Archive for October, 2012

Transportation Dominates Council Meeting

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.

Margie Teall peruses a map showing forecasted congestion on Ann Arbor roads under a "do nothing" scenario. Transportation program manager Eli Cooper had distributed the map to councilmembers.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) peruses a map showing forecasted congestion on Ann Arbor roads under a “do nothing” scenario. Transportation program manager Eli Cooper had distributed the map to councilmembers at their Oct. 15 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

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).  [Full Story]

West Park Possible Location for New Dog Park

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (Oct. 16, 2012): Creation of a new, more centrally located Ann Arbor dog park moved forward this month, as park commissioners reached an informal consensus to explore West Park for that purpose.

Ann Arbor parks millage renewal, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Signs for Ann Arbor parks millage renewal. PAC member Ingrid Ault has formed a campaign committee – called Friends of the Parks – to support the renewal. (Photos by the writer.)

A committee that has focused on identifying possible locations for a new dog park recommended the West Park site – specifically, a parcel in the park’s northeast corner, where the city recently bought and demolished a house near the entrance off of Chapin Street. No formal vote was taken, but PAC’s support means that staff will bring back a proposal for PAC’s consideration, and hold a public meeting for community input.

PAC members did formally vote on a recommendation to relocate tennis courts within Windemere Park, to the east of the current location. Several residents of the neighborhood surrounding Windemere Park attended the meeting and advocated for a postponement on the decision. They noted that the option being recommended by staff had not been presented at an Oct. 8 neighborhood meeting. Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, later explained that the fourth option had emerged from a consensus of ideas at the meeting.

Berla, who voted against the PAC resolution, felt there was nothing to lose in giving residents another month to review the proposal. But other commissioners believed that moving ahead was the best approach, and that no option would satisfy all residents – especially people with property facing the park. The resolution also recommended incorporating input from residents regarding landscaping around the courts, which was a concern raised by some of the homeowners.

In an unusual move, PAC member Ingrid Ault spoke to her fellow commissioners during public commentary. Telling them that she was speaking as a citizen, not a commissioner, Ault said she had formed a campaign committee – called Friends of the Parks – to support the park maintenance & capital improvements millage renewal, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot. The current 1.1 mill tax expires this year. A renewal would run from 2013-2018 and raise about $4.9 million next year. Ault brought yard signs to distribute, and encouraged commissioners and the public to support the renewal. PAC had passed a resolution in support of the millage at their June 2012 meeting.

As part of his manager’s report, Colin Smith noted that city staff will be meeting with representatives from the state on Nov. 2 to get a better understanding of concerns that have been raised regarding a planned whitewater section of the Huron River, near Argo Cascades. He said he’d have an update on that situation at PAC’s November meeting. [See Chronicle coverage: “EPA, Others Object to Whitewater Project.”]

Commissioners held their annual officer elections, re-electing Julie Grand as chair. Ingrid Ault was elected vice chair and Tim Doyle was tapped as chair of PAC’s budget and finance committee. All nominations were uncontested, and the votes were unanimous. PAC also welcomed Missy Stults to her first meeting as commissioner. Her nomination had been confirmed by the city council earlier this month. [Full Story]

Worden & Dexter

Don Hewlett has come up with a leaf-sucking machine named Mr. Baggit that puts leaves in the bag. It’s cardboard and paper so can’t get caught in the rain, and works at its own pace, but outside of that, a thing of beauty. [photo] [photo]

Liberty & State

Line from the Michigan Theater up Liberty and north on State Street. Richard Dawkins is on the marquee for 4 p.m. [photo]

A2: Zingerman’s Deli

Writing for The Ann Arbor Observer, Vickie Elmer describes the new expansion at Zingerman’s Deli, which is expected to open for the general public later this month: ”The kitchen is huge, gleaming – and about 10 times as big as the original next door. And there’s another one in the basement, which [Paul] Saginaw said will be used mostly for catering, along with a huge walk-in cooler and an electrical panel that looks like it could power a Google office. So far, Zingerman’s staff has used the new kitchens mainly for prep work, carrying trays of sliced tomatoes and peppers over to the original building. They’re operating under a 90-day temporary certificate of occupancy.” [Source]

A2: Bookseller

Fine Books & Collections has published an email Q&A between Nate Pedersen and Garrett Scott – also known as The Bibliophagist, an antiquarian bookseller based in Ann Arbor. From the interview: ”I think any bookseller is always trying to find new or interesting stock. Broadly speaking, if you don’t end up selling your schismatic Hicksite pamphlets then perhaps you grab the next batch of sexual quackery pamphlets to come to hand. (Or perhaps you end up saddled with them both.)” [Source]

In it for the Money: Kleptocracy

Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. Nelson is sort of a long-winded son-of-a-gun. If you want to read very short things by Nelson, more frequently than once a month, you can follow him on Twitter, where he’s @SquiDaveo

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

I didn’t initially intend to write an overtly political column this month. I actually had something nice all framed out, about how to talk politics civilly with friends and family. Then Matty Moroun took to hammering me daily with his pro-Prop 6/Prop 5 craziness, and I just went totally bat-shit insane.

Here’s the skinny, in case you’re bailing on me here: A billionaire is hijacking our state constitution in order to lock-in his near monopoly on commercial access to the nation of Canada. This is a for-real super-villain-style power play. Odds are you are on the verge of inadvertently helping this one-tenth-of-1-percenter screw us all for generations to come.

Your action on Nov. 6: Vote NO on Proposals 5 and 6.

If you can’t stomach another political jeremiad this ballot season, I respect where you’re coming from. But please give me 12 minutes to convince you that no sane Michigander who doesn’t already own a bridge to Canada would ever want Prop 6 to pass.  [Full Story]

A2: Train

Writing on Deadline Detroit, Jeff Wattrick describes his car-less excursion from Royal Oak to Ann Arbor on Saturday for the Michigan-Michigan State football game. He took Amtrak to town, then used the bus to get around. Wattrick writes: ”Ann Arbor has a fantastic transit center on Fourth and Liberty. Even though I’m unfamiliar with Washtenaw County’s ‘The Ride’ bus system, it was easy to find the right bus. One hitch, though, bus service out in this pastoral three square miles surrounded by reality shuts down early on the weekends. I was basically stranded in a strip mall-ish part of town without a (ahem) Ride. So I hoofed it back downtown – the wait for a cab was at least an hour … [Full Story]

County Board Debates Role in Transit Entity

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Oct. 17, 2012): With only two more meetings remaining in 2012 – both falling after the Nov. 6 election – county commissioners dispatched a range of agenda items on Oct. 17, including ordinance changes and budget-related action.

Catherine McClary, Mary Jo Callan, Washtenaw County treasurer, office of community and economic development, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, coordinated funding, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Washtenaw County treasurer Catherine McClary and Mary Jo Callan, director of the county/city of Ann Arbor office of community & economic development. Both women attended the Oct. 17 meeting of the county board of commissioners to address agenda items. (Photos by the writer.)

But they spent much of their discussion on a topic not on the agenda and not requiring a vote: public transit. It emerged that the county administrator now will be sending out additional notification letters to local jurisdictions about a new transit authority, called The Washtenaw Ride. The AATA had initially sent letters notifying jurisdictions of a 30-day window ending Nov. 2.

The new letters, which will likely be sent in early November and alert municipalities to a second 30-day window for opting out of the new authority, were originally expected to be sent by The Washtenaw Ride. But there’s been a delay in forming the new board, so the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has asked that the county handle the notification process. The county had filed the articles of incorporation for the new entity in early October, at the AATA’s request.

Some commissioners were concerned about the cost –  because the agreement that lays out the process for forming the Washtenaw Ride indicated the county would not be financially responsible for any expenses. The following day, AATA CEO Michael Ford stated at the AATA board meeting that the county would be reimbursed for its expenses.

Part of the county board’s discussion on public transit also centered on proposed state legislation to set up a regional transit authority (RTA) for Detroit and the counties of Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb. Some commissioners wanted more information about Washtenaw County’s involvement, and asked for a working session on the topic.

Added to the agenda during the Oct. 17 meeting was a countywide civil infractions ordinance. It was given initial approval by commissioners – with a final vote and public hearing  scheduled for their Nov. 7 meeting. Currently, criminal misdemeanors are the only penalty that the county can apply for an ordinance violation – for infractions like not having a dog license. The intent of the proposed ordinance is to give the county more flexibility to designate violations of other county ordinances as a civil infraction, rather than a criminal misdemeanor. The proposed fines would be $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or any subsequent offense.

The board also passed a policy to reduce barriers to breastfeeding in Washtenaw County facilities, and gave final approval to an ordinance change that shifts responsibility for the county’s accommodation tax from the county treasurer to the county finance director.  The accommodation tax is collected from hotels and motels.

Also approved was a one-year extension for the coordinated funding model that’s been piloted for two years as a way to more effectively fund local human services nonprofits. An evaluation of the program – a partnership between the county, city of Ann Arbor, United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Urban County, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation – is expected early next year.

The board received a preliminary apportionment report for Washtenaw County, giving details of the 2012 taxable valuations for property in the county, by municipality. And commissioner Rob Turner reported that a new actuary has been selected to conduct reports on the status of the county’s employee pension and retirement health care funds. Turner is concerned that the fund balances are too low, leaving the county with unfunded liabilities that need to be addressed.

Speaking during public commentary, John Wagner – a volunteer for Camp Take Notice – urged commissioners to consider providing a county facility for the homeless, as winter approaches. The meeting also included recognitions of work done by SafeHouse Center, a domestic violence shelter, and local cooperatives like the Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC) of the University of Michigan. Gaia Kile, vice president of the board for the People’s Food Co-op, told commissioners that the hope is to turn these types of “highly democratic economic institutions” into the fastest-growing segment of the economy. [Full Story]

Washtenaw: Foreclosures

The Detroit Free Press reports on the problem of “bank walkaways,” when financial institutions abandon homes that have started the foreclosure process. From the report: “In Washtenaw County, 76% of the 274 properties in county tax foreclosure this year are those that had banks listed on property records as having a financial interest, such as through a mortgage. That’s a drop from the 99% – 632 of 637 – of properties that Treasurer Catherine McClary counted in 2011, which she attributes to a general improvement in the market.” [Source]

UMMA: Video Workshop

Applications are due Oct. 25 for the “Many Voices” video workshop at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. As many as 16 people will be chosen to create 2-3 minute videos about works of art in the UMMA collection, to be shown in the museum’s galleries. One of the instructors is Donald Harrison, former executive director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. [Source]

AATA Ridership Up, Fiscal Reserves Down

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 18, 2012): The recent AATA board meeting had a good-news, bad-news flavor.

Optimism was based on ridership data for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 – which includes a record-setting 6,325,785 rides on the regular bus service, up 6.6% over the previous year, and 3.4% more than the previous record year of 2009.

AATA board member David Nacht expressed concern about the idea of adding back in project elements to the new Blake Transit Center, grounding his concern in part in the fact that he was wearing his "treasurer's hat."

AATA board member David Nacht expressed concern about the idea of adding back in project elements to the new Blake Transit Center, grounding his concern in part in the fact that he was wearing his “treasurer’s hat.” (Photos by the writer.)

Damping enthusiasm were the year-end budget numbers, which showed the AATA posting a deficit around $260,000 greater than the one it had budgeted for, leaving an excess of expenditures over revenues of $1,255,312. [.pdf of unaudited FY 2012 financials] That comes in the context of an approved budget for the just-begun current fiscal year, which includes an anticipated deficit of about $300,000. The board’s Oct. 18 deliberations revealed the fact that only by recalculating the amount in the AATA’s cash reserves did the organization currently have the required three-month operating reserve on hand.

In that financial context, board members were not inclined to add back in some elements that had recently been cut out of the new Blake Transit Center project, which would have brought the project budget to nearly $8.5 million. The construction contracts approved by the board at its meeting totaled a bit over $8 million, which was still dramatically larger than the smaller $3.5 million project the AATA had started with over three years ago. Instead of taking the less ambitious strategy, the AATA opted to locate the new, larger center on the opposite side of the same parcel where it currently stands. Construction on the two-story Fifth Avenue-facing center is now expected to start in late November or early December.

The board’s deliberations on the new transit center focused on whether to add back into the project some items that had been removed to bring the cost down from $8.5 to $8 million. Of the three items on the table – automatic ticketing kiosks, real-time bus arrival information displays, and LEED certification of the building – only the LEED certification was added back in, at a cost of $80,000.

At the Oct. 18 meeting, the board also got an update on the situation surrounding the incorporation of the new Act 196 board for The Washtenaw Ride. Michael Ford, AATA’s CEO, indicated that the AATA would be reimbursing Washtenaw County for the cost of renotifying jurisdictions in the county regarding their option not to participate in the new authority. He confirmed that AATA board members would not serve simultaneously on the current board and the board of the new authority, as previously expected. Ford indicated that AATA legal counsel believes that what the AATA has done to date already complies with the law, but the AATA is exercising extreme caution.

Several members of the future Act 196 board attended the meeting and had a voice at the table, but not a vote.

The board’s meeting concluded with a closed session lasting nearly two hours on pending litigation. [Full Story]

Miller & First

Passers-by checking out car that had recently caught fire. One asks, “You have insurance?” [photo]

Liberty & S. Fifth Ave.

LED display flashes “Football Parking” above entrance ramp to new underground structure. Cars are streaming in.

Library Board Gets Update on Bond Campaign

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 15, 2012): In their last meeting before the Nov. 6 election, board members got an update about the campaign to support AADL’s bond proposal for a new downtown library.

Ellie Serras, Ann Arbor District Library Board, Our New Downtown Library, election, bond proposal, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ellie Serras, who leads the campaign to support AADL’s bond proposal for a new downtown library, spoke during public commentary to update the board on the campaign. (Photos by the writer.)

That update came from Ellie Serras, who leads the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee. She had briefed the board previously at its Aug. 20 meeting. If approved by voters on Nov. 6, the $65 million, 30-year bond proposal will fund the demolition of the existing library at 343 S. Fifth and the construction of a new building on that same site.

Speaking during public commentary, Serras catalogued the number of yard signs, buttons, postcard mailings, meetings and other efforts of the campaign. She described the campaign as being built on trust and confidence, “not rumor and innuendo,” and said the new library will be an expression of the community’s core values of education and equal access for all. Serras received a round of applause from board members after her remarks.

The other item tangentially related to the bond proposal was the uncharacteristic absence of AADL director Josie Parker from the meeting. Board president Margaret Leary reported that Parker was attending two separate township meetings that night to talk about the bond proposal. For the most part, the AADL district mirrors the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. In addition to the city of Ann Arbor, the district includes parts of the townships of Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior.

In addition to the bond proposal, there are four seats on the AADL board that are on the Nov. 6 ballot. Four incumbents – Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary and Prue Rosenthal – are running for re-election. The fifth candidate is Lyn Davidge, who attended the Oct. 15 meeting but did not speak during public commentary. For Chronicle coverage of a recent League of Women Voters forum on this race, see “Library Board Candidates Compete for 4 Seats.” While the four incumbents support the bond proposal, Davidge does not believe it’s the right project at this time.

During the Oct. 15 meeting, the board also got a brief report on library finances. And Leary notified the board that Parker has been appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Commission for Blind Persons, an advisory group for state programs and services. The AADL administers the Washtenaw Library for the Blind & Physically Disabled. [Full Story]

First & Liberty

In a nutshell: Climbing off top of northbound train, young man in yellow shirt when safely aground phones/meets friend, takes cab home. [More in comment thread.]

UM Regents OK New Security Restructuring

The University of Michigan has released results of an external investigation into a 2011 incident involving child pornography allegedly viewed on a UM health system computer. Regents had initially voted to start the investigation eight months ago. The consultants report was released late Friday afternoon at the regents’ Oct. 18, 2012 meeting on the Flint campus. [.pdf of report by Margolis Healy] [.pdf of Oct. 18 memo from regents]

At that same meeting, regents unanimously approved creation of a new Division of Public Safety and Security, which will consolidate security units across campus, including the Dept. of Public Safety (DPS), the UM health system’s security services, housing security, and the office of emergency preparedness, among others. A national search … [Full Story]

Wagner & Jackson

Apparent car fire in Suburban Chevrolet car lot along Wagner Road near Jackson at 11:40 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18. Scio Township fire trucks at the scene. [photo]

Column: Thoughts on Pioneer-Huron Melee

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Last week, the Ann Arbor Pioneer High School football team went across town to play long-time rival Ann Arbor Huron. It wasn’t the players’ performance during the game that made news, however, but the coaches’ behavior afterward. And the news wasn’t good.

Pioneer came into the annual rivalry with Huron sporting a solid 4-3 record and a good chance to make the playoffs. Huron hadn’t won a game all year, and was simply playing out the season. The only stakes were bragging rights – and even those weren’t much in question.

With a minute left, Pioneer enjoyed an impressive 35-6 lead. At that point, it’s customary for the winning coach to tell his team to run out the clock by taking a knee, instead of trying to score again. But Pioneer threw a pass, and then another, and then another – one of them to the endzone – in a clear display of poor sportsmanship. That was the night’s first mistake. [Full Story]

AAPS Focus: Achievement, Labor Contracts

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (Oct. 10, 2012): Student achievement and labor contracts were the main topics of discussion for the AAPS board of trustees.

MEAP scores, Ann Arbor Public Schools

Ann Arbor Public Schools Grade 5 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores for reading (left) and math (right). The green trend lines indicated African American student achievement under the old cut scores. Brown trend lines indicate achievement of caucasians.  The gap between the achievement has been amplified by new cut scores, which are indicated by blue and purple trend lines for African American and caucasian students, respectively.

Deputy superintendent of instructional services Alesia Flye and director of student accounting and research services Jane Landefeld, presented a comprehensive report on student achievement. While the trustees were pleased and excited to have such a detailed report, and there were several positive points in the data, they also expressed significant frustration at the disparity between the achievement of various subgroups. African American students in the district showed significantly lower achievement on standardized tests than students in other ethnic groups. Trustee Simone Lightfoot described herself as “fire mad” about some of the results in the report.

The conversation ranged from results and highlights to the challenges the district faces. Flye and her team indicated that the district would continued to work with this data and to implement the district’s established plans to address the achievement gap. But the presentation was a point of information only. [.pdf of AAPS achievement slide presentation with graphs and tables]

Also at the meeting, a proposal for a technology upgrade to the network infrastructure prompted a conversation about labor contracts. The network upgrade was a first briefing item on which the board did not vote. But conversation about labor contracts continued as trustees heard a second briefing about outsourcing the noon hour supervisor positions. In a 4-3 decision, the board did not approve the a contract with PCMI, which had bid to provide noon hour supervisors at a 24.83% administrative cost. [Full Story]

AATA Ends Year $260K Over Budget

The Ann Ann Arbor Transportation Authority had budgeted for a nearly $1 million deficit this year, but wound up with an excess of expenditures over revenues that was actually $260,000 more than that. The unaudited figures reported to the AATA board at its Oct. 18, 2012 meeting showed a deficit for the year of $1,255,312. [.pdf of unaudited FY 2012 financials]

Several reasons were given for the additional shortfall, which resulted in only $27,617,099 in actual revenues compared with the $29,418,995 that was budgeted. Those reasons included: $120,842 less in passenger revenue; $269,095 less in local transit tax revenue; $529,214 less in purchase-of-service revenue; and $927,149 less in federal funding. That was balanced somewhat by reduced expenses in some … [Full Story]

$8M OK’d for New Downtown Transit Center

A new downtown Ann Arbor transit center, which began with a budget of $3.5 million, has now received approval for construction contracts totaling $8,129,988. The approval came from the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority in a vote at its Oct. 18, 2012 meeting. Construction is expected to begin in late November or early December, according to Terry Black, AATA director of maintenance, who has been managing the project.

The new Blake Transit Center will be located on the same parcel where it’s currently located, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, but on the opposite side of the block from its current location. Bus traffic to the new Fifth Avenue-facing center will enter from Fourth Avenue and exit onto Fifth, … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Bar Sues Over Right to Display Signs

Aut Bar owner Martin Contreras has filed suit against the chair of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for the right to display political campaign signs on the premises of his establishment in Braun Court, located in downtown Ann Arbor. Contreras is being represented by the ACLU of Michigan in the First Amendment case. The MLCC has a rule that prohibits display of campaign signs: “A licensee shall not display advertising that advocates the election of a person or political party on the inside or outside of a licensed premise, …” The exceptions of conventions or fundraisers provided in the rule don’t apply to the ongoing routine operation of a bar. The complaint asks, among other things, for a permanent injunction … [Full Story]

UM: Football Rivalry

The Detroit News publishes a Q&A with athletic directors at the University of Michigan and Michigan State – Dave Brandon and Mark Hollis – in advance of Saturday’s UM-MSU football game in Ann Arbor. Regarding a possible night game in the future between the teams, Brandon had this to say: ”I’ve talked to a lot of my colleagues who have hosted games, and we’ve certainly played enough of them on the road to know that the atmosphere that you create in the evening, prime-time, partying all day, all those realities of how it works, is like pouring a little bit of gasoline on the atmosphere. That’s why the fans love it, that’s why the networks love it. My point of view … [Full Story]

UMS: Pop-Up Concert

In a video posted on YouTube, Jim Leija of the University Musical Society describes a free “pop-up” concert by the Chiara String Quartet on Friday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. They’ll be performing at the vacant building at 314 S. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor, site of the former Dream Nite Club. Leija says it’s a way that UMS is celebrating 50 years of its chamber arts series – “taking chamber music out of the concert halls and into the streets.” [Source]

Washtenaw & Glenwood:

Emergency vehicles (firetrucks, ambulance) mostly blocking Ann Arbor-bound lane. AATA driver says it was a three-car accident. Also, evidence indicates @levarburton may be in Ann Arbor: We took the same sunrise picture this morning!  [link]