It’s not the vote that bothers me, it’s the way the Ypsilanti income tax campaign was waged

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

In thinking about what I’d write about today’s vote on the City income tax, I started digging through the MarkMaynard.com archives, and found this piece that I’d posted November 2, 2007, when our community last considered the passage of an income tax. While much has changed since then, and a few of the players have switched sides, I found much of it to still be incredibly relevant. So, with that in mind, I thought that I’d share it again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time, of course, the tactics were a bit different, but the strategy was the same… And, again, it worked.

Hopefully, now that the votes have been cast, the folks who fought so hard not to avoid open, honest debate on the future of our community, will come forward with their ideas as to how we can fend off the Emergency Manager that awaits us, as we teeter on the edge of the budget abyss, contemplating draconian cuts to City services. As the folks at the Chamber just recently said, now it’s time for Steve Pierce and the Stop City Income Tax folks to step up, and “provide their own solutions.” It’s easy in today’s economy to rally support for lower taxes. The hard part is coming up with a plan that, in spite of decreased funding, keeps public safety officers on the street, busses running, schools open and the community thriving… I know it’s only been five years, but one would hope they’d have something to share by now.

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82 Comments

  1. Citywatch
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Amen brother.

  2. O'Tater
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Waiting for Steve Pierce to unveil his plan.

    http://www.naturesongs.com/cricket1.wav

  3. Emma
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Is there ever a public forum for citizens to speak to city council and have their questions answered? Not the three minutes at the end of an already long council meeting where you’re free to say whatever you want but no one responds but, a meeting setup for the citizens to speak to city council and have their questions actually answered?

  4. Cheryl W
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I was NOT fooled. Too many were. The next five years are going to be rough ones. Ypsilanti PRIDE is Saturday May 19. Let’s get out here in droves to express what we really want for our town. Make it shine!

  5. Edward
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Who exactly tried to fool you, Cheryl? Are you suggesting that the financial straights that we’re in aren’t really that bad? Are you suggesting that the members of Council conspired to issue fake financial statements?

    And, I love your idea that we should all go outside on one day and pick up trash, as though that somehow offsets the public safety cuts that are now sure to come. Now that’s the kind of innovative thinking that I’ve been waiting for.

  6. Deep
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    “I’m afraid that when the measure is ultimately defeated, as it most surely will be, that the men behind it will be emboldened to use these tactics in the future. I think that’s a very bad thing for local democracy. Maybe it makes me a democratic sap, but I still think there are more important things than just winning.”

    Truer words have never been spoken.

  7. Kerri
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I wish people who feel/felt strongly about this issue were willing to put in some of the hard work to make a difference.

  8. EOS
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Emma,

    That’s a very good point and is something that would vastly improve local governance. Unfortunately, it hasn’t ever been the case in the city of Ypsilanti for the past 25 years. I’ve attended city council meetings in a number of other communities and they all do a far better job of responding to their constituents. Many cities require that a representative from every city department attend every meeting. If a constituent asks a question, the chair directs the question to the appropriate city employee who gives a public response on the record. If the employee cannot provide a specific answer on the spot, the chair will direct them to respond in writing within a week to both the council and the individual citizen. Often, when a citizen complains about a problem, the chair directs the appropriate employee to investigate and resolve the problem and report back to council within a limited time frame. An open, transparent government is not afraid to speak publicly on the issues, show a great deal of respect to its citizens, or pay attention during public comments. Often, Ypsilanti City council responds to public comments by stating the individual citizen is not fully informed on the issue that they bring to council. But, sad to say, they rarely provide the necessary information to the individual, and never in writing.

    The elected officials are the ones responsible for providing the “plan” should the tax millage pass as well as the “plan” should it fail. Non-elected individuals who don’t have access to insider information of the budget specifics are not in the position to suggest budget specifics. The city does publish a “budget” but so many expenses are hidden in the line items and so many expenses are not included in the “general budget” that it is impossible to make informed judgements on the best areas to cut.

