Council Focus: Nominations, Neighborhoods

Reconsideration of McWilliams' appointment to DDA set for Oct. 21; no vote on Appleyard to energy commission. Also: council takes action on cross-lot paths as "sidewalks," traffic calming, solid waste plan

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Oct. 7, 2013): The council’s meeting was bookended with the topic of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions – beginning with a confirmation vote that was not taken at all, and ending with a motion to reconsider a confirmation vote the council had taken at its previous meeting.

Mayor John Hieftje

Mayor John Hieftje. There are 26 more regular city council meetings left in Hieftje’s mayoral tenure. He announced on Oct. 11 that he’s not planning to run for re-election in 2014. In an email sent to The Chronicle, he said the decision was made much earlier: “I made the decision over the summer on a kayak trip on the north east coast of Lake Superior.” (Photos by the writer.)

The confirmation vote that did not take place was on the appointment of Wayne Appleyard to the city’s energy commission. Although his nomination had been announced at the council’s Sept. 16 meeting, mayor John Hieftje did not move his name forward for a vote on Oct. 7. Appleyard’s appointment would have required a 7-vote majority under the city charter – because he’s not a city resident. With only eight councilmembers in attendance, his confirmation might not have received seven votes. A recent change to the council’s rules put the routine appointments – which the council approved unanimously – near the start of the meeting.

The confirmation vote that was moved for reconsideration at the end of the Oct. 7 meeting was that of Al McWilliams to the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Midway through the meeting, the council had voted to direct the city attorney to write an opinion on the legal issues surrounding McWilliams’ appointment, which was made on a 6-5 vote at the council’s Sept. 16 meeting.

Under the council’s rules, McWilliams’ appointment appears to have required an 8-vote majority, because his nomination and confirmation came on the same night. That analysis relies on Hieftje’s statement at the council’s Sept. 3 meeting that on that occasion he was withdrawing McWilliams’ nomination. But because no objection to the apparent violation of the council’s rules was raised on Sept. 3, the city attorney’s opinion will likely just establish that a court challenge to the appointment could not be made.

A portion of the minutes of the council’s Sept. 16 meeting – relating to McWilliams’ appointment – was the topic of considerable back and forth, with approval of the minutes coming only after an amendment had been made to change the way some remarks made by Hieftje had been characterized.

The frustration of councilmembers on the losing side of the Sept. 16 vote was evident during deliberations – reflected in Mike Anglin’s (Ward 5) sole vote of dissent against the resolution directing the city attorney to write an opinion. Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) also indicated dissatisfaction that the opinion resolution would not address the public’s interest in due process.

So a few minutes past midnight, after the council’s other business had been dispatched, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) convinced his council colleagues to re-open the agenda for a motion to reconsider the vote on the appointment. Warpehoski had been on the prevailing side of the McWilliams’ confirmation vote. He then moved immediately for postponement until the Oct. 21 meeting and councilmembers supported that motion – so the council will take up the question of reconsideration at that time.

In other business, the council adopted an update to its solid waste plan, but not before amending the plan to remove mention of exploring the possibility of every-other-week trash pickup and pay-as-you-throw options in the future.

The council also considered two items related to hyper-local neighborhood infrastructure issues – cross-lot walkways and traffic calming projects.

Councilmembers gave initial approval to a change in the city’s sidewalk ordinance that would define certain walkways as “sidewalks.” The change will affect cross-lot walkways that connect streets with schools or parks, or streets with other streets. Defining these walkways as  “sidewalks” allows them to be eligible for funds from the sidewalk repair millage, but does not trigger winter maintenance responsibility for adjacent property owners.

The council also approved a budget allocation of $55,000 to fund an additional two traffic calming (speed bump) projects this year. The same resolution directed the funding of three traffic calming projects next year.

Two site plans were approved by the council – one for a Tim Hortons drive-thru on Ann Arbor-Saline road, and another for a Belle Tire on Ellsworth.

A new schedule of liquor license fees was approved by the council. In some cases fees were lowered or eliminated, and in other cases they were raised – to reflect actual city costs in processing. For example, on-premise liquor license annual renewal fees were set at $90, an increase from $50, while fees for new liquor licenses were set at $600, a reduction from $2,500.

The council also approved a grant application to the Rockefeller Foundation for designating Ann Arbor as one of 100 Resilient Cities. While the total amount of funding for the program is identified as $100 million, according to the Rockefeller Foundation, that does not mean that each of the 100 cities would receive $1 million of support if selected.

DDA Appointment: McWilliams

The appointment of Al McWilliams to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board was again the focus of the council at its Oct. 7 meeting. McWilliams had been confirmed to the DDA board on a 6-5 vote taken at the council’s meeting on Sept. 16, 2013.

In one Oct. 7 action, the council considered a resolution to direct the city attorney to draft an opinion on the Sept. 16 confirmation vote and to file it with the city clerk’s office. In another action, taken after midnight, the council voted to re-open the agenda to add a motion to reconsider the Al McWilliams confirmation, which was then immediately postponed by a unanimous vote – until the council’s Oct. 21 meeting.

The minutes of the Sept. 16 meeting also were the subject of debate, based on the way some remarks by mayor John Hieftje had been characterized.

DDA Appointment: McWilliams – Public Commentary

Three people touched on the McWilliams appointment during public commentary reserved time at the start of the meeting.

Mary Underwood told the council that after all the “brouhaha” about the McWilliams appointment, she decided to look at his blog. She called it third-grade level potty humor. She said she was embarrassed for the mayor, the council, and downtown merchants. She questioned the ability of McWilliams to exercise good judgment. She asked if he was the best candidate that could be found to represent the city. In wrapping up, she gave councilmembers gift certificates for ice cream cones. Written on the envelopes was a phrase that she attributed to McWilliams about an ice cream promotion: “Hey everybody, don’t forget to shove an ice cream cone up your ass.”

Peter Zetlin talked about community values related to Al McWilliams’ appointment to the DDA board. He’d looked at McWilliams’ blog and seen images of women that objectified them. He invited councilmembers to think about how they’d react if the images had related to race or religion.

No McWilliams

Rita Mitchell, who was signed up as an alternate to speak on the question of Al McWilliams’ appointment to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, held a sign that indicated where she stood on the nomination.

If the images were appropriate, he asks, why did McWilliams take them down? [According to a subsequent blog post by McWilliams, the blog had not been redacted except for one image that he'd taken down at the request of a councilmember. He wrote: "It is unchanged & unedited since my nomination to the DDA save one photo from the Huffington Post that was removed at the specific request of a councilperson... because I’m nice."]

Zetlin contended that McWilliams is immature. He alluded to the recommendation by Maura Thomson of McWilliams. Thomson, who’s executive director of the Main Street Area Association, declined to answer his question to her, Zetlin said: Did she still support McWilliams? Zetlin’s remarks got a smattering of applause.

Jeff Hayner, who’s contesting the Ward 1 city council seat with incumbent Democrat Sabra Briere, read aloud from the New York City charter, Chapter 68, on conflicts of interest. He asked why the council has no conflict of interest policy, citing the deliberations on Al McWilliams’ appointment to the Ann Arbor DDA. He said we can’t trust the national or the state government – or now the local government to make good appointments. It’s important to choose carefully, he said. Hayner said he’d asked to be appointed to the North Main Huron River task force, and the reply he’d received from Briere indicated to him that the members of that task force had been pre-selected before the task force had been established.

During council communications time a short while later in the meeting, Briere responded to Hayner’s remarks. Often a task force is appointed the same night it is established, she said. When the North Main Huron River task force was established, many people stepped forward and asked that additional seats be added. She said they’d tried to make the process open and transparent. Many of the non-members of the task force had attended meetings and helped the process, she said.

DDA Appointment: McWilliams – Sept. 16 Minutes

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) led off deliberations on the approval of the council’s Sept. 16, 2013 meeting minutes. [Approval of the minutes is typically routine and perfunctory, and usually is dispatched without comment by the council.]

Kunselman alluded to an updated version of the council minutes. He questioned whether the minutes accurately reflected the McWilliams confirmation to the DDA board. Kunselman first appealed to the Sept. 3 meeting minutes – because that’s the meeting when mayor John Hieftje indicated he was withdrawing McWilliams’ nomination. Kunselman then reviewed the Sept. 16 meeting minutes.

As originally proposed, the minutes in relevant part read as follows – referring to the point early in the Sept. 16 meeting when Hieftje told the council that he’d be asking councilmembers to vote on confirmation later in the meeting:

Mayor Hieftje stated that he postponed the nomination of Al McWilliams to the DDA at the September 3 meeting and he will be bringing that nomination forward tonight under the Communications from the Mayor.

That version appears to be consistent with a transcription of Hieftje’s exact words:

I would note one thing that I didn’t see on the agenda that uh, the nomination of Al McWilliams was postponed and I will be bringing that forward when it comes time for the mayor’s communications. [Sept. 16, 2013]

But Kunselman wanted the minutes to reflect the fact that Hieftje had misstated a fact – that the nomination had been postponed, as opposed to withdrawn. That is, Kunselman appeared keen to draw out the fact that on Sept. 3, the action taken had been to withdraw the nomination, not postpone it. A transcript of Hieftje’s Sept. 3 remarks:

If it is friendly I would ask the mover and the seconder to allow me to withdraw this nomination tonight to explore some of these issues and come back with answers. But. Is that friendly? Okay, so I will withdraw it tonight. [Sept. 3, 2013]

Kunselman pointed out that McWilliams’ name was crossed out after the Sept. 3 meeting in the online Legistar file. [For a detailed accounting of the situation, see: "Column: How to Count to 8, Stopping at 6."

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) indicated support of Kunselman's contention that the nomination had been withdrawn, by saying she also thought the nomination of McWilliams had been withdrawn on Sept. 3. She alluded to a subsequent email exchange she'd had with McWilliams in which she'd stated that she thought his nomination had been withdrawn. On Sept. 6, she'd replied to McWilliams, who'd offered to meet with her about concerns she'd raised. She wrote, in part, "I believe that the mayor has withdrawn your name. If he decides to renominate you we can meet."

Kunselman then offered an amendment to the minutes that left councilmembers and members of the public somewhat perplexed – because he wanted the minutes to indicate that Hieftje had "pretended" the nomination had been postponed. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) expressed no enthusiasm for discussing it. She asked for input from city attorney Stephen Postema. Postema replied that it was not a legal issue, saying that what the council was being asked to do is approve the minutes.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) ventured that the minutes could be approved with an exception. Kunselman indicated to Anglin he was not interested in pursuing an approval with an exception.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) said that what Kunselman was proposing was to falsify the historical record, and told Kunselman he was just engaging in political theater.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) said that she thought McWilliams' name had been withdrawn on Sept. 3 and was surprised to see it brought forward on Sept. 16. She said she wished she'd had better command of the parliamentary procedures so that she could have objected at the time.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) countered Kailasapathy and Lumm by saying she thought the confirmation had been postponed on Sept. 3 and that Hieftje's intent had been to postpone a vote. Teall told Kunselman that what he was proposing wasn't accurate.

Kunselman stated that he and others took the mayor at his word when Hieftje had said he was withdrawing the nomination. Teall and Kunselman went back and forth for a bit on the question of Hieftje's intent. Briere raised a point of order, asking Hieftje to recognize each speaker in turn to regulate the speaking turns.

Hieftje apologized for contributing to the murkiness. He stated that his intent was to have the motion for confirmation withdrawn, but not to withdraw the nomination. If he had it to do over again, he said, he would have said that he wanted to have the motion withdrawn. But Hieftje added that he didn't have a problem having the minutes amended to reflect the exact transcript of the meeting.

Kunselman's initial proposal, which would have indicated Hieftje "pretended" he'd postponed the nomination, was not approved. Instead the council settled on the following correction [new text in italics and deleted text in strike-through]:

Mayor Hieftje stated that he didn’t see on the agenda that postponed the nomination of Al McWilliams to the DDA was postponed at the September 3 meeting and he will be bringing that nomination forward tonight under the Communications from the Mayor.

Outcome: The amendment on the minutes was unanimously approved, as were the minutes themselves.

DDA Appointment: McWilliams – Attorney Opinion

The requested city attorney’s opinion is supposed to answer questions that were raised about the procedure used to appoint Al McWilliams to the board of the Ann Arbor DDA at the council’s Sept. 16 meeting.

On Sept. 16, mayor John Hieftje asked the council to vote on McWilliams’ appointment after saying at a previous meeting, on Sept. 3, that he was withdrawing the nomination. Under the council’s rules, an 8-vote majority is required for confirmation of an appointment when the nomination is made at the same meeting when the confirmation vote is taken. McWilliams was confirmed on a 6-5 vote.

A “whereas” clause in the opinion resolution states that “the public good will be best served by releasing this advice to the public.” The key resolved clause, which was revised from the version initially placed on the council’s agenda, stated: “That City Council requests that the City Attorney draft an opinion by October 16, 2013 for the benefit of the public that answers whether the September 16, 2013 vote to appoint Al McWilliams to the DDA can be challenged on the grounds that the confirmation motion should have required 8 votes…”

The opinion will likely establish that it’s doubtful a successful court challenge could be brought in connection with McWilliams’ appointment – partly because it’s not clear who might have standing to bring such a suit. It will likely also establish as a key point that no objection was raised at the time about the validity of the vote.

Under the Ann Arbor city charter, written opinions of the city attorney are to be filed with the city clerk’s office. City attorney Stephen Postema has contended in the past that his advice memos are not written opinions under the city charter and has declined to file them with the clerk’s office.

The council has voted in the past on a resolution that would have made an attorney opinion public – on the legal basis for the Percent for Art program. That vote, taken on April 2, 2012, failed with support only from Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

The Oct. 7 agenda item on the attorney’s opinion was sponsored by Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).

Warpehoski explained that the resolution was developed before the city attorney’s advice memo was written. The city attorney’s advice is generally confidential for a good reason, he said. Warpehoski proposed four tests for waiving privilege: (1) legal risk should be small; (2) public interest is wide; (3) release of information doesn’t unduly constrain future council action; and (4) it doesn’t blindside the city attorney. Based on conversations with the city attorney and with Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who is also an attorney, Warpehoski reported that the idea of the resolution, which had been altered from the resolution originally put on the agenda, was to ask that an opinion, for a third party, be written as opposed to waiving privilege for an existing document.

Warpehoski explained the difference between the first draft of the resolution and the revised one. The revised draft read: “That City Council requests that the City Attorney draft an opinion by October 16, 2013 for the benefit of the public that answers whether the September 16, 2013 vote to appoint Al McWilliams to the DDA can be challenged on the grounds that the confirmation motion should have required 8 votes…”

Postema said that it would make no sense for him to prepare an opinion for an audience outside the council in the ordinary course of business. But this resolution is an action taken by the council, his client, so he’s prepared to draft the opinion.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) weighed in by addressing the issue of the public’s interest. Postema told her that the vote on the confirmation of McWilliams was taken and the vote was announced. The legal significance of that is the only thing he was going to put in his opinion, and the answer was going to be fairly easy, he said.

Kailasapathy was not satisfied: “People are really upset.” She was troubled that the legal opinion would be so narrowly focused. She was concerned about the integrity of the entire confirmation process.

