the township weighs in

The following comment was just left in an earlier thread. I thought that perhaps it might be a good thing for us to discuss.

“The story of Ypsilanti’s downtown is the story of main streets across America.”

Exactly – and that’s why we left. Tired of high taxes and high density living with its associated problems. Tired of pompous elected officials who grab for more and more of our hard earned money to fund programs of minimal benefit to the majority. Tired of elected officials who hide unnecessary pet projects in budget line items and threaten to cut police and fire at the first indication that the taxpayers can’t afford the latest projected increases in taxes and fees. And now, with their backs to the wall, with an insatiable need to keep services at a level that they can’t hope to afford with their tax base, there’s an orchestrated effort to have the surrounding townships and county pick up the expense.

Please tell AATA that asking rural township residents to pay for inter-urban bus service is not an equitable solution. Please tell city council to stop wasting money on studies that show the city police can “save” a million or two if only the surrounding townships doubled or tripled their cost for policing and chose to consolidate services with the costliest police department in the county. Please ask city council to stop using taxpayer money for failed attempts at revitalizing downtown. The only thing that will revitalize the downtown is for businesses to be able to make profits. The business school didn’t create foot traffic or increased sales, the speculative Waters Street project was an unnecessary risk, and new signage and more advertising will just throw more good money down the sinkhole. For the economic prosperity of all the residents you need to cut expenses and learn to live within your budget.

I don’t doubt that some people really like living in the city of Ypsilanti. There probably are a few people who prefer the “diverse community and dynamism of a shared bench” and who want to pay others to maintain historic homes and facades on Mich. Ave. I don’t doubt that there are people in the city of Ypsilanti who get excited about the Heritage Festival and like hanging around an old freighthouse on a Saturday morning. If that’s what you want and you can afford it – then by all means go for it. Just don’t ask people who live outside of the city to pay for your preferences.

I didn’t buy a home in the township because I preferred the high cost of city living. I very much prefer watching wildlife in the quiet solitude of my yard. I very much appreciate the township officials who work very hard to provide only necessary services at minimal costs. We have our own economic challenges, a large percentage of low income households, and the highest number of foreclosed homes in the county. So please, stop the talk about consolidating city and township, and start rolling up your sleeves and work hard at electing honest city officials who will provide city services and government at a cost you can afford.

So, what do you think? Is this reader justified in his beliefs?

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69 Comments

  1. egpenet
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see …

    1) We are well aware in this city about those concerns. We share many of those feelings and expressed them in the income tax vote.

    2) On the other hand … while we are very protective of who we are, of one another’s rights, choices and lifestyles here in the city … we know that what’s best for everyone in the County with regard to fire, police, public transportation, and most other governmental issues would work to most everone’s advanatge cities and townships alike. So, we support cooperation.

    3) For the townshipers to enjoy the many benefits of community policing (versus part-time road patrol) the “overall” price goes up commensurate with the significant increase in service. Same for public transportation, which you may not require, but your neighbors might. And consider the environmental benefits and lifestyle benefits of NOT having to drive ALL the time to enjoy shopping or entertainment in one of the linked city centers.

    4) In time, the townships will ALSO be built out and will be raising more revenues for services and infrastructure. It’s a matter of time.

    Despite the politics, which we can TRY to control … you ARE my neighbor.

    A few thoughts to considr. G’night.

  2. Brackache
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    I generally agree with the Township guy when it comes to voting, but I’d rather hang out in your heavily taxed backyards with you big gummint Ypsi city folk any day, if that’s any consolation.

    Income/property taxes are not a zero sum game — they make people want to move to where they don’t have to give away the fruits of their labor, or pay the city rent on property they are supposed to own — and not voluntarily out of charity, but under compulsion and threat of garnished wages, property siezure, imprisonment, or armed force if they don’t. That’s not real friendly like, no matter what kind of happy face you draw on it.

    Although a nearby rifle range would sweeten the deal for me to stay urban. I can’t help it; I just like Ypsi people and shootin’ too much. Don’t make me choose.

  3. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Townships, as originally intended rural landscapes, made sense. No one could expect one farmer per mile to pay the taxes needed to maintain the roads around them. It made sense that the entire county would chip in. But, in metro Detroit, what we have now is cities pretending to be townships.

    Ypsi Twp has become, in reality, a city. It has more than twice the population of Ypsi. Yet, city dwellers pay for their own police and roads while the twp gets subsidized by city dwellers. The commenter may have moved away from the “high density living” but they neglect the fact that high density living is very much a part of the twp., especially so north of the convenient picket fence of I-94.

    As EgP noted, it’s a matter of time. Prop A/Headlee gives the greenfield tax advantage to the townships until they’re built out. Fine. I’m patient. Here’s an interim compromise. We won’t ask you to “subsidize” the transit running through your towns, picking up and dropping off your citizens, if you start paying the full price of your own sheriffs and snowplows. Fair enough?

  4. mark
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    That’s exactly what I would have said had I been smarter… Thank you.

  5. mark
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    And are we not supposed to be shooting shotguns in the City? How do you guys know all this stuff? Is it posted somewhere?

  6. MaryD
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Give me my home in the Historic East Side any day over the extra drive out to the township, with their lack of sidewalks and traffic jams to cross the (picket fence that is 94). I can walk to the Coop, and enjoyed years “hanging out at the freighhouse” buying farmers produce, listening to locals play music and meeting with my neighbors.
    Ed said it great; it is only a matter of time to before you can turn your pointed finger on yourself. Besides us city folk do not turn our backs on each other and the community needs. And this community needs more cooperation, even from the quoted townshipper above, who is reminiscent of an ostrich.

  7. Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Tired of high taxes and high density living with its associated problems.

    Yep, drat that high-density living. Comes with all sorts of problems, like having friends and jobs and shopping and entertainment and recreation all close at hand.

    In fact, we’ve got so many such “problems” that we only need to own one car in our household, and that alone saves us twice what we pay in property taxes every year.

    And I’d really prefer plunking down a few extra bucks in property taxes every year to live in a town with sidewalks and good bus service than paying a lot of extra bucks via the extra-vehicle-ownership tax.
    I grew up in a Township that had low low taxes – didn’t have police (even Sheriff) or fire service – so I can understand that lifestyle has its charm. But, having grown up there, I’d rather raise my kids downtown. Growing up rural, there’s not much to do without driving, and auto-dependent youth come with some problems. My sister’s graduating class lost 5% of its members in car crashes in their senior year alone…

  8. Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Interesting letter. What it utterly fails to acknowledge or explain is the built-in inequity of our current state tax code in pretty much every respect — starting with the way taxes are assessed all the way to how they are distributed.

    I could buy some of the arguments above if the tax code recognized that equity and fairness will never be achieved in our land-locked cities so long as communities in a position to exploit their open land are permitted to suck business and industry away by offering them lower taxes, while still laughing all the way to the bank.

    The writer doesn’t seem to understand that the reason so many cities are struggling so much worse than many townships is due to the way Proposal A and Headlee interact, favoring communities with new development and underfunding communities that are landlocked, not merely because of irresponsibility, crookery and incompetence.

