Archive for January, 2010

In the Archives: Bloomers and Bicycles

Editor’s note: At January’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, Ann Arbor’s mayor suggested that the DDA’s transportation committee bring a recommendation to the board to take a position on bicycling on Ann Arbor’s downtown sidewalks.

The fight to keep bikes off of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti sidewalks dates back to the first appearance over a century ago of what many perceived to be “infernal machines.”

Thompson Bike

O.E. Thompson was Ypsilanti's leading seller of bicycles. (Images link to higher resolution files.)

The 1876 Ann Arbor city charter contains no mention of bicycles – it wouldn’t be until two years later that A. A. Pope manufactured the first bicycles in the U.S. The invention spread across the nation, threw city fathers into consternation as they scrambled for their city charters, and incited Ann Arbor’s “Bloomer War.”

It also inspired the creation of a nationwide organization of cyclists, the League of American Wheelmen. Its Michigan chapter’s 1897 edition of their “Road Book” recommended one 271.5-mile jaunt from Detroit to Chicago. Another route circled Lake Erie. The guidebook gave instructions for rides from Ann Arbor to Chelsea, Saline, Whitmore Lake, Pontiac, South Lyon and Dundee.

“Gravel roads will average as shown during entire riding season,” the book stated, “clay ones only in dry seasons.” The L.A.W. received a discount from 66 Michigan hotels ranging from Marquette to Coldwater. In Ann Arbor, the L.A.W.’s hotel was the American House (15% discount), and its Ypsilanti refuge was the Hawkins House (20%). [Full Story]

A2: Transit

The Allies for Transportation 24/7 blog gives an update on the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s route #6, which has added stops near the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living and the Social Security Administration office on Research Park Drive: “The Ann Arbor CIL, Social Security Administration, and community members are advocating to have the city install a traffic light at Ellsworth and S. Research Park Drive so that the out-bound route #6 can serve the new bus stops. Right now riders traveling outbound from Ann Arbor to the Ann Arbor CIL or Social Security Administration building must either ride farther and transfer to other vehicles or use the bus stops located in heavy traffic areas that are inaccessible and further … [Full Story]

UM: Music

The Los Angeles Times published a profile on Michael Daugherty, a UM music professor who was commissioned to write “Mount Rushmore” for the Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival. The work has its world premiere this week: “The composer’s home studio, just off campus on Ann Arbor’s old west side, is surrounded by large elm trees on the outside and is resonant of his eclectic spirit within. Bookshelves are packed with antique-store finds, ‘Star Trek’ collectibles and 1950s science-fiction movies. At the center of it all are the instruments of his trade. ‘I work like a director in a film,’ Daugherty says. ‘I work off the energy of the actors or in this case the singers. A lot of composers rely … [Full Story]

Ypsi: Marijuana

The Detroit Free Press reports that about 1,000 people attended the Marijuana Caregivers Cup Expo on Saturday at the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Marriott, which included exhibits and lectures. The event continues on Sunday. From the report: “The Caregivers Cup Expo was so named because organizer Anthony Freed, 31, of Brooklyn, Mich., said he first planned, then canceled a contest of marijuana types. They were to be rated by caregivers, the term for those allowed to grow marijuana for patients. Freed said he canceled the contest after hearing police might halt it.” [Source]

Column: Getting Smarter About City Charter

Recently the committee charged with reviewing the responses to the city’s RFP for development of the Library Lot met to discuss two days’ worth of public interviews with proposers. The “news” out of that meeting was that the committee set aside three of the five proposals, leaving just two – both of which are concepts for a hotel/conference center.

Nearly escaping notice at that meeting was an exchange between Stephen Rapundalo, who chairs the committee, and senior assistant city attorney Kevin McDonald. The brief interaction came towards the end of the meeting’s work, as the next set of tasks for specific committee members was formulated. Rapundalo asked that McDonald provide a legal opinion. McDonald replied politely, but pointedly, that he’d provide advice, not an opinion.

Why does McDonald care about the difference between providing advice versus an opinion?

