Still No Dam Decision

Also: Increased homeless sheltering effort needs volunteers
woman and man at table with hands held aloft

Leigh Greden, who chaired the meeting as fourth in the line of mayoral succession, did not at any point abuse the temporary power by saying, "Everybody show me your hands!" Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) are in fact sussing out which version of the Argo Dam resolution the city clerk had circulated. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Oct. 19, 2009): A city council whose ranks were reduced by four members – due to family medical issues and personal illness – tabled a resolution on Argo Dam that would have expressed the body’s intent to keep Argo Dam in place and to perform necessary repairs mandated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The tabling came only after long deliberations, which included a recess, and focused mainly on the question of tabling versus postponing until a date certain.

Several people spoke during reserved public commentary time on the issue of Argo Dam. But the dam question was somewhat overshadowed for some in the audience by a presentation on homelessness at the beginning of the meeting from Mary Jo Callan, who’s director of the combined county-city office of community development. Said one speaker during public commentary: “After hearing the stats on homelessness, I’m ashamed to be standing here talking to you about Argo Dam.”

The presentation on sheltering the homeless – especially during the winter – included a specific call to action from Ellen Schulmeister, director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. She asked community members to start conversations at their churches, synagogues, mosques or other community groups about how they might be able to provide volunteer support and space to expand the current rotating shelter program. Schulmeister asked that the conversations begin now, “So that when we ask, you’re ready to go.”

In other major business, the city council authorized the expenditure of $100,000 for removal of five failing beams on the East Stadium bridge over State Street – beams which run under a portion of the bridge currently closed to traffic. The work is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 15 through Tuesday, Nov. 17 and will require the closing of State Street during the work.

The council also approved the next step in the creation of a Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) along Main Street between William and Huron streets.

“These people are not strangers. They are our neighbors.”

Background to the presentation on the homeless

Mary Jo Callan’s presentation to city council on the specific strategies that are under consideration to increase sheltering capacity short-term – as well as to increase the number of affordable housing units in the longer term – came in a context of recent heightened community awareness of the plight of the homeless population in and around Ann Arbor.

faces of the homeless from a slide presentation

Slide from a presentation given at city council's Oct. 19 meeting showing the faces of the homeless.

That awareness has come in part from publicity surrounding a tent community, Camp Take Notice, which was evicted in September from its location behind Arborland, as well as from an area just north of the park-and-ride lot at Ann Arbor-Saline and I-94, where it had re-located. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Laws of Physics: Homeless Camp Moves"]

The city council has also heard from advocates for the homeless at public commentary during some of its recent meetings. And a public demonstration in front of the Delonis Shelter last week called attention to the arraignment of a homeless camper on charges of trespassing. [Stopped.Watched. item: "Delonis Center on Huron"]

Callan’s presentation stemmed in part from a series of at least three meetings held in late September and early October among key community leaders and staff to explore alternatives to address the situation. The meetings included Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sandi Smith (Ward 1), Ellen Schulmeister (director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County), Susan Pollay (executive director of the Downtown Development Authority), Jennifer L. Hall (housing program coordinator in community development), Andrea Plevek (human services analyst), Deb Pippins (program administrator for PORT), and Mayor John Hieftje.

Camp Take Notice, which hews to a principle of self-governance, has asked local churches to sponsor the camp in the form of land use. Discussion at the series of meetings reflected some of the obstacles to the support of encampments as part of a community strategy of sheltering those without homes. Besides concerns about the necessary sanitation infrastructure (chemical or composting toilets) and fire hazards arising from attempts to heat tents, there are worries about legal liability. Still, at least one congregation locally is exploring the possibility of responding to the camp’s request.

Callan’s presentation to council acknowledged the homeless camps in and around town, putting the total estimated numbers at anywhere from 30 to 80 people. The residents of such camps had a variety of histories, Callan said. Some people have been through the existing shelter system and are still homeless, while others are unwilling to follow program guidelines on sobriety, and still others do not want to participate in a shelter program at all.

