Mixed Message from Council on Library Lot

Also: snow removal, revisions to bicycle ordinance

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Jan. 4, 2010): Ann Arbor’s city council rejected a resolution on Monday night that would have asked responders to the city’s request for proposals on the Library Lot to provide more information to the council, even if their proposals had been eliminated.

Rupundalo and Briere

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) explains the work of the RFP review committee for the Library Lot proposals, as Sabra Briere (Ward 1) listens. (Photos by the writer.)

At the same time, the council’s representatives to the RFP committee – Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) – told their colleagues that they would bring to the committee the suggestion of re-including two already-eliminated proposals.

That idea will be floated to the committee when it next meets, on Friday, Jan. 8 at 9 a.m.

In other business, councilmembers grilled the city’s transportation program coordinator about revisions to the city’s bicycle and pedestrian ordinances to align with the Michigan Vehicle Code. Despite that, council sent the revisions on to the next step towards final approval.

The council also authorized a vote to be held among property owners to establish a business improvement zone (BIZ) on Main Street between William and Huron streets. That’s the next step in a multi-step process for establishing the BIZ, which allows property owners to levy an additional tax on themselves to use for specific services.

The council also heard a presentation on the city’s snow removal policy from Craig Hupy, who’s head of systems planning for the city. Councilmembers heard little enthusiasm from city administrator, Roger Fraser, for any deer removal program for Ann Arbor.

Fraser also announced that the city’s community services area administrator, Jayne Miller, would be leaving her city post to head up the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, which oversees regional metroparks, sometime in the next month.

Resolution on Library Lot Proposals

At the city council caucus the previous evening, conversation focused almost exclusively on the request for proposals (RFP) process for the city-owned property known as the Library Lot. The focus was on the possibility of gathering additional information from proposers whose projects had been eliminated from consideration.

Two proposals meeting the deadline for submission, but subsequently eliminated by the RFP review committee, both envision the top of the underground parking garage under the Library Lot to be predominantly open space.

Two other proposals did not meet the deadline for submission and are not being considered. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Library Lot: Choice Between Apples and Pears?" and "Two Library Lot Proposals Eliminated"]

The resolution considered by the council on Monday read in its original form as follows:

Whereas, The RFP advisory committee is charged with making a recommendation to the entire City Council about the proposals submitted in response to the RFP involving the “Library Lot”;

Whereas, The City Council has the right to accept any proposal or reject all proposals; and

Whereas, The City Council should therefore have equivalent information about all six proposals;

RESOLVED, That City Council requests that any proposers eliminated by the RFP advisory committee submit all relevant financial information about their projects to the City Council at their earliest convenience; and

RESOLVED, That any proposers eliminated by the RFP advisory committee be prepared to respond to questions from the City Council in advance of City Council’s consideration of any recommendation the RFP advisory committee may make.

Near the start of the council’s Monday meeting, during the communications section, mayor John Hieftje said he’d spoken with Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), who serve on the RFP review committee.  He reported that they were not averse to the idea of leaving the two previously eliminated proposals in the mix for the 90-minute interviews of each proposer, to be held on Jan. 20. Hieftje said that Teall and Rapundalo would be bringing that idea to the RFP committee when it meets on Friday, Jan. 8.

Public Commentary on Library Lot Resolution

Four people signed up to speak about Library Lot proposals during time reserved for public commentary at the start of the meeting.

Lily Au criticized the idea of building a hotel on the lot when there was no daytime warming center for the homeless. She noted that the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, located next to the Library Lot, was a de facto warming center. Au cited cases of three homeless men who had been arrested on charges of trespassing, when they were simply looking for a place to sleep. [One of the men, Caleb Poirier, had his case dropped by the prosecution on the day following the council's meeting.]

Libby Hunter rendered her commentary in the form of a song with a melody from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and lyrics that compared a conference center at the Library Lot location to a “white elephant.”

Jack Eaton, who had attended the previous night’s caucus, encouraged more council members to avail themselves of the opportunity of caucus. [None of the councilmembers up for re-election in November, except for Mayor Hieftje, are regular attendees of the Sunday caucus, which the city's website bills as "meetings of the mayor and members of council to discuss and gather information on issues that are or will be coming before them for consideration."] Eaton said that in light of the mayor’s remarks about Rapundalo and Teall bringing the idea to the RFP committee of re-including the two open space proposals, he’d be abbreviating his comments. He stressed the importance of the parcel to the whole community and the need for a full sense of public participation in the process.

