More Zoning? Nope. Street Repaving!!

City council also hears from defenders of public art
Thank-you note for Congressman John Dingell as stamped and scanned  by the city clerk's office.

Thank-you note from Congressman John Dingell as stamped and scanned by the city clerk's office. (Image links to file with both front and back of the note.)

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Part II (April 6, 2009): We’ve already summarized council’s deliberations on the A2D2 rezoning effort in a previous report.

Here we focus on other business handled by council and topics raised during public commentary at that same meeting. Much of it was related to streets – whether it was vacating them, closing them for special events, or repaving them. The other major theme, as reflected in comments from the public, was public art.

We also include some evidence that the art of the handwritten thank-you note is not dead.


Street closings

Council passed resolutions approving street closings for the Burns Park Run [map] on May 3, 2009 and for the Mayor’s Green Fair [map] on June 12. There is more to the process than council’s approval of the closing. Organizers of an event are required to notify affected neighbors in the vicinity of the streets to be closed:

Beginning in 2008, If street closure(s) are required for your event, it will be necessary for you to follow the notification process described below.
1. Applicant must submit a draft of their event notification to businesses/residents/ religious institutions to the Special Events Coordinator for approval no less than 21 days in advance of the event. Once approved, Applicant must send the notification via US Mail (postmarked no less than 14 days in advance of the event). A postcard may be used for notification purposes.
2. The notification must include the time and date of the event as well as the dates, times and descriptions of street closing(s) and a map. If there is a website available, you may specify the web address on the postcard and post the maps etc on the website. Please be sure that the postcard and/or the website have contact phone numbers and email addresses for the organization, a contact person, Sgt Brad Hill and the Special Events Coordinator.
3. The notification area must include the event route or boundary, any “landlocked” area and a 1 block perimeter outside of the event route/boundary. Please include Sgt Brad Hill and the Community Services Administrator on the mailing list.
4. The Special Event Permit will not be issued until after notifications have been mailed.

Street Repaving

Council authorized two contracts for repaving streets: $2,392,393.50 for the 2009 local streets resurfacing project and $2,422,403.75 for the 2009 major streets resurfacing project.

Major Streets

  • Liberty Street from Main St. to Division and Fourth Ave. from Liberty St. to Huron St. Estimated Schedule: April 20 – June 20. Both streets will be resurfaced with some curb replacement. During construction, one-way traffic will be maintained eastbound on Liberty and northbound on Fourth Ave.
  • Packard Street from Fifth Ave. to Hill St. Estimated Schedule: July 20 – August 31. Packard will be resurfaced with some curb replacement. Curb bump-outs will be constructed at the intersection of Packard/Division to improve conditions for pedestrian crossings. Northbound (inbound) traffic will be maintained during construction. Southbound (outbound) traffic will be detoured south on Fifth Ave, to east on Hill St. to Packard.
  • Maiden Lane from Broadway to Island Dr. Estimated Schedule: TBD. Work will not be permitted during Art Fair and must be completed within 42 calendar days. Maiden Ln will be resurfaced with improvements made to the ramps at Island Dr. Eastbound traffic will be maintained and westbound traffic will be detoured on Fuller Ave. to westbound  Huron St. to northbound Division St. to eastbound Broadway St. to Maiden Ln.
  • State Street from Stimson to Oakbrook. Estimated Schedule: TBD. Work is not permitted during the Art Fair and must be completed within 70 calendar days. State St. will be resurfaced with a concrete overlay. Traffic will be maintained in both directions during construction.
  • Maple Road (northbound lanes) from Dexter Ave. to Miller Rd. Estimated Schedule: Work must complete within 30 calendar days between August 24 and  October 10, 2009. Maple Rd. will be resurfaced, with some curb replacement, to match the southbound lanes that were completed with the water main construction in 2008. Traffic will be maintained in both directions during construction.

The local streets repaving list prompted Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) to joke that Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) was a better legislator than he was, noting that in less than a year service on council, Derezinksi had managed to get the street in front of his own house repaved (Glendaloch). The street paving is actually connected with utilities work in the area.

