Archive for May, 2008

May 29 2008

“Regionalization”

Published by under On the campaign trail

The buzz word on the topic of governmental efficiency is “regionalization”.  Regionalization is what happens when two or more units of government on various levels unite to offer services to their common constituents.  A good example is the City of Ann Arbor Fire Department or Police Department combining with the Pittsfield Police and Fire to offer safety services.   The cost savings obviously comes from not having to duplicate service and overhead expenses to produce the service.    Virtually every department in the City has a counterpart at the County  except for one department.  OCD, the Office of Community Development for the City and their counterpart at the County combined to form Washtenaw Urban County with other cities in the county to cooperate on Federal Community Block Grants.

Today I also meet with the new Community Development Director, Mary Jo Callan.  Mary Jo is a delightful  young professional that has the Herculean  task of coordinating the services that the neediest residents of our our community need.  Mary Jo was formerly the Executive Director of Ozone House and bring a  wealth of experience and determination to the job.   As the combined department is still getting acquainted and working out the logistical problems of combining into one governmental agency, the jury is still out on determining the impact and cost savings on the delivery of services.  I applaud their effort and spirit of cooperation that they have all demonstrated to overcome the inevitable “turf wars” and “we don’t do it that way” mentality.  I am certain that all departments will look to the OCD as a template of the 21st Century model governmental agency.

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May 29 2008

Miracle Workers

Published by under On the campaign trail

I toured the Robert J. Delonis Center today and walked away amazed at what 300 motivated volunteers and a passionate and committed staff can accomplish.  I have always been struck by the phrase “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”.  You can take that one step further at our shelter and say “a life is a terrible thing to waste”.   Ellen Schulmeister the Executive Director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County understands that concept better than almost anyone else in the county.  The Delonis Center assists almost 1100 homeless residents of the County each year.   Ellen is the “spark plug” that keeps the engine running at the Center on a minimal budget.  Ellen’s creativity and resourcefulness has restored order from the  chaos that dominated the old center.  Ellen and her staff and volunteers provide medical attention, addiction counseling, job assistance, and other necessary services to help support some of the almost 3000 people a year that become homeless in Washtenaw County annually.

I was stunned to learn that almost 50 people have to sleep in plastic chairs each night because there are not enough beds in the spaces that the shelter can provide.  While less than perfect, it does provide warmth and shelter for additional homeless on our cold winter nights.  They also provide them with food, showers and a free laundromat to wash their clothes.   There is even a safe temporary storage locker for people to store meager possessions that used to be hidden in stairwells and alleys.

My take away from the shelter is that these types of facilities can be integrated into our downtown areas with minimal impact on the surrounding community.  It is a first step that clearly demonstrates the business case that preventing and mitigating the effects of homelessness is the most humane and also the least expensive way for us as a community to deal with this difficult social problem.   Not every homeless person is a candidate for the Center but for those that want to try to resume a productive life we need to reach out and offer them a way out of the hopelessness.

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May 23 2008

Orchard Hills Maplewood Homeowner’s Association, OHMHA

Published by under On the campaign trail

Last night I had the privilege of sitting in on an executive board meeting of the Orchard Hills Maplewood Homeowner’s Association, OHMHA.  We have 5 0r 6 active homeowner’s associations in Ward 2.  These organizations are a great way for a candidate to reach into a specific neighborhood and uncover the key issues affecting the residents of the area.  I was pleased to learn that OHMHA is going to have a candidate fair in June or July that will give me an opportunity to meet many of the neighbors and help get my message across to the voters of this NE Ann Arbor neighborhood.  They also have an Ice Cream Social planned for June 6th that I hope I can get time to attend briefly.

( http://www.ohmha.org/map.jpg)

This NE Ann Arbor area was devastated by the Emerald Ash Borer over the past five years.  The association has been very active in getting replacement trees planted by helping to raise funds and organize work sessions to get replacement trees into the ground.  The association has also worked to coordinate the replacement of footer drains by the City,  repair side walks and study possible ways to restore Thurston Pond.

I  am continually amazed at the creativity, energy and passion these groups possess to tackle problems that fall “under the radar scope” or are ignored by the City that affect quality of life in their neighborhoods.  They can accomplish more in a weekend than most government agencies can get done in a month.  Our City Administration needs to recognize the work provided by these associations and empower them to get the job done or they should get out of the way.

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May 15 2008

“Y” Wait

Published by under On the campaign trail

I went to the last (hopefully) public hearing on the replacement of 100 units of affordable housing on the former YMCA site. Despite the best efforts of a very talented advisory board, and a motivated group at the Office of Community Development, OCD, the City embarrassingly has not been able to arrive at a permanent solution and home for the most needy segment of our population. In December 2004, the City Council issued a resolution for the sale and redevelopment of the former YMCA site. The Housing and Human Services Advisory Board, HHSAB, will be recommending to the City Council that the former YMCA site be redeveloped with 100 units of affordable housing targeted at individuals with incomes below 50% of the Average Monthly Income, AMI. Graciously, the board has conceded that a different site in the City would be acceptable if the City or Washtenaw County identifies that site and secures the property for the development.

It will be four years in December when the need was identified and the former residents are scattered to the wind. Despite strong evidence that it is cheaper to provide proper services to these individuals than it is to use the police, emergency rooms, pan handling and bridges to take care of their needs and we continue to pay significant amounts a year in interest on the YMCA site even though the building is no longer there. How much longer will it take to make good on the City’s promise to provide for those less fortunate than us?

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