Archive for December, 2011

No Raises for Ann Arbor Mayor, Council

Editor’s note: A Jan. 14, 2011 Ann Arbor Chronicle article on mayoral and councilmember compensation concluded with the following: “Sometime during 2011 it’s likely that the two vacancies on Ann Arbor’s local officers compensation commission will be filled. And when the year’s session schedule is announced, The Chronicle will add the LOCC’s sessions to its meeting coverage.”

During the course of 2011, mayor John Hieftje did not appoint anyone to fill the two vacancies. And since that time, a third vacancy has been added. However in this report, The Chronicle makes good on its promise to cover the commission’s only meeting this year.

Ann Arbor local officers compensation commission (Dec. 16, 2011): Salaries for Ann Arbor’s mayor and 10 city councilmembers will remain constant for the next two years at $42,436 and $15,913, respectively. That was the conclusion of the four members on the local officers compensation commission (LOCC), who met Friday morning for around a half hour.

Ann Arbor mayor and councilmember salaries from 2000 through 2013. The local officers compensation commission's recommendation, made at its Dec. 16, 2011 meeting, means that salaries will stay constant from 2009 through 2013. (Image links to higher resolution .jpg file)

Commission members cited the down economy as a main reason for not bumping the salaries higher. They discussed the fact that a flat salary, even with little inflation, translates into a pay cut – which was also a possibility they briefly mentioned.

The seven-member body currently has just four members, because no appointments have been made by the mayor to fill vacancies. Attending the meeting were Martha Darling, William Lockwood, Roger Hewitt and Eunice Burns. Hewitt chaired the commission two years ago when it last met, and he was again drafted by his commission colleagues to serve as chair this year.

The  LOCC is required to meet in odd-numbered years, so this year is a required meeting year. The LOCC makes a recommendation to the city council – a decision that automatically takes effect unless the city council votes to reject it. The council does not need to take affirmative action to approve the LOCC recommendation.  [Full Story]

A2: Autos

Automobile Magazine publishes photos of a prototype Porsche Boxster spotted on the road in Ann Arbor: “Yes, even prototype sports cars have to become commuter cars every once in a while: a reader sent in photos of a next-generation Porsche Boxster prototype testing during morning rush hour in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We wouldn’t be all that surprised if the car is in town for emissions testing, seeing as the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory is located within the city’s limits.” [Source]

Two Head Start Managers Put on Leave

An internal investigation characterized as a personnel matter has resulted in two Washtenaw Head Start managers – including the program’s director – being put on administrative leave earlier this week.

Head Start director Patricia Horne McGee and senior management assistant Lovida Roach (who is Horne McGee’s second-in-command) were placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Roach was put on leave in the morning, while Horne McGee was put on leave around 5:30 p.m. the same day, according to Diane Heidt, the county’s human resources and labor relations director. Cassandra Sheriff, site director for the Ypsilanti Head Start location, is acting as interim director.

Heidt said an investigation has been underway since early October, in response to allegations that required the human resources … [Full Story]

EMU: Holiday Card

Eastern Michigan University’s video holiday card features scenes from campus while students, faculty and staff tell what they’re wishing for in 2012 – everything from academic success, good health, world peace, and the hope that the Mayans are wrong. [Source]

Column: Rounding Out the Year in Sports

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

But this year, the sports page had plenty of both. Sad to say, bad news tends to travel faster.

So let’s start with some good news. In men’s tennis, the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, already one of the best in tennis history, was joined by a man named Novak Djokovic, who won three major titles this year on a gluten-free diet – no joke. We might be watching the sport’s greatest era. Even better, all three players are true sportsmen, resorting to none of the ranting and raving of past greats.

Today, the spoiled brats are on the first tee, led by Tiger Woods, whose petulant tantrums on the course were eclipsed by his behavior off it. Now he’s trying to reassemble his knee, his swing and his life all at once. His opponents don’t like him, but they have to pull for him to return, along with their big paychecks.

The Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs for their 20th consecutive year – an incredible accomplishment of consistency in the modern era of parity and free agency. If you’re in college, you cannot recall when they were so bad we called them the “Dead Things.” General manager Ken Holland is the best in sports. Period.

The Tigers, meanwhile, stretched their playoff streak to one. Justin Verlander starts the game throwing 95-miles per hour, and ends it throwing over 100. He is the most dominant Detroit pitcher in four decades. Take your kids to see him now, so years later they can tell their grandkids. [Full Story]

AATA Board Gives CEO Praise, Raise

At its Dec. 15, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board voted to award its CEO, Michael Ford, an increase in base salary of $4,800 to $164,800 annually. The board also authorized a $10,000 lump-sum payment into a 457 deferred compensation plan, and vesting in the AATA employee pension plan effective Oct. 1, 2011.

