Stories indexed with the term ‘Stadium bridges’

Ann Arbor Dems Primary: Ward 4 Council

On Tuesday evening, the Ward 4 Democratic Party hosted a forum at Dicken Elementary School so that residents could pose questions to primary candidates for one of the ward’s two city council seats. Margie Teall, the incumbent who has held the seat since 2002, and Jack Eaton, who has been active in politics on the neighborhood level, answered questions for a bit more than an hour.


Jack Eaton and Margie Teall, candidates for the Ward 4 city council seat, engage in the subtleties of negotiation over who would deliver their opening remarks first. (Photos by the writer.)

City council representatives are elected for two-year terms and each of the city’s five wards has two seats on the council, one of which is elected each year. Also in attendance at Tuesday’s forum was Marcia Higgins, the Ward 4 council representative who won re-election in November 2009, defeating independent challenger Hatim Elhady.

Besides Higgins, other elected officials and candidates for office who were introduced at the forum included: LuAnne Bullington (candidate for the 11th District county board of commissioners seat), Ned Staebler (candidate for the 53rd District state Representative seat), Leah Gunn (county commissioner representing the 9th District of the county and seeking re-election), Patricia Lesko (candidate for Ann Arbor mayor). All the candidates are Democrats.

Eaton’s main theme was a need to focus more on infrastructure – those things we need, not the things that might be nice to have. Eaton was keen to establish that his candidacy was not meant as a personal attack on Teall, saying that he expected his supporters to focus on the issues and to conduct themselves in a civil way. His opening remarks were heavy on thanks and appreciation for Teall’s long service on council, particularly with regard to the creation of Dicken Woods, which is now a city-owned nature area.

In the course of the forum, a pointed question to Teall on her biggest regret while serving on the council elicited an acknowledgment from her that she regretted her contribution to the problem last year with city councilmembers emailing each other during council meetings. Eaton was quick to give Teall credit for publicly apologizing in a timely way for her role in the scandal.

For her part, Teall focused on setting forth accomplishments while serving on the council. Those ranged from the longer-term budgeting strategies that she said had helped ensure that Ann Arbor was weathering the economic crisis better than other Michigan cities, to the budget amendment she introduced and the council passed in May, which proposed using $2 million from the Downtown Development Authority, plus more optimistic estimates for state revenue sharing, to eliminate the need to lay off some police and firefighters.

The candidates exchanged different views on basic infrastructure issues like the Stadium Boulevard bridges and stormwater management, to single-stream recycling and leaf collection, to Georgetown Mall, and the transparency of government. [Full Story]

Budget Round 6: Bridges, Safety Services

At their final meeting to discuss the city’s FY 2011 budget before its adoption next week, Ann Arbor city councilmembers focused on the East Stadium bridges reconstruction project and safety services – the possible layoffs of firefighters and police officers. While reconstruction of the bridges will be funded with money outside of the general fund, safety services account for around half of the city’s roughly $78 million general fund budget.


Hired six weeks ago, Ann Arbor fire chief Dominick Lanza answers questions about the impact of cutting 20 firefighters from the city's staff. (Photos by the writer.)

Margie Teall (Ward 4) and mayor John Hieftje had indicated at the council’s May 3, 2010 meeting that they hoped a $2 million payment to the city from the Downtown Development Authority would be authorized by the DDA’s board later that week. They’d said they intended to use that payment to stave off as many layoffs in safety services as possible, as well as to keep human services funding at last year’s levels.

Although the DDA approved the $2 million for the city two days later on a 7-4 vote, details were scant on Monday night about how the money might be used – how many positions would still need to be cut, and where those cuts would come.

Dominick Lanza, the city’s fire chief, and Barnett Jones, the chief of police, spoke about specific negative impacts on services that would result from the layoffs scheduled in this year’s budget, unless amendments are made next week.

How grim does the situation look from inside safety services? At one point, Jones paused nearly 10 full seconds before responding to a question from Sandi Smith (Ward 1). She’d asked him to comment on how community standards positions might be filled. When he finally did answer, Jones began by saying, “I really don’t want to.”  [Full Story]

Investments: Housing, Bridges, Transit

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (April 19, 2010) Part 2: In Part 1 of this meeting report, we focused on the city’s budget process, parking issues and the University of Michigan commencement exercises.

In Part 2, we wrap up other topics of the meeting. One common theme was capital investments in the community’s physical infrastructure of various kinds.

Michael Nearing city of Ann Arbor engineer

Michael Nearing, city of Ann Arbor engineer, was available for any city council questions on the East Stadium bridge project. (Photo by the writer.)

The council allocated a total of $313,000 for three different permanent affordable housing projects in Ann Arbor.

