Who will fight for Michigan’s struggling cities, like Ypsilanti, against the Snyder budget?

msmichiganmagicAs we’ve discussed here in the past, the budget put forward by our new Governor, Rick Snyder, would appear to put a disproportionate amount of the burden on aging, urban communities, like Ypsilanti. Here are just a few of the ways that Ypsilanti will be impacted by the new budget if it is ratified.

• First, we will loose a significant amount of funding from the State. In the words of City Council member Pete Murdock, who has weighed in on earlier posts, the Snyder budget would mean a “$1.2 million loss in revenue sharing, and (a close to) $60K (reduction) in fire protection money,” which has been paid to the city annually for providing fire protection services for Eastern Michigan University, which is a sate school. (It should be pointed out that this $60,000 is already considerably less than the State, according to their own guidelines, should be reimbursing the City.) Together, this would mean an almost 10% reduction in our general fund budget, which would clearly push our already struggling City into the abyss of financial collapse.

• Second, the elimination of Brownfield Redevelopment tax credits could hurt any redevelopment efforts with regard to the Water Street parcel, as they were going to allow for the necessary build-out of infrastructure. “The irony,” according to former Ypsi City Planner Richard Murphy, “is that the elimination of these credits is being pitched in the name of ‘leveling the playing field’ and ‘stop(ping the) picking (of) winners and losers’, but, unfortunately, will do exactly the opposite. These and similar credits were created to level the playing field, and address the fact that factors like soil contamination, obsolete buildings, asbestos & lead, etc., made it difficult to do business in places like Ypsilanti – and to level the playing field by balancing out some of those extra costs. (At the same time, of course, we get public benefits out of it, like cleaning up soil contamination, removing health hazards, and so on.)” And, with Snyder’s budget, this program would be gone, forcing growth away from our cities and into the surrounding townships, eliminating green space, and contributing even more toward the sprawl Michigan is famous for. (Remember when I was telling you that Boston, Manhattan, and San Francisco would all fit into the boundaries of Detroit?)

• Third, the Snyder budget would eliminate the Historic Preservation tax credits, which had been used locally to finance projects like the Mack & Mack building renovation (where SPARK East is now located), and the Mellencamp building renovation, which is currently underway (where the Rocket is now located). “(Stewart) Beal,” according to Richard Murphy, “has said that successful redevelopment of the Thompson Block will depend on the Historic Preservation tax credits (and he’s not wrong).”

I’ll stop there for now, but I’m sure there are more points which could be added. I’m sure there are other areas where it can be shown that Michigan’s aging cities are bearing the brunt of Snyder’s budget. I suspect, for instance, that the per-pupil education cuts that Snyder is calling for would affect our schools to a greater degree, than say communities like Ann Arbor and West Bloomfield, but I don’t yet have the evidence to back that assertion up. My point is, we need to start pulling all of this information together in one place, and building a coalition between communities that find themselves in a similar situation… Toward that end, I put the word out through the site a few days ago, and heard back from Richard Murphy, that SEMCOG and the Michigan Municipal League would probably be the best situated to coordinate the response. (I had suggested that the Michigan Suburbs Alliance might be a candidate, but he corrected me, as you can read here, in his response.)

Mark, much as I appreciate the shout-out to one of my favorite organizations (one that employs me, incidentally), most 501(c)(3)s are pretty limited in their ability to do this sort of lobbying, based on funding sources and various regulations around them.

This is more traditionally the realm of SEMCOG or the Michigan Municipal League, each of which, by merit of their funding structures, are much better positioned to take the lead on legislative issues like this.

The Suburbs Alliance has made formal testimony against the EFM bill, which you can find on record via the House Committee on Local, Intergovernmental, and Regional Affairs’ website, along with other parties’ testimony. However, I’d look to the other organizations mentioned as having this type of legislative lobbying as much more a “core competency”. (Ypsi is a member of all three.)

So, would I be right to assume that our leaders in Ypsi are putting pressure on SEMCOG and/or the Michigan Municipal League to respond? I’d like to think that’s the case, but my fear is that most of the folks in the running of cities like Ypsi are just trying to figure out how to deal with the situation once the budget passes, and not how to fight it.

It’s probably also worth noting that the other side – the side backing the Governor’s budget – isn’t sitting still. They’re out building a coalition to support its passage. Here, on that subject, is a comment left yesterday by Glen S.

…(T)oday’s Detroit News is reporting that a new group, “Value for Michigan,” has formed to support and lobby for the Snyder/Republican agenda, and is already building a Facebook and Twitter presence, and asking people to sign an online petition, etc.

In the article, a Snyder spokesperson takes great pains to explain that this new group is “a totally independent effort and the Gov. Snyder administration is not affiliated in any way, shape or form.”

Personally, me thinks the Governor doth protest too much — but even if true, it isn’t hard to imagine who is likely behind “Value for Michigan” — the usual National Chamber of Commerce and Club for Growth types, with perhaps a little Koch money thrown in for good measure.

In any case, it is clear that whatever effort we organize to defeat this will need to gear up quickly, since I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the “Value for Michigan” ads debut…

And, later, we received the following update from Glen on Value for Michigan, and who’s behind it.

I checked the election committee database on the Michigan SOS website, and “Value for Michigan” is registered as an “independent political action committee” with John P. Yob as its treasurer.