Last year, Ford’s contract, which is renewable each year on October 1, paid Ford $160,000 a year. Ford did not receive a raise last year, but was given a one-time additional payment equal to 4% of his annual salary .

At the board’s May 19, 2011 meeting, the AATA board had approved a new employment contract with Ford, who was hired in the summer of 2009. [For a ... [Full Story]

Hitch for AATA Consulting Contract

At its Dec. 15, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board withdrew a resolution that would have authorized signing a contract with two consulting firms to review and make recommendations on the internal organization of the AATA.

The two firms are Generator Group, LLC  and D. Kerry Laycock. After responding to an RFP from the AATA for the work, the two firms were identified as the top respondents among the 10 that responded, and were asked by the AATA to partner on a proposal. The partnership was meant to use the different strengths of the two firms. Generator Group, out of Portland, Oregon, has transit experience, while Laycock taps local talent.

Laycock has been previously tapped by the city of Ann Arbor in various reorganizational efforts, including its recent approval of the outsourcing of police dispatching to the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

The AATA’s approved FY 2012 operating budget allocates up to $250,000 for such a project. The contract with Generator Group and Laycock would have amounted to $247,000. The board’s decision to withdraw the authorization for the contract stemmed from concerns about its cost.

Board members encouraged CEO Michael Ford to use his ability to strike contracts for less than $100,000 without board authorization to complete the first phases of the organizational review. At that point, he could return to the board for a request to complete the final phase.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

UM: Occupy

Sasha Y. Kimel has posted a set of photos from today’s (Dec. 15, 2011) University of Michigan board of regents meeting depicting the Occupy demonstration there, inside and out. [Source]

Conflict-of-Interest Items Get Regental OK

At its Dec. 15, 2011 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents authorized eight items that required disclosure under the state’s Conflict of Interest statute. The law requires that regents vote on potential conflict-of-interest disclosures related to university staff, faculty or students.

The items often involve technology licensing agreements or leases. This month, the items included four research agreements, one subcontract agreement, one licensing agreement, one licensing option agreement, and one business transaction. Companies involved are: ONL Therapeutics; Emerging Micro Systems Inc.; CytoPherx Inc.; CSquared Innovations; Arbor Ultrasound Technologies; ISSYS Inc.; and Red Poppy Floral Design.

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

UM Regents Get Annual Lease Report

As an item of information, University of Michigan regents were provided with an annual report on leases held by the university that exceed 50,000 square feet.

There are currently five such leases: (1) 222,775 square feet at the Domino’s Farms complex, used by various UM Health System departments; (2) 125,815 square feet at the KMS Building on South State Street, used by UMHS; (3) 65,693 square feet at 325 East Eisenhower Parkway for use by Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spine Rehabilitation and the Dental School; (4) 63,920 square feet at 2301 Commonwealth Boulevard, for use by UMHS; and (5) 51,534 square feet at 1051 North Canton Center Road in Canton, for the UMHS Canton Health Center.

This brief was filed from the … [Full Story]

UM Trauma Burn Unit Renovations OK’d

A $3.33 million renovation for the University Hospital’s Trauma Burn Unit was approved at the Dec. 15, 2011 meeting of the University of Michigan board of regents. Renovations of the roughly 6,600-square-foot facility include improved lighting for care within the patient rooms, improved treatment rooms, creation of a dedicated physical therapy and occupational therapy room, and creation of a faculty on-call room.

Project and Design Management LLC, an architectural firm based in Ferndale, will design the project. According to a staff memo, a phased construction schedule is planned to minimize disruption to operations and patient care, with construction to be completed in the fall of 2012.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the Fleming administration building on the UM campus in … [Full Story]

Bids Authorized for UM Engineering Project

At its Dec. 15, 2011 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents authorized university staff to issue bids and award construction contracts for a $46 million addition to the  G.G. Brown Memorial Laboratories Mechanical Engineering building on UM’s north campus.

A schematic design for the 62,500-square-foot addition was approved by regents a year ago, at the board’s Dec. 17, 2010 meeting. Construction is expected to be complete by mid-2014. The addition will house research labs, and faculty and graduate student offices for emerging research areas, including bio-systems, energy systems, and nano-systems.

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

Design for UM Law Residences Approved

At its Dec. 15, 2011 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents approved the schematic design for a renovation of The Charles T. Munger Residences in the Lawyers’ Club and the John P. Cook Building.

Regents had previously authorized the overall project at their March 2011 meeting. That meeting had included  a unanimous vote to name The Lawyers Club dormitory in honor of Charles T. Munger, who gave the university $20 million toward renovations of the building. The March 2011 meeting also included a vote to approve a $39 million renovation of The Lawyers Club and the John P. Cook buildings – part of a larger expansion and renovation effort at UM’s law school.

