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Posted on Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Ann Arbor resident explores rejection of public art, library millages

By Guest Column

Editor's note: The headline has been changed to better reflect the story.

Who would have imagined, a few years ago, that overwhelmingly liberal Democratic Ann Arbor would reject millage proposals for both a new public library and for public art?

I’d like to offer a couple of theories for these rejections.

Was this a reaction to the tax burden imposed on local property owners? Perhaps, but in the same election, Ann Arbor voters approved an extension of a 1.10 mill tax for park maintenance and capital improvements by a 68 percent to 32 percent margin, with every precinct and Absent Voter Count Board (AVCB) in the city voting “yes.” By contrast, the smaller, .56 mill library proposal lost by 53.6 percent to 46.4 percent in the city itself, carrying just 21 of 59 precincts and AVCBs. The minuscule .10 public art millage did even worse, carrying just 12 precincts and one AVCB, losing by 55 percent to 45 percent. I believe both of the defeated millages suffered from a lack of trust by an electorate that feels it isn’t being sufficiently considered or listened to by those in power. It isn’t a partisan question, since every city elected official, except independent Jane Lumm, is a Democrat, and all the key appointed positions have been filled by those elected officials. This mistrust has been shown in the last two city elections, which saw the ouster of two incumbent members of council, as well as election of a council majority somewhat hostile to the prevailing majority of recent years. Many voters are still unhappy about the $50 million-plus price tag for the city’s new courts and police building and another $50 million-plus for the underground parking structure. Community opposition helped to kill to a proposed city-supported conference center adjacent to the existing library.

But what does this have to do with a proposal put forth by the independently-elected library board? I think Ellie Serras, who headed the “Our New Downtown Library” committee, hit the nail on the head when she said, “I think there were implications that the library was involved with the city and the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) in some way…and the community responded.” It’s not hard to see how the community might get this idea. For 15 years, Serras headed the Main Street Area Association, a downtown business development group. She is married to Dennis Serras, an owner of Mainstreet Ventures, which owns several downtown restaurants. Other prominent supporters of the proposal were DDA Chairwoman Leah Gunn and DDA Board Member John Splitt. On Election Day, Ann Arbor District Library Board President Margaret Leary appeared on WUOM radio, arguing that a new library would help downtown businesses.

When the conference center was being considered, Library Director Josie Parker expressed some support for the idea, suggesting that the facility’s meeting spaces might be used to supplement the library’s own. A proposed 400-seat auditorium for the new library drew a lot of criticism. During the time the campaign was ongoing, the suggestion arose that the vacant lot across Fifth Avenue from the library might be a good site for a hotel. Some suspicious minds saw a possible back-door route to a conference facility, combining such a hotel and the library’s enlarged meeting facilities. The DDA has become one of the most controversial public bodies in the city, and to some, the new library began to look like a DDA project, and that didn’t help its chances. The public art millage had a different problem. It certainly suffered from the negative feelings about the expensive City Hall sculpture, but there was no organized or visible opposition to it. What may have done in this proposal was poor ballot language. The parks and library proposals were stated in the positive: “Shall the Charter be amended to authorize 1.10 mills for park maintenance and capital improvements?” and “Shall…the…District Library…borrow…for the purpose of constructing…a new main library…?” By contrast, the art ballot language began: “Shall the Charter be amended to limit sources of funding for art in public places…?” This language was, apparently, designed to communicate that the current “percent-for-art” funding would be suspended if the new millage passed, but it made the proposal sound, to some, like an anti-public art proposal. The effect was vivid in the city’s student precincts, which routinely support every millage proposal. Every predominantly student precinct supported the library proposal by 55 percent or more. They all opposed the art millage by equal or greater margins. A similar pattern was repeated around the city. In more “establishment,” “well-connected” precincts, such as Burns Park and the near west side of the city, voters seemed to look past the negative language and voted for public art. In precincts which are more renter, transient and less likely to be as informed about city issues, the proposal did markedly worse. Would the proposal have passed with more positive wording? Hard to say, but it would have had a better chance.

Tom Wieder is a 44-year resident of Ann Arbor and retired attorney who has been active in Democratic Party organizations and campaigns for most of that time. He has History, Public Policy and Law Degrees from The University of Michigan.


