Archive for January, 2012

Name Spelled Wrong

In an article about a meeting of the Ann Arbor medical marijuana licensing board, we misspelled the name of the president of OM of Medicine throughout the article. The correct spelling is: Mark Passerini. We acknowledge the mistake here and have corrected the original article.

UM: Unionization

The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette is asking the state Supreme Court to stop a hearing set for Wednesday, Feb. 1 –  a hearing that could determine whether University of Michigan graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) can unionize. “Schuette, a Republican, has been barred by the Court of Appeals from taking part in the hearing. The hearing is to decide whether to overturn a 1981 Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruling stating the GSRAs are students and not employees, meaning they can’t unionize. Schuette argues in his filing, which was made public late today, that because the U-M Board of Regents voted to recognize the GSRAs as employees, no one will be arguing against unionization during … [Full Story]

A2: Fuller Road Station

The Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club has issued a press release urging the city of Ann Arbor to make a full disclosure of its plans for Fuller Road Station, a proposed city/University of Michigan parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical complex. The release includes documents obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request, indicating that some people have proposed exploring retail uses on that site.

From the release: ”It is time for the city administration to stop playing shell games, for the city council to force a full disclosure of what the plans are for the Fuller Park site, and for the city council to follow the mandate … [Full Story]

Board Recommends 10 Marijuana Licenses

At its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting, Ann Arbor’s medical marijuana licensing board voted to recommend licenses for 10 medical marijuana dispensaries located in the city. A decision on the award of the licenses will now be considered by the Ann Arbor city council.

Businesses recommended for a license under Ann Arbor’s local ordinance are: (1) Green Planet, 700 Tappan St.; (2) Treecity Health Collective, 1712 S. State St.; (3) Ann Arbor Health Collective, 2350 E. Stadium Blvd.; (4) OM of Medicine, 112 S. Main St.; (5) People’s Choice, 2245 W. Liberty St.; (6) Greenbee Collective, 401 S. Maple St.; (7) Ann Arbor Wellness Collective, 321 E. Liberty St.; (8) MedMarx at Arborside, 1818 Packard St.; (9) Medical Grass Station, 325 W. … [Full Story]

Argo Pond

Looks like the city’s taken delivery of a bunch of new canoe/kayaks.

A2: Business

The February issue of Metro Parent profiles Aubrey and Jeremy Lopatin, owners of Arbor Teas. The article describes how the Lopatins got into business, the genesis of their love for tea, their commitment to the environment, and how the business is a family affair: “There’s a cozy connection to customers, too. They make personal deliveries to A2 regulars on Fridays. And each order gets a hand-written note on the invoice stock. It’s all based in a light-filled Ann Arbor warehouse just opened last summer. After seven years, they finally outgrew the basement of their 700-square-foot home. A family of four in a tiny ranch is right in-line with their business stance. ‘Keeping a smaller footprint and keeping things simple … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Shifts Transit Gear to Neutral

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Jan. 23, 2012): At its meeting last week, the council again delayed action on a four-party agreement that would establish a framework for a transition of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to a countywide governance incorporated under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986.

In this action shot from city council chambers, a paper copy of an amendment to the text of the four-party transit agreement is handed from city clerk Jackie Beaudry to Jane Lumm (Ward 3).

In this action shot from city council chambers, a paper copy of an amendment to the text of the four-party transit agreement is handed from city clerk Jackie Beaudry to councilmember Jane Lumm (Ward 2). In the background are Ward 1 councilmembers Sandi Smith (left) and Sabra Briere. (Photos by the writer.)

The council postponed action until its Feb. 6 meeting, but not before undertaking several amendments to the text of the agreement. The council had previously postponed action at its Jan. 9 meeting and had set a public hearing for Jan. 23. Thirty-nine people appeared before the council to speak during the hearing, and some of those people also reprised their remarks during public comment at the conclusion of the meeting. Fourteen of the speakers were either current or former elected or appointed public officials, or former candidates for public office.

The four-party agreement would be between the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County.

A delay was warranted from the perspective of some councilmembers, who wanted to hear the recommendation of a financial advisory group. The group has been meeting since the fall of 2011 and was scheduled to hold a final meeting on Jan. 27, four days after the council’s vote to postpone. However, later in the week the financial advisory group also chose to postpone its Jan. 27 meeting, in the wake of a 17-bill package of state legislation introduced on Jan. 26 – part of which would establish a regional transit authority for Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and a possible funding mechanism for that authority. It’s not clear if the financial advisory group will meet before the council’s next meeting on Feb. 6.

