Priorities and Perspectives

DSC_5211-JaneAtCouncilMy priorities and focus have remained consistent since first being elected in 2011. I pledged to be a responsible steward of your tax dollars, to proactively address key 2nd Ward issues and concerns, and to bring an independent, common-sense perspective and voice to the Council table.

I’ve worked hard to fulfill those commitments, and if re-elected, my priorities, focus and commitment will not change.

To read about my priorities, scroll down to one of the five sections below

Proactive Leadership in Addressing 2nd Ward Issues

I believe an effective Council member is both policy-maker and problem-solver. In 2011, when I first asked for your support, I promised I would listen and work hard to make sure the concerns of 2nd Ward neighbors were addressed. I’ve tried to keep the promise, taking the lead on a number of issues and problems of particular significance in the 2nd Ward.

Ann Arbor News (October 25, 2015) — “Lumm has shown a strong loyalty to her ward and regularly seeks out answers and solutions for her constituents while maintaining a perspective on the greater needs of the city”

Ward-specific neighborhood issues come in all shapes and forms. In addition to assisting individuals whenever possible in navigating City Hall and resolving specific problems, some of the broader neighborhood issues where I’ve worked closely with neighborhoods/associations to understand their concerns and to advocate for them include:

  • Pedestrian safety improvements at Huron High School
  • Nixon Corridor traffic improvements
  • South Pond Village residential development (Arborland)
  • Nixon Farms (N&S), Woodbury Club residential developments (Nixon Rd)
  • Geddes Avenue reconstruction project; Arlington Blvd re-surfacing
  • Re-imagine Washtenaw Corridor study
  • UM sale of Inglis House and 10 acres of adjacent land near Nichols Arboretum
  • UM proposal for new vehicle maintenance facility on Green Rd (withdrawn)
  • Deer overpopulation challenges
  • Concordia University athletic facility project on Geddes

Two 2nd Ward initiatives I’ve championed on Council recently are implementing pedestrian safety improvements at Huron High School and Nixon corridor traffic improvements. The safety enhancements at Huron are a great example of positive actions resulting largely from the dedicated engagement of local, citizen-based organizations – in this case A2Safe Transport and Safe Kids Huron Valley.

If I’m re-elected, I’ll continue to make constituent problem-solving a top priority whether it’s the broader 2nd Ward issue like those referenced above or simply facilitating positive outcomes in city-related matters for individual residents.

Click Here for More on Pedestrian Safety Improvements at Huron High School and Nixon Corridor Traffic Improvements

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Fiscal Responsibility

My actions on Council are guided by a core belief that local government’s primary responsibility is to spend your tax dollars wisely, efficiently and consistent with community priorities.

I’ve insisted on robust fiscal and budget processes and disciplines (competitive bidding, cost-benefit analysis, benchmarking, operational best practices etc) and have consistently questioned and challenged discretionary, non-essential spending.

Ann Arbor News (October 27, 2013) — “Lumm works hard to keep the City’s finances in line and we applaud that”      

A couple of examples of Council-approved actions I’ve sponsored include returning almost $1 million in “Percent for Art” funds to their original sources (street millage, sewer funds) to use for critical re-investment in those areas and not spending a planned $4 million on a City Hall exterior renovation.

The City has a large ($78 million) unfunded pension liability.  For several years, I have been advocating that the City should transition from its defined-benefit pension structure to a defined contribution, 401-K type structure (for new hires) as a way to begin to address the unfunded liability and lower the City’s costs, investment risk and volatility.  Finally, beginning in January 2017, the City adopted a new hybrid-plan pension structure for new hires.

I have always kept the taxpayer front and center in my decision making and resisted non-essential or wasteful spending regardless of whether it is City or other tax dollars. Whether it’s federal dollars for wind turbines… or local dollars to “re-skin” City Hall  … or a combination of federal and local dollars for endless train station studies, I have (and will continue) to oppose spending that I believe is largely discretionary or wasteful.

