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Posted on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

Washtenaw County resolution could put $25 million for Detroit street car line in jeopardy

By Amy Biolchini

Millions of federal funds for a Detroit street car line could be in jeopardy as a coalition of Southeast Michigan lawmakers working to create a regional transit authority are separating into factions, according to a Detroit News report.

Washtenaw County officials voted Nov. 7 to soften their previously strong support of a four-county regional transit authority with a resolution that protected the county's ability to manage its own transportation funds.

Additionally, lawmakers in suburban Detroit have opposed a number of the new regional transit authority's proposed capabilities, according to the report.

The Michigan Legislature’s lame duck session begins Tuesday. Without an agreement between coalition members seeking to unify the management of transit in Southeast Michigan, $25 million in federal funding for a planned M-1 Woodward Avenue street car line could be lost, according to the Detroit News report.


Dan Smith

Numerous issues with the two bills that would create a regional transit authority — House Bill 5309 and Senate Bill 909 — concerned Commissioner Dan Smith, R-Northfield Township and prompted him to introduce a new resolution Nov. 7.


Conan Smith

Ryan J. Stanton |

Dan Smith won a 6-4 majority of the board to his side with his resolution even after Commissioner Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, one of the initiative's strongest supporters, spoke at length as to his involvement and strong support for the regional transportation authority.

Commissioners Alicia Ping, Wesley Prater, Dan Smith, Rob Turner, Barbara Levin Bergman and Leah Gunn voted for Dan Smith's resolution, and commissioners Yousef Rabhi, Rolland Sizemore Jr., Conan Smith and Felicia Brabec voted against it. Ronnie Peterson was absent.

The resolution states Washtenaw County should have control of any transportation funding that is designated for the county and that the county’s voters should determine when to join a regional transit authority:

“Be it further resolved that the Washtenaw County Board of commissioners opposes legislation which would include Washtenaw County in a Regional Transportation Authority, which does not protect:
  • The ability of county entities to manage designated transportation funding.
  • The right of county entities to independently manage a transit system.”

The resolution had not been distributed prior to the Nov. 7 full board meeting, and both commissioners Smith spent their recess after Ways and Means meeting in a private discussion.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

I agree with the resolution. All the legislature has done this term is take money and control away from local governments and tax payers. Where is taxpayer protection against government overreach in Lansing. It's not. This administration has extented state government over reach beyond the pale. Looting education funds, eliminating the ppt shifting the burden to local governments, now taking property rights away with the new proposed energy policy. T

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.

The proper question to ask about any of these regional public transport plans is do they make fiscal sense in a time of large annual Federal Deficits and a ballooning Federal Debt of $16.3 trillion. Governments at both the local and federal levels must face financial facts and only fund programs that have clear payoffs in terms of pressing needs met and do not require large continuing federal subsidies to exist in the future.


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

My wallet is in jeopardy too. Thank you to DAN SMITH and the other county commissioners with sense to look out for your county. Conan Smith? Pay back the money you OWE to the county!

Dog Guy

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

Streetcar lines date from before the U. S. Civil War. How about more modern and fun zip lines instead?

laser beam

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

Sure hope the new board coming on next year has a little more common sense and is not so reactionary. No doubt that this current board has been a complete failure on every issue from animal control to transportation. Dan Smith is a tea party boy who didn't check in with his Governor before trying to kill his plan. The new board is looking at a train wreck of a county, and its only the county board, not the other county elected officials that responsible for the mess. This board shouldn't do anything until it expires next month.

It's hard to hide from facts

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:09 a.m.

Agreed about Dan Smith, he gets in far over his head on these things. It's best of Conan Smith watches his back around that fellow.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

Pie in the sky, by and by on our water they look for the path of least resistance for their da projects...Detroit is going down the drain and instead of looking for a stopper they want more water.....duh.....


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Oh, right, and is this the same transit authority that would manage the commuter line from Ann Arbor to Dearborn? Something we need like a hole in our heads, when we can't even fund our own firefighters. Wake up and quit acting like it is play money. When we get our own town back on track, then if the public supports it, maybe we can revisit some of these other regional efforts.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

Update: The Michigan Senate passed its bill Tuesday afternoon that would create a regional transit authority in metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan. The bill still needs to be approved by the House before it could be signed into law.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Actually, it is a package of bills. Here is a Detroit News story about it.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

The article on which this is based (the Detroit News) does not take the editorial tone that this one does. True, the headline is that $25 million in transit funds might be lost. But your rewriting of the story appears to be pointing a finger at the originator of the Washtenaw County Resolution, Cmr. Dan Smith. Was there an interview or a conversation, perhaps with the other Commissioner Smith, that underlies the direction that this article has taken? If it is based on supplementary interviews, that should be indicated. You could have strengthened the article with quotes from both Cmrs. Smith. Actually, the issues behind the RTA are complex. I did a post on it which lays out some of them, but not all. I omitted in that particular post the point that Federal funding might be diverted from our own AATA transit system. I also didn't address the point that the RTA would have powers of condemnation over property. The original point of a regional transit authority was to strengthen the region's bus transportation system. But as this and the Detroit News story make clear, the emphasis is now on Federal funds to support the Woodward Avenue streetcar project pushed by a group of Detroit investors. Is that a good reason to establish a transit authority that could have many unclear effects on existing transit systems?

Top Cat

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

Thanks Dan Smith. Nice to know you are thinking and looking out for our interests and wallets.

Ron Granger

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Can't even keep the lights on, but they want a street car to go with the people mover. A street car named Desire - As in "Desire all your money".


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Conan Smith is soooo out of touch with the people, However his agenda is perfect for Wayne county or Detroit -not here!

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

Ann Arbor - just because we might vote to support your right to smoke whatever you want, doesn't mean that we elect county board members who have smoked away all of their white brain matter and are willing to cede fiscal control and responsibility to use their brains, to Agenda 21's from other counties. Nice try Conan.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Thanks for bringing Agenda 21 into it. If your incomprehensible run-on wasn't proof enough or your tenuous grasp on reality, that seals it.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

Frankly, who wants anything to do with Detroit these days, with the way their City Council has been behaving? They seems so dysfunctional and ready to cut off their own noses to spite their faces that I wouldn't trust them either...


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

"Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, one of the initiative's strongest supporters," No surprise that Conan is a strong supporter of spending other peoples money. Conan have you paid back the money you owe the County yet?

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

"Dan Smith won a 6-4 majority of the board to his side with his resolution even after Commissioner Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, one of the initiative's strongest supporters, spoke at length as to his involvement and strong support for the regional transportation authority." Conan Smith has been hanging out with the likes of Wayne County's Bob Ficano a bit too much. This rejection by Washtenaw County shows he's more interested in representing his day job interests than the interests of his Ann Arbor District. Are there any conflict of interest guidelines or financial disclosures County Commissioners are required to follow?