Archive for April, 2009

Expanded LDFA Board Reflects on Purpose

sticky notes stuck to poster for retreat exercise

As part of their look to the future, LDFA board members placed their sticky notes identifying the purpose of the LDFA to a giant poster on the wall. (Image links to high resolution image of entire poster.)

It was not anything personal, said Stephen Rapundalo to Skip Simms, who was sitting across the U-shaped configuration of tables from Rapundalo. He had just voted against Simms’ appointment to the Local Development Finance Authority board.

But over Rapundalo’s objection, shared also by his colleague on the board, Rob Risser, the body voted to add an ex-officio, non-voting seat to the LDFA board, which was filled by Simms. The occasion of the vote on Tuesday morning, held at the SPARK Central Incubator on Liberty Street, was the LDFA board’s regular meeting, which was also billed as a retreat – a facilitator was on hand to lead the group through an exercise to reflect on the organization’s purpose.

As Rapundalo’s assurance to Simms reflected, the new seat on the board was not created for Simms personally, but rather was specified as the designee of “the accelerator’s CEO,” who in this case was Michael Finney of Ann Arbor SPARK. Finney had designated Simms. SPARK contracts with the LDFA to provide services to high-tech start-up companies, and Simms is SPARK’s managing director of business acceleration as well as manager of the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund.

Simms already had a seat at the physical board table when the board’s deliberations took place on the creation of the ex-officio position. So why were Rapundalo and Risser opposed to the expansion of the board in this way? [Full Story]

UM: Flu Pandemic

NPR’s All Things Considered has an interview with Sandro Galea, a professor of epidemiology and director of UM’s Center for Global Health. He says it’s “problematic” when a public official – in this case, vice president Joe Biden – provides information that’s in direct contrast with the message being delivered by health officials and government leaders. On the Today Show, Biden said that in response to the swine flue threat, he has advised his family not to travel in confined spaces, such as airplanes or the subway. [Source]

Nickels Arcade

Two guys in an animated discussion, smoking…cigarettes? Says one: “Dude, I was totally at the first Hash Bash!”

Washington & E. of Main

3 p.m. Schakolad. Video crew interviewing local business owners for their perspective on the local business scene. Interviewed: Marisa Smith, President, The Whole Brain Group, and Tamar Fowler, owner of Sole Sisters shoe store. Business owners are encouraged to stop in and share their opinions during the next taping Thursday, May 7th anytime between 1-3pm.

WCC: Peg Talburtt

Peg Talburtt, executive director of the James A. & Faith Knight Foundation, is receiving the 2009 Award of Merit from Washtenaw Community College, its highest honor. Talburtt was a member of the WCC Foundation Board from 1992-98 and chair of a capital campaign for the WCC Children’s Center. She’ll receive the award at WCC’s commencement on Saturday, May 16. [Source]

First & Washington

Volunteer @ Kiwanis waiting for a guy to pick up some old treadle sewing machines, which he refurbishes for the Amish.

4th Ave & Liberty

Petitioners/surveyors standing kitty corner, one at Cloverleaf, other at Pretzel Bell Building; both trying to keep dry;

Main & Washington

AAPD car with lights; officer talking to driver, possibly belonging to car marked “UM hybrid electric;”

W. Liberty

Street sweepers operating in tandem.  Cycling behind them was very slow, but very clean, … but also very wet – it’s raining.

UM: Teacher Assessment

The Detroit News publishes an op/ed by Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of UM’s School of Education, who argues that Michigan should award teaching licenses based on the ability to teach: ”It is time that we build a system that would guarantee that every teacher, wherever she is prepared, can perform the work. To do this, we must design valid and credible assessments of the core teaching practices that help youth learn and of the specialized knowledge required for the work. These assessments must confirm teachers’ ability to do things such as explain concepts clearly, give useful feedback, orchestrate a whole-class discussion, and assign and support appropriate homework.” [Source]

County Plans Public Outreach on Budget

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners administrative briefing (April 29, 2009): A light agenda for next Wednesday’s board meeting meant a short briefing this week, with some non-agenda discussion related to outreach during the budget process.

