Stories indexed with the term ‘board retreat’

AADL Retreat: Prep for Next Strategic Plan

Ann Arbor District Library board retreat (Feb. 3, 2014): For more than three hours, AADL trustees heard staff updates on industry trends, were briefed on challenges that the library faces – as well as opportunities – and discussed the kind of information and data that’s needed to prepare for AADL’s next strategic plan for 2015-2020.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A skeleton – wearing an Ann Arbor District Library T-shirt – was part of the non-traditional collections on display at the Feb. 3, 2014 AADL board retreat. (Photos by the writer.)

Discussion during the retreat, held at AADL’s downtown location on South Fifth Avenue, often touched on issues specific to that area. Dealing with the chronically homeless is one of the biggest challenges there, AADL director Josie Parker told the board, because during the hours that it’s open, the library is the shelter of last resort for many people.

“We are not a social service agency, yet we act as a de facto one,” Parker said. “We have a lot to contribute to this conversation because of our experience over the last 15 years.” The board discussed the need to define the library’s advocacy role in general for issues that trustees think are important, though Parker noted that the first responsibility for both the AADL administration and the board is to advocate for the library.

Other challenges faced by AADL include urban development, changes in the education system, issues related to providing Internet access, and “blurred lines” – instances where AADL is providing services to people who don’t live within the district’s boundaries. Also related to work outside the library’s boundaries, Parker reported that she’s talking with other directors of district libraries in Washtenaw County about the possibility of doing a study on the economic development impact of libraries.

The retreat began with a review of AADL’s non-traditional collections, and items from those collections were on display in the meeting room. The library has circulated art prints for more than 30 years, but has been expanding into other areas more recently, including science kits, musical instruments, home tools and craft equipment.

Parker told the board that the public library’s mission – to distribute materials that support the reading, education and even entertainment of the public – isn’t limited to bound volumes. The items for AADL’s non-traditional collections aren’t generally available to rent elsewhere, and are usually expensive to buy, she noted. “What are the limits of sharing? That’s what we’re pushing on.”

The final portion of the retreat was facilitated by local consultant Sandra Greenstone, who has played a similar role at previous retreats. Trustees generated a list of questions that they’d like to answer to help inform their work on the next strategic plan. Many of the issues related to the downtown library, but there was no discussion about putting another ballot proposal before voters. In November 2012, voters defeated a bond proposal that would have funded a new downtown library.

How all of this fits into the next strategic plan is a work in progress. The board will be handling the next steps at the committee level, with an update expected at the board’s Feb. 17 meeting. [Full Story]

Library Board Elects Officers, Sets Retreat

At its first meeting of 2014, trustees of the Ann Arbor District Library board elected new officers for the coming year. All votes at the Jan. 20, 2014 meeting were unanimous with no competing nominations.

Prue Rosenthal was re-elected to a second one-year term as board president. Also re-elected to a second one-year term was Rebecca Head, as board secretary. Barbara Murphy was elected as vice president, and Jan Barney Newman was elected as treasurer. Newman had served as vice president in 2013.

The board also voted to establish two special committees for 2014: a communications committee, and a facilities committee. The communications committee’s charge is “to consider the implementation of recommendations in the communications audit, and related issues.” The reference is … [Full Story]

County Board Wrangles Over Budget Process

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (May 1, 2013): The location and accessibility of a planned May 16 budget retreat drew some heated rhetoric from commissioner Ronnie Peterson, who argued strongly for all budget-related meetings to be held in the main county boardroom and to be televised, as the board’s regular meetings are.

Dan Smith, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Washtenaw County commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2) talks with residents who attended the county board’s May 1 meeting to highlight the deteriorating condition of North Territorial Road, which runs through Smith’s district. (Photos by the writer.)

The May 16 retreat is set for the county’s Learning Resource Center at 4135 Washtenaw Ave. – near the county jail complex – starting at 6 p.m. The meeting is open to the public and will be videotaped.

Peterson also questioned the content of the retreat. “If it’s a hug fest,” he said, “I don’t have to be there.” Board chair Yousef Rabhi told commissioners that the goal will be to set priorities for the upcoming budget. “It’s going to be work,” Rabhi said. “There aren’t going to be any hugs, unless somebody wants to give me a hug.”

Also at the May 1 meeting, the board gave final approval to authorize the development of a four-year budget planning cycle, a change from the current two-year cycle that’s been in place since 1994. The vote was 7-2 vote, with dissent from Peterson and Rolland Sizemore Jr. Peterson argued that developing a budget is the main job for commissioners. “So we owe the taxpayers a rebate. I hope we cut our salaries in half … because there’s really a lot less work to do.” Though the planning cycle would be longer, the board is still required by state law to approve its budget annually – so that process wouldn’t change.

The board will get a better sense of the county’s financial status at its May 15 meeting, when county administrator Verna McDaniel will give a first-quarter update and a “state-of-the-county” presentation. One major factor is a pending decision for the board on whether to issue a $345 million bond to cover the county’s pension and retiree healthcare obligations. The board discussed that topic at a May 2 working session. [See Chronicle coverage: "County Board Debates $350M Bond Proposal."]