Local Streets

  • Fair Oaks Parkway Washtenaw to Norway 4/27/09
  • Lincoln Avenue Cambridge to Wells 4/27/09
  • Hill Street Oxford to Onondaga 5/12/09
  • Glendaloch Circle Glendaloch Rd. to end 5/22/09
  • Sylvan Avenue White to Packard 6/3/09
  • Tappan & Oakland Tappan/Oakland to East Univ. 6/10/09
  • Fernwood Avenue Packard to Lorraine 6/15/09
  • Cherokee Road Baldwin to Ferdon 6/29/09
  • Anderson Avenue Packard to Ferdon 6/29/09
  • Elmcrest Drive Miner to end 7/10/09
  • Soule Boulevard Liberty to Eberwhite School 7/13/09
  • Virginia Avenue Jackson to Fair 7/27/09
  • Hiawatha Place Barton to end 8/10/09
  • Dundee Drive (extension for turnaround) 8/12/09
  • Felch Street N. Ashley to N. Main 8/17/09
  • N. Ashley Street Felch to N. Main 8/17/09
  • Summit Street (E&W)  AA Railroad to N. Fourth Ave. 8/27/09

The city of Ann Arbor’s website contains a page focusing on city of Ann Arbor street projects, including the Miller Avenue project, which The Chronicle recently wrote about.

Opposing Senate Joint Resolution H (SJR H)

The Michigan state Senate passed a resolution (not yet passed by the House) that would address the phenomenon of property taxes increasing in a year when assessed values decrease. [The Chronicle has previously written about this effect of Proposal A.] From the language of the bill:

However, for taxes levied after 2009, the legislature shall provide that if a property’s assessed value has decreased, adjusted for additions and losses, the property’s taxable value in the immediately succeeding year shall be the lesser of the property’s taxable value in the immediately preceding year or the property’s assessed value.

Councilmembers Leigh Greden, Marcia Higgins, Carsten Hohnke, Stephen Rapundalo and Christopher Taylor sponsored a council resolution (which passed unanimously) opposing the measure. Greden characterized it as “classic political pandering” that would have a devastating impact on schools, cities, and counties during a particularly tough economic time.


The city and county have already combined their data centers (hardware). On Monday, council authorized a contract worth $263,371 to integrate document-management software as a part of the “City/County IT Enterprise Content Management Partnership.” Based on the cost breakdowns, this particular contract appears to involve city departments.

Chronicle inquiries with the county yielded the insight that the county uses the OnBase system and that the city will be building their applications on the same technology infrastructure. This allows the city to pay for licensing, but not have to buy new servers. Descriptions of the work the individual city departments will be undertaking:

  • City Attorney Scope: Implement workflow for contract tracking. Will initially use professional service contracts as the starting point. The developed process will provide visibility into where the contract is at all times. Includes eSignature process from Docusign and full routing for approval, including external signers.
  • Purchasing Scope: Requesting Accounts Payable workflow for invoice coding and approval and simple workflow for Purchase Order requests.
  • Accounts Receivable Scope: For storage and retrieval of scanned or electronic documents.
  • Clerk Scope: Configure OnBase to store and retrieve the following scanned  document types: Annexation, Ordinance, Council packets, Minutes  Contracts, Easements/Deeds, Liquor licenses and Traffic Control Orders.
  • Project Management Scope: Replace eCabinet process and convert existing eCabinet documents to the OnBase platform.
  • Assessor Scope: Bulk load of Assessor property cards into OnBase.

Commentary from Public on Dreiseitl Storm Water Art

By way of background, the city’s new municipal center, which was given a ceremonial groundbreaking last week, is to include a storm-water management component. That component was identified by the public art commission as having potential for a public art installation. The storm water art would be funded through the Percent for Art program, which the public art commission administers. The Percent for Art program (part of the city code) stipulates that “all capital improvement projects funded wholly or partly by the city shall include funds for public art equal to 1% of the construction costs identified in the initial project estimate, up to a maximum of $250,000.00 per project.”

Last year, the public art commission recommended allocation of around $70,000 to Herbert Dreiseitl – a German artist-architect who specializes in storm-water based installations – for initial design work on the project, which city council approved earlier this year. The project budget is planned to be more than $700,000.  As The Chronicle’s report on art commission deliberations from October 2008 reflects, some commissioners expressed concern about the process, which did not include solicitation for bids or involvement of local artists. They voted unanimously for moving the project forward, based partly on the understanding that a vote would be taken on whether to approve the design submitted by Dreiseitl. The design has not yet been submitted by Dreitseitl.

Five public speakers signed up for public speaking reserved time for the start of the meeting to talk about the Dreiseitl project.  Based on the content of some of their commentary, which seemed to be a reaction to the possibility that the project might be halted, The Chronicle speculated that some proposal had been floated to put the brakes on the proposal. Inquiries did not turn up anything specific, beyond the fact that there has been public criticism of the choice of Dreiseitl. One of the speakers on Monday, Kirsten Jensen, criticized the choice.

