Archive for August, 2009

Main & Ann

We have no cake to leave out in the rain.  Let us then leave bread out in the rain.  [photo]

North Main

At this morning’s Ward 3 Democratic primary recount, LuAnne Bullington picked up one vote, but the tallies for Leigh Greden and Stephen Kunselman are unchanged: Kunselman remains on top, with a six-vote margin of victory.

UM: Business

USA Today reports on an attempt by Michigan Security Network, a newly formed Michigan nonprofit, to attract homeland security businesses to this state, including companies focused on cybersecurity, border monitoring and bioterrorism. The article quotes Tom Kinnear of UM’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, who says jobs in these industries will benefit the state’s software engineers, for example, but not the many laid-off blue-collar workers: “This is the new Michigan, and not a job-getter for the old Michigan. I live in the new Michigan, and quite frankly, it’s already doing quite well.” [Source]

A2: Business

The Detroit Free Press reports that Ductz International Inc., an Ann Arbor company, has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Huron Valley. The business uses foreclosed homes – ones that Habitat is renovating – to help train its franchisees, as they learn by cleaning the air ducts and HVAC systems in these homes. [Source]

Washtenaw: DIY

The Daily DIY blog highlights this coming Saturday’s first-ever Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire, to be held at the Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The free event will include demonstrations of robots, bookbinding, electric vehicles, computer-controlled machinery, high-altitude balloons, vortex cannons, and more. [Source]

Column: The Criminal Calls the Tune

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Last week I wrote about the case of Kimberly Knight. She’s the treasurer who pled guilty to embezzling almost a million dollars from the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association. Knight effectively wiped out the organization’s savings – including its scholarship fund, its down payment for a new rink, even its operating budget. And now the association is fighting for its very existence.

For most crimes, there are shades of gray, and two sides to the story. Not this time. On one side you have an all-volunteer organization that’s helped 20,000 kids play hockey since 1951.

On the other side you have a corrupt treasurer who methodically emptied almost a million dollars from the pockets of those kids who paid to play hockey. She pulled this off over a two-year period – hardly a spontaneous act. Then she gorged herself on diamond earrings, Escalades and expensive trips.

Knight claims she’s already paid back almost a quarter million. The association says she hasn’t paid back a cent. Hmm. Whom do you believe? [Full Story]

“What Did You Say?”


An Accent Reduction DVD shows a close-up of a speaker pronouncing the word "job." At the bottom of the screen, the word is spelled phonetically.

When Ann Arbor educator and entrepreneur Judy Ravin claims she can say, “What? What did you say?” in at least five different languages, she is not bragging about her multilingual prowess. She hears those phrases too often as she travels abroad. Just because she speaks the languages does not necessarily mean she is easily understood in all of them.

“And that doesn’t feel good,” she says. “None of us like that.”

It was mutual frustration (between speaker and the spoken-to) during her trips abroad that led her to think about how that must feel to immigrants in the United States as they attempt to set up their careers here.

And out of that frustration was the idea that eventually led to the Accent Reduction Institute, based in the Godfrey Building on North Fourth Avenue in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district. With a faculty of 18 contractors and three full-time directors, Ravin’s institute has been smoothing out the rough spots for immigrant speakers for about four years. The innovation behind the business is what is officially trademarked as the “Ravin Method,” which Ravin humbly says she feels “kind of silly about.” [Full Story]

A2: Nuns

The Catholic News Agency describes the growth of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor: “On August, 29, one day after the 17 new women arrive to join the community, the sisters are planning to host an event celebrating the completion of construction on the final new additions to their Motherhouse. The construction, which started last May, brought the total number of monastic cells to 100, explained Sr. Maria Guadalupe Hallee, OP, director of mission advancement. ‘If all 17 Aspirants enter, we will have 99 Sisters – again, we are at capacity. In short,” she added, “we can hardly build fast enough to keep up with the growth of the community.’” [Source]

UM: Business

The Washington Post reports on a recent federal court ruling that rejected a settlement agreement between the Bank of America and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. The article quotes UM law professor Adam Pritchard: “The issue is of broader public concern because it’s really at the intersection of the bailout of the banks and securities law. And the judge has been clear that he’s unhappy with the bank paying the settlement and no individual officers and directors being sanctioned at all.” [Source]

Liberty btw Fifth St. and Fourth St.