Hartman-Cox Architects, working with SmithGroup, is handling the project’s design. … [Full Story]

UM Regents OK New Tech Start-up Program

A new initiative – the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) was approved by University of Michigan regents at their Dec. 15, 2011 board meeting. Plans for the initiative had been announced in early October by UM president Mary Sue Coleman in her annual address to campus.

In addition to approval for the overall program, regents also approved guidelines for MINTS. Managed by UM’s investment office as well as the office of technology transfer, the program involves investing in start-up companies formed using UM technology. It’s estimated that over 10 years, the program will invest about $25 million from the university’s long-term portfolio. According to a staff memo, the investments would be part of the portfolio’s venture capital sub-portfolio. A limit … [Full Story]

Fleming Administration Building

The start of the University of Michigan board of regents meeting is interrupted by protesters from the campus and community who stand and recite an organized chant, criticizing regents for, among other things, turning once-affordable public education into an “expensive commodity.” Several minutes later as they leave – chanting “Instruction, not construction!” – UM president Mary Sue Coleman picks up her introductory remarks without acknowledging the protesters, and the meeting continues.

Thompson & William

A worker with Republic Parking is replacing stickers on parking meters along Thompson, increasing the time limit from 2 to 4 hours. [photo]

Greenbelt Group Weighs Gordon Hall Issue

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Dec. 14, 2011): The main discussion at December’s GAC meeting focused on land falling outside of Ann Arbor’s greenbelt boundaries – but with possible broader implications for all regional land preservation efforts.

Dan Ezekiel, Tom Bloomer

From left: Dan Ezekiel, chair of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, talks with commissioner Tom Bloomer. (Photos by the writer.)

The land in question, outside the greenbelt boundaries, is owned by The Dexter Area Historical Society. The society is seeking a change to the conservation easement for a parcel that includes the historic Gordon Hall – a change that would allow parking for several hundred vehicles on the land for spectators of Civil War re-enactments that the society intends to hold. Webster Township trustees will ultimately vote on the request, but the township’s land preservation board – which includes Tom Bloomer, who also serves on GAC – has recommended denying it.

Bloomer told GAC commissioners that altering the agreement in this way would set a bad precedent, and call into question the trustworthiness of regional land preservation efforts. Bloomer asked for GAC to weigh in with support for the land preservation board’s position, prior to the trustees’ vote. GAC will likely take up the issue again at its Jan. 5 meeting.

Other action at GAC’s Dec. 14 meeting included passing a resolution of appreciation for Tom Freeman, deputy director of Washtenaw County parks & recreation, who is retiring at the end of the year. GAC chair Dan Ezekiel said Freeman has been “absolutely indispensable” to land preservation efforts in the county, including deals in which Ann Arbor’s greenbelt program has participated.

Ezekiel also presented a letter to the editor that he drafted, in response to misinformation expressed by commenters on articles regarding the greenbelt boundary expansion. He plans to send the letter sometime next week, pending feedback from other commissioners. [.pdf of draft letter to the editor]

During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners also welcomed the newest commissioner, Shannon Brines, to his first meeting of GAC. Brines, who’s active in the local food movement, was appointed by the city council at its Nov. 21 meeting. [Full Story]

Applicants Line Up for 15th District Judgeship

In phone interviews with The Ann Arbor Chronicle, local attorney Tom Bourque, assistant Washtenaw County prosecutor Eric Gutenberg and district court magistrate Colleen Currie all confirmed that they have met the Dec. 9 deadline to apply for appointment as a judge in the 15th District Court. That is not necessarily an exhaustive list.

They’re applying to fill a vacancy left by Julie Creal, who recently resigned from the bench, citing health reasons. With the vacancy left by Creal, the two judges for the 15th District Court are Chris Easthope and Elizabeth Hines. The district court serves Ann Arbor and handles all civil claims up to $25,000, including small claims, landlord-tenant disputes, land contract disputes, and civil infractions.

Bourque is partner in the … [Full Story]

A2: Yarn Givers

Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush reports on the phenomenon of “yarn givers,” whose work has recently been spotted in downtown Ann Arbor: ”Last month, my wife found a hat on a fence post along S. Ashley St. Thinking someone lost it, she took a closer look to discover a note that read “FREE! Handmade wool and alpaca hat for YOU!” The discovery totally lifted her spirit, and reminded her of the goodness in people.” [Source]

Council Agenda Item: Mayoral Nominations

The Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 19, 2011 meeting agenda, published online on Dec. 14, includes a resolution that expresses opposition to mayoral nominations of city of Ann Arbor employees to serve on boards and commissions. The resolution is sponsored by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2).