Briere observed that Postema had suggested that the council’s rules be revised to make the appointment process clearer. She said she was not sure how to change the outcome of the vote. She didn’t know how Kailasapathy’s goal could be realized – which Briere thought was to rescind McWilliams’ nomination.

Kunselman stated that he found the resolution bizarre, because the provision in the charter already sets forth the procedure for filing a city attorney opinion. Kunselman then reviewed the arguments regarding the procedural requirement of 8 votes for confirmation of McWilliams’ nomination. He reviewed his email correspondence with the city clerk, in which city clerk Jackie Beaudry had indicated she’d asked the city attorney for advice. Kunselman contended that triggers the city charter requirement related to the city attorney’s job responsibility when an administrative head requests advice.

From the Ann Arbor city charter:

The Attorney shall:
(1) Advise the heads of administrative units in matters relating to their official duties, when so requested, and shall file with the Clerk a copy of the entire Attorney’s written opinions; …

By way of background, the city clerk could be considered the head of the administrative unit of the clerk’s office, and has an official duty during council meetings to administer the roll call votes and to report the result of a vote on a question as passed or failed. At issue with the McWilliams nomination was judgment on whether the tally of six was adequate for approval, which Beaudry announced on Sept. 16 was sufficient.

Postema essentially told Kunselman that Beaudry is not a part of the council and that the issue was a council matter, so he only would respond to council requests.

Mayor John Hieftje said he’d be happy to support the resolution.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) ventured that anyone who voted in favor of McWilliams’ nomination could bring it back now for reconsideration. [That is, in fact, allowed under the council's rules, because it was the immediately subsequent meeting after the vote confirmation vote was taken.]

Warpehoski asked Kailasapathy what she was looking for in the resolution. She replied that she didn’t have the exact verbiage, but she felt that justice was not served. It was not just the council that felt blindsided, but also the public, she said. Warpehoski indicated he heard what she was saying, but as he reads Robert’s Rules, he doesn’t see a motion to reconsider as being in order – based on the DDA Act that states that a member can only be removed after a public hearing. He had been ready to move forward with a motion to reconsider, but now didn’t think it was in order under parliamentary rules.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Stephen Postema

From left: Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and city attorney Stephen Postema.

Kunselman came back to his point that that the city clerk was due a response to her request for guidance from Postema. Postema contended she was not due a response from him under the charter. Kunselman then asked Postema if Warpehoski could bring back the motion for reconsideration. Postema replied that’s up to Warpehoski to answer. Warpehoski explained that the outcome of the confirmation vote has been at least partially executed, and for that reason Robert’s Rules would prohibit it, he thought.

By way of additional background, after the Sept. 16 confirmation vote, McWilliams took his constitutional oath, on Oct. 2, to become seated on the DDA board – according to city clerk Jackie Beaudry, responding to a Chronicle query. He then participated in the DDA board meeting on Oct. 2, which included one voting item.

Kunselman asked Hieftje if he would allow Warpehoski to bring a motion to reconsider the question. Hieftje appealed to the DDA Act and what’s required for removal of a DDA member. If the question were reconsidered, and the vote did not succeed for some reason, then the outcome might be considered a removal from the DDA board. And by state statute, a DDA board member can be removed only for cause:

Pursuant to notice and after having been given an opportunity to be heard, a member of the board may be removed for cause by the governing body. Removal of a member is subject to review by the circuit court.

Kunselman responded by saying that the entire board has engaged in willful neglect – by failing to respond to letters that Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker had sent to the DDA and to the city. So that would be the “cause” that could be used to remove members of the DDA board, Kunselman concluded.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) stated that it’s important to clear the air on this. Postema replied that the question is the legal effect of the 6-5 vote that had been taken. Lumm said she didn’t think that clears the air.

Anglin said that the councilmembers who were “hiding behind” legal considerations should move for a reconsideration of the vote.

Outcome: The council voted, over dissent from Mike Anglin (Ward 5), to direct the city attorney to draft an opinion on McWilliams’ appointment.

DDA Appointment: McWilliams – Reconsideration

After the other voting business of the council was finished, Warpehoski announced that he wanted to re-open the agenda to reconsider the McWilliams nomination. The council agreed to do that.

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5)

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).

Warpehoski then moved reconsideration of the nomination. He said that whether it took six or eight votes, the ruling on the vote made at the meeting when the vote was taken on Sept. 16 should stand, saying that it’s too late now to raise a point of order. A point of order has to be made at the time of breach. So he felt the vote stands.

However, for purposes of the public interest and the smooth working of the council, Warpehoski wanted to put forward a reconsideration. He asked for some assurances: (1) that there’d be support for a postponement, and that the council wouldn’t vote on it that night; (2) that the vote required at a later meeting would be a six-vote tally, not eight; and (3) if six votes in support weren’t in attendance on Oct. 21, then there’d be support for postponement until the Nov. 7 meeting.

Kunselman responded to the requests for assurance by saying he really supported Warpehoski’s leadership. He offered the assurances requested by Warpehoski. Warpehoski then moved for postponement. Hieftje indicated the motion to reconsider would be shifted to the next meeting. If that vote is successful, then the council will debate the confirmation again and re-vote it.

Hieftje said he’d support that effort. He apologized for using the wrong word – “nomination” versus “motion” at the council’s Sept. 3 meeting. Briere said she appreciated Warpehoski’s work on the effort. They’d worked together on the issue of the attorney’s opinion as well, she said.

Outcome: The council postponed until Oct. 21 the motion to reconsider the vote on the Al McWilliams appointment to the DDA board.

Other Appointments: Appleyard

The council was asked to vote on nominations that were made at the Sept. 16, 2013 meeting. Those included Brock Hastie to the employees’ retirement system board of trustees. That was a re-appointment. Appointed to the city’s energy commission were Erik Eibert (replacing Cliff Williams), and Elizabeth Gibbons (replacing Josh Long). Being appointed to fill a vacancy on the housing and human services advisory board was Kyle Hunter, and to fill a vacancy on the recreation advisory commission was Katie Lewit.

Outcome: The council voted to appoint all the nominees.

In connection with that vote, some back and forth ensued between Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and mayor John Hieftje on the nomination of Wayne Appleyard to the city’s energy commission. Appleyard’s nomination was not actually put forward by Hieftje for a confirmation vote, although the nomination had also been put forward at the council’s Sept. 16 meeting.

Anglin appeared to have anticipated that the confirmation would be considered and he raised a concern. Appleyard’s nomination had not been moved, Hieftje explained. Anglin responded by saying that he didn’t think it’s necessary to recruit people who don’t live in the city to serve on boards and commissions. Appleyard is not a city resident. Hieftje pointed out the unique qualifications of Appleyard, saying that he would probably bring the nomination forward at a later time.

Appleyard’s confirmation, as a non-city resident, would have needed seven votes, which it would likely not have received, given the short-handed council. Three councilmembers – Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) – were absent on Oct. 7.

From the city charter: [emphasis added]:

Section 12.2. Except as otherwise provided in this charter, a person is eligible to hold a City office if the person has been a registered elector of the City, or of territory annexed to the City or both, and, in the case of a Council Member, a resident of the ward from which elected, for at least one year immediately preceding election or appointment. This requirement may be waived as to appointive officers by resolution concurred in by not less than seven members of the Council.

Appleyard lives in Grass Lake, Mich., according to the nomination information. The city energy commission was established in 1985 by a council resolution to “oversee City policies and regulations in areas of energy efficiency concerns and make periodic public reports and recommendations to the City Council.” Under special qualifications, the online Legistar description states: “wide spread representation; interest in energy.”

