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Posted on Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Ann Arbor's New Year's resolution? Hopefully increased public safety

By Tony Dearing

If 2011 was the year of pedestrians and public art in Ann Arbor, perhaps 2012 will be the year of public safety.

We hope so, anyway.

It has been a tradition of to use the first Sunday of each new year to look ahead, and suggest what we’d like to see transpire in the next 12 months.

For 2012, the public has made its priorities clear. Residents of Ann Arbor are deeply concerned about the cuts to police and fire services that have been imposed in the last two budget cycles, and they want City Council to focus on restoring and improving services in those areas.

Fortunately, when it comes to police services, the city finds itself in better position going into the coming fiscal year. While it had originally projected more cuts in fiscal 2012-2013, it’s now talking about the possibility of hiring additional officers instead. That’s due to the savings the city will realize by consolidating dispatch operations with Washtenaw County, and by reaching a new contract with police officers that brings benefit costs under control. In 2012, we look forward to seeing the city take full advantage of these savings to begin increasing the level of police protection.

Doing the same for the Fire Department will be more of a challenge, but the city needs to make progress there, too. For one thing, the city still has not been able to obtain the kinds of contract concessions from firefighters that the police agreed to. In the coming year, we hope the arbitration process results in a fair contract, but one that provides the kinds of savings in benefit costs that the city must achieve.

Beyond that, in 2012 we also want to see the City Council and administration gain a better understanding of how past cuts in the Fire Department have affected service to city residents, and take strong steps to shore up any shortcomings. Last summer, City Council founds itself in the position of having to approve staffing cuts in the Fire Department without fully understanding the impact on service. Now that the city has received a long overdue consulting report on that issues, it’s essential to sort out the findings -- which suggest, among other things, that response times to fire calls are too slow -- and map out a plan for using fire personnel and equipment in the most efficient way possible. (We look forward to addressing this issue in a full editorial in the near future.)

Meanwhile, here are a few other things we’d like to see at the local and state level in 2012:

-- A good traffic control plan next fall when Ann Arbor faces its first University of Michigan home football game with Stadium Boulevard closed for reconstruction of the bridges there. Even on a normal day, the detours around the bridge work are a challenge for local motorists. The first time 100,000-plus people descend on Michigan Stadium, many from out of town, there’s a high potential for snarled traffic -- and snarling motorists. We hope the city’s ready for the challenge. With a bottleneck there, we can at least look forward to the opening of South Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor this year as work wraps up on the new underground parking ramp. And we dream of a day when it’s possible to get around town without multiple road closings due to construction, but that feels like too much to hope for.

-- Speaking of bridges, it’s time for the Legislature to give up its inexplicable opposition to the proposed new bridge between Detroit and Canada and approve this project in 2012. Between the construction jobs this project would create and the long-time economic benefit it would offer to Michigan, we cannot fathom why lawmakers won’t approve this project -- other than they’ve been unduly influenced by the campaign contributions that have been made over time by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, who wants to build his own new bridge next to the existing span. The case for the new international bridge has been made, and is supported by a wide range of business and labor groups. Lawmakers should approve this project in 2012.

-- If there’s one other issue we’d challenge the Legislature to tackle in 2012, it would be prison reform. Michigan spends more on prisons than on higher education, and has one of the nation’s highest rates of incarceration. We spend something in the range of $4.4 million a day to maintain a prison population of well more than 40,000. Now that some other areas of the state budget have been addressed, corrections spending stands out particularly ripe for scrutiny. We’re convinced there are substantial savings to be realized without compromising public safety. This is a can that it’s time for the Legislature to stop kicking down the road. Let’s make 2012 the year of meaningful prison reform in Michigan.

(This article was published in today's newspaper and reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board at


monroe c

Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

WOW! It must be a new year if I actually agree with something written by Tony Dearing. Let's hear it for more city police on the streets in 2012! Now let's see if the mayor is actually listening...


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

I hope that any increases in AAPD and AAFD funding and presence are real and have longevity. Not just a smoke and mirrors game to help Hiefje win come November. And speaking of November: I would support ANYONE at this point who runs against our incumbent mayor. It is time for a long overdue change and time for Hieftje to say bye bye. I think one of the first items on any agenda for City Council needs to be the imposition of term limits for council and mayor positions. 3 terms and you are done. The any state rep opposition to a new bridge cannot be based in anything good. I would love to know who is getting what for their opposition. Now that would be a story worth digging for and reporting on. Finally, I wish that would get a hold of themselves and the conversation guidelines on this site. The removal on comments it seems is too arbitrary. And the 'policy' of not criticizing an alleged victim (which was allowed in reports of women being assaulted in AA, but not in the case of the pediatrician). The story of the peds Dr. was murderous to the personal and professional reputation of this man and his family. The negation of of anyone who felt this way and who questioned the boundaries of privacy of the all of the parties involved was just plain wrong.


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

No thanks..I think enough lives have been ruined for one year.


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

2020, Makes sense to me, plus I believe the State will also reward us with even more money for joining together.


Sun, Jan 1, 2012 : 11:22 a.m.

Since consolidation is the new "Buzz" word, and we are saving a half million dollars by joining dispatch operations with the Sheriff's Department, why not go the next step with joining the police forces too?, It appear's Sheriff Clayton has his act together. So let's get the ball rolling for the year 2012, and save even more money, by having less administration and more officers on the street.