McDonald’s concern is based on a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the city attorney’s office, led by Stephen Postema, about what Ann Arbor’s city charter requires of its city attorney.  [Full Story]

Column: A Li’l of This & That

Jo Mathis

Jo Mathis

It’s been a wild and crazy month and my mind is darting in a million directions, like some of those frenetic commercials you see on TV. So this column, ladies and gentlemen, will be one I call “A Li’l of This, A Li’l of That” – a little Conan, a little Idol, and a few other random thoughts thrown in between.

One of the country’s best-loved columnists was Herb Caen, a San Francisco columnist for 60 years. He called his column “three-dot journalism” because it was mostly a collection of pithy items broken up by ellipses.

I know I’m no Herb Caen. (And I’d be dead if I were.)

But I’m giving it a whirl. And because I’m not taking up any costly newsprint, I may just keep going and going. [Full Story]


Several teams of ice sculptors working, attracting crowds.

A2: Governor’s Race

The Detroit News reports on a Michigan Press Association forum for gubernatorial candidates – including Republican Rick Snyder of Ann Arbor and state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, a Democrat from Salem Township – in Grand Rapids on Friday. The article quotes Snyder: “The issue in this election comes down to really job creation. How do we make our government create an environment where jobs can flourish and let small business go out and innovate?” According to the report, all of the GOP candidates support a part-time legislature – Smith does not. [Source]

A2: Politics

Minuteman Media columnist and Ann Arbor resident Donald Kaul shares some thoughts about the Democrats losing Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts to Republican Scott Brown, who defeated Martha Coakley: “The Democratic Party, starting with the political wizards in the White House on down, simply blew it. It wasn’t just Coakley who took a vacation in the middle of the campaign, the entire party did. Think of the stakes. Congress had arrived at the very cusp of passing health-care reform. Every vote, particularly in the Senate, was not merely important, but crucial. Why would you allow a candidate of limited experience to conduct his or her own campaign in those circumstances? Why would you let her go on vacation? The … [Full Story]

A2: Artist-in-Residence

A2 Mech Shop, a “coworking facility for entrepreneurial engineers,” is looking for an artist-in-residence to create art at their workshop that is “inspired by, incorporates, or is produced by technology. For example, created artwork might incorporate electronics for light, movement, or other control. MechShop members will provide some support in terms of consultation on engineering, electronics, programming, operation of machine tools, etc., but the artist should be aware that this is a working environment and each member will also have their own work.” The deadline for applicants is Feb. 19. [Source]

Column: Book Fare

Cover for Margaret Fuchs Singer's memoir.

When a member of my book group recommended Margaret Fuchs Singer’s recently published “Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter’s Reckoning,” I assumed the longtime Ann Arbor resident’s contribution to the literature of America’s red-diaper babies would be another account of growing up with a parent who joined the Communist Party in the 1930s, became disillusioned but still refused to inform on former comrades – and suffered for it.

I got it wrong.

Singer’s father, Herbert Fuchs, cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee. He informed. He named names. He told the whole truth – about a profound commitment and a profound mistake – and suffered for it.

His family, of course, suffered for it, too. [Full Story]

UM: J.D. Salinger

In the wake of author J.D. Salinger’s death this week, the PBS Newshour looks at the legacy of his novel, “Catcher in the Rye.” The report includes commentary by UM professor Nicholas Delbanco: “The novel bears a certain degree of lineage from kinship to Huck Finn … the voice in the opening beat announces early on and absolutely authoritatively that we’re in the presence of not so much an outcast of society as someone who hasn’t yet found his comfortable place within it, who looks at it keenly, though, through the eyes of an adolescent, and who is, you know, preternaturally alert to that repeated word phoniness.” [Source]

A2: Zipcar

On the getDowntown blog, Nancy Shore notes that the Ann Arbor Zipcar fleet has two Toyota Matrix vehicles, which are part of the automaker’s voluntary safety recall: “As of now, to be safe, Zipcar is removing those vehicles from the fleet. No word yet about when they might return or what they will be replaced with.” [Source]