    Twice now, city voters have turned down an income tax by a 2-1 margin. Next step is to vote for a Mayor and Council who share the majority view. Otherwise, this council will make cuts in the most damaging ways so as to negatively impact everyone’s well being and make the outcome of the next tax millage different. Don’t vote for individuals who refuse to respond to public questions in public. The alternative is to continue as always, letting unions provide the majority of campaign funds, and thereby have undue influence as to the decisions made by council.

  9. Thom Elliott
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait for our “emergency” financial fuhrer! Finally we get to have the enforced lack-of-choice you on the right so desperately desire. No nonxtian schools, no pool, no parks, no public safety, just the scum at Populist Cleaners presiding over a ruin with machineguns. Thanks libertarian swine, thank you for the elimination of Special Education, I’m sure all those cognitively impaired children of lower income parents will pull themselves up by the bootstraps and become millionairs, thanks to your well thought out plan (of nothing). I hope you enjoy your new “liberty” while some lunatic chops up the remains of our infrastructour and sells it for scrap.

  10. Demetrius
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Just a reminder to all the happy “NO” voters who are busy celebrating yesterday’s landslide victory:

    – We still face a multimillion dollar budget deficit over the next several years.
    – We still have millions of dollars in pension obligations to our retirees.
    – The Water Street debt is still there, and still must be paid.
    – We still have no prospect of any additional source(s) of revenue.
    – We are still no closer to any solution to any of these issues.

    Just a reminder …

  11. Thom Elliott
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Demetrius, what do they care about that? They are gloating over their “victory” against special needs children. In my book that makes you something less then human, they don’t care about anything but their TV, guns, and unread Bibles. When Ypsi is like Flint, nothing but empty storefronts and daylight crime, no parks, no public safety etc they’ll just move away, like they could have all along, unlike those cognitivly impaired children they voted against.

  12. Eel
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    As EOS as eloquently points out, it’s not their job to actually find solutions. Their job is merely to stand on the sidelines yelling “do more with less.” And this, you see, is something that they could do, if they wanted to, as they have access to secret information that’s hidden from the public.

    EOS:
    The elected officials are the ones responsible for providing the “plan” should the tax millage pass as well as the “plan” should it fail. Non-elected individuals who don’t have access to insider information of the budget specifics are not in the position to suggest budget specifics. The city does publish a “budget” but so many expenses are hidden in the line items and so many expenses are not included in the “general budget” that it is impossible to make informed judgements on the best areas to cut.

  13. Eel
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, voters choose to support a $45.8 million bond for their public schools.

    http://annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-schools-technology-bond-special-election-results/

  14. Posted May 9, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    It does the “yes” folks no help when people conflate what is happening with the schools (ie. the demise of special ed for example) with the income tax/water street proposals. Many of the same dynamic are at work, but if the income tax had past (and folks who thought it would pass simply did no pay attention to what happened last time) our school district would still be in the process of being dismantled.

    Being pissed at your neighbors who are underwater on their homes, and suffering from shrinking incomes is not going to help build community solidarity. 50 % of the homes on my block are in fore-closure. How many on yours?

  15. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Thom Elliott,

    I believe you are confused. There were 2 measures on the ballot yesterday and neither one affected the school district. If both had passed, the crumbling school district would still be crumbling. There would not be any extra funding for special needs children or anything to improve the schools, so nobody is “gloating over their “victory” against special needs children.”

    Since you are so interested in the school district, you might want to take a look at the salaries and benefits packages that the superintendent and principals are receiving. That might give you some insight into why admin costs are so ridiculous and why unions continue to destroy your city. Just like they destroyed Detroit and Flint.

  16. Lisa Bashert
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I have to say that Emma’s question is just ridiculous. Every council person has contact info on the city webpage and in the phone book — it’s required that they be available to the public. Call them up and have your say. Stop by their homes. This is what you are SUPPOSED to be doing, as a participant in a democracy.

    I echo Kerri’s frustration over where we are this morning — still facing the emergency — and the best plan so far to address it has been canceled out by, let’s face it, a culture-wide repudiation and unwillingness to fund public services. I can’t really blame my neighbors for buying into what is a much wider point of view, although I think it’s incredibly wrong-headed and problematic. I just can’t imagine how we’re going to now solve these problems and retain local elected control over our community.

