Archive for April, 2010

A2: Obama

Channel 12, the ABC affiliate in Flint and Saginaw, files a report from Ann Arbor on the eve of Obama’s visit, featuring Zingerman’s Deli and its Baracky Road gelato and Obama Buns. Grace Singleton, one of the deli’s managing partners, is interviewed for the segment. [Source]

UM: Making Oil

Wired magazine’s Autopia column describes an attempt by UM researchers to make oil: “Petroleum was formed by the compression and heating of biomass over millennia. Chemical engineers at the University of Michigan hope to do it in minutes. They are applying heat and pressure on microalgae, exploring a method to create affordable biofuel that could replace fossil fuels. They also hope to use the byproducts of bio-oil production as feedstock for more biofuel.” [Source]

Liberty btw Main, Ashley

Saxophonist in alley taking advantage of echo-ey acoustics. Also the painted sign on the alley wall continues to indicate a forthcoming mural this spring. [photo]

Skies over Ann Arbor

A plane circling over the city with a banner that appears to have an Obama-related message – can’t make out what it says. Would help if I could read backwards from long distances.

East Ann & Fifth

7 or 8 ominous-looking black shiny vehicles, including the president’s limo, driving down East Ann St. into the fire department’s garage … right outside Heavenly Metal‘s door!

Detroit & Kingsley

Line out the door and down the sidewalk at Zingerman’s Deli. Looks like lots of UM students and their parents.

A2: Grand Hotel

A Detroit Free Press feature about Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel mentions a local connection to the family-owned business, led by Dan Musser III: “Musser’s sister, Mimi Cunningham, is vice president of the hotel and in charge of the shops, galleries, wedding venues and other planning; she also lives on the island. His other sister, Robin Agnew, isn’t in the business but owns a bookstore in Ann Arbor. She has too soft a heart to run a hotel, Musser says: ‘She would cry if someone had a bad experience.’” Agnew and her husband own Aunt Agatha’s at 213 S. Fourth Ave. [Source]

UM: Obama

The Capitol News Connection lists President Obama’s schedule for Saturday, revealing why he won’t be staying long in Ann Arbor: “Looking ahead: tomorrow Obama delivers the commencement address at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and in the evening attends Washington’s equivalent of the Academy Awards: the White House Correspondents Dinner.” [Source]

After Obama: Jones, Ruckus at The Pig

When the history of Ann Arbor is collected and placed in the permanent archives, it will attest that more than 80,000 people gathered on May 1, 2010 at Michigan Stadium to hear President Obama speak. Impressive. But that still doesn’t make him a rock star.

Rock star Matt Jones and Colette Alexander at Take a Chance Tuesday (April 27, 2010) at The Ark on Main Street. (Photos by the writer.)

What would make him a rock star? Say a University of Michigan graduate lifted their gown to reveal the tattooed text of Obama’s complete inaugural address – that’s the kind of thing fans of actual rock stars do.

And by that standard, Ann Arbor’s Matt Jones is a rock star.

The tattoo story was related second hand at The Ark’s Take a Chance Tuesday this week by Colette Alexander. Alexander accompanied Jones on cello for his performance.

A fan somewhere north of here, Alexander reported, had recently tattooed the lyrics of an entire Jones song across her back. She fell short, however, of complete commitment, by not including every repetition of the refrain.

So the May 1, 2010 history of Ann Arbor will record the performances of rock stars and non-rock stars alike. At 11 a.m. Barack Obama (not a rock star) will deliver the University of Michigan commencement address.

Later that same evening, with the Blind Pig’s doors opening at 9:30 p.m., Jones (rock star) and Alexander will play The Pig, along with the headline act, Frontier Ruckus. Frontier Ruckus is also an alum of The Ark’s Take a Chance Tuesday. Jones told The Chronicle that The Blind Pig performance will be an all-electric set.

