The Ann Arbor Chronicle » history it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In it for the Money: Chosen People Tue, 24 Jun 2014 16:38:36 +0000 David Erik Nelson Editor’s Note: David Erik Nelson’s short story “The New Guys Always Work Overtime” won the 2013 Asimov’s Readers’ Award for Short Fiction. You can buy it or download a free copy: [here]

Our Jewish Community Center in Ann Arbor is small. This seems to throw a lot of people off. They think of Ann Arbor as a fairly Jewfull town, because the University of Michigan brings in a lot of East Coast Jews, as well as basically every Midwestern Jew who can make the cut.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

This probably sounds harsh, bordering on bigoted: When some guy with a generic Englishman’s surname and a very Nordic “K” in his conspicous middle name starts sounding off about the preponderance of Jews in town . . . well, it doesn’t sound good, does it? So, to clarify for the Occasional Readers and those who have not yet grown to know and love me: I’m a Midwestern Jew, born and raised in Metro Detroit, like my father before me.

And to us Metro Detroit Jews, UM has long been the Promised Land: At last count something like 40 of my relatives have attended the university (with most ultimately earning a degree or two!) The latest of these, my nephew, will be joining the rolls this September. We are kvelling (well, maybe less so his step-dad  – who is a Spartan, but still a pretty OK guy).

But the university’s Jews don’t tend to stick around, so the actual number of Jewish families in Ann Arbor is pretty small – or, at least, small compared to where I grew up. The point being that we have a small JCC here. It’s pretty heavily used by all the congregations, of which there are three with actual buildings – if you count the Reform folk, who share a building with Episcopalians – and then a handful of gathered congregations. I’d guestimate that more than half of the JCC’s square-footage is dedicated to children: There’s a large daycare, and a K-5 Hebrew Day School, plus an after-care program and several summer camps.

Our tiny JCC has an armed guard. In my mind, this is pretty common. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a JCC without an armed guard – but it came as a surprise to my wife and in-laws, who are not Jews.

Our guard is a guy I’ll call G. He’s a high-and-tight retired Army Ranger with a drawl. All the kids love him, because he is an excellent security guard: He makes it his business to be sure that all the kids know him and like him, so that they will listen to him in an emergency. Most of the emergencies are weather-related (naturally), but during my son’s final year in preschool at the JCC three armed robberies took place within a 1-mile radius of the JCC in a two-week stretch. In all three cases the school was locked down, because three men with shotguns were running around the neighborhoods, evading cops. In such situations, I’m glad G. is handy, because he is sharp and disciplined – and I am very comfortable with him and his role and his being armed in this setting.

To the uninitiated it maybe sounds a little nuts, that my kid’s daycare – which is also the building where we make our religious practice – has an armed guard. But this is the way of the world: Now and again white men with gun-show stockpiles take it upon themselves to take a stab at Zion, and they disproportionately target JCCs when they do so. And JCCs almost invariably have daycares and schools.

But that’s not what I want to tell you about. I want to share a Terrible Revelation I had at the end of May.

A New Gun

G. was off for a couple days at the end of May, and so the substitute guard was there. I’ve seen him now and again – he’s one of several subs who fill in for G. He’s well-meaning, but kinda shlubby; not crisp and affable and sharp as G. But good enough in a pinch.

And on his second day subbing, as I was carrying my 2-year-old daughter through the blast doors, I noticed he had a new pistol – either a small 9mm or a larger .22, the finish absolutely pristine – and I thought to myself “Dude has a new pistol. Oh yeah, some fucker in Belgium shot up a Jewish Museum over the weekend. Figures.”

On that sub’s first day on duty, I’d noticed he had no gun, and the thought in my head had been: “What the fuck good to me is a guard without a goddamn gun?” The thought just surfaced, made its impression, and drifted away. It was not a remarkable thought, here in the Promised Land.

I noticed because I always check the guard’s gun on the way into the building, no matter who is standing guard. G., for example, always packs the same automatic, which I believe to be a .45 Glock. It’s got wear along the end of the barrel and rear sites, where they rub as he walks, stands, sits. I always look, because I want to see that holster clipped – which it always is. And I want to know the gun is there.

So, on that second day I found myself relieved to see G’s sub with a gun on his hip. And only then did I realize how much I’d been bothered by its absence. And I discovered that – way in the back of my head – I’d actually been sorta-kinda considering calling the JCC to see when G. would return.

I made it out to the parking lot, to my car where my son sat waiting for me to drop him at his bus stop, and all of it just suddenly piled on top of me:

It will never be done.

The Land of MLK and Honey

All over this great nation, African Americans attend church on Sunday, and they do not worry about getting blown up. But at one time that just wasn’t the case – back in the days when MLK himself advocated packing heat. Terrorist IED attacks on churches were a constant worry, part of a constellation of worries. And those worries are not gone. And we are not “past race.” But church bombings are in the past. Lynchings are in the past. Burning crosses are in the past. If I were to go to a church and ask “Why don’t you have armed guards?” they’d look at me like I was nuts. If I asked “Why aren’t these windows blast-proof?” again, I’d seem insane, because for all the awfulness African-America has to deal with on a daily basis, broad ideologically motivated targeting by domestic terrorists has markedly declined.

But being the plum target of the men who purchase arms through the gun-show loophole will evidently drag on forever – even though this paranoid worldview jumped the shark so long ago that most garden-variety American Jew-haters have forgotten we killed their God and don’t even know what the blood libel is any more.

They just know that Jews are for hating.

Our JCC – my kid’s daycare – has blast proof windows. I have some professional contacts in the bulletproofing industry, and I can tell you for a fact that bullet- and blast-proof exteriors are exceedingly common at Jewish Community Centers – almost the norm. Under the auspices of Homeland Security, the federal government even offers grants to defray the cost.

Again, this is how the world has been as long as I can remember: JCCs have armed guards, High Holiday services have police protection, and you regularly meet grandparents who decline invites to cook-outs because the smell of meat over open flame stirs the hot ashes of memory and triggers panic attacks.

As children, our history was not sterile and abstract: It was not stark black-and-white photos in the encyclopedia; it was not limited to dramatizations directed by Steven Spielberg.

Our History was at your left elbow at the dinner table telling you about the time he captured – and then murdered – a panzer commander, because that officer gave him lip on the same day he learned his family still living in Poland had all been liquidated by good German patriots just like that privileged officer. Our History spent her young womanhood in Auschwitz-Birkenau sorting the clothes of those who’d been sent “up the chimney,” so that the garments could be shipped to the widows and orphans of German soldiers. Our History had a scar where she’d had her numbers cut out, rather than bear them as a sign upon her arm for the rest of her days.

Just to be crystal clear: I am a well-off “white” person born in the United States in the final quarter of the 20th Century. I grew up in a community of upper-class “white” people, most of whom had regular interaction with family members who had been enslaved and tortured for the German war effort. I grew up in a place where people like me were certainly “white” if you were dark, but still never quite white enough for the world of folks who festooned their house with lights come winter and never thought about whether or not they were really white, or really American.

I remember once, when I was a kid, someone keyed a rental car we had, carving swastikas into the driver’s side door, just above the handle, where the driver – my mother – would be sure to see. This didn’t alarm me; it was just part of how the world was. It was, in fact, so very unremarkable that I didn’t even think of the incident again until I sat down to write this column. For comparison, around this same time I came across a skinned cat laid out on a large flat rock in the middle of a creek in the woods near my suburban elementary school. I think about that moment often. It was the first time in my life I’d ever seen a skinned animal, and it had taken me a long, long moment to even make sense of what I was seeing, and what it must mean.

The skinned cat was remarkable. That was a Mystery worthy of long meditation.

