Stories indexed with the term ‘Washtenaw Community College’

WCC: No Confidence Vote

The Washtenaw Voice reports that the Washtenaw Community College Education Association will hold a no-confidence vote against WCC president Rose Bellanca on May 1, the date of the union’s next general meeting. According to the report, WCCEA President Maryam Barrie addressed WCC trustees at their April meeting to describe the faculty’s concerns, which include “tactics of intimidation and isolation,” an increase in administrators while cutting departmental budgets, and a lack of transparency. Any decision regarding Bellanca’s employment would come from the WCC board of trustees, which hired her in 2011. [Source]

Process Debated for Platt Road, Act 88 Funds

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Feb. 19, 2014): A broad community planning process for the future of Platt Road property owned by Washtenaw County is moving forward, after the county board approved a set of recommendations made by a citizens advisory group.

Jason Morgan, Washtenaw Community College, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jason Morgan, director of government relations for Washtenaw Community College, was appointed to the county’s community action board during the Feb. 19 meeting of the county board of commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

The vote was unanimous, but came after Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) raised concerns about the affordable housing component of the project. The planning process will use a $100,000 grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), with a stipulation that planning for the 13.5-acre property – south of Washtenaw Avenue – include consideration of affordable housing.

When debate was cut short through a procedural move, Peterson criticized commissioners for not spending more time on the topic – though it had been discussed at length during the board’s Feb. 5, 2014 meeting. Andy LaBarre (D-District 7), who is helping to lead the project and who serves as chair of the board’s working sessions, indicated support for discussing it further at an upcoming session.

Peterson also voiced concerns about a new Act 88 advisory committee, which resulted in a postponement of the first appointment to that group until March 19. The committee had been created at the board’s Nov. 6, 2013 meeting, as part of a broader policy to help the board allocate revenues levied under Act 88 of 1913. No appointments have been made, however. The county levies the tax to fund economic development and agricultural activities, including Ann Arbor SPARK.

As he has in previous board discussions, Peterson expressed concern that the board was abdicating its responsibility to allocate funding. Other commissioners assured him that the committee will deliver recommendations, but the board retains authority for making the allocations.

In other action, the board gave authority to the Washtenaw County clerk/register of deeds office to reduce the fee for expediting marriage licenses under certain circumstances – from $50 to 1 cent. The vote came over dissent from Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1), who argued that fees should be applied equally to all applicants – whatever the amount. He also didn’t think the criteria for applying the waiver were clear. County clerk Larry Kestenbaum cited some examples of when this fee reduction might be used. As one example, he noted that the vital records office anticipates moving later this year to the space where the deeds office currently is, so the office will likely be closed for more than three days.

Kestenbaum also reported that last year, his office had anticipated that a lot of people would want to get married right away because of a possible change in the state’s same-sex marriage law. He said he announced at that time that he intended to waive the fee, but “my authority to do that has been questioned.” He subsequently looked at the state statute, which requires a fee to be set by the county board and charged – whether it’s $5, or $50, or 1 cent. “It’s your authority to do this,” he told commissioners.

During the Feb. 19 meeting, commissioners also gave final approval to create a new dental clinic in Ypsilanti for low-income residents, and heard public commentary regarding the importance of the GED (general education diploma).

Updates and communications included news that the Sharon Township board of trustees had passed a resolution urging the board to keep the road commission as an independent entity. At the county board’s Oct. 2, 2013 meeting, commissioners had created a seven-member subcommittee to “explore partnerships and organizational interactions with the Washtenaw County Road Commission.” State legislation enacted in 2012 opened the possibility of absorbing the road commission into county operations, which would give county commissioners direct control over funding and operations now administered by the road commission.

