Water Street debt reduction millage loses by just 39 votes. Now what?

According to the poll results posted by Washtenaw County, the Water Street debt reduction millage lost by just 39 votes today, thanks in large part to an overwhelmingly negative response in the first precinct of Ward 1, where voters cast their ballots against the initiative 160 to 29. Given how close the race was otherwise, and the fact that some have said that the vote counting machines in that precinct weren’t working properly, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that a recount is going to be requested. Or, at least that’s what I’ve been told by people who should know.

Here’s the vote breakdown by precinct.

waterstreetvote

Assuming the recount confirms that the millage lost, I’d like to know from those who funded the “no new taxes” campaign just what they’d suggest we do now to avoid receivership. During the campaign, they led people to believe that there were other cuts that could be made to the City’s budget in order to cover our debt payments, but, when asked to elaborate, they didn’t really offer much in the way of concrete ideas. Perhaps, now that they’ve won, and the millage has been voted down, they’ll step up and tell us just how we’re supposed to come up with the additional $700,000 a year or so that we need to make our debt payments.

Here, for those of you who aren’t up to speed on the issue, are my notes from last month’s debate on the Water Street debt reduction millage.

On August 2, voters living in the City of Ypsilanti will be asked to weigh in on a 2.3 mill tax that, if passed, would raise approximately $10,006,548 over the next 14 years in order to pay down debt related to the City’s purchase of 38 acres of riverfront property, referred to collectively as Water Street. Following are my rough notes on the subject, as typed during a public forum on the subject hosted by The League of Women Voters and the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti Regional Chamber earlier this evening.

• Three people are sitting at the front of the room. Steve Pierce is representing the anti-millage side. Ypsilanti Mayor Amanda Edmonds and Jelani McGadney are representing the pro-millage side. [McGadney is a legislative aide to Jeff Irwin, who, prior to that, worked for both John and Debbie Dingel.] Susan Smith, of The League of Women Voters, is standing to their right. She’s moderating. After allowing opening comments, Smith ask two questions of each side, and then opens things up to questions from the audience, many of which, to be honest, don’t seem all that relevant to the matter at hand… but I’ll get to that later.

• Before we get into what was covered during the forum, here, by way of background, is a little of the history… In the late 1990s, Cheryl Farmer, who was Ypsilanti’s mayor at the time, and members of the Ypsilanti City Council, decided that it would be in the City’s best interest to begin buying up downtown riverfront property from the scrap yards, manufacturing companies, foundries and auto repair shops that owned it, in hopes that a developer might be persuaded to come in and partner with us to build something that, in their opinion, would better serve us in the long term. While we were successful in acquiring the parcels, the redevelopment of the brownfield never happened. While we were able to secure grants to tear down the buildings, and do some degree of remediation, developers never came forward, and the property remained vacant. By 2006, when the associated bonds were consolidated, we were $15,740,000 in debt. And, when interest was included, the payments owed for the life of the 25 year loan totaled $29,434,535. Since 2009, the City has paid $8,761,810 on this debt. And, just this past spring, the debt was refinanced again at a much more favorable interest rate. This time, by applying a $3 million grant, and making a lump payment from City savings, we were able to get the total debt down to $14 million. And that’s where we are right now as a community. We’re facing $14 million in debt, and we need to find a way to pay it.

• Edmonds, in her opening statement, stresses the fact that this proposed millage is supported unanimously by the members of City Council. This, she tells us, rarely happens. She also mentions that, if passed, homeowners won’t see a net increase in their taxes. This, she says, is because the proposed 2.3 mill tax will be replacing a 2.3 road repair millage that will be expiring after 14 years. This new millage, she goes on to say, is absolutely necessary, as the debt associated with Water Street threatens to bankrupt the City at a time when we’re just starting to get our footing again. Edmonds says that we’ve cut what could be cut in the City budget, and that we’ve done good work to lessen the burden, but that passing this millage is the only way to put the debt behind us once and for all and move on as a community to focus on things that really matter.

• Edmonds says that we’ve gotten our annual debt payments down from $1.38 million to approximately $924,000, by paying off some of the principle, and refinancing the rest at a much better interest rate, but that we still can’t afford to pay that out of our annual operating budget. If this millage passes, she says, it will raise between $600,000 and $700,000 a year to put toward that debt. The rest, she says, can be paid from our general fund budget, which is about $14 million a year.

• It’s not mentioned during the debate, but this Water Street debt reduction millage, according to MLive, “would mean a homeowner with a property assessed at $50,000 would pay $115 annually, or $9.53 a month, for the next 14 years,” if approved.