    Fix the underlying structural problem with our state’s taxing and budgeting process by returning equity to the process. Until that problem is solved, nothing’s going to change.

    I, frankly, am kind of tired of hearing from uninformed citizens whining about them paying more while blaming us for having less, when they don’t seem to have a clue that their municipalities get more simply by virtue of poorly projected tax laws enacted in the early 90s. Though I can’t really blame the writer for wanting to support an inequitable tax structure that favors his/her community, it comes across as little more than selfishness.

  9. Mark H.
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    The Township commentator makes a strong defense of his or her preferred living area and the appeal of suburbia in general, but looks at these appeals in too short a time frame. Many of the subdivisions out in the Township will, in years to come, have sharply declining populations and will become places where it’s hard to sell a home. Property values will decline, and the tax base will too. Yet the sprawling development that the township commentator defends is, as others have noted, heavily subsidized by tax policies. One should ask, is the sprawl enviromentally sustainable? All the problems of the American city spread to the America suburbs in good time — that’s the lesson of American history.

    We are neighbors, dear Township resident. You err, I would suggest, in thinking that our interests are fundamentally hostile. Our problems, for SE Michigan, Ypsi-Ypsi Township, and the entire state require looking for common ground, rather than erecting more walls and simple-mided pointing of fingers. You like suburbia; fine; I like sidewalks. My area of the city of Ypsi was suburbia 5 decades ago; now it’s quite urban. What is the future of your immediate neigborhood? Change will come, i gurantee it. Your home in today’s suburbia is heavily subsidized by tax policies you benefit from, but appear not to understand. Will those policies always benefit you? Is one’s own immediate self interest all that should guide our behavior? Nay! Live by the Golden Rule, and know that we will be judged by how we treat the least powerful members of our community, rather than by how well we protect our own privileges.

  10. edgeof the sprawl
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Who’s being selfish??? The city has a budget of 15 million for 22,000 residents and an effective area of 3.5 sq. mi. (Not counting Eastern Michigan property) Their revenues allow for spending $681 per person or $4.3 million dollars per sq. mile. And they say they can’t afford to maintain services.

    On the other hand, the township has a budget of $28.8 million for 53,000 residents covering 27 sq. mi. Their revenues allow for spending $543 per person or slightly more than 1 million per sq. mi.

    The problem isn’t the tax code – it’s elected officials who spend excessively. It’s residents of a city who use guilt tactics to convince their neighbors to pay them money so that city residents can continue to receive benefits and services at higher levels than their neighbors themselves receive.

    It’s in the best interests of city residents to have a government that can provide essential services at a cost that’s comparable to other municipalities in the state.

  11. maryd
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Just take the schools for example. Now even the wealthier school districts are slashing budgets and opening up their schools to students outside their own small communities. Ypsilanti Township is a city in all but name. City & Townships need each other more than you realize or will admit Edge of Sprawl. As we cling to our own little islands, we only cause more costs than necessary in all of eastern Washtenaw. As for spending, many of us are working hard to make the city more accountable, for example the failed city income tax.

  12. Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Sprawl: If you look historically at costs vs. revenue, revenue has been decreasing, while non-discretionary costs are increasing. Some costs can’t be controlled at all, due to legal mandate such as worker’s comp insurance, and state retirement. The law requires us to pay for these, yet these costs have consistently risen in the double digit percentages. Surely you are aware of the massive increases in fuel and electricity costs. Something’s gotta give.

    It’s no secret that the state’s revenue/budgeting system is structurally flawed, and that those flaws directly affect our revenue/budgeting. Generally speaking, it’s also well known that while costs increase, landlocked cities are more likely to lose businesses and the revenue they generate to townships (and similarly situated municipalities), thereby giving townships much more of a cushion to deal with such exigencies. It’s also generally well known that a weak economy creates volatility that makes it extremely difficult to adequately plan for potential revenue shortages. Other competing interests at the state level siphon off what we are sometimes told is coming to us, at times after the money is already spent.

    None of this is rocket science. There’s plenty of analysis of this issue all over the Internet, much of it particular to Michigan.

    As to “guilt trips,” even worse inequities were previously built into the state’s revenue system long before Proposal A, and the current incarnation was merely codified in our constitution in the early 90s. Proposal A was supposed to help, and it did in the short term. It’s not working now. I doubt anyone is accusing you of harboring any fault, but we all (including you) have a responsibility to return equity to the way we generate revenue and dole out budget money. Until equity is restored, these problems will continue and worsen, and they will pit communities against one another that really ought to be working together.

  13. Hmmmm
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I think AATA services Ypsi Township. Am I missing something? At least I know people in the Township who use the bus.

  14. Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I have to own up that I am a township resident in a 50 year old neighborhood. I moved here from Ann Arbor to get a larger yard, not to escape taxes.

    No one really responded to the $681 city vs $543 township difference. Any explanation for that?

    I can see how the state tax structure can favor the township but I don’t see where the city subsidizes the township. AATA goes to Ypsi township and probably also Pittsfield, Scio and Ann Arbor townships. They may all pay for this, I don’t know.

  15. egpenet
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    The dollar differences should be blatantly obvious

    When was the last time a streeet sweeper came down your road? Do your taxes pay the Sheriff for 24/7 community policing? I know the names and faces of the two officers in my neighborhood and I know their supervisor’s name and her face. I know the Chief by name and face. When’s the last time you shook hands with Minzey and replied personally to your emails?

    We simply DO have more services, more needs and a life style commensurate within a city. That you do not is your choice.

    The per mile thing is silly … you live in the country.

    And the dollar difference! For an extra $138 I get all of the benefits of a walkable city! Let’s Make A Deal, Howie!

    True Story: I’ve lived in many rural settings, everyone of which I loved. In Minnesota I lived next to a bar and worked there during college. A patron left at 1AM. Unknown to me, he backed into my old car, locked bumpers, and towed my car all the way to his farm without realizing it. The town cop (fired from the Minnesota Highway Patrol, so he came cheap) found the car two days later when my patron complained about it. Ah, country life! I miss the people. But I LOVE my sidewalks.

  16. Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    “No one really responded to the $681 city vs $543 township difference. Any explanation for that?”

    Nobody has shown it to be true, what it’s basis is, or how it was calculated. If whoever is proposing that is doing so as some kind of realistic (if oversimplified) version of reality, the burden’s on them to substantiate it with details, ensure the comparison is justified (apples to apples, oranges to oranges), not merely ask others to explain it away.

    The problem with these kinds of oversimplifications is that budgets are based on need. If there’s more crime in a city, they have to pay for more police. If there’s more construction in the township, they have to pay more for inspections (or pass on the cost to developers). If city infrastructure is older and requires fixing this year, it will look like the city is spending much more per capita this year, even though that may not be supported by the overall trend. If the township is using revenue to offset costs that the city cannot get because of the way Headlee works, there will be a disparity in the number. If there are more streetlights in the city than in the township, the power bill will be higher.