The council could undertake further amendments to the text of the four-party agreement at its Feb. 6 meeting. In fact, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated he’d bring forward an amendment to change the composition of the planned new transit authority board, to give Ann Arbor more than the currently proposed seven out of 15 seats, so that Ann Arbor would have a majority.

In other business, the council passed two resolutions as symbolic statements of position. One was to express opposition to Michigan’s Public Act 297, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2011. The act prohibits public employers from providing employee medical and fringe benefits to those who are not married to an employee, a dependent of the employee, or eligible to inherit from the employee under the laws of intestate succession.

The law impacts the city of Ann Arbor’s policy of extending benefits to “other qualified adults” – which can include a same-sex domestic partner. The resolution gained unanimous support on the Ann Arbor city council. As Jane Lumm (Ward 2) expressed her concerns about the council’s purview on such a resolution, but ultimately expressed her support for it, Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who is openly gay, was prompted to say, “I love this city!”

The second resolution expressing a position was passed over the dissent of Lumm and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). It encouraged the federal government to exercise prosecutorial discretion in pursuing the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes and who have ties to the community.

The council also approved a contract with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to supply policing services for the downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center. And the council authorized a $10 million contract for engineering services in connection with the facilities renovation project at the city’s wastewater treatment center.

The meeting was bookended by mentions of the word “dragon” – in separate contexts.  [Full Story]

Postema Won’t Run for Circuit Court

A source on the Ann Arbor city council confirmed for The Chronicle that city attorney Stephen Postema has told councilmembers he will not be running for a judgeship on the 22nd circuit court. Last August he’d indicated to The Chronicle that he was considering a run. ["Postema Mulling Run for Circuit Court Judge"]

As late as Jan. 23, he’d said he had not made a decision about whether to run. Had he entered the race, he would have faced competition from local attorneys Carol Kuhnke, Doug McClure and Erane Washington, who all attended a meeting of Ann Arbor city Democrats in mid-January and asked attendees for their support. Shortly after that meeting, local attorney Jim Fink issued a … [Full Story]

A2: Awesome Award

Nathan Ayers is the first recipient of an A2Awesome grant for $1,000. Mark Maynard, one of the group’s founders, writes about the decision and posts an interview with Ayers on his blog. Maynard reports that Ayers “will be using the money to construct two bike-powered vegetable grow racks, which will be used in the K-12 science classes he teaches in Ann Arbor and Detroit. According to Ayers, the intention is to create a closed loop system to demonstrate the principles of permaculture – a design and engineering philosophy based on ecology, which has as its objective the creation of sustainable food, energy and community infrastructure systems.” [Source]

Transitions for Ann Arbor Art Commission

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Jan. 25, 2012): Two new commissioners – Bob Miller and John Kotarski – attended the art commission’s first meeting of 2012, and joined other AAPAC members in approving two public art projects.

Wiltrud Simbuerger

Ann Arbor public art commissioner Wiltrud Simbuerger, showing other commission members some proposals from artists for a mural at Allmendinger Park. A local artist, Mary Thiefels, has been selected for that project. (Photos by the writer.)

The group unanimously recommended selecting Ed Carpenter of Portland, Oregon for a $150,000 art project in the lobby of the city’s Justice Center, located at the corner of East Huron and Fifth Avenue. A task force had recommended the selection of Carpenter’s proposal from three finalists. It’s a sculpture called “Radius”.

Carpenter plans to create a hanging sculpture of dichroic glass, aluminum, stainless steel and lighting, including LED spot and flood lighting. Among the reasons for recommending Radius, the task force cited the sculpture’s metaphor: That the activities in the Justice Center have a “rippling” effect throughout the community, which echos the water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl that’s located in the plaza outside the building.

The Justice Center, a new building next to city hall, houses the 15th District Court and the Ann Arbor police department. The commission’s recommendation will be forwarded to the city council for approval.

In other action, the art commission voted to select Ann Arbor muralist Mary Thiefels for a mural project to be located on pillars at a building in Allmendinger Park. A task force had recommended her selection from among four finalists. Her proposal entails asking neighborhood residents for artifacts to create mosaics at the top and bottom of the pillars. The task force recommended that they continue to work with Thiefels on designing the remainder of the mural in the middle sections of the pillars.

Commissioners liked the concept of “found object” mosaics, but questioned whether the $10,000 budget was sufficient. They ultimately voted to approve selecting Thiefels for the project, contingent on her submission of a revised proposal and budget, with additional input from the task force. This project is the first one in a pilot mural program started last year by former commissioner Jeff Meyers.

AAPAC also discussed possible artwork for four sites connected to the East Stadium bridges, which are being reconstructed. The two commissioners who serve on a task force for that project – Wiltrud Simbuerger and Bob Miller – indicated that the budget recommendation will likely be at least $250,000 for artwork there. The task force is currently developing a request for proposals to be issued in the coming weeks.

In the context of developing their annual art plan for fiscal 2013, which by ordinance must be delivered to the city council by April 1, commissioners decided to hold a retreat next month. In addition to shaping the annual plan, the aim of the retreat is to develop a master plan that would provide a broader conceptual framework to guide AAPAC’s decisions. Input from an online survey of the public will also be used – the survey remains open until Feb. 20, and has garnered more than 400 responses so far. [Full Story]

Photos: Local Faces in Obama’s UM Crowd

When the president of the United States comes to town to give a major speech on college affordability, it’s not something we’d want to miss.

Barack Obama

U.S. president Barack Obama, speaking at the University of Michigan’s Al Glick Fieldhouse on Friday morning, Jan. 27. His remarks focused on the issue of education and college affordability. (Photos by Mary Morgan.)

Also not wanting to miss Barack Obama’s appearance at the University of Michigan – a return visit after delivering the commencement address in May of 2010 – were dozens of other national, state and local media. Attention is heightened even more during this election year, and Friday morning’s speech was just one of many stops as Obama hit the road following Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

There will be countless reports and opinions offered on the Jan. 27 speech at UM, but we’d encourage you to approach it unfiltered, at least initially. You can watch the roughly 40-minute speech in its entirety online, or read a transcript of it here.

For Obama’s remarks almost two years ago at the 2010 UM commencement, we provided a bit of our own analysis, along with photos by Myra Klarman.

This time, we went with an eye for recording the community connections we could see at the event. And there were many – not surprisingly for a Democratic stronghold like Ann Arbor. Politicians were easy to spot, of course, but there were also educators, business owners, government workers and many others.

Over 3,000 people attended Friday morning’s speech. Here are a few of those we encountered there. [Full Story]

AAPS to Use Savings to Offset Budget Cuts

Ann Arbor Public Schools committee of the whole meeting (Jan. 25, 2012): At the board of trustees committee of the whole (COTW) meeting on Wednesday, trustees agreed on a strategy to dip into fund equity to offset the anticipated $14 million-$16 million deficit facing the district in fiscal year 2012-13. Trustee Andy Thomas won support from his colleagues to use around $7 million in savings to “buy [AAPS] another year without having to make really draconian budget cuts.” Board president Deb Mexicotte called it a “respite year.”


School bus operated for Ann Arbor Public Schools headed north on State Street on Jan 27, 2012. Changes to the way AAPS provides transportation services was a major theme of the AAPS board's Jan. 25 committee meeting.

That led to a vigorous discussion of the district’s immediate and longer-term options to continue to function in a challenging fiscal and political environment beyond 2012-13. “Everything has to be on the table … Education is not going to be the same,” said trustee Susan Baskett.

Mexicotte agreed, saying the time for incremental change has passed, and that the district “might need to make some bold moves.”

As options to consider for the following year, trustees listed the following: redistricting; eliminating 7th hour high school classes; closing schools; sharing principals; passing a countywide enhancement millage; changing high school start times; moving more athletics extracurricular activities to a “club sports” model; increasing the number of online class offerings; changing state law; working with the University of Michigan to allow AAPS students to earn credit hours there at a reduced rate; and moving to a balanced calendar district-wide.

In some detail, the board also evaluated its options for busing – in light of news that the Ypsilanti and Willow Run public schools are considering pulling out of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s transportation consortium. That would leave Ann Arbor as the sole participant in the consortium.

Trustees directed administration to examine and make a recommendation on the following transportation options: improving busing within the current framework of the WISD; consolidating busing with Ypsilanti and Willow Run outside the WISD consolidation; bringing busing back into the AAPS budget with bus drivers remaining public employees; bringing busing back into the AAPS budget but privatizing bus drivers; eliminating busing entirely; or collaborating with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) to transport AAPS students.

Several trustees also made plugs for protecting classrooms from the effect of budget cuts, and even suggested lowering class sizes. AAPS superintendent Patricia Green suggested it was also important to relieve some of the pressure and anxiety felt by teachers and other district staff. “We are at the tipping point,” she said, “Five years of budget cuts can take its toll.”

Also at the Jan 25 COTW meeting, trustees heard updates on the AAPS preschool and family center programs, including some discussion of the county’s relinquishing of its management of the federal Head Start grant. And, the board was briefed on the implementation of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a new assessment tool the board approved for purchase last May. [Full Story]

618 S. Main Project Gets Planning Support

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Jan. 19, 2012): A major development on the south edge of downtown Ann Arbor – between Main and Ashley, north of Mosley – was generally praised by planning commissioners at their most recent meeting, and unanimously recommended for approval.

