Govt. Section

Poll: Clear Favorite for Ann Arbor Mayor

From July 28-29, several Ann Arbor residents reported being polled by telephone about their preferences in the upcoming Democratic mayoral primary election. The Chronicle has obtained the results of that poll of 435 likely voters by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a North Carolina polling firm.

July 28-29, 2014 Survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling. <strong>Top Chart among all voters:</strong> Christopher Taylor (39%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (15%); Sally Petersen (13%); Undecided (15%).  <strong>Bottom Chart (if the election were conducted among those who disapproved of current mayor John Hieftje's performance)</strong>: Christopher Taylor (19%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (32%); Sally Petersen (20%); Undecided (9%).

July 28-29, 2014 survey of 435 likely Democratic primary voters by Public Policy Polling. Top Chart among all voters: Christopher Taylor (39%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (15%); Sally Petersen (13%); Undecided (15%). Bottom Chart (if the election were conducted among those who disapproved of current mayor John Hieftje’s performance): Christopher Taylor (19%); Sabra Briere (19%); Stephen Kunselman (32%); Sally Petersen (20%); Undecided (9%).

They show Ward 3 councilmember Christopher Taylor to be a clear favorite, with about a week to go before the Aug. 5, 2014 primary. Taylor polled at 39% compared to 19% for Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere.

Ward 3 councilmember Stephen Kunselman and Ward 2 councilmember Sally Petersen polled a few points behind Briere at 15% and 13% respectively.

The poll indicates that 15% of voters still haven’t made up their minds. Margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4.7%.

The relatively large four-candidate field is attributable to the fact that no incumbent is in the race.

Kunselman was the first of the four candidates to declare his candidacy – before mayor John Hieftje announced last year he would not be seeking reelection to an eighth two-year term.

The PPP poll also asked respondents if they approved of the job that Hieftje was doing as mayor.

One of the patterns revealed in the analysis of the poll responses is that Kunselman would be a 12-point favorite if the election were held just among those voters who disapproved of Hieftje’s performance. But the poll indicated that only 27% of Ann Arbor voters disapproved of Hieftje’s performance.

A polling question that asked about favorable or unfavorable opinions of candidates – independently of an inclination to vote for them – showed Kunselman polling with the highest unfavorable opinion numbers, at 36%. But the “not sure” category for that question polled fairly high across all candidates, ranging from 29% to 43%.

The poll also included two questions about future growth – one about downtown development, and the other about the need for an improved train station. The poll indicated 46% support for the downtown projects that have been approved and built in recent years and 39% opposition. The need for a new train station polled at 52%, while the alternate view – that the current station is adequate – polled at 35%.

The content of the poll – which evinces some knowledge by its creator of the Ann Arbor political landscape – was not commissioned by The Chronicle or by any of the four mayoral campaigns. Tom Jensen grew up in Ann Arbor and is now director at Public Policy Polling, a firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. But Jensen still follows Ann Arbor politics. It was Jensen who put the poll together – out of his own interest. And it was Jensen’s voice that was used in the interactive voice response (IVR) technology deployment of the Ann Arbor mayoral poll.

The poll drew as a sample all those who’d participated in any primary election (Democratic or Republican) since 2006. Poll respondents included 32% Republican or other non-Democratic affiliation.

In a telephone interview, Jensen stressed that any poll result should be viewed with a lot of caution, especially with local elections. “I would definitely, as a pollster, encourage people to take caution in over-interpreting one poll of a low-turnout race in the middle of the summer. You’re definitely prone to more error.”

But based on the results of this poll, he said he was 99% confident that Taylor was going to be the next mayor of Ann Arbor.

Additional charts and some additional background on the polling methodology are presented below. [Full Story]

Column: Get Your Sign Outta My Yard

Over the weekend, local attorney Laurie Longo brought to my attention a political sign placed on North Main by probate court candidate Julia Owdziej – who’s also the incumbent in that race.

This is the sign that was placed on North Main Street by the Julie Owdziej campaign.

This Photoshopped “art” took as its starting point a sign that was placed on North Main Street by the Julie Owdziej campaign. The alteration of the sign was undertaken so readers could be shown the physical dimension of the sign in context, without providing whatever publicity benefit that comes from having a photo of a candidate’s yard sign replicated on The Chronicle’s website. The bicycle is included for a sense of scale. The tagline is a Southern expression I grew up with that essentially means: Do not ask me what time it is, little one.

The incumbency is the result of a gubernatorial appointment made just two months ago, on June 2, 2014. And that forms a part of Longo’s objection to the sign – because it displays the text “Judge Julia Owdziej” in the context of the campaign tagline “Protecting the County’s Most Vulnerable for Over 20 Years.”

The sign seems to implicate that Owdziej has been serving as judge for two decades, not two months. Certainly if I were editing an endorsement op-ed that included a sentence like, “Judge Julia Owdziej has protected Washtenaw County’s most vulnerable for over 20 years,” I would move to strike the word “judge.”

I imagine some readers might agree with Longo’s conclusion – that because the sign is misleading (and violates Ann Arbor’s political sign ordinance), voters should consider other candidates instead. Other candidates in the race are: Jane Bassett, Tamara Garwood, Constance Jones, and Tracy Van den Bergh.

That conclusion is, I think, somewhat debatable. Some voters will likely consider that message to be, technically speaking, factually accurate – even if misleading – and within the latitude that is typically afforded political candidates who are trying to market themselves to voters.

What does not seem open to debate is Longo’s point that the billboard-sized sign was in obvious violation of the Ann Arbor ordinance on political signs – most clearly the maximum size for such signs, which is 4′ x 3′. [.pdf of Ann Arbor ordinance on political signs]

When I reached Owdziej by phone Sunday night (July 27), she indicated that the city of Ann Arbor had contacted the campaign about the sign and that the trailer to which it was affixed was to be removed on Monday. And on Monday it was removed.

That’s consistent with remarks made by all probate court candidates in response to a question posed about yard signs at a July 19 forum hosted by the Washtenaw County Democratic Party: They’ll remove signs that are in violation, if the violations are pointed out to them.

So in this final week leading up the election, I would first like to encourage all candidates – not just those in judicial races – to make sure they adhere to local laws on political signs. If you don’t know that you’re not supposed to have any signs in the public right-of-way or within 5 feet of a sidewalk (with some exceptions), then please read up on the details.

For readers, there are at least two options for addressing political signs that you think aren’t in conformance with Ann Arbor’s ordinance. Contact the candidate and tell them where the offending sign is, and ask them to remove it – or to explain why they think the sign is actually in compliance. A second option is to contact community standards by phone at 734.794.6942, or by email at communitystandards@a2gov.org. ​

Below are the responses that probate court candidates gave on July 19 to the question about campaign yard signs – as well as some thoughts of my own about yard signs, with a look back to a 2006 interview with Washtenaw County clerk Larry Kestenbaum. [Full Story]

2014 Pre-Primary Finance: Donor Analysis

A dataset analysis of pre-primary contributions to 11 different local campaigns for Ann Arbor elected office confirms some clear patterns among the donors. The primary election will be held Aug. 5, 2014.

Excerpt from summary report of a dataset of campaign contributions made to Ann Arbor local campaigns during the pre-primary reporting period for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary election.

Excerpt from summary report of a dataset of campaign contributions made to Ann Arbor local campaigns during the pre-primary reporting period for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary election.

The dataset was compiled by The Chronicle after the Friday, July 25 deadline for filing campaign finance reports. It includes contributions to the 2014 mayoral Democratic primary campaigns for the four candidates – Sabra Briere, Sally Petersen, Christopher Taylor and Stephen Kunselman – as well as contributions to Democratic city council primary campaigns of seven candidates in three wards: Don Adams and Sumi Kailasapathy in Ward 1; Nancy Kaplan and Kirk Westphal in Ward 2; and Julie Grand, Bob Dascola and Samuel McMullen in Ward 3.

Contributors to those 11 campaigns appear to perceive city council candidates Don Adams, Kirk Westphal and Julie Grand as aligned with mayoral candidate Christopher Taylor – as well as with each other. And judged by their donations, contributors appear to perceive city council candidates Sumi Kailasapathy, Nancy Kaplan and Bob Dascola as politically similar to each other – and to some extent politically similar to mayoral candidates Sabra Briere and Stephen Kunselman.

Those conclusions are based on the 1,278 individual contributions totaled across all the campaigns (517 for city council races and 761 for the mayoral race). The Chronicle counted at least 312 contributions that were made by people who gave to more than one of the campaigns. Those 312 contributions came from 99 different people. Not typical of the contributions were those of 22nd circuit court candidate Veronique Liem, who gave money to seven of the 11 campaigns, including all four mayoral candidates.

The Chronicle also tagged donors in the dataset as current or past members of public bodies – like the city council, the city planning commission and the Ann Arbor District Library board. That exercise revealed that every current member of the library board made at least one contribution to mayoral or council campaigns. Taylor received contributions from five of seven library board members and Briere from one. Westphal received contributions from three library board members.

Stephen Kunselman has campaigned in part based on his endorsements from four current city councilmembers – all of whom contributed money to his campaign. Ward 2 council candidate Nancy Kaplan received contributions from the same four, plus a former councilmember.

When former councilmembers are included in the count, Taylor received contributions from a total of seven. Briere received contributions from four former councilmembers. Among council candidates, Westphal received the most contributions from current and former councilmembers – a total of seven.

The Chronicle initially compiled the set of data – for three city council races and the mayor’s race – in order to generate analyses of geographic trends and distribution of amounts that have been contributed to each campaign. Those analyses are presented in previous coverage: “Council Election Finance 2014: Charts, Maps” and “Mayoral Election Finance 2014: Charts, Maps.”

