Ann Arbor city council meeting (Jan. 23, 2012): At its meeting last week, the council again delayed action on a four-party agreement that would establish a framework for a transition of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to a countywide governance incorporated under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986.
The council postponed action until its Feb. 6 meeting, but not before undertaking several amendments to the text of the agreement. The council had previously postponed action at its Jan. 9 meeting and had set a public hearing for Jan. 23. Thirty-nine people appeared before the council to speak during the hearing, and some of those people also reprised their remarks during public comment at the conclusion of the meeting. Fourteen of the speakers were either current or former elected or appointed public officials, or former candidates for public office.
The four-party agreement would be between the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County.
A delay was warranted from the perspective of some councilmembers, who wanted to hear the recommendation of a financial advisory group. The group has been meeting since the fall of 2011 and was scheduled to hold a final meeting on Jan. 27, four days after the council’s vote to postpone. However, later in the week the financial advisory group also chose to postpone its Jan. 27 meeting, in the wake of a 17-bill package of state legislation introduced on Jan. 26 – part of which would establish a regional transit authority for Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and a possible funding mechanism for that authority. It’s not clear if the financial advisory group will meet before the council’s next meeting on Feb. 6.
The council could undertake further amendments to the text of the four-party agreement at its Feb. 6 meeting. In fact, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated he’d bring forward an amendment to change the composition of the planned new transit authority board, to give Ann Arbor more than the currently proposed seven out of 15 seats, so that Ann Arbor would have a majority.
In other business, the council passed two resolutions as symbolic statements of position. One was to express opposition to Michigan’s Public Act 297, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2011. The act prohibits public employers from providing employee medical and fringe benefits to those who are not married to an employee, a dependent of the employee, or eligible to inherit from the employee under the laws of intestate succession.
The law impacts the city of Ann Arbor’s policy of extending benefits to “other qualified adults” – which can include a same-sex domestic partner. The resolution gained unanimous support on the Ann Arbor city council. As Jane Lumm (Ward 2) expressed her concerns about the council’s purview on such a resolution, but ultimately expressed her support for it, Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who is openly gay, was prompted to say, “I love this city!”
The second resolution expressing a position was passed over the dissent of Lumm and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). It encouraged the federal government to exercise prosecutorial discretion in pursuing the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes and who have ties to the community.
The council also approved a contract with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to supply policing services for the downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center. And the council authorized a $10 million contract for engineering services in connection with the facilities renovation project at the city’s wastewater treatment center.
The meeting was bookended by mentions of the word “dragon” – in separate contexts.