Archive for March, 2012

Dexter: Cash Mob

The Detroit News reports on Saturday’s Dexter Tornado Cash Mob, which was organized by the Ann Arbor Cash Mob to support businesses in the wake of the March 15 tornado devastation. More than 100 shoppers came to town throughout the day. The article quotes Becky Harrison, who drove to Dexter from Manchester: “Even though it’s not our town – these small towns, we’re like neighbors.” [Source]

UM Regents Call April 2 Special Meeting

The University of Michigan board of regents has called a special meeting for Monday, April 2, 2012 in the boardroom of the Fleming administration building, 503 Thompson St. in Ann Arbor. The announcement was emailed to media on Saturday morning, March 31. No topic for the meeting was identified.

This is the third special meeting for the regents so far in 2012. Most recently, the board met on Feb. 21 – with all members participating via conference call – and voted 6-2 formally to oppose Senate Bill 971. The legislation, which was subsequently enacted, made explicit that graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947. The board’s two Republican … [Full Story]

Council Preview: Marijuana, Art, TIF

The Ann Arbor city council’s April 2, 2012 agenda will touch on three areas that have previously generated substantial debate on the council and throughout the community: (1) medical marijuana; (2) funding of public art; and (3) calculation of the tax increment finance (TIF) capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Ann Arbor city council agenda screenshot

Screen shot excerpt for April 2, 2012 Ann Arbor city council's online agenda. Image links to online agenda.

Medical marijuana is the subject of three different agenda items. The first has previously been postponed twice – at the council’s March 19 and March 5 meetings. It would direct the city attorney to delay enforcement of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, as well as the city’s licensing and zoning ordinances (with one exception), until the city council has acted on possible amendments to the city’s local ordinances on medical marijuana.

Amendments to those ordinances, as recommended by the city’s medical marijuana licensing board at its Jan. 31, 2012 meeting, are covered in two other items on the April 2 agenda. One item includes a series of amendments to the licensing ordinance, which in part help clarify the role of city staff, as compared to the licensing board, in the licensing process. The council will be considering the amendments for the first time at the April 2 meeting. If approved, the amendments would require a second and final approval by the council at a subsequent meeting before taking effect.

The other agenda item regarding the city’s ordinances on medical marijuana is not itself a proposed amendment. Instead, the council resolution would give direction to the city planning commission to review the recommended revision to the zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses. That’s because it’s the purview of the city planning commission to review changes to the zoning code. The planning commission would then forward its recommendation to the city council.

Added to the agenda on Friday were two items that Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) had announced at the council’s previous meeting, on March 19, that he would be bringing forward. The first is a resolution that would direct the city attorney to prepare a written opinion on the transfer of funds from the street millage fund to the city’s public art fund. It’s a point of contention that has a history going back at least two and a half years. Kunselman’s resolution refers to the context of the fiscal year 2013 budget, which the council will be presented by the city administrator on April 16. The council will need to act on that budget by the end of May.

Another item on the agenda that’s related to public art is the approval of a $150,000 sculpture for the interior of the new municipal center, in the Justice Center building. And finally, the report from the public art commission’s planning retreat, held on Feb. 26, 2012, is attached to the council’s agenda as a communication.

The second item added to the agenda by Kunselman on Friday directs the city staff to analyze the compliance of the Ann Arbor DDA with Chapter 7 of the city’s code, which is the legislation that established the DDA in 1982. Kunselman’s resolution asks for an analysis by Ann Arbor city staff of the DDA’s capture of taxes in its tax increment finance (TIF) district. The DDA is slated on April 9 to present its board-approved FY 2013 budget at a city council working session.

Chapter 7 appears to impose a limit on the amount of TIF capture, based on the rate of growth of property valuation inside the DDA district. Last year, when the relevance of the ordinance was pointed out by city financial staff, the DDA returned over $400,000 to other taxing authorities in the district. The city of Ann Arbor waived its share of over $700,000.

However, the DDA subsequently has contended that the money it reimbursed to other taxing authorities was not required. The DDA claims that Chapter 7 does not impose a limit on TIF capture, but rather addresses how money would be returned to other taxing authorities, if the DDA did not use the money. At stake this year and in future years is several hundred thousand dollars, depending on how the calculations are done. The Ann Arbor District Library, one of the taxing authorities whose taxes are subject to DDA capture, has publicly stated that it has not changed its original legal position – which interprets Chapter 7 as a limit on TIF capture and questions the methodology used by the DDA to calculate the excess.

