Priorities and Perspectives

DSC_5211-JaneAtCouncilMy priorities and focus have remained consistent since first being elected in 2011. I’ve kept my promises to work hard to provide you an independent voice, make sure your tax dollars are spent wisely, ask the right questions, and increase transparency and accountability at City Hall.

I’ve always believed the role of a Council member is not just a policy-making one, but also a problem-solving one. I’ve listened and taken the lead in ensuring the broader issues and concerns of 2nd Ward neighbors were addressed and have worked to facilitate positive outcomes in city-related matters for individual residents and neighborhoods.

JaneCandidateComment300px— To watch a 3-minute video that summarizes my priorities, click here.  The video was recorded by Ann Arbor’s Community Television Network as part of their “Candidates Comment” series.

— To read about my priorities, click on an issue below.

Fiscal Responsibility – Spending Your Tax Dollars Wisely

We don’t need higher taxes, but do need to spend tax dollars more wisely. We also need to better align city spending with the community’s priorities. I agree with residents who tell me that spending on discretionary programs should be deferred until basic services (public safety, core infrastructure – streets, sewers, and parks) can be adequately funded. It’s your money, so it’s you the taxpayer, not elected officials or city hall, who should ultimately determine how your tax dollars are spent and be the judge of whether or not you are receiving good value for your investment.

The primary responsibility of city government is not only to provide those services residents value, but to deliver them effectively and efficiently. Technology improvements can contribute. So can strategic partnerships and collaboration (public-private, inter-governmental, City-University). Each must be pursued. Beyond that, the city must also address its structural legacy cost challenges, including a $90 million unfunded pension liability for retirees. On Council, I’ve advocated shifting retirement benefits for new city employees from defined benefits to defined contributions. This would make costs lower, but also more sustainable and predictable.

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

Click here for Jane’s primer on understanding the city budget

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Infrastructure investment, Public Safety, Neighborhoods as Spending Priorities

Throughout my four years on Council, I’ve consistently questioned and resisted non-essential spending and offered budget proposals directed at allocating more of our limited resources to reinvestment in infrastructure, public safety and improving basic services to neighborhoods.

I’m encouraged that progress has been made, but unfortunately basic services are not yet adequately funded — our roads remain in poor condition overall, sewer failures and flooding continue, and our police staffing is not adequate. Additional officers are required to implement the pro-active, community-oriented policing approach Chief Seto has advocated as necessary to positively impact safety and security in our neighborhoods including traffic enforcement – a need I hear frequently from neighbors.

Ann Arbor’s economy is strong and city revenues are growing again. It’s essential we utilize this opportunity to take care of the basics rather than choose to fund council’s more discretionary programs and projects.

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

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Economic Growth that Preserves the Character of our City and Neighborhoods

413Huron-MLiveContinued economic growth is a necessary ingredient to Ann Arbor’s long term success and maintaining our strong quality of life. We’re very fortunate that Ann Arbor is a highly attractive place for development and/or locating a business. As a result, we can (and should) be very selective about the developments we ultimately approve. We can have it all – development that contributes to a continuing strong local economy AND maintains a vibrant downtown AND enhances the very character of our city and neighborhoods that makes us special.

We can (and must) achieve a successful balance of development and preservation that improves economic vitality AND maintains Ann Arbor’s unique character. I will continue to support the development proposals that achieve the appropriate balance (most proposals that make it to Council do), but oppose those that don’t. Further, I will not support relinquishing Council control over site plan approval of development proposals – a possible pre-condition for receiving MEDC Re-development Readiness Program support.

Click Here for More on Economic Growth and Developments

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Transparency, Accountability and Rigorous Public Debate at City Hall

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 they didn’t have a voice and that their elected officials were simply not listening.

Progress has been made these four years – the levels of city council transparency, accountability and public debate/dialog have increased. There is now greater accountability for the DDA (new long-term funding model and cap on tax revenue growth) and for the LDFA & SPARK (new performance metrics and reporting).   I’m encouraged by the progress and proud to have been an active contributor, but more still needs to be done.

