Archive for October, 2012

Halloween 2012: Main Street Chills & Thrills

Editor’s note: Since 2008, Myra Klarman, a professional photographer based in Ann Arbor, has been sharing with Chronicle readers her images from the annual Main Street Halloween Treat Parade. [Take a look at her photos from 201120102009, and 2008 as well.] This year was a bit chilly, but trick-or-treaters – and Myra – were undaunted. We hope you enjoy the festivities – Happy Halloween!

Halloween, Myra Klarman, Ann Arbor, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Pretty pink skirt, and jacket, and bow, Miss Minnie Mouse is ready to go!

[Full Story]

Fifth & Huron

City clerk’s office signs advise not to use heavy felt-tip pens to fill in the ovals on absentee ballots. They bleed through and ruin the ballot. Spoke with one woman in line who’d done exactly that and was turning in her spoiled ballot and voting a new one.

Washington & Ashley

Sweetwaters is handing out fortune cookies to trick-or-treaters. One kid looked at it like it was the first time he’d seen such a thing.

A2: Found Footage

Added to the Michigan Theater’s schedule for Nov. 14, 2012 is another edition of the found footage festival – “an acclaimed showcase of odd and hilarious found videos.” This year’s show features a “sexy treadmill workout video.” For more background, see this  teeter totter interview from two years ago. [Source]

A2: Sandy Relief

The University of Michigan is suggesting that one way Ann Arbor residents can help victims of hurricane Sandy is to participate in regular blood drives held here in our own backyard. A blood drive that’s coming up this weekend: Nov. 4 at Michigan Stadium (in the heated Jack Roth suite) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  [Source]

Column: Connecting Barracuda, Coin Flips

Early in October, Barracuda Networks invited a bunch of University of Michigan students to a “hackathon” at the computer science and engineering building, where they programmed computers to play games against each other.

Barracuda Networks game

Figure 1.  Participants in Barracuda’s hackathon programmed their computers to play a game based on a 7×7 grid of squares. The game can also be played between human beings using pen and paper. The basic idea can be described as trying to join two opposite sides of the grid with a connected path consisting of squares you “own.” This image depicts the state of a game board resulting in an agreed-upon draw between an Ann Arbor city councilmember (pink squares, horizontal) and Chronicle editor Dave Askins (green squares, vertical). (Grid by The Chronicle.)

And 24 hours later, the winning team of programmers was handed one of those goofy Publishers-Clearinghouse-style giant checks – for $3,141.59. Second place was $1,414.21. And third place was $602.21.

Those dollar amounts might strike you as funny – because you think they make no sense, or because you think they make perfect sense. But a regular Chronicle reader might look at those numbers without laughing, and calculate as follows: The sum of the prize money is $5,158.01 – which divides perfectly (12 times) into the estimated 61,896.12 total value of a five-year tax abatement recently granted by the city of Ann Arbor to Barracuda. Uncanny, no?

It’s the tax abatement that has resulted in relatively frequent mentions of Barracuda in The Chronicle over the last few months. The process for granting such an abatement includes four separate actions by the city council. So it was the council’s action that The Chronicle was covering, more than anything Barracuda itself was doing.

Now, I confess that I fudged the estimated value of the tax abatement, to get the math to work out. The numbers provided by the city of Ann Arbor’s financial staff pegged the value of the tax abatement at around $61,000 – nothing so precise as $61,896.12. Still, there is an actual connection between the tax abatement and the roomful of UM students who were participating in Barracuda’s 24-hour competition.

That connection relates to a condition of the tax abatement. To receive the tax advantage, Barracuda must add another 144 employees (a perfect square? seriously?) to its Ann Arbor operation. And to make room for all those additional employees, Barracuda’s operation is moving from its current Depot Street location to the old Borders corporate headquarters in downtown Ann Arbor – off Maynard Street, under the parking structure.

