No Council Vote on DDA, AAHC Apointments

At its Sept. 3, 2013 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council was asked to confirm just three of the four nominations made at the council’s previous meeting on Aug. 19.

Leigh Greden’s nomination to the Ann Arbor housing commission had been withdrawn before the meeting. And one of the remaining three nominations was withdrawn during deliberations. Mayor John Hieftje withdrew Al McWilliams’ appointment to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority during the meeting. But the dynamic of the meeting, which included the absence of two councilmembers, suggested that McWilliams’ appointment might be brought forward for a vote at a future session.

The two other nominations from Aug. 19 were confirmed: Devon Akmon’s appointment to fill a vacancy on the public art commission; and Logan Casey to fill a vacancy on the human rights commission. Akmon is an Ann Arbor resident and the new director of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. Casey is a graduate student at the University of Michigan.

No conversation took place on the nomination of former city councilmember Leigh Greden to the Ann Arbor housing commission – because his nomination was withdrawn earlier in the day, around 2:30 p.m. Greden’s initial appointment to the AAHC board in January 2011, replacing Jayne Miller, had been unanimous.

Earlier this year, at the council’s April 1 meeting, Nickolas Buonodono had been nominated to replace Greden on the AAHC board, after Greden had reached the end of his first term. Buonodono is an attorney, and a member of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party executive committee. However, that nomination was not on the council’s April 15 meeting agenda for confirmation. According to AAHC executive director Jennifer Hall, who spoke to The Chronicle in a telephone interview in mid-April, Greden was going to seek reappointment for a second term if he could accommodate his schedule to the meeting times. The housing commission is undergoing a major transition to a project-based voucher system, which the council authorized at its June 3, 2013 meeting on a unanimous vote.

The nomination of McWilliams to the Ann Arbor DDA also came forward from mayor John Hieftje with a wrinkle. Before he was nominated at the council’s Aug. 19 meeting, McWilliams’ name had appeared on an early version of the list of nominees for the council’s Aug. 8 meeting. The final version for that meeting, however, did not include his name. McWilliams is founder of Quack!Media, an ad agency located in downtown Ann Arbor. Quack!Media lists the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority on its website as one of its clients. McWilliams has written advocacy pieces for bicycling on his blog.

Council deliberations centered on the possibility that McWilliams might have a recurring conflict of interest stemming from his company’s work for the AAATA, which receives funding for its getDowntown program from the DDA. Councilmembers Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and Sally Petersen (Ward 2) felt that the potential conflict was substantial. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated that the possible appearance of a conflict was a problem for him, even if there were no legal conflict. Kunselman also indicated that he would prefer a nominee who was prepared to accept some reform of the DDA. And based on remarks of Mike Anglin (Ward 5) at the table, it was not clear whether Anglin would support McWilliams nomination either.

Because two councilmembers were absent – Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) – four votes against the nomination would have been sufficient to defeat it. So during deliberations, mayor John Hieftje withdrew the nomination, so that questions about McWilliams’ potential conflicts could be answered more fully.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]