• Pierce, who identifies himself as a “lifelong Democrat”, Obama supporter, and mass transit loving LGBT advocate, responds by saying that we have to reject higher taxes, as they threaten our long term viability as a community. Our property taxes, he says, are already the 7th highest in the State, and they continue to rise. Since 2007, he says, they’ve gone up by 22%, and it’s driving away families and businesses. The City, he says, has attempted to raise taxes in the past to pay off the Water Street debt, claiming that not doing so would be catastrophic. In each case, though, he says, we’ve survived. He goes on to say that passing this millage would negatively effect property values, and force property owners to raise rents on their tenants. This, he says, will disproportionately hurt people who are already struggling financially. He says that we should prioritize paying off our debt without a millage, instead of spending money on things like train platforms, riverside trails and pedestrian bridges. He says that we’re spending more now than we did three years ago, which illustrates how little discipline City Council has. And, he says, this will only get worse if we pass the millage. If we do, Pierce says, City leaders won’t have any incentive to rein in costs.

• Edmonds points out to Pierce that, yes, we did spend more this year than in years past, but that was because we made a large payment toward our debt principle, as doing so would save us a considerable amount of money in the long run. She also pointed out that much of what the City has done recently has been made possible by grants, not by a desire on the part of City Council to spend indiscriminately, as Pierce had suggested.

• Pierce says that, several years ago, when the City tried unsuccessfully to pass an income tax to pay off the Water Street debt, those behind it warned that, if the attempt should fail, our police and fire departments would be decimated. The fact that this never came to pass, he says, proves that the City exaggerates in such instances. Edmonds responds by saying that we did, in fact, lay off several public safety employees, and that it would have been much worse if not for federal public safety grants, which we won’t have access to much longer. We’ve been able to shield ourselves from the worst of it for a few years now, she says, but we won’t be able to do it forever.

• Pierce is asked how he would solve the problem. He responds by saying that, if the City were more transparent, and more open to the suggestions of the people, it would be easy. He doesn’t, however, offer any specifics. At some point toward the end, he says something to the affect of, “We can pay off this Water Street debt with what we have right now.” If Pierce was referencing the $5.3 million or so we currently have in the City’s savings account, he apparently wasn’t listening to what Edmonds said earlier in the evening, when she made it clear that, according to State law, we have to keep a certain amount in savings. If we drop below that floor, she said, it would trigger action from the State. On our current trajectory, Edmonds says, we have two years until our debt payments will cause our savings to fall below that level.

• Pierce says that much of this could have been nipped in the bud, if only the City had listened to residents. In 2003, he said, a lot of residents stood up against the Water Street development vision put forward by the City. He says a member of City Council responded by saying, “We can’t stop this project, we’ve spent too much already.” They should have listened, he said. The same, according to Pierce, happened in 2007, and in 2012, when the people stood up against tax increases. They could have brought everyone to the table and made a new plan, he said, but they stayed on the same path.

• When it comes time for questions from the audience, a number of people in red “Stop City Increasing Taxes” t-shirts line up behind the mic. For the most part, they share anecdotal stories intended to reinforce the notion that our City leaders are incompetent and untrustworthy. One points to a quote from a member of City Council during a budgeting meeting, as reported by MLive, about the City Manager not being able to immediately account for $1.2 million in the City budget. Another points to the fact that a City Council member recently filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the City, as he couldn’t otherwise obtain information that he was looking for. The underlying implication was clear… Our City leaders think they know better than you. They’re secretive. Everything is handled behind closed doors. No one cares what you think. They just want your money. And they’re both inept and wasteful… All of this, by the way, could very well be true. I just would have rather we spent more time talking about the facts relative to our current debt situation, and the options available to us as a community, and less on selling a narrative about how secretive and inept our elected officials are.

• Jelani McGadney had the final word. Here’s some of what he had to say… “I heard the statements that have been made… (What the Mayor has offered) is a solution. Tonight, this is the only solution that has been discussed. This is the only solution that has been put on the table. And that’s something very important. When you’re having a debate, it’s always best, when you don’t agree with one side, to have a solution to pair it with, so we can have further discussion about what is meaningful and what will move us forward. And tonight the only solution that has been offered is the one that has been offered by our Mayor and by our City Council… Our ability to be nimble, to be thoughtful, to have the mechanisms to move us forward, is going to be on the basis of this millage. I’m not somebody who believe in discussing doom and gloom, because ultimately I believe that we do have a positive future. But I also know what happens when cities do start having to cut, and to cut, and to cut. In my day job, I work in Lansing. I know what happens when cities go into bankruptcy, insolvency, or experience an emergency manager. Those are not solutions that Ypsilanti should, or needs to, experience. Because those solutions, from my understanding, and from the way that I’ve seen things, have not produced a bright future for those communities.”

Hopefully, now that the votes have been cast, the folks who fought so hard to kill the measure 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 said the last time this group defeated a tax proposal, 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 state funding, keeps public safety officers on the street, busses running, schools open, and our community thriving… I know it’s only been about eight years that these folks have been fighting the idea of a tax to cover the Water Street debt, but one would hope they’d have something to share by now.

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63 Comments

  1. Krim
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Some are blaming Amanda Edmonds for this not passing. I don’t know that it’s fair to put it all on her, but I think it’s true that the “pro” side could have worked harder.

    Did you read this comment Zachary Jones posted to Facebook?

