Archive for November, 2009

A2: Attorney

Crain’s Detroit Business includes Ann Arbor attorney Richard Soble among its 2010 Best Lawyers listing, citing his work in obtaining a $100 million settlement from the state in a 13-year class-action lawsuit on behalf of female inmates at the Robert Scott Correctional Facility. Says Soble, who now serves as an out-of-court mediator: “Trial work is exquisite, but there is certainly a great deal of anxiety and exhaustion in preparing and litigating it. I like the problem-solving part of mediation work, and there is a satisfaction in taking a problem and getting it to resolution within the same day.” [Source]

Name Misspelled

In our report of the Nov. 17 Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission meeting, we misspelled the first name of Dea Amstrong, the city’s ornithologist. We note the error here, and have corrected it in the original article.

SB Packard

Glowing blue tentacle emanating from water service truck; blocking southbound Packard; something going on in the underground netherworld.

County Board Faces Full Year-End Agenda

A detail from a letter sent to Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel from Ypsilanti Township supervisor Brenda Stumbo, about the township's need to reduce its number of contract deputies.

A detail from a letter sent to Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel from Ypsilanti Township supervisor Brenda Stumbo, about the township’s need to reduce its number of contract deputies.

At what’s likely to be their final meeting of the year on Dec. 2, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners faces a heavy agenda – including items that generated some animated discussion at the board’s pre-meeting briefing on Nov. 24.

The agenda includes a final vote on the 2010-2011 budget, approval of two collective bargaining agreements, a presentation detailing how county funds are being awarded to local human services nonprofits, and a proposal by the sheriff to amend a police services contract with Scio Township.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton attended Tuesday’s administrative briefing for commissioners – held one day earlier than usual, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. He was there to answer questions about the Scio Township proposal, but the focus of commissioners’ questions related instead to the situation in Ypsilanti Township. Earlier this month, voters there rejected a public safety millage that would have paid for 10 of the 38 sheriff deputies that police the township, under contract with the county. Township officials have asked the county to amend the contract, reducing its number of deputies to 28.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Clayton told commissioners. [Full Story]

Democrat Mike Smith Declares Candidacy

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

With three Republicans already in the race, Lambertville Democrat Mike Smith has announced he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for the 55th District seat in the state House of Representatives – a district that includes Pittsfield, Saline and York townships in Washtenaw County, along with parts of Monroe County.

A member of the Bedford Public Schools Board of Education, the 36-year-old Smith had been considering a run for the seat now held by state Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, for some time.

Already elected to three two-year terms, Angerer is unable to run under the state’s term limits law. Smith announced his decision Friday. [Full Story]

Ypsi: Business

Bee Mayhew, owner of the popular Beezy’s in downtown Ypsilanti, is interviewed by Mark Maynard on the occasion of her restaurant’s one-year anniversary: “A year later, my own and my business’s weaknesses are exposed, but I’m honest about it. A lot like Ypsi itself. It screams opportunity to me in every cell of my being – not in an opportunistic way, but in a tough love, growing, spiritual kind of way. I put that energy into the food I create – something as simple as a matchstick carrot carries the same weight as picking up litter on the street.” [Source]

Eberwhite Blvd.

A car just hit a parked car. Nobody hurt, just upset. Driver reached for phone. Think twice before you do the same.

Fourth & Ann

10:30 a.m. David Menafee and Sally Mitani singing at Heavenly Metal (207 E. Ann) during Al Dente Pasta’s trunk show. [Photo]

UM: Health Care

The Detroit Free Press looks at the debate over whether health care reform will result in more rationing of medical care. The article quotes Dr. A. Mark Fendrick, a UM physician and health policy specialist: “If you are going to ration, I’d much prefer rationing based on clinical benefits rather than one’s ability to pay. There are 40-plus-million Americans with no insurance who certainly do not get the same level of care as those who have insurance. This is rationing by one’s ability to pay for services.” [Source]

Trader Joe’s E. Stadium

8 a.m. Numerous shelves completely devoid of items because of frantic Wednesday shopping; store workers, unfazed, claim it’s easier to stock new items on bare shelves.

A2: Archuleta

In town to perform a Christmas concert on Friday night (Nov. 27) at Hill Auditorium, David Archuleta writes on his Twitter feed about some noisy hotel neighbors the previous evening at his local Ann Arbor lodgings. [Source] Question: Will “Silent Night” remain on Archuleta’s set list? Or will he swap it out in favor of “Little Drummer Boy”?

A2: Shopping

The Detroit News reports on how retailers are using social media like Twitter and Facebook to attract shoppers. The article quotes David Fry, CEO of Fry Inc. in Ann Arbor, who says that shoppers have an incentive to use these tools: “The best deals are usually gone by 7 or 8 a.m., so it’s important to log on to get your battle strategy ready.” [Source]

Column: Balanced Offense for Local Economy

A little over 13 years ago, I started work as a business reporter at The Ann Arbor News. And exactly 13 years ago today, as I hoisted myself out of a warm bed at four o’clock in the morning, I was beginning to grasp why the other business reporters might have welcomed me so warmly.

Best Buy

Best Buy on Lohr Road at 4:08 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2009. Doors opened at 5 a.m. (Photo not by the writer – she's not required to cover Black Friday morning stories at The Chronicle.)

