Skatepark Rolls; Council Bails on Talk Time

Also: University of Michigan, city relations highlighted; votes taken on stormwater, environmental items; social justice issues aired

Ann Arbor city council meeting (July 15, 2013): By recent standards, the council’s roughly three-hour meeting was relatively brief.

Pie chart of meeting time spent on each item.

Of the Ann Arbor city council’s roughly 3-hour meeting, about a quarter of the time was taken up by deliberations on changes to the council’s rules (dark blue wedge), some of which would have affected public speaking time. Total public speaking time at the meeting (red wedge) was about 21 minutes, or 11% of the meeting. (Chart by The Chronicle based on time stamps of live updates filed from the meeting.)

About a quarter of that time was spent in deliberations on changes to the council’s own rules. That included a proposal to reduce the length of public speaking turns from three minutes to two minutes. After voting 10-1 – over the lone dissent of Margie Teall (Ward 4) – to eliminate the shortening of public speaking turns, the council discussed a number of the other proposed changes that had been recommended by the council’s rules committee.

Those changes include a shortening of councilmember speaking turns, adding public commentary to the council’s work sessions, moving nominations and appointments to a spot earlier on the agenda, and prohibiting the use of mobile devices for texting or phoning at the council table.

As councilmembers recognized that they would not be able to find their way to a clear consensus on the rules changes until they had longer deliberations, the council decided to postpone the item until its first meeting in September – which this year falls on Sept. 3.

So the council delayed launching itself off the lip of the legislative half-pipe to change its own internal rules. However, councilmembers took the advice of Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) when they voted on the construction contract for a new skatepark: “Just go for it!” The unanimous vote on a $1,031,592 contract with Krull Construction came after some scrutiny led by Sally Petersen (Ward 2). Her questioning was based on the project’s additional cost, compared to its original budget.

The originally approved budget for the project was $800,000 – though the expectation was that it would cost about $1 million. The total budget now – including the construction contract, 10% contingency and $89,560 design contract – is $1,224,311, or $424,311 higher than the originally budgeted $800,000. Funds to pay for the skatepark include a $400,000 grant from the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, $300,000 from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Trust Fund, and $100,00 raised by the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, which paid for the skatepark’s design. This particular effort by the Friends dates back to 2005.

An item added to the agenda the same day as the meeting led to considerable discussion about the relationship between the city and the University of Michigan. The council had failed on May 13 to approve a right-of-way occupancy for the university to install conduits under Tappan Street. An early departure from that meeting by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) contributed in part to the council’s inability to achieve an eight-vote majority.

Whether an eight-vote majority is needed is the source of friction between the city and UM. Under the city charter, an eight-vote majority is required for the council to approve transactions involving an interest in land. The purpose of the conduits under Tappan Street is to connect a new emergency generator to the Lawyers Club buildings at 551 S. State St. The Lawyers Club and the generator are located on opposite sides of the street. The university’s view is that the agreement needs to convey an interest in land, something the city attorney’s office disagrees with. The council’s resolution approved on July 15 directs the city staff to renegotiate with UM.

The other item on the agenda receiving at least 15 minutes of discussion was one that granted a fee waiver for events held in Liberty Plaza. That action was prompted by public protests at previous council meetings about the possibility of charging a fee to the church that hosts Pizza in the Park – a homelessness outreach program that distributes food and other humanitarian aid.

The council handled a raft of other items, including three different contracts related to protecting the local environment. Two of the contracts include an educational component – one related to the city’s materials recovery facility (MRF), and the other to stormwater management. The third concerned monitoring the city’s now-closed landfill at Platt and Ellsworth.

The council also handled several other items related to stormwater management. Three of the items involved street reconstruction – on Stone School Road, Forest Avenue, and multiple streets in the Springwater subdivision. A fourth item approved by the council was a contract for tree planting, which will be paid for from the city’s stormwater fund.

Among other items, the council also approved the distribution of $1.2 million in human services funding to various nonprofits that do work under contract with the city.

In non-voting business, the council received an update from chief of police John Seto. He reported that through the first six months of the year, Part 1 crimes – the most serious types of offenses – are down 10% compared to last year in the city, while overall crime is down 7.5%. Seto also reported that the police department is analyzing the initial data collection from the electronic activity logs for officers.

During public commentary, the council heard from advocates for racial equity, who called for the council to take action in response to the not-guilty verdict in Florida’s Trayvon Martin shooting case.

Council Rules

The council considered adopting amendments to its own internal rules. The items had been postponed twice previously.

Highlights of the proposed rules changes include adding public commentary to council work sessions. The proposal before the council on July 15 also included a shortening of public speaking turns – from three minutes to two minutes across all types of public speaking. Those types include general commentary, public hearings, and reserved time.

The length of councilmember speaking turns was also proposed to be shortened. The proposal was to reduce total time from eight minutes to five minutes. In more detail, the two turns they get per item would be reduced from five to three minutes and from three to two minutes.

A “frequent flyer” rule would prevent people from signing up for reserved time at the start of a meeting two meetings in a row.

Other changes included one that would put nominations and appointments to boards and commissions at the start of the agenda, before the council’s voting business, instead of after all the items. The new rules would also explicitly prohibit the use of mobile devices for texting or phoning at the council table.

For previous Chronicle coverage on these proposed changes, see “Council Mulls Speaking Rule Changes.”

The council had postponed a vote from its previous meeting, on July 1, 2013, due to the absence of Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) – who were described by council rules committee chair Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) as wanting to take part in the conversation. The council had also postponed the item at its June 17, 2013 meeting.

Council Rules: Public Comment

During public commentary reserved time at the start of the meeting, Jack Eaton encouraged the council to enact the rule change on its agenda that adds public commentary to work sessions, which would cause work sessions to come into compliance with Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. He called the change “long overdue.” The proposed reduction in speaking times, however, was something he didn’t support. He contended that the council too often acts against the interests of its constituents. He asked the council to vote in favor of public participation. He told the council that the proposed reduction in allowed speaking time was a reaction to a few speakers who abuse the opportunity for public commentary. He said that democracy requires that councilmembers listen to all the voices who want to speak. He called on the council to take an affirmative approach to listen to residents of Ann Arbor.

Council Rules: Council Deliberations

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) – who chairs the council’s rules committee that put together the proposal for rules changes – remarked that the item seemed like it’s been on the agenda forever. She summarized the discussion of the council rules committee and characterized it as a “lively debate” by the committee. She invited discussion from councilmembers on the proposed changes. The changes could be approved as a whole or individually, she ventured. [Besides Higgins, other rules committee members are Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), and mayor John Hieftje.]