The dataset should be viewed with the caveat that data entry was done manually from scanned documents generated by the campaigns, so they include a range of spelling variants and other minor inconsistencies. In addition, The Chronicle’s institutional knowledge about donors’ background, even when combined with online research, is imperfect. Some donors in various categories might have been missed.

Below we present some of the patterns of contributions made by donors to the campaigns.  [Full Story]

Local Candidates Sketch Views on the Arts

Editor’s note: The candidate forum was moderated by the writer, Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan.

Twenty candidates for political office attended a forum hosted by the Arts Alliance on July 23, held at the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor and focused on the creative sector.

Arts Alliance executive director Deb Polich

Arts Alliance executive director Deb Polich. (Photos by Dave Askins.)

The event included presentations by each candidate as well as opportunities for questions from the audience, and drew out policy positions related to the arts.

County-level candidates shared their thoughts on the possibility of a countywide arts millage.

And mayoral candidate Sally Petersen took the occasion to float the idea of an Ann Arbor city income tax as an approach that would generate more revenue, at the same time shifting some of the burden of local government funding to those who work in Ann Arbor but do not live here.

Bryan Kelly, independent candidate for mayor of Ann Arbor in the Nov. 4 general election, made his first public appearance since qualifying for the ballot. “I can say firsthand that being an artist is the toughest damn job in the world. I’d rather run for mayor than keep writing novels,” he quipped.

Ypsilanti mayoral candidate Tyrone Bridges shared an example of his daughter’s artwork with forum attendees.

Favorite public art named by the candidates included the mosaic adorning the Fourth and Washington parking structure, as well as the half-mile of daffodils planted in The Arb.

And Ann Arbor Ward 5 incumbent Chuck Warpehoski delivered his opening statement in the form of a rap.

In her remarks at the end of the forum, Arts Alliance executive director Deb Polich urged candidates and elected officials to tap into the experts who know the creative sector. She encouraged candidates to touch base with ArtServe Michigan and the Arts Alliance to get accurate information. Ann Arbor is losing ground to other communities like Grand Rapids and Detroit, she said, and that’s why public funding and investment in the arts is important. “Private funding is absolutely here in this county, but it’s not enough – there’s not enough.”

It’s not just about funding, however. Polich stressed the importance of public policy to make the city a fertile ground for the creative sector.

Polich reported that the Arts Alliance will be holding a statewide conference called Creative Convergence on March 19, 2015. Thought leaders from across the country, state and Washtenaw County will be coming to speak about these issues, she said.

This report focuses on state and local candidates, including the Ann Arbor mayoral and city council races, Washtenaw County commissioners, and state legislators. It also includes responses to a candidate survey distributed by the Arts Alliance prior to the forum. Not included here are statements by the two Congressional candidates who attended the forum: Democrat Debbie Dingell, who’s running in the primary against Raymond Mullins of Ypsilanti for the District 12 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; and Republican Douglas Radcliffe North, who’s running against incumbent Republican Tim Walberg for the District 7 seat in the U.S. House.

The outcomes of many of the local races will be determined in the Aug. 5, 2014 Democratic primary elections, if no Republicans or independent candidates are running. More information about candidates can be found on the Washtenaw County elections division website. Check the Michigan Votes website to find out your polling location and view a sample ballot. [Full Story]

Council Election Finance 2014: Charts, Maps

According to reports filed with the Washtenaw County clerk’s office, seven Ann Arbor city council candidates in three contested Democratic primary races on Aug. 5, 2014 have raised a total of $57,877 in itemized cash contributions.

Contributions made to candidates in Ward 1, Ward 2 and Ward 3 council races are plotted based on the address of the contributor.

Contributions made to candidates in Ward 1, Ward 2 and Ward 3 council races are plotted based on the address of the contributor. (Image links to sets of dynamic maps by broken down by candidate.)

That’s about $100,000 less than the amount raised by four candidates in the mayoral primary. The filing deadline for pre-primary reports was July 25.

In Ward 4, incumbent Democrat Margie Teall is not seeking re-election and only one candidate is running – Graydon Krapohl. So he did not need to file campaign finance reports. In Ward 5, Leon Bryson announced several weeks ago that he was withdrawing from his challenge of first-term incumbent Chuck Warpehoski. Even though both Ward 5 candidates filed campaign finance reports, this article does not analyze them.

Accounting for more than half of the total amount raised in the other three wards were the two candidates in Ward 2: Kirk Westphal and Nancy Kaplan. Kaplan’s $16,314 was easily more than any other candidate. By way of comparison to recent Ward 2 races, for the pre-primary campaign period in 2011 and 2013 Jane Lumm raised about $19,000 and $20,000 in those respective years. Westphal raised $12,420 this year, which is about $2,000 more than he raised during the comparable period in his unsuccessful 2013 campaign against Lumm. Westphal and Kaplan are competing for the Ward 2 seat currently held by Sally Petersen. She decided to run for mayor instead of seeking re-election to the Ward 2 seat.

This year’s Ward 3 contest features Julie GrandBob Dascola and Samuel McMullen, who are all competing for the seat that Christopher Taylor is leaving in order to run for mayor. Among the three, Dascola raised the most money with $7,385 in contributions compared to $6,595 for Grand and $5,248 for McMullen. (McMullen’s campaign reported a total of $5,315 in itemized contributions, but The Chronicle’s calculation was for $67 less than that, based on the documents.) Grand’s total this year is significantly less than the $10,825 she raised in the comparable period in 2013 for her unsuccessful campaign against Stephen Kunselman.

The Ward 1 race features one-term incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams. Kailasapathy raised $5,345 compared to $4,570 for Adams. Kailasapathy’s amount this year is about $1,000 more than what she raised during the pre-primary period for the 2012 primary, which she won against Eric Sturgis.

While the raw totals provide some insight into how the campaigns are being financed, there’s more to it than that.

Here’s a read-only link to the Google spreadsheet used by The Chronicle to generate charts and maps: [2014 Council Campaign Finance: Ann Arbor] For readers who’d like full-sized versions of the maps embedded below, here’s a link to the Google Fusion tables: [2014 Council Campaign Finance Maps]

Below we present charts and maps to illustrate the distribution of donations by amount and geography. [Full Story]

Mayoral Election Finance 2014: Charts, Maps

According to reports filed with the Washtenaw County clerk’s office, the four Ann Arbor mayoral candidates in the Aug. 5, 2014 Democratic primary have raised a total of $153,847 in itemized cash contributions. The filing deadline for pre-primary reports was July 25.

Based on Ann Arbor’s population of about 114,000, that works out to about $1.35 per resident.

Plots of campaign contributions for four candidates in the Ann Arbor mayoral primary.

Plots of campaign contributions for four candidates in the Ann Arbor mayoral primary.

All four mayoral candidates currently serve on the Ann Arbor city council: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3).

Raising by far the most of any candidate was Christopher Taylor with $75,198. (The campaign reported a total of $75,698 in its filings, but that amount was $500 more than the contributions calculated by The Chronicle, based on the campaign finance itemized list.) [link to WC clerk filing by Christopher Taylor] Taylor’s total came from 365 contributions, with an average contribution of $206.

Next was Sally Petersen with $44,495 from 133 contributions for an average contribution of $334 per donation. Petersen’s total was boosted with a $10,000 contribution of her own and $15,000 from her husband. The $2,000 limit does not apply to candidates themselves or members of their immediate family. [link to WC clerk filing by Sally Petersen] That total does not include a $5,000 late contribution filed by Petersen, bringing the total she and her husband contributed to $30,000.

Raising $26,680 was Sabra Briere. That total came from 204 contributions, for an average contribution of $130. [link to WC clerk filing by Sabra Briere]

Raising $7,474 from 59 contributions for an average donation of $126 was Stephen Kunselman. He had been the first to announce his candidacy for mayor – before current mayor John Hieftje decided that he would not be seeking an eighth two-year term. [link to WC clerk filing by Stephen Kunselman]

By way of comparison, when Jane Lumm raised roughly $18,000 for her pre-general election race for Ward 2 council in 2011 and then raised $20,000 for the same period in 2013, those totals were considered remarkable.

Here’s a read-only link to the shared Google Spreadsheet used by The Chronicle to generate charts and maps: [2014 Mayoral Campaign Finance: Ann Arbor]

Below we present charts and maps to illustrate the distribution of donations by amount and geography. [Full Story]

County Concerned by Rise in Juvenile Crime

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (July 9, 2014): An increase in violent crime committed by teens in Washtenaw County has spurred the need for additional funding from the county’s Child Care Fund. County commissioners have authorized using $642,707 from the Child Care Fund balance to pay for a range of services overseen by the county’s dept. of human services.

Wes Vivian, Yousef Rabhi, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: former Congressman Wes Vivian talks with Washtenaw County board chair Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) before the board’s July 9 meeting. Vivian is advocating for the board to put a proposal on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. (Photos by the writer.)

Linda Edwards-Brown, the county’s juvenile division administrator, told commissioners that there’s been an increase in young men “terrorizing” their communities. The sheriff’s office and court had started working together several months ago after they began observing an increase in gang-type activity, she said, including home invasions, firearm larceny, and assaulting police officers. They’d been hopeful that they could stem the tide of violence, she added, but it had escalated with a death in Ypsilanti earlier this summer.

So the sheriff’s office and court officials have reached consensus to remove some of these young men from the community and put them into residential facilities in other parts of the state, Edwards-Brown said. The juvenile division of the Washtenaw County trial court will place at least six youths in residential facilities this month, in addition to six youths who are currently in residential placements. According to a staff memo, residential placements are costly, with a typical length of stay at nine to twelve months.

At the July 9 meeting, commissioners and staff expressed the need to continue working on this issue as a community-wide effort.

In other action, commissioners were asked to pass a resolution making mid-year budget adjustments and allocating this year’s higher-than-expected property tax revenues, as well as putting the $3.9 million surplus from 2013 into unearmarked reserves.

