendment to your bylaws.

    I hate it when people say, “I had no idea … blah, blah, blah.” Council COUNTS on your ignorance to pull the stuff they’;ve ben doing for the last ten years. Like I said above (silly us, silly us, silly us). We have no one to blame but ourselves … so let’s US fix it this time!

  140. John on Forest
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m pitching in with amused1 and Bonnie on the CoPAC idea. Or, are they pitching in with me? -grins-

    Steve I agree with you on finding out “B) What are the priorities of services we want.”. But, whether you look at it as how much do we have or how much do we need to cut, it’s the same piece of pie. The current city budget is funded at in the neighborhood of $15M-16M, adjusted by inflationary pressures each year outward. This represents $1.9-2.1M dollars, averaged over four years, in excecc of projected revenues. You can say we need to fund against our priorities using $13M/annum or you can say we need to cut $2M from what we are currently funding. I’m not sure I see a distinction.

    Now, I’m NOT saying the figures I quoted above, which were taken from the city solvency plan, couldn’t benefit from a more careful analysis. I think Demosthenese posted way up at the top of this topic somewhere, that there were discrepancies in the numbers.

  141. John on Forest
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 9:56 pm | Permalink


    My NA monthly board meeting is attended by at least one of the two council members in our ward every month. They are in fact our NA representation on council.

  142. Posted November 26, 2007 at 10:18 pm | Permalink


    Tell your friend to stop in and say high at the Miles Street NA. Visit for more info on each NA. Also try Prospect Park NA.

    Whenever someone is not in an NA, I suggest they check out the nearest NA. With a little luck, you may get them to expand the area, or you will get enough ideas to help form your own. I have never know an NA to turn away a neighbor so it is a good way to get started.

    Before Riverside got started, we had a number of folks north of Michigan Ave that came to our NA meetings.

    Give that a try. In the mean time, if I can help in anyway in getting a new association going, have your friend call me and lets see if we can get one going in his neighborhood. My number is 482-9682 or


    – Steve

  143. egpenet
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    John on Forest:

    The lady with the hat is actually your council person. (Come’on Brian, you be onm council … and let someone else rep your NA, for gosh sake!)

  144. Demosthenes
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 4:53 pm | Permalink


    That is exactly what this thread is about: What gets priority for funding and what gets cut. I personally see the cuts laid out in the solvency plan as as good a priority as any. I think Ed has a different set of priorities and so I keep asking him to put some numbers to them. I haven’t seen a clear statement from you about what your priorities are.

    When I first came on this blog and saw Mark’s question, “so, what gets cut” I thought maybe there would be serious debate about it leading to a list of priorities that would result in a balanced budget for the city. I am now able to see that the readership here is actually quite a bit smaller than I thought it was at first and that those that do participate have little more insight than I have about what should be cut.

    I did throw out the idea that the cuts could be inflationized into the future just like the expendentures had been in the solvency plan. I was happy to see John on Forest do a little analysis on the solvency plan as well, and I like his idea of limiting deeper cuts in the future by making all of them up front.

    Ed may have some good ideas too, but I don’t see any calculations of whether they will get us to the bottom line or not.

    Steve, what are your priorities? How much do you think they will cost?

    (Wonders about a discussion about nieghborhood associations on a thread about budget cuts) Stay on topic people and maybe we’ll get something done. Oh, wait I already decided in my second paragraph that isn’t the right place for it.

  145. mark
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Demosthenes, you can poke fun at me, and my posts, all that you want, but I’d like to ask that you not insult those people taking the time to leave comments here. From what I can tell, fewer than 10% of those that read this site ever make the effort to share their thoughts. And I think those that do deserve better than to be called stupid. If you want to help, invite some of your extremely bright friends to join the conversation here. Who knows, some of them may already be readers. They may just need a little push.

  146. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    “Let him first remove the pebbles from his own mouth before casting blame at the sands in the mouths of others.”

    Demi. I sympathize with you to some extent. But, think of this a table in a bar, not a boardroom. A conversation starts, some folks rant and rave, some retreat, etc. Topics shift endlessly. My experience is once a controversial topic has gone past a few dozen comments all hope of focus is lost. Too many rabbit trails to follow. Every post could spawn a hundred replies, and so on. Single-minded pursuit is in vain. (But, on occasion, there are outbursts of brilliance.)

    Try viewing this as a “learning place” rather than a “solving place.” At least, for example, you’ve learned how few concrete, bankable ideas of cuts are really out there.

  147. Gary Abernathy
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I think the punchline is: “Police and Fire”

    That’s what gets cut.

    Contrary to what we were told during the election, there isn’t much more fat to be trimmed. It’s not that the people here aren’t smart, engaged and informed. Many of us have read the budget. The truth is there aren’t a lot of options available to us.

  148. Demosthenes
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 9:28 am | Permalink


    I appologize for any afront I’ve made. None was intended, in so much as I don’t see where I insulted anyone or called anyone stupid.

    Ever sense the income tax was put on the ballot, I looked for reasons to vote for it or against it. Although the city’s solvency plan seemed like compelling evidence to vote in favor of the tax, I was left wanting for any substantive critic of the solvency plan. Most people I’ve talked with really do not want cuts in fire or police; but interestingly 2/3 of them also didn’t want the income tax. Now the income tax inititive is past history since Nov 6. Moving on from that is the question you put up of “what to cut”. I really do want to know what will be cut.

    If this blog is not the place for me to find that out, I’ll move on and try to find some other venue to get my questions answered.

  149. Posted November 28, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink


    My top priorities are police, fire, picking up the garbage, cleaning and plowing the streets, and mowing the parks.

    As far as costs, what we need from City Hall is 10 or 15 scenarios of costs and services. Then our elected officials can make choices.

    In the past, the budget process was presented as just one option, take it or leave it. When options were presented, it was generally across the board cuts, that needs to change.

    Over the past year we saw the city staff produce numerous options and scenarios for the City Income Tax.

    We need those same type of scenarios and options for the budget process which starts Dec 8th.

    Currently, the budget and audits come as huge PDF’s that can’t be imported into spreadsheets and databases with out spending hundreds of hours retyping data and then no easy way to insure that the data is correct.

    The City staff has the data and the City staff has shown that they can do multiple scenarios and analysis with lots of charts and graphs. That is what we need from City staff to determine what things will cost and what options are there for how the money is spent.


    – Steve

  150. Demosthenes
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 9:57 am | Permalink


    That was my impression as well, concerning the city plan. I made an observation concerning not having an analysis of the benefits inflationary pressures would have on the value of cuts made today and carried forward over several years. I also pointed out a difference in the numbers used on one page vs. another page.

