Archive for March, 2011

EMU: Stolen Data

The Detroit Free Press reports that two former students at Eastern Michigan University may have filed fraudulent tax returns based on student records they stole: “The initial investigation into the theft of the records showed that the personal records of 58 individuals were taken, although it’s unclear how many of those people’s information was used, school spokesman Walter Kraft said in a news release. The school said another six people contacted the university after filing their tax returns and having the IRS reject them because their social security numbers were used on another filing.” [Source]

UM: Human Trafficking

The Associated Press reports that an existing human trafficking law will be strengthened in Michigan on Friday as amendments take effect that would make punishments more severe for involuntary servitude, among other things. The article quotes Bridgette Carr, director of the University of Michigan Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic: “In Michigan, we have seen victims in the U.P., in Detroit, in rural areas. We haven’t found a community yet that we haven’t seen a victim come from … That’s how prevalent it is.” [Source]

In the Archives: Women’s Underwear

Editor’s note: The Chronicle winds up March, which is Women’s History Month, with a column from publisher Mary Morgan about Jean Ledwith King, and Laura Bien’s regular local history column, which takes a look at women’s underwear.

Ad for women's undergarments

In 1894, Ann Arbor's Crescent Clasp Works at 39-41 North Main employed 13 women making corsets, waists, and hosiery. They included machine operators Clara and Lillie Scheffold, Minnie and Anna Schneider, Emma Tenfel, Kate Saunders, Eugenia Gauss, Ida Kuebler, Lilly Biermann, Ida Oesterlin, Dora Walz, Jennie Jacobus, and Anna Kuster, plus stenographers Clara Markham and Mary Pollock.

This time last year, census canvassers were going door-to-door, asking their 10 questions about each home’s residents, their individual sex, race, and age, and whether the property was mortgaged.

Imagine if they’d asked each woman about her style of underwear.

Thirteen thousand women were asked that question in 1892 by Michigan state officials.

The officials were male, but oddly enough it was women who were responsible for inserting the undergarment question into the state-funded survey.

The winding road to this naughty quiz began with an 1880s state governor who was concerned about the working class. [Full Story]

Column: Honoring Jean Ledwith King

Most of the time, I don’t think about gender equity. Along with millions of other American women my age and younger, I’ve benefited from those who spent their lives enduring countless humiliations and setbacks, to achieve for their daughters and nieces and friends what I now enjoy – the luxury of not thinking much about gender equity.

Jean King

Jean Ledwith King at the March 26, 2011 dinner to rename the Women's Center of Southeastern Michigan in her honor. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Dabney)

On Saturday, about 300 people gathered to pay tribute to one of those women whose work broke ground for the rest of us: Jean Ledwith King. The event was hosted by the Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan, which has been renamed in her honor.

As a former board member for the center, I expected to see some familiar faces – staff, volunteers and donors I’d known from my relatively short tenure there. But the turnout for Jean went far beyond that. Judges and attorneys, university administrators, elected officials from across the county and state, business leaders and many others came to say thanks for her years of dogged work on behalf of equal opportunity for women. She calls herself a bomb thrower, but on Saturday she was recognized more for the foundation she’s helped build, particularly through her work on Title IX issues related to high school and college athletics.

Jean’s life story is inspiring, as were reflections by the event’s keynote speaker, Olympian Micki King. (Though they aren’t related by blood, they certainly are in spirit.) Their stories made me think of other histories, too – we all have them, closer to home and less notable, perhaps, but also worth honoring as a reminder of how it’s possible to make dramatic societal changes within a lifetime. [Full Story]

Library Lot

More than a dozen cement trucks lined up on Division Street to discharge their loads at the library parking deck. [photo]


Writing on Slate, David Weigel reports that a recent Paul Krugman column might have prompted Michigan’s Mackinac Center to file Freedom of Information Act requests for information from the University of Michigan’s Labor Studies Center, as well as from other universities: “These labor centers at the universities have long been targets of the business community in Michigan, which sees them – as the state’s Chamber of Commerce president once said of the Wayne State center – as ‘wholly owned subsidiaries of the UAW.’ … In 2010, the Mackanic Center published a litany of problems with the labor centers, arguing that they were basically taxpayer-funded organizing hubs for the Left.” [Source] The FOIA request was also reported in an article … [Full Story]

Spring & Miller

Brennan Andes, bassist for The Macpodz, shopping at Knight’s Market with his two-year-old daughter. He and another customer are talking about why they shop there – you can walk to the store, and it’s locally owned so you know where the money is going. Forgot to ask if he’s participating in the May 1 Water Hill Music Fest.

Talk of a More Collaborative Washtenaw

Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (March 17, 2011): Leaders of several local governments in Washtenaw County attended a working session earlier this month, where they explored with county commissioners, in a general way, how to collaborate on delivering services to local residents.

Ronnie Peterson, Pete Murdock, Mike Moran

From left: Washtenaw County commissioner Ronnie Peterson, Ypsilanti city councilmember Pete Murdock, and Ann Arbor Township supervisor Mike Moran, at the county board's March 17 working session on intergovernmental collaboration. (Photos by the writer.)

Their discussion comes in the context of declining property values – property taxes are the primary source of revenue for local governments. In Michigan, constraints on how local governments can generate revenues add an additional layer of complexity. For the county, commissioners and staff are weighing how to overcome a projected two-year, $20.9 million deficit – some feel that collaborating with other local governments is part of the solution.

The talk among Washtenaw County leaders about collaboration also reflects a push at the state level to encourage more such efforts. It’s been a mantra of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, an Ann Arbor area resident, who wants to use state revenue-sharing dollars as a carrot to get communities to work together. More dramatically, his administration is also advocating for legislation that would make it easier for cities and counties to merge.

Local government officials had been invited to the March 17 meeting to participate in the discussion and air their views on the possibilities for collaboration, as well as roadblocks they anticipate, like issues of cost or control. Many cited the need for better communication, and commissioners indicated a desire to get more involved in existing forums, such as the CEO Group – a monthly meeting of township supervisors led by Dexter Township supervisor Pat Kelly – and the Saline Area Sustainability Circle, which also meets monthly.

Representatives from Ann Arbor Township, Salem Township, Saline and Ypsilanti attended the working session. However, no one came from local governments of the county’s largest population centers – Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township or Ypsilanti Township – though those areas are also represented by county commissioners. Several people at the meeting expressed the hope that similar sessions would be held in the future, with the additional hope that more local officials would get involved. [Full Story]

Main & Huron

Call me old-fashioned, but I love seeing Davie whoop Goliath. [photo] [University of Michigan bus:tow truck::Goliath:Davie]

UM: Entrepreneurs

An article in Xconomy Detroit reports that despite a struggling economy and budget cuts, efforts at Michigan’s public universities to support entrepreneurs are still getting funded. The article quotes Tim Faley, managing director of the University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies: “Ten years ago when we were talking about competitiveness and that sort of thing and then you could talk about research. But now when the whole discussion centers around jobs, then research is too far out, the discussion is really what are you doing to help job creation. Entrepreneurship is a great thing for that.” [Source]

UM: Digital Archive

The Library Journal gives an update on the work of HathiTrust, a digital library project: “Initially built upon a foundation of Google book scans, HathiTrust (based at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) has grown to encompass more than eight million volumes from a variety of sources. Now, a partnership with Serials Solutions (a ProQuest business unit) presents a new option for academic libraries seeking to give researchers an entre into a massive collection of research.” [Source]

UM: Rejection & Pain

ABC News reports on a University of Michigan study that found breaking up and other forms of social rejection activate the same part of the brain that causes pain. The study also points out that such rejection could easily lead to avoidance of other relationships and depression. According to the report, “experts believe this study can offer new insight into the complexities of social rejection, and how the experience can be emotionally and physically debilitating.” [Source]

W. Madison & 6th

Woman yells at a man for not picking up after dog. She’s tired of stepping in “a pile” after getting off bus.

Fifth & Washington

Unlocking my bicycle takes an hour because people I recognize keep walking past, and I talk to them until they walk away. Among them is a city clerk staffer who reports she’s been working on upcoming election prep – testing the machines and the like.

Ashley & Liberty

Collected greeting from Mark Hodesh who offers tour of new kitchen space in the building behind the space where the Mark’s Carts food carts area – off Washington Street –  is being constructed. Estimated five weeks additional work needed on outdoor part.

A2: David E. Davis Jr.

Automobile Magazine reports that automotive journalist David E. Davis Jr., who founded the popular Ann Arbor-based magazine in 1985, has died following complications from surgery for bladder cancer: “Davis, who had already refashioned Car and Driver into one of the most literate and entertaining special-interest magazines in America, imagined Automobile Magazine as a celebration of the automotive good life with the rallying cry ‘No Boring Cars,’ but the slogan could just as easily have been applied to everything else in his life: No boring stories. No boring meetings. No boring road trips. No boring wardrobes. No boring friends. No boring employees.” [Source]

Column: Library Lot – Bottom to Top

Editor’s note: Although the parcel immediately north of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location is known as the Library Lot, it does not belong to the library, but rather to the city of Ann Arbor.

Last Thursday, news of a breach in the earth-retention system of a downtown Ann Arbor construction site had reached all the way to Detroit’s Channel 4 News. Channel 4 sent a crew Friday evening to file a report. It was tagged on the Channel 4 website with the summary: “An Ann Arbor construction project is sinking, literally.” Chalk that up to the hyperbole of television news.