Click Here for More on Fiscal responsibility – Jane’s Council Record & Actions

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A motivation in my running for City Council in 2011 was the belief that elected officials had lost touch with the community and its priorities. Transparency and accountability were lacking, there was virtually no public debate of issues or alternative solutions, and many residents felt excluded, that they didn’t have a voice and that their elected officials were simply not listening.

I’ve worked to change that dynamic and to increase transparency, accountability and community engagement.

Ann Arbor News (October 27, 2013) — “Lumm has helped bring more transparency and dialog to council discussions, asking the skeptical questions that others weren’t asking in the past. There’s now more open debate of issues as a result.”      

Ann Arbor News (October 25, 2015) — “Over her two terms on Council, Lumm has stayed true to her ‘independent’ stance. With a detail-oriented approach to reviewing council matters, Lumm frequently brings forth much-needed debate and perspective before a final vote.” 

While some progress has been made in transparency, accountability and levels of open debate and community engagement, it’s clear we still have a long way to go. The lack of transparency and sharing of information on the potential new Train Station coupled with Council’s decisions to virtually ignore the significant community-based efforts related to the Library Lot demonstrate very clearly that transparency, accountability and community engagement are still not where they should be or what an active community like Ann Arbor deserves and expects.

Transparency and information sharing is an essential element of good governance on a city-wide level, but also on an individual Councilmember level. While I can certainly improve, I’ve tried to listen to the community and to communicate/share information as much as possible through weekly “Coffee with Jane” office hours and periodic “Second Ward Update from Jane Lumm” email distributions.

If re-elected, I’d plan to continue those and be as responsive as I can be to your emails and phone calls. I also remain committed to do all I can to improve transparency and accountability at City Hall.

Click Here for More on Transparency  – Jane’s Council Record & Actions

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Responsible Growth

I believe continued economic growth is a necessary ingredient to Ann Arbor’s long term success and maintaining the strong quality of life we enjoy.

We’re very fortunate that Ann Arbor is so attractive to developers and businesses. The strong demand allows us to grow economically, yet be selective through our zoning, planning, and design rules — insist on development that complements our character.

We can have it all – development that contributes to a continuing strong local economy AND supports a vibrant downtown AND maintains/enhances the very character of our downtown and neighborhoods that makes Ann Arbor so attractive in the first place. That should be our standard and we should settle for nothing less. Compromising the character of our downtown and neighborhoods is not in Ann Arbor’s best long-term interests no matter how large the short term payoff is, or how compelling the near term benefit may seem to be.

The large majority of development proposals that come to City Council (and there are many) do represent an improvement to a site, are compatible with surrounding areas, and meet that standard of maintaining/enhancing character. I’m happy to support those and add to the tax base and overall economic vitality of our City.

Occasionally, Council is presented with a development proposal that is not compatible with the surrounding area and detracts from the existing character. I will not support those proposals or proposals where adequate supporting infrastructure is not in place. The handful of development proposals I’ve opposed — Library Lot, 413 E. Huron, Nixon Farms and Woodbury Club, South Pond Village – fall into one or both of those categories.

While much of the development discussion relates to the downtown area, preserving the character of our neighborhoods is equally, if not more, important.  Protecting the character of neighborhoods is critical to Ann Arbor’s quality of life and I’m concerned that efforts to add density in single-family neighborhoods, whether through Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) or other means, could place the character of those neighborhoods at risk.

If re-elected, I’ll continue to apply the same criteria and standard in my decision-making for development proposals.  If a proposal improves the site and is compatible with (and maintains/enhances the character) of the surrounding area…and if there is adequate supporting infrastructure…I will be happy to support it. But if not, I won’t..

Click Here for More on Responsible Growth  – Jane’s Council Record & Actions

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Infrastructure Investment, Basic Services as Spending Priorities

One of the most important policy decisions City Council makes is how to prioritize spending of limited resources through adoption of the annual City budget.

Guided by the belief that providing quality basic services and maintaining critical infrastructure are priorities that must be funded before considering more discretionary, non-essential programs, I’ve actively tried to shape the city budget to re-focus spending on these priorities – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – and whenever I sponsored an action that required ongoing incremental spending, I identified a reduction elsewhere in the budget so as to not increase total spending.

