Archive for June, 2010

A2: Parking Fines

WDIV-4, Detroit’s NBC affiliate, reports on the fact that parking fines are going up in Ann Arbor, starting July 1. Catheryn Snyder, who runs Perpetua-Boutique Organique on South Fourth Avenue, tells the WDIV reporter that the increase might hurt business: “Well, I think it’s ridiculous. I mean, we want businesses to survive in downtown Ann Arbor and with all the parking and just everything, rent and all sorts of things, it makes it hard.” [Source]

Ann Arbor Dems Primary: Ward 4 Council

On Tuesday evening, the Ward 4 Democratic Party hosted a forum at Dicken Elementary School so that residents could pose questions to primary candidates for one of the ward’s two city council seats. Margie Teall, the incumbent who has held the seat since 2002, and Jack Eaton, who has been active in politics on the neighborhood level, answered questions for a bit more than an hour.


Jack Eaton and Margie Teall, candidates for the Ward 4 city council seat, engage in the subtleties of negotiation over who would deliver their opening remarks first. (Photos by the writer.)

City council representatives are elected for two-year terms and each of the city’s five wards has two seats on the council, one of which is elected each year. Also in attendance at Tuesday’s forum was Marcia Higgins, the Ward 4 council representative who won re-election in November 2009, defeating independent challenger Hatim Elhady.

Besides Higgins, other elected officials and candidates for office who were introduced at the forum included: LuAnne Bullington (candidate for the 11th District county board of commissioners seat), Ned Staebler (candidate for the 53rd District state Representative seat), Leah Gunn (county commissioner representing the 9th District of the county and seeking re-election), Patricia Lesko (candidate for Ann Arbor mayor). All the candidates are Democrats.

Eaton’s main theme was a need to focus more on infrastructure – those things we need, not the things that might be nice to have. Eaton was keen to establish that his candidacy was not meant as a personal attack on Teall, saying that he expected his supporters to focus on the issues and to conduct themselves in a civil way. His opening remarks were heavy on thanks and appreciation for Teall’s long service on council, particularly with regard to the creation of Dicken Woods, which is now a city-owned nature area.

In the course of the forum, a pointed question to Teall on her biggest regret while serving on the council elicited an acknowledgment from her that she regretted her contribution to the problem last year with city councilmembers emailing each other during council meetings. Eaton was quick to give Teall credit for publicly apologizing in a timely way for her role in the scandal.

For her part, Teall focused on setting forth accomplishments while serving on the council. Those ranged from the longer-term budgeting strategies that she said had helped ensure that Ann Arbor was weathering the economic crisis better than other Michigan cities, to the budget amendment she introduced and the council passed in May, which proposed using $2 million from the Downtown Development Authority, plus more optimistic estimates for state revenue sharing, to eliminate the need to lay off some police and firefighters.

The candidates exchanged different views on basic infrastructure issues like the Stadium Boulevard bridges and stormwater management, to single-stream recycling and leaf collection, to Georgetown Mall, and the transparency of government. [Full Story]

Liberty & Fourth

A young woman is leaning against the exterior wall of Running Fit in a model-esque way, while another young woman stands on a chair next to her taking photographs.

Liberty & Thompson

Signs going up on the building for @burger, the Big Boy-owned store opening soon at McKinley Towne Centre on Liberty. Tables set up in front of store to take job applications.

UM: Texting Ban

The Detroit Free Press reports on the state’s ban on texting while driving, which takes effect July 1. The article quotes Jim Sayer, associate research scientist at the UM Transportation Research Institute: “Our families, our employers … have an expectation that if you have a cell phone then you are reachable at any point in time. To address the whole overarching issue of texting … while they’re driving, that culture needs to change.” [Source]

Zingerman’s Project Seeks Brownfield Status

The major renovation and expansion in the works for Zingerman’s Deli cleared its most recent major hurdle in May, gaining site plan approval from the Ann Arbor planning commission. While the site plan now moves on to city council, the business is taking action on another front as well: Applying for support from the local and state brownfield program.

Grace Singleton

Grace Singleton, a managing partner with Zingerman's Deli, talks about plans to apply to the local and state brownfield program as part of the deli's renovation plans. The business hosted a public meeting about the plans on June 21. (Photos by the writer.)

On June 21, Zingerman’s hosted a public meeting to answer questions about their plans for the brownfield application. Matt Naud, the city’s environmental coordinator, was on hand as well, and distinguished between this project and those that are typically associated with the term “brownfield.” In the case of Zingerman’s Deli, “it’s economic development,” he said, “It’s not about environmental cleanup.”

Specifically, brownfield status would allow Zingerman’s to be eligible for tax increment financing (TIF), a mechanism that would let the business recoup certain qualified expenses related to the project – possibly as much as $817,000 over 15 years.

It’s a different approach than the brownfield application most recently approved by city council for the Near North affordable housing project on North Main. In that case, the site’s need for environmental cleanup qualifies it for a brownfield status. Zingerman’s application also differs from Near North’s in that Near North isn’t seeking reimbursement through TIF. Both projects plan to apply for Michigan Business Tax credits. [Full Story]

A2: Food

Grange Kitchen & Bar in Ann Arbor and Tantré Farm of Chelsea are featured in GQ’s Forked & Corked column about eating ethically. Grange’s brioche-crusted walleye is #1 on a list of top 10 ethical dishes nationwide. Paul Ryda’s frozen custard from Tantré is #6. Of the trout fish, the columnist writes: “This filet of walleye showed me why the Great Lakes deserve to be called great. The flesh was sole-like, and the crust offered a light, sweet accent.” Of the custard: “The essence of freshness and simplicity.” [Source]

A2: Governor’s Race

The Detroit News reports on a meeting that its editorial board held with Rick Snyder, the Ann Arbor venture capitalist who’s seeking the GOP nomination for governor. Talking about who he’d use to operate the government, Snyder said: “I’d find the best people already there and leverage their experience, put them on a different path. Political party is not a key driver; it’s the merit system.” [Source]

A2: Mayoral Race

EDGEBoston picks up the news that the Michigan Democratic Party’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Allies Caucus and a group called Lesbians Opposing Lesko have endorsed incumbent mayor John Hieftje for the Aug. 3 Democratic primary over his challenger, Patricia Lesko. “Identity politics may be a formidable force in American politics, but they are not enough for gay groups in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to overlook allegations of deception that have been leveled at an openly lesbian mayoral candidate.” [Source]

Main & Washington

Wednesday morning auction of furniture, signs and other items – including what looks like an antique barbershop chair – at Full Moon draws a crowd, both buyers and gawkers.

A2: Movie

The AceShowBiz blog posts three behind-the-scenes videos shot during the current filming of “Scream 4″ in Ann Arbor. “The videos do not feature any star of the movie, but it is said that Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere were involved during the June 28 production. Neve Campbell who reprises her role as Sidney Prescott has also stepped on the set as Access Hollywood’s Nancy O’Dell managed to get her picture in what looks like a make-up room.” [Source]

UM: Tobacco

The New York Times reports that Susan Desmond-Hellmann, chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, is selling her personal stock holdings in Altria, owner of Philip Morris USA, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, after being contacted by the newspaper about the holdings. The article quotes Kenneth E. Warner, dean of UM’s school of public health: “I find it frankly a bit appalling that the chancellor of a major medical center would have held such stock. It strikes me as unthinking, frankly.” [Source]

Mitchell Field

1:30 a.m. Half-naked man walking down Mitchell Field … the socially unacceptable half.

City Hall

Attending a meeting at city hall, Brett Lenart displays his travel coffee mug that was autographed today by celebrity chef Mario Batali at Zingerman’s Deli. [photo] Batali and his family were spotted earlier today at the deli by a Stopped.Watched observer.

Fourth & Liberty

View from the post office loading dock includes vertical steel elements that have been installed around Federal Building lot. Word on the dock is that there’ll be a fence with a card-entry gate implemented at the Fifth Ave. entrance.  [photo]

AAPS Recalls Teachers, Lays Off Bus Drivers

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (June 23, 2010): After an hour-long recess trying to wait out a tornado warning, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education conducted the last hour and 15 minutes of its Wednesday meeting in the basement of the downtown library. During its basement session, the board postponed three information items due to the storm, and moved directly to the action items on its agenda.


Board secretary Amy Osinski, center, and board president Deb Mexicotte, assessing the storm to determine how long to recess their meeting. Board secretary Glenn Nelson looks on from the right. (Photos by the writer.)

The board recalled all 191 laid-off teachers via the ratification of a new teacher contract, and authorized the layoffs of the entire AAPS transportation staff by contracting with Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to provide the district’s busing. AAPS bus drivers and other transportation staff can  apply to WISD for jobs.

