(Ann Arbor City Council March 2, 1896) Council’s meeting over a century ago apparently began with a departure from the usual form to which The Chronicle has become accustomed over the last few months. The mayor of Ann Arbor began with an address, of which we publish here the first two paragraphs.
The resolution passed by your honorable body at your last session ordering the printing of the report of the Board of Public Works in pamphlet form and placing the distribution of the same in the hands of said board I hereby disapprove of, for the following reasons:
Such publication is not warranted by the city charter, which on page 75, section 41, prescribes the manner in which such reports shall be published, namely, in the official newspaper of the city [emphasis added].
[Editor's note: While The Ann Arbor Chronicle is not "the official newspaper of the city," it's worth pointing out that it is also not a mere pamphlet.]
What is the occasion of this history lesson? At the most recent Ann Arbor city council meeting of March 2, 2009, the minutes of that meeting exactly 113 years ago to the day – which included Mayor W.E. Walker’s preference for the newspaper over pamphlets – were presented to council in an online format by the Ann Arbor District Library.
They were part of a collaboration between the city of Ann Arbor and the AADL to put 40 years worth of council minutes online. The 1891-1930 Ann Arbor city council minutes are now available on the Ann Arbor District Library’s website.
Production librarians Amy Cantú and Andrew MacLaren were on hand to introduce the project to council members. Cantú noted that the project was the second such city-library collaboration – the first being the documentation of the history of the Ann Arbor Police Department. She noted that it was a cooperative endeaver, with city clerk Jackie Beaudry working on the project from the city’s side.
MacLaren illustrated for councilmembers the search tools for the project with the example “parking.” He unearthed the first mention of parking in Ann Arbor city council minutes – a May 4, 1925 request to prohibit parking on the north side of Ann Street between Main and Fifth during market hours.
MacLaren then searched on “automobiles” and found an Oct. 6, 1902 mention of the institution of a speed limit: 7 mph. The demo earned chuckles from councilmembers, but MacLaren pointed out that the archive could be used for “less goofy things.” He showed councilmembers how the minutes included documentation of contracts and compensation for services, which could be of historical interest.
Josie Parker, director of the AADL, and associate director for IT and production Eli Neiburger were also on hand for Monday evening’s presentation of the online archive.
We invite Chronicle readers to rummage through the city council minutes archive and let us know if you find something interesting.