But a swastika? Psssh. I can spot a swastika at 20 yards – scratched into a wall, worked into a tattoo, hidden in a pattern of tiles, subtly alluded to in the shapes of children’s toys and the orientation of library study carols. There are swastikas everywhere, when you have the right eyes on. And it behooves folks like me to keep those eyes on. Remember: Our daycares need forced-entry rated glass and armed guards. Our houses of worship draw regular protests.

The Slow Turn

But then I had my own kids, and my heart went soft. I began to assume that this threat – so small it is almost imperceptible, but also constant and all-permeating, like radon – just wouldn’t be part of my kids’ world, in much the same way that my childhood was not marred with the sort of overt anti-Semitism my dad endured, and his childhood was not defined by the murderous anti-Semitic pogroms his father fled: Seven years old, Abraham Spielberg crossed the Atlantic with a note pinned to his shirt, indicating the address where he should be sent, and the name that he should adopt, the world into which I ought to disappear.

This world. Here. America. The Promised Land of Milk and Honey.

But it’s a long tail, I guess, and this last bit, these final men with guns will linger for ever. And on the day one of them comes and puts lead in me and my kids and their teachers and my neighbors and G. and the receptionist, there will be people on the Internet like weev, or whoever, who will laugh and crack an “Elders of Zion” joke. And then click on to the next thing.

And we – me and my Jewish children, our Jewish neighbors, our gentile guard – we will be dead.

And we won’t be dead because Gun Control or because Mental Health or because Assault Rifles or because the Internet or because Anything. We’ll be dead because, for whatever reason, this one stupid little thing just won’t finish, the other damn shoe will never drop. They don’t even know why they should hate us any more, just that  being hated is what we’re for.

I can tell you – as a guy who spent his formative years talking to concentration campers, talking to Jewish-American enlisted men who liberated concentration campers, poring through first-person accounts, reading Christian Patriot and Aryan Identity forums – that the men who will come now to kill us, they are more dedicated than any of those sad-sack old SS guards that get scooped up now and again and dragged to Israel for trial. Unlike Eichmann himself, these last men with guns will never claim to have just been cogs following orders. These men are proud of their devotion. They come to give “a wakeup call to America to kill Jews” and to make sure that everyone knows that “The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do. Jews captured America’s money. Jews control the mass media.”

These are the men who will not be persuaded, who I cannot talk my way past or bring around, who won’t stop until someone like G. puts a bullet in them. These are the men who rarely stand trial because they are dead on the scene. These men will give the last full measure to squeeze off those rounds into my kid’s daycare.

Because that’s how firmly they believe that my daughter should be dead. Because she is a Jew like me. This must be how it feels to know you passed your daughter that gene for super-aggressive metastatic breast cancer.

And I’ll wager that the bulk of my Gentle Readers don’t have a context for this feeling – because they’ve never felt the cruel twist of self-loathing that comes with knowing you’ve endangered your children by virtue of being related to them. This is part of what I want to share with you.

This is, in a way, the core of the Terrible Revelation: I suddenly realized that your average Americans don’t spend a second of their lives despising themselves for marring their own children with the awful taint of their Identity.

For just a second, standing in the parking lot with my hand on the door handle of my car, that was too much to bear.

The Promised Land

But the Terrible Revelation just kept expanding, because in all the world this is among the safest places for us. This is as good as it gets: A daycare with an armed guard and blast-proof windows. According to a recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute 12% of Americans think it’s basically OK to refuse to do business with a Jew (and let us not forget the breadth of services that might ultimately fall under the auspices of “doing business in America“).

The lede on that first article is that 10% of Americans think it’s basically kosher to refuse to do business with an African American man or women. That number is pretty awful, yet somehow, today, now, in the 21st Century, Jews – nominal whites – are still a smidge less popular among your average American than the most terribly, systematically abused minority in the history of this nation.


The initial frame of this animiation shows dots representing a random selection of 100 Americans. The second frame shows 13% of African Americans (black dots) and the 10% of Americans who would refuse them service (red dots with slashes). The third and final frame shows the 2% of the population who are Jewish (blue dots) and the 12% of Americans who would not do business with them.

But once you really think about those numbers, it’s even worse than it sounds: African-America makes up just about 13% of the U.S. population. If you randomly select 100 Americans, you can expect about a dozen of them to be black, and ten of the remainder to refuse African Americans service. That’s terrible. But at least the black folk outnumber the racists. Pardon the grim calculus, but provided the other 77% of Americans decide to stay out of it, the black dots have a fighting chance.

Meanwhile, maybe 2% of the U.S. is Jewish. So, in that same random sampling, you have two Jews staring back at a room full of gentiles, a dozen of whom really hate them. And the remaining 86? I hope they are at least indifferent.

But every time I see a headline about Donald Sterling or Bernie Madoff or Alan Greenspan or Israel, I start to worry about the 86% of America – those who are neither Jews, nor so shockingly bigoted that they’d refuse to take our money.

I know where I stand with the Jews, and I know where I stand with the guy at Buhr Park Pool rocking the Parteiadler tattoo.

But what about the other 86? I never know. And history tends to indicate that there’s a tipping point for them. Some little thing is going to be one thing too many, and then . . . and then it’s the wrong end of the gun, it’s the lager bottles filled with gasoline, it’s axe handles, it’s Heaven’s Chimney.

It’s the End all over again.

But it never ends, because that’s the point: Until we stop existing – because we’re smoke and ash or because we wise up and stop going to our synagogues and JCCs and museums – then it’s never over, because they will always be more numerous than us, and they are as dedicated to our death and dismemberment as we are to just living our lives and getting our kids to daycare on time so that we can get our other kids to the school bus so that we can go home and get to work and pay our bills and taxes and just be.

Thus ended the Terrible Revelation that I wanted to share with you.

Happy Birthday

The next day after the Terrible Revelation was my son’s eighth birthday. He’s never met anyone who saw the inside of an operating concentration camp. I can remember being six and seven, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about concentration camps, about genocide. I can’t remember ever being told; it was just always there, like air and thunderstorms and acorns.

I have not told my son. I feel like I’m lying by not telling him. I feel like I’m concealing something.

But I can’t find words to tell him anything about any of this; my throat just locks up. And that scares him. And so we do something else, because there’s no need to scare him. As should be suitably established by this point, the world is scary enough on its oddy-knocky. Hardly needs my enhancements.

What would I tell him? What fatherly advice suffices?

Keep a clean nose? Keep a low profile? Keep quiet?

I’m going to let you in on a little Jewish secret, Gentile America: Jewish fathers have told their Jewish sons to learn to keep their mouths shut and blend in from time immemorial, and it has never done a damn bit of good. We didn’t end up with the anonymous surname “Nelson” by some accident of history, folks. It was a plan. But it never really worked out.

I guess if I could say anything, I’d say it’s like what the Rabbi says in the story: Feel lucky, boy, ’cause it can always be worse.

Why Am I Telling You All This?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I do know that often, when you try to tell the Majority about some little sliver of a facet of living in a Protected Class, they get huffy. Sometimes it’s because they think you are a whiner or full of shit or whatever, and that’s OK. An asshole is born every minute – and, frankly, I don’t think many of those folks have read this far.

No, the Righteous Among the Nations get huffy, too, and I think that’s because they are sickened and overwhelmed by new knowledge of perpetual injustice. And, because they are powerful, and because they are good, and because they are Americans, they want to do something to Solve This. And what upsets them is the fact that this cannot be solved. That, in short, is my whole point: Here and now, in this place, this is as good as it will ever get for the Children of Israel – and still, my daughter’s daycare needs an armed guard and blast-proof windows.

So, just to be crystal clear: I’m not telling you this because I expect you to fix it. I’m not telling you this because I expect you do say “Poor Dave! Poor Jews!” I’m not telling you this because I want you to give Israel a pass on their awful domestic policies. I’m not telling you this because I want you to watch Schindler’s List or donate to the Shoah Foundation or visit a Holocaust Museum – jeez, you’re taking your life into your own hands doing that.