Appleyard has served on the energy commission since 2002. Terms of appointment for energy commissioners are three years. When Appleyard was up for reappointment in 2010, no objections were raised. Hieftje pulled out Appleyard’s confirmation for a separate vote at that time to ensure it was clear that he’d specifically received adequate support from the council, despite not being a city resident. Appleyard is principal with Sunstructures Architects, with a focus in renewable energy and sustainable architecture.

Solid Waste Resource Plan

The council considered an update to the solid waste plan of the city of Ann Arbor.

The updated plan presented to the council included a number of initiatives, including goals for increased recycling/diversion rates – generally and for apartment buildings in particular. Also included in the draft plan is a proposal to relocate and upgrade the drop-off station at Platt and Ellsworth. The implementation of a fee for single-use bags at retail outlets is also part of the plan.

A pilot program in the plan would add all plate scrapings to the materials that can be placed in the brown carts used to collect compostable matter. And if that pilot program were successful, the original draft of the plan called for the possibility of reducing the frequency of curbside pickup – from the current weekly regime to a less frequent schedule. [Waste Less: City of Ann Arbor Solid Waste Resource Plan.] [Appendices to Waste Less] [Previous Chronicle coverage: Waste as Resource: Ann Arbor's Five Year Plan.]

Solid Waste Resource Plan: Council Deliberations

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) explained the background of how the plan was developed. The goal was to reduce the amount of material that is thrown away, she said. Solid waste manager Tom McMurtrie explained that there was a lot of participation from various parts of the community to develop the plan. There’s a big item that the plan includes, he told the council – reduced organic waste. It’s the next big “frontier,” he said, to expand organics collection for composting.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sabra Briere (Ward 1)

From left: Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), and Sabra Briere (Ward 1).

Briere then asked a series of questions of McMurtrie. When the manual sorting of the waste in a truck had been done, she said, it was hard to estimate how much food waste could be diverted from the landfill. McMurtrie explained that it was hard because it was mixed in with all the other material – and he asked councilmembers to imagine “ripping open garbage bags pawing through material” in order to get an estimate of food waste.

Responding to a question from Briere, McMurtrie allowed there would be increased costs associated with processing food waste.

Briere asked McMurtrie to address the issue of some items that could not be composted – like diapers. McMurtrie described the plan as directing the evaluation of reduced frequency, not the implementation of it. He gave Portland as an example. Briere ventured that the food waste collection could be implemented and then be evaluated for the potential of reduced frequency of collection. She ventured that reduced frequency could voluntarily be implemented by people simply not setting out their carts if they’re not full.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) thanked all those involved in developing the plan. She understood that the plan doesn’t commit the city to particular actions, but was concerned about some that are mentioned – like the reduced frequency of trash pickup. People can’t believe that the solid waste millage, which generates $12 million annually, she noted, isn’t enough to pay for weekly trash pickup. She called this the most basic and fundamental service to residents. She moved an amendment to the solid waste plan, to remove all references to every-other-week curbside pickup.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) also wanted mention of “pay as you throw” to be deleted from the plan. Lumm considered Kailasapathy’s suggestion friendly.

Lumm recalled her previous tenure on the council when pay-as-you-throw proposals had been studied. Briere told McMurtrie that she recalled him saying that not everything the city has done in the last 10 years has been included in the plan. She ventured that even if the mention of the frequency reduction were omitted, it’s still possible that it could be implemented. McMurtrie indicated Briere was right, but it couldn’t be implemented without approval of the council.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) questioned whether Portland should be used as an example, because that region doesn’t deal with freezing weather. Kunselman indicated that he supported the amendments proposed by Lumm and Kailasapathy. He said that if you leave a baby diaper in a cart for more than a week, it will be pretty “rank.”

Margie Teall (Ward 4)

Margie Teall (Ward 4).

Margie Teall (Ward 4) said she wouldn’t support the amendments. You have to study an issue, she said, to find out if it will work. Teall said she was grateful that we live in an environment where “poop freezes.”

Warpehoski teased Teall that the council will not appoint her, implying that she’d be disqualified for her use of the word “poop” – a reference to the controversy over the McWilliams appointment to the DDA.

Responding to Kunselman, Hieftje said that Portland is generally regarded as a model city in the U.S. Briere noted that it’s possible to track how often people set out their refuse carts [through RFID chips], so the city could measure the impact of its efforts. Briere pointed out that Portland has privatized its trash collection, so its approach can’t be compared directly.

Kunselman noted that Briere’s point about privatization is an important piece of information. He asked if Portland has a “dumping problem.” McMurtrie told Kunselman that hasn’t been researched. Briere reported she couldn’t find anything on that topic.

Responding to Teall’s point that there are a lot of citizens who really like to reduce, reuse, and recycle, Kunselman allowed he’s one of them. But it’s important to give residents confidence that the city is staying on track with weekly trash collection, he said.

Hieftje then wanted to have the amendments on pay-as-you-throw and on every-other-week trash collection separated out again. Lumm and Kailasapathy agreed to that. Hieftje reported that on his block, many people don’t put out their trash every week.

Warpehoski understood Teall’s frustration about Ann Arbor not being able to show leadership on this issue. But he said he’d support the amendment that eliminated the mention of every-other-week trash collection. There’s other lower-hanging fruit than food waste – like improving multi-family recycling rates – which offer less angst, he said.

Responding to Hieftje’s effort to move the council along to a vote on the amendment, Kunselman said there’s nothing he likes more than “talking trash,” apparently completely aware of the pun. Lumm said she supported the amendment.

Outcome on the every-other-week amendment: The council approved the amendment over dissent from Hieftje and Teall.

Kailasapathy then argued for her amendment that would remove mention of pay-as-you-throw from the five-year solid waste plan. Hieftje said he’d support the amendment and hoped it’d move along quickly.

Outcome on the pay-as-you-throw amendment: The council unanimously approved the amendment removing mention of pay-as-you-throw as a possibility.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) raised the question of how dangerous materials are disposed of, like fluorescent light bulbs. Lumm said she’d support the solid waste plan. Kunselman then read a headline out of Portland indicating that when Portland switched to every-other-week pickup, dirty diapers started piling up in recycling bins.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to adopt the solid waste plan as amended.

Cross-Lot Walkways

The council considered a change to the city’s sidewalk ordinance that would affect how cross-lot walkways are treated under the city code.

Elements of the ordinance change would: (1) allow such cross-lot paths to be repaired with funds from the city’s sidewalk repair millage; and (2) not trigger the winter maintenance requirement for adjacent property owners.

Under the city’s current ordinances, if an existing walkway meets the definition of a “sidewalk,” then the city bears responsibility for its repair for the duration of the sidewalk repair millage – which was approved by voters in November 2011 for a five-year period. But all other things being equal, the adjacent property owners are responsible for snow removal in the winter.

The change to the definition relates to walkways that connect a street to a park or school, or that connect two parallel streets. The city calls them “cross-lot” walkways. The ordinance change considered by the council for approval on Oct. 7 would allow such walkways to be “sidewalks” if the council votes to accept them for “public use.” A companion resolution on Oct. 7 called for acceptance of 34 cross-lot walkways throughout the city for public use.

The ordinance change had previously been in front of the council for final approval – on July 1, 2013. However, objections by several property owners to the winter maintenance requirement led the council to postpone the final vote until Oct. 7. Because of the new approach the city took – which does not trigger the winter maintenance requirement for adjacent property owners – the council’s Oct. 7 consideration was considered only the initial approval. The ordinance change does not relieve owners of property adjacent to other sidewalks from the winter shoveling requirement.

The city has estimated that for the 34 cross-lot paths, repairs and snow clearance would annually total around $7,000 – $5,100 for snow plowing and $1,900 for repair.

