Archive for July, 2011

Ann Arbor Dems Primary: Two for Ward 2

Earlier this month, the local League of Women Voters hosted forums for candidates from each ward with a contested Democratic primary election for Ann Arbor city council. That included Ward 2, where incumbent Stephen Rapundalo and challenger Tim Hull are both seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination. The primary elections this year fall on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Tim Hull Stephen Rapundalo Ward 2 Democratic Primary

Top: Stephen Rapundalo. Bottom: Tim Hull. (Photos by the writer)

Because no Republican challenger filed by the May deadline, the winner of the Ward 2 Democratic primary will likely be the Ward 2 representative to the city council. Some uncertainty surrounds that conclusion, however, because the filing deadline for non-partisan, independent candidates is not until Aug. 15. And Ward 2 has a recent election history that includes write-in candidate Ed Amonsen’s effort in the 2007 general election, which nearly won him a seat on the council. Amonsen’s write-in campaign earned him 790 votes (48.4%) to Rapundalo’s 843.

In their opening and closing statements, the candidates reprised the themes they’d introduced at a previous forum hosted by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party in June. Rapundalo stressed his experience and leadership as essential in trying economic times to find solutions in the area of cost containment and “revenue restructuring.” Rapundalo is president and CEO of MichBio, a biosciences industry trade association. First elected in 2005, Rapundalo is seeking a fourth two-year term on the city council.

For his part, Hull focused on budgeting that is based on community needs, not politics, and stressed that he would protect those things that make Ann Arbor unique. Hull is a programmer at the University of Michigan’s Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics. He serves as a member of the city’s taxicab board.

The two candidates dealt with the full range of topics covered by LWV questions – from public safety cuts to their thoughts on the hiring of the new city administrator.

The LWV forum was filmed at the Community Television Network studios on South Industrial Highway. After the break, The Chronicle presents paraphrases of questions posed to the candidates and their responses to them, as well as some highlights from the candidates’ remarks broken down in a bit more detail. [Full Story]

DDA: No TIF Recalculation

At a special meeting held on July 27, 2011, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board passed a resolution stating that it was accepting the general guidance of its legal counsel, Jerry Lax: The DDA will not be changing the calculations on which it based the return (earlier this year) of excess taxes captured through its tax increment finance (TIF) district. The decision came after a closed session with Lax that lasted nearly an hour. The language of the resolution is somewhat vague, stating that “no redistribution to relevant taxing authorities is required.”

Some background: At its May 2, 2011 meeting, as it was poised to ratify a new contract with the city of Ann Arbor, under which it … [Full Story]

A2: Food

The Community Farm of Ann Arbor, People’s Food Co-op and Real Time Farms are featured in a New York Times article about eating parts of fruits and vegetables that many people throw out. The article – “That’s Not Trash, That’s Dinner” – quotes Kevin Sharp of the People’s Food Co-op: “People know that nasturtium flowers are edible, but the leaves are also great salads and the seed pods, if you pickle them, make a wonderful substitute for capers.” [Source]

A2: The Onion

Crain’s Detroit Business reports that a free print edition of the satirical publication The Onion will be distributed in Ann Arbor, through a partnership with Chicago-based Bopper Media Inc., which was founded by University of Michigan alum Bobby Mitchell. The Onion is also based in Chicago. [Source]

Democratic Primary 2011: Mapping Money

For the seven Democratic candidates in three different wards, Friday, July 22 was the filing deadline for pre-primary campaign contributions in Ann Arbor city council races. The primary election is on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

2011 Contributions Democratic Primary Ann Arbor

Summary plot of all local contributions to six candidates in Ann Arbor Democratic primary elections. The light blue areas are the wards in which the elections are contested. Each magenta circle indicates a contribution, placed on the map based on the address of the contributor and sized based on the amount of the contribution.

Six candidates filed the necessary paperwork, which is available from the Washtenaw County clerk’s office website. [Type in the candidate's last name for links to scanned .pdf files of campaign finance reports.]