First and foremost, I tell you this because some of the Jews with whom I shared the Terrible Revelation, they said “You should publish this.” I suppose they felt that hearing this might help you – the great and all-ruling throng of gentiles – to know us a bit better. But whatever their motivations, they said you should be told, and they are right: By not telling you, I am lying to you about the world, as sure as I’m lying to my boy by not telling him about the Shoah.

I owe you the simple fact of what I saw as I stood in the parking lot, fingers on the door handle, on the day before my son’s eighth birthday.

But also, I want you to know because I think about that 100-person vision of America often. I think about those two little Jews adrift in a sea of docile American gentiles. I think about those twelve venomous jellyfish floating along, invisible to their countrymen, invisible to everyone but us yidlach.

I know that the vast, vast bulk of you, Gentle Readers, are likely to be Gentile Readers, quiet members of the 86% of Americans who are neither Jews nor principled bigots. And it’s you I dwell on, not the two little Jews, not the twelve angry anti-Semites.

Eighty-six of you in that quiet crowd, and God knows that you have every right, when the Bad Thing Happens, to treat it as exactly none of your business. God knows that this would be the smart thing to do, because standing up will likely mean getting killed with the rest of us, and you have your families and your people to watch out for. I entirely respect your decision to keep quiet and carry on.

But God also knows that if all of you choose to prudently mind your own business, we two Jews will be totally and completely fucked. Once again.

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our publication of local columnists like David Erik Nelson. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. So if you’re already supporting us on a regular basis, please educate your friends, neighbors and colleagues about The Chronicle and encourage them to support us, too!

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In the Archives: Bloomers and Bicycles Mon, 01 Feb 2010 04:09:59 +0000 Laura Bien Editor’s note: At January’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, Ann Arbor’s mayor suggested that the DDA’s transportation committee bring a recommendation to the board to take a position on bicycling on Ann Arbor’s downtown sidewalks.

The fight to keep bikes off of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti sidewalks dates back to the first appearance over a century ago of what many perceived to be “infernal machines.”

Thompson Bike

O.E. Thompson was Ypsilanti's leading seller of bicycles. (Images link to higher resolution files.)

The 1876 Ann Arbor city charter contains no mention of bicycles – it wouldn’t be until two years later that A. A. Pope manufactured the first bicycles in the U.S. The invention spread across the nation, threw city fathers into consternation as they scrambled for their city charters, and incited Ann Arbor’s “Bloomer War.”

It also inspired the creation of a nationwide organization of cyclists, the League of American Wheelmen. Its Michigan chapter’s 1897 edition of their “Road Book” recommended one 271.5-mile jaunt from Detroit to Chicago. Another route circled Lake Erie. The guidebook gave instructions for rides from Ann Arbor to Chelsea, Saline, Whitmore Lake, Pontiac, South Lyon and Dundee.

“Gravel roads will average as shown during entire riding season,” the book stated, “clay ones only in dry seasons.” The L.A.W. received a discount from 66 Michigan hotels ranging from Marquette to Coldwater. In Ann Arbor, the L.A.W.’s hotel was the American House (15% discount), and its Ypsilanti refuge was the Hawkins House (20%).

Thompson Bike Adverstisement

Thompson's 1895 bicycle ad.

As the wheelmen helped popularize bicycling, they also warned of restrictions. “Among the principal cities in Michigan the following have bicycle ordinances,” stated the 1897 guidebook, naming 17 cities. “The following cities have no bicycle ordinances: Ann Arbor, Sturgis, and Ypsilanti. In the first two cities, sidewalk riding is not permitted, however.”

Ann Arbor did not yet have a bicycle ordinance, but in 1895, Section 8 of the city’s “Ordinance Relative to the Use of Streets and Public Places” forbade bikes on sidewalks. “No person shall cause or permit any horse, cow, sheep, hog, mule, or other similar animal, or any cart, carriage, dray, hack, cutter, or other vehicle under his or her care or control, to go upon any sidewalk … Nor shall any person make use of any sidewalk … for riding or going from place to place with bicycles or velocipedes.”

Baby carriages and biking children under six years old were permitted.

In November of 1897, the Ann Arbor city council considered and voted down “An Ordinance Relative to Bicycles.” Then in January of 1898, they passed “An Ordinance Relative to Bicycles.” But in March of 1898, they passed “An Ordinance to Repeal an Ordinance Entitled ‘An Ordinance Relative to Bicycles.’”

Ypsilanti was also wrestling with the troublesome vehicle. In 1897, city council passed “An Ordinance to Regulate the Use of Bicycles and Other Vehicles on the Public streets Within the Limits of the City of Ypsilanti.” It included:

Section 1. No bicycle or other vehicle shall be driven at a rate of speed to exceed eight miles per hour upon any street within the limits of the city of Ypsilanti.

Sec. 2. No person or persons shall ride any bicycle or other vehicle on the sidewalk within the limits of the city of Ypsilanti.

Sec. 8. Any person violating any of the provisions of this ordinance on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not to exceed ten dollars together with the costs of prosecution or imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed twenty days, or both fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court.

Just one year later, frustrated city fathers raised the ordinance violation fine from $10 ($260 today) to $50 ($1,280), and the possible jail time from 20 to 90 days. Other communities were having trouble, too. Local papers reported that Bay City’s Frank Baker had stolen a bike and was sentenced to three years in the Jackson prison. Compounding the problems, bicycle speeders and sidewalk-riders were difficult to nab. One exasperated resident, F. E. Quigley, wrote to the Ypsilanti Daily Press:

Would it not be a wise thing for this city to purchase a [car] for . . . the police department? For instance, if an officer is wanted in the vicinity of the Normal, a call is put in by phone. Perhaps the police department is closed, the chief being out on street duty . . . The call is of no avail. But suppose the chief is in his office; he attempts to respond by the present method, namely, by walking, and before he can arrive on the scene of action, there is no need of his services, the ‘bird’ having flown . . . Suppose a community is infested with men and boys riding their bicycles on the sidewalks? . . . [I]t seems that we ought to get modern service for the expenditure of money that is being made.

Not three days later, Ypsi police arrested high school student and sidewalk-biker Eugene Minor – the first bicycle crime to appear in Judge Martin Stadtmiller’s court dockets for the previous three years. Minor paid a fine of $3 plus court costs of 45 cents ($76 today). The next day, police arrested another sidewalk-biker, teamster Milton E. Gould, who also paid a fine.

It was a losing battle. Bicycles were by then such an integral part of Ypsi life that the high school and the local underwear factory both had special indoor bicycle storage rooms. Almost all of the underwear factory workers were women who, like men, bought their own bicycles. “Miss Florence Batchelder is the proud possessor of a Crawford bicycle,” noted the April 16, 1896 Ypsilantian.

Some men were less sanguine about women bicyclists and their penchant for wearing bike-friendly bloomers. University of Michigan medical men heard the question discussed at a September 1895 medical convention in Detroit. Dr. I. N. Love came from St. Louis, and spoke on “The Bicycle from a Medical Standpoint.”

“A study of the question of the wheel for women had resulted in an opinion favorable to its moderate use in cases of acute diseases,” Love said. “An hour’s wheeling three times a day is ample.” Love objected to bloomers, “which lessened the respect of mankind for womanhood and blemished the landscape.”

Just a week later in the biweekly journal Medical Century, an editorial addressed bloomers, as well as Love’s presentation:

Their tardy acceptance having been carefully traced to the fact of their hideousness, and now that the shop girls and their kith have accustomed the public eye to the sight … and now that the no better but some finer types of women have taken up and pushed on the shop girls’ initiative into a more graceful expression, the question begins to arise in the minds of the be-trousered populace, “What are they good for and how are they good for it?”

