Council OKs Recycling, Transit, Shelter

Plus, Greden's final meeting: "I owe you each an apology."
people standing in a semi-circle

Left to right: Brian Nord and Caleb Poirier (back to camera), who are both advocates for Camp Take Notice, a self-governed encampment of homeless people. Also Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Mayor John Hieftje. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Nov. 5, 2009): Meeting on Thursday due to the elections, instead of in its usual Monday slot, Ann Arbor’s city council moved ahead on two major initiatives that will eventually have a significant impact on Ann Arbor residents.

The council approved a memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan to move forward on joint development of the Fuller Road Station, which offers the university an alternative to construction of a parking deck on Wall Street. The first phase of the project is anticipated to be completed in mid-June 2012.

Also given a green light was a conversion to single-stream recycling – a single cart will be distributed to residents to replace the twin totes currently used for curbside pickup. The new carts will be rolled out in June 2010.

A more immediate impact will be made by a council decision to allocate a combined $159,500 to the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and the Interfaith Hospitality Network – the funds will increase the sheltering capacity by 50 spots for individuals through the winter, starting Dec. 1, and provide housing vouchers for eight families for a year.

In other business, the council approved an agreement with Pittsfield Township and a deed restriction regarding the airport property, and approved the consolidation of the city of Ann Arbor’s master plans. In a special meeting held just before the regular meeting, the council went into closed session to review the performance of the city attorney and the city administrator. The outcome of that review was to accept the offer from both of them to maintain the same base salary they currently earn, without the one-time bonus they’ve been given the past few years.

Councilmembers also bid farewell to Leigh Greden (Ward 3), who was attending his final meeting after a narrow, 6-vote  defeat in the August Democratic primary by Stephen Kunselman. Kunselman was unopposed on the November ballot.

Support for the Homeless Shelter

The council considered a resolution that awarded a $30,500 contract with the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and a $129,000 contract with Interfaith Hospitality Network. The money was to provide case management and staff support for 25 additional beds at the Delonis Center and 25 additional beds in the rotating shelter program, as well as housing vouchers for eight families.

The council had received a presentation on the homelessness crisis at its Oct. 19 meeting from Mary Jo Callan, who is head of the county/city community development department. She had alerted them to the likelihood that a funding request would be coming to them at a subsequent meeting. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Increased homeless sheltering effort needs volunteers"]

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, at its Nov. 4 meeting, had authorized $20,000 to cover the “hard costs” – i.e., the actual beds – in connection with this initiative, which is seen as a short-term solution in the face of approaching winter weather.

During public commentary reserved time at the start of city council’s meeting, two people spoke in support of the funding. Brian Nord, an advocate for a self-governed homeless encampment called Camp Take Notice, expressed his support for the short-term measure to be considered by the council, but asked, “What about the long-term tomorrow?” He indicated that he’d be working to help the people out there that he knew would still be out there – in tent communities or under bridges – to find a “warm, flat place to lie down.”

Seth Best introduced himself as a former resident of the Delonis Center for part of last year. With winter approaching, he said, the funding that council was being asked to authorize was important – he’d spent last winter in the cold because there was no room for him at the Delonis Center, he said.

Council deliberations

Council deliberations began with Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who co-sponsored the resolution with her Ward 1 colleague, Sabra Briere, and Mayor John Hiefte. She clarified the dollar amount, amending the language to reflect a total appropriation from the housing fund balance of $159,500 throughout the resolution.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) said that to her, the amount seemed like a drop in the bucket. “What else are we doing?” she wanted to know. Mary Jo Callan allowed that it was a drop, but pointed out that it was one piece of the whole strategy of intervention. She said that a large part of that strategy was preventing homelessness in the first place, through the mortgage foreclosure prevention program. She also said that there was around $800,000 available through the HPRR (Homelessness Prevention & Rapid Rehousing) program, which would be used to help keep people in their homes.

Higgins pressed Callan: “What about people who are already homeless?” Higgins suggested it was time to start looking at things differently. “It’s time to start to look outside the box.”  She suggested exploring partnerships that might not be “normal partnerships.”

Hieftje reiterated some of the background for the resolution that council was considering – it’d come about from a working group that had met several times beginning in August. That group included Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sandi Smith (Ward 1), Ellen Schulmeister (director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County), Susan Pollay (executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority), Jennifer L. Hall (housing program coordinator in community development), Andrea Plevek (human services analyst), Deb Pippins (program administrator for the Homeless Project Outreach Team, or HPORT), and Hieftje.

