The Wall Street Journal runs down the best and worst of college football fashion – and the University of Michigan uniforms lead the best: “American fashion designer Marc Ecko especially liked the color weight on the jersey, while graphic artist Josh Vanover praised the ‘bold, bright colors’ and ‘clean’ fonts. But what really pushed Michigan to the top was its iconic winged helmet, which received near-universal praise for its creativity.” [Source]
Christmas came a little early for Ann Arbor’s fire department, as well as for the local news media. A report on Ann Arbor’s fire protection services arrived five days before Santa.
The report was a long time arriving, though. It was almost a year ago – on Feb. 7, 2011 – when the Ann Arbor city council authorized the expenditure of up to $54,000 for a contract with the International City/County Management Association to conduct the study.
It was a study that then-city administrator Roger Fraser had wanted, and it came in the context of a city council budget retreat a month earlier. At that retreat, councilmembers were briefed on various alternatives to the city’s current approach to staffing its fire protection – including an approach that uses a combination of paid on-call and full-time fire service professionals. At the same council meeting when the ICMA report was authorized, Stephen Rapundalo, who at the time was chair of the city council’s labor committee, criticized the city’s firefighters union for its reluctance to accept a benefits package similar to the one for non-union city workers.
So, how important was the ICMA fire protection study to the city?
Here’s one way of answering that. When Fraser announced his resignation, the city council’s search committee identified in April of this year a handful of top priority items for the interim administrator. The interim – Tom Crawford, the city’s CFO – was supposed to keep the place running, and make sure a small list of priority items didn’t fall through the cracks during the transition in the city’s top position. The ICMA fire protection study made the list.
The report was originally due in the spring, and then was delayed, and delayed again. The city was paying the ICMA for its work – a total of $38,000 in June 2011. I spoke with Crawford about the report this fall – he couldn’t offer much in the way of explanation, but indicated that the delay was on the ICMA’s end.
New city administrator Steve Powers started the job in mid-September. No ICMA report had materialized. Then in mid-November, the city paid an additional $400 to the ICMA. Shortly after that, word filtered through firefighter rank-and-file that a draft report had been released to the city by the ICMA.
At the time, The Chronicle had a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request pending with the city for a different set of records – maps depicting fire response-time boundary areas. Why? I’d seen one such map hanging in a public area on the second floor of city hall, that had – ahem – sparked a burning desire to see copies of all such maps.
When that request came back partly denied (no maps were produced), The Chronicle submitted a “clarification” of the original request, and added a request for the draft ICMA report. Other media had reported that their request for the draft report had been denied – but the city’s given reason for the denial was, to us, simply wrong. We figured that citing a specific prior court case might give us a shot.
We didn’t receive a denial. Instead, the city asserted its right to a 10-day time extension. And apparently this extension came on the very same day that the city turned down an appeal made by a different requester regarding the city’s denial of a similar request. It’s not entirely clear why the city denied an appeal made on one request, while on the same day claiming an extension for a similar request – from a different requester.
During the extension, I approached Powers, essentially outside the formal mechanism of the FOIA process. My pitch to Powers was not a legal argument. My pitch was based on the organizational interests of the city and the public interest of the community. We met on Friday, Dec. 16.
In that meeting, Powers assured me the draft report, the final report (which is still watermarked “draft”) and the maps would be released the following week. And the records were, in fact, released. We withdrew our FOIA request when we got the information we requested.
So Christmas did come early, right? But seriously, WTF? By the way, that does translate politely – as “Where’s the fire?”
We got what we wanted, and we should be happy about that.
Yet I still feel like the city wrapped up new socks and underwear in colored paper and called it a Christmas present. I want socks and underwear every time I yell FOIA in this democratic theater that we call Ann Arbor, not just at Christmas time.
Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Dec. 20, 2011): With four of the city’s nine planning commissioners absent, the last meeting of the year was brief, with only one action item: site plan approval for changes at Traver Village.