A quick Google search turned up the following biography for Mr. Yob, courtesy of the website for — I kid you not — the Missouri Federation of Young Republicans:

“John Patrick Yob is a leading Republican political consultant in Michigan with significant experience in national politics. He has appeared in the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, and numerous national mediums including USA Today and Inside Edition.

He started his political life in College Republicans and rose to the position of Executive Director and General Chairman of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC). Former CRNC leaders include Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed.

Yob was the lead consultant for Terri Lynn Land’s successful race for Secretary of State of Michigan in 2002 and assisted with Mike Cox’s 5200-vote margin of victory the same year. Land won with a larger margin than any other open seat victory in Michigan in fifty years. Yob also handles media relations for John Ramsey, father of slain beauty queen Jon Bene’t Ramsey.

Yob has owned a political polling company since 2001 is currently a lead partner in Strategic National Consulting, a firm with clients including Senator John McCain’s Straight Talk Express, the Republican National Committee Member Senate Fund, and numerous legislative clients.

John is 29 years old and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

How could things possibly go wrong when you’ve got a leader of an organization who not only handles public relations for John Ramsey, but proudly follows in the footsteps of such notable Americans as Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed? (note: Given Yob’s ties to Cox, I wouldn’t be surprised if our friend Andrew Shirvell was also somehow involved.)

The big take-away in all of this, as I see it, is that we need to organize and do so quickly, because they sure as hell are… We need to articulate, in simple language, why the Governor’s proposal is wrong for Michigan’s cities, and we need to rally support around a different vision for the future of our State. And, that’ll be the hard part. We’ll need to offer something better. It’s not enough, in my opinion, to just say that the Governor’s plan is wrong. We need to offer a viable alternative.

I should add that I don’t think the Governor is necessarily a bad guy. I don’t, like the Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin, that he’s out to break the unions, for instance. I just think he’s doing what he thinks is best to entice businesses to come to Michigan and create jobs here. That’s his single focus. And, for what it’s worth, I agree with him. That absolutely needs to happen. I just don’t think that his vision for how to get us there is going to give us the kind of state that people want to move to. What companies, for instance, would want to put down roots in a community where it’s the norm to have 60 kids in a class?

So, I think it’s our job to build an alliance, and make the case for Michigan’s cities… I know I don’t speak for everyone, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most residents of Ypsilanti are willing to sacrifice in order to set our state on the right path. I don’t think, however, we’re the type to passively sit by when we see that the burden isn’t being shared equally by all. What we want is a budget that is equitable, that sees our kids educated, our resources protected, and our entrepreneurs encouraged.

Those of you interested in reading more should check out the following posts.
-Snyder passes the buck to local Michigan communities
-Rick Snyder’s budget and the impact on cities like Ypsilanti
-The state of Ypsilanti

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  1. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I can’t speak to the other stuff (will let our mutual friend Murph do that! :)) but I did hear him speak on the DPS/60 kids in a class thing. Well, by “speak”, I mean that words came out of his mouth. My husband put on some show this morning and Snyder was asked about his plans for DPS. He says he wants to redo how things are done there and didn’t disagree that 60 kids in a class is a bad fucking idea. What does he mean by “redo how things are done”? No idea.

    I’m not sure I agree that he’s not out to union bust. I mean, I don’t think that’s his primary objective but I think he’s happy to let it happen as a consequence. Either way, if his EFM (emergency financial manager) legislation goes through (and I see no reason why it won’t), he’ll just appoint an EFM to DPS and, per the law, the EFM will be able to void union contracts.

  2. Dirtgrain
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Michigan 2009 Per Pupil Funding by District

    Oakland County:
    Bloomfield Hills $12,443
    Birmingham City $12,366
    Royal Oak $9,340
    Pontiac City $7,491
    South Lyon $7,370

    Washtenaw County
    Ann Arbor $9,723
    Ypsilanti $7,983
    Willow Run $7,840
    Lincoln Consolidated $7,316
    Milan $7,316

    Wayne County
    Grosse Pointe $10,382
    Romulus $9,139
    Detroit City $7,660
    Plymouth-Canton $7,604
    Detroit $7,580
    Lincoln Park $7,316

    Regarding per-pupil funding, there are huge discrepancies in amounts doled out. I see Bloomfield Hills getting 0ver $5,000 more per pupil than fellow Oakland County school South Lyon. Engler ushered in changes that were supposed to make funding more equitable. I don’t see that has happened. A quick look shows that the nearly the same over $5,000 gap between the two schools in 1993/94, $10,294 vs. $5,039 (source. Of course, percentage-wise, the gap has declined, so maybe Engler’s plan is sloooooowly working.

    Still, it seems absurd that we have the chosen “public” schools. That Snyder cuts each school equally is also absurd. Who will be hurt more, South Lyon or Bloomfield Hills? It’s obvious.

    Mind you, Plymouth gets less per pupil than Ypsilanti. But per-pupil funding is not the whole story: federal special education funding (more such funding in schools with higher special ed. populations), voted-in millages, and grants, for example, would have to be considered–I don’t have data on all that. Whereas Plymouth-Canton has had steady or increasing student population, I believe what hurts Ypsilanti especially is a declining student population. It seems likely that it will decline more, with the recent building closings. I don’t know for sure. Does anybody have data on changes in Ypsilanti Schools student population over the last five to ten years or so? Projections?

