Last Monday, the Ann Arbor City Council reviewed 17 amendments to the $334 million fiscal year 2015 city budget. The amendments covered funding for several areas including the police force, transportation, road repair, dog licensing enforcement and addiction rehabilitation. The council voted to reallocate funds to numerous areas in need of assistance such as transportation, animal management, clean energy and affordable housing. Unfortunately, efforts to redirect funds meant from the police force to drug rehabilitation assistance were thwarted with only two councilmembers voting in favor of the amendment. While the city council acted commendably by distributing much needed funds to road management, road repair and clean energy, failing to provide further provide resources to those suffering from substance abuse is a misstep on the council's behalf.
The city council passed two separate road amendments that are slated to enhance the Ann Arbor community for both students and local residents. The first amendment places $75,000 into services for managing deer and other animals. Michigan drivers experience 40,000-50,000 deer-vehicle collisions each year. These populations must be managed in order to promote the safety of residents. The second amendment proposes that city administrators outline a plan for alternative street repair funding. Given the consistent dissatisfaction with Ann Arbor roads coupled with the University’s bus services and commuting students, this amendment proves vital to enhancing an impactful facet of student life.
The council voted against an amendment that would invest $100,000 from the Affordable Housing Fund into a warming center for the homeless. Recently, University students have worked to increase accessibility to affordable housing for students with lower socioeconomic backgrounds. With the campus climate in support of cheaper housing, choosing to maintain the affordable housing budget could help provide students with more leverage in the conversation. Furthermore, the council intends to expand warming shelters this winter with intent to discuss suggestions with community partners deterring negative impacts to the city's homeless populations.
Unfortunately, the city council voted against an amendment to reallocate $95,000 from police staffing toward programs that help prevent and treat addiction. The amendment would have decreased the number of new police officers being added from three to two. Nine council members opposed the amendment, believing funds were better used towards a proactive police force and court-ordered treatment. These beliefs, however, are seriously flawed. Crime rates in Ann Arbor are at historic lows while drug and alcohol use are higher than average for Washtenaw County adolescents. Instead of focusing on patrolling citizens, Ann Arbor should help further fund addiction prevention for young residents and addiction treatment in order to the enhance the mental wellness of its citizens.