    “Well, now that Amanda Edmonds failed to get this millage passed will she resign? Her job is to be an advocate for the city, yet she couldn’t get the YES campaigns any signs, no door to door actions, no flyers. What a disgrace. If she can’t lead a simple campaign to save the budget, how can she be the voice and figure head of the city. Her garden club is not the only thing in town. It’s time she focus on the city rather than the farmers market. At least her two patsies failed to get elected.”

  2. Look Into It
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Your “those who funded the “no new taxes” campaign” goes to a page listing all of those who contributed to Pierce’s “Stop City Increasing Taxes” campaign. Among those listed, along with all of our republican landlords like Barnes, Eller and Hays, are the partner of Councilmen Brian Robb and Pete Murdock. I found that interesting.

  3. Rob
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    In part, I have to agree with what Mr. Jones posted on Facebook… I’m a Ward 1, Precinct 1 resident, and at no time I can recall ever seeing pro-tax people canvassing my neighborhood. The anti – tax crowd however came to my door twice to make their pitch. I can’t help but wonder that if people for the ” pro – tax ” crowd made more of a door to door effort within my ‘hood to state what’s at stake, they might have gotten a somewhat different result in my precinct. Yard signs? Nothing but a sea of red, all across town…

  4. Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    “Imminent”

    Not “eminent”

    adjective
    1.
    high in station, rank, or repute; prominent; distinguished:
    eminent statesmen.
    2.
    conspicuous, signal, or noteworthy:
    eminent fairness.
    3.
    lofty; high:

  5. YpsiChick
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    As a Ward 3 person, I never saw or talked to any pro-tax people either and there seemed to have been plenty of the ‘no’ people around with signs and flyers. It’s hard to support a millage when the city is already dipping into the general fund for a 2 million train platform.

  6. maryd
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Re: Look Into It…I am sure SCIT is using old lists, that may include our city council representatives from the 3rd Ward. It is from when we opposed the City Income Tax. I am probably on their list too though I supported the millage that failed yesterday.

  7. Dan
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    You could make a good dent in the $700k if even just the 1414 people that voted yes for this, voluntarily contributed the tax each year. If you base it on the estimated average of $115/yr for a $100k market value home, that would be about $160k/yr. And it’s likely the people voting yes are the more well off citizens and could afford more.

  8. General Demitrious
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Why are you being such a bond company stooge, Mark? This proposal was a big giveaway to the bond holders, who would be able to extract their payments regardless of what condition the city finds itself in. All this concealed from the voters.

    The ballot language of the Water Street millage was written specifically to make the millage inviolable, regardless of what emergencies the city may find itself in between now and 2031.

    Obviously, such an arrangement is not in the best interests of the citizens of Ypsilanti. Here is the ballot language:

    Shall the City of Ypsilanti be authorized to pledge its unlimited tax full faith and credit for payment of its Limited Tax General Obligation Refunding Bonds, Series 2016A (Taxable), which are outstanding in the principal amount of $8,240,000 payable through 2031, which were issued for the purpose of financing and refinancing capital improvement costs relating to the Water Street Redevelopment Project? The estimated millage to be levied in 2017 is 2.30 mills ($2.30 per $1,000 of taxable value) and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bonds is 2.3 mills ($2.30 per $1,000 of taxable value).

    Now, compare the specifics in the ballot language to the points in this municipal bond insurers guidance on municipalities in distress, particularly point 1:

    http://www.chadbourne.com/files/Publication/bfdf1f29-f0d2-4e4c-b82e-cbe35fedf3c8/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/2a078435-fe4e-43c0-95c1-d402241da5d2/Nine_Lessons_from_Detroit_ClientAlert.pdf

    This proposal was an attempt to give the bond holders tremendous security, to the disbenefit of the taxpayers of the City. This important point was never brought up in any public meeting or published information.

    Is this what democracy really looks like? Bond companies threatening or providing quid pro quo for city council agreement to put this giveaway on the ballot? That’s not very fair, and is possibly a felony.

  9. Sylvia Heitzeg
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Yes Mark, why are you being such a stooge?

    Maybe you should consider another sausage eating contest to raise money.

  10. Rat
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    It’s like Brexit. All anger. No answers.

  11. Lynne
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Ok, let’s talk cuts now.

    Maybe we should go full on libertarian and cut ordinance enforcement? I hate shoveling my walk. I hate mowing my lawn too. I’ll bet most landlords don’t like complying with the city rules about rentals which I’ve recently gone over.

    I suppose I could take the $100/year I will now save on taxes and use it to put in dead bolts since another area where we could cut money is police protection. Do we need more than one cop on duty at any time? Maybe we need to stop thinking of burglars as a bad thing but instead we can start thinking of them as people put on this earth to teach us not to become too attached to stuff. Hey! Maybe we can cut the fire department to the bone as well! That will also help us become less attached to our stuff.

    The real question I have now is should I try to sell my house now or just plan on selling it later at a huge loss? [Don’t worry or don’t celebrate, I am not really considering selling my house now]

  12. Andrew Clock
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, we could stop spending money on endless vanity projects like a train stop and a $1.3million and counting freight house that’s been closed for 10 years, or murals on city hall. Have we reorganized public works to make it less management heavy, as we were advised to do years ago? I know, those won’t cover all the Water Street expenses, but every dollar needs to count now, right?