    I imagine that Snyder won’t address the funding inequity, as pissing off the people in the richer school districts is a bad idea. Years ago, Arizona leveled the playing field, I recall, setting per-pupil funding at the same level for all public schools. The problem was that they brought every school down to the low end of funding, as opposed to setting it to a mean.

    Still, I wonder why the inequity in funding hasn’t been more controversial over the last two decades. Do people not know, or do people think the higher funding for rich districts is okay, as they pay more in property taxes? Whatever the case, now seems like a good time to challenge the system.

  3. Maria
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I saw the Governor too on a morning show. He struck me as stubborn. It’s clear his constituency is small business, and that’s all he knows well.
    He got really animated about the Michigan Business Tax and defensive the rest of the time.
    I don’t think he realizes what he has set forth, and there’s a blind faith that when that tax is lowered, all will be well…and everyone else will just have to suck it up and he’ll be proven correct. I don’t think he knows much about schools or kids, doesn’t know much about seniors on fixed incomes, doesn’t see what the problem is with EFM’s, doesn’t see what’s the big deal about EITC…It’s all in black and white to him, no shades of gray
    I felt worse after watching him…

  4. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    He was defensive–you’re totally right. He reminded me of a mean version of this one volunteer at my school. This volunteer is so sweet, a retired businessman. When I told him that back in November, I put in a request to have special software for the blind loaded on my computer, and it likely will never get loaded, he just deflated like a balloon. He told me, “I had a business with 50 people working for me and when I said to get it done, it got done.” That is how Snyder struck me today, but he was meaner than my volunteer friend. Well not meaner but not as nice. Anyway, I think Snyder is in the mindset that shit gonna get done cuz daddy say get it done and that just isn’t going to happen. How will he deal with that, I wonder?
    Dirtgrain…special ed funding is kinda jacked up (I’m a special ed teacher). The federal law mandates that so many teachers are hired per so many students but it is mostly an unfunded mandate. States have to foot much of the bill…I’m not really sure how it works but I know that at least some comes from the general fund (some general ed teachers have made very nasty comments to me about this…I feel them but I gotta do my job). But then there is also some federal money so I’m not sure how it affects the whole fund. Sorry…I wish I could help more in explaining that whole thing.
    Personally, I’d like to know where that lottery money goes!

  5. Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying that Snyder was necessarily a friend of organized labor. I was just saying that I think he’s relatively pragmatic about it, and knows that, even if he wanted to do something about it, like the governors of our neighboring states, he couldn’t. The unions are still too strong in Michigan. With that said, I do believe that unions could be seriously harmed at the local level by Emergency Financial Managers… which was a point that Glen made a few days ago… Let me see if I can find it.

  6. Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    OK, I found it… Here’s what Glen had to say about the EMFs being used to break the unions at the more local level.

    Rick Snyder really IS a political genius, I suddenly realized yesterday.

    Unlike Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker — who has ignited a national firestorm over his strident and quite overt efforts to bust unions, slash pensions and other benefits, and generally dismantle what’s left of any opportunity for Wisconsin’s public sector workers to enjoy a modest, middle-class lifestyle — Snyder has a smarter, but much more insidious plan.

    By dramatically slashing revenue-sharing, per-pupil student aid, and other forms of basic support for Michigan’s struggling cities, school districts, etc., to such a degree that unprecedented restructuring clearly will be necessary, Snyder is, in effect, “outsourcing” the dirty work of breaking unions, reneging on promised pension benefits, etc., to locally-elected city councils, school boards, county commissions, etc.

    This way, over the next two years — while hundreds of individual Michigan cities, townships, counties and school districts are all busy fighting their own individual battles with their own individual workers and unions — Snyder will appear to be keeping his hands clean from all of the local budget “unpleasantness,” — while he continues to promote himself as as a genial, and business-minded “one tough nerd,” whose only agenda is promoting “shared sacrifice.”

    Of course, you can bet the “shared sacrifice” he envisions won’t include any of Michigan’s wealthy citizens or corporations doing any of the “sharing.”

  7. Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    If anyone knows where I could find video of Snyder’s TV appearance today, let me know. I’d like to post it here.

  8. Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and I struggled to find the right image for this post. This was the best that I could do. I thought that it was somewhat appropriate, however, as our leaders sometimes suffer from magical thinking when it comes to things like the ones we’re discussing.

  9. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    “I should add that I don’t think the Governor is a bad guy. I don’t [think], like the Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin, that he’s out to break the unions, for instance.”

    I actually do think he’s out to weaken unions, workers’ rights, and many other things we consider about or for “the normal person”, but that he’s going about it very intelligently.

  10. Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    We can quibble about that point all night, EZ, but it doesn’t really change the fact that we need to organize and fight this budget. Regardless of whether he’s a bastard who wants to permanently eliminate the middle class, I think our course of action is the same. But maybe I’m missing something. Maybe our side needs to paint him as monster in order to rally the troops. For what it’s worth though, I don’t think that he’s a fundamentalist zealot in the mold of Florida’s Governor. I think that, when push comes to shove, he’s a pragmatist, who would be willing to consider any option that gets Michigan out of the hole that it’s in. But, like I said, I still think we need to fight this aggressively. By no means am I saying, “Trust him – he’s got our best interests in mind.”

