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Posted on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

A2Y Chamber endorses downtown Ann Arbor library proposal but stays neutral on public art tax

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber has announced its positions on a handful of local ballot proposals, including an endorsement of the proposal for a new downtown Ann Arbor library.

The chamber believes having a modern library in downtown Ann Arbor will draw many visitors and will be an asset to the overall community and business climate.

"While we recognize there may be concerns regarding the timing and magnitude of the proposal, we believe that the library has made a reasonable and valid case for its proposal," the chamber said of the Ann Arbor District Library's $65 million bond proposal.

The chamber decided to stay neutral on the city of Ann Arbor's proposed new tax for art in public places, a four-year, 0.1-mill levy that would raise an estimated $459,273 in the first year.

The tax, appearing as Proposal B on the Nov. 6 ballot, would cost the owner a $200,000 home about $10 a year. It would replace the city's controversial Percent For Art Program, which siphons off a percent of the money the city spends on capital projects to pay for art.

The chamber said it at least appreciates the proponents of Proposal B for having the foresight to put the question before the voters.

"This proposal's fate at the ballot box will give policy makers a clearer picture of the citizens' desire to specifically fund public art," the chamber stated.

On the library proposal, the chamber took a stance that the current building is antiquated and not conducive to providing the types of services and resources demanded of a 21st century library.

Renovating the current building, the chamber stated, would entail considerable costs and would not provide long-term solutions.

"In addition, and at least as significantly as the other reasons, the Library Board has proven itself to be a responsible steward of the public's money," the chamber stated. "They have built first-class branches without incurring debt, and for many years have voluntarily chosen to levy less than the full amount of taxes which it could otherwise levy."

The chamber already came out in support of the merger of Willow Run Community Schools and Ypsilanti Public Schools earlier this year, but it's now reiterating that message.


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Two proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot must pass in order for the two districts to merge, including a companion operating millage proposal.

"The operating millage is not a tax increase, but simply keeps in place the existing operating millage that is already levied in each district," the chamber stated, noting failure to approve the millage would result in an estimated $8.9 million shortfall in revenue.

That would further exacerbate the financial challenges of the new district and make it highly unlikely that it could survive, the chamber stated.

"Failure to approve this millage proposal has the potential for the imposition of an emergency manager being appointed to run the district," the chamber stated. "For these reasons, the chamber believes that the passage of this operating millage is essential for the success of the newly created entity and for the educational prospects of the children it will serve."

The chamber next week plans to release its positions on statewide ballot issues and responses it received to a questionnaire sent to candidates for local, state and federal office.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

"Well of course the A2Y is endorsing the library bond." Really? You see a lot of other Chambers of Commerce endorsing tax increases?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

No on both.


Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

Sure, it'll be a great asset to downtown, alright. Ask the Chamber and other library supporters how much money gets passed through to the Downtown Development Authority.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

"...we believe that the library has made a reasonable and valid case for its proposal" Okay, so there goes this place's credibility, whatever of that it had. Did they see the same video and read the same text I did? THAT'S what it takes this place to get behind a new $65 million (withut interest) grab? "This proposal's fate at the ballot box will give policy makers a clearer picture of the citizens' desire to specifically fund public art," No it won't. It won't at ALL. Putting whether to fund public art period to a vote would give a clearer picture, not asking people how they want the money taken from them before it's completely wasted.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

Well of course the A2Y is endorsing the library bond. They are getting their 400 seat auditorium and meeting space, which they hope translates into more meetings/conventions in Ann Arbor. They couldn't get their Convention Center, so they rolled these items into a "New Library". What are we tax payers getting? The BIll!

David Cahill

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

DonBee, could you provide more information about "the prior bonds not being paid off yet"? The Library itself has no current debt. Do the "prior bonds" refer to the financing of the last Library addition in the early 90s by the Ann Arbor Public Schools? The AAPS owned the Library until the mid-90s.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

And the counter reasons are: 1) It is much cheaper to do a renovation only 2) It much more environmentally sound to do a renovation only 3) closing the library again for 2 years downtown hurts the mission of the library 4) the streets just reopened - now we are closing them again - hurting the businesses close by 5) the per square foot price in the proposal is 3x the average midwest price per square foot for libraries according to the largest construction database 6) the library is not getting much bigger - so how does this fix the crowding issues 7) the 400 seat auditorium is not a library function - so why is the library adding it 8) since no plans have been drawn, no one knows how much the building will really cost or what it will look like, the library bond may be very wrong for the final design 9) the prior bonds are not paid off yet, so we will be paying double for two years for no library - the old and the new millage 10) no one has explained how the new e-book technology impacts the library design 11) there was a promise last time that the update would last generations - is 20 years generations? 12) no one has explained how the AADL fits into the overall regional scheme for libraries, including UofM and others

Peter Baker

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

1. 10% cheaper is not "much cheaper" 2. Not if the building you're replacing is more far more inefficient than the replacement. 3. A massive renovation would close it too. 4. Who says the street would have to be closed? Fifth Street was closed because they were tunneling under it, something that building a surface building wouldn't require. 5. If you don't factor in branch libraries, and only account for main libraries that actually house all the facilities that support the branches, that's not the case. Des Moines, Salt Lake City, and Eugene have all recently built libraries that cost far more per square foot. 6. 1.5x as big seems bigger to me (110,000sq ft increased to 160,000sq ft) 7. Speaker events and lectures are absolutely a library function, they're already doing it and they're extremely popular, more than justifying a small auditorium 8. The library is not going to spend a large chunk of their operating budget on architects and engineers before they even know if they'll use the building they design. 9. The downtown services will be moved to temporary locations, there will be library services during construction. 10. I would trust the people who live and breath libraries to determine that. 11. It's one. The library has always operated on a 20-year feasibility update schedule. That's why there were additions to the 50s building in the 70s, then again in the 90s, and now it's time to expand again. 12. UofM runs research libraries, they don't want kids coming for reading time.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 6 p.m.

There actually is no "neutral" position on the public art tax. It's a vote between two different public art taxes. A sham.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

The Chamber concludes that "having a modern library in downtown Ann Arbor will draw many visitors"--like there's a scarcity of visitors in Ann Arbor? If I were a library-phile, I'd go the Bentley or the Clement, which is only a few blocks a way. Library buildings are beautiful, historical relics that should be visited as reminders of the by-gone print era and for viewing books which are important as artifacts. The current Ann Arbor Public Library also has "many visitors"--and the police are called there daily to mediate the highly intellectual discussions which break out among the shopping-bag set. Good luck, Ann Arbor.