Ann Arbor/Ypsi Chamber of Commerce asks Ypsilanti citizens to keep the interests of business owners in mind when voting on May 8

    It wasn’t really much of a surprise, seeing as how the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce is currently being led by Michigan Ladder’s Tom Harrison, a vocal opponent of Ypsilanti’s income tax initiative, but the organization just issued a formal statement encouraging the people of Ypsilanti to vote against the proposed legislation. Here’s their argument.

    The City of Ypsilanti has proposed two ballot initiatives for the May 2012 election. These are the adoption of an annual rate of tax on corporations and resident individuals of 1%, and on non-resident individuals of .5%; and a Water Street Debt Millage to meet the bond payments due to investors in the Water Street Project. The City of Ypsilanti faces serious fiscal challenges ahead. These challenges are compounded by the facts that Ypsilanti is small in area and roughly 35 percent of its land is owned by the State of Michigan, thus it is not taxable by the City. Ypsilanti has also lost many of its largest corporate tax payers in the last fifteen years. In response to these and other challenges, the City Council has placed these two items on the May ballot as a possible solution to address its fiscal challenges.

    The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber agrees that a solution is needed, but it does not believe the income tax is that solution. An income tax would place too much burden on residents and employees of Ypsilanti businesses who already face an already high property tax level. An income tax is also too broad and permanent in terms of tax policy at a time when there are many uncertainties about the City’s fiscal situation and tax changes, such as repeal of the Personal Property Tax, at the State level. The City and its leadership are absolutely right that it needs more revenues, but the Chamber believes an income tax is the wrong way to get those revenues.

    To its credit, the City Council has proposed an idea for addressing the City’s fiscal challenges. It has also provided for drastic reductions in its workforce over the last five years. The Chamber advocates for Ypsilanti to enter into increased cooperative agreements with other units of government, such as surrounding cities and townships, along with Washtenaw County, to meet its service needs and provide fiscal relief, such formation of joint authorities. The City has explored some of these options and we hope it continues to do so. In addition to these efforts the City should continue to work with Eastern Michigan University on any and all efforts to retain graduates once they have completed school. A program about to be launched would create incentives for EMU employees to buy homes within the City, and the Chamber and the community as a whole should actively support it. Finally, Ypsilanti should actively seek to benefit from its relationship with the City of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, and its proximity to vital transportation networks such as I-94, US-23 and Wayne County Metropolitan Airport. Ypsilanti is a special place unto itself, but it can enhance its chances for growth by marketing itself as fully connected to a broader community that is both unique and vibrant.

    The City has also proposed a solution for meeting the bond payments due on the Water Street Project. The Chamber opposes this millage because it has too much uncertainty. It allows for future decision makers to control the amount levied and it provides too broad a definition for what can fall under the budget area of “Water Street.” Voters will not know exactly what they are getting if they vote for this millage. With further clarification such a millage should be discussed.

    Although the Chamber disagrees with the City’s proposed solutions, we want to recognize the fact that the City’s leadership have at least proposed them. Critics of the income tax and Water Street Millage need to do more than just criticize this plan. That means providing their own solutions, building organic support for them from all segments of the public, and advocating them in a way that is both practically feasible and politically realistic. So far they have failed to do this. The Chamber will seek to provide assistance in that effort. The Chamber recognizes the City’s fiscal challenges and applauds the City for putting forward a plan to address them. Though we disagree with the plan, we urge all parties to meet after the election to discuss new ways forward and we stand ready to serve as the organization to facilitate such a meeting.

    Interestingly, the Chamber, at the very same time, suggested that Ann Arbor voters support an Ann Arbor Public Schools Technology Bond on the ballot this May, saying, “The Chamber supports and advocates for the necessary technology infrastructure to educate our students.” It would seem that some things, like the education of Ann Arbor’s privileged youth, are worth taxation, while others, like the funding of fire fighters to protect the lives of Ypsilanti’s young people, are not.

    Those of you who are new to this, I’d encourage you to check out the cyber debate we held here on the site a few weeks ago, when it became evident that the leaders of the anti-tax initiative had no intention to debate in public, where they’d have to respond to specific questions concerning what would happen if the income tax didn’t pass on May 8.

    update: And here’s Demetrius with the rebuttal to the Chamber:

    This “statement” from the Chamber is riddled with falsehoods and misinformation — much of it lifted directly from the “No” campaign’s website.

    Ypsilanti’s taxable values have dropped an average of 33% over the past five years, and are projected to continue dropping for at least the next few years. For the leaders of the “No” campaign — many of whom are among Ypsilanti’s wealthiest citizens and largest property owners — this represents a huge tax savings. So, is it really any surprise that these folks want to maintain the status quo?

    Besides, once Ypsilanti is TOTALLY broke — and we can no longer afford to maintain planning, zoning, combating blight or even to perform basic building inspections — these folks will not only enjoy much lower taxes, they’ll also be free of all those pesky government regulations that cut into their profits.

    Of course, by then, we also won’t be able to afford basic services like Police, Fire, or parks maintenance — but, hey, at least Ypsilanti will be finally be considered “business friendly.”

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      42 Comments

      1. Elf
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        The Chamber doing something douchey? Absolutely unheard of.

      2. Thom Elliott
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        Of course they wouldn’t debate the issue, or offer any solutions, they’re FUCKING NIHILISTS. The monsters behind this campaign are climate change deniers, apocalyptic white supremacist lunatics “Populist Cleaning” and the cultish “Pentecostal Music School” with its fascist headquarters in the windowless inner sanctom (next door to the Dreamland) called the “truth room” and their radical rightwing “libertarian” agenda won’t stop untill Ypsilanti is under fascist emergency management. Why no one is investigating those Populist cleaners is totally beyond me, they have to be up to something illegal.

      3. Demetrius
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        This “statement” from the Chamber is riddled with falsehoods and misinformation — much of it lifted directly from the “No” campaign’s website.

        Ypsilanti’s taxable values have dropped an average of 33% over the past five years, and are projected to continue dropping for at least the next few years. For the leaders of the “No” campaign — many of whom are among Ypsilanti’s wealthiest citizens and largest property owners — this represents a huge tax savings. So, is it really any surprise that these folks want to maintain the status quo?

        Besides, once Ypsilanti is TOTALLY broke — and we can no longer afford to maintain planning, zoning, combating blight or even to perform basic building inspections — these folks will not only enjoy much lower taxes, they’ll also be free of all those pesky government regulations that cut into their profits.

        Of course, by then, we also won’t be able to afford basic services like Police, Fire, or parks maintenance — but, hey, at least Ypsilanti will be finally be considered “business friendly.”

      4. Cheryl W
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        I appreciate the balance of the Chamber’s opinion. It is however, the opinion and work that needed to be done FIVE years ago when we last broached this question of using an income tax as a funding stream. It is quite ironic that they are supporting a 46+ million dollar millage proposal for Ann Arbor students but,we are apparently not worthy. Even with passage of either or both, proposals the Chambers support would help. I am disappointed that they would consider not supporting the environment business operates in. Citing the variation in the rate for the Water Street millage without the information that it is only to meet a set payment meaning not more money each year. As property values go up or down the rate changes not the amount of money.

      5. Cheryl W
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Thank you Demetrius.

      6. J
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        The most (only?) articulate “no” oped I have seen. It at least acknowledges reality. Still no real alternatives offered though. I have learned that when in doubt, vote against the CoC.

      7. Bitter Mellon
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        I know some people at the Chamber and they assure me that there was a debate. One them also told me, as though it somehow mitigated the anti-Ypsilanti declaration, “At least we got the Ann Arbor technology bond through.” This friend somehow thought that this would make me happy, as though better schools for Ann Arbor kids somehow helped us. It’s bullshit. Clearly, there’s a sense that Ann Arbor, and its kids, are worth investing in, and ours aren’t. I’m fed up.

      8. JC
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        “Chamber of Commerce” has always been French for “ruthless fucking parasite.”

      9. leslie leland
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        I am a business owner in town and I am voting YES for city services. I consider Ypsilanti business friendly already.

        Incidentally many of the business owners do not feel served by the Ann Arbor/Ypsi Chamber. We feel like an after thought, a step-child in the family.

        Ypsi business owners and residents are working hard to change the erroneous perception that Ypsilanti is unsafe….I want to be sure that it doesn’t become so. Has anyone noticed that downtown is blooming?

        I am betting on the idea that stripping the city of funds is not the way to go to keep this town growing more vibrant and feeling healthy.

        Vote Yes for City Services!

      10. Cheryl W
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        The Chamber’s business advocacy program grapples with public policy issues affecting member businesses. It strives to ensure that members’ voices are heard in the political arena. To this end, the Chamber has dedicated government affairs staff, as well as an all volunteer, Chamber member only public policy committee, which meets on an ongoing, monthly basis.

        Business advocacy is available to all member businesses, be it at the local, state or federal level. It includes, for example: local government appointment advocacy for members looking to get involved in the community; coordinated access to elected officials; public policy emails aimed at keeping members apprised of current goings-on; as well as invitations to public policy presentations, to name but a few. The Chamber’s business advocacy program presents member businesses with an excellent opportunity to weigh in on public policy matters.

        For more information contact Andy LaBarre, VP of Government Relations, (734) 214-0101.

        If you are not a member, but would like to post your open positions on our page, please contact Marketing/Membership or phone (734) 214-0109.

        Just for everyone’s information.

      11. Cheryl W
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Mission Statement:

        “The mission of the A2Y Chamber is to provide advocacy, support and connections for local businesses and the community in order to foster economic success and improve quality of life for the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti region.”

        This piece ignores about half of their own mission statement. Their mission is about improving, not maintaining, or allowing to decline. Not that they are at all resonsible for the whole ball of wax but….

      12. Cheryl W
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        I agree that our downtown is blooming! Thank you Leslie. I just spent a bit of my afternoon on City data.com because I wondered with 9000 households how much of our city is occupied by residents. If these are single or duplex homes and we assume that the majority are on roughly .25 acre lots; then residential property occupies less than 1 square mile of our city. If the 9000 residences includes multi-family buildings then; the acreage would be even less. There are 640 acres in a square mile. Less than 3000 are owner occupied. Somehow, I think it would be just fine if Landlords were discouraged and sold homes to individual people/families, who want to live here. EMU’s home buying incentive for their employees may be the opportunity for this to happen. It is no wonder we get such a nasty kick from the folks who lobby to influence our municipal decisions. I will vote yes on both proposals.

      13. Homeowner
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been debating leaving this comment, but this seals it.

        I was very unhappy, to put it mildly, that I saw Gene Butman Ford and Fischer Honda on the list of major SCIT contributors. I have two cars: a Honda and Ford.

        This past year, I spent $800 in maintenance/repair at Fischer Honda. I bought a new Ford at Butman. I now deeply regret both decisions. I’ve already removed the license plate holders from my cars. I’ve also deleted the positive comments I’d left for them online.

        Plan A: Never do business with them again.

        Plan B: Never do business with them again and make an online smear campaign a long-term hobby.

        Plan C: Given that Arizona businessman Steve Pierce is the primary douche behind this, start boycotting any business that uses Wireless Ypsi. I’ll never use it again, which makes these businesses, for me, devoid of wireless.

        Plan D: Boycott every business that is part of the Chamber.

        I’m leaning towards plan “all of the above.”

        Frankly, I’m seriously pissed at Butman. Will never recommend, buy or repair there again. My only decision is one of whether it’s reasonable to attack.

      14. Homeowner
        Posted May 5, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

        Next steps:

        1. Demand that, as members, our food co-0p is no longer a member of the chamber. I’ll start the conversation with Corinne.