Cross-Lot Walkways: Council Deliberations

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) thanked the staff for responding to concerns of the council about the burden that the definition change could place on property owners. The ordinance doesn’t just change the definition, but also makes clear that adjacent property owners are not responsible for winter snow clearance or mowing the grass. Historically, they’ve never been responsible for that, she said. She noted that this approach would eliminate the possibility that one of four property owners who shared the responsibility might be regarded as a “slacker.”

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) also indicated she’d support the ordinance change. Lumm said the original intent was a good one – to allow the sidewalk repair funds to be used for these cross-lot paths. She complimented the staff for researching how the problem was addressed in other communities. The $7,000 cost to the city for repair and maintenance, she said, is “peanuts.” It’s just what local government should do, Lumm concluded.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) also said he supported this approach to the issue. But he wanted to know what happens if a renewal of the sidewalk repair millage did not pass in a future election

Cresson Slotten, manager of the city’s systems planning unit, explained to Kunselman that if that millage were not renewed, the property owners would still not have any responsibility for repair or winter maintenance.

Responding to a question from Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Slotten indicated that the new ordinance makes clear that adjacent property owners do not have responsibility for repair and maintenance. Anglin wanted it to be made clearer. Briere said she could understand Anglin’s confusion, because the two parts of the ordinance don’t appear to be related. But she reiterated Slotten’s point – that the ordinance simply states that property owners don’t have responsibility for cross-lot walkways.

Assistant city attorney Abigail Elias explained that the exception for the cross-lot walkways is an absolute exception – that is, not contingent on the passage of the sidewalk repair millage. Lumm reported that this clarification had been sent to adjacent property owners, saying it was “great work on staff’s part.”

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) brought up subsection (B) and wondered if it voided existing agreements with neighborhood associations. Elias indicated that it did not void such agreements. Anglin said he wanted the city to provide a document for residents that they can keep with their deeds.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) questioned whether the cross-lot walkways belong to the property owners in a sense that would make recording with deeds appropriate. Elias was reluctant to support the recording of any documents with deeds, because the council can change the ordinance in the future.

Anglin reported that a resident had just handed him some communication that the resident had received from the city in 2009. That communication had stated that the resident now had responsibility for maintenance. Anglin suggested that a similar communication could be sent to state that people don’t have responsibility now.

Slotten responded to a question from Warpehoski saying that two of the 34 cross-lot walkways have existing maintenance agreements with a homeowner’s association. Elias explained that the agreements with the homeowner’s associations will remain intact.

Kunselman asked about the dates in the ordinance that refer to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Elias allowed that the ordinance would need to be revised if the sidewalk repair millage were renewed. She explained that Kunselman was referring to the section of the ordinance that relates to ordinary sidewalks on the side of streets.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to give initial approval to the inclusion of cross-lot walkways in the definition of sidewalk, but without the associated requirement that adjacent property owners are responsible for snow clearance.

Cross-Lot Walkways: Public Acceptance of Walkways

This was considered a companion resolution to the sidewalk ordinance change that would broaden the definition of a sidewalk to include cross-lot walkways. The ordinance change – which was given initial approval earlier in the meeting – allows such walkways to qualify as sidewalks for purposes of spending from the sidewalk repair millage, without triggering a winter maintenance requirement by adjacent property owners. But to qualify, the walkways must be accepted for public use by the city council. So the council considered a resolution to accept 34 cross-lot walkways for public use.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) moved to postpone the resolution. It will be considered at the same meeting as the second reading of the related ordinance change. City administrator Steve Powers confirmed it would be appropriate to postpone the resolution.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to postpone acceptance of 34 different cross-lot walkways for public use until the council’s Oct. 21 meeting.

Traffic Calming Projects

The council considered a resolution adding five traffic calming (speed bump) projects to the city of Ann Arbor’s work plan over this year and the next.

By way of background, starting in 2010, the city had reduced the number of traffic calming studies that it would fund to just one per year. The Oct. 7 resolution transferred $55,000 from the city’s general fund to the local street fund, to pay for an additional two studies this year (FY 2014). In addition, the resolution directed city administrator Steve Powers to include three traffic calming projects in FY 2015.

The five projects mentioned in the resolution are: South Boulevard (Ward 3 – qualified for traffic calming in 2009); Pomona Road (Ward 5 – qualified in 2009); Wells (Ward 3 – qualified in 2009); Larchmont Drive (Ward 2 – qualified in 2010); and Northside (Ward 1 – qualified in 2012).

The resolution was sponsored by Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3).

Traffic Calming: Public Commentary

Several people addressed the council on the topic of the traffic calming measures during public commentary reserved time at the start of the meeting.

Diane Kreger told the council she loves living in Ann Arbor. She loves her neighborhood. She’s lived on Northside for many years, but she’s concerned about the lack of traffic calming. She called it a “recipe for disaster.” She described a situation where a car had come whipping down the street and almost hit a little girl. She then read a statement from a 10-year old girl, Anna Morgan, who wrote that she’s not allowed to play in the front yard because the cars go faster than the 25 mph speed limit, and there are no sidewalks. “Please help make my street safer for everyone,” the statement concluded.

James Billingslea noted that the traffic calming item was the topic of six of the 10 reserved time speaking slots. He said that there would have been more people who would have come to address the council, except for the limit on reserved slots. He stressed that these traffic calming measures are not luxuries. He described several of the specific locations where there are problems. He lives on Northside, which he described as a short street with 20 houses. Eight of those houses have young children living there. He described how cars often have taken out mailboxes or the stop sign. A short 25 mph street shouldn’t have to endure that, he said. There’s a blind rise and a blind corner on the street, he said. Without the budget amendment, it would be 2017 before traffic calming measures would be implemented, he noted.

Alissa Ruelle represented residents who live on Pomona, a street that runs north-south from the water treatment facility down to Miller. Newport is a main road, but Pomona is a secondary road, she said. Pomona winds downhill and has only one stop sign, and cars drive very fast down Pomona, she told the council. The neighborhood had petitioned back in 2009 for traffic calming measures. Her understanding was that the traffic calming measures are supposed to be implemented next year. Regarding the children who live on the street, she said she didn’t want their young mistakes to be their last mistakes. Residents are looking forward to traffic calming measures, she said. Her remarks generated applause.

Sheila Henley also represented Pomona. There are definitely kids in the neighborhood, she said. Her mother is 78 and there are Alzheimer patients. She signed the petition back in 2005, she said. She definitely supports the resolution. Her remarks drew applause.

Zoltan Jung spoke on behalf of the Northside neighborhood in support of traffic calming measures. He characterized the demographics as a bimodal distribution of very old and very young. The neighborhood kids run and play on this street, he said. Cars bounce off the neighbor’s tree and wind up in his yard, he reported.

Lisa Richardson lives on Wells, seven houses from Packard and Burns Park Elementary. Drivers routinely speed down the street, using it as a cut-through, she said. Someone is going to be injured or killed, she told the council. Fourteen small children live on the street, she said. No one stops at the three-way stop. When drivers turn onto Wells, they “gun it” to get to Packard, in order to make the light, Richardson reported. A traffic study was completed in 2010, she said, but the traffic calming measures are not scheduled for implementation until 2016. The city knows that a dangerous situation exists and that results in liability for the city, she said. The reaction time of drivers doesn’t allow them to react if they’re speeding. She thinks the city needs to look at speeding on all the city’s roads. Her commentary generated a lot of applause.

Traffic Calming: Council Deliberations

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) said that her neighborhood [along Broadway] had sought traffic calming measures back in about 2003. They’d first asked for stop signs and had been told they couldn’t have them. She recalled the confusion about the petitioning process. She recalled how a porch had been torn off by a speeding car. A stopped speeder told the police officer to just keep her driver’s license because she was in a hurry. Briere then talked about the importance of addressing the traffic calming measures in other neighborhoods.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) said that cars speeding down quiet streets is not the kind of Ann Arbor we want to see. Traffic calming helps make neighborhoods livable, she said. She contrasted the importance of funding projects like this, with the constant push to focus on the downtown area.