    I haven’t looked at the city web page; but I would expect that somewhere there is an actual city budget for the $15M that is being spent today. I should go look for that and see what I can learn there. I guess I was hoping others might have already done that and had some ideas too.

  151. egpenet
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Asking simply, “What gets cut?” is giving into the “business as usual” that is at the root of the problem. Sitting back a fretting about fire and police, thinking that we have no other choices, that we are defenseless against the city, that it’s “us” versus “them,” makes me crazy.

    We have six to twelve months to rehape and reform the entire process to arrive at a LONG TERM solution to our fiscal issue, rather than look for a short term “fix” to keep things limping along “per usual.”

    Solutions abound in my humble opinion. And some of the solutions include MORE MONEY.

    I am of the opinion that the city should get NO MORE money until certain reforms take place to rid the city of burdensome legacy costs, public housing commitments, and makes solid public safety arrangements with surrounding communities to provide fully-staffed fire and police protection.

    Other reforms, to repeat ad nauseam, are DDA reorganization, founding of one or two more CDCs in the area (one for Water Street and ACH, and a second for Parks & Rec other than Riverside/Frog Island). Someone is also suggesting a CDC for transforming public housing ghettos into co-ops or condos.

    Barring real reform …

    We are left with our beer glasses half-full to moan and groan on this blog and on our bar stools throughouit the city about how we aree in such sad shape … poor us … damn that city council this and that. Sheesh!

    Truth is … with real political, fiscal and organizational reform at city hall … I am of the mind that … there would BEE moree money available from within the legacy cost savings, from within certain budget cuts (public housing), from public safety productivity and efficiencies in relationship with surrounding communities, and from the citizens of Ypsilanti, who would see that the city is capable of sound management.

    The Income Tax plan was not well run, was based on a negative premise, and continues to scare people and divide the community. Fear and division are the hallmarks of machione politics and people like Carl Rove, the Bushes, and also Dems like the Daileys in Chicago.

    The 2-1 against the tax was an overwhelming “no confidence” vote for council. What we want and what we will support, IMHO, is a long-range solution, real political and fiscal reform, organizational cuts (public housing staff), fiduciary transfers of legacy costs to the unions, and reorganization of the public safety operations in the area.

    Get that done. Put a new budget together. And THAT’S a “dog that will hunt” as Stevie would say.

  152. Demosthenes
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink


    I don’t see that as something that can be accomplished in the time frame you give (6-12 months). Some of it, yes. I also don’t know yet what kind of budget numbers can be attatched to those reforms.

    I understand your idea that a budget crisis might be the catalyst to cause reform; but, couldn’t the crisis just as easily be managed by implementing the solvency plan without any reform?

    Barring any legal reasons it can’t be done, I think the public housing cut could be made very quickly. It’s easy enough to simply stop funding it. I have never really looked closely at public housing before, with respect to where do the responsiblities for it lay? Should it be a federal government responsiblity. State? County? I agree with you that it shouldn’t be a city responsiblity. Coordinated regional solutions would create a better solution. How much is in the city budget for public housing, including staff to run it?

    But regionalization solutions to public safety, in terms of time frame are far more ambiguous to me. What if other governments don’t want to cooperate? What if it takes two or three years to negotiate something? AND, will regionalization save us any money?

    How much leverage does the city have with legacy costs? Would the unions strike if we just cut them? Would we care if they striked? And, again, how much is in the budget for them?

    By the way, I don’t remember reading any of the SCIT literature that advocated the kind of reforms you are suggesting. Are you sure reforms are what the voters were voting for?

  153. Paul Schreiber
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    The Ypsilanti Housing Commission makes a payment in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) for the public housing sites of Paradise Manor (Michigan Ave.), Hollow Creek (Grove Rd.), (Parkridge Homes (Harriet and First), and various scattered sites (approx. 200 units total). Parkview Apartments (Harriet and Hamilton) and Forest Knoll (Monroe) are privately owned and not public housing.

    In return for the reduced city revenue from a PILOT, the federal government supplies funds for operations and captial improvements of public housing. To eliminate public housing in Ypsilanti would require providing alternative housing for the current tenants and would be a huge cost to the city.

    The Washtenaw Affordable Housing Coalition (a county-wide initiative) has a goal of providing 500 additional units of housing for low-income families as part of the Blueprint to End Homelessness. Subtracting Ypsilanti’s 200 units of public housing would be a huge blow to that goal.

    Paul Schreiber

  154. Posted November 28, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Mayor,

    How much was paid in PILOT by the Housing Commission each year for the last three years?

    Is the Housing Commission up to date and paid in full on their PILOT?

    – Steve

  155. egpenet
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Hours pass … no answer.

    I want to add, rather reeiteratee many other changes (REFORMS) that must be donee beforee we the people will cough up another red cent …

    1) Two DDAs … grandfathered and legal … however they aree a joke in Lansing that has been punishing us with every grant application. With all of our issues … we have THEE MOST DIVIDED COMMUNITY in the state of Michigan …

    a) We have two DDA’s … one DDA guy getting a fancy salary, and IN ADDITION he is being paid by a Depot Town CDC to organize THEIR affairs to the detriment of downtown! Shame!
    I have written and screamed about this … fish or cut bait Brian!
    b) The townies have beeen offensive toward the gownies (EMU) … and remain so
    c) Somebody back when said something which pissed off the township, and so we have lost a lot of good friends and allies among our neighboring borders
    d) We have a joint Chamber of Commerce with Ann Arbor, which results in a loss of great opportunities to A2. Once a year they DO have a fun golf outing at Washtenaw Country Club. IN ADDITION, our local Chamber is experiencing a higher dropout rate of downtown businesses than Ypsi High School (hyperbole, folks, but it is fun to say) due to the fact that the local Chamber doesn’t do SQUAT downtown. Hence, we have a growing and much more effective D.A.Y., which we hope will createe an effective and appealing voice within the State and the County. Go D.A.Y.!
    e) We have STILL a racial divide (“Goes way back,” says a local councilperson). But I am confiodent in the new generation of black young people and new black-owned businesses downtown, that we will begin to erase that divideee.
    f) We have systemic poverty that WILL NOT GO AWAY until we stop running ghetto housing and shoehorning disadvantaged, single-parent families into public housing. The Liberals want to help/eradicate homelessness … but we have created an entire burocracy in Ypsilanti that KEEPS people on the dole and food stamps to maintain the staff’s salaries at the social services offices. The solution is to STOP sending black fathers to jail for non-violent crimes of every sort and to keep families together, using funds that ARE available to give couples a chance to own their own place and begin the climb up the economic ladder with dignity. We neeeeed to find OTHER ways to “take no prisoners” and keep young men and women on the right track.