    Or, dare I say it, if Water Street bills are coming due, the per capita expenditure will go up while city services actually go down. You get the idea.

    I appreciate a desire for answers, but tossing out oversimplifications won’t fly when analyzing a very complex problem. If it was simple, it would already have been solved.

  17. edge-dweller
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    I’d give the township-dweller more slack for his statement about paying for appropriate level of services — if they’d close down some of the Township apartments and such that are huge huge drug dealing havens, and kept their criminals in check instead of letting them cause problems in the only business districts nearby– the actual city. I see lots of Ypsi police around, depending. I drive in the Township- I see nothing, ever. Too few police, too many sq miles.

    Much of the issues that outsiders consider to be “Ypsilanti”– are actually “Township”, cornfields or no. There are 2 totally separate Townships, culturally.

  18. egpenet
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    The shared community policing plan WOULD raise costs in the Townships, but it would provide 24/7 coverage at full strength and put the muscle where the problems are. If things are quiet in Chelsea, the crew could work the towers. Having the law abiding residents know their officers and vice versa builds community … even if the mailboxes are a section mile apart.

    Same for mass transit, as required, etc. There’s an efficiency factor here that makes a lot of sense for the County, if not for the eastern townships. Same for other services like planning, building departments, inspections, fire safety … townshippers should peek from out of those paper bags over their heads and smell the roses.

  19. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    T. Getto, I looked over the link about Prop A and Headlee. I don’t understand one part of it though. Headlee limits the revenue a muni can raise, to the rate of inflation. So, then how is it that a rural township can get more revenue by subdividing a family farm? Doesn’t the increase in property values of the sub-division result in a Headlee roll back for a net neutral gain? Well, ok, not net zero. The township WOULD get an increase equal to inflation at least.

  20. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    About fairness: Every resident in the county pays the same millage for county taxes, 4.something mills if I remember right. But, municipalities without police or it’s own public works department get serviced by the county funded sheriff’s department or the county road commission. The city doesn’t get those benefits.

    To illustrate my point, I had need of an animal control officer once on a weekend. Ypsilanti police has an animal control officer but only funded for 8 hours/day, five days/week. Since my need was on a weekend, the Ypsilanti police couldn’t respond. When I talked to the sheriff’s department, they said they don’t respond within the city, even though their animal control officers have weekend shifts. I pay the same @#$%%& dollars to the county as everyone else, but because I live on the “wrong” side of a boundary, I couldn’t get what I paid for.

    I realize this is a city vs county argument, rather than city vs township, EXCEPT it’s the township that benefits disproportionately from my county taxes.

    Others have said it here: We are all neighbors in a local community. cooperation for the well being of all, is what we should be striving for.

    $681 vs $543? Give me a break, Edge of Sprawl. Why would you throw out EMU, when it is in the city??? EMU consumes Ypsilanti fire protection services over what the state pays us for those services. EMU students and faculty/staff use our roads or other city maintained infrastructure without paying ANYTHING for it. Add back in EMU and your numbers fall off the table.

    Oh, and if urban living in the township is so great, then why is it the township has recently announced that they want to build a “downtown” South of I94??

    Even though, in my opinion, a consolidation of township and city would make sense, given what others have rightly pointed out regarding township really being a city too, I realize there are differences in the “lifestyle” of township vs city. That said, there are places where cooperation can be more efficient for both parties. Take for example police and fire dispatching. Both city and township could use the same service at a savings to both. Maybe not all regionalization plans will work; but, some most definitely could.

  21. Edge of the Sprawl
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Trusty – You explain things just like a politician. The revenue of the city has consistently increased in the past. The rate of the increase in revenues is less than the rate of increase in expenditures, but you are incorrect in stating that the revenues have decreased. The city’s own web site states that the city revenues have increased an average of 1.6% each year from 2000 – 2006, while during the same time expenses rose an average 2.6% each year.

    The $681 city vs $543 township difference numbers were derived from simple math – its not rocket science. The total annual revenues are reported each year on the city and township web sites. Divide that number by the reported population or the area of the city/township. It’s an accurate measure of how much money the city/township has to spend per person or per sq. mile, independent of the means by which they obtained that revenue. From their comments I’d guess that Murph, Mark H., and Egpenet are fine with paying $140 more each year for the extra services they receive from the city. The township has lower revenues and offer less services and I suspect most township residents are fine with that.

    So what’s the problem? The city has a millage rate that is close to the maximum allowed AND they are going to lose a major taxpayer when the Ford/Visteon/ACS? plant actually closes AND they are going to have to start paying off the loans they took out to buy the Waters Street properties that drove other taxpaying businesses out of the city. The result is that even though city taxpayers will still be paying higher taxes, they won’t be able to afford the level of services to which they have become accustomed. And because the citizens of the city have voted the millage rates to near maximum, they have effectively discouraged new businesses from locating within the city. With such a heavy tax burden, businesses can’t compete to make a profit with businesses located in lower taxed regions.

    What’s the only solution? You need to reduce expenditures so that you can balance the budget, pay off your debts, and eventually emerge as an economically healthy community. The current situation isn’t a surprise – it’s been evident to anyone who has paid attention in the last 20 years or so. Don’t let politicians point the finger of blame at Prop A or the Headlee Amendment. They’ve known since the early 90’s that they had to control the rise in expenditures to the rate of inflation.

    City officials, county government, and the Ann Arbor News all seem aligned with the intention of coercing the Township into assuming the responsibility for the city’s poor management. While the township has the ability to raise its millage rate and collect higher taxes from its citizens, this type of bailout would only serve to destroy the economic livelihood and future prosperity of the township. Rather than asking the township to join the city in its economic fiasco, the city should recognize the errors of the past and make a positive change towards fiscal responsibility. It will undoubtedly be tough in the short term, but the only viable option in the long run. Recognizing and admitting the problem is the first step.

  22. Brackache
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Hear me now and believe me in 10 years when you come up with it yourselves: volunteer city militia. Don’t have to pay cops. Inspire civic duty. Make the crazy people feel like they’re helping. It’s so genius I can hear you all dismissing it outright from here. I tried.

  23. Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    John on Forest – Ypsi Township has a contract with the county for police protection. We pay for that through township taxes, not county taxes. The taxes you pay to the county for the sheriff do not paying for my police protection any more than an Ann Arbor resident’s county taxes do. This is probably true of all but the most sparsely populated townships.

    John and Trusty’s comments provided the explanation I asked for regarding the $681 vs $543, thanks.

    There is a lot of resentment toward the township which may or may not be justified but is certainly not constructive.

  24. Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    John: You’re right, the easy way to interpret it is that you’re limited to increasing revenue at par with inflation.

    Kirk: I’m with you. I don’t get the resentment, or the bitterness. Seems to me that it’s like comparing apples and oranges. I’m not seeing any fault there, nor do I see any real reason to be jealous. It is what it is.

    Sprawl: Your answer betrays your lack of understanding of why costs are out of control.