However, it’s unlikely that will happen. During a 2.5-hour meeting on March 1, the subcommittee voted to recommend that the duties and responsibilities of the road commission should not be transferred to the county board of commissioners. Alicia Ping (R-District 3), who chairs the subcommittee, told The Chronicle that she’ll be bringing the recommendation to the board at its meeting on March 5. [Full Story]

WCC: State Street CIA

At their Nov. 26 meeting, the Washtenaw Community College board of trustees has unanimously voted to opt out of Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). The Washtenaw Voice, WCC’s student newspaper, posted the outcome of the vote on its website, as part of a live blog from the meeting. At stake was nearly $3 million in taxes that would have been diverted to fund road improvements along State Street over a 20-year period, if WCC had not opted out. [Source]

A2: Lynn Rivers

Roll Call has published a feature on former Congresswoman Lynn Rivers, who lives in Ann Arbor and teaches at Washtenaw Community College. From the article: ”Rivers said that maybe she could help a campaign someday, but she doesn’t see herself ever running for anything again. She liked her former lifestyle, but she likes her new one, too. ‘There’s a certain appeal to eating dinner at a table, sleeping in your own bed, having pets,’ Rivers said.” [Source]

First & Washington

West of the railroad bridge, Daniela is set up with a large format camera on a tripod shooting east – bridge with new construction looming in background. It’s a class assignment for Washtenaw Community College photography course. [photo]

Column: A TIF with A2Y Chamber

At its April 15, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council likely will take a final vote on changes to the local ordinance governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. On April 1, by a 7-3 vote, the council gave initial approval to the changes.

A2Y Chamber Member Directory

Cover of the A2Y Chamber member directory. The Ann Arbor Chronicle is among the members listed.

In the interim, the city council has undoubtedly received communications lobbying for and against these changes. Among those communications was a letter sent on April 12 – with signatures from representatives of eight different entities that have significant specific interests in downtown Ann Arbor: “We write to oppose the proposed ordinance amendment … [P]aramount is the proposed change to the current ordinance procedure for calculating potential rebates of higher than anticipated TIF revenues back to taxing units …”

One of the eight signatories is unique – for two reasons.

First, the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber is the only one of which The Ann Arbor Chronicle is a member.

Second, the chamber is unique among the eight because it’s the one that has the legal and public policy resources to arrive at a position based on the legal and public policy merits of the issue. But in this case, the chamber has chosen a view that seems only half-informed by legal and public policy analysis.

With access to legal talent like Doug McClure, a recent candidate for 22nd Circuit Court judge who is chair of the chamber’s public policy committee, I’d expect this regional chamber to support the kind of clear, solid, forward-looking legal foundation that the proposed ordinance amendments would provide for us as a regional community. That’s especially true given that so many people – for and against the ordinance changes – agree that the current ordinance language lacks clarity.

And the idea that the chamber would support whatever interpretation the DDA chooses to give the ordinance – in the DDA’s sole judgment, with millions of regional tax dollars at stake – is bizarre from a public policy point of view. It’s especially bizarre given that this purportedly regional chamber has access to regional public policy talent like Andy LaBarre. He’s the chamber’s vice president of government relations who’s a former staffer for Congressman John Dingell. LaBarre is also an elected representative serving on a regional governing body that has tax dollars at stake in this debate – the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

But the chamber chose to glance past the legal and public policy issues, opting instead to allow personal, petty mayoral politics to cloud its collective thinking.

What’s even more incredible is that the chamber has chosen wording for its letter – which it then recruited the other entities to sign – that would actually point an alert reader to the relevant legal and public policy issues. If the chamber itself had taken the words in its own letter more seriously, perhaps that would have guided the organization to take a position in favor of the ordinance changes.

In this column, I’ll lay out an analysis of the wording that the chamber has chosen – “… which the DDA calculates using its judgment within the standards set by the ordinance” – and explain why those words point the way to supporting the ordinance changes. [Full Story]

WCC: Faculty Discontent

The Washtenaw Voice reports on reactions to the firing of Stuart Blacklaw, former vice president of instruction at Washtenaw Community College who was dismissed by WCC president Rose Bellanca. The article states that “members of the Washtenaw Community College Education Association were angered by what they called a ‘cowardly move.’” [Source] A separate article reports on concerns raised by the faculty union at a recent WCC board of trustees meeting over “communication breakdowns” with Bellanca. [Source]

Washtenaw & Platt

At Meri Lou Murray Rec Center: One WCC student is taping another WCC student who is costumed as a mustard-slathered frankfurter and pumping iron, as their girlfriends howl. Cameraman explains it to half-dozen amused weight-room regulars: “It’s for a school project. He’s a lean hot dog.”