Kirsten Jensen: Jensen said she was incredulous at the arrangement that had been struck with Dreiseitl. She said that the arrangement was not consistent with Chapter 24 of the city code in various parts, including the idea that public art was meant to stimulate the local economy – something she said would in this case be limited, because Dreiseitl implements his installations using his own crew, as opposed to local laborers. In relevant part, Chapter 24 reads:

1:831. Intent and Purpose. … City council has determined that the creation of public art will improve the aesthetic quality of public spaces and structures, provide cultural and recreational opportunities, contribute to the local heritage, stimulate economic activity and promote the general welfare of the community.

Jensen continued by saying that no estimate of the cost of maintenance for the project had been provided, citing another section of Chapter 24.

1:836. Ownership and maintenance of work.
(1) No work of art shall be considered for acquisition under this chapter without an estimate for future maintenance costs.

She also said no solicitations for proposals had been made, even though the city’s code charges the oversight body (the public art commission) with implementing procedures for solicitation:

1:837. Oversight body.
(1) The oversight body shall be the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission as established by section 1:238 of chapter 8.
(2) The oversight body shall:
(A) Promulgate guidelines, subject to the approval of city council, to implement the provisions of this chapter, including procedures for soliciting and selecting public art and for determining suitable locations for public art.

Jensen concluded by saying that it was necessary to admit the mistake and to allow other artists to participate.

David Michener: Michener allowed that he did not know how to pronounce Dreiseitl’s name, but said it didn’t matter. He said that he was there to offer his full support for the project, as a homeowner for 19 years in Ann Arbor. He said that the project was consistent with the high standards that Ann Arbor typically sets for itself. He invited those who don’t like the project to suggest something better for the next one. This decision, he said, had already been made. He discouraged the idea that the city would “pussy foot around,” asking that they instead move forward.

Janis Bobrin: Bobrin is the county’s water resource commissioner (formerly called the drain commissioner). She cast the project in the context of the prevailing attitudes toward development of land dating back to the 1970s and before. It was only in the 1970s, she said, that requirements began to appear, to the point where it’s now established that storm water be detained on site. She described how there is a federal mandate to educate the public about storm water management, which in Washtenaw County was reflected in rain garden projects and a film festival. Bobrin said that buying local was an important principle, but that in the case of the choice for  Dreiseitl, a different principle applied – the idea of “sole source.”

Connie Brown: Brown identified herself as a 30-year resident and co-owner of an architecture firm, who had recently been appointed to the public art commission. She cited the Washtenaw County cultural plan in urging that the city not go backwards and question the need for public art. She quoted Picasso: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” The municipal center, she said, should reflect the values of the community, which include art.

Jan Barney Newman: Newman spoke in support of the idea of the Percent for Art program. She gave the example of Toledo, which years ago had put together a temporary exhibit of outdoor sculptures to celebrate a similar funding program. She noted that the state of Michigan used to have a program like that until then-Gov. John Engler canceled it. She suggested that programs like these provided an opportunity to think ahead and that when the city builds something, it becomes a legacy.


Henry Herskovitz: In his public comment turn, Herskovitz said it was appropriate to commemorate an event that happened 61 years ago on Thursday – the massacre at Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village of about 700 people. Herskovitz rejected an account of the event by the Jewish Federation, which described it as an aberration. In support of that, Herskovitz then quoted from a website, Deir Yassin Remembered. The website account included a description of commandos led by Menachem Begin who attacked the village, and killed over 100 people and left 53 children orphaned. The children had been found by a woman named Hind Husseini and had led to the creation of an orphanage. Some progress has been made, continued the website passage, inasmuch as Westerners now realized that Palestineans exist, and had acknowledged that thousands of Palestinians had been killed or driven from their homes.

John Dingell

At its Feb. 17, 2009 meeting, Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution congratulating Congressman John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the history of the United States. Dingell, whose district includes Ann Arbor, achieved that distinction on Feb. 11, 2009. Attached to Monday’s online meeting packet, along with other communications sent to the city clerk, was a scan of a handwritten thank-you note from Dingell. The note is the lead art for this report. [image]

Thomas Partridge

Partridge spoke at public hearings on two different agenda items. The first was an ordinance revision to the Special Assessments and the Water, Sewer and Stormwater Rates sections of the city code. According to the online packet, the changes did not address changes in rates:

Proposed ordinance changes include:
• Replacement of specific dates with timing guidelines
• Removal of requirement for multiple notices in Chapter 13
• Removal of requirement for multiple Council resolutions in Chapter 29
• Restructuring of language in both Chapters 13 and 29

Partridge said he opposed the adoption of the amendment, called on council to table it, and to come up with a fair way to assess the fees. Currently, he said, the system was regressive. He said that he was disappointed and dismayed that the water resources commissioner didn’t weigh in on the topic. [Janis Bobrin, water resources commissioner, was present to speak to the issue of the storm water-based public project at the municipal center.]