The costume was so beastly ugly that it became by virtue of that token “immodest” … every conscientiously artistic man was forced to put his hands before his face – and look through his fingers – when a bloomer girl went by …

[I]t was only the other day that the Mississippi Valley Medical Convention sat down in Detroit … We read that the doctors in conclave assembled in Detroit were brought to the verge of tears in their reluctant consideration of the ugly old things, and the author of the paper which had for its title “The Bicycle from a Medical Standpoint” grew mournfully sublime as he entered his protest against “such things” and pathetically entreated that the police be instructed to arrest women wearing them. ‘They weren’t pretty,” he sobbed, “and they weren’t nice nohow”.

However, the editorial grudgingly concluded that bloomers were conducive to women’s exercise.

The difficulty of biking in bulky skirts, let alone a corset, led to one UM student’s rebellion, and ultimately, the “Rational Dress Movement,” which advocated less elaborate and constrictive women’s clothing.

The May 1895 edition of the monthly magazine The Bachelor of Arts wrote:

Miss [Edna] Day, a junior, wears bloomers when she rides a bicycle, as all women do who choose. But she can’t ride a bicycle all the time, and finding it an inconvenience to change her raiment from hour to hour she fell into the habit of wearing bloomers around her boardinghouse.

Mrs. Eames, who keeps the boardinghouse, is not a ‘new woman,’ but one of the older fashioned sort, who believes in skirts. She told Miss Day that bloomers did not ‘go’ in her house, so Miss Day compromised and agreed to wear bloomers only when she rode her bicycle. But Miss Brown of the Medical School cried ‘tyranny!’ when she heard of it, and put her bloomers right on and sallied forth into the street, and declared war. Some of the professors’ wives who ride bicycles sided with her, and declared it to be the constitutional right of every woman to wear bloomers with or without bicycles whenever she would.

Then Mrs. Eames rose up and declared that she would have no bloomers worn about her house if she lost every bloomering boarder she had! Now there is war in Ann Arbor.

The Bachelor’s opinion is that only pretty women should wear bloomers at any time.

The bloomer furor eventually resolved itself, and a century later, Ypsilanti uneventfully banned sidewalk biking in a small downtown area. But in larger and busier Ann Arbor, where the sidewalk question currently has proponents on both sides as feisty as Edna Day and company, the city likely has in store a “bloomering” fight.

This biweekly column features a Mystery Artifact contest. You are invited to take a look at the artifact and try to deduce its function.

Mystery Artifact

Mystery artifact

Last week’s Mystery Artifact contest generated many excellent guesses, ranging from a tatting shuttle to a kite string holder.

The winning guess was from John – a sharpening stone. This is a whetstone, not unlike modern kitchen knife sharpeners, for farm and workshop tools.

This week’s Mystery Artifact stumped a well-known Ypsilanti historian. It’s about eight inches tall and three and a half inches wide. What might this odd object be?

Take your best guess; answer in the Valentine’s Day column!

“In the Archives” is a biweekly series written for The Ann Arbor Chronicle by Laura Bien. Her work can also be found in the Ypsilanti Citizen, the Ypsilanti Courier, and as well as the Ann Arbor Observer. She is the author of “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives,” to be published this winter. Bien also writes the historical blog “Dusty Diary” and may be contacted at

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Federal Money May Save Bus #5 for Ypsi Fri, 18 Sep 2009 01:08:50 +0000 Dave Askins Clipping from April 3, 1973 Ann Arbor News newspaper

A clipping from the April 3, 1973 Ann Arbor News newspaper. Headline was: "Bus System Linking City With Ypsilanti Gets Push"

At a meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s planning and development committee on Wednesday evening – attended by some members of Ypsilanti’s city council, plus the mayor – the possible elimination of Ypsilanti’s bus Route #5 became far less likely.

The committee recommended that federal stimulus money be used to cover a shortfall between the amount that Ypsilanti’s city council allocated to transportation, and the cost of the city’s purchase of service agreement (POSA) with the AATA through June 2011. If the recommendation to use federal dollars is approved by the full AATA board at its Sept.23 meeting, the elimination of Route #5, plus reductions in service on Routes #10 and #11, would not be necessary.

On Sept. 8, Ypsilanti’s city council had voted 5-1 (with dissent from Mayor Paul Schreiber) to propose the service reductions – chosen from a “menu” of options provided by the AATA. The Ypsilanti council resolution also included a request that the POSA rate not increase, and that about $100,000 in federal stimulus dollars – part of a $6.45 million grant to the AATA – be used to make up the remaining difference.

The willingness of the AATA’s planning and development committee to increase the federal dollars allotted to around $200,000 was based on a key condition, which is actually built into the language of the Ypsilanti council resolution: either there will be progress towards a dedicated countywide funding mechanism for mass transportation, or else the city of Ypsilanti will put a millage proposal (a Headlee override) on the November 2010 ballot.

Currently, the AATA’s basic local funding – aside from service agreements with surrounding communities – comes from a 2.5 mill transportation tax passed by Ann Arbor voters on April 2, 1973. The 2.5 mill tax is now levied at a rate of just over 2 mills, due to the effect of the Headlee Amendment, which rolls back the millage to prevent property tax revenues from increasing faster than the rate of inflation.

A Bit of Historical Perspective

The years 1972-73 were not so awfully different from 2008-09.

In 2008, Ann Arbor’s Ward 5 was remarkable because a two-party race for city council (between Carsten Hohnke-D and John Floyd-R) took place there. No other ward enjoyed a choice between two candidates in the general election. And in 1973, The Ann Arbor News reported there was a ward enjoying the same distinction: Ward 3. It was, remarkably, the only ward where actual two-party politics were being practiced, with a Democrat and a Republican running for city council. One small difference. In 1973, Ward 3 was the odd ward – because in the other four wards, three candidates (Democrat, Republican, Human Rights Party) contested each seat.

Until early 2009, Ethel Potts was active in civic life as a planning commissioner. She continues to attend public meetings as a rank-and-file citizen. Back in 1973, Ethel Lewis, who’d not yet married Mr. Potts, was active in civic life as the Democratic candidate for the Ward 4 city council seat. (A volunteer for her ultimately unsuccessful campaign was current city councilmember Sabra Briere.) Lewis got votes 2,925 against Republican Richard Hadler’s 3,290 and Human Rights Party candidate Philip Carroll’s 1,216.

The city council of 2009 faced some similar problems to those confronted by the council of 1973. Ann Arbor residents in early 2009 began to hear increasingly dire reports about the condition of the Stadium Boulevard bridges over State Street and the railroad tracks. There’s a chance that a large chunk of the money for the $22 million bridge replacement project could come from federal funds. [Previous Chronicle coverage in "Council Gets Update on Stadium Bridges."] If not, the city would need to use money from its street repair millage, or possibly follow the example of the 1973 city council, which was also faced with a Stadium bridges repair problem.

In 1973, the council asked voters to approve a bond sale specifically to repair the Stadium bridges – voters said yes. Of the proposed bond sale on the ballot, $800,000 was for creation of a citywide bicycle system using existing streets and new pathways, and $360,000 was designated for repair of the Stadium bridges.

In 1973, one of the arguments for repairing the Stadium bridges, but not widening State Street to accommodate four lanes of traffic, was that the city’s expanded bus system would reduce the need for such a widening. That expanded bus system was called “Teltran” due its planned heavy reliance on a dial-a-ride approach – riders would call and a mini-bus would appear, delivering people door-to-door.

What was going to fund that Teltran system? A transportation tax in the amount of 2.5 mills. That tax was also on the ballot in 1973, along with the bond sale. The transportation tax was approved by voters with no expiration date. In contrast,  the greenbelt millage, passed by Ann Arbor voters in 1999, expires in 2034. Street repair millages are typically passed for a shorter period – most recently in 2006 for the period 2007-11.

