Archive for August, 2011

Postema Mulling Run for Circuit Court Judge?

In an email sent to The Ann Arbor Chronicle, city attorney Stephen Postema stated that he has not yet decided whether to seek the judgeship that will be open on Michigan’s 22nd Circuit Court when Melinda Morris leaves the bench. Her term ends in January 2013 and she will be retiring.

From Postema’s statement: “Finally, as to my future plans … [m]any persons have asked whether I will seek this position you mentioned or suggested that I run, but, for your information, I have made no decision on this.”

Terms for circuit court judges are six years. They’re chosen in non-partisan elections. Eligibility includes residing in the judicial circuit, being licensed to practice law for at least five years, and being … [Full Story]

UM: Zipcar

The Detroit Free Press reports on a new partnership between Ford Motor Co. and Zipcar, the car-sharing service, to increase the number of Ford vehicles that Zipcar uses in college towns nationwide. From the report: “Ford and Zipcar will offer $10 off the $35 annual membership fee for the first 100,000 new university students members who sign up for Zipcar, plus $1 off the hourly rate for the first 1 million hours of use on any of the new Ford vehicles at select colleges and universities. New Ford vehicles start arriving on campuses this week.” Zipcar operates in Ann Arbor and has several locations on the University of Michigan campus. [Source]

Washtenaw: Cyber Security, hosted by the National Cyber Security Alliance, posts a Q&A with Washtenaw County commissioner Kristin Judge about the Washtenaw County Cyber Citizenship Coalition, which Judge spearheaded. Judge is asked about plans for National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October: ”As the host of the National Kick-off Event, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to highlight a program that is successful because of local, state and federal public and private partners all working together. It allows us an opportunity to highlight the education and awareness efforts we have been working on during the year.” [Source]

UM: Economic Advisor

In a report on President Obama’s choice of Princeton labor economist Alan Kreuger to be the next chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, NPR’s Michel Martin interviews Susan Collins – dean of the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy – about the role that Kreuger might play in improving the nation’s economy and job growth. [Source]

Fleming Admin Building

Low-key media reception for Greg O’Dell, the University of Michigan’s new Dept. of Public Safety director who’s been on the job about a week. UM’s PR staff had stressed there would be no news announced at the event, but the Fox 2 News cameraman was clearly relieved when O’Dell was asked by another reporter about how DPS is handling the return of students in the wake of this summer’s series of sexual assaults – the camera rolled as O’Dell described the department’s outreach efforts. [photo] Most interesting tidbits unrelated to that: O’Dell plans to open the bi-weekly staff “crime meetings” to the public, and encourage more foot patrols on campus.

Public Art Commission Considers Expanding

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Aug. 24, 2011): Briefly discussed at AAPAC’s August meeting was the possibility of increasing the number of members on the city’s public art commission – a move that would require amending Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art ordinance. Though commissioners expressed support for the idea, they ultimately tabled it in light of a possible upcoming city council working session on the public art program.

Ann Arbor's city hall

View from the sixth floor of Ann Arbor's city hall, facing south and overlooking East Huron Street. Workers are installing tile in the plaza. The long trough, at a right angle to the street, will be the location for Herbert Dreiseitl's water sculpture. A dedication of the piece is planned for early October, after installation. (Photo by the writer.)

The working session has been discussed as potentially taking place on Sept. 12. But Tony Derezinski – a city councilmember who is AAPAC’s newest commissioner and who attended his first meeting on Wednesday – said he hoped to push back the commission’s presentation to the city council until a later date. [As of late Aug. 29, no city council working session has been scheduled on the city's Legistar system.]

Derezinski characterized it as an extremely important opportunity for AAPAC to convince the council of the value of the Percent for Art program, noting that he has defended it twice when other councilmembers previously proposed cutting it.

Margaret Parker, a local artist who’s served on AAPAC since its inception, suggested making the working session presentation after the formal dedication of Herbert Dreiseitl’s water sculpture in front of city hall – so councilmembers will first have the chance to “bask in some glory” of the program’s efforts, she said. The dedication is being planned for early October, to coincide with Dreiseitl’s next trip to Ann Arbor to oversee the sculpture’s installation.

The Dreiseitl work, costing more than $750,000, will be the second completed piece under the Percent for Art program, which was created in 2007. During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners also discussed the possibility of using public art funds to buy existing artwork, rather than only commissioning pieces, as they’ve done to date. Although Parker expressed some concerns, they agreed to explore this approach as a way to quicken the pace of public art acquisition.

Commissioners also discussed several projects that are in the formative stages, including artwork for the proposed Fuller Road Station, a mural for Allmendinger Park, and a possible artwalk along the Huron River. A previous recommendation for a mural along the Huron Parkway, near Huron Hills Golf Course, has been postponed, based on negative feedback from residents. [Full Story]

Michigan Theater Alley

An empty Revlon hair-coloring box, and a pair of brunette handprints on the ground of the Michigan Theater alley. [photo]

Ann Arbor Approves AFSCME Contract

At  a special session convened to start at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 29, 2011, the Ann Arbor city council approved a new contract with its AFSCME union. The union is the city’s largest, with 280 230 members.