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and mayor John Hieftje

Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and mayor John Hieftje. (Photos by the writer.)

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) proposed an amendment. She understood the need to streamline meetings, but contended that the recent long public hearings were not typical. She didn’t support a reduction of public speaking time. Sometimes two minutes might be sufficient, but other times it might not be enough, she contended. She’d prefer to err on the side of allowing additional speaking time – saying that streamlining should be done some other way. So she proposed that the shortening of public speaking turns from three minutes to two minutes be eliminated. Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) seconded Lumm’s proposal – which would keep public speaking turns limited to three minutes.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) supported Lumm’s proposal. He wanted to continue with the three-minute limit. Everyone has their own story, he said. If the council is really looking at how to shorten council meetings, there are other ways to do that, he said.

Briere described how in a “prior life” she had addressed the council as a member of the public – and allowed that three minutes goes by very fast. The proposal was not about limiting access or limiting the duration of a meeting, she said. Briere referred to a city council work session that had been held on April 29 on the topic of meeting management – which she’d watched a recording of, because she hadn’t been able to attend. Representatives of the Michigan Municipal League had been on hand to offer their advice on issues like the allotted time for public speaking. The message Briere had taken away from that Michigan Municipal League work session was that between minute 2 and minute 3, people tend to repeat themselves. But the MML’s recommendation of a two-minute time limit could be disregarded, Briere said.

Sally Petersen (Ward 2) said she didn’t think that the time limit change was meant to be a “cure-all” for making meetings more efficient. It was one step that might contribute to that, she felt. Her first concern was that the amount of time being allocated to councilmembers and to members of the public was different. The point is to improve the quality of the speaking time, she said, and to make the time as efficient as possible. She supported Lumm’s amendment.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) indicated that she could support a three-minute time limit for the reserved speaking time, because those speakers have made the effort to sign up ahead of time. Further, the reserved speaking time is already limited to just 10 slots. So she supported changing Lumm’s proposal so that it would restore the three-minute time limit just to the reserved time but not to other types of public speaking – general commentary and public hearings.

Higgins ventured that the council should not try to amend amendments, as Teall was suggesting. Higgins wanted each proposed amendment to be considered in turn. She asked Lumm to take her amendment off the table so that the council could consider each of the kinds of public commentary separately – reserved time, general time, and public hearings. Lumm didn’t want to do that.

Hieftje, who presides over council meetings, forged ahead with Teall’s amendment to Lumm’s proposed amendment, but it died for lack of a second. Discussion continued on Lumm’s proposal that all public speaking time should be limited to three minutes as it currently is – not two minutes as proposed by the rules committee. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) ventured that the council could spend another hour on the topic. He supported the current three-minute time period. Democracy is about giving people a chance to speak, he said, and it’s important to continue Ann Arbor’s tradition of that.

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) said that the purpose of reducing the meeting time had been disclaimed, so he wanted to address that. He rejected the idea that reducing time for public speaking turns would limit access and participation. Instead, he argued that it could encourage broader participation. He also pointed out that there are many points of contact between the public and the council besides the public commentary portions of meetings. He described how he’s heard from people who have despaired of ever trying to address the council, because they have to wait through other speakers.

Outcome on Lumm’s amendment: The vote was 10-1, with dissent from Teall.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) then raised some objections to the “frequent flyer” portion of the rules changes. At that point, Briere suggested that the council just go through each rule change and vote each one up or down. Briere described how people who are very savvy are on the phone early in the morning to sign up for the reserved time at the start of meetings. And that can have the result that others who want to address the council on an agenda item don’t have a chance, she said. But the council also needs to hear from people who want to speak on non-agenda items, she said. Briere called the proposed rule change – the “frequent flyer” provision – a compromise.

At that point, from the audience, Thomas Partridge said that only six people signed up for reserved time that evening. Hieftje ruled him out of order. Hieftje continued by saying that he wanted some mechanism to ensure that if someone wanted to address the council, they would not be prevented from speaking by those who speak frequently.

Warpehoski proposed to amend the frequent flyer rule so that reserved time is assigned on a preferential basis to those who did not address the council at the previous meeting – instead of making it a strict prohibition against someone reserving time two meetings in a row. Kunselman wondered how that would work logistically: How would the clerk’s office staff handle that?

Higgins then asked that specific changes just be rejected, instead of trying to amend them. Hieftje ventured that there’s no rush to enact the rules changes. He suggested postponing a vote after the council had a chance to discuss all the rules changes.

Warpehoski encouraged the rules committee to consider changing the admonishment in the rules that council debate not include “personality.” Instead, he suggested a statement that council debate shouldn’t include “personal attacks.” He suggested that emails sent to all councilmembers during a meeting (draft language for amendments, for example) be made available to the public. He also noted that sometimes when councilmembers question staff – which isn’t counted as speaking time – often it includes editorial comments. How is that handled?

Responding to Warpehoski, Higgins reported how the rules committee had discussed the issue of councilmember speaking time. Higgins talked about the possibility of rotating the job of timekeeper among councilmembers. She invited councilmembers to send suggestions to the rules committee, which could then be incorporated into a revised proposal. Lumm felt that some kind of time limit for councilmembers is appropriate. Five minutes seems too long for the first speaking turn, so the reduction from five minutes to three minutes seems reasonable, she said. But the second speaking turn should stay at three minutes, she felt.

Hieftje ventured that the length of the meetings changes as the issues change. Hieftje invited someone to move for a postponement.

Anglin felt that the meeting agendas need to be shortened. He also wanted the public to be notified if it’s known that an item will be postponed by the council. Briere countered that the council can’t act on the assumption that an item will be postponed. One should not presuppose an action by the council, she said.

The discussion then wandered to the idea of managing the number of proclamations included on a meeting agenda. Kailasapathy noted that many people, like her, have children and full-time jobs, so meetings that go to 1 a.m. are a hardship. It’s more humane to have two four-hour sessions, she ventured, than a single eight-hour session. Meeting length shouldn’t be a barrier to service on the council for people with young children and full-time jobs, she said.

Petersen thought that the agenda itself should be examined – noting that the July 15 agenda included 16 items introduced by staff members.

Higgins mentioned the new proposed rule about communications via mobile devices at the table. She said that if councilmembers need to communicate on their mobile device, then they can just step away from the table to do that.

