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Issues Of The Environment: Ballot Measure Could Add $1 Million To Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan

Oct 25, 2017

Mark Clevey, Vice Chair of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission
Credit Barbara Lucas / 89.1 WEMU

How would a “Mental Health and Public Safety Preservation” tax levy enhance funding for environmental measures?  A countywide ballot initiative will be decided next month and, if passed, could help the city of Ann Arbor move closer to meeting the goals of its Climate Action Plan.  In this week’s “Issues of the Environment,” WEMU’s David Fair talks it over with Mark Clevey, Vice Chair of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission.  


Overview

   ·  In November, Washtenaw County voters will decide whether to approve an 8-year, 1 mill tax to help fund a number of services.  The new countywide tax could add $1 million annually to fund Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Goals.  Measures could include switching to electric vehicles for city employees and adding solar panels atop city buildings.  It also could fund other environmental initiatives and make pedestrian routes safer for children walking to and from schools. 

   ·  Ann Arbor has pledged to reduce of GHG emissions by 2050.  The success of Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan is measured by how greatly those emissions are lowered.  Members of the city's Environmental Commission, Energy Commission, and Ann Arbor Climate Partnership last year submitted a 16-page proposal to the city, outlining ways to make progress on the city's climate action goals by funding various programs.

Proposal, as it appears on Washtenaw County Ballots for the November 7th, General Election. 

WASHTENAW COUNTY - 1 Proposal

 Washtenaw County Community Mental Health and Public Safety Preservation Millage

For the purposes of using the Washtenaw County Community Mental Health Department to improve the treatment of people with mental health needs, provide increased financial support for mental health crisis, stabilization and prevention, and for continued law enforcement services provided by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, and for local governments which have their own police force, shall the limitations on the total amount of taxes which may be levied against taxable property within Washtenaw County, Michigan, as provided for by Section 6 of Article IX of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, be increased up to the amount of $1.00 per thousand dollars of taxable valuation (1.0 mills) for a period of eight years, beginning with the December 1, 2018 levy and extending through the 2025 levy, which shall raise in the first year an estimated $15,433,608.00 to be used as follows: 38% shall be allocated to Washtenaw County's Community Mental Health Department for mental health crisis, stabilization and prevention, and to meet mental health needs in an appropriate setting, thus reducing the burden on the jail and improving care; 38% shall be allocated to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office to ensure continued operations and increased collaboration with the mental health community; and 24% shall be allocated to jurisdictions in the County which maintain their own police force (currently Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Milan, Saline, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield Township and Northfield Township) in proportion to their respective 2016 population values?

M-Live’s Breakdown of How the Money is Allocated 

The 8-year, 1-mill tax is estimated to raise more than $15.4 million in the first year.  Funds would be divided, as such: 

  • 38 percent for Washtenaw County Community Mental Health to address what county officials say is a mental health crisis due to losses in state funding, including services focused on stabilization and prevention, meeting mental health needs in an appropriate setting, reducing the burden on the county jail and improving care.

  • 24 percent for jurisdictions that maintain their own police force (currently Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Milan, Saline, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield Township, and Northfield Township) in proportion to their respective 2016 populations.

Per the City Council's resolution, the money coming to Ann Arbor if the tax is approved is expected to be allocated this way:

  • 20 percent (potentially $500,000 per year) to improve pedestrian safety, including police traffic enforcement, crosswalk improvements, pedestrian-activated crosswalk signals known as rectangular rapid flashing beacons or RRFBs, and streetlights.

  • 40 percent (potentially $1 million per year) to help the city with its goal to significantly increase the availability of affordable housing in the city, including workforce housing for people with decent-paying jobs in addition to low-income housing.

  • 40 percent (potentially $1 million per year) to help the city advance the goals of its Climate Action Plan and reduce the community's greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

According to Mark Clevey:

"The climate portion (40%) would provide nearly $1 million in annual funding for Climate Action Plan-related initiatives.  In December 2012, the Ann Arbor City Council passed the Climate Action Plan (CAP), an ambitious multi-strategy vision to reduce our community-wide emissions 8% by 2015, 25% by 2025, and 90% by 2050, relative to year 2000 baseline emissions levels.” 

“Specific projects within these categories have NOT yet been determined.  Hopefully, CAP-related projects that receive funding will be required to demonstrate their expected measurable emission reduction outcomes.”  

The City of Ann Arbor Environmental and Energy Commissions have put forth a series of "recommendations" to the City Council.  The Ecology Center has also put forth their 5 funding priorities:

1. Rain Ready Ann Arbor - neighborhood-based climate adaptation;

2. Energy Smart Ann Arbor - saving energy household by household;

3. A2 Solar for All - new solar installations all over Ann Arbor;

4. Charge up Ann Arbor - getting the community ready for electric vehicles; and,

5. A2 Green Grants - grants for neighborhood-based innovations.

Most recently, City Administrator Howard Lazarus has appointed John Mirsky to advise him on sustainability-related matters. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu