City Council hosted a virtual meeting Monday evening to discuss several city resolutions regarding financial concerns for the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tom Crawford, Ann Arbor’s interim city administrator, opened the City Council meeting by acknowledging public service appreciation week through the city administrator’s report. He commended the city of Ann Arbor for receiving the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
Crawford announced the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Department will be reviewing its current situation in regards to the pandemic over the next several weeks.
“The community will receive communications from the parks department about their status (as they) open up and modify the things that they can,” Crawford said.
Ann Arbor resident Shannon Hautamaki spoke at the meeting about a resolution promoting safe social distancing outdoors in the city and further progress with lane and road closures paired with opening the streets. She advocated for the use of outdoor spaces as many of the festivals and outdoor activities have been cancelled thus far. Hautamaki said she thought the resolution would allow her and her son to spend more time outside.
“I ask you all to pass the DC-5 for opening the streets for pedestrians as soon as possible,” Hautamaki said. “I see statements from other members of council saying they don’t see a need for closing streets because it's easy for themselves personally to move off the roads. Opening streets also offers opportunities for musicians, artists and local restaurants. The longer we wait, the more frustrated our citizens become. Ann Arbor needs a win right now.”
The council moved to discuss a resolution to approve a waiver of late penalty charge for late tax payments in response to the pandemic.
Matthew Horning, interim chief financial officer, opened the discussion by emphasizing the necessity of this resolution.
“We’ve never been in this situation before,” Horning said. “We’ve never waived penalties for property taxes. We don’t have any empirical data, so we looked at past payment data over the last several years: How many people paid on time and how (many) did not and then made assumptions if we omitted the August 1 deadline.”
Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, said the proposed tax break is important for Ann Arbor residents and the money lost is not significant in the long run.
“A lot of people are asking what (they) can help out (with),” Hayner said. “It’s nice that we’re doing something but (only) 50,000 (dollars) out of 10 million people, in the grand scheme of things, it seems like we can do better somehow. I wish I could come up with something better for us.”
Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, echoed Hayner and said although it is a lot of money to give up, it will help the people of Ann Arbor.
“I want to push back a little bit,” Ramlawi said. “This is a significant give and it's only one of many of the things we have to do. This is to help alleviate some pain. We are going to have to be very resourceful moving forward. I know people want more and this is very significant.”
The resolution was approved unanimously by the attendees.
Daily Staff Reporter Delaney Dahlstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.