Teall asked about the new rule limiting the clerk’s report on the agenda to only certain items. Briere explained there have been times when councilmembers have received correspondence and councilmembers have asked that the correspondence be added to the electronic agenda.

Higgins suggested that the item be postponed until the first meeting in September, which is Sept. 3. Hieftje suggested postponing the issue instead until the second meeting in September. But Briere wanted to have the rules in place for the work session in September – which falls between the two regular meetings. The new rules, if adopted, would allow for a public comment period for that work session. Having a public comment period for the work session would ensure that councilmembers could engage in deliberations without violating Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to postpone the amendments to the council rules until Sept. 3, 2013.

Skatepark Construction Contract

The council was asked to give the final approval necessary for creating a skatepark in the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park, on the west side of the city. That approval took the form of a $1,031,592 contract with Krull Construction.

Ann Arbor skatepark, Wally Hollyday, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, Veterans Memorial Park, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

This conceptual design by Wally Hollyday for the Ann Arbor skatepark at the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Park was approved by the city council on Jan. 7, 2013.

Construction could start in early August, with completion of the concrete portion of the skatepark by this November – weather permitting.

The park advisory commission had voted earlier, on June 8, 2013, to recommend award of the contract.

The originally approved budget for the project was $800,000 – though the expectation was that the project would cost about $1 million. The total budget now – including the construction contract, 10% contingency and $89,560 design contract – is $1,224,311, or $424,311 higher than the originally budgeted $800,000. Funds to pay for the skatepark include a $400,000 grant from the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, $300,000 from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Trust Fund, and $100,00 raised by the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, which paid for the skatepark’s design.

The city identified funds from a variety of sources to make up the gap.

  • $110,463 from uncommitted funds available in the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage fund balance. The amount reflects a $45,000 decrease in the amount the city will contribute, because the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark recently learned that they will receive a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. Of that, $5,000 will go into the maintenance endowment.
  • $80,000 from the city’s stormwater capital budget for rain gardens, to be repaid as a loan to the state revolving fund (SRF). The city expects a 50% loan forgiveness on this amount.
  • $32,356 from the FY 2014 parks memorial and contributions fund (the Feldman Trust) for landscaping plantings.
  • $30,356 from the FY 2014 parks maintenance and capital improvements millage.
  • $22,977 from the FY 2014 parks and recreation services general fund operating budget – from the “parks fairness” funds resulting from other budget amendments made by the council.

In addition, up to $103,159 in uncommitted funds are available in the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage fund balance to cover a 10% construction contingency. Any unspent portion of this amount will be returned to the fund balance.

Skatepark Construction Contract: Council Deliberations

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) led off deliberations by saying it’s been a long time coming. He recalled helping the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark back in 2007-08, giving them a voice at the council table. Everyone had come together to make it possible, he said. He compared the vote to standing at the rim of a pool looking down getting ready to skate: “Just go for it.”

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3)

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Sally Petersen (Ward 2) praised the effort, but expressed concern about the amount of an additional appropriation being made from city funds. She allowed that the Friends of Ann Arbor Skatepark are going to continue to do fundraising. So she wondered if it’s possible to delay the vote for a couple of months while additional private funding is pursued.

City administrator Steve Powers asked community services area administrator Sumedh Bahl to comment on the issue. The project needed to be completed by August 2014 under terms of the MDNR trust fund grant, Bahl explained. Under the current schedule, a June 30 estimated completion date is foreseen. There’s some “float,” Bahl said, but essentially the project needs to go ahead on the current schedule.

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) explained that staff had worked closely with the construction company, with the park advisory commission, and with the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark. Staff were mindful that additional money was being requested. Nevertheless, they were excited about moving forward, even with that additional cost, Taylor said. The effort had been long and earnest, and had the support of many governmental partners, he noted. The bid came in higher than was anticipated, Taylor said, but it was determined that this was simply how much it would cost. He allowed that it was more money than had been anticipated. The skatepark would be a good thing for kids and adults who skate, Taylor concluded.

Bahl noted that Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark had recently received a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) allowed that the amount by which the budget was off “could have been worse.” She noted that the specs had been reduced and that Krull had agreed to reduce the price by $10,000. She observed that the fund balance for the parks maintenance and capital improvements is healthy. The parks system is one of the reasons the quality of life in Ann Arbor is so strong, she said. Adding the new facility, even at the city’s cost, is worth doing, and she’d support it, Lumm concluded.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) recalled how the entire council chambers had been filled with supporters when the project had come forward in its earlier stages. He called Trevor Staples to the podium. Staples is chair of the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark board. Mayor John Hieftje established that no one on the council objected to Staples coming forward to speak. [This was a reference to a council rule that allows for members of the public to address the council outside of public commentary times, if no more than three councilmembers object.] Staples quipped that he himself might object.

Staples noted that about $900,000 is being brought to the city’s park system by the project. So he encouraged councilmembers to think about what could be lost if it doesn’t pass.

Petersen asked about the operating agreement: How will security be provided at the skatepark? Hieftje ventured that no additional security is provided for basketball courts. Petersen said she didn’t see any “eyes on the park” – that has been a concern cited in regard to downtown parks that have been proposed. Hieftje contrasted urban area parks with the future location of the skatepark, which is on the west side of town.

Hieftje hoped the construction contract would be approved that night. He recalled the kind of fundraising efforts that the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark had made. The enthusiasm they’ve generated has been inspirational, Hieftje said. The city’s contribution was not coming from human services money, Hieftje added.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to award the construction contract for the skatepark. Stephen Kunselman briefly left the table to give Trevor Staples a hug.

City-UM Relations

City-university relations arose twice during the July 15 meeting. A voting item involved a public right-of-way occupancy. An item of communication highlighted the partial closures of Main Street that are planned this fall for UM football games.

City-UM Relations: Tappan Conduits

The council was asked to approve a resolution giving direction to staff to renegotiate a template for agreements related to the University of Michigan’s need to install infrastructure in the city’s right-of-way. The resolution stemmed from an item that appeared on the council’s May 13, 2013 meeting agenda.

That item involved a right-of-way occupancy for UM to install conduits under Tappan Street. The purpose of the conduits is to connect a new emergency generator to the Lawyers Club buildings at 551 S. State St. The Lawyers Club and the generator are located on opposite sides of the street. The university considers the transaction to be a conveyance of an interest in land. The city doesn’t see it that way.

But UM insisted that the council approve the resolution as if it were a conveyance of an interest in land, which requires an eight-vote majority. On May 13, 2013, the council only had seven votes in favor. Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) had left that meeting early.

