City Staff Compare Apples to Oranges and Tell White Lies To Justify Jacking Up A2 Parking Fines
City Administrator Roger Fraser and his finance staff member Matthew Horning, have found a brilliant way to bring in $875,287 in additional revenue for Ann Arbor. It only involves misleading City Council members just a little….
Just like the WISD millage proponents referred to their requested tax hike an a “millage enhancement,” and blackmailers prefer that their profession be referred to an “extortion racket,” city staff have been sitting around pondering how to “restructure” parking fines. The colloquial term would be that they’re trying to figure out a way to get City Council to vote to jack up the cost of parking fines. According to a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Matthew Horning for Ann Arbor City Council members, 83 percent of all tickets issued fall into three categories:
1. Expired meter
2. Over legal limit
3. No parking anytime
Of these, tickets issued for expired meters make up for 65 percent of the total.
How, you might wonder, do city staff go about “studying” the restructure of Ann Arbor’s parking fines? Do staff members just make up information and data that suit their needs? Of course not, they go out and cherry-pick data and information that suit their needs, and rely on the fact that no one on City Council will ask the obvious question: are these data comparable? What’s being presented to Council this evening is called a “benchmarking study,” and basically it’s supposed to present a comparison between the parking fines issued in Ann Arbor, and those issued in “similar communities,” according to the PowerPoint presentation.
There’s just one little, tiny, niggling problem. The city staff presented data collected from the following cities:
Austin, TX, population 656,000
Milwaukee, WI, population 628,000
Seattle, WA, population 563,000
Boulder, CO, population 293, 161
Madison, WI, population 208,054
Grand Rapids, MI, population 197,800
New Haven, CT, population 130,000
Lansing, MI, population 119,873
Ann Arbor, MI, population 112,000
East Lansing, MI, population 46,525
Alas, our fine city staff for some reason neglected to include population data in the benchmarking survey. I’ve included that data above. When included, the data show quite plainly that the cities to which Ann Arbor was “compared” are not similarly-sized communities. In some cases, Ann Arbor’s fines are being compared to those paid by residents of cities five times larger than ours. Are there members on Council who actually believe Ann Arbor is a “similar community” to, say, Seattle? Yes, unfortunately. They’re the ones who think we needed to spend $700,000 on wayfinding signs, and are prepared to drop $60 million of your tax dollars on FITS, a “gateway” to Ann Arbor. In psychological terms, they suffer from delusions of grandeur. It’s a large part of why we pay extortionately high property tax rates. Ann Arbor…Seattle on the Huron, the Austin of the Middle West, the Milwaukee of Michigan.
Thus, this evening, city staff is preparing to present to Ann Arbor City Council a “benchmarking study” that is not only deeply flawed but misleading, and a shocking example of an attempt to force the data fit the desired outcome. The staff benchmarking “study” is by no means a comparison of similar communities. Unless of course, by “similar” city staff took that to mean that day is followed by night in all of the cities chosen for comparison.
An expired meter fine in Seattle paid after 14 days costs $60. In New Haven it costs $40. In Grand Rapids the fine is $40. Not surprisingly, in cities exponentially larger than Ann Arbor, fines are higher. Thus, city staff conclude in their “study” that in Ann Arbor the fine for an expired meter paid after 14 days should be jacked up from $30 to $40.
Here are data staff chose to ignore: In Milwaukee and Austin, according to the “study” there is no penalty for paying a ticket for an expired meter within 14 days (tip o’ the keyboard to David Cahill). In the single city sized similarly to Ann Arbor (Lansing) included in the study, and the single smaller city included in the study (East Lansing), the penalty for an expired meter paid after 14 days is $25, $5 dollars less than it currently is in Ann Arbor.
Now, here’s a list of cities with populations almost identical to Ann Arbor’s:
|Simi Valley city||CA||111,351|
|Ann Arbor city||MI||114,024|
|North Las Vegas city||NV||115,488|
Guess what? In city’s with populations similar to that of Ann Arbor, the cost of expired meter fines are….lower than those currently extorted from hapless Ann Arbor residents and visitors. The cost of most of the kinds of fines included in the Ann Arbor city staff’s benchmarking “study” are lower than those currently assessed by our city.
This benchmarking “study” that will be presented to Council tonight is a patently misleading and a sloppy piece of research. Instead of restructuring the city’s parking fines, City Council should recommend to City Administrator Roger Fraser that he restructure the department that produced this appalling piece of pseudo-research.
Feel like emailing your Council member? Here are their email addresses: JHieftje@a2gov.org;firstname.lastname@example.org; Sbriere@a2gov.org; SRapundalo@a2gov.org; TDerezinski@a2gov.org; CTaylor@a2gov.org; LGreden@a2gov.org; MHiggins@a2gov.org; MTeall@a2gov.org; CHohnke@a2gov.org; MAnglin@a2gov.org.
Short URL: http://www.a2politico.com/?p=1542