  11. EOS
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    If you think schools with more money are better than those with less, why don’t the students in Ypsi and Willow Run perform better than Plymouth Canton? If the state gave Ypsi an additional $5K per student, would anyone in their right mind think that local test scores would rival those in Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham?

    Ypsi’s problems were caused by stupid decisions made by locally elected leaders who were egged on by partisan activists. The current budget crisis was inevitable long before Synder. The economy in Michigan is not going to be fixed by dumping even more money into aging, urban communities. Many communities have been duped into thinking that once they wasted all their local tax dollars the state would step in with massive funds to bail them out. Wake up – the state has no money either. Granholm ran Michigan into the ground despite promising results that would “Blow us away.” And now you want to blame the guy who has been in office a little more than 2 months?

  12. Mike Shecket
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    If you’ve got a budget shortfall, and you’re not the federal government and therefore can’t print money, you need to either borrow money, take in more tax revenue, or cut spending. If we don’t want to cut this particular spending, then we have to cut some other spending. If we don’t want to cut spending at all, we need to borrow money (not likely with the state of the credit market and perceptions of the state’s future prospects) or increase tax revenue. If you want to increase tax revenue, you have at least two problems. One is that, over the last 30 years or so, Republicans have succeeded in making increases in tax rates more or less politically unthinkable, even when called for. The other is that increases in tax rates may or may not result in increased tax revenue, due to avoidance, effects on economic incentives, and other possible unintended consequences.

    If you do decide to try to raise tax revenue, the unfortunate thing is that it’s a lot easier to stick it to poor people than rich people. Rich people can move to another state, retire, curtail their spending, or pay accountants and lawyers to concoct other sorts of funny business for them. If you raise the sales tax, rich people can buy less luxury junk, but poor people are still going to have to buy those basic necessities that are subject to the tax.

    Michael Moore’s argument about sticking it to the rich is basically an argument for raising taxes. If you don’t want to cut spending, you’re going to have to sharpen up your tax-increase argument and you’re going to have to try to come up with ways to get revenue from the people you actually want to get it from (without unintentionally hurting other people) which is a significant political and practical challenge.

  13. Caring Parent
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 12:12 am | Permalink


    The direct answer to your question can be found here: http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/11/michigan_lotterys_big_winners.html

    The more insidious answer is that all the lottery funds go into the state’s general education fund. Insidious because this means that the poorest communities (Detroit, Inkster, et al.) where the vast majority of lottery funds are generated go to fund schools in Bloomfield Hills (et. al.) while those districts property taxes don’t go to fund schools outside their district.

    There was a bill, not long ago, that aimed to tie lottery funds to the districts where they were generated but it was defeated in the republican controlled legislature.

    To EOS’s point, someone needs to contact Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham Republicans ASAP to alert them to the fact that they are WAY overpaying for education. Clearly, the best educations are those that are least funded. Obviously, they could reduce their funding by 5k per pupil without it affecting test scores (who in their right mind could disagree?). People in Bloomfield and Birmingham must plain suckers.

    (I must say, I’m a bit baffled by how these two Republican strongholds can tax-and-spend so lavishly and wastefully on public education. EOS, as an insider, can you help explain?)

  14. Glen S.
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    @ Mark –

    I LOVE the image you put with this thread!

    @ EOS and Mike Shecket

    I think most everyone, of all political persuasions, understands that both Michigan’s economy and our system of funding state and local government are fundamentally broken. I think we all understand that fixing this mess will require some difficult choices, and unpleasant sacrifices.

    But most of all — I think everyone agrees it will take creative thinking and new ideas. And that is mostly where the Snyder/Republican plan is a complete and utter failure.

    For all the Snyder rhetoric about “reinventing government,” all he and the Republicans are really proposing is the same old, played-out, supply-side, “trickle-down, voodoo economics,” that Reagan tried in the early 1980s and Governor Engler tried in the 1990s. “Cut spending!,” and “Cut taxes!,” they cried — and “we’ll become a beacon for business, and jobs will be created, and a rising tide will lift all boats!”

    But look at what has actually happened — especially here in Michigan. State government is now smaller — and our overall taxes are lower — than they have been since the early 1950s. And yet, except for a few auto industry-related blips, and the effects of the recent housing bubble — the story of Michigan’s economy (and society) over the past several decades has been a long, steady downward slide. Real-dollar wages and benefits have eroded for most people, and by almost every quality of life indicator (jobs, education, infrastructure, health, environment) we have fallen from our position near the top in national rankings — and are rapidly headed to join the ranks of states like Mississippi.

    My point is: We CANNOT cut our way to prosperity!

    Everybody — including me — is in favor of trying to make government as efficient as possible. Getting the most from our tax dollars just makes good sense — and I am not saying there are not programs or services that should be examined to make them more efficient. But it seems to me that the Snyder/Republican plan is like trying to do surgery with a meat cleaver. Moreover, it is extremely short-sighted.

    “Balancing” the budget on the backs of the working poor, K-12 education, universities, struggling cities, the environment, etc., in order to give more tax breaks to businesses will probably make CEOs and shareholders happy — for a quarter or two — but what happens after that? What happens when some other state (or country) decides to give them an even better deal — lower taxes, less regulation, etc.?