    Based on your answer, explain how one controls double digit percentage increases in health insurance, fuel, worker’s comp insurance, electricity, state-mandated retirement payments and the like without impairing necessary city services? What is the solution to that problem when non-discretionary costs increase by multiples of inflation? Neither Headlee nor Proposal A considered that possibility. You realize, don’t you, that if the trend continues, it is a mathematical certainty that the city will be eventually bankrupt no matter how much discretionary cuts are made. How does your oversimplified analysis deal with that? What do you do when there is massive volatility in key markets, like energy and insurance? That’s where the legislature botched it — by using projections that only 10 years out weren’t accurate.

    It’s easy to oversimplify the problem and blame others. I think what would be more productive is coming up with solutions to the problem that don’t involve silly platitudes about merely bucking up and taking one’s bitter medicine. ‘Cause that’s all your suggestion is, and it’s not likely to fix anything.

    As long as costs outpace inflation and the law limits us to inflation, cuts can’t solve the problem. Restructuring the state’s method of generating revenue and apportioning it can. The problem is real, and if you don’t get it, you simply don’t understand it.

  25. Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Sorry, forgot to include references:

    Citizens Research Council papers on Michigan’s budget issues.

    Mackinac Center (conservative think-tank) article on Michigan’s structural deficit.

    Michigan League for Human Services paper on Michigan’s structural deficit.

    Also came across an apropos quote: “The right to criticize government is also an obligation to know what you are talking about.” Lent Upson, 1st Executive Director of CRC.

  26. Edge of the Sprawl
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks Trusty – I especially liked your reference from the Mackinac Center. It says essentially the same thing that my previous posts have.

    Having the township bail out the city would be like giving a huge line of credit to an unrepentant gambler. Doesn’t solve the problem – just forestalls it for a short period of time and makes it bigger.

  27. Edge of the Sprawl
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Ypsilanti City Council and the Ypsilanti Township Board had a joint meeting last night. Did anyone on this blog attend the meeting? Did anyone read a public notification that this meeting was scheduled?

  28. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Yes, YpsiNews was there and recorded the meeting. It is posted on our website, http://www.YpsiNews.com.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  29. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Making the Government Fear the People
    March 10, 2008

    By Brandon Holmes

    Thomas Jefferson once said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Chris Kliesmet and Orville (Orv) Seymer of the Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) Network are busy helping Wisconsinites achieve the latter in their state. Chris describes their “action tank” efforts as “getting involved in helping citizens engage their government.”

    Action is certainly something they haven’t been short on.

    Their latest major project is the creation of a searchable online database of government spending they call the Government Accountability in Spending Project (GASP). Handing over data for 188,368 invoices made Milwaukee County the first agency to post their spending online.

    This is only the beginning, however–CRG hopes to eventually include all government spending in the state.

    The project came together back in November, when Chris and Orv were joined by other Wisconsin activists at a speech given by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform in Madison. The group got a chance to chat with Norquist about government transparency after his speech and he suggested CRG create a government spending database for Wisconsin, similar to one underway in Missouri. Thanks to some funding help from the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens in Charge and the Sam Adams Foundation, things came together rather quickly.

    After some initial foot-dragging on the part of county officials, an ally was found in outgoing County Director of Administrative Services Rob Henken. Henken arranged meetings that eventually led to the county releasing records for over $1.3 billion that was paid to more than 6,800 vendors.

    “To paint a visual picture,” Orv explained, “if you were to request these same records in paper form, you would have over 400 cases of paper. At the county rate of 25 cents per page, it would have cost you $48,000 to request these records on paper. Now it’s online for free.”

    “All done,” Chris added, “without the need for a formal open records request.”

    The GASP homepage has a poll where visitors can choose which agency should be next to have its records placed on the site.

    “Based on user response,” Orv says, “we’ve drafted records requests for the Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Area Technical College. We anticipate stalling.”

    The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources will then be next to have their spending laid bare.

    ———

    We should do this in Ypsilanti

    Especially given I just got a bill for a FOIA for nearly $500 from the City. [sigh]

    A couple of years ago the city charged nearly $100 for a citizen to get a copy of the annual budget.

    We should insist that our local officials do what they have done in Wisconsin. It would not cost the city a dime to do this outside of a simple data export from the City’s accounting system. The rest of the system is already in place to do this and could be done by volunteers.

    I volunteer to host the website and database servers for no charge. Others in the community have already volunteered to work on the data import.

    We could do this but only if we could get the support of our elected officials.

    Three of them are coming up for election this summer. This is the time to talk to them about this idea and see if they will pledge to make this happen.

    Here is a website to the existing site.

    http://milwaukeecounty.headquarters.com/

    Link to the Milwaukee site.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  30. Edge of the Sprawl
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Steve – much appreciated. There didn’t appear to be any public comments. Were there many members of the public in attendance? How did you find out about the meeting? Did you see a public notice?

  31. Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    There were no public comments. Only three maybe four in the audience. Notice was posted at City Hall, it was on the web and it was talked about at City Council.

    Speaking of public comments, The TWP had their public comment and you could, if you wanted to, speak as long as you want. Than the City did public comment limiting speakers to three minutes.

    Interestingly the Mayor did not read his rules for public comment that he always reads at any other City meeting.

    – Steve

  32. nearby
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Can Ypsi City start charging Ypsi. township for each township resident that causes criminal damage to person/property in the City and causes city expenses in the process?

    Since the original poster mentions living out for the wildlife, and since the poor criminal population of the township lives around the city and commutes to the city to cause problems, I think it would be fair to pass along the costs of controlling that portion of their population that the township doesn’t see fit to control on its own. As the crime doesn’t walk out to the cornfields/wildlife much.

  33. elviscostello
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the meeting that Steve talks about in his post, I’d like to help clear a couple of things up…
    First, “the plan has the support of both chiefs and firefighter unions…”. Not true. The township firefighter union is opposed for reasons I will get to.
    Second, “the plan…should result in lower fire insurance bills for residents…” Who says? The ISO, which scores communities fire response sets those numbers which are then transferred to your insurance rates. The criteria field is large; water supply, equipment, personnel, distance to fire stations and hydrants, etc…
    Third, “the new system will also be safer for firefighters as there will be (more) firefighters on scene.” Yeah, after everyone gets there. Right now, the Township has the west side station running with only two firefighters. When they arrive, are they supposed to wait for the city to get there, then go in and start putting out fire? The firefighters union has requested a third person there, but the township has said no, that mutual aid will suffice. Any one want to run into a house fire alone? Just because they have been doing it for 40 years, does not make it safe or within standards.
    Fourth, …”it won’t cost either department additional money”. Oh really? When a department goes out on a fire, a callback is started to bring in personnel from their homes. How many more callbacks do you think Ypsi City and Ypsi Township will be paying for, or do you just strip the communities of their firefighters until the fire is out?
    This plan was initiated by Councilman Robb and Trustee Eldridge, and at the beginning, the Unions and Cheifs were involved. Last summer, when they city threatened layoffs of firefighters if the income tax didn’t pass, both Unions pulled out. No official meetings were held since last May, and both politicians wrote the agreement.
    Look, if this is the direction of the two communities, why the “half-measures”? Essentially, if you are going to “consolidate” services, and in large part, that’s what’s happenening here, why not be honest, do a true needs assessment; personnel per population, station locations, make the commitment, and move toward consolidation of the two departments?