On July 15, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) introduced the resolution. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) said she wanted the process used by the city to approve this kind of thing to be one that in the future could be handled at the staff level – with a standard licensing agreement, as other entities do. Another possibility is to use easements, she said. She wanted UM to use the tools that are already in place.

Sally Petersen (Ward 2) asked what has happened since May 13, when the council’s vote did not achieve the eight-vote majority. Higgins reiterated that there’s a standard licensing tool for this purpose. Taylor stated that the smooth operation between the city and the university is important, and it’s important for the university to be able to operate smoothly itself. He encouraged staff to move swiftly and surely, without prejudicing the city.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) thanked those who brought the resolution forward – and was glad that the city is not granting the transfer of any property. Mayor John Hieftje noted the university has work pending, and wondered if the council’s action or non-action would have an impact on that. Assistant city attorney Abigail Elias said that the resolution that night would not preclude the Tappan Street agreement from coming back to the council.

Petersen wanted to know how long the renegotiation would take – because she’d heard the original negotiation had taken three years. Elias expressed optimism, but allowed that it takes two parties to reach an agreement. Higgins said that as long as the agreement doesn’t include a conveyance of land, it doesn’t need to ever come to the council. Lumm agreed with Higgins – that it’s about streamlining the process.

City attorney Stephen Postema weighed in by saying that if the university comes back with an agreement that required eight votes, then it could be a longer negotiation than Elias had described. Taylor clarified that things that need to be done for the Tappan Street project can be done currently. Elias replied, saying there would need to be a license agreement, and it’s up to UM to ask for what it needs to move forward.

Petersen asked what UM’s objection is to a licensing agreement. Elias explained that UM felt it needed an interest in the land, but the city felt that the conduit serves a structure, not the land. She characterized the proposal the council had rejected as an agreement to disagree. Anglin asked why this issue has even arisen. He called the previous resolution that the council was asked to approve on May 13 “gibberish” that no one could understand.

By way of background, the language Anglin was describing as gibberish was this:

As drafted, it grants to the University an interest in land only to the extent it grants to the University, by its terms, an interest in land.

Nevertheless, in accordance with the University’s request, but without agreeing that the agreement grants an interest in land, the document was submitted to City Council for approval with a requirement of 8 votes as if it granted an interest in land.

Outcome: The council voted to direct renegotiation of the right-of-way agreement with UM.

City-UM Relations: Football Games

During council communications, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) reported that chief of police John Seto and public services area administrator Craig Hupy had been meeting with the University of Michigan about the possibility of closing Main Street, between Stadium Boulevard and Pauline Boulevard, for football games.

Different scenarios for closure would depend on the start time for the game – noon, 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. Higgins reported that there will be a public meeting on July 24 at 6 p.m. at the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library – to explain how the logistics will work. The meeting would give the public a chance to weigh in, she said, before a contract with the University of Michigan is finalized.

Liberty Plaza Fees

The council was asked to approve a waiver of fees for the use of Liberty Plaza – a park located at the southwest corner of Liberty and Divisions streets in downtown Ann Arbor. The proposed fee waiver is on a trial basis, through July 1, 2014.

The park advisory commission had voted at its June 18, 2013 meeting to recommend a trial waiver of fees at Liberty Plaza. The fee waiver comes in response to a situation that arose earlier in the spring, when city staff applied fees to the hosting of Pizza in the Park in Liberty Plaza – a homelessness outreach ministry of a local church.

Members of Camp Take Notice, a self-governed homelessness community, have addressed the council at several of its recent meetings on this topic. They’re keen to see a written commitment that the city would allow humanitarian efforts to take place on public land generally. They’ve objected to the focus by the council and the park advisory commission on general activities – as opposed to the protection of humanitarian aid efforts.

For example, the staff memo accompanying the resolution approved by PAC stated: “The waived rental fee will be promoted with a goal of attracting additional musicians, performers, and other events at Liberty Plaza.” And a key “whereas” clause of the resolution reads: “… it is the goal of PAC to further activate Liberty Plaza by increasing social, cultural, and recreational activities that take place there; …”

Liberty Plaza Fees: Council Deliberations

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) reviewed the history of the issue with the Pizza in the Park program in Liberty Plaza. The program was under a perceived cloud, he said. PAC felt that a waiver would be useful for the particular purpose of protecting Pizza in the Park, but also would address the general purpose of activating the park. [Taylor and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) are ex-officio members of PAC.]

If the one-year trial is successful, it could become permanent. Taylor noted that advocates for Pizza in the Park have solidified how they think humanitarian efforts should be treated – beyond Liberty Plaza. Margie Teall (Ward 4) described how she’s met with several people and they’re exploring the possibility of extending waivers to other parks as well.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) asked community services area administrator Sumedh Bahl to explain how permit fees are normally waived. Bahl said it’s not the usual practice to waive fees – and indicated he couldn’t recall that being done in the past. He allowed that the council could direct the staff to waive fees. Briere ventured that during the art fairs, the council could pass a resolution to direct the waiver of the permit fee at other parks. Higgins noted that the art fairs are held this week, so she wondered where Pizza in the Park is happening this week. Bahl indicated that it’s being held at West Park, and that no fee is being applied.

Anglin asked how this proposal came about. Taylor noted that staff had heard the tenor of the council’s reaction to the Pizza in the Park advocates who’d addressed the council at previous meetings. He ventured that the proposal – which protects Pizza in the Park, while also helping to activate the park in general – “feeds two birds with one stone.”

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) asked if there’s an events committee through which this request could be handled. Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) agreed with a suggestion Kunselman made that nonprofits could be included in the fee structure as exempt, instead of waiving the fees by resolution. Briere cautioned that “nonprofit” and “humanitarian aid” are not precise terms and would need to be refined.

Lumm reported that she’d met with advocates of Pizza in the Park, and appreciated that they were trying to get direction from the council. She also worried about opening the door to all nonprofits and encouraged a narrowly-defined solution.

Outcome: The council voted to approve the fee waiver in Liberty Plaza on a trial basis through July 1, 2014.

Liberty Plaza Fee Waiver: Public Commentary

During the public commentary period at the end of the meeting, Seth Best – who’s addressed the council at previous meetings advocating for Pizza in the Park – thanked the council for the time and for the resolution the council had passed on a fee waiver at Liberty Plaza. On behalf of the homeless population, he invited councilmembers to Pizza in the Park this Friday, which will be held in West Park.

Environmental Protection Contracts

The council was asked to approve three different contracts related to protecting the local environment.

Two of the contracts include an educational component – one related to the city’s materials recovery facility (MRF), and the other to stormwater management. The third concerned monitoring of the city’s now-closed landfill at Platt and Ellsworth.

Environmental Protection Contracts: MRF Tours

On the council’s consent agenda was a $43,788 annual contract with the Ecology Center to give tours of the materials recovery facility (MRF). The facility sees 4,000 visitors a year. The cost of the contract is split 60%-40% between the solid waste fund and the drinking water fund. The drinking water funding is related to a Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources requirement that the city engage in source water protection educational efforts. The requested authorization is for the contract to be extended annually for five years with a 3% increase each year.

Outcome: The council approved the contract with the Ecology Center as part of the consent agenda.

Environmental Protection Contracts: HRWC Stormwater

Also related to environmental educational efforts, the council was asked to authorize a contract with the Huron River Watershed Council to comply with the requirements of an MS4 stormwater discharge permit that it has through the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality. An MS4 system (short for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) is “a system of drainage (including roads, storm drains, pipes, and ditches, etc.) that is not a combined sewer or part of a sewage treatment plant.”

Jennifer Lawson

Ann Arbor city water quality manager Jennifer Lawson was in attendance at the July 15 meeting but was not asked by the council to answer any questions.

The goal of the MS4 program is to reduce pollution of Michigan’s surface waters. HRWC’s activities are described in the staff memo accompanying the agenda item as: “public education efforts; water quality monitoring; reporting assistance; watershed group facilitation; and, technical assistance.” The HRWC contract is to be funded out of the stormwater operating and maintenance budget.

The contract with HRWC comes in the context of an incident on June 27, when heavy rains briefly overwhelmed the city’s sanitary sewage system and resulted in 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage flowing into the Huron River.

The city has separate sanitary and stormwater sewer systems, but the sanitary system receives stormwater flow from cracks in the system as well as footing drains that were connected to the sanitary system as part of standard construction techniques in the 1970s.

Incidents like the one on June 27 led to the creation of the city’s footing drain disconnection (FDD) program in the early 2000s. Parts of that FDD program are currently suspended as the city is conducting a study of wet weather flows in the sanitary system.

From the city’s press release on the incident three weeks ago:

On Thursday, June 27, 2013, the Ann Arbor area was deluged with intense rainfall that caused flooding conditions and significantly increased the flow of wastewater to the City of Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) over a short period of time. Plant flows more than tripled within a half hour. As a result of this unprecedented increase in plant flow, approximately 10,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was discharged to the Huron River from 5:20 to 5:30 p.m. By comparison, the WWTP fully treated approximately 350,000 gallons of wastewater during the 10minute period over which this incident occurred.

Fortunately, due to a number of factors, the impact of this incident on human health and the environment is minimal. The flow within the Huron River for the 10 minutes over which the discharge occurred was approximately 11,000,000 gallons, consequently the estimated 10,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was diluted by a factor of 1,000.

Outcome: The council voted to approve the contract with the Huron River Watershed Council.

Environmental Protection Contracts: Landfill

The third environmental item the council was asked to approve was an amendment to the city’s contract with Tetra Tech Inc. (TTI) to provide additional monitoring services of the city’s now-closed landfill. The $178,596 amendment brings the total amount of the contract to $543,386. Many of the additional services the city is asking Tetra Tech to provide are associated with a plume of 1,4 dioxane and vinyl chloride contamination in Southeast Area Park, which is located northeast of the landfill at Platt and Ellsworth.

Outcome: The council voted without discussion to approve the landfill monitoring contract with Tetra Tech.

Stormwater Infrastructure

Several projects related to stormwater management were on the council’s agenda.

Three of the items involved street reconstruction – on Stone School Road, Forest Avenue, and multiple streets in the Springwater subdivision. A fourth stormwater-related agenda item was a contract for tree planting, which will be paid for from the city’s stormwater fund.

Stormwater Infrastructure: Stone School Road

The Stone School Road stormwater project is part of a larger $4 million road improvement project. The council’s action was to approve a petition to the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner‘s office to apply for a state revolving fund loan of $1.2 million. The stormwater improvements will include work “to clean out, relocate, widen, deepen, straighten, extend, tile, interconnect, or otherwise improve a portion of the county drain located north of Ellsworth Road between Varsity Drive and Stone School Road, known as the Malletts Creek Drain.” The loan will be repaid in annual installments of up to $76,307 from the city’s stormwater fund. Up to 50% of the loan could be forgiven as a “green” project.

Outcome: The council voted to approve the petition to the water resources commissioner’s office for the Stone School Road Mallets Creek project.

Stormwater Infrastructure: Forest Avenue

The Forest Avenue reconstruction project extends from South University Avenue to Hill Street. The project includes installation of a stone reservoir under the street to allow for infiltration of stormwater. In addition to reconstructing the street, the existing 6-inch water main between Willard Street and Hill Street will be replaced with a 12-inch pipe. The total estimated $1,257,000 cost is to be paid for as follows: water fund capital budget ($185,000), street millage fund ($543,937), developer contributions (Zaragon Place and 601 Forest Ave.) to the parks memorials and contribution fund ($78,063), and the stormwater fund ($450,000). The city has obtained a loan through the state revolving fund for the stormwater portion of the project. The council’s requested action on July 15 was to approve a construction contract with MacKenzie Co. for $965,990.

During the brief deliberations, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) indicated that there’d been some concern about the timing of the project, from August to October. However the project will accommodate student move-in, she reported. She ventured that the city is eventually going to “turn the corner on stormwater.” Jane Lumm (Ward 2) stated that it’s good that the work is being done, characterizing the stretch of road as a “moonscape.”

Outcome: The council voted to approve the contract with E. T. MacKenzie Co. for the Forest Avenue work.

Stormwater Infrastructure: Springwater Design

The council was also asked to approve the engineering consultant work for street improvements in the Springwater subdivision – located southeast of Buhr Park, south of Packard Road. The eventual project, to be completed in 2014-16, would include “a reconstructed roadway section, storm sewer upgrades, storm water quality improvements, water main replacement, replacement of curb and gutter, and the construction of new sidewalk and/or the filling in of sidewalk gaps within the project limits.”

The work is planned over the course of three years, and would include the north-south streets of Nordman Road and Springbrook Avenue and the east-west streets of Butternut and Redwood. The action requested of the council was to approve a $212,784 contract with CDM Smith Michigan Inc.

