Stories indexed with the term ‘city council caucus’

Caucus: Heritage Row, Public Notice, Grass

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (June 6, 2010): The council’s Sunday night caucus continued to draw little interest from the council itself, with only Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) attending.

The meeting, which is scheduled for the Sunday evening before Monday council meetings, is described on the city’s website as an opportunity “to discuss and gather information on issues that are or will be coming before them for consideration.”


Developer Alex de Parry hams it up with councilmembers Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) before the Sunday caucus got started. (Photo by the writer.)

Yesterday evening, what was on the minds of residents Ethel Potts, Tom Whitaker, Scott Munzel and Alex de Parry was an issue coming to the council for consideration today, Monday, June 7 – the Heritage Row project proposed for South Fifth Avenue, south of William Street. De Parry is the developer for that project and Munzel is legal counsel.

Kathy Griswold gave a report out from a recent meeting on the city’s urban forestry plan, which she had attended from the perspective of sight lines for traffic at intersections – vegetation can interfere with visibility.

During the discussion about vegetation on lawn extensions, John Floyd, who’s running for the Ward 5 seat currently occupied by Carsten Hohnke, arrived at the meeting. And Floyd was able to settle a point of good-natured disagreement on the status of corn as a grass. [Full Story]

Transportation Talk at City Council Caucus

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (May 2, 2010): Transportation was one of the main focuses of conversation at last night’s city council caucus, which is held on the Sunday before the council’s regular meeting.

Hieftje Briere Kunselman

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) listen to a presentation from the Committee for the Preservation of Community Quality at the city council's Sunday night caucus. (Photo by the writer.)

The Committee for the Preservation of Community Quality gave a presentation of their response to the recently conducted environmental assessment of a possible runway extension at the Ann Arbor municipal airport. And residents expressed concerns about the proposed Fuller Road Station and its location on city-owned land designated as a park in the city’s PROS (Parks and Recreation Open Space) Plan.

By the time questions about the possible upcoming budget amendments were raised, the number of councilmembers attending the caucus had dwindled from four to two. Mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) were there through most of the meeting, but it concluded with just Briere and Anglin.

And at the tail end of the gathering, the residents who attended weighed in on the nature of caucus itself. They offered their perceptions of the value of discussions among councilmembers at the caucus versus their own remarks. They’d prefer to see councilmembers in action and would be willing to trade some of their own time for watching the work of council. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Cell Phone Ban Possibly Delayed

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (March 14, 2010): On the Ann Arbor city council agenda for Monday is the final vote on a proposed city ordinance banning cell phone use while driving. At a sparsely attended Sunday night caucus, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and mayor John Hieftje indicated that a vote on the proposed cell phone ban would likely be postponed.

Other agenda items receiving some discussion were the public hearing scheduled on the Google Fiber initiative, plus a contract revision for Recycle Ann Arbor to perform single-stream curbside recycling using automated carts. [Full Story]

Skepticism on 415 W. Washington Measure

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 31, 2010): At its Sunday night caucus, four city councilmembers heard thoughts from residents on a range of topics. In attendance were John Hieftje (mayor), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

Much of the conversation focused on a resolution added to the council’s Monday agenda on Friday, which calls for restarting a process to develop a city-owned parcel at 415 W. Washington. The land is currently used as a surface parking lot – net revenues from that lot were recently adjusted so that they go to the city of Ann Arbor, not the Downtown Development Authority.

Caucus attendees were generally skeptical about the 415 W. Washington resolution on the council’s agenda. They said it was merely a diversionary tactic to distract attention from the Library Lot, another city-owned property where some are advocating for an urban park. Hieftje disavowed the idea that there was a trade-off – open space at 415 W. Washington, but no urban park at the Library Lot. Hieftje left the Library Lot decision as still open, saying that he “would bet” that none of the submitted proposals would be adopted by the council.

