Archive for March, 2010

Panel: MPRI Transforming State Corrections

Patricia Caruso

Patricia Caruso, director of the Michigan Dept. of Corrections, at Monday's University of Michigan forum on the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative. The event was hosted by UM's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy. (Photos by the writer.)

The Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative began about five years ago in response to an economic crisis and the financial toll that a growing prison system placed on the state’s budget. The result has been a major retooling of Michigan’s corrections department – in policy, attitudes and culture.

The implications of this change were the topic of a panel discussion on Monday at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy. The four panelists – the director of Michigan’s Dept. of Corrections, two state legislators (including local Democrat Alma Wheeler Smith) and a veteran Lansing reporter – seemed in general agreement about the need for a program like MPRI. But they also agreed that changing the system has far-reaching implications, and they raised concerns about how the upcoming turnover in state government will impact the program’s future.

Discussion also touched on some difficulties faced because of the economy: Communities where prisons are located take a hit when those facilities are closed, and former prisoners have a tough time finding jobs because more people in general are competing for fewer positions. This latter topic has emerged in previous Chronicle coverage – the Washtenaw County MPRI held a summit in September 2009 focused on how to create jobs for former prisoners. [Full Story]

Cobblestone Farm

Kelley Shirkey, who recently moved to Ann Arbor from Boulder, working on an oil painting of the house, which she started a week ago. [photo]

William & Thompson

Future site of Zaragon Place 2 according to postcard sent to neighbors within 1000 feet, which included some along Fifth Avenue. It will be 14 stories high, with 99 units and ground level retail. Built to comply with D1/D2 zoning. First public participation meeting on April 12 from 4-6 p.m. at the Michigan Union. Eventual presentation to city council expected in mid-August.

Barton Pond

Above the dam. Encountered Jerry Mack balancing (not stacking) rocks against the wind and the whims of passing walkers. A few others had been inspired to also try, and there was a mini forest, not all of them his. [photo]

Pontiac Trail

At Rudolf Steiner High School. A queen bumble bee out and about, checking out brightly colored cars in the parking lot. The queens are extra large.

West Park

Lots of heavy machinery moving dirt – park renovations well underway.

WCC: Trustee Retreat

The Washtenaw Voice, the student publication for Washtenaw Community College, follows up on an Ann Arbor Chronicle report about the recent WCC trustees retreat. The Voice focuses on the $4,000 tab for dinner at Detroit’s Westin Book Cadillac, and quotes several trustees who say they aren’t concerned about the cost. Says trustee David Rutledge: “The way I look at this, there is a budgeted amount of dollars for board retreat activities, or board-related activities, it’s a budgeted item within our budget.” [Source]

UM: Gene Patents

The New York Times explores fallout from a recent court ruling that invalidated two gene patents. The article quotes UM law professsor Rebecca Eisenberg: “It’s really quite a dramatic holding that would have the effect of invalidating many, many patents on which the biotechnology industry has invested considerable money.” [Source]

A2: Eggs

The Ann Arbor Project Grow blog provides some resources for getting fresh eggs: “Ann Arbor Chickens are on Facebook. Post the question to the group. Might I also suggest also offering a trade as a bit of a carrot? For example, if you’ve got a garden offer some veggies or better yet to clean out the coop in the spring and haul off the manure for your garden!” [Source]

“Open It Up or Shut It Down”

It’s a warm, breezy afternoon in late March. On the University of Michigan’s Diag – a grassy square in the center of campus crisscrossed by sidewalks – students are tossing Frisbees, strumming guitars, basking in the sun, and generally enjoying the promise of spring after a long, cold winter. The clothes and hairstyles change, but for the most part the scene remains the same, year after year.

Black Action Movement protesters on the University of Michigan campus in 1970

Black Action Movement protesters on the University of Michigan campus in 1970. (Photo courtesy of Jay Cassidy.)

Except that if you could somehow step back in time exactly four decades you would be greeted by a very different sight: students shouting, marching, and picketing; classes disrupted, canceled, or being held in nearby churches; angry voices calling for the deployment of the National Guard; a campus and community pushed almost to the breaking point. If the events of the Black Action Movement strike of 40 years ago had unfolded only a little differently, today people might speak of “Michigan” rather than “Kent State” as marking the tragic and deadly end of the sixties.

