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The DDA's 2015 Downtown Ambassador Program
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is considering a plan to spend $300,000 each year for three years on "ambassadors" to greet visitors and offer help where it may be needed in downtown Ann Arbor. Here are a few articles on that subject:

January 7, 2015 - mLive.com - Ann Arbor DDA entering contract negotiations for $300K downtown ambassador program.
"The uniformed ambassadors would patrol the downtown with a focus on safety and hospitality -- greeting visitors, giving directions, holding open doors, lending an umbrella when needed, doing outreach to homeless and mentally ill populations, and serving as extra eyes and ears for the police, reporting problems they see."

"In turn, much of this money will be paid to Block By Block, a Louisville, Kentucky company that specializes in providing security for business improvement districts. Block By Block is a subsidiary of the Nashville, Tennessee headquartered SMS Holdings, a powerful, politically connected private corporation with a shady record of attacking unions and relentlessly hollowing out the pay and benefits of its employees. "

January 21, 2015 - Damn Arbor blog - Some thoughts on the DDA Ambassador Program and Homelessness
"I don't think the Ambassador Program is a good idea. If there is a great need to address issues like "panhandling, nuisances, cleanliness and wayfinding" in the downtown core, then we should come up with plans to address those issues and hopefully not contract that out to some outside company."

January 22, 2015 - Damn Arbor Blog - The DDA at a turning point?
"If I were on the DDA, I would be very worried about the general discontent being expressed by folks about the proposed Downtown Ambassador Program. The fact that the most vocal opponents of the program are coming from people who have been supporters of the DDA would be very worrisome."

January 21, 2015 - Mark Maynard Blog - The fight intensifies over Ann Arbor’s proposed “ambassador” program.
"The bottom line, it would seem, is that regular, everyday Annarbourites don’t much like the idea of outsourcing the “user experience” of their downtown to Block By Block, a “faith-based” private security company in Lexington, as is currently the plan."

January 25, 2015 - mLive.com - Editorial: Ann Arbor DDA ambassador program a misguided effort to improve downtown environment.
"With a price tag of more than $300,000 per year, it was a vote that left us perplexed. Will the ambassador program provide any significant return on investment to the businesses and property owners who pay into the DDA or is it spending that will simply give a warm, tingly-good feeling to a handful of visitors? Ultimately, we think it's the latter. "

When the DDA was conducting its Connecting William Street study, it obstinately ignored the wishes of residents. It will be interesting to see whether the DDA repeats that mistake and proceeds with the very unpopular idea of hiring "ambassadors" to patrol downtown.
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