The Ann Arbor city council’s meeting on Thursday – shifted from its usual Monday slot due to the Democratic primary elections held on Tuesday – marks the beginning of a transition. After serving 14 years on the city council, Marcia Higgins will represent Ward 4 for just seven more meetings, counting Thursday. Jack Eaton prevailed on Tuesday and will be the Ward 4 Democratic nominee on the Nov. 5 ballot. He is unopposed.
The council’s agenda for Thursday includes a relatively uncontroversial downtown development project. It’s also dominated by several items that relate to the way people move around inside the city. Some other agenda items relate to land outside the city.
Four different items appear on the council’s agenda related to developer Tom Fitzsimmons’ Kerrytown Place project – an 18-unit townhouse development proposed for the site of the former Greek Orthodox church on North Main Street. Nestled between Main Street on the west and Fourth Avenue on the east, the project is divided into two pieces – the Main Street frontage and Fourth Avenue frontage. Each piece of the project includes a rezoning request and a site plan proposal – and each of those constitutes an agenda item unto itself. The rezoning requested is from PUD (planned unit development) to D2 (downtown interface).
Three items relate to a piece of infrastructure closely associated with people walking as a way to get around town – sidewalks. Two resolutions involve the acceptance by the city of easements for sidewalks – one as part of a mid-block cut-through for The Varsity, a residential high-rise downtown, and the other in connection with a Safe Routes to School project near Clague Middle School on the city’s northwest side. Another sidewalk on the agenda with a school-related theme is a request for the council to approve a $10,000 design budget for about 160 feet of new sidewalk near King Elementary School, which would allow for a mid-block crosswalk to be moved to a four-way stop intersection.
More people might be able to get around the downtown and University of Michigan campus area by bicycle – if the council approves the use of $150,000 from the alternative transportation fund as requested on Thursday’s agenda. The money would provide the local match on a $600,000 federal grant obtained by the Clean Energy Coalition to establish a bike-sharing program through B-Cycle.
Getting around inside the city this fall will include the annual wrinkles due to University of Michigan move-in – and those traffic control measures are included in the council’s consent agenda. New this year will be additional traffic controls around Michigan Stadium on football game days – including the closure of Main Street between Pauline and Stadium Blvd. for a period starting three hours before kickoff until the end of the game. At its Thursday meeting, the council will be asked to give approval of the football game day traffic controls.
In matters outside the city, the council will be asked to authorize the receipt of $202,370 from the Federal Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) to help the city purchase of development rights on land in Lodi Township, southwest of the city. That federal grant comes in connection with the city’s greenbelt program. The council will also be asked to confirm the nomination of John Ramsburgh to the greenbelt advisory commission.
Also on the council’s agenda is the extension of a contract for the city’s part-time public art administrator through the end of the year – to handle projects in the works at locations the Kingsley rain garden, East Stadium bridges, and Argo Cascades.
Added to the agenda late, on Tuesday, is a resolution that calls upon the state legislature to repeal Michigan’s version of a “stand your ground” law as well as to repeal legislation that prevents local municipalities from regulating the sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of firearms and ammunition. The agenda item comes in response to public commentary after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case was handed down in mid-July.
The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article “below the fold.” The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
6:54 p.m. Pre-meeting activity. The scheduled meeting start is 7 p.m. Most evenings the actual starting time is between 7:10 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Councilmembers who’ve arrived in council chambers so far are Stephen Kunselman, Sumi Kailasapathy, Sally Petersen, and Marcia Higgins.
7:08 p.m. Pledge of allegiance, moment of silence and the roll call of council. All councilmembers are present.
7:08 p.m. Public commentary. This portion of the meeting offers 10 three-minute slots that can be reserved in advance. Preference is given to speakers who want to address the council on an agenda item. [Public commentary general time, with no sign-up required in advance, is offered at the end of the meeting.]
Six people are signed up tonight for public commentary reserved time. Of those, three are described on the agenda as speaking on the bike share agenda item – which asks the council to approve a $150,000 expenditure from the city’s alternative transportation fund in support of a bike share initiative in downtown and the University of Michigan campus area. Speakers signed up to speak on the bike share item are listed on the agenda as Lucia Heinold, Jeff Hayner, and Lefiest Galimore. Heinold and Galimore, however, will be speaking on the resolution calling for a repeal of Michigan’s “stand your ground” law. Others who are signed up to speak on the “stand your ground” item include Mozhgan Savabieasfahni and Blaine Coleman. The sixth person signed up to speak is Meghan Clark – on the topic of surveillance and privacy.
7:12 p.m. Lefiest Galimore is now holding forth. He quotes the pledge of allegiance: “And justice for all.” He asks the council to support the repeal of “stand your ground” law. His remarks get applause from the roughly two dozen people standing in support of his remarks.
7:15 p.m. Jeff Hayner is speaking in support of the bike sharing program. He describes his participation in the first attempt at a bike sharing program several years ago, where bikes were simply provided for free, which he describes as “not turning out so well.” He argues for the bike share funding support based on the amount of grant funds that it will leverage. He allows that it doesn’t serve the outlying neighborhoods, but argues that the University of Michigan is also bearing the lion’s share of the costs. He calculates the city’s cost at about $300 per bike per year.