Alan Haber

Alan Haber waits his turn to speak at public commentary. Kudos to readers who can identify both blurry city staffers in the background.

Alan Haber greeted the council by saying, “Hello, again!” He’s spoken frequently on the topic and has sent councilmembers many emails. He allowed that the open space proposal he’d helped to draft and submit as a part of the RFP process [one of the proposals that has been eliminated] was “a little informal,” but that it sought to answer the question: “How can the creativity of the community be brought to bear on that space? “That’s the place for the heart of the community to begin beating,” he suggested. There were other places where  high density and affordable housing could be put, he said.

Council Deliberations on Library Lot Resolution

Sabra Briere (Ward 1), who’d sponsored the resolution, led off by saying she was “very cheered” by the mayor’s remarks earlier in the meeting. The mayor had indicated the willingness of Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) to float to the RFP committee – on which they  serve – the idea of re-including the open space proposals in the interview process.

However, Briere said she was not certain that it met the council’s needs. It wasn’t about whether there was a public hearing, or whether a particular proposal was included at a point in the process, she explained. It was about the council having complete information – in the event that the council chose to consider some other proposal than the one eventually recommended by the RFP review committee. The resolution, she said, would provide all councilmembers with an equal amount of information about all the proposals.

In subsequent deliberations, Teall questioned what options the council had in considering the RFP committee’s recommendation. She suggested that the council could only vote the recommendation up or down, and then perhaps start a new RFP process. Briere cited the mayor’s statement at the Dec. 20 caucus that the council could bring back any proposal it wanted, which Hieftje confirmed by saying that a six-vote majority of councilmembers could resolve to undertake what it liked with the various proposals. [Chronicle coverage: "Mayor: 'Council can bring back any proposal it wants.'"]

Rapundalo, who’s chairing the RFP review committee, said he would not be supporting the resolution, though he was quite willing to take the suggestion to the committee of including the two open space proposals in the interview process. The work of the committee thus far, he said, was a straightforward application of best practices as they related to RFP reviews. If the committee had failed anywhere, he said, then it was only in not articulating clearly what the steps were that it had taken.

Among the steps that Rapundalo drew out was the fact that two proposals had been eliminated even before they’d reached the committee – because they failed to meet the deadline. He also pointed out that additional questions had been formulated for each of the proposers, including the two open space proposals, asking for additional clarity on particular elements. The formulation of those questions had taken place, Rapundalo said, in advance of any decision to eliminate the proposals from further consideration.

Later in deliberations, Briere would note that “a question unasked remains unanswered.”

Rapundalo questioned whether it was fair to give certain proposals a “second chance,” saying that it reminded him of how human services money was formerly allocated – when those who did not receive an allocation would come “tugging on a councilmember’s sleeve.” [Rapundalo oversaw a revamping of that process that led to an objective scoring metric to guide those allocations.]

Responding to Briere’s call for “equal” information, Rapundalo said that the equalizer was the RFP itself in the information that it requested.

Saying that there had been no predetermination by the committee of what proposal would be selected, Rapundalo allowed that there was something that had been predetermined: that something would be built and that it would not be only open space on the area. On two different occasions, he said, the council had made clear for the record that something would be built.

By way of historical background, one of those occasions was the resolution the council passed on Nov. 5, 2007. That resolution directed the Downtown Development Authority, which is building the underground parking structure, to prepare a written recommendation for its construction at the Library Lot. From the set of “Resolved” clauses:

The underground parking garage shall be designed to support above ground, in the short-term, surface public parking, and in the long-term, development which could include, but is not limited to, a residential, retail, and/or office building(s) and a public plaza along either Fifth Street or the newly constructed street;

The same language was part of the resolution approved four months later, on Feb. 4, 2008, that authorized the DDA to design and construct the parking garage. It was a somewhat different membership of the council then, but there is much overlap. At that time, the council consisted of [those currently serving in bold]: Ronald Suarez, Sabra Briere,  Joan Lowenstein, Stephen RapundaloStephen Kunselman, Leigh Greden,  Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins,  Christopher Easthope, Mike Anglin, John Hieftje. [Who served when? Try ArborWiki.]

During Monday night’s deliberations, Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) suggested that if the commitment to build something had been constraining, then it would have been built into the RFP itself. While he said he was glad to see that by casting as wide a net as possible, they’d elicited some exciting proposals, for him, it boiled down to process. And he did not want to make the playing field unlevel, he said, thus he did not support Briere’s resolution.