The owner, First Martin Corp., plans to reconfigure retail space that the Blockbuster video store previously occupied, at the southern part of the complex near Plymouth Road, converting it into three smaller retail spaces.
Plans call for adding a new 25-space parking lot to serve that location, between the south side of the building and Plymouth. Elsewhere within the complex, 128 parking spaces will be removed – primarily in the northwest area behind the Kroger grocery. More bike spaces and landscaping are part of the plan as well, which was approved unanimously by commissioners after brief discussion.
It will now be forwarded to the city council for consideration.
Communications during the 30-minute meeting included a reminder of a series of public forums on sustainability starting early next year. The first one, on Thursday, Jan. 12, will feature a panel of city staff on the topic of resource management. All forums will be held at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building, 343 S. Fifth Ave., beginning at 7 p.m. It’s part of a broader sustainability initiative that began earlier this year, funded by a Home Depot Foundation grant.
Grain scattered all along the railroad tracks crossing First Street, perhaps from a leaking railcar. [photo]
Vicki Honeyman, owner of the shop Heavenly Metal in Ann Arbor, was interviewed for a report on American Public Media’s Markeplace, about the impact a two-month extension of the payroll tax break and unemployment benefits would have on small businesses: “All of the uncertainty in Washington is hard for small businesses because we’re at the bottom of the feeding pool. And all of these decisions, especially what affects us tax-wise, what allows us to either hire or lay off people or invest more money into our businesses, is so much determined by how Congress and the Senate votes.” [Source]
Editor’s note: This column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month.
Listen: Today I’m hoping to convince you that our opinions are largely a cost with no corresponding benefit, and that the vast bulk of these opinions are unaffordably expensive.
We’re in Ann Arbor, where any two folks seem to have at least three opinions on a given topic, so I don’t imagine this is going to go super well, but hear me through.
Before you rush to the comments, I wish to assure you that I am indeed aware of the irony of writing an opinion column about how opinions are maybe something that we shouldn’t reflexively whip out like Glocks in a cop film.
And, if that lil proviso doesn’t give you pause, maybe this should: The opinions I share today are the result of about 18 months of meditating on the underlying costs and benefits of sounding off; if you’ve likewise spent a year-and-a-half working through this, then please chime in.
If you’re jumping to the comments to put me in my place, I invite you to take a few minutes, maybe an hour, or maybe, I dunno, 550 days or so to stew on this before giving me a piece of your mind. I’m not coming to this lightly or flippantly, which is apropos, because it’s the way we rack up opinion debt with such spendthrift flippancy that’s costing us so dearly.
At its Dec. 20, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission recommended approval of a site plan for Traver Village, a retail complex near the intersection of Plymouth and Nixon. The plan calls for building a new 25-space parking lot in front of the retail building at the southwest corner of the site, removing 14,021 square feet of parking and driveway at the northwest corner of the site near Huron Parkway, and adding covered bicycle parking throughout the complex.
The changes, proposed by First Martin Corp., are planned as part of reconfiguring a currently vacant building, where Blockbusters was previously located. The building will be reconfigured into three smaller retail spaces.
This brief was filed from the second-floor city council chambers at city …
This morning I was dismayed at the sounds of another 150 year old 38″+ diameter Elm on Miller (100 feet from my home) being mulched. We estimate, at the minimum, this sentinel tree would yield 1,000 to 1,500 board feet of good hardwood lumber. What happened to the momentum we started two years ago to put a policy in place that would provide a mechanism to utilize such trees much better than mulch or landfill? [photo] [photo]
Poster outside city administrator’s office announcing reception on Dec. 20 in council chambers for nine officers in the Ann Arbor police department who are retiring at the end of the year.
Extremely putrid smell. Everyone walking around with hands over noses.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council conducted a closed session to review the performance of its city attorney, Stephen Postema, for 2011. The result of the session was that the council voted, with dissent from Sabra Briere (Ward 1), to approve an amendment to Postema’s contract that allows him to cash-in up to 250 of hours of accrued banked time before June 30, 2012.
