The Ann Arbor city council has completed its internal housekeeping tasks for the upcoming year, having delayed some of them at the first meeting of the newly-seated, post-election council on Nov. 18. At its Dec. 2, 2103 meeting, the council formally adopted its rules, confirmed its committees, and adopting the council rules.
Based on a less than 10-minute meeting of the council’s rules committee on Nov. 29, no changes to the rules were planned to be put forward at this time. The council’s rules committee – established by last year’s council – consisted of Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and mayor John Hieftje. Marcia Higgins had also served on that committee, but left the council when she did not win re-election last month.
The .pdf file attached to the council’s online agenda – which reflects the council’s rules to be considered for adoption – includes a revision that was explicitly discussed and, for the time being, rejected at the committee’s Nov. 29 meeting. [.pdf of city council rules]
That change replaces “personality” (an archaic usage meaning a disparaging remark about a person) with “personal attack” in the following rule: “The member shall confine comments to the question at hand and avoid personality.” At the council’s Nov. 18 regular meeting, when the council voted to delay adoption of the rules pending a review of the rules, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) had asked that the rules committee look at the rule requiring that councilmembers “avoid personality” during deliberations.
At the Nov. 29 committee meeting, Kunselman weighed in specifically for retaining the more archaic wording as reflective of history and tradition. The outcome of that committee discussion was that no changes would be recommended at this time, as any changes should be reviewed by the rules committee with its new membership. But in the document approved by the council at its Dec. 2 meeting, the revised language is included.
A consensus on the committee at the Nov. 29 meeting seemed to be that the new membership of the rules committee should include Sally Petersen (Ward 2) in place of Kunselman, as Kunselman did not wish to continue on the rules committee. In addition, Petersen’s ethics initiative, which was approved at the council’s Nov. 18, 2013 meeting, tasks the rules committee with a certain amount of work – so the rules committee consensus on Nov. 29 appeared to be that the committee would be well-served by her membership. The new rules committee for the coming year will consist of Petersen, Taylor, Briere, Hieftje and Warpehoski.
The rest of the new council committee assignments were also made at the Dec. 2 meeting. [.pdf of all assignments] Some discussion had occurred throughout the council’s recent consideration of the city’s Downtown Development Authority ordinance about the possibility of appointing the city administrator instead of mayor John Hieftje to serve in the statutory slot on the DDA board, but that did not come up at the Dec. 2 meeting. [For additional background on the appointment to the DDA board, see: "Column: Connecting Dots – DDA, FOIA."]
Added at 1:08 a.m. after initial publication: While the issue of the DDA appointment did not come up during the meeting, city administrator Steve Powers was listed in the .pdf file of committee assignments as being appointed to the DDA. So Powers will now serve for the next year on the DDA board.
Other council appointments to other boards and commissions included Briere to the planning commission, Briere and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) to the environmental commission, Taylor to the greenbelt advisory commission (GAC) , and Petersen to the local development finance authority (LDFA) board.
The council’s calendar of regular meetings and work sessions was also adopted at the Dec. 2 meeting. The basic pattern is first and third Mondays for regular meetings, except when there’s a holiday or an election during the week of the meeting. Work sessions are slotted in for the second Monday of the month. The next council work session is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 9, which will be the occasion of the council’s annual retreat. That’s scheduled to last from 4-11 p.m.
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow.