Ann Arbor city council meeting (Oct. 21, 2013): The council did not adjourn its meeting until just before 1 a.m., but still left itself with unfinished business.
Mayor John Hieftje checked his computer screen before the meeting started. Six hours later he declared the meeting adjourned. (Photos by the writer.)
Some of that business – the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority ordinance revision on TIF (tax increment financing) capture – was postponed until the council’s next meeting, on Nov. 7. Other business – Ypsilanti Township’s membership in the AAATA – was postponed until Nov. 18. That will be the first meeting of the new, post-election composition of the council.
First, here’s a rundown of the main outcomes from the meeting.
Transportation was a main theme on the agenda. The postponement on admitting Ypsilanti Township as a member of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority was the clear majority consensus, as it succeeded on an 8-3 vote. After that, the council voted unanimously to approve a contract with URS Corporation Inc. (URS) to conduct the Ann Arbor Station project environmental review. The total approved for the Ann Arbor Station contract – which will cover public engagement, site selection and conceptual design – was $824,875, an amount that includes a $63,083 contingency.
The city would pay 20% of that, or about $165,000. The remainder will be covered by a federal grant. The council’s unanimous support was based on two factors: (1) the fact that there was to be no presupposed preferred alternative location for the station, and (2) that the public engagement process outlined in the project tasks was thorough.
The council also voted unanimously to give final approval to a change in the city’s sidewalk ordinance. As a result, cross-lot walkways in Ann Arbor will now be treated as “sidewalks” from the perspective of the city’s sidewalk repair millage. Even though the millage funds can now be used to repair the walkways, owners of property adjacent to cross-lot walkways will not bear responsibility for snow removal in the winter. Cross-lot walkways include those that connect streets to parks or school property, or connect two parallel streets.
The Ann Arbor DDA figured in other agenda items beyond the postponed vote on TIF capture. The council voted just 7-4 to approve a new budget allocation of $280,000 from the general fund to pay for a portion of a Main Street light pole replacement project. That didn’t meet the eight-vote majority requirement for the budget allocation to pass. The failed vote was the result of political wrangling between the council and the DDA board and staff over whether the DDA would not be able, or simply was unwilling, to fund the total cost of the $580,000 light pole replacement project. The poles are rusting out and pose some level of safety threat, although those deemed to be in immediate danger of falling have already been replaced.
The Ann Arbor DDA was also the topic of another agenda item – when the council voted 8-3 to reconsider its Sept. 16 vote on the appointment of Al McWilliams to the board of the DDA. On the 8-3 vote, the question of the appointment was again in front of the council. Councilmembers took 20 minutes to discuss the item before voting again 6-5 – along the same split as on Sept. 16 – to appoint McWilliams to the board. The 8-3 split on reconsideration was the same 8-3 split as on the postponement of the Ypsilanti Township membership in the AAATA – with mayor John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) declining to join the majority on both occasions.
The other nomination on which the council voted was Wayne Appleyard’s reappointment to the city’s energy commission – with a tally of 8-3. That was enough to satisfy the city charter’s non-city resident requirement of seven votes. Dissenters were Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2). Kailasapathy and Lumm had concerns about Appleyard’s long term of service (since 2002). So they’ll be bringing forward an ordinance revision at a future meeting to establish term limits for all boards and commissions. The city charter already imposes term limits on a specific category of boards and commissions.
The council had another significant item on its agenda related to the energy commission – a resolution on divestment from fossil fuel companies that the commission had recommended the council approve. It was the third time the council had seen the question, after first voting it down, then reconsidering and postponing it. At the Oct. 21 meeting, the council amended the resolution to soften it further, which gave it a 9-2 tally when the council voted. Ward 2 councilmembers Sally Petersen and Jane Lumm dissented.
Besides the unfinished business from the Oct. 21 meeting, future meetings of the council will include the Lumm-Kailasapathy initiative to amend the city’s ordinance on boards and commissions to include term limits. Other initiatives announced at the Oct. 21 meeting included an outdoor smoking ordinance that Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) reported he’s been working on with city staff – with an eye toward establishing non-smoking areas in city parks.
Petersen announced that she’ll be putting forward a resolution stemming from frequent mention by community members of the need for a council ethics policy. Among other direction, Petersen’s resolution would ask the city attorney to provide guidance on a state statute. Warpehoski announced that he and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) were working on a framework to establish a pedestrian safety citizens advisory committee – possibly to be seated at the Nov. 18 council meeting. The effort is not designed to determine or preempt the outcome of an effort to repeal the pedestrian crosswalk ordinance, Warpehoski stated.
And Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) announced that he and Margie Teall (Ward 4) would be bringing forth a resolution asking the University of Michigan to decommission the large digital billboard it has constructed on East Stadium Boulevard next to the football stadium. The fallback position of the resolution will be to ask that the university restrict the time of the billboard’s operation, Taylor said.
Some items considered by the council but not included in this report are reflected in the live updates filed from the Oct. 21 meeting. [Full Story]