7:21 p.m. Blaine Coleman characterizes “stand your ground” laws as hunting licenses for black people. They should not have to appear before a city council and ask: “Please don’t shoot us,” Coleman says. He calls for the council in the future to pass a resolution calling for $1 trillion of support for the city of Detroit.
Savabieasfahni offers her perspective on racism in America. She characterizes Trayvon Martin’s death as a lynching on the streets of America. The laws of this country don’t protect people of color, she says. She describes a protest during the art fairs by University of Michigan students during which they chanted, “Racism killed Trayvon,” and many white observers responded, “No, it didn’t.” She says we’d do well do look inside ourselves and see how our laws promote racism and to change those laws.
7:24 p.m. Meghan Clark describes how a sophisticated surveillance system can be constructed for about $60. Surveillance technology is here, she says. Privacy means having input into what happens to your personal information. She’s disappointed that the council rejected the video privacy ordinance. She encourages the council to pursue the suggestion that Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) had made to at least develop policy guidelines.
7:26 p.m. Lucia Heinold is now speaking in favor of the resolution on “stand your ground.” The evidence is that these laws are enforced in a disparate way, she said, with people of color convicted disproportionately.
7:27 p.m. Council communications. This is the first of three slots on the agenda for council communications. It’s a time when councilmembers can report out from boards, commissions and task forces on which they serve. They can also alert their colleagues to proposals they might be bringing forward in the near future.
7:28 p.m. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reports on the North Main Huron River task force. The due date of July 31 won’t be met for the final report she says. She conveys an apology from the task force. She expects it will be completed by the end of August. Briere announces a meeting of the planning commission’s ordinance revisions committee next Tuesday.
7:32 p.m. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) calls attention to a survey on disabilities. Margie Teall (Ward 4) gives an update from the Ann Arbor housing commission. The weatherization at Hikone is done. The window replacements for tenants are done at Baker Commons, Teall reports. A non-smoking policy will be implemented at all the housing commission properties. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) announces an effort by a church to make the city aware of some of their concerns. City administrator Steve Powers had attended, Anglin says.
7:33 p.m. Powers reminds the public of the groundbreaking for the skatepark at noon tomorrow, at Veterans Memorial Park. Argo Cascades usage is dramatically up in July compared to July last year, Powers reports.
7:33 p.m. Public hearings. All the public hearings are grouped together during this section of the meeting. Action on the related items comes later in the meeting. Four of the five hearings tonight relate to the Kerrytown Place project being proposed by developer Tom Fitzsimmons for the location on North Main Street where the former Greek Orthodox church stood. The project is divided into two parts – the Main Street frontage and the Fourth Avenue frontage. Each part includes a request for rezoning – from PUD (planned unit development) to D2 (downtown interface) – and a separate site plan. For each rezoning request and for each site plan, a separate public hearing is held. The council gave initial approval to the requests at its July 1, 2013 meeting.
The other public hearing is on a change to the ordinance governing the employee retirement system – to reflect some recently negotiated changes to the contracts with two of the police unions.
7:34 p.m. No one speaks at the public hearing on the retirement ordinance. Thomas Partridge is not in attendance tonight.
7:35 p.m. No one speaks at any of the Kerrytown Place public hearings.
7:35 p.m. Minutes and consent agenda. This is a group of items that are deemed to be routine and are voted on “all in one go.” Contracts for less than $100,000 can be placed on the consent agenda. Tonight’s consent agenda includes five items, three of which relate to street closings:
- A purchase order not to exceed $85,000 with SEHI Computers for replacement of computers. The amount is to cover 60 desktops and 20 laptops for a proposed cost of $75,648. The $85,000 figure includes a contingency of 12% ($9,351).
- A $32,977 professional services agreement for testing of the road materials for the Packard Street resurfacing project (from Anderson to Kimberly). Construction is scheduled for fall 2013, from August through October.
- Resolution approving a street closure on South University Avenue between Washtenaw and Forest, for “Beats, Eats, and Cleats” – an event sponsored by The Landmark Building. The event is Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.
- Resolution approving changes to traffic patterns and parking in connection with University of Michigan student move-in – from Aug. 28-30. This is an annual approval.
- Resolution approving closure of South Main Street between Huron and Liberty, and Washington Street between South Ashley and the alley on East Washington toward South Fourth Avenue – for “Dancing in the Streets.” The closure lasts from noon to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
7:45 p.m. Councilmembers can opt to select out any items for separate consideration. Briere asks for separate consideration of the Beats, Eats and Cleats street closures and the Dancing in the Streets items. Briere says that she’s concerned that this street closure will be taking place on the evening before a football game. Mayor John Hieftje shares her concern.
Police chief John Seto said he wasn’t aware of a general policy, saying that they’re considered on a case-by-case basis. He noted that it’s the night before the UM-Notre Dame football game. He allowed he had some concerns, after weighing the things he knows against the things that he doesn’t know. Petersen wonders if World of Beer will be serving beer. Hieftje says he doesn’t see much difference between having a beer tent and serving alcohol at a bar. He reiterates that he has some concerns.