  17. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Lisa,

    The citizens of Ypsilanti already fund public services at a 38% higher rate than Ann Arbor, and that is before the scheduled increases in P/F pension millages.

    It’s not an unwillingness to fund public services, it’s an unwillingness to continue to fund poor policies and practices.

  18. Anonymous Mike
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    How much will City Hall sell for? Any predictions?

  19. Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    As much as I’d like to continue griping about the deceitful and unethical campaign maneuvering on the part of SCIT, I have to say, I think it’s time we move on. Even if these proposals had passed there is much hard work, many hard decisions, and tough times ahead. All of that is now compounded by the fact that we’re not giving ourselves a full tool set to work with. Rather than complain about the past I am looking forward to Ypsi Pride day, the November elections, and much more here in Ypsi.

    Also a quick note to Emma and anyone else who is interested. Every attempt I’ve made to engage with council members, the mayor, and even other engaged citizens has been welcomed. Ypsilanti has some pretty amazing and caring citizens and it’s not hard to get your voice heard and your ideas out there. Please speak up! Even if it’s to suggest a more formal venue for discussion I think you’ll be met by open ears.

  20. Anonymous Mike
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    You’re right. Thom is wrong when he conflates what’s happening with Ypsi’s public schools with what happened yesterday at the polls. I don’t think you can argue, however, that the two aren’t intimately intertwined. The same people who argue that the poor should buy guns and police themselves, are the ones who are saying that charter schools are the answer. It’s all the coming from the same people at the Mackinac Center. It’s all part of the same small government vision.

  21. Elf
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Ypsi Pride Day is great, but it doesn’t replace a Public Works Department. You people are delusional. You probably believe Horatio Alger’s “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” bullshit too. We aren’t going to make up for the fact that our city government is disappearing with community activism. We’re not all going to walk to the parks each weekend with our lawnmowers, and we’re not all going to start volunteering two hours a day to teach a grade school class. If you believe that, you’re insane.

  22. Elf
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Eel’s comment in the “finger sawing off” thread definitely deserves a link.

    http://markmaynard.com/2012/05/totally-quotable-clementine-shop-injury-edition/comment-page-1/#comment-404768

  23. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Anonymous Mike,

    You’re right. There are similar circumstances involved in the failing public school district and the failing city. Both have promised to pay ridiculous amounts to union employees and are now paying for those promises.

    Unless the P/F pension and benefits packages get completely retool or eliminated outright, the city will never recover. And unless the school superintendent/principals/teachers accept pay and benefit packages grounded in reality, the school district will never recover.

  24. anonymous
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Yes, it’s those lazy, overpaid teachers (who happen to be our neighbors, and spend their money at our local stores) who are the problem. Once we’ve crushed the unions, and turned teaching into a minimum wage profession, things will be good….. Except for the fact that there won’t be anyone shopping at our few remaining local businesses. (Guess what, Rick Snyder doesn’t eat at Sidetrack.)

  25. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I didn’t say teachers were lazy. But I happen to think they are overpaid in today’s market. Most maKe well over 50k/year and get summers off, with cadillac benefit packages. Thats a better deal than a lot engineers with a M.S. get nowadays.

    There’s a reason why charter schools pay their teachers less. Because thats today’s market.

    And yes, unions should be crushed. They served their purpose decades ago.

  26. Tired
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Future of Ypsi:
    http://www.thetakeaway.org/2012/may/09/street-fighting-man-detroit-documentary/

  27. EOS
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Lisa,
    The Mayor and Council will respond to individual phone calls. And every 4 years, they will knock on your door and stand on your porch and answer questions. But when your neighbor calls, or they are at your neighbor’s door, the answers they give are different. They won’t answer question at city council meetings because they feel they will alienate 50% of their constituents. So they are vague and non-committal in public and parrot back whatever views you express in private. Take a good look at the campaign materials next time. Everyone runs on a platform of “good government” and “fiscal responsibility” and no one provides any specifics. Citizens deserve more and they should demand more from locally elected officials.

