Archive for September, 2010

In The Archives: Accidental Photographer

The sitting woman smoothed a tiny wrinkle in her lap. She glanced up at the large skylight partially screened with gauzy curtains. It was a May day in 1872. Large fluffy clouds sailed silently behind the glass. The photographer was taking a while adjusting something on the camera. Finally it was ready. “Look at me, please,” said the photographer. Click.

A portrait of Mary from circa 1880, photographer unknown.

“That was very good, thank you,” said Mary Parsons, Ypsilanti’s only 19th-century female studio photographer.

Born in Vermont in January of 1838, Mary Elizabeth married John Harrison Parsons when she was 21 and he 25. The couple followed other western-bound migrants, and during the Civil War both taught in Ohio. By war’s end the couple had two sons, Dayton W. and Frank John.

The conflict had decimated the student-aged population of young men. In 1865, John and Mary came north to Ypsilanti. John bought the equipment of retiring photographer J. A. Crane and created his own studio. It occupied part of the top floor of Ypsilanti’s post office building, then on the west side of North Huron next to Pearl Street. It was a good location near the bustling downtown on Michigan Avenue. Mary helped run the business and kept house in the family’s apartment, next to the studio. [Full Story]

UM: MSA President

The editorial board of the Purdue Exponent – Purdue University’s student newspaper – wrote an editorial in support of Michigan Student Assembly president Chris Armstrong, who’s been the target of a blog that’s been characterized as cyber-bullying. The editorial follows a resolution of support for Armstrong passed on Sept. 22 by the Purdue Student Government (PSG). From the editorial: “PSG’s resolution sends a clear message that the Purdue community will not sit idly by when our colleagues elsewhere in the Big Ten come under attack.” [Source]

A2: Sustainability

Some Ann Arbor city staffers attending Urban Sustainability Directors Network conference in Boston. Tweets available under hashtag #USDN. [Source]

Park Commission: Budgets, Ballots, Ballparks

Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission meeting (Sept. 21, 2010): Held this month in the studios of Community Television Network, the park advisory commission received updates on Tuesday about finances for the parks system as well as RFPs (requests for proposals) that are in various stages for Argo Dam, Huron Hills Golf Course and the Ann Arbor Senior Center.

Sam Offen

Sam Offen of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission hands off his ballot to Christopher Taylor, the Ward 3 councilmember who's an ex-officio representative on PAC. Per its bylaws, the commission elected officers by secret ballot, though only one person was nominated for each position. (They seemed to appreciate the irony.) Offen was re-elected chair of PAC's budget committee. (Photos by the writer.)

A financial report for the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, included news that Ann Arbor’s two golf courses performed better than expected – though one commissioner calculated that the city still paid a $10 subsidy for each round of golf played during the year.

Later in the meeting, Colin Smith – the city’s park and recreation manager – reported that an RFP for the Huron Hills Golf Course has been issued, with a pre-bid meeting to be held on Monday, Sept. 27. Several members of the public turned up at last month’s PAC meeting to argue against the RFP, which is soliciting ideas for a possible private/public partnership at the course. No one spoke during public commentary on Tuesday.

Another RFP – this one for reconstruction of the Argo Dam headrace – has yielded two responses that are being reviewed. A recommendation will likely be brought to PAC next month, Smith reported. If approved, it would change the shape of the embankment.

And an RFP for the Ann Arbor Senior Center has nearly reached the end of the selection process. On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously voted to recommend hiring Hooker/De Jong, a Muskegon consulting firm, to develop a strategic plan for the center, at a cost of $34,570. It now goes to the city council for approval.

A council directive issued last year – asking PAC to prioritize 30 recommendations made in the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP) – was raised during Tuesday’s meeting by Julie Grand, the commission’s chair. She noted that the year-end deadline for completing this task was fast approaching, and they needed to carve out some time to address it. Commissioner Tim Berla said he’d like to see the council form a river stewardship committee – that’s one of the HRIMP recommendations.

The commission also heard a report from David Barrett, a PAC member who’s been assessing the conditions of the city’s ball fields. “With a few exceptions, most are in need of help,” he told his PAC colleagues. [Full Story]

Ingalls Mall

Lots of college high spirits in the Ingalls Mall with ESPN2 videotaping lots of students voting, singing and cheering.

First Absentee Ballots Sent

Based on the file emailed out by the Ann Arbor city clerk in the first daily absent voter report of the fall season, the first wave of absentee ballots – which were sent to voters with today’s U.S. mail – included 2,023 ballots. Absentee ballots are sent out only to those who request them. They can be requested using the absentee ballot application form, which can be hand delivered or mailed to the City Clerk at 100 N. Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. It can also be emailed to

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2, 2010 election is Oct. 4. Registration can also be accomplished at the city clerk’s office.

Fifth & Washington

Overheard at constuction size: “Nice adze, baby!” But I don’t think that’s technically an adze – aren’t they for wood?. [photo]

State & N. University

Early this morning an AATA-labeled Ford SUV jumped the curb and hit the Michigan Book & Supply store at State and North University. Miraculously the truck appears to have gone between the metal store entrance column and the light pole, and took out three glass windows (including a curved one at the front door). The Ford was hauled away around 7:45 a.m.

Ingalls Mall

ESPN Sports Nation sets up on Ingalls Mall for broadcast today. Graduate School provides quaint backdrop. [photo]

Gravel Pit Name Misspelled

In a report on the Sept. 20, 2010 Ann Arbor District Library board meeting, the name of Killins Gravel was misspelled. To review: Killins = gravel, Killian’s = beer, Kilwin’s = chocolate. We note the error here, and have corrected the original article.

Action on Medical Marijuana Postponed

At its Sept. 21, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission voted unanimously to postpone action on a proposed zoning ordinance that would regulate dispensaries and “home occupations” for medical marijuana. Fifteen people spoke during a public hearing on the issue, which ended at midnight – all of them, to varying degrees, urged commissioners not to restrict safe access to medical marijuana. The commission followed the planning staff’s recommendation to postpone, allowing time to incorporate feedback heard during the meeting’s public hearing. The commission is expected to take up the issue again at its Oct. 5 meeting.

This brief was filed from city council chambers during the planning commission meeting. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link]

Fuller Road Station Gets Initial OK

After three hours of staff presentations, a public hearing and commissioner deliberations at their Sept. 21, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission voted 7-2 to approve the site plan for Fuller Road Station, a joint city of Ann Arbor/University of Michigan project. Seventeen people spoke during the public hearing, the majority of them against the project. The site plan calls for building a five-level, 977-space parking structure on city-owned property that’s designated as parkland. The site would include a 44-space parking lot and bicycle parking. The city hopes eventually to build a train station at that location as well, but that isn’t part of the current site plan. Dissenting votes were cast by Kirk Westphal and Erica Briggs. The plan will next be considered by city council.

This brief was filed from city council chambers during the planning commission meeting. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Site Plan for Lake Trust Credit Union OK’d

At its Sept. 21, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission voted to approve a site plan for Lake Trust Credit Union to construct a new building at the southeast corner of West Liberty and West Stadium Boulevard. The project includes demolishing the existing structure and constructing a new one-story, 3,686-square-foot building. Casting dissenting votes were commissioners Bonnie Bona and Erica Briggs. The site plan will be forwarded to the city council for its approval.

This brief was filed from city council chambers during the planning commission meeting. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link]

Expansion of Arbor Dog Daycare Denied

At their Sept. 21, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission rejected an amended special exception use that would have allowed the expansion of Arbor Dog Daycare, a business located at 2856 S. Main St., near the corner of Eisenhower. The proposal would have increased the firm’s square footage within an existing building from 3,200 square feet to a maximum of 8,800 square feet, extended the hours of operation and allowed a maximum of 125 dogs on site, with no more than 25 dogs outside at any one time. Several commissioners cited concerns over noise generated by dogs using the outdoor dog run. Voting against the proposal were Jean Carlberg, Kirk Westphal, Bonnie Bona and Diane Giannola.

This brief was … [Full Story]

Park Commission Elects Officers

At its Sept. 21, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor park advisory commission elected officers for the coming year. Julie Grand was re-elected chair of PAC, John Lawton was re-elected vice chair, and Sam Offen was re-elected as chair of PAC’s budget committee. All were elected unanimously, and there were no other commissioners nominated for those posts.

This brief was filed from the PAC meeting at the CTN Studios on South Industrial. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link]

Consultant for Senior Center Recommended

At its Sept. 21, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor park advisory commission passed a resolution recommending that Hooker/DeJong be selected as a consultant to develop a strategic plan for the Ann Arbor Senior Center. The total cost is $34,570 – about half to be covered by a $16,949 grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. The consultants, based in Muskegon, were selected from a request for proposals (RFP) process. The city council will need to give final approval to the selection.

This brief was filed from the PAC meeting at the CTN Studios on South Industrial. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link]

Fuller & Glen

A bicyclist had been struck in the intersection, where a fire truck and police motorcycles gathered. Was the crash serious? Fireman: “It was serious enough.”

UM: ArtPrize

The UM School of Art & Design lists its alumni, faculty and current students who are participating in this year’s Grand Rapids ArtPrize, an art competition that runs from Sept. 22 through Oct. 10. Open to any artist, the contest awards more than $400,000 in prizes and draws thousands of people to the city to view the publicly displayed artwork. [Source]

Library Board: Invest in Current Building?