Incumbents Returned to WCC Board

Three seats on the seven-member Washtenaw Community College board of trustees were on the Nov. 6 ballot in nonpartisan races. The race for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2014 had only one candidate – incumbent Patrick McLean of Ypsilanti. He currently serves as treasurer of the board, and was elected with 85,262 votes (98.33%).

Two other incumbents were also re-elected to full six-year terms in a three-way race. Richard Landau and Diana McKnight Morton, both of Ann Arbor, received 56,875 (35.23%) and 68,797 (42.62%) votes, respectively. Challenger William Hazen Figg of Dexter got 34,002 votes (21.06%). The top two vote-getters were elected in this race.

Warren, Horiszny Recall Language Rejected

Ballot language for two separate recall attempts – against state Sen. Rebekah Warren and Washtenaw Community College trustee Pamela Horiszny – was not approved by the Washtenaw County board of election commissioners at a clarity hearing held on Monday afternoon, Aug. 15, 2011.

The board’s decision was unanimous regarding the Horiszny recall language. But the decision to reject the language for Warren’s recall was made on a 2-1 vote. Without approval by the board, the recalls can’t move forward unless the decisions are appealed.

Initial steps of a recall require that ballot language be deemed clear by the board of election commissioners in the jurisdiction of the elected official who is the target of the recall. The Washtenaw County board of election … [Full Story]

Column: Taxing Math Needs a Closer Look

A bit more than a month ago, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board was poised to ratify a new contract with the city of Ann Arbor, under which it would continue to manage the city’s public parking system. But at noon on May 2, when board members met, they were greeted with some news that caused them to postpone their vote on that 11-year deal, which called for 17% of gross parking revenues to be transfered to the city of Ann Arbor.

Excess TIF Capture

Blue bars represent the "optimistic" projections of the increment valuation in the Ann Arbor DDA's TIF plan. The red line represents actual valuation of the increment on which taxes have been captured. For 2013-2014, the valuation is based on estimates in the DDA's 10-year planning document.

That news had been conveyed to DDA staff by the city of Ann Arbor’s finance department just that morning: Some of the taxes captured in the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) district since 2003 might be owed to local taxing units, including the city. With an uncertain financial obligation to return TIF monies that had already been captured from taxing units in the district, the DDA board understandably balked at approving the new parking contract on May 2.

The postponement of the DDA’s vote on that contract ultimately led to a delay in the Ann Arbor city council’s adoption of the city’s fiscal year 2012 budget – as the council stretched its May 16 meeting to May 23 and then on to May 31. But by the end of May, the issue of excess TIF capture had been settled to the DDA board’s satisfaction, and the parking contract was ratified – first by the DDA, and then by the city council.

The Ann Arbor city council was also content with the DDA’s proposed solution to the excess TIF capture. That solution included returning a total of roughly $473,000 to the Ann Arbor District Library, the Washtenaw Community College and Washtenaw County. The city of Ann Arbor chose to waive its $712,000 share of the calculated excess.

Those three other taxing units no doubt welcomed the news that their budgets would get an unexpected boost. But the governing bodies of those taxing units should take a closer look at how the excess TIF was calculated. If they do, they will discover that the amount actually due to be returned to them (and divided proportionately as required under the city’s of Ann Arbor’s DDA ordinance) may not be $473,000, but more than twice that: $1.27 million. In ballpark numbers, for the Ann Arbor District Library that translates to the difference between about $75,000 and $200,000. For Washtenaw County, it’s the difference between $242,000 and $648,000. And for Washtenaw Community College, it’s the difference between $157,000 and $419,000. [Full Story]

WCC Board Picks First Female President

Rose B. Bellanca has been selected by the Washtenaw Community College board of trustees to be WCC’s next president, according to a statement released May 18 by the college. She’s been given a verbal offer, contingent on potential site visits and contract negotiations. If finalized, Bellanca would begin her tenure on Sept. 1, 2011, replacing Larry Whitworth, who announced his retirement last year. She would be the institution’s first female president.

Bellanca has been Northwood University‘s Florida campus provost and chief operating officer since 2008. Before that she was president of St. Clair County Community College, and provost and chief academic officer of Macomb Community College, where she also served as vice president for planning and development. Bellanca also … [Full Story]

WCC President Repays $4,000 Dinner Tab

Washtenaw Community College President Larry Whitworth says he is taking full responsibility for $4,000 spent by the college on a dinner for its board of trustees annual retreat in early March. At a press briefing earlier today at his office on the WCC campus, Whitworth said he planned the retreat and therefore he – not the WCC board members – should take the blame for the expense. It has become an issue in trustee David Rutledge’s bid for the 54th District state House seat.