    I think the election results, especially such a resounding defeat in our poorest neighborhoods, speaks volumes about the financial health of our community, and it is not as good as we’d like to think. While everyone here seems to think $115 a year is nothing, someone on a fixed income, or unemployed/underemployed and trying to avoid foreclosure while not starving might feel a lot different. I know that Ypsilanti tax rates take buying a home in the city off the table for me, but I can probably swing it right across the border in the township. I bet I’m not alone.

    Finally, there’s this thought. We’ve been struggling with low growth and high foreclosure for years, but its pretty likely a lot of Yes voters aren’t taking that struggle into account because that doesn’t happen as often in their neighborhood. While I likely disregard this theory at a more modest tax rate, there seems a possibility in Ypsilanti’s situation that if we start to lower taxes, we could make up ground with rising growth and falling foreclose rates. More investment in the community can lead to lower crime ect. Using myself as an example, a tax rate that is closer to par with the rest of the county instead of 20-30 mils would put buying within the city back on my radar.

    So go ahead and knock all of us no voter as just wanting to see the world burn. It just reinforces my thought that a lot of people who post here don’t really understand the economic situation of the community as a whole, especially the part south of Michigan Avenue.

  13. EOS
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Or you could consider realistic cuts to non-essential services. Postpone building a train platform for a non-existent stop. Eliminate the recycling program – especially since there is no current market for most recyclables. Hire a new city administrator at a substantially lower salary. Redirect 100% of the business tax revenues to the general fund. Use Washtenaw County Sheriffs for police services. Reduce the frequency of buses. Go to a 4 day work week and reduce heating and cooling costs for all buildings. Eliminate the parades and the Heritage Festival.

    I’m sure those more familiar with the budget know a number of areas where the cuts would be less onerous than eliminating police or closing schools or starving children.

  14. Lynne
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    In all seriousness, maybe EOS is right. Maybe we need to cut those kinds of services. They are all visible and the sort of thing which may motivate people into voting for another millage proposal in the future. I especially like the idea of cutting the recycling because people really like that program. Maybe cuts to the parks too? How long before can get another on the ballot?

  15. failed citizen
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    The failure of the millage lays squarely at the feet of Mayor Edmonds. Had she lead a campaign with a quarter of the time and energy dedicated by the SCIT folks, the millage would have passed by a healthy margin. SCIT had ten times the budget and a team of dedicated volunteers, while Edmonds couldn’t event be bothered to create a Facebook page until less than a month before the election, let alone mount an effective ground game. The fact that even under these circumstances the margin of defeat was so small is a damning indictment of her leadership.

    I voted for Edmonds because I thought she would be a better face for the city; someone with passion and affability who could work for the changes to improve our city. And I still think she could be the leader we so desperately need, but she has to consider whether she is willing to step back from her other responsibilities to dedicate the time her job as mayor requires.

    Mayor Edmonds has dealt our city a huge blow with her inattention. Let this be a wake up call that she needs to either step up or step aside.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Is it the poorest who voted for this or the least educated?

  17. Anonymous
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    By for I mean against.

  18. soggywaffles
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    If anything, I think the ‘overwhelmingly negative response in the first precinct of Ward 1’ illustrates the wide racial gap in Ypsilanti. The map you link to aligns nicely with the city’s socioeconomic makeup beyond just w1p1 as well. I voted in favor of the millage, but I think its important to recognize that being top 5 isn’t a good thing when it comes to percentage tax burden. For those for which Ypsilanti is a cheaper or more ‘authentic’ Ann Arbor with cool houses, that tax burden is simply built into the mortgage we shopped for. But many in the community are actually struggling. I just think we have to be careful making explicit judgements with an unspoken racial component.

  19. maryd
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    More like $10,000 was spent and blanketed in the 1st Ward. It is certainly not in anyone’s benefit to have an EM, and especially not for lower income folks.

  20. Brainless
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    You know, it’s funny. EOS is mostly pretty objectionable but here he gives actual concrete proposals. Mark, you asked. Now respond. If you’re gonna talk shit, you can’t hide when someone talks back. What say you?

  21. Ypsi
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Exactly that. They took money from landlords and hit the poorer neighborhoods with their campaign of half truths. Classic Pierce.

  22. Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    “Why am I being such a stooge?”, you ask.

    Well, I went to the public meeting. I asked questions. I read what was available. And I voted for the millage, which I think was the right thing. And apparently others did as well. I believe everyone on City Council was in favor of it, as was our Mayor, as was everyone running for City Council. So I’m not sure that it makes me a stooge. I didn’t vote for the millage because I was told to. I voted for it because, well, math.