    More later.

  156. egpenet
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    More houis pass … still no answer, eh, Steve?

    More comments, after overhearing several phone conversations today.

    We ARE overpaying city staff. I KNOW the U.S. Dollar is only worth .10-.15 cents of its original value … but I am convinced we have been overpaying staff who are too young and too eager, but flat-out inexperienced to run the DDA or other city departments and/or to lead the critical development work here in town. There’s room for savings here.

    (I snigger at this next point … )

    Someone posted way above that we’ll lose key people who will “take the first train out of town” if we start cutting salaries and/or benefits.

    THERE IS NO TRAIN SERVICE! (No thanks to them, so, they’ll have to walk. Hee. Hee.)

    At this point, we have the challenge the mayor and the city manager to eradicate all of these divides and more. Ypsilanti needs to be rebuilt in the next three to six months to erase the structural, systemic and racial divides. IT CAN BE BEGUN if the time and effort is made/taken to get to the nitty gritty. Get into the streets, the newspapers, the local pulpits, CTVT, the county commissioners offices, EMU board rooms, bars and restaurants, alleys and pool halls. Stop the “cut the budget” horseplay and divisional politics and GET YPSI’S ACT TOGETHER.

    No way to avoid it … City Council MUST resign as a body … with new council elections in April. And in addition, we need to rewrite the charter to EXPAND city council to INCREASE representation and avoid this little clique of white guys making all the decisions on the telephone at 10pm. We have NO CONFIDENCEE is the current council’s expertise or leadership. THEY ARE HOLDING US BACK! And in all fairness to the three votes who have whistled in the wind … you, too! Resign and run again, but resign now, please, so we can start anew.

    We need an entirely NEW panel of Ypsilanti leadership to emerge to carry us into … as they day at the Depot Town CDC … “the 21st century!” (I still smirk, when I read that on nearly every page of the CDC proposal.)

    But I mean it. Let’s move forward.

    Tell you THIS …

    We cannot move forward without ALL of the above I havee blogged and blogged about these many weeks. But in ADDFITION …

    The next layers MUST be addressed …

    1) Vistors & Convention Bureau needs a kick in the butt
    2) Local “Histerical” organizations need a kick in the butt
    3) Local Realators need a kick in the butt
    4) Local retailers need a kick in the butt
    5) Local restauranteurs neeeeeed a kick in the butt
    6) Local churches neeeeeed a kick in the butt

    I’ll take you folks on the next time I have a minuite to rant and rave.

    Gonna walk the dog …

  157. Demosthenes
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m confused now. Ed, you seem knowledgeable about “public housing.” Can you shed some illumination on this?

    Ypsilanti Housing Commission (YHC) pays PILOT to the city. So does that mean the YHC is a non-city government entity? What City of Ypsilanti staff, if any, are devoted to public housing?

    Finally, if YHC pays PILOT to the city, then where would the net positive benefit to the city budget come from by eliminating public housing?

    Sorry about my naivety on this subject.

  158. egpenet
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand it either!

    Brian Robb sent me the budget, which is the poorest excuse for a budget I have evr seeeen from a “public” entity. Looks like some home-made-up thing.

    I have ben to the website.

    And I have visited evry public housing site in the city, including the boarded up places that HUD had to send its own private security force into to calm things down.

    Then, there was the fire at Paradise Manor. I do design and preservation remodles. Those units, in my opionion, are nothing more than chimmneys. The stoves aree next to the stairs, virtually, any “typical” error on the kitchen stove (which is the most commo9n fire issue in the U.S.) can become a death trap for anyone on the second floor.

    Beyond that, in our sincere and heart-felt urgency to help children, their single moms and/or dads, we created a burocracy at the Federal, State and local level with people making a LOT of money that has resulted in a HARD AS ROCK SYSTEM designed to keep families poor, keep Daddy’s in jail, and get FAT off the difference between what theseee poor womern can pay in rent, plus what the government kicks in … and in the meantime THEIR kids, after two wonderful years in pre-school and kindergarden become the next generation of inmates at Maxey and Milan … no wonder.

    Despite what Cosby says … there’s is little the poor white or poor black community can do. It’s the system. the SYSTEM must6 be destroyed. Our hearts are in the right place, but only a push to get these folks to become OWNERS in their properties will have any success. They must5 literally have ownership in America to feel they have any chance at all. If we have to subsidize the transition, well and good. But the goal MUST BE ownership. There is NO ESCAPE from welfare or poverty otherwise. And the class divide in the white and black communities betqweeeen poor and middle class will never be bridged otherwise.

    Demothense, that’s my “take” … the public housing $ are on the city’s website. Biran Robb or other council people can give you more details. I consult with people in the black business community every day and am a member of the NBBTA (National Black Business Trade Association as an associate member).

    The pandering and the inter-class s**t has GOT to stop. The BEST way to stop it is to end the public housing ghetto system and replace it with some form of stakeholder pride, if not outright ownership.

    How is it done? I don’t know. But I’m gonna keep jawboning about it until I die, goddammit!

  159. amused1
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I agree that there should be 1 DDA for all of Ypsi. 1 DDA would minimize the need to coordinate efforts, allow for greater pooling of resources, and present a stronger, united, front to Lansing and others.

    I also agree that a joint CofC is ineffective. I don’t see much of an incentive for A2 based businesses to encourage development in Ypsi. In a way, it’s beneficial to A2 businesses to keep Ypsi from opening competition.

    While I find it admirable that Ypsi is more ethnically diverse than many neighboring communities, I’m not sure what it has to do with the topic at hand. Unless you’re suggesting the city start a campaign to make everyone the same. I’m kidding of course.

    I don’t think the city has quite as much control over poverty, homelessness, female headed households as you seem to think. I do think the Mayor, the City Council and the County Board should work hard to get our neighboring communities to increase the options available to “at risk” and “vulnerable” populations.

    I doubt people *want* to live in ghettos per se, I think it’s much more likely that they often don’t have many choices available to them. Increasing choices and opportunities in neighboring communities is the answer. Spreading affordable housing options throughout a region reduces the incidence of ghettoization.

