Comments on: June 3, 2013 Ann Arbor Council: In Progress it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Tom Whitaker Tom Whitaker Sun, 09 Jun 2013 00:26:18 +0000 “But because a recommendation of approval for site plans requires at least six votes, the project was forwarded to city council without that recommendation.”

Not sure why this keeps getting reported with this delicate language. In fact, the project went to Council with a recommendation of DENIAL. The rule is six votes to earn a recommendation of approval. Anything less is a recommendation of denial. Check the Council agendas for 413 E. Huron which clearly state “Planning Commission Recommendation: Denial.”

City staff has sometimes tried to qualify this by calling it a “technical denial,” but there’s no such thing. Just like a bill in Congress, it either passes or fails–it’s recommended to be approved because the project wins over six members of the planning commission, or it is recommended to be denied, because it failed to win sufficient support.

By: Mary Morgan Mary Morgan Sat, 08 Jun 2013 18:02:09 +0000 Re. [11]: “…Wendy Woods did not vote for the 413 E. Huron site plan.”

That’s correct. At their Feb. 5, 2013 meeting, planning commissioners voted 5-3 to recommend approval of the site plan and development agreement for 413 E. Huron. But because a recommendation of approval for site plans requires at least six votes, the project was forwarded to city council without that recommendation. Wendy Woods voted against the site plan, along with Ken Clein and Sabra Briere, who also serves on city council. Voting to recommend the project were Diane Giannola, Bonnie Bona, Tony Derezinski, Kirk Westphal and Eleanore Adenekan. Eric Mahler was absent.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Sat, 08 Jun 2013 17:47:25 +0000 Re (10) Unless I am mistaken, Wendy Woods did not vote for the 413 E. Huron site plan. That is why the PC did not approve the site plan, because it required another vote.

By: John Dory John Dory Sat, 08 Jun 2013 17:39:31 +0000 @Steve Bean:

The problem we have with “political cronyism” is well-taken.

The Planning Commission is a great example.

Mayor John Hieftje invited Kirk Westphal and Wendy Woods to be on the Planning Commission. Westphal was a student in Hiefje’s class he taught at University of Michigan. Woods was invited after she lost her City Council seat to Mike Anglin. These two generally vote in lockstep with the Mayor on major issues. 413 E. Huron is a great example.

The system of advertising and filling board and commission seat vacancies should be a robust process in which the public has an ample opportunity for notice and to be heard.

The Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council has become a debacle with all seats having inadvertently expired due to administrative carelessness. No one currently sits on that public body nor has at since October of 2012 since the last three seats expired – including the chairman’s seat of Ray Detter. Hieftje’s solution is now to appoint a slate of eight ex-members (two have unexplainedly disappeared from the initial slate jammed onto the City Council Agenda last month) with the remaining vacancies unfilled.

Instead of appointing the same faces – the City Council should and must consider a more thorough appointment process.

Sue Kern and her husband are current nominees for re-appointment. Is this a common practice – appointment of married couples? It is a symptom of cronyism. Jim Kern has been a prolific political donor locally and I am sure John Hieftje appreciates this arrangement.

By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Thu, 06 Jun 2013 13:43:05 +0000 @8: You’re heading out on a wild goose chase, Mark. Appearances of favoritism are everywhere in all levels of government, so you’ll keep finding them as long as you keep looking. What they mean is another matter. Do you have something in mind to do at the end of your adventure? Maybe it would be more worthwhile to just skip right to it and suggest how to improve matters. You might start by contacting your council reps directly and expressing your concerns. They might help you come up with a viable remedy.

By: Mark Koroi Mark Koroi Thu, 06 Jun 2013 02:40:41 +0000 I checked the County Clerk’s campaign finance records downloadable at and examined the 2010 campaign committee election cycle for John Hieftje’s mayoral committee.

It turns out that three prospective CAC members nominated for re-appointment by the Mayor had each donated to his committee that year the amount of $100.00 – these are Ray Detter, Hugh Sonk, and Jim Kern; Kern’s wife has also been nominated by the mayor for re-appointment.

There have been concerns expressed that the Mayor had appointed many of his campaign contributors to municipal boards and commissions and whether such a scenario gave rise to an appearance of political cronyism.

By: Rod Johnson Rod Johnson Thu, 06 Jun 2013 01:42:11 +0000 I watched this meeting on CTN, well, some of it, specifically the segment in which a particular member of the citizenry spoke during 6 or 7 of the 8 public comment periods. It was excruciating. I came away with a new respect for council members’ ability to maintain neutral facial expressions.

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Wed, 05 Jun 2013 20:44:01 +0000 Re: taxicab board and whether Eric Sturgis resigned

From our report of the Jan. 24, 2013 meeting of the taxicab board:

The outcome of the board’s discussion on meeting time led to a decision to fix its regular meeting time for the fourth Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. That’s a decision that applies to the next six months. Before deciding to commit to that schedule, the board weighed the fact that its newest member – Eric Sturgis, whose appointment had been confirmed by the city council just two days earlier – had applied for appointment with the understanding that the regular meeting time was 8 a.m. Sturgis wasn’t able to attend the Jan. 24 meeting.

I think it was a matter of not being able to reconcile schedules.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Tue, 04 Jun 2013 23:06:01 +0000 Re #3, #4: Please note that public hearings are in the earlier part of the meeting. Of course “early” is relative. I myself wimped out on the second public hearing of the night when 413 Huron was the subject. But citizens don’t have to wait until the wee small hours to speak, unless they want to have a “last word” after business has concluded.

That said, I agree that council agendas need to be restructured to be more humane. As Jack pointed out, this pushes many very important discussions into a late hour and surely must compromise the discussion. It is unfair to our council members. Council should not be an endurance test.

I think we have way too many ceremonial events and mayoral proclamations at the beginning of meetings. Here is an idea: put those on working session nights, which usually don’t last so long, and have excluded public comment.

By: James Jefferson James Jefferson Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:16:36 +0000 It is no wonder more people aren’t involved in public hearings when an item may not come up until midnight or later. For those of us not on the city payroll, it is difficult to justify the cost of staying up that late on a work night, for a three minute try to influence a council that for the most part seems beyond influence, no matter how many people speak and no matter what they say… Some rules changes might be in order if these are to continue to be considered public hearings. Thanks to the Ann Arbor Chronicle, this new time-stamped reporting style tells the tale.