Stories indexed with the term ‘surveys’

Library Board Weighs Urban Park, Survey

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (March 17, 2014): About three hours before the Ann Arbor city council took action on the issue of a park at the Library Lane site, the Ann Arbor District Library board passed a resolution on that same topic.

Eli Neiburger, Prue Rosenthal, Jan Barney Newman, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: AADL associate director Eli Neiburger, board president Prue Rosenthal, and board treasurer Jan Barney Newman.

On a 6-1 vote, the board asked the council to reject designating a portion of that city-owned site – which is adjacent to the downtown library – as a public park or plaza at this time. Nancy Kaplan cast the lone dissenting vote.

In presenting the resolution, Rebecca Head noted that the library hasn’t objected to the concept of open space at the Library Lane site, as part of overall development of that city-owned property. But the AADL board resolution states that the council resolution “does not allocate the City resources needed to create a successful park, such as physical maintenance, programming, and monitoring unsafe behavior; and … the City has not been able to allocate resources for those purposes to the nearby Liberty Plaza park, Wheeler park, Sculpture plaza on North 4th Ave., or the Kerrytown plaza. …”

Several trustees weighed in to support the resolution. Barbara Murphy said she was conflicted, because she supports having a park or plaza on the Library Lane site at some point. But the council resolution seemed to be putting the cart before the horse, she said. She pointed out that the AADL board resolution is not advocating for tall buildings – but some kind of development is needed, she said.

In dissenting, Kaplan described the long history of efforts to put a public park or plaza on the Library Lane site. She didn’t want to cut off that process. Kaplan also raised the point that the library board would be asking the council to reject a resolution without knowing the exact content of that resolution – because the council could amend the resolution during its deliberations later in the evening. [The council did make a significant amendment to the part of the resolution addressing the amount of square footage.]

Board president Prue Rosenthal told Kaplan that “I don’t think we’re trying to cut off anything.” All that the AADL is asking, Rosenthal said, is that issues should first be addressed – like how the park would be used, who’ll take care of it, how the security will be handled – “so that behavior we’ve seen around the outside of the [downtown library] building will not increase in that space and spill over into our library.”

AADL director Josie Parker attended the city council meeting, which started at the same time as the library board meeting but didn’t adjourn until 1 a.m. Parker read aloud the board’s resolution to the council, and described some of the challenges that the downtown library faces with security.

The downtown library was the focus of another part of the March 17 AADL board meeting, as trustees were updated on renovations to the front entrance. Ken Van Tine, an architect from InForm Studio, answered questions about possible design revisions since a March 13 public forum. InForm will be presenting a revised design to the board’s facilities committee, before the design is brought to the full board for approval.

Trustees also received results from an EPIC-MRA survey that the library had commissioned. About 500 respondents were surveyed in mid-February. Bernie Porn – president of the Lansing-based firm – described the outcome as “a great news poll, in terms of results, and I think you all should be very, very proud.” There are a couple areas of concern, he said, “but they’re not the kinds of things that can’t be overcome.”

The library previously did a survey in early 2012, in part to gauge public support for financing a new downtown library. The board later put a bond proposal on the November 2012 ballot to fund a new downtown building, but it failed to receive a majority of votes. Since 2012, the positive job rating for AADL has increased by 7 points – from 81% in 2012 to 88% in 2014. That’s a significant increase, Porn said. The 2014 survey also showed that only 3 in 10 respondents knew that AADL is “an independent governmental body” funded by its own separate tax assessment. This is one area of concern, Porn noted, adding that it’s certainly something that’s “solvable.”

The current survey results are expected to help guide development of the library’s next strategic plan, which will be completed later this year.

On March 17, the board also passed a resolution authorizing the library director to enter into a bike share program license agreement with the nonprofit Clean Energy Coalition. The CEC is managing the new program called ArborBike, which is launching this spring. It would include a bike station on AADL’s downtown library property on South Fifth Avenue, as well as locations at other sites in downtown Ann Arbor and on the University of Michigan campus. There will be about 14 bikes at the downtown AADL station on the north side of its property. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Considers Broad Park Fee Waiver

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (Sept. 17, 2013): With about a half dozen Camp Take Notice supporters watching, commissioners recommended approval of a broad park fee waiver for charities that distribute “goods for basic human needs” in Ann Arbor parks.