The adjustments passed on a 6-2 vote, with Dan Smith (R-District 2) and Conan Smith (D-District 9) dissenting. Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) was absent. Dan Smith objected to spending more than was budgeted and making budget changes outside of the annual budget affirmation process, which takes place later this year. Conan Smith didn’t state his reason for voting against it on July 9, though in the past he has advocated for spending more of the surplus, rather than setting it aside in the fund balance.

Commissioners also authorized putting a proposal on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot to renew a 10-year, 0.2353-mill countywide parks and recreation operations tax. They held public hearings related to other millages that the county plans to levy later this year: (1) for support of indigent veterans and their families; and (2) to fund economic development and agricultural activities, under Act 88. The hearings drew one speaker – Thomas Partridge.

Related to the health department, the board created a new board of health to help oversee public health services in the county. A state official was on hand to talk about the accreditation process that the Washtenaw County public health department completed earlier this year.

Commissioners voted to accept the recommendations of a task force that’s been working on a funding strategy to help end homelessness, and to sunset that task force. The board also made appointments to a new committee that’s charged with exploring funding options for road repair.

Several issues were raised during public commentary. Former Congressman Wes Vivian urged the county board to place a proposal on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot enabling Washtenaw County voters to ask the state to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. That U.S. Supreme Court ruling has resulted in corporations “sloshing big money into our elections at all levels,” Vivian said.

Also during the meeting, commissioners honored Arthur Williams, who is retiring as principal of Huron High School in Ann Arbor after 19 years in that job. The board also passed proclamations welcoming the United Association (UA) of plumbers and pipefitters and the Ironworkers International. Both unions hold training programs in Washtenaw County each summer.

At the beginning of the meeting, Rabhi asked for a moment of silence in memory of Rowan David LaBarre, the newborn son of commissioner Andy LaBarre and his wife Megan LaBarre. Rowan David had passed away earlier in the week. “We all pray and hold Rowan in the light of our prayers and thoughts,” Rabhi said. [Full Story]

July 21, 2014: Council Live Updates

Editor’s note: This “Live Updates” coverage of the Ann Arbor city council’s July 21, 2014 meeting includes all the material from an earlier preview article published last week. The intent is to facilitate easier navigation from the live updates section to background material already in this file. 

Outcomes from the meeting are also reported in the Civic News Ticker.

A common theme among several items on the Ann Arbor city council’s July 21, 2014 agenda is infrastructure. That includes physical infrastructure – like roads, sidewalks, bridges and buildings. But it also includes legal infrastructure. The council will be considering a resolution that would put a charter amendment in front of voters for the Nov. 4 election. The amendment would establish eligibility requirements for elected officials, after a federal court ruled earlier this year that the existing charter requirements are not legally enforceable.

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber, installed in the summer of 2013, includes Braille.

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber includes Braille.

Another significant item that was initially placed on the July 21 agenda – but is expected to be withdrawn by its sponsor, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) – is a resolution that would direct the city administrator to list the 415 W. Washington property for sale.

Two other land acquisition items on the agenda would put the city on the purchasing end. A resolution sponsored by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) would inquire with the owner of 2805 Burton Road, located just west of US-23, about whether it is available for purchase by the city. It’s the site of a long-in-the-works affordable housing project that has never started construction.

And a resolution sponsored by Margie Teall (Ward 4) would authorize the purchase of the property at 3401 Platt Road on behalf of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC). Cost of the purchase would be $195,000, to be reimbursed to the city by AAHC. The AAHC is undertaking reconstruction of its properties adjoining this parcel, and this acquisition would facilitate that.

The July 21 meeting is the council’s last one before the Tuesday, Aug. 5 primary elections. The meeting that week is shifted from Monday to Thursday, and will fall on Aug. 7.

Physical infrastructure on the agenda includes a $1,537,608 construction contract with Bailey Excavating Inc. for the Springwater subdivision improvements project. That work will cover the reconstruction of streets and some utilities – on Butternut Street from Cardinal Avenue to Springbrook Avenue, and Nordman Avenue from Packard Road to Redwood Avenue.

Another road reconstruction project on the agenda is a $3,445,200 agreement with the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) for the Stone School Road improvements project – between I-94 and Ellsworth Road. The planned work consists of reconstructing Stone School Road as a two-lane road with on-street bike lanes and concrete curb and gutter.

A second agreement with MDOT, which will require about $250,000 of local funding, will establish the city as construction manager for the construction of sidewalks on the south side of Scio Church Road between Delaware Drive and Maple Road, and on the south side of Barton Drive from about 250 feet west of Chandler Road to Longshore Drive. A portion of the funding for both projects will be derived from a special assessment of adjoining property owners.

Final approval of a special assessment for an additional sidewalk construction project also appears on the agenda. The sidewalk construction will be done as part of the reconstruction of Pontiac Trail beginning just north of Skydale Drive to just south of the bridge over M-14.

On July 21 the council will also be asked to approve a $104,107 contract with DLZ Michigan Inc. for the regular bridge inspection program. That includes the section of the Library Lane parking structure that is located under Fifth Avenue.

Six new pumps for the wastewater treatment plant to be purchased from Premier Pump Inc. for $425,682 is another agenda item.

With respect to legal infrastructure, a federal judge ruled earlier this year that eligibility requirements for elected officers in the city of Ann Arbor’s charter are not legally enforceable. On the council’s July 21 agenda is a resolution that would place new charter requirements on the ballot for voters to decide in the Nov. 4, 2014 election. The current charter language imposes one-year durational requirements on voter registration in the city and residency in the ward that a potential councilmember would like to represent. For mayor, the current requirement is simply a one-year durational requirement for voter registration in the city. That one year is calculated from the time an elected official takes office. The new requirements would impose a voter registration requirement at the time paperwork is submitted to qualify for the ballot.

Several items related to development also appear on the council’s July 21 agenda. The council will consider a site plan for 2625 Jackson, on the southeast corner of Jackson and I-94, and just north of the Westgate Shopping Center. The plan calls for demolishing the existing one-story service station and auto repair shop and constructing a single building with a 1,820-square-foot drive-thru restaurant and 3,220-square-foot retail center.

The council will also consider a site plan for Dusty’s Collision at 2310 South Industrial Highway, south of Jewett. The proposal calls for building a 30,537-square-foot, one-story auto collision repair facility on a parcel that’s currently vacant. The new building would include 5,285 square feet for office use, a waiting area of 5,227 square feet, and 20,025 square feet for the repair area and garage.

For State Street Village – a proposed 78-unit apartment project that will eventually appear on the council’s agenda – the council will consider giving initial approval at its July 21 meeting to the rezoning of the land. The 4.5-acre parcel would be rezoned from M1 (limited industrial district) to O (office district).

Not tied to any particular project on the July 21 agenda is final consideration by the council of a change to downtown zoning. The item is confined to a 1.1-acre parcel at 425 S. Main St. at the southeast corner of William and Main. The council gave initial approval of the rezoning – from D1 (downtown core) to D2 (downtown interface) – at its June 16 meeting that followed a complex series of votes. At the same meeting, the council also gave initial approval to a change to the overlay character district for the parcel, after amending the height limit – from 100 feet to 60 feet. Zoning changes require two votes by the council, taken at separate meetings, because they are changes to the city’s ordinances.

Another ordinance change on the July 21 agenda – which is getting final consideration by the council – is one that clarifies the composition and appointment process for the city’s environmental commission. Related thematically to that item is a resolution that clarifies the composition of the city’s commission on disability issues.

The consent agenda for July 21 includes an item that indicates the approach of fall – approval of the change to traffic patterns for the Aug. 27-29 University of Michigan student move-in.

This article includes more details for many of these agenda items. Information on other agenda items is available on the city’s online Legistar system. The meeting proceedings can be followed Monday evening live on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network starting at 7 p.m.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article below the preview material. Click here to skip the preview section and go directly to the live updates. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Kingsley Condo Project Takes Next Step

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (July 15, 2014): Commissioners unanimously recommended approval of a new condo project near downtown – 121 Kingsley West, at Kingsley and Ashley. But because recommendations of approval require six votes – and only five commissioners were present – the development will be forwarded with a recommendation of denial.

Wendy Woods, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Only five members of the nine-member Ann Arbor planning commission were present on July 15, so Wendy Woods was alone on her side of the table. She was later elected chair of the commission, and moved to a different seat to preside over the meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Developer Tom Fitzsimmons and his partners Peter Allen and Mark Berg were assured that the city council would be informed of the circumstances under which the vote was taken.

The plans call for 22 condos in two new structures and an existing building. The request is for approval of a site plan, development agreement and rezoning – from a planned unit development (PUD) to D2 (downtown interface district). The PUD, which has expired, was for a larger development on that same site that was never built – Peter Allen’s Kingsley Lane.

The tallest building at 121 Kingsley West would be 58.4 feet high – just under the 60-foot height limit for D2 zoning.

In other action on July 15, commissioners elected new officers for the coming fiscal year, which began on July 1. Wendy Woods was unanimously elected to serve as the commission’s chair, replacing Kirk Westphal. She has served as vice chair for the past two years. Ken Clein, who has served as secretary, was elected vice chair, replacing Woods in that position. Westphal reported that Jeremy Peters had expressed interest in serving as secretary, though he did not attend the July 15 meeting. Peters was unanimously elected to that position. None of the officer elections were contested.

Planning commissioners also unanimously adopted a master plan resolution and list of resource documents used to support the master plan. This is part of an annual evaluation of the master plan that’s required by the commission’s bylaws. There are no significant changes. Separately, they voted to approve the FY 2015 work program, which planning manager Wendy Rampson characterized as ambitious. [Full Story]

July 21, 2014: City Council Meeting Preview

A common theme among several items on the Ann Arbor city council’s July 21, 2014 agenda is infrastructure. That includes physical infrastructure – like roads, sidewalks, bridges and buildings. But it also includes legal infrastructure. The council will be considering a resolution that would put a charter amendment in front of voters for the Nov. 4 election. The amendment would establish eligibility requirements for elected officials, after a federal court ruled earlier this year that the existing charter requirements are not legally enforceable.

