You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Musings on the Ann Arbor Skatepark, the Driver Responsibility Act and unemployment stats

By Tony Dearing

Musings on the news of the past week:

The Ann Arbor Skatepark project is on a roll. Supporters of the effort say it now looks like they can proceed, after securing a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. That is a pivotal piece of funding for the group, which has been seeking to raise $1.1 million to build and maintain a skate park at Veterans Memorial Park. The timing of the state grant could not have been more fortuitous. Supporters of the skate park project faced a Jan. 1 deadline to raise enough money to quality for a $400,000 matching grant from Washtenaw County, and for the donation of land for the project from the city of Ann Arbor. That deadline having been met, it now looks like the project is a go. Skate park supporters estimate there are 5,000 skateboarders in the city who could use the park, and thousands of others across Washtenaw County. But in this tough economy, raising money has been a challenge. We commend them on their perseverance and the long hours they’ve put into this cause. It’s paid off for them -- and more importantly, for the young people in our community who will gain a new recreational asset.

One of the more ill-conceived and punitive laws passed by the Legislature in recent years has been overhauled, and it’s about time. Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that eliminates some of the double fees imposed by the Driver Responsibility Act of 2003. The reforms were passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate. We agree with state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, who called the reform measure a “long overdue fix.’’ In an editorial published in October, we argued that the Driver Responsibility Act has resulted in no reduction in bad driving or traffic accidents, while heaping millions of dollars in unreasonable fines on drivers. We would have supported outright repeal of the law, but we’re satisfied with the Legislature’s recent action to eliminate the recurring fees that have been imposed for minor infractions like driving with an expired license or failure to show proof of insurance. That was the most unjust element of the law, and we’re glad to see it go, particularly because it had such a disproportionately harsh impact on people of low income. The changes don’t go into effect until October 2012, but at least motorists in Michigan who commit minor infractions in the future will get a fairer shake than they do now.

It’s been three years since the state’s unemployment rate has been in the single digits, so it looks like that number is headed in the right direction, if not necessarily for all of the right reasons. Unemployment in Michigan fell to 9.8 percent in November, compared to 11.4 percent the same month a year ago. That’s good news in that the state added 1,000 net jobs between October and November, and 59,000 over the past year. But that only accounts for part of the reason that the unemployment rate fell. The bad news is more unemployed people have either left the state or stopped actively looking for a job, and that’s helped drive down the unemployment rate as well. Whether you prefer to view the glass as half empty or half full, you have to at least appreciate that the economic indicators point to a slow, steady economic recovering in the coming months. University of Michigan economists recently projected that the state will grow nearly 70,000 jobs by the end of 2013. For the recession-wracked state of Michigan, recovery can’t come soon enough, but at least the recent indicators suggest that it’s on the way.


Jim Walker

Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

The partial repeal of the Driver Responsibility Act was good, it stopped about 20% of the abusive fees. But the other 80% need to go because it doesn't work. Dangerous offenses covered by the law did NOT go down. Less than 60% of the fees are collected because an enormous proportion of our citizens simply cannot pay. One judge called it &quot;a debtor's prison&quot;. The ONLY reason it has not been fully repealed is that the state is addicted to the revenue. I testified for the NMA against the law before it was passed in 2003 forecasting all the bad effects the law would have - which then came true. I have testified for the NMA at four hearings, asking for repeal. Many prominent judges have also asked for repeal as has the NAACP, a U of M law center that works with poor people, many legislators who regret their original votes in favor of the law and large numbers of victims that have had their financial lives destroyed by this monstrosity of a law. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> Ann Arbor, MI

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

let the kids skate!


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

At its peak this year Michigan had over 500,000 unemployed. Although 70,000 new jobs may be anticipated for the state over the next two years, less than 15% of the unemployed will be back at work. Rick Snyder needs to be more proactive with jobs creation. A state-wide computerized jobs bank needs to be established with information on job availability provided by all companies looking for new hires. The required education, talent, skills and experience for each job offering should entered into the computer data files. Likewise, similar information should be collected for all the unemployed. With this information, matching available jobs with appropriate candidates should facilitate job placement. Also the computerized jobs bank can be used to determine what specific education and job skills can be incorporated into training courses offered by educational institutions (community colleges as well as universities). Larger corporations should be encouraged to form private-public coalitions aimed at improving the education and skill levels of the unemployed so that they can qualify for jobs left vacant due to the lack of capable candidates. This computerized system could even be extended nationally allowing, for instance, a qualified job candidate in New Jersey to find employment in New Mexico.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

It is difficult to justify spending $1 million for a dedicated skateboard park that will be used only by a few. In the only study, done in 2005, it was determined that about 5% of children 13 to 17 years old used skateboards in Ann Arbor. That percentage translates into 250 to 500 youths. Add another 500 adults who may skateboard and the park will service less than 1% of Ann Arbor's population. Also, believing that skateboarding will be confined to a skateboard park is unrealistic. The skateboard will continue to be a mode of transportation about town. Also, for many skateboarders, the park may not be convenient when an enthusiast wants to use his skateboard, especially since most skateboarders are males under 18 years of age who may not easily get to the park. Furthermore, skateboarding is a dangerous activity that produces injuries (search YouTube for &quot;skate board injuries&quot;). Many skateboarders do not wear safety helmets or pads. A concrete and steel skateboard park with ramps that launch kids into the air at up to 60 mph will never achieve a Consumers Report safety achievement award. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is so concerned that it published guidelines which should be followed by those sponsoring and maintaining the skateboard park (if built): <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Whoever owns and operates the skateboard park should be concerned about liability. Can liability insurance coverage be purchased for a skateboard park? For safety sake the park should be fenced and have a lockable gate. Hours of use should be restricted especially during school days and activities monitored by a trained supervisor. In this regard, who will pay for the supervision and also for the maintenance?


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

I would rather see the money spent on this minority than the amount spent for cyclist!

Rita Mitchell

Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

aboriginal's reference to park land sale most likely relates to the &quot;repurposing&quot; of Fuller Park land, without sale (which would require voter approval by ballot referendum), for development of a 1,600 space parking structure, planned to last 75 years, and for the primary use by UM. No sale, just a different use, without approval by City Council, with no budget and no financial plan for the public to review. It may be great for the University, but hardly consistent with its goals for sustainability. It's definitely not great for Ann Arbor citizens. What's coming next to a park near you? Check out information at


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Good news on the skatepark. Too bad the mayor and city council still have the right to sell parkland without voter approval.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

Skatepark will be city owned


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

If the republicans get their act together and tax the wealthy then unemployment benefits will not end in January. Making more and more of the unemployed homeless or in poverty. Yup, there was an article just recently that Congress passed some bill which might exclude Michigan from an extended unemployment package. I am still looking for FT work and hope to have it by next years end. PT stinks. Otherwise, Ann Arbor does not need a skate park. This is just frivolous spending on the part of the board and goes hand in hand with City Place.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

Congrats, Trevor and ALL of your backers! Great job!

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

actual unemployment rate is way higher.they get thier figure from random LANDLINE calls.go to delonis etc.+see how many landline # you get from the homeless.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

can't wait to screed.