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SG-W:/ The rest of the story: What the News won't print about the Ann ArborParks millage



In response to questions about the News recent attacks on the Parks
millage and the environmental groups which support it, here's an expanded
version of the story, in the intro below.  The unpublished essay remains
below this.

Doug Cowherd


****** Apologies for cross-postings *****

If you live in Ann Arbor, we urge you to vote YES on the Parks Repair and
Restoration renewal millage at the *very bottom* of Tuesday's election
ballot.  The millage level is unchanged from the level of the expiring
millage, and it provides critical funds for the non-routine repairs and
restoration needed to keep recreation facilities and natural areas in good
shape.

The Parks ballot proposal has been endorsed unanimously by the citizens on
the Parks Advisory Commission, by the Ecology Center and Sierra Club, by
Mayor John Hieftje and his Republican mayoral challenger Marcia Higgins,
and by the Republican mayoral candidate in the last election.  No local
group or organization, apart from one business, has publicly opposed this
parks millage.  Regretably, this one business happens to be the local
daily newspaper, the Ann Arbor News.

The Ann Arbor News has printed several editorials and columns attacking
the Parks proposal by misrepresenting the position of millage supporters,
and refused to print several letters to the editor in support of the
proposal. It's particularly notable that the News' editors won't print the
piece written by the leaders of the Ecology Center and the Sierra Club,
despite the fact that they've repeatedly attacked us for our efforts to
reform the City's millage rules so that all of the Parks millage money is
actually spent on parks, instead of being siphoned off for other purposes.
So much for the local newspaper's alleged interest in a balanced, open
discussion of public policy issues.

The News has claimed we did a last-minute secret fix on the Parks millage
ballot language.  Actually our call for reform began on June 4th - months
before the deadline for City Council to take action on the millage
proposal - at a *public meeting* of the Parks Advisory Commission, chaired
by the Republican candidate for mayor in 2000, that was set up explicitly
for public discussion of the millage.

Our concern is that voters who get most of their (mis)information from the
News may not support the Parks millage renewal.

So, in a modest grassroots effort to tell the public the part of the story
the News is suppressing, we offer to you below the brief essay (below) on
the Parks Repair and Restoration millage proposal that the Ann Arbor News
won't print.  Please circulate this as widely as possible, so that local
residents have a chance to learn what this ballot proposal is actually
about before they vote on Tuesday.

Without this parks millage, there will be no more restoration of natural
areas, parks bathrooms and play structures will go unrepaired, and dead
trees in parks will not be replaced.  This millage is vital to the parks
we all enjoy in so many ways.  Feel free to contact us with questions by
email or by phone.

Thanks,

Mike Garfield                         Doug Cowherd
Executive Director, Ecology Center    Co-chair, Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group
michaelg@ecocenter.org                aheise@wccnet.org
761-3186, extension 104               662-5205
**********************************************************************

PARKS REPAIR AND RESTORATION REPLACEMENT MILLAGE DESERVE YOUR SUPPORT

Doug Cowherd and Mike Garfield

Ann Arbor has a fantastic parks system with gorgeous natural areas and
extensive recreation facilities.  What the parks system does not have -
unless residents vote for it - is money to do the non-routine repairs and
restoration necessary to keep the parks in good shape.

On November 5th, Ann Arbor residents will have the chance to vote on a
ballot proposal labeled "A Replacement Tax For Parks." If approved, this
Parks Repair and Restoration millage will continue the current level of
funding provided by the expiring millage it is designed to replace.  The
cost to the average homeowner will remain a little over $3 per month.
These funds will pay for things like planting and caring for trees,
landscaping, resurfacing playgrounds, repairing electrical systems, and
restoring natural areas.

Before putting the replacement millage on the fall ballot, the Ann Arbor
City Council passed a resolution that provides greater accountability in
dealing with millage funds.  Council members specified that Parks Repair
and Restoration millage funds can be spent only on work done in City
parks, they capped City overhead charges at 2%, and they clearly defined
the activities that can be paid for with these funds so that millage money
can't be "raided" for other purposes.  These reforms were exactly what we
needed to make sure that voter-approved millage funds will be spent in the
way that residents expect.

Environmentalists should be especially interested in this Parks millage
because it pays for the Natural Area Preservation (NAP) program which
restores and protects our best natural places.  The NAP program is best
known for the work they do with "prescribed burns" and physical removal to
fight the invasion of non-native plants that threaten to squeeze out
native plants and destroy the habitat required for native Michigan plants
and animals to thrive.  NAP also maintains trails, collects and plants
native seeds, and conducts other stewardship activities.  Millage funds
pay for the professional expertise necessary to train and supervise the
local volunteers who are projected to spend 5000 hours working on these
projects next year.  This leveraging of our tax dollars makes this perhaps
the most cost-effective operation in City government.

The Ann Arbor News has questioned the involvement of the leaders of the
Sierra Club and Ecology Center in determining the millage language.  We
believe it is our duty as leaders of local civic organizations to ensure
that Parks millages are clear to voters and limit spending only to the
legitimate purposes approved by voters.

With the new safeguards in place that guarantee frugality and
accountability, the Parks Repair and Restoration replacement millage will
provide the funds required to take good care of the 2000 acres of parkland
that we're so lucky to have. If you love your parks, this is a millage you
can vote for with enthusiasm.

***************************

Doug Cowherd is Co-Chair of the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra
Club.  Mike Garfield is Director of the Ecology Center.












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