The hackathon event was part of the company’s strategy to recruit new employees. [Full Story]

Liberty & Ashley

Christmas window display is already up at Downtown Home & Garden, including a decorated tree, stockings hung on a faux fireplace mantel, and a red-sweatered bear. [photo]

Earhart & Whitehall

Colorful flower and rock display at the entrance to Domino’s Farms. Not quite sure what the patriotic paint job is for. [photo]

A2-Ypsi: Community Read

“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander has been selected as the book for the 2013 Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads, which occurs in January and February. The program is “a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book.” [Source]

22nd Circuit Judicial Race: Kuhnke, Fink

Attorneys Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink, the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 7, 2012 primary, are now vying for a vacancy on the 22nd Circuit Court bench to be left by retiring judge Melinda Morris. The nonpartisan judicial elections on Nov. 6 are for six-year terms.

Ballot for 22nd circuit court race

Names on the ballot for the non-incumbent position on the 22nd Circuit Court: Jim Fink and Carol Kuhnke. (Photos by the writer.)

At a candidate forum held in Ann Arbor’s Bach Elementary School cafeteria earlier this month, sponsored by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the Old West Side Association, Kuhnke and Fink fielded questions on fairly standard topics: judicial temperament, experience, role models and the like.

In addition, Kuhnke and Fink have both provided written responses to questions on the League of Women Voters website. And they previously participated in a June 23 forum for the primary race covered by The Chronicle, which included a total of four candidates.

Campaign finance statements filed with the state show that the cumulative total amounts raised by Kuhnke and Fink for their campaigns are $82,018 and $93,465 respectively.

Of her $82,018 total, Kuhnke has raised $46,738 since the primary election, and had spent just $13,892 between the primary and the close of books on Oct. 21. That left her with $34,405 to spend in the final two weeks of the general election campaign. Of his $93,465, Fink has raised $37,635 since the primary, and has spent $20,967 during the same period. He has $21,417 left to spend in the final two weeks.

Kuhnke has been practicing law for 18 years, longer than Fink’s 14 years, and is campaigning with the slogan, “The most experienced.” Fink is inclined to add to the mix his previous 20 years of experience working in law enforcement, starting in 1977 as a Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputy and moving up the ranks to commander.

Fink argued implicitly that the quality of the endorsements he’s received – from local judges – is better than some Kuhnke has received, from judges in other counties in southeastern Michigan where she’s argued cases. One local judge, Tim Connors – who is seeking re-election to the 22nd Circuit Court in a separate race against Mike Woodyard – is listed on websites for both Fink and Kuhnke among their endorsements. Connors and Woodyard participated in the Oct. 16 forum with Fink and Kuhnke – their responses are included in a separate Chronicle report.

Fink challenged any perception that he felt entitled to the judgeship based on the service of his father and older brother as judges, by stating it’s not the case that he felt entitled. He described how he’d always planned to practice law, even though he took a “side trip” to work in law enforcement.

Kuhnke described her vocation to the law as stemming in part from her undergrad studies in philosophy, and the impact that the meaning of words can have on people’s lives. She was matter of fact in drawing out one contrast between herself and Fink: “I’m a woman.” She thinks that having a woman’s voice on the court is important, but stated that she did not think she deserved a vote just because she is a woman.

An issue related to women’s health was highlighted in a question fielded from the audience. Fink is endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan – so the question related to whether Fink had pledged to rule against young women who were requesting a “judicial bypass” for permission to have an abortion. Fink was emphatic in stating that in order to receive that organization’s endorsement, he’d made no such pledge and that he hadn’t been asked such a question.

Even though the judicial bypass question came last at the forum, this detailed report of candidate responses begins there. [Full Story]

22nd Circuit Judicial Race: Connors, Woodyard

Earlier this month in the cafeteria of Bach Elementary School, four candidates for two spots on the 22nd Circuit Court fielded questions as part of a forum sponsored by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the Old West Side Association. The nonpartisan judicial elections are for six-year terms.

