The Oct. 21, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council is the last one before the Nov. 5 election. After the election, the current group of councilmembers will have just one more meeting, on Nov. 7, before the new council is seated. The agenda the current council faces on Oct. 21 is relatively heavy.
It’s possible that the council might be briefed at the meeting on proposals received by the Oct. 18 deadline for the purchase of the city-owned parcel on William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues (the former Y lot), but that’s not yet clear. The property had been listed for $4.2 million.
Many of the Oct. 21 items already on the agenda can be divided into three main categories: transportation, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, and the city’s energy commission.
The council held a work session about transportation on Oct. 14, 2013. Transportation-related items on the Oct. 21 agenda include a resolution that would admit Ypsilanti Township as a member of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. The specific question to be considered is a revision to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation – which would also expand the number of board members from nine to 10.
A second transportation-related agenda item is a city-led initiative to develop a new train station, with the location to be determined. The existing location, as well as one on Fuller Road near the University of Michigan medical campus, would be among the possibilities. On the council’s agenda is a contract with URS Corp. to conduct an environmental review that would include public engagement, site selection and conceptual design. The council’s authorization would be $824,875, an amount that includes a $63,083 contingency. The city would pay 20% of that, or about $165,000, with the rest covered by a federal grant that has already been awarded by the Federal Rail Authority.
To the extent that pedestrian infrastructure is also part of the city’s transportation system, a transportation-related pair of items would alter the definition of “sidewalk” to include cross-lot walkways. Affected by the change, for example, would be walkways that connect streets with parks or school property. The change would allow for use of sidewalk repair millage funds to repair cross-lot walkways, without triggering the winter maintenance requirement for adjacent property owners.
Finally, the city council will be asked to approve an annual resolution related to wintertime transportation – the purchase of ice control salt for city streets.
Related to the Ann Arbor DDA are three items: (1) reconsideration of the appointment of Al McWilliams to the board of that authority – likely to be confirmed on a re-vote, if reconsideration is approved; (2) final consideration of a change to the city ordinance regulating the DDA’s TIF (tax increment financing) capture – likely to be postponed yet again; and (3) a budget allocation of $280,000 to cover costs associated with replacement of downtown ornamental, pedestrian-scale light poles. The DDA is contributing $300,000 to the cost of the $580,000 project. Some councilmembers think the DDA should pay for the full amount, so the eight-vote majority required for the budget amendment might not be achieved.
The specific size of the majority vote required could also be a factor in one of two agenda items related to the city’s energy commission – the re-appointment of Wayne Appleyard to the commission. The confirmation will need a seven-vote majority under the city charter, because he’s not a city resident. The other energy-related item is an energy commission-recommended resolution – which was previously rejected, reconsidered and postponed by the city council. The resolution would call upon the city’s employee retirement board to divest from fossil fuel companies.
This article includes a more detailed preview of each of these agenda items. More details on other meeting agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. Readers can also follow the live meeting proceedings Monday evening on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network.
The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article below the preview material. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Three transportation-related issues appear on the agenda.
Transportation: Ypsilanti Township Membership in AAATA
The council will be asked to approve revised articles of incorporation for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, so that Ypsilanti Township is admitted as a member of the authority. The board would be expanded from nine to 10 members, with the additional member to be appointed by Ypsilanti Township. At its Sept. 26, 2013 meeting, the AAATA board already approved the membership of Ypsilanti Township. That action was contingent on approval by the Ann Arbor city council.
An earlier expansion in membership was given final approval by the AAATA board at its June 20, 2013 meeting. That’s when the city of Ypsilanti was admitted as a member of the AAATA and its board was increased from seven to nine members, one of whom is appointed by the city of Ypsilanti. The name of the authority was also changed at that time to add the word “area” – making it the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. [Amendment 3 of the AAATA articles of incorporation]
The expansion of the AAATA’s geographic footprint to include some jurisdictions geographically close to the city of Ann Arbor – and with whom the AAATA has historically had purchase-of-service agreements (POSAs) – sets the stage for a possible request of voters in the expanded geographic area. That request would be to approve additional transportation funding to pay for increased service frequencies and times.
The AAATA could place a millage request on the ballot in May 2014, probably at the level of 0.7 mills, to support a 5-year service improvement plan that the AAATA has developed. A schedule of public meetings to introduce that plan runs through mid-November. A decision to place a millage on the ballot would first need AAATA board approval – a question that has not yet appeared before the board.
Transportation: Ann Arbor Station
Appearing on the Oct. 21 agenda is a contract with URS Corp. Inc. (URS) to carry out an environmental review of the Ann Arbor Station project. This rail station project relates most immediately to the prospect that Amtrak will be offering improved inter-city service on the Chicago-Detroit Amtrak line.
An improved intercity rail station also has implications for the way that a different type of service – commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit – might be created and offered in the future. The total budgeted for the Ann Arbor Station contract on the Oct. 21 agenda – which will cover public engagement, site selection and conceptual design – is $824,875, an amount that includes a $63,083 contingency. The city would pay 20% of that, or about $165,000. A transfer of $550,000 to the city’s major grant fund was approved a year ago by the city council at its Oct. 15, 2012 meeting for the total project budget.
The federal grant that will cover 80% of the project cost, up to $2.8 million for the federal share, had been accepted by the council at its June 4, 2012 meeting. So for the contract on the Oct. 21 agenda, the city’s share works out to approximately $165,000 with the Federal Rail Authority covering the remaining $660,000.
The funding approved by the city council a year ago came after the city learned that previous expenditures – which were made in connection with the now demised Fuller Road Station project – would not be considered as eligible local matching funds under the federal grant. Fuller Road Station had been a joint venture with the University of Michigan, and called for UM to build a parking structure on the same site as the proposed rail station at a location on Fuller Road.
The preliminary work that URS would do under the contract on the Oct. 21 agenda does not presuppose a preferred location for a new passenger rail station. The existing Amtrak station on Depot Street would be among the alternatives considered, in addition to the location identified for the Fuller Road Station, which is on city-owned land between Fuller Road and East Medical Center Drive adjacent to the UM medical center. The Fuller Park land is designated by the city in planning documents as parkland, and is zoned as public land. A 2009 appraisal commissioned by the city put the value of the land at $4.25 million.
The ordinance change in front of the council for final approval on Oct. 21 would revise the definition of “sidewalk” so that cross-lot walkways could be repaired using sidewalk repair millage funds, but not trigger the ordinary winter maintenance requirement for adjacent property owners. Cross-lot walkways include those that connect streets to parks or school property, or connect two parallel streets.
At the council’s July 1, 2013 meeting, councilmembers were set to give final approval of a different version of the ordinance revision, which would have still placed the responsibility of sidewalk shoveling in the winter on owners of property adjacent to cross-lot walkways. But the council took a different approach after hearing objections from the owners of adjoining property.
A companion resolution later on the agenda completes the necessary council action to allow the definitional change to have an actual impact: The definition makes a walkway a “sidewalk” if the council formally accepts the walkway for public use. So the companion resolution accepts 34 cross-lot walkways for public use.
Transportation: Ice Control Salt
The request to be considered by the council is for the purchase of bulk salt, for ice control, and seasonal back-up supplies to be sourced from the Detroit Salt Company for $245,143 (2,800 tons of “early fill” at $34.50 a ton and 4,100 tons of “seasonal backup” at $36.23 a ton).
Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority
Three items on the Oct. 21 agenda relate to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.
Ann Arbor DDA: Al McWilliams
The item on the council’s Oct. 21 agenda is a reconsideration of the council’s vote that appointed Al McWilliams to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. That original vote was taken on Sept. 16, and resulted in a 6-5 tally in favor.
The Sept. 16 vote came after mayor John Hieftje stated during deliberations on Sept. 3 – as McWilliams’ confirmation that night appeared to have insufficient support on the short-handed council – that he was withdrawing the nomination.
That gave rise to a technical procedural issue – because Hieftje’s request for confirmation on Sept. 16 appeared to be a fresh nomination. So it should have been subjected to the council’s rule that applies when the vote comes at the same council meeting as the nomination – namely, that the confirmation achieve an eight-vote majority. For detailed analysis of the procedural issue, see “Column: How to Count to 8, Stopping at 6.”
