Archive for March, 2009

A2: Borders Group

The Freep is one of several media outlets to report on the struggles of Ann Arbor-based Borders Group, which reported a 57% drop in profits during its fourth quarter. The article quotes the bookstore chain’s new CEO, Ron Marshall: “The prudent thing is to really plan for the worst. We want to make sure the company has liquidity and staying power to withstand a very difficult time. We have not given up on sales by any stretch of the imagination.” [Source]

A2: Fools

The FestiFools parade is still looking for volunteers to help out with the April 5 event, as this new [video] makes clear. The FestiFools website indicates that the volunteer contact email is [Source]

A2: Transportation-Oriented Infill

Writing on Wake Up, Washtenaw!, Larry Krieg describes a possible infill development project at the intersection of the former Michigan Central Railroad and the Ann Arbor Railroad just west of Argo Dam: “… the crossing of the Michigan Central and Ann Arbor railways is probably the single most valuable location for TOD [transit-oriented development] in Washtenaw County. It also has potential as a “green” development, because of adjacent empty land that could be used as either park or urban farmland.” [Source]

Ypsi: Baseball

PPNA Happenings, a blog for Ypsilanti’s Prospect Park Neighborhood, posts a press release announcing a meet-and-greet for the baseball team Midwest Sliders of Ypsilanti, to kick off their season. The April 8 event runs from 5-7 p.m. at Frenchie’s in Depot Town. “Fans will get a chance to talk baseball with players and get autographs. In addition, Tim Birtsas will be there to sign autographs and meet fans. Birtsas pitched for Michigan State University, was the New York Yankees #1 draft choice in 1982, and won a World Series with the 1990 Cincinnati Reds as a member of the ‘Nasty Boys’ bullpen.” [Source]

Ypsi Twp.: Auto Industry

The Los Angeles Times reports on the reaction of workers at GM’s Willow Run Powertrain plant in Ypsilanti Township following Rick Wagoner’s resignation. There’s a lot of uncertainty, says Don Skidmore, president of Local 735, which represents hourly workers at Willow Run: “It is hard, and it is scary. We have guys crying. We have guys sitting outside the plant gates, having panic attacks whether to take early retirement. Some days, I feel more like a counselor than a union president.” [Source]

May 5 School Board Elections

During the last election cycle, The Chronicle spent several hours at the Community Television Network studios, watching debates among candidates for various local and state offices. Those debates were held by the League of Women Voters, which holds these events before every local election – and later this month, they’ll be focused on school board candidates for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

This year, the league is asking Chronicle readers to help come up with questions for the board candidates. [Full Story]

Washtenaw: State Income Tax

The Associated Press reports on a plan proposed today by two state legislators from this area – Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor and Alma Wheeler Smith of Salem Township – to raise the income tax rate while providing tax credits to repay tuition at public colleges, universities and technical schools. The representatives, both Democrats, also hope to use the funds to expand preschool programs in the state, according to the report. [Source]

City Starts Thinking About Counting Carbon

carbon credits management

Alfredo Nicastro, vice president of MGM International, described a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions at the March 26 meeting of the Ann Arbor environmental commission.

At last Thursday’s regular meeting of the Ann Arbor environmental commission, Alfredo Nicastro of MGM International gave a sales presentation for his company’s services – which served an educational opportunity about carbon credits, and the possibility of the future “compliance market” in the U.S. based on a cap-and-trade system. It was also an opportunity for environmental commissioners to start thinking about the impact of such a market system on the city of Ann Arbor.

In broad strokes, here’s how a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions – greenhouse gases – might work. The U.S. would set an overall limit – a cap – on the amount of a gas that can be emitted. Companies and other organizations, including entities like the city of Ann Arbor, would be issued permits (allowances, or credits) to emit a certain amount of carbon. The sum of all the emissions allowed by the permits would not exceed the amount specified in the cap. All organizations would have to comply with the requirement that they hold emission allowances at least equal to the amount of carbon they emit. [Full Story]

UM: Auto Industry

Noel Tichy, a UM business professor, is quoted in a USA Today article about GM’s future under the oversight of the Obama administration. Speaking about Rick Wagoner, who recently resigned as CEO, Tichy says: “He had great intellectual bandwidth, but he didn’t have the edge. He was just too slow on the important judgments he had to make.” (The article was reported by local resident Sharon Silke Carty.) [Source]

UM: Auto Industry

Bruce Belzowski, an analyst at UM’s Transportation Research Institute, is quoted in a New York Times analysis of the problems at GM: “They were going in the right direction for a lot of things, but they were doing it too slowly. The task force really laid it on their doorstep.” [Source]

Downtown P.O.

Teased that he was perhaps pushing it a bit by wearing short pants with today’s still brisk temps, the mailman on the dock declared: “I haven’t worn long pants to work since 1989.”

Bid Launched to Amend City Charter

Pat Lesko

Pat Lesko announces the petition to ask for a charter amendment that would automatically include a voter referendum on general obligation bonds.

On Monday morning at the Ann Arbor City Club on Washtenaw Avenue, Pat Lesko announced an effort to place a proposal on the ballot that would amend the city charter. If successful, the effort, organized by GO Ask Voters, would change the process used to issue general obligation bonds.

Currently, it’s possible for voters to petition for a referendum on such a bond, if signatures from at least 10% of registered Ann Arbor voters are collected within 45 days after a notice of intent is published to issue the bond.

That’s a process outlined in Section 33 of the Revenue Bond Act of 1933 and used by organizers of Ask Voters First in the summer of 2008. They were pushing for a referendum (unsuccessfully) on the bonds issued for the city’s municipal center, which will be given its ceremonial groundbreaking this Friday.

The ballot initiative announced Monday would change the city charter to automatically include a voter referendum on general obligation bonds. Amendment of the city’s charter is a process governed by the Home Rule City Act 279 from 1909.

The law requires only 5% of registered voters to sign the petition, and allows for a year to complete the collection of signatures. After filing a petition with the city clerk’s office that organizers believe contains the requisite number of signatures, the city clerk has 45 days to verify the signatures, and “the clerk shall submit the proposed amendment to the electors of the city at the next regular municipal or general state election held in the city which shall occur not less than 90 days following the filing of the petition.” [Full Story]

UM: Poetry

On the blog “Starting Today: Poems for the First 100 Days,” the featured poem for March 30 (#70) is by A. Van Jordan, a UM English professor. It’s part of a project marking Barack Obama’s presidency. According to the website, “The first 100 poets were each assigned one of President Obama’s first hundred days in office, and each will write a poem reflecting on the state of the nation and the world on that day. A new poem is posted every day.” [Source]

Washtenaw News Wins NY Times Contract

As part of the change in delivery of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, which began today, Washtenaw News Co. has gotten a boost – the first good news this local business has seen in several years, according to its CEO, Nick Genova.

Starting today, Washtenaw News – an Ann Arbor-based distributor of newspapers and magazines – will be delivering the New York Times to home subscribers throughout most of Washtenaw County, Genova said. The papers were previously delivered under an agreement with the Detroit Media Partnership, which manages the Detroit papers.

The three-year contract with Washtenaw News also includes delivery of USA Today and Investor’s Business Daily. In addition, Washtenaw News is a distributor locally for the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and the Ann Arbor News, among other publications. The deal means that Washtenaw News now uses about 20 independent contractors to deliver the papers, Genova said – about double the number they used before.

The Chronicle heard about this news on Sunday morning, when the following note slipped out of the New York Times delivered to Chronicle Central: [Full Story]

A2: Auto Industry

David Cole of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor is quoted in seemingly every media outlet this morning in the wake of news that GM CEO Rick Wagoner was forced to resign over the weekend. In this Reuters report, Cole says: “The hand that he was dealt was a toughie because of the size of the legacy problem that General Motors had more so than the other two domestics. I think when the history is written that Rick will be looked upon very favorably.”  [Source]

Old West Side

A Detroit News columnist, who lives in Ann Arbor, wearing a Detroit News windbreaker and passing out free copies of today’s paper from a Detroit News delivery bag. Part of the paper’s outreach as it cuts back home delivery, starting today.

S. State

Rowdy crowd at Ashley’s anointing 2009 Oberon king. Spring is here.

A2: Bacon

Chloé Yelena Miller, writing on her blog Wordarrangement, describes attending Saturday’s Bacon & Brunch, an event featuring Zingerman’s Ari Weinzweig: “I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of bacon. I know that my father likes thicker slices of bacon and I tend to buy the less smoky organic bacon at Trader Joe’s. Ari talked about customers who know about different kinds of cheeses and wines, but have a hard time describing their favorite bacon. He suggested buying a variety of types of bacon and serving them at home to guests. (Is it too late to change our wedding menu to include more bacon?)” [Source]

UM: Obama Appointment

The Washington Post reports that Michael Barr, a UM law professor, has been nominated to be assistant secretary for financial institutions. In the Clinton administration, Barr was an advisor to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. [Source]

A2: Selma Cafe

Photographer Myra Klarman posts photos of the Friday, March 27 breakfast at Selma Café. She writes: “75 diners had the ‘Selma experience’ this Friday. That’s 20 more than last week’s record of 55. I believe that word is getting out – and fast! It’s been a great pleasure to introduce my friends to Selma. One confessed to me that she felt ‘awkward about just showing up at a stranger’s home for breakfast without an invitation.’ Well, let me assure you: YOU ARE INVITED!” [Source]

A2: Ann Arbor News

An article in the Syracuse Post-Standard looks at the media landscape, including a discussion of the decision to close the Ann Arbor News. The Syracuse paper, which like the Ann Arbor News is owned by Advance Publications, last week announced a 10-day, unpaid furlough for all employees and a freeze in benefit pensions. The publisher of the Post-Standard, Stephen Rogers, is the father of Ann Arbor News publisher Laurel Champion. [Source]

Earth Hour 2009: Ann Arbor

Looking north from the southwest corner of Main and William streets in downtown Ann Arbor at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Can you spot the evidence that Earth Hour is taking place? (Hint: Look closely at the street lights.)

Looking north from the southwest corner of Main and William streets in downtown Ann Arbor at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Can you spot the evidence that Earth Hour is taking place? (Hint: Look closely at the street lights.)

This year, Earth Hour fell on Saturday between 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., so The Chronicle decided to head downtown and see how much impact this international event was having in Ann Arbor.

It was hard to see the dark.

Street lights were off along Main Street between William and Huron (three blocks), on Liberty between Main and Ashley (two blocks) and, somewhat oddly, only on the south side of Liberty between Fourth and Main. What this seemed to reveal more than anything is how bright the downtown area is without street lights. [Full Story]

Stop By, Shoot Film, Drive Art

Ann Arbor Film Festival

Randy Tack of Eastman Kodak provides technical assistance shooting a vignette on South State Street.

On Saturday morning, as The Chronicle shot photographs on South State Street just outside the UM School of Art and Design’s Work Gallery, a young pair walked past: “Ann Arbor is not a photo opp,” said one. “It is if you’re not from around here,” replied the other.

It wasn’t clear if they meant The Chronicle, or Randy Tack, who works with Eastman Kodak as a cinematographer, training people to use 16mm cameras. Tack was setting up a shot with some folks who’d responded to an announcement for Stop By Shoot Film, a program specifically designed to introduce people to the cameras. [Full Story]

Box Cars Zoom Down South University

Soap Box Derby Phi Delta Theta A2A3

Three-year-old Alex Enrique pilots the penguin car down the South University hill.

“Car number 4 wins, Pete, that’s car number 4!” declared Ben Kaufman into his walkie talkie. “Pete” was Kaufman’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother, Peter DiLeo, who needed that information to keep track of the brackets for 16 cars in a double-elimination soap box derby held Saturday morning.

To organize the ALS fundraising event on the South University Avenue hill just east of the Phi Delta Theta house, the University of Michigan fraternity had joined with Ann Arbor Active Against ALS [A2A3] a local nonprofit that launched last November.

The mechanics of the fundraising effort were laid out for The Chronicle by the captain of a pirate-boat car, Cameron Kortes. It cost $25 to race a car of your own construction, $75 if you wanted Phi Delta Theta or A2A3 to build a car for you to race, or $100 to have a car both built and raced for you. Kortes said that for this inaugural year of the race, the emphasis was not on raising as much money as possible, but rather to establish it as an event that would attract the interest of the community as well as members of the fraternity internally. [Full Story]

UM Museum of Art

UMMA: public spilling in, talking more about the building than the art.

Vets Park

Extremely dirty piles of snow & trash are still around the north parking lot of Vets Park. Not quite ready for softball/baseball season.