Screenshot of Legistar – the city of Ann Arbor online agenda management system. Image links to the next meeting agenda.

Screenshot of Legistar – the city of Ann Arbor’s online agenda management system. Image links to the July 21, 2014 meeting agenda.

Another significant item appearing on the July 21 agenda is a resolution that would direct the city administrator to list the 415 W. Washington property for sale. That would follow the listing of two other city-owned properties in the last year and a half – the former Y lot and the development rights to the top of the Library Lane parking garage.

Two other land acquisition item on the agenda would put the city on the purchasing end. A resolution sponsored by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) would inquire with the owner of 2805 Burton Road, located just west of US-23, about whether it is available for purchase by the city. It’s the site of a long-in-the-works affordable housing project that has never started construction.

And a resolution sponsored by Margie Teall (Ward 4) would authorize the purchase of the property at 3401 Platt Road on behalf of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC). Cost of the purchase would be $195,000, to be reimbursed to the city by AAHC. The AAHC is undertaking reconstruction of its properties adjoining this parcel, and this acquisition would facilitate that.

The July 21 meeting is the council’s last one before the Tuesday, Aug. 5 primary elections. The meeting that week is shifted from Monday to Thursday, and will fall on Aug. 7.

Physical infrastructure on the agenda includes a $1,537,608 construction contract with Bailey Excavating Inc. for the Springwater subdivision improvements project. That work will cover the reconstruction of streets and some utilities – on Butternut Street from Cardinal Avenue to Springbrook Avenue, and Nordman Avenue from Packard Road to Redwood Avenue.

Another road reconstruction project on the agenda is a $3,445,200 agreement with the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) for the Stone School Road improvements project – between I-94 and Ellsworth Road. The planned work consists of reconstructing Stone School Road as a two-lane road with on-street bike lanes and concrete curb and gutter.

A second agreement with MDOT, which will require about $250,000 of local funding, will establish the city as construction manager for the construction of sidewalks on the south side of Scio Church Road between Delaware Drive and Maple Road, and on the south side of Barton Drive from about 250 feet west of Chandler Road to Longshore Drive. A portion of the funding for both projects will be derived from a special assessment of adjoining property owners.

Final approval of a special assessment for an additional sidewalk construction project also appears on the agenda. The sidewalk construction will be done as part of the reconstruction of Pontiac Trail beginning just north of Skydale Drive to just south of the bridge over M-14.

On July 21 the council will also be asked to approve a $104,107 contract with DLZ Michigan Inc. for the regular bridge inspection program. That includes the section of the Library Lane parking structure that is located under Fifth Avenue.

Six new pumps for the wastewater treatment plant to be purchased from Premier Pump Inc. for $425,682 is another agenda item.

With respect to legal infrastructure, a federal judge ruled earlier this year that eligibility requirements for elected officers in the city of Ann Arbor’s charter are not legally enforceable. On the council’s July 21 agenda is a resolution that would place new charter requirements on the ballot for voters to decide in the Nov. 4, 2014 election. The current charter language imposes one-year durational requirements on voter registration in the city and residency in the ward that a potential councilmember would like to represent. For mayor, the current requirement is simply a one-year durational requirement for voter registration in the city. That one year is calculated from the time an elected official takes office. The new requirements, would impose a voter registration requirement at the time paperwork is submitted to qualify for the ballot.

Several items related to development also appear on the council’s July 21 agenda. The council will consider a site plan for 2625 Jackson, on the southeast corner of Jackson and I-94, and just north of the Westgate Shopping Center. The plan calls for demolishing the existing one-story service station and auto repair shop and constructing a single building with a 1,820-square-foot drive-thru restaurant and 3,220-square-foot retail center.

The council will also consider a site plan for Dusty’s Collision at 2310 South Industrial Highway, south of Jewett. The proposal calls for building a 30,537-square-foot, one-story auto collision repair facility on a parcel that’s currently vacant. The new building would include 5,285 square feet for office use, a waiting area of 5,227 square feet, and 20,025 square feet for the repair area and garage.

For State Street Village – a proposed 78-unit apartment project that will eventually appear on the council’s agenda – the council will consider giving initial approval at its July 21 meeting to the rezoning of the land. The 4.5-acre parcel would be rezoned from M1 (limited industrial district) to O (office district).

Not tied to any particular project on the July 21 agenda is final consideration by the council of a change to downtown zoning. The item is confined to a 1.1-acre parcel at 425 S. Main St. at the southeast corner of William and Main. The council gave initial approval of the rezoning – from D1 (downtown core) to D2 (downtown interface) at its June 16 meeting that followed a complex series of votes. At the same meeting, the council also gave initial approval to a change to the overlay character district for the parcel, after amending the height limit – from 100 feet to 60 feet. Zoning changes require two votes by the council, taken at separate meetings, because they are changes to the city’s ordinances.

Another ordinance change on the July 21 agenda – which is getting final consideration by the council – is one that clarifies the composition and appointment process for the city’s environmental commission. Related thematically to that item is a resolution that clarifies the composition of the city’s commission on disability issues.

The consent agenda for July 21 includes an item that indicates the approach of fall – approval of the change to traffic patterns for the Aug. 27-29 University of Michigan student move-in.

This article includes a more detailed preview of many of these agenda items. More details on other agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. The meeting proceedings can be followed Monday evening live on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network starting at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Five Candidates Vie for Probate Judgeship

Five candidates seeking to be the next Washtenaw County probate judge answered questions about themselves, probate law and general judicial philosophy at a candidate forum held July 7, 2014. The forum was moderated by the League of Women Voters and broadcast on Community Television Network.

Probate court candidates from left: Jane Bassett, Tamara Garwood, Constance Jones, Julia Owdziej and Tracy Van den Bergh.

Probate court candidates from left: Jane Bassett, Tamara Garwood, Constance Jones, Julia Owdziej and Tracy Van den Bergh.

Jane Bassett, Tamara Garwood, Constance Jones, Tracy Van den Bergh and recently appointed judge Julia Owdziej will appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot. The nonpartisan primary will narrow the race to two candidates for the Nov. 4 general election.

Owdziej was appointed to the seat by Gov. Rick Snyder just last month, on June 2, to fill the vacancy on the court left by Nancy Wheeler’s retirement. The announcement of that retirement came on May 1, after candidates had filed to run. Wheeler was expected to retire at the end of the year, but it came earlier than expected due to health reasons. Bassett, Garwood and Jones currently work in private practice while Van den Bergh is a staff attorney for a legal services nonprofit.

On its Vote411.org website, the LWV has posted candidates’ written responses to questions: [Probate court candidate responses] As of July 17, the Vote411.org website had not been updated to reflect the fact that the race now has an incumbent.

The county probate judge handles largely estate cases, and issues regarding mental health and addiction. During the July 7 judicial forum, the candidates made opening statements, answered six questions and then made closing statements. The forum was moderated by Miriam Eve Borenstein with questions predetermined by the League of Women Voters after asking for public submissions.

Candidates’ remarks are summarized below. To view the recorded video from the probate court LWV forum, use Community Television Network’s video on demand.  [Full Story]

Circuit Court Race: Conlin, Woodyard, Liem

On July 7, 2014, three candidates vying to fill a vacancy on Washtenaw’s 22nd circuit court participated in a League of Women Voters forum.

Candidates for the circuit court judgeship from left: Michael Woodyard, Veronique Liem, Pat Conlin.

Candidates for the circuit court judgeship from left: Michael Woodyard, Veronique Liem, Pat Conlin.

Pat Conlin, Veronique Liem and Michael Woodyard will compete in the nonpartisan Aug. 5 primary, which will advance the top two candidates to the Nov. 4 general election. The winner of that contest will fill the open seat left by judge Donald Shelton, who turned 70 in June. According to Michigan state law, only a person under the age of 70 can be appointed or run for the position of judge.

The circuit court tries felonies and criminal matters, family law, and civil disputes where claims are greater than $25,000. However, the docket for this particular seat on the circuit court is heavily weighted toward family cases.

Conlin and Liem are local attorneys, while Woodyard works in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. At the July 7 forum, the candidates fielded questions covered topics including: family, the visibility of the court and general judicial philosophy.

A second seat on the court is also up for election, as judge David Swartz is at the end of a six-year term. He is running uncontested to retain his 22nd circuit court incumbent seat.

On its Vote411.org website, the LWV has posted candidates’ written responses to questions: [22nd circuit court candidate responses]

At the July 7 LWV forum, the candidates made opening statements, answered six questions and then made closing statements. The forum was moderated by Miriam Eve Borenstein, with questions predetermined by the league after asking for public submissions.

Candidates’ remarks are summarized below. To view the recorded video from the 22nd circuit court LWV forum, use Community Television Network’s video on demand.  [Full Story]

Court to Ann Arbor: Aren’t You in Contempt?

A procedural issue related to the Ann Arbor Ward 3 city council ballot counting question has been decided by a federal court as expected: The Michigan Secretary of State has been allowed as an intervening party in the dispute.

Not necessarily expected, however, was the court’s issuance of a show cause order that requires the city of Ann Arbor to demonstrate why the city is not in contempt of court.

Excerpt from judge Lawrence Zatkoff's show cause order, requiring the city of Ann Arbor to demonstrate that it is not in contempt of the court order that disallowed the enforcement of eligibility requirements for city officials against Bob Dascola.

Excerpt from judge Lawrence Zatkoff’s show cause order, requiring the city of Ann Arbor to demonstrate that it is not in contempt of the court order that disallowed the enforcement of eligibility requirements for city officials against Bob Dascola.