The second public hearing amended sections of the city code on tax exemptions for housing projects. From the memorandum supporting the change [PILOT stands for payment in lieu of taxes]:

The Office of Community Development and Housing and Human Services Advisory Board are recommending that the PILOT ordinance be amended to increase the income limit of the PILOT from 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) to 60% AMI.

Partridge asked council to table the resolution because it did not address the needs of disabled people, and did not provide progressive democratic guidelines for protection of the most vulnerable citizens, which include developmentally delayed and handicapped children.

Present: Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Rapundalo, Leigh Greden, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins, Carsten Hohnke, Mike Anglin, John Hieftje

Next Council Meeting: Monday, April 20, 2009 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]


  1. By ROB
    April 9, 2009 at 9:17 pm | permalink

    What about the rest of Miller – from Newport to Main?!? The section from Seventh to Main is in even worse condition than the section west of Newport – absolutely third world – Kabul’s streets are probably in better shape. It won’t even be drivable, soon, let alone safe for bikes. Most major streets in A2 are either too narrow or too busy for bike traffic anyway. When I had a bike, the only place I ever felt safe was on the sidewalks, or the bike paths along the river. I’ll take my chances with the pedestrians rather than the cement mixers and gravel trains, thank you.

  2. April 9, 2009 at 10:27 pm | permalink

    “Last year, the public art commission recommended allocation of around $70,000 to Herbert Dreiseitl – a German artist-architect who specializes in storm-water based installations – for initial design work on the project, which city council approved earlier this year.”

    Clarification of the above wording: Council approved the $70,000 allocation for the design work, not the ($700,000+) project.

    That’s important because approval of the project must conform to 1:836 with regard to an estimate of maintenance costs. Kirsten Jensen’s objection relative to that section is off base since no project proposal exists yet.

  3. By Ostrich-in-a-Pothole
    April 10, 2009 at 6:30 am | permalink

    Roughly $4.8 million is not an insignificant amount for road repaving. Unfortunately, it does not begin to address the total of — a fraction of — the needs within the city limits. Is there any comprehensive plan for addressing the state of our roads? It isn’t just the thaw-induced potholes (though they are omnipresent), but rather the sections of road which are so raw as to become perilous. Citizens are being forced to pay to have sidewalks “repaired” to a mirror-smooth standard, while the roads are ignored. Choose north-south corridors or east-west; the examples are plentiful.

    The water and sewer systems are a related problem, of course, and another to which the city seems to prefer to ignore. What investments were made in the boom years of increasing tax revenues? What vision for infrastructure does the Council have at this point? Or is it the Council’s master plan that we all abandon cars and running water altogether and just walk with water buckets to the community well in the town center?

  4. April 10, 2009 at 8:19 am | permalink

    Thanks to the Chronicle for printing the part of the public art ordinance that was not followed. Section 1:837 requires City Council to approve guidelines to implement the ordinance (which is chapter 24 of the City Code).

    No proposed guidelines were ever presented to City Council, and of course none were adopted. Therefore, the resolution approving the design work did not have any legal effect, since no guidelines were adopted.

    Wasn’t anybody paying attention to the ordinance?!

  5. April 10, 2009 at 11:20 am | permalink

    Thanks for mentioning DocuSign. We’re really pleased and excited to have Ann Arbor using our technology. If you want more information about DocuSign, check out our blog ( or our Web site (


  6. By Miller Resident
    April 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm | permalink

    I must agree with Rob about Miller Ave from Newport/7th to Main. The street is in shockingly dismal shape, especially considering (or due to) the amount of traffic it gets.

    Furthermore, while not directly related to this article, the need for a traffic light on Huron at Chapin is equally pressing. The number of people crossing Huron on foot to get to the YMCA is huge, and I’ve personally witnessed several near-accidents.

  7. By Alan Goldsmith
    April 13, 2009 at 8:51 am | permalink

    I’m still waiting for the city to release the contract and terms with Ann Arbor Public Art Commission Administrator Katherine Talcott as requested by the Ann Arbor News several weeks ago.

    Has this happened yet?

  8. By Alan Goldsmith
    April 13, 2009 at 8:56 am | permalink

    “Wasn’t anybody paying attention to the ordinance?!”

    Obviously not but it’s ok because “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”