  34. egpenet
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    My son is a Captain in his department.

    With police service, no one I know is asking individual officers to respond to “dangerous” or “in progress” calls. Two officers, plus backup from their department, sheriff and/or EMU join in.

    To ask two fire fighters to respond to an actual fire, then wait until volunteers or city backup respond … that’s nuts! I do not know the details of the conversation last night. (Sorry, Steve, didn’t watch the video.)

    But I do NOT want our guys and gals or the Township personnel and/or volunteers to fool around on fire calls. Fires are ALWAYS dangerous. EVERY fire is a hazard to our firefighters. And ON TOP OF THIS they want these guys and galsto respond to EMS emergency calls!

    I’ve talked to most of the folks in the City department … they saved my home in 2000. I can’t ask them to take any more risk than the federal standards allow. Let’em burn. A bulding is rebuildable. YOU are too precius to us and your families.

  35. edge of the sprawl
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Last I heard, the city had one or two unfilled positions in their fire department and this greatly contributed to the breakdown in earlier talks. It’s not a mutual benefit if the township fire department is used to fill the gap in a shorthanded city department. I hope, for both the city and township, that the agreement specifies a minimum number of firefighters provided by each municipality. I hope that the mutual aid is not used to justify cutting city fire response in the future and I hope the township was smart enough to get that in writing. However, if the city does go into receivership, having a written agreement isn’t going to be worth a hill of beans.

  36. Paul Schreiber
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti city council will continue to balance the budget and not open the possbility of receivership.

    City council will evaluate the township proposal when it is received. No decisions have been made by council yet.

    Paul Schreiber

  37. elviscostello
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I saw on trustygetto.com and ypsinews.com that Mayor Schreiber would advocate cutting from police and fire to pay the $140,000 subsidy to AATA. How does that figure in to the whole “Mutual Aid” scenario? Maybe he could just cut the whole department and have Ypsi Township pick up the slack? There would be plenty of money for other programs then, even enough for some Water Street work?

  38. Posted May 3, 2008 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    elvis,

    True consolidation of the two departments could possibly be a good idea, although probably complicated by certain things, like the special needs of EMU.

    I don’t quite understand the thoughts of elvis and sprawl on this: “the city had one or two unfilled positions in their fire department and this greatly contributed to the breakdown in earlier talks” and “Maybe he could just cut the whole department and have Ypsi Township pick up the slack” when elvis also said this “The firefighters union has requested a third person there, but the township has said no, that mutual aid will suffice”

    Why is it ok for the township to cut positions and let mutual aid fill in; but, it’s not ok for the city to leave positions unfilled and let mutual aid fill in??? Isn’t the whole idea of mutual aid agreements to facilitate a smaller force on both sides and still meet the needs?

  39. Posted May 3, 2008 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Kirk,

    I wasn’t talking about township contracted sheriff services. I know those are not paid for by county taxes. Ah, BUT, are you telling me the sheriff’s Animal Control personnel are part of the township contracted services? That would make sense as to why they wouldn’t respond within the city limits.

    I agree with you regarding the non-constructive nature of the resentment of the city towards the township. It’s equally true that township resentment towards the city is just as non-constructive.

    The several township resident comments on this thread seem to harbor the idea that the city wants the township to pay or subsidize the city for city needed services. I don’t think that that is what the city or city residents want from the township. We would like for the township (and county and other regional entities) to consider consolidation of various services where both the city and township will benefit.

    On the other side of the coin, many in the city harbor the idea that we subsidize the township through some of our county taxes. Only a year or so ago, the township took the county to court to try and prevent them from requiring the township to pay the full cost of contracted sheriff’s patrol. I’m not even sure if this issue has been resolved. Is the township now paying the full cost of sheriff provided policing?

  40. Posted May 3, 2008 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    trusty getto,

    I’m still not certain about the headlee amendment issue. Does it truly limit to the rate of inflation, the amount of taxes a community can collect? Or is that only regarding potential increased tax revenue from appreciated property values? In other words, is it possible that headlee allows more taxes to be collected (above the rate of inflation) when properties are actually improved, i.e. greater value is created by building something new (like a subdivision)?

    If the last statement is not true, then the argument that “the City of Ypsilanti is landlocked and can’t do much new development to build it’s tax base,” must be a red herring.

  41. Posted May 3, 2008 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Mr Mayor, City Council, and Township Board. Kudos on the quarterly joint meetings you have initiated. It’s exactly the kind of cooperation we need to foster between the city and the township. Please keep it up.

  42. egpenet
    Posted May 3, 2008 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Yes.

    As we speak, John, as we speak.

    As the song says … “Been A Long Time Comin'”.

  43. Posted May 4, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    John:

    “The Headlee Amendment, ratified in 1978, was designed, among other things, to limit the ability of local
    governments to levy new taxes and to limit the growth of property tax revenue in general. . . . The Headlee Amendment also accomplished limiting the growth of property tax revenue by controlling how a local government’s maximum authorized millage rate is calculated particularly as it relates to growth on existing property. The provisions of the Headlee Amendment require that when growth on existing property is greater than inflation, the local government must “roll back” its maximum authorized millage rate so that the increase in property tax revenue caused by growth on existing property does not exceed inflation (commonly referred to as a “Headlee roll back”). Newly constructed property and other property not previously taxed are “exempt” from this calculation and cannot cause a millage rate roll back.”

    – from System Failure: Michigan’s Broken Municipal Finance Model.

    So, as you can see, by eliminating new construction from the key calculation of the limitation, communities with new construction are favored, and communities without new construction are disfavored. Put another way, we end up rolling ours back more than communities with new construction, so we collect a smaller percentage — we end up with the actual cap, and they end up with something above that, depending on how much new construction they have. As new home starts screech to a halt, this inequity will diminish, and the problems resulting from the double-digit non-discretionary cost increases will begin to catch up with everyone else, including the township.

    As to the other issue contained in your question, I think you’re missing the fact that the rate is based on value. If value goes up, the City collects more. However, since SEV is calculated based on market value of comparables, mere improvements to homes represent single-digit percentages in value increase, and the SEV represents only half of that. When compared to the increase in value of new construction, you’re talking about massive differences, frankly by orders of magnitude.

    There are two ways I know of to narrow the gap. One, since non-homestead properties are taxed at a higher rate (which is permitted under Headlee), if you can increase the amount of non-homestead property, you can get more tax. Apartments are a double edged sword, as their increase in tax money also brings a corresponding increase in the need for city services due to an increase in residents and density. The ideal way to maximize non-homestead property is maximize manufacturing, retail and office, which bring people in to work and spend money, thereby enhancing our local economy without using a lot of city services. However, this won’t help us in a weak economy or during a recession.