Commissioners Conan Smith and Kristin Judge – chair and co-chair, respectively, of the board’s Ways & Means Committee – presented an outline of public forums and other outreach that the county will do in the coming weeks, as the administration and board prepare to tackle an anticipated $26 million deficit over the next two years. Three forums have been scheduled so far, with others in the works. The outreach includes the possibility of contacting local blogs, such as Arbor Update, to help get the word out about the budget process, Judge said. [Full Story]

Community Foundation Marks 45 Years

Alex Perlman and Molly Dobson represent the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundations 45-year span.

Alex Perlman and Molly Dobson represent the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation's 45-year span. Dobson was a trustee from 1969-1971. Perlman, a Huron High senior, has been a youth council representative on the AAACF board.

“This has been a challenging year – you’ll hear that word a lot,” Debbie Beuche told about 300 people who attended Tuesday evening’s annual meeting of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. Beuche, the nonprofit’s board chair, said AAACF gave out $2.2 million in grants and scholarships in 2008 – a year in which their annualized investment return was -31%.

The meeting highlighted AAACF’s accomplishments during 2008, and recognized volunteers who were stepping down from their work with the organization. The event also included a presentation on a project funded by the foundation called The B-Side: The Business Side of Youth, a program to encourage entrepreneurship for youth.

But first, the finances. [Full Story]

UM: NY Yankees

A New York Times article about ticket pricing by the New York Yankees quotes Jason Winfree, a UM assistant professor of sports management, who notes that even when fans complain about high prices, they typically pay: “If you raise prices, you usually won’t have a very big effect. Apparently, they took this too far.” [Source]

Madison & Thompson

Perplexed parents and students try to fit even more stuff into their cars during student move-out.

A2: Food

The Kitchen Chick posts a review of Mahek, an Indian eatery on East Washington: “I first fell in love with Chole Batura at the now-gone Mysore Woodlands, so when I saw it on the menu at Mahek I knew immediately what I wanted. Chole is a spicy Punjabi chickpea dish (aka Chana Masala), and batura is a soft deep-fried bread. Mahek serves theirs with a raita, which is delicious on the chole, and a mixed achar (salty-sour pickled condiment). By the way, the chiles in Mahek’s achar are not as hot as they look, so if you can eat medium-hot spicy food then you can eat the chiles in the achar.” [Source]

Thompson & R.L. Kennedy

Students moving out of West Quad for the semester. Lots of vehicles being loaded with dorm furniture.

7th & Miller

11:45 a.m. Handwritten “Save Mack Pool” yard signs at house kitty-corner to the pool.

4th Ave. & Liberty

Food Gatherers truck getting a load of cupcakes from Cupcake Station.

Wiki Wednesday: Washtenaw Boards

Arbor Wiki

It’s Wiki Wednesday again, an occasional series in which The Chronicle reminds readers of the online encyclopedia, ArborWiki, to which they can contribute their knowledge of the community. On Wiki Wednesdays we try to offer a clear path for contribution to ArborWiki.

After featuring city boards and commissions recently, we offer equal time this week to county boards and commissions. The county maintains a membership lists on a directory of boards, committees and commissions, and external agencies to which the board appoints representatives. The directory is searchable by name and by date of term expiration. So typing in “Driskell” yields a result showing that Gretchen Driskell serves on the Accommodations Ordinance Commission and the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG). [Full Story]

WCC: Academic Amnesty

The Washtenaw Voice reports that Washtenaw Community College will allow students to request that classes are “academically forgiven” if they perform poorly early in their academic career, but subsequently improve their grades. Says Linda Blakey, associate vice president of Student Services: ”That means no courses or grades are ever removed from the transcript, but it’s noted that those courses that are academically forgiven have been academically forgiven, and the grades received from those courses are no longer accumulated to the GPA.” [Source]

Library Plans to Lower Millage

Jan Barney Newman and Prue Rosenthal

Library board members Jan Barney Newman and Prue Rosenthal confer before Monday's board meeting at the Malletts Creek branch.