Caucus conversation covered a range of other topics, including: golf, historic districts, and design guidelines for new construction in downtown Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Fraser Acted Against Advice on Proposal

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 17, 2010): Conversation among councilmembers and residents on Sunday night yielded some additional historical insight into development plans for the Library Lot above the underground parking garage, which is currently beginning construction.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) revealed that when city administrator Roger Fraser mentioned an unsolicited development proposal at the city council budget retreat in January 2009, he had acted against the advice of members of the council’s budget and labor committee. The committee had become aware of the proposal’s existence prior to the retreat, Rapundalo reported, and when they did, “We said that should be put away on a shelf somewhere. … (but) Roger chose to mention it at the retreat.” Rapundalo also added that while some councilmembers had seen the unsolicited proposal, he had not.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) recalled a phase in the community conversation about the future of the city-owned Library Lot that predated the January 2009 budget retreat. It was a time when the discussion centered on leaving the top of the parking structure as a temporary surface parking lot while its eventual, more permanent fate was considered – still a possibility, based on Sunday’s caucus discussion.

Besides the Library Lot, residents who attended caucus touched on other issues – the city council’s role in city governance, and the capital improvements plan for the year, which is on the council’s Tuesday night meeting agenda. Council is meeting on Tuesday, rather than its usual Monday schedule, because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. [Full Story]

Library Lot: Choice Between Apples, Pears?

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 3, 2010): As construction gets started on the underground parking garage on the former surface parking lot next to the downtown library, the city of Ann Arbor is trying to answer the question: What goes on top?

Tangerine Tower is not an alternate proposal for the Library Lot development. But in providing art to accompany an article, sometimes you go to press with the fruit you have, not the fruit you wish you had.

Tangerine Tower is not an alternate proposal for the Library Lot development. But in providing an illustration to accompany an article, sometimes you go to press with the fruit you have, not the fruit you wish you had.

A committee appointed to review the proposals submitted for the city-owned parcel, known as the Library Lot, recently dropped two of those proposals from consideration. [Chronicle coverage: "Two Library Lot Proposals Eliminated"]

The two proposals – one from Ann Arbor residents Alan Haber and Alice Ralph, and the other from a local developer, Dahlmann Apartments Ltd. – both envision the top of the underground garage primarily as open space.

At Sunday’s city council caucus, seven supporters of an open-space use for the Library Lot outnumbered the four councilmembers who attended: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and mayor John Hieftje.

Conversation at caucus was devoted almost exclusively to the RFP (request for proposals) process and dissatisfaction with its preliminary outcome. On the council’s Monday night agenda is a resolution sponsored by Briere that seeks – “delicately,” in Briere’s words – to address some of that dissatisfaction.

Briere likened the winnowing down of the alternatives in advance of public participation to asking someone if they’d like an apple or a pear – you might get a different answer, she said, if you ask, “What kind of fruit would you like?” Maybe, she said, people want grapefruit. [Full Story]

Caucus Creatures Stir: Parking, Library Lot

Ann Arbor City Council Caucus (Dec. 20, 2009): On the night before council’s Monday meeting, it was a quiet caucus, attended by a perfect balance of three councilmembers and three residents. The meeting had more the flavor of a chat in someone’s living room.

But residents still stirred the pot – on the issue of extended hours of parking enforcement as well as development proposals for the Library Lot.

The parking issue is part of a more complex resolution that the council will consider on Monday night, but possibly postpone, based on comments at caucus made by Mayor John Hieftje. A separate, but related item on the agenda calls for the purchase of parking equipment for installation on Wall Street at a cost of $87,000.

Receiving no discussion at the caucus was the second reading of the resolution that would reduce the Percent For Art program to a Half-Percent for Art program for the next three years. The resolution passed on its first reading at the council’s previous meeting.