    As I wrote in the post above, and many posts in the past, I’m not convinced that there’s still room in the budget to get us $700,000 more a year. While I know it’s anecdotal, I’ve recently been dealing with the Ypsilanti Building Department, and do you have any idea how difficult it is to get things done when, because of budget cuts, the head of the department only works one day a week? Like I said, it’s a small data point, but I think it illustrates just how much we’ve already cut. We’ve cut to the point where we’re barely functional. And, in spite of it, we’ve somehow managed to keep this ship afloat. Some apparently look at this and say, “Well, we’ve managed this long, I’m sure we can push things even a little farther. I’m sure we can lose one more firefighter. I’m sure we can fire our city planner and get a volunteer to do it.” Others of us, however, look at the situation and say, “Fuck, it’s amazing that we haven’t crashed yet.” And I guess I’m in that second group. Sure, our City leaders do some fucked up shit, but math is math, and we need another $700,000 a year or else we’re going to stop paying our bills and an Emergency Manager is going to be appointed. That’s just the way it is. We have a financial obligation that needs to be paid. And, not paying it, will put all of the progress we’ve made these past several years in jeopardy.

    And, for what it’s worth, I do think it’s telling who contributed to the anti-tax campaign, and where they expended their effort. As in years past, it’s pretty clear to me that they weren’t looking to get the facts out so much as they were looking to win. And good for them. They knew how to play the system and they got their lower taxes. As a property owner, I guess I should be happy. I’d rather pay a little bit more, though, and live in a City that provides decent services, and doesn’t have to sell its most valuable downtown real estate to the first strip mall developer to come along.

  23. Janice Anschuetz
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    OK NO voters – what are your plans? An emergency manager to “help us out” as they did in Flint and with the Detroit Public Schools?

  24. Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Also, I hear now that a decision was made not to request a recount. So I was wrong when I said the a recount was imminent.

    One more thing. I’m sorry about the link that I originally had in the post to the list of SCIT donors. As someone else pointed out, that was to a list of donors from a former campaign. I’m still looking for their most recent donor list.

  25. Shane Davis
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    The rental property owners win big!

  26. stupid hick
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with everything Mark says except the part about the strip mall. A strip mall would be good on Water Street, the problem is the property is not worth a fraction of what the city owes, it’s contaminated, and my impression is no developer will touch it if they have to risk their own money. Maybe Ypsi should have approved the Burger King proposal years ago. At least it would have been something.

  27. Dan
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    “and doesn’t have to sell its most valuable downtown real estate to the first strip mall developer to come along”

    But the council was going to do much worse than that, before this tax was even proposed. They were set to basically give it away (along with long term tax breaks) to a slimy out of state developer. A strip mall would be a helluva lot better than another section 8 ghetto that contributes next to nothing in taxes.

    its disingenuous to claim that this tax would have prevented unsavory development at water street.

  28. Food for Thought.
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Before we heap too much blame on Mayor Edmonds, let’s remember that everyone on Council supported this, and she probably did more than most to turn out the vote. Given how poorly this did in Ward 1, I’m curious as to how much time Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson spent among her Ward 1 neighbors and supporters. While I agree that the Mayor could have done more, this loss wasn’t hers alone.

  29. EOS
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    Anything that keeps the Emergency Manager away should now be on the table. The City of Ypsilanti is surrounded by communities that utilize the Washtenaw County Sheriffs for policing. That alone could easily save the city over a million dollars a year. Yes, I realize that many residents like their bloated government services and fear the sky will crumble if any of the sacred cows are placed on the altar. But the sad fact is you can no longer afford them. You need to find a cost effective means to govern a mere 3.5 sq. miles.

  30. stupid hick
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Everything should be on the table, so why not get rid of police expenditures entirely? According to the census there are roughly 16k Ypsilanti residents over 18 years old. For $1.5 million Ypsi might be able to buy everyone their own cheap rifle, a box of cheap ammo, and pocket Constitution. Ypsi could train its citizens how to patrol their own neighborhoods, how to make citizen’s arrests, etc, then disband the Ypsilanti police force and it would pay for itself in 18 months! An armed Ypsilanti would become a more polite Ypsilanti, and because everyone is armed, crime would obviously drop. This is the epitome of a well-regulated militia like our founding fathers intended. And the citizens of Ypsilanti would learn about personal responsibility. This is how to make Ypsilanti great again.

  31. stupid hick
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be permanent. If it doesn’t pan out after a few years we can always go back to a traditional public police force. But if it does work it could be a model for other communities.

  32. Pete D
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    According to the currently available public filings, the “yes” campaign, which was formed by Pete Murdock, had exactly 6 donors and raised a total of $950. Of that total, $500 was donated by Mr. Murdock, $200 from Cheryl Farmer and Dan Vogt gave $50. The records available indicate that the mayor and other council members did not contribute (not that they necessarily should be expected to). By comparison, the SCIT (anti-millage) campaign raised over $9000 with 14 pages of donors.

    I was told by individuals on the anti-millage campaign that they would agree to actively support this millage if the city council would also agree to put any future development plans before the citizens for a vote. The city rejected this idea. I think the train stop is another sore spot. I was informed that the city recently admited in an MLive article that in addition to the $2.1 million grant that will be used for the train stop platform, up to an addition $2 million of city money will have to be used to build the “cheapest” accompanying parking lot. Other potential plans call for funding up to $4.4 million of city money.