Teall echoed Rapundalo’s sentiments, saying there was both a need to maintain a sense of objectiveness for the RFP process, plus a need to be efficient with time and resources from the DDA. [The Downtown Development Authority will likely authorize funding for a consultant to help evaluate the proposals at its next meeting, on Wednesday, Jan. 6.]

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) suggested an amendment to the second “Resolved” clause to make it mirror the first one, which was accepted as “friendly,” thus did not require a vote. Taylor said that he was sensitive to the work done by the committee, and said that the fact that the committee found two of the proposals “wanting” was an important data point. He said the resolution would not override the committee’s work.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) said she could not support the resolution but appreciated the desire to consider the eliminated proposals – the council had the prerogative, she noted, to do so. She said, however, that the resolution was now premature. She then ticked through the public processes that had included planning for the Library Lot: the Central Area Plan, the Calthorpe process, the Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) plan, and the Downtown Plan. “We’ve asked and answered this question,” she said. The conclusion had been, Smith continued, that the lot has to have adequate-sized open space, but that it also had to have buildings on it.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) remarked that his opposition to public-private development, which most of the proposals entailed, was well known. As for the resolution, he said, “It’s just information. We don’t need to be fearful of it.”

Mike Anglin (Ward 5), possibly responding to Smith’s contention that there’d already been public process surrounding the Library Lot, asked when it was that community members had brought forward their ideas – he hadn’t been there, he said. [By this he meant it hadn't happened, not that he was absent.] Anglin stressed that the community owned the property and that citizens needed to be involved in the process.

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) focused on the question of process, noting that the RFP review committee included two of the council’s own members, and that changing the process after proposals had been prepared in good faith sent the wrong message.

Mayor John Hieftje essentially echoed the sentiments of Rapundalo in concluding that the information mentioned in Briere’s resolution had been requested in the RFP. Hieftje said he did not see what the resolution did to evolve the council’s understanding of the proposals.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) ended deliberations when she called the question [a procedural move to end debate], but not before delivering a lambasting of the proposed resolution. “There are members of council who don’t trust the committee to do its work,” she said. Instead of the resolution the council was considering, Higgins declared, the council should just call it what it was and consider a resolution to disband the committee.

Outcome: The resolution failed to pass, winning support only from Briere, Taylor, Kunselman, and Anglin.

Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Before the council were two resolutions affecting bicyclists and pedestrians. One of them revised city ordinances on bicyclists and pedestrian behavior, while the other revised the bicycle registration fee. This was the first reading of the ordinances, which means that they’ll need to come back to council for final approval.

Public Commentary on Non-Motorized Issues

At the time allotted for public commentary at the end of the meeting, two people spoke on issues related to bicycles and pedestrians. And one of those made comments related, tangentially, to a third public speaker, who’d addressed the council during reserved time at the start of the meeting.

Kathy Griswold told the council that her New Year’s resolution was to speak at every council meeting and to use the full three minutes allotted – that was less time than it took for traffic to clear at the mid-block crossing near King Elementary School, she said. Griswold has spoken at multiple meetings through the fall and early winter on the need to move that crosswalk to the intersection from its current mid-block location. Griswold pointed councilmembers to a website she’d set up – SeeKids.org. The site provides information on steps the city could take to improve Ann Arbor’s current rating by the League of American Bicyclists to the platinum level achieved by Boulder, Portland, and Davis.

Kathy Griswold notes

Kathy Griswold’s draft of notes for her public speaking turn at the end of the meeting.

Portland and Boulder has also been mentioned by John Floyd during his turn at public commentary at the start of the meeting. Floyd thanked Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) for clarifying at the council’s Nov. 16, 2009 meeting that Hohnke saw Seattle, Portland and Boulder as models for Ann Arbor to emulate. Floyd then asked Hohnke if he thought that Ann Arbor should change to resemble Seattle and Portland by increasing its population to upwards of half a million people.

During her turn at public comment, Vivienne Armentrout related to the council her experience as a bicycle commuter in Madison, Wisc., where the bicycle registration served as a possible mechanism for enforcement. In Madison, she said, registration included issuance of a small metal license plate, which could be used to help identify a cyclist who’d committed an infraction like sideswiping a pedestrian on a sidewalk.

Armentrout’s comments came partly in response to some pointed questioning from Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) of city staff about a perceived failure by the city to educate bicyclists about their responsibilities and the enforcement of laws concerning them.