Kunselman asks if there’d be a difference in the police presence, if the event takes place. Seto says the sponsor of the event intends to provide private security. Kunselman asks about a comparison to Mud Bowl. Seto indicates that’s a morning event and there’s historically no street closures associated with that event. Kunselman inquires about a “pep rally.” He said that he can’t support it.
Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) says she appreciates everyone’s comments. She asks what “inflatable boxing” is. Parks and recreation manager Colin Smith is fielding questions. He’s not certain what inflatable boxing is. Teall says she also won’t support this street closing.
7:47 p.m. Teall is continuing to argue against the street closure based on the liability it seems to introduce. Hieftje ventures that a Tuesday night would be better. Teall allows that a different time would be better.
7:47 p.m. Outcome: The street closing for Beats, Eats, and Cleats is unanimously denied by the council.
7:49 p.m. Outcome: The Dancing in the Streets street closure is approved. The consent agenda is now dispatched.
7:49 p.m. Retirement ordinance. The council is being asked to give final approval of a change to the ordinance governing the city employees retirement system to reflect changes negotiated with two of the police unions – the police service specialists and the command officers. The staff memo accompanying the ordinance change characterizes the changes as related to “new hires, rehires and transfers between City service units before, on or after July 1, 2013 as well as grammatical corrections where appropriate.” The council gave initial approval to the ordinance change at its July 15 meeting.
7:49 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously without discussion to give final approval of the changes to the ordinance on the city employee retirement system.
7:49 p.m. Kerrytown Place rezoning. Final approval for two rezoning requests in connection with Kerrytown Place appear on the council’s agenda. The council gave initial approval to the requests at its July 1, 2013 meeting. The two parts of the project – one fronting Main Street and the other Fourth Avenue – are treated separately for the purposes of the rezoning request. In both cases, the requested rezoning is from PUD (planned unit development district) to D2 (downtown interface base district). The 18-unit townhouse development that developer Tom Fitzsimmons is planning to build is much smaller than The Gallery, for which the PUD zoning had originally been approved at the request of a different owner. The city planning commission gave a unanimous recommendation of approval at its May 21, 2013 meeting.
On the North Main Street side, the project would include a 16-unit townhouse building with an underground parking garage, 12 carport parking spaces and 24 surface parking spaces. On the North Fourth site – now a surface parking lot – the plan calls for constructing a duplex with a 2-car garage for each unit and a 21-space parking lot. Each unit of the duplex would face North Fourth Avenue. The corresponding site plans for each part of the project have corresponding items later on the agenda.
7:50 p.m. Briere calls it an appropriate scale for the neighborhood. She encourages support for the downzoning.
7:53 p.m. Briere reiterates that it’s considered a “downzoning.” Kunselman says he’ll support it. He asks planning manager Wendy Rampson how much it’s costing the petitioner to go through the process. She looks at Tom Fitzsimmons and ventures that it might be $20,000. She’s going to look it up for him.
7:54 p.m. Briere says it’s another opportunity to approve a site plan that’s completely supported by the people who live in the area.
7:54 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the rezoning for the Kerrytown Place project as well as the site plans.
7:55 p.m. Appointment to the greenbelt advisory commission (GAC): John Ramsburgh. This item was postponed from the council’s July 15 meeting, which is customary for appointments to GAC. It’s one of the few boards or commissions whose members are nominated by the city council not the mayor. The usual two-step process associated with appointments – nomination at one council meeting followed by confirmation at the subsequent meeting – is mirrored for GAC appointments by postponing action on a resolution appointing a representative until the following meeting.
Ramsburgh is a development officer with the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science & the Arts. He also is the son of Ellen Ramsburgh, a long-time member of the Ann Arbor historic district commission, and its former chair. He is filling a position previously held by Dan Ezekiel, who was term limited.
7:55 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously without discussion to appoint John Ramsburgh to GAC. Appointments to GAC are for three years.
7:55 p.m. Resolution on Michigan’s “stand your ground” law. This is a resolution added to the agenda on Tuesday, which calls upon the state legislature to repeal Michigan’s version of a “stand your ground” law as well to repeal legislation that prevents local municipalities from regulating sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of firearms and ammunition. [.pdf of Self Defense Act 309 of 2006] [Firearms and Ammunition Act 319 of 1990]
The resolution cites an “outpouring of local voices calling for the repeal of Michigan’s Stand Your Ground Law,” that were heard following the mid-July verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. That included public commentary at the council’s July 15, 2013 meeting as well as subsequent public demonstrations.
8:00 p.m. Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) thanks Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) for his hard work getting the resolution ready. She references the public commentary at the previous council meeting. She says she knows what criticism people face when a national issue is brought to the city council. She reads aloud written remarks. Part of her remarks includes the statement that we don’t live in a post-racial society. She characterizes “stand your ground laws” as being used as a license to kill.
Briere thanks Kailasapathy and Warpehoski. She describes herself as someone who’s “not big on guns.” The idea that guns could be used in the way that a “stand your ground” law allows had not occurred to her.