City attorney Stephen Postema was then directed by the council at its Oct. 7 meeting to produce a written opinion on the legal validity of the 6-5 vote, which he subsequently did. Later in the Oct. 7 meeting, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) convinced his council colleagues to re-open the agenda to consider a motion to reconsider the Sept. 16 vote on McWilliams. Warpehoski could do that as someone who voted on the prevailing side.
That motion for reconsideration was immediately postponed until the Oct. 21 meeting. Even if successful, Warpehoski’s motion is unlikely to result in a change of any councilmember’s vote, but would serve to eliminate the procedural question about McWilliams’ appointment. On Oct 21, the first vote to be taken will be on the motion to reconsider. If at least six councilmembers vote to reconsider, then the question of the appointment itself will be in front of the council.
Ann Arbor DDA: DDA TIF Ordinance
An ordinance revision to Chapter 7 that’s in front of the council for final approval on Oct. 21 would clarify the existing language of the ordinance, which regulates the DDA’s TIF capture. The clarification would disallow the DDA’s preferred interpretation of a restriction on TIF revenue that’s already expressed in the ordinance language. This ordinance revision was first considered by the council in February of this year. It received initial approval in April and has been in front of the council several times since then, but always postponed. Another postponement is likely on Oct 21.
A joint committee of councilmembers and DDA board members has been meeting, most recently on Oct. 16, and appear headed toward an alternative that would enact a “cap” on DDA TIF revenue – that could be set at a high enough level that it might not have a substantive impact on actual TIF revenue. When that alternative is finalized, it would be brought forward as a substitute proposal. But based on the Oct. 16 committee meeting, that won’t be ready for the Oct. 21 council meeting.
Ann Arbor DDA: Main Street Light Poles
The city council will be asked to approve $280,000 to be spent replacing 81 light poles in downtown Ann Arbor. The light poles will be purchased from Spring City Electrical Manufacturing at a cost of $173,307, with additional costs for installation and labor bringing the total to $280,000.
The expenditure would amount to the city’s portion of a $580,000 project to replace 81 light poles – with the other portion of the cost borne by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.
The $280,000 for the city’s share still needs to be allocated from the general fund to the field operation unit’s FY 2014 street lighting budget. As a budget amendment, the resolution needs eight votes under the city charter. It might not achieve that number, because of the ongoing political wrangling between the Ann Arbor DDA and the city council.
By way of additional background, in April 2013 when the council gave initial approval of the change to the city ordinance that regulates the DDA’s TIF capture, an argument against that move was that it would leave the DDA without sufficient revenue to pay for the roughly $580,000 cost of replacing the decorative light poles, which are described by some as an iconic feature of Main Street.
Replacement was characterized as an urgent public safety issue, because the bases of some of the poles are rusting. Various statements were made about the number of light poles that had failed, but responding to an emailed query from The Chronicle earlier this year, city of Ann Arbor staff indicated that in early 2012 two of the light poles fell – due to a structural failure at the base of the poles caused by rust. After inspection of all the poles, two additional light poles were deemed to be in immediate risk of falling and were also replaced. As a part of the council’s FY 2014 budget deliberations, the council altered the DDA’s budget and directed the DDA to allocate $300,000 toward the replacement of the Main Street light poles.
The council’s specific action on May 20, 2013 was to alter the DDA’s budget by recognizing additional TIF revenues of more than $568,000, and shifting $300,000 of that revenue from the DDA’s TIF fund to the DDA’s housing fund. The council’s budget resolution also recommended that the DDA spend $300,000 of its TIF fund on the Main Street light pole replacement. Earlier this year, in response to an emailed query from The Chronicle, city administrator Steve Powers indicated that the city council was expected to be asked to act on the matter either at its July 15 or Aug. 8 meeting. But the issue was not placed before the council until Oct. 21.
City Energy Commission
Two items on the Oct. 21 agenda relate to the city’s energy commission.
City Energy Commission: Appleyard Appointment
On the agenda as of Friday, Oct. 18 was just one appointment – that of Wayne Appleyard to the city’s energy commission.
Appleyard’s nomination was put forward at the council’s Sept. 16 meeting, but his confirmation was not requested at the council’s following meeting on Oct. 7. Even though the nomination was not put forward at the Oct. 7 meeting, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) registered his concerns about the nomination of a non-city resident.
So the confirmation request is pending clarification of some concerns that Anglin and other councilmembers have raised about Appleyard’s status as a non-city resident and his long tenure on the commission – since 2002.
As a non-city resident, Appleyard’s confirmation needs seven votes, which it would likely not have received on Oct. 7 given the short-handed council that night. [Only eight out of 11 councilmembers attended.]
The seven-vote majority, instead of the typical six, is required by the city charter for non-city residents: [emphasis added]:
Section 12.2. Except as otherwise provided in this charter, a person is eligible to hold a City office if the person has been a registered elector of the City, or of territory annexed to the City or both, and, in the case of a Council Member, a resident of the ward from which elected, for at least one year immediately preceding election or appointment. This requirement may be waived as to appointive officers by resolution concurred in by not less than seven members of the Council.
Appleyard lives in Grass Lake, Mich. With respect to Appleyard’s long tenure, a city charter requirement on city boards and commissions has been analyzed as not applicable to the city’s energy commission. The charter requirement limits continuous service on some kinds of boards and commissions to six years, after which a three-year lapse is required:
Boards and Commissions SECTION 5.17.
(a) The Council may create citizen boards for each of the following departments: Police Department, Fire Department, Department of Public Works, Utilities Department, Department of Parks and Recreation, and Department of Building and Safety Engineering. It may, in addition, create such a board for any department established pursuant to this charter. The Council shall prescribe the number of persons on each such board, the terms of office, the method of appointment of members, the board officers and the method of their selection, and provisions concerning the holding of regular and special meetings. No person serving on such board continuously for six years shall be eligible to reappointment, until the lapse of three years. …
The city energy commission was established in 1985 by a council resolution to “oversee City policies and regulations in areas of energy efficiency concerns and make periodic public reports and recommendations to the City Council.” So it’s not analyzed as corresponding to any particular city department. Under special qualifications, the online Legistar description states: “wide spread representation; interest in energy.” Terms of appointment for energy commissioners are three years.
When Appleyard was up for reappointment in 2010, no objections were raised. On that occasion, mayor John Hieftje separated out Appleyard’s confirmation for a separate vote to ensure it was clear that he’d specifically received adequate support from the council, despite not being a city resident.
Appleyard is principal with Sunstructures Architects, with a focus in renewable energy and sustainable architecture. Appleyard designed the house of Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).
City Energy Commission: Fossil Fuel Divestment
A resolution on divestment from fossil fuel companies is back in front of the council for the third time. When it was initially considered on Sept. 3, 2013, the council voted it down. But on Sept. 16, 2013 the resolution was brought back for reconsideration, then postponed until Oct. 21.
It’s based on an energy commission resolution passed on July 9, 2013. The resolution recommended that the city council urge the city’s employee retirement system board to cease new investments in fossil fuel companies and to divest current investments in fossil fuel companies within five years. The resolution defines a “fossil fuel company” to be any of the top 100 coal companies or top 100 gas and oil extraction companies.
The top three coal companies on the list are: Severstal JSC; Anglo American PLC; and BHP Billiton. The top three gas and oil companies on the list are: Lukoil Holdings; Exxon Mobil Corp.; and BP PLC. The basic consideration of the resolution is the importance of the role that greenhouse gas emissions play in global warming.
The resolution cites the city of Ann Arbor’s climate action plan, which has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 and 90% by 2050. The resolution warns that fossil fuel companies have enough fossil fuel reserves that, if burned, would release about 2,795 gigatons of CO2. That’s five times the amount that can be released without causing more than 2°C global warming, according to the resolution.
Nancy Walker, executive director of the city’s employee retirement system, has reviewed for the council at its meetings the implications of fossil fuel divestment on the retirement fund. Walker had told the council that moving to separately managed accounts from the system’s preferred strategy – of using co-mingled funds, mutual funds, and particularly indexed funds – would cost 30-40 basis points more in fees, independent of any difference in the return on investment.
Live updates from the meeting will appear starting here a few minutes before the scheduled meeting start time of 7 p.m.
6:42 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. City administrator Steve Powers has arrived. Responding to a Chronicle query, he indicates that bids on the old Y lot will not be reported out or discussed tonight – because Colliers is still analyzing the responses.
6:49 p.m. Several attendees are here for the Diwali proclamation. Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) is wearing a sari for the occasion.