Ann Arbor News (October 27, 2013) — “Lumm works hard to keep the City’s finances in line and we applaud that. She’s concerned about basic services, something that we also think the city needs to continue to address.”      

Examples of budget-related actions I’ve sponsored that were adopted include creation of a fund and mechanism to prioritize installation of new streetlights, accelerating the Nixon corridor traffic improvement project, installing pedestrian safety infrastructure at Huron High School, directing staff to explore sources for additional street repair funding, re-directing public art funds to pay for critical water/sewer infrastructure and street repair projects, and eliminating a planned $4.4M exterior renovation to City Hall. And after years of my pushing and advocating for pension structure reform, the City implemented a new hybrid pension structure for new hires at the beginning of 2017.

Budget-related actions I’ve sponsored that were not adopted include incrementally restoring the cuts in police staffing over the last decade to provide resources for improved public safety in neighborhoods (patrols and traffic enforcement) and downtown (beat cops),restoring city-provided Fall leaf pickup services, re-directing a portion of LDFA tax revenue to fund fiber infrastructure, and increasing budgeted funding for pedestrian safety infrastructure at schools.

Prioritization of limited resources is difficult, but essential…..and how your tax dollars are spent should reflect your and the community’s priorities, not the priorities of elected officials or special interest groups.

We do not need higher taxes.

Ann Arbor’s property taxes are already very high and a substantial burden for all homeowners. For some homeowners – particularly those on fixed incomes – ever increasing taxes can be a severe burden that puts them at risk of losing their homes. Rather than continue to look to the taxpayers for more, the city must focus instead on delivering those services and programs residents value, and are willing to pay for, more effectively and efficiently.

If fortunate enough to be re-elected, I’ll continue my efforts to re-focus city sending towards providing excellent basic services and maintaining infrastructure. A particular focus will be increasing downtown parking capacity. The Nelson Nygaard Parking Study commissioned by the DDA concluded in the Fall of  2015 the downtown parking system was at capacity then and that demand was still growing (the study projected additional demand for 860 spaces by 2019). The granting of 361 spaces to the Library Lot development will only add to the severity of the capacity challenge.

My view (shared by many downtown businesses) is that added capacity is necessary to ensure we don’t reach the point where the lack of parking downtown places at risk the future economic health and viability of our vibrant downtown.

Click Here for More on Spending Priorities  – Jane’s Council Record & Actions

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Pedestrian Safety Improvements at Huron High School

Over the last 18 months, I’ve worked with the local citizen-based organization A2Safe Transport and championed initiatives at City Council to implement pedestrian safety improvements at Huron High School.  Specifically, I authored and sponsored three Council resolutions that were ultimately approved to:

  • install a new crosswalk on Huron Parkway (March 2016)
  • install new streetlights at the Fuller Road crosswalk (November 2016)
  • install RRFB’s at the Fuller Road crosswalk (February 2017)

Just recently, another local citizen-based group (Safe Kids Huron Valley) was notified their application for a $30K Safe Kids to School grant for Huron was approved which will pay for four changeable flashing speed signs that will be installed around Huron High School (two on Huron Parkway and two on Fuller). I was happy to co-sponsor the Council resolution accepting that grant and appreciated Mayor Taylor’s kind comments recognizing my leadership on Council on the issue.

Thanks largely to the efforts of these concerned citizen-based organizations, much progress has been made in improving pedestrian safety at schools throughout Ann Arbor and especially at Huron High School.  However, much more needs to be done, both at  Huron and for all Ann Arbor schools.

Recognizing that, I sponsored budget amendments to the City’s Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget (with funding offsets so as to not increase total spending) that would have increased police staffing by two officers to support more traffic enforcement around schools and in neighborhoods and also would have increased overall spending for improving pedestrian safety infrastructure at schools. Unfortunately, neither budget amendment was adopted by Council.

Nixon Corridor Traffic Improvements

Another significant 2nd Ward issue is traffic flow and congestion on the Nixon Corridor. Congestion is already problematic and will only be exacerbated by the new residential developments being constructed on Nixon Road (almost 1,000 new units ultimately will be added in the area).