        2. Get our local library off the chamber list. If not, I’m not voting for another millage.

        3. Get local. Stop occupying Water Street. Occupy Steve Pierce’s front yard. Our 1% has an address. I’ll occupy that.

        4. Strip “wireless Ypsi” from our airwaves. Politely ask your favorite owners to find another source. Wireless Ypsi ain’t a charity. It’s a company, aiming for monopoly. It’s not local. It’s not cool. It’s just a guy getting a lot of money pretending to be a community service. It’s nothing sacred. Let’s shake it off.

        5. To be clear, Wireless Ypsi=Steve Pierce. Cafe Ollie=Wireless Ypsi=Steve Pierce. Wireless Ypsi, back in the day, was supposed to be this umbrella where everyone in town had free wireless. It’s just another business where Steve makes money. Free yourselves.

        Look, the whole occupy model was wrong: “let’s change Wall Street through local action.” Every community has its “Wall Street.”

        Frankly, it’d be pretty easy to run our local Wall Street out of town. If we can’t muster the will to do that, well, game over.

      15. maryd
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

        @homeowner- divide and conquer eh? oh that aught to be good for Ypsi…

      16. And I mean it
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        @Homeowner, I hope you get your pants sued off . Because you do not like a opinion or a stance, you are attacking local businesses? Cafe Ollie?? Our local car dealerships?? I guess if I do not agree with you, I will now never shop at the Co-Op and get my neighbors and friends to do the same. I will no longer buy cars at a certain Ann Arbor Honda dealership and I will go online to trash them, I will never shop at Mix etc etc etc as I go down the list of people who have spoken out for the income tax.
        If you do not like Ypsi Wireless, stop logging in with it. Steve Pierce is a problem but not as much as you are. You are filled with hate and poison and you are bad for Ypsi. Please move.

      17. Demetrius
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        I frequently make an effort to “buy local,” even when doing so means paying a bit more than I might by shopping at a chain store or big-box retailer out in the townships. I always just considered the 5-10% extra as a kind of “tax” that was well worth paying to support businesses, and local employment.

        However, seeing how some prominent local businesses have contributed *hundreds* of dollars toward an effort to keep from having to pay a little bit more to help support our community during tough times makes me wonder whether, for some of them, the whole “local” thing is a one-way street: Apparently, we’re supposed to support our local businesses, but some of them don’t appear to want to support our community, in return.

        @ maryd – it takes two sides to be divided. If we end up being “conquered,” it will likely be by an “Emergency Manager.”

      18. Watching Laughing.
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Making another batch of popcorn.

        WL.

      19. Posted May 6, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        Apparently according to the COC, the interest of business owners is to take and not give back! They do not all feel this way to be sure, but for sure it is the ANN ARBOR/ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce.

      20. Emma
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        I already voted No 2X. My only fear is the say Yes “attack” when this thing doesn’t pass.

      21. Elf
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Emma, there will be blood in the streets when the income tax fails to pass. The people on the “Yes” side are a bloodthirsty lot. But, what would you expect from a group that wants to pay more in taxes to support police and fire service, continue recycling programs, maintain public parks, etc?

      22. maryd
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        I support all the businesses of Ypsilanti, regardless of their political affiliations. I have voted yes for every millage since 1975. I just know a bad “plan” when I see it and will act accordingly. I certainly do not believe we will be without police and fire protection. I do know that changing the way we have done things forever and ever is painful but necessary. Recycling is on a millage, and there are alternatives for every threat put forth here. I look forward to this decision being made and moving on. And while this issue is quite divisive, I have friends on both sides and none of this will change that.

      23. anonymous
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        I personally look forward to picking their meat from my teeth with their money clips.

      24. DL
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        It is interesting that the Chamber criticizes the lack of solutions offered by the no side w/o offering solutions themselves. Wouldn’t this be the time to offer ideas?

      25. Eel
        Posted May 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Word is that Team Pierce has been forwarding the Chamber’s letter to everyone, leaving out the last paragraph, which mentions that they’ve yet to offer a plan on how to address the loss in revenue.

        Same Old Pierce.

