Archive for January, 2011

William & Thompson

New signs attempt to slow the surge of pedestrians walking in the street by construction: “Do not walk in street along fence.” [photo]

Eisenhower & Stone School

Standing room only at Malletts Creek library for public meeting on Georgetown Mall redevelopment. Mixed-use project – apartments and specialty retail. Goal would be to begin in 2011. Cost roughly $30 million.

Planning Commission Approves Capital Plan

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Jan. 4, 2011): A presentation and discussion on the city’s proposed capital improvements plan – known as the CIP – was the main topic at the year’s first planning commission meeting.

Cresson Slotten

At the Jan. 4 planning commission meeting, Cresson Slotten, acting unit manager for the city of Ann Arbor's systems planning unit, explains the process of developing the proposed capital improvements plan (CIP).

Commissioners ultimately approved the CIP, which will now be forwarded to city council. No one attended a public hearing on the topic.

The plan covers the fiscal years 2012-2017, and includes a list of major capital projects, both ones that are funded and those for which funding hasn’t yet been identified. The city code requires that the CIP be developed and updated each year, looking ahead at a six-year period, to help with financial planning. It’s intended to reflect the city’s priorities and needs, and serves as a guide to discern what projects are on the horizon.

Projects high on the list include the recently approved Argo millrace reconstruction and whitewater feature, the reconstruction of East Stadium bridges, Stadium Boulevard construction between Hutchins and Kipke, a shared-use path at the US-23 underpass on Washtenaw Ave., and LED streetlight conversion, among others.

The presentation to commissioners didn’t focus on specific projects, but primarily outlined how the plan was developed. This year, that process included a new public input component: An online survey. Part of the staff presentation included an overview of the 283 responses to that survey, and a discussion about how to broaden citizen participation in future years.

The meeting took place at the Washtenaw County administration building. Like many other city entities, the planning commission is meeting at an alternate venue due to renovations at city hall. It was an iffy start, as the doors were locked tight when staff, commissioners and The Chronicle arrived a few minutes before the meeting’s scheduled time. A quick call by Wendy Rampson, head of the city’s planning staff, resulted in the arrival of a county employee to open the doors, and the meeting began on time. [Full Story]

DDA Embraces Concept of Development Plan

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Jan. 5, 2011): The regular noon meeting of the DDA board on Wednesday afternoon lasted well under an hour. Its single piece of major business was passage of a resolution that expressed support for the concept of a DDA-led parcel-by-parcel development plan for downtown city-owned surface parking lots. The city council will likely be considering a resolution on Jan. 18 that articulates in some detail how the DDA would be authorized to implement the parcel-by-parcel plan.

Joan Lyke

Outgoing management assistant Joan Lyke was honored by the board with a resolution acknowledging her service to the DDA. She gave a few remarks on the subject of what she'd learned working at the DDA.

Following the regular board meeting was a board retreat that lasted until around 3 p.m. The board’s retreat focused on the contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system. It runs through 2015, but is being renegotiated so that the city receives more of the parking system’s revenue than is currently stipulated in the contract. The retreat will be left to a future Chronicle report.

Also left to a future report will be a third meeting held later Wednesday evening, which was tied to the DDA board meeting via the theme of surface parking lot development – though it was not a DDA meeting. It was hosted by First Hospitality Group Inc., a developer that’s proposing a new 9-story, 104-room hotel at the southeast corner of Division and Washington streets. Held at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, the gathering satisfied the city’s citizen participation ordinance for new site plans.

Besides The Chronicle, four others attended all three meetings – DDA board chair Joan Lowenstein, chair of the downtown citizens advisory council Ray Detter, newly elected Ann Arbor library board member Nancy Kaplan, and Ann Arbor city councilmember Sabra Briere.  [Full Story]

A2: Business

Crain’s Detroit Business publishes an analysis of Ann Arbor-based Borders Group, quoting analysts who say that Chapter 11 bankruptcy may be an option for the financially beleaguered bookstore chain. The article also quotes Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje regarding the impact on this city if the business closes:
“If the company were to fold altogether, the biggest blow to the city would be the big hole in the downtown. While it would be disappointing, the downtown market has been hot and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that retail space snapped up.” [Source]

A2: Restaurant

Eve, a popular restaurant in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown operated by chef Eve Aronoff, is closing. A notice of the decision was posted Sunday on the restaurant’s Facebook page: “We are very sad to announce that we are closing eve – We were unable to come to agreeable terms to re-sign our lease but will look to re-open in the right time and place in the future. Thank you everyone for your friendship and support over the 7+ years we have been here!!!” The last day of service will be Jan. 16. [Source]

Eighth Street

On Eighth just north of Tappan Slauson Middle School: Small dumpster filled with Christmas trees. Looks like a neighborhood-arranged collection?

Keech & Main

A pizza delivery car at the People’s Choice medical marijuana clinic at the corner of Keech and Main.

First & Liberty

Alley behind Downtown Home & Garden (NE corner First and Liberty). Crane, about a dozen guys on the ground and on the roof, two dumpsters visible, dump truck. Hauling debris from building west of the alley as the sun sets late on a Sunday afternoon. [photo]

A2: Superintendent Search

The board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools is currently conducting a search for a new superintendent. The board is soliciting from the public possible questions for candidates who are selected for interviews. [Source]

Washtenaw County Board Starts New Year

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Jan. 5, 2011): In a meeting that combined elements of celebration and some sharp debate, the county board marked the new year by electing officers and adopting its annual set of rules, which had been revised from the previous year.

Donald Shelton, Yousef Rahbi

Before Wednesday's board meeting, Donald Shelton, chief judge of the Washtenaw County trial court, talks with Yousef Rabhi, a Democrat who represents Ann Arbor's District 11 on the county board of commissioners. Shelton later donned his judicial robes to officially swear in commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

The boardroom was packed with friends and family, many of them turning out especially for the four newly elected commissioners: Rob Turner (R-District 1), Dan Smith (R-District 2), Alicia Ping (R-District 3) and Yousef Rabhi (D-District 11). A reception for commissioners was held prior to the board meeting and was attended by several other elected officials – including sheriff Jerry Clayton, prosecutor Brian Mackie and water resources commissioner Janis Bobrin – as well as county staff.

Newly elected state senator Rebekah Warren was also on hand to watch as her husband, commissioner Conan Smith (D-District 10), was elected to chair the board, as anticipated. Officers for the board, the ways & means committee and the board’s working session were all elected unanimously, without discussion. There was considerable debate, however, over aspects of the new board rules, though they were ultimately adopted with only one minor amendment. [Full Story]

Plymouth & Green

Driver skids off road, over sidewalk; scores clean take-out of a pedestrian signal pole.  Ann Arbor police officer taking report; no injuries apparent.  Fresh snow is making things slick all over town.

Main Street

A catastrophic cleaner’s truck being towed. Must have been one helluva catastrophe.

William & Fifth

Outside temperature: 19 F. Hatless deputy director of Ann Arbor District Library Eli Neuberger claims he’s left his hat at the office. This is balanced by be-hatted Linda Diane Feldt, spotted later near Liberty & Third.

A2: Food

Metro Times reviews a recent addition to the restaurant scene of downtown Ann Arbor: Frita Batidos, a Cuban-inspired eatery on West Washington that’s the work of chef Eve Aronoff. From the review: “Get the churros. There’s no need to obscure that recommendation in flowery language. Frita Batidos’ take on the well-known fried dough treat is scented with orange and nutmeg, a subtle but surprisingly eye-opening twist. For $4, one receives a huge portion. Not quite as subtle are the sugared plantains, which are a bit cloying and best-suited for only the most avid sweets seeker.” [Source]

Ypsi: Flu Shot

WXYZ Channel 7 Action News – Detroit’s ABC affiliate – reports that Karen Bashista, an employee of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti, was allegedly fired because she did not receive her flu vaccination this year. The hospital system implemented a new rule for all employees to receive their flu and whooping coughvaccinations. While 95% of employees complied, Bashista did not, because of her religious beliefs. She told Channel 7: “I was first told to get a letter from my minister and I’d be okay. Then my manager called me and told me they are not accepting my letter.” According to the hospital, employees have until Monday to receive their vaccinations. [Source]

Column: Michigan Football’s Cautionary Tale

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Editor’s note: A version of this column appeared in the Jan. 6, 2011 Wall Street Journal.

For the past three years I have been granted unfettered access to the Michigan football program, from the film room to the locker room, to write a book about what I’ve seen. Titled “Third and Long: Three Years with Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines,” it will come out this fall.

Before I walked into my first staff meeting, I thought I knew college football, and particularly Michigan football, as well as anyone out there. But after three years of seeing everything up close, I can tell you this unequivocally: I had no idea.

