Caucus Creatures Stir: Parking, Library Lot

Mayor: "Council can bring back any proposal it wants."

Ann Arbor City Council Caucus (Dec. 20, 2009): On the night before council’s Monday meeting, it was a quiet caucus, attended by a perfect balance of three councilmembers and three residents. The meeting had more the flavor of a chat in someone’s living room.

But residents still stirred the pot – on the issue of extended hours of parking enforcement as well as development proposals for the Library Lot.

The parking issue is part of a more complex resolution that the council will consider on Monday night, but possibly postpone, based on comments at caucus made by Mayor John Hieftje. A separate, but related item on the agenda calls for the purchase of parking equipment for installation on Wall Street at a cost of $87,000.

Receiving no discussion at the caucus was the second reading of the resolution that would reduce the Percent For Art program to a Half-Percent for Art program for the next three years. The resolution passed on its first reading at the council’s previous meeting.

Also receiving no discussion was the first project to be funded through the city’s public art program – a sculpture by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl proposed for for installation outside the new municipal center currently under construction. Council had been expected to have the approval of the Dreiseitl project on its agenda in November, but that expectation then shifted to the Dec. 7 council meeting. It was further shifted to the meeting on Monday, Dec. 21. And now it appears that the Dreiseitl vote will not be taken until sometime in 2010. [Update: The Dreiseitl project was added to the agenda at just after 11 a.m. Dec. 21, 2009.]

Extended Parking Hours

Bob Snyder, president of the South University Neighborhood Association, appeared at the caucus to convey his opposition to the installation of parking meters in neighborhoods near downtown. That meter installation is connected to a revenue generation plan that was a part of the FY 2010 budget adopted by city council in May 2009. Monday’s agenda item approving purchase of some parking equipment is part of that plan.

At the caucus, Mayor John Hieftje contended that the parking meter installation, which the council had approved and adopted, had caused the council to “scratch our heads” about how much sense it made.

Councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1), who will not attend the council’s Monday meeting due to travel plans, reminded caucus attendees that the purchase of the parking equipment has been on the agenda at two previous meetings and that the council had postponed its consideration, because Sandi Smith (Ward 1) had indicated she’d be bringing a more comprehensive alternative. Smith has now done that in the form of the Monday resolution, which would provide revenues from the Fifth and William surface parking lot to the city, extend meter enforcement to 10 p.m., and discontinue the city’s plan to install additional meters. [Chronicle coverage: "City-DDA Parking Deal Possible"]

Snyder did not weigh in for extended meter enforcement hours, even though the issue has been framed by the council resolution as trading longer enforcement hours for installation of additional meters – which Snyder opposes. Said Snyder: “There’s nothing better for dessert than a $20 ticket!”

When Hieftje suggested that one obstacle to implementing extended enforcement hours was staff to enforce the meters, Snyder quipped: “I could use a part-time job.”

Hieftje revealed at caucus that the South University Area Association State Street Area Association, a merchant group, had sent an email saying that they were “not opposed” to the extended meter enforcement.

But the mayor also indicated that email communications he’d received in general were overwhelmingly against the extended meter enforcement, and hinted that council would not act Monday on the question.

A question about “bagged meters” and enforcement hours was raised by Nancy and Harvey Kaplan, the other two residents at caucus: Does the reservation of the space afforded to the purchaser of the meter bags extend 24/7 or does it end with meter enforcement? [The orange bags, which are placed over the meter heads and indicate that parkers will be towed, are administered by the Downtown Development Authority. Typical uses include special event street closures, or construction sites where contractors need guaranteed space for unloading materials.]

The Kaplans’ question couldn’t be answered by Hieftje, Briere, or Mike Anglin (Ward 5). [The Chronicle will try to follow up on that as resources allow.]

Library Lot RFP

The majority of the discussion at caucus dwelt on an issue that is not on the council’s Monday agenda: the recent decision of the Library Lot RFP (Request for Proposals) review committee to eliminate two of the six proposals. [Chronicle coverage: "Two Library Lot Proposals Eliminated"]

Nancy Kaplan lamented the fact that the two proposals that called for a majority of the space above the underground parking garage to be open space had been eliminated from further consideration. She called the committee’s intention to now hire a consultant to evaluate further the remaining four proposals “backwards” – the consultant should evaluate all of the proposals, she contended.

Kaplan wondered if Hieftje, as the mayor, could exert some pressure on the committee to consider the open space proposals and “show some leadership.” Hieftje responded by saying that he did not want to tell the committee how to go about its work, but that the council could choose to consider all of the proposals. In this the mayor was repeating a sentiment he’d expressed at the council’s Nov. 15, 2009 caucus. At Sunday’s caucus, he suggested that there were three votes on council in favor of hearing the open space proposals in the room right then – Briere and Anglin did not disagree.

Hieftje’s main concern about a predominantly park use of the space was related to maintenance and security – not just balanced against existing parks, but also against the future parks planned in connection with the greenway.  He wondered if the maintenance commitment to a centrally-located park would put off  the city’s ability to develop a greenway [along Allen Creek] for another 20 years.

Hieftje expressed his fondness of the idea of an ice-skating rink – included in one of the open space proposals for the lot – and recounted the experience of his youth in Ann Arbor skating on the ad hoc outdoor rinks formed by the city in various parks. But he expressed reservations about the amount of city investment required for the ice-rink proposal, which was made by Dahlmann Apartments Ltd. Dahlmann offered $2.5 million for construction, but did not identify funds for ongoing maintenance.

With respect to the need for maintenance, Briere pointed out that most of the maintenance for New York’s Central Park is paid for by a nonprofit group [Central Park Conservancy]. She suggested that a similar effort – perhaps coordinated through the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation – might allay some concerns about future funding for upkeep and maintenance.

Regarding one of the other six proposals – for a conference center – Briere wondered whether the conference center proposal actually reflected a future where travel budgets would be curtailed and “virtual conferences” would be more common. Resident Harvey Kaplan also wondered if the newly acquired Pfizer space by the University of Michigan might be better suited for adaptation to a conference center-type use. Hieftje noted that there was a huge dining facility on the Pfizer property.

Anglin said he’d like to see an analysis of the financial benefit that the open space proposals would bring, something he felt had not been given due attention.


  1. By Rod Johnson
    December 21, 2009 at 11:58 am | permalink

    Sounds like they’re at least listening to some of the concerns that have been voiced here. That’s good, right?

  2. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm | permalink

    “Resolution to Award a Contract with Quinn Evans Architects (QEA) for Project Design and Management Services for the Ann Arbor Municipal Center Dreiseitl Project ($111,400.00)”

    This was added by Margie Teall. Until there is a clear and transparent budget with specific costs, an accounting of all the nickle and dime ‘extras’ spent by the AAPAC on ‘project management’, and a break out of monthly operating costs once the project is complete, this should be tabled.

    To add this at 11:00 before the Council Meeting, four days before the holiday is what I would expect from someone who still doesn’t get it–this project is a fiasco, there is no accounting of tax payer funds and it’s an elite and arrogant slap in the face to the citizens of Ann Arbor during the worse financial climate in decades.

  3. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 21, 2009 at 12:09 pm | permalink

    “Form the Quinn Evans Site:

    “Ann Arbor Municipal Center
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Master plan and concept design for a new municipal government center 76,000-sf renovation, 80,000-sf new building, 186,000-sf total Designed for LEED Gold rating This multi-phased expansion includes a new Justice Building to replace the aging city hall, and new public amenities, such as plazas, gardens, fountains and meeting areas. The project employs energy-efficient, fiscally responsible, sustainable design practices. The City Hall will remain operational throughout the renovations necessary to allow for formerly dispersed city offices to return to the building. In association with OWP/P.”

    Guess they are all set for the ‘fountains’ thing, even before the Council vote. Not sure about ‘financially responsible’ thing.

  4. By Cosmonican
    December 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm | permalink

    #3 Alan: Does that document have a date? Can this be implied to mean that there are other plan drawings bought and paid for for “new public amenities, such as plazas, gardens, fountains and meeting areas” which have not come to light?

  5. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 21, 2009 at 2:33 pm | permalink

    I can’t speak to the date–it’s posted on the Quinn Evans Site as of this morning. It just appears that the design firm has either on their own or with direction of others, has a concept and view of the project that hasn’t totally been approved or funded yet.

  6. By suswhit
    December 21, 2009 at 3:30 pm | permalink

    “multi-phased expansion includes a new Justice Building to replace the aging city hall” Note the word “replace” — some people insist it is simply a police court addition. Hmmmmm.

  7. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2009 at 8:05 am | permalink

    Congrats to the Profiles in Courage Ann Arbor City Council who, in the worse financial climate in decades, were so gutlesss that they refused to temporarily cut the Per Cent for Art ‘tax’ in half for three years and took a ‘voice vote’ so there wouldn’t be a record.

    What political cowards. What is the process for recalling council members?

  8. December 22, 2009 at 10:41 am | permalink

    Alan, from the city charter:


    SECTION 12.13. An elective officer may be recalled in the manner provided by the
    general laws of the State. A vacancy created by recall shall be filled in the manner
    prescribed by law.”

    Here’s a link to the state rules: [Link]

    You’ve been making noises about a recall effort for some time. I’m glad to see that you’re finally ready to take on the effort. Please keep us up to date on your progress.

  9. By David Lewis
    December 22, 2009 at 10:55 am | permalink

    You’re twisted up on this Alan. One only needs to listen to the volume and vitriol of the criticism to know it took a lot more courage to vote for the art program than against it.

    They separated the facts from the misinformation being put out. The money could not be spent for fire fighters or on the homeless and sending it back to the funds it came from would have meant another 50 feet of sewer pipe or highway, if that.

  10. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2009 at 11:27 am | permalink

    So why not a straight up vote and not a ‘voice vote’? You define that as ‘courage’?

  11. By Tom Whitaker
    December 22, 2009 at 11:35 am | permalink

    It is ridiculous to say the $1.5 million would only buy 50 feet of sewer pipe. Whatever the correct amount is, (probably closer to 1/2 mile), that’s $1.5 million worth of pipe (or street, or whatever) that should be funded with the money that was collected from tax-payers specifically for that purpose.

    The art money should be returned to the City funds it was drawn from and used for the purposes it was intended, like water, sewers, streets and parks. The “can’t be used for the homeless or firefighters” argument is a straw man.

    If Council could take the money from these designated funds (er…buckets) to use for art in the first place, it would appear they have a lot more flexibility on transferring funds then some are claiming. If these accounts are so flush with money that they can spare it, then transfer some back to the fire department or pay someone to fix all of the streetlights that are out across the City. If this money could be transferred from these dedicated funds to an optional program like “Percent for Art,” then surely it can be transferred to fund something that our local government is obligated do provide.

  12. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2009 at 11:58 am | permalink

    Thanks for the information Steve. It seems like the number of signatures needed to recall, say a council rep, is larger than the handful of votes that is required to win an August Democratic Party Primary.

    It’s amusing, this ‘oh it’s in the locked art funds box and we can’t touch it’ theory. Kind of like spending water department funds to pay for ‘overtime’ hours for an AAPAC administrative officer to work on the City Hall art project. I guess those funds aren’t locked up as tightly as the art dollars.

    I have several nominations for that lowly half a mile of repaired city streets too if anyone is keeping a list.

  13. By David Lewis
    December 22, 2009 at 1:01 pm | permalink

    Tom: From other posts I gather you live in the 5th ward. You should write Mike Anglin and complain.

    It appears you have not looked at the funds. The $$ came from several sources so all the money could not be spent on any one thing. A little more to roads, a bit more sewers, etc. But the program can fund a whole lot of art.

    It also looks like you don’t understand how the program works and why a city can’t do this for just any fund.

    But I guess you are saying you are against this type of program in general. Is it wrong in the numerous other states and cities that have these programs all of which are going through tough times now.

    Alan: I checked with someone who was at the meeting and the mayor asked Kunselman if he wanted a roll call vote and he said no.

  14. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2009 at 1:30 pm | permalink

    So you’re blaming the lack of a roll call on Kunselman?

  15. By David Lewis
    December 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm | permalink

    Alan, do you ever actually attend or watch a council meetings?

    The council members talked about how they were going to vote before they voted then everyone in the room heard them vote. Nothing was hidden.

    It is customary to ask a council member who voted nay if they want a role call, it happens every meeting.

