The Hieftje Era
Sitting in city hall's south-facing first-floor conference room the day after the winter's heaviest snowfall, Ann Arbor's longest-serving mayor counts his accomplishments.
"Number one is the efficiency drive," he begins. "We went from 1,004 employees when I took office to 680 now. There was too much hiring in the nineties, and I told council at the first retreat after I became mayor that we have to shrink the workforce. I originally envisioned a 15 to 20 percent cut, though it turned out to be 30 percent, the last 10 percent because of the Great Recession.
"Everything that happened was colored by the recession. But even before that, the state cut revenue sharing, and money from outside dried up--then Pfizer left, and we lost 4.8 percent of our property tax revenue when the university bought the property. Every single year but last year we had to cut the budget while at the same time becoming more efficient. And we still do all the things we used to do, except we pick up leaves differently.
"One thing you have to realize: people at the city work really hard. Two people are doing the job that three used to do. It's what got us through the recession without a tax increase, when property tax revenues actually went down for the first time since the Great Depression.