The position of city attorney is one of two positions that reports directly to the council – the other is the city administrator. Under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, reviews of personnel are allowed to be conducted in a closed session on request from the employee, but are not required to be. However, Postema’s contract contains a clause specifying that: “The results of the evaluation shall be in writing and shall be discussed with the Employee in closed session.”
A performance review conducted just two months ago at the council’s Oct. 24, 2011 meeting had been just for 2009 and 2010. That review did not result in any adjustment to Postema’s base salary, but also allowed him to cash-in up to 250 hours of accrued banked time before the end of 2011.
In a rare move, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) sat out most of the closed session on Dec. 19 and voted no on the contract amendment this time around. She questioned whether the council’s administration committee had provided other councilmembers with opportunity to offer feedback on Postema’s performance since the Oct. 24 review. She noted that other councilmembers had been given an opportunity to provide their view on Postema’s performance before the Oct. 24 review, but that review had specficially been just through 2010.
And Briere did not recall being given an opportunity to provide additional feedback since October for the current review – which included 2011. None of the members of the council’s administration committee could point to an occasion when feedback had been solicited during that time period. Mayor John Hieftje offered that sometimes all the forms are confusing.
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council postponed an increase in the pay for election inspectors – those who work at the polls on election day to verify registration of voters and to handle all the other duties associated with ensuring compliance with election laws at each precinct.
The proposed increases are as follows: election inspector from $8 to $9/hour; floater from $8.50 to $9.50/hour; chairperson from $11.25 to $12/hour; and absent voter count board supervisor from $14 to $14.50/hour. According to a staff memo accompanying the resolution, prepared by the city clerk’s office, the increase in pay is expected to cost $2,000 in a local election and $8,000 in a presidential election. For the upcoming 2012 presidential election, the increase would total $5,000 – a cost that will be reimbursed by the state.
The justification for the increase in pay for Ann Arbor’s election inspectors was based on comparative pay with other nearby jurisdictions. For example, the raise for election inspectors from $8 to $9 now matches what the city of Ypsilanti pays.
After the raise, however, the proposed compensation for election inspectors would still fall short of the amount set forth in Ann Arbor’s living wage policy, which the city itself is not obliged to follow. By ordinance, the wages paid by city contractors to their workers must meet minimum thresholds that are adjusted each year, based on federal poverty guidelines. In May of 2011, the new living wage minimums were set at $11.83/hour for those employers paying health insurance, and $13.19/hour for those employers not paying health insurance.
The living wage factored into the council decision to postpone the election inspectors’ pay raise. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) questioned why the raise did not match the city’s living wage and that prompted the postponement until the first meeting in January 2012. Briere requested information on the budget impact of the additional raise before the council votes.
One highlight from the staff memo accompanying the resolution, which indicates increasing use of digital technology at the polls: ”Ann Arbor is expected to receive electronic pollbooks from the State of Michigan in the next year.”
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted 4-7 on a resolution opposing mayoral appointments of city of Ann Arbor employees to serve on boards and commissions, which meant that it failed. Councilmembers voting for the resolution were its sponsors: Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) .
The “resolved” clause read: “Therefore be it resolved, That Council opposes Mayoral nominations of City of Ann Arbor employees to office appointments.”
Reasons cited in the “whereas” clauses include the possible appearance of conflicting interests and commitments, as well as a clause in the city charter that might be construed as limiting the rights of city employees who are appointed to boards or commissions: “The personnel of the City, other than the elective and appointive officers, shall be deemed City employees.”
The resolution came in the context of mayor John Hieftje’s nomination at the council’s previous meeting (on Dec. 5, 2011) of a city employee to serve on a board. Hieftje nominated the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, to serve on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
The council’s vote on Dec. 19 to confirm Cooper filled the vacancy on the AATA board left by another city employee, Sue McCormick. McCormick was, until Dec. 16, the city’s public services area administrator. She left to take a job as head of the Detroit water and sewerage department.