  28. Tommy
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    … Most maKe well over 50k/year and get summers off, with cadillac benefit packages. Thats a better deal than a lot engineers with a M.S. get nowadays…

    Dan – that statement is full of shit. If you think for a minute that an Engineer at Ford who has a Master’s with 25 years of experience is making anything less than 100k – with good benefits and a pension you are delusional.

    I will leave it at that – your ilk will never be convinced that an educated professional should be paid like one.

    The reasons Charter School pay their teachers less is because some greedy motherfucker is making a profit off of your tax dollars!

    Kiss my ass

  29. EOS
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    A skilled trades employee in the factory is more likely to make 6 digits than the engineer at the Glass House. Engineers are salaried and don’t make overtime. And more and more of the engineering work is outsourced to India, so it’s increasingly more difficult to find an Ford Engineer in the U.S. with more than 25 years experience.

  30. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Ford isnt he only place that hires engineers. They pay better than most. And I’m pretty sure they don’t get a pension. And 25 years of experience is a long time. I know at least 5 teachers with 5 years experience that make 60k+/year in public districts. If you factor in the 9 month work year, that works out to 80k/year.

    I know at least a dozen engineers with 5 years experience that don’t make 80k/year and dont get a pension.

    So no, my statement is not full of shit. I said it’s a better deal than a lot of engineers with an MS. it is. I know plenty of people on both sides.

  31. EOS
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    The majority of engineers I know are looking for work. It’s cheaper to hire new graduates than train older employees in the latest technologies.

  32. Lisele
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    EOS I won’t dignify that cynical view with a response.

    Adam — so much better a response than mine! My apologies. I remain proud of Ypsi, glad to work with my neighbors and city council, and determined to keep working for my community whatever the future may bring.

  33. Tommy
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Me too – and I happen to work with Ford Engineers and be married to a teacher. In the case of our household, the Mrs. works at least 50 hours a week between time spent at work and work done at home plus time over holidays and the summer which pretty equates to a 2000 work year. I don’t think that is all that rare or unique from what I have seen

    She is ‘on’ all day long and can’t surf the web, go out to lunch, make stock transactions, etc. like many of my Ford friends do. If the engineers you know with a Master’s degree aren’t pulling down at least 50k then I then they should start looking for a job that reflects in compensation their skill level because 50k should not be acceptable. My niece who just graduated with a BS in Mechanical just got a 55K job – to start!

    The new Ford employees don’t get a pension, but they do get a generous match to contributions.

    I guess what I am saying is that maybe teachers do have a good deal, but the rest of the world with Master’s degrees don’t have it that bad. Maybe you’re on half full of shit – my apologies!

  34. kjc
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    yep, it’s amazing how many people who go on and on about how much we need businesspeople never think how much businesspeople need customers. i don’t understand the mindset of those who sit around thinking their neighbors should make less income but scream about freedom and liberty when any action might affect a business’s profit margin.

  35. Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Dan, regarding your comments on unions “ruining” the city. How much do you think I (teacher) should be paid? How much do you think principals should be paid? How much do you think a college professor (at a public, tax funded university) should be paid? I’m just curious, because people love to bitch about unions paying us all too much…so how much is too much?

    And yeah, special ed funding is still okay (AFAIK)…the funding generally comes through the ISD, and there wasn’t a millage about that. But eventually, I do fear (like Thom) that special ed funding will be cut. Eventually, some politician is going to decide to just go back to the “old days” of institutions/warehouses…or else the non-disabled will be funneled to charter/private schools while special needs/hard to educate will be left in unfunded public schools.

  36. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Tommy,

    my point was specific, teachers should make would the market allows. a district shouldnt be forced to pay a teacher such a sweetheart deal, if they are on the brinks of collapse. If everything is running smoothly and there is lots of tax revenue to go around, sure pay teachers as much AS YOU CAN AFFORD.

    But thats not reality in union-world.

  37. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Patti,

    my last comment applies to you as well. Teachers/profs/etc should be paid what is sustainable.

    If you can hire 4 teachers for the price of 3 unionized ones (or whatever numbers you want to use), then there will be smaller class sizes, etc.