    So tell me, what is “tough nerd” businessman Snyder planning to do to create the kind of Michigan that new businesses and residents will be attracted to — and where they’ll actually want to stay — a place with healthy, well-educated citizens, quality infrastructure, a dynamic and sustainable economy, and communities (like Ypsilanti!) where people might actually want to live?


    Again, I say the WHOLE system is broken and the WHOLE thing needs to be re-engineered. Yes, we’ll need cuts and more efficiency — but we also desperately need public investment in the kinds of education, infrastructure and community-building that are aimed not just at jacking up the next quarterly statement — but at creating real, lasting long-term benefits.

    And for that to happen, “shared sacrifice” has got to become a two-way street.

  15. Glen S.
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    = “sound of crickets chirping …”

  16. EOS
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Why don’t you admit to everyone that your “vision” of public investment was the failed Water Street project and now you believe that everyone in the state must participate in the “shared sacrifice” of bailing out the city from the effects of your misguided business acumen.

  17. Glen S.
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink


    Why don’t you explain to everybody why — since you take great pains to let everyone know that you live in the Township and clearly want nothing to do with us — you are nevertheless such a God-damned expert on Ypsilanti politics?

  18. Edward
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know what the Michigan Municipal League and SEMCOG are working on? My guess is that everyone feels as though the Snyder budget is a forgone conclusion. Do others get that sense?

  19. EOS
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    When you advocate shared sacrifice and consolidation of service with the Township and when you suggest altering State funding to bail out aging cities then you invite my comments. Your anger confirms that my comments were accurate.

  20. Posted March 7, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I think EOS can be even more readily dismissed as a troll now than s/he usually can.

    The attempts to paint this as a city problem and stand high on the township side of the divide ignores facts. (And, Mark, the flipside of this is to not limit the city’s search for allies to similar cities; all communities in Michigan are facing the same set of issues right now – the smart ones realized that a decade ago.)

    Check out, for example, Paula Gardner’s column on 2011 residential home assessments by community: with a little math, City of Milan (66%), Ypsilanti Township (69%) and Augusta Township (69%) are all at the lowest current residential valuations in the County, relative to the baseline [January 1,] 2008 assessment. Ypsi City and Saline Twp come in next, at 75%, Northfield Twp, Chelsea City, and Dexter Twp at 78%. There’s not a clear pattern here of older, urban areas doing badly while newer, growth townships sit pretty.

    SEMCOG data on foreclosures (pdf – click link at the bottom for muncipality-level data) show a similar problem for the townships. As of July 2010, Ypsi Twp had 1 of 40 housing units in foreclosure; Augusta Twp had 1 in 44; Superior 1 in 36. Ypsilanti City was at 1 in 79 – faring better than the Countywide average of 1 in 76.

    Let’s make sure we’re not making the mistake of dismissing potential allies by sharing EOS’s flawed us vs. them assumptions – the townships that surround Ypsi are in just as much financial trouble as the City is, and need to be included.

  21. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I suspect, with sorrow, that there is no coordinated effort, as yet, to push back against Rich Snyder’s budget. Note, however, that organized labor was in the street almost instantly.

    Mark: you’re right, no point in quibbling, instead, the point is a call to action. I’ve noted in comments area here a few times that I’d like to know what groups/causes/etc.—locally—are close to the Governor’s heart, by which I mean his wallet, so that we can begin to figure out a plan of action, via boycotts, written letters, etc.

    To go meta for just a moment: all that’s happening now should reinforce what many have felt for years—and Glen gets at this—: both Democrats and Republicans have failed us, so it’s naive, at best, and foolish, at worst, to hope that significant change is going to either come from or be sparked by anyone in power in those parties. What, then? I like the idea of redoubling our efforts to infuse our ultra-local Ypsilanti economy with action, money (patronage), and collaborative brainstorming. The more we Ypsi residents, artists, workers, activists, citizens, get involved and donate labor-energy to one of many causes, the more our city can say Look Here/Fuck You to the would-be Axis of Evil (Corporate America/It’s puppets in Gov/citizen igorance) by way of example.

    I would caution all of us, though, to be careful when stating that the only way to help our city is to “attract new business.” That’s practical (i.e., doesn’t threaten the status quo) from a bureaucratic POV, but impractical in the face of the historical record.

  22. EOS
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    The foreclosures and lower assessments in the townships are diminishing our surpluses. Our low tax rate is a very strong attraction for new businesses. We are not in as much financial trouble as the city and we have a much more promising future should the economy rebound.

  23. Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I hear that Family Dollar is looking for a new storefront in Ypsi Township.

  24. EOS
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Yes, and Pulte is planning new subdivisions as well. A new manufacturing business will announce an opening in the township very soon as well.

  25. EOS
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Caring Parent,

    I would suggest you read Freakonomics. You might also look into the massive court ordered spending on education in Kansas and see how “beneficial” that was.