  16. By AntiRedRidersNo1
    December 22, 2009 at 2:54 pm | permalink

    So a guy that repeatedly craps up three local sources of news each day is going lead a recall effort over some money for art? Good luck with that.

    Get off the internet, people.

  17. December 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm | permalink

    Tom Whitaker said it all. Thanks.

  18. By Dave Askins
    December 22, 2009 at 3:24 pm | permalink

    Re: Roll call votes versus voice votes. Sometimes a roll call vote is legally required (e.g., the vote on a motion to go into closed session). As a practical matter, however, when a roll call vote is not legally required, a roll call will serve one of two practical functions: (i) to allow the outcome of a close vote to be determined accurately — a 6-5 split would be difficult to assess on a voice vote or (ii) to allow a small minority of dissenters to have their dissent recorded in the official minutes.

    To elaborate on (ii), in the “action minutes” style used by the city council, which is the bare minimum to satisfy the Open Meetings Act, the outcome of a voice vote is recorded as “On a voice vote, the mayor declared the motion carried.” If there’s a roll call vote, then the minutes must reflect the member-by-member vote. So a lone dissenter might exercise their right to have a roll call vote taken, in order to have recorded the fact that they voted differently from everyone else. I suppose it might also be the case that someone in the majority might ask for a roll call vote in order that a lone dissenters vote would be recorded, if they felt it would accrue to that dissenter’s detriment.

    But ultimately, David Lewis has it correctly pegged when he writes: “The council members talked about how they were going to vote before they voted then everyone in the room heard them vote. Nothing was hidden.” The measure of “openness” and good governance is not whether a roll call was taken or not.

    What might be worth focusing attention on, however, are the points that Stephen Kunselman drew out during deliberations with respect to the public art commission’s compliance with the Percent for Art ordinance: (a) Guidelines for selection of art have not yet been adopted — responsibility for the delay was placed on the city attorney’s office. (b) The public art commission has not made its annual report as required by the ordinance — it would be a thin report, perhaps, because no pieces of art have yet be acquired, but there are other elements in the report, such as summaries of activities by the commission to promote awareness. (c) The failure to produce an estimate for maintenance of the piece, which is required by the ordinance which reads something like “No art shall be considered for acquisition without an estimate for maintenance …”

    Of those, I think it’s (c) that’s the most interesting, because Sue McCormick’s explanation of why the city was, in fact, in compliance with the ordinance had to do with a delineation of three different action steps associated with any project: design, contract for services, acquisition. McCormick clarified that the council was completing the second of those steps that evening, not the acquisition step.

    Kunselman did not press the issue of whether “consideration” of acquisition applied to all of those steps, but I think he might reasonably have done so. I’d consider it to be an open legal question that merits further clarification. Ideally, at this stage in the process, a estimate for maintenance costs seems at least very useful to make a well-informed decision as a councilmember, even if one were to maintain that it’s not legally required by the ordinance.

    The agenda item itself appeared “late” — on Monday at around 11 a.m. It had widely been expected to be on the agenda on Nov. 19, then on Dec. 7, and then on Dec. 21, So it’s not as if the item came “out of the blue.” One could not reasonably maintain that councilmembers did not have time to educate themselves about it. However, because it was added after the preceding Wednesday, a staff member could not add the item to the agenda. Councilmembers are allowed to add agenda items up to the meeting itself, although per the council rule that Christopher Taylor recently crafted and the council adopted, they are to “use best efforts” to make any additions by the preceding Friday. Explaining the “best efforts” language in that instance, Taylor maintained that it entailed an expectation that any agenda addition past Friday would be met with “some species of explanation” for the late addition. Margie Teall, who added the resolution to the agenda on Monday morning, did not offer an explanation for the late addition, and her council colleagues did not ask for one.

    I do not think this necessarily reflects mal-intent or conniving on the part of Teall and the rest council — especially because the resolution was expected to be on the agenda (but on the previous Wednesday); however, I think it does suggest that some councilmembers’ “best efforts” can fall quite short of the standard of a “reasonable effort.”

  19. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2009 at 3:45 pm | permalink

    Dave, thanks for taking the time to explain. It seems like the ‘arts’ community had plenty of advance notice so their supporters could show up. I guess you would have to ask Ms. Teall what her motives were. She is pretty much invisible in the 4th Ward.