Outcome: The council voted without discussion to approve the contract with CDM Smith Michigan Inc. for the Springwater subdivision street improvements.

Stormwater Infrastructure: Tree Planting

Finally, the council was asked approved a two-year $509,125 contract with Margolis Companies Inc. to plant 750 trees in FY 2014 and 1,000 trees in FY 2015. The work would be paid for from the city’s stormwater fund and reimbursed with a state revolving fund (SRF) loan that has been obtained through the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner’s office.

Deliberations were scant. Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) reviewed the environmental benefits to tree planting.

Outcome: The council voted to approve the tree-planting contract with Margolis Companies Inc.

Human Services Distribution

The council was asked to authorize the distribution of over $1.2 million to specific nonprofits that provide human services under contract with the city.

The budget allocation for $1,244,629 had already been made at the council’s May 20, 2013 meeting. A total of 20 programs operated by 16 different organizations are receiving funding from the city of Ann Arbor this year. It’s the same amount that was allocated last year.

Half of those organization are receiving more than $90,000: Interfaith Hospitality Network of Washtenaw County ($91,645); Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County ($94,490); Food Gatherers ($95,171); Community Action Network ($104,944); Perry Nursery School of Ann Arbor ($109,851); Avalon Housing Inc. ($142,851); Legal Services of South Central Michigan ($177,052); and the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County ($245,529).

In the coordinated funding approach to human services taken by the city, a total of $4,369,102 is being allocated by the city and other entities. In addition to the city’s share, other contributions include: United Way of Washtenaw County ($1,797,000); Washtenaw County general fund ($1,015,000); Washtenaw Urban County ($288,326); and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation ($24,147).

Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) led off deliberations by asking the council to vote to excuse him from voting on the item, because one of his clients is Planned Parenthood, which is among the groups being funded. The council voted to excuse Taylor from voting and he took a seat in the audience.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) noted that this is a three-year agreement and the amount this year is the same as it was the previous two years. Mayor John Hieftje recited how much each of the other entities was contributing. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) thanked Mary Jo Callan and Andrea Plevek, the staff who are responsible for administering the coordinated funding. She recited the history of the program. The need for human services continues to exceed the available funding, she said.

Outcome: The council voted to approve the human services funding distributions for FY 2014.

Appointments and Nominations

Nominations and confirmations to boards and commissions are a standard slot on council agendas. Currently it comes after all the other voting business. If the council adopts a new set of rules, the nominations and appointments would come before other voting business.

Appointments and Nominations: DDA

Among other nominations to city boards and commissions that the council was asked to consider was the confirmation of Russ Collins for a third four-year term on the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Collins, who is executive director of the Michigan Theater, began his service on the DDA board in 2005.

Appointments and Nominations: Dean Fund

The council was also asked to confirm Jane Immonen, John Bassett, and Patrick Ion to the Elizabeth Dean Trust Fund committee. Sue Perry was nominated by mayor John Hieftje at the July 15 meeting to serve on that committee, too. The vote on her confirmation will come at the council’s next meeting.

The responsibility of the Dean Fund committee is to make recommendations on the use of the Dean Trust Fund money for special projects involving trees. The committee was established in 1975 to oversee the use of the investment earnings from a nearly $2 million bequest made to the city by Elizabeth Dean. According to a Nov. 10, 1974 Ann Arbor News article, the bequest was made in the early 1960s to “repair, maintain and replace trees on city property.” The principal amount remains intact.

Appointments and Nominations: Housing, Zoning Appeals Boards

The council was also asked to confirm at its July 15 meeting Geoffrey Mayers and Kevin Busch to the housing board of appeals, and Heather Lewis to the zoning board of appeals.

Appointments and Nominations: Greenbelt

The council was asked to confirm the appointment of Jean Cares to the city’s greenbelt advisory commission (GAC). That group is responsible for making recommendations for land acquisition using proceeds of the city’s open space and parkland preservation millage. Seats on the commission have specific qualifications attached to them, including one for someone “who is an agricultural landowner or operates an agricultural business.” That’s the seat Cares will fill, as owner of the Dexter Mill. Tom Bloomer, a Webster Township farmer, previously held that position but was term-limited.

Also at the council’s July 15 meeting, John Ramsburgh’s name was brought forward to serve on the greenbelt advisory commission. The fact that he’d be nominated was announced by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) at the last meeting of GAC on July 11, 2013. Taylor serves as the city council representative to GAC. Unlike most appointments, the nominations for GAC are made by the council, not the mayor. The nomination is typically handled by placing the appointment on the agenda for one meeting, postponing the vote (which serves to give notice of the nomination), and then voting on the appointment at the next meeting of the council. That’s how Ramsburgh’s nomination was handled on July 15.

Ramsburgh is a development officer with the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science & the Arts. He also is the son of Ellen Ramsburgh, a long-time member of the Ann Arbor historic district commission, and its former chair. He is filling a position previously held by Dan Ezekiel, who was also term limited.

Appointments and Nominations: LDFA

Also at the council’s July 15 meeting, Richard Beedon was nominated for re-appointment to the board of the local development finance authority (LDFA). Terms on the LDFA are four years, so Beedon’s term extends to within one year of the end of the LDFA’s planned 15-year life in FY 2018.

Outcome: On unanimous votes, the council confirmed all the nominations it was asked to approve at its July 15 meeting.

Platt & Washtenaw Easements

On the agenda were three separate land-related items in connection with the Arbor Hills Crossing project at Platt & Washtenaw.

Platt & Washtenaw looking east down Washtenaw on July 14, 2013.

Platt & Washtenaw intersection looking east down Washtenaw on July 14, 2013.

Two of the items were easements – for a sidewalk and for bus shelters and bus pullouts.

The other item was the dedication of additional public right-of-way, so that Platt Road can be widened at that intersection. New traffic signals have been installed at the intersection, but they are not yet operational.

Responding to an inquiry from The Chronicle, city traffic engineer Les Sipowski indicated that the signals would likely not be turned on for another two weeks, and when they are first turned on they’d operate in flashing mode for a week.

The council had approved the site plan for Arbor Hills Crossing at its Nov. 21, 2011 meeting.

The project includes four one- and two-story buildings throughout the 7.45-acre site – a total of 90,700-square-feet of space for retail stores and offices. Three of the buildings face Washtenaw Avenue, across the street from the retail complex where Whole Foods grocery is located. The site will include 310 parking spaces.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously without discussion to approve all the items associated with Arbor Hills Crossing.