The April 2 Ann Arbor city council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in city council chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. The meetings are broadcast live on Channel 16 of the Community Television Network. The Channel 16 broadcast is also streamed live on the Internet. [Full Story]

A2: FoolMoon

A 2.37-minute video of Friday night’s FoolMoon festivities has been posted on YouTube, featuring jellyfish, skull and lip luminaries, and a shadow puppet. [Source]

Park Commission Briefed on Millage Renewal

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (March 20, 2012): At their monthly meeting, park advisory commissioners were briefed on two millages that help fund Ann Arbor’s park system, including one that will likely be on the November ballot for renewal.

Ducks in West Park

Creatures in West Park will not be able to participate in the November millage vote, even though they apparently can get their ducks in a row. A parks millage that's up for renewal helped pay for some of the recent renovations to the park, including the boardwalk, bandshell plaza and entry stairs. (Photos by the writer.)

The park maintenance and capital improvements millage, a six-year tax, brings in about $5 million annually and accounts for about 45% of the parks budget – including the entire funding for the natural areas preservation (NAP) program. Voters will likely be asked to renew it at 1.1 mills from 2013-2018, assuming the city council votes to put the millage on the Nov. 6 ballot at that rate. PAC chair Julie Grand – who has served on a working group to strategize about the renewal – said concerns about the economic climate are a major reason why an increase isn’t being recommended.

During the millage discussion, city councilmember Mike Anglin said he supports the millage but has concerns about Fuller Park, noting that talks regarding Fuller Road Station aren’t over. Parks manager Colin Smith pointed out that no millage funds have been or would be spent on Fuller Road Station. Grand cautioned against connecting the millage renewal to Fuller Road Station, saying it’s important to inform the public clearly about what the renewal means.

To provide that information, the city plans to hold four public forums in April, and a public hearing on the millage will be scheduled for PAC’s April 17 meeting. The city also plans to launch a website in early April with more information about the millage.

Also at the March 20 meeting, commissioners got a mid-year update about the open space and parkland preservation millage, which funds the greenbelt program and park acquisitions. Fuller Road Station was a backdrop to this discussion too, when commissioner Gwen Nystuen asked about protections that are afforded land acquired through this millage.

Land acquisition also came up in two other contexts during the meeting. The future of property owned by MichCon – located north of Broadway Street, between the Huron River and the railroad tracks – was part of the discussion during an update on environmental cleanup at the site. A DTE Energy representative indicated that senior management sees the potential for redevelopment there, but no plans are finalized. It’s expected that DTE Energy, which owns the property through its MichCon subsidiary, will eventually sell the site.

And speaking during public commentary, Ann Arbor resident Larry Baird advocated for the city to acquire land to fill gaps in the Border-to-Border Trail, which roughly follows the Huron River. Specifically, he characterized a connection between Bandemer Park and Barton Nature Area as the top priority, and urged the city to focus more on this project than on high-speed rail.

In the agenda’s one action item, commissioners recommended awarding a $79,980 contract to Michigan Recreational Construction Inc. to handle renovations at Placid Way Park. The resolution also recommends an additional 10% contingency of $7,998 for a total project cost of $87,978. The 1.32-acre neighborhood park is located on the city’s north side near the larger Dhu Varren Woods Nature Area and Foxfire South Park. The project would be funded from the park maintenance and capital improvements millage. [Full Story]

A2: Business

Two Ann Arbor area companies – Motawi Tileworks and Zingerman’s – were featured during a Friday segment about Easter gift baskets on NBC’s Today Show. Cookbook author Kathleen Daelemans showcased eight items for hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, saying the products were made by “little-engine-that-could companies in the heart of America.” The Motawi basket had three trivets – including one with the image of a bunny – while the basket from Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory was full of confections that Daelemans said “bring the flavor back into candy bars.” [Source]

Fourth & William

Two more car charging stations go in to the Fourth/William parking structure. First floor. Green cones.