  38. Lynne
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I was really disappointed about the election results at first. But this morning I researched how much it would cost me to put bars on my windows and it was much less than I originally thought! I hope the first thing that gets cut is whatever enforcement is happening in the historic district so I can compensate for the upcoming cuts in the police dept without worrying about getting a ticket for not getting a permit or permission from the HDC first. ;)

  39. mark k
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Lynne you may want to reseach the window bars idea, they make it very hard to escape a fire. And most criminals can get inside your house with nothing more then a razor knife, window bars or not. I know you made that comment more to scare other people, but if you’re really scared a hand gun, a cpl, and some training would make more sense.

  40. roots
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    A quick comment on Dan’s post about teacher pay:

    I worked in an outstanding public school district for five years, I have a master’s plus, and I absolutely did not earn $60,000. (And then I was laid off, along with dozens of other teachers, due to budget cuts.)

    “Cheers” to Adam’s remarks about looking ahead and moving forward. Let’s, please!

  41. Emma
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I don’t see how expecting an elected public official to answer questions from the public, in a public forum. can be considered ridiculous .

  42. Lynne
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Actually I’ve been seriously considering if I can get away with putting window bars on a single window in the back (where no one can see it) so I can leave a window open at night. I am skeptical that someone could get in a barred window with a razor knife. A hand gun isn’t an option for me because I am not willing to sleep with a loaded gun and I worry about someone breaking into my house while I am sleeping or when I am not there. I have dogs but I know how easy it would be for a criminal to get past my dogs if they were willing to hurt them and frankly that scares me too.

    I do kind of hate mowing my lawn though so if ordinance enforcement is going to be cut, that might be a win for me.

  43. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    again roots. I didnt say ALL public teachers made 60k. I said I knew 5 people that did. And my original point was that MOST make upwards of 50k, and only work 9 months of the year.

    (and yes I know teachers “bring their work home” and do not get paid for it. So does pretty much every other salaried employee)

  44. 734
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Con someone verify that, last night, during the Stop City Income Tax festivities, people were chanting Steve Pierce’s name?

  45. Curt Waugh
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    The obsession with Steve Pierce around here continues to baffle me. Talk about an echo chamber.

    Mark, if you seriously believe that 2/3 of the citizens of Ypsi voted against these proposals BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE CAMPAIGN WAS RUN,

  46. Curt Waugh
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    The obsession with Steve Pierce around here continues to baffle me. Talk about an echo chamber.

    Mark, if you seriously believe that 2/3 of the citizens of Ypsi voted against these proposals BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE CAMPAIGN WAS RUN, you’re on drugs (low-quality ones, no less). No way in hell most of those people know anything about the campaign. They simply voted their opinion that they didn’t need anyone to hand to them.

  47. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    not to mention that no one here seems to mind that the council tried to sneak this into a special May election.

  48. Posted May 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Dan, thank you for answering. Here is the problem though…the “market” tends to pay me less because of my gender. I was in the legal profession for 7+ years and always–let me repeat that: always–made less than my male coworkers. We girls were told not to wear wedding rings or engagement rings to interviews because they would either not hire us or pay us far, far less because they assumed we would marry, crap out kids and quit. (Now, to be fair, this did happen…a lot). I am childfree by choice and always have been, but of course you can’t ask that at interviews and who would have believed me anyway?

    That is why I feel that I need a union…to at least pay me on par with everyone else. If I could trust the market to do that, I would feel better about it. Btw, I should tell you that the head of special ed at my new job wanted to pay me the top pay scale salary, but our union contract wouldn’t allow it. I heard that he really fought it, but the contract is what it is. So in this case, the union is actually saving money and screwing me out of tens of thousands of dollars. I still want my union though, in case a new head of special ed is hired and he decides he doesn’t like my ass, my attitude, or my ability.

