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October 11, 2002 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-10-11

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GOVERNMENT

The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 11, 2002 - 5A

Erie accident

Council veterans Hieftje, Higgins
tango in biennial race for mayor

By Christopher Johnson
Daily Staff Reporter
"What happens in the city can more powerful-
ly affect students' lives than actions at the
national level," said Democratic Mayor John
Hieftje, who is seeking a second two-year term
this year. "It's a sense of local action to make life
better for students, not only those that are here
now, but those who will follow."
Since Hieftje and his opponent, Republican
City Councilwoman Marcia Higgins, are vying
for the position as mayor in a college city, the
outcome of the race may hinge on whom more
students favor.
"Students are a viable part of the community
because their youth, passion and creativity con-
tribute to the vitality of Ann Arbor," Higgins said.
The mayor of Ann Arbor serves a two-year
term as president and spokesperson for the City
Council. The mayor can also veto any action of
the council, unless eight council members sup-
port an override.
Hieftje is emphasizing the programs he initiat-

ed in his past term as mayor in his bid to retain
his seat.
Hieftje has overseen the implementation of
bus engines for the Ann Arbor Transportation
Authority that run on super-low-sulfur fuel and
plans to bring in bio-diesel engines that combust
vegetable matter.
"We are transforming the bus system into one
of the cleanest in the country," he said.
He also began the city's Clean Communities
Program, which holds owners of campus hous-
ing financially responsible for trash removal on
their property. He said he intended the system to
clear both the streets and the storm drains of
garbage.
Hieftje said, "I want Ann Arbor to be a clean-
looking city, and the biggest beneficiaries will
be students, who are most affected by trash-rid-
den neighborhoods."
To provide more affordable housing in Ann
Arbor, Hieftje has pushed the University to follow
through with building more modern residence halls
to relieve rent pressure. He has also worked with
the Avalon non-profit organization on plans to build

apartments for moderate-income families. A resi-
dence designed for a family of three would cost
$200 to $300 per month. Students whose families
meet the income requirement would qualify for this
housing.
Hieftje's opponent Higgins has served on the
council for three years.
In her past term on the council, Higgins has
organized a Smart Zone for Ann Arbor and Ypsi-
lanti, which provides money and new technology
for starting businesses in the area to insure their
stability. Higgins said the increase in business
would provide students with greater opportuni-
ties both as consumers and workers.
Higgins said her main concern in running for
mayor is a lack of public discourse in local gov-
ernment that she claims threatens our democra-
cy. She cited the recent organization of a parks
millage proposal that she said was put together
by Hieftje and special interest groups without
the consultation of the council.
"I don't feel that those groups don't have a
seat at the table, but to set policy without policy
makers there is unconscionable," Higgins said.

AP PHOTO
Twenty people were injured in a crash yesterday involving a school
bus and a steel-hauling truck in Monroe County's Erie Township.

Proposed amendment gives state
workers binding arbitration right

heMiCh~igan Daily Display Team V~'Ir o
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Italian Restaurant

By Jordan Schrader
Daily Staff Reporter
While most Michigan state employees have been
able to bargain with the state through unions for more
than 20 years, some say the state still ultimately con-
trols the shape of their contracts.
They see an alternative in the status of state police
officers, who can take their disagreements with man-
agement to a neutral arbitrator with whose ruling the
state must comply.
A proposal on the Nov. 5 election ballot will ask vot-
ers if classified state employees - nearly all of the
government's workforce - should have similar rights.
Its advocates and opponents differ on whether Pro-
posal 02-3 would deplete the state budget and if the
wording leaves a window open for employees to strike.
By amending the Michigan Constitution, the propos-
al would allow state classified employees to submit a
contract issue to binding arbitration after 30 days of
unfruitful negotiations.
The initiative also gives all of the about 60,000,
classified employees the right to collectively bar-
gain. That includes nearly all of Michigan's gov-
ernment workforce, many of whom are now

prohibited from doing so.
Alan Kilar, president of the pro-proposal Michigan
Employee Rights Initiative, said it will prevent the
board that oversees the civil service from altering nego-
tiated contracts.
"We don't have a level playing field," he said. "The
Civil Service Commission unilaterally changed our last
contract over 100 times."
"We're basically seeking the same
thing the troopers have. It's worked very
well for them and we think it will work
well for state employees."
The Office of the State Employer, a
MICHIGAN division of the Department of Manage-
ELECTIO ment and Budget, negotiates with gov-
200 ernment employees in the contract
process. DMB spokeswoman Kelly
Chesney said employees should be pleased about the
generous pay and benefits in their current and past con-
tracts.
Michigan State Police troopers, who have been able
to take their concerns to binding arbitration since 1978,
"don't offer the same types of services," she said.
"They're in a higher risk category."
Arbitration would also be too costly for the state,

because an arbitrator does not have an obligation to
take the state's budget into account, Chesney said.
Arbitrators are "unaccountable to the public, yet they
can institute awards and salary ranges that the state
simply can't afford," she said. "It could wreak havoc on
the state budget and it could force us to cut other
areas."
Kilar said the costs of arbitration would not be pro-
hibitive.
"Look at the state troopers who have had this for 20
years. They have not busted the budget," he said. "In
fact, their overall pay increase has only been one tenth
of a percent more than state employees."
The proposal would actually save money by cutting
wasteful government practices, Kilar said. By adding a
neutral party to the process, he said, state employees
could appeal their grievances when they think the gov-
ernment is spending too much.
Kilar said the state often contracts with private com-
panies that cost more than state employees for the same
work.
The ballot language does not allow for a strike and
state employees are not looking for the power to strike,
Kilar said. But Chesney said the proposal leaves open
that possibility.

Corner of I" and Huron St.
Downtown AA (734) 623-7400
wwwdamnatos corn

I

City voters to evaluate parks millage

By Christopher Johnson
Daily Staff Reporter

Although city residents could see a
slight increase in taxes' if voters pass a
parks millage ballot proposal on election
day, they would also benefit from the
plan, which includes the removal of
invasive species on park land and the
replacement of heating systems for city
pools.
Several officials who work with the

city's park system favor the referendum,
which if passed, would renew the prop-
erty tax already in place for non-routine
maintenance in Ann Arbor's parks
Mike Garfield, director of the Ecolo-
gy Center of Ann Arbor, said, "It's
absolutely necessary that this proposal
passes for the parks to be maintained."
Although a portion of'property taxes
is already allocated for this upkeep, this
proposal would raise the millage rate
from .4632 to .4725, meaning a person

owning a home assessed at $100,000
would pay $47.25 if the millage is
approved. The proposal would renew the
tax to its level before 1997, when it was
reduced pursuant to state law.
Both mayoral candidates support the
proposal.
"This millage originated because vot-
ers wanted us to buy parks," Democratic
Mayor John Hieftje said. "We need a bit
extra (funding) to take care of them."
Republican City Councilwoman and

mayoral candidate Marcia Higgins said
she supports the proposal because pro-
vides immediate funding, but expects
the council will find alternative support
and later abolish the tax.
"Right now we don't have the money
to do it, but I don't believe parks should
deteriorate because we don't have
money now,"she said.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13TH2002
12 PM ON THE DIAG

1:30 CONFERENCE ON TERRORISM
AT THE MICHIGAN UNION

.....:.._ , r__ _..

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