Fifth & Huron

Jack Eaton at city clerk’s window pulling petitions to run for city council in Ward 4 as a Democrat, for incumbent Democrat Margie Teall’s seat. Teall took out petitions on Jan. 23, 2012. The Democratic primary will be held on Aug. 7, 2012. [.pdf of press release] [photo]

As of 10 a.m. no candidates for city elections who have taken out petitions have turned them in. Those include incumbent mayor John Hieftje and Tom Wall for the office of mayor – both for the Democratic primary. Others who have pulled petitions include: Tony Derezinski (Ward 2 Democratic incumbent); Sally Hart Petersen (Ward 2 Democratic challenger); Christopher Taylor (Ward 3 Democratic incumbent); Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5 Democratic incumbent); and Stuart Berry (Ward 5 Republican challenger). The deadline for primary election candidates to file petitions is May 15 at 4 p.m.

Column: Shawn Hunwick’s Impossible Dream

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Two years ago, Michigan’s hockey team was in danger of snapping its record 19-straight NCAA tournament bids. They finished seventh in their league – unheard of, for Michigan. So, the only way to keep the streak alive was to win six straight league playoff games to get an automatic NCAA bid.

Oh, and they had to do it with a back-up goalie named Shawn Hunwick, a 5-foot-6 walk-on who had never started a college game until that week.

It didn’t look good.

But the kid caught fire. Michigan won all six games, stretched its streak to 20 straight NCAA tournaments, and Hunwick won the league tournament MVP.

This never happens.

The next season, head coach Red Berenson alternated goalies until he had to pick one to play in the Big Chill game at Michigan’s football stadium – which was going to be the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game, anywhere. He picked Bryan Hogan, but in warm ups, Hogan pulled a muscle, so Berenson put Hunwick in the net at the last minute. The kid beat Michigan State, 5-0, and a star was re-born. [Full Story]

Slauson Middle School

Conflicting signs attached to Slauson Middle School parking lot fence make it unclear whether you can or cannot legally walk your dog here. Regardless, Slauson becomes a dogs paradise on Saturday mornings ;-). [photos]

Pine & Miller

On the east side of Pine, a deer walked down the sidewalk. Evidence that the west side of town is cougar-free.

West Park

Much-needed repairs underway to the West Park pergola off of Miller. [photo] Elsewhere in the park, a well-marked rock pile. [photo]

A2: FoolMoon & FestiFools

On her Relish blog, Myra Klarman features photographs of preparations for the Friday, March 30 FoolMoon festivities as well as the Sunday, April 1 FestiFools parade and related events. She also gives some advice: “What happens if it rains Friday night? The good word is that FoolMoon will embrace the weather conditions. The event will go on rain or (moon)shine, and I find this ‘can do’ attitude very refreshing, even Foolhardy (with emphasis on hardy). Some of the features may have to be tweaked and brought under shelter – I’m excited to see how it all plays out. Got any fish lanterns from last year? I hear those would love to come out and play in the rain. … [Full Story]

UM: Adrienne Rich

Following the death of poet Adrienne Rich, National Public Radio interviews Linda Gregerson, a poet, critic and University of Michigan professor: “I remember when I first encountered Adrienne’s work and it was when I was a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the fierceness of her intelligence and the power of her anger, her willingness to speak it directly, was really an amazing revelation, I think, for many of us. … And she’s been a stirring and necessary and really life-changing figure for many, many in the world of American poetry, not just women poets.” [Source]

A2: Business

The Detroit Free Press reports that the U.S. Dept. of Justice asked for a permanent injunction against Rosewood Products, claiming that the Ann Arbor firm has “failed to correct unsanitary and filthy conditions at its plant,” according to the report. Owner Phil G. Ye told the Free Press that conditions at the plant are sanitary. The company makes tofu and other soy products. It is located at Airport Boulevard on the city’s south side and has been in business since 1976. [Source]

Provided by The Chronicle: [.pdf of complaint filed in U.S. District Court]


Bobrin Backs Pratt for Water Resources Post

Long-time Washtenaw County water resources commissioner Janis Bobrin has announced that she does not plan to run for re-election this year, ending her tenure of more than two decades in that elected position. In a press release issued on March 28, Bobrin endorsed fellow Democrat Evan Pratt for the election. [.pdf of press release]

Pratt, who currently serves on the Ann Arbor planning commission, is a senior project manager with the Spicer Group, a professional engineering firm with offices in Saginaw and St. Johns. He is also chair of the board for the nonprofit Huron River Watershed Council. According to the press release, Pratt is a licensed professional engineer in five states, including Michigan, with expertise in stormwater quality and … [Full Story]

Art Commission OKs Annual Public Art Plan

At its March 28, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor public art commission unanimously approved a public art plan for the coming fiscal year, from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. The plan had been the topic of a four-hour retreat in late February. The city’s public art ordinance requires that AAPAC submit an annual plan to the city council by April 1.