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) said she was happy to co-sponsor the resolution, and thanked Briere and Kailasapathy for co-sponsoring it too. She asked Nick Hutchinson, senior project manager, some questions about traffic calming. He explained that the five petitions mentioned in the resolution are the only petitions currently active with the city.

Lumm wanted to know if the money allocated for the State Street corridor study could be used for the FY 2014 traffic calming projects. City administrator Steve Powers indicated that the State Street corridor study is complete – so no. There’s also a State Street traffic study, he explained. Community services area administrator Sumedh Bahl explained that the study in the FY 2014 budget is for traffic and transportation in the State Street area.

Lumm said she’s supportive of the resolution and was glad to see it move forward.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) said he’s also supportive, but he was concerned about a future backlog, saying he’d hate to have a backlog in FY 2016. He wanted to know who makes the decisions about opening up the petitioning process.

Hutchinson replied that the FY 2014 projects would need to be completed by June 30, 2014. The other two would need to be done after July 1, 2014. Kunselman noted there are a number of street projects coming up in FY 2014. Kunselman wanted to know if the traffic calming projects would impact the staff’s ability to complete those other street projects.

The design of a traffic calming project, Hutchinson explained, is not complicated. It’s more the public engagement process that requires effort. He said the 2010 decision to suspend acceptance of petitions was made by the public services area administrator at the time [Sue McCormick].

Kunselman pressed for more details about the program. He wanted to know why more money wasn’t already budgeted in FY 2014. Powers explained it was a question of priority. Kunselman wanted to know why the council would now amend the budget. Briere ventured that the reason that the city council didn’t ask for more traffic calming is that the council had forgotten that such projects were even done. She ventured that the neighborhoods might not have pestered councilmembers about that concern enough.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) reported that the rerouted traffic from the East Stadium bridges project had led a neighborhood to delay a request for traffic calming. Lumm reported she now had a list of streets where people have said they want traffic calming for their streets.

Lumm suggested that the $237,000 of street funds in the public art fund could be tapped for additional traffic calming projects. She wanted information from the city attorney about how to proceed with that. That seemed like a logical and appropriate source for funding traffic calming, Lumm said.

Briere appreciated the reminder about the public art fund. She noted that the public art ordinance would need to be amended first – in order for the council to have the legal authority to return those public art funds to the street fund.

Kunselman responded to the idea of using street millage funds – returned from the public art fund – for traffic calming, saying he didn’t think that the street millage fund could be used for traffic calming.

In a follow-up response to an emailed Chronicle query, Hutchinson confirmed Kunselman’s understanding: “Some types of traffic calming measures (such as curb bump-outs) can be incorporated into our street projects as part of the project cost. However, the more familiar ‘in-street’ traffic calming measures (speed humps, raised crosswalks, raised intersections) cannot.”

Kunselman wanted more information about how to fund traffic calming for a much longer duration. He didn’t want a stop-and-go approach for the funding of the program. As much as he’d like to spend the money, he said he still wanted to be careful. A more comprehensive long-term approach would open up the door for other safety projects – streetlights, crosswalks and the like.

Kunselman wanted a postponement. [As a budget amendment, the resolution needed eight votes, so any one of the councilmembers could effectively "veto" the resolution.] So Kunselman moved for postponement.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) began speaking. Margie Teall (Ward 4) raised a point of order, saying that Anglin should be speaking to the postponement. Anglin replied that he was speaking about a reason for the postponement – that he wants a more scientific way of looking at the issue.

Lumm understood the intent of the postponement, but wouldn’t support it. The resolution that night was modest, she said.

Briere said she appreciated Kunselman’s goal in postponement. She felt it was an infrastructure improvement, so it was a resolution consistent with the council’s priorities. It focused on Kunselman’s regular critique of the council, she noted – that the council doesn’t focus on health, safety and welfare. Briere said she appreciated the need for more data, but thought that a lot of the data already exists.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) said she would support the postponement, but appreciated what Kunselman’s goal is – to look at the issue more comprehensively.

Outcome on postponement: The motion to postpone failed.

With postponement no longer an option, Kunselman said he’d support the resolution. It brought forth a new era of projects supporting safety in neighborhoods, he said. Lumm reiterated her support of the resolution.

Mayor John Hieftje recalled being around when the traffic calming program started. During the recession, many things were cut, he said, including the traffic calming program. He warned there could pushback on these kinds of projects, because some people don’t support traffic calming.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to add five traffic calming projects.

Belle Tire Site Plan

The council considered a site plan for a new Belle Tire, to be located at 590 W. Ellsworth – just east of the intersection with South State Street.

Belle Tire, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view of a proposed Belle Tire site.

The planning commission had recommended approval of the site plan at its Aug. 20, 2013 meeting.

The 1-acre site – currently vacant – is on the north side of Ellsworth, adjacent to and east of a new Tim Hortons. A restaurant building formerly located on the property was demolished. The proposal calls for putting up a one-story, 9,735-square-foot auto service facility with 49 parking spaces, included 10 spaces located in service bays.

An existing curb cut into the site from Ellsworth will be closed, and the business will share an entrance with the Tim Hortons site. The project includes a new sidewalk along Ellsworth.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the Belle Tire site plan.

Tim Hortons Drive-Thru

The council considered final approval of a Shell/Tim Hortons drive-thru at the northeast corner of Ann Arbor-Saline Road and Eisenhower Parkway. The council needed to approve changes to the planned unit development (PUD) zoning supplemental regulations on the 1.44-acre site in order to allow for a drive-thru restaurant within the existing convenience store, where a Tim Hortons is already located.

The council was asked to vote separately on approval of the project’s site plan.

The project includes constructing a 109-square-foot drive-thru window addition and access driveway on the north side of the building. A PUD had previously been approved by the council at its July 2, 2012 meeting, but without plans for a drive-thru restaurant. The city planning commission had unanimously recommended approval of the request for a revision at its July 16, 2013 meeting.

Tim Hortons Drive-Thru: Public Hearings

During the public hearing on the zoning, Thomas Partridge told the council that the intersection of Ann Arbor-Saline and Eisenhower is a very busy location. He contended there’s no evidence of a traffic study being done, especially during rush hour. He asked that the proposal be referred back to the planning commission. During the public hearing on the site plan, Partridge again criticized the project based on traffic issues.

Another resident – who lives near the corner of Eisenhower and Ann Arbor-Saline Road – addressed the council about a number of concerns that had been voiced by residents, none of which had been addressed so far, he said. Because of the speed on Ann Arbor-Saline, bicyclists use the sidewalk. So he had concerns about pedestrians being impacted by this development. Planning staff contend that traffic would not increase, but he was skeptical about that. He asked that the project be referred to the planning commission for further review.

Tim Hortons Drive-Thru: Council Deliberations

Margie Teall (Ward 4) invited city planning manager Wendy Rampson to the podium to address the traffic issues that had been mentioned during public commentary. Rampson indicated that a traffic study concluded that most of the traffic that would be turning into the drive-thru would be traffic already traveling along the road. That is, the project isn’t expected to generate additional traffic.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the changes to the PUD supplemental regulations for the Shell/Tim Hortons drive-thru on Ann Arbor-Saline Road. In a separate vote, without deliberations, the council also approved the associated site plan.