    I also asked about college professors purposely. I find the argument about K-12 teachers interesting, especially because it seems to be limited to us. Folks like to talk about how we have our summers off, only work x number of hours a day, yet I have yet to hear an argument concerning college teachers. I don’t mean U of M professors who have heavy loads, but professors at my state colleges, some of whom were at the school 3 days a week, had 4 months off in the summer and “worked from home” (maybe they did? I don’t know, but they weren’t in their offices). I’m not trying to pit K-12 vs. college, but I just find it so very interesting how much under attack we K-12 teachers are. I have some theories on this subject, of course, but don’t want to sound tooooo much like a conspiracy nut :)

  49. Pocket Beaver
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Curt’s right. Steve Pierce and the SCIT campaign had nothing to do with the way I voted. I’m middle class, liberal, pro-government, and I still think the income tax sucked. There’s too much nice low-tax township around us to put this kind of baggage on the city. Hell, my realtor AND mortgage consultant tried to talk me into moving into the township back when I was looking for a house because of the high taxes in Ypsi. A friend of mine got the same advice. Glad I didn’t listen, but an income tax might just have been that extra “CON” to push me into the twp.

  50. Posted May 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I also should point out that a union does much more than give us a bargained for salary…it also provides me a guaranteed lunch (trust me, I’ve known teachers in charter schools who didn’t get that), sets class sizes (good for kids!!), gives prep time (again, good for kids), sets sick time (good for me, I guess, but also good for kids so I don’t infect them with the pink eye that I get every mf’in year).

  51. Rodneyn
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Curt Waugh – “Mark, if you seriously believe that 2/3 of the citizens of Ypsi voted against these proposals BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE CAMPAIGN WAS RUN, you’re on drugs (low-quality ones, no less). No way in hell most of those people know anything about the campaign. They simply voted their opinion that they didn’t need anyone to hand to them.”

    Amen, Curt. You said it exactly the way things really are.

  52. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Patti,

    Again, my arguments are that employees should be paid what is sustainable to the “company,” be that a university, a school district, a charter, a car plant, a mechanic shop, anything.

    I have no problem with teachers having the summers off. it’s part of what they signed up for. I just think that their “company” shouldnt be forced to pay them something that is not sustainable.

    as for profs, major university professors do much more than teach. Teaching is actually a small part of their job description. Pulling in grants, publishing work, exposure, etc.

  53. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    and Pocket Beaver is definitely right. Realtors and mortgage lenders definitely tell clients to avoid ypsi because of the taxes.

  54. anonymous
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    When I was told to avoid Ypsi it was because of the black people. That term wasn’t used, but the meaning was clear. No one mentioned taxes.

  55. anonymous
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Curt, can you read? Mark didn’t say that the measures failed because of the way the SCIT campaign was waged. Quite the contrary, he said that he would have failed regardless. You need to work on your reading comprehension skills.

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

  56. Tommy
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Dan – I fundamentally get your drift with one exception – a public school is not a ‘company’ nor should it be run like one. If it were, everything that is not part of the core mission of teaching students and that was ‘unprofitable’ would be gone. Band, Orchestra, Choir, Sports, Busing, Counseling – all gone. Long ago we as a society decided that public education was important. Long ago we as a society decided that the school and everything under its umbrella were important. Charter schools have none of these costs nor the cost of special Education and they still pay their teachers shit and have no better results than students with similar demographics in public schools. Where does the money go? Somebody is getting rich.

  57. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I used the word company in parenthesis. I understand public schools are not supposed to be profitable. But in the sense that they need to balance revenue with expenditures, you can draw a parallel.

  58. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    parenthesis = quotes. my bad

  59. dirtgrain
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    “No way in hell most of those people know anything about the campaign.”

    Perhaps you could make a case for this.

  60. koosh
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Can’t we make all of the overpaid teachers in Ypsilanti cut the grass in the parks? And if the market will only allow us to pay them in carp, then let’s pay them in carp.

  61. Demetrius
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve said this before, but every day it becomes increasingly clear that 30+ years of clever, corporate-sponsored right-wing propaganda have been very effective in convincing many ordinary people that:

    A.) Government is evil.
    B.) Taxes are evil
    C.) The private sector ALWAYS knows best, and is capable of providing for all needs.
    D.) Public employees (including teachers, police officers and firefighters) are nothing more than greedy “parasites” who enjoy fat paychecks and gold-plated benefits at the expense of “real,” “hard-working” Americans.