Roger Kuhlman

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

I wonder if a lot of the Yes voters on the Public Art millage were not really voting as if the question on the ballot was either: 1) is Art a good thing or 2) is it nice to have Art in Public places?

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

A better, simpler explanation of the defeat of two of the millage proposals is that each was a bad idea.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

Crossing a Line: The Existing Ordinance Funding Public Arts Now that the Percent for Public Arts proposal failed to legalize the existing Percentage for Public Arts ordinance, it should be immediately suspended, but the City Council appears to be dragging their feet. The current City ordinance funding public arts is illegal since it was enacted without a majority public vote and constitutes a tax according to Michigan state law. (See Bolt v. City of Lansing and Headlee Amendment.) BTW, the Bolt v. Lansing case also makes it very clear that the way Ann Arbor charges for its storm water fees on your water bill are also illegal. But apparently the City doesn't care about this either. It just goes to show how lax oversight is of certain City funding sources and appropriate (and legal) use.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

The last time I can recall the road in front of my parents home being repaved was when Ingrid Sheldon was still mayor. Hmm. Ann Arbor was for a long time a town with good roads, infrastructure, public transportation, parks, public safety, and had plenty of funding leftover. This is no longer the case. People didn't support the proposals for various reasons, but it's clear people want parks funded, but not a new $65 million Library, nor 1% for Public Art. Note the Parks Dept is well defined, has a regularly publicized (PROS) plan, and more importantly, solicits and incorporates feedback. We don't see people complain about updating our streetlights to LED to save money and energy, even with the initial costs. We do see people asking for more police and fire services and opposing cuts in those areas. Consider this: staff a police substation right near the entrance to the Downtown Library to directly improve security and safety. To blame the failure of the proposals on wording of the proposals is lame. As for personal associations, some voters may have been influenced for or against it by those associations. These business owners making heavy donations to the New Downtown Library lobbying group are the same ones that outrightly admit that they will benefit financially through their businesses. If these business owners and their associates feel the Library should have an auditorium, conference rooms, catering kitchen, cafe, or whatever fits their fancy, then they should pay for them. Taxes are not raised to benefit only a select group of individuals - they are intended to provide for the benefit of the general public.

E Claire

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

No! No! No! Word it any way you choose, the answer is still NO! Maybe the property owners in this city are sick and tired of paying for every whim of our so called leaders. Everyone can vote but only property owners are stuck with the bill and we are tired of our hard earned money being wasted. And btw, intellect does not go hand in hand with being "established/well-connected". Those of us who suffer the shame of living outside your world are still able to think.

John Beck

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

"Poor wording" caused the failure. How about "we" the taxpayers said "NO." What part of NO, don't people understand?


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

I usually vote yes on all millages, but not this time. I did vote for the park maintenance, but I voted against the public art tax because I don't agree with the selections of 'art' being made by committee. I don't like the 'art' bike racks nor the fountain in front of the new city hall. I do like the art that John Carver commissioned and paid for himself. I also voted again the library because there was no real plan in place and construction always costs more than you think it will. I would rather see the library renovated than torn down completely. I really resented the comments made by proponents of a new library that people who opposed it just don't like libraries. Not so.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Give it up, the vote is in, counted, verified, and should be a decisive statement made by one of the most educated electorates in the United States. Quit beating a dead horse. The concept of "fiscal responsibility" and avoiding long term unsustainable debt that provides limited value in the maintence and provision of basic infrastructure and safety needs seems to escape these "academic" zealots whose priorities lie in "comfort" policy and legislation. You keep trying to sell shoes to folks with no feet.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

There's nothing wrong with Art, but it is not an essential service. The idea of paying a tax to have public art is completely absurd. Not much more to it.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Mr. Wieder's basic point is correct: a muddled association with the DDA did the library millage no favors. The ballot language made it very clear that the DDA would receive direct payment into its coffers were the millage to pass. But the DDA was only a secondary problem here: the proposal itself was ill-conceived. The very idea of spending large sums of money to close and demolish the very branch that the proponents claim to be such an essential part of the system is absurd. A cafe, media production center and conference space are all fine in a perfect, resources-unlimited world, but voters saw this project as a waste of money. And that's the crux for both proposals: taxpayers expect that the Council, the AADL board, the AAPS board, and so on to be good stewards of the money we give them. And we rightly reject poor stewardship in the form of valueless projects or outright waste of our money. We supported parks because the City has demonstrated good stewardship, and we rejected art because it has not. We rejected the library project because the AADL wanted to be poor stewards.

