Archive for July, 2009

Fifth & Washington

Bank of Ann Arbor handing out chocolate “thank yous” when you pay your taxes there. Turns out it’s possible to score one even when you’re just being nosy about what’s being handed out. [Photo]

UM: Economy

The Detroit Free Press runs an AP article reporting that Michigan is second-worst (after California) in the Associated Press Economic Stress Index, which ranks states based on unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. The article quotes UM economist George Fulton: “The light at the end of Michigan’s long economic tunnel, which residents have been yearning to see, eludes us still. We do see some improvement, but it will continue to be slow and difficult.” [Source]

EMU: Dropout Rate

Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller interviews EMU professor Derrick Fries, who says that stricter, mandated high school graduation requirements in Michigan will lead to dramatically increased dropout rates: “So what’s going to happen is you’re going to have this incredible bunch of kids that have lost their connections with education, may not want to do their GED, and some are going to make poor decisions. And we know that some of those folks are going to end up in the Department of Corrections. About 80% of those folks don’t have a high school diploma.” [Source]

Zoning 101: Area, Height, Placement

contrast between pedestrian-oriented development and sprawl Ann Arbor public meeting

City planner Jeff Kahan shows a slide demonstrating the contrast between sprawl and pedestrian-oriented development – the top and bottom images are of the same corridor. (Photo by the writer.)

At Cobblestone Farm on Thursday evening, planning staff from the city of Ann Arbor presented proposed changes in the area, height, and placement specifications for various zoning districts throughout Ann Arbor.

The proposal is not a “rezoning” of all the area outside of Ann Arbor’s downtown – it’s a proposal to adjust the density, height, and setback requirements of existing zoning districts. There are no parcels designated for rezoning as a part of the AHP project. The project is thus different in character from the A2D2 project, which will result in a rezoning of the downtown.

The AHP proposal was actually intended to come before city council for approval in the fall of 2008, but on direction from the council, city planning staff were asked to get more community input.

About two dozen people attended Thursday’s meeting, the fifth in a series of at least seven public meetings to be held over the summer months – one meeting for each of five wards, bookended by community-wide meetings. Though divided by ward, anyone from any ward can attend any of the meetings, including the Ward 5 meeting to be held from 6:30-8 p.m. on July 30 at Forsythe Middle School Media Center.

So what is the AHP proposal? It’s not simply meant to clean up ordinance language in a way that has no material impact on future development. The proposal is meant to have an impact on how land gets used throughout Ann Arbor. What specifically is being proposed? What’s the zoning for where you live and work? What is zoning, anyhow? More after the break. [Full Story]

A2: Google

The Great Lakes IT Report interviews Mike Miller, the new head of Google’s AdWords office in Ann Arbor. From the article: ”Miller said the Ann Arbor office is viewed ‘as a critical part of our online sales and operations organization’ that’s ‘treated as a peer’ of Google headquarters. Today’s Google office takes up four floors of a high-profile office building at South Divison and Huron streets. When announced around three years ago, it was planned to have 1,000 employees within five years. Well, a series of funny things have happened to the economy since then. The office now employes 250 but is growing and hiring.” [Source]

Fourth & Catherine

Stopped by the Fourth Ave. People’s Food Co-op and watched the first edition of the Ann Arbor.Com printed edition being read by Ann Arborite “Lisa.”  Here’s to many years of productive publishing!!!! [photo]

A2: Phil Power

A column by Freep associate editor Ron Dzwonkowski profiles Phil Power and his Ann Arbor “think-and-do tank,” the Center for Michigan, which aims to mobilize the “radical center” and reshape the state’s economic future. Says Power: “There is no Phil Power agenda. The agenda is whatever people tell us it should be. We are facilitating a process, not advancing a cause. … If it’s Phil Power’s little civic sandbox, it’s bound to fail.” [Source]

MI: Soldier Abroad

The War Inside My Head blog is written by “Sky Soldier,” a guy from around these parts [SE Michigan]. His most recent posting reflects the fact that he’s now landed in Kuwait and is undergoing more training. Some of it is good: “I did get an awesome haircut here though, the guy shaved my head, massaged my scalp, powdered my scalp and gave me a 3 minute neck massage all for 6 bucks, pretty cool.” Some of it is not so good: “You would think it would be nice to have a breeze or even some wind to cool you down but all it is is hot air blowing that is filled with sand. Seriously it is like having … [Full Story]