The “resolved” clause, as it currently appears on the agenda, simply records the view that those voting in the affirmative are opposed to such appointments: “RESOLVED, Those council members voting in the affirmative to this resolution oppose Mayoral nominations of City of Ann Arbor employees to office appointments.”

Update: As of Friday, Dec. 16, the resolved clause has been revised to read: “Therefore be it resolved, That Council … [Full Story]

Washtenaw County Board Looks to the Future

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Dec. 7, 2011):  At its last meeting of 2011, both the room and the agenda were packed.  A crowd showed up to speak during public commentary, and commissioners acted on several items before year’s end, many of them budget-related and looking toward the county’s future.

Supporters of Lourdes Salazar Bautista

Many of the people attending the Dec. 7 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners were supporters of Lourdes Salazar Bautista, an Ann Arbor resident who faces deportation. She is standing against the wall in the upper right corner of this photo. (Photos by the writer.)

Public commentary focused on two issues: (1) people lobbying against the imminent deportation of Ann Arbor resident Lourdes Salazar Bautista, and asking commissioners to intervene; (2) nonprofit leaders thanking the board for increasing the budget for coordinated funding, which supports human services agencies. The two-year budget for 2012-2013 approved by commissioners on Nov. 16 had included $128,538 in cuts each year to coordinated funding, but a vote on Dec. 7 restored that amount.

Another budget amendment approved by the board at the meeting relates to the unresolved status of mandated animal control services. County officials are still negotiating with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, which has a $500,000 annual contract for that work. The contract expires Dec. 31, and contingency plans are being made for the case that an agreement can’t be reached. Commissioners approved a budget amendment that requires board approval for any contract for animal control services extending more than 60 days.

Two presentations were made during the Dec. 7 meeting. Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, briefed commissioners about efforts to create a countywide transit system. The board will be asked to approve a four-party agreement between the county, AATA and the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti that would set a framework for incorporating a countywide transit authority. Voters may eventually be asked to approve a millage for the system – if a dedicated funding sources is not secured by the end of 2014, the effort in its current form would demise.

And in a presentation aimed at priority setting for 2012 and beyond, board chair Conan Smith proposed focusing county efforts on shoring up the county’s east side, an area that’s facing a “perfect storm of despair,” he said, including high unemployment, low graduation rates and poor health. Characterizing his proposal as the start of a board discussion, Smith laid out a variety of options that the county could pursue, including a possible Headlee override or new millage to pay for services. Feedback from commissioners indicated support for developing a strategy to tackle these problems, but a reluctance to limit the focus to only the east side – primarily Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. Several commissioners pointed out that poverty exists throughout the county.

Commissioners also took a range of other actions, including: (1) rejection of a proposal from the Washtenaw County road commission for a possible millage to fund road improvements; (2) a resolution of support for same-sex benefits; (3) an extension of a deadline related to compliance with the state’s 80/20 rule for health care costs; (4) approval of a brownfield plan for Ford Motor Co.’s Rawsonville plant; (5) creation of a board subcommittee on energy policy; and (6) appointments to a variety of boards, commissions and committees. [Full Story]

A2: Stadium Bridge

The city of Ann Arbor announced Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 13, that South State Street is now open, following the removal of the East Stadium bridge. [photo]

A2: Business

BusinessWeek features Zingerman’s Mail Order in an article about how mail-order food businesses handle the holiday ordering crush. From the report: “The staff of 50 swells to 450 in November, filling the call center and 20,000-square-foot warehouse like so many of Santa’s elves. There is never enough parking, though this year the crunch has eased. The warehouse is adjacent to the former headquarters of Borders Group, the bankrupt bookseller, and Zingerman’s has been able to use its lot.” [Source]

State & Liberty

At Sava’s, the long line for a book signing by John U. Bacon for his book “Three and Out” includes Ann Arbor Observer editor John Hilton and writer Randy Milgrom. [photo] John’s next local book signing is on Saturday, Dec. 17 from 2-4 p.m. at Nicola’s Books.

Ann Arbor to Consider 4-Way Transit Accord

At a working session of the Ann Arbor city council on Dec. 12, 2011, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority CEO Michael Ford described the legal and governance mechanisms by which the AATA would like to transition to offering countywide transportation services. [For general background on a variety of transportation issues, see recent Chronicle coverage: "Washtenaw Transit Talk in Flux"]

A key part of the transition to countywide service is a four-party agreement to be struck between the AATA, Washtenaw County, the city of Ypsilanti and the city of Ann Arbor. Highlights of the four-party agreement include the role of Washtenaw County – it would approve, sign and file the articles of incorporation for the new transit authority, under Act … [Full Story]