Ann Arbor city council meeting (Oct. 15, 2012): The council’s penultimate meeting before the ceremonial swearing in of new councilmembers on Nov. 19 was dominated by transportation topics.
A study that’s required as part of Ann Arbor’s approach to building a new train station will move forward with a $550,000 funding resolution approved by the council. The same resolution also includes a clause stating that construction of a new train station would be put to a popular referendum before proceeding.
The budget amendment, which passed with exactly the eight votes it needed on the 11-member council, allocated the $550,000 to provide new matching funds for a federal grant. The grant had been awarded through the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program. Dissenting on the vote were Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) was absent. Recent feedback from the FRA indicated that the city of Ann Arbor could not use previously expended funds to count as the local match – which had been the city’s original understanding.
The council also approved $30,000 for the continued study of a transportation connector between the northeast and south sides of Ann Arbor. The corridor runs from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94.
The council actually voted twice on that issue at the same meeting. On the first vote, the resolution failed. But a few minutes later, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) – who had initially voted against it – asked for reconsideration of the vote, and changed her vote to support it, as did Mike Anglin (Ward 5). The council had previously considered and rejected funding for the study at its Sept. 4, 2012 meeting. But councilmembers reconsidered that vote two weeks later on Sept. 17, 2012, which resulted in a postponement until Oct. 15. The second reconsideration by the council during the Oct. 15 meeting required a suspension of the council’s rules, which don’t permit a question to be reconsidered more than once.
Wrapping up the transportation themes of the evening was a public call for volunteers to serve on the new 15-member transit authority board, recently incorporated under Act 196 of 1986. While it had been previously assumed that the seven Ann Arbor appointments to the new authority’s board would serve simultaneously on Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s board, legal questions about simultaneous service on the two boards led to mayor John Hieftje’s announcement to recruit other volunteers.
The first two of the seven Ann Arbor nominations needed for the new transit authority board were made at the Oct. 15 meeting: Susan Baskett, who currently serves as a trustee on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board; and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who currently serves on the city council. Derezinski will be leaving the council in mid-November, because he did not prevail in his August Democratic primary race. His last city council meeting will be Nov. 8.
Nov. 8 would also mark the last council meeting for Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who did not seek re-election. However, Smith announced on Oct. 15 that she would not be able to attend the Nov. 8 meeting, which meant that the Oct. 15 meeting was her last. She bid her colleagues farewell, and kind words were offered around the table.
It was a resolution from Smith that prompted the main non-transportation topic of the evening – an attempt to establish a formal policy to use the net proceeds of city-owned land sales to support affordable housing. The council approved a version of the policy, but it was far more restricted than Smith’s original proposal, which the council had considered but postponed on Sept. 17.
Smith’s initial proposal would have directed 85% of the net proceeds from the sale of any city-owned land in the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority district to be deposited in the city’s affordable housing trust fund. During the month-long postponement, the council’s budget committee discussed the proposal and made a recommendation that for only one city property – the Fifth & William lot, where the former YMCA building previously stood – the net proceeds from any future sale would be deposited into the city’s affordable housing trust fund. The budget committee also recommended that any other properties be considered on a case-by-case basis, considering all needs of the city. And that’s essentially the recommendation that the council adopted.
In other business, councilmembers authorized an extension to a third year for the city’s coordinated approach to funding for human services. And the council took the first step toward dissolving the sign board of appeals and transferring its responsibility to the zoning board of appeals. The council also accepted a total of $1 million in grants for city parks, and added about 125 acres to the city’s greenbelt program. And a $200,000 study was authorized to prevent flooding in the southwest part of the city.
A symbolic vote – calling for the U.S. Congress to send a constitutional amendment to the states to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision – resulted in passage, over dissent from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2).