The strategy that Callan presented was not centered around homeless camps. After sketching out a fairly grim statistical picture, Callan described some short-term expansions of the existing shelter system, plus longer-term affordable housing solutions. Total estimated cost of the short-term solutions could reach close to $200,000 for a full year of implementation.

Statistics on the growing crisis and existing capacity

Callan projected numbers on the wall showing the increased demand on area shelters: The number of single adults has increased 20% from 919 to 1,106; the number of chronically homeless adults has grown 33% from 179 to 238; and the number of families has risen 29% from 368 to 474, which reflects an increase in total family members from 1,162 to 1,359.

Those numbers have had an impact on organizations that provide shelter. The Interfaith Hospitality Network has received a 16% increase in calls for shelter, but perhaps more significantly, the group has seen a 52% increase in length of shelter stay. SOS Community Services has seen a 22% increase in requests for housing crisis services. The Salvation Army has served 11% more people at its shelter and seen a 30% increase in assistance requests for the newly unemployed. The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County has served 44% more people.

The current local shelter inventory presented by Callan includes 159 beds and 50 places for single adults in the winter only:

Shelter Association of Washtenaw County
     Delonis Center – 50 beds (individual adults)
     Delonis Center – 25 chairs serve as warming center
     Winter Rotating Shelter – 25 overnight spaces (individual adults)
Salvation Army: 35 beds (families and individual adults)
SOS: 6 family units/24 beds (families only)
Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN):  6 family units/24 beds (families only)
Ozone House: 6 beds (youth only; ages 10 to 17)


Proposed short-term action

The proposed short-term actions, which Callan acknowledged are only temporary, have as a goal to keep more people safe during the approaching cold weather. As Ned Staebler put it later in the meeting, the effort is partly to make clear that “This is not the kind of place where we let people freeze to death on the streets.” [Staebler, who recently announced his candidacy for state representative in the 53rd District, chairs the Housing and Human Services Board.]

There are two components to the short-term strategy – one for individuals and one for families.

The first is to increase by 50 spaces the sheltering capacity for individual adults. This is proposed to be accomplished, Callan said, by (i) increasing the number of winter rotating shelter spaces from 25 to 50, and (ii) adding 25 beds to the Delonis Shelter. The increase in Delonis beds would be accomplished by moving the warming center to community kitchen space through the winter.

Cost for the single-individual component of the short-term strategy would be $25,000 for the winter, or $55,000 for the full year.

The second component of the short-term strategy is to provide housing vouchers (a rent subsidy) for 10 additional families. Callan explained the conceptual difference in the approach to families versus individuals by pointing out there is no equivalent to the Delonis Center for families. So there’s no existing family shelter facility where some additional space can be eked out. A temporary shelter-type response would entail creating a new group shelter space and support structure. [One possibility considered and rejected in the course of the three meetings of community leaders and staff was to remodel the Ann Arbor Community Center].

Instead of temporarily sheltering families for a short time all at one location, the idea of vouchers is to allow families to provide for the potential of longer-term stability in housing that could be permanent – at least through a complete school year, so that children would not need to switch schools. The cost of rent vouchers for 12 months would be similar in cost to a group shelter for 4 months, Callan said. She described the plan to work with the nonprofit Avalon Housing, the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, and private landlords to fill vacant rental units.

Cost of the family component of the short-term strategy would be $45,000-$55,000 for the winter, or $140,000-$155,000 for a full year.

In responding to Callan’s presentation, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), who also serves on the Housing and Human Services Board, asked Callan to address the other increased costs that are incurred with increased numbers of homeless people. Callan said she could not offer a dollar amount, but that there were additional costs associated with public safety, incarceration, and mental illness interventions.