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]
Mid-block, Christmas decorations include a pig prominently displayed in the center of the display. The pig is full-figure, illuminated both interiorly and with outlining lights, and floats in mid-air, presumably with the help of its wings and its (glowing) halo.
There has got to be a message about this “pigs fly” thing. I don’t know what it is.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council confirmed the nomination of the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, to serve on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. The council vote on Cooper’s nomination was only 8-2, with Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), and Jane Lumm (Ward 2) dissenting. They objected to the appointment of a city employee to the position, not because they felt that Cooper himself was unsuitable. Cooper is filling the vacancy on the AATA board left by Sue McCormick.
McCormick is leaving her post at the city of Ann Arbor as public services area administrator to take a job as head of the Detroit water and sewerage department. McCormick’s last day on the job was Dec. 16. City administrator Steve Powers announced at the Dec. 5 meeting that the city’s head of systems planning, Craig Hupy, will fill in for McCormick on an interim basis. Powers reported that Hupy had no interest in the permanent position.
McCormick’s last AATA board meeting was Dec. 15. On that occasion, she was presented the AATA’s traditional token of appreciation for board service: a mailbox marked up to resemble an AATA bus.
Cooper’s city position as transportation program manager falls under the city’s systems planning unit. The council previously appointed Cooper to serve on the AATA board on June 20, 2005. He served through June 2008, and was replaced on the board by current board chair Jesse Bernstein.
When Cooper previously served on the AATA board, along with McCormick, their service prompted an op-ed in The Ann Arbor News criticizing the appointment of city employees to citizen boards. [.pdf of "Let's Stick With Autonomous Appointees for Citizen Boards"]
At the Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, mayor John Hieftje nominated John Kotarski to replace Margaret Parker on the Ann Arbor public art commission (AAPAC). Kotarski has been a media consultant who previously worked for the Mount Clemens Schools.
Parker served for several years on the commission on art in public places (CAPP), the precursor to AAPAC. She was last re-appointed to AAPAC on June 15, 2009 for a three-year term, which would have ended Dec. 31, 2012. Parker served as chair of AAPAC from the enactment of the city’s Percent for Art ordinance in 2007 until the end of 2010. Marsha Chamberlin agreed to assume responsibility as chair in April this year.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved a contract with Recycle Ann Arbor to continue the operation of the drop-off recycling center on the city-owned property at 2950 E. Ellsworth Road, with no financial support from the city.
Previously, the drop-off station was supported by three municipalities: the city of Ann Arbor ($30,000), Washtenaw County ($50,000) and Pittsfield Township ($7,500).
According to a staff memo accompanying the resoultion, when Washtenaw County withdrew its support in 2009, Recycle Ann Arbor declined support from the other governmental units – because it would have required tracking where users lived in order to determine the appropriate use charge. Roughly 60% of the users of the facility live outside Ann Arbor. Recycle Ann Arbor now charges a $3 entry fee, in addition to the specific drop-off charges for specific kinds of items. For example, the charge for dropping off a car tire is $5 – with the $3 entry fee, it would total $8.
The previous contract with Recycle Ann Arbor to operate the drop-off facility expired nearly two years ago, on Jan. 1, 2010. The new contract is retroactive to that date.
The staff memo for the agenda item notes some significant sinking of the southeast corner of the building at the facility, but indicates there is no immediate danger. Still, building repairs are recommended.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to accept an additional $20,000 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE). Of that amount, $17,500 will be applied to a contract with the Clean Energy Coalition for its XSeed Energy community solar program. The remaining $2,500 will go to the city of Ann Arbor to cover grant administration and oversight costs.
The original grant from the USDOE, as a part of the Solar America Cities Project, was made in July 2007 for $200,000. According to a staff memo, Ann Arbor has secured commitments from 11 local organizations for various matching funds for a additional $355,008.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to authorize reimbursement of $94,788 to the company that operates its materials recovery facility (MRF) for costs of replacing an electromagnet that failed back in February 2011.