The board also renewed the district’s food service contract with Chartwells, received an update from state Rep. Pam Byrnes on Michigan’s Race to the Top efforts, and heard a report from The Neutral Zone’s Riot Youth on school climate as experienced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQQ) youth. [Full Story]

Thompson & Madison

Dozens of teens/tweens walking down Thompson, wearing white T-shirts with Speedo logo on the back – swim camp.

A2: Not an Engine?

Lou Glazer, writing on the Michigan Future, Inc. blog, notes the Ann Arbor city council’s recent rejection of Heritage Row. Based in part on that rejection, he argues that Ann Arbor has political barriers that could prevent it from taking advantage of UM as a research center to lead the transition of Michigan’s economy: “… there has to be a large pool of talent that both will attract knowledge-based enterprises and commercialize the ideas coming out of the university. That talent pool won’t concentrate in Ann Arbor as long as its politics are anti-growth, particularly anti-density.” [Source]

Detroit & Kingsley

Sitting on the porch at Zingerman’s, watching Mario Batali and family walk into the deli.

Washtenaw Ave.

Shooting crew for SCREAM 4 completely occupying St. Francis of Assissi parking lot on Washtenaw. Nice kids.

Development Déjà Vu Dominates Council

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (June 21, 2010): Heritage Row is a proposed residential project that would have renovated seven older houses along South Fifth Avenue south of William Street, and constructed three new buildings behind the houses.

Alex de Parry

Developer Alex de Parry addresses the Ann Arbor city council in support of the Heritage Row project at council's June 21 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The number of houses to be renovated – called the “Seven Sisters” by some in the community who support their preservation – matched the number of votes the project received Monday night from the 11-member city council.

While that is a majority, the seven votes in favor of Heritage Row did not meet the eight-vote minimum that was required. The super-majority requirement came as a result of a protest petition that was successfully filed on the same day as the council’s last meeting, June 7. On that occasion, the council first considered this newest iteration of the project, but postponed it until their June 21 meeting.

The project rejected by the council on Monday in its 7-4 vote was a planned unit development (PUD), which would have required the city to amend its zoning. That leaves in play an already-approved earlier project at the same location, called City Place. City Place was authorized by the council last year as a “matter of right” (MOR) project – because it was judged to meet all applicable codes and zoning regulations.

The City Place (MOR) would demolish the seven houses and replace them with two apartment buildings separated by a parking lot. It’s a project that would be almost certainly denied by the city’s historic district commission – if a historic district were established in the area, as a study committee has recently recommended. The council is expected to make its final vote on the historic district at its July 6 meeting.

But the council gave its initial consideration to establishment of that historic district on Monday night. It’s more customary for councilmembers to vote for proposals on their first reading – to advance a proposal to a public hearing – even if they ultimately plan to vote against it. But Monday’s meeting saw three councilmembers already voting against establishing the district.

The council’s meeting also started off with the theme of historic preservation, as the city’s historic district commission presented its annual preservation awards.

In other business, the council gave a short extension to developer Village Green, which has an option-to-purchase agreement with the city for the city-owned parcel at First and Washington streets. The time for the extension is to be used to work with the city planning staff to put together milestones that need to be met. [Full Story]

Main & Liberty

Fliers on light poles for Opheum Bell at Top of the Park on Wednesday, June 30  and Dave Sharp’s Secret Seven at Top of the Park on Friday, July 2. I think the business improvement zone (BIZ), which takes effect soon, might make these fliers a thing of the past for Main Street. [photo]

Liberty & 4th

Woman on bike in downpour giggled at stop light. Light turned, she reached back and screamed, “Nooo! My iPod!”

A2: Food

The Detroit News reports on the business of Kim and Hollis Smith of Ann Arbor, who opened a grocery – Kim’s Produce – in downtown Detroit earlier this year and are struggling to sell their fresh produce in that market. They previously ran a roadside produce stand in the Ann Arbor area. Says Kim Smith: “Last summer we went through 150 pounds of tomatoes a day. Here we sell 10 pounds in two days.” [Source]

Chelsea: Fallen Soldier

On his blog, The Connective Lens, Burrill Strong offers series of photographs taken at the funeral procession through downtown Chelsea for Air Force 1st Lt. Joel Gentz, a graduate of Chelsea High School, who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. [Source]

Library Lot

Underground parking garage construction. Base slab includes massive amounts of rebar [photo] Two concrete pumping booms and a dozen transit-mix trucks converge on “the pit” [photo]. [Editor's note: Also observed by Spencer Thomas: photo]