At 6 p.m. bars were setting up outdoor seating. The security guards for the puck were already very cold. [photo]
Blue trash barrels dot the Pioneer High School front yard; concessions setting up east of the stadium.
Crane stands ready for puck-dropping duties. [photo] Main Street is closed as preparations begin for The Puck Drops Here. Small cluster of Red Wings fans mid-block between Liberty and William nearing the intersection: “No, I think this is it, that’s all there is. We’ve walked the whole town.”
Wayfinding map overlayed with temporary version optimized for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day events (Puck Drop and NHL Winter Classic). [photo]
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Dec. 16, 2013): The board’s main action item was to accept the 2012-13 audit, which was briefly reviewed by Dave Fisher of the accounting firm Rehmann. It was a clean report, he said.
There was no discussion among board members on that item, though Fisher noted the audit had been discussed at the board’s budget and finance committee in November.
Also approved was a one-year lease extension with Green Road Associates for storage of newspaper archives. The library has leased the Plymouth Park facility – an office park owned by First Martin Corp. on Green Road, north of Plymouth – since January 2010. That’s when AADL took possession of the Ann Arbor News archives, a few months after the owners of that publication decided to cease operations. The library is digitizing the Ann Arbor News archives, along with material from other local newspapers, as part of a project called Old News.
Much of the meeting focused on two staff presentations: A report on library statistics for November in five categories (collections, users, visits, usage and participation); and an update on the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled (WLBPD).
One person, Donald Salberg, addressed the board during public commentary. Part of his remarks focused on the board’s decision – at its Nov. 11, 2013 meeting – to approve a tax-sharing agreement with Pittsfield Township and the State Street corridor improvement authority. He told trustees that they hadn’t identified any real benefit that the CIA would bring to the library.
At the end of the meeting, board president Prue Rosenthal read a statement that defended the board’s decision to participate in the CIA, outlining its benefits to the library and the broader community. She said that although the board vote had not been unanimous, she thought that all trustees were comfortable that the decision was made with a great deal of care.
Miller is completely closed, with a utility trench across it. Traffic has been detoured to Wines/Saunders.
Headed southbound towards Washtenaw Avenue about 200 yards before the intersection a deer prances across the road east-to-west. In other news my brakes work great.
AOL Autos reports on a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of two Michigan men – including Dave DeVarti of Ann Arbor. The lawsuit contends that the state of Michigan violated First Amendment rights when it rejected applications for vanity license plates. DeVarti wanted a plate that stated “WAR SUX.” [Source]
If you’re like me, then every January you think to yourself, “This year, I’m going to spread out my charitable giving over the course of twelve months. It would be so much better for my cash flow, and probably it would be better for the nonprofits as well.”
And then, come November and December, I realize that once again, I failed to spread out my giving – and I had better pull out my checkbook. Writing the bulk of these checks at the end of the year has a benefit, in that it allows me to look at all of my donations at once. But it also means that I’m in a rush and I don’t always take the time to reflect. So this is my opportunity.
Like many of you, we make donations to local, national, and international groups that focus on a wide range of issues. For us, those organizations do work related to health, the environment, politics, women’s issues, Jewish groups, social action, human services, and more.
Although I do give to some groups that, loosely speaking, fit the category of “education,” those entities do not make up a significant proportion of our donations. I confess to a certain ambivalence to giving to such groups – because, in many ways, I’m already a big contributor to public education. And it’s likely that you are, too.
Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Dec. 17, 2013): Three items – all of which had been previously reviewed by planning commissioners in some form – moved forward following action at the commission’s last meeting of 2013. The meeting started about 15 minutes late as the group awaited enough members to form a quorum. Three of the nine commissioners were absent.
The largest proposal was a revised version of a 14-story apartment complex at 624 Church St. The development, located in Ward 3, was expanded after an additional property was acquired next to the original site. The project is a 116,167-square-foot building with 123 apartments and about 230 bedrooms. It would stand adjacent to and over the existing two-story Pizza House restaurant at 618 Church, and would extend to the southeast corner of Willard and Church, where the building’s entrance will be located.
Questions from commissioners covered a range of topics, including concerns over the 48 parking permits that the developer has secured from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority in the Forest Avenue parking structure. Two commissioners expressed concern that the structure is frequently full already, and that additional spaces taken up with 624 Church St. residents will make it even more difficult to park there.
Other issues raised during deliberations related to the location of the bike storage room, the use of a proposed outdoor plaza space next to Pizza House, the type of materials to be used in the building and design of the building. The vote to recommend approval of the project was unanimous.