Part of the 2009 thinking on the Ypsilanti bus situation – from the perspective of Ann Arbor – is reflected in remarks made by Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board member Newcombe Clark at the DDA’s last board meeting. Clark suggested that an express bus route between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor should be contemplated as part of the general approach to link surrounding communities like Chelsea and Canton.

The day after Ann Arbor’s transportation millage passed in 1973, The Ann Arbor News reported that the county board of commissioners’ planning, recreation and transportation committee had recommended hiring a transportation coordinator to establish a trial bus system between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti:

The request for the establishment of the position was the result of meetings between the commissioners, Ypsilanti area governments and Pittsfield Township to discuss a possible mass transit system between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

In their “state of the county” message, the Democrats gave top priority to the establishment of an express bus route [emphasis added] between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. [George] Goodman, in his first term as Ypsilanti mayor, also said he would work toward the establishment of such a system. The exact date of the initial bus runs has not yet been worked out due to the uncertain nature of the funding for the program.

Certainly a lot has happened in the intervening 36 years. Over much of that period, there’s been bus service between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, which reflects that the community found a way to fund it. When Ypsilanti city councilmember S.A. Trudy Swanson appeared before the AATA board at its Aug. 21 meeting, she asked board members to see the current situation in light of 30 years of a successful partnership between AATA and Ypsilanti.

So what is the current situation?

Dedicated Funding of Ypsilanti’s POSA

At Wednesday’s meeting, planning and development committee member Rich Robben wanted to make sure that Ypsilanti was on a path that would lead to a fully-funded purchase of service agreement (POSA). It was a concern echoed by committee chair Ted Annis.

Already in 2006 the prospect of reduced service to Ypsilanti had been contemplated. But the AATA agreed in October of that year to subsidize the bus service by not charging the full cost of the service. [See the Ann Arbor District library's Ann Arbor News archive, which can be accessed with free registration: "Ypsilanti accepts AATA bus subsidy to keep full service."] In a 2006 Ann Arbor News article, then resident and former mayor – and current city councilmember – Peter Murdock is quoted:

Resident Peter Murdock said he is pleased that bus service will not be affected for a year, but that council ought to start thinking about a long-term solution. “What is going to happen next year?” Murdock said. “We need a real solution.”

One possible solution that Murdock did not favor that following year, in November 2007, was the idea of generating additional general fund revenue with a city income tax. Murdock worked with the group Stop the City Income Tax in a campaign against the tax, based partly on the argument that such a tax merely “kicked the can down the road.” A large majority of Ypsianti citizens voted to reject the tax.

A city income tax would have generated additional general fund revenues, not specifically designated for bus funding. And it’s the general fund out of which Ypsilanti pays its POSA with the AATA. That means that in any given budget year, the funding for transportation provided through the AATA is subject to the discretion of the city council, which must operate under prevailing fiscal constraints.

The possible longer-term solution now contemplated is for the Ypsilanti city council to place a ballot question before voters in November 2010 that would override the Headlee Amendment and provide transportation-dedicated funds. Based on current property values, Murdock estimated Wednesday evening that such a millage would generate around $320,000 per year dedicated to fund transportation for Ypsilanti.

Given the $280,000 that AATA wants Ypsilanti to pay in 2010, that sounded initially like Robben’s concern for fully funding the POSA was completely met. But Murdock cautioned that property values were projected to continue to fall, and that the $320,000 might actually be lower. And AATA controller Phil Webb cautioned that the $280,000 figure for 2010 reflected the start of an incremented path to Ypsilanti’s fully funding the POSA, which would reach $340,000 by 2012.

Still, it was close enough to convince the planning and development committee to make a recommendation to use federal money in the interim.

If approved by the full AATA board, there would be no need to eliminate Route #5 into Ypsilanti or end service one hour earlier on Routes #10 and #11, which the Ypsilanti city council voted on Sept. 8 to propose to AATA.

In Ypsilanti, the  campaign for or against a Headlee override with dedicated funds for transportation could include the question of whether that approach really represents a longer-term solution. Based on the projections and costs discussed at the planning and development committee meeting, there is likely to be a shortfall of dedicated revenue for transportation against the cost of the POSA as soon as 2012.

The Chronicle followed up by phone with Paul Schreiber, mayor of Ypsilanti. He suggested that part of the campaign for a Headlee override should include a commitment to use general fund money to make up shortfalls between the dedicated funding and the cost of the POSA. Schreiber’s dissent on the Sept. 8 vote had reflected a desire to use Ypsilanti general fund dollars to pay the POSA – instead of requesting service reductions –  in order to establish a high-priority commitment to funding transportation.

A Countywide Millage?

Whether there’s even a campaign in Ypsilanti for a Headlee override will depend in part on whether there is a proposal to put a countywide transportation millage on the ballot in November 2010. In the fall 2008, there were active discussions by the AATA board about reconstituting the AATA as an Act 196 countywide transportation authority and putting a countywide transportation millage on the ballot as soon as the fall of 2009.

No ballot proposal will appear on this November’s ballot.

But the AATA document prepared for Ypsilanti city council, which outlined the “menu” of service cuts available to them, indicates that the AATA has not forgotten about the idea:

The AATA will be conducting market research in September 2009 to determine voter attitudes toward a millage vote to provide dedicated funding for transit. Based on these results, the AATA Board of Directors will consider whether to proceed with a ballot initiative.

One issue to contemplate is whether Ann Arbor voters will support a countywide millage in sufficient numbers, if the countywide millage is not accompanied with a possibility of reducing the roughly 2 mill transportation tax that Ann Arbor property owners already pay.

The Federal Stimulus Money

At several points during Wednesday’s planning and development committee meeting, Ted Annis made a point of emphasis for his committee colleagues, AATA staff present, and members of the audience: It’s not the AATA that is providing the help to the city of Ypsilanti, it’s the federal government.

It’s also worth pointing out that the resolution likely to be considered by the full AATA board next week would include around $18,000 to bridge a POSA gap for Ypsilanti Township as well as the roughly $200,000 for the city of Ypsilanti.

The planning and development committee is recommending that a total of $220,000 of federal stimulus money (from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) be allocated to cover the POSA gaps.

The total amount of stimulus money allocated to the AATA is $6.45 million. How is the AATA planning to spend the money? Here’s what the list looks like in round numbers: $2.5 million for four new hybrid buses; $1.5 million for the Plymouth Road park-and-ride lot, $1 million for facilities expansion at the AATA’s South Industrial location for bus storage; $0.75 million for partial funding of a Central Campus Transit Center with the University of Michigan; $0.46 million for improvements to shelters and sidewalks to address accessibility issues.

Phil Webb, the  AATA’s controller, summarizing the numbers, said at Wednesday’s committee meeting that what’s left over from those capital outlays is $240,000.

That leaves a small buffer as those numbers firm up. For example, the costs associated with the facilities expansion – which have only received a rough estimate and have not been put out to bid – might be higher than expected.

The majority of federal stimulus dollars must be allocated only to capital projects, not to cover operating expenses. The AATA plan to apply them to operating costs in the case of funding the Ypsilanti POSA agreement takes advantage of a provision that up to 10% of the federal funds can be applied to operating costs.

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City Council and the Values of Ann Arbor Fri, 06 Mar 2009 19:19:04 +0000 Dave Askins Iraq Water Project

Laura Russello, executive director at Michigan Peaceworks, presented background on the collaboration between the nonprofit she leads and Veterans for Peace on the Iraq Water Project.

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 2, 2009): Whatever chance for controversy that might have been present in the Ann Arbor’s City Council meeting agenda on Monday evening was eschewed in favor of values statements. These expressions of values were reflected in many of the agenda items themselves. We’ve organized our account of the meeting in terms of values related to the following topics: water, the arts, land, energy, history, and democracy.

