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August 01, 2011 - Image 3

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-01

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Monday, August 1, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
. Council to revisit panhandling amendments

Officials question
enforcement of
city panhandling
Daily Staff Reporter
After being unanimously
approved by the Ann Arbor City
Council on May 2, city officials
say the amendment that calls for
panhandlers to gain formal per-
mission to be on city property
hasn't proved to be as effective as
The council began work-
ing on the panhandling legisla-
tion in September 2010, when
the city's Downtown Marketing
Task Force - a group that aims
to ensure a safe and clean down-
town area - first convened after
a year of talks between the Ann
Arbor City Council and Mayor
John Hieftje. During this time,
city council invited merchants,
police officers, panhandlers,
University officials and home-
From Page 1
that the perception that there are
not enough police officers patrol-
ling Ann Arbor's streets following
recent layoffs is invalid.
Referring to the recent string
of assaults, Rapundalo's challenger,
Tim Hull, a programmer at the Uni-
versity's Center for Computational
Medicine and Bioinformatics and a
member of the city's taxicab board,
said now is not a time to cut public
safety. Instead, administrative and
capital expenses need to be evalu-
ated and reduced, he said.
Hull added an important part of
his campaign is ensuring students
feel involved in the council's actions.
"I feel like sometimes students
feel left out of the city's affairs,"
Hull said. "I feel like sometimes
their concerns are neglected
because they're just students."
City Council member Stephen
Kunselman (D-Ward 3) said he
takes a firm stance against the city's

less organizations to voice their
concerns about the upswing of
panhandling and offer possible
The meetings yielded a
42-page report - published at
the end of the task force's six-
month assignment in March
- recommending a "program
of educational outreach to the
community" and an amendment
to the city's panhandling ordi-
Tom Heywood, executive
director of the State Street Area
Association, said the number
of panhandlers on State Street,
South University Avenue and
Main Street this summer has
been "about the same" as previ-
ous summers, a time when com-
munity members often claim to
notice an influx of panhandlers.
Heywood added that with a
decreased number of police offi-
cers following this year's city
budget cuts, as well as the Ann
Arbor Police Department's need
to address more urgent matters
- like the recent spate of sexual
assaults - enforcement of the
panhandling amendment was
Downtown Development Authority,
which he said is "running rampant"
with spending and has caused the
city to incur $140 million in debt.
"They have been spending
more public dollars then they have
received in the last four years,"
Kunselman said. "(The DDA) is
projected to do so again as they're
drawing down their fund reserves
to an irresponsible low."
Kunselman specifically cited
the decision to construct an under-
ground parking structure on South
Fifth Avenue between East William
Street and East Liberty Street as a
resultof poor judgmentby the DDA,
adding that it financially turned the
community "upside down."
Kunselman accused the DDA of
trying to force him out of office, not-
ing three of the endorsements held
by one of his challengers - Ingrid
Ault, executive director of Think
Local First - are DDA board mem-
bers, including City Council mem-
ber Sandi Smith (D-Ward 1).
"This election has turned into
my calling out the irresponsible
spending of the DDA," Kunselman
said. "And they in turn are trying
to remove meas an elected official."
He added because the city is in

expected to be relegated.
"Enforcement is always going
to be dependent on resources,
and we haven't had beat cops in
a while, a couple of years," he
said. "When you have things
like sexual assaults, the police
department, the University and
the city are going to spend more
time working on those kinds of
things than something like pan-
handling. That's just the reality
of how you triage things."
While he said he understands
the Ann Arbor Police Depart-
ment's prioritization, he said the
task force has worked to regulate
the issue to some degree, adding
the city will never be fully able
to eliminate panhandling since
preventing citizens to engage in
such acts is violating their first
amendment right to free speech.
"I think that Ann Arbor does
an outstanding job trying to deal
with the entire problem ..." Hey-
wood said. "It's just going to
be with us all the time ... You're
never going to eliminate it, and
you're never going to have com-
plete control of this as long as
people have the right to express
debt, financial cuts to services like
public safety were unavoidable.
"Unfortunately, the cuts are
necessary because we don't have
the money," Kunselman said.
"We've got a yoke of debt burden
around the city financial budget."
While Ault acknowledged that
public safety cuts were essential,
she said the unions that represent
firefighters and police officers need
to make more compromises in their
Kunselman's other challenger,
Marwan Issa, technology direc-
tor at Global Education Excellence,
criticized public safety cuts made
by the city.
"We shouldn't be cutting safe-
ty," Issa said. "Our students expect
to be safe."
Issa has proposed the Univer-
sity subsidize education and health-
care for Ann Arbor residents facing
"temporary economic hardship."
He added the University Hospital
- a non-profit organization - has
enough funds to perform health-
care for residents "pro bono."

Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1)
agreed enforcement of the
amendment has remained inef-
fective thus far.
"We heard from people who
lived downtown who complained
that they couldn't walk two
blocks from their home without
being followed down the street,
without being confronted by peo-
ple demanding money, without
feeling like they needed to cross
the street to avoid people," Briere
She added that though an
absence of data has made it dif-
ficult for her to fully assess the
amendment's impact, there are
a few indicators it has been suc-
cessful in curbing panhandling.
She said this includes a lowered
amount of complaints from the
community and a decrease in
news coverage of panhandling
However, she said she
couldn't fully determine if the
apparent decrease is because of
the amendment or the possibility
that panhandlers didn't choose
Ann Arbor as a destination this
Council member Mike Anglin
(D-Ward 5) said it is critical that
students understand council mem-
bers are always available to them if
they need assistance.
Anglin said while the council
tries to address student issues, there
is not always continual dialogue
- something that is important in
order for change in the city to occur.
"I need students to know they
can contact me," Anglin said.
When asked about recent stu-
dent concern over a lack of proper
lighting in the Oxford Road area -
most notably brought to council by
the Greek community and Michi-
gan Student Assembly officials fol-
lowing a string of armed robberies
in January - Anglin expressed con-
cern that the council has not taken
action to resolve the issue, calling
the area "spooky" for residents
walking alone at night.
Anglin said the responsibility
of lighting the Oxford area, as well
as other areas with high student
populations, should ultimately fall
on landlords.
"If there is student housing or
someone's renting to a student, they
should be required to install a light
in the street," Anglin said. "If every-

Briere said she is also con-
cerned about the uninitiated
panhandling education program
that was created by the March
report because the task force
hasn't been active since Febru-
ary 4.
"As a committee, we asked
that the task force be reinvigorat-
ed and take on this responsibility
of providing the education," Bri-
ere said. "And that's been not as
effective a request, unfortunate-
ly, as I would've liked to see. We
need the cooperation of down-
town residents and merchants.
We need the support of the busi-
nesses in order to do this."
Briere nonetheless said she
remains confident about the
future of the panhandling edu-
cation program and the city's
initiatives to aid the homeless.
When students return in the fall,
she said she hopes to discuss the
issue with the University and the
Michigan Student Assembly to
institute those measures, adding
that by then she expects to con-
vince the task force to reconsti-
body's got a light on the street, then
the student areas will be much bet-
ter than they are now."
Ward 5 challenger Neal Elya-
kin, supervisor of young adult
programs for the Washtenaw Inter-
mediate School District and a mem-
ber of the Ann Arbor Human Rights
Commission, said he isn't familiar
with the details regarding light-
ing issues near Oxford. Despite his
lack of knowledge on the issue, he
said the city should listen to student
In addition to making it a prior-
ity to address student issues, Elya-
kin said council members must
look toward the future and explore
opportunities for economic devel-
opment, mass transit and other ven-
He added the city should
embark upon increased collabo-
rations with the University in an
effort to achieve these objectives.
"I think it's ineffective for
us, meaning the city, to say that
the University of Michigan is not
a good partner," Elyakin said. "I
don't think that's an effective way
of creating positive relationships
with the largest employer (in the

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