Archive for September, 2012

AATA OKs Smaller Budget, Drives Ahead

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Sept. 27, 2012): The main business transacted by the AATA board was approval of the operating budget for the coming year, which starts Oct. 1.

Charles Griffith looks at a budget spreadsheet during the Sept. 27, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board.

Charles Griffith looks at a budget spreadsheet during the Sept. 27, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board. (Photos by the writer.)

Compared to an earlier draft budget, the one approved by the board was diminished on the revenue side by $800,000 in less-than-expected state operating assistance. Subsequent reductions in expenses still resulted in the need to use $300,000 in reserves to cover the gap. The reduction in state operating assistance for the AATA is related to a dramatic budget decrease by a Detroit transit agency – the state’s formula for making its allocations is sensitive to that.

The meeting’s budget discussion overlapped with conversation about the new transit authority, which is likely to be incorporated next week on Oct. 3. That’s the day after the AATA board is scheduled to meet in a special session, when it’s expected to request formally that the Washtenaw County clerk file articles of incorporation with the state. The new transit authority is to be called The Washtenaw Ride. Before any assets could be transferred from the AATA to The Washtenaw Ride, voters would need to approve a funding mechanism, likely through a millage to be placed on the ballot as soon as May 2013.

AATA board members made a point to stress that the planned operating deficits for the year that’s now ending (about $1 million) and the upcoming year ($300,000) are not sustainable. Instead, those budgets reflect an early implementation of some expanded services – like increased frequency on Route #4 between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – which the AATA would like to implement more permanently in the context of the broader governance and service area of a new transit authority. Some currently expanded services might need to be scaled back if the new authority winds up being dissolved at the end of 2014 – a possibility if voters do not authorize the necessary funding.

The incorporation of the new authority has statutory implications. Because the incorporation of a new transit authority will include by default all the jurisdictions in Washtenaw County, the filing of the articles opens a 30-day window for jurisdictions to opt out of participation. That can be accomplished through a vote by a jurisdiction’s governing body.

The possibility of several jurisdictions opting out prompted the introduction of a resolution at the Sept. 27 meeting that was not originally on the agenda. That resolution was meant to clarify that the AATA board is keen to allow all the constituencies to be represented on the new authority that have been represented for about a year on the as-yet-unincorporated board – up to the point when a millage is placed on the ballot. That is, the current AATA board members – who will also serve on the new board – do not intend that their first response to opt-outs would be to alter the new board’s composition.

The articles of incorporation for the new authority specify an initial board membership of 15 members in eight districts. Altering that membership would, by the articles of incorporation, require a 4/5 majority (12 votes). So the resolution floated at the Sept. 27 meeting was intended to give assurance that the seven AATA board members – as future members of the 15-member board – would not want to alter the composition of the new board until a decision is made about putting a transit millage on the ballot. At that point, a change likely would be made to avoid the possibility of “representation without taxation.”

Representatives of three of the seven non-Ann Arbor districts in the new authority attended the AATA’s Sept. 27 meeting and participated in the discussion: Karen Lovejoy Roe (Southeast District); Bill Lavery (South Middle District); and David Read (North Middle District). Lovejoy and Read reacted to the uncertainty that the resolution was meant to address by questioning the timing of the planned incorporation.

Another significant business item transacted at the meeting was the contingent approval of a contract with URS Corp. to continue studying a possible transportation connector between the northeast and south sides of Ann Arbor. The authorization of the contract is conditional on additional local funding – in the amount of $60,000. The $60,000 would be part of a total $300,000 local match for a $1.2 million federal grant. The Ann Arbor city council had voted initially to reject a request that it provide the $60,000, but then reconsidered and postponed the question until Oct. 15. In the meantime, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has indicated some willingness to make a contribution – $30,000 of the requested $60,000.