Ann Arbor Value: Water

Iraq Water Project (Clean Water): As a part of the section of the agenda called “Introductions” that starts every council meeting, Laura Russello, executive director at Michigan Peaceworks, presented background on the collaboration between the nonprofit she leads and Veterans for Peace, who joined together to work on the Iraq Water Project. As a result of the destruction of much of Iraq’s infrastructure during the Iraq war, Russello said that only 1 in 3 Iraqis have access to clean water. The goal of the project is to restore access to clean water. So far the national organization has raised $200,000 to repair six water treatment facilities in Iraq, Russello said.

She explained that the goal of Michigan Peaceworks is to help involve the entire community in the project led by Veterans for Peace so that it becomes a “human-to-human” issue. To that end, a variety of events had been organized, continued Russello, including a showing of the movie “Flow” at Michigan Theater, a rally on the University of Michigan campus, op-ed pieces written for the Ann Arbor News, with door-to-door canvassing planned.

Members had a poster depicting a water filter of the sort that the Iraq Water Project is raising money to send to Iraq. It consists of a sediment filter, followed by a carbon filter, with sterilization achieved through an ultraviolet bulb. About 30 of the units have been sent so far.

After presentations made during the “Introductions,” councilmembers sometimes ask questions to elicit more detail from the presenters. Mayor John Hiefte stated that he knew something about water filters and queried Russello about the filter’s processing rate. Eight gallons a minute, she said.

Russello asked for council’s support of the resolution on their agenda, saying that an endorsement from city council would help lend the local effort credibility.

Later, during council deliberations on the resolution, Tony Derezinski  thanked Michigan Peaceworks and Veterans for Peace from his perspective as “a veteran of an earlier unpopular war” and said that he was pleased to support it. Hieftje said he really appreciated the fact that they came and talked to him about the project, saying that it can have an immediate impact on people’s lives.

Outcome: The resolution, which featured a “resolved” clause commending Michigan Peaceworks and Veterans for Peace for their work on the Iraq Water Project, was passed unanimously.

Dreiseitl Project for Municipal Center (Storm Water): During public commentary reserved time at the beginning of the meeting, Margaret Parker, chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission, spoke to the agenda item on  the professional services agreement with Herbert Dreiseitl to create a piece of public art for the new municipal building, which will integrate with the building’s storm water control system. The cost of the preliminary design is $77,000, which was on the agenda for authorization, with the project itself expected to cost around $700,000.

At a recent art commission meeting, some commissioners had expressed concern about some lack of support for the Dreiseitl project among the public. At its October 2008 meeting, there was some surprise expressed by commissioners about the large amount of money available to fund the project, as well as the rapid time line for the project’s selection. At a Sunday night council caucus in early February, Marcia Higgins had also expressed surprise at how much money had accumulated through the one-percent for art program, prompting her to wonder if a half-percent of all capital projects would be sufficient to meet the program’s goals.

Margaret Parker: Parker thanked the city council for its planning by putting the percent for art program in place and said that the Dreiseitl proposal was the first project to be funded through the program. She then gave some brief background on the mechanics of the funding, including the fact that funds from all capital projects that feed into the program can be pooled as long as they’re related to the same funding source. The funds need not be spent in the same year that they accumulate, she said, but they can’t be spend on anything other than public art.

She then began to walk council through the steps that led to the decision to commission Dreiseitl to create a storm water-based project for the new municipal center [which breaks ground in a few weeks, with preparations already underway around the Larcom Building.] First, she said, it was unanimously decided that the new municipal center was the place to focus time and funding. Second, the task force, consisting of many members of the community not on the art commission, had dtermined where in the municipal center the project would be sited. The site selected was the rain garden. With that, Parker’s time was up (three minutes is the time limit for public commentary), and she left the podium saying that she hoped council had read their “little packets and make the right decision.”

Councilmember Margie Teall said she was excited by the fact that Dreiseitl had agreed to do the project. Councilmember Carsten Hohnke said he’d seen a presentation when Dreiseitl was in Ann Arbor last year for the Huron River Watershed Council’s State of the Huron conference. He said it would bring storm water control out into the open and would thus be both educational as well as aesthetically pleasing art.

Outcome: Passed unanimously.

Ann Arbor Value: Art

State Funding: In voting to fund the design of Dreiseitl’s storm water-based art installation, council gave a thumbs up to both water and art. But it spent a fair chunk of time on the subject of just plain art. The topic was first mooted by Shary Brown during public commentary reserved time, who encouraged city council to pass the resolution on its agenda calling on Gov. Jennifer Granholm to maintain Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs funding at a level of $6.1 million in fiscal year 2010. The funding is in jeopardy as the state looks for ways to cover budget shortfalls.

Shary Brown: Brown introduced herself as director of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, which will be 50 years old this summer. The organization also  sponsors the Townie Party preceding the fairs. She pointed out that the art fairs draw .5 million visitors to Ann Arbor each year, who spend $5 million on hotels, $25.3 million on dining and $48.7 million on shopping. It would be short-sighted, she said, for the state to cut funding to the arts.

Kenneth Fischer: Fischer introduced himself as president of the University Musical Society and a proud member of Tony Derezinski’s ward (Ward 2). He said he was there to support the resolution supporting arts funding. He drew a connection between state funding and federal funding, saying that when the federal government looks at state funding levels and and sees no money, it has a negative impact on the likelihood of federal funding. [The idea is that the feds prefer to allocate monies where there is matching local support.]

Fischer recounted how the Michigan Economic Development Corp. had used the 2006 visit from the Royal Skakespeare Co. to leverage the arts to entertain out-of-state CEOs. He cited an assessment by Mary Kramer of Crain’s Detroit Business, who had written that the MEDC had “hit a homerun” with its investment.

Councilmember Teall said she was happy to see the resolution come before council and that she hoped it helped change some minds in Lansing. Councilmember Hohnke encouraged the public to visit and to look at the economic impact study to familiarize themselves with the impact of arts on the economy. It’s not direct, he allowed, but it’s significant.

Mayor Hieftje highlighted the language in the resolution, ticking through points like 2,600 jobs that are tied to the nonprofit arts sector and the $57 million in household income that the arts generate.

Councilmember Sandi Smith said that she did not envy Gov. Granholm’s position. She said that Ann Arbor was having difficulty, and in Lansing there would be a similar diffiulty. They’re going to have to go line by line, she said, and the arts seems easy to cut. She said it was ironic, because the state was giving money specifically for the arts through the Cool Cities program a few years ago. Continuing to fund the arts, she said, was going to help Michigan go forward.

Councilmember Stephen Rapundalo urged everyone who cares to put in a call, letter or email. [The website mentioned by Hohnke above provides a form for contacting Governor Granholm.] Rapundalo suggested contacting state Senate majority leader Tom George, saying that there are those who see the benefit from continuing to fund the arts. He said we need to get behind those folks.

Councilmember Mike Anglin stated his support of the resolution. He mentioned that the University of Michigan was going to be re-opening its art museum and urged citizens to contact their legislators.

Councilmember Derezinski said he saw some wonderful people at Monday’s meeting in support of the arts, like Margaret Parker and  Ken Fischer, a “resident of my ward” – an allusion to Fischer’s earlier statment that he was a proud member of Derezinski’s ward, which drew a few chuckles. Derezinski stated that the arts were a wonderful component of Ann Arbor that makes it unique.

Councilmember Sabra Briere was fairly brief. When they send this resolution off to Lansing, she said, they should remember that bread feeds our body, and roses feed our soul. Art, she said, is the roses. Briere was kind enough to send along to the The Chronicle the full text of the poem to which her remark alluded, “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim, published December, 1911 in American Magazine:

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for – but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler – ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

Outcome: Passed unanimously.

Ann Arbor Value: Energy

Burning Coal: Council had on its agenda a resolution stating the city of Ann Arbor’s opposition to the continued burning of coal to generate electricity. The resolution was recommended by the city’s energy commission, and public commentary included remarks from the chair of that committee, Robert Black, who asked for council’s support of it.