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 20, 2010): A request to replace an aging chiller – the piece of equipment that acts as an air-conditioner for the downtown library – led to a broader discussion among library board members on Monday night about how much they should invest in a building that not long ago they planned to demolish.

Ann Arbor District Library building at Fifth & William

The Ann Arbor District Library building, on the northeast corner of Fifth & William. (Photos by the writer.)

They ultimately approved replacing the chiller for $108,555 – but also agreed to plan a retreat where they’ll discuss the issue of the downtown building in depth. The retreat will be scheduled sometime after the Nov. 2 election, when seven candidates will vie for four seats. In addition to the four incumbents running – Jan Barney Newman, Barbara Murphy, Carola Stearns and Ed Surovell – two other candidates attended Monday’s meeting in the audience: Vivienne Armentrout and Lyn Powrie Davidge. Nancy Kaplan is also running for a board seat.

The board heard a report that employee benefits are over budget, primarily due to increased health insurance costs. The administration has addressed that issue by changing the insurance options for its non-union employees, a move that’s expected to bring the expense back to its budgeted amount by the end of the fiscal year.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board and staff heard a presentation by Stearns, a geologist, who described the effects of glaciers on this region’s topography, in part by looking at the layers of earth exposed during excavation for the underground parking garage being built adjacent to the downtown library building. [Full Story]

How to Avoid Seattle Freeze: Wear a Hat


[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks appear on The Chronicle.]

Devon Persing

Devon Persing: Knitter of hats. Creator of blog templates and other web stuff. Leaving Ann Arbor for Seattle.

Seattle has claimed another one of Ann Arbor’s “young professionals.” Departing Ann Arbor, headed west in late July was Brian Kerr. This time it’s Devon Persing who’s leaving Tree Town for The Emerald City – no kidding, apparently some residents of the two cities actually call them that.

Why? Maybe because precious stones are as plentiful in Seattle as Ann Arbor’s leaves are in the autumn – that is, really plentiful. Or maybe it’s because trees are as plentiful in Ann Arbor as precious stones are in Seattle. To figure out which city nickname came first would require some kind of research into historical information – you know, the kind of thing only a librarian or information scientist might be able to pull off.

And what do you know, Kerr and Persing are both graduates of the University of Michigan’s School of Information. But they are, of course, very different people. Most strikingly different – to me, anyway – is that while Kerr favors a headgear-less look, even in freezing weather, Persing will put on a hat, even when it’s not that cold, just to make a favorable impression. [To those who read every word I write, I'm known to be a huge supporter of hats in cold weather.] [Full Story]

North Quad

Half the fire department parked quietly outside North Quad; training day?

A2: Governor’s Race

The Detroit News reports on GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder’s record campaign spending on political consultants. The Ann Arbor businessman spent $2.1 million hiring consultants, compared to the combined $1.6 million spent by his primary opponents. Snyder explained his spending by saying he sought out good advice from a variety of sources. But a spokesperson for Virg Bernero, the Democratic candidate for governor, says, “For someone who claims to be a different kind of politician, he sure has a lot of establishment political insiders around him.” [Source]

Fourth & William

Two young women in black (vaguely Goth-style) ask the parking structure attendant “where the college is.”  The attendant pauses only a beat before saying, “Central campus is that way.”

Council Supports Religious Freedom

At its Sept. 20, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council unanimously passed a resolution affirming the community’s commitment to religious tolerance and calling on the community to participate in Religious Freedom Day activities. The event takes place on Jan. 16, 2011, and is designated as a time to learn about and develop respect for different religious perspectives. The resolution cites anti-Muslim rhetoric in the public discourse and violence resulting from it as prompting the renewal of the council’s affirmation of religious tolerance.

This brief was filed from city council chambers. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link]

Ann Arbor Forms Panhandling Task Force

At its Sept. 20, 2010 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council unanimously approved the creation of a downtown street outreach task force. The group will work for the next six months to identify cost-effective ways to achieve better enforcement of the city’s ordinance against panhandling, and to provide help to panhandlers who are addicted to drugs. The task force will include members representing the homeless community, the county/city office of community development, Dawn Farm, legal services providers, downtown merchant associations, the Downtown Development Authority, the Ann Arbor police department, the downtown citizens advisory council, and a member of the city council. Serving on the task force for the city council will be Sabra Briere (Ward 1), who sponsored the resolution.

This … [Full Story]

Detroit & Fifth

MAVD Development drilling 600-foot test well for geothermal heat at Market Place Building. [link]