The court has essentially ordered the city to present an explanation for the fact that the city clerk sent out ballots to 392 absentee voters in the Aug. 5, 2014 primary that did not contain Bob Dascola’s name – after the court had earlier ruled that the city’s eligibility requirements could not be enforced against Dascola.

Both of the most recent decisions were issued by the court on July 16, 2014.

[July 16, 2014 Show Cause Order] [July 16, 2014 Order on Intervention] [.pdf of July 11, 2014 SoS motion to intervene]

The prior court ruling on May 20, 2014 had held that the city charter’s eligibility requirements are not enforceable. And the effect of that ruling was that the city was supposed to place Bob Dascola‘s name on the Ward 3 city council ballot for the Aug. 5, 2014 Democratic primary. Printed correctly on the ballots were the names of the other two candidates: Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen. [Full Story]

Live Mayoral Forum: Affordable Housing

A forum for Ann Arbor mayoral candidates  is being hosted tonight at 7 p.m. at St. Clare’s and Temple Beth Emeth, located at Genesis of Ann Arbor at 2309 Packard St. The forum will focus on issues of homelessness and affordable housing.

The Delonis Center on W. Huron Street is, for many, the face of the Ann Arbor s  effort to shelter the homeless.

The Delonis Center on W. Huron Street is, for many, the face of Ann Arbor’s effort to shelter the homeless.

Competition for the Democratic Party’s mayoral nomination is a four-way race: Stephen KunselmanSabra BriereChristopher Taylor, and Sally Petersen. All candidates currently serve on the Ann Arbor city council. Kunselman and Briere are in the middle of their two-year terms, while Taylor and Petersen have chosen to run for mayor instead of seeking re-election to their Ward 3 and Ward 2 council seats, respectively.

The topics of homelessness and affordable housing have come up at previous mayoral forums – such as those hosted by Literati Bookstore, the League of Women Voters and the Ann Arbor Democratic Party. Here’s an .mp3 file from the Dems forum that includes just candidates’ responses to a question about affordable housing: [.mp3 of responses on affordable housing]

Tonight’s forum will be moderated by Julie Steiner, former executive director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. Candidates will have five minutes to talk about addressing homelessness and increasing affordable housing in Ann Arbor. Candidates will then respond to questions prepared by local advocacy groups, service providers, and faith communities. Questions from the audience will then be answered.

Listen to the forum live in the embedded audio player below. [Full Story]

Live from the Library: Ward 2 Council Forum

The Orchard Hills-Maplewood neighborhood association is hosting a forum tonight (July 14) at 7 p.m. for Ward 2 city council candidates in the Democratic primary election, to be held Aug. 5, 2014.

Group photo of candidates in Ward 1, Ward 2 and Ward 3 at the Ann Arbor Democratic Party forum held on Saturday, July 12, 2014. From right: Don Adams and Sumi Kailasapathy; Nancy Kaplan and Kirk Westphal; Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and Bob Dascola.

Group photo of candidates in Ward 1, Ward 2 and Ward 3 at the Ann Arbor Democratic Party forum held on Saturday, July 12, 2014. From right: Ward 1 candidates Don Adams and Sumi Kailasapathy; Ward 2 candidates Nancy Kaplan and Kirk Westphal; and Ward 3 candidates Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and Bob Dascola.

The forum will be held at the Traverwood branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.

The Ward 2 city council race features Kirk Westphal, current chair of the city planning commission, and Nancy Kaplan, current trustee on the Ann Arbor District Library board.

There’s no incumbent in this race, because Ward 2 city councilmember Sally Petersen is running for mayor instead of re-election.

The Chronicle plans to broadcast live audio of the event. The live audio player is embedded below. After the event, it will be replaced with an .mp3 recording. Update: Several .mp3 files broken down by question are now included in the article in place of the live-stream player.

Previous Chronicle coverage of the Ward 2 city council race includes: “Ward 2 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast” (embedded video with transcript in a scrolling text box) and “Council Candidates Live: Ann Arbor Dems” (.mp3 audio files).

Community Television Network has pre-recorded some comments from candidates in all races. [link to CTN video-on-demand for council candidate comments ]

And the League of Women Voters provides written candidate profiles with responses to questions on its Vote411.org website. [Ward 2 Vote411.org profiles]

Listen below to the live broadcast from the Traverwood branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. [Full Story]

Concerns Lead to Delay for Glendale Condos

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (July 1, 2014): Four projects appeared on the July 1 planning commission agenda, but the meeting was dominated by public commentary and discussion of one in particular: A proposed condominium development at 312 Glendale, the site of a former orchard just south of Jackson Avenue.

Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Residents who live near the proposed Glendale Condos development turned out to oppose the project, which was postponed by planning commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

Nearly two dozen residents spoke during a public hearing to oppose the project at 312 Glendale, citing concerns about increased flooding and other stormwater problems, dangers of a proposed retention/detention pond, increased traffic, and a loss of landmark tress and green space.

The project had been previously postponed a year ago, at the planning commission’s July 16, 2013 meeting. That meeting had drawn about an hour of commentary from residents who opposed it then as well.

The current proposal has been scaled back – but still drew considerably opposition. The plan now calls for six duplexes, each with two two-bedroom condos. (The original proposal had been for eight duplexes.) Based on the size of the parcel and the site’s zoning, up to 39 units would be allowed by right.

It was a retention/detention pond that drew most concern from commissioners. Wendy Woods said the potential danger it posed would prevent her from supporting the project. Ken Clein questioned the contention of the architect, Scott Bowers, that the pond had been mandated by the office of the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner. Clein and other commissioners asked planning staff to get more information from the water resources commissioner about whether there are other options to handle all of the site’s water detention – such as additional underground systems.

The water resources commissioner is Evan Pratt, who formerly served on the Ann Arbor planning commission.

Also prompting some concerns – but ultimately gaining a recommendation of approval from commissioners – was a proposal for new condominiums on West Liberty Street, called The Mark. The proposal from developer Alex de Parry is to demolish an existing car wash at 318 W. Liberty and build an 11,910-square-foot structure with seven residential condominiums – five two-bedroom and two three-bedroom units. Each condo would have its own two-car tandem garage for a total of 14 parking spaces, although no parking is required.

The lot, on the north side of Liberty, is east of the historic Peter Brehme house at 326 W. Liberty and located in the Old West Side historic district. Concerns raised during a public hearing focused on the fact that a small portion of the site’s corner lies within the floodplain, as well as a general objection to high-end development in the downtown core. One woman also criticized the aesthetics and height of the project. The project’s architect, Brad Moore, responded to concerns about the floodplain by saying that none of the building is within the floodplain. The garages are out of the floodplain, and the living space is located above the garages, he noted.

Two other projects were recommended for approval during the 4.5-hour meeting. Delta Chi plans to tear down its existing fraternity house at the corner of Hill and Oxford and build a much larger structure in its place. The current occupancy of 23 residents would increase to 34 people, including a resident manager. A fraternity representative fielded questions about the decision not to make a voluntary parks contribution. Some commissioners expressed skepticism at the contention that fraternity members didn’t use city parks, and asked that the contribution be reconsidered.

Finally, a $10.5 million expansion of the Gift of Life Michigan facility on Research Park Drive is moving forward to city council, after planning commissioners recommended approval of a site plan and rezoning. The nonprofit wants to build a three-story, 40,786-square-foot addition to connect two existing buildings at 3161 and 3169 Research Park Drive. The additional space will accommodate offices, a special events auditorium and “organ procurement suites.” The nonprofit’s website states that the Gift of Life is Michigan’s only federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. [Full Story]

Greenbelt Communications Plan In Progress

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (July 3, 2014): Commissioners spent most of their relatively brief July meeting in closed session to discuss land acquisition.

John Ramsburgh, Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

John Ramsburgh serves on the greenbelt advisory commission’s communications committee. (Photos by the writer.)

The main discussion in open session focused on an update from GAC’s communications committee. The committee has recommended creating an internship for the city’s greenbelt program, drawing from students at the University of Michigan. John Ramsburgh, a GAC member who works for UM’s College of Literature, Science & the Arts, said that his unit could provide office space and resources for the intern.

The work would entail a range of projects, including collaboration with city GIS staff to develop driving or biking maps of greenbelt-protected properties, and drafting Twitter posts and Facebook updates that would promote the greenbelt program. After other commissioners reached consensus to support this approach, Ramsburgh said he’d post the opening with the hope of selecting an intern for the fall semester.

Also at the July 3 meeting, Ginny Trocchio – who provides staff support for the greenbelt program – told commissioners that the city had recently closed a deal to purchase development rights for about 20 acres along Zeeb Road in Webster Township. The transaction brings the total of greenbelt-protected property to a bit over 4,300 acres. [Full Story]

Council Candidates Live: Ann Arbor Dems

The Ann Arbor Democratic Party is hosting a forum for city council candidates this morning, July 12, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center at 625 North Main Street.

micro-phone

This is a microphone.

The Chronicle plans to broadcast live audio from the event. A live-stream audio player is included below. [Updated: The live stream audio player has been replaced with a set of .mp3 audio files from the event.]

Primary elections take place on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014.

All candidates who have qualified for partisan primary ballots are Democrats. No Republicans have filed in any ward. In Wards 1, 2 and 3, the Democratic primary is contested.

The Ward 1 race features one-term incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams, who is seeking elected office for the first time. [Ward 1 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast]

The Ward 2 city council race features current chair of the city planning commission, Kirk Westphal, and current trustee on the Ann Arbor District Library board, Nancy Kaplan. [Ward 2 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast]

This year’s Ward 3 contest features Julie GrandBob Dascola and Samuel McMullen, who are all competing for the seat that Christopher Taylor is leaving in order to run for mayor. [Ward 3 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast]

Ward 4 does not offer a contested race. Graydon Krapohl, a Democrat who is currently vice chair of the park advisory commission, is the only person who has qualified for the ballot.