Almost 2-inch-long fat bug, translucent wings, blue tinge to part of its body, deceased. Cicada? June bug? I just don’t know my big bugs. But I haven’t seen this one yet this year.

Ashley btw William and Liberty

Large semi and unmarked touring bus parked along the east side of Ashley, next to the parking lot. Movie folk? Blind Pig performers? Parking attendant doesn’t know.

A2: Poetry

Jillian Downey of Zingerman’s Press writes an annual plan for the business – in haiku. A bonus poem in 20 rhymed couplets describes how books get made. [Source]

Column: Singin’ the Ann Arbor Blues

he crowd at Fuller Flatlands, courtesy Bob Frank

The crowd at Fuller Flatlands, site of the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival 40 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Bob Frank,

Forty years ago this month, a great crowd of young people converged on a small, unsuspecting middle-American town for an incredible three-day celebration of peace and music. They sat on the cool grass of an open field, grooved to the tunes of a dizzying array of legendary performers, smoked pot, drank wine, and generally had a blast. It was a landmark event that is still spoken of in hushed tones of awe and reverence among music historians.

No, it wasn’t Woodstock. It was something similar, yet very different, something smaller yet in some ways bigger.

It was something called the Ann Arbor Blues Festival.

In early August 1969, two weeks before the mammoth fete in Bethel, N.Y., approximately 20,000 eager spectators came to the Fuller Flatlands on the banks of the lazy Huron River to hear an absolutely astounding lineup of living legends of the blues – B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Big Mama Thornton, Son House, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and on and on – at the first major blues festival in the United States.

Although the Ann Arbor event has been almost completely overshadowed by its big brother in New York, to many serious music fans – especially blues enthusiasts – it is by far the more important of the two. Writing in the October 1969 issue of Downbeat, critic Dan Morgenstern made his preference plain, dismissing Woodstock in favor of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, which he declared was “without doubt the festival of the year, if not the decade.” [Full Story]

A2: Party Store

The Main Party Store in Ann Arbor gets a favorable review in Thursday’s Detroit News. The article quotes local resident Mariah Cherem: “If I’m looking for a craft beer or a particularly wide wine selection, Main tends to be my go-to place. It’s the most convenient location to my house for a mind-bogglingly large assortment of wine.” [Source]

A2: Petanque

The Midwest Petanque Alliance Blog posts several photos and a description of Ann Arbor’s newest sports craze: “Saturday I drove out to Ann Arbor to see Howard Ando and Jane Wilkinson’s new petanque courts at Burns Park. In a word: SPLENDID. The new petanque courts are situated in a very picturesque spot, close to a grove of trees – and very close to a clubhouse with lavatory facilities. Parking couldn’t be easier – adjacent to the court!” The post includes a tentative schedule of play through October. [Source]

A2: Crime

Channel 7 Action News reports on Wednesday that a manhunt is under way for 32-year-old Jerome Powell, Jr., who also goes by the name Rome Azar. He’s wanted for assault and kidnapping in an incident that occurred last weekend on West Summit: “In a bizarre twist, when police arrived Sunday at the home where Rome was staying, they discovered a 17-year-old man tied up in the basement. Police say he was an acquaintance of the man they’re now looking for.” [Source]

Farmers Market

The market is hopping, despite the rain. Lots of soggy shoppers and vendors, lots of late-summer produce.

MDEQ to Ann Arbor: Close Argo Millrace

Likely point of closure for the headrace (millrace) at Argo Dam.

Likely point of closure for the millrace (also known as the headrace or canal) at Argo Dam. (Photo by the writer.)

As part of an intro to an interview with the chair of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission, Scott Rosencrans, which The Chronicle published on Aug. 25, we reported that a letter from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had been sent to the city of Ann Arbor. The MDEQ letter included an order to close the millrace at Argo Dam.

The communication from the state agency didn’t come out of the blue – it was a reply to a request sent to MDEQ by the city of Ann Arbor asking for an extension to a July 31, 2009 deadline for action on Argo Dam.

With the text of both letters now available, we take a look at those communications, after briefly considering some historical context. That context dates back to a 2004 letter from the MDEQ about toe drains in the earthen berm next to the dam, and includes formation of a study committee, a public engagement process that extended over most of the first half of this year, recommendations from the city’s Park Advisory Commission and Environmental Commission, and a city council work session.