Hieftje also drew the distinction between “affordable housing” (units that have low enough rents to make them accessible to low-income people) and “supportive housing” (units that come with case management services to support people who have more challenges, in addition to limited funds).

Briere observed that government is not here to solve all problems, but that it is able to focus on a crisis.  Briere’s remarks could be seen as a response to the frequent criticism that the city has yet to replace the 100 units of affordable housing that were lost when the old YMCA at Fifth and William streets was demolished.  It’s not good enough for many people, she said, that the city had maintained 219 units of affordable housing and constructed 60 additional units. But, she said, “It’s never good enough.” The council needed to find ways to diminish need, she said.

Outcome: The council unanimously approved the emergency funding to increase sheltering capacity for individuals and provide housing vouchers for families.

Single-Stream Recycling

After hearing a presentation at a recent work session about single-stream recycling, the council considered a resolution that approved $3.25 million for an upgrade to the city’s material recovery facility (MRF) and  $102,950 in consulting fees for Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) to implement single-stream recycling. The program would provide residents with a single cart to replace the two totes currently used for curbside collection – one for paper goods and the other for containers. It also includes an incentive program that rewards people for putting out their recycling cart for pickup. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Work Session: Trains, Trash, and Taxes"]

Public comment on single-stream recycling

Kevin Bolon: A Ph.D student at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, Bolon spoke against the move to single-stream recycling. He reported that he’d spoken with representatives of Westland, a community where single-stream recycling had been implemented, and had not been impressed with the technical capabilities. Ultimately, they have people who do the sorting, with the aid of magnets and electrical currents, he said. He expressed concern that the quality of the recycled goods would suffer and affect the price that the MRF could get for them, citing as an example that office paper from UM could be spoiled and degraded in value.

Bolon expressed skepticism that the barrier to Ann Arborites diverting more of their waste stream away from the landfill was really the need to put their recyclables into two different containers. He questioned whether the ability to implement a reward system was dependent on a single-stream approach. He suggested that a reward system could function based on alternating weekly pickups for containers and paper.

Council deliberations on single-stream recycling

During council deliberations, Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) asked the city’s solid waste coordinator, Tom McMurtrie how confident he was that recycling rates would increase in a single-stream system. McMurtie said that moving to a single-stream system would be accompanied by the ability to process more kinds of materials – almost all types of plastics, with the exception of #3 tubs. What would really boost the recycling numbers, however, was the incentive program, McMurtrie said.

Jim Frey of RRS told the council that average annual weights were now around 400 pounds per household and that in 25 other communities where systems were in place that are similar to the one Ann Arbor was seeking to implement, the per-household figure ranged between 700-1,200 pounds. Hohnke noted that Ann Arbor had a “proud tradition” of being ahead of the curve in the area of recycling, so he asked if the 25 comparable communities included any that had a long tradition of recycling like Ann Arbor. Frey’s answer: Yes. Ann Arbor’s recycling rate was great, he said, but it could be higher.

Hohnke then asked if it was possible to achieve the increased recycling rates without investing in infrastructure upgrades at the MRF: Why can’t we just mix the streams and process the material with the current MRF capabilities? Answer: The anticipated increased volume, together with the mixed stream material, would require better automated sorting equipment. Frey also noted that no other communities are trying to implement a rewards program with a two-tote system.

Hohnke then declared his support for the program, saying it was a small step forward. He contended that it would make lives easier because it wouldn’t be necessary to separate the materials at the household level.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) reported over 100 emails on the topic from constituents with only about 5 of those against it. Those opposing the initiative, she said, were concerned about the degradation of paper quality that could result in diminished sale value of the paper. McMurtrie addressed Smith’s concern by saying that technology has evolved significantly in the last 10-15 years, which allowed the achievement of a 5% residual rate.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) asked about a concern that #7 plastics aren’t actually worth very much, and wasn’t it better to discourage the creation of them. She wanted to know what would happen to the new kind of  plastics that would now be accepted. McMurtrie explained that it was, of course, always their wish to reduce the amount of waste, but they needed to deal with it once it’s there. Frey reported that there is an emerging market for the material and that it was actually worth more per ton than paper.