Timothy Connors, Mike Woodyard

Candidates for one of two races for judge of the 22nd Circuit Court in Washtenaw County: Tim Connors (left) and Mike Woodyard (right).

This write-up includes some of the responses of candidates in just one of those races, described on the ballot at the “incumbent position.” The ballot itself also labels the incumbent, Tim Connors, as “Judge of Circuit Court.” Voters on Nov. 6 will have a choice between Connors and Ann Arbor resident Mike Woodyard, who has worked for the last 10 years as an attorney in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. Before attending law school, Woodyard worked for a time as a newspaper reporter.

Connors was initially appointed to the 22nd Circuit Court in 1997 by then-Gov. John Engler, a Republican, to replace judge Karl Fink – the older brother of Jim Fink, who is running in the other race along with Carol Kuhnke for the non-incumbent 22nd Circuit Court judgeship. Before making the circuit court appointment, Engler had previously appointed Connors in 1991 to a seat on the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor.

Vacancies created by resignations, like that of Karl Fink, are filled through gubernatorial appointments – but judges must stand for election at the first opportunity to serve out the remainder of the partial term. After being appointed in 1997, Connors stood for election in 1998, and then again in 2000 and 2006 for successive six-year terms. On each of those three occasions, Connors was unopposed, which is fairly typical for incumbent judges.

At the forum, that’s one reason Woodyard indicated he’s running for judge – not to run against Connors, but rather to provide voters with the kind of contested judicial elections described by Michigan law. It emerged during the forum that in law school Woodyard had taken a trial advocacy course taught by Connors, and had received an A in the class. Woodyard mentioned the class as helpful in one of his first trials, which resulted in getting a “live nude girls” establishment shut down.

The WCBA had prepared questions for the candidates covering standard topics like judicial temperament, experience and what led the candidates to consider a career in law. During the second part of the forum, questions from the audience were entertained as well. The requirement that all questions be suitable for all four candidates led to some grumbling – based in part on the fact that not all four candidates were running against each other.

Local attorney Peter Davis, who indicated he had a question just for Woodyard, responded to moderator Steve Borgsdorf’s enforcement of the rule by saying ”So you want softball questions?” Borgsdorf responded with, “No, they can be fastballs, but everyone’s got to get a chance to bat.” The analogy was apt, as at the time of the Oct. 16 forum, the Detroit Tigers baseball team was handing the New York Yankees a 2-1 defeat in the American League Championship Series.

Woodyard and Connors had previously participated in a candidate forum in June, prior to the Aug. 7 primary and hosted by the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. They also responded to five questions for inclusion on the website. Responses from candidates in the other race – Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink – will be reported in a separate Chronicle write-up.

The campaign finance filing deadline was Oct. 26. According to documents filed with the state, Connors has raised $95,090 in contributions and spent $84,765. Woodyard’s campaign finance report shows contributions of $7,266 and expenditures of $6,830.

These candidates will be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. Additional information about local candidates and other voter information is available on the Washtenaw county clerk’s elections division website. [Full Story]

Art Group Reviews Public Outreach Effort

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Oct. 24, 2012): After three public forums held earlier this month as part of a new community outreach effort, AAPAC members got an update on those meetings and talked about how to increase participation.

Bob Miller, Marsha Chamberlin, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Public art commissioners Bob Miller and Marsha Chamberlin. (Photos by the writer.)

Turnout was lower than hoped – as only one resident attended the meeting held on Oct. 22 at Clague Middle School, though about 10 people came to a forum at Bryant Community Center the previous week. A fourth event will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Open @Mack cafeteria, 920 Miller Ave.

John Kotarski, who had attended all the forums, felt the events had achieved their purpose of achieving a presence in the community, and introducing residents to different kinds of public art. Bob Miller advocated adding an online element for soliciting more input. Commissioners discussed the possibility of using the city’s new A2 Open City Hall, a blog-type feature that allows people to get information and give feedback on specific projects.