The race in Ward 5 is also uncontested, practically speaking. Leon Bryson, who will appear on the Democratic primary ballot, has announced that he’s withdrawn his candidacy and won’t campaign for the seat. That means that one-term incumbent Chuck Warpehoski is almost certain to prevail in the primary.

Listen to the broadcast from the July 12 forum using the audio player below.  [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Ballot Dispute: Michigan Wants In

Michigan’s Secretary of State has asked the federal district court to be allowed as an intervening party to an action that is currently pending before the court – on the question of how to count ballots in the city of Ann Arbor Ward 3 Democratic primary.

From left: Bob Dascola, Secretary of State seal, city of Ann Arbor seal.

From left: Bob Dascola, Secretary of State seal, city of Ann Arbor seal.

The motion on behalf of the Secretary of State was filed by the Michigan Attorney General on Friday, July 11. [.pdf of July 11, 2014 motion to intervene]

In-person voting for the election takes place on Aug. 5, 2014. But the point in dispute concerns ballots that were printed incorrectly and sent to absentee voters.  The question of counting votes has arisen because the incorrectly printed ballots omitted the name of one of the candidates. Printed correctly on the ballots were Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen. However, Bob Dascola – who had filed a successful lawsuit against the city in order to be a candidate – was mistakenly left off the ballots.

Just a few days after the roughly 400 incorrectly-printed ballots were sent out, the city sent out replacement ballots with a letter of instructions. The city is making additional efforts to contact voters who sent in an incorrectly-printed ballot – to reduce the potential number of ballots that might eventually be in dispute. The disputed question is whether to count any votes in the Ward 3 race that are might cast on an incorrectly printed ballot.

Amid the ballot-counting controversy, the candidates continue to campaign for the seat to represent Ward 3 in the city of Ann Arbor – a ward that has historically seen some close primary races. In 2009, the margin achieved by Stephen Kunselman over the Ward 3 incumbent, Leigh Greden, was just six votes.

All three candidates appeared in a League of Women Voters candidate forum earlier this week. Chronicle coverage in ”Ward 3 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast” includes an embedded video player for playing back the forum, along with a transcript in a scrollable text box.

The Ward 3 candidates are also invited to participate in the Ann Arbor Democratic Party city council candidate forum, scheduled for Saturday, July 12 at 10 a.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main St. The Chronicle is planning to provide a live audio feed from that event.

The Secretary of State’s current position is that votes in the Ward 3 race that are cast with the incorrectly printed ballots should still be counted – if no replacement ballot is sent in by the voter. That’s a reversal of the state’s own position taken when the question was first considered. The state is asking the federal court to be allowed as an intervening party, in order to put its arguments in front of the court. The state’s motion to intervene comes after Bob Dascola’s attorney, Tom Wieder, filed a motion at the beginning of the week – on Monday, July 7 – seeking to prevent the city of Ann Arbor from counting Ward 3 votes cast on defective ballots.

Wieder’s July 7 motion was filed as a request for post-judgment relief in the federal case that was litigated to put Dascola’s name on the ballot in the first place. In that ruling, the court decided that the city charter eligibility requirements are not enforceable. Related to that, the city council is beginning to contemplate the steps necessary to make a change to those eligibility requirements.

The city’s response to Wieder’s motion, filed two days later, took no position on the question of how the ballots should be counted. But the entire response brief, including exhibits, runs 49 pages. [.pdf of city of Ann Arbor's July 9, 2014 response] The reply from Wieder on Dascola’s behalf was filed the following day. [.pdf of July 10, 2014 reply brief] [Full Story]

Column: Greek Drama In A Public Park

I was first introduced to Greek drama in my sophomore year of high school.

Here’s bit of friendly advice to high school teachers everywhere: If you take a group of kids in southern Indiana and assign them parts in Anouilh’s Antigone to read aloud sitting at their desks, at least one of those kids will contemplate stabbing out his own eyes as a way to avoid doing that.

This is Emily Caffery as Elektra, making her entrance onto the stage at West Park on opening night, July 9, 2014.

This is Emily Caffery as Elektra, making her entrance onto the stage at West Park on opening night, July 10, 2014.

Because I am not a hero in a Greek play, I did not act on the inclination. But based on that first exposure to Greek drama, I did not develop an appreciation for it, or any other literary tradition. In literary terms, this failure to “develop an appreciation” for Greek drama is, I believe, accurately described as “understatement.”

So I must avail myself of another highfalutin literary device (irony) to urge you, Chronicle readers, to attend one of the upcoming performances of “Elektra,” this year’s Penny Seats Theatre Company West Park production.

Opening night was July 10. It will be performed over three weekends: July 10-12, July 17-19 and July 24-26. Buy a ticket.

To be clear, it’s not Greek drama I’m trying to sell you. I’d like to sell you on the idea of Greek drama performed in West Park, one of 157 parks here in Ann Arbor.

I want to sell you on that idea, because mostly when you read about Ann Arbor’s parks in The Chronicle, it’s in some super policy-wonky context. Sometimes that context is the city council, when it’s engaged in its own park-based drama. Or it’s our coverage of the park advisory commission.

So in the Penny Seats production of “Elektra,” I spotted an opening to pitch Ann Arbor’s parks to readers – in a different way than we typically cover them.

West Park is just west of downtown, between Chapin and Seventh streets. Motorists on Huron Street will be familiar with the park’s general location, even if they don’t know the park itself: It’s north of the HAWK crosswalk pedestrian signal as you pass the Y building.

Pedestrians who cross Huron at the HAWK crosswalk, and head a half block north along Chapin, will find the park entrance on the left. From that direction, the park offers a fairly conventional playground, a basketball court and a Project Grow gardening plot. A bit farther to the west, hugging the northern portion of the park, is a baseball field. And to be perfectly clear, that’s a baseball (not softball) field – which has been described by players as the best place to play baseball in all of lower Michigan. To the south, there’s a pond or wetland type area. A boardwalk leads across it, so you can stop along the way and make friends with a frog, some duck or a muskrat.

On up the hill to the west, past the ball field and the wetland, is the bandshell, with a series of seatwalls. The Penny Seats production of “Elektra” is being performed on the apron immediately in front of the seatwalls, not on the bandshell stage.

I attended opening night of “Elektra.”

I’ll grant you that the opening to this column might have convinced you that I am not to be trusted on theatrical matters. I do have one credential, however. The summer after that high school English class – the one that made me think about stabbing out my eyes – our teacher bused us up to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. We attended a half-dozen performances. So I think I have some frame of reference for what a professionally-produced stage performance is supposed to look and sound like.

And professional is what the Penny Seats production sounds like. Listen for yourself: [.mp3 Elektra Snippet 1] [.mp3 Elektra Snippet 2] [.mp3 Elektra Snippet 3] [Full Story]

Mayoral Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area is hosting candidate forums for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections, as it does every year for local races.

All the mayoral candidates participated in Ann Arbor's Fourth of July parade. Clockwise from upper left: Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, Christopher Taylor, Sally Petersen.

All the mayoral candidates participated in Ann Arbor’s Fourth of July parade. Clockwise from upper left: Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, Christopher Taylor, Sally Petersen.

Competition for the Democratic Party’s mayoral nomination is a four-way race:  Stephen KunselmanSabra BriereChristopher TaylorSally Petersen.

The scheduled broadcast start time on CTN is at 8 p.m. today (July 9) and can be viewed as a live video stream in the embedded player below.

The relatively large field this year is due to the fact that there is no incumbent in the race. Current mayor John Hieftje announced last year that he would not be seeking re-election to an eighth two-year term. No Republican stepped forward to run. Although one independent candidate, Bryan Kelly, has submitted some petitions to appear on the November ballot, he has not yet filed a sufficient number of signatures to qualify. The winner of the Democratic primary has a strong likelihood of election in the fall, regardless of other candidates who might qualify.

All four mayoral candidates are current members of the city council. Briere and Kunselman are in the middle of their two-year terms and will continue to serve on the council, even if they don’t prevail in the mayor’s race. Taylor and Petersen are at the end of their terms and will not continue their service on the council unless they are elected mayor.

CTN has pre-recorded some comments from candidates in all races. [link to CTN video-on-demand for mayoral candidate comments ]

And the League of Women Voters provides written candidate profiles with responses to questions on its Vote411.org website. [Mayoral Vote411.org profiles]

For a Chronicle column on the mayoral campaigns, see: “Mayoral Folk, Easy Listening

If you’re not sure whether you’re registered to vote or you’re not sure which ward you live in, Michigan’s Secretary of State website offers an easy way to check.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it to the polls on Aug. 5, an application to receive an absentee ballot can be downloaded from the city clerk’s website. [.pdf of absentee ballot application form]

Completed applications can be mailed or hand delivered to the clerk’s office on the second floor of city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The applications can also be scanned and emailed to cityclerk@a2gov.org.

Watch the mayoral candidate forum below. [Full Story]

Ward 3 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area is hosting candidate forums for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections, as it does every year for local races.

Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and Bob Dascola at Ann Arbor's Fourth of July parade.

Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and Bob Dascola at Ann Arbor’s Fourth of July parade.

This year’s Ward 3 contest features Julie Grand, Bob Dascola and Samuel McMullen.

Grand is a lecturer in public health policy at the University of Michigan Dearborn, and former chair of the city’s park advisory commission. She fell about 60 votes short of prevailing in last year’s primary against Stephen Kunselman.

Dascola owns a downtown barbershop. He filed a successful lawsuit to be placed on the ballot this year.

McMullen is a University of Michigan sophomore, who graduated from Rudolf Steiner High School in Ann Arbor.

The scheduled broadcast start time on CTN is at 9 p.m. today (July 8) and can be viewed as a live video stream in the embedded player below.