Ron Granger

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

I never post to complain about grammar, spelling, etc, but must make an exception here; the giant run-on paragraphs of this piece made it an unreadable rant. Or maybe, just like the voters, it was simply beyond my limited comprehnsion.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Tom, I've got your point. However most residence in AA are tired of being taxed to max. We feel there is an arrogant attitude with the leaders likes DDA , Mayor and some counsel members. The majority of U of M employs work iv AA but live outside of AA, so they pay no city tax. I must say we the peole of AA tax payers have been very patient but when it gets to a point we can't take it anymore. The new stadium bridge looks fabulous thanks to John Dingell. I've herd city of AA planing additional art work on the bridge project. Do we really need that?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Geez - for a Dem, you are sounding a lot like the Reps after the presidential loss. Instead of facing FACTS, you are grasping at fantastical straws. The reason the ballots did not pass is simple - the citizens of A2 are tired of seeing their hard-earned money being wasted.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4 p.m.

The writer undercut his point(s) by attempting to analyze two different millage proposals at once. There may be some commonality in response to the two millages but there are also some distinct differences. I think Mr. Weider's analysis in re the library proposal is pretty good. It did indeed seem to be too much of a downtown development proposal. The arts proposal was more complex. I believe it wasn't language, but intent that undercut it. I personally would have voted for a stand-alone arts millage, but not for a measure that appeared to be manipulating the electorate by continuing the Percent for Art program regardless of the outcome. (It was suspended, not canceled.) The "no means yes" attitude on the part of some council members confirms my fears. If you are interested in election analysis, see which has good maps and good comments.

Bill Wilson

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

E, When art has been criminalized, only criminals will have art! Oh wait... that's guns. Never mind.

E Claire

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

I dream of a city council filled with Vivienne Armentrouts and Jane Lumms. Even if I don't always agree with you, your points are very well researched and presented in a respectful manner. Your effort and involvement are much appreciated.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Sorry about misspelling the name. I should know better.

Robert Granville

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Honestly, I think most voters could've gotten behind a proposal that eliminated the percent for art program and replaced it with nothing. I voted for the actual art proposal because I thought the goal of it was to reduce the amount spent on public art without eliminating it.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

"In precincts which are more renter, transient and less likely to be as informed about city issues, the proposal did markedly worse." My precinct does not fit this profile at all, and it rejected both measures handily. I find Mr. Wieder's clueless, elitist analysis quite insulting. The rejection of the library proposal had nothing to do with its wording, and everything to do with it being foolish, needlessly expensive, and unnecessary.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

The $700,000 outdoor urinal is what sank the art mileage.

Tom Wieder

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

See my comment, above. The library rejection had nothing to do with wording, and I didn't say it did. I suggested bad wording may have sealed the fate of the art millage, only. put on an inaccurate, confusing headline that completely distorted what I was saying.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Tom- My guess is the problem with the library proposal is that even liberals can do the math. The for proposed cost of a new library (which would probably be higher when done) and the inconvenience of rerouting downtown traffic for two years, you could instead buy an I-pad or laptop for ever man, woman and child in the city and provide free wireless internet for life.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

I would have considered voting for the new library if not for the steady increase in downtown parking fees. I mostly visit the satellite branches where parking is free and convenient.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 9:25 a.m.

Ae ken Tammy, ye have tae have the "Last Word, but I tell ye lad, it's abbot Internet/Kindel/iPad vs Bricks-and-Mortar! On top o' that the "Dow-designed" bldg should be Treasured, not plowered-unner. Dint ye git it Tam? More's the pity . . .

Tom Wieder

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:42 a.m.

Unfortunately, the headline which put on my column seriously distorted the impression of what I wrote. I DO NOT think ballot wording had anything to do with the library millage losing. As the column clearly states, a significant distrust of local government leadership and a perception that the project was very connected to the DDA, were, I believe, factors that added to its defeat, along with the other obvious objections about the project's cost, need, etc. For the record, I was asked to support the proposal, did not, and voted against it. I think voters were rather clear about what the library proposal was. My argument about ballot wording applied solely to the art millage, and the pattern in the returns suggested that it was hurt by the wording. Do we really think that student voters are strongly in favor of a new public library that probably few ever use, but were strongly against public art? That's how they voted. And a similar pattern existed in other precincts. Did most voters understand the proposal? I'm sure they did. My point was that the negative effect of the wording of the art proposal could have made the difference between victory and defeat. I live in a township island, so couldn't vote on that, but would have opposed it, as well. The column is not an attempt to blame the defeat of these proposals on technical problems, or "ignorant" voters. They were defeated, mostly, because voters didn't like them. But there are some specific lessons to be learned by looking more closely at the results. For the record, the parks millage was not only for maintenance, but was also for "capital improvements," so it is not so easily distinguished from the other two as has been suggested in the comments.


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

@Tom you said That I seem to be making the assumption that you supported these proposals. I made no assumptions I just reminded you what YOUR words were when you blamed for the "misleading" headline! I would ask you not to make assumptions about what I seem to be thinking.

Tom Wieder

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

@jcj: The column discusses TWO ballot proposals. The headline suggests that i thought ballot wording had something to do with both failing. I did not say that, at all. Wording had nothing to do with the library millage failing. But, the very strange pattern of precinct results on the art proposal suggests some confusion about the language, which can be significant in proposal outcomes. I'm not looking for some excuse to explain why the art proposal failed - I wanted it to fail! I was simply trying to make the point that support for an art millage, properly presented, might be stronger than the results made it appear, and might have passed. You seem to be making the assumption that I supported these proposals and am trying to deny the very real and substantive opposition voters had to them. I'm not. I agree with them! The headline this piece should have had, based on what I wrote was: "Voter mistrust of government officials sinks ballot proposals." I stated this very clearly in the top part of the article, before I said anything about ballot problems. I'll take responsibility for what I write. I'd ask you to be fair and read what I actually wrote and not make assumptions about my views.


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

"What may have done in this proposal was poor ballot language.' YOUR words NOT! "Would the proposal have passed with more positive wording? Hard to say, but it would have had a better chance.' Again YOUR words! Stand up and take responsibility for what YOU implied!


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Tom I get your frustration about the headline but the column still missed the essential point. Voters went against the new building for a very simple reason: it isn't necessary. Sure, the current building isn't the greatest. It is dowdy and 50s looking. But it is still functional and many people found the library's claims about the condition to be exaggerations with the intent of gaining support for a new one.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

I was surprised that was responsible for the headline and not you. I find it odd that, for an opinion piece, they would write the headline. Unless it should be against their policy (for reasons that would be unfathomable to me), I suggest that future submissions include at least one headline of your making, not theirs, to avoid distortions.

Cendra Lynn

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:17 a.m.

If you hear hoofbeats in Central Park, think horses, not zebras. You don't need to look very far to figure out that lack of Public Safety resources plus a City Administration that only listens to those it likes means that the downtown library and public art are not exactly a crying need.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:54 a.m.

Tommy. Yer a "good guy" and Not a Burns Park resident. I beg to differ. The Library Vote was all about the current Sea Change concerning the Internet/Kindle/iPad vs Bricks-and-Mortar. What's up with that? Further, the building is Dow-designed; why tear it down on that is, at best, a "whim" by the Library Board. You tell me dude!


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

This column and the article the other day with council members quotes regarding the art program and that they cannot read into the intentions of voters regarding its defeat really says it all. They think voters are STUPID. I didn't vote for them or their pet projects, why would I ever vote for someone who flat out in an article attributes their losing an issue to the voters must be too dumb to understand. Anyone who voted for such people or listened to this condescending guest writer should think harder on what persons they vote/listen to.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Interesting -- 48 comments so far and not one (okay, maybe one on the fence) support this Opinion. I think your answer lies right there, not is some poor wording that us woeful Ann Arbor uneducated masses must have misunderstood --- By the way, I live in Burns Park and I voted against them too. And I have a doctoral degree and two masters.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:03 a.m.