Council Deliberations on Non-Motorized Issues

Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) led things off by asking the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, to summarize what the council was being asked to consider. Cooper noted that the repeal of multiple city ordinances regulating bicyclist behavior reflected updates to the Michigan Vehicle Code, and was essentially an administrative revision.

Carsten Hohnke

Front to back, Margie Teall (Ward 4), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5), Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

The revision to the pedestrian ordinance extended pedestrian rights from crosswalks at intersections with traffic signals to those without traffic signals, Cooper said.

Hohnke would observe later in deliberations that the city still had work to do on the issue of pedestrian rights – which currently begin only on entering a crosswalk, as opposed to approaching a crosswalk.

The problem had been well-documented, mayor John Hieftje would later add, in a video produced by an Ann Arbor resident [Matt Grocoff's YouTube Video: "Pedestrian Crossings in Ann Arbor"] Hieftje also described plans to begin enforcement of pedestrian rights, but stressed that it was important to lead up to that with adequate education and conversation with the magistrates who’d be asked to uphold the citations.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) said she’d like to see an educational outline. She hoped that Ann Arbor could eventually get to the same point as other cities she’d visited where cars stop as soon as pedestrians even think about crossing the street.

The new bicycle registration policy, Cooper explained, would replace an $8 lifetime registration with a $3 fee good for five years, plus one complimentary five-year extension.

Hohnke elicited from Cooper the clarification that bicycles are not “classified as vehicles” under the Michigan Vehicle Code but rather in places are “treated as vehicles.” That explained, Hohnke said, why the wording of the city’s proposed ordinance revision on bicycle lanes made sense: “A person shall not operate a vehicle on or across a bicycle path or a bicycle lane, …”  That is, bicycles are not prohibited on bicycle paths.

The typical pattern for each bicycling ordinance proposed for repeal is that there’s a corresponding section in the Michigan Vehicle Code. An example of such a pair, on brakes:

[City] 10:172. Brakes.
Every bicycle shall be equipped with at least 1 effective brake.
(Ord. No. 46-61, 8-14-61; Ord. No. 26-74, 8-19-74)

[State] 257.662 Bicycles or electric personal assistive mobility device; equipment; violation as civil infraction.
(2) A bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

Not included in the council’s meeting packet were the contents of the city’s ordinances and the corresponding Michigan Vehicle Code equivalents. [The Chronicle's set of the respective city-state pairings is available as a text file: statecitybicycle.txt.]

The lack of specificity about the material effect of the proposed ordinance repeals and revisions left some councilmembers wondering what was being proposed.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) led off with an expression of frustration by noting that the set of ordinances were described in the packet as addressing bicycles riding on the sidewalk, but asked: “Where is it?” Cooper summarized the content of the Michigan Vehicle Code requirement by saying that it essentially establishes that “bicycles are guests on sidewalks.” By way of background, the specific language of the MVC reads:

[State] 257.660c Operation of bicycle upon sidewalk or pedestrian crosswalk.

(1) An individual operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.
(2) An individual shall not operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk if that operation is prohibited by an official traffic control device.
(3) An individual lawfully operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk.

Teall told Cooper she still had concerns about bicycles on sidewalks and complained about almost being run over on occasion. Cooper allowed that if she’d almost been run over by a bicyclist, then that fell outside of proper use of a bicycle per the code. Teall replied that by then, it was too late.

Cooper then described some efforts the city would be undertaking, using federal stimulus money, to educate the public on such issues. The implementation would include signage addressed to bicyclists to yield to pedestrians and to walk their bicycles on sidewalks.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) allowed that he was also confused about what was being proposed. “Do I need a brake on my bicycle?” he asked.

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) then weighed in, criticizing the fact that the information explaining what was being proposed was not in the council’s packet but rather in another document – the Michigan Vehicle Code. She then cited her own experience watching bicyclists weave in and out of cars, then shoot across intersections against the light. She concluded that there was an “educational disconnect.”

Higgins then launched a criticism of a lack of clarity on plans for educating cyclists about their responsibilities, saying she wanted to know how the money was being spent.

Hohnke would later point out that Cooper had previously presented the council with an outline of the educational plan, suggesting that Higgins had perhaps not attended the meeting when that occurred. Higgins rejected Hohnke’s suggestion that she had not attended, saying, “I was there!”