New Liquor License Fees

The council considered changes to the liquor license fee schedule. Some fees were proposed to be eliminated – those related to licenses for which the state of Michigan doesn’t require local review. And the remaining license fee schedule is was proposed to be revised to reflect actual costs:

  • on-premise liquor license annual renewal – $90 (increase from $50)
  • new liquor license – $600 (reduction from $2,500)
  • new liquor license application fee – $150 (increase from $100)
  • new DDA district license – $600 (reduction from $1,000)

New Liquor License Fees: Public Hearing

Jeff Hayner addressed the council by saying he’d just received a text message from a Ward 1 bar owner. The bar owner’s message allowed that lowering the fee for new licenses helps reduce the barrier to entry to starting a new business, but the owner was not in favor of the increase of fees for existing license holders. But the bar owner appreciated the fact that the city wants to cover its staff costs, Hayner reported.

Thomas Partridge was concerned about the loss of income to the city through the lowering of the fees. He called for the proposal to be returned to the council’s liquor license review committee, to see if fees can be raised.

Joshua Nacht addressed the council from the perspective of free market principles. It should be easier to start businesses in all areas, he said. The city should make it cheaper to obtain liquor licenses, he said.

New Liquor License Fees: Council Deliberations

Jane Lumm (Ward 2) introduced the resolution on behalf of the council’s liquor license review committee. She explained that transfers don’t require review by the state, so those fees are being eliminated. She noted that the adjustments are meant to reflect the actual underlying city costs. The fees hadn’t been reviewed in a quite a while, she said.

Lumm thanked the various staff who helped with the recommendation.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to approve the changes to the liquor license fees.

Ann Arbor: Resilient City?

The council was asked to approve the city’s application for designation as one of 100 Resilient Cities by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation defines “resilience” in terms of preparedness to withstand catastrophic events – both natural and manmade.

Each of 100 winning cities will receive three forms of support, according to the Rockefeller Foundation website:

  • Membership in the newly formed 100 Resilient Cities Network, which will provide support to member cities and share new knowledge and resilience best practices.
  • Support to hire a chief resilience officer (CRO). The CRO would oversee the development of a resilience strategy for the city.
  • Support to create a resilience plan, along with tools and resources for implementation.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, Matt Naud – environmental coordinator for the city – said the grant would be for $1 million. However, according to the Rockefeller Foundation, it’s not the case that cities would receive that much money. The deadline to apply is Oct. 14, 2013.

Ann Arbor: Resilient City – Council Deliberations

Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) reported that the resolution was recommended by the city environmental commission. He characterized the city’s chances as somewhat of a long shot, but the strength of the city’s application resides in the work that the city has already done, he felt. The staff effort to put together the application is not anticipated to be onerous, he said.

Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) asked Matt Naud, environmental coordinator for the city, to come to the podium. She asked about working toward improved rankings compared to actually improving the quality of life in the city. Naud reported that the amount of the grant would be $1 million, with the only requirement that the city name someone as the chief resilience officer.

By way of background based on communication from the Rockefeller Foundation to The Chronicle, it’s not accurate to divide the $100 million total grant funding into the 100 cities and conclude that each city would receive $1 million. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, “The direct financial support from the Foundation will be in the form of 2 years of salary support for the Chief Resilience Officer. Each selected city will receive support to develop a resilience plan and a resilience fund is being developed to support the cities to implement these plans. We cannot specify a dollar amount as the plans are to be developed.”

Kailasapathy asked about staff time necessary to do the work of developing the resiliency plan. Naud replied that the city would be buying someone to work on developing the plan for the period of the grant. He said it would supplement the work that the city is already doing.

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) asked what “resiliency” means in this context and what the city would be planning for. Naud’s first try got this response from Kunselman: “You didn’t answer my question.” On follow-up, Naud indicated that the idea is to be being resilient in the face of natural and manmade disasters. Naud referred to the city’s emergency management plans and climate action plans as examples.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) reported that the environmental commission, on which she serves as a councilmember along with Warpehoski, has been talking about resiliency. It includes helping neighborhoods to make connections to the city to make sure that assistance can be provided – to deal with a tree that’s fallen down or a road that’s collapsed. The goal is to create the capacity to recover quickly when things go wrong, she said.

Briere said the issue has been studied in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, as well as in Chicago, looking at how neighborhoods responded to economic downturns.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) wondered if these grants were intended for cities much larger than Ann Arbor. Anglin said he thinks it’s a good idea to be prepared. Mayor John Hieftje said he didn’t see a reason not to apply, saying the reward could be great. He ventured that these kinds of grants tend to be awarded to cities that already have “a lot on the ball.” Ann Arbor is not immune from natural disasters, he allowed. He called the departure of Pfizer as an economic storm that the city had weathered very well. He appreciated the environmental commission bringing it forward.

Outcome: The council voted unanimously to direct the city administrator to apply for the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities grant.

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: Attendance

Only eight of 11 councilmembers attended the Oct. 7 meeting. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Sally Petersen (Ward 2) were absent. Taylor and Petersen were attending the International Downtown Association conference in New York City, which ran Oct. 6-9. A contingent of Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board members (5) plus the executive director also attended the conference.

City administrator Steve Powers responded to an emailed Chronicle request about the council’s travel budget: $6,500 was budgeted for FY 2014 with $0 used to date.

Petersen responded to a Chronicle emailed inquiry by saying that the DDA is paying for her conference registration, but she is paying for her own airfare, hotel, meals, etc. The conference registration was $743.75 each, according to Petersen. [.pdf of DDA travel policy]

Comm/Comm: Michigan Association of Planning Conference

During communications time, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) noted that she had attended the Michigan Association of Planning conference in Kalamazoo the previous weekend. Briere serves on the city planning commission as the city council’s representative. Per the planning commission’s bylaws, commissioners at their Sept. 17, 2013 meeting had voted to reimburse the conference expenses for Briere and one other planning commissioner, Paras Parekh. Their expenses will be paid for out of the city’s training budget for planning staff and related commissions.

Comm/Comm: Crosswalk Ordinance

During council communications time, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) talked about the city’s crosswalk ordinance and the possibility of repealing that ordinance and replacing it with the uniform vehicle code. Lumm’s remarks indicated that a proposal would be coming forward at a future meeting.

On the topic of education about crosswalk safety, Lumm said there’s the possibility for posting signs for bicyclists to educate them about how to approach crosswalks. This is appropriate in the context of launching a bike sharing program next spring, Lumm said. She wanted the signs placed first at the busiest crosswalks.

Comm/Comm: UM Football Game Street Closures

City administrator Steve Powers announced that the Ann Arbor police department’s final report on University of Michigan football game street closures was now available. [.pdf of UM football street closures report] Police chief John Seto gave a preliminary oral report at the council’s Sept. 16, 2013 meeting. Seto attended the council’s meeting on Oct. 7, and a bit after midnight he delivered highlights of the report and accepted thanks from councilmembers.

Comm/Comm: Thomas Partridge

Thomas Partridge addressed the council during public commentary reserved time asking for write-in votes for the Ward 5 council seat. He’s a declared write-in candidate. He called for a new attitude in Ann Arbor, one that’s family-friendly. The number of speakers in favor of traffic calming is a testament to the problem with the socio-economic environment, Partridge said. He called for the end of crime and corruption. He called for the replacement of mayor John Hieftje, Gov. Rick Snyder, and U.S. House speaker John Boehner. Ann Arbor and its families and college students suffer without a respectful set of attitudes, he said. Partridge called for building affordable housing and ending homelessness in Ann Arbor.

Comm/Comm: Against Negative Perceptions of Muslims

Eldred Bruce Meadows, who introduced himself as a practicing Muslim, rose to speak during the public hearing on the Shell/Tim Hortons PUD zoning issue, indicating that he wanted to advocate against negative perceptions of Muslims.

Mayor John Hieftje, Eldred Bruce Meadows

Mayor John Hieftje, left, talks with Eldred Bruce Meadows.

Mayor John Hieftje explained that speakers must address the topic of the public hearing. Meadows thanked Hieftje for the explanation and left the podium. He waited until the end of the meeting for the general public commentary time and then addressed the council. He invited councilmembers to the Islamic Center of Ann Arbor to learn more about their community.

Present: Jane Lumm, Mike Anglin, Margie Teall, Sabra Briere, Sumi Kailasapathy, Stephen Kunselman, John Hieftje, Chuck Warpehoski.

Absent: Sally Petersen, Marcia Higgins, Christopher Taylor.

Next council meeting: Oct. 21, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron. [Check Chronicle event listings to confirm date.]

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  1. October 12, 2013 at 5:14 pm | permalink

    Does anyone else think that the McWilliams problems will have a chilling effect on people applying for boards/commissions? I still have a sour taste in my own mouth from when two councilwomen complained that I was on *too many boards* (for their taste, apparently) and I haven’t applied since. (I am very happy being on the Environmental Commission). Seeing this makes me worry that if I do apply in the future, someone will count up all the times I’ve said “fuck” and dump the posts on the mayor’s desk like how they dumped letters to Santa on that guy in Miracle on 34th Street.

    I don’t know Mr. McWilliams and I have no skin in this particular game but the uproar scares me a little.

  2. By Mark Koroi
    October 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm | permalink


    I believe that the public’s issue with Al McWilliams is not that he has has per se used foul or immature language – but rather he has publicly posted it on his website.

    Also, the public perceives that the selection process for this extremely important DDA seat was not rigorous enough nor did it give the citizenry reasonably adequate and timely notice so as to allow informed commentary on the issue by such citizens.

    Even though the McWilliams nomination and confirmation may have been technically legal, many people are disapppointed how it was handled by the Mayor.

  3. By Janet James
    October 13, 2013 at 11:40 am | permalink

    Teacher Patti,

    If McWilliam had constantly used derogatory language towards another racial or religious group would we be as callous? It is not the foul language that he constantly uses that has bothered so many, but objectifying women and using derogatory terms towards women and people who he disagrees with is what is at the core of this strife. A man who seems to have no respect for women is going to actually treat dissenters of the DDA with respect? Is this the kind of an addition we need for a shadow government that has no respect for its citizenry? I think not! He has been appointed to be a rubber stamp of the mayor, nothing more, nothing less!

  4. By TJ
    October 14, 2013 at 9:58 am | permalink

    I think Patti has a valid point. (And as far as public profanity goes, hers has been used in similar ways – e.g. on a personal blog…) But I also wonder what is truly the driving objection to McWilliams nomination. Is it really truly the way he has expressed himself online? Or is there something deeper? For the record: I haven’t read his blog, so I don’t know if 10% or 95% could be considered derogatory. I’m not a DDA supporter because I don’t fully understand what they do with all the tax money that gets diverted from the city. But I also don’t think the DDA is some kind of secret cabal in lock step with the mayor.

    The initial objections were (a) that his company worked for the AAATA so that might present a conflict of interest, and (b) he supported the DDA so might not work to reform it from inside. Read coverage of the September 3rd meeting here: [link] There seemed to be a compelling argument that ‘conflict of interest’ was not a valid objection (or rather, that if it arose it could be dealt with in known ways).

    When his appointment came up again on September 16th, Kunselman brings up the subject of his tweets; some others agree with this reason to object to him while others separate “online irreverence” from ability to perform on a public board.
    blow-by-blow live reporting: [link]
    final article: [link]

    I can’t find it now, but I have read objections to the appointment because the process is not “transparent” and that this is another sign of the mayor’s secret back room padding of boards with like-minded individuals. (I almost never read the dot com / mlive so it was probably here on the Chronicle, but I can’t be positive.)

    So is the problem that he might have a conflict of interest, that he might not challenge/reform the DDA’s standard operation procedure, or that he is an immature misogynist who might bring ruin to the DDA?

    Back to Teacher Patti’s point: if opponents are going to dredge through an individual’s online presence to come up with mud to throw when initial objections don’t stick, that could have a chilling effect on who agrees to serve on public boards.

  5. October 14, 2013 at 11:02 am | permalink

    Council members warned the Mayor that two of his nominations would receive resistance – Leigh Greden and Al McWilliams. How the two were treated is odd, at best.

    Apparently, in an effort to protect Mr. Greden from more public scrutiny of his inappropriate and immature email messages during Council meetings when he represented the Third Ward, his name was quietly withdrawn. It is likely that he would have been confirmed with more support than Mr. McWilliams received. He was instead spared the renewed scrutiny of his prior misbehavior, even though everyone already knows about that conduct.

    Mr. McWilliams nomination was treated differently. After the Mayor received a quiet heads up about McWilliam’s blog, McWilliams removed content. That cleansing indicates to me that McWilliams or his supporters agreed with his critics that the content was offensive or inappropriate. Unlike the Greden appointment, the McWilliams appointment was allowed to proceed without regard to his possible embarrassment.

    In addition to his blog postings, there were questions about potential conflicts of interest. If he had some compelling skill that would justify ignoring these problems, it might have been worth exposing him to the public debate over how old you can be and still assert a youthful indiscretion defense. But really, there are a lot of young adults with his skill set who work in the downtown area.

    If this episode about the confirmation of Mr. McWilliams has a chilling effect on the willingness of those who would objectify women or demean them, those who would disparage someone on the basis of their race, someone who is homophobic or anyone who diminishes others on the basis of an immutable characteristic from seeking appointment to a public board where they represent our city, then so be it.

  6. By Chuck Warpehoski
    October 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm | permalink

    According to Mr. McWilliam’s blog, he only changed one piece of content and that was at the request of a council member: [link]

    I asked him abou this, and the council member was someone who opposed his nomination. It was a move that he describes as an attempt to show good faith prior to his vote. That’s a very different story than the one put forward that he went through a massive “sanitization” of his blog after the fact on the advice of his supporters.

  7. By Peter Zetlin
    October 18, 2013 at 5:35 am | permalink

    The mayor’s effort to reassert control over appointments has been embarrassing, divisive and has wasted a lot of time. The mayor’s often suggested concept of collegial governing has taken a beating on this issue. This scandal has damaged our Council’s ability to govern.

    We now have a DDA appointee who made a public internet post in which he called voters crazy:

    “If you live in Ward 3 or Ward 4 then your primary on Tuesday is extra important as it will decide who represents you – so make sure that person represents you and not the 200 crazy people with nothing better to do that live in your ward.”

    Our Council has voted that the following McWilliams post is acceptable public speech for our public officials:

    “Hey Everybody, TODAY DON’T FORGET to shove an ice cream cone up your ass.”

    These sort of posts don’t meet the cultural standards of our community or our nation. The mayor and his supporters have demonstrated that they feel it’s more important to insist on control than it is to support well established values.

    The details of what occurred are not particularly pertinent. What will be remembered is that Council has endorsed inappropriate behavior. The cost of forcing our community to accept this appointment outweigh any gains the members of the mayors coalition might have realized by supporting this appointment.

  8. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm | permalink

    The Council vote for this DDA appointee is something to remember next year when candidates line up to run for Mayor.

  9. By Peter Zetlin
    October 19, 2013 at 5:50 am | permalink

    #8– Ward 1 voters have an opportunity to take the issue into account in the Nov. 5th election. Sabra Briere voted in favor of the McWilliams appointment. She is running for reelection in ward 1. As far as I know, despite the controversy, Ms. Briere still supports the appointment.

    Recently, there’s been a short video posted to the internet which summarizes the reasons why people object to the nomination: