Archive for May, 2010


6:52 p.m. One light blinking red, Washtenaw at Arborland. Other still out. BP station has no power. Starbucks does, though.

West Huron

Hieftje for Mayor signs blossoming along the stretch between Chapin and Seventh.  Must be a campaign on.

AAPS Budget Nears Final Approval

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 26, 2010): Though no one took the opportunity to speak during the public budget hearing, the board formally considered the proposed 2010-11 school budget and accompanying millage rates, with final approval expected at a meeting in June.

AAPS board member Christine Stead at the May 26 board meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Concerns about state school aid funding emerged throughout the budget discussion, as well as during the rest of the meeting.

In its business for the evening, superintendent Todd Roberts sought input from the board on granting 32 retirement extensions. Four sinking fund projects were approved as part of an extensive consent agenda. A new textbook was suggested for AP biology.

And multiple awards were presented to both AAPS staff and students. [Full Story]

Main Street

5:24 p.m. Worker raising banner across Main Street for “Taste of Ann Arbor, Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.”

Las Vegas & Runnymede

3:40 p.m. Large coyote galloping across the street, headed west, as neighbor kids look on.

The Arb

9:30 a.m. The peonies are in PEAK bloom right now. I saw only one pile of petals from a single over-ripened flower. Most are full bloom or emerging; a few are still in spherical bud ball stage. Mott rises in the background-majestic in the morning sun. [photo] [photo]

UM: Figure Skating

The Houston Chronicle profiles Becky Bereswill, who recently moved from Houston to attend UM and train as a pairs figure skater. She says that Ann Arbor has “that big state school atmosphere. And I’m quickly learning not to talk about that school to the south (Ohio State). You’re not even supposed to mention the name.” [Source]

Liberty & Division

Three cars parked on Division Street just north of Liberty. Kudos to anyone who can explain the significance of that. Or the dessert being enjoyed while shooting the photograph. [photo]

Ann Arbor DDA: Let’s Do Development

Friday morning before the Memorial Day weekend marked the first public meeting of the city council’s so-called “mutually beneficial” committee – first created and appointed back in July 2009.

wiping-off-code-enforcement Ann Arbor DDA

Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, erases "code enforcement" from the list of term sheet items the DDA wants to see discussed further. (Photos by the writer.)

And later in the afternoon, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority met for a retreat to give direction to its own “mutually beneficial” committee.

The two committees are charged with the task of redefining the agreement between the city and the DDA that allows the DDA to manage the city’s parking system.

From the city councilmembers’ perspective, the ball was in the DDA’s court. They were hoping that the DDA’s retreat later in the day would reduce the items on the term sheet that is supposed to underpin the city-DDA conversation.

At their retreat, the DDA board did eliminate an item on the term sheet – code enforcement, other than parking regulations, was not something for which they wanted to assume responsibility. The remaining three term sheet items – parking enforcement, provision of services, and development of city-owned property – stayed on the white board. The clearest consensus among board members seemed to be around the idea that the DDA should focus on development.

But a couple of additional items were added into the mix – issues related to Village Green’s City Apartments project. That project, located at First and Washington, has previously seen its site plan approval option to purchase extended through June 30, 2010. City council action would be required in the next month, if it’s to be extended again.

Downtown police beat patrols were also left on the board as an additional item of discussion.

At Friday’s retreat, the board heard the same message from Susan Pollay, the DDA’s executive director, that she’d conveyed at a partnerships committee meeting two weeks earlier – the reason for the DDA’s existence was to spur private investment in the downtown.

But as a group, there was an uneven embrace of that message. Some board members preferred to identify “development” as meaning something broader than building new infrastructure, suggesting that a more general “economic development” approach might also be appropriate for the DDA.

And one other idea was thrown up on the white board, but did not stick: altering the DDA district boundaries. [Full Story]

A2: Business

Investment News publishes a profile on Retirement Income Solutions, an Ann Arbor investment firm run by partners R. Griffith McDonald and K. Larry Hastie. The fee-based firm, which landed on the Investment News Fast Movers list, has about 685 clients and adds about $50 million a year in assets, according to the report. [Source]

Ashley & Liberty

Parking meter sticky note: “I put money in the meter but got  ‘Fail’ message.” [photo]

A2: Music

Time Out Chicago profiles Dan Sicko and the updated version of his book “Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk,” a history of the genre: “In the new edition, Jeff Mills, who had previously declined interviews, opens up about his role as radio jockey the Wizard and founding member of Underground Resistance. There’s also more detail on Movement (founded in 2000) and the Ann Arbor scene, including quotes from Ghostly founder Sam Valenti IV.” [Source]

Book Fare: “Builder’s Apprentice”

Book cover for "Builder's Apprentice," published by Huron River Press.

It is both a luxury and a curse of modern life to be doing “all the right things” while fearing you’ve missed something vital along that road not taken. Andy Hoffman, a University of Michigan professor and author of “Builder’s Apprentice,” confronted that suspicion in the mid-1980s while mulling grad school offers from Harvard and Berkeley.

As he prepared to graduate with a bachelor’s degree (“grades thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen”) in chemical engineering, Hoffman writes, he “fumbled” through interviews with prospective employers: “I had assumed that recruiters would tell me what I was supposed to do for them. … I would be guided on to the next step in life.” He took a job with the Environmental Protection Agency, “generating paperwork” for two years, and assumed that the next step – and the cure for his aimlessness – would be graduate school in public policy.

But what he really wanted to do was build houses. [Full Story]

Washtenaw: Food

The Visions of Ypsi blog rates the top five places to get a Reuben sandwich in Washtenaw County. Top honors go to the Village Kitchen, at 241 N. Maple in Ann Arbor: “The bread is grilled to a delicious buttery crispness. The corned beef is thinly slices & heaping. The Swiss cheese & kraut are great. I was kind of shocked that this place topped the list, but it’s a really fantastic sandwich.” [Source]

UM Regents: Housing Rates Up, Tuition Next

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (May 20, 2010): This month, regents met at the UM-Dearborn campus – this is their second month away from Ann Arbor, after holding their April meeting in Grand Rapids. They’ll be back at their regular location in the Fleming administration building next month, when they’ll be voting on the budget for 2010-11, including tuition rates.

Big Ten championship ring on the hand of a UM gynmast

Championship ring on the hand of a UM men's gymnast at the May 20, 2010 board of regents meeting in Dearborn. (Photos by the writer.)

During the May 20 meeting, regents approved a 3% average rate increase for room and board during the 2010-11 academic year in campus residence halls. A double room will increase from $8,924 to $9,192 – an increase of $268. The most expensive room – a single with a private bath – will cost $12,166, up $354. Rates for the Northwood apartment complex on UM’s north campus were also raised an average of 1%.

Three construction projects – including a $17.7 million expansion to the University Hospital emergency department and a new $2.5 million indoor golf practice facility – were approved, with no discussion.

A large part of the meeting consisted of presentations, including an update on how the university’s health system might be affected by recent national health care reform, and a report on the non-traditional education programs task force, which generated some comments from regents.

Several sporting achievements were highlighted at the start of the meeting, as has been the case in other recent months. Most prominently, the men’s gymnastics team attended and were congratulated for their recent NCAA championship win. The celebration included a cake, and regents were given caps – which some wore during the meeting – commemorating the achievement.

Sports-related news not mentioned during the May 20 meeting was the university’s response to allegations that its football program violated NCAA rules – the university announced that response a few days later. [Full Story]

Liberty & Thompson

Stream of people walking toward Main Street wearing blue “Pharmacy Alumni” T-shirts.


Young biker couldn’t stop. Crossed Lutz. Rolled a block downhill. Crossed Elder. Finally stopped on incline.

A2: Detroit Lawsuit

The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center has filed suit against Detroit’s Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) system for rejecting an ad aimed at Muslims who want to leave Islam, according to the Detroit News. The article quotes Robert Muise, senior trial counsel with the Thomas More Law Center: “In Detroit, government officials grant atheists the right to express a view that God does not exist, not worrying about offending Christians. Yet, these same politically correct officials censor speech that might offend Muslims. Such blatant discrimination is offensive, and it violates our Constitution.” [Source]

Main & Ann

Mandatory furlough day today + Memorial Day holiday on Monday = many county offices closed for a long break.

Environmental Indicators: Trees

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of Chronicle pieces on the environmental indicators used by the city of Ann Arbor in its State of Our Environment Report. The 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 report is organized around 10 Environmental Goals developed by the Environmental Commission and adopted by city council in 2007.

Ann Arbor Tree Town

This is one of Ann Arbor's more significant trees. Some readers will undoubtedly recognize it and will know its location, type, and age – which they're invited to leave in the comment section.

This month’s report is also an invitation to all readers to participate in the development of Ann Arbor’s first comprehensive Urban Forest Management Plan. A public workshop to help kick off the planning effort is being held on June 1, 2010 from 7-9 p.m. at Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Road.

This spring has been exceptional with both beautiful weather and ample rain. The trees seemed to have noticed, with their early bud break in April and full canopies by mid-May. While we worried for those tender emerging leaves when the temperature dipped below freezing, the trees handled the dips in temperatures just fine and are now flourishing.

That’s good news because the city receives exceptional benefits from our trees. A recent analysis of the publicly managed trees (i.e., trees along streets and mowed areas of parks) estimated that they provide $4.6 million in benefits each year. When you factor in the cost for management, the city receives $2.68 in benefits for every $1 it spends on the municipal forestry program. We think that’s a pretty good rate of return.

What are these benefits and how were they calculated? [Full Story]

A2: Music

Writing on, Euan Wallace reviews the album “Gargoyles and Weather Vanes” by the Ann Arbor duo The White Ravens, calling it “heavy on twee, occasionally silly, bright pop music marked by twitchy eccentricity. … Though they’re clearly capable of moments of pop mastery, evident from the first few songs on this album, many of the tunes melt into obscurity and sail past fairly pleasantly but indifferently all the same. There’s potential for greatness here without doubt and there’s a lot of variety spread across the album, but the trouble is that the variety is too sporadic and often unrewarding.” [Source]

Column: Remembering George Carlin

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Comedian George Carlin died nearly two years ago, at the age of 71. Almost every elegy for him said, “He is remembered mainly for his skit on the ‘Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Radio.’” But I remember Carlin for a better bit.

I’m not going to discuss his “Seven Dirty Words” routine – it seems a shame to have your life’s work reduced to seven profanities. Carlin was better than that.

I believe Carlin was not only one of our funniest comics – which is, after all, the point of his profession – but also one of the most thoughtful, even insightful. I still use his comparison of baseball and football – and what they say about our society – when I teach my class on the history of college athletics.

Carlin not only breaks down two of our most popular sports, he deftly demonstrates how they define fans as liberal or conservative, dove or hawk, Prius or Hummer.

But I’ll let the man speak for himself. [Full Story]

Main Street

Fully subscribed on-street bike racks and hoops mid-block between Washington and Huron. [photo]