The agreement, which runs through Dec. 31, 2013, includes no across-the-board pay increases for the duration of the agreement. Under the new agreement, employees will make greater contributions to their pension and health care plans. Vesting in the pension plan for new hires will take place after 10 years and have an access-only style plan for retiree healthcare benefits.

The meeting took place despite concerns that it was not properly noticed to the public. The posting at city hall was not made … [Full Story]

A2: Crime

The Detroit Free Press reports that Ann Arbor police chief Barnett Jones advises returning University of Michigan students to be on guard, although there have been no recent assaults following a series of attacks in July. Says Jones: “The person seemingly has disappeared. But being mindful of that does not allow us to drop our guard. And I don’t want the students to drop their guard also. He has not been caught.” [Source]

UM: Football

A post on The Hoover Street Rag is all about music: ”Today, I’ll be breaking down the songs that I put on this year’s MGoMix, the ‘mix tape’ that I make for driving to Michigan football games. As I noted last year, it should be noted that this is not a hype mix, these are songs which reflect where I am right now as a Michigan football fan. As is the rule, until Michigan wins a Big Ten title, no repeat non-Michigan songs from the previous year’s MGoMix.” Some of the 24 selections include ”Out of Control” by U2 and “The Yellow and Blue” by the Michigan Marching Band. [Source]

A2: Lemonade Stand

In a piece aired on American Public Media’s Marketplace Money, Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra reports on how an Ann Arbor lemonade stand run by Molly and Lucy Prochaska has been affected by the economy – business is down. The report also interviews Ellen Daniel, who teaches at an Ann Arbor middle school and says that many students have parents who’ve been laid off or had to move out of town for a job: “That whole idea that we’ve moved from an economy where you could be part of a big company and work there your whole career and retire from there. And I don’t think kids see that the same way.” [Source]

South State Street

U.S. House majority leader Eric Cantor escorted by Secret Service spied at the Y on Washington and upstairs at CVS on South State Street.

Main Street

Ten or so women in red hats and wearing purple blouses headed to see the fairy door at Peaceable Kingdom.

Seventh & Miller

North Seventh. Adding to list of annoyances with the collapsed stormwater pit at West Park, the area within the fence now a thicket of ragweed. City should follow its noxious weed ordinances.

AATA Taps Berriz, Guenzel to Review Plan

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Aug. 24, 2011): At a meeting held at a revised time and day to accomodate board members’ summer schedules, the AATA board approved a series of resolutions, two of which related in some direct way to the possible future of transit in the Ann Arbor area.

Roger Kerson

AATA board member Roger Kerson at the board's Aug. 24, 2011 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

At the board meeting, CEO Michael Ford announced that McKinley Inc. CEO Albert Berriz and Bob Guenzel, retired Washtenaw County administrator, will be co-chairing a panel of financial and funding experts who will review various funding options for a possible expanded, countywide transportation system.

The board voted to release a funding report to the panel – the third volume of its transit master plan (TMP). [.pdf of Part 1 of Vol. 3 Transit Master Plan Funding Options] [.pdf of Part 2 of Vol. 3 Transit Master Plan Funding Options]. The first two volumes were released previously.

The report describes a range of funding options, which would likely be used in some combination of strategies: fare revenues, advertising, property taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes, parking taxes, stakeholder contributions, fuel taxes and vehicle license fees.

In anticipation that the panel could recommend funding options that would require voter approval, the board also approved the selection of CJI Research Corp. as the vendor for survey work over the next three years. That survey work can include on-board surveys of bus riders as well as telephone surveys of Washtenaw County voters.

At the Aug. 24 meeting, the board also approved implementation of a new website, which will provide greater flexibility for AATA staff who aren’t computer programmers to push information to the public. The new site is also intended to make it easier for the public to track the real-time locations of their bus.

The board also changed its pricing policy for the go!pass, a bus pass offered to downtown Ann Arbor employees that allows them to board AATA buses on an unlimited basis without paying a fare. The cost of the fares has historically been paid by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority using public parking system revenues, plus a nominal fee per card paid by downtown employers. The revised policy breaks with AATA’s past practice of charging costs for go!pass rides based on its cheapest full-fare alternative. Those costs per ride will now be lower, based on the DDA’s ability to pay and the AATA’s estimate of what employers would be willing to pay.

In other business, the board approved a revision to its contract with the Select Ride company, which provides AATA’s on-demand paratransit service (A-Ride) for those who are not able to ride the fixed-route regularly-scheduled bus system. The upward adjustment was driven by a recent increase in maximum taxicab fares implemented by the city of Ann Arbor.