One item not on the May 1 agenda was raised during public commentary: The deteriorating condition of North Territorial Road, specifically a section running through Northfield and Salem townships. Residents have collected about 600 signatures on a petition urging the road commission to repair that stretch, and asked the county board to help address the problem “before somebody gets hurt or comes in here shouting or raving.”

County commissioner Dan Smith, who represents the district that includes Northfield and Salem townships, pointed out that there are possible funding mechanisms available to the county, including the possibility of levying a tax under Act 283 of 1909. A 1 mill levy in Washtenaw County would bring in about $13.8 million, based on 2012 property values, he said. He also noted that there’s a similar law on the books that appears to allow townships in Michigan to levy up to 3 mills for roads. That could bring in another $24.9 million throughout the county, he said. In total, about $38 million could be raised in Washtenaw County to fix the roads.

In other action during the May 1 meeting, commissioners gave initial approval to the Washtenaw Urban County‘s five-year strategic plan through 2018 and its 2013-14 annual plan.

The board also declared May 12-18, 2013 as Police and Correction Officers Week, and May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Dieter Heren, police services commander with the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office, was on hand to accept the resolution on behalf of sheriff Jerry Clayton and all law enforcement agencies in the county. He reminded the board that on May 15 at 10 a.m. there will be a memorial service in the Washtenaw 100 Park in Ypsilanti to “honor the law enforcement officers who have fallen here in Washtenaw County while serving the community,” he said. The park is located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Ballard Street. [Full Story]

County Board Priorities Emerge at Retreat

Washtenaw County board of commissioners budget retreat (March 7, 2013): County commissioners continued their work to lay a foundation for the 2014-2015 budget, in a three-hour retreat that covered a wide range of issues – including the possibility of a new millage, bonding or other revenue sources.

Conan Smith, Ronnie Peterson, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Washtenaw County commissioners Conan Smith (D-District 9, Ann Arbor) and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6, Ypsilanti). (Photos by the writer.)

The retreat comes in the context of a projected $24.64 million general fund deficit over a four-year period from 2014 through 2017. A much smaller general fund deficit of $3.93 million is projected for 2014, but county administrator Verna McDaniel hopes to identify $6.88 million in structural changes for that year – a combination of new revenues and cuts in expenditures. If that happens, the larger projected deficit would be addressed, because those cuts and revenue increases would compound and carry over into future years.

The retreat didn’t aim to identify dollar amounts or even specific programs to be cut or supported. Rather, the conversation – which included small-group work – was designed to elicit broader priorities of the board. Commissioners did not explicitly reference priorities that had been developed for the previous 2012-2013 budget cycle, though some common themes emerged. [.pdf of 2012-2013 budget priorities]

Several commissioners stressed the importance of strategic investment to create an environment that supports the local economy. Transportation, education, and housing – particularly on the county’s east side, in the Ypsilanti area – were all cited as critical to economic development efforts. Funding strategies were floated, including the possibility of a human services millage, road tax, or “social impact” bond. Also discussed was the possibility of absorbing the road commission into county government operations.

The retreat follows a budget briefing that McDaniel and her financial staff had given to commissioners at their Jan. 16, 2013 meeting. The board has also discussed the budget process at two working sessions earlier in the year, and will follow up the retreat with a working session in April. McDaniel is expected to deliver a budget proposal to the board in September. The board must adopt the budget by the end of 2013. [Full Story]

County Board Retreat Set for Jan. 21

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners will hold a strategic planning retreat on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the county parks and recreation offices, 2230 Platt Road. The meeting notice was posted at the county administration building late Thursday, Jan. 12. County offices were closed on Friday through Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The retreat was scheduled by board chair Conan Smith. It had not been announced at previous board meetings, nor was it formally announced during any of the opportunities for communications from commissioners at the board’s Jan. 18 meeting. However, commissioner Ronnie Peterson mentioned the retreat during the Jan. 18 meeting, noting that he would be unable to attend. He said … [Full Story]

County Board to Eliminate Admin Briefings

Conan Smith, chair of the county board, began Wednesday’s meeting with an announcement: “This will be the last administrative briefing.”

Washtenaw County commissioners and staff at the Feb. 23, 2011 administrative briefing

Washtenaw County commissioners and staff gather around a conference table at the Feb. 23 administrative briefing.

Administrative briefings have been held for about a decade, taking place a week before the board’s regular meetings, which are scheduled for the first and third Wednesday of each month. They are public but informal, held in a small conference room at the county’s downtown Ann Arbor administration building – not in the boardroom. The meetings, which usually last no longer than an hour, are focused on reviewing the upcoming agenda for the back-to-back Ways & Means Committee meeting and regular board meeting the following week.

Several commissioners say they benefit from the discussions that emerge at these briefings. But Ronnie Peterson, who has never attended because of his objections to the format, has been a vocal critic, calling them “backroom” meetings where deliberations occur that he believes are too far out of the public eye – even though they conform to the Open Meetings Act.