CTN has pre-recorded some comments from candidates in all races. [link to CTN video-on-demand for council candidate comments ]

And the League of Women Voters provides written candidate profiles with responses to questions on its Vote411.org website. [Ward 3 Vote411.org profiles]

If you’re not sure whether you’re registered to vote or you’re not sure which ward you live in, Michigan’s Secretary of State website offers an easy way to check.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it to the polls on Aug. 5, an application to receive an absentee ballot can be downloaded from the city clerk’s website. [.pdf of absentee ballot application form]

Completed applications can be mailed or hand delivered to the clerk’s office on the second floor of city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

The applications can also be scanned and emailed to cityclerk@a2gov.org.

Watch the Ward 3 candidate forum below. [Full Story]

Ward 2 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area is hosting candidate forums for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections, as it does every year for local races.

Nancy Kaplan and Kirk Westphal at Ann Arbor's Fourth of July parade.

Nancy Kaplan and Kirk Westphal marches in Ann Arbor’s Fourth of July parade.

The Ward 2 city council Democratic primary forum features current chair of the city planning commission, Kirk Westphal and current trustee on the board of the Ann Arbor District Library board, Nancy Kaplan.

The Ward 2 seat does not have an incumbent this year, because Sally Petersen is running for mayor, instead of seeking re-election to another two-year term on the city council.

The scheduled broadcast start time on CTN is at 8 p.m. today (July 8) and can be viewed as a live video stream in the embedded player below.

CTN has pre-recorded some comments from candidates in all races. [link to CTN video-on-demand for council candidate comments ]

And the League of Women Voters provides written candidate profiles with responses to questions on its Vote411.org website. [Ward 2 Vote411.org profiles]

If you’re not sure whether you’re registered to vote or you’re not sure which ward you live in, Michigan’s Secretary of State website offers an easy way to check.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it to the polls on Aug. 5, an application to receive an absentee ballot can be downloaded from the city clerk’s website. [.pdf of absentee ballot application form] Completed applications can be mailed or hand delivered to the clerk’s office on the second floor of city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The applications can also be scanned and emailed to cityclerk@a2gov.org.

Watch the Ward 2 candidate forum below. The Ward 3 candidate forum will follow at 9 p.m. [Full Story]

Ward 1 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area is hosting candidate forums for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections, as it does every year for local races.

Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams marched in Ann Arbor's Fourth of July parade.

Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams marched in Ann Arbor’s Fourth of July parade.

The Ward 1 city council Democratic primary forum features one-term incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams, who is seeking elected office for the first time. The scheduled broadcast start time on CTN is at 7 p.m. today (July 8) and can be viewed as a live video stream in the embedded player below.

CTN has pre-recorded some comments from candidates in all races. [link to CTN video-on-demand for council candidate comments ]

And the League of Women Voters provides written candidate profiles with responses to questions on its Vote411.org website. [Ward 1 Vote411.org profiles]

If you’re not sure whether you’re registered to vote or you’re not sure which ward you live in, Michigan’s Secretary of State website offers an easy way to check.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it to the polls on Aug. 5, an application to receive an absentee ballot can be downloaded from the city clerk’s website. [.pdf of absentee ballot application form] Completed applications can be mailed or hand delivered to the clerk’s office on the second floor of city hall, 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The applications can also be scanned and emailed to cityclerk@a2gov.org.

Watch the Ward 1 candidate forum below. The Ward 1 forum will be followed by Ward 2 and Ward 3 at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively. [Full Story]

Election Commish Live: Which Votes Count?

Update: No decision was made by the city election commission today. The city attorney will be filing a response to Wieder’s motion that does not take a position on the question, but will ask the court to decide. The two sides have agreed to ask the court for an expedited ruling. We’ll get an update on Tuesday, July 15, when the election commission next meets.

At 11 a.m. today, July 8, the Ann Arbor city election commission will meet to discuss the question of how to count votes that are cast in the Ward 3 Democratic primary. In-person voting for the election takes place on Aug. 5, 2014. But the point in dispute concerns ballots that were printed incorrectly and sent to absentee voters.

This was how the incorrectly printed ballots appeared for the Ward 3 Democratic primary race. The city of Ann Arbor has sent replacement ballots to the absentee voters who received such a ballot. Subject of controversy now is whether votes cast with such a ballot should count.

This was how the incorrectly printed ballots appeared for the Ward 3 Democratic primary race. Bob Dascola’s name was erroneously omitted. The city of Ann Arbor has sent replacement ballots to the absentee voters who received such a ballot. The subject of controversy now is whether votes cast with the incorrect ballot should count.

To listen live to the commission’s discussion, use the audio player below. After the meeting, The Chronicle will make an audio recording available in place of the live-stream player.

The question of counting votes has arisen because the ballots for the race were initially printed incorrectly, omitting the name of one of the candidates. Printed correctly on the ballots were Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen. However, Bob Dascola – who had filed a successful lawsuit against the city in order to be a candidate – was mistakenly left off the ballots.

About 400 of those incorrect ballots were sent to absentee voters. The city has taken steps to attempt to rectify the situation, sending replacement ballots with instructions to those voters who received incorrect ballots. For background on the series of events that led to the incorrect printing of ballots, see “Dascola Mistakenly Left Off Ward 3 Ballot.”

Dascola’s attorney, Tom Wieder, filed a motion in federal court on July 7, asking that the city be enjoined from counting votes in the Ward 3 race that were cast on incorrectly printed ballots. [.pdf of July 7, 2014 motion] [.pdf of July 7, 2014 exhibit] That motion was filed as a request for post-judgment relief in the federal case that was litigated to put Dascola’s name on the ballot in the first place. In that ruling, the court decided that the city charter eligibility requirements are not enforceable. Related to that, the city council is beginning to contemplate the steps necessary to make a change to those eligibility requirements.

The ballot counting situation has been complicated by the fact that the Michigan Dept. of State reversed its own position on the matter. On Friday, June 27, the Michigan Dept. of State had indicated that if someone mails in only the incorrect ballot, then their Ward 3 vote on the incorrect ballot should not be counted; their votes in other races, however, should be counted. [.pdf of June 27, 2014 email from Michigan Dept. of State] But by Monday, June 30, the Michigan Dept. of State had reached a different conclusion. That new conclusion was this: If a voter submits only an incorrect ballot, then their vote in the Ward 3 race will count. [.pdf of June 30, 2014 email from the Michigan Dept. of State]

The Ann Arbor city council held a closed session during its regular July 7 meeting that could have included discussion of the Ward 3 ballot-counting issue. Because it involves pending litigation, the topic is eligible to be discussed in a closed session held under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. It’s possible that the election commission might also vote to go into closed session to discuss the issue.

Two key questions that might be addressed by the city election commission are: (1) Does the State Bureau of Elections have binding authority to direct the city election commission on the question of how the ballots are to be counted? and (2) What is the legal basis of the BoE’s conclusion that Ward 3 votes can be counted from ballots that did not include Dascola’s name as a choice?

Under the city charter, the city election commission consists of the city clerk, who serves as chair (Jackie Beaudry), the city attorney (Stephen Postema), and the chief of police (John Seto). The city charter states that the election commission should settle questions about election procedures: “In any case of doubt concerning election procedure, the Election Commission shall prescribe the procedure to be followed.” [Full Story]

July 7, 2014: Council Live Updates

Editor’s note: This “Live Updates” coverage of the Ann Arbor city council’s July 7, 2014 meeting includes all the material from an earlier preview article published last week. The intent is to facilitate easier navigation from the live updates section to background material already in this file.

The Ann Arbor city council’s first meeting of the fiscal year is also the next-to-last one before the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections for city council and mayor.

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber, installed in the summer of 2013, includes Braille.

The sign on the door to the Ann Arbor city council chamber includes Braille.

A month before the dog days actually begin, the council will be considering as part of its July 7 agenda a resolution that would pay Washtenaw County $135,570 for animal control services. The county in turn contracts with the Humane Society of Huron Valley for those services. This is a new arrangement, based on recommendations from a 2012 county task force. The idea is that local governments in the county with their own dog licensing programs, which generate revenue through licensing, should shoulder part of the cost of the county’s animal control contract. Ann Arbor has its own dog licensing program.

The July 7 agenda is heavy with items related to infrastructure. Three special assessments for the construction of new sidewalks are on the agenda for final approval: Stone School Road, Barton Drive and Scio Church Road. And the council will be considering approval of contracts for street repair associated with utilities work, the replacement of a clarifier at the drinking water treatment plan, the replacement of liners for the swimming pools at Buhr and Fuller parks, and for monitoring work at the now-dormant Ann Arbor city landfill.

Several development items also appear on the July 7 agenda. The rezoning of three Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC) properties will be given final consideration in connection with major renovations and improvements the commission is making to its inventory – at Baker Commons, Green/Baxter Court Apartments, and Maple Meadows. Initial approval for rezoning of another AAHC property is also on the council’s agenda: North Maple Estates.

In addition to the AAHC properties, the council will consider rezoning for parcels on Research Park Drive, in the southern part of the city, and a site plan for the expansion of Rudolf Steiner High School on the city’s north side.

The council will give initial consideration to changes in the ordinance that defines how city boards and commissions are appointed – changes that focus on the environmental commission. The changes involve clarifications of the nomination process and other housekeeping issues. The council will also consider confirmation of three appointments to the environmental commission: Allison Skinner, Benjamin Muth and Mark Clevey.

The summertime theme of the agenda is reflected in the approval of temporary outdoor sales and consumption of alcohol for several downtown businesses during the art fairs, which run from July 16-19. A permanent liquor license for Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse also appears on the council’s agenda. The theme of transition from summer to fall is reflected on the council’s July 7 agenda in the set of street closing approvals, which include closings around the University of Michigan stadium for home football games.

