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Ann Arbor voters to decide Community Climate Action ballot proposal November 8th

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City of Ann Arbor
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A2Zero Plan

Ann Arbor voters will decide a long-term tax question in the mid-term elections. The city is asking for a 20-year, one-mill tax increase to fund its Community Climate Action plan. It’s a lofty ask, and not everyone is on board.

During a random stop at a local shopping area this month, it became clear that many Ann Arbor voters are still grappling with the Community Climate Action proposal and what is being asked of them.

(Anonymous #1) "I’ve heard of it, but I don’t really know what it’s doing."
(Anonymous #2) "I’m going to have to think about that a bit more. (laughs)"
(Anonymous #3) I have read many, many posts on Nextdoor, and I’m not really sure…."

Those shoppers asked not to be identified by name, but they do identify as registered Ann Arbor voters.

While they were unclear about their feelings on the millage, Mayor Christopher Taylor says the city’s education and awareness campaign makes it clear that the millage is needed to protect the environment for future generations.

"We all are experiencing climate change. We know it’s real, and we know we need to something about it, and the time to do it—the time to take action on it—was yesterday. But in the absence of yesterday, the time to action is now."

Taylor says Ann Arbor’s A2Zero Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 is already being implemented, and the Community Climate Action proposal would provide needed funding support.

The levy would generate between $6-7 million in the first year of collection, and Mayor Taylor says it has been determined how the initial tax money would be allocated.

"If the climate action millage is passed in the first year, you can expect about $1 million to go to new recycling reuse programs. You can expect $2 million to go toward solar and geothermal, about $750,000 for energy programs to support affordable housing. About a half million for emergency preparedness and tree planting. About $1 million for non-motorized pathways, and, finally, another million to support electric vehicle infrastructure."

What does that mean to Ann Arbor taxpayers? It would cost property owners $100 a year for every $100,000 of taxable property value. For example, a house valued at $400,000 would have a taxable value of half that: $200,000, adding about $200 per year for the life of the 20-year millage.

"We are asking voters to fund services they will receive that will improve lives, will improve comfort, will improve affordability, and will reduce our carbon footprint."
"It’s coming to the community at a time with high inflationary pressures, affordable housing issues..."

That’s outgoing Ann Arbor city councilman Ali Ramlawi. He lost his primary race in August and will depart council after the November election. Ramlawi voted in favor of putting the proposal on the ballot but still questions the timing and scope of the tax measure.

"You’re starting to hear people who say, 'Hey, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, but I’m having a hard time supporting these measures to increase taxes.'"

Ramlawi voted in favor of putting the proposal on the ballot but still questions the timing and scope of the tax measure.

"We’re asking the residents to pay for it, but developers and people who own big amounts of property, we are up-zoning their property, making them more wealthy by doing so, and we’re not making sustainability efforts in the new zoning regulations."

Ramlawi’s concerns are echoed by the independent running in the Ann Arbor Mayor’s race, Eric Lipson.

"We’re asking Ann Arborites to fund a new millage for sustainability, but when we approve new developments, there’s absolutely no incentives done there to create affordability or sustainability."

The question of taxpayer responsibility is one some voters continue to grapple with.

"I mean, I’m a big supporter of what I can do personally, and I’m not sure if I’m going to vote for it."

Again, that voter asked to remain anonymous. Others, like Jeff Klobier, wonder whether the tax responsibilities will stop.

"I’m kind of down on taxes, in the respect that Ann Arbor keeps raising them and raising them, and they’re outrageous."

But voters, like Ann Arbor’s Faelan Jacobson Davies, ask if it's not time to put tax dollars to this cause.

"I mean, more reformative to pull us away from oil and greenhouse gasses, something that’s going to reduce our emissions, those sorts of things. My taxes pay for things that I don't agree with, so why would I not be OK with taxes I do agree with?"

We’ll find out if the majority of Ann Arbor voters agree on November 8th.

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Cathy Shafran is WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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