For itemized cash contributions listed on Schedule 1-A, The Chronicle has compiled the data for all six candidates into a single Google Spreadsheet – in order to get a statistical overview of the candidates’ respective contributions and to map out the distributions of contributions geographically.

Ward 5 incumbent Mike Anglin’s total of $6,850 was the largest of any candidate. His challenger Neal Elyakin filed $5,923 worth of contributions.

In Ward 3, Ingrid Ault has raised $4,031, compared to incumbent Stephen Kunselman’s $2,750. According to Washtenaw County clerk staff on Tuesday morning, Ward 3 candidate Marwan Issa had not filed a contribution report by the Friday deadline. He’d also not submitted a waiver that can be filed if contributions total less than $1,000. The fine associated with not filing is $25 per day, up to a maximum of $500.

In Ward 2, incumbent Stephen Rapundalo filed $2,950 worth of contributions compared with $2,075 for challenger Tim Hull.

Collectively, the six candidates recorded $24,579 on their statements.

After the jump, we chart out the contributions to illustrate how candidates are being supported – through many small-sized donations, or by a fewer larger-sized donations. We also provide a geographic plot, to illustrate how much financial support candidates enjoy in the wards they’re running to represent. [Full Story]

UM Regents Briefed on Depression Center

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (July 21, 2011): Ten years after the 2001 board of regents authorized its formation, the UM Depression Center has become a national leader in breaking the stigma and improving the treatment of this common, debilitating illness.

John Greden

John Greden, director of the University of Michigan Depression Center, briefed regents at their July 21, 2011 board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

That message was delivered by the center’s director, John Greden – the man whose vision was instrumental in creating it a decade ago. Greden briefed regents on the center’s progress so far, describing its research and outreach efforts, including its leadership in developing a national network of depression centers that he said is strengthening the fight against the illness. He also indicated the center will be launching a fundraising campaign in the near future, to raise more resources in the face of overwhelming demand for services.

In addition to Greden’s report, regents voted on a range of items. The most significant in terms of a financial commitment was approval of a $116 million “deep” renovation of East Quad, a large dorm on East University Avenue. It’s also the home to UM’s Residential College. At the board’s May 19, 2011 meeting, philosophy professor Carl Cohen had raised concerns about the impact of the renovations as initially designed, saying the RC would be pushed into smaller, inadequate space and would “atrophy and fade away.” A schematic design hasn’t yet been presented to the board for approval.

Among other actions, regents also approved a new joint master’s degree program in entrepreneurship to be offered by the College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business. They authorized renaming the department of geological sciences – it will be called the department of earth and environmental sciences. Regents also approved a $698,364 purchase of land at 417 S. Division, next to the UM Institute for Social Research. Within the past year, that’s the third property – all with apartment buildings – that the university has bought to accommodate ISR’s expansion project. Regents approved that project last year.

In the context of board committee assignments, regent Martin Taylor alerted his colleagues that he’d talked with the university’s general counsel about possible conflict of interest issues that might arise for him in the future. The board’s health affairs committee will likely be involving all regents in overseeing a strategic plan for the UM health system – Martin also serves as a director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Only one person spoke during public commentary. Dan Benefiel, a leader of the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus, sharply criticized the university’s support of globalism and its relationship with China, a country that he accused of stealing intellectual property and trade secrets from the U.S. The “Trojan Horse of China” must be stopped from “unleashing its unsavory minions” on America, he said. [Full Story]

Liberty & Fourth Avenue

Paused on their Bellingham, Wash. to New York City bicycle trip outside Cupcake Station are a former green jobs coordinator and a former property appraiser for the state of Alaska: Stephen Deutsch and Peter Bradley. They’re fueling up on cupcakes … and whiskey from Jolly Pumpkin. [photo] Heading through Canada.

A2: Borders

Boston Globe columnist James Carroll writes about the demise of the Ann Arbor-based Borders bookstore chain, and what it means for the culture of books. ”The business of Borders might be replaced online, but the web that matters most is intangibly of the spirit, and Borders was one of its master weavers. This is the death to mourn – and take warning from.” [Source]

Ann Arbor Elections Past: Voting Patterns

Tea leaves, tarot cards, crystal balls – predicting the future is a popular pastime. But here at The Chronicle, we decided to take a look at past elections – with an eye towards the approaching Aug. 2 primary elections for the Ann Arbor city council.