    Here are some quotes from the article:

    “I know we’re all excited but the finances of this look really scary … and it seems to me we should have the minimalist plan to get the Wolverine to stop,” Council Member Pete Murdock said.

    Council Member Dan Vogt voiced similar concerns.

    “I’m worried people are going to freak out,” he said. “(The more expensive options) are pie in the sky, long in the future, so I don’t even want to bring it up.”

    Council Member Brian Robb noted that Ypsilanti is two weeks away from an election in which the city will ask voters to approve a Water Street debt retirement millage. Considering expensive stops at this point in time “makes us look like idiots,” Robb said.

    This type of spending is what makes the anti-folks nervous. My father’s house in Macomb County is taxed at 25 mills, while those of us in the City of Ypsilanti are taxed at around 64 mills. I wonder what causes such a discrepancy. It can’t be all Water Street debt. I think it’s time we hire an independent consulting firm with financial expertise and no political agendas. Within reason, I would support their conclusions. Either that, or the city needs to compromise with the anti-tax people. The status quo is not working.

    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/07/see_drawings_for_ypsilantis_pr.html

  33. Posted August 3, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    When I mentioned “strip malls” I did so as shorthand. What I really meant was that, now, we won’t have as much flexibility when it comes to deciding what ultimately happens with the parcel. When I said “strip mall,” I didn’t have anything specific in mind. I just meant the kind of place where you might find something like a predatory check cashing place, or something like that. I just think it’s critical to the future of the city that we get Water Street right, and, in spite of evidence to the contrary, I still had hope up until yesterday’s vote that we might be able to pull something off. Whatever we do there, we’re going to have to live with it for the next several decades, and yesterday’s vote means that we have fewer options. And fewer options isn’t a good thing.

  34. Posted August 3, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea, Mr. Hick. While we’re at it, why not give everyone a flamethrower and a nuke and disband the military too. Just think of the cost savings!

  35. Joe M.
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Krim,
    ZJ is the poster boy for social media instigator. His posts are laughable.

    That said, it was disappointing that the Yes camp did not have any presence in my area (Ward 3). I received at least 2-3 mailers from the No camp.

    Perhaps it’s because I’m merely a renter. So since the SCIT side was mostly landlords (mine included), does that mean they won’t increase my rent next year because they got a nice property tax decrease? Doubt it. Rents always rise – especially as more people get priced out of A2 and Ypsilanti is the most affordable and closest alternative.

  36. Posted August 3, 2016 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    EOS — serious question, can you point to something that shows the math behind this?

    utilize the Washtenaw County Sheriffs for policing. That alone could easily save the city over a million dollars a year.

    The last time I saw any analysis, I recall the cost actually being a little bit higher to have equivalent coverage by the WCSD that the city has from YPD now. I’m curious to see what’s changed on the inputs to get whatever numbers you’re looking at.

  37. Jcp2
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    There is a languishing large piece of property next to the Huron River in Ann Arbor with contamination issues that has had many failed development proposals. Hopes for future development are pinned to a possible train station.

    http://annarborobserver.com/articles/vacant_village_full_article.html

    Sound familiar? The difference is that it is in the hands of private owners, and stalled out in a red hot real estate market.

  38. Lynne
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Pete D. – I can save you and the city a lot of consultant money. The real problem is systemic. We fund too many things with property tax and statewide we allow different jurisdictions to have different property tax rates. Cities with poverty and lower property values will both require more services and will have lower property values and thus will need higher property tax rates in order to fund services. My parents own a house that is worth three times what my house is worth and they pay about half of the property taxes that I do. Why? They live in a rural ish area with fewer service needs and much higher property values.

  39. stupid hick
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Mark, your sarcasm is obvious, but seriously, if we were to cut back on military expenditures just a tiny, tiny fraction, it could pay for self-policing experiments for towns like Ypsilanti, nationwide.

    At $1.5 million per grant, 20,000 towns the size of Ypsi would cost $30 billion. Or roughly the cost of occupying Iraq for a month, during the height of the Iraq War. Just think about it. If we could have spent only one less month in Iraq, crime might have been solved permanently in 20,000 towns like Ypsilanti, nationwide!

  40. General Demitrious
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Again, Mark the Bond Company Stooge, formerly the Monkey Power Trio, has failed to understand that the issue is not just math.

    This millage proposal contained the iron-clad, have to pay it no matter what language, which is not acceptable. That is a very high risk property, and in an emergency, we need the flexibility to stop paying on it.

    This millage proposal contained no language giving the very people who are being asked to pay it a direct vote in what it is used for. This alone was enough to doom the proposal.

    Fix those two things, and a revised proposal would easily pass, with much higher approval levels in Ward’s 2 and 3. Take out the bond stooge language, and give people a vote on proposed usages. Fair and simple. That is the fix proposed by NO voters.

    If Amanda refuses to do that, and instead starts hacking at police, parks and other services, she owns that, with all the consequences.

