State Rep. Rebekah Warren (D–Ann Arbor) addressed City Council last night to talk about the bleak status of the state budget and recent legislative progress.
For the new fiscal year — which began Oct. 1 — there will be an extra 11 percent cut to the amount of money the city of Ann Arbor receives from Lansing, which translates to about $1.16 million. Though Warren said she voted against the cut, she said others at the state’s capital did not follow suit.
“I thought that this was a pretty draconian cut,” Warren said. “And there are many other cuts we are doing right now in Lansing that try to balance our budget.”
Warren said she believes Michigan has the tools and responsibility to balance the budget and that cuts aren’t the best approach moving forward.
“We have the ability at the state level to raise revenue, to stem spending through a very large budget,” Warren said. “We have consistently continued to balance our budget on the backs of those that we can pass our problems along to, so sometimes that is local governments, sometimes that is our university and public schools. And I don’t think that’s right.”
However, Warren said she strongly supports a proposal recently brought to the Senate that would restore revenue cuts.
She said the hope with this proposal is that the Senate will be able to restore a portion of the cuts so that the decrease in revenue will not feel as extreme. But if passed, Warren said the proposal will not take effect until at least April 2010.
“Cuts are here to stay for the short term,” Warren said. But she added that it’s important to take additional steps now to ensure that Michigan is in a stable, healthy position when the federal dollars of the economic stimulus stop.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and City Council members expressed appreciation for the representative’s appearance, despite the dim news.
“They have their own problems (in Lansing) and some pretty deep ones, but she’s doing her best,” Hieftje said. “While this is nothing new, it is nice to have an update and it’s nice to know she’s standing up for us in Lansing.”
City Councilmember Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5) echoed this sentiment in an interview after the meeting.
“We are going to see a pretty dramatic cut and a significant hit to our budget,” he said. “But I was pleased to know she worked hard to push against that.”
University students speak about State Street tailgate protest
Engineering junior Joey Juanico also spoke before City Council last night about what has become a controversial issue for the University student body: tailgating.
Multiple houses on State Street were ticketed during Homecoming Weekend — the weekend of Sept. 26 — because of alleged underage drinking, sitting on roofs and noise complaints, among other violations.
In an effort to protest the tickets, Juanico is planning a demonstration that will take place Oct. 16.
“To destroy a culture and tradition in order to save a headache or inconvenience is unacceptable,” said Juanico in his address to the council.
Juanico said the students participating are willing to compromise with local police and that they want the protest to be friendly.
“We are working to make it as safe and effective as possible,” Juanico said. He said the protestors are collaborating with the Department of Public Safety and the Michigan Student Assembly to plan the event.
Michigan Student Assembly President Abhishek Mahanti also spoke to assert MSA’s support for the cause.
“The Michigan Student Assembly and myself are all ears to working together and getting to the bottom of this to figure out how we as students can live our lives, and how we can be safe, responsible and moderate about it,” Mahanti said.
“Tailgating has been an asset to this town’s popularity, business, as well as the mental wellbeing of its residents,” Juanico said.
So far, more than 5,000 people have been informed of the event through a Facebook group and more than 1,200 are confirmed to participate, according to Juanico.
But the protest is not limited to students. Juanico said local businesses, alumni and musicians have also taken interest in the cause.
City Councilmember Stephen Rapundalo (D–Ward 2) disagreed with the students’ claims. He said the Ann Arbor Police Department notified him of possible safety problems.
“The police have identified a very acute public safety issue in that specific geographic location,” Rapundalo said.
Rapundalo said the behavior seemed quite worrisome. He added that the city has no intention of banning tailgates, but that rules and regulations need to be enforced.
Hieftje agreed that restrictions should be put in place, but also said he understood the need for compromise.
“The city is just working within its ordinances and within its own guidelines on this,” Hieftje said. “And I think there are certainly some agreements that can be made and some common ground to be found.”