8:06 p.m. Warpehoski thanks Kailasapathy and Briere. The more he’d looked into “stand your ground” laws, the more disturbed he was. Such laws do not reduce property crime rates, he says. He characterizes the burden on prosecutors in connection with such laws as unreasonably high.
Hieftje thanks the sponsors of the resolution for their work. He supports the second resolved clause on gun laws. Higgins says she’ll be consistent as she has been for 14 years in opposing this kind of resolution. She says it’s a much more powerful message for individuals to send the message. She doesn’t know that everyone in the city feels the same way about the resolution.
Kunselman will support it, but says that there’s a lot more going on in the world than we realize. He talks about the number of concealed weapons permits that are being processed by the county clerk’s office. He’s thought about getting a concealed weapons permit just sitting at the council table, but stresses that he has not done so.
8:10 p.m. Petersen acknowledges Higgins point of view, but says the resolved clause about gun laws moved her. She calls it a public safety issue. Teall says she appreciates everyone’s work on the resolution and says it’s the kind of issue that had prompted her to get involved in politics 13 years ago. She expresses skepticism that it would have any effect.
Jane Lumm (Ward 2) appreciates Higgins’ point of view. She says the council needs to be cautious about venturing down this path – sending messages on issues that the council was not elected to address. However, she felt differently about this one. She agrees with Petersen that it speaks to the issue of public safety. She says that local control over firearms is a good thing. So she was comfortable sending this message to the state legislature.
8:11 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to pass the resolution calling on the “stand your ground” law, with dissent from Higgins.
8:11 p.m. Acceptance of $202,370 from the Federal Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP). The award of FRPP money is in the context of the city’s greenbelt program, supported by a 0.5 mill tax approved by voters to acquire development rights on land to preserve open space.
At its Feb. 19, 2013 meeting, the council had approved an application to the FRPP for the purchase of development rights on two properties in Lodi Township – the 78-acre Donald Drake Farm on Waters Road in Lodi Township, and for a 90-acre property owned by Carol Schumacher on Pleasant Lake Road in Lodi Township. The city of Ann Arbor was notified recently that for the two properties, a total of $202,370 in matching dollars had been approved to fund the purchase of development rights – $50,960 for the Drake property and $151,410 for the Schumacher land.
The council is being asked tonight to authorize the receipt of the federal matching funds. Here’s a map of the properties currently protected through the greenbelt program (smaller green areas) in the context of the greenbelt boundary (larger squarish region). Lodi Township covers the southwest corner of the greenbelt boundary area.
8:14 p.m. Lumm confirms that the issue will come back before the council when all the funding sources are identified. Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, notes that in the past, Lodi Township has contributed to the acquisition of development rights. Lumm says she looks forward to possible participation from Lodi.
8:14 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to authorize the receipt of the federal farmland protection money.
8:14 p.m. Recess. The council is now in recess.
8:23 p.m. The council has returned from recess.
8:23 p.m. Road closures for 2013 UM football games. Unlike the university student move-in traffic changes, which the council approved as part of its consent agenda, this is the first year that the council has been asked to approve street closings around the football stadium on game days.
According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, it’s part of an effort to increase safety by creating a vehicle-free zone around the stadium, and involves a cooperative effort with the University of Michigan, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the city of Ann Arbor police department. The traffic controls would be in place for the period starting three hours before a game until the end of the game.
Traffic controls include the following: E. Keech Street between S. Main and Greene streets would be closed. Access to Greene Street from E. Hoover to E. Keech streets would be limited to parking permit holders. The westbound lane on E. Stadium Blvd. turning right onto S. Main Street (just south of the Michigan Stadium) would be closed. And S. Main Street would be closed from Stadium Blvd. to Pauline.
8:28 p.m. Police chief John Seto gives the background on the issue. He describes it as a request that came from the University of Michigan public safety department. Seto describes how he had requested some modifications before he was comfortable with the request. He describes a community meeting on July 24 and says that many comments and suggestions had been received. Modifications had been proposed. One modification he describes proposing was that southbound lanes of Main Street would be open until one hour before the game start.
8:32 p.m. Higgins says she hasn’t seen the modified proposal. The resolution doesn’t include the modifications. Higgins says she attended the community meeting. She says the city does a great job getting people going south, but not west. Higgins won’t support the street closing. This was brought up at the time that the university renovated the stadium, and UM had decided to build out as close to the street as possible, Higgins said. She wasn’t opposed to closing the right-turn lane on Stadium Blvd. She says she’ll respect her constituents. As an argument against the proposal, she notes that the exact game start times aren’t necessarily known months in advance. She thanks Seto for coming to the meeting. But she says that there should have been a meeting held earlier than two weeks before the council needed to vote.
8:38 p.m. Briere has questions for UM representatives. Ann Arbor is not unique in hosting football games. Do other cities do that? Ohio State University and University of Wisconsin close streets, the UM DPS officer explains. Seto gives more details on game day operations in other cities. Briere confirms that those street closures are due to security concerns.