    What was once a fringe outlook confined mostly to the extreme right-wing (and the most rural parts of the “reddest” states) now has become what is perhaps the majority opinion in many areas … as the “know-nothing” Tea Party ideology marches across the USA, including Lansing, and unfortunately, today — Ypsilanti.

  62. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius,

    If you are trying to paint me with those brushes, you are wrong on all 4 accounts.

    A) government is not evil. We need the EPA, FDA, bank oversight, etc. Relying on govt to solve personal issues is the only problem I have with govt at all. And i guess tangentially, I have a problem with people that continue to trust the same politicians that fail them repeatedly.

    B) Again, I have no problem with taxes. I also think the rich (defined however you want) should pay more in income tax, or at least wipe out the capital gains advantage they have. However, when you continue to add more and more and more taxes to solve a problem that you havent once solve with tax increases, then I have a problem with the level of taxes. Most of the “no” crowd’s biggest issue with THESE taxes proposals was that they create a huge disadvantage for attracting new residents and businesses, in a city that already struggles mightily to do those things.

    C) The use of ALWAYS is where I disagree here, and it’s not really “knowing best” but the private sector is generally much more efficient.

    D) nobody called public employees parasites. People get upset when anyone questions their union, but the unions are doing more harm than good now. They are forcing companies and school districts and cities to go bankrupt/fail by refusing to acknowledge the economic realities of the world. I have a good friend that worked in UAW and was on payed lay-off (55k/year) for 5 years. They paid him $55k/year for 5 years TO NOT WORK! Meanwhile, in his time off, he started a flooring company and made about $25k/year doing floors. Because his employer didnt need his production, but the UAW demanded he be paid anyhow. absurd. And you know what happened to that car company afterwards…

    These companies and cities simply cant afford to pay their demands. It’s ridiculous to think you shouldnt adjust to a changing economy.

  63. Demetrius
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    @ Dan

    Guilty much? I don’t remember mentioning any names …

  64. (not the same) Bob
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Speculation on why people vote the way they do is good sport, but as with most speculation, these thoughts are easily refuted and argued!

    To throw some additional fuel onto the campfire warming this conversation, I was struck by some of the comments here and on other forums that attributed the results of the vote on a Tea Party attitude among our citizenry that supports the need to curtail the role of government.

    Many of us are frustrated with the willful starvation of government and educational institutions in Michigan as we race to the bottom, and the idea that this disease has infected Ypsilanti seems a viable explanation. What makes it interesting is to contrast this reasoning for the defeat of the tax proposals with the fact that the citizens of Ypsilanti voted for Barack Obama at a 6:1 rate over John McCain. How can these the results of these two elections coexist if, by a 2:1 margin, we are Tea Party wannabees?

  65. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Nothing to feel guilty about. My beliefs are my beliefs. Just clarifying my beliefs so you don’t misunderstand me

  66. EOS
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    McCain was a non-candidate. He stopped campaigning in Michigan months before the election. Only guy who ran a worse campaign in my lifetime was Newt Gingrich.

  67. wire less
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    The big winner.

  68. mark k
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    When I was told to avoid Ypsi it was because of the people like anonymous.

  69. kjc
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    “When I was told to avoid Ypsi it was because of the people like anonymous.”

    some of us need to work on our comebacks.

    i’m with demetrius.

  70. Ypsi Man
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    During the campaign Steve kept insisting that he was just a volunteer and that he wasn’t running things. From what I hear, though, he spoke for ten minutes at their victory celebration (and, yes, people were chanting his name). Did all of the volunteers have ten minutes to speak? The dishonesty is grotesque.

  71. Demetrius
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    “Just a volunteer?”

    “No” campaign donations given by Steve Pierce and/or his “company” = $3,191.30

    Total amount raised by the “No” campaign = $12,745,28

    Steve Pierce’s contribution as portion of the “No” campaign total = 25%

    Buying a local election (and possibly a future City Council seat) = Priceless!

    (Paying a $50 fine because your campaign finance statement was turned in 33 minutes late = Hysterical.)

    Source: https://secure.ewashtenaw.org/campaignfinance/userViewCommittee.do?cid=B-2006-012

  72. JJG
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I love Steve Pierce. He’s created so many jobs in Ypsilanti, and his company, HDL, pays tons of taxes. Without him, and his friends like Dave Curtis, just think of where we’d be.

  73. GHJ
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    @JJG, how many jobs have you created in the city of Ypsilanti? Without you, where would we be?
    Open a business and put your money where your mouth is.

  74. Lynne
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I think anonymous has a point. It isn’t an accident that one thing every city that is currently under an emergency manager has in common is a significant African American population. I am sure this is mostly due to economic class rather than race but there is definitely racism involved, even if much of it is institutional and systemic rather than outright bigotry. The reality is that there are a lot of white people who don’t want to live in communities with black people and that does have an affect on property values. And property values affect revenue. So in places where the property values are lower, there is simply no way to provide the same services without having a much higher tax rate. It is a losing game because both raising taxes and reducing services is likely to result in lower property values which in turn means that the property tax rate must rise just to maintain the same level of services.

    Personally, I consider Ypsilanti’s diversity, both racial and economic, to be a huge plus and one of the main reasons why I want to live here. But there are a LOT of white people who don’t live in Ypsilanti who would never consider living here because we have a diverse citizenry. Our whole state wide system of property taxation is set up to favor wealthy white communities over poor black ones.

  75. JJG
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a business. I sit on my couch, watching Fox News and reading The Fountainhead. (I have a fistula that prevents me from working.) That’s why I think Steve is so great. He’s a successful businessman who built DHL into a huge company that keeps the city’s coffers full. We need to celebrate heroes like that.

  76. Dan
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    JJG, Steve Pierce paid roughly $16,000 in property taxes last year on 3 homes.

    How much did you pay?

  77. Demetrius
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    @ Dan

    If I were you, I wouldn’t feel too sorry for Steve.

    After all, even after paying his property taxes, he still had enough spare cash left over to single-handedly fund a FULL QUARTER (25%) of the recent “No” campaign.

  78. Dan
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I don’t feel sorry for him at all, I’m sure he’s got plenty of money sitting around. But I don’t get why people here bash him constantly. He contributes more to Ypsi’s tax revenue than the vast majority of ypsi citizens.

    So he makes money from a business or two or whatever (I dont know him). Why does that make him evil?

  79. koosh
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    People don’t bash Steve because he’s a businessman or that he’s evil.

    People bash Steve because he’s a dick.

  80. kjc
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    He better not make more than 60k a yr. those are the evil people.

  81. Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    The Market Fundamentalism here is pretty bizarre, but if Dan would like to have some facts to check his anecdotes against, the State of Michigan gives median salaries for professions in the state: http://www.milmi.org/?PAGEID=67&SUBID=124

    Engineers make more than teachers. And teachers do, on average, work the same number of hours per year as any other profession — they just do it in about nine months.

  82. s.v.
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    And now we’re all being asking to pay for our own streetlights. What’s next, personal contracts with police and fire?

5 Trackbacks

  1. […] […]

  2. […] a scan of it here.As for Pierce, I don’t know for certain what his politics are, as he has a long history of refusing to answer direct questions, but my interactions over the years would lead me to believe that he’s more closely aligned […]

  3. […] and the fact that working class Ypsilantians, hit hard by the recession, recently voted again not to accept a city income tax.“I think the position is… we’re going with the hybrid public safety,” Lange […]

  4. […] 6. One wonders how, if at all, crime rates might be different had we chosen, as a community, to raise taxes instead of slashing public safety budgets. At the risk of derailing this conversation, here’s a short clip from something I wrote in May of last year, after the income tax was voted down for the second time. […]

  5. By Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interview: Mike Shecket on November 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    […] hand, you’ve got your anti-tax crazies and most of the landlords. I was the president of the the anti-income tax campaign, I just abandoned the whole thing. Kind of juvenile and petty (as is calling them out in a public […]

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