Primary elections in the city of Ann Arbor this year fall on Tues. Aug. 2.

Primary elections in the city of Ann Arbor this year fall on Tues. Aug. 2.

Ann Arbor residents are represented by the mayor and 10 other elected members on the city council – two for each of the city’s five wards. Each year, one of the pair of councilmembers stands for re-election to a two-year term. This year, three members of the currently all-Democratic council have contested races in the primary, which falls on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

In Ward 5, incumbent Mike Anglin is challenged by Neal Elyakin. In Ward 3, incumbent Stephen Kunselman is challenged by Marwan Issa and Ingrid Ault. And in Ward 2, incumbent Stephen Rapundalo is challenged by Tim Hull.

Each of the city’s five wards is divided into precincts.

In this article, The Chronicle takes a look at the incumbents’ performance in past elections, mapped out by precinct. Some descriptive generalizations are readily apparent in the data – the strength of incumbents has not been uniform across their respective wards.

And in some cases, it’s possible to offer a speculative analysis that could account for some of those patterns. [Full Story]

A2: Media

Street Fight, an online site that “covers the business of hyperlocal news, information and advertising,” publishes a Q&A with Mallary Jean Tenore and Rick Edmonds, staff of the Poynter Institute, a nationally known journalism training and resource center. In response to a question about innovators in hyperlocal media, Edmonds says: “I admire some of the usual suspects – West Seattle Blog, Dallas South, the Ann Arbor Chronicle and The Batavian. But I worry that if it takes particularly talented and committed people to scratch out an income for one family, such successes may not be scalable.” [Source]

Elbel Field

Crews are finishing up turfing the former parking lot/roller hockey/basketball courts. [photo]

Ann Arbor Dems Primary: Three For Ward 3

Mid-July was busy for the three candidates in the city of Ann Arbor’s Ward 3 Democratic primary. Incumbent Stephen Kunselman, along with challengers Ingrid Ault and Marwan Issa, attended forums on back-to-back evenings on July 12 and 13.

The first took place at the Malletts Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, organized by the Third Ward Committee of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party. The second was hosted by the local League of Women Voters and filmed at the Community Television Network studios on South Industrial Highway. The winner of the Ward 3 Democratic primary will face Republican David Parker in November.

Stephen Kunselman, Ingrid Ault, Marwan Issa

Ward 3 Democratic primary candidates at the CTN League of Women Voters forum on July 13 (top to bottom): Stephen Kunselman, Ingrid Ault, Marwan Issa. (Photos by the writer.)

The Malletts Creek event was conducted in a town hall format, with questions asked straight from the audience (not written down on index cards). The sequence of questions was determined by moderator Carl Akerlof, who picked members out of the audience.

Due to that format, the Mallets Creek forum may have more accurately reflected what issues are on Ward 3 voters’ minds – though there was considerable overlap between the two forums. This report focuses mostly on the Malletts Creek event.

Before the questions started, the candidates mingled with attendees and with each other. Issa sought some insight from Kunselman on the ins-and-outs of campaign yard sign placement. They can’t be in the right-of-way, Kunselman explained – that’s probably why some of Issa’s signs had been removed by the city. Ault asked Kunsleman: “Do you want to work on the reunion with me?” The two graduated 30 years ago in the same class from Pioneer High School.

Their ties to the community was a theme of all three candidates’ opening and closing statements, which also included other themes familiar from a candidate forum in June hosted by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.

Kunselman stressed a focus of local government on the basics of health, safety and welfare, as opposed to economic development. That contrasted with Ault’s emphasis on her experience working with small, locally-owned independent businesses as executive director of Think Local First – she said she felt that government has a role to play in that. Marwan Issa allowed that he was young (27 years old) and it was his first time running for office, but stressed that he would bring a new vision, and a sense of urgency and energy.

