Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 7, 2012) Part 2: Public art was one of two highlighted themes of the council meeting, along with possible future additions to the park system. The future additions to public parks and open space are handled in Part 1 of this meeting report: “Council Parcels Out Tasks: Open Space.”
Left to right: Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) are asking to be recognized to speak as Jane Lumm (Ward 2) gives her views on public art. (Photos by the writer.)
Public art was featured in two specific agenda items. One was a presentation of the annual public art plan given by Wiltrud Simbuerger, a member of the city’s public art commission. The council gave the presentation a basically positive reception.
But the second agenda item required a vote – on a $150,000 piece of art proposed by Ed Carpenter, to be hung in the lobby of the new Justice Center. The city’s public art commission had selected Carpenter from responses to a request for proposals. A vote on the artwork, a piece called “Radius,” had been postponed from the council’s April 2, 2012 meeting over concerns about public access to the Justice Center lobby, where the sculpture will be hung.
A nearly one-hour debate unfolded about the Carpenter piece, with the specific artwork serving as a kind of proxy for a rehash of previous council debates on the city’s Percent for Art ordinance. The ordinance requires that all city capital improvement projects include 1% for public art, up to a cap of $250,000 per capital project. For capital projects that aren’t suitable to have public art incorporated into them, the 1% is “pooled” for use in some other public art – which must be related to the purpose of the funding source. For example, the fountain outside the new Justice Center, designed by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, is funded with money pooled from 1% of some sanitary sewer projects, drinking water projects, and stormwater management projects.
Jane Lumm (Ward 2) proposed an amendment that would have canceled Carpenter’s project and appropriated the art project funds to invest instead in the city hall building. That amendment failed, but piqued mayor John Hieftje into announcing that he’d be sponsoring a future resolution to take $50,000 from public art funds, and deposit that amount into the general fund. That move is susceptible to the same critique made by several councilmembers as well as the assistant city attorney against Lumm’s amendment: The public art ordinance prohibits transfer from public art funds to other funds. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) stated that he would be content for the council simply to violate that ordinance. Carpenter’s sculpture eventually was approved over the dissent of Kunselman and Lumm.
Besides public art, the council approved the city’s portion of the State/Ellsworth traffic roundabout project, which includes an improvement for a water main connection – to pipe water from a well on the property of Ann Arbor’s municipal airport to the city’s water treatment plant. The airport also made it onto the agenda in the form of a resolution that settled outstanding legal issues surrounding the construction of hangars on the property.
Prompting extended discussion by the council was a resolution that invalidates sidewalk occupancy permits for vendors in a specific area around Main Street between Huron and William, whenever Main Street is closed down for special events.
The council delayed action on a tax abatement for the battery technology company Sakti3, pending review by the city council’s budget committee. And the council authorized another five-year extension of its contract with Waste Management to haul the city’s trash to a landfill.
The council also heard its usual range of public commentary. The public hearing on the fiscal year 2013 budget enjoyed light participation. The council will vote on that budget, and any amendments, at its May 21 meeting. [Full Story]