  26. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    The problem isn’t the funding–it’s HOW the funding is spent and HOW we determine the funding. The property tax thing is so screwy cuz it really jacks up the poor areas (i.e. Detroit’s property taxes are not being paid because no one has jobs). Now how SHOULD we fund it–well hell, I don’t know. But that way isn’t working.
    Also, look at how it is spent. So much has been abdicated to the schools–physical therapy services, occupational therapy services, social work–and that costs a lot of money. I am not saying that we should NOT have those services (not by a long shot) but that costs $. And my supervisor’s supervisor’s executive director’s assistant superintendent (not making this up) needs to eat, too, right!? And the three schol districts in one city (Ypsi) all need supers that make a lot of money, plus their staff and so on, right?
    I think if we took the funding and put two teachers in every room–one to teach curriculum and one special ed (i.e me) to teach different methods, we would see a huge bump in testing scores. When I push into a class, the kids benefit enormously from having math teacher teach math and Ms. TeacherPatti to say, “Hey, if that way doesn’t work for you, let’s try this way”.

    Caring Parent, thanks for the link, pal! I think we should just take the whole pot and split it amongst teachers so we can all buy new cars! JUST KIDDING!!!!

  27. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Btw, the vote on the EFM bills is happening tomorrow. No reason to think that it won’t pass…and that he won’t immediately appoint an EFM to my district and God knows what he’ll void out of our contract….

  28. Glen S.
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    @ Ez Marsay

    I really appreciate and agree with your comments, especially the part about the “meta.”

    If we are going to build a “new” Michigan, it is clear that smaller-scale, energy-efficient, sustainable, locally-sourced and “do-it-yourself” are going to be critical to the mix. In that regard, we in Ypsilanti are very lucky in that we already have an abundance of resources, and many guides who are helping lead the way: Bike Ypsi, Solar Ypsi, Growing Hope, the Ypsi Food Co-op, and the terrific work that people like Lisa Bashert and the Transition Ypsi group are doing come to mind — along with everyone involved with our multitude of neighborhood associations, and the various “friends” groups who have taken an active role in doing things we used to rely on government to handle.

    However, as great as all these things are — and I hope they will continue to prosper and multiply — we are not (yet) at the place where such efforts can substitute for, or take the place of, vital public services such as public safety, trash collection and disposal, etc.

    It took roughly 30 years (let’s say, from 1979 – 2009) for Ypsilanti to transform from a City that was almost entirely dependent on the wages and taxes generated by manufacturing (mostly the auto industry and associated suppliers) to what we have today. Even if we assume it might take another 30 years (say, until 2041 to become truly self-reliant and “sustainable,” we still need a way to bridge the gap from “A” to “B.”

    Which leads back to the original question …

  29. Tommy
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    No matter how you slice it, I can make it very simple. For Republicans, public funding of anything is bad; it should all be private. Individuals should be responsible for themselves – period. Democrats want to do everything for everybody both to secure votes and as a response to the collective shame that is felt for this fucked thing we call America. Somewhere in the middle would be a good place to start, but it will not get any better until the people are fed up enough to actually do something about it. Just not sure what it will take.

  30. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Hey folks, someone mentioned this further up list and one of my more NeoConny friends mentions this too…if we tax the rich too much, what is to stop them from pulling up stakes and leaving the country (or state)? Since they do spend more money than many of us (of course, they gots it!), what’s to stop them? I’m sure there is a good comeback to this argument but I need some help. Thanks.

  31. Mike Shecket
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    @TeacherPatti: I think the way to get more money out of the rich is to try to find tax levels and tax sources that you can milk significantly but not quite enough to get them to avoid the taxes or leave. I’d think about the ways in which wealthy people are, in some sense, a captive audience: what keeps them in this state? What keeps them in a particular town? You can tax a lot of wealthy New York City residents to the moon and they’ll never leave because Broadway, for one example, is irreplaceable. Maybe our millionaires are stuck with real estate they can’t sell, and so if you can walk back Prop A you can get a little more out of them without having them flee. Or you tax their boats or something.

    Supply-side (trickle-down) types like to tout something called the Laffer Curve. The theory behind it is that if you propose to tax 100% of what people earn, you’ll basically get no revenue at all, because people won’t work or will run away or will march on the capitol with pitchforks and torches–whereas, of course, if you tax 0% of income, you won’t get anything except for, perhaps, a few weirdly generous donations to the public coffers.

    Between those two extremes, it would seem, there’s a tax rate at which you’re going to maximize the revenue you actually take in. This serves as the justification for some of the voodoo about lower tax rates actually increasing tax revenues. When the top marginal tax rate was 90 or 95%, this probably made sense. Now, probably not so much. Even if you accept the idea of the curve in general, how do we know which side of the hump we’re on? (I’m guessing that it’s the left side by now.) And of course, this says nothing about other preferences in terms of the size of government and the role of taxes in creating a more equitable distribution of income.

    When I was looking for a house in Ypsi, it was pointed out to me that living in the city has me paying higher taxes for basically the same services as in the township. The difference for me, however, is walkability. I’m willing to pay more to be closer to downtown, plus I figure I’ll make up some of the difference in lower transportation costs. That’s why all of us in the city should root for higher gasoline prices!

  32. Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    The Mayor responded to this post. I hope to get it up on the front page in a few minutes.

  33. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Mike thanx..that’s a great point about Manhattanites/Broadway and all the other stuff. Thanx :)

  34. Alexander Nevermind
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    “Aiight, Ypsilanti … do you believe in love … Cuz I got somethin’ to say about it … and it goes somethin’ like this … don’t go for second best, Ypsi … express what you got … if you got it or not.”