618 South Main

Looking north from Mosley at the site of the proposed 618 S. Main apartment complex. The former Fox Tent & Awning building will be demolished. Ashley Street runs to the left of this photo, and borders the Old West Side historic district. (Photos by the writer.)

The 618 S. Main project is an apartment complex geared toward young professionals, according to developer Dan Ketelaar. The 7-story building would include 190 units for 231 bedrooms, plus two levels of parking for 121 vehicles.

The project borders the Old West Side historic district – the board of the Old West Side Association submitted a letter of support for the development. Parking and traffic concerns were raised by some commissioners, but the project received praise for its design and its potential to enliven that part of the city. The planning staff had recommended approval.

Two other projects gained approval from commissioners at their Jan. 19 meeting. Rezoning and a site plan for a small addition to the Habe Mills Pine Lodge – owned by the Society of Les Voyageurs – will move forward to the city council with a recommendation of approval. The lodge is adjacent to city parkland near Argo Pond, and had been erroneously zoned as public land.

The commission also signed off on a special exception use at 3645 Waldenwood, which would allow an accessory apartment to be added to the single-family house there. It’s located in the Earhart Estates neighborhood, west of Earhart and south of Glazier Way, in the city’s northwest side.

Several commissioners expressed support of this project and for accessory units in general. “Accessory dwelling units can be an asset to our community and I hope we see more in the future,” said commissioner Erica Briggs. [Full Story]

Transit Advisory Group Postpones Meeting

The final meeting of a financial advisory committee to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27, has been postoned. The group was tapped by the AATA to review and make recommendations on funding options for service and governance of a transit authority that would operate throughout Washtenaw County. The group is expected to submit a white paper containing its recommendations.

The advisory committee, made up of more than 20 representatives of the public and private sectors, is led by McKinley Inc. CEO Albert Berriz and retired Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel They have met since the fall of 2011.

The expected recommendations of the financial advisory committee come in the context of a proposed  four-party agreement – between … [Full Story]

Hoover & Green

Southbound train stopped for 10 minutes now, blocking passage. Related to prep for Obama visit?

Michigan Regional Transit Bills Unveiled

Following an early morning announcement on Jan. 26 from state representative Rick Olson (District 55) – that a transportation improvement package for Michigan would be introduced in both houses of the legislature today – the text of the 17 bills is now available.

Southeast Michigan Transit Authority

Four-county region the regional transit authority (RTA) counterclockwise from Washtenaw County (orange): Wayne, Macomb, Oakland. Pushpin A is the location of the Detroit Metro airport. Major corridors on which rolling rapid transit would be provided include Gratiot (red), M-59 (yellow), Woodward (purple) and Michigan Avenue (green). (Map is by The Ann Arbor Chronicle. Routes are approximate, intended to illustrate the concept. Image links to dynamic Google Map with .kml file)

Much of the package deals with road funding, but some of the bills establish a regional transit authority (RTA) for southeast Michigan and its funding. Here’s a brief initial glance at some of the possible legislation.

HB 5309 establishes the region of the RTA as Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties. The counties are not mentioned by name, but rather are described in terms of their population – a move likely used to avoid the 2/3 majority vote required under Michigan’s constitution (Article IV Section 29) for the legislature to enact local or special acts.

The legislation specifically calls for rolling rapid transit (aka bus rapid transit) along four corridors: (1) a Woodward corridor, (2) a Gratiot corridor, (3) a northern cross-county line to operate between the city of Troy and the city of Mt. Clemens, and (4) a western cross-county 47-mile route between downtown Detroit and the downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center. The Ann Arbor line is described as including stations in Ypsilanti, the Detroit Metro airport, and Dearborn. [Full Story]

UM: Mural

A video posted on YouTube shows the creation of a new mural at the University of Michigan’s Palmer Commons, painted by UM Lloyd Scholars in a course by Mark Tucker. The 78-x-17-foot mural reflects the theme semester of the College of Literature, Science & the Arts: “Language: The Human Quintessence.” [Source]

Olson: Road, Transit Legislation Introduced

An emailed press release from state representative Rick Olson’s office on the morning of Jan 26, 2012 announced that legislation to improve road infrastructure throughout the state, as well as enable the creation of a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan, would be introduced in the state house and senate later in the day. Olson represents District 55.

From the press release: “The bipartisan, bicameral package aims to improve and maintain roads across the state, implement numerous reforms to the Department of Transportation and establish a funding source to be used only to directly improve roads, bridges and key infrastructure. The legislation also would create a regional transit authority in Southeast Michigan.” For background see “AATA in Transition: Briefed on … [Full Story]

Michigan Union

Obama ticket line now reaches from the Union, down Maynard to William, over to State and south past the front door of the Union again. Overnighters unflagging, wrapped in blankets and resolve. [photo]

Michigan Union

Midnight: A couple hundred people, mostly students, are camped out in the lower level of the Michigan Union waiting in line for tickets to president Obama’s Friday morning speech. [photo] Union staff say they’ve told everyone that the line will be moving outside at 2 a.m. when the building closes. Most have sleeping bags or blankets – also, lots of laptops. Channel 4 News was here earlier, and interviewed the first person in line: Teman Evans, a lecturer at UM’s Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning. He seems totally prepared for the long haul – the union’s ticket office opens Thursday at 9 a.m. [photo]

ZBA Grants 1 of 2 Medical Marijuana Appeals

At its Jan. 25, 2012 meeting, Ann Arbor’s zoning board of appeals heard two appeals from representatives of medical marijuana dispensaries, who had been denied a zoning compliance permit by the city. The ZBA granted one appeal (from Green Planet), overturning the decision of city staff, and rejected the other (from Treecity).

Both businesses were  seeking such a permit in order to apply for a medical marijuana dispensary license. The licensing board is scheduled to meet on Jan. 31 to make recommendations on the award of dispensary licenses. The denial of the one appeal means that nine of 10 total applications will be considered by the licensing board.

The Ann Arbor city council enacted zoning and licensing requirements for medical marijuana businesses on June … [Full Story]

In the Archives: Helping the Deserving Poor

Editor’s note: Laura Bien returns this month after a three-month hiatus from her In the Archives column for The Chronicle. Look for it in the future around the end of every month. For this column, she reviewed around 1,500 pages worth of meeting minutes from the Ypsilanti Home Association. 

Nellie Smith* heard someone coming up the stairs and sat up in bed. She could see her breath in the late-winter afternoon light. Perhaps he had left something behind. She glanced around the room. There was nothing on the table, the chair, or the stove with the broken leg propped on a brick.

Knocks sounded. Nellie stood, shook out her ragged nightgown, and opened the door an inch. The friendly gaze of a middle-aged woman in a trim winter coat and long dark skirts met Nellie’s cautious look.


Harriet Gilbert as she looked around the time she was first elected Ypsilanti Home Association president in 1875, an office she held for over 30 years.

Lizzie Swaine introduced herself, apologized for the intrusion, and said there’d been word of a little difficulty at this Washington Street address. It felt cold here, she said – did Nellie have any fuel in the house? No, said Nellie, nor food either. Lizzie asked a few more questions, reassured her that help was coming, thanked her for her time, and left. Likely the women’s interaction was similar to this imagined scene.

What is a matter of record is that some days later Lizzie joined twelve other women for the May 1896 Ypsilanti Home Association meeting at Lovina Briggs’ Huron Street home. As Lizzie described Nellie’s plight, she may have noticed some raised eyebrows. The ladies discussed the case. Later, Association secretary Cleantha Dickinson paraphrased the talk in the 1896 meeting minutes logbook.

“Mrs. Swaine came to present the case of Mrs. Smith,” she wrote, “whom she found without a fire and about to be turned out of her rooms because she could not pay her rent.”

She continued, “Investigation among the ladies proved that the woman had a father and brother in comfortable circumstances who would not help the woman unless she behaved herself … it was found that she had been under arrest for keeping a disorderly house,” a euphemism referring at that time to prostitution.

She concluded, “The ladies decided they could not help her while she persisted in wrong doing.” Luckily, Nellie was an exception – the group helped most of those cases that came before it.  [Full Story]

Art Commission Moves Ahead on Projects

At its Jan. 25, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor public art commission recommended approving the artist Ed Carpenter of Portland, Oregon for a $150,000 art project in the lobby of the city’s Justice Center, located at the corner of East Huron and Fifth Avenue. A task force had recommended the selection of Carpenter’s proposal – a sculpture called “Radius” – from three finalists. Members of the task force who recommended Carpenter are Elaine Sims, Margaret Parker, Spring Tremaine, Karl Daubmann, Maureen Devine, Laura Rubin, Ray Detter, Margie Teal, Homayoon Pirooz, and Aaron Seagraves.

Carpenter’s proposal calls for creating a hanging sculpture of dichroic glass, aluminum, stainless steel and lighting, including LED spot and flood lighting. The intent of the artwork is to reflect how … [Full Story]