      26. Citywatch
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:24 am | Permalink

        Maybe Ypsilanti can be annexed by Ann Arbor and become East Ann Arbor and get some attention….and some money!

      27. Demetrius
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        @ DL

        I’m guessing the Chamber is waiting to put forth their budget “solutions” until after the Emergency Manager arrives from Lansing.

      28. Dan
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Yes great idea Homeowner.

        “Frankly, it’d be pretty easy to run our local Wall Street out of town. If we can’t muster the will to do that, well, game over.”

        Game over indeed. Let’s run all of the businesses and tax payers out of town that you don’t like. Solid proposal to strengthen the tax revenues.

        And a side note, but what is wrong with someone making money by providing a service to the community, especially one that the community largely uses for free?

      29. John Galt
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        “Ann Arbor’s children are worth investing in!”

        Thank you, Chamber, for articulating it so beautifully.

        I think I’ll have a t-shirt made for tonight’s meeting of the Ypsi School Board.

      30. Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        I envy you your complacency, maryd — I DO believe we’ll be without fire and police protection, based on the emptiness of city hall at this time and all the positions that are no more. I’m voting YES on both initiatives to keep our representation local and electable, rather than imposed by Lansing.

      31. maryd
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Lisele, I am not complacent at all. I have my worries, like paying $800,000 per acre for Water Street, pricey land fop Michaigan. And I am very worried for Ypsilanti Public Schools, as I am sure the Yspi /Ann Arbor Chamber is as well. Not supporting higher income & property taxes in Ypsilanti, is not a vote against Ypsilanti children.

      32. Demetrius
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        @ maryd

        If a “no” vote on tomorrow’s proposals isn’t a vote against Ypsilanti (and the children who live here) then what IS it?

        It is bad enough that we may soon become one of the first communities in Michigan without a viable public school system. Must we really add insult to injury by voting to cut vital public services, like Police and Fire, as well?

        You and a lot of other people are angry about Water Street — we get it already! But really, once you and the other no voters have sent your “message,” tomorrow, what will we have gained? Where do we, as a community, go from here? What is YOUR plan?

        I just don’t understand the logic — or should I say, denial.

      33. mitch
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        The business’s you want run out of town deserve a medal for trying to stay afloat under the current tax burden. I pay 50K in property tax. I pay a 100% tax on my water.(remember that fiasco?) That comes up for renewal in 2017. I get a parking ticket often when I park at our building. You add 30% to those numbers and you will get rid of the last few business people trying to turn this city around. Think before you vote.

      34. dragon
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        The Mitchs’ are people, my friend.

      35. maryd
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:26 am | Permalink

        Demetrius, you are so right on with your post about YPS’s on another thread. I agree 100%, but city income tax, floating millages…no. There are alternatives. The city’s Yes plan is not a go, so it is back to the drawing board. And maybe they aught to reach out to the community that has been here paying taxes all along and listen…

      36. maryd
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        And yes Dragon our local business people are the very people paying taxes to the city and helping us keep afloat. I have read over and over how important attracting business to the city is on this blog, and out the other side of mouths comes all the hate toward our own business people. It baffles me.

      37. Jon
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        maryd,

        Weren’t you aware of the Hipster Chamber of Commerce? You have to be less than 5 employees, no parking lot, 100% local, and prefereably a non-profit to get the chamber’s approval. Landlords, building renovators, chains/franchises need not apply.

      38. kjc
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        question: any split votes out there?

      39. koosh
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Hear that noise off in the distance?

        That’s the sound of Steve Pearce running for council.

        Tea Party to the rescue!!!!!

      40. Anonymous Mike
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        I can hear the mechanical butt washer in the distance, and the sound of a Segway revving up, ready to take a victory lap around Ypsi tonight.

      41. EOS
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        Early results are showing a landslide against both millages.

      42. Dan
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        AA.com is saying the council/precincts have conceded a vote of no. 2-1 margin on both measures.

        maybe ypsi will finally learn to live within it’s means. One can hope…

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