7:07 p.m. Thomas Partridge is using the time before the meeting to quiz Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) about the DDA ordinance. And we’re off.
7:08 p.m. Pledge of allegiance, moment of silence and the roll call of council. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) is absent. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) is absent for roll call, but he’s here. Higgins’ absence will have implications for vote tallies.
7:12 p.m. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) wants the McWilliams reconsideration moved up on the agenda, right after the mayor’s communications. Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) points out that Higgins is absent and that one condition on the reconsideration was that all councilmembers be present for the reconsideration. Mayor John Hieftje says Higgins is on her way. Warpehoski ventures that he could re-open the agenda in case Higgins has not arrived when the council considers the item.
7:14 p.m. City administrator communications. City administrator Steve Powers reports on a “feel-good” story – 400 trick-or-treaters during the city’s trick-or-treating on the Huron River. Community services area administrator Sumedh Bahl introduces some guests from Thailand and China who have been visiting Ann Arbor.
7:14 p.m. Proclamations. The proclamation on the agenda tonight is for Diwali – a five-day Hindu festival, the “festival of lights.” It declares Nov. 3, 2013, as Diwali in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
7:23 p.m. Speakers are in turn explaining the religious and cultural significance of Diwali.
7:23 p.m. Higgins has just arrived.
7:25 p.m. Buddhism is now being explained. Previous speakers explained Jainism and Sikhism.
7:27 p.m. We’re now receiving a chanted blessing. The blessing earns applause from the audience.
7:29 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.]
Four people are signed up to speak on the topic of the contract with URS for the environmental review for the Ann Arbor Station project: Rita Mitchell, Nancy Shiffler, Clark Charnetski, and Jeff Hayner. One of the two alternate speaker slots is also filled with a speaker who wants to address the council on the topic of the URS contract – Drew Waller. [More background above on Ann Arbor Station].
Four people are also signed up to talk about the addition of Ypsilanti Township to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority: Martha Valadez, Matt Vanauker, Marko Arizankoski, and Abishek Thiagaraj. Alternate speaker Emmanuel Jones is also signed up to talk about adding Ypsilanti Township to the AAATA. [More background on Ypsilanti Township membership in AAATA]
Ann Arbor energy commissioner Mike Shriberg is signed up to speak in support of the resolution urging the employee retirement system to divest from fossil fuels companies. This resolution is back in front of the council for the third time. When it was initially considered on Sept. 3, 2013 the council voted it down. But on Sept. 16, 2013 the resolution was brought back for reconsideration, then postponed until tonight. It’s based on an energy commission resolution passed on July 9, 2013 recommending that the city council urge the city’s employee retirement system board to cease new investments in fossil fuel companies and to divest current investments in fossil fuel companies within five years. [More background on fossil fuel divestment]
Tom Partridge is signed up to speak in favor of his Ward 5 city council write-in candidacy.
7:36 p.m. Tom Partridge introduces himself as an advocate for all members of the community, including the middle class. He’s here as a candidate for city council and asks voters in Ward 5 to write in his name when they vote. He calls for the ending of homelessness, more access to affordable transportation, and health care. He recalls the demonstration several years ago at city hall by the KKK, which he says mayor John Hieftje authorized. [Hieftje was not mayor at the time.] Partridge complains that the planned redesign of the city’s website doesn’t go far enough.
7:40 p.m. Rita Mitchell says the community has not yet agreed on whether the city should take responsibility for a new train station. She pegs the total amount of money invested in study of a site at $1.7 million. She questions whether URS can be an objective consultant given some work done in connection with previous Fuller Station and the connector study. Mitchell questions the amount of funding in the contract just for the public engagement process, which she thinks is too much, compared to the amount for the environmental assessment per se.
7:42 p.m. Martha Valadez is transit organizer for the Ecology Center and Partners for Transit. She says access to public transportation is crucial for her personally and for her community. She supports the urban core transit program. She supports the membership of Ypsilanti Township in the AAATA. It will give the township a chance to participate in future funding requests, not just participation in governance, she says.
7:44 p.m. Matt Vanauker introduces himself as a Ward 5 resident and high school classmate of Kunselman. He’s surprised that the council didn’t support the countywide initiative last year. He can’t imagine a reason why Ypsilanti Township would not be included as a member in the AAATA. He relies on public transportation to accomplish basic life functions, like grocery shopping and medical appointments.
7:46 p.m. Nancy Shiffler is chair of the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club. She thinks the public involvement component is a strength of the proposal. She’s looking forward to a well-publicized schedule. She cautions against self-selected participants in online surveys. Task 4 of the contract, she says, is problematic, because it could result in a categorical exclusion for an FRA requirement with respect to parkland – and exclusion that would come too early in the process.
7:49 p.m. Mike Shriberg is an energy commission member. He’s spoken to the council twice previously. He’s conveying some of the information in this document: [Divestment: Response from Energy Commission] He asks that the council not be fixated on the question of fees. He asks the council to focus on what can be done now – by focusing on the investments that are not in indexed funds.
7:53 p.m. Clark Charnetski recalls the 30-year history of the study of different sites of a new rail station. That was the era when the Amtrak station was still located within the building where the Gandy Dancer restaurant is currently located. He invites the council to think about rail transportation from the passenger’s point of view. He notes a number of assumptions that were in place 30 years ago that have not proven to be correct. He says that even with current levels of ridership, an improvement to the station is needed. Responding to the idea that the current location could be used to improve the station, he says that the study will examine that option.
7:56 p.m. Abishek Thiagaraj is a junior at UM in biomedical engineering, volunteering with Partners for Transit. He sees transit as a priority. The student perspective is that they’re grateful for the current service AAATA provides. He talks about the need to improve transportation services to off-campus locations. He talks about the ability to integrate students more completely into the community through public transportation.
7:59 p.m. Jeff Hayner is running for Ward 1 city council as an independent. He’s just come from the PTO launch council. He draws an analogy to the trust we have in educators and elected representatives. He thinks community engagement is the key – in improving schools as well as in local government. He calls the redesign of the city webpages that’s on the agenda tonight long overdue. He’s glad to see it – one of the tabs will be “Democracy in Ann Arbor.” He disagrees with Tom Partridge that it’s difficult to get to the website. On the train station contract, he says the public engagement component is very heavy, but wonders if that will be used to shape public opinion or to listen to it.
8:01 p.m. Drew Waller works at Michigan Theater. He’s excited about the prospect of Al McWilliams being appointed to the DDA. [A single hiss comes from the audience.] We should focus on what McWilliams can do for the community, he says.
8:01 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.
8:04 p.m. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) says she’s been meeting with constituents about a city ethics policy. She’s not sure there’s appetite for it, but is preparing a resolution for the next meeting to instruct the city attorney to provide training for public officials on Act 196 of 1973 and to the city administrator to provide information on the city’s website. She announces the re-launch of a customer satisfaction survey she conducted previously. The Huron High School tennis team has won a championship, that she’s reporting tonight at the council table.
8:12 p.m. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) expresses his appreciation for city administrator Steve Powers’ work. He’s seen Powers show up to community meetings, he says.
8:12 p.m. Margie Teall (Ward 4) give a shout-out to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission for a national level recognition. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) echoes Anglin’s remarks about Powers. She refers to a meeting on the Dhu Varren, Green, Nixon intersection as an example of his work. “Our taxes are well-invested,” said one resident, according to Lumm.
8:12 p.m. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) mentions an Oct. 30 meeting on a public improvement project in Springbrook subdivision, near his neighborhood. Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) thanks Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) for bringing forward the Diwali proclamation. He also announces that he’s working with staff on an outdoor smoking ordinance that would mirror the county ordinance. He’s looking to empower the city administrator to designate some areas of parkland as non-smoking areas. He says at least playgrounds should be non-smoking. He’ll be asking the park advisory commission for input, as well.
He announces that he and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) are working on a framework to establish a pedestrian safety citizens advisory committee. He thinks the committee would be seated at the second council meeting in November. The effort is not designed to determine or preempt the outcome of the effort to repeal the pedestrian crosswalk ordinance.
8:16 p.m. Briere follows up on Warpehoski’s remarks by saying they want first to identify the broad categories of people or groups who might serve on such a pedestrian safety committee.
Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) announces that he’s working with Teall on a resolution asking that the University of Michigan decommission the large billboard outside Michigan football stadium on Stadium Boulevard. If it won’t be decommissioned, he says, the resolution will ask that the university operate the billboard only just before large events. Taylor also alerts the council to the recommendations of the park advisory commission‘s subcommittee on downtown parks. That will be on the next meeting’s agenda for formal acceptance, he says.
8:17 p.m. Nominations. Being nominated to fill the remaining vacancy on the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board – due to the resignation of Nader Nassif – is Cyndi Clark, owner of Lily Grace. The business is described on its website as a luxury cosmetics boutique in downtown Ann Arbor.
To fill a vacancy left by Leigh Greden on the Ann Arbor housing commission board, Tim Colenback is being nominated tonight. Greden’s nomination had been made, but was never put forward for a confirmation vote. Colenback also serves on the city’s housing and human services advisory board. Colenback has told Hieftje that he can’t serve on both bodies.
A replacement for Julie Grand on the park advisory commission is being nominated tonight – David Santacroce. He’s a professor of law at the University of Michigan, and chaired the North Main Huron River corridor task force, which worked for a year and delivered its report recently to the council on recommendations to the corridor. Grand finished her term on PAC, completing her maximum two terms of service at PAC’s Oct. 15, 2013 meeting.
Amy Shepherd is being nominated to serve on the city’s commission on disability issues. On the energy commission, Shoshannah Lenski is nominated to replace Mike Delaney, and Mike Shriberg is being nominated for reappointment.
8:17 p.m. Appointments. On the agenda as of Friday, Oct. 18 was just one appointment – that of Wayne Appleyard to the city’s energy commission. Appleyard’s nomination was put forward at the council’s Sept. 16 meeting, but his confirmation was not requested at the council’s following meeting on Oct. 7 – pending clarification of some concerns that councilmembers have raised about Appleyard’s status as a non-city resident and his long tenure on the commission, since 2002. [More background on Appleyard appointment]
8:21 p.m. Mayor John Hieftje begins by saying he can’t imagine anyone who’s more knowledgeable or qualified to serve on the energy commission.
8:21 p.m. Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) says Appleyard is highly qualified, and thanks him for his service. But local government is about local governance, she says. It’s not personal, she says, and she values his service. She thinks that among the 115,000 residents of Ann Arbor, other qualified commissioners could be found. If the energy commission recommends measures that could have an effect on the city’s financial well-being (like the fossil fuel divestment resolution), the recommendations should be made by people who will live with the consequences.
8:24 p.m. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) says Appleyard is abundantly qualified. But she’s concerned about the length of his service – as a non-city resident. Reasonable term limits are a good government practice. So Lumm and Kailasapathy won’t support the appointment. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) says that service in the community leads to more service in the community. There needs to be a kind of welcome mat put out to residents. Watching the energy commission, Anglin says, he thinks that residential solar and geothermal initiatives should have received more attention. Going outside the community shouldn’t be necessary, he concludes.
8:30 p.m. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) says it’s not Appleyard’s fault that there are no term limits. She’s going to support the appointment. She reminds the council that non-city resident Alison Stroud was unanimously approved by the council as an appointee to the city’s commission on disability issues, because of her unique qualifications.
Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) says he’s delighted to support Appleyard, who exemplifies excellence. Hieftje reiterates that Appleyard has tremendous expertise. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) points out that Appleyard also serves on the environmental commission as the energy commission’s representative. She says he represents a valuable background and voice that would be otherwise unrepresented. She calls his explanations cogent and patient. His style is non-aggressive but firm, she says. She supports his appointment. Hieftje points out that Appleyard is a taxpayer as a business owner.
Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) recalls his relationship with Appleyard. Appleyard designed Kunselman’s house and Kunselman served on the energy commission back when Kunselman was the planning commission’s representative to that body. He says he’ll support Appleyard’s appointment.
8:31 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted 8-3 to approve the reappointment of Wayne Appleyard to the city energy commission. Dissenting were Lumm, Anglin and Kailasapathy.
8:31 p.m. Reconsider: Appointment of Al McWilliams to DDA (postponed from Oct. 7). The council’s vote on Al McWilliams’ appointment to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority was taken on Sept. 16, and was approved on a 6-5 vote in favor – but appears to have required eight votes under the council’s rules. That vote resulted in a procedural controversy. Late in the Oct. 7 meeting, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) convinced his council colleagues to re-open the agenda to consider a motion to reconsider the Sept. 16 vote on McWilliams. Warpehoski could do that as someone who voted on the prevailing side. That motion for reconsideration was immediately postponed until tonight’s meeting.
The point of Warpehoski’s motion is unlikely to result in a change of any councilmember’s vote, but would serve to eliminate the procedural question about McWilliams’ appointment. Tonight, the first vote to be taken will be on the motion to reconsider. If at least six councilmembers vote to reconsider, then the question of the appointment itself will be in front of the council. [More background on Al McWilliams appointment]
8:32 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted 8-3 to reconsider the vote on McWilliams’ appointment. Voting against reconsideration were Hieftje, Taylor and Teall.
8:34 p.m. Anglin reviews the conflict of interest issue. He says that more important than that was the reaction some of the female councilmembers had had to the material on McWilliams’ website. McWilliams might be very talented, but Anglin feels that he erred in his judgment to post some of that material. It was a 6-5 vote, he says, adding that it’s the first time he’s opposed a mayoral nomination.
8:37 p.m. Lumm thanks Warpehoski for his action to reconsider the vote. She says it was honorable. She thanks city attorney Stephen Postema for writing the opinion that the council had requested. She’ll vote against the appointment. It’s not hard to find qualified applicants for the DDA board, she says. She wants someone who has the maturity to serve on the board. It’s an issue of judgment and respect, she says.
Taylor says he’ll support the nomination, noting that the council has received many communications from people who know McWilliams well in a professional context. Business leaders are universal in their support of him, he says.
8:41 p.m. Warpehoski reviews some of the objections: (1) conflict of interest; (2) misogyny; and (3) judgment. He thinks that (1) could be addressed with timely recusal. As far as the misogyny, he felt the material McWilliams had posted was a media critique, not an invitation to “Hey, check out this hottie!” He said he didn’t see any basis for the claim of misogyny. On (3) he echoes Taylor’s remarks.
8:46 p.m. Kunselman thanks Warpehoski for his effort. “The man insulted me,” Kunselman says. And for that reason he’ll be voting against McWilliams. Kunselman says he won’t repeat the insult because it wouldn’t be appropriate decorum. Kunselman says that “third-grade potty humor” is not appropriate for a public official. He cautions that someone else at the table could be the next person that McWilliams insults.
Kailasapathy says we all curse, but cursing with women’s body parts is unacceptable.
8:52 p.m. Teall says that she wishes the council wouldn’t spend time on this agenda item, but will “pipe up as well.” She says that someone who could bring great life to the DDA should be supported.
Petersen says she wasn’t planning on saying anything. The fact that the word “misogyny” is being used indicates that the appointment isn’t appropriate. She recalls her interaction with McWilliams on the phone. She’d told him he’d watered down his message with the images and the language. He’d told her he disagreed and said it was appropriate vernacular. The recommendations the council had received were from people she respected, she said, but they did not know about the conversation she’d had with him. At this point, she’s not ready to appoint him to the DDA. “We need the highest caliber people” on the DDA board, she says.
Lumm thanks Petersen. She says it’s a core demonstration of poor judgment to defame her colleagues in the way that McWilliams did.
8:52 p.m. Outcome: The council has again voted 6-5 to appoint McWilliams to the DDA board.
8:52 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 public hearings are scheduled. The first is on a change to the definition of sidewalks – the effect of which will allow sidewalk millage repair funds to be used to fix cross-lot walkways, but not trigger a winter maintenance requirement.
The second and third hearings are fairly straightforward rezoning issues – one involving an annexation into the city from an adjoining township and the other a rezoning from residential to public land (because the city acquired the land). The fourth public hearing is on site plan for U-Haul on South State Street.
8:53 p.m. PH: Sidewalk ordinance. No one speaks at this public hearing.
8:57 p.m. PH: Rezoning of Kocher property. Thomas Partridge says that items like this should have amendments attached requiring accessibility to public transportation and affordable housing.
8:57 p.m. PH: Rezoning of 3875 East Huron River Drive. No one speaks at this public hearing.
9:00 p.m. PH: U-Haul site plan. Thomas Partridge again calls for an amendment requiring access to public transportation on the site. He says the site plan should be referred back to the planning commission.