  35. Caring Parent
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink


    I’ve read Freakonomics, and I’m at a loss to identify which part you think is relevant to this discussion. I might be dull. Could you specify? While you’re at it, I’ll again ask you to explain why our state’s wealthiest Republican districts (presumably staffed by intelligent, successful folks who’ve read Freakonomics) are so set on habitually and excessively overfunding education?

    The cynical side of me thinks they believe there is benefit in funding education but just want to do it for their kids. I’m sure you can offer a more morally WWJD compelling explanation.

    Still, I do think you should find a way to reach these people with the truth that their kids will be better served with less school services, larger classrooms and teachers who are willing to work for less.

    And, to be fair to yourself (you’ve got to love yourself if you’re to love your neighbor as yourself), be sure to bring up these principles the next time your salary is discussed with your employer.

    By the way, you must know the Freakonomics fellows have lots of columns and blogs on lots of topics. They sound like a source you trust. Can I assume you will happily comply with their assertions?

    A lot of questions, I know. Take them one at time.

  36. EOS
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Since you read Freakonomics, yet failed to comprehend its message, let me try briefly to explain it to you. The authors found a correlation between high income and increased student performance. They found a correlation that high income parents live in wealthy neighborhoods. They found a correlation that wealthy neighborhoods have higher funding for schools. And they discussed the false assumption that spending more on K – 12 education resulted in better test scores for students. And, please pay attention now, they showed this correlation does not equal causation. Spending more money on schools did not cause test scores to rise. Rich parents, on average, are more intelligent and their children inherit the genes for high intelligence. In other words, nature has a far greater influence on student performance than nurture. Intelligent kids who go to poorly funded schools still exhibit high test scores. Kids whose parents are less intelligent do not score high on standardized tests regardless of how much money is spent on schools. Increasing the funding of public schools benefits the teachers to a far greater extent than the students.

    As far as WWJD, I believe he was home schooled at no cost to his neighbors, and even as young as 12 years old, the scholars were amazed at his knowledge.

  37. kjc
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    “Rich parents, on average, are more intelligent.”

    Dumbest thing I ever heard.

  38. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    “Rich parents, on average, are more intelligent and their children inherit the genes for high intelligence.”

    And poor students: into jails and/or graves, then, since a bit of extra cash ain’t going to help them “get unintelligent.”

    I’ve got a fist w/ “EOS” tattooed on it.

  39. karen
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The way I was taught in Sunday school is that Jesus went to a private school on a lacrosse scholarship but his cousin John the Baptist had to go to public school.

    Maybe if John had the same opportunities as Jesus he would have grown up to be our Lord and Savior.

  40. EOS
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink


    So do you think that University degrees don’t confer higher incomes? Don’t you think there is an economic incentive for professions that require advanced degrees?

  41. kjc
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s cuz his dad God was rich and smart.

  42. EOS
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink


  43. God
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Dear EOS,

    I really don’t appreciate you making light of my awesomeness.

    – God.

  44. Kim
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Man, I LOVE this website.

    “Jesus was home schooled at no cost to his neighbors.”

    That’s fucking brilliant. It boils everything down to one perfect, bite-sized nugget.

  45. Glen S.
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    THIS is rich.


  46. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    EOS says “Increasing the funding of public schools benefits the teachers to a far greater extent than the students.” I don’t agree necessarily but why can’t teachers be “benefitted”? I don’t recall taking a vow of poverty when I took my job with the Board of Ed.

  47. c. yngve
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I am watching a news program in Massachusetts that is talking about your Gov. and his plans for your state. It alarms me that he will have the right to declare emergency states, place his own operative for said “emergency”, then remove and replace elected officials at his will. It also sounds as though he will have the sole ability to break unions, and redistribute how your towns will function. The new Republican majority is behaving in a way that is shocking, at least to me. I will be watching your state and petitioning for the underdog Dems. as I have with Wisconsin. I am a retired nurse, and yes we had unions. Good luck to you all!

  48. Josh
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    hold on.

    you’re saying rich parents are smarter. i don’t know what statistic you’re quoting.. but isn’t it that smarter parents are richer?

    besides, saying that rich = smart contradicts your point that we shouldn’t fund schools.

    we’re not talking about dumping money into schools for no reason, here. we’re not talking about being able to pay teachers more. we’re talking about being able to afford teachers.

    how can you POSSIBLY argue that having more teachers (so that there are fewer than 60 kids in a class) would not help students become more intelligent?

  49. Josh
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    i think your comments are contradicting each other, eos, and here’s why. please let me know if i mistook you.

    1. you say richer = smarter. how can funding ≠ smarter? also.. i don’t know where you got that statistic. doesn’t smarter = richer? i think that whole part of your argument is flawed, and like the arguments you seek to shoot down, is not backed up by anything other than assumptions.

    2. we aren’t trying to pay teachers more. we’re trying to afford to have enough teachers at all.

    3. so what if we did want to pay teachers more? you said:

    “So do you think that University degrees don’t confer higher incomes? Don’t you think there is an economic incentive for professions that require advanced degrees?”

    well, no. teachers need to go to college forever to get jobs. my dad’s going to be paying off his student loans from EMU until he’s 80, and he just finished getting his master’s degree while working a second job. teachers don’t make enough money for how much time they have to spend in school. you really should have seen this coming.