Commissioners took action on other projects, voting to approve a $910 budget for the dedication of a new mural at Allmendinger Park – an event to take place on Sunday, Oct. 28 from 2-4 p.m. The mural was designed by Mary Thiefels of TreeTown Murals, incorporating artwork and found objects from the community.

Also approved was the location of a sign for the Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture in front of city hall, though there was concern about the placement of a fence there. The city has decided to put the mesh metal fence on a section of the pedestrian bridge overlooking the sculpture. Some commissioners are frustrated that this safety issue wasn’t raised earlier, when it might have been addressed by the sculptor as part of the site design. Marsha Chamberlin, AAPAC’s chair, noted that Dreiseitl intended people to interact with the water that runs down from the fountain. “What’s driving this process – the aesthetics of the piece or risk management?” she asked. She ultimately abstained from the vote, stating ”I want to go on the record of being ornery about this.” It was approved by all other commissioners present at the meeting.

Commissioners were also updated on a range of other projects that are in various stages of development. The process has begun for soliciting artists for work at the East Stadium bridge and for an ongoing mural program. The deadlines for submitting statements of qualifications (SOQs) are in November. Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, expects to post another SOQ – for artwork at Argo Cascades – next month. And legal staff is reviewing a request for proposals (RFP) for art at a rain garden being built at Kingsley and First.

Seagraves also reported that installation of a $150,000 hanging glass sculpture at the Justice Center lobby will be delayed a few months, until March or April of 2013. Fabricators selected by the artist Ed Carpenter aren’t available to do the work as soon as expected.

Another potential project emerged during the meeting. Chamberlin noted that the city has about 100 old aluminum canoes that it’s planning to get rid of. She said that Cheryl Saam, facilities supervisor for the city’s canoe liveries, had raised the possibility of using the canoes for some kind of community art project. After getting feedback from other commissioners that this is an idea worth pursuing, Chamberlin said she’d work up a more formal proposal for consideration at a future meeting.

As part of the Oct. 24 meeting packet, AAPAC got a budget update of Percent for Art funds, showing a balance of $1.533 million. Of that, $847,104 has been earmarked for previously approved projects, leaving about $686,000 unallocated. [.pdf of budget summary]

One notable topic was not discussed at the meeting – a public art millage that’s on the Nov. 6 ballot. Several commissioners are involved in advocating for the millage, but have taken a conservative approach to dealing with it during their regular business, and AAPAC meetings have not included discussion on the topic since the August 28, 2012  meeting. That approach stands in contrast to a recent park advisory commission meeting, when one of the park commissioners spoke during public commentary to urge support for the parks millage renewal. [Full Story]

Briefs Filed on Bus Advertising Lawsuit

Additional briefs have now been filed by the parties in a bus advertising lawsuit – in response to a court ruling against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority issued on Sept. 28, 2012.

Plaintiff Blaine Coleman had attempted to purchase an advertisement on AATA buses that included the text “Boycott ‘Israel’ Boycott Apartheid,” and an image depicting a scorpion-like creature with a skull for a head. [.pdf of image and text of proposed ad] Coleman filed suit last year on Nov. 28, 2011.

In the Sept. 28 ruling, Mark Goldsmith of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied the AATA’s motion to dismiss the case. Goldsmith also granted plaintiff Blaine Coleman’s request for a preliminary injunction. But Goldsmith did … [Full Story]

UM: Poetry

Writing in the New Yorker, former University of Michigan professor Donald Hall describes poetry readings by himself and others, including one organized by Bert Hornback, who also taught at UM: “On a January day in the eighties, he borrowed the university’s Rackham Auditorium, sold tickets for a joint poetry reading – five-fifty each, fifty cents for Ticketmaster – and invited some friends to do a joint reading: Wendell Berry, Galway Kinnell, and Seamus Heaney. On a Friday night – against a basketball home game, against the Chicago Symphony – Bert filled eleven hundred seats with paying poetry fans…It was said that scalpers charged as much as fifty dollars.” [Source]

Column: Pass Go, Collect Bus Pass – And More?

