Archive for August, 2010

A2: Governor’s Race

The Detroit Free Press reports that a new EPIC/MRA poll shows Rick Snyder of Ann Arbor, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, with a 51% to 29% lead over Democratic candidate Virg Bernero: “The poll shows a steep climb for Bernero, whose populist pitch pitting the fortunes of Wall Street against the economically stressed middle class must overcome Snyder’s catchy campaign as a political outsider who’d bring his business success to government. Independents favored Snyder 50%-15%, with 35% undecided. Snyder leads by more than a 2-1 margin outside Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and by 12 percentage points in the three metro Detroit counties.” [Source]

UM: Journalism

In the wake of news that the University of Colorado is considering closing its journalism program, the Denver Post looked at other universities that have made similar moves, including UM, which eliminated its journalism program in the mid-1990s: “The university replaced the program with a broader ‘communication studies’ department, which takes a more academic look at media platforms and how to use them. The idea, said Susan Douglas, a professor and the department’s head, is to spend less time teaching students the how-tos of journalism – which can be learned on the job, the school reasons – and more time providing students with versatile critical-thinking skills that can lead them into a wider range of professions.” [Source]

In The Archives: Bonnet-Starching Tips

Editor’s note: Laura Bien writes a bi-weekly history column for The Chronicle. This week she describes her experience reenacting the role of an anonymous turn-of-the-century scrubwoman at Ypsilanti’s Heritage Festival, which took place Aug. 20-22.

My rained-on bonnet flopped over my face like a dish towel. I could see only a sliver of sidewalk. What had been a neatly starched head-shield this morning had been ruined by the Saturday rain.

Ypsilanti Heritage Festival Laura Bien

The author made a rag rug in between visitors to Grandma's Trunk.

My long skirt hem was wet, too, and catching on my ankles as I stomped back to the historical museum on Ypsilanti’s Huron Street where our props had been staged overnight. My sleeves were soaked and I was on the verge of tears.

I looked ridiculous. Why, why, had I been so driven to be a historical reenactor at the Ypsilanti Hertitage Festival? Did I even know what I was doing?

Back in the park, the antique trunk I’d borrowed the week before sat under a historically inaccurate blue tarp, waiting for the drizzle to end. I returned from the museum to our staging spot with a basket containing a thermos of water and some bread and cheese concealed under a pillowcase.

My husband had scooped out a rectangle of sod, stored the sod-plank by a nearby tree, and was preparing his firemaking-with-flint-and-steel-and-char-cloth demo. Grey clouds covered the sky. [Full Story]

Column: Hemingway’s Michigan

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Dear Loyal Readers,

Although I was officially on vacation this week, because I spent a few days retracing Ernest Hemingway’s haunts in northern Michigan, I decided to take a couple hours – more than I intended! – to combine two of my previous columns: one that ran in the Detroit News in 1998, and one that Time commissioned in 1999 but didn’t run, due to JFK Jr.’s tragic plane crash the same week.

I was inspired by meeting again with Ernest H. Mainland, Hemingway’s nephew, whom I first met 12 years ago pursuing these pieces. He has become a good friend. Then, after a round of golf, I coaxed another old friend, Jeff Johnson, into joining me for an impromptu tour of nearby Horton Bay. While telling Jeff about some of the stories Hemingway based there, a man named Robert walked down the road and joined us, then invited us for a drink with his girlfriend at his rental cabin just up the road – which turned out to be Shangri-La, where the Hemingways honeymooned in 1922. [Full Story]

State & William

Congressman John Dingell hanging out at Ashley’s, talking to owners of downtown businesses – including Mark Hodesh of Downtown Home & Garden, Matt and Rene Greff of Arbor Brewing Co., Roger Hewitt of Red Hawk and Ed Davidson of Bivouac. [photo]

Rabhi Prevails on Recount

The result of the recount of paper ballots for the Aug. 3 Democratic primary election for District 11 of the Washtenwaw County board of commissioners has confirmed Yousef Rabhi as the winner. One ballot was deemed to be a vote for Rahbi that had previously been disallowed, increasing his margin of victory to two votes.

Recounted totals for the four candidates: Yousef Rabhi, 999; Mike Fried, 997; Alice Ralph, 280; LuAnne Bullington, 108. District 11 covers parts of southeast Ann Arbor and one precinct in Ann Arbor Township.

For a breakdown of the recounted results by precinct, see this Google Spreadsheet: Rabhi-Fried Recount.

Rabhi, Fried Recount Underway

The hand recounting of ballots for the Washtenaw County board of commissioners District 11 Democratic primary has begun at the lower level conference room of 200 N. Main St.  Election-day results of the race showed Yousef Rabhi prevailing by one vote. Totals for the four candidates: Yousef Rabhi, 998; Mike Fried, 997; Alice Ralph, 281; LuAnne Bullington, 108. District 11 covers parts of southeast Ann Arbor and one precinct in Ann Arbor Township.

This brief was filed live from 200 N. Main. Election recount afficionados can follow the recounting live by monitoring this Google Spreadsheet: Rabhi-Fried Recount.

A2: Selma Cafe

On public radio’s The Environment Report, host Rebecca Williams interviews Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb about their weekly Selma Cafe, which raises money for local food initiatives. Says Gottlieb: “We call it a breakfast salon… because we’re not a restaurant. We’re making food for family and friends, people who are interested in supporting the local food economy, who want to come and have a good time on Friday morning before they go to work!” [Source]

Swift Street

Two big water quality trucks parked on Swift Street; some equipment near the millrace but no one in sight.

A2: Governor’s Race

Several media outlets reported that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder chose state representative Brian Calley as his lieutenant governor running-mate. Calley is a former banker from Ionia County and, since 2006, has served in the state House of Representatives. In an article in the State News – the student publication of Michigan State University, Calley’s alma mater – Snyder spokesman Bill Nowling said the candidate wanted a running-mate that reflected an across-the-aisle commitment to solving the state’s problems (though Calley is also a Republican). “He’s not interested in someone who can serve in just a ceremonial role,” says Nowling. [Source]

Urban County Reallocates Housing Funds

Washtenaw Urban County executive committee meeting (Aug. 24, 2010): At just past 1 p.m., Leah Gunn told the gathered group, “We’re waiting for a quorum because we have important business to conduct – and I’m told the cats have been herded!”

Jennifer Hall

Jennifer L. Hall, far left, describes a request to reallocate federal funding at the Aug. 24 Urban County executive committee meeting. Hall is housing manager for the Office of Community Development, a joint Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County unit. To the right are Teresa Gillotti, Paul Schreiber and Andrea Plevek. (Photos by the writer.)

A few minutes later more voting members of the Urban County‘s executive committee, which Gunn chairs, arrived. The group is a consortium of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and nine townships, responsible for allocating federal funding for low-income housing and other community development projects. The funds are managed by staff of the joint county/city of Ann Arbor Office of Community Development.

On Tuesday, the business they conducted included approval to reallocate federal funds for local housing programs, in an effort to identify how the money will be spent before a Sept. 18 deadline.

The group also got an update on state and federal emergency housing funds for the county, which have been cut by nearly 30%. In response to upcoming changes mandated by state and federal housing agencies, the Urban County executive committee approved several recommendations, including selecting the nonprofit SOS Community Services to coordinate housing crisis management in the county.

Those changes led to a discussion of the homeless situation in Washtenaw County, and the challenges of dealing with a spectrum of housing needs, from people seeking emergency shelter to those ready to buy a home. [Full Story]

UM: Football

The Detroit News reports on a speech that UM athletic director Dave Brandon gave to the Detroit Economic Club. He discussed the implications of Michigan and Ohio State being in the same division, and not being able to face off in the Rose Bowl: “I have to tell you as a guy who was part of the program and who understands the magnitude of that game, to know that from this point forward we will never play Ohio State for a trip to the Rose Bowl again, never play them for the Big Ten championship again, that doesn’t sound good to me. Now there’s people out there that sounds good to, but I’m not one of them.” [Source]

UM: Single-Stream Recycling

The University Record reports that UM will begin single-stream recycling on its Ann Arbor campus as of Aug. 30: “U-M has joined the City of Ann Arbor in changing the recycling system to collect common items in the same bin, as well as accept additional materials. While dumpsters across campus will be relabeled this month to reflect the changes in the recycling program, bins within buildings will have lids replaced, where possible, Grounds and Waste Management officials say. Lid replacement in buildings will occur gradually throughout the 2010-11 academic year.” [Source]

UM: Football

A video on UM’s athletic department website,, has drawn attention for showing what appear to be real handguns, but which are two Airsoft pellet guns that belong to the son of running backs coach Fred Jackson – the video was shot at his home. Dave Ablauf, an athletic department spokesman, said they’ve been fielding media calls about the guns in the video: “We’ve become a hypersensitized society. This fits a bad stereotype with student-athletes, and even some coaches.” [Source]

Elbel Field

UM marching band practicing formations.

A2: Novel

The New York Times publishes a review of ““Percival’s Planet,” a new novel by Michael Byers of Ann Arbor – a work inspired by the true story about the discovery of the planet Pluto: “‘Percival’s Planet’ is a deeply generous attempt to explore the forces that make us restless, that make us want to wander the desert or peer into the sky or pace along our own fence lines, dreaming of finding something that might not be out there.” The photo of the author that runs with this review was taken by Ann Arbor photographer Myra Klarman. [Source]

DDA Parking Enforcement Prospects Dim

The “mutually beneficial” committees of the city and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority met on Monday for the second time this month. The committees are charged with re-negotiating the contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

Fifth Avenue looking north

What's the relationship of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to the city of Ann Arbor? Ann Arbor DDA offices on Fifth Avenue are on the left. The new city hall building is visible behind the backhoe one block to the north. The construction work is part of the DDA's streetscape improvements for Fifth and Division streets.

At the meeting, the committees focused on the question of how the DDA might take on responsibility for enforcement of parking regulations. The DDA would like the ability to manage parking enforcement, so that it can implement an approach to enforcement that complements a demand management pricing strategy and a customer-service approach to downtown. However, the city has identified a number of ways in which it believes the DDA would be constrained in its ability to enforce parking regulations.

At Monday’s meeting, those constraints had accumulated to the point where it became a fair question: Would the DDA still find parking enforcement an attractive proposition, given the constraints? The meeting did not settle the question, with some hope maintained on the DDA side – by Sandi Smith, specifically – that the DDA might play some role in enforcement.

However, if parking enforcement is not something the DDA takes on, it’s not clear what the basis will be for the additional payments the city would like the DDA to make, beyond what is required by the current parking contract. That contract was renewed in 2005. It required a $1 million per year payment by the DDA to the city, with the provision that the city could request $2 million in any given year, and that the total amount did not exceed $10 million from 2005-2015. The city requested $2 million for the first five years, and the DDA agreed unilaterally this past May to make an additional $2 million payment to the city.

When the discussion at Monday’s meeting moved from parking enforcement – which seemed like it had been pushed to the edge, if not completely off the table – to the calculation of a formula for a DDA payment to the city, Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, questioned on three separate occasions: Where is the benefit to the downtown in this?

Also at the meeting, the committees got a preview of an outline sketch regarding how the DDA might play an active role in the development of city-owned downtown surface parking lots.

The committees are scheduled to meet next on Sept. 13. Their twice-monthly meeting schedule was adopted starting in July, when it became apparent that the target date of Oct. 31 for a new contract ratified by the respective bodies would not be achieved with a once-monthly schedule. [Full Story]

Planning Commission Bylaws Tweaked

Ann Arbor Planning Commission meeting (Aug. 17, 2010): A light agenda – including two items that were recommended for postponement – prompted planning commissioner Jean Carlberg to quip, “I told you we should have canceled this meeting!”