He raised the issue again at the Feb. 16 board meeting, which resulted in a lengthy debate about whether administrative briefings and the board’s budget retreats are sufficiently accessible to the public. The outcome of that debate was a vote at the Feb. 16 meeting to hold future retreats after the board’s regular working sessions – both would be televised. However, an attempt to relocate and televise administrative briefings failed, with support only from Peterson, Kristin Judge and Wes Prater.

On Wednesday, Smith – who on Feb. 16 argued for keeping the administrative briefings unchanged – said that after discussions with county administrator Verna McDaniel, they had decided to eliminate the briefings in favor of a weekly agenda-setting meeting with staff and just three commissioners: Smith, as board chair; Rolland Sizemore Jr., chair of the Ways & Means Committee; and Yousef Rabhi, chair of the working sessions. Because the meeting will not involve a quorum of commissioners, it will not be required to be open to the public. [Full Story]

County Board Strategizes on 2012-13 Budget

Washtenaw County board of commissioners budget retreat (Feb. 9, 2011): For two hours last Wednesday evening, commissioners continued a discussion on priorities aimed at guiding budget decisions – both long-term and immediate – for county government.

Bill Reynolds

Bill Reynolds, Washtenaw County's deputy administrator, with a framed copy of the county's "guiding principles."

The discussion was another step toward developing a framework that county administrator Verna McDaniel and her staff can use in their budget planning for 2012 and 2013, when the county faces a projected $20.9 million deficit. The session followed a five-hour Jan. 29 retreat. The board also plans to continue their budget talks on Feb. 23, after their regular administrative briefing.

Conan Smith, chair of the board, told the group he hoped they could form an outline of their priorities – not in terms of programs, but at a policy level. He said that focusing on specific programs at this point would limit the administration’s flexibility for future restructuring.

During the two-hour session, commissioners talked about the importance of providing a safety net of services for residents who are most in need – perhaps through a combination of the county’s own services, and partnerships with outside agencies. Though some commissioners expressed concerns about privatizing, there seemed to be consensus about exploring ways to market the county’s infrastructure services – like payroll processing and human resources – to other local municipalities.

They discussed the need for more self-reliance on local resources, as opposed to state and federal funding – while acknowledging the dependence that many county programs have on state and federal grants. The board also talked about the importance of balancing short-term budget needs with long-term investments that could bring more significant structural savings in future years.

Also during Wednesday’s retreat, some commissioners noted the importance of keeping all budget discussions in public view. The retreats – unlike the board’s regular meetings and working sessions – are not televised, though they are open to the public. In addition to county commissioners, the retreats are attended by other elected officials and county staff. [Full Story]

DDA Board Retreat to Focus on City Talks

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Sept. 1, 2010): On its surface, the first regular meeting of the DDA board after its July election of new officers seemed to be a relatively uneventful gathering. Two topics that could have prompted extended deliberations were handled in short order.


Washington & Fifth Avenue, looking northwest. The concrete mixer is parked directly in front of the DDA offices. The entry for the board's Sept. 1 meeting was through the alley and the garage, which makes up part of the ground floor of the Fifth Avenue Building. (Photos by the writer.)

The first issue, handled with relatively little comment, was the report out from the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, given by Roger Hewitt. The committee has been meeting over the course of the summer with a corresponding committee from the Ann Arbor city council to renegotiate the parking agreement under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

While board members Newcombe Clark and Russ Collins commented in a general way on the status of the conversations, it did not lead to any specific directive to the DDA’s committee for its next meeting, which will take place on Sept. 13 at 8:30 a.m.

However, at the suggestion of DDA executive director Susan Pollay, the board will schedule a retreat between now and its monthly board meeting in October – but likely after Sept. 13 – to focus on the “mutually beneficial” issue. In the meantime, the DDA’s committee will request of its city council counterparts that they provide their own assessment of the status of the negotiations. The Sept. 13 meeting of the two committees will also be the occasion when Pollay provides a detailed version of the outline, which she’d provided at the last committee meeting on Aug. 23, for a possible role for the DDA in the development of city-owned surface lots.

The second issue dispatched by the board with little overt controversy was a resolution that Newcombe Clark had brought through the operations committee last Wednesday to allocate $50,000 for support of skatepark facilities. Clark himself suggested that the resolution be tabled, alluding to the “prism through which everything is looked at this time of year.” DDA board members went along with that suggestion.

The prism to which Clark alluded is a political one. Clark is running an independent campaign for the Ward 5 city council seat currently held by Democrat Carsten Hohnke. Hohnke has positioned himself as a champion of the skating community’s efforts to construct a skateboarding facility at Veterans Memorial Park, which is in Ward 5.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the newest member of the board, former Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel, and the member he replaced, Jennifer S. Hall, were acknowledged by chair Joan Lowenstein – but neither was present. The board passed a resolution of appreciation for Hall’s service, and Lowenstein welcomed Guenzel “in absentia.”

Other business at Wednesday’s meeting included the usual updates from the board’s committees. Notable from the transportation committee was an effort to collaborate with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to enhance bus service between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. And from the partnerships committee came a summary of a presentation they’d received from the chief of police – there’s a difference between being statistically safe and the perception of safety. [Full Story]