Kailasapathy asks how closing the street helps to prevent terrorism. Seto says it’s part of what can be done as a “reasonable” approach. A Homeland Security official describes how blast modeling of a small truck laden with explosives could do considerable damage. The recommended street closures were based on that blast modeling, he explains. Kailasapathy ventures that the same truck could come at the end of the game. Why is there a higher threat before the game? she asks. DPS officer explains that just before the game is when the heaviest pedestrian traffic occurs and when the most people are inside the stadium.
8:45 p.m. Seto explains that the idea is to open things up in order to dissipate the crowd as quickly as possible. For some games, he says, the crowd starts to leave early. Petersen wonders why it’s taken three years to implement the recommendations. Higgins points out that East Stadium bridges were closed at the time. Lumm says it’s significant that few complaints were received when street closures were implemented for a nighttime Notre Dame game in 2011.
8:54 p.m. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) ventures that the main threat that is supposed to be mitigated is a potential truck bomb. Seto indicates that that is part of the motivation. Taylor inquires about the possible one-hour/three-hour mix of lane closures. Seto explains the balance between asset protection and the interest in getting the crowd to dissipate. The representative from Homeland Security explains that this plan meets the national standards for security for major sporting events.
Anglin asks who pays for the extra measures. The DPS officer explains that the UM athletic department pays. Anglin asks how much the city contributes to the provision of security for football games.
8:57 p.m. Higgins is responding to Anglin’s question by explaining that signs and signals are now paid for by the university. Higgins asks who owns the barricades. The DPS officer explains that the university owns the barricades. They can be moved by two people.
9:07 p.m. Seto recalls how difficult it was to determine the end of the 2011 Notre Dame game, which included overtime periods. He describes the logistical tactics that were used. Higgins has more questions. She says there were many issues associated with the 2011 street closures, that perhaps Seto wasn’t aware of. She stresses that after the first three games the residents want a review of how well things are working. Seto assures Higgins that will be done.
Higgins asks what will happen if it turns out that the logistics aren’t working out. She ventures that the resolution should be modified to reflect that.
Briere asks public services area administrator Craig Hupy to come to the podium. She asks about increased traffic flow in neighborhood streets, citing the possibility of increased deterioration of streets due to added traffic. Hupy indicates that would be minimal compared to the amount of traffic volume over the entire life of the street. Hupy says that the concern is about diminished traffic, which could have a negative impact on the lawn parking that residents enjoy.
9:07 p.m. Lumm now wants to move to amend the resolution to make the closure of the SB lane on South Main restricted to just one hour before the game start.
Outcome on Lumm’s amendment: The amendment passes unanimously.
9:14 p.m. Warpehoski says he lived in Washington D.C. on 9/11. Many people had mourned the increased “locked down” status. Now, however, he weighs the question of “What if I’m wrong?”
Kunselman follows up on the issue of reimbursement by UM for the signs and signals work. Hupy says that when the city has billed the UM, they have been paid. Kunselman says as everyone knows, he works at the university. [Kunselman is a Planet Blue energy conservation liaison.] He calls it a public safety issue. He recalls being able to sneak in through a hole in the fence. It’s a changing world and we have to accommodate the change, Kunselman says. He’ll support the resolution.
9:14 p.m. Briere wants to review the procedures soon enough to take action at the Oct. 7 council meeting. Higgins says that she wants to add a resolved clause that following the first three football games, the AAPD will meet with the neighborhood and bring recommendations to the Oct. 7 meeting. Briere says she’ll support that.
9:22 p.m. Lumm asks Seto to come to the podium. Seto says what’s being asked is doable. He can hear concerns and make suggestions, he said, but there will be certain things he can’t fix. Hieftje asks Seto how easily things could be changed in the middle of the season. Seto expresses confidence that AAPD could be flexible. He gives the Ann Arbor marathon as an example of that. He describes how AAPD often modifies its logistical operations on the fly. Hieftje expressed some concern that the barriers might be taken down too soon. Seto describes the balance that is to be struck.
9:22 p.m. Petersen says that according to her at-home fact checker, three overtimes were not required in the Notre Dame game in 2011 as Seto had said. Instead, it was a play late in the fourth quarter.
The council is “running out the clock” while Higgins crafts amendment language that would require a report to the council at its Oct. 7 meeting.
Outcome: The amendment to include an Oct. 7 report is unanimously approved.
9:25 p.m. Teall says she can’t support the resolution. Petersen calls it common sense. She can think of 114,000 good reasons to support this resolution. She sees it as a public safety issue. The council has now been discussing this for an hour.
9:28 p.m. Lumm is now holding forth. She appreciates the modification of the closure of SB Main to be just one hour before the game start. Higgins responds to comments by Lumm and Petersen about meeting national standards for security. She says that UM needs to think about meeting those standards as it builds out its campus. She somewhat wistfully says that in the future that will be the rest of the council’s problem – an apparent reference to her loss in Tuesday’s primary election.
9:30 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the street closures around the Michigan football stadium on game days. Dissent came from Briere, Teall, Higgins, and Kailasapathy.
9:30 p.m. Bike share program: $150,000. The council is being asked to approve a $150,000 expenditure from the alternative transportation fund in support of an initiative spearheaded by the University of Michigan and the Clean Energy Coalition (CEC) to establish a bike share program on the university campus and in an area west of campus in downtown Ann Arbor. The selected vendor is B-Cycle.