The board also approved a master agreement that will apply to all of its contracts with the Michigan Dept. of Transportation, and adjusted its capital plan to accommodate changes in three projects: the Blake Transit Center, the bus storage facility, and the bus maintenance facility. [Full Story]

A2: Hurricane Irene

Jeff Masters of Ann Arbor-based Weather Underground posts another blog entry about Hurricane Irene, with updated information, maps and photos: “Hurricane Irene roared ashore over Cape Lookout, North Carolina at 7:30 am this morning. The Cedar Island Ferry Terminal measured sustained winds of 90 mph, gusting to 110 mph at 7:19am, and a trained spotter on Atlantic Beach measured sustained winds of 85 mph, gusting to 101 mph at 10:35 am. The Hurricane Hunters measured 80 mph winds over water at the time of landfall.” [Source]

A2: Crime

The University of Michigan Dept. of Public Safety has issued a crime alert, following a 2 a.m. fight on Saturday, Aug. 27 in the 600 block of Church Street. From the report: ”As told to the Ann Arbor Police, a large group of people were gathered around a fight between 2 people outside of a bar. As the group began to disperse there was an unconfirmed report of a possible gunshot coming from the crowd. 1 person was injured in the fight (injury was not from gunshot). Several conflicting descriptions of the suspect with the gun were given by witnesses at the scene. Suspect: Black male, possibly bald or with dread locks, wearing an orange, black or red t-shirt, with gray … [Full Story]

City, UM Reach Partial Deal on Football Traffic

In a press release issued late on Friday, Aug. 26 by the city of Ann Arbor communications unit, the city of Ann Arbor announced that the city and the University of Michigan had reached an agreement on football game day traffic control. Under the agreement, the university will reimburse the city for costs of providing traffic control services on home football Saturdays.

The agreement came after the Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution at its Aug. 15, 2011 meeting directing its city administrator not to provide traffic control services unless the university reimbursed the city for those costs in the same way the university reimburses costs for police and fire protection on game days.

However, the agreement will mean a … [Full Story]

Division & Liberty

Waiting for light to turn, doing the final bicycle trailer haul for the day, standing in leftmost lane of Division, headed northbound. SUV to my left, pointed eastbound on Liberty, decides to turn right, against one-way traffic, onto Division. Straddling my top tube, I hold out my hand with the universal sign for STOP … in the name of love … before you break my cart. Welcome to Ann Arbor. If you turn the wrong way down a one-way street, you gonna get pun-ished.

Liberty & Thompson

Plastic-wrapped mattress, bathtub and other large objects on the sidewalk outside an apartment entrance off of Thompson. Someone will have fun lugging those up the stairs.

In the Archives: U. of M. Too Vulgar?

Editor’s note: This column is offered a week before University of Michigan’s home football opener against Western Michigan University on Sept. 3 – as a public service to news outlets who are new to the UM football beat. It’s important to know how properly to shorten the university’s name. Nowadays, in most official communications the University of Michigan seems to use “U-M” as a shortened version of the full name. Here at The Chronicle, our preferred style is “UM” – we apparently don’t have a budget for extra hyphens. If we accidentally insert a hyphen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. For heaven’s sake, though, there are alternatives that should absolutely be avoided – even people 100 years ago knew that.

Abbreviation for University of Michigan

The 1890 inaugural issue of the U. of M. Daily, later the Michigan Daily (public domain image from Wikipedia).

The University of Michigan was once disgraced with a nickname so disreputable, so slangy and vulgar, that an essay was published protesting its use. Even a newspaper in another city ran a disapproving editorial.

That nickname was “U. of M.”

In the April 1903 issue of The Michigan Alumnus, a former grad fumed against “the continued and persistent use of the compromising appellation, ‘U. of M.’” He found it coarse – unworthy of a great university.

“In the first place it is not distinctive enough, as there are several other ‘U. of M.’s,’ Maine, Minnesota, and Missouri being the most conspicuous,” he began, going on to excoriate the sloppy abbreviation.

He was not alone. [Full Story]

A2: Skatepark

Dug and Linh Song of Ann Arbor have donated $25,000 toward the fundraising for an Ann Arbor skatepark, according to a press release by the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark. Dug Song is a founding member of that group. At a July 2011 Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting, Scott Rosencrans – an FAAS board member – told commissioners that the group hoped to raise $1 million by January 2012. As of July, organizers had raised about $515,000 – an amount that includes $400,000 in contingent matching funds from Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation. [Source]

UM: Wayne County

The Detroit News reports that Wayne County hopes to partner with the University of Michigan to have UM take over some of the county’s medical examiner services. The Wayne County board of commissioners still needs to approve the deal, which is expected to save the county $1.5 million over three years. The article quotes county executive Bob Ficano: “We’re facing a lot of budget issues. This is a step in the direction that helps soften the cuts we have to make. We’re happy to have UM help with the situation.” [Source]

A2: Hurricane Irene

On his Weather Underground blog, Jeff Masters describes the magnitude of Hurricane Irene, a storm that he says could rival the great New England hurricane of 1938. ”Since 1938, there have been a number of significant hurricanes in the Northeast – the Great Atlantic hurricane of 1944, Hazel of 1954, Diane of 1955, Donna of 1960, Gloria of 1985, Bob of 1991, and Floyd of 1999 – but none of these were as formidable as the great 1938 storm. Today, we have a hurricane over the Bahamas – Hurricane Irene – that threatens to be the Northeast’s most dangerous storm since the 1938 hurricane.” Masters is co-founder of Weather Underground, which is based in Ann Arbor. [Source]