Ingrid Ault, Alonzo Young, Camp Take Notice, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ingrid Ault, who was elected chair of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission on Sept. 17, shakes hands with Alonzo Young of Camp Take Notice. (Photos by the writer.)

The waiver, which would require approval by the city council before taking effect, follows action by the council this summer to waive all park rental fees for the use of Liberty Plaza during a one-year trial period, also based on a PAC recommendation. The goal of that waiver is to spur more activity in that urban park, at the southwest corner of Liberty and Divisions streets.

The issue of fee waivers arose earlier this year when city staff considered charging a rental fee to the church that hosted Pizza in the Park, a weekly homelessness outreach ministry. Members of Camp Take Notice, a group that advocates for the homeless, has been urging the city to apply a broad fee waiver throughout the entire park system for entities that provide humanitarian aid. The recommendation approved on Sept. 17 is a compromise worked out with city staff and Camp Take Notice representatives.

Discussion among commissioners focused on how the waiver would be handled. Parks & recreation manager Colin Smith stressed that all park rules would still apply, and that applicants would need to go through the standard permitting process in order to receive a waiver.

During their Sept. 17 meeting, commissioners also discussed the issue of releasing raw data to the public, in the context of two recent surveys – on dog parks and downtown parks. Tim Berla and others advocated for making the survey results available in a form that could be used by the public for analysis. [The data from both of those surveys had been available in a .pdf format, and can now be downloaded from the city's website as Excel files.] Other commissioners pushed for the city to develop a policy regarding the release of data – a standardized approach that would be approved by the city council.

The Sept. 17 meeting also included PAC’s annual election of officers. Commissioners unanimously selected Ingrid Ault as chair and Graydon Krapohl as vice chair. Bob Galardi was re-elected chair of PAC’s budget and finance committee. There were no other nominations. Current PAC chair Julie Grand is term limited and will be cycling off the commission in October.
[Full Story]

Survey Drafted for Input on Downtown Parks

At a May 28, 2013 meeting interrupted by a tornado warning, members of the Ann Arbor downtown parks subcommittee reviewed a draft survey to gather input as the group develops recommendations for the city council.

Alan Haber, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Alan Haber takes notes on a draft survey about downtown parks. He was attending the May 28 meeting of a subcommittee of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission, which is putting together a survey that will be released in June. The subcommittee will be making recommendations regarding downtown parks and open space. (Photos by the writer.)

In a variety of ways, the survey attempts to gauge interest in downtown parks and open space, and to identify the types of activities and features that people might want, such as playgrounds or performance space. The survey also includes questions about assessing the existing downtown parks, including the farmers market, Liberty Plaza at Liberty & Division, and Sculpture Plaza at Fourth & Catherine.

This subcommittee of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission has been meeting regularly since early February. Their work relates in part to a request that mayor John Hieftje made last summer. It’s also meant to supplement the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s Connecting William Street project. For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: “Parks Group To Weigh In On Downtown Need,” and “Committee Starts Downtown Parks Research,” as well as coverage included in the PAC meeting reports for March 19, 2013 and May 21, 2013.

Several leaders of the Library Green Conservancy attended the May 28 meeting, and gave input on the survey throughout the discussion. The conservancy previously has criticized a survey conducted by the DDA as part of Connecting William Street, saying that the DDA survey did not give respondents the option of supporting downtown parks and open space.

Based on feedback at the May 28 meeting, parks staff will revise the survey for final review at the subcommittee’s June 11 meeting. The intent is to launch the survey soon after that meeting. The goal is to incorporate survey results as recommendations are developed for downtown parks/open spaces, which will likely be delivered to the city council in August. [Full Story]

AATA OKs AirRide; Survey Results Positive

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Feb. 16, 2012): The board’s monthly meeting began with a presentation from Hugh Clark of CJI Research Corp., which conducted a survey of Washtenaw County voters in late 2011 to measure their attitudes toward paying an additional 1 mill tax for countywide transit.

Transit Tax Graph

Survey results on the question of supporting a 1 mill tax for transit. (Image links to .pdf with higher resolution image.)

The results were generally consistent with those of a survey conducted two years ago by the same company. Asked toward the start of the interview if they would support a 1 mill tax for countywide transit, 54% of respondents said they definitely or probably would. Asked the same question toward the end of the interview, after receiving additional information, that figure nudged upward to 59%. That compares with “before” and “after” percentages of 51% and 58% two years ago. The geographic differences fell along predictable lines, with support strongest in Ann Arbor and weaker in the outlying townships.