She then complained that the educational efforts always focused on the drivers of cars and that the approach should include everyone. She contended that by now, we should be seeing some kind of shift in behavior. But since they weren’t seeing a shift, she contended, the needed to address the disconnect.

Cooper offered that part of the challenge was the “enormity of the problem.”He then began to describe a program of collaboration with the Washtenaw County Public Heath department, but was cut off by Higgins, who declared, “I’m less interested in the county. What are we doing in the city?”

By way of background, if Hohnke meant to reference two meetings of the council in June 2009 when Cooper described the specifics of the educational program, Higgins is correct in saying that she was there. However, those presentations did address – at least in part – the concerns she was raising. From The Chronicle account of the June 1, 2009 meeting:

During the introductions section, Eli Cooper, transportation program manager with the city of Ann Arbor, gave a presentation announcing the launch of a transportation safety campaign. It’s based on the premise that whether we walk, bicycle, ride the bus, or drive, we are all human beings who are entitled to a safe and attractive journey.

From The Chronicle account of the June 15, 2009 meeting:

The campaign itself, which has already been developed, will include brochures, radio spots, and video spots. Higgins noted that there had been an ongoing discussion about how to accomplish the educational component. She noted that deputy chief of police Greg O’Dell had previously worked with bicycling groups on the topic. She wanted to know if the city had ever heard back about how that worked. Hieftje noted that the previous effort had never actually been funded. He cited the statistic that at any given time, the majority of people on the road in Ann Arbor don’t actually live here. So the outreach campaign had a certain challenge in reaching the population. Signage would be key, he said. Higgins stressed that she felt it was important that education be provided for cyclists about their responsibility for using the road.

Hohnke asked Cooper to explain how the various constituencies would be engaged through the campaign. Cooper cited the slogans themselves as reflective of targeting all users of the roadway, not just motorists: “Share the road” and “Same road same rules.” He described the brochure that had been developed as a tri-fold that when opened displayed a motorist on the left and a cyclist on the right.

In reviewing the Michigan Vehicle Code as background for this report, The Chronicle noticed a section that’s tangentially relevant to a possible city ordinance on cell phone use while driving. At the council’s  Aug. 6, 2009 meeting, Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) mentioned  a resolution he and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) had asked the city attorney’s office to develop, prohibiting cell phone usage while driving. At the time there was some speculation about whether the new ordinance would apply to bicycles.

There is already a section of the MVC that would seem to preclude cell phone use while bicycling:

257.661 Carrying package, bundle, or article on bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, moped, or motorcycle.

A person operating a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, moped, or motorcycle shall not carry any package, bundle, or article that prevents the driver from keeping both hands upon the handlebars of the vehicle.

Outcome: Both resolutions on bicycle- and pedestrian-related ordinances were approved on first reading.

Business Improvement Zone (BIZ)

Before the city council was a resolution authorizing the city clerk to hold an election among the property owners between William and Huron streets on Main Street to determine if they wanted to establish a business improve zone (BIZ). A BIZ is a mechanism for property owners to levy an additional tax on themselves in order to pay for services that would otherwise not be provided.

During the public hearing on the resolution, two people spoke.

Thomas Partridge said that he hoped such an effort would be coordinated with all other areas needing improvements throughout the city and county.

Lou Glorie said she’d heard that the revenue would be used to employ greeters, Wal-Mart style, and wondered if Ann Arbor citizens could be issued badges identifying them as residents so that they wouldn’t be pestered by the greeters. [No such greeters are identified as a part of the BIZ plan. Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Main Street BIZ Clears Hurdle"]

Glorie asked why Ann Arbor’s Downtown Development Authority funds were not being used for the services that the BIZ was proposed to provide. She said that downtown merchants were already stressed enough, and hoped that the cost of the additional tax levy would not be passed along to merchants.

Outcome: The BIZ was approved unanimously without discussion by council.

Snow Removal

One of the primary services to be offered by the BIZ is snow removal – on downtown sidewalks, which is above and beyond what the city provides. The city council had scheduled a presentation from city staff on snow removal citywide at the start of its Monday meeting, during the introductions section.

North Main maintenance yard

Face in the sand. Sand/salt mixture at 721 N. Main maintenance yard, cited by Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) as a useful resource for residents to maintain their driveways and sidewalks in winter.

The snow removal presentation was handled by Craig Hupy, head of systems planning, and Sue McCormick, public services area administrator.

The presentation generated many questions from the council, some of which are answered in the complete slide presentation, which is available online [Snow Removal Presentation 3 MB .pdf].