During the time allotted for communications from the city attorney, Stephen Postema indicated that the three easements on the agenda that night associated with Arbor Hills Crossing took a lot of work.

South State Corridor Plan

The council considered adoption of the South State Street corridor plan as part of the city’s master plan.

The city planning commission had voted unanimously to adopt the plan at its May 21, 2013 meeting. More commonly when the planning commission votes on a matter, it’s to recommend action by the city council. For the city’s master plan, however, the planning commission is on equal footing with the council: both groups must adopt the same plan. The council’s action came at its July 15, 2013 meeting.

Planning commissioners and staff have been working on this project for more than two years. [For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: "State Street Corridor Study Planned," “Sustainability Goals Shape Corridor Study,” “Ideas Floated for South State Corridor.” and “South State Corridor Gets Closer Look.”]

Recommendations in the South State Street corridor plan are organized into categories of the city’s recently adopted sustainability framework: Land use and access, community, climate and energy, and resource management. Among the recommendations are: (1) Evaluate use of vacant parcels for alternative energy generation; (2) Evaluate integrating public art along the corridor; (3) Evaluate use of open land for community gardens; (4) Assess and improve high crash areas along the corridor; (5) create boulevard on State Street between Eisenhower and I‐94 to enable safer automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian movement; (6) Consider utilizing vacant parcels for athletic fields and recreation facilities; (7) Develop a pedestrian and bicycle path along the Ann Arbor railroad that will connect the planned Allen Creek bikeway to Pittsfield Township through the corridor; and (8) Resurface roads in the corridor.

Each recommendation includes several related action items. The report also provides a section that organizes the recommendations into each of three distinct sections of the corridor: (1) from Stimson on the north to Eisenhower Parkway; (2) from Eisenhower south to the I-94 interchange; and (3) from I-94 to Ellsworth. In addition, there are nine site-specific recommendations for areas including Briarwood Mall, the complex of hotels near Victors Way and Broadway, and the research park development near the corridor’s south end.

The council had postponed its vote on the corridor plan at its July 1 meeting, deferring to a request from Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), who said she had concerns about adding it to the master plan.

Deliberations on July 15 were scant. Higgins thanked her colleagues on the council for the postponement at the last meeting so that she could look at the item a bit more closely.

Outcome: The council voted to adopt the South State Street corridor plan into the city’s master plan.

Barton Sidewalk Design

The council was asked to approve a design budget of $15,000 for a 400-foot new concrete sidewalk on the south side of Barton Road, from a spot west of Chandler Road to Longshore Drive.

Location of proposed Barton Drive sidewalk.

Location of proposed Barton Drive sidewalk.

The money will be spent from the city’s general fund.

The council had approved similar design budgets for a sidewalk on Newport Road at its Jan. 22, 2013 meeting and for a sidewalk on Scio Church Road at its Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.

The interest in having sidewalks was supported by petitions submitted by adjoining property owners.

Construction of new sidewalks – as contrasted with repair of existing sidewalks, which is funded through the city’s sidewalk repair millage – is typically funded at least partly through special assessment of adjoining properties.

The cost of the design work can be recovered by the city in the same proportion as the construction cost. So, if 30% of the construction cost for the sidewalk is paid through special assessment, then 30% of the design cost can be recovered through special assessment.

Part of the context for sidewalk gap elimination is a decision made by the council on May 20, 2013, when it adopted the city’s FY 2014 budget. The budget included a $75,000 allocation for a study of sidewalk gaps, so that they can be prioritized.

Ward 1 councilmembers Sumi Kailsasapathy and Sabra Briere.

Ward 1 councilmembers Sumi Kailasapathy and Sabra Briere.

During the brief council deliberations, council representatives for Ward 1, where the possible sidewalk is to be located, weighed in.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) noted that people who are attempting to push strollers to Bandemer Park have complained for years about the lack of a sidewalk. The design budget doesn’t guarantee construction will take place, she allowed, but it’s a good step. There had been a meeting between staff and neighbors and the response was overwhelmingly positive, she reported.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) confirmed the nature of the neighborhood meeting, which she’d also attended. She was impressed by the attendance at the meeting. She highlighted the importance of non-motorized transportation.

Outcome: The council voted to approve the design budget for the proposed Barton Drive sidewalk.

Social Justice Issues

Issues of social justice were raised during public commentary in connection with the Trayvon Marin verdict and with same-sex domestic partnership benefits.

Social Justice Issues: Trayvon Martin Verdict – Public Comment

Several people attended the council’s meeting to address the not-guilty verdict that had been delivered by a Florida jury in the Trayvon Martin shooting case over the weekend.

Blaine Coleman told the council they should make as much noise about the Trayvon Martin verdict as they did about the killing of white children in Newton, Mass. He told councilmembers he expected strong statements from them about what happened to Martin, which he characterized as “legalized lynching.” He spoke against the “slavemaster mindset,” which says that black life is worth nothing. Councilmembers need to rid themselves of that mindset, Coleman said – it’s a mindset that says it’s okay to hunt and kill black people. He expected the council to say that black life is worth something, and to express its revulsion at the Trayvon Martin verdict.

Lefiest Galimore was joined by seven others at the podium. He weighed in against the so-called “stand your ground” law in Florida. He drew attention to Michigan’s version of the law, which was enacted in 2006. [.pdf of Self Defense Act 309 of 2006]

Such laws are subject to interpretation, he cautioned. He said that outside of the council chambers he might be seen as a threat, simply because he is an African American male. He asked the council to pass a resolution calling for the repeal of Michigan’s law. He recited the history of the Pioneer High School football brawl in October 2012, in which three African American youths were charged criminally. He asked why three young African American men were charged out of two football teams that had players from different races. He called for the revocation of Michigan’s version of the “stand your ground” law.

Rev. Jeff Harrold introduced himself as pastor at the New Beginnings Community Church and a member of the steering committee of the Interfaith Council on Peace and Justice. [Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) is director of ICPJ.] Race was the “800-pound gorilla in the room” in the Trayvon Martin case, he said. Harrold told the council it’s all too easy to see a young black man as threatening. He encouraged the council to go on record against the “stand your ground” law.

