Monday night, the Ann Arbor City Council
debated a proposed ordinance that would allow the Fire Department
to charge non-Michigan residents a minimum of $285 per hour for
emergency runs. The council claims that the intended objective of
the ordinance is to target medical emergencies and not structure
fires. The vast number of non-fire related runs made by the
department increase unnecessary costs for the fire department.
In reality the target of this ordinance is the out-of-state
students – the main source of non-residents in Ann Arbor. If
passed, the ordinance would bring an additional $17,000 to $51,000
per year from these students. When the council realized that many
University students are from out of state, they proposed postponing
the vote. Approximately 19,000 students would be affected by the
ordinance under the proposed definition since their driver’s
licenses are out-of-state.
Herein resurfaces a grave misconception of the lack of student
influence in the city of Ann Arbor. In fact, the city thrives on
the business stimulated by the students, both in-state and
out-of-state permanent residents. Students also work within the
city and are an integral part of the economic, social and cultural
structure of the city. The University, undoubtedly the lifeline of
the city, provides resources, educated residents and even a brand a
new fire truck just two years ago.
The council is misled in this venture since it fails to
acknowledge the dollars generated and brought into the state from
non-residents. A portion of the sales tax charged to non-Michigan
residents is meant to cover the rights one has as a member of a
community – including the right to call for help in case of an
emergency without being fined. If students are going to be charged
for emergency calls, perhaps the council should consider decreasing
or eliminating the sales tax for non-Michigan students, seeing as
they are not benefiting from tax dollars in this state.
The most dangerous consideration in this debate is that students
living on a budget may decide not to call the Fire Department in an
emergency situation because financial limitations may constrain
them from paying the price. Students should not fear exorbitant
prices in an emergency and should be welcome to safety services
regardless of permanent residency.
Similar to when students attended City Council meetings in the
spring to postpone the historic district appropriations, students
must organize and make their voices heard. Obviously, the council
has doubts about the ordinance and students should persuade the
council to vote against the ordinance.