Instead, the BAM strike became one of the few protests of that era in which the students could make a valid claim of victory. [Full Story]


Several big SUVs and half a dozen state police in black balaclavas, swarming around a house in the 1400 block of Rosewood.

Mulholland Ave.

Running Fit running class is doing repeats on the hill. Water station at the bottom.  Perhaps they’ve heard this is where champions are made.

Bonisteel & Murfin

Full-sized people-like figures shrouded in plastic – poised in a studio at the UM School of Art & Design, waiting for … ? [photo]

Fletcher & Palmer

Cereal banana killer strikes again. Fletcher parking structure stairwell. A nearly weekly tragedy. Why isn’t this making the news? [photo]

A2: Business

The Genuine Kitchen blog posts a Q&A with John Roos, owner of Ann Arbor-based Roos Roast – Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in the Miami is starting to serve Roos Roast at the restaurant. In response to the question “Who’s your most unique client?” Roos says: “There are so many, who is the most unique? It’s always changing. I can tell you that coffee geeks, coffee people all have strange and wonderful fetishes about ‘their’ coffee, and they will tell you about it. Being in the coffee business is being in the people business. Once you start supplying people coffee you’re in for the long run. It’s a people business, from the people who grow it to the people who … [Full Story]

A2: Real Estate

The Detroit Free Press reports that the real estate industry continues to attract new agents, despite a slump in the housing market. The article quotes Chris Glahn, a Chelsea resident who became an agent last year with Keller Williams Realty in Ann Arbor: “I always had the real estate bug. The first time I took the real estate exam was in college, but I never proceeded with it [until now].” [Source]

AAPS Budget Would Cut Positions, Add Fees

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (March 24, 2010): Todd Roberts, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), unveiled his administration’s 2010-11 budget recommendations to the board of education on Wednesday night. To counter a potentially $20 million shortfall, the proposed budget eliminates 80.6 positions across the district, while restructuring programs, adding fees, and bringing 200 new students to the district.

Todd Roberts AAPS school board

AAPS Superintendent Todd Roberts, flanked by members of his staff, begins presenting his administration's proposed 2010-11 district budget. Behind him, from left to right, are two members of his cabinet: Robert Allen and Randy Trent, and the three administrators of instructional services: Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Larry Simpson, and Joyce Hunter. (Photos by the writer.)

However, multiple budget factors are still unknown: the state has not yet set the per-pupil funding amounts for next year; contract negotiations between AAPS and its teachers, bus drivers, and custodial/maintenance workers unions are still ongoing; and a possible countywide transportation consolidation plan is in the works, but has not yet been solidified. Depending on these outcomes, an additional 39 teaching and three administrative positions could be eliminated, and support services could still be outsourced. If layoffs are made, teachers will be notified by the end of April.

Though the board will hear an update on the proposed budget from the administration on April 14, board president Deb Mexicotte described that second briefing as a time when the board is “looking to have a general consent that this is the direction we are going, with the idea that we have legal obligations related to the budget that we are approving in June.” Two public forums are set for April 12 and 13, and a public hearing on the budget will be held before the board in late May. The district’s fiscal year begins July 1, 2010.

Wednesday’s meeting also covered a variety of other business: the second quarter financial report; a discussion regarding the necessity of maintaining the district’s fund balance; unanimous approval by the six trustees present to welcome “schools of choice” students to the district; and a special briefing which expedited the district’s ability to lease antenna space on the top of three district buildings to a wireless broadband Internet service provider. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Highland Cemetery Tour

Editor’s note: Laura Bien’s local history column this week is a walking tour of the southern part of Highland Cemetery. Although she’s supplied a printable version with a map, as the gentlest of prods for readers to visit the cemetery, those who settle in to read the description onscreen will find that it hews to The Chronicle’s motto: “It’s like being there.” Bien’s columns come in a bi-weekly rhythm, and the next one will cover the northern part of the cemetery.

Arguably the most beautiful spot in Washtenaw County, Highland Cemetery offers an outstanding chance to examine 19th-century grave symbols. The following self-guided 1-hour tour, available in printable .pdf format with a map, highlights a range of the most interesting symbols in the southern half of the cemetery. Numbers in the text correspond to the map.

Highland Cemetery

An unusual depiction of a ship on a grave marker, seen at the end of the tour.

Visitors can reach the cemetery by traveling down Washtenaw to its terminus on Huron. Turn left on Huron and right on Cross Street through Depot Town. At the remains of the Thompson Building at River, turn left. You will pass Forest Avenue and the ornate brick Swain home on the northeast corner of Forest and River. Continue down River; Highland Cemetery is a quarter mile down on the left.

Inside the main gates, open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. until April 30 and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. from May 1 to September 30, a small parking lot appears on the right. Park here and walk west to Starkweather Chapel at the end of the main driveway. [Full Story]

State & Hill

Multiple big fire engines heading east on Hill Street from State.

A2: Young Entrepreneurs

Crains Detroit Business profiles several 20-something entrepreneurs who’ve decided to grow their businesses in Michigan. One of those is Elizabeth Redmond, who grew up in Dexter and graduated from UM. She moved to Chicago, but recently returned to Ann Arbor to build her tech business, Powerleap Inc. Says Redmond: “I think this company is going to be huge, and I want it to be in the state where I grew up.” [Source]


Jennifer S. Hall is the latest guest on the local interview show Other Perspectives, hosted by Nancy Kaplan. Hall, a board member of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, discusses a variety of DDA projects, including the Fifth Avenue underground parking structure currently being constructed, alternative transportation efforts and funding for affordable housing, among other things. [Source]

Adrian: FBI Raids

The Associated Press reports that the FBI conducted raids over the weekend in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and quotes an anonymous source saying that some who were arrested face gun charges. In the Washtenaw/Lenawee county area, it appears the Christian militia group Hutaree was the target, according to AP. From the report: “In Michigan, police swarmed a rural, wooded property around 7 p.m. Saturday outside Adrian, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit, said Evelyn Reitz, who lives about a half-mile away. She said several police cars, with lights flashing, were still there Sunday evening and 15 to 20 officers were stationed in the area.” [Source]


Sparrow Market workers starting to transform the space into a banquet hall for Sunday night’s feast: Baskets of bread, stacks of clean plates, trays of cannolis in the fridge.

Platt & Michigan Ave.

Pittsfield Township administration building: Washteanw County Democratic Party candidates forum getting under way.

A2: Business

The Detroit Free Press reports on the financial status of Borders Group, noting that the Ann Arbor-based bookseller hasn’t yet announced when it will release its year-end income statement. The firm is also facing a deadline to repay a loan to its largest shareholder. From the report: “The $42.5-million loan due to Pershing Square Capital Management – made in 2008 at 9.8% interest – has already been extended three times. And despite assurances from Pershing that a bankruptcy is unlikely, concerns about a filing persist.” [Source]

Column: On the Road

Rob Cleveland

Rob Cleveland

Growing up, luxury vehicles for me essentially included anything brought over from the European continent – from the classics like Mercedes-Benz and BMW to Audi, Saab and even the short-lived Peugeot 505 sedan (although looking back on it the Peugeot might have been a bit of a reach). A generation before, it was Cadillac and Lincoln marques that were held up as aspirational vehicles, with stories of people working their entire lives to finally afford a Cadillac in the driveway.

So when a colleague brought in the new Hyundai Genesis sedan to our Ann Arbor shop and described it as an early Lexus LS, I just had to see if this newest introduction to the luxury sedan segment was really as advertised. [Full Story]

Washtenaw: FBI Raids

Several media outlets report that the FBI conducted raids on Saturday night and Sunday morning at several locations in Washtenaw and Lenewee counties. In its Sunday morning broadcast, Channel 7 Action News reports that Homeland Security and the Joint Anti-terrorism Task Force are also involved in the raids, possibly connected to a Michigan militia group. A command center has been set up at the Washtenaw Sheriff’s department. [Source]

Fictional Locale Wrong

A March 27 column about Steve Amick’s novel “Nothing But a Smile” contained three errors. The location of a character’s photography shop is in Chicago, not Detroit. And cities for an upcoming book tour are Central Lake, Spring Lake and Allendale. Also, the Library of Michigan was incorrectly identified as the Michigan Public Library. We note the errors here, and have corrected them in the original column.