    Two, when home sales are strong and home prices are increasing at a rate higher than inflation, the SEV bumps up to something closer to half the actual market value the year after the sale. However, our current sales picture shows both a decrease in value and a dearth of sales, so there’s no solace in that ’cause it ain’t gonna happen in the foreseeable future.

    I am by no means an expert on this. I had to learn about it when I was on the school board, as Headlee interacts with Proposal A to create similar problems with school finances. I’m sure someone in City Gov’t with more experience than me can help you understand why mere improvements represent nary a drop in the bucket of our fiscal problems.

  44. Posted May 4, 2008 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    John:
    No idea what the deal is about animal control. My guess is the county will not go into an area where there is a local animal control entity.

    Also no idea if the townships pay the full cost. I think the townships (Salem, Augusta and Ypsi) dispute with the county was that they had contracted for services and then the county decided they had not set the price high enough. The county then threatened to reduce services to match what was being paid, and the townships sued. I think this has all been resolved.

  45. edge of the sprawl
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Everybody in the county pays taxes to the county for services provided by the county. Some cities were not satisfied with the level of service provided by the county and they duplicated the services at a substantial cost to their residents – for example animal control. When they decide they can no longer afford to provide the higher level of service they could easily choose to eliminate the city department and revert to the existing regionally funded services at the county level. But, by trying to convince the township that they should contribute to the duplication in services it is readily apparent that they haven’t yet grasped the real problem. The city would prefer to drag the adjacent township into their economically unsound practices even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it was the wrong decision to begin with.

    The lawsuit for contracted police services for Ypsi Township from the county is in appeal and there is high expectation that the township will prevail on many of the issues. If the county in the future decides to raise the contracted cost for patrols to a level beyond what the township can afford, the township has the option to withdraw from future agreements. This would cause the entire county to pay higher costs for the sheriff department – either a cutback on some other service or an increase in county taxes. The county is required by state law to provide county wide sheriff services and sufficient numbers of trained and ready deputies to respond to a number of emergencies. The county sheriff department also has the obligation to provide emergency personnel in response to any Homeland Security threat. The county can pay these deputies full salaries and benefits while they either sit in training classes on Hogback road or spend their days writing traffic tickets or they can allow the township to subsidize these fixed costs by contracting for patrols. If the city wants to lower costs and use a regional police force, they should follow the good example of the townships and use the pre-existing county sheriff department.

    The Headlee Amendment caps the taxable assessment of unimproved residences only as long as the property doesn’t change hands. When I sold my home in the city, the taxes on the property (and the revenue from it to the city) rose nearly 250%. Even though property values have been declining for the past few years, most residences pay taxes at an assessed value that is a far lower than 50% of their market value.

    The majority of tax revenue in the city budget comes from residential property. The city could have chosen to keep tax millage rates low and attract business to pick up a greater proportion of the tax burden, but instead raised the property taxes to obtain short term benefits and as a result, discouraged business growth. The city may be nearly “built out” but their financial picture would be much better if they filled their empty store fronts and idle manufacturing plants. Again, elected city officials proposed solutions (income tax) shows that they still haven’t grasped the real problem.

    AATA provides a very expensive bus service to the city and to small parts of some of the surrounding townships. Perhaps the mayor can negotiate with AATA to provide standard buses for Ypsi routes. There is no need to have talking buses with scrolling electronic messages. Another alternative is to provide city buses that deliver passengers to link up with the Ann Arbor stops. Maybe 4 no frill routes in the city that drop passengers off at Arborland would cost substantially less than what AATA charges.

    Unless the city changes its views on high tax, high services they will never reach any mutually beneficial consolidation of services with the township. It is my hope that 4 joint meetings a year will help city officials gain an understanding of how elected officials can be more responsive to the needs of their constituents, to see how much better open discussions help achieve better resolution of problems, and how less government and lower taxes benefit everyone.

  46. Paul Schreiber
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Trusty Getto gave an excellent summary of the interaction between Proposal A and the Headlee amendment. I would add that the non-homestead tax increase is 18 mills that goes to schools. The city does not collect any extra taxes on non-homestead property.

    Page 2 of the 2007 state of the city commentary shows that contracting with the county sheriff is no cheaper for the city of Ypsilanti than the current YPD. This comparison used the 2008 Sheriff contract cost.

    In 2007, the average assessed value of a house in Ypsilanti was 30% higher than the taxable value. The average value is much lower than Mr. Sprawl’s 250%.

    Finally, the AATA gets state and federal funds for capital expenditures like busses. The AATA purchase of services agreements with regional municipalities does not include overhead costs like the bus depot in Ann Arbor or purchasing the busses. Only the variable cost of providing the service is included in the contract.

    Paul Schreiber

  47. Paul Schreiber
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The link for the 2007 state of the city commentary is “http://cityofypsilanti.com/bd_city-council/Mayor%20Updates/february_2007_mayor_update”.

    Paul Schreiber

  48. egpenet
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    So there.

  49. Posted May 4, 2008 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh My !!

    I find inaccuracies and misrepresentation in every paragraph of Mr Sprawl’s comment.

    “Everybody in the county pays taxes to the county for services provided by the county.”

    I don’t know how many times I have to say it: The county would NOT respond with animal control with in the city when I asked for it. Therefore the county does NOT provide equal services to everyone in the county.

    Secondly, the city does NOT want the township to subsidize it! Period. Nor does the city seek to duplicate services. In fact the city is hoping to consolidate services, such as Police and Fire Dispatch.

    2. As Mayor Schreiber pointed out, sheriff deputies are no less costly and city police.

    “The county is required by state law to provide county wide sheriff services…The county can pay these deputies full salaries and benefits while they either sit in training classes on Hogback road or spend their days writing traffic tickets or they can allow the township to subsidize these fixed costs by contracting for patrols.”

    If the township is not paying the FULL cost of the “contracted” patrols, then everyone in the county should still get a share of the services provided by those “contracted” positions. Meaning, the township contracted patrols should also spend X% of their time patrolling within the city, where X is the percentage of city resident paid county taxes allocated to those 44 (or whatever the current number is) Ypsilanti Township contracted deputies.

    3. Mr Sprawl didn’t even read trusty getto’s explanation on Headlee. Where the city got a 250% increase in property taxes from Mr. Sprawl’s former residence, the city had to cut back on tax revenues on other properties for a net zero gain (a rise at the rate of inflation, counteracted by an inflation in costs).

    4. Mayor Schreiber addressed the AATA paragraph fully.

    5. The city and it’s residents do not want to be a township. We want sidewalks, street lights, better police who will actually investigate crimes, good roads and road maintenance, etc. The city does not want the township to subsidize theses services either. But we in the city want to stop subsidizing the township through county taxes that disproportionately benefit rural areas. We also want, and would hope the townships see the benefit they would gain from it too, to find ways to consolidate some services and develop cooperative (mutual aid) agreements with the townships and other cities to realize efficiencies that benefit all.

