Archive for August, 2010

Recounting the Rabhi-Fried Recount

Last Thursday, a hand recount of ballots was conducted in the District 11 Democratic primary election for Washtenaw County commissioner. Initial results from the Aug 3. election had yielded Yousef Rabhi as the winner in a field of four candidates – by one vote. The candidate with 997 votes counted on election day, compared to Rabhi’s 998, was Mike Fried, who asked that the ballots be recounted.

Alice Ralph Jan BenDor Conan Smith Mike Fried

Before the Aug. 26 recounting got started, Conan Smith (left), a current county commissioner acting as one of Youself Rabhi's official "watchers," chats with Mike Fried (right), who'd asked for the recount. Shooting video for the Michigan Election Reform Alliance was Jan BenDor. Seated in the background is Alice Ralph, who came third in the balloting for the District 11 seat.

The process started around 12:30 p.m., and about four hours later in the lower level conference room of the county building at 200 N. Main St., the final ballots had been recounted – the last ones coming from Precinct 2 in Ann Arbor Township. [District 11 covers parts of southeast Ann Arbor and one precinct in Ann Arbor Township.]

Fried summed up the afternoon, conceding to Rabhi – who was still the winner after the recounting, with a relatively comfortable margin of two votes: “Well, congratulations!”

Fried continued with compliments all around for  the board of canvassers and the election inspectors who handled the recounting, saying he was amazed that they had finished in four hours.

The board of canvassers consists of Tony DeMott (R), Melodie Gable (R), Ulla Roth (D), and Carol Kuhnke (D). The news was first reported by The Ann Arbor Chronicle live from the scene: “Rabhi Prevails on Recount.”

The work might have been completed sooner, had it not been for a snafu with the Ann Arbor Township ballot box. Initially, the box for Precinct 1, not Precinct 2, had been delivered for recounting. Getting access to the correct box depended on tracking down someone with a key to the room in the township clerk’s office, where the ballots are stored.

Recounted totals for the four candidates: Yousef Rabhi, 999; Mike Fried, 997; Alice Ralph, 280; LuAnne Bullington, 108.

The afternoon included a range of scenarios that illuminated some of the more arcane aspects of the voting system. Also in attendance was Joe Baublis, who will be on the ballot for the Republicans in November for the District 11 county board seat. He posed a question at the start of the proceedings: How much will this recount cost taxpayers? [Full Story]

EMU: Labor Agreement

WEMU reports that Eastern Michigan University and its faculty union have reached a tentative labor agreement: “University and faculty union officials say the two-year pact includes a one-thousand dollar pay increase plus a one-percent pay increase this year, then a two percent pay increase next year. Faculty members will also pay more for health care coverage under the new contract.” [Source]

A2: Argo Dam

The city of Ann Arbor has announced that the Argo Dam embankment trail and the Mill Race will close Monday through Thursday starting on Tuesday, Sept. 7 for the removal of nearly 100 dead or dying trees on the headrace embankment. Every Friday through Sunday these areas will reopen to the public for canoeing and use of the border-to-border trail until the project is complete. The work is being done as part of a consent agreement between the city and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, related to the repair of Argo Dam. [Source]

A2: Petanque

The Midwest Petanque Alliance blog posts a short review of an Aug. 29 petanque tournament held at the Burns Park court, organized by Howard Ando and Jane Wilkinson of the Ann Arbor Petanque Club: “Good going! We look forward to the next tournament at Ann Arbor’s well-groomed, partially shaded, pistes.” [Source] Separately, Jeffrey Widen posts several photos from the tournament. [Source]

UM: Entrepreneurs

Forbes magazine published an essay by UM president Mary Sue Coleman, who wrote about the need for universities to foster entrepreneurism in their students: “One survey found that as many as 15% of our incoming freshmen had already started businesses. That’s both exciting and intimidating. The challenge for higher education today is to support our students in this vital area of economic development. While that certainly means creating new courses and programs, there also may be times when we simply need to step out of the way.” [Source]

Livingston: Transit

Livingston County’s Daily Press & Argus reports on results of a phone survey that shows Livingston County residents like the idea of public transit, but don’t want to pay for it. Of the 550 surveyed, 36% said they’d be more likely to vote for a transit tax if some of the revenue supported the Washtenaw and Livingston commuter line, known as WALLY. The proposed WALLY line would run between Howell and Ann Arbor. [Source]

Packard at Greenwood

Chalk writing on the road to the student ghetto: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

Know Your Kirk: Public Servant

About six years ago, Kirk Westphal was living in New York City with his wife, Cynthia. So it’s a fair question to ask: “How did you get here?” Sitting in one of the cozy lounge chairs in the the Espresso Royale on Main Street, Wesphal talked about how he gets to places like the café, how he came to his current line of work, and how he made his serendipitous move to Ann Arbor.