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (April 27, 2009): The proposed 2009-10 budget for the Ann Arbor District Library would lower the tax rate that the library levies – a decision that’s in response to the stressed economy, board members said during their monthly meeting on Monday. The board will vote on the budget at its May 18 meeting.

The budget proposes levying 1.55 mills for the fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2009. Currently, the library levies 1.92 mills. (One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s state equalized value, or SEV.) The library projects its fund balance will be $6.6 million at the end of this fiscal year (June 30, 2009) and that it will remain at that level next year – at about 52% of AADL’s $12.7 million operating budget.

Prue Rosenthal, the board’s treasurer, characterized the budget as “very conservative,” citing the economy and a concern for keeping taxes as low as possible while maintaining the library’s services. That means the library won’t be putting money into its capital building fund or fund balance, she said, “but we all believe that is the appropriate and right thing to do.” [Full Story]

Good News: You’re Fired!!

woman removing bricks from kiln

Kay Yourist opens the kiln after its first firing. It's a brick-by-brick process. The top row is labeling for ease of re-assembly.

By the time The Chronicle arrived at Yourist Gallery on Broadway Street last Wednesday, the temperature had cooled from its maximum of 2300F° to around 170F°.  The owner of the gallery, Kay Yourist, had donned giant leather gloves to open the door to her new kiln after its first complete firing the previous night.

The door to the kiln is actually a wall of un-mortared bricks that gets opened and closed by stacking and unstacking the wall brick by brick. The top few rows of bricks, which were sourced through Schad Boiler Setting Company in Detroit, are custom shaped to match the arch of the kiln’s roof, and labeled to prevent the door-closing task from evolving into a puzzle-solving exercise.

Even though we were there to see the opening, we got a chance to see a bit of the closing process, too – Yourist had actually begun the opening process before we arrived. But she indulged us by first re-stacking the bricks into a solid wall, so we’d have a clearer idea of how it worked.

Unstacking the bricks was slow going at first, but once Yourist had un-wedged the top row, the pace picked up. It wasn’t long before the top front layer of pottery pieces became visible. The kiln has three tiers and a front and a back, so the volume of art work we saw was about a sixth of the kiln’s total capacity. [Full Story]


Tony Dearing, content director for, has started a blog on that site. He writes: ”One way that people hope I can shed some of the mystery between now and July is by pointing to existing Web sites that we plan to pattern ours after. That’s a reasonable request, and while I can’t say there’s one site out there that mirrors what we have in mind, there are several we draw inspiration from.” He continues the post by listing several specific sites, including Chi-Town Daily News, Minneapolis Post and the West Seattle Blog. [Source]

A2: Library Website

The Ann Arbor District Library’s website will be down from 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28 until 6 a.m. on Wednesday, April 29. The disruption is due to utility work at city hall, according to a post on AADL’s website. [Source]

UM: College Journalists

Three UM students are among UWire’s list of top 100 college journalists: Dan Feldman, Michigan Daily senior sports editor; Andy Kroll, Michigan Daily investigative editor; and Kaitlin Urka, general manager of WOLV-TV. [Source]

Southeast A2 & Pittsfield

8:30 a.m. Power outages in the southeast side of Ann Arbor. DTE outage map shows between 5,000 to 10,000 customers are out of power in Ann Arbor, and another 2,000 to 5,000 in Pittsfield Township.

UM: Privatization

The University Record gives the response of UM officials to a recent Time article indicating that the university is considering privatization. The Record article includes an excerpt from a letter that UM president Mary Sue Coleman sent to Time editors: ”Amy Sullivan’s piece suggesting that the University of Michigan is being forced to privatize (April 23) came as quite a surprise to me as President. No such discussions are under way, nor are they being considered. Due to careful management, we are in better financial shape than many of our peers, both public and private. It is true that we have worked to boost revenues from other sources as the state’s financial support has declined, but what defines a public institution goes … [Full Story]