The city’s East Stadium bridge replacement project received discussion in the form of a resolution that authorized the city to go after state funding for the third time in the last three years. The anticipated construction start for fall of this year has been postponed until spring 2011 – the earlier date had been tied to the city’s application for federal funding, which was rejected this February.

The ongoing construction of the police/courts building, directly adjacent to city hall (the Larcom Building), received some tangential discussion in the form of an explanation from Roger Fraser about the recent closure of city hall due to elevated carbon monoxide levels. The police/courts building was also the subject of public commentary that prompted some extended remarks from the mayor – which were covered in Part 1 of this report.

Another construction project that will likely factor into the upcoming primary election campaigns is Fuller Road Station. The city-university collaboration to build a combined parking deck and bus station, which might eventually serve as a commuter rail station, was taken up during the council’s communications time. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and mayor John Hieftje both responded to some cautionary remarks made by Mike Anglin (Ward 5), which he made based on a recent park advisory commission meeting.

In business related to ethics and rules, the council voted on two occasions to excuse the participation of Taylor in a vote, because of a conflict of interest posed by his employment with the law firm Butzel Long. They also satisfied the requirement of a recent lawsuit settlement that they formally consider a rule about their use of government email accounts – by voting to remand consideration of the issue to council’s rules committee. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Budget: Formal Commencement

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (April 19, 2010) Part 1: In the main business of the meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser delivered to Ann Arbor’s city council a presentation required by the city charter, which contained his proposed budget for FY 2011. That marks the formal start of councilmembers’ opportunity to modify the budget proposal.

Hieftje Higgins Fraser

From left to right: Mayor John Hieftje, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and city administrator Roger Fraser. The trio were basking in the blue glow of the slide projector before the start of the council meeting, which began with Fraser's budget presentation. (Photos by the writer.)

The council must adopt amendments to the budget by their second meeting in May – May 17 this year – or else see the administrator’s unamended budget enacted by default, as stipulated by a city charter provision.

The council also heard a summary of the parking plan that they had commissioned the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to produce.

Related to the city budget and the DDA board – but not reported during communications time at the council meeting – members of the DDA board and city council held a closed-door meeting last Friday afternoon with city administrator Roger Fraser to discuss a $2 million payment by the DDA to the city this year.

At Monday evening’s meeting, the council postponed a vote on a schedule of fine increases for parking violations. The estimated $635,000 in additional revenues that the increases would bring, said CFO Tom Crawford at the meeting, was not part of the FY 2011 budget assumptions.

The topic of the University of Michigan’s upcoming graduation exercises on May 1, which will feature an address by President Barack Obama, found its way into deliberations at various points in the meeting. The city approved road closures around the football stadium in conjunction with the UM commencement. Residents who live near Elbel Field will contend with floodlights and loudspeakers as early as 4 a.m. on commencement morning. And during public commentary, one resident expressed concern over the city’s denial of a permit to demonstrate – organizers of “Fulfilling the Dream” expect to draw hundreds on May 1, but as yet have nowhere to gather.

The city administrator’s report to the council featured an explanation of parking citations handed out during the previous Saturday’s UM spring football game, as well as an explanation of the closure of city hall last week due to elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

Public commentary was weighted towards an agenda item that allocated $313,000 from the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund for three different permanent housing projects. The council approved the allocation.

The council also satisfied an obligation it had under the settlement terms of a recent lawsuit by voting to remand consideration of an email rule to its rules committee.

In Part 1 of this report, we focus on the budget, parking and UM’s commencement. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Caucus: Fires, Fines, Fuller

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (April 18, 2010): Access to city hall for the caucus on Sunday evening required a manual unlocking of doors with assistance from the Ann Arbor police department. But after gaining lawful entry, about a half-dozen residents discussed a range of topics with the three councilmembers who attended – mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Bob Snyder couch fire

Bob Snyder reads aloud from the preliminary report of the Ann Arbor fire department, which summarizes the events of a recent nighttime house fire that killed one resident.

A recent fire on South State Street, which killed a resident of the house that burned, prompted a call to revisit a 2004 proposal to ban from porches the use of indoor furniture, like couches. That measure was ultimately tabled by the council six years ago, left to demise without any action.

A couple of residents expressed some disappointment that the councilmembers would not be discussing the budget that evening, but budgetary topics did make their way into the conversation. Chief among them were the relationship of the new parking fine schedule – which is expected to generate an extra $635,000 for the FY 2011 budget – to the parking plan that’s scheduled to be presented on Monday night to the council by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Questions about the planned Fuller Road Station were also raised, including the plan for financing the project. That project is not on Monday night’s agenda. But a different major capital project does have an associated Monday agenda item: the East Stadium bridge replacement. The item involves authorization for the city to apply for funds from the state’s local bridge fund – the city’s most recent application was denied. Caucus attendees heard Hieftje explain that the city would delay the start of replacement construction from fall 2010 to spring 2011, to allow for another round of funding applications.