  41. EOS
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Murph,

    I read the report at the time. Maybe you can provide a link to it so everybody can read for themselves. It has been a number of years since I saw the report and my memory is certainly less than perfect. The analysis you referred to was to have WSD supply the exact level of coverage that the city currently has with the top heavy ratio of about one supervising officer for every 3 – 4 patrolmen. If I remember correctly, the city pays something like 6.5 million dollars a year and has more police to cover 3.5 sq. miles than the township has for 27 sq. miles. Why not do a study asking the Sheriff department to estimate the total cost to have them police the city at staffing levels they would need to provide adequate coverage. My guess is that figure will be substantially less than the previous analysis.

  42. Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    “If I remember correctly, the city pays something like 6.5 million dollars a year and has more police to cover 3.5 sq. miles than the township has for 27 sq. miles.”

    Given that the population density of the city of Ypsilanti is much higher than Ypsilanti township, one would assume that there are more police.

    Shocking, I am sure.

  43. EOS
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    I don’t think your assumptions are accurate. Policing more than twice the population over a much larger area would lead to an increased need for more personnel. And within the 27 sq. miles, the Township probably has more than 3.5 sq. mi where the population density equals that in the majority of the city. But the Sheriff department does an excellent job at the current level of staffing.

  44. Jcp2
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I guess it depends on what you want police to do. A focus on crimes against property would favor a metric based on area policed. A focus on crimes against persons would favor a metric based on population density.

  45. Posted August 4, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    What does the Bible say about financing police services?

  46. EOS
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Go to the source. Why don’t you read it and find out.

  47. Dan
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    “Cities with poverty and lower property values will both require more services and will have lower property values and thus will need higher property tax rates in order to fund services.”

    Good point Lynne. This is one reason so many are against adding more subsidized housing to the city. Some posters here think that inviting every poor person in the state is a good idea. Your point is just one of the reasons why it is not.

  48. Lisa Bashert
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I note that not a single SCIT leader has chimed in in 45 comments to suggest how the city will go forward thanks to their efforts.

  49. Lynne
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Dan, yeah. We have a system where it is possible to ghettoize poor people so that those with money don’t have to pay for any of their services.

    If I recall correctly when we raised our sales tax to 6%, part of the deal was that some of that revenue would be shared with municipalities. That kind of revenue sharing should mean that we fund cities more collectively which makes sense since the areas surrounding a city surely benefit from the city. But we live in a state full of A-holes who just can’t stand the thought of having to pay, even a little, for anything that has anything to do with poor people. So we elected a government that gave big tax cuts to the richest people while taking money from the poorest in the form of reducing municipal revenue sharing, cutting people’s pensions and health care, taxing pensions, etc. It literally disgusts me that we now have a situation where there is such a huge economic cost to living near poorer people. That’s part of what people mean when they talk about institutional racism. It is really classism but it is so closely related to racism that it might as well be the same thing.

    Ypsilanti’s economic diversity is one reason I really like living in the city. I like that I regularly encounter people from all walks of life. I don’t think subsidized housing is a bad idea but I also wonder if it can’t be done in a way that doesn’t help the city’s tax base. I mean, if the subsidies were coming from the state or federal government, wouldn’t taxes still be paid to the city for the property? Is there possibly some way that we could be welcoming to everyone regardless of social class without putting a larger tax burden on Ypsilanti’s more well off residents?

  50. EOS
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Lisa,

    If you saw how Steve Pierce has been treated in the past on this blog you would understand why he no longer posts. Ask him directly. I am sure he has a lot of great ideas. Or, more importantly, stop electing people who can’t suggest significant cost saving measures under these circumstances.

  51. Elf
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “I am sure he has a lot of great ideas.”

    If so, why didn’t he mention any of them during the debate?

  52. Andrew Clock
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I made up my mind to vote no when I took the First Time Home Buyers Class and was presented with a sheet comparing tax rates throughout the county. Literally everyone around me in a class of 50 was shocked by our tax rates and questioned how Ypsilanti could be so much more expensive than anywhere else around. How are we supposed to grow our community when that is what FIRST TIME, inexperienced home buyers think? Not everyone in in love with our hipster appeal, they’re looking for value. I don’t know how to upload pictures here, otherwise I’d share to sheet.

    There is no doubt that the years ahead will be difficult. We’re going to need to reign in a lot of our feel good projects. We’re going to have to be more accountable with where the money goes. But let’s be honest here too: through Ypsi PRIDE and numerous other organization, citizens are already doing the work that taxes would pay for most places. See: Rutherford Pool. If you believe enough to pay more taxes, believe enough to get more involved.

    Every dollar counts. Every dollar we spend we have to be accountable for, has to produce a result. That hasn’t been happening. See the Freight House as an example.

    Maybe we can get a nonprofit group like the Detroit Mower Gang to help in the parks. Oh wait, city council didn’t like that when we had it. FYI, festivals already pay for all services they use plus use fees and to repair any damages. Plus they bring economic gains. Those are a net positive

    And I have to say, what’s with all the whining about the NO campaign? There’s no crying in politics. YES didn’t have any outreach. If you were on the side of righteousness, why weren’t any of you out there making the case? Why wasn’t the YES campaign better funded and organized?