Let's get in LINE, people. Our Democratic Leaders spoke, and we failed to follow. Maybe it's time to renew our Loyalty Pledges to the Party. After all, that worked out soooo well for the Republicans in the last election...


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! "Poor wording" had NOTHING to do with these millages going down in flames. Ann Arbor has changed significantly in the past 20 years. I've lived here since 1994, and even I have seen changes during that time. These types of public projects are no longer in the social consciousness of Ann Arborites who see basic repairs to roads, public safety, police, and fire services as more important than any of the special interest pet projects. It has nothing to do with being Democratic or Republican. Most importantly, tax payers are tired of being nickle and dimed with some of the highest property taxes in the country for very little effect. I don't expect to see any public project millages to pass for at least another decade or so as the climate changes again in the future...for now, it has NOTHING to do with wording on the ballot.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1:10 a.m.

Sounds like someone has been to the Joan Lowenstein school of winning friends and influencing people.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:44 a.m.

Hear Hear! Only someone who has been in a meeting with her could say as much. It was painful, in that it gave me (and those around me) a headache to hear this woman spin every single thing we said. She is a master BSer, Spin Artist. We all saw through it, felt it rude and condescending and we did not appreciate that the DDA has such power and we have to deal with the same people year after year. It is clear that the DDA has their agenda and we are just in their way.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

Gee whizz, Mr. Wieder, I'm sorry to be so stupid & can't read and all, but your wrong as many of the pundits are & have been. You have excellent responses here but as usual the cabal wont listen to US, they must have esoteric reasons for direct and simple responses! They will bring back these millages ad nauseam, at least three more times before they finally get it. They want us to buy local business days but then buy art pieces from Europe rather then from Michigan artists, put art in the police station where one must go through metal detectors to see it. There are many auditoriums holding 100's of seats in the city already but we need more (?) in an overpriced library, plus the homeless issue and trend to electronic media instead of books. The language of the milages is the LEAST of the issues against these proposals!


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:21 a.m.

One of the major reasons that the library failed is that the organizers of the library millage failed to demonstrate a need. You don't go to the citizens and say "give me $65 million" without a plan. While most citizens in Ann Arbor believe in public art, they do not believe in public art that has run out of control. The outrageous spending and poor quality art that has been placed provides no confidence in the present program. Ann Arbor public officials need to listen to their constituents and act fiscally responsible. When Ann Arbor can properly fund essential services, then and only then, will the majority of residents be willing to spend money on non-essential programs. If the current council members who continue to push for no changes in art funding don't begin to listen they too will be voted out of office at the next election. The past election should be taken as a message that change is needed and expected.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

"When Ann Arbor can properly fund essential services, then and only then, will the majority of residents be willing to spend money on non-essential programs." May I add: - AND PROPERLY MANAGE - essential services...


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

The times they are a changin', Tom. What part of "NO", does the 1%-er Burns Park Bourgeoisie NOT understand? Their days of running this town - no questions asked - are just about over. Surprise! Other taxpayers have discovered that with a little help from all this technology, they can organize and influence the course of events, also... and somehow I don't think their top priorities are so-called "public art", or more overpriced public edifices of questionable value.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

it is not the wording. it was what we were voting on. try it again and you will get the same results. how could anyone be surprised art got voted down. art should be the bottom of the barrel.

Eat Local A2

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

My belief is that voters are smart, and for these particular votes, they understood what they were rejecting. But for those like Tom who want to play word games that amount to the idea that only those who live in all the right neighborhoods, and with the 'proper' education, can understand the complexities--I offer another word game: after years of being drained financially, folks acutely realize that there is a lot of 'con-' in the condescension, from both the financially irresponsible web-weavers that run this city, as well as their apologists.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

I so stopid I donnt no whit Im vootin four. Typical attitude here in oz. BTW, Tom, if I had lived in Chicago, I would have voted against this a few times. Along with my dead grandma. How condescending can you get?


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

"Who would have imagined, a few years ago, that overwhelmingly liberal Democratic Ann Arbor would reject millage proposals for both a new public library and for public art?" Anyone with their head not firmly buried in the sand? It has nothing to do with being Liberal and Democratic and everything to do with economy and needs. Money is tight. You can still love public art and libraries and realize that now is not the time to be paying more taxes for those things. Art. Do we not already have great public art here in AA? It really is kind of a luxury item unless you have none already. Now is not the time to be spending on luxuries. Library. Hmm. Yes, maybe more immediate and a little less "luxurious", but also a huge "ask" without specific plans. Maybe this one was just brought to the polls a little too early and with insufficient planning. Poor wording -no. Poor planning -maybe. The Parks Millage passed? Well hello, parks are a great way for people who can no longer afford their gyms to get their exercise -especially if they are upgraded. Exercise is less of a luxury than art IMO.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:41 p.m.

He has History, Public Policy and Law Degrees from The University of Michigan. All he's missing is a degree in reality!


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

minuscule or miniscule actually both are correct. like gray or grey.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

And the comparison with gray/grey is misplaced. Both of those spellings are considered correct, but "gray" is almost exclusively used in the USA whereas "grey" is a British spelling and also is the predominant spelling in the rest of the world outside the USA.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

"The adjective minuscule is etymologically related to minus, but associations with mini- have produced the spelling variant miniscule. This variant dates to the end of the 19th century, and it now occurs commonly in published writing, but it continues to be widely regarded as an error."


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Ha ha ha No,no. They haven't committed me yet... They just can't get me to chant those obligatory party oaths correctly for some reason. As a conciencious and highly educated lawyer, esteemed thinker, citizen with long ties into Ann Arbor politics, I think you should be aware there is a shhh... come closer "crosswalk law" full of lyrical flaw and negative intent that may need to be rewritten, soon too. Otherwise, just like the library proposal, it could be cast into the BIG NO pile of misunderstood literature.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

Sheer poetry

Laurie Barrett

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

Ann Arbor leans right compared to truly left-leaning cities. It lacks the imagination, forethought, and excitement for the arts and for culture that power other, more stimulating and progressive cities. An Ann Arbor democrat is pretty republican when it comes to opening the populace's eyes.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

a compare and contrast please...your comment lacks specificity and therefore I am left with, " are you kidding me? She can't possible really live here."

Bob W

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

Since when does the application of common sense justify labeling someone as right-leaning?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

yes u r right we lean. only problem is we lean the opposite from your view. gee we must be wrong. nope we are right.

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 11:08 p.m.

As far as Michigan goes, this is the most left-leaning city in the state. The biggest difference between Ann Arbor and the rest of the state isn't politics, but common sense that reigns supreme here.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

I would like to suggest you move to one of those left leaning cities!


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

The voters are sending a message. The liberal tax and spend policies of the government need to stop. Those of us who work and pay taxes have had enough of it.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

Time to quit the jabber about the millages being defeated. The voters understood the issues and made their will known. No new Library. No Tax for public art. I hope we are allowed to vote on the percent for art in the near future.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

Parks are important to residents. The milage was a renewal to keep the parks we have. It was not an increase to do more. The City (Mayor and Council) need to be reminded that we DO value parks and we DO NOT support conversion of parks to alternative, non-park purposes. As for the art and library proposals, nothing could have saved them. Voters in general don't trust the people managing our tax dollars. We want public safety (police and fire protection), parks, well-built roads, and sound utilities. The Mayor and his friends on Council and the DDA just don't understand that even today.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

Yes, AfterDark - and that's the sorrow and the pity of it.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1 a.m.

yet many of the positions up for election this time around had candidates running essentially unopposed


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

This article reminds me of the spins that the Republicans tried to use after a devastating loss in the national elections. You lost, get over it and move on. Silly rationalizations don't cut it. Sore losers in A2 are starting to sound like Donald Trump after the presidential election.....