About $1.13 million in unencumbered funds remains in the current public art budget. [The city’s public art ordinance requires that 1% of all capital project budgets (up to a limit of $250,000 per project) be set aside for public art.] The plan includes a list of ongoing projects, including: (1) installation of Ed Carpenter’s “Radius” sculpture in the lobby … [Full Story]

Art Project at Argo Cascades Tabled

At its March 28, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor public art commission tabled action on a public art project at Argo Cascades, the new Huron River bypass near the Argo Pond canoe livery. Neither of the two commissioners who are on a task force for the project – Malverne Winborne and John Kotarski – attended the meeting, and other commissioners felt they needed more information before voting on a budget.

No specific location has been identified for the work. The task force recommended instead to issue a request for proposals (RFP) and get input on the location from the artist who’s eventually selected for this project. About $175,000 is available for the project from money that has accumulated in the city’s … [Full Story]

$400,000 Earmarked for E. Stadium Bridges Art

At its March 28, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor public art commission recommended allocating $400,000 for artwork at the East Stadium bridges – currently being rebuilt by the city of Ann Arbor. AAPAC had voted to form a task force for the project at its September 2011 meeting, citing its importance as a gateway to the city. The budget would require approval by the city council.

Because the location could be a landmark marking an entrance into the city, the task force had advocated using a relatively large amount from the city’s Percent for Art funds, to be taken from the balance of $529,251 that’s accumulated for public art from streets-related capital projects. The city’s public art ordinance requires that … [Full Story]

UM: Denard Robinson

ESPN’s Wolverine Nation looks at how college athletes – including University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson – handle the challenges of celebrity status. The report quotes Robinson and his reaction to meeting president Barack Obama at a UM event earlier this year: ”That’s one of those days I’m going to sit down and tell my grandkids, sit down I’ve got a story for y’all. I met the President. That’s one of the things I’ll always remember and always cherish. As soon as I got done meeting him, I called my dad, my mom, my brothers and said, ‘I just met the President. I just met the President of the United States.’” [Source]

1414 Wells

Amazing storyteller and Michigan author Patricia Polacco sharing the story of The Keeping Quilt. [photo]

Main & Hoover

Jeep Cherokee vs. mountain bike. No helmet visible, cyclist injured, but looks like he’ll be okay.

Column: Meaningful Space in Ann Arbor

Earlier this month (March 8), the Toledo Museum of Art hosted a program featuring Jay Shafer, the founder of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and one of the proponents for the tiny homes movement. “Tiny” in this case means only a few hundred square feet, and most of the Tumbleweed designs are under 200 square feet. A newly constructed, 65-square-foot Tumbleweed house, mounted on a trailer and parked on the front steps of the Museum, is among the works presented in the Museum’s “Small Worlds” exhibition.

Spaces Tiny Houses

From left to right: indoor phone booth, tiny house, and a crosswalk.

I attended this program, in part, at the invitation of a friend who lives in Toledo – because I am an architect, and I am working on the design of a small bunkhouse for their summer cottage in Ontario.

Architecture is about creating meaningful spaces and about communicating that meaning to the occupants and users of those spaces. For me, the Small Worlds exhibition triggered a series of thoughts about elements of physical culture in Ann Arbor and whether that culture is successfully serving its purpose in the city.

I’m going to wrap a lot into this notion of physical culture – from pedestrian amenities, to accessory dwelling units, to a phone booth. The phone booth is something I’m planning to add to the physical culture of my own workspace – at Workantile on Main Street in Ann Arbor. So that’s where I’ll start, with something tinier even than Jay Shafer’s 65-square-foot house. [Full Story]