While the new roundabout currently under construction at the Nixon/Green/DhuVarren intersection will improve traffic flow somewhat, it will not address the congestion and access challenges further south on Nixon towards Plymouth Road. In 2015, I authored and sponsored a resolution Council approved to conduct a Nixon Corridor Traffic Study.

The study concluded that a series of five roundabouts at key intersections on the corridor is the only alternative considered that addresses the primary traffic access and flow concerns. That option is recommended by City Staff, but the project was not included in the City’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) or FY17-18 capital budget because the study concluded after the City’s annual CIP planning cycle was conducted.

To ensure the project does not lose momentum by waiting at least a year for the CIP process to run its course, I authored and sponsored a budget amendment Council approved to add the Corridor Improvement Project design costs to the FY17-18 capital budget. Council also approved my resolution directing the City Administrator to present plans and recommendations to Council that coordinate this Nixon Corridor Traffic Improvement project with the planned DTE Transmission Line Project to minimize disruption in the area and best utilize DTE’s obligation to restore the road as part of its project.

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Fiscal responsibility – Jane’s Council Record & Actions

Since her election to City Council in 2011, Jane has worked hard to ensure your tax dollars are spent wisely, efficiently and consistent with your priorities – a few examples include:

  • Led the council initiative and sponsored the resolution to return almost $1M in “percent for art” funds to their originating sources (street, sewer, and other capital funds) so the dollars would be reinvested in infrastructure projects in those areas
  • Initiated council amendment to the city’s Solid Waste Plan that would maintain every week garbage pickup rather than change to every other week as proposed in the Solid Waste Plan update (proposal was to use the savings generated from the reduced garbage pickups to pay for year-round food waste composting)
  • Initiated council action to not spend $4.4M on City Hall exterior renovations. Jane’s resolution removed the funding from the city’s Capital Improvement Plan for a $4.4M “Larcom Building Exterior Re-skin”
  • For several years, Jane was the lone voice on Council advocating that the City needed to begin addressing its unfunded pension liability ($78 million at June 30, 2016) by restructuring the city’s employee pension plan from a defined benefit structure to a defined contribution, 401K-type structure for new City hires. Jane’s persistence was finally rewarded with the City adopting a hybrid pension plan structure for new hires effective January 1, 2017.  Although the new plan is not the complete re-structuring for new hires that Jane proposed, it is a step in the right direction and will reduce the City’s investment risk, volatility and liability over time.

Jane has also consistently questioned and challenged discretionary spending. She insists on city processes and information ((competitive bidding, cost-benefit analysis, benchmarking, operational best practices etc) that ensure taxpayers are getting good value for their tax dollars.  Jane does not support spending she believes is discretionary/not aligned with community priorities or is wasteful. Some examples include:

  • City Hall exterior renovations
  • Wind turbine at Pioneer High School
  • Certain Greenbelt Program purchases that do not leverage our local dollars
  • Public Art project at Stadium Boulevard
  • Overruns/added costs for train Station studies
  • Costs for County-Wide Transit Authority (disbanded shortly after creation)

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Transparency – Jane’s Council Record and Actions

As noted by the Ann Arbor News in their endorsements of Jane’s re-election in both 2013 and 2015, Jane has helped bring more transparency and dialog to council discussions.

In addition to contributing to more transparency and debate, Jane also was an active participant in increasing accountability of the DDA (new long-term funding model and cap on tax revenue growth) and for the LDFA & SPARK (new performance metrics and reporting).

Jane’s votes and actions have consistently demonstrated her commitment to transparency and public engagement. Examples include:

  • Council Meeting Public Speaking Time Limits – in 2013, a proposal to cut back on the time citizens have to address Council from three minutes to two was presented in an effort to reduce the length of council meetings.  Jane opposed the change, and ultimately Council adopted Jane’s motion to restore the full public speaking time and to create additional opportunities for citizen input.
  • Train Station Study Information Sharing – like many Ann Arbor residents, Jane has been troubled by the lack of information shared by the City on the train station studies.
    • On June 6, 2016, Jane joined Councilmembers Eaton and Kailasapathy in sponsoring a resolution that would have required the City to share information related to the studies. The resolution failed on a 5-6 vote.
    • On March 20, 2017, after months of no information, Jane asked Administrator Lazarus for a status update on the studies at the Council meeting that night in order to force a public disclosure of the status

While the release of final study documents must be authorized by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Jane believes there is no justification for not sharing city documents, e-mails, or status updates with the public and that the overall lack of information sharing and transparency on this important topic is inappropriate and inexcusable.

  • Placing the Library Lot Park proposal on the ballot – on August 4, 2016, Jane supported the resolution proposed by Councilmember Eaton to place the downtown park proposal at the city-owned Library Lot on the November 8, 2016 ballot. Jane believed the significant city-wide citizen effort to obtain petition signatures (which fell a few signatures short of the technical requirement) should have been acknowledged and respected. The resolution failed on a 4-7 vote.

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Responsible Growth – Jane’s Council Record and Actions

Jane believes we can (and must) achieve a successful balance of development and preservation that generates economic growth AND maintains/enhances Ann Arbor’s unique character. She recognizes that Ann Arbor is fortunate to be highly attractive to developers and businesses and that affords the opportunity to be selective and not compromise the very character of our city that creates the strong demand.

Jane recognizes that economic growth is essential to Ann Arbor maintaining its strong quality of life and has consistently supported development proposals that:

  • Improve the site
  • Are compatible with the surrounding areas
  • Maintain/enhance the existing character of the area
  • Are supported by adequate infrastructure

The vast majority of development proposals that have been presented to City Council met those criteria, but a few did not and Jane voted against them:

  • Nixon Road residential developments (Nixon Farms North & South, Woodbury Club Apartments) – Jane believed the existing infrastructure (roads and stormwater mitigation) was not adequate for the almost 1,000 new units proposed. (Most concerning was that the already heavily-congested Nixon corridor could not support the added traffic). Jane also believed the proposed developments (height and design) were not compatible with the adjacent neighborhoods
  • 413 E. Huron – Jane believed the proposed 14-story student apartment building was too massive for the site and not at all compatible with the adjacent, historic Old Fourth Ward residential neighborhood and it severely (negatively) impacted the character of those residential areas.
  • South Pond Village – Jane believed the existing infrastructure was not adequate for the proposed 73 single-family home development, particularly the added traffic on the unpaved Chalmers Drive and at the problematic Chalmers-Washtenaw intersection. Jane advocated (unsuccessfully) for an alternative access route to Huron River Drive that would have avoided Chalmers and Washtenaw.

More recently, Jane voted against the sale of the city-owned Library Lot (350 South Fifth Avenue) to Core Spaces.  Although Jane supported development of the site, she believed the proposed 17-story, 350,000 sq. ft. building was much too large for the site and not at all compatible with the surrounding area. (Jane proposed that the City negotiate a smaller building with Core Spaces, but Council did not support her amendment).  Jane agreed with those arguing such a large building will dominate and fundamentally change the character of the area.

Also, like Downtown Business Associations, Jane objected to dedicating 361 parking spaces in the already at-capacity public parking system to the Core Spaces development. Allocating that many spaces to the new development when existing downtown businesses and residents sit on wait lists for permit parking is not only unfair, it significantly exacerbates the need for costly added capacity in the public parking system.

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 Spending Priorities – Jane’s Council Record and Actions

Throughout her tenure on Council, Jane has consistently questioned and resisted non-essential spending and offered budget proposals directed at allocating more of the City’s  limited resources to reinvestment in infrastructure, public safety and improving basic services to neighborhoods – priorities she believes must be more adequately funded before spending on other, more discretionary programs and services.