UM: Football

The blog Maize and Blue Nation looks ahead to fall: “It’s that magical time of year when all of us college football die-hards start to come out from our summer comas to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel. We’re 44 days away from kickoff in the Big House on September 5th. 44 short days away from the tailgates, the marching band, the M Club banner, the winged helmets and the 3rd quarter student section wave.” [Source]

A2: Fiction

In the Chicago Tribune, Dick Adler reviews “Bad Things Happen” by Harry Dolan: “Before I read this brilliant first novel set in Ann Arbor, Mich., the only things I knew about the city’s publishing and writing scene were the University of Michigan’s fine output and the fact that W.H. Auden lived and taught there after being dumped by a nasty boyfriend. What I didn’t know about Ann Arbor is how active the crime fiction scene is. In ‘Bad Things Happen,’ Harry Dolan, who lives there, conjures up a setting where the bodies fall like cordwood.” [Source]

Downtown A2

Outdoor cafés and bars are packed, people walking dogs, street musicians busking – a beautiful summer night in Ann Arbor.

“Forth From Its Hinges” Nearly Unhinged

One of the many notecards tacked to the inside of a large, cardboard room in the warehouse at the art show Forth From Its Hinges.

One of the many notecards tacked to the inside of a large, cardboard "room" in the warehouse at the art show Forth From Its Hinges. (Photo by the writer.)

On the opening day of the art show Forth From Its Hinges, the people putting on the show experienced what Steve Hall, one of the main organizers, called “a nightmare.”

The third annual Forth show, like the previous two, was set to take place in a warehouse on Plaza Drive, just off Ellsworth Road in Pittsfield Township. Hall explained that the organizers held it there with the permission of Jacob Haas, described in the show’s program as their “beloved landlord.”

Hall said they also routinely give the police a call to let them know the show is going on.

“Somehow, this year, word got to the building department and the fire department,” Hall said.

The good news: The show opened as scheduled – it runs through Sunday, July 26. But the saga of those hours prior to its opening is a nail-biter. [Full Story]

Bryant Neighbors Dig Into Drainage

bryant neighbors

Neighbors gather at the Bryant Community Center to hear Joan Nassauer, a University of Michigan professor, talk about water drainage issues. (Photo by the writer.)

On The Chronicle’s first trip to the Bryant Community Center in December 2008, elected officials, the heads of local nonprofits, city and county staff outnumbered residents at a meeting for the southeast Ann Arbor neighborhood. The reverse was true last Thursday evening, when a room full of neighbors filled every seat, gathering to discuss the challenges they share.

Bryant is one of the few clusters of affordable housing in Ann Arbor. It’s also been hit hard by the mortgage crisis – a foreclosed property in the neighborhood at 2 Faust Court, vacant and boarded up, has been targeted as one of the first acquisitions for the county’s new land bank.

The land bank actually dovetails with a widespread problem that affects nearly all residents, which was the focus of Thursday’s meeting: Inadequate drainage and the chronic pooling of water in crawl spaces, basements, yards and streets. Joan Nassauer, a University of Michigan professor of landscape architecture, has remediated sites with similar problems in Flint, Chicago, St. Paul and other areas. She was on hand Thursday to talk about what Bryant residents might do to address their drainage issues. [Full Story]

UM: Medical School

The New York Times publishes an essay by recent UM graduate Tamara Livshiz, who writes about the competitive process of applying to medical school: “Paranoia is endemic at all pre-medical functions, society meetings and information sessions. Each organization participant is a rival; each society member is a competitor; each fellow student is an adversary. Even the most noble of students can’t help acknowledging the brutal mathematical postulate that characterizes admissions: if my friend is offered a spot in medical school, there is one less spot available for me.” [Source]

A2: Business

The Detroit News reports on the expansion of Wireless Zone, the country’s largest independent Verizon Wireless franchise. The article quotes Debbie Peterson, who owns Wireless Zone franchises in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Jackson: ”People have no problem spending discretionary dollars on a wireless device. It’s part of who they are.” [Source]

A2: Animal Hoarding

The Freep writes about the not-uncommon phenomenon of animal hoarding, following the recent discovery of a Dearborn man who kept more than 260 living and dead Chihuahuas in his home. The article quotes Tanya Hilgendorf, executive director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor, who says they deal with several cases of animal hoarding each year: ”I think there absolutely should be punishment for animal abuse.” [Source]

Pioneer H.S.