At The Blind Pig, they’ll be joined by Alexander Silver, who’s also playing the 2 p.m. slot at Ypsilanti’s 2010 edition of Totally Awesome Fest, before playing his Ann Arbor gig. [Full Story]

Column: Only in America

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The wonderfully named Zoltan Mesko was born and raised in Timisoara, Romania, right on the Hungarian border. Like his parents, Mihai and Elizabeta, Zoltan speaks both languages fluently.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, life improved dramatically for most people living behind the Iron Curtain – but not much for Romanians. His parents, both engineers, could not leave the country until they won Romania’s Green Card lottery – yes, they had one – in 1997, when Zoltan was ten.

They quickly discovered Hollywood’s depiction of America didn’t quite match their apartment in Queens. It was dirty and cramped – even for just three people – and too expensive, so they moved to Twinsburg, Ohio, right outside Cleveland.

Zoltan learned English in about two months. His parents took two years, but understanding American culture took a little longer. [Full Story]

A2: Food

Vanessa Sly, Zingerman’s assistant retail manager, is interviewed for Slashfood’s “Ask a Shopkeeper” feature: “Right now, we’re selling a lot of sweet vinegars. People like to use them in their drinks, to kick-start their cocktails. And it’s spring, so obviously preserves and honeys are popular. Personally, I’m into this new olive oil, Les Costes, from Spain. It’s thick, almost like a milkshake, with a slight peppery undercurrent. It’s perfect for both drizzling and sopping.” [Source]

UM: Helicopters

The Detroit Free Press reports on a back story regarding the military helicopters that have been flying around Michigan Stadium in preparation for Saturday’s commencement with President Obama – there’s a connection to UM basketball coach John Beilein: “His nephew, Capt. Joseph Ludick, is with Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the presidential helicopter squadron. There are a number of helicopters that travel with the president — carrying the accompanying Secret Service, etc. — so Ludick doesn’t know which he’ll be on – or at least hasn’t told Beilein. They will be doing training exercises in Ann Arbor today and Friday to prepare for Saturday’s event.” [Source]

Plaza Drive

Just stopped in to Zing’s Bakehouse, which has been SUDDENLY PAINTED, and all the people atwitter, as helicopters churn the air above.

UM: Commencement

The Wall Street Journal reports on how UM selected the student who’ll deliver a speech during the 2010 commencement, sharing the stage with President Obama. From the report: “Ashley Shaver, the other student judge, liked a submission on the lighter side from Miquelle Milavec, a sociology major from Saginaw, Mich. ‘U of M Class of 2010…Whatup?! [wait for crowd reaction],’ began Ms. Milavec. She praised all those roommates who were waiting for her after tough exams with ‘a few natty lites,’ a reference to the beer Natural Light. Older committee members argued that wasn’t the best way to greet a president.” [Source]

Stadium & Main

3 p.m. Four VERY loud, VERY large passenger-type helicopters flying around Stadium and Main.

Liberty btw Main, 4th Ave.

One block-stretch book-ended by musicians: accordionist at Liberty & Main, guitarist at Liberty & 4th Avenue. In between, city of Ann Arbor city workers mulching street trees. Future DDA-City contract might conceivably include such work.

A2: Media

The author of the blog MAE 2010 posts an article titled “The Digitization of Journalism,” taking a look at both the Ann Arbor market as well as the profession more broadly, especially as it relates to financial sustainability. She gives The Ann Arbor Chronicle a shout-out: “The online-only provides excellent reporting on local issues and has a robust number of ads. Yet, co-founder Dave Askins has written that it needs to grow revenues in order to stay in business. One way they hope to survive is with voluntary subscriptions.” [Source]

A2: Blue House

Photos from last weekend’s Blue House event are posted on the Chicaloo Photography & More blog. The Blue House is a local artisan studio at 1026 S. Main St., across from Michigan Stadium. [Source]

DDA to Tie $2 Million to Public Process

At their Wednesday morning meeting, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee decided to recommend to the full board that the DDA pay the city of Ann Arbor $2 million. The payment is not legally required of the DDA under terms of an existing parking agreement that was struck in 2005.