Also recommended for approval on Dec. 17 was the zoning of two properties on South State Street – 1643 and 1645 S. State – as C1 (local business district). One of those properties houses Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky. The land had been annexed into the city from Ann Arbor Township in 2011. That same year, a previous request for zoning the land as C3 had been recommended for denial by commissioners.
Another State Street project – a revised version of an expansion at Germain Motors – was recommended for approval by commissioners in a unanimous vote. The commission had voted to postpone action on Nov. 19, 2013, pending issues that were resolved in the version presented on Dec. 17.
Couple stop to look at snow-covered information map. Guy writes “♥ you” [photo]
When it is dark, when it is cold, that is the time of year when we spark a fire we hope will burn through the next year, and even though it never does, hope smolders still.
In the history of the human species, I imagine that surely dozens or even hundreds of words have already been written about the special magic of fire. So I will add a few of my own.
I grew up in a small town in southern Indiana a few houses down from a family that went all in for outdoor Christmas light displays – the kind that every year other people drove into our neighborhood to see. Whatever you might think of such displays, it’s uncontroversial that they bear witness to the intervention of a human hand: Some person went to the trouble to string those wires and screw in all those little tiny bulbs.
In Manchester, Michigan – a village in the corner of Washtenaw County, about 25 miles southwest of Ann Arbor – electric Christmas light displays coexist peacefully with candles. This year marks the 34th year of the Manchester Luminaria – a community tradition that involves placing candles inside paper bags weighted with sand, spaced evenly along the street. Residents who participate in the tradition purchase enough bags to line the street frontage of their property. The candles are lit at dusk on Christmas Eve.
I learned about this tradition because last week The Manchester Mirror reported that sales of the sand-filled bags with candles would begin from the vacant building on the northwestern corner of Manchester’s Main Street and M-52.
So how is a paper bag, lit from within by a candle, different from an electric light display? It isn’t the mere imprint of a human hand, because that much they have in common. But a glowing paper bag filled with fire bears witness to a certain immediacy of that human intervention: Some person only very recently set that candle aflame.
And if you let your eye wander down that line of evenly-spaced luminary bags, counting them off as you go, your gaze might land on one where there’s a human figure still crouched over it applying a miniature torch to the candle. And when you see a series of a dozen unlit luminary bags, a dark segment wedged into the light, you can stand and wait, and know that a person will emerge to light those candles.
In the Manchester Luminaria, you can see the imprint of a human hand in a way that is far more visceral than in an electric light display.
I wish I had a more visceral way to convey traditional seasons greetings to Chronicle readers. But all I have is the electric light display that we call the Internet. In that spirit, I’d like to wish Chronicle readers a merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy new year.
After the break are some additional photos from a Christmas Eve excursion to Manchester.
Old Town Tavern wound up this year’s Sunday night live music series with an all-star combination: Matt Jones was offering sweet vocals accompanied by his own finger-picked guitar, backed by Misty Lynn, with Serge van der Voo (Orpheum Bell) on the upright bass and Colette Alexander absolutely whaling on the cello. [photo] Finish out the year and start the next one with Matt Jones and Misty Lyn and the Big Beautiful at Mittenfest at Woodruff’s at 36 E. Cross St. in Ypsilanti. Jones plays on Dec. 28, 2013 at 10:15 p.m. with Misty Lyn and the Big Beautiful slotted in for 11 p.m on Dec. 29.
Signage is now in place for pedestrian crosswalks and refuge islands, but no pavement “zebra stripes” to define them.
Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Dec. 19, 2013): The last meeting of the year was attended by just five of the nine board members who are appointed and serving – and one needed to depart early. So to maintain a quorum, the meeting went by brisker than most. Even with a staff presentation on the capital and categorical grant program, the meeting concluded after about 45 minutes.
That capital and categorical grant program got a unanimous vote of approval at the Dec. 19 meeting. It’s a plan for spending about $45 million in federal funds over the next five years. According to the AAATA, this year’s plan does not include additional capital needs that would be associated with a five-year service improvement plan in the urban core, or any funding associated with rail initiatives. Having in place such a capital and categorical grant program – a set of allocations for specific categories of capital expenditures – is a requirement to be eligible for federal funding. [.pdf of 2014-2018 grant program]
The five-year service improvement plan could be implemented by the AAATA with funding that will likely be sought through an additional millage sometime in 2014. That would require approval of a majority of voters in the three jurisdictions making up the AAATA – the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. The township became a member as a result of an Ann Arbor city council vote taken on Nov. 18, 2013.