This article includes a more detailed preview of many of these agenda items. More details on other agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. The meeting proceedings can be followed Monday evening live on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network starting at 7 p.m.

The Chronicle will be filing live updates from city council chambers during the meeting, published in this article below the preview material. Click here to skip the preview section and go directly to the live updates. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

DDA Acts on Infrastructure, Governance

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (July 2, 2014): Much of this month’s meeting was devoted to infrastructure projects and organizational matters, as the DDA board restructured its committees and elected new officers for fiscal 2015, which began on July 1.

Bob Guenzel, Sandi Smith, John Mouat, Ann Arbor DDA, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: DDA board members Bob Guenzel, Sandi Smith, John Mouat. Smith officiated her last meeting as chair on July 2, and Mouat was elected to serve as chair for fiscal 2015, which began on July 1. (Photos by the writer.)

The board approved a $390,000 grant related to an extended-stay hotel project on the downtown’s west side. The development is by First Martin Corp. at 116-120 W. Huron – the intersection of Huron and Ashley streets. The grant will be used to pay for a new 12-inch water main, sidewalk improvements along Ashley, and landscape maintenance in the public right-of-way.

This was the first grant awarded after the board adopted a grant policy earlier this year.

The board also gave a one-year extension to a previously-awarded $650,000 brownfield grant for the 618 S. Main apartment complex. It was originally awarded in 2012, but the project is not yet completed – in part because of the recent harsh winter. The funds would help pay for upsizing a water main to 12 inches, as well as streetscape improvements and a rain garden for stormwater management.

Also related to infrastructure, the board established a project budget of $100,000 for tree maintenance and sidewalk repairs in downtown Ann Arbor in fiscal 2015.

Related to personnel issues, the board held a closed session to evaluate Susan Pollay, the DDA’s executive director. After about 15 minutes, the board emerged and voted to give Pollay a 5% raise, increasing her salary from $109,119 to $114,570.

In describing the rationale for the raise, Roger Hewitt noted that Pollay had received “good raises” in the last two years, but for the six years before that she had not received a raise because of the difficult economy. Her position as a city employee is in the Level 2 category, which has a salary range from $95,000 to $157,000. Several board members indicated a desire to move Pollay toward the midpoint of that range over the next few years. Sandi Smith characterized it as “catch up” to compensate for the years when Pollay didn’t get a raise. Hewitt said the intent is to bring her up to that midpoint salary of $126,000 “within a fairly short time period.”

Casting the sole vote against the 5% increase was city administrator Steve Powers, who said he’d be more comfortable with a 3% raise, and hoped there would be a more robust evaluation process in the future.

Immediately after its regular monthly meeting, the board held its annual meeting to elect officers for the coming fiscal year. John Mouat was unanimously elected to serve as chair of the board. Other officers are Roger Hewitt (vice chair), Rishi Narayan (treasurer), and Keith Orr (secretary). Outgoing chair Sandi Smith was thanked for her service, and received a gift from staff – a small pin from the former Selo/Shevel Gallery, which Pollay indicated evoked a cityscape of tall buildings. Pollay said it was inspired by a trip that several DDA staff and board members took last year to New York City for the International Downtown Association conference.

Also at the July 2 meeting, the board dissolved its two existing committees and created four new committees: (1) marketing, (2) partnerships/economic development, (3) finance, and (4) operations (parking/transportation/construction).

In supporting the idea of a separate marketing committee, Narayan noted that if a staff member is hired to focus on marketing and communications, “this area might become more fleshed out very quickly.” Previously, a marketing subcommittee had been part of the partnerships committee. The new finance committee was created in part in anticipation of the DDA’s growing budget, and a desire for more financial oversight.

During updates, Hewitt reported that work continues on a possible north/south commuter rail between Ann Arbor and Howell known as WALLY – the Washtenaw and Livingston Line. A recommendation will be coming soon to locate a stop on the east side of the railroad tracks between Liberty and Washington streets, opposite of the former city maintenance yard. He stressed that this transportation service is probably a significant way off from being offered. If the project moves forward, the recommended stop wouldn’t be a full station – it would simply be a platform with canopies, and would be built entirely within the railroad right-of-way. Hewitt plans to make a short formal presentation about the recommendation at a future DDA board meeting.

Also related to transportation, Orr reported that the new Greyhound ticket office at the Fourth & William structure will be opening next week – ahead of schedule. Next week also will be the grand opening of the nearby Blake Transit Center, operated by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

In other updates, Hewitt noted that members of the DDA’s operations committee continue to work on a downtown ambassadors program, and are likely to bring two potential service providers in for interviews by the end of this summer. [Full Story]

Column: License Your Dog

One of the entries in Ann Arbor’s Fourth of July parade featured a yellow dog “driving” a red car.

dog-4-600

A yellow dog in a red car.

And like most onlookers, I was wondering: Does that dog have a license? Well, ok, most onlookers probably weren’t wondering that.

And to be honest, I wasn’t, either – at least not that kind of license.

But I did wonder if the dog’s owner had licensed his pet through the city of Ann Arbor. Out of an estimated 30,000 dogs in the city, only about 7% have the required license. Dogs older than 6 months must be licensed and wear the tag.

The city of Ann Arbor is now making an effort to urge the dog-owning public to obtain the required licenses – which cost $16 for two years.

On May 19 this year, the city council directed the city administrator to enforce the dog licensing ordinance more actively – as part of its budget deliberations. The council based the revenue budget for dog licenses on a 30% compliance rate – or 23 points better than current levels.

What will the city do with the additional money from dog license revenues? On the July 7 city council agenda is a contract for animal control services with Washtenaw County. Dog licensing revenues will help pay for that $135,570 contract.

Residents can obtain the required dog license in person at the city clerk’s office by providing a proof-of-rabies-vaccination certificate from the dog’s veterinarian along with a check made payable to the City of Ann Arbor for $16. Or the proof-of-rabies and the check can be mailed to the city clerk at 301 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

So, please go fetch…a license for your dog.

More photos of Ann Arbor Fourth of July parade dogs are included below. [Full Story]

July 7, 2014: City Council Meeting Preview

The Ann Arbor city council’s first meeting of the fiscal year is also the next-to-last one before the Aug. 5, 2014 primary elections for city council and mayor.

Screenshot of Legistar – the city of Ann Arbor online agenda management system. Image links to the next meeting agenda.

Screenshot of Legistar – the city of Ann Arbor’s online agenda management system. Image links to the July 7, 2014 meeting agenda.

A month before the dog days actually begin, the council will be considering as part of its July 7 agenda a resolution that would pay Washtenaw County $135,570 for animal control services. The county in turn contracts with the Humane Society of Huron Valley for those services. This is a new arrangement, based on recommendations from a 2012 county task force. The idea is that local governments in the county with their own dog licensing programs, which generate revenue through licensing, should shoulder part of the cost of the county’s animal control contract. Ann Arbor has its own dog licensing program.

The July 7 agenda is heavy with items related to infrastructure. Three special assessments for the construction of new sidewalks are on the agenda for final approval: Stone School Road, Barton Drive and Scio Church Road. And the council will be considering approval of contracts for street repair associated with utilities work, the replacement of a clarifier at the drinking water treatment plan, the replacement of liners for the swimming pools at Buhr and Fuller parks, and for monitoring work at the now-dormant Ann Arbor city landfill.

Several development items also appear on the July 7 agenda. The rezoning of three Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC) properties will be given final consideration in connection with major renovations and improvements the commission is making to its inventory – at Baker Commons, Green/Baxter Court Apartments, and Maple Meadows. Initial approval for rezoning of another AAHC property is also on the council’s agenda: North Maple Estates.

In addition to the AAHC properties, the council will consider rezoning for parcels on Research Park Drive, in the southern part of the city, and a site plan for the expansion of Rudolf Steiner High School on the city’s north side.

The council will give initial consideration to changes in the ordinance that defines how city boards and commissions are appointed – changes that focus on the environmental commission. The changes involve clarifications of the nomination process and other housekeeping issues. The council will also consider confirmation of three appointments to the environmental commission: Allison Skinner, Benjamin Muth and Mark Clevey.

The summertime theme of the agenda is reflected in the approval of temporary outdoor sales and consumption of alcohol for several downtown businesses during the art fairs, which run from July 16-19. A permanent liquor license for Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse also appears on the council’s agenda. The theme of transition from summer to fall is reflected on the council’s July 7 agenda in the set of street closing approvals, which include closings around the University of Michigan stadium for home football games.

This article includes a more detailed preview of many of these agenda items. More details on other agenda items are available on the city’s online Legistar system. The meeting proceedings can be followed Monday evening live on Channel 16, streamed online by Community Television Network starting at 7 p.m. [Full Story]

Photos: Ann Arbor July 4th Parade

As we celebrate America’s representative democracy, it’s fitting that the Ann Arbor July 4th parade featured plenty of elected officials and candidates for local, state and national office.

reflection-sousa-350

Reflections of the parade.

And though they weren’t campaigning, there were also lots of dogs and cute kids, dancers, beauty queens, scouts, Masons, Baptists, Buddhists, a lawn mower brigade and more. Music was provided by the St. Francis of Assisi band, the drum corps from Huron High, and a few other musical acts – though like previous years, there was no full marching band.

The July 4th parade is organized by the Ann Arbor Jaycees, and it’s a logistical challenge with its own parade of details. We thank the dozens of volunteers who work so hard to pull off an event the rest of the community can enjoy each year.

Before we get to the photos, here’s a reminder that if you’re not yet registered to vote, the last day to register for the Tuesday, Aug. 5 primary is nearly here – Monday, July 7.

Information on voter registration can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. The last day to register to vote for the Tuesday, Nov. 4 general election is Oct. 6.

Now here’s sampling of photos from this year’s July 4th parade through the streets of downtown Ann Arbor. [Full Story]