In a bike share program, users get access to bicycles parked at a station by swiping their credit card or membership card. Users can then return the bicycle to another station location near their destination.
The city’s $150,000 would provide the necessary local match for a $600,000 Federal Highway Administration Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) grant that the CEC has received. The CMAQ funds have to be spent on capital (bikes and stations). Operations will be supported in the first three years of the program by UM at a level of $200,000 annually for a total of $600,000.
9:34 p.m. Petersen leads off by saying that she has mixed feelings. She says she’s disappointed that there’s not a communications plan for safety in the city’s parks – she’d like more signs on mixed-use paths. She doesn’t feel like the city has the safety infrastructure to support a bike share program. Her vote, she says, will be “not yet.”
Hieftje says that the plan was never to put bike lanes on every downtown street, because the traffic moves slow enough in some places that bicycles can keep up with cars. Briere agrees with Petersen. Signage is great, but she doesn’t think that signage replaces “people paying attention.” Briere is encouraged that UM is a strong financial supporter. She says it’s not about commuting but rather about moving from State and Liberty to the corner of Huron and Main (the Washtenaw County building).
9:41 p.m. Kunselman recalls the bike share program that Jeff Hayner had described during public commentary. They were painted green and were made available, and they disappeared to the far reaches of the city, never to return to the downtown, Kunselman said. He describes the number of abandoned bikes downtown and on the campus that clutter the streets. He says that the bike share program might help to “clean up our streets.”
Kunselman talks about the carrying capacity of the environment. He’s concerned about the fact that the money is coming from the alternative transportation fund, and might be taking away from other needs. Transportation program manager Eli Cooper describes the intended use of the fund as making improvements as well as maintaining non-motorized infrastructures. Kunselman asks for examples of maintenance activities. Cooper says that if anything were to be deferred, then it would be a half-mile of bike lane including signs. That would be postponed for about a year, he said.
Kunselman clarifies that this is “seed money.” That’s right, Cooper said. It’s for capital needs. The UM is contributing operating money. CEC is working on sponsorship revenue and handling fare revenue. Cooper sketches a vision of private cooperation.
Kunselman asks about clutter on downtown sidewalks. He wants to know if the specific locations will require council approval. Cooper indicates that the right-of-way permitting program is authorized by the council, but the individual locations wouldn’t need approval.
9:48 p.m. Cooper responds to Petersen’s concern about adequate signs in the park system. Lumm reports about mishaps in the parks – pedestrians being “slammed into” by bicyclists. She feels that bicyclists are more inclined to commute by bicycle paths. She brings up bells. Hupy says he has a bell on his bike and he’s one of those people who commutes through parks.
Lumm says that obviously a lot of effort has gone into the bike share initiative. She appreciates the responses about the impact of the program on the alternative transportation program. She says it’s appropriate to Ann Arbor. But she’s now expressing skepticism, saying that the city doesn’t prioritize its transportation programs. She objects to the fact that there’s not a long-term plan for the operating expenses – saying that UM’s commitment ends after three years. Still, she says she’ll support the resolution.
9:53 p.m. Warpehoski asks Cooper about the CMAQ grant deadline. Cooper says that there’s a deadline at the end of the federal fiscal year – Sept. 30.
Briere ventures that the council will hear that some of the bicycle lanes are in bad shape. What’s being done to maintain bike lanes? Cooper says he annually does a visual inspection of the entire system. An inventory of the bike lane inspections is available online, he says – it’s part of the city’s Bicycling in A2 website. He describes the citizens request system for repairing potholes.
9:57 p.m. Petersen asks how long it will take before signs will show up in the parks. City administrator Steve Powers indicates he can provide an answer tomorrow. Petersen asks how to get a specific piece of educational literature about what every motorist should know about bike lanes. Cooper lists off various locations where it’s available and ways it’s distributed.
Higgins says she doesn’t think the city has done a good job of educating cyclists. She describes bicyclists who go through red lights. She described encountering a cyclist who was using proper hand signals and discovered that it was Chuck Warpehoski. She oftentimes sees cyclists go up on the sidewalk and use the crosswalk. She expresses concern that the city would be suddenly adding a lot of additional cyclists. “I don’t think we’re there, yet,” Higgins says. Cooper says that the bike share program is another point of contact for additional education.
10:06 p.m. Higgins says that handing someone a pamphlet doesn’t educate them about what they need to do. She thinks users of the bike share system should have to pass a test. Petersen says she’s not concerned about educating cyclists, because they know their risks. Petersen says she’s concerned about education of motorists.
Anglin says he thinks it’s a good program. Matt Sandstrom from the CEC is fielding questions. Anglin asks if helmets are required. That’s a tricky question, Sandstrom says. He points out that helmets are not the law in Michigan. Education about helmets can be placed on kiosks, he said. CEC would be pro-helmet, Sandstrom says.
Anglin asks if most of the users are anticipated to be younger. Not necessarily, Sandstrom says. Kunselman picks up the idea of education. He says that education needs to be taking place in school. He asks if anyone remembers the rule about bicycles needing to give an audible signal before overtaking a pedestrian. This isn’t about education, but rather about bike sharing, he says. It’ll be the first in the state, he says. He points out that pedestrians don’t follow the rules of the road, either.