In 2013, there was a proposal to cut back on the time citizens have to address Council from three minutes to two in an effort to reduce the length of council meetings.  In the end, Council adopted my motion to restore public speaking time and to create additional opportunities for citizen input. That’s clearly appropriate. We should be encouraging greater citizen engagement, not less, and I would continue to oppose any efforts to stifle public participation or limit council’s public debate of issues, strategies and solutions. If that means meetings last a bit longer, that’s fine and a small sacrifice to make to maximize public engagement and dialog.

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Taking the lead in Addressing 2nd Ward Issues and Concerns

An effective Council member is both policy-maker and problem-solver. Four years ago 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 kept the promise, taking the lead on a number of issues and problems of particular significance in the 2nd Ward. A couple of the more recent examples include development of a deer management plan, the Reimagine Washtenaw corridor plan, the Geddes Avenue Improvement project and the South Pond Village development proposal.

If re-elected, I’ll continue to make constituent problem-solving a 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.

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Protecting and Enhancing our Parks and Recreation Facilities

Ann Arbor’s city parks and recreation facilities are significant contributors to our strong

Jane worked to save Huron Hills Golf Course from being sold to private developers

Jane worked to save Huron Hills Golf Course from being sold to private developers

quality of life. For decades, Ann Arbor residents have continued to consistently affirm their support and I too have been a long-term supporter and advocate for our city parks and recreation facilities.

I initiated a council resolution in 2012 to expand the protection of city parks from permanent re-purposing to non-park use without voter approval through a charter amendment. In that spirit, I do not believe the permanent re-purposing of the Fuller Road parkland for a potential train station is in Ann Arbor’s best long-term interest.  Last year, I joined other council members in sponsoring a council resolution to create an urban park at the Library Lot site. If re-elected, I’ll continue to advocate for this urban park as well as for moving forward on the Allen Creek Greenway Plan as expeditiously as possible.

The Ann Arbor SkatePark was a great addition to the city’s recreation facilities. I was excited to support it and will continue to advocate for offering residents as wide a variety of recreation opportunities as we can afford. City parks and recreation facilities do contribute much to our quality of life which is precisely the reason I was an active participant in the “save Huron Hills” neighborhood initiatives a couple of years ago.

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Fiscal responsibility – Jane’s Council Record & Actions

Since her election in 2011, Jane has worked hard to ensure your tax dollars are spent wisely 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”
  • Addressing the city’s legacy cost challenge by restructuring the city’s employee pension plan from the current defined benefit structure to a defined contribution structure. Although Jane’s proposal would apply to the city’s new hires only and would not impact existing retirees or employees, it would be a significant step in beginning to address the city’s legacy cost challenges.
  • Ann Arbor News (April 7, 2015), ” Council Member Jane Lumm, an independent from the 2nd Ward, said she was concerned about the pension provisions. She wants to see the city transition from a defined benefit plan to a less-costly defined contribution plan. She added, “There are a number of economic reasons the majority of employers have already made the change to defined contribution structures. They’re more predictable, lower cost, and less volatile. Plus it’s reasonable to ask if it’s fair to taxpayers that they pay for city employee benefit plans more generous than they themselves enjoy.”

Jane always keeps the taxpayer front and center in her decision making and opposes wasteful spending regardless of whether it is city or other tax dollars. Throughout the lengthy effort to establish a County-Wide Transit Authority, Jane advocated for adopting a less risky, more incremental approach to transit expansion. Although her colleagues did not agree, Jane’s position was proven to be the correct one. Shortly after it was established, the County-Wide Authority was disbanded but only after wasting more than $1M in AAATA dollars and countless hours of city staff time.

Jane also opposed accepting and spending federal tax dollars on a wind turbine at Pioneer High – another project supported by her council colleagues that was ultimately never implemented.

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Spending Priorities – Jane’s Council Record & Actions

Jane recognizes that adopting a budget is one of the most important actions City Council takes each year. Budgets establish where your tax dollars are to be spent and are a reflection of priorities. Over the four years she has served on Council, Jane has been active in developing and presenting proposals to shape the budget and city spending priorities – a few examples include:

  • Initiated budget amendments each year to incrementally increase police
    Ann Arbor News, 11/13/14

    Ann Arbor News, 11/13/14

    staffing. Jane’s amendments identified cost reductions elsewhere in the budget (so that total spending was not increased) and were intended to restore a portion of the cuts over the last ten years. (In 2005, the city had 159 sworn police officers and there are 122 sworn officers currently – a reduction of 37 officers or 23% over the ten year period). The amendments were narrowly defeated by City Council (5-6 votes).

  • Initiated budget amendment this year to establish a new streetlight fund and evaluation process to improve neighborhood safety. Approved by Council.
  • Co-sponsored budget amendments the last two years to limit the increases in LDFA/SPARK operating expenses with the resulting savings to be retained by LDFA/SPARK for fiber infrastructure investment. Not approved by Council.
  • Initiated budget amendment last year to direct staff to explore funding options for fixing local roads. Approved by Council.
  • Initiated amendment this year to establish adequate budget to fund the city’s deer management plan recommendations. Approved by council.
  • Initiated budget amendments each year to restore Fall leaf and holiday tree pickup services. Similar to Jane’s police staffing proposals, this amendment also identified cost reductions elsewhere in the budget (so that total spending was not increased). Not approved by Council.
  • Initiated the resolution to increase funding for capital infrastructure (primarily streets and sewers) by almost $1M through returning public art dollars to their originating capital fund sources approved by Council.

In its endorsement of Jane’s re-election in 2013, the Ann Arbor News indicated “Our endorsement goes to Lumm. She’s worked 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.”

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Economic Growth, Development, and Local Control

Jane supports continued economic growth as a means to enhance the already strong quality of life we enjoy in Ann Arbor. She also recognizes, however, that what makes Ann Arbor special is the character and charm of our downtown and neighborhoods. Jane’s actions on Council are guided by the principle that development proposals must be “win-win” — achieve a successful balance of growth and preservation that improves economic vitality AND maintains Ann Arbor’s unique character.

Jane joined a near-majority on Council opposing the controversial 413 E. Huron project. Despite a council consensus that the massive 14-story student apartment will overwhelm the adjacent historic Division Street neighborhood, the project was approved based on concerns over a potential lawsuit from the developer. Jane voted against the project based on her well-researched position that there was valid legal justification to do so and her belief that by approving the project under fear of a lawsuit, the city lost all of its leverage to potentially improve the project. Unfortunately, since council’s approval, the project has indeed grown even larger.

Council is working to prevent another 413 E Huron from occurring. New zoning designations and building massing standards are being developed that recognize the need for adequate buffer zones between high rise commercial areas and residential neighborhoods. Jane is fully supportive of these efforts to make sure that in the future, Ann Arbor will not experience other new buildings that detract from our city’s character and compromise our neighborhoods.

Jane will apply her “win-win” standard in acting on the three large residential developments currently proposed in the Second Ward – Nixon Farms, Woodbury Club Apartments, and South Pond Village. For the South Pond Village project, Jane already initiated the proposal supported unanimously by her council colleagues to postpone a decision on approval of the project site plan pending further staff review of site access alternatives.

Ann Arbor is a very attractive place for development and locating new businesses. We’re quite fortunate in that regard. Economic development in Ann Arbor does not require compromising what makes us special. Jane will insist on developments that complement our character and will continue to support ordinance revisions like the Outdoor Sign and Billboard Ordinance that placed reasonable restrictions on Digital signs not previously covered in the ordinance. Actions like these will not jeopardize economic growth and in fact, will enhance Ann Arbor’s long-term economic vitality.

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