RRS Inc. made the request for reimbursement in September. The electromagnet is used to separate metal from other material. The reimbursement will be made from the city’s MRF capitalized renewal and replacement account.
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized a budget modification, drawing on its major street fund, to allow an expenditure of $81,000 – to install five rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB) on existing pedestrian islands in the city. Four of the locations are along Plymouth Road (at Georgetown, Traver Village, Beal and Bishop). The fifth location is at Seventh and Washington. [.pdf with schematic of intersections and an RRFB] [.pdf of map depicting locations]
The flashing function of an RRFB would not be continuous – it would be activated by a pedestrian pushing a button. The staff memo accompanying the resolution describes an RRFB as “similar in nature to the light bars on the top of emergency vehicles.” The flashing beacons do not count as traffic control signals for the purposes of the city’s pedestrian safety ordinance, which addresses motorist behavior “[w]hen traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation …” Otherwise put, the pedestrian safety ordinance will still apply at those crosswalks where RRFBs are installed.
Annual costs for operation and maintenance of the RRFBs are estimated at $160 per crossing. Installation of the new signs is scheduled to begin in February 2012, and to be completed by April 2012.
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to a tweak to its pedestrian safety ordinance. The language given final approval by the council now reads in relevant part: ” … the driver of a vehicle shall stop before entering a crosswalk and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian stopped at the curb, curb line or ramp leading to a crosswalk and to every pedestrian within a crosswalk, when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”
The council struck from the ordinance an addition to which it had given initial approval on Nov. 10, 2011 that required motorists to stop for pedestrians “without regard to which portion of the roadway the pedestrian is using.”
This recent round of revisions to the ordinance comes after the council modified the pedestrian safety ordinance on July 19, 2010 to include an expansion of the conditions under which motorists must take action to accommodate pedestrians. Specifically, the 2010 amendments required accommodation of pedestrians not just “within a crosswalk” but also “approaching or within a crosswalk.” The modification approved on Dec. 19 was intended to address a perceived ambiguity of the word “approaching.”
Besides the “approaching” phrase, the 2010 amendments also included two other key elements. The 2010 amendments included a requirement that motorists “stop” and not merely “slow as to yield.” And the 2010 amendments also eliminated reference to which half of the roadway is relevant to the responsibility placed on motorists for accommodating pedestrians. That eliminated phrase was restored in the version approved by the council on Dec. 19.
[Pending Question: Was the change between the first and second readings substantial enough to require an additional reading before the council? Update: According to city clerk Jackie Beaudry, "... nothing proposed (and finally approved) was significant enough to warrant sending the ordinance back as a first reading."]
At its Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to altering the University Bank PUD and the site plan for the bank’s property at 2015 Washtenaw Ave., known as the Hoover Mansion. The bank wanted the revision to the existing planned unit development (PUD) for the site – originally approved in 1978 – to allow for an increase in the total number of employees and parking spaces permitted on the parcel. The site serves as the bank’s headquarters.
The change will allow University Bank to build 13 new parking spaces on the east side – behind the main building – for a total of 52 spaces on the site. The city planning commission unanimously recommended approval of the change at its Oct. 4, 2011 meeting, after the proposal had been submitted to the city at least a year earlier. The council gave its initial approval to the change in the PUD at its Nov. 21, 2011 meeting.
The long approval process could in part be attributed to opposition from immediate neighbors to specific elements of the plan, which was to some degree modified in response. A letter of opposition, attached to the council’s Dec. 19 agenda packet, made a more general objection to “the likelihood of further commercialization of the residential neighborhood.” [.pdf of letter of opposition][.jpg of aerial view with parcels]
Because the proposal was a change to the city’s zoning, it was a change to the city’s ordinances – a process that required a second approval by the council at a separate meeting, preceded by a public hearing.
North side of Beakes in the 300 block – interesting backside of house construction visible from the street. [photo]
Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Dec. 14, 2011) Part 1: After an extensive, sometimes heated discussion – and a rarely used parliamentary action taken well after midnight – the AAPS school board voted 4-3 to ratify contract amendments for two of its top administrators.
Brought forward by superintendent Patricia Green, the amendments raised the salary of deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen by 7%, and that of assistant superintendent of human resource and legal services Dave Comsa by 12%. The board also reclassified Comsa’s position, bringing him up to the executive level of the superintendent’s cabinet, and changing his title to “deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel.”
The board initially voted to consider the contracts as a first briefing, which meant the item would return to the board’s next meeting for a final vote, allowing more time for public input. But later in the meeting – about 1:30 a.m. – board president Deb Mexicotte moved to reconsider that initial vote, which it did, and the item was then classified as a special briefing, allowing the board to take a final vote that night. Trustee Simone Lightfoot called the move a “bait and switch.”
Mexicotte defended her decision, saying that she is elected to make decisions like these on behalf of the district. Other trustees backed that view. Irene Patalan said she often explains her vote to constituents after the fact, and this time would be no different.
In the end, concerns over transparency and equity for other employees were outweighed by the belief that salary adjustments were needed to retain Comsa and Allen, and to reflect their value to the district.
Also at the Dec. 14 meeting, on a 6-1 vote, the board ratified contracts for two new administrators hired by Green to complete her cabinet: deputy superintendent of instruction Alesia Flye, and assistant superintendent of elementary education Dawn Linden.
The set of contract ratifications reflect Green’s desire to reorganize her executive cabinet to contain three deputy superintendents – Allen, Comsa, and Flye – at an equivalent salary of $140,000.
This report will cover in detail the discussions and procedure regarding the administrative contract ratifications. Additional coverage of the remainder of the Dec. 14 board of education meeting will be forthcoming in a separate report.
Hawk hanging out at the First Baptist Church this morning. [photo]
Sunday night, and the blue lights of the Dreiseitl sculpture are illuminated.
University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Dec. 15, 2011): The December regents meeting reflected campus activism and the arts – nearly in equal measure.
As UM president Mary Sue Coleman began her opening remarks to start Thursday’s meeting, about two dozen “Occupy UM” protesters, who’d been sitting in the boardroom, stood up and shouted, “Mic check!” For the next five minutes, in a call-and-response delivery, protesters outlined their grievances against the university’s leadership – primarily, that once-affordable public education has been turned into an expensive commodity. [A video of the protest is posted on YouTube.]
When the group finished, they left the boardroom chanting “Instruction, not construction!” Neither the regents nor Coleman responded to them or alluded to the protest during the rest of the meeting.
Another group of students gave a decidedly different performance just minutes later. The a cappella group Amazin’ Blue sang five holiday songs, prompting board chair Denise Ilitch to don a blue Santa’s hat – embroidered with “Michigan” – and sing along.
The meeting included two issues related to the Ann Arbor community and parking. During public commentary, Chip Smith of the Near Westside Neighborhood Association highlighted problems with a UM parking lot that’s surrounded by homes on the Old West Side. And in a staff memo accompanying a resolution to issue bonds for capital projects, Fuller Road Station was on the list in the category of projects that would require final approval by regents prior to being funded with bond proceeds. The regents had approved the controversial project – a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor parking structure, bus depot and possible train station – in January 2010, but a formal agreement between the city and university has not yet been finalized.
Other items on the Dec. 15 agenda included: (1) presentations by three UM faculty who were named MacArthur Fellows this year; (2) approval of the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) initiative; and (3) approval of several renovation projects, including work on the Law School’s historic Charles T. Munger Residences in the Lawyers’ Club and the John P. Cook Building.
The Penny Seats Theatre Company, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is how halfway to its $6,000 fundraising goal for the 2012 season, which is explained in more detail in a YouTube video. The group hopes to generate the remaining $3,000 before the end of 2011. Rewards for various levels of donations range from free tickets to performances and birthday serenades. [Source]
Four carolers in front of Cherry Republic trying to be heard above the noisy street traffic.