Leigh Greden (Ward 3) drew out for emphasis the part of Callan’s presentation where she discussed the longer-term measures that the city had undertaken: Since 2005 there had been 58 new units of supportive housing created, and 161 units maintained. Greden asked her to explain what “supportive housing” is. Callan clarified that while “affordable housing” meant that it was accessible to poor people, “supportive housing” was accessible to those who had more challenges related to housing stability than just financial issues. Supportive housing, she said, was for people who needed help through life skills training, case management services, or psychiatric services.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1), in addition to clarifying what the cost of the proposed short-term solutions would be, drew out the specific ways that community members can provide their assistance to meet the immediate short-term need. Ellen Schulmeister, director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, identified the rotating shelter expansion as an area where community volunteer help would be needed. Currently, congregations at different churches take one-week shifts staffing temporary warming shelters at their churches. The Delonis Shelter checks in people before they’re transported to the churches.

Ned Staebler, who spoke to council in his capacity as chair of the Housing and Human Services Board, responded to Smith’s question of specific ways people could help by suggesting that they look to whatever nonprofit or community group they were members of. Staebler, in his previous remarks to the council, had characterized the homeless population this way: “These people are not strangers. They are our neighbors.”

A funding request for the short-term proposal could come before the city council at its Nov. 5 meeting.

artist conception of argo dam as removed

Artist's conception of what the Huron River would look like if Argo Dam were removed. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Argo Dam

Eight of the 10 speakers who signed up for reserved time to speak during public comment at the start of the council meeting addressed the issue of Argo Dam. [For preview Chronicle coverage, see "Finally a Dam Decision on Argo?" ] Notable among those who spoke in favor of keeping the dam in place was Bob Johnson, former Ward 1 representative to the city council. Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council, spoke in favor of the dam’s removal and for a formal public hearing by city council on the issue.

Rubin showed the council an artist’s rendering of the river with the dam removed. That prompted some commentary from speakers who weighed in for keeping the dam, who questioned whether the river would follow the same course downstream from the dam that it currently does.

For council’s part, their deliberations focused exclusively on the question of process, as opposed to the dam-in/dam-out question. At the beginning of the meeting, the dam resolution was moved forward on the agenda, to the slot just after the consent agenda, in consideration of the many attendees who were in council chambers for that item alone.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), one of the sponsors of the resolution, began by indicating he’d be moving to postpone it until the first council meeting in December. But before making the motion for postponement, he said he wanted to set the record straight with regard to some specific issues. On the question of adequate public input, he recalled how the subject has been talked about for nine years, and ticked through the various points of public process along the way, summarizing by saying that there’d been “quite a lot of dialogue.”

Sue McCormick, the city’s director of public services, had delivered an update to council at its Sept. 8 meeting. Rapundalo reported that after that update, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who was the lead sponsor of the resolution, had begun communications with himself and the mayor to try to be proactive about addressing infrastructure issues identified by the MDEQ – the toe drains in the earthen berm, which needed repair or replacement.

The desire to fix the basic infrastructure and to “clear the decks” with the MDEQ had been the only motivation behind the resolution, Rapundalo said. He expressed discomfort with the idea of going to court with MDEQ, saying that there were many higher priorities for the city to deal with, such as the approaching budget season. [At the budget and labor committee meeting immediately prior to the council meeting, councilmembers and Tom Crawford, CFO for the city, began calendaring the process, with the idea of slotting in certain elements slightly earlier than last year. For example, the council's budget retreat may be convened in December instead of January, as it was last year.]

Rapundalo also indicated that he wanted a public hearing attached to the meeting when the resolution would be considered.

There was mild confusion when Rapundalo expressed some frustration that the most recent version of the resolution was not reflected in the council’s packet, despite assurances from staff that it had been updated. Subsequent sleuthing at the table indicated that the version he’d sent via email 20 minutes earlier was accurately reflected in the online packet.

When it appeared that the updated text would not be read into the record, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) weighed in to point out that the newly revised council rules on electronic communications required that the language be read aloud, and Rapundalo then did so.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who was a co-sponsor of the resolution, then addressed the issue of whether there should be a public hearing on it. She said that from her point of view, the expectation of a public hearing had always been attached to a resolution on the dam-in/dam-out question – which this resolution was not. This resolution, she contended, was not meant to decide the longer-term issue, but was meant to address the shorter-term maintenance issue.

Based on the original text of the resolution posted with Friday’s agenda addition – which meeting attendees may have had in mind – Smith’s contention could have been somewhat confusing. But given the revision that Rapundalo read aloud, her remarks make more sense. Here’s the revised version with some emphasis added:

Resolution Pertaining to Argo Dam [Revised]

WHEREAS, The City of Ann Arbor has for years owned and maintained several dams along the Huron River, and
WHEREAS, Studies of the Huron River have raised the question of the need to manage the river and each of the impoundments created by these dams, and
WHEREAS, The Argo Dam and Argo Pond have recently become the focal point for considerable discussion about the “pros and cons” of keeping the Argo Dam in place, and
WHEREAS, The Ann Arbor community enjoys many recreational opportunities and environmental attributes created by the existence of Argo Pond within the Huron River system, and
WHEREAS, The best interests of the Ann Arbor community will be served by preserving the Argo Dam at this time given its sound structural integrity, and
WHEREAS, The Argo Dam includes several associated structural features, including the “headrace embankment”, which has drawn the concern of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for safety reasons related to the adequacy of toe-drains which are designed to drain seepage from the headrace, and
WHEREAS, Repairs to the headrace embankment could be completed for a small fraction of the cost of removing the entire dam, and therefore be it

RESOLVED, The Ann Arbor City Council declares its intent to maintain the Argo Dam and Argo Pond for the time being and allow staff to develop and implement specific strategies to mitigate any infrastructure deficiencies with the headrace embankment and thereby satisfy the MDEQ’s requirements, and
RESOLVED, The Ann Arbor City Council directs the City Administrator to take actions in support of this declared intent, including identifying a timetable and necessary funding sources to support the infrastructure improvements.

The original resolution differs mostly by ordering and the lack of temporal qualifiers:

Resolution Pertaining to Argo Dam [Original]

WHEREAS, The City of Ann Arbor has for years owned and maintained several dams along the Huron River;
WHEREAS, Studies of the Huron River have raised the question of the need to manage the river and each of the impoundments created by these dams;
WHEREAS, The Argo Dam and Argo Pond have recently become the focal point for considerable discussion about the “pros and cons” of keeping the Argo Dam in place;
WHEREAS, The Ann Arbor community enjoys many recreational opportunities and environmental attributes created by the existence of Argo Pond within the Huron River system;
WHEREAS, The Argo Dam includes several structural features, including the “headrace embankment”, which has drawn the concern of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for safety reasons related to the adequacy of toe-drains which are designed to drain seepage from the headrace;
WHEREAS, Repairs to the headrace could be completed for a small fraction of the cost of removing the entire dam; and
WHEREAS, the best interests of the Ann Arbor community will be served by preserving the Argo Dam and all the amenities associated with the dam,

RESOLVED, The Ann Arbor City Council declares its intent to maintain the Argo Dam and Argo Pond and directs the City Administrator to develop specific strategies to mitigate any infrastructure deficiencies with the headrace embankment to satisfy the MDEQ’s requirements, and to take actions in support of this declared intent, including identifying a timetable and necessary funding sources to support the work.

Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) asked for a recess in order to adequately assess the language of the resolution, pointing out that the most recent revision had been emailed only 20 minutes ago, and that even the original text of the resolution had come relatively late – on the previous Friday.

Hohnke’s request for a recess was granted by Leigh Greden, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor John Hieftje, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), and Margie Teall (Ward 4), who precede him in the line of mayoral succession.

On return from the recess, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) weighed in against the idea of postponing, saying that tabling the resolution instead was the proper thing to do.  The resolution as it was written, Taylor contended, clouded the intended effect, which was to decouple the issue of the dam-in/dam-out question from the issue of needed repairs to the earthen berm. Instead of decoupling those two issues, Taylor said, the language of the resolution intertwined them.