    Again, there’s that pesky possibility that some people just can’t afford to continue to take on a tax burden the size of what we have here. Not everyone can afford it. If you don’t think a couple hundred dollars can make or break a yearly budget you are sorely mistaken. I’ve lived through times where $20 a month was the difference between having food and not. Maybe you and your neighbors don’t face that, but there are plenty in Ypsi who do.

    The solution to everything in Ypsilanti has been “more taxes” for years and it hasn’t helped boost growth or reduce foreclose. Time for a new path.

  53. General Demitrious
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    There is no monolithic block of NO voters. Take out the bond stooge language, make it a straight up general fund millage, and give people a direct vote on land usage. You do that, and this thing passes. It was Amanda who specifically refused to give people a vote on how the land would be used, the ablility to directly approve or disprove any proposal. Hell, didn’t we fight a revolution against taxation without representation?

  54. anonymous
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    It’s ironic that you defend your vote to give the city to an emergency manager by talking about “taxation without representation”. If you think the millage language was unfair, just you wait.

  55. EOS
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Elf – Probably for the same reason all local politicians run on a platform of “good government” without mentioning any specifics. Once you identify someone’s “sacred cow” you’ve lost their vote.

  56. General Demitrious
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Calm down Anon. We are at least two years away from that, even if we don’t do anything. Plenty of time for another proposal. Amanda really pushed that scare tactic about an EM, but she really overstated it. I think that has really hurt her credibility going forward.

  57. Patrice
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    My daughter, son-in-law and I are new owners in 3, 3. We didn’t receive any millage-yes but did get 2 items plus a person for millage-no. We don’t know much yet, but did end up voted for the millage after watching the forums posted on youtube (thanks for linking, Mark).

    Does anyone know how many of the no’s were rental property owners and how many were people who just can’t afford anything more (even if over time it helps)?

  58. Frosted Flakes
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    EOS,

    Bingo.

    On the flip side the pro tax people gain political advantage when they paint doomsday scenarios to their voters. Time will tell if those doomsday scenarios (emergency manager) are true this time around… Hasn’t the last decade proven that a lot of the supposedly educated-about-city-finances-people, who were also pro tax, were actually crying “wolf” before and after the city income tax proposal? I don’t see those people lining up to admit that they were wrong and that “yeah there were actually a lot of places to save money”. You can cry “wolf” and not admit you are wrong if you want, but there will be consequences.

  59. Dan
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Why was council even discussing a multi million dollar slab of concrete to try to entice Amtrak to make a stop in depot town?

    These are the things that make people angry and vote no. You’re claiming there is nothing left to cut but then propose wasting a few mill

  60. Mayor Edmonds by Proxy
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    So almost half of you– 39 shy of half, in fact, voted YES on our millage last week. We lost, just barely. It means $700,000 more in cuts after years of cutting to the bone. Have heard from a lot of people wanting to put it back on the ballot in November. If you’d like us to consider that, please drop a line. The only way that could work is if we had people step up as leaders and participants on the campaign committee– talking to people, raising money, knocking on doors, etc. There are lots of things to consider whether this is a good idea or not. We have a deadline very soon to decide, so if you have thoughts on this– yay or nay– or would be interested in helping if it went forward can you please message me and share? As we consider we need to know that people are ready to step up. And if you think it’s not a good idea, message me and let me know why– as well as where you suggest $700K in general fund cuts come from/and or how to make that up in new revenue.

  61. Anonymous
    Posted October 6, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    The cuts are starting. Did you read this in MLive?

    “The Ypsilanti City Council has approved a first round of budget cuts and revenue-generating measures designed to help pay down $10.6 million in remaining Water Street debt. Among the package of proposals that council approved by a 5-2 vote at its Tuesday, Oct. 4 meeting are funding cuts to police, the Rutherford Pool, the Parkridge Center, and the Senior Center. Council also eliminated or consolidated a variety of city hall positions, and will delay multiple capital improvement projects.”

    Where is the response from Steve Pierce and his SCIT team who promised that there would not be police cuts?

    (http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/10/ypsilanti_budget_cuts.html)

  62. Posted October 6, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

    I’m kind of reminded of Donald Trump, who keeps saying that he’s got a tremendous plan for how to defeat ISIS, but just can’t tell us yet.

  63. Frosted Flakes
    Posted October 6, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Across the board the pro tax crowd failed to take responsibility for the predicted (and promoted) doomsday projections that never materialized. Measures were taken to avoid collapse. Why didn’t the pro tax crowd predict that those measures could be taken? Sounds like they either didn’t have a plan or they refused to share their backup plan with the public because transparency would work against their agenda.

    Boy meet wolf.

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  1. […] past August, by an incredibly slim, 39 vote margin, Ypsilantians decided not to pass a 2.3 mill tax that would have raised approximately $10,006,548 ove…. Well, as the debt still remains, and as the folks behind the campaign to kill the millage back in […]

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