The expected appointee to the AAATA board from Ypsilanti Township, Larry Krieg, attended the Dec. 19 meeting and sat at the table, although his appointment has not yet been confirmed by the township board of trustees. His confirmation did not appear on the township board’s Dec. 9, 2013 agenda. The next township board meeting is set for Jan. 21, 2014, which comes the week after the AAATA’s next regular meeting, on Jan. 16.
So Krieg did not participate in any of the votes taken on Dec. 19.
A significant vote taken by the board was to approve a nine-month extension of a contract with SelectRide through April 30, 2015, to provide paratransit service. The value of the contract for the extension period is $2.263 million. That’s essentially a pro-rated amount of SelectRide’s current contract, which ran through July 31, 2014.
The AAATA is currently preparing a request for proposals (RFP) with an eye to overhaul the concept of its paratransit service – which comes in the context of the possible five-year service improvement plan. Without a contract extension, that RFP would need to be ready for issuance in time to complete selection of a vendor by the time SelectRide’s current contract expires in July 2014. To avoid the possibility of an interruption in service, the AAATA board approved the SelectRide contract extension.
Other business items handled by the board included contracts for snow removal and janitorial services.
Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Dec. 10, 2013): WCPARC’s December meeting included appreciation and thanks to retiring commissioner Nelson Meade, who has served on WCPARC from its formation in 1973.
To commemorate his service, commissioners passed a resolution to rename the County Farm Park in Meade’s honor. The 141-acre park is at the southwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Platt Road in Ann Arbor, where WCPARC’s Meri Lou Murray recreation center is located. The meeting also included a video of remarks by county commissioner Ronnie Peterson, who described Meade as “a man of few words but unquestionable commitment.”
Applications are being accepted for Meade’s replacement on WCPARC, with a deadline of Jan. 12. The appointment will be made by the county board of commissioners.
Most of WCPARC’s other main action items related to potential acquisitions through its natural areas preservation program. The commission took the first step toward acquiring title or conservation easements on five parcels of land. Those properties include: (1) the 6.4-acre Heumann property on the west side of Sylvan Township, west of the Chrysler proving grounds with access from Sylvan Road south of old US-12; (2) 129 acres of the Bloch-Vreeland Road property, at the southeast corner of Leforge and Vreeland Roads in Superior Township; and (3) three parcels on Marshall Road in Scio Township, in partnership with the Scio Township land preservation program.
Action to finalize acceptance of a donation of the 10-acre Geddes Mill Ltd. property in Ann Arbor Township – valued at $1.27 million – was postponed pending completion an environmental assessment. The property is on the north side of the Huron River, immediately east of the US-23 northbound off ramp. There is a bit of frontage on both Dixboro Road to the east and Geddes Road to the north.
Items not requiring action included updates on the proposed Eastern County Recreation Center on Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti, with details about terms of a development agreement as well as the latest proposal for site development. Updates also included a status report on the Ann Arbor skatepark. Construction is now 65% complete, but work has ceased for the winter.
Ann Arbor city council meeting (Dec. 16, 2013): The city council’s last regular meeting of 2013 pushed well past midnight. And toward the end of the meeting, councilmembers batted around the idea of asking the city clerk to enforce the council’s rule limiting councilmember speaking time. It’s an issue that will be taken up by the council’s rules committee.
In some of its more significant business of the night, the council voted unanimously to deposit almost $1.4 million into the city of Ann Arbor’s affordable housing trust fund. The council’s final vote was unanimous, although Jane Lumm (Ward 2) offered an amendment to cut that amount in half, which failed on a 2-9 vote. Jack Eaton (Ward 4) joined Lumm in supporting that failed amendment.
The dollar figure of $1,384,300 million reflects the $1.75 million in gross proceeds, less brokerage fees and seller’s costs, from the sale of a downtown city-owned parcel known as the old Y lot. In 2003, the city paid $3.5 million for the property, located on William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The council approved the sale of the property to Dennis Dahlmann for $5.25 million at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting. The city has made interest-only payments on a $3.5 million loan for the last 10 years.
Public commentary during the meeting was dominated by residents advocating in support of the Y lot resolution – several on behalf of the homeless community. A current point of contention for several of the speakers is the fact that the Delonis Shelter does not operate a warming center during daytime hours. Instead, the center allows the homeless to seek refuge there during the day when the temperature or wind chill drops to 10 F degrees. Addressing that issue is one of several possible ways to spend the money from the affordable housing trust fund. Others include using it to renovate properties managed by the Ann Arbor housing commission.
Two items in which the council also invested considerable time at its Dec. 16 meeting involved traffic safety. The council wound up adopting unanimously a resolution that directs city administrator Steve Powers to present a strategy for funding elements of the city’s non-motorized transportation plan, by specific dates starting next year. The final version adopted by the council reflected a compromise on the exact wording of the resolution – which among other changes eliminated explicit mention of any specific technology. The original resolution had specifically cited rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs), as does the non-motorized plan.