They knew that as the newest hire, I’d be the one assigned to the morning-after-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping story. Later that dark, frigid morning, I watched as a stream of cars disgorged expectant, even festive shoppers to stand in line waiting for the doors at Walmart to open.

My initial reaction: These people are slightly nuts.

Then: Downtown retailers would kill for this kind of crowd.

The dichotomy of large and small businesses is perhaps most visible on days like Black Friday, when more customers on a single morning might flow through Walmart than would shop at a Main Street merchant all year. But the tension between large and small is also reflected in our local public policy priorities for economic development. [Full Story]

Washtenaw: State Taxes

Grand Rapids Press columnist Jeff Cranson writes about the recent proposal by state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, a Washtenaw County Democrat, to raise $6.5 billion in taxes. He discusses the proposal as it relates to her bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010: “In gubernatorial polls, Wheeler Smith barely registers, far over-shadowed by Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who is seeking to be the Democratic nominee for governor, though he is yet to formally announce. But her tax proposal made headlines, which may not catapult her in the polls but it reveals her a candidate with serious and thoughtful policy initiatives. Argue all you want about what will work, but the changes the state desperately needs will begin with … [Full Story]

Turn the Page … It’s a TURKEY!

turkey from Audubon book

Monday's weekly ritual of turning to the next page of "Birds of America" revealed the female turkey page for Thanksgiving week. A pure coincidence. Really. (Photo by the writer.)

Earlier this fall, the University of Michigan Record published an article on the dedication of the new Audubon Room, which was created on the ground floor of Hatcher Library as a venue for displaying items from the UM library special collections.

That room takes its name from the first book of any kind – special or otherwise – acquired by UM in 1838: “Birds of America,” illustrated by John James Audubon.

In that UM Record article, written by Kevin Brown, one line that captured The Chronicle’s attention was this: “[Peggy] Daub said fingerprints and grime along the edges of an opening page of the book, depicting a turkey, were not removed to celebrate the attention the book has drawn over the years.”

But October seemed early to try for a Thanksgiving connection. And so we shelved the idea of writing about the Audubon Room. But then, earlier this week through The Chronicle’s back-channel connections at UM library, we heard about a strange coincidence that had put turkeys back in the library news. It was the kind of coincidence that made us put on our investigative journalist hats – was it really a coincidence, or was it a special collections conspiracy? [Full Story]

UM Regents: Report on Space Use

Michigan Student Assembly leaders distribute T-shirts to UM regents and administrators

Michigan Student Assembly president Abhishek Mahanti, far left, points to Royster Harper, UM's vice president for student affairs. MSA leaders distributed "Go Blue – Beat OSU" T-shirts to UM regents and administrators at the Nov. 19 regents meeting. The T-shirts were not effective in ensuring a Michigan victory on Saturday. (Photo by the writer.)

University of Michigan Board of Regents (Nov. 19, 2009): Some media outlets that attended the Nov. 19 regents meeting didn’t get what they came for – namely, comments from UM president Mary Sue Coleman regarding the ongoing NCAA investigation of the university’s football program.

What they heard instead was a report on a five-year initiative to use UM’s physical space more efficiently, including its classrooms and labs. The meeting also included a brief report on the outlook for state funding, discussion of renovations to house the Museum of Zoology’s extensive specimen collection, a question about the band Jazz Pie Music. [Full Story]

Huron Street near Revena

McFarland Tree Service installing Christmas lights again this year at Tulip Tree Condominiums. Last year’s display, their first appearance I think, was so spectacular and well done – am thrilled they are back again. (I was told the colors will be a bit different this time). [photo]

Michigan Union

Lots of zingers in the talk by commentator Jack Lessenberry at Wednesday’s Ann Arbor Rotary meeting, speaking about the future of journalism. It did not appear he was tempted to ring the big gold bell on the podium.

UM: Human Trafficking

CNN runs an opinion piece by Bridgette Carr, a UM law professor who directs the Human Trafficking Clinic at the univeristy’s law school. Carr writes that the problem of trafficking for the sex industry affects both adults and children in the U.S., and she proposes strategies to address it. “Individuals who travel abroad to purchase sex from children are demonized in the media and identified as sexual predators, yet individuals who stay in the United States and pay to have sex with children are given the anonymous title ‘john’ – and frequently aren’t even charged with a crime. Individuals who pay for sex with children in the United States should be punished.” [Source]

Washtenaw Jail Diary: Chapter 4

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]

A2: School Board

From a media alert sent out on Nov. 24 from the Ann Arbor Public Schools: “As a cost-saving measure, the Board is considering moving its May elections to November general elections. If a decision is made to move the election, the term for the board position vacated by Helen Gates-Bryant last week will run through December 31, 2010 (new board terms would then run January 1 through December 31). The Board will make this decision by December 16th. Those citizens considering applying for board candidacy should be advised of the possible change in term date. In light of this potential change in term, we are extending the deadline for applications for the vacant board seat to … [Full Story]

Virginia near Liberty

Gutters and curbs 5 days after final city leaf pick-up. Photo is fairly representative of most streets in the area. “Left-overs” will end up in the storm sewer system because street-sweeper machines no longer follow the final pick-up? [photo]

Eisenhower & State

Somebody lost a huge load of Black Friday advertisements, as they are all over the road.