Off to the Races
Sturgis, a tennis teacher, believes the city needs more safety services, "but not at the expense of human services or public services or the courts." Derezinski, a former state senator, says the city could use more police and firefighters, "but the question is: what can we afford? I'd love to hire more people in the planning department." Teall agrees with the need for more safety services but adds that, fiscally, "we're in the best shape since I've been on council." Warpehoski, executive director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, says that while crime is down overall, "downtown business leaders are concerned."
Crime is indeed down-70 percent over the last twenty-five years, though with a spike in burglaries this winter. But the police and fire departments have lost almost a third of their staffs in the last decade, and some departments-planning, parks and recreation, and wastewater treatment-have lost more than that.
Driving the staff reductions were falling property tax revenues and state revenue sharing, plus rising costs for pensions and benefits. And then the great recession made things worse. Despite this, Ann Arbor has balanced its budget and maintained services, while many Michigan cities, including neighboring Ypsilanti, have cut services and are still approaching insolvency.