Briere asked McMurtrie to address complaints about the carts: (i) storage space is a problem, with some households now expected to make room for a garbage cart, a yard waste cart, and a recycling cart; and (ii) they’re too heavy and unwieldy for some people to manage. McMurtrie said he recognized that there could be space constraints.

Mayor John Hieftje got confirmation from McMurtrie that the blue automated carts that had been rolled out a few years ago for trash collection had, in fact, reduced costs. An apparent increase in cost was due to the increased capital expense incurred on initial investment in the program.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) asked how the proposed system would affect personnel. Answer: At the MRF, the increased volume would be handled through improvements in automated equipment, so that more material would be processed with about the same number of people. On the collection side, he said, there would be savings in the form of the elimination of one route out of seven.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) asked for clarification on the rewards program. McMurtrie compared it to a frequent-flyer program – people got points for putting out their carts and credit for the weight collected on the whole route. In other communities, the average annual reward was worth around $240, with a maximum of a little over $500.

The new carts will be available in June/July 2010. The old totes can be recycled.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the contracts necessary to implement a single-stream recycling program.

Fuller Road Station

The council considered two resolutions related to the Fuller Road Station, a project that was presented at its recent work session, and for which the council had already authorized a contract with the firm JJR for $541,717. Of that original contract, the University of Michigan’s share had been $327,733.   [Previous Chronicle coverage: "UM helps start analysis phase for Fuller Road transit station" and "Work Session: Trains, Trash, and Taxes"]. Formerly known as FITS (Fuller Intermodal Transit Station), the project has been divided into two phases.

Fuller Road Station Phase One

Fuller Road Station Phase One (Image links to higher resolution .pdf file)

The first phase of the project will include a bus transit center with covered passenger boarding areas and an indoor waiting area, a parking structure for 1,020 vehicles, covered bicycle hoops and lockers. Phase One will also include on-grade parking for an additional 50 vehicles, and infrastructure to support a possible future bicycle station. If built, Phase Two would include a train station.

One council resolution added $111,228 to the professional services agreement with JJR, while the other was a memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan outlining how the partnership would work.

Some key points from that memorandum:

  • The funding burden will be proportionate to the allocation of spaces: 78% for UM, 22% for the city of Ann Arbor.
  • The December 20, 1999 agreement between the city and the university on the Forest and Willard parking structure, which was a joint city-university project, will be a model for the yet-to-be negotiated parking agreement for Fuller Station.
  • An agreement by UM to suspend Wall Street as presently authorized and programmed is baked into the memorandum.
  • Phase One is intended to be ready for use by June 15, 2012.

Public comment reserved time included a rendition by Libby Hunter of lyrics set to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine,” which was critical of the Fuller Road Station as merely a UM parking structure.

Council deliberations

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) described the memorandum as the next step moving forward, specifying “who brings what to the table.” Sabra Briere (Ward 1) said she supported the shared vision of the city and the university, and was pleased by the collaboration on solutions to traffic and congestion.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) wanted clarification on how much the memorandum bound the two parties. Specifically, she wanted to know whether it was the city’s or the university’s policies that would prevail with respect to issues like the required public participation, the living wage, and the Percent for Art program. Jim Kosteva, the university’s director of community relations, was on hand to give an unambiguous answer: “This is a city project on city-owned land.”

Fuller Road Station Phase Two

Fuller Road Station Phase Two (Image links to higher resolution .pdf file)

Smith also reiterated a concern she’d expressed previously that the design of the Fuller Road Station be “significant.”  Her remarks connected to a sentiment expressed by Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) that the station would be a new welcome center for the city.

Mayor John Hieftje elicited from Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, a description of a “bicycle station,” which could be a part of Phase Two, if it is built. Cooper explained that such a facility would include indoor, monitored storage, lockers, and showers.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) inquired of Cooper what his confidence level was about trains ever running along that route and the construction of Phase Two. She noted that he’d been hesitant to commit at the council’s work session. Was he just being careful, or was it something else, she wondered. Cooper allowed that he preferred to be careful.

He did note, however, that SEMCOG (the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) still planned to have demonstration east-west rail service up and running by October 2010. Cooper also said that the level of excitement and enthusiasm at the federal level when Phase I is complete would likely increase. Ann Arbor, he reminded the council, was the second-busiest Amtrak station between Chicago and Detroit (after Chicago), but he didn’t want to oversell it.

