What should the city of Ann Arbor do with over $1 000 000 that the federal government is going to hand over next year with no strings attached?
That's the hottest question at City Hall these days. Last Monday it was the subject of a demonstration and public hearing before City Council that attracted the best crowd In months for a Council meeting.
The money is part of the government's new "revenue sharing" program under which cities will receive a kickback of federal taxes to supposedly provide better services for citizens.
Ann Arbor is slated to receive more than a million dollars a year for the next five years.
Needless to say, there is a lot of disagreement about what todo with the windfall.
Democrats and Republicans want to use nearly $400,000 to pay back old city debts and another $80,000 to (believe it or not) buy a brand new fleet of police cars.
And if that wasn't bad enough, they've got their hearts set on constructing a new "Public Safety Building." That's a nice way of saying they want to blow a fortune on a new police and fire department headquarters.
In the meantime, real community programs like the Free People's clinic and childcare centers are practically being starved out of existence.
So the Human Rights Party has come up with an alternative budget for utilizing the revenue sharing money.
The demonstration last Monday was put on by HRP members and community groups to dramatize the need for money for childcare and healthcare and to pressure the City Council to change the priorities for spending the $1,000,000 windfall.
HRP has proposed spending $200,000 to help childcare centers and another $150,000 for healthcare.
One of the most important new programs that would be funded is the Washtenaw County Hospital and Healthcare Corporation (WCHHCC). The group is trying to create alternatives to the present system where special interests like insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals control the delivery of healthcare.
The WCHHCC is made up of community people and has an avowed purpose "to plan, found, and operate community hospitals and related healthcare facilities serving all the people of Washtenaw County and responsive to the needs of the total community."
At the public hearing a long line of people spoke to the City Council about the need for healthcare and childcare services and about the financial plight of existing programs.
But it didn't seem to even make a dent on some council members. Republican Councilman Lloyd Fairbanks (R-5th) flatly stated that he didn't think the city should ever give money for childcare.
However, the demonstration was not without effect, for some Democratic councilmen were observed visibly sweating at the thought of having to vote on the HRP proposals.
Other Human spending plans include $20,000 for programs to help the handicapped and $20,000 for senior citizens as well as $16,000 to start an unemployment compensation fund for city employees. HRP also wants to appropriate $4,000 for the Consumer Action Center, $3,600 for the Ecology Center and $1,200 for the Women's Crisis Center.
Another important item is $10,000 for the People's Community Center on Washington St.
All these proposals will be voted on by the City Council soon. Only continued pressure from the community will give them a chance of passing.
Marijuana Law in Court
City Council has gone to court to try to uphold the $5 pot law that was knocked down by Ann Arbor District Judge S.J. Elden.
Elden ruled the law unconstitutional last fall as part of an unsuccessful anti-dope ploy to get elected to the Washtenaw County Circuit Court. Elden finished a distant last in the race.
Now City Attorney Jerry Lax is appealing Elden's decision. Circuit Judge Ross Campbell will hear the appeal sometime next month.
The city has entered the case on behalf of Glenn Fugua, the brother who was told by Elden he'd have to go to jail for 90 days instead of paying the $5 fine.
Should Campbell agree with Elden, which is likely since both are Republicans, the case will be appealed to the State Court of Appeals and possibly to the State Supreme Court.
Most legal experts contend the law is constitutional.
Pot Busts Decrease
Ann Arbor police submitted a report to City Council on Dec. 4 revealing they made 34 marijuana arrests in October this year. That compares to about 60 busts in October of last year.
Almost all 34 were incidental busts, cases where a brother or sister were picked up on some other charge and had a joint or a lid in their pockets.
This has meant that nine of 12 cases processed so far have been dropped because the searches proved to be iIlegal. Three people paid the $5 fine.
The other 22 cases have not been processed because lab tests of the suspected marijuana have not yet come back from the state police – who are giving Ann Arbor the lowest priority due to the $5 law.
HRP members on council have asked for a further report on what the Ann Arbor cops are doing now that the $5 law is in limbo. So far the cops have not replied.
Photo: Child care demonstration at City Council
Photo by Terry McCarthy