Hupy presented a subset of those slides to the council.

We eschew a comprehensive summary in favor of some key points that emerged:

  • Safe travel at a reasonable speed, not bare pavement, is the goal.
  • 4 inches of snowfall is the threshold for a straight time versus overtime approach.
  • Salt is spread only on designated routes; residential streets are sanded only on hills, corners and icy intersections.
  • Residents are required to clear sidewalks adjacent to their property. [City of Ann Arbor Sidewalk snow removal regulations]
  • It’s illegal for private parties to plow or blow snow into the street.
  • Permeable pavement, such as will be installed on Sylvan Avenue, requires less winter maintenance due to thermal gain – water soaks through instead of remaining on the surface and refreezing.

Communications from Council/Administrator

During the agenda slots for communications from councilmembers and the administrator, a few different topics received brief discussion.

Ann Arbor’s Deer Herd

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) asked city administrator Roger Fraser about an increase in “deer-car interactions.” Fraser indicated that Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) had also inquired and that in each of the last two years there had been more than 30 such interactions.

Derezinski reported that he’d looked a bit into the issue and that the nearby village of Barton Hills had some experience through the Department of Natural Resources of culling the herd, but had not done so in the last two years due to complaints about the sound of gunshots.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reported that she’d inquired with the Humane Society and that birth control for deer had not yet been perfected. She suspected that would be the only effective solution.

This is not the first time deer have come up for discussion in the last year or so. From The Chronicle’s Nov. 30, 2008 caucus report:

Derezinski raised the issue of deer and the possible need to cull the herd. Higgins expressed some skepticism that they were actually a problem, asking if anyone had heard of someone hitting a deer in the city. She said she thought people basically enjoyed looking at them. She said she was not in favor of killing them. Briere said she didn’t want to kill them, either. Derezinski said he wasn’t necessarily in favor of killing them, but thought there were other options like tranquilizing them and relocating them.

Fraser put the problem in perspective for the council. He suggested that while 30 incidents might seem like a lot, in the community where he worked just prior to coming to Ann Arbor – a similar-sized community geographically to Ann Arbor – they had 150 incidents a year. He expressed little enthusiasm for implementing a program to cull the deer herd.

Parking in Parks

Ward 4 representatives Margie Teall and Marcia Higgins indicated that they would be opposing any attempt to allow football Saturday parking in Allmendinger and Frisinger parks. [Chronicle coverage "Parking in the Parks, Art on the River"] That came in response to remarks made during public commentary reserved time by Charlie Cavell, who’s a college student home on winter break.

Cavell lives directly across from Allmendinger Park, he said, and provided evidence of the opposition by neighbors to the idea of football Saturday parking in the park with 160 signatures on a petition. He described how parents of children and other members of the community used the park on football Saturdays and suggested that the estimated additional $30,000 in revenue was not worth it, despite the tough budget times.

City Administrator Announcements

Roger Fraser announced that the city’s community services area administrator, Jayne Miller, would be leaving her city post to head up the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority sometime in the next month.

Fraser told the council that their work session next Monday, Jan. 11, would focus on a briefing on how the city’s Housing Authority would be revamping its business operations.

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, he said, city offices would be closed starting at 9:30 a.m. due to a meeting for all city staff from 10 a.m. to noon at the Michigan Theater. The meeting will focus on the budget.

The layoff of 14 firefighters, which was to have been effective on Jan. 4, Fraser said, had been postponed, with the negotiated agreement with the union to be put to a vote next week. If approved, Fraser said, the council would be asked to approve the arrangement at its next meeting, on Jan. 19. [Note that this is a Tuesday, not the usual Monday meeting day, because of the Jan. 18 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.]

Other Public Commentary

Nine speakers signed up in advance to speak during public commentary at the start of the meeting. Besides those whose remarks are already reflected in other sections of this report, the following people addressed the council.

