Archive for October, 2009

Broadway Bridge

Film crew blocking both pedestrian paths on Broadway Bridge. Makes for a circuitous walk to/from downtown and north side.

Fourth & Liberty

Rally in support of health care reform in front of the federal building. People tooting horns as they drive by – a vehicular shout-out.

Ward 4: Higgins, Elhady Answer Questions

woman and man siting at table

Marcia Higgins and Hatim Elhady settled in to answer questions from Ward 4 residents on Friday night at Dicken Elementary School. (Photo by the writer.)

For one hour on Friday evening at Dicken Elementary School, candidates for the Ward 4 city council seat – Marcia Higgins and Hatim Elhady – answered questions read aloud by Ann Arbor resident Jack Eaton. Higgins is seeking re-election on Nov. 3 as the Democratic nominee, while Elhady is challenging her, and is unaffiliated with any party.

The Chronicle arrived just after the ground rules were explained – questions read by Eaton were submitted to him by attendees of the event. There would be opening statements from each candidate, announced Eaton. At that, Higgins suggested that they dispense with the opening statements and dive right into the questions – the event was about letting Ward 4 residents get their questions asked and answered, she said. Elhady quipped that he’d had his “heart set on an opening statement,” but agreed to Higgins’ suggestion.

The event was organized by Elhady’s campaign. Eaton, who is pictured on Elhady’s campaign website and has contributed to the Elhady campaign, administered the questions and kept time in a way that could fairly be characterized as impartial. When Elhady concluded one of his responses, Eaton self-reported that he had not timed Elhady and would thus not time Higgins, either. In general, adherence to the two-minute time limit was not a problem for the candidates, good pace was maintained between questions, and they covered a lot of ground in the hour.

Below we give the questions and answers in summary form – no attempt has been made to render a verbatim account. Higgins and Elhady took turns taking first crack at the questions. So in every case, the candidates’ responses are summarized in the order they were given. The order of the questions is also presented in the order they were asked. [Full Story]

Column: Email No Substitute for Interview

John Hilton, editor of The Ann Arbor Observer

John Hilton, editor of The Ann Arbor Observer

In her criticism of Judy McGovern’s column on the Fourth Ward election, Pat Lesko writes that the Ann Arbor Observer “interviewed” her candidate, Hatim Elhady, by email. Observer profiles editor Eve Silberman did indeed exchange emails with Elhady about his candidacy. Neither she nor I, however, considered that exchange an “interview.”

Our experience trying to talk to Elhady was much like The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s. The candidate simply refused to speak to Silberman, either on the phone or in person. He didn’t mention any “media strategy,” nor did he indicate that there were any circumstances in which he would answer questions in real time. So you can imagine our shock to learn, from Lesko’s comment on The Chronicle, that he later granted “live” interviews to other reporters. [Full Story]

Column: Book Fare

Domenica Trevor

Domenica Trevor

Start with some quick history: Josef Stalin’s campaign in the late 1930s to consolidate his control of the Communist Party spun into a terror that counted both old Bolsheviks and a new generation of party faithful among its victims. The leadership of the Red Army was decimated. Intellectuals were seized and interrogated and, like so many others under torture, falsely denounced others.

Inevitably, the masses caught on to the madness; pointing the finger at a neighbor could suddenly open up that three-room apartment next door. By the time the rampage was reined in, some 1.5 million people had been arrested and imprisoned; half again as many were executed or perished in the gulag.

Fast forward to the present: You’re a 29-year-old with an MFA, in Moscow to do research for your first novel. Lev Mendelevich Gurvich, himself caught up in the purges, has welcomed you into his apartment and has agreed to tell you his story. Gurvich, in his 90s but still with a sharp mind, had in the 1930s been editor of the literary magazine of the Komsomol, the Communist youth movement of the U.S.S.R. He was arrested, interrogated, sent to a labor camp.

You tell him about your novel, the story of a disgraced teacher of literature who now works as an “archivist” at Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison. Pavel Dubrov’s guilt and sorrow threaten to deaden him into numbness until a brief, official encounter with the prisoner Isaac Babel stirs him to rescue the condemned writer’s last manuscript from the prison’s furnace. Pavel smuggles it out of Lubyanka under his coat.

I met Babel, this survivor of the gulag tells you. I was at Stalin’s rallies; yes, I heard Stalin speak. But at one point the old man stops to ask, pointedly if not unkindly: Who are you to write this book?

“I wasn’t insulted,” Travis Holland says. “It was a question I asked myself.”

A more than fair question. But Holland’s answer, “The Archivist’s Story,” proved that his audacity was matched by his gifts. [Full Story]

Local MSU Extension Saved from Closing

Programs of the Michigan State University Extension in Washtenaw County – including 4-H and consumer counseling – were running without interruption this week, while staff was quietly preparing for another potential task: Closing down their operation completely.

At Wednesday’s administrative briefing of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, county administrator Bob Guenzel said that staff had been making preparations to close in light of possible cuts by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who had indicated she might veto MSU Extension funding in a budget bill passed by state legislators.

But on Friday morning, Granholm signed the budget – and spared MSU Extension funding.

“It’s been an interesting week,” Nancy Thelen, director of the Washtenaw MSU Extension, told The Chronicle Friday morning in a phone interview. [Full Story]

Photo Essay: Halloween on Main Street

Editor’s note: In what has now officially become an annual Chronicle tradition, we’re delighted to document this year’s Main Street Halloween Treat Parade through the eyes and lens of Myra Klarman, a professional photographer who lives and works in Ann Arbor. Downtown merchants handed out treats to dozens of spooks, superheros, puppies and princesses. If there were tricks, we sure didn’t see any – other than a little rain. Happy Halloween.

Boy in a lion's costume

The Lion

[Full Story]

A2: Detroit Auto Show

The Detroit Free Press reports that ticket prices have been cut to the 2010 Detroit auto show’s charity preview gala, to $250. The article quotes Ann Arbor auto dealer Doug Fox, co-chairman of the North American International Auto Show, held in January: “Like everyone else, we are reducing our costs so we are trying to reach a wider group of people.” [Source]

Saline: UAW

Bloomberg News reports that UAW workers at three Ford factories – including one in Saline – have rejected contract concessions that have been given to other domestic automakers: “A parts plant in Saline, Michigan, with about 1,500 workers voted 75 percent against the deal yesterday, Local 892 President Mark Caruso said in an e-mail.” [Source]

UM: Lawsuit

The Associated Press reports that UM has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a former dental school student. From the report: UM “is dropping an appeal of a $1.7 million verdict awarded to a former dental student who said she was illegally kicked out of school. In a court filing, lawyers for Alissa Zwick and four faculty members say they have agreed to settle the case.” [Source]

Column: Bill Martin’s Legacy

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Last week, Bill Martin announced he would step down as Michigan’s athletic director, effective right before next fall’s first football game.

I was a little surprised Martin announced his retirement in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the football season. But, as surprises go, it wasn’t much of one. Martin has already put in a decade as the Wolverines’ athletic director, which is about average by contemporary standards. And he’s accomplished more during that time than anyone could have reasonably expected – perhaps including himself.

The big surprises happened years ago. [Full Story]

Packard & Maplewood

11:00 a.m. Construction site at Packard & Maplewood being picketed for using non-local labor.

UM Campus

Pacman spotted being chased by ghost near Ugli.

Navigating Library Lane

This rendering of the proposed Fifth Avenue parking project, on a billboard next to the downtown library, shows the proposed Library Lane running between Fifth and Division. The large building on the right of the image is a new library building – a project that was called off late last year. (Photo by the writer.)

This rendering of the proposed Fifth Avenue parking project, on a billboard next to the downtown library, shows the proposed Library Lane running between Fifth and Division (from the bottom to the top of the image). The large building on the right is a new library building – a project that the library board called off late last year. (Photo by the writer.)

The Chronicle arrived about an hour late to the Oct. 19, 2009 board meeting for the Ann Arbor District Library, which began before the conclusion of an earlier meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission.

When we arrived, however, the board was not in the downtown library’s fourth-floor conference room where these meetings are held – they’d moved into a closed executive session. Waiting for their return were Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, and Adrian Iraola, project manager for the DDA’s Fifth Avenue underground parking project.

Pollay and Iraola were there to talk to the board about the city’s request for a utility easement on library property, to the east of the library’s downtown building. The easement is needed so that the DDA can install a new water main leading to a fire hydrant on Library Lane, a proposed east-west street that would lie between the library on the south and the DDA parking structure on the north.

When the board returned from their executive session, Pollay and Iraola got an unanticipated response – one that’s resulting in an adjustment of the DDA’s construction schedule on the project. [Full Story]

Law Quad

Pumpkins have appeared at every doorway, next to all the benches, and under every tree.

County Revamps H1N1 Vaccine Strategy

At Wednesday’s briefing of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, the county’s top two public health officials gave an update on the H1N1 flu situation and their plans to retool previously planned clinics to deliver the vaccine to high-risk groups.

High demand and lower-than-anticipated supply has led to a “tremendous shortage,” said Dick Fleece, director of the county’s Public Health/Environmental Health department. And in the wake of Tuesday’s public clinic that drew hundreds of people and created safety concerns because of traffic and crowds, the county is canceling four clinics planned for next week at local high schools.