9:01 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. This meeting’s consent agenda includes just two items. One is a contract with Keystone Media ($26,900) to redesign the basic templates for the city’s website. The other is the acceptance of the board of insurance review minutes from Sept. 19.
9:01 p.m. Councilmembers can opt to select out any items for separate consideration. No one does tonight.
9:01 p.m. Outcome: The council has now approved the consent agenda.
9:01 p.m. DDA ordinance. The ordinance revision (to Chapter 7) in front of the council for final approval tonight would clarify the existing language of the ordinance. The clarification would disallow the DDA’s preferred interpretation of a restriction on TIF (tax increment financing) revenue that’s expressed in the ordinance language. This ordinance revision was first considered by the council in February of this year. A joint committee of councilmembers and DDA board members has been meeting, most recently on Oct. 16, to develop a substitute proposal. But based on the Oct. 16 committee meeting, that won’t be ready for tonight’s meeting. The item is likely to be postponed. [More background on DDA TIF ordinance]
9:03 p.m. Kunselman reports that a joint committee meeting of DDA board members and councilmembers has not yet settled on the details of an alternative approach. Kunselman wants the ordinance postponed again until Nov. 7, so that the council can weigh the current proposal and the alternative that the committee puts forward.
9:04 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to postpone the DDA ordinance changes until its Nov. 7 meeting. That’s the last council meeting before the new composition of council is seated, following the Nov. 5 election.
9:04 p.m. Sidewalk Ordinance. This ordinance change in front of the council for final approval would revise the definition of “sidewalk” so that cross-lot walkways could be repaired using sidewalk repair millage funds, but not trigger the ordinary winter maintenance requirement on adjacent property owners. The definition makes a walkway a “sidewalk” if the council formally accepts the walkway for public use; so the companion resolution accepts 34 specific cross-lot walkways for public use. [More background above on cross-lot paths]
9:05 p.m. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) thanks staff for their work.
9:05 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the change to the sidewalk ordinance.
9:05 p.m. Accept 34 sidewalks for public use. This is the companion resolution to the sidewalk ordinance change. The definition makes a walkway a “sidewalk” if the council formally accepts the walkway for public use; so the companion resolution accepts 34 cross-lot walkways for public use.
9:06 p.m. Lumm thanks staff for being responsive to concerns from specific neighborhoods.
9:06 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to accept the 34 cross-lot walkways for public use.
9:06 p.m. Zoning: Kocher parcel. This is a typical rezoning after annexation from a township into the city. The 2925 Devonshire parcel is 0.66 acres and will be rezoned to R1A (single-family dwelling district).
9:06 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the zoning of the Kocher property.
9:06 p.m. Zoning: 3875 East Huron River Drive. The council is being asked to give final approval of a rezoning request for 3875 E. Huron River Drive from R1A (single-family dwelling) to PL (public land). The council had given initial approval of the rezoning at its Sept. 16, 2013 meeting. The site, which is adjacent to the city’s South Pond park, will be used as parkland.
The property was acquired by the city in 2010, but a “life estate” was in place until earlier this year, according to a staff memo. The two-acre site – located on the north side of E. Huron River Drive and west of west of Thorn Oaks Drive – includes a single-family home. The land overlooks South Pond. City assessor records show that the property was previously owned by the Elizabeth Kaufman and Wes Vivian trust.
9:07 p.m. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) calls it a generous gift.
9:07 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the zoning of the 3875 East Huron property.
9:09 p.m. Recess. The council is now in recess. The next item up on the agenda is the Ypsilanti Township membership in the AAATA. Township clerk Karen Lovejoy Rowe and supervisor Brenda Stumbo were here previously, but it appears they have departed from the meeting.
9:20 p.m. And we’re back.
9:20 p.m. Admit Ypsilanti Township to AAATA. The council is being asked to approve revised articles of incorporation for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, so that Ypsilanti Township is admitted as a member of the authority. The board would be expanded from nine to 10 members. [More background on Ypsilanti Township membership in AAATA]
9:21 p.m. Brenda Stumbo is actually still here.
9:25 p.m. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) says it’s been over a year since he was out opposing the countywide initiative. But he’d told Stumbo at the time that he’d do whatever he could as a city councilmember to get Ypsilanti Township into the authority. He’ll support Ypsilanti Township as a member, he says, but it’s important to understand what the significance is. It’s a matter of governance, not of finances. However, if there are questions that still need to be answered, he’d be content to wait. Putting Ypsilanti Township at the table will bind the community together better, he says.
9:25 p.m. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) says she thinks it’s a bit premature to vote on it tonight, given that AAATA has just now started its public engagement campaign on the 5-year plan. She floats the idea of postponing until the second meeting in November. [That will be after the new composition of the council is seated, post-election.]
9:29 p.m. Michael Ford, CEO of the AAATA, is now at the podium. He notes that Ypsilanti Township leadership is here. [Both Stumbo and Lovejoy Rowe are still here.] Ford says that all that’s being asked is for Ypsilanti Township to be admitted as a member.
Stumbo says township residents support this move. She recalls her long career in public service in the township, joking that she started when she was 12. It’s a long-term financial commitment. Currently the route the township pays for is $340,000 annually, she says. It’s imperative that the township have transportation. “We need to lift people up,” she says, and the way to do that is to provide transportation. It will help with congestion in Ann Arbor. She’s proud to be there tonight and says that the township board supports the move.
9:32 p.m. Kailasapathy confirms with Ford that Ypsilanti Township currently has a purchase-of-service agreement (POSA). She said that although meetings were held in the township about this, she’s supposed to represent Ann Arbor. She characterizes this timetable as rushing it. Just because concerns weren’t raised when Ypsilanti city was added doesn’t mean that she can’t raise concerns now.
Ford responds by saying that it’s not being rushed, and that the AAATA had followed the Ann Arbor city council’s direction to work with the urban core to develop service, the financial structure, and governance.
9:33 p.m. Kailasapathy counters by saying that it’s not required that Ypsilanti Township be handled the same way as Ypsilanti city.
9:37 p.m. Petersen says that it just so happens that the 5-year service plan meetings are being scheduled over the next few weeks. Petersen said her understanding was that it would be a give-and-take exchange. The meetings are already set up. And her constituents have asked that the meetings be used to hear what everybody has to say. That would slide the schedule forward only four weeks, she says, until the middle of November.
Teall says that just because the meetings happen to be planned, they shouldn’t be used to divert the focus. She says the process has been exhaustive. It’s been years, she said. Ford notes that he’s met with individual councilmembers and it’s not a surprise. He points out that five of the councilmembers have participated in the urban core discussions.
9:42 p.m. Ford says that some of the questions posed by the councilmembers were received by the AAATA at noon today. Lumm says some of them weren’t answered. Ford and Lumm engaged in spirited back-and-forth. Lumm takes the position that admitting Ypsilanti Township into the AAATA is not a stand-alone decision.
Ford reviews the point of the 5-year service plan meetings – to go over the service improvements. Lumm says she’s trying to weigh the cost-benefit of a possible 0.7 mill tax. It’s difficult to assess it without more information. Hieftje says he doesn’t see how the funding mechanism affects the decision tonight. Admitting Ypsilanti Township is something that should have happened 30 years ago. Anyone who was paying attention to transportation issues would have known this was coming, he says. Any funding decision would need to be approved by voters. Ann Arbor needs to work with communities around it, to realize its great promise as a city, Hieftje says.
9:46 p.m. Briere says the question is to allow Ypsilanti Township a seat at the table. Briere asks Stumbo what she sees as a benefit to membership. Stumbo talks about the Washtenaw connection, and the long-term commitment as benefits. Instead of a year-to-year POSA agreement, there would be a longer-term agreement. She says she’s trying not to take it personally, but she can’t understand why the council wouldn’t vote to allow Ypsilanti Township to join the AAATA.
9:49 p.m. Briere asks Ford if residents will be presented with a menu of improvements and their costs so that residents can choose what services they’d like. Ford described it as a very engaged process that would include adjustments based on what people say at the engagement meetings. Briere asks when the dollar amounts will be broken down for each element of the service improvement plan. Ford says that about a month after the meetings are concluded, those exact costs will be available.