As first reported by The Chronicle, the board of trustees two-day retreat at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in Detroit cost a total of $9,910.70, including dinner at the hotel’s 24grille restaurant and $5,887.43 in hotel charges. WCC’s paper The Washtenaw Voice later reported that the dinner bill included $573 worth of wine.

Whitworth said the cost of the meal was higher than anticipated due to the fact that he missed a detail on the menu that 24grille faxed him before the retreat. Specifically, he didn’t read the fine print stating that the restaurant would charge $100 per person for the meal, not including tax and gratuity. Whitworth said he expected to pay about $2,000 and was shocked when he saw the bill. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Satellite Campus for WCC?

The Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees met for a two-day retreat at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit earlier this month, where they discussed the possibility of opening a satellite campus in Ann Arbor – possibly in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library.

The retreat on March 5-6 covered a range of other topics, from the college’s projected drop in revenue and possible tuition increases to its shifting student demographics and a raft of facility renovations.

The Chronicle attended the first day of the retreat – the second day was held in closed session. The location – including an overnight stay at what the Book Cadillac website describes as an historic, luxury hotel – was intended to help focus trustees’ attention, according to board chair Stephen Gill. The cost of the retreat came to $9,910.70. [Full Story]

WCC Studies Ann Arbor Satellite Campus

The lobby entrance to the McKinley Towne Centre building at 505 E. Liberty St.

The lobby entrance to the McKinley Towne Centre building at 505 E. Liberty St. WCC officials had been considering vacant space in the building's lower level for a possible satellite campus. (Photo by the writer.)

Skyrocketing enrollment and an abundance of inexpensive Ann Arbor office space are among the factors prompting Washtenaw Community College officials to consider opening a downtown Ann Arbor campus.

For possible classrooms the administration had been contemplating up to 30,000 square feet in the lower level of a building on East Liberty owned by McKinley. Deans from the college visited the space recently, but on Tuesday WCC administrators decided to pull back from making a decision about that location, according to Stephen Gill, chair of the college’s board of trustees.

Instead, they’ll take the next six months to strategize, figuring out what their programatic needs might be, how much space they need and what kind of presence makes sense in Ann Arbor. WCC already offers satellite classes in Ypsilanti and Chelsea, but this would be the first time the 43-year-old institution would have a significant presence in downtown Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Art in the Wild


"Gateless Gate" by Paul D. Zenian at Washtenaw Community College.

As a student at Washtenaw Community College, I occasionally wondered about the story behind the large metal shapes leaning into each other near the school’s main entrance. Day after day, I took in the sculpture’s dominating presence as I passed it on the way to WCC’s Student Center. Standing 22 feet high, it’s hard to miss. In their book “Public Art in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County,” Martha Keller and Michael Curtis describe it as looking like “two irregular dominoes.”

To me, it just seemed like two giant rectangles propped up against one another, their meaning an abstract mystery I never bothered to solve.

Paul D. Zenian created the “dominoes” — titled the “Gateless Gate” — for the campus over two decades ago. According to Keller and Curtis, Zenian taught at WCC for 25 years before his retirement in 1994. The piece’s inscription explains that he intended for it to symbolize the “door to education” WCC offers. [Full Story]

Morning Edition: Robots, Cupcakes and More

Susan Pollay, right, introduces Amanda Uhle of 826michigan at Wednesday's Morning Edition breakfast.

Susan Pollay, right, introduces Amanda Uhle of 826michigan at Wednesday's Morning Edition breakfast.

If you went to Wednesday’s Morning Edition breakfast, here’s what you’d know now: A shop on East Liberty sells bouncing eyeballs; there’s a chance you could get a cupcake named after you; wind turbines are expensive but not that noisy; it’s not too far-fetched to link Nepal with UM’s business outreach; and Washtenaw Community College doesn’t really want a football team.

The monthly event was emceed by Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, who revealed that she views cupcakes as diet food “because, of course, it’s portion control.” Here’s what other speakers had to say: [Full Story]