Taylor was concerned that by postponing the resolution to the first meeting in December, there would not be an opportunity to alter the language so as to make clear to the public what the language would be for the resolution on which the public hearing would be held. He sketched out how the tabling would allow council to bring back the resolution at a subsequent meeting, revise the language in a way to clarify that the two issues of dam-in/dam-out versus the need to repair were decoupled, then postpone to a certain date with the attached public hearing – something he allowed was a “tortured process.” But, he concluded, “That’s what happens under circumstances such as these.”

In a  follow-up to an emailed query after the meeting, Taylor wrote to The Chronicle that what he had in mind was a single resolution for a future council meeting that would achieve alteration of the language in a way that would be transparent as to council’s intent concerning the fate of the original resolution: “I think there should be a single resolution to de-table [the original resolution], amend, postpone to a date certain and hold a related PH [public hearing] on that date. This resolution should appear in the initial packet [of meeting materials].”

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) echoed Taylor’s sentiments, saying that by postponing the resolution, the issue of whether to keep the dam in the longer term was coupled with the intent to repair the berm. She said she’d rather not see those issues coupled.

In light of Taylor’s comments, Smith then clarified with city attorney Stephen Postema that it was possible to amend the language of the resolution in the future, whether it was postponed or tabled. [Taylor's point, however, had seemed to be about the timing of the alteration of the language, not about the possibility of altering the language per se.] She then said she felt she’d rather vote down the postponement and vote down the resolution itself, and then bring back a different resolution with clearer language.

Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) queried Smith about her preference: Did she want to decide the resolution tonight? Answer: Yes. Smith said she’d vote no on tabling, postponing and the resolution itself.

For his part, Hohnke said that his preference was to table the resolution, saying that the phrase “for the time being” was incredibly unclear for a resolution of this magnitude.

Rapundalo, arguing for the postponement instead of the tabling, suggested that to achieve the timing of the alteration of language that Taylor wanted in advance of a public hearing, a second postponement could be moved. Tabling it, Rapundalo contended, makes it “out of sight, out of mind. We want to keep it on the front burner … The greatest failure is that council hasn’t acted.”

City attorney Stephen Postema advised that to execute Rapundalo’s suggestion of two successive postponements – one to get the language right, and the second to postpone to the date when council planned the public hearing and its vote – it would be best to unlink the public hearing from the postponement that council was at that moment considering.

Rapundalo was able to unlink the hearing from the postponement, only because Briere moved to suspend the council rules to allow him to speak a third time. Typically, motions to suspend the rules apply generally to all councilmembers, but this one was specific to Rapundalo, which prompted him to quip, “I feel honored!”

Greden weighed in last saying he was against the postponement, adding that the council should either table it or vote on the resolution and vote it down. The roll call vote had only Rapundalo in support of postponing to December.

Smith then moved to table the resolution.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to table the resolution on the Argo Dam.

Stadium Bridges

A recent report from a engineering consultant, who was asked to perform an extra inspection of the East Stadium bridges, recommended removal of five beams supporting the section of the bridge (the southern lanes) that has been closed to traffic. They are no longer performing their designed function, the report states, and leaving them in place poses the potential hazard of falling pieces of concrete to traffic traveling on State Street under the bridge. The winter freeze-thaw and the use of de-icing salts would tend to exacerbate that potential hazard.

Before council were two resolutions concerning the bridges. One was to authorize the city administrator to enter into a construction contract to remove the five beams (up to $100,000) and the second was for an agreement to relocate power lines near the bridge to be out of the way of construction cranes ($340,000).

Michael Nearing, a city engineer and senior project manager, explained to the council that the beam removal was out for bid with three different companies.

Homayoon Pirooz, project management manager with the city of Ann Arbor, apprised the council that the beam work was planned in a way to have a minimal impact on Stadium Boulevard traffic. Pirooz indicated that it was planned for a Sunday through Tuesday. [It's now planned specifically for Sunday, Nov. 15 through Tuesday, Nov. 17] After the work is done, the traffic pattern on the bridge will be the same as it is now. What will be different is that concrete barriers will prevent cars from driving off the new southern edge of the bridge, as opposed to the current orange barrels that provide a visual cue not to traverse the southern lanes.

At Mike Anglin’s (Ward 5) request, Pirooz reminded the council of the funding possibilities. The TIGER grant for which the city has applied could fund the entire $21 million cost, but there’s intense national competition for those grants. [TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, a federal program.] Notification on the outcome of the TIGER grant application will come no later than Feb. 17, 2010, but it could come sooner. There’s a  federal highway re-authorization bill that has support for earmarks from Ann Arbor’s Congressional delegation. And finally, the state’s Local Bridge Program offers a chance for as much as $2-3 million, Pirooz said. There’s a meeting on Nov. 5 of the Local Bridge Program administrators – Ann Arbor will make a presentation at that meeting, and funding will be determined then.

Leigh Greden (Ward 3) added that there are also various other alternative funding sources the city is exploring with the help of state Rep. Rebekah Warren.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve both resolutions related to the Stadium bridges.

man sitting wearing read scarft

Ed Shaffran, who's one of the leaders of an effort to establish the BIZ on Main Street. (Photo by the writer.)

Business Improvement Zone

[See previous Chronicle coverage on the proposed BIZ between William and Huron streets on South Main, based on last week's city council work session: "Trains, Trash, and Taxes"]

Before the council was a resolution to support the creation of a business improvement zone by authorizing the city clerk to begin public notifications associated with the next phase in the process, which city administrator Roger Fraser described as “not one of the most swift,” saying that he admired the perseverance of the people involved.

Two people spoke during time reserved for public commentary at the beginning of the meeting. Bob Dascola, who owns a barbershop on State Street, said that his family had been in business in Ann Arbor for more than 70 years. In support of the BIZ he cited the example of Boulder, Colo., where a business improvement district, which is similar to a BIZ, had so well enhanced the downtown area that it had put a mall out of business on the edge of town.

Lee Adams introduced himself as a masters of urban planning student at the University of Michigan who had interned at a BID in Washington, D.C. He spoke in favor of the council’s initiation of the next step in the process for creating a BIZ on Main Street. He said the fact that Main Street was iconic – as evidenced by the recent American Planning Association designation as a Great Street – meant that it was worth continued investment. A BIZ would help business retention and growth, plus provide a unified voice for business owners, as well as economies of scale for services.

Leigh Greden (Ward 3) noted that supporters of the BIZ in the audience “looked content.” They were not asked to the podium to answer questions, nor did they wish to communicate additional information to the council.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to authorize the next step in the creation of the BIZ on South Main.

Planned Unit Development (PUD) Proposals

The council considered two different PUD rezoning proposals. The first related to a Briarwood Circle location where two four-story hotels, consisting of 227 rooms and 227 parking spaces, are proposed.

The second, for Casa Dominick’s, concerned a consolidation of properties under one zoning classification on Monroe Street, and addresses existing zoning nonconformities. The expanded PUD district comprises four areas (A, B, C and D) for regulation purposes. Areas A and B will permit restaurant; residential; grocery, prepared food and beverage sales; classroom and educational instruction; beauty salon; general, medical and dental office uses. Area C will permit hotel and residential use. Area D will permit artists and craft studios with sales and residential use.

Public Commentary

Thomas Partridge: Partridge spoke at the public hearings on both PUD proposals. He asked the council not to approve any zoning changes until there were ordinance changes and amendment to the PUDs to assure access to public transportation to the sites and a requirement that developers pay into a fund to finance development of affordable housing on adjacent sites.

Earl Ophoff: Ophoff, of Midwestern Consulting, spoke in connection with the Briarwood Circle hotel project, essentially just to establish that he was present and available to answer questions when the council took up the matter for a vote.