The topics of questions from attendees ranged from garbage collection, to the city’s pension system, to the use of city-owned real estate. For this report, we’ve pulled out some of the highlights. [Full Story]

Argo Pond

Signs of work at the headrace along the Huron River, looking toward Argo Pond from the entrance at Pontiac Trail and Swift. [photo] Looking down the headrace from Argo Pond. [photo] A bicyclist went down the path despite the signs – there are big trees blocking the other end. [photo] Plastic sheeting and sand bags block off the ingoing water from Argo Pond into the race. [photo] [Editor's note: For background on the $1.17 million project to build a bypass channel in the Argo dam headrace and add whitewater features, see Chronicle coverage: "PAC Recommends Argo Dam Bypass"]

A2: Attacks

Crime Stoppers is offering $1,000 for information on a recent series of possibly related sexual assaults against women in downtown Ann Arbor and near the University of Michigan campus, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press. The Ann Arbor police have issued a composite sketch and descriptions of a suspect in the five attacks, who’s described as a white male in his 20s with a muscular build. [.pdf of composite sketch] The UM police have increased patrols in the campus area. Anyone with information should call the Ann Arbor Police Department’s tip line at 734-794-6939 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP. [Source]

Scio Church & Seventh

Weird (electrical?) light flashing up to the sky south of Scio Church Road near South Seventh.

Liberty & Fourth

I was traveling eastbound on Liberty at 8:45 this morning in the bike lane. A car cut in front of me to turn onto Fourth Street and my bike ran into his car. I sustained a serious injury, but am able to walk. The Ann Arbor police officer said that there is no law to protect a bicyclist in that situation.

Downtown Ann Arbor

Girl with music case on back, headphones on, wearing flats biking through art fair without helmet.

More Steps for AATA Toward County Transit

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority special board meeting (July 19, 2011): The four members who attended Tuesday’s special meeting of the AATA board voted unanimously on a raft of resolutions, ranging from infrastructure projects to more action toward a countywide transit authority.

Blake Transit Center

The AATA's Blake Transit Center Fourth Avenue entry.

The latter item – authorizing AATA resources to support formation of an unincorporated Act 196 board (U196) – was approved without discussion. The resolution also authorized the board chair, Jesse Bernstein, to appoint three members to the U196 board.

In a related item, board members approved a $193,317 extension of AATA’s contract with Steer Davies Gleave (SDG), the London-based consultant hired last year to work on developing AATA’s transit master plan. SDG will work on implementing the plan – some board members indicated they’d like to see the consultant include more local resources as the process moves forward. The original contract with SDG was for $399,805. It was previously extended and increased at the AATA board’s Nov. 18, 2010 meeting by an amount not to exceed $32,500.

The infrastructure projects approved at the July 19 meeting include an expansion of AATA’s bus storage facility – in part to accommodate growth if a countywide transit entity is formed. Other projects entail replacement of bus hoists, a blanket contract for concrete work, and detention pond and landscaping improvements.

AATA board meetings are typically held on the third Thursday of the month, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown boardroom, where the meetings are televised by Community Television Network (CTN). Tuesday’s special meeting, called in order to move ahead on some of these projects, began at 1 p.m. at the AATA headquarters on South Industrial, and was not videotaped. It was attended by more than a half-dozen AATA staff members, but not by CEO Michael Ford. Only four of the board’s seven members attended – it takes four members to make a quorum. [Full Story]

A2: KittyPalooza

The Humane Society of Huron Valley posted a video on YouTube promoting its KittyPalooza – on Sunday, July 24 from noon to 6 p.m., you can adopt two kittens for the price of one. All kittens are spayed/neutered, up to date on their vaccines, and have a microchip ID. The video notes that free “kitty gift bags” will be given for each adoption. HSHV is located at 3100 Cherry Hill Road. [Source]

A2: Trees

The Detroit Free Press reports on lawsuits that have been filed against the chemical firm DuPont claiming the company’s herbicide Imprelis has damaged or killed certain species of spruce and white pine trees. According to the report, one of the lawsuits was filed by three Southfield firms with operations in Ann Arbor: Washtenaw Acquisitions, Polo Fields East and Polo Fields Golf and Country Club. ”Experts have told the Free Press, which first reported claims about Imprelis earlier this month, that the damage could reach into millions of dollars. They said the damage is the worst to trees in Michigan since the emerald ash borer devastated ash trees starting in 2002. The problem, which has been reported as far south as Georgia and as … [Full Story]

Column: Saying Thanks to Teachers

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Teachers in our country rarely get the respect they deserve – a uniquely American pathology. But this year they’ve endured not just indifference, but disrespect – and from Congressmen, no less.