Library Lot conference center schematic, retaining wall

Top: View to the northeast along Fifth Avenue from Valiant Partners' concept for a conference center and hotel, proposed for the top of the Library Lot underground parking garage. Bottom: Breach in the earth retention system for the underground parking garage currently under construction on the Library Lot.

While the roughly 640-space underground parking garage, being built by Ann Arbor’s Downtown Development Authority, is not sinking in any way, a conference center and hotel proposal for the top of the underground structure might be sinking.

At first glance, the 190,000-square-foot project proposed by Valiant Partners Inc. seems like it’s on a path to approval by the city council. In November 2010, an advisory committee – charged with evaluating responses to a city of Ann Arbor request for proposals issued in late 2009 – finally settled on the Valiant proposal as the best of the six the city had received.

That decision came with the aid of Roxbury Group, a consultant hired to help evaluate the proposals and to negotiate an agreement with a developer. At an early March meeting of the advisory committee, a Roxbury representative presented a draft letter of intent, which had been worked out by Valiant and Roxbury, to be signed by the city of Ann Arbor and Valiant. The committee voted unanimously to recommend that the city council consider the letter of intent.

Then, on March 14, the city council held a work session on the proposed conference center. The council heard essentially the same presentation about the letter of intent that Roxbury had made to the advisory committee. The council is scheduled to consider the letter formally at its second meeting in April, which is now scheduled for Tuesday, April 19, to accommodate the first night of Passover. The letter of intent calls for a development agreement to be presented to the city council within four months of signing the letter of intent – which would mean sometime near the end of August 2011.

But I think it’s clear at this point that a development agreement between Valiant and the city of Ann Arbor to develop the Library Lot would not achieve the necessary eight-vote majority for an actual real estate deal. That’s why I think the city council might vote down the letter of intent – even if there are at least six councilmembers who would support going forward with the letter, which is all it would take for the letter’s approval.

I base that conclusion on remarks made by councilmembers at the March 14 work session, and regular politics as reflected in the council’s history – both recent and ancient. But before considering politics, let’s dig into some really ancient history – the kind measured in geological time – to gain some additional insight into why a pile of dirt spilled unintentionally into the underground parking garage construction pit. [Full Story]

UM, EMU: Admin Costs

The Detroit Free Press reports that administrative expenses for the 15 public universities in Michigan have jumped nearly 30% on average in the last five years, and faculty compensation is up 22%. The article quotes UM president Mary Sue Coleman, testifying earlier this month at a state legislative hearing : “I am not going to punish people for doing a good job. We want the best and work hard to keep them.” [Source]

A2: Business

The Detroit News reports that Ann Arbor-based Borders Group, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year, is asking the bankruptcy court judge to approve paying its pay key executives up to $8.3 million in incentives and retention bonuses. According to the report, executives would receive no incentive payments if Borders is liquidated. The firm’s CEO, Michael Edwards, would be eligible for up to $1.7 million in bonuses. [Source]

First & Washington

Blind Pig. Line has wrapped around the block past Kiwanis. Wonder who’s playing

Ypsi: Michigan Ave.

Long line at the Dairy Queen stand (Mich. Ave, Ypsi). Temperature: 28 degrees F.

Schools of Choice Enrollment Incorrect

In a recent report on a Ann Arbor Public School board meeting, the figure we reported for the district’s additional enrollment last year due to the schools of choice program was off by three. The correct enrollment figure is 79. We note the error here and have corrected the figure in the original article.

A2: Water Quality

A video of the March 22, 2011 panel discussion “Our Water, Our Lives” is posted on the Ann Arbor District Library website. The panel, moderated by UM professor Mike Wiley and hosted by the AADL, included Harry Sheehan of the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner’s office; Molly Wade, manager of the city of Ann Arbor’s water treatment services; Matt Naud, the city of Ann Arbor’s environmental coordinator; Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council; and Earle Kenzie, manager of the city of Ann Arbor’s wastewater treatment services. The event included discussion of the Pall Gelman dioxane plume – the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality is holding a public meeting on that issue on Wednesday, March 30 at … [Full Story]

A2: Cycling

Ann Arbor Chronicle editor Dave Askins is featured on the Great Lakes Cycling & Fitness website’s Spotlight on Local Cyclists, which includes a 10-question Q&A. Answering the question “Is there something the City of Ann Arbor could do to make cycling in the area better?” Askins says: “No. What makes a place more bicycle-friendly is people on bicycles. The more people who ride, the safer it’ll be for everyone. I don’t really look to the city to make that happen.” [Source]