Derezinksi alluded to the fact that the Fuller Road Station is part of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation for establishment of a high-speed rail corridor. If the Detroit-Chicago corridor is chosen as a high-speed rail corridor, Cooper said, then there would be federal dollars available for improvements needed for the dedicated track.

Derezinski  wanted to know how the station would connect to downtown. Cooper said that in the short term, there would be AATA buses available to provide the service. In the future, the Fuller Road Station reflected a possible opportunity to connect a regional system to a high-capacity local system – in the form of the north-south connector, which is currently being studied in a four-way collaboration among the city of Ann Arbor, UM, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, and the Ann Arbor DDA.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Briere both expressed concern about automobile access to the station. Cooper assured Higgins that during construction and undertaking of the improvements to the Fuller-Maiden Lane intersection, traffic would continue to flow. It’s not clear that Higgins was completely convinced that access would be easy: “That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence,” she said. Cooper replied that he heard her concern “loud and clear.”

Briere’s worry was for the section of Fuller Road east of the VA hospital – it narrows from that point eastward. Cooper said that improvements at the Geddes-US-23 and Geddes-Earhardt intersections, as well as the synchronization of signals, should allow the existing system to accommodate demand.

Outcome: Both resolutions in support of the Fuller Road Station passed unanimously.

Argo Dam Attorney Fees

An item on the consent agenda authorized payment of $38,000 to pay the law firm Bodman LLP for representing the city in a contested case dispute with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The item was separated out from the consent agenda at the request of Leigh Greden (Ward 3), on behalf of Margie Teall (Ward 4), who had not arrived to the meeting by the time the consent agenda was considered.  [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Still No Dam Decision" and "Finally a Dam Decision on Argo?"]

After brief discussion of when to slot it into the agenda so that Teall could address it when she arrived, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) suggested that the proper mechanism would be to lay the item on the table and then, at some point after Teall’s arrival, take it off the table and consider it. [Editorial note: From a parliamentary point of view, this is a classic application of a tabling motion – unlike the arguably inappropriate application of such a motion at the council's previous meeting. At that meeting, the motion to table the resolution to repair the Argo Dam toe drains stemmed not from a desire to deal with other matters first, but rather from a desire to avoid voting on the resolution.]

Later in the meeting after Teall arrived, she got clarification that the money for the attorney fees would be paid out of the fund that pays for maintenance and operation of the city’s dams – the water fund. Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) asked where the money in the fund came from. City administrator Roger Fraser explained that it came from the sale of water – that is, from residents’ water bills.

Fraser indicated that while there’d been discussion of putting the maintenance and operation of Geddes and Argo dams into the parks and recreation budget instead of the water fund, at this time it was the water fund that currently supported those dams. The maintenance and operation of those dams is built into the fee structure for water, he said. In response to a question from Higgins, he allowed that changing the funding to the parks and recreation budget should have an effect – how much was hard to say – on calculating the water rate structure.

Outcome: The resolution to spend $38,000 on legal fees related to the city’s dispute with the MDEQ over Argo Dam was unanimously approved.

Airport Wells and Layout Agreement

Also related to the city’s water system were two of three resolutions related to the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport. They related to the need to construct a new raw water transmission main from wells located on the airport property. One resolution authorized the contract for the existing water main’s repair – it was described as in danger of imminent failure. That contract was worth $1,087,393. The other resolution authorized deed restrictions required by the Federal Aviation Administration in connection with the work.

City administrator Roger Fraser explained that the wells were used for temperature modulation of the city’s main water source, which is the Huron River. The chemical processes work best within a specific temperature range, so the well water is used to raise the river water temperature in the winter and cool it during the summer to get the city’s drinking water to within the optimum range.

The third airport-related resolution approved an agreement with Pittsfield Township that resolved a years-long legal dispute over the application and enforcement of building codes and zoning ordinances on the property. The measure had appeared on the agenda earlier in the year, but was pulled without council consideration.