The AATA board’s Sept. 27 meeting marked Jesse Bernstein’s final meeting as chair. He’s led the board for the last two years. At the meeting, Bernstein alluded to the tradition of rotating the chairship of the board, a tradition he wanted to continue. The board elected Charles Griffith as chair. [Full Story]

State & William

People and pets gathered on the lawn outside the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor for a special pet blessing ceremony.

Art Commission Explores “Street Art” Program

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Sept. 26, 2012): In this month’s main action item, public art commissioners formed a task force to explore the possibility of starting a street art program.

Connie Rizzolo Brown

Connie Rizzolo Brown shows her colleagues on the Ann Arbor public art commission a printout of AAPAC’s redesigned website. (Photos by the writer.)

John Kotarski made the proposal, explaining that street art could include anything from pedestrian benches to artistic manhole covers – similar to those that have been created in Japanese cities. The effort could involve schools and service clubs, he said, and might evolve into something as popular as the fairy doors found throughout Ann Arbor. Commissioners seemed generally supportive of the idea. The task force will do more research and make a formal proposal to AAPAC at a later date.

Commissioners also moved ahead on a new approach to getting more people involved in the selection of public art. Task forces will be formed in four quadrants of the city, using quadrants that are designated in the city master plan’s “land use elements” section: west, central, south and northeast. [.pdf map of quadrants]

Kickoff meetings for each quadrant are scheduled for October. Connie Rizzolo Brown, who’s spearheading this effort, described the goal of the first meetings as ”very gentle fact-finding missions,” as well as recruitment for potential task force members.

Also in October – on Sunday, Oct. 28 – a dedication is planned for the new mural being completed at Allmendinger Park. The work is by Ann Arbor muralist Mary Thiefels of TreeTown Murals, incorporating artwork and found objects from students and neighbors. Images from the work-in-progress are currently featured on AAPAC’s website.

Commissioners also discussed concerns about a descriptive sign planned for the Dreiseitl sculpture in front of city hall. Some commissioners feel that the proposed location for the sign detracts from the ability to enjoy the sculpture, while others expressed frustration that AAPAC had not been consulted about the sign’s location.

The meeting also included a variety of updates about projects that are underway. One major item that was not discussed was the public art millage that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot – Proposal B. Although it was alluded to on several occasions, AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin cautioned commissioners that they could not discuss it at the meeting. However, several commissioners are involved individually in the campaign to support the millage – B for Art. Chamberlin, for example, is hosting a dinner for the campaign in October.

At an Aug. 15 special meeting, the commission had voted to recommend that the city council place a millage on the ballot, despite voicing a range of concerns. The millage had been proposed by councilmember Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who did not consult the arts community or AAPAC before bringing  the idea forward. The ballot proposal calls for a 0.1 mill tax for four years to support public art, temporarily replacing the current Percent for Art program. For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: “Art Commission Strategizes as Millage Looms.” [Full Story]

Washington & First

Many onlookers watch as the top of the new tower crane is assembled, then lifted into place by yet another mobile hydraulic crane. Guys on the ground, but also once in place there are a few very high in the air setting the counterweights. [photo 1] [photo 2] [photo 3] Photos are from before the lift.

500 block of E. Washington

Beside the First Baptist Church. Chestnut street trees in blossom, two seasons late.  The trees look pretty stressed out from the  summer.   Looks as if the trees went dormant in the drought, and are either picking up where they left off last spring, or have cycled into a whole new blossom season.

AATA Ad Case: Court Grants ACLU Motion

A court ruling on Friday did not settle the issue of whether the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority must run an anti-Israel ad on the side of its buses.

However, the Sept. 28 ruling – by judge Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan – did deny AATA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, filed last year on Nov. 28.

Advertisement for a TV series on the side of an Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus.

Advertisement for a TV series on the side of an Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus.

The court granted the American Civil Liberties Union motion, filed on behalf of plaintiff Blaine Coleman, for a preliminary injunction against the AATA. But the court stopped short of granting the ACLU’s requested relief, which was to force the AATA to run the ad.