10:09 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the $150,000 allocation over two years to support the bike sharing program. Dissent came from Petersen and Higgins.
10:09 p.m. Waldenwood sidewalk design budget: $10,000 The council is being asked to approve a design budget for a sidewalk to fill in a gap from the northeast corner of Penberton Court and Waldenwood northward to connect to the path leading the rest of the way to the King Elementary School.
In its form, the resolution is similar to other sidewalk design budgets the council has been asked to approve in recent months. [For example, the council has approved similar design budgets for a sidewalk on Barton Drive at its July 15, 2013 meeting, a sidewalk on Newport Road at its Jan. 22, 2013 meeting and for a sidewalk on Scio Church Road at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.]
However, the sidewalk gap near King School includes a history of advocacy by nearby resident and former Ann Arbor Public Schools board member Kathy Griswold dating back to 2009. For students crossing Waldenwood from the west to attend school, the segment of sidewalk would allow them to make the crossing at the intersection, where there is a four-way stop – instead of crossing the street using a mid-block crosswalk. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, “The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Transportation Safety Committee has agreed the use of a new crosswalk at this stop controlled location would be preferable over the existing mid-block crossing at the school entrance.”
From the fall of 2009 through the spring of 2010, Griswold addressed the council on at least nine occasions on the topic of the King School crosswalk and the related sidewalk gap. The construction of a sidewalk had been met with opposition by the immediately adjoining property owners. The funding of new sidewalks – as contrasted with repair of existing sidewalks – is typically achieved at least partly through a special assessment on adjoining property owners. Sidewalk repair – but not new construction – can be paid for with the city’s sidewalk repair millage. In the case of the Waldenwood sidewalk, it’s located to the rear of the residential properties – and the city does not typically special assess properties to finance sidewalks to the rear of a property.
10:17 p.m. Petersen says she’s happy to see this come to the council. It has been debated since 2009, she says. Petersen says that the AAPS safety committee minutes from that era don’t indicate clearly that the group endorsed moving the crosswalk from mid-block to the four-way stop. City traffic engineer Pat Cawley is recalling the specific meeting for Petersen.
Kailasapathy asks public services area administrator Craig Hupy to the podium. She asks if the project comes to a halt if the property owners object. Hupy says that if the council approves the resolution, then the city staff would meet with the community and then come back for the second resolution in the special assessment process. Kailasapathy confirms that it’s a council decision, not one determined by the adjoining property owners. Hupy indicates there are three chances to kill the project along the way. Kunselman confirms that the property owner can’t kill the project.
10:20 p.m. Lumm thanks staff for their work. She asks how residents will be notified for the next step. Hupy says that they’d be mailed a meeting notice. He ventures that there could be more than one meeting. Lumm noted that it would have made sense to undertake the sidewalk construction when Waldenwood was recently repaved. She indicated that she was glad that this is going through a formal process.
10:26 p.m. Briere asks for the approximate timeline for the project. Hupy says he can’t speak to exact details. It’s a relatively simple project from an engineering and design perspective. The time-consuming part for this project would be the public engagement portion of the project. He ventures that it could come back to the council in late winter or spring of 2014.
Briere ventures that the sidewalk could be constructed by the start of school in the fall of 2014. Hupy allows that might be possible. Petersen said she thought that the property owners wouldn’t be special assessed because it’s on their rear lot lines. Hupy says that Petersen has picked up on the fact that there’s likely not anything that will be assess-able in the project.
10:26 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the design budget for the Waldenwood sidewalk. It needed an eight-vote majority on the 11-member council, because the council’s action altered the city’s budget.
10:27 p.m. Public art administrator contract extension: $18,500. The council is being asked to appropriate funds to pay for public art administrator Aaron Seagraves’ contract through the end of 2013. The amendment brings his total compensation for the period from June 11, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2013 to $48,900. The specific projects mentioned in the resolution, which require administrative work, are the Kingsley rain garden, Argo Cascades, and the East Stadium Blvd. bridges.
10:29 p.m. Briere says she can imagine people asking why the city has a public art administrator, if the city doesn’t have a Percent for Art program. There’s the old business of Kingsley rain garden, Argo Cascades, and Stadium bridges. There’s also a need to address the new business of integrating the new public art program into the capital improvements program.
10:32 p.m. Public services area administrator Craig Hupy explains to Briere that the reason that the contract extension goes through the end of the year is to allow for a bridge between the old Percent for Art program and the new program.
Kailasapathy notes that an issue had come up when she and Lumm had attempted a budget amendment to refund the money for public art to the funds of origin. She says she really has a problem with the resolution, so she won’t support it.
10:35 p.m. Lumm also says she has a problem with the resolution. She says that she’s tried at every point to discontinue the public art program. Instead of returning the $800,000 in unspent funds, the council had decided to maintain a public art “slush fund,” she says. She doesn’t think that the council should continue to “throw good money after bad.” She won’t support the continued spending on Percent for Art projects.