Thematically related to the funding plan for non-motorized transportation improvements was a proposal to allocate $125,000 from the current general fund reserve to pay for police overtime for traffic enforcement. The debate on police overtime centered on the question of whether chief of police John Seto had a plan to spend the money, which equates to about 70 additional hours a week for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014. The resolution eventually won the support of all members of the council except for mayor John Hieftje.
The police overtime item was sponsored by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2), who were part of a six-vote majority that had backed a significant revision to the city’s crosswalk law at the council’s Dec. 2, 2013 meeting. That change – which eliminated a requirement that motorists stop for pedestrians who were at the curb but not within the crosswalk – was subsequently vetoed by Hieftje. The text of that veto was attached to the council’s Dec. 16 meeting agenda as a communication.
The council’s focus on traffic and pedestrian safety will continue next year, on Jan. 6, when the council is supposed to make appointments to a pedestrian safety task force, which it established at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting.
Also generally related to the public right-of-way on streets at the council’s Dec. 16 meeting was an item that was postponed from the Dec. 2, 2013 meeting. The council was asked to consider assigning a specific cost to the removal of an on-street parking space caused by a development: $45,000. The original postponement stemmed from a desire to hold a public hearing on the matter before taking action. One person spoke at the public hearing on Dec. 16, and the council deliberated about a half hour before deciding to postpone again.
The council voted unanimously to make a roughly $65,000 allocation from the solid waste fund balance to pay for an initiative that will allow residents to add plate scrapings to their brown compost carts for curbside collection. The additional funds will cover an increased level of service at the compost processing facility – daily versus weekly grinding. The funds will also cover the cost of counter-top containers the city plans to give away to residents to encourage the initial separation of plate scrapings from garbage, and a subsidy for the sale of additional brown compost carts. Some of that allocation is expected to be recovered through reduced landfill tipping fees.
Also on Dec. 16, the council accepted a $50,000 grant from the USDA Forestry Service to be spent on a tree pruning initiative focused on the city’s largest street trees.
The council metered out its time generously on items involving large and small dollar amount alike at its Dec. 16 meeting. So nearly a half hour of deliberations went into a resolution that directed the city administrator to include $10,000 of support for the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair as he develops next year’s (FY 2015) budget. The council voted unanimously to support that resolution.
The council postponed an item that formally terminated a four-year-old memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan on the demised Fuller Road Station project. It had been added to the agenda the same day as the meeting, and that was the reason it was postponed. However, it was clear from remarks at the meeting that when the council takes up the resolution next year, it will have support.
The Manchester Mirror reports that sales of the Manchester traditional Luminaria bags will begin Dec. 21, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from the vacant building on the Northwestern corner of Manchester’s Main Street and M-52 [Source]
Car with an Ohio plate driving east on Stadium Boulevard past Michigan Stadium. As he passes through the intersection, the driver rolls down his window, extends his arm holding an Ohio State flag and waves it vigorously until reaching the top of the bridge. He then retracts his arm and the flag, rolls up the window, and calmly proceeds east. The driver is alone in his car, so this is clearly solely for his own pleasure.
Remaining contingent from regular Friday “Pizza in the Park” food distribution to the homeless report that a candlelight vigil held for “Shorty,” who died out in the elements last year, was well attended. Tomorrow, Dec. 21, is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.
Four carolers. [photo]
Democrat Christopher Taylor, a city councilmember who has represented Ward 3 in the city of Ann Arbor since winning election in 2008, has pulled petitions to run for mayor in 2014. According to the city clerk’s office, Taylor took out petitions early in the afternoon on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.
Taylor is an attorney with Hooper Hathaway. He’s a graduate of the University of Michigan law school.
Taylor’s 2008 Democratic primary win came over incumbent Stephen Kunselman. Kunselman was then returned to the council representing Ward 3 the following year, in 2009, when he received more votes than incumbent Leigh Greden.
Ann Arbor councilmembers are elected to two-year terms. So by choosing to submit the required 250 signatures (50 from each of the city’s five wards) to run for mayor, Taylor would be choosing not to seek re-election to a fourth term on the council in 2014. According to the city clerk’s office, for the partisan primary in August 2014, petitions must be turned in by
May 13 April 22.
In a press release sent to the media on Friday mid-afternoon, Taylor included an endorsement from former Ward 5 councilmember Carsten Hohnke, who is quoted as saying: “He always approaches the complex issues that come before Council by reaching out for broad input and engaging in careful analysis. His competence, collegiality and clear, balanced vision of a thriving community will serve Ann Arbor exceptionally well.” Hohnke and Taylor were both first elected to the council in 2008.