The court’s ruling calls forcing the AATA to run the ad “certainly a legitimate relief option.” However, another possibility sketched out by the court would be to have the AATA craft a “new [advertising] policy without the constitutional infirmities identified by this opinion.” On that scenario, the court allowed the possibility that the injunctive relief to which Coleman would be entitled could be this: Reconsideration of his ad under a revised advertising policy that is constitutional.

A decision on the relief to be granted to Coleman and the ACLU will emerge from a process defined in the Sept. 28 ruling.  The ACLU has until Oct. 15 to file a brief on what it thinks the proper remedy and relief should be. From the time the ACLU files that brief, the AATA will have 14 days to respond. The court will then weigh those written briefs before making a decision on relief, and might schedule a hearing before deciding that issue. [.pdf of Sept. 28, 2012 court ruling on AATA advertising case[Full Story]

Washtenaw & Platt

Friend confirms power lines down. Pole appears to have been hit by a car, firetrucks on the scene.

First & Washington

Washinton Street closed as crane builds crane for Village Green’s City Apartments project. [photo 1] [photo 2]

Fifth & Huron

On the sidewalk, workers are laying out and cutting new carpet sections for Hands-On Museum. [photo]

Washtenaw: Transit

The Detroit News reports that legislation for a metro Detroit regional transit authority covering Detroit and four counties, including Washtenaw, is seeing new signs of life in the state House of Representatives. The bill would allow for creation of a rapid transit bus system, which would include routes between Ann Arbor and Detroit. From the report: “One point of contention is the governance of the authority. … State Rep. Doug Geiss, D-Taylor, said suburban Wayne County should have two sole votes and proposed giving one of Washtenaw County’s votes to Detroit to equalize city-suburban representation.” [Source]

Sustainability Goals Shape Corridor Study

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Sept. 18, 2012): Two projects converged at the most recent planning commission meeting: A draft report of a South State Street corridor study, and next steps toward incorporating the city’s new sustainability goals into its master plan.

Ann Arbor planning commission work session

The Sept. 18, 2012  Ann Arbor planning commission work session focused on South State Street – an aerial map of the corridor is spread out on the table. To the right is Kristin Baja, who provided staff support for the project. She’ll be leaving the city to take a job in Baltimore, and was praised by commissioners for her work. (Photos by the writer.)

Eric Mahler recalled that both projects had been highlighted at a planning commission retreat two years ago, and that in some ways their completion marked a new era in city planning. The corridor study is the first project that incorporates the sustainability goals. The study’s recommendations are organized into the four main sustainability categories: resource management; land use and access; climate and energy; and community.

The recommendations themselves cover a wide spectrum of issues, from traffic and walkability to public art and zoning. [.pdf of draft report] Planning commissioners spent nearly two hours reviewing the recommendations in a working session immediately following their regular Sept. 18 meeting. They’ll likely address the project again before it’s forwarded to city council.

Also during the Sept. 18 meeting, planning manager Wendy Rampson reviewed highlights from an annual report of planning activities for the fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, 2012. The report reflected an increase in development activity within the city. As one example, there were 28 site plans submitted during the year, up from 13 in FY 2011.

Several University of Michigan students attended the commission’s regular meeting on Sept. 18. Responding to a query from Tony Derezinski, they reported that they are graduate students in urban planning, taking a class from professor Dick Norton. Coming to this meeting had been part of a class requirement. [Norton had also been a speaker on some of the panel discussions related to the city's sustainability efforts.] [Full Story]

Column: Notre Dame Sells Out Rivalry, Fans

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The only constant is change.

Yeah, yeah. We know that – and in case we didn’t, there’s always some office blowhard too eager to say it, as if it’s the most profound truth of the universe.

But that’s why, the more things change, the more we appreciate things that don’t. When Carole King sang, “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place any more?” she probably wasn’t talking about NFL franchises, but she could’ve been. From 1982 to 1995, seven NFL teams moved – about a quarter of the league – which is just one more reason I’ve always preferred college football: universities don’t move.