James D’Amour: D’Amour introduced himself as a member of the executive committee of the Sierra Club Huron Valley Group. He expressed opposition to the council’s greenlighting of the Fuller Road Station project, saying that the city land on which the parking structure was to be built was designated as parkland, though it had been used as a parking lot for many years. The arrangement between the city and the University of Michigan, he said, would amount to a permanent lease, which was essentially a sale of the parkland – which required a vote of the people. He also characterized the project as inconsistent with environmental goals, noting that only 200 of the parking spaces had been allocated to a possible train station. [Chronicle coverage of the Fuller Station project: "Trains, Trash and Taxes"]

Henry Herskovitz: Herskovitz described how he’d been walking with a woman down Ann Street towards Fourth Avenue on Nov. 21, 2009 when they’d been assaulted by a noise so loud that it had caused the woman to grab his arm. It had caused parents to try to reassure their children that things were okay, but the children had been inconsolable. The loud noise, he explained, had come from Michigan National Guard jets that had buzzed Michigan Stadium on the day of the UM-Ohio State football game. He reminded councilmembers that the children of Palestine experience that kind of noise on a daily basis, and that it was causing a psychological crisis in Gaza. That terror, he concluded, continued to be funded by American citizens.

Thomas Partridge: Partridge introduced himself as a Washtenaw County Democrat who was a potential candidate this election year. He called upon other potential candidates and elected officials to put forward a democratic, progressive agenda to advance the causes of human rights, education, housing and transportation. He noted that while the council had heard a presentation on snow removal, there were people in the Ann Arbor area who did not have a place to live.

Present: Stephen Rapundalo, Mike Anglin, Margie Teall, Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins, John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor, Carsten Hohnke.

Next council meeting: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2009 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave. [confirm date] [Note that this is a Tuesday, not the usual Monday meeting day, because of the Jan. 18 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.]


  1. January 6, 2010 at 9:57 am | permalink

    Those who are relying on the DDA resolution set forth above for the idea that the City has somehow committed itself to construct a building on the Library Lot may want to reconsider after looking at the text. The resolution says “development which could include, but is not limited to…”

    This is vague language. It does not even go so far as to say “should include”. It certainly does not say “must include”.

    Also, citizens have been made aware during the past year or so, to their sorrow, that the City’s master plan is not enforceable: it’s just a set of ideas.

    So the City Council is perfectly free to do anything it wants (or nothing) to the Library Lot after the underground parking structure is guilt.

  2. By John Floyd
    January 6, 2010 at 9:59 am | permalink


    If memory serves me, what I said differs in subtle, yet important, ways from your summary of my remarks.

    Previously, in December, I had asked Carsten Hohnke to explain the “High-level vision of the future of Ann Arbor” that he apparently shared, but did not publicly articulate, in the 2008 council election, and that he has not publicly articulated since attaining office. My belief then, as now, is that this high-level vision shared among those council members elected in 2008 should have been the focus of the campaign, not its biggest secret. To make it easier for Mr. Hohnke to articlate his vision, in addition to the open-ended question, I asked him if making Ann Arbor like Boulder, CO, Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA was this shared high-level vision. As you wrote in your coverage of that meeting, he later in so many words acknowledged that this, in fact, was his shared, high level vision.

    Last night, I thanked Mr. Hohnke for acknowledging in public that this was his shared, high-level vision of the future of Ann Arbor. Then, I asked him to give a few specific examples of how he thought Ann Arbor should change to be more like these cities. Again, to make it easier for him to articulate, I offered the possibility that increasing Ann Arbor’s population to approximate those of the cities of Portland and Seattle, 1/2 million, was one of the ways that he felt Ann Arbor should become more like those cities.

    Apparently, Mr. Hohnke has declined to offer examples of how he wants Ann Arbor to change. This is puzzling, for when most folks have a vision that excites and inspires them, you can’t get them to shut up about it. The reticence of Mr. Hohnke and his council colleagues to speak publicly on this topic is more consistent with a sense of shame or embarrassment about their shared high-level vision, than with a vision that makes them proud. Council seems to want to hide its light under a bushel basket, rather than let their light shine and illuminate the darkness. What’s up with that?

    Mr. Hohnke need not equal Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech in eloquence, but 3 -4 specifics would be a starting point for bringing the public along with him and his colleagues in their shared high-level vision of Ann Arbor’s future. Isn’t that how democracy is supposed to work?

    On another topic, given council’s casual dismissal of the many elements of the Calthorpe report that they (it?) did not like, it is ironic for Sandy Smith to cite the Calthorpe report as among the reasons that no public hearing or input on public-space uses of the library lot is needed. She may be on to something, however, when she suggests that some voices in the community find the process used to evaluate the RFP proposals to be fatally flawed.

  3. By mr dairy
    January 6, 2010 at 10:33 am | permalink

    Thank you, Jayne Miller for your years of service to the city and leaving Planning and Development Services in an incredibly dysfunctional state.