Kunselman had previously announced that he’s running for mayor. If Taylor were to prevail in a mayoral race, both men would remain on the council, because Kunselman would still represent Ward 3. Because Taylor cannot run simultaneously for a seat representing Ward 3 on the council and for mayor, that opens the door for other candidates to step forward to run to represent Ward 3.
In a telephone interview on Friday afternoon, Sabra Briere – one of two city councilmembers who represent Ward 1 – said that Taylor’s decision to run for mayor would have “no impact” on a decision as she weighs the possibility of her own mayoral candidacy. She’ll make that decision sometime in the new year, she said.
The year in sports, 2013, started out with the Detroit Lions missing the playoffs, and hockey fans missing the entire National Hockey League season.
The NHL hadn’t played a game since the Stanley Cup Finals that spring. The lockout started the way these things usually do: The players thought the owners made too much money, and the owners thought the players made too much money. And, of course, both sides were dead right.
On one side, you had NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, widely considered the worst commissioner in sports today – and maybe ever – who gets booed by the fans whenever he shows up. On the players’ side, you had union chief Donald Fehr, who led the baseball players union to cancel the 1994 World Series.
Well, you can guess what happened: a game of chicken between two stubborn leaders bent on self-destruction.
Fortunately, a government mediator – yes, you heard that correctly – saved the day, and hockey resumed. All of it only goes to prove my theory: hockey is the greatest sport, run by the dumbest people.
Things picked up after that.
Snow removal at five different locations will take place under contracts with three vendors authorized by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board.
Arbor Building Services of Ypsilanti will handle snow removal at the Ypsilanti Transit Center, and the Miller Road and Plymouth park-and-ride lots. The downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center snow removal will be handled by A.M. Services Inc. of Ann Arbor. And when they are built, the “superstops” at Washtenaw Avenue and Pittsfield Street will be serviced by Margolis Companies of Ypsilanti.
The contracts have a one-year term with four one-year renewal options. AAATA board action on the snow removal contracts came at its Dec. 19, 2013 meeting. The AAATA has spent roughly $50,000 a year on snow removal over the last five …
The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority contract for paratransit services with SelectRide has been extended nine months, through April 30, 2015. The value of the contract for the extension period is $2,263,000. That’s essentially a pro-rated amount of SelectRide’s current contract, which ran through July 31, 2014. AAATA board action came at its Dec. 19, 2013 meeting.
Just six months ago, the board had authorized the final year of a three-year contract with SelectRide – at its July 23, 2013 meeting. Board deliberations at that meeting indicated that negotiations on that $3,016,871 contract with SelectRide had been difficult, and had been completed under time pressure with no feasible alternative to SelectRide.
The contract extension comes in the context of the need to issue …
A renewal of the contract for janitorial services with JNS Commercial Cleaning has triggered application of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s two-and-a-half-year-old living wage policy.
The impact of the living wage policy, together with additional bi-weekly floor care services at the AAATA headquarters, will increase the annual value of the contract from $72,000 annually to $102,000. The three-year contract with JNS had already been authorized by the AAATA board at its Dec. 16, 2010 meeting, with up to two one-year renewals. However, the amount of the increase connected to the one-year extension, with a remaining one-year renewal option, is 42% – which exceeds the 10% increase threshold for board approval specified in the AAATA’s procurement policies.
AAATA board action authorizing …
The 2014-2018 capital and categorical grant program – a plan for spending federal funds – has been given approval by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board. The action took place at the board’s Dec. 19, 2013 meeting. According to the AAATA, this year’s plan does not include additional capital needs that would be associated with a five-year service improvement plan in the urban core. [.pdf of 2014-2018 grant program] [.pdf of Dec. 10, 2013 planning and development committee presentation]
The five-year service improvement plan could be implemented by the AAATA with funding that will likely be sought through an additional millage sometime in 2014. That would require approval of a majority of voters in the three jurisdictions making …
A group of five young people are walking around the corner of Fourth Avenue and William Street headed west, but are puzzled that the car they parked at the surface parking lot is not where they thought they left it. The driver uses remote key to test if it’s just a memory issue. Lights and horn sound from the Fifth Avenue side of the lot. That sweet news quickly turns sour as they notice the car is moving, because it’s loaded on a Brewer’s tow truck. [Turns out they were parked in a "police only" spot.] A chase on foot ensues as tow truck exits onto Fifth Avenue, turns west onto William. As they disappeared from view, the chasers appeared to be losing ground. Dang.