Kevin McDonald

Kevin McDonald, senior assistant city attorney, discusses revisions to the planning commission's bylaws at the group's Aug. 17 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

The bulk of the hour-long meeting was spent reviewing and approving revisions to the commission’s bylaws, a task that’s been going on for several months. Questions that arose during the commission’s July 20 meeting prompted the group to ask for clarification from the city attorney’s office. Kevin McDonald, senior assistant city attorney, attended the Aug. 17 meeting and addressed those unresolved issues.

In other business, planning staff recommended postponement of two proposed rezonings at Arbor Hills Nature Area and Kilburn Park. The areas are currently zoned as part of a planned unit development (PUD) and were proposed to be rezoned as public land for park use. Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager, said the items had been inadvertently added to the agenda, but needed additional work.

Rampson also reported that the commission would be hosting a public event featuring Pat Murphy, a nationally recognized speaker in the field of planning, climate change and sustainability, and author of the book “Plan C – Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change.” Murphy will be speaking on Tuesday, Sept. 28 at the Malletts Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, 3090 E. Eisenhower Parkway, from 7-8:30 p.m. The presentation will be taped and available for viewing at a later date on Community Television Network (CTN). [Full Story]

A2: Business

The Detroit Free Press reports on the launch of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, which will be managed by Ann Arbor SPARK. The contest offers over $1 million in cash prizes to entrepreneurs who vow to invest the money in the Michigan economy. The winning business proposal will be given $500,000, though the contest offers additional awards to students and companies from specific industry sectors. “A valid criticism of the entrepreneur ecosystem,” says Michael Finney, CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, “is that we allow too many of our really good ideas to make their major commercial impact someplace other than here.” [Source]

Ashley in front of Downtown Home & Garden

Two smiling grown men, happily skipping south, one dressed as a rabbit, the other as a carrot. When I asked what they were celebrating they claimed it was for a video. One of them was carrying a camera.

UM: Voting Machines

A post on describes how easy it was for researchers – including J. Alex Halderman at UM – to install the video game Pac-Man on a touchscreen voting machine, without breaking the machine’s tamper seals. A video shows the game being played on the machine. According to the post, they were able to install the game because of “a complete oversight on the part of the designers of the machine. The researchers found they could unscrew the case and get access to the underlying hardware without damaging the tamper seals.” [Source]

A2: Business reports on Verdi Erel Ergun’s web-based cash register system, called Own. Ergun – who owns the Burrito Joint in Ann Arbor and is a UM MBA student – developed the system to easily change menus, access sales, and integrate social media sites to customer loyalty programs. Ergun will launch the program in November and hopes it will help local coffee shops beat out chains: “If we can be innovative for coffee houses to start with on the loyalty programs … involving the loyalty cards with Facebook, involving them with Twitter, doing all that from the checkout system, then I think we’ll create a compelling solution that could work for other stores.” [Source]

Director of ECA is Dugger

In a report on a recent meeting of the Ann Arbor public school board, we incorrectly spelled the name of the director of the Early College Alliance at Eastern Michigan University (ECA at EMU).  The ECA is headed by David Dugger. We note the error here and have corrected the spelling throughout the original article.

AAPS Special Meeting Time Changed

An Ann Arbor Public Schools special board meeting previously scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24 has been changed to tonight, Monday, Aug. 23, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place at the Balas administration building main conference room, 2555 S. State St.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a draft of a request for proposals (RFP) for search firms to assist with the hiring of a new superintendent to replace Todd Roberts, who recently announced his resignation. In November, Roberts is moving back to his hometown of Durham, N.C. to become chancellor of the North Carolina School for Science and Math. [Full Story]

A2: Governor’s Race

The Detroit News reports on conservative voters’ uncertainty towards Rick Snyder, the GOP gubernatorial candidate and Ann Arbor businessman. Doug Till, vice president of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party, says of Snyder, “We really don’t know much about him, and that’s our biggest problem.” Snyder’s moderate stance on social issues adds to the uneasiness of conservative voters, according to the report. State Sen. Alan Cropsey suggests that Snyder balance his moderation with a more conservative running mate: “If he really wants to activate the conservative base, he needs…somebody that the conservatives would say this guy, this person is with us.” [Source]