10:42 p.m. Higgins asks why $18,500 is being appropriated for compensation, but $20,500 is the amount in the resolution. Hupy describes miscellaneous supplies as accounting for the $2,000. Hupy points out that the information was provided in answers to the council’s caucus questions.
Petersen says she’ll support the resolution – because she wants the area around the Dreiseitl sculpture to become ADA compliant. Kailasapathy asks why a public art administrator would be handling ADA compliance. City administrator Steve Powers says that hasn’t been decided yet.
Anglin calculates that the public art administrator is being paid only $20/hour. He calls that a bargain. Kunselman says he’ll support it, because it’s a small amount. But he cautions that he might not vote to support spending the money on the remaining Percent for Art projects in the pipeline. He says the pressure is on the public art commission to bring forward a high quality piece of art. He said he could say right now that he’s not going to vote to spend money on “anything that’s hanging from a light pole.” That’s a reference to the recommended project for the East Stadium bridges location, proposed by artist Catherine Widgery and recommended by a task force.
10:47 p.m. Briere asks what would happen if the council voted not to spend the money on the East Stadium bridges location. Would the money revert to the public art fund? City administrator Steve Powers says that’s for the council to decide. The council could say, “Try again,” he says. Briere points out that the council would still need to amend the city’s public art ordinance in order to return public art funds to their funds of origin.
Hieftje supports the resolution, saying that it’s necessary to have administrative support for the art program. Teall reiterates that point, that a successful art program requires an administrator. Teall says that residents do see the value of public art, and having an administrator is vital.
10:48 p.m. Taylor says that there was a common understanding, if not unanimous, that a transition would need to be funded. He calls for honoring the effort that’s gone into this.
10:48 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the contract extension for the public art administrator, Aaron Seagraves, over dissent from Lumm and Kailasapathy.
10:48 p.m. Easement: AATA water main. The council is being asked to accept an easement from the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority for a water main – related to the bus garage expansion at the AAATA’s headquarters at 2700 S. Industrial Hwy.
10:48 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to accept the easement for the water main.
10:49 p.m. Easement: sidewalk at 2760 Nixon. The council is being asked to accept an easement from property owners Byron Bunker and Amy Bunker for construction of a sidewalk related to the Safe Routes to School initiative for Clague Middle School.
10:49 p.m. Lumm offers a brief statement of support, noting that it’s a part of the Safe Routes to School program for Clague Middle School.
10:49 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to accept the sidewalk easement from the Bunkers.
10:50 p.m. Easement: sidewalk at 425 E. Washington (The Varsity). The council is being asked to accept a sidewalk easement on the east side of The Varsity building, which will connect Huron Street with Washington Street. It’s part of the development agreement.
10:50 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to accept the sidewalk easement from The Varsity.
10:51 p.m. Appointments. The council was asked to confirm mayoral nominations made at the previous council meeting on July 15: Sue Perry to the Elizabeth Dean Fund committee; and Evan Nichols to the zoning board of appeals.
10:51 p.m. Nominations. Highlights from nominations for boards and commissions added on Aug. 6 include Rishi Narayan to replace Leah Gunn on the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Narayan is founder and managing member of Underground Printing, which offers screenprinting of apparel in more than a dozen cities nationwide. Narayan made the Crain’s Detroit Business “Twenty in their 20s” list in 2010 as a 28-year-old.
Jack Bernard is being nominated to the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. When the AAATA articles of incorporation were changed recently to add the city of Ypsilanti as a member, the board was expanded from seven to nine members. One of the two additional seats is appointed by the city of Ypsilanti. Gillian Ream was appointed to that spot. Bernard’s appointment would fill the additional slot appointed by the city of Ann Arbor. Bernard is a lecturer in the University of Michigan law school and an attorney with UM’s office of the vice president and general counsel. He is also currently chair of the university’s council for disability concerns. Given the nature of wrangling over Eric Mahler’s recent appointment to the AAATA board, Bernard’s chairship of that group could be a key qualification. Some councilmembers objected to Mahler’s appointment, arguing that someone who could represent the disability community should be appointed instead.
10:51 p.m. Originally slated on the agenda to replace Newcombe Clark on the board of the Ann Arbor DDA was Al McWilliams. However, the most-recently updated version of the agenda does not include his name. Al McWilliams is founder of Quack!Media, an ad agency located in downtown Ann Arbor. Quack!Media lists the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority on its website as one of its clients. McWilliams has written advocacy pieces for bicycling on his blog.
Originally slated for nomination to serve on the public art commission was Jeff Hayner. But the most-recently updated version of the nomination list did not include his name. He has filed petitions to run for the Ward 1 city council seat. The Ward 1 city council ballot for November will include incumbent Democrat Sabra Briere, and independents Hayner and Jaclyn Vresics.
10:51 p.m. Public Commentary. There’s no requirement to sign up in advance for this slot for public commentary.
10:52 p.m. No one speaks.
10:52 p.m. Closed session. The council has voted to go into closed session under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act to discuss pending litigation.
11:08 p.m. The council has emerged from its closed session.
11:08 p.m. Adjournment. We are now adjourned. That’s all from the hard benches.
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