9:53 p.m. Kunselman reiterates that he’s committed to Ypsilanti Township having a seat at the table. That seat at the table does nothing to change the financing, he says. The city of Ann Arbor will still have eight out of 10 seats, which can control the board. He says that transportation services would only be “given away” to Ypsilanti Township if Ann Arbor’s own representatives on the AAATA board approved it. A discussion about the finances isn’t the one the council should be having right now. That’s possibly even a year away, he says. [That means Kunselman is thinking a May 2014 millage vote is probably too soon.]
Kunselman said he’d been against the countywide transportation authority initiative based on the board composition [8 out of 15 board seats on that now-demised proposal]. He didn’t think the council needed to worry about board control. It’s just approving a seat at the table so the township can have a voice, he says.
9:56 p.m. Warpehoski starts by saying that he was wrong earlier – when the council had decided to “bail” on the countywide proposal, he’d been angry and allowed that he might have said some things about Kunselman that might have been insulting. He now took it very seriously when Kunselman says that Ypsilanti Township should have a seat on the table. It’s important to be a good regional partner, Warpehoski says.
On the finances, Warpehoski says it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. To get a solid financial foundation, you need a solid governance structure, he said. The step of finalizing governance needs to be taken before establishing the funding and service plan.
10:00 p.m. Warpehoski asks under the various permutations of Ypsilanti Township being in or out, or whether the millage passes or not: Is there any threat to Ann Arbor services? No, says Ford. What’s the mechanism for funding Ypsilanti Township service as a member of AAATA if the millage doesn’t pass? Stumbo says it’d be paid for out of the township general fund. Ford explains that a similar arrangement to the one the city of Ypsilanti had recently made would also be made with the township.
10:03 p.m. Taylor says it’s a pretty simple process. After the countywide transportation initiative was turned down, the council had said to the AATA: Go away and come back with an urban core plan. Now the question is whether the council meant what the council said back then. Taylor is now ticking through the general benefits of public transportation – congestion reduction and economic development.
Kailasapathy is asking Stumbo and Ford questions. She wants a copy of the MOU (memorandum of understanding) for the township. Ford says that the MOU will follow the membership. Kailasapathy wants it now. She references Taylor’s comments about the urban core – saying that the council had not given the AAATA a blank check.
10:06 p.m. Anglin calls Ford one of the most patient people he knows. He says the strong minority has asked for something specific, a strong minority that could put the AAATA over the top someday. Some councilmembers are asking for more time to answer questions of their constituents. Ann Arbor residents have paid the millage for many years, so if some councilmembers want some more time, they should be listened to.
Ford says that everyone is hung up on the idea of the millage. The AAATA had done what the council had asked it to do and that’s what this is about, Ford said.
10:10 p.m. Higgins says that the discussion is about whether the board should be expanded, and that’s what residents want to weigh in on. People get very concerned without giving them a chance to provide input. On the question of expanding the board, people should have a chance to weigh in on that, she says – during the meetings the AAATA has scheduled over the next few weeks. Higgins is not against having residents have a say.
Ford says that this is the same process used with the city of Ypsilanti. Higgins shuts down Ford saying, “I didn’t ask you a question.” Higgins moves for postponement.
10:12 p.m. Teall says she’ll oppose postponement. Warpehoski asks Ford what the impact of a postponement would be. Ford says the AAATA has been at this a long time. Treating the township differently from the city of Ypsilanti is a problem, he says. It’s not the first time the AATAA has talked with the council about it, he notes. Ford says it would slow the process down and not send a good message.
10:17 p.m. Hieftje says that Ypsilanti Township has been a “good citizen” for many years. He says he doesn’t understand why the city of Ypsilanti should “breeze through” and then there’d be a pause with the township. Briere picks up on a concern expressed by Teall – that the meetings scheduled for the next few weeks would re-focus from the 5-year service plan to the expansion of the board. Ford says that it would put the AAATA behind on making any improvements to service. Briere asks how many meetings. Thirteen, says Ford, running through Nov. 14.
Briere ventures that Lumm wants dollar amounts attached to each improvement, to be able to choose Chinese-menu style. Briere asks Ford if that information can be assembled in mid-November. Ford says that it’ll take about a month after the meetings conclude.
AAATA legal counsel Jerry Lax has joined Stumbo and Ford at the podium, but he hasn’t spoken yet.
10:27 p.m. Briere ventures that without membership on the board, Ypsilanti Township will continue with its year-to-year POSA. She asks if it will be possible to have productive conversations at the scheduled public meetings without the governance question settled. Lax says Ypsilanti Township is prepared to make the longer-term POSA commitment, if it has a seat at the table. Lax says that if the township did not commit to a longer-term arrangement, the AAATA would still have leverage in the negotiation of the year-to-year POSA.
Lumm disagrees with Ford that it’s inappropriate to treat the city and the township differently – citing the city’s dedicated millage versus the township’s POSA. Lumm says it sets a bad precedent that to be eligible for membership in the AAATA, all you need is a POSA. She wants to see the long-term MOU. [Lax has basically explained earlier that the willingness on Ypsilanti Township's part to enter into the long-term MOU is based on having a seat at the table.]
Lumm says that with so many unanswered questions, she thinks it’s important to postpone. Ford asks to respond. Hieftje says no. Teall makes some remarks and gives Ford the floor. Ford reiterates that the issue before the council is governance – that is, adding Ypsilanti Township to the board. He adds: “The rest is noise.” Petersen says that governance and funding are inextricable linked. Petersen says that based on constituent feedback, the two issues are co-mingled. By delaying now, she says, a millage would have a better chance of passing.
10:31 p.m. Kailasapathy still wants to see the MOU before voting to add Ypsilanti Township as member. Hieftje wants to move to a vote on the postponement. Ypsilanti Township has more to risk, Hieftje says. He says that it should have been done 30 years ago.
Stumbo says that the township doesn’t have a ward system – they’re elected at large. So she understands the conversation around the table. She points to the geography of the township, which surrounds the city of Ypsilanti.
10:33 p.m. Warpehoski says he’d vote for it today or a month from now. Kunselman’s 8-2 odds for the city are pretty good, he says. But he’ll vote for postponement because he wants the final vote to have as much support as possible. He doesn’t want it to pass with a 6-5 vote. He wants a solid majority.
10:36 p.m. Kunselman says he started out saying he had unwavering support for adding Ypsilanti Township, but was open to postponement. He tells Stumbo that he’s still committed to getting it done. He’ll support the postponement. “When we get back here, I look to have everybody here unanimously supporting this,” he says. If it’s not that kind of support, a millage won’t pass. He says he’ll attend the scheduled meetings and make clear why it’s important to add Ypsilanti Township to the board. It’s important to re-build trust, he says. “Government is messy,” Kunselman says. He adds that he had almost been ready to go for the vote tonight, but now felt it was important to take the time to build trust.
10:37 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted 8-3 to postpone the revised articles of incorporation for the AAATA admitting Ypsilanti Township as a member. The item is postponed until the council’s second meeting in November. That’s after the new composition of the council is seated. Dissenting were Hieftje, Taylor and Teall.
10:37 p.m. Recess. We’re again in recess.
10:49 p.m. And we’re back.
10:49 p.m. Fossil fuel divestment resolution. This resolution is back in front of the council for the third time. When it was initially considered on Sept. 3, 2013, the council voted it down. But on Sept. 16, 2013 the resolution was brought back for reconsideration, then postponed until tonight. It’s based on an energy commission resolution passed on July 9, 2013 recommending that the city council urge the city’s employee retirement system board to cease new investments in fossil fuel companies and to divest current investments in fossil fuel companies within five years. [More background on fossil fuel divestment]
10:50 p.m. Hieftje says he hopes the discussion can be brief, because it’s already been discussed a lot.
10:55 p.m. Taylor says that his impression is that the council is eager to express its support for divestment but concerned about interfering with the pension board. An earlier amendment had been made to try to address that tension. He’d be more comfortable with a set of requests to investigate and consider various topics.
Petersen says it makes sense to remove language that has to do with divestment. She would be more inclined to support something that is more proactive about directing investment in clean energy instead of divesting from anything.
Hieftje says that the resolution as it reads doesn’t have any “teeth” that would direct the pension board to do anything. It would send a message, however, that the city wants to align its investment strategy with its sustainability plan. He ventured it could be watered down further by saying, “maybe please could you possibly do something.” But the resolution is already soft enough as it is. He felt the council should give this an up or down vote and ask the energy commission to come up with something else.