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

Thanks for that keen analysis, Nate Silver.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

At first glance this article has the look of a rant. How about a few line breaks? Also, I am sure I speak for many when I ask to limit the articles questioning voters motives. The results are in, move on.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

I too believe that there is a perception that many of the downtown entities are very buddy-buddy and not necessarily asking the tough questions of each other. Which breeds suspicion. Plus, many of the local government units have made pretty sneaky maneuvers in the past couple of years -- moves that engender distrust. The county commissioners, the city council, the mayor, the DDA -- everyone should be doing some soul-searching and asking themselves if maybe they have been playing fast and loose with the public trust. And then they should stop doing it.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Mr. Wieder has somehow gotten the idea in his head that we poor uneducated rubes are incapable of forming rational informed ideas about how the money that we have earned is being spent in our city. However, I am becoming more and more impressed that are citizenry has become much more engaged in local affairs than it has been in the past. These local proposals failed not because of the wording, but because they were bad ideas plain and simple. To think otherwise is an insult to your fellow Ann Arborites.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

The proposals were rejected, I think, largely because voters didn't see a problem that needed fixing. This time they got to say no. They had no say in leveling the YMCA and putting up a parking lot, nor in the $50 sinkhole parking structure across the street, nor in the water fountain at City Hall. These did, and do, seem extravagant and needless to many. The City's PR slip with the water fountain, in particular, probably killed public art in Ann Arbor for years to come.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

totally agree, nick


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

i sure hope art gone for a long long long time.

Basic Bob

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

Another shameless attack from Tom Wieder on people who choose differently from him and his Burns Park friends. Clearly we must be ignorant. I am glad our party (yep, I'm a Democrat) supports and encourages people to vote regardless of their ability to comprehend a simple ballot question. Perhaps in the future we can add a check box to the ballot that says "I vote progressive" and it will encompass all the things I am supposed to support but am too dense to figure out for myself.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

Shameless? I believe he has a right to his opinion. Shameless - no. Do I agree - also no. But shameless? I don't think so!


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

A new buzzword being preserved here. If city government discussions were on a local TV station, could it be referred to as cabal TV ?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

No, because a cabal is SECRET.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

While the writer has a nuanced argument regarding ties to the DDA, I believe ther was a more fundamental problem. There was no clear demonstration of need, the benefits of the project to the full library community. In effect the proposal suggested that the branch libraries were of little import to the users. Unanswered qustions remained as to what was the community getting other than another grandiose edifice, what services and products are used by whom and in which locations, what is the best allocation of library investment, should a more accessible location be chosen for the main library


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

So, Ellie Serras headed the downtown library committee AND she was head of the downtown area business association for 15 years, and her husband owns mainstreet ventures, which owns several downtown restaurants, and other prominent supporters of the proposal were DDA Chairwoman Leah Gunn and DDA Board Member John Splitt, yet Serras wants us to believe there is NO connection between the DDA and the city and the new library proposal? Get real. There IS a connection! It's the inbred cabal that runs downtown A2, the DDA and the city! Until the city, the downtown businesses and DDA are infused with fresh faces and leaders, nothing will change in the city or the downtown area for the better. NO new millages for a downtown library!! Understand it is not about proposal language or wording. People in A2 are smarter than you give then credit for! They see through the cabal.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

The city cuts fire and police services and expects an art millage to pass. The city purchases a dreadful overpriced "sculpture" for public art by scimming off funds from other services including road maintenance, and the city expects an art millage to pass. Nada. Not a chance. Has NOTHING to do with wording. The city does not need a new library when police and fire services are being cut, and the city refuses to deal with the homeless problem that impacts the downtown library negatively. The panhandlers that line the entrance to the library are obnoxious, and the homeless who camp out inside the library are harassing patrons. Until the city makes panhandling illegal and until the homeless are barred from outside and inside the library, the residents of the city won't consider a new library in the downtown area. NOTHING to do with wording.

Cendra Lynn

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

Um, would you simply like the homeless and the panhandlers executed? That would be one solution to being neither inside nor outside the library because I have no home. Unless you are independently wealthy, it could take only two or three rather common misfortunes to make you homeless. Where would you like to be put? The homeless are here. Deal with it. Perhaps even join those who want to end homelessness.

Linda Peck

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

Mr Wieder, I appreciate that people continue to ruminate in Ann Arbor about how two proposals that seemed like shoe-ins would fail. I don't think linguistics has anything to do with this. I think it is that we have lost faith in people spending our money downtown after the Mr Blinky fiasco and the very "highlighted" Court fixture, as well as just plain neglecting our police and fire protection and our streets. Most of us are not quite as ignorant as you would imply.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.



Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

They were rejected because they were a waste of taxpayer $$. Not because the wording was wrong, or people didn't understand, or the message didn't get across. Get it through your heads. People don't want to waste their money on stupid ideas. Damn.

Nunya Bidness

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Gee and here I thought the voters understood perfectly and clearly stated their wishes. Its not us that don't get it. Its those in power and those like yourself that are not hearing the message. Whether that is a willful act or not is the question.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

So, let's see: 1) Voters approved parks maintenance. Maybe it means they support parks maintenance, and parks are important to residents. 2) Voters disapproved the arts millage. Maybe it means they don't support precious tax dollars being spent on non-essential goods and services, while essential services are neglected or cut. 3) Voters disapproved the conference center (disguised as a library) millage. Maybe it means they don't support a conference center, whether championed by the DDA or the AADL. 4) Maybe the proposal language was crystal clear, and the resulting vote was equally clear. It's just that the politicians and other losers refuse to understand.


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Yeah, I'm getting really sick and tired of the whole, "We lost because you are too dumb to understand" crap. Change the wording all you will still lose.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.



Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

I really don't think wordsmithing had a thing to do with it. To suggest that large numbers of people in "certain" precincts are low-informed voters and responsible for the outcome is a ridiculous suggestion.

Hans Masing

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

I am a very informed voter, and voted NO - we are in budget crisis in Ann Arbor, and putting more tax monies in to art while cutting critical EXISTING infrastructure is not something I am ever going to vote for. I would have voted for twice the millage increase if it meant a return to leaf pickups like in prior years, or hiring additional police or firefighters - or giving the existing police a locker room that they can prepare for their shifts in that isn't a hovel. You know, important stuff - more important than a piece of 'art' in a park somewhere.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

Thanks for your opinion Tom. But then opinions are like...


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

How about giving me a chance to vote for who is on the DDA? How about giving me a chance to vote to abolish it? I do think Mr. Wieder's analysis is correct. There is doubt, at least on my part, that the ruling cabal has been spending public money wisely and I think many would agree that at a minimum their priorities have been wrong.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

"Would the proposal have passed with more positive wording? Hard to say, but it would have had a better chance." I am not so sure it should be hard to say, actually. I don't know for certain, but there must be survey research (if not research on the success or failure of positively or negatively worded actual ballot proposals) that can project the likelihood of ballot passage simply based on how a proposal is worded in terms of the positivity or negativity of the language. And congratulations, by the way, on the correct spelling of minuscule.

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

According to Tom Wieder, Ann Arbor constituents living outside of the Burns Park neighborhood rejected the Library and Public Art Mileages because they didn't understand the ballot language. Thanks Tom! Tom, you are 44 years of age and a retired attorney? Congratulations! However, I think that's the heart of the issue why you don't understand why both proposals were overwhelmingly rejected; citizens are tired of being taxed for items we don't need! Tom, its great that you're rich, but most of us are not and fiscal responsibility has to come into play given the weakened state of our economy, we can't just keep trying to spend and tax our way out of it. Enjoy retirement, Tom!

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

oversight. okay.

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:15 p.m.

FYI: I'm a lifelong Democrat.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

44-year resident of Ann Arbor, @Wolf's Bane, not (necessarily) 44 years of age.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

I'm a committed Democrat and a resident of Ann Arbor who voted for all 3 millages, but was really conflicted about the library and the art millages. A simpler theory: Voters were willing to renew the existing millage, but not add new ones. A slightly-less-simple theory: The role of libraries in the 21st century is undergoing radical, rapid change as the Internet transforms traditional media. It's unclear we need a big library that we'll be paying for 30 years for. It's not obvious that public art should be funded by taxpayers, as opposed to private contributions. Just like I wish conservatives would acknowledge that the Democrats won a strong victory in the recent national election, I think we need to assume that the voters knew what they were doing in the local town election and move on.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:55 a.m.

Foo, The Dems did win... there are enough people now onboard the gravy train to help tip the balance in favor of keeping the entitlements rolling. But this wasn't a win. This was the equivalent of giving Jimmy Carter a 2nd term. I feel bad for our children, who'll have to pay for all of this.

Bob W

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

Exactly! Proponents of the library refuse to accept the outcome.