During that same stretch, Michigan played Notre Dame in the first or second weekend of the season every year, and the games were so good Sports Illustrated gave the game four of ten cover stories, and four features – eclipsing the NFL’s opening weekend, and tennis’s U.S. Open.

The rivalry had almost everything going for it, including history. In 1887, the men from Michigan were traveling to play a game against Northwestern. When they found out, en route, that Northwestern had canceled, they got off in South Bend – and literally taught those boys how to play the game. It remains the oldest rivalry among major college powers. [Full Story]

AATA: Do Even Opt-Outs Get Representation?

At its Sept. 27 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board discussed at length how to assure residents of districts throughout the county that up until the time of a voter referendum on funding for a new transit authority, they would have representation on the board of the new authority – even if their local jurisdiction opts out of it. But thereafter, such representation would amount to what AATA board member David Nacht called “representation without taxation.”

Once incorporated, the new transit authority will include by default all the jurisdictions in Washtenaw County. The articles of incorporation for the new authority – to be called The Washtenaw Ride – would be filed by Washtenaw County under Act 196 of 1986 after … [Full Story]

AATA Approves Routine MDOT Processes

As it typically does each year, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has authorized its chief executive officer to sign and execute contracts with the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) without seeking a separate board resolution – as long as the contracts are less than $1 million. The board gave the blanket authorization at its Sept. 27, 2012 meeting.

According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, there are 10-15 separate agreements between MDOT and AATA. A staff analysis of the resolution allows that there’s a risk to the practice – that the board might not be aware of the contracts that the CEO is executing. That risk is meant to be mitigated by a new practice of reporting all … [Full Story]

Transit Contract Tied to Local Funding

Authorization for a $1.5 million contract for further study of a transportation connector between the northeast and south sides of Ann Arbor has been given contingent approval by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board.

The authorization, which the AATA board gave at its Sept. 27, 2012 meeting, is conditional on additional local funding – in the amount of $60,000. The $60,000 would be part of a total $300,000 local match for a $1.2 million federal grant.

The corridor runs from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94. This alternatives analysis phase of the study is to result in identifying a preferred choice of technology (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and the location of stations and stops.

The … [Full Story]

AATA OKs FY 2013 Budget with Deficit

The budget for the upcoming Ann Arbor Transportation Authority fiscal year – which starts Oct. 1, 2012 – will show a roughly $300,000 deficit. The vote by the AATA board adopting the $32,700,181 budget, as well as an annual work plan, was taken at its Sept. 27, 2012 meeting.

The draft AATA budget provided on Sept. 12 to the city council as a communication item for the council’s Sept. 17 meeting showed a surplus of $22,692 over the budgeted expenses of $33,344,048. The need for the AATA to use $300,000 of unrestricted net assets – to cover the difference between expenditures and revenues –  was prompted by notification on Sept. 14 by the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) that a new interpretation of the state’s operating assistance … [Full Story]

Charles Griffith to Lead AATA Board

Charles Griffith has been elected by his colleagues to lead the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board for the coming year. The vote for board chair was uncontested, as it typically is, and was taken at the board’s Sept. 27, 2012 meeting. Jesse Bernstein has served as board chair for the last two years and will continue to serve on the board, but said at the meeting he wanted to see the chairship rotated.

Griffith is climate & energy program director for the Ecology Center. He has already served for six years on the board, and his current appointment lasts another four years. He was re-appointed to the board on May 2, 2011 to another five-year term after first being appointed on … [Full Story]

Fifth & Huron

Lots of people bumble bees and honeybees in the rain garden. And the fountain is nice and loud tonight. [photo]

Summit & Miner

Honor system yard sale invites passersby to put their “best offer” into a pickle jar (provided) and select item.