  4. January 6, 2010 at 10:38 am | permalink

    Bike riders should have a bell on their bike to warn people walking on sidewalks of their approach — speed of bikes on so named sidewalk shoild be addressed — let’s share side walk (used as bike unsafe lanes) with manners — a lost work and art — Thank You, Barbara E. O’Donnell – fifth ward side walk and street gutter cleaner –

  5. January 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm | permalink

    Apparently I was mistaken in a comment on another Chronicle article that the ‘library lane’ concept was proposed by the DDA. The “newly constructed street” at that site seems to have been a council requirement for their design of the underground parking structure.

  6. By Rod Johnson
    January 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm | permalink

    There should be a verb “to greden,” as in “Let’s greden Rapundalo next election.” (Just an example, of course.)

    January 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm | permalink

    Wow, with the temperament of our town, can you imagine the absolute tempest-in-a-teapot spectacle we could enjoy for months on end if Ann Arbor were to try to begin a deer culling program!

    I work near Leslie Park golf course, and I regularly encounter deer crossing the street in the neighborhood. No close calls yet, but eventually there will be an accident. Hopefully no person will be hurt.

    Having said that, I don’t think we have a problem that has risen to the level of requiring anything more than awareness, and perhaps a few more yellow deer signs.

  8. By Alan Goldsmith
    January 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm | permalink

    “Sandi Smith (Ward 1) said she’d like to see an educational outline. She hoped that Ann Arbor could eventually get to the same point as other cities she’d visited where cars stop as soon as pedestrians even think about crossing the street.”

    You’re joking. She really SAID this? Is the ESP option covered in the new law?

  9. By Pete
    January 7, 2010 at 12:08 pm | permalink

    Has Teall never ‘almost been run over’ by a runner on a sidewalk? Never turned a corner and almost been hit by a stroller? Are we going to put small metal license plates on all pairs of running shoes in the city? Heck, I get bumped into by teens on cell phones and guys trying to prove their manhood all the time. Maybe everyone needs a license tattoo on their forehead.

  10. By KJMClark
    January 19, 2010 at 11:24 am | permalink

    What happened to the “sharrows” in the downtown? In our non-motorized plan, we were supposed to put in sharrows – pavement markings that make it clear to motorists that cyclists are supposed to be in the road – in places in the downtown where we want cyclists off of sidewalks. The sharrows were a city responsibility. They were put in the door zone half the time, and never maintained. It’s hard to find many now.

    The first thing we should do is follow our own non-motorized plan and put back the sharrows, to do *something* to encourage cyclists to use the unfriendly roads. This time let’s put the sharrows where they belong, in the middle of the traveled part of the lane on Liberty and most of the other narrow streets with on-street parking in the downtown. Then bicyclists will be encouraged to bike where they should be riding, by state law they don’t have to keep to the right when the usable portion of the lane is less than 12′, motorists will have the reminder to expect bikes in the road, and the sharrows will last a good deal longer.

    Better yet, we should put the sharrows back, and put in MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) signs R4-11 “Bicycles May Use Full Lane”. The MUTCD says [link]:

    “The Bicycles May Use Full Lane (R4-11) sign (see Figure 9B-2) may be used on roadways where no bicycle lanes or adjacent shoulders usable by bicyclists are present and where travel lanes are too narrow for bicyclists and motor vehicles to operate side by side.

    The Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign may be used in locations where it is important to inform road users that bicyclists might occupy the travel lane.

    Section 9C.07 describes a Shared Lane Marking that may be used in addition to or instead of the Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign to inform road users that bicyclists might occupy the travel lane.” (The “Shared Lane Marking” is also known as a sharrow.)

    Notice as well, that the ordinance change could quickly change the biking on the sidewalks discussion. “(2) An individual shall not operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk if that operation is prohibited by an official traffic control device.” There are MUTCD signs to prohibit bicycles. The signs the DDA put up in the downtown are not “official traffic control device[s]“, but it wouldn’t be hard for the city to replace those signs with the official versions. It isn’t completely clear how to interpret a “No Bicycles” sign, however, particularly when the bike parking is on the sidewalk.

  11. By Rod Johnson
    January 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm | permalink

    Hey, don’t minimize the ‘almost been run over’ issue. People can almost get badly hurt. Our emergency rooms are almost not equipped to handle the rash of near-accidents. It’s almost scary.

  12. By Rod Johnson
    January 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm | permalink

    Another view on sharrows: [Link]