John Barrie: Barrie spoke on behalf of the owner of Casa Dominick’s. He described the zoning revision as addressing the land’s transitional function between the University of Michigan campus, which surrounds it on three sides, and the residential neighborhood to the south. The rezoning, he said, would allow for slightly greater density and would consolidate all of the restaurant uses on one property.

Outcome: The council unanimously approved both PUD proposals.

Communications from Council

In his communications from council, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) noted that council’s recent revisions to its rules didn’t constitute an ethics policy. He indicated that in the next couple of weeks, there would be a policy brought forward to fill that gap.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) called attention to a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels to be held at the Big Boy on Plymouth Road on Nov. 5 from 5-9 p.m. The public can participate by going to the restaurant and eating during that time period, with tips going to the nonprofit.

Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) reported that the Ann Arbor Skatepark Action Committee had held a workshop the previous day, which was facilitated by skatepark designer Wally Hollyday.

Public Commentary: End of Meeting

Often there are no members of the public who choose to address the council at the end of its meeting. At this meeting, however, five people made remarks to the council.

Thomas Partridge: Partridge noted that he’d called repeatedly for the last decade for the city to join with other municipalities to facilitate regional transportation, but had repeatedly been disappointed by the 7-member Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board. He alluded to the “AATA’s war against disabled people,” and said that the focus should not be on high-speed rail or service to the airport, but rather on basic bus service.

Tim Hull: Hull introduced himself as a graduate student in the school of information at the University of Michigan and expressed concern about the proposed changes in bus service as a result of the new Plymouth Road park-and-ride lot. He told council that while the AATA is proposing to continue weekend service on Route #2 on Green Road as far south as the park-and-ride lot, the weekend service on Route #2 on Green farther south and on Glazier Way and Earhart is proposed to be discontinued. He asked council to consider a focus by the AATA on residents as contrasted with commuters, and suggested that they look for future AATA board members who lived within the AATA service area.

Kathy Griswold: Griswold thanked councilmembers for the work they’d done so far on getting a crosswalk installed at the intersection of Waldenwood and Penberton drives, which would move it from its current mid-block location. She asked that action be taken within the next few weeks, while the concrete season lasts.

Jacob Djakovic: [spelling unconfirmed] He described an outdoor architectural tour beginning and ending at Liberty and Maynard streets, which he’d like to offer people for a fee. He was trying to make sure that in setting these tours, he did not violate any local laws. He’d heard some reaction that Nickels Arcade, for example, might not be a suitable location through which to lead a tour. He asked for any advice on relevant policies that might help him prepare.

Edward Vielmetti: Vielmetti told the council that on Oct. 6 he’d requested under the Freedom of Information Act all records related to sidewalk repair, including communications with the homeowner, for an address on Gott Street. He thanked the city staff, saying that the sidewalk had been repaired about 10 days after he’d made the request.

Present: Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Leigh Greden, Carsten Hohnke, Stephen Rapundalo, Sandi Smith, Christopher Taylor.

Absent: Tony Derezinski, John Hieftje, Marcia Higgins, Margie Teall.

Next council meeting: Thursday, Nov. 5, 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. October 21, 2009 at 12:56 pm | permalink

    Best Headline Ever. As usual, great reporting… thank you!

  2. October 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm | permalink

    I’m curious whether Rapundalo ever actually moved for postponement and if someone seconded it. I don’t expect that to be reported, but the vote didn’t reflect support beyond his. With a less-experienced chair serving, I can imagine a procedural oversight could be possible, especially with Higgins (official? parliamentarian) and others absent.

  3. By Dave Askins
    October 21, 2009 at 4:20 pm | permalink

    Re: [2] Rapundalo did move for the postponement. My notes don’t reflect who seconded it. Of course, whoever seconded the motion obviously didn’t vote for it, but it’s not required that you vote for a motion that you seconded, or even one that you make yourself.

    As for Greden having less experience chairing the meeting, that’s true, he does have less experience. But I’d guess that a first-time observer of council’s meeting on Monday would not have suspected that Greden was anything but the regular chair.