Harrold allowed that the Trayvon Martin case had taken place in Florida, but cautioned that something like that could happen in Michigan. He called on the council to support bringing federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman – who shot Martin. People don’t like to talk about race anymore, he said, but he pointed out that the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads selection this year is “The New Jim Crow.” And that had led to a facilitated dialogue. Race played a large role in the Trayvon Martin killing, and he wanted the U.S. Attorney General to do what the Florida jury had not done – deal with the issue of race in connection with the Trayvon Martin killing.

Social Justice Issues: Same-Sex Partnerships – Public Comment

Lisa Dusseau introduced herself as a born-and-raised Ann Arborite, and current resident of Ward 1. Ann Arbor has always been a place of diversity, inclusion and equality, she said. She described Ann Arbor as a progressive city where she felt free to live her life free of harassment or discrimination. Ann Arbor was one of the first cities to recognize domestic partnerships and to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy. Her life partner is Kathleen Summersgill, who’s worked for the Ann Arbor fire department for 21 years, Dusseau said. They’ve been together as a couple for 19 years. They share everything a married couple would – except for health insurance. Dusseau reported that her current employer doesn’t offer health care that meets her needs. So she had to find her own insurance and pay her premiums out of pocket. Her asthma medication isn’t covered under her own policy – and a 90-day supply costs over $1,000.

There was a 9-month period in 2009 when she was covered under Summersgill’s insurance – and she is grateful for that, she said. But that was before 2011 when the Michigan state legislature prevented public employers from offering benefits to employees’ domestic partners. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as discriminatory, and soon after that the Michigan Court of Appeals rescinded Michigan’s ban on domestic partner benefits. Employees of the state, the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Public Schools can now obtain health benefits for their same-sex domestic partners – but nothing has changed for Ann Arbor city employees. She didn’t think it was fair that this discriminatory situation continues. So she urged the Ann Arbor city council to follow suit with other Ann Arbor institutions, in the light of recent court decisions, to restore domestic partner benefits.

Social Justice Issues: Council Response

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) addressed the issue of racial discrimination that public speakers had raised. In Ann Arbor it’s easy to forget what things are like in other states, she said. She didn’t know what to tell her kids to explain to them why the Trayvon Martin verdict came out the way it did. They were born in Ann Arbor and attended Ann Arbor schools so they’d lived protected lives. She said she was willing to work with other councilmembers on the issue of Michigan’s “stand your ground” law. Given that Ann Arbor is a progressive city and plays the role of a “shining light” to others, she felt that the council needs to pass a resolution and work with other cities to ensure that a situation like Trayvon Martin’s doesn’t occur in Michigan.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5)

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) also addressed the issues of marriage equality, racial equality and preventing gun violence – calling them issues dear to his heart. It was bad news when the state legislature had taken away the city’s ability to provide benefits to same-sex partners and it was good news when the courts gave that ability back. He indicated that the city was currently working to restore the same-sex benefits.

Warpehoski indicated that past local efforts to regulate gun ownership had been superseded by the state legislature. He expressed a willingness to support efforts to address “stand your ground” laws in Michigan. He hoped for the ability to have local control over regulation of gun ownership. He indicated that the city’s human rights commission was working on the issue of race. Racism isn’t just a Southern thing, he said.

Later during council communications ,Mike Anglin (Ward 5) said he wanted to add his voice of support for those who wanted Warpehoski to work on human rights issues. The phrasing of Anglin’s remarks – which could have been understood as drafting Warpehoski to do the work – prompted some chuckles around the table. Anglin indicated that he himself was willing to lend his own efforts to the work.

Communications and Comment

Every city council agenda contains multiple slots for city councilmembers and the city administrator to give updates or make announcements about important issues that are coming before the city council. And every meeting typically includes public commentary on subjects not necessarily on the agenda. Here are some highlights.

Comm/Comm: Policing, Public Safety

City administrator Steve Powers asked police chief John Seto to give an update. The first six months of the year show that Part 1 crimes are down 10% compared to last year, Seto reported. [Part 1 crimes are considered the most serious, and include murder, rape, robbery, arson, and motor vehicle theft, among others.] Overall crime is down 7.5%.

The department is analyzing the initial data collection from the electronic activity logs for officers. The department expects to be staffed up to the full authorized level of 119 officers with the anticipated hire of four officers, Seto reported.

Comm/Comm: Humane Society

During council communications, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) reported that chief of police John Seto would be meeting with the Humane Society of Huron Valley. She noted that she’s a board member of the HSHV. She explained that the HSHV has a contract with Washtenaw County to provide services with respect to stray animals. She noted that the city itself no longer provides animal control services. The city’s ordinance says that if there’s a request for service, then the individual is supposed to contact the Ann Arbor police department, which would then forward the request to HSHV. The HSHV had decided to follow that ordinance, which meant that there are a lot of calls going into the AAPD about animal control, Lumm said. So the city will meet with HSHV to coordinate how stray animals will be handled.

Comm/Comm: Karl Pohrt

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) offered a remembrance of Karl Pohrt, who died the previous week. He was best known to many as the owner of the Shaman Drum Bookshop, she said. That bookstore on South State Street served the philosophers, and poets and social scientists. Others knew him through his volunteer work, which included service on city boards. Other knew him as a man with a “beautiful soul” that shines on in the many people he touched. Briere related how he let her bounce ideas off him. When she saw him last, he was living his life as fully as anyone can, she said. “I wish we all had more time,” Briere concluded.

Comm/Comm: Flooding

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) offered some anecdotal information on flooding from the point of view of a real taxpayer. Since 2000, a woman has replaced all her basement walls, which had cost from $25,000-$50,000, he said. She had one instance of damage of $5,000 and another one of $3,000. The city’s cost in connection with the flooding has been $8,000, he reported. Anglin wanted to put a human face on the tragedy. He said the city needs to do its best to do a better job controlling floods and “disasters of that nature.”

Comm/Comm: General Reforms

During public commentary reserved time at the start of the meeting, Thomas Partridge called for a new attitude and a new mayor of the city. He called for a council that would work to place items on every agenda that would expand human rights and expand public participation at meetings. He called for increased affordable housing and transportation. For too long, the mayor and council have neglected and abused Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens, he said. Money is allocated that highlights historic discrimination, he contended, and it’s time to end that.

During the public commentary at the end of the meeting, Partridge rose to speak for responsibility and integrity as an advocate for those residents of the city and state who are most vulnerable.

Present: Jane Lumm, Mike Anglin, Margie Teall, Sabra Briere, Sumi Kailasapathy, Sally Petersen, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins, John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor, Chuck Warpehoski.

Next council meeting: Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron. [confirm date]

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