Two Projects File Plans For Design Review

Proposals for residential buildings in downtown Ann Arbor – including a 14-story building at the northeast corner of Huron and Division – were filed with the city’s planning unit on Sept. 26 for consideration by the design review board.

The 27-page proposal for 413 E. Huron calls for 213 apartments, about 3,000-square-feet of street-level retail space, and 163 on-site underground parking spaces. [.pdf of 413 E. Huron proposal to the design review board] The complex would consist of two main towers and an “inset upper level garden and pool courtyard,” according to the proposal. [.pdf of site rendering] The project would target young professionals, graduate students and upper classmen, with apartment sizes ranging from one to four bedrooms. The … [Full Story]

Huron & Fifth

A man rides his bike on the sidewalk, peddling furiously as he crosses the intersection. He’s also screaming profanity against the residents of Ann Arbor, then breaks into song – unclear exactly what he’s belting out.

UM: Bunyan Bryant

A column by Robert Bullard posted on salutes University of Michigan professor Bunyan Bryant, as a preview to the Oct. 4-6 conference at UM honoring Bryant’s 40 years of scholarship. Bullard writes: “Finally, kudos to Professor Bryant for starting the Environmental Justice Initiative (EJI) in the SNRE [School of Natural Resources and Environment] at Michigan, the only university in the United States that offers an M.A. and Ph.D. in environmental justice. And because of his longevity in the academy, the goal of building an intergenerational movement is much further along. Brother Bunyan, environmental justice leaders and emerging leaders salute you!” [Source]

District Weighs Options on Noon Hours

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Sept. 19, 2012): The board of trustees was briefed on three items they’ll have to vote on at their next meeting: a proposal for contracting out noon hour supervisor positions; some sexual heath program and curriculum recommendations; and an application for seat time waivers.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green listens to reports from some of the district associations.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green listens to reports from some of the district associations.

Board members gave mixed reactions to a proposal from Professional Contract Management, Inc. (PCMI) to provide outsourced noon hour supervision. PCMI’s proposal, made in response to an Aug. 8, 2012 RFP, was the only one received by the district.

PCMI’s bid is to charge the district 25.83% of the gross wages to be paid to the supervisors themselves. According to deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen, that’s roughly 7% higher than bids the district has seen for similar services in the past. AAPS has used PCMI for substitutes and coaches in the past. Compared to current costs, which depend on hiring AAPS employees to supervise noon hours, the PCMI proposal offers savings of $55,000, or about 6% over the cost currently paid by the district. Deb Mexicotte, board president, was skeptical of the administrative fee PCMI would be charging the district.

A sexual health program for preschool through 2nd graders and a 15-minute video about puberty for 5th graders were the subjects of a first briefing given by the Sexual Health Education Advisory Committee (SHEAC). Any materials or curriculum must be vetted by that committee and be presented to the board. The first of two public hearings on the matter was held at the meeting. No member of the public spoke at the first one.

And students enrolled in a sufficient number of online classes in the Ann Arbor Public Schools will likely again be eligible this year to be counted as part of a school’s enrollment for the official count of students. Local districts receive an allocation from the state each year based on the number of students attending class on designated count days.

The AAPS board of trustees was briefed on the issue at its Sept. 18 meeting because the district is required to re-apply for its “seat time waiver” program by the Michigan Department of Education and must now have board approval. All districts with such programs were required to re-apply by Sept. 15, 2012 in order to receive full funding for eligible students. AAPS has operated its seat time waiver program since 2007.

Two informational presentations were also given to the board – an annual presentation on the physical properties department and an update on the Mitchell-Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaborative with the University of Michigan.

