Evanston is far from alone in its need to close a big budget gap.

Ann Arbor.com reports the town that’s home to the University of Michigan is facing the need to make $3 million in mid-year cuts within the next 30 days — including laying off 14 firefighters.

Evanston is far from alone in its need to close a big budget gap.

Ann Arbor.com reports the town that’s home to the University of Michigan is facing the need to make $3 million in mid-year cuts within the next 30 days — including laying off 14 firefighters.

The city also let two dozen police officers go through a buyout offer this year.

City Administrator Roger Fraser says it appears Ann Arbor will need to slash its budget by 30 percent over three years.

Original story

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. radical concept
    Laying off city employees? I didn’t know that was even possible!

    I don’t think Evanston is ready to embrace for those kinds of radical ideas. We prefer the tried and true formula of repeatedly raising taxes and fees on our citizens. Either that, or using bond issuances to pay routine operating expenses so that our children and grandchildren can pay for our excesses-with interest.

  2. Hail to the NIMBYs valiant
    Like Evanston, the state of Michigan has tried for too long to preserve the past instead of preparing for the future. They tried to protect their auto industries up until the end…I think that they now realize that the future is elsewhere.

    Ann Arbor, like Evanston, also has a disturbing NIMBY problem.
    In fact, Ann Arbor had a long battle over a proposed “high rise” (that is what the NIMBYs call a four-floor development)…the arguments went on for years. The NIMBYs came out and squawked about ‘density’ and all that nonsense. ( See this article. )

    Here is what one concerned Ann Arbor resident had to say about the ‘high rise’:

    “He said that he and his wife had moved into the neighborhood 20 years ago and that they’d lived there on the assumption it would stay the same. He said they were not against change and development. But that’s why, he said, there are plans and committees. The master plans and the processes involved gave them the feeling they understood where construction would be allowed and where it wouldn’t.

    Sounds like a CSNA meeting, right?

    (See more comments here . )

    The NIMBYs even disrupted a council meeting by reworking the words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (which itself was originally a tribute to the great NIMBY-fighter John Brown) and turning it into a NIMBY anthem.

    And finally, Mayor John Hieftje gave an interpretation of council public hearing speaking rules that precludes audience members from joining in a group chorus when a speaker at the podium is singing: To the strains of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah, Density is coming to ya,” Hieftje warned he might “clear the room.”

    ( See story here )

  3. Where are the comparables, Bill?
    How many emergency calls are responded to by Ann Arbor police and fire personnel (and, more importantly, how many of those calls are to the university)? What is the population and emergency call volume in Ann Arbor? How many police and firefighters are on the payroll?

    These are all important facts to know before writing an article which seems to give a green light to cuts which directly affect the safety and welfare of the citizenry.

    Certainly budget priorities need to be addressed, and personnel costs are the “big ticket items” in any budget. Let’s just be sure we don’t cut off our noses to spite our faces. Make no mistake–any cuts to safety personnel and first responders will not be a temporary measure “until things get better.” Once those positions are gone, they will stay gone.

    Reply:
    Hi Jason,
    Some of the comparables you seek can be found on Wikipedia. You might check the Ann Arbor city website in search of others.
    If there’s enough interest, I may try to pull together some comparisons later this week.
    — Bill

    1. Ann Arbor
      Interesting contrast when you compare that statement of Ann Arbor’s plight with the PBS Newshour segment last night that indicates Ann Arbor is the exception in Michigan because of the University. The U of M purchased a closed Pfizer facility for over $100 million as an incubation center. It also featured a segment on a fine food shop with $40/lb cheeses.

      I agree with Jason, before we make cuts to our fire and police we should really get comparative data, measure benefit to cost, etc. The Fire Chief expressed concern about incremental time increases for calls. What are they for different parts of the city? What does that do to insurance ratings? The plural of anecdote is not data.

      Reply:
      Vito, I’m not sure what your point is.

      My point in mentioning what’s going on in Ann Arbor was not to advocate for firefighter layoffs.

      The point was simply to show that it’s not an idea from outer space — it’s something that other communities — similar to Evanston in many ways — are being forced to consider in these hard economic times.

      And Evanston Now this week also did a story in which Fire Chief Alan Berkowsky explained his concerns about any cutbacks.

      Absolutely, we should research the impact of layoffs on service levels, and try to minimize any adverse impact — but to reject out of hand the idea of any cutbacks in our public safety departments is to not face the reality of the city’s financial situation.

      I’m also surprised you mentioned favorably U of M’s purchase of the Pfizer facility. If you read the NPR story closely, you will note that the purchase takes the property off the real estate tax rolls — something you abhor when Northwestern University does it.

      The NPR story also points out that Ann Arbor’s unemployment rate is just over 10 percent, compared to 7.7 percent in Evanston. That helps to explain why their situation is even more harsh than ours.

      — Bill

      1. Evanston and NU
        If Evanston would use and involve NU in more ways instead of always looking on them as the enemy, maybe we could save money and put earnings in the pockets of residents.
        Kellogg, as just an example, trains people to do consulting. Instead of the city working with Kellogg and having students with faculty oversite, evaluate proposed projects, zoning, budgets, etc., we wait until they graduate and hire them from a consulting firm probably at five times the rate–and going to Chicago/suburb payrolls.
        Similar usage of the school of education, engineering school, economics department, journalism for investigations, Transportation school, etc. could be done and probably better than consultants that know little about Evanston, and maybe encourage graduates to stay in Evanston rather than flee like a farmboy getting away from his hick-town [not that bad yet but we may push enough people out to come close].
        With a council representing 8,000 residents per alderman [vrs. 50,000 for Chicago] surely they can take time to talk to NU.
        Yes the Research Park failed or at least did not meet what was expected, but remember while NU wanted to talk business, the Council wanted to spend all its time debating whether it would be a ‘nuclear free zone.’ Surely the city can find ways to use rather than fight NU.

    1. ann arbor tragedy – the rest of the story
      Or at least some more of the story. The incident is awful. But if you follow the links to a continuing story about it, the Fire Department made a presentation to their City Council that has a different twist to what caused the delay other than insufficent numbers of fire trucks. Here is a link and an excerpt.

      http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-city-administrator-offers-details-of-what-led-to-delayed-response-to-fatal-fire/
      <>

      Harvey Saver

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