I think it is clear from the comments heard at Ann Arbor City Council meetings over the past few weeks, the follow up statements of community members, and Council members that there are clear issues with some of the proposed cuts to the city's budget. As Mayor Hieftje mentioned at a recent Council meeting, we face further difficulties, looking forward, from the declining tax base in the city and regional area.
As such, it seems to me that we need to be proactive about figuring out ways to fund the city services and amazing programs that, for one, we've grown to love and rely on as community members and secondly, although no less important, make our community one that is attractive to people moving to the area & help retain the talent that we grow here in our backyards.
However, we all know these programs cost money - money that is just plain not in the the city's general fund due to declining tax income. As such, it is imperative that we grow the base amount of dollars put into the pot.
While not popular, it must be said: there are developers and developments proposed in the area that could do just this. Allowing developments such as these to move forward will bring much needed tax income into the city's coffers. This is tax money that could immensely help to keep community policing on the streets, that could keep Mack Pool open, and keep the Senior Center open!
Whether or not these units are owned or rented, the city budget will indeed benefit from increased property tax income in addition to the single year gain from the initial building out of the space.
While large, I'll give, these plans intend, for the most part, to build green and increase the number of people per square foot inhabiting our downtown and the areas nearby it. Cities such as San Francisco have built well upon these ideals - building smartly up instead of sprawling out - building increased vibrancy into their communities while respecting the environment all the while.
Unfortunately, plans like these are coming under fire due to what seems to me to be a lack of interest in cooperation. What cooperation you ask?
We need a bit more cooperation from the neighborhood associations and the residents they represent to allow larger buildings in their backyards - green buildings at that; from the city - to work with both sides and hammer out a plan; and from the interested developers as well by continuing to be committed to keeping the community involved (or, though they're not required to - picking a program that may be killed due to budget issues and sponsoring that program from the revenue they hope to make - perhaps even innovatively via a non-profit so that they could see the tax benefit from the donations on their federal taxes).
Perhaps then, all sides can be happy - we all gain - we all give a little, and we all get more in the end: the services we love, an increased tax base in the city, and more spaces to welcome to the community the people we are trying to attract and retain. Coming to the conversation with an attitude intended to do the opposite - to diametrically oppose anything brought to the table - is wholly ineffective and only serves to hurt our local economy.
We're an opinionated, active, and interested community, one of our strongest suits, but also one that tends to make us dig in our heels and not be open to any sort of compromise at all. Unfortunately, this failure to compromise leads to anger and impasse, when what we need are openness, innovative solutions, and constructive ideas on how to solve the problems we face. Let's be that open-hearted community we know we all are!
While none of the sides are required to do any of this, they are taking baby steps, to a degree, and should do more. It is my hope that this appeal, and others like it will stimulate our sense of community (the community of business and the community of citizens) can help us come together and build a stronger city in the end.
In case anyone's asking, I'm 29, a renter, and live on North Main Street just up the block from the planned Near North Development.