Teachers are now blamed not just for falling test scores, but failing state budgets and rising healthcare costs.

There was once a politician who took a different view. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson’s Northwest Ordinance – what some scholars believe to be one of the three most important documents in the founding of America, along with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence – provided funding for public schools and universities. In it, he declared, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

The idea is so central to American public education, the University of Michigan has it engraved on the façade of its central building, Angell Hall. But few of the people walking by Angell Hall even know the line is there, or why. Ignorance makes it easy to take what’s good for granted. [Full Story]

Shelby & Stadium DQ

9:30 a.m. Two girls working inside the Dairy Queen made Mom’s day by starting up the machines early to make her a cherry-dipped cone. (They don’t open until 11 a.m.) Mom was on her way back from UM Radiation Oncology for treatment.  Thank you.

AAPS: No Fee Hike for “Pay to Participate”

Ann Arbor Public Schools administration sent out a letter to families today outlining the district’s 2011-12 athletics plan.

In a major departure from the iteration most recently presented to the board of education, the final plan does not raise pay-to-participate fees.  It also retains cheer and dance as varsity sports.

The letter states that this is the final verdict – after gathering feedback from parents, coaches, boosters, and the school board – on what has been an ongoing discussion since district athletic directors unveiled their original program cuts in late June. Finally, the letter sent today also warns that, although a “favorable return on expenditures” allowed some program reductions to be avoided for the coming year, the district is “fully expecting reductions will again … [Full Story]

UM to Buy Land at 417 S. Division

At their July 21, 2011 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents approved the $698,364 purchase of an 0.09-acre of land at 417 S. Division, next to the UM Institute for Social Research. A tentative closing date is set for Aug. 3 – existing leases in the 3,152-square-foot apartment building located on that lot expire in August, according to a staff memo.

A $23 million expansion of ISR’s building on Thompson Street had been approved by the board in April – they signed off on the project’s schematic design in July. At their November 2010 meeting, regents approved two other land purchases on South Division related to the ISR project: $919,425 for 439 S. Division St., which included a 3,210-square-foot apartment … [Full Story]

UM Geological Sciences Dept. Renamed

The University of Michigan’s department of geological sciences will be renamed the department of earth and environmental sciences, effective Sept. 1, 2011. The UM board of regents approved the change at their July 21, 2011 meeting.

According to a staff memo provided to regents, the department “has seen pronounced shifts, coinciding with national and international trends in earth science, toward a heightened emphasis on the societal impact of the field. … The name change more effectively communicates to undergraduates the rich experiential learning opportunities in the department, preparing them for highly adaptable and versatile careers in industry, government, and academia.”

This brief was filed from the regents meeting in the boardroom of the Fleming administration building on UM’s Ann Arbor campus. A more … [Full Story]

New UM Entrepreneurship Grad Degree OK’d

A new University of Michigan joint master’s degree in entrepreneurship – a partnership of the college of engineering and Ross business school – was approved by the UM board of regents at their July 21, 2011 meeting. The degree program has been in development for more than two years. According to a staff report on the proposal, the “primary objective of this program is to arm students with the critical multidisciplinary knowledge necessary to create new technology-focused ventures, either as stand-alone entities or within established innovative organizations. Students will learn to create and capture value from novel technologies within the context of entrepreneurship.” [.pdf of full report]

The program was developed in partnership with UM’s office of technology transfer.

This brief was filed from the regents meeting in the boardroom of the Fleming administration building on UM’s Ann Arbor campus. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]