    4. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t compare modern educational and economic systems to jesus’ economic standing. even if there was a way for anyone to know if there was a homeschooled jesus kicking about impressing scholars with his made-up math skillz, why would it be relevant in this situation?

  50. Josh
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    reading the above comments, i’m noticing some of those statistics about per-pupil funding. how can that POSSIBLY be fair?

    ann arborites voted against a millage two years ago that would have given more money to the district than was taxed to every school district in the area except ann arbor. this is the first one that i can think of because i wrote a paper on it, but i’m sure there have been more.

  51. EOS
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink


    I don’t believe richer=smarter, nor smarter = richer. But, it is well documented that high academic achievement is correlated with high SES.

    There are plenty of wealthy people who are dumb as a rock. And there are plenty of extremely intelligent people who don’t pursue high incomes. But when you compare the aggregate average IQ of adults living in wealthy communities to adults living in poor communities, the authors claim that the wealthy communities also have higher average IQ’s and I think this is likely to be true.

    A teaching degree is a 4 year BA/BS. Most persons who become teachers don’t do so because they are looking for a high income. However, the average teacher’s salary is above the average workers salary.

    Persons with high IQ’s are attracted to obtain advanced degrees because they excel at academics. For example, people who are smart in science may decide to go to Medical School. But their IQ is not increased by attending Medical School, they were smart to begin with. But with a medical degree, they will earn above average incomes, live in wealthier communities (on average) and pass their intelligence on to their children. If a person has a low IQ and struggles with science it won’t help them if we spend more money on Medical Schools and hire more Professors to teach them.

    The comment about WWJD was a response to a direct question from Caring Parent, and I agree that it is not relevant to the argument but I think I got a couple of people to smile.

  52. Glen S.
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Update: The so-called Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) bill, which has already passed the Michigan House, has now been approved by a Senate committee — will likely be passed by the full Senate sometime today, and could be signed into law as soon as this week.

    This bill is so extreme, so unwarranted, and frankly, so undemocratic, that it is finally starting to get some national attention. A “recommended” post this morning on the national political website “Daily Kos” carries the following headline:

    “Michigan Governor Seeks Emergency Powers”

    … and goes on to describe the bill this way:

    “The governor of Michigan is trying to force through the legislature a bill that would establish emergency rule, LITERALLY. Gov. Snyder is seeking emergency powers that would enable him to 1) unilaterally declare a “financial emergency”, 2) disincorporate entire municipal governments, 3) dismiss elected officials with no replacement election to follow, 4) seize control of local civil services, 5) hand taxpayer money, services and POWERS to private, for-profit firms.”


    I’d also like to draw everyone’s attention to a recent article in the Michigan Messenger, entitled “Bill Offers Few Guidelines for Use of Emergency Managers’ Powers.”

    I’ll provide a direct link to the full article below, but first I’d like to share a sample, in which Eric Scorsone, who is one of the “experts” hired by the Snyder Administration to train dozens of new EFMs, discusses the challenges of the new, uncharted territory this law exposes:

    “Scorsone said that he thinks the governor wants to push communities to make hard choices about their budgets by showing them that if they don’t make painful cuts, a state appointed Emergency Manager will do it for them.

    The proposed bill does not give details as to what actions an EM should take first when it comes to restructuring a town, and an appointed manager could decide to start with extreme measures such as dismantling a town, Scorsone said.

    “It’s unclear to me how that would actually work,“ he said, “how services will be provided.”

    “Unlike in a corporate liquidation, the citizens don’t just go away.”

    Working out the details of some of these extreme measures is stuff for another more advanced training, he said.

    “In April or May we may get into questions like how does one dissolve a town.”


    I want to repeat that: “Unlike in a corporate liquidation, the citizens don’t just go away.”


    Folks, it may already be too late to stop this particular bill, but it ain’t over yet … so please call or write your local and state elected officials TODAY to urge them to oppose this disastrous bill, which not only threatens the future of local, democratically-elected control of many Michigan communities like Ypsilanti, but also many school districts.

  53. Glen S.
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Update 2: PLEASE watch — and forward to everyone you know — the following clip of Rachel Maddow exposing the Republicans’ EFM legislation on last night’s show:


  54. Edward
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    What options do we have at this point, Glen? Isn’t the Senate stacked against us?

  55. French Sand
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    If our city council/mayor/manager don’t offer a response to this, they’re worthless.

  56. French Sand
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Question for Murph: if, let’s say, the Governor took control of a city, fired its council, disincorporated it, and so forth, could (and if so, how) that city resist? I don’t only mean how could its citizenry resist, but legally, could the City itself push back?

  57. D
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    So far, it looks like the answer is no one.

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] night, I posted something here about Rick Snyder’s proposed budget, and my hope that our City’s leaders were actively working…, perhaps through an organization such as SEMCOG or the Michigan Municipal League. As with our […]

  2. […] his controversial budget proposals and the national attention that he’s been garnering of late with regard to the whole […]

  3. By State of the City 2013: Shaping Ypsilanti on March 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

    […] more about what we were doing as a community to push back against a state which seems determined to see its aging cities destroyed and shift the tax burden to the working class. (Also, as you’ll see, I’ve added links […]

  4. […] to the well-documented crimes of the financial industry, and the closing of our local factories), evaporating state support, looming bond payments (for the unfortunately-timed Water Street land speculation boondoggle), and […]

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