In my wallet I have a transit pass. By sliding this pass through the farebox card reader aboard any Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus, I get access to a public transportation system that served our community with 6.3 million rides this past fiscal year.


This go!pass, subsidized by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, lets its holder ride AATA buses an unlimited number of times.

If I rode the AATA buses to and from work every day and paid the full $1.50 fare each way, the cash value of that card would be about $750 per year. Of course if I were actually riding the bus that frequently, I’d be somewhat better off purchasing a 30-day pass for $58 a month, which would come out to just a bit under $700 annually.

What I actually paid for that card this year was $10 – just a bit over 1% of its potential cash value.

So what sort of dark magic subsidizes my potential rides on AATA buses? And why do I have access to this magical go!pass card, when you, dear Chronicle reader, likely do not?

Along the road to answering these questions, I’d also like to make a proposal. It’s a vision for broadening the program, getting more transit passes into the hands of Ann Arbor residents, and expanding the possible uses for the go!pass – including (shudder) the ability to use a transit pass to pay for parking. [Full Story]

UM: Ice Dancing

NBC’s Today Show featured a performance by Meryl Davis and Charlie White, ice dancers who attend the University of Michigan and are preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. [Source]

Fourth & William

Fresh pretzels baked this morning in the kitchen at Bethlehem United on South Fourth Ave. They’ll be sold in the parking lot starting at noon until 4 p.m. or whenever they’re sold out – $1 each or $10 for a dozen. [photo]

Fifth & Huron

Preview of voting machine results tape from city clerk reveals it is almost exactly 5 feet long.

Liberty & Ashley

Three guys at the Old Town bar, perhaps inebriated, try to put sunglasses on a pumpkin.

AAPS May Partner with Toyota International

A pending partnership with Toyota and the Institute for International Education was announced at the Oct. 24, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees. Toyota has chosen AAPS to join a pilot program to advance Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education at a secondary level. AAPS is the only district selected nationwide to participate in the program.

The district will work with Toyota as they redesign their international teaching with a focus on STEM. A first team, consisting of curriculum experts from AAPS, will visit Singapore either in the spring or summer of 2013, according to Green. Singapore has been identified as a country at the forefront of STEM education.

The possible partnership had been mentioned by superintendent … [Full Story]

Tennis Courts, Planetarium to be Named

Two facilities at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor are likely be named to honor service to the school district and monetary contributions, both of which are possible reasons for naming under the district’s policy. [.pdf of AAPS naming policy]

The Pioneer High School tennis courts are to be named after Tom “Brick” Pullen who coached both girls and boys tennis teams for more than 20 years. And a $100,000 contribution from IMRA to the school’s Argus Planetarium will add IMRA’s name to the facility. The donation from IMRA will be used to make needed upgrades to the computer equipment that run the planetarium’s displays.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees was briefed on the two naming proposals at its Oct. … [Full Story]

AAPS OKs $5M for Computer Network

An award of a contract to Sentinel Technologies, Inc. has been made official – for replacement of the Ann Arbor Public Schools computer network and wireless infrastructure The board of trustees gave final approval to the Sentinel Technologies $5,192,871 bid at its Oct. 24 meeting after being briefed on the proposal at its  Oct. 10, 2012 meeting. Susan Baskett cast the sole dissenting vote. The work is to be done with proceeds of the technology bond approved by voters in May 2012.

The bid from the Illinois-based Sentinel’s was one of four received by the district. A lower bid from a Grand Rapids firm, ISI, was judged to be incomplete by the district’s review team. [.pdf of bid tab review]

This brief was filed from … [Full Story]

Liberty & Fifth Ave.

Stopped to chat with local historians Grace Shackman and Susan Wineberg, who just emerged from a meeting with the Ann Arbor Historical Foundation about the update of Wineberg’s 1992 book (co-authored with Marjorie Reade) ”Historic Buildings of Ann Arbor.” Her co-author for this upcoming edition is Patrick McCauley, who serves on the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission.