The Ann Arbor city council’s post-election Nov. 8, 2012 session was its last meeting before new councilmembers are ceremonially sworn in on Nov. 19. And current city councilmembers used the occasion to announce some issues that the new edition of the council will be asked to consider.
At the Nov. 19 meeting, two proposals will be brought forward on the city’s public art ordinance. The changes stem from the fact that a proposed public art millage failed at the polls on Nov. 6 by a 10-point margin (55.8% opposed and 44.14% in favor).
So at the Nov. 8 meeting, two different proposals were floated on the city’s existing public art ordinance – based on possibly differing interpretations of the expressed voter sentiment. It’s possible to construe the result as either (1) about the way public art is funded or (2) about whether public money should be used to support public art at all. One proposal was announced by Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and the other by Jane Lumm (Ward 2).
Briere’s proposal is to narrow the definition of projects to which the existing ordinance would apply. Currently, the Percent for Art ordinance applies to essentially any capital improvement project undertaken by the city, and requires that 1% of the budget for such projects be set aside for public art. Briere’s proposal would narrow the definition by restricting eligible capital improvement projects to those that are “intended to be open or visible to the public.” Projects to construct roads, highways, paths, and sidewalks would be eliminated from eligibility. Bridges would still qualify.
Briere’s proposal includes a financial threshold for qualifying projects: $100,000. Briere’s proposed ordinance amendments would also require a public process associated with proposed art projects. Part of that process would require notification of the councilmembers in whose ward a project is proposed.
Lumm’s proposal is not to amend the existing public art ordinance, but rather to repeal it. Lumm described her intent at the Nov. 8 meeting to bring forward a proposal similar to one she’d made at the council’s Aug. 20, 2012 meeting – a resolution that directed the city attorney’s office to prepare an ordinance revision that would repeal the Percent for Art program. In an email sent to other councilmembers, Lumm stated that ”… the version I will bring forward on 11/19 will be the proposed ordinance changes themselves for consideration at first reading.”
The Aug. 20 meeting was the occasion on which the council voted to place a public art millage on the Nov. 6 ballot. It was meant to provide a more flexible funding mechanism for public art in Ann Arbor. The 0.1 mill tax was expected to generate around $450,000 annually.
The proposal won a majority of votes in just 13 out of 59 Ann Arbor precincts, with the most support coming from Ward 5, Precinct 4 where 60.5% of voters supported the public art millage. Ward 5 had six of the 13 precincts where the proposal achieved a majority. And the proposal finished in a dead heat in Ward 5, Precinct 5 with 471 voting for and against it. Opposition among in-person voters was strongest in Ward 1, Precinct 9, where only 34.5% of voters supported it.
The proposal did not win a majority of votes in any precinct of Ward 2, which is represented by Lumm and Tony Derezinski, who also serves on the Ann Arbor public art commission. Nov. 8 was Derezinski’s last council meeting – he was defeated by Sally Petersen in the August Democratic primary.
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]