Instead, they’re scheduling a community clinic that will likely be held on Saturday, Nov. 7, at either Eastern Michigan University or Washtenaw Community College. Details will be released on Thursday, Fleece told commissioners. Update: The county will hold a clinic to vaccinate people in its high-priority categories on Thursday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the EMU Convocation Center. [Link to directions] [Full Story]

Division & William

Smell of hot metal – construction worker cutting a steel pipe (water? sewer?) as part of the Division Street infrastucture project. Another guy unloading large diamond-tipped circular blades from the back of a truck for cutting concrete, according to a third worker who was holding the “Slow” sign next to stopped traffic.

UM: Obama Advisor

The Washington Post reports that Susan Crawford, a UM law professor on leave to serve as a technology policy advisor in the Obama administration, will be returning to her university post in January. From the report: “Crawford has served as a technology policy coordinator for President Obama on the National Economic Council headed by Lawrence H. Summers. In that role she has been President Obama’s adviser on the development of broadband Internet networks and a net neutrality policy. She has written extensively about net neutrality in her personal blog.” [Source]

Washtenaw: Arts & Elections

The Arts Alliance surveyed local candidates for the Nov. 3 elections in Washtenaw County, asking two questions: 1. What is your position on public funding for arts and culture? 2. If elected, what measurable actions will you take to ensure that arts and cultural offerings survive and thrive in Washtenaw County? [Link to .PDF of candidate responses.]

UM: Solar Car

The New York Times gives an update on the World Solar Challenge, a race of solar-powered vehicles through 1,880 miles of Australia’s outback. The column quotes Steven Durbin, a senior in aerospace engineering and the team’s project manager. Durbin says the team’s car, Infinium, weighs 650 pounds with Emcore solar panels – “the same ones NASA puts on satellites” – and batteries from A123 Systems, which also supplies Chrysler’s EVs. The piece also points readers to a blog that tracks the team’s progress. [Source]

UM: Urban Planning

For an article about an urban planning effort by the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Dublin, the Columbus Dispatch interviews UM professor Christopher Leinberger: “People are, in droves, beginning to ask themselves ‘Why am I forced to buy all these cars just to be a part of this world?’ The biggest economic trend of the next generation will be people dropping one or two cars and investing that money in housing, education or savings.” [Source]

Washtenaw Jail Diary: Chapter 2, Part 2

Return to Sender stamp from Washtenaw County JailEditor’s Note: After the break begins the next installment of the Washtenaw Jail Diary, written by a former inmate in Washtenaw County’s jail facility on Hogback Road. The piece originated as a Twitter feed in early 2009, which the author subsequently abandoned and deleted. See previous Chronicle coverage “Twittering Time at the Washtenaw County Jail.

In now working with the author to publish the Washtenaw Jail Diary, The Ann Arbor Chronicle acknowledges that this is only one side of a multi-faceted tale.

We also would like to acknowledge that the author’s incarceration predates the administration of the current sheriff, Jerry Clayton.

This narrative, which we expect will run over a series of several installments, provides an insight into a tax-funded facility that most readers of The Chronicle will not experience first-hand in the same way as the author.

The language and topics introduced below reflect the environment of a jail. We have not sanitized it for Chronicle readers. It is not gratuitously graphic, but it is graphic just the same. It contains language and descriptions that some readers will find offensive. [Full Story]

UM: Little Brown Jug

It’s the 100th anniversary of the first football game between rivals Michigan and Minnesota in which the Little Brown Jug was awarded to the winner, and Greg Dooley of MVictors does some sleuthing about the authenticity of that trophy: “One of the critical questions I asked when I started research was this: Is the jug that Michigan equipment manager Jon Falk has tucked away the same crock that was purchased by U-M student manager Tommy Roberts in Minneapolis back in 1903 and returned to Fielding Yost in 1909?” To answer that question, Dooley enlists the aid of Ryan Forrey, master potter at The Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village, to inspect the jug in person. [Source]

A2: Theater

Writing on The Faster Times, Davi Napoleon reviews the Shakespeare Globe’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, recently presented by the University Musical Society: “Musicians played in the lobby before the show began, and actors garbed in lush Renaissance gowns fed us grapes during intermission. Spectators howled with laughter at bawdy bits and vulgarisms that clarified the text. In this frankly theatrical production, actors used the aisles as entrances and playing spaces – one found his way to a spectator’s lap for a time – and we felt so much a part of the rollicking event that by the time we stood as one to applaud, it felt as though we were applauding ourselves.” [Source]

Liberty & First

Margaret Wong and Matt Grocoff standing near railroad tracks with camera on tripod waving.  Probably shooting something for www.Greenovation.TV.

UM: Budget Cuts

The Michigan Daily reports on UM president Mary Sue Coleman’s address to the university’s faculty Senate Assembly on Monday: “Over the next three years, Coleman said the University will most likely have to identify an additional $100 million in savings. She said this combination of factors has led the University to be more ‘prudent’ and ‘strategic’ in handling the budget in order to guarantee a sense of stability for the future.” [Source]