Also receiving no discussion was the first project to be funded through the city’s public art program – a sculpture by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl proposed for for installation outside the new municipal center currently under construction. Council had been expected to have the approval of the Dreiseitl project on its agenda in November, but that expectation then shifted to the Dec. 7 council meeting. It was further shifted to the meeting on Monday, Dec. 21. And now it appears that the Dreiseitl vote will not be taken until sometime in 2010. [Update: The Dreiseitl project was added to the agenda at just after 11 a.m. Dec. 21, 2009.] [Full Story]

City Council Caucus Yields More Budget Talk

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Dec. 6, 2009): At the Sunday night caucus of the Ann Arbor city council, looming budget decisions were front and center as topics, just as they’d been the previous day at the council’s day-long retreat. [Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor City Budget: Cuts Begin Now"]

Residents who attended the caucus expressed concerns about probable firefighter layoffs, possible threats to city parks, and a Monday meeting agenda item approving $895,000 for an accounting system overhaul. In responding to residents, councilmembers mentioned an idea that Mayor John Hieftje had briefly floated at the council’s budget retreat: an across-the-board wage cut of 3% for all city employees.

Besides the accounting system overhaul, the other Monday meeting agenda item residents spoke about was the council’s “acceptance” of the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan. Representatives of the Huron River Watershed Council encouraged the council to accept the plan. That discussion led to the topic of the city’s Percent for Art program and its legal status. The council has an item on its Monday agenda to reduce the percentage reserved from 1% to a 0.5%.

On the council side, the caucus was attended by Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). [Full Story]

Zoning, Design Guides on Council’s Agenda

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday Caucus (Nov. 15, 2009): Around two dozen residents came to city council chambers Sunday night to convey their thoughts on two major planning issues on the city council’s agenda for Monday.

two women leaning over a drawing discussing it

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) confirms with an Ann Arbor resident at the city council's Sunday caucus that the map she's sketched reflects accurately the block bounded by Huron, State, Washington, and Division streets. In the background, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). (Photo by the writer.)

The downtown zoning ordinance package – known as A2D2, which the council has approved on two prior occasions at a “first reading” – will be given a public hearing, with a vote also scheduled for Monday night. In addition, the downtown design guidelines will have its public hearing continued, which started on Oct. 5. No vote on design guidelines is scheduled for Monday.

Also receiving discussion at caucus were the six projects that were submitted before last Friday’s Nov. 13 deadline, in response to the city’s request for proposals to use the space on top of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage.

Also the council’s agenda, but not receiving discussion among councilmembers who attended the caucus, is the council’s formal acceptance of the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP) from the city’s environmental commission – but not the plan’s recommendations related to Argo Dam.

And a consent agenda item that requests funds to purchase additional electronic parking meter equipment contains in its description a plan to install meters in new areas that have not been previously identified.

Finally, there’s a whole new category of item on Monday’s agenda – a category that raises questions. [Full Story]

Finally a Dam Decision on Argo?

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (Oct. 18, 2009): At its Sunday night caucus, Ann Arbor city council members heard from only a couple of residents who actually spoke in favor of keeping Argo Dam in place.

Piezometer installed in mid-September along the earthen berm separating the Argo Dam headrace from the river. (Photo by the writer)

But those speakers were supported by the presence of almost two dozen others who attended the regular Sunday evening affair, to make clear that they also supported a resolution on the dam – which was added to Monday’s Oct. 19 agenda on Friday, Oct. 16.

Monday’s resolution, which is sponsored by Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), and Sandi Smith (Ward 1), expresses the intent of city council to keep the dam in place. [Text of the resolution]

At caucus, one of the voices of dissent on the resolution belonged to Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council. She told the three councilmembers present – Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) – that there’d been an expectation that the city council would follow the example of the city’s Park Advisory Commission and the Environmental Commission by holding a formal public hearing on the vote.

The resolution on Monday’s agenda does not include a public hearing.

After the caucus concluded, Rubin told The Chronicle that the expectation of a city council public hearing was based on a hearing that had been planned for July 6, 2009, but that was canceled when the council decided to ask the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for more time to decide. We had a look at The Chronicle archives to verify that contention.