The earlier version of the agreement had been controversial, because of a clause governing notification of the township of pending airport activity. According to Kathe Wunderlich, who works with the Committee for Preserving Community Quality, the CPCQ had signed off on the final wording before the council on Thursday night:

4. If a modification of the Airport Layout Plan is proposed, Ann Arbor will give notice to Pittsfield’s Building Official or such other person as Pittsfield designates in writing, of the intent to modify the Airport Layout Plan at least 30 days before authorizing a professional services agreement for the modification. At least 30 days before submitting a modification of the Airport Layout Plan for approval by the Michigan Aeronautics Commission or the Federal Aviation Administration, Ann Arbor will provide Pittsfield’s Building Official with copies of the documents to be submitted to those bodies. After approval of a modified Airport Layout Plan by the Michigan Aeronautics Commission or the Federal Aviation Administration, Ann Arbor will provide Pittsfield’s Building Official with a copy of the proposed modification at least 30 days before the Ann Arbor City Council meeting at which it is to be submitted for approval.

In council deliberations, Leigh Greden (Ward 3) gave credit to Pittsfield Township supervisor Mandy Grewal and to Sue McCormick on the city’s side for getting some resolution to the dispute – McCormick is the city’s director of public services.

Outcome: All three resolutions related to the airport were unanimously approved by the council.

Planning: Master Plan Consolidation and CVS

The council considered a resolution that consolidated the city’s master planning documents into a single document. The consolidation was not meant to change the substance of any of the documents, with those kinds of changes intended for a subsequent phase of the process.

Former planning commissioner Ethel Potts expressed concerns during the public hearing on the matter, saying that some of the changes were in fact substantive. She challenged councilmembers to take one of the area plans and identify those elements they thought were most important and then to try to find those elements in the consolidated version.

Also during the public hearing, Karen Sidney expressed the concern that consolidation and simplification might become a one-size-fits-all strategy. What makes Ann Arbor strong, Sidney said, was the diversity of housing options.

During his turn at the public hearing, Thomas Partridge said that the city council should turn back  approval of the consolidation for the same reason that President Obama would have turned back a similar proposal back when he got his start as a political organizer in the disadvantaged areas of Chicago.

During council deliberations, city planner Jeff Kahan said that the integrity of the various area plans had been respected, with particular attention paid to the central area plan. He reported that Ray Detter, of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, had agreed that the consolidated document didn’t step on the toes of either the downtown plan or the central area plan.

An additional, but separate planning-related resolution considered by the council was the approval of the site plan for the new CVS pharmacy on State Street. Sandi Smith (Ward 1) said she was pleased that the historical front of the building would be preserved. She said that the need for a downtown pharmacy was tremendous.

Outcome: The consolidation of the city’s master plans and the CVS site plan were unanimously approved by the council.

Attorney and Administrator Performance Review

The city council held a special meeting an hour before its regular meeting started in order to undertake a performance review of the city attorney, Stephen Postema, and the city administrator, Roger Fraser. The Open Meetings Act has a provision that can allow for that review to take place in a closed session. And in fact, the council undertook that review in a closed session – one at which Postema was told by Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) that they’d conduct without him to start.

Roger Fraser signing attendance for high school student

While the council was in closed session discussing his performance review, city administrator Roger Fraser signed some forms for students in a government class to attest they'd been there. (Photo by the writer.)

The council went into another closed session towards the end of its regular meeting – this time to “discuss pending litigation and attorney/client privileged communication and/or land acquisition.” discuss the performance evaluations of the city attorney and the city administrator. After returning to open session, Leigh Greden (Ward 3) then introduced two resolutions from the floor, to approve the employment contract for Postema and Fraser, respectively.

According to Greden, both Postema and Fraser had volunteered to accept no increase in base salary and no one-time cash payment as they’ve been given in previous years when there’d been no increase in their base salary. The only revision to their contracts was a clause that allowed them to cash out an additional 120 hours of accumulated paid time off before June 30, 2010.

Last year, Fraser earned $145,354 and Postema made $142,000. They received lump-sum payments of $3,640 and $3,900, respectively.

In describing their compensation, Greden said that they hadn’t received an increase in four years. The city administrator made less that the superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, the CEO of the AATA, and the county administrator, Greden said. The city attorney, Greden contended, could make 2-3 times his salary as city attorney working in the private sector.

Greden’s Final Meeting

Having been defeated in the August Democratic primary by Stephen Kunselman, Leigh Greden attended his final city council meeting on Thursday – for at least another year, barring unforeseen circumstances – as a Ward 3 representative.

Leigh Greden at his last city council meeting

Leigh Greden (Ward 3) delivered farewell remarks at Thursday's council meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Towards the end of the meeting, his council colleagues took turns summarizing his service to the city – a common theme was the hard work and energy he brought to the position. Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) got a laugh out of Greden when he suggested that he figured he’d be seeing Greden around – in coffehouses and in church. Christopher Taylor, Greden’s Ward 3 colleague – who earned a seat at the council table by defeating Kunselman in the August 2008 Democratic primary – said that Greden had not shirked his duties to council after losing the primary, but rather had “sprinted to the finish and accelerated through the tape.”

Margie Teall (Ward 4) fought back tears in saying farewell to Greden: “You are smart, and smart enough to get us all in trouble.”

Neither Mike Anglin (Ward 5) nor Sabra Briere (Ward 1) made remarks during the round of farewells.

In giving his own farewell, Greden began by allowing that it had come too late, but that he owed an apology for the emails he’d sent during Ann Arbor city council meetings. “I owe you each an apology,” he said, continuing, “I owe a particular apology to Mike Anglin and Sabra Briere.” [Among the emails sent by several members of the council during city council meetings, some of Greden's were particularly disparaging of Anglin and Briere. See Chronicle column: "Email and Open Meetings"]

Greden thus became the first councilmember to give an apology in council chambers during a council meeting for emails sent during previous meetings. The city council emails are still the subject of pending litigation that alleges some of the exchanges violated the Open Meetings Act.

Stephen Kunselman will be formally installed as a councilmember at the council’s next meeting on Nov. 16, along with Anglin (Ward 5), Higgins (Ward 4), Rapundalo (Ward 2), and Briere (Ward 1). But he will likely appear in a council seat at a work session scheduled for Monday, Nov. 9 – the Ann Arbor city charter specifies that “Such term shall commence on the Monday next following the regular city election at which such officers are elected.”

Communications from Council

Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) announced that the Malletts Creek coordinating committee had made a recommendation to increase stormwater control when adding more than 200 square feet to a building. There would be a public meeting to present and discuss a proposal to amend the city’s stormwater ordinance, Hohnke said. The meeting will take place Thursday, Nov. 19, from 7-9 p.m in council chambers.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) announced that a planting of 52 trees would take place at Virginia Park on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 7 at 9:15 a.m.  More information is online at the Ann Arbor Tree Conservancy.

Public Comment

Several speakers address the council on a range of topics. Among those not mentioned already in the report:

City Priorities: Global Warming

Kermit Schlansker began by saying that the city’s first job is to fight global warming and that three minutes was too short a time to describe everything the city needed to do. Yet he ticked through several suggestions, including the planting of 100,000 trees. He specifically suggested planting fruit and nut trees in parks – smaller, cheaper trees.

Pedestrian Safety

Kathy Griswold addressed the council during public commentary reserved time and again at the conclusion of the council’s meeting, when speakers can address the council without reserving time. She expressed disappointment that the council had undertaken no action during their meeting, which she’d asked for at the start of the meeting [as well as at several previous council meetings and caucuses.] The matter of concern to Griswold is a mid-block crosswalk across from King Elementary School that she contends should be moved from mid-block to the street intersection.

Affordable Housing and Economic Stimulus

Thomas Partridge called on the council to use all available funding to stimulate the economy of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and the entire region. He contended that funds should be spent not on buying land for the greenbelt but rather on people’s needs, like affordable housing in the city.

Library Lot

Alan Haber delivered remarks to the council that were similar to those he’d made the previous day at the meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. He was speaking for the Ann Arbor Committee for the Commons, which was advocating for the space above the proposed underground parking structure to become open space, a focal point for community gathering. Haber invited anyone interested to come to a meeting at 310 S. Ashley starting at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8.


Henry Herskovitz alluded to his remarks at the previous city council meeting in October, when he’d suggested that there was a fundamental difference between the U.S. and its ally Israel, and that this difference was rooted in the separation of church and state. The U.S. honored that separation, but Israel did not, he had said. He reported that his characterization of a fundamental difference between the U.S. and Israel had been met with the criticism that the two nations were not really all that different when considered in the context of the U.S. “ethnic cleansing” of native Americans. In response, Herskovitz said that he and others had come up with several reasons why this context did not warrant drawing a parallel between the two countries. Among them, he said, was the fact that Israel’s creation came after the U.N. declaration that no land should be taken from indigenous people. Another of the several reasons, he said, was that the U.S. Constitution provided justice for all, with no special privileges for any one particular ethnic group.