A draft of the resolution with the recommendation was to be sent to all board members for review late Wednesday. If the full DDA board approves the resolution at its next meeting on May 5, city councilmembers who are up for re-election this year may not have to campaign under the shadow of police and firefighter layoffs. The $2 million from the DDA would allow the city council some flexibility in amending the FY 2011 city budget, before it is adopted at the council’s second meeting in May. That budget was formally introduced at the council’s April 19 meeting and showed a roughly $1.5 million deficit. It also included some police and firefighter layoffs.

But how much of the $2 million will be put towards avoiding layoffs versus offsetting the deficit is far from clear. Two city councilmembers attended the DDA operations committee meeting: Sandi Smith, who also serves on the DDA board; and Margie Teall, who serves on the council’s sub-committee appointed for the purpose of renegotiating the parking agreement between the city and the DDA. Last year, the city council and the DDA board each appointed a committee for the purpose of renegotiating that agreement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Smith said it was not certain whether layoffs could be avoided with the $2 million payment or if so, how many could be avoided. Smith’s contention that there was no guarantee the $2 million would avert layoffs came in response to one of several sharp questions put to his fellow DDA board members by Newcombe Clark. Clark began the discussion by asking if the $2 million was tied to anything.

In the course of the discussion, it was made clear that the $2 million would be tied neither to a promise of no layoffs at the city, nor made contingent in any way on specific progress towards a renegotiation of the parking agreement between the DDA and the city.  It would also not be tied to the implementation of any part of a “term sheet” that will form the basis of the city-DDA discussions in the coming months.

Key aspects of that “term sheet” are the idea that regular payments will be made to the city, that the DDA will assume some responsibility for parking enforcement, and that the city will be “held harmless” in any revenue loss associated with cessation of its enforcement activities.

But by the end of the discussion, Clark had eked out a victory of sorts: a provision in the draft resolution that ties the $2 million to a public process, from this point forward, for the city-DDA negotiations. They have been going on a few months now out of public view. In that regard, the resolution can be fairly be analyzed as a fresh commitment to the committee structure, with its associated expectations of public process, that the two bodies had already adopted, but not implemented for discussing the parking agreement. [Full Story]

State & William

Line for commencement tickets stretches around the block. [photo] [Editor's note: Also observed by John Weise]

Michigan Union

Smiling Wolverines clutching their commencement tickets. There’s currently no line to pick up your own, and they are not checking for UM IDs.

Washtenaw Natural Areas Tweaked for Ballot

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners working session (April 22, 2010): At their Thursday meeting, commissioners were briefed on proposed changes to the county’s Natural Areas Preservation Program, which would help the county protect more land that’s being used for farming.

Bob Tetens, Susan Lackey

Susan Lackey, executive director of the Legacy Land Conservancy, confers with Bob Tetens, director of Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation, before the start of Thursday's working session of the county board of commissioners. (Photo by the writer.)

The proposal comes as the board prepares to place a renewal of the 10-year NAPP millage on the November ballot. The current millage, which raises about $3 million annually to preserve natural areas in the county, expires at the end of 2010.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, commissioners heard a report on internal controls used within the county government, both in finance and other areas. This has been topic that commissioner Wes Prater has pushed the board to address for several months.

Highlights from a draft report were presented by staff of the county’s new energy and economic development department. The report includes data on job losses, education, housing, transit and other factors, and presents four strategies for improving the county’s economy. Tony VanDerworp, who leads the department, explained that the report is required by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration so that the county can apply for grants from the EDA.

Finally, Verna McDaniel, incoming county administrator, said she plans to hold a meet-and-greet for candidates of the deputy administrator job on May 5 before that evening’s board meeting, to get commissioners’ feedback on a potential hire. [Full Story]

1st & Madison

Shells, oranges, lemons, and limes create artistic (if slightly molding) landscaping, including this colorful sign pointing the way to Washtenaw Dairy [photo].