Other caucus topics addressed by residents included a crosswalk to be installed at the intersection of Waldenwood and Penberton drives and a request for an update on the East Stadium bridges. Council will consider a resolution on Monday to follow the advice of an outside engineering consultant to proceed with removal of bridge beams supporting the southern lanes, which are currently closed to traffic. [Full Story]

Another Draft of Downtown Design Guides

picture of a page of public notices in a newspaper, the Washtenaw Legal News

From the public notices published in the Oct. 1, 2009 edition of the Washtenaw Legal News: "Ann Arbor City Notice, Notice of Public Hearing on Proposed A2D2 Downtown Design Guidelines."

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (Oct. 4, 2009): At its Sunday night meeting attended by only three councilmembers – Mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) – downtown zoning was again center stage.

A dozen or so residents attended the caucus and many of them addressed the changes that can be traced in the draft documents for A2D2 downtown building design guidelines from Oct. 15, 2007 to April 30, 2008, to Aug. 28, 2009, and most recently in the Sept. 30, 2009 version of the document.

The council will open a public hearing on the proposed guidelines on Oct. 5, but is not scheduled to vote on the matter until at least Oct. 19. At caucus, Hieftje said that the public hearing might be left open until Oct. 19 and that it was possible that no vote would be taken then – there was “no rush,” he said.

The complaint of many of those who addressed caucus was this: A commitment to the design guidelines as a compulsory part of project review had been gradually written out of the various drafts.

The challenge in following the changes to the draft was made more difficult, some speakers contended, by the fact that the city had altered its strategy for publicizing public hearings. That’s a strategic necessity driven by the fact that the closing of The Ann Arbor News leaves The Washtenaw Legal News as the only local “newspaper of general circulation.” [Full Story]

Council Preview: Development, Email

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Sept. 20, 2009): It’s a caucus worth attending when the editor of The Ann Arbor Observer gives the assembly a personal glimpse into a recent spate of  break-ins on the northwest side of the city: burglars of a neighboring property left something interesting behind in his backyard.

But the city council’s Sunday night caucus again found Mayor John Hieftje offering what’s become a customary explanation to the public for the absence of the majority of council members: many of them have family obligations, and it’s not a required meeting of council.

So along with Hieftje, it was only Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Mike Anglin (Ward 2 Ward 5) who heard brief remarks from residents and the development team on the subject of the Near North affordable housing development on North Main Street. The City Place development team – which is bringing its “matter of right” proposal for housing on South Fifth Avenue back to council – also made themselves available for questions from councilmembers.

Council received an update from Alan Haber, who reported that a group of citizens had met and resolved to respond to the city’s request for proposals for development on top of the underground parking structure to be built along Fifth Avenue.

Finally, the council had no further updates on the communication the city clerk has received from her counterpart with the county, to the effect that revisions to the charter amendment ballot language they approved at their last meeting could not be accommodated – they missed the Aug. 25 deadline. [Full Story]

Dam Questions Dominate Caucus

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (June 14, 2009): At least 20 people attended the Ann Arbor city council’s Sunday night caucus to provide arguments for keeping the Argo Dam in place. The city council will have a work session on the topic starting at 6 p.m. tonight, before its regularly scheduled meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

Other topics addressed to the councilmembers who attended caucus included the status of the East Stadium bridge repair, the proposed installation of parking meters in residential areas near the downtown area, and foliage obscuring sight lines along Glazier Way.  The allocation of $75,000 to SPARK, which is on the agenda for Monday, received some discussion in response to a query from The Chronicle.

The three councilmembers remaining at the caucus at its conclusion (Sabra Briere, Mike Anglin and John Hieftje) had little to discuss as far as formulation of questions among themselves. Briere briefly mentioned to Hieftje that she’d had some conversations with councilmembers who were interested in exploring some revisions to council rules – to address emailing policies, among other things. [Full Story]

Support at Caucus for Mack Pool, Access to Info

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (May 3, 2009): Counting the mayor, there were four members of council who heard from citizens on Sunday night on topics that included the closing of Mack Pool, accessibility to information on planning, and the new underground parking garage. After hearing from citizens, caucus concluded without councilmembers engaging each other on any work of council as they sometimes do. [Full Story]