    There’s another aspect to ghettoization that I think you may be overlooking. Namely, the culture of poverty. The values and experiences of this culture may have little to do with what people outside of those communities think of as “the norm”. With each generation the culture of poverty becomes more entrenched.

    For example. Having a bank account is an experience that many people who grew up amid poverty have never had. Imagine you’re 22 or even 32 and have absolutely no experience with banks. Now imagine that your parents, aunts, uncles and friends haven’t any experience either. You have to seek help outside of your regular support system. That can be a humbling and sometimes rough experience. Is it a useful, perhaps even essential life experience? I believe so, yes. But that doesn’t make it any easier for the 22 or 32 year old who perceives this act as opening him or herself up to the risk of being “disrespected”.

    So yes, changes need to be made to our public policies as they pertain to the poor, disadvantaged, vulnerable, whatever euphemism you’d like to use. We need changes that will improve opportunities. But there’s no quick transition for changing generations of behaviors, experiences and values that can make it difficult to escape the “trap of poverty”.

  160. Sacred Cow
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 6:56 pm | Permalink


    You seem to suggest that the city BOTH overpays it’s staff, and yet relies on inexperienced, young employees. A municipal gov’t is no different than any private business: The better the wages you offer, the better the perspective employees you will attract. Staff aren’t comparable to residents who will sacrifice on behalf of their city. They won’t hesititate to take better jobs elsewhere.

    I would say our reliance on inexperienced employees is a pretty obvious correlation to the fact we don’t come close to overpaying our staff.
    In these tough economic times I do not want city employees making more than they already do. Having said that, I recognize the trade-off to this reality is that we get the very employees you seem to complain about. Do you believe we rejected highly qualified and experienced candidates for vacant positions, only to bring in green, youthful workers instead?? The employees you complain about were likely the best of a very underwhelming applicant pool. I’ve accepted the fact that our city is not a particularly desirable municipal gov’t to work for. Perhaps you should do the same. If someone already has the valuable experience that you covet, they are going to look for jobs in a better- compensated City Hall than ours. And if they have 15-20 years worth of experience and are still willing to work in an underpaid community, than they are probably lousy at their jobs.

    Of course if you have specific suggestions as to how you slash employees salaries while at the same time attracting higher quality candidates to work here, I’d love to hear them. I may not know our city staff personally, but I do have relatives who work in municipal gov’t in other communities. I know the arguments by residents of an overpaid city hall exist in every community, and they are tired and almost always baseless.

  161. egpenet
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    I just spoke with the Mayor, who was upset that I had made a “personal” attack on Brian Vossberg. The Mayor said that he had talked to the Depot Town DDA and to the Downtown DDA and they had reported that Brian was doing a grreat job. He also said that, as far as he knew, Brian was NOT getting paid by the Depot Town CDC for his “after hours” work on their development projects.

    I said I would apologize on this blog for my personal assumptions about Brian’s performance.

    I DO apologize to Brian personally for every alleged mis-statement of fact and for impuning his integrity.

    Yet, I re-iterate:

    1) We need one DDA in Ypsilanti
    2) Brian needs to focus in DDA activities. )I know for a fact he is taking time from DDA to work on CDC …. paid or unpaid. He’s told me so and admityted it to others.)
    3) ALL OF THIS EFFORT ON HIS PART IS ESSEENTIAL TO YPSILANTI’S FUTURE … and I applaud his efforts. I look forward to the Januray launch of the Blueprint Project. But the divided attention between Depot Town and Downtown, and the lack of Chamber activity downtown is precisely why D.A.Y. was formed, and precisely why D.A.Y.’s efforts have been rewarded.

    Brian, I am sorry for my personal assault. Please forgive me. All I ask is that you make a choice where to place your total efforts. As we plan our bedgets and grant efforts, we neeeed to know we have your full and undivided attention … for which you are being paid.

    If I can be more clear or if I have made other allegations which are false, please call me or challenge me. Last thing I desire is to be devisivee. I will challenge, but I want us to get on one page for a change.

    – Ed Penet

  162. mark
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    I think I can get behind the “One DDA” thing…. If there’s any reason not to pursue it, speak up now, before I make an ass of myself.

  163. Paul Schreiber
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    The city of Ypsilanti withdrew from the Mainstreets grant because we could not devote a full-time person (or the DDA executive director) exclusively to the program — as mandated by the program. Having two DDAs has not affected the Blueprints for Main Streets grant that Ypsilanti successfully landed.

    I serve on both DDA boards and don’t see an advantage to combining them.

    Contrary to Mr. Penet’s assertion, Mr. Vosburg does not get paid by the DTA CDC. He volunteers his time, like many do, and does not use DDA time. He should be free to serve the community as he sees fit with his own time.

    I fully support Brian Vosburg and the job he is doing as the YDDA and DTDDA executive director.

    Paul Schreiber

  164. Posted November 28, 2007 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure that readers of this blog may know this, but both Ypsi DDA Boards are currently working on the performance evaluation of the DDA director BVOS.

    If what Ed is saying is correct, that the Mayor, who under state law is required to sit on both DDA boards as well as appoints the members of both DDA boards told Ed that he (the Mayor) has spoken to DDA board members and the Mayor is hear to report that that BVOS is doing a great job.

    That is not an appropriate comment or conversation to be having with any member of the public not on the DDA board especially while the DDA baord is in the middle of their performance review of the DDA director.

    Did the Mayor really say this?

    If so, while perhaps unintended, it is unethical, or at the very least ill-timed, as it serves to try and bias the evaluation through public statements about an employee before the DDA boards have had a chance to complete their annual evaluation.

    In the business world, when you are about to have an IPO, you have a quiet period, when folks inside the company don’t talk about anything to any outsiders.

    In Jury trials, attorney’s, will often times speak to the media before the trial begins, with the hope of swaying or poisoning the jury pool. Either way, the reasons you don’t talk about these things like employee evaluations in public BEFORE the evaluation has been completed, is you want to give the evaluation a fair chance.

    By coming out and saying that you had already polled the DDA board, the Mayor has already tried to show undue influence by predetermining the outcome before either DDA Board had actually completed and presented their evaluation of the DDA director.

    It is a inappropriate to talk about employee evaluations, especially to say you have polled the rest of the board for their opinion, when the board you sit on is actively engaged in the performance evaluation of that employee.

    I hope what Ed reported tonight about his conversation with the Mayor is not true or was somehow misunderstood.

    Secondly, no one should have taken Ed’s comments as personal attacks. Ed was asking legitimate questions and asking questions is not an attack.

    BVOS has publicly posted up to this blog numerous times over the past year, including, at times, using a office, computer, and computer Internet connection paid for entirely by taxpayer dollars and posting comments unrelated to work and or his job responsibilities and doing those postings during regular work hours. Once BVOS opened that door, he is a savvy enough person to understand the blogs can be a rough and tumble world and if you don’t want to subject yourself to any scrutiny, don’t hoist yourself up on to the bar by posting comments to a public forum.

    Ed you did nothing wrong and you have no reason to apologize.


    – Steve

  165. egpenet
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Steve.

    My apology to BVos stands. I am NOT trying to be personal, but staff activities in the public sphere are NOT private or personal matters. They are public issues.

    These issues also impact the fiscal and public concerns we’ve been discussing on this blog. I want my fellow citizens who would rather watch Desperate Housewives to WAKE UP and realize that they DO have a voice and need to be heard!

    I am sorry Brian if I hurt your feelings and impuned your integrity. But don’t do anything on your part to compromise the trust and the monies being paid to you to develop downtown business in this community. You work for us.

    Steve, what I reported is accurate. And feedback since I blogged that report is that member satisfaction is, in fact, mixed. There is now a CDC mini-staff of interns and the DDA director is supervising, albeit as a “volunteer.”

    That’s all I can say at this time. I told the Mayor I am WILL back off and am NOT trying to hurt Ypsilanti, but rather to unify it since the tax debacle.

    That’s my goal. Go forward Ypsi!


  166. egpenet
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 11:03 pm | Permalink


    Here are the PILOT payments for Public Housing in recent budget years ….

    In FYE 2004-05, the amount of the PILOT for Public Housing that was actually paid was $1,057.

    In FYE 2005-06, the amount was $0 (with $2,459 being budgeted).

    In FYE 2006-07, that amount was $1,877.

    In FYE 2007-08, we have budgeted for a payment of $1,800.

    – Ed

  167. Rodneyn
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    RE: 2 DDA’s

    The City of Ypsilanti has something that other Michigan cities have lusted for (and for which Warren sought a change in the state DDA Act). However the city ended up with 2 DDA’s, it is a good thing in that we can capture tax revenues over more land area that would otherwise go to outside taxing jurisdictions like the county.

    By law each DDA must have it’s own board, and the two districts are not contiguous. To “combine” them would be difficult, and really unnecessary. To maximize our “take” of that outside tax revenue (money we would not receive without the 2 DDA districts), the two DDA’s should remain in existence.

    However, just because we have a DDA or two does not mean they have to do anything more than pay down the debt from past projects. We do not need staff (if the business community would like to pay for Mr. Vosburg to continue that would be fine), we do not need a separate DDA office outside of City Hall, and we especially do not need the DDA spending more General Fund money on new projects before the old ones are finished and paid for. It is perfectly appropriate for the city to put the DDA(s) in a “dormant” mode, without staff and with a Board that meets only as needed to make sure the debt payments are made.

  168. Posted November 28, 2007 at 11:45 pm | Permalink


    If these numbers are correct, this is stunning!

    For 2007-2008 FY, The Housing Commission taxable value on their 199 units $62,000 or an estimated SEV of $124,000. Not for just one building but for ALL 199 Housing Commission apartments. That comes out to an estimated equivalent tax bill of $4,700 a year for a non-homestead property.

    Now compare that with what you pay for taxes on your home.

    The Housing Commission has 199 units. If they pay $1,800 in PILOT for this year, that is $9.04 per unit per year in total taxes paid by the Housing Commission to Ypsilanti. That is not a typo, that is less than $10 per per apartment. Many of the Housing Commission apartments have two or three bedrooms. Not one penny of this PILOT goes to schools, libraries, road bonds, or WISD.

    By comparison, Barnes and Barnes apartments has 43 properties for a taxable value of $3.2 million and pays $245,000 in total taxes per year of which the City gets $94,500 directly.

    Even Kircher pays $64,000 a year in taxes of which $25,000 comes to the city and remember, as much as people don’t like him, Kircher’s properties have C of O’s. Long time readers will note that 75% of Housing Commission properties do not have current C of O’s.

    Ed, I am just stunned that all the Housing Commission pays is $1,800 a year to the City as a PILOT. It is especially disturbing because it looks like Housing Commission may have missed one or more years of payments.

    Not much to cheer about here!

    – Steve

  169. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 11:59 pm | Permalink


    On BVoss, “including, at times, using a office, computer, and computer Internet connection paid for entirely by taxpayer dollars.” How could you possibly know, for sure, where BV was posting from and what his work hours were those days? Can you share your magic?

    You seem to have an issue with anonymous posts of late, besides the current case study where you warn against hosting oneself up the rough flat pole, I can offer a few clues why some readers may use pseudonyms: for fun; because some of us post to this blog about rather personal items such as sex with spouses, god, taxes and pterodactyl porn; anyone can read something posted on the internet; we’re not all perpetually self-employed, some don’t want current or future employers (or grandmas) googling us and making judgments based on our ballshaving habits; and we’re not all perpetually running for mayor.

    Frankly, I’ve really, really wished you’d posted some of your more vivid habits of personal hygiene anonymously. I would think, as an internet guy, you’d have some small grasp of why it is, at times, prudent to shield identity on the Web.

    So, can you please lay off the “calling out” of the bulk of us who post anonymously? I understand it may frustrate your penchant for vendetta, but lay off.

    And, is BV’s rare post to a blog in the community he works in really a valid indictment of his value as an employee? Thank god I don’t work for you. You are everything I don’t want in an employer. And, I really hope that when you fulfill your manifest destiny and are running the show, you take a little bit broader view of employee performance than whether employees blew their lunch break surfing the Web.


  170. Posted November 29, 2007 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Mr. Mayor wrote:
    Contrary to Mr. Penet’s assertion, Mr. Vosburg does not get paid by the DTA CDC. He volunteers his time, like many do, and does not use DDA time. He should be free to serve the community as he sees fit with his own time.

    Mr. Mayor, I don’t think this is correct when you said BVOS does not use DDA time to work on the CDC.

    I remember something back in the September 2007 DTDDA meeting minutes that DTDDA authorized BVOS to spend up to 6 hours a month working on the CDC and serving as the CDC chair. At BVOS’ salary plus, fringe and benefits, that is a little over $2,000 a year.

    I think BVOS even told the DTDDA board back in July 2007, that he couldn’t spend his personal time on CDC because of other time commitments but could work on the CDC if DTDDA would authorize part of his time to the CDC.