Clark told the board that the four take-aways from the survey results are: (1) the AATA is highly regarded; (2) the public remains supportive of transit, even at a rate of a 1 mill tax; (3) the most compelling reason people give for supporting a tax for countywide service is to provide door-to-door service for seniors and people with disabilities; and (4) the most compelling reason people give for not supporting a tax for countywide service is a concern about taxes – not the efficiency of the AATA in its use of tax money. The board also heard caution during public commentary about the interpretation of survey results – they hadn’t yet seen the impact of negative advertising on any ballot proposal.

The survey comes in the context of an effort to establish an expanded countywide governance structure for the AATA, which might include asking voters to approve additional transit funding.

In its main business of the meeting, the board passed two resolutions that establish service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport. It’s expected to begin in April. One resolution set the fares for the service – basic one-way fare is $15 – while the other approved the contract with Indian Trails (Michigan Flyer) to provide the service based on a per-service-mile dollar cost. The service will be branded as “AirRide.” At the board table, David Nacht recalled how he’s wished for the moment when the AATA could offer such a service between Ann Arbor and the airport since the time he’d been appointed to the board – nine years ago.

The airport service is part of the AATA’s effort to expand services, as well as its governance and funding base, to a geographic area beyond the city of Ann Arbor. Of the $1 million the AATA has budgeted to spend from its reserves for the fiscal year 2012 budget, around $300,000 will go to support the airport service – though board members discussed the possibility that up to half of that could be recouped after-the-fact from federal or state grants.

In the context of the AATA’s effort to expand to countywide governance, the board passed a resolution at its Feb. 16 meeting expressing a basic policy position that a possible new regional transit authority – encompassing Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties – should not be allowed to have a negative impact on the AATA’s own provision of local transit services. The new RTA is described in a set of bills currently being considered by the Michigan state legislature. The boards’ resolution also explicitly states that any new RTA needs to have a funding strategy that is above and beyond current levels of funding for transportation.

Two days earlier, according to a report from the Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS), Washtenaw County commissioner Conan Smith testified before the senate’s transportation committee that he’d be open to giving up one of Washtenaw County’s two seats on a 10-member RTA board, in order to get the legislation passed.

In other business at the meeting, the AATA board also approved a $95,500 increase to the budget for its consultant on the countywide expansion effort. And the board authorized its annual application to the state for operating assistance – including a budget for expanded services.

Also discussed at the board meeting, though no formal vote was taken, was the AATA’s policy on the number of bags that passengers are allowed to carry on when using the A-Ride – the AATA’s paratransit service. Previously there was a two-bag limit. The policy has been revised so that the limit is not expressed in terms of a number, but rather in a way essentially stipulating that a passenger’s bags should not impinge on other passengers’ space – it’s a shared ride service. The change in policy was prompted by public commentary delivered at AATA’s November 2011 board meeting from a visually-impaired passenger who’d been denied a ride by the AATA’s contractor for the service, because he’d had too many grocery bags. [Full Story]

Art Commission Sets Date for Public Forum

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission meeting (April 13, 2010): After several months of discussion, the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission has set June 23 as the date for a public forum, though the format for the event hasn’t yet been determined.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, commissioners also discussed the need to publicize two projects: 1) an online survey seeking citizen input about public art, and 2) nominations for the annual Golden Paintbrush awards, which honor contributions to public art. A nomination form can be downloaded from AAPAC’s website.

Commissioners got updates on several public art projects in the works, discussed an upcoming retreat planned for May 12, and approved an annual planning process. They continue to await a response from German artist Herbert Dreiseitl, who was scheduled to come to Ann Arbor last week to work on his water sculpture for the municipal center, but was not planning to meet with AAPAC while he was here. [Full Story]

Column: Survey Says, “Help Us Design One”


The second mailing of the National Research Center

The second mailing of the National Research Center's city of Ann Arbor 2008 Citizen Survey.

The Chronicle was among 3,000 Ann Arbor households that have received three pieces of mail over the last couple of weeks sent on behalf of the city of Ann Arbor by the National Research Center in Boulder, Colorado. First to arrive was a post card alerting us to the fact that our household had been “selected at random to participate in an anonymous citizen survey about the city of Ann Arbor,” and that we should watch the following week’s mail for the survey and instructions. [Full Story]