Public commentary at the meeting included criticism from a Pioneer High School teacher that a hire for the principal’s job at that high school had not yet been announced, despite the fact that a committee had forwarded three recommended finalists to the superintendent some time ago.  [Full Story]

Chelsea: Poetry

Len Niehoff, a Chelsea resident and University of Michigan law professor, has started a new poetry blog – Dishevelled Stars. The first poem on the site is titled “Discourses.” [Source]

UM: Fashion & Business

The Detroit News profiles Paige Comrie, a University of Michigan sophomore who’s working for Rent the Runway, a company that “leases” designer dresses. From the report: “Rent the Runway requires Comrie to make a serious commitment – she is responsible for at least 25 dresses. Each month, she must sign up at least 20 new subscribers, known as ‘key holders,’ for her closet of high-end clothing. Comrie needs to consult with the key holders to ensure they look their best and select new inventory to meet their individual styles. Key holders pay a monthly fee of $80 to have unlimited access to the closet’s inventory. One-time rentals are available to nonmembers for $30.” [Source]

Library Board Updated on Strategic Plan

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 24, 2012): The public session of Monday’s library board meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Although just six weeks remain before the Nov. 6 election – when voters will weigh in on a $65 million bond proposal for a new downtown library – that issue received scant mention.

Josie Parker

Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker at the Sept. 24, 2012 meeting of the AADL board. She reported on recent recognition given to the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, which is administered by AADL. (Photos by the writer.)

But the bond proposal could be seen as the backdrop for a report by AADL director Josie Parker, who provided an update of the district’s five-year strategic plan, which the board adopted in 2010. Parker distributed a copy of the plan that highlighted achievements from the most recent fiscal year. “Our reach in the community is deep and it’s wide,” she said. “The strategic plan is our evidence.” [.pdf of highlighted strategic plan]

Board president Margaret Leary noted that as the community’s attention is rightly focused on the bond proposal, the goal of renovating or replacing the downtown building is only one item in the strategic plan. There are seven pages of actions that the library is taking, she said.

At last month’s board meeting Ellie Serras, chair of the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee, spoke during public commentary to brief the board on actions of that pro-bond group. And since then, two other efforts – to oppose the proposal – have emerged. A group called Protect Our Libraries was formed earlier this month. Its treasurer is Kathy Griswold, a former member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board.

And Douglas Jewett, who had attended an August forum for potential AADL board candidates, filed paperwork on Sept. 25 for the Save the Ann Arbor Library ballot question committee. He did not file to run for the board. He previously had secured a sidewalk vendor permit on Aug. 20 for space in front of the downtown library at 343 S. Fifth. He uses the space to lobby against demolition of the current building, citing its architectural significance. The original portion of the building was designed by Alden B. Dow.

At the candidate forum, Jewett had praised the library, calling it the center of Ann Arbor. Four non-partisan board seats on the Nov. 6 ballot will be contested by five candidates: the four incumbents – Prue Rosenthal, Margaret Leary, Nancy Kaplan and Rebecca Head – as well as Lyn Davidge, who attended the Sept. 24 board meeting.

The positions will be elected by voters in Ann Arbor and portions of seven townships that are covered by the library’s district, in Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior. Those are the same boundaries served by the Ann Arbor Public Schools, with the exception of Northfield Township. The four-year terms begin Jan. 1, 2013. [Full Story]

City Council Punts on Several Agenda Items

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Sept. 17, 2012): The council’s initial agenda, released on Wednesday before the Monday meeting, was relatively light. But by the time the council had approved that agenda to start the meeting, it had grown considerably heavier.

Left to right: Sandi Smith (Ward 1) and former councilmember and planning commissioner Jean Carlberg.

Left to right: Sandi Smith (Ward 1) and former councilmember and planning commissioner Jean Carlberg. (Photos by the writer.)

Five significant items had been added: (1) a proposal to suspend temporarily the footing drain disconnection program in one area of the city; (2) a proposal to waive temporarily the city’s living wage requirement for certain nonprofits; (3) a proposal to establish a sidewalk gap elimination program; (4) a resolution on dealing with proceeds of city-owned land sales that competed with one already on the agenda; and (5) reconsideration of allocating $60,000 for a transit study – funding that the council had rejected at its previous meeting.