The council also got an update on one resident’s ongoing efforts to move a mid-block crosswalk in front of King Elementary School to an intersection where cars already stop. [Full Story]

State Board: No Funding for Stadium Bridges

East Stadium Bridge, looking west along Stadium Boulevard. (Photo by the writer.)

The East Stadium bridges, looking west along Stadium Boulevard. (Photo by the writer.)

The city of Ann Arbor’s attempt to start accumulating cash to replace the East Stadium Boulevard bridges failed on Thursday when a statewide board appropriating money for large bridges declined to give the city a share of the available dollars.

City officials had hoped to secure a portion of the $5.7 million in federal and state dollars awarded by the Local Bridges Advisory Board on Thursday at a meeting in Lansing.

But with a limited pot of money, and applications for projects totaling tens of millions of dollars, the eight-member board opted to put the resources behind smaller-ticket bridges.

“Throwing a little bit at that big a problem isn’t going to get people anywhere,” said board chairman Robert Clegg, the city engineer in Port Huron. [Full Story]

Still No Dam Decision

woman and man at table with hands held aloft

Leigh Greden, who chaired the meeting as fourth in the line of mayoral succession, did not at any point abuse the temporary power by saying, "Everybody show me your hands!" Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) are in fact sussing out which version of the Argo Dam resolution the city clerk had circulated. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 19, 2009): A city council whose ranks were reduced by four members – due to family medical issues and personal illness – tabled a resolution on Argo Dam that would have expressed the body’s intent to keep Argo Dam in place and to perform necessary repairs mandated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The tabling came only after long deliberations, which included a recess, and focused mainly on the question of tabling versus postponing until a date certain.

Several people spoke during reserved public commentary time on the issue of Argo Dam. But the dam question was somewhat overshadowed for some in the audience by a presentation on homelessness at the beginning of the meeting from Mary Jo Callan, who’s director of the combined county-city office of community development. Said one speaker during public commentary: “After hearing the stats on homelessness, I’m ashamed to be standing here talking to you about Argo Dam.”

The presentation on sheltering the homeless – especially during the winter – included a specific call to action from Ellen Schulmeister, director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. She asked community members to start conversations at their churches, synagogues, mosques or other community groups about how they might be able to provide volunteer support and space to expand the current rotating shelter program. Schulmeister asked that the conversations begin now, “So that when we ask, you’re ready to go.”

In other major business, the city council authorized the expenditure of $100,000 for removal of five failing beams on the East Stadium bridge over State Street – beams which run under a portion of the bridge currently closed to traffic. The work is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 15 through Tuesday, Nov. 17 and will require the closing of State Street during the work.

The council also approved the next step in the creation of a Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) along Main Street between William and Huron streets. [Full Story]

Council Gets Update on Stadium Bridges

Jim Kosteva and Sue McCormick at Ann Arbor City Council Meeting

Jim Kosteva, UM director of community relations, and Sue McCormick, director of public services for the city of Ann Arbor. Council agendas like the one Kosteva is holding are always printed that color – i.e., there was no pandering to the university reflected in the use of maize-colored paper. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Aug. 17, 2009): When Jim Kosteva appears at an Ann Arbor city council meeting, it usually means that there’s a city-university issue before the body – Kosteva is the university’s director of community relations.

Was it the report from city staff on the status of the East Stadium Boulevard Bridge replacement that had brought Kosteva to council’s chambers? There’ll be easements required from the university to complete that $22 million project.

But no, Kosteva was not there to hand over a giant fake check symbolizing a university contribution to reconstruction of the bridges.

However, he was there to affirm the university’s support for a different project – called FITS. University support will come to the tune of $327,733 out of a total project budget of $541,717 – for the site investigation, project definition and development of conceptual plans for the Fuller Intermodal Transportation Station (FITS). The station will be nestled between Fuller Road and East Medical Center Drive, just east of Fuller & Maiden Lane, near the university’s massive medical campus.

In other business, the city council put a charter amendment on the November ballot that would relax current charter requirements regarding publication of ordinances passed by the council. The Chronicle’s coverage of that charter amendment takes the form of a column published earlier this week.

The council also revisited a resolution it had passed at its previous meeting to establish a historic district study committee, along with a moratorium on demolition within the district. That moratorium was expanded Monday night to include all “work.”

And finally, as had been suggested at the council’s Aug. 16 Sunday caucus, councilmembers indicated that they’d be considering rules changes at their Sept. 8 meeting. In connection with that discussion, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) indicated he’d be calling for the city to make available all city council emails dating back to the year 2000. [Full Story]