Ann Arbor Housing

Based on his remarks, Sacha Platt lives in an Avalon Housing unit. He said that he’d had his life threatened several times over the last three years by another tenant. He reported that a fellow tenant had called the police 32 times with a complain about noise, that this had resulted in a criminal conviction, and that this had wrecked his plans to attend law school. He had asked for mediation, but had not received any satisfaction.

Stadium Bridges

Arnold Goetzke spoke to the council, criticizing their failure to consider an at-grade crossing for the intersection between Stadium Boulevard and State Street, instead of replacing the bridges there. He told them he’d been to Lansing that day for the hearing by the Local Bridge Advisory Board, where Ann Arbor had been awarded no money for the Stadium bridges replacement. [See Chronicle coverage: "State Board: No Funding for Stadium Bridges"]

Present: Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Tony Derezinski, Leigh Greden, John Hieftje, Marcia Higgins, Carsten Hohnke, Stephen Rapundalo, Sandi Smith, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall. [Teall and Derezinski arrived somewhat late and were not there for the initial roll call of council.]

Next council meeting: Monday, Nov. 16, 2009 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]


  1. By David
    November 7, 2009 at 5:17 pm | permalink

    Single stream recycling is a great idea. Kudos to the city for adopting it.

  2. By Pete
    November 8, 2009 at 2:11 pm | permalink

    What a wholly unsatisfactory way of reaching a conclusion. Ann Arbor’s history of ‘ahead of the game-ness’ is cited when comparing us to other cities that recycle more. However, the simple idea that we may just create less waste period than those cities isn’t even considered. Do we create more landfill waste than those cities? If both numbers are less, that is a GOOD thing. Although I challenge the idea that Ann Arbor’s recycling is or has ever been special. My college in the middle of Nowhere, OH (population 2,000) recycled “most” types of plastic and found a market for it.
    Furthermore, “recognizing that there are issues” with adding another giant bin without offering solutions, promises to find solutions, or any hope for those of us with already-crowded driveways and garages is a slap in the face to constituents. It says “I know, and I don’t care.” Our family of two fills our trash bin 1/3 full every week, our compost bin totally full 5 weeks a year, and our recycling is never overflowing. I’ll take payment for the lease of the new bin’s driveway space by taping a 25lb weight to the bottom of it and collecting beaucoups rewards.

  3. By CG
    November 8, 2009 at 7:25 pm | permalink

    So not excited to have another bin to deal with. I can barely manage to maneuver the two we already have, and they take up a huge amount of space in our tiny driveway (we don’t have a garage). I just hope the recycling bins are about the size of the two totes put together, which would make sense, not the size of the trash container, which would not.

  4. By Kevin Bolon
    November 8, 2009 at 10:06 pm | permalink

    This article accurately summarizes the main points I made in opposition to single-stream recycling during the public comment period. Allow me to fill in a few details about my comments made at the meeting:

    I argued that recyclebank could be adopted in the current two-stream system by fitting RFID tags to the existing bins. Councilmember Hohnke reffered to this idea, but it was dismissed by Mr. Frey (because it has not been done before.) Perhaps this is understandable, given that the idea was not raised until the 11th hour, and was possibly not put forward by anyone else before this council meeting. My idea for alternating-week pickup of paper or containers would only have been required if automated cart pickup was used with a two-stream system.

    I also said that I thought the expansion to additional plastic types could be accomplished just as easily in a two-stream system. The new automated equipment is not capable of separating #3thru#7 plastics. Both single-stream and two-stream systems use manual sorting here. Some additional capital investment in two-stream may have been required to handle the additional volume, but this should have been considered as an alternative to replacing the whole system with single-stream. A comparison between a modified two-stream system, or a single-stream system could have then been made considering the cost, landfill diversion, and quantity and quality of recycled materials.