College football is based on a central conflict: It’s a billion-dollar business that can generate enough revenue to fund whole athletic departments and enough passion to fuel endowment drives for entire universities, but it’s all built on the backs of stressed-out coaches and amateur athletes. [Full Story]

A2: Business

Bloomberg reports that stock for Ann Arbor-based Borders Group jumped in after-hours trading on Thursday after reports that the financially strapped bookstore chain is getting help restructuring its debt. From the report: “As part of its plan to restructure financing agreements with vendors, Borders said last week it delayed payments to some publishers. Executives including President Michael Edwards are in New York this week to meet with publishers.” [Source]

In the Archives: A Michigan Football Memory

joy miller football scandal michigan

Ypsilanti Daily Press of Dec. 29, 1909

Editor’s note: The game of football is a big deal at the University of Michigan. Recent media interest in the departure of UM head coach Rich Rodriguez is proof of that. And as local history columnist Laura Bien illustrates this week, it’s been that way for at least a hundred years.

The teenager turned up on a Walla Walla fruit farm, his memory gone.

The cheers of the football crowds had faded away. The jokes and camaraderie of the frat brothers were forgotten. When James Joy Miller’s father traveled across the country in the spring of 1910 to claim his vanished son, his son did not recognize him.

A news story from Washington state, printed in the March 24, 1910 Ypsilanti Press, said “James G. Miller of Detroit, father of James Joy Miller, ex-Michigan football captain and star player of last season, arrived here but failed to be recognized by his son. The meeting was most affecting, and Miller senior was unable to account for the strange situation which has overtaken his son.”

Miller had been a ranch hand on a nearby fruit farm for two months, said the story, migrating there from Montreal after fleeing Michigan. “He has no recollection,” said the paper, “of his former surroundings, declares he has never seen a game of football and says he cannot remember what his father or his sweetheart look like, though his father sat before him.”

Perhaps the scandal had been too big a shock. It had broken in late December of 1909. [Full Story]

Washington & Ashley

Waiting at the traffic signal on my bicycle. Automobile to my left also waiting for light, right turn blinker on. On green, driver looks right, makes eye contact. I nod. He waves, proceeds with right turn. I head straight after he clears. OMG nobody died. Or even cussed.

A2: Summer Fest

Voting is open through March 1 to help choose movies that will be shown during the 2011 Ann Arbor Summer Festival. The online “Pick-a-Flick” survey allows users to vote for up to three films in several categories – there’s also one write-in option. The festival runs from June 17 through July 10. [Source]

Medical Marijuana Plan Amended, Delayed

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Jan. 3, 2011): The council’s meeting was held in the Washtenaw County board of commissioners boardroom to accommodate current renovations to city hall. Before the meeting, advocates for medical marijuana demonstrated with signs and chants on the sidewalk outside the Washtenaw County administration building on North Main.

Protesters outside the Jan. 3, 2011 Ann Arbor city council meeting

Signs held by advocates for medical marijuana before the start of the Jan. 3 Ann Arbor city council meeting. Stephen Postema is the city attorney for Ann Arbor, and also president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys, a section of the Michigan Municipal League. Postema has pushed for a licensing scheme that some medical marijuana advocates say violates the state statute. (Photos by the writer.)

Inside at the meeting, the council ultimately delayed their vote on an initial approval of a licensing scheme for medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation facilities and home occupations. That initial vote is now scheduled for Jan. 18, with final approval expected in early February, along with zoning regulations affecting medical marijuana-related businesses. The licensing proposal to be considered by the council at its next meeting will be significantly different from the one that they started with Monday night, due to various amendments councilmembers approved, before voting to postpone the measure.

Amendments included: eliminating home occupations from the licensing scheme; increasing the number of licenses to 20 for dispensaries and 10 for cultivation facilities; creating a licensing board; removing reference to “misdemeanor involving a controlled substance”; and revising the language of required internal signage.

The council also dispatched with several other pieces of major business, with scant deliberation. Those included: final approval of revisions to the city’s area, height and placement regulations in the zoning code; final approval for adoption of the Michigan Vehicle Code and the Uniform Traffic Code; appropriation of funds for footing drain disconnection; approval of new fire inspection fees; and a contract for weapons screening services at the new municipal center. [Full Story]

UM: Football

The Wall Street Journal publishes a column by Ann Arbor-based sports columnist John U. Bacon, who reflects on the tenure of recently fired University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez: “For the past three years I have been granted unfettered access to the Michigan football program, from the meeting room to the locker room, to write a book about what I’ve seen. I thought I knew college football, and particularly Michigan football, as well as anyone. But after three years of seeing everything up close, I can tell you this unequivocally: I had no idea. If the tenure of Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who was fired Wednesday, looked chaotic to outsiders, it appeared positively crazy from the inside.” [Source]

A2: Parks, Parking

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority retreat held on Jan. 5, 2011 began with a lighthearted video, using xtranormal’s text-to-movie platform. In this one-minute treatment, the rainbow teddy bear learns an important lesson about the difference between parks and parking. [Source]