Kirk Westphal seems to recognize the guy on his video-editing screen. (Chronicle file photo, June 2010.)

“[My wife and I] were on a run in Central Park one night and we thought, we love New York but we’d be open to going someplace else,” Westphal recalls. When asked by his wife where he would want to move, Westphal’s automatic response was one that surprised her: Ann Arbor. “Her jaw went to the floor, ‘cause she didn’t think I knew anything about Michigan,” Westphal says, “which I didn’t.” The next day, Westphal’s wife searched online for jobs at the University of Michigan, and found an open faculty position at the School of Music. “One thing lead to another and she got that job,” Westphal says. “It was a message.”

Though Westphal may be a recent “import from New York,” he has already accumulated a range of community service experience in his six years here in Ann Arbor. Westphal serves as vice chair of the city’s planning commission, having been a member for four years, and also holds a spot on the environmental commission. He’s also serving on the design guidelines task force that is working on the final piece of the recent rezoning of downtown, known as A2D2. [Full Story]

UM: Move-In

The New York Times takes a look at how some universities – including UM – are offering students the option of moving into dorms early, for a price ($75 a day at Michigan). The article notes that UM recently eliminated a requirement that asked students to provide a reason for moving in early. Says Peter Logan, director of communications for housing at UM: “We used to ask for reasons why students wanted to arrive early, and that gets to be pretty subjective and judgmental.” About 2% of undergraduates are moving in early this year. [Source]

EMU: Labor Talks

The Detroit Free Press reports on the ongoing labor negotiations between the administration and faculty of Eastern Michigan University. Howard Bunsis, spokesperson of the American Association of University Professors in Ypsilanti, says the two sides have not reached any agreement. This Tuesday, the EMU contract ends, and the first day of classes are September 8. Bunsis says, “Right now, we’re just exchanging proposals. I’m not really hopeful at this time, but we’re still working hard to reach an agreement.” [Source]

Liberty & Division

Another sign that students are back in town: Table set up in front of TCF Bank, signing students up for new accounts. Plus balloons!

S. Main & Eisenhower

UM Spine Clinic sign by door admonishes against parking bicycles in area, but provides schematic indicating location for bicycle parking. That location is marked with matching signage visible from door.

WCC: Smoking

The Washtenaw Voice reports accusations that two union groups who held their training at Washtenaw Community College this summer – Ironworkers International and the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) – were given preferential treatment and allowed to drink and smoke on campus. Smoking is banned, and alcohol is allowed only with certain restrictions. The article quotes WCC president Larry Whitworth: “This is part of their one week away from home and away from their job. So were we a little more lax than we would normally be, yes.” [Source]

Detroit: Transportation

Aired Aug. 29, 2010 on Detroit Public TV and now available online is an American Black Journal interview with Richard Murphy, former planner with the city of Ypsilanti, who now works with the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. Familiar to the online community as “Murph,” he says: “Looking at where people are living, where they’re working, it’s much more cross-border and much more cross-community than people typically think about when they talk about where they’re from …” Timestamp [14:30][Source]

UM: Health System

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that the UM Health System has approached Traverse City-based Munson Healthcare, which has been in talks with Spectrum Health about a possible merger. The report states that UM pitched an affiliation plan – less than a merger or assuming a controlling interest in Munson’s operations. Munson CEO Ed Ness said the organization already has ties with UM in several areas, including pediatric services, cancer treatment, visiting specialists and clinical trials: “Wherever the Spectrum discussion goes, I’m interested in exploring how we can expand our relationship with the University of Michigan.” [Source]

Column: This Empty Nester Loves Skype

Sometime between counting the days before she left for her freshman year of college and predicting she’d not return til Thanksgiving, my daughter apparently decided she just might miss me a little bit. Or maybe she feared my reaction to the empty nest after 28 years of full-time motherhood.

Jo Mathis using Skype, a video chat application.

Jo Mathis using Skype, a video chat application.

In any case, Tori installed a webcam and Skype on my computer so that we can have regular video chats.

This wouldn’t have occurred to me. Though Skype has been around for seven years, my experience with it was mostly spotty audio conference calls that were more irritating than anything.

“Trust me,” Tori said as she clipped the webcam to my monitor. “You’ll love this.” [Full Story]

A2: LED Lighting

The Detroit Free Press reports on the growing industry of LED light manufacturing in Michigan. Along with the manufacturing of the lights, many cities around the country are switching to LED streetlights, something Ann Arbor began three years ago. The city seeks to convert streetlights completely by June of next year. The article quotes Andrew Brix, energy programs manager for Ann Arbor, who says that the city saves $100 every year for each of the LED streetlights: “The feedback we have gotten from residents is just overwhelmingly positive.” [Source]

UM: Economy

The New York Times reports on a research paper by the economists Carmen and Vincent Reinhart, which forecasts slow growth and high unemployment in the U.S. economy for at least a decade. The article quotes Susan Collins, an economist and the dean of UM’s Ford School of Public Policy, who says the Reinharts’ research “has not yet tried to assess the extent to which different policy stances mitigated the length of the outcome. But the reality is that we need to have an understanding that the issues we are dealing with are severe, and that we should not expect them to be unwound in a few months.” [Source]

Elbel Field

University of Michigan marching band is practicing. First sign of fall!

Jefferson & Fifth Street

Bicycle recognizable as belonging to Ward 5 city council candidate Newcombe Clark locked to pole, map of Ward 5, Precinct 2 clipped to rear carrier. Waiting yields report of precinct perimeter run of a bit less than three miles in 22 minutes for 7-minutes-and-change mile pace. [photo]

Third & Washington

Little girl wearing pink wings is “flying” from boulder to boulder, next to the Y.

UM: Pharmacy Training

An entry on the On Rotation blog – written by fourth-year students in the UM College of Pharmacy experiential training program – reflects on the first few weeks of rotation at Providence Park Hospital in Novi: “My preceptor wanted me to work up at least 3 patients, understand their disease states, know what drugs they were on, whether the drugs were dosed appropriately, and what patients should be monitored for. Even though I had plenty of time to work up patients before rounds, I still felt lost.” [Source]

Column: Book Fare

My book group reconstituted itself a few months ago after a hiatus prompted by serious illness, family problems, the acute burdens of employment and unemployment and a number of other upheavals among us. When we reunited it was with some new members, and our first meeting was largely spent getting to know one another and catching up. Essential to that, of course, was what each of us had been reading lately.

Stack of books

These books are not being considered as picks for the author's book club. But no doubt they've been read by someone, somewhere.

“Olive Kitteridge,” Anne mentioned. “It was just wonderful.” Eilisha’s eyes lit up: “Oh, yes!” Linda had adored it, too. And they were off – celebrating a shared delight at Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of connected short stories and at the gratifications of shared delight, newly discovered.

One of the purposes of this column, which is approaching its first anniversary, is to re-create some of that pleasure – with the emphasis on sharing. NPR has a feature called “You Must Read This,” which these days has sounded a bit too pushy to my neurotic ear: No, I mustn’t. And get off my case. Lately I’ve tended to get a little uptight even when the most dear and trusted friend insists on lending me a book she’s just finished because she just knows I’ll just love it. Chances are I will. But I’m already in the middle of two other books and that’s yet another one joining the mountain of reading I don’t have time to get to and you wouldn’t believe all the crap I have to do today let alone this week and this month and for how many years can I keep this unread book before you start to hate me?

So, no pressure! But I’d like to share some of the reading that kept The Chronicle’s Book Fare columnist sane and fundamentally optimistic during a tough stretch. [Full Story]

Georgetown Mall

Bits of sidewalk being replaced in front of Georgetown Mall. Also, bus landing spot has been widened a bit.

UM: Saginaw Forest

A post on the Saginaw Forest Caretakers’ Blog describes drilling underway to gather water samples to test for 1,4 dioxane: “At every 10′ of drilling, a water sample is taken (when the new section isn’t in silt) for later testing. If a water sample comes back with new evidence of 1,4 dioxane in it (i.e., the existing wells aren’t monitoring at the depth where it was found), another well might be sunk to monitor that depth. However, it isn’t expected that new contamination will be found.” The post includes photos of drill bits being used. [Source]

School Board Issues RFP for Search Firm

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Aug. 23, 2010): At a special meeting held Monday, the school board approved a request for proposals (RFP) from professional services firms to assist them as they search for a new superintendent. The RFP was released to search firms and posted on the AAPS website [.pdf of RFP]. The district’s current superintendent, Todd Roberts, has resigned, and will be leaving the district by mid-November to move closer to family and to become chancellor of the North Carolina School for Science and Math.

Christine Stead and Deb Mexicotte

Christine Stead and Deb Mexicotte discuss a draft of the RFP from search firms to help with the hiring of a new superintendent. (Photos by the writer.)

Board treasurer Christine Stead had offered to draft an RFP for board review at the last regular board meeting. Monday’s meeting was an opportunity for the rest of the board to review her work, and suggest changes. Most of the recommended changes were accepted without objection, but others led to some reflective discussion that revealed priorities for the board.

One of the changes made to the RFP was to add a pre-bid meeting for the purpose of answering clarifying questions about the RFP. The pre-bid meeting will be held on Friday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m., at the Balas Administration Building, 2555 S. State Street. Any interested bidders are invited to participate in person or via teleconference. The deadline for submitting responses to the RFP is Friday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.

The only other official business conducted at Monday’s meeting was the passing of a motion to entertain Roberts’ suggestions for interim staff, which he will bring to the next board meeting. [Full Story]