12:15 a.m. Fire engine at Pioneer High; lights flashing inside 2nd floor.

A2: Shop Local

In the Shopping, Cooking and Eating with Magill blog, Marnie urges readers to support the local businesses they love: “Make a list. What do you love MOST about Ann Arbor? Go there, spend money, and encourage your friends to support them too. Some of us can pick 10 places to support, and others only one or two, but please do your part to keep Ann Arbor cool. You can make a list of restaurants, shops, food stores, whatever makes Ann Arbor special to you and go there first (you can also make a list of stores you won’t go to).” [Source]

Jackson Road

Around 3:00 p.m. Man Bikes Dog – three people cycling along the bike lane, one pulling a blue trailer containing a dog.  Dog was sitting up straight, not belted in, with a grin.

A2: City Council Tunes

Channel 4 has picked up the story of Libby Hunter’s song performed at the July 20, 2009 Ann Arbor city council meeting.  The piece includes a new quote from the mayor: “If I had been in the audience, I probably would have joined, too,” said Mayor John Hieftje. “But you can see what kind of chaos that might lead to.” Had he joined in, the mayor would have had to sing the lyric: ” … Mayor Highrise says it’s better for you, Council’s made the choice, you have no voice …” [Source]

A2: Just Visiting

On her Nothing to Blog About blog, Marcy writes about a day trip to Ann Arbor – for under $25. Highlights include a stop at the Vitosha B&B Guest Haus, a curious bit of graffiti in the women’s bathroom stall at Borders bookstore, statues at the Dawn Treader Bookshop, a meal at Jerusalem Garden, and a Coconut Seven Layer Bar ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s. The post is full of photos. [Source]

A2: Ann Arbor News

WEMU’s Bob Eccles files a report on local media choices in the wake of the Ann Arbor News closing. He interviews Laurel Champion and Amalie Nash of, Geoff Larcom of the Ann Arbor News, and Mary Morgan of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. He also talks to several local residents, asking where they plan to get their news. [Source]

A2: Ann Arbor News

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn – who grew up in Ann Arbor – writes about the demise of the Ann Arbor News and the launch of the new entity that’s replacing it, “This radical reinvention looks ominously like a smoke screen for radical cost-cutting and wholesale firings, one that will be replicated in city after city where lone, moribund daily newspapers are so many dominoes waiting to fall now that this first one has toppled. As I mourn the passing of the Ann Arbor News, I’m haunted by the fear that will succeed. Even more, I’m haunted by the fear that it will fail.” [Source]

Last Day Delivering The Ann Arbor News

last day of the Ann Arbor News a guy rolling papers

Cary Push rolls the last edition of The Ann Arbor News on Thursday and inserts it into plastic bags.

Late on Thursday afternoon, the last day of publication for The Ann Arbor News, Cary Push was waiting in his pickup truck at the corner of Eberwhite and Woodridge. The bundle drop hadn’t been made yet to his carrier route, which covers this west side neighborhood south of Liberty and west of Seventh Street.

When the bundled papers  finally arrived, and after Push had rolled them into their plastic bags, The Chronicle tagged along for a bit as he delivered the last day’s edition of The News.

We shadowed him as he walked through the neighborhood with a canvas bag loaded with newspapers. He stopped at some of the houses – but by no means all – and placed each paper in the spot where he’d learned over the last three years that subscribers on his route preferred to have their paper delivered.

Some of them  got placed right on the door mat. Others found a temporary home in the hooks under the mailbox. Some were tossed inside a screened-in porch.

None of them were simply flung from the sidewalk in the general direction of the house. That was something that one loyal subscriber and reader of The News was a little concerned about – because it won’t be Push who’ll be delivering the printed edition of to this neighborhood – that’s the publication intended to replace The Ann Arbor News, at least on Thursdays and Sundays. [Full Story]

A2: No Smoking

Channel 7 Action News reporter Glenda Lewis files a report from Arbor Brewing Company about its decision to go smoke-free on Aug. 3. Lewis interviews co-owner Rene Greff as well as some patrons of the restaurant/bar. Says Greff: “We just weren’t comfortable mandating that people work around a known carcinogen.” [Source] [Previous Chronicle coverage]