10:59 p.m. Kunselman says it does need to be watered down further. He doesn’t want to urge another body to do something over which the council has no control. Some of the other cities that have been referenced as having a similar policy simply had mayoral directives, he says. Kunselman says it should just be very simple. The list of things that are in the resolution aren’t “neighborly,” he says.
Taylor now offers a set of amendments that he says he’s sending around by email and to the clerk.
11:01 p.m. Taylor says that “urges” will be replaced with “requests” throughout. Also the first resolved clause deletes the word “immediately.” Another piece of language from Taylor’s amendments: “… to investigate whether it can reasonably divest …” The phrase “consider ensuring” is used instead of just “ensuring.”
11:02 p.m. Taylor’s amendments are approved, with dissent from Hieftje.
11:09 p.m. Warpehoski says he’ll support the resolution. Lumm says she supports the elimination of the word “urge” and the substitution of “request.” She doesn’t know what this resolution will accomplish, however. She thanks the retirement board for its work. She points to the fees that would be incurred as a result of withdrawing investments from indexed funds.
Briere says that she can’t match Lumm’s rhetoric when it comes to investments because it’s not in her skill set. She relies on other people to guide her. There’s a concern that the staff of the pension board might not be able to distinguish between looking into things versus implementing something. Taylor’s amendments, she says, are reasonable. They provide guidance without imposing restriction.
11:12 p.m. Teall indicates she’ll support the amended resolution. Petersen says the amendments do water down the resolution, and she doesn’t want to support something that doesn’t have teeth. The council would be asking the pension board to take its eye off the ball for a while. A resolution about investment as opposed to divestment would have teeth, she says.
11:18 p.m. Kunselman wants to make sure that the title of the resolution has “urges” replaced with “requests,” along with the body of the resolution. Kunselman says he’ll support the resolution, but makes some remarks on what he wants the energy commission to focus its efforts on – energy efficiency projects, not investment strategy. Kunselman ventures that some members of the pension board are present.
City administrator Steve Powers gives some brief background, and CFO Tom Crawford takes the podium. The pension board had taken the council’s questions and deliberations seriously, Crawford says. The time it would take the board’s investment committee was a concern, he says. The volunteer board has a professional investment advisor, and the advice has been that there’s no way to very simply address the issue. Hieftje wants to move to a vote.
11:19 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the amended fossil fuel resolution on a 9-2 vote. Dissenting were Petersen and Lumm.
11:21 p.m. Resolution to accept donation of property at 3013 W. Huron River Drive. This resolution accepts and appropriates foundation funds to the parks for upkeep and maintenance of 3013 W. Huron River Drive as parkland.
11:22 p.m. Briere and Teall make remarks in support. Kunselman adds a lighthearted remark about a junior high classmate.
11:22 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the donation.
11:22 p.m. Resolution recognizing Skyline Athletic Booster Club as a civic nonprofit organization. The purpose of the recognition is for the booster club to obtain a charitable gaming license. The booster club is hosting the Millionaire Party (a poker tournament) on eight occasions: Nov. 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as Dec. 7, 8, 9 and 10.
11:22 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to recognize the Skyline Athletic Booster Club as a civic nonprofit organization.
11:22 p.m. Site Plan: U-Haul Moving and Storage The city planning commission recommended approving the site plan for the U-Haul expansion at its Sept. 10, 2013 meeting. The U-Haul business is located at 3655 S. State St., south of the I-94 interchange.
The project calls for building a 1,246-square-foot addition to the front of the existing retail building. The expansion includes a new 4,994-square-foot, one-story warehouse and an 11,696-square-foot, one-story self-storage building. Both of the new buildings would be at the rear of the site and not visible from South State Street. The project is estimated to cost $1.2 million.
This site is part of the area covered in the South State Street corridor plan, which the planning commission voted to add to the city’s master plan at its May 21, 2013 meeting. That plan calls for office uses at that U-Haul location in the future.
11:22 p.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the U-Haul site plan.
11:23 p.m. 81 street light poles for Main Street. The light poles would be purchased from Spring City Electrical Manufacturing at a cost of $173,307, with additional costs for installation and labor bringing the total cost to $280,000. The $280,000 still needs to be allocated from the general fund to the field operation’s unit FY 2014 street lighting budget.
As a budget amendment, the resolution needs eight votes under the city charter. It might not achieve that number, because of the ongoing political wrangling between the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the city council. [More background on Main Street light poles]
11:26 p.m. Briere leads off. She asks Craig Hupy to the podium. He’s the city’s public service area administrator. She wants to know when they were installed and by whom. Hupy says that they were installed by the DDA in the late 1980s, so the poles are not quite 30 years old. They weren’t noticed to be rusting because their decorative base shields the rust from view. He says the bases might have contributed to water not draining away. The new light poles would have a gap between the pole and the base, he explains.
11:31 p.m. Kunselman asks why the appropriation was not included in the budget. Hupy says that at that time, the DDA was proposing to cover the entire cost. Kunselman won’t support this resolution.
Lumm points out that the council’s budget resolution was to spend at least $300,000. She asks DDA executive director Susan Pollay if the DDA had considered making a greater contribution. Pollay reviews the history of the council’s budget resolution. Lumm inquires about the council resolution requesting the DDA to fund downtown police officers. Pollay says the DDA is looking at ambassadors, not police officers. She notes that some DDA board members will be traveling to Grand Rapids to learn more about that city’s ambassador program.
Kailasapathy asks where the $300,000 came from that the DDA had granted to Washtenaw County for its Annex renovation.
11:32 p.m. “C’mon, we knew this was coming,” Warpehoski says. Hieftje says he remembers it the same way as Warpehoski. Petersen asks if there is other money besides general fund money that could be used. No, says Hupy.
11:34 p.m. Kunselman presses Hupy on the question of the appropriation of the funds. The DDA had said that the DDA would step up and cover the expense. It was not in the city’s budget after discussion with the DDA. Kunselman says that the council had not made a commitment to pay for the light poles. The DDA had spent money for other things, like the Washtenaw County Annex building.
11:37 p.m. Taylor says that Kunselman has made a “flat-out misrepresentation” of what had happened. The council had been told that the council would need to spend the general fund money to do it. It was the council’s ill-advised interference with the DDA’s budget earlier in the year that has caused this situation, Taylor says. The council had made the budget adjustments in May, “knowing full well that we’d be on the hook for the balance.” He calls this a “self-inflicted wound.”
11:44 p.m. Briere says she appreciates what Taylor and Kunselman both said. Briere is now telling the council how she explained the difference between the city and the DDA’s budget to a constituent. Briere says that the city council had told the DDA how to spend its money, and the DDA has done that. She was filled with regret that the council had done that. When the DDA said it would step up and make that investment, she’d been relieved.
Petersen asks what the level of risk is for the light poles falling down. What kind of health and safety risk is posed? Hupy says those that were in immediate danger have been removed. If the light poles were not all going to be replaced in the near term, the city would go out and replace a few more poles, he says. Petersen says that she sees the DDA and the city’s budgets as “fungible.” She would like to see the DDA to find the money to complete this project. The DDA would not be funding police, she noted. She didn’t regret giving direction. She says that she thinks the DDA should find the money.
11:48 p.m. Lumm says that the allocation resolution is consistent with the council’s earlier budget resolution, so she’ll support it. Warpehoski asks if the overall cost of replacement changes, if the poles are replaced in stages as compared to doing it all in one phase. Hupy says that labor costs would go up. There would also be a mismatch between the globes.
11:48 p.m. Kailasapathy relates a vignette about a neighborhood where there’s no streetlight and no sidewalk – and a meeting that the city staff and she had attended about it. She had no regrets about changing the DDA’s budget earlier in the year to allocate $300,000 for affordable housing.
11:49 p.m. Outcome: The council has rejected the resolution on a 7-4 vote. It failed because it needed 8 votes to pass on the 11-member council. Voting against the resolution were Kailasapathy, Petersen, Kunselman and Anglin.
11:49 p.m. Ann Arbor Station. The request in front of the council is to approve a contract with URS Corp. Inc. (URS) for the Ann Arbor Station project environmental review. The total budgeted for the Ann Arbor Station contract on tonight’s agenda – which will cover public engagement, site selection and conceptual design – is $824,875, an amount that includes a $63,083 contingency. The city would pay 20% of that, or about $165,000. A Federal Rail Authority grant awarded to the city will cover the remaining $660,000. [More background on Ann Arbor Station]
11:50 p.m. Kunselman wants city transportation program manager Eli Cooper to clarify how much of the contract would use city funds. Cooper says it’s about $165,000. Kunselman notes that the money has been appropriated and does not presuppose a particular site. He’s going to support the contract.