    Bottom line: The city doesn’t want to be a township and the township doesn’t want to be a city (still wondering about their idea of needing a downtown, though). The city also doesn’t want to make the township into a city and we’d sure like it if the township would stop trying to make the city into a township.

  50. egpenet
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Batta boom, batta bing.

  51. Posted May 4, 2008 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Mayor Schreiber: Thanks for the clarification on non-homestead tax collections. I didn’t know that, but it clearly is a very important factor in this analysis.

    But my ignorance on that point raises two new questions: One, where does the rest go on non-homestead properties? I recall seeing that they pay a higher rate overall, so is it that we don’t get that but the state does for the benefit of the schools? Two, are there other taxes that would inure to the benefit of the city in the event that we increased our manufacturing and business base (not that this is realistic — I’m just curious).

  52. Posted May 4, 2008 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    trusty getto,

    I don’t know the answers either, but, one guess I have is that business/manufacturing properties are higher value so generate more revenue. Also business value is not just based on the building properties but tooling and inventory too. If I was taxed on my furniture and appliances I’d probably pay 2/3 again as much taxes

  53. Posted May 4, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I’m going to go dancing in the streets at cinco de mayo (sp?).

    Ed, walk on down and say hi.

  54. egpenet
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Viva Quattro de Mayo! Arriba!

  55. Edge of the sprawl
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Mayor,

    Could you provide us with the link that shows the breakdown of police costs to the city currently and what number of patrols the city would contract from the county in order to exceed your current city costs for police services?

    John,

    The township’s contracted payment exceeds the cost of the patrols. We subsidize the county, not vice-versa. The original agreed upon price was determined by independent consultants. The county administrator arbitrarily raised the costs so that the excess collected from the townships would fund jail construction. Jail construction costs should be borne by the entire county, not just a few townships.

    It is of absolutely no benefit to the township to consolidate services with a city in financial trouble. It does pose a severe threat to the township to do so because voluntary consolidation of services would open a path to annexing the township when the city does go into receivership. If we don’t collaborate, State law protects us from annexation. Keep your city and it’s high taxes off the back of the township residents. If you’d only find a way to pay for your governmental costs yourself, then I’d be happy to not make any more posts on this topic.

    Trusty,

    Businesses pay taxes to the city. The extra millage to non-homestead property (above and beyond the normal millage rate) goes exclusively to the schools.

  56. amused1
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    This is a complex and emotional issue. Being relatively new to the area I do not fully understand the long standing “feud” between the city and the township. That said, I guess I’ll chime in anyway.

    Last year the township announced a plan to create a downtown area south of I-94. I’m assuming this is in response to the retail developments of their neighbors to the north and east. Given what appears to be difficulty in finding quality tenants for the existing strip centers along that corridor, this seems like an optimistic plan at best. Additionally, there’s a perfectly serviceable downtown less than a mile away from the proposed site. Seems to me that the re-emergence of the “old” downtown would benefit everyone in the area. It would save the Township money on developing a new one and add to the tax base of the City.

    More recently, there was a posting on this blog about the conversion of Ford Rd back to 4 lanes. Having driven that road many times, I far prefer the current, newer, configuration. And I’m not sure I see how it negatively impacts the local business that has requested the return to 4 lanes. Seems like a waste of tax money to me.

    When it comes to allocation of tax dollars per capita, well, one consideration not mentioned yet is that older infrastructure tends to be more expensive to maintain. As the Township ages the costs of maintaining roads, sewers, water, etc will increase. It seems like low tax rates, low density and miles of infrastructure to maintain is an equation that eventually will turn and bite some butts. I’m tempted to compare it to the mortgage situation.

    Becoming more regional has up sides and down sides. Personally, I don’t understand why the bus and library services aren’t part of the County’s responsibilities. Seems to me a county wide system would benefit the whole area while “dumping” the burden on no one group in particular. It would open access to a larger pool of items from the library through inter-branch transfers and bring bus service to a larger area. By combining these services you increase your buying power making tax dollars more effective when it comes to negotiating prices.

    The down side? Less direct control over your tax dollars and the potential for increased infrastructure costs. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but some studies from U of Iowa have found this to be the case.

    I’ve heard rumblings from some Township residents north of I-94 about inequities (perceived or actual) between themselves and their south of I-94 counterparts. Maybe it’s just human nature to want to find someone to blame for whatever.

    If the City falters the entire region will suffer. Since the Township is the closest neighbor, it’ll likely feel the effects first and strongest.

    I do hope cooperation between the Township and the City increases. I honestly believe it will benefit everyone.

  57. egpenet
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Amen.

  58. Posted May 5, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Mayor Schreiber wrote:

    “The AATA purchase of services agreements with regional municipalities does not include overhead costs like the bus depot in Ann Arbor or purchasing the busses. Only the variable cost of providing the service is included in the contract.”

    This isn’t quite true, at least according to the chair of the AATA as he explained POSA’s at the last AATA board meeting. YpsiNews.com videotaped it so you can watch it for yourself.

    For one, if AATA cut service to Ypsilanti they would not need as many buses to serve their remaining customers. They also wouldn’t have the additional overhead/fixed costs for the Ypsi transit center.

    The Ypsi transit center puts a significant burden on Ypsi Police as it is a major center of crime and calls for service. So that is an additional cost to the City hidden in the police budget

    Moreover, AATA would lose additional funding from both the state and the Feds because they can include Ypsilanti in their demographics and population served. If Ypsi was not inculded, Ann Arbor by itself would not be able to quailify for many of these funds.

    AATA nor the City have ever been really forthcoming on what money is expended and how they provide service in the City and what are the costs for those services. The current chair of AATA promised one City Council member to respond back to the question about Federal and State funding but so far has not done that. Despite the fact that AATA is coming back in less than three days for another public presentation before Ypsi City Council.

    Remember, I support the buses, I signed the petition calling for a dedicated millage two years ago. That idea was opposed by both the former and current mayor. I still support that idea and think we should give it serious consideration.

    I also think the city is doing a poor job of managing and contracting for bus service and we are letting AATA dictate the terms and yet there is no oversight by the city council to look at how that money is spent and on what services. The City has also been blind to the problems the Transit Center. When you call AATA to complain about the problems with crime, their response is, “If you have a problem call the Ypsi Police.”

    It isn’t the neighbors that should be calling the police for help, it should be AATA calling Ypsi Police when they have a problem they can’t deal with on their own. But they don’t think they have a problem and instead of tracking, reporting, and responding to the problems, they just tell residents to call someone else.

    How bad is crime at the Ypsi transit center? EMU students complained so bitterly about the cime, that instead of dealing with the problem, the City and AATA removed two parking meters and spaces from North Adams Street to provide a dedicated bus stop across the street for EMU. It has gotten so bad this spring, that many regular bus riders now wait across the street next to Deja Vu to board the bus.

    You heard me right, they feel safer at the Deja Vu than they do at the transit center. Others board at the stop right after the transit center to avoid the problems, hassles, and crime at the YTC.

    If AATA wants the support of the City for transportation, than AATA management needs to support Ypsilanti by making sure their property is not a contributor for crime and a nuisance in our community.

    If we are going to look at costs for service in Ypsilanti, than we need to look at ALL costs from ALL units of government that go to providing bus service in our community. As well as looking at ALL income from ALL SOURCES to decide on a fair and equitable payment for service.

    One question I have, is we get money for road maintenance from the gas tax. Does AATA pay gas tax on the fuel they use and if so is their money allocated just to Ann Arbor where they purchase and fuel their buses, or does some of that money come to Ypsi?

    There are many more questions that folks should be asking but aren’t, yet seem all to eager to open up the public check book and spend other people’s money without out finding out how that money is spent and determining if we are getting a good value for the investment.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  59. Posted May 5, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    nearby wrote:
    “Can Ypsi City start charging Ypsi. township for each township resident that causes criminal damage to person/property in the City and causes city expenses in the process?”

    They can’t charge the township, but Yes, the city can charge the person, it is called restitution. It is up to the courts to award such claim.

    One more reason why you should learn about the folks running for judges. Those races do have a big impact on our community.

    – Steve

  60. Posted May 5, 2008 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Steve, I’m not sure about this, but somewhere in the back of my head I think I remember that fuel taxes are not paid by government motor pools. Police vehicles, Fire, EMS, school busses, and I’d hope public transit, can either have their own fueling station where they buy fuel in bulk, sans tax. Or, they can fuel at a regular gas station and submit receipts for reimbursement of the taxes. Again, I don’t know that is for sure true.

  61. Posted May 5, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Steve,

    On AATA, your comments make a strong case for Washtenaw County to take it over. I’d sign a petition to that effect.

  62. Edge of the sprawl
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Yeah, and the Forest dweller told me after a few drinks on Cinco de Mayo, that he would also sign a petition to have Pittsfield Township take over the Rutherford Pool funding, Superior Township take over the Police funding, to have Ann Arbor consolidate it’s public school system and to have the green state of Vermont take over recycling. Because, after all, aren’t we all neighbors on this small planet with an interest in seeing that Ypsi city dwellers can spend their limited resources on million dollar facades on the exterior of an historic city hall that still needs to have it’s interior gutted and greatly enlarged?

  63. Posted May 6, 2008 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I think I just figured out why this is such a head butting exercise between us, Sprawl.

    I think your bottom line is a Libertarian “no taxes, no government” ideal. My arguing with you, over where shared costs between governments could work and be a good idea, is for naught when any government costs are a bad idea in your mind.

    I see why you would move to the township, seeking the lowest taxes/smallest government; and, I now see that you don’t want that (even high there, in your mind) lower tax situation to be made higher.

  64. Edge of the Sprawl
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    I don’t consider myself to be a Libertarian, but do agree that we seem to be at opposite extremes on government philosophy. Some government is necessary. But less government equals more freedom and individual liberty. I can’t think of a single problem facing society that a governmental program has been able to resolve. But, once a governmental program is established, it always grows more and more expensive to run regardless of its ineffectiveness. And the more ineffective that the program is, the greater are the demands to pour more money into it, and the more rapid is its expansion. I like Ron Paul and the Constitution party and will move as far away from the sprawl as possible as soon as I can retire. You’re right – I consider the township taxes to be too high as well.

  65. egpenet
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Dear Edge:

    Some government is necessary, BUT not a “single problem facing society … has government been able to resolve.”

    I’m a big Ron Paul advocate, myself, however … WWI, WWII, Korea, Nam and Bosnia … come to mind. TVA … comes to mind. CCC comes to mind. Interstate Highway System comes to mind. FAA comes to mind. EPA comes to mind. Nuclear Regulatory Agency comes to mind. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae come to mind. FDA comes to mind. O’MA’GAWD … the list is endless.

    What freakin’ planmet in what freakin’ solar system are you on, dear neighbor?

    I KNOW I was bloggin’ about using paper shopping bags over your head to ward off light pollution and such, but you have put on TWO bags and done yourself a major disservice.

    Here in our fair city we have sidewalks … poured concrete walkways in front of businesses and homes which allow human beings who live in the city the ability to walk from property to property throughout the city to shop, visit, be safely protected from vehicle traffic and such … that’s what sidewalks are.

    Anyway …

    Ineffective programs SHOULD be done away with. You NUTS!? That’s the whole point of debate, democratic process, adressing grievances, citizen complaints, etc. Get rid of stupid programs! Of course! We learn. We make mistakes. Change the system. Vote!

    I’d suggest … after reading your comments for these last several weeks … that you should buy lots of chickens, rabbits and goats … build really tall fences … stock up on asmmo … and hire a nun to live in your barn to teach your children in an underground bunker, in case … and snag a GPS system for your family vehicle to track its whereabouts when you or a family member makes a treacherous trip into satanic territory to shop for Milk Duds or Taco Chips … though I don’t think your family eats Taco Chips. (I apologize, that was a nasty slur.)

    Anyhow, I want you and yours to be safe. Go hollow point as soon as possible. Trust no one. He/She may dress like a Sheriff Deputy, but I wouldn’t trust them. LET’EM HAVE IT!

    ‘G’night.

  66. nearby
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 6:19 am | Permalink


    They can’t charge the township, but Yes, the city can charge the person, it is called restitution. It is up to the courts to award such claim.

    That will help – not at all. Somehow, I think the guys causing the problems will also ignore / be unable to do anything re: restitution.

    Hence– hit the township up for the costs of controlling their populace for them. Since the city are is where those guys often go.

    RE: the AATA terminal– sound like nothing that a bunch of big guy with “billy clubs” (heh- I hit a keyword filter! Mark, don’t you like the card game that counts to 21?) couldn’t clean up in a jiffy.

  67. Edge of the Sprawl
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Egpenet,

    That’s quite a rant you just left. You think that’s supposed to convince others that I’m nuts? I just want to live a quiet, peaceful life using the income that I have earned to pursue the objectives that I feel are most likely to result in a good life. I don’t want to impose my objectives on others and would prefer that they don’t impose theirs on me.

    Your belief system is not consistent with Ron Paul’s philosophy. You should do a little research into his entire platform.

    Your examples of good government programs are extremely hard to comprehend. Korea, Nam, and Bosnia achieved something positive for Americans??? Did CCC and TVA eliminate poverty??? Has the EPA eliminated environmental contamination??? Does the FDA prevent harmful drugs from being marketed???

    Has the War on Poverty reduced the number of low income households? Has the War on Drugs eliminated the market for illegal drugs or reduced the profits of dealers? Will higher taxes benefit families???

    What planet are you living on?

  68. egpenet
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    It really WAS a rant, wasn’t it?

    Well … YES, YES, YES. YES. YES, etc. One NO. The rest yesses.

    I didn’t say you were nuts.

  69. thirdcity
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know there was such discord between city and township citizens. Though I don’t know why the township developed and maintains services separate from the city, I have to say taxes are quite high.

    But I do envy your sidewalks…

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