The first two items were added on Friday, Sept. 14. The second two were added the day of the meeting (Sept. 17), with the fifth item added at the council table. Of the added items, the council approved only one – to suspend temporarily the footing drain disconnect program. The rest were  postponed, withdrawn or voted down.

Postponed was the resolution added by Mike Anglin (Ward 5) to establish a committee of city officials and 10 residents – two from each ward, to be selected by councilmembers for respective wards – to address the issue of city-owned parcels in downtown Ann Arbor. The citizen committee to be established by Anglin’s resolution would study the available options for use of proceeds from the sale of downtown city properties.

Also postponed was the resolution that Anglin’s proposal was essentially challenging, which was brought forward by Sandi Smith (Ward 1). Smith wants to direct the proceeds from city-owned land sales to the city’s affordable housing trust fund. Her idea – which she first floated to her council colleagues in an email written in late August – enjoyed the support of nonprofits, as well as the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board and the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

While Anglin’s resolution was postponed until Oct. 1, Smith’s was referred to the council’s budget committee and postponed until the council’s Oct. 15 meeting.

Also postponed was a requested $60,000 contribution to fund further study of a transportation connector – for the corridor running from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94. The outcome of this phase is to identify a preferred choice of technology (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and the location of stations and stops. The council had voted down the proposal at its Sept. 4 meeting, but it was brought back for reconsideration on Sept. 17, only to be postponed until Oct. 15. The $60,000 is meant to be the city’s share of a $300,000 local match for a $1.2 million federal grant that has already been awarded.

Withdrawn was the proposal to waive a requirement of the city’s living wage ordinance for those nonprofits that receive funding from the city to deliver human services. The ordinance has a provision for a hardship waiver, but states that a nonprofit must submit a plan for eventual compliance within three years. No nonprofits had submitted such plans, meaning that the council’s resolution would have amounted to an attempt by the council to amend the living wage ordinance through a simple resolution, which it cannot do. When the council reached the item on the agenda, it was withdrawn, with an indication that an ordinance revision would be brought forward to a future meeting.

Also at the Sept. 17 meeting, the council heard about an item related to nonprofit funding for human services that will be brought forward on Oct. 1: a request to continue the two-year pilot program for coordinated funding. That news came during a presentation from Mary Jo Callan, head of the city/county office of community and economic development.

Voted down was a plan to initiate a 5-year program to eliminate sidewalk gaps in the city. Councilmembers voting against the resolution pointed to the fact that the city’s non-motorized transportation plan takes a comprehensive approach to identifying such gaps. They feared that people might mistakenly believe that certain gaps would necessarily be filled through this program, and raised concerns about equity. The resolution sought to identify independent funding sources to pay for such projects – the city’s strategy in the past has been to levy special assessments on owners of property adjoining the sidewalks.

The footing drain disconnect program was the only one of the late additions to the agenda on which the council took final action. In the general vicinity of the Lansdowne neighborhood, where some houses have already had sump pumps installed as part of the disconnect program, residents have reported that during heavy rains, the overland stormwater flows and the sheer volume of water in the city’s stormwater system prevent sump pumps from being effective. At an Aug. 22 neighborhood meeting, residents had called for a moratorium on the program. That’s essentially what the council’s resolution did.

Flooding was also a topic included in other council business that had been placed on the agenda through the regular agenda-setting process. The council approved an update to the city’s hazard mitigation plan. It will allow the city to receive already-approved federal funds for demolishing two out-buildings located in the floodway at the city-owned 721 N. Main property.

Also related to emergency preparedness, the city council authorized the purchase of a light rescue vehicle that can be used by firefighters to respond to medical calls. Because its staffing requirement is just two firefighters instead of three, the use of the vehicle would allow response to medical calls without diminishing as much of the department’s response capability for fire calls.

The council also gave final approval to rezoning of an Eden Court property to public land. [Full Story]