A key date from the most recent MDEQ letter is Nov. 1, 2009, by which time it has ordered the city of Ann Arbor to close off and drain the millrace. But it leaves both the dam-in and dam-out options available to the city. On a dam-in scenario, the MDEQ wants the toe drains in the earthen berm repaired by Dec. 31, 2010. On a dam-out scenario, the MDEQ wants the removal completed by December 2012. Either way, the city is supposed to have its study of options completed by April 30, 2010.

Based on a Tuesday phone conversation with Matt Naud, the city’s environmental coordinator, one possible timeline for next steps would have the city council conducting a mid-September work session on the topic, with clear direction coming at the council’s second meeting in September. Whatever that direction from council is, said Naud, it’s going to start costing money to implement the next steps – on the order of five-figure dollar amounts at least. [Full Story]

A2: Newshawks

The Ann Arbor Newshawks are back! Their latest news segment includes a report that Tios has purchased the Ann Arbor News building and will devote an entire floor to enchiladas. Get your summer fix of Chance Langford, Beaumont Vivant and Jacques Labatt in this nearly 8-minute video on YouTube. [Source]

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]

UM: Lee Bollinger

For those of you following the career of former UM president Lee Bollinger, who left Ann Arbor to become president of Columbia University: Bollinger has been appointed deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of New York, where he has served as director since 2007. A report in The Bulletin, a conservative Philadelphia publication, mentions Bollinger’s involvement in landmark affirmative action lawsuits filed against him while president at UM. [Source]

E. Huron River & Hickory

Near the bend onto Geddes, a large sign opposing the proposed countywide school millage that’s on the November ballot. [Photo]


11:30 a.m. City forestry touching base with neighbors about a green “dotted” tree slated for removal. Movie crew for “Trivial Pursuit” filming on street asks when city truck will move out of camera range. [Photo]

Talk with Rosencrans: Dams, Movies, Jobs


To address excessive creaking, a recommendation from Rosencrans (a carpenter) was to level up the totter's base – a suggestion already implemented. (Photo by the writer.)

[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks appear on The Chronicle.]

In recent coverage of the Park Advisory Commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported that Scott Rosencrans had just been elected chair by his colleagues on that body.

So despite the fact that he did not prevail in the recent city council Democratic primary election in Ward 5, Rosencrans will continue to serve the Ann Arbor community – by chairing  PAC. Among the topics we discussed on the totter was Argo Dam, which was a campaign issue that might have affected how Ward 5 residents voted. Incumbent Mike Anglin was against removing the dam, while Rosencrans supported its removal if the rowing community could be accommodated. Rowers make heavy use of Argo Pond. [See additional Chronicle dam coverage.]

Back in 2004, the  Michigan Department of Environmental Quality alerted the city of Ann Arbor to problems related to the earthen berm to the east of the dam. That berm separates the mill race – used by canoists to reach a portage around the dam – from the river. A task force and study lasting at least two years culminated in a months-long community dialogue on the future of the dam earlier this year. The city council has made no decision on a dam-in or dam-out solution.

The city recently sent a letter to the MDEQ asking for another extension in the deadline for a decision on how to address problems with the dam’s toe drains. And Byron Lane, chief of the dam safety program with the MDEQ, has sent a response. [Full Story]

A2: Business

The Associated Press reports that Borders Group, the Ann Arbor-based bookstore chain, posted a loss of $45.6 million for the second quarter of its fiscal year, which ended Aug. 1. Sales dropped 18% to $616.8 million. [Source]

A2: Radio Guy

Radio World publishes a profile of Art Vuolo, who has an extensive archive of American radio programs. Vuolo reminisces about his childhood: “Eventually our family moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., and in high school I became the DJ at our after-football Friday night dances. I went to a local record shop and picked up a bunch of 45s and always gave the store credit – ‘Music courtesy of Discount Records’ – and even I wore a bright red blazer.” [Source]

A2: State Appointment

A press release posted on the Michigan News site states that Gov. Jennifer Granholm has reappointed Marianne Udow-Phillips of Ann Arbor, director of the Center for Health Care Quality and Transformation, to a term on the Michigan Early Childhood Investment Corporation Executive Committee. The committee “is charged with establishing standards and guidelines for early childhood development activities to be implemented throughout the state in partnership with local intermediate school districts.” [Source]