Robert Black: Black introduced himself as the chair of Ann Arbor’s energy commission and advocated for the elimination of the burning of coal to generate electricity. He stressed that there was a certain urgency to the issue, and said that the council’s stand was needed because of Ann Arbor’s role as leader. Ann Arbor  is being watched, said Black.  He pointed out that Dave Konkle, until recently the energy coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor, was in Washington D.C. working with international organizations on the issue. Black said that $20 billion goes out of the state to pay for energy.

Mayor Hieftje led off council deliberations by saying he believes that no more coal-fired plants should be built, and that there was no such thing as “clean coal.” The increased levels of mercury in Great Lakes fish, Hieftje said, were in large part due to the burning of coal. Given that Michigan has the 14th best wind resource in the country, Hieftje concluded that there was no need for the seven new coal-fired plants that were currently proposed.

Councilmember Briere noted briefly that the other side of burning coal is mining coal, which is itself a problem.

Outcome: Passed unanimously.

Earth Day, Earth Hour: Council considered a resolution endorsing Earth Hour, an initiative from the World Wildlife Fund that  asks all citizens, businesses, government agencies, and commercial and non-commercial establishments to turn off all non-essential lighting for one hour beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Sat., March 28, 2009.

Councilmember Smith noted that the time specified was local time, and that Earth Hour would move progressively around the world. She said that it would include streetlights on Main Street plus the lights in city hall.

Councilmember Briere noted that the more lights that go off, the better the chance to see the sky.

Councilmember Marcia Higgins was concerned about the practical side of turning street lights off.  “Are we turning them all off? Have merchants been made aware?” The answers seemed to be “No” and “Yes,” respectively.

Councilmember Hohnke talked about the Earth Hour effort reflecting a “global vote” for global climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009. [The Chronicle learned later that Hohnke is pursuing the possibility, via city staff, of getting data from DTE to measure the impact of Earth Hour locally.]

Mayor Hieftje said that when the lights did get turned off on Main Street for Earth Hour, it would represent an even further reduction from the already small amounts of  energy used  by the LED lighting system.

Outcome: Passed unanimously.

Ann Arbor Value: Land

Greenbelt: The city’s Greenbelt program stems from a millage passed by voters in 2003, which raised funds to purchase additional parkland and to preserve land within the greenbelt district. A central strategy in land preservation is through the purchase of development rights on working family farms. Before Monday’s council meeting, around 750 acres had been protected through the Greenbelt program. Tom Partridge is one of the program’s critics. During his turns at public commentary, he often calls for the money that is spent on greenbelt acquisitions to be spent on other areas instead. With a purchase of development rights for 146 acres through the Greenbelt program on council’s agenda, Partridge rose to comment, and revealed that he has not changed his mind on the question.

Tom Partridge: Partridge reaffirmed the need to stimulate the economy in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and southeast Michigan by taking steps to access federal stimulus money and other public funds. He called for directing public money away from buying up farmland, instead putting it towards a transportation system. He also called for reform of the general practice that puts conditions on certain pools of funding, restricting their use on capital projects as opposed to operational expenses.

Councilmember Hohnke said that the acquisition on the agenda meant that more than 400 acres of operating farmland between Ann Arbor and Dexter had been preserved. He described the acquisition as “going to the sweetspot for the vision of the greenbelt, and emphasized that Ann Arbor taxpayers contribute less than 50% of the cost, with the remaining percentage coming from federal taxes and Webster Township.

Mayor Hieftje put the land acquisition in the context of local agriculture becoming increasingly important.

Outcome: Passed unanimously.

Plastic Bags: Council had on its agenda for the third time a proposed ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags by retail establishments – the bags with handles used to bag groceries, for example. One of the reasons for such a ban that has been cited by the proposed ordinance’s sole sponsor, Councilmember Stephen Rapundalo, is the litter stemming from such bags. As partly a litter issue, we group it in the “Land” section of the meeting report.

Rapundalo moved for a postponement to June 1 to allow city staff to have a little more time to take in information and to have a discussion with retailers. Rapundalo asked Bryan Weinert, the solid-waste coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor, to give an update on staff efforts. Weinert said that on March 22-23 staff would be meeting with retailers to get feedback on the already-drafted ordinance. He said there would be information on city’s website and a public information survey, acknowledging that there was some controversy surrounding the issue.  Weinert said that based on feedback from the public and merchants, staff would bring forward a recommendation. Weinert did not state what the range of possibilities for such a recommendation would be.

Outcome: Postponed for a third time by unanimous vote.

Solid Waste: As it relates to space in landfills, we include two resolutions regarding the new commercial recycling program in the section on “Land” values. The first of these resolutions was for a waste collection contract with Waste Management of Michigan not to exceed $900,000 per year, and the publication of the ordinance laying out the new franchise system for commercial recycling.

Councilmember Teall, who had worked on the development of the new commercial recycling program, called Bryan Weinert, the city’s solid-waste coordinator, to the podium. Weinert explained that the Waste Management contract addressed the refuse collection side of recycling.

Queried by Councilmember Higgins, Weinert said that to combine the recycling into a single stream where paper and other material was mixed together (for commercial or residential) would require upgrades to the materials recovery center, but that such an approach could eventually be rolled out and was a part of the solid waste plan.

Higgins said she’d received some calls from constituents concerned that moving to a national contract would push smaller operators out of business. Weinert said that an inventory of dumpsters was done and that there were only a very few dumpsters that were handled by anybody but the top three or four haulers. Higgins was given the assurance that businesses like 1-800-GOT-JUNK would continue to do what they do.

During deliberations on the ordinance, Councilmember Leigh Greden said that he thought it was amazing that in a fiscally challenging environment, the city was able to move forward with the commercial recycling initiative. He reiterated a sentiment he’d expressed at an earlier council meeting, when he said that the commercial recycling program was “one of the hallmark things we’ll do this year.” He concluded by saying, “This is an amazing feat.”

Mayor Hieftje said that the issue of low tipping fees in Michigan would need to be addressed, because that was what allowed Canada to dump garbage in Michigan cheaply.

Outcome: Unanimously passed.

R4C Zoning in the Central Area: The ordinance before council called for a direction to city planning staff to begin looking at zoning nonconformities in the central area of Ann Arbor and to work with the public to provide council with recommendations for potential ordinance changes to the residential districts within the the central area. It was brought for consideration by Councilmember Derezinski, who is council’s representative on the planning commission.

Councilmember Higgins expressed some concern that this new direction – together with the A2D2 initiative and the re-evaluation of area height and placement outside the central area –  meant that every piece of zoning legislation in the city was now under review. She wondered about the impact on staff and how the timing of the various initiatives would come together.

Jayne Miller, community area services director, said that for A2D2, there would be a council working session on Monday, March 9, 2009. At council’s March 16 meeting there would be a resolution to begin public process on area, height and placement outside the downtown, Miller said. Based on staff committments, Miller said she thought a committee could be assembled in the summer with work to begin in the fall.

For the work on area, height and placement, Mayor Hieftje announced that each ward needed a resident as a representative on the committee, and that councilmembers needed to identify a representative from their wards to join a collection of representatives from planning comission, city council, and commercial property owners. Hieftje asked councilmembers to move with haste, because the committee would be established at the next council meeting.

Outcome: Unanimously passed.

Ann Arbor Value: History

Ann Arbor District Library: The evening began with a presentation from the AADL about a historical collection of minutes from city council meetings dating from the early part of the 20th century. The Chronicle has already published a more detailed account of the historical online minutes project.

Women: In her communications to her council colleagues, Sabra Briere noted that March is Women’s History Month and briefly called their attention to two women: (i) Virginia Watts, who in 1878 was the first African-American woman to enroll at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1885, and (ii) Ella Bareis Prochnow of Ann Arbor, who in 1930 was the first woman in Michigan to own and manage an automobile dealership.