11:57 p.m. Kailasapathy wants to know who decides the location of the site. Cooper notes that public commenters had pointed out that a third of the contract was for public engagement. The council could participate in the process, he says. Kailasapathy asks if there would be one preferred site at the end. Cooper says that as the sites are winnowed down, the criteria to be used would also be subject to public review and input.
Briere notes that most of the suggested sites are in Ward 1. She confirms that the goal of a previous process was to present the federal government with a preferred site. Cooper indicates that she’s right – it’s a requirement of the NEPA project. The emphasis on the previous project was based on the intermodal character of that facility. How does this proposal differ from that [Fuller Road Station] proposal? Cooper says that one difference is that there’s no initially preferred alternative for the location.
12:00 a.m. Briere asks: What is an environmental assessment? Cooper says it’s an analysis of the direct, indirect and cumulative effect of human action. It’s a qualitative descriptor about the impact of a project. That contrasts with an environmental impact statement, which is quantitative.
12:03 a.m. Lumm says she hasn’t heard Cooper say the word “parkland.” Cooper says that any project on parkland would not be eligible for categorical exclusion. If the preferred site were parkland, then it would be subject to Section 4F review, Cooper says. Lumm asks for confirmation that as a part of the process, it would be possible to see the “arc” of the selection process.
12:06 a.m. Cooper says that the public engagement process is not meant to tell people what the plan already is – he’s reacting to concerns expressed during public commentary. Lumm asks who Cooper sees as the stakeholders? Cooper says that will be clearer after the project kickoff. Power Marketing Research will be doing the public engagement. Cooper allows that some of the stakeholders will be the usual suspects. Stakeholders are only one part of the public engagement process, he says. There will be site tours to “walk the ground together,” he says.
12:08 a.m. Cooper notes that the no-build alternative is required to be included in the set of alternatives. The intent is to do this in an open and transparent and participatory process, he says. Lumm tells Cooper some people have zero confidence that the outcome has not been determined to be Fuller Road. She says the existing site is a “sweet spot” in terms of engineering.
12:09 a.m. Thomas Partridge asks, “Does anybody know what time it is?” Briere points out the clock on the wall. It’s 12:08.
12:11 a.m. Kailasapathy asks what she should tell residents who wonder why the city should build a new station for Amtrak. Cooper explains that Amtrak’s focus is on the operations – the trains themselves. It’s a discretionary decision, he allows. The idea is to meet the needs of residents and businesses to provide the kind of transportation facility they’d expect arriving in Ann Arbor.
12:14 a.m. Anglin says he’s happy to see that this project seems different from the previous approach. He says it seems like this process will actually consider alternate locations besides the Fuller Road site. He calls for all the public process meetings to be videotaped. Some of the previous money that’s been spent was “foolishness,” he says. He’ll vote to support this. The public is tired of bad dialogue, he says. Cooper responds by saying they’ll do their best to facilitate good dialogue.
12:16 a.m. Kunselman poses a hypothetical: If the site across the track, owned by Amtrak, is the preferred site, how would that work? Cooper explains that the federal dollars would come from the FRA. If the Amtrak property were the preferred location, there would be MOUs and legal instruments to bind the parties together.
12:17 a.m. Clark Charnetski from the audience explains that Amtrak owns the parking lot. The place where the tracks had been and were removed are now owned by MDOT. Amtrak owns the station, the property on which it sits and the metered parking lot, he says.
12:21 a.m. Lumm says that there’s no guarantee there’ll be federal money for eventual construction of a train station. She says there’s no demonstrated need for a new train station. She’d reviewed the contract for the study. It’s an important study the community cares about, she says. It’s important that there be substantial public engagement. She’s now ticking through the elements of the public engagement process. She says it’s important to consider the existing site or doing nothing at all. Given that those two primary concerns are addressed, she’ll support it, even though she calls it a “tough” decision.
12:27 a.m. Taylor says that improvement to the train station is deeply important. He points to improvements in Amtrak service and possible commuter service – with railcars having been purchased. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it’s important to plan for the future, he says. He calls the sewer reconstruction done at the Fuller Road site – which was in the city’s capital improvement plan (CIP) – as something necessary anyway. To suggest that it wasn’t necessary is “flat-out false,” he says.
12:27 a.m. Hieftje picks up on Taylor’s defense of the sewer work. It’s important not to create myths, he says. He says he’s pleased to see planning for a new rail station moving forward, whatever the location. He notes that the governor and MDOT are very interested in commuter rail. It would only be funded through the regional transit authority (RTA), Hieftje says.
12:32 a.m. Briere also adds her comments on the sewer work that was done at the Fuller Road site. She reviews the reasons that she voted to support that work. She says that part of the issue was the fact that the line runs under the river. If a sewer line were under the river, it would be difficult to notice if there were a problem. It was not the case that the only reason for the sewer work was to allow for the foundations of the demised Fuller Road Station to be put in, she says.
12:33 a.m. Outcome: The council has voted unanimously to approve the URS contract.
12:33 a.m. Purchase of ice control salt ($245,143). The request is for the purchase of bulk salt, for ice control, and seasonal back-up supplies to be purchased from the Detroit Salt Company for $245,143 (2,800 tons of “early fill” at $34.50 a ton, and 4,100 tons of “seasonal backup” at $36.23 a ton).
12:34 a.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve the ice control salt purchase.
12:34 a.m. Fire department mutual aid box alarm system (MABAS) Division. The resolution authorizes the city administrator to enter into the required Act 7 (interlocal) agreements necessary to establish the city of Ann Arbor Fire MABAS Division and appoint Ann Arbor’s fire chief as a representative to the MABAS executive board. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, participation in MABAS would not replace any of the existing mutual aid agreements the city of Ann Arbor has. A MABAS approach to response by multiple jurisdictions defines a standard response package of equipment and personnel, which is automatically dispatched to a fire. That contrasts with the mutual aid approach, in which additional resources can be called if they’re deemed necessary once the initially-responding units have assessed the situation.
12:34 a.m. Outcome: The council has voted to approve participation in MABAS.
12:36 a.m. Council communications. Briere recalls the 1996 visit by the KKK. She was a member of the ACLU team who worked to ensure that the peace was kept. Hieftje had not been mayor on that occasion, she said. She was referring to Thomas Partridge’s public commentary. Lumm says that she was a councilmember at the time and the KKK was definitely not invited to come to Ann Arbor.
12:43 a.m. Lumm says that she’s consulted with the city attorney to bring forward a resolution on term limits to be applied in the city charter.
Warpehoski says that Ypsilanti Township has done a tremendous amount of work. When he counts the votes around the table, he thinks there will be six votes in a month, but wants to work toward unanimity. He says that “relationships are important,” and he fears that by postponing the Ypsilanti Township vote, the council was not perceived by the township leadership as working well with its regional partners. He suggests that councilmembers reach out to the township and give the relationship a personal touch. The relationship was hurt tonight, he says, and he’d been a part of that, so he apologized. Kunselman added his support to Warpehoski’s remarks.
12:45 a.m. Public Commentary. There’s no requirement to sign up in advance for this slot for public commentary.
12:45 a.m. Thomas Partridge is holding forth. He complains about the locations where meetings of some boards and commissions are held. He asks the voters of Ward 5 for their support in his effort to win election to the council as a write-in candidate. He complains that the AAATA bus system is not adequate, yet the council is talking about the right location for a train station.
Clark Charnetski recalls how he first arrived in Ann Arbor 53 years ago on the New York Central and got off at what is now the Gandy Dancer. He thanks the council for their vote on the Ann Arbor Station study.
Kai Petainen takes the podium to thank the council for its vote on the Ann Arbor Station study. It’s the public engagement portion of the contract he supports. He says he’ll complain if the preferred location turns out to be Fuller Road Station. In a nod to his Canadian roots, Petainen notes that Winter Classic tickets go on sale soon.
Michael Benson takes the podium on behalf of the graduate student government at the University of Michigan. He announces a forum on the city’s leasing ordinance, on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m. in the fourth floor auditorium of the Rackham Building.
12:52 a.m. Adjournment. We are now adjourned. That’s all from the hard benches.
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