    I for one am a bit of a skeptic from her past support of both the program and this project. But I think a lack of a vote on this issue had more to do with political cover than anything else.

    And David, I guess I’m not as good of a public citizen as yourself, but I can’t watch council meeting live on public access. Seem that even though I’m paying a 5% tax on my cable bill and the CCTN budget is over a million dollars a year, there isn’t enough funding to provide a feed to ATT Uverse. Perhaps another luxury with little oversight that needs to be reviewed with our current economic condition. But don’t hold your breath.

    But someone on council should have enough guts to ask for a vote on ANY issue involving tax dollars. We’ll see what happens.

  20. By David Lewis
    December 22, 2009 at 6:34 pm | permalink

    The art people were there because there was a public hearing on the motion to change the percent for art program. It had been set at the last meeting.

    You probably know but the city does not set the 5% charge, they have no power to do anything anymore regarding cable but comcast is required by the state and feds, to fund community access.

  21. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2009 at 7:01 pm | permalink

    They, the cable commission, could spend the money to expand operations to more online options, other venues like ATT Uverse (for some reason I can pull up a dozen other city and township access channels but not Ann Arbor) and attempt to provide services to those who are paying the bills (i.e., anyone buying cable services within the city). But the decision has been made to stick with the status quo, the three local channels and eventually that cash cow is going to be dead. Not sure why we even have a commission since they appear to have zero power. Maybe you can explain it to me.

    As for the arts mob last night, maybe they got a chance to see the group of firefighters sitting in the audience and got the chance to explain how art is more important than the dozen of so of the men and women who will be fired in the days to come because of budget cuts.

  22. By suswhit
    December 22, 2009 at 7:11 pm | permalink

    David: re #20 and to quote you “it appears you have not looked at the funds.” Comcast pays the city a franchise fee and our city chooses the option of using it to fund community access television. The city is not required to do so and many (if not most) communities choose instead to add the income from franchise fees to the general fund. (friendly fyi, You underestimate the intelligence of many of the commenters here. You would do well to lose the snide “tone” in your replies.)

  23. By Tom Whitaker
    December 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm | permalink

    From previous Chronicle coverage:

                  Transfers/Revenues  Expenditures   Available Balance
    General Fund      $ 12,325         $    804       $  11,520
    Street Millage     285,553            9,344         276,208
    Parks Millage       20,235              657          19,577
    Solid Waste         31,040              331          30,708
    Water              289,693            8,459         281,233
    Sewer              562,302           24,939         537,362
    Stormwater          44,480            2,859          41,622
    Airport              6,520              103           6,416
    Court/PD Facility  250,000.         109,886         140,114 
    Total Available
    for Capital /Art  $1,502,150.00    $157,387      $1,344,762


    How many times have we heard the refrain that millage funds can’t be used for anything but their voter-approved purposes, yet Council found a way to use these funds for “art” at City Hall? Apparently, where there’s a will there’s a way. Call me a revolutionary, but I would like to see these funds used for the original purposes they were budgeted for, or as directed by the voters in the respective millages. It would only take some quick, responsible action from Council. If Council can play these kinds of financial games to fund their pet projects, then they can play these kinds of games to fund the things they are SUPPOSED to be funding, like streets, sewers, bridges and fire departments.

    And David, there are TWO councilmembers in the Fifth Ward and I do my best to keep them both informed of my opinions on issues of concern.

    If other cities and states fund these kinds of optional programs from dedicated millage funds and other basic service accounts, despite budget deficits like we have here, then yes, I do believe they are also wrong.

  24. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 23, 2009 at 11:11 am | permalink

    I was very disappointed in Mike Anglin’s vote on the two art related issues on Monday. Not surprised by my council rep of course, but Anglin’s votes I am.

  25. By Joanne
    December 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm | permalink

    Regarding the bags over meters, when I was married in ’06-I can’t remember if nor find the paperwork to say if I went through the city or the DDA-but the enforcement was from 8 a.m. on the day we paid to use the spaces through the entire evening. We paid to rent the space and it was up to us to have violators towed. We didn’t have any problems with violators even in the a.m. when we first arrived.