Ann Arbor Value: Democracy

Citizen Participation: On council’s agenda was a revision to the recently passed citizen participation ordinance, which requires developers to meet with residents in the vicinity of a proposed project early in the planning phase. The ordinance as originally passed allowed for no exceptions, and the revision called for exceptions to be granted for  single-family residential annexation and zoning petitions of less than two acres. During public commentary, Tom Partridge criticized what he saw as an attempt to curtail public participation.

Thomas Partridge: Partridge declared that he opposed the enactment of the ordinance and that he was opposed to all similar ordinances that curtailed public access. He said that it had been a theme of Hieftje’s administration to limit public commentary and to take up matters in closed-door sessions on subjects that should be laid out in detail. He called on council to enact an ethics policy for city government that addresses access by the public to public hearings. He said that public commentary should be possible without requesting the name, address, phone number and topic of speakers.

In the minimal deliberations on the revisions to the ordinance, Mayor Hieftje called the ordinance itself “revolutionary in Michigan,” saying that it goes a long way towards the goal of including the public. He stressed that the revision to the ordinance that night was  just a tweak.


Stadium Bridges: The topic of the safety of the Stadium Boulevard bridge over State Street warrants separate coverage, as opposed to relegation to a “Miscellaneous” section. It’s worth noting, however, that at council’s meeting, Sue McCormick, the city’s public services director, gave council an update on the situation with the bridge, which she said was being monitored closely. We hope to be able to provide more details as the city reaches what McCormick described as a “decision point” in the next 30 days about proceeding with a repair or waiting for funding to materialize for a complete reconstruction. For some limited coverage of the topic, see this previous Chronicle article on the bridge.

Michigan Inn: City attorney Stephen Postema announced that the former Michigan Inn on Jackson Road could see demolition this month.

Present: Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Rapundalo, Leigh Greden, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins, Carsten Hohnke, Mike Anglin, John Hieftje

Next Council Meeting: Monday, March 16, 2009 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave. Note: Council will be holding a working session on March 9, 2009 at its usual time and location, to discuss the downtown plan and the A2D2 zoning, recently passed by planning commission. [confirm date]

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Bake Sale for Obama Sun, 05 Oct 2008 02:08:09 +0000 Dave Askins asdfas

Bake sale for Obama at Third and Liberty. In background, Carrie Hatcher-Kay, with Elijah and Amelia.

“John McCain says he supports cider in the fall, but …,” joked Benjamin Paloff on his walk back from the Farmers Market, stopping at the Obama bake sale at the corner of First and Liberty. Saturday was Day Two of a projected three-day effort to register voters, sell some cookies and cider – plus some art – and enjoy the beautiful weather, all in support of Barack Obama’s campaign. Actually, as the sign made clear, it was half in support of the campaign: “Full Disclosure 50% for Obama 50% shared amongst the kids”

Two of the kids, Elijah and Amelia, belonged to Carrie Hatcher-Kay, who was providing the on-site adult supervision. She related how explaining to a three-year-old why their family supports Obama had to be reduced to basics.

That means Obama: looks for other energy besides oil; inspires everyone to get involved; loves the air, the trees, the water, and wants to keep them clean. Plus, John McCain has eight houses and he doesn’t like to share.


Jonathan Barney showing off some Obama-themed artwork purchased at the bake sale.

Sharing was a key ingredient in the choice of the bake sale site, because none of the bake sale staff lived at the house where it was taking place. Jane Barney, who Hatcher-Kay described as their “adopted in-state great grandmother,” was sharing her front lawn with them.

She met Barney some 15 years ago serving together on the board of Canterbury House, when Barney would have been a year short of 80. At the bake sale when The Chronicle arrived was Jonathan Barney, Jane’s son, who retired from a 30-year career working for the Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago.

He was headed off to the Michigan-Illinois game and was dressed like you’d expect a UM alum on homecoming weekend to dress. Before leaving he mentioned that the house where his mom now lived used to be an SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) house.


The bake sale was prepped for registering people to vote. One man stopped by while The Chronicle was there just to confirm that he was registered.

Jane herself came out briefly for a chat before we were finished documenting the bake sale, and asked if The Chronicle knew the history of the house: it was one of the houses the Staeblers built back around 1910. What about the SDS era? Barney laughed and reported that there was a basement door with a red fist painted on it, which attested to that part of the house’s history.

Barney’s name will be familiar to Chronicle readers who remember the beginnings of Avalon Housing or the New Hope clinic. She helped push those projects forward. And some might remember her as a Ward 5 Democratic Party “boss,” although Hatcher-Kay said, “she was not at all boss-like.”

Total revenue for the first day’s bake sale was around $30 with the second day’s effort projected to be close to that. The third day’s activity would be a function of the kids’ energy level. The total was partly a function of the cookies’ price point: $0.25. As Elijah (age 3) said, “Everybody says keep the change!” Makes cents for a campaign with a slogan, “Change you can believe in.” The plan was to hand over the Obama campaign’s share in person at the local Obama headquarters at First and Liberty.


The art center at the bake sale.


Upper right corner: the sun. Below (purple and green) flowers and grass. Above (yellow): balloons that escaped!

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Digging into Downtown History Thu, 02 Oct 2008 03:20:34 +0000 Dave Askins asdfasdf

Historic Marker at Ashley and Washington: "Germans in Ann Arbor"

Just a brief note to alert Chronicle readers to two events on the western edge of downtown tomorrow (Oct. 2). At the DDA Board meeting today, Ray Detter, of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, announced that there would be a dedication ceremony at 5 p.m. of the new wall displays at Ashley and Washington streets, which is a part of the Downtown Ann Arbor Historic Street Exhibit Program. “At lunchtime workmen bought beer by the bucket from nearby saloons,” reads part of the text from one of the installations.

The second event is not an “event” per se, but for readers who enjoy watching heavy equipment work, we invite them to head down to the corner of First and Huron, where a guy from Wisneski Contracting will be using a giant excavator to dig up the pilings where the office trailers for the Ashley Terrace project rested while it was under construction.

How do you get piece of equipment that big into downtown Ann Arbor? It’s not easy. Especially when you’re navigating from a map that incorrectly marks the location of your work site. Only because The Chronicle had stopped to take photograph of the new Obama banner hung at the campaign headquarters at First and Liberty did we notice a guy with a printed-out map looking up and down the street on that corner in a way that says, “I’m lost.”

Offering to help him find his way, it was quickly apparent that according to his map he was at the correct intersection, just on the wrong side of the street. When he pointed to his rig, which carried a giant excavator, everything clicked for The Chronicle. At least that’s what we thought at first.


Excavator two blocks south of where the driver wanted it to be.

Having just come from a DDA Board meeting where Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, had chatted with us before the meeting about utilities work in the alley behind the First and Washington lot, we figured that had to be the connection. Walking over to the crew in the alley jackhammering away, our man from Wisneski was skeptical. The key ingredients to his work assignment were (i) dig up the pilings (ii) stay off the new asphalt. Hmmm. Nothing in the alley seemed to match.

When it emerged that the pilings in question had up until recently had office trailers resting on them, then everything did finally click. We remembered a Stopped. Watched. item filed by Tom Brandt a couple weeks ago about the trailers next to Ashley Terrace being hauled away. We walked over to confirm visually. Had to be it. Our Wisneski man made a confirming phone call to square up the discrepancy between reality and the map he’d been provided. He was not looking forward to “weaseling a low boy through downtown” again. We didn’t stick around to see him pull off the maneuver, but the digging won’t start until tomorrow. Time undetermined.


The errant map. First and Liberty is not the same as First and Huron.


Pilings on the lot next to Ashley Terrace. The construction office and demonstration models rested on the pilings before they were hauled away two weeks ago.

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