  4. By Mike Jennings
    October 21, 2009 at 4:50 pm | permalink

    So what is going to happen with Argo Dam? The MDEQ has ordered the City to close off and drain the mill race by 1 November. The next council meeting isn’t until after that dead line. Is the City just going to ignore the deadline and do nothing or are they going to comply with the order and close it off as they should.

  5. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 21, 2009 at 6:27 pm | permalink

    The tape of this meeting should be buried in a time capsule as the perfect snapshot of Ann Arbor circa 2009. It’s ironic that earlier in the day Laura Rubin was part of the ‘task force’ that voted to approve the $800K+ giant urinal artwork for the Court-Police building and then shows up to push for the removal of Argo Dam at the same meeting that focuses on squeezing out nickles and dimes to keep some homeless folks from freezing to death this winter. And Margie Teal had the time to show up to vote for ‘art’ at the Ann Arbor Public Art task force but not her regular council gig? I guess she had her priorities.

  6. By Dave Askins
    October 21, 2009 at 9:39 pm | permalink

    Re: [5] “And Margie Teal had the time to show up to vote for ‘art’ at the Ann Arbor Public Art task force but not her regular council gig? I guess she had her priorities.”

    It’s worth pointing out that there’s some suggestion of why people were absent in the opening line of the report:

    “A city council whose ranks were reduced by four members – due to family medical issues and personal illness … ”

    That general summary reflected Greden’s more specific explanation that Higgins and Hieftje each had serious family medical situations and that Teall was experiencing flu-like symptoms. If there was an explanation offered for Derezinski’s absence, I didn’t catch it.

  7. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 22, 2009 at 6:10 am | permalink

    Thanks for the information Dave. I know about Marcia Higgins’ situation. But Margie Teall was at the AAPAC ‘vote’ earlier in the day. She did show up to vote for the ‘art’ and must have gotten sick in the five or six hours between the two meetings.

  8. By zollar
    October 22, 2009 at 8:27 am | permalink

    Good luck to all you folks who live on lower level apts in the area of Island Drive.Talked to some old timers ( while walking tru Island Park) who have lived here since the 40′s and 50′s, flooding has always been a problem in the area before the damn.

  9. By Bob Martel
    October 22, 2009 at 10:22 am | permalink

    I am baffled by the time that the “Dam Decision” is taking. With so much more important stuff going on, why is this issue so hard to move along? Is it really such a political “hot potato?” Is this decision really going to ruin someone’s political career? why all the angst?

    I am personally in favor of removing the dam, but frankly at this point, I’d settle for keeping it just to get this issue off the table.

  10. By AntiRedRidersNo1
    October 22, 2009 at 3:33 pm | permalink

    Too much attention paid to the lunatic fringe, Bob.

  11. October 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm | permalink

    Camp Take Notice Please!!!!! Go Mission!!!!

    [Editor's note: Much of the formatting and linking was stripped out of the comment below. The original story, together with the podcast, is here.]

    Tuesday, October 27
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    North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC
    A Place to Belong

    [tent Seth Best]

    Last winter, Seth Best searched high and low for a job in Ann Arbor, but the Michigan economy had sunk too low. Seth ended up on the street and found a homeless shelter that would take him, but as a transgender man he ran into many challenges there. After a month of encounters with drugged out shelter dwellers, Seth left the shelter and was back out on his own – in the middle of a Michigan winter.

    Seth soon found a drug-free tent community of fellow homeless people that welcomed him. It wasn’t an easy scenario. With few ways to stay warm in his tent, Seth almost didn’t make it through the Michigan winter. But Seth tells Dick Gordon that finding this group helped safe his life – and gave him a sense of belonging he was yearning for.

    * Learn more about the tent city, Camp Take Notice

  12. By Rod Johnson
    October 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm | permalink

    Bob, I think the answer is that there are strong arguments on both sides, and strong passions on both sides, and no real middle ground (and elections coming). A nightmare scenario for politicians.