Jane doesn’t just talk about improving basic services and maintaining infrastructure, she has actively worked to shape the budget to re-focus spending on those priorities. Examples of Jane’s budget-related initiatives include:

  • Police staffing/Public Safety – every year, Jane has sponsored a budget amendment to add police officers and incrementally restore a portion of the cuts over the last decade (in 2005, the City had 159 sworn officers and there are 122 currently – a reduction of 37 officers or 23% over the period). Jane believes the police resources are necessary to improve public safety in neighborhoods (more patrols and traffic enforcement) and downtown (beat cops). Jane also believes that additional resources are necessary to implement the community-oriented policing approach former Chief Seto had advocated as the next step required for the City to evolve from a “reactive” police force to a “pro-active” one.   Not approved by Council.
  • New Streetlights – in both FY16-17 and FY17-18, Jane sponsored budget amendments to fund new streetlights. For over a decade there had been a moratorium on new streetlights and many neighborhoods had their requests for new streetlights denied. Jane’s amendment established funding and a mechanism to prioritize the backlog of requests. Approved by Council..
  • Pedestrian safety infrastructure at Huron High School – over the last 18 months, Jane worked with citizen-based organizations (A2SafeTransport, Safe Kids Huron Valley) and sponsored Council resolutions to add a new crosswalk on Huron Parkway, add new streetlights at the Fuller crosswalk, and add RRFB’s at the Fuller crosswalk. All three approved by Council. .
  • Nixon corridor road & traffic improvements – Jane sponsored the resolution in 2015 to conduct a traffic improvement study for the Nixon corridor and in May (for the FY17-18 budget), Jane sponsored the budget amendment to include the design costs in the current year’s capital budget. Approved by Council.
  • Street repair and reconstruction – for the FY14-15 budget, Jane sponsored a budget amendment directing City staff to explore funding sources for street repair and re-construction that ultimately resulted in incremental, additional one-time funding of $5 million. Approved by Council.
  • Water and sewer infrastructure – Jane sponsored the resolution to return almost $1 million of “Percent for Art” funds to their originating sources to re-direct those funds for critical water/sewer capital projects and additional street repair. Approved by Council.
  • Pedestrian safety at Schools (City-Wide) – for the FY17-18 budget, Jane sponsored a budget amendment that would have increased funding in the budget for pedestrian safety at schools. Not approved by Council.
  • Fall leaf and holiday tree pickup – for several years, Jane sponsored budget amendments that would have restored city-provided Fall leaf and holiday tree pickup. Not approved by Council.
  • Pension Re-structuring – for several years, Jane sponsored budget amendments and council resolutions related to restructuring the city’s pension plan from defined benefit to defined contribution for new hires as a means to address the City’s unfunded pension liability and to lower city costs, risk and volatility. City implemented new hybrid pension structure for new hires effective January 1, 2017.
  • Fiber Infrastructure – for FY15-16 and FY16-17, Jane co-sponsored budget amendments that would have re-directed a portion of the LDFA’s tax revenue from funding rapidly increasing operating costs at SPARK to funding fiber infrastructure. Not approved by Council.

County Tax Proposal & City Council’s Resolution of Intent on Spending Proceeds

The Washtenaw County Commissioners have voted to place an 8-year, 1.0 mill new “Mental Health and Public Safety” tax on the November ballot. The new millage would raise $15M county-wide in the first year and the proceeds would be allocated 38% to fund Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, 38% to the County Sheriff’s Office, and 24% to municipalities that have their own police departments (Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea Milan, Saline, Pittsfield Township, Northfield Township).

In July, Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution of intent on how the City would spend the roughly $2.4 million it would receive as one of the municipalities that has its own police force. That resolution indicated the City would spend 40% on climate action programs, 40% on affordable housing, and 20% on pedestrian safety.

Jane did not support the resolution. Her primary objection was process-related. The City has a robust, lengthy annual budgeting process (from December through May) that includes priority setting retreats, several work sessions with individual departments and much Council debate and discussion and she believed making such a significant spending commitment outside of the budget process was inappropriate and premature.

Regarding the millage itself, Jane believes the structure is confusing and that there should be separate ballot questions on each of the two components (mental health and public safety). She is also concerned about the appropriateness (and legality) of the millage proposal and ballot language for Ann Arbor taxpayers. Ann Arbor voters will be asked to vote on a “mental health and public safety” tax where none of the dollars will be utilized for public safety in Ann Arbor.

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