  5. By Kevin Bolon
    November 8, 2009 at 11:35 pm | permalink

    I was skeptical of single stream, but now that it’s passed, I’m committed to helping make it work. The need to get another large cart will probably be people’s biggest concern with the new system, as expressed by Peter and CG above(and a number of other people I’ve heard from.) I have some ideas for how to deal with the cart issue, and am interested to hear what others think:

    1)Use the same cart for trash and recycling. This would allow the same trucks to be used for both, but would require trash/recycling pick up on different days of the week. Sounds like a hassle, I know, but if combined with a food scrap composting program (now under consideration), and given the size of the carts, many residents would not need to put out their trash/recycling every week.
    2) Keep same-day trash/recycling, and offer residents the choice of getting an new recycling cart, or using their existing trash cart for recycling. The carts would need a changeable sign so that residents could show whether trash or recycling was inside. Either 1 or 2 would save some of the $1.25 million budgeted for carts now.
    3)Make sure that the Recyclebank system weighs carts at the truck, instead of averaged over the entire route. If we equip trucks with the recycle bank weighing equipment, and use common trash/recycling trucks, we could even adopt a “pay-as-you-throw” system for trash more easily sometime in the future.

  6. By David Lewis
    November 9, 2009 at 2:05 pm | permalink

    If you watched the meeting you know they are going to offer different size carts. If you don’t recycle very much, choose a small one. Our elderly neighbors use a small trash cart and like it a lot. Mrs. told me they are looking forward to a small recycling cart to replace the bins that are hard to carry to the curb.

    Our full size trash cart takes up no more room than our trash cans did before and we don’t take it out every week so we could have a small one. The new recycling carts will take up no more floor space than two bins do now.

    We should all be moving toward a large recycling bin and a small trash cart.

    The trash carts are a huge improvement over the old cans and bags. The animals can’t get at it now and trash day is so much neater in the neighborhood. I look forward to having a new recycling cart.

  7. November 9, 2009 at 2:30 pm | permalink

    Personally, I don’t think any money should go to recycling or any other non-essential until the roads and bridges are fixed. Time to really concentrate on essential services. Don’t get me wrong… I recycle. I love recycling. And I will continue to recycle even if I have to hand my recycled goods to non-city run places. But, I need roads and bridges… I want recycling… some argue we need it. I need roads and bridges before recycling.

  8. By David Lewis
    November 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm | permalink

    The money that goes to pay for recycling cannot be spent on roads and bridges. At least not in Ann Arbor.

    Most reporting does not do a good job of explaining that government money is in “buckets”. Some buckets have money in them when others do not. Roads and bridges are paid for in large part by money that comes from the state gasoline tax and that is down across Michigan. Witness the Washtenaw county road commissions problems. In Oakland county they are cutting snow removal money in half for next winter.

    Big bridge projects are funded by the state or federal governments. The Broadway Bridges or the Huron Parkway Bridge is a good example in A2.

    The General Fund “bucket” of almost all governments in Michigan is low and can’t keep up with paying for police and fire. But other buckets are doing OK.

    In Ann Arbor recycling is paid for from the Solid Waste Millage. This money cannot by law be spent on things except as they relate to the solid waste budget.

    Over the long haul I think recycling pays for itself in Ann Arbor and when the land fill tipping fees finally go up the city will make out well.

  9. By Kevin Bolon
    November 9, 2009 at 6:43 pm | permalink

    “The new recycling carts will take up no more floor space than two bins do now.” That’s true, if you keep your bins on the floor, and not on top of the trash bin for storage, as we do. I also know some residents who keep their bins indoors, as the receptacle for recycling.

    Most Ann Arbor residents will likely find a way to handle the extra cart, I don’t doubt. I can only speak for the situation in our 80 unit townhouse-style condominium community, where each unit has a small single car garage, and carts must be kept indoors according to the association rules. Even the smallest (32 gallon) trash cart takes up valuable space in the garage. The option to use the same cart for either trash or recycling would be very attractive for households in our situation, since we normally don’t generate enough trash or recycling to put them both out on the same week. After all, the goal should not be a “a large recycling bin and a small trash cart”, but small carts for both trash AND recycling.

  10. By Rici
    November 18, 2009 at 3:14 pm | permalink

    I’m not sure how a single bin for trash and recycling, alternating weeks for pickup, would work in practice. We don’t fill up our bin every week either, but we are generating both trash and recycling each week. If I have to keep it separate until the time it can be picked up, I’d rather have those storage containers also be the pickup containers! What am I missing here?