Council’s A2D2 Discussion Tips Off

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (April 5, 2009): Like the Michigan State Spartans basketball team practicing  a fast break, Ann Arbor city councilmembers quickly handled their caucus discussion of possible amendments to the planning commission’s A2D2 zoning recommendations, which could be brought forward at their Monday night meeting.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) called for the ball to address a repaving contract on the agenda, as well as to float the idea of a parliamentary alternative to formal discussions –  ideas that are still rattling around the rim.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) arrived just as the 20-minute session concluded; he was not asked to run punishment laps around council chambers. An informal shoot-around, in the form of conversational pods among some councilmembers and members of the public, persisted until nearly 8 p.m.

Council’s Monday meeting starts at 7 p.m. on CTN’s Channel 16, which allows at least 2 hours and 21 minutes of council viewing before the NCAA finals begin.

After the break, we provide viewers with a playbook of sorts to follow the action in council chambers. It’s a set of 12 possible amendments to the zoning recommendations passed by planning commission that have been compiled by city staff. [Full Story]

Column on Caucus: Make It a Real Event

Larcom Building 2nd Floor Bulletin Board

Larcom Building 2nd floor bulletin board

Already on Wednesday of this past week the decision had been made to cancel city council’s Sunday caucus. I received a two-sentence email that morning – sent in equitable fashion to both The Chronicle and The Ann Arbor News by Mayor John Hieftje: “We have another light agenda for Monday night so caucus has been cancelled for this Sunday. Enjoy the evening.”

But the way I enjoy my evenings on the Sunday before a regular city council meeting is to attend caucus. You can’t cancel the thing I enjoy and then invite me to enjoy myself. Well, you can, actually, as Mayor Hieftje proved. But you can’t do it without causing me to ask some questions. Like: How was this decision made and who makes it?

Before diving into that, let me address a possible point of skepticism in readers’ minds. I do enjoy caucus. Really, I do. [Full Story]

Building Bridges

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (March 1, 2009): At Sunday’s caucus, Mayor John Hieftje assessed the Ann Arbor city council agenda for Monday as “fairly light.” That’s also an accurate description of the kind of loads the Stadium Boulevard bridge over State Street can currently bear – with deterioration of the structure leading to two weight limit reductions in the last year, and a reduction of traffic to two lanes last week.

Exposed Strands Stadium Bridge

Stadium Boulevard bridge at State Street: Seven pre-stressing strands exposed on beam 5. The strands run east-west – that is, in the direction of the bridge's span.

Even though it is not yet reflected on the agenda for Monday, it’s expected that Sue McCormick, public services director of the city of Ann Arbor, will brief council on the bridge at the start of its meeting.

Some of the handful of residents at caucus were there to inquire about the bridge (and city finances in general), while others were there to weigh in on the A2D2 (Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown) rezoning process, which the planning commission is literally in the midst of deliberating. [Full Story]

Caucus Canceled, Confections Missed

City council’s regular Sunday caucus was canceled yesterday. Sunday caucus is a gathering of councilmembers every Sunday before council’s regular Monday meeting, and provides a chance for the public to hear councilmembers’ thoughts on the upcoming agenda items. It also provides an additional opportunity for the public to share their thoughts with councilmembers in a setting less formal than a public hearing or public commentary slots at council meetings. The Chronicle typically attends caucus and reports them in the Meeting Watch section.

The cancellation of caucus might have been connected to the President’s Day holiday – when there’s a Monday holiday, council’s Monday meeting slides to Tuesday. However, no specific reason was cited for the cancellation this week. [Full Story]

Council Focuses on Development Issues

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 4, 2009): Sunday night’s regular caucus focused on development issues: (i) a proposed PUD, City Place, to be built along Fifth Avenue, and (ii) redevelopment proposals for the city-owned property at 415 W. Washington. The caucus was bookended by remarks from representatives from two of the design teams for the 415 W. Washington, Peter Allen and Peter Pollack. [Full Story]