    In addition, I sort of remember Mr. Mayor, that you asked at the same July meeting that since the CDC was a private corporation was it even legal for BVOS to work on the CDC and you suggested that city attorney Barr look into the issue. I don’t see any mention in the minutes if that question was ever answered.

    Did I have this information wrong?


    – Steve

  171. amused1
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Given the level of vitriol in some of these posts, I’m thinking several posters might want to consider the benefits of changing to decaf.

    Seriously though, when a post moves from commentary/dialogue to what appears to be axe-grinding/obsession, that post starts sounding less valid to me. I’m not saying the ideas in the post aren’t valid, just that improperly framed posts can invalidate themselves in my mind. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

    Glass half full or half empty. I prefer half full and then working toward filling it completely. Given a choice between listening to Henny Penny’s pessimistic saw or The Little Engine that Could’s optimistic chuff-a-chuff, I’ll go with the engine. But that’s just me.

  172. egpenet
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    For those of us who vote and then go away about our business, the realities of politics, including the vitriol, can be shocking and depressing.

    At this time in Ypsilanti, we have only a small window of opportunity to make major reforms to how we are doing business and spending money.

    With real reform in place, THEN we can look at what gets cut, tabled for refinanced.

    The TRUTH about what goes on shouldn’t hurt anybody. It will help cleanse the system and get us all moving with unity “toward the 21st Century.”

  173. amused1
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    goodmorning egpenet

    I totally agree that truth and knowledge are critically important. And that’s really the crux of my previous post. The method of delivery is often as important as the information itself.

    Shock/anger/strong emotions can be effective tools in combating complacency or intertia. However, using those tools too often or at the wrong time can have the opposite effect. The senses become numb and complacency can set in.

    I tend to be an optimist. That doesn’t mean I’m some mindless cheerleader in rose colored glasses. We got trouble, right here in Ypsi city. You know it, I know it, and more people are becoming aware of it.

    When faced with a problem I find that, for myself, approaching it from a positive angle frees my mind to explore a broader range of options. I know you appreciate a positive attitude because you complimented Mr. Mayor for having one in a recent post. If I tackle a problem from a negative angle, I find that I start to limit myself.

    I always look forward to reading your posts. Your passion and obvious committment to Ypsi are inspiring. Your posts are often thought provoking and lead me to think in other directions. I may not always agree with you, but I always read them at least twice ’cause thar’s gold in them thar hills.

  174. egpenet
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Amused.

    I don’t need to be right (at least, not ALL the time.) I WOULD like to hear more voices in the debate.

  175. Posted November 29, 2007 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Hey Ed,

    If we all stopped taking our meds, we would hear more voices.

    Maybe it is time for a another blogger get together. The last time was in Depot Town, maybe it is time we stop in a local establishment in the downtown.

    There is always red hots night at Biggies, or we could visit one of the over 21 establishments.


    – Steve

  176. egpenet
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Let DO it … Pub 13 sometime this weekend, perhaps.

    Great idea.

  177. Posted November 30, 2007 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    This weekend is already busy with thw Meals on Wheels Christmas Home tour Sat night and all day Sunday.

    How about during the week. Monday isn’t good for me. Tuesday is Council.

    How about Wednesday or Thursday.

    Getting together this week could be a good thing as the first Council budget session is Sat the 8th from 9am until typically 2 or 3pm.

    – Steve

  178. egpenet
    Posted November 30, 2007 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Not sure about my next week. I’ll let you know about Wednesday or Thursday.

  179. John on Forest
    Posted December 9, 2007 at 6:35 pm | Permalink


    I attended the last couple hours of the planning meeting yesterday. These are my observations and thoughts.

    I was particularly struck by the magnitude of the interconnectedness between seemingly unrelated budget items. Examples were presented, although I can’t remember the details now, where pulling funds from one department could cause other departments to have to spend more or possibly not be able to do their mission.

    Although most in the room were loathe to make any cuts in police or fire protection, it became clear that making all the cuts elsewhere, for example in planning or DPW will result in continually dwindling revenues and ultimately cuts in police and fire anyway. Although I couldn’t read the minds of the council members, it appeared to me that most of them believed that balanced cuts, keeping in mind a set of long term goals, was the best course for the city. I expect police and fire budgets will not be off limits to cuts.

    One aspect of the meeting that troubled me was that it was focused on the current laundry list of city services and projects. In terms of long range Goal Setting for the city, I think some energy should be put into brainstorming ideas of what is NOT in the current budget that maybe should be. Just one example of this would be a project to automate certain city services using internet technologies. Building permits and other licensing, for example, could be automated over the web, eliminating paper forms and the time spent by clerks to enter information off the paper into databases. Even people without a computer at home, who would normally come to city hall to fill out such forms, could still use a kiosk set up at city hall for that purpose. The rub in implementing an idea like this, that would save the city money in the long run, is that it takes an investment up front to make it happen. In the current environment of not having enough money to even do the current laundry list, such NEW projects stand little chance of being funded.

    I want to reiterate my proposal of making all the necessary cuts in the first year, rather than incremetally cutting year after year. If in the long run we will have to live with X number of cuts three years from now, we can live with those cuts this year. By making Y number of cuts this year, that on average result in the same cumulative savings over the next half decade, Y will be less than X. This proposal will result in net surplus in the budget in the first couple years; but that surplus will then be eaten up in the outlying years.

    Perhaps some of the early year surpluses could be used to fund projects such as the automated permits and licensing project outlined above.

  180. egpenet
    Posted December 9, 2007 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    We have failed, temporarily, to provide ourselves with solid leadership.

    Ypsilanti has had years, and years and years to save small and moderate surpluses … to begin sincere political repairs with Ypsilanti Township … to work with the several unions (fire, police, other city departments) to restructure legacy costs … to creatively redesign police and fire into a single, effectivem efficient and modern safety and security body (or to at least get the sevral city, township and volunteer fire services to combine as one) … years and years to free our poorest from the ghettos of public housing and free them from the perpetual burocracies of social services, where they must beg and grovel nonetheless, rather than being freeeed to become property owners and build ownership and pride … years and years and years of anticipation that manufacturing was leaving this area and something neeeded to be done to restructure zoning, business development, creating a new Creative Class base for Ypsilanti — and instead it’s the persistent “sameness” of it all that stifles the new in Ypsilanti — the same leaders, the same names, the same committee heads, the same volunteers, the same lawyers, the same architects: none of whom offer anything new, fresh, exciting, daring, purifying, air-clearing, generative … years and years, I’ve been here over 25 years, and I, too, am guilty of voting and ignoring, voting and saying nothing, voting and complaining, voting and wondering who, what,where and why is all this happening.

    We have done this to ourselves. We work our job or jobs, come home, sleep and repat … vote … then go back to our routine. It is WE who have become rock … our leadership only mirrors our stasis.

    But it is NOT too late. REFORM must occur in Ypsilanti. Rather than accepting the city organization chart as it is and hacking away like somee blood soaked gladiator thrashing about with his axe … FIRST restructuree, be creative as I suggest, be innovative as John On Forest pleads. Show us REAL CHANGEE. EFFORT. Any monkey can cut. Any animal worth its salt can gnaw off its crushed leg in a trap to survive on the other three.

    REFORM … RESTRUCTURE … NEGOTIATE … this is a true emergency. The national and state economies are in real trouble and we will have no succor from them if we sink into further recession. We can survive locally if we work at it.

    The best part of the A2 News article was the reference to the strong public attendance at the meeting. It was across the street from me, but I had to work. I am heartened that there was not silence, but real public interest. CALL FOR REFORM … first. DEMAND nothing less than a complete rethinking of how this city operates. THEN we can budget. THEN we can plan.

    As for the FUTURE, John On Forest, it is precisely our view of our FUTURE that must guide the reorganization. We are asking the worng question here … it’s NOT “What Gets Cut?” … it’s “What Can Ypsilanti Be?”

  181. egpenet
    Posted December 9, 2007 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    John On Forest,

    What disturbs me about the meeting (which I could not attend) was that the agenda was called Goal Setting … but no discussion took place, according to those who were there, about GOALS … visioning real, substantive changes for the city that would directly affect the effectiveness, productivity and efficiency of the city, as well as the liveability and quality of life for its citizens.

    The “goals” focused on “what to keep and what to cut.”

    The 20/20 group has ideas, but so far, most are softballs and will not really help to immediately impact how this city works … which is funny … because that’s our motto: “The City That Works.”

    The Blue Ribbon Panel, which I have volunteered for, was postponed by the state to December and then to January. So, we’ll see if any new ideas will come of that. I am hopeful they will, especially regarding city departments like the two DDAs.

    I have some confidence in the new DTDDA’s CDC for bringing new life into the city.

    And what I see, hear and experience with the new DAY (Downtown Association of Ypsilanti) versus the country club mentality of the old Chamber is going in the right direction.

    GOALS … gotta have a plan before you can create a budget.

  182. Demosthenes
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    John and Ed,

    Am I correct that there is another session next week and one in January? Could it be that a broader goal setting agenda still exists and that this last weekend’s meeting was just a part of it?

  183. egpenet
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Next meeting is Dec. 15, 9AM and Haab Clinic.

    Third meeting is Jan. 26, 9AM at Haab Clinic.

    If goal setting is the objective … and one starts the discussion by saying the glass is half empty … we will get nowhwere and be forced to cut cut cut across the board.

    If goal setting is the objective … and one sets aside the glass for a memoent and asks where do we want to be next year, in five years, in ten? What type of organization and city and citizenry must we be to get there? Then, we can return to the glass … and if necessary, turn on the water.

  184. John on Forest
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 10:46 pm | Permalink


    Are we doing anything differently now than we’ve done in the past? Are we perpetuating the supposed neglect of the past?

    Or is our view of the past from our current vantage point a different prism through which we look?

    Who will look back on our efforts of today, five or ten years from now; and, what will they say about our ideas and leadership abilities? Is it easier to second guess someone else than it is to be the ones to take the risks of being critisized?

    The visions of our leaders eight years ago to build up a new tax base to replace the tax bases that are crumbling (Water Street in place of manufacturing) were not such bad visions at the time. Only in the light of our current state-wide economic circumstances, can we see how real the risks were in that undertaking. The risks of an economic downturn in the state were probably not over-looked back then. Only the probablity of the most severe form of that risk was underestimated.

    Let me ask you this, egpenet: Speaking in positive terms, what is it you envision the city should be? I’ve heard you talk about tearing down public housing, tearing down DDAs, tearing down zoning, etc. Please pardon me if I don’t represent this accurately; because it’s not my necessity to be accurate with these examples of negativity to make this plea to you: What do you want to build up in the City of Ypsilanti? Show me how you think the city government should be structured and THEN show me where some of the current structure won’t fit into that structure.

    Please don’t take this as combative to you. I truly don’t mean for it to be. I’m as frustrated as you are with current circumstances. I think you might have some very good ideas; but, I have a hard time seeing them through the veil of your frustrated tones.

  185. John on Forest
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Addendum: Don’t take my comments about Water Street as a pronouncement of DOA. I think Water Street and other economic development in the city must be made to happen.

  186. Posted December 11, 2007 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. — Benjamin Franklin

    While this has been attributed to Franklin, he likely never said it. Neither did Einstein. That said, the point is valid.

    If folks don’t understand how they got into the mess, they can’t understand how to get themselves out or recognize when they are repeating the same mistakes over and over.

    The economy was not to blame for the failures of Water Street. Repeat after me, The economy has nothing to do with the failure of Water Street.

    However, as long as folks keep blaming the economy, they are destined to keep repeating the mistakes of the past.

    The first developer was fired by the City. That wasn’t the economy.

    The second developer told the City, they can’t come up with a way to develop a project and guarantee $120 million in taxable value. They never said they couldn’t build something there. In fact the company is still actively building other projects in Michigan. They wouldn’t be building here if it was the economy.

    The problem is the city says the developer must develop the property so it ends up with $100 to $120 million of taxable value to pay off the debt.

    The question people need to be asking is this: How did the goal (the target value) get so high? Once folks understand how they got to this astronomical number, you can start to make sense of some approaches to solve the problem.

    The City does not get a pass on the problems by blaming the economy.

    Both Elected and City officials were warned numerous times to not undertake the project because of the inherent problems with the City’s approach. This advice came from some of the top developers in the area yet it was consistently and routinely ignored, dismissed, or attacked. Even the first developer, on several occasions, told the Mayor and City officials in the planning department to not undertake the land acquisition without a plan and financing in place. All of that property should have been purchased on contingency offer based on the successful financing of the project.

    Yet, we have now entrusted the same people that got us into this mess to now get us out of it. But that isn’t the main problem. It is a factor, but not the main issue.

    The big problem facing Water Street is the our current leaders and the people that got us into this mess don’t think they did anything wrong. They blame the economy and Lansing and the first developer.

    If you don’t understand what went wrong, and are steadfastly unwilling to admit the fault was internal, not external, you have left everything to chance that something positive will happen.

    “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

    This was said a long time ago, very early in the Water Street project when less than $7 million of taxpayer money had been invested. Today the total amount of taxpayer money spent and pledged is nearing $35 million.

    The Michigan economy is not to blame for the failures at Water Street.

    Finally, there is this important point. If the problem is the economy, then we need to stop any work on Water Street, quit renting the fence at $400 a month and just let it go back to a natural setting. Semcog and the State are both predicting that it will be at least 2012 and more likely 2014 before Michigan sees a turn-around in the economy.

    So if the economy is to blame, then there is no reason to hirer planners, consultants and spend more money to redevelop Water Street, the Economy is not changing any time soon. Put the property on ice and wait for the economic climate improves and then lets restart the project.

    However, if the economy is NOT to blame, then to get Water Street going means the City must come clean on what was spent and what they are currently doing. If the city doesn’t come clean and admit the failures were internal, then there is little to no chance the project will be successful before the big annual payments of nearly $1.6 million a year come due.

    So if it is the economy, why is the City continuing to spend money on the project?

    And if it is not the economy, why is the city continuing with the failed policies and plans that got us into this mess to begin with?


    – Steve

  187. egpenet
    Posted December 11, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink


    Consistent with all of my posts:

    1) Water Street WILL happen, but was poorly begun on many levels. The “bad” timing was NOT a secret to anyone who reads the WSJ or Barron’s.

    2) We need ONE DDA not two … with a full-time director … not one whose time is divided between the TWO DDAs and a CDC … volunteer(?) or no.

    3) I’m not for “tearing down” anything. What we CAN cut are well-intentioned but ineffectual social programs … public housing for one. Yes, it puts a ghetto roof over peoples’ heads, keeps social workers busy and gets the poor NOWHERE in our society as full participants.

    4) Some things in the PAST which frankly pre-date my arrival here MUST BE forgotten and/or healed so we can move on. Our BIGGEST issue is being STUCK with old animosities, rivalries, political infighting and a divided electorate. It is very hard to create a VISION and to build a consensus.

    5) We have 16 million a year to build Ypsilanti into the city we want it to be … which is?????

    6) Our City Manager/staff and Mayor are totally capable of making #5 happen … but WE and our COUNCIL need to be clear that we want change and to describe the change(s) we desire.

    7) However, if we stay where we are … EMU vs. the townies … Country Club crowd & Chamber versus DAY/working class … city vs. townships … we will not escape the sameness that has gripped this area for a long long time.

    John on Forest …

    No one is suggesting tearing down. I am, in fact, a preservationist. But what we do is keep what is truly useful … and move on. What is NOT useful, productive or can be made so … THAT can be changed … and we move on.

    We need to craft a vision for our future … THEN put a budget to it.

  188. egpenet
    Posted December 11, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    By the way …

    Here are some cuts we are already taking on the chin …

    . County real estate prices down 3%-7%, generally … modest, but not good
    . Neighborhoods with one or more foreclosures … an additional 3%-5% equity hit
    . The stock market, reflecting the ill health of the credit markets closed down 294 points and change … expect that to continue through 2008

    Oh, Happy Day!

  189. John on Forest
    Posted December 11, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Permalink


    Thank you for that clarifying post. Yes you probably have been consistent in your ideas; but, seeing them presented in the positive way you did this time around really makes it more clear to me. Call me dense.

    I can get behind what you have to say, especially in a general way. Of course we may disagree on some details; but, there is probably more common ground between us than uncommon.

    1. Yes something positive will happen at Water Street. We have to be sure that the city planners set realistic targets for it. I’d like to see three or four developers brought in with their ideas and then chose what would be best from those ideas.

    2. I don’t have an opinion on one versus two DDA’s. I’ve seen arguements for both options. What do you think would be the benefit of combining them? Someone posted that we get more money by having two.

    3. Public housing: I agree that making people owners of property may be a more effective strategy. One must be careful of just giving property to the disadvantaged though. The syndrome of not valuing something that is not earned is very real. We need a strategy that will empower and enable folks to become owners by their own investment. Habitat for Humanity is a good example of this kind of thinking.

    4. Political scars between the city and other government entities are older than my history here too. It is indeed time to mend fences and make gates that open freely. The task will not be at all easy for us. We don’t have the political capital we once had in this area. I frankly don’t think all the blame is on one side of the fence though either. Witness the rift between several townships and Washtenaw County regarding Sheriff services and contracts. While regionalization must be persued with all vigor, I see it as a long term endevour that may involve several rounds of two steps forward, one back.

    5. $16M is going to be a meager budget for achieving all we would like to achieve. Not every good idea will be achievalbe without further funds. We must set priorities carefully.

    6. I wish there was a readership of several hundred citizens and participation from several dozen, at least, on this blog. I know a lot of people have good ideas. How do we gather them all together so they can be ranked and prioitized? I may think I have the very best idea for the city only because I’m not aware of someone elses better idea.

    7. We need a council of governments with real power and real will to make changes. We need to move away from individual governments who make plans in a vacuum. Regional planning, regional zoning, regional development that will be efficient and comprehensive and still support the goals for each local government. The city can’t do this one alone. We need to equip our city government properly to participate; but, we also need to recruite our county and state government through our elected representatives to provide the leadership to make these changes happen.

    The basic building blocks in our city are going to be the same ones we have now, though. We need an effective police, staffed and equipped fire suppression, clerks to service our needs, public works to maintain our infrastructure, and economic planners to bring our dreams to fruition. The goals we set for ourselves have to be planned in a way that maximizes the less than adequate resources we will have available to do the job.

  190. John on Forest
    Posted December 11, 2007 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Real estate devalulation of the modest level you quote, egpenet, will not hit government revenues for the most part. Taxable values are still far below assessed values even with recent declines in assessed values. Taxes on those properties will still increase at the rate of inflation. Properties that turn over and pop will not pop as high so we will lose a little in that area.

    I think the effect of foreclosures will be mixed as well.

    While the odds of a national recession are higher than they were a half a year ago, the general consensus is that we probably won’t fall into it. Slow growth will stifle stock market growth in the short term (year to year and half); but declining stock valuation on a large scale is also not likely. If all your investments are in mortgage backed securities you’re a hurting puppy; but if you have a diversifed portfolio, you’ll do well for sure in the long term and probably ok in the short term. Don’t forget to rebalance your portfolio this year either. Those falling real estate prices are going to be a good investment soon.

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