A2: Governor’s Race

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Republican Mike Cox has challenged all other gubernatorial candidates, including Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder, to disclose their personal financial data, including tax returns and investments. From the report: “The Snyder campaign announced last week that it raised $3.2 million in 2009, though there was no specific breakdown of donors or disclosure of how much was a loan from Snyder himself. Snyder is believed to tower above the field in personal wealth. He was chief financial officer and interim chief executive officer at Gateway Computers before returning to Michigan and launching venture capital projects in Ann Arbor.” [Source]

A2: Brides

A report in the Columbus Dispatch talks with customers at the Filene’s Basement annual Running of the Brides sale: “First in line yesterday were Jessica Kannowski and her mother, Marie Turow, who drove in from Ann Arbor, Mich., and arrived at the store at 8 p.m. Thursday – 12 hours before the sale would begin. ‘The store was still open when we got here and the staff felt sorry for us,’ Turow said. ‘We stayed warm by going back and forth to the car and drinking hot coffee. Jessica heard about the sale, so we came and scouted it out last night and know exactly where we’re going. We saw a Vera Wang that we like.’” [Source]

Liberty & Maynard

Sign on entrance to Borders bookstore, announcing that as of Feb. 1, the store will no longer allow “non-service” animals through the doors.

DDA Floats Idea for Fourth Avenue

Typically on the last Wednesday morning of the month, two committees of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority meet back to back – transportation and operations. This past Wednesday was no different.

Fourth Avenue Ann Arbor

At Fourth & William streets in downtown Ann Arbor. The view is looking to the north. At right is an AATA bus shelter – further in the background on the same side of the street is the Blake Transit Center. Opposite the AATA facilities is a parking deck. (Photos by the writer.)

At the transportation committee meeting, Susan Pollay, the DDA’s executive director, floated an idea for partnering with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority on improvements to the South Fourth Avenue corridor, between William and Liberty streets. The partnership would include a grant to the AATA in connection with the reconstruction of the Blake Transit Center. No numbers are yet attached to the concept, which Pollay described as a possible “transit mall” – she was checking with the committee for their basic reaction to the idea. That reaction could fairly be described as warm, with some caution expressed by DDA board member Leah Gunn, when she arrived for the operations committee meeting.

Starting last month, the last half hour of the  transportation committee’s meeting has been configured to overlap with the operations committee’s meeting, so that the two groups can meet jointly to discuss a directive from the city council to the DDA to deliver a parking plan to the council by April. A preliminary outline of that plan was discussed on Wednesday. [Full Story]

County Natural Areas Tax Up for Renewal

A resolution to hire Verna McDaniel as the next county administrator is on the Feb. 3 agenda for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, and commissioners gave her a round of applause on Wednesday when that agenda item was announced at their administrative briefing.

But it was an item not on the agenda that yielded the most animated discussion on Wednesday: A countywide millage for Washtenaw County’s Natural Areas Preservation Program. The tax, which was first approved by voters in November of 2000 and took effect in 2002, will expire in 2011 and would need to go back to voters this year for renewal. Based on comments at Wednesday’s briefing, the millage renewal might face resistance from some commissioners. [Full Story]

Madden Not With Devils

The Jan. 29 column “Values Before Victories” incorrectly stated that NHL player John Madden was a member of the New Jersey Devils. He’s no longer with that team. We note the error here, and have corrected the original column.

Column: Values Before Victories

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The Michigan basketball team recently lost to Michigan State by one point, all but ending the Wolverines’ chances to return to the NCAA tournament. The Michigan hockey team faces Michigan State this weekend, and they need a sweep to improve their fading chances of getting back to the tournament themselves.

For Michigan fans, this is the Winter of Their Discontent. Provided, that is, only wins and losses count.

But the head coaches of both teams did notch a couple moral victories last week. Yes, they’ve lost some battles this season, but they’re still winning the war. [Full Story]

A2: Music

A report on the Muslim Media Network describes the recent Divine Language of Music Chanting special at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth in Ann Arbor, where three groups performed: “An audience of about 120 people packed a beautiful room lit by candles, with paintings on the walls designed to represent spiritual teachings, and symbols around the room of cosmological things like the stars and moon. … Also singing were The Threshold Choir, which may be of slightly more interest to a Muslim audience. The Threshold Choir, represented Sunday by about 15 singers, sings at the bedsides of people – sometimes bedsides of people who are dying, sometimes bedsides of people who are sick or in comas.” [Source]

Liberty east of Thompson

Three Smartcars parked across from Dawn Treader, available for test drives. Saleswoman says they’ll be in the downtown area through the weekend, hoping to tap the Sundance crowds at Michigan Theater. They’re from Roger Penske’s Bloomfield Hills dealership, she says: “He loves Ann Arbor!”

A2: Business

The Detroit Free Press is among those reporting layoffs today at Borders Group Inc. The firm gave notice to 124 employees – including 88 at its corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor. The article quotes spokeswoman Anne Roman: “The company didn’t drive sales to the level it needed to. Companies need to keep payroll aligned with the reality of where sales are.” [Source]

Environmental Indicators: Resource Use

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series written by Ann Arbor city staff on the environmental indicators used by the city of Ann Arbor in its State of Our Environment Report.

Trash and Recycling in Ann Arbor

Recycling totes and a trash cart await collection in Ann Arbor. The totes will be replaced with bins similar to the blue trash cart in mid-2010. (Photo by The Chronicle.)

Although Matt Naud, the city’s environmental coordinator, is listed as the author of this piece, he received “a boxload of help” from Adrienne Marino, Tom McMurtrie, and Nancy Stone.

The SOE report is developed by the city’s environmental commission and designed as a citizen’s reference tool on environmental issues and as an atlas of the management strategies underway that are intended to conserve and protect our environment. The newest version of the report is organized around 10 environmental goals developed by the environmental commission and adopted by the city council in 2007. This installment focuses on responsible resource use.

All installments of the series are available here: Environmental Indicator Series.

With the closing of the 2009 holiday season, and many of us surrounded by lots of new “stuff” – including the associated boxes and packaging – and even a few of us with New Year’s resolutions to “simplify” our life in the coming new year, it seems like a good time to talk about all of the stuff we buy, use, reuse, recycle, and then throw out in Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Main, south of Huron

Apparently the fish in the tank at Kai Garden aren’t named, with the exception of the largest one, a midnight-blue thug with bugged-out eyes. Its name is E.T., according to the waitress.

Washtenaw: GOP

The Washtenaw County Republican Committee is holding a State of the Union party on Wednesday from 8-11:30 p.m.: “On Wednesday, January 27, President Obama will be delivering the State of the Union. After the President speaks about our country, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) will deliver the GOP Response. Come join the Washtenaw County Fix Michigan Center in watching both speeches, as we will have the event streaming onto our projector screen. Meet new people, discuss current politics, and learn about ways to get involved.” The center is located at 330 Miller Ave. in Ann Arbor. [Source]

Column: Ban the Box, Hire Fairly

In the final installment of The Washtenaw Jail Diary, the former inmate writes: “What I would do after my release, I had no idea. Who would hire a convicted felon in a lousy economy?”

ban box graphic

Typical felony box on an employment application.

The fact is, not many employers will. And that has an impact on the likelihood that former prisoners will find their way back into the corrections system.

In 2008, approximately 12,500 citizens returned from prison to the communities of Michigan. Within two years, nearly half of them will return to prison.

And research by the Justice Policy Center at The Urban Institute has shown that a principal factor in such high recidivism is a lack of employment opportunities. It is not a lack of adequate qualifications, but rather the social stigma surrounding a felony conviction that prevents many ex-prisoners from landing a job – and the lack of a job that leads them to offend again.

Social service programs can assist ex-offenders in finding housing, accessing mental/physical health treatment, and job-readiness training.

However, it is employers who must ultimately step up and give all qualified individuals a fair opportunity for jobs, if ex-prisoners are to have a fair chance to become stable providers for themselves and their families.

One way to